Glum Grumpy and Snowdrops; Valentine and David; Remember All This; A Soar of Kites.

“How are you?” was the familiar greeting down the line.

I’m feeling glum. I’ve just read your email and poem”, was my unusual reply.

This the response to our younger son, after a brief email he’d sent me which included a clunky brief poem about Grumpy and his moths. For any readers unaware of its origins, my alter ego moniker was chosen 17 years ago, just before Dan, our eldest grandson, was due to be born. I felt I was far too young to be called Grandad/pa. And I was certain that I’d grow into my chosen title, which has indeed happened. Sometimes Hobbit is added, thus Grumpy Hobbit, to reflect our existence on a remote, rural, grassy hillside.

I did indeed have a long period where I was fascinated by, photographed and recorded local moths, culminating in my moth DVD-ROM, “In a Different Light” and a significant exhibition of images and artwork inspired by them. But I was always aware back then of the dangers of such an interest. Perhaps public perception has lightened a bit since? A serious interest in the study of the entirely ill-informed public perception of  “little brown insects that eat clothes and fly at night”, placed one into the nerdy obsessive category. Even so, the lines of the poem which Jeremy assured me he’d had specially commissioned, seemed a bit over the top, in playing on this impression.

The full text is copied below.

There once was a man, known as Grumpy
With a frown on his face, always so lumpy
But his mood would change, with just one look
At his precious collection, of big moths in a book

Grumpy and his moths, a curious pair
A love for the unusual, they both did share
With delicate wings, and vibrant hue
Grumpy’s moths, a beauty few knew

In his attic, rows of jars he’d keep
Each one a treasure, a colorful deep
From the moon moth, with its silver shine
To the Atlas moth, its wings as wide as wine

Grumpy and his moths, a curious pair
A love for the unusual, they both did share
With delicate wings, and vibrant hue
Grumpy’s moths, a beauty few knew

Grumpy would often, just sit and stare
At his moths, their beauty, beyond compare
His frown would fade, and a smile would come
At the sight of his collection, a joyous sum

Grumpy and his moths, a curious pair
A love for the unusual, they both did share
With delicate wings, and vibrant hue
Grumpy’s moths, a beauty few knew

So if you come across, a man so glum
Just show him a moth, and watch him succumb
To the beauty of nature, a joy untold
Grumpy and his moths, a story to be told.

“Anyway”, I continue, after spending 24 hours or so musing about who would write such a clunky, slightly mean work,  “Who did you commission it from?” 

I hadn’t even thought of the answer which came down the line.

” An AI bot – I just sent the website an email asking the bot to write me a poem about Grumpy and moths. This came back in a few minutes. Actually, you can also get it to paint you a picture incorporating some named features, though I haven’t tried it yet.”

So there you have it. I could relax, it was only an artificial intelligence computer programme.

It was indeed a bot wot wrote it.

I finished by suggesting to Jeremy that actually he was out of date. Perhaps he should have got it to write a poem about Grumpy and snowdrops since many would feel these have taken over from moths as one of my more recent nerdy interests. Within half an hour the following dropped into our email.

“Write me a poem about grumpy and his snowdrop garden”

Grumpy old man, with a heart so cold,
His words were sharp, and his temper bold,
But in his garden, a secret he kept,
A snowdrop garden, with beauty so wept.

The snowdrops bloomed, with petals so pure,
Their delicate fragrance, a perfect allure,
Grumpy would visit, his mood now light,
And watch the flowers dance in the sunlight.

He’d sit and admire, with a smile so bright,
The beauty around him, a stunning sight,
And in that moment, his heart would warm,
The grumpy old man, now a child reborn.

The snowdrops whispered, a sweet melody,
Their gentle whispers, a symphony,
And Grumpy would listen, his worries now gone,
His heart overflowing, with love so strong.

So, let us learn from Grumpy’s tale,
That beauty surrounds us, if we just avail,
The gifts that nature has in store,
And open our hearts, to love evermore.

Which I think you’ll agree has a more benign and upbeat ring to it!

Whether the days of toil and effort involved with human-imagined written verse are numbered, I suspect not, for all sorts of reasons.

The chatbot link, for any interested in trying it out themselves is:


And so it was, with snowdrops and many other jewelled flowers a-plenty in the garden, and the days lengthening, for the first time the 5 older grandchildren were due to be dropped off for a 4 night stay with us whilst the parents and their youngest grabbed a mini-break. Grumpy was really looking forward to the visit in upbeat mood.The family had never visited us before at this time of the year, so none of them had experienced the landscape and garden in February. Along with many garden visitors over the last fortnight, they were blessed with what the Met Office has confirmed was unusually dry and benign weather. Certainly chilly, but with enough suitable weather to get out and about, and a fair bit of sunshine with only light frosts.

The children discovered frogspawn, catkins, primroses, and silent star-filled skies. Heard Don Maclean sing about them, and the link with Granny and Grumpy’s very first extended all-night kiss. Read about goshawks and saw some scary pictures of headless turkey poults. All unknown novelties for these city children.

For the first time, I felt I’d been able to communicate something, sometimes practical, which might linger in their memories. Fiona has always managed to do this, but in the CoVID years, a physical block impeded this for me. Several delighted in the subtleties of being shown how to light and manage a wood-burning stove. A skill long in the learning for me. And in so doing, removed this chore from me for the duration of their stay. (Let’s hope they don’t grow up into a politically correct world where such resilient low-tech means for keeping warm in remote areas are banned, which is currently under discussion in the UK!)

On a rare, mizzly cold day, once the Monopoly board was set up downstairs, I sneaked up with the two youngest and asked if they’d like to make their own short video using some of my flower footage videos. Which in the space of just over an hour they managed. Entirely on their own, creating a new project, mastering importing video clips, adding in title cards, text input, splitting and editing clips, altering volume settings, panning and zooming on chosen clips. Finally choosing and adding their own backing track of music, and adding end credits. I was amazed at their concentration, and ability to pick all this up. They were both clearly delighted with this little bit of creativity, which added to Fiona’s sterling efforts with pebble painting, face spoons, and flying fairies.

However for me, along with the great communal banter, humour, and complete lack of any significant strops or sulks, the highlight was when I mentioned that we had made a change up at the shepherd’s hut, so I suggested they should climb the hill, see the board outside, read it, and then decide what to do.

All five (aged 6 to 16) traipsed up the hill and were there for a surprisingly long time. On their return, the inevitable question


I’d love to have been a fly on the wall. Apparently, they’d read the text on the sign, then all went into the hut, opened the Thought-Box, read the wooden text tablets, saw the ship’s sand timer, and book beneath them. Then worked out that the timer was for 3 minutes, so set it up, and all stood in complete silence for 3 minutes, as the sand ran out.

“Well, all were silent except Talya – (sic- the youngest) – who kept moving, so her coat rustled,” said one of her older siblings.

At the end of this time – and I still can’t believe they managed this, and we never get 3 minutes of quiet from them together as a tribe – there was a debate between the older two as to whether they should write or draw something in the Bee Wild notebook. In the end Ella drew a tiny bee on the back page. Dan, the eldest, felt that they shouldn’t add anything else, since there was clearly only one style of handwriting in the book so far. The following morning with garden visitors due, I asked the older two if they could walk up and put out the sign for me, and noticed that Dan was up there a long time – both he and Ella had added their own images and writing. Added to later in the day by Talya who insisted that I go up with her later, so that she could add her own drawing – after running the timer again. I sat patiently in front of her, watching the distant hills bathed in late afternoon sunshine while she picked up the book, opened it at the back, flicked over a few pages, and began to draw, her face a series of studies in concentration.

So a lovely story that perhaps little people will engage with the Thought-Box more readily, although all our visitors so far seem to have appreciated the idea behind our silent space.

The parents returned bearing an appropriate gift for the old man.

And in a rush, they’d all left. The mini-bus trundled back down our steep track, having to return for their sponsored sleep out, for homeless people, in cardboard boxes on the streets of Birmingham that night.

As expected their stay left us quite drained, but exhilarated, and together with a particularly lovely range of interesting and appreciative garden visitors this month, many familiar faces, and several new ones, February has raced past with the lengthening days, and birds once more singing in appreciation.

Our classiest garden magazine’s editorial, which I opened yesterday, began with these words:

“The month of March is one of welcome transition, from the tired, drab winter garden garb of brown and grey to the hopeful green shoots and buds of early spring…”

In riposte, here’s my latest YouTube of scenes from the garden in mid-February, that period between Valentine’s day and St David’s day, when – and I know our garden visitors agree – the garden can really sing and lift the spirits.

Is this really still winter? Or has spring already begun?




Remember all this

Remember all this – crisp, bright lengthening days
Bank thick-choked with spawn, limp lambs’ tassels sway
Bright blood anemones, strain air, still, wait.
Wilde North winds blow, chill black bees, cool dark slates.

Remember all this, when those small seeds were sown.
Expressed and transcribed, fresh, some thoughts that they owned.
Smooth pebbles were drawn, bright ripples were traced.
Those young cleaner minds, in their own silent space.

Forget all those distant dark-shadowing cwms
Crouch low and slow-scan all those precious small blooms,
Hold fast on steep gold-light-drenched west-facing slopes.
Dispel all your worries, false fears, worthless tropes.

Remember all this – that sudden ripped rift.
Touch-close, brown-blurred ghost, song-fuelled swift.
From nowhere, and arrowing past and on.
Seared vision, then banking, soon swallowed by sun.

Remember all this – such happy, filled days.
Loved life slows right down, then speeds up, memories fade.
Spent petals white-flutter, confetti once more.
Soon all scent is lost, bees ignore opened door.

Last lines are unfinished, last words are unread,
Too many more tears will surely be shed.
Then remember such happy, late February days,
All hearts filled with hope,


The month wasn’t done with us yet. I rushed out at dusk to capture the striking alignment of the moon, Venus, and Jupiter and disturbed a feeding woodcock. For the first time, I heard it. An explosion of sound and effort, rather like a pheasant taking off, as it took to the air and flew low, and North from the steep bank in the upper meadow. The next day, a modest flock of starlings paused mid-morning, chattering in the big sycamore above the greenhouse. Catching the bright light on their tree top perch, there was no sound and effort, but certainly explosive white shit trails caught on my video shots. One can only imagine how drenched their night time roosts must be in limey starling excreta.

Then as I nipped out to watch glowering clouds over the hills this morning, another first to add to the Gelli list. Six red kites circled above the tree-topped cae castell just across the stream. Perhaps food is scarce right now, and birds are ranging further afield? Perhaps it’s a prelude to mating? Let’s see if the scene recurs.

A tribe of red kites.

Or it seems more officially a wake, a husk, a kettle, or a soar. I think I’ll choose the latter option if I ever see such a gathering again above our land.


I’ll finish with a recent discovery. A breathtaking piece of modern choreography, by  Angelin Preljocaj from the ballet, Le Parc, which we watched in a compilation clip this month. Marketed as a short Valentine’s piece by the excellent Medici classical TV channel, I find it utterly mesmeric. Apparently, this ballet hugely divided critical opinion when it premiered in Paris.

“Created in 1994 for the Ballet de l’Opera de Paris, and set to some of Mozart’s most beloved piano concertos, Le Parc has become a masterpiece in the company’s repertoire. Twenty years on, it is still fresh, still beautiful, and every bit as moving. With Le Parc, Preljocaj talks to us about love: Men, women, laws of attraction, the games we play, codes we abide by, and the deeper desires we sometimes wish to suppress.”

It seems there are few recorded options for watching it. Personally, I find that the dancers in this performance, Alice Renavand & Mathieu Ganio and Mozart’s sublime music create one of those lichen-like poetic, if provocative, artistic symbioses. I hope you enjoy it, if it’s unfamiliar to you.

If you prefer just the music used in this pas de deux, here’s a special live recording from beneath the Eiffel tower, on a breezy night in 2019, by Khatia Buniatišvili, of Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 23 II. Adagio, composed nearly 250 yeas ago in 1786, just 5 years before he died.