Remember that ancient Chinese saying –
And may you live in interesting times?
It sounds like benediction, blessing,
but no, it’s contrary, not what it seems.Alan Spence Interesting Times: 2021
Alan Spence the fifth Makar of Edinburgh has written a poem to be buried in the ground. A time capsule poem for future generations. It was his last official commission at the end of his four years as poet laureate for the capital city (the original three year term was extended by a year thanks to Covid).
With the Makar’s blessing, I had started to post this wryly gentle poem before Putin invaded Ukraine. A time capsule poem reflecting on our shared experience of the last two years seemed to belong in what was likely to be the last scheduled publication of Sceptical Scot [and it came to pass, see Sceptical shuts up Shop statement – not buried but safely secured in the archive of the National Library of Scotland]. With obscene cruelty the President of Russia had added his own crude lines to the Chinese curse.
Don’t be afraid. The words shine in a dark space at the end of the Seamus Heaney exhibition. The words he texted to his wife shortly before he died in August 2013
At the mercy of the elements, does Henry Dundas
aloof in St Andrew Square still ponder having been
the most powerful politician of his day? Stewart Conn
Politicians come and go. While that stone-hearted rogue Henry Dundas looks down on the Christmas crowds let’s start with a moment of poetic (and blissfully Brexit-free) mischief. Here’s the very much alive and kicking Darren McGarvey…
I thought back to another year I knew
Autumn, lifting potatoes and stacking peats
On Mull… Ruthven Todd
There it is. Reading aloud from his latest book, Alexander McCall Smith nabs a furtive shadow from another time with a few lines from Ruthven Todd’s poem written in 1938. Continue reading
Some passports arouse an obliging smile
While others are treated as mud. Vladimir Mayakovski
A passport can conceal or reveal, open or close. Who knows how the true-blue British passport will be treated after Brexit, but right now Russian travellers are likely to be attracting more than average scrutiny at border control. And none too many smiles. Continue reading
Please pardon any wobbly bits in the piece that follows. This was a two-fingered exercise on my iPad, written and posted by hand for Sceptical Scot from Seat 53 on the train from Edinburgh to Kings Cross. A journey long enough to explore two passports and changing identities.
Travelling light, I’m sitting on the train when I remember that last minute packing left no time for this month’s Sceptical Scot poetry blogpost. A routine check of essential documents finds an answer. Irish passport to the rescue.
At first I find it hard to choose a poem from Judi Benson’s, Hole in the Wall. She became Writer in Residence at Dumfries and Galloway Royal Infirmary just a year after the death of her husband, Ken Smith, and there are lines in this book which I find painful to read. Continue reading
Women may be from Venus but that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy the occasional trip to Mars. On a dreary, rain-smeared midsummer night, I land on a sociable planet light years away from Brexit Britain, and find the perfect holiday poem for my husband. Continue reading
We closed the borders folks, we nailed it
No trees, no plants, no immigrants Jackie Kay
For west-centric liberals, 2016 has been the worst of all years. That’s such a constant refrain there’s now an echoing response on Twitter, ‘Stop blaming it on 2016’ is petulant and unimaginative in its repetition. Yet absolutely spot on. Continue reading
The great giants are crumbling one by one.
The Gendarme and the Cubaid are gone
and the trees are sliding to the shore
This is not about Brexit though goodness knows it was hard to escape the rumblings, crumblings and forebodings of separation among the unexpectedly European gathering on Skye. Continue reading