Literary Smorgasbord: Beth Robertson Fiddes

There are many ways to tell a story and, arguably,  one of the earliest was through pictures. When I recently visited Beth Robertson Fiddes in her studio, I was struck by how much of her experience as an artist I could relate to as a writer and I was inspired to invite her to take part in the Smorgasbord. She agreed, and so I am delighted to introduce the Smorgasbord’s first (but not last) visual artist.

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Hi Beth, thank you for agreeing to take part in the Smorgasbord. I’ll kick off with one of my favourite questions: what were you like at school?

Quiet mostly. I have nice memories of early primary on Tiree and I had a spell at school in Kansas which was interesting although maybe a bit overwhelming. I was fine in the school itself but used to literally get lost in the car park, too many buses, all yellow.

Later school years I enjoyed less. I did work hard, depending on the subject, and there were some good teachers there but I’m glad those days are over. I spent a lot of time on my own outside which was just fine. My report cards mainly focussed on whether or not I had shown signs of coming out of my shell or retreating back into my shell like some sort of indecisive snail. One teacher commented that she was unaware that I was in her class.

When did you realise you had creative ability?

I don’t think I had a conscious realisation of that. I think all children start out creative and that sometimes that is lost somewhere along the line. I just kept going. Everyone around me when I was young was making something, painting or drawing, it was a natural thing for me to continue.

What has been the evolution of Beth Robertson Fiddes, the artist?

I think as far as my evolution as an artist is concerned I have reached the stage of a hopeful sea sponge. I have always felt I was just beginning and I still do, I think that feeling is helpful in a way. I often forget how much work was involved and how long it has taken to get to actually just do this everyday.

What makes you paint?

I’ve always been driven to draw and paint. There’s a wealth of inspiration in the surrounding landscape and coast here. It’s memory and a sense of place I try to capture but maybe with subtle alterations. My work has been described on occasion as otherworldly and there is a sense of escapism both in the process of painting and in the finished piece. It is a way of transporting myself to a different world and time and if I’m away from it too long I feel uncomfortable. So that’s what makes me paint

How much of yourself do you expose?

I am not aware of myself while painting. I really do escape from myself and anything that’s going on around me. I’m not intentionally trying to reveal any particular aspect of myself but inevitably it’s a form of communication and it’s my individual view point so I guess there must be something of me in all of them.

Are you ever surprised by what is revealed on the canvas?

Thanks Beth, it’s been a real pleasure (and glad to meet a fellow loather of The Cone Gatherers). Find out more about Beth at her website, on Facebook and on Instagram.

Books by LG Thomson are available from Amazon and from bookshops in Ullapool. Writing as Lorraine Thomson, the Dark Times dystopian trilogy is also available from Amazon.

Find out about the Isle Martin Writing Retreats 2018 here.

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Literary Smorgasbord: Gayle Anderson

Jackie is a magazine so iconic, there’s even a musical about it. Some scars in life run deep and I still recall the bitter disappointment of going to the local shop one Thursday afternoon in the mid 1970s to collect my regular order, only to be told that they had sold every single copy of the magazine during a lunch-time stampede of teenage girls from the local high school. I wasn’t even all that bothered about the 8-page Osmonds pull-out special – it was the words I missed. I absorbed them all; everything from the Dear Sam letters page, to the tampon adverts where you could order free samples from Sister Anne*.  But without a doubt, my favourite part of Jackie was the Cathy & Claire problem page, and so you will understand that although I am hopelessly devoted to each and every one of my Smorgasbord guests, I am particularly excited this week to be interviewing the real, actual, Cathy & Claire

*Disclaimer: My memory fails me – I can’t remember what she was called, but despite having no connection to the Catholic church, I do remember thinking she was a nun and thought it was strange that a nun was giving away free tampons. It didn’t occur to me until an embarrassing number of years later that the Sister was supposed to be a nurse.

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Hi Gayle, thanks for agreeing to take part in the Smorgasbord. I’m fascinated by all my Smorgasbord guests, but as I was an avid Jackie reader back in the day, I’m particularly excited to be interviewing you.

Aww, shucks, thank you. It was a genuine privilege to work on and subsequently edit Jackie. It was a magical place. Like being at an eternal sleep-over party with your friends. Such fun! Such shenanigans!

Without a doubt, my favourite section of Jackie was the Cathy & Claire problem page. I remember one particular problem from the late 70s when a bride-to-be was worried about being overweight. The advice from Cathy & Claire was to imagine the wedding guests humming here comes the bride, forty inches wide, as she walked down the aisle.  Were you ever as caustic in handing out advice?

Ooh, that is horrendously harsh. I was definitely never as caustic. My stint as C&C was in the early 80’s. These were different times and PC as a term only applied to the local constabulary – but I would contend that your memory is quite a rare example of harshness. That is perhaps why you remember it so clearly. We tended to speak to readers as if they were our younger sisters. That’s really how we regarded them. We were answering these letters as youngsters ourselves. Often newly left home, in our first flats, coming from small towns all over the country. We understood how they felt as we’d just been through it. We understood about loneliness, not fitting in, the fear of love bites! We had a team of more mature freelance advisors to help answer the more complicated problems, pre-written advice sheets for the most common ones, and a doctor for the medical issues. I recently visited the wonderful Jackie archives at D C Thomson for research on a Cathy & Claire talk a former colleague and I gave at last year’s Dundee Book Festival . I was utterly delighted to discover that the vast majority of replies  given over the years – from the 60’s onwards -were warm and supportive and full of common-sense. Even on the most difficult of subjects, racism, sexuality, misogyny, they were in the main, answers I would happy to see given to young readers today.

What was the most unusual problem you dealt with?

Ooooh, that would be the half pence coin letter. I was sitting at my desk on Monday morning opening letters when a half pence fell out. I picked it up and began playing with it as I read the accompanying letter. It said, ‘Dear Cathy & Claire, I have a vaginal wart. I measured it with this half pence.’ Cue made dash to the toilets to wash my hands in the frantic style of Lady Macbeth…

Howling with laughter here. Did you have regular advice-seekers?

A few, but not nearly as many as you’d probably imagine. It was mostly different readers writing in every week. Girls didn’t talk to their friends about their worries in those days and in general  they most definitely didn’t discuss  emotional issues with their parents. There was no social media. No Google. We were their Google. Talking of repeat letters, I did like the fact when going through the archives that the Cathy & Claire page had the honesty to print a letter from a reader who hadn’t agreed with or liked the reply she’d been given! How many publications would do that today?

How many problems came in every week?

At Jackie’s peak, Cathy & Claire received up to 500 letters each week.  To seem hip and cool, we gave our Fleet Street address. The sack loads of letters were then transported by DC Thomson’s own lorries overnight up to our main offices in Dundee where we all worked.

Did you ever feel the weight of responsibility when dealing with the problems of a generation?

You most definitely felt a sense of responsibility. That was part of the fabric on Jackie. Our readers meant everything to us. I think they understood that and that goes a long way to explaining the magazine’ s incredible success. We understood the importance of being Cathy & Claire and we took the job extremely seriously. We were proud of the fact that every single letter that came with an accompanying address was answered. There was real job satisfaction in that.

You went from being Cathy & Claire to pop editor to editor of Jackie in a few short years – how did you get your start with the iconic magazine and what was it like to progress so quickly?

I started in Jackie as a junior doing the letters page and the horoscopes in 1981. It was general practice on magazines at that to start off writing the horoscopes. You could always tell what sign the junior was as she gave herself the best predictions! I then moved on to Cathy & Claire for a spell before becoming pop editor in 1983. It was always the job I wanted and I absolutely loved it. It was like a dream come true. From there, I went on to become Blue Jeans editor before becoming Jackie editor in 1989. In those days, there were wonderful opportunities to work hard and show your creativity and use your initiative. We were pretty much given free rein. Our only training was on the job. You were thrown in at the deep end and  learned your craft from the amazing staff around you. Some incredible women (and a few men too!) I feel incredibly sorry for young people trying to break into media today. There are so few opportunities to get in at ground level.  It’s all unpaid internships which is morally so wrong. Unless you have rich parents you will never be able to support yourself. My story of a wee Dundee girl from a council estate who ends up editing Jackie just wouldn’t happen today and that’s wrong. Oh, stop me before I go into full rant mode…

As Jackie’s pop editor, you met some of the biggest names from the 1980s music scene. Was there anyone who surprised you?

Listen in the world of 80’s pop – NOTHING surprised you! That was the secret to it all – expect the unexpected! I suppose I was most surprised by Andrew Ridgely of Wham! He was number 1 in the charts but still living at home with his mum and dad in his teenage bedroom. He invited me round and we watched Blackadder and ate Mr Men biscuits! He even posted me on look-out while he had a cigarette at the back door  – he may have been a pop icon but he was petrified that his mum would catch him!

Morrissey surprised me too. I thought he would be difficult but he was lovely – especially with a reader we took to meet him. He really got into the spirit of things and had her feeding him grapes in the photo-shoot.

Who did you particularly like?

I liked George Michael – a wonderful, generous and sensitive man. A real family man. The Spandau boys were always up for a bit of a wild night out and a laugh as were Bananarama and Jason Donovan always remembered you.

Was there anyone you didn’t like?

Let’s see…generally, everyone was  lovely  but I do remember  leaping on stage at Nick Kershaw’s soundcheck  at The Playhouse in Edinburgh and having a few words because he was being sniffy about a pre-arranged meet and greet with a Jackie reader. Again, it was all about the reader. She was crying and I lost my cool! I also found Paula Yates difficult.

What was your strangest and/or funniest encounter?

Interviewing Simon Le Bon whilst he was in his bath ranks right up there. Luckily, there were a lot of bubbles. He greeted me by shouting, ‘Captain Invincible!’

What were you like at school?

I was, much  like I am now,  a bit of a rebel,  a non-conformist.  I attended a Catholic academy and it was pretty strict. I was constantly being sent home for trying to wear cheesecloth shirts and no tie or non-regulation hippy clogs instead of sensible shoes.  I was a bit of a secret swot too though and stayed on until sixth year. I particularly loved English and the debating society which was run by Sister Mary Bernadette. She was a giant Irish nun who cruised the corridors like a scary black battleship, clipping wrong-doers around the lugs as she passed. She and I really got on. She had a deliciously dry sense of humour.  I remember   I was debating at the rather posh Morrison’s Academy in Crieff when my opponent  completely lost his temper and called me a, ‘communist bastard’.

Sister Mary Bernadette came  up to me after our win put her hand on my shoulder and said, ‘ Sure, he got that wrong, Gayle…..you’re definitely not a  communist…’ There was definitely a twinkle in her eye as she said it.

What advice would you give to the young Gayle Anderson?

I’d say,  ‘ Be bold, be brave and enjoy every single second. Oh, and always remember to stick your taxi fare in your shoe before a night out.’

Who inspires you?

Strong, talented women inspire me . Arundhati Roy, Maya Angelou, Oprah Winfrey, Kathy Burke,  Dorothy Parker, Jeanette Winterson, Toni Morrison,  Audre Lorde, Carol Ann Duffy, Joan Eardley, Frida Kahlo, Joni Mitchell to name but a few.

What are you working on just now?

At the moment I’m working on my autobiography – here’s a bit of blurb about what to expect…

“I learnt the true meaning of ‘beards’ and ‘handbags’ as a naïve 19-year-old pop editor partying with George Michael. Before that, as Jackie’s iconic agony aunts, Cathy & Claire, I’d  helped thousands of  teenage girls deal with love bites, loneliness and medical queries that all too often involved sending me their scabs stuck to Sellotape. But  it was many more years before I faced up to my own issues, addressed my shed-loads of secrets and lies and finally admit that I was gay. Join me on a riotously funny and at times painfully raw road trip to the end of my rainbow. You’ll discover that it’s never too late to  come out, or to wear double denim. Warning: an embarrassingly high level of name-dropping will be involved in the telling of this story.”

Can’t wait for the name-dropping. You write stand-up reviews, Gayle. Gary Little has been a Smorgasbord guest and I have an interview with another stand-up lined up – I wondered if you have ever considered taking to the stage?

No, never – I know as a reviewer just how incredibly difficult it is! I admire stand -up comedians  so much. Baring their souls on stage night after night – they are brave, talented people. I do love being a bit of a pub raconteur though and I would love to write comedy – either for TV or radio. I’m working on a  treatment for a six part female led comedy series. I’ve also appeared  on a few radio comedy quiz shows.

If you could spend a day hanging out with any one person, past or present, who would you choose and why? How would you spend the day?

It would be Maya Angelou – my heroine. We’d probably kick back in Barbados  at a beachside bar drinking rum with her reading her poetry to me and me reading Rabbie Burns to her. She loved Burns. I met her once after a poetry reading in Glasgow in the 1980s. She was charm itself. A 6ft vision in a gold lame frock…… and that voice!!

Who would play Gayle Anderson in the film of your life?

It would have to be Frances McDormand – especially like she is in 3 Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri.  Small, feisty, determined and allergic to bullshit.. Scary on the outside but a softy underneath.  A ball breaker par excellence!

A few short questions to finish. Favourite book:

The God of Small Things, Arundhati Roy or The Elegance of The Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery.

Author:

Margaret Atwood

Drink:

Mount Gaye Barbados rum.

Film:

Some Like It Hot

Music:

Billie Holliday, Lauryn Hill, Joni Mitchell, Leonard Cohen,  Bob Marley, Massive Attack,  George Michael, Curtis Mayfield. A mixture of hip and hippy!

TV show:

New comedy show  by Roisin Conarty – it’s a breath of fresh sit-com air. All time favourite show – The Wire.

1980s pop icon

Gotta be Debbie Harry.

What are you reading right now?

I’m reading The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy. I got a signed copy as a Christmas present from my partner.

Where can readers find out more about you?

Oh, it would be great to hear from fellow Jackie fans. No problems letters though, I’m a bit rusty!! Good to hear from  other lovers of the arts and comedy too.

Twitter : @puffedtweet

Instagram: gayleandersonx

Thanks, Gayle. It’s been a real pleasure having you on the Smorgasbord.

You’re most welcome –  I’ve had fun on your posh Pick ‘N’ Mix!

Books by LG Thomson are available from Amazon and from bookshops in Ullapool. Writing as Lorraine Thomson, the Dark Times trilogy is also available from Amazon.

Find out more about LG Thomson at Thrillers With Attitude.

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The Attitude Smorgasbord: Sarah Norquoy

From May to December 2015, I delved into the lives of 21 writers, finding out what made them tick, who would play them in a film of their lives and what advice they would give to their young selves. Now the Smorgasbord is back, rebooted and raring to go, with a fresh batch of writers lined up for the next seven weeks.

First up is Sarah Norquoy. I met Sarah in 2016 when I was invited to Stromness in Orkney, to give a talk at an Emergents workshop. I was working on the final draft of Boiling Point, and Sarah was experiencing extraordinary success with her blog, Norq from Ork.

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Hi Sarah, Norq from Ork, has been incredibly successful. Why do you think it has struck such a chord with readers?

Thank you very much! I think it’s because I write about every day things in a simple and  funny way. People can identify with what I’m saying and as you say, it strikes a chord.  I didn’t set out to write that way, it was just the voice that emerged.   That said, I also write about very touching and moving aspects of life which people seem to appreciate too.  The posts that do the best are the ones where you’re tapping into an emotion that people can completely identify with, even if it’s something as mundane as loading a dish washer or cutting the grass.  Also people enjoy seeing the scenery of Orkney which I often share. I have nicknames for family and friends which seems to be a real hit as well.  I’ve always nicknamed my husband Orkney Beef and that dates back years to when I was completely nuts about him and he didn’t know I existed, so I just continued with the name.  Then I thought up names for my children and people started to ask what their name would be or suggesting one for themselves.  The whole blog is generally a bit of light relief, people know what they are going to get and they seem to like it.

Do your family ever get annoyed with you for writing about them?

They have never yet, but I’m very careful about what I write. If I’m unsure I will always ask permission first and if anyone doesn’t want to be involved then of course I would honour that. Usually  they love it and encourage me in what I’m doing. I have a regular feature called My Week in Pictures and  I discovered that my daughter and her boyfriend often try to get featured in it.

Where did you grow up, and how did it differ from life on Orkney?

I grew up in Sutton Coldfield on the outskirts of Birmingham, but I’ve lived in other places too and moved up to Orkney after 12 years in Cambridge.  It is COMPLETELY different from Orkney in every way.  We only saw the sea once a year on our family holiday and I always dreamed of living by the sea.  Now I can see it from my sitting room, kitchen and dining room window and I never tire of it.  I still have to pinch myself sometimes.

How did your blog evolve?

I’ve often been told how entertaining I am on things like Facebook and Twitter and many friends suggested I take it to a wider audience and write more. I’ve always enjoyed writing and often said I want to write a book, so the blog was merely a discipline to make me write on a regular basis. It quickly gained momentum and people enjoyed it and started signing up to read and follow up.  I’ve loved it and am really pleased I took the plunge.

How did you feel about putting yourself, and your family, out there?

I’m careful about what I share and if someone doesn’t want to be involved then I would honour that completely.  There’s much of my life that I’ve shared but there’s also much of my life that I haven’t. It’s a risk sometimes and I’m quite a sensitive soul so if someone said they hated me I think I’d cry!  Thankfully that hasn’t happened and I hope it never does.

 Have you ever regretted a post, or wished you’d pushed one a little further?

I haven’t regretted any but I have certainly felt like I’ve taken a risk with some and thankfully they have paid off.  It’s not so much the funny stuff as the personal accounts like for example talking about the death of my brother.  There are still a lot of things I want to explore like talking more about my life as a single parent.  They were difficult days and I would like to think that sharing some of my experiences could help someone else who may be going through it. Sometimes I wish I was braver with my writing as I’m quite risk averse, but maybe I’ll get there yet.

 Have you ever written, or considered writing, any kind of fiction or poetry?

 I’ve written some short stories. I entered my first one in the George Mackay Brown Fellowship completion and won a prize, and I’ve had a short piece published in Living Orkney magazine.  There’s book which is in the process of being written but it lives in my head a lot of the time..… I’m always, always, always writing in my head. The problem is that dreaded four letter word T*ME to get it all written down into something ready to send away. Gah…. 

Who inspires you?

I’ll try to stop this tipping into a load of gushing tripe but in all honesty it’s everyday people. The elderly who have lived through wars, rationing  and tremendous hardship with stories to tell, people who show kindness, friends who have stood by me through thick and thin. People who have overcome adversity and keep going.  My husband inspires me, and sometimes, I’m just inspired when I look in the  mirror and remember I raised two kids on my own with a mountain of difficulties to overcome. It’s taken me a long time to say that.

What has been your best writing moment so far?

Seeing my piece published in a magazine was thrilling, winning a prize in the competition mentioned earlier, being messaged by someone saying they love my work and how much did I charge.  But most of the time it’s getting an email or message from someone saying how a blog has touched them in some way or made them laugh. Being stopped by someone and told my blog really boosts their day, or made them smile or even cry. I’m always so touched that people want to make contact. A couple of posts I’ve written have had 900 views in a day.  That was astounding but I don’t know why some go like that and others don’t.

What are your ambitions, writing wise?

I want to be published.  The half written book I want to finish and publish, and I wold love to publish the blog in the form of a book too.  The ultimate dream for me would be to walk into a book shop and see my book there and know a complete stranger chose to buy it.

Do you have any particular writing habits?

Not really, I tend to write the blog in the evening but I’m always  jotting down ideas in note books or on my phone so I don’t forget it.  I observe people and make mental notes and jot them down.  Someday all these jottings will be worth a fortune I’m sure of it.

Who would play Norq From Ork in the film of your life?

Dawn French. I think she could do the funny parts of me perfectly and the the really difficult parts of my life sensitively. I asked her on Twitter once but she didn’t reply so I guess I’m going to have to think again.

A few short questions to finish with. 

Okay,  but I’m rubbish at narrowing these down to one so I may have to give you a few answers for each question.  What you gonna do, fire me?

Heh, heh. I guess not. Favourite books? 

The Outrun, The Time Traveller’s Wife, Rebecca, We Need to talk about Kevin, Stuart: A Life Backwards (warned you)

Author?

Not often I stick to one author but that said I know I’ve read all of Jonathan Tropper’s books. 

Meal?

Chinese noodles and crispy seaweed.  Also, your money’s safe with me but not your chocolate. 

I’ll keep that in mind next time we meet. Film? 

I loved The Help also loved A Brief History of Time.  Don’t make me choose. *sobs*

Music?

Quite an eclectic range. Right now I’m listening to Norah Jones in the car but another day it could be bangin’ tunes at full blast.

What are you reading right now?

3096 Days.  The story of Natascha Kampusch and how she survived 8 years being held in a dungeon after being kidnapped aged 10  She finally escaped at 18 and her coping strategies to stay alive and sane, and her ability to write so eloquently about her experience, is remarkable.  Now she really is inspiring. 

Thanks Sarah. It’s been a pleasure.

Thank you for asking me. It’s been an interesting experience. 

 Where can readers find out more about you?

My blog is Norq From Ork where you can subscribe, I also have a Facebook page called Norq from Ork.  You can tweet me on @SarahKNorquoy  and my Instagram is NorqfromOrk.  Take a look and say hi. 

LG Thomson is the author of thrillers, Boyle’s Law, Boiling Point, and Erosion, and of post-apocalyptic thrill-fest, Each New Morn. Find out more at Thrillers With Attitude.

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On Not Writing

Thrillers With Attitude

Gruinard Bay, North West Scotland. April 2015

For reasons explained in my last post, there’s not much writing being writ in the Attitude household at the moment.  Life has been turned inside out and upside down.  One of the casualties has been my writing.  My routine has been shot to hell.  It’s frustrating, but sometimes there’s nothing for it but to roll with the punches.

The good news is that my partner is making an incredible recovery.  I’ve been married to him for fifteen years and in that time he has astounded me in all sorts of ways (you can read that any way you like), but on this occasion he has really pulled the rabbit out of the hat.  The doctors are agog, which is terrific as it gives me the opportunity to use the word agog.

There’s still a long way to go before he is fully recovered, but he will get there, and somewhere along the way I will be able to re-establish my writing routine.  In the meantime, paper scraps and post-it notes of scribbled ideas are stacking up.  When I get back to it, I’m getting back good.

LG Thomson is the author of Boyle’s Law, Each New Morn, and Erosion.

It’s not the years in your life…

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Every now and again, usually when least expected, life leaps up and bites you on the backside.  Like most people, I’ve had a few chunks taken out of me, the latest incident so recent I’m still reeling from it.   Over-wrought writing always leaves me feeling a little queasy, so I’m going to toss a few words out and let you build the picture for yourself:  accident; emergency; fractured ribs; punctured lung; shattered pelvis; high dependency unit.  Now take those words and apply them to your life partner.

For a while it didn’t look good.  Try this word for size: catastrophic.  Of course I’m talking catastrophic on a personal level. The disaster localised, striking my partner, me, our daughters, close friends and family.  The effect rippling out through extended family, colleagues and acquaintances to the point where what was catastrophic for us was merely an item of news for somebody else.  At the outer ripples and beyond, life simply went on as it always does.

To the astonishment of medical staff – and everyone else – eight days after his dramatic admission to hospital, my husband was discharged. Full recovery is some way off, but every day there are improvements and, if nothing else, the experience of pain, the threat of death, serves as a reminder that the time we have is precious. It is up to ourselves what we make of it.

As Abraham Lincoln put it, “In the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.”

LG Thomson is the author of Boyle’s Law, Each New Morn, and Erosion.

Row K, Seat 7 – Episode III, The Return

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The lights had dimmed and now the audience settled as the Pearl and Dean theme faded and the screen was filled by a shot of a jumbo jet taking off, accompanied by the immortal voiceover, You don’t have to fly to India to enjoy a delicious Indian meal.  

The advert, for the Spice of Life restaurant in Abronhill, played at every single screening in the County Cinema in Cumbernauld, and every single time it played everyone in the audience snickered and muttered because the actor doing the voiceover managed to mispronounce Abronhill.

The Spice of Life was just around the corner from Abronhill High School, where Gregory’s Girl was set.  The showing I saw of Bill Forsyth’s heart-warming  film was riotous.  There was uproar every time a character in the film turned a corner and ended up five miles away.  There was even more of an uproar whenever anyone in the audience saw someone they knew in the film.  As all the extras were from the town, there was a lot of uproar.  It was a strange and exciting feeling being from somewhere as utterly ordinary as Cumbernauld and seeing people I knew in real life up on the silver screen.  Given the mayhem in the cinema, I guess we all felt the same.

Despite not appearing in the film, I still managed to receive some direction from Bill Forsyth.  This  when I inadvertently blundered into a scene.  I have since blocked the words he used from memory.  I sincerely wish I could do the same to the sound of the jeering crowd.  I had wondered why they were all standing there, but I somehow managed to miss the camera.  And the boom.  And the actors…

The scene of my humiliation took place outside the Spice of Life where I tasted my first curry, and just around the corner from my friend Kevin’s house.  My favourite scene in the  film is the one in which his bedroom window makes an appearance.

It would be several years before I would fly to India and enjoy many delicious meals, but in the meantime there was the County Cinema and the Spice of Life.

LG Thomson is the author of Boyle’s Law, Each New Morn, and Erosion.

Nosy writer gets thirteen weeks

Two months ago I went to an open day at my local radio station.  Being naturally nosy, there was no way I was turning down the opportunity to take a peek behind closed doors.  Curiosity may have killed the cat.  What it resulted in for me was a thirteen week commitment to making a weekly radio programme.  Thus, Losing The Plot was created.

I’ve got an eccentric resident poet, Peedie Mo, to wrangle.  Most weeks, I also have a special guest to engage with, reassure, and encourage.  My special guests generally don’t regard themselves as special in any way.  They wash the dishes, take out the bins, nag the kids to get up… In short, they do all the mundane stuff that most of us do.  But, like the rest of us, each of them has a story to tell.

Sure, some of the stories might be more obvious than others.  Like the strings teacher who occasionally jets off to Japan to play in front of an adulating audience before scooting back to Scotland in time to clean out the guinea pig cage.  But the smaller, less obvious stories, have been just as fascinating.  The care worker with a zest for life.  The person who was trapped in a water tank as a child and fears nothing but fear itself.  And, of course, there’s Mo.  My resident poet is a former primary school teacher, scuba diver and chicken liver picker.  Clothes as colourful as her personality, she is a force of nature.

Two months ago I walked through a door because I wanted to see what was going on behind it.  What I discovered was a rich seam of fascinating stories buried in the everyday.

LG Thomson is the author of Boyle’s Law, Each New Morn, and Erosion.

Listen to Losing The Plot on Lochbroom FM every Thursday at 6.30pm GMT, or catch up on Mixcloud.

Logan’s Hobble

chocolate

Someone recently suggested to me that everyone should retire when they are fifty and die when they are sixty.  A little harsh, but I can see where they are coming from.  Think about it.  You’d get ten years of relative youth and good health.  Relative that is to your average ninety year-old, with delicate bones, failing kidneys and loose sphincters.  Ten years to take up new pursuits, read all those books you never got around to, or to sit around in your onesie all day watching Netflix.

One of the advantages of the Retire at Fifty, Die at Sixty (RAFDAS) scheme, is that without an aging population to provide care for, there would be plenty of money in the coffers to give everyone a decent retirement.  Unfortunately, having turned fifty this year, my RAFDAS death seems a little too close for comfort.  If it was put into practice, I’d be tempted to do a Logan’s Run.  Though in my case it would be more of a slow jog.  But I don’t want to go on forever.

The nonagenarians I know are in a fragile state and only got to that age with a great deal of medical intervention.  Often very intrusive intervention.  This holds no appeal.  Our bodies weren’t designed to last that long so why keep someone going just because you can?  One ninety-four year old I know has been told not to eat chocolate because it is bad for her.  Well everybody has to die of something.  Why not chocolate?

LG Thomson is the author of Boyle’s Law, Erosion and Each New Morn.

Carpe diem, baby

I was born in 1964, the year mods clashed with rockers on British beaches, Beatlemania was in full flow, and the death penalty was abolished in the UK.

Fifty years later, my “milestone” birthday was a low key affair, reaching peak excitement with the ordering of an Indian take-away.  The months leading up to it were, on a personal level, somewhat more eventful.

Twenty-five years after writing my first book, I finally published, not one, but three books in six months, each of which has appeared in Amazon’s bestseller charts.  In a year abundant with new experiences, I set up my own website, joined a coastal rowing club, became the presenter of a radio show, and was checked out in the most thorough manner for ovarian cancer.  The last thankfully negative.

I’ve heard people not much older than me say they feel sorry for young people today.  I wholeheartedly disagree with that sentiment.  I’ve never bought into the idea of the Good Old Days. The decade in which I was born only ever swung for a few and was miserable for many.  There is still plenty wrong with the world today, but it’s all to easy to be cynical.  Opportunities abound like never before, and not just for younger people.

Yes, the waistline has thickened, the hair is silvering and reading glasses are inevitable, but as my fiftieth birthday approached, I regarded it not, as I expected, with a sense of trepidation, but instead thinking that perhaps the best is yet to come.

LG Thomson is the author of Boyle’s Law, Erosion and Each New Morn.