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'Stac Jenny' was one of the 'Highly Commended' entries in the adult prose section of the Neil Gunn Writing Competition, 2007. It is read here by the author, Alison Napier, 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.
My beautiful daughter is wearing blue today. Kingfisher and cornflower blue, a joyous and radiant wave-blue that reflects the cloudless skies as she flings the window open and announces, "Another sunny day Jennifer. Time to get up. We'll get out today I think:. Yes. Most certainly."
I am watching her from my bed, and thinking that she has adopted a curious manner of speech but that none the less I like it. It reflects the temporary formality of our relationship. Not many return after so long away and I am deeply grateful. "Certainly," I echo. "We'll get out."
We will get out and we will voyage to where the earth ends and the oceans begin. We will travel and trek on the ancient tracks that scar and score and criss and cross the land, with a bundle of clothes and hearty life-saving sustenance in my backpack, safe in my heavy leather coat which I wear over clumsily knitted layers of jumpers, one row plain one row purl, and shoes too big as if we had run away in the middle of playing dressing up in Mother's wardrobe, run away with squeals of laughter at the visions we made, a stiff white Courtelle cardigan over a floral print summer frock that reached my feet, my heels slithered off the high cream strappy sandals, my toes jammed painfully in the points, swinging a fake crocodile handbag, inhaling the sweet pink: smell of the powder puff, the compact, the secrets of motherhood, and the painted wound on the lips, stuck together lips, all made up. What a get up. Get up. Up and get out. Yes, we will certainly get out.
And this is my home, he said. This here is my home. Blue door and blue window frames set deep in uneven flaking whitewashed walls, moorland behind and sandy machair meadow in front, all held in check by mossy tumbledown drystone walls, all guarded by the rowan who never leaves her post. You should carry me over the threshold I laughed but he was already inside, inside the porch and fumbling, fumbling with the key in the inside door. Fumbling inside. I followed him in and put down my cardboard suitcase in the hall, at the foot of the steep wooden stairs. I followed him into the kitchen and watched him as he looked around, looking for something, his life perhaps. This had been his uncle's house he had explained to me. Its mine now. Well, ours I suppose.
The kitchen was cramped and dim, the window frame peeling faded denim blue paint, with a dusty range against the end wall and a chipped, deep double sink in the corner. There was a bible, waiting, on the yellow Formica covered table and a tall prim pale- green dresser with sliding glass doors that revealed cups and saucers, side plates and dinner plates, plain and patternless, and there was a church pew, piously uncushioned, the length of the wall beneath the window. Oak, polished with the posteriors of penitent parishioners.'
Find out more about the Neil Gunn Trust
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