Posted by: christinelaennec | March 28, 2015

Birds, trees, besoms

Katharine Stewart’s essay for March 28th (ca 1994) discusses birds and trees, and the changes she had witnessed over the years.  She hears the curlew:  “It’s a sad, lonely, quivering call, but it means that these incomparable birds are back.  They’ve left their wintering on the coast and are here to nest and make increase.  That’s enough to lift the day.” (p. 57)

Clouds, Glasgow, end of March 2015.

Clouds, Glasgow, end of March 2015.

We’ve had some wonderful blue-sky days here this past week.  Cold still, and frosty some mornings, but everyone has remarked – even on Radio Scotland – on the increase in birdsong.  I haven’t heard any curlews (or, to be more accurate, I wouldn’t know if I had), but I have really been enjoying the birds.  I stopped to watch a pair of greenfinches the other day.  I can recognise their “greeeeen” long chirp, but these two were making a different kind of a sound, and I was hoping I might learn it and remember it.

Stewart writes also about trees, and the changes she had seen in the countryside near Loch Ness.  “We have one thing to be grateful for, as we look out on our changing landscape.  Foresters are abandoning the planting of dense stretches of conifer.  ‘Bring back the birch’ is a welcome slogan today.  The birch – from the winter outline of its mauve branches to the May-time greening and the autumn gold, and the year-long shine of the silver bark, it’s an incomparable tree.” (p. 57)  I fully agree.  I have loved birch trees ever since I made friends with two beautiful specimens across the street from the house we lived in when I was four years old.  I just loved those trees with their peeling, white bark.  They stood in front of a white picket-fence belonging to a house where a sweet elderly couple lived, and the lady sometimes gave me freshly-baked cookies.  No wonder I love birch trees!  Here in Glasgow we don’t have a birch in our small garden, but there are quite a few around, including one that I can see from the house.

Stewart goes on to write, “Bunches of [birch] twig still make good garden besoms”.  Until I looked it up, I hadn’t realised “besom” is a Scottish word for a broom (or brush, as people often say here – “brush the floor”).  I had only heard “besom” as a derogatory word for a girl or woman:  “she’s a right wee besom”.

I have had a few urban excursions recently, and have enjoyed both nature and the man-made environment:

Clouds over Glasgow, late March.  These feathery clouds were very swiftly moving across the sky.

Clouds over Glasgow, late March. These feathery clouds were very swiftly moving across the sky, and if you stood and watched them, you felt as if the buildings were moving instead.

Berkeley Street, Glasgow.

Berkeley Street, Glasgow.  (pron: Barclay)  You can see a Sikh temple (Gurdwara), and a church steeple which I think may belong to a building no longer used as a church.  Beyond the trees is the Glasgow Gaelic School, which provides Gaelic-Medium Education for pre-school through age 18.

I know that my American friends and relations have already “sprung forwards” but here the clocks leap ahead tonight.  Before that, we have a visit from Our Son, and a cèilidh at the Dafter’s church to look forwards to!  Fingers crossed she will be able to go and enjoy herself.  She will rest all day.

I leave you with a sweet photo of our Tilly:

Big and little cats, March 2015.

Big and little cats, March 2015.

Tilly had her annual check at the vet’s yesterday.  For the first time in 10 years, she has put on weight!  The other morning she woke me at 6:30 am by gently attacking my head and biting my hair, she was so hungry.  (This is a very rare event.)  So we shall have to think this through a bit.

I wish you all a very good Palm Sunday weekend.



  1. Lovely picture of Tilly.
    I do hope the Dafter will be well enough to get to the ceilidh, and that you’ll have a good evening.

  2. Enjoy your ceilidh, I hope you have a lovely Easter. x

  3. I just started my day by reading your lovely post. You have such a calming way in your writing. I hope you have a wonderful Palm Sunday weekend. Lilly sends her meows to your previous Tilly.

  4. Although I enjoy listening to bird songs, I am not very astute at identifying who is singing, and now that I think about it I’m not very astute at identifying tree species either, although I at least appreciate the difference between conifer and deciduous varieties, but it is so lovely to enjoy seeing your brilliant blue skies, the interesting architecture, varied clouds, Tilly and her tiger friend 🙂 and reading of your memories of kind cookie sharing neighbors and white bark birches. Blessings on you and yours this Palm Sunday weekend, Christine xx

  5. Loving your pictures from Glascow. My great grandfather William grew up in Glascow and my Gran’s younger sister, who was an authour, writes about his early days in the city. I agree about Birch trees, every season they display beauty. Talking about brooms or besoms, there is a fungus that attacks birth trees from time to time. It makes the branches bunch up in places. In Norway we call the “bunches” “Withches Brooms”. They look rather interesting l think, and it is a fun name. 20 cm more snow arrived here yesterday and spring seems long gone at the moment. Lovely picture of Tilly and the tiger. My two cats are out all night, but every morning they yell outside my window “It’s time for breakfast!”
    Wish you all a blessed Easter week. From Pam in Norway

  6. I hope the Dafter has managed to get to her ceilidh this weekend.
    In Moray we pronounce ‘besom’ as ‘bisom’. I looked it up in the Dictionary of the Older Scottish Tongue, and see that the first recorded use in in the 16th century. The DOST is a great resource, and I’m very fond of it. I used to work with an aspect of it early in my career.

  7. Enjoying catching up on your blog. I was sure I’d added you to my bloglovin feed but clearly not otherwise I’d have seen your other posts! Tilly is just the sweetest and not unlike my Magic. There is something so special about a tortie cat especially one with a snow white bib! My cats have got their own blog if you want a peep at the girlie Sadly they don’t have a big cat to sleep beside.

    I do hope you all managed to enjoy the ceilidh. Re: the church steeple I think that might be the Henry Wood Hall. Tho’ given how directionally challenged I am at the best of times I wouldn’t be too sure!

    • RedSetter, you’re right it is the Henry Wood Hall, home of the Royal Scottish National Opera I believe. Thank you!

  8. Wonderful post and great picture of Tilly. I at first thought that tiger was real, good grief me. I too love birch trees, was sad to leave one behind when we moved many years ago. Hope your daughter makes her event.

  9. I love the way that you and I have been thinking of similar things. I posted a poem you’ve been pondering. Then, when I get her to say hello, I find we are both posting amazing cloud pictures. Hi, friend. I like that we think alike.

  10. Thank you all very much! I so much enjoy reading your comments.

    Pam – I know what you mean about the “witches broom” on birch trees. We had a birch tree in Aberdeen and for a while I thought there was a big crow’s nest in it, but it was one of those odd growths.

    Linda – I have been thinking about “besom/bisom” all day! I didn’t know about the DOST, we just have the Concise Scots Dictionary – which I must say we use regularly.

    RedSetter, I’m not signed up to Bloglovin yet – something I ought to do… What a beautiful cat your Magic is. A number of vets have made comments over the years about “naughty torties” – I had no idea there were such prejudices about tortoiseshell cats! Our Tilly is very rarely naughty, though she is quite reserved. Subtle, I think. She is very tuned in but not very demonstrative, so you have to pay attention. She is also highly intuitive. I hope your Magic is making a good recovery. Thanks for the link! Also, thanks for potentially identifying the steeple. I will have to try to find out what it is. I was in town recently and tried to spy the cherubs looking down. I thought I knew where I had taken the photo and went back there – but either they had flown off or more likely I had misremembered. I will keep looking.

    Lucinda, as much as the Dafter thinks she would like to have a real tiger to keep her company, that tiger is much more manageable and less smelly!

    Relyn – synchronicity!

  11. I enjoyed reading your post…and I will keep the Dafter in my prayers!

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