Upper photo Receiving my trophy for First Prize in the General Section of the Petra Kenney Poetry Competition 2008, Canada House, the Canadian High Commission, London. My poem is a sestina called 'The Figure at the Phoenix Mine'.
Lower photo Receiving my prize from Dannie Abse. Alison Chisholm, one of the judges, is also in the picture. The other judges were Michael Schmidt, John Whitworth and Morgan Kenney.
It was interesting to see the war memorial, featuring the name of Lieutenant Colonel John Alexander McCrae (1872-1918) at Eilean Donan Castle, not far from the Skye Bridge. Canadian born McCrae wrote one of the best loved poems about the Great War, In Flanders Fields.
The setting of Eilean Donan is quite magical - even in the rain!
We spent hours on Skye, gazing across the lochs in the hope that we would see an otter.
The first otter we saw was made of bronze! It was the work of Laurence Broderick, and the otter in question was Gavin Maxwell's Teko. The sculpture by Kyleakin harbour was donated to the Eilean Bàn Trust for the Bright Water Visitor Centre.
We thought we caught sight of a real otter in the harbour at Kyleakin; but as you can see, the intense, atmospheric light was not at its best for otter-spotting! The 'creature' appeared and disappeared along the floating seaweed strands to the right of Caisteal Maol (Castle Moil or Moyle).
The castle probably dates from the 15th century, but the Saucy Mary version of its origin is far more compelling.
Postscript: in the course of finding out about Broderick, I came across the site on Blaven, one of the munros on Skye. It has features on the John Muir Trust and early postcards of Skye.
Cuillin sunset, looking towards Broadford Bay from the road to Kylerhea: it was extraordinary to watch the mountain tops fade in and out of the picture as the cloud patterns changed the silhouettes. We finally got to see a hint of 'red sky at night' on our last evening on Skye. Once the sun had set, the silhouettes became more intense; but the light in the sky became very pale - like dawn - before darkness eventually descended.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading The Skye Guide - a most informative site, with links to Aurora Watch and the Midge Forecast! I particularly like the Skye quotations on the top right of each page.
Kyle of Lochalsh: we braved the elements one midsummer afternoon, and took a trip on the Seaprobe Atlantis. The weather was grim, but we had been assured that the voyage would not be too rough! You can probably make out the rain marks on my lens in the stormy photo below.
The boat has a glass bottom, and I was fascinated to see life on the bottom, or from the bottom up. We spent the first and last part of the trip up on deck (foredeck as we sailed towards the Skye Bridge and aft as we sailed back toward the seal rocks).
The middle part of the journey was spent below deck, sitting on long benches, gazing out through the glass and wondering - in a surreal and suspended kind of way - whether we were sailing past the sea creatures or whether they were swimming past us. I suppose you can do this sort of thing in an aquarium, but it was amazing to watch a jellyfish from its underneath, as it made its way (if this is what jellyfish do) through the kelp.
I took a few photographs through the glass, but they only give a faint impression of the underwater world as we saw it. Apparently, you get the best view when the tide is low, and we had not really let it get low enough when we decided to risk the choppy Sound and secure our passage. The pictures are probably hazy, too, on account of the rough weather, which had stirred up the sea. Talk about a pea-soup of a mist: well, this was a pea-soup of a sea bed! Despite the stormy weather, it was an experience I would not have wanted to miss.
P.S. On the subject of wildlife in (or out of the) water, I am following the BBC story of Flash the turtle. I am also enjoying the Marine World site: you can log the jellyfish you happen to encounter.
I have just come across a website of words, belonging to the Association of British Scrabble Players. I entered the site via the Ancient Greek page, and was intrigued to learn about the 'trochil', the 'trochilus' and other fascinating species.
We spent an enjoyable day on the trail of the MacDonalds, Lords of the Isles, at Armadale Castle in the Sleat Peninsula on the Isle of Skye.
Sleat is 'the garden of Skye', and I was very taken with the abundance of unusual plants that grace the Armadale grounds.
We sheltered in a convenient bothy, looking out across the sound as the ferry approached Armadale Pier. The woods were nearly deserted, in terms of a human presence; but judging by the racket, the local woodpeckers were definitely ruling the roost.
We had been told that Skye is not the place to go if one is after good weather, but we were finally rewarded with a dramatic sunset over the Cuillins on our last evening. This was taken as we drove back towards Broadford, along the beautiful road from Kylerhea. It was about 10.30pm.
I photographed this 'Millennium Bluestone' from the Preseli mountains at the National Botanic Garden of Wales in 2001.
I have recently enjoyed reading the article 'Beyond Stonehenge: Carn Meini and the Preseli Bluestones' (Timothy Darvill and Geoff Wainwright) in the Spring 2008 edition of 'Heritage in Wales', published by CADW.
'The Lie of the Land' is available from the Cinnamon Press website (www.cinnamonpress.com/), and profits go to the Meningitis Trust. 'The Lie of the Land' contains a Foreword by Peter Finch and work by 65 established and new poets in Wales. The cover design is by Mike Fortune-Wood.