Author: Lizzie Aitchison

He looks lonely. I say ‘he’ though, when it comes to swans, who knows? Something about the solitariness makes me think it’s a male. An assumption that I maybe need to question, but for now let’s call him ‘he’. He was busy while we watched. Preening himself, sinking his beak into the thick feathers on his plump haunches, pecking away, bothering out the dirt or scratching at a tiny insect that maybe nestles in there. I sympathised. I had the odd scratchy moment myself on this gentle walk along the Grand Union Canal on a warm July Sunday. Minute insects fleeing...

I went to see my ailing aunt who lives in Ayr. She’s the only aunt left so I want to visit as often as I can. The ‘so’ in that last sentence is misplaced. The wish to see her is not because she’s the only one left. Were there other aunts, a visit to her would still be important. She’s such a special woman. A familiar train journey from Euston to Glasgow Central on the Virgin Pendolino, with its swift, smooth ride and its collection of features that never quite work: the coffee machine and the card machine in the shop....

Days of torrential rain here in the southeast. Unusual. Unseasonal. Unwelcome. “The gardens need it”, people mutter, though I’m not sure this maxim of the English at the sight of rainclouds on the summer horizon really applies. My little patch at the back, after a few weeks of neglect and only occasional watering by someone young, willing and keen for extra pocket money, shows no sign of being parched. The various creeping shrubs that grow along the fences on either side are sprawling voluptuously, their tendrils reaching across, perhaps in the hope of making friends with the ones on the...

There’s a mountain across the sea loch that’s shaped like a saddle for a colossal prehistoric beast, the almost perfect cone at the top like a cantle, the flatter mound behind, the pommel. As you look out of the big window of the cottage called Cuileag where we stay, you can see it behind and a little left of the island of Ornsay. That tiny spit of land in the sea gives its name to the cluster of houses and the hotel by the jetty down below – Isleornsay. Another hillside lies between Ornsay and the ancient mountain-saddle, another layer...