At Moniack Mhor The Highlands of Scotland

“aye the last battle on british soil,  was here” says the taxi driver rolling is R’s as if it were only weeks ago. We pass a sign to Culloden as his veined cheeks bunch up beneath  squinted eyes  “1740”.  It’s as if it were yesterday.   His  syllables rise and fall like the knees of a highland dancer.  There’s nothing like war but the memory to keep  it’s embers.  And if it weren’t for the embers there wouldn’t be war. And if it weren’t for war there wouldn’t be embers in  memory.  Yet all of them every last one  will be forgotten because that is the nature of time.

We arrive at the two cottages of Moniack Mhor in The Highlands, five miles from Loch Ness and at least  six hundred from home.  I hear coughing sheep as we crunch towards the housse lights.  Nothing more surreal than coughing sheep cause they have a very human sounding cough,  it feels as if I’m surrounded by zombies  who clumsily give identify there whereabouts by a coughing.

The warmth of the house envelopes me like a blanket.  The students lay  on  sofas bathing  in the light of a roaring fire like centurions in roman baths.  Two circles of candles rockgently above the oak dining table. Dinner is served beams Cynthia the  rose cheeked  Centre Director as she and Hamish proudly down large trays of piping hot food.

I am here for a week with my co-tutor Laura Hird to tutor these young Scottish writers,  this new generation of eager talent.   The next Iain Rankin may be amongst them, the next Muriel Spark .  Give me a week and I should beat out all sense of ambition from the lot. I will not be satisfied until they are gibbering wrecks of their former selves. I love this place.

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