Trees & Walls….Badger & Hedgehog…..Cats & Alpacas…..

by Bernie Bell - 07:43 on 06 December 2022

Trees & Walls….

I came across this……

If Walls Could Talk

The ash tree loved the hard, stone wall.

Spring’s surging sap split

her lithe, young trunk

just beneath the brim of his peaked cap

and stuck her to him –

for as long as they both shall live.


It was a simple forest marriage.

Man and Nature had found a way

to create an almost human love.

Without shame she opened her lips

to let his rocky elements in,

whatever it is that makes a wall.


Thus they shall remain together

moving slowly through the years.

Every spring they will renew their vow.

In summer she will dapple his sunlight

and shower him with leaves in the fall.

In winter they will don white cloaks and

her boughs heavy-leaden will bend down near,

even as he begins to crumble

and less by less resemble a wall.


Finally, she will shudder and topple;

their children will scatter across the forest floor.

Mosses and lichens will devour her once smooth skin

and pebbles will hide beneath the bog.

Those who pass will see no longer the fair, young ash

cling to her beloved wall.


Which reminded me of the Ousdale Mannie…. https://theorkneynews.scot/2021/09/20/the-mystery-of-the-ousdale-broch-mannie/

It’s what they do…trees & walls…..


Badger & Hedgehog…

I receive updates on Hugh Warwick’s work with hedgehogs, and yesterday I received something a bit different from him. 

I think it’s a fine tale to tell.  He’s not being sentimental or bitter or any of those things that are often the un-thinking  response to a situation like that. It’s a lot harder to assess a situation for what it is/was and have a compassionate, understanding response.  Hugh is telling what happened, and telling it clearly.  With his permission – here it is….

“A Badger and a Hedgehog

Hugh Warwick

Dear All, this is a personal story only tangentially related to our campaign. If you are not interested in that sort of thing please stop reading now, rather than waste your time and moan later in the comments. 

Twenty years ago today I was stood on the platform in Oxford, waiting for the train that was going to take me to Liverpool. I was more filled with panic, pain, excitement and fear than I had ever been before - or since. I was going to meet my mother - my birth mother - who had held me for just ten days before giving me up for adoption 36 years before.

I had always known I was adopted. At one point during adolescence my parents asked me if I was interested in finding out more and I said no - one set of parents is plenty I had discovered - even ones I seemed to rarely see, thanks to choice of boarding schools for me a few weeks after my 8th birthday.

Then when I was 35 I got a phone call, from my mother - the woman who had adopted me in 1966. She was terribly upset. A few days beforehand my parents had received a letter from the Children’s Society. This letter destroyed my relationship with my parents. The letter stated that my biological mother was interested in making contact with me - and that the Children’s Society had been unable to find me (because they did not look very hard) and wondered whether it would be okay for my parents to pass this news on to me.

The letter had arrived on a Thursday, complete with a note saying that the person they would need to talk to, had they any questions, would not be back in the office until Tuesday. My parents stewed for the weekend - trying to come to terms with a situation for which they were completely unprepared - when they signed the contract of adoption back in 1966, they were guaranteed that this could never happen. 

They could have kept quiet, but they did tell me, and then left me with the ultimatum that, unless I committed to making no efforts to following this through, they would consider themselves relegated to foster parents.

There followed a very difficult year while I tried to work out a way through this - my parents were so angry with me, and in such pain. But could I just ignore this contact? I was about to get married - I was about to become a father (the pregnancy happened after the proposal I should add!) And I wanted to learn more about me … I was so very different to my parents, and why shouldn’t I be - we were thrown together by chance. 

Don’t worry, you are not getting the whole painful story, that would be unfair. I decided to be deceitful. That I would tell my parents that I was still deciding what to do, but in the background, reach out to this woman and assess whether it was worth the risk of taking it further.

So I contacted the Children’s Society and was instructed that I could exchange letters with Anne - my birth mother - via them. They were to be open letters so they could assess whether we were reasonable enough to be given more information - neither of us knew where the other lived. 

Eventually they decided that we were okay - I had begun to get a picture of Anne, she had been a teacher, she had spent a lot of time abroad with her husband, she had no more children. My biological father was much older than her and had died years before. And that she had decided to  make an effort to find me until she turned 60 - and on her 60th birthday, if she had got nowhere, she would put it to one side and get on with the rest of her life. 

And that is why I was at the station, on the day before her 60th birthday. Waiting for a train - that was cancelled. 

For reasons I can’t explain, I had determined I did not want to speak to her on the phone. I wanted our first words to be exchanged in person. Everything was arranged by letter. So I was left with no choice, I had to call her - as she was due to meet me at the station. I was trembling - and yet the brief conversation was normal.

Eventually, via Birmingham, I got to Liverpool and there she was. So small, like a little bird. And we hugged, and it was normal. And it was so much more than normal. We sat in the back of the car while her husband, Edward, drove us to Birkenhead. We were in contact the entire journey. It was like falling in love. It was beautiful.

By the end of the day I did not want to leave, but had a train booked and I did not want to interfere with her 60th birthday. She drove me to the station and joined me as we walked to the platform, to find that this, the last train of the night, was cancelled, and there was no choice but for me to go back to hers and stay. So I was there for her 60th - and I will be there for her 80th tomorrow. 

There is much talk of nature and nurture - about which holds sway in the development of a child. My parents had no real interest in nature. I was sent to a school which aimed to get students into the city, church or army. While there I realised I was an atheist, helped form a Peace Society and went to Greenham Common, and failed to develop a capitalistic attitude.

Meeting Anne I found a connection that had never been there with my parents - and this is obviously what they feared more than anything. In Anne I found someone who cared passionately about nature, who picked up the nickname of ‘badger’ at school, and is still called that by many friends. I found that my biological father was a campaigner - had marched with Martin Luther King. I found a connection and a home that had been missing my entire life.

My parents are now both dead and I am free from the duplicity I needed to engage for 16 years. Anne is still there, we speak most days, and she is my dear friend. 

So - the connection to this petition? Well, partly I just wanted to share this story as I have never written it before. And partly wanted to share with you the heart of the campaign - it comes from Anne - and her love of nature that has somehow carried through to this small hedgehog. 

Thank you for reading this far. I promise to be back ‘on message’ next time. 

If you have found a hedgehog follow this link.

Donations to my work from this link.


Cats & Alpacas...

I received this from Amnesty International……

“FiFi’s godmother is Chow Hang-Tung, a young human rights lawyer from Hong Kong. On 4 June 2021, Chow encouraged people on social media to light candles to remember the atrocities of Tiananmen Square.     

 Just hours after her post, Chow was arrested. She’s still in prison and is facing 10 years behind bars for peacefully honouring those who lost their lives.   

 This is what FiFi wrote. And down below are some ways that you can help free her godmother.


Dear Bernie, 

My name is Fifi. I’m a five-year-old girl. I am writing to you because my godmother Chow Hang-tung (I call her Kai Ma), from Hong Kong, is in prison, and I need your help so that she can go home.   

My mum told me that Kai Ma is not in prison because she did something wrong, but because she is very brave and stands up for what’s right. She told people that it’s good to tell the truth, and that they could light candles to remember brave people who have died. Is that a crime? To me, she is like a superhero fighting against the baddies.    

I really miss her. She’s been in prison for so long. I think she misses me too. I’m pretty sure she’s been there for more than a year. She must be really bored. We used to read books together and play Lego. We made up our own funny games too. We liked cuddling each other and I laughed a lot at her jokes.

Sometimes she writes to me and my mum. I felt so sad when Mummy cried when she was reading letters Kai Ma sent from prison. My mum told me that if many people ask, Kai Ma might be able to leave prison. Can you send a letter or email to ask for her to be freed?

Please, I really want her back.    

This is a picture that I drew for Kai Ma. Thank you for asking for my godmother to be freed.  

- FiFi

Add your voice for Chow

I hope you found FiFi’s message as moving as I did. It’s just heart-breaking knowing that she is separated from her godmother just because Chow paid tribute to those who were injured or killed in the Tiananmen Square crackdown. 

 Chow is one of 13 people featured in this year’s Write for Rights campaign, the world’s largest grassroots human rights event. There are many different ways you can take action for Chow as part of Write for Rights.

Take action online

Use our tool to send an email directly to Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng Yeuk-wah calling on her to drop all charges and release Chow Hang-tung immediately.

Send your email calling for Chow’s release 

 You can also send a message of hope to Chow right from our website. Chow loves cats and alpacas, so you can take a photo of your cat, or draw pictures of cats and alpacas to accompany your message.

Send a message of solidarity to Chow

Take physical action 

If you want to write and send physical letters to Chow or the authorities you can register to get access to get everything you need!

Get your letter writing resources

I’ve worked on the Write for Rights campaign for four years. I know how much these emails, letters and messages mean to people like Chow and their loved ones. Just this year Bernardo Caal Xol, a man freed after last year's campaign, told us:

“I, Bernardo Caal Xol, a member of the Maya Q’eqchi’ people of Guatemala, am grateful to each and every one of you. You have given me hope for the justice, liberty and equality that must prevail in every people and nation.”

In November 2018, he was sentenced to more than seven years in prison on bogus charges aimed at preventing his human rights work. During Write for Rights 2021 more than half a million actions were taken for Bernardo and in March 2022 he was released.

Let's free Chow

When people unite behind someone whose rights have been wronged, the results can be amazing.  

Ngā mihi nui, 
David Vega (he/him) 
Senior Campaigner  
Amnesty International 
Aotearoa New Zealand

P.S.  Right now, a generous donor is matching all gifts made to help people featured in Write for Rights. You can get your donation matched here.


Here’s one I made earlier…. https://theorkneynews.scot/2019/12/31/a-cautionary-tale/



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