Tag Archives: travel

The Fourth Unsung Letter

The fourth Unsung Letter is now out to subscribers. This week it was written by Andrew Male:


Davidson is attune to the specific emotional poetry of his world; dark afternoons, slow evenings, lucent midnights, and that that eerie border territory between the harvest and the back end of the year, where distances grow deeper and a deceptive autumnal sunlight illuminates banal frosted landscapes with an hallucinatory brightness.


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In other, non-letter news, this year continues. This year, a whirlwind, both in the political sphere (of which I need not tell you) and personally. D and I came back from Christmas in America, strove through January ( which is as everyone knows one of the months we should just spend in hibernation like Moomins) flathunting and dealing with travails and the bitter cold. This past week we went on a long-ago holiday to Athens:


From the Acropolis, the shell-coloured city


then on the way back I fainted on the plane and later in the queue for border control and had to be pushed through the airport in a wheelchair. I’m fine now – it was food poisoning meeting exhaustion, we think – and after a day in bed, it was moving day. I’m writing this in our new rental flat, in a pale blue-green room that makes me think of the sea. Nothing is particularly well organised at the moment, but outside there is a tiny garden with a bench and a greenhouse. I’m going to put up a bird feeder and sit out with a book when it’s not so raw.


Soon, quite soon, my debut novel Flesh of the Peach comes out. I had word today that my 6 copies are being sent to me today. Ah! There’s a book launch to come and I’ll make an announcement about that very shortly. I’ve to organise contact with several bookshops who might be amenable to my reading there. It all seems so far off from now. In April it will be Spring, even here in Scotland. Not warm really, but there will be flowers out, and more birds, and the world opening up its shutters, wincing and taking deep breaths.


For now though, the work.

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Silent post: York, greenery+stone


in the Minster



climbing the tower






from the heavens



ceiling of the Minster chapter house



the great wall of york



the road along the wall



within the limits




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fairy dell


D and I are back from the isle of Arran, and while I’m going through my photos and readjusting my lungs to city air, I thought I’d leave this picture as placeholder. It was taken along the North-western coast of the island near the village of Lochranza, in a tiny landmark called Fairy Dell – not much more than a cut in the side of the hills, with bare rock and mossy sides, and a lush ‘valley’ posyed with primroses. I didn’t notice until I uploaded the photo that there was a tiny tiny rainbow over the burn, just there in the lower centre of the picture.  We decided that someone should come back with kitsch toadstools and carved trolls, but obviously nature decided just to go right ahead all on its own. Fabulous.



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Amsterdam on film

Here are the shots I took while D and I were in Amsterdam – two stopovers, first on the day we went out, and the second, on his birthday on the way back. These were taken on my Centon K100 on some 400 Fujifilm. Amsterdam is a ridiculously photogenic city, and one I feel very at ease in. I’d very much like to spend more time there.


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Bulbs, bookshops, squats, and crooked buildings. Sunshine too, for D’s birthday.


I’m still a bit ill today, so not much analysis from me. I’m off to eat a sweet potato and start Robert Alan Jamieson’s Da Happie Laand, which my local library kindly handed over in exchange for some long-overdue fines (some of which were forgiven too). Be kind to your libraries, friends. They give you free books, even if you’re a numpty sometimes.


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Eternal city in the clouds




Back from Rome. Back from torrential rain and steady rain, and softness to everything, and spaces far emptier than they should have been.





From weaving through and under endless columns, from echoes of animal, human cries.





From descending into underground chambers where Mithras was worshipped with now chthonic rites,


tiny piazza



From stepping into cramped piazzas, shuffling into tiny restaurants birling with waiters and trays of food, shaking the rainwater from our umbrellas,


St Peter's Basilica



From standing in hallowed hollows and light,


vestal virgin grounds



From splashing through grounds where Vestal Virgins once walked, lived, tended the city’s flame,


Vatican from the Ponte Sant' Angelo



In short, back from all of this, in awe of it once again or for the first time.


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Out from here

Tomorrow, D and I leave for Rome, via a seven hour stop in Amsterdam. It’s a birthday trip for him, and will be his first visit to Italy. Way back in the summer of 2003, I taught English throughout central Italy, at one point being stationed in Albano, just outside of Rome. I’d also been before, in winter, with a university friend. It’s hard to believe that was over a decade ago now, and that this is the first holiday outside of the UK D and I have taken together since moving back from America.


Expect lots of pictures of chilly canals and hopefully warmer ruins.


Other than this, I am awaiting some news regarding my first novel ms, Kilea. I can’t say too much yet, just that the past few days have given me more hope and excitement over it than I had thought likely for the book at this stage.  I wish I could be less vague, but there is a lot of mist about – appropriately enough, for the novel itself is a misty one, set on an island of mists.


More later, when there is more. And thank you again for your responses to the anxiety post. I wish all of you a good journey into February!

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Polaroids + impossible places

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I’ve had a chance to scan some of my Impossible Project pictures – a little bit wonkily and imperfect, which I think I like better than having them as they are in real life.

The above image is Peyto Lake, just off the Icefields Parkway in Alberta. It is in real life light-leaky and streaked. I have a more true-to-colour version but why not this reality rather than the smoother one?

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The Athabasca glacier, and the sun dominating everything, washing away all the blues and whites. I’ve been thinking of how my conception of my time in Banff – now at an end – will be held together by these photographs. By the work that I did while there – though most of that was early drafting of the third ms, and so will be erased in necessary corrections and deletions. All I’ll have is my limited perception, filtered through digital pixels and the hard, blocky, colourwarped images on Polaroid.

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(Bow River, frozen one morning near the Hot Springs marsh)

Of course, I’m lucky enough to have experienced Banff with others, so we can meet up and compare memories. Still, that’s bittersweet, isn’t it. We say we put things behind us. The past is in our blind spot, though it is all we have time to consider.

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(the Arthur Wheeler hut, image melted on the hut’s woodstove)

We can alter, we generally do alter what happened. A consolidated emotion comes to dominate what was a series of ups and downs – ambiguity is more frightening when it curls off the past like a mist. We want the solid, and not to have that – takes a certain bravery.

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Here are the woods on the way to my studio, though they were never that colour, never sliced with a thin white line (which is a digital glitch, not present in the physical photo). The woods were never like this, and they are like this, purples and light on snow, with animals in the treetops, with nothing captured here.

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(fireplace in the Wheeler hut where the other image was burned. A book, an empty or full cup of something)

Whatever I’ll remember, or whatever others will share – in a few weeks, in a few years when we meet again – there are these spaces. The Banff Centre’s official slogan is ‘inspiring creativity’, but for me I think it’s ‘leaving room’. I could get waffly here – oh, go on then. Think of the different sorts of room I could mean. Space – being a void, a scary thing. Room to think. Room as containment. Ambiguous room with no clear measure. Imperfect, capable of warp and glitch. And I am glad of it.


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