Words and Music: A Heady Cocktail

The next instalment of the Aye Write! experience involved a visit to the Highland village Kilmacarra with Karen Campbell (my WoMentoring Project mentor), a conversation about the merits of communism in the former East Germany, a trip to buy hammers with Emily Pankhurst and a peek behind the scenes of a circus in the world after the waters have risen. Mr D and I were moved to tears by a South African poet and writer and delighted to be introduced to a one-eyed dog. We tasted several whiskies (of which I, unsurprisingly, liked the most expensive) and just managed to stay on our seat when Hector Bizerk lived up to his name on the closing night. I also re-lived part of my roller-coaster youth with a member of the Jesus and Mary Chain (all that was missing was L, my brother and a litre of cheap cider).

Barbed Wired KissesWe left Glasgow on Saturday night electrified by the whole experience and drove to Lanarkshire to take a well-known walk with the sun on our faces (thanks E) – in other words, to hang out and make music with the JJs, a collection of friends from around Scotland who get together to share music, food and laughter; the chilled-out antidote to Mr Bizerk.

When we arrived the beat was bouncing along Copperhead Road. We walked into a communal hug and the queasiness of car sickness immediately subsided. For the next few hours I chatted, giggled and sang along, whilst Mr D imbibed the musical moonshine. Around 3.30am, we crashed out in Happy to the sounds of a whistle flirting with an array of stringed instruments and Bankrobber by the Clash, played earlier on a mandolin, still snared behind my left ear.

The following morning we left in sunlight and arrived home in a hail-storm. A brief interlude before returning to Glasgow.

In the midst of all the music and words, another friend had contacted Mr D:

‘We’ve got a couple of spare tickets to Nick Cave, you want to come?’

‘Nick Cave, fancy it?’ I raised my eyebrow. ‘Thought as much.’ And so, on Sunday, we picked up N and A and once again headed into the Glasgow night.

Nick CaveNick Cave strode on stage and divined his audience. A stick-drawn conjurer, he wove words around and through his music. Chaotic guitars, frenetic fiddles and the intermittent toll of a bell, rumbled and rose, crashing into the music fleeing his piano. Theatre, I said. No not theatre, drama, said Mr D, drama in the truest sense of the word. Words tumbled into the crowd, dashing off the lights, tripping over the edge of the stage. Walls expanded to make room for the sound.

Then this.

Nick at the piano. Spot-lit. The opening bars to that song. We’re up in the balcony, as high as is possible to be, with an uninterrupted view.

I don’t believe in an interventionist god

My body becomes air. I am weightless. The words and music intertwine; lift me. Eyes closed, I fall from the balcony into a field of unharvested swaying arms.

And I don’t believe in the existence of angels

Hands suspend me, fingertips skimming my clothes. I am without form.

Into my arms, o lord

Into my arms

On the way home in the car I am all out of superlatives.

Music and words; a heady cocktail from which I went to bed drunk and woke with best hangover I’ve ever had.

The Truth in Words

Glasgow’s week long Book Festival began on Friday and Mr D and I de-camped to the city for a literary adventure. Held at the Mitchell Library, Aye Write! is celebrating its 10th anniversary and when we arrived on Friday evening, laughter and excited chatter crowded the corridors and rippled up and down the queues forming outside various rooms.

Aye Write!Determined to pack as much into the weekend as possible, we’d studied the festival brochure ahead of time and agonised over which events to attend. As anyone who knows me will attest, I’m not so good on the making of choices and thanks to a glistering array of possibilities, agreeing on a final selection was particularly difficult. After much deliberation we settled on a programme of events that allowed no time for eating and barely enough time for toilet breaks: it was worth it.

Over the weekend we pledged to read dangerously, vowed never to get into a taxi driven by Juice Terry, and toasted 10 years of the festival with four authors, a poet laureate and a singer-songwriter.

There were brief encounters with authors in the green room (thanks to Mr D’s PhD and ‘access all areas’ pass), champagne chit-chat with a publisher and a discussion about Patty Smith and silver ankle boots with a member of the organising committee.

We reminisced about Jim Morrison, listened to tales of Moira’s dog, almost got bitten by a black widow spider, discovered a boy trapped in the margins of a book, and tried to erase from our memories the conjured image of Tony Blair in a crop top aping Mick Jagger in an attempt to be a rock star.

The incongruity of horrifying images risen from beautiful words caused discombobulation of the mind. Poems of drones and war cast dark shadows to chill bare flesh, warmed only by the enthusiasm of the poets for their craft.

And then there was George.

The words of George the Poet quickened my breath and enlivened my imagination. His were the words of intelligence, wit, social conscience and compassion. And truth. His were the words that pulled my shoulders back, sat me up straight and disciplined my attention. His were the words that convinced me that the fight for social justice will always be worth the effort. So we bought the book of his words and these are the words he wrote for us:

Truth doesn’t care who tells it … it shines regardless!

His were the words Mr D and I talked about back in our bargain hotel room where we dined on pakora and cheap red wine and feasted on the view of the Mitchell Library against the darkening Glasgow skyline.

Mitchell Library

The Aye Write! Book Festival runs until next Saturday 25th April (also Mr D’s birthday – cards optional) and there are lots of fantastic events still to come – all to be found on the festival website. See you there.

The events we saw were:

  • Andy Miller: The Year of Reading Dangerously
  • Irvine Welsh: A Decent Ride
  • Christopher Brookmyre, Denise Mina, Lousie Welsh, Alan Bissett & Jim Carruth: There’s Only One Aye Write!
    • Dylan Jones on Jim Morrison
  • Alan Bissett: Greatest Theatrical Hits
  • Mark Ellen: Rock Stars Stole My Life
  • Harry Giles, Marion McCready and JL Williams: Vagabond Poets
  • Introducing George the Poet: Search Party – A Collection of Poems
  • Nathan Penlington: The Boy in the Book (hosted by Mr D)

Our next Aye Write! outing begins on Thursday through to Saturday and includes:

  • Karen Campbell and Fiona Rintoul: Glasgow University MLitt – The First 20 Years
  • Lebo Mashile & Niq Mhlongo: South African Writers
    • Ian Buxton: Legendary Whisky Tasting (hosted by Mr D)
  • Zoe Howe and Douglas Hart: The Jesus and Mary Chain
  • UNESCO City of Music: Rock Sessions
  • Ghada Karmi: Return – A Palestinian Memoir
  • Ben Okri: The Age of Magic
  • Tony Barrell, Lewis Gordon & Hector Bizerk: All About the Drums