Sunday, 12 January 2020

Lost dreams

Roe deer orbit
  Lost Dreams 

Buxton Museum and Art Gallery,

Thursday 9th Jan 2020

I have a bit of thing for bones – more than fossils, ancient bones still remember the lives that once filled them. This piece came out of sitting looking at the bones in Buxton Museum and pondering….
Cave Bear skull, Buxton Museum
This is bone,

Not fossil,

Not stone,

But honest-to-goodness,

Ten thousand year old,


A branch, a bough,

A giant’s club,

A woolly rhinoceros thigh.

There was marrow inside once,

Bony jelly,

A carnivore’s feast,

The pulse of life,

Wrapped in muscle and sinew and skin.

This skull,

The bone bowl of an ancient brain.

These were teeth that bit,

Jaws that gripped,

Eyes that saw,

And ears that heard.

The folded scrolls of these nostrils

Tasted a thousand scents,

Traced a thousand stories.

There is a richness of life beneath my hands,

A legacy of lost dreams.

Growing, waking,

Broad head, strong jaws,

Round ears twitch.

My hand on the hairy hump

Of a bear’s shoulders,

A dark mass heaving into movement.

Forest pools, deep and dark and still,

Eyes opening,

And I sinking,

So deep I cannot feel

Which eyes are mine

And which the bear’s...

Fox:whose bones would inspire you?

Tuesday, 31 December 2019

Creativity with Christmas cards

A box, a scene, a Midwinter moment?

recycling Christmas cards

inappropriately summery scene?

Having a bit of a fidget?
Nothing to do?
And it’s raining again?


Make a little winter a scene to hang on a tree, a branch, a hook on the walll to stand on a shelf, or make a box to put that extra special present (or maybe just the key that makes it go) in

Why not dig out last year’s Christmas cards from the bundle at the bottom of the cupboard, or stealthily purloin one of this year’s, or the birthday cards you don’t quite want to throw out, or use a cereal packet (good card for making and folding, just maybe not as exciting in images as cards) and make a lovely little box?
You will need: a card or two, sharp scissors, a ruler, pencils or pens, glue (PVA is good here) and glue spreader, stapler, bradawl (or something for making holes - a pair of compasses would work), thin string

1. Cut the card in half along the fold - keep the “plain” half, you will need it later
Stage 1

2. Using the picture half of the card, on the plain side, draw a margin maybe 2 cm from each edge of the card

Stage 2: drawing margins

3. Where the lines cross at the corners, carefully cut along one of those lines to the point where the lines meet
Stage 3, cutting into corners

4. This card usually folds quite sharply, so now (use the ruler for a straight edge if you want to) fold up along each of those lines and where you have cut in, fold the short bit to make a corner
Stage 4: folding

Stage 6: glueing corners


5. Before glueing it all together, decide: if you are making a scene, keep the picture on the inside of the box. If you are making a box: you might want the picture inside or on the outside (you could always line the inside with some spare wrapping paper, or make a bigger box to become a lid.). Reverse the folding if you want to change the position of the picture

6. Making sure the sides of your box are sharply upright, glue the corner tabs onto the next side. A staple will hold it all in place. If the outside is too plain, you could colour it in or add some coloured tape. Or sprinkle it with glitter!

Stage 7: tab

Stage 7: an owl!

7. While the glue dries, prepare the scene to go in the box. Using the other piece of card (from stage 1 above), you could make a little tab to fix a figure to (we used some “embellishments” bought cheaply in a local craft shop), or you could draw your own character. Fix by glueing the tabs into the main scene. Again a staple might help. You might want to colour the tab so it fits into the background of the scenes. Some extra glitter might help again.

Finished scene

8. Use a bradawl or compasses to make a couple of holes (aim for places about 1/3 and 2/3 along the top side), thread a piece of glittery string or ribbon through, know it and hang your scene.

 Experiment with papers, colours, tapes, sequins.

Try different places to hang your scenes: a picture hook on the wall? from your ears? on your fingers (and create a fabulous dance around them)? a snowman’s nose?
box with picture on outside

Sunday, 15 December 2019


This blade of a beak celebration of ravens 

Raven, c/o Chris Foote
I like corvids. Big, black and thoughtful; smaller greyer and jesters or flamboyantly jay-bright and magpie striped, they are birds to command attention. They scare some people, annoy others and wake ire in still more but as a family they are a success story. And they have rook-walked into our stories across countries and centuries. They tend to turn up regularly in both the traditional stories I tell or the new poems and stories I write

Ravens, especially, are often sitting there, looking over the shoulders of my imagination and making “helpful” suggestions as I write (even more distracting when they do that when I am ‘telling!).  This is for them…


A blade of a beak
To slice flesh from bone
And shave hair from skin,
To free from blood from body
And hope from hearts.
A bright, black bead of an eye
To see now, and then, and maybe.

A dark, silent flight,
A snow fall of crows,
A blizzard for the dying,
To lift soul from pain
And into always.

Watching life’s beginning
And roisterous ending,
Ravenboy shakes a cloak of
Midnight feathers into wings, while
Ravengirl combs hair into quills
And Huginn and Muninn
Fly back to the claw-worn shoulders
Of the All-father’s throne.

And down in the woods,
On the rocks,
By the sea,
A woman,
All glamour and seduction and threat,
Rattles the bones in a bag
Of her own crowskin
And sings the hero to his fate.

The pictures used here are from members of the Facebook group “For the love of crows”
Many thanks to both Chris Foote (portrait) and Faye McNiven (flight). The raven strip pic is my own and is from Orkney
Ravens, c/o Faye McNiven

Friday, 22 November 2019

Cold mountains, hot deserts

Cold on a mountaintop

I spent a lively day this week in Our Lady and St Edwards Primary School in Birkenhead. We shared stories: Hiram Bingham and Machu Piccku ran alongside ancient stories of giants and the beautiful mountain sisters of Kintail with their dresses of green and winter cloaks of white. After stories from me,  our young artists and storytellers plunged into a world of extremes. We were writing about deserts and - or - mountains. There were discussions about camels, of when to walk across the hot sands of a wind-blown desert and whether the ancient goddess Sekhmet stands in the centre of every  whirling dust-devil. The red sands of Autralia might have been the blood-coloured beer that lured Sekhmet to sleep. Mountains like dragons. Mountains to fear, to wonder over. Mountains to climb and slide down.....

Mountains called up many feelings and the following grew out of a quick discussion….

This wind is bitter, cold on this freezing, beautiful, snow-covered mountaintop

I am so high up now, I am proud but exhausted, too, and anxious. The height overwhelms me when I look down, and down, and down. Going down goes on forever. And I am frozen, petrified by the knowledge that I need to climb all that way down. Why didn’t I pack a parachute?

Saturday, 9 November 2019

Bumblebee Lantern Workshops!

Bumblebee Lanterns!

a procession of buzzing excitements!

Public events in November

a bumble lantern row

balloon bumble colouring up
Do Bumblebees fly at night? Yes!

Do Bumblebees glow!Yes!

Or at least they will in the Bolsover Lantern Procession on Saturday 30th November

Creeping Toad is working with the Bumblebee ConservationTrust’s Pollinating the Peaks Project  to make a set of bumblebee lanterns for the procession

Over several days we are aiming to make a whole colony of bumbles with lots of small personal lanterns ready to fly around a giant Queen (or two). There will be quick balloon bumbles ready to decorate. Or you could take a bit longer to make a small willow bumble or a willow pyrmid dorated with lots of bees and maybe some bee-friendlyflowers! Then there will be our big Queen Lanterns that we'll will need somehelp to make. 

Why not join us for a buzzing good time of willow, tissue, glue and laughter in Chesterfield? 

Find out a bit more about Bumblebees, as well! Maybe over the winter as our Bumbles sleep you could plan a bee-friendly garden for them to wake to in the spring?

willow lanterns need glue and tissue!
Lantern making

We have two days of lantern making workshops

Dates: Saturday 16th

Sunday 17th November

Place: At Loundsley Green Community Centre, Cuttholm Rd, Loundsley green, Chesterfield, S40 4QU

Times: 12 – 4pm

Cost, etc: this event is free. No experience is necessary - materials, help and guidance in lantern-making are all provided!

Children: should bring a grown up with them
Wear: clothes to get messy in!

decorate your lantern!

Make 1: your own small bumblebee or flower lanterns to carry in the procession

Make 2: help us make our large bumblebee queen lanterns

Can’t join the Procession: don’t worry! Make a bumblebee to light the winter evenings of your own home!

The Procession: organised by Junction Arts, this colourful event starts in the grounds of Bolsover Castle before heading through the streets of the town

Date: Saturday 30th November, 6 – 8pm

Meeting point: Bolsover Castle
What’s happening: Parade entry: 4pm
Lantern Competition: 4:30pm
Parade starts: 5pm
Carols at the Cenotaph: 5:45pm

come bumbling with us!

Friday, 25 October 2019

Between the in-field and the out

Between the in-field and the out

Whispers in the Grass 

July 2019


Back at the start of the summer, a group of us had a lovely day in the fields and garden at the Dove Valley Centre. Out of that Whispers in the Grass workshop have come various poems and pieces of writing (follow this link to see more of them). We also poured ideas and images into a communal pot - or maybe a pond - or maybe we seeded our own flowerbed or left the fields of our imaginations free to grow what they would…..we fed thoughts into a collective piece about visiting the valley….

On the long hill out of Longnor,
The narrow walled fields are interrupted,
The boundary between the gritstone and the lime,
Between the valley and the hill,
Between the in-field and the out.

A steep climb, then,
Changing worlds,
From the hilltop,
Dropping down,
A steep fall,
A winding road,

Buildings ahead, a relief.
Stone steps lead up to a window,
A house holding its own stories and a view across the dale.
A garden,
A man with a coffee cup and a welcoming dog
Wild flowers, bushes, a veg patch, roses, foxgloves
Wine for my soul and a blue spire of a flower,
Tall as a foxglove, that has not told me its name,
A gateway invites,
And a topiary hen guards the way.

I know this place.
    I don’t.
Will it welcome me?
    Will I feel safe?
Will I be noticed?

No time for hesitation,
The dale draws us deeper,
The road dropping again,
Hedges reaching high,
Curving round,
Leaving us by the barns.


Huge trees open gorgeous leaves,
Beautiful flowers catch the light,
A smiling peace, a chance to rest,
I shouldn’t worry, but I do,
Trying to let go and let this tranquility touch me.
Echoes of memories, camping and camping stoves, beans in a pan by a tent.
Naming the hills: High Weeldon, Park House and Chrome,
The villages, Pilsbury, Sheen, Hartington.
Down the dale are Wetton, Alstonefield,
I have been here before.
I remember the peace.
It returns to me and offers itself for the first time to others.
Just pause.

When the world calls me back,
That peace will go with me,
    And the calm,
I may take a painting or a poem.
    There will be friends and photographs.

Whispers was a joint event where Creeping Toad worked with old friends from Borderland Voices  and the team from Buxton Museum and Art Gallery. The event was part of Buxton's Festival Fringe

Buxton Museum and Art Gallery was 125 over this last year and to mark that anniversary, the BM125 project brought together experienced with new and emerging artists with 12 months of artistic initiatives. all sort sof things are still unfolding from animated scimitar-toother cats, to dances celebrating ancient axes and musical crystals. Visit the Museum wordpress site to explore some of our birthday adventures!

Photo credits: images 2 and 3: c/o Richard Egan and Borderland Voices
all others, G MacLellan

Saturday, 19 October 2019

past watchful Toads

Watching Toads

a new Telling Toads piece

There have been lots of poetry posts recently...and here is another. This piece by Cherry Doyle is part of the Telling Toads* project and that is as much as I need to say, i think!

Cherry Doyle
Then one hot day when fields were rank
With cowdung in the grass the angry frogs
Invaded the flax-dam'
Seamus Heaney, Death of a Naturalist

The pond was my flax-dam; black hole into
the centre of the earth, in sticky shade
of conifer and stone, it sucked the light
straight from the leaves. And lurching from the soup
of night and algae, clods of earth upon
itself, with eyes as still as long-dropped beads -
the toads, fat sentinels of rock and pot.

A stoic throb of sides preceded feasts
on garden slimers. Silent plots were formed,
like patient Venus creeping through the dusk
their moon-curved shapes somehow familiar.
And morning, strung along the half-chewed leaves,
cascaded trails of silver carnage, long-
forgotten when the sparkling lace remained.

That summer drifted through the apple trees,
and lingered on the jagged edges of
the greenhouse, lit a treasure map across
the lawn, to crawlers making their escape
from every lifted pot and shifted leaf;
an emerald, a clutch of golden coins,
a secret hoard of gently muddied sun.

*Telling Toads is back to gather new poems and stories celebrating amphibians and reptilesWhy not have a look at the notes about what we are looking for and unleash your inner frogliness across a page or screen…..find out more, here

Photo credits:
Pool and tucked away toad: c/o G MacLellan
Toad's eye: detail from a picture by Kenny Taylor