To the Festival!
My grandfather was Duncan Munro who eventually left his beloved Scotlandfor his beloved English wife to live in Northern England where they would have three daughters, Ruth and Catherine and a son Alec. They would adopt Sue, who would go onto marry her adopted brother Alec. Duncan Munro came from the highlands, from the picturesque fishing Village of Lochinver. It was from here at his cottage thatoverlooked the working bay where my family (my foster mother was Catherine) spent all our summers, that we would watch aghast as the northern lights sprayed multicoloured magic across the horizon and into space. .
With mountain Sullivan on the horizon and salmon jumping in the Inver flicking their tales as if mimicking the fish hook, this was a childhood paradise that could not be equalled. The Lush air filtered through peat and heather from the mountains from one side andrushed toward us from across the atlantic ocean on the other. The deserted beaches, hidden glassy lochs so still that to dive into them would be to jump in the sky, the heather higher than our heads filled with the pungent perfume of lavender and endless; the insect spittle dotted forests of green and brown bracken; sheep tracks made themselves into pathways over hundreds of years and gave us children the famous five adventures that seemed only possible through dreams. Through these trails lined with bracken to secret coves and caves we winded, caves that lay open on the beach waiting for us or high tide. The sense of danger mingled with the sense of discovery.
There was quicksand and Marble, big pieces of white veined glinting marble jutting out ofthe ground like debris fallen from space. The holidays were heaven as home life was hell. I left this family at eleven and the memory of these summers would neither be replenished nor rejuvenated and so, undisturbed the memory became mummified and was wheeled into the museum in my mind next to a sign that said “You Love Scotland!”
I got the train at 7am this morning from Kings Cross – I’ve just left England andentered Scotland. The scenery is stunning. The last time I made this journey was on the night train earlier this year when I was making a documentary about the WH Auden poem Night Mail
After eleven eyars of age it was not until i was eighteen years that I'd visit scotland again to The Edinburgh Fringe Festival with my first Edinburgh performances - I did forty fiveminute readings of poetry - with Leigh Drama Centre. The main play by Leigh DramaCentre was called The Red Death, from which I wrote a poem called The Red Death which was published a few years later in my first book Tender Fingers In A Clenched Fist.
Scotland is woven into me. It’s not without pride that I am now published by Canongate books, Scotlands most respected publishing house, amongst some of its greatestwriters including Norman Macaig who wrote so well of that same mountain indelibly written into my childhood memory, Sullivan. If you match this with canongates Americanoutput including Bukowski Gil Scot Heron and the US presidential candidate, I am truly at home. Little known fact is the Gil Scot Herons Father was the first black football player ito play for a Scottish team.
I am here at Luke Wrights Poetry Party and I'm on stage in the late afternoon and lateevening. Not drinking is such a wonderful thing. I am clear, have memory and alert. Today I met Murray Lachlan Young and saw him read his poems on stage, something I’ve wanted to do for some time. I understood immediately his on stage modus operandi. I enjoyed our discussion backstage about the limits and limitlessness of our poems on the BBC radio four programme Saturday Live. I enjoyed his reading too.
While I was on stage today while on stage I saw a beautiful small powerful storm of a woman sat cross legged in the audience. Her name is Chiwoniso or Chi (pron: chee). Chi’s one of the worlds most respected mbira players, from Zimbabwe where she is stop on the street famous. We met first in Durban South Africa were we played Invisible Kisses on the Durban Stage at Poetry Africa – she on Mbira and me in the poem, she sang with me too. Must get the recording of that gig. We then met again in her homecountry of Zimbabwe at The Harare International Festival of Arts which I played last year. And here she is in Scotland.
The company of artists is a wonderful thing. I finish my reading and we find a café in The Grassmarket, sit laugh and catch up on the whirlwinds. Before the coffee is cold Chiwoniso is walking into the Edinburgh throngs confident that wherever the venue is it is not more than fifteen minutes away. I go back to my hotel to try and write an article on 1967 Summer of Love for The Guardian which I started on the train today. At 11pm I walk onto the stage for another reading. I am staying in a little pad next to Aurthurs Seat a jut of earth and land that overshadows Edinburgh and where once I flew kites with Jamie Byng. At 11.20pm I get back on stage and returning to my apartment situated near the Pleasance I look at the article one more time and sleep – really looking forward totomorrow. Tomorrow I go to an artists studio. I can not wait. Tonight I sleep. I've travelled four hundred miles. This whole city is alive.