Monday, August 05, 2019

Edinburgh, You Rock!

What an exciting evening I've had. It's not every day you get an invite from the First Minister of Scotland to a reception celebrating the opening of Edinburgh's International Festival(s!). 

There's me thinking, 'lucky I didn't wear my red dress.'

Nicola (yes, I eventually just called her Nicola. Was that alright, etiquette wise? It felt okay)...Nicola made a lovely impromptu welcome speech about how important it was - now, more than ever, to support the Arts and foster better  communication and understanding. 

She went on to praise the Book Festival's newly-erected marquees outside Bute House. The process of building the book festival was so noisy, she could hardly hear Boris. I may have guffawed. I tried to do it politely. 

I met two great women from Edinburgh Science Festival. I loved how enthusiastic and passionate they were about science. The opposite of Donald Trump. 

Yes, we need Arts more than ever, but we desperately need science too. We need the Arts to speak for science.  I feel a link to Extinction Rebellion coming on. 

Arts, Science and the Climate Emergency, are all passions and preoccupations, as if you didn't know, if you've ever glanced at my Twitter feed. 

So, friends; a week to go before I will be reading at Edinburgh Book Festival. Monday 12th, 6pm.  The show is part of the Throwing Voices sequence and you can book tickets and learn more here.  It would be lovely to see you there for coffee and scones, poems and songs. And maybe a few guffaws. 

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Things we know and things we don't

I can be so contrary. I've changed the name of the ol' blog again. These things I know. That'll do for this week. 

It has echoes of one of my favourite novels; a book by Wally Lamb called,  'I Know This Much is True.'

And it ties in with a poetry theme I'll be exploring at Edinburgh Book Festival in August. Is parenting easier because you don't know what lies ahead? We learn fast as parents, we have to, and there's always  a skip-load more to learn. 

Hindsight is defined as: understanding of a situation or event only after it has happened or developed. I think that's where most poetry hangs out. That's where we have to look for it. 

But wait - did I just say, Edinburgh International Book Festival? I'm still so thrilled to be asked. Here's the link to the Throwing Voices event (with photo of Basque writer Uxue Alberdi). Come along and see us. 

Before that, if you're in Glasgow on Wednesday evening, pop up to their cafe for this event, when I'll be talking about the fantastic New Writers' Awards and readíng a few poems alongside talented Kirstin Innes and Juliette Forrest, an ascending star in young adult literature. 

Did you catch 8 DAYS to the Moon and Back? It was a mind-expanding watch. I kept thinking, but HOW? How did they DO IT? They hadn't even invented the iPhone. Or the Internet. 

The moon looks beautiful tonight. Almost full. Once, I talked to a man who was taking photos of the moon with a tripod, by the V&A museum, on a cold February night. He confessed that most of the great moon shots are photo shopped. They shoot the moon as it is, but make it bigger in context to the buildings or landscape. That's okay in my book. A wee bit of embellishment can't hurt.

Friday, May 31, 2019

Old Tales, New Tales, Ease Your Troubled Mind

Would you look at that rain. And nearly June!

I've changed the title of my blog to Tales from the Mum-iverse. On a whim. I never liked the old title anyway. I googled Mum-iverse and no one else has used it, so I will. 

But, hey - it's not all about me. How are YOU? How are we ALL?

The country's gone crazy. The world's gone crazy. Brexit insanity and only 12 years left to avert an ecological tipping point into Climate Crisis. 

I don't know where to begin, with my armchair philosophy. I do all I can. I even went to meet my MP, Patrick Grady of the SNP. He is very personable and reasonable and he said, 'We are doing all we can'. He wrote letters to the council. The council wrote to me and said, 'We are doing all we can.'

But when I walk into my back garden at 8am and smell the exhaust -fume fug of rush-hour diesel and petrol from a busy road, three streets away, I just want it all to happen more quickly. In five or ten years, not 30 years! I really, really want clean air. 

Well, what else? I was honoured to work on Coorie Doon at the Children's Hospital in Glasgow, with parents of babies in the Special Care Unit. BBC Radio Scotland did a report you can listen to at 1 hour 35 minutes into this programme.  I think there will be a short film too. I'll post it when it's ready. 

I'm looking forward to the 'lit' thrill that is Edinburgh Book Festival, this year (Watch this space. Announcement pending. It may involve rabbits and double buggies. Surreal, and cryptic, huh?) 

Meanwhile, if you have any troubles, be sure and confide in Andrea Boto, Mustard Salesman from Dijon. He can help you stand up against your oppressors and ease your troubled mind. Until next time...

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Bloomin' January

Good People! Happy 2019! 

The cherry tree in the garden is leading the cheer, if not the cherries. The goldfish are hiding beneath the ice of the pond, like  orange sweets from a box of Quality Street.

Don't forget to spend those January Vouchers...

Doh! It's expired. 

I had a great day yesterday - on the day of my 51st Birthday. 

It was an honour to visit St Ninian's High School to teach and talk poetry with some of the S3 pupils there. We had two sessions and it was great to see their confidence grow by the second session, where they all wrote and read out their work. Bravo!

Big thanks to the wonderful Scottish Book Trust for supporting the visits. Check out how it works on The Live Literature Database.  

Klaxon: Blow My Own Trumpet alert! Did I tell you the Times Literary Supplement reviewed my poems ('striking') and called me 'a born enthusiast'? Well, I have now. End of trumpet-ry.

Past Love Pamphlet is still available here for a 'deep sea diver' at Tapsalteerie Press (shortlisted for a publishers award too).

And, just in case I get 'above myself', I always have my family to tip their buckets of black humour over me. Some might say this was a strange birthday card, but it did make me laugh. And that's the point, surely. Better get shopping for antique brooches.

Be kind to each other while I go for the groceries. Can you manage that? I have faith in you.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

'Love's austere and lonely offices'

Have you heard about them? Love's austere and lonely offices? You can read about them here in Robert Hayden's beautiful poem, Those Winter Sundays.

Likewise, this  autumn, I find myself at The Coalface of Motherhood. I do not mind this. This is the place I need to be the most. It's in my bones. When I know this, it it makes it easier.

Drummer/partner/'husband'/The Calm One or Francis, as I sometimes refer to him, was away on tour drumming with Teenage Fanclub, while I 'manned' the coalface - pack lunches, lost gym shoes, asthma attacks (grim), school upsets, and all of the other challenges that bombard the weans. 

And then, they say things like - Mummy, your fashion is quite bad, and why don't you dye your hair? What a boost. And here, praise for my cooking:

My most luxurious point of every day was to fold into bed each night with brushed cotton sheets and a hot water bottle. 

I haven't had time or space to write poetry. There's loads of 'housey' stuff to do, even when they are at school: cooking, cleaning, sorting, food shopping, changing electricity suppliers, trying to sort Netflix glitches (so kids won't erupt!) and all that modern world stuff. 

(A voice in my head says, but I don't want to change electricity suppliers!  while emails pop up to tell me I need to change to save £49 - otherwise I'm daft -  and then, off I go on the capitalist merry-go-round. Remember when electricity was just electricity?)

Frankster is home now, so I can get out to see my Dad reading at the Mitchell Library as part of Book Week Scotland. 

At the weekend, I  am reading a couple of poems at a sold-out gig for a friend who is very bravely trying to raise money to fight her stage 4 cancer.

It puts everything in perspective. Claire is an amazing inspiration to many. 

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Westering Home

Well, what a weekend we had at the wonderful Islay Book Festival 2018.  Oh, the sight of those big red Cal Mac funnels! By the time the Paps of Jura popped up, I was excitable as a puppy.

Big 'hats off' to all the organisers and volunteers who couldn't have done any more to help or make us all feel welcome. We stayed in the cracking Bowmore House B&B, all tasteful fabrics and fluffy  white bath robes. Never mind the free whisky, they must have known about my cereal weakness.

I met new friends as well as old ones. I talked love, life and all sorts with Gaelic author, Donald S Murray while we wandered Portnahaven as  moonlight fell on sugar-cube houses, and seals coughed and cavorted in the velvet dark of the bay.

I still get excited about chubby, speckled seals, their tails aloft on the rocks, but Donald said he sees them all the time in Shetland, so he couldn't get too excited. 'Like getting excited about cows?' I asked. Yeah, like that...

It was great to read in Laphroaig Distillery with acclaimed poets, Brian Johnstone, Chyrs Salt, Ian Stephen and Donald S Murray. A wee photo courtesy of Richard McFarlane -

Great too, to go back to Islay High School  to do a workshop with the kids, thanks to the brilliant Scottish Book Trust .

As far as venues go, the Round Church in Bowmore will take some beating. It was heart-warming to see so many old friends turn up to see me interview my Dad about his writing career and our years growing up on Islay. I look like I'm channeling Kirsty Wark here, but hey ho.

Afterwards we went to The Bowmore Hotel, which was jumping with locals, young and old. I was dying to leap up and join the karaoke, but since I can't hold a tune in a bucket, I had to make do with singing my 80's power ballads on the inside. 

The hotel owner, Peter, recognised Dad from way back and poured him an expensive dram. Later, he insisted on showing us many of the be-spoke hotel rooms, turning on and off power showers as we made appropriate approval noises. This is bonkers, I thought, but in a good way; in a wholesome nonsense way. 

I went back to the bar and thought, I love these friendly, partying Ileachs (the name for people from Islay). I want to stay up all night and dance and talk uninhibited gibber about anything. Just because it takes me back. Just for old time's sake.

But I peeled myself away and walked with my sister back through the peat-scented, blowy night to our B&B, to coorie doon beneath tartan duvet and remember the best of it from way back. What luck and fun we had growing up. What delicious freedom. 

Thanks Islay Book Fest, for bringing it back. Slainte and here's to you and All Your Pretty Horses. Until next time...

Saturday, July 21, 2018

'Summer's in the City, do what you gotta do,'

But seriously. Summer holidays and life's paradoxes, huh?

The holidays feel like they go on forever, but they're hurtling to an end. They are baggy and loose, yet distilled and intense. Crowded and claustrophobic yet sometimes lonely. 

Cue: Mum? Mum! Muum!?

Francis took the kids out to the cinema today. The first thing I did (after the washing-up, of course) was to sit down cross-legged and attempt to meditate. I don't normally meditate. I've never been able to get it to work for me. But I had summer-holiday-clutter-stress-head, so I gave it a go.

And relax, and breath and centre. First thought to float in? Ahem. That's me half way through my life and one day we're all gonna die. Is there an emoji for that one?  The strange thing is - it felt okay once I'd sat with it and let it melt through me. It got me here to write to you, out there in Bloggo Land.

In other news, we've been to Ibiza and back. (Top Tip: Don't book a Thursday afternoon flight unless you want to get trapped in a tin tube with every hen and stag weekend from central Scotland, yelling like they're drunk in a club at 4am). Apart from that, it was worth it. 

Unlike Brexit. Clearly not worth it. I still can't take in what a mistake it seems to be. What they're doing to this country. I'm embarrassed  and exasperated about it. 

Humanity, man? It's a mass of contradictions. 

My pal, Stuart once said to me -

We're all flawed, Ciara. That's the beauty of it. 

He probably doesn't remember. But occasionally I think about that phrase when life tries to get the better of me. Summer holidays - salute you we must, with all your snakes and ladders. 

Here's a wee clip of Teenage Fanclub (with a different drummer, before Francis rejoined). But, hey ho - it's a summer song and it was a hit when I fell for Francis over 20 years ago. Maybe they'll play it next month at Electric Fields. 

I'll be there too, readíng in the spoken word tent with the great Neu Reekie.  Rock on with your inflatable guitars, good people! 

Baguettes ya Bawbags! as a Glaswegian street philosopher once yelled outside Greggs. Yours to Enjoy.