We scrabble over wild-flower meadow

spear-thistle, tormentil, harebell

sink into Peploe’s beach

the white strand of the monks

savour sun set over Staffa 

volcanic columns slowly melt

and someone stands motionless in the ocean.

John’s black sheep gather

woollen blankets   organic mutton 

glower at us through gloaming.

We share whisky nipped from the bottle

Dalwhinnie winter’s gold

trip over an orca skeleton

like the frame-work of a ship-wreck 

cradled by pearl-white ice-age sands 

wrapped in russet bladder-wrack

sheltered by torridonian stone.

It demands discussion.

And we babble, like a brook over boulders

with three other drifters 

before sauntering back through violet silence

by way of Cnoc Buie – the yellow hill.


takes me round the slumbering garden

talks peonies   dahlias   clematis   azalias

none of them in bloom

despairs his dug out roses

attacked by bootlace fungus

his Silver Jubilees   Elizabeth of Glamis

he rests against a rust encrusted straining post

explains the ways it once was used

to tighten fencing wire to take the weight of cows

reminisces vintage rakes and hoes

much better made than those they sell today

taunts with swathes of daffodils and bluebells

as we crunch kick beech nuts

stroll the blossomless cherry walk

scan the bottom of Jenny’s pond for dozy fish

wish the Spanish chestnut had been Mary Queen of Scots’

not short by 50 years

we meander where an orchard once sprang plums and pears

mourn the 12 apostles   some succumbed to wind and honey fungus

I yen for yellow   orange   pink

spy only umber   madder   sap green   brown

until he offers treasures from his January garden

purple   red   beetroot   brussels

beans   neeps   leeks   kale   chard & 

arms abundant with luscious colour

at last the first white snow drops


Full bellies revealed

harbor seals relax 

while CalMac ferries criss-cross 

Iona – Mull – Iona.

Our wooden vessel skims

Ulva, Fladda, Gometra & 

the Dutchman’s cap.

Suddenly, the great face of Staffa.

Clamshell, Cormorant, Boat & Goat 

caves, crafted by rain and sea, astonish.

But I have come for Fingals, ribs 

created from tuff and basalt,

waves performing Mendelssohn’s overture.

Imagine if Antrim’s causeway ended here?

Before Scottish giant Benandonner, 

for fear of defeat by Irish giant Finn MacCool,

unaware of deceit by Finn’s wife Oonagh,  

destroyed it.  Separating, for ever, 

Scotland from Ulster.


I talk with my old pal Paul by phone

pass impressive poppies

bold   brassy   brimming with enthusiasm

not red remembrance

not yellow Californian

or blue Himalayan

not white Icelandic

but black & white &

I can’t help but think of that night

we spent in A & E

David screaming with pain

begging for morphine &

those patches I applied each day

to Kitty in those final weeks

a pity these opiates came so late

her night time cries hard to forget

but as I stop to admire these simple flowers

clumped together in a cluster of euphoria 

I am glad that they brought them both relief

poems by Kay Ritchie

Kay Ritchie grew up in Glasgow and Edinburgh, lived in London, Spain, and Portugal, worked as a photographer and radio producer, and now enjoys writing and walking. She has been published in magazines and anthologies and has performed at various events.


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