Collected Geo-Writing stories by Sandy Wilkie
Geo-Writing was a project run during September 2014 in which authors submitted writing based on location-inspired prompts. To read the full list of published stories, click here.
A few authors submitted a set of stories which were linked in their own right. I have therefore decided to create a few separate pages for these authors. Here we present: Sandy Wilkie
Acts of the Apostles; Life in a post-Indyref Scotland (Sept 2014)
"Things will quickly change; we have grown up, we will improve our world...there will be days and days and days like this"*
The camera rolls.
Matt McArthur of Lochawe looked straight into the glass eyes of the pale taxidermic Cheetah. Above him lay not sky, but the imposing outline of the City of Glasgow Squadron LA198 Mark 21 Spitfire. He had not flown one like that since he crash-landed near Poitiers in October 1944. Now he had celebrated his 90th birthday, the memories of that misty-morning dawn were like a 70 year-old opaque bottle of local Petite Champagne Cognac.
He shivered fleetingly as he glanced up at the Moose (Alces alces) over his right-shoulder. Nietzsche was a little late. A habit of a life-time for him. Matt remembered how he took ages to arrive to apprehend him after his Spitfire was downed by the farm. That day, captor and captive developed a strange respect. Over the days that followed in the journey east to Germany, they struck up an embryonic friendship. He was glad of that; they had swapped wartime passports on the evening Matt was removed to Buchenwald.
He glanced right at the painted figure through the stone archway. He had loved that painting of Archibald McLellan since he had visited Kelvingrove Galleries as a boy. A crumpled old man sat down beside him on the seat, his wispy hair and moustache matching the stuffed Swan behind the Cheetah. Nietzsche smiled and the years fell away; there they were again, back in wartime France. The aroma of farm-baked bread, cheap cigarette smoke and the stench of farmyard manure, warm livestock and cold corpses.
They exchanged faded and creased passports. He embraced Nietsche under LA198 and the tears came easily. Buchenwald had broken his spirit for years. Here he was now, feeling relief and forgiveness with his captor. As he opened his tear-stained eyes, he noticed the document in Archibald McLellans outstretched hand in the adjacent gallery and he smiled. An olive-branch, an exchange of contracts, returned friendship. He remembered Vera Lynn and hugged Nietzsche tighter.
The camera pulls back, framing LA198 as it presided over the scene. Two old men, an impassive Cheetah. A swan with outstretched wings.
True forgiveness for the dark days is indeed an act of love.
[*spoken dialogue by Meryl Streep from the film 'Plenty', 1985)]
This afternoon seemed to be all About Holes And Things*
She was in the kitchen preparing vegetables for a slow-cooked Coq Au Vin when the radio mentioned about Shettleston, about holes and things. She'd been tasting some Rioja so wasn't sure if she had picked up the news item correctly. Using her chicken-floured fingers, she turned up the radio.
"....and reports from passers-by describe how the strange sink hole that has opened up in Tollcross Park looks like something from Dantes Inferno. We'll have more on this as the story develops"
Her fingers snaked round the volume dial again and returned the newsreader to background levels. Sipping her wine she tried to remember the first part of the Divine Comedy poem by Dante. What were the 9 circles of Hell, again? Limbo was the first, then Lust. As she browned the chicken thighs in Brittany butter, and tasted the deep red wine, she remembered the third circle, Gluttony. She laughed inside momentarily, then bit her lip.
Her life had been in limbo since she had left her partner. Over four years of just getting by, not feeling confident enough to look for love. She had been staying with her old dad in the McArthur family home in Broomhill. Then 3 months ago it happened. She met Him.
Out of the blue, he had walked into her life in July. They met at Glasgow Central station. Both of them 50 yet suddenly feeling like 17 again; except that was the age she'd fallen pregnant with wee Joan. Her eyes moistened at the memory.
She added all the ingredients back into the pan, then poured the reduced Rioja back in. As the dish waited to start bubbling, she gazed out to the autumn sunshine. Soon they would be together again, walking near Ambleside or cooking dinner after a pint in the Golden Rule. She thought of these simple pleasures. She thought of future possibilities. She thought of happiness. And love and things.
Then her mind flicked back to the radio news item. She felt the Rioja-warmth in her cheeks, as she metaphorically advanced to Dantes second circle. Lust.
[*a chapter title from the novel 'Waterland' by Graham Swift, 1983]
"Birches clustered in sprays where the dried-up burns dipped into the streams....Flickers were coming off the loch and the massive sky seemed filled with a sparkling dust above those hot summer hills, fattened with plants and trees."*
Luke coughed. He hudnae slept well up amongst the bracken-flecked sheep. It was chilly, pale-eggshell-sky morning. Mist rose above the railway pass. He shivered.
In the awning of his tent he started up the Coleman gas. Warmth at last, tea water on the go. He needed a slash. Shuffling out the tent he found his favourite birch to have a piss behind. Steam rose to echo the clearing mist.
You see, life had no been easy since he had left HER. Her name was too painful to say out loud. Ma, Mar. Mar. Mmmm, Martha. God, it still hurt over 3 years later. His ribs ached as he cackled with phlegm. Still, his own fuckin fault.
What was he gonna do today? Aw ya dancer, it was Thursday. Best day of the week. You see it was the Foodbank at St Francis In The East. He loved that place; hot tea, custard creams, a wee chat with that helper John. And bags of food to bring back to his tent; beans, sugar, toilet roll and tinned anchovies. Fuckin treats.
He'd manage a lunchtime hauf 'n hauf in the Lorne with that wee skinny barmaid. And he'd go for a wander down the pier to watch the island ferries come and go. He'd take a seat near the green-walled seafood shack and watch the gulls fight over scraps. He'd look for Jimmy's boat White Heather IV (OB266). Aye, and mind that time he and his pal saw the two drunk fishermen at Halloween unloading langoustines then hitching their dinghy to a battered white van. Weird stuff happens in Argyll.
He bloody loved Oban, so he did. His ex father-in-law, with his tales of fishing at Loch Awe would have been proud; if he didnae still hate his guts for that Martha thing.
Luke muttered and walked out in the Argyll sunshine to seek a kind of redemption of sorts.
[*quote from Alan Warner, Morvern Callar (1995)]
"The land was forever, it moved and changed below you, but was forever"*
1:35pm, Saturday, 18th October. She was out at the shops with Catriona her mum, when she spotted the man descending gracefully like a feather from the sky. White, wispy clouds drifted slowly high above Kessock Bridge. His slow fall continued under his Parma-violet hued canopy.
Joan stopped, transfixed and unbelieving. Her mum paused and looked up. Their worlds slowed as they watched him deploy a secondary chute and glide downwards onto the roof of Marks & Spencer's. We all land smoothly in our imaginations.
For all of her 32 years, Joan had been searching for that reassurance of a soft-landing in life. Sure, her time with Catriona and Ally had been loving and stable. But her primary school tag of being 'adopted' had always made her feel different, unsettled and not of this place. She'd read the brief social services notes about her birth mother 'Martha', but knew little else. Besides Catriona was always there to squeeze her hand; and Ally to welcome her home with a generous two-finger measure of Linkwood.
They watched as the parachutist gathered in his gossamer wings. He produced a thick cylinder from his back and started to unfurl a banner. Jean and Catriona giggled; maybe this was a PR stunt from the rival Debenhams store? She pressed her fingers against the birthday necklace from Uncle Matt and bit her lip.
'Sack the Board; MacGregor out!' it read. Joan felt puzzled. She turned to her mum and shrugged. Then suddenly Catrionas eyes danced and she let out a roaring laugh. "Mum what is it? You are embarrassing me...". Catriona steadied herself, then winked at Joan. "You know how Celtic are up at Dingwall today, well that numpty has guided himself down using the wrong Firth and clearly mistaken the retail park for Victoria Park!". Joan looked at her watch. With a lunchtime kick-off for BBC Alba transmission, it would half-time with the cameras rolling live on trackside commentators. She laughed too, the roof of M&S was nowhere near as useful for his protest as the lush, green centre-circle currently lying empty.
Joan gazed at the gulls circling and wheeling away. An early memory flashed through her mind. Seagulls on a west-coast beach, fishing boats, a woman in tears. Martha? Mm, Mar, Martha.
[*quote from Lewis Grassic-Gibbon, Sunset Song (1932)]
ACTS (of the Apostles)"A mile and a half on a bus takes a long time. The odour of old prison food takes a long time to pass you by, When you've been inside.."* Whit the actual? Pauline had no long been out of that Cornton Vale place. She was now back in the grey town, trying to make her life mean something again in Heathhall. She'd been a good girl mind, no stealing from shops or injecting again. She had wanted to get fit; like she was when her pal Martha and her shared a student flat in Bridgeton. Those wur the days. Still, whit the fuck had just happened there? She remembered trying to avoid some stupid sign flying across the A75 in the wind. Then bam, fucking BAM. She had hit a guy on some kinda fancy mountain bike; name doubt wan of they Seven Stanes trail nutters that used to nearly mow her doon in Dalbeattie Town Woods when she hud Tyson off his lead and hunting squirrels. But here she was, lying on the flair looking at some stupid dick in Tour de France Lycra clutching his leg. Whit the actual? It wisnae as if yon Lance Armstrong rode a feckin mountain bike. The guy squealed in pain, she felt a wee laugh build in her belly. But jeez her ribs suddenly hurt. Aw heck, they'd both soon be relaxing at their local Infirmary on the Crichton; delighted to be guests in A&E. Still, she checked her scratched-face watch. 6.53am. At least her lovely hoosemate Ruthie would still be on her night shift. So a welcome cup of tea and a few belly laughs awaited then. Feck, that hurt just thinking aboot laughing. She inched her way across the tarmac towards her twisted bike-frame. Trapped in the spokes was that stupid big plasticy-cardboard sign which hud brought carnage. She flipped it over. It wus a Glasgow Uni sign fae the Crichton Campus. It read 'Be Aware of Bike Theft. Police are watching You'. She roared like a drain; hurt like buggery mind, but she didnae care. [*lyrics from The Boy With The Arab Strap, Belle & Sebastian (1998)]
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