Month: June 2023

A surprise success

I still find it amazing that some of these poems I write, and that I rarely agonise over, take hours to compose, or even – really – take terribly seriously, nevertheless strike a chord or find favour in a publication. Of course they wouldn’t ever do that unless I took the time (and had the confidence) to submit them, and I wouldn’t do that if I didn’t feel they were perhaps worthy, given the majority are unquestioningly and unapologetically political. But even so . . .

In the case of this most recent success, I wrote the poem initially for a Greens’ Fossil Fools Trivia Night fundraiser where the theme was obviously the ongoing climate change risks associated with mining and fracking coal and gas. Two of us were invited to read poems during the evening, and I was one of them. Mine was well received on what was essentially a fun night, albeit with serious undertones, designed to poke fun at the former Coalition government’s failure to take climate change seriously – and to try to help the election of our Greens candidate in the forthcoming Legislative Council. A big ask, and we didn’t succeed this time, but if you don’t try . . .

I filed the poem away in my increasingly bulging folder and gave it little thought until I read the details of a competition and publishing opportunity offered by online media organisation Independent Australia

Despite subscribing to IA for several years it’s the first time I remember it has invited readers to submit articles, fiction or poetry for consideration for such an opportunity, and one that is running for around three months. Winners and short-listed entries are announced each month, and a selection will be published on the website. To be eligible for consideration all entries, regardless of category, have to be on a current affairs topic, be that political, social justice, environmental etc.

I remembered my Fossil Fool poem and fished it out of the folder. I read it through again. With a bit of tweaking I felt it certainly fitted the brief. So I reworked the last stanza and added another one, completed the entry criteria and sent if off, not really anticipating I’d hear anything back for a while – if ever.
So it was a genuine surprise to learn it had indeed been published, and with its own Mark David cartoon to boot!,17603

Whether ‘Fossil Fools’ will progress any further in the IA competition remains to be seen. I won’t know that until sometime in July so watch this space as they say!

Grey invaders

The UK’s squirrels have been immortalised in Beatrix Potter’s ‘Squirrel Nutkin’, as well as in numerous Christmas cards with the traditional snow-covered landscapes, as they nibble on their hidden cache of nuts. These are Britain’s native red squirrels though, a species that has disappeared from many regions across the country since the introduction of North America’s grey squirrel during the 1890s. Grey squirrels are just as cute of course, smaller in size but with the same distinctive bushy tail, but as well as being prolific breeders, they also brought the squirrel pox disease with them and it’s this that has contributed massively to the decline in red squirrel numbers.

Although carriers of the disease the greys rarely succumb to it. The reds though proved immediately and fatally susceptible, so along with being out-competed for food red squirrel populations have dwindled despite ongoing and determined conservation efforts to help save them.

I’ve certainly not spotted any red squirrels during my time in Yorkshire this year, but the greys abound. They are more commonly dubbed ‘tree-rats’ due to being so prolific and a pest, where I often walk my niece’s spaniel, Lexie, it’s a rare morning I don’t see one of them scampering along the ground or racing along the branch of a beech tree somewhere along the woodland track where we often walk.

The greys have their champions of course and it’s certainly far too late to even consider eradicating them now, but even so I suspect these invasive and destructive pests are quietly culled by farmers and landowners as the scientists and conservationists work on developing a vaccine and/or cure for the deadly squirrel pox, alongside working to protect those few red squirrel populations that continue to hang on in the more isolated northern areas of England and Scotland.