ode to a hat.

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

It’s been a difficult couple of days culminating in the loss of my very most favourite hat*. When I say ‘favourite hat’ – it’s really the only hat I’ve ever enjoyed to wear. I’m not even sure how I lost it. 


I had it on yesterday morning when the rain was driving down so hard that, by the time I bustled inside, my coat was heavily, spongily wet. I had the hat when I was in the car, tucked inside one of the cup holders behind the handbrake. I picked it up – I’m sure I picked it up – when I was getting out the car, waving goodbye to my mum before stepping in a puddle en route to the the train station.

But after that: no idea

It was a nice little hat – thick knit wool in a colour that was somewhere between green, turquoise and teal. The expression ‘it fit like a glove’ would describe it perfectly if it hadn’t, in fact, been a hat. And what I mean by that was it kept my ears cozy without being too tight around my head (unlike the new hat I was forced – by the gnawing wind – to buy this morning. I can still feel it pressed against my forehead even though it’s been sitting beside me on the desk for the past seven or eight minutes). I could wear my hat and not end up with funny hair. It didn’t have any pompoms or ruffles or racoon faces with ears or sequins. It was just a simple hat, and when I wore it with my red coat I felt kind of like a strawberry.

Goodbye hat.
I'm sorry for not taking better care of you.
I will miss you.



(Picture: the last photograph of me and the hat, taken on Sunday, on the Glasgow subway, as my brother and I hurtled towards the West End and our first Christmas turkey of the month

*Note: the hat-loss isn't the most difficult thing, so I suppose 'culminating' is the wrong word. But I'm still pretty sad about it...)

swooning.

Tuesday, 18 November 2014


The line ‘fill your paper with the breathings of your heart’ came into my head this afternoon... and I’ve been unable to get it out.

(Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart.
With the breathings of your heart.
Fill your paper) 

I read a while ago that those words belong to Wordworth, but I was reluctant to look them up. I was nervous I'd find out that he said them in the midst of something ugly. Or that the words aren’t his at all... they belong to someone sort've boring called Fred*.


(With the breathings of your heart. Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart.)

My own words have been coming out quite clunkily today. Too many lists. Too much ‘telling’. Not enough poetry. Too many hyphens, and commas (and parenthesis) and falterings. So eventually I threw down my pen (metaphorically – I’ve been writing on a keyboard) and decided to type the line into Google. "To seek out the source." Why not?


Anyway - that's all a very long explanation to account for why I’m posting the following love letter snippet on here. It made my heart stop for a second. That’s all. The line ('fill your paper...') comes from this closing paragraph in (yes) a letter Wordsworth wrote to his wife, Mary. Here it is:  
‘I have infinite pleasure in the thought of seeing thee again in Wales; and travelling with thee. – I long for the day. Love me and think of me & wish for me, and be assured that I am repaying thee in the same coin [...] Write to me frequently & the longest Letters possible; never mind whether you have facts or no to communicate; fill your paper with the breathings of your heart. Most tenderly your friend & Husband W.W.’
Goodness!


I’m glad I looked. (‘Write to me frequently & the longest Letters possible...)

Beautiful.


(Note: *No offense to Fred, whoever he is. I suppose writing that lovely line would show he has a beautiful soul. And his anonymity doesn’t make his poetry any less valuable than W.W’s. (Yeahyeah. I know.) But I wanted Wordsworth to’ve said this. He wrote so many other great lines – ‘Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting’, pretty much every line in ‘The world is too much with us’ – and I just wanted these words to be his also.)

(Pictures: the first is Glasgow and the rest are from around my friend Christi's beautiful light-filled house.)

an ordinary mystery.

Friday, 14 November 2014

So I want to write about my pumpkin-spice-infused visit to the States last month (I don't think I've fully adjusted to being back in rainy Glasgow yet. Such a good trip and such lovely friends). Before that though... I wanted to write a small something about the literary magazine I’m involved in setting up at university.


It’s called Quotidian (meaning ‘ordinary’ or ‘everyday’), and will be launching online in Jan/Feb 2015 with poetry, fiction, creative non-fiction and beautiful images from students across Scotland. (Cue part where I look directly into the camera and say in a velvet voice: ‘If you’re a student studying in Scotland and are interested in writing then check out our website at double-you-double-you-double-you-dot…’ Ho ho. Just kidding*). Anyway! Just to say: keep an eye out for the magazine. I hope you'll like it. And here's a fun thing that happened relating to it:


On a drizzly Wednesday afternoon earlier this week, we (the 'Quotidian team') took a group of students (willing volunteers) on a ‘mystery field trip’ to help them gather some writing-inspiration. It was a ‘mystery’ in so far as we didn’t tell them where we were going until we’d stepped off the bus, got our feet wet walking through puddle-filled car-parks, and crossed a busy road or two till we found ourselves staring at...


IKEA!** Land of the Everyday. (The obvious location for a writing workshop, right?)

The idea of the day was to try and encourage everyone to look at ordinary things with fresh eyes. To slow down and notice – really notice – the things that most of us, most of the time, don’t really pay attention to. As one writer's put it: 'it's not so much interesting things but unique ways of seeing ordinary things that makes the most original and satisfying fiction' (words: Lesley Glaister). Hear hear. (Although I think her words apply to all writing, not just fiction).


We sat in fake kitchens, we noticed clocks and lace curtains and identical bookshelves. We watched people testing out mattresses, we got lost when we strayed from the arrows. (We did not eat meatballs.) We looked closely, listened deeply, tried to see the 'familiar things' all around as unfamiliar, as new and unusual. And some pretty good writing ideas were born (we sat round a fake fireplace when we all came back together again and chatted about what we’d noticed.)


A jolly fun day. Here are three things I spotted:

[one.] Mirrors. Lots of them. I kept catching myself just walking ‘out of frame’, like my reflection was made of the same stuff as Pan’s shadow. Like it didn’t quite belong to me. Like it wanted me to chase it.







[two.] A red-jumpered three-year-old sitting in a shopping trolley being fed chocolate by a (seemingly body-less) arm as though he was a little monkey in a cage.



[three.] These Characters from Red Riding Hood toys (above) with tiny eat-able grannys. Slightly disturbing I think. (But if you buy them, one euro goes to UNICEF apparently. Good to know that even if your child is traumatised, at least someone else’s is benefiting).

Stay tuned!



Notes:

*(Seriously though: if you are a student studying in Scotland interested in writing for us then you can find out more: here. Or @quotidianmag on twitter.)  

**Is it IKEA or Ikea? I always want to capitalise it… but I’m not sure if that gives the impression I’m shouting. (“IKEAAAAAA!!”)

think it's time to look out my woolly hat.

Wednesday, 24 September 2014



  

Yesterday was the autumnal equinox (according to the Darth Vader and Son calendar in our kitchen anyway). This makes me happy for two reasons. One: the word equinox is a crispy sort of word to say (it causes a similar sensation in the mouth to taking a bite out of a really delicious biscuit). Plus I like how it isn’t discriminatory against difficult letters (‘C’mon over Q and X. We want you guys at our party’ ‘...only if U can come too’). Two: I’m taking an exciting trip at the end of October, and the turning leaves signal it’s getting pretty close.





(Pictures: the arrival of autumn, as seen through my iPhone lens - a handful of leaves my Mum brought home after a walk, some leaf-kicking on the way to the train, a sky full of leaves, the view from my window on the early train into Glasgow this morning, Paisley Gilmore Street station glowing in the sun. Okay... time to do some writing now.)


the Scottish Referendum, some (quiet) thoughts.

Thursday, 18 September 2014


There's been a lot of talk the past few days about how crossing this or that box on the ballot paper will make Scotland a better, kinder, fairer, brighter, more creative, more peaceful, more just, [insert other ideal here] place.

But I think one thing that's clear is that change is definitely possible whatever the outcome of today's vote. Because Scottish people have shown themselves capable of 'being' that change. Whether we stay in the UK or break off to become something separate. 

Walking through the buzzing streets of Glasgow this past week and overhearing the conversations that are happening in the 'ordinary' places - on the train, in the queues at traffic lights, in the cafes while customers wait for their coffees - it's been quite moving to see the level of enthusiasm and passion and engagement and creativity that this referendum has stirred up in the people living here. We're a country of pretty talented individuals - with more to us than the same old kitsch that's often broadcast to the world (tartan and Nessie and bagpipes-galore!).

My 'wish for Scotland' is that people remember their desire for 'kindness' and 'fairness' and 'peace' etc on Friday morning when - inevitably - about half the voting population will wake up disappointed. (It's so close. So, so close). I hope that, rather than becoming apathetic, or angry, or antagonistic, the dissapointed group (whoever they are) will channel the energy they've shown these past few months into something positive. Because 'kindness' and 'fairness' and 'peace' etc aren't really top-down principles. Kindness can be a grassroots movement.

I hope that whatever happens, Scotland won't become a country divided against itself. Let it remain a force for good in the world. (Good luck to everyone who's voting today! I'm both nervous and excited to see what tomorrow will bring.)



(Picture snapped while walking through George Square yesterday evening. I've never seen so many Scottish flags.)

a gold dust glow (on possibility).

Sunday, 31 August 2014

So, you might've noticed that I’ve changed things about a little (design-wise) on the blog. A small tour: look up! I now have links at the top of the page. Look to your right: there are little social media buttons which you can click on. Scroll back to the top: the messy looking fake-shadow header is gone! I think it looks a bit more like a proper blog now. (What do you think?)


On the subject of change, here’s something I’ve noticed recently: it is possible. Change, I mean. Change is possible. Here’s how I know it: 

I used to hate ginger* and now I don’t.

After years of feeling queasy at the thought, I’ve started enjoying ginger beer... and Three Ginger Tea has risen up the ranks to become my favourite herbal tea (as I described it recently in a letter: ‘it’s very warming and leaves a tingle like gold dust at the back of your throat’).


Other things I used to hate and now don’t include: mushrooms, uncooked tomatoes, coriander, and red onions**. I now love all of these things (deeply. In a moment of unchecked sincerity, I recently told my brother: ‘I’m really passionate about mushrooms’. He laughed quite a lot. I suppose it was sort of an odd thing to say in retrospect). These changes are encouraging. They give me hope.


If my taste-buds can change their opinions on coriander – moving from a place of disgust (‘it tastes like sick’) to one of near-fervour (‘we must have it with EVERYTHING’***) – then maybe other parts of me can change. 


Like: my inability to hear alarms in the morning or the way my first instinct is usually to hide from/pretend not to notice people I’ve been hoping to speak to when I see them on the street (o! shyness, you wily fiend). Things like: my phobia of insects, or the issues I have finding shoes that fit, or the way I fall in love with impossible notions, or my habit of leaving things to the last minute. Maybe. We’ll see...

(NB. My feelings towards marmite will never change. Gross black salty concoction.)


(Pictures snapped on my iPhone. Notes:

*I’m talking about ginger, as in ginger-the-foodstuff, not ‘carbonated drinks’ or ‘individuals with red hair and freckles’.

**I still don’t really like raw red onions, but this has more to do with the way they linger powerfully on the breath post-eating than their actual flavour.

***Everything especially includes: chilli con carne, fajitas, and chicken and mushroom curry.)

a day at the festival.

Monday, 11 August 2014

I had the weekend off work, so on Saturday decided to take a trip through to Edinburgh with my parents for the Fringe festival. There's such an amazing carnival-like atmosphere in the city just now (much helped on Saturday by the sun who graced us with her gleaming presence)! 




With all the colour and excitement, it seemed a good excuse to bring out my ‘proper’ camera. I’m still at a loss how to work all the buttons so I have the settings at ‘auto’ most of the time. But the pictures turned out quite good nevertheless so I thought I'd pop a few on here.



We went to see three plays (one: The Seussification of a Midsummer Night’s Dream which was just what it sounds like: Shakespeare as told through Dr. Seuss language. I laughed quite a lot. Two: Starchild: the Little Prince Reborn – an original adaptation of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince. Also really good, and quite beautiful in parts. It just took a moment to get over my surprise that the story was told via interpretive dance...




And three: The Great Gatsby – it was an impulse decision to go and see this after we were handed a flyer by a girl in 20’s costume who was perched on the shoulders of a guy in a suit. It turned out to be quite spectacular). My favourite parts of the day were probably the in-between bits when we walked around the streets – especially up and down the Royal Mile – seeing and taking pictures of (and with*) the street performers. 





At one point in the afternoon, my mum and I were stopped by a leaflet-hander-outer who tried to encourage us to come along to her 'very funny play about sex-education in schools'. After speaking to us for a moment, she glanced at me, and then leaned closer to my mum to reassure her, 

'It'll be suitable for your daughter. Don't worry.' 

I did feel the need to tell her I am 23 ('actually'). Ha! My shortness and baby-face continually lead to people thinking I'm about 14 years old. It's supposedly a good thing (so people keep telling me. Being on the receiving end of a lot of semi-patronising remarks though, I'm not so sure). 

Later on I decided to embrace my 'youthfulness' and buy a wreath of flowers for my hair from a lady who had loads of them hooped up her arms. Why not, eh? Might as well.





*At another point, this girl (with the gloves) swept past me in the street. Following close behind were seven others laughing and dressed in elegant gowns and suits. Curiosity sparked, I decided to follow them, pushing through the crowd to see what they were advertising. A few moments later, they stopped in the middle of the street to get their picture taken. I still don't know what show they were in (it was their last day anyway, apparently)... but they looked beautiful. And when they said: 'Who wants to come in the picture?' I thought again: 'Hey, why not?' So that's how I ended up photo-bombing their picture.  







Love this. Only in Edinburgh...



Mm, a jolly nice day. For visitors to Scotland, the last few weeks must have been pretty amazing. It’s been wonderfully sunny. And warm – I’ve gone without my coat for almost a full month (currently sitting with a hot water bottle though. The chilliness is back). And so much has been happening: the Fringe, the Edinburgh International Book Festival, and the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow (which I didn’t watch too much of, not being sporty in the least. But the happenings on the streets while I was walking to university were fun to see: magicians, face-painters, swing dancing, jazz bands, etc.). 



Ah, it is a pretty cool place to live. Just a pity that most of the time it’s still represented (and represents itself) as Tartan, Haggis and Bagpipes ‘r’ Us.

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