The Power of Words

downloadLast weekend, I gave up my long lie to get up early on Saturday to head through to Glasgow with my pal to The Mitchell Library. We were lucky to get our mitts on a couple of day passes which meant we got four events for £10 – a bargain bookfest! The only negative was the ½ hour gap between each event meant we were stressed about café queues (access to food being the major success criteria of any of our days out).

downloadThe book events were the literature strand of the Scottish Mental Health Arts and Film Festival in partnership with the Aye Write! Book Festival. Each event had the theme of ‘reality’ and how our many ideas of ourselves can be wrapped up in words and how the written word has a unique role to play in exploring the many different aspects of mental health.

download (1)First up on the day’s programme was a writer I’ve read a lot about recently as Jenni Fagan was the only Scot on the prestigious 2013 Granta Best of Young British Novelists list. I’ve also heard rave reviews of her debut novel The Panopticon so I was keen to find out if Jenni’s work lived up to the hype surrounding her success. I wasn’t disappointed!  Jenni is an engaging and inspiring writer and when she read an extract from The Panopticon, I knew instantly that I wanted to read it and see the film adaptation due to be made next year.

imagesThe novel is partly inspired by Jenni’s experiences of growing up in the Scottish foster care system, and the story, set in and around Edinburgh, revolves around 15-year-old Anais Hendricks – who is accused of assaulting a police officer – and her experiences in a young offenders’ institution. I can see why this gothic tale has shocked and affected many readers and I now have a signed copy which has been catapulted to the top of my mountainous tbr pile.

images (2)After a rushed lunch, (luckily we got served quickly and can eat fast!) we heard from Denise Mina who spoke passionately about the concept of guilt and innocence and the difference between illegality and immorality. I’d been to see Denise at an event a few years ago and was impressed by her quick wit. And she was on top form again on Saturday with her thought-provoking statements on everything from the Scottish Independence Referendum to the Tommy Sheridan court case. There is no doubt that Denise is one of Scotland’s finest contemporary crime writers who never shies away from dealing with the complex questions of psychology and society.

images (3)I strongly believe in the power of words but when I read in the programme that Ella download (3)Berthoud claims that she can cure everything from pessimism to PMT by prescribing a book, I admit to feeling slightly cynical about the concept of bilbiotherapy. However there is no doubt that a book can make you feel better and I was impressed by Ella’s encyclopedic  literary knowledge and ability to delve into her The Novel Cure: an A-Z of Literary Remedies to make a book diagnosis for members of the audience.

images (1)The finale of the day was the living legend, Alasdair Gray who is a novelist, poet, artist, short-story writer, and essayist and has explored trauma in both personal and political terms through his work. As always, Alasdair performed his reading in his unique eccentric style and was humble about his status as a polymath and major figure in the Scottish arts world. He talked about his new translation of Dante’s Divine Comedy but when an audience member asked if he would be illustrating it himself he replied that at as he’s nearly 80 years old, he won’t live long enough!

For me the highlight of a great day was Jenni’s event (the baked potato from the café was excellent too, even if I had to wolf it down at speed!) and the chance to enjoy a diverse programme with top class authors in a favourite venue. And all for £10, you cannae beat it with a stick!


The funny dog pic has no relevance whatsoever to the post except that this play on words made me smile so that was a good enough reason to include it!

Hidden Gems of Garnethill

-When you work from home, it’s easy to let your world become very small. Some days I realise that I’ve only gone as far as the wheelie bin (don’t you envy my rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle?).

I’ve written about suffering from cabin fever before and how important it’s for me to get out and about and not to stagnate at home. I can’t complain, I’m very lucky to live in a beautiful countryside setting and there’s a lot to be inspired by on my doorstep.  But it’s healthy to meet new people and learn new things, especially about the past and how it has shaped the world we live in today.

downloadI studied Higher History at school and have always had a fascination for the stories behind people and places.  But when I was at school, the history lessons were as dry as a stick, copying from textbooks and basically being taught to pass a test. There were no field trips to bring the subject alive and it’s surprising that my interest in history survived a very dull school experience.

gwl-logoThat’s why I’m making up for lost time and looking for experiences that will educate and inspire me more than my schooldays. Thanks to Twitter, I came across the work of the Glasgow Women’s Library (GWL) and was intrigued to see that they organise a series of heritage walks around the city with different themes.  I love Glasgow and history so it was the perfect combo.

imagesI went on my first heritage walk on Sunday afternoon with my bestie, Veronica and the added bonus was that it was a beautiful sunny day. We met up with the others and our tour guides on Sauchiehall Street to explore the, ‘Hidden Gems of Garnethill’. For those of you unfamiliar with Glasgow, Garnethill is at the heart of the city centre .  I worked for Glasgow City Council for 15 years and was based not far from Garnethill and I’ve read Denise Mina’s novel, ‘Garnethill’. But I knew little about the area and had never taken the time to stop and appreciate its grand tenements, painted gables, park chockablaock with public art, stunning synagogue and Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s world famous Glasgow School of Art (GSA) building. These are just a few of the fascinating landmarks which helped to tell the stories of some of the most remarkable achievements of women in Glasgow’s history.

Our brilliant tour guides told us about the women who pioneered European art movements, designed the banners for suffragette processions, created the first women’s Library in Scotland and made Garnethill the vibrant community it is today. I now plan to do the tour of the inside of GSA and visit the National Trust for Scotland’s Tenement House which is an amazing time capsule of life in the early 20th century.


Our tour group learning about the talented ‘Glasgow Girls’ who once walked up the stairs of GSA.

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Scotland’s oldest synagogue opened in 1879 and is the country’s premier Jewish house of worship.

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Can you spot the ornamental ‘chookie burdies’ on top of the lamp posts? The birds were designed for a lighting project to enhance the area and relate to the city’s Coat Of Arms

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A close up of a nappy pin within the mural at Garnethill park dedicated to the International Year of the Child in 1979.

It costs £7.50 for a GWL walk which is excellent value for two hours packed with stories of inspirational women and a new perspective of Glasgow.

I aim to work my way through GWL’s other heritage walks so stay tuned…I’m booked to go on the East End heritage walk in August. I might see you there!

Do you feel the need to get out of the house and seek external inspiration too?