Thursday, July 19, 2012

Into the woods

A hard day's research in Moffat yesterday.  (I'm not going to dignify with a response the suggestion that I've only been researching coffee shops, Karen Campbell.)

I needed to look at the well - the source of the brimstone in DG & A Goodly Measure of Brimstone, which is the working title of the book I've just written - and how hard could it be?

Leaving the map at home wasn't a great start, but hey.  I could go to the library, right?  Not on a Wednesday, I couldn't.  But standing there on the High Street I could see a sign for Well Street, and I set off up it.

Up the hill, Well Street turned into Old Well Road.  Better and better. 

At the end of the road, where it turned into a lane was Old Well Cottage.  How could I miss?

A wee bit further up where the lane turned into a path there was a finger post.  "Left to Moffat," it said.  "Right to Heatheryhaugh."  "Straight ahead to the Gallows Hill Woods."  No mention of a well anywhere.

But I wanted to see Gallows Hill - how could you not - and the path looked enticing, so I went for it.

There was a bit of the familiar make-your-mind-up-between-limbo-and-pole-vault that you always get on a woodland path. 

I limboed - well, scrunched down and crawled - geting muddy knees, moss on my back and lichen down my neck.

Onward and upward.  The next obstacle was unlimboable and unvaultable. So I went round it.

The third obstacle - that one that would do for you if this was a fairytale, and it was beginning to feel a bit like one - was unvaultable, unlimboable and ungetroundable. 

So I did what you do.  I strayed from the path.

I was all alone in an empty wood; no one knew I was there; night was falling and so . . . I strayed from the path.  I've read The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon, not to mention Red Riding Hood and Hansel and Gretel, but I strayed anyway.

I had company.  A hawk, who was either an anxious new parent or a member of Neighbourhood Watch, stayed with me screeching and circling. 

And I had a place to stay in case it all went wrong.

Unless, of course, it all went wrong by means of the troll who lived there waking up and coming scampering after me on his scaly feet, licking his lips with his leathery tongue.

But, in the end, all was well.  I kept going uphill until I reached top, the clearing, where the gallows used to be . . .

. . . then I turned and went down again.  The hawk saw me off the premises at the fingerpost, the troll must have had his earplugs in, because the screeching didn't waken him, and I tramped back down into the town to do what I should have done in the first place: ask directions.
In Thistle Dhu (Dhu = black in Gaelic) a charming little vintage shop on Well St, run by a 22-year-old elfin child, like something out of an Anne Tyler novel, I discovered that Old Well Road goes to the old well, and I wanted the new well (17th century) at the end of Well Road.  I got the best directions I've ever had to help me find it too.

"Just stay on Well Road.  It turns into a country road.  Just keep going.  You pass a farm.  Keep going.  Then you'll smell sulphur, so you know you're there."

And look what I found to buy while I was in there.

Alfred Meakin's Wishing Well pattern.  It was meant to be.  The well wasn't exactly the same as the sulphuous Moffat well, but that dancer and me could be identical feet twins.


Saturday, July 7, 2012

New book, old pals.

Fun and frolics on Thursday night, launching Dandy Gilver and a Bothersome Number of Corpses at Waterstone's in Edinburgh. 

I had a new(ish) dress and enough Tesco's value (97p) giftbags to go round all the complimentary copies.

My mum had another chance to wonder "Where did we go right?":

Colin from Waterstone's did us proud:

Lovely Francine Toon gave me a very kind introduction (here she is describing what it's like editing my work!):

And nobody actually keeled over from boredom while I was talking.

There were old friends (Neil was at primary school with these two):

And new friends (Kat, from Sacramento - yes, really - a budding writer who asked me for one piece of advice.  I managed to stop after about five):

Note the pram.  It's not a McPherson book launch without at least one baby.

There were big friends:

And small friends (Sue is standing up in this one):

Stuart "Mr" Campbell, my English teacher was there.  Here he is talking about writing to my brother-in-law Brian (finish the story, Brian, or I'll steal it):

Afterwards, of course, there was a cake, sliced with the musical cake slice, that plays Merry Christmas, Happy Birthday, Here Come's The Bride and Have a Jolly Good Book Launch:

Great fun.  And it ended up like all good parties should:

A big thank you to everyone who came along and raised a glass to Dandy and me.