stories and illustration

A New Year Painting of Horses



Nothing but rain here, day after day, night after night.  I have been ensconced in the Tardis, aka my octagonal studio in the vegetable garden, painting a small New Year’s gift for a relative who likes horses.  Outside the bird table is busy, the starlings seemed to have mostly disappeared, and when I see an enormous woodpigeon landing I bang on the window, as those birds just seem to intimidate the smaller birds. The blackbirds, which didn’t appear throughout the summer, are back in numbers, and very tame. Today, amonst the sparrows, dunnocks and tits I saw a female siskin, which means there are two of them and they may nest together, and a nuthatch, who is now a consistent visitor; and also a blackcap, which I thought I glimpsed yesterday, but a sighting of which I confirmed today. A nice variety of birds, then, whilst I stare out of the window, inbetween painting and listening to  a Schubert Impromptu in F Minor, which would be one of my choices on Desert Island Discs, though a) I am never going to be on DID and b) islands have a bad effect on my psyche – I like Borderlands.

January 5, 2016 Posted by | Art, Painting, Uncategorized | , , , , | 4 Comments



November 19, 2015 Posted by | Art, Photography, Uncategorized | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Gulls 1

Gulls 1

November 19, 2015 Posted by | Art, Photography, Uncategorized | , , , , | Leave a comment

Crows 2

Crows 2

November 19, 2015 Posted by | Art, Photography, Uncategorized | , , , , , | 3 Comments

Frost by the River

afrostby the riverJust when I had got into the habit of staring at the moon in the frost-clear sky, we have decided that it is better to skip tea and crossword for elevenses,  and instead to go walking in the morning on these cold January days.  So adieu, sunset and rising moon for the meantime, and hail, on this sunlit morning, to frost beside the river, and frost on leaves in the shelter of the cemetery wall, and blue tits and blackbirds in the woods, and, rather astonishingly, the first snowdrop in flower.

January 4, 2015 Posted by | Art, Photography, Uncategorized | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Moon and the Little Hill

Little Hill and MoonI had been walking towards the setting sun on the English side of the Tweed, and it was getting  dark, so I turned back towards Coldstream Bridge, and suddenly caught sight of the moon shining very brightly beyond the bridge, in a sky which was coloured mauve by the last light of the sun.  This little hill with the trees on top is visible from all different angles in Coldstream, it keeps cropping on the horizon.  It has been a fine day, none of the frost that was expected. There were swans on the river this late afternoon, sailing two by two, as well as swans in the fields, where they overwinter.  I disturbed a bushful of long tailed tits, they all flew up one by one as I approached; and as I returned I saw them in the bare tree they had flown to, a whole gang of them.  They’re like children who run around together, and keep whizzing into sight and then darting off, never still, always following each others actions. Unlike the sparrowhawk we saw on the way back from Kelso this morning, sitting hunched in a tree by the field’s edge, very much on its own,  on the qui vive for dinner, no doubt.

January 3, 2015 Posted by | Art, Photography, Uncategorized | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Heron, Willow, Leet Water


They have almost a sixth sense, herons; I just caught sight of this one through the branches of the willow, as I was crossing the green to walk under the bridge. It cottoned on to my presence almost as soon as I had taken the photograph, even though I was quite a distance away.  I continued through the ever-thickening undergrowth in the area beyond the bridge, where hardly anyone walks.  Caught sight of the heron again, but once more the bird had spotted me and was off.  I think it was quite irritated by my encroaching on its territory because it flew above my head, looking a touch pterodactylish, screeching. Last time I walked down by the weir on the Leet I saw two yellow wagtails, they weren’t at all disturbed by my presence; unfortunately I didn’t have my camera, as I would like to have recorded them, as I haven’t seen any for years. The swallows are back, and the house martins, and there is a whole host of sand martins down on the Tweed, they are little beserkers when it is sunny and there are insects about.

May 7, 2014 Posted by | Photography, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Cat on a Wall

cat on a wall2

Coming back late, after mooching about in the woods, as I was walking down Gas Lane I was aware of this handsome cat sitting on the wall above the aubretia, enjoying the sunshine. It knew quite well that I was looking at it, but it didn’t move a muscle apart from posing its head this way and that way.  This is a very well-looked after cat,  a particularly handsome cat, a cool cat. Far as I know, this is not one of those cats that sneaks over the wall and hides between our raised vegetable birds, or just behind the compost bin, on the qui vive for the odd bird. I don’t think I would have the nerve to tell this cat to scram (I do like cats very much, but we have an understanding with the birds in this household).  And I don’t think there would be any need to tell it to scram. And I don’t think it would pay any attention if I did. So pretty, eh!

cat on a wall 3

cat on a wall 4

cat on a wall1

May 2, 2014 Posted by | Photography, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

March Fields by River Tweed


brown fields

Tweed Landscape

There is still snow on the hills, or rather the sprinkling of snow has come back.  The fields are being ploughed, revealing the chestnut and chocolate  earth of Berwickshire and North Northumberland. The new machines turn the earth and render it to  fine grains and smooth it out, the newly-ploughed field is a thing of beauty and elegance. But if you walk along the edge of the fields across the river, there is little evidence of wildlife or even birds, apart from the crows and the ubiquitous wood pigeons. I remember many years ago living in the Liddel Valley, on the edge of the Middle Marches, looking at the fields after they had been drained and thinking how wonderful they looked.  But now that the fields over there have been left to roughen up again, become rushy and bumpy, or thick with flowery long grass, there is an abundance of wildlife. Saw a deer on the edge of the woods. And merlins up on the hillslope. Small flowers among the stones on the pathways. Nature taking over again, sharing with the hefted sheep.

March 31, 2014 Posted by | Photography, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

A February Walk Round the Hirsel Lake

Hirsel Lake

At last the pall of cloud lifts,  it is a sunlit February day, and I have the time to walk up to the Hirsel and take a leisurely walk round the lake. Although it is Sunday, and there are plenty of people walking in the grounds, nobody seems to be walking round the lake, and when I get to the Hide it is deserted.

Lake 3

A few birds float past the Hide:

Lake and Swans

Lake 4

Lake 5

Lake 6

There is some graphic grafitti of the usual kind on the walls of the Hide, and someone has demolished on of the sides:

Lake 7

I walk on round the lake path:

Lake 8

Lake 9

There is farmland to the left of the path:Lake 10

Then further along the path divides, with the left hand path going into the woods, where in a couple of months the famous rhododendrons will be flourishing:

Lake 11

I decide to walk into the spinney near the lake.  The ground is very soft underfoot, and I find myself sinking in, so try and anchor my boots on a piece of fallen branch.  A treecreeper is climbing up a tree, it moves amazingly fast, like a little mouse. Down nearer the water I can see greylag geese:

Lake 12

But as a try to inch nearer through the bog they sense my presence and take off, with an amazing cacophony:

Lake 13

I think of the geese that saved Rome with their clamour – there was me trying to plod surreptitiously across the mud, quite some way away, but they get a sense of me and rise into the air, wheeling above me in a frenzied flock, honking away, shadowy above my head.  I thought I’d scared them away.  But eventually they come down on to the lake, further off, their honking fainter, and feeling a tad abashed at creating this uproar, I gaze for a few moments at the peaceful, birdless water:

Lake 14

Then I unstick myself from the mud and continued along the path, through the grey wintered trees:

Lake 15

Lake 16

Lake 17

On the path is this pretty feather:

Lake 18

I am near the end of the route round the lake, I know that when I came across the willows that I like to look at from the other side of the water, and that I missed when they were cut and I couldn’t see that lovely red that shines almost vermilion from far away:

Lake 19

Coming out from the path, I see  the Hirsel  spread out on the top of its gentle slope:

Lake 20

I walk back past the reedbeds:

Lake 21

Then look back across the lake, from where I started, before going to have a cappucino in the Hirsel Tearoom, which is packed, although in the whole of my walk, on such a fine day, I only met one couple going round the lake.

Lake 22

February 3, 2014 Posted by | Photography, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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