I AM A HILL

One of architecture’s functions is to manipulate the mind of the building’s user. In many case it is as simple and helpful as a corridor designed to guide a person to another space, or high ceilings to reduce a sense of claustrophobia. In other cases it may be that architecture is employed for more troubling reasons. An imposing building might assert an authority over the user, or a prison’s small cells might encourage discipline amongst…

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WREN

The leaves are mostly all fallen now and the garden’s trees are looking bare and spindly. The freshly denuded branches allow for better views of the birds. In their flocks we mainly see sparrows, chaffinches and starlings; in pairs song thrushes and blackbirds. But the robin and the wren are always on their own.  It is the wren to which I am most drawn. A tiny brown ball, it spryly flits about the branches and…

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JENNY HANIVER

April 2016. A chill spring walk on the beach at Balnakiel Bay up at Durness rooted out deep old memories from me. It was cold enough for the pale white sand to feel like snow underfoot, and the wind was singing across broad space. It is an open and inviting place even in these conditions, but there are still quiet corners for concealment among the marram grass dunes.  We searched for who-knows-what in those small…

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LIGHT AND WATER

Driving a bus on one of Britain’s most scenic routes affords me a great opportunity to see how the landscape is changed by the weather. I am privileged to see the earth’s mood swinging from peace to fury, always in balance. The land looks different every day.  Some mornings there is a moody greyness and an opaque shroud of mist hangs over the distances. This invokes within me a sense of claustrophobic intimacy. Sound does…

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GRIMSPOUND

I was on a solo biking holiday in Dartmoor which meant for the most part pushing my one speed bike up hills and freewheeling down them. In hindsight, I think I might have had a better time walking across the moors as I later did, but at the the time I enjoyed it very much. I think it must have been the first solo holiday I had had since my dad died, and I was…

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THE ROOKS OF ULLAPOOL

The black bully birds gather like leaves in the autumnal gusts in which they delight. They are clumsier than ravens as they land in gangs to pick around the overflow of the bins in Ullapool car park. The hooded crow, so numerous in the North West, is kept at the town borders, relegated to the moors. The black backed and herring gulls, despite being the usual aggressors, keep their distance from the car park. The…

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SCAT

It had been a long walk across the boggy moorland at the foot of Snowdonia’s Carneddau mountains. The choice not to wear gaiters had been ill-fated, and our feet were soaked and tired as we came to rest for a few minutes by one of the numerous abandoned slate quarries. The scree-strewn hills rose above us on all sides allowing just a small breach in the grey-green walls for the Afon Eigiau to feed into…

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SIGN IN THE SPINNEY

The sun has spun its last threads Among the dark-dappled campion And dog’s mercury. It is all black And silver beneath. The moon’s colours. This is an old badger track, dead Footprints dissolved, but a route unfolds Into tangles of hazel and briar. It leads to the base of a massive ash Which I, listening, lean against. The dry and oily muntjac scat Betrays somehow the death of badgers At the secret hands of men.…

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PITMOREHILL COPSE

It is not much of a hill. A smudge of yellowy brown On the white sky, like fox shit in thin snow. But it is a Midlands hill, brought to the plain fore By the black, leafless copse veining the field. Seen from this distance, the cold thicket gapes wide Like a mouth opening to utter a muffled word Without expression. Visible breath exhaled softly From bones beginning to cool at their edge. I have…

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