Tony Bonning: stories, music and journeys

I first encountered Tony Bonning early one Saturday morning, years back, at the Moniave Folk Festival. He had a children’s session coming up and meanwhile was in the middle of the village entertaining the slowly surfacing festival goers with his own lovely mixture of songs, wry remarks and curious diversions. Over the years he hasContinue reading “Tony Bonning: stories, music and journeys”

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”

Ageing and illness in a turbulent world

For nearly all of my 77 years on this earth, I have lived in the Dumfriesshire parish of Kirkmahoe. Not easy to find on a map, it’s a delightful place of rolling green pastures that slope down to the banks of the River Nith, just as it nears the end of its watery journey andContinue reading “Ageing and illness in a turbulent world”

Karen Campbell – a writer’s story

Photo credit Kim Ayres Back in the early months of the 2020 lockdown, like many others I was using enforced isolation to broaden and deepen my reading. I found myself reaching out to the works of authors I was aware of, but had not yet ventured towards. In this context, that spring I became immersedContinue reading “Karen Campbell – a writer’s story”

Art, memory and the lobster pot

It is a bright, dry day in October 2021, the full palette of autumn is fully established, and there is still plenty of warmth in the sun. With me are two friends from southern Norway, Lisbeth and Einar. We are spending the day together, drinking coffee in my Dumfriesshire home, exploring the Dalswinton estate, andContinue reading “Art, memory and the lobster pot”

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”

Responding to loss in the time of COVID: the Shoreline to Shoreline project

A few months after my father died in the spring of 1993, I was in north east Scotland, visiting friends. One afternoon, some of us took a walk along the banks of the River Deveron. Lingering with my younger son, we stood just where the waters become tidal, fossicking among beautiful pebbles and bits andContinue reading “Responding to loss in the time of COVID: the Shoreline to Shoreline project”

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”