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Words on Watercolours A collection of poetry and prose inspired by paintings at the 133rd Annual Exhibition of the Royal Scottish Society of Painters in Watercolour by Words on Canvas



Chester Simpson Edward Smith Norma Brown Olga Wojtas Margaret Littewood Susan Grant Susan Owen Kirsteen Scott Dora Dickson Norma-Ann Coleman Moira Scott Helen Boden Lesley May Miller Iain Matheson

Michael Clark Sheila Mitchell David Brogan Catharine Davison Madeline Mackay Gary Anderson John C Brown Jacqueline Orr Sandy Murphy James McNaught Liz Murray Gordon Mitchell David Evans James Fairgrieve

Published March 2013 ŠRSW/Words on Canvas 2013

‘LBD’ by Michael Clark BA(Hons) PAI

LITTLE BLACK DRESS (Or Everything Your Heart Desires) It hung from the frame on a thin metal stand in prime position in the shop window and looked so innocuous. James had heard about it from his wife, Kate, and then his colleague Sarah who lived on the new estate on the other side of town. He had heard a lady in the newsagents talking about it too. What was the fuss about? It was 10.30am and the little black dress, like the rest of the High Street on this overcast, damp May morning, was limp and drab. To be strictly accurate, the shop lay just off the High Street, about twenty yards along one of the short cobbled lanes that ran off to each side. The town, here in the centre, reflected its Roman origins. All these side streets were narrow, the tenement buildings crowding in from either side three storeys high, so Millsap Lane was dark even in daytime. Consequently, the shop window, like one or two other units along here, was always lit, in this instance a subdued spotlight that barely highlighted the one item in the window. ---0--Unusual for James to be in the town centre twice in two weeks but here he was again, this time to track down the roofer contracted to do a number of winter repairs to his home but who always seemed to find an excuse to never actually appear. Now they weren’t even answering the phone. The firm’s business address on the High Street was boarded up, which seemed to answer his question, if not in the way he had wanted. He couldn’t explain why, he hadn’t consciously given it any thought, but as he was here anyway, it seemed quite natural to turn into Millsap Lane on the way back to his parked car. Given the (lack of) appeal of its window before, he half expected the little shop to be boarded up too, but it wasn’t. Indeed it appeared to have been redecorated. He hadn’t noticed the name of the shop the first time he had been here – ‘Lucy Ferrell’s’ the shopfront proclaimed in a jarring ochre on green script above the doorway. Despite the work done, Lucy Ferrell had made scarcely more than a token attempt to improve the window display. The little black dress was still there, adorning a plastic mannequin of a kind. A mannequin without legs, the black gunmetal stand still projected from dress to the floor, and ‘she’ was headless too, shorn none too neatly at the neck. Yet, the dress hung well. Still not the thing you expected to see a Yorkshire lass wearing, James considered. Definitely not. Otherwise the window was empty, and beyond it, the only other thing in the small shop was a large, gilt framed mirror on the back wall. James saw his own reflection, top coat buttoned up to the neck to give some protection from the east wind rifling down the lane. Behind him was an old woman, stooped, head down, scurrying along the cobbled lane. A white plastic bag picked up in the breeze and swirled for a moment above her head. It was a curious scene, and he suddenly felt the hair prickle on the back of his neck. Something didn’t seem quite right.

---0--James was dreaming. So many dreams lately, nothing especially alarming, yet when he woke each morning he felt a sweaty, stifling anxiety. Nothing that he could properly remember or begin to articulate, and each day, by the time he went off to work, the feeling had gently faded as mist under the morning sun. What was unusual this time was that he knew he was dreaming, even as he was locked within it. He was in Millsap Lane. It was gusty, the stooped old woman hobbling past him, the white plastic bag flicked up into the air and held there as if by an invisible hand. He saw these things in the mirror in the shop, he studied his own reflection and wondered if it was time he should be losing some weight. Then it struck him. Funny what a mirror could show – and, looking again at the mannequin immediately in front of him, what it didn’t. ---0--Joanne Falconer’s fiftieth birthday had taken a predictable course, but for the fact that her husband Fred wasn’t there. A gathering of over fifty family and friends in the Arms Hotel, a satisfying choice of roast beef or fish for the main part of the meal, the decks cleared for dancing and the appearance of a young, rather pimply disco-meister to provide the music. James had known Fred and Joanne for twenty five years. Fred’s absence was a strange one, for he had been planning this evening for months. Apparently called away to Luton on urgent business yesterday, Joanne explained. James suspected she was working hard to hide her disappointment. He studied her at some length as she circulated and mingled. She was an attractive enough woman to be sure, but three children and the passage of time had left their inevitable mark, and Joanne’s allure nowadays resided mostly in her twinkly eyes and bright personality. James wasn’t critical no oil painting himself, he was the first to acknowledge. They were, when it came down to it, all in the same boat. After the meal, Joanne made her excuses, muttering something about Fred’s special birthday gift, and headed off towards the lobby. When she returned, the intake of breath around the room was audible. Joanne in the little black dress moved across the room with an effortless grace and poise. She looked stunning. It was the only word James could find, nothing else seemed at all adequate. Somehow shorn of years and pounds in weight, she was confident, radiant, quite transformed from the always cheerful but slightly mousy middle-aged lady she had become. It seemed such a shame that the only person unable to see her now should be Fred. Never mind, all the more opportunity to dance with Joanne this evening, and James suddenly resolved to make the most of it.


In town to book the Caribbean cruise he and Kate had agreed to take for their silver wedding celebration, the other shops were already closed by the time James at last concluded business. He took his usual shortcut back to the car and made his way along Millsap Lane. Though closed any other time he had been in town during the day, now Lucy Ferrell’s was, perversely, open for business. James stopped at the window and was relieved to see the same dress still there. Yet not quite the same. The dress seemed slightly more revealing than he remembered. The mannequin’s legs were fine and long, and she seemed frozen in a pirouette, pivoting on her right foot, so that the dress swirled out beautifully, offering a fetching glimpse of knee and thigh. Her hair was jet black and, though quite long, was pulled back so that the delicate line of her neck was fully revealed. As with any mannequin, she was beautiful and remote and ever so slightly tragic, as if trapped in time. James had been thinking about this moment for days. The dress would be the perfect accessory for Kate on the cruise. While some Harry Connick Jr. sound-alike crooned ‘It Had to be You’, James imagined the ship’s ballroom falling into a momentary hush as Kate, in his arms, glided across the floor in perfect 4-beats-to-the bar rhythm in this little black dress. He had no idea of the cost – Joanne had been very coy on the subject – but James recognised now that the price was not the point. At that moment, he realised that he himself was being examined by a woman in the shop. Her hair was jet black, cut short and heavily gelled so that she appeared to wear an adornment of quills. Fortyish, he guessed. She was a slender woman, lithe even, and wore a tight black blouse and trousers. The mysterious Lucy Ferrell, he presumed. She nodded to him without smiling and motioned towards the door. James realised that he had been holding his breath for some time, and now he exhaled heavily, puffing out his cheeks, and reached for the door handle. He took a long, nervous breath and stepped into the shop. ---0---

Chester Simpson Inspired by ‘LBD’ by Michael Clark BA(Hons) PAI

Old and Young holding On by Sheila Mitchell MA

Old and Young Holding On Red, colour of rebellion Of danger, heresy Youthful thoughts Flourishing ideas Blue spells caution Suspicion of change Tradition, tried, tested Tranquility of known Black is despondent Depression, failure Negativity of vision Silence of the fearful Green, serene, peaceful Quiet, calm reflection Balanced, conciliatory A bringing together Lines speak of hope Crossing, encouraging Nurturing by the old Caring love of youth Holding on

Edward Smith Inspired by Old and Young holding On by Sheila Mitchell MA

The Black Chair by David Brogan

Fred and Ginger We had such fun in this room. He would put on the music, pretending to tip his hat like Fred Astaire, wiggle a bow tie, do a tip tap, heel toe, heel toe before shuffling across saying, ‘Let’s dance Ginger.’ Clasping me round the waist, we’d swirl round and round until I was giddy. ‘Stop, stop’ I’d tell him then he would let go and glide away feet still beating to the rhythm as he sang, ‘I’m puttin’ on my top hat Duden’ up my shirt front…’ Dancing on, arms outstretched he’d go whirling until I caught my breath. Sweeping me up again he’d tilt me backwards and we’d spin and spin until the music stopped. We laughed and hugged each other until our hearts stopped pounding. That last day…I still feel sad remembering that final day, he whispered. ‘I’m slippin’ out my dear To catch an atmosphere…’ The music stopped for me then. I found his shoes today in the back of the cupboard. The shape of his feet was still there, the outline of toes where they had pressed against the leather. Dusty creases across the tops showed where he’d balanced on tip toe. So I polished them, feeling the bumps and hollows with my fingers. Smiling to myself I thought as I placed them on the chair, ‘There you go Fred. You always did like a shine on your shoes to go with the twinkle in your eyes.’ I could imagine him pulling down his waistcoat and quickstepping to the music, singing, ‘Mussin’ up my white tie Dancin’ in my tails.

Norma Brown Inspired by The Black Chair by David Brogan

The Landscape which had eaten my Heart (from Blackford Hill) by Catharine Davison BA(Hons) Graph Des MA(Dist)Illus

Blackford Hill The allotment was boring. She wanted to feed the ducks in Blackford Pond. “Daddy...” “Yes, sweetheart, in a minute.” He had been saying that for hours. She looked around for something to do, and spotted a plump, rippling worm. She could collect worms. She picked the worm up, then another one. They squirmed in her hand. She couldn’t keep holding them; she needed somewhere to put them. She spotted the shoes her father had changed out of. * She looked forward to the morning routine, which was always the same. Her father kissed her mother goodbye, then came to kiss her goodbye while simultaneously trying to steal some of her cereal. She batted away his hand with her spoon and he kissed the top of her head. “Bye, sweetheart. Have fun at school.” While she was still eating her cereal, the doorbell jangled and jangled again. “What on earth?” said her mother and went to answer it. She had just finished her breakfast when the kitchen door opened. But it wasn’t her mother, it was Miss Gibson from next door. She didn’t like Miss Gibson, who never smiled and complained about noise. “Your mum’s had to go out for a wee while,” said Miss Gibson. “I’ll look after you until she comes back.” She wanted to say that she didn’t need looking after. The old lady just stood there and then suddenly picked up the marmalade from the table. “Let’s clear up the breakfast things. You can show me where everything goes.” “I’ve got to go to school,” she said, but Miss Gibson insisted, so they cleared the table and washed up. “I’m going to be really late,” she said. “I’ll get a row.” “Don’t worry,” said Miss Gibson, which wasn’t the sort of thing Miss Gibson said. “Why don’t you read a book?” She didn’t feel like reading but she pretended. At lunchtime, Miss Gibson made her a cheese sandwich. Afterwards, she asked the old lady if she could do some drawing instead of reading. She got her coloured pencils and started drawing the ducks at the pond. She was colouring in their green heads when her mother came back. Miss Gibson gave her mother a hug, which wasn’t the sort of thing Miss Gibson did. Once the old lady had left, her mother told her that her father had been taken ill and was in hospital. She looked at her mother in wonder. “Are you crying?” she asked. Her mother wiped her eyes and said everything was all right. That night, she slept in her parents’ bed, in her father’s space, snuggling up to her mother. In the morning, her mother held her close and told her that her daddy had died. *

She got a puppy for Christmas, a mad mongrel, all paws and ears. They couldn’t take him up Blackford Hill until he had had all his jags and learnt to come back when he was called. It was a bright, frosty day as they walked up Observatory Road and on to the hill, the puppy dashing off to investigate the whin bushes. She ran after him, her feet crunching on the frozen tussocks. The whole city broadened below her, the lion’s head of Arthur’s Seat, the crown of St Giles, the castle, Astley Ainslie Hospital, row after row of houses shimmering through the trees. Though she couldn’t see it yet, she knew that down there was the pond, with the rocky path to the left. “I miss going to the allotment,” she said. “Daddy always took me to feed the ducks.” “Your daddy loved you very much,” said her mother. To begin with, she thought her mother was crying again, but it must have been the wind making her eyes water, because her mother was laughing. “Do you remember,” her mother said, “the time you put all the worms in Daddy’s shoes?” She didn’t remember. And it was a long time later that she realised the puppy had been a consolation prize.

Olga Wojtas Inspired by The Landscape which had eaten my Heart (from Blackford Hill) by Catharine Davison BA(Hons) Graph Des MA(Dist)Illus

Crow in Red Earth by Madeline Mackay BA Fine Art

Poor Crow Poor crow fleabitten picked on streetwise sly strutting the red earth shambling through dust awry Scavenger straddling the pocked terrain foot in each door waiting your chance to score Guttersnipe spoiling for a scrap – uncowed but balanced on the brink of pitfalls darker than you think * And now majestic, as encroaching death deletes you, haughty shoulders heaved in one last breath You threw your gauntlet at the feet of life, took it full on, but-at the wire- tough, unforgiving Nature wrote you off

Margaret Littlewood Inspired by Crow in Red Earth by Madeline Mackay BA Fine Art

Indiana by Gary Anderson BA(Hons) Fine Art RSW

ALL GONE by DAWN. Ley lines have crossed to bring her from another time, a different place, to fix her tragic stance. Widowed in the long ago she pauses fretted on horizons of subconscious fear to flex her black satanic wings. A tattered parasol hung with spider stars is scant protection from the white hot sun. How she regrets staked sunflowers, dried where they grew, their gold not treasured. She takes strange comfort from the claw grip of the owl upon her wrist as the hare makes for the sanctuary of her skirts like a dog at an execution. Brightly coloured, three balloons loosed with unfettered strings float free to join the rainbow which will not be there when they arrive for as the fading flocks of birds desert the greying sky one bold black crow erases, with his wing tip, the sign of hope.

Susan Grant Inspired by Indiana by Gary Anderson BA(Hons) Fine Art RSW

Morning Task – Cuba by John C Brown RSW

wake up and up and down in and out round about shwoosh clatter chatter laughter rising smell the

Susan Owen Inspired by Morning Task – Cuba by John C Brown RSW

Dry Riverbed, Luskentyre by Jacqueline Orr RSW

Give me that river again at its beginning out of hill and sky and the scree below the Beinn. Give me that burn fighting its way over rocks to drop and settle, Give me that stream where mint and marigolds grow and deer come to drink in the quiet pool and we found the elvers that summer day. Give me that stream with its gravel beds where the freshwater mussel burrows its foot for a hundred years of a pearl's growing. Give me that river in spate, where it meets the sea, and I will wait with the salmon for the call upstream again.

Kirsteen Scott Inspired by Dry Riverbed, Luskentyre by Jacqueline Orr RSW

Loudon Hill by Sandy Murphy RSW RGI PAI

LOUDON HILL Saturday the 25th September! The last time I went up Loudon Hill! I’ve no idea when, if ever, I’ll be back up again. I love going there for the fresh air and magnificent views, imagining I could be standing in the footsteps of those who fought in battles there centuries ago. Anyway, late that afternoon, pleasantly tired, I tramped back down the hill and along the lanes to the village in anticipation of my reward - a cup of coffee in Mark’s Deli which is just round the corner from where I park the car. Their intensely flavoured Continental Blend is divine and so are their cakes and pastries made on the premises and this always rounds off the day perfectly. The deli cum cafe is popular in the area with tourists and locals alike because most of the meats and cheeses are locally sourced and those that aren’t come from excellent and reliable suppliers. People come from miles around both to buy produce and to relax in the cafe. The deli is situated immediately you enter the shop and you have to go through a doorway at the back to get to the cafe. I eyed up the cheeses and meats and mentally selected a few to take home. Then I spied a barrow over in the corner with a crush of people round it. It was one of these old fashioned things street traders used to sell their wares from, topped with a green and white striped umbrella. The proprietor and his assistant, sporting green and white striped aprons and white butchers’ hats, were standing behind it, backs to the wall, dishing out samples of cheese and wine with the obvious intention of drumming up trade. I made a beeline for the barrow and squeezed through the crowd. ‘May I?’ I asked the proprietor, reaching for the cheese. ‘Certainly,’ he said. ‘It’s a mature Edam.’ I popped a cube into my mouth. It was utterly delicious. I’ll definitely take home some of that, I thought. There was quite a crowd round about me in front of the barrow, and I pondered how to get my glass of wine at the opposite end from the cheese without barging past people. It was then I heard a crash. It seemed to come from somewhere behind me. There was another and another. Gracious, I thought, what on earth is happening? Somebody’s having a right old time of it. Then I saw a pool of liquid at my feet. And broken glass. Yet another crash assailed my eardrums, then a tall man to the right of me suddenly announced in the pleased tones of someone who has just solved a major mystery, ‘It’s your bag!’ I, it seemed, was the cause of all the trouble. It transpired that I was standing directly in front of a stand of the wines the proprietor was hoping to flog and I had never noticed it in my eagerness to get to the samples. I had a very light nylon rucksack on my back and each time I turned it had gently and imperceptibly nudged a bottle off the shelf to shatter itself on the tiled floor below. There must have been about five broken bottles in total. I glanced at the owner. He was busily arranging for the mess to be cleared up. ‘I’m sooo sorry,’ I muttered, wondering if I’d be asked to pay for the damage. I judged it safer, however, not to wait and see, edged backwards out of the crowd and fled from the shop.

I didn’t get my coffee and I didn’t get my goodies. I just went home. The urge to go up Louden Hill again soon is irresistible but unthinkable without the prospect of a visit to the café at the end of it. How long must I wait before I dare show my face in there again? I could always, of course, put on dark glasses and a wig!

Dora Dickson Inspired by Loudon Hill by Sandy Murphy RSW RGI PAI

The Disappearance of Georgette Magritte by James McNaught RSW RGI

Ceci n’est pas une aquarelle (This is not a watercolour) Delvaux-sur-Mer on a Sunday afternoon, silent, joyless. Georgie stood on the pavement outside the bar with no door. Somehow the vultures gathering overhead didn't faze her one bit. As long as she was still alive the vultures wouldn't touch her. It was a shame about the baby of course but she wasn't even sure about that. Perhaps the child had survived when the tram ploughed into the pram. Nothing really mattered much now anyway. It crossed her mind that the crows were probably enjoying a last supper of tarte aux chevaux dropped by a hypersensitive vulture. She smiled. They would die soon one way or another. Georgie crossed the road and picked up the sheets of newspaper littering the pavement. She was glad it wasn’t a tabloid. She hated the tabloids with their bad-pun headlines. This was no place for paronomasia. Another silent tram went past. It had no passengers and for that matter no driver but that wasn't unusual for Delvaux-sur-Mer. The weather was menacing and the beach deserted. Georgie sat naked on the still-warm sand and read the newspaper, which had only one story. The men in the bowler hats were coming. Georgie had encountered one of them before. Usually the men in the bowler hats descended in perfect formation but this one must have lost his way and was wandering around searching for an umbrella shop. From behind he looked perfectly normal with his long worsted coat and his perfectly-polished black shoes. But, when the man turned round, he had that tell-tale shiny green apple where his nose should have been. Instinctively Georgie made for a nearby tuba and hid until the danger passed. She had been lucky that day. Georgie ignored the shrieking at first but as the decibels increased she turned round, the sand tickling her thighs. A woman was running out of the bar with no door. She was welldressed and her long fair hair was impeccably coiffed in the fashionable waxwing style. Why was she screaming? Georgie never did find out as the woman jumped aboard a passing tram and all was silence. There wasn't much time left. The men in the bowler hats always came in from the sea, some carrying umbrellas, some carrying briefcases, no-one knew why. Georgie shuddered. It was getting darker and darker and the sun would soon give up the fight and let go. The tram lines trembled with a silent hiss. She could take a tram or try to find refuge on one of the steamboats whose names were the ‘Marie Celeste’ and the ‘African Queen’ according to René who knew about such things. Or she could just stay where she was and wait for the men in the bowler hats. It didn't make any difference. Disappearance was commonplace in the town of Delvaux-sur-Mer. Georgie wondered if her husband would miss her; no-one else would. Norma-Ann Coleman Inspired by The Disappearance of Georgette Magritte by James McNaught RSW RGI

The Traveller’s Quilt (Fragment) by Liz Murray RSW

The End of the Road Bleached memories hang on a string, dried feather, leaf and charm mementos of past travel. Fragile stitches barely hold ticket scraps, map fragments. . Cling fast to the fading remnants, conjure up the Atlantic lashes on the Cornish coast, the sun strokes on Messina, the meandering Hei-Ho in the Mongolian wastes. Washed up at journey’s end the faded quilt whispers your story, offers glimpses of places loved and lost. What now can you add before it finally shreds?

Moira Scott Inspired by The Traveller’s Quilt (Fragment) by Liz Murray RSW

Lasting Impressions by Gordon Mitchell RSA RSW RGI

Lasting Impressions Place in the sun, you said. You should go away: recline for a few months on a section of shingle in a private plage. To you, a beach was topographical and only stopped when headlands intervened, not the next cafe, bar or restaurant: owned, like moors after an Enclosure Act. A place where you can hire a lounger for twentyfive euros a day - like those Corbusiercantilever contraptions we had on the Cap, you said. Proof positive that you're not going to change.

So I went. I laid out on one half of a wadded Arundel tomb and thought of those first northern painters of the southern light trying to get it right, and us side by side beside the Berthauds' pool behind excluding walls where the refracted sun soldered all its fierceness into souls sold for two weeks' hedonistic fun. Those first impressions made on one another long adumbrated by our separate lives are now expressed in abstract dreams alone of only glanced-at future ports of call. What will survive of us is less than is seared onto that desiccated poolside. After decades' desert-combat of the heart the heat obliterates all trace of where your body was; leaves, photoshop-fragmented, a carbon-copy only of a love. Helen Boden Inspired by Lasting Impressions by Gordon Mitchell RSA RSW RGI

A White Bowl by David Evans ARCA RSA RSW

Earth to Light Kaolin, feldspar and flint thrown, coiled or pinched in the master hands of a potter. White body, speckled with light cobalt brushed around the rim set aside to dry for many days. The fire roars for long hours slowly from cherry-red to orange a yellow glare fills the kiln. White heat of expectation. Wait. Will there be joy or pain? Cupped hands hold a fragile bowl cared for in obscurity until a chance spin of life始s wheel repeats the process of transformation. Filled with a flourish of cream a perfect porcelain blue-edged bowl out in the world.

Lesley May Miller Inspired by A White Bowl by David Evans ARCA RSA RSW

Aubergine by James H Fairgrieve RSA RSW

Aubergine Do not be distracted by other vegetables, by the sound of unseen hedgehogs. Cut clean through the fibres of the green stalk without flinching - even though it looks reproachfully at you, show no mercy. Just for a moment it may evoke a small pub in France from which you once emerged more-or-less sober: ignore this, focus on what you must do. Go with the aubergine to a dark, soundless room, set it on a wooden crate; now you can begin.

Iain Matheson Inspired by Aubergine by James H Fairgrieve RSA RSW

Words on Watercolours  

A collection of poetry and prose inspired by paintings at the 133rd Annual Exhibition of the Royal Scottish Society of Painters in Watercolo...

Words on Watercolours  

A collection of poetry and prose inspired by paintings at the 133rd Annual Exhibition of the Royal Scottish Society of Painters in Watercolo...