The Cullen trip was everything I’d hoped for, and more. I enjoyed the long drive up, with the weather improving all the way, and I arrived in time to have a walk through the town, have lunch, and take a few pictures. It’s an old fishing town – think of Cullen Skink – but these days it’s a bit like Dunbar, with the harbour mostly for pleasure craft and scampi boats. It seems to do well on tourism, which is good, because it’s one of the prettiest towns along that north-east coast between Fraserburgh and Inverness.
The schools workshop, with P7, was just great. I talked about the things I mentioned in the previous post, and it seemed to start them off well. I asked them to write four lines, just to get the ‘writing muscles’ warmed up, and after some of them had shared their writing, we looked at some of the different types of poem they might write. And then they were off, with imaginations flying, and I helped – if needed – on a one-to-one basis. We had a read-round, and I was very impressed with the quality of the work. Then we had a question-and-answer session, which was super, and it led me to read some more of my own poems, including (with some trepidation) the one about Terezin/Theresienstadt. I’ve never read this one in schools before, mainly because of the fact that it contains some descriptions of the horrors of that camp, and my adult reactions to what I saw there. I needn’t have worried; it moved them without upsetting any of them. And I read a couple of poems about what it means to be a parent – what you give to your children – and again the discussion was good. I had also picked out an Adrian Mitchell poem to read to them, and I discovered, with delight, that some of them knew the poem already. One of the girls asked me if I was famous, which was a difficult one to answer. I think I’m quite well known within the poetry community, but not outside it. And in any case, what does being ‘famous’ actually mean? I hope I left them with more questions than answers. That was the aim really; to stimulate their minds and show them some possibilities for poetry. The session finished with a challenge; the children want me to write a poem about Cullen, and to send it to them.