I thought it would be worth sharing an update on where things are with this blog. Last year was a hugely productive one for my blog due to spending so much time at home because of Covid-19 restrictions. At times I was posting three times a week with stuff I would see as good quality.
Now that things have changed I’ve lost that writing time. Things have gone back to where they were probably in 2019. That said, my blog has continued to grow in reach in 2021, especially it seems when people are interested in fungi in the autumn months. October’s views on here have been possibly the busiest month ever for visitors.
In January of this year I began recordings for my Unlocking Landscapes podcast. It was very easy to do because people had time to spend on Zoom due to the stay-at-home orders. Now that there is less of that, I don’t have the time to do them monthly, which has proven a big challenge. That said, I do have two more episodes to publish, hopefully this year, and some episodes agreed with some really cool people, including an author, shepherdess, eco-therapist and a nature writer.
I do hope to add more quality episodes over the years and it may just end up being seasonal, with the episodes maybe a bit longer. I don’t get any income for the podcast and the people appearing on it are doing so out of generosity and a desire to share ideas. Thank you to everyone who has been involved, I’ve loved it so far. The upcoming episodes are part two of the Hungary-Romania trip with Eddie Chapman, and a spring birdsong walk in the Sussex Weald that I recorded in May.
In book news, I have been providing content for other people’s books! Chris Schuler’s The Wood That Built London has just been published with some of my photos in the glossy inner-pages (see image above). It’s an absolute joy to be tied to this incredible book, which has levels of detail about south London’s ancient woodlands which have never before been amalgamated and shared. You can see more here. I’ve also (probably) had some photos published in Tiffany Francis-Baker’s book about Dark Night Skies.
In my own personal self-publishing world I have plans to release a third poetry booklet in early 2022 called Fool’s Wood. I have also been trying to write a book for the past 10 years about my experiences of volunteering and what I learned about nature and our relationships to it. That is proving very difficult to get anywhere with, but I hope to make some progress over the winter months. I am not producing any of these with an aim of being published in the mainstream, more for my personal sanity, and as ebooks. If anyone has advice about producing and publishing ebooks, please help me!
As photography projects go I’ve been gathering images of timber-framed cottages and other buildings for an Instagram account @SussexTimbers. I’m still looking for the best format to share these images and to talk about their historical significance, which Instagram is not quite. I will probably build a section on this website next year to showcase them. Might even make some postcards!
What I’ve been reading: this year has been dominated by Vasily Grossman’s Stalingrad and Life and Fate. I have studied Russian cinema and am something of a Russophile, but there is only so much you can take of 20th century Russian history. Tread carefully. I’ve recently finished Wanderland by Jini Reddy, I Belong Here by Anita Sethi, some of the novels by Sarah Moss (Ghost Wall and Cold Earth), and at the moment I’m enjoying Finding the Mother Tree by Suzanne Simard. Reddy and Sethi’s books are a must read for people who are advocates (or not) of countryside access. Especially those who adamantly and aggressively announce that ‘the countryside is for everyone’ as a reposte to the lived-experience of Black people and people of colour. It’s not, and racism prohibits people from feeling welcome in certain places. Finding the Mother Tree is essential reading for those who want to understand more about how trees are interconnected and the role fungi play in healthy, happy woodlands. I still haven’t read the Merlin Sheldrake book.
What I’m listening to: the new album by The War on Drugs is one I have been waiting a long time for. Change is my favourite song so far (that piano…):
I want to give a shout out to my dad who regularly reads this blog and has, alongside my mum, been a massive support to me for many years (obviously). Dad has been under the weather recently and unable to get out as much as he would like to, so hopefully dad what you can continue to see here is a bit of a sense of the outdoors. We’ll get you back out there again soon.
Thanks to everyone who reads this blog, sending in comments on here as well as on Twitter. I love to receive your comments, which are almost 100% positive, though I don’t block criticism (as long as it’s not inappropriate).
Wishing you a pleasant winter ahead with friends, family, wildlife and pets.
I have a third booklet of poems which are not far off being ready but I’ve written very little in the past year. My pandemic mind has not helped me to write anything, or to read any poetry either.
That changed when I started reading the Penguin book of Haikua few months ago. It definitely inspired me. I found the 5/7/5 syllable structure to be simple enough for my stay at home mind. That said, I don’t keep to strict rhyming systemsanyway as I find that too restrictive most of the time.
I first learned about haiku when studying creative writing at university. It was great to get back into it again. Here is a selection:
Coronavirus, once an ogre in the woods, now walks among us
who predicted this? a whole year of hidden life, of feeding the cat
why has this happened when we thought we knew it all but we knew nothing
January days never much light to be had but the darkness fades
coffee-coloured mud still holds panes of brittle ice that break underfoot
the pond is frozen wind moves the willow branches listen: the ice cracks
bullfinch pink, perching, it travels through the pine trees the female follows
streaming over stone the gill flows through the woodland taking everything
primroses ready to open flowers again to mark the season
hairy-footed bees cruising around the flowers searching for a mate
peregrine falcon passing over where I live (thankful I’m human)
the headless pigeon: nobody knows who killed it or who took its head
a storm came at lunch sudden whipping back of trees raindrops splattered glass
face masks in gutters did people mean to drop them? one had shit on it
gulls cry from the roof sparrowhawk sails overhead followed by a crow
at dusk the wagtails together on the rooftops one by one they fly
when will it all end? will there be a ringing bell or will it change us
what if we are trapped if this is our punishment for taking too much
when will we hug our mothers, fathers, our children, when will it be safe?
oak trees black at dusk clouds build on the horizon the river flows on
a trespassing drone seen off by a grey heron both in silhouette
waiting on the news you expect the worst of it but the sun rises
I’m in the process of editing a third booklet of poems. It takes me something like 2-4 years to get one finished because things need to be left to cool and develop, you need time away from it. I have a ghost document of poems that don’t quite fit in.
This is one of those poems. It’s about Semerwater, a lake in the Yorkshire Dales in north-east England that I visited in May 2018.
If you want to see more of my poems or buy yourself a booklet please head over here.
I’m in the process of editing a third booklet of poems. It takes me something like 2-4 years to get one finished because things need to be left to cool and develop, you need time away from it. I have a ghost document of poems that don’t quite fit in. This is one about a walk on the South Downs between Firle and Itford in June 2019.
I really thought this one would work with the collection, but something changed and it’s going free.
As I progress towards finishing the third booklet, I’ll post some more of those which won’t be in it. Definitely interested in your views on them.
The front cover is a great crested newt painted by Henrietta MacPhee. Thank you Henrietta for this beautiful picture.
The cost of printing was paid for by Teresa and Michael Greenwood and all proceeds will be donated to charity. Obviously I am not expecting to build too many hospitals. I will post an update on here if I the amount I have to donate is worth promoting!
The booklets are £2.50, postage is 84p. There is a limited run of 250 copies.
I would like to dedicate several of the poems to Richard Woolley, someone who cared very much about nature and the things that appear in these poems. Rich was with me in some of the poems featured, namely The heart races, We are the axis and Moonmade fields. Likewise thanks to everyone else who accompanied me on walks and offered experiences that inspired these, if you’ve read them you should know who you are!
If you would like to buy a copy please follow this link. Thanks to everyone who has supported me over time with writing and inspiring me to write these. Hopefully you will realise how easy it is to create something and will do it yourself.
As you can tell from the title these poems are about nature and wild animals. They are from a period of about five years, covering trips to Ireland, Romania, Czechia and throughout the UK in Northumberland, Exmoor and Norfolk.
I don’t decide what I will write about, it is usually a fragmented process of gathering bits together, always from spending time outside. It just happened that this was threaded together around our non-human neighbours on this planet. I personally feel my life would be far lonelier and poorer without sharing spaces with wildlife. I hope that comes across in this booklet if you read any of it.