One of the things writers or prospective writers hear most is that you should always keep a notebook. I have two, at the very least. One is where I write my stories, the other is filled with bits of OU essays, draft blog posts, notes and other thoughts. It’s basically like a commonplace book, a little bit of everything that’s a part of me, my ideas and those of others that I happen to like. My e-mail inbox is also becoming another dumping ground for things I might want to get back to later, most often found on Twitter but some from news sites too, such as the article I saw earlier on the STV News app reviewing the latest book by Tam Dalyell, which is about devolution. The review was written by Bernard Ponsonby, STV’s political editor. The last couple of paragraphs are particularly insightful and tally with the views of Corbynistas, right wing headbangers as much as people like me who are neither one nor the other.
‘A final thought. When I look at Holyrood and Westminster I see massed armies of parliamentarians who would be out of place saying boo to a goose. The activists turned researchers turned elected members owe their position to the institution of party and it is to party that they look when they exercise their judgement.
It is a dangerous trend that will allow governments to escape scrutiny and reduce important issues to the politics of the head count. Tam Dalyell’s career, as this book demonstrates, stands as an antidote to all that is wrong with the lobby fodder culture which threatens the very notion of holding government to account.’
No arguments here. As much as I disagree with Tam Dalyell on devolution, he was a pain in the arse for generations of leaders of all political shades and persistently argued for his causes whatever the political weather.
STV has been in the news this week about its digital editor Stephen Daisley, who, it is fair to say, isn’t a big fan of the SNP or indeed of Jeremy Corbyn. There have been allegations that the SNP have tried to get STV to shut Mr Daisley up. I read an article the other day about how Scottish politics is basically like being in a particularly boisterous playground and I think that applies to this situation. There is such a thing as an off switch or even on social media to unfollow, mute or block someone. We need a diversity of voices more than ever and just because you disagree with someone doesn’t mean you should do everything in your power to get them to shut up. Both sides in Scottish politics could do worse than remember that.
Another article in my inbox was from the Northern Echo, about an autistic woman called Ailsa who works at Beamish Museum in County Durham. I went there on my birthday a few years ago – it is utterly fabulous, about country life, transport and much else besides. The article is nice, talking about how Ailsa is able to do a great job at Beamish engaging with the public and even how she met her partner there. Some folk might consider that a bit sappy but I like a good news story. Life is full of difficulties and challenges. I like knowing that there are people who are succeeding despite those.
A fair bit of what’s below that is about autism, including an article by Steve Silberman, the author of Neurotribes. There are also a fair few snippets of some of the events at the Edinburgh International Book Festival, which I have been to a few times this year. Yesterday’s event involving the comedian Susan Calman, which sadly I couldn’t get to, was thankfully Tweeted by EIBF, including an observation about when people are genuinely interested in how you are and waiting for a response, ‘that’s beautiful’. Another thought that struck me was ‘When you say things you are thinking out loud – again and again – it can get better.’ Susan Calman was talking about living with a mental illness and I can see how vocalising some of one’s more irrational thoughts can make you realise their irrationality. In another context, I find voicing thoughts out loud incredibly useful while writing and forming ideas, just to ensure they make sense.
The Edinburgh International Book Festival Twitter feed was the source of another insight, this time from the Saudi Arabian novelist Raja’a Alem, which is:
‘When you gain distance, the things you love and the things you fear are minimised.’
I like that. I find that when I am travelling, it is easier to consider things in the round than when I’m at home. Most recently, I felt this on Sunday while walking at Belhaven. I managed to make sense of some thoughts about how my life might proceed professionally and personally in the next wee while. Dunbar is just shy of 80 miles from here but even when I lived there, the mile or so from my house to Belhaven was enough distance to let my thoughts go.
The quote is also about time, I think, and how you gain perspective after some time has elapsed. It reminds me of the Proclaimers song ‘Like Comedy’, which I have probably written about here before, which has the great line about ‘Give it a few more years and look from this angle / Where it looks more and more and more like comedy’. Most things for me essentially come around to the Proclaimers sooner than later.
The last message from my commonplace inbox was a quote shared by Faber and Faber, the publisher, from the poet Ted Hughes about how writing is about ‘trying to take fuller possession of the reality of your life’. This is a broader point that reminds me that today marks one year since I started this blog with a post about a memory of walking in John Muir Country Park near Dunbar. It was an experiment, a way to share my writing and it has become an important part of my life, an outlet and a way to communicate with a growing range of people as much as a fair few people I know too. Writing more has given me a different perspective on the world because some of the experiences I have had have been because I have needed to find words for them to describe here. Not all, by any means. Thankfully, I haven’t yet run out of things to write about and in the year ahead, I don’t intend to either.
A lot of the posts that will appear here in the next few weeks were written over various points in the last few months. Hopefully you won’t notice the difference. The reason is that I am quite busy in the next wee while so won’t be able to write much, sadly. Sunday’s post I wrote this morning and it’s about reading poetry aloud, while others in the next wee while will be about, variously, poetry, Tantallon Castle, loneliness, the river Tyne, drawing, interconnectedness, smiling, a signpost in the National Railway Museum, bricks and library date stamps. There will be more travelling type posts later on in September and October. In the meantime, thank you very much for reading and I hope you enjoy what comes next.