Winner, Isobel Lodge Award, 2018
Commendation, Scottish Arts Club Short Story Competition 2018
Excerpt from Murdo’s Journey
From the age of fifteen Murdo McLeod knew his fate; three days after leaving school he was standing in Mr Munroe’s shop, wrapped in an oversized apron, doling out loose tea and rashers of bacon. Murdo didn’t really mind; it wasn’t as if he wanted to be a teacher or a doctor or a pearl diver, he was really quite happy, listening to gossip, counting out change, sniffing cheese and butter to make sure they weren’t rancid. But that was before Aunt Flora came to stay.
Recently widowed Aunt Flora, wearing cerise stilettos, tightly belted white raincoat, headscarf depicting Parisian hotspots, tottered unsteadily down the ferry gangplank on toothpick legs; stepping onto the quay she swayed uncertainly and looked around her; spotting Murdo and his mother she fluttered her fingers (Murdo noticed they were tipped with cherry coloured nail polish) and swayed towards them. Murdo bent awkwardly to kiss his aunt; she offered him a cheek with a flirtatious moue; at that moment, breathing in deeply, absorbing her scent, 4711 cologne and face powder, Aqua Net hairspray and Pond’s face cream, Murdo knew that things were about to change. Read the whole story
When I was very young I was very naughty; I just wouldn’t behave. Fortunately, in Primary 7, I had a very clever teacher, Mrs Boyle, who spotted that one way to encourage me to co-operate was to put me into a corner with a pencil and paper and just let me write. It probably wouldn’t be allowed today but it was one of the best things that ever happened to me. Unfortunately, at secondary school, although I always behaved in Brother Everard’s English class, especially when he read us poetry which was not on the curriculum: Auden, Roethke, Stevie Smith, Emily…, I was still a pain in the neck so I left without enough Highers to do very much.
After school I ended up working in bars and restaurants, travelled a bit, volunteered on a kibbutz, all good fun, but by the time I was thirtyish it began to sink in that Brother Everard had been, after all, correct when he said that I should go to university. So, after picking up the Yellow Pages, I called Glasgow University and asked how I could get in; I was told I needed to do an access course, which I did; I then went onto study honours English, graduated and became…guess what? Yeah, an English teacher.
Now I’m retired I write as much as I can, entering competitions and sometimes having a little bit of success (for example, I’ve won The Lightship Memoir competition, been runner up in the Fish memoir competition and runner up in the Jane Austen short story competition on two occasions; I’m also one of the Scottish Book Trust’s New Writers for 2018 and I’m currently working on a ‘fictionalised memoir’, provisionally called Green.)
So, where do I write? In my Glasgow kitchen or at a table looking out onto Loch Striven in my wee flat on the Isle of Bute, on a laptop or in a jotter. It’s a truism but the most important thing is just to write, get it down, apply the seat of those pants to the chair and get on with it. It took me too long to realise that; for years I believed that inspiration had to strike or I had to be in the mood or I had to quell the monkey on my back which was stopping me. Now, at last, at the age of fifty-nine, I truly know one thing – in order to write you just have to do it.