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TITLE
'Out West' (4 of 4)
EXTERNAL ID
AB_NG_OUTWEST_04
DATE OF RECORDING
2008
PERIOD
2000s
CREATOR
Anne Morrison
SOURCE
Am Baile
ASSET ID
1479
KEYWORDS
poem
poems
literature
competition
competitions
writing competition
writing competitions
story
stories
audios
audio recordings
recordings

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'Out West' won first prize in the adult prose section of the Neil Gunn Writing Competition, 2007. It is read here by the author, Anne Morrison, from Lairg.

To celebrate Highland 2007, Scotland's year of Highland Culture, the theme was 'Highland Spaces'. Judges for the adult prose section were Scottish writer Margaret Elphinstone and Ann Yule, Convenor for the Neil Gunn Trust.

The Neil Gunn Writing Competition is organised by library staff from The Highland Council Education, Culture & Sport Service with support from the Neil Gunn Trust. It was first established in 1988.

'I remember how shortly after these trips with my father had ended, I prepared to sail across the Atlantic for the first time. Together with my cousins, I helped my father pull the boat up, heaving her one foot at a time over rollers and planks of wood, struggling to get purchase on the loose pebbles with our rubber boots. My father wanted her there so that he could re-tar her, I think. I just wanted to get the job done because later that day I was to leave with my Glasgow cousins and catch the ferry to the mainland, the first leg in my journey to the port of Felixstowe where I had secured a position on a cargo ship. I recall the tremendous excitement I felt when I saw the enormous freighter in dock and then later, as we ploughed through choppy yellow-grey waters off the south coast of Ireland, I waited eagerly for the ocean to open up to me, waited for the moment of shock and stillness to arrive. I think I expected it to be an experience on a much grander scale than rounding the headland with my father in a wooden sail boat. But I was wrong. While the ship plunged and juddered through a mountainous swell in mid-Atlantic, a Russian seaman ate shepherd's pie and to pass the time, asked me where I came from.

'I'm from the west,' I said.

'Me too!' he answered with exaggerated surprise as if I'd just told him we came from the same town. 'The north west of Russia. Vyborg. On the Gulf of Finland. Do you know it?'

'No. I don't know it'

He laughed. 'Everyone here says he is from the west,' he said, wiping his plate with a slice of white bread. 'Or going there.'

An easy enough crossing. It should have been. Thinking about it now, I realise why I have brought Kathleen and the crossing together in my mind as I recall the pleasurable anxiety of lying beside her in the darkness, uncertain of my approach. We were a generation apart in age but not in understanding. The day I left home to join my first cargo ship, Kathleen had not yet been born. I knew her as a child, not that well, but I knew her, or at least I knew her parents. I remember returning one time from a three-month stint at sea to find that she had passed into womanhood, effortlessly it seemed to me. To begin with, my friends and family viewed our relationship with suspicion bordering on disgust. I was in my mid-forties at that time, Kathleen twenty or so years younger. I don't believe my love for her was fouled or made sordid by our difference in years. It is curious to me that someone who prefers the indoor life, working for hours with oddments of wool and untidy mounds of clipped colourful fabrics should have brought so much of that other world beyond the lean-to porch under my own roof, a world of wind and rain and intermittent sunshine, crops growing and decaying at remarkable speed, frenzied copulation, regular births, uncelebrated deaths, sweat, blood, land, sea, space. They say that sex becomes predictable and routine after a time, but I found in Kathleen, and in myself, a wandering fluidity both familiar and unguessable in advance. Thinking of Kathleen, of the warmth and fragrance of her hair and the way she observes an old-fashioned privacy in personal matters, I hear myself moaning with loneliness through lips swollen and salt-sore. I want to tell her I will miss her, and then I have to think again. I miss her now. There is no future for me in these seas.

I wonder if I have the strength to raise myself up and see how far I've come. My boat has become a sea-borne bathtub where icy water swills around my reclining body, sleeves and boot-less trouser legs opening and closing to the flow like the blind mouths of sea anemones in a tidal pool. Dark, unanchored cloud-balloons drift gracefully across an injured sky and I realise with some relief that the nauseous turbulence of an hour ago has subsided, giving way to a continuous heaving swell. In a moment of swift and shocking rupture, a curling lip of sea breaks into the boat and the last barrier is breached. I have arrived in the great grey emptiness that is the west. A thing of the water now, all resistance gone, fear and hope sinking like a gold coin tossed, at one turn the face of fear glints out at me, at the other, hope, before the whole is swallowed up in places where light cannot reach.

Thank you for listening.'

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'Out West' (4 of 4)

2000s

poem; poems; literature; competition; competitions; writing competition; writing competitions; story; stories; audios; audio recordings; recordings

Am Baile

Neil Gunn Writing Competition (audios)

'Out West' won first prize in the adult prose section of the Neil Gunn Writing Competition, 2007. It is read here by the author, Anne Morrison, from Lairg.<br /> <br /> To celebrate Highland 2007, Scotland's year of Highland Culture, the theme was 'Highland Spaces'. Judges for the adult prose section were Scottish writer Margaret Elphinstone and Ann Yule, Convenor for the Neil Gunn Trust.<br /> <br /> The Neil Gunn Writing Competition is organised by library staff from The Highland Council Education, Culture & Sport Service with support from the Neil Gunn Trust. It was first established in 1988.<br /> <br /> 'I remember how shortly after these trips with my father had ended, I prepared to sail across the Atlantic for the first time. Together with my cousins, I helped my father pull the boat up, heaving her one foot at a time over rollers and planks of wood, struggling to get purchase on the loose pebbles with our rubber boots. My father wanted her there so that he could re-tar her, I think. I just wanted to get the job done because later that day I was to leave with my Glasgow cousins and catch the ferry to the mainland, the first leg in my journey to the port of Felixstowe where I had secured a position on a cargo ship. I recall the tremendous excitement I felt when I saw the enormous freighter in dock and then later, as we ploughed through choppy yellow-grey waters off the south coast of Ireland, I waited eagerly for the ocean to open up to me, waited for the moment of shock and stillness to arrive. I think I expected it to be an experience on a much grander scale than rounding the headland with my father in a wooden sail boat. But I was wrong. While the ship plunged and juddered through a mountainous swell in mid-Atlantic, a Russian seaman ate shepherd's pie and to pass the time, asked me where I came from.<br /> <br /> 'I'm from the west,' I said.<br /> <br /> 'Me too!' he answered with exaggerated surprise as if I'd just told him we came from the same town. 'The north west of Russia. Vyborg. On the Gulf of Finland. Do you know it?'<br /> <br /> 'No. I don't know it'<br /> <br /> He laughed. 'Everyone here says he is from the west,' he said, wiping his plate with a slice of white bread. 'Or going there.'<br /> <br /> An easy enough crossing. It should have been. Thinking about it now, I realise why I have brought Kathleen and the crossing together in my mind as I recall the pleasurable anxiety of lying beside her in the darkness, uncertain of my approach. We were a generation apart in age but not in understanding. The day I left home to join my first cargo ship, Kathleen had not yet been born. I knew her as a child, not that well, but I knew her, or at least I knew her parents. I remember returning one time from a three-month stint at sea to find that she had passed into womanhood, effortlessly it seemed to me. To begin with, my friends and family viewed our relationship with suspicion bordering on disgust. I was in my mid-forties at that time, Kathleen twenty or so years younger. I don't believe my love for her was fouled or made sordid by our difference in years. It is curious to me that someone who prefers the indoor life, working for hours with oddments of wool and untidy mounds of clipped colourful fabrics should have brought so much of that other world beyond the lean-to porch under my own roof, a world of wind and rain and intermittent sunshine, crops growing and decaying at remarkable speed, frenzied copulation, regular births, uncelebrated deaths, sweat, blood, land, sea, space. They say that sex becomes predictable and routine after a time, but I found in Kathleen, and in myself, a wandering fluidity both familiar and unguessable in advance. Thinking of Kathleen, of the warmth and fragrance of her hair and the way she observes an old-fashioned privacy in personal matters, I hear myself moaning with loneliness through lips swollen and salt-sore. I want to tell her I will miss her, and then I have to think again. I miss her now. There is no future for me in these seas.<br /> <br /> I wonder if I have the strength to raise myself up and see how far I've come. My boat has become a sea-borne bathtub where icy water swills around my reclining body, sleeves and boot-less trouser legs opening and closing to the flow like the blind mouths of sea anemones in a tidal pool. Dark, unanchored cloud-balloons drift gracefully across an injured sky and I realise with some relief that the nauseous turbulence of an hour ago has subsided, giving way to a continuous heaving swell. In a moment of swift and shocking rupture, a curling lip of sea breaks into the boat and the last barrier is breached. I have arrived in the great grey emptiness that is the west. A thing of the water now, all resistance gone, fear and hope sinking like a gold coin tossed, at one turn the face of fear glints out at me, at the other, hope, before the whole is swallowed up in places where light cannot reach.<br /> <br /> Thank you for listening.'