Poets reading in Callander Friendship Garden:
Juliana Geer, Colin Will, Sally, Judith Taylor

 Robin and cat                                  Magi McGlynn at Calton Hill

Annual blog update as 2015 nears its end
Oh my oh my , said the rabbit,
how can nearly two years have gone since I wrote the blogthology at the end of 2013? Perhaps the disappoinment of last autumn's Referendum prevented me from doing the usual update last year, but here we are at the end of another year, fighting fit despite the most unhappy political situation I can remember in my lifetime. what a disappointment the British government has been these last two years. But we're no deid yet, we carry on working.

Indeed since mid 14 there has been an additional commitment in my life to the house in Kirkby Lonsdale where we lived as a family from my late teens and while I was at university and starting my first jobs. From there I went to Newcastle, Nottingham, London and Enfield. From there I went back to Newcastle a second time. What happened last year is that my brother bought the house. A long and partly private story but I have been writing a lot about the things the house brought back to me, a time in my life when I was looking outwards from the family not inwards, and which therefore has brought many inspirations home. It's been exciting. And time has been somehow found from a busy life in Scotland, indeed it has helped me to realise that here in Callander and Scotland is my real home now, both in the area and village, and the actual premises, our shop garden and house.
My poetry life has got that bit busier. I'm ending this year with a much newer car, which will help me on my journeys to England and to various parts of Scotland.

I said goobye (in the sense that they died) to three people I've known very well, this summer, a lot for me. Lizzie Burns, the poet, who was a very close friend in Edinburgh some decades back, Dominique Carton the French photographer who lived in Glasgow, who was a very good friend in recent years. Dominque was 45 and Lizzie was 57, both far too young. Tessa Ransford who was very well known died at 78. I did know her fairly well back in the day, but it was never an easy relationship for various reasons that were probably not our faults.

I'm doing several other things on the internet, another reason this site needs a good overhaul, which I hope it wil get in the next few weeks. I'm doing Keep Poems Alive, a blogzine for previously published poems. I'm doing The Poetry Scotland Daily, a paper.li site. Takes it out of you checking that every morning. I'm putting my previously published poems on  Poemhunter.com. and on it all goes. that's it for now, not quite yet another year, I'm ahead of the  game for once.


Farewell 2013
Walking on Water and Survival again are the themes for the year just gone
oh and      


I didnt like the number 13 though I am not superstitious. We got through with a few surprises en route. The biggest surprise was my son and daughter-in-law "separating amicably." We had put a fair bit of commitment into their marriage including financially. She professed conversion to lesbianism and pouff! no daughter-in-law and  no almost grown-up granddaughter. Glad to say my son stood on his own feet, and now seems happy in work and a subsequent relationship.

   Also on family, and no surprise, my husband's mother passed  away at a good age after a long illness and dementia. I gave the address at the funeral, having written a reserve address in case hubby was too overcome, which proved to be the case. She was a tartar and always had been, and it did surprise me that I was able to summon enough understanding to outline her life in a positive and suitable way.

   On the home and business front we had the necessary re-roofing job done. It was traumatic. The whole place was both barricaded with scaffolding and invaded by multiple teams of workmen, the garden was damaged, trade was interrupted, and generally it was a ghastly experience, along with the bureaucracy of  involvement with the National Park, who gave us supervision and a partial retrospective grant.

   In the village, I worked with a group of ladies to make the Callander Friendship Garden, a very successful piece of villagescape down  by the river footbridge.

   In poetry, I began working with the Scots Language Centre editing a Scots Poetry column on their website every month. I produced the usual clutch of Poetry Scotland broadsheets, including a Scots language issue In Wur Ain Wurds , and the 80th number.

   The Poetry Weekend in September was well attended and enjoyed -- the poets who come along really make it. I had poems published in Gutter, in a delightful book Strings of Pearls, in an American University collection of sestinas, and elsewhere.

   Two e-books of mine were published by Tony Lewis-Jones at Firewater Press, a "reprint" of The Honey Seller, and Poetic Adventures in Scotland, the diehard paperback of which is now at the printers.

    My sister, an artist (a cartoonist in the artistic sense, she draws things) was working on an illustrated e-book, covering our joint childhood and her travels and interests. I gave her some editorial suggestions, which she used sensibly, and she published Looking for a Thread (Ann Story) with Lulu.

   The poetry calendar rolled on. I attended StAnza as always, I made forays to Pitlochry, London and Ledbury for Split Screen readings (for London and Ledbury staying with my nearby brothers).  Nearer home, a very lively festival at Aberfeldy included a poetry day arranged by Jon Plunkett, when I read with other central highland poets and those connected with Aberfeldy.

   Robin's play Broken Holmes was on in Edinburgh Fringe and played to full houses. I combined a visit to that with one of the Poetry Library courtyard readings where I met up with and read with some Glasgow and Edinburgh poets and one or two visitors.

   Nor did I forget the internet, using Callander library when our connection was down for a month. I took part in many a robust discussion on facebook, supporting Ira Lightman in his war against plagiarism, learning from the e-company and wit of Bharat Ravikumar, Anthony Lenagan, Fiona Pitt-kethley and many others, following topics on twitter, writing collaborative poems with Geoff Sawers, and keeping in touch with family and friends in America and elsewhere.

   Scotland's destiny has been much considered this year and in September we went to the major rally of the Yes campaign in Edinburgh. We gave Magi McGlynn a ride in from Balquhidder and he was photographed constantly, appearing in national newspapers with his baran, plaid and facepaint. We walked with the throng from the High Street to Calton Hill, and heard speeches  from politicians of many backgrounds and even poetry from Alan Bissett for the independence cause. Most but not all of my friends are for taking the big step. 2014 will see the vote.

   To round off the year, and this was a surprise, I was invited to the poetry reception at Buckingham Palace. I bent my budget to include another trip to London and it was well, well worth it, both for the dramatic event and in terms of friendships or contacts old and  new.

   Finally my old "archbishop's car"  let me down badly in a collision near the end of the year. I was taken to hospital with severe shock and spent a day in hospital getting my head together (I was also bruised).  Though we have acquired another car at auction I remain a little shaken and have not undertaken any difficult or excessively long drives since.

     So you see it was a year in which much happened, full of surprises. A year I can gladly say I survived, that we survived. It was tough and tiring at times. Not all that surprising that we crashed out on computer jigsaws (www.jigzone) over Christmas.

    In  2014, the long path/drive through our back garden will need drainage work. Ten years ago we put in soakaways but their effect has diminished, and it is almost a burn in very wet weather.  Will it be done this year, properly or at all? Properly or at all, my book will be distributed, one or more other diehard books will be published, books for the shop will be sought and bought, projects will materialise, my already cheerfully busy poetry calendar for next year will firm up.

   Fruit trees will be pruned or otherwise coerced. The roses will have a new rose bed. Bees will buzz. Chickens will lay eggs. Punters will come to the shop, and the garden will flower.

So it's Survive, Sally. Build on this last year's survival and survive. It may not all be walking on water.

Click to Mix and Solve


I hear leaves drinking rain. / I hear rich leaves on top / giving the poor beneath / drop after drop (W H Davies)

2010 to 2012 are somewhere else I think. Try facebook.

Blogview 2011

Not a blogthology as it is not composed of bits of blog. I didnt do many personal blog entries in 2011. It was a bridge year, our 12th year in Callander and a hard one for many people. The emphasis was on survival and reaching  2012.

[First Quarter]
   A very long, icy winter, with broken bones on my part and osteoporosis diagnosed, now being treated successfully.
   In early spring I enjoy my snowdrops and aconites, and I have several new varieties of snowdrop given me by Emma Thick, including one named from herself. I also have seeds for sulphur glow aconites. After twelve years' efforts, aconites are now spreading very well. You have to be really determined with aconites, and in the end, if you have decent ground, they will get everywhere, which will suit me fine. 
   At the start of the year I ran a Burns Supper and delivered it successfully. It was fun and I learnt how to do it, and it can raise money too.
   As always, I enjoyed attending StAnza. I commuted daily from Callander this year, but hit another car in St Andrews and my insurance was bumped up as a result, so it didnt save me any money as against staying at Cambo.
   We looked after some bantams for Helen during the snowy weather. They had a sort of snow dugout in the garden.  Then we bought a chicken coop going cheap as a finished line at Dobbies. A dog or fox stole one bantam, and we were forbidden to keep the cockerel by the Environment people.
   When Helen took the bantams back to Glasgow we bought two Welsummer hens from the breeder at Doune. Port and Starboard quickly settled down, started laying lovely dark  brown eggs at Easter and were written about by Sheena Blackhall among others.
    Triumphantly I got my bee colony through the bad winter, thus deserving the title beekeeper.
   At the beginning of the year I started my poetry review column in the Stirling Observer. Possibly because of this, Poetry Scotland reviews didnt appear this year, but in 2012 I ought to be able to manage both.

[Second Quarter]
   Blackbirds nested in the ivy above the henhouse, and helped themselves to some of the chicken grain, creating an aviary within the garden.  

   We were again responsible for flower baskets on the lampposts in Callander Main Street.
   In June, poet friends called on their way to Dhanakosa, including Sheena, Larry Butler, Simon Millward, Arnander and Manjusvara. Manjusvara died after collapsing on the retreat.
   I became involved through facebook with Poetry Society politics, the petition etc and ended up with more real poetry friends in England.

Manjusvara                                          Welsummer hens
[Third Quarter]
   Wood gathering and blaeberry evenings in the Trossachs but no long distance trips. Two Festival trips to Edinburgh to take part in poetry readings (one splendiferously on the pavement). By train, later, a visit to Newcastle for a Red Squirrel event, and a look at Bewick's blocks in the library there).
   My car passed another MOT. It has been the best bargain we've had from the auction, a very good roomy car, but we havent used it to capacity because of this being a quieter year. Having an extra year out of it is very welcome and it is still running very well.
   Callander Poetry Weekend went off successfully and happily, with strong Friday afternoon and evening starting sessions,  the usual busy Saturday and Sunday and a final reading on the Three Lochs Viewpoint in the Trossachs.
   More poems about Stirling Castle with the writing group there, an exhibition, video and booklet and much excitement about the Palace refurbishment. Finished my sequence Anderson's Piano with supplementary poems.
   We published a book by Ian Blake, 4 Poetry Scotlands in 2 mailings (the second mailing folded to A5 for cheaper postage), and one booklet of mine, A Burrell Tapestry,  which has sat around for a while.

[Fourth Quarter]
   We were thrilled to discover that Anne Scott has included Kings Bookshop Callander in her book 18 Bookshops (Sandstone Press), about her favourite unusual bookshops around the world.
   The greenhouse from Braco, given to us by friends who wanted it moved, was dismantled there and erected in our garden. It was quite a difficult job but is an excellent shape and size, and gives great scope for the as yet undeveloped end of the garden.

Teith flooded
The Council has offered free firewood logs from the forestry work at the riverside area. Collecting these logs has become a saga with the river in flood as I write this at Christmas, however we have a fair stash already and have just had a much lower shop electricity bill as a result of our log fires.

Over the year, I have written a lot but not done much publishing. A few poems in books, Ginsberg, a bee anthology, in the welcome new magazines Gutter and Drey,  in Northwords, and an essay on Sandie Craigie in Drey. I have wound up the year with a spot of translating, again from Scottish Gaelic, and I am pleased to have just been asked by Alastair Cook to do one of his filmpoems with him.  An interesting Interview in New Linear Perspectives (linked from desktopsallye home page).
   I have also, at Sheena Blackhall's prompting, put quite a number of published poems, mainly from older books, on the website Poemhunter.co.uk.
  You get daily stats which show the poems are regularly read, I've no idea who by.

This is not a report on the bookshop. The bookshop will continue through hard times, we hope to better times, when more people will be able to buy the lovely books we have on offer. We know our good bindings will always be wanted, and the time will come when more people can afford to buy them.

Plans for 2012 include the Callander Poetry Weekend as usual, 7-9 September, but first, a 70th birthday poetry reading/party, for myself and Poetry Scotland (and also our webmaster Colin Will), with some great readers lined up. Date 11 April, place Dunblane Victoria Halls. Word about this will go out in January, and any friend who wants an invitation can ask me for one. <sallyevans35@gmail.com>



2010 blogthology is on This Week page for some reason.
2011 will probably be an annual calendar blog instead, as I have put more and more linear personal experience on facebook so my blogs for this year dont have that journal effect.

Annual blogthologies for 2oo9, 2008, 2007 & 2006 below

According to Google, the term blogthology had already been used 117 times when I "invented" it in December 2006

  Sally's bees

                            images of country life: wild goat Kinlochard, aconites, bee jug

2009 has again been some year. It has featured the shop, the garden, the Callander Poetry Weekend,  Stirling Castle, my bees and my Firewater book The Honey Seller. To add some spice to the year, my son Robin wrote, produced and directed Broken Holmes in the Edinburgh Fringe. We thoroughly enjoyed our return to thespian Edinburgh to help with the stage sets and other things. The 4 actors, one act play was very well received and goes on again in Leicester Comedy Festival this spring.

The year ended with Rachel and Star going to Warsaw, where Rachel appied for a fiancee visa so she could marry Robin and she and Star could stay in the UK.

This proved more difficult and  slower than expected (we have now learned it is usually so). Not until Jan 18th were they awarded the visas, so the year ended for us with a hung-over  problem. Ian and I didnt feel much like Christmas and we had cut price "turkey and trimmings" sandwiches for Christmas day dinner. the sandwiches were 10p each because nobody else wanted to buy turkey sandwiches that day.  A telling image of our Christmas this time.

The winter weather was appalling with snow and ice through December and much of January, and we were very glad when the visas brought spring and the return of hope, warmer weather and family.

Sally with Star, Stronachlachar

Lady of the Lake on Loch Katrine,    Maria Malibran,        U A Fanthorpe


Because this website is constructed differently from my old website, I'm not doing the blogthology in the same linear ways as before. I'm just giving you pictorial reminders of something of the year, and maybe I'll finish with a poem. You'll remember the cruise on Lady of the Lake, if you were there.  I translated Christopher Whyte's poem Bho leabhar-Latha Maria Malibran / From the Diary of Maria Malibran in the book of that name. U A Fanthorpe died just before the appointment of Carol Ann Duffy as the first woman Poet Laureate.

Below, the end of the year has seen me learning Welsh on www.saysomethinginwelsh. The tiny church of Llanhowell, South Wales, where an Evans ancestor was the welsh-speaking priest. The wonderful Stirling Castle writers group visit the high graveyard at Stirling, with a joke about changes in facebook. Paul and Sandi's wedding in Callander in March: they waited long enough for their wedding, and we hope our young people will take heart from that.

 Travelling together
for Paul and Sandi

How far can we travel together?
As far as another country, another world
or further into where we are,
weekends at work, mornings at home,
trails through woodland already known?
Familiar trees flame with new light and shadow.
Tarns that were surly are deep cornflower blue.
Side by side we walk in our shifting view
through memory and time, our inner landscapes,
where high gates and dry rivers, once fierce,
miniaturise themselves in the distance.
Close here in the weather of warm celebration
our words take heart, no longer question
how far we can travel together.

Sally Evans March 24th 2009

2008 blogthology below


  Brian Johnstone and his jazz backers at the Poetry Weekend
  2008: a very busy year


It was a very busy year for my poetry, for events, and for the publication of The Bees. It was the year of facebook and writing many poems and series of poems. The year I benefited from an unexpected government pension (all those years of hard work paying off) and a fairly hard year for Poetry Scotland. The garden got a gazebo and a pillar, and we had another brilliant poetry weekend. In the autumn I studied Stirling Castle closely with a super writing project.The year ended with a good deal of work preparing this site, and with sad news of the death of the towering personality, poet Adrian Mitchell. Despite missing out a great deal from this blogthology, it is still much too long.


Someone who works on a tidal wave of energy like I do at my best, can lose their power at times, easily become discouraged and depressed simply because it is the other side of their coin. Two days ago a friend from Mumbai who I knew through the facebook bonsai sites, suddenly IM'd me with an abrupt tale of explosions and fires around him. In fact it sounded like he was talking about a computer game and I had to apologise profusely for thinking that was what he meant. He understood, saying it was so far fetched he might have thought that himself.
He lives in the south of the city where it was all happening, and while we were talking I checked BBC news on another browser and there was nothing. My friend, a Zoroastrian Parsee, was in his house but he had aunts who had escaped from the restaurant and he was getting a confused picture of what was happening. He already knew people who had died. He couldnt bear to see the Taj Mahal dome burning. We had quite a long conversation, during which the first reports came up on BBC and then began to expand into the wall to wall coverage that is not yet finished. He told me the story of the Parsee who built the Taj Mahal because back in the old days he had been refused admittance to another hotel on the site. The Taj is a greatly loved piece of Mumbai's fabric. End November

 Rainy Day trip: Oban and Kilmartin
We had a great run round, though I dont remember such a long drive when the windscreen wipers were on all the time. I have been working late and sleeping late: Ian woke me and suggested we head out, which we did fairly early. Outside Oban, we got to the Falls of Lora (dont skip this fabulous photo link) and stopped to look at the water turbulence on the sea loch, which always fascinates me. It was the most marked I have seen it, because it was the new moon and the right tide phase. I picked a few blackberries beside the falls, There were also crabapples and rowanberries there, but it was raining so we didnt stay too long. In Oban we collected a boxload of books, and looked round fantasising about getting a shop there. It would be fun no doubt, but much too far from Edinburgh and Glasgow, and Callander is best.

We drove on south past blackberry-laden shores, but the rain never let up. Near Kilmartin we stopped at a standing stone where Ian wanted to look for a sculpted stone he saw many years ago in a sheep-fold, but it seemed to have been removed, one hopes to a proper site. The stones are a relic of a great civilisation in this area. In the village we went round the small museum and had coffee, but it was just too wet to look at the stones in the churchyard Ian wanted to show me. We had got soaked once at the standing stone and I had already changed my shoes and coat to the spares I had in the car. Sept


The Big Day (the longest day - Poetry Weekend Saturday)
Into the hall smooth as clockwork and off we went on time, the audience appeared pretty promptly and the morning went well, excellent readings. Brian and the musicians turned up on time, and the hall lunch was excellent, the menu I had planned, perfected eerily by Larry's two kilos of local chanterelles, found early this morning and cooked in the Kirk Hall. The Poetry & Jazz session had the audience ecstatic, it merged in beautifully with the other readings and everything swam. We followed through to the reading of garden poems, in the garden despite dire weather forecasts, and then made a break in the programme before the evening. Some went to Ciros or other places for dinner, some ate here, and some of us prepared party food for downstairs. In the evening, Ian and Maoilios did a great presentation on the poets of Gairloch, in Gaelic and English, with much mirth and interest. There were a few other individual readings, and Onya Wick finished up. [6 September]

Unpoems become Poems
I had this breakthrough in writing certain poems, a month ago, after the Translation Conference, when I defined a certain type of writing as Inter-textual Self-translation. It was writing in a briefer, terser form on subjects on which I had a history of difficulty completing poems. After completing my series of Unpoems I took them to Stirling Writers, where the concept was shot down in flames by Ian and Robert. So I renamed them from Unpoems: sonnets of place, to Sketches of Place. They were the same poems, added to and improved, and with the same things true about how they were written, only I did not impose that information on the reader. I made them slightly more personal, more historical in that I started with the earliest first, and I added an explanatory poem called Abstract as well as the final one called Home. They were all fourteen liners but none rhymed, and some were three beat or varied beat, so I also took note of the Stirling writers view that in addition to not being unpoems (but rather poems), they were not sonnets either. Anyway they are done, and they are sent out. So that's one series off the decks for the moment.

Antonine Wall in Cemetery, Bearsden   Antonine Wall at Seabegs Wood

The Antonine Wall has been made a World Heritage Site. There's damn little of it left, it has been ploughed up and damaged over so many centuries, not having a commanding position to compare with Hadrian's Wall. But what is left is around Falkirk, and good for Falkirk no doubt.

Talking with Ian about the Romans and the Antonite Wall one night got him thinking, and next day he said, How do we know the earthwork is not pre-Roman? Look at the place names either side of it - it's the division between Brythonic and Gaelic place-names.   [July]

The exhibition was in a small room upstairs that suited it perfectly. Or Lynn had suited the exhibiton to the room perfectly, or probably both. The five shrouds were hung from the longer wall, with other items in the centre and on other walls of the room. I am being sent some photographs so will link to them when I get them, rather than try to describe this artwork in words. However there is a word side to this in the choices or slogans, and there is scope for poetic responses. I certainly shall be doing something as I was inspired by the exhibition. I have a strong appreciation of textiles anyway. I actually wore my new outfit (having decided against a paisley shawl) and was one of the most dressily dressed people there, but I didnt mind because I felt right. Lynn was smart and dressy in black, and her dad was also dressed up. There were a few art people and Alistair Paterson the only other poet, otherwise they were assorted friends and National Trust folks.

My comment was:        Words woven into cloth,
                                    Cloth woven into words
and what I chose to take in the shroud pocket was:      Mountain Air

but as I said I shall be coming up with poems   [July]

A Dash up the A9

The A9 is a distinctive road: there's no other like it. Sheena and I went up to Nairn, via Loch Lubnaig and Loch Tay, the long road along the north bank, then joined the A9 at Ballinluig. The junction is now complete, so we joined our road at motorway standard and cruised on past Killiecrankie, through the mountains, part dual carriageway and part single carriageway, numbered laybys, wide views , up and up and over the two summits, Drumochter and Slochd, now seeing the railway now not, now seeing the other road carriageway now not. Then down, down to Inverness, and sweeping round the fast road to the retail park on the way to Nairn - finally a smaller road but still direct. July

Word disestablishmentarianism:  My old sparring partners the OED say bliss is related to blythe. I know better. Bliss is from belissime. We say Fab: who says the Romans didnt use Beliss! all the time in the same way?

And here's another one: cleggs (Scots for midges). Do the OED  know what that's derived from? You bet they dont. Does SallyE know? You bet she does. It's from culex, the Latin for fly.  [29 May]

  Easter Monday:  Croquet and Carter Bar
A crazy week, so many things happened and most of them were couldnt-say-no poetry events. Tuesday Ian came downstairs and said 'Go and play croquet with Robin, Sally.' On facebook, Robin had said he was playing croquet at the meadows that afternoon, his birthday,  and for his friends to come. So I went, and it was great. I played croquet with him and a girl friend and two flat mates then took them out for a curry. It made a welcome change for everyone. Then Ian and I went to the Stirling writers fun session. We were late, but welcome as there werent many there.

On Wednesday I drove down to Newcastle, stayed with Christopher Barnes and went to the Amnesty event, where Chris and I met Sheree Mack, Catherine Graham, Bill Martin, Katrina Porteous and others, and had the usual laugh and the usual miniscule reading cos some people (the worst ones) went on far too long. Still I go every year to this and enjoy it. Chris quite well and bubbling with the usual wit and gossip. West Jesmond still the same if the rest of Newcastle has mostly had a facelift since the old days.

Thursday evening I went to speak to a group of students at Stirling Uni about the current poetry scene in Scotland. This was something I could do standing on my head, and I almost had to with such a busy week, but I found time to prepare it and it went fine.

Then I had a whole day at home being as nice as possible to Ian, who had to put up with all these absences. Then Saturday I drove down to Chester, picking up Etta and Morelle on the way. We went to Maureen Weldon's house and took part in the poetry event in their local hall, just in the north west corner of Wales. A wonderful friendly event with a wonderful atmosphere, and very high standard poetry too .March.

Cambo House, St Andrews and StAnza 2008, possibly in that order.
I wrote this blog once and was timed out. It 's probably better to be a little more brief. I had five days at StAnza, half of which was spent at Cambo which I thoroughly enjoyed. I came back, predictably, with many plants and a few extra poetry books.

I spent the rest of the time doing StAnza.  My reading went excellently, as so it should have done. I prepared it well, and Kevin MacNeil my reading partner was at his best, witty but not too maverick. He is a clever man indeed. Anna Crowe introduced us, we had a full house, they laughed and listened, and said it was good too.

My young poet friends from Stirling turned up and ran the Poetry Scotland magazine stall excellently. Judging from the secret weapon, the tin of Quality Street, there werent all that many visitors. Its a pity these exhibitions are not in the main centre of the festival. But all went well, some books sold, the helpers were happy, and had a taste of the poetry festival too. I was able to leave them to it and have lunch with Ian Blake and Margaret Gillies Brown, who had come along for my reading. I also helped judge the Slam, which went very well thanks to all the high quality performers, not to mention Jenny Lindsay, our excellent MC.

That and another post-midnight finish, the Jazz session, reminded me I am not so young, and I took some time off to be alert for these events. Apart from that, I met dozens of friends,  just saying hi to some of them and getting time for conversations with others. There is a final memory of a lot of driving, a wonderful garden and stay at Cambo,  rather too many cappucinos and snacks at the Byre, and rather too long away from my home, garden, cats and husband, not necessarily in that order. March

Facebook and Face to Face  More friends, more virtual friends. Beth was here today. She gave a talk in Perth last night. I couldnt go because of the auction, but as I guessed, Margaret Gillies Brown attended. Beth has a new special friend in London, Italian/Irish and she has been to Rome with him. Arthur Seeley and Dawn turned up here last week, so the shop has not been without poets. The internet is becoming almost daily more complex, with aspie friends appearing on Myspace (they must have found links to us), a bonsai facebook group proving very interesting, likewise a garden discussion group, more contacts on facebook and more blog poets on Myspace. Colin has just joined Facebook and found the poetry scotland group which I had told him about, and I've been commenting on poetry magazines on other blogs.. Pandemonium in fact. And what was really fun was that Julie found me, Julie from Newcastle. She has two grandchildren and a lot going on with her family, and her daughter Leanne got her onto Facebook. We had a great time catching up, though we have been exchanging christmas cards every year. [February 8th]



Deborah Tyler-Bennett's picture of the heart-shaped group of poets in the garden

It's been a year of the garden and another great Callander Poetry Weekend (above). The year Julian walked to Cape Wrath and I went to Durness. The year all my siblings came to Callander and I didnt go to London. The year the SNP formed the government of Scotland and we started going regularly to Stirling Writers. I've done a lot of writing this year (so has Ian).  Our garden took part in the village gardens open day. The year we saw we would have to keep a closer eye on Ian's mum and dad.

Poetry Scotland continued apace, and the Windfalls were published, including my Great North Road which was well reviewed. The new computer has given me scope to do more with photos, which I have been wanting to do for a while. We see Robin from time to time. I get around the country a good bit. Ian's bookbinding is rationalising the shop. Sometimes we feel quite isolated, holed up in the winter, but who else has so many visitors to their territory on a daily basis? So now for a few difficult-to-pick blogthology pieces.

Seachd, the Gaelic film
We went to see Seachd at Falkirk this evening. It was the fourth or fifth showing of the day, in the multiplex cinema, and there were six of us there - two middle aged women, two young lads, and us. We enjoyed it a lot. Skye character and Gaelic protagonist Angus Peter Campbell took the lead, with child actors and Dolina Maclellan - Meg Bateman in a vignette part, Aonghas MacNeacail somewhere in the credits as you would expect. Lots of atmospheric photography of sea, mountains, boats and candlelight, a clearance, a super curse (maybe thats why the Bafta committee didnt like it), lots of dramatic storytelling, Irishy moody music (there was even a carnax) and fun. Seachd means seven - the subtitle is The Inaccessible PInnacle, which is on the Cuillins. Subtitles so you can go if you think you wont understand it. You will. Highly recommended.
This film has been refused a Bafta nomination as a foreign language film, and its director has resigned from Bafta.
[7 October] 

Smoo Cave! This is why Ian wanted me to come. Event in Smoo Cave by Kevin MacNeill and Willie the guitarist, under a Viking free gazebo in the depths of the cave . I sat on a boulder in the stream and made notes for a poem, and set a fashion - soon loads of people were sitting on the boulders (because this water was wide and flat and mostly shallower than one's shoes, I find I am calling it a stream rather than a burn). Drove off and had picnic food and a rest, climbed a small hill and walked on a beach. Looked in on a couple of numbers by the ageing Quarrymen in the big pub, full of people listening to continuous gigs. All gigs running half an hour late, it said on the door.

I stayed the extra day to go on the trip to Cape Wrath, and what a good experience this was. Michael Horowitz was there and it was the perfect place to meet him (we'd been emailing a bit). We went on the small boats then minibus through the twelve miles of wilderness, to reach one of the best views in Britain and Scotland, the headlands receding south on the one hand and east on the other, both Orkney and Lewis just visible on this clearest day. We got close to an eagle, saw deer and stags, and there on the lighthouse complex was the man with six Springer spaniels who had met Daizan. The spaniels came bounding out. "Are you the lassie from Callander? asked the guy when I mentioned Daizan, pleasing me on more than one count!

[1 October]

I did one of my shops this evening, but it was hell on the roads. The motorway slip road from the big Stirling roundabout was closed, and the diversion went all round the Denny area, on and off motorways, and I ended up going miles round Falkirk, the back of which I have never properly sussed, before I reached the supermarket.

I was able to get on the motorway back to Stirling, only to find the big signs announcing that the A84 was closed after Doune. Collected Ian from Stirling writers (who were in the pub), was given two bottles of wine from Robert's Scotsman prize for the weekend, dropped Chris at Dunblane, then came home by the south river farms road. [5 September]

We've been busy (!). We had a big auction last night, coming home with a carload of good quality books, including a lot of the British Trials series. Our main auction gets very good prices for books. There are always a lot of buyers but we bob and weave, and fork up like the others for our share. Not many buying directly for shops, but some for the internet, some to sell to dealers. The shop is looking nice - we had already boosted it with a lot of good books from the house. We had just paid the council tax and Ian said, "The house owes the shop that money," and we totted up the value. [24 August]

Julian gets here
We were going down to the plant sale at Falkirk, so I phoned Julian to check whether he was on his way, "I'm on the A84 near Doune," he said. So we met him on the road, stopping when we saw him approaching, and took his pack in the car to leave him to walk on to Callander. In fact he was still on Drip Road. We went and filled the car with plants (did very well for once) then passed him walking near Coilechat. He arrived about seven and we have all had a most interesting evening. He's going on to Balquhidder tomorrow & then probably on and over to Inverness via the Great Glen. We had dinner in the garden, then all talked in the shop till near midnight.
[1 August]

Goldfish rustling
Just time for this story before I open the shop. Friday night, Ian said, shall we go out? I'll just go to the Co-op first. He came back with the phone number of a lady who was giving away six goldfish. Yes, good idea! I phoned her and she explained she had gone away from her house in Callander and didnt want to abandon the goldfish. After a chat she told us to go round to her garden and collect the goldfish from the pond. She would come later to see us at the bookshop and look at their new home.

So off we went, with a bucket and child's fishing net. We crept up the path wondering if anyone would call the police, went into the pretty, secluded garden and found the pond, a tank let into a patio. The water was black, two feet deep. No sign of the goldfish. We sat and thought for a while, looking hard into the pond. After maybe ten minutes we saw one down in the depths. After another ten minutes we saw another and tried to net it, but no luck and after that no fish would come anywhere near the surface.

Ian sent me to buy fish food. We flung some on the pond, settled back again and then we saw three goldfish - one white and two red. We were trying not to make any noise - people were having a party in the next garden but they couldnt see us. We then tried to net the fish but we couldnt catch any, they went deep out of sight.

We were losing light. So we started to drain the pool with the bucket we had brought for the fish. This took ages and totally soaked the lawn.

We caught two of the fish when we got the water down to six inches. It was now really dark. We took our two fish home and put them in our pond, and returned at seven o'clock next morning, hoping there hadnt been a heron after them earlier.

This time we could see the fish a bit better, though the water was still very black. It didnt take too long to catch the remaining four. I think we caught two each. Then we refilled the pond - mercifully there was a stand tap and hose within reach.

We repaired to our own pond and put the other fish in. They had been moved from a square pond of which they were the only occupants plant or animal, to a pond full of water plants, insects etc. They ought to like it. But when we threw them some fish food we got a surprise. The pond was full of minnows. [22 July]

Françoise gets in touch
A letter from Geneva from Françoise Baud, enclosing three photos from StAnza. Super one of Gwyneth Lewis reading on the Reaper (help I want a semi colon but I cant have one, here). Great one of Gwyneth and Brian Johnson. And, here we are, myself with Ruth Padel and Gwyneth Lewis. Scotland, England, Wales!

It's not flattering of me. I look about 100 and worn out (we are all windblown on the dunes). Even so, I'm really pleased to have this one for the record. Some time I'll get it scanned and onto the site.
[12 July]

In the Garden

Don't plant a pair of pots indentically. I have yellow/black pansies, feverfew and other yellow/whites in one, and red/mauve surfinias, begonias etc in the other. The yellow one is directly under the Hypericum's big yellow flowers. it looks deliberate but wasnt. These plantings are far more effective that had I planted the two pots the same. The third pot is a water-tub with water hawthorn and a waterlily. The waterlily is vigorous and trying to climb out of the pot. [7 July]

The last two hours were gardening, watering and taking rubbish to the tip. We were dumping boxes of useless books we had had to take in from village, & we saw another guy about to tip two plastic containers of books. Quick as lightning I offered him a couple of pounds for them & a friendly deal was done. We also tipped pails of the rubbish Ian is clearing where we are making a patio - the previously muddled part of our garden nearest the house. Yesterday night we went out to a pull-in off the Glasgow road where someone had dumped a huge old weathered railway sleeper. We de-dumped it, ramming it into the car, and brought it back for an edging for the patio. It is interesting looking, and will probably last ten years. The cat took a great liking to the sleeper, probably because of its country smells.

The Three Horse Bus
Easter Day. Brian Soutar turned up in Callander with a vintage/repro three-horse bus and a team of horses. Its staff of four proceeded to give free rides through Callander, from the Dreadnought to Lagrannoch, all afternoon. The three well matched horses looked splendid coming down Main Street at a runner, causing much attention, waving and photography.

In the end I went down to investigate. I waited with a family of tourists from Mumbai to see if there was going to be another trip, and we got on the last ride (I took a vintage bus ticket along and gave it in). Don't ask me why Mr Soutar* did this, but the Dreadnought, where there was a big church children's party, probably know. I spent ages trying to get a pic of a three-horse bus on the web. Though there are quite a few refs to them, this is the best I could do. It was something like, with the big wooden wheels and open top. [8 April 07]
*Brian Soutar, Chairman of Stagecoach.

"My StAnza"

Friday I called at Cambo House with its snowdrop garden and came away with a big box of beautiful aconite plants. It was a superb winter garden and one of the most magical sights was a herd of little toast-brown Tamworth piglets in the woods, wheeling along almost like dolphins at the side of the drive. I found the lady of the garden and another gardener in a huge stable cum potting shed, sorting out snowdrops and aconites for sale. The garden included hellebores and masses of scillas giving blue carpets, while the snowdrop varieties were past their best.

Friday too the boat came in, The Reaper from Anstruther, crewed by half a dozen old sailors, & Alan Gay and Ian Stephen, to be joined by Robert Alan Jamieson. The boat was met by a pipe band and Gwyneth Lewis. Gwyneth, whom I liked a lot, and Ruth Padel and I walked about waiting on the dunes as the boat came in. Later in the afternoon I took my picnic into the boat at Alan Gay's invitation and had a cup of tea with him & Jancis and some other people

In fact Friday was really my day, for it was Friday evening I won the Slam, entirely unexpectedly, though that didnt mean I hadn't tried very hard. I knew I had a potentially very funny poem, funny to a late night audience including many (but not all) younger people and students: the poem about the broadband connection. I gambled on getting into the final with that poem, by reading another poem good for a few laughs, the Gaelic translation, first. And so it worked out. I wasnt the only person to be gobsmacked. Jim told me several people had vouched for my performance (shows he had double checked!) [16 March]

Old haunts
To cheer ourselves up after the stooshie about Ian's parents, we went down to Edinburgh last night to call on Robin. We've found him a ma-jong set - he had asked us to look out for one - another reason for the visit. We all went for a drink in a pub in the South Side that was full of old books, some of which we recognised from years ago in Grindles. This pub used to have two notices. One said: No dogs allowed except Hamish Henderson's

Robin living near the Meadows links us to old haunts going back many years for me, and personal years of bad times and happy times, the children, Grindles, Meadows festivals, Rusty the dog, and other things linked to those places, are all at last beginning to fall into perspective. Twenty-one years in South Edinburgh was by far the longest I ever lived in one place. I didnt choose it and I dont regard it as home, but I do understand it and feel gratitude for it, I think.

[3 March 2007]


Highlights from the year 2006 on desktopsallye


Greetings from a One Year Old Blogger
Blogger sounds like Jogger so please imagine me dashing round my track, giving almost daily attention to this site, keeping out of other mischief, conveniently informing our intelligence services of my complete opinions, reading, contacts and movements (to which info they are welcome) & not quantifiably affecting the other work I do. Poetry comes when & only when it will.

I thought I had maybe invented the word Blogthology but there were already 107 refs when I checked Google in November. Googlewhacks are not easily come by.

A sentimental link for my brothers and sisters, Paul, Elizabeth, Ann & Stephen.
Castle Hill, Bishopton (Bishopton, Durham).
This is where we used to play.

You can see a line of trees running from opposite the church to the left hand background of the pic. These were the edge of our garden. You came round a field at the back, off left, jumped or splashed across the beck to here, and hung about socialising with other kids, with whom you investigated pond life in the ditches, or scrambled on the hill, far right of pic, which had bushes (you can just see some) and a tree half way up it that's gone.

Pond life has acquired a new meaning this year.

Remember too there's Poetry Scotland website - check it regularly! This year it won a five-star rating from The Poetry Kit. On PS website you'll also see Colin's photo-montage of the Poetry Weekend, including part of Carla's Banquet, this year's highlight. Next year's Callander Poetry Weekend is 7 - 9 September 2007. Anyone can come. All you have to do is get yourself here and find some accommodation (there's plenty of choice).

Highland Post: the You'll-know-so-and-so system
In November I came by a three pint jelly mould decorated with fish. It made me think of Carla - I like cooking but I dont use moulds. Looking out of the shop window Ian saw a van marked Iona Hotel, so I nipped straight out and said You'll know Carla at Fionnport?
They did, and they took it for her.

Beginning of a poem:
It's a very new poem, very today. I began to compose it while driving to Tyndrum for the Makar Press poetry reading, probably the first poetry reading ever held in Tyndrum. It was great - good atmosphere, some locals even, and Donalda (as in Iain Crichton Smith) came over from Taynault. Well done Makars! [4 November].

It was a compositional experience rather than a finished poem. It s still under construction as part of a sequence [perhaps Tyndrum Sonnets?] Here's a related photo of cloud in the strath (Glen Dochart). The next Poetry Scotland issue is on How Poems Happen

Punctuation Wars
This site is entirely semi-colon free. It took me about six months to train myself NEVER to use them. I use dashes a little more than before, though I do not use them in place of semicolons. It is a shift in punctuational approach, a way of linking thoughts. Colleague and poet Chris Powici has a similar disaffection for ellipses. That's those little lines of dots...Calling them ellipses makes them sound worse, I think.

Barrow's Goldeneye
This chappie was down on the river yesterday when I went down to look at the floods. More exactly, he was on the car park which was underwater. I wouldnt have known more than that he was a cute little duck (I also saw heron and swans and a diver) but a twitcher came into the shop in the afternoon in great excitement. He had seen a rare Barrow's Goldeneye. They are resident in Canada and Iceland. [24 November]

Doors open
birdwatcher's wild grin
Barrow's Goldeneye

This haiku has been brought into play for our christmas cards this year. Last year I used a longer poem (Frost). I thought I'd do a series of haiku about the Goldeneye, bobbing so photogenically around the river in flood, but I reckoned this one, the second of two I composed, got the feel of it perfectly. Since Ian didnt say "That's stupid" when I showed him the card, which he would certainly have done if he had thought so, I went with it. If you didnt get a card and would like one, email me right away and you'll get one in time for new year. (Offer closes Jan Ist on grounds of silliness.)

Writers' diaries
Many established writers have extensive diaries published posthumously, but these always have to be edited closely because of careless comments about others that were made in the safety of privacy. I believe our view of privacy of this sort will change. As someone who in the past has written unconsidered diaries which will neither be published nor preserved, I may say there is something very satisfying about writing for the web with the awareness and caution one would use in speaking in public. It's writing for real. And I think this is the position we will all be in in the future.

A favourite Q &A (from an Andy Capp cartoon):
Q. Have you ever been in a train crash?
A. Not that I can remember.

Chas & Gregor's Wedding
I have been winding up clergymen of my acquaintance about this "gay wedding" but it really was a wedding. There were family, friends, kids, clothes, cards, dancing, food, balloons and a cake, with people from all over. Chas' family and friends came from Arisaig, Gregor's from Glasgow, others from Inverness, Stirling etc., and if there were other gays present - you'd think there must have been - it wasn't evident. As these weddings are presumably about one in twenty of all weddings (with a catch-up factor since the law came in) its not going to be the sort of event you get to very often.

The Magic: Louis MacNeice
Down the road someone is practising scales...
The notes like little fishes vanish with a wink of tails.
Man's heart expands to tinker with his car
For this is Sunday morning, fate's great bazaar....

It's extraordinary how poetry can hang about with you all your life...every single Sunday morning this phrase comes into my head. What did Fate's great bazaar mean? The words mean more than the concept, presumably that there's a choice of activities for Sunday morning. Fate's great bizarre would do as well...

It goes on: But listen. Up the road, something gulps, the church spire
open its eight bells out, skull's mouths which will not tire...
Louis MacNeice, and it's magic.

The Magic: John Betjeman
I wish some of today's more established poets would cultivate a bit of eccentricity. Images of coolness and success, which they all seem to go for, are not facets of being a poet that appeal to everybody. We need our court fools, our crazy poets. They are the ones we love, and remember. Cultivating eccentricity, as in Scotland Sorley and Norman did, as in England the Sitwells and Barker and Betjeman did, is a generous, sharing characteristic which contributes to all our sense of poetry community. State poetry with its peaceful libraries and academic posts, should not try to iron us all flat.

Highland Games Weekend
Callander Highland Games weekend brings crowds outside our shop, for the pipe bands and procession setting off for the games field. We added to the occasion with a bubble machine in our upstairs window, drifting bubbles down the street among the revellers. The guest band's bus was late, and unloaded its players and their instruments in the middle of the street. Police held up the traffic while they rushed into position and were off, the raggle taggle of two teams of boy footballers, re-enactment Jacobites - a group who appear mysteriously for this weekend every year and are never seen at any other time - , motor-tricycles, the fire engine carrying assorted children (a driver and crew in there somewhere) and the local police, all following the pipe bands, kilts swinging and saltires a-flutter, over Callander Bridge. [30 July]

Stirling University Conference: poetry and politics
Adrienne Rich was the undoubted star. Her lecture was something to remember, it was the most political speech on poetry I have ever heard, and we gave her a standing ovation... except two men I had noticed were not clapping at all, and I thought Adrienne had maybe stood on their toes in her references to the middle east? But her references were world wide and history wide. She was little, frail, and had a very strong, deep carrying voice. (Hey, you are really important if you have two CIA men at your performance!) [ 14 July ]

Latest theory of the Loch Ness Monster.... it was the elephants in Bertram Mills Circus swimming during their summer holidays. See these links:
Old photos of Derby: scroll and click for Mills' elephants in 1947
BBC Scotland reports the new theory
Times Online report

North Devonian
A North Devonian old gent came in shop today, such a marvellous accent I kept him talking just to hear his uz an weez and croaks of an English sadly var away from we. About to have a go at fascist spelling and grammar in PS website and am working up to it. Like Joyce took us out of fascist spelling but we all piled back in at the first opportunity to ignore him. And I hear a poets' workshop recently made much fuss about punctuation at the end of lines of verse. If I have anything to say, in verse or otherwise, the punctuation at the ends of the lines can look after itself. [4 April ]

Old Poet
 Hamish Henderson I wrote three or four poems about Hamish, it just so happened that way.

Other poets who are no longer with us, such as the Gaelic poet Sorley Maclean, may be found on this unusual Poets' Graves site.

White Van Woman We hired a Transit for the plant sale. Immediately I get behind the wheel of a Transit I turn into White Van Woman, Ian says. I love being high above the road, in control of a bigger vehicle, and we had a day's enjoyment from the hire, as well as filling it to bursting with plants. Returning with them to sell some and plant some, we have a garden that is out of this world. Unusual new "acquisitions" include American blaeberries (Vaccinium) and a Nectarine tree, variety Lord Napier, who was an early head of Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh. [9 June ]

Callander is in Old Perthshire - the Real Counties issue is as strong in Scotland as England - but we were at opposite ends of the old shire, so our trip took us over the tops and past some of our favourite stamping grounds. We saw a doe in a copse. Pheasants and blackcock were "lekking" - their mating displays at regular sites -- daffodils opening and the leaves and grass springing, not to mention caravans and cars heading north on the major A9 route - - which we crossed at Dunkeld with the necessary caution. [ 13 April ]

Clips from reviews of Bewick walks to Scotland
"A subtle double presence in some of the Bewick poems" - James Aitchison
Review by Polly Bird: http://www.geraldengland.co.uk/revs/bs005.htm
"Manages to integrate landscape description with the technical language of the engraver's art." Ian M Emberson
"Painstaking observations made as if with Bewick's eyes combine to bring an eighteenth century timbre to a distinctive modern voice......she also manages to leave space for the reader"Wendy French (Second Light Newsletter)
"Portrays very well indeed the picture of a young man setting out with serendipity on an unknown journey.....Accurately and beautifully described."Margaret Gillies Brown
"Combinations of genuine talent that compliment each other are rare. 'Bewick Walks To Scotland' by Sally Evans includes illustrations from the wood engravings of Thomas Bewick, the Newcastle engraver (1753 - 1828) and is proof that talent even if separated by a lengthy period of time can be very exciting and rewarding when combined." Les Merton, Writing Writers review On-Line

While writing this blog... In this same year I have also put out the usual five or six issues of Poetry Scotland, in three or four mailings, taken my share in running the bookshop, looked after our largeish garden, including supervising Ian's construction of three ponds, attended poetry readings, writers nights, book group afternoons, StAnza poetry festival, read dozens and dozens of books, organized the unstoppable Callander Poetry Weekend, taken up sewing again, attended one large family party, one gay wedding, & trailed round supermarkets looking for bargains. I have visited Newcastle twice, London once, Balquhidder five times, Edinburgh four times, Aberdeen three times, Inverness once (slipping) and Glasgow twice. Slightly shocked by this "trip accounting", & surprised how few times I went to Edinburgh.

We have the usual list of promises and wishes for diehard books. This year we were discovered to have produced 50 full books since we started. We will probably settle for one or two a year from now on.

The folks: My son Robin has been working in Edinburgh, & is considering plans that may mean further travel. My daughter, five years older, is back from a longish stint in the US, and working in Reading. She and her man brought two pussycats back from the States. This is part of the lovely Harris Garden at Reading University.
Ian's parents in Dunfermline begin their ninth decade, in a house which people will soon be saying is too big for them.

Keeping a blog is writing for real. It is satisfying, honest and free speech which gets read. I dont have a hit counter but it's surprising who pops up and says they have read things on desktopsallye.

So thank you for listening, reading, skimming, glancing, enjoying, disagreeing or arguing, playing your vital part as a reader of this blog.