Oct 282013

Trees at Sunset  © Freefoto.comBy Tom Shepherd.

Time makes account of all of us, but does not care to tally
There is no pause for games of man, nor by its nature dally.
It does not love, nor care, nor hate, nor listen to our noise
No ears to hear our cries or tears, no greed to bribe with toys.

With measured tread we live our lives by second, minute, hour
Each sweeping hand a gentle cut, a unique mortal scour.
We cry for more, there’s none to have, but time’s song does not end
Each moment filled with hope, with fear, with enemy, with friend.

What little we can see is shown through unclear, blinkered view
The past is clouded with the murky haar of false or true.
Of things to come no certainty save optimistic cries
Yet time accounts for you and I and ever, ever flies.

Live for each day or plan for futures yet to come about
Be happy as the day is long or paralysed with doubt.
Each moment lived is ever in the here, the now, the new
So to each other now’s the time to say that I love you.

© Tom Shepherd, 23 Oct 2013

Image Credits
Sun Halo ( thumbnail ) © Duncan Harley
Sun through Trees © Freefoto.com

Sep 062013

By Bob Smith.

We hid a wee bit dander
T’wis jist the ither day
Gied in by Castle Fraser
The sun wis oot tae play
Doon past the adventure playgrun
Wi its tepee an ither things
Intae the bonnie wa’d gairden
Tae see fit naitur brings
Big daisies an ither flooers
Brocht colour there’s nae doot
An we myn’t tae close the gates
Tae keep the rubbities oot
A fylie sin a’ve seen sae muckle
Bees an butterflees in ae sector
Flittin aroon fae flooer tae flooer
An githerin up aa the nectar
Syne throwe the widdlan waak
Tree taps sweyin in the breeze
We cam upon the bonnie pond
Hame tae dyeuks an dragonflees
A gweed fyle there we sat
Surroondit bi naitur’s glory
The reeds an bonnie grasses
War pairt o oor day’s story
We climm’t up the windin path
An cam upon some coos
Faa lookit ower the fencie
Did they wint tae hae a newse?
The magic o iss bonnie waak
Wi a beauty hard tae beat
A sweir doon throwe the trees
A heard the patter o Hobbits’ feet

©Bob Smith “The Poetry Mannie” 2013

Aug 092013

By Bob Smith.

Cry ma beloved Scotland
Greet at wir foolish wyes
Ye tak aboard wir excuses
An listen ti aa wir lies
Ye hiv an embracin beauty
An we listen tae yer wails
Yet we sacrifice yer landscapes
Tae satisfy business holy grails
In yer mountain an yer moorland
There is a majesty unsurpassed
Yet winfairms an great motorwyes
Are creepin ower ye fast
In yer hills an glens we marvel
At nature’s fecht ti survive
Ower muckle fowk on yer pathways
Ower hillside tracks they can drive
Cry again my beloved Scotland
Greet eence mair at wir foolish wyes
Ye try tae mend the destruction
As ye let oot some mournfu cries
There’s fowk as wid help ye
An stop the folly aat’s aroon
We need aa ti be richt brave
As some wid ding us doon

©Bob Smith “The Poetry Mannie” 2013

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May 242013

By Duncan Harley.

Scotland’s wildlife and landscapes need greater protection than ever before, Sir David Attenborough has warned. Sir David’s comments come ahead of the publication of a report compiled by 25 wildlife organisations from across the UK.

The State of Nature Report concludes that many habitats and species are under threat.

It seems that 60% of species studied have declined in recent decades with 10% of the plant and animal species assessed at risk of vanishing from the UK completely.

Dr Mark Eaton of the RSPB, said:-

“These declines are happening across all countries, habitats and species groups, although it is probably greatest amongst insects, such as our moths, butterflies and beetles. Other once common species like the kittiwakes, Scottish wildcat and arable wildflowers are vanishing before our eyes”.

There are currently around 59,000 species that inhabit the UK but while some, such as the otter are thriving, others such as the wildcat are on the danger list.

Our native Scottish Wildcat is critically endangered says the Scottish Wildcat Association with less than 100 individuals appearing to remain in the wild and barely a handful in the captive breeding population. Unusually the prime cause of the decline appears to be interbreeding with the domestic cat population leading to a dilution of the gene pool and the probable extinction of the breed.

Habitat destruction and climate change appear to be major causes of the decline of other UK species however. Species such as the Small Tortoiseshell butterfly, the Atlantic Salmon and the humble bumble bee are becoming thin on the ground and many more species are being viewed by naturalists as very much at risk.

According to the he British Hedgehog Preservation Society the once common garden hedgehog is in serious decline as new buildings and roads carve up suitable habitat so that small populations become isolated and more vulnerable to local extinction. Tens of thousands of hedgehogs are of course killed on our roads each year and road deaths may actually be an important cause of hedgehog decline since spines are little defence against a wheeled predator.

Even that friendly garden resident, the ladybird is becoming a much rarer sight with figures showing a 44% fall in numbers over the past decade. Indeed many residents of northern Scotland cannot recall seeing them at all in recent years.

Then of course there are the wildlife casualties caused by government policies who often use that well camouflaged term “culling” as a cover for the killing of wild animals.
Tullos in Aberdeen has recently seen the “culling” of Roe Deer for perhaps no good reason and the badger cull in England has been soundly criticised by many both within the scientific community and the conservation lobby.

Brian May, legendary guitarist of Queen and friend of the late Sir Patrick Moore, recently dressed up in a badger suit to sing a specially composed ‘badger song’ outside the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) offices but that seems to have little effect on the actions of the policy makers who feel that the route to eradicating Bovine tuberculosis (TB) is to kill every badger in sight despite some contradictory and convincing evidence that the plan is a flawed one and will deliver little.

Indeed the only effect will be, according to many conservationists, to allow badgers from neighbouring counties to invade and take over the sets left vacant when the killing teams have done their work.

It seems that even the royals are on the bandwagon. The news is full of features about the “Lion King”, Edward VIII, better known as the Duke of Windsor and who of course famously gave up his throne for the love of an American by the name of Wallis Simpson.

The Duke was seemingly an ardent killer of anything which moved and collector of hunting trophies by the hundred. Nicknamed Sardine at naval college and infamous in some circles for his fascist pro Nazi sympathies, It now appears that the man was a pioneering conservationist who “fought to save the wildlife of Africa” according to the Sunday Times.

He seemingly on occasion swapped his hunting rifle for a cine camera and in a rare royal propaganda coup Channel 4 will screen a documentary of the royal film footage later this May.

Additionally it seems that the Royal Family have this week appealed for us all to do something about wildlife poaching in Africa. This is of course positive since very few of us Scots relish the killing of African Rhino and Elephant just for their horns and tusks. However many will doubt the sincerity of this plea from a family who have for many generations visited Scotland during the hunting season to shoot the local wildlife.

Says John Sangster of Inverurie:

“Just heard the Royal Family appeal for us to do something about poaching in Africa which is killing off the elephant and rhinoceros, I am in agreement, but I find it incredible that it should come from a family that come to Scotland every year and shoot anything that moves.

“The message that sends is that it is bad to kill African wildlife but OK to kill Scottish wildlife. The hypocrisy is astonishing and really in these matters the British Royal Family should keep their gobs shut considering half of Africa is on their “bloody” walls.”

Another local resident also felt that the royal call to action seemed quite hypocritical. After all he told me, when the present incumbent of the throne heard about her father’s death, she was with her husband the Duke of Edinburgh on a hunting safari somewhere in Kenya. Indeed, the Duke continues to defend his love of blood sports and has frequently claimed that he is culling and not killing the animals.

In 1961, despite protests from British and Indian politicians, he went ahead with an Indian tiger shoot and figures compiled by anti blood sports campaigners suggest that in Britain alone he has shot deer, rabbit, hare, wild duck, snipe, woodcock, teal, pigeon and partridge, and pheasant numbering at least 30,000.

Prince Philip was of course the very first President of World Wildlife Fund (WWF) from its formation in 1961 to 1982 and International President of WWF (later the World Wide Fund for Nature) from 1981 to 1996. He is now President Emeritus of WWF.

The Prince was quoted in 1988 as saying that in the event of his reincarnation, he would like to return as a deadly virus in order to contribute something to solve overpopulation. Many of his subjects would no doubt oppose any move on his part to convert to Buddhism.


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May 172013

By Bob Smith.

There is a Native American sayin “Treat the Earth weel. We dinna inherit the Earth fae oor ancestors We borra it fae oor children” Aat bein the case oor affspring are nae gyaan tae be verra happy wis us.

We’re makkin a richt bliddy pig’s erse o lookin efter the planet we aa bide on.

Een o the biggest problems wi hiv is foo we use the lan we bide on.

There his bin huge pressure pit on the Earth’s ecosystems since the Industrial Revolution. Afore aat maist fowk workit in the rural areas bit wi the onset o fit poet William Blake described as the “dark satanic mills” fowk moved intae growen toons an pollution fair belched oot o factory lums and the coal fires o the workers hames.

It is alleged carbon dioxide levels hiv increased  by 38% since 1750 an methane levels by 148%.

So aat wis  the stairt o oor planet’s problems bit thingies hiv gotten worse ower the past hunner ‘ear an speecially so in the past fifty.

There hiv bin “land grabs” fae the indeginous fowk o various kwintras tae further the interests o big business throwe mair minin, loggin an cattle ranchin, tae name bit three, resultin in the loss o lan fer agricuture so aat the fowk can nae langer feed thersels.

Forests hiv bin cut doon, fowk displaced,the habitats o animals destroyed, aa in the name o so ca’ed progress. The human race is spreadin its tentacles aawye usin up the Earth’s resources at sic a speed the planet hisna hid time tae recover.

Awa back in time fowk jist used fit they nott an leukit efter the natural world, livin side bi side wi the ither inhabitants o the Earth. Nooadays we hiv becum greedy an it’s a race tae see faa can mak the maist dosh an nivver myn if wi leave ahint a trail o destruction in the rush tae achieve economic growth.

As a chiel faa cums fae a fairmin backgrun it pains me tae hae tae write iss next bittie, bit modern intensive fairmin practices hiv,in ma opeenion, contributed tae the pollution o the lan an destruction o habitat fer a puckle birdies an animals.

As far as a can see verra little crap rotation is deen nooadays

A myn on ma faither, nae lang afore he passed awa, sayin he wis gled he wisna stairtin up in fairmin noo as it wis nae langer leukit upon as a wye o life bit mair a business controlled by faceless bunkers, reid tape, an the agri-chemical business.

Noo ma faither did use fertilisers bit he didna like pesticides.

As far as a can see verra little crap rotation is deen nooadays an as a result the grun becums soor an loses its nutrient value hince the reason mair an mair fertilisers hiv tae be used.

Spreadin gweed coo’s shite in its natural form is nae langer a practice widely used. Mair an mair slurry is gyaan on tae the parks an bein in liquid form can leak fae the lan intae ditches an burns an syne intae rivers.

Fairmers hiv ower the past fifty ‘ear pulled up hedgin an knock’t doon dykes tae mak the parks bigger tae accomodate the muckle big tractors an machinery. The hedges an dykes war refuges fer birds an wee beasties.

The loss o roch grassland, loss o mixed fairms, conversion tae arable craps only, an a switch fae spring tae autumn sowin a mak life difficult fer fairmland birds like the teuchat an the laverock.

The bee population is thocht tae be suffrin throwe the use o certin pesticides an yet the fairmers need the bees tae pollenate some o their craps so fit wye div they keep on sprayin? Ae answer is – bigger yields are leukit on as mair important than the birds an the bees.

Noo there is a smatterin o fairmers faa hiv decided tae gyang back tae een or twa o the auld wyes o producin food.There are a helluva lot mair faa need convincin.

A noo cum tae a bit fit wull nae mak me ower popular wi some fowk.

the human population is risin an we need hooses tae accomodate aabody

Reports hiv bin sayin fer ‘ears we are nae able tae feed oorsels in iss kwintra. Nae bliddy wunner, we hap productive lan wi concrete in the form o hoosin and industrial developments an hiv great ribbons o tar criss crossin aawye.

We are telt the human population is risin an we need hooses tae accomodate aabody an fowk need their cars tae get fae A tae B.

Maybe it’s time we aa stairted waakin mair afen an foo aboot bannin bonkin fer a ear or twa? Aat wid fair reduce the need fer sae muckle cars an wid gyang sum wye tae halt a population explosion.

Myn ye, ma suggestion o bannin bonkin micht increase the amunt o wankers gaen aboot.

Tae git back tae bein a bittie mair serious. John Muir, the great Scottish born American naturalist, eence said

The gross heathenism of civilisation has generally destroyed nature and poetry and all that is spiritual”

We maun aa therefor hae a leuk at fit’s gyaan on in the warld an try tae influence the eens in power aat continued economic growth micht pit in jeopardy the future fer oor affspring.

As lang as the warld an his mither ging aboot consumin ower muckle, the Earth suffers.

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Mar 212013

With thanks to Richard Bunting.

Conservation charity Trees for Life has welcomed the first United Nations International Day of Forests with a call for more people to get involved in helping to create a renaissance for Scotland’s beleaguered forests.

The UN General Assembly has proclaimed 21 March to be the International Day of Forests – a day to celebrate and raise awareness of the importance of forests and trees for all life on earth.

Across Scotland, forest restoration efforts are bringing new or renewed life to many ancient native woodlands, from Rassal Ashwood in Wester Ross to the Carrifran Wildwood in Dumfries and Galloway, and from the Loch Sunart Oakwoods in Lochaber to Abernethy and Glenfeshie in the Cairngorms National Park.

Yet with increasing concerns about climate change, deforestation and biodiversity loss – as well as tree diseases such as ash dieback and Dothistroma Needle Blight, which is a potential threat to the iconic Scots pine – the need for concerted action to conserve and regenerate Scotland’s native woodlands is more important than ever before.

Alan Watson Featherstone, Trees for Life’s Executive Director, said:

“There are signs of hope for woodlands throughout Scotland, but we urgently need more people to help make a difference now – the future of Scotland’s forests is literally in our hands. We are the last generation with the opportunity to save the CaledonianForest, for example, as many of the remnants of this Scottish equivalent of the rainforests are in terminal decline.

“Fortunately projects such as ours provide an inspiring and practical way for people from all walks of life to help make a personal and positive difference – to help restore natural wonders such as the CaledonianForest and to reverse the global trend of deforestation.”

 For 2013, the Year of Natural Scotland, Trees for Life is:

  • Working to double its rate of restoration work in the Caledonian Forest.
  • Running a Million More Trees campaign – an ambitious bid to establish a further million trees by planting and natural regeneration by 2017.
  • Expanding its acclaimed Conservation Weeks, offering more opportunities for people to make a personal contribution to the environment and to gain hands-on conservation experience. The weeks are being held in eight locations across the Highlands, in a longer season than ever before that has begun this week and runs until November.
  • Launching Wildlife Weeks for conservation volunteers who want to spend extra time learning about and observing the CaledonianForest’s remarkable wildlife.
  • Running fortnightly Conservation Days, for local people to take practical action.
  • Enabling disadvantaged volunteers from diverse backgrounds, including older people and those who are unemployed or on low incomes, to help directly in forest restoration work – an initiative made possible by a £45,900 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Following a long history of deforestation, some 150 years ago the Caledonian Forest reached a critical point of no return. Since then, with too few remaining trees and too many deer eating all the seedlings that germinate, young trees have struggled to get established. This has left ‘geriatric’ forests made up of old trees at the end of their lives, with no new ones growing to replace them.

Today, only a fraction of the former Caledonian Forest survives, with its native pinewoods reduced to 35 isolated remnants. However, Trees for Life is restoring the forest to a wilderness region of 1,000 square miles in the Highlands to the west of Loch Ness and Inverness.

Volunteers from the award-winning charity have helped to plant more than one million trees at dozens of locations, and to create 10,000 acres of new forest. Amongst these emerging forests, a complex web of life is renewing itself. Habitat restoration is making a big difference to the wildlife of the Caledonian Forest, which includes the strawberry spider, wood ants, red squirrels, rare sawflies, ospreys and capercaillies.

For more details, see www.treesforlife.org.uk or call 0845 458 3505.

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Mar 142013

With thanks to Richard Bunting.

Conservation charity Trees for Life has received a grant of £45,900 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) for the training of disadvantaged conservation volunteers in the Scottish Highlands.

The funding will enable volunteers from diverse backgrounds, including older people and those who are unemployed or on low incomes, to help directly in the restoration of Scotland’s ancient Caledonian Forest in stunning locations such as Glen Affric and Glen Moriston.

Volunteers, who otherwise might not get the chance to do so, will be able to take practical action to protect the natural environment, learn about threatened habitats and species, and benefit from time spent in green places and activities that are good for mental and physical health.

Alan Watson Featherstone, Trees for Life’s Executive Director, said:

“This Heritage Lottery Fund grant is great news for the Caledonian Forest and for local communities, as it will allow disadvantaged volunteers to help save Scotland’s equivalent of a rainforest and its unique wildlife. By doing so, they will develop new skills and gain a rewarding experience from spending time outdoors in the inspirational wild landscapes of the Highlands.”

Colin McLean, Head of the Heritage Lottery Fund in Scotland, said:

“In what is the Year of Natural Scotland, this is a great opportunity for people, who would not normally have the chance, to visit the countryside to learn new skills and gain a better understanding of our natural environment. By encouraging more people to experience nature first-hand, hopefully we are inspiring their enthusiasm for its long-term conservation while having fun along the way.”

Activities will include hands on conservation work in breathtaking locations surrounded by mountains, forest and rivers – including tree planting and protection, and work in Trees for Life’s tree nursery at its acclaimed Dundreggan Estate, a biodiversity hotspot situated to the west of Loch Ness.

Although only a fraction of the former CaledonianForest now survives, Trees for Life volunteers have helped to plant more than one million trees at dozens of locations, and to create 10,000 acres of new forest. The award-winning charity is restoring the forest to a spectacular wilderness region of 1,000 square miles in the Highlands to the west of Loch Ness and Inverness. For more details, see www.treesforlife.org.uk or call 0845 458 3505.

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Feb 212013

By Bob Smith.

The whaup. Ma faavrit bird
wi its maist hauntin soon
a soond aat is embedded
sin i wis jist a loon

wi connach aa its habitat
its feedin gruns wi invade
wi really cwidna care a jot
as human arrogance wi parade

wi drain maist o oor weetlans
wi trumple doon oor grasses
why maan wi use up oor lan
jist tae satisfy the masses

we maan leave the whaup some space
fer it breedin an fer feedin
ere’s plenty room fer aa o us
if wi stop ayewis bliddy needin

© bob smith “the poetry mannie”  2013
Image credit: Sylvia Duckworth | Wiki Commons










Jan 172013

Constellations, an exhibition of work by German artist Bibo Weber will run at MUSA in Exchange Street from 15th January until  24th March, 2013.

An Aberdeen resident since 2009, Bibo creates sculptures and other artwork in a variety of media and techniques, using natural materials like driftwood and ceramic as well as non-organic materials and found objects.

Her artwork deals with our connectedness with nature and the transience of life, and is influenced by imagery of supernatural beliefs from different cultures and inspired by the forms she sees in the natural world around her.

Bibo often brings her sculptures into a natural environment in which she feels it merges with its surroundings and, by doing this, creates temporary installations.

A wide range of Bibo’s recent work, including sculpture, photography and ceramics, can be seen in Constellations, her first solo exhibition, which runs at MUSA from this week.

The main elements in Constellations are the tall wooden sculptures which are loosely based on the totems of North Pacific Native Americans.  A totem can be the symbol of a tribe, clan, family or individual, and it bears testimony to a close affinity to nature.

By using symbolic shapes and texture and the use of mainly organic material, Bibo’s artwork explores the spirit of people and nature, interspersed with imagery of the North East coast of Scotland as seen through the artist’s eyes.

The main material from which the sculptures are made is recovered wood which, once carved and shaped, is resurrected in the form of narrative constellations.

Bibo arranges and photographs these constellations to evoke specific encounters – similar to pictures in an old family album.
Some of these photographs, which are taken along the Aberdeenshire coastline, can also be seen at the exhibition as large-format prints.

One of the works in this exhibition, Yamatanka, is a large, mixed-media, full-head mask which Bibo was inspired to create after seeing a performance in Aberdeen by a group of Tibetan monks from the Tashi Lhunpo Monastery.

Yamantaka is the Tibetan god of wrath who overcomes death by adopting the appearance of Death and whose terrifying appearance is said to protect us from external evil.

There are also some of Bibo’s ceramics on display and, in keeping with the general theme of ‘natural environment’ these small sculptures and vases are inspired by the forms, colours and textures of kelp seaweed.

Over the last year Bibo has contributed to a number of exhibitions in London, Chichester, Edinburgh Paisley Dunkeld and Aberdeen and is planning another Constellations exhibition which will be held in the Duthie Park Winter Gardens later this year.

Constellations runs at MUSA, 33 Exchange St, Aberdeen, from 15th January until 24th March.  See www.musaaberdeen.com

Further information.
Website – http://www.outsidein.org.uk/Bibo-Weber
Email  biboartwork@yahoo.co.uk

Dec 102012

With thanks to Peter Thomson

The River Don is celebrated in a new book from the Woodside Writers Group. With support from the SURF (Sustainable Urban Fringes) Aberdeen project, The Don: from Source to Sea is now available.
An anthology of poems and prose in English and Doric, Aberdeen Voice brings you the first in a short series of extracts.

Gates Shut

Gates shut, canna go in
Nae job
It floated doon i Donny
Sic a shock
Employed the day, nae the morn
Fit wye?
Dinna ken mate, letter on the way, explain it aa
Union ill sort it oot
Nae made redundant, jist unemployed.
Sorry chaps, mill’s gid bust
Bit niver mind, the best o luck.
Beater hoose empty
nae manly chat, joke or jibes
cups o coffee or fags or moanin aboot the wife
spenin a yer sillar.
Idle musty levers, dusty buttons
Empty hollow reels, nae birling or
whirling wi reams o paper.
Pied ma dues, now beggin bowl in haun,
state benefits
Apply for jobs ye say?
Hid een the ither day, nae the attitude sorry mate
nae yer fault
bit sad an doon in i dumps
Thirty five years makin paper
seems unfair, nae just
niver mind, I’ll get on wi life…
as fit I must.

May Ritchie

The Don: from Source to Sea is available from WH Smith and Books ‘n’ Beans for £5.00, and also from Mark Lovie at the Woodside Fountain Centre: tel: 01224 524926, email: mark@fersands.org

Twenty per cent of any profits from the book will go towards a Don educational project; the rest will help to fund future Woodside Writers Group projects.

The idea of a book came up when the Woodside Writers Group realised the river appeared in much of their writing, and further material was gathered from as far afield as Alford.

The Don corridor has a great history and the SURF Aberdeen project aims to bring communities, organisations and ideas together to initiate a renewed focus and collaborative management to this area at a time of significant change.


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