by Donald McKenzie
We are pleased to present our new fiction section with a short story by Scottish artist and writer Donald McKenzie. The story is set on the island of Orkney, it is a tale of mystery and myth. It is both evocative of a harsh climate and at one with the elements of nature.
The story was shortlisted for "Orcrime" in the George McKay Brown Fellowship Short Story Competition (2012) then later published in Northwards Now literary magazine (2014).
Here is some information about Donald McKenzie the author of the story.
Donald is a painter, sculptor and writer who combines a conceptual approach to his work with traditional techniques and materials. His inspiration stems mainly from his interest and connection to the Outer Hebrides. His main home is in Inverness.
Donald studied drawing and painting at Grays School of Art, Aberdeen and subsequently gained a MFA degree from Duncan of Jordanstone School of Art in Dundee. He has exhibited at various times since graduating including the Taigh Chearsahbagh Museum and Gallery in Lochmaddy and also had three sculptures installed in Western Isles Enterprise office at Liniclate when it opened in 2002 as well as other venues throughout Scotland.
He considers himself as a visual artist who sometimes writes and, in that respect, has had some success.
His last exhibition in 2018 was held in the local museum in Benbecula which was scheduled to run for three months but due to the positive response of visitors and locals it was extended for another two months. The exhibition was dedicated to Donald’s Late wife Jane who died in August 2016. They had been together for 44 years. He was invited to also have this exhibition in the museum in Stornoway, again to run for three months from September 2020 but with the outbreak of the Coronavirus pandemic this was not possible, and it was hoped to reschedule it from the Spring of this year but unfortunately the gallery remains closed. The exhibition referenced his local connections to family as well as the culture and changing landscape of the Hebrides. It included paintings, sculpture, objects, photographs, and ephemera and the idea was not just to produce an exhibition of pictures but to blur the boundaries between gallery and museum.
In the meantime, Donald has continued to create new work as well as writing.
Poems and images in Northwords magazine 2002
Short story in the Inverness Literary RAW magazine 2006
3rd Prize in the Neil Gunn Writing Competition 2007 (Adult Prose section) Story published on the Am Baile website.
Highly Commended Short Story – National Gallery Creative Writing Competition 2008
Short Story in the anthology ‘Imagination – Stories of Scotland’s Future’ (ISBN 978-0-9569578-0-7) published August 2011 and launched at the Inverness (Eden Court) and Edinburgh (Parliament Building) Book Festivals.
Shortlisted for Orcrime 2012 (Orkney Library & Archive and George Mackay Brown Fellowship) Crime Short Story Competition.
First Prize – Highland Life (Adult Prose) Inverness Literary Salon 2013
Highly Commended short story – ‘The Write Lines’ 2013 Arts and Film Festival, Glasgow
Short Story in Northwords Now magazine – Spring Edition 2014
First Prize – Highland Life (Adult Prose) Inverness Literary Salon 2014 and also awarded a residential course at Moniack Mhor writing centre.
Shortlisted for Reel to Ratlin’ Reel Short Story Competition 2018. Story to be published in a Scottish Anthology about memories of going to the cinema.
Image: Winter Harvest by Donald McKenzie
Going solo with soley
David Hutchison is film-maker, animator and artist , he lives in Edinburgh. He originally comes from Lochinver in the north west of Scotland and his Highland background is an influence on his creative production. For example, his great-aunt Seordag who was involved in a secret radar mission in WW2, is the inspiration behind his invention of the Gaelic speaking robot hen with a television inside its stomach. The hen is obviously called Seordag. Also, his grand-mother who came from Shetland in the far north of Scotland, had a pet seagull with one leg called Soley. The seagull was adopted by David as another character in his story and along the way became fitted with a wooden leg.
In the early 1990’s David made an animation for Scottish TV called Cearc Agus Ugh (Chicken and Egg). This went on to eventually become Seordag TV starring Seordag and Soley. Over the years David has developed this in various guises, however, with the arrival of the pandemic in 2020 he turned Seordag TV into a picture book and has published the first five books in English and Gaelic.
The pandemic and lockdown also saw David’s fertile imagination team up Soley in the middle of the North Atlantic ocean with a solo rower who is attempting to cross the ocean in a homemade boat. Actually, however, this is fiction meeting fact since David’s brother Duncan did attempt a solo crossing starting from New York in 2018 in his self-built boat Sleipnir (named after an eight-legged horse from Norse mythology).. Due to technical difficulties the voyage was abandoned 863 miles off the coast of Land’s End, however, Duncan did raise over £18,000 for Water Aid. David has changed the time-line in his story setting it during the early days of the pandemic instead. The rower is now joined at intervals by a friendly seagull whom he christens Soley. The story turns on its head the idea that the rower’s family is concerned over his safety – instead the rower becomes worried about his family in a situation that no one could have imagined would happen.
To visit David Hutchison's website go to - www.davidhutchison.info
Image above shows David's great-aunt Seordag in the middle of the picture.
Life's Little Lotteries
Michael and Rochelle collided by the magazine stand, she was in her usual hurry and he was in another world, his usual detached and alienated self.
“After you” he said, the refinement of good breeding simply oozing from him.
“Ta” responded Rochelle reaching across to the middle shelf, grabbing a glossy mag.
Michael eyed the girl as unobtrusively as fine manners could allow. He liked the look of her, nice eyes, figure, a terrific smile.
“Yes, very attractive” he thought trying not to make it obvious he was checking her out. “What a pity she’s so common”.
His assessment continued, he made a thorough job of scrutinising the attractive female going about in in the same way a critic might analyse a piece of art. Looking for flaws as much as for perfection. He noted her jewellery – fool’s gold and plenty of it. There must have been at least two dozen iron-pyrite rings and studs inserted through those previously immaculate ears. Michael dismissed any attempt to chat her up.
I live in Port-Vendres, a village by the Mediterranean and Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s last home. This is also my chosen home. During the 2020 pandemic, as we were all in strict lockdown, I was asked to write a piece about an imaginary place in a real town or village, just to help us escape somewhere safe.
This is the dream place that flashed across my mind. I think I know why, now. But I will tell you later.
Walking along the ‘Quai de la République’, or ‘Quai des Douanes’ as it used to be called in Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s time, you don't notice it. Instead, your eyes are drawn to the water's edge and the two large bluefin tuna boats that are moored there almost all the year round.
In fact, it can only be found if in the sweltering summer heat, when unable to bear the smell of the heated asphalt and the biting rays of the sun, one seeks the shade of the customs buildings. There you see two large fig trees almost blocking a staircase similar to the many ‘ramps’ or flights of stairs that cross the streets of Port-Vendres at right angles. But this one is narrow, with only a few steps, and it seems to lead to a private property.
"Let's go, something is beckoning to me" ............