Category Archives: Writing

A Biodiversity Birthday. 6 years of Navasolanature! Looking back and Looking Forward.

The New Year is well under way and I can only wish that there will be hope and happiness for us all and wisdom for those in power who can make the changes our struggling world needs. January is  named after the Roman God Janus, a god with two heads. One head looks back at the past year and the other to the future. So I have decided to look back at my photos showing some of the biodiversity at Navasola and close surrounding woodlands. January is also my blogging birthday and I am now celebrating 6 years of celebrating biodiversity! My tag line began as ‘ nature needs nurture’.  And it certainly needs this now more than ever.

Buff the buff tailed bumblebee, a character in my novel.

I thought of writing  a children’s story about all the animals that come to tea near our house or sometimes into it. I was inspired by the huge grasshopper on the old wet teabags in our kitchen, although at the time it gave me quite a shock. However, I have not fully finished it for a January deadline. Of course, the main inspiration is Judith Kerr, who recently died and the ‘The Tiger who came to Tea’. Writing for children is not easy and I admire fellow blogger Annika Perry with her beautifully illustrated story ‘Oscar’s Quest’. (See links at end of this post.) My first two photos are of two of the main characters in my novel. My novel is about the journey of some animals from our woodland to the distant North.  I am still struggling to revise it after advice on point of view and writing for young adults. I now feel it is very timely as so many young people are now so concerned and more aware of the threats to biodiversity and the effects of climate change for us all. However, I have added and updated and divided the novel into two and hope to find some interest in publishing it this year.

Abe Apio the bee eater character in my novel.

 

With our return to Navasola I am pleased to hear so much bird song and calls in the evening. It is also very wet underfoot and such a change from even two months ago. Water levels have risen and there is some water in the well now but we will have to monitor closely.

Hoopoe visiting Navasola in Autumn

My decision for 2020 is to try and cut my own carbon emissions. This is going to be very difficult because of our need to travel between family and our home here. Here, in Spain with our solar power we can almost live carbon free for electricity and hot water. But our first flight has cost me a quarter of a tonne in carbon emissions. I am going to try and write about this as a new journey this year. My desire to do this and inform myself more is because of the tragic loss of wild species and habitats and climate changes makes this life threatening for so many creatures and for our grandchildren’s future.

Elizabeth Maruma Mrema, the acting executive secretary of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, has implored governments to ensure 2020 is not just another “year of conferences” on the ongoing ecological destruction of the planet, urging countries to take definitive action on deforestation, pollution and the climate crisis.’ ( The Guardian’)

So for January I have also thought about diet and signed up to Veganuary. Over the past 40 years I have been vegetarian and pescatarian. However vegan is difficult for me as I love my cup of tea with milk. I also love yogurt and some cheese. I will try and post more on that and have got a freezer full of my chestnut harvest recipes. Once upon a time the little fellow below was eaten as a delicacy in the province of Extremadura. This species was on the verge  of extinction. This one turned up on our porch for his own tea.

Ocellated or Jewelled lizard

Travelling by car will also be a difficult one for my carbon reduction journey. We really need a car when living in the Spanish countryside so hopefully we will try and keep mileage down. As yet we can’t afford a new car, electric or hybrid. However, hybrids are the top selling cars in Spain at the moment. There is more political will here too as the new government has appointed a Vice President to be in charge of environmental issues and transition to a greener economy. Let’s also hope that the Doñana wetlands can be well looked after.  I posted on this last year and the issues over water management. I also think it is important to visit these areas and to try and encourage ecotourism so habitats can be saved and considered important throughout the world.  Am not sure that eco minded people should cut down on eco minded tourism. There are many difficult calls.

For the sake of all these species and for the future we must ensure a greener and different kind of economy that will secure a world that protects and restores.

Link to Annika Perry’s blog and her new book.

Introducing Oskar!

Autumn Walks in the Sierra Aracena

Autumn in the Sierra Aracena is a must.The autumn colours start with the poplar trees by the rivers, the fruit trees and finally all the chestnut orchards bring those northern forest changes to the southern part of Spain in our mountains. By the end of November the chestnut harvest is over and this year it has been poor due to a longer drought than usual. We have also just managed with our well but only about 100 litres a day coming up from the water table.We took a brief respite in Portugal to use a washing machine. We didn’t dare risk the amount of water our machine takes even though our solar power makes for a carbon neutral wash. Without water it is very difficult to be comfortable. I could have walked a kilometre to the local village where the springs are still flowing in Fuenteheridos as many women in other countries have to walk long distances. The Castano village spring was still dry too.

P1100863

Autumn brings a lot of business as local farmers collect their chestnuts, tourists come to visit and enjoy walks and foraging. The foraging for chestnuts and mushrooms often creates disputes because most of the land in the Natural Park of the Sierra Aracena is privately owned and farmers need the income from their chestnuts but key footpaths are open. Some tourists come in coach loads to see the change of leaves against the bright blue skies. But thankfully it has been cloudier and some rain has fallen. Those of us who live there cannot complain as the rain is desperately needed. So for once I have had almost three months of grey skies with my time in the UK and now back at Navasola.

Organic growers’ market at the Matronal campsite between Fuenteheridos and Castano del Robledo.

Autumn also brings the harvest of other fruits such as quince which must be cooked. I cook it whole and then cut it up and add half sugar to the amount to make the famous membrillo paste. It is delicious with the hard mature cheeses of the Sierra. Below are some other fruit in a friend’s orchard; persimmon or caqui in Spanish. These need to be eaten when very overripe.

P1100945
Persimmons in Ruth’s orchard.

I have also spent a lot of time peeling and preparing chestnuts for rissoles and stews.I have a love hate relationship with these amazingly difficult nuts, their harsh husks which spike you, their outer shell which goes quite tough if not knifed into when fresh from the ground, and the awful tannin bitter inner coat which refuses to be removed.

Here are photos from one of our favourite walks above the village of Castano, especially in the evening in order to capture the setting sun. Just before the village of Castano from the road there is a large green structure and a path starts from there. Following along the path from the village you can also reach this track. These are some of the views as the sun came out making it a glorious golden walk.

Lotte my favourite Tibetan terrier at the start of the track
Views of the village of Castano del Robledo

Chestnuts are the planted orchard trees here but robles are the oaks and there are a few different kinds that grow wild here as well as the Cork Oak and Holm Oak. I was delighted to find theresagreen’s post on Chestnut trees. Its very detailed and informative about the whole years cycle. Here is the link but I might try and reblog too. https://theresagreen.me/2019/12/06/sweet-chestnut/

There’s always an old chestnut. In middle of path.
Cork trees
Rocky stone walls typical of the Sierra Aracena
A new oak forest growing.

The walk along this track or sendero from Castano del Robledo finally ends up at La Pena, a rocky outcrop overlooking the Sierra village of Alajar.Here in the renaissance times Arias Montano had a sanctuary and place of learning.Today there is the church hermitage of ‘The Queen of the Angels’ and this is where the romeria in September ends too. All the local villages walk, ride horses, or are pulled in fancy carts by horses or tractors to honour the most important saint of the Sierra. It is a magical place with tremendous views and from there you can walk the path to Castano. There are not many circular walks in the Sierra as the public paths were the old camino reals, or royal paths from village to village for trade. Perhaps the King came that way once.

La Pena, Alajar, Sierra Aracena

I have voted in the British Election, with a heavy heart as I could not vote Green as my party stood down in my northern hill town constituency. There is a weariness of the spirit but there is so much at stake. Even though there was finally a climate leaders debate on TV the ideas of a Green New Deal have not been publicised much by the media or dare I say the Labour Party.

I love that all the political parties are announcing planting tree programmes but my mantra for the New Year will be

‘ We need forests not just trees so keep our forests and make more please.’
‘It takes lots of trees of different ages to make a forest.’

I am struggling without a good wifi connection and also if there are any hints about keeping the blog going without using too many gigabytes as I am running out again on my current plan. I think I need to reduce photo size. However I hope everyone will have a very happy festive time and I am hoping my next post will be more about the animals that have visited Navasola in the past year!

Will also try and link this with Restless Jo and her Monday Walks and encourage her to leave the sea and come to our mountains. We are only about 2 to 3 hours drive from Tavira, Portugal.
Jo’s Monday walk

Green October

October has been another busy month back in the UK. I decided to attend The Green Party Conference and see if politics can be done differently. I enjoyed attending policy making for Food and Farming. This was a learning curve and along with the discussions about the Green Party’s policy group there was an opportunity to listen to a spokesman from the National Farmers Union. The farmers are aware of the challenges they face and not just from Brexit. Some farms are experiencing lack of water while others not far away are in flooded areas and excess rainwater was being pumped into the sea. The NFU have committed to zero carbon by 2040 in their industry and have the means to do so by sequestering carbon with more hedgerows, trees and other methods. They have a plan.

Another interesting speaker on farming was Sue Pritchard, an organic farmer near Hereford and chair of a RSA report on farming today which involved discussions from a wide range of people in different communities.https://www.thersa.org/action-and-research/rsa-projects/public-services-and-communities-folder/food-farming-and-countryside-commission

The conference plenary sessions were well organised but slow in some areas but most of the main changes to policies and new policies were quickly voted on. I felt that evidence based planning was important. All policies are voted on by all Green Party members who attend the two main conferences.

There was discussion on how to address the climate emergency and the need to reduce emissions by earlier dates than 2050. Many young Greens want 2025 but most Green Party planning has looked at how to practically achieve this by 2030. And even with this there are still ‘gaps’ which need to be addressed. At least the Green Party has plans and an understanding of the complexity of this and the need for all levels of government to be leading the way. I think they do try to do politics differently with a lot more democratic involvement of all members and striving for keeping kindness at the heart of debate and differences of opinion.

I was in London, my home town when Extinction Rebellion were protesting and I went to see what was going on. This group has created a major shift in awareness as to the urgency needed to address the climate crisis. In Spring they brought central London to a bemused standstill. David Attenborough , our nonagenarian also was broadcasting about the drastic changes affecting nature because of human activity. This, along with Greta Thunberg and the school climate actions has created a new awareness that these issues must be addressed now.

In a recent poll conducted by clientearth it seems that the environment will be important in how people will vote in a general election. ‘Of those polled (54%) said climate change would affect how they would vote, with the proportion rising to 74% for under-25s. The poll also showed support for fossil fuel divestment, with 60% of people thinking banks and financial institutions should ditch investments in coal, oil and gas.’

Extinction Rebellion want the government to tell the truth about the effects of carbon emissions, declare a climate emergency and create citizens assemblies to find local ways forward to create the actions needed. I went into London on the Tuesday and there were less crowds than the Monday but still a carnival atmosphere with determined intent and roads closed around Westminster. Their methods may at times be criticised but I do wonder who we will finally criticise the most if we just drift on with our ‘same old’ ways of running our lives.

 

  • A creative ploy by Extinction Rebellion. Each tree has an MPs name on it and you could ring them and invite them down to collect their present!

I decided to look more carefully at reducing my own carbon emissions. There are many websites about this and often are carbon offsetting ones. However, I had got the open university free course on this so will try their calculator and look at this more carefully on another post.
It certainly will not be easy. Although I could claim my woodland which is allowed to be rather wild, green and vibrant could offset our flights home. One tree in its lifetime may capture 40 tonnes of carbon. We have over 200 trees and lots of wild growth too and birdsong.

But offsetting is not enough. We have to reduce to below  2 tonnes of carbon each.
The average European according to one source will emit about 8 to 10 tonnes of carbon a year. Flight frequency, mileage covered by vehicles, the kind of food we eat can increase or decrease our emissions.

As a vegetarian with little dairy this may save me almost 2 tonnes of carbon. A flight home of about 1000 km is about 0.5 tonnes. The train would be 0.09 tonnes of carbon. As I think I have said before the trains are so much more expensive. From 300 to 800 euros while a flight can easily be below 100 euros and the aviation industry benefits from fuel subsidies. Another problem area that we have little control over yet is how to heat our homes in a carbon friendly way.

How can this dramatic increase not cause many problems?

Change must happen but there is still so much silence and inaction. There are some things we can and must do ourselves and there are others that governments must work on and achieve global cooperation on.

The Guardian is committed to reporting the climate crisis and has many informative and well researched articles from all around the world.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Greta Thunberg says ‘ listen to the scientists’. It may be complex but the scientists, the Green Party and now British farmers know we will face too many difficult consequences if we don’t take the right actions now.

And for our natural world the crisis has been happening slowly but significantly with the combination of loss of habitat and climate change creating unpredictable and extreme weather conditions along with wildfires and flooding.

The State of Nature report 2019: loss of nature since 1970 ‘We need a strong new set of environmental laws to hold our governments and others to account and to set long-term and ambitious targets. Only a robust approach to environmental protections and law making can deliver this for England, Wales and Northern Ireland.’ From The National Trust

The Royal Society for Protection of Birds also comments and calls the 2019 report ‘a wake up call’.

Species and habitat protection, forests, wetlands, all will help as are natural ways of capturing carbon and maintaining a balanced ecosystem .

Who we put in charge will matter as there have been many wake up calls, many broken promises and little well informed and coordinated planning and action. And when in charge of our democracies they must be held to account.

September 20th Poem for the Young. No More Same Old.

There be whales out there. Vittoria our marine biologist guide

I enjoyed reading Lillian’s experiences and video of the whales off Cape Cod’ with her grandson. It reminded me of my first experience of seeing a whale, 20 years ago, in San Francisco Bay. It was also my first trip to the USA. I wrote a poem for Dverse on this 3 years ago with the prompt of ‘ a first ever experience. After that the next whale watching was in the middle of the Atlantic off the Azores.

Today is the 20th September 2019 and young people have asked adults to join them on demonstrations and strikes for climate action. There will be a UN summit and all the different nations have been asked to bring solutions. All I can offer today is a poem as if I were 20 today.

Same Old: Born in 1999

I am 20 years old, or older today.
So please don’t give me more of your
Same Old.

You tell me you first saw your first whale
20 years ago from today,
In San Francisco Bay.

You tell me you partied with
An 80 year old,
Californian dreamer.

You tell me you cried over
A library full of books and blood.
20 years ago
Columbine
Before you were mine.

So don’t give me
The Same Old
Weapons are MAD
But we must defend our dreams,
Whales are factory processed meat,
But all must be free to eat
Whatever they want.
We need the wood not the trees.

Because we DON’T.

I want to grow old with
Whales in the waves,
Wolves in wild woods,
Birds flying safe and free
Above children with a future
And Elephants in Africa.

I do not want to grow old
In a world worn out by
Broken promises.
20 years ago
You saw a grey whale
In San Francisco.
20 years before that
You sung of the flowers.
Where have they all gone?

I do not want to dream
When I am old,
Of a past world where
Whales breached the waves
Wolves wandered in woods
Diverse birds flew in great flocks,
Elephants roamed in Africa.
Children unsafe without a future.

How long do you need,
To solve the suffering
You caused,
While dreaming,
Working yourself to the bone,
To give me
The Same Old
Future you said I deserved.

Take my hand
Before we both grow too weary.
Let’s bite the bullets.
Finish with the fumes.
Grow the forest.

So I can grow old
And watch with wonder,
My children’s children,
Wonder at whales in the waves,
Wolves in wild woods,
Birds flying safe across borders,
Elephants in Africa,
Children with a future.

 

 

For open link night, Dverse Poets http://www.dversepoets.com

A Poem To Remember the victims of Peterloo: the struggle for Democracy.

Having been a little quiet here through the heat of August I did think the sestina form offered by Victoria Slotto for Dverse Poets (://dversepoets.com/2019/08/29/) form challenge would suit a historical occasion. Finally, this year in Manchester centre there is a memorial with the names of all those who died there, in St Peter’s Fields 200 years ago, August 16 th.
I’m a little late on posting this but have been busy with a ‘deep’ revision of my novel and enjoying summer nights of music and fiesta here in our rather dry Sierra. There has been a fire about 10 km away from us and my thoughts are also with the Amazon forests. The Brexit mess deepens and darkens and our British Parliament struggles to understand the ‘mythical’ will of the people. There is still deep division. I truly wish we grew up knowing more about working lives and the struggles of our ancestors. Peterloo had become a ‘lost’ story until recently.

August 1819, Manchester, England.

In the August of 1819 the people came
By foot, with bands, with songs of ways to change
The way their lives were bound by others power.
Today, was the day, to make the point and strike.
Starved by the corn tax, not paid for each hour
Spinning cotton,not stopping, till the dark of day.

Under summer’s brightest skies, this was their day.
To St Peters Field, our working families came.
Thousands gathering peacefully until the hour
When Speaker Hunt cried out the need to change.
But the mill owners, the gentry did not like this strike.
And gathered too, together in fear, of working power

The government gave the right to unleash power.
This talk of votes for all must end this day.
How dare these upstarts profits lose by strike.
The police would not control a mob, the cavalry came.
Poor families now would see a darker change,
Struck down by sabres, dead or wounded within an hour.

Who can report and tell the truth about this hour,
When lies are told of violent mobs by those with power?
A newsman’s voice brought forth the truth to change
The way that facts be twisted, turned unto this day.
And with the clarion call for truth to power came,
A guardian rising to fend off the lies that strike

Deep, denial to protect from hurt can strike
200 years and tears ago, until this hour.
We were led to forget the names that came,
To ask for the right to be a part of the power.
They asked for a vote on a bright summer day.
Their loss brought us here but took years to change.

Today our scientists tell us our climate will change.
And children gather in peace, for a future they strike,
For our lives to be green means miss a school day
Do we live near a time of democracy’s dark hour?
While fossil fuels burn they still have the power.
Was it just to extinguish our lives, the cavalry came?

Change is the way as the clock strikes the hour.
Strike like the flash of thunder’s own power.
Or lose all to that day when the cavalry came.

 

Peace gathering in Manchester City Centre with Yoko Ono and many bells.

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is my first attempt at a Sestina….Thank you dVerse for the challenge! And thank you Victoria Slotto for your very clear guidelines. It may have been a bit like sudoku but once I had chosen the end words that could work it slotted into place.

I used notes from Victoriahttps://dversepoets.com/2019/08/15/poetry-form-sestina/

and then below is my working out to fit the form.

Sestina:

A 12th century form consisting of 6 stanzas, each having 6 lines; followed by one tercet (3 line stanza).

BUT!
The end-words of the first stanza’s six lines, must appear as end words in each line of the following stanzas, in a particular prescribed order:

I decided to brainstorm some words about Peterloo and then look at the order scheme to see how to make the story fit. I left out Byron and his poem. This was not printed for fear of a backlash of treason.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Masque_of_Anarchy

But I brought in the Manchester Guardian as this newspaper arose from the tragedy and the attempts to manipulate or deny the truth of witnesses that day.

Peterloo
Manchester…St Peters Fields, protest against corn tax, need for representation, vote,
Strike, gathering of masses, family, child, boys and girls, men and women, working folk, rights,
March, walk, from villages, afar, distance,
Peaceful, listen, cavalry, horses, trample, strike down with sabres, august day, summer, 1819,
200 tears ago, years, dark, injured, maimed
Summer 2019 fires, floods, drip feed apocalypse,
Democracy, divided, power, news, facts

Stanza 1: End-words: Line 1 – change . Line 2 – change Line 3 – power. Line 4 – strike
Line 5 – hourLine 6 – day.

Working out Stanza 1 was the most important as these words will now have to form the following patterns for next 6 stanzas. And the  ending three lines of the 7 th which must use all. Below is how I used numbers to guide me through this.

Stanza 1.
1. came

2. change
3.power.
4.strike.
5.hour
6.day.

Stanza 2. 6,1,5,2,4,3

6.Under summer’s brightest skies, this was their day.
1.To St Peters Field, our working families came.
5. Thousands gathering peacefully until the hour
2. When Speaker Hunt cried out the need to change.
4. But the mill owners, the gentry did not like this strike.
3. And gathered too, together in fear, of working power.

Stanza 3Stanza 3: 3, 6, 4, 1, 2, 5
3. The government gave the right to unleash power.

6. This talk of votes for all must end this day.
4. How dare these upstarts profits lose by strike.
1.The police would not control a mob, the cavalry came.
2. Poor families now would see a darker change,
5 Struck down by sabres, dead or wounded within an hour.

Stanza 4 Stanza 4: 5, 3, 2, 6, 1, 4

5. Who can report and tell the truth about this hour,
3. When lies are told of violent mobs by those with power?
2 A newsman’s voice brought forth the truth to change
6 The way that facts be twisted, turned unto this day.
1 And with the clarion call for truth to power came,
4 A guardian rising to fend off the lies that strike

Stanza 5Stanza 5: 4, 5, 1, 3, 6, 2
4.Deep, denial to protect from hurt can strike

5 200 years and tears ago, until this hour.
1 We were led to forget the names that came,
3To ask for the right to be a part of the power.
6They asked for a vote on a bright summer day.
2 Their loss brought us here but took years to change.

Stanza 6
2 Today our scientists tell us our climate will change.
4.And children gather in peace, for a future they strike,
6 For our lives to be green means miss a school day
5 Do we live near a time of democracy’s dark hour?
3 While fossil fuels burn they still have the power.
1 Was it just to extinguish our lives, the cavalry came?

Line 1…2, 5 Change….hour….
Change is the way as the clock strikes the hour.
Strike like the flash of thunder’s own power.
Or lose all to that day when the cavalry came.

 

Sent from my iPhone

Continue reading A Poem To Remember the victims of Peterloo: the struggle for Democracy.

A poem based on my recent travels around England. A dizain poem for Dverse.

England’s Green

From Figsbury Ring an ancient hill top fort,

Where safe within all lives were shaped with stone,

Through dangerous dales of deep monastic thought,

To power won by muscle and broken bone.

Women would spin the threads of tales unknown.

In England’s green and pleasant tree torn land

Wool made money not crops by human hand,

Oak built ships wooed the world, waged war with Spain

Till our landscape became a titled brand,

A green sodden land, no roots to remain.

This poem has come about as it is part of my poetic challenge this year to try the different forms Dverse Poets are focusing on each month. Having been busy with my older daughter’s wedding and delightful grandma duties and no internet connection I have not been fully present blogging!

I have been in the UK for longer than usual and wondering about our identity and relationship with the land. And just wondering about the bizarre politics and climate change. We have had an incredible heatwave, some days hotter than Seville and tremendous rainfall. So much that a dam that has stood the test of time has overflowed, causing damage and the town below evacuated. This is close to our northern home. We visited the town not long ago for Sunday lunch. We live near the river, the Goyt that flows from this dam but are way uphill and downstream but many places could be affected if the dam breaches. And more rain is expected.

The photos are from my travels and the places and links in the poem to our often forgotten working person’s history which is very much in focus in northern post industrial mill towns. It seems most of the photos were taken on sunny days! Oh and the UK has one of the worst percentages of tree coverage in Europe.

Malmesbury Abbey

High Peak Canal . The Marple flight of locks. Engineering and labour.

An English country house for the ‘entitled’ !

The form for this challenge is the dizain and can be found on the Dverse website. Dverse.com

History

The dizain is a 10-line form which – like so many good ones – originated in France. It was popular there in the 15th and 16 Centuries, and has also been used by such famous English poets as John Keats and Philip Sidney.

Basic Structure

The basic rules for the dizain are that it has one stanza consisting of 10 lines, with 10 syllables per line, and the rhyme scheme is ababbccdcd.