Yesterday, I tried to write a nature poem.
Walked into the reality – the grime of outside. Cold shot-blasting my forehead, my fingers.
And yes, the long-tailed tit looked at me, all chipmunk-cute face and feathered arrow tail feathers.
And yes, there were green carpets just waiting for the bluebells.
And yes, the deer picked around the edge of distant fields.
And yes, the buzzard rose in a majesty of idle flapping.
But it all reminded me of the mess of the world: sporadic starlings strung across the telegraph lines, not enough for a murmuration.
The crow scolding the buzzard, haranguing it to stay away from her eggs.
Acres of wire and concrete, even here, in this ‘wilderness.’
Snow on the distant hills – a winter coming ever closer.
And I thought, ‘maybe I should take “nature writer” out of my bio.’
It’s raining again, and can I just say I’m relieved?
That week of February this year when it was ‘only a jumper and not even a scarf’ warm was so much creepier than the week last year of ‘snow, all schools closed, no bread left in the shop, icicles a metre long’ WHICH WAS THE SAME WEEK OF THE YEAR I MIGHT ADD.
Since Saturday we’ve returned to stinging rain and wind chill of minus 7, what I have come to expect in the first week of March.
When I do drag myself out for a healthy walk, I’m all too happy warm up in a bath. I’m lucky to get to do that. Nothing like coming home, running a bath of clean, warm water, sinking into bubbles and covering the pages of my new book with wet fingerprints.
Myths and stigma around HIV abound. No, you can’t get HIV from kissing. No, you can’t get HIV from sharing cutlery. Yes, people living with HIV on effective treatment don’t pass the virus onto their sexual partners.
The myths behind these facts might seem harmless, but they perpetuate HIV stigma – which seriously affects people’s day-to-day lives.
The Positive Stories Project aims to use the power of creative writing and expression to challenge HIV stigma. Run by HIV Scotland throughout Summer 2018, the project will consist of a series of creative writing workshops for people living with HIV, a mentorship programme that pairs people living with HIV with professional writers, and a published anthology so that those living with and affected by HIV can share their stories with the world.
Let’s write to end HIV stigma.
Ten of the Best Things About Autumn
by Penny Hext.
- Woodland walks: fungi, fallen leaves, seeing tree shapes outlined against the sky.
- Short days… longer nights. More time for a) beauty sleep b) bedtime reading c) erm… recreational activities.
- Winter woollies. Colour and texture hide a multitude of sins. Summer’s AGES away!
- Hair lasering. Start on that beard now. (Moi?)
- Night-time sky walking. The best possible backdrop for creepy ghost walks. Go on. Try it!
- Enjoying Autumn colours: reds, russets, auburns, coppers…
- Time to take stock and recalibrate – before the year ends. You’ve still got time to fulfil your resolutions!
- Wildlife spotting: squirrels, herons… figuring out where the heck birds roost at night. Nests are for fledglings.
- Mulled wine.
- Puddings. Those brambles and apples you gathered in September need eating, don’t they?
Penny is a writer who lives in Edinburgh
*having a carry on: Scottish for misbehaving, being giddy.
It is an hour and a half since I put the oldest to bed, and here I am climbing the stairs again.
It’s my turn, as Mr HB went up half an hour ago.
‘Why won’t you go to sleep? You are both grumpy all day, and then when we put you to bed, you have a carry on* for hours.’
‘Mummy, it’s too light.’
‘It is not. You’re not even trying to sleep. Go to bed. And no more nonsense!’
I went to bed early, as I usually do, and a grey light came through the curtains, even at half ten when I put my light off.
5am, and I’m up again. The sun is already up, the sky is blue. I realise the kids were right:
it’s too light.
I had decided we were going for a nice walk. Got the map out and everything, planned a new route. As we drove out of the village, spatters of rain started to hit the car windscreen. Mr HB and I looked at each other. Maybe we should do a shorter walk, in a wood, or something?
The rain intensified.
OK, let’s go do an indoor activity instead.
The kids were delighted.
After the fun, but expensive, indoor activity, the sun was beating down. I was gritting my teeth as we drove home. The little ones had a water fight, but I still wanted my walk. So off I went on my usual round from the house. A nice circular 4k. You know the one, if you live here.
As I reached the furthest point from the house – the heavens opened.
The sun had been out
warm – well, through a window, anyway.
Chat at the school gates
was all about Spring,
Here at last.
Later, on the phone to my mother,
she told me
according to the weather she’d heard
we’d have snow tomorrow.
The next day I woke
to snow falling from a slate sky
as if March was clinging to
frightened of what Spring
I pulled gloves onto
my frosted fingers
turned the heat back up
in the car.
The hat hadn’t fallen out of use
because of gnawing Spring winds.
And I told myself:
‘Snow up to Palm Sunday.
It’s always possible.’
It’s my version of
‘ne’er cast a clout
till may be out,’
because I don’t know
what may looks like
(it’s the flower, not the month.)
Scotland will surprise you.
George Street … up the hill on the other side …
The old town winds round nooks, surprisingly situated shops, and vennels – not alleyways, proper Scottish vennels.
Cobbles and piercings walk you up Cockburn Street.
Leith Walk as it promises, promenades you down to Leith, still its own town despite being subsumed into the city years ago.
Everywhere, pubs and cafes spill noise, warmth, and ripped music straggling in the wind.
The fresh Scottish air mixes with the diesel of buses, the warm smell of alcohol, cigarette smoke from Regal Kingsize, roll ups.
It has been so long since I have seen university students.
It has been so long since I have seen homeless people.
It has been so long since I have seen purposeful, young professionals stepping into taxis with wealth and good fortune pressed into their perfect George Street clothes.
Today I have been thinking about…waving.
I’m just back, and was driving through the village when I got stopped at the only set of traffic lights. As I sat and waited, my friend, her husband, their son and their dog crossed in front at the pedestrian crossing.
By the time I had managed the soft beep, rather than
the hard parp that is easier, all but the husband had disappeared through the doorway to the woods.(Yes, in our village, we have a doorway to the woods.)
But I waved, thinking, ‘I’m in the wrong car, I’ve got sunglasses on, he doesn’t know me well. Hi!’
He looked, and then waved back. And before the lights went green, my friend had reappeared, waved, and her son had popped his head back through the doorway and waved too.
I had pizza for lunch.
An exquisite chopping board, one of the pre-sliced pieces lifted. A perfect, crisped base, not too much ‘edge’ and in no way too dry or too wet in the middle.
To say it was delicious would be an understatement. I savoured each mouthful, marvelling not only at the wonder of the recipe, but also the joy of not having to cook. The café was beautifully turned out, the company close and familiar. There was even a cool light fitting made of milk bottles.
I had pizza for tea.
Deep-fried half pizza supper.
To say it was delicious would be an understatement. I savoured each mouthful of one of Scotland’s more eccentric national dishes. Chips warm and mushed, salt and sauce…
Two pizzas, both alike in their dignity.