April found us doing a lot of work in the garden. There was the first cut of grass, the removal of old heather bushes and lots of pruning. The best part was having bonfires, an activity which always makes us think of Dylan Thomas’s ‘A Child’s Christmas in Wales.’ The oft repeated quote, after ‘Let’s call the fire brigade’ being ‘and Ernie Jenkins, he likes fires.’
More importantly, a great deal of time was spent on writing my next book – ‘The Snake Wand’. I’m really enjoying the challenges that the children face in Book Three of ‘The Hagstone Chronicles, and am almost at the end of my first major draft.
There were two lovely positive responses to‘Cry at Midnight,’ one from an eleven year old boy who took it into his bedroom after breakfast and didn’t come out until he’d finished it. Well, that’s what I was told, although I can’t quite believe that a boy would forego his meals. Anyway he said, ‘It’s brilliant!’ and proceeded to relate the entire story in great detail to his mum. The other was from a twelve year old girl who was reading it for the fourth time!
My second book, ‘Clickfinger’, was published at the end of the month. It hasn’t arrived on Islay yet, but I’ve seen the cover. It shows stylised silhouettes against a full moon and features Gylen Castle and Spitfire, the witch’s cat. Set on The Isle of Kerrera, the story is a continuation of the adventures of Merryn and Hamish MacQueen in their fight against Malevolent Witchcraft.
There were some beautifully sunny days when writing in my cabin was a joy. On the other hand there was cold, wet, windy weather that beheaded all my tulips, breaking them neatly on inch-long stems. They had survived for ten years so it was an indication of how wild the weather had been. Needless to say, the central heating had to be switched on – a stark contrast to the days when the French windows were open from morning until early evening.
A pair of Great Northern Divers holding a magical conversation just off our shore was the month’s wildlife highlight. We often see them, but had never heard their distinctive calls from the house before. A close observation from last year, when he’d failed to call, led to this poem.
Great Northern Diver
In brief respite from flight
he settles, feeds and preens.
Soon he’ll thrash his wings,
rise and fly a thousand miles
to where his wailing notes
and clanging calls
along some lonely Greenland shore.
Here he is a silent presence.
Oblivious to the toss
of the grey waves wash
he rolls to reach
the white down of his breast.
A study in monochrome
save for his jewelled eyes
red as rubies.
Other birds were on my mind when Scottish Islands Explore published my article entitled Ravens, Hooded Crows and Chough. It was illustrated with my own photographs, taken on Islay, Colonsay and, perhaps surprisingly, one of the raven shots was taken in The Tower of London.
Although it’s not yet ready for publication, I was delighted with the cover of ‘Waymarks’ my forthcoming poetry collection.
I took the photo of The Punishment Stone surrounded by bluebells, on The Isle of Canna.