A section of writing in response to place, particularly Montrose and Leith this year.
Snow falls in the hills, a clouting bruise. At the eastern edge of the town a narrow path between the caravan park and the factory leads to the hert-scaud sea. Steel cables coil over drums. Pigeons, pipes, silos cranes. Inky crows fight on rooftops. Offers of sex sharpied in blue on the wall of the Close as the wind skelps the hard to get to places, the nooks and crannies of the street, in tenement stairs, between stone and slate. Bus shelters huddle bodies, small, silent, as the town turns in on itself.
The river meets the sea here. In a sycamore tree a a small birds nest sways. A pilot boat heads out to a ship anchored beyond the lighthouse. High tide. Railway sleepers, pallets, geese flying south. Dog shit, tinsel, good morning, aye right. Voices carry, across the water, boat engines, hammers hi viz. Children run as the school bell rings. Old men in caps, hands buried deep in their coat pockets. Out for a paper, filling a day. January. Forgotten. And a thin sun falls for a moment on a line of white washed shirts, a brattle of pegged seagulls bursting to take flight.
Crow black skies bring the threat of rain. The wind hustles fallen leaves and a tramped on can of Irn Bru along the street. Sitting on a bench at the ‘Fit o’ the Walk’ I meet an elderly woman. She tells me she stays in sheltered housing along the way but used to stay in flats by Leith Links. Drug dealers lived in the flat above hers and sometimes the addresses would get confused and she would get unwelcome visitors. She says she would open her door and say……’This is the brothel, the drugs are upstairs.’ I laugh, so does she. Pigeons huddle in the lee of a tenement roof. The woman tells me she is waiting for her friend to arrive. ‘She’ll be wearing her slippers. She says they’re boots, but they’re not, they’re slippers. Indoor slippers.’ A man begs for money for his children, a woman shouts….’Let me tell YOU something…..’ again and again until I can no longer hear. I continue on my walk. It starts to rain.
Cold. Rowan trees scatter red confetti on passers-by. Lost gloves and lonely hats placed on window sills. Betty tells me her uncle had been a hairdresser in Leith and was so small he had to stand on a orange box to cut hair. Newspaper clippings on the wall of the cafe. Mince and tatties and mushy peas. How cold is it ? Very, but not enough to turn on the heating. A young woman shouts…..’Why is everything shit ?’ Stockings wrinkle below the knees. Two soft fried eggs. She’ll make herself a hot water bottle when she gets in. She squeezes herself at the thought and smiles. Outside the day moves on quietly.
An unseasonal warm wind. Tenement windows are pushed open. A woman leans out, arms folded, watching whats going on, more a picture of summer than December. I meet a pacifist anarchist Polish man in a charity shop. He says he was depressed in Poland and moved to Scotland because he likes the multiculturalism here. He is attempting to display a box of crockery but doubts his aesthetic skills. Seagulls glide the currents of air, Christmas lights reflect in the puddles at the kerb. A woman shows me the artificial tree she has bought and the spray snow for her living room. Says it will cheer her up seeing as now she lives on her own, her son stays with her mum and dad. ‘Nice to have met you, I’m off to the dentist. Too many sweeties,’ she grins. A waitress pulls down the shutter on the cafe. Skinny young men stand drinking. ‘Aye, weel, naw, see, if you buys some, aye smoke it wi’ folk you ken’. Twin boys in matching anoraks and bobble hats run helter skelter , laughing, shouting, birling through the scheme. It is getting dark. A man hefts a Christmas tree over his shoulder and turning says … ‘See you efter pal.’ I walk to where the road ends.