Monday, 28 August 2017


After my taste of rye bread in my previous post -

Black bread

 On the shelf at Aldi rye bread schwartzbrot
bread that will keep in wooden chests for weeks
bread you can eat at dawn and do a day’s labour.

The sour-sweet taste of it – a snatched lunch when
we biked through July cornfields to the coast
on old Third Reich tracks, concrete white in the heat.

An ear of corn split with my thumbnail, flour
soft on my tongue.  Wind turbines flailed the air.
The A of a granary’s great brick gable,

tented with rye brown thatch, swept the ground.
A peg-mill, redeemed from fire, the whole mill-house
dancing to catch the eye of the wind.

the tracks ran on, resolute, determined,
as if the crew-cut stubble had no choice.
At Schönberg the Baltic hazed the horizon,

little whispy waves nibbled white sand
drifting against breakwaters (nicht betreten).
The drift of things: rye grains carried in carts,

in desperate sacks, in pockets, across
the settlers’ ocean to turf roofed dugouts

to rise as prairie sourdough. 

© Mary Robinson 2010, 2017

from The Art of Gardening (Flambard 2010)

Wednesday, 16 August 2017


The exotic is everywhere, it comes to us
before there is a yen or a need for it

wrote Amy Clampitt in one of the best ever shopping poems (‘Nothing stays put’).     

Last weekend I was down in Bath visiting family for the weekend.  On Saturday morning we went to Green Park market which is next to a big Sainsbury’s.   We had a divide and conquer approach and while one member of the family did the weekly supermarket shop the rest of us browsed round the market.

Green Park station is a grade 2 listed building.  It was once an important railway terminus but now the market is held under the arched glass roof of the old station.  It’s spacious and there’s a relaxed atmosphere about the market.  People walk slowly, looking and chatting.   There are small children and dogs and no one seems stressed.   We sat and drank our coffees at the market cafĂ©.   Music from the LP shop in a waiting room of the old station spilled over into the market.   There was a stall selling knick-knacks of vintage silver plate – items which one’s great granny might have possessed, such as sugar tongs (remember sugar lumps?).  Little time-capsules of curios.   Nearby was a stall selling home-made soap – beautifully scented from flowers in the stall-holders’ garden. 

But most of the stalls were selling food, home-grown and, in some cases, home-cooked.  As a child of self-sufficiency parents (John Seymour’s book was frequently consulted in our house) I greatly enjoyed visiting this small-producers’ market.  On the list were strawberries and jam (from the same stall) – lovely sweet juicy berries in all shapes and sizes.  A giant punnet and a jar of jam for under a fiver.   We resisted the wild meat man (will [grey] squirrel ever catch on?) but treated ourselves to some dry-cured smoked bacon (from Gloucester old spot pigs).  Such bacon was to us haute cuisine (we had bacon butties that night with a glass of red wine).

It was impossible to rush round the market because the producers were so enthusiastic.  There were lots of free samples and the stall holders needed no prompting to talk passionately about their food.  The bread was particularly good – we tasted the rye bread (from locally grown rye).  It was as good as anything I have had in Germany.

My daughter-in-law had requested some flowers.  We found a local grower’s stall selling dahlias – confident pompoms and mop-heads in mother-of-the bride colours – lilac, orange, peach, white tinged with mauve, lemon yellow with golden centres – not a curl out of place (like something out of Philip Larkin’s ‘The Whitsun Weddings’).  Freshly picked that morning, two bunches for five pounds.

 Dahlias, native to Mexico, eaten by the Aztecs, grown in Somerset.

Nothing stays put.  The world is a wheel.
all that we know, that we’re

made of, is motion.

Wednesday, 9 August 2017


A perfect combination.

Today I walk the dog along the cliff path from Morfa Nefyn.  Yachts shelter in the curving bay of Porth Dinllaen.  The sea is a deep azure blue.  It is a day of Auden’s “leaping light”.  A window on the coastguard look-out tower flashes back the sunlight.  Waves gather, white crests glisten until the final stumble onto the beach.   To the north-west the hills of Yr Eifl are a shadowed grey – natural ramparts forcing the traveller inland.  Across the sea to the north Anglesey’s long low sandy shoreline ends in the submarine shape of Holyhead, the port for Ireland (Porth Dinllaen was once proposed as the Irish port – how different this beautiful coast would have been if the project had gone ahead).

The cliff path is dotted with late summer flowers – montbretia, ragwort, Himalayan balsam (all invaders) and the diminutive harebell which seems so fragile but isn’t.

orange as the gleed of a winter fire
     under the summer sun

each flower a thousand score of sun-kings
     heading straight for the battlefield

Himalayan balsam
popping up in all the plashy places
     painting her pouting lips pink

that first syllable of breath
     trembling in the azure wind

© Mary Robinson 2017