MarySmith’sPlace – #Otter #Otter Pool #Dumfries&Galloway

After my last Silent Sunday post here my blogging friend Jemima Pett left a comment asking if I knew the wood where there is an otter pool with a bronze statue beside it. By sheer coincidence, as part of my never-ending task of sorting old photos for scanning, I had a photo of the otter statue on my desk! I couldn’t not blog about it, could I?

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The Otter Pool is situated on The Raiders’ Road, a ten-mile forest drive through part of the Galloway Forest. The pool, on the Back Water of Dee was always one of our favourite places for picnics when my son was small because of the wonderful, smooth flat rocks, the pools, some shallow, some deep depending on the amount of rainfall, and small waterfalls.

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My son was a total water baby from the day he first crawled into the ocean and he loved being at the Otter Pool, spending the entire time in – or under – the water while I pretended not to be terrified.

This is the poem (from the collection Thousands Pass Here Every Day published by Indigo Dreams) I wrote for him in those days.

(To David)
Sun-gleam on wet bronze limbs,
seal sleek you slip
into the deepest pool.
From the rocks I watch,
afraid of your fearlessness,
breath held as brown water
closes over you.

Surfacing, you laugh,
a careless toss of your head
scattering miniature rainbows –
my water god of the Otter Pool.

Other children splash,
playing safe
in sun-warmed shallows.
Their mothers silently question
my carelessness of you.
They do not know
how deep the fear,
how powerless
the mother of a deity
who believes he’s indestructible –
my water god of the Otter Pool.

The bronze statue of the otter Jemima remembers was, unfortunately, stolen some years ago. He stood on a flat stone overlooking the water and every visitor stroked his head so it had turned to a gleaming gold. He is greatly missed.

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MarySmith’sPlace – Lockdown country walk

As wee change from Afghanistan, I thought I’d show some images from our lockdown walks. Our usual walks have become very congested so we’ve been seeking out quiet country lanes instead.

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Impossible to keep six feet apart on this path

This path leads from the town to Threave Castle. There are places, usually at gates, where it opens out into the fields and people can pass each other, keeping a safe distance. However, while most walkers will wait at an opening for others to pass, some (most likely visitors come to hide out for lockdown) just barrel on down the path. Their sense of entitlement apparent.

I thought I’d share a few photos from recent walks. Apologies if you find photos of cows boring – I like cows. They are so wonderfully nosy and curious and friendly (as long as they don’t have calves with them)

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Go on, then, take a nice family shot!

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Photo shoot over

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Less usual farm animals!

MarySmith’sPlace – a very special party

I’ve been involved, almost since its birth, with a Scottish arts organisation called conFAB, which was founded in January 2004. Over the years it has grown into a really strong, dynamic organisation, developing all kinds of new and exciting work in many different genres and art forms.

conFAB has a commitment to community and education-based work and in its productions both professional practitioners and community actors and performers work alongside each other. It is committed to inclusion and equality, providing access to the arts for everyone as audiences, as participants and as artists, and is always ready to explore new ideas.

Towards the end of 2019 the organisation celebrated its 15th year with a party in the Glad Café,  Glasgow. This is what we were celebrating:

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I was delighted to be invited to read a poem which was written for a project called Hidden City.  There were several Hidden City projects, in which poets were invited to places around the city and invited to write whatever that place inspired. Almost all the places visited over the course of the project have now disappeared.

My poem, Thousands Pass Here Every Day, became the title poem in my first full collection of poetry published by Indigo Dreams – one of the many reasons I have for being grateful I am involved with conFAB.

I made a wee thank you speech at the party but totally forgot one of the things I wanted to say. I’d wanted to comment on the fact that my son had grown up with conFAB. He was thirteen when the organisation started and was dragged along to various events, then he came along willingly, and then he became involved himself in a project. He was at the celebratory party, listening to the songs and speeches – and to his mother reading a poem. I don’t think he was embarrassed!

Check out conFAB’s website here and its Facebook page here – and watch it grow and develop over the next 15 years.

And here I am reading my poem:



MarySmith’sPlace – Walking off the mince pies #3 #HappyNewYear

The 1st of January 2019 was a glorious, sunny day; the 31st December 2019 was a glorious sunny day so we were looking forward to walking off the mince pies on New Year’s Day. The day dawned dismal and grey. Not raining, though, so at least there was that.


Screel, to the left, on a clear day!

Our plan was to climb Screel Hill, which is close to where we live in Dumfries & Galloway. At 344 metres, it’s not a very high hill, though it’s a bit of a tough scramble in places – and it does offer fabulous views out over Rough Firth and Auchencairn Bay.

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Unfortunately, from our bathroom window Screel wasn’t visible behind the low cloud.

I’d have opted for an alternative walk – or maybe hot chocolate and a good book – but the DH was adamant we should do it. Wee-sis and Sula the Labrador were joining us and we did have those mince pies to walk off.

The car park was full, which made me feel we were not being totally foolhardy in heading out into the mist. Others had gone before us and I thought, as Wee-sis pulled into the only space, some had even returned.

At least this year the DH was sensibly shod in proper boots rather than the crocs he wore last year.

The first part is fairly easy walking but looking back down at how far we’d come the views over the coast were not inspiring.

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Imagine how fabulous this looks on a clear day

We crossed a path and into the woods where the going became a bit tougher and a lot muddier. Pausing for a breather we discovered the DH, although sensibly shod, was not sensibly dressed. He’d forgotten when he jumped in Wee-sis’s car that his jacket was in his own car. By then, I, over-warm in my many layers had removed my fleece, so the DH struggled in to it and on we went.

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Stopping for a breather

Sula the Labrador was ecstatic as we set off – a walk with three of her two-legses family, one of whom might be persuaded to throw an occasional stick for her, is her idea of heaven.

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The last part to the top is a scramble over slippery rock, bog and mud. That only takes you to the ridge which is still some way from the summit of Screel – again over bog – which we still couldn’t even see. Sula didn’t care, she was having a wonderful time and if only these stupid humans would throw her stick, all would be perfect.

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We’re going up there – somewhere

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Wee-sis leads the way through the mist

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DH battles on – it was his idea!

Finally, we made it to take the obligatory photos and looked round at the non-existent views.

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Why you should never work with children or animals!

The return route is easier after the initial scramble. We could chat again instead of puffing. And, to add to her joy, Sula dog found something wonderfully fox-scented to roll in. And the DH only fell over once. Walkers 3 Mince pies 0

Does anyone have an easier solution to working off the Christmas excess consumption?