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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 ...

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. Indeed each case opened like an invitation ...


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 ...
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. The wan sun sclims up stanes, tenements ...

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 ...

Three Poems

Kathleen Jamie

10 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 ballbingo! on its rebound – attuned to its arc and Earth’s spin as the ...

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. I lay to sleep, with by my side neither man nor ...

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 ...

Two Poems

Sarah Maguire

10 July 2003
... For KathleenJamie Waist-height, clouds of white lace in the abandoned graveyard, the delicate, filigree umbels matching the thumbprints of lichen embroidering the graves. A deep current of blue surges below – ...

In Fife

Kathleen Jamie

22 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. On winter afternoons ...

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 ...

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. I ...


Kathleen Jamie: At the Links of Noltlant

5 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 ...


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. It stops and the occupants look ...


Kathleen Jamie: Counting the Cobwebs

6 June 2002
... Under the gutter of our house are many cobwebs, each attached at a slightly different angle to the wall. It’s an east-facing wall, so on sunny mornings the cobwebs are alight. A whole quarter of cobwebs, like an Eastern bazaar or a medieval marketplace with all the cobblers, all the spice sellers, all the drapers together in the same alley. The biggest measured about a handspan and a half. A pianist’s ...

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