Raining Cats and Dogs

They say the weather in Scotland is unpredictable- typically four seasons in one day but at this time of year it’s mostly the wet stuff!

 Two poems about April Showers

April showers
Are here again
And I can hear the loud thunder
Also

By Aldo Kraas

 

EE8F1D18-08BA-4501-8202-0C66B459BC28
Photographic image by the author

When April Showers

When April showers,
I shower with her.
Daffodils dance
As we make love
like paper into origami.
My driveway
Becomes a lovers’ lane.

By John Peter Creighton

Sweet Dreams

It was not an ordinary day.
The east wind sparked salt and I awoke
to dreams of the unicorn. My old bones
rolled the waves and the falcon’s shadow
shifted. I knew what I must do.

Down Fast Eddie I chased the Dragon’s Tail,
surfed by leafy isles, rested in deepening
pools a while, glimpsed churches, spiraling treetops,
salmon swimming through castle walls.
I passed beneath Ness Bridge unseen.

It was the end of an ordinary day. So at So Coco
the waitress wrapped sweet fancies in tissue twists
as the last customer licked cappuccino
from his lips. At The Mustard Seed the chef marinaded
for dinner. At the Victorian Market they folded
tartan as gates clanged and the clock chimed.
In Falcon Square the piper belched away his ale

and no-one
saw my passing.  No-one saw the unicorn
fall.

 

Note 1:- The Loch Ness Monster is a mythical aquatic creature reputed to dwell deep in the cold waters of Loch Ness near Inverness in Scotland.  There have been numerous sightings and photographs showing a curvaceous beast rising out of the grey waves.

Note 2:- The unicorn is Scotland’s national animal.  A statue of a unicorn is located in Falcon Square, a landmark in the centre of the city of Inverness.

 

AFD94F1A-DB55-4167-B820-E21C3B851EF3
Photographic image created by the author

Northern Soul

Portrait of a Wicker Man

 

D9A170F5-3C0A-4CFA-9D40-862F085B59D3
Photo by the author

 

Note:- compared to the rest of the UK, the North of Scotland has a high level of social problems particularly affecting men.  Unemployment, alcoholism, drug abuse, depression and suicide are on the rise due to the decline of fishing, farming and the oil industries.  Men are feeling increasingly powerless as they lose their traditional roles.  So although it is a beautiful part of the world, the Highland region is a tough place to  survive.

I met the friendly guy in the photo while I was trying to photograph a window display in the tiny shopping precinct in Wick.  He offered to pose alongside the rather creepy mannequins.  He’d just bought cat food as he does voluntary work for a cat rescue charity.

For Your Eyes Only

These found poems are based on the real letters of Annie Mackay.  She spent her brief life working the small family croft in a remote area of the Highlands.  Sadly, she developed cancer and died at the age of 21 in 1957. Her orphaned six month baby boy was left to be raised by an aged uncle.  At the time illegitimate children were considered social outcasts.  No-one ever discovered the identity of the baby’s father which might be hinted at in these letters.  They were written to Annie’s married sister Violet who had moved to Edinburgh.  I love these letters because they are full of joy and humor even though Annie was already aware of her illness. They also paint a picture of the preoccupations of a country girl and life in the 1950s.

December, 1956.

Dear Violet,

I sold eighteen turkeys
so we can have a night
out in the pub,
going from bad to worse (puff).
Ronald says Ray is a born lunatic,
that was his opinion when he saw
the photos and then the blue jersey.
Your hair looked very nice,
is that a new dress you had on?
I hope it’s nylon
I’m not in favor of wool.

Lots of love and kisses,
from Annie

 

January, 1957

Dear Violet

I can tell you about it. There was turkey for dinner, then at 3 o’clock tea.
I had my cake with 21 candles. All the family were there listening to Lux
and singing The Railroad Runs Through the Middle of the House.
I think its super, don’t you?  Lena brought the record Walking in the Rain.
I like it do you?
Jesse gave me £5 and Connie £2 and Grandad two aprons and Mary a nylon underset
and Margaret a necklace, sparkles all colors and Donald a mohair scarf (awfully warm)
and Sheena nylons and Jane a cameo brooch and Granny a Terrylene blouse.
I’m not in favor of blue.
And from Julie a ‘Le Page’ compact and from Johnny, Black Rose perfume,
very good of him and from Lynn a Coty lipstick, nearly ruby and from Alan a purse.
What a present, not much use with no money and then of course, your presents.
Johnny stayed till midnight… everyone else went off at six.

Lots of love and kisses,
from Annie

 

PS  A Separate Special Instalment for your Eyes Only:-
BURN AFTER READING

[                                                                       ]

                        [                                                                       ]

 

 

DC59A75A-BFE8-4912-9BE6-D7FCBD19F3DE
Photograph by the the author

 

Highland River

Everywhere you look in the Highlands there are wild seas, sparkling waterfalls,  crystal rivers and lochs.  Rain falls almost every day.  Northern Scotland is a realm of water.  Perhaps that is why so many people choose to make it their home.  Human beings, like other animals, have an instinct to gather near water.  Water is a source of sustenance, essential to survival.

Many of the novels of acclaimed Scottish novelist Neil M Gunn (born 1891 – died 1973) focus on a watery theme:- Morning Tide, The Silver Darlings, The Grey Coast, The Drinking Well and Highland River which won the 1937 James Tait Black Memorial Prize for fiction.  Neil Gunn was born in Dunbeath, a tiny coastal village which is a half hour drive from my home.  His father was the captain of a herring boat and Gunn’s writing explores the harsh lives, isolation and landscapes of Caithness fishing communities.  Gunn was a socialist and a political activist committed to Scottish Nationalism and independence.  His writing has a Zen-like intensity with an underlying mysticism, detailed descriptions of landscape and the slow unfurling of events.

 

49417E1B-E609-46FF-A5DB-BDF02C543F7A
Photo by the author

 

Visitors to Dunbeath harbour today will see a striking bronze statue of a boy wrestling with a huge salmon.  The statue illustrates a dramatic scene from Highland River when nine year old Kenn captures a salmon with his bare hands.  The novel contrasts this childhood struggle for survival and dominance with the brutality of World War 1 when an adult Kenn joins the British army.

Within the first two pages Gunn introduces the novel’s main protagonist, establishes the remote community setting and the landscape whilst building dramatic mood and tension.  It is an example of Neil Gunn’s great skill as a writer.  Here is a short excerpt describing when Kenn on a cold morning, reluctantly goes to the river pool for water for the breakfast tea just before he sees the salmon:-

“Out of that noiseless world in the grey of the morning, all his ancestors came at him. They tapped his breast until the bird inside it fluttered madly; they drew a hand along his hair until the scalp crinkled; they made the blood within him tingle to a dance that had him leaping from boulder to boulder before he rightly knew to what desperate venture he was committed.”

 

99FE5778-9562-4DD8-907D-33194FD018E3
A tangle of creel baskets at Dunbeath harbour where small scale crab and lobster fishing has replaced the thriving herring industry of the early nineteenth century.

Something Fishy

DiCaprio’s Gap Year

He cruises Main Street every Friday come dreich or blue skies, sporting
mirror shades, white overalls and an Afro disguise; quite the showstopper.

His catchy tune tinkles in the wind before he appears round the hairpin
by the Ferry Inn; Thou shall hev a fishy on a little dishy, thou shall hev a fishy when…

Leonardo drives a converted ice cream van with a large plastic haddock
bolted to the roof, its flashing green eyes synchronise with the music.

The village cats wake up. The housewives apply lipstick. He delivers the flesh
of the sea direct from the Shetland trawlers and northern creel-boats.

His customers don’t know he survived Titanic and that since the heart
-wrenching moment he released Kate’s hand in the pool he’s been a wreck

with a strange empathy for inanimate fish.  His therapist blames
all those hours spent in the water trying to look love-sick

for Cameron’s perfect shot. His therapist claims
he has PTSD and toxins from the snow powder seeped into his blood stream.

He could sue but what’s the point?  It was the finality of letting go
that finished him, (though he’d promised he never would), the realization

that he was alone, dumped with no hope of rescue. After all his efforts to save
that spoiled brat, ruining his hair and getting chilblains in the process, she left him.

Just like those poor bastards neatly sliced and iced in his van;
the swordfish, monkfish, wolf-fish, langoustines, salmon, sea bass and lemon sole,

the delicate Orkney crabs, dressed and undressed for special occasions,
the peppered mackerel and smoked cod, the red snapper, prawns like babies’ penises

pickled in jars and lobsters with accusing eyes that make him turn away.
Jesus was a fisherman so every night Leo says a prayer

for the unwanted, those cast back into the harbor
and then he strolls to the end of the pier to practice walking on water.

 

F25AD0C4-3EA3-4CC0-9722-5567E1F7CB36
Artwork by the author