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PUSHING OUT THE BOAT 11

FOREWORD Having run a festival for over ten years, the selection of a balanced and diverse programme of writers is never something I would underestimate. It is almost an art in itself, as vital as the selection of images in a poem or the paring down of narrative in a short story. Get it wrong and the whole will fall with the parts; get it right and the selection will enhance the contents, each resonating with the other. Enhanced by beautiful artwork, this excellent collection takes the reader through a positive festival of forms – from poems to short stories, prose poems to found poems – through haunting images, intriguing stories and allusive narratives – looking intently at families, relationships and domestic life, at the natural world and the cultivated world. The journey takes us from an Indian cremation, past neighbours calling the social worker, to the old Botanic Gardens Station in Glasgow. Along the way we encounter Moebius strips, flying bananas, the daily alien, aphid sex, a night ritual and a gentleman spider. We take in unbaked dough, zeppelins, spaces-ships and submarines, even a really strong glue that fixes chairs to walls! We pass peacefully by the River Don, roll place names round our tongues and study maps of the Angus coast. All set for Pushing Out the Boat where we surely get the widest view of great new writing and the visual arts from the North East and beyond. Anchors aweigh!

Brian Johnstone Brian Johnstone is Festival Consultant, StAnza: Scotland’s International Poetry Festival (Co-founder 1998; Festival Director 2001-2010).

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Contents Page 4 Page 5 Page 6 Page 7 Page 12 Page 13 Page 14 Page 15 Page 16 Page 17 Page 19 Page 20 Page 21 Page 22 Page 23 Page 24 Page 30 Page 31 Page 32 Page 33 Page 34 Page 39 Page 40 Page 41 Page 42 Page 46 Page 47 Page 48 Page 49 Page 50 Page 51 Page 53 Page 54 Page 55 Page 56 Page 57

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After the Deluge image by David Elder January poem by Kris Erin Anderson Upset poem by Haworth Hodgkinson Coffee Time image by Fiona Francis MacLean Daniel Does Lunch story by Vivien Jones Pocket Noost image by Douglas Robertson Bas Baille - Rotal image by Douglas Robertson By the Don poem by Mark Edwards Glasgow Botanic Gardens poem by Neil Russell Persimmon and Rose & Quince and Chilli images by Lynn Winters Chattri story by Stuart Condie Field Stacks image by Hilary de Vries Missing poem by James Andrew Sinclair Through the Lighthouse Glass image by David Elder Callum Learning Butterfly & The Injured Party & His Heart’s in the Right Place poems by Heather Reid Jonathan Saunders Offers image by Sarah Ellen Taylor A View Fae Duffhaven story by Linda Smith Pinnacles Desert X image by Tim Winters Peel Myself from the Ceiling & You in Your Pissy Little Car poems by Jill Henderson Golden Showers at the North Athens Symposium & Hopening poems by Graeme Smith Manhattan Stairway image by David Pettigrew This the Last Day story by Chelsea Cargill South Breakwater, Aberdeen image by Val Thomson. Night Ritual poem by Maureen Ross The Love Calculations of the Gentleman Spider poem by Maureen Ross Husbandry in Heaven story by Eleanor Fordyce Saturday image by Fiona Jappy Prayer for Great Grandfather poem by Stephen Busby Summer Morning Dew image by Beate Allerton The Piano Player & They Live Like Trees poems by Lara S Williams Get Back Better On image by Eleanor Leonne Bennett Malupa and the Flying Bananas story by Martin Walsh The Orchestra of the Forest image by Neil Russell Platform poem by Mark Cassidy Instructions to Arachne poem by Mark Cassidy Good Night and Good Luck poem by Richard Watt Dodo Island image by Lindsay Johnston Pushing Out the Boat 11


Contents Page 58 A Lack of Parental Care story by Heather Reid Page 62 Your house in Valenza poem by Janette Ayachi Page 63 If You’ve Time poem by Kate Percival There image by Lucy Telford Page 64 Moths poem by Denise Setterington Page 65 Polo Mints poem by Denise Setterington Page 66 Words o Wisdom fae my Omniscient Auntie story by Alison M Green Page 67 Wind Beggar image by Keith Moul Page 68 Corvus Frugiligus image by Neil Russell Page 69 flock poem by Judith Taylor New Year poem by Jen Cooper Page 70 DVF Offers image by Sarah Ellen Taylor Page 71 So poem by Rachel Fox Life’s a Ladder poem by Anne Rogers Page 72 Natural Systems story by Morag Paterson Page 74 Flyway image by Lisa Gribbon Page 75 Time Travel poem by Valentina Cano East Coast Lullaby poem by Lesley Harrison Page 76 Waiting for William story by Douglas Bruton Page 79 The Quest Image by Hana Horack Page 80 Belongings & Anchorite poems by Richie McCaffery Page 81 Curried Kisses poem by E E Chandler Page 82 Stampede image by Donnie Ross Page 83 The Tunnel story by Denise Setterington Page 86 Prada Offers image by Sarah Ellen Taylor Page 87 The Daily Alien & Inhabiting the Door poems by Angela Arnold Page 88 Yoshi’s Hearts image by Lindsay Johnston page 89 knowing one’s place & la ronde poems by Mandy Macdonald Page 90 Contributor Information Thabiso image by Ann Craig Page 92 Magazine Information [Team, Outlets and Supporters] Page 93 Page 95 Visual Footnote image by Ralph Steadman image by David Pettigrew Front Cover: New York [oil on canvas] Inside Front: The Sand that Blew Towards Us [pinhole photo taken on FujiPro 400 film] image by Lucy Telford Pink Lakes 1 [mixed media on canvas} image by Tim Winters image by Gerrard Lindley Inside Back: From Above [acrylic/ink on paper] Copyright @ Pushing Out the Boat (POTB) 2012: the contents may not be used or reproduced without crediting POTB and the author/artist; any commercial re-use or reproduction of a contribution requires prior permission from the editor’s representative and the particular contributor.

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After the Deluge

David Elder photograph

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January On Sunday we discover how deep we can sink into couch cushions and count on fists the days without rain. Fields without flowers, matted grass, trees too tired to fight against the wind. We are not at a beginning but the middle – grey and silent. We bury thoughts beneath blankets and braid our legs into one. The paper sits, unread on the coffee table. We try to move but cannot break apart this jigsaw puzzle.

Kris Erin Anderson

Upset the dining table had one cardboard leg which was fine until it started raining

Haworth Hodgkinson

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Coffee Time

Fiona Francis MacLean oil

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Daniel Does Lunch

H

is mobile trilled as he crossed the foyer. He glanced at its tiny screen. Mira.

He touched a button. “Yes?” Although the phone turned everyone’s voice metallic it couldn’t counterfeit the raw steel in Mira’s tone. “It’s me. I know today’s special, sweetie, but something’s come up. Can we do dinner instead? We could go to Marco’s. I’ll book.” He paused to keep the disappointment from his voice. She became impatient, insistent. “Daniel. DANIEL.” “Ok, Mira… dinner then.” “I’ll ring you when I’ve booked. Bye sweetie.” She was gone, the signal dead before he could say goodbye. He could see her, already on the way out of her office, on the way to whatever had come up. There was an advert exactly like it. A meeting that couldn’t happen without her. She would rush in, a fan of papers under her arm, apologising for her unavoidable lateness, toss her hair back, smile around the table and everyone would be glad she was there. He wished she was here. He pocketed the mobile and wondered what he should do now. Too late to join the office crowd at the pub and anyway, he didn’t want their birthday greetings: silly string and sillier gags, too much beer and a hangover before dinner. He had failed to keep his birthday secret from them; one of the secretaries had e-mailed them all. On his desk lay the collection of chocolate willies, joke Viagra and foil balloons with ‘Stud’ and ‘Big-Boy’ in red letters - that had been their response. His was an office of energetic executives, the cream of his generation. He was amazed at their childishness. No point in sulking, he thought to himself, what’s wrong with childishness anyway? He had loved being a child, especially birthdays. His mother had a birthday scheme for all four of them: on your birthday you chose the meal, no matter what it was, and everyone ate it. His sister, Ruth, had once chosen jelly baby sandwiches and Lucozade and they had all dutifully scoffed them, but he always chose something he knew they liked as well. When he thought about it, he had never actually chosen the meal that he wanted. “Always pleasing others…” his Mother had said. Had it been entirely a compliment?

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Daniel Does Lunch He knew what to do then. He walked towards the river and the taxi ranks and found the place he wanted by smell – frying onions. Sam’s Caff. Menu and prices on a dusty blackboard propped up in the window beside a picture of a plate of steaming fish and chips. Wilting petunias in a window box struggling under a tiling of ketchup-smeared polystyrene trays. A greasy cat, lurking by the bin and its tumbled contents, smirked at Daniel, one paw trapping a paper flecked with chip-ends. “Hello, Puss.” He offered a hand. The cat arched and hissed at him, the claws of its free paw clenching on the concrete with a rasping sound, the other firmly fixed on its lunch. Daniel smiled. “I’ll get my own, shall I?” he said as he passed the cat and went through the open door. A veil of cigarette smoke floated across the Formica tables and bentwood chairs. At the counter a glass cabinet was stacked with white rolls, pies and pasties; an urn steamed relentlessly beside it. A large pan of oily onion slices writhed on a hot plate next to another with pale orange beans. A spotted youth swathed in dirty whites stood wielding a soup-coated ladle. He looked hard at Daniel, wondering who he was and what his business was. Daniel looked at the youth then at the blackboard behind him: Burgers’n’Chips Sausage’n’Chips Hot Dogs’n’Chips Bacon Butty Sam’s Home-Made Soup Rolls (ask for fillings). Scribbled in less careful letters at the bottom was: Vegetarian: Cheese (sorry no fish today), squeezed out of blackboard space by: Today’s choice: Curry’n’Chips or in a Roll. Daniel considered carefully exactly what he wanted. Having realised that Daniel was reading the menu, the youth’s mouth hung open in dread. Was he from the Environmental? Health and Safety (better not let him see the bacon and everything-else slicer)? He stood in front of the offending machine. “What kind of burgers are they?” Daniel asked. The youth stared at him. “What’s in the burgers?” Daniel repeated. “Meat,” the youth offered.

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Daniel Does Lunch “What kind of meat? Are they beef or ham?” Daniel expanded. “Mince.” The youth picked up a raw burger and looked at it, offering it to Daniel to inspect. “Mince,” he repeated. Daniel looked at it. His mouth watered. “Fine. I’ll have a burger in a roll with onions, baked beans and chips. And a large cup of tea.” Daniel felt so hungry. “Just a minute - what is the soup today?” The youth looked surprised, then mightily relieved. “Same as every day. Mixed vegetable.” He waved the ladle at Daniel then dipped it deeply into a pan and stirred up a waft of hot soup. “And it’s home-made?” Daniel asked. “Yeh, I make it in the morning. Mix the powder with the water. No lumps. Don’t let it boil. Sam showed me. No tins,” the youth said proudly. “Fine, I’ll have the soup too then,” Daniel beamed, all thoughts of gazpacho and consommé dispatched. “Mug or a bowl?” The youth was in his stride. “Mug please, and a roll.” So was Daniel. ‘I’ve got crotons,” the youth confessed. Daniel was taken aback. The youth rummaged in a bowl by the hob. He palmed a handful of bread squares and showed them to Daniel: “I could put herbs on them.” He shook a canister at Daniel. “Oh, croutons… No, I’d prefer the roll, thanks, ” he said cheerfully. “Do you want your tea while you wait?” the youth asked. “Yes, that would be good.” Daniel looked round and saw that the table by the window was empty. Its red gingham oilcloth hung at an angle, but the red plastic tomato sauce, the yellow plastic mustard and the HP Sauce bottle were there. Glass peppers and salts and brown vinegar completed the set. The youth pushed a mug of dark brown tea across the counter and pointed to a large bowl of crusty white sugar. “Help yourself, ” he indicated a mug full of spoons beside it.

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Daniel Does Lunch He turned away and began to assemble Daniel’s lunch, oiling the hotplate, immersing the hissing chips, wiping a smear of margarine across the inside of a roll. Daniel stirred two large spoonfuls of sugar into the tea and made his way to the table. If the occupants of the other tables thought him an odd customer they hardly lifted their heads to acknowledge him. He stared out of the window, sipping the scalding liquid and watching the cat still scavenging around the bin. The youth appeared beside him holding a steaming mug in one hand and a plate with a roll in the other. Out of his top pocket he pulled a spoon in a paper serviette. “Mind, it’s hot,” he warned. Daniel suddenly thought of his last visit to Marco’s and the waiter who had brought scarcely warm soup: Flageolet Bean and Leek Potage. Inedible. His name on his apron (Marco’s whim) was Aaron. Supercilious prat: “It’s supposed to be served warm, sir.” That slight emphasis; that emphatic sneer. “What’s your name?” Daniel asked. The youth stared at him. Daniel smiled. “Billy.” He wasn’t keen. He still suspected an official. “Thank you, Billy. It smells very good,” Daniel said, tucking the paper serviette under his chin. “I’ll fix your chips,” Billy said, moving away. Daniel sipped the salty soup with pleasure. Something in the taste spoke of bacon ends but the hot rich mixture of vegetables and flavourings, coating the bread lumps he dipped into it, restored to him a well-being he hadn’t felt for years. He thought of a Japanese businessman he’d lunched with a week before who had carried to the table a small sprinkler of white powder, which he poured over each expensive course. Eyebrows had been raised. He had laughed. “Monosodium glutamate! Your food, to me, tastes of nothing.” He discovered tears in his eyes and thought it was the heat of the soup. Billy was back just as he finished with a plate brimming with hot thick chips and a roll stuffed with bubbling burger and a frill of oily onions pouring over the side. A pool of beans curved round the roll, dampening the bottom. Daniel sighed deeply. He sniffed. “Is it OK?” Billy asked, confident it was. “Mmmm… Smells lovely,” Daniel confirmed.

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Daniel Does Lunch He picked up the tomato ketchup and up-ended it, then squeezed and directed the sauce in graffiti streaks all over the chips. Then he raised the lid of the roll and poured a thick teardrop of brown mucous sauce onto the burger. He squashed down the lid until the sauce oozed from the side. He shook (not drizzled… oh, Marco) brown malt vinegar, then salt, over the plateful and carefully unwrapped the large knife and fork from its serviette. ~~~ “Did you do lunch, sweetie?” “Yes.” “Anywhere I know?” “Don’t think so.” “What did you have?” “Birthday meal.” “What’s that then, sweetie?” “Oh, beef; onions; haricots; batons; bread.” “Sounds refreshingly rustic. French, was it?” “No. Anglo Saxon if anything.” “Oh… You must take me some time, darling… Are you ready? Marco is cooling a superb Vichyssoise for your birthday… specially. Come here and let me kiss you. Happy Birthday, my darling.”

Vivien Jones

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Pocket Noost

Douglas Robertson mixed media, carved and painted wood,

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beach-combed tobacco tin

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Bas Baille – Rotal

Douglas Robertson mixed media, carved and painted wood

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By the Don how long you gonna nurse this despite my best advice knowing full well what was lost will not return is further from here than whoever you’re wishing would chap the door to pass on news more urgent or that rarest of things a song weaved so tight the very ground begins to shudder at this point surely you’d pause to consider then again if I was in the vicinity somewhere along the road and up the brae early making the rounds shuffling past the greasy papers the usual chill plus last night’s chips repeating what you need to do is carry your arms in silence trust your own wounds believe certain waiting rooms given time will allow the leaves to turn and no doubt the sweeping can commence surely you’ll recall at a stretch 3 decades back when tricks of the light blinded your eyes a glancing header too fast and wide this cold hearth creeping steadily forwards scratching itself muttering next to one last sinkful of somebody else’s dirty weekend dishes you meet him there your jack the lad your spitting eldest best dressed uncle the man you promised the world some would say you murdered

Mark Edwards

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Botanic Gardens Station, Glasgow STOBCROSS KELVINBRIDGE BOTANIC GARDENS All change for: Himalya (geranium allichia) North America (mahonia aquifolium) New Mexico (heuchra sanguinea) China (lychris yunnanensis) Tibet (rosa davidii) All change: Spring (1888) Summer (1896) Autumn (1939) Winter (1964) All change…

Neil Russell

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Persimmon and Rose

Quince and Chilli

Lynn Winters

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both images oil on canvas Pushing Out the Boat 11


Chattri

V

iolet looked at herself in the hall mirror while Father was fussing in the study. The new grey cotton dress was easier to wear than the old one, though she didn’t like the white apron going all the way up to her collar. She turned her arm to admire the St John’s badge, a large eight-pointed cross, then picked up her cloak and black felt hat. Could she go to Sanjay’s funeral today, and see him one last time? Violet hadn’t said anything to her parents; there was much to say, but none of it would be well received. The only person she could speak to was Betty, one of the nurses she worked with in Brighton. They were both volunteers, their uniform giving them the freedom to go wherever they pleased, without the confines of a chaperone. Mother had been against Violet’s volunteering, but had been overruled by Father, who thought it would be good to have someone in the household contributing to the War effort. Outside Father and Violet waited for the hansom cab, the air damp but mild. Father smiled at Violet as if reading her thoughts - though she knew he couldn’t, as he wouldn’t be smiling otherwise. The cab pulled up, the horse nodding and whinnying; inside Violet could smell the leather seats and the horse’s sweat. Father dropped her off at the hospital: converted from the Royal Pavilion, a fantasy of onion domes, colonnades and minarets, it now took injured Indian soldiers from the Front. The wounded often seemed dazed by the massive chandeliers, statues of elephants and tigers, and brightly coloured Chinese wall paintings. Rules forbade nurses to have any physical contact with the sick Indians, so Violet and Betty emptied bedpans, changed bedding, or helped the male orderlies. At lunchtime Violet asked about Sanjay’s funeral. “Women aren’t normally allowed at Indian cremations,” said her nursing officer, “but you can go straight to the site, with Betty, and look on.” She then gave Violet directions for the tram and the track onto the Downs. Violet met Betty at an inner courtyard in the hospital, and they watched as a photographer took pictures of Sanjay lying on his bier - a rough wooden frame with handles. His body was covered with printed cretonne, bright blue and pink flowers on a dark background. “His shoulders are naked,” Violet whispered and closed her eyes to squash back any tears. White chrysanthemums were then strewn around Sanjay, his face was covered, and the bier carefully placed in a black motor-hearse. ~~~

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Chattri Violet and Betty were standing at the edge of a copse, next to the cremation site. The copse creaked in the breeze, oozing the acrid smell of rot. Though it had stopped raining, Violet could hear water dropping onto the dead matted leaves. Above her a seagull cried, an ugly gash of a sound, as it weaved circles in the dull sky. The cremation site was cut into the slope, with three platforms of cement and a rough screen of corrugated iron. There were heaps of chopped wood and straw, covered by tarpaulins, next to the platforms. A rush of bile burnt the back of Violet’s throat, and with another spasm she threw up onto a patch of ivy and dried leaves. “Sick again? People will talk you know!” Betty laughed, and put her arm around Violet. “It’s just a chill.” Violet wiped her mouth with her handkerchief, and checked she hadn’t stained her cloak. There were now orange lights on the track below, torches held aloft, marking the passage of the cremation party. The mourners’ chanting could be heard above the tramping of feet as they carried Sanjay’s bier up the hill and laid it down next to the cement platforms. The mourners were mostly Indian hospital staff, but also a few soldiers and some English officers. As there were no women present, Violet and Betty decided to stay at the edge of the copse – spectators rather than participants. An Indian orderly came forward and swept one of the platforms with a hand brush; he then sprinkled water from a pewter pot onto the cement, and drew back the cloth from Sanjay’s face. Violet dragged her eyes away and looked up at the grey sky. The gulls cried in mockery as she watched them head out to sea. The Indian mourners were now gathered around the bier, sprinkling it with water and dabbing Sanjay’s face with honey and oils. They left relics around his body, then settled on their haunches and resumed chanting. The English officers shuffled back but remained standing, their heads bowed and hands clasped, so Violet and Betty did the same. The nurses listened to the chanting, sometimes shrill, sometimes little more than a murmur; it ended with a loud shout. Violet looked up to see that Sanjay’s bier had been placed on the platform and heaped up with the lumps of wood and straw. The same Indian orderly now came forward and lit crystals of camphor on a spoon on the end of a long pole; when these were aflame, he thrust the pole into the centre of the pyre and set the straw and wood ablaze. Violet stared at Sanjay’s body, a supine shadow behind the smoke and fire, and tears flowed down her cheeks. She listened to the wood crackling, and the spitting of the flames when the Indians threw on their oils, and imagined Sanjay’s spirit reaching out to her.

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Chattri The fire had been pale and yellow to start, but now darkened in colour, dancing the jig of the wind and reaching higher into the sky. Ash and soot plumed up in the air then settled down onto the coats of the mourners, who discreetly brushed their collars, slowly retreating backwards from the pyre of the dead orderly. “Will you miss Sanjay?” asked Betty, as they walked back down the track. “Yes,” said Violet, but couldn’t bring herself to say more.

Stuart Condie

Field Stacks

Hilary de Vries watercolour and pencil Pushing Out the Boat 11

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Missing I hadn’t seen you around for a while. Our baker in the local supermarket said she spoke to you last Tuesday. I asked the shopping trollies in the car park. I asked a tourist taking a photograph. I saw no sign of you in the bus shelter but spotted a cigarette butt, the type you smoke. I even clambered down on to the beach and spoke to the seals, who said you hadn’t fed them in a couple of days. I searched all around town, street by street. Talking to a bricklayer who had run out of cement a nurse who had forgotten to wash her hands and some children who didn’t know how to use the swings. I climbed on roof-tops and looked from chimney-pots. Searched down storm drains and hunted beneath rotten piers. I looked everywhere …until ten minutes ago I spoke to a gardener who remembered you smelling his roses yesterday.

James Andrew Sinclair

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Through the Lighthouse Glass

David Elder Colour photograph Pushing Out the Boat 11

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Callum Learning Butterfly I watch you cross the pool, a half-drowned angel trying hard to jettison his wings, a wounded mallard flailing in distress. How you’d look perched on a cliff, teetering above the sea and pin-wheeling your arms against the wind. Nothing swims like this not mammal, fish or bird, not butterfly.

The Injured Party The day is notable as a family outing: my mother has taken care to make me the centre of the photograph, a generation on either side father, grandmother - like clipped wings, and a blackbird, who we shall call, the injured party, stunned and blinking in my hands. Our family, attempting togetherness, the sun, filling the spaces between us, wide enough to hold a diary or a poem, and the air, trembling around the bird.

His Heart’s in the Right Place is how you’ve been described, as if it might be otherwise: wedged beside the spleen, perhaps, or swollen in a vein, the ultimate in chic designer clots. But, is that what you want, a good-boy’s heart as comfortable as beans on toast or marriage, an organ with a bland Bontempi beat? Or one that takes a leap, abseils down a pendant chain to rough camp on the camber of a breast; Or wakes up, bruised and baffled, with the satisfying itch of healing skin? A heart that’s gone astray, a displaced heart.

Heather Reid

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Jonathan Saunders Offers

Sarah Ellen Taylor watercolour, acrylic, graphite & platinum leaf on hand-dyed canvas

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A View fae Duffhaven

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he gull rode the win, files drappin doon past lums that puffed a pale stream o rick, files skimmin masts that swayed an jangled in the harbour, afore swoopin up ower the whin-clarted cliffs, an settlin at last on the battlement o a ruined keep that hid lang kept watch ower the fishin toun an its folk. She furled her wings, smoothin oot ony runkles wi her sharp yella neb, and turnt her prood heid tae watch the aul mannie walkin up the path. As Deek reached the tap, twa young loons on bikes peeled awa fae the tower an took aff at speed doon the brae, tossin abuse ower their shooders an near spinnin him aff his feet. “Ach weel,” he muttert, minin his ain hallyracket youth. He’d been an ill-trickit bairn, causin grief tae his mither an her on her ain. Back then he wid hae been up Ness Heid in twa shakes o a lamb’s tail, nae pechin like he wis noo. He didnae ken fit hid taen him tae climb up here onywey. Efter his operation the new young doctor hid tellt him: ‘Keep up the exercise, Mr Wiseman. Nothing too strenuous, just your usual stroll along the shore road.’ Richt enough the doctor must hae seen him on his traivels an it wis nae secret that Deek an a few ither aul bodies, fishers like himsel, wid walk oot an roon the toon fitivver the wither, enjoyin the claik an the saut win in their faces. But a pairt o him kent this climb tae Ness Heid wid probably be the last. Founert, Deek sank doon on the widden bench that some kindly body hid proppit against the wa o the keep. Though scratted wi graffiti an daubed wi birdshit, it looked like it micht haud him up fer the short time he wid be bidin.

“Ah’ll sit here a mintie an admire the artwork – ‘Chantelle an Damian wiz here’ – fit kine o name’s at tae ca yer bairns? An gaun bi the drawin at’s nae aa they were daein.” The gull gied him a snooty look afore raxin her wings an swoopin doon on a pucklie crisp packets the loons hid left ahin. “Larus argentatus, the herring gull, maist abundant an best kent o aa gulls. Only there’s nae herrin aroon nooadays an nae mony boats fer that maitter, but that disnae bather you, ye scrounger! Ye’re oot in the parks follyin anither maister noo.” Deek ay likit tae ken aboot things in the encyclopaedia kine o wey . Aye an spik aboot them an aa, the folk o Duffhaven wid say. “Pewlies in Duffhaven, scurries in the Broch an in the whale islands o the North, ye’re cried whitemaas.” A gweed name that wis, he thocht, the Orkney chiels were grand at the namin; an it soonded jist like the noise they did mak, a sad, farawa soun, a lament, a wake fer the days o the bulgin, sea-spewin nets.

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A View fae Duffhaven “Fit wid the great Duff chieftain think noo o the toun he’d founded and – nae show withoot Punch - ca’ed efter himsel, dingin doon the peer hoosies that hid clung tae the shore for centuries an biggin a fine new place, wi a harbour packit fu wi boats an rivallin ony that his rich friens hid?” Deek pintit a swollen, blue-knuckled finger at the gull, fa turned awa, shakkin its heid as if in disbelief at sic on-gaans. Near sliverin wi rage at the thocht o folk sae ill-used, Deek leant back against the roch steens an wis quaet for a mintie. A big built mannie he wis yet, wi een a pale wattery blue fae strainin tae catch ower mony horizons an muckle hauns picklit bi the satty soss o years spent at sea. “An noo folk snicher ahin their hauns an say wi a self-righteous smirk that ‘och aye it’s a hard job an a that, Ah widnae dee’t masel, but the fishers hiv brocht it a on themsels. They wis greedy an got abeen themsels an ran the seas dry o fish.’ “ ‘We hiv tae cut back,’ the heid bummers cry, meanin the fishers, nae themsels of course, nae the men in suits in Edinburgh, in London, in Brussels,” Deek hid leapt oot o his seat by this time an wis jabbin his finger at an imaginary map. Affrontit, the seagull pattered awa an raised the scythin blades o its wings, ready for flight. “Nae mention o the lang years o poverty, hale toons ruled by the men that owned the boats, bi the fish merchants in their grand granite hooses wi wives in silks an bairns at funcy skweels, while the fishin faimlies crammed intae the sea touns, hooses ticht-packit, gable eyn tae the fearsome sea that took their sons an husbands year on year. “An aa roon the East Coast, the fishin quines, hauns reid ra, sent guttin knives singin ower barrels o siller darlins; an the fisher wives, bairns happit ticht in shawlies, bent ower ganseys tae knit, lines tae bait, nets tae mend. Skirts kiltit, legs mottlit blue wi caul, they wid boo doon an cairry their men, safe an dry tae the boat an wid weyt lang nichts on stormfu shores, weyt lang nichts on the edge o the skirlin warld, keenin in their herts like the gulls that swirled abeen them, keenin for the souls o the lost, keenin for the men doomed tae lie forivver twined in the saat spangled airms o the jealous sea. “It’s nae wunner that fan times were gweed an the ordinary fisher got his hauns on some siller at last, that some o them wid ging on the batter. Onywey wi a life like that, oot on the grey wastes, fechtin the only wild beast we hinna tamed or damned tae extinction – but there’s time yet - ye canna blame the young eens showin aff, spinnin roon the toon in flash cars. Like the drink, it stops ye mindin...”

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A View fae Duffhaven ... eence, rushin tae land a gweed catch, he wis yarkit aff his feet bi a sudden wave an coupit intae the sea. Doon he went, tummlin ower an ower, made blind an deef bi the hurly gush o icy watter. The skipper, aye a swack bugger, hauled him up in the net an he cam roon on the deck, jeeled tae the marra, floppin an flounderin wi the rest o the fishes. ‘God, min, we thocht ye wis a fuckin goner.’ … worn oot wi the rantin, Deek’s voice trailed awa tae a wheezin whisper, “It stops ye thinkin aboot decks slooshin wi gut an scale an bleed, thon sair win that cuts richt through ye an aye the sea, aye the saat sea shiftin forivver aboot the spinnin warld.” The gull settlit again but didnae move back tae its perch aside the aul mannie. Wipin the spittle fae his mou Deek leant forrit, hauns on his knees, strainin fer anither breath, and watched a car makkin its wey slowly alang the shore road. It wid be jist passin the Duffhaven Airms, if it wis still there, but like athin else in Duffhaven, it hid closed doon. Bert the barman hidnae lastit lang efter Janet hid deid, mebbe he wis fonder o her than folk thocht. Tae abody’s surprise, his aul mither hid oot-lived him an hid tried tae keep the pub gaun wi a string o eeseless managers, fa didnae ken the first thing aboot runnin a bar. Aye, they hid plenty bits o paper fae the college, but nae smeddum an afore the regulars kennt fit hid hit them, there wis disco music an wall-tae-wall teenagers, fechtin an spewin a roon the place. Mrs Watt hid fled tae fit they cried a ‘care home’ noo. The high heid yins o the cooncil were fair fond o their funcy new names - that hid dodgy on-goins mair like, Deek would say. Afore lang she wis jined in the home placie by JC, twistit wi arthritis efter years pleiterin aboot the ferm in a withers wi jist an aul tattie sack ower his shooders. His mucker Alfie hid slippit awa as quaetly as he’d lived, faain asleep in the corner o the bar. Fan Deek lookit up fae his book tae tell him it wis closin time, Alfie sighed jist the eence an wis gaun. The car hid appeared again an wis headin roon the far side o the bay past the aul tarry fish sheds an net poles. His ain hoose wis een o a raw o fisher cottages huddlin intae the cliffs, but wi windaes facin oot tae sea, nae sidey-on like sae mony o them. It hid been his mither’s hoose an he’d bocht it awa back fan the gweed times cam for fishers an the landlord wintit shot o them. ‘Nae rakin in enough siller, nae doot.’ Deek hid said, fan he read the letter. His mither hid been a bittie feert at first, like aa her generation, scared o fallin intae debt, but wis fair tricket fan she realised she could pent it ony colour she wintit an nivver again wid hae tae ging cap in haun tae ask for repairs. Double-glazed, wi central heatin and an indoor lavvie, it wis a fine wee hoosie and she lived her last few years in some comfort. He wis gled aboot that.

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A View fae Duffhaven An efter she wis gone an he hid the place tae himself – his breethers were lang awa an wi faimlies o their ain – he’d filled the hoose wi books an maps. Best o aa he’d pit a cheer in the bay windae o his bedroom far he could sit aa year roon wi his binoculars at his side, a gweed book an the sea in aa its mony moods for company. Brisk dark blue on fine winter days fan the line o the horizon wis sharp drawn by a ruler. Pale pearly blue like tae a silken goon on a summer nicht. Beaten tae the colour o siller by a late sun. Fleein landwards, waves furlin oot like flags fan the storms cam fleein up the Firth. The sea hid wyvit its glisterin patterns in an oot o his dreams aa the days o his life. Fae his windae he could see the aul pier far in the lang simmer days he an his pals hid fished for podlies. There wis times yet fan he could feel the warmth o the steens on the back o his legs, look doon intae watter sae clear ye could see the sandy fleer wi the saft curls o sandworm leavins an sniff up the rank wafts o dryin seaweed. Ower the ither side o that wis the rocky beach far a gang o them wid hunt for oors for the flattest steens tae skim across the watter. Best o aa wis fan the tide wis comin in an they wid loup fae rock tae rock, tryin tae mak the farrest oot, withoot gettin weet. Later they wid lie flat oot on the shingle, dryin their sipin claes an puffin on fags chored fae the paper shop. Some days fan the paper shop mannie wis ower fly, they would feek up tangle pipies wi pluffers, a lang, teuch bit o tangle an baccy harvested fae tabbies they’d fun roon the harbour. Gin they were hungry they would bile up wulks in a tin can or roast limpets on a flat bit o tin hauden ower the firie. “Tastit like satty rubber,” he whispert tae the gull. “But dinna tell onybody Ah said that.” The steens o the aul pier aye drew him. Aa different sizes an proppit up the wey, nae in neat lines, they were. Ye could see the effort it had taen tae mak. The builders hid bade wi the sea, kennt the weys o the sea, gied the sea its dues, like folk in the aulden days hid treated their gods. An tae the fishin folk the sea wis a god, a chuncy god that wid gie bounty wi ae haun an takk awa with the ither. “Niffey, niffey, nick nack, fit haun will ye takk?” That wis fit gaed wrang fan he wint tae the university in Aiberdeen. Naethin tae dee wi the college, he’d soakit up the lectures an the dark glory o the library at Kings, but Deek hid felt mair an mair that he wis losin the sea. It wis as if the ties, that thirled him tae the mithersea, that fed his spirit, his life, hid been cut. He thocht folk in Aiberdeen hid turnt their backs on the sea, that hid eence meant sae much tae them. Aye, they took plenty fae it an wid takk plenty mair, but thon deepforged link wis broken.

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A View fae Duffhaven “Ower muckle granite atween me an the sea.” At his worst, he thocht that the sharp glintins o the granite wis salty spindrift trapped an frozen forivver in time. Withoot the sea, he wis naethin an, fan summer cam, he packit his books an hitched back tae Duffhaven on the back o a fish larry, driven by a loon he wint tae skweel wi. Aside him the gull shiftit its feet, saft pinkish webs clingin lichtly tae the stanes, afore openin its beak an giein a guttural hoast. “Lettin yer muckers ken ye’re here?” said Deek. It wis a gran lookin bird. Folk didnae appreciate foo handsome they were, jist girned aboot the shit on their cars an the unholy racket in the mornings. Deek hid lang gotten eesed tae the noise. Tae him gulls were the true voice o the sea. His grandfaither aye thocht they were the souls o lost fishers, but Deek wisnae sae sure o that. Gulls fished the sea lang afore men did. Their herts beat tae the rhythm o the sea, sang in time wi the comin an goin o the tides. The car hid disappeared noo ahin the new hooses that hid spread oot alang the Broch Road. Mo bade up there, Janet’s frien. Like sae mony ithers, her man hid left the sea, efter thon decommissioning caper, an hid jined the crew o a supply boat that kept the ile rigs gaun. Safer, he wid say, wi mair money. Mo drove a big car, wore aa the latest claes, wint funcy holidays abroad, but aneth aa the gear she wis still the gallus quine she aye wis an stoppit for a news fanivver she hid the chunce. She wisnae fooled by money an possessions, she kent they werenae the hale story. ‘Ah still mine the aul days, Deek an aa the folk that’s been taen. It wis mebbe a sair fecht workin in the fish sheds fan we wis young an some o thae auler wimmen wis gey roch, but God did they ken hoo tae work an if ye did yer turn an didnae girn ower much, they would aye staun by ye. They kent fa we were an far we cam fae. Nooadays, weel…’ He likit Mo. Files he thocht her an him could hae made a go o it, but he wisnae keen on the duncin or the picters an tae be honest he jist nivver got roon till it. There wis ay anither book that hid tae be read. Oh there hid been wimmen. The kind that hung aboot the harbour bars in Kirkwall an Lochinver, Lerwick an Mallaig. An he’d been weel drunk. Efter, tae his shame, he couldnae hae tellt ye fit they looked like. There hid been a student quine fan he wis in Aiberdeen. Sma, skinny an darkheided wi the bonniest broon een he’d ivver seen, but wi her it had been a folk music an bannin the bomb, she wis nivver aff the heid o the road, protestin this an savin that. Ower mony causes tae fecht.

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A View fae Duffhaven ‘You haven’t the commitment, Derek,’ she’d thrown at him ower her shooder, aff tae some meeting or ither. She wis richt of course. For him, there wis naethin but the sea an the sma toun clingin tae the shores o the Moray Firth. He couldna staun aa thon spikkin. She had already lost her Aiberdeen accent on the road tae somewey else. Years later, he’d seen a photie in the paper. It wis her, at least it could hae been her, he wisnae sure, on the airm o some big-wig or ither. Deek leant back against the wa o the keep. He wis tired, affa tired. The sky had a fite look noo, losin its colour, an oot tae sea a haar wis drawin up. Doon on the far shore he could mak oot a puckle wee boaties comin in an sma figures duncin aboot, draggin them up the shingle beach, their chants o joy jinin wi the skirlin o the pewlies that sailed ower sandy bents an thrift starred cliffs. They ran aboot the bay, nosin intae rock pools an caves, pickin up shells, stoppin tae drink at the burn that tummelt uncheckit tae the sea, afore climbin Ness Heid an streamin past Deek oot intae a new land. Sma an dark they were, an antrin folk, he thocht, but strong an kennin the wey, mebbe the first folk o these pairts. He wis turnin, as if tae follie them, fan he saw the longship in the bay, oars shippit, men o the North stridin through the waves, battle shields tae the fore. Wimmen an bairns skirlit by, fleein Viking aixes. Black burnin rick rose lamentin fae the shore. Ahin him, the clink o metal on stone garred him loup. Swytin masons laid the founs o a castle keep. Doon on the rocks far a sma pier wis takkin shape, anither gang o labourers passed muckle stanes fae haun tae haun. Gunfire, cannonblast, bluid on the stanes. A soldier rode oot o the mist, looked on the ruined castle an the bourach o hoosies on the shore. A toun rose oot o the ashes o the aul wi a fine new harbour. “Zulus, Fifies, herrin drifters,” whispert Deek, hertbroken. A ghaist o a moon rose ower Ness Heid. Below a fishin boat plooed its wey intae Duffhaven harbour, een o the few that wis left. Lichts were comin on in the toon. The herrin gull raxed its wings in salute tae the aul mannie on the bench, pattered tae the edge o the cliff an lifted aff intae the wattery reaches o the sky.

Linda Smith

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Pinnacles Desert X

Tim Winters mixed media on paper

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Peel Myself from the Ceiling I’m going to fill the room with candles and have the dark turned to orange and lemon. I want the air to smell of fruit instead of salt and sea. The ceiling will flicker in flames and I will lie on the floor and look at it from the furthest point pretending to be above it looking down. Like I’m glued to the ceiling with a really strong glue that fixes chairs to walls and then you can sit on them. Clever. That’ll be me. Glued to the ceiling by my clothes looking down. The candles will burn out and the orange and lemon will fade. The fruit will be replaced with salt and sea. The dark will return in greys and purples and I will peel myself from the ceiling and climb back to the floor.

You in Your Pissy Little Car You in your pissy little car scaring folk with your foot on the accelerator in first All the way up the road 'til second can't be avoided You in your pissy little car

Jill Henderson

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Golden Showers at the North Athens Symposium Welcome to doorways of jackpot cigarette butts and old-aged lottery tickets, a plastic bottle of three-litres of cyanide apples, and raincoats of candid celebrity interviews, MPs' expenses and swine flu, offering rooms with a view - altars of dream-filled chapels. Broken people amble, hurting their way from Pilton to Pilrig - check in on the City Limits there still there, so... stable? From the outstretched black-nailed hand to the downcast red-blurred eyes there's a hope-intoxicated transmutation of copper coin, the neo-medieval practice of mental alchemy under street-light and sleet. Tin-beer breath becomes Bacchic chant, stumbles from Hunter's Square to Tollcross banks the satyrs dance - we're all cloven-hooved, pissing and swaying under smokestench arches: pour fortified libations to the celestially roofed. Achilles McGraw's, out on the town, battling his way to out or to down.

Hopening picture it and hold it for it folds in on itself in multiplicities so intricate beyond the hands of workerbees or artisans or alchemist but this is more than gold for here we stand with awe-struck open mouths, facing formless worlds, for this new world is not a globe because a globe is but a sphere and here we're bound in shapes of slaves forever bound to recreate and dance old rituals to young graves but NOW we're colours heaped on colours and the patterns always change you'll never own it but be thankful that in feeling it in some small way you've saved.

Graeme Smith

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Manhatten Stairway

David Pettigrew

photograph

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This, the Last Day

T

o the Society for the Charitable Relief of the Outlying Islands, Glasgow, on the tenth of September, 1890.

Dear Honourable Sirs, I am sending this letter courtesy of HMS Lord of the Seas, tethered for a brief moment to our rocky harbour. This ship has become such a welcome sight on our bird-filled and yet empty horizon. I do hope the waves remain steady before the captain sets sail for less treacherous shores. Allow me to tell you more of this little island, which may cause our way of life to appear to you as if from another age. In hunting season the village is covered in feathers. Feathers stuffed in sacks, feathers used to make bedcovers and nets, feathers adorning women’s hair so that they too resemble the frightful gannets. Soon feathers adorn the church altar and bird-oil lights the vestry, leaving a foul smell. I receive gifts from my parishioners: pillows that reek of the worst excrescences of seadetritus, bird-meat (when will they ever learn to catch fish like civilised men?) and stinking ointment, made from I do not know what part of the wretched birds, for my gout. After each expedition, I lead the islanders in prayer so we may entreat that the smell of fish oil, regurgitated from the unfortunate creatures’ bellies, may fade this time with more haste, and to acknowledge that God has gifted this singular bounty upon us for a reason. Dear Friends, I know you have nothing but our welfare at heart. For this reason I must mention that some of the villagers were dismayed when three days past brought sight of the aforementioned vessel, doing its biennial rounds and casting ashore at each of the islands in turn – ours being last, owing to our relative and vast isolation – without bringing the relief that we had so piously hoped for. I trusted my pleas had not been lost in transit, though Our Lord God works in ways even I cannot comprehend, as a man of the cloth. Who am I to complain if He so wishes us to perish? We are always most grateful for the kind thoughts that are bestowed upon us from distant benefactors – and, upon my encouragement, the parishioners are still remembering you in their prayers every other Sabbath. Please do not be offended that more frequent praise is not offered; we have to rotate our celestial good wishes on a fortnightly basis, as there are other beneficiaries of this craggy outcrop. We must remember, for instance, the Society for the Protection of Indigent Seafarers, who worked tirelessly for the castaways washed ashore these few years past, having no choice but to stay and adapt to the harsh peculiarities of life here. How glad were those lost souls for the tokens sent to them by their kind Providence! May God speed this envoy. Yours ever, the Reverend Alasdair J. MacPherson, St Kilda, Outmost Hebrides.

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This, the Last Day To The Times, London, on the third of April, 1891. From the pen of Mme Margaret le Fey of Rose Cottages, Oxford. Dear Sirs, I am now taking the opportunity of informing the Gentlemen of your esteemed publication, and indeed the waiting public, of my arrival on the remote isle of St Kilda. No doubt you have been waiting anxiously for news of my safety. I appreciate that much was done to secure my comfort on what was a treacherous and uncharted voyage into the unknown! And yet, although I did indeed encounter many situations of extreme danger - which not even the generous intervention of my patron, Thomas Lipton Esq, was able to prevent – do be assured that my skills as a writer of literature were more than able to capture the perils of my journey. I arrived on the island these three days past to much fanfare. Mr Lipton, philanthropist of unending virtue, had assured me all courtesy would be extended upon my arrival and – there they all were! – waiting with outstretched arms; momentarily relieved from the wretched struggle of their daily lives; waiting to greet us and receive our generous gifts. The Reverend of this place, a Mr MacPherson, was moved to tears of gratitude on sight of the two fishing vessels, made especially for the St Kildans~ and inscribed with ‘Lipton’s Tea’ on both sides. “Thank God our prayers have been answered!” he declared. Not to mention how pleased Mr Lipton will be upon hearing that his philanthropy extends now to the furthest inhabited outcrop of the Great British Isles. Perhaps the inhabitants might grow to like the superior quality of his tea and hope for it to be present on the decks of every landing ship! On that first day, the Reverend, as the only resident English-speaker, was charged with introducing me to the rugged existence of those on this mist-covered island. We walked along the main street, the entrances to dark cottages yawning on both sides, while the women span and gathered wool and the men talked together in their own incomprehensible, nuanced tongue. “But what are they saying?” I enquired of the good Reverend. “They are preparing for the next gathering of their parliament,” he said, turning towards me with his small, penetrating eyes. “We will talk of all the changes that must come,” he continued, as I pulled my thick tweed dress closer to protect me from the biting wind. “Not all desire contact with the outside world,” he said, his face folding into a kind of grimace as he looked across the bleak landscape, “but it must come.” And yet I could not agree. I desired so much, and still do, to have their ancestral way of life preserved, and I hope my correspondence will do something in favour of this cause.

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This, the Last Day I am of exotic descent, as is widely known. This may be why I was immediately drawn to the rugged presence of a foreigner, his fair hair and tall physique standing out against the desolate backdrop. “We know him with affection as John,” said the Reverend, after we were introduced. “I have taught him English – the islanders’ obscure inflection of Gaelic being useless to him – and Scripture.” I asked John how he came to be here and, his English being so rudimentary, he was forced to re-enact the story. This he did with great vigour, his arms flailing and his sea-coloured eyes flashing as the story of his shipwreck was told with all its romance and daring. At once I knew him as the hero of my next book: a strong sailor who falls in love with a beautiful, older society lady. During my visit I was treated to a display of the most wonderful feats of bravery. I stood on the shore, along with the American tourists with whom I had travelled, and we marvelled at the islanders as they scaled down the sheer side of a stack with only ropes to protect them from being dashed on the rocks below! John did not take it upon himself to tempt fate by abseiling down the devilish crag – given his narrow escape when his ship was sunk. Yet he collected gifts from our dumb-struck party, holding his cap proudly for donations, which were plentiful, given the breathtaking and rare event we had just witnessed. And so I close my envoy on this, the last day. My parting is indeed sorrowful, not just for myself, but for John, who is distraught at the thought of my leaving. He has offered me many gifts that we might stay together, but no – I said – I cannot have you parted from this magical, chosen land. Unending blessings until next time. Your Mme le Fey. ~ ~ ~

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This, the Last Day To the Society for the Charitable Relief of the Outlying Islands, Glasgow, on the ninth of September, 1891. Sirs, As each year dictates, the island sprang to life after five long winter months of chewing on salted seabirds and cursing the stormy crags that left us without fresh food for all the black nights. There was activity, bustling, smiling, work songs being sung while nets were woven out of horsehair and bamboo sticks (a gift from the Philanthropists). The special rituals were enacted; a puffin was caught and plucked of his feathers save that of the wings, then set down to shiver in the ocean like a Christian tossed to a den of lions. Such customs, from which I have not yet been able to deliver the people, signal some of the cruelty to come; eggs taken from nests, ground-traps designed to ensnare sad puffins coming to the rescue of a trapped brother. And this year the preparations were in vain. After the first night of hunting, the castaway I had christened John – on account of his own being unpronounceable – burst into the Manse at first light as I was preparing a sermon. At his feet lay the lifeless and smashed body of one of our shipwreck friends. Behind him on the pale hills the men were coming back from the cliffs broken and with empty sacks. “It is not natural to set out in the dead of night - and on a moonless night of all things! To try to land on the sheer cliff in pitch blackness…” he gasped in his thick accent. “I am a sailor, and refused to climb any cliff face! While the island men boasted of their brushes with death, their near-falls and encounters with indignant birds intent on pecking their eyes out, I had to navigate the waters to a landing place with nothing to grasp onto but sheer rock, my fingertips clinging onto the slightest indent in the stone and holding the entire weight of the boat, myself and five men, while the sea swelled and took away any safe harbour.” (Please forgive my slight embellishment of John’s delivery to make it more comprehensible to civilised ears – A. J. MacP). “I fell in the sea many times, emerging with cuts on my arms and hands after having struggled against the current that wanted to pull me down and drown me!” He pointed to lacerations on his weather-beaten skin. “As the men began the ascent,” (using ropes gifted to us by the Scottish Zoological Society – A. J. MacP) “I was left alone and shivering, and my clothes were layers of ice against my battered skin. Birds dropped down into the boat. Many hit the ocean and bobbed lifeless but white like beacons. Then cries fell down from the cliff-face that were not of birds; and men dropped also into the sea, one of them my castaway brother.” I put my hand on his shoulder as dawn was breaking over the treeless landscape. “Why can’t they fish like any normal people would?” John cursed. “We are surrounded by open water on all sides. How long must we continue this merciless struggle?” And yet I am not without blame in all of this. For last night as the men sailed out I said to the dark heavens, “God forbid the village becomes a mass of feathers once

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This, the Last Day more, and putrid oil, the women laughing at our feckless bounty, not given by God but inflicted on the worn and battered as a kind of penance.” May He forgive my ingratitude for the putrid harvest we have reaped for so many years. Of course I instructed the islanders to pray. They protested at first, being descended from pagans, and not entirely free from a certain wildness engendered by living on what seems at times like the edge of the known world. Centuries of superstition still cast watery shadows here until fairly recently – in fact, their vanquish, I must say in humility, corresponds to my being posted here from the safety of my local parish. “But how will this help us secure food?” wailed one of the congregation as I instructed them to kneel. “We need help!” sounded another voice from the dark interior of the church. “We have not enough food to last the winter, and may all be dead before the Spring returns!” But now, on the third day, it is agreed that entreaty to a higher power is our only chance of rescue. We are left without sustenance while the winter enfolds us, hoping that a passing trawler, on course to happier seas, may throw us a few scraps. I hope that you can see how much we now rely on your charity. The islanders are no longer skilled in navigating this unforgiving land, and now depend on the world beyond its vast waters. Yours penitently, the Reverend Alasdair J. MacPherson, St Kilda.

~~~

To The Society for the Protection of Indigent Seafarers, London, September 1891. Please help me. I tried to come on the ship to return to the main country and then to home but they would not take me. I do not have papers they said. Where did I come from, they said, but they did not hear. I cannot live on this island which has been forsaken by God. I cannot eat birds and light the oil of birds or use bird ointment on my aching body. I fear I will go mad. Feathers line my belly and torment me in sleep. The boats here they crash and break open on the rocks. It is not a place for sailors. Please let me have the papers. Please help me if you are a true brother, for my name is not John. Jurgis Latvszijnski.

Chelsea Cargill

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South Breakwater, Aberdeen

Val Thompson acrylic

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Night Ritual

Gach aon oidhche He comes from the back through the kitchen; a stooping walk, arms cradling something too tightly swaddled for a baby. He crosses the floor and bending to the fire opens the door on the late evening smoulder, places the bundle far to the back, tucking it in among the embers. A faint hiss; he has no need to watch but closes the door. The slow night heat will render to ash newspaper wrapped peelings and discards of the day. He knows he stoops to the fire like his father but she has stopped telling him that. They say nothing. He takes the old black flute from the mantelpiece and placing his tongue behind his teeth lets the notes rise on his breath as soft and light as ash.

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The Love Calculations of the Gentleman Spider

knowing he may be utterly consumed by his great love he prepares the food thoughtfully and in serving, stands well back observing her replete, relaxed he sets out cautiously drawn along the twin-tight, steel-eyed gossamers of lust and fear plucking love songs as he goes in heart-stop hopes his identity (lover rather than dessert) is unequivocally clear only then he begins to tip-tongue his way past her teeth.

Maureen Ross

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Husbandry in Heaven

W

ho would have thought the old man to have had so much blood in him? God, where did that come from? Shades of the past right enough. Did I say it out loud? Pull yourself together, woman. What kind of line is that to come out with at your husband’s funeral tea? Pity you can’t be here, Harry: you’d be dead chuffed to see the crowd that turned up to see you shuffle off your mortal coil. You’ll remember what’s her name… the blonde with the IQ of a dumpling? …Marigold. What kind of name is that, for God’s sake? She’s turned up looking like ‘the innocent flower’, dabbing her eyes with her Armani hanky. “Yes, it was such a shock, Marigold. You’re right. It’s just as well we don’t know what’s in front of us.” “And will you go back to work now, Connie? Maths teacher, weren’t you?” “English, Marigold. And no, I’ve no need to go back to work. Harry left me well provided for.” “Well, as you would expect with an accountant, I suppose. I’ll… we’ll all miss him at the office. He was such a joker, never a dull moment with Harry. I still can’t believe he’s gone. How will you cope?” “Yes, it will be difficult, but I’m sure Harry wouldn’t want me to be miserable. As Christina Rossetti said, ‘Better by far you should forget and smile, Than that you should remember and be sad.’ “Oh, Connie, you have such clever friends to write such lovely words. Well, I’ll have to take my leave. As you say, life has to go on and I have a hair appointment. I can see you’ve had no time to think of such mundane things yourself. Bye for now.” God, Harry, you can’t half pick them. ‘False face must hide what the false heart doth know’ right enough. Fancy her knowing a word like ‘mundane’. I’m almost impressed. Oh hell, here’s my favourite sister-in-law making a beeline for the volau-vents – or me. “Connie, I don’t know how you manage it, holding yourself together the way you have. No-one would guess you’d just lost the dearest man and in such tragic circumstances.” “Yes, Vera. It wasn’t exactly how Harry would have chosen to go, but it could be said that ‘nothing in his life became him like the leaving it.’ If he’d survived he’d have been telling the story for weeks.”

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Husbandry in Heaven “Well, maybe so. I’ll… we’ll miss him. Will you be selling that big house now – downsizing? Bill was saying there should be quite a few bits and pieces of their mother’s he wouldn’t want sold off. Not that we’re bothered, of course, although the Doulton figures should fetch a bob or two.” “I’ll be making no big decisions in a hurry, Vera. Have a vol-au-vent. They’re made with sour cream.” Harry, I have to say, one of the benefits of your untimely death is that I’ll no longer have to care what I say to your extended family. Never mind, only a few more daggered smiles and handshakes to go. “Aye, Connie, I was just saying to Jack here, chopped down in his prime, he was. What a loss.” “He wisna a blinkin tree, Joyce. Chopped down in his prime? Mair like fa’an doon, thinkin o whit happened.” “Okay, okay Jack. All I meant was it would have been easier, Connie, if you’d been prepared.” “Well, Joyce, maybe it’s better when you don’t know – all over before you realise what’s hit you, so to speak.” “And it was you who found him, I hear. What a shock to see him like that.” “Yes, Joyce. I can’t pretend it was easy. The image stays with you. But when all’s said and done, ‘the sleeping and the dead are but as pictures’ – albeit there was the gash to his head and the blood.” “Joyce, yer no bein very sensitive here. Maybe Connie disna want tae be reminded o these things. Onywye, it’s time we were awa.” “Of course. Connie, I’ll… we’ll miss Harry. Take care.” Oh, Harry, I’m not sure how long I can keep this up. It’s just as well ‘there’s no art to find the mind’s construction in the face’ or they’d all be blushing. “Connie, how are you?” “Bearing up, John. And how’s my favourite History teacher? I thought I spied you at the service.”

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Husbandry in Heaven “I’ll be eternally grateful to Harry for providing the opportunity to escape 3X5. They’re hacking at the desks by the time they get to me. Make the rest of my day by telling me you’re coming back.” “And why would I want to when you keep telling me how bloody awful it is?” “You’re right. Preserve your sanity. History’s just part of a ‘Faculty’ now – led by a slip of a girl in a skirt up to her backside, a Geography teacher if you don’t mind. Apparently History’s likely to disappear: out of date, had its day. A quick snog in the cupboard with your good self would go a long way to alleviating the misery. You know I’ve always fancied you.” “Ha, so this is what life’s going to be like as a widow then – fending off lecherous History teachers.” “Seriously though, Connie, it’s maybe not the time or the place, but once you’re sorted, we could maybe meet up for a drink now and then?” “We’ll see, John. We’ll see.” Well, Harry. What did you make of that? Maybe I should think about his offer. He’s a good-looking guy, clever, makes me laugh. Who does that remind me of again? You, Harry? “Ah, Janice, I think most people have gone. The tea was fine. I’ll give you a hand to clear up.” “Thanks, Mrs Bruce. I’ll… we’ll all miss Harry at the pub.” ~~~ So, Harry, I’m in bed now, hoping to get some sleep: ‘sleep that knits up the ravelled sleave of care.’ It used to annoy you, that: me and my love affair with Shakespeare - but then I had to put up with a lot more. What I did find difficult to understand was why no friend or relative had the gumption to even hint at your adultery. It was only when I stopped work and started investigating, I realised why. By then you had spread your roving hands to not only the office staff, but also my nearest and dearest. Was there any woman at the funeral today you hadn’t slept with? Marigold, Joyce, Vera. Frances, my own sister, and God knows how many more. Janice was the final straw - the audacity of bedding one of my students, she who came for tuition on Macbeth, no less.

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Husbandry in Heaven Of course, I am no Lady Macbeth when it comes to summing up the courage to do a dastardly deed. Well, it’s a grey area, really. There you were standing in your Superman socks and dressing gown at the top of the stairs, whisky glass in hand, shock taking over from the blasé everybody-loves-Harry look. “Bugger,” you said, just like Captain Darling on hearing he was joining Blackadder and Baldrick, going over the top. And then you were lying at the bottom of the stairs. When push comes to shove, I can’t remember if I nudged you or my accusations caught you off guard and you backed away too far. I was genuinely shocked when you tumbled over and over in such spectacular fashion, and struck the corner of the balustrade with your head as you bounced off the wall. I had to presume you slipped! Poor Harry. ‘Out, out, brief candle’. Accidental Death. But I could have done it. Half the female population of the town no doubt suspect I did. In fact, to be honest, there’s a bit of me wants to take the credit. Yes, I know: ‘Love is not love which alters when it alteration finds’ - but I don’t think Shakespeare had serial adulterers in mind. I remember Mollie Harris, when Bill went, saying she didn’t mind being on her own, but she missed having someone there to whom she could comment on life’s trivialities: as in ‘The Postie’s late the day’, or ‘I’ve left the tomatoes on the back seat of the car’. I see what she meant now. Yes, I’ll miss you. But I’ve got the dog. He’s faithful and never strays beyond the gate. I usually know where he is and tonight, for a change, I can make a damn good guess where you are: you’re certainly not bonking behind any Pearly Gates. So goodnight, Harry. Time to light my candle.

Eleanor Fordyce

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Saturday

Fiona Jappy acrylic on board

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Prayer for Great Grandfather The writing on your gravestone has all worn away. I feel peaceful when I visit you there. It is a long way from my concern about the rising price of petrol but is not unconnected with my failure to feel grief. I know it doesn’t matter that weather has rendered the writing illegible. After all, so much life has already been lost in Africa and I still wake surprised in the mornings to find that I’m an optimist, and free. I look at the lambs in the field next to your resting place. At least they are not preoccupied with the pull of the past. History has no place in their impulse to play. Would that I could abandon myself like an animal, in the same way. Sometimes the quick coolness of clean sheets is sufficient or the first fall of fruit inside the back of the mouth or when in the supermarket someone smiles unexpectedly and this lingers like dark chocolate, and the last stroke of the sun. There’s no point in wondering why the wind has weathered your gravestone. The real treasure lies in touching what once was engraved there in the spirit of certainty more than a century ago. I like to trace your name with the soft, soft tips of my fingers and am surprised to find that what started as stone, when caressed tends in the end to crumble while all the grass in all the graveyards continues to grow.

Stephen Busby

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Summer Morning Dew

Beate Allerton

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photograph/digital art

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The Piano Player She plays piano concertos in the damp basement of her sister’s terrace, popping oily grapes one by one between straight ceramic sets. Their pipped hearts burst in the cracks across her tongue and she wipes juice from her chin on the quilted stool beneath. Apricot pits pile on the high G key like glass. Her bass tones echo up the cherry staircase into bedrooms where photos of nephews and aunts glare on bedside tables and windowsills. She touches every chord like a handshake, cradling trebles where newborn heads have lain, pressing each key like the weight could send words to ears of those never born.

They Live Like Trees They live like trees but not any we know. One bough touches the wet sod earth at all times, discouraging the heady lip sip of dreaming and travel without propulsion. They hang from stiff garnets of breeze and wave down passing walkers for talk and touch – one tooth pointing forward in preparation for the disintegration of loose-atomed carbon. Leaves shaved bright, rubbed raw by aphid sex, swim in loneliness; theirs are lives untainted or, more kindly, abandoned. Friends do not seek the comfort of trees nor recognise the wisdom found in roots grown so old the earth can not contain their lunges for air and light. They are playgrounds of sainted ghosts too old for dancing and young at the roots of their hair.

Lara S Williams

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Get Back Better On

Eleanor Leonne Bennett

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Malupa and the Flying Bananas

A

metal band was tightening around my head. It always happened in times of stress. The easy bit, the research, was finished; now the report had to be completed but time was running out. I was almost at the end of my period of secondment in Peru. Carrie had resigned her job to come and join me. But already she complained that I’d become impossible to live with. Instead of leaving my work behind at the Institute in Callao, I had started bringing it back to our rented apartment in Miraflores. The custom at the Institute was to finish work around 2pm, giving me the rest of the afternoon and the evening to continue at home. I was pitifully slow and needed every ounce of concentration to finalise my report. The afternoons were a godsend of tranquillity - most folk took a siesta in the drowsy heat. The only sounds that drifted up to our open windows were the cries of itinerant street vendors or the metallic clack of the knife grinders. They floated in with the tang of the Pacific. The problem was - working after dusk. That’s when our neighbours began their evening cacophony. It came straight through the walls, always starting with the same call, in the same female voice: “Ma – lu – pa!” It rang out like the cry of a lone howler monkey high in the forest canopy. The second call, in the same voice, would be a little louder: “Ma – LU – pa”.

The maid - it had to be the maid – never responded: maybe she was still enjoying her siesta; or was she deliberately ignoring them? After about five minutes, all the family, including the children with their high shrill voices, would be bellowing her name like a jungle chorus. It was only when the alpha male’s deep and angry roar finally joined in: “Ma – LU – pa,” that a muffled and grumpy response could be heard. By this time all attempts to continue my learned treatise had ground to a halt and my fingers were drumming an angry tattoo on the table. There would then be a brief period of calm when, once my fragile equilibrium had returned, I could work again. At this point in the evening, we assumed (although we had never been in our neighbour’s house) that Malupa would be busying herself preparing the evening meal for her vociferous employers. If I was lucky, a few more paragraphs of my report might struggle painfully onto the page. But then the real racket would begin. It seemed as if all the inhabitants of the barrio descended on the house next door to party. Was this typical Lima night-time behaviour? We never knew. But it kept us awake well into the early hours. By the penultimate night, sleep-deprived and with a report still unfinished, my pen juddered once more to a halt. Shaking with rage, I leapt up, my seat toppling noisily to the floor. I rushed past Carrie, ensconced in her book, to the room which overlooked our neighbour’s backyard. That’s where the racket was coming from: loud salsa music and

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Malupa and the Flying Bananas the shouted conversations of a raucous crowd. God, how I hated their noisy merriment! I peered into the throbbing darkness, but the walls around their yard were too high to see over. I had to get their attention, but how? This unfinished, roofless room, with its half-built walls (complete with electrical sockets!), was empty but for a washing line and the potted hibiscus which attracted humming birds during the day. I dashed back inside, desperately seeking some kind of dinmaker. The metal garbage bin! That would do. But what to beat it with? Ignoring the bin’s upended contents – a few avocado skins, some Inca Cola cans – my eyes lit on the tortilla pan! Back outside, it was obvious that I needed to be higher to view the revellers. Hurtling past Carrie yet again, I grabbed the only other chair. She looked at me irritably over her book: “What on earth has got into you?” Not deigning to reply, I zoomed outside and leapt onto the chair. Yes! I could just make out the tops of heads moving to the salsa beat. Holding the garbage bin with one hand, I crashed the pan against its side. The noise was impressive! Carrie came running - but beyond the wall nothing happened. The heads kept bobbing. Now incandescent, I drummed the bin even more frenetically. Suddenly the music stopped. We could hear whispered enquiries: “Eh, Carlos, que pasa? What’s happening? Ha oido este ruido? You hear that noise? Un golpe militar? A military coup?” This was the moment. At the top of my voice, I bawled out: “For fuck’s sake!! Como se puede trabajar? How can a person work? Como se puede dormir? How can one sleep?” There was a stunned silence. Then a lone voice filtered up through the scented night air: “Hey gringo, forget the work, forget the sleep, this is Lima. Come and join the party!” Before I had time to reply, the music started again. I was beside myself. Carrie, leaning statuesquely against the threshold, arms folded, smiled ironically: “Well that worked well!” This wasn’t the time for sarcasm. What I needed were missiles! Back inside I cast wildly about for something to hurl. But there was nothing; we had only the bare essentials for our short stay in Peru. Then I spied the bananas. Carrie watched me snatch them off the kitchen table: “You can’t take those, they’re our breakfast.” That’s what you think, I muttered to myself, dashing past her and leaping onto the chair. I ripped a single fruit from the bunch and aimed it at the head of a tall balding man. It missed. I worked my way through the bunch, trying different trajectories, lobbing, skimming, hurling – you name it - until only one remained. This I launched with all the venom and fury of a desperate man. It arced over the wall and out of sight. Then - glory be! A cry of anguish, distinctly audible even above the music. A direct hit! “Yes. YES. YES!” I pumped my right arm like a triumphant tennis player. The music stopped again. There followed gales of laughter and streams of unintelligible Peruvian Spanish. The wag spoke again: “Gringo, we like bananas; do you have more?”

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Malupa and the Flying Bananas Carrie began to laugh, to make comic faces, to wave her hands about. The music resumed. It was only then, gazing into her eyes, that I saw - at last - a reflection of myself, began to realize how unhinged I had become. “Look,” she said, “you’re not going to get any more work done tonight. You’ve got all tomorrow; why not make a fresh start early? Let’s go to the party. “ She began to move her hips. My anger leached away. “Fuck the report,” I said, putting my arm around her shoulders. The metal band had loosened a couple of notches. “Let’s salsa.”

Martin Walsh

The Orchestra of the Forest

Neil Russell ink-jet print

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Platform Under security mirror and manifesto of adverts, we who wait, watched over. Beneath the fish-eye stare I pace an edge’s yellow warning, taste dampness in September’s air, and scan the choice of company. Youth adjusts its midriff, selects new tracks to pass midday content in isolation. Down parallels of to-and-from I look to gauge direction; for unloosed words to run true as that line below bridges: each arch seen through a nearer one. The boundaries, brick and wooded, narrow to distant amber: our signal undecided. My train is overdue. A crisp bag crackles, and silent the first leaf falls, no end in view.

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Instructions to Arachne Begin with a line. Float it on the breeze of a single breath to another surface: the distance of thought. From the slack middle, drop your second to form a pivotal ‘Y’. Next, a scaffold of spokes anchor each to the frame. Build a platform at the hub. Make it firm: later, as you hang head down waiting latent, your belly will swell with ideas. In the seam of night and day trace a spiral outward. Briefly rest. Then, edge-to-centre back, spin your sticky script. Be nimble across the trap use your third claws. And punctuate weak gaps with extra thread. You may eat your guidelines. Feel tenderly for the struggle: unseen, its vibrations will reach you along silk-strong strands. End them with a bite.

Mark Cassidy

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Good Night and Good Luck Gently press your eyes for Ariadne thrills retrace a shaking corridor in search of some fresh Hell and vault the turnstiles with an empty stomach pinched by guts and gall.

Wake up! You’re far from home – and it’s raining – stood, cold at the paper lock with wilted cardboard keys, which make a soggy jingle as the drunken elms ignore your tread below.

You’re far from home with no spare change and thumbing for your keys you find them strange: rewind the mapping thread through the sighing streets towards a hated home.

Tripping on their cased roots you seem a wayward courier lamenting a cheap choice of shoe: coins threaten a heavy weight should rivers rise but you must blot sleep’s tollbooth stamp – you yawn where people eat.

Sometime you stop to peer between the leaves to jam a solace there with just a little cheer.

Burger vans and noodle bars, puff past the schoolyards and closes: bikes tangle like rutting deer and moan a cross-town promise.

Working late again, greet the doorman as the lift descends, already full of heady scents, embarrassments.

Always tired and in love: night-night fellows - the carward cry headed underground - the pit-pot-pip of rain jokes with the canopy.

The bustling thicket of shop girls don’t know your name but you don’t care: your dream girl clicks her heels in a perfume poster.

~~~

Wishboned from the world a daily detour along the easier road. ~~~

The last ebbing tide of tonight: a viola, cello, contrabass make trails in the hard frost. Musicians with brown hard cases leave with the glimmer of the moon. Pianissimo, a lilting memory of fullness bows the air in the empty hall.

Richard Watt

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Dodo Island

Lyndsay Johnston

digital image from illustration

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A Lack of Parental Care

Y

ou have to take it one day at a time, that’s what they say: grief is organic and you have to let it run its course. Like winter days, the darkest, bleakest ones that seem to rumble on until you think that spring won’t come. But still you have to hang on to the hope of it. That’s how it is: just waiting for light and buds and hope.

It’s hard to know whether it was the letter, or the pencil sticking out of Peter’s ear that triggered it. She was reading the letter out loud, mouthing off about doctors and how they think they know it all and how this one in particular – Doctor Armstrong – always trailed a banner of letters behind his name when he wanted something done. She waved the offending paper in the air, flapping it noisily. Peter, sitting two desks away, tipped his chair back against the wall and rested his feet on his own mail lying unopened on the desk. His glasses – the thin rectangular type – gave the impression that he was peering at her through a letter box. “Calm down,” he soothed, “we don’t want you giving birth in the office. The man’s a big fish in a small pond; you’re a smaller fish, that’s just the way it is.” “And what about the clients?” “Plankton.” He was teasing her, she knew, but still his answer rankled. “It shouldn’t be like that,” she said, “we’re supposed to be working together – the caring professionals, isn’t that what they call us? – but instead we treat children like some perverse game of pass the parcel.” “Well, in my experience it’s best to pass the parcel on quickly and hope that when the music stops you’re not the professional who’s holding the package, because if that package is damaged...” He held his hands up in supplication. “Bye bye career,” she said and the anger in her voice surprised her. She moved to the window, struggling to open the sash which had stiffened over the winter. Peter stood to help her. “If you’re looking for thanks, Maggie, you’re in the wrong job. You’re a social worker, remember? Scum of the earth, leech on the poor, pariah. Could be worse, though: you could be a GP, and you know how much you hate them.” “Yeah, but at least I’d be getting paid a decent whack.” She smoothed the material of her blouse over the swell of her belly, tugging it slightly where it failed to meet her waistband. “Sometimes I feel like the community dustman, picking up the unpleasant things in life because other people don’t want to be seen getting their hands dirty. Don’t you ever feel that?”

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A Lack of Parental Care “Is there any point?” The window opened with a jolt and there was a startling roar as two jets unzipped the sky above the town, heading out across the firth. Maggie shook her head, too tired to argue. “You’re a sick man,” she said, unable to take her eyes off the pencil protruding from Peters ear, convinced he might puncture something; then suddenly she was wet and so was her skirt and a sizeable patch of floor. She just had time to say “Holy Christ!” before the pain started… It’s hard to sleep now, easier to take the pain to the street, expose the wound to the air. I worry all the time, that’s the thing they don’t report on the news: the way you worry when you go home at night, leaving behind all those babies with their screwed-up mums and revolving-door dads, the way you always make decisions with the shadow of tomorrow’s headline looming over your shoulder, the way sometimes you feel an empathy for a client that goes beyond the working day. Like Michelle, who at sixteen has chosen to keep her baby despite the fact they share the same father. He was sent down six months ago, now she’s on her own. There’s a light on in Michelle’s flat and the bedroom window is cracked open. I can hear the baby wailing inside, a relentless siren. The neighbours aren’t bothering but they must hear; you can be sure they’ll be on the phone first thing tomorrow, telling you what a sin it is, doing their duty, doing right by the bairn, poor wee thing, blah, blah, blah. None of them will have offered to help, though; baby sit perhaps to let Michelle have a break or dropping round to ask how she’s doing. That’s the sin: neighbours who’ll call the social worker before they’ll give a young mum a hand. There’s no response when I knock, but I know it won’t be locked. By the time the ambulance arrived, the pushing had started. “When are you due, love?” the paramedic asked as he helped her into the ambulance. A small crowd had gathered to catch the drama. Last year a worker from the Criminal Justice team had been shot in the leg by a client so out of it on smack he’d done well to remember the appointment. It was a big event and had raised the status of the office among the local residents for a short while afterwards. “Not yet” she replied, as the pain in her belly surged once more.

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A Lack of Parental Care There is only one bedroom, muddied orange by street light, and stinking of ammonia and milky shit. In the middle of the bed, waving its limbs like a flippedover beetle, is the baby, its mouth a sharp triangle of angry flesh, its eyes redrimmed from crying. Its legs poke from the tight bands of a swollen nappy ringed with yellow seepage. It hasn’t noticed me, too caught up in its own rage. It needs food; that’s how it is to be three months old and hungry: I am hungry, I’m not hungry, that’s what matters, that’s how it is. I pick the baby up and take it downstairs where Michelle is slumped on the only chair in the house, the purple one we bought from the charity shop two weeks ago. “Look at your baby,” I say. My head is beginning to feel tight. I go through to the kitchen, where the dead bottles are and the black mug with the hairline crack, and I look for milk: but the formula tin is empty and I can’t find a baby bottle, so I go back through to Michelle and try again. “Look, your baby is crying,” I say, louder this time. My head is throbbing and my stomach feels heavy and achy with loss – it’s like losing a leg, the doctor had said: even though it’s gone, sometimes it still hurts. Michelle won’t be woken. Her head, too heavy to lift, is mottled by the rough fabric of the chair; a fine string of saliva hangs from her lower lip. I’m starting to think there may be pills involved but I can’t see any bottles other than the vodka and the kicked-over Irn Bru fluorescing on the floor. When the baby came it was taken, straight away, to the far side of the room, attended by a doctor and two midwives. She lay still, feeling damp and exposed, acutely aware that there had been some glitch in procedures, an unwelcome break in tradition – no cry from the baby; no smile of congratulation; no announcement of gender. “What’s wrong?” The nurse beside her, a younger girl, newly-qualified, looked away and tried to remember the words they’d learnt in training for such occasions: the ‘no baby’ occasions, the ‘stillborn’ words. As I stroke its cheek, the baby starts to quieten. Seeking the tip of my finger with its mouth – sweet little baby now – it draws it in like a fine cigar. I can feel the ridge of its gums, surprisingly hard, and the steady pump of its tongue, sucking from my fingertip. Now the tingling starts, a buzz of energy in my breasts, a sensation of letting-down. But there’s nothing. The baby lets go of my finger, sensing deception, its head twisting to be free of me, the ragged little tear of its mouth forming a protest. I pull it close and whisper, “this is how it is, baby: sometimes there is milk and sometimes there isn’t.”

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A Lack of Parental Care I’m not sure what to do. I should phone the out-of-hours team, then go back home. Tomorrow they’ll organise a case conference where words like unsuitability, immaturity, and lack of parental care will be woven together to make a net strong enough to pull this baby from its mother. I’ll be expected to present a report, a paper-cut to sever the bond. Later they will discuss amongst themselves how well I have coped, how quickly I’ve adapted and moved on. They know the timetable of loss, but not how it spores, spreading its roots out of sight, deep into the heart. Michelle sleeps on, unaware of what pain lies ahead. I wedge myself onto the chair beside her and pull her close. They brought the baby to her, a boy, cocooned in a pale yellow blanket like some gift from the insect world. She held him dutifully, understanding the theoretical response to loss but shaky on the practicalities. She stared at the baby’s face, looking for some landmark feature to hold on to – her eyes, his narrow chin – but was disappointed to find there was nothing: its wrinkled face, still and cold, bore likeness only to her memories of the pickled creatures floating in the big glass jars in the school biology lab. The midwife returned with the younger nurse, carrying a compact camera. They wondered if she would like to have a photograph to keep: some parents find it helps later. She declined. “Do you have any questions?” the older nurse asked as she lifted the baby gently from her arms. “Was it something I did?” she wants to know. As they left, the midwife touched the arm of the younger girl. “These things happen”, she heard her say. “It’s just how it is.” “It’s a terrible thing to lose a baby, Michelle,” I whisper, rocking them both, back and forth, mother and child, child and child, “but sometimes that’s just how it is.” I hold the baby tight against my breast and stroke the fine shell of its skull. I can feel its heart, keen and strong. Michelle sleeps on. I’ll stay until she wakes.

Heather Reid

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Your House in Valenza The fan circulates hot air around the room tapping the side of the mirror on its orbital rounds the glass bristles as if something wants to escape it, full-length lace curtains gag the screaming dark. Our bed utters a scatter of creaks in a foreign voice the muted television abandons its signal, to bathe me in cubic pigments of broken sienna the antenna twists itself into an alien flower. I keep expecting a strelitizia shadow to pass on the doors flip-side, as quick as a river otter, because energy brews in this house, it keeps me writing for weeks as the hairs on my arms singe to straw, my eyes glazed and infallible like graveyard marble. Every day I discuss the horizontal shifting of the shutters with myself, mark the glandular shapes of clouds; zeppelin, spaces-ships, submarines. Uranium light belts behind nebula and bounces off my body as if my skin lay smothered in aluminium. Every night when I blink back from blind the sun drops like a penny into the dishevelled purse of near-dark and I now know the contours of my hand so well I could trace them through the lattice of my sleep.

Janette Ayachi

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If You’ve Time…

Turn from the final offers of closing shops and coffee bars; Walk to where the road rims the cliff above the shore. Look over metal railings – See where a walker’s stopped a moment On a pedestal of sand. Black-ridged rocks rise from the sea, like ribs of giants felled before. Waves lift scraps of voices, Swallow more.

Kate Percival

There

Lucy Telford digital photograph made with homemafe titl/shift lens

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Moths Like a light bulb whacking a moth his voice fractures the thin cloth of sleep you curl under. Wake up to the pang of cold sheets. Down stairs, doors bangs. Something hard hits the wall. A shattering of glass in the hall. He yells. You know what’s coming. Stupid, stupid woman! If he ever came to bed last night he’s been up hours. Even united Temazepam and IPA have lost their kick. What have you done now? Your brain flicks like animation. Left a towel on the floor? An unwashed mug? His keys in the wrong drawer? You should get dressed, face the music; but it’s safer here, eyes closed, amnesic. Pull the pillow over your head and weigh up the consequences, count to ten. Change the station on the radio again. And when he’s through you pull up the blinds, but they won’t stay, the cord unwinds. In the kitchen, pour cornflakes, fry ham and audit the mistakes you’ve made as you sweep up the smashed china. In your usual slapdash way you missed a shard. Take the bins out to the yard. It’s cool outside; the sun’s weak and low. A moth glows from inside a damp window. He phones for the fifth time needing facts that slip, like syrup, through your mind. Blood under your finger nails, boning knife in one hand, screen throwing up spreadsheets you can’t understand. The wings of a shattered moth twitch on the window ledge. You’re too slow, put the knife down on the edge of the desk. Anticipate. Too late. He hung up. You’ve wrecked his day and the cat’s on the side with the gutted hare. Give it a rinse: saying nothing’s not a lie. It’s jugged now, the hare, and the knife’s clean: nothing’s stained as his truck crunches chuckies racing the terrier up the lane. The smell of burnt rubber and diesel oil enter through the door. They’ve let him down again. A no show. And he’s not in if anyone calls! You padlock the gate, bolt the back and front doors, and then run him a bath with peppermint oil, as hot as he can take. And when it’s done hug his clothes to the wash so the still damp sweat clings to your skin. It would be a kindness to kill that moth; you can still hear its wings rustling but you let it be for the sake of St Francis, from love or from fear. The bottles of cheap wine he drank morph into tears. The kids back out of the kitchen with their plates of food knowing this quiet mood won’t last long; it’s a ritual now. A prelude. You bite back the urge to laugh. Smooth his hair. Act like you care as you gag on rising words that fight like drowning kittens for air. He’s dozed off. Leave the room. Turn off the light. Outside, silver wings float towards the darkness of the night.

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Polo Mints and Paracetamol It’s not every man who’d give up his sixty a day habit overnight after the mental calculations, and promise his wife they’ll be alright with nocht in the bank, his job on the line and two pregnancy tests remaining stubbornly positive. A vitriolic atheist, feeling blessed and shit scared, curbing his cravings with endless green packets of polo mints and over-the-counter paracetamol. Willing to bend the rules with the firm’s van and the lads up the road for a few bob on the side to buy a second-hand cot, fix the leaky roof. He gets by by devising his own rules of ethics. First kid at forty two! Who’d have thought? After the war and all. Only he sensed, maybe, a tug in that place near the heart he’d been taught to ignore but never could after the first time he gets to see her, hear her cry. He swaps the Sunday mornings doing up his brother’s old Marina for easing the greased up Silver Cross round Duthie Park. And the time she gets measles, nurses her through those long, dark nights. Leaves for work at six and never tells his boss, or the men, who’d think him soft. Loses five quid on a cert he thinks will buy a Christmas, then never bets again. Tells her stories from his head forgetting how his muscles ache as they sail the inky Aegean, spinnaker flapping, lemonade and chocolate cake in the galley with turtles, pelicans and purple-haired mermaids. They dive in the sea, surface for the nine o’clock news and Ovaltine. Not every man would. But you did, for me.

Denise Setterington

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Words o Wisdom fae my Omniscient Auntie

W

eel ma dearie, hark at you staunin up in front o aa thon ile bigwigs in the board room syne! Oh Ah see, it’s caa’d a presentation is’t?  Weel Ah wis affa proud o ye ma quine!  Aa yon lang-heidit wirds!  Noo did they tell ye fit ye hid tae say?  Or did ye hiv tae mak yon up yersel?  An ye fairly workit magic wi yer computer!  Michty, yon fowk must a thocht ye affa clivver, an you a wumman an aa!  An yon mannie asket some gie orra questions didn’t he?!  Bit he wis gey taen wi yer clivver answers, an thankit ye very much indeed!  Noo, wid he be English?  Aye, Ah thocht aat.  But he wis very nice!

Noo faa’s yon reid-heided dame that gars abody dee her biddin? She’s a soorfaced besom isn’t she?!  An gie bigsy we’t.  Yer needin tae tell her tae mind her ain business!  Noo, are you that trainee quine’s boss?  She’s nae feart tae spik back, is she?  Weel bit it’s high time she learnt tae spell!  An her wi twa degrees...  Ye ken, they’ve ower mony quines at yer wirk.  They’d be better o a man tae tak charge! And faa’s your boss?  It’s nivver yon yella-heidit quine?  Awa!  Bit she’s jist a young lassie!  And dis she tell ye fit ye hae tae dee ulki day?  Fit wye did they mak her the boss an nae you?  You’re the een that dis aa the wirk!  Did ye nae tell them that?  Dae they nae ken aboot aa the clivver things ye telt yon fowk in the board room?!  Wid that English mannie nae pit in a wird fir ye...?  An yon quine jist back fae maternity leave!  Mercy me, Ah nivver heard the like in aa ma life!  Bit... fit wye can she manage tae wirk an her wi a bairnie?  Is that fit wye she gings hame afore you?  An you hivin tae bide an work til aa the hoors!  That’s jist nae richt quine!  Yer ower saft fir yer ain gweed! Weel it’s high time ye’d a man and then they’d hae tae let ye ging hame early.  Ye’d jist hae tae say yer gaan awa hame tae mak yer man’s tea!  Ye ken Ah dinna ken fit wye ye hinna a man quine.  Ye’ve let aa the bunnets ging by, witing fir the hats.  Bit yer still a bonnie eneuch quine… fin yer hair’s nae an affa sicht!  Could ye nae pit in a roller or twa, and gie’t a wee bit curl?  Ye’d affa bonnie curls fin ye were a wee quinie!  Fit aboot askin yer hairdresser if she’ll gie ye a set?  Fit?  Yer hairdresser’s a man?!  Weel it’s nae muckle winner yer hair’s sic a sicht! Ye ken, in my day a wumman o your age that wisna mairriet widda been caa’d an aul maid, and she’d a lived wi her mither, or in a garret... nae in a bonnie modren hoosie like yours.  Bit oh fit a redd up ye bide in quine!  An you sittin readin buiks and drinkin tea gin ye be Lady Muck... an yer hoose a midden!  Yon’s a disgrace!  Noo, could ye nae rise a bittie earlier in the mornin?  Ye could dee yer hooverin, gie the place a wee bit dust, an peel a pucklie tatties afore ye gaed awa tae yer wirk… syne ye widna be in sic a sotter!!

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Words o Wisdom fae my Omniscient Auntie And ye ken quine, if ye’d a man, ye could gar him cut yer grass tae ye! Widn’t that be richt fine?!  Fit aboot yon lad that comes tae see ye files, him that ye caa a frien?   Wid he nae dee?  Is he singill?!  Oh he’s divorced is he?!  Weel ye’ll nae be siccin him than!  Dae ye nae ken ony clean-livvin kin o lads?  Bit mind ye, a wumman o your age canna be choosy!  Och bit it’s an affa waste, a fine quine like you bidin on yer ain. Noo fit aboot this writin havers yer up til?  Dinna get ower cairried awa, ma dearie, fir Ah dinna think yer gaan tae be the next JK Rowling, so Ah doot ye’ll hae tae keep yer job fir noo... jist until ye find a nice man!

Alison M Green

Wind Beggar

Keith Moul photograph

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Corvus Frugilegus

Neil Russell - print

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flock you watch your neighbours seven deep and your neighbours seven deep are watching you for the slightest indication of switched direction taking it up and propagating it seven deep, and seven, and on like neurons firing a single thought as the whole flock goes curtaining round the church spires and beneath the bridges

New Year

looping, flattening, sphering

We emptied our thoughts off Oxen Crag today, wind froze them to snow.

so that observers see you reading minds when you’re only reading motion so intensively winter long and seven deep in your need of safety, numbers neighbours watching their neighbours watching their neighbours

Saw Seaton’s tower blocks crowding beyond whitening moorland, ghost ships on grey sea, fields for miles all muddled in a single thought. We linked arms, numb from the long climb up, Bennachie behind, crouched northern sun happed up against the cold, and made our descent.

seven deep

High above homely branches, on an in-breath a buzzard hung.

Judith Taylor

Jen Cooper Pushing Out the Boat 11

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DVF Offers

Sarah Ellen Taylor

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watercolour, acrylic, graphite & platinum leaf on hand-dyed canvas

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So So you know, I was talking to this guy and he was trying to tell me I was beautiful and I thought jeez, this guy is a jerk and how stupid does he think I am? and then a bus came by and I thought I might go some place so I stuck out my arm and I stopped that bus and it was friendly and I stared from its windows at the big wide world and I wondered what there was for me to do out there I mean, no-one has a map for life, right, what you gonna do about that and well, I hurt in a hundred different ways but I knew that wasn’t really important so I got back off the bus, found somewhere to go for a soda and then just when I least expected it POW, my head blew clean off.

Rachel Fox

Life’s a Ladder I rushed up the first half of the ladder eager to get on. Stopping to catch my breath I looked up to the next rung and realised, sliding down snakes would be much more fun.

Anne Rogers

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Natural Systems

I

had just come in from a swim, nothing unusual, the norm. Except that I was sluggish, couldn’t generate much energy and certainly felt I couldn’t go beyond my self-prescribed minimum of 50 lengths. Sometimes it is more – on a good day up to 130, and it can feel great. Today it was against the flow, or I was against the flow, or something. It was busy too: flailing arms and legs don’t help to get into a natural rhythm of breathing and being, into the Zen of swimming. At least not on a day when you feel out of sync. On the way back, over the crunching of the snow I recognised the magnificent creak, flap and call of an enormous flock of geese, right above me in the sky, white against blue, high above the chimney pots. I stood still, watched them intently, remembering and seeing how they change positions: some lead, then drop back, others take their place, and even when and if one gets tired and drops to the ground to rest, at least two others come with it to support and guide, and entice it back into the air, in time, to catch up with the others. A community of birds, on a mission, in a direction, called by something powerful, natural, at the right time, in unison, ebbing and flowing as they fly. I paused in the hall. Suddenly I saw myself walking towards the sea, buying a bag of hot chips on the way, and winding my way up the small hill that allows a panoramic view of the city and sea. In the snow it would be lovely, and I had a strong feeling for it, as though drawn in, another rhythm softly calling out to me. On with the socks, boots and layers - although the sun was coming out, the air was icy, and snow and frost hard under foot - then I was out into the street again, embracing the day, following an instinct. I immediately sensed something was different: there was movement, a feeling of group migration. Lots more people than normal, ‘different’ people, dressed in subtly different ways, many carrying large woollen rugs rolled up under their arms or thrown over shoulders; sometimes two people at a time, walking with focus and direction, firm and fast crunching of crisp snow. Hats, scarves, boots, thick coats, bags, more hats and gloves, all colours dancing together. I walked my normal route to the sea, and naturally fell in behind, between and in front of a growing sea of people: large and small groups, old, young and middleaged, all sizes and shapes, all joining together in the same direction, my direction, our steps creating a beat, pounding on pavement, held in the frozen air, buoyant. As we walked – now I was no longer alone, but part of an entity, a flock, a herd – more people joined us, from pathways, side-roads, front doors, car parks, and we all walked together; and gradually, as the view opened up, I could see more and more people all moving towards us, moving us towards our common goal. A bird’s-eye view of an army of ants, a lot of lemmings, a herd of gazelle or wildebeest, through the bright light.

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Natural Systems Ah. It suddenly dawns on me… we are heading for the stadium, beside the sea. Not all out for a beach walk after all, not tuned in to a same need, no mass migration. It’s a rugby friendly, rather than the usual football – a different tribe of folk, from different places, a different ‘feel’, another vibration. Most head off to a back entrance of the stadium, others carry on to the front. I ask who is playing - and wow, they’ve turned a football pitch into a rugby one - and carry on talking to people in the queue of the chip shop opposite the stadium. A friendly match, folk have come from all over the country, a real mixture of accents, looks, language, smiles. Hot poke of chips in hand, now I am against the flow, climbing the snowy hill: troupes of people traipsing, sliding down the hill towards me, more filaments of energy focused on the stadium. Some I can see coming through the golf course, others around the graveyard, more climbing the hill from the other side, just as the loudspeakers start to crackle, and bagpipes beckon stragglers to the start of the game. Then, just over the peak of the hill, there are no more. The droves, drones, herds have passed, just like the flock of geese before. There is suddenly a fresh silence, a pause, then the crunch of snow, and the whoosh of water sluicing children through the blue plastic flumes on the side of the leisure centre, this Saturday afternoon. And then the sea, orange and grey, with eleven boats sitting on the fine clarity of the horizon, sparkling as though they are each individually lit up, toys lined up. One looks as if it is physically parked, perfectly aligned to the harbour wall, such is the perspective from where I stand. A twelfth comes out of the harbour, into rays of pink light raining through the dusky orange clouds. The swirls of the sea make shapes that mirror the clouds, the sky. The colours perfectly merge: white snow on deep orange sand, orange blue sea topped with white, meets orange pink sky and bright white light. The rhythm of the sea takes me over, the beauty, the perfect harmony of it all, of us all, our togetherness, beats within a natural system.

Morag Paterson

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Flyway

Lisa Gribbon woodcut, drypoint, momoprint & chine colle

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Time Travel Head out the way you came and I promise to forget the last hour. I will roll up the minutes like a stretch of unbaked dough, pulling the sticky remnants from between my fingers. I will wind your voice up like a fishing line, the bait, the hook tucked safely in the coils until I’ve forgotten them. You can erase the footprints, I’ll leave that to you, pick them up one by one, with a spatula, with a finger, as you like. And when all traces are gone, when your presence has been carved out like a jewel to leave a dark hole where an eye should be, only then will I throw you a smile, a sigh of relief to land like a bird on the branch of your shoulder.

Valentina Cano

East Coast Lullaby Clearie cuthlie ethie fithie Fallaw gallow craigo lundie Meigle ogil ardo airlie Havan idvie cothill dun, Lunan cocklem caterthun; Ythan guthrie caithlie coultra Logie forgie fitra foutra Lemno gowrie folda clova Kettin brechin dunnichen arn, Cruivie caithlie gaa fordun; Clearie cuthlie Kettin brechin Havan idvie Lemno gowrie Lunan cocklem caterthun.

Lesley Harrison

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Waiting for William

R ‘

ibbons of light, all different colours like a rainbow, not in an arc but blown across the night sky, or fluttering like the spread gossamer wings of arctic angels.’ That’s what he wrote. In a letter. All the words neat and sitting on feint-ruled pencil lines across the white page. I could hear music when I cut open the envelope. That was strange, words making sound even before I read them. William was lonely. He’d been gone for close on a year when he wrote the letter. Time spent in the ungentle company of men. He talked about tearing a hole in the fabric of things to get to me, to be beside me and warm in my bed. Far from the world is what it felt like, that music I heard. Cold as snow or ice, and cracked. Not real, except for the sound of it in my head, and a lonely William wanting to be where he was not. It was a game, this writing of his, playing with words. I could imagine him rehearsing what he would write. Saying it over and over until he had it just so, and what he said hanging in the air as though words spoken could have a material existence. Then William setting his pen to paper and writing slow as slow to get everything neat. He had to keep the ink warm using candles and a tin plate for the bottle to stand on. I heard violins in the music then. Straining. Something I’d heard before. I can’t remember where or when, but something had gone wrong and the music had seemed to put it right, smoke curling like a letter ‘g’ in the air. Maybe not smoke, but an exhaled breath, for it is almost as cold here as it is where William is. William talked of snow in his letter and everywhere so white it hurt his eyes and burned his skin. He talked of the end of silence, in a place so desolate and so blank you would have thought silence must be all that there is. Noises so ever-present that William thought they might be in his head, like the ringing in old men’s ears. The howling of the ice and the crack crack of it and the wind moaning and the men in their sleep moaning too. That’s what he said. So white and so loud and the cold so hard that it could snap fingers; and so sharp it cut men’s thoughts into pieces and the pieces dropped into the snow so that they could not ever be found again. You see how he is with words. One day, he said, there were white bears, rearing big as trees, like angels with their arms raised to heaven. William’s ship was caught fast in the ice, held tight like a giant fist closing its grip on them. William shot one of the bears dead and would have shot the other if it had not just as suddenly thinned to nothing. It was as though it might have been no more than a ghost of the first bear, except that it had ripped a bloody gash in Patrick Temple’s chest and torn out the man’s heart. They cut the dead bear into parts that could be eaten fresh or cooked over the fire. There was meat for the men then, and the skin of the bear they used to make a blanket for William’s bed. So much snow, and cold enough to freeze tears or spit or screams. But William did not say it was bleak, not like a Monday at home in December can be bleak. Rainbows and angels and music, he said, and I thought there was another magic in that place when he wrote of it. If he had called on me to follow him, I think I would have found the means. Back at the start I would.

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Waiting for William ‘Do you love me?’ he wrote in one of his letters. It seemed to matter to him when I read it, and I feel guilty that I did not tell him yes. A small enough lie it would have been then, and cheap in ink and paper. But I could not write the word. Not even in a clever way that might make him believe I had said what he wanted me to say. He wrote of foxes and hares, white as white, and as quick as thought: bright-faced and eyes darting and too quick for catching, as thought can be sometimes. Instead the men dug holes in the ice and left lines with hooks trailing in the black water. Snagged a seal one morning. Not William, but Herbert Downie. Damned near pulled him in and he boasted afterwards of a brush with death, a near-drowning, though he never even entered the water. Not even his boots wet, said William, and I could hear him laughing when I read the words, could see his face creased into laughter. William said he saw me sometimes. Saw me even when he knew I could not be there. Behind him in the mirror, he said, over his shoulder. He saw me altered, slim and wearing a long dress. He spoke my name then. Quiet as not speaking. Quiet as thinking, and my name filling the groaning silence of that windswept winter place. They did not make sense, some of the things he wrote. First it was all sound where he was, all shriek and splinter. Then William was saying there was a silence that was like the end of things, as though he slept or had passed on to another and more final place, a place from where letters never are delivered. I could sense in my own darkness something of that quiet when he wrote of it. Maybe he is there now, in that lost last place, for there is come another silence and no letters from him for so long. I could feel his whispering of my name as a breath on my cheek. And still the music was in my head. Then in a flash of recognition, or something like recognition, I was there in his mirror, just as he’d said, and looking at him, white in his hair as though he was prematurely old. ‘Do you believe a man could pass from one place to another just by thinking?’ he wrote in the last letter I have. ‘Like flying: in an instant gone from here and being then somewhere else. For I imagine I see you, Emmy. Sitting on the floor of a room, shoeless and in thick black stockings, massaging one foot as though it was sore.’ I had started then, when first I read it, for I was indeed at that moment sitting just as he had described. Not on the floor, but rubbing the sole of one black-stockinged foot. It was so close to what was in the letter that I’d gasped in surprise. Sometimes, re-reading the letter now, I sit on the floor wearing black stockings and no shoes and rubbing my foot, just so that it fits more precisely with what William wrote. Outside I heard the passing of someone on the landing beyond my hotel room. Doors opening and closing, and the trip of feet on the back steps that led downstairs to the dining area and the bar. There are visitors in the hotel here in Vargo, rough men in animal furs and with salt on their snow-burnt skin.

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Waiting for William ‘Do you love me?’ William wrote again. Twice on the same page. And he underlined the words as if to harass me with this insistent asking. And then a third time, ‘Do you love me?’ Pleading almost. I laughed then, quick and crow-scatter loud. Loud enough that I thought he might hear, through the mirror, across the years, from somewhere behind him, rushing like the wind when angels are near, or white bears with their bloody paws raised. I took up a pen and a sheet of paper. ‘William, you might be an angel,’ I wrote. Nothing more. Just that. The words written small, right in the middle of the page, ‘William, you might be an angel.’ And so much white left on the sheet. I folded the paper, slid it into a white envelope and wrote William’s name on the front. I put the letter with the others I had written. More than counting could tell now, those letters filling the drawer of the desk. None of them sent for there was nowhere to send them. Newspaper headlines had worried over the expedition’s chances of ever being found. They called William ‘hero’ and ‘brave’. I wrote to the Prime Minister once, urging him to send others to search for my husband and his crew. I wrote to members of the Cabinet and to the newspapers. Those letters I sent: it was the right thing for me to do. And being here, the closest place to nowhere, the closest place to William, that seems right too, though my spirit weakens and duty is almost spent. Downstairs in the bar Jude is serving. I order gin in a tall glass and lots of ice. The ice is a joke as is the request for a tall glass. Jude warms the gin over a flame, runs the flame round the outside of the enamel tin cup. Then he wraps it in a cloth and sets it on the bar. I look beyond Jude, see myself reflected in the mirror behind. And just for a moment I think I see over my shoulder the shape of William, etched in white. Then it is not William but a man in a bearskin whose name I do not know. He pays for my drink, as I knew he would, and we sit together at a small table. Nights are long where we are. So long that they cannot be filled. So long that as one ends it seems another begins. Sometimes there is, indeed, no end and one night runs straight into the next. The man buys me another drink and I let him. I laugh at everything he says and call him ‘sweet’ and put my hand on his arm. Everything is calculated to bring him to my bed, but not before he has paid over-dear for the drinks. It is an arrangement Jude and I have. The barman keeps a tally in chalk behind the counter. Afterwards, when the man with no name is asleep beside me, I lie awake and think of how this all might end. Others have gone before William in search of the top of the world, and paths through the ice and the snow. Some have been raised up and made men. Others have foundered and been lost and only discovered again when there was no breath left in them and their faces and hands burned as black as if they had been set aflame. William boasted that he had provisions enough for five years. Where have those years gone and how long should I go on waiting here, with strange men in my bed, and small money on the table when they leave? Five years with no end to the nights, or the cold that bites, and Jude taking more of his share, and gin numbing all sense of what it is to be a woman.

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Waiting for William I wonder if William sees me now and writes in a letter that he does. I wonder if he sees me in his mirror with a man who is not gentle, a man who has his place in my bed, just for the one night. And if he sees, I wonder if William knows why it is that I do what I do. “I do not love William.” I say it out loud, and the man beside me stirs in his sleep. ”I do not love William.“ The money my one-time husband left is all gone. I have been mean with it, as mean as a woman can be. Still it has been too little to keep me here for five years. And with every night that passes – for I assume that time is still passing even when I do not feel that it does – inside a part of me grows cold and black. I hear the music more and more faint, the music from William’s letters, all his letters. I close my eyes and imagine rainbow ribbons trailing in the night sky, and ice and snow as far as the eye can see and William, whiter than white and as big as a bear or an angel, and looking down at me, seeing through me, as you see through mist when it thins, seeing through to the black heart of me. I lean in closer then to the man in my bed, not for anything more than the warmth that he has. And maybe the satisfaction of knowing that William might be watching.

Douglas Bruton

The Quest

Hana Horock

tissue paper and acrylic on canvas

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Belongings Today along Warkworth beach I find a broken and frayed rope, empty barnacled winkle shells and a wave-planed slat of wood with one rusted nail hanging on as if dumbly awaiting a picture, for the weight of a missed face, or ready for the old familiar scuff of its last master’s pacing boots.     This dashed bric-a-brac of lost grasp my mother furnished her home with. My life has been of longshore drift, but I was born here and often return. Sometimes I find a lost drowned glove washed up with spume and wonder if you ever find its partner on your distant shore, and if you question how you ever lost your grip, or just let go.  

Anchorite

From where I stand, figures of old friends, lovers, are hairline cracks in the far distance, on the rim of a world I once knew, worn as teacup gilding. I am so far from who I once was to not believe him, even in the text of some lurid book. I live by a river that does not know if it is coming   or going and unseen fish leap to punctuate the lucid pages of the water. Today I see you on the rim and wonder if you approach or recede.  

Richie McCaffery

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Curried Kisses In a late night club In Aberdeen As she orders at the bar, A cliché joins her: A tall, dark, handsome stranger; Catches her eye, Pays for her drinks Before there is time to protest. Can I kiss you? It’s unexpected, Not unwelcome. I don’t know you. I’ve eaten curry What type of curry? Biryani. I like Biryani. She likes him And cannot think why not. For how long should we kiss? Fifteen seconds. Make it seven and a half. They kiss. There’s a tremour in hands Still holding iced glasses. She holds her garlic breath, He smells of salt and sweet. It is over too soon. Ten seconds - you tricked me! The curry was good.

E E Chandler

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Stampede

Donnie Ross

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Photograph

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The Tunnel

A

fter the joking and backslapping in the changing room we’ve all run out of things to say. Coach has given his pep talk.

“Noo lads,” he ended, “slaughter thon Dundee lassies.” He downs a slug from his hip flask and leaves us to shuffle about nervously: folding things, stretching hamstrings, watching the clock. The seconds extend like pulled elastic, till finally we are called. And so this is it. Four years at Pittodrie and into the tunnel with the lads for my first match as a pro. Can’t you be here for me now Stevie? Kristy’s watching from the stands getting totally drouk in the Aberdeen sleet. I want her to be proud of me. What if I freeze? What if I lose us the match? I can’t do this without you. Hear them chanting? “Come on you reds” That would have been us years back, waving our red and white scarves in ‘D’ stand, jostling for a better view while keeping Kristy safe between us, and shouting ourselves hoarse; sharing a laugh and a smuggled can of Tennant’s. I dreamed of this then, Stevie. I must have bored you sick with my plans and schemes all those times I shadowed you around your farm, too busy juggling to mention how awesome I found it watching you and Fly bring a flock down to a new pasture; or how impressed I was when you warmed that half-dead scrap of a pheasant chick in your hands and took it home to rear, snuggled inside your shirt. She still roosts with your hens, knows a safe place does that one. Instead I nagged you into coming along to training with me and you were the kind of mate who couldn’t say no. You’d only been to a few sessions that drizzly November and I knew you weren’t keen, couldn’t keep your focus on the game. I glanced at you once and your eyes were following a hawk while the ball slid right past you. That’s why Coach eventually stuck you in goal, saying that, with your build, at least some of the time the ball would find you however hard you tried to avoid it. Normally you would ride back with us but that Thursday your Mum was driving out to Thanestone with Kristy, to look at some trucks that were being auctioned, and she’d picked you up in her ancient jeep. The one where the back door was secured with binder twine and that, in winter, had to be pushed down your hill to get the engine turning. “They’ll take me more seriously if I have someone in tow who can tell a spark plug from a cigarette lighter,” she’d joked. It was only a few minutes after you’d pulled away that Coach, his red face wet with sweat, jogged up to where I was practising scissors. “My office in five minutes lad,” he wheezed. I knocked tentatively on his portacabin door, expecting trouble for having hacked Callum and possibly put him out of action for Sunday’s friendly. Receiving the order to enter, I was ready with my excuses and apologies, only to have them all dive back down my throat when I saw a stocky, dark haired man, with his back to me, gazing out of the window.

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The Tunnel “You know Neil Cooper?” Coach asked, moving closer and putting a shaky hand on my shoulder. He was trying hard to sound casual. I nodded, my throat suddenly too dry to speak. I certainly knew of Neil Cooper, we all did: he scouted for the Dons. Mr Cooper turned around. “I watched you at the Broch,” he said neutrally. “If you’re willing to work harder than you’ve ever worked in your bloody life, I’m willing to give you a trial with the underseventeen’s.” So, half an hour later, it was just me in the mini with Mum, who was shrieking along to ‘Total Eclipse of the Heart’ as she drove down the darkening lanes. Normally when she starts I plug in my iPod and tune her out, but that day I was in such a good mood I joined in. We were Bonnie Tyler and Meatloaf wooing the masses. In fact I was getting so carried away, I nearly swallowed my tongue when Mum slammed on the brakes and, looking intently in her wing mirror, began to erratically reverse. How the hell she saw you I haven’t got a clue. In your navy trackies, with your long black hair already free of the elastic band Coach insisted on, you were indistinguishable from the shadows till you stepped into the beam of the headlights, waving. Mum said that she heard you call my name but she decided afterwards that, with all the racket we were making and the windows closed, she must have imagined it (that’s how she deals with it Stevie, all of it). You gave me that lopsided grin as you clambered in the back of the car. “Well done, Sandy” I turned around. “How did you know?” I challenged. You smiled that slow, lazy smile that meant you’d got one over on me. “There’s been an accident, a tyre blew,” you replied to Mum’s questions, “but don’t worry, Mum and Kristy are OK. Turn left at Frazer’s shed, by that oak over there.” You were calm giving us directions and, when you told us to pull over just a few yards ahead and there was no sign of a car, I assumed some Good Samaritan had turned up and changed the wheel. I was going to ask why you had been too lazy to do that yourself but you were already out of the car and had disappeared into the darkness. “Down here, Sandy.” Your voice was clear but distant. No rush, no hint of panic. Mum and I got out of the car leaving the engine running. What were you up to? I was impatient to get home and celebrate with a fish supper and a few beers. It had been a long day. You called again and, way down to my left, I saw a faint white light.

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The Tunnel “What are you playing at?” I yelled back, annoyed now. Confused, Mum got back in the car and manoeuvred until the head lights were shining down the valley into the glen below. It was less than ten minutes from my stuttered 999 call to the ambulance arriving. Of course you were right, they were OK. Your Mum was unconscious, her head cracked open on the steering wheel and blood oozing from her mouth. Kristy’s legs were trapped where the back door had been impacted in the roll: another hour or so, they said, the circulation would have been cut off completely. But you always were one for understatement; and, somehow, you knew how things would turn out, didn’t you? Grabbing bags and a stretcher from the ambulance while jabbering into a radio, the medics rushed passed the battered car and the injured women towards the body: your body Stevie, lying motionless and twisted, further down the slope. ~~~ Your family said I shouldn’t go to the Chapel of Rest. You were too messed up with having gone through the windscreen: that was their excuse. I knew how they felt about me now, but I had to see you one last time. Only Kristy came, to show me where they’d laid you out. Did you ever notice the colour of her eyes? The same deep peat as yours, impenetrable. Someone had done their best to disguise the gashes to your face, and brushed out your hair, your one vanity, till it shone. I touched your hand, wider and more powerful than mine. It was so cold. I feel cold now Stevie, and it’s not just this lousy north-east skail wind. I’d give all this up if we could slip back four years to that November. I’d say sod the training lets shoot rabbits or pull girls: anything to keep you out of that car. But I can’t. You’re not here. But if you were I know what you’d say. “What’s the big deal, Sandy, about a gang of blokes who should have better things to do than kick a bag of wind about?” That’s cool Stevie. We’re coming out of the tunnel now; all I have to do is keep my eye on the ball.

Denise Setterington

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Prada Offers

Sarah Ellen Taylor

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watercolour, acrylic, graphite & platinum leaf on hand-dyed canvas

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The Daily Alien I’d pull you out of any ditch, ignoring your mud politics no bother. I’d bandage us up, you and me both, your innocent bigotry and my spitting-red intolerance of it, our friendship presumably sealed now, with your pain. You and your daily muckraking rag that you read. That thing that grinds the truth fine, juggles factoids, lies constantly through its teeth on the table between us. That uses your inalienable mind for a hook to hang Its tendentious opinions on, and you let It! And what’s left, among neighbours, that’s safe to discuss now, isn’t another hot-words and all-kinds-of-boggle accident waiting to happen – I’ll tell you: weather, weather, cat food. Returning the ladder, ignoring thin ice. Tentative pats on the back. A rushed glass of wine; afraid to sit down too definitely. Big-hearted rumbles; horrified smiles; bravely uncomprehending; carefully unscrewed face. Well, it appears to be a deal. Really, there’s only the ditch missing now.

Inhabiting the Door Settling mid-doorway, middle of the day: splintered view, off-centre feeling. Doing the hard-floor shuffle. Doing dislocated. Doing raw. Not doing any doing. Taking liberties with life, being door yourself now for long unmoments, properly grateful for nothing at all.

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Yoshi’s Hearts

Lindsay Johnston Digital Image from illustration

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knowing one’s place I have taken careful note of the precise point between ear and lip where it is permissible to kiss you have memorized the delicate coordinates and though I never stray from the path when I am with you constant as they say the north star is we two against the world alone in a room together whoever else is there in dreams I throw away the map and venture out into less charted and more dangerous latitudes

la ronde these days I make poems out of string, cat’s cradles, one-surfaced Moebius strips or maeanders shaky Mississippis traced out on onionskin this wanderlust has taken fast hold of me I’ve become a journeyman in love and words, a tyro learning two trades wanting the new astonishment every time I confront love, forgetting how we choose each other, plunge headlong into that maelstrom maze, whirl about until we reach escape velocity if I get lost I can weave my own labyrinth to wander in and when I’ve made another of love’s journeys I end up standing right where I began with my clothes gone out of fashion and the prices gone up again

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Contributor Information Beate Allerton is a photographer, digital artist and writer. She has previously published poems in Pushing Out the Boat, and ‘Summer Morning Dew’ is her first art submission. Kris Erin Anderson, born & raised in Seattle, now studies for a PhD in Creative Writing at Newcastle University. Was shortlisted for Ravenglass Poetry Press Competition and Cadaverine Award for Young Writers. Angela Arnold has written poetry all her life, also published two books on psychological-astrology. Gardening is another creative area, but currently concentrating on her painting & taking part in NEOS. www.AffordableBritishArt.co.uk Janette Ayachi, Msc in Creative Writing from Edinburgh University. has published widely in literary journals/ anthologies including New Writing Scotland 2011. Red Squirrel press set to publish her pamphlet A Choir of Ghosts. Eleanor Leonne Bennett is a 15-year-old internationally award-winning artist who has won first places with National Geographic, The World Photography Organisation and Nature’s Best Photography. Douglas Bruton graduated from Aberdeen University in 1979. He writes all the time these days, wins competitions sometimes and gets things into nice places like Pushing Out the Boat. [That’s enough flattery - Ed] Stephen Busby is based at Findhorn, Moray. His work has appeared in Cezanne’s Carrot, r.kv.r.y, Slow Trains, Battered Suitcase, Santa Fe Writers Project, Visionary Tongue and Secret Attic. See www.deepsystemshealing.com/stephen Valentina Cano is a student of classical singing who spends whatever free time she has either reading or writing. She also takes care of a veritable army of pets, including her six, very spoiled, snakes. Chelsea Cargill is from Arbroath and lives in Edinburgh. She is currently in Write This, Spilt Milk, New Writing Scotland, Spilling Ink Review and Duality, and is writing a novel. Mark Cassidy, from Birmingham via the Isle of Wight, teaches Radiography in Portsmouth. His poems have appeared in Poetry Salzburg Review and Northwards Now. Mark’s blogsite, Fractures, has more. E E Chandler, an Aberdonian, is desperately trying to slow down so she can write more. In the meantime, she is filling up notebooks with ideas for future poems and stories. Stuart Condie writes short stories, with two winning prizes, and a third published, after completing the creative writing certificate course at Sussex University. Previously he produced business articles. Jen Cooper is in the second year of a PhD in Creative Writing at the University of Aberdeen. Her poems have been published in Causeway/Cabhsair and New Writing Scotland. Ann Craig, graduate printmaker, uses a wide range of media to comment on life and our world.  Her work is held in the UK and in South Africa.   www.annsart.co.uk

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Hilary de Vries, an outdoor artist who works on location, draws inspiration from the surrounding countryside. A graduate of Duncan of Jordanstone, her main media are acrylic, watercolour and paste. Mark Edwards lives and works in Aberdeen. Clearout Sale, his first collection of poems and stories, was published by Andromache Books in 2009. David Elder is a writer and photographer who lives and works in Cheltenham. His work includes Cheltenham in Antarctica www.reardon.co.uk, and Glenesk: the collected poems of John Angus www.invermarkbooks.co.uk   Eleanor Fordyce is not the main character in Husbandry In Heaven. True, she was an English teacher and has a fondness for the Bard, but her husband is alive and well. Rachel Fox, originally from the north of England, now lives in Angus. She has a book of poems More about the song (2008) and a website at www.crowd-pleasers.net Alison M Green lives in Pitmedden and draws her material from growing up in the North East, while her motivation to write comes from attending creative writing classes in Udny Green. Lisa Gribbon is a printmaker who enjoys the tactile print techniques of etching, drypoint and woodcut. She is inspired by wild landscapes and the man-made objects that can be found there.  Lesley Harrison lives near Arbroath and works in Sutherland. Her most recent poetry pamphlet Ecstatics was launched at the Shetland Book Festival. Jill Henderson’s urge to write usually comes when she is just about to drop off to sleep hence the big leather notebook and pile of sharpened pencils beside her bed. Haworth Hodgkinson is a poet, playwright, composer & improvising musician, exploring the borderlands where theatre, sound, words, dance & image meet to survey their common ground. See www.haworthhodgkinson.co.uk for more. Hana Horack, BSc, MA, MA, has shown at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition and the ING Discerning Eye. A silk painting was presented to HRH Prince Charles. www.hanahorack.co.uk Fiona Jappy creates work that researches memory and place. She studied at Edinburgh College of Art and Southern Illinois University Carbondale in the US. Fiona lives in Moray. See www.fionajappy.com Lindsay Johnston, since graduating from Gray’s School of Art, Aberdeen, has combined her love for illustration with design by creating her artwork on silk scarves, under her label ‘Lindsay & Yoshi’. Vivien Jones lives on the north Solway shore in Scotland. In August 2010 she won the Poetry London Prize. Currently writing a fiction collection through a Creative Scotland Writer’s Bursary.

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Contributor Information Gerrard Lindley is a freelance graphic illustrator/fine artist/ rhythm and blues musician who works from an open studio in North Devon. Further work can be seen at gerrard@cowboysofsoul.com.

Denise Setterington has spent twenty years in Aberdeenshire. She has had both prose and poetry published in magazines and is currently studying for an MA in Creative Writing. Contact: dennysett@hotmail.com

Richie McCaffery is studying towards a PhD in the Scottish poetry of World War II at Glasgow University. His first pamphlet collection is due out from HappenStance Press in 2012.

James Sinclair, born 1961, Lerwick, Shetland Isles, started writing in his forties, publishing a poetry pamphlet Gulf Stream Blues [North Idea, 2007]. He is on the editorial committee of The New Shetlander.

Mandy Macdonald lives in Aberdeen. She has been writing poems for as long as she can remember, but no-one else knew. Her haiku have appeared recently in Haiku Scotland. 

Graeme Smith is an Edinburgh-based writer. He produced ONE Magazine, ran Goodnight Press and his poetry has been published in various magazines. He currently works in special needs education.

Fiona Maclean, who is a retired Occupational Therapist, studied Art at the Glassell School of Art, Houston, Texas, USA from 2008 until her return to Torphins, Aberdeenshire in 2010.

Linda Smith’s writin has its roots in the stories o her faimly an the history o the Nor-East. Fan nae scrievin, she’s readin, chasin efter grandbairns an gaun lang walks.

Keith Moul’s poems & photos appear widely. Retired to the US Pacific NW, writing and clicking away, but always grateful for how much pleasure he derives.  One poetry chapbook published in 2010, another recently accepted.

Judith Taylor comes from Coupar Angus and now lives in Aberdeen. She is the author of two pamphlet collections: Earthlight (Koo Press, 2006), and Local Colour (Calder Wood Press, 2010).

Morag Paterson is mesmerised by the magic, rhythm, peace, ease, healing vibes and energy of nature, interconnectedness and one-ness. She is a holistic and wellbeing coach, therapist and emerging writer.

Sarah Ellen Taylor displays her painting/gilding work at Kadampa World Peace Temples. She works in Cumbria where she will have a solo summer show at Natterjacks, Ulverston. Also see: www.augengallery.com

Kate Percival lives in Aberdeenshire and is inspired by the land, sea & people. She’s had poems and stories in POTB over its lifetime and loves its mix of visual and written art.

Lucy Telford lives in rural Aberdeenshire and is a mother and photographer. She hopes to evoke an emotional response with her photographs, a sense of place rather than a depiction.

David Pettigrew b 1948 Meikle Wartle, Aberdeenshire; Gray’s Art School 1967-72. Professional Member of Aberdeen Artists. Recent research in New York has contributed to and enhanced new ‘abstract’ paintings and photographic work. www.masterpieceartstudio.com Heather Reid lives in Perthshire. Her collection Kiss and Other Stories, is available for Kindle from Amazon. She is currently Chair of Soutar Writers. She doesn’t like bananas. Douglas Robertson grew up on the east coast of Scotland and has exhibited widely throughout the U.K. His work is held in many public collections. www.douglasrobertson.co.uk Anne Rogers lives on a croft with her husband and various animals. She writes short stories and poems & is a member of Huntly Writers – who offer invaluable help and support. Donnie Ross divides his time between writing, art, music and making things (sheds, violins). He is Chairman of Grampian Hospitals Art Trust (GHAT) and a past President of Aberdeen Artists Society. Maureen Ross is a native of Aberdeenshire. Her poems are available in a range of journals and anthologies. Koo Press published her chapbook Day Moth in 2007. Neil Russell’s work is generally concerned with the visual aspect of text, which is frequently explored in the context of landscape. But sometimes it’s just visual. And sometimes it’s just text.

Val Thomson is an artist living and working in the North East of Scotland. Her inspiration is drawn from the beautiful beaches, dramatic coastlines and varying countryside that surround her. Martin Walsh thought his cunning escape from POTB editorship would free up more time for writing. Poor fool! Now he’s managing sales, producing events… and hurling bananas when angered. Richard Watt is a newspaper journalist & proud father to baby Rory. He writes in English & Scots & is often found knee deep in mud, being shouted at by Mearns farmers. Lara S Williams is a British/Australian writer whose work has been published in Cordite, Antipodes, Island, Blue Crow, page seventeen, Islet, Mascara, fourW & the Sun Herald ‘Extras’. Lynn Winters lives in rural Australia and is a self-taught artist fascinated by Still Life. She grows many fruits and vegetables of the ‘warts and all’ variety which frequently appear in her paintings. Tim Winters lives in regional Australia and his art is closely connected to the visual exploration of landscape (including Scotland).

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PRINTER : Stephens and George

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Ann Craig reductive drawing [ink on copper]

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Pushing Out the Boat - Issue 11 Magazine Information With financial support from Aberdeen City Council, plus its own fundraising efforts, Pushing Out the Boat is entirely managed and produced by the dedicated team of volunteers listed below: Managing Editor Treasurer Secretary/Administrator Consulting Editor Publicity/Sales Art Panel Poetry Panel Prose Panel Scots/Doric Editor Copy Editors Covers Design & Layout Website Angus Representative

Judith Taylor Richard Anderson Freda Hasler Graeme Roberts Martin Walsh Michael Waight [Convenor], David Henderson, Tracey Johnston, Ruth Maxwell Sheila Reid [Convenor], Bernard Briggs, Georgia Brooker Rapunzel Wizard [Convenor], Moira Brown, Stuart Hannabuss, Gillian Phillips Derrick McClure Freda Hasler & Judith Taylor [Convenors], Moira Brown, Sheila McDerment; Dolleen MacLennan, Max Roach Ruth Maxwell Freda Hasler, Sue Simpson, Martin Walsh Judith Taylor Eleanor Fordyce

Email: info@pushingouttheboat.co.uk Post: Pushing Out the Boat, c/o 23 Ferryhill Place, Aberdeen, AB11 7SE The magazine can be ordered via our email/postal addresses (above), price ÂŁ6 per copy plus post and package; or purchased from our regular outlets, whose continued support we gratefully acknowledge. These include: Aberdeen Art Gallery Aberdeen Central Library Aberdeenshire Main Libraries Alford Heritage Centre Bank Street Gallery, Kirriemuir Better Read Books, Ellon Books and Beans, Aberdeen Camphill Bookshop, Bieldside Claremont Gallery, Aberdeen Duff House, Macduff Gallery at 55, Allardice St, Stonehaven Hammerton Stores, Gt Western Rd, Abdn John Briggs Emporium, Stonehaven

Junction Art, Holburn St, Aberdeen Lewis Grassic Gibbon Centre, Arbuthnott Newtondee Village Stores, Bieldside Mill of Benholm, Johnshaven Milton of Crathes Gallery Morgan McVeigh, Huntly Orb’s Bookshop, Huntly Peacock Visual Arts, Aberdeen The Coffee House, Aberdeen Touched By Scotland, Oyne Waterstones, Union Bridge, Aberdeen Woodend Barn, Banchory

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Pushing Out the Boat is indebted to several organisations for their in-kind support, which has helped us promote the magazine and facilitated our continued evolution. In particular, our thanks go to: The Inn at the Park, Aberdeen – hosting our fundraising events Peacock Visual Arts, Aberdeen – providing a Launch venue for Issue 11 The Granite City Gazette – magazine promotion and publishing services Aberdeen Arts Centre – providing mail services from 2005 to May 2012 We also owe a huge debt of gratitude to North East Open Studios [NEOS], a local not-for-profit organisation who share our dream of promoting cultural activity in this unique part of Scotland. NEOS carries promotional material for Pushing Out the Boat in their widelydistributed annual catalogue; many of their artists and galleries sell copies of the magazine; and their members submit material to our visual arts element. We are delighted to work in partnership with NEOS, and to endorse them here:

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A Visual Footnote by Ralph Steadman

Ralph Steadman’s connection with Aberdeen came through working at Peacock Visual Arts, making prints throughout the nineties and beyond. Born in 1936, he started as a cartoonist but has diversified greatly in the last 30 years or so. He has illustrated works such as Alice in Wonderland, Animal Farm and Treasure Island, and is closely associated with writers like William Burroughs and Hunter S Thomson – he illustrated the original Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. He has also won awards for his books The Grapes of Ralph and Still Life with a Bottle – both coming from the work he did for Oddbins. He lives in Kent with his wife Anna and has an Honorary D Litt from the University of Kent.

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Profile for Pushing Out the Boat

Pushing Out the Boat Issue 11  

North-East Scotland's Magazine of New Writing

Pushing Out the Boat Issue 11  

North-East Scotland's Magazine of New Writing

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