At the Anniversary event, each memory was mounted on a card, and read alternately by two readers, sequenced randomly (drawn from a pack of cards shuffled before we start, in homage to Gael Turnbull)

[to start]

In the Shore Gallery in Leith, a young man who introduces himself as Brian Johnstone asks the nearly equally young Ros Brackenbury if he might read some poems which he happens to have in his back trouser pocket that chilly summer evening on the Waterfront, and she, never liking to read alone, gladly accepts his offer.

and in between 20 memories


As the streetcleaning vehicle grinds past the Fruitmarket Gallery, George Bruce talks about the sea eroding the cliffs.


At our fund-raiser in Sandeman House, many and varied are Dave Burnett’s ukuleles and the songs he plays on them.


A winter evening watching the snow fall on Market Street listening to poetry, music and coffee cups clinking: having that “snug” feeling.


Mark Ogle reads ‘I want today to close with English Rain / Tapping on my window in the four o’clock gloom.’


A fund-raising ceilidh at Bonnington Resource Centre: it must have been a good night because I wake up in the morning on a sofa in Ian McDonough’s living room, gazing at a wonderful picture (by Ruth) of angelic feet descending from clouds.


At the 369 Gallery Norman McCaig stops halfway through a poem and says with some feeling: “That’s a dreadful poem. I’ll read something else.”


Frank Kuppner’s mesmerising appearance at the Lot: as he progresses, head tilted back and eyes closed, I find myself wondering if it is meant as a reading or a seance.


Those occasions in the Canon’s Gait when a reading seems about to be transformed into a sonata for human voice, telephone and till, plus choral improvisations from the upstairs bar.


In the SPL Angus Peter Campbell reads in English and Gaelic a poem about his umbilicus so graphically that even if its subject wasn’t put on display, I retain the impression of its having been.


We’re picking candle wax from the piano keys in the 369 – sore fingers for Mark and me – fleet fingers for our solo pianist.


A fellow called Suhayl published by Polygon reads a rather long and gothicky short story which I lose track of as I’m busy folding up the raffle tickets.


We’re in The Lot – the lot of us – and we’re lost (out of it) on Highland cadence, when the blondest, most beautiful, most sensous, the most Gaelic Ms Monroe is bestowed on the Black Man of Skye.


I’m cosied into the corner on a low leather sofa at The Store, while a delicate poem is overwhelmed by pop art on the wall.


May 1996 at the Fruitmarket, music by the Goodacres and John Redpath, bagpipes hurdygurdy and melodeon; they close with a First World War lament ‘Adieu aux fils du pays’, which ends with the melodeonist departing, then the piper, leaving only the hurdygurdy, its handle being turned like that of an early film camera.


At Ryrie’s Eleanor Brown, booked as the main reader, still hasn’t arrived when the second part of the evening gets underway; breezes in during it, having forgotten the clocks went forward the previous night.


Buying bottles of wine from Waverley Station for an event, I have to go back for a third lot…


The lemon cakes Gael comes home with several times – and the smell of cigarette smoke which enters the flat with him.


At the Fruitmarket Gallery, the curiously endearing sound of trains shaking the postcard stands.


The Shore Gallery is a small, plain, whitewashed room with stone walls, no bar facilities. The bareness is possibly because the gallery is due to close so all the artwork has been taken out. Brian flogs the wine at the interval, saying the wine’s free – but it’s 50p to hire the glass.


At the Canon’s Gait open mic night, some drunk wannabe poet and his posse try to sabotage every other reader – call out ‘pretentious garbage’ to the main reader after one poem; Jim was ready for a punch-up.

[to close]

Slightly later that chilly summer evening on the Waterfront after she, never liking to read alone, gladly accepted his offer, they conclude over several glasses of wine that Edinburgh needs a poetry venue and that they will ask the Shore Gallery owner if poets could congregate here; at which point neither of them realise quite what they have started, but started they have…

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