Sometimes I wish I could clone myself; or teleport at the very least. Especially today having managed to miss a litany of smashing events: Maoilios Caimbeul reading Sorley MacLean; Julia Donaldson‘s Children’s Show: Wriggle & Roar, attended by most of St Andrews infant population; Rab Wilson reading with Polly Atkin, and, alas!, the Showcase event with Sophie F. Baker, Stevie Ronnie, Degna Stone, Anna Woodford.
Where have I been all day? I went to the Poetry Cafe for Breakfast – another wonderful StAnza first for me – to hear Hugh McMillan, Anna Robinson, Anna Woodford and Kevin Young, very warmly chaired by StAnza’s Ian Blyth, discuss poetry and history, the slave trade, the Holocaust, the Tudors and Braveheart. I hung around the Scottish Poetry Library stall, there to distribute with unbridled abandon poetry postcards and our Poetry Reader. And I managed to receive two lovely gifts from two lovely friends (does the English language have a finer one-liner than ‘I have a present for you’? and that happened twice in one day!), one old friend, one brand new: from the former, a hilariously dubious board game called Poetic Justice, which has already thrilled and inspired a gang of loitering poets; from the latter, two delicate and lovely birds. I tripped down memory lane by visiting St John’s Undercroft, where StAnza started for me as a student venue volunteer, many moons ago. And I spent a goodly half hour wandering and havering my way round the Poets’ Market, where I bought a badge, and some postcards, and a Gaelic Books Council linen bag, which I, already a bit of a linen bag-lady, needed like a hole in the head but who can resist a lovely bag bearing in green the legend Leuch Leabhar! (Read Books!)? I ate a chicken and leek pie. I aided and abetted the purchase of a fabulous summer dress. I chatted with Kona Macphee and Rab Wilson and brilliant StAnza committee members Alan Gay and Claire Easingwood. I confess I did squeeze in the final moments of the Ireland England rugby game. I fussed about not having something to be loud with for tonight’s slam (10pm, and moved to the Byre Auditorium!) – should I humbly ask to borrow Ciaran Carson’s tin whistle, or buy a triangle? Turns out PA to Director Eleanor Livingstone Sasha had the circle squared with a comedy hooter all along.
But I demur. The real reason for my leave of absence was finding myself part of a special voyage featuring Bob Holman. I was hovering around the Byre foyer, when Bob hollered me over (and no-one hollas like Bob) to enquire about how he might get to the Tay Rail Bridge. For Bob is a die-hard fan of William Topaz McGonagall, writer of ‘The Tay Bridge Disaster’, has been reading his work in the Bowery for years, and was spiritually compelled to pay homage by the banks of the bridge. So with great haste we set off! The taxi man at the rank on South Street said ‘It’ll be £50 for there and back but am no waitin’. The bus was considered but decided against, since it didn’t stop anywhere near the bridge, but merely passed it by. To my friend Jen and her wheels we turned, explained and she was quickly, irresistibly enlisted! So we three pounded towards Dundee, with Tay FM on the radio playing the likes of Elton John and Kiki Dee and the Kinks and the sun glistening! Bob was louder than ever with excitement as the bridge came into view and louder still in exultation when we stopped on the quayside. Bob read the poem, then, we debated issues such as girders and buttresses and a large family plus 3 dogs who were having a photo close to the action were joined for a snap by a jubilant Bob. So rather a different kind of poetry event, but perhaps we might call it an impromptu outreach event in Dundee? Or, to misremember Wordsworth, a sort of spot in time? Or simply one of those magical, surreal things that can happen on a shimmery day at StAnza.