Sunday, 2 March 2014


The longer I do this the more I realise that I don't have to go to Dumfries and Galloway but that Dumfries and Galloway comes to me, in all shapes and forms, in day to day reality and dreams. You can't move and function anywhere without some kind of interaction with people and place and where that happens it's sometimes a cause to write. However the process goes beyond that to a kind of magic or at the very least a succession of leading coincidences. Or has this obsession and sleep deprivation finally taken its toll?

Recently I got a parcel of William Macilvanney novels I hadn't read. As I set out yesterday I absent mindedly stuffed one in my bag. I had planned to have a wee search for Dirk Hatterick's cave, on the coast just past Auchenlarie. No car, but juggling with buses, a finely honed art form of which I think I am, by now, one of the world's finest exponents. I had a wee lunch in Gatehouse in the hotel opposite the Bakehouse, then caught the bus. It was a nice day on the coast, if a little overcast, and when I got off I wandered about on the shore. The road was invisible, and there was only silence and the Solway glittering and clouds running wool white overhead. After a while I sat down and for the sheer hell of it gave a loud howl, frightening the family I hadn't spotted that was walking along the shingle kicking a ball for their dog.

Out of embarrassment, I took out the novel, 'A Gift from Nessus', opened it randomly and began to pretend to read. I saw the word 'Dumfries', skipped a few pages, followed the main character, who I later discovered to be a window salesman from Glasgow, on the road south. A few pages later he was in a hotel, 'the Angel' in the middle of Gatehouse. Then, on the foreshore before Creetown "looking through a rock cleft that was open to a bay, where the wind was farming empty acres of dun sky." Of course, at the end of the chapter, he was disturbed by a family "throwing a ball that was being tirelessly retrieved by a dog."

Even if I hadn't just been sold a new set of windows, I would have found this a bit odd. I think I'll invent a new term for all this. Geofantaspsychiatry. There I've done it.

and in his brain,--
Which is as dry as the remainder biscuit
After a voyage,--he hath strange places crammed
With observation, the which he vents 

In mangled forms.

(As you Like it)

And what has that got to do with This book? Well everything really.

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