Archive for the ‘Publications by members’ Category

Three Added Months by Yvonne Dalziel

8th December 2018

Three Added Months by Yvonne Dalziel



Russell nods and points me to one of the two chairs set out for the main protagonists.  He takes the chair in the corner of the consulting room; a back seat to the event that will change his life. The consultant looks with a ‘who are you?’ glance as I sit beside Julie.  He is polite, indifferent; I’m not considered important here.

             ‘Mr Sharman,’ he says and offers me his hand.

             ‘I’m Julie’s mother-in-law.’  I didn’t know then how often I would say that in the next three years, or how occasionally with home care supervisors or occupational therapists, I’d get confused and say, ’it’s about my Mother-in-law, no sorryI’mthe Mother-in-law.’ 

                ‘You’re an intelligent woman, Julie.  I’m going to be straight with you,’ Mr Sharman looks past me, ‘with you both.’ I sense my son lean in to hear, I half rise, make a gesture for him to sit where I am, but he shakes his head.  He wants his truth at a distance; an attitude he’ll maintain with stoic pride as he attempts for too long to deny what is happening to him.  I am aware of his movement behind me, as I listen and take notes.  He is tying and untying his shoelaces, brushing imaginary marks off his trousers. I veer from irritation to sadness at his hesitant engagement.  It is likely one of the worst days of his life.

           That evening, with a whisky in hand, the space between him and the world will collapse, he’ll cry, keep asking, ‘What will I do?  How will I manage on my own?’  I can’t make it better for him, can’t kiss away his pain and distress like I could when he was a child; that magic power  lasts only as long as the child believes in it.

            The emergency scan shows that Julie has a brain tumour.  It’s how she lost her ability to count in a classroom of eight year olds, and can no longer text.  The pictures of that scan dominate the back wall behind Mr Sharman’s desk like huge, illuminated, halved walnuts, each with a white patch to the side that suggest a wiggly thing with a tail has settled in, will be hard to evict.

             ‘You have children?’ Mr Sharman asks, and flips the pages of the medical records.

                Julie nods.  ’Yes, aged three and six.’

               ‘I’ll do what I can for you.  I promise.’  His voice indicates that he is moved by her plight although this is what he does every day, operates on brains, like a car mechanic, opening up the bonnet, finding the problem, sorting it.  He says, ‘I’ll clear as much of the tumour as I can, perhaps up to 90%. It is situated near the surface.’ I find myself thinking, that’s lucky, it’s accessible, but there is no luck in any of this.  ‘The tumour is so close to the speech centre I’m afraid thereisa risk you’ll lose your speech, might even be paralysed.  But,’ he adds, ‘removing it could add three months to your life.’

                I hear three months ‘added life,’ understand the significance of what that means and the motor inside revs up, ready for action.  But there is nothing for me to do.  Julie is calm, asks questions about the side effects of the operation and the treatment, whether she’ll lose her hair, as if she is talking about someone else. I stop myself from asking about the tail and whether the tumour has already spread.  I’m just the note taker.

               ‘It’s your choice, but without the operation your life expectancy is limited,’ he says.

              ‘How long?’ Julie asks.  He smiles, won’t answer that one, not until he has the biopsy results.

               ‘Go and chat about it.  I’ll see you tomorrow.’

              Then we are walking to the hospital cafe, wondering it if will be open, Julie saying, ‘I fancy something with a large amount of chocolate.  Can’t do any harm, now, can it?  In fact I might start smoking.  What does it matter?’  It is one of the rare times in the early stages of her illness that I hear her anger. She will be depressed at the shortening of her life, at the loss of seeing her children grow up, and as her dependency grows she will, at times, target her rage at me, and my son. Mostly Julie is pragmatic; subsumes her feelings into action.

              It’s late afternoon, the cafe is deserted.  Our voices resonate and drift around metal tables, hard chairs, empty spaces.  I wonder how such discussions can happen in a place like this.  But there is no best place for the taking in and digestion of this kind of news. Russell hovers with a tray of hot drinks, and a large chocolate brownie. He looks like a schoolboy sent to the headmaster, not sure what he has done wrong.  He is my first born.  I know he wants to run off, to be elsewhere, to not be here, to not talk about this.

            Julie bites into the chocolate brownie. ‘Russell, I need to have the operation. It’s my best chance.’

               He looks into his cup.  ‘This coffee is bogging,’ he says.  Julie looks at me, shakes her head.  The bell has rung: Round One, the start of watching them deal with this change in their lives. They will spar, she trying small punches to get a reaction, he shuffling backwards, leaning on the ropes, avoiding the blows by never being close enough.  He will come to it in his own time, the realisation that this defence, held like a warrior’s shield against unknowable depths of fear and pain, doesn’t make it go away.  In the years ahead I will suggest, cajole, and then weep in desperation at his refusal to acknowledge he needs help.

                 In the cafe Julie’s voice has that quality she uses with me to insist that cheese cannot enter the fridge until it is double wrapped, or sheets need to be stored by size in the linen cupboard, with matching pillowcases.  This time it is different.  I take heed.

               ‘We need you to be a central part of our family, now.’

                I remember, ‘three added months’ and the significance of what Mr Sharman has said undoes my pretence at being detached, contained, a mere note taker.  I cry, promise to do anything she wants, anytime, but ask, ‘Can I still go to my mindfulness courses?’ Julie laughs. 

                ‘I’m not locking you up, but we will need you so much.’  Russell stands up, goes to buy himself a Coke.  We look at each other,  our eyes unable to hide the truth of what will happen.  I nod.  This is the moment I’m pulled in, into the chaotic sanctum of another family’s intimate life.  It’s a place of no escape and like a climber caught on a precarious edge, unable at times to manoeuvre the next safe toehold, I’m trapped by the mutuality of love and need and obligation.      

             She is given large doses of steroids to decrease the inflammation around her brain, and discharged home to await surgery.  Cupboards are ransacked, pots and dishes thrown out.  Filing cabinets are emptied as she looks for insurance policies, her will, important bank details.  Her father and brother come from Glasgow and shake their heads at the whirlwind of activity, tell her to rest, conserve her energy.  It is pointless.

              Being awake during surgery terrifies her, but some weeks later she will entertain the surgical team with her wit and courage as her brain is drilled.  She gathers a host of followers rooting for her, comes home with a gallery of images on her phone: the exposed brain, the scan of the tumour, the long bald area, a wound with serrated edges, blood sticking to black stitches. The three year old loves to look at it, the six year old with his father’s sensibilities refuses.  We won’t know until the biopsy results what kind of tumour it is, but Mr Sharman suspects a Glioblastoma, the rarest and most deadly. It might already be at stage 4: invasive, settled.

            And it is.  It shrugs off all attempts at eviction, its comfort disturbed by treatment from time to time, but it doesn’t shift.  It is here to stay.


Ravens on Cul Mor, Assynt by Mike Davenport

6th December 2018

Ravens on Cul Mor, Assynt

by Mike Davenport


A sun-ghost navigates the thinning mist.

Mica crystals, pools and lochans scintillate.

A dark buttress generates two ravens,

with corax, corax, they croak their names,

sky echo of this land’s harsh corrugations.


They ride the air, read the runes of entrails, plunge

to tear at bloody innards on the remnant snow.


They rise to a rainbow, black fire against

the spectrum spread.


Ravens are named ravenous, mere scavengers,

even black sorcerers, said to lack the nobility

of eagles, purity of the Ark’s white dove.


But here, these aerial acrobats twist free

of reputations, somersault, dive, ascend

in unison. They play, become light-hearted

in their blackness.

Book Launch 3rd Nov – Walking Between Worlds: A collection of poems by Brian Whittingham

28th October 2018

Book Launch 3rd Nov – Walking Between Worlds: A collection of poems by Brian Whittingham


Walking Between Worlds is a collection of poems written by Brian Whittingham, one of the judges of the recent Writer of the Year (WOTY) award.


Meet the author at the book’s launch on Saturday the 3rd of November at 1pm. The launch will be held at the Scottish Poetry Library, 5 Crichton’s Close, Edinburgh, EH8 8DT.

The Drop Pot Man by Keith Saunders: a new detective novel from one of our members

14th October 2018

The Drop Pot Man: A new detective novel by Tyne & Esk Writer Keith Saunders.


At first glance it appears to be a straightforward shooting accident… After ten years with the Greater Manchester Police, Detective Inspector Clare Morell thought she’d seen a lot of baffling cases; but newly assigned to deep in the heart of the West Country, she finds herself in an unfamiliar world. There are shepherds and Romanys, who speak in strange tongues; a Lord Byron lookalike army captain and a lethal killer who just might be an ETA trained hit-man. The strange lowland heath in the beat where she now works triggers an old childhood fear and there is the growing sense that her new home is not only disturbing but somehow threatening… And then… there’s Ellis.


Praise for the book from Claire Askew:


“Saunders is a spectacular writer: his sentences fizz on the page and his descriptions of the West Country landscapes will haunt you long after you put this book down. He’s also a master of dialogue and…I found myself laughing out loud at the interactions between characters. But without a doubt the real star turn of the book is DI Clare Morell. She’s a protagonist you instantly warm to, and the deeper you get into the book, the more you feel like she’s a real, living person who may step out of the pages at any moment…. I highly recommend this book, especially if you’re a crime fiction fan. It’ll get hold of you and won’t leave you alone… in the best possible way!”


The Drop Pot Man is available in paperback and eBook on Amazon.

Whit Grace – New Book of Poetry by Anne Shivas

28th April 2018

Poet and Tyne and Esk Writers member Anne Shivas recently launched a new volume of poetry, Whit Grace. The book is available in the UK from Amazon and in the US from Norwich Books.


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The Angel in the Stone – A New Novel from Rebecca McKinley

29th June 2017

The Angel in the Stone - Book LaunchRebecca McKinney’s latest novel, The Angel in the Stone, is being launched at Waterstones on Princes Street on Tuesday 5th September, 6:30 PM.



Rebecca invites all Tyne and Esk members, and especially those from the Dalkeith Group, to come along and support her. Those wishing to come should RSVP




Her book will be available to buy online from the 17th August, here: Download more information about the novel here: Ai-The-Angel-in-the-Stone.

New Children’s Book – Why Worry, William Wasp?

1st March 2017

Why Worry William Wasp

Why Worry, William Wasp?

Rod Kelly of the Dalkeith group of the Tyne and Esk Writers  has published his first children’s book Why Worry, William Wasp? It contains super colour illustrations by artist Emma Latham.


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Book Launch – Habitus by Alan Gay

18th February 2017

Habitus, A New Book of Poetry by Alan Gay

Tyne and Esk Writers are launching Alan Gay’s new book of poetry, Habitus, on
Wednesday 22nd February in Dalkeith Arts Centre. The cartoons in the book
are by Stephen Barnaby, well-known for his ‘Fifty Word Epics’. This
publishing event is part of the Charity’s support for creative writing in
Midlothian and East Lothian, and the launch starts with wine and nibbles
from 6pm.


The author shares how humans behave in different contexts, bizarre
situations captured in deft images, like the front poem ‘A Flea’s Leap’. A
mixture of prose poems and ballads, the lives presented range from a gold
panner to a schoolgirl in wartime. The collection shows how one human being
affects another, and does so with great skill.


Copies of the Tyne and Esk anthology, From the Lighthouse, will also be on
sale, with readings by well known local writers like Rebecca McKinney and
Rita Bradd.

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The Road to California

30th August 2016

download-e1395587477239A collection of short pieces written by Graham Leake (Dalkeith Group) over the past decade. The pieces include a short story, a couple of poems, a sketch, anecdotes and commentaries on social and political issues which express clearly his prejudices. The aim of the writing of most of them was to amuse listeners or readers. He hopes he is successful in that objective.


This collection comes with a CD inside the back cover of Graham reading eleven of the pieces.  Copies of the book will be available at future functions or you can email the author here.


“Graham Leake’s collection of stories, poems and other pieces is a gentle, wry, often amusing take on modern life. It is a pleasure to read.” Alan Reid


ISBN 978-0-9563662-6-9
Price £5.00


Graham is very generously donating all proceeds from sales to the funds of Tyne and Esk Writers.

Glasgow Green

30th August 2016

Glasgow Green by Jake Walker Curley


Please email the author here if you wish to purchase a copy.