My son Sean and I have almost finished cutting the second long bog - Sean building them into a wall to dry. Beautiful cool dry weather for the work. No midges, very occasional sun, and occasional larks and obstreperous cuckoos.
The cocktail hour approacheth, methinks . . .
Sunday 27th April
Just back from Glasgow, helping launch Quaich - a fascinating anthology of translation in Scotland today, for which I was honoured to write a Foreword. There was an excellent turn-out for some fine readings, and I got to read Christopher Whyte's translations into Gaelic of Brian Johnstone's beautiful wee studies of early Celtic saints which Brian read in English.
On Friday I attended the Association of Scottish Literary Studies award of Honorary Fellowships. My dear friend James Reid Baxter was awarded one - and a colleague of many years, Lesley Duncan, was amongst those honoured too. And there was Flora MacNeill, the doyenne of Gaelic singers for generations, being duly honoured. Jo Miller sang with that fresh direct utterly honest way of hers, as lovely as I remember when we first worked together back in the late 1980s. And, new to my ears, Alasdair Whyte, with a beautifully pitched intense Gaelic voice. What a joy!
This was the sort of occasion which, in a more culturally aware society and with a more culturally responsive media, would have been widely covered by press, radio and television. The list of Honorary Fellows includes many of the top names in Scottish literature in English, Scots and Gaelic - poets, novelists, historians, critics. It was a heart-lifting event and a joy to see the best of people in our culture being truly honoured with excellent presentation speeches by Ian Brown. All this was in the company of my close friend Alan Riach who, whenever energies seem to flag, stirs one up with the insistence that "there is more damage still to be done!" - a need to be always clearing the decks and starting afresh.
Back on Skye we have had help preparing the lazy beds and the potatoes are now all planted. My wife, Bar, and I finished cutting one of the long peat bogs - again with help from the wonderful Shona MacLeod and her friend. Shona renewed all our dry-stane dykes magnificently over the last couple of years.
One of our neighbours' cows has calved - a fine leggy male called Yorkie. They're all named after chocolate bars. Our males are named after Scottish composers, but we are still waiting for Deedee to produce and have no idea what the sex will be. If male, his name will be Hume as the last male was Tobias. Perfect timing as Concerto Caledonia have just come out with a simply wonderful CD Captain Tobias Hume - A Scottish Soldier. It's on the Delphian label DCD34140 and the playing and singing are stunning and, of course, the music is fascinating and wide-ranging in mood. It's a must buy.
Now to finalise my presentation for the Celtic Revival in Scotland conference in Edinburgh on 1st-3rd May. This is how one does such things:
First, you send a title to the organisers, months in advance, not having a clue what you will actually say.
Second, you send them an abstract of what you are going to say, so they can print it in the programme. It helps if by then you do have a clue as to what you are going to say, but it has not always proved necessary.
Third, you write the whole darned thing out, prepare the images in a Powerpoint, and make the sound files (having edited them on a sound editor). This is usually completed not more than 6 hours before you actually deliver.
Fourth, you listen to those speaking before your presentation and realise you have to re-jig half of it to fit in.
Fifth, (always assuming there isn't the very common failure of the technology) you scrabble your way through your re-written script, re-ordered images, and sound files on a disc that are now in the wrong order, occasionally putting on the wrong example. This is the presentation - your big moment in the sun.
Finally, you have exceeded your allotted time and are invited forcefully to draw to a close, shut up, and sit down.
Be prepared for questions such as "is it true that you have eaten otter?"
I do but jest, of course (hem-hem), but there are many academics out there who will recognise much of the above.
Onward and Upward!
Being new to blogs, I am not sure how much of one's daily life is likely to be of interest.
The cows, at any rate, are enjoying the first new growth and are luxuriating in the spring sunlight. and rejoicing in the fact that they are all free from Bovine Viral Diarrhoea, which is being eradicated from the whole of Scotland. A forward-looking policy.
I am gathering resolve to have a go at cutting a few peats, though a recent heart episode and leaky heart valve may limit my activities to listening to the larks - if they've arrived and if they are audible . . .
Down in the Heatherwood hospital, surrounded by other elderly over-weight heart cases with strange London accents, my heart was lifted by the voice of a Scottish nurse from Luss - brilliant at her job. We reminisced about the bridge at the head of Glen Luss and she found out for me that it was built by William John in 1770 to celebrate the arrival of black-faced sheep in Scotland. William John carved a splendid ram's head on the bridge, so it is called The Tup Bridge. Of course not everyone welcomed the sheep - that was, in part, the start of the Clearances.
A good review of my 3 CDs has come out in the April issue of International Record Review, which is, well, heartening, but I have sadly had to cancel appearances at the Edinburgh International Harp Festival and a concert to celebrate the bi-centenary of Nathaniel Gow. It would have been an honour to have taken part. I am also missing the celebration of the publication of a Festschrift for the great Gaelic scholar, John MacInnes. I contributed a chapter and would have loved to be there to raise a glass to him - but I am still intending to give a paper at the Celtic Revival Conference in Edinburgh at the start of next month and may yet get to Galway Early Music Festival for a gathering of all the crazy eccentric musicians who play bronze age horns, carnyx, trompa creda and who knows what not else. A unique opportunity to parade through the streets blowing my dord iseal (deep bronze age horn). Simon and Maria O'Dwyer, John Kenny, John Mescal, Barnaby Brown, and Peter Holmes - all the best of friends, all touched by that wonderful freedom which breaks through all the conformities and opens up new worlds.
John Purser is widely known as a composer, musicologist, poet, playwright, and broadcaster.