Patience, pebbles and petrichor at a Read-around – 3 July 2019

Wednesday proved to be another fine day for a Read-around. With the sun spreading pleasant warmth outside, our club members put aside their pressing need to write and journeyed to Doonfoot in order to spend an evening with peers. Our host, Chris, was a delight and the spread, laid on for the eight attending Writers’ Club members, proved sumptuous. The date slice baked for the occasion by Chris’s wife, Pat, was crumbly, moist and downright delightful. I would be omitting an important detail if I neglected to mention that I was given a foil-wrapped piece of the cake to take home, but I assure you that this was not so much bribery as it was generosity. However, I shall say that Chris was a wonderful, out-and-out handsome host. (Ta for the rather persuasive cake, Chris!)

The title of our host’s story was enough to elicit numerous, intrigued reactions. Petrichor refers to the scent which permeates the air in the wake of a downpour, the earthy scent of water evaporating from the planet’s surface. The story follows the relationship between a father and daughter, told from the perspective of the latter but with the father as the main focus. Despite a brief fancy he develops for a Polish waitress, the father, a poet, knows not to get on the wrong side of his family. The word petrichor also references something in Chris’s story which he held back. Perhaps we will be privy to the full story another time.

Maggie pitched a story aimed at a younger audience. Young Ailsa is combing the beach for interesting rocks when she stumbles across a worn pebble with a hollow centre, known in some circles as a hag stone, something which Maggie assures us is an indicator of good luck. After some bullies run off with her schoolbag, Ailsa gives chase and catches up in time to see them cast her bag into the ocean. She wishes she could have the power to make “bad things happen to bad people” and, at that moment, one of her foes slips and falls. An enigmatic figure approaches when Ailsa is once again alone. In a moment of mystery, this inscrutable lady utters the words, “so it begins, Ailsa.” The group agreed that we need more!

Graham revealed to us that he has been “revamping” one of his earliest novels, The Janus Complex. His lead character, Jamie, appears at a Catholic church poised to confess to recent wrongdoing. In this exciting excerpt, Jamie is consumed by “guilt and anger,” though at what is not immediately apparent. A death has already occurred and, as Jamie converses with the priest, we realise that more fatalities are on the horizon.

The character of Simon Harrington was introduced to members of the club at a previous read-around and Anne decided to read a different part of this tale. Upon uncovering the body of a close female friend, Simon discovers that his wife too has taken a dark turn. The excerpt to which we were treated was, as Anne admitted, recently chopped from two thousand words to just one thousand, ensuring a thrilling and pacey listen throughout.

Since hearing Gail’s last effort at Carolyn’s Read-around I was very much looking forward to another dose. Opting to read a semi-autobiographical piece this time, Gail dealt with the themes of endurance and the persistence of friendship in a piece simply titled Patience. In the tale, two close friends corkscrew through a life of illness and wellbeing, wherein one friend seems to be ill whilst the other excels. As the tables turn, it is their combined fondness for pranks and a certain card game which gives stability to their friendship.

Jeanette, insisting she was a novice writer, ended up delivering a particularly memorable story called Quiet Mary, which drew heavy inspiration from another Yorkshire native, Alan Bennett. In the piece, a Tesco employee whose social life has grown stale, decides she must return to the environment which provided her with so much joy in years gone by: Club de Mar. While the booze-fuelled Ayr nightclub scene may not be for all, it is certainly where Mary feels at peace. Nothing about Jeanette’s detailed story indicated a novice writer, and members of the group were thoroughly impressed that a piece written on the morning of the read-around could have so much punch.

My own piece this week was a hearty poem on the subject of scran, jammed full of mouth-watering metaphors, peppered with assonant wordplay and lightly dusted in honest humour. Written in something resembling modern lowland Scots vernacular, my piece A Great Big, Filling Toast Tae Food was well-received by the seven other members in attendance.

Finally, Carolyn entertained us with a factual foray into the world of pre-1900 Glasgow, specifically to Sauchiehall Street and the now-defunct Royalty Theatre. A fortnight before, whilst at Carolyn’s Read-around, Chris had spotted a yellowing playbill on the wall which Carolyn explained featured her great grandfather’s name. He had performed there as part of a charity do for the St. Andrew’s Ambulance Association and Carolyn was lucky enough to have recovered part of the original script and the aforementioned playbill.  She was writing a thoroughly entertaining article about it for the American publication The Highlander and she shared said piece on the night of Chris’s Read-around. Congratulation to Carolyn on her success with the publication!

All-in-all, a terrific night was had. I know that I took a lot away from the evening, as is always the case when participating in such an intimate exchange of ideas. Roll on the next read-around!

Matthew Clark

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