I am lucky enough to be retreating from Real Life for a while: a week (ish) away near the Galloway coast in a house where there’s no internet and only a very feeble, intermittent phone signal. So this column will be on holiday along with me, though back as usual in a fortnight’s time. To give you a virtual visit to the sort of place I’ll be, and a vision of the sorts of creatures I hope to be gazing upon, here’s the vivid and wonderful ‘Rhu Mor‘ by Norma MacCaig. (Unfortunately I can’t find this anywhere on the internet with the poet’s own layout on the page, so we’ll have to make do with this. As consolation, you can hear MacCaig himself reading it here.)Read More
It’s very often time for Mary Oliver, I find, though I know those who do not agree. For those readers, best pass by. Today I wanted to read ‘Wild Geese‘, so I am. I know most people have already read it. I know that (like other Oliver texts) it’s been plundered for Pinterest posts and self-help-seminar titles and many, many Inspirational Items (posters, mugs, t-shirts, who knows what). Still, its beauty and wisdom persist—just as the Mona Lisa survives being a jigsaw. So: enjoy ‘Wild Geese’ all over again (with the plus of hearing Oliver read it).Read More
Waking at 5.25 this morning I got straight out of bed and went to the wood behind my house where I walked slowly round, revelling in the full glory of the dawn chorus. I was still in my pyjamas so I’m glad I was there before the first dogwalkers and runners (in these days of lockdown they are infesting the times and places that—did they but know it—are actually MINE. I know; sorry.) But even though I didn’t get caught I was aware that this wasn’t exactly Normal Behaviour. I mean, sure, I walk pretty much every morning. But I usually get dressed first. It just didn’t seem worth it today.Read More
There is good stuff in amongst all the strangeness at the moment, as a lot of people are noting. Some are doing so with a vim and perkiness which I find quite annoying—I rarely find Uplift uplifting—but it’s good to hear the quieter, less trumpety tales. And to notice things, too. Driving up to Scotland last week I was moved to see an oystercatcher walking across the M6 in front of me. I’m kinda glad the world is getting a rest from us.
‘The Horses‘ by Edwin Muir is one of the poems which has been echoing round my mind these last few weeks. Though it offers a post-apocalyptic vision it’s not an unmitigatedly doomy one, and I don’t offer it with a gloomy sense of prophecy. Rather, it’s because I’ve been aware of how strange and lovely I am finding the current silence, or relative silence, on my (rare and legitimate, guv’nor) sorties into the outside world. And silence is what Muir’s poem opens with. (Here are a couple of readings of it, too, one much more fruity and declamatory than the other. See what you think.)Read More