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A wee Diary at the Time of the Virus 2

Extract from Ordnance Survey Inverness-shire (Hebrides), Sheet XXII (1878, publ. 1882)reproduced with permission of the National Library of Scotland

The detail is as presented on the website ‘Friends of Ensay’. I’ve enjoyed exploring the maps in the National Library of Scotland (available on line now) nearly as much as sailing by Ensay. The twists and turns of The Sound of Harris are always a challenge and I’ve only once been through all the way without the need to fire up the engine. These days, my life is probably less different than that of many, this time of the virus. As both fiction and non fiction are in limbo, I’ve taken the chance to make that one more edit, in response to the close reading of informed friends. My novel ‘Sunwise’ and non-fiction, ‘Transits’ both describe transits through the Sound though one purports to be several hundred years ago.

By way of trade, I’ve also been close-reading some poems and stories, sent by friends. This give me again a sense of being in a community of writers. That’s something I was aware of first, back in 1979 to ‘80 in a writing and performing group at Aberdeen Uni. Nick Currie (soon to become the singr/songwriter/artist Momus) recited his sonnet from a stepladder on stage at Newton Dee Village. Nick was a guest at last year’s Faclan and we swapped a few memories. We’d been in touch before that when he called by the kitchen in the Sail Loft building where I used to live:

Our conversations reminded me how important a sense of community has been to me, working in the arts. The importance of community is re-affirmed now, big-time. Our neighbours at Vatisker leave seedlings or eggs out for each other. The pleasure of being able to return the gift with the spring-greens brought on by Christine. I usually spread soil or seaweed or build wee garden structures when I need to get my eyes off the editing screen.

Now, thanks to Sandra at an Lanntair, I’m going to be able to put some more hours into close reading and editing of work by another artist who looks for value in placing minimal texts with images to become another kind of storytelling. And I’m keeping in tune with poetry by close-reading new work, sharing reactions by e mail.

It was sore last weekend, knowing that we would have been over rejoining the generous community that is Ullapool Book Festival. But events happened on line. And projects will have to be developed that way too, without meeting face to face. TRACS commissioned me to collaborate with Mike Vass (also met at UBF) to make a new show which will be essentially the spoken storyline of the novel within a novel I’m just completing.

We may or may not be able to perform live at the Scottish International Storytelling Festival, late this year. But the work will have been developed and I’ve been asked to bear in mind that it could take different versions, some of them digital.

This is the process:

I think back to the chain of stories which has been performed before, improvised, at the CCA Glasgow and at the most friendly Rathlin Sound Maritime Festival. I don’t copy text from the novel and I don’t really make a playscript either. I suppose I’m just trying to boil it all down so the narrative is clear and there’s space for Mike to work his own spell, practice his own art. I type the narrative and a new short form of the story out so it can be shared. But Mike really wants to hear how the stories sound so I talk to my phone and send the instalments to him. He knows I won’t be learning them up and so the words won’t be identical every telling.

I’m looking forward to hearing what Mike comes up with but I’m betting he won’t be playing exactly the same notes every time.

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