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Let it snow Today we drove over 100 miles around central Scotland, collecting the new Poetry Scotlands at Leven. They look very nice and christmas-cheery. We called on the old folks who are being well looked after, looked round a garden centre also much christmasified, had sushi picnic lunch in the car, checked Inverkeithing for books, came home via Forth Road Bridge / M9 (rush hour yet no congestion), and collected my computer at the end of the day. Which seems to be OK. It has the additional features which I have not yet sussed out. It was wintry and cold out there. But now, with deep snow expected and the car round the front, so it is easier to get on the road, plenty of stores indoors and of course my computer connection, I feel much happier. Let it snow. [3 Dec] Frost I am much better after a weekend resting. It was so quiet and cold that Ian did not have much to do downstairs, and he was writing in the office with a fire on, popping out to see customers as and when, while I stayed in bedroom and kitchen and kept very warm. My reading? David Frost's autobiography of the sixties, published 1993. I enjoyed it so much. I remember that time so clearly. That Was the Week that Was at university - I had a debating ditty that ended That y-Was the Weeke that y-Beene. We didnt question the absence of women from the satirical shows and in entertainment and media generally.We just couldnt get our poems accepted anywhere. Frost's book is appealingly, brilliantly written and good natured, starting from the churchy childhood very like mine, through university and his meteoric rise in television. It's my second read - if I am really impressed by a book I will read it twice over. Between readings, I read Frank Muir's A Kentish Lad, and while it touches the same television comedy world, it doesnt have the depth and resonance Frost's has for me. Muir was of an earlier generation, spent the fifties writing Take it from Here with Dennis Norden, butting up against the sixties when Frost at 27 - 30 years of age was running television stations, having Prime Ministers to breakfast, commuting over the Atlantic, and interviewing prospective US Presidents. And writing - his chaps were all writer-performers. In Frost's LWT company shake-up, Muir left when his other ex-BBC pals got the chop, and neither man says a word good or bad about the other in these two books, both published 1993. Muir and Norden incidentally spent 18 years co-writing humorous programmes in the same office, while their wives had lunch together twice a year. They then developed separate careers in TV panel games - a move largely enabled by the Frost brigade. Outside, it is bitter, the car is encased in frost and I have to go out tomorrow morning, unusually, to take the computer in for a revamp. Myself much restored by the two days warm indoors. [30 November] No-Vember and Mumbai Thomas Hood, the punster poet, wasnt it, who found all those "no" words for November - no sun, no cheer, etc. It's been that sort of November for me. I havent been well (its almost impossible to say this in a blog without sounding moany) and today I cut out two events I had been going to attend, and more or less stayed in my room, reading in bed, only popping out to do the flowers and so on. Yesterday I called at the computer store and arranged to take my computer in on Monday to have a health check, and new word processor and website design packages loaded. I am waiting for the new PS from the printers - I will have to jog their memories on Monday too, as it should have been ready by now - and I will have a big mail out to do, with that and Christmas dealt with at the same time, very early December. I just need to be that much mended - I have reached the stage where being unwell makes me feel old and worn out, and my spirit is affected. It may also be the other way round. 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. Let it snow Today we drove over 100 miles around central Scotland, collecting the new Poetry Scotlands at Leven. They look very nice and christmas-cheery. We called on the old folks who are being well looked after, looked round a garden centre also much christmasified, had sushi picnic lunch in the car, checked Inverkeithing for books, came home via Forth Road Bridge / M9 (rush hour yet no congestion), and collected my computer at the end of the day. Which seems to be OK. It has the additional features which I have not yet sussed out. It was wintry and cold out there. But now, with deep snow expected and the car round the front, so it is easier to get on the road, plenty of stores indoors and of course my computer connection, I feel much happier. Let it snow. [3 Dec] Frost I am much better after a weekend resting. It was so quiet and cold that Ian did not have much to do downstairs, and he was writing in the office with a fire on, popping out to see customers as and when, while I stayed in bedroom and kitchen and kept very warm. My reading? David Frost's autobiography of the sixties, published 1993. I enjoyed it so much. I remember that time so clearly. That Was the Week that Was at university - I had a debating ditty that ended That y-Was the Weeke that y-Beene. We didnt question the absence of women from the satirical shows and in entertainment and media generally.We just couldnt get our poems accepted anywhere. Frost's book is appealingly, brilliantly written and good natured, starting from the churchy childhood very like mine, through university and his meteoric rise in television. It's my second read - if I am really impressed by a book I will read it twice over. Between readings, I read Frank Muir's A Kentish Lad, and while it touches the same television comedy world, it doesnt have the depth and resonance Frost's has for me. Muir was of an earlier generation, spent the fifties writing Take it from Here with Dennis Norden, butting up against the sixties when Frost at 27 - 30 years of age was running television stations, having Prime Ministers to breakfast, commuting over the Atlantic, and interviewing prospective US Presidents. And writing - his chaps were all writer-performers. In Frost's LWT company shake-up, Muir left when his other ex-BBC pals got the chop, and neither man says a word good or bad about the other in these two books, both published 1993. Muir and Norden incidentally spent 18 years co-writing humorous programmes in the same office, while their wives had lunch together twice a year. They then developed separate careers in TV panel games - a move largely enabled by the Frost brigade. Outside, it is bitter, the car is encased in frost and I have to go out tomorrow morning, unusually, to take the computer in for a revamp. Myself much restored by the two days warm indoors. [30 November] No-Vember and Mumbai Thomas Hood, the punster poet, wasnt it, who found all those "no" words for November - no sun, no cheer, etc. It's been that sort of November for me. I havent been well (its almost impossible to say this in a blog without sounding moany) and today I cut out two events I had been going to attend, and more or less stayed in my room, reading in bed, only popping out to do the flowers and so on. Yesterday I called at the computer store and arranged to take my computer in on Monday to have a health check, and new word processor and website design packages loaded. I am waiting for the new PS from the printers - I will have to jog their memories on Monday too, as it should have been ready by now - and I will have a big mail out to do, with that and Christmas dealt with at the same time, very early December. I just need to be that much mended - I have reached the stage where being unwell makes me feel old and worn out, and my spirit is affected. It may also be the other way round. 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. Street in a less commercial area, Mumbai 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. And I shall always think Mumbai now rather than Bombay - though I have met Indian writers here who said Bombay, and one told me it was a socio-cultural thing within the city, how you named it. On the plus side I have three poems in Northwords Now - it's amazing how much better any magazine looks with your own stuff in it - I have a poem in the new SPL Best Poems 2008 webpage, and another piece on Angus Calder for Chapman, urgently commissioned and expertly subedited by Joy herself. I wrote on Calder Wood Press and diehard in the PS website, and am on the panel for recommending a Makar for Stirling Council by Burns Night. I have maybe been just too busy, and on top of my skype reading in Chicago this autumn, my virtual witnessing of the happenings in Mumbai has just pushed me over my limit. [29 November - almost St Andrews Day] Clackmannanshire Bridge We have named the new PS issue after the Clackmannanshire Bridge - a trial to roadsign writers if ever there was one. And badly publicised too - the BBC seem to be running down anything positive in Scotland this year. Can't think why. Here is a short video they deigned to put up for a few hours. Yesterday I delivered some new boots to Comrie that someone had left in the shop... was given a jar of jam. Then went book-hunting round Perthshire with unusually dismal results. Then home. Ian, who has hurt his back moving the book press - so much for Health and Safety - decided to come with me to the Angus Calder memorial reading, and I'm glad he did. It went off in a friendly and peaceful manner with Peter France in the chair. Peter, Joy, Eric, Astrid and ouselves had a natter in the former Royal Archers (now the Tass) afterwards, then Ian and I drove back, diverting slightly across the new Clackmannanshire Bridge. Joy asked me to write a short piece on Angus and I'm just seeing if doing it here will get me going:. If it does, I will move the work to another file for Joy. Angus Calder as Writer in Residence in Grindles Bookshop, 1990-2003 (item removed as expected to appear in forthcoming Chapman). [20 November] Our Health and Safety Matters Too We have the lurgy - which even the non Scot knows is the winter virus. Last week Ian was really bad and this week it is me - feeling like my head is in a wet cloud and I can't wake up. A busy month has gone by relentlessly, with city visits, readings, the usual auctions, meetings, accounts, and a magazine issue just gone to the printers. Consequently our shop premises are not very organised. The corridor is cluttered with recently bought coke bags, boxes, books, spare car seats and ladders. The office looks like a bomb hit it very recently, and the bindery is an uneasy blend of picturesque paraphernalia and chaos. I am down in the shop contemplating an unusually untidy table of papers, when Mr X, the Health and Safety Inspector, walks in. Inspector: I'm Mr X Sally: Oh yes, you sent us a really rude letter last year. We were really upset. Inspector: I didnt. Sally: Yes you did, it was really upsetting, we are very proud of our shop and we dont want it putting on records that it is grotty and untidy. People come here from all over the world you know. Inspector looks at his file. Sally: There arent many shops like this left, you know. This is a very famous shop... I admit this table needs tidying up, we've been ill, we work really hard and we've been busy. Still, I can tidy up here a bit, these books. Inspector: And that heap of books there. If an old lady fell over them you'd be responsible. Sally: We dont get very crowded you know, we're a sort of club really, there were lots of shop like this in Edinburgh and they were all like this. Inspector: And this part of the shop: those books: Sally: I have just brought them in from outside when it rained.They usually go outside. I can move them.. Inspector: And these books: that's all right, that shelf, this table...he starts nosing round the front of the shop. Sally runs upstairs to find Ian. She whispers: Stay up here, Its the Health and Safety, I'm dealing with him. Ian: What? I cant hear you. Sally: Sssh! Health and Safety. Ian gets message. Sally runs back downstairs. Inspector: What are all these boxes under the table? Sally: They've got books in we havent unpacked yet, yes they could be moved, yes Inspector: And what about your office and bindery round the back? Sally: They're private. Inspector: But I'll need to go and look at them. Sally: They're private. They're only used by us. Inspector: Your health and safety matters too. Sally: We've never hurt ourselves. I'm quite old you know - there arent many of these shops left, cant you just let us die out? And that bookpress you said should not be on the floor - it's meant to be on the floor, it's a kick-press. You have to kick it. Inspector: Why? Sally: Because that's the only way to tighten it. Inspector: Not letting me look in your office counts as obstruction you know. Sally: There's no point your going in there because it is just as bad as before. I cant work without papers on the floor. If you were a writer you would understand. Inspector: You should have tidied up when I sent you a letter about it. Sally: You sent us that letter two years ago. Inspector (looks at his file) Two and a half years. Sally: Well it has been tidied and untidied several times since then. We thought you had just sent us a nasty letter and then gone away. This is a very good shop you know...we care about it. We work very hard. It's a very well known shop. Inspector: Well, would you like someone else to come and have a look? I'll send someone round next week or within a week or two, to see if you have tidied up. Sally. OK. I agree it could do with being tidied up. I wonder why he does not go, then I notice I am standing by his briefcase and he is frightend to step any nearer. I step back, he retrieves his bag, and the interview is over. But of course, we'll have to move all that stuff, right away, and there's nowhere to put it, and it isnt going to do a lot for our safety and health. [15 November] The Indoors Quarter This dark season I have two new projects (at least). I am helping to organise (which means largely organise) a Burns Supper at Kinlochard, and I have to go and buy a website construction package so I can do my own website. There is also a book to edit, real work to be fitted in. It is a slight change of tempo, suited to a new blog page - probably the last page of desktopsallye in this format. I have become very indebted to this public diary, which I know is read by many friends, so I am a little nervous about the work ahead, but when has life been otherwise? I still have one reading in Edinburgh next week, but the busy year of readings is more or less done. There will be a Poetry Scotland mail-out, too, before Christmas. The leaves are about off the trees and there's been heavy rain, but not much yet in the way of frost or snow. There has been a lot of talk of credit crunch and the hatches are battened down, with the shop doing quite well so far. Robin is in San Francisco, and Ian's parents are stablised at their home with a lot of daily assistance, so we should have a peaceful enough winter. The apples have finished falling from the trees, so the number in the kitchen will now be going down. I've done different chutneys this year. Above is a picture Mike Penney took of the stair window from outside at night. The statuette has gone as a trophy for the StAnza slam. [13 November] Notice: Microsoft has no responsibility for the content featured in this group. Click here for more info. MSN - Make it Your Home MSN Home | Hotmail | Web Search | Shopping | Money | People & Groups Help ?2004 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved. Terms of Use This beautiful jug was the perfect picture for the honey seller poem: taking his honey up to the Castle . And its background of stone walls. You can buy one from Wemys Ware for ?92, which bit of advertising justifies my using the picture. Further down the page: Stirling Castle, the Winery, preserving, autumn colour, Lapidus, and a drive south A Slam Too Far Two very different readings on two successive nights. They came in a week overshadowed by political events, the great step forward of the American people to Obama's presidency, and the Glenrothes by-election, held by Labour, all but annihilating the Tory and Lib-Dem vote in the polarisation between independence and unionism. That is all Scottish politics will be for some years to come. Well, the Slam. It was a most interesting and enjoyable event in a typical upstairs pub room in Edinburgh, the Meadow Bar. Over Fifites, Silver, Half Century Slam - no one was afraid of their age & it was well attended by the worthies of straight poetry (not the most establishment worthies but many of the best). All performed well, more in the straight poetry line than in humour/entertainment. Choice of poems is obviously critical in this sort of event & the audience was actually very interested in good poetry read well, while the judges went for laughs on the whole. In fact, slam judging is a chancy matter - I've done it. The marks were announced after two rounds, all fairly close together. The top four entered the final round. In a close shoot-out with Nell, Mike Dillon won. There was a very good musician, a singer songwriter, which lifted the evening still more. She remarked there was a lot of nervous energy in the room as there were so many contestants (16). Of course, nobody sets everything on winning, but you do want to perform creditably, and everybody more than did that. And you do have to try to win, which is where the nervousness comes in. I chose my second poem wrong - read a bit of the Bees, which I think the audience liked, instead of a couple of short funnies. The bear poem went down fine but was read a bit early - the third poem in. I was partly responsible for the build up of hype by joking about it on facebook in advance, which of course helped to advertise it. I wore a special vintage (1911 black beaded) dress which was much admired. If poetry was all about slams I would not be interested in the long term. Friday night I went to Tchai Ovna, a super Glasgow venue where Nalini Paul has been building up readings. Co-readers were friends Colin Begg and Christie Williamson - Hazel and baby Oliver were in the audience - and there was some good fiction too. Civilisation. [8 November] The Stirling Castle project nears completion with an upcoming exhibition. In addition to the above pic I found this one (below) of onions done in walnut ink, by searching onions and walnut together. I contacted Nel Jansen, the artist in Massachussets for permission to use it, and her reply was very friendly. The walnuts have been the main inspiration for me at Stirling Castle. There is going to be a great mass of leaves in the whole Castle grounds any time now, from the massive beeches, maple, limes and walnuts. All the trees here are green, orange, yellow, gold and red. It's a late and very beautiful autumn in that respect. There is the Honey Seller, the Ingin Girl (who plants the walnut saplings) and a poem about teak trees (which are tropical birches) for the museum exhibit on The Bridge over the River Kwai. I could not find a subject in the harsh, militaristic history of the regiment until I found out that teaks are tropical birches. That got the poem up and running. Teaks are tall trees with large deciduous leaves. Illustrations are easily found, yet interesting because so few people have considered what a teak tree is like. To the Winery at Margaret's farm at Inchmichael. A well balanced event with a folk singer plus Kevin Williamson & Alan Jamieson, both with slides etc, and Margaret G. B. Back after midnight. Tonight baked for jumble sale, and jumble collecting. Two things I havent done but must do: Sheena's book, and those reviews, which have turned into something of a chore through being procrastinated. Maybe I'll do them tonight. [10 October] What makes me so larder minded in the autumn? Habit? Fear ? Cold? The sense of moving in to live in the house instead of the garden? The presence of so much fruit? Probably a bit of everything but it's there, ingrained, despite having these days a household of self plus one foodie philistine, albeit a hungry one. Anyway the minute the fruit start falling from the trees, I am in the kitchen scrubbing and hoarding. Today I made 5 jars of chutney, and there's fruit jelly to do and apples to slice and freeze. And some apples to pick for storing - there's only a little space on shelves, but I remember great empty bedrooms with newspapers on the floor and apples stored on them, growing waxier and rosier skinned as the winter wore on towards February, at Bishopton. So it's probably sentiment, at base. Even my choice of pictures, the honey jug and the onions, are domestic. There's a lovely story by one of the Scottish writers, about a couple who are going to go to Canada and then cry off. The wife has a cupboard full of preserves which she cannot bear to leave. Can't remember who it was, I'm thinking House with Green Shutters but that is a full length tale. That sort of era. I have to take the car in for repairs tomorrow, and the computer possibly needs a look see, certainly the printer does. It will scan but I cant make it print. We had this large, chaotic village event yesterday, a jumble sale plus plus, and we were fetching in the roadside "croquet boards," when the car electrics failed. Blue flashing lights behind me didnt much help my state of mind, but the lads turned out to be in a helpful mood , recognised us (naturally), and towed us home. They even knew the exact and tricky way into our back garden, which took me aback even more. So, no rest for the wicked tomorrow. [12 Oct] The third pic for my Stirling castle exhibition is teak tree leaves. Teaks lose their leaves in the dry season so they probably go brown like the above decorations. The pic I am using is a photo of the green trees. Autumn trees this year are fantastic. I've seen them from buses this week, as I took my car down to Dunblane to the garage. It's an awkward place to get to without the car. Came back by Stirling the day before yesterday. Last night the car was ready but I didnt have time to fetch it. This morning I bussed to Doune, where the Doune-Dunblane bus had departed five minutes before our arrival. Leah from Venice, who lives in Callander and has learnt Gaelic, was on the way to the Falkirk Mod. She greeted me in Gaelic then started gabbling in Gaelic to the bus driver - she knows precisely who has the old language of these parts, which has barely been heard in such places as public transport (today) or the Kirk Hall (the Poetry Weekend) in fifty years. An amazing resurgence. At Doune there were no taxis either, so I walked to the junction the other side of Doune and hitched. I got a lift within minutes, from a kind lady who took me to the eastern Dunblane junction of the A9. I settled for the car, & drove to Glasgow - not such a long way, but I am still not too familiar with central Glasgow parking & fidn it harder than Edinburgh.. Anyway I got to the Mitchell. Trees in Glasgow also noticeable. A most interesting afternoon at Larry's Lapidus conference, talking to friends, giving out Poetry Scotland, saying hello to Liz Lochhead and Gerry Loose, reading a poem, listening to mental health stories and more poems. Etta, Fiona, Heather Macmillan, & others there and new people too. Etta said she got mistaken for me at a meeting. I can see it as she is very cheery and about my height and size, similar hairstyle. We had a laugh about that. Then home again over the Campsies, and through more lovely trees. I am going to Glenrothes at the weekend. English readers may like to know that Glenrothes does not rhyme with clothes, but with bothers (if you say it the English way without the r). It means a lot of time away as I am also going to Manchester next week. And I desperately need to get the next PS on the stocks. I know what's going in it. It's to be the Clackmannanshire Bridge issue -which edifice opens in November. [17 October] Idiom wrinkle: I wrote that I got a lift from a woman. Wanting to add that she was kind, it was necessary to say kind lady. Kind woman wasn't right The third pic for my Stirling castle exhibition is teak tree leaves. Teaks lose their leaves in the dry season so they probably go brown like the above decorations. The pic I am using is a photo of the green trees. Autumn trees this year are fantastic. I've seen them from buses this week, as I took my car down to Dunblane to the garage. It's an awkward place to get to without the car. Came back by Stirling the day before yesterday. Last night the car was ready but I didnt have time to fetch it. This morning I bussed to Doune, where the Doune-Dunblane bus had departed five minutes before our arrival. Leah from Venice, who lives in Callander and has learnt Gaelic, was on the way to the Falkirk Mod. She greeted me in Gaelic then started gabbling in Gaelic to the bus driver - she knows precisely who has the old language of these parts, which has barely been heard in such places as public transport (today) or the Kirk Hall (the Poetry Weekend) in fifty years. An amazing resurgence. At Doune there were no taxis either, so I walked to the junction the other side of Doune and hitched. I got a lift within minutes, from a kind lady who took me to the eastern Dunblane junction of the A9. I settled for the car, & drove to Glasgow - not such a long way, but I am still not too familiar with central Glasgow parking & fidn it harder than Edinburgh.. Anyway I got to the Mitchell. Trees in Glasgow also noticeable. A most interesting afternoon at Larry's Lapidus conference, talking to friends, giving out Poetry Scotland, saying hello to Liz Lochhead and Gerry Loose, reading a poem, listening to mental health stories and more poems. Etta, Fiona, Heather Macmillan, & others there and new people too. Etta said she got mistaken for me at a meeting. I can see it as she is very cheery and about my height and size, similar hairstyle. We had a laugh about that. Then home again over the Campsies, and through more lovely trees. I am going to Glenrothes at the weekend. English readers may like to know that Glenrothes does not rhyme with clothes, but with bothers (if you say it the English way without the r). It means a lot of time away as I am also going to Manchester next week. And I desperately need to get the next PS on the stocks. I know what's going in it. It's to be the Clackmannanshire Bridge issue -which edifice opens in November. [17 October] Idiom wrinkle: I wrote that I got a lift from a woman. Wanting to add that she was kind, it was necessary to say kind lady. Kind woman wasn't right Lapwing I left by the Manchester motorway system to meet Carol at Euxton, Chorley. We had a great birdwatching walk in woods and hills not unlike our Callander braes, then an excellent meal in the Railway Inn - no railways left there. I proceeded without problems home via the M6 and M73, arriving at midnight. I hadnt gone to read (though I would have read if the event had made it possible) but to meet people, and have a couple of days out. I enjoyed it. [25 October] Fruday at BBC Scotland with the Castle writers, arranged by Kirstin and Gill, was outstanding. We went by minibus early from Stirling and drove to Glasgow, over the squinty bridge to the riverside block on Pacific Quay. We spent the day with Johanna and her team in the LAB, an educational / PR unit where we all learnt so much and had fun recording our work, interviewing each other to produce short talks (the interview questions were edited out leaving the talks). We worked closely with computer sound and picture editors, and produced six minute sound / picture recordings of our writing. Teamed with Alison Hyslop, I read from her story and she read my poem. Her Scottish voice matched well with the persona of the kitchen girl in the Castle, who was upset when the holly tree was cut down. It was my only finished poem so far from the Castle project. I revised it over Thursday/Friday night before going to the Beeb, after considering feedback from Chris and the others at Stirling Writers. I changed all but the first and last two stanzas, simplifying the story in the middle section, and it was proved right in the recording, with pictures of trees, the courtyard, and some images of kitchen workers in the castle. As I had got up and written the final version from two till five a.m. then got an alarm call at 6.30 for the 7 a.m. bus into Stirling, I was very tired afterwards, but it was a great day, showing how work is produced by co-operation within the BBC, and demonstrating many techniques of production. We had lunch upstairs at the subsidised and excellent canteen, and a look round the building too. I bumped into Robin Thomson in the foyer. I dont know what will happen with the recordings, but they belong to the BBC, we will get copies, and they might be going on their website somewhere. [13 Sept, of 12 Sept] 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 backberry-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. Typically the church and manse have been built on the central site of the old civilisation, and the Manse is now the museum - the church's supplanting of its predecessors. We drove on through Argyll back to Inveraray and Tarbet and then down the West coast of Loch Lomond to Balloch. Then straight east to Stirling and our usual Monday evening supermarket scoop. [15 September] Where has the week gone? Another writer friend, publisher and bookman Duncan Glen died, and I have been ensuring that people know who are in my lines of communication. He published my first poem in Scotland around 1980, and one in a zed2o somewhere around last year. And he did the same for many, many others, as he was not obsessed with a narrow establishment, like the majority of people who held literary power in his time. I have been working on a selection of Sheena's poems which is difficult as there are so many. Compared to this, Chris Powici's windfall was comparatively easy, though we had long discussions over it early in the summer. it is now going back to him in a licked-into-shape state, and barring big revisions, should be in production pretty soon. I suppose that's quite a lot to have done with a week. I havent been brambling yet but will soon, nor mushroom hunting though I cannot eat mushrooms myself, nor apple preserving though I am surrounded with them. That's the way, you are either living in a a flat and preserving hedgerow fruit like mad, or you are staring at kilos of the stuff in your own garden and nearby fields, wondering when to make a start. [I did go out for brambles after this: they are plentiful and large, and it took no time to fill a big pan.] Kirkcaldy in the sunshine I wish my friends would stop dying, it has been rather a year of funerals, and more are threatened. We had a day in Kirkcaldy, Dunfermline's feisty neighbour, for Duncan Glen's funeral. Duncan was an important figure in Scottish literature, a leader in independent Scots publication and we had a lot to do with him on and off over the years, though not very recently. He had arranged his own service and it was secular but very dignified and right. A lot of our associates from Scottish poetry there, and a chance to talk to some people we don't see all that often. Such as Peter France and Joyce Caplan, Maureen Sangster, John Herdman, and Tessa Ransford who had just had a 70th birthday party. Such as Tom Hubbard, who only heard about Duncan yesterday in Dublin, and made it over. Margaret Gillies Brown sat by us and we drove her back to Perth, where her car was, calling in at Inchmichael for a cuppa in her farm kitchen. Arrived home really tired, had Callander pizzas and slept early. [26 September] E-trip to Chicago Offered a small role via internet in the festival Chicago Calling, I jumped to and started thinking about what might be done, discovering quickly there was only a fortnight to go. A week down the line my first proposal went awry because the other poet turned out to be simply too busy. I was quite happy to let things wait till next year but with now only a week left, I am offered a collaboration with another poet who is ready to go. Ha! All we need is some subject matter to start off the electricity that lets you write poems. So my mind moves to Chicago, to New Orleans, and to whatever I may have to offer this writer, in terms of moving close enough to their work to spark something we can jointly turn into a presentation. The poet has bravely (and most capably) said yes he will take part in whatever project I suggest. Can it be done? Watch this space [1 October) It is now 3rd October and we are all set for a poetry reading in Chicago on Sunday - me while sitting here using skype! Dan at Chicago Calling linked me up with Robert Klein Engler , a poet - a good poet, and a gay jewish cathoilc poet to be precise - and we quickly got a presentation up and running, as you can see on my two Chicago pages. I worked pretty hard on it as a matter of fact. Robert sent me a group of poems about Chicago, and I worked round them to make up a series with a travel theme. I wrote two fairly substantial new poems, and two haiku on Robert's super photographs, and worked some other travel poems, such as A Naboland Alphabet, into the sequence. Having pulled off this high-speed collaboration, we are now relaxing and chatting about our other poems, and how Robert once visited Edinburgh etc. Fingers crossed for the Sunday event. Tonight Ian and I had a good Kinbuck auction, books only, and tomorrow I go into Stirling Castle, collecting another car-load on the way. It s a good job I had already produced a portfolio of poems about the Castle, as I have been in spirit in Chicago for the last few days. [3 October -- these are post-midnight dates!] Street Art for the Internet Phew! we did it - is an understatement. I am now set up with skype and a headset. This evening I read for twenty minutes at 32nd & Urban, Chicago, with Robert Klein Engler. There were others in the programme, which was lucky, as we couldnt make contact at first. This wasnt my fault as I was fully set up and Dan and I had had a check skype call an hour earlier. But their computer wouldnt work in the venue and they struggled to get skype on another computer while the other poets read in a different order and I hung about at the ready in my kitchen. The kitchen was very quiet as I temporarily turned off the fridge and freezer and shut the door. In the end we did a friendly and enjoyable reading, though I have no idea how my sound turned out - it was put from skype onto a microphone. My skype sound test was OK but I dont know what the microphone did to it. Anyway that's it, I have read in Chicago without leaving my home. An episode I wouldnt have missed. It was marginally less trouble than going to Chicago would have been, and a whole lot cheaper of course. It was a worthwhile experiment. Art is about trying new things and experiment, and this method of reading has awesome possibilities. I'll be signing books with that cyber pen next! I told Robert our act would be street art for the internet, and he repeated this comment at the performance. I felt it was a disarming and apt description of what was actually a bit of a pantomime behind the scenes, though I expect the visible and audible part of it in Chicago worked on its own terms. Thank you very much, Dan and Robert. [5 Oct] Robert says the sound was OK over there. Afterwards I had a chat on skype with my brother Stephen in London, who had helped me test out my skype. He works in finance, and says (re the current crisis) the markets will stabilise in the long term. He had a webcam and I could see him and Chewy in his house, which seems odd when you're not used to it, but the webcam caused a distracting echo in the sound. I also had an IM chat with Don Coorough in Arizona, who had read at 32nd & Urban by telephone shortly before me [6 Oct] Notice: Microsoft has no responsibility for the content featured in this group. Click here for more info. MSN - Make it Your Home MSN Home | Hotmail | Web Search | Shopping | Money | People & Groups Help ?2004 Microsoft Corporation. All rights rese The Poetry Weekend: Sunday That's it for another year and it was all superb. It was the year of the Jazz, the year of the Gaelic, and the year of the Chanterelles. Morelle's discussion was well attended and everyone contributed and there was much interest and amusement, while Sheila, Kevin Cadwallander and Ian had a publishers' natter out the back. The events were held in the shop today and there was still not a drop of rain (must water the baskets tomorrow). We had the soups for lunch, and Larry again came up with chanterelles which were added as a starter for the venison stew and blaeberry/blackberry and apple and ice cream for our survivors' dinner, a traditionally happy occasion for those who are staying another night in Callander - Robin, Mike, Kemal and Maureen, Fred, Lucinda, Juliana, Magi and us two. Robin acquitted himself very well in the readings, as indeed did everybody. Magi McGlynn arrived just at the right moment to finish the readings: he had been talking to a squirrel on the way So, we've done it again, we dont quite know how, and we dont know how we will do it again next year, but undoubtedly we will, because some people are already talking about booking next year. [7 Sept] The Big Day (the longest day - 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] Day One Cheery cooking and tidying turned into chatting and eating and drinking as the troops assembled. We had our first reading in the garden though it became very cold, and the leaves were bobbing behind the readers, but very good readings. Then we got them all inside the shop and gave them whisky to warm them up. This developed into a super buffet dinner and progressed to evening readings, followed by a read round of one or two related poems by each reader. During the day my facebook page was hacked again seriously. I reported it to facebook then closed the computer and got on with the day. Facebook have replied tonight and I will deal with it properly on Monday. We have one poet camping in the garden and three poets sleeping upstairs. We have our floor to ourselves but I am still cooking tomorrow's lunch for the hall. A great day with friends. [5 Sept] Day Zero began with an early drive to Kildean Market then frantic crossing off of jobs. Took Val her RTC box of organic veg. Morning spent between clearing office, clearing front upstairs room, arguing with a broken standard lamp, putting a few things in the flat, including a turkey to defrost, and shunting things round the kitchen. First poet arrived mid afternoon, no the first poet was Helen, who had been on a bike-ride over Glen Ample and called to say sorry she couldnt come to the weekend - well she did come, and met Juliana. Juliana was roped in to be host here for Maureen, Mike and Kemal, while we went to meet Fred and Lucinda's train and Ian went to the auction. Fred and Lucinda had been travelling from Devon since 8a.m. so they went to their B&B, and I returned home to find the party begun. We all had a picnicky sort of dinner with scrambled egg and smoked fish, which became less picnicky with whisky (for the others), fruit and shortbread. We all talked about our divorces - I think everybody had one, who didnt have two or three, and about other things too, then I threw them out to the pub before they could start washing-up, locked the place and went back to fetch Ian. He had succeeded in dodging the books (as we did not want to deal with purchases during this weekend) and had bought the kitchiest funniest multi-coloured chandelier. I bought a big box of boxes of shoes my size - about ten pairs, all new, all modern, and when we got them home, all comfortable. Since I have been down to no shoes, only boots, and have consequently been known to go out round Callander in slippers and socks, this was a very lucky buy. Last moment of peace and privacy before the fun starts in earnest tomorrow - I wont be able to cover it all in so much detail. [4 September] Ten items or less shopping Page after page - it's a great word, quickly passed from paper to electronic screen. We had a laugh on hearing Tesco have ducked the Fewer or Less debate - it does sound poncy to say Ten items or fewer. (They are changing Ten items or less to Up to ten items.) We hope for fine weather for next weekend, but we plan for anything, and today it is pouring so hard we are almost washed out. We went to shop for the party and did a good round of supermarkets. We could only buy certain things this far in advance. We don't usually shop on Sundays but it gave us a chance to get ahead of the game. We talked out fewer and less some more. Maybe ten items or less is right after all - fewer being an upper class affectation. 'Few' means 'some' or 'not many' it is not specific as to amount. If you don't know how many few is, how can fewer mean anything? Ian said Churchill gave few new mileage in his speech about so many owing so much to so few. Or is fewer another whom? Correct but nevertheless unused? And by what standard correct? Grammar maps usage, it does not prescribe use. Televisionspeak is now taken seriously (hence the foreword to the Collins English Dictionary by Jeremy Paxman, a high profile language user but far too busy to actually read Burns ): shouldnt supermarketspeak count as well? [31 August] Appendix 1: Sally's beat style poem, written on request from Tony Lewis Jones for Various Artists Virtual Festival, 10 September and published by email circular. (I have already sent my poem Chanterelles, 8 Sept, to PS website where it is up on the Feedback page) : Appendix 2: Poetry Weekend Menus Thursday: early arrivals supper: scrambled eggs, smoked fish, picnic style on round shop table. Picnic theme followed through with whisky, bananas and shortbread. Friday: evening party: whisky ( to warm them after chilly outdoor session). roast turkey, haggis, beanburgers, salads, oatcakes, big bowls fruit salad. Saturday: lunch in Kirk Hall: roast vegetables, ratatouille, in large pans. Hard boiled eggs. Cheese. Chanterelles collected and cooked by Larry Butler. Guinness Cake made by Elizabeth Rimmer. Tea and coffee. Saturday evening party: party style on gray table in shop: cold food platters, smoked salmon, mortadella, beanburger, salads, crisps, olives, shortbread, baclavas. Sunday lunch: soup, veggie (sweetcorn and pepper), meat (turkey and mortadella) bread and cheese. Sunday dinner for the survivors (ten people): chanterelles on toast, venison stew, blackberry and apple filo dumplings with ice cream and blaeberries, cheese, tea and coffee. Throughout, except in the Kirk Hall, quantities of Red and White Wine and a fair amount of Whisky were enjoyed. Also some Cairn O'Mohr gooseberry wine, Fraoch Heather Ale, etc. The two bottles Cava were found behind a curtain during the tidying up, so I apologise for my aspersions on the drinking habits of unspecified poets. Notice: Microsoft has no responsibility for the content featured in this group. Click here for more info. MSN - Make it Your Home MSN Home | Hotmail | Web Search | Shopping | Money | People & Groups Help ?2004 Microsoft Corporation. All rig Scotland in August Domestic Action I will probably be too old for all this in a few years' time. I blitz-cleaned the kitchen this morning in preparation for the forthcoming party. Not only are the cats sulking because they barely recognise the room, my hands are so stiff they are almost out of action. My son has been immersed in the madness that is Edinburgh Festival for the last month. It was far longer than usual since we'd heard from him, despite being able to spy on him mildy via his websites. I began to wonder how he was. So I phoned him this evening. I'm fine, he said, but I'm moving this weekend - er, any chance you could come over and help me? This was a little awkward for him, as he is politically anti-car. I agreed with alacrity. There's nothing that makes you want to join in and help your grown up children with their concerns, so much as their complete disappearance from the scene. I often wonder what it 's like for parents who don't have a life of their own - the ones the kids want you to be like. Kids aren't happy, poor things, if they turn up at an open mic night to find their mum is in the slam. They want you to wear an apron and Mom's-taxi them round Edinburgh and they want to slag you off for being square, if they ever use that term. But my son does still like us, and is grateful if we find him two boxes of up-to-the-minute books on his specialism (we just have). I have a daughter too, but she is in the south of England, and goes to other peoples second hand bookshops by preference. She and I keep tabs on each other mainly by reading each other's blogs from time to time. She is knitting a complex lacy scarf. I am arranging a party. Parents, honestly! [27 August] 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. Christopher Whyte's book of Gaelic poems with translations by other hands, including mine, is off to the publishers. He asked me to change a phrase in a long translation completed some time ago, as he had taken a scunner to a phrase I had used. I had 19th century opera singer Maria Malibran thinking about Rossini, whom naturally she greatly admired, and that she would maybe have to "jump into bed with dear old Rossini" to persuade him to write her some songs. I didnt agree with Christopher that this was "jolly hockey sticks," but I gave in of course. It is Christopher's book not mine, but as he once said, far more people will probably read mine and the other translators' work in English than will ever read the Gaelic. You'll be able to read my English of his Gaelic interpretation of Maria Malibran when the book comes out from Acair in the spring. Books and flowers The bandstand now installed and planted up, we bought twelve ?5 hanging baskets for the village, brightening up our end of Callander ready for the poetry weekend. We had a big auction last night, a very large library of modern books up for grabs. We bought three car loads and because I was booked for the Stirling Castle project on Friday, we took two loads home on Thursday night, giving ourselves a half hour turn around time, emptying and refilling the same lot of boxes, and working ourselves into the ground. We finally left the auction at 10pm and finished after midnight. I went for the third load on the way into Stirling, leaving Ian to work through a shop piled high with new books and nowhere to put them. We continued our Castle project with a talk by Jo of BBC Scotland. Colin Will arrived by arrangement, met the other members of the project, and then he and I walked round the huge Castle area, looking at the gardens and trees, the views, the Hall, the buildings, and the tapestry workshops. Afterwards we had lunch with Ian in the garden at home, & a chat about this & that & the other. I then did the afternoon session in the shop. Two weeks to the Poetry Weekend, there is a lot of planning and work to do, which this load of books has slightly cut into. There are dozens of readers to arrange into the programme, menus to plan, forks plates and glasses to count, and clearing of decks to be done. It always seems like an easy going weekend but many things have to be planned in detail to give it an even chance of going without a hitch. Exciting suggestions - such as the jazz group - are coming up every day just now, and I will be putting the detailed programme onto the website in a day or two. [22 August] Acceleration Acceleration towards the Poetry Weekend, now three weeks away. Accounts still not cracked - and may possibly be late, by the look of things. Just beginning to shop and freeze for the catering. We've finished setting up the Bandstand, which the cats consider has been done for their benefit- they are forever stalking in and out of it and sitting in the middle. The Stirling castle project has been extended to October, and I am busy with some series of poems though I have no sending-out organised. There are the shroud poems, the Castle Trees (a long way to go on this) and the Unpoems (coming along well, possibly nearly finished). I am feeling distinctly jumpy about all the jobs to be done, but will be roaring away on the Weekend details in about a week. [17 August] Loose ends Wednesday Kwikfit did have my jacket. And we were offered a refund for the empty box - this also probably due to Ian's abililty to come up with the phrase that plays. Then - we went for a walk on the top strip of Cramond beach, in lashing rain, wind and rough high tide. We have barely seen the sea all year. It was almost like sailing, and my skirt and feet got so wet I had to drive home in my petticoat. We are flooring the bandstand in granite cobbles. Thursday A great trip after 5pm, to Appin via Glencoe, then to Oban. Coast to coast in two evenings. We have given ourselves a few last summer trips before the really hard work of this month begins, and tomorrow morning I go to the Castle again. We have also realised a lifetime's ambition and got The Bees book on the stall at the top of Glencoe. [6,7 August] A Day on the Road Off to Kwikfit to sort out the judder on the car. I thought it was the exhaust but the lad said it was the coil. Fairly expensive but they are quick and quite good (theres that quick/good/cheap business turning up again). They also gave me back an umbrella I left last time, and tomorrow I'm going to phone and see if they've got my black jacket that also disappeared unaccountably. I'd just like to solve the mystery. While waiting I went to post the last 100 Poetry Scotlands. To my astonishment the main Post Office in Stirling, from which countless highland distances are calculated, has been closed and moved to upstairs in W H Smiths in the pedestrian mall. Horrors. I went up and joined a 15-customer queue of women with brawling brats and sheep-haired old ladies with two sticks. It wasnt the cashiers' fault. When I got there I was treated well, the stamps found, space given to stick them on, all completed. But I'd rather go down to Brig of Turk by Loch Katrine (which didnt lose its post office, though everyone who lives there needs four by fours and has to go at least to Callander for everything else) than return to that fray. Then I went to xxxxx and took the rain-cover box back to the auction with my complaint. The clerk said she would tell the boss who wasnt there. I looked in a garden centre to have a quick peep and came out with a mere two plants. Then drove home. After we shut the shop we set off again, in search of granite sets for the Bandstand. We found their last ten pieces at one garden centre and got them cheap, then called at xxxx again and caught the boss in. He was unsmiling, said no the staff hadnt told him anything, then phoned another member of staff to ask if I had returned a box, as though I might have been making it up! He is known to hate giving refunds, and we had reported it a day late through not having opened the box, our mistake. We stood our ground, saying the box being empty was not like, say a bolt missing, and he finally said he would see about getting us another one from his store. We then set off with our picnic into the countryside around the Antonine Wall. There are many small roads and we werent sure which we were on, but we found a quiet layby and had a good picnic, during which it started to rain. Meanwhile a large symphony of emergency sirens went off in all directions around us, and a police car and then an ambulance tore past our picnic, so we continued on small roads to the Stirling roundabout, and joined our motorway home. [5 August] The Bandstand story is mostly on the garden page, but it symbolises the preparation for Callander Poetry Weekend in September. We can't actually let anybody sleep in it, but it has again transformed the worst part of the garden into a very good part, as happened with the courtyard area a year ago. The summer PS is posted out, bar the last three letters of alphabet. Another batch went in the post today. So we are practically ready for the countdown to the big party. Just a little matter of totally clearing up the house, and doing a year's accounts which are required at an unaccustomed time of year, due to some change or other. Meanwhile the Edinburgh Festival survives without us, and after those decades embroiled in it we no longer give it a second thought, and are merely glad we are too far away to hear the fireworks. There is a time and a place in everyone's life for it. And we have noticed that not so many people come from Edinburgh as from elsewhere to the Callander Weekend. It is just after the festival and some people are utterly worn out by that stage. What they need of course, is a day or two in the country, so perhaps we will see some of them this time. I'm taking part in a fantastic series of mornings at Stirling castle, as part of a writers workshop project. The first morning, this week, we were shown round, had a talk on the education work, an overview of the museum holdings and a good look at the tapestry weaving house. Our project is mainly for inexperienced people but I asked the Adult Education organiser and the AE writing tutor, Gill Bastock, if they'd mind if I joined them as it seemed such an exciting idea. We have the run of the castle for the month, but I probably wont have time for more than the Friday mornings. They are hoping people will write something and I have already written two poems, one of which went down well on my email list. I havent sent the other yet. For me the challenge is to make some poetry out of the pleasing and true things behind the rather grim history and opulence of the castle. I would like to produce twenty or more poems, that would be four a week, in different styles but with a thread running through them, which I would not see until I had done them, but which I would expect to talk to me about finding quiet, consoling and possibly amusing things among the harsh. [2 August] ______________________________________________________________ Solzhenitsyn dies at 89 The great icon of writers' freedom - and writers' constraints - has died at 89. Perhaps the greatest literary figure of the twentieth century, and of our age. Like most people in the British isles, I never met him or heard him read in person. But isnt writing communicating without the need for meeting between author and reader? The original cyberland? He is the epitome of courage as a writer, yet when he became famous he inevitably became a pawn in politics between Russia and the West - as though disestablishment writers here were to go to a sort of anti-Scotland or anti-England where they would be hailed as great genuises who had fallen foul of the system. However, as Alan Jackson once said to me, they can ignore you as much as they like, but at least no one shoots you here. Look at what happened to Miroslav Holub. He was not even on the equivalent of an Arts Council Writers Register in his own country while reading his poems to big audiences in the West - he was not considered an official writer. Alexander Solzhenitsyn really was a great genius. His strength and courage, shown in his long life through such momentous times, as well as in his ability to describe the great and frightening themes of political history, make him someone we must all revere. And this is true for all of us even if dark prison novels are not our personal cup of literary tea. At last, he is dead and safe. Ordinary people will ask for his books in bookshops, while countless writers and journalists will finally learn to spell his name today. [4 August] Utterly and happily worn out after conference with very high time pressure: three full days of papers, readings, talks and talk. I did a session with Niall O'Gallagher, a poetry reading, and a chairing session, in which I was very fierce as time overrunning had become a problem. We had readings by Ciaran Carson and Eilean Ni Chuilleanain. Translation gurus Lawrence Venuti and Paul Davis both gave lectures. So did medievalist Rita Copeland, on the Ars Poetica. Elaine Feinstein gave a really interesting talk, on Tsvetaeva etc, and others on all sorts of topics, Horace, (I met Maureen Almond again, this time with a chance to talk properly), Homer (including Mary's discussion of Penelope), Persian, Romantic (Ian Fairley on Wordsworth and untranslatability )- and modern. I especially enjoyed a lecture on Pope's geography of Troy and one on translations of the Dido and Aeneas story. My paper, along with Niall's, was on translating ChristopherWhyte's Gaelic. The banquet and ceilidh at Stirling Castle was good and fun and I'm glad I went there. We had many new friends when we wound up this afternoon, and I learned a lot from thinking about the many roles of translation in the poetry world. I had tended to think about it mainly in connection with Scottish minority language problems, but I now see it as a necessary part of poetry as it concerns the community of poets. I have found a rationale for what I had titled Unpoems: a group of verses on a list of topics I had been unable to write poems about, despite trying several drafts. Labelling them Unpoems released me to write the pieces. Related to a comment by Coleridge on poetry defined as your response-words that cannot be changed, the Unpoems may be seen as intertextual self-translation. Website Poetry and Translation: abstracts pages these are an absorbing mix. [17-19 July] 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. The Museum of Antiquities at Newcastle, centre for Roman Wall studies is to be moved into a new museum, called the Great North Museum, any time now. My memories of the Mithras temple, both at Carrawburgh or Brocolitia and in its reproduction at the Newcastle museum, are still unresolved. Birley or Gillam standing among the green grass and brown earth, telling us Brocolitia meant cabbage patch. The military road with its scary dips that freaked Ian out. I have tried to write about Carrawburgh before, and the unpoem is still there in my mind. The unpoem is the poem that one felt strongly should exist, but would not realise itself. There is an unpoem about the Museum of Antiquities too. I havent really got the blues but sometimes it seems never ending. The garden is looking good mainly because Ian has taken his share and more. The ponds are still really interesting , the far part of the garden continues to improve. Yesterday we went to Glasgow to Ian and Magi's Discombobulate, a very good night. We missed the Portcullis because of it, and it looks like I may have to miss the next Portcullis too. Depends what date Alison gets for our visit to Ledard with Chrissie Bannerman. The shop has been busier for the last couple of weeks which is more work. We have had a string of good customers who bore off many bindings and sets, and three paintings from the house, one of which I am sorry to see go. Tomrrow I am going to Helensburgh to an opening of an exhibition by my friend Lynn, who has embroidered a lot of bookmarks for a project called There are no pockets in shrouds. I gave her the words for one of the bookmarks. I am looking forward to it. I am writing too much in this blog. I need to go back to Myspace and do some themed blogs there. I am still not in a smooth pattern of writing since the Bees came out. This not writing is now beginning to unsettle or even depress me, so I must deal with it. After Hill House I need to get ready for the Stirling conference, go over my paper and have some Gaelic sound playing too. But enough for now. [9 July] Lynn Wilson's Exhibition: There are No Pockets in Shrouds Over to Hill House, Helensburgh at Lynn's invitation to the opening of her exhibition. Lynn is a textile artist. She had asked friends to write on bookmarks one item they would take in the pocket of their shroud. She embroidered these phrases on the bookmarks, which drew in others to the artwork, but she had also woven five symbolic shrouds, and exhibited a sixth one she searched for and bought in Madagascar. These were very large, based she said on the Turin shroud, and hung in panels, folded to about two feet by seven feet, except for the wider African fabric. Lynn's father lives in Callander and popped in to ask for a lift the day before, so Gilbert & I set off & arrived at Hill House rather early. We looked round the gardens, before being admitted to the famous Rennie Mackintosh house that was built for the publisher Blackie. Outside I found the style eccentric, but the interior was excellent, reminding me strongly of Elizabethan proportions of rooms and funiture such as those moved from Hutton Castle to The Burrell Collection. All the furniture and decoration was kosher and it felt like being in a good private house but for the fact that you werent allowed to sit on the chairs (and but for the reconstituted crisps that went with the fizzy white wine and orange juice). 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, and watch for the links to the photos. The exhibition runs till 28 August. [9 July] ** Lynn if you read this I'm trying to get an email that works for you - please get in touch! I have some shroud poems for you already! ** Blaeberry Time It's one of those inexplicable things that make me really happy - picking blaeberries in the Trossachs, at our picnic site. They are rich and ripe and plentiful right now, and we were there this and yesterday evenings, picking pints and pints and bringing them back for the freezer, and some to eat right away. Raspberries and wild strawberries are ready too. Apart from trying to get in touch with Lynn (see note above), I have been studying the Stirling conference website, and ascertained that not only do I give a paper, I am to chair another session and do a short poetry reading, one of these things on each day. I have been checking out the sessions and poets and readers and academics - enjoying the range of intelligent topics, reading abstracts, and working out what happens when. Who needs MI5 when you have a poetry conference website? [14 July] Waterlilies they are out, one red & one white so far. The Stirling writers came, for a session indoors - it was threatening rain on the night - and refreshments including Jean's wine, Elizabeth's lemon cake, John and Nancy's raspberries and the almost inevitable blaeberry pie. We gave Katrina a red waterlily in exchange for a haiku she wrote about last year's waterlily, which came second in a contest in New Zealand. This morning, there being no immediate other busy events, exhaustion hit me after my last week/month/three months, and I slept till midday, unheard of for me. At lunch time we swapped over. We're picking raspberries in the garden and blaeberries up the glen. There is a fair bit to do to the garden, and both the office and bindery need an overhaul, but that's about all straight away, before beginning to get ready for the Poetry Weekend in early September. [23 July] Notice: Microsoft has no responsibility for the content featured in this group. Click here for more info. MSN - Make it Your Home MSN Home | Hotmail | Web Search | Shopping | Money | People & Groups Help ?2004 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved. Terms of Use Advertise T down page: Balquhidder Book Festival, the Adder man from Valleyfield, midsummer picnic, Inversnaid] Greenhouse frames Maybe we need something else to stop us being jaded, but you'd think we had enough on...we have been measuring and visualising for a large greenhouse in the orchard area. Possibly with a tree or two growing through it. It may not happen yet but it took our minds off the rest - Ian's parents, the quiet trading, the poetry editing: tiredness and sore shoulders, all those readings of The Bees. [Delivery van-person Sally took three copies to Stirling Libraries as ordered, today.] And the fact we have to do the accounts, and spruce up the house and garden, and prepare for the Poetry Weekend, in the next two months. But you have to go forwards... [4 July] Midsummer madness The roads have been quiet, weather wet, this week and we had some great evening picnics in the rain, sheltering under back of car and watching lochs and forests, or in Wednesday's case, less probably in a quiet corner of Corstorphine. We paid cheques in at Edinburgh (I didnt have to park as I waited chauffeur-like in Charlotte Square), called by Ians parents' house as they are going through an old age crisis (but Ians Dad was out), and went to Falkirk auction where we considered buying an outdoor room frame to turn into a greenhouse. We didnt buy this week but are still considering, tape measuring and talking about it. We bought a few books in our travels, and I also bought an outfit for performances etc that I saw last time we were in Dunfermline. Dunfermline an unlikely place for it too. It's a black jacket heavily sparkled with gold, black skirt and blouse with a splash of colour, very Sally. It will no doubt appear in my photos before too long. The Bees continues well. Stirling Libraries ordered three, and one bookish customer came in with unexpected congratulations. Christopher Whyte emailed to say Acair are going to do his book called Bho Leabhar-Latha Maria Malibran/From the Notebooks of Maria Malibran with my translations of two long poems, including the title poem, and a short one. Their date for the book is early 2010. Acair are now probably the main Gaelic publisher. They do Angus Peter Campbell's novels and many other books without English, which is what diehard always worked for. In Christopher's case, the translations are poems by other poets, which is what he wanted. Thursday, though I didnt really want another long drive, we went round via the Forth Bridge & Dalgety Bay with Richard L, then called again and caught Ian's father in the garden. We were able to listen to his plans and give a bit of moral support. He is fighting to get Nettie returned to the house from the hospital up the road. Nettie is not really with it now, but has the good instinct to refuse to accept food from anyone but Bert. We got home in time to have a curry dinner in the garden, the rain staying off. [2 July, 3 July] Book Festival [I have been asked to write this up for the Balquhidder/Strathyre Villagers newsletter so I shall draw on this personal account towards my copy and subsequently change, delete or curtail this item.] The weather was much nicer than last year and the events and ambience were excellent. We went up on Friday evening for the open questions panel, in which I was a panellist, before which I was nervous, and during which talkative, but to the right extent. Chaired by Keith Graham, it was enjoyed by everybody and did not let up for two hours. The main thing that got discussed was poetry. There were hoary complaints that modern poetry didnt rhyme and that kids didnt learn poetry by heart any more, and that people didnt know where to start with modern poetry (David Craig surprisingly and firmly suggested Adrian Mitchell). There were also questions about natural history writing, about local publishing, and about the storytelling tradition, strongly answered by Neil McArthur. The panel turned all these slightly disjointed questions into a lively and smooth discussion with underlying agreement among a group of writers who shared strong feelings about Scotland, the natural world, poetry and communication. We had a digression on limericks and one on the fate of letters between writers. I missed Jim's early Saturday session as I had a shop appointment, a visit from Ann Scott. Ann wanted some diehard books and to chat about favourite bookshops, New York, the Globe Theatre and Shakespeare etc and then we got onto Angus C whom she had known in the Open University. We also had a little look round the garden. I was back in BalQ for Keith Graham's account of his natural history interests, the badgers who came out at one minute past the London evening express every night, his pet fox that lived to 13, his deer he could coax home with rich tea biscuits, his dog that went otter-watching with him, the ospreys, the radio recordings, and his 33 year ongoing stint of weekly conversational wildlife columns in the Stirling Observer. In the afternoon there was David's reading and analysis of his novel about the Clearances, the Unbroken Harp. He went out and sought transmitted family memories of the clearances, as well as using recorded sources. I liked David's comment from I've forgotten which writer: if nothing is happening in the novel you are writing, then solve it by having a grand piano fall through the ceiling. I liked his plot, his factual research accounts and his reading. Next was a longish slide show of outstanding photos, mainly of seascapes, mountains and ruined crofts, by David .... the photograper of the joint book on the Clearances with David Craig. David ... finished with various shots of trees and landscape details of the Killin area, where he now lives, & of Kinlochleven and Golspie, with both of which places he has connections. At the end of this long afternoon I was invited to give a brief account of The Bees. As I could see they had had a long session I kept it to 10 minutes. I told them I would give them the 'Grand piano' incident in The Bees, explained it a little, and read the Ballinluig sequence which is just up the road along past Killin from there. This presentation went down fine and I promised them some saner poets this evening. The evening poetry (for which I fetched Ian from Callander) was a good balance of five poets showing much variety. Chris Powici had unfortunately been taken ill. Billy Letford, who stood in at two days notice, set the ball rolling with accomplished performance poems. Jayne Wilding followed with her delicately observed poems, both from her earlier diehard book and from newer work. Jim Crumley read six short poems, on ecology themes. I then read the first half of Canto Two, a highland section well suited to Balquhidder, and finally David Craig took the floor with a smoothly linked selection from his impressive range of work. Some of the Stirling writers had come up for the reading and they too were impressed, both with Billy's debut and the interesting mix of style. The ceilidh in the Rob Roy bar included songs with the resident guitar and accordion (the former being Jim Crumley again) and violin from Jean and Caroline. Jean and Caroline, from Stirling writers, are classical musicians and they hadn't played like this in a bar before. It was great fun to see how they warmed up and enjoyed it, as they realised they could cope. Later the Stirling contingent went home, and then Donald McLaren came in, back from Afghanistan and ?Hereford on a short leave, and we each had chats with him - Ian a men's pals chat out the back, and me a polite & friendly one indoors. We then gave Ruth a lift to B&B near Balquhidder Kirk, and returned around midnight, bringing the forgotten picnic back indoors and eating it in the kitchen. Adders Later we remembered the lad we gave a lift to Lochearnhead, who said he bred adders collected from the wild and then redistributed them carefully in the wild. He discussed this passion intelligently all the way to Lochearnhead. He was bitten once, he said, and it only felt like a really bad burning sensation for about eighteen hours. We were not surprised to learn he had a granny in Valleyfield - the toughest village near Dunfermline. Even Hitler feared the Valley, was their motto after the Spanish Civil War, when their lads took on Hitler's SS divison in an orange grove, tied ammo to the trees, and shot the ammo from up the back. What's an adder bite to a guy like that?[29 June of 28 June] Quiet summer days & relatively peaceful at that. I take stock of the garden, noticing a few ragged edges from neglect, nothing that cant be soon put right. Am finishing the next Poetry Scotlands, as I want them in by first week of July which is next week. Poetry Weekend beginning to sort itself out, too. Have decided it will take too much out of Sunday Morning to decamp to a Trossachs viewpoint, so we will be satisfied with our own Callander viewpoint here in town. The roses are super just now, the paeonies likewise, the fish are flourishing and we have waterlily buds. I think the garden page is full. The question of learning to use my camera has come out of the wainscot: I meant to have pics of the garden this year. But I also have a problem putting new pics on this site. I can put them on Facebook and Myspace no bother, but there is a glitch in the set-up here and new pics won't come up. Hence the present sneaky recycling. At least it conserves my ration of cyberspace. Inversnaid, Midsummer In the general ignorance of which actually is the shortest night or longest day, we make this point of the year spin as far as it will: although it will now get darker progressively till December, this does not feel depressing because it is so very light. Wet weather makes the evening a little darker of course, but wetness adds to the forest. Last night Judy Taylor was here, so we all three took a grand picnic dinner to our Leannach "Dining Room," the familiar table, familiar view where Ian can remember there being a cottage once, so we partly inherit that old home. A wonderful outlook over mountain scenery, Ben An, brush and birches, bog myrtle, blaeberry scrub and encroaching bracken, bog, water, lichen, buzzards, some small birdsong and fresh air. Our table, our car park, our practised picnic bringing, food hot and cold, salads, casserole, pasta, wine, pies, cake and coffee. We dont usually bother with wine as I have to drive and Ian doesnt want it, but Judy had brought some so I had a little glass. That reminds me, the rest of the bottle is still in the car. We then went up to the poetry viewpoint I've referred to recently: there seems to have been some secret poet-artist collaboration, a few mountain poems rather half heartedly engraved on stones, but the many flat page-like stones add atmosphere and you can get cars right up to the viewpoint. A definite possible for Poetry Weekend Sunday breakfast, weather permitting. Or weather being ideal. We then tossed up between Inversnaid and the nearer south end of Loch Katrine. Inversnaid won. Over the piper's road to Aberfolye and then out past Provost Fergus Wood's farm into the wilds. So atmospheric, but rattling roads for the car - beyond the Provost's farm. On being made Provost, Fergus had the roads resurfaced all the way from his farm to Stirling, as top priority. You have to admire him. Inversnaid was its usual fantastic self, still and quiet as anything even this time of year. We passed about two cars all the way. Down to Stronalacher to gaze on the empty glen of Loch Katrine, then back on the long brae to Inversnaid, with high mountains the other side of Loch Lomond towering beyond. Inversnaid jetty was built so forty-eight carthorses could pull the steamer from there to Loch Katrin. Must have been some sight. Hopkins' waterfall just the same as then, yellow wagtails at Inversnaid and a pair of short eared owls crusing low over their boglands on the way back. Oak leaves. Deer in water meadows near Kinlochard. Trees. Home to a good night's sleep for everyone - we were out four hours. This morning Judy went back to Aberdeen and we had a good shop day, including selling three of Ian's Scottish bindings to a new customer from Glasgow, who knows Fred Woodward. 21-22 June 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. I met Eileen for lunch while Sheena mooched round, then we met Richie and Stef at the theatre door. We didnt have a very big audience but I think they liked our offerings. We met Bob Davidson and Moira outside waiting for their event - I had not known they were going to be there. And then it was a dash back, on the same well known road, and this time I varied it by going onto the smaller roads at Newtonmore, where I discovered a petrol crisis was looming and filled the tank. Well you do don't you. I continued home using the Ballinluig overbridge (to which I have contributed my twopenceworth) and back again round the lochs. At home I found Ian well worn out by the large influx of books that arrived yesterday, piled everywhere possible and several impossible places, and he had had quite a busy day in the shop. I took my turn today, Sunday, sorting books, dealing with the shop and attempting to tidy things up a bit. We are now both well tired - it's been that sort of week. Paul my brother phoned early one day to say he has a baby granddaughter, Isabel Charlotte. So life goes on. He was very excited. Poetry goes on: Les Murray Life goes on - and so does poetry - after the death of a friend, a poet, and an exact contemporary. This evening we went to Les Murray at Glasgow. We had planned to go to Ullapool before Angus' funeral was arranged, but had to catch Les at Glasgow instead. It was good because I saw a lot of the Glasgow and Ayrshire crowd I dont see so often, and some like Nuala Watt and Julie McAnulty and Eddie Gibbon I hadnt seen for ages. The Stirling academics were there, Alistair McRae and others, and Jim Carruth who made the farmer's son connection (inevitably). It was a fun reading with the usual wry comments from Les, and an audience approaching 100. People had made the effort, from Edinburgh, Stirling, Ayrshire, Coatbridge, and Glasgow. We will all go a good deal out of our way in Scotland to hear Les Murray. Although I would have preferred to hear Les himself in Ullapool, I must get down to more Glasgow readings and keep better in touch with the people there. [12 June] Almost druidical It was a different funeral and one that worked really well, in a hidden cemetery that had war graves, the graves of pilots and Poles - Ian inspected the graves and talked to the burial ground official about who was buried there. Angus would have approved his historical method. I fetched Sheena Blackhall from Dhanakosa up Balquhidder, giving myself time for a quick quiet walk up to the waterfall behind Balquhidder Kirk, a beautiful and secret place in case the woodland burial in Edinburgh disappointed. It didnt. We all drove down in good time and found the cemetary, well hidden and hard to find, but we had checked it on Google images so knew just where it was. We were in early, hence Ian's inspection of the site, and my chance to enjoy the trees, limes, oaks and birches. Slowly a gathering of maybe 120, 130 people came together, and what was scary was I knew them all - perhaps six or ten people I didnt know or recognise. [I became puzzled by the numbers and noted down those I remembered seeing, and conked out near 60 known friends, so probably there were more people there that I didnt know than I thought - a perceptual thing. If you know more than half, then you think you know everybody.] The open air ceremony of poem reading and a homily by Stuart Kelly - who mentioned Grindles and Poetry Scotland, which was how he met Angus in the first place - poems read by Joy and by Richard Burns, newly written music with recorder and guitar - not all easy to hear. But people didnt mind. It was a brave new funeral for our new beliefs, and Angus for all his challenging behaviour (funeralspeak for occasional cuntishness) Angus deserved it. The company included all Angus' family, Douglas whom we knew as a child now a personable young man, our own friends, Beth, Eric, Joy, Murdo, Alan Jamieson and so on, and old associates like Robin Thomson, Heather Scott, Grindles customers like the musicians, people from the arts organisations such as SPL and SAC, journalists, academics, Alan Riach, Hayden Murphy, Morag and Alasdair Gray, Bashabi (who couldnt find it so was late). I didnt see any politicians, and we noticed there were very few couples - us, Alasdair and Morag, Joy and her man, Alan Taylor & Mrs, but a minute proportion of the whole. Eric of course had still been working his accountancy magic and had helped to achieve this very good funeral. The weather was most clement for a lengthy outdoor gathering. The family announced the Blue Blazer as a follow on at the last minute - right opposite our old shop. Eric had thought there was not to be an official wake venue. We went there quite the thing, Ian standing at the door showing Colin Donati that the former Grindles, now a chandelier and jewellery shop, had no customers for the hour and a half we were there, and explaining to him that you cannot do the same thing exactly for twenty five years. I talked (separately) to Jenni, Gowan, Kate, and Celia, who was just the same as ever. "Are you going to be all right now?" "No," she said, with that cheerful exasperation that was always in her voice. Beth seemed calm and relieved when she went off to Wendy's and a later flight to London. We had an easy drive back, and I took Sheena back up the glen, eventually very tired. For us, it was in some ways a wake for Grindles as well for as Angus our friend, for whom we were more or less a doorkeeper when he lived beside the shop. And one important thing I suddenly realised, the attacks on the Bronte discovery were attacks on the impetuous, irreverent and brilliant Angus Calder as much as they were attacks on us. As a thinking man he vastly outshone the majority. [12 June of 11 June] A Dry Week... and we need rain, the garden needs rain, the plants need rain, the atmosphere needs rain. Hilary brought four lovely hanging baskets for the street outside the shop, and I have two I made for the shop front. I cut grass up the long drive today - we did get more blades for the grass cutter. I have sorted out a "Duo" Poetry Scotland with Maurice Lindsay and James Aitchison. They are old friends & Maurice now in late eighties.James also well retired. Maurice wanted a dedicated issue but he didnt have enough poems - only half enough. So I dropped him a line saying I was trying to think what to do, then I sent the suggestion of doing the Duo. Then I got a letter saying he was "dismayed" but I did not realise it was a reply to the first letter and not a response to the Duo suggestion. Much confusion, eventually sorted out by a phone call to Joyce Lindsay. As James had sent me plenty of poems very promptly, I have practically finished the duo, but have a bit more to do to the Summer issue it will go with. On the whole, however, well on time. Went to Great Grog yesterday, many people too young (or too new to Edinburgh) to know Angus - startling. I spoke about him - for less than two minutes - to remember this Edinburgh poet and historian as poetry continues in Edinburgh. Michael Standen just died too I hear, nice chap from North of England but didnt know him well, & besides I am preoccupied with Angus & our mutual associates. G G the usual well put together line-up, with Mike Stocks whom I hadnt heard before and whose sonnets really impressed me. The others I knew much better, Eleanor, Jim and Kapka. The noise from the bar can be quite severe but it forces the poets to use their voices properly - not a bad thing perhaps. Its getting good to see GG people regularly - Violet, Maggie Christie, Andy Philip & Rob, and Hazel and Christie, and Sandy Hutchison were all there. Younger people too. Robin had been going to come along but there was a message afterwards saying sorry he'd forgotten. I'm drinking water - I need rain. [9 June] Angus Calder Summer continues busy, but not for our friend, our old Grindles Bookshop neighbourhood poet Angus Calder, who has died in Edinburgh after a serious illness. Angus knew everybody, all my poet friends in Edinburgh and many more poet friends. Like Hamish Henderson before him, he made everyone feel closely connected to him so that his departure really feels like one of the family has been lost - or certainly of my poetry "family." He died peacefully on Thursday morning, and today Murdo told Alan and Alan told me, and Gowan told Eric and Eric told me, and I phoned Beth, and sent a word of mouth message to Sheena in Balquhidder, and emailed Colin. This is remarkably similar to the way word went round while some of the writers have been organising a memorial book to him. He has a large family, but assuming the poets are asked to the funeral, I will be driving Sheena down from Balquhidder next week and meeting Beth. This poem by William Cory, a classicist, came back to me unbidden today, and although it says 'long, long ago' it seems to me right for how I am thinking of Angus. Probably others who know Angus will concur. They told me, Heraclitus, they told me you were dead, they brought me bitter news to hear and bitter tears to shed. I wept as I remembered how often you and I had tired the sun with talking and sent him down the sky. And now that thou art lying, my dear old Carian guest, a handful of grey ashes, long, long ago at rest, still are thy pleasant voices, thy nightingales, awake, for Death, he taketh all away, but them he cannot take. William Cory (Victorian, and out of copyright. I think it's a translation from the Greek Anthology. Eipe tis, Heracleiton, teon moron...) The poets came through on their way to Balquhidder today, Simon and Larry who stopped off, and Sheena and Arnander who stayed on the bus, as we'll be seeing them soon anyway. People have been asking to see "the cow room" since Sheena's poem about it became quite well known. It's a pity its full of boxes etc which look rather like junk, but are not. Ian wasn't well, made worse by the news about Angus. I finished a long and challenging book by Ouida, which I am going to discuss on the Books read page, but first I shall put out the hose on the garden, which is sufffering from lack of rain. [6 June 2008] Notice: Microsoft has no responsibility for the content featured in this group. Click here for more info. MSN - Make it Your Home MSN Home | Hotmail | Web Search | Shopping | Money | People & Groups Help ?2004 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved urther down Page: Great Grog, trip to Ullapool , Aberdeen Wordfringe. Big White June started hot and wet, and watching our pond before the rain set in, Ian saw Big White - the unoriginal name for our biggest fish - swallowing eight tadpoles. No two ways about it. I was for catching Big White and putting him in the Japanese tub until the tadpoles climb out and bugger off. Ian was for accepting Nature as it is. Half hearted attempts to catch him failed - goldfish are not easy things to catch, we discoverd last year. Then the rain came on and we abandoned the garden for the rest of the day. Tomorrow? Try to catch him again? Shift more tadpoles to a different pond? We'll see. I refuse to make a problem of it, though a story, yes. I've beeen reading newly found websites on and off for two days, thanks to facebook's blog network. It's been interesting, but I now feel the need of a good solid read, a long book. At least if you are a writer, some time spent on facebook and other sites can be regarded as work, of a sort. I've had a very hectic time indeed, since March, and this is the first week quiet enough to have wound down. I made a classic stew tonight, with bacon pieces and red wine and all sorts of simple vegetables, carrot onion parsnip turnip potato, pepper, tomato and celeriac. It was very rich. [1 June] The Price of Goldfish The price of gold has rocketed, but that of small goldfish is very low. For outlay of ?1 apiece, we walked off the absolute owners of eight goldfish, which feels a bit like slave trading. Released into the pond, they disappeared into the depths where they woke from their lethargy the bigger goldfish we had been suspecting Something of devouring. The big goldfish maybe think they are the parents of this new lot, anyway they are all mooching about and basking in the sunlight in the top layer of pond water, just the thing. For the sun has come out and is reviving the garden after the thorough rain - blue poppies still at their height, lots of purple flowers, alliums (planted slightly overenthusiastically last year), columbine, & purple tulips. 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] A Weekly Round We have been slogging away at the shop, which was not particularly busy over the bank holiday - people are worried about fuel costs, both for home heating and petrol. Ive got the first announcement of the Poetry Weekend sorted out. The Bees sales and distribution have progressed well, with an almost embarassingly good review that has appeared on PK List and may be coming out somewhere on PK soon. It places me firmly in the upper echelons of the disestablishment, which is where a good artist really ought to be. On our way to Stirling Writers, we called in at Dobbie's for plant food (I have been planting baskets) and made a near impulse purchase of eight small red goldfish at a pound each. We have lost a few goldfish and we don't know why - birds, otter, cats or a cannibal fish? We have been watching the garden and no signs whatever. The biggest fish will be moved to a pond of its own if this carries on. [28 May] Today we went book buying in Fife, and called at Ian's parents house. We were glad we did, because Ian's Mum was in hospital and his Dad had had a chip pan fire and was having the whole house redecorated on the insurance - apparently there had been six or seven workmen in the house at once, and he had to have his meals in the greenhouse! Mum was in hospital after a fall, and the doctor had discovered she couldnt walk - which has been the case for about three years - and now she has one of these hospital infections. Meanwhile the care people have obviously been having a go at Dad, because he is rearranging the house so she can sleep downstairs. He is expecting her back in a few days but who knows. Eventually we got back to Callander with quite a good lot of modern books. We went as far as Leslie and came back via Gleneagles. Trossachs Dining Our first supper this summer at our favourite outdoor dining room, at Leannach on the Piper's Road between Katrine and Aberfoyle. It is ten miles from here, as we know because our mileage counter went from 89999 to 90000 at Leanach. We went up to a viewpoint above Trossachs and Callander with good car access and lovely flat stones all round it, and considered whether we could run a poetry reading there some time. It would have to be weather permitting, so getting people there at the right time would be difficult, but it would make a great celebration or party. And you'd want thirty or forty people for a sense of occasion. [23 May] Aberdeen Wordfringe To Aberdeen with Morelle. We had a good drive from Stirling station, through Perth, Dundee and the East Coast hinterland. In Aberdeen we found our way reasonably well to the Station Hotel - a huge old-fashioned outfit with vast rooms and full of oil workers in jeans waiting for helicopters, where we also met Ian Blake. I was able to park my car in the hotel car park, but failed to realise the high wall was topped by a seagull perch. In the morning the car was white rather than red. I tried to get to Sheena's before the reading but there wasnt enough time. I found a bus and asked if it went to Garthdee - "Eventually" grunted the driver. I saw the light, got off and went back to hotel, which I dubbed "Raffles" to the amusement of the Aberdeen poets. Then we went to the Library, to a pleasant room above the library floors. An appreciative & fair sized audience arrived, and we all did our stuff very well, aided and abetted by Sheena. We sold a number of books, and I read from The Bees again. Back to Sheena's. She showed off her two white rats, I met her son Ross and girlfriend, and Sheena plied me with books she had finished with, to make room for more on her shelves. This was very kind of her. Oh here, you can have Ted, she would say, Here's a Gaelic dictionary, here, I've got another copy of this... Ross drove me back to the hotel afterwards, a little hair-raisingly I have to say, though he knew the roads well and it was a great help not having to lug the extra bags of books through a late-night unfamiliar city. On Wednesday morning we had the workshop at the Arts Centre.This was well attended and I made them sight-read poems from back issues of Poetry Scotland, to draw attention to the various difficulties that arose. Later they each read a piece under stage conditions. They were fairly advanced in their public speaking abilities, though the work was varied and tended towards reminsicence with a group of older writers, long term stalwarts of the group. I managed to push them all that little bit further I think. Morelle came to the workshop too and made welcome contributions. Then I went for a bite of lunch with the organisers, in Bishop Skene's house, which meant a cellar very like St Andrews' Undercroft, while Morelle preferred to have a look round Aberdeen. We were on the road again by early afternoon, and home, very tired, by early evening. More Poetry Scotland subs, more windfalls and Bees sold, more friends made. [21 May] Home again, home again: I have been away too much lately. It was going to be too exhausting going down to Huntingdonshire for Ann's party, so I called off, feeling rather a heel, but it was just such a long way and I hadnt been home with Ian enough. Enough for me either. Robin was representing our clan. He went down by train, probably taking his bike. Louise and Rich couldnt make it either as Rich's Dad died very recently. Caught up with a bit of gardening, posting, pond-watching, kitchenwork, and even begun clearing papers ready for the accounts which have to be done earlier this time. We have spent so many christmases doing accounts, it will be odd to do them in the summer. But needs must. I took some garden rubbish to the tip and discovered a flat tyre, which failed to blow up again at the service station, so I will have to go to Quickfit first thing tomorrow on the way to Aberdeen. Lucky I found out in advance. I will be able to add the time, and meet Morelle as arranged in Stirling. Weather has been lovely and garden overflowing. Not quite enough rain actually. Clematis, peonies and other high summer sorts of flowers are out, even the Wisteria has buds. My garden page is full and I havent worked out how or whether to store the seasonal chat, but if I dont put gardening things on this blog sometimes it distorts my life, because the garden is an important part of our home. Which reminds me, I really have been away too much this spring. [19 May] Ullapool, or Loopallu: Back from overnight trip to Ullapool area. Last night we went up as far as U. (fully light till ten), where we had fish suppers by the harbour, then up further north for wild-camp place. We took the tiny roads to Achiltibuie, past Stack Polly, saw many deer at one likely clearing, and walked on the big beach (we have been there before) at the end of the road, before turning inland for a large layby "Information Point." Though there wasnt any information, it made a marvellous all night stop with a fabulous view in all directions when we woke in the morning. The moon came out after the sun and shone on the sea. We saw the Plough and a shooting star. It didnt really get dark but we got enough sleep, quite comfortably. In morning progressed past Suilven and Achmelvich, where Mandy Haggith, Colin and others are holed up with their writing we think. We didnt bother them this time though I may well call by if up there again. To Ullapool to distribute books before their book festival - once called Loopallu festival. Some of our writers are going, and there were some orders from two shops, so we took other things too on spec and did quite well. We then bumbled back home again on a very hot day, picnicking at the Tree Library, missing the turning at Ballinluig which has its overbridge open at last - campaigned for in the Bees denouement of course. I was so busy looking at the roadworks that I missed the turn & we had to continue by Perth. Home, tired, dusty & triumphant, to find the cats pretending concern about us. 14th May. Great Grog reading: Back from the marvellous Petra Kenney Awards event in London, Stephen's flat (above), and London weekend described on past weeks page, to the Great Grog in Edinburgh. This was a really impressive reading with three brilliant co-readers, Barbara Smith from Ireland, Claire Askew from Edinburgh (I noticed a trace of the north Pennnine voice, very like my own), and Alan Gillis, Edinburgh university creative writing boffin who proved himself in a brilliant reading. The first two readers set the tone for not reading overlong, and the whole evening was most enjoyable. It was a hot, muggy night with a harr but a good roomful of audience, including Joy Hendry, Eleanor Livingstone, some of the Edinburgh university creative writing characters, many other friends and people we had not met before. It was the first time I had attempted to read a straight section from The Bees, but there was good feedback and the book sold well. I did a book swap with Barbara, and Alan actually bought The Bees, though I would have gladly swapped if he had had any copies of his books. His most memorable poem was extremely funny and rude. His other poems were impressive too, and so were all Barbara's and Claire's. It was great to get back to the shop, garden and ponds, at the end of the hot spell of weather that suffused my London trip. There is some catching up to do with correspondence etc, some of which has been regrettably languishing. I need to get down to these things today. We are planning our trip to Ullapool one day soon, the trip we had to put off last week. We always go up country some point in high summer, high daylight that is. So let's hope we make it this time. Tuesday 13th May Notice: Microsoft has no responsibility for the content featured in this group. Click here for more info. MSN - Make it Your Home May 10th ? Met Beth and went to Enfield - the high street, the market, the parks and Gentlemen's Row. The library where I worked in the late sixties had been closed down and moved last week! the trees and parks were still very pretty and the town had a charm I remembered from those years. Back on a very slow bus through a traffic jam in Bloomsbury - "Complain to Boris!"" shouts the bus driver. Pm, eat with Chewy and then plan and time my reading for tomorrow night. May 9th ? Two days in London, staying in Stephen's fabulous new flat in Westminster. Chewy is here, so is Linda a friend of Stephen's from South Africa so it is an interesting base. It's been very hot, far hotter than I am used to. Thursday evening I ate with Linda in a Turkish restaurant in festival-happy Covent garden. Friday I went to the Petra Kenney event at Canada House. It was most interesting and packed with poets, many of whom I knew - I knew far more of them than I was expecting. Geoff Stevens and Merryn Williams, Ann Stewart and Pat Borthwick, Leah Fritz and Derek Adams, Mario Petrucci, Ian Blake who got me involved, and then there were Dannie Abse (now England's Eldlerly Poet), Alan Brownjohn, Katherine Gallagher, Alison Chisholm, and many more. It was a long event through the heat of the day. I had decided to dress up a bit and wore a metallic black dress with a light silk overblouse, & I felt OK in them. There were quite a few dresses, ice-cream jackets etc, while some of the ladies were wearing smart trousers. After walking back I was very hot and went on Stephen's balcony which was cooler, a bit like being on a ship's deck, looking down over the streets and towers, other flats with roof gardens and balconies all in good use. I cooked for the others - they have a swish kitchen they dont seem to use all that much - they fetch in cooked food from round about, very London I think. I enjoyed cooking, and shopping a little at the nearby Tesco, where the food was quite cheap I thought. May 7th We have had some really hot weather and are enjoying the garden a lot, especially as hot weather thins out the customers - though not as much as bad weather does. They come outside the middle of the day, so we can ease off and be in the garden then. It's so warm and relaxing - we cried off a proposed trip to Ullapool today, seeing we had too much else on. Yesterday evening we went to Errol for Margaret GB's Stovies Night and the launch of her windfall book. An excellent evening, with no road works for once between here and there, on the Perth road. Tomorrow I am off to London for the weekend, and if Ian wasnt staying to keep the homefires burning I dont think I would really want to go. As it is I'm the last member of the family who hasnt visited Stephen's flat in Westminster. I have an engagement on Friday, I will probably meet Beth, and I'll maybe do something with Stephen. I must be back for the Great Grog on Sunday so I am flying, for only the second time, though I flew a few times when younger, to Italy and France. Need to sort out what I am taking (could barely call it packing - I travel light, especially without the car) and then there's all this stuff about handbag checks I'm not used to! May 3rd After yesterday's first outdoor dinner we had our first picnic today, up at the Falls of Orchy. Just sardines and salad and cheese and fresh bread that Richard brought, but it was lovely to be out and see the sun on the mountains and the late evening light. Big stags beside the Orchy road. The roads were quite busy at six, but by the time we reached the little road there were none but a few campers. We came out on the Oban road and the return included a quick walk down to the Badger falls. Summer at last. May 2nd ? Is it, already? I'm struggling with having too much on, it would have been alright if there hadnt been a Poetry Scotland crisis that took up yesterday. As it is, I have managed to book my ticket to London, but I havent managed to get my car taxed yet, so it's tomorrow morning or hiding from policemen for a day or two. Richard Livermore is here, he hasnt been for about six months, and he has brought the usual gallon of wine, so we dont exactly get merry but I do relax a bit. Yesterday Ian bought a set of Sessions Cases, a whole bay load and more, very heavy, very valuable, and we were up half the night getting shelving clear in the shop for them. And the book budget is spent! Next we are going to the tip with the junk books they are replacing, after which it will be time for some proper food. First meal in the garden this year, and first proper relaxed meal for a week. Tipping done, I'm cooking pasta (some sanity at last), and apple pie, and salmon tomorrow. I have to find my MOT certificate, book into the Stirling conference (a day or two past deadline but it should be OK), and respond to Aberdeen event organisers. And see if Morelle has any corections to her chapbook, I can't remember. April 28th We went to Shore Poets last night, Colin Will and Andy Philip, and Julia Sheridan who has been in Edinburgh since 2002 (so we didnt overlap with her there). gave out PS to the subscribers who were present, and checked out how to make sushi with Jane (I had bought the sheets of seaweed but then got stuck - as you do, it's very sticky.) We had a good Indian food picnic in our car in a hidey hole at Corstorphine - after calling at a restaurant on the way home that does ace carryouts. Yesterday was a lovely warm sunny day and the shop was surprisingly busy, given the petrol problem. I'm still in the middle of all these secretarial jobs, and flagging! Exhausted this morning, perhaps not surprisingly. April 24th Normality somewhat returned, I am now by turns printing Margaret GB's windfallwriting PS envelopes and dealing with The Bees. I have put up probably overexcited posts about them on all my internet interfaces, and had some orders, and sent out a couple of comps. However hard you are with friends, there are always inescapable comps, those who have done you more than favours connected with the book, etc, blurb writers and those to whom you really and willingly owe one. I am still thinking about review copies and have only sent two publicity copies out so far. There will need to be quite a number. I havent plugged it in Poetry Scotland, maybe next time there will be a list of diehards including it, for Ian was quite right in saying don't publicise it till you've got it. The delay was horrendous, amplified by a fear that something had gone horribly wrong, but as soon as it arrived all was forgotten. They say publishing a book is like having a baby. Well I've done both and I dont agree. To drop this ridiculous comparison, the other thing I have done is go round Callander arranging extra outlets, the Art Gallery, the Honey Shop, the newsagent former West End Post Office I tried so hard to help save, who is also selling PS, and famously today, I have got them on the Hot Dog stand at Kinbuck auction. Hotdogazon. I feel this is an important statement about diehard. We've produced dozens of books, booklets and magazine issues. We distribute. We sell. We get books out there to readers. And we do not give a hoot. As I was letting down my hair, I met a publisher who didnt care. He didnt care again today. I love em when they get that way. The weather has been variable but a good deal warmer, we have begun to live in the garden again (see garden page), and I've been chatting to other bonsai enthusiasts, probably more conventional ones, on facebook. A?pril 23rd Tuesday. April 22nd Tuesday The Swarm of Bees is here. I am absolutely jiggered, because it all happened at once: the petrol crisis leading to immediate extreme quiet in the country and at shop. Robin was here at weekend, and we are also busy printing Windfalls. My computer crashed on Sunday night, and I stayed up for hours trying to fix it, then took it in to PC World on Monday morning. Very sensible woman called Marion took it in hand and it was fixed for today. After taking computer to Stirling on Monday I phoned the printers and they said The Bees was ready and PS54 would be ready Tuesday. So today we fetched the goods. The Bees looks lovely and PS54 came off too: I put the Stanza poems in a different typeface and colour, and this worked well. ?????After picking up The Bees we went to Pittenweem to Reinhard's. Reinhard was out teaching, but we had a cuppa with Margaret in their garden, as well-used a garden as ours, and left Reinhard a box of the books. Then we went back to Stirling, managing to refuel on the way, picked up my computer, and went on to Stirling Writers, where I signed and sold the first six books, to Meghan, John and Nancy, Chris, Charlie Gracie, Elizabeth and Caroline. Very good going. Coming home, unloading, rewiring my computer and checking the basics, I have now reached an extreme stage of jiggeredness. ?The Bees is ?6.50 from me, and well worth it, with six full page Behrens drawings and seven terza rima cantos. More on the Bees page when I have slept. Notice: Microsoft has no responsibility for the content featured in this group. Click here for more info. MSN - Make it Your Home MSN Home | Hotmail | Web Search | Shopping | Money | People & Groups Help ?2004 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved. Terms of Use Advertise TR Lower down: Croquet and Carter Bar (March) Auctions and Evening Light (April) Goldfish and Toad Spawn (April) Six Nights Out in a Row (April ) A Meadows digression When I found a campaign group Save the Meadows, I joined up without a second thought. My second thought, indeed, was how much the Edinburgh Meadows have meant to me over the second part of my life. I never set eyes on them till I already had a family. Indeed my first memory of the Meadows is while house hounting in and around Edinburgh, in a game with my young daughter pretending that different parts of the humpy area near Marchmont were rooms in a house. Pathetic, in the old sense. It is as a children's park that it played most part in my life. You could let the young children run about, either in a separate playpark or over the wider areas of the meadows. You could feast your eyes on the coloured crocuses and watch the trees. You could take your family dog there and race to keep up with him, dissuade him from chasing the squirrels, or throw balls and sticks. Once the dog went to tea with an academic family who lived beside the Meadow walks, while we searched frantically for him till he was politely (and tearfully) returned. You could walk and walk across the comforting but undefined shapes of the space - an ellipse of quiet sanity. There were proposals, back in the early 1980's, to build a huge city motorway on two levels above Melville Drive, and a successful campaign against this monstrous idea. There was the heyday of the Meadows Festival, in which we took part as booksellers for year upon year as our children grew up. One year we had an almost football-pitch-sized bookstall, with old carpets flooring thousands of cheap books. You had a pitch between two trees on a walk, and you could go back as far as you liked beyond the trees. I remember the then librarian of the University Library, an Irish bookman, wandering through it in a daze of disbelief. Twice we took a huge old car-camping tent to serve as a booth and protect us from rain, and on one occasion we camped in the tent overnight, complete with dog and two children, and with the permission of the organisers. One of the few cases of legal camping on the Meadows since Bonnie Prince Charlie's days. Once there was a fancy dress event in which my young son took first prize as a Bus Stop. Very long bus stop signs had just been introduced, and my son had crayoned his own Bus Stop intinerary including 'Medows' on a huge placard. So there is the Meadows, the Jawbone Walk and the cherry and almond blossom trees, cricket pitches, tennis you can watch, actors and medics and students trekking back and forth from their Marchmont flats to their life in the university or city. The coloured cars moving through Melville Drive, the driving lessons there, the cycling lanes on the footpaths, and the sense of warmth there on all but snowy days. And the croquet. The Meadows are still there, though I personally may no longer need them, and long may this peaceful area thrive and survive. Spelling wrinkle: Why isnt trek, trekking spelt treck, trecking? A South African form of tracking, no doubt, its meaning has veered off on its own. Between trailing and tracking. Language history wrinkle: I dont think they ever said spring com-eth they must have said spring cumth, rather like lisping, then it moved to cumz, then in 1810 a printer changed it to comes and every other printer followed within six months. 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. Met several poets, some I knew already some I didnt, Sheila Hamilton, Gill McAvoy, Aled Lewis Evans the brilliantly friendly Welsh language poet, expert and teacher, and small press publisher Peter Presford. Rowena and Juliana completed the Scots contingent. An informal but brilliant party followed the reading, Kemal and Morelle danced splendidly, & I crept off to sleep at two o'clock. We sold eight CD's and gave away another couple, which I was well pleased with, and some books were bought, sold and swapped. Now I am home and nothing will drag me away for at least another few days. I missed Brian Soutar's coach and four on Easter Sunday - last Easter Sunday I so much appreciated his three horse bus. April 5 Auctions and Evening Light We had a decent Kinbuck auction this week after a phase of not being able to buy. Some of the internet jockeys have been overreaching themselves. Two carloads and Ian a bit tired and ill and, being a man, grumpy when ill, we have been unloading and fetching and carrying books. A bit of gardening in the light, and again Ian knocked himself out trying to do too much at once. We have done a lot of road miles, taking Maga to printers, checking auctions, going to Dunfermline and fetching the now traditional "Ian's Dad's tomato plants" which are selling like the blazes in the shop. The Bees is likely to be ready, at last, end of next week, so I just hope Ian is better by then, as it would be very trying, at such an exciting moment, if he wasn't. April 13 Goldfish and Toad Spawn Four goldfish are happily swimming about after what one thinks of as a boring, cold and uncomfortable hibernation, but then we're not fish. More amazing, if anything, is the sight of long "code tapes" of toad spawn. At least two toads had to be around to perform their magic silently under the pond water, a pond not unlike the rockpond their spawn came from last year. People do ask where they come from, the frogs, toads and newts that can appear of their own accord when you dig out a pond, even some distance from any other pond. *Late addition: we have found that the goldfish eat frog and toad spawn. We had to hastily move much of the spawn into the other ponds, and I caught a big minnow by fluke while removing the spawn. There were minnow last year when we had all the tadpoles, but not goldfish. So anyway, there is some degree of separation now. Scillas and daffodils now fill the garden - but nowadays I keep a garden blog. Diverse blogs may fail to give as true a picture of the whole, but they do make it easier for people to consult if they are following one thread. Suffice it that it is again light enough and warm enough to use the best part of our living space more fully. Tonight we are going out to dinner, I should rather say to a dinner, see grammar wrinkle below. Ian is out looking round the clothes shops, though he has something he can wear if he isn't inspired. He doesnt always enjoy parties, and he has the option of ducking out, as he was reported ill and doubtful earlier this week. Our night out yesterday is more his thing. We went round the country roads towards Pitlochry, passing Killin, Fortingall and its yews, the hidden castle that is the headquarters of Basque separatism, the deep ravines leading to the little village with an eighteenth century packhorse bridge - Keltneyburn, and past Loch Tummel to Blair Atholl - where we marked that John Herdman's bookshop is no more - and thence to Pitlochry. Particularly good fish suppers, and a walk round this small town, which we know very well. Back through Ballinluig where I am pleased to note an access bridge has just been built - at the scene of the denouement of The Bees. Grammar wrinkle : Out to dinner means to friends. Out to a dinner means to a ticketed occasion at a hotel or hall with many people. Lexical wrinkle : frogspawn is OK but it has to be toad spawn. Maybe frog spawn is better too, but it is pronounced frogspawn (stress on first syllable). Something to do with frogspawn being a known recognisable entity (can't call it object, in its pluralism). And for that matter, is spawn the same word as spore, in plants? And wouldnt sporen be a good plural for spore? This is getting dangerous... We enjoyed the dinner, at the Golden Lion in Stirling. Very good food and ambiance with a huge room and round tables for eight. Dance floor, band, clever speeches, and a dud raffle that everybody forgave. You want to know what a dud raffle is? Its one where the talcum powder is re-donated twice, the bottles of whisky are all won by the same table and the strips of tickets all stick together, and you wonder if this is maybe what Bingo is like, while the guy who appears to be master-minding this shambles is an efficient and respected minister of parliament. April 16 Six Nights Out in a Row I've worked out why I was tired. Six nights out in a row: Last Thursday, the auction. Last Saturday, the dinner in Stirling. Friday night, Blair Altholl. Last Sunday, poetry in Edinburgh (the Great Grog). Monday, shopping. Tuesday, Stirling writers. Most of these nights went on till midnight. Today, slightly worked up about non appearance of book from printer, I did sweet bugger all, some "social networking" alias fucking about on Facebook, and some gardening, plus a wee bit turn in the shop. So tonight I said no, no Falkirk trip, and we didnt go. So I had a rest, wandered round my garden before dusk (which I couldnt do all week) and I am off for early night, reading. Joy sent me some poems back saying she was keeping the remaining poems. She said there were eighteen altogether. As she sent back all but one of the last lot, I think I must have sent her some more I have forgotten about. It would be a while ago as my records are straight for the last year anyway, and more than likely the poems are by now in Great North Road, or else abandoned. Other poems out to other outlets are much more recent so we don't have a problem of dual submission, while nearly all the ones she sent back are poems I actually still like and can use for somewhere else. They are not the sort that makes me go, uh, praps they're rubbish. Everyone knows that feeling when poems come back, but in this case they survived. Still, I expect I do that sort of thing to PS poem senders, sometimes. April 20, quiet Sunday Robin came over on train and bike, stayed over and seto ff to ride to Edinburgh by bike this morning, on the smaller roads near south of Forth. Nice weather for this - sunny and still cold. Acquired some Japanese pots last week and spent time in garden sorting out potted trees, moving things to better pots and placing them round garden. Brought the small sweet cherry tree into a pot on the yard, so I can more easily shoo the birds off when it fruits. The shop should have been quite busy today but the scare about petrol shortages hit home and there were few cars about. Let's hope they sort it. A mob of thuggish seagulls are squawking about on the roofs round the garden, scaring the crows, cats and buzzards. But we saw goosanders on the river tonight. Quiet January Feb 1st marked the end of a long quiet January, the signing of our accounts for another year, snow on the small spring bulbs in the garden. A busy day in the shop (with a major customer), and much activity on all fronts on Sally's websites. (Above pic of Callander is in use as my computer wallpaper.) The Scottish Book Trust came up with their new website, and a cocktail party to launch it. This was all nicely done, and the diehard and Poetry Scotland poets came out of it well. There were many librarians and arts administrators at the party, and I travelled back by train with the Stirling librarian, two Falkirk administrators and childrens writer Cathy McPhail. I have kick-started Facebook as well as Myspace now, and am posting about two poems a week on Myspace. On Facebook I am managing a rather unmanageable group called Poetry Scotland which I discovered and decided to move in on, especially as some of the members, such as Etta Dunn, had clearly believed it was partly our doing. Well, now it is. My other facebook group is Winter Aconite Bores, a small and strange monument to my obsession with these flowers. Stirling University Poetry Conference has accepted Niall's and my proposal to give a paper on translating Christopher Whyte. We have just heard, and no doubt it will throw us into further work and difficulties, but I am very keen on my links with this poetry citadel up the road, so am happy. [Febrary 1st] Myspace and Others I didnt sleep much tonight. That's a new one for me, usually I can sleep when I want. I got rather carried away by Facebook, finding a huge site for bonsai and going through masses of photos of trees, very nice. Then John Glenday joined Poetry Scotland group and I linked to him and had a chat - he had put up a sort of riddle - he was reading a poet who shared a name with a disinfectant. So I wrote on his wall that I liked Hilary Dettol's poems, but then I guessed his poet was Milton! You only know about Milton if you have a baby or make wine. Then being somewhat hyped up I had an email conversation with Giuseppe who was writing in the middle of the night. Then Ian woke up and we had coffee etc and now it is six o'clock. Which of it is real huh? All of it, that's what you have to realise. [February 3rd] 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 Rob MacKenzie's blog. 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] Great Fog A whirl of outings, or so it seems. Morelle came, and we had Val round to dinner to talk to her, but nearly lost the guest of honour when Morelle's travel arrangements went wrong. However, she arrived and everything went swimmingly (including my new fish platter recipe.) Sunday we took Morelle to the Great Grog, a pub in Rose Street, where else, where a new series of poetry readings began well. We had said we would run Morelle back to Fountainhall and we did so, though heavy fog turned this into quite a problematic drive.We returned through Edinburgh in severe fog, came round the bypass, and would have been among the first few non payers over the Forth Bridge north, had we gone that way. Since then have been gardening, but this morning there is a hard frost. Last night we went rather sleepily to Stirling Writers and had a reliably interesting time. [February 13th] Lunar Eclipse Eclipse Robin came out tonight, which as usual was unexpected and as aways welcome, and we hoped to view the eclipse, but at the moment it looks as if cloud will prevent this. (The eclipse starts in about two hours time, in the middle of the night. Anyway we caught up with news, had a meal and took a walk down the village to the pub - having to come back first time because one of our cats followed us all the way down Main Street and back round the old railway paths. Earlier today I was out with the reading Group alias Ladies Club. We had lunch at the Riverside and mostly gossiped. It is clear from what Eleanor is saying about the Skein of Geese book that the Bees is unlikely to be ready by StAnza. Luckily I have other books to sell, and I am making copies of everyone's chapbooks. March is getting very busy, particularly one week, StAnza and the week after. So, back to moonwatching and/or sleeping as things turn out. You've guessed - it was sleep. (Feb 20) No Negativity Principle This is a principle I have developed for all my writing, published, net or written in pencil or pen at home. I criticise things on various comment sites, but that's different: it's trying to get something across. I critcise things heavily in conversation with my closest friends, and I like a good gossip, who doesnt. It's sometimes said cruelty is the basis of humour. And you can be nasty in fiction, as long as your whole message is controlled. But you can save a lot of trouble by watching what you write. I am having to undertake the destruction of private diaries written long ago, without the discipline needed for public writing. I wouldnt want my immediate descendants to read them. They wrote far better and more pertinently as children: I taught them to. But there is also the risk that when you have a profile as a writer, even a modest and disestablishment profile such as mine, you will be descended on when dead and helpless and your remains held up to light in the search for lucre. So my old diaries will go, and the interesting disappear along with the insufferable, mixed as these are in every human breast. Negativity strictly includes the likes of anti-tourist jokes and anti-bookshop customer jokes, both of which may be said to discourage your own punters & therefore be self-negating. Here's a classic, old chestnut comment by a tourist. You've probably heard it: "Couldnt they have built it [Edinburgh Castle] nearer the shops?" And here 's a brand new customer story, an exception to prove my rule. This morning, I am seen to be folding and sewing booklets in the shop. "You could set up a little business doing that!" remarks the customer. How dyou spell Arrrggggh? [25 February] VoxBox in Edinburgh It's shot through to March, and I'm getting ready to be very busy indeed for two weeks, StAnza then another week of events including Newcastle and Chester. Tonight we both went to Edinburgh and we really enjoyed VoxBox - when it eventually started. (There were two version of the start time and the version we had was an hour early.) So we sat in the pub talking to a Canadian journalist turned writer, and some very special old friends arrived, from the old Diggers group and from Newcastle. A lively event followed. It's great to see the Newcastle working class writers so confident and coherent: some of them had been on civic visits abroad. Our Scottish Arts Council would never send a working class writer abroad, they don't even book them to read if they can help it. Aidan Halpan and Paul Summers were most entertaining and effective, and I really enjoyed their Geordie accents, along with Mike Dillon singing and Elise from Bristol, Nicky Melville, Anita, and Kevin Cadwallender. Drove home arriving after midnight. You wonder how much more the world is going to change with you still in it, when you are sat in your kitchen fidgeting with Facebook, and a wee red heart comes up with a storyline that your son is no longer listed as single. We will leave that story to the relative privacy which it deserves, and turn our attention to the unanalysable grammar of the week: dont you agree that the above should say sat in your kitchen rather than sitting in your kitchen? I suppose seated in your kitchen would do. [7 March] Stanza Looms There is now a sense of panic with StAnza and everything else looming only a day or two ahead. I just hope I can thrive on the stress. I have nearly finished the new Poetry Scotland to complete it at StAnza. We have been shopping for picnics etc. I have hit a problem with my new printer which I will have to leave till I get back. I am practically all set for my reading. Not only is it a relatively long reading, it is a scarified, almost churchy atmosphere with a highly-charged audience and a brilliantly maverick co-reader. I'm glad I'm reading before Kevin, for you never know which way he's going to take something, so I can set the scene. I need to do a bit more actual practising in the morning, reading and timing, and firming up my choices. And packing the car will be complicated, I'm afraid - Poetry Scotlands, windfalls, new PS proofs for magazine event, tablecloths, tin and float, my reading books, clothes, food, picnics, more clothes, notebooks, the Slam prize. I'd better copy out that list. A spare duvet, well, for if I'm cold of course, or if I need a kip in the car. There's a running joke about me taking an elephant to StAnza, and, well the only question is will I have The Bees books for Saturday? I'm not reading out of them anyway, or only a half page of elephants and a half page of bees. The rest will be largely from the Great North Road. [10 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. The two readings I most enjoyed were by Penny Shuttle and August Kleinzahler. Both had elements of the unexpected. I also liked the young Frisian poets. Even with five days (on and off) I didnt meet everybody, while listing those friends old and new I did meet up with with would be ridiculous, if not pointless. It was those conversations, though, that I enjoyed the most. The Bees book, cause of the elephant jokes, wasnt ready, but that was OK. I sold Bewicks and Great North Roads. And though Waterstones wouldnt take them, at least I got all the money. And blew it happily on Lady Catherine's plants. [St Patrick's Day] Notice: Microsoft has no responsibility for the content featured in this group. Click here for more info. MSN - Make it Your Home MSN Home | Hotmail | Web Search | Shopping | Money | People & Groups Help ?2004 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved. Terms of Use Advertise An Edinburgh week: Four trips to Edinburgh this week for me, two with Ian. On Sunday we went to Shore Poets where Lizzie Burns was reading. Lizzie read very well, excellent new poems. Today I did a quick dash to pay in at the bank, leaving my car at St Ninians and going from there by express bus. Tomorrow I go again, to Sandeman House and to give Morelle her chapbook proof, and on Thursday Ian and I will be meeting Eric in Edinburgh to sign our accounts. Go into any cafe or motorway services on 31st Jan and you will see table after table of accountants and their clients, all signing their accounts. With all this mild rain, the spring bulbs are getting under way, but I will reserve my comments for the Winter Aconite Bores facebook group and the gardening forums I have found. [29 January] Family dynamics: A successful but very tiring day. It all began last Sunday evening when we called on the parents. Last year I blogged how they allowed us to miss an important family funeral. This nearly happened again. When we arrived last Sunday we were told that Auntie Jean had died. Auntie Jean, a favourite of Ian's, was people-minded and had a lot of common sense. If we hadnt called round, it was clear that yet again we would not have been told. When we offered to come in and drive the parents to the funeral, we were given to understand we were not wanted. Something was wrong, as it had been last time. We talked it over and decided that if Jean's family had put the funeral in the local paper, we would treat that as an indication they wanted people to attend, and we would go in our own right. Getting a local paper cost us nearly half a day, as it was distributed in a very narrow area. But there it was, an invitation to all friends. Central Scotland has had bad traffic flows lately, with the construction of the new bridge at Kincardine and other problems. So we set off very early, arranging an alarm call to help us sleep, and made good progress across the Forth valley to the outskirts of Dunfermline, where a huge traffic hold-up over a small pothole used up the spare hour we had allowed. Dunfermline Crem is well designed with a picture window onto a wood, an idea that went on to be used at the Burrell Collection. The funeral was well attended. Ian's father was quite pleased to see us despite all the funny business, but he tried to make us go straight to his house afterwards, instead of to the reception. I had the job of firmly but kindly telling him we were going to the pub with our cousins, but would call at his house afterwards, and he accepted that. He had to. We then had the opportunity of a good talk with our cousins, most of whom Ian hadnt met up with for decades. We also met Hugh's widow and her son, and all was sorted out in that respect. As Ian's father had gone off straight afterwards, the ball game was changed and it was we who were representing the immediate family. When people want to exclude you from such events, they say someone is representing you. Then we went back to his dad's house where we were met with courtesy. I think Ian crossed a bridge with his parents that was needing to be crossed, and we have improved our direct contacts in the wider family. After all this we are dog tired, and I am going to read Beverley Nichols' ABC of Cats, in bed, having finally found a nice copy of this book by my possibly favourite author. I often re-read Beverley Nichols if I really need to wind down. [25 January: Burns Night] First flowers: two white crocuses, in different parts of the garden, type unknown, some snowdrops, and surprisingly, two anemones de Caen (white). All white! A lot of anemone foliage. Of the bushes, witchhazel, the bodnantense, another lauristinus, mahonia, winter jasmine. Skimmia, rather dully. Odd things are happening: the heavy stone fireplace is being pushed out of true by Macleyia stalks. And I seem to have Guinea Gold aconite seeds sprouting. I'll have to be careful they dont get frosted, or eaten. The first year seeds are quite different from the subsequent corms. Christmas roses a washout, lenten roses looking OK. I'll have to do something different, such as pot them, if I want christmas roses. A postcard from my daughter, visiting South Africa. She and her partner, both biologists, were combining a trip to the university with a holiday. The card was from Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden, well worth browsing. Here's hoping they werent coming back through Heathrow during the schemozzle the other day. [19 January] Oban and Coast: Yesterday Callander was so quiet, we decided it wd be a good day to suss out book supplies in towns to the west. We did Oban and Fort William. Oban is still a big place with a number of outlets for fiction, all of them more expensive than us, which was good to find out. We managed to buy a few books too, and got rained on, but not attacked by seagulls as happened once when we were eating chips there. We enjoy the atmosphere of Oban but rarely go during town opening hours. We went on to Fort William which is pedestrianised and seemed to have less vitality than we remembered, though maybe it was just the out of season feel. Also more expensive than us, and again we found a sale and stocked up with one of our perennial requirements, current fiction in excellent condition. It wouldnt have been a commercially worth while day on its own, but we had a good day out as well as a recce, and enjoyed the sight of the full rivers, the waterfalls (Badger falls and the one in Glencoe, where they have built a pretty good new viewpoint from the road), sea lochs and snowy mountain sides. [14 January] Wet Weekend and extremely quiet in shop. Got on with some chapbook printing and disk box insert printing, a new enterprise which took a lot of working out, using first the low output colour printer and then overprinting with the ordinary printer. The process felt odd but I got a reasonable design, with some help from Ian at the later stages, on the 'Not like that like this' principle. Not only did it take all day, it took since the beginning of January in my head. Still not much to see in the garden and no nice weather to see it in, but we did get a fiery pink mountain yesterday morning. I need to get to grips with my camera soon. [13 January] A Day on the Roads of Central Scotland - and what a day to pick. There had been gales overnight, and the Erskine and Tay bridges were already shut. We passed two blown down trees before Bridge of Allan, then were diverted up the hill off main road (their primary school was in tatters), so went a strange route towards Kincardine, where landed in a tailback for K Bridge - the Forth Bridge having by this time been closed. We turned and went to Dunfermline via the back route, then on to Leven through heavy gusts. Book safely delivered, we went book buying in small towns, ending up walking through Dunfermline, which Ian enjoys occasionally as he was born there. We get the this-was-changed-that-was-changed routine. Even I see many changes since my first visits. We then headed home, but after Alloa we were a whole hour in tailback before roundabouts for Stirling, from which you could see the foul-up continuing all the way. So we took the only possible alternative route, back along the hillfoots to Yetts O' Muckhart, up Glen Devon (snow-sided)and back onto the motorway at Gleneages. Home sooner than we would have been. Post Office ditched despite the strongest possible representations. Am going down to see Fraser this afternoon. [9 Jan] Stirling Writers & Winter gardens The writers met here tonight, and will for the next two Tuesdays. They dont seem to mind coming so far out now and again. We enjoyed the mini-party, which ran much like a normal evening, a dozen people here and two good short stories and several poems. It's been raining a lot and there's not much progress with the spring bulbs coming up. Snowdrops seem to be late, with aconites not yet showing at all. Another plant I am watching carefully is the wintersweet. It will be quite a feat to get it flowering in Scotland. Last year there were three flowers in mid spring, which I missed till they were about over. The bush has a good position on the south wall. The flowers are said to be highly perfumed but people don't mention that the leaves also are very spicy and aromatic. Something exciting: I have booked at Cambo for StAnza. This is the wonderful winter garden I found last year near St Andrews. It's actually pretty well known. Last year I was entranced by the sheets of scillas, and I also bought aconites. They have a special snowdrop collection. StAnza is a bit late for the snowdrops but just the time to buy snowdrops and aconites in the green. I shall probably buy even more, although I have yet to see this year's performance of the plants. This excessive rain isnt doing them too much good so far. [8 January] Publishers at work: Eleanor emailed proofs of the StAnza 100 poets anthology. Nicely and simply done, it looked like a whole lot of work to me. I sent her my bits, and I look forward to seeing that at StAnza. Meanwhile I am dealing with two publications. Poety Scotland's first disk has been beautifully produced by Liz Price, and last weekend when she was here we sorted out the cover design and wording, and the practicalities too. The disks are here, ready to go out and be advertised in a few days, when I have been to get some jewelboxes (thats what the plastic holders are called) and fitted the covers into them. I then turned my attention to The Bees, one of the longest-standing projects on our desk, but we are going to be ready for the printers when they reopen next week. I have been collecting blurbs, illus, paginations etc and Ian will be helping with the final collation and design tweaks tomorrow and the next day. it's a bigger book than usual, a landscape design, a little tricky to get right - but watch us do it. [3 January] Only in Scotland We went up to Stirling because our guest, Liz, wanted a Scottish new year. In vain were our protestations that our new year at home was a real one, and the shenanigans for tourists. So we started out in Callander at ten o'clock. Our first destination, The Bridge, sited surprisingly enough near the bridge, had closed down. Fancy our not knowing. We then repaired to the Half Crown where we had a friendly quarter hour, while all the young people there were off to Brig of Turk, where there was to be a disco. Judging by the people setting off for it, rave might be a better word, and ten miles of twisty lochside road to reach it did not appeal. Next we looked in our neighbouring hotel The Crags, and after another short chat at a table there, we decided on Stirling, and went back home to get ready. We went in Liz' car and parked in an empty supermarket carpark just outside the town centre, and walked up the hill. We came to others walking up, policemen and hundreds of cars, and we reached The Portcullis just before midnight. Here a friendly crowd awaited the end of the concert and the fireworks, which would have been splendiferous except that they were set off in heavy wet fog, which made them light up the sky various colours, to tremendous echoing thuds. This phenomenon (if not spectacle) over, we all trooped down the hill. Liz was satisfied, and we were glad we had been pulled out of our boring old routine. Liz has some photos and I'll try to put one or two on Myspace tomorrow. I have been having fun with Myspace, finding poetry and other contacts, and I now have to rationalise what goes where in my media houseplan. Several poets I know are on Facebook, so I will look at that also, after a bit more familiarisation with Myspace. We also got the train poem up and running, so the sound that batters you from various Myspace pages now batters you from mine too, but you can turn down the computer volume. We also spent much of today (yesterday/last year) burning disks and proofing design for the jewelbox insert. These little plastic cases for CDs are called jewel boxes, I learned. [1 January] Notice: Microsoft has no responsibility for the content featured in this group. Click here for more info. MSN - Make it Your Home MSN Home | Hotmail | Web Search | Shopping | Money | People & Groups Help ?2004 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved. Term Christmas Eve: with the accounts finished we are having a relaxed time, the shop very quiet except for known customers and friends. Robin back to Edinburgh where he is on call for his computer firm, and we've done the Dunfermline visit where things are reasonably OK. I've been working on a difficult essay and Ian is writing too. Heavy frost: I wrote a poem about the temperature gauge falling on road home to Callander. It's now above freezing, and wet. I'm going to take Daizan's winter advice, and get a bit of extra sleep. Winter Solstice I went to Glasgow to meet Christopher's other Scottish translator, Niall O'Gallacher. We had a long session at a coffee table in Beanscene. On my return, Simon from Australia was in buying books. Robin arrived Stirling in the evening, and we went shopping. The checkout lady at Dunblane said "It's a different man!" and then I realised why people had been giving me looks. Tempted to say I had taken Ian for a haircut. We got some good nosh and had a nice unhurried dinner in freezing cold Callander. Warm enough in the house. Approach of the season of goodwill. We've more or less finished this year's work. I took the accounts to Edinburgh and had lunch with Eric - I bought him lunch on the grounds that he had persuaded me to claim my pension. We went down to Catherine and Cairns' and viewed their amazing Christmas decorations. We had a day out to Inverness, which went well on the up drive through small glen roads and over the tops to the A9 at Trinafour. More road haiku: Road over the heights / we stare at the stags / they stare back Road over the heights / a few more miles / to the A9 At Inverness we parked at Bught behind the islands and walked through to the city where we spent a pleasant time. At Tomatin we joined a most interesting launch of a book on the Findhorn, White River, published by Robert Davidson's Sandstone Press. Tomatin / finding the small road / in darkness the long road / motorway standard / skimped First thing next morning Magi McGlynn turned up. Later another visitor arrived, my cousin Philip from Mull, cheerful and very young looking, whom I hadnt seen for decades. I recognised him by the faint Northants accent - a trace of his father's voice, in fact. I am good at voices, I am a poet. In the last week we have done some gardening, seen Colin Will, discovered Google Images, finished the accounts, and I have started some sewing. Callander has been very, very quiet though we had a good day on Saturday. Tuesday night was a completely zany Stirling Writers party. On Friday I go to Glasgow to discuss poetry translation with Niall O' Gallchoir. And that's it, that's christmas, except for being open house to any friends n family that arrive. This write-up isnt likely to be up long because of the Blogthology, but I may not do that till January now. [17, 18 December] Number-crunching on a quiet day. Quiet all over Scotland, most likely. And some warm cooking in the kitchen, while buzzing haiku on roads and paths to members of the Outlaw Poets. I came up with loads, so here are a couple more. far enough / this gate / at the side of the road the sun beckons / the signpost / points the wrong way wayside seeds / to plant in my garden / when I reach home a grass snake / zigs across the footpath / ahead I find it an extraordinarily fertile topic, the supreme topic. Next week we have a day off to drive up to Inverness, and Tomatin in the evening. I'll be glad when the accounts are finished, and I shall do some sewing after that. I have some patterns and plenty of fabric lying around. [7 December] Sabina Malik: I am very glad that Sabina Malik, "Lyrical terrorist," has been treated leniently. I sympathised with her because she wrote poems however ineptly and sought her own truth. Many people use email names on poetry lists and she thought the name "Lyrical terrorist" was cool. So would I have done if it wasnt for the security implications. The court found she was not plotting terrorism. A Crown Prosecution Service spokesperson said: "Samina Malik was not prosecuted for writing poetry. Ms Malik was convicted of collecting information, without reasonable excuse, of a kind likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism." (Source BBC website news.) Sabina was given a suspended sentence and she will be supervised for a long time. Good luck to her in future, as a writer, thinker and citizen. [6 December] Singer-songwriters: Lindsay Porteous and Paraig MacNeil phoned from Dunblane, and both came over for a good natter and a pie lunch. We caught up with folk music - commiserated with Lindsay on Duncan Williamson's death at 80 (storyteller Duncan had been Lindsay's jews harp duettist). Lindsay gave us his regular Christmas circular covered with photos of his musical intsruments. This year he has been making deerbone whistles, and a CD of their music. No kidding. I'd link to some of the music if I knew how, but am set back in my computer adventures by a failed attempt to change picture loading programs, which has crippled me from that activity for the while. I am playing this sweet but eerie music while writing here. Paraig and I vied with each other over poem lengths, and he eventually went off with The Bees to write me a cover blurb. Well, why not link in with storytellers and songwriters? I've done three book blurbs outside diehard this year - all very good books, all different. Three times a bridesmaid, time to be a bride! This time of year I am holed up with a) computer and b) accounts. Very cold, very quiet. I have a serious love/hate relationship with this computer, and I keep staying up till three in the morning trying to fix things. Then wonder why I'm slow at nine o'clock. On PK list we are all reading Walt Whitman, and generally getting a bit irritated with him. [5 December] Three-point trip, and a publication: Ian and I had a long day out, first to Leven via Gleneagles and Leslie, picking up some books for the shop on the way, and collecting the Cutty Sark special from the printers. They'd done a lovely job. Then to Edinburgh, stopping for lunch at Kirkcaldy seafront - chips and coffee from the shack, and humus from the picnic basket. Looked by Dalgety Bay auction to view. In Edinburgh we parked at Castle Street, then went to the bank with the small cheques, and walked up Princes Street and the Mound, collecting paper at Greyfriars Art Shop and reaching the university before the Graduate Creative Writing event, to give Alan his copies of the Cutty Sark. He was very pleased, as we were, with how it looked. We stayed for the long but interesting reading and talked to Dilys Rose and Brian, Dorothy, Valerie and others, and international students on the creative writing courses. Then down to the High Street for Angus Peter Campbell at Sandeman House. This was a delightful event, with Angus Peter's family, Gaelic friends including Donald MacAulay, some of the Edinburgh Gaelic community, some of the poets, including Christine de Luca, Brian Johnstone, Irene Brown, and such as Joy Hendry, Ian MacDonald, Colin Donati. It was relaxed, with music, lots of Gaelic spoken, a very competent and enjoyable reading. There was little or no tension throughout the events and we then drove home arriving about 11p.m. armed with our new "special" PS for mailout. The shocker of the day was the ?12.80 car park tariff for being in the car park from 3.30 till 10 pm. We now rarely take the car to Edinburgh, but we had a three point journey and a lot of kit to trundle, books, boxes of magazines etc. When I think I had a season ticket to that car park for the best part of ten years... at the very end of prehistory, before the internet. In those days there were people running it, a manager who kept budgerigars and would help me with any problem with my car. Staff who would say hello every day. Now it's all automated and nothing like so safe feeling, no one around to remember or not remember who we were. But we still felt pretty familiar with Edinburgh, how could we not, passing old stamping grounds, the places we met, the pubs we went in, busking pitches, bookstall site, the streets I tore round by car playing Mom's Taxi or transporting books. It was a good day out. [Winter Routine: Eric phoned me this morning. He was interested in the Save Callander West End Post Office PS, which I had sent him along with his accountancy fee, and he recounted the history of post offices in Portobello. Astrid had also called into the bookshop and I gave her a copy of the Great North Road to give to Eric, and he liked that too. This time of year is always an accounts chore: we somehow get things organised and have a meeting with Eric, in one of the cities, Glasgow this year, before Christmas. Still on a high with new scanner, I'm slightly overdoing the photos I know, but to hell with it, here are Ian and Eric in Grindles bookshop, maybe fifteen years ago. They look like a couple of tailors dummies but what the hell with that, too. Cropping and computer-enhancing the photo to exclude some irritating ceiling lights, I maybe havent given them quite enough headroom. Am astonished how much you can improve an old snap by letting the computer adjust brightness and colour, etc. Grindles had an Ayers Room effect of false perspective, shrinking in at the back, makes people look giant, and this photo emphases it. Maybe I could have got a bit more light into the background. I've owned this photo a long time, it's probably taken on Eric's camera, by someone else. Permissions shmissions.[25 November] Tonight I have added the scanner to my skills, and copied in some photographs, including that above from c .1990. My favourite photograph of Ian. We were at St Abbs, and that's Rusty, our Grindles shop dog. I think I have made this pic a bit smaller, and I managed to rotate and crop some of them. So am well enough pleased with my progress. You never know how long the freeeze will last. This is only the second day of the first real freeze, and dark with it. I woke feeling headachey. Ian took one look at me and said, "Go out in the garden while it 's sunny." So I did, and that really "put colour into my cheeks" as we used to say to the kids. I cleared the Macleyia and took the shears to many grassy corners where the snowdrops and aconites, scillas and crocuses will need short grass. I got leaves out of the ponds, which were variously frozen according to their microclimates within the garden. (Knowing these microclimates is a great help in making the garden work.) Inside, it was quiet. I finished my envelopes, which I like to do ahead of collecting the magazine, and Ian has been bookbinding as usual. Then he lit a big wood fire in the office and he is writing down there. Because I have this computer, I have to give him precedence on that one when he wants it, but I still do a lot of work downstairs, the magazine, my poems for sending out, letters and books. I could move to this, I suppose, for publishing, but I'm a long way from that yet. We always did say Macs are good for publishing. This one is doing wonders for my website - as Tony LJ said, Windows Vista does everything for you, and I'm not needing HTML or anything like that, just grab a pic of a paintpot and pour....well almost. I'm wondering about moving my website to a home domain without all those adverts. Theoretically it would be better, though I have ceased to worry about or notice the ads. Staying in in the dark and writing seems to be a winter activity, akin to hibernation. [23 November] Notice: Microsoft has no responsibility for the content featured in this group. Save Callander East End Post Office A huge village meeting in the Kirk Hall, two hundred and on a rainy night. Everybody came out with strong arguments for keeping the post office. It seemed the civil servants didnt know the first thing about living in the country, for instance they thought there were four buses an hour through the town, but in fact there are two rival bus companies, one an hour each, going three minutes apart each hour. Almost all the older population and younger families live at the east end, and the only remaining land suitable for housing development is there too. Bruce Crawford attended, and about two hundred residents, of a highly articulate sort. I said it was just like the railway closures and the post offices would be being reopened in twenty years time or sooner. Later, I asked why the National Park was not supporting us, and Mike Lutei from the National Park stood up and said, "I'm here!" so I went over and shook his hand. (It didnt do any harm as the National Park generally ought to be helping and arent). Fittingly, the last floor speech was by Dr Strang, who said that Callander had an elderly population, turning this into a joke -- the old people arent here, these are the middle aged people -- and on health reasons alone he would object to the closure (a lot of it was about old people walking for miles). We took our special Poetry Scotlands and most people went home with one. Will it have been worth the effort? The post office ladies made quite a lot of notes. [12 November] First frost Well almost, the first heavy frost, and it's very late. Additional responsibility for six goldfish out there this year, and there was ice to disturb on the pond. The grass was very white and stiff. Winter flowers are ahead of themselves, on the bushes, mahonia especially, lots of scented yellow flowers. I've just sent the Cutty Sark PS to printers, after a few days of email consultation with the author, who by sods law had two other books to proof the same week. I'm still sliding on computer learning curve. Today I found how to zoom the open windows into a 3D arrangement .Very snazzy, and effective. The Help windows do seem to speak English in this computer, and the indexing... well I'm glad I have no guilty secrets. As I have said before, privacy is going out of date very fast. Privacy of intelligence, that is, of speech and thought and contacts. I'm a bit worried about the young Asian woman who has been done for terrorism because she wrote poems under name "Lyrical Terrorist" which she claimed were "meaningless." While doing such a thing was very, very stupid, we have all done silly things at 22, or older, and it can be the sign of potential intelligence or creativity, I'm afraid. What will be the effect on a possibly good mind of too heavy a hand at that stage? Couldnt it drive her more towards revolutionary ideas? And she found Binladen's website. Is looking at a website (apart from a pornographic one) a crime? What has happened to our freedom of reading? Websites are reading - and buying pornography being illegal, so dowloading it has been inferred to be illegal too. People who download pornography need psychiatric help, in my opinion, and while people who look at terrorist websites ought no doubt to be monitored, and checked, this lassie didnt download the site she visited, as far as I can read from the news reports. I hope my namesake Jonathan will bear these citizenly opinions of mine in mind. [12 November] Stirling Writers Back from a zany session in Stirling. First a rhyming poem by Elaine, copied out in biro, which Chris patiently unwound and rewound, aided by myself and others, then a corking poem from Billy, then what came next? I think it was the crossword which Jean had compiled. This caused a lot of laughs because it was tailored to our group. A longish poem by Ritchie followed, then a narrative poem by Caroline, whose first visit this was, and finally Ian's crazy army song, "He's f ucking useless" which again brought out the best in Chris, who said it was a chorus and it needed some verses, and that the tune was good. Continued gossip in the Portcullis. I spent most of today honing the 53 haiku in the Bees, many of which seemed lacking by the various standards of the various haiku schools of thought. In the end I passed them over to Billy for a look. At one point I wondered if I could say that the Bees had written them, but then the bees ought not to put bee interpretations on their observations? They shouldnt bee-ify? [6 November] Back on the lists I'm really enjoying my re-established contact with other list poets on PK, The Outlaw Poets, WHC and Wordwizards, not that I've done much wordwizarding yet. Pennine Poets seems to have merged with PK but I will find out more. The Outlaw poets liked this haiku: my new computer 600 haiku in out of the rain Computer must be an autumn kigo! My year is turning. A good review of my chapbook and Ian Blake's in NorthWords was a pleasant surprise, and I was able to supply a Report for Karina for Sketchbook, drawing on my visit to Cape Wrath. Somewhat taken aback to find there is no word processor on this computer! I thought all computers had them as basics, never stopped to consider that some people don't write...There is a good design facility on this web page maker, but when I finally finished playing with email and internet and turned to create an ordinary writing file, it couldnt be done! So disks for a good new word processor will be bought next week...have been doing other stuff though. Manufactured a suitable folder for Liz' Callander Disk, made some more Windfalls, and planted up the superpots in the garden for winter. The Cosmos flowers that came from Kinbuck lasted so long I have only just cleared them away. [1 November] Labradors and Logging On Getting email sorted out, with help from a phone helpline where they were able to view my screen and move my mouse, which was weird, but impressive too. I seem to be back on PK list, at least. Busy with the one-sheet PS to go with the main one due out - I need to write about this on PS website, but of course Colin is away in China. Ian dragged me away from computer to go to Stirling writers, followed by the usual pub session which got suitably ridiculous, with the same old poets and buskers stories becoming a generation older. I blagged some haiku from Billy Letford to fill up a last space in the new PS. Finished the one-pager very late tonight. Labradors? Two of them were staying in the upstairs flat with a lady from Arran. The cats were somewhat alarmed, but dogs behaved impeccably and all went well. Computer fun and not games The computer is keeping me occupied, it does all sorts of things but is leaving me behind constantly. I have rescued all the recent photos I could not access and I am having a good time selecting some for this site. Maybe I shall put them around the text pages, and dispense with a photos ghetto? And I must decide soon whether to trim the site or buy more space. I already have many items stored on hidden pages. There is lots more to do - fix up the printer and scanner, learn the camera, and go into Stirling to buy a primer for vista, and sign up for the user support package . It has been a rainy dark day and the computer is here just in time for the winter. In case you think I have done nothing else, the special PS is with the author for proofs, the single page PS which might be going out with it, depending on the postage weight, is up and running, I am making a lot of Windfalls which are selling all over the place, and I am designing a poetry book with illustrations that has been on my desk for ages, to be followed by another two projects all aiming to be ready by spring. [28 October] A Week offline - and a new computer. I have recently come into a pension, and I told Ian I was going to buy a computer. Result - sulks! Why? Aha! He wanted to be the provider! He didnt want me rushing off and spending my own money without consulting him! Sulking husbands never tell you what the matter is, but when the penny dropped, I asked him if he would buy me a computer. And he did! I'm surrounded by packaging and chaos, and having had the technician here, and then taken the duff monitor back to the shop for a replacement, we are up and running. Lots to learn about Windows, as I have been a Mac user until now, but I feel like a kid at christmas, I am tired and happy and I want to play with my toys. Being off line was murder, withdrawal symptoms werent in it. I wanted to curl up under a duvet until life began again, if it ever would. I imagined I needed energy and power from my gemstones. I felt disabled. In my better moments I went on frostproofing the garden, read a lot of books (I always do), including some which will make it onto Books Read. It will take me a day or two to get right, read all my emails, learn the operating differences. I also have a printer/scanner and a camera. I am a complete novice with a camera but I intend to become dangerous with it as soon as possible. We had such a lot of trouble with the duff monitor that the technician didnt get time to tell me much about the camera, so that will also have to wait a a few days. I want to photograph the garden closely, and get my own people pics without having to cadge them from everyone else. In this connection I ought to thank Colin Will, Gerald England and Stephen Evans for being my main purveyors of photos in the past. It will be a while if ever before I reach anything approaching their expertise.[24 October] Season of Computer Updates Karina asked me for my autumn report from Callander, so I wrote it, including mention of the Durness festival, clearing up the garden and so on, as winter approaches. I'll link to that when I've got it to her. Changes are happening in my computer system, not before time. The systems have been degenerating recently, so that I could no longer put pictures into my website, for oisntance, for the time being. Now it has come to a head as my old browser seems to have been dumped overnight by Yahoo. I will have to go to the library to send Karina my report, which I'll have to copy and retype. And I'll check urgent emails there. Meanwhile I have to change this system. I can still work the internet, but until I have a fix I cannot do mail. The other thing I'll try is whether Karina has a web site where I can send her the report direct. I'll try that now! [17 October] Season of Mists Wet and misty today. The week in the shop has been very varied, but today no one was in the mood. Winter was obviously coming, and it never really seemed to get light. In the evening we went for a walk round the railway paths followed by the two cats. Nought out of ten for excitement , really, but we needed a change. Ian was bookbinding and I was working on the design of a good new illustrated diehard book, consulting Ian on the ideas as I went along. This is encouraging. I havent had a lot of encouragement for my writing this year in terms of acceptances, but then I have been working on major projects and not sent all that much to the trad sources. A number of envelopes have winged their way back to me, of course. Is it getting harder? Is the tide rising all the time? Well it reminds me how the PS punters feel. On the other hand it's been a great year in terms of development and an exciting summer, with Liverpool, Julian's trip, Callander Weekend, Liz and her music, Durness & Cape Wrath. You could be in a worse state at 65 and I think I've got a touch of pensioneritis, which is when it hits you, can you really be that old (and are you really going to get a pension). Yes it seems I am, and it means a slight adjustment of the relationship between Ian and myself re money. Do I have to do what Ian says, which is not touch it? Do I heck. My mother repaid all her pension payments quite shortly before she died, so lost doubly, but she would not have had a house if my father had died first, so they probably didnt feel they could take the risk. I think your money is safest spent, on the whole, but then I'm Scottish now, arent I? [14 October] Notice: Microsoft has no responsibility for the content featured in this group. Click here for more info. MSN - Make it Your Home MSN Home | Hotmail | Web Search | Shopping | Money | People & Groups Help ?2004 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved. Terms of Use Advertise Durness poems Finished my two most intentional Durness poems: Smoo Cave, which is longish and came out much how I meant it. Pleased with it. And Return to Cape Wrath, a difficult argument which took at least six tries, and two goings-over at Stirling Writers, and at least one major suggestion from Chris, but it's there now. I think I prefer Smoo Cave, for which I made notes at the time, and which gave much immediate inspiration, but the Cape Wrath one needed to be worked out. There's a lot more poetic stuff running around from that visit, including from Cape Wrath itself (the spaniels for instance), so it may give up more poems yet. [11 October] 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] John Lennon Festival at Durness A fantastic end to September. I think I'll do it by days, using my notebook as memory aid. Friday The delight of this festival came from its unexpectedness (for me) and from the fact that everyone enjoyed it and there was no stuffy attitide of separating the platform parties from the hoi polloi, a drawback of many arts events. This came partly from the remoteness and partly from the attitudes of those running the show. They also put on wonderful weather throughout, which I know from Callander experience, you do get the credit for if you are running a festival. Friday I drove north via Lairg and Laxford Bridge. First sign of unusual events was a car coming towards me on a single track, that had to get into a passing place for me. At the wheel was a smartly dressed business gentleman ? Dr Gavin Wallace of the SAC. ( I was the one going to St Ives as it were.) Arriving at Durness and sussing out the venues (the car proved essential) I met Kevin and Simon of the bookshop, then went up to the Village Hall, and found the massive and spectacular Smoo Cave (yes thats how its spelt). There's about to be an unveiling of a plaque on John Lennon's childhood [holiday] house, so I move to that house and mill around with some newsmen, then thirty or more other people come, including John Lennon's uncle, sister and cousin. There's a little ceremony. Then ? a great surprise ? we are all invited into the house for tea. Donny O'Rourke, who is writer in residence for the festival, very appropriately sings Burns song and Kevin MacNeill reads something from Lennon's comic prose. The house has fantastic views of the sea and sands. Julia, John's sister, who looks shy, says, "Fans are really important ? without people who appreciate them the Beatles are nothing." We are a motley lot, all ages, from all parts, many camping or in the B&B's at end of season. It worked in some ways like Callander, but was well funded and there were a lot of events in four or five venues. The Village Hall was the main venue and that first night I saw John Cooper Clark, whose f ucking train f ucking late poem was still on the go ? I heard it on the radio about twenty years ago with 'bloody' in place of the banned word ? which I've spaced in case it lands my blog in any difficulty. I also enjoyed the music and antics of King Creosote - what my son Robin would say to that I dread to think. Saturday This is getting over long. I'll try using note form. Yesterday's happy atmosphere continued. Village Hall on top of cliff. Has an exposed garden designed with help of TV team, with stones, paths, bushy planting and a John Lennon Memorial, pottery by the school kids and a more sheltered loggia. A good garden. Small Beatles memorabilia exhibition in small school. Saucers, tickets, etc the sort of things we sometimes see at auction but the Beatles mini dress was something else! 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. Next event: Lennon relatives and a Lennon expert. I enjoyed this. Julia was promoting her book. They were all different - the uncle (not on stage at this point) was lovely , the cousin was laid back, Julia was determined. John's cousin George refused to be drawn by the expert, ("Well he was me cousin wasnt he?") then drew out a fat packet of letters. "I've got some letters from him," he said. The expert's eyes popped out. George unfolded one. 'Dear George," he said, then, "I dont think I'll read it out." Evening was Carol Ann Duffy, very good indeed. She brought her daughter aged about 12 who told me she was going to be a jazz singer! And Carol brought her contact with the Beatles via Liverpool and Adrian Henry. Sir Peter Maxwell Davies and his RAM students were stunning, their recital a real privilege to hear. Sunday 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! In the shelter room, we ate communal packed lunch, had a tot of whisky from Kevin (mine very small), and a poetry reading from Michael. I deposited a current poetry Scotland in this most north westerly mainland outlet, and was photographed with Michael, his companion Sarah, and Kevin. Time was going haywire as you might expect in such a place, however I went back in the minibus and then took my car south from the harbour, leaving behind one of the best festivals I have been to. It still had a few hours to run, but I had managed to get three days events into a three day trip, including 550 mile round trip that took 7 hours each way, including single track roads and stops. I came back via Ullapool, as the locals all said that was the sensible way, passing through the great weird mountains and dropping off a few PS's at the Ceilidh Place. I want people to go home from Callander festivals that happy. Rule 1 is, everybody counts, treat everyone as a guest. Rule 2 is don't be greedy. (The all day ticket price was reasonable and the system worked, the catering vans and caf?s didnt rip you off.) Rule 3 is get brilliant weather, if possible. So home to the quiet pools and fired colours of our garden, and a long description of the fun to Ian, who was happy it had gone well and happy to see me back. [1 October] Off to the North We've decided I'm going to Durness at the weekend, for the big poetry and music festival there. It is always a good thing to get Poetry Scotland seen around. I have heard a lot about Durness and Loch Croispol bookshop from Julian (Daizan) and Ian says I must see Smoo (?Smuidh) Cave, where they have put in a piano for this event. So ? an adventure thrust on me. Went to Valerie's reading at Stirling today and enjoyed it ? the audience came out with amazing stories about wells , never seen anything like it for audience reaction to a poetry reading. Had lunch with Valerie and Dr King ("Cousin Elspeth") and one or two others ? most enjoyable, and then took Valerie to the station. Tomorrow there's Lesley Duncan followed by lunch with Elizabeth, so I'm having a wonderful week one way and another (if a little scared about the Durness trip). Apart from that we started stripping ivy from the top of the wall, and we have 36 winter pansies from Ian's father's greenhouse - he ordered his pansies twice by mistake, so has hundreds. Wrote poem about the forgotten dinner, and that did the trick ? the problem transferred itself to how to write the poem! [26 September] A Piece of Writing I havent got much further remembering this dinner party, despite much puzzling and even writing - screeds in my freewrite book, then a piece on the computer. It's reached the stage where deduction is taking over and I cannot guarantee any further memories aren't just imagined likelihoods. Though I think I would recognise real pictured memory if any more of it would come. The piece of writing was quite interesting, seemed a bit like Graham Greene (to me) because it was set in a restaurant and had external characters and a sense of uncertainty about what was happening. I may try a poem, though I would probably find that in that case I did go for imagined elements, defeating the purpose of the attempt to remember. I won't bore you with the details but the evidence of something I have completely forgotten is disturbing, and fascinating. Poets are (as one put it) planning their assault on NWS this week, and I am trying to resist the temptation to send something in for my annual knock back. They put one of mine in the first time I sent one, when nobody knew who I was! I'm not implying anything, but they do have a somewhat Scotsy track they like things to fit, I think, their image of what "Scottish literature" ought to be like. It is also time for planning ones assault on preserving the fruit, the apples, plums and blackberries that are now out there in profusion. We planted apple trees four or five years ago and now they are loaded. Something good for the sugar trade. [23 September] A Bishopton link, and a forgotten dinner I was sitting in the shop looking out at the Callander rain, when a big chap came in whom I half recognised. I'm Ian Kirkbride, he said. At once I remembered the Kirkbrides at Bishopton and Ian, whom I had not met for decades, but whom I had heard of occasionally via Elizabeth and Ann. Our fathers were very good friends. It was really nice to welcome him and to chat about people at Bishopton, with whom this Ian has still many contacts, since his parents were always near Darlington, and he and his wife now live in County Durham. Hearing about people, in fact, who belonged to my personal mythology, people I remember so clearly but never have contact with. Ian Kirkbride said he had met Ken and myself at a party Ann and Enoch held in Durham. Well, I just cannot remember this at all, and I doubt if it's right. By the time Ann met Enoch I had left Newcastle University, and Ann and Enoch had gone to Hong Kong by the time I met Ken. It is a long time ago right enough. If Ken was there, it must have been on my second sojourn in Newcastle, after I had been to Italy. I thought Ann had left Enoch by then. And do I ever remember going to a party of Ann's in Durham? Now I remember a restaurant in Durham, and a party of people, I could even take you there. Was Ken there? Yes, Enoch was there. Yes, Ian Kirkbride was there. Taaadhaaal (Gaelic for) Heeeeeelp! I'm still beaten by the chronology. Ann was in Hong Kong when I came back from Italy. Perhaps they visited Durham after that and before they separated, for that dinner is slowly coming back to me. If I can recall any more about it I will write it up to morrow. It had definitely gone down a black hole for things in life that are entirely unremembered, and that is scary. That's why it makes me think Heeeeeelp! [20 September] Croissants and rain This weekend we've had the insistent rain we dread and risk every poetry weekend. Cooking is good for bulding up warmth in the house, and I made my croissants ? Elizabeth R had warned me they take four hours, and they actually took most of last night and all this morning. They taste all right though not presentation quality, the oven is swimming with melted butter and I had to finish the croissants upside down to dry off the bases, wh were not as crispy as the tops. Doesnt compare economically with buying them, whether cheap or full price. Read a book by John Burnside ? there were cruel bits I had to skim, but in general, what an urbane and intelligent companion he makes for the reader. It was the one skirting the Cambridge rapist (The Locust Room). And I did enjoy his portrayal of ridiculous feminism.[16 September] Quiet pools and fired colours Thanks to Deborah for that description of our garden ? so much inspiration from poets who came to Callander. And now we move on. Having a stab at yeast cooking this evening. In drizzling rain, which the garden needs. [15 September] Notice: Microsoft has no responsibility for the content featured in this group. Click here for more info. MSN - Make it Your Home MSN Home | Hotmail | Web Search | Shopping | Money | People & Groups Help ?2004 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved. Term The Poetry Weekend: How it ran through Now it is all over for another year, and my brain is about working again so here is how the days panned out: By Thursday Bill Pickard was here, minding the shop as a "volunteer," and Les arrived at midday. I decided to take them out in the car and show them a loch, so we went off to Killin where they bought postcards and looked at the falls. Colin had called in our absence, on his way round to Comrie where he will be staying the nights. The weather was still fabulous and looked set to continue, which it did, apart from being rather cold on Sunday. Julian also arrived Thursday, driven by John who continued to Glasgow. Liz arrived at Dunblane at half past midnight. Both Julian and Ian offered to go to meet her with me but I went alone. I wished I had one of them there, when we had to lug Liz' recording equipment across the station bridge. Friday began with many more arrivals, Fred and Lucinda, Deborah and Morelle, and the other Scots poets who started to turn up from all directions. There was quite a big reading in the garden first, then came the party, the weather fine and settled enough for food in the garden. People set up little stands of their books and we proceeded to the evening readings, including the Makars, the WIndfall launches and Les Merton. We were very glad to have Rob Mac Ille Chiar reading in Gaelic: he has a very good reading voice, reminscent of Sorley's impassioned renderings, so that even those who couldnt understand any of the words were impressed by the sound of it. Rody was away in Macedonia. Ian Blake and I also read from our new chapbooks, and we sold a good many over the weekend. Saturday began, again sunny, with a delightful sonnet breakfast, and proceeded to the Kirk Hall, where the comfortable chairs were hastily arranged for our main day's reading. Colin was MC more or less all day, though I chaired Bill Pickard's launch. This was at lunch time, and we brought vegetarian haggis, mini roast potatoes and roast peppers over the road in preserving pans and served them in the hall kitchen, to much appreciation. Bill showed a tendency to overrun his time, but he responded with great good nature to a little firm management, and he made many friends on his first foray in the Scottish literary scene. Readings were solid through Saturday afternoon, to a very good audience, one of the last performers being singer-poet Sheena Blackhall. The road was very busy on Saturday and some people had delays on journeys, but they all arrived in the end. Just before five we all went back over the road to set up our next event, "deconstructions" of poems by Colin Will and Deborah Tyler-Bennett. Another reading followed, continued food and drink, and finally we were in the shop with Onya Wick, Sally James, Sheena, and Clylevlom. Sunday morning was the Mythology discussion which took place in the garden, with many participants, many leaders and many strands of thought. We were now past the midpoint and by lunch time I was ferrying Sheena and Deborah back to their trains. Bill Pickard also set off home, saying he had never been to a poetry weekend with so much poetry. The afternoon readings took place in the shop, crowding us out with another good audience, including the Pleiades premier reading and ending traditionally with Magi McGlynn, fetched from Balquhidder by Frank and George. After the formal events, some went and some stayed, to listen to a radio programme on Cornish poetry, as it went out, in which Les had played a part, and then to talk with Liz about her recordings, and hear some of them. Maybe fifteen of us had dinner cooked by myself and Liz ? Liz did the pasta so I could concentrate on the blaeberry pies, and I read my blaeberries poem, when the pies appeared. Only at this stage was Buck brought into commission. He recited Les' and Juliana's poems to much amusement. After midnight I evicted the remaining poets to the upstairs flat, and shut the shop, as I couldnt stay awake any longer. I have discussed the ending, the thanks etc in the entry that follows, written directly after the event. [13 September] The Poetry Weekend: first reactions First I will link to the wonderful photos Colin took, which outline the weekend and show most of the main players (including the garden): Poetry Scotland: Callander 2007 I have been so immersed in the events since before last Thursday, when the first poets arrived, that I dont know where to start, but am reminded of John Burnside's distinction between History and What Happened. Liz is still in my room which she has turned into a studio, and I have been hearing Rowena, Etta and other poets' voices on the recording as she mixes her music. Then a poem of my own ? Hares in Camp. Yesterday (Monday), Morelle, Les, Juliana, and Fred and Lucinda went off by train. Sally James had decided to travel on Sunday night while the traffic wasn't so heavy. She left around 5 and got home at 9p.m. Maureen and her escorts set off Monday morning, and Julian was collected by a friend, John, to drive back to Inverness to give a talk, just as I was about to say, "What are your plans now, Julian?" Magi turned up (still Monday) again and I took him to Crieff. I watered the garden, which I had negelected to do for the duration of the weekend, and cleared up Fiona and Georgina's flat, leaving them a thank you card and present, and a tad for the electricity etc. I evicted Finlay the white/tabby cat from Fiona's sofa and closed the flat door. Back to normal in the house! The catering went with a swing. Everything was eaten and everybody was fed. Some of the Englishies managed to get Vegetarian Haggis from Tesco Callander to take home - they'd had it for the first time here. I told some of them that Tessa Ransford's daughter Meg invented the recipe, whereupon another poet (won't dob him in) said he had heard Joy Hendry claim to have invented the recipe. If we are now down to two slices of bacon and a tray of eggs, without bread, onions or any of the other fresh-food basics, that's a sign we got the catering right. The weather was excellent. We were inside on Sunday as it was rather cold, but still dry, and visitors had warm sunny days around the weekend, so saw the country at its best. The poetry was what it was all about, and was varied in type and excellent in quality and presentation. It was great seeing everybody, and hearing most of them, if a little frustrating that there wasn't time to talk properly to some people I dont see so often ? Rosemary, Alan Gay, are some of those I kind of missed a natter with. The cats appeared to enjoy the whole show immensely, and did their share of attempted scene-stealing. The village was sympathetic. Some of the villagers and school teachers came in on Sunday when we were already very busy and we had to crowd them in, with some "youngsters" sitting on the floor. The special events, the launches and the Windfall series went well, visitors went home happy, and Colin took 96 photos, from which he has made up a very good gallery (linked at top of this account).There's a printed "programme," and a record on Poetry Scotland website alongside the photo gallery, and any further information will be supplied as appropriate. We were kindly and liberally thanked, but everyone helped, all those who read, who popped something into the kitchen to eat or drink, Elizabeth and Jean who put up long distance visitors, Elizabeth and Marc who prepared the Mythology discussion, Deborah who has agreed to minute the Mythology discussion for Tony Lewis-Jones to report back to the Welsh, and to his email list and our website, Tony L-J himself for suggesting the topic, Colin Will, Ian Blake and Julian Skinner for enormous support, and you too, if you know what you did to keep the Poetry Weekend moving smoothly. It is now 11 September, which reminds me it is my daughter's birthday tomorrow. Liz Price being a second cousin, she is staying on till tomorrow, when she and I are going to have lunch in Edinburgh with my son Robin and her niece Ellie. [11 September] Party Planning Pity my kids dont want weddings, they would be a doddle to organise after all this practice. Party planning anyway. My experience of weddings is that they are a minefield of seriously bad etiquette, so maybe its as well to play them down. In a sense the poets are my family too.The "who's coming" phase (and I emphasise there are no exclusions) is more or less over, with long distance friends all booked in to arrive Thursday or Friday, the last one just mailed in, Julian, getting a lift down from Durness on Thursday. Bill Pickard is in Callander already & settled into the shop and "did a Cargill" selling a signed copy to an initially reluctant American with Cargillian aplomb. So now it's the shopping phase, and I did one of my shops this everning, 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] Out with the Girls Yesterday Jean, Carolyn and I went to the Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum in Glasgow. You can easily spend a whole day there, and we kind of did, & also had tea at Carolyn's house and a chat about writing and music. They're both musicians, and they had both been at a light music weekend and were raving about it. We talked about the McCann case too. I dont usually talk about things on the news but this one (the disappearance of Madeleine) is so strange, like a complex novel, so that the entire world, having been dragged into the problem, is now inevitably puzzling about the solution. Someone will work it out, whatever it is. As for the Poetry Weekend, the programme is posted and more or less under control, and my hands smell of coriander as I begin the kitchen phase of planning, clearing the decks and menu making as you would for any big party. Part of the day I continued to print the new windfalls for Ian to do the covers in the bindery. This evening we went to an auction, drew a blank, viewed another auction and did some shopping. 29 August 2007 Gatehouse of Fleet Yesterday began at Callander with book sorting, then Beth came for lunch, also a German girl called Monica came, who was here for a Trossachs wedding, so middle of day was spent talking in the garden. I then set off for Gatehouse of Fleet. I had been meaning to go there for some time, to visit Chrys Salt's Bakehouse, and now I have done it. First, there was the drive, in lovely weather ? down towards Carlyle on well known route, then across Dumfries towards Stranraer. I've only been on that road once before. I remember Rusty, our Grindles bookshop dog, finding a bookshop in Kirkcudbright, but I can't remember otherwise why we were there. Arrived G of F to find I had come on Friday for a Saturday event. I'd been invited to read a poem after the peace poetry reading on Saturday. So I went to the Friday event, a performance of the Solway poets' peace poem, which was well worth seeing/hearing. It was commissioned by the Arts Council (eh?) and they performed it well. Then I booked into the hotel opposite Bakehouse, thinking to stay on for Saturday, but in the morning my wandering instinct kicked in and I headed back, via a great beach and several other ports of call. After all I wasnt booked in the programme, or anything like that, and I did take part in their audience the night before. I passed near the addresses of several poets, such as Willie Neill, Tom Pow and Douglas Lipton, but none I knew well enough to call in unexpected. Its only in the bookshop you can do that. The distance was 150 miles so it's a feasible drive. In latitude you are more or less level with Newcastle and Carlisle, not far north of Kirkby Lonsdale, so someone who asked me if I was from round there wasnt all that wrong. Back through pretty heavy traffic to find Callander in the grip of the Classic Car weekend, and my inbox in more than its usual state of chaos. 25 August 2007 Countdown to Poetry Weekend This time of year - darkening nights, summer leaves, touches of chill evening, is now firmly connected, for us, with preparations for the Poetry Weekend. This will be the seventh. In 2000 we had an Opening reading and launch of Rody's and Maurice Lindsay's books. In 2001 we had an open reading, whether one day or two, so that was the first. 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. Then we have been gardening ? the new pond is nearly ready to plant up, to be ready for the Poetry Weekend. And I have been arranging the details of that, mainly by email. I have done publicity for the Ben Ledi View and the Stirling Observer, we've begun postering, and I have been doing menus for the weekend. It takes a bit of planning, but compared with running a business, the catering is a doddle. The other big job is making the four new Windfall chapbooks, which are now all in production. Beth is coming to lunch Friday, and I am going to Gatehouse of Fleet in the evening. Luckily we got all the books home in one carload Thursday night. Then we've got two weeks clear till the Poetry Weekend. I shalnt have time for much else till after then. 24 August 2007 Notice: Microsoft has no responsibility for the content featured in this group. Click here for more info. MSN - Make it Your Home MSN Home | Hotmail | Web Search | Shopping | Money | People & Groups Help ?2004 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved. Terms of Use Advertise TRUSTe Approved Privacy St Peace Poems Putting new carpet in my room, moving the furniture, and checking through the books, many of which had no justification for being where they were. Dull work but necessary, some things untouched for 7 years. And gardening, we are still digging hole for new pond, and three very busy shop days, and printing books. I wrote three poems about peace, as I had a request for one and I didnt have anything unpublished to hand.. Elizabeth asked me when I do my writing and I said, any time at all, sometimes all day (sometimes all week for that matter) but at other times I am thinking about what to write. Peace is a very difficult subject. When I got this request I started "freewriting" which is writing down anything that comes into your head on a subject, and then possible angles start to emerge and you pursue one of them and if it falls down you go on freewriting. It is a good emergency way of coming up with a poem quickly, I find. But I wanted a good poem so I thought if I did three, one of them would be OK. I did three very different ones, and until they were done I couldnt really concentrate on other work, though I could do the shop and the garden and cooking etc. It took me more than a day, and the first and most daring of the poems has been accepted by email. I can't share it yet! [12 August] Amethyst Elizabeth getting a break gave me a break. First day we sat in garden talking, also with Eileen Carney Hulme ? I'll put her in Poets in the Shop on PS website ? Eileen stayed chatting and talking about reice etc with Elizabeth. Eileen brought me a piece of amethyst crystal, and we gave her some bulbs of amethyst coloured flowers. Today we went to the Burrell Collection where I gave in my Burrell poems MS to see what their management thought of it. Then we went via Erskine Bridge, Loch Lomond & Loch Earn to Crieff, bought Ian some trad men's slippers & then looked in at Drummond Castle Gardens where I got a bunch of this years peacock feathers which they were practically giving away. See Eileen's poem IN THE GARDEN on Guest Poem Page [8 August] Poetry Weekend preparation is hotting up. A group of emails about it everyday now, and plans growing. Saw Georgina, and we are definitely getting the flat ? a great help. In the garden we are trying to get the new pond in in time, and I have started the annual house clear-up that always precedes this event. A pity the jumble sale is after the Weekend! And of course I am making Windfalls as we will need big heaps of them. This weekend was rubbish, with the closed road and then Sunday rain, but you factor for a few bad weekends. Today we saw all six goldfish at once. They seem happy with the minnows and frog, and a waterlily flower coming out. [6 August] Road closed day A motorcyclist was killed on road to Strathyre at 10 o'clock. A dozen police vehicles piled through Main Street within half an hour, and the road was closed till 3.30, virtually all day. Though I dont want to seem unsympathetic to guy that was killed, I do think five hours is a ridiculous time to keep the road closed, affecting thousands of travellers and several highland towns. We don't have enough alternative routes. To get round, you have to go by Balloch and Loch Lomond or by Braco and Crieff. Yesterday afternoon, sister Ann called with new husband (they just got married on Islay). Everyone says her new man is v nice, and so he was, but Ann was keyed up and they only stayed half an hour. Maybe they were just tired. It was raining: I for one would have been more relaxed in the garden. Luckily we were ready with a wedding present for them we had sorted out the day before (we are quite good at presents). It was three pieces of cranberry cut glass, a vase, a big dish on a pedestal (whatever they're called) and a basket shaped bowl. My other sister, Liz, is coming up for a couple of days next week so we will have been well and truly visited lately. I am going to take Liz to one or two nice places. We have been pond guddling again today (few customers because of the road closure) and we found out we still have a big frog. [4 August] Violas and Buddhist Monks Julian went on his way this morning. Ian walked with him by the river to Kilmahog and set him on the cycle path/old railway line towards Balquhidder, where he is going to Dhanakosa. He has walked on roadsides up to now, but round here he can take paths away from the traffic. The Poetry Weekend plans have had a kick-start as people are volunteering to lead discussions and give talks. I did a bit more gardening, planning where the new plants can go (it is a tight squeeze in places). This evening we went to Kinbuck and Ian bought a viola. He is now playing it, a sound I very much enjoy hearing, and I always hope he will go back to playing viola/violin in a regular way. Ian liked Julian, who is a very serene person and makes you feel nothing matters too much ? serene and interesting, that's an unusual combination. A lot of serene people arent very interesting, while interesting people are often not very serene! [2 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] Green Magazine New PS ready, so shot across to Leven to fetch them. Yes they're green, and yes it grows on you. Began posting them before the teatime post today. Postmaster doesnt think there'll be too much delay. I don't understand this: they're having postal strikes but trying to avoid delays. I thought strikes were intended to cause delays? Then we went out to a pub session with some of the Stirling writers, and back late. [30 July] Hard Weekend Busy with Highland Games Weekend, Pipe Bands starting from by the shop each lunch time, (including Argyll Regimental Pipe Band behind the Saltire!) hot weather, teatime crowds and rather non typical customers. Kids got drunk in the beer tents, and there was a stabbing in the early evening. Ian saw policemen running, never seen that before in Callander. The good news is the new pond is going to fit in fine ? I thought maybe we had overdone ponds. But I moved some plants and got the space ready and all looks good. This evening, rather tired & wanting a change of scene we drove off towards Glasgow, got petrol in Milngavie (you pronounce that Mulgahy) and found a really nice Indian takeaway at Strathblane still open at quarter to eleven on a Sunday. We were hungry, and appreciated this discovery. [27 July] A Bread and Butter Day A book auction last night, prices through the roof but we did well on our bob-and-weave principle, and spent most of today unloading and pricing books. Some fantasy books, nice hardback copies of David Gemmel and such for a change. Lots of traffic coming into town for the Highland Games weekend. Odd spots of gardening. Rain holding off. Envelopes ready, magazines not yet back from printer. Ian has been bookbinding . Goldfish left in peace. But we did acquire another preformed pond at the auction. Who could resist it for ?7? (well, everyone else at the auction - but you're buying work arent you?) It wont get its hole dug this week. There is too much else, such as the back border, the fence between us and David, and Peggy's land to at least cut. You go from a mad phase of doing a lot of everything, to a phase of thinking you will never get anything finished. [27 July] Goldfish at home Out came the sun this morning, and out came the goldfish. All through the middle of the day they made bright forays round the pond in twos and threes, making all the water plants move and the shadows move, while we watched in fascination. We kept going up for a look. None of them showed any interest in fish-food, and the minnows etc kept out of sight. [23 July] 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. We knew there were one or two last year but they had been breeding. One, larger and black, didnt look like a minnow at all. Perusal of fish books, Observer and Readers Digest (better) and discussion with one or two customers, suggested it might be a baby carp. Oops. We had better put the carp(?) and some of the minnows in the other pond. But could we catch them? Not so far ? and there's only been one sighting of a goldfish. [22 July] Leaves and Leaves Honour demands that I preface this entry with Colin Will's correction: "Hi Sally. SPL's 'leaves' logo comes from the Library's motto 'By leaves we live.' It was chosen by Tessa from a Patrick Geddes quote: "How many people think twice about a leaf? Yet the leaf is the chief product and phenomenon of Life: this is a green world, with animals comparatively few and small, and all dependent upon the leaves. By leaves we live." It's a good quote, apart from the capital letter in Life. Stylised leaves are carved in the doorstep of the Library, and that's where the logo came from. " So we'll bring serendipity into this story: and it shows how many of us care about the same things, Patrick Geddes, Tessa, Colin D, Colin W and myself and the rest of you! Back to: Busy indoors and out. I like to think I have some effect on culture. You know, I once had a meal with Colin Donati in Edinburgh High Street, and I told him that "leaves" was a good motto for me, because I liked gardens and trees, and books. Within a very short time (weeks?) "Leaves" became the logo of the Scottish Poetry Library. Of course they are welcome to the concept, whether the tiny germ came via me or not. I also sent a poem to Norman Hidden once which contained the line "Who is Eddie Linden?: God help me so I did. And Sebastian Barker wrote a play about him of that title. And this is how most of Ian's input to culture happens: a tune on the radio that he fiddled at a folk festival, the joke that reached the radio in two days flat, the one-liner on TV picked up in the bookshop, the touch of extra good practice in producing a book. "Cheers" for thank you, invented when busking. (It showed appreciation without grovelling). Let us now praise less famous men. (Though Kiplings song 'Let us now praise famous men / men of little showing / for their work continueth / greater than their knowing/' was about schoolmasters, of course.) [22, 24 July] Notice: Microsoft has no responsibility for the content featured in this group. Click here for more info. MSN - Make it Your Home MSN Home | Hotmail | Web Search | Shopping | Money | People & Groups Help ?2004 Microsoft Corporation. All rights res Edinburgh and Callander Spent day in Edinburgh with Jean and Carolyn from our book group. We went to the Murray exhibition at the NLS which was disappointing. It was about the Murray publishing house rather than about the archive and it seemed to be aimed at schools and the general public. Of course, the archive has not been digested yet. Couldnt really expect a proper exhibition of that. First, however, we found the Arts and Crafts exhibition at the City Art Gallery and this was extremely good, and well worth the day out. Magnificent collection of exhibits, including embroidery, paintings, books, furniture, metalwork, tapestries woven in Corstorphine - it was all there (100 years old and still setting the pattern, largely). We had a good cheap lunch at Viva Mexico which used to be John Cargill Thompson's howff. I am getting used to my "third phase Edinburgh" - after living & working there for twenty years ? and this later relationship with Edinburgh was reinforced by coming back to a splendid evening gathering of the Stirling Writers at Callander. A lot of them came, and we read work in the garden before moving into the shop for refreshments and gossip.. [12 July] The secret's out or will be when the new Poetry Scotland arrives. Diehard is back in the game, publishing 43-page chapbooks, and very nice they are, too. Ian is an excellent designer. They are called Windfalls. Ian Blake's is produced and launched, and two all-Gaelic ones are at proof stage. Two by women ? Morelle Smith and Margaret GB? are already commissioned. I am happily compiling them, knowing that selling them will work and we will not be caught in the capital trap of books printed out of house. Of course there'll still be bigger books ? I have at least two on the desk ? but with the Windfalls we can really get moving. And guess what, I'm doing a Windfall of some of my own work too. We fully fund it ? there is absolutely no reason why I shouldnt. There'll be full announcements on PS website but I can't wait to mention it! Something else PS related, that I'm not going to mention on PS site, is how a poet in Monmouth (Wales) lodged a complaint about me to the Scottish Arts Council! Even the Arts Council said it was none of their business, but they got onto me in an attempt to help. The complaint was that I had not sent the poet a copy of the issue with his poem in it (he was not a subscriber and a copy went astray) then he started emailing me and I mixed him up with one of a very small group of stroppy emailers, and didnt answer his emails. Well, his emails got stroppy on their own account after that, but I still didnt open them. So, I had to phone up the arts council officer and explain why we had caused this international many Scottish poetry magazines have ever published poets from Monmouth anyway? Maybe I am cavalier as Tom Leonard said, but I didn't lose too much sleep over it, though I did spend a couple of hours chasing up dead-letter emails. The author's now been sent two copies, apologised and explained to, and offered a free copy of Issue 51, though it maybe stands a risk of being torn up, to judge by his lack of response to my response. [12 July] Fran?oise gets in touch A letter from Geneva from Fran?oise 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] Still Garden weather and the magazine is away to the printers. The last two days were murderously difficult editing and re-editing, but I got there. A drive to Leven, past the remains of T in the Park (have written a short poem about the litter), and back via Kincardine Bridge where there is huge activity preparing for the Upper Forth Crossing, as they're calling it. Other names suggested were the Fifth Bridge, Skinflatts Flyover, & others more facetious still. Skinflatts seems to have completely vanished under road foundations. Back here, the shop is fairly busy and it is the auction trade holiday fortnight, so we have more evenings here, and we keep losing track of the weekdays. After a few weeks over-activity on the editing front, I am going to plant seedlings tonight. [10 July] In the Garden It's been a very wet week or two. Only had to water the hanging baskets two or three times. Ian flattened some bumps in the lawn successfully just after the garden opening, and the grass is v green. I'll probably cut it tomorrow. The courtyard has settled down well. Hint. 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. The big winter honeysuckle is covered with flower buds, all of a sudden. Joan invited me to pick a bowl of her overflowing blackcurrants so I did. Our strong raspberry plants have marched through the fence from Joan's garden. We have plums and a few damsons on the big young tree. The problem now is using up all the fruit. There are still plenty of last year's blaeberries in the freezer. I was up too much of last night typing Alan J's Shetlandic (though I'm not now using it), which I got veirie clj?s inanundir, n?tjisin its lyknis to nort o Innglind's "chordie," [also Norwegian influenced] quhich the Tyjnsydirs h?v jenrilie tr?tid as a j?k. With 11 and a half pages of a twelve-page PS ready, I now need a good night's sleep.[7July] Compiling A day sewing, then a couple of days with migraine that stopped me doing any close work. Havent had migraine for ages and this wasnt severe but it was slow. Am now in throes of magazine compiling, nearly finished, feverishly getting the balance, hunting out small things for corners etc. It seems to be coming together out of nowhere, as it always does. Permissions asked for an anthology of Fife poems. I have a nice recent one about Dunfermline peacocks, which is to go in, but Ian had a problem he has had before. He only wrote poems when he was young, and they all had swear words in. Anthologists want to include him as he is a publisher and personality, but they always choose the ones without bleep words, the better of which have already been overdone. This time he was asked for some crap juvenilia and after getting upset and then discussing it with me, we politely said no. There was one they could have if they wanted, but not the others. It is a small step to thinking that people are asking for bad poems on purpose, but we don't want to think like that! In fact Ian's best poems did contain, er, vocabulary because that was a sign of inspiration with him! One day maybe I will do an edition of his work, with the words all included. He once told me he made a list of Scottish swear words for the Scottish National Dictionary and they turned them down! Now that I do call unsporting. The words had come from Dunfermline court records of fines for swearing. [4 July] Balquhidder's first Book Festival Balquhidder is a magic place, appreciated and inhabited by many gifted people. Jim Crumley and Neil MacArthur, for practical purposes the resident writers at Kings House Hotel, have organised this new festival themselves. It relied quite splendidly on the locals. Ian and I really enjoyed the Friday evening premiere, a discussion of writing by a panel and audience of Balquidder's liveliest, chaired by Keith Graham. David Craig, a long-time subscriber and contributor to Poetry Scotland, who lives near Lancaster in a village well known to me, but has connections with Balquhidder, was there too ? first time we'd met. What I didnt know about him was he was the first creative writing professor in Britain! Also present were Jess Smith, writer on the travellers, Bridget MacCaskill, Gwen from Stirling Writers, and several others of similar ilk. This highly intelligent and sensible discussion was followed by an utterly amazing account by Vicky Jack of her climbs of the highest mountains in seven continents. Computer-screen pictures added to her talk. Wait for the sensation the book about this will cause in the autumn ? written by Anna Magnusson with Vicky's help. A fabulous evening and historic start to a sure-fire annual event. And still light and beautiful at half past ten when we came out. Saturday they had a full programme but because of the shop, I went on my own to David Craig's event wh was most interesting. In the evening, Ian and I went up for the ceilidh in the Kings House bar. Jim Crumley led the ceilidh impressively with his guitar and songs. We all gradually began to join in and an excellent friendly carousing followed. On returning from the afternoon session I had noticed a report of a car crashing into Glasgow airport. It had just happened and information was uncertain. Ian had heard a radio report. Only Scots bystanders would get tore in and help the police by attacking men emerging from an exploding car. Only British police would refrain from shooting the men. On the drive up to Balquhidder there was virtually no road traffic and absoutely no air traffic.[29, 30 June] Liverpool and Sally J. That's more like it! I experience dual nationality when I am in the north of England, perhaps triple nationality on the rare occasions I go to London ? my birthplace (where I am London/Cardiff Anglo-Welsh, which is a bit like being Lewis/Glasgow). The sense of companionship and belonging was great at the Liverpool occasion. I went to Sally James' house near Bury and then we drove to Liverpool in Sally J's car. It worked out really well, as Sally J has hardly been back to the Liverpool poetry scene since her husband Trevor died, but the guys all remembered her and welcomed her back with open arms, and she says she will start going again. It was the PK list get-together and we all enjoyed meeting people with whom we had discussed poems and everything else on the web. Most were people I hadnt met before and it was great. Jim Bennett (at last), Jazz (who lives in Lancaster but didnt know Lizzie Burns ? must get them together). Philip, Waiata, Stuart, Dam, such a mixture of ages and backgrounds but all poets of various kinds. As well as our readings we had guest poets, David Bateman and others, and Jim finished up getting us all singing. Sally J and I had a great visit, too, catching up on all sorts of things, I couldnt put them all here.The runs up and down country gave the usual satisfaction, 250 miles each way, but by the time I had done the long haul to Carlisle it didnt seem so far. The M6 was clear despite ongoing radio reports of the flooding troubles in Sheffield, and the closure of the M1. [27 June] Garden Open Today The morning deluge was rain but this cleared and the afternoon deluge was visitors. We are pretty shattered as happens after a busy event but it was really good and we both enjoyed it a lot. It began with champagne in our garden with Paul, Sandi, Rachel and others, continued through a hectic shop afternoon with garden viewers coming through all the time, and during which a lady exchanged a car load of books for a tree (good idea), and ended with a gathering for drinks at St Kessogs, the only garden I had not seen, where we talked to Miss Penney, Hilary, Fleur, the Blacks, and others. Including tickets bought in advance, we handed in more money than all but the largest gardens. Paul and Sandi had arrived on Saturday evening and they did the rounds of most of the other gardens before heading off at 5p.m. to be back at work tomorrow. Paul is now semi retired, doing three days a week, which I gather means four days a week when he is at home. They are still going off to conferences etc a lot. Paul also liked the family memories pamphlet. These big weddings dont seem able to go off without a major discourtesy ? Sandi has not been invited to Melanie's wedding. This was Sue Eales' big chance to show generosity, and not just generosity, decency, but she hasnt taken it. Result? The whole thing becomes a charade. Off to Liverpool tomorrow to go to the PK list get-together and stay night with Sally James.[24 June] Notice: Microsoft has no responsibility for the content featured in this group. Click here for more info. MSN - Make it Your Home MSN Home | Hotmail | Web Search | Shopping | Money | People & Groups Help ?2004 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved. Terms of Use Advertise TRUSTe Approved Privacy Statement Garden Open Tomorrow well, the next day, Sunday. Gardening madly between other things, over days we have had hot weather a.m. and lightning storms p.m. The sort of weather you could go and swim in the loch, though I havent had time so far. The garden is as good as it will be, Paul and Sandi are coming, and I think it 's an occasion for a bottle of champagne. I've still got the one from the Slam, and two others from somewhere or other. Keep winning 'em. Pile in on Sunday and I'll pour you a glass. Rang Robin to see if he was coming over and found he is in Leicester. He cycled down on his holidays taking six days. Just got there yesterday so he won't be back. Saw Stephen last Sunday and he approved the family memories, so "Sally's Pamphlet" is now in production. Publication (signed and numbered edition, printed on demand) next week. [22 June] Cambusmore and other activities Jennie has experienced a typical crazy week. She's surviving well. We did a plant auction & a book auction. A shopful of new books to sort (Ian did most of that). Jennie and I went to Nairn for Ian Blake's poetry reading and to deliver his new chapbook. We also called on one of my non poetry friends, yes I do have a few, Helen in central Inverness. We had a lovely talk with her in her house. She was Twiz' best friend's mother. She loves books, paintings, her garden and going to Paris, but her retirement plans were put severely on hold when she had to take over the upbringing of her granddaughter. They had all lived in South Wales at one time. That's how they came to know Twiz. We enjoyed the event, a meal with a group of people in Nairn, and the drive. Coming back there was a storm, and the sunset was misty orange behind us (north west at 10 p.m.), the sky was blue and light to our right and black above and overhead. Very odd. Roads still very quiet ? so its not only Callander where summer touring hasnt got under way. Today I did the shop a.m. and Jennie went to Dunblane. Then we went with a small group of gardeners to Cambusmore and four other gardens that will be open next week. Cambusmore was very interesting with fabulous layout on a long slope overlooking a park of trees in a river loop, and exceptionally good roses. I hadnt been there before ? it is normally private, and wholly concealed from view from roads and paths.. [16 June] Jennie comes to stay so I springcleaned the house. If people didnt visit us I dread to think what it would be like. Ian Blake's book is up to numbers (about 65) and I have finalised my family history pamphlet. In effect it's a biographical sketch of my parents, John and Mary. I think it could be one chapter in a range about aspects of my life. The title of the whole? Becoming a Scot. It remains to make some copies and see how the family react. Jennie arrived about 6 p.m. last night. Jennie is my old university friend and she has just retired from working in London, wh she has done ever since we both left college. I had been a little nervous about the visit but as soon as she arrived we could see it would be all right. We have a busy week so she can chum us around or not, as the week goes by. [13 June] Sally's Pamphlet Still busy...except the shop's not as brisk as you'd hope for this season. People are spending cautiously in town. Any quiet patch and you are quick to ascertain "it's not just us!" No serious matter, you get these ups and downs. All jobs proceeding well except the interior wood painting, which I have not begun. The memoir is finished and I'm looking for a title for it. The subtitle is Memories of the Knight and Evans families and I have rigorously stuck to relevant material illuminating my parents and grandparents lives, and the family lives they created. I wrote it in two days and I knew when it was finished, but I don't know how to title it. How about something based on what the nieces and nephews will call it? On the lines of The Phone Book? Sally's Pamphlet, probably. I have put apostrophes in it, and there are perhaps two semi-colons. Also I have to revise it, check it, go through it carefully for errors, checking facts, things that might annoy living people, things that might annoy me, & then to informalise it a bit: changing Ultimately to in the end is a good example of informalising. Shaving little bits off and wondering if it is all utterly boring. It would be dreadful if it was. This is the last hurdle: confidence in it. [7, 8 June] When you're busy When you're busy why does another job always come charging along? Making chapbooks. Ready to sort out next PS issue. Ready to finish typing next dedicated issue. Bought white paint to paint interior doors and windows. Gardening ? got two rose towers buckshee from the tip, and I thought they were from a local hotel. Went to ask the hotel if they had put them out and were putting any more out. Hotel said no they hadnt put them out, but were going to put theirs out, and I could have them when they did. Fixed a floppy rose into a rose tower tonight, with great success. But that's not the new job ? that's a digression. The new job is writing my early family memories for my nephews and nieces (and son and daughter too). Just occurred to me it would make a good wedding present for one of them, then of course it would be for all of them. So put my toe in the water ....... and zooooooom I am in mid script. Oh and the house needs tidying up for Jennie's visit next week. Aaaarrrgh! [5 June] Balquhidder in Summer On a beautiful afternoon, Balquhidder is hotching with poets and people from Callander. Ronnie from Screwit has moved to the Smiddy House above Magi's path. Jane from Highland Arts (who lives in the glen) was walking the road with two children on bikes (she often rides her horse there). I took Larry Butler and another poet up to Dhanakosa and had a cup of green tea and a short walk and talk in their grounds. Sheena was going up later tonight ? she had to work in the morning in Aberdeen. Then I called down at Magi's to make sure he was happy with his booklets. He was. We left them the other day in the famous bender, when he wasnt there. [2 June] Another Writers Night Stirling Writers is a very dynamic group just now. We always pub afterwards till past eleven, and when Chris & Robert & the rest of us get going we have a lot of laughing and talk. We put the seats in the car for all the lifts ? Elaine to the bus stop, Chris to Dunblane and Jean to Callander. It's becoming a must for Tuesday nights ? whether we take work of our own or not. This time I got some useful help with my poem "On the Early English poem The Ruin," which I should now be able to finish. Of the in-house printing, Magi's book is finished and delivered, and the first Windfall is well on the way. What is a Windfall? Wait and see. [30 May] Some names to drop very loudly And who else has been in your shop? asks a friend in an email. It's an old joke ? "They've been in my taxi" but when you're working in public places it does happen. The most famous buyers send agents (Michael Jackson, Paul Daniels, and very sadly a certain great lady in August 1997). Visitors in person include, starting with Grindles: President Mitterand of France, Bob Hawk of Australia (who asked Ian: Do you know who I am? and Ian replied, A comedian!), the Scottish National Orchestra, Joanne Rowling, Damon Hill, Sir Robert MacAlpine, Iain Crichton Smith, Nabila Khashoggi, "Taggart" and his author (separately), The Duke of Buccleuch, a busload of Elvis impersonators, and the lady from Dublin who left her houses to the Edinburgh Festival. At Callander: Ian Paisley with his wife and security men, Julian Lloyd Webber and his wife, and Ringo Starr. And the rest of you, loved and valued all. Please form orderly queues. [28 May] Letting life take charge Robin came yesterday on bicycle & found us admiring our new ? terrace? Pizzas on the terrace. Ian went to the Co-op for one large bag of compost to fill a pot. I planted it up & he went back for compost for the other . But all was sold to Hilary Gunkel! ? who is arranging the village baskets. I ought to be doing my whack by helping her. This morning I took Robin down to the Falkirk Wheel, where he set off to cycle back to Edinburgh. Then a very busy day at the shop, and printing and sewing books, and more gardening. Had been meaning to go to Shore Poets, but the pull of Callander over Edinburgh as a place for us to exist is now very strong. And I've done my day's work. So instead, we hied us over our favourite road through the Trossachs, the steep "Dukes Pass," for a stroll in Aberfoyle, in the late light , skies shining between clouds, lochs between woodlands, & came back all the happier and decidedly tired. A discussion with Robin on whether taking care of yourself keeps you healthy. Robin said you dont have a moral right to be healthy if you obey rules about vegetables and relaxing. I said it's about sensing when you are overdoing things. If you are lucky enough to be healthy you shouldnt feel superior to people who get ill, but you can still achieve a lot if you let life take charge. This discussion was partly viz Louise, who Robin tells me has had some bad luck with health and a hospital stay, but is, glad to say, now back in biz. [27 May] "It's why you came here!" This is something that happened in the papers a couple of weeks ago and it has stuck in my mind. The new head of the British Intelligence Services, name of Jonathan Evans (no relation), had his pic in the papers and I swear he was in our shop earlier this year, around Easter. I noticed his sharply serious face looking past me as he moved round. Well, all sorts of people come in the shop and he could have been on his holidays, or he wanted a look-see round Scotland before he became a household face ? don't know, but do know that guy was in the shop. A professional information worker, he's not one of these "agents," or informers, the note-writers you get in every university and quango. Likely enough to look into a bookshop, and after all, a king may look at a cat. [25 May] Chapbook activity Activites on two fronts: Ian is finishing the standing area outside, a big improvement to the garden: low drystone walling, gravel and the Liberty pots. I am just done screaming over packets of wet gravel going into my nice new car. And I am making chapbooks. A real example of problem solving. As we needed a car this year, the book publishing budget was thrown out by the management (Ian). Ian actually said, "Paperback poetry books are out of date!" and he may be right, though I havent quite caught up with him yet. That's not unusual. Everyone else is making chapbooks. Why should a good independent publisher lose out? I am now making books, working with authors, preparing proof copies ? three books reaching completion, though I wont be telling you what they are till they are launched. At 43 pages you can call a chapbook a book these days. There is also Magi's 5 sheet booklet (18 pages of poems), a special case and going into full production tomorrow. Though I do say every author is a special case with special requirements. That is one of my new publishing axioms. My Viking delivery of coloured paper and card arrived this morning. Full details soon. The advance info is that I feel so much better now these are under way. And it brings down the number of longer books proposed to one or two. Or three. I can live with that. [25 May] Slam Winners Slam report I knew I didnt stand much chance with 12 poets who had all won slams, some of them slam specialists. But acquitted myself well ( everyone did, and when you think about it, nobody stood much chance) I got through to the second round, and I learnt and observed a lot. The presenter, announcer and Jenny Lindsay all wore evening dresses, as though it was really an evening jazz club. If I had known, I might have done the same, though it wouldnt have affected the outcome, nor would wearing character hats for my poems, which I had considered. Jenny Lindsay won it, deservedly. We will hear more of this young lady. Second? A nice young chap called Ash. Buit who would spend a sunny Sunday afternoon at a Jazz Club? Not many, other than the contestants, a few friends, the organisers and some stalwarts including Eleanor. So - no audience except the competition, which gave the performances a a slightly sterile qualilty. People had come a long way - three from Aberdeen - and they got not so much as a toffee apple for it, except the first and second winners, going forward to a BBC contest in Manchester. This high stake put an edge on the competitiveness, however all stayed courteous and friendly. We couldnt glean feedback from the marks, supposed to be for presentation, audience reaction and content. The marks were all close together and rather unintelligible. (I did wonder if this was a ruse to enable the Beeb to choose whoever it wanted to, as no-one could do the maths, but only suspicious old me would accuse them of that, and if it was so, they chose very well.) Still, we all talked to each other and put names to faces, and several people said they liked my poems, and that would be true for the others too I hope. The performances were ebullient, mostly youthful rants with inocuous subject matter. Jenny (who won it) and I were the only women, and there were poets with more right than me to be disappointed they didnt win. Flamboyant, attractive people were at an advantage even when they didnt win, and I could see now why Jim Bennett said of slams, "You don't stand a chance if you're over thirty!" Drove back to Callander, debriefed to Ian, and then we went to Oban for the evening. Got there in time for fish supper on the prom, fending off seagulls, and enjoying the fading light over the bay. Light till 10.30 (you're west there). Drove home in the dark. You can just about have a summer holiday in Oban in two minutes fifteen seconds, the length of a slam poem. [20 May] Scotland back to work and another interesting day. A Callander SNP funeral in the morning. MSP Bruce C wasnt there, he was busy setting up the government as junior minister for parliamentary procedure, with Alex. Callander Kirk, the service taken by the lady chaplain of Corntonvale, followed by ceremony at Callander Cemetery and then to Callander's poshest venue, the Roman Camp, where I struck up a conversation with a sweet elderly lady who must have been the only unionist present "We should all be one big happy family" she said. It's very pleasant to know your friends are helping to run the country. That's what it must have been like for my Labour friends all these years. Pm to Kinbuck where we got the booby prize for books but also three lovely big LIberty pots for the garden. They match the arts & crafts table that's under a hedge, and they'll finish off Ian's new standing space perfectly. [14 May] Picnic Season Summer evening picnics have coincided with testing out the new car. We have favourite picnic tables throughout the area, particularly the Dukes Pass and the top of Glen Ogle. These wooden tables are a good facility and you can take the works, and food hot from the oven, on a half hour run. But jobs are building up: books, poems, gardening. I've been roped in to help with the hanging baskets, too, which is haphazardly fun with a big group of village women. Jennie, my old college friend, wants to come and stay in June on her retirement from a lifetime of admin in London. She has ended up as the electoral Returning Officer for a London Borough. She will find our life here very different indeed from that. And no, she's not spying on the Scottish Parliament, though she is likely to ask us some incredulous questions about the voting. [14 May] At the Car Auktion I have spelt this wrong as I do not want hits from people who want to buy and sell cars It was great. If you can handle an auktion it is crazy to buy a car any other way. We had saved and sweated for some weeks and had the cash in Ian's inside pocket. We nosed round the cars, still rather confused but Ian said, judge it by the actual sale. There were about 200 guys there, and 250 cars for sale, and about three women, apart from office and catering staff. The guys were more interested in the cars than in the women, anyway! I heard a guy tell the clerk there was a "wee wifey" waiting to see her ? that was me! Nearly everyone was trade. The cars were much cheaper than we expected ? far less than garage or private sale prices.They began with the bangers (they dont sell cars over 10 years old) , which they were all but giving away, then the values went slowly up. The auktioneer was clear, informative and audible, which is important. Ian got a bid or two in on some good looking cars and then we took a Renault Megane Scenic, at a price that had to be checked with the seller (i.e. it was cheaper than it should have been). The sale was approved within ten minutes and we drove away, also within ten minutes, delighted. It's a really presentable car, it ought to be trouble free for some time, and it's a big glick above the tatty level we had descended to with the last two cars. (That's because we wore one out moving the shop, & we never put things right till now.) [10 May] A garden blurb A request for a few words about our garden for Callander Open Gardens publicity purposes. An old hand at talking things up, it didn't take me long. This is what I put: Behind Kings Bookshop lies an unexpected walled garden with a great outlook on Callander Crags. This garden, developed by Sally and Ian since they opened the bookshop in 2000, is a meeting and living space used among other things for poetry readings. Already it has many unusual smaller trees, three small ponds, and against its sheltering walls, climbing plants such as a fig, a vine, and a number of honeysuckles. No point mentioning the winter flowers, for they will not be visible in June. Nor Ian's current work on the patio, which we hope will be finished. Ian has just said, Sally, that isn't a patio, it's an outdoor theatre space. [9 May] Interesting times? Great times. "With your English voice?" asked a clever elderly lady when I told her my political views (there you have it). As Fergus told someone who said "Why should I vote, I am English?" : You have lived in Scotland for twenty years. You are Scottish of English origin. I have lived here since 1979 and I fell in love with Scotland instantly. Unfortunately I interpreted this by instantly falling in love with a Scot: the wrong one! It took me a bit longer to stabilise and settle down happily and effectively with Ian, my partner of more than 20 years. During this time I have seen Scotland learn to think and act for itself, not to rely on "grown ups" in another country. For England is undoubtedly another country, and it can be argued we are its last remaining colony. The Scots' desire for independence is tied up with the desire for peace, good ecology, abandoning nuclear programmes, and fair dealing.. I realise too that my own true personal independence ? economic and spiritual ? has come during my time in Scotland. Before that, I lived in the dependence of a religious upbringing, the dependence of institutional employment, the dependence of my first marriage, even the dependence of an English education. We have now recovered from the excitement, the flag flying, the canvassing (yes I did some in Callander and have only gained by it), the listening in, lack of sleep and the nail-biting finish which leaves all of us grateful for the holiday weekend before we find out what on earth happens next. What coalition? What demands? Eric came for lunch yesterday ? which shouldnt really be a footnote! He came by train and bike. The Skye bus doesnt seem to have started yet. We had a delightful lunch in the garden enlived by the well-timed arrival of a case of wine sent by a friend. [5 May] Mainly Gardening Today was made up of various parts, compiling & text proofing IB book and visit from our book dealer friend in South Wales, who has been trying to move back to Scotland with his family for about two years. The Scottish house buying system is bugging them. They tried for a house in Callander, one in St Fillans and even one in Muthil. Each time they have to come up as a family to see the house. They are now looking in Fife which is probably easier. 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. Otherwise I found lots of seedlings all over the garden and replanted them. Geraniums, columbines etc. I have planted the aconite seeds I collected at Launde. I suddenly realised they were the large kind of aconites called Guinea Gold. [27 April] Back and busy Home. Lovely weather, garden living, saltire skies. The cats had been sulking in my absence. Ian hadnt been too busy ? there is a degree of election blight on business. Feeling much rested and refreshed, I got in about designing Ian Blake's book. It's at the top of the urgent heap, with sketching the September weekend programme, and sorting out last year's accounts book, next on the heap. My cousin Margaret called, always welcome, and Richard Livermore turned up for the weekend, pre-warned of chaos. Someone bought one of his books and he was fetched to sign it ? an author's rare moment of triumph. [27 April] Lovely Launde Just back from a brilliant four day trip to Leicestershire. A great drive back today, after discussion and lunch with my old and new poetry friends. I made notes on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings from which I will draw. Tuesday Drove down on Monday in a hired car from Stirling. Chose East Coast route and was lucky. Radio warnings of extra large loads in West, delays, fog and closed road from Penrith to Brough. It was St Georges Day (I hadnt realised) and Classic FM, when I found it ? the signals changed down the country ? put out English music all day. Reached Launde Abbey via Market Harborough, narrow Leicestershire/Northants lanes, the real Burnt Norton. Up a farm track, into a secret valley and there it was, a humbler version of Newstead Abbey in richer gardens. The programme was whirlwind, the food was good, the poets and tutors super ? it would have been perfect with some men! Still you can't have everything, and the women poets' communication was relaxed and rewarding. We wrote, workshopped, listened, and soon had the thirty participants' names: some already known, Lizzie Burns especially, others met through PS, web, magazines and networks, others unknown to me. By Tuesday night it seemed I had been there two days at least. Lizzie and I read in the same performance group & I tried out my new slam poem, which went down well. There was a book table and as well as a few books and PS's I made a triptych folding leaflet on the office photocopier, incorporating some poems, web addresses, and a bunch of weeds (goosegrass, ground ivy and celandine) photocopied direct as a frontispage. I called it A Launde Abbey Handsel and it did its job well. I brought one home which Ian admired ? he said it bordered on genius and the weeds looked like a woodcut. Wednesday The weather improved. More poets used the garden. We were kept very busy with long hard writing sessions. Now we all knew each others' names, Alice Beer in her nineties, Lotte Kramer from Peterborough, Rosemary McLeish from Glasgow ? we could have shared cars had we known ? Dilys Wood herself, and three brilliant tutors, Myra Schneider, Mimi Khalvati and Catherine Byron. There was Katherine Gallagher, an Australian poet in London who talked about Judith Wright. There was Nicola, whom I met at the Stirling conference last year, and Maggie Norton, poet laureate of Cumbria, whom you can ask to a reading and Cumbria wll pay her expenses. A useful conversation with Gill McEvoy, whom I have met before, a contributor to PS and PS website, on a problem we both had with a publisher. Gill now has a Happenstance publication with which she is very pleased. All 24 of us gave readings in blocks of eight (six leaders and tutors had read the first evening). Readings were professional, poignant, funny and very varied and did not flag. Invited to write a sonnet and sestina for the fun competition, I got in about my StAnza "Aconites at the poetry festival" poem for the sestina, then more or less dashed off a sonnet from the sonnet's point of view. This arose from my recent study of Shakespeare's sonnets, plus one by a renaissance Spanish poet who pretended to explain how to write a sonnet by describing the line order. Mine wasnt quite as way out as that but it drew something from it. I suspected my sonnet was better than my sestina, and indeed it was one of the two winning sonnets and will be published in the Second Light Newsletter. Of course there was lots more of interest but you have to stop somewhere. As on the journey home today, Thursday, I stopped at Greta Bridge, a most beautiful quiet place just off the Scotch Corner to Penrith road, which is at last being dualled throughout, and the villages which demonstrated for bypasses have now got them. [26 April] Walking on (and through) water Saturday seemed quietish, with a major road diversion in the afternoon ? we dont have adequate diversion routes when there are accidents on the roads through the mountains. Drivers were being sent round by Loch Lomond to get to Crianlarich, Oban and Killin. A serious collision, to judge by the ambulances, police vehicles and fire engines that went through at very high speeds. So today we werent expecting too much but the shop was very active, with visits from Donald McCormack, and another dealer from the Lake District with whom we had a good natter & who took a big framed map of Derwentwater from us, among other things. We had other good buyers too. In the evening we went for a walk up the woods south of Callander. We went without coats and got absolutely soaked by a rainstorm coming back. Considering how long we have lived in Callander this has happened to us very rarely, perhaps twice. Printed out all my current poetry work, there is a huge lot of it. Some of it must be OK! [22 April] Lily ponds and SCoP Finished my second pond, and had a good time dubbing in it, moving water hawthorn plantlets from the first pond and immersing some zebra grass that had been hidden away in pots. Water hawthorn growing well and flowering and the lily sending up strong red leaves. Lily ponds are a simple pleasure, not in the least dimmed for me by my having fallen into a deep one ? and ruthlessly scrambled out of it soaked through ? at the allegedly formative age of five. Popping in and out of the garden from the shop. Helena's article has given surprising returns in visitors. This time it was a gentleman from StAnza's board (I think), whom I knew by sight and who addressed me as Sally. Then to Stirling (Stirling Centre of Poetry - that's SCoP) for a reading by Bill Herbert. Excellent reading and the usual poets there, Rory, Alastair, Chris Powici, Elizabeth, Helen McLaren, Ritchie and some other students, and Robin Cairns who had come across from Glasgow to hear Bill. Have erased part of my last entry, in which I was moaning about this, that and the other and the world in general (when it is the world in general then you know you are tired). Was impressed and touched that friends (plural) emailed me in response, some saying they too felt like that. Decided, all the same, to amend the record. On line is on line, on air, public speech, and them's the conditions that prevail. [19 April] A visit to Glasgow To Glasgow to Alan Riach's Dept Scottish Studies to the launch of Beth Junor's book of Valda's letters. Gave Beth a copy of Helen Cruickshank book signed by various poets in 1951, including Valda Trevlyn and John Manson, who was at this launch in 2007 as well as that one in 1951. Also present were Dierdre Grieve and a very good natured Grieve grandson, with his hair rising above his face just like MacDiarmid's! We bought three books at a modest discount to sell in the shop, got them signed by Beth and Dierdre, and we have sold one already (we were not expecting a rush). I designed a booklet for Magi McGlynn today, from poems he dictated to me yesterday. It's very stylised and needs to be sensitively published to bring out its qualities of "sincerity and truth" as opposed to the artifice one expects in most poetry these days. We will probably give it the Cello or bookshop imprint rather than the diehard one, and we know how to make it do its job. [17 April] Continues on Past Weeks StAnza and After page Notice: Microsoft has no responsibility for the content featured in this group. Click here for more info. MSN - Make it Your Home MSN Home | Hotmail | Web Search | Shopping | Money | People & Groups Help ?2004 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved. Terms of Use Advertise TRUSTe Approved Privacy Statement Funnybirthday It did seem a funnybirthday, pleasant though. Louise emailed me, wh was nice, and then [sister] Ann phoned. You never know what Ann's going to do next , & I could tell by her voice there was a Speech coming. Sure enough, she met a guy in January and she's marrying him. She told me enough ? his first name, activities and place ? for me to look him up on google and find out everything you wanted to know about him, and some things you maybe didnt. Last time I saw Ann it was all how much nicer life was in your own little house with your freedom. Well, congratulations and good luck to her/them. Next morning Stephen turned up here, while I was opening cards from Liz & Martin, and Sheena Blackhall. We had lunch and a natter in the garden (Stephen's not a garden chap, though he managed to recognise a rhododendron). He had news of Kirkby Lonsdale and Casterton, the Makinsons, the Mellors and Miss Rich, etc, whom he visited recently. [12 April 07] 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. Easter in the Highlands The Highlands change gear at Easter. Gone are the long winter, the darkness, the holing up and living through, the floods, the snow (not much of that this year), the regulars. Now come the traffic, the visitors, the light, the litter, yes, the money. We've had a busy week. I fetched "Ian's Dad's Tomato Plants" from Dunfermline, a speciality of our shop, and provided on time this year despite illnesses, deaths and ructions in the elder generation. Yellow tomatoes and red Alicante, they soon go to the locals, so we are not putting them all out for the holiday weekend. The traffic was heavy on the A84, as cars and caravans headed for the West Highlands, but virtually no lorries because of the holiday. I took a clever way back to avoid the traffic. Clever way: if the sign before Junction 10 says queuing likely, or congestion, or anything like that, or even if it is Saturday or Sunday mid daytime in summer, stay on M9 to Dunblane roundabout (end of M9), go onto A9. At next junction, go off to Doune/Callander, drive to Doune. If traffic looks heavy on joining A84 at Doune, then go left instead of right, back over Doune Bridge and take the south of river road to Callander ? a small road than links the farms on that side of the river. We had a quick run out along Loch Lubnaig and a walk in the forest, only taking from six to eight pm. It was still light when we got back. Then I set the hose up, and have been filling the ponds & watering the potted trees and pretty well everything else too. Stephen phoned and he will be calling next week, during his climbing trip. Hurray for the Highlands in summer. We came here in February 2000 so this is our eighth year. [6 April 07] A letter from Christopher Whyte, discussing a difficult translation of a poem I am attempting for him. So far we are on the third draft. The problems are more to do with understanding the poem than with the language itself. I think we are getting there now. I have suggested a terser meter ? tetrameter [di dum / di dum / di dum / di dum], sometimes called iambic dimeter, on the basis that two iambs are one foot ? for the brisk, brusque tone of this poem, and Christopher has agreed. For me to follow this poem, it has been necessary to discuss family experience very honestly, and, ironically, the crisis we had recently with Ian's family has helped me in understanding Christopher's poem. The poem has already been published in Gaelic in Rody Gorman's An Guth. Christopher has a very nice new website ? AboutChristopherWhyte. This link leads you to the translations page. Christopher Barnes also wrote this week. He is recovering from illness, and back living and writing in his flat in Jesmond. I was very glad to hear from him. Christopher doesnt seem to have his own website, but he does a lot of web work, as shown by these google refs. It's best to search without the word Pasternak, as he is not the Barnes who is author of that biography. Christopher Barnes [26 March, 31 March ] Garden and Car Everyone who was at StAnza will have had a chill-out this week, if they could. The weather has been variable but gardenable and all my new aconites are planted and looking well. I've been reading, resting, & catching up with real mail, and we now have a broadband line, only to find I need to update my old computer before it will latch in. Mac Os X was state of the art when we got it but of course it's a fast moving art, and the seven years since we came to Callander have flashed by particularly quickly, it seems to us. So a further delay, but I cant push The Broadband Connection that Jack Built any further, and as Ian says, "you're not to keep reading it for years, either." Slam poems are poems of the moment, & one has to move on. Ian was down in Edinburgh yesterday making sure our bank account was hunky dory, and its just as well he did so, because this evening as we were setting out the exhaust fell off our car. Car was due for replacement this spring, as it won't pass another MOT so this is the point to walk from it without sentiment. I've had enough cars now that I can do that. When my first and favourite car was turned in, I burst into tears even though I had swopped it for a much better one! We started a bit of research which means phoned my garage man in Dunblane to see what he could suggest. We have two weeks in which we dont need car all that desperately. Have sadly cancelled trip to Ayrshire (The Bakehouse) as I was going as a visitor, and the trip without car wd have taken two days and included some hitchhiking. There's no public transport to Callander on Sundays with the important exception of the summer Skye bus, one a day. And I wouldnt like to lay bets on the transport at Gatehouse of Fleet. [22 March 07] A Very Personal StAnza: Tenth StAnza Festival 14-18 March I've been at StAnza for five days & havent had access to a computer. The whole week is presently a hazy but satisfactory blur in my mind, so I will cover it by topic rather than by date. A lot happened, and I'm not entirely clear about the days, which could easily be checked in the StAnza programme. Happenings that come to mind, as I return to base on Sunday evening, include the following. We had been to the opening and two readings, including Dick Lee's wonderful music, and given our late night tickets to Kevin and Katrina, before Ian freaked out on the Wednesday. While we had planned I would take him home and return alone on Thursday, it happened rather precipitously and I delayed returning on Thursday till the afternoon. Ian's grouses included the (inevitable) prominence of Waterstones booksellers, and the projection on walls of Alastair Reid's poem Scotland, with its phrase "we'll pay for it!" which I have already remarked elsewhere to be somewhat out of kilter with the times. Another factor may have been nerves over the imminent publication of Nell's Sphinx, spilling some of our secrets, particularly Ian's, in an article which I consider both sensational and good. Anyway after that I booked into the little hotel at Crail and began. Thursday night we had a good Open Mike after the lecture and major readings. 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!) But that was only my StAnza, now for everybody's StAnza. There were a great many excellent gigs, Szirtes' lecture, Sean O'Brien and Gwyneth Lewis' readings, Alastair Reid's conversation with Tom Pow, and so on. Normally I support Colin's Dead Poets series, but this time something had to give in my timetable and it was the dead poets, though I knew they were all well patronised and went very well indeed. The only one I attended was Keats and Shelley, when Pascale Petitt brought out the magic of Ode to a Nightingale very well, reciprocated by Ron Butlin with Shelley's Ode to the West Wind. Both limited themselves to parts of their great authors. It wasnt till Saturday night I managed to get in touch with Ian by phone. "Guess what, I won the slam," I said. "What?" said Ian. "Wasnt there anyone there?" By this time I had been congratulated by young and old and I had learned that I would be invited to take part in StAnza next year, well it 's about time eh? All good stuff, but I was beginning to flag. Went round the pamphlet fair where I saw Morelle (didnt see her anywhere else) and where Nell gave me copies of "our" Sphinx. Retreated to base to peruse this in private, then returned for my favourite John Hegley, who was reliably fun, and preceded by Matt Harvey whom I thought one might just as well watch on TV. He seemed more comic than poet. Then came Sunday. I spent the whole day at the 100 poets reading, and for me this event really made the festival. Despite the high standard of the main readings, this participatory event was my own ideal of the poetry community, as it is clearly Jim Carruth's. It was heart warming from start to finish, and what a finish. Alastair Reid was down to finish with Scotland (again), but before Alastair took the stage it became apparent that Something was Up. Brian and Eleanor appeared and Eleanor thanked Jim for his achievement first. Then Alastair got up and made a speech. This poem, Scotland, had been written in St Andrews in 1971 and had become "a ball and chain" round him. He now regarded it as a historical document. He would read it for the last time, which he did ? and then he publicly burnt it with his cigarette lighter, to enormous cheers and applause led by yours truly. I went to speak to him afterwards, as many did, and he practically gripped my rings into my hand. Everyone rushed about excitedly and I managed to fall over the rostrum, giving Jim a hug for fixing such an occasion, and departed forthwith to my car, leaving my dark green coat behind in the hotel. Among many many friends there, I spoke to Sheena, Lizzie, Magi and Ian, Sandy Hutchison, Nell, Robert Alan, Lesley Duncan, and I missed speaking with as many again. The huge room was full throughout with changing audiences of 100 to 200, big round tables, light food, and a bar. This event, as I forecast, gave a huge feeling of political satisfaction to the whole of StAnza, and the burning of the poem with the no longer tenable attitude to Scotland, is the stuff myths are made of. We were there. Notice: Microsoft has no responsibility for the content featured in this group. Click here for more info. MSN - Make it Your Home MSN Home | Hotmail | Web Search | Shopping | Money | People & Groups Help ?2004 Microsoft Corporation. All rights r This page is about autism and Asperger's syndrome and artists. Many poets may have forms of autism, which can result in high verbal or artistic intelligence, compulsiveness, depression etc. Some people don't even know they have got these conditions, when knowing about it could help them to manage their lives. The symptoms vary in intensity, as does the degree to which they affect people's lives. Some forms have been misdiagnosed as schizophrenia, while the condition in women may go unnoticed, as women are often allowed to be "dreamy." Little has been understood in the past about such conditions. There is a lot of activity at the moment both on the academic and clinical side of understanding the reason for them, and on the political side. There is pressure from some groups to suppress autism, "cure" it, even prevent it at antenatal stage (that means advising abortions). Worse, it would appear that some of these groups are primarily motivated by making money off "cures." On the other hand, groups of highly articulate people with Aspergers Syndrone and autism are intervening to stress the benefits to society of these highly intelligent people who "think differently" from others. Einstein had Asperger's. He had no sense of direction and kept losing his way. Beethoven and Mozart had Asperger's. MacDiarmid almost certainly did. But because the condition had not been indentified in the past, one can only point tentatively to historical characters and suggest that they fit the profile, sometimes breathtakingly so in the case of poets and artists who could be described as "programmed to go out of control," as Valda Grieve said of her husband Hugh MacDiarmid, yet who often have intelligence that is off the scale. It is my view that arts administrators ought to be educated to recognise artistic temperament, and to work with it, rather than to penalise it as I have observed they so often do. There are many sites for autism and they vary enormously. I am going to list one or two but without recommending any. You must make your own mind up about them. Ian's two favourite sites are: Aspies for Freedom Snowcake? Sigourney Weaver and Alan Rickman in a film about autism and post traumatic stress. See This Week page for 15 and 19 September Sheena Blackhall, who does writing projects with autistic, Asperger's and ADHD kids (and I bet she is brilliant with them) gave me the following web addresses. Sheena also said it appeared to her that there were more and more children with these conditions. Ian however has told me he reckons they are a constant proportion of the population. There are recent research projects into Aspergers... Cognitive adaption& Asperger's syndrome..Clinical research, Lucy Bond... (how affected adults feel about it) e mail (stidy completed Sept 2000) and a survey on services for Aspergers' adults... e mail research completed 2001 Rainbows and next of kin There may be others with elderly parents who would benefit from this tale. We went to Mum and Dad's local authority today, concerned about their isolation and the increasing likelihood something could happen that we might not get to hear about, even visiting weekly. We dont know their neighbours (nor do they) and we no longer have an immediate family contact, other than ourselves. We are the contact ? we are their next of kin. This fact ? our names and addresses ? had not been recorded at the Local Authority or at our parents' Doctors. However, a half hour conference this morning put things right. We were lucky to meet an extremely understanding lady who had met the parents and knew where we were coming from, and so what might have continued to be a worry, as it will continue to be a responsibility, resolved itself. As a result of this, I would advise all others who may have proud and ageing parents to make certain their names are on the doctors' forms as next of kin. Parents, who imagine their offspring less capable than they themselves, may not attend to this. And put your son and daughter's current details on your doctor's records! Back to open the shop at lunch time, in heavy rain interspersed with sunshine and rainbows. Flooding looks likely again. [12 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 dog. The other said: Hamish Henderson's dog will not be served unless Hamish is on the premises. Robin is happily working in Edinburgh and has been going to some performance poetry events (he also writes plays). He said that if we came along, and heckled, and he said "Shut up Mum," people would think it was a joke. Luckily for both of us, he has a different surname and you would only notice he looked like me if you already knew. Then we dropped Elspeth's extra copies of PS round at Joppa, & had a quick & interesting chat with them. Finally a brisk walk on the salt-smelling beach, followed by longish drive home. We woke up late this morning but it only takes 3 seconds to go to work (less than five minutes from waking up, at a pinch). We both felt more relaxed today. 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 ] St Davids Day ...went by in a whirl of activity. To Stirling a.m. on some errands, then called at the weekly greengrocers market at Kildean, where farmers, hoteliers, chefs and gourmets mingle among the goods. Then into Dobbie's in search of aconites, but the plantsman said none were supplied this year as they were rubbish. Mine were rubbish too. Maybe it was all that wet weather. The chance of anyone who reads this sending me a clump of aconites is remote, I know. Then back to the mail-out which got finished apart from a few leftovers such as Les Murray. And some phone calls. Then to an auction. A couple of prints and a D Y Cameron etching, and a Gazetteer for binding. A dash to the supermarket on the way home, where I was so tired I could barely walk up the stairs. Wrote this in the morning of [2 March ] Families dont you love em Between our last two regular visits, Ian's parents so far forgot themselves as to fail to inform us of the death and funeral of Ian's Uncle Hugh. Hugh, whom we knew well, was the person we were relying on to let us know if the parents were unwell or in difficulties. Ian's dad is just too old and frail to chew out about this, and his Mum is away with the fairies. Hugh was her younger brother. After long discussion, not all of it palatable, we contacted their social services. We are to have a meeting with the Home Help department, who are already keeping an eye on the parents, and should be able to keep us informed of any crises from this point in. Whole business reminds me of what I have somebody say in something I'm writing: Give me people I don't know very well, they're always much nicer! [1 March] Phone troubles Line has been intermittent for last few days. Engineer paid a visit but found nothing wrong, said it was a courtesy visit. We have a huge communal telephone pole in our garden hedge and this was the guy who goes up it regularly to fix everyone's boxes. He told us we have a digital party line at the pole, and to get things straightened out I should ask for broadband and would then be given a whole line. Am going to do this. Thinking time is all very well but I am wasting hours waiting for things to go through or not with a dodgy system. So watch out for Speedy Sal in the near future. You won't be able to tell the difference, but I will. Today went to the Burrell Collection to look at tapestries particularly, with my friendly local reading group, aka ladies' club. After return, went to Crieff with Ian. Lunatic driver ahead, all the way Leny / Strathyre / Balquhidder / Lochearnhead / Comrie / Crieff. He varied from 65 mph where you might have been able to overtake him, to 30 mph at every corner. We came back the Braco way, which is much quicker, but the roadworks on the motorway have been causing big holdups. Tomorrow I have the magazines to fetch and post (the envelopes are ready). [26 February] Joan and David's hedge Richard Livermore up for weekend. it would be a sozzled few days were we to drink all the wine he brought, but sadly I am no longer up to that ? though I like a glass with my meal (Ian barely drinks, and he's the one who doesn't drive - is that what a tort is?) and I do like to use wine in cooking. Richard has gone out into the misty coutryside and will come back having seen a red squirrel, woodpecker, deer. You name it, we have it in our woods. Hedges are in the air. I've mentioned our six foot wide Privet hedge (it's coming down to make room for a greenhouse) in my new Sketchbook report. I've linked to Meikleour hedge, and Beth Junor sent me a pic of a hedge near Bude, Cornwall. Joan and David's hedge, along the side of our drive (posh, eh) has been growing outwards, pushing an old wire fence with it to the point of scratching the cars (not so posh). They have now removed the fence and are dealing with the bushes. They dug out a tall, thin Amelanchier that works best as a fat, coppiced kind of bush but had been etiolated by its place in the hedge. It came out eighteen feet high, with a root ball about eighteen inches round. Joan and David made us a present of it. It lay on our lawn for a few days in the wet, then we decided to give it a go. We pruned it carefully to about twelve feet, then planted it deep near the wall towards the house. A fifty-fifty chance? It won't grow any bigger. If it dies, we can grow climbers up it, perhaps. [24 February] More about the Tax Disk I owe it to the cops, and to the village lads, and to Ian, and everyone I moaned to about it. Hunting out my car document for the purpose of applying for a duplicate disk, imagine my mixture of relief and embarrassment... There was the pristine tax disc, and the receipt, clipped to the document and never on the car at all. A poet is a student of emotion and moods. This discovery, though it made me feel very silly indeed, also made me feel better. The grouse I had been carrying since this happened, was immediately dispelled, a grouse against the police for apparently putting me down as a dotty old lady ? they were right weren't they? ? and against a non existent tax disk thief ? and against the world in general for its inflexibility, and against February for being the month this sort of thing always seems to happen in. Should I go and apologise to the police? Well, they made me report it as "lost or stolen," and I dont think you have to report things found again when they are reported lost...think I'll just lie low. And though the ?60 is not more willingly paid to Mammon, it is much more forgettable now. [19 February] Living on the books, and Wittgenstein Writing about meter I have drawn from my own observations and beliefs, but have also enjoyed checking one or two sources from the Greek and Latin and poetry shelves. The subject is really too wide for internet articles. I've read Golden Latin Artistry by Wilkinson, which confirms what I have been saying about syllable length and stress. He introduces the idea of pulse, and mentions perceptions of short stretches of meter as a cause of cesuras, which ties in with my saying that we remember telephone numbers by patterning them. I take pulse to mean the way spoken communication moves forward within the meter, and I think this is a useful idea. He looks closely at how Horace and Catullus adapted the hendecasyllabic meters to their own work. I'll be back to that. I then had a look at Aristotle's Poetics. His method is rudimentary but his value is his closeness in to Greek literature (he was writing about 350 BC). Again he says what I say, that heroic (Homeric) meter has proved itself, which ought to make me feel good. He gives a strange rider that it's a meter which allows for invented and flamboyant words. This follows his theory of words in sentences, whose atomism would have been the delight of the early Wittgenstein, and which has been the forerunner of every half-baked parsing book in the world. Still on books, probably the only books I have often regretted selling were my Wittgenstein texts. Quite apart from the fact they would now fetch hundreds. I studied him as a special subject before he caught on, when his first editions were still the current texts. I read them very thoroughly at the time. Wittgenstein was indeed a genius, and his whole family were probably Aspergers and definitely nuts (to use a technical term of greater longevity), although trying to live through Nazi Vienna as a prominent family of Jewish descent, cannot have helped. Ludwig Wittgenstein had four brothers. Hans, Kraus and Rudolph all committed suicide. Paul became a musician. Ludwig gave away his inherited fortune, became a UK citizen and lived mainly in Cambridge, where his closest friend was the mathematician David Pinsent. His closest philosophy colleague was Bertrand Russell, who was highly embarrassed by him and omitted to mention him in the History of Western Philosophy. [18 February] Annoying day, nice evening. Letter in post accusing me of not displaying tax disk on car. Sure enough, tax disc missing from car, though fully paid up. Disk has vanished from windscreen pocket, no way it could have got out of pocket without someone lifting it. Had not noticed anything due to darkness. Also missing was the instant fine notification, whatever it's called ? the letter was the first I knew of it. Phone call to DVLA, dealt with surprisingly quickly and well. Report it to police, they said, and send for a duplicate disc, only ?7 from Glasgow. Down to police station. Only the secretary there. They are busy in Aberfoyle, she said. Someone will come and see you later today. Quarter to five they hadn't come, so I went down again. They did seem busy with something or other, but eventually someone saw me and more or less told me to go away. Humph. SIxty quid down the drain. Presumably they werent interested in turning a solved crime (me, not having disc) into an unsolved one (nicked tax disc). Humph. Anyway we went out to Stirling pm to hear Nicola Sturgeon speaking. Good supper, good talk, good entertainment. They could have had my sixty quid. [16 February] Blog continues on Past Weeks Jan-Feb 2007 Notice: Microsoft has no responsibility for the content featured in this group. Click here for more info. MSN - Make it Your Home MSN Home | Hotmail | Web Search | Shopping | Money | People & Groups Help ?2004 Microsoft Corporation. All rights re desktopsallye ? is it a blog? / The Web and Poetry / Internet Luddites ! ! ! Googlewhack ? ? ? ! ! ! Your only chance of a googlewhack these days is a usable invented word. I was 108th with Blogthology! Maybe I've found one this time. The tarapometer is a meter based on drumrolls. And believe it or not the Limerick is a tarapometer - see war meters in my Guide to meters (sorry I havent written the section yet). We now need a secondary definition of a googlewhack: There needs to be a follow-up use of it, to show that it can be properly used as a word. What will happen on (Whither) desktopsallye in 2007? I do not know. But then, I did not know what would happen when I began this blog a year ago in Jan 2006. (There you are, I am calling it a blog.) I have the option of getting more space, which I shall need if I keep up this rate of addition. There is also the option of printing off all of 2006 and starting 2007 afresh. I am tempted by this possibility. The record is worth having to hand, I feel, but mainly by me. It is a possibility. Then I could just build up annual blogthologies on site, and annual archives off site. Pictures take up the most space but they do add interest. Images are an important part of modern culture, too, I feel, and to leave them out or minimise them would be to lose part of what language on the web can do. Indeed I ought to get some sound files onto the site. You may have noticed some efforts in this direction in 2006, but they didnt work technically. There's the whole question of publishing on the web. It's so much easier and cheaper than on paper and it reaches as many people. There's an element of snobbery about poetry on paper, though paper poetry is just as varied and uncertain in quality as that on the web can be. At present, one feels that as a poet one needs some presence on paper, in books and magazines, and though things could change in this respect, what's really interesting is still followed by paper media. That's where we are just now. If our bookshop is anything to go by, books wont go out of fashion. Ian has always said that books will become beautiful, quality objects, and our shop insists on its books being in excellent condition. Many are craft bound. This has accentuated the difficult balance between producing a poetry book quickly when it is needed, or beautifully and well when you can get round to it. Recently I saw a very beautiful book which I realised would not sell, of a kind I had been considering doing for some of my own work. If I did it like that my book would not sell either, I realised. The more you look at books and think, the more you work things out about them, and the same is true of the web. Familiarity with its use brings the best ideas for development. The other factor in producing both paper and internet work, is willpower. Wishing to do something isnt enough. Under all our exigencies of time and money, it is the degree of willpower that decides what is finally done.[End Dec 2006] Is desktopsallye a blog? I suppose it is a kind of analytical blog. Its name emphasises that we are at a writer's desk. Writing, especially poetry, is what we are doing here. And yet anything, anything at all that happens to a writer is relevant to their writing. Hence the inclusion of the garden, family and diary sections. Writers and poets' diaries have a professional dimension. Blogs ? internet available diaries and current writings ? for those of us who use them, have an added advantage of providing immediate blurb and notes to our published work. Diaries are not compulsory. Probably the majority of writers have used them sporadically in their lives. Others may never use diaries at all, but get straight down to their creative writing, perhaps after quiet or solitary times in which they observe how they feel and think. Many established writers have extensive diaries published posthumously, but these always have to be edited carefully 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. In two thirds of a year, desktopsallye has filled over half its available webspace and become an energising part of my routines. I think the organisation by topic gives more latching-in points for visitors. It gives me an overview of the direction my projects are taking, and a chance to discuss things aspect by aspect. As with any creative undertaking, I am now adapting my view of it. When and how to remove pieces that have been up long enough? What sort of archive to have? All photos that are taken down, for instance, will be held on a Yahoo photo album. Some written items or parts of them will be deleted when I decide they have no lasting use. The rest will be held on my own files in case they are requested by others or wanted by me for any reason.. Here's how I explained to a friend how the setting-up went in the first half of January 2006: I did it entirely from the msn groups site. I got my brother to sign me up and set up the website address on msn groups - - and then I just laboured away. You need to know a little bit of HTML, that is using those funny little signs <> to mark up text for bold, sizing etc. I didnt know it when I began this so I dont know where I got it from - a few websites [a beginners book on HTML of which there are many, might have speeded things up]. But I also needed a lot of time to work it all out, write it in accessible web-friendly language etc and then put it up in such a way that it can be updated without taking up all of my time. I wrote straight into the pages as I went along and this slowed things down but gave me a much better idea of what was developing. I still dont know how to put a photo in the text,(there are special photo pages for it) but I reckon its a bit more HTML code and I expect I will find out more as I go along. But I havent any more time at present to spend long hours on it. but have to catch up my other work. In the last two weeks [i.e.January 2006] I have done little else, and I am quite surprised that I have actually managed it...but I am glad I did it myself. I then started worrying about the content etc, (I just went on in gay abandon while I was trying to put it up) so it is very reassuring to hear now from people who have enjoyed looking round it. It is a very unsophisticated system. It might be just as easy or the result better looking to use a computer web page maker, but this cost nothing at all, and is probably as good a way as any to make a start. Poetry Scotland website is managed by Colin Will, but I must have learnt a lot from writing items for that site over several years. Colin offered to make me a simple personal website and that is when I realised I must do something about it off my own bat. It has been a long winter but now the booster rocket has fallen away and desktopsallye is is no longer a trouble to update the site and instead of expending enormous energies on it I find I draw energy from it, which is one of the great things to be said for writing. The only other comment on my mid-January account, is that I now realise that, far from being unsophisticated, this site template is most accommodating to the needs of someone like me who has substance to convey without technical knowledge of computers. THE WEB AND POETRY Here's a link to Wordwizards ,one of many email lists in which members read and comment on each others' work in progress. Smallish and friendly, it's a good list to try if you haven't done anything like this before. There are hundreds of other lists, depending what you include. One of the bigger sites for working writers is Bewrite. Much of Bewrite can be freely browsed, but to become a member of the Bewrite community you have to apply to join. It is not just for poetry but also articles, fiction, flash fiction etc. For serious writers who want a writers' home on the web, this is one to consider. Ezines are another important group of sites. Mindfire is an international magazine with American editors including Gary Blankenship and a new British editor in Bristol. There are some other webzines on the Links page. (Ezine, webzine, you will notice the terminology hasn't yet settled down.) The internet is already making its own traditions. It is ideal for collective memorials to writers: Cid Corman Tribute , Ted Slade Tribute One paper magazine recently stated that "bad poetry drives out good on the internet." My answer is that there has always been more bad poetry than good in printed sources, and if you want to find good poetry on the web, all you have to do is learn your way round it, just as you have to for books - remember all those "library use" lessons? Many people never learnt to find their way round books. They rely on newspaper and TV pundits, which means they tend to accept as "good" what the establishment tells them is good. Fortunately for all of us, a lot of what the establishment likes is very good indeed, but you will never learn your own mind about any of the arts by swallowing what you are told. There are many kinds of good work in a broad field such as poetry. Never forget that what has already been written is very important to poetry, but so also is what has not yet been written, including what but for the internet might never see the light of day. At one time poetry was highly class ridden, with workers passing round chapbooks and placards of popular ballads, while richer leisured poets had fine publications. In today's much less classbound climate there is a vestige of this in snobbery, and you may possibly notice it is often the snobs who belittle the internet. What if ordinary people learnt to write poetry and crowded out those who were enjoying it in luxury? Real poets are not snobs. Probably the first thing you have to learn is to handle the search engine Google. You can find the text of almost any known poem, quantities of university studies about any established poet, or hundreds of references to active contemporary poets as their entire presence on the web is tracked by the search engines. You can often get contacts, via publishers and festivals, etc. There are some amazing poetry websites around, and you will find your own favourites. Some appeal by their sophistication and some by their simplicity, but the best ones all have strong content, whether to show a poet's work, a group's activities, or a gloriously eccentric idea, such as Poets' Graves. You gain more satisfaction still by occasionally communicating with some of the websites, for instance I alerted the Poets' Graves people to Sorley Maclean's grave , at one of the most stunning viewpoints on Skye. Most sites link up to other sites making a seamless tapestry of poetry activity. Our own Poetry Scotland site has many links including some of the must-haves of poetry websites. See its links list and the links page here on desktopsallye. I often wonder what earlier writers would have made of the internet. For future writers it will be unimaginable that the written word could manage without it.. INTERNET LUDDITES Some poets don't use the internet. If they are over eighty years old they have some excuse, yet (like microwaves) the net has advantages for the elderly. Some good poets are unrepentent, such as Bill Pickard of Weston-super-Mare, who has run the Circle in the Square for decades, & was formerly famous for cycling from Bristol to London as a regular form of transport. Friend of many poets including the late John Betjeman, he has written over 60,000 letters with the same fountain pen, and aims to eventually write 100,000 letters. How could you ask such a man to change to the net? Steve Sneyd, the major disestablishment poet with interests in myth and Science Fiction, is another Luddite. He lives in Luddite country too, near Huddersfield. Gerald England recently defended Steve by pointing out that saying a writer ought to be on the internet was like saying someone who didnt have a car couldnt go out into the country. All the same, Gerald "gave Steve a lift," by circulating info via the internet on the Science Fiction Poetry Prize Steve is initiating. SF it may be, but you have to enter by snail mail. Notice: Microsoft has no responsibility for the content featured in this group. Click here for more info. MSN - Make it Your Home MSN Home | Hotmail | Web Search | Shopping | Money | People & Groups Help ?2004 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved. Terms of Use Advertise TRUSTe Approved P Friends and Family Two cousins from my mother's brother's family who farm near Oundle called today, unexpectedly and very welcome. Alan and Sue were also calling on my cousin Margaret's daughter Rachel near Callander. During their two days in Scotland they had been to see Meikleour Beech Hedge, the tallest hedge anywhere. It was planted in 1745. I remember us coming on this hedge one day many years ago, while driving beyond Perth. They had also been to Dunkeld to see the allegedly tallest tree in Scotland. And they were going to the Falkirk Wheel. Of these attractions, the Falkirk Wheel is widely publicised, the others hardly at all. They are country people, & they were full of enthusiasm for the country and scenery here. We had tea and talk of family in the shop, practically oblivious of the coach-trip customers floating round us. It's great to have a lifestyle where people can just call in, and not everything has to be planned ahead. [14 February] A Bit-of-Everything Day Beginning with a drive to Crieff for an auction. Behind the auction room is a garden centre so we had a look round there & I struck a bargain for a small winter-flowering honeysuckle that needed a bit of tlc. Some book buying, then back to Callander - a good drive round Loch Earn and Loch Lubnaig, sunny and the mountains powdered with snow. Tree cutting going on here and there, Crieff, Leny. Back midday. A couple of hours in the shop then an hour gardening. Ian to Stirling Writers (on the bus), me to minute a meeting here, then to Stirling to fetch Ian home. Found Ian with Joy and her Ian outside the Portcullis, smoking and nattering, and Robert, Jean and the others inside. Gossip, back home. Pushing Out the Boat, the Aberdeen maga, is using a couple of my poems again, including the one about looking at the Mither Kirk excavations with Sheena Blackhall. Good! The main bit of gossip from Joy was that Sebastian is losing his funding for the London Magazine. What on earth can be going on? I have two poems by him in the next Poetry Scotland, anyway. The main thing I've been doing this week is write about meter. I've done pages, and barely put my toe in the water. [13 February] Magas at printers ? Whew! It was a marathon maga making, mainly because there were three issues, all of them complex, and partly because they fought back, right to the last gasp this morning. I was just about to post the last issue (having delivered two face to face), when Duncan Glen's Zed20 came through the letterbox. This contained poems by myself, Colin Will and other known Poetry Scotlanders, including a longish poem that was also in our new batch. Giving the poet concerned the benefit of either having got muddled, or having misunderstood my response, I nevertheless found another poem that fitted the space and the climate of the page, remade the page, and sent it to the printer as a substitute page. We were going to go to Stirling Writers tonight but the car wouldn't start. I think it is the starter motor. Yesterday we had a great round trip to Leven and back by Crieff and Lochearnhead, when the car behaved very well. Come summer, Ian is going to buy another car at auction, so we'll be sputtering through the early spring months, and hiring a van when we're stuck. I spent this evening writing six reviews and some other stuff for PS website. [6 February] Nell was here And we all sat round the table and had coffee, and a riproaring discussion about publishing, and poetry, and Ian's life, and my life, and Grindles and Callander bookshops, and various other faintly related matters. In the course of which, a lady from Oban, apparently with a fetish about men's beards, came in and kissed Ian. Esther and Rhiannon came for their weekly coo at the cats, and went out looking for Finlay in the back garden, and several people bought mugs from our tongue-in-cheek Mug Sale. Quite a way to spend a winter Sunday lunchtime. Later, Charlie Gracie brought his family in to see the Deer. It's well known, nothing ever happens in the country in wintertime! [4 February] City shopping To Edinburgh yesterday on our accounts signing trip. Last year it was Glasgow ? met up briefly with our accountant friend after our (also annual) hunt round the clothing shops. I got boots from a men's department ? most of this year's women's boots seemed to be yurt-wear. We found a good winter coat for Ian, which he was needing, at an excellent shop called Slaters on George Street. We had a look in Moss Bros and other posh outfitters first. In this case the best (for us) turned out to be easily the cheapest, or the cheapest the best, whichever way round you like it. It was fun just shop-cruising in the New Town. We went past Bonham's, formerly Phillips, and Laura Ashley, formerly L & T. We paused at Ian's Princes Street busking pitches, thinking how long ago that was, and we had chip suppers in Rose Street. Edinburgh seemed noisy to our country ears and we arrived home very tired. Indeed we went to sleep on the near-empty train past Stirling, and woke up wondering if we'd overshot to Gleneagles. But we were waiting to go into Dunblane station. Today, mostly pulling old grass and brambles out at the back of the garden, and potting stray plants into larger pots. The maga is 99% ready. I'll be taking it on Monday and asking for a quick print. Three separate issues, 16 pages in all. I have been battling with it on several fronts. [1 February] Burns Night : the Singing Stag Burns Night was marked by the arrival in our shop of the latest in Highland imagery ? a huge stags head, with ten point antlers, mounted on a shield, which is now up in our shop, safely out of the way of tall heads etc and rather handsome. You may remember there was a bronze stag's head on the corner of Church Street, Callander, opposite us, for decades. Not long after we arrived here, that building changed hands and the stag's head disappeared. Maybe that's why this one doesnt look like kitch ? that and that Callander is so definintely a highland town. But it behaves like kitch. When customers have come in, and quickly taken in the presence of the new stag's head, and start looking for their books, a cheery American voice, chatting suavely and breaking into crap songs, makes them look up ? and the stag's head is moving up and down, ears waggling and mouth opening and shutting. It breaks everyone up. I can hear it cheerily singing now, as Ian unpacks some books and the cats watch from under the air raid shelter of the belemnite table. [25 January 2007] Meanwhile in Edinburgh It's getting colder ? Ben Ledi white as anything in today's cold sunshine. We had a good weekend in the shop after weekdays with the town winter-dead. We've done a lot of late night work downstairs, Ian bookbinding and me trying to get magazine issues to bed some time very soon. They always fight back at this stage. I rarely go to Edinburgh now, but Robin lives there. He'd been working there for two years or so, when in November he was made redundant from his small computer firm. He has now started a job with some clients of a former place who were wanting to "poach" him. We're glad he will still be nearby and in Scotland, & he'll be able to stay in the shared mixed flat near the Meadows where he seems settled. Most of all we are glad to see him standing on his own feet. "I kept my head and did nothing," he said. [23 January 2007] Snow and numbers Crags and mountain pretty. I succumbed and wrote a snow poem about the huge flakes that fell in the night. We get flakes like folded bits of fabric, about one inch by two when it really gets going here, but will anyone believe me, or rather recognise my descriptions? Its been a wintry week, with few through our door other than friends ? Colin WiIl, the Stirling Writers, etc. On Tuesday after the writers meeting, we left our flags up outside for the first time ever, on the basis it was snowing and very quiet. In the morning they had gone, sneakily nicked in the night ? we heard no noise at all. Need to buy more ? they're vital to get people up this end of the street. Busy in other ways though. Writing, translating a complex poem for Christopher Whyte, organising books (Ian Blake) articles, proofs, etc and doing a lot of magazine work on the coming issues. I also dealt with some VAT forms, a job I dislike. I can add up fine and quickly, but I can only subtract if the numbers in the bottom row are all smaller that the ones in the top row! [18 January 2007] Lizeuphonium Liz Price arrived, having been driving round north Scotland alone. She was at Inverness with friends of ours yesterday and was lucky enough to walk right into the Highland Year Opening night. We had a v good veggie dinner based round steamed mixed vegetables (idea copied from Carla), recorded some poems, etc. Shop still piled with new books. Weather appalling. Callander Car Park (submerged) is becoming rather a notorious image, which does nothing for the visitor trade. 13 January 2007 Bookshop business The shop doesnt run itself, though to an outside eye it may seem like a cornucopia at times. Yesterday we were out all day (as rarely), first calling on the old folks, who now need more regular visiting, then to Hewits fabulously singular tannery, to buy leather, endpapers, gold foil, boards and glue. Ian has bound 29 books already this year, probably more that many binders do in a twelvemonth, and he needs these materials in quantity. Then as we were slightly ahead of time, home for an unload, a cuppa and I got a half-hour rest. Then off to a substantial auction including various good sets, Scottish and Scottish poetry and other lots. Back with one carload, unpacked it, by now wearing the fun cotton over-kimonos we had also acquired. Keeled over, shattered, in early hours and then I went back for the remaining heavy carload today, driving through rain and puddles reminiscent of last November. By late evening most of it was dealt with and the shop looking rich and smart. It's going to be a busy year. 12 January 2007 January under way And what a warm January. Gardening for an hour or two a day. Re-grassing a newly altered area, bits of planting and still removing dead stalks. It's going to look nice this year. Gardens don't stay the same for ever. In well under ten years plants will have grown out, areas will need adapting and major changes are called for. We are still finishing off our ponds, and there are parts of the back we havent done properly at all yet, while replacing the huge and time consuming privet hedge is a long job in itself. But even the near-in part is needing adaptation after nearly seven years. Stirling writers are borrowing the shop as a venue for two Tuesday evenings (the Tolbooth is being painted) and we really enjoyed being hosts to them last night. It is an excellent group with an impetus and tradition to match, and it's good to have the shop used for this sort of purpose. This shop is a better space, with better facilities for meetings, than Grindles used to be, though we often held events there, in those years. I'm wondering whether I ought to have another page, such as a poetry talk page, to put the item on the StAnza Gathering that follows. It doesnt seem to quite fit This Week. I put a lot of that sort of thing on PS website, but this is much more a personal opinion, discussing a listing of poets. Perhaps the answer is to write it shorter, in a quieter tone, Let me try. 10 January 2007 Gathering at StAnza (Revision) I've been looking at the poets listed to appear in the "Gathering" at StAnza, as I expect the other poets too have done. First, I wondered how many of these poets had been published in Poetry Scotland. On counting, it turned out to be 61 out of 95. Considering that up to twenty of the poets are from England and abroad, of whom I can only see Mike Barlow and Lizzie Burns that we have published, I suppose thats not too bad a quota. Then I started wondering who wasn't there. This can't be a comprehensive list and in a way it's a pity it had to stop at 100, but it obviously had to stop somewhere. I noticed there weren't many Gaelic poets ? Rody Gorman and Aonghas MacNeacail being noticeable for their absence. As for that former minority group, women, it is great to see equal representation here. Ten years ago this would just not have been possible: there weren't equal numbers of established women poets around. However, two I am very disapppointed not to see, are Margaret Gillies Brown and Morelle Smith. Analysing the list, I realise that StAnza has done what anyone anyone else would have done when building up a squad: they have started with the poets closest to them and worked outwards. They do not claim to be comprehensive. However they having come pretty near it with active Scottish poets, people are bound to look critically at the list, and I just hope it doesnt upset any of the others who may appear to have been missed off. I know I would have been sorry not to be invited. 7 and 10 January 2007 It's called being a writer I have been writing at the downstairs desk all day, since seven o'clock this morning. When I had customers I went in the main shop and continued in pencil. It's now ten o'clock at night and I have really enjoyed it. but am shaking and shattered too. I finished one piece that had been on the stocks, then wrote an entire new piece, and I'm going to be mysterious about it for the moment, as it is off on an unsolicited spec journey. But I will be squeezing up my time budget for more of this writing this year. Yesterday was dry enough to do some gardening and I got some important tidying up done round the new part of the top of the lawn. There are bulbs coming up all over the place, very early. Here's the latest Couldnt Make This Up (CMTI): Someone or other has started a Grassic Gibbon Centre in the Mearns, to popularise writer Lewis Grassic Gibbon's home territory. Soon after the opening, a small boy was found there crying his eyes out. What was the matter? He wanted to see the monkeys. 3 January 2007 January 1st 2007 Well here it is, just past midnight, extremely windy and fireworks going off here and there in town, being blown out of true by the wind. and that's about it folks. A pity about all those cancelled street parties. They are becoming too premeditated. Liverpool put theirs off till January 5th, which was about the most sensible. Implies it's spontaneous and for people who live there. 1 January 2007 If this aint enough for you, you are welcome to go to Blog 2006 which is still on the site! Notice: Microsoft has no responsibility for the content featured in this group. Click here for more info. MSN - Make it Your Home MSN Home | Hotmail | Web Search | Shopping | Money | People & Groups Help ?2004 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved. Terms of Use Advertise T Sally's Pamphlet" Subtitle: Early Memories of the Knight and Evans families. Summer 2007. 30pp. Description: Account of grandparents, Evans in Cardiff, Knight in Old, Northants. Aunts and Uncles, Evans and Knight. Life of parents, John and Mary Evans, including life at Bishopton, County Durham, and near Kirkby Lonsdale. Intention: to provide information for my nephew, nieces, son and daughter, and their descendants, that could otherwise be lost. Result: An analysis of my family history that may also interest friends and writers. Supplementary information: the Knight-Evans-Griffiths family website by Stephen Evans, especially the family tree. Photographs I am loading some b/w pics of these families in an album in Myspace (go to Pics). I saved the best photos somewhere safe and could only find some supplementary ones for the moment, but the rest will be there some time. The Clan At Liz's performance party in Manchester, my brothers and sisters, friends, and most of the young people (including writers Robin, front, Tim and Clara, back right). And here's where we played when we were kids: Castle Hill, Bishopton, a County Durham village which was very medieval-feeling then, and from this photo, it still looks it. Our home was opposite the church. History of the Bookshop Our building - our home and the shop, and the flat above -are now a Grade 3 Listed Building in the National Park. We have gradually learnt some history of the building. In living memory it was a family house - in the forties perhaps. The Adies owned it, and they started doing upholstery, not in the building but in a shed at the back. The house name was Kimberley. This may tie in with the mystery story of Ian's great-uncle. Did he ever own it? We know that after returning from Kimberley he bought an estate behind Strathyre. After the Adies, the ground floor became Council Offices for a time. It was a well known antique shop when Ian remembers visiting Callander in the sixties, when geese, which he also remembers, were kept in the garden. The last antique shop owners split the upper house into two flats. We won't ever want it back as a single house, as we earn our living from the shop and enjoy all the visitors. But somebody might in the future, and with it being listed, it's useful to know it was originally a house. My families My families are the Price-Griffiths-Evans family from Cardiff & thereabouts, and the Knight family from Northamptonshire (you saw the Knights of Old lorries?). Most of my immediate family live in England. Ian is from Dunfermline. When we first met he had a flat there, and I learnt much about the historic city, which he knew stone by stone. Ian is descended from Rob Roy MacGregor's brother. King is one of the names the MacGregors took when the clan was out of favour. Some of his family, named Hodges, are buried in the top corner of Balquhidder Churchyard. So that is a link to this area for us. I have now identified the link to Balquhidder. Ian's paternal grandmother came from Cambuskenneth, a mining village north of Stirling, now enclosed by Bridge of Allan. As a young man, Ian was told not to go to Cambuskenneth as he would be related to all the girls! The Callander/ Balquhidder area would thus be easily reached by the family for holiday walks. Indeed they may have moved in from the country for the work. There is a story containing these elements: Ian's great-uncles, Africa, diamonds, Strathyre, the 1928 Miners Strike, Sir Winston Churchill. I don't feel at liberty yet to write it down, though I intend to keep it alive. Isnt that what writing does, keep things alive. (And if you look up De Beers, the name Hodges is still alive there.) The Ballad of Sir Patrick Spens Dunfermline Abbey inCallander ? Callander's local information site A good photographic essay on Callander : Wim van Velzen, Every morning is different: a trip to Scotland in winter Scotland 2005: photographs by Gerald England of Callander, Dunblane, St Fillans, Inversnaid, Loch Lomond, and the Falkirk Wheel My brother's new vet hospital (Look at the building sequence - a faint button on the home page, bottom right.) . Oh yes, & here's a link to "the other Sally Evans" in America who runs a pets memorial poems page. Please note, it is she not I who wrote My Forever Friend: Shoofly's Memorial Website, & if you see bunnyluvr in the email address, it's not me! Anyone starting out today should take care to use a version of their name that's unlikely to be replicated - like my uncle Nik Evanz the artist [see Guest Poem page]. It's too late for me to change, and anyway I seem to have a head start on Google. Notice: Microsoft has no responsibility for the content featured in this group. Click here for more info. MSN - Make it Your Home MSN Home | Hotmail | Web Search | S Bag of Books and a Digression A publisher friend thrust a bag of books in my hand on the way out of an Edinburgh event last week. Thank you, I said, and put the bag in the car. I thought they were spare publicity copies, and they were taken in and put in a store area with some boxes of incoming books, which they fell behind. Today I found them. To my amazement, they were a collection of about twenty books by James Kirkup, all in perfect condition, most signed. I will keep them. Ian was telling me how he knew MacDiarmid the other day. It is something he never told me before. I knew he had letters from Grieve that may or may not still be in our massive paper files. Ian lived in Dunfermline and knew Grieve's grand-daughters from his first marriage. Grieve had very restricted access to his daughter from that marriage, and was glad to get stories of the family from Ian. I once unknowingly met one of the granddaughters, a young woman we spoke to in Leven who asked us for the mining book Behind the Diamond Panes. Ian was in London when MacDiarmid was made honorary president of the Poetry Society. Ian was editing an issue of Poetry Review. The English Arts Council changed the covers of the issue but still they were sent out with Ian's insides, and ultimately the locks on the Poetry Society door were changed and he and the other street poets (such as Bob Cobbing I believe) got the bum's rush. It is too much effort to work out when this was, but it must have been the seventies I think. In the same era, James Kirkup had a brush with the law and Mary Whitehouse over his so-called blasphemous poetry. Ian and the other active poet-publishers in London all published the offending poem in their various outlets, in solidity with James and in the cause of uncensored poetry. So the Cinnamon press case is history all over again. Ian was a very young man when he knew MacDiarmid and consequently has outlived most of those who knew him in poetry circles, Duncan Glen, Angus Calder, Giles Gordon all having gone with the older crowd. Ian finds it alarming being one of the last left. There is no respect left, to the point that the current Poetry Review published a poem giving a nefarious view of Scotland, slagging off Yeats for writing of Ireland in London, and slipping in the epithet 'crypto-fascist' of MacDiarmid. It isnt true. [14 November] ########################################### Burns and Paxman In case you missed it, there's been a row about The Paxman 's comments on Rabbie Burns in - wait for it - the introduction to the new edition of Chambers English Dictionary. That's Chambers English Dictionary, edition upon edition edited in Edinburgh and containing the best of Scottish English definitions. I loved the earlier editions of this dictionary and I once got a copy signed by the editors, by special request. The editors were delighted, I dont think anyone had asked them for a signed copy before. You wont believe this unless I copy it verbatim from BBC news website. According to this reliable source, Paxman has written: "Although I am afraid I find the Scottish national poet no more than a king of sentimental doggerel, one might as well have used his ramfeezled to describe our state." It sounds as if there is something wrong in there, maybe there is, maybe not - Paxman seems happy enough for Scots to sound ridiculous. This in a major publication printed and ready to sell in the autumn. Burns was immediately defended by Gerard Carruthers, of Glasgow University Scottish Literature Department. Carruthers appositely remarked that Paxman "could learn a lot from Burns because he was a great social satirist. He's got tonnes of skills that Paxman could only dream of in terms of interrogating humanity." The report continues: Mary O'Neill, Scottish Editor-in-chief of the dictionary, said [of Paxman]: "We all know he likes to poke fun at Scotland so it's not our place to censor him." Not our place....Not for the likes of us... Hmm. I emailed Chambers but didnt get a reply. I said I would not buy any more Chambers Dictionaries, and I said it with genuine sadness. [14 August] I did get a reply from Chambers Harrap in the end, a careful explanation from one of the directors, which fell short of admitting to a faux pas but aimed to repair the damage, and included an attachment of Paxman's introduction so I could read it "in context." On attempting to continue the discussion I found it came from a no-reply address. We cant have hoi polloi wasting any more directors' time than absolutely necessary, can we. ########################################### Was reading the duplicated two-sided A4 zine Handshake, as I always do - It actually looks rather like this page, though that was serendipitous - or not even serendipitous but pure chance -when a poem titled Little Stevie reminded me of this song: Down in the lower bun room, sipping his cup of tea, you'll find your local con man, friendly little Stevie. So - walk with care, mind the stair, and make sure Stevie aint hiding there Just keep on feeding Stevie and everything'll be all right. Typographical copyright reserved - Sally Evans. I couldnt find this on the internet, so if its not a pastiche, which it might be, it's a genuine student folk song from Newcastle University Bun Room c1970. Stevie was a drug addict. Handshake also contained, as usual, a fine poem by Steve Sneyd, who has been nominated for a science fiction writer award this year. Science fic writers, and Handshake too, seem to have a fine disregard for whatever else might be going on in the literary world of Earth. It's all really happening much further away. A pile of books to review on PS website, where I have to be less idiosyncratic, more intelligent and positive in the traditional manner. It's not fair to mention someones book and then start larking about. Unfortunately I cant review all books I am sent, for a variety of reasons, which I have found out for myself over some years - Alan Taylor made this comment about reviewing before I had seen the reviewer's side of the desk. Also you are supposed to have a remit to review in the more public outlet- though don't always, as long as you can offer unstinted praise. If I didnt like a book too much, I wouldnt review it, if necessary sending it to someone else who'd take less exception to it. [Now look at this tangle - I might suggest someone else does a review for different reasons.] But there are many other reasons not to review - the hanging baskets need watering right now. Some reasons reviews don't happen: the heap of books gets too big the book gets lost (notice its not you who loses it) you leave the book on a train you're too busy reading/writing/finishing something else it simply didnt set the heather on fire there is not enough time/column space you never forgave the author/publisher for compromising you long in the past you know a book it has copied in every way you wrote a book it has copied in some ways you tried to write a review but the review was crap you decided to read the book again and never got round to it somebody else offers to review it, takes it away and is never heard of again the hanging baskets need watering. [13 July. This is displacement activity as I have to finish preparing a poetry conference paper, of which more in next week's blog] Notice: Microsoft has no responsibility for the content featured in this group. Click here for more info. MSN - Make it Your Home MSN Home | Hotmail | Web Search | Shopping | Money | People & Groups Bookselling in the raw Friday (June 13) was supposed to be a quietish day when I would prepare for a reading trip on Saturday. It didnt work out like that. We were asked by a vendor to buy a large quantity of books and it turned out to be two carloads, which Muggins had to collect in two longish trips that took much of the day. Oh, so it was Friday 13th was it? A date I dislike... When Sheena arrived to stay the night, she found us in the process of stacking and sorting piles of books from the horrid polythene bags they had been shoved in, to their detriment. We piled them all into big heaps in the office and lobby then each made off with a few to read and investigate. It's now Sunday and I'm still clearing up the books. There were a lot of obviously much "better" books than these but mine included: Foliage Plants by Christopher Lloyd. A good book, even if he does copy Beverley Nichols' style. I have read it before, may even have commented thus before. Osbert Sitwell. Pound Wise. Am I italicising the authors or the titles? Dammit does it matter. This is desktopsallye not the British Library. Reading Osbert for me is like hearing an old friend talk. He's one of the wittiest of English writers but this is a compilation, not his best book. In any case I dont think it will sell, it is too old fashioned nowadays, except for not-quite-elderly readers like me. "Most Generous of Men" A book about J C Squire. More of my old-fashioned London Eng Lit (though Osbert was Yorkshire, he still had to work with London constantly). Squire as an editor and anthologist kept up Georgian poetry, which wasnt a school so much as simply what was going on, through the 1930s. He resisted Pound and Eliot, and sounds rather unintelligent though he liked poetry, or verse, depending on your analysis of him. I find the title suspicious-making. Squire had a tough time in later life, being bankrupted, divorced and alcoholic: now that reminds me of someone else who has been in mind this week, which may have given me the interest to fast-read through this book, another one I think has little prospect of sale in 2008. Pooh and the Philosophers. Unadulterated rubbish. Just because the Tai Chi of Pooh was fun, they have to sell this rubbish, they never know when to stop. Fuck it, chuck it in the bucket. Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Pictures of the Gone World. Wee cheapo pamphlet, Pocket Poets No 1, City Lights Bookshop. Top shelf of Poetry, after I have read it again. A reminder that one generation's struggle to get published at all is the next generation's treasure. Well, there you are. I'm worn out and I've gone book-blind (happens after a long day of the oblong objects). How a book affects you depends very much on the circumstances of meeting. Ian is also worn out and is lying in bed talking about Culross, the history of which he knows in hair-raising detail. About the Bruces and the Dundonalds and the voting parties, the keys, the chickens and turkeys, the iron smelting and the seven-foot thick silver seams at Strontium, and what Lord Elgin said. Our friend Lindsay Porteous was on the phone saying the National Trust are bullying him about his home, an old house that is part of the Town House building in Culross. His family have lived in it since God knows when and he has it crammed with ethnic musical instruments (he's a world authority on mouth organs). The NT say they want him to move out while they re-wire it but he'll never get it back if he does move out. It seems little has changed in Culross since the 15th century. Strathmore by Ouida first published 1865 It wasnt about Scotland, Strathmore was the guy's name. A beau sabreur type, interested in intrigues on the continent, and the book sets out with a determined effort of a Parisian lady to seduce the unseduceable. There are masked balls, salons etc and the morality is not very English, it is matter of fact, sexy and unhypocricital. Both the main characters seem stereotyped. The writing is as romantic as Scott, as florid as Bulwer Lytton, and in places as good as Charlotte Bronte, all of whom Ouida will have read. It's a long book, three decker length, nearly 600 pages, and it is written in a style that expects you to read everything, so is difficult to skim, especially when you have a small print edition and are using a magnifier. I am not surprised Ouida did not become a particuarly popular English author. Her moral interests are somewhat Parisian, there is none of that comfortable hypocrisy of the English especially the Victorian English. Of Scotland there was nothing, so the naming is naive. Strathmore's "pile" at one point said to be north of the Cheviots, later seems to be on the north Cornish coast, certainly among "Druidic" forests. The seduction is completed. There is a duel in which Strathmore kills his best friend, caused by a row over the woman, whereupon Strathmore ditches the woman and goes into a spiral of guilt. Henceforth the novel becomes one of revenge, and is not lacking in melodrama, with soothsayers, a secret wife of the dead friend, and other hazards of your extravagent Victorian plot. The friend's wife dies on hearing of the loss of her husband, and Strathmore adopts the baby daughter, simultaneously finding time to become a famous Cabinet minister in London. The daughter grows up, turns down a duke's son and also her charming young cousin, and falls in love with Strathmore himself. In true Trollope style the women of the story are allowed to love only once, and it is a sine qua non that the young woman, as she becomes, will die if she discovers that her father was killed by her guardian. Strathmore, despite being appalled, decides to marry her to protect her from ever finding this out. His conscience starts playing on this however, helped by the appearance of certain people who know the dangerous story of the duel and the murder. He even goes to Paris and betrays one such associate as a political dissenter, and this unfortunate is sent to a penal colony. But wait for it, the young cousin, hopeless in love of the girl, has become the owner of a yacht, visits the penal colony and bribes the overseers to let the Britisher escape. Meanwhile, wait for it with ever more bated breath, Strathmore attends a shipwreck on the coast near his pile, and while asserting a la victorian technocrat that a few sailors don't matter, he still swims out to the wreck with a rope because he thinks that saving someone's life will expiate the life he took in the duel. Strange moral ground here. Then comes a coincidence we cannot overlook. One of the people he finds on the wreck is the woman he had the affair with. He refuses to save her, but brings back some other souls. There is more about his conscience after this, by which time the reader is losing patience with the morality, but has got quite interested in the younger people in the story, who are not quite as stereotyped as their elders. Anyway in a rush of contageous moral improvement at the end of the book, they all forgive each other and Strathmore continues to live in happiness and rather incestuously with his young wife, who never gets to hear the story of her parentage and who, we have to assume, never grows up. I enjoyed the mid victorian flavour of this, with references to Parisian salons, opera (Malibran is mentioned), and some rather odd vocabulary including a great many Frenchisms especially in the first half of the book. Books found on the bed or beside the bed, end of May Annual Anthology of Australian Poems I cant remember how I got this one, it isnt usually available in UK. Edited by Les Murray and full of poems. Catchphrase well yes um er I'm leaning Welsh. Sort of. Norman Nicholson, A Local Habitation I've had a craze for this book, taking me back as it does to when I started writing in north east England. It's a lovely book full of northern humour, & reminds me of that time, of Jon Silkin, of the first Hughes books, of favourite poem in it is the one about the other chap at his school called Norman Nicholson (no relation). Nicholson, Suddenly. Only the whole poem will do, and its not on the net. Second most remembered is the one about the nasty goose he was afraid of in his home town & whom he met again on landing in Shetland.. The Pleasure Garden: Ann Scott-James & Osbert Lancaster Whatever the reason garden history is so badly understood, this husband-wife team plod through it with linked illustrations and essays, but while there are some interesting suppositions, and clever drawings, it doesnt altogether come to life. Krax The Good Retreat Guide (left here by a passing monk - passing on a walk from the Isle of Wight to Cape Wrath. I expect we'll be in the next edition) Elizabeth Hamilton, The Cottagers of Glenburnie I thought Elizabeth Hamilton was a good Scottish novelist until I read this! But no, she's just a sought one. Darkest kailyard, excruciating victorian morality, appalling prejudice against the Scots country dweller, and a depiction of piggish home life. Piggish and Priggish the keywords, in fact. I had walked among a scattering of ruined crofts in Glen Finglas before I read it and mentally set it there - though I am sure the people there were self respecting and hard working. This place I speak of used to be called Dreep, we think, hence Drip Road from Stirling heading out to these parts. Trees had been planted inside the ruined crofts to prevent their being used again as houses... yet the upper classes had the cheek to malign the rural folk. Nae mair Elizabeth Hamilton for me. Ouida, Strathmore. Now here's the bigger book I feel like reading. I'll try it. The print is pretty small and awful - it's Chatto and Windus and it looks like a Tauchnitz, but with a title like that, its got to be Scottish and it may be fun. It cant possibly be more politically exasperating than the Cottagers of Glenbirnie, anyway. I'll let you know if it is. [1 June] Private Reading It has suddenly struck me that possibly I'd like a bit of privacy in what I read. Someone asked me "if I read" recently and I was so surprised by the question that I replied "at least a book a day." The truth is I often read a book a day, but some days I am out all day so will only look at a chapter or two before sleeping. The "book a day" may be a shorter sprint, a poetry book, a light novel, a how-to, non-fic, gardening or intinerary book. Sometimes more than one book in a day. If it is a bigger book, like a longer novel, a travel book, an older book, it may be it will take me two or three days, but often I am so interested I will read a whole long book a day. I read fast and I sometimes skim, but I read. I dont do it because I have to, but because I want, and from long habit. There's that old phrase, used by Wordsworth, reading in a book, and it is certainly true that I read in a book every day. Last year I got a bit tired of recording the most part of my reading. I kept a meticulous list all my earlier years, from about 18 to 30; I think it changed when I went to Italy. Now I notice the literary students are all keeping lists of their reading. The website becomes an extension of the brain! And I shall just write whatever I feel like under this heading. After all, although writing in public, I am listing things only for myself. [Feb 2nd 2008] Notice: Microsoft has no responsibility for the content featured in this group. Click here for more info. MSN - Make it Your Home MSN Home | Hotmail | Web Search | Shopping | Money | People & Groups Help ?2004 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved. Term Another batch These are novels: A few green leaves (Barbara Pym) and the Diary of an Ordinary Woman (Margaret Forster). Something odd about the second of these: which I really fell for, as a diary. Margaret had got wind of a set of diaries by a woman who lived thorough the twentieth century, but someone in the family had objected to Margaret editing them. You'll know Margaret Forster wrote Hidden Lives about the women in her own family. Well, the publishers were rather naughty and implied as hard as they dared that this was a genuine diary. Brilliantly and convincingly written, I wanted to believe it, just as I think the author wanted to believe it, and she convinced herself and me. The story went right through Jane Duncan's 1930's London, my mother's teaching days in London, the beginning of social workers in London, evacuations and country life during and after the war, and ended at Greenham Common with the diary writer's niece. I wrote to the author, something I have done three times in my life, saying how well edited I thought the diary was, etc, got a rather embarrassed reply, and then of course I felt stupid too. Very stupid, actually. But I do recommend the book. Back to some books Tirant lo Blanc, Catalan, 1490, trans. David Rosenthal Vyvyan Holland, An Evergreen Garland John Burnside, the Locust Room Of course I've been reading, but during the busy period before last weekend, no time for analysis here. This week I've read the above. The first two have serendipitous connection with the Arthurian discussion. Tirant deals with troubadours, Knights and ladies and the Crusades, while Vyvyan Holland has an essay on the Courts of Love (1150-1200) in Provence. Holland was very bookish, a clubby Londoner living on his father Oscar Wilde's royalties. The essays are gloriously dated. His friends included George Scott Moncrieff who lived in Pisa while translating Proust, and A J A Symons another London literary man. An essay on writing diaries points out that small details not of particular note to the diarist may be the most interesting at a future date: e.g. he had walked down Oxford Street in 1911 and counted more motor cars than horses. He suggests that a possible last sentence in a diary might be: "I was crossing the street and was run over by an omnibus and killed." He also discusses privacy and diaries, suggesting that Pepys' secret code was a reason Pepys has survived as an interesting diarist. I wonder what Vyvyan Holland (or Pepys for that matter) would have made of blogs. As a writer outside genre, Holland would have loved them, I think. You soon come to terms with the issue of privacy and openness, realising that you must always be able to stand by what you have written. I think this is healthy. Ater Tirant (1490) and Vyvian Holland (writing as an old man in the 1950's) you get a comparable leap in future shock to John Burnside, a super-contemporary writer, with a powerfully confidential style that makes you feel he is talking intelligently to a friend. In certain well defined parts of the book he deals with cruelty, and I have to skim these, though I accept its a valid and sometimes necessary subject for a writer to tackle. Burnside is a fastidiously elegant writer, and presents worlds I can certainly relate to and find interest in. Some people tut about Burnside's subject matter, but I like his writing, I like his poetry, and I like the man. I'm prepared to trust his choice of material, and I just leave out what I feel is not for me in it. Ian says our society is becoming juvenile, with grown men constantly asking for books by Enid Blyton, Ladybird Books, Rupert the Bear and such, and the Roman Empire ended with similar stupid social behaviour. All the more need for John Burnside. [25 September] Gideon Mack Oh well done James Robertson. Nabokov meets Robert Louis Stevenson. Funny, Scottish, inventive, Scottish, dry, Scottish, scholarly, Scottish ? a story with all these potentialities reached and complexes liberated. The wonder is that if he can write like this, it took James so long to make big time. It is due partly to Penguin sending Judy Moir up to Edinburgh to find out what is really going on in Scotland ?and she found out. James Robertson was. I only hope he hasnt shot his bolt too far in this splendid book. So many things are bummed up to the nines that dont deserve it, but this one does. Well done. [25 May] Lady or no? Ursula Bloom who wrote sometimes as No Lady, but comes across very feminine. This book, No Lady with a pen, 1947, discusses her start in writing, her attempts to break into the world of Fleet Street. It belongs to an older time, which I remember as still pertaining when I began writing. I remember the determination and hopelessness of sending out manuscripts blind from an outsider base, but with conviction one ought to be able to crack it. This Ursula did by visiting Fleet Street, gaining interviews with editors, and producing work always on time ? a vital advantage in all freelancing. As she eased her way into journalism, she describes Christina Foyle's literary lunches and the beginning of the P.E.N. club, as well as discussing her agony aunt columns, which she took seriously enough to visit cases that she felt really needed support - often unmarried pregnant girls. Distanced and sometimes non p.c. (phrases like "Black Mammy" remind us how much London has changed since 1947) still it is generous night time reading, as opposed to the last one about Stanford White which was so scary I could only read it in daylight. Inevitably, No Lady is a dated book, in fact it was from our T/O heap, and the rather weird thought occurred to me that maybe I would be the last person to read it. Or are there copies milling round Africa like old spectacles? Very like old spectacles? [22 May] Stanford White Architect of Desire: beauty and danger in the Stanford White family, 1995, is a cult fact novel, by Susannah Lessard, great granddaughter of the New York architect. It's research and detection around several large and important American families c 1900, into circumstances surrounding the murder of Stanford White in 1906 by Thaw, another suitor of Stanford's "actress" mistress Evelyn Nesbit. [Not the childrens writer E Nesbit.] What interested me most in the book was the writer's sensitivity to architecture and music. She could relate her great grandfather's architecture, including public buildings and their homes, to the brooding sexual secrets in the family, and music to her father's moods, for he also figured in the male depravity she depicts. There's a chapter where she and her several adult sisters meet to confer on her father's sexual acts that occurred in their childhood. This passage corresponds closely to the passage in the Coatbridge story Where There is Evil on which I commented last year. Completely different family, same situation of tearful sisters/cousins confessing their tales to each other. The book's message is the depths of ruthlessness reached within American high and cafe society of the period. Evelyn Nesbit, exploited as a child and appallingly treated by Stanford White, lived long afterwards, into the 1950s, without ever having much going for her. The original tough cookie I should think. [22 May] Reginald Farrer, Reginald Gaskin, Reginald Jeeves In times of stress ? and the spring has been a little stressful, what with the state of Scotland (for real: no Chapman issue this time) and the problems we had about the car, which certainly affects one's bella figura, whether male or female driver. At such times I'm inclined to read Beverley Nichols again, Merry Hall and Laughter on the Lawn, of the house called Merry Hall in Ashtead, Surrey, in which Nichols describes the making of his beautiful garden. He did it cost no object & eventually had to sell up, though that side of things is not contained in the books. Then, still on gardening, I read Reginald Farrer's book My rock garden, which contains the most extraordinary eulogies of his favourite plants. That name Reginald...P G Wodehouse late in life announced that Jeeves' first name was Reginald. This was not merely a tribute to Nichols' manservant Gaskin, also revealed as a Reginald in Nichols' late book Down the Kitchen Sink, dedicated in memory of the man who ran Nichols' various houses for forty years. It was Wodehouse's admission that the laconic and imperturbable Gaskin was the inspiration for Jeeves. [April] Gwyneth Lewis: Sunbathing in the rain A cheerful book about depression. This is its subtitle and such a good description of the book, I would have described it myself in the same words, I think. I've said before that I prefer reading books by people I've met. Perhaps I should phrase it that I prefer having met the authors of books I read. I had the pleasure of meeting Gwyneth at StAnza where I got this book, inscribed in Welsh (by request) but I would have really gone for Sunbathing if I had just picked it up from a job lot anywhere. It is an account littered with quotes and stories, designed to be skimmed or read thoroughly. I did the latter. Not only is it a guide to depression at close quarters, full of all sorts of practical ideas (such as jigsaws), it also looks closely at creativity and its demands, and also the demands one makes of oneself in a life complicated by parents, aspirations, work, desires, disappointments, and conflicts. [22 March] Shakespeare's Sonnets I could recite four or five of the Sonnets by heart, mainly those I once had on a Caedmon recording including Claire Bloom as a reader. But today I sat down to read them as a book, a new and exciting read. Nobody has ever mentioned to me that the first fifteen sonnets are spent imploring the loved one to have children, as that is the only way of cheating age and death. The young person appears to be dying of melancholy, and one feels at this stage it could be the poet's own child. Then there's the strange one, (20), even less mentioned in polite society, where the poet says the boy is unattainable to him because of his sex (so they are not homosexual sonnets) with the wonderful word play, "since she [Nature] pricked thee out for women's pleasure." All the sonnets are written clearly and plainly, if you only want to read what they say. They seem to be written rather like one of those "poem a day" exercises, many of them repeating the same themes in groups. Here and there among them the poetry sunshine bursts out, and these are the best known, often-chosen sonnets. And have any other writers so confidently predicted their words will last to keep the idea of the loved one alive till all the breathers on earth are no longer breathing? I'm still reading. Half the 154 was enough for a session. So far, my feeling is that maybe there is more than one subject in the sequence, the first maybe a dying boy, further on perhaps there are others. The phrase "onlie begetter" ties in with the early argument, first, that only real children can cheat age and death, and second, that maybe description in poems can also do so. Poems can "beget" (create) permanence. Then there are two sonnets which say that another poet is also writing to the beloved, but in a less down to earth, more flattering & less honest manner. And one in which silence is stated to be better than flattery. Are there really "two poets?" I shall consider further ? but only through the primary text. There's also a fantastic acknowledgement that language can be placed: this author would not have been surprised by authorship analysis. It's high time Eng Lit got its act together and did some accurate, scientific textual computer analysis of language to sort out some its own bigger authorship muddles. The next generation will do it if this one doesn't. The edition I'm reading is Bodley Head, 1899, poem a page with full page engravings.. A lovely book to read and handle. [10, 11 March] Jorge Manrique Today I read a single poem, not even a very long poem (maybe eight pages), that had the impact of a major book. It was Jorge Manrique's elegy for his father, the renaissance Spanish with translation by Edith Grossman. The amazing things this young soldier said about his family, their concerns, and religion, whammed me right into post-medieval Spain. I'm just plain not religious, yet I totally understood this sentence and was moved by it: It is madness for a man to wish to live if God wishes him to die. And it was all like that. The only parting company was in the "non- PC" attitude to the Moors, who didnt even get a capital letter, so that references to his father's campaigns against the moors sound as if they are campaigns against scum. But one can hardly blame something 500 years old for not being politically correct. A stunner of a poem, in a book with more Spanish poetry which I shall gradually read. I have reviewed the book, in a different way, for PS website. I tried to find another translation on google for a colleague, and there were several, but all of them interpreted it as too religious ? even Longfellow's. It is a pious poem but not a religious poem. Its impact is in how the poet's good, clear, natural thinking replaces religious thought, stands instead of it and reaches similar conclusions. But given this subject matter, your religious poet will automatically call on religious language, especially when the poem's strong feature of rhyme encourages a translator's embellishment. [7, 10 February] The Murdoch Biography, by John Conradi Thorough, reverent, detailed so far as it goes, though it does not deal with the progress of the books. To my surprise, I find that dear Mary Midgeley, whom I knew quite well but not all that well (when I was a student in her wild and brilliant husband's Newcastle department), was one of Iris Murdoch's closest lifelong friends and a major source of reminiscences for this book. Typical of Mary to be unassuming about it. [2 February] Iris Murdoch John Bayley. Iris: a memoir of Iris Murdoch, 1998. I didnt read John Bayley's book on Iris when there was all the fuss about it after Iris died. I didnt even go and see the film. I had read all of Iris Murdoch's novels as they came out, and I regard her as essentially the novelist of my world, the contemporary English world of my education. Since Scotland became my country, of course, her work has still been important to me but less central. They are novels of Oxford, London and the English countryside, as well as sometimes, though less importantly, Ireland. Iris came from Ireland to England just as I came from England to Scotland. I was very glad to read this book at last. I think it has taken me this long to accept that Iris Murdoch has gone. I have one letter from her in my papers, considerably prized, and I know enough about the scene she moved in, to be able, for example, to identify certain literary figures who are mentioned by John Bayley but not by name. This book is a great portrait not so much of Iris herself but of an English intellectual marriage in the second half of the twentieth century. In their understanding of each other and the space they give each other for their respective lives and work, yet in the inter-relatedness of it, I see a strong resemblance to Ian's and my relationship, especially since we have lived alone without growing children. Bayley says Iris would not have been able to write her novels if she had had children. There is probably truth in this, for them. This is a very brave, very able book by someone who had, largely, "served by standing and waiting." One of their jokes I won't forget, was "The badgers have broken in" to be said of one's house to someone returning to it. If you get that , you'd get some of our jokes. [17 January 07] Notice: Microsoft has no responsibility for the content featured in this group. Click here for more info. MSN - Make it Your Home MSN Home | Hotmail | Web Search | Shopping | Money | People & Groups Help ?2004 Microsoft Corporation. A Here it is ? just for fun ? SALLYE's RECENT READING FILE I've changed this page's title to Books Read Jane Duncan's novels I've read them all, most several times. My Friend Monica though an early book is one of the hardest, visiting severe depression and interpersonal relations as well as the usual local colour, including the bringing of electricty to a remote highland farm. [24 December] A Quickie with Morse I've just read Dexter's thirteenth Morse book, in which Morse dies. The cover doesnt tell you he's going to die, but as the book reaches its last quarter the experienced reader begins to guess, and for a moment feels annoyed on behalf of all Morseites, but the book ends very well, with good twists in the story and as peaceful a heart attack as anyone could have, with a tot of smuggled whisky in the hospital, for Morse's end. [12 December] A Scenario that Rings a Bell: My life as a Fake by Peter Carey (2003) has as its plot a woman poetry editor ho hum and a poet who was perpetrating a hoax by writing the poetry of another invented poet. Ho hum hum. The woman editor is a clever ploy, because she doesnt write poetry of her own (a man would be expected to). She admits to spending her time reading "all this rubbish" in the hope that one day she might find a wonderful new voice. Come off it. I read the poems (and inevitably, non poems) because they fascinate me, and rubbish is a relative term. Here we have a complicated story, a) because it has stories within the story, b) because it goes to Kuala Lumpur which inevitably needs much annotation, and c) because we find a formerly notorious Australian poet doing a Lord Lucan there, thus involving Australian poetic culture as well as western establishment poetic culture. I wasnt wildly over the moon, perhaps because I saw the editor as myself misrepresented, rather than as a different woman poetry editor whom I thought was a wimp. She lost me when the (brilliant) (fake) poem was shown to her and "her heart started beating." I have not yet got used to novels that put speech down without quotation marks, and I'm not sure I ever will. I read quote marks to mentally count who is speaking in fast conversation, and sometimes I couldnt tell whether a sentence was a quote or a stage annotation, which led to me losing track. This may be merely an adaption problem when I've read so many hundreds the other way. But why do it? Just for the sake of change? [2 December] That Lady went to University with Kate Adie! That's what the woman going out of our shop said, and yes, I did. Yet another woman from the north, and how. Kate Adie's journalism memoir The Kindness of Strangers is a witty, intelligent and thoughtful book belying its celebrity authorship. These roving journalists can write. Again (like Forster's book, below) recognisable touches from a northern upbringing. Also, extra inside enlightenment on practically every important world event since those days. A mine of stories, such as how Adie resigned from Court journalism because the Beeb would not let her report an altercation between the Queen and a hack during the printing strike. Apparently HM and this guy had a real set to, he saying Havent you noticed there's a strike on? and she proclaiming, Its all about one man now [meaning Arthur Scargill] ? while wagging her finger at the hack. [26 November] Hidden Interest: Margaret Forster's Hidden Lives This book has been around since the mid 1990's, very popular and common in Penguin. I've heard of it & seen it before, & I knew it was Forster's account and search for the truth about her grandmother's life in the Carlisle area ...or possiblly the Newcastle area. The extra push to read it with interest came in a strange way ? with a well used copy containing a postcard from the author to a reader, who had clearly known the family and had written to express his appreciation of the book. I have written about association copies and letters from authors before [in my bookmarks pamphlet c 1989] but this was a great example of what a difference it made. Here was a link with the facts of the case, a card in the author's handwriting. I have read many of Forster's novels, as she epitomises the northern upbringing followed by the trek to London that was my experience too. This book must have been very difficult to write. I admired its honesty, the way she could portray herself as a less than angelic daughter, the way the women in her family were expected to suffer, and allowed themselves to suffer, for being women. She makes one assertion I completely agree with, that women needed contraceptives and abortion even more than they needed the vote! [26 November] Annie Swan's best book and I've pretty well read them all, over the years, is Rhona Keith. I have just read it in one of the trilogies of her books that were published by the Daily Mail, in ghastly small print. But you'll read small print if you really need to read it. I had picked up this volume because the first two books in it are the little known local books to Lochearnhead, The Last of Their Race and The Bridge Builders. These have interesting local detail, such as train trips to and through Callander, but they are stock Annie Swan to a great extent. Rhona Keith is an Edinburgh novel, and somehow Annie pushes herself a lot further than usual in it. It is a nineteen-twenties Edinbugh novel. The detail is fascinating but not researched: it is genuinely of its time. The plot is wound round absolutely stock Edinburgh characters yet each one is wholly beleivable and the people hang around with you when you go away from the novel. The story is intricate and both touching and funny. It centres round a smart Edinburgh family, with a big house in the suburbs, a flirty young lawyer whom Rhona Keith (from the good family) is initially in love with, and a working class husband and wife at Abbeyhill. A pretty, silly young girl is sent from Woolwich to stay with her aunt and uncle, to get her away from the army men in Woolwich who are pursuing her. She takes a job in a tailors in Princes Street and proceeds at breakneck speed to run away to Carlisle with Rhona Keith's intended young lawyer and marry him. They return to Edinburgh, she runs up huge dress bills and causes general mayhem while Rhona grandly decides that the lawyer was not the right man for her after all. Having driven her husband into debt, Molly stays behind while he goes on a business trip to "Barbadoes." She takes up with a former Woolwich admirer now stationed at Edinburgh Castle. Hubby comes home early, to find them having a farewell meeting (oh yes) in Princes Street gardens. There is a fight and Molly is told to be out of their house by the morning. She goes back to Aunt and Uncle in Abbeyhill, whereupon Uncle, a workman, takes charge, and visits the lawyer. He pushes past the housekeeper saying, "He winna see me if you take my name," and asks the lawyer to fetch his wife back from their house - as she hasnt "done anything wrong" ? only flirting! When the lawyer wont take Uncle up on this sound advice, Rhona and her formidable & rich unmarried aunt get together. Aunt comes along and gives him her valuable business (the old family lawyer has died), and then Rhona pays him a visit to say he can have her business too, since she is now marrying Mr Right and Proper, and Mr R & P says a woman should have her own accounts. This, Rhona says, is on the condition that the lawyer goes straight down to Abbeyhill to fetch Molly back. Remember, she had been engaged to this chappie who had broken with her to run off and marry Molly. The last paragraph of the book, Rhona is walking down Princes Street and she sees him on the tramcar bound for Abbeyhill. And that is the plot of Annie Swan's best book. Ian remembered that its main edition had a delightful cover of a well dressed ninteen-twenties woman on Princes Street, but it will probably be a long time (if ever) before we see one with a cover again. [10 November] The Space Between Us (Book group) After reading Thrity Umrigar's novel at the weekend and commenting late last night, I went to our lovely, friendly Book Group at Doune Antiques, where four of us monopolised the biggest cafe table all afternoon and discussed Thrity's book. Talking about the plot gave it more reality for me, and we considered how much of the cultural pressure would transfer to Western family and economic culture. We looked at how hindsight affected parts of the story, such as when Sera was irritated by her son in law during the drive to the hospital, and we wondered what would happen to the young woman, Maya, at the end. What I called "cultural selfishness" begins to look like self-preservation indeed survival, at least of the women. I would now like to read Thrity Umrigar's memoir of an Indian childhood. [31 October pm] Two on Bombay Arundhathi Sumbramaniam's poetry book Where I live , and Thrity Umrigar's novel The Space Between Us could hardly be more different, though both are coloured by Bombay. (Each writer prefers 'Bombay' to 'Mumbai'? Arundhathi explained that the various ways of naming the city were political). Thrity's novel is full of "Bombay colour" a bit too full of it for me, after all Thrity lives in an American university town not slums with shacks and castes with servants. Although I recognise this novel is clever, I did not like it all that much. It was too big and clumsy, with too many characters all rather selfcentred. There's a deal of stereotyping in the forceful/violent men and self-doubting women in the Indian families. I couldnt go along with the various generations and flashbacks and ultimately I didnt believe in the mechanisms of the plot, though I could see the book had a certain authenticity of culture. This was a book by somebody who did not like India, I felt. Arundhathi 's poems, dealing with questions of identity of a Bombay woman in a world Eng Lit culture, start from roughly the same cultural base, but move out directly from that base towards world citizenship. They are concise, witty, intelligent and highly effective, and they have no trace of the cultural selfishness that has such a strong presence in Thrity Umrigar's novel. [31 October early a.m.] Oscar by Proxy Ian's reading a big biography of Oscar Wilde and reporting anecdotes to me or discussing things, so I'm getting the Oscar experience ? the intelligence / wit, plus all the bits of literary and political history that impinge on him. Lots of other gay writers kept very quiet at the time, though Robert Graves remembered seeing Wilde being escorted through a London Railway Station to prison, when Graves was a schoolboy, and Graves shouted good luck to him. Perhaps we should call them homosexual writers rather than gay, because that is what the constructs were then. Ian's really rather like Wilde, I think, except that Ian's straight! In London in the 1970's Ian found out that a jobbing printer (not a bookseller) had a pile of the supposedly scrapped first edition of Reading Gaol under a sink. He went to tell bookseller.......... who obtained the books, then asked Ian how much he wanted for the tip-off. Ian said, "I need a new violin," and was immediately given a cheque to go and get one at Boosey and Hawkes. The name of the bookseller has slipped my mind but it's probably fairer to leave it slipped. The name of the book Ian's reading is....(I will add this when I have looked). Ian reads all the time, of course, but he doesnt usually tell me so much as this about the books. [15 October ] Where There Is Evil I read this book by Sandra Brown some time ago and was very impressed with the account by an Edinburgh woman from a Coatbridge family who became convinced after a conversation at a family funeral, that her father had been responsible for the disappearance of a girl in Coatbridge in 1957. The child, Moira Anderson, was a neighbour. Ms Brown's father worked for a bus company at Coatbridge and there were reports of goings-on at the bus terminuses by a group of drivers and conductors/ conductresses of the buses. Moira Anderson is surmised to have taken a bus before her disappearance in snowy weather. Ms Brown became convinced of her father's involvement and went to great lengths to meet him, & to meet other members of her own family and that of Moira Anderson, and she made a great effort to have the authorities reconsider the case, but there appeared to be obstacles in the corridors of power. When all this happened, Ms Brown was a lecturer in a teacher education college and mother of two young children. She says the story completely changed her life. Her husband and children stood by her through the ramifications in the wider family, some of whom thought she had taken a spite against her father and should leave things alone. Writing the book was suggested by her lawyer when they reached what seemed to be the end of the road. She got help placing it with a publisher but really it was a very good book, courageous and clearly driven by integrity. Naturally Ms Brown was affected by what she learned of her father, and she decided to have plastic surgery to her nose, as she couldn't bear to look so like her father - who certainly came across as a strange, childish, dependent and incompetent adult who was protected by his family, his work colleages and probably his masonic lodge, which was composed mainly of policemen. Ms Brown was given no encouragement by the authorities before she wrote the book, but time has been on her side, for she founded a charity in Coatbridge to help victims of child abuse, and she has now been awarded an OBE for her work with this charity. And more information about the case of Moira Anderson has come to light, and is likely soon to be made public. Sandra Brown was a customer at Grindles in Edinburgh and I would have liked to tell her how much I admired her book. [23 September ] Ghosts and crazy love A gap since the last entry here indicates a busy time with the Poetry Weekend. This week I read two books from our twenty-pence heap. The Ghost of Flight 401 by John Fuller from 1978, on the aftermath of the Everglades, Miami, jumbo jet crash, made reading which was (as quoted from Mark Twain) "interesting if true, interesting anyway." Whatever you made of the stories of the flight crew ghosts appearing on flights of a sister plane, the reaction of the authorities and also of those interested in the paranormal were worth finding out. The company threatened staff with dismissal if they reported the incidents, but at the same time were trying to remove certain physical items off the plane that may have been transferred from the plane that crashed. The mediums, some of whom were pilots and technicians, tried to exorcise the plane, while the writer, a scientist who had become fascinated with the story, claims to have eventually communicated with a ghost via table tapping. Much of the book was infused with the problems of a scientific writer in facing this subject. Weaknesses in his arguments were his assumption that technical workers would not be prone to hysteria or exaggeration, and that many of the principals in the story (including I think the author) were severely religious and therefore began from a belief in afterlife. But within a safe distance framework from the reality of the horrendous accident, it was a fun read. Earlier books listed on Archive ? reading page Notice: Microsoft has no responsibility for the content featured in this group. Click here for more info. MSN - Make it Your Home MSN Home | Hotmail | Web Search | Shopping | Money | People & Groups Help ?2004 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserve A back trail from the recent reading page... Ian McEwen's book Enduring Love took me by surprise. I'd read Saturday and thought it clever, but this earlier one, by a novelist who also has experience of TV screenwriting, I thought was in a different class. It wasnt trying so much to be a high literary novel, as Saturday was, yet its effect was riveting. Here's an author writing for adults (as was once said of George Eliot). His bizarre and well described story kept me wide awake. The book ends with an appendix giving full clinical articles on a condition and an exactly similar case report of a pathological obsession syndrome that in this instance came near wrecking several people's lives. Usually I notice things like appendices in my initial appraisal of a book, but this one got me by surprise, and I'm glad, because the book deserved to be read as a fiction. It's extremely difficult to develop reportage into good fiction, and this book succeeded for me on every front. Spookily, no not really, after the last book, it was also about a scientific writer. [16 September ] "WHO ARE THESE PEOPLE?" That's what the newspapers asked, I hear, when giving this book rather bad reviews. I doubt if a lot of people will hear anything about Spirits of the Age, published by the Saltire Society in 2005. It comprises autobiographical essays by two dozen or so contemporary Scottish poets, writers, musicians, artists etc, the book edited by Paul Scott who has lately acquired a Henderson in the middle of his name (probably for the internet, and why not). They are practically all people I have met. Many of them are the "usual suspects" or sub-establishment hacks, the kind of category you're glad on the whole that you weren't included in. A few (not the women) were much better known. I started with the people I knew best and was most curious about, curious to hear their own words about their lives. I began with Joy Hendry whose anguished essay was surprisingly honest and open, and she filled in many gaps in my understanding of her. Then I read Sheena's essay, also enlightening but by comparison far more accepting and calm about her at least equally dramatic life. On to Alasdair Gray, who was at an advantage in being a novelist, and handled his story so well and objectively that he made of it a true belle lettre.... including as it did a wonderful piece about the previous generation that Alasdair had once asked his father to write. This ruse was extremely typical of Alasdair. Then I read Agnes Owens' moving account of how she came to writing almost by accident with James Kelman as a tutor on a course, but how the murder of a member of her family stopped her in her tracks. After taking a "reviewer's glance" at some of the other essays, I next meant to read Aonghas MacNeacail, but fell asleep before I got to him. It was Sheena's copy of the book, and when checking something else on the Poetry Library website we discovered it had already been indexed there. No hiding place for the wicked. [5 July ] CHEERIO CADFAEL, HI AGAIN CHRISTOPHER LLOYD I had the impression I had spent most of this page on whodunnits (though I will justify them another time) but it isnt as bad as I thought. This week I finished my last Cadfael with some sadness - they're not really re-readable but their understanding of the civil war caused by King Stephen and the Empress Maud make you really admire the ordinary English people. (A suitable comment for this day when England was knocked out of the World Cup, to the evident satisfaction of most Scots.) As to Foliage Plants by Christopher Lloyd, I've read it once before. I've read many gardening books several times, and you can't always call it reading. Christopher Lloyd gets further than most towards readability as a book, though he doesnt get as far as his guru and mine, Beverley Nichols, in that direction. I read this book first before I had this garden. before I had the chance to try out, plant and sell so many of the sun-loving or shade-preferring foliage plants which he runs through in this book. All gardening books tend towards lists and this one is no exception. Lloyd adds engaging particulars which personalise the text (and actually make it a text), but it doesnt go so far as to give it the tension and structure of a proper monograph. None the less, I read it with enjoyment, and I recommend it to anyone wanting a friendly adviser over their shoulder when considering plants for a site. [1 July ] PPP's ? PINK AND PURPLE PAPERBACKS ... covered with non-classical typefaces in yellow, white or turquoise (other examples Bridget Jones' Diary, Chocolat.) L'Affaire, by Diane Johnson. Penguin (1st Penguin Putnam USA), 2003.. Like reading a long, materialistic story in a magazine. Was it a dull book, Posy wondered? The best parts of it were not Paris again, but the ski slopes, blizzards, hotel and avalanche rescue set in the Alps. In other words a good strong beginning (five chapters?) to the book. But the story seemed to peter out in disagreeable selfishnesses all round, amid Anglo / French / American culture not unlike that of Saturday. PT (Poor title). ISP (Includes stock poet). SDNE (Scotland does not exist). We'll see what the Book Group think next Tuesday. [11 June ] SOME SKIMS Beverley Nichols - a personal favourite author ? in his early 1926 book Twenty Five (that's how old he was) discusses personalities and events of his world ? the London that became the London of the 1930's, an era that fascinates me, perversely, as the wealth of detail is of doubtful interest to Scottish poetry. Of course I've read this book before, but notice other touches. HIs aphorism on "Elizabeth" von Arnim, by then Lady Russell, "The Dresden china is hollow, and filled with gunpowder" will do for now. In his fun gardening book with the boring title, The Craft of the Cottage Garden, 1937, T.A. Lowe explains what started his interest in bees. He says he was walking in the Strand when he noticed a crowd had stopped. A swarm of bees was posting itself into a pillar-box. Later, a man who kept bees on a rooftop arrived with a rather reluctant postman, and took the swarm away. [1 August ] GREECE ON HIS WHEELS I often read books about Greece, remembering that I never got there despite studying Classics ? though I got as far as Italy for a year. This readable book (Edward Enfield, Greece on my wheels, Summersdale, Chichester, 2003) is a good example of how you can learn easiest from learners. Its author took up writing and journalism in his retirement. Who is this book written for? It behaves like a guide for others cycling round Greece on his same route ? likely? It partly behaves like a reminiscence for other Hellenophiles and partly like a schoolteacher with obvious fairly wide reading and a Byron fetish. He'd have been better advised not to boast Harry Enfield as his son, since this sets you up to spot the Sarf London humour at the back of the Englishman abroad kind of humour. It is very journalistic, bloglike, amusing for a few chapters at a time, but it lacks shape, refers too often to his wife at home, and goes on about language too much. You're a writer, we know you're interested in language but do consider your reader. If you have just written down a zeugma (a questionable one at that), that doesnt mean the reader wants a lecture on zeugmas ? or The Zeugma or zeugmata. Why does he complain that Patrick Leigh Fermour is too learned? He slags off Hellenic Cruises, too, though he did catch them a fair cop for stating that "Venice is one of the world's most interesting cities." All the same, quite a good hot day book. [26 July ] AN UNLIKELY PAIR Lesley Blanch and Nancy Mitford. I've just read a book by each of them and I'm having fun with Google. They were both born in 1904. Nancy Mitford died in 1973. Lesley Blanch is still alive at 102. She lives on the French Riviera. Both books, Love in a Cold Climate (NM,1949) and From Wilder Shores: the Tables of my Travels (LB, 1989) deal unconventionally with manners. Lesley Blanch's complete abandon of the hypocrisies of gastronomy as she recommends mad eating in madder places, and describes with gusto many adventures of travel and food, contrasts most strangely with Mitford's novel which, like all the Mitford sisters' writings, reflect the maddest possible upbringing of the six girls, all cocking snooks at the society of which their family is a pillar. In 1949 no doubt it was remarkable to spill beans on the aristocracy in the Mitford manner. Today (agreed this is an old book) accounts of "eggypeggy" language and the Hons' Cupboard seem pathetic and boring. Lesley Blanch conducts her attack on propriety in a more modern way. She reminds you that modern Orient Express-type luxury travel is a ghost of the real dangerous adventure of the train's heyday. She tells you how to make lemon curd then adds "or just buy some". She's like the lady who doesn't care again today, and eats her peas with honey cos it keeps them on the knife. So ? did these two redoubtable lady writers ever meet? Short of braving PFD to contact the centenarian lady, which seems a little unfair at her age, let's try googling them both together. And good lord, yes - how I love google ? "If you have read it and assumed author Lesley Blanch to be dead, ... In Paris, she was a friend of Nancy Mitford's, but never an admirer of her literary .." from a Guardian review. Enough said.. [31 May ] WEST OF THE WORLD A novel based on the St Kildans leaving their island, this is the third book in Kenneth Steven's one-volume paperback Highland Trilogy (Scottish Cultural Press 2004). The other two independent novels have already been published separately. I think this truth-based novel is comparable with Iain Crichton Smith or Neil Gunn at their most highland and most moving. It is told in the guise of a very elderly St Kilda resident in a New York nursing home, who is trying to finish writing his account of his life, both the harsh yet idealised times on the island and his family's problems when they are resettled in Morvern. It's a diifficult feat of writing to combine past and present in this way. Yet Kenneth Steven pulls it off and leaves us with an immediate emotional understanding of the sort of trials the St Kilda community went through when the British government brought them off the island in the 1930's. The book is dedicated "For Finlay, who carries his island inside" and the family in it is named Gillies. I can but assume the dedicatee is Finlay Gillies, a real islander whose photo may be seen in the factual books on St Kilda. Kenneth, who lives in Dunkeld, is already known for his sensitive and often religious nature poetry. This novel to my mind places him in a higher category of writer and is his most mature and impressive work to date. [9 May ] STELLA RIMINGTON This book ? Open Secret ? was a surprise. Instead of the great & good here was a lady I could identify with in many ways. She worked hard, got where she was in some ways by chance, and had the personality to cope with what came her way. Her work experience within MI5 was very wide but outside it she had to cope with bringing up children on her own, looking after them in the same lurching step-to-step manner so many working mothers have had to do, and in her work situation fighting gender inequality. She became the first woman to have any other than a supportive clerical role in MI5, before she unexpectedly reached the higher positions from which she moved up to become Director-General. After her retirement, her planned book was at first opposed within the service but finally passed for publication. She distinguishes between secrecy about the service's operations and secrecy about its existence, and she helped to implement the much more open way that it works today. When she joined, it would seem she was about the only sensible, educated, efficient information worker, the men being in large part ex colonials, demoralised by changes in their world and given to drinking harder than they worked. I would describe this book as constructive writing rather than creative writing. It is well and honestly written, the work of a painstaking report writer. Published in 2001, three days before the 11 September attacks in New York. [7 May ] TAGGART GOES TO BRIGHTON I enjoy ? almost prefer ? reading books by people I've met. Glen Chandler, Taggart's author, used to come into Grindles in Edinburgh, and hone into the banter for current jokes. Now he has written a non-Taggart, independent thriller. You know I have read this whole book without taking in the title ? something about a vicious sea: I will have to go and find the book. I know its 2003 and New English LIbrary (Hodder & Stoughton). It was a gripping standard thriller, with a clever set-up for an independent detective: the detective's son is the murder victim so the detective is taken off the case, which naturally he has a huge interest in solving. Set in Brighton (and briefly London and Cambridge) once again the terrain is interesting. There's a huge range of characters, many from the world of male prostitution, and the spotlight of suspicion is turned on various people in turn before the denouement, which was fairly unguessable (I made a wrong guess on an outsider). Everybody was believeable & three dimensional, including the women, in a novel which was mainly about men. The people's names, which are important and often lousy in all kinds of novels, were good in this one. I smiled at the name Richard Dimarco for the celebrity millionaire. And Madden ? a great name for the protagonist. The title? Savage Tide. [1 May ] DA VINCI FOR DUMMIES Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code. 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