Home again, after taking part in the Moray Book Festival as their Poet Partner. I ran three workshops this time, one for adults and two for children. Given that 2009 is the Year of Homecoming I focused on two aspects of ‘home’ – No Place Like Home for the adult group, and ‘Away From Home’ with Buckie High School. I was very happy with the responsiveness of the two groups, and together we managed to create some very interesting work. The third workshop was on a theme of words inspired by art (of which more later).
As well as the audience members, and my friends on the staff of Moray Libraries, it was a great pleasure to meet some of the other authors at the Festival. Joan Lingard and her husband, I discovered, have a cottage in a part of the Cairngorms that I know very well, indeed their neighbours are friends of ours, so it was great to talk about that wonderful part of Scotland. Jack Webster, former journalist and TV presenter, was entertaining and warm, and we discovered a shared interest in the late Lorna Moon, Buchan novelist and sceenwriter. With Debi Gliori, children’s book athor and artist, I discussed our favourite paintings in the Prado – a favourite gallery in Madrid – and again found common ground. And I met Jess Smith, Perthshire storyteller with a traveller background. We talked about a mutual friendship with Magi McGlyn, a marvelous traveller poet who lives in the hills near Callander. I also met Barry Appleby, the artist who draws Dennis the Menace for the Beano comic – great fun and very talented.
I started thinking later about the Madrid trip, and how we’d visited Franco’s grotesque and obscene monument to the fallen of the Spanish Civil War. I’ve not been able to write about that since then, but a poem has now started to emerge. I also wrote a poem about the crash, some years back, of a rescue helicopter on Ben More (the Crianlarich one), having found flecks of yellow paint on the hillside when I climbed it the following year. It’s very odd how the mind works – I’d never have dreamed that I’d be writing about these subjects while sitting in Elgin Library. But there you go.
Then I headed back down the road. On impulse, instead of the known and mostly boring A9, I took the fork for Tomintoul, one of the most scenic routes in Scotland, with some scarily steep descents and hairpin bends. over the Cairnwell, the Lecht and on to Braemar via Glenshee. I’m not saying I’d do it again in a hurry – it added an hour to my journey and reminded me how exhausting driving in the Highlands used to be – but I’m glad I went down ‘The road not taken.’ It made all the difference.