First, congratulations to the West of Scotland poet and dramatist, Liz Lochhead, who was yesterday appointed to the position of national poet (or „makar”) – a position invented a few years ago by the First Minister of the new Scottish Government and held first by Edwin Muir. Ironically the only poem of Lochhead’s which seems to be online is the entitled "Poets need not be garlanded": Anyway, it’s a nice idea – although I’m a great fan of Tom Leonard’s poetry myself but he generally writes in a strong West of Scotland accent – the good thief will give you the idea (you need to know that the thief is hanging on a cross and speaking to Jesus!). That poem led me onto the Billy Connolly’s scabrous humour In addition to explaining some of the words, I also pointed out to D one of the historical specialities of these quality West of Scotland comics (Greenock-born Chic Murray was the best) who simply took the meaning of common phrases and words apart – eg „Ï rang the bell – what else can you do with it?”. Interesting that the poet WS Graham (much admired by TS Eliot)who so focussed on words and their fragility should also (like me) be from that town. And also quite a clutch of writers - John Galt, Davidson, George Blake, Alan Sharp,Ian Banks (briefly and in Gourock), playwright Bill Bryden and David Ashton(ne Scott) - the last 2 classmates of mine.
I realised that I will be in Sofia on January 25th – the birthday of Scotland’s real national bard – Rabbie Burns - and will try to arrange a small „do”for my friends there to celebrate the man and his life and works (and Bulgarian, Italian, Romanian and Scottish poets – Italian for my friend Enzo will be present). Doubtless the hapless Hristov Botev will be one of the Bulgarian poets – the”romantic revolutionary” (against Ottoman rule) who must vie with Bonnie Prince Charlie for the title of The historical figure who „ca'd least manage a menage” („hopelessly impractical” in West of Scotland patois – except that I can’t find it online!
Haggis then jumped to mind (it has that habbit - as Connolly or Chic Murray might have said) and I remembered that Sofia had an outfit which delivers British products to the door. Sure enough Andy was quick to reply and a couple of haggi (??) will duly wing their way to the flat next week - provided that is that I can find a flat! The local company with which I am working - Dicon - has proved very inefficient so far.
And, with 10 litres of good Dealu Mare and Recas red and white wine from Romania, we will toast absent friends such as Daryoush, Jacek and Zulfiya – with whom I have celebrated these evenings. This - plus some Bulgarian wine which I have missed - should be enough for 8 people!!
Bought a copy yesterday of my favourite newspaper – Le Monde – it said it all that it devoted at least 5 full pages to the development in Tunisia. Can you imagine a british newspaper doing that??
I was trying to find a suitable industrial landscape painting of West of scotland online - but couldn't. Andy Hay did some great stuff a few decades back on shipbuilding (as did Stanley Spencer during the war) but this is the only painting I could find of his. And the great Stanley Spencer is very badly served by the War Museum who have all his Port Glasgow shipbuilding paintings but don't display any of them on their website!
All praise to poetry, the way it has
of attaching itself to a familiar phrase
in a new way, insisting it be heard and seen.
Poets need no laurels, surely?
their poems, when they can make them happen -- even rarely --
crown them with green.