Mrs Stroke Bloke and I spent this past weekend in the Highlands. More precisely, we were visiting family in Strontian, on the banks of Loch Sunart. One of my cousins asked if I would be writing about our trip in the blog this week. And since she took me to see David Bowie’s Sound and Vision tour stop in Ingliston in 1990, I could hardly say “No.”
But first, please note that on Monday, 4 April, I’ll be presenting Nerd Bait’s latest (and maddest) concept EP, The Gospel of Unicerosaurus, as part of Illicit Ink’s show at the Edinburgh International Science Festival!!!
People who receive the Apoplexy Tiny Letter will know that I was surprised to find, in the wake of Bowie’s death, how often he crops up in my fiction. Not in any extended fashion, but more, throwaway lines. I’ve since realised that how some of my characters respond to Bowie is a useful shorthand way to describe how they experience life.
Another recurring motif in my writing is the setting of Glencoe, which one drives through to get to Strontian. It features in my early flash fiction, Cairns, in issue #1 of Brain of Forgetting.
Cairns spawned a poem called The Ballad of Cenn Fáelad, which may one day resurface as part of Nerd Bait’s Leider project. And Cairns is also a forerunner of my story for the Dublin Inquirer, Phoenix Park.
I think that Glencoe makes multiple appearances in my work for – kind of – similar reasons to David Bowie. It’s freighted with meaning and history. How one reacts to it is a useful shorthand for, etc. And it’s chameleonic. In the sun, and in the rain, it’s a different place. Often at the same time.
My memories of Glencoe are part of the story of our move to Scotland from New York. When I began my recovery from my stroke, I was upset that I had almost died without seeing Scotland again, properly, for far too long. Then a friend set us up with a copy of Skyfall, the climactic scene of which is set in Glencoe. Somewhere among those events, it became Glencoe that I had to see.
Part of this, too, probably, was a childhood memory of driving through Glencoe and seeing clans of Highlanders pour down the mountainsides, wielding claymores.
Now, each of my fictions I’ve listed above are, more or less, fiction. And I’m not 500 years old, notwithstanding appearances. Instead, the movie Highlander was being filmed.
Since I am 500 years old, I’ve not seen Highlander since 1987. So I’m not sure whether the scene in question actually made the final cut. I remember next to nothing about the details of the movie. But its themes, well…
Connor MacLeod (or, to give him his full name, Connor MacLeodoftheClanMacLeod) is a centuries old Scotsman living in New York City.
He has a pretty rough time of it, becomes subject to forces outwith his control, discovers his mortality, somehow survives, gets the girl, and moves back to Scotland with a new awareness of people’s thoughts around the world. He promises to use his gift to encourage cooperation and peace in mankind. Natch.
But perhaps the most surprising thing I’ve discovered about the first incarnation of the Highlander franchise is that it was really quite well received. I’m going to check it out.