Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Moffat anatomised

Moffat is a fascinating town which appears to the newcomer to work like a Swiss watch, a mysterious and efficient mechanism. How are decisions made? Who runs Moffat? I am gradually learning, by asking, observing and by taking part. The names of some 'elders' (in a secular sense) have been recommended to me for background. Helping to get the Book Event off the ground has given me a privileged view into Moffat's innards, and the workings of the regional and national arts establishment; another benefit is that it has caused me to get in touch with friends from the distant past such as Julia Eccleshare, doyen of UK children's books. I have asked her to recommend books for young readers on the Arthur myths and have invited her to come up for Alistair Moffat's walk to the Devil's Beef Tub on July 2. I have put V S Naipaul aside for a day or so and am reading Alistair's The Faded Map, making a mental note to quiz him about a persistant tendency to describe Brytthonic - the language of the majority of the aboriginal inhabitants, including those of the Kingdom of Strathclyde, as 'Old Welsh'. Is it a reluctance to use the 'B' (Britain/British) word? I also hope to interest him in making a study of the upper Clyde valley which, living as he does in the Borders, he knows less well than the valleys of the Annan and the Tweed. I spent a satisfying couple of hours yesterday updating the list of books I have written, translated or co-edited for the Authors Licensing and Collecting Society (ALCS) and Public Lending Right. I have a tally of 14, to which I hope one day to add the Diary of a Book Festival organizer. At Andrea's suggestion, I have been in touch this morning with the Manhattan and New York chambers of commerce to see if they have any institutional memory of John MacAdam father of modern road building and buried in Moffat churchyard. As a young entrepreneur in America in the 1770's, he co-founded the first New York Chamber of Commerce. Yesterday, the air pressure was so low and/or the wind so high that I could hardly get my front door open, a rare experience. There was also a leak from rainwater being driven through the rather complicated roof gable which started to drip through the ceiling upstairs on the landing, thankfully not my problem because I only rent this house. At Auchinleck on Sunday I sat next to Diana Athill the memoirist, now, like my mother, in her 90's, who recently wrote about the unexpected pleasure of moving into a care home - something which many dread but which I (aged 67) can also now appreciate, as the importance of personal possessions and status to my identity recedes and other pleasures - living for the day, friendships old and new, 'making a contribution' etc become central to my life.

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