I love Brora Library, not only for its staff and its books (and the fact that it was once a drill hall), but for the pick-me-up-and-read-me magazines and literary newspapers, leaflets, take-home-and be-inspired postcards, and the area at the end where we sometimes hear – or even offer – lectures, talks, and group activities.
I missed the submission date for this year’s shared blether contest, promoted by the Scottish Book Trust, so instead I am offering you a peep into my soul-mind just as it hovered on the cusp between numbed lethargy and aliveness, regret and contentment, the edginess of depair and the multidimensional garden of hope.
More recently I have tried to convert the dreich-in-late-May poem into a dialect offering, helped by Scottish Language Dictionaries, Scotland’s independent lexicographical body for the Scots language htps://dsl.ac.uk/about-dsl/ and ‘A Dictionary of Lowland Scotch’, Charles Mackay (1888) Whittaker and Co (as reprinted in facsimile by Lang Syne Publishers Ltd, 2003).
Those of you with roots in lowland Scotland – unlike either me or The Beloved – may like to comment on whether I have been successful. And here – for the record – I am glad that I didn’t succumb to “the sea’s knife”.
here by the sea’s knife I stop, and sauve ma life
Cam’ here at thirteen, after
Harold Wilson imposit a fifty
limit for cash abroad, so north
instead, us in a Bedford camper van –
ma mam, ma sister and
her friend who could drive and
ma dad who couldna – in the midgie-mist,
trailing an old truck called ‘Fishing
Tackle’ – two laddies and a tent, duckin’
and divin’ into passin’ places on the road
past Sutherland, Caithness, Sutherland again.
Cam’ here at twenty-five, after
a summer of belly aches, nearly puttin’ awa’
my Scottish lad before he’d e’en askit me;
in a green Marina with his old
family tent, billycan, Primus and a
duckdown sleeping bag, borrow’d rent-free
from a Trinity man. Thunder in
Glencoe. Smirr over Kyle, Gairloch,
Lochinver, Cul Beag and Quinag, and
by the time we get to Achtilbuie
the sky has cleared and we stand watching a
cuckoo in by, and Suilven in the far.
Cam’ here at fifty-six, a camper-van bought to
stave away old age; the flux at Jedburgh and dinner
at Dingwall, and you at Poolewe in between, Assynt
coaxing us. It was Inverkirkaig where I first
met Norman McCaig in his ‘Collected Works’,
drawn to the crags of his geology. Hazel poles,
but I had loosed the ones you cut me in Carlisle,
thirty-one years previous, and counting.
Now at sixty-something-else, oh Om-i-god it was the shore
that catch’d me tight, open’d ma purse-strings,
brought me to flight as if I walk’d over Moray, Dornoch,
Snared by the promise of cool, light,
and enlightenment, I awaiken to solstice dawns and
ponder ma propensity for depression’s elation
and down-drawn denseness. I brood over the North
Sea’s beckonin’, lured as if by th’Erl King’s daughter
then bethink, a heavy reckonin’, I didna oughtae.
© Kathy McVittie 31 May 2019
With thanks to Scottish Language Dictionaries, Scotland’s independent lexicographical body for the Scots language htps://dsl.ac.uk/about-dsl/