23 November – Michelen-starred moor

If you want to taste truly gorgeous gourmet food,
don’t book a posh restaurant, head for your nearest wood,
or better yet trek for miles and climb a long, steep hill;
spread a blanket on the moor, then sit and eat your fill.
Never mind the mizzle or the fierce, gusting wind,
this is where Michelin-starred dining truly begins.
Replace fine wines with flasks of well brewed tea;
make the menu sliced spiced cake smeared in rich toffee.
What is the science behind the supremacy of outside food?
Is it working up an appetite that makes it taste this good?
Is it some kind of reaction with plain old fresh air
that creates culinary triumphs out of ordinary fare?
The best fish and chips are always eaten on the beach,
go ahead, keep testing this philosophy I preach.
I dare you to try and find something that tastes better
inside than outside, even in inclement weather.
So go on, treat yourself, dine out in your woolies,
crown yourself the connoisseur, king of all the foodies.

23 November - Michelin-starred moor

13 November – Delivery day

Stacking and packing logs out in the cold,
picturing weeks of warming fires as I pick and hold
each chunk of potential in my grateful hands,
recognising wood-piling helps me better understand
the cost of the heat my winter body seeks,
the gift that is held in each piece of tree.
There is a kind of grounding, connecting education
that builds as I build the stack in tessellation.
And as I mindfully take each log out from the bag,
what do you know? One smiles back.

12 October – Free falling

I will stand under the beech tree
as the west wind blows
and dance among its whirling, twirling gold leaf snow.
I will gaze up at its burnished clouds
that scatter gilded birds
and let myself rest from trying to find the perfect words
to capture, to conjure, to hold the moment tight,
to pin it to paper before it’s lost to time’s wild flight.
I will stand under the beech tree
as the west wind blows
and spin and laugh, rejoicing in its rustling, radiant glow.

8 October – Sunset elegy

Little, lost, lonely sun,
where has all your lustre gone?
All your shine’s shone out and fallen,
every charred quartz treasure stolen.
Dazzling show reduced to husk,
lights turned off, day made dusk.
Do you remember when your bright head beamed
spotlights of shade across the ground beneath?
Do you mourn all you used to be,
towering tall and blazing free?
Little, lost, lonely sun,
don’t despair, you are not done.
You will rise again – at least a thousand fold –
dawning brand new stars of beautiful, burning gold.

29 September – Autumn devotee

If I could, I’d spend all of Autumn’s precious days
chasing the changing up the country’s motorways.
I’d drink deep colour all the way from coast to coast,
moving on before it faded to brown so I could boast
the biggest dose of blazing leaves one person ever saw,
a greater drenching in acorn rain than anyone had before.
I would gather vast bouquets of perfect poppy heads
and make giant installations of all the beautiful living dead.
I would feast on fruit from every corner of the isle
and stir great batches of sticky jam all the while.
I would absorb the abundance, immersed in every vivid sensation
till there was no time left for that feeling of consternation
that creeps and persists as the grey also builds,
and paints a counterpoint of gloom to all that glorious gild.
This is how I’d choose to celebrate all that Autumn has to give
and rise above the dampening bleak to truly, fully live.

28 September – House guest

A butterfly in the house is a strangely magical thing,
like a fairy painting over ordinary with whimsical wings.
All that fluttering motion against the stasis of four walls
whispers to the freedom deep within that eagerly calls
back to childhood, to wonder, and to lingering play,
to chasing fleeting colours on bright Summers’ days.
I seek to guide them out, though their leaving is loss,
but today’s snoozy Tortoiseshell won’t accept me as boss.
It’s determined to move in for winter’s full duration,
folding up its wings to suspend in hibernation.
We’ve coaxed it from the stairs and the shelves in the hall
but it won’t budge from the conservatory roof at all.
No matter, now it’s safe, it’s very welcome to stay
where the heating can’t confuse it that it might be May.
It’s a very special guest I’m delighted we can keep –
a still-winged sprite taking an enchanted beauty sleep.

7 September – Autumn art

Whenever the waysides fill with seed heads and teasels,
I half expect to come across paint pots and easels,
so strong is their connection to lessons in art
and a succession of teachers trying to impart
the beautiful way they display texture and shape,
the perfect still life subjects their arrangements make.
The hours went slow trying to echo them on paper,
and I spent most of the time talking to my neighbour.
I still can’t capture Autumn’s emblems in charcoaled lines
but I have learned to recognise them as treasured finds.
I bring them indoors and group their stems in jars with flair,
enjoying their finery now, and remembering then and there.

3 September – Second new year

The first mornings of September feel just like that,
with clear blue skies, low golden light,
and crisp air that smells of fresh beginnings,
carrying with it the always remembered expectation
of brand new exercise books and shiny, sharpened pencils.
The dew is so heavy it glimmers like frost
and even though it’s decades since my terms began,
I still feel I must be back to school soon.
Focus and purpose pervade the day,
the chilling air forcing a final goodbye to summer,
and a growing acceptance that as the students return,
so the swallows must leave again too.

30 June – Goodnight gloaming

Goodnight gorgeous gloaming,
you perfect evening lantern show.
Thanks for flooding my bedroom
with your magic golden glow.
My west window’s a portal
to time between times’ shine,
to somewhere more than sunset
I ache to capture, keep as mine.
It feels wrong to close my curtains
in the presence of such light
but despite summer’s solstice,
I need it to be night.
So goodnight gorgeous gloaming
with your halcyon hints of glory,
return soon so I can climb the stairs
and retrace my steps into story.

29 June – Cordial rose

There is a fragrant type of rose
I don’t often see,
it grows in Irene’s garden,
its name’s not known to me.
But two years now in June
when she’s come round for tea,
she’s brought us its flowers
in a little gift posy.
This year when she left,
I remembered its story,
how all that beauty and perfume
found a second round of glory.
And though I knew from last time
the recipe would come through,
it still felt girlish make-believe
to mix a petal strewn pink stew!
But when sugared water plays with rose,
perfect scent transcends its sense,
and magic liquid Turkish delight
pours out delicious decadence.

28 June – Crossing paths

A rustle in the leaves
nestled near the track
then suddenly we see him,
almost lost in brown on brown.
A mini mountain climber
hauling up his hill,
crawling rhythmic, almost vertical
till suddenly he’s still.
Pace and progress all forgotten
when he senses us loom large,
he freezes, hoping hard
to merge with deep rich soil.
We recommence our walk
so he can reach his peak
but remember him all day,
the woodland toad we chanced to meet.

27 June – Hidden valley

High up in my valley
lies a secret second dale,
its river is a beck,
its hills mere bank sides steep.
Gladed and shaded
and overrun with moss,
every inch of it fairied green
as if time itself got lost.
This is where I climb
to walk my thoughts all out.
I leave them in the rock pools
that break the water as it falls.

26 June – Little orange helicopter

My warren watching
on the field side track
is rudely interrupted
by the sudden blur and buzz
of a little orange helicopter
darting through the tree canopy,
like a tiny drunken pilot
is testing out his moves.
Unexpected colour,
iridescent in the sun,
demands my attention rises
above hillside hopping fun.
Spot it if you can,
before it speeds away,
the first dragonfly of summer
dived across my path today.

26 June - Little orange helicopter

25 June – Spot the difference

This is how you know a fern is not bracken,
its leaves flow from the ground in an emerald fountain.
Everything unfurling from each single one
was squeezed into its frond before the stretching was begun.
I too will seek to trust this inside out becoming,
leave behind sideways growth, sprawling wide and running.

24 June – Metamorphosis

What miracle magic is this
to take a black spiked bug
and transform crawling ignominy
into something like fairy dust?
The jewel patterned Peacock takes wing,
fluttering with finesse and spin.
Does its memory, however faint,
remember the days before paint
transformed jet black to vibrant hue
and lifted it bodily to bird’s eye view?

24 June - Metamorphosis

23 June – Honeysuckle high

Strung across the sycamore stump
and among holly and hawthorn hedge,
are bunches of pale fairy lights bobbing
and twinkling between the green.
Almost always just out of my reach,
but determined to follow its climb,
I stand on tiptoe beneath,
a seeker of perfect highs.
Gently bending a string towards me,
sweet intoxication is mine,
all at once, delicately hushed, in the garden,
posh hand creams and candles fill my mind.
I wonder if I’ll ever find myself
rewilded quite nearly enough
for nature’s purest pleasures
to stop reminding me of man-made stuff.
It’s a beautiful, layered sensation,
all that luxury echoing round,
but it leaves me quietly curious
can true honeysuckle highs still be found?

23 June - Honeysuckle high

21 June – Tree toes

The river path by us
winds narrow and gnarly,
so watch your step
as well as the wild –
especially where,
among silt and stone,
tree toes cross the path
like splayed little crow claws,
moving at wood stretching slow
towards – not beside – the water.
For I can’t help but think,
even mighty oaks wince
when careless booted walkers
tread and trample on their feet!

20 June – Elderflower breeze

Headed towards the river path
through a field of unremarkable grass,
I am on my way to somewhere
when here transcends just route to pass.
One step I’m not paying any attention,
the next stops me as if at destination,
compelled to pause,
to better drink the scent
of summer cordial
fizzing in the air.
Moving forward it fades,
as quickly as it arrested,
just like the sudden felt enchantment
of beautiful new ideas,
fragrances whispering “write me”,
lost to the wind if not caught.

19 June – Vole island

If strength is in numbers,
today I learned
Britain doesn’t belong to us,
but to the tiny field voles
who live beneath the grass.
Many millions of mini mammals,
an army of blackberry hunters,
mining underground networks,
predating kings and conquerors.
I wonder what they make of us
giant ground shakers above?
I wonder if Victorious Voletannia
is our island’s true nation state?

18 June – Summer storm symphony

The performance starts
two days late,
but oh, when it comes,
it astounds.
Tumultuous timpani rolls open,
then the plucking of rain begins;
each staccato strike bouncing high
from every newly made instrument
with echoing, ringing springs.
Now the wind roars in,
the gutters squeak,
and hail smacks the windows hard.
And here inside,
we listen in awe
to virtuoso weather
as constant crescendo
serenades the valley
and drowns out all domesticity.

18 June - Summer storm symphony

17 June – Petal heart

A serendipitous moment,
when something in nature
mirrors another, familiar shape
and all at once
takes on all its meaning and metaphors.
This time it’s a forgotten fragment,
just a piece of discarded rose,
easy to miss in bank-side bramble,
but plucked out in triumph by you.
“It’s a perfect heart!” you say,
and I think to myself as you hold it –
this is like my heart, petal,
cup it gently, but safely secure
for it’s a fleeting, fragile-edged thing,
more flower than flame after all.
Cherish its lingering fragrance,
keep company with its translucent beauty,
I trust you with it completely
for as long as its bloom remains.

17 June - Petal heart

16 June – Barn owl addict

The first time I saw one for real,
it perched on my shoulder.
I was transfixed.
Enraptured.
So proud.
The photo still projects
that inner moment out
and makes me smile
a mirror image back
to my smaller self
some three decades on.
It felt so wild,
I remember the thrill,
even though now
I know the same engineered touch as tame.
But all the more special,
my history here,
when I come less close,
but seem more close,
in those wondrous moments
of chance encounter.
A penetrating stare,
a back garden pass,
a maybe glimpse in the field.
Low flight in moor’s dusk light
as I drive by in twilight,
soft landing on ruined tree.
I’ll never see them enough
to get over their singular rush
every time they grace my world.

Artwork by Barbarah Macnish

15 June – Swallow lake

The scene is set,
the light is dipped,
this evening’s show
is eagerly sought.
I take to my bench,
it’s about to commence,
the stage is wide with
white crested blue…

Flick, flick, dive,
flick, flip, glide,
leap, turn and dare-devil drop.
Flick, flick, dart,
flick, flip, pass,
loop, stretch and somersault rise.

Who choreographs
this wild wind dance
to secret, silent score?
Their seemingly effortless dramatics
in synchronised floating acrobatics
deserve a standing ovation.
The near misses,
the close crosses,
the warp, the weft, the scatter.
The duets,
the trios,
the whole troupe in full flow,
the joy, the high jinx, the wonder.
From premiere in May
to September’s curtain call day,
you’ll find me here, sat in awe.
Lingering to watch,
night after night,
this dazzling aerial ballet.

15 June - Swallow lake

14 June – Gooseberry gift

It’s the zing of childhood glee
in pure nostalgic taste.
Last year’s shared crop
was eaten like candy
and candied to jams
of deep purple red
and frog spawn green.
But this year,
this year the gift has grown.
It’s smaller for now
but rooted and rising…
a tantalising taste
of what’s to come –
an old fashioned sweet shop
on my own back lawn!
Already now, a leafy hand opens,
offering me its enticing treat,
the first, fine, plump little gooseberry,
a glorious, gorgeous gobstopper fruit.

14 June - Gooseberry gift

13 June – Breakfast on the move

I think I’d get indigestion
if I ate my muesli while swinging
rapidly,
dramatically,
always
to
and fro.
But the bird on my neighbours’ feeder
is an extreme sport kind of eater.
He munches unperturbed,
seemingly undisturbed,
as if it causes him no commotion
to be flung in ocean like motion.
But I suppose if you’re already good
at drilling your head into wood,
your view of a breakfast swing
is a much more causal thing.
So rock on woody, rock on,
enjoy your fly-through brunch,
I’ll see you again for peekaboo
round the silver birch over lunch.

12 June – Lupin lazuli

Newly planted,
there’s no hint yet
of tall tiered colour
and carousels of bright, bold bonnets.
But long before ruby-red carmine,
nestled among the still-green,
a perfectly centred aqua jewel
– sun-polished to reflect sky’s blue –
turns a humble multi-pointed leaf-star
to a fleeting new shape of flower power
before silently, secretly, stealing full away.

11 June – Moss on my window

You’re right I should be protected,
it’s overdue time for some serious alarm,
but let me remind you I’m more easily adapted,
than fatally, finally harmed.
I’ll still find my ways of growing,
despite your UPVC,
I’ll break through your concrete with petals,
you’ll struggle to ever tame me.
You’ll find me when least expected,
asserting myself in new ways,
remember I was here before you,
I’ve weathered countless days.
I’m not suggesting complacent inaction,
but I am reminding you to hope,
my true present and potential future
are way beyond your scope!

10 June – Interfulgent walk

Dappled light plays on the path,
casting spots, shining shifting beams.
First a robin glows in the limelight,
now holly leaves gleam newly mossy-bright.
December reflections are conjured in June
with subtle tricks of light,
the now merging with yesterdays
and tomorrows as yet unknown.
The path’s such a threadbare metaphor,
light breaking through such a tired idea,
yet they’re inescapably, effervescently embodied
on a day, on a walk, like today’s.
I am moving through sunlight in shadow,
following hope as illumined green.
I am breathing the sweet scents of journey,
I am here and not where I have been.

9 June – Rescue mission

Double, double toil and trouble,
notice stagnant drain bubble.
Amphibious limbs stirring the stew
can’t leap out or break through
plastic pipe to find relief
from impending, final sleep,
till…
suddenly lowered in kindly stoop
a ladle comes, full size of the soup.
Deus ex machina! Not a moment to soon,
frog soars to safety on flying spoon.

8 June – Otter remembered

Seven seconds of moment if that
at eight fifty five one Wednesday evening.
Right time, right place, thank the neighbours,
he’s suddenly there, tucked right in close to the bank.
Twitching nose up, on high alert to whole river,
then gone in ripple of wiggle and shimmer.

6 June – Cloud parade

Striding over hills,
gliding over trees,
the carnival arrives
as we drink our morning tea.
Dragons in our vista,
giants tumbling by,
a magic, mystery pageant
in an English country sky.
Early morning adventures
while breakfasting in bed,
enacting wisest nonsense,
six impossibilities in my head.

5 June – Dunnock dance

She wiggles her wings
like fluttering eyelashes,
all at once playing coy and coquette.
He lindy-hops round
in eager reply,
to the rhythm of silent sound.
Choreography rehearsed again
the very next day
as if this were the right-on hip spot.
Dunnocks dance! Come on down!
Dazzle us dizzy with your lively jive!
Who says you’re just dull, drear brown?

4 June – Space invader

There’s no appointment in the diary.
But here he is on a Thursday morning,
marching across the top of my screen
demanding top spot on my task list.
I squint to better assess his identity,
but he comes from some tiny, alien outside world
and I have never seen his orange hue
or diminutive shape before.
He is clearly here on long distance reconnaissance,
a miniature discoverer bent on conquering Inside.
Nose close, I see him lift his tiny front legs to his face,
washing, or feeding, perhaps even waving,
who’s to say?
When I next look up from my words
he’s gone,
presumably finished with living room circumnavigation,
maybe he’s now bravely claiming the hall.

3 June – Rainy day

It’s back again,
pressing pause on life al fresco,
putting a dampener on
day three of thirty appointed wild.

Cats and dogs,
drizzle and mizzle –
we need the whole soggy symphony of words
to shower down
when we’re so often left bemoaning it
in fifty flinty tones of exasperated grey!

Drat that smudger of pictures,
the infamous drowner of parties.
Blast that endless wet-wiper-outer of best laid plans!

But today, instead, I grant it absolution;
re-name it simply, relief,
and secretly, gleefully cheer it on:
“rain, rain don’t go away
don’t wait until another day”

Go on, join the song…

Clap as it waters the garden!
Welcome the softening of hard, hard ground!
Enjoy it diluting mercury risen and remaining…
day after day,
in a most un-English way!

Cherish shutting the doors
and love living your inside life,
set free from the burning compulsion
to bask in every moment
of rare British sun.
Admit you share our natural, national condition –
you were actually also quite missing the rain!

3 July - Rainy day

2 June – Strawberry surprise

All is spring and going, growing gradual fruit…
till stop!
A sudden surprise shouts bright.
What’s this traffic light change among the leaves?
Two plump pioneers of summer gleam among the green,
scarlet beacons of a nearly season nigh.
And quickly June tastes like July;
zesty, sweet and juicy red ripe.
With one sight,
and just one irresistible,
little bite,
here comes all that flavour zinging and singing –
exploding the promise of picnics,
parties, schools-out and pimms,
of bunting and beaches,
and long-lingering evenings,
of lanterns, longing and lazy bliss.
Here it is all at once now,
all together in a rush now –
a choice premonition of holiday
boldly trespassing my everyday,
like the scent of next door’s barbecue
or a curlew’s call to the wild.

2 June - Strawberry surprise

1 June – Hello buttercup

Hello buttercup,
you deserve a closer look.
More than cheeky lawn invader
or nostalgic chin shine player,
you shimmer your own sheen’s song
in miniature canary splendour.
Now I really see you, little sun,
I notice your distinction
among your companions
as you scatter gladly among the grass
in an earthbound constellation.
Standing tall, petals splayed
fiercely wide and free,
you are a five limbed leaper
held still in perfect, extended lines.
Your head thrown back,
abandoned to the sky,
as if you had forgotten
you were meant to be
any sort of cup at all –
while each of your neighbours
huddles and cuddles her petals close,
holding back her own perhaps-dance
in reticent, secret possibility.