__MAIN_TEXT__
feature-image

Page 1

Spring 2020

The Eildon Tree ET#33

New writing from the Scottish Borders and beyond

www.liveborders.org.uk

Registration No SC243577 | Regist ered Chari ty No SCO342 27


The Eildon Tree

2

The Eildon Tree Editorial

3

Featured Writer Biographies

4 4 9 14 15 16 22

Short Stories 1 A Sound Silenced 2 Library, Library, Quite Contrary 3 Remembrance 4 The Tablets 5 The Change House 6 The Final Realm

5 5 6 9 9 10 10 11 14 14 15 16 18 20 21 21 22 22 23 24 25 26 27 27

Poetry Submissions 1 West of Here 2 Witch 3 Wanton 4 Before I Learned to Swim 5 Sickness and Health 6 Pre-Enlightenment 7 Fowlis Easter 8 Trees at Westhope 9 Friday 10 Sanna Bay 2016 11 David Hutchison 12 By the Eildon Tree 13 After the Funeral 14 Reflection 15 Beached 16 Leafs 17 Seelent thochts, seelent wirds 18 Three Toy Shops 19 Collections 20 Sleep S 21 Spider spun 22 Cocktail Party Training 23 Headland

7 7 8 12 28

Theatre Reviews 1 Unveiled Secrets 2 Short Plays - Take Two 3 Scot’s Selkirk Courtroom Drama 4 Oh, What Fools

34 Book Reviews

2

#issue 33 | Winter 2020

The Eildon Tree ET#33 It’s our pleasure to bring you the Spring edition of The Eildon Tree, which we hope will warm your hearts as much as it did ours with its amazing array of poetry and prose. As always, we were overwhelmed at the high quality of submissions to the magazine, and the entire Eildon Tree team is so proud to be able to present you with such a dazzling line-up of works from the Borders and Beyond. Congratulations to everyone who features in this edition, and a huge thank you to everyone who submitted. None of this would be possible without you, and if your piece is not included in this issue, please do not be discouraged from submitting something new to Eildon Tree 34. The deadline for new entries is 31 March 2020 - we look forward to reading more of your work. Until then, take a moment for yourself, find somewhere cosy to curl up – and enjoy!

The Eildon Tree editors Sara Clark, Julian Colton, Iona McGregor and Carol Norris


The Eildon Tree

FEATURED WRITER BIOGRAPHIES We are so lucky to have such a wealth of ‘creative writers’

Daniel Duggan

I write to pour out of me, the parts that need airing. I’m warehouseman with cracked skin, heavy boots and sunset hair. I’m a family man and a wild things hunter residing in Peebles.

Vee Freir

is a seven-eighths retired Clinical Psychologist who took up writing after moving to the Borders in 2008. Her latest book ‘Learn To Stress Less: 50 Simple and Effective Tips for a Stress-Free Life’ can be found on Amazon.

Timothy Kearns

I am an English Teacher in Perthshire who moved to Scotland from London in 2013. I have since decided I never want to leave. I enjoy reading as much as I can, as well as walking my dog and exploring the landscape and history on my doorstep.

ET #34 SUBMISSIONS WELCOME The next Eildon Tree will be a special edition for the Scottish Mental Health Arts Festival (SMHAF) which takes place in venues across Scotland from 4-24 May 2020, aiming to support the arts and challenge preconceived ideas about mental health. See p43 for more details. Deadline for submissions for Eildon Tree #ET34 31 March 2020.

Sonya Macdonald

is a thirty-six year old poet from Edinburgh, recently returned after a year in the Hebrides. Her poetry has appeared in magazines including Northwords Now and New View. She is working on a first collection of poems.

John McCann

lives near Biggar. He is building a garden, taking photographs, supporting family and enjoying this stage of life with greater influence on what he can do. He is a member of Pentlands Writers Group and his writing benefits from the many conversations there.

David McVey

lectures in Communication at New College Lanarkshire. He has published over 120 short stories and a great deal of non-fiction that focuses on history and the outdoors. He enjoys hillwalking, visiting historic sites, reading, watching telly, and supporting his hometown football team, Kirkintilloch Rob Roy FC.

Tim Nevil

is a writer living in the Scottish Borders. Having worked on TV scripts and factual features, Tim now concentrates on writing fiction and is currently working on a collection of short stories as well as his first novel.

Hamish Scott

writes poetry and prose in Scots and has published four poetry collections with The Laverock’s Nest Press.

Karin Stewart

I am in my forties, married and currently live between the Scottish Borders and the Wirral. I work full time but have always enjoyed creative writing.

Jim Tough

A career in arts development and funding, now coordinating a European network which supports active participation in the arts as well as working as a coach and mentor. Lived in the Scottish Borders for 30 years.

#issue 33 | Winter 2020

3


The Eildon Tree

In the sixties, everyone talked about the Mersey Sound, the new English folk tradition embodied in The Beatles, Gerry and the Pacemakers, Billy J Kramer and the rest. But other cities produced other bands; think of The Hollies and Manchester, London supplying The Who and The Kinks, The Moody Blues representing Birmingham and, of course, Newcastle and The Animals. These were the sounds of the sixties, but beyond them there is also a silence. Why is no band from Glasgow later such a musical powerhouse - in the sixties pantheon? Did Glaswegians miss the beat? Perhaps there was a Glasgow sound, but perhaps that sound was silenced.

Danny grins and tilts his head to one side, as if testing and weighing Dougie’s words. ‘We’ve got Fraser to thank for this rehearsal space,by the way,’ says Dougie, and nods to a tall thin young man, with short, oiled, neatlyparted hair and a pair of dark-rimmed glasses. ‘He plays the organ here on Sundays.’ Fraser smiles. ‘And I tinkle the ivories at the North British Hotel on Friday and Saturday nights. That’s what a classical music training gets you these days.’ Another long-haired youth in a heavy jumper and brown corduroys squeezes up his face like he’s rinsing it out, and says, ‘So you play your jazz guitar, Dougie, Fraser brings gospel music and metrical psalms with his piano, Danny tries to drum like he’s not in a ceilidh band. What about me?’ ‘I’ve seen you in Buchanan Street busking, Andy, doing they Bob Dylan songs. You’re good on the acoustic and you’ll manage rhythm fine. And Gordon,’ here Dougie nodded towards the fifth man, shaggyhaired, older than the rest, perhaps even into his thirties. ‘Gordon played stand-up bass in some skiffle groups back when. He’ll get the hang of bass guitar nae bother.’ There was a brief silence. The men looked at each other, at Dougie, and then Fraser said, ‘There’ll be no vulgarity or profanity in our songs, I hope?’ ‘Of course not. If our love songs don’t stop at the bedroom door the BBC will no play them.’ Andy spoke again. ‘So we’re going to merge classical, jazz, gospel, sacred, Scottish traditional, folk and skiffle influences and end up with some hit two-minute pop songs? ‘Aye. That’s about it.’ ‘Come on then. Let’s jam.’

● ● ● ●

● ● ● ●

We’re in a church hall in the Southside, somewhere, maybe near Shawlands, it doesn’t matter. It has that close, friendly smell composed of pew cushions, stuffy heating, much-thumbed hymnbooks and furniture polish. Four young men sit in plastic chairs amongst a mess of musical equipment. One of them, mop-haired, wild-eyed and animated, stands up and addresses the others. ‘We all listen to The Beatles, The Stones, The Who, we play their songs, but why are there nae bands from here, from Glasgow? Surely there should be a top band from Scotland?’ ‘Right, Dougie,’ drawls another moptop, draped over one of the seats and smiling cynically, ‘so five guys you’ve just shoved together are gonnae be on the next plane tae New York along with The Beatles, jist like that?’ The standing man suppresses his irritation and smiles. ‘We have tae start somewhere, Danny. I know you’re one of the best traditional drummers in the city, so you’ll be able to bash out a rock ‘n’ roll beat nae bother.’

The room smells of spilt pale ale, sweat and fag smoke, but the stage smells of fear. The crowd aren’t hostile, but they’re not overly impressed. Dougie had hoped that a mixture of rock ‘n’ roll standards and Beatles and Kinks and Who covers would keep them happy. Some of them are dancing in a listless, half-aware kind of way, but they’re an audience who have heard it all before, who can put Help or You Really Got Me on the Dansette at home and don’t need to listen to them secondhand. ‘Right,’ Dougie addresses the band during the faint applause when they finish The Kids are Alright, ‘we’ll close with Southside Girl, OK?’ ‘We’ve never done any of our ain stuff before,’ Danny protests, but Dougie is already counting ‘Two… three… FOUR!’ and then he plays the echoing, clanging chord that starts the song. Gordon picks up the baton, playing a chugging bassline accompanied by Danny clashing away on drums, with Dougie and Andy clanging and twanging and jangling to introduce the melody before Dougie begins the vocals. He is already hoarse and smoky from singing for 40 minutes and it suits the song.

SHORT STORIES 1

4

A Sound Silenced by David McVey

#issue 33 | Winter 2020


The Eildon Tree

Fraser has little to do in this one, but plinks along and cleverly fills in some of the gaps. Dougie notices that he has grown his hair and now really looks a part of the band. Dougie knows the lyrics backwards - he wrote them, after all - and doesn’t have to think about either his singing or his playing, so he finds himself detaching himself from the performance and observing his bandmates, watching the audience. Gordon is playing the bass with energy and passion. He often can’t make it to gigs, what with his job and his wife and his kids, but it’s fortunate that he made it to this, their largest one yet, at the Mocarno Dance Hall in Pollokshields. He’s the engine of the band, but looking at him, the stage lights picking out his greying hair and haggard expression, Dougie knows he’ll have to go if they ever make it big. Andy and Danny are playing well too. Andy had been erratic at first, his share of their meagre earnings was quickly converted to alcohol but more recently he had grown restrained, had acquired discipline, was more regular in his habits. He could often be seen talking to Fraser. Perhaps churchy Fraser was a moderating influence. They approach the chorus; it had been a risk, opting to showcase one of their own compositions but the audience seem to be enjoying it. So recently apathetic and barely interested, they are now dancing with energy and waving their arms and shouting to each other and to the band. Mostly girls, Dougie is pleased to notice. And so he sings the chorus, with that closing twist that announces this is very much the Glasgow sound. You’re one of a kind Can’t get you outta my mind My Southside girl Can’t bear to let you go Oh, baby, don’t say no Say AYE, Southside girl… They love it! They really do! As they come to the end of what should have been the final chorus, he nods to the others, their cue to run the chorus one more time. And this time, the crowd are singing along… Can’t bear to let you go Oh, baby, don’t say no Say AYE, Southside girl… …with a great shouted ‘AYE!’ on the last line. By now Fraser has picked out a lovely threenote riff on the piano to accompany the last line. It haunts the memory and really lifts the song. As they finish, there is a great cheer from the crowd and the band members know that tonight is the night when The Southsiders have come of age. ‘That went well,’ says Dougie. ‘They love us!’ says Danny. ‘Some cracking birds out there,’ says Fraser. There is an awkward pause, and then Gordon says, ‘I need to get hame - the babysitter finishes at ten…’

FOLLOW OUR POETRY SUBMISSIONS IN THIS ISSUE

1

West of Here – Sonya Macdonald Gentle steps a forest full of love, and soft moss sprouting in the cracks of earthy pathways little bird returning to nest each year on the riverbank, folds herself into a long moment, where warm arms still wait.

● ● ● ●

#issue 33 | Winter 2020

5


The Eildon Tree

On the table sits a neat little pile of 7” vinyl records, got up in neat little black sleeves. There’s a handwritten label on the records, which reads; Southside Girl (Ramsay / Peden) The Southsiders Dougie picks up the record on the top of the pile and turns it over to read the B-side; My Soul is Northern (Ramsay) The Southsiders By the time they’d recorded the demo, Fraser’s piano work had become so important to Southside Girl that Dougie had agreed to share the song writing credit. Dougie replaces the record on top of the pile and looks around himself. He’s in a shabby Glasgow coffee bar that looks as if it hasn’t been decorated since it opened, which would be about the time Bill Haley and the Comets were arriving at Central Station and bringing the city into the Rock ‘n’ Roll age. He notices those that are missing. Still thinking about the co-credit, he asks where Fraser is. ‘He was blootered last night,’ says Andy, ‘so he’s still stuck in his bed. We’re all very worried about him in church and we’re praying that he doesn’t backslide.’ ‘Church? What? You?’ says Dougie. ‘I thought I told you. I allowed Jesus into my life. Months ago. All through Fraser’s witness. I go to his church now. Which is more than he does.’

Poetry

Witch

2

by Sonya Macdonald Halfway to the end where the grass is left uncut, I meet the witch who sometimes wanders by she sees me first comes close enough to smell the oils on her body sandalwood, frankincense, she takes my hands dips her head to kiss each finger, lips are butterflies on my skin I follow them home forgetting I went there to hide.

6

#issue 33 | Winter 2020

‘Look,’ says Dougie, with patience, ‘I’ve got us this gig in Glasgow, ye know, supporting The Poets and The Beatstalkers, and…’ ‘The Beatstalkers?’ says Danny, ‘The Poets? My, they’re good.’ ‘Where’s Gordon?’ says Douglas. ‘Och, he’ll be working,’ says Danny, ‘Music shop’s really busy noo, everybody wants to be Pete Townshend or Bob Dylan.’ ‘Look,’ says Dougie, exasperated, ‘do any of you know how important this is? We have tae pull together. If we take this chance… if the gigs and demos get us a record deal, we’ll have to work hard and when we work, we’ll all have to turn up…’ ‘Och keep yer hair on,’ says Andy, ‘It’s only pop music. It’s not like it’s a real job. It won’t last.’ The bells over the door jangle and a drawnlooking, wild-haired Fraser, three days’ growth of beard shadowing his face, enters, his arm round a pretty young brunette wearing a miniskirt. He has a cigarette carefully balanced on his lower lip. ‘Sorry guys, no way I’m going to be able to play today, I’m just wasted and shit.’ There is a low thud which most of them don’t notice, caused by Dougie’s forehead hitting the table. ● ● ● ●

Dougie leans back from the table. It’s been cleared of dishes and dinner remains and the family are now drinking coffee or beer or spirits. The children have been told they can go and play but Uncle Dougie’s stories of his musical career have entranced even them. ‘So what happened, Uncle Dougie? ‘Andy went off as a missionary to Kenya and he’s still there; he’s pastor of a church in Nairobi.’ Here he nods to a recent postcard on the sideboard showing giraffes and zebras. ‘Gordon sold the music shop a few years later and moved to Spain. Danny worked as a session musician. Still does - and him over seventy! Fraser? Well, he…’ Dougie’s wife Sandra shakes her head barely perceptibly, and Dougie concludes, ‘Anyway, we called it a day. A record company did pick up on the demos and re-recorded the songs with a different band. Still get a few pence in royalties every year. It’s a shame. We could have been big, we could have been known for all time as the Scottish Beatles, the band with the Southside Sound…’ ‘Och, away, ye’re jist an auld blowhard, Dougie,’ laughs a young cousin. Dougie, portly and comfortable and grey, just smiles. A sound, long ago, was silenced. But there are still places where it can be heard, hearts in which it still lives and pulses.


The Eildon Tree

1

Unveiled Secrets MacArts, Galashiels 04 / 11 / 19 Four short plays, centred around four women and four secrets, by two local Scottish Borders writers, Anita John and Oliver Eade, played to a packed house at MacArts on Friday 4th October in aid of Children 1st Scotland, having previously played with great success at Selkirk and Carlops. This was a truly local event, as not only are the playwrights from the Scottish Borders, but so are the actors and the theatre company, Odd Productions Theatre. Even the incidental music was from a local jazz musician, Leif Jorgenson. The evening started with Anita John’s First Steps, which was Highly Commended in The Brief Encounters Project 2017. Three generations of women visit an old railway museum for the grandmother, Dot’s, 80th birthday. Dot’s daughter, Lizzie and her pregnant daughter, Jane, want this to be a perfect day out. However, inter-generational tensions threaten to overshadow the birthday treat, until Dot reveals a secret that she has kept hidden from her family for more than 60 years. In The Other Nathan, by Oliver Eade, which was long-listed for the 2015 British Theatre Challenge, Aunt Beth, a confused old lady constantly refers to ‘the other Nathan’, which everyone treats as part of her muddled thinking. She incessantly calls her nephew Nathan, which threatens his marriage and tests his temper until she reveals her longheld secret. Next on was The Other Cat, by Oliver Eade, which won first prize in The Segora International One Act Play Competition in 2018. A strange tale of ‘did it/didn’t it happen’ based on the premise of Shrodinger’s Cat. Poppy finds a body, but, as we eventually find out, it has her phone, shoes and coat. What’s going on? Are things real or imagined?

The final play, another of Oliver Eade’s, which was also longlisted for the 2015 British Theatre Challenge, was based on a true story. Give The Dog A Bone is a tale of a manipulative mother and her twin daughters. The mother has just discharged herself from hospital after breaking her hip and one of her daughter’s, Eleanor, shows up in her mother’s house thinking she’s still in hospital. Eleanor, despite her mother’s wicked tongue and with nothing nice to say about her daughter, is still there for her mother. Eleanor is trying to get her mother to see sense and go to a home where she can be looked after. Then Eleanor’s twin, Greta, who’s not been seen for some years shows up. Greta reveals her shocking secret to her sister and her still in denial mother, which makes it clear why she stayed away so long.

All seven actors were brilliant in their depictions of the characters, with special mention going to Erin Christie, who was in three of the plays, First Steps, The Other Nathan and The Other Cat; David Bon, who took on four roles in The Other Cat; and Elsie Horobin, who was superb as Aunt Beth in The Other Nathan and totally believable as the manipulative mother, Moira in Give The Dog A Bone. Odd Theatre Productions is a community theatre group that specialises in bringing new theatre experiences to the Scottish Borders and beyond and giving talented Border folk the opportunity to show their talents. After such an enjoyable evening of theatre let’s hope it’s not too long before we benefit from more of the same Review by Vee Freir

7


The Eildon Tree Review by Carol Norris

Short Plays - Take Two

2

by Borders Pub Theatre Sat 5th Oct Selkirk County Hotel and Sat 12th Oct Hawick Cornucopia Rooms Borders Pub Theatre is a collective of Borders - based writers which has grown out of the Playwright’s Studio Scotland Borders playwriting group, working together over two years with professional actors and directors to develop and stage plays in progress. The first BPT, including a play by LJ McIntyre, took place earlier this year and was a Selkirk sell-out and featured on BBC Radio Scotland. Catch the video here: https://www. facebook.com/BordersPubTheatre/videos/383973109157919/ The Borders Pub Theatre model has been inspired by our friends Village Pub Theatre in Leith, and other scratch nights such as the Traverse Theatre’s Monday Lizard. Kate Nelson joined as collaborating director for these Borders performances. Audiences were asked to consider donations to support this work practically and help to pay theatre professionals who specialise in new writing. Contact johnanita9@gmail.com. 8 short new plays, freshly written, by Borders writers, performed script in hand by professional actors. This time, the theme is TAKE TWO.  Guest director: Kate Nelson from Edinburgh’s award-winning Nutshell Theatre.  Writers: Thomas Clark (Scots language journalist of the year!)  Ma Dinner Wi Andrei Jules Horne (Fringe-first winner!)  Horse Play Campbell Hutcheson (Journalist and volleyballer!)  Hunter’s Call

The following is an extract from Never a Cross Word Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4 Andy: It doesn’t count if they’re made up by some hack script writer of third rate! Low -brow! Common! Sitcoms! Karen: It wasn’t. Andy: Wasn’t common? Karen: Wasn’t made up. Andy: How do you know? Karen: B  ecause despite not being “widely read” and not “taking a lively interest in words and culture” and not having “a more enquiring mind” I just must have accidentally stumbled onto some facts and despite my dizzy brain I’ve totally forgotten to forget these facts again, so that I happen to know that “cushty” is not just Cockney but it’s from the Romany word “kushtipen” which comes from the word for happiness in Persian!

There is a moment of stunned silence. Then..... Andy: Look – I’ve had just about enough of you, and this shell of a relationship. I’m sick of catering for your bad moods and totally illogical meandering streams of what passes in your universe for thought, So - just forget it!

He gets up and starts to storm off. As he leaves Karen shouts after him. Karen: (SHOUTING AFTER HIM) 1. Across. Six letters. T something S something something something. “Wanker throws his toys out the pram” TOSSER!!!

Anita John (RSPB Writer in residence!) Two Degrees & Rising

THE END

Emily Larner (Royal Conservatoire actor!)   Snow Joke

Thomas Clark’s play (in which he also acted) was set In the former Soviet Union at the time of the Chernobyl Nuclear Disaster. Very interesting.

John McEwen (journalist, actor, director!)   It Takes Two Roger Simian (award-winning filmmaker!)  Up Doctor Magooboo! Robert Sproul-Cran (BAFTA winner!)   Never a Cross Word Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4

Emily Larner’s play was set in a Ski Travel Agency. Very interesting. John McEwan’s play was about female & male Equality. Very interesting. Anita John’s play was about being struck by lightening and a tornado. Very interesting.

Cor blimey. And we’re all Borders-based.

There is no space to describe the other plays I am afraid.

Actors: Matthew Burgess, Emily Larner With support from Thomas Clark, Jules Horne, Kaye Nelson. Performed script in hand.

The Actors Matthew Burgess and Emily Larner and the acting authors, were superb throughout performing script in hand.

Director: Kate Nelson, Nutshell Theatre.

8

#issue 33 | Winter 2020

The audience was disappointingly very much smaller than the previous sellout performance here. This was an excellent evening of new Theatre in which I learned a lot of new things.


The Eildon Tree

2

Library, Library, Quite Contrary by Tony Beekman

There once was a collection of books who travelled together in a mobile library van. Lachlan the librarian looked after the books well. He placed them neatly but not too tightly on the shelves so that no volume would be crushed. Lachlan never let any book leave his collection, save for temporary periods of borrowing by readers. Lachlan knew all the borrowers. He had been driving the van up and down the braes of Steenshire for decades and the county’s little towns of Grumpton, Shoogley and Onyerwick Green were home territory. Lachlan remembered where everyone lived; if someone forgot to return a book, Lachlan helpfully drove to their house and asked for it back. Lachlan would set off from Grumpton Central Library, picking up any new titles he had ordered first. While driving, Lachlan would hear shuffling sounds as his charges slid ever so slightly backwards and forwards on their shelves. The books were edging forward to the fronts of their shelves one day, waiting on Lachlan coming back out of the Central Library. There were no new titles on order today but the books knew that Lachlan would pick up a copy of the latest edition of the Steenshire Gazette and they always wanted to know the latest gossip. William Shakespeare’s The Tragedy of Macbeth protruded a bit from its neighbours and cried, “Fair is foul and foul is fair, sad news today will cloud the air.” “Well, whadda ya know?” bellowed Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. “We have ourselves a regular soothsayer. Oldest trick in the book. As if a newspaper wasn’t going to bring bad news!” Macbeth jumped up and down and thudded back into position. Lachlan returned and dropped the Gazette so that it slapped onto the desk. He walked slowly back to the cab. The Gazette usually flaunted its wares, parading its front page news before all the books but, this time, it stayed lying face down, displaying a football match report. “Come on, pal,” the Cuckoo cajoled. “We can take whatever the news is. Spill the beans!” The Gazette turned over and screamed from the front page, “Mobile Library Faces Axe in Council Budget Cuts.” Macbeth jumped up and down again. “Okay, Macbeth, I’ll give you that one,” conceded the Cuckoo. The hefty tome of G.W.F. Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit jumped once and landed heavily, sending vibrations all along its shelf.

3

Poetry

Wanton by Sonya Macdonald

For the love and the distance travelled, scoop me up at the station hold me tight in your big hands eating chocolate at the wheel, all the windows fully open kiss me slowly let your hands slide round my shoulders narrow roads, twisting higher through these forests to the mountains, we are gliding on a knife edge wet with waiting, free to go.

4

Poetry

Before I Learned to Swim by Timothy Kearns I almost cut it as a young man stealing sticklebacks from Five Rise Locks in jars attached to string. I ladled frogspawn out of Chellow Dene and saw it spawn the tadpoles we tipped into the spring.

I coaxed the crabs from rockpools by the sand sunk breakers on Rossall Beach until the sun went in. I was Poseidon then, and elbow-deep in certain dominion, before I learned to swim.

#issue 33 | Winter 2020

9


The Eildon Tree

Poetry

Sickness and Health

5

by Timothy Kearns There will be times I can’t abide the heat and covet clement uplands from the downs, behaving like an army of cold feet force marched between abandoned border towns. There will be times there’s nothing to be said and days pass by like fish which fail to bite, between the bookends of a silent bedthe dubious consolations of the night. But you will not go down without a fight: what lists of verbs do for my listlessness you do, and wield the power to incite a turning of the tables, to redress the balance when it’s pointless to complain: make me your nurse and I’ll forget my pain.

Poetry

Pre-Enlightenment

6

by Timothy Kearns

“I see, ye cannot see the wood for trees.” [John Heywood, 1546] Hell-bent, and heedless of the rain, I bore you shoulder-high and ducked to dodge the branches that the trees let fly up to the lane at which you joined me on the ground to fall in by my side your three steps keeping pace with just a single stride as, homeward-bound, we bordered the apocalypse where earth and shattered stumps and all the bits of wood that came apart in clumps were stacked in strips. Despairing, I surveyed the scene; you gave my hand a squeeze: “Is this the place they keep the wood to make the trees?” Was I so green?

10

#issue 33 | Winter 2020

“How can they do this to me?”thundered the Phenomenology. “Don’t they realise that I am all of existence and history come to knowledge of itself, Absolute Spirit itself?”“Stop taking yourself so seriously,” said Jean-Paul Sartre’s Being and Nothingness. “Everything happens as if you were all of existence coming to knowledge of itself but, really, at the end of the day, you are just one individual, contingent, absurd book like the rest of us.” “Aye,” agreed The Complete Illustrated Poems, Songs & Ballads of Robert Burns. “A book’s a book for a’ that.” “Never mind the finer points of philosophy,” interjected Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, showing signs of wear and tear with a cracked spine and pages coming loose from the covers. “Lachlan was going to patch me up,” Frankenstein continued. “But now I could end up in a recycle bin with a job lot of paperback sci-fi novels.” The novels of Harry Harrison’s Stainless Steel Rat series shrieked. “It could happen to all of us,” added Frankenstein. “Hooee!” exclaimed the Cuckoo. “Some of you wood pulps might end up recycled but they’ll try to sell us first. And I’ll bet every one of you a bookmark each that when I flash my cover at a good looker, she’ll snap me up in two seconds.” “Sic a coorse creature!” snorted Lewis Grassic Gibbon’s Sunset Song. “A’m fair affronted!” “Don’t worry, everyone,” said Robert Tressell’s The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists. “Axing the mobile library is capitalist oppression. The workers of Steenshire will rise up to stop this.” “Sorry, pal,” said the Cuckoo, “I ain’t waiting on no working class to save me. I’ll take care of number one myself.” “Lachlan doing a bad thing,” blurted out John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men. “Geez!” cried the Cuckoo. “Mice is right. Lachlan is careering through Grumpton, ignoring his stops.” Lachlan carried on through Shoogley and then zoomed in and out of Onyerwick Green. “He’s heading for the reservoir,” said Mice. “Do you think he wants to go for a swim?” “The best laid schemes…” said The Complete Burns, “gang aft agley.” “It is with considerable sadness,” said Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, “that I must point out that the truth of my text is once again demonstrated; we must recognise the thorough and primitive duality of humanity.” Lachlan hurtled over a small roundabout bump. Frankenstein fell off its shelf, widening its crack and loosening more pages. “Come on!” Being chided. “Now you’re playing at being Frankenstein.” “Look!” said Mice. “Constable Plumstable is following us now. Do you think he wants to go swimming too? But why does he have his blue light on?”


The Eildon Tree

Lachlan must have been very pre-occupied because he didn’t seem to notice Constable Plumstable’s blue light or hear the siren. Eventually, Lachlan had to stop because Arthur the farmer had stopped his tractor in the middle of the road. Arthur was nowhere to be seen. Oh but there he was at last, coming out from behind a tree for some reason. Constable Plumstable was talking to Lachlan now but the constable didn’t look very happy. What was he saying? Something about Lachlan going to the station to explain himself. But what was this now? Another car had pulled up behind the police car. It was Prunella the Provost, wearing her gold chain of office. It had all been a misunderstanding, apparently. The mobile library was not being axed after all. Money had been allocated from the reserves to finance it for another year. The council would look after Lachlan and there was no need for police involvement. And what else did the Provost say? Something about knowing that the police would cooperate and that she had contacts at the police board. Everything appeared to be agreed. Arthur drove his tractor away and Constable Plumstable walked back towards his car. But why was he red in the face and throwing his hat on the ground? Lachlan shed a tear as he surveyed all the books. “Sorry, my children,” he said. “But everything’s fine now. Let’s get back on our run.” “I told you the workers would save us!” exclaimed the Philanthropists once Lachlan was back behind the wheel. “Hooee!” said the Cuckoo. “They’ll be hoping it’ll all die down so they can try again next year. But let’s enjoy the funding while it lasts.”

7

Poetry

Fowlis Easter by Timothy Kearns Whose gray towers’ gables guest the first light’s lifted mists, close as hares’ breath on March mornings; marked by mothers stirring tea at kitchen windows, woken by shotguns wedding lead to clay or pigeon syncopations kitting out the alders abutting the burn. Whose slow dawn rievers, braced for pheasant, tread nascent bulbs in verges where hollowed eggs lay mute with crow-holes – blue with cold – and haunted by children, feral in mittens and loosed upon days like snowdropped meltwater at the season’s turn.

#issue 33 | Winter 2020

11


The Eildon Tree

Scott’s Selkirk Courtroom Drama

3

October 2019 and last 3 Decades Review by Carol Norris

The well known and well loved Actor, Director and Writer John Nichol, of the Ideoms Theatre Company, lives in Selkirk. He has been responsible for the long running Scott’s Selkirk Courtroom Drama, around whom he has collected an equally long standing troupe of local actors. This group of actors are not strictly professional in one dimension, that of pay, but in all other dimensions they must be unique in the professional Acting Profession, for their consistency, their loyalty, their steadfastness and commitment, as well as their superb acting ability. The acid test I use to determine the quality of Theatre, is the response of my increasingly deaf 85 year old English husband, to exposure to this great, or any other, theatrical company. My husband has absolutely NO interest in the Theatre and on the few occasions he has been persuaded by myself to enter a theatre for a performance, has reacted by either falling asleep within seconds of opening, which carries the great risk of staccato snores belching loudly forth, which usually land at maximum decibels, exactly in the moments of a truly dramatic silence, and from where, as I always sit at the front, not only would disturb the rapt attention of the audience, but very likely, disturb the Actors, when I need to kick him very hard & sharp in the shin (about which I have already forewarned him that this will be my necessary action to stop the snore and wake him up), or he will sit awake stiff as a corpse (he follows the stiff upper lip congenital inherited behaviour trait demanded of a true blue Englishman) and, clearly disenjoying himself totally, but he can never walk out. He must endure. When I ask him if he has got anything at all from it he will say that he did not understand any of it. I always groan inwardly at this. So I decided some time ago not to request his presence in my theatrical expeditions ever again. He likes to watch TV American movies about police, the CIA etc etc from which he cannot be prized for any cost. That is why we need separate rooms for evening viewing. Since this time his progressing deafness has put paid to

12

#issue 33 | Winter 2020

any prospect anyway of theatrical outings with me. I had to seriously persuade him to attend the recent Scott’s Selkirk event when I told him my first call would be to get tickets for the famous Courtroom Dramas. His reply was “Well, what am I going to do while you are in there?” I said, well, you could come in, you enjoyed it (some years ago) when I was the Lady Laird (speaking RP amidst the Scots dialect of the other characters) in The Magnificent Laird and His Flying Machine, a play written as fiction by John Nichol himself, though so in the pattern of the actual record of the actual court cases as to be indistinguishable from them. This play in actual fact described these events as occurring from Faldonside, which is opposite our house, flying over the Tweed and our house Cascade, before crash landing onto our present neighbour at the Rink Farm. So reluctantly he agreed to come in, having been presented with the highly sought after free tickets, one hour before the performance, as advised by an immaculately attired Napoleonic Officer, one Julian Colton, complete with white wig, so natural looking. I thought it a most excellent wig. He was promoting the show and had all the tickets. Well, we took our seats, as near the front as I could, (my husband much prefers invisibility at the back somewhere) in a packed Courtroom, and I asked my husband if he had put on his hearing aid. “No, I meant to” he said. I, of course, knew that this was a deliberate wrecking plan. The plays were The Lady Varnishes and The Sabbath Breakers. Both plays were absolutely high comedy, the audience aching with laughter. Both utterly brilliant in script, plot, dialogue and characterisation, Immaculate, truly fulfilling all the requirements of the Aristotelian Theatre. I could see my husband, for once, closely paying attention, sitting up alert, but not rigid.


The Eildon Tree

I said to him on leaving “Could you hear any of the words, or anything at all?”he said No but the acting was superb, as good as any professional, as good as Hollywood. Also he loves seeing Court Room scenes, as well as Cowboys and Indians, as in another life, he would have liked to become a Barrister, and he is very proud of the Armour Reading prize he was awarded by his Public School in Liverpool age 13. He left school age 15 to go to sea.

one real from the Court Records. I meant to remember which was which, but I have lost my notes made shortly after and do not now know which is the Fiction and which the Fact. I really don’t care. I also was told by John Nichol that his favourite of all time was The Magnificent Laird and His Flying Machine, which he plans to reprise next year and would there be any likelihood of me being interested?

So this Theatre has passed my acid test. I rest my case.

Well, I had an attack of delirium at this, which is persisting at the time of writing this review.

John Nichol has told me one of these plays is Fiction and

May God Bless John Nichol and all his Crew.

#issue 33 | Winter 2020

13


The Eildon Tree

Poetry

Trees at Westhope

8

by Jim Tough We planted these trees casually, Not as an afterthought But with no thought Towards the future They have grown, remarkably Without attention Each unique, conforming Only to individual circumstance of place Some bent by prevailing winds, One broken but found the will To grow again. They seem to believe in themselves We share that belief in ourselves We share it with our children, The tap root in common The branches and foliage unpredictable

Poetry

Friday

9

by Adam Parry O joy you changed my heart around when I saw her face that first day. We laughed and wondered why we spent so long weeping. Because, you, have never seen such beauty I saw that first day and they hadn’t cleaned away your blood and my joy for a while silence and sadness flew away because of you.

14

#issue 33 | Winter 2020

3

Remembrance by John McCann

It was good to get out of the house for a few minutes peace and quiet. There was a November chill in the air hinting at the winter ahead but that didn’t bother him. He had a dram in his hand and sip of that had sent a glow inside. And the sips after kept it stoked up. It had been a long, long day. It started off early – shoes polished to a brilliant shine, trousers pressed to unnatural sharpness, creaseless jacket and shirt, medals rubbed to a sparkle and the cap adjusted to its precise and certain place on his head. All this was done with pride and the distant fear of retribution from a long gone sergeant whose purpose in life was to seek imperfections in the ranks. He met up with his old pals, they exchanged news and a little banter before lining up and marching as best they could to the memorial. In the silence that followed, he noticed there had been more marchers than comrades. That wasn’t right, he thought, that wasn’t supposed to happen. The solemnity of the service extinguished the kindling of his anger. They broke up quietly; each knew some of them wouldn’t be back and it wasn’t an occasion for idle chat. Back home there was family – daughters, sons, their kids with all their questions. He told them about the places, the heat and the daft things he and his mates got up to. But he couldn’t tell them about the suffering – he had never been able to tell anyone about that. In any case, he reasoned that it would spoil the happy babble of a family gathering. Aye its fine to get this bit peace he thought as he took another sip. He sat near the rose bed. It had been a good year; the blooms were a bit late but strong when they came. He noticed Jackie’s Golden Yellow had still some buds, Jackie would have been pleased at that. The rose had a strong yellow flower which filled this corner of the garden with its perfume. It’s strong, thorny stem needed to be treated with respect, just like Jackie himself. When he was discharged, Jackie made roses his passion and his business. It became his life and he was immensely proud of breeding that particular one. He and Jackie had been through a lot together but Jackie suffered more. He came back with only one leg and the doctors told him he was lucky to have that. Not that Jackie felt lucky in his constant pain and the cruel whispering around him. They used to joke that Jackie didn’t just lose his leg but his good humour as well. Not everybody laughed at that. Jackie never came to reunions however informal and when folk asked why, they received a soft but clear reply. ‘Why would I want to be reminded of what I’ve been through … and to think it still goes on….’ He raised his glass to the rose, ‘Jackie , you were right; we’re great at remembering - just rubbish at learning from it.’


The Eildon Tree

4

The Tablets by John McCann

With all their eight children gone, Mama and Dada moved out of their house to a second floor flat overlooking a busy road and some allotments. The flat was suited to the needs of an elderly couple but was not fit for family gatherings. And, in any case, their children were building families of their own. The flat was a much quieter place. By that time, I had confirmed my status as the strange child of the extended family by attending the local fee-paying school on a scholarship with unfamiliar trappings of uniform and books. I continued to go to my grandparents for my dinner, listen to the latest family goings on and give them little insights into my strange world. I link their move with a decline in Dada’s health. The flat had stairs to climb and there was little connection with neighbours. He spent much of his time looking out from the bedroom window watching the traffic and any allotment activity. Passing folk noticed him; he had become part of the landscape As I recollect it now, I have an image of a lively mind trying to deal with diminished social contact searching for something of interest. His trips out became less frequent and his patience for schoolboy tales became much reduced. Predictably perhaps given his lifestyle and change of circumstances, he had a heart attack and was admitted to hospital where his heart was attacked once more and where he was resuscitated. He recovered, was discharged, sent home and told to rest. Afterwards, when I came for my dinner, it was not unusual to find him in his bed. Sometimes he was conscious and we chatted. One time he told me to go into his wardrobe and choose one of his ties for myself. He said he didn’t have any need for them any more. I felt honoured and selected carefully. He congratulated me on my choice which he told me would be suitable for a range of occasions – weddings as well as funerals. He spent increasing amounts of time in bed, his body was slowly closing down. The adults around started whispering about good days and bad days. There were rumours he could not go to the toilet on his own and that was something he had always feared. I had no real comprehension of what they were saying. In my young mind, people got ill and then got better, it was just a matter of time, sleep and medication. One particular dinner time, when I went through to the bedroom before heading back to school, he was sitting up. His long, thin back was slightly arched and his head leant forward; his arms were stretched out in front of him as if he were reaching for something at the bottom of the bed. His breathing was laboured and his eyes were closed. His mouth grabbed for air and he dragged what he could into lungs which no longer had the capacity to hold much of it. As I waited at the side of his bed, I became

Poetry

Sanna Bay 2016

10

by Jim Tough Green tumbles down from rocky rim The caress of tyre on tarmac reassures As I pass through, these passing places, Where thirty years ago with child in arms I travelled before. Then the open boat to Tobermory Sharing the intimacy of my great coat You cooried in as only a child can, Protected against the wind and the pin head rain, We headed for the shore and our future

conscious for the first time of the meaning of breath. I understood its limitations when I had to stop running because I was short of it. Occasionally, I had been temporarily paralysed after a fall when it was knocked out of me. Sometimes, I tried to stop breathing to see how long I could do it but it always forced itself back, it was far stronger than any will I could muster. Standing there as my grandfather struggled with his feeble breathing, I understood in a very deep sense that elemental connection between breath and life. As I watched and as he grabbed for each breath, I became fearful that there might not be another and I began to appreciate what that meant. Dada sensed my presence. His eyes opened and his head turned towards me. His weary, watery eyes looked at mine; his head nodded slowly and gently. He started to speak with words coming softly between harsh breaths. I could hardly hear, he had to repeat and I was aware of the pain I was causing. I caught some of his words but struggled to make sense of what he was trying to tell me. He raised one of his arms and pointed to the chest of drawers against the wall opposite the bed. There was a family photograph on top of the chest. With that action and some of the words, I sensed he wanted me to fetch the photograph. He nodded. I thought it strange but went to bring the photograph to him. As I lifted it, he became agitated, his fingers were no longer pointing but jabbing, pushing at air, ‘no’ he whispered. I turned to put the photograph down and found that behind had been a small, dark brown medicine bottle. I put the photograph down and picked up the bottle. I shook it and it rattled with the tablets it contained. ‘This?’ I asked. He nodded, his hands turning round to receive it. #issue 33 | Winter 2020

15


The Eildon Tree

Poetry

David Hutchison 28-02-2006

11

by Adam Parry As I spout my opinions these urgings of dreams, feeling stomach cramps of someone else’s pain. I can’t help you! Mad with my sharp tongue as you wandered off into the snow, from now onwards a stranger who passes me in the street, crossing paths, not looking back. Goodbye old friend. A rush of blood, peace at last, a healing of no feeling. A chance of sleep, of changes ahead. I would’ve bought a brewery for you, but you kept coming, your voice of confusion, and just goodbye in my head. Why did we not love you more as you threaten hurt to me and walk out into the snow. Finally in me the anger slowly goes. Slip… slip walking into dreams so deep before, those dreams pass over us like the sea into the dark

I stood there with my eyes looking directly at his. This did not feel right. This bottle was kept apart from his other medication which filled the surface of his bedside table. And, I thought, why was it behind the photograph? I looked at the label with clear instructions on dosage – ONE TABLET AT NIGHT ONLY in upper case – and this was the middle of the day. I turned to look at Dada. For a long moment, both of us were frozen – a youngster barely in his teens holding a bottle of medication which an old, frail, breathless man desperately craved. He broke the moment with a pleading noise from his throat. That noise might have been a please. I became frightened by possibility and consequences. I said I would ask Mama. His face stiffened, his arms raised and he told me ‘No’ very softly and very clearly before falling back on his pillows turning his head 16

#issue 33 | Winter 2020

away from me, his eyes closed. I put the bottle back behind the photograph and quietly left the room. I didn’t go back to my grandmother to say goodbye but shouted a farewell from the hall, opened the door and stepped out. I am not sure whether I went to school that afternoon or not. I had disobeyed Dada, I had never done that before. And I had made him suffer. I couldn’t and didn’t tell anyone. It would never be the same as it was. Soon afterwards, they moved from the flat to a smaller house. And shortly after that, Dada died. He was the first person to die whom I truly loved. They said it was a relief. At his funeral I wore the tie he gave me.

5

The Change House by Tim Nevil

After almost thirty years of keeping an open mind, I’d never actually seen a ghost. It didn’t really matter. My ghost tour wasn’t about witnessing the paranormal, it was about realising a childhood dream. A ghost-hunter’s guidebook listing the most haunted places in Scotland had been my spur. I’d been given it as a birthday gift when I was ten years old. An adult eye would have easily spotted that it had been written with the paying tourist in mind but, to an imaginative young boy, every word was to be taken literally. I had read it and re-read it, promising myself that, one-day, I would visit each and every one of the castles, houses and inns listed within its pages. Over time this ambition became diluted; study, university, marriage… divorce had all interrupted the tour. Nevertheless, I had never lost faith and had carried the book amongst my luggage whenever I’d had reason to stay over somewhere in Scotland – just in case the opportunity arose to divert to one of the places mentioned. Gradually I was able to tick more and more of the sites off my list until only one straggler remained. It was the very final entry in my guidebook, a small and rather sad looking public house. Reports of spectral hounds, ‘grey ladies’ - with or without heads - and the odd driverless carriage racing past in the wee small hours were typical of the kinds of sightings listed for most of the places I had visited. However, the only apparitions associated with this final property were benign elderly gentlemen, probably former customers, who would occasionally be seen quaffing large measures of spirits by the fireside. And so it was on a wet and dark January evening that I found myself peering between the windscreen wipers of my car trying to make out the silhouette of this somewhat dilapidated building. An old-fashioned pub sign stood outside and swung violently in the wind. A naively painted horse with rider was depicted on it above the words ‘The Change House’. I felt quietly thrilled that, after all these years, I was about to fulfil my childhood ambition and finally complete my ghost tour.


The Eildon Tree

Many of the supposedly haunted sites I had visited seemed quite mundane with none of the spooky qualities suggested by the small and grainy black and white photographs in my guidebook. The Change House was different. Perhaps it was the weather or the glower of the evening but it seemed like an ideal spot for ghosts to gather. Poorly lit from the outside with small windows concealing any goings-on within, this was surely the archetype of the ‘haunted house’. So-named as a strategic stop-over where travellers would change horses en-route north, The Change House had long since seen better days. There were no cars parked outside and any bustle that the nearby village might ordinarily witness was stifled on this occasion by the wet weather. With a plan simply to stick my head through the door and perhaps, if the environment wasn’t too hostile, to sample a soft drink at the bar, I parked-up and dashed towards the porched entrance, holding my guidebook inside my jacket to protect it from the elements. The thick oak door creaked as I shouldered it open. I had expected to see at least one face turn towards me but, to my surprise, no one was there. There were wooden stools and benches and the remnants of a once roaring fire in the hearth. I walked over to the bar and called out. ‘Hello, is anyone there?’ ‘Be with you in a moment,’ came a voice from behind a door beside the bar. I took the time alone to survey the rest of the interior. A low ceiling created a sense of claustrophobia which was added to by an excess of brass knick-knacks and framed pictures of places and people I didn’t recognise. I turned around again to see a man with a slightly irritated expression on his face waiting to serve me. ‘What’ll it be, then?’ No “Good Evening” or “Sir” or any form of nicety was present in either the man’s speech or demeanour. ‘Oh, just a sparkling water, thanks.’ I said. ‘You came all this way for a sparkling water, did you?’ said the man as he reached below the bar for an unrefrigerated bottle. ‘Well, not exactly… Anyway, how do you know how far I’ve travelled?’ ‘I know every soul who lives within twenty miles of this place. We’re the only pub in the county.’ ‘None of them in tonight, I see,’ said I in the hope of a smile. None came. I was determined to persevere. ‘Actually, I’m on a ghost tour and this is the final site on an itinerary which has taken nearly thirty years to complete. You’re in my book, see?’ I showed the proprietor the last pages of the guidebook. ‘I suppose you’ll be looking for a ‘headless maiden’ or a ‘floating monk’ then,’ he said. ‘Well, if you have any to spare,’ I responded, returning the sarcasm. The proprietor rolled his eyes and then shook his head before sighing and turning towards the door. ‘Do have one for yourself as well,’ I called after him. He turned and looked me straight in the

eye. ‘I don’t drink sparkling water.’ He left the bar and I returned to my appraisal of the furnishings. It was then that I noticed another customer I hadn’t seen before. He was sitting in an alcove staring past me towards the door behind the bar. I decided to join him. ‘Hello. Are you local to these parts?’ The man showed no acknowledgement of my question and continued looking towards the door. ‘Do you mind if I join you?’ I took the stool opposite his. Looking at his profile I was struck by his ashen appearance, his shoulder length grey hair and a general look of untidiness. He was aged around seventy but had clearly led a life of hard physical work, most likely compensated for by a life-threatening mix of heavy drinking and chain-smoking. ‘Do you come here often,’ I said, hoping to engage my companion in some way. ‘Every day and every night,’ he said, earnestly. ‘I can’t help myself anymore.’ ‘Ah, well - I suppose at your age you can treat yourself to the odd dram or two, eh?’ I responded, trying to make the man feel less ill at ease. ‘That’s not why I come,’ he continued. ‘I have to keep watching them.’ Unsure as to how I should proceed, I offered him another drink and ventured towards the bar.

#issue 33 | Winter 2020

17


The Eildon Tree

By the Eildon Tree by Charlie Lawrie The heady swell of hawthorn fills the air Long hedgerows foaming with the May-white flower And in its scent the sour-sweet fishy smell Intoxicates and wakens Thomas’ spell Who rhymed his way one morning by this hill Which slopes in heather, as he rested still And dwelled in poetry, ‘neath the Eildon Tree .. Till wakened there a vision he could see: As if a goddess of the dawning day Rode over the high hill upon her palfrey, Hunting with hounds for hart, or after hare How beautiful her figure, and how rare The elemental workmanship that showed Upon the fittings of the horse she rode Such precious metals, substances of earth, Providing rich accoutrements for her girth: She was equipped like Dian for the chase And Thomas fell in love with her sweet face . . He dreamed at once of lying well with her And ran to meet her through the rising heather . . To where the Eildon Tree, that greenwood spray Breathed subtle odour o’er the lovely fay He asked her plainly if adown she’d lay O no, my man, such union would me mar, Rejoined she, who had come from Elfland far, Who knew the very vitals of these hills Their ancient layers of lava, and the wells Of water lying under. Sweetly, bells

18

#issue 33 | Winter 2020

Chimed on her caparison to his ear, And Thomas’ yearning deepened for her there, Till she acceded with a comely grace, Despite herself, to give his heart her place, Dismounted, settled, and to amorous play Disported with him for that summer’s day But O the outcome of this lively tryst Was just as she had warned him – for his lust Darkened her, and made her beauty fade, As if eclipsed, bedraggled, leaden, shade Fell on her who’d shone like Venus bright And struck our Thomas with the shock of night . . Now he was in her debt, and knew must pay Tho’ love still kindled in his heart for fay Maytime, the very flowering of the year When rural lovers in the landscape cheer, And where the hawthorn spreads its welcome scent, Embrace in rapture and glad merriment . . What so, but Thomas now with Elf-Queen fares Into Little Hill, whose ancient subway shares A journey out of Middle-Earth to other climes And now begins the altering of the times: No more the Sun and Moon shall he behold But move on into darkness. Elf-Queen told, After 3 days of wading through wet dark, When he complained of hunger, as a park Green opened in an orchard full Of date & damson, grape & pear & apple, How none of these ripe fruit should he take in For, if he did, the fiend would capture him: And so restraint preserved him from such hell . . The Elf-Queen bade him now to help him well: Lay your head down upon my gentle knee And into this new country now you see 5 ways that open in the inner hill: Through purgatory twice, to Heaven, or to Hell . . But yon 5th. Way we’ll take: that Castle Fair you see, we’ll travel there… Well, That is the mansion of my own country . . Whose king would suffer pain upon me Were he to learn we dallied. Courteous be; Say not a word, but only speak to me, When we go on, to enter in my home . . And as she spoke these words, her beauty shone, Restored in radiance before Thomas’ eyes -


The Eildon Tree

12 He lifted up his heart in high surprise And following after, as her hounds paced on, He heard her blow elf-music on her horn The Castle entered, as he took her hand Who led him into this enchanted land: Maidens came greeting. To the Queen they kneeled – Music resounded, from a harp, a fiddle, Lute and rebec, in a minstrel mode Entertained the ear, rich company showed: Cooks to dress venison of 50 harts he saw, Her hounds lapped blood that ran upon the floor, Feast in preparation, while inside the hall People paraded in an elven festival . . Saw he turning in a courtly dance Thirty knights, in trios, as they pranced, While choirs of ladies sang for their delight, Thomas was enraptured at the sight . . Long indeed he would remain herein, Until one day his Queen approaching him, Said: Here, my man, you may no longer be, For morrow brings the fiend to claim his fee, And of our elven folk, he will choose: thee . . Yet I will bring you back to Eildon Tree . . Thomas clung on like limpet to his hope In this new world to stay – but Elf-Queen spoke Of her undying love to treasure him: For all the world’s gold she would ne’er betray him . . And so her gallant heart could him provide With promise, as again along they ride . . Back to the flowering greenspray where they met, Filling the heady air with fragrance sweet . . Ah, Thomas, spake she, now our ways must part . . But longing stirred yet deep within his heart . . He who believed but 3 days he had whiled Within her magic Kingdom, was by time beguiled: She told him he’d stayed more than 3 long years . . But he was wondering now how he’d remember . . Asked her if she could offer him some proof, Some evidence of the intimacy of their love . . Why, harp, or speak, she cried, with active tongue, You shall be privy to my inspiration . . He, then, as poet, would not harper be, But gladly serve the Art of Poetry . . of Prophecy . . Forthwith, she left him on the long green lee, While he wept gently, by the Eildon Tree.

‘Hello,’ I shouted again. After a few seconds, the proprietor reappeared. A woman’s voice called after him telling him to ‘go to Hell’. The man gave no response and asked what I’d like. I asked for another bottle of water and, gesturing to my drinking companion, I said: ‘Another whisky for my friend in the corner.’ The proprietor stared back at me. ‘Which friend would that be?’ I half turned to gesture at the man in the alcove and saw out of the corner of my eye that it was empty. ‘The man who was there,’ I continued. ‘You must have seen him. The old man with grey hair. You must know him – he’s a local, surely.’ ‘There’s not been another soul in here this evening. Just yourself with your sparkling water.’ He took a dishcloth and began polishing a rather dusty looking glass. ‘Now which is it to be; a water or a whisky?’ It took me a moment but then the penny finally dropped. ‘Oh, I see. A prank for the innocent tourist, eh? Well, it might go down well with your American visitors but it’s a little lame for my taste.’ The barman’s expression was unwavering. ‘We don’t get any American visitors.’ I was unsure as to whether I had been the victim of a practical joke or if I had finally seen an apparition. My ten-year-old self took charge and I decided to take the events at face value. It was time to embark upon an adventure. ‘Make it a whisky, my friend,’ I said. ‘And might you have a room for the night?’ I ended up having more than just the one whisky along with a bite to eat served by the proprietor’s wife, I presumed – a stern woman with little or no sense of humour. It was clear from their exchanges that all was not well in their world and muffled shouting continued to be heard throughout the evening. Fed and watered, I collected my luggage from the car and made my way upstairs. I’d been given a key to room number three which, although far from luxurious, looked adequate for a peaceful night’s rest. Once in bed, I stared at the ceiling and mulled over the evening’s events before eventually falling asleep. I must have slept for only an hour or so before I was woken by a thumping noise and shouts from somewhere in the building. I got out of bed and went to the door, putting my ear against it to listen more closely. A sudden rapping on the door made me step back from it sharply. There was another rap. ‘Who’s there?’ I responded. ‘Open the door!’ came a man’s voice. I placed my foot behind the door and opened it only a few inches. The light from my room shone out into the dark corridor and lit the ashen face of the elderly man I had spoken with briefly in the alcove of the bar. ‘Are you a ghost?’ I asked, half suspecting I was dreaming. ‘No, but you will be if you stay here the night. Get your things and leave. Now!’ #issue 33 | Winter 2020

19


The Eildon Tree

He turned and made his way back along the corridor. I was understandably shaken by this vision and decided maybe it would be better if I left the premises. I could come back in the morning and settle my tab and then return home in the knowledge that I had finally seen the ghost I had waited a lifetime to see. I threw on my clothes and collected my things into my case. Occasional shouts and thumps continued to echo through the building as I made my way downstairs in the half dark. I resolved to spend the rest of the night in my car. I felt uneasy remaining outside The Change House so I drove a short distance into the village centre – I reckoned on it being more populated and a safer place to be than parked outside a haunted inn on a dark and wintry night. Swathed in two jackets and an overcoat, I settled down in a half-seated position and attempted to resume my sleep. It felt as though I had only just dropped-off when a sharp tap on the side window of the car woke me with a start. However, it was now morning and an anxious looking woman was trying to get my attention. ‘Are you alright in there?’ she said as she peered into the car. I wound down the window. ‘Oh, yes, I’m fine, thank you.’ In reality, I wasn’t fine. I had spent the night in my car and was still half frightened out my wits. I was also cold and hungry. ‘Is there anywhere I might get a cup of tea?’ ‘Aye,’ said the woman. ‘There’s a machine at Ronnie’s place – the shop across the way.’ She pointed to a village store which was just taking in its morning delivery of goods. A bit of normality, I thought, after the memory of the night before came back to me in full. Compared with the levels of service I had received at The Change House, the anonymity of a tea and coffee machine was very welcome indeed. Having pressed the button for ‘extra sugar’ I waited for the gurgling sounds to come to a stop before clasping my hands around the paper cup to warm them. ‘It’s a cold morn,’ said the shopkeeper as he watched me sipping my tea-cum-coffeecum-dishwater hybrid of a hot drink. ‘Yes and a rather chilly night. Had to spend it in the car.’ ‘Oh, aye?’ said the shopkeeper as he continued to sort his deliveries. ‘Yes, I was up at The Change House,’ I said, hoping to trigger a conversation which might lead to confirmation that I had met someone from the spirit world. 20

#issue 33 | Winter 2020

‘Oh, aye?’ he repeated. He stopped what he was doing and then addressed me directly. ‘I don’t know why you people keep coming here. There’s nothing to see, you know.’ ‘Oh, but there is,’ I countered. ‘I saw an old man – like the ones they talk about in my book.’ I withdrew the guidebook from my jacket and waved it at him as if it were incontrovertible proof of the existence of ghosts. ‘Which old man would that be?’ he said, chuckling privately to himself. ‘An old man with long grey hair and an ashen face. He stared right past me then he…’ ‘You mean him,’ interrupted the shopkeeper, who was now pointing towards the window. I watched as the elderly man I’d met in The Change House walked past the shop with the same distant look in his eye as he’d had the night before. ‘But he’s…’ I started but the shopkeeper finished the sentence for me. ‘He’s the man you saw last night. That’s Auld Graham. He’s up at The Change House all hours - just sits there staring. Some of us have tried

Poetry

After the Funeral

13

by Vivien Jones (Frances, my sister - 1945 - 2016) At last we are in the bar, somewhere familiar, we pour into the space, those who belong, like dancers who know their starting spot. We, the seldom-seen relatives, welcomed with a drink of something strong and sweet, we stand together talking only to each other. The men have loosened their ties, dumped jackets, the women pile pale blossoming hats on a chair, the children have started to race and shout. We were more at home in the crematorium, its taming quiet more comfortable for strangers, keeping the lid on volume, on unfit laughter. But the girl she was, the girl only I remember she would have laughed out loud, shared the joke, told them to turn the bloody music down, seen our discomfort and pulled us into the crowd, pressed us with tiny sandwiches and cheese straws, been the perfect hostess, had she been there.


The Eildon Tree

to talk him out of it but he insists on going.’ ‘So he’s not a ghost,’ I said, still trying to make sense of what the shopkeeper was telling me. He laughed a little. ‘Auld Graham? Oh, he’s no ghost. Very nearly was, mind – must be nearly fifteen years ago, now. He was the only one up at The Change House that night – except for the landlord and his wife.’ Without any hint of sensitivity towards my interest, the shopkeeper discontinued his story and busied himself with a freshly delivered pile of newspapers. ‘What happened fifteen years ago?’ I insisted. ‘The Change House,’ he said, expecting me to know the full story. ‘It burned down. Landlord and his wife died in the fire but Graham escaped - only minor burns.’ ‘When you say it burned down, what exactly do you mean?’ I asked. As if talking to a child, the shopkeeper re-iterated. ‘Burned down – nothing left – just bits of the outer walls. You said you were up there last night with Graham – at the ruins. You must have seen what’s left of it.’ ‘Well I was there but…’ Again, the shopkeeper talked over me. ‘I think that’s why Graham keeps going up there – a sense of guilt, I expect. Not that there was anything he could have done to save them. A fire like that takes hold, especially in a building of that age. Police said there might have been foul play – the couple were always fighting. Who knows? Shame, though – it’s a bit of a blight having a burnt-out pub on the edge of the village. There was talk of it being rebuilt but so many pubs are closing these days – who’d want to build another?’ The shopkeeper stopped and looked out of the window to where Graham had passedby a few moments before. ‘Did he tell you how he watches them – the landlord and his wife? Oh, he’s full of stories, that one. We let him chat on – it seems to keep him happy. Care in the community they call it nowadays.’ The shopkeeper paused. Then, noticing that hot liquid was now spilling out from my paper cup, he said: ‘I shouldn’t squeeze it if I were you. You’ll scald your hands.’ ● ● ● ●

My route out of the village took me past the long burnt-out remains of what would once have been The Change House, a solitary figure with an ashen face and long grey hair sitting on one of the remaining remnants of wall. I half-debated stopping the car and taking a proper look but fear and a desire to remember the place as I had known it made me press on. I can hardly remember my journey home, so full was my head with the events of the previous night. When I unpacked my things later that day, I placed my guidebook back in its usual place on the bookshelf where it has remained, unopened, ever since. Perhaps, in years to come, someone will take-on the ruins of The Change House and restore it to its former glory. I expect ‘Auld’ Graham will be long gone by then. Although somehow I doubt he’ll ever truly leave.

14

Poetry

Reflection by A C Clarke

When Dracula looks into a mirror he sees nothing. They say he has no soul. Artists try for his likeness but every time they paint someone different. Is he so other? The body which walks here called by my name is a simulacrum like the bodies it walks past, talks to. When I see a person I do not see the person. When I look into a mirror I see a room whose door opens into spaces which lead back and back …

Poetry

Beached

15

by A C Clarke The road skirts salt-grass fields where, jostling for milk, lambs clean as spring buffet the teats of ewes yellow with many winters; rises a little then drops to a bay tucked in a corner like the island’s afterthought. And there she is, always sooner than I expect. Do I imagine it or has she sunk a tad lower? Her broken ribs expose her stripped innards. She’ll never float again. I’m drawn to her, not for the cheap romance of ruin, all set for a photograph to get the sweet waves of nostalgia going, but all the years she’s suffered sea and weather, the fact of her. I hesitate to leave her rotting into herself like slow compost but there’s no option. One day so little of her will show above the silt she’ll be forgotten in all but oldest memories. Behind her trim yachts dip briskly across narrow water, sunlight surprising their sails.

#issue 33 | Winter 2020

21


The Eildon Tree

Poetry

Leafs

16

by Hamish Scott In Tin Hau Temple yaird A sit, a beuk o gaithert leafs tae see, an leuk the leafs aa-kennin God haes gaithert on the temple’s trees

Seelent thochts, seelent wirds

17

by Hamish Scott Whan fowk thegither sits but mouin nocht, whit fills thair maments quate, whit hidlins thocht; whit wirds is seelent say’d, nane ither hears; whit is it isna skair’d, no e’en wi feres?

6

The Final Realm by Karin Stewart

My mother’s funeral was worse. I don’t know if it was the fact that both my parents were now dead. But I can categorically state that it was worse. There were few mourners and the service had been brief. Mercifully I had remained undetected and although I knew my journey back was going to be long this was one chapter I could now finally close. My mother, although caring, had been aloof throughout my childhood. She was tall and slim with greying hair and, being a dressmaker, was always immaculate. She required little in the way of social interaction and had died ten years after my father. He, on the other hand, had been a surveyor and fully embraced the rough and tumble of parenthood. Although I was only a teenager when he died, I always felt, despite his demons, that we had been close. I had no siblings and was their only son. I recall, in the year after his death, my mother sitting at his desk poring over old paperwork as if looking for a clue that would 22

#issue 33 | Winter 2020

never materialise. She would fixate on a photograph of him - taken when he had been a young man; his chocolate brown hair flopped over his forehead under a handsome cheeky grin; and I was his mirror image. I had my first serious girlfriend when I was eighteen. We were the same age and practically inseparable. She was pretty with a wide smile and long straw blonde hair. We often rode out together, she astride her well-bred palomino and me on my bad-tempered bay mare. I still recall the biting north-westerly wind as it grasped the remaining autumn leaves from the spindly boughs above us. We would shelter by the riverbank and huddle closely together under a great chestnut tree, the same tree I would later revisit under very different circumstances. We would talk for hours; contemplating the future - although we were young and I couldn’t possibly have known the complexities of her heart. These were the pleasant memories, the ones I used to cling to before they were forever tainted. I arose at dawn the following day with an overwhelming desire to ride out alone. It was a bitterly cold morning; the frost appeared pearlescent and carpeted the countryside in a frozen cornucopia of beauty. I struggled to locate the chestnut tree from yesterday as a blanket of thick white mist continued to swirl; and my mount slowed to an uncomfortable walk. I tried to coax her but with little success then, without warning, she tossed her head vigorously and side stepped off the track. I urged her forward but she just pranced from foot to foot. I recall feeling increasingly annoyed; when all of a sudden I looked up to witness a pair of boots dangling in front of me. I never saw the face - but I knew who it was. The remainder of the day was a frantic display of police, ambulances, interviews and, of course, devastation. A year later, on my nineteenth birthday, I threw on some old jeans and a t-shirt and met my mates in the Cross Keys. My straw haired girlfriend had returned from University, but our relationship had suffered since my father had died and we’d grown apart, we had argued and I’d stormed out the pub drunk, angry and dripping in self-pity. I kept thinking about my father, I just couldn’t forgive him for dying and it was tearing me apart. I decided, in my drunken stupor, to revisit the chestnut tree where I had found him. It was a ferocious night as I struggled up the steep embankment of the river. I attempted to negotiate the stone bridge but suddenly felt the freezing rapids engulf my body as I plunged into the water below. I tried to shout but could only hear the pumping of my heart as sheer panic began to set in. I thought my head was going to explode with the pressure of the rushing water when out of the blue there was total silence. Gradually I began to see my father, he was pale and faint with a severed noose around his neck; and he was beckoning me with his long-withered bony finger. BANG! My skull burst through the water as I was inexplicably elevated through the air and onto the stone bridge. I lay there, unable to move and frantically trying to open my eyes which remained tightly closed.


The Eildon Tree

I felt a featherlike caress across my hand followed by a sensation of warmth which crept steadily into the depths of my body; as if searching for my very soul. I sensed a light pressure on my lips as they were parted and, although my eyes were closed, I could see a purple haze rise from my body and float into my mouth. ‘Wake up’ breathed an ethereal female voice - the type of which I had never heard before. Without warning my eyes sprang open. I rose unsteadily to my feet and took an almighty gulp of air before being aware of a waiflike creature standing before me. She was, to say the least, mesmerising; clothed in a long amethyst dress which faded behind her as if parts of the garment were being pulled away by an invisible force. Her raven hair cascaded over her shoulders and a playful grin danced upon her beautiful porcelain features. ‘Thank you’ I said, my voice sounded strange and unfamiliar, I assumed it was from the water ingress and continued, ‘who are you?’. She smiled, ‘We need to leave now’. ‘No, no, I can’t, sorry. I must get back. I can’t thank you enough! who did you say you were?’ I was clearly nervous as she touched my shoulder and replied. ‘My name is Seraphina and I am your saviour’. I opened my mouth to speak but nothing came out. I noticed that she had a magnificent horse by her side; it shimmered silver in the moonlight whilst its mane and tail appeared to stir eerily beneath an effervescent vapor. I stared in awe at my mystical companion. ‘What is this?!’ I cried. Seraphina took my hand and, despite my reluctance, we mounted the resplendent creature. She wrapped her hands around the horses mane and we rode bareback through the undergrowth and into the fields beyond. I felt the adrenalin surge through my body while I clutched onto her tiny frame. It was like we were flying, like we were soaring into the starry sky above and leaving everything else behind. It was a magical feeling, a feeling of complete and utter contentment but most of all a feeling of love. It was as if she had cast a spell, an enchantment, which would last a lifetime. ● ● ● ●

I had no recollection of what day it was, nor any idea of time – but as we rode through the trees I did catch glimpses of a land I vaguely recognised. Then, bit by bit, through the mist, I could see my mother. Not clearly. But she was definitely there. Her face was grey and a tear ran off the end of her nose and onto a faded photograph. I looked anxiously at Seraphina, uncertain as to why I was being confronted by such a sight; but she remained silent with her azure eyes fixed upon the vision. I tried to touch my mothers hand but it faded, momentarily, before becoming apparent once more. She seemed older, like she was aging in quick progression in front of me, I began to feel frightened and only barely managed to subdue a sob when I realised the photograph she was looking at…was me.

Poetry

Three Toy Shops

18

by Vivien Jones

Malta - 1950s Down the curving marble stairway, two doors down Prince of Wales Road, three steps up to a cavern of kites hanging like technicolour bats, tails bundled up in an elastic band. I stood, a child of nine, silent in wonder, imagining such a community or kites must come alive each closing time and fly up into the Mediterranean sky there to share the night with bats and swifts, before hanging again, swinging slightly, in the shop.

Edinburgh 1980s Blimey - a toy shop with a resident child psychologist. Serious business, play - not to be wasted, not to be noisy, not to be pointless. Serious young assistants demonstrate the worthy wooden toys which are : age-appropriate, develop fine motor skills, improve hand-to-eye co-ordination. In the corner, by the exit, two five year olds have found a packing box waiting for disposal. It is, at the moment, a castle but will over the time the adults confer, become a ship, a lorry and a cage.

Castle Douglas 2018 We have had to be fierce, it has taken some time to be rid of the pink for Princesses, the blue of toys for boys, we have mostly failed, but for a few exceptions where a toy shop lights up the minds of child and adult with the multi-coloured, multi-cultured, multi-inspirational piles and shelves and boxes of things too many to list. Go there, take your children, take your grandchidren, wallow in their excitement, remember your own.

#issue 33 | Winter 2020

23


The Eildon Tree

Suddenly the vision disappeared into the ethos. I slipped from the horses back and turned my attention to Seraphina who was still astride. ‘What was that?!’ I demanded. ‘We must carry on’ she whispered. ‘NO!’ I shouted. I need answers; ‘I want to go home!’ ‘You are about to enter a new home’, she paused and took a deep breath, ‘a new realm if you will’, she nudged the horse forward and I ran to keep up, ‘I don’t know what you mean!’ She halted and dropped to the ground. ‘You are equidistant from mortal life and final existence’, she paused, ‘you will get your answers, and as soon as you do you will move to your eternal utopia’. I attempted to respond but was utterly speechless; a swirl of mist circulated around my feet and began to spread out in front of me as I fell to my knees. Seraphina awoke me from what can only be described as the most devastating trauma I had ever encountered. I had so many questions to ask but somehow none of them, other than one, fell from my mouth, ‘Am I dead?’ ‘Your mortal life has been extinguished’ was the reply. ‘I don’t understand…is this it? why am I here with you?’ ‘Your journey starts here. You must complete this journey before you can commence to eternal rest’. Her words were spoken clearly and with purpose but somehow they became

Poetry

Collections by Vee Freir We look in others houses in search of clues but all we see are staged effects status symbols aimed to deflect from the underlying truth of collected clutter knick-knacks suck warmth, trap light create myths, a notion of travel like a mathematical equation that tells all or nothing yet, with mathematics there’s a point to reduce our world to simplicity collections complicate, reflect a part of ourselves, showing the world we know more than we probably do.

24

#issue 33 | Winter 2020

19

jumbled and my frustration intensified. ‘I don’t understand!’ I cried, ‘can I never go back?!’ ‘You can’, she replied, ‘but it’s a long journey back and you must not communicate with the mortals – even ones that you have loved’. ‘Which means I can communicate with them?’ She looked sternly at me, ‘you must respect the different realms, some mortals may be able to detect you, but your eternal existence will be fulfilling and your mortal life will fade like a distant chapter’. She ran her hand along the horses neck and mounted, ‘come on’ she whispered. We eventually stopped on the cusp of a dense forest and dismounted. ‘I don’t want to be dead!’ I yelled, ‘I am young… I have a life to lead!’ ‘Calm yourself’ ‘Calm?!’ I retorted, ‘would you be calm in my position?!’ she glanced at the ground but remained silent. ‘And who exactly are you?’ I continued, ‘some kind of guardian angel?’ this comment provoked a wry smile as she pointed toward the forest. ‘you must walk this part alone’ she said. Naturally these words filled me with dread. My feet dragged slowly across the tufts of grass as I approached the line of trees; I glanced back but Seraphina was gone. I stopped and examined the massive thorns which surrounded the forest. However, before I could contemplate entering a whoosh of powerful energy whistled through me and I clattered, at breakneck speed, through the foliage of the treetops. CRASH! I landed face down on the woodland floor. Breathless and fearful of what would happen next, I scrambled to my feet as I was confronted by a spectacular black stag. To my horror its antlers were ablaze and I held up my hands to shield the searing heat, but as the buck approached me the flames dwindled to an amber glow. I gazed at his liquid brown eyes and found myself gingerly reaching out to touch its soft nose. The beast tossed its head and nudged me forward with its forehead down; guiding me with its red-hot points. We walked only moments before reaching a small white chapel. It glistened like a diamond in the dark and I was instinctively drawn to it. The stag strode majestically to the double wooden doors and pushed them open withits blazing crown. As the animal stood at the entrance I moved forward and peered through the arched doorway. The chapel was filled with hundreds of lit candles which cast eerie shadows around the entire sanctum. There was an impressive stainedglass window below the alter which featured a large pair of golden wings, and I could hear strange unearthly music reverberating off the walls. ‘Hello’, said a voice. I turned quickly toward the entrance where it had come from. And there. Standing quite still. Was my father. ‘Hell…’ I stopped and ran to embrace


The Eildon Tree

him, ‘Where am I dad?!’ ‘Stop son’ he said, as he vanished before my eyes. ‘Dad!’ I cried. ‘I’m here’. I swung round to face the alter where he had reappeared. ‘What’s happening!?’ I pleaded. ‘Sit down son’. I sat on a pew, as close as I could without touching him. He looked gaunt and his hair appeared thinner but he still had that sparkle in his eyes and his smile was unmistakable. He was dressed in a long dark coat laced with silver thread and the severed noose still lay around his neck like an old tattered shackle. ‘Can’t we touch?’ I enquired. ‘No’, ‘I wish we could – but why are you here? It’s not your time!’ ‘I don’t know what happened dad… it was my birthday… I was drunk…I had a fight with my girlfriend…I wanted to talk to you…I, I think I fell…perhaps I drowned?’ ‘Your mother will be devastated at your passing’. ‘Is she here too?!’ He shook his head, ‘No son, she is not here, she has not passed over’. ‘I saw her dad, Seraphina showed me, but she looked different, like she was deteriorating in front of me’. ‘I’m so sorry to hear that, her heart must be breaking – did you say Seraphina was here?’ ‘Well, not here in the forest, but she said she was my saviour. Do you know her dad?’ He dropped his head and nodded. ‘Yes, she is a Spirit Saviour, there are several of them, they help people pass from their mortal life onto their eternal one’. ‘Then why is she not helping you?’ He sighed before responding, ‘Because I am at a crossroads in my journey and because the weight of guilt is crippling my soul’. ‘Guilt? from what? Taking your mortal life?’ He shook his head, ‘No, how your mortal existence expires is irrelevant – I’m the problem, I will not allow myself to proceed, so I stay here’. ‘Where is here?’ ‘The Eternal Flame Forest Chapel; the middle ground of eternal existence’. ‘The what?’ My father laughed, a sound I had not heard for so long and I felt the pang of emotion swell inside me. ‘You’ll get used to it son; Seraphina will guide you safely’. I thought about what he had said, ‘you mentioned guilt, what guilt?’ He walked solemnly toward the alter then turned to face me, ‘I wasn’t always honest with you and your mother, I was a bad husband and father…’ ‘No!’ I interjected. He bowed his head, ‘yes, I was. I need to

20

Poetry

Sleep S by Hamish Scott That gled we ir tae win tae sleep, intil its meisterie gae deep An cum the morn an time tae steer, tae wauk an rise again that sweir That blyth anent thon little deid – an yet the enday’s sleep we dreid.

tell you something son’ he paused, ‘and its only because of what’s happened to you, and that you are here with me now, that I will tell you’. ‘What is it?’ I said anxiously. ‘I loved your mother but I wasn’t in love with her…I was in love with someone else’. ‘Who?!’ I demanded. ‘Your girlfriend son, we were having an affair’. I sat motionless for what felt like forever. My mouth was dry and my head was spinning; it was as if I was back in the water, fighting for each and every breath. ‘I don’t expect you to forgive me son – I can’t forgive myself’. I eventually summoned the courage to talk, ‘w,why?’ my voice began to crack, ‘is that why you took your own life?’ He refused to look at me. ‘Is that why dad!?’ I yelled, ‘I found you that day…I FOUND YOU HANGING!’

#issue 33 | Winter 2020

25


The Eildon Tree

Suddenly the candles flickered in unison and my father was gone. I raced to the door but there was no sign of him; the rain had come and the forest was under the cover of darkness. I returned to the front pew and looked up at the stained-glass window. To my surprise it seemed to be melting, like waves crashing against the shore as the faint image of Seraphina and her horse came into view. I sat up and approached the window, and there she was, holding out her hand to take me away. ● ● ● ●

I awoke the following morning in a makeshift shelter wearing a short green tunic and breeches. I felt hurt and angry – and I knew I had to make some serious decisions. I saw Seraphina perched on a low branch outside. ‘You were right’ I said whilst approaching her, ‘I got my answers’. ‘Can you forgive him?’ she whispered. ‘I don’t know…I just don’t know’. Several months passed and I began to embrace my new existence. Seraphina became invaluable and I couldn’t imagine eternity without her; although there was still one aspect I had to settle before I could continue my journey. I sat early one morning by the rivers edge, looking deeply at the water I could see little sprites dancing over the gentle cascade. I turned to Seraphina, who had miraculously appeared behind me, and asked the question. ‘Did I die on my nineteenth birthday, that night, in the river?’ ‘Yes’, was the reply ‘Did I take my own mortal life; I cannot remember?’ ‘No’ she said. ‘Will you leave me if I forgive my father?’ the words stuck in my throat but I knew I had to ask. ‘Yes’, she breathed, and in a swirl of mist she was gone. I travelled alone back to The Eternal Flame Forest, which had been as unpleasant as the first time, and entered the little chapel. I saw my father sitting at the back, looking forlorn with the noose still around his neck. His expression did not change when he saw me. ‘I forgive you’ I said, ‘and I want you to forgive yourself – you need to move on dad and continue your journey’. He stood up and walked out the doors, I followed and waited under the arched entrance. He took a few steps before the flame antlered stag appeared and gently removed the noose from my fathers neck with its antler. As the colour rushed to his face, he smiled at me, and I smiled back. 26

#issue 33 | Winter 2020

Spider spun by Daniel Duggam

21

The leaves tie spider’s webs around their clinging limbs. They don’t want to fall, those seasons of letting go come around too swiftly. They hold the casting of light high, when dawn isn’t looking, they move the alarm time earlier, giggling at the sun, as it breaks cover, basking them, in a blushing corset of ripening time. My bloody post box heart, pounds out the intro to the day. Keys turn and padlocks drop, into yawning fingers that search for the tea pot. The leaves fidget, trying to make a pact with the tree, who is closing up shop, it’s no good, the oak shakes, hood up, amber street lights yet to flick off, the first precursor of dawn skiving off. Tea poured, bag swimming in circles, branches undressing in the sea of skies, I do not avert my eyes. I find a strand of silvered hair on my head. It’s not just the leaves searching for a spider’s web.


The Eildon Tree

Cocktail Party Training by Vee Freir All that superficiality under the guise of camaraderie whispering condescensions to those in the know Yet now in the clutch of dementia the power of that training unconsciously emerges ‘Darling’ you call everyone nurses, your granddaughter the woman who brings your tea and me. You nod your head and smile while – conspiratorially you turn and whisper ‘Have you seen those fat legs?’

22

Headland by Daniel Duggan

23

All this world, with its sewn, double stitched soil, falls and folds. Headland over headstone, hand to mouth. We walk the ridgebacks and coastlines until we run out of welcome signs and shrines. The clocks will still, heart on hearth, death taking birth back, to where the sky kisses the sea. Water poured into the mouth of the river and me. All these layers of earth, the sediments cut into a soul stencil, buried by time, lingering so they can be found, as a halted breath. We are magnificent as long as we realise we are but a moment and deep time combined. We hold our names in landlocked fingers, tiny slivers of life, paper planes flung to return. We are hand me downs and broadsword crowns. Yet... All we have to be, is a name said, with reverie.

For further details please visit www.liveborders.org.uk/ theeildontreeandwritersgroup  eildontree@liveborders1.org.uk  01750 726400

#issue 33 | Winter 2020

27


The Eildon Tree

4 Oh What Fools is inspired by The Fates from Greek Mythology. One spun the thread of life, one measured it and one cut it. I was also heavily influenced by three frightening but comical figures from The Black Cauldron by Lloyd Alexander.

Oh, What Fools by Clare Watson

Three women are standing motionless in a wasteland, eyes fixed into the middle distance. There are piles of weavings strewn about. Mirrie holds a spindle, danna has a tape measure over her shoulder and syl has a pair of scissors. They are, to all extents and purposes, asleep. Mirrie slowly wakes. Mirrie Oh. How extraordinary. It’s just me awake. A bit of time to myself, then. The others are there, of course. I never get away from them and would I want to? Well, there’s a question I’ve never answered. It gets very claustrophobic. The three of us. Together. Constantly. It’s unusual for me to wake up first. Hasn’t happened for an age. It could be eons. An opportunity to be on my own. How lovely. (Looks about) There must be an approach or I wouldn’t have woken. Can’t see one yet. (Hums for a few seconds) Still nothing. Best thing really, I wouldn’t want to do it on my own. It wouldn’t be possible. Well, it would. Theoretically.

28

#issue 33 | Winter 2020

Mirrie But would it be right? (Hums a bit more) This is a pretty boring place to be. Nothing to look at. No colour. I don’t usually notice with the others awake. I should just enjoy my own company. While I can. (Fusses with her clothes) I’ll wake them up. No, I’ll just wake Danna. I’m not quite ready for Syl. She’s difficult to face when you’ve just woken, so given a choice ... Actually, I’m not sure how to do it. Hmmm. Danna. Wake up. Danna Is it time? Mirrie Oh. That was easy. Yes, I expect so or we wouldn’t be here. Danna Mirrie. It’s you. Mirrie It is. I was first this time Danna Isn’t that nice. Mirrie It is. It was. Briefly. I did get a bit bored. Nobody here yet. Danna No there wouldn’t be. Not yet. We should probably wake Syl. Mirrie Do we have to? Can’t we wait a bit? Danna Yes, I see your point. She can be a little hard to stomach straight away. If we prepare our questions before she wakes we may avoid the difficulties we encountered last time. Mirrie Oh gosh, yes. I’d forgotten.

We don’t want that. Danna No, we don’t. Mirrie Are you getting a sense of who is coming through? Danna Not yet. There are so many floating about out there the channels get a bit blurred. Mirrie Lots of them? Still? Danna Possibly more than last time. And there’s all this piling up. (Gestures to piles of weavings) Mirrie Oh. I hadn’t noticed. How silly of me. Look at it all! It is funny. Danna Not really. Mirrie No. You’re right. Not all this. (Giggles) But all of them up there. Floating around. Pretending they don’t exist anymore. That is funny. Why do they do it? Danna I’ve no idea but that’s not our job. We should work on our questions. Mirrie There used to be a constant flow. Sometimes you’d wake up here and almost catch one floating by. Mirrie Don’t you feel just that little bit curious? Dana Not really, Mirrie. I’ve got much more important things to think about. Like the next approach. Mirrie Yes, I suppose you’re right. Danna The questions. We decided to change how we do things. Mirrie Did we?


The Eildon Tree

Mirrie Oh. I didn’t realise you were awake. Of course you know what you’re doing. Danna I’m trying to get her to see it differently. Beyond her perception of mess. Syl Indeed. She can get very precious about her thread. Mirrie But look it’s all tangles and knots. Syl I like a good knot. And a tangle. Mirrie Maybe you should be the one talking to them first then. Danna No, no. It has to be you, Mirrie. You’re the one with the winning smile. Mirrie Yes, I am. Syl I don’t see why it has to start with a smile. Danna No, you never do. Mirrie Danna, perhaps you should be the one to start. You’re the calm and steady one. Syl Overrated. We should start with a shock.

(She holds up her large scissors and slowly opens and closes them)

Danna You don’t remember? Mirrie Not really. Dana You’re always forgetting things. Mirrie Yes, well, I’m the spinner. I exist in the present. You always expect me to be like you. But I can’t measure things. That’s your job. Danna I think you should do more to create their sense of wellbeing. We need to get them into a quiet state before releasing them to Syl. Mirrie I always point out the best bits in their weaving. Danna Yes, but it can all go rather quickly. I think you should linger more. Mirrie On what though? They are always such a mess. My beautiful thread that I’ve carefully crafted going to wrack and ruin. All the

knots. The shocking colour combinations. The overall effect on the piece makes me want to cry or scream or something. Danna Yes, yes, I know and then you start screaming at them. That’s just what I’m wanting to avoid. Perhaps we can have a practice with one of these. (Picks up a weaving) Try and concentrate on its best qualities. Mirrie The thread. Obviously. Danna Try to leave the thread out of things. It only upsets you. Mirrie There’s a nice patch of blue in the corner. And a gorgeous golden colour right at the edge. It’s a shame Syl cut it off at that point. Syl Don’t start with that shame business. I know what I’m doing.

Danna Put those down, Syl. Why can we never agree? It’s the same every single time. Syl I rather think that last time we did agree. Mirrie And what was it? Syl That I should be the one to begin. After all, I’m the one who cuts the thread. Danna No, we didn’t. Mirrie and I agreed with each other and you just agreed with yourself. Mirrie Don’t we need to hurry up? They’ll be here soon. Syl They won’t arrive until we’re ready. I haven’t done the cut yet. Mirrie You haven’t? Danna Well, that is different. Syl Isn’t that what we discussed? Danna Not exactly but I’ll go with it for now. Mirrie How come we’re here if they haven’t left yet?

#issue 33 | Winter 2020

29


The Eildon Tree

Syl They’ve come to the end of Danna’s measure. She’s always the one who decides. I just make it happen. Danna is the one in control. All of the time. Danna That’s nonsense. I’m not in control. None of us is. It’s them and you know it. Syl Of course I know. I just like to see you ruffled. A crease in that calm exterior. Danna Well, stop it. We haven’t got anywhere. Syl We never do. We are either here in this weary emptiness or in our relentless workshop. Nothing else exits for us. Mirrie Why do you have to put it like that? You make it sound uncomfortable. Syl I like uncomfortable. I like emptiness and I really like relentless. Mirrie (Giggles) What about weary? Syl Oh yes, weary is one of the best. Mirrie You’re so funny, Syl. Danna Can we move on, please? It would be nice to have some sort of plan. Syl A plan. Always a plan. I prefer managed chaos. Mirrie How can you manage cha-? Oh, it’s one of your jokes. Ha ha. Whose turn is it to choose? Syl We’ve stopped doing that. Danna No we haven’t. I believe it’s my turn. Mirrie In that case let’s make the plan. Come on, Syl, it could be fun. Syl Fun is your thing, Mirrie, I like Mirrie Yes, I know, darkness, melancholy and thunder. 30

#issue 33 | Winter 2020

Danna You always remember that, for some reason. Syl And a sharp pair of scissors. Danna Yes, well, let’s leave that at the moment and – Syl Make a plan. You start then. Danna I will, thank you. So, as I’ve already said, Mirrie should go first and talk cheerily about their weaving. Pointing out all the good parts and pretending not to notice the tangles. Mirrie Yes, and I could ask them which bits they like best and why. Danna It always goes down well when you do that. They love to talk about the best bits. Mirrie I can look at them instead of the weaving. It’ll be easier to pretend about the knots. Syl I like it when you start screaming at them. It’s good to see them getting all agitated. Danna Is agitation really necessary? Syl It’s hard for you to understand, I know, but it stirs things up wonderfully. Danna That’s what I’d like to avoid. Stirring up. Mirrie I think it serves them right for making a mess of things. They need to know that as well as the good bits. Danna They do need to know. It’s our job to tell them. But there are ways and ways. Syl So, Mirrie makes them feel good by leaving out the screaming. I make them feel bad, really bad and then you calm everything down and send them on their way. Danna But your approach to making them feel bad often goes too far. No wonder so many of them have decided they don’t exist anymore. They just don’t want to hear your voice. Mirrie It’s true, Syl. The last one who came through switched off her consciousness when you did your thing and joined “them”. The “I don’t

existers”. The floaters up there. Danna And there’s all these weavings hanging around with nobody claiming them. Mirrie Wasting all my thread. Danna Making it hard to move. Mirrie Lying there, abandoned. Danna As if none of it mattered. It’s terribly sad. Mirrie It’s awfully disrespectful. Syl You can blame me all you want. You know I can take it. Makes no difference to the truth, though. Danna What do you mean? Syl You, Danna and you, Mirrie are nearly as afraid of the truth as they are. Mirrie Oh no, not a Syl lecture. Syl Oh yes. We all know the truth. The three of us and all of those humans. Even those floating up there. I’m the one who speaks it. Pulls it out of the dark. Mirrie Oh Syl, not everything is in the dark. You just enjoy being dramatic. (Putting on Syl’s voice) I pull the truth from the dark and everybody runs away. They can’t face it. Even my sisters. (Own voice) Anyway, the truth of their lives isn’t in the dark at all. It’s all there to be seen clearly by the mess they’ve made in their weavings. Danna And the beautiful parts. Don’t forget that. Many of them contain a lot of beauty. Syl Beauty is overrated. Real meaning lies in tangle and ugliness. Danna You’re just trying to be difficult, now. Mirrie She doesn’t have to try. Danna She is the manifestation of difficult. Now there’s a truth. Syl Difficult is underrated. I want to be more than difficult. I want to be – Mirrie & Danna Hideous, odious and revolting Syl I’m particularly fond of revolting. Danna Indeed. And you are always revolting. Never wanting to


The Eildon Tree

agree with anything. Syl Agreement is overrated. Mirrie Syl, you are now becoming boring. Syl Oh no! Not boring. Not that. Danna THAT. IS. ENOUGH. Syl will cut the thread. Mirrie will greet them as they arrive. With her lovely smile. She will show them their weaving, pointing out the best bits. She will discuss the favourite parts of their lives. After that she will look at the tangles and start screaming at them. Mirrie I thought you Danna You will start screaming at them because I know it can’t be prevented. And. It gets them ready for Syl who comes next. So Syl goes in for the kill Mirrie (Giggles) Which technically she’s already done. Danna Syl goes in for the kill and pulls at all the tangles, brandishing her scissors and suggesting she cuts them Danna apart. I step in and quietly measure the good and the bad. While I do that you begin the song. Mirrie Oh I do love that bit. Such a good song. Syl Such an awful song. Mirrie But of course, you love awful. Syl Oh, I do. Danna Then we will all hold hands. That’s you, Syl, too. And dance them gently into the other country. Syl Danna, only you can do gently. Mirrie I do whirling. Syl I’ll stand and watch. Danna Alright, Syl, but can you now cut the thread. I would really like to get back to our workshop. I’ve had enough of standing around here knee deep in forgotten lives. Syl I most certainly can. (She holds aloft the scissors and cuts)

Clare Watson

is a singing leader and writer of songs, short stories and plays. Also a theatre deviser and experimenter with textiles. She is attempting to bring all elements together with Clare’s Many Threads. A work in progress.

With thanks to Lloyd Alexander and Orwen, Orddu and Orgoch without whom this would never have been written.

THE END #issue 33 | Winter 2020

31


Borders LIVE Touring

Borde rs LI VE To uring

Spring Programme 2020 visit www.liveborders.org.uk


The Eildon Tree

Book Reviews

Backstage in Paradise by Robin Lindsay Wilson Cinnamon Press Poetry / 71 Pages

it might give the impression that he has found a formula and writing groove and is comfortable to dwell in it, either out of habit or reluctance to risk experimentation and exploration. Which, if this were to be the case, would be a great shame because Wilson’s work is engaging and warrants further evolution.

ISBN: 978-1-78864-070-1 Review by Julian Colton

It’s All in The Past: 12 Historical Short Stories £4.49 Kelso Writers PBK 64 pages ISBN 978-1-912519-02-6 Review by Sara Clark

Robin Lindsay Wilson is a talented inventive poet, but when his work is presented in a collection this long there are just so many of these twisting, unpunctuated poems that it requires hard work on the part of the reader to assimilate and savour them. They are usually interesting and imaginative, yet a shorter more focused collection might have sufficed and allowed the reader to decide what his individual poems add up to. Writing in such a distinctive, unchanging style has its benefits though. The hallmark of this collection is unmistakeably Robin Lyndsey Wilson, but it would probably do this poet no harm to shift the gears a little, even vary forms and style to allow the poems and reader a little breathing space. Otherwise

34

#issue 33 | Winter 2020

This latest collection, with short stories from beginners to published authors alike, is the latest in a series of four superb anthologies from The Kelso Writers, whose previous books, First Anthology, Dragons Can Be Darlings and Other Stories, and A Whole Lot Of Love, all showcased a diverse array of emerging and established talent which did the Borders proud.


The Eildon Tree

Let out the Djinn by Jane Aldous Arachne Press Poetry / 48 Pages ISBN: 978-1-909208-81-0 Like its predecessors, this new anthology is a shining example of what a good writing group can accomplish, and these manifold glimpses into the past are united not only by theme, but also by the degree of thoughtfulness which they all possess - the atmosphere, the poignancy, the sensitivity with which they are written. From a 15th century battleground to Aberdeen during the bombing of 1943, these evocative stories are good, old-fashioned escapades into the past - some laced with tragedy, others pregnant with possibilities, all great little reads in their own right. With the information overload of this increasingly digital age constantly demanding our attention, it is a real tonic to pick up this book - where lairds and suffragettes, archers and pipers, corporals and kings, wait between the pages, ready to patiently, silently, and skillfully give you a glimpse into the worlds they inhabit. From what I have seen from their writing so far, it is clear to me that the Kelso Writers have hit upon the formula for happiness and productivity with their group, and that the thought, feedback and support that they give to each other during their activities together, not to mention the editing, design and layout of their anthologies, has paid back dividends not only for its individual members, but the Scottish Borders writing scene as a whole. Every single person who had a hand in the making of this bonny little book deserves credit for its success. Long may their boundless creativity continue.

Review by Julian Colton Edinburgh based Jane Aldous writes with a likeable well-crafted voice. Deceptively direct and delivered straight from the shoulder, she tackles subjects such as the growing pains of being a gay woman in poems like How it was, the Scottish Highlands landscape and all manner of historical museum artefacts with commendable skill and clarity. This kind of clear writing takes a long time to develop, but Aldous can also do enigmatic, less easily defined pieces such as The Death of Echo or Watching the Celts on Leith Walk where a little more teasing out is required on the part of the reader. Read in its entirety, Let Out the Djinn is a competently executed, enjoyable and empathetic collection.

Number 24 by Oliver Eade Silver Quill Publishing 2019 PBK 199 pages / £7.99 ISBN: 978-1-912513-53-6 Review by Vee Freir Dylan Ross, from Hawick in the Scottish Borders, is in love with his very pretty, Chinese, next-door neighbour and classmate, Alice Chang, but she hardly gives him a glance. Things are made worse for Dylan, when his animal phobic father, in a fit of rage, shouts at Alice because her beloved dog, Bouncer, was barking. It doesn’t help that Dylan’s father is also the maths teacher and Alice is hopeless at maths, something that Dylan is very good at. In fact, Dylan is top in most subjects at school, even though he tries not to be, he just can’t help it. Dylan, spends much of his time fantasising about Alice, but his father’s outburst has scuppered anything happening between them, as far as Dylan is concerned.

#issue 33 | Winter 2020

35


The Eildon Tree It doesn’t help that Alice seems to be spending time with Colin McPhail, another classmate, who plays rugby and is very masculine and muscular. If only Dylan could get some time alone with Alice and tell her his dream of becoming a vet (which is another thing his father won’t countenance) he feels she might want to spend time with him, rather than his rival, Colin. Then, one night, Bouncer goes missing. Dylan realises that, if he can find Bouncer and return him to his owner, then he might have a chance with Alice. While out looking for Bouncer, Dylan comes across a Scottie, who seems to understand what he’s saying and leads him around the corner to the next street. The Scottie stops outside the derelict looking Number Twenty-four, a strange three-storey house that belongs to the eccentric Professor Peregrine Pringle. Everyone in Hawick knows the house and rumours abound about the Professor, who, it is believed, turns people into ducks. So much so that no-one would go near Number Twenty-four, let alone go in. However, when the Scottie trots off into the garden and comes back with Bouncer’s collar, everything changes. The Scottie actually starts talking to Dylan. After getting over the shock, Dylan finds out that there is a different dimension, where dogs are the owners and talk and humans are the pets and bark. During the conversation, the Scottie tells Dylan that if he can be at Number Twentyfour at dawn the next morning he can see Bouncer. Dylan takes the collar round to Alice’s house, but she won’t have anything to do with him, believing that Dylan’s father has done something terrible to Bouncer. Dylan then writes Alice a letter, telling her she must be at Number Twenty-four at dawn if she wants to see Bouncer again and he gives it to Alice’s older brother, Ben, to give to her.

36

#issue 33 | Winter 2020

The next morning at dawn, Alice turns up as requested, and, just as the talking Scottie has persuaded Dylan and Alice to go into the house, Alice’s brother Ben, and Dylan’s younger and, according to Dylan, annoying sister, Caitlyn arrive, having seen their siblings creep out of their respective houses. Things get stranger as they try to locate Bouncer and Caitlyn comes face to face with the very scary, Scissorman, who changes her into.… and that is all the plot I am going to give away! In a rattling yarn, Oliver Eade takes us to a different dimension, where the top dog, Bosona, has been held captive. Can the youngsters rescue Caitlyn and help Bosona regain her throne? Can they find Bouncer? And can they all get home to Hawick unscathed? Oliver Eade has, once again, written a page turner. Number 24 is aimed at the young adult market, however, I think it would be a great book to read to younger children. Fast paced and full of excitement. Thoroughly recommend.

Other People’s Lives By Iona Carroll Silver Quill Publishing 2019 PBK 172 Pages / £7.99 ISBN: 978-1-912513-84-0 Review by Sara Clark I have long been an admirer of Iona Carroll’s work - and her novels, Crying through the Wind, Familiar Yet Far, and Homecoming: The Story of Oisin Kelly, are a truly compelling trilogy on the victories and tragedies that go hand in hand with war. I picked up Other People’s Lives then, with high hopes of another good read, and put it down, a few hours later, with a smile and a sigh from the heart. Some with lives that came to nothing, some with deeds as well undone - these famous lines from Robert Browning’s A Toccata of Galuppi’s were the starting point for this collection of stories in which Carroll offers us a glimpse into ordinary


The Eildon Tree

The Parth Path By Oliver Eade Silver Quill Publishing 2018 PBK 346 pages / £9.99 ISBN 978-1-912513-50-5 Review by Vee Freir

lives influenced by events which are often outwith their control - people tested by unexpected circumstances, stopped in their tracks and starting out again.

Man Camp 7 was Peter’s life until the gorgeous Rea appeared and a whole new chapter for him began, but he can’t forget Moira, even as he and Rea escape to The Island, a place of supposed safety, aided and abetted by the mysterious Texta and the folk who live on the Island. And what of Moira? Is she also part of the Parth Path plan and the perceived need for the creation of an Immortal Controller?

An artist, a perfectionist, a priest, a collector, a traveller, a sportswoman, a condemned man - all populate this book with life and purpose - people at turning points in their lives faced with life choices they never thought they would have to make, things they never dreamed they would see. I was particularly drawn to the seven short stories featuring Father Vic, a kind and mischievous Queensland priest, re-named by the children who loved him, and Carroll’s depictions of this character alone are enough to make this collection one to treasure. In short, Other People’s Lives is full of the stuff that life is made up of, with its recurring motifs of love, hope and humour - the moments we dread, yet overcome, the happy coincidences we hope for, a kaleidoscopic mixture of the brightest and darkest moments of life combined to make a dazzling, meaningful whole. A tocatta is traditionally seen as short, showy piece meant to allow an artist to show off their skill - and in this collection, Iona has composed a tocatta all her own, comprising richly detailed vignettes of other people’s lives, which she so masterfully shows us, are not so very different from ours after all.

Moira. Peter and Moira, growing up together, were in no doubt that they were meant to be together, in spite of the jealousy of Luke, another reservation boy, who was determined to have Moira for himself. Peter and Moira are tested by a woman who comes to their reservation, but what for? And then came the Parth Path clearance, which changed everything for both children as Moira was taken away and Peter was taken to Man Camp 7 and given his new name.

The Parth Path by Oliver Eade is a tale of love, hate, deceit, sex and control all wrapped up in the intrigue of a world dominated by women who look to parthenogenesis as the way forward. The story begins with a young man, Peter (now known as Solem), escaping from a Man Camp alongside Rea, a woman who has been cloned. They are hoping to find The Island, where they could live in peace. But how did Peter and Rea manage to escape from the Man Camp? What will happen if they reach the Island and can they live happily ever after, or have those in charge got a different plan for them both? Meanwhile Peter is haunted by memories of his childhood in Cape Wrath, where he lived on a Reservation with his parents and sister and alongside his sweetheart

The Parth Path is set in a post-apocalyptic Scotland, where women are in charge. Parthenogenesis is the way that women were aiming to make sure that men not only don’t rule again, especially after the Great Man War, but have no part to play in ruling the world, apart from the use of their genes in the genetic perfection programme. Ultimately though, The Parth Path is a love story interwoven into a nightmare world where no-one knows who is who and who exactly is wielding the power. The twists and turns as the story unfolds keeps the reader guessing the whole time. The Parth Path is another Oliver Eade page-turner, which I just couldn’t put down.A thoroughly enjoyable, if somewhat disturbing novel.

#issue 33 | Winter 2020

37


The Eildon Tree

Stitch By Samuel Tongue Tapsalteerie / Poetry Pamphlet 23 Pages

Lake Effect By Tim Craven Tapsalteerie / Poetry Pamphlet 22 Pages

An Offering By Stewart Sanderson Tapsalteerie / Poetry Pamphlet Reviewed by Julian Colton It is a regular gripe of this reviewer that, in recent years, many poetry publishers appear reluctant to invest in new high-quality individual writing. Instead, there has been a trend for anthologies, many of which are indicative of generic thinly spread ‘project’ opportunities. Blame it on austerity, the rise of the internet, ever decreasing arts funding or simply

38

#issue 33 | Winter 2020

the reluctance of publishers to back their editorial judgement with a fear of limited profits all driving an imperative to play safe. Not just in the field of poetry either. Playwriting and literary fiction opportunities have dwindled too, often replaced with communal thematic writing projects, and there are less writing residencies on offer and fewer workshop slots available for professional writers to supplement their incomes. So, it makes a refreshing change to be able to give praise to a publisher going against the grain of the anthology trend. These individual pamphlets by Tapsalteerie showcase three young male poets. All, it has to be said, displaying great potential. Each poet is articulate and confident about their form. This is deftly written, lyrical, inventive thought-provoking writing of the highest order. Perhaps it’s nit picking to strike a negative note, but here are a couple of minor irritations: The publications don’t have ISBN numbers, a situation which would irk me if I were a young writer trying to establish a wider readership and forge a reputation for myself. Given these are fairly short pamphlets, the poets have set a very high bar for themselves. Even within narrow confines there was a slight decline in the quality of the work towards the end. The challenge for all three poets going forward will be to create a future body of work commensurate with the standard exhibited in their collections’ best pieces. Each pamphlet costs five pounds, which seems an extremely fair price to pay for such good writing.


The Eildon Tree

Beyond Borders International Festival 24/25 August 2019 by Barbara Pollock Beyond Borders International Festival celebrated its tenth year, with a packed programme of international speakers and events. For the first time they held a series of three writing competitions, Beyond Writing, with the themes: Inspirational Women, Creative Peace, Beyond Borders. They were looking for fiction, non-fiction, journalism or storytelling of any kind. Entries came from as far a field as Indonesia and the United States. The standard of entries was considered high, with poetry winning each of the three contests. I was delighted to be short listed for the first of the competitions, Inspirational Women, for my short story, ‘Dreams are made of black holes and humming boxes,’ about a time traveling Marie Curie. The short listed winners were invited to take part in a workshop with competition judge, Jean Rafferty, award-winning journalist and author from Dove Tales, Association of Scottish Artists for Peace. Because of the international aspect of the competition not everyone was able to attend, so there was just five of us at the workshop; three from the Scottish Borders and the others from East Kilbride and Edinburgh. Jean told us about her journey from journalist to novelist, with 43 rejections before her first book, ‘Myra, Beyond Saddleworth,’ was accepted by an agent. It went on to be short listed for the Gordon Burn Literary Prize. Some of Jean’s advice was specific to each person and what they wanted to achieve with their writing, but other tips were more general. We did an exercise looking at several agent profiles from a literacy agency to choose which best fitted the projects we were working on. As well as helpful advice we came away with a folder of writers’ organizations, list of literary agents and new contacts.

The short listed and winning entries can be viewed under the headings of media/ archives/ 2019 at: www.beyondbordersscotland.com Other links: www.jeanrafferty.com www.dovetalesscotalnd.co.uk

Top tips from author Jean Rafferty 1. Find your own niche: Leave your self doubt behind. Your work is good enough and people will want to read it. As an artist of any kind, you are offering up a bit of yourself; this is the core of your writing. Skills can be learnt. Sell yourself – what do you have to offer that is different from other people? Know who you are writing for. 2. Build your community of writers: Join writer groups, take part in on- line forums; attend workshops and events. 3. Build up your profile: Enter competitions, submit to anthologies. It is best to submit original work to competitions; some anthologies will accept previously published work, as long as it is acknowledged. 4. Take part in Open mik events: Take every opportunity to read out your work. Once you get your work published you will need to do publicity events. Get used to reading your work in public. Start off small. Beforehand read aloud to yourself twice, find the key words and build up the rhythm. Take note of any words you have difficulty pronouncing. 5. Be persistent/ Getting an agent: Multiple submissions are acceptable. You may need to send off many query letters and synopses to get a favorable response. Dealing with rejection is part of the process. Make sure your novel is completed before submission, if they are interested they may ask to read it straight away. If you are writing a series, you don’t need to have all of them written but you need to have an outline. Jean aims for eight people to read her manuscript before sending to an agent. When pitching to agents try to link it to something that will make it marketable. If publishing poetry it is not necessary to get an agent. Collections of poems or short stories are better with a theme. 6. Have your own webpage. Every writer should have their own webpage to promote their work with extracts of work and information about upcoming events. Social media is a valuable tool. 7. Self publishing: There are various ways to do this which might not be too costly, but you will need to market it yourself. Self publishing poetry with a small print run, sold locally is a good option. Lightning Source produces good quality books. 8. Funding: Creative Scotland has opportunities to apply for grants for research and run courses.

#issue 33 | Winter 2020

39


The Eildon Tree complicated loyalties. But his story doesn’t end here; Harry still needs a refuge and must flee. The scene is set for the continuation of his story.

The Prophet’s Grief by Pamela Gordon Hoad Silver Quill Publishing 2019 380 pages PBK / £9.99 ISBN:978-1-912513-62-8 © Copyright Gwen Chessell 2019 Some readers may wish to read Pamela Gordon Hoad’s novel as an intriguing, exciting and complex narrative. But its setting in the turbulent times of the second quarter of the 15th century is what drives this latest adventure of the physician and detective, Harry Somers. This is the fifth book in the series and begins when Harry and his wife, Kate, are staying in a priory as they travel to London from Dover. Harry has just lost his protector, the Duke of Suffolk, murdered as he tried to cross the Channel to escape his enemies. As they plan to continue their journey, word comes of discontented men on the roads, gathering for a possible uprising in a place that already has resonance from the previous revolt. Seeking refuge on the way is important, as Kate is fragile, suffering delusions and mentally affected from previous abusive experiences. They arrive at a manorial estate and we are plunged immediately into grisly and upsetting incidents – foul murders, child abduction and worse. Honest, well-meaning and sometimes prone to uncomfortable self-analysis, Harry Somers is a man of conflicting loyalties, sometimes unwitting loyalties that are not always of his choosing. But one loyalty that is unchanging is that towards his wife, no matter what befalls. The mentally deranged but beautiful Kate who shuns her husband and has suffered cruelly at the hands of other men is an additional complication in his adventures. Her condition is a constant worry to him. His consideration for her plight and his

40

#issue 33 | Winter 2020

continuing love is compounded by his guilt at betraying her in mind and body. The men gathering on Harry’s route to London are part of the large army intent on putting their grievances before King Henry VI, grievances related to the wars with the French and the loss of Normandy. Harry meets the charismatic soldier, Jack Cade (also known as Mortimer) who leads the uprising. Soon he is inveigled into joining Cade as his physician but it isn’t long before he finds his trust in him destroyed. Unlike the Peasant’s Revolt of 70 years earlier, this is an uprising against corrupt politics and administration and in which nobles and gentry alike are on different sides. Attempts are being made continually by these unscrupulous men and their followers to draw Harry into their webs. Intimidated and assailed physically and mentally by both sides, he strives to reconcile both his personal and professional loyalties. The narrative moves on with pace and vivid colourfulness, leading up to a dramatic climax which will remove one, at least, of Harry’s

It is clear that Pamela Hoad’s extensive research enables her to know the twists and turns of events in that fractious and turbulent time inside out. Set against the political rivalry arising from the weakness of the reigning king, Henry VI, the events which Pamela Hoad depicts so graphically will presage what has become known as the Wars of the Roses. The story is complex and has a wide spread of imaginary characters, strengthened by historic figures from that time. A list of characters, arranged in order of appearance, is useful in keeping the reader informed. While the narrative must be a continuation of Harry’s previous adventures, it would have been useful for a short preamble to have been included, at the start of chapter one, for the reader coming to the series for the first time. This is not a comfortable read and the language is often stark and uncompromising; Hoad does not shrink from imagining for us some of the more unsavoury realities of life at that time. The way she has inserted herself so vividly into an era far removed from the 21st century is a remarkable achievement.


The Eildon Tree with them, no matter how difficult that journey might be, or how long it takes. Worry Stones is a touching exploration of one woman’s journey which, like childhood, will stay with you long after it is over.

Worry Stones by Joanna Lilley Ronsdale Press PBK 284 Pages / $18.95 ISBN 978-1-55380-541-0 Review by Sara Clark It was wonderful to be given a chance to read this beautiful book, written by former Eildon Tree contributor Joanna Lilley, whose short story, The Silver Salmon, was published by us in 2005 and marked the beginning of a career which saw Lilley through so many successes as she achieved her dream of having a book published. Whilst Worry Stones is Joanna Lilley’s fourth book, it is her debut novel and what a novel it is, radiant with those page-turning qualities which keep a reader awake long into the night, enveloped in an unseen world of words. I took a lot away from reading Worry Stones, not the least of which was that no matter what age you are, our childhoods remains with us throughout life, far off places we feel compelled to return to time and time again until we are at peace

The protagonist of Worry Stones, Jenny Ross is a British art historian living in Canada, the youngest daughter of a family split by religious beliefs and conflicting ambitions and whilst she has blossomed since leaving her homeland, exploring her passion for Inuit art (not to mention a handsome geologist), she can’t help but answer a call for aid from her unwell mother, and in so doing, revisit a past which was such a source of pressure to her in her childhood. And she does it all with the help of her collection of “worry stones” - finding comfort in clutching a piece of the earth which she takes such habitual joy in.

house Tapsalteerie, and hopefully not the last, Makar/Unmakar is the a difficult book to review, for all the right reasons – showcasing twelve innovative contemporary poets with such divergent styles as to make a summing up of just how important its existence is almost impossible. Props then, not only to Duncan Lockerbie and his team, but also Calum Rodger – their vision and ambition in collecting and curating this diverse anthology of poets living and writing in Scotland has paid back the Scottish poetry scene tenfold since its release.

Set in Peebles, and released in Canada to critical acclaim, Worry Stones is an intricately written novel which bursts with joy at the beauty of nature. Brilliantly written and with a meditative quality which lulls the reader into a blissful trance of page-turning reverie, this is a book to take with you wherever you have a moment’s peace - and if not, don’t worry - it will create one for you.

Makar / Unmakar: Twelve Contemporary Poets In Scotland Edited by Calum Rodger Tapsalteerie 2019 PBK 156 pages / £9.99 ISBN 978-1-9162148-0-4 Review by Sara Clark The first book-length publication from Aberdeenshire-based publishing

With poems by Juana Adcock, Tessa Berring, Callie Gardner, Harry Josephine Giles, Colin Herd, Daisy Lafarge, Nick-e Melville, Iain Morrison, Nat Raha, Maria Sledmere, Alice Tarbuck & Kate Tough, this anthology is as exhilarating as it is necessary, and a huge milestone for lovers and practitioners of contemporary poetry the world over. As anyone who has been lucky enough to see any of these artists on stage will know, these are poets who excel not just on the page, but in performance also. The

#issue 33 | Winter 2020

41


The Eildon Tree experience of reading the book, with its insightful and heartfelt introductions to each poet, the unfolding of each writer’s themes, and disparate approaches to poetry, is a unique and unforgettable mixture of everything that’s best about live shows and the printed word alike. Makar / Unmakar is a must-read glimpse into the worlds of some of the most gifted poets working outside the mainstream in Scotland today - I cannot recommend it highly enough.

Hamethochts by Elaine Morton Evertype 2019 PBK 85 pages ISBN 978-1-78201-239-9 Review by Sara Clark As a big fan of Lallans magazine, I’ve long admired the poetry of Elaine Morton, and this collection has made me admire her even more as a person. Some poetry collections are good. Some are important. Very few are unique. This collection is all three, and quite unlike anything that has gone before it in the best possible way. In this book, Morton has developed a body of work both inspiring and unique, and no-one who reads it is ever likely to forget the experience. I often open a poetry book at a random page and start to read, but Hamethochts is very intelligently laid out in a way which reels the reader in with four main themes, Fowk, Fasherie, Fleegaries and Feelins, each one exacting its own magnetic pull with its impeccable meter and lyrical skill, until each poem has been read once, twice, three times, then left reluctantly behind for the next.

42

#issue 33 | Winter 2020

No matter how good the poetry, layout matters, and I was genuinely gripped and gratified by the thematic progression of the poems, their order and layout. These poems are wistful, powerful and energetic Scots incantations, immaculately wrought and gorgeously typeset, and as such, putting a bookmark between them is very difficult to do. Whether the impeccable ease with which Morton uses Scots is a hard-earned skill or a genius all her own, her use of the language is compelling, almost musical, and so skilfully de-anglocentric that each of her poems seems an answer to Macdiarmid’s call for a Scots renaissance in a strong, clear voice that captures the attention and swells the heart to bursting point. Which brings me to the publisher. Evertype has already given so many marvelous books to the world, and Michael Everson is one of Scottish publishing’s brightest stars, focussing, as he does, on publishing high standard minority-language writing as accurately and beautifully as he can. A linguist, typsetter and font-designer as well as a publisher, in this book alone, Everson has surpassed himself. In thinking of how to sum up a collection this good, I was put in mind of Seamus Heaney’s poem, A Birl for Burns, in which he wrote: And though his first tongue’s going, gone, And word lists now get added on And even words like stroan and thrawn Have to be glossed, In Burns’s rhymes they travel on And won’t be lost. These words are true of Morton, of Hamethochts, and of Everson, whose work to preserve and promote minority languages is unparalleled in the Scots poetry scene. He has captured the timeless beauty of

Morton’s poetry perfectly in this immaculately made collection, which is all set to be an especially welcome arrival on bookshelves in Scotland and beyond. Hamethochts is the best new collection of 2019.


The Eildon Tree

For further details please visit www.liveborders.org.uk/ theeildontreeandwritersgroup  eildontree@liveborders1.org.uk  01750 726400

ET #34 SUBMISSIONS WELCOME To coincide with the Scottish Mental Health Arts Festival (SMHAF) in May, the forthcoming issue of The Eildon Tree will explore the festival theme of ‘Perspectives’. This follows the tremendous success of our Connected Creative Writing and Wellbeing Issue (Issue 32) last year. The Eildon Tree is inviting poems, stories and articles that explore the theme, within the context of mental health and wellbeing. Creative writing has a therapeutic quality with writers working through their mindful preoccupations to reach a kind of catharsis or a personal understanding of life’s problems and circumstances. Of course, writing for just the sheer pleasure of writing can have its benefits in terms of mental health and wellbeing too. So, don’t be overawed or hamstrung by the theme. Write about whatever you want to, but bear the theme in mind as much as you can. Suffice to say, ‘Perspectives’ can and will be interpreted in the broadest sense. How the theme is explored and expressed is down to each individual writer, but if the last Creative Writing and Well-being issue is anything to go by, we fully expect very wide-ranging, exciting, thoughtprovoking and enjoyable submissions. So, get writing. You have until 31 March 2020 to submit. We can’t wait to read your pieces. The normal submission size criteria will apply. Please submit a maximum of 4 poems, stories or articles up to 3,000 words. Electronic submissions are our preferred format, please use Ariel 12pt, single line spacing and unjustified margin. A brief biography with a maximum 40 words should also be submitted. Eildon Tree is a collaboration with the Joint Health Improvement Team, Public Health NHS Borders and Scottish Borders Council.

#issue 33 | Winter 2020

43


FICTION

FICTION

LIBRARY FINES WE’VE MADE THEM FICTION

RDERS LIVE BO W HAVE NO

E ABOLISHY

“BRILLIANT! Return your overdue undamaged, library items to your local library NO CHARGES to pay.”

D

LIBRAR FINES!

WE ARE ALSO HAPPY TO REACTIVATE ANY LAPSED LIBRARY MEMBERSHIPS SO YOU CAN ENJOY USING YOUR LIBRARY AGAIN.

www.liveborders.org.uk

Registration No SC243577 | Registered Charity No SC034227

Profile for Live Borders

Eildon Tree Issue 33  

Eildon Tree Issue 33  

Advertisement

Recommendations could not be loaded

Recommendations could not be loaded

Recommendations could not be loaded

Recommendations could not be loaded