Seven random facts about me (thanks to Mr Farty – if anyone else wants to do this, consider yourself tagged)
1. I used to play clarinet and saxophone
My first clarinet was bought from the earnings of a paper round. When I was working in the Lake District (see 2), I missed my music so much I got my father to send my instruments down to me by carrier. You could do that in those days. I serenaded a waitress (I remember her name but I won’t say it) on the shores of Lake Bassenthwaite.
2. I was once a barman
I started working in a pub in Bathgate the week after my 18th birthday, and I continued on and off for the next 4 years, including spells in the North British and near Keswick (see 1).
3. Norman MacCaig taught at my primary school
He wasn’t my class teacher, but he used to pop in to our classroom regularly to chat to our teacher. I’ve recently heard that he also taught Scottish country dancing at Craiglockhart, but I’ve no recollection of that – it must be deeply buried. I can dance the St Bernard’s waltz, but only if my partner says in my ear “One, Two, Three, Up-Down”.
4. I was in the first batch of Open University graduates
I studied Maths and Science at the OU from 1971-72. By dint of cramming very hard, sleeping 4 hrs max per night, and holding 2 credit exemptions I graduated in the class of 1972, one of 85 Scottish graduates in the first batch. I never regret studying science rather than literature, although now I’m a poet. A00xxxxx – everyone remembers their OU number.
5. I was in the audience at the 1962 Writers’ Conference when MacDiarmid argued with Trocchi.
MacDiarmid dismissed the internationalist Trocchi as “cosmopolitan scum”. I remember that (a) someone had switched the water in the carafes for Glen Grant whisky, (b) I took sides with Trocchi (and still would today), and (c) I liked his haircut, which was similar to mine.
6. I’ve been married for 41 years
And all the time to the same woman. It must say something – about both of us.
7. After Scotland, Italy is my favourite country
I used to think it was France, but the more I see of Italy, the more I love it. Japan’s great too, and Iceland is awesome, but Italy combines landscapes, architecture, history, atmosphere, colour and warmth better than anywhere else.