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Kathleen Jamie, 1 January 1998

... So I’m moving between rooms with a tray, advertising McEwan’s, the kind we took sledging those distant snow-bright afternoons – or funereal lacquer, with peonies, or that classic of my mother’s: a view of Windsor Castle inside a wicker pale. Whatever – a tray, and on it: two glasses of Vouvray, or better: croissants and cafetière, my lover outstretched on the duvet: or – dream on – pizza for one and Prime Suspect ...

Two Poems

Kathleen Jamie, 15 October 1998

... Suitcases Piled in the corner of a second-hand store in Toronto: of course it’s an immigrant country. Sometimes all you can take is what you can carry when you run: a photo, some clothes, and the useless dead-weight of your mother-tongue. One was repaired with electrician’s tape – a trade was all a man needed. A girl, well, a girl could get married ...


Kathleen Jamie, 21 February 2008

... When I found I’d lost you – not beside me, nor ahead, nor right nor left not your green jacket moving between the trees anywhere, I waited a long while before wandering on: no wren jinked in the undergrowth, not a twig snapped. It was hardly the Wildwood, just some auld fairmer’s shelter belt, but red haws reached out to me, and between fallen leaves pretty white flowers bloomed late into their year ...

Tree on the Hill

Kathleen Jamie, 10 September 2020

... Once upon a hill there grew a tree. Because it had been so long honed by the wind,it appeared, like an apostle in a painting, to gesture beyond itself toward some greater glory,in this case the landscape far below.You could lean against the tree and watch the river become a firth, widening over milesas it prepared to meet the sea. You could watch as it bore away not just the winter’s rain –goodbye! goodbye! but whatever one needed to lose ...

Two Poems

Kathleen Jamie, 29 July 1999

... The Green Woman Until we’re restored to ourselves by weaning, the skin jade only where it’s hidden under jewellery, areolae still tinged, – there’s a word for women like us. It’s suggestive of the lush ditch, or even an ordeal, – as though we’d risen, tied to a ducking-stool, gasping, weed-smeared, proven. The Black and White Minstrel Show Out there lay the dark continent, hot with our mums and dads and the Heidie ...

Three Poems

Kathleen Jamie, 11 September 2014

... The Girls A summer evening,                                         a rubber ball thumped against a harled 1950s gable wall, – and pitched between chant and song, our lasses’ rhyme: … plainy, clappy, roll-a-pin – as we practised birling round so quick we caught the same ball bingo! on its rebound – attuned to its arc and Earth’s spin as the gloaming deepened, and one by one, we were called in ...

At Robert Fergusson’s Grave

Kathleen Jamie, 22 March 2001

... A bleary chiel, monger o targes an dirks redds his windae. Neist Holyrood Kirk a shop chock fu o fudge. Taxis judder on the setts. Naething mixter- maxter here: some douce sea-maws tak these white-washed wa’s for a new Bass Rock; a kiltie tour-guide on an open-top bus intones ‘Mary, Queen of Scots …’ to a wheen toorie-hattit tourists, huddlt and snell ...

Two Poems

Kathleen Jamie: ‘The Tree House’, ‘Moult’, 2 January 2003

... The Tree House Hands on a low limb, I braced, swung my feet loose, hoisted higher, heard the town clock toll, a car breenge home from a club as I stooped inside. Here, I was unseeable. A bletted fruit hung through tangled branches just out of reach. Over house-roofs: sullen hills, the firth drained down to sandbanks: the Reckit Lady, the Shair as Daith ...

The Round-Up

Kathleen Jamie, 20 November 2008

... The minute the men ducked through the bothy door they switched to English, even among themselves they spoke English now, out of courtesy, and set about breakfast: bread, bacon and sweet tea. And are we enjoying this weather, and whose boat brought us, and what part of the country – exactly – would we be from ourselves? The tenant, ruddy-faced; a strong bashful youngster; and two old enough to be their uncles, who, planted at the wooden table, seemed happy for a bit crack – one with a horse-long, marvellous weather and nicotine-scored face under a felt fedora, whose every sentence was a slow sea-wave raking unhurriedly back through the rounded grey stones at the landing place where their boat was tied ...

The Exploding Harpoon

Kathleen Jamie: Whales, 8 August 2013

The Sea Inside 
by Philip Hoare.
Fourth Estate, 374 pp., £18.99, June 2013, 978 0 00 741211 2
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... In April this year a sperm whale appeared in Oban Bay and remained there for nine days, long enough for word to spread and various experts to pronounce. That it wasn’t set upon, tortured and speared to death, as would have been the case not so long ago, surely marks a sea-change in human sensibility. On the contrary, if anyone had harassed the creature, well, they’d have been the one flensed ...

In Fife

Kathleen Jamie, 23 April 2015

... A mile and a half​ from the small town in Fife where I live lies a loch called Lochmill. Half a mile long, it occupies a natural bowl in the Ochil hills, and is orientated almost exactly east-west. On its north and south banks grow sparse hawthorns tufted with lichen and old stunted oaks. At its western end, where the springs that feed the loch rise, Scots pines and larches dominate ...

Short Cuts

Kathleen Jamie: Queuing for Everest, 20 June 2019

... When​ Chowang Sherpa joined us at Kathmandu airport for the flight to Lukla, he was carrying a flat-screen TV set, still in its box. The TV was on its way to Everest Base Camp. ‘Why?’ we asked. ‘They demand,’ he said simply, meaning his clients. Chowang is the owner of Arun Treks, an expedition and trekking outfitter based in Kathmandu. The short spring climbing season was underway and he had two client expeditions at Everest, both from India ...


Kathleen Jamie: Stay alive! Stay alive!, 18 August 2022

... Iclimbed​ a low cliff and stationed myself on a bench that overlooked the Firth of Forth. From Kinghorn, the Fife coast and the coast of East Lothian appear to peel away from each other; on the horizon lies the North Sea. There are several islands out in the firth and, as usual, a number of ships were riding at anchor. The ships were connected to the oil industry: the Grangemouth refinery is a few miles upriver ...


Kathleen Jamie: At the Links of Noltlant, 6 October 2016

... A tractor​ was lumbering towards me, so I pulled into a passing place. It was silage-cutting time on Westray, one of the most northerly islands of Orkney. The driver waved, but I stayed put after he’d passed. The morning cloud was lifting, and the passing place was on the crest of a hill giving views over much of the island’s north side. A cruise liner was anchored out in the bay, a small one, nothing like the vast multi-storey jobs that arrive at Kirkwall during the summer, landing thousands of passengers into its narrow streets ...


Kathleen Jamie: Whale Watching, 29 November 2001

... Monday. A pre-recorded announcement, a few words of welcome in Gaelic then the safety stuff in English, hangs in the air behind the departing ferry. Little else is moving but the clouds, and water slapping on the concrete slipway, and bottle-brown fronds of bladderwrack. There will be another sailing to Mull in an hour or so. A car arrives, with Monaco numberplates ...

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