Self is musing about how lucky she was to visit Scotland in June 2012. She had received a fellowship to the Writers’ Retreat at Hawthornden, about 45 minutes by public bus from Edinburgh. She loved every inch of Edinburgh. Every inch. (She also loved Hawthornden).
She wrote like the Dickens. She asked the program manager how many years she’d have to wait before re-applying. He said, five years. Five years !!!! NOOOOO !!!
Self’s first time to brave the city was in the company of another writer, the poet Joan McGavin. Joan had grown up in Scotland but now teaches in a university in England. She was one of five other writers doing their residencies in Hawthornden that June. One day, Joan invited self to accompany her to the University of Edinburgh, there was something she needed to check out of the library there. So self, who never turns down an invitation to go anywhere, happily went along.
Right outside the library was this piece of art work (pictured above). And only a short walk away was a plaque on the wall of a narrow house, saying that this was the house where Roget, creator of Roget’s Thesaurus, lived while a medical student at the University of Edinburgh. Right away, self felt a shiver. That shiver she only feels when she is approaching something really stupendous (Around the corner, some workmen were having heated discussion, liberally laced with “F—!”)
On that same walk with Joan, self walked past The Elephant House, the place where J. K. Rowling hung out while writing the first Harry Potter book. In the comfort room of the Elephant House, there’s graffiti about Hermione. Never mind what they say. Use your imagination! If self were Hermione, she’d be conflicted.
Anyhoo, self is thinking about Scotland again because in the 9 November issue of The Economist (Self still woefully behind in her reading, boo) there is a long article about whether or not Scotland should declare its independence from the United Kingdom. Having spent all of one month in Scotland, self thinks she understands the impulse. In the small library in Bonnyrigg, the closest town to Hawthornden, there was a section called The Scottish Bookshelf. And there she saw the books of Ian Rankin, J. K. Rowling, Irvine Welsh, even J. M. Barrie.
The one author self thought should have been there but wasn’t was Morag Joss, the mystery writer. When self mentioned to Joan that Ms. Joss was one of her favorite mystery writers, Joan said, very casually, “She teaches at my college.”
Self has three favorite mystery writers, and they are: 1) Morag Joss 2) Ruth Rendell 3) Karin Fossum. Fossum is Norwegian, Rendell is English, and Joss is Scottish.
Self remembers so clearly a sentence from Joss’s book, Half-Broken Things: “People are so hard to kill.” (Yes, especially if one is an amateur, like the two people in the story. In an extended scene, two people try SO HARD to kill a third, but even though the target is very old, the whole exercise becomes convoluted and appalling)
An Economist article called “A Unionist Pin-up” dissects the legacy of William Wallace, he who defeated the English at the Battle of Bannockburn and who, many centuries later, had the good fortune to be portrayed by Mel Gibson (in “Braveheart”), back when Gibson was not yet crazy.
They’re opening a museum to Wallace this year, “in time for the 700th anniversary of the battle.” It will be in Stirling (Alas, self never got to see Stirling Castle, Wallace’s seat). The 1320 Declaration of Arbroath states: “As long as only one hundred of us remain alive we will never on any conditions be brought under English rule.”
Stirring words! According to The Economist, “polls consistently show that about 30 – 40% of Scots will vote to leave” when the vote takes place, September 2014.
The five other writers and self who spent June 2012 in Hawthornden forged lasting bonds. We sometimes refer to ourselves as the Quidditch Team. When self goes to Tyrone Guthrie, in a couple of months, she fervently hopes the Team can reunite in London.
Oh, self also should mention that one of the Quidditch Team used to date Michael Palin, of Monty Python.
Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.