Over the next few days, we’ll be publishing some of the work produced in our six Book Week Scotland Creative Writing and Reading workshops on ‘Secrets and Confessions’ – the Scottish Book Trust’s theme for 2016 Book Week Scotland.
This first lot of work looked at Renita Boyle’s memoir piece on her local library when she was growing up. We then asked participants at the Grassmarket Community Project to write on their own safe spaces, and this is what they came up with:
A walk in the park or along the canal. A place to walk away from the stress of the world. A time to forget about troubles for an hour or two.
Even longer if I head for the hills, the only company my dogs and the sound of the birds. The longer I walk the more I block out the sounds of the city.
The only people I see, we greet each other. We know each is here to escape, we walk on our own separate ways. Each knowing we have passed a fellow soul on our journey to peace.
Somewhere you can think and think again. A place for a secret chat with someone. By a beach. Maybe there are no parents around to hear what you say or do. We can have a nice calming air and smell clean sea water. I think of my ex girlfriend.
Every summer we would take the ferry over to the island for a day of fun and exploration. We would have a picnic on the little beach and then have a game of hide and seek in the old abbey. The island was full of history, and for us kids, our imaginations could run wild. Who was the hermit who lived in the tiny stone shelter? Were they real people or some monster locked away? Who lives in the modern cottage on the island? How do they buy their food?
My retreat is as safe as always. There is an invisible sign that says “keep out”! I can always trust myself, I am comfortable alone. It is my natural state. Those I keep out have gone from my world forever. This is my haven; no one can alter the peaceful state I am in. But there will always be a place for a certain someone who currently has no name They can always enter and a new life can begin.
Janita – The Farm
We grew up in a house full of people. Always someone close by, brother and sisters, parents, yet far enough away from the rest of the world that we were our own civilisation. The nearest neighbour was miles away. Escape and solitude was always there for the taking. Enough freedom and time to myself that there was always somewhere to go. On foot. On bike. An old fallen tree to climb, a dry creek bed full of someone else’s rubbish and treasures for me. Somewhere to swim. And float. Sometimes by myself, sometimes an adventure with company. Surrounded by silence, by peace, by quiet.
Now we all return with our children and try to share the big quiet with them. We explore the dams, the paddocks, the broken cars and trucks. The adventure of our childhood.
Andrea – The Swimming Pool
The smell of chlorine and sunscreen sit heavy in the air, like clouds warding off bacteria and burns. Occasional wafts of chips walk past to make your stomach grumble.
I climb to the tope of the diving board and prepare to jump. Despite the height and distance from the edge, despite being alone and visible to all, I do not feel exposed. The lifeguards keep a bored eye over us like lionesses. The tall fence keeps us secure inside. My swimsuit leaves nothing to the imagination but we’re all equally laid bare.
I shout to my sister – watch this! Legs bending, arms propelling, I take flight. Squeezing my legs into my body, wrapping my arms around my knees, I smile as I squeeze my eyes shut.
The instant relief from the heat. The cold envelops me and I travel through it, knowing I’m still safely above the bottom. It’s a challenge to even try to touch your toes on the tiles. Then kicking to the surface. My sister isn’t even looking. No matter. I swim to the ladder to go again.
Malik – The Captain’s Bar
On that Sunday night, a relaxing mood could be felt in that place, away from the dreadful thought of having to go to work on the morrow. The woody decoration, the friendliness of the bartenders, the calm of the place and the musicians help to ease the sorrow one usually feels at the end of a busy weekend.
People come together without knowing each other and give their heart to each other, unknowingly creating a piece of connection with the people, and indirectly, the place itself.
The musicians were no strangers to that phenomenon as they sat with each other and then one would eventually start playing a song and the others would follow, without asking or being asked to, it was the most natural thing in the world.
It was impossible to feel lonely in that place as the connection made its way into your heart without asking for permission. And I welcomed it greatly.
Why did we do such a silly thing, eh Hamish?
She tried to control the emotion in her cracking voice.
Aw ma, just look at him – he’s shakin’ wi fright.
Aye ma dinnae scold him so the per wee thing.
Aw ma, look he’s peed himsel’.
Och no wonder – ah almost peed masel when ah saw him stood on the windae ledge. Billy – go get him a clean pair of trousers and pants….. and be quick about it.
Mother ran her hand along her forehead to remove the perspiration.
oh an ye’’d better bring him a pair of socks too.
Now ma laddie sit oan ma knee an’ tell me why you thought ye had to climb out of your bedroom window and stand oan the ledge, eh?
The boy didn’t answer, could not answer. The sisters held his hands, lovingly tapped him on his knees and ran a hand over his hair in comfort.
Come on Hamish ye kin tell us, them we kin, have a cuppa and a biscuit. There’s some fig rolls, yer favourites.
Aye, come oan, spill the beans then we’ll go ben the water-hole.
When I went to school I thought it was a safe place to be – all the people around me. And I suppose its true where ever you go . Buses, there’s a lot of people. Trains and airports too. And most of all your house. Anywhere, there are people. I suppose the Grassmarket at well.
I always felt safe in a group. When I was growing up there were a lot of people around me, and there still are a lot of people.