Hidden archive from old website words only.

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Above: the Stirling Castle Apple - variety developed by John Christie of Causeyside, c1830. Orchards formerly covered all of Riverside to Cambuskenneth Abbey. I'd like one of these apple trees, but would probably have to pay more for a named variety than I am accustomed to do.



The trees seen over the wall behind the Douglas Garden, from the policies. Winter: limes, walnut, holly, sycamore. This picture shows a possible soil depth for the limes. That was one of my questions.

Another question was answered when I searched Google for old walnut trees in Scotland. Ready and waiting was this 1880 account of Old Walnut Trees in Scotland. Many are mentioned in Perthshire and Stirlingshire from an early date, while the Castle does not get a mention, for what that is worth. It's an excellent piece of background and thanks too to Gill Bastock, the workshop tutor, who also found it on Google & sent it to me, while I was still enthusing over it myself.

There are other gardens in the Castle, mainly a bowling green, now decorated in modern style with begonias etc but with a marvellous double beech tree at the edge, out of the way of the bowling green. There's a great deal of green in the outer areas, some of it rocky. And more to write about: the tapestry weaving house, the building history, the army history, the restoration of hall and palace. For me, it will be mainly the gardens. [Account in progress 9 August]

Slow Progress
This is proving a difficult and brilliant project. Hundreds of lines written and little finished yet, though I am getting nearer.  Another day's energy on the notes and drafts has produced 11 pages of poems, at least 10 of them finished. Some of them are sequential - I'm not quite sure how freestanding they are.


Hilary, the lady gardener who spearheads Callander's flowers, came round to say there was an inspection for Scotland in Bloom this Friday. Callander really hasnt got much of an earthly this year on the hanging baskets, as the council pulled out and left it to a mixture of keen or otherwise citizens. A week ago, we noticed Dobbies had reduced big baskets to £15, so we were considering replacing two of ours, but when we got there we found the reduction was down to £5, so we bought six and have jollied up this end of our street no end. The desk staff were unsure of themselves but they found a more senior staff member who said yes, the placards all said £5 - they most certainly did - and I pointed out you can't do much with an old hanging basket, you couldn't re-use the plants. 

Ian says I have to weed the pavements in the morning. Ho hum, there are a dandelion or two along the cracks of people's walls, and some chickweed in some pavement beds further along. The two rejected baskets have great begonias in them which will transplant well into my tubs. They just werent working viewed from below.


AUGUST :              AN  UNCONSIDERED  GAZEBO
We rushed madly out to spend a few bob on the garden, having economised on it completely this year (there are more plants coming up than we can use), and got carried away with a huge black circular curvy metal gazebo. It would have been very cheap, had we not also bought the preceding lot by mistake, a modern aluminium stall cover/rain cover also wrongly described as a gazebo. You cant do as many auctions as we do without making the odd mistake, of course. The stall cover might come in handy, though I'm afraid it may be ugly, or we might sell it on. It's still in its box.

I fancied a gazebo to hold up the big vine and hops in a corner, but when we began to assemble this one, we saw at once it was out of scale with that part of the garden, and will have to go up the far end. This is quite a good thing for developing the garden, but we will have to clear a space including move some trees and make a path, then plant tall climbers such as honeysuckles and roses all round, protect the back with the conifers I will be moving, create a platform inside it and leave a doorway space (and enough sunlight) for a posited greenhouse alongside/beyond. All on twopence, as I have spent my economy garden budget already, and also in no time at all, as we have to do accounts this month, August, and I want to write some more Unpoems. I will probably write about the Unpoems in my next proper blog.

We began clearing the space this morning, in drizzle, and were rained off, but it feels right & is going to look great. We're already calling it 'The Bandstand.' [31 July, thus setting the agenda for August]

Everyone who has seen the Bandstand loves it. We got it in the space perfectly, and we didnt need to move the cypress in the end, not at present.

I am holding fire on the plantings at the moment. I dont want too much heaviness to spoil its distinctive line. You can see the apple trees through it. There is a wisteria, I believe it is a blue one,  to go near the back, and several honeysuckles. It can be used for sweet peas and runner beans in the summer. It will benefit from taller perennials at the sides and some smaller plants just inside it. It will also need some hard standing - Magi suggested a stone mosaic - and we may be able to use a temporary tarpaulin cover to rainproof it for some purposes.  We are certainly improving the garden by leaps and bounds to the back, to link the back section with the nearer parts. [4 August]

I managed to massacre a white wisteria today, through attempting to prune it. I did not realise the hard wood would snap rather than bend, and I had also twined some of it round some wrought iron in which the expanding stems got stuck. They also broke. It will be OK again next year but at present it looks rather spare, compared to other plants around it.

 
We rushed madly out to spend a few bob on the garden, having economised on it completely this year (there are more plants coming up than we can use), and got carried away with a huge black circular curvy metal gazebo. It would have been very cheap, had we not also bought the preceding lot by mistake, a modern aluminium stall cover/rain cover also wrongly described as a gazebo. You cant do as many auctions as we do without making the odd mistake, of course. The stall cover might come in handy, though I'm afraid it may be ugly, or we might sell it on. It's still in its box.

I fancied a gazebo to hold up the big vine and hops in a corner, but when we began to assemble this one, we saw at once it was out of scale with that part of the garden, and will have to go up the far end. This is quite a good thing for developing the garden, but we will have to clear a space including move some trees and make a path, then plant tall climbers such as honeysuckles and roses all round, protect the back with the conifers I will be moving, create a platform inside it and leave a doorway space (and enough sunlight) for a posited greenhouse alongside/beyond. All on twopence, as I have spent my economy garden budget already, and also in no time at all, as we have to do accounts this month, August, and I want to write some more Unpoems. I will probably write about the Unpoems in my next proper blog.

We began clearing the space this morning, in drizzle, and were rained off, but it feels right & is going to look great. We're already calling it 'The Bandstand.' [31 July, thus setting the agenda for August]

Everyone who has seen the Bandstand loves it. We got it in the space perfectly, and we didnt need to move the cypress in the end, not at present.

I am holding fire on the plantings at the moment. I dont want too much heaviness to spoil its distinctive line. You can see the apple trees through it. There is a wisteria, I believe it is a blue one,  to go near the back, and several honeysuckles. It can be used for sweet peas and runner beans in the summer. It will benefit from taller perennials at the sides and some smaller plants just inside it. It will also need some hard standing - Magi suggested a stone mosaic - and we may be able to use a temporary tarpaulin cover to rainproof it for some purposes.  We are certainly improving the garden by leaps and bounds to the back, to link the back section with the nearer parts. [4 August]

I managed to massacre a white wisteria today, through attempting to prune it. I did not realise the hard wood would snap rather than bend, and I had also twined some of it round some wrought iron in which the expanding stems got stuck. They also broke. It will be OK again next year but at present it looks rather spare, compared to other plants around it.

It's been suitable weather for Callander Highland Games, but exhausting for us. The huge stand of Globe Thistle (echinops) looks thundery, and we could do with some thunder after a long, muggy, hot summer day. Thistly flowers seem to manage well in drought, and several tall Teazles are flowering, some in rather ridiculous places. I've pruned back the big lauristinus on the lawn, that had begun to collapse and die. I thought it would all have to go, but now have a good-looking plant, if what's left of it survives. If not, there's still time to grass the area before the Poetry Weekend.  [27,28 July]

 

Perennial favourite:
Drummond Castle Gardens, This has the most marvellous position and is as grand as it gets. Trees act as standing stones...peacocks by the dozen... a dilapidated multi-face sundial. A garden of trees. Look at the main garden views on a wide screen computer and wow. Here's another link. I can't find a full page photo any more but it's worth googling as there are several sites with photos. Drummond Castle Gardens is not to be missed if you are anywhere near Crieff in summer.

Next, Cambo Snowdrops as I was staying at Cambo during StAnza. (They have a range of accommodation available.) I had a wonderful time.

Cambo is a great garden for winter flowers including snowdrops and aconites, and a year-round perennials garden. And a romantic walled garden with a cundy-burn running throughthe middle. I can't quite remember the term but it was something like cundy, which is a gutter in Geordie language and the English spelling of conduit.

 

 

July

Continues on another Garden page

May

Last day of May, the most beautiful evening in the bookshop and garden, the best this year. People in a good mood too, and buying. And the goldfish and tadpoles and toadpoles all so watchable.
Somebody, something or some reading this month reminded me of the old custom of saying Hares at the end of the month. Our version as kids (probably from Northamptonshire) was to say Hares Hares last thing at night, and Rabbits Rabbits when you woke on the first the next morning. Rabbits was the hard bit to remember. It seems like the sort of extraordinary night when you should say Hares Hares.

[31 May]

At last some hot weather, too hot to do gardening at midday, as I discovered yesterday when I began to dig some stray dandelions out. They won't be stray next year if I dont get rid of them. The fences are more or less finished up at the back, and I have some moving and planting to do there. It's mainly a case of the Shadow of the Gardener during this hot weather: watering pots , and re-tying, and considering. A key shrub is dying, a viburnum tinus, for no apparent reason so part of the garden near the lawn needs rearranging. The pond areas are looking very nice, though we could do with a few more water plants for the extra visible space of pond. Meanwhile, I think I should enjoy this rare hot weather. The flowers seem to like it. [May 7th]

 

Summer is racing in, the light getting surer and surer. Flowers opening faster than I can record them, and lot of focus on the ponds, peopled with newts, frogs, toads, minnows and goldfish all apparently trying to eat each other, and all being rather inefficiently segregated in different ponds.  Nature will have to fight it out, but it was nice getting toad spawn and frog spawn, and you need some survival to reach this point.

 

I have been too busy to do much gardening but this end is pretty self managing now. I'm trying to direct the aconite seeds where I want them, dead head the daffs (I am a bit tired of their yellow by this stage), admire the tulips coming out and the anemones, primroses, cowslips etc. Camelias are very good and shine out well in the artificial light at night. Mr MacDonald next door is repairing his fence and talking about St Kilda, where he is due to go on a busman's holiday repairing roofs. It's raining which is good for the garden but very bad for customers, & the rain is why I have time to be writing just now. You learn to live with whatever the day brings, and be glad it brings no worse. The cherry blossom is coming out, and deciduous trees starting leaf. In fact it's probably the best time.(4 May)


March- April
Garden gets busier along with the rest of life - but first, something I never expected.
A deer has been in my garden. Of course it has done damage, it has eaten all my day lilies down to the ground, and surprisingly chewed the side shoots off a small irish (fastigiate) yew. At first I noticed some damage to the shoots of the day lilies and thought it was maybe a very messy blackbird plus some slugs. But the second attack was more systematic. And then I realised what was the matter with the yew tree. It just hadnt entered my mind it could be a deer.

 

Despite deer complaints all along the back road near the Crags, I just did not think a deer would trot round the corner and down Craigard Road. But clearly it has, and this time of year it was probably in  moonlight. You cant just keep a look out for them, as they know when we sleep. Well, that gives me something to ask the gardeners about on the gardening site. I can only hope it didnt think enough of my garden to risk coming back.

 

24 March: the deer hasnt been back. I have planted many more aconites, while the larger variety has grown its first seedlings in two seed trays. I have planted blue spring flowers, various kinds of chinodoxa and scilla. I foudn a pot for my miniature Japanese cherry tree which is flowering, seven inches high with a trunk and branches, it is real cute. It is supposed to form a small shrub but I may be able to keep it in bonsai form. It has gone really cold, snowy and icy for Easter.

 

10 April: The clocks back brings serious gardening. I tidied up the garden, unwanted plant pots, bits of dead tree, logs, and general rubbish going out to the tip. Apparently you can recylce plant pots now - so a donation of boxes of middle size pots to the garden centres will allow a surreptitious hunt for useful sizes, shallow for bonsai in particular.

Scillas are plentiful. Perhaps a good year, perhaps I've finally planted enough to look good. (Plant more.)

Daffs out, the fences at the back mended or being mended. We got two large old benches, the sort they had for farm workers at harvest - the farm name was still written on the undersides. Ian is painting them blue and they look good One will go against the wall near the middle gate, where you get the best view of the crags. I will underplant it with bluebells and other things. The other, somewhere round the yard.

 

The ponds are coming back to life. We've seen four of the five fish and are about to begin feeding them. Marsh marigolds and water hawthorn beginning to flower. I'm bringing out the pottery objects I put away in winter in case of frost, the blue seat, the wide plates, the sundial top. There's a lot to do, almost too much.

 

I read that the double snowdrops do not set seed, but I query this as there are so many at a local old graveyard that I think they must have spread by seed. I am going to look this week while the snowdrop plants can still be seen before they disappear for the summer. If they have seeds, I'll be able to take a few seedpods, since they are all over the place in thousands. I have a few in my garden already, protected from slugs who seem to prefer these to snowdrops.

 

16 April: have had a busy week, but managed to do some gardening most mornings. The two blue benches look great. One is along the wall in far end of garden, which gives me somewhere to sit and consider how to improve that part of the ground. The benches also give us an extra eight or so seating spaces, so the garden now has nearly twenty seats in addition to twenty or thirty stacking chairs. Unusual, but needed for poetry weekends, and it gives you a lot of places to stop and use the garden for its proper purpose, a living space.

 

I found time to look at the churchyard with double (nivalis flore pleno) snowdrops. They have set seed and I got some. I am taking good care of the seedpods and should have loads more plants in a couple of years. 

 

The lost Daphne came into flower.  I had planted it in the ground near the pond, and was looking for a pot. Also sorted out some more bonsai and and hunting around for pots, including improvised pots.

 

24 April. Hotting up.

Things are going faster and faster in the garden. Frog spawn - toad spawn - the fishes active again - huge marsh marigolds out, and waterlily leaves growing. Pansies, anemones, rhododendrons, camelias, daffodils, and the beautiful snakes head fritillaries on the lawn. Scillas splendid. The far end of the garden is getting tidier and peonies are coming up, lupins too. I have fiddled with the bonsai trees, moving pots and considering what needs repotting. I got some Japanese pots at the auction, also two nice pillars, a couple of feet high, which take tree pots well. And we have started living outside again as we do in the summer - eating, talking, pottering.

 

28 April

Its is so frustrating having so much going on with the books and magazine just now, when the graden is crying out for --development if not attention. I take my small breaks wandering about looking - and dealing with small anomalies, much as you would tidy up a manuscript. I moved a big lupin because it was hopelessly in the way, on a path up against my experimental asparagus. It seems to be surviving, helped by this morning's mist. I planted a few veg seeds in pots around bigger plants. The back of the garden needs bigger changes before I'll be able to have a few short and relatively traditional veggie lines up there. And I planted some annuals in little spaces, too. There are a lot of teazles coming up all over the place, inclusing in the path. Some will have to be moved, some even potted for passing on. But it will be at least another week till I can get a whole or half day for the garden.

 

I am losing photo opportunities for these growing flowers and plants, because I havent  yet sorted the basic camera skills. Well, theres always next year - for as long as it will concern me anyway.

         January - February

This page will bring together some of the garden topics which have been scattered throughout the blog pages. I have started a Winter Aconite Bores group on Facebook, as its that time of year and the aconite clumps are just beginning to show. I think they are very late. There are plenty of snowdrops, and after this week's flood-rain, some dozen purple and golden miniature irises have appeared from nowhere, plus the first aconite flowers. We do not have the warmth for parties of poets at this time of year, but the snowdrops are making good headway and the crocuses, aconites, irises, anemones are well in evidence. The wintersweet isnt showing much sign of activity, it is looking its usualy twiggy horrible winter self, but we live in hope..there were three flowers last year. The witchhazel is yellow and the other winter flowering trees are performing properly, bodnantense, mahonia etc.

Feb 6th: There has been more rain, but today I worked outside in the wet a bit.  Lots of patches of aconite leaves. These are last year's plantings. I still think they are late, as are the snowdrops - just firming out, with secondary groups appearing. Clearing up some of the winter sticks & re-potting some trees for bonsai. 

Feb 25: Torrentuial rain. I put my olive tree outside for a good watering. It's a slight shock of temperature for it, but its about 6c outside at the moment, not likely to freeze though it may well do again before the end of March. Or even later. The fish are swimming about a bit - it 's probably time to start feeding them. I'm reading a book about turf management & rather dispiritedly wondering how I can improve my lawn - well I have one or two ideas. There's a particular bad patch of bad grass, I shall probably get a bit turf and replace it. But I'll split the turf and patch it, and also use bits of grass that grow in the gravel, transplanting them in. And we need to do more about the level.

I've been watching the bonsai site and some of the bonsai people have magnificent trees. I am quite proud of mine but have nothing with very thick trunks like they have. Still mine should take interesting pics when I get my camera on the move. And I've lost a tree- a daphne in a pot. It cant be flowering, or I'd definitely see it. I wish I knew where I had put it.

 

The trees seen over the wall behind the Douglas Garden, from the policies. Winter: limes, walnut, holly, sycamore. This picture shows a possible soil depth for the limes. That was one of my questions.

Another question was answered when I searched Google for old walnut trees in Scotland. Ready and waiting was this 1880 account of Old Walnut Trees in Scotland. Many are mentioned in Perthshire and Stirlingshire from an early date, while the Castle does not get a mention, for what that is worth. It's an excellent piece of background and thanks too to Gill Bastock, the workshop tutor, who also found it on Google & sent it to me, while I was still enthusing over it myself.

There are other gardens in the Castle, mainly a bowling green, now decorated in modern style with begonias etc but with a marvellous double beech tree at the edge, out of the way of the bowling green. There's a great deal of green in the outer areas, some of it rocky. And more to write about: the tapestry weaving house, the building history, the army history, the restoration of hall and palace. For me, it will be mainly the gardens. [Account in progress 9 August]

Slow Progress
This is proving a difficult and brilliant project. Hundreds of lines written and little finished yet, though I am getting nearer.  Another day's energy on the notes and drafts has produced 11 pages of poems, at least 10 of them finished. Some of them are sequential - I'm not quite sure how freestanding they are.

old white rambler rose

a lattice of black branches -

melting diamonds

* The Scullery Maid ( she is upset by the removal of Holly from the courtyard) finished and recorded.

* The Song of the Walnut Tree  (4 pages)

* The Makeshift garden

* Ingins (Onions)

* Crammasie Oak

* The Honey Seller

* Picking the Walnuts

Walnute Tree Villanelle (this one I am not sure about)

The tree census taker (several drafts)

Plants still there on the outer hill (a very unfinished draft)

and a number of completely abandoned poems 

See BBC visit on Autumn at the Castle for recording of first poem. [18 September]

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

CALLANDER IN BLOOM   

Hilary, the lady gardener who spearheads Callander's flowers, came round to say there was an inspection for Scotland in Bloom this Friday. Callander really hasnt got much of an earthly this year on the hanging baskets, as the council pulled out and left it to a mixture of keen or otherwise citizens. A week ago, we noticed Dobbies had reduced big baskets to £15, so we were considering replacing two of ours, but when we got there we found the reduction was down to £5, so we bought six and have jollied up this end of our street no end. The desk staff were unsure of themselves but they found a more senior staff member who said yes, the placards all said £5 - they most certainly did - and I pointed out you can't do much with an old hanging basket, you couldn't re-use the plants. 

Ian says I have to weed the pavements in the morning. Ho hum, there are a dandelion or two along the cracks of people's walls, and some chickweed in some pavement beds further along. The two rejected baskets have great begonias in them which will transplant well into my tubs. They just werent working viewed from below.


AUGUST :              AN  UNCONSIDERED  GAZEBO
We rushed madly out to spend a few bob on the garden, having economised on it completely this year (there are more plants coming up than we can use), and got carried away with a huge black circular curvy metal gazebo. It would have been very cheap, had we not also bought the preceding lot by mistake, a modern aluminium stall cover/rain cover also wrongly described as a gazebo. You cant do as many auctions as we do without making the odd mistake, of course. The stall cover might come in handy, though I'm afraid it may be ugly, or we might sell it on. It's still in its box.

I fancied a gazebo to hold up the big vine and hops in a corner, but when we began to assemble this one, we saw at once it was out of scale with that part of the garden, and will have to go up the far end. This is quite a good thing for developing the garden, but we will have to clear a space including move some trees and make a path, then plant tall climbers such as honeysuckles and roses all round, protect the back with the conifers I will be moving, create a platform inside it and leave a doorway space (and enough sunlight) for a posited greenhouse alongside/beyond. All on twopence, as I have spent my economy garden budget already, and also in no time at all, as we have to do accounts this month, August, and I want to write some more Unpoems. I will probably write about the Unpoems in my next proper blog.

We began clearing the space this morning, in drizzle, and were rained off, but it feels right & is going to look great. We're already calling it 'The Bandstand.' [31 July, thus setting the agenda for August]

Everyone who has seen the Bandstand loves it. We got it in the space perfectly, and we didnt need to move the cypress in the end, not at present.

I am holding fire on the plantings at the moment. I dont want too much heaviness to spoil its distinctive line. You can see the apple trees through it. There is a wisteria, I believe it is a blue one,  to go near the back, and several honeysuckles. It can be used for sweet peas and runner beans in the summer. It will benefit from taller perennials at the sides and some smaller plants just inside it. It will also need some hard standing - Magi suggested a stone mosaic - and we may be able to use a temporary tarpaulin cover to rainproof it for some purposes.  We are certainly improving the garden by leaps and bounds to the back, to link the back section with the nearer parts. [4 August]

I managed to massacre a white wisteria today, through attempting to prune it. I did not realise the hard wood would snap rather than bend, and I had also twined some of it round some wrought iron in which the expanding stems got stuck. They also broke. It will be OK again next year but at present it looks rather spare, compared to other plants around it.
[9 Aug]

JULY           WATERLILIES 
As for waterlilies, we have a pink one in the bigger pond and white ones in the two smaller ponds. Sadly, each flower only lasts a couple of days, and we havent yet reached a high flower count. On the other hand, we do actually have little frogs (and toads) sitting on the waterlily leaves. And you may hear a plop as you go up to the pond  - as a bigger frog makes itself scarce.

Here's an email from Katrina Shepherd, who has given permission to print her haiku.

The waterlily haiku inspired by your pond last summer evening are in 'Among The Lilies - A White Lotus Anthology', pond related haiku, tanka, art and photos from around the world, complied by Shadow Poetry USA editor Marie Summers.

a single raindrop

in the lily pond

many ripples

 

summer evening

in the pool

a lily pinkens

                        Katrina Shepherd

Above: the Stirling Castle Apple - variety developed by John Christie of Causeyside, c1830. Orchards formerly covered all of Riverside to Cambuskenneth Abbey. I'd like one of these apple trees, but would probably have to pay more for a named variety than I am accustomed to do.

Stirling Castle Gardens
where I am taking part in a series of writers workshops this month. I have honed in on the walnut trees and other trees and grounds of the Castle, and I am trying to find out/work out what was planted when, so I can write about them with accuracy. I am enlisting the help of the Castle museum curator and also my friend Colin Will, with his extensive knowledge of Scottish gardens and his RBGE background.

2006 5
THIS WEEK ON SALLYE'S DESKTOP

Quiet days of Autumn
Wet and darker, this time of year the days vary in the shop. A lot sold yesterday, not so much today. The Rob Roy centre, for all its relative wealth, is not allowed to purchase just now, so we are de facto the main holders of the new reprint of Character Sketches of Old Callander. We sold the last of our first batch and went round to May's (publishing secretary) for some more, to find that, in the manner of highland villages, her stash was stacked under the counter at the Honey Shop. The Rob Roy Centre and the Trossachs Pier also want copies of our new Lady of the Lake, but again they can't buy.

Amidst all this, a quiet and intro kind of time. Work on the next PS's. Ian writing. Emails from Paul and Stephen. Who will play what songs at Liz's party? Who will go down to Walgrave for service for Auntie Tracey who has just died aged 98? (It could be me.) Invite to a MsLexia party in Newcastle which I'm pleased about: it's on the Friday before Liz's party so Robin will have to travel separately. Robin is 25 not a child, I remind myself. He is perfectly capable of getting round the country. So there's this sort of vague flummoxy feeling of journeys to come. Nothing like Paul and Sandi however, who have been globe trotting all year for work conferences.

Heard today that the Scottish Arts Council has had to reinstate funding of one of the Glasgow Theatres it tried to shut down. That's very good news. This Bishop character though, is still banging on about artistic merit & setting himself up as judge, jury and janitor to boot.
[24 October]

Katrina and Arundhathi
Enjoyable mini holiday down to Newcastle for the annual Amnesty reading. A good talk with Katrina Porteous. Also poets from Ireland, Liverpool, Leicester and the North. A lovely Talisker whisky to make the occasion special, since I wasnt driving anywhere afterwards.

Back home for less than two hours before driving back to Stirling to hear Arundhathi Subramaniam, a brilliant poet from Bombay, at a Colonial Writing seminar. There seems to be something extra in all these contacts with women poets, despite the fact that neither I nor they are of the seriously feminist school. OK we're feminist but we are looking for the "belong" factors: I'd rather be one of the lads than in women's alignments, as I said to Katrina, and Arundhathi's whole reading was about belonging in the context of the languages of India and the English speaking world. Or perhaps we should call that the Eng Lit speaking world.
[18 October]

Lady of the Lake
Liz Price has sent me some super photos of Loch Venachar and Loch Katrine, but they are high resolution and they overran my available space on the website when I tried to put them up. I've left one of Evan & myself up for the moment. I dont know if I can sort this out. I also took a good many older photos down. High res are interesting as you can see every leaf on the trees, etc.

Liz also sent me a sound track of a poem I read onto her recorder the other day. It was the poem about the Kyle railway line and she added train noises from her journey and repetitions and variations. Most interesting. Again I don't know how to put it on this site. There were one or two points where my reading didnt come over quite clearly enough, but we could improve a track like this with a little work.

Last night Ian and I did a "poetry crawl" in Stirling, catching Douglas Lipton at the university then Gerry Cambridge at the Tollbooth. We gave out Lady of the Lake and other new issues of Poetry Scotland, and ended up drinking in the Portcullis with a cheery group of writers. Home after midnight.

Having to shop round for stamps for the magazine send-out. The Post Offices havent got enough "Large" stamps - the supply is in chaos.
[18 October]

Slogging
Been revising and tidying up Burrell. A lot of factual checking, adding, subtracting and changing lines... this can't go on for ever, so I'm sending it off on Monday, I think.

Liz Price was through and she and Ian and I discussed it a bit and helped brainstorm a title. After all sorts of mad suggestions last night, I could see this morning that A Visit to the Burrell Collection was the obvious one. Liz recorded a few of my poems and she is going to try putting birdsong onto the Aristophanes one, wh is a great performance piece even if Ian was right to say it was unsuitable for the book.

The new magas are ready for collection and tomorrow it's envelopes. Rather a long time since the last maga but thats the way the cookie crumbles.
[15 October]

Antiques antics - and a hat
We went to the "antiques" auction tonight which in practice means that rather more valuable stuff is auctioned than in "general" sales. At our favourite auction, there are many good book lots in the general sales and fewer or no books in the antique sales. However we go to these sales for fun, to buy sensibly and to let off steam a bit if we have had a bit of a tough week.

Today we had a lot of fun. We bought some prints and paintings which we sometimes sell as a sideline, and enjoy in the meantime. Ian added a viola to his small stock of stringed instruments. There was jewellery going cheap which we watched with interest, and we bought a pin-brooch with a good opal in gold with some decoration and seed pearls. Ian picked off a pottery bowl, which is not his usual field, and I fell in love with a mad feather hat which was in a box with two furs. We wanted to bid for the hat, but the lot went quite high- we noticed our friend Mr Mason bidding - and a dealer whom we dont know all that well bought the lot.

I followed him outside and asked if he had been wanting the furs or the hat. I wanted the furs, he said. Will you sell me the hat? I asked. You're not really supposed to side-deal at auctions, but people do, on the quiet. I'll think about it, he said, and at the end of the sale he sold it to me. Despite the side dealing I put it on and went back into the saleroom, where everybody was grinning and saying how much it suited me. And it does! It is extremely bright colours. I suppose it was a straight church hat in the seventies but now it is fun and eccentric, and I cant wait for another Word Birds or indeed just anywhere I can get some fun wearing it. I could even wear it for a wedding.

But I dont think I'd better wear it on the train to Newcastle next Thursday, when I'm going down to read at the Amnesty reading at the High Level Bridge pub.
[12 October]

A Chandler of Art
I can't believe I've been hooked on this for a week, but I have, and I have written 36 poems about aspects of William Burrell's personality and background. I've begun with his ancestors in Northumberland and the Grace Darling story, and ended with the launch in 1993 of the new Girvan lifeboat "Silvia Burrell" which was gifted by the legacy of Burrell's daughter. In between - the story of the shipping line, the family's fortunes, and buying and housing art.

Naturally after a week of this the result will be either brilliant or disastrous. I can't really help that - it 's happened, and I've been around long enough to recognise a burst of creativity when I see one close at hand.

I began by using the easily available books and then worked out to things they didnt say at all, using the internet mostly to find other sources, and I visited the collection, which meant I could come close to his household furnishings. I am quite pleased with it as it all began to hang together and make sense as I pursued it. Finding that his daughter had put her money in lifeboats was a wonderful conclusion, as her fathers money could be said to have all come basically from risking sailors lives. There are no immediate descendants left alive but anyway I havent cast any aspersions. I'm now just reading through the poems to make sure I have told the story clearly, and then I will give them a few days' rest.

In a way, I can't believe it's only taken me a week. Anyone out there like to read it and give their reaction / crits?? - preferably someone who doesnt like me very much??
[11 October]

Gay Wedding Invite
the first we've had, from Chas and Gregor. I really like popular rhymes and here's a super example printed in their invite.
Our presents policy

Our house is very small
What we need, we have it all.
So come to the party - have lots of fun
but gifts and presents bring you none.

Been in Edinburgh today with Liz and Ellie. Robin didnt surface, having been off work with a cold. Then they both came out to Callander, and we took Liz up to Dhanakosa and left her to her fate with a new group on retreat there, and Ellie came and had supper in the bookshop then I took her back to Stirling to the train. She lives in the student hall on Guthrie street that was built after the big gas explosion. She was interested to learn about the explosion, about which she said none of the students knew. So I've had a bit of a run-around day and am glad to be back.
[6 October]

A Kitchen, a Garden and a Glaswegian
Sitting watching a large pan of chutney simmer. It includes apples, onions, blaeberries, garlic, beetroot, black treacle, pepper and ginger. There are blackberries on the thornless bush outside, but it's been a bit wet to get among the bushes. Too wet to cut the grass. We havent finished the ivy, but today we planted the pretty acer near the pond, moving a fast growing, ungainly and rather weak orange blossom out of the way. A big improvement of scale, and the acer has a story to make us smile.

Meeting Liz and Evan at the Burrell tomorrow, and I've been reading books about Burrell, with the growing desire to write a sequence of poems. Ian says Burrell was very unpopular in Glasgow for scuttling ships for the insurance, but it doesnt say this in the books I have, nor does it say his brother was known to sailors as Coffin George. I would like to know a little more about all this. It's easy to find out about his collecting - the books have been written by art historians rather than shipping historians. I'll start on the Internet tonight to round out my inquiries.

Another thing that interested me was that Burrell's grandfather, a barge owner, came to Leith then Glasgow from Northumberland, as he realised the Forth and Clyde Canal's potential for commerce.
[3 October]

Travelling Tree
End of a very busy week. In fact, a busy month. Today was the Poetry Library event. Set off early carrying Tree (the red/green acer) and a few other bits. Raised Tree on my display stand with a notice "Poetry Scotland: Last issue sold out." Then spent the day talking to people. A long day it was, too, and many poets there, some I have seen very recently including Colin, Anne Clarke, Larry Butler, Robert Ritchie, Eliz Rimmer, Morelle, some I have seen in the last few months incl Maoilios Caimbeul, Frazer Henderson, Tessa Ransford, John Law, Elspeth Brown, and some I havent seen for ages including Tom Bryan, John Hudson and Chrys Salt. Far too many to list them all. Then back, tree & all, by taxi & train to Dunblane then home.
[30 September]

Rum Customers
Very wet. Very tired, and very busy in shop. Diverted by:
Punter A, wearing dark suit, with smart haircut and large black bag.
Sally: No thanks not today.
Punter: What?
Sally: You look as if youre selling something.
Punter A: I'm not.
Sally: Oh, sorry!
Punter A: I've just got a few promotions.
Sally: Right first time. No thanks.
Punter B: I've been looking for a publisher for five years.
Sally: Join the club!
Punter: I was quoted £5000 to print it.
Sally: Print what?
Punter B: My poem.
Sally: Oh?
Punter. It's about William Wallace.
Sally:Oh?
Punter: It's seven hundred verses long.
Sally: Seven hundred lines?
Punter: Seven hundred four line verses.
Sally: Oh.
Punter: It's in Lallans.
Sally: Oh.
Punter: I've done it in Calligraphy.
Sally: Oh.
Punter: I want a publisher who'll get it to all the schoolkids in the country so they can tell what really happened in history.
Sally: You're an innocent.
Punter: Oh.
Sally: Do it because you want to do it. Dont use calligraphy when it's Lallans, that makes it harder to read. Get it camera ready and print a few copies and give them to your friends.
Punter: Thanks very much for that advice. I'll come back.
Sally: Oh.
[29 September]

Stirling Book Festival
A very pleasant, well attended poetry reading. We were in the attic space at theTolbooth, about 60 real audience plus ten poets/staff. I kicked off, then Janet, then a break. After the break the other four were due to do 15 mins each, which had been carefully arranged, then suddenly during the break the venue staff said they were shutting the venue at 9.30 and so the other poets (Robert Ritchie, Charlie Gracie, Kevin Murphy, Chris Powici) would have to do five minutes each. I protested as effectively as I could and we were given a reprieve, with some staff staying late. The second half was coherent and enjoyable, indeed the whole event went well and all were satisfied. Elizabeth, Gill Bastock and Mike Mitchell among the audience. Chris, Robert and I had a drink on the way home.

The previous evening we went to the talk on fiddle tradition by Jo Miller, at Callander Library, also part of the Stirling Book Festival. It was a very good event which we enjoyed, and I met Yvette and other Book Festival staff. too.
[27 & 29 September]

CARLOADS OF BOOKS
and they are heavy! This shop doesnt run itself. We have been very busy since the Poetry Weekend- which punctuates the year for us between summer and autumn. At this stage we are living on borrowed time before the place gets quieter for winter. We've had a good auction and a private purchase in the last two days.

We dumped an auction two weeks ago (our term for simply not going) because the books were in terrible condition- yet in our absence they sold well. For the first time in my experience people are wanting different lots of books at the auctions. All the time in Edinburgh it was agreed what a good lot was - it is simply a question of how much [too much] people were prepared to pay.

Now there are fewer bookshops. Significantly two have gone recently, Westport, our long-time neighbour in Edinburgh, and Bridge of Allan along the road from here. Others who are buying for internet selling do not want the same lots we want, so though we are outbid for many lots, we do very well in the spaces.

Back with two carloads of books, for which we paid well but we did all right. The shop is short of reserves so it was soon absorbed. Then back to the auction for a good garden seat we had picked up cheap. We just managed to get it in the car. And now we are justifiably weary.
[22 September]

CONTINUES ON PAST WEEKS (see left menu)

2006 4: Continuation of THIS WEEK

Autumn & Scott
Apples. Ivy stripping, which becomes a game, as we tie string to strands and pull them off to the roof. I got a couple of handfuls of barley straw, which is supposed to clear the pond, when I took three PS issues to the printer. These includeThe Lady of the Lake: Canto One (an extra issue going by the name supernumerary). There was room for a 400 word introduction and we had problems with it. First I wrote one and I could see it wasnt right, so Ian took over and wrote a brilliant but neither impeccably accurate nor entirely relevant piece about the rivalry between Scott and Byron. Stalemate. In the end he wrote a good short intro to the beginnings of tourism in this area, and I concluded with the parts of my piece that fitted. Result good ( half each, a la Beth and Angus).
[19 September]

Snowcake visited
Having located the only cinema in Scotland showing this film (we had fancied Dundee or Inverness) we drove to Edinburgh this evening, shutting early since it was wet and the customers, such as they were, in a pretty foul mood. It can happen!

In the comfortable small auditorium there were about forty viewers at this daily showing. Five or six trailers of horrible loutish films were followed by warnings not to smoke, or use mobile phones or get your wallet stolen.

Then the film. Sigourney was acting a highly compulsive and weird autistic lady and Alan Rickman the (non autistic) guy with the story of the road crash - two road crashes actually, the second the one which brings him and Sigourney's character together. So Rickman was the "Ian" and it struck me very much that this was a mature man - Ian's story had happened to a young man.

The film wasnt funny. Though it had amusing moments it wasnt predominantly witty. It was predominantly psychological. It did have the discussion whether a mouthful of snow was as good as an orgasm, which was one of the things Ian had already told me he had discussed on the website with the prototype "snow queen". (They couldn't use that term in the film because of Disney's rights to it).

The main thrust of the film, it seemed to me, was Sigourney's determined portrayal of autistic compulsiveness. It wasnt a view of autism likely to calm political agitators but it was bloody brilliant acting. You're the most irritating person I've ever met,said the man at one point. I'm autistic shouts the woman. Its the same thing says the man. That made me laugh.

So it was a good evening, with tasty takeaway bajis afterwards & the car parked in the place where I used to park it for Grindles. But on the drive home, Ian went quiet and I knew he was het up about my safe & experienced driving, and for the thousandth time I swore never to drive him anywhere again. To never avail.
[18 September]

Snowcake unvisited
This should perhaps be archived on the Autism page but I'm putting it in This Week. You see, I think blog writing is about the sharing of personal life, with a necessary eye to its public placing, rather than about addressing a group of people. That I think is its secret.

We're looking out for a showing of Snowcake, in which Sigourney Weaver plays an autistic woman in a friendship with a man who was traumatised by a fatal road accident.

A basis of the script is an Autism chatroom in which Ian took part. He is the man traumatised by an actual accident (which occured some two years before I met him). I have reason to expect a good many of Ian's jokes in the script - freely given to the world via the chat room.

I may find it a difficult film, as Ian has had to come to terms over many years with the event in question, and I havent been able to take much part in his process of recovery. We all need different people to help us through our lives. No one person can ever suffice.

Weaver has said the film is about autism and that it concerns an anonymous "bookbinder" who lives in Scotland. It is highly typical of Ian to turn up in other places in the map of our culture, incognito.

We needed a very pretty tree so we bought one from Calum, who runs the other small garden centre in Callander. You may hear some more about this tree. I am reading over the new PS issues before they go to the printers on Monday.
[15 September]

Golden Sunshine
Email from the Scottish Poetry Library about next month's magazine fair. Sounds quite interesting, except for the built-in rudeness that they asked for suggestions of talks, I made a suggestion (to talk about different kinds of poetry) and the programme has been compiled without it. Fair enough, but where was the little email saying thank you, Sally, we're sorry there isnt room for this? Nowhere. And what a difference such things make. The pure annoyance of it spurs me to greater things...how about "Rampant administration threatens to smother poetry like a huge weed.."

Golden sunshine, but chilly. A "grass frost" forecast last night, but we only got mist, lots of it. Which cleared to this perfect day.
[9 September]

Golden Frog
Havent really got down to new things, though the shop has been busy. It was a beautiful, clear, blue skied day yet with a hint of autumn cold. Ian saw a frog in a bucket of water and fetched me to see it and tip it out near the pond. It was a big frog, more or less full sized after the small ones we keep seeing. It was one of ours, golden coloured. It slithered onto the grass and crawled between two flower pots and promptly disappeared. It had gone into the water , absolutely without disturbing the water surface, but you could see its wet print on the stone where it had gone in. Later I saw it in classic cartoon fashion, with its eyes and part of its head above water.

The water lily bud that didnt come out last weekend is still nearly out. Its petals were showing today. More sunshine tomorrow and it may come open.
[8 September]

Time moves on.
Well sort of. We went round the auctions today and saved money by not spending and by deciding not to spend any tomorrow on fousty books. There were a huge lot farmed off from a bigger auction house in boxes, and our auction didnt seem to have noticed how awful they were. The titles were good but the state of them was fit only for the bin. Some idiot will probably buy them to sell on the internet to bigger idiots. Our shop will be better without them.

A great hankering to have a permanent record of the Poetry Weekend. Basically it was a party (a four day party) and parties are like gardening, unfixable art. Colin is making a photo montage which will go a long way towards the record. I was going to write something for Tony at Various Artists but he pre-empted me by bagging my early Sunday musings on Google and classics.

So tonight I began a fun narrative poem. I begged a piece of paper from the auction office and got two stanzas and a rhyme scheme started. I have been gittering about putting Flo's party photos here on desktopsallye for so long tonight that I will have to go back to the poem in the morning. But I think it has potential.

Three more future poetry events have shaped up for my diary, just when I was getting to the end of my appointments. So that's quite good. And the decision not to go book buying tomorrow will give me time to try to finish the new PS, which is urgent. [7 September]

Tired
The garden is quiet.
Perhaps this should be a poem.
But it cannot be, it is too literal.
By the time Magi, Kay, Pauline, Fred and Lucinda had trauchled off last, I was drooping, adrenalin shed. We cleared the glasses and other signs of riotous life from the shop room visible from the street, glanced round the garden to check for stray glasses, then I went to sleep for an hour. Sleep, consanguineous to death, it said in Vergil's Aeneid VI passage I read, but I said then that I did not agree with that. To me, sleep is rejuvenating and refreshing. The Romans didnt seem to like sleep - perhaps as Ian suggests, they were frightened of ominous dreams.

We collected and washed all the glasses before finally turning in, since they are so much easier to do straight away, while virtually all the washing up had already been done by willing helpers.

So today we began with a fairly clear field. The cats were reclaiming their territory, not that they had really given it up. Both of us very spaced out, however we stayed on our feet as the shop was extremely busy, largely we reckoned because of the postering.

Phonecalls and emails from Sandi, Paul, Flo and Elizabeth. The Flo poem was a hit in Surrey. There are sure to be a couple more family pics soon on Photos page.

Thank you emails, all mentioning Carla's banquet, though I couldnt email them on to Carla yet, as her email is up the skite. The Latin and Greek theme has also got everybody going.... including me. [4 September]

Google at dawn
Sunday morning, 6.45 day four of the Poetry Weekend. Which needs a permanent record somewhere else. (There'll be some stuff on PS website.) Briefly we're all having a wonderful weekend, and Carla's banquet was something special. A fairly major event of which Ian and I are hosts, - with huge help from participants - is best analysed less publicly but it has all gone extremely well. One more day to come of a busy weekend and the rain sounds pretty heavy this morning. It will probably be a haiku walk round the house. Maybe that's not a joke!

Anyway I got onto Google in the early morning to check my contributions for the Classics discussion. It's been hard to find time for some of these jobs.

Classics is great fun on Google - you get amazing links. Along with the Vergil chunk came a fascinating comment from Edmund Burke, which I'd never have found conventionally. With the Horace Pyrrha ode, a student's page in which the poem is built up pictorially with the young couple, then the roses, then the grotto. It didnt go on to the sea god, which would have been even more fun.

Best was Oedipus. I wanted the Greek. The last seven lines of O.T., spoken by the Chorus, is one of my all time favourite poems. I can remember it in Greek but had forgotten how to write it down. After fiddling with advanced search I found the trick was to specify Greek language (obvious of course). The site I found has the whole play, with attractive background music. Here is the site. The music is referenced at the foot of the front page. Eat your heart out Jebb. [3 September]

Housekeeping
I feel I am about to be engulfed in a rather pleasant tsunami, ie the Poetry Weekend. Been working away at reorganising kitchen, office and other rooms. Garden area tidied up, and posters in all clachans within a certain radius. We postered Stirling tonight, and put up the first set of croquet boards on the Stirling road.

At this stage, two days before it starts, I begin to think I'm mad. We dont worry about the weather, because we have that nice Kirk Hall set up for if it rains. I've got the Betjeman mini-exhibition ready, with some showcards from Murray - oh yes I must email to thank them - and a teddy bear like Archie reading my scrapbook of Summoned by Bells.

Elizabeth Rimmer, who is having Sally James to stay with her for the weekend, has just begun her website Burned Thumb. I never understood Elizabeth's email address, but I now read it's a legend of how the salmon's wisdom reached the cook. Elizabeth is a Medievalist. It's a pity Julian of Norwich and the others can't email her. [29 August]

An Auction and a Walnut Tree
A week to go - and the going gets tough. Kitchen clean - garden relatively tidy - starting to clear office. Ian wants day-glo paper for croquet signs - roadside signs for Poetry Weekend. Posters up in Callander, Dunblane, & Doune. Then we have a big auction. It's at our usual place, and we drive up expensive lots and end up buying a good modern lot cheap. (There was a 1st edition Percy's Reliques that we didnt get. You have to know how to let go at auctions.) We also got a sweet pea screen. Well, that's what I'm using it for, and it looks pretty good by the wall.

From a lot of books in from a house, (not from the trade) you can tell what the people were like. It's often predictable. Many households have interchangeable books - political and occupational choices are evident. This lot were from a lady minister who loved food. A huge collection of good modern cookbooks, large and heavy, and theology and modern textbooks on feminism and the ministry. There were some extras - a good heap of Muriel Spark, a novel by Christopher Whyte and another by our old colleague Louise Welsh. - Why the surprise that we know 'em all? Books are our business.

By the time I had packed all the books at the auction, overloaded the car with them, brought them back, helped take them out of the car, loaded them in the shop and put them up, as they say in the Gaelic, bha mi buggered, and no further forward with the preparations.

I saw a massive walnut tree in Dunblane, which made me worry about the siting of mine. There are two. I may move one next year. [25 August]

Flo gets in touch
Phone call from Flo. She just loved the paperback collected Betjeman I sent her for 100th birthday, but hates all the fuss about her birthday as "it makes her feel old." I told Ian Flo has a very smart voice. Ian said, "You'll have a very smart voice when you are 100. It is a seventy year old voice!" [21 August]

Beth and Bonsai
I had started the kitchen spring clean and was standing on the kitchen bar scrubbing the walls when Beth Junor arrived. I knew she was coming before the Poetry Weekend but I wasnt sure when. Good excuse to stop. We sat and talked about the bonsai trees which are now ranged along tables ready for the exhibition, and Beth read the poems and said she liked them. I have done fourteen poems. I want either twelve or fifteen for the exhibition so there may be another one to come. I have ditched one finished poem and several non starters in the course of preparation.

Christopher Barnes and I have spoken on the phone and he is set to come up with his exhibition. I need to check whether its called Frames or Screens. Anyway the exhibitions will be all right.

Beth and Ian and I had supper outside, sampling the "Dutchies" avocat and cream pudding. It was 14% proof, and delicious, but after sampling it we scraped half our portions back into the bottle, unharmed. So we'll know how to use it when there are more people eating with us. Beth said she would like to go to our celebrated picnic table in the Trossachs for tomorrow's dinner, and we will try the water in Loch Venacher for a swim again afterwards. Finally we all walked round Callander and dropped Beth off at her B&B.

Beth had been to Bude, Cornwall, and found a 93 year old lady who remembers Valda Grieve, and to Perth Library where she found a picture of the hospital Chris Grieve went to when he had a breakdown. Her book of Valda's letters is due out in October. [20 August]

CONTINUES ON NEXT DATED PAGE

2006 3:

THIS WEEK: ARCHIVE 5 JULY - 16 AUGUST 2006

Stirling Writers
An interesting night in the high, old, fun part of Stirling, on the hill up to the Castle. I'd gone along to make sure Robert Ritchie and I were barking up the same tree in our expectations for the Stirling Book Festival poetry event. We were, and all those who will be reading were there, so that was well fixed. Then we settled down to enjoy a hard two-and-a-half hour graft, with Robert as organiser and Chris as tutor, considering a long story, two poems and a story plot by different members. It was great. Trooping out of the Tolbooth after this, we adjourned to the Portcullis, even further up the hill.

In discussion of a moving poem by Kevin Murphy, a distinction emerged between a re-drafting school of thought and a leave-it-be school of thought. I advocated the latter, believing that writing a poem is an event, and if you are ready with your language ability, and if you are lucky, the right form can come in the first draft. Chris showed himself to be an inspired and helpful tutor, and one could see many instances round the table of experience and insight informing and helping writers.

It is much more the thing nowadays to work with others, especially while learning. It reminds me of my lines

I did not take my poems to town
to the creatuve tutor's room,
poems that were awkward, but much sweeter
for lack of a creative tutor

in my poem Looking Back (English Diaspora PS).

However I did say in the same poem,

I wish that one [editor] had taken pity
on that lost girl in a lost city

so I kind of gave both sides of this controversy in that poem.

It was practically midnight when I got home, having had to edge round an oil tanker slewed across the road in the dark near Blair Drummond. Later I decided you could compare writing a poem with flower arranging. I can't quite remember why, though I thought it was brilliant at the time. [16 August]

Ceilidh and New Writing Scotland
Events in remote highland village halls are (in my small experience) memorable. There was the winter poetry reading at Aultbea two years ago. Many years before, I was in Portree when Runrig gave one of their early gigs - to the entire youth of Skye and no wonder.

This time we were at a ceilidh at Kinlochard, on the shockingly bad road from Aberfoyle to its terminus at Inversnaid. We had passed seven or eight sets of "croquet board" roadside signs for the ceilidh, three of which sets we had put up ourselves. However it was hardly stowed out, and had more the character of a small party, after we had wandered about watching two horses dance to the band, and other country delights of that nature.

After a slow start it ended up an enjoyable do with eveyone dancing, and I fancied a similar ceildh for the Poetry Weekend, but the two-man band, including wizardly MC, costs (and is worth) a not minimal three figure sum. So its out for this year, & will have to join the poetry reading on a boat-trip on Loch Katrine as a Good Idea for a future occasion.

I've written a poem about the quiet start to the ceilidh, and will send it to New Writing Scotland, with whom I have a problem in that they never use my work. Early on, when no one knew who I was, they put one in (Meeting the Ploughman, one of the oldest poems in Bewick Walks to Scotland). Then for years I got nowhere, and was discouraged and didnt send. Then they started anonymous submissions, probably because others were complaining about the sameness of contributors (I never complained). I tried again and still didnt make it.

I think there is an element of "suitable for Glasgow schoolteaching" about it which is fair enough, a sort of p c scotsiness which perhaps I dont have.

Fair enough indeed. It's free country. [13 August]

A Week of Trundling
They call one of the summer buses the Trundler, but that one didnt even trundle round its route when Gerald and Christine England were here last year - instead it stranded them in Aberfoyle for a couple of hours.

First, I trundled my car painfully to the garage at Dunblane. Its brake shoes need doing. Then I walked down through Dunblane past the cathedral and got a bus to Stirling. I went and had my eyes tested (good results) and decided on varifocal lenses, to be fetched in a few days. Then I trundled back to Callander.

Today, Ian and I trundled to Stirling on the afternoon bus, a particularly uncomfortable boneshaker, then took the train to Edinburgh for Colin's Poetry Library launch. We got off at Haymarket (you probably know that joke), paid some cheques in the bank and then took a bus along Princes Street and up the Mound. We then milled our way through the performers on the Royal Mile, where we improbably met Ronnie from Screwit, our Callander neighbour, whom I had supposed to exist only in Callander and the Highlands. Like us, he & his wife were taking an unusual day out.

We then trogged our way down to the event, which went off fine & in which we took a back-seater, somewhat supportive role. We hung about till the end helping to clear up, then made our way back to the station, mis-timing the train, but catching the last bus back to Callander, which leaves Stirling at 2245 and gets to Callander about half eleven. And trundle it might, but at that time of night, very welcome it is. [8 August]

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

[30 July]

Will they put us in their novels?
That's what worries people about writers. Or worse, will they put us on their websites?

I will use initials for the people I mention in this "social calendar" comment on non poetry events. You won't even know whether the initials are the right ones. First, the Erpelincks, for whom I don't need initials. They came from Lindisfarne a day earlier than expected, bearing a wonderful hamper of Dutch provisions which Carla had collected herself, with notes in Dutch and English, and told us they could not stay this time but had to return by ferry from Newcastle straight away. Carla and I had tea in the garden while Eddy and Ian went through the bindery for books. We will see them again in the autumn and next summer.

I went to an At Home in Cambuskenneth in E and P's garden. It was warm and everyone sat by the pool gossiping and eating good things. E & P's three young people all managed to be there, adding a family feel to a villagey event. Cambuskenneth is in a loop of the Forth so it is close to Stirling by footbridge but you have to go a long way round by road. There were some longstanding Cambuskenneth residents present but none went back far enough to connect with Ian's family (see family & animals page). An attractive and little known Abbey is usually shut, but someone nearby has a key.

Tonight we went out to dinner to C & C's, meeting also D & L. We enjoyed dinner (impressive) and a lot of talk (all worthwhile) in happy & elegant surroundings. Back late, with sharp minds. I sat up even later thinking and writing. [5 August]

Picnics, a swim and a riverside house
More trips to pick and store blaeberries for the winter. To you, a blaeberry may be a bilberry or a blueberry. To us, it's a sacred summer rite.

At "our" picnic table we met some French people one night and a couple who are house hunting in the area the next night. They start by asking "What are we picking" and it goes on from there. They had been looking at properties beside the river, and we said Um, er, do you know how high the river floods?

(One very alluring house is Green Shadows, a long building, its garden a stretch of secluded & wild river bank, with all its doors and windows facing the water. Directly behind is the trunk road, where heavy lorries pass within feet of the eaves. We have visited it in the past to buy books, when we were proudly shown the stuffed mink shot in the grounds.)

I had a swim in Loch Venachar on the way home, two nights running, probably wishing I was young again when swimming out of doors came naturally and I did not have to wait for exceptional weather. The top few inches were warm (warmer the first night) and underneath it was cool, to cold in the deeper parts, clean real cold but not shivery. I didnt go too far out as it was late and we were alone. It was still broiling today but we had an auction, & came home with a carload of books, cos that's how we make our living. [27 July]

Duncan's List
Duncan Glen has been amusing himself writing a list of all Scottish small press publications. Diehard came out of it surprisingly well. Even with the Cargills, two Gaelic, Owen D E and two non fiction missed off, we are "up there" with Joy and Mariscat, full unsubsidised books to boot. As stats do, it showed us things, like occasional slow years, but luckily we have two 2006's to diehard's credit. Some people have not given diehard the respect we deserve, so perhaps all this will help them to twig. There are only 75 copies so far, but as Duncan knows, 75 go a long way to the right people and organisations. Still no rain [ 26 July ]

Stirling University Conference
Two days at the Poetry and Politics Conference. They are very kind to me at Stirling English Department. I've been at their conference for two days and also to the dinner last night. Met poet/ academics from all over the world, and attended many papers of different aspects of "poetry and politics" from Lucy Hutchinson to American pedagogy, from Eavan Boland's Ireland to ...well you get the picture. Little of Scottish content, perhaps not so surprising in the political situation we are in! Even Rory, as one of the poetry readers, was down as (UK)! well, things might change soon and fast.

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

Two Californian delegates had visited our shop, and one of them showed me photographs of my cat and my garden at the conference dinner! [ 14 July ]

Sushi and Chips by Colin Will
____Cover Design: Pictures Page 1

We fetched Colin's new book from the printers. It is always a good feeling taking delivery of the result of all that work - so long as things have gone well, as they have done this time. It's a very good book. As a physical object it is state of the art, the cover is just right, and it's well printed too.. Colin hasnt seen it yet, but he'll be over here sharp, no doubt.

I'm glad the book came in the nick of time to be part of my display of diehard books at Stirling

One book of this calibre a year will keep us well in the poetry publishing game... or perhaps more books. There is a constant raging of the weather through time, money, wishes, work and compromise, and when we learn of huge state subsidies for publications that follow standards we have set (well designed coloured covers is a case in point) we realise things have not gone too badly in our poetry publishing venture..

To get Sushi & Chips, take the superhighway to the Poetry Scotland website - you can't miss it.- and sit patiently by the side of the road there till webmaster Colin has stopped gazing fondly at his cover design for long enough to fix the relevant webpage. The price? A ridiculous £5.20, plus postage [ 11 July ]

Gardening: moving small trees
Heavy overnight rain followed by rain/mist/drizzle. I began by trying to prune a viburnum in the centre part of the lawn, to help with visibility at the poetry readings. I made a mess of the pruning, so followed Ian's suggestion of moving a russet coloured crabapple tree into the middle of the bush. The crab has a tall stem and higher head, will not be in the way of the readers, and is a bold and strong development of the position.

Stepping gingerly in the pond and bush areas because of all the new tiny golden frogs and jet-black toads, I moved a small red standard hawthorn, added smaller plants such as lavender to the changes, and did some tidying up. I also turned the witchhazel bush through ninety degrees, with all today's moisture helping to settle the roots.

Picked a few raspberries, gooseberries and wild strawberries. The bay tree I moved to the veg plot is now much improved. Its dead leaves have mostly fallen off and all the branch tips have new light green leaves. [9 July ]

Granite City
Back from my third visit to Aberdeen in two months - that's just how it happened. So I have my bearings there. A most interesting and useful visit to Sheena Blackhall to go through her substantial backlist of published work, in the first stages of choosing poems for a Selected Poems. We dont know how long the project will take.

Also, a lot of talk, walks round the town and both universities with Sheena an excellent guide, and a fascinating quarter hour at the Excavations (complete with graves, skulls and skeletons) beneath the Mither Kirk. Then there was a concert in which we both took part, at the City Arts Centre - a large old theatre building - and a meeting with Annie Inglis, the drama and poetry teacher who is now very elderly.

This time I travelled by express bus, which proved a smooth, sensible and fairly quick option for the route. Back to Callander on a hot, hot day, to find the tadpoles turned into frogs, the shop busy, and all Fiona's and Georgina's kids and their cousins crowded round the garden ponds.

The usual long natter with Ian about what had happened in each other's absence. Ringo Starr had been in the bookshop. He'd probably count as a Poet in the Shop for the Poetry Scotland website, but he only said Hi. [5 July ]

For earlier entries in this blog please see Archive: Weeks gone by.

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2006 2:V

THIS WEEK: ARCHIVE 5 JULY - 16 AUGUST 2006

Stirling Writers
An interesting night in the high, old, fun part of Stirling, on the hill up to the Castle. I'd gone along to make sure Robert Ritchie and I were barking up the same tree in our expectations for the Stirling Book Festival poetry event. We were, and all those who will be reading were there, so that was well fixed. Then we settled down to enjoy a hard two-and-a-half hour graft, with Robert as organiser and Chris as tutor, considering a long story, two poems and a story plot by different members. It was great. Trooping out of the Tolbooth after this, we adjourned to the Portcullis, even further up the hill.

In discussion of a moving poem by Kevin Murphy, a distinction emerged between a re-drafting school of thought and a leave-it-be school of thought. I advocated the latter, believing that writing a poem is an event, and if you are ready with your language ability, and if you are lucky, the right form can come in the first draft. Chris showed himself to be an inspired and helpful tutor, and one could see many instances round the table of experience and insight informing and helping writers.

It is much more the thing nowadays to work with others, especially while learning. It reminds me of my lines

I did not take my poems to town
to the creatuve tutor's room,
poems that were awkward, but much sweeter
for lack of a creative tutor

in my poem Looking Back (English Diaspora PS).

However I did say in the same poem,

I wish that one [editor] had taken pity
on that lost girl in a lost city

so I kind of gave both sides of this controversy in that poem.

It was practically midnight when I got home, having had to edge round an oil tanker slewed across the road in the dark near Blair Drummond. Later I decided you could compare writing a poem with flower arranging. I can't quite remember why, though I thought it was brilliant at the time. [16 August]

Ceilidh and New Writing Scotland
Events in remote highland village halls are (in my small experience) memorable. There was the winter poetry reading at Aultbea two years ago. Many years before, I was in Portree when Runrig gave one of their early gigs - to the entire youth of Skye and no wonder.

This time we were at a ceilidh at Kinlochard, on the shockingly bad road from Aberfoyle to its terminus at Inversnaid. We had passed seven or eight sets of "croquet board" roadside signs for the ceilidh, three of which sets we had put up ourselves. However it was hardly stowed out, and had more the character of a small party, after we had wandered about watching two horses dance to the band, and other country delights of that nature.

After a slow start it ended up an enjoyable do with eveyone dancing, and I fancied a similar ceildh for the Poetry Weekend, but the two-man band, including wizardly MC, costs (and is worth) a not minimal three figure sum. So its out for this year, & will have to join the poetry reading on a boat-trip on Loch Katrine as a Good Idea for a future occasion.

I've written a poem about the quiet start to the ceilidh, and will send it to New Writing Scotland, with whom I have a problem in that they never use my work. Early on, when no one knew who I was, they put one in (Meeting the Ploughman, one of the oldest poems in Bewick Walks to Scotland). Then for years I got nowhere, and was discouraged and didnt send. Then they started anonymous submissions, probably because others were complaining about the sameness of contributors (I never complained). I tried again and still didnt make it.

I think there is an element of "suitable for Glasgow schoolteaching" about it which is fair enough, a sort of p c scotsiness which perhaps I dont have.

Fair enough indeed. It's free country. [13 August]

A Week of Trundling
They call one of the summer buses the Trundler, but that one didnt even trundle round its route when Gerald and Christine England were here last year - instead it stranded them in Aberfoyle for a couple of hours.

First, I trundled my car painfully to the garage at Dunblane. Its brake shoes need doing. Then I walked down through Dunblane past the cathedral and got a bus to Stirling. I went and had my eyes tested (good results) and decided on varifocal lenses, to be fetched in a few days. Then I trundled back to Callander.

Today, Ian and I trundled to Stirling on the afternoon bus, a particularly uncomfortable boneshaker, then took the train to Edinburgh for Colin's Poetry Library launch. We got off at Haymarket (you probably know that joke), paid some cheques in the bank and then took a bus along Princes Street and up the Mound. We then milled our way through the performers on the Royal Mile, where we improbably met Ronnie from Screwit, our Callander neighbour, whom I had supposed to exist only in Callander and the Highlands. Like us, he & his wife were taking an unusual day out.

We then trogged our way down to the event, which went off fine & in which we took a back-seater, somewhat supportive role. We hung about till the end helping to clear up, then made our way back to the station, mis-timing the train, but catching the last bus back to Callander, which leaves Stirling at 2245 and gets to Callander about half eleven. And trundle it might, but at that time of night, very welcome it is. [8 August]

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

[30 July]

Will they put us in their novels?
That's what worries people about writers. Or worse, will they put us on their websites?

I will use initials for the people I mention in this "social calendar" comment on non poetry events. You won't even know whether the initials are the right ones. First, the Erpelincks, for whom I don't need initials. They came from Lindisfarne a day earlier than expected, bearing a wonderful hamper of Dutch provisions which Carla had collected herself, with notes in Dutch and English, and told us they could not stay this time but had to return by ferry from Newcastle straight away. Carla and I had tea in the garden while Eddy and Ian went through the bindery for books. We will see them again in the autumn and next summer.

I went to an At Home in Cambuskenneth in E and P's garden. It was warm and everyone sat by the pool gossiping and eating good things. E & P's three young people all managed to be there, adding a family feel to a villagey event. Cambuskenneth is in a loop of the Forth so it is close to Stirling by footbridge but you have to go a long way round by road. There were some longstanding Cambuskenneth residents present but none went back far enough to connect with Ian's family (see family & animals page). An attractive and little known Abbey is usually shut, but someone nearby has a key.

Tonight we went out to dinner to C & C's, meeting also D & L. We enjoyed dinner (impressive) and a lot of talk (all worthwhile) in happy & elegant surroundings. Back late, with sharp minds. I sat up even later thinking and writing. [5 August]

Picnics, a swim and a riverside house
More trips to pick and store blaeberries for the winter. To you, a blaeberry may be a bilberry or a blueberry. To us, it's a sacred summer rite.

At "our" picnic table we met some French people one night and a couple who are house hunting in the area the next night. They start by asking "What are we picking" and it goes on from there. They had been looking at properties beside the river, and we said Um, er, do you know how high the river floods?

(One very alluring house is Green Shadows, a long building, its garden a stretch of secluded & wild river bank, with all its doors and windows facing the water. Directly behind is the trunk road, where heavy lorries pass within feet of the eaves. We have visited it in the past to buy books, when we were proudly shown the stuffed mink shot in the grounds.)

I had a swim in Loch Venachar on the way home, two nights running, probably wishing I was young again when swimming out of doors came naturally and I did not have to wait for exceptional weather. The top few inches were warm (warmer the first night) and underneath it was cool, to cold in the deeper parts, clean real cold but not shivery. I didnt go too far out as it was late and we were alone. It was still broiling today but we had an auction, & came home with a carload of books, cos that's how we make our living. [27 July]

Duncan's List
Duncan Glen has been amusing himself writing a list of all Scottish small press publications. Diehard came out of it surprisingly well. Even with the Cargills, two Gaelic, Owen D E and two non fiction missed off, we are "up there" with Joy and Mariscat, full unsubsidised books to boot. As stats do, it showed us things, like occasional slow years, but luckily we have two 2006's to diehard's credit. Some people have not given diehard the respect we deserve, so perhaps all this will help them to twig. There are only 75 copies so far, but as Duncan knows, 75 go a long way to the right people and organisations. Still no rain [ 26 July ]

Stirling University Conference
Two days at the Poetry and Politics Conference. They are very kind to me at Stirling English Department. I've been at their conference for two days and also to the dinner last night. Met poet/ academics from all over the world, and attended many papers of different aspects of "poetry and politics" from Lucy Hutchinson to American pedagogy, from Eavan Boland's Ireland to ...well you get the picture. Little of Scottish content, perhaps not so surprising in the political situation we are in! Even Rory, as one of the poetry readers, was down as (UK)! well, things might change soon and fast.

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

Two Californian delegates had visited our shop, and one of them showed me photographs of my cat and my garden at the conference dinner! [ 14 July ]

Sushi and Chips by Colin Will
____Cover Design: Pictures Page 1

We fetched Colin's new book from the printers. It is always a good feeling taking delivery of the result of all that work - so long as things have gone well, as they have done this time. It's a very good book. As a physical object it is state of the art, the cover is just right, and it's well printed too.. Colin hasnt seen it yet, but he'll be over here sharp, no doubt.

I'm glad the book came in the nick of time to be part of my display of diehard books at Stirling

One book of this calibre a year will keep us well in the poetry publishing game... or perhaps more books. There is a constant raging of the weather through time, money, wishes, work and compromise, and when we learn of huge state subsidies for publications that follow standards we have set (well designed coloured covers is a case in point) we realise things have not gone too badly in our poetry publishing venture..

To get Sushi & Chips, take the superhighway to the Poetry Scotland website - you can't miss it.- and sit patiently by the side of the road there till webmaster Colin has stopped gazing fondly at his cover design for long enough to fix the relevant webpage. The price? A ridiculous £5.20, plus postage [ 11 July ]

Gardening: moving small trees
Heavy overnight rain followed by rain/mist/drizzle. I began by trying to prune a viburnum in the centre part of the lawn, to help with visibility at the poetry readings. I made a mess of the pruning, so followed Ian's suggestion of moving a russet coloured crabapple tree into the middle of the bush. The crab has a tall stem and higher head, will not be in the way of the readers, and is a bold and strong development of the position.

Stepping gingerly in the pond and bush areas because of all the new tiny golden frogs and jet-black toads, I moved a small red standard hawthorn, added smaller plants such as lavender to the changes, and did some tidying up. I also turned the witchhazel bush through ninety degrees, with all today's moisture helping to settle the roots.

Picked a few raspberries, gooseberries and wild strawberries. The bay tree I moved to the veg plot is now much improved. Its dead leaves have mostly fallen off and all the branch tips have new light green leaves. [9 July ]

Granite City
Back from my third visit to Aberdeen in two months - that's just how it happened. So I have my bearings there. A most interesting and useful visit to Sheena Blackhall to go through her substantial backlist of published work, in the first stages of choosing poems for a Selected Poems. We dont know how long the project will take.

Also, a lot of talk, walks round the town and both universities with Sheena an excellent guide, and a fascinating quarter hour at the Excavations (complete with graves, skulls and skeletons) beneath the Mither Kirk. Then there was a concert in which we both took part, at the City Arts Centre - a large old theatre building - and a meeting with Annie Inglis, the drama and poetry teacher who is now very elderly.

This time I travelled by express bus, which proved a smooth, sensible and fairly quick option for the route. Back to Callander on a hot, hot day, to find the tadpoles turned into frogs, the shop busy, and all Fiona's and Georgina's kids and their cousins crowded round the garden ponds.

The usual long natter with Ian about what had happened in each other's absence. Ringo Starr had been in the bookshop. He'd probably count as a Poet in the Shop for the Poetry Scotland website, but he only said Hi. [5 July ]

For earlier entries in this blog please see Archive: Weeks gone by.

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2006v2IS WEEK: ARCHIVE 29 APRIL - 28 JUNE 2006

Showing Migraine the Door
Full migraine is a horrible illness for which there is all too little sympathy. It can knock you out for 48 hours at a time and can severely impair people's working lives. I had it from time to time through the children's years with us, and I was so debilitated by it at times that I understood what being dead would be like. But it's temporary every time, fortunately.
I still sometimes get the beginnings of migraine & to stop it in its tracks it I do these things:
Take Sindol, a paracetamol and codeine tablet. Without Sindol it usually gets worse.
Rest, relax, stretch muscles including neck muscles.
Drink water and eat as little as possible.
Sleep without pillow or only one pillow (relaxing neck muscles)
Keep away from bright light such as summer sunlight.
Don't look into the light.
Dont read or type except minimally.
Don't carry anything heavy.

And to prevent an attack:
Eat lightly and properly and dont go long times without food.
Don't overdo heavy lifting.
Hold your head back on your shoulders (avoid neck strain)
Don't eat fried or sauce foods such as curry late at night.
Try not to get stressed by people and events
Persist in finding your allergies. Mine is mushrooms.
Just when I was learning the mushrooms in the National Park! [26 & 28 June ]

Bonsai and Poems
Colin Will was over finalising a few things about his new book, now at the printers..He suggested that some subjects are within one's "comfort zone" as a poet, and it is a good thing to move out of the comfort zone and stretch yourself when writing.

Colin and I were also discussing the Callander Poetry Weekend which will include the "Highland Launch" of the new book Sushi & Chips along with Carla Jetko's The Body Banquet (he is also having a "City Launch"). My mind on the exhibition space in the Kirk Hall, I suddenly decided to write poems for a Bonsai and Poems exhibition. The Bonsai live in my garden but they can go over to the Hall and have poems printed in nice bold type to accompany each of them.

What could be simpler? And it would stretch me within my comfort zone, natural history poems, because each poem would have to relate to a tree.

I have written three poems so far (two days) and could hardly produce them faster than that. I have up to twenty suitable tree varieties. I have enough time to write that many poems and also to ditch the less successful poems and try again. Each poem has a tree variety in it but also brings in people or people-things (houses, society etc). I think it will work.

I am also busy with the next PS which I want to have out before the postal changes on 21 August. That means posting about 15 August, so to printers by 15 July if the printers do not have a trades fortnight. If they do have, I am probably stumped for the dates. I'll find out tomorrow. So you see I am busy. [20 June ]

The Book Group
Jean, Kath, Jane and I met at Doune antiques centre. The book we had arranged to read turned out rubbish (see recent reading page). We gave it minimal attention, & instead had a good discussion, some would say gossip, that covered the following subjects:
Kath's family removal to Norway, taking horses, cats dogs and children.
Kath's just-finished novel, a thriller set in the Highlands.
The difference between short stories and novels.
The difference between poetry and novels (in brief).
Kath's poem and my sister's poem.
Magi and Kay in Balquhidder.
Dhanakosa, the Buddhist community in Balquhidder.
Anna or Leah, the Venetian lady who lives in Callander.
Montreal and French speaking Canada,
where Jane had just been visiting.
We are doing poetry next meeting, as Kath wanted to do a poetry book before she goes. I had taken Jo Shapcott's latest and Andrew Motion's Selected, so we're lending them round. A pleasant & friendly occasion. [ 13 June ]

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

It has been very very hot and dry, and the garden has taken up a lot of attention. Not least watering it. However we still take our evening strolls, and today found half the young people of Callander on their ways home from swimming in the river. What a wonderful tradition to have survived. [9 June ]

MOT While you Wait, and a Scottish Prayerbook
Stranded in Callander during this wonderful weather with the car off the road, I've been gardening deliriously in the evenings until ten o'clock dark, pond gardening, putting up big pots of mixed summer plants such as strawberries, dahlias and nicotiana, moving things about to my satisfaction, watering and pruning the shrubs and bonsai trees, and planting a real big walnut tree. The ponds (even unfinished) are enormous fun.

The shop has been brisk, too. A top American church-music professor who was in Callander with a choir, asked us if we ever saw the 1637 Scottish Book of Common Prayer that caused the riot in St Giles, the time Jenny Geddes threw her stool at the pulpit. This was a nice way of asking for such a book. It was too Catholic or too Anglican for the Scots, was withdrawn, and is really scarce. However we had one stashed away upstairs, with a note of provenance from an old lady who wrote that Lord Claverhouse's servant had kept it in his cottage. One happy professor, who had been looking for a copy for forty years, (it was after the banks had shut, but he got the money) and two happy booksellers too. Good business is when both sides are satisfied.

Ian says that had that prayer book been imposed on Scotland, the church and the law would have been so affected that Scotland would have ceased to exist separately from England.
[2 June ]

Word Birds Debut Reading, Aberdeen
Our long planned reading took place at Books and Beans, Aberdeen. We assembled around six o'clock in the downstairs cafe, changed into our fun black clothes, and then rehearsed our shared poems in the upstairs computer room while Helena Nelson took the floor for the first house. We tried out various northern England accents on Fiona's opening poem, and ran through Sue's final poem, Older Women, without any difficulty. After a lot of thought and a number of changes we had a very coherent programme, which had been Sue's aim all along. Our somewhat outrageous clothing gelled us into a gay and defiant group, and we all thoroughly enjoyed the reading and though I say it myself, we took the comfortable-sized and appreciative audience with us. We hadn't been sure about the length of our performance but it went smoothly and well, and left the audience wanting more, as one person remarked.

Books and Beans, our venue, were most cooperative and stayed open late specially for us. We enjoyed their cafe facilities and also the Fair Trade wine and nibbles which Fiona contributed.

All in all it was a good example of preparation and forethought paying off. We are confident of repeating the same set of poems on some other occasion as well as developing another set as time goes on. Our key topics in this set were birds, the shore, and relationships.

The evening continued with a tableload of poets chattting at the Caledonian hotel, until "the whole stramash of poets were thrown out "(Lyn's words). The others returned to Inverbervie for the night, with Sue and Friederike. I stayed in Aberdeen overnight and made my way back to Callander when I came to, none too early, in the morning. A memorable event

Photographs on Pictures (go to Pictures, then scroll to page 3)
Feminism and a Puppy (one of my poems from the reading) is on Anthol and Magas page.

[26 May, about 25 May ]

Hot Poet Friends
...of Professor Angela Smith. A very warm, sunny day yesterday as I went off to this special reading at Stirling University.

Stopped by at Dobbies - the new garden centre of the very old firm, set on an eminence by the junction of the Teith and the Allan. An idyllic site, with a backdrop of hills in all directions, mid-distance fields and woods, and grass, pebble/boulder gardens, young trees and carefully controlled watering canals, with lifebelts on new posts.

This stretch of the river was also until recently a habitat of freshwater pearl mussels, which have been fished and polluted almost to extinction. Here, David Balfour and his friend (of Kidnapped) holed up on the island while wondering how they might cross the river at Stirling.

At Stirling the air conditioning wasn't working but nobody minded. I found Les Murray on his own in the crush hall. We soon joined an audience of dozens for the readings by Jackie Kay, Jack Mapanje, Alan Bissett and Les Murray. All of whom were friends / had been students of Angela Smith. But Jack Mapanje had the most interesting story by far to tell, and he stole the show from a very strong field.

All of the poets were splendid, and so was my afternoon.
[20 May, about 19 May ]

Gay Shopfront Pride
I always thought, while practically everything else about our Callander shop beats Grindles hands down, the shop front didnt look as nice as Grindles did. Now we've had a great fillip with hand painted glass on our shopfront, with the name, the slogan "It's why you came here!" and tartan gold leaf. Russell Kelly of Ontario, Canada, wanted to leave his mark on Scotland after their Callander convention, and we had a wonderful weekend watching him and his friends (and daughter) taking charge in our shop. We wound up at their ceilidh at the school, when Ian obliged with highland dress (many of the visitors had hired kilts). There'll be pictures up soon.

As to the "Gay" in the heading, I went to Newcastle last night for Christopher Barnes' Exhibition party at the People's Theatre, a predictably entertaining event winding up with long discussions of everything at Christopher's Jesmond flat. Good exhibition, too. Train back to Edinburgh this morning with Richard Livermore, then on home to Callander, Ian and two sulking cats. [16 May ]

Crazy Days
Where have the days gone? The shop is busy....the garden is demanding, seeds going in, the war on slugs. Don't tell me Judi Dench was a slug on the radio, I still hate slugs. They are after my new asparagus, the fritillaries, the daffodils, seedlings, you name it. I can't wait till the tadpoles are frogs, I need rid of them now. I am running a plant sale in the village in two weeks time and I have to get helpers, posters, and of course plants (I know where we're getting the plants). There hasn't been so much on the calendar, apart from a very enjoyable drive to Aberdeen, overnight stay, meeting a lot of the Aberdeen poets, an Indian meal with Judy T, and a call in at Montrose, but it's been hectic. It's probably mostly the shop.

Ian's article about autism has appeared in the Ben Ledi View. It's a very good plea for allowing autistic children to grow up in their own way, and not try to "cure" them. Maybe that's not why I'm calling this entry Crazy Days. [5 May ]

Fibs and Fuldroms
Christopher T. George sent round an invitation to write a fuldrom - a new form they have invented on Desert Moon Review.

Let me describe this reef knot in my own words. Four lines as follows.
Line one - a subject
Line two - unexpected metaphor
Line three - the connection, using internal rhyme.
Line four - contradicts one of the other lines.

This proves to be a recipe for writing specific nonsenses. However I soon got the hang of producing them: you can make them up on almost anything. Christopher has a competition for them till May 7th, 12 noon EST, on his blogsite. I tried to send one in, & got tangled by the registration to the site (as often seems to happen) so I'm linking to him instead. The prize, a recording of Christopher's musical on Jack the Ripper, is perhaps not entirely me, but it would interest a lot of people. More Desert Moon Review fuldroms here And here are my fuldroms. Perhaps a poem could be made from a run of them. If I spend the next week on them, I'll let you know.

every private pond
is a museum of flight:
the sky's reflection of perfection
dives down deep.

darkness falls later and later
like a book thickening as you read
so you will never reach the end of this godsend
though day itself is complete.

we climb up through trees'
silk chocolate
enfolding and warm to protect us from harm
on the hungry mountain.

life is
a mahogany sailfish
a heavy antique with a dangerous beak
unless you disagree.

The real challenge in this form lies in finishing any one that you start.
For Fibs, a similarly wry new short-form, see Judy Taylor's entry in Open Mouse on PS website.. [29 April ]  2006 1

THIS WEEK: ARCHIVE 11 March - 26 April 2006

Word Birds hots up
Poems and comments going back and forward on the internet, between Sue, Fiona, Lyn and myself. It's more than three weeks till we do the performance but there are some interesting dynamics going on. My suggestion of doing a 2,300 year old Bird Chorus from Aristophanes has caused some squawking. I have written a special translation and I hope they agree to do it - or at any rate, let me do it.

I've spent much of today driving - 200 miles, which is not at all unusual. I took the new Poetry Scotland across to the printers at Leven. Had a look at the sea. This evening we did our usual Falkirk trip, and bought a water-lily and another pond plant out of a tank. They are now suspended in the pond on two oars, where the new tadpoles are wriggling around the pond floor. I think we'll need some duck-weed, too.

I didn't tell you about the toads' bacchanalia in a deep, rectangular rock pool, where stone age burial chambers were sited beside what would have been a waterfall three thousand years ago. Toad-spawn, its eggs stitched into a narrow ribbon of slime, looks like long black dress zips.

Which reminds me, the Word Birds are all to wear black, with feathers. I baulked at the feathers at first but have now decided to go with it, a very stagey long black dress with a huge sequinned v-neck, and peacock feathers in my hair. Hope somebody has a camera. [26 April]

Gaelic at Callander
I've been a bit stuck with my Gaelic. I used to go to Killin, and do four hours a week, two lessons back to back, at Killin library. There was an intermediate lesson followed by an advanced. The students included Dr Mairi, who has lived in Killin since the 1930's, was the doctor at Killin after her father and whose father used Perthshire Gaelic among his flock. There were also the MInister, a schoolmaster, a mountaineer; farmers and farmers' wives. The class was eventually reorganized to an all-Gaelic senior class and an elementary class, and I fell through a hole in the middle.

Now Chas Mac Donald is teaching Gaelic again at Callander. The beginners class was all spoken Gaelic and songs, which is just what I need - to unbend and actually use the language, which I have too long treated as a literary language. The second class was a bit more applied, with just two of us and Chas. Chas makes the most amazing language-learning books, I mean he actually writes them, puts them together and publishes them as books on a small scale. He usually gives them out free.

Callander was Gaelic-spealing till 1850, when a non-Gaelic speaking minister came to the town. Services were changed to English, and Gaelic lost ground overnight. This comparatively recent loss of Gaelic explains why we have no indigenous English language poets before the twentieth century. That in its turn is why the guidebooks go on about Wordsworth's visit to the Trossachs, and of course Sir Walter Scott's romantic tales and poems.[24 April]

On my birthday Sheena Blackhall was reading at Stirling Uni. Not only did she say "Hello, Sally!" (as poets who come to read there rather noticeably do). She said "Happy Birthday" and gave me a purple scarf with golden elephants all over it!

If anyone knows when Sheena's birthday is (or can slyly find out) could they please kindly and slyly let me know. [16 April ]

Spring Drive
We've got the Lurgy - hard g and pronounce the r - Scots for flu (probably but by no means certainly connected to allergy.) Scots gets you like that. Odd wee words become indispensible.

Writers, poets, booksellers and bookbinders generally don't get paid sick-leave, so there we were, choking. spluttering, moaning and collapsing by turns, as we dealt with the usual stuff - in my case paginating a third book for one of our poets, and emailing him from time to time to quibble. He too had the Lurgy.

But Spring has come, and the light lengthens faster and faster these days of April. So we decided to run an errand delivering some books to another part of Perthshire. Callander is in Old Perthshire - the Real Counties issue is as strong in Scotland as England - but we were at opposite ends of the old shire, so our trip took us over the tops and past some of our favourite stamping grounds. We saw a doe in a copse. Pheasants and blackcock were "lekking" - their mating displays at regular sites -- daffodils opening and the leaves and grass springing, not to mention caravans and cars heading north on the major A9 route - - which we crossed at Dunkeld with the necessary caution.

Our destination was a farm cottage up a three mile road from a mesh of smaller roads. We did pretty well finding it all. We returned by the main route, quickly and easily, against the main flow of traffic which had in any case dwindled after evening dinner time. [13 April ]

Sandstone Press
Falkirk Football Stadium is new. We pass it most Wednesday evenings, when we look into Falkirk auction and do weekly shopping at the big supermarket at the other end of the flat river plain. This Wednesday, however, we went into the Football Stadium and there met friends Robert Davidson and Moira Forsyth, Janet Paisley, Ken MacLeod, and Scottish footballer personality Brian Irvine, and an audience to hear them speak and read.

Janet read from her hilarious story about a Falkirk couple who plan to go to Italy, Ken from his Sci-Fi genre story of Scottish road workers set in the future, and Brian from his moving autobiographical story about his career in football, and how he survived when his playing career was ended by illness.

Ian and I were photographed with Janet by a young football fan who was a little too liquored up for me to nobble the photo for this website. I should have liked it. After the book launch, Ian and I had the great pleasure of supper in an Italian eatery with the two publishers from the team on Sandstone Press, who were staying over and seeing their distributors in Glasgow on the following day. - If you know anyone working in adult literacy, make sure they've checked out Sandstone Press. [7 April ]

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

Pond - Frog - Splash
Basho's famous haiku, translated by James Kirkup. [See Susumu Takiguchi's essay on this.] There's nothing like a pond for bringing magic to a garden. Ian dug ours last year. We enjoyed the delights of water plants, reflections, rainy surfaces, and a few imported tadpoles -offered by Kieran, five, with a couple of minnow that had been flushed out of Callander Meadows with one of the kids' fishing nets.

This year we decided to go in for frog-spawn, in the hope that the frogs might believe they belonged here and come to our pond again and again. So we went hunting yesterday evening, with benefit of the later light. We drove quite a long way, to a narrow, deserted road where in Spring we have observed masses of tadpoles in river pools, and on a June night, so many small frogs crossing that we could barely drive the car.

It was definitely frog country, a marshy watershed, and though there was nothing in the burnlets of running water falling to the river, we soon found enormous quantities of frogspawn in the ditches on the other side of the road. Our plunder, in an old glass jar with a lid, was but a few leaves out of the forest, a few splashes from this ocean of froggy life.

Back home we decanted the frogspawn into our refilled pond, which had been part emptied to mend a hole caused by tilting ice. Then I reassured myself by reading frog natural history. My book said that garden ponds were becoming an important habitat.
[2 April ]

Eranthis hyemalis
Winter aconites are something of an obsession with me. I read everything I can find about them. A modern book on the Buttercup family dealt well with them, and their best advocate was Beverley Nichols in his famous demands for winter flowers, published in the 1930's. Old books pass out strange odd "facts" such as that it helps never to lift their corms above ground level.

If you're trying to get colonies, they take forever . If they like your land, they slowly become "almost weeds." There is nothing to beat their clear independent gold from christmastime. "A field of buttercups in January."

So why am I talking about them in April? It's been a bad season here for the flowers, but I'm pleased to see that the groups of ruff-like leaves are thickening. They spread underground, and also seed. The first year's seedlings are dicotyledons. Nobody tells you this, and if you aren't expecting them, you'll miss the tiny two-leaved seedlings, like weed seeds, spread around your flower clumps. The second year, they form tiny true leaves and it's about four years till they grow big enough to flower. I've tried all sorts of things with the seeds and decided it's best to let them seed naturally, which they will do in grass, undisturbed. They're not choosy about soil acidity, but I think it has to be rich soil, and possibly unpolluted air. Mice and slugs can eat them, and sometimes clumps will vanish, perhaps from these causes. In short, to get them to settle in, you have to be determined to the point of cussedness. [1 April ]

Blog Cuckoos
I have just invented this term. I had a little Google browse and got onto other people's blogs, and soon I wanted to lay an egg in one of them, so I pressed a few comment buttons....I don't think I will become a serious blog cuckoo as there is always so much else to do.

Rob Mackenzie's Surroundings was the first blog I found. I met this poet twice in a week after barely having known him off the page before. He was a commended poet in the National Poetry Competition & therefore at the London event on 11th, and then last weekend at StAnza. You'll find descriptions of both these events on his blog, too, so you can compare the perspectives if you are so inclined. He wrote more fully than I of the people who were in London, and also described our journey back to Scotland and the fight (or near fight) that developed in our compartment of the train. So you can read it to supplement my account.

I then looked at George Szirtes' blog, a serious diary, well written even for a writer. Szirtes' published criticism is intelligent and sensible. I always assumed he was older than me, but apparently that's not so. [27 March]

StAnza
Our house is looking like a bomb had hit it. Especially my wardrobe...four days at St Andrews at the poetry festival, the first day with Ian and three days on my own, two days commuting then one overnight stay. Still too close up to report it, though I'll be doing email discussions on PS website with some of the others who were there. The funniest incidents had better stay off the record: some stories, like wines, don't really travel.

So what can I say? Plenty. Jo Shapcott's new poems blew my mind. I caught up with Joanna Boulter, Duncan Glen, James Robertson and many more, & met PS poets in person whom I already knew by their poems. The day Ian was there, we had good chats with Tessa, Drew, & Julie Johnstone, and we enjoyed Colin's first Dead Poets session with Owen Sheers on Keith Douglas and Michael Longley on Edward Thomas. We wound up, as always, at the Open Mic at Aikman's Bistro, where we meet students and poets in the friendliest atmosphere. We missed Chris Jones who has compered the Open Mic in other years, but Jim Carruth was an amazingly good successor in this role.

Home again, we popped down to Stirling Museum to hear Christopher Whyte give a talk on Sorley Maclean. Chris has lived in Budapest since the summer so is less often around in our part of the world. Ian found out why he was always asked to hide his violin case at Sorley's readings in the 1970's. [20 March]

Ooh...London
was lovely. Warm and dry, no waiting for tubes or buses - they came so quickly every time. Stephen's offices in Holborn are behind the street Dickens was born in. Stephen took me past the new block of flats being built where he is going to live, and dropped me beside City Hall, a beautiful lopsided beehive-shaped building beside Tower Bridge. It enhancesTower Bridge and gives a view over London like that of the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Only thing, it isn't usually open to visitors. I had my invitation card as instructed and the security was thorough - but it was a wonderful poetry event for happy networking, old friends, competition winners, new meetings, faces to names, mutual friends, lovely. Then with Beth back to Stephen's (some of the poets ended up drinking in a pub till midnight) and to Beth's new home at Stamford Hill for the night. [Photo of Tower Bridge on Pictures page]

Beth finishing details of book of Valda Grieve's letters - the Introduction from Deirdre came by post while I was there. We then spent Saturday morning at the British Library which was also great. Security at these buildings is strong but unobtrusive and it presents as helpfulness. There is always someone observant taking responsibility for a place, giving a sense of relaxation. Looked at some of the well displayed early, famous and splendid books and walked round the architectural feature of The King's Library, George III's collection of books, gold, red and vellum the predominant colours of the bindings. [11 March]

 

 

Adrian Mitchell , Poet, Shadow Laureate, peace campaigner and a great, kind and courageous man, died suddenly on 20 December 2008. I last saw him at StAnza. He was 76. Adrian Mitchell: the Poetry Archive Tell me Lies about Vietnam Bloodaxe Books announcement Youtube: I Was Run Over by the Truth __________________________________________________ Below: Sally (left) working on recording poems at BBC Scotland L.A.B. in Glasgow, Autumn 08 I am now using the new site. Older blog pages are listed and working here in the same format as before. I have learnt such a lot since I started about page layout and design that I decided to improve the typesetting of the older pages, but found that the extra formatting of typeface and colour caused the pages to overshoot their space limit, so I couldnt do a lot about it, sorry. It certainly makes the older entries less readable, and I may have another try at pepping them up if I have time. The writing actually seems better when it is better presented. I have found MSN Groups very suitable to my website requirements and have enjoyed using their format for the last three years. The majority of this site's pages will be left up throughout January/February until the MSN Groups site disintegrates. In accordance with my belief in open writing, even the currently hidden pages will be left open. The pages on which I have spent so much time will be there for anyone to look at, and if anyone is crazy enough to want to print them off, I will send them a special, signed & titled storage envelope, on request. SallyE December 2008 THIS WEEK ON SALLYE'S DESKTOP last bit of the loaf although it's specious: time doesnt really divide itself up like this, and we are past the solstice anyway. Quiet, just a few stalwarts and some hogmanay visitors, rain but not excessive like the week of floods. There's a small group of snowdrops already, in signal up mode. That's early. [31December] Horses for Courses Back from a very pleasant morning visit in Stirling, we found Magi & Kay had left us a calendar on our stairs. Straight out into Callander to see if they are still in town, I find them at the Dreadnought bus stop as I half expected, so drag them triumphantly home for a natter and impromptu lunch. (Directly before I hailed them with delight, they had been greeted as close friends by Lady McLaren, to the surprise of straight, staid onlookers around the Dreadnought.) Magi's head is full of poems and he wants a book to give people who keep asking him for one, to free up his memory space for something else. That settles it  we must go for a cheaper kind of book as well as the occasional coloured cover books, as we are in no doubt that Magi needs a book, and the dedicated issue option isnt right for Magi. His readers will be outside the usual poetry reader range and will expect a booklet providing the works, in a reasonably basic form and that's what Magi must have. There is only one Magi. Sheena Blackhall's will be the main book next year & hers will, on the contrary, be a book not a booklet. She's done fifty booklets and what she needs is a book. See also my related thoughts on internet v book publishing in Whither 2007 on Web and poetry page. [27, 29 December] "Are Done So"?  The cities apparently are crowded but Callander very quiet. Solstice greetings have come & gone. The larder is full, & I have two more garden troughs and some vintage Pelham puppets for christmas. I learnt the agonies of not being able to write well enough on puppet plays as a child. Maybe that's why I still like puppets, but they also make good house decorations, and we are talking about a poetry puppet play. I won't give the game away yet. Robin had been coming for christmas but his father is upset by news of the death of a friend, Audrey, so Robin has rightly decided to go there & cheer him up. I remember this lady Audrey from about thirty years ago, and I liked her. She met my then husband on an Open University summer course. Audrey became a clergywoman and was later practically blinded by a cricket ball at a match. We saw a notice at a supermarket last night and spent the rest of the evening working out what was grammatically wrong with it. It read "Cars parked in this car park are done so entirely at their own risk." [23 December] Nibbles nite  naff name, doesnt sound so bad spelt like that. A super do with Stirling writers. Everyone read way out pieces. Ian sang a little known song by McGonagall about battered wives. Robert read the first chapter of the Bible translated into Ritchiespeak. Elaine had a sketch or little play, and thrust me into the main character of a church lady with a Morningside / Pertick voice. This made them laugh, particularly as I was wearing the feather hat I had chosen as a prop for the Aristophanes bird chorus, which also went down well. Ian and I have really enjoyed our first "term" with this highly professional & intelligent group. [20 December] Blue stuff above the trees and wonderfully clear air. What's doing in the garden? Thin ice on ponds, snowdrop shoots, winter flowers on shrubs. The crabapple among the viburnums looks very winter-dead, but I don't know that anything can be done about it. It will look OK when it starts budding. No sign of slugs at present  could the frogs have got rid of them already? I'm behind with clearing leaves etc. We are probably going to be included in the Callander Gardens Open Day next year, so will have to get cracking in the farthest jungle. [17 December] Nothing but the Truth Letter from Literature Director at SAC. That's an event! No letter since Ian lost his cool with them in 2001 and for interesting reasons, too. This letter is to me, asking for six copies of Colin's book Sushi and Chips, to be considered for a Spring Book Award. Very good. But why is the letter to me? Surely Ian is known to be the publisher? So I send the books  immediately  and scrawl a note on the letter, to the effect that communications should be sent to Ian King, who, as I add, with more truth than caution, "does not deserve to be treated with contempt." I wasnt wanting a christmas card in reply or anything. But a reply has come. Two letters from Literature Secretary, one to Ian and one formally copied to me, to same address, in separate envelopes, acknowledging receipt of the books and apologising for any distress caused by sending the letter to me! My name had simply been found in a website! On the whole, I'm more pleased with them than annoyed, this time, plus it's great to have a diehard book deservedly in the running for an award. [16 December] Stirling Rivers I refused to take the car out last night. Conditions were horrendous, with fifty rivers on various levels of flood warning (we were the highest level). This morning things looked little better, with many shops flooded or closed and no one likely to come book buying. The footbridge was barricaded. I climbed "Kessogs Hill" again for the view of the water, then bought some butteries to show solidarity with Calum, who was trading from a flooded area with bread-crate stepping-stones. We needed to view an auction so we decided to travel in daylight. Our first hurdle was a huge pool of water at Coilechat (woodcat / wildcat farm) west of Doune. We struggled through, only to find the road closed behind us as we reached Doune. We went on round Dunblane (itself severely flooded but by now we were on the motorway) to Kinbuck where the river was far nearer the road than usual, churning and rushing. This was the Allan. The Allan, the Teith and the Forth meet at Stirling where they flow into the tidal firth. We had then intended to go to Dunfermline, but decided against it when we saw more road closures posted, boding ill for the bridges and diversion routes. The A84 back to Callander was now firmly closed, so we headed for the back road south of the Teith. That too had a closure sign. So via Thornhill, through another hair-raising puddle and, eventually, home and dry. [14 December] Wet morning Like, wet. It's rained for a fortnight, except last Saturday, and for much of the month before. You start to hallucinate, or think you 're in a weird kind of film. Whisky and Finlay (the cats) prefer to chase each other round indoors rather than out in the wet, and are a trip hazard. We got the car back from its repair last night  we'll need a new one next summer, and we went down to Stirling Writers, who are looking for a new home for weekly meetings in Stirling. I'm feeling much more cheerful  after a struggling, ratty week and now think maybe I felt compromised by the car being out for repair. Men can feel that their car is part of their wellbeing, but women? Carla emailed to thank me for the fish terrine. It turned up in a box with a pint of ink. I've been looking for a big bottle of ink since before John Cargill died (2000) because he wanted one, but I can use it. The terrine (jelly mould to you) decorated with fishes, seemed to have Carla's name all over it. Not planning to go to Mull just now, I used the "You'll know So-and-so Post," entrusting it to the driver of an Iona Hotel van I saw in Callander. It's reached her, and she's pleased. Helena's Sphinx has arrived, with my wee cartoon in it. Hmm! [13 December] Cheer up tips Cook something you've forgotten was in the freezer. I made haggis with onions and chestnuts, then stewed apple and raspberries, and pastry (frozen) with sweet mincemeat from last year's jars I'd forgotten were in the cupboard, and fresh orange juice using a glass squeezer I'd forgotten was in the drawer. Think of a recent joke. Here's a short one. Two journalists were walking past a pub.  Well, it could happen. Get someone to change the light bulb, put the picture hook in, or anything else that hasnt been done for weeks. Two points for getting someone else to do it, and one point for doing it yourself. (Remember that newspaper? Do it yourself Weakly). So. Go out into the garden, or the park, or the hedgerow, (or the florists I suppose) and find some dark green holly or evergreen, some pale leaves, berries or seedheads or buds and put them in a vase. I got holly, jasmine, virburnum, eucalyptus, a bit of Ivy, Mahonia Japonica and some papery honesty stalks. Anything at all will do! Read a chain email and don't send it on. Have a good natter with a customer. State of roads is only half a point. If you dont have customers, go and have a natter in a cafe. I mis-typed cafe as cage. It might cheer you up to go and sit in a cage for an hour. Or it might depress you a whole lot worse. Find a pincushion while you are looking for account receipts, and rearrange all the coloured pins in it. You can only do this if you have a pincushion. Put your electric blanket up a notch and find a book you already enjoyed the first and second times you read it. Think of something completely original to do with the christmas cards, then think, I don't have to do this, and put them along the lobby. [11 December] Blogging as a kind of writing The BBC thinks blog is a bastard word (incidentally that's one of the 'correct' usages of bastard). It may have been just coincidence, but when I emailed in my HO that 'weblog' was a stuffy word, the BBC website news editor changed his blog name from weblog to newslog. I love these changes and developments. That's what language is for. And it's what writers are for. I recently realised that maybe the reason I wrote diaries for decades was that apart from poetry, diaries were what I really wanted to write. Of course I wrote novels, who didnt, but I have come to see (especially since attending a workshop with several novelists), that novel writing is a range of specific kinds of storytelling limited strongly by readers' expectations. Look at all this viewpoint business. Did Dickens worry about viewpoint? Well actually perhaps Dickens did, in that he is very empathic and you believe how it was for each of his characters. Nowadays much medium- weight fiction has several narrators each of whom is supposed to know their part of the story. All-seeing narrators are out. The great novelists were always experimenters, but what has happened now is that literary fiction is supposed to be experimental. Some can do it Ali Smith and Salman Rushdie for example  but they are now fulfilling the expectations of the reader of 'experimental novels.' Which wasnt what it was all meant to be about. [9 December] Ayad Alhaiatly On this rather short dark Novemberish December day, as I work hard on the accounts downstairs in the shop (with a cloth to cover them from nosy customers) things have begun to seem rather flat  that December-January feeling of wanting the winter out of the way, though doing what one can to cheer it up with festive plans. But it stays flat and dull. Then an email comes from Ayad Alhaiatly who is feeling quite the opposite - overjoyed because he & his family are to be allowed to remain indefinitely in the UK. His relief and delight are so evident in the email he has send round his friends, thanking them for their support and prayers or wishes or "crossed fingers," that it can only cheer up the day. And it does! Ayad has been in Glasgow for two years that I know of now, perhaps longer. He met Beth Junor and some other writers in Edinburgh who were doing work with PEN, the international organisation that monitors writers' political difficulties across the world. Ayad has read his poetry in Arabic and English at two Callander Poetry Weekends, 2005 and 2006. He has been under a lot of strain during the long drawn out process of applying for residence, for example he was unable to visit his parents at the end of their lives in case he could not get back into the UK to his wife and children. All my poetry colleagues will be very glad to hear today's news, and I'm wishing him and his family an extra special christmas, or holiday, or festival, or whatever they want of it. [8 December] Fossils: A Visit from Fred Fred Woodward of the Scottish Pearl book came in to see us, and was hauled in the direction of the fossil table. "Looks more like orthoceros to me", said Fred. Well, quite. Orthoceros are older than belemnites but still related to squid etc. A google search produced this fine pic of orthoceros and these pebbles could be chipped and polished straight off our table. Colin, the first expert consulted, was only approached by email and had not so far called at Callander (which he does, from time to time) or seen the table. The flood watch authority (sepa) at 10.29 last night said today's rain would be insignificant. Could somebody tell them it was pouring? The river is lower but still spectacularly flooded. [2 December] Loch Occasional The Barrow's Goldeneye, named Bobby by us and Twitchy by the village, is enjoying the flooded river, named by the village Loch Occasional and by me Loch Callander. I think Loch Occasional is pretty good, actually. It may well be Loch Future. Trees stand here and there throughout the huge flow of water, more puzzling in that the river course within the flood takes a series of wide bends. Right in the middle, happily appearing and disappearing as he pursues his diving interests, the wee white bird has solitary possession of the instant loch, has been there every time I've sneaked out for a look. [1 December] Continues on Past Weeks pages, where there's also more info and a pic on the off-bounds Barrow's Goldeneye (November). THIS WEEK ON SALLYE'S DESKTOP Home Poets That was Rory's good title for tonight's SCoP reading, and I really appreciated being included as a "home poet." Rory Watson, Chris Powici and I and three student poets sat in a semicirle round the front, and we took turns reading a poem each for five or six turns. It was a most unusual and successful reading, with a good audience of students and regulars. The department staff turned out, too. Following this, a friendly chat in the nearest pub, and then a quick ride up to the Portcullis to meet Ian and the others coming out of the Stirling Writers, added up to a most satisfactory evening. [29 November] Barrow's Goldeneye This little chappie was down on the river yesterday when I went down to look at the floods. More exactly, he was on the car park which was underwater. I wouldnt have known more than that he was a cute little duck (I also saw the heron and swans and a diver) but a twitcher came into the shop in the afternoon in great excitement. He had seen a rare Barrow's Goldeneye. They are usually in Canada or Iceland, but not even common in those lands. Twitchers must have a good jungle telegraph because today there were more birdwatchers than birds. One guy came from London by air and hired a car at Prestwick (that's how my brothers do Scotland). Ian says he saw a breeding pair of birdwatchers. He also saw the star of the scene bobbing at the river edge. This Goldeneye site has a number of good pics. [24 November] Belemnites Drorive. I always try to discover a word not in English but possible, when I copy and paste to start a new entry here. Drorive* is the best one I've found. It's drawn from the beginning and endings of the last entry (drove and drive in this instance). I wonder what meaning I could give it? Belemnite is a new word to me too, and belemnoid. We've acquired a stone table with these fossils visible all over the surface. (If I say we got it at auction I'll be an auction bore, but that's where we get practically everything we have.) I tried to identify them by looking up 'fossils' but got nowhere, except that they weren't trilobites. Colin rescued me by email when I described them as like cornets, bullets or space ships. "They sound like belemnites" he said. Once I knew that, of course, I could check it in books and on the internet. And belemnites they seem to be. Belem, as a place name, has something to do with Bethlehem, as does Bedlam. However a site I found, Belemnites, says the term comes from Modern Greek belemnos, javelin. This sounds likely. The table is in the shop, since it's too heavy to put upstairs. So do come in and see my belemnites some time. *Drorive is a googlewhack  a unique word or term that doesnt come up elsewhere in Google's search capacity. Single words are practically impossible  if they have a meaning, someone else should have used them. Your best bet is a compound like my 'Blogthology' last week when I found there were 120 usages already on the net. With a made-up word, your problem is fitting a meaning to it that other people will want to adopt. [21 November] Hired car and three days off Drove down to Newcastle for the Mslexia party which was great. Debbie Taylor and her chairman were both retiring, and Carol Seajay and another American were taking over. We were there to celebrate Debbie's success story and that of her team. Ten years ago, Debbie approached the Arts Council in England with a plan that needed 100,000. This is much more than arts projects usually want, but she gradually got it together with grants, guarantees etc and then found the banks were reluctant to play. They aimed for a circulation of 5000, which took some time but they now have a circulation of 12,000  staggering for a literary magazine. (Circulation figures are traditionally given for the whole year, ie multiplied by the number of issues per year) The party was in an art gallery with an interesting kitchen and good food. I talked to most of the women writers, poets Peter Mortimer and Bill Herbert (Debbie Taylor's husband), and unexpectedly found Andrew Crumie there too. The party wasnt a massively huge one and I still don't know how I deserved my invite, but Robin and I certainly appreciated it. I cadged him an invite at the last minute by saying he was keen to come and would they like him as a helper! This produced an immediate reply saying no problem, and he neednt bring an apron. Next, to Barnsley to Evan and Liz . Saturday evening we drove over the moors to Hazel Grove for the Family party for little Anna and my sister Liz's birthday. (Beware, there are two Robins and two Lizzes.) This party took the form of a concert or ceilidh, a word they wouldnt have known.There was singing, acting, a samba danced by Collette's parents, a hammy old joke in which Martin was cut up behind a white sheet, and poetry and music, but no general dancing as you'd have in a ceilidh. Robin surprised everyone (except me) with a Thespian rendering of Ogden Nash's poem about metaphor and simile and the Assyrian coming down unlike a wolf from the fold. A lady Eng Lit professor, friend of Liz and a Beowulf scholar, recited The Green Eye of the Little Yellow God with great aplomb. It seems to be doing the rounds. Paul and Stephen played piano and squeeze-box and sang. Ann gave an indescribable and very funny presentation on preserving the family genes. She used a flip chart which had been prepared with candlewax, and paint on a wallpaper brush, so she could quickly show the cartoons. Ann, Liz P and I did the train poem, first listening to Liz P's recording (I forgot to say premier). Ann and I then read it as a round and got the audience to make train noises etc. I've done that somewhere else: at the Bridge in Newcastle. Liz brought one chap along to me and said "Bill needs some advice about the language in his poem." "Oh," I said, "with all these church people here you had better not use swear words." "It's not that," he said, "It's a poem by Kipling, you know, wogs and that." Forced to think quickly, I asked, "Have you got any black friends here?" He in his turn was forced to say "Yes." "Go and ask them what they think." I said. That did the trick, and stymied his recital I'm afraid. Sunday was a christening lunch, where we had more chance to natter with the family. I caught up with Martin's brother Robin, his partner Linda, Valerie, Stephen & Chewy and Ann, & Clara & Tim (my Eng Lit / writer / journalist niece and nephew, who make a threesome with Robin). People began to depart early afternoon. I arrived home late & shaking after a long drive in atrocious weather, and then reported the gist of events to Ian. Food Note: The best food of the weekend, in a strong field, was the huge Spanish / Turkish omelette with peppers and onions, prepared by Liz P for Sunday breakfast. I was so spaced out I could only eat an inch sliver, with two fresh-cooked tomatoes. The most welcome was the Marks & Spencers prepared salad and fruit salad, available at Carlisle Services during the drive home through the storm, & which gave me the stamina to finish the drive. [19 and 20 November] Nights with the writers We're enjoying these Stirling Writers' evenings, especially Ian, I think. The standard and approach is that of higher education (which is, of course, an old-fashioned term). Everyone knuckles down for about three hours. We also enjoy the pub sessions afterwards. This time Magi Gibson was guest tutor. She has a reputation of being really good at this work, and having observed her tonight I can see why. Totally in control, and full of constructive ideas. It was great to catch up with her again (she was in Callander during our first two or three years here). The coming weekend in England is largely organised - car, Robin (who is travelling with me), overnight stays etc. I have the smaller things to do connected with that. Woke in the night, during a very peculiar dream I had great difficulty in shaking off. It was muddled, based in that Sumerside house setting that I used to experience quite often, but not for ages. I've spelt Sumerside wrong so no one will find this section by google, because it is a real place, though my dreams distort it. What caused it? Hopefully the christmas pudding we ate. I like things to have an explanation. [15 November] Where do they come from? I mean people who come to say they bought a pear tree from you, and its leaves have all fallen off, is that all right? Surely not leafy Callander. I take her outside, and show her mine, and say they're meant to do that, pears are deciduous. And maybe the partridge and the gold rings are starting to grow. [13 November] Swithering It's harder to write a blog when you havent been doing much. Apples, rain, reading, a bit of accounts which builds into a sorting-out job this month. Went to Valerie Gillies talking about wells at Stirling, and then to Portcullis with Elizabeth R* intending to meet the Stirling writers, but they ran on late and we had a very long cup of coffee and chat. Nice to catch up, though. Gave up & ran Eliz home, before the gaggle and Ian appeared. We were home pretty late. It's too easy to run around with people you forget are maybe twenty or even thirty years younger & knock yourself out. Here's a sacred well site, with a nice pic of poetic ladies at a well. PS website got a starred mention on the PK email newsletter, and we've been given a little logo for the home page. Congratulations to Colin. It means more hits on PS website and perhaps through to here, who knows? I have booked a car for my adventures next weekend. (When dashing round England I prefer a hired car, as you get a new one and it doesnt cost all that much.) So not too much going on till then. I have a countrified ambivalence about travelling, modest though my travelling is, but I would miss it if I didnt do any. *Elizabeth Rimmer, not the Queen. [11 November] Chas & Gregor's Wedding I have been winding up clergymen of my acquaintance about this "gay wedding" but it really was a wedding. There were family, friends, kids, clothes, cards, dancing, food, balloons and a cake, with people from all over. Chas' family and friends came from Arisaig, Gregor's from Glasgow, others from Inverness, Stirling etc., and if there were other gays present you'd think there must have been  it wasn't evident. No one showed any embarrassment whatever and it was all incredibly "straight," indistinguishable from the more normal type of wedding. (Well, almost!) Apparently the Registrar didn't know which of them was which. As these weddings are presumably about one in twenty of all weddings (with a catch-up factor since the law came in) its not going to be the sort of event you get to very often, even if you have strange friends like we have. Chas doggedly wore no shoes, either to the civil ceremony or the party. Chas had done all the cooking, which was splendid. I met Chas through Gaelic lessons, while Gregor works on the Stirling Observer. We're hoping the Observer will carry a report [4 November]  there was no lady swanning around in sacrificial dress! Sun then frost After a month of rain, what a delight to have a fine gardening day. I fiddled about repotting and planting, & moving frost sensitive garden items out of danger, a chinese pottery seat for example, which had to go in the front shop lobby. Apples are falling from Joan's tree into our garden and hers, by what seems like the ton. We have stored, jellied, chutneyed, frozen, given away and of course eaten (stewed) a whole load, but there don't yet seem any less. Before you take the car out you have to walk up the drive collecting them out of the way. And you have to keep buying sugar and vinegar! I remember a glut of tree fruit at Bishopton, pears in an old tin bath, and apples stored in an empty room spread out on newspaper. Which is more terrifying, empty rooms or how long ago it was? Tonight, the first real frost. [1 November] Mister Melanie Halloween passed uneventfully except that Ian and one or two other writers saw the Grim Reaper walk past Stirling Castle, while they had their smoking break in the Writers Group. We did a few poems, then we had an impromptu talk from "Melanie Gifford" whose second historical novel is just due out. He talked and answered questions about researching, writing, editing and preparing his novel, finding agents etc. When I asked a question that led into it, he went into a diatribe against the present new-bookshop setup. A really communicative young man, and the new novel sounds good, too. This was all highly relevant for Ian who is heavily into a novel at the moment. Afterwards, the regular drink and chat in the Portcullis. Jean, who read her first story to much acclaim, was also at the Book Group with me this afternoon  see report on Recent reading page. Stirling Writers Group is one of the best I have come across, with a strong tradition & track record, a professional attitude, and varied and talented members. [31 October] Clocks back Dark & wet, but I got the grass cut yesterday, & Ian cut the beech hedge. Garden tidier as a result. The leaf fall and leaf turn are very late this year. Everyone's saying this (Ian said trust the Scots to moan because the leaves havent fallen off the trees yet). Huge lot of cooking apples. I have used up all the jamjars making jelly and chutney but still lots. To Shore Poets last night, with Ian, Richard L who was going back to Edin after a weekend here, and another Ian from Dunblane. Robin turned up at Shore Poets, as did many old Edinburgh poetry friends, and Carla was one of the readers. The event was at the Mai Tai near the Poetry Library, and we met Eric on the way out. I had had a lunch & long gossip with Eric earlier in the week, on a needed visit to Edinburgh. I THIS WEEK ON SALLYE'S DESKTOP Quiet days of Autumn Wet and darker, this time of year the days vary in the shop. A lot sold yesterday, not so much today. The Rob Roy centre, for all its relative wealth, is not allowed to purchase just now, so we are de facto the main holders of the new reprint of Character Sketches of Old Callander. We sold the last of our first batch and went round to May's (publishing secretary) for some more, to find that, in the manner of highland villages, her stash was stacked under the counter at the Honey Shop. The Rob Roy Centre and the Trossachs Pier also want copies of our new Lady of the Lake, but again they can't buy. Amidst all this, a quiet and intro kind of time. Work on the next PS's. Ian writing. Emails from Paul and Stephen. Who will play what songs at Liz's party? Who will go down to Walgrave for service for Auntie Tracey who has just died aged 98? (It could be me.) Invite to a MsLexia party in Newcastle which I'm pleased about: it's on the Friday before Liz's party so Robin will have to travel separately. Robin is 25 not a child, I remind myself. He is perfectly capable of getting round the country. So there's this sort of vague flummoxy feeling of journeys to come. Nothing like Paul and Sandi however, who have been globe trotting all year for work conferences. Heard today that the Scottish Arts Council has had to reinstate funding of one of the Glasgow Theatres it tried to shut down. That's very good news. This Bishop character though, is still banging on about artistic merit & setting himself up as judge, jury and janitor to boot. [24 October] Katrina and Arundhathi Enjoyable mini holiday down to Newcastle for the annual Amnesty reading. A good talk with Katrina Porteous. Also poets from Ireland, Liverpool, Leicester and the North. A lovely Talisker whisky to make the occasion special, since I wasnt driving anywhere afterwards. Back home for less than two hours before driving back to Stirling to hear Arundhathi Subramaniam, a brilliant poet from Bombay, at a Colonial Writing seminar. There seems to be something extra in all these contacts with women poets, despite the fact that neither I nor they are of the seriously feminist school. OK we're feminist but we are looking for the "belong" factors: I'd rather be one of the lads than in women's alignments, as I said to Katrina, and Arundhathi's whole reading was about belonging in the context of the languages of India and the English speaking world. Or perhaps we should call that the Eng Lit speaking world. [18 October] Lady of the Lake Liz Price has sent me some super photos of Loch Venachar and Loch Katrine, but they are high resolution and they overran my available space on the website when I tried to put them up. I've left one of Evan & myself up for the moment. I dont know if I can sort this out. I also took a good many older photos down. High res are interesting as you can see every leaf on the trees, etc. Liz also sent me a sound track of a poem I read onto her recorder the other day. It was the poem about the Kyle railway line and she added train noises from her journey and repetitions and variations. Most interesting. Again I don't know how to put it on this site. There were one or two points where my reading didnt come over quite clearly enough, but we could improve a track like this with a little work. Last night Ian and I did a "poetry crawl" in Stirling, catching Douglas Lipton at the university then Gerry Cambridge at the Tollbooth. We gave out Lady of the Lake and other new issues of Poetry Scotland, and ended up drinking in the Portcullis with a cheery group of writers. Home after midnight. Having to shop round for stamps for the magazine send-out. The Post Offices havent got enough "Large" stamps  the supply is in chaos. [18 October] Slogging Been revising and tidying up Burrell. A lot of factual checking, adding, subtracting and changing lines... this can't go on for ever, so I'm sending it off on Monday, I think. Liz Price was through and she and Ian and I discussed it a bit and helped brainstorm a title. After all sorts of mad suggestions last night, I could see this morning that A Visit to the Burrell Collection was the obvious one. Liz recorded a few of my poems and she is going to try putting birdsong onto the Aristophanes one, wh is a great performance piece even if Ian was right to say it was unsuitable for the book. The new magas are ready for collection and tomorrow it's envelopes. Rather a long time since the last maga but thats the way the cookie crumbles. [15 October] Antiques antics and a hat We went to the "antiques" auction tonight which in practice means that rather more valuable stuff is auctioned than in "general" sales. At our favourite auction, there are many good book lots in the general sales and fewer or no books in the antique sales. However we go to these sales for fun, to buy sensibly and to let off steam a bit if we have had a bit of a tough week. Today we had a lot of fun. We bought some prints and paintings which we sometimes sell as a sideline, and enjoy in the meantime. Ian added a viola to his small stock of stringed instruments. There was jewellery going cheap which we watched with interest, and we bought a pin-brooch with a good opal in gold with some decoration and seed pearls. Ian picked off a pottery bowl, which is not his usual field, and I fell in love with a mad feather hat which was in a box with two furs. We wanted to bid for the hat, but the lot went quite high we noticed our friend Mr Mason bidding  and a dealer whom we dont know all that well bought the lot. I followed him outside and asked if he had been wanting the furs or the hat. I wanted the furs, he said. Will you sell me the hat? I asked. You're not really supposed to side-deal at auctions, but people do, on the quiet. I'll think about it, he said, and at the end of the sale he sold it to me. Despite the side dealing I put it on and went back into the saleroom, where everybody was grinning and saying how much it suited me. And it does! It is extremely bright colours. I suppose it was a straight church hat in the seventies but now it is fun and eccentric, and I cant wait for another Word Birds or indeed just anywhere I can get some fun wearing it. I could even wear it for a wedding. But I dont think I'd better wear it on the train to Newcastle next Thursday, when I'm going down to read at the Amnesty reading at the High Level Bridge pub. [12 October] A Chandler of Art I can't believe I've been hooked on this for a week, but I have, and I have written 36 poems about aspects of William Burrell's personality and background. I've begun with his ancestors in Northumberland and the Grace Darling story, and ended with the launch in 1993 of the new Girvan lifeboat "Silvia Burrell" which was gifted by the legacy of Burrell's daughter. In between the story of the shipping line, the family's fortunes, and buying and housing art. Naturally after a week of this the result will be either brilliant or disastrous. I can't really help that  it 's happened, and I've been around long enough to recognise a burst of creativity when I see one close at hand. I began by using the easily available books and then worked out to things they didnt say at all, using the internet mostly to find other sources, and I visited the collection, which meant I could come close to his household furnishings. I am quite pleased with it as it all began to hang together and make sense as I pursued it. Finding that his daughter had put her money in lifeboats was a wonderful conclusion, as her fathers money could be said to have all come basically from risking sailors lives. There are no immediate descendants left alive but anyway I havent cast any aspersions. I'm now just reading through the poems to make sure I have told the story clearly, and then I will give them a few days' rest. In a way, I can't believe it's only taken me a week. Anyone out there like to read it and give their reaction / crits?? preferably someone who doesnt like me very much?? [11 October] Gay Wedding Invite the first we've had, from Chas and Gregor. I really like popular rhymes and here's a super example printed in their invite. Our presents policy Our house is very small What we need, we have it all. So come to the party  have lots of fun but gifts and presents bring you none. Been in Edinburgh today with Liz and Ellie. Robin didnt surface, having been off work with a cold. Then they both came out to Callander, and we took Liz up to Dhanakosa and left her to her fate with a new group on retreat there, and Ellie came and had supper in the bookshop then I took her back to Stirling to the train. She lives in the student hall on Guthrie street that was built after the big gas explosion. She was interested to learn about the explosion, about which she said none of the students knew. So I've had a bit of a run-around day and am glad to be back. [6 October] A Kitchen, a Garden and a Glaswegian Sitting watching a large pan of chutney simmer. It includes apples, onions, blaeberries, garlic, beetroot, black treacle, pepper and ginger. There are blackberries on the thornless bush outside, but it's been a bit wet to get among the bushes. Too wet to cut the grass. We havent finished the ivy, but today we planted the pretty acer near the pond, moving a fast growing, ungainly and rather weak orange blossom out of the way. A big improvement of scale, and the acer has a story to make us smile. Meeting Liz and Evan at the Burrell tomorrow, and I've been reading books about Burrell, with the growing desire to write a sequence of poems. Ian says Burrell was very unpopular in Glasgow for scuttling ships for the insurance, but it doesnt say this in the books I have, nor does it say his brother was known to sailors as Coffin George. I would like to know a little more about all this. It's easy to find out about his collecting the books have been written by art historians rather than shipping historians. I'll start on the Internet tonight to round out my inquiries. Another thing that interested me was that Burrell's grandfather, a barge owner, came to Leith then Glasgow from Northumberland, as he realised the Forth and Clyde Canal's potential for commerce. [3 October] Travelling Tree End of a very busy week. In fact, a busy month. Today was the Poetry Library event. Set off early carrying Tree (the red/green acer) and a few other bits. Raised Tree on my display stand with a notice "Poetry Scotland: Last issue sold out." Then spent the day talking to people. A long day it was, too, and many poets there, some I have seen very recently including Colin, Anne Clarke, Larry Butler, Robert Ritchie, Eliz Rimmer, Morelle, some I have seen in the last few months incl Maoilios Caimbeul, Frazer Henderson, Tessa Ransford, John Law, Elspeth Brown, and some I havent seen for ages including Tom Bryan, John Hudson and Chrys Salt. Far too many to list them all. Then back, tree & all, by taxi & train to Dunblane then home. [30 September] Rum Customers Very wet. Very tired, and very busy in shop. Diverted by: Punter A, wearing dark suit, with smart haircut and large black bag. Sally: No thanks not today. Punter: What? Sally: You look as if youre selling something. Punter A: I'm not. Sally: Oh, sorry! Punter A: I've just got a few promotions. Sally: Right first time. No thanks. Punter B: I've been looking for a publisher for five years. Sally: Join the club! Punter: I was quoted 5000 to print it. Sally: Print what? Punter B: My poem. Sally: Oh? Punter. It's about William Wallace. Sally:Oh? Punter: It's seven hundred verses long. Sally: Seven hundred lines? Punter: Seven hundred four line verses. Sally: Oh. Punter: It's in Lallans. Sally: Oh. Punter: I've done it in Calligraphy. Sally: Oh. Punter: I want a publisher who'll get it to all the schoolkids in the country so they can tell what really happened in history. Sally: You're an innocent. Punter: Oh. Sally: Do it because you want to do it. Dont use calligraphy when it's Lallans, that makes it harder to read. Get it camera ready and print a few copies and give them to your friends. Punter: Thanks very much for that advice. I'll come back. Sally: Oh. [29 September] Stirling Book Festival A very pleasant, well attended poetry reading. We were in the attic space at theTolbooth, about 60 real audience plus ten poets/staff. I kicked off, then Janet, then a break. After the break the other four were due to do 15 mins each, which had been carefully arranged, then suddenly during the break the venue staff said they were shutting the venue at 9.30 and so the other poets (Robert Ritchie, Charlie Gracie, Kevin Murphy, Chris Powici) would have to do five minutes each. I protested as effectively as I could and we were given a reprieve, with some staff staying late. The second half was coherent and enjoyable, indeed the whole event went well and all were satisfied. Elizabeth, Gill Bastock and Mike Mitchell among the audience. Chris, Robert and I had a drink on the way home. The previous evening we went to the talk on fiddle tradition by Jo Miller, at Callander Library, also part of the Stirling Book Festival. It was a very good event which we enjoyed, and I met Yvette and other Book Festival staff. too. [27 & 29 September] CARLOADS OF BOOKS and they are heavy! This shop doesnt run itself. We have been very busy since the Poetry Weekend which punctuates the year for us between summer and autumn. At this stage we are living on borrowed time before the place gets quieter for winter. We've had a good auction and a private purchase in the last two days. We dumped an auction two weeks ago (our term for simply not going) because the books were in terrible conditionyet in our absence they sold well. For the first time in my experience people are wanting different lots of books at the auctions. All the time in Edinburgh it was agreed what a good lot was - it is simply a question of how much [too much] people were prepared to pay. Now there are fewer bookshops. Significantly two have gone recently, Westport, our long-time neighbour in Edinburgh, and Bridge of Allan along the road from here. Others who are buying for internet selling do not want the same lots we want, so though we are outbid for many lots, we do very well in the spaces. Back with two carloads of books, for which we paid well but we did all right. The shop is short of reserves so it was soon absorbed. Then back to the auction for a good garden seat we had picked up cheap. We just managed to get it in the car. And now we are justifiably weary. [22 September] CONTINUES ON PAST WEEKS (see left menu) 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 always complain when I have to go in, but I am beginning to enjoy it a bit more now I have got used to our new relationship with the city as country dwellers. Though one cant be in two places at once, I used to be quite sad that Grindles was no longer there. Now I have had time to understand how it was part of the changes we made. [30 October] [Continues on the dated archive pages lower down left hand menu] 2006 6 & 7 above. 2006 5 Empty