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,

Cromaty firths.

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/