February 2015

The month started well with visits to Port Ellen Primary School, here on Islay.

The P7 class had access to notebooks during my reading of the first three chapters of ‘Cry at Midnight’. These were for two purposes – firstly to note down interesting words and secondly to draw a character from the book. A few words were new to some of the children –e.g. tantalizing, tuft (of hair), tentative and bristling (with indignation), but the meanings became clear through context and discussion, with the bonus of adding to their vocabulary. Almost without exception the drawings  were very accurate depictions of Aunt Aggie.

For P5 and 6 I read extracts from the first six chapters and introduced the sea-bean and hag-stone necklace, the broomstick and the witch’s hat. And we also acted out some of the conversations and body language for  the characters.

‘Slate Voices: Islands of Netherlorn’, featured in a review on www.lovescottishislands.com where Lee Allen, who runs this wonderful site ended with the following words. ‘Any visit to the Slate Islands is incomplete without this book. Even without visiting them. This book is essential reading. It is easy to read, but difficult to forget…’

Other writing successes came in the form of my poem ‘Island White’ appearing in a lovely little Grey Hen publication, ‘Shades of Meaning’ – Poems about Colours.

Island White

White in the Hebrides is seldom snow
unless it tops the highest of the hills,
more like to be an early morning frost,
hailstones windswept banked against a wall,
sandy beaches born of cockle shells,
marshy hollows filled with cotton grass,
swans and eider drakes, a wheatear’s rump,
spring lambs or new shorn ewes,
daisy pathways cutting through the dunes,
water tumbling down a stone strewn burn,
crests of waves, gale-lashed flecks of foam,
blackthorn blossom, quartz veins through a rock,
a single white bell in among the blue,
dandelion clocks, bleached bones,
mushrooms, dog whelks, cuckoo spit,
water lilies on a peat dark loch.

I was also delighted to hear that my ‘Fairy Tale for Mothers’ is to be included in the New Voices Anthology, due to be published by The Federation of Writers (Scotland).

The proofs for ‘Clickfinger’ arrived for checking so I went through these twice which meant that for nearly three days I couldn’t get on with ‘my third book in ‘The Hagstone Chronicles’.

However ‘The Snake Wand’ is going well. I’m up to Chapter 21 which means I’ll soon be halfway. As always I’ve been delighted and intrigued by the way the characters continue to lead the story in quite unexpected directions.

The end of the month found us with chaos at home as Richard is decorating living room, hall, stairs, landing and shower room. However, outside, despite continuing blustery weather, our tiny wild daffodils are joining the snowdrops that have been blooming since early January. There are  a few lesser celandines on the south facing bank and a song thrush has chosen our roof for his song post. So Spring is not too far away.