Memories of Joan McGavin, Who Introduced Self to Edinburgh

Self’s first full day in Edinburgh was spent with Joan McGavin.  Thank goodness, because Joan was Scottish by birth (even though she now lives and teaches in the south of England) and took self to a number of places, including to the Scottish National Museum, where among other things self saw a fascinating exhibit of antique sewing machines.

We met, of course, at Hawthornden (enchanted, beautiful place)!

The poem below is from Joan’s 2011 book Flannelgraphs, published in the UK by Oversteps Books.

Steady on there

Because the drunk man
in front
called the two schoolgirls
drifting through the park
in front of him
Black bitches
you said Steady on there
then That’s not on
when he kept on cursing.
You’d just noticed
the young policeman behind
who said, Steady on, there;
I’ll deal with this
glancing over his shoulder to see
if his superintendent, or an angel,
or God, was behind him —
like that feeling you get
in the cloakrooms of posh hotels
when you look in mirrors
and become an infinite reproof
of people who might be you
over the taps.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.


  1. Candia said,

    August 16, 2013 at 10:19 pm

    I bumped into Joan in Edinburgh too. We have enjoyed each others’ poetry for a number of years. She advised me to visit a magical place : Ronsard’s Abbey. I pass on the advice. (She must materialise in special places!)
    Another good poem.

    • August 16, 2013 at 10:21 pm

      I’m going to be in Tyrone Guthrie in the spring. I must e-mail Joan to see where she is so that I can visit her!

      So you are a poet, too! And you live in Edinburgh?

      I will add Ronsard’s Abbey to my list of reasons to return to Edinburgh. She told me about a restaurant called, if I remember correctly, the Witchery? Alas, I never got to try it!

      • Candia said,

        August 16, 2013 at 10:31 pm

        I am a fellow Scot, but like Joan, I have travelled a long way south. If you come to see her, maybe we can all meet.( Yes, I am a poet too)
        If you want to go to Ronsard’s Abbey, I am afraid that you will need to go to St Cosme-sur-Loire, Touraine, France.
        You can read my poems on my blog, if you like. There is also a short story about ancient Edinburgh which I posted yesterday.
        Small world, isn’t it?!

      • August 17, 2013 at 8:59 pm

        Thank you for stopping by and I did read your last two posts, and have now bookmarked you. I do hope we can meet in the spring. So you are in south of England?

      • Candia said,

        August 17, 2013 at 9:07 pm

        Yes, Joan and I used to be in the same poetry writers’ group. I don’t want to blow my cover as Candia Dixon-Stuart, but Joan will tell you my true identity. I must phone her!

      • August 17, 2013 at 9:10 pm

        Tell her “hi” from me! I would love to meet up with both of you! I’ll be over there in May!

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