Monthly Archives: March 2014

Welcome Guest Author Lucy Felthouse!

A blog interview of the great editor of Leaving the Pack.

Welcome Guest Author Lucy Felthouse!.

Daylight Savings Time – A Poem


For the day that’s in it (in Europe anyway) here’s a reminder

And a hint of what might be to come when we get serious about savings…




Daylight Savings Time


Don’t forget to reset your watch

Tonight, the clocks go forward

One hour for “summer time” so

We have an extra hour of

Daylight in the evenings.

Since the twenties this tradition

Has saved us several billion dollars a year!


Well, today’s the day –

The one you’ve been waiting for:

The first day of summer!

The kids are on holidays and

Those of you still stuck in the office

Can at least discard that shirt and

Tie for the next three months!

That’s right! It is also “dressing down day”,

Officially known as “summer energy savings time”,

When businesses, from now till September,

Have to set a new trend in dress code:

Shirts, sandals and tee-shirts. It’s all part of

The effort to save on air conditioning electricity.


Set your video for the Simpson’s tonight:

You won’t be home to watch them live!

Yes; this evening begins the “summer siesta season”:

Those three months when the work day changes

From nine to five, up until eight,

With a three-hour break between two and five

To escape that sultry, early afternoon heat,

Now that air-conditioning has been outlawed

To lower the outlandish energy costs.


Tomorrow is the big day –

“Winter energy savings time”,

Or “Migration Day” as it’s more widely known!

Everyone knows the drill by now –

Unless energetically independent or indispensable,

All those north of the forty-fifth parallel

In the central continental states

Will move south of that line for winter time,

So as we can all avoid the huge heating

Waste those places used to face.



Do the Narcissi Still Bloom?

This is a link to Houseboat poetry blog where one of my poems was just published: It’s the 4th poem on photo #21…

Chernobyl and Rewilding Islands….


I just watched a very good documentary about wolves and the other wildlife around Chernobyl nuclear reactor, which as most people know, discharged enough radiation in 1986 to make the area around it uninhabitable for humans (in any safe way). I recommend everyone watches it but to reveal a big spoiler: there are absolutely no mutations of any kind in the wolves , much less dangerous. In fact, though there is a still certainly a lot of radiation in the soil and indeed the animals, the populations and vast majority fo individuals are extremely healthy. The area now is a wildlife haven, with all types of native fauna represented after the reintroduction of European bison from other parts of Belarus (the area is split between that country and Ukraine) and primitive horses – though the horses are being poached by locals.

There are the same density of wolves and other wildlife as in any other radiation-free national park or other refuge. What matters most is that there are no humans – except soldiers patrolling the border, researchers and forest rangers, and no intensive farming any more.

And it made me wonder, what if there were more such accidents? It would actually be a boon for wildlife, not the disaster we all assumed Chernobyl would be. And then I further pondered: what if we could create such places without the need for a nuclear reactor meltdown?

What if we decided that some areas should be strategically retreated from – just everyone relocated, so that all that was left were a few rangers? That would mean some upheaval for some people – but the residents of Chernobyl and its surrounds were accommodated in other communities outside the danger-zone.

Of course, we would pick places to retreat from which were already sparsely populated.


Achill Island in the west of Ireland. (Photo from flickr commons:


Since there would be no radiation, people could actually come and go fairly freely. In fact, many could stay. If the area was sparsely populated enough to begin with, they would probably not even have to leave. All that they would have to do is not farm intensely, not improve the land, drain the wetlands etc. Let the trees return, leave meadows to go through their natural transitions, remove livestock and let populations of wildlife resurge – and reintroduce a few species that are missing.

That doesn’t mean that they have to live on nothing. Such an area would be a haven not only for wildlife, but for all the people who love to watch wildlife, but haven’t the opportunity to travel to Alaska or don a radiation suit and mask to enter the fallout zone. The residents that decide to stay could open up a hotel or have visitors stay in their houses for bed and breakfast. Locals would probably be invaluable guides to visitors, as they’d know the best hangouts, the places where white-tailed eagles nest, where wolves like to hang out, where the deer graze.

This is, basically, rewilding.

And I wondered what kinds of places might be considered disposed/amenable/suitable.

Already, one has been identified on the border between Portugal and Spain where the locals are actively embracing a change in land use – to actually hold on to their dwindling populations by creating more economically beneficial endeavours, than farming.

There are a few parts of western Scotland, of Ireland – already the one of the least densely-inhabited areas of Europe – where farming is at best marginal and mostly restricted to grazing sheep, at a low economic return. Certainly there are many regions where intensive farming of the scale of the state collective farms of the former USSR is infeasible,

In the long term, some of these areas could be connected with densely inhabited but wildlife-amenable corridors to let wide-ranging animals like wolves travel between them.

But in the meantime, they could be pockets of landscape like the rewilded Pripet marshes: islands of wilderness in seas of farmland.

What’s to stop the Scottish islands and peninsulas of Mull, or Kintyre, or Islay becoming rewilded? They’ve already considered adding wolves to Rhum. Why stop there? Why not bring them, and boar, to Islay and Mull, let them roam the woods of Kintyre? Forestry, fishing, hunting and other tourist activities could be continued unchanged. Just a perhaps slower rotation on trees, using native species and a cessation of sheep grazing and large-scale farming – garden plots and such would be fine: tourists love to eat local… as for local lamb etc. well, local venison is a whole lot better….

Imagine a tour of western Ireland, where after visiting the Cliffs of Moher and Connemara, you could drive out onto Achill Island (disclosure: I have only been there once), and instead of seeing sheep out on the bog, see red deer (and the feral goats), and wolves alongside the foxes and pine martens, with perhaps a few boar amid birch woods and copses. Imagine the Inishowen peninsula of Donegal (disclosure: I haven’t gone there yet, but I have seen the video), or Belmullet in Mayo? Now that is a Wild Atlantic Way! These are areas of comparable size to the exclusion zone around Chernobyl, and could, in theory, hold several packs of up to 100 wolves. Bantry or the ends of any of the West Cork or Kerry peninsulas would probably be able to hold a lot of wildlife while still being the tourist hotspots they are today; just with added attractions… And without the irrational worry about golden and white-tailed eagles etc. killing lambs – aside from the benefits to these from wolf kills – our birds of prey, which attract many tourists to the west, would have a much greater guarantee of success in the future into the bargain.

I was just wondering….

And ironically, I am far from the first to wonder this: Sir Harry Johnston (yea, never heard of him either) had the idea of “a British Yellowstone Park” back in 1903…..

Good to meet you…author Jennifer Young

My fellow Tirgearr author giving a great interview. I might not be able to make it to Glen Affric, for a few years, but I am going to make some of my characters do so immediately!

Helena Fairfax

In the next few weeks I’ll be introducing some of my fellow graduates from the excellent New Writers’ Scheme run by the UK’s Romantic Novelists’ Association. Today I’m welcoming the lovely Jennifer Young!

And what a lovely day it is, too. My daffs are out in all their golden glory, along with my crocuses, and the camellia I planted a couple of years ago is about to flower for the first time. I’m so excited by this I’ve had to show Jennifer before we get down to chatting 🙂

helena fairfax, jennifer youngWhereabouts do you live, Jennifer? I’m lucky enough to live in Edinburgh – one of the most beautiful cities in the world. And inspiring, too — it’s hard to walk around places frequented by Burns and Scott (and more recently the likes of Ian Rankin and JK Rowling) and not feel compelled to go away and write something.

Oh, it really…

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Poem for Spring – my most distracted season

            Listening to Spring

Dandelions in little city lawns,

Until the mower docks them

Days before they can scatter parachutes,

Lend life to tidy tulips in brown soil

Of council border floral designs,

Screaming the spring in spattered gold

As loudly as frog-full vernal pools,

As eloquently as the yellow-eyed

Blackbird that would defy the traffic

As if in silent rural evening.

Leaves flash delicate green on trees,

Catching each twig like licking fire,

Requiring only light and sky for life,

Sun settles on skin like a mother’s touch,

Leaving one watching, lingering,

Wishing this was all life relied on,

As if the roads meant little to us either;

Bringing back a faith in the seasons,

In the circle, once again,

Making us believe in the idea of eternity.

My Author Page at Tirgearr Publishing

This is my author page at Tirgearr, the publishing house where my debut novel, Leaving the Pack, will be published in June. It’s got a longer bio and a different photo!

It also has a link to how to buy the novel when it comes out…

Should Authors Have to “Market Themselves”?

Should Authors Have to “Market Themselves”?.

Today in the Comfy Chair – Troy Lambert

Today in the Comfy Chair – Troy Lambert.

Some anti-predator propaganda showing the opposition even foxes have in Ireland

So yesterday I logged into facebook to find the post below on the WDAI page…
Wild Deer Association of Ireland
Not a nice sight, foxes are opportunist killers and will regularly kill deer fawns and even family pets if the opportunity arises.
fox roe fawn

Needless to say, the picture – of what seems to be a roe fawn (not even present in Ireland) in the jaws of a fox  – and the very negative caption generated some debate: most of it thankfully in support of the fox.

I chimed in myself and found myself having to second-guess a world-renowned deer biologist, but some of the figures just seem incorrect to me. I might have to retract, but I doubt it. You can read the comments on the WDAI page..

It just goes to show how far we have to go in Ireland to get acceptance of predators – even ones doing their proper and correct ecological role! – and even small ones. Recent reports of the tragic death of one of just two White Tailed Eagles born in Ireland in a century drives this home ( . We have our work cut out for us as ecologists….