Gangin on a Bear Hunt

photoI was on the annual, last-minute hunt for Christmas presents today. After a brief foray into Cass Art (where I mainly sat down and drew a couple of Christmas cards, see below), I headed over to Waterstone’s Argyle Street, site of some of the best launch parties for Glasgow writers.

The shop didn’t disappoint in its present possibilities, and in the good humour of its staff and patience of its customers in the face of the queues. (There was a teenage boy who declared his interest in conceptual art to his pals while examining a book of photos who also pleased me.)

But what charmed me most was a middle-aged couple I passed on the stairs; them on the way down, me on the way up. At the turn of the steps was a display of Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury’s We’re Going on a Bear Huntfirst published in 1989 and a perennial favourite of children and their parents ever since.

The women stopped, and read out the title in recognition, her attention perhaps attracted by the large toy bear next to it. Then, with a delighted intake of breath, she read the title of the book next to it, emphasising the second word for her companion. ‘We’re Gangin on a Bear Hunt‘.

We’re Gangin on a Bear Hunt is translated into Scots for the first time this year by Susan Rennie, and is published by the wonderful Floris Books (this year’s Saltire Society Publisher of the Year, which I had the privilege to be on the judging panel for).

photo-2The woman’s delight on the stair as she saw the book, shows why it’s such a good idea to translate classics, as well as originating texts in Scotland’s diverse languages. (I had to continue shopping, but I hope she bought a copy to revist the story with its Scots twist…)

Oh, and here’s a perky robin and tree from my drawings… Sláinte and Merry Christmas to you all!


Bath Books

fullsizerenderLast night as part of Book Week Scotland, I produced ‘Bath Books’, an evening of aquatic literary delights at Glasgow’s iconic Western Baths. I’m a member of the Baths, a glorious Victorian swimming pool featuring Turkish Baths, saunas and a steam room, and the evening was a great way for me to bring some of my literary work to an unusual venue.

The sauna suite was transformed for the evening into an events space, with audience members welcomed to bring up drinks from the bar below (passing on the way the Baths’ floor mosaic created by Alasdair Gray).

The evening featured a series of readings from works by Scottish writers, across poetry, fiction and non-fiction, including some by authors who are members of the Baths. We were also lucky to have contributions from actors, some of whom were also members of the Baths. The audience was promised murder, competition, and intrigue, as well as imaginative dives into the depths, encounters with magical aquatic beasts, and meditations on the restorative powers of water.

We kicked off the evening with a reading by David Anderson from Robert Louis Stevenson’s Kidnapped. In the section, Davie swims for shore after a wave knocks him off the boat. Next, we stayed outdoors but moved into the 21st century, with an extract read by Louise Ludgate of Amy Liptrot’s memoir The Outrun, in which the author swims in the ‘gaspingly cold’ seas off Orkney. ‘One morning,’ writes Liptrot, ‘the sky is reflected in the flat water and I’m swimming in the clouds.’ Continue reading


IMG_1284My alter ego, Central Belt Shuffler, reported a couple of weeks ago on a visit to the Tramway‘s Glasgow International exhibition.

One of the artworks on show is Amie Siegel’s Provenance. In the lushly-shot film, the (wordless) narrative works backwards from chairs, desks and tables in beautifully designed western homes to high-cost furniture auctions, and finally to the crumbling, arch-modernist buildings of Chandigarh, where the furniture is shown in everyday contexts: offices, a library, a classroom, abandoned in a store. The exhibition also features a shorter film about the selling of the film itself at Christie’s, and includes the auction catalogue in which it featured.

Inspired by this, and also Lawrence Lek’s work QE3, I signed up to do a workshop based around these artworks. We were asked to bring in an object with some sort of history, and a photograph of a place. I took in a fossilised rock, and a photo of the aptly-named Stair Street, which is round the corner from where I live.

Led by Tramway’s Public Engagement Coordinator, we quickly got down to a series of writing exercises that culminated in our own filming of the objects and their (semi-fictionalised) provenance, as if for an auction . My imagination quickly turned to the turn of 19th and 20th century Glasgow, and the bloodcurdling murder of a prostitute.

Here’s the video we made – my piece features at c4:40, but my disembodied hand makes a sneaky appearance manoeuvring some of the other objects at various points.

GI Provenance Workshop from Holly Rumble on Vimeo.