Friday 30 August 2013


It feels like the end of Summer now. There were leaves on the ground at lunchtime, I'm back to wearing socks in the house, pulling something warm on when we watch TV in the evening. The windows are still open but the slight chill is actually welcome, we ate soup last night. August was all about the festival. We saw La Belle et la BĂȘte, then Patti Smith with Philip Glass for an homage to Allan Ginsberg. La Belle et la BĂȘte was spellbinding, two days later Philip Glass made me cry. His three movement piece, that he so quietly introduced, with the first movement gently leading us into the second, the second wrapping me up in melancholy as I bit my lip, blinking frantically, trying to stop the tears from coming, realising as I reached for a tissue that I couldn't, the third allowing the tears to ease, to stop. But tears come more easily when they have already been allowed to fall and I was left on the brink, clutching a tissue, until we left the theatre. Maybe it was a theme for the festival as three weeks later, seeing Judith Kerr, listening as she talked about her husband, his influence on her work, their lives together, his death... my eyes are welling up even now. There was lightness too. Caitlin Moran standing up to sign books, one DM-clad foot on the table, surprisingly approachable, taking Mum to see Hadley Freeman, unsure whether she would like it, hearing small sounds of agreement to my right throughout, a Swedish couple who we chatted to for a while and who then, a week or so later, sent us a postcard before they headed home, having guessed a work address for Chris from our conversation, Margaret Atwood always. It's been good, sometimes great. This weekend is the dividing line. Edinburgh is slowly getting back to normal, the festival venues are being dismantled, the crowds of people have gone, the end of festival fireworks are on Sunday, it's winding down. Until then... 

And finally, sadly, goodbye to Seamus Heaney.


 Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests; snug as a gun.

Under my window, a clean rasping sound   
When the spade sinks into gravelly ground:   
My father, digging. I look down

Till his straining rump among the flowerbeds   
Bends low, comes up twenty years away   
Stooping in rhythm through potato drills   
Where he was digging.

The coarse boot nestled on the lug, the shaft   
Against the inside knee was levered firmly.
He rooted out tall tops, buried the bright edge deep
To scatter new potatoes that we picked,
Loving their cool hardness in our hands.

By God, the old man could handle a spade.   
Just like his old man.

My grandfather cut more turf in a day
Than any other man on Toner’s bog.
Once I carried him milk in a bottle
Corked sloppily with paper. He straightened up
To drink it, then fell to right away
Nicking and slicing neatly, heaving sods
Over his shoulder, going down and down
For the good turf. Digging.

The cold smell of potato mould, the squelch and slap
Of soggy peat, the curt cuts of an edge
Through living roots awaken in my head.
But I’ve no spade to follow men like them.

Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests.
I’ll dig with it.

(Seamus Heaney, "Digging" from Death of a Naturalist. Copyright 1966 by Seamus Heaney.)