A Pair From Roddie

One of our members, Roddie McKenzie, has been busy over the last few weeks.

Firstly, he has had a poem ‘The Gairdener’s Lousin Time’ published in the most recent issue of ‘Lalans’, (#89) the journal of the Scots Languge society. Further details (including how to order copies) can be found on their website here – http://www.lallans.co.uk/index.php/lallans

And on top of that, Roddie’s poem ‘Cumbrae’ is on display in the current exhibition at the Harbour Arts Centre in Irvine. Further information, including opening times for the exhibition, can be found here – http://www.whatsonayrshire.com/harbourartscentre.html

Chattering From The Chair – Monday 12th December

David Carson, the Chair of Nethergate Writers, give his rundown of events at our final meeting of 2016.

The three R’s were highly visible at this meeting – Ray, Richard, Roddie, along with David. The four of us passed a stimulating ninety minutes. Our first discussion centred on some computer problem solving. One of the R’s hopes soon to be creating online, and will be keen to share!

Four pieces of writing had been circulated. First up, from Roddie, Rescue Dive. We all enjoyed and appreciated the extended metaphor that ran through the verses, in particular:

These thoughts
I hold like my breath
and follow them down
on a barely illuminated
rope of theory.
Free diving.

Suggestions for minimal improvement included the removal of one or two words, and a small re-ordering.

Perhaps as valuable as commenting on the poem was the discussion that followed about depression, and its causes and treatments.

Then followed Richard’s Walk, an account of the attempts by a host to go for a stroll with guests who had stayed on after a wedding. The characters were strongly drawn, the setting vivid and real, and the dialogue completely natural and believable. We thought that sentence length should be more varied to reflect the different aspects of the narrative. We all thoroughly enjoyed it.

David’s piece, Broken Journeys tried to describe a specific phenomenon that had been classed as anti-social but could be taken as applying to anyone who steps outside society’s norms. Some interesting comments on justice ensued.

Finally, we looked at The Wasteland, another piece from Roddie. This received instant approbation, and bar a few suggestions for minor changes we thought it an excellent description of and reflection on urban decay.

The evening finished with mutual good wishes for the Season, and reminders of the AGM on Wednesday 11 January 2017.

Chattering from the Chair – Thursday 17th November

David Carson presents another look at the events of our last meeting.

We were nine members who gathered to discuss some writing and to welcome Jen Butler from the Scottish Association of Writers. As very recent affiliates to the Association, we were keen to learn more of its work, and of how we might participate in, and benefit from, its activities.

Jen introduced herself with a fascinating autobiographical account of where she started from and how she arrived where she is now. The “message” – that her main motivating drive throughout has been to write and to continue writing – was not lost on us.

Jen then highlighted some of SAW’s main work. This included the annual conference in September each year, with various options for attendance, some of the next swathe of competitions, focussing on drama and 5 Minute Sketches. She also indicated that the crime novel and science fiction, were on the horizon.

A feature of SAW’s competitions that appealed to us was the possibility of a club taking on an adjudication role in 2018 if it has entered the competition of the previous year. And a further reward is that SAW could sponsor a competition for us.

Jen also described the workshops in the Write Down South, Write Up North that can aid club and individual development. In the context of how SAW is financially supported, Jen gave details of the 100 club (£1 per month) and, naturally, encouraged us to join.

Jen ended her presentation by encouraging us to read and contribute to the Writers’ Umbrella, and online magazine of which she is the editor.

The evening ended by Jen delivering a workshop on the art of writing articles – non-fiction – for newspapers or magazines.

She emphasised the role and importance of hooks and grabbers, both of which we attempted to exemplify in way we wrote, then and there, our articles. Topics ranged from ice-hockey to therapy to assisted dying to serial killers, and all of life in between! It was an entertaining but above all informative session.

All agreed it had been a very worthwhile evening as we thanked Jen warmly for her attendance and expertise.

We’ll look again at what was covered when we discuss our programme at the upcoming AGM.

The next meeting of NW is on Monday 12 December at 7pm in R2F10 of the Dalhousie Building

Prize Winner

One of our members, Rosie Baillie, has won the ‘Year of Listening’ short story competition organised by the charity Breathing Space.

Breathing Space is a free, confidential, phone service for anyone in Scotland experiencing low mood, depression or anxiety.

Further details, including Rosie’s winning entry on the subject ‘What Does Listening Mean To You?’, can be found on the Breathing Space website here – http://breathingspace.scot/news/2016/competition-winners/


Next Meeting – Thursday 17th November

Our next meeting is this Thursday 17 November.

We’re getting a visit from representatives of the Scottish Association of Writers (SAW), of which we have become members.  They’ll be telling us more about the organisation, and about the events and competitions they organise, and will answer any questions we have.

We hope to see you on Thursday 17 November at 7pm in Room 2F10 of the Dalhousie Building.


Travellers’ Inn

David Carson, chair of the Nethergate Writers, has written this moving and highly topical piece.

Mohsen leaned against the tent pole.  It was cold and hard.  He looked inside at the crush of women rummaging through boxes.   Hands stretched out and seized tins of soup, jars of spices and bottles of water.  A tall figure in European dress came towards him.  She wore a sympathetic but firm expression.  She spoke slowly in English.
“You know how it works.  If you don’t have a time ticket, you can’t come in.”

Mohsen held out his hands, palms up.

The woman shook her head. “So you have to go away.  You can’t hang around here.”

The boy paused a moment, then turned and walked along the muddy makeshift street.  Time tickets were like currency in the camp, better even.  With a time ticket you got fifteen minutes inside the warehouse, the inn as it was called, to help yourself to food and drink, enough to last a week.  With a time ticket you could relax, look forward to a full belly.  With a time ticket you didn’t need to rely on Ashram’s kitchen where they served up rubbish twice a day cooked by people like Kurds and Eritreans who didn’t understand the needs of Somalian stomachs.

He’d had a time ticket recently, a few days ago, given to him by one of the volunteers.  But the gang took it from him.  Three of them surrounded him, pushed him, emptied his pockets, speaking a language he didn’t understand.  Their eyes, dark and green,  glowed when they found the ticket.  In his village, everybody knew that if you had green eyes, you were possessed of evil spirits.

Mohsen thought about his home, a hut on the outskirts of the village, the wooden walls warm and inviting, the door always ajar.  Inside, his mother,  and aunts and cousins, preparing food for the evening meal.  They would look up at him, gently mocking.

“There’s Mohsen, always hanging about.  How tall he’s getting, too big for his boots – if he had any.  We need water, Mohsen, off you go.  Bring it to us in the buckets, you’re strong enough to carry them by yourself.”

And he would go to the edge of the field, with its gleaming standpipe and shining tap.  Sometimes he regretted that he no longer had to splash into the stream, standing between rocks made smooth by the gliding water, flexing his toes and feeling it swirl over his ankles, then stooping to hold the pails against the flow until they grew heavy, judging when he had filled them to the maximum.  But the pipe was easier, and when he bent down he could rub his cheek against the cool metal.

He was there the day the soldiers came. They arrived when his father and the other men were at work, at the canning factory.

They came in lorries, guns swinging and pointing,  and took the women from their houses,  His mother shouted at Mohsen to run, run, then screamed as she was dragged along the ground, the men pulling at her clothes. She was silenced by the butt of a rifle.

And Mohsen ran, and journeyed through the wilderness of the world to arrive at this den, this collection of tents draped with carpets, muddy and smelling of excrement.

“Mohsen, where have you been?  I was worried.”  The woman came towards him, carrying a bag, his bag. A volunteer, a house mother who looked after boys like Mohsen.  At least, tried.

“They’re coming!  They’re going to move everyone out.  They’re going to knock the place down.  There are buses to take you…somewhere else.”

Mohsen looked around and saw lorries, police, soldiers approaching.  He snatched his bag.  Once again he would run.  But he knew that hell would follow him wherever he went.

David Carson.  November 2016

A Wee Pair

One of our members, Ray Kinsman, has two short pieces that muse on mortality in very different ways.

John had taken the doctor’s advice to visit the clinic, confident that with their help he could stop smoking.

Thinking of his new life without this addiction, he smiled as he crossed the road towards the clinic, straight into the path of a fast moving truck.

John’s stopped smoking now.

*   *   *   *   *

As years fly by, we’re often told,

of wisdom gained by growing old.

A chance for some relaxing ways,

to spend throughout our autumn days.

While late retirement may seem fine,

we’re living then on borrowed time.

Then winter sends its stinging thorn,

a few more sunsets, then we’re gone.