Snowdrops at Candlemas

For such diminutive plants, it was a Herculean feat. After something like a month of frost, with the ground as hard as bell metal, and then with fresh snow falling, our old friend galanthus nivalis made it through in the nick of time. I find snowdrops always take me by surprise. After days of watchfulContinue reading “Snowdrops at Candlemas”

My mother and the Christmas cactus

Now and again I have a sad reminder of a specific time when I upset my mother rather badly. There may well have been other occasions when I did something unkind or ill judged, but this one has stayed in my memory. Mostly dormant, it re-emerges at intervals, to provoke and disrupt. Just as itContinue reading “My mother and the Christmas cactus”

The Hare, the Heron and the Professor: a story for ‘children of all ages’

Late one Spring evening, with the sun’s rays slanting low in the sky, the Professor took a walk around his garden. He paused for a moment to admire the view to the hills beyond. Then something in the grass caught his eye. Lying next to a stone that had been warmed in the sunshine wasContinue reading “The Hare, the Heron and the Professor: a story for ‘children of all ages’”

The frugal academic

Gary lived alone. A social scientist, he was good at structures, patterns and policies, but less adept in the world of relationships. Gary’s minimal approach to intimacy was echoed in the frugal aspects of his living arrangements. His home was a bungalow, well below his pay grade. Among his few luxuries was a pair ofContinue reading “The frugal academic”

Circles of trees: an ‘arboretum’ in the making

​The idea of the arboretum came about in 2015, when I had the opportunity to take a long lease on the field adjacent to my home in Dumfriesshire. ​Having secured the arrangement, I began to ponder how to proceed. Almost two hectares in extent, the field had been set-aside for years as rough pasture. LongContinue reading “Circles of trees: an ‘arboretum’ in the making”

Barry Graham and the spirit of Loch Arthur

Over the last decade I have taken many friends, visitors and colleagues to the Loch Arthur Farm Shop, in Beeswing near Dumfries. I’m always pleased when the visit coincides with an opportunity to chat to Barry Graham, who in the interview with me below tells us his intriguing story. One challenge I have had atContinue reading “Barry Graham and the spirit of Loch Arthur”

The value of letter writing

I’ve read many more letters than I’ve written. I can say this with absolute certainty. Some years ago I took on the fascinating task of editing the correspondence of Cicely Saunders, founder of the hospice movement. After sifting through an estimated 7,000 items, I put together a book of letters in which I had selectedContinue reading “The value of letter writing”

Introducing a journal of April 2020

An intermittent diarist throughout most of my life, I began keeping a journal from the start of the March 2020 Coronavirus lockdown. Like many others, I sensed the important intersection that was about to take place between what the American sociologist C Wright Mills called ‘private troubles and public issues’. I maintained my journal untilContinue reading “Introducing a journal of April 2020”