It seems to me that Hogmanay’s often a time of looking back on the year that’s just finishing, and getting bleary-eyed and nostalgic over badly remembered Hogmanays of yesteryear. It’s a festival I don’t celebrate, however. My Hogsnight memories are usually not ones I care to return to. Frequently I’m in bed before midnight, and I don’t miss anything – Aly Bain & Phil Cunningham, Scotch ‘n Wry and all the rest will manage without me. Ne’erday’s a different matter – I enjoy it. Our tradition (that’s for DunbarJane and I) is for me to think of a place we haven’t been before, or not recently anyway, and to have a long walk and a picnic in the open air. Part of the tradition is that the picnic consists of salmon sandwiches (tinned salmon, my dears) and a flask of coffee. Then as the sun sets we head back to our cosy wee nest beside the East Coast Main Line. I’d much rather look forward to what 2009’s going to bring.
At the start, we’re heading for a wee break in the Cairngorms – it’s always gorgeous in Winter. Later in the month, we’re having a few days in Harrogate, and I’ll be starting some botanico-poetical research for a project Alec Finlay and I are working on.
In January and February I’m conducting a series of workshops in East Lothian primary schools. The themes are ‘Five Alive’, for the younger ones, and ‘A Word on Art’ for the older ones. In both I’ll be looking at healthy living, concentrating on food-inspired poems in the former, and art-inspired writing in the latter. I’ll aim to help them produce writing for class books in both cases. I’m also taking part in a Holocaust Memorial Day programme in another school, and a ‘Homecoming’ project in Dunbar PS.
Also in February I hope to publish new chapbooks by Irene Brown and Lillias Scott Forbes. Both books are almost finished – I’ve been working on them during the ‘holidays’ (inasmuch as the word holiday has any meaning for a self-employed OAP with a heavy cold at Christmas). On the afternoon of Valentine’s Day, Irene Brown, Anne Connolly and I are reading in the Scottish Poetry Library. The session is called ‘Time’s Fool’, and we’re concentrating on later love as our theme. Oh, yes, oldies know a bit about love too.
March is for StAnza, and I note that you can now buy your tickets online. Late March will also see another two Calder Wood Press titles published (as I hope and trust). Mary Johnston’s wonderful poems in the Doric fill yae buik, an Dave Purdie’s The Godothin the tither.
In May I’m visiting the battlefields of the Somme, for what I’m sure will be a poignant journey. Things get a bit sketchy later in the year. The 2009 publishing programme will finish with poetry from Hilary Graham and Jane Wilde, and short stories by Jill Madden, but I haven’t set dates for them yet. I’ve had two ‘nibbles’ for 2010, but I haven’t decided what to do in 2010. My own new collection is in discussion for 2010, so I may have a smaller CWP programme – we’ll see.
2009 is the second and final year of my Poet Partnership in Moray, and I’ll shortly be discussing my 2009 programme with the Librarian. I feel very connected to the area and its people now – maybe it’s because my ancestors are from Buchan. I did eight sessions all together in 2008, and I’ll see if we can build on them for 2009. It’s all about increasing awareness of poetry, and encouraging its enjoyment.
I finally made up my mind a couple of years ago that I would cut down on my committee work (should have done it much earlier), but I like to do things in a planned way. Earlier this year I stepped down from chairing Tyne & Esk Writers, and in December 2009 I’ll step down from chairing StAnza’s Board. And after months of frustration I’m leaving the Board of the Amisfield Walled Garden. I’ll be concentrating on community gardens and allotments in Dunbar, which are within cycling distance. That’s as far as the crystal ball takes me.
A Happy New Year to everyone.