Monday, 22 November 2010

Notes from the frozen north # 1

God, Edinburgh is cold*. But the Scottish Poetry Library, Helena Nelson and a warm and generous audience was a great setting for the last of John Lucas' launch readings for Next Year Will Be Better. Mindful that the subtitle of his book is A memoir of England in the 1950s, he read from the only Scottish section of the book. This comprised a well observed note about visiting Dumfrieshire in the 1950s when he and an English friend were about the only people who stood for the National Anthem (then common practice in England) to find that some people shouted at them to sit down while others pelted the screen with orange peel and the like. A moment of discovery that not all Britons were royalists.
As well as launching John's book, we were launching a book published by him at Shoestring, a collection by Helena Nelson (publisher at Happenstance), Plot and Counterplot. The two readers worked very well together. I was pleased to see other Scottish publishers in the audience, as well as someone from STANZA, the St Andrews poetry festival - but then Helena has a big following in Scotland. It was nice to share some of that, and to bring her some of John Lucas' Scottish fan club.
*It got colder, wandering around later trying to find where First (the inappropriately named bus group) had moved the bus stop for travelling on to Hawick, then colder still in an unheated rattler of a bus for two and a quarter hours under blue lighting like that used in dodgy pub toilets to discourage junkies shooting up. The news from Hawick? The local football team has lost every match it has played this season, the Hawick rugby club is bottom of its league, the local Council is trying to get volunteers to cut the grass in local parks and there's a murder on the front page of the local paper. For this I paid First £6.30 to get there and £6.30 more to get to Carlisle the next day...

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