Thursday, 20 September 2012

Leave Nothing But Footprints.

Yesterday I walked to St Ninian's Cave. It's a wonderful place, at the very tip of the Machars in South West Scotland. It strains to be the most southerly point, falling a little behind the Mull of Galloway, another peninsula, visible across the waves to the west.
It was a very windy day and as I walked down through the glen, the trees that have grown so tall searching for the light creaked and groaned, their crowns top heavy. The forecast was for rain but the sun was shining and the strength of the wind almost knocked me from my feet as I arrived at the beach, emerging from the shelter of the narrow glen.
It is a lovely place, a place of pilgrimage since the time of St Ninian in the fourth century. There is a path that will take you along the coast to the Isle of Whithorn, but most people follow in the footsteps of previous pilgrims as far as the cave and then retrace their steps. Taking away the memory of the place but leaving nothing. The cave, and the cobble beach featured in the cult film 'The Wickerman' but even this little piece of cinema history is not shared with visitors. There is no information board down at the beach, though there is something about St Ninian and pilgrimage at the car park.
Yet someone has left their own little plaque, riveted and cemented into the rock in this wild place. They felt the need to have something professionally engraved about how they 'chilled out' in this 'special place'. And there it is attached to the rock as you walk by on the way to the cave where many have scratched tributes and memories of loved ones into the walls. But not permanent memorials. People leave stones chosen from the beach or crosses made from driftwood. A number of small cairns trace the route to the cave, cairns that will change, grow, collapse and perhaps disappear with a high spring tide.
However special this place is to the family who left the metal plaque, whatever grief or difficulty they were having, I fail to understand why they needed to display this so publically in a place where so many remember in private.

Take nothing but pictures.
Leave nothing but footprints.
Kill nothing but time.
~Motto of the Baltimore Grotto, a caving society

Friday, 14 September 2012

The Queen of Frittering

'And this is so puritanical, but it's the idea of the parable of the talents. If you've got something you can do, it's very important to do it. I see at my age how swiftly my life has gone and how easily I could have not got serious and just frittered time away. But I didn't do that. I thought, "Actually, I have got this one thing I think I can do." And that's been very important to me.'
Rose Tremain 

I read this statement in a recent interview with Rose Tremain in the Daily Telegraph and was impressed. It struck a mighty chord that reverberated through my thoughts for a long time .That sentence 'I have got this one thing I think I can do' is the problem for me. There isn't just one thing I think I can do - there's loads of things I think I could have a crack at. I may not do them very well but the temptation is too great and so in flies the frittering.  

 I decided, age fifty, to finally try and be serious about writing, about being a writer, about owning the word, saying it out loud and meaning it.  But my problem is, and has always been, a lack of focus. I am the Queen of Frittering. I could fritter for Scotland if it was a sport at the Commonwealth Games. I'd have a good chance of getting gold. It's not just procrastination, a dreadful complaint common to many writers, my problem starts with the inability to decide what to do in the first place. This is why it's taken so long for me to decide that I am a writer. (Note that I am reinforcing this not for anyone who may read this but myself). 

I began writing, as most writers seem to do, as a child. I was constantly writing stories about ponies and show jumping. I wanted to be a journalist believing I could help change the world by reporting on the oppressed and ignored but I discovered that I lacked ambition. That intense burning zeal you need to get you to the top soon fizzled out with me, I couldn't scorch the people around me. I discovered that beneath the hard shell there was a warm fuzziness and I've been struggling to get out of that pond of compassion ever since. 

I retrained as a yoga teacher, going all out for the soft inner soul but I never gave up on words and four years ago I found myself writing a book. So here I am, a writer again. But part of me is constantly still thinking about opening a cafe, wool shop, cafe and wool shop, book shop perhaps wool, bookshop cafe complex...... you get the picture, um picture, always liked drawing, art, painting...... And at the same time I bounce like a woman in a giant pin ball machine, frittering time away as I start to hoover, then decide to tidy something, then think maybe I should take this lot to the recycling or should I keep it for a rag rug, should I start a rag rug, should I blog about rag rugs, oh look..... and I'm away again. I have frittered years doing this. How I envy Rose Tremain that she had the discipline to think 'this is one thing I can do.' 

Dealing with corruption

I finally got around to blogging on here yesterday only to see the post later on and find that it was gibberish. I know I have difficulty stringing a sentence together - not great for a writer - but this really was nonsense. It was hilarious apart from it made me look like a demented fool. It's something to do with my laptop but my timing was brilliant - my computer literate son has just gone back to university. So, I just scrapped the whole thing and I'm going to write it again, it's about faffing around so it may be some time, I've had a far too productive morning so far and feel I need to go waste some time like I normally do. 

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Blethering Again.

I'm hoping to meet up this week with Shalla Gray. I helped Shalla get her first children's book published with Galloway Children's Books, an imprint of GC Books of Wigtown, earlier this year. Shalla wrote and illustrated a lovely story of a young sheep who wanders through the delights of Dumfries and Galloway while searching for her lost fleece. It's called 'Charlotte's Woolly Yarn - A Spin Around South West Scotland.
I'm hoping that Shalla will do some illustrations for 'Maxwell's Mega Mission' in case I do decide to self publish. Shalla did some lovely pen and ink drawings to illustrate an anthology I edited for Wigtown Women's Walk called 'Singing Over the Bones.' 

I also met up last week with James McCarthy who has written a number of books including a short biography of Sir Patrick Stewart - not the actor, a Victorian pioneer of the electric telegraph who came from Galloway. G C Books will be publishing a new book by James about another interesting character from Dumfries and Galloway called Sir John Richardson. I'll mention more about this book in future blogs.