Bankhead Moss Reserve.

Gunshot sky rumbles over the peatland. An island of bog surrounded by birch and scots pine, a remnant of what was once. Bits of Rannoch Moor here in miniature if you get down at its level and peer closely- sundew, bog asphodel, bog cotton. It survives, marooned, raised up around oceans of barley lapping on its shore. It is only a handful of miles as the crow flies to my house on the shore, where peat kinks away to loam and crumbles into the sea.

Flowers from the walled garden.

Oil stick on paper – 59 x 84 cm.

A morning with friends from the village at Teasses estate on a floristry workshop which involved being allowed to pick as many flowers from the walled garden as we could carry, after which some of us expertly made bouquets in the orangery. We kept asking if we could have one of these, or those to which the reply was of course, take what you want. And we left like naughty children giggling, with armfuls of blooms together with paper bags full of ripe, sweet plums and figs. Braw.

Fit Like ?

Voices come soft and angled in a way not from my everyday. A form of Doric, this Scots language is unique to the landscape of the north east . I overhear the word ‘quine’ and my heart skips, am greeted with ‘Fit like ?’ My tongue silently forms the words as I seek to find the answer – ‘I’m well, thank you’, I say, here at this point on the coast, where to this day lies the remains of a telegraph cable that brought the first news to Britain of the Russian revolution in 1917. It came ashore here, a migrant message from the east. A man tells me he had seen a Peterhead boat off the coast of Namibia. The world comes home to Peterhead, God willing, to this small east coast town, the Blu toon, on account of their sailors blue knitted socks that identified them from Peterhead as sure as the greeting, ‘Fit like ?’ to a stranger walking. In the cafe I meet Sheila and Anna. Anna tells me of a family connection, a mothers cousin in Pittenweem . Sheila says I should visit her uncle who is an artist in the town. The next moment she is on the phone, telling him she has a new friend for him, an artist and I am invited to visit. I have a lovely chat with Ken about where I should go and look. I ask him what is the best thing about the town and he says ‘The people, it has always welcomed folk from all over.’ I too was so welcomed that day, thank you for your kindness. I think Peterheid will be a special place to work.

Woodsong.

A day for listening to the sound of a wood. Stillness brings the zip. zip , buzz of hoverflies. Small wisps of wind fold, flow, fleckle through late summer grass, a rusty shimmer. A young deer snaps twigs pushing through the undergrowth, ears swish flies, nostrils smell me. Horses snort. Small birds stitch together the tops of the trees with their nimble song. My phone pings, knees crack.

Butterflies and buzzards.

There’s a confident wind from the west this morning, up at Badgers Wood. It stirs the sycamore and beech trees, their heavy limbs set swaying, with a moaning as their branches bend into each other. Above the hubbub, the pair of buzzards with their wings full of air circle, swoop, rise and bank, while all the while the true acrobats of the sky, the swifts, squeal and race between them. Fleshy, pink gilled field mushrooms speckle the track where a wall brown butterfly alights. These beautiful insects have plummeted in numbers, the evidence suggesting that climate change is to blame as the rise in temperature is causing generations to hatch out too late in the year to survive. They have decreased by as much as 86% since 1976. That was the year of the drought when the UK saw a Drought Act passed in Parliament. I remember the water rationing and the tarmacadam lifting off the roads. Everyone thought it was a freak year, and we would not see another like it in our lifetime.

I am brought back to the present by two wrens in a whirring chatter flitting among the bushes. Their latin name is ‘troglodytes troglodytes’ – more apt for the badger than the wren, whose newly dug sett I find a little further on. Perhaps if the rain holds off I will return later and wait downwind with a flask of tea in the hope of seeing them, as I did in the summer of 1976 in the back garden of our house that sat half way up the hill.

By the way the latin name for the buzzard is ‘Buteo Buteo’ and the swift is known as ‘Apus Apus’.