Blog Our Sweet Old Etcetera

Behind the scenes at the Scottish Poetry Library

The Thursday Post: An Oakwoods Almanac

It hasn’t felt like summer in Scotland this month! Or last month, really. We don’t want to hasten the season, but relished these (autumnal) extracts from Gerry Loose’s new book, An Oakwoods Almanac, and the practice of daily note-taking. Part of the slowing down we need to do from time to time, even if it’s not enforced by heat…



A maritime seasonal gauge at Ardtoe Jetty is the number of boats at moorings. In the summer there’s a dozen or more small boats, a couple of which are working boats, bringing home in an infrequent way, lobsters and crabs. These boats, mostly pleasure craft, are brought ashore, one at a time, as the oak and aspen leaves fall around them. Today, there’s only three boats and two RIBs. The RIBs act as tenders to the two small fishing boats, OB 108 being one, and will ride the winter here. The only boat I’ve seen there with a name, Tarbaby, has gone.

Caledonian MacBrayne ferries from Mallaig to Eigg, Rum, Muck and Canna did not operate yesterday in the storms and squally winds.

Among the boats from Fraserburgh and Peterhead that put out: Valhalla, Tranquility, Ocean Pioneer, Contest, Courage, Accord, Achieve, Celestial Dawn, Arcane, Fear Not, Opportunus, Harvest Hope, Challenge, Fruitful Bough. One boat put out from Scrabster: Seagull.

Monks and witches landed everywhere.


Is a stag an event? There’s no wind, droplets of water on every aspen, birch and oak, as well as at the tip of each stalk of hard rush. Ambling across the bay west from Kentra, two hours ahead of low tide, pausing only to scratch, the dark necked stag owns it all. I move up the hill to cut him off and sit quietly where he’ll come ashore. To see things, it’s easier to be still than to lumber behind. I sit for maybe twenty minutes until the damp seeps in. Experience says he’s scented me and moved off below or above. There’s no further sight of him.

In the afternoon I walk round the headlands on the bay’s sands and there’s his slotted hoofprints leading in to an inlet east of where I was sitting in the morning. It’s among the poised and ponderous heron prints, each foot just about the span of my hand. The ridges and wrinkles of the bay are crisscrossed by worm casts and the meanderings of small whelk trails and the musings of other shellfish creeping. Just as the outlines of heron, stag and fish prints are softening in the moisture retained in the sand’s striations, so are the lower slopes of watercut hills of rock around the bay blurring into cloud; the peak of Ben Resipole rising into sun. The stag’s away.

An Oakwoods Almanac by Gerry Loose (Shearsman Books).

Images © Morven Gregor

Text © Gerry Loose

Category: books