‘Alight Here’ for the best creative writing in Falkirk

The anthology of new writing centres on Falkirk and the surrounding district
The anthology of new writing centres on Falkirk and the surrounding district
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A new book profiling the work of new and established writers and poets from the Falkirk district is published today.

‘Alight Here: An Anthology of Falkirk Writing’ mixes 20 pieces of new writing and poetry by authors living and working in Falkirk and by those with a close connection to the area, including Janet Paisley and Aidan Moffat.

Out via Cargo, many of the pieces are by those with little or no previous publishing experience.

The anthology is edited by well-known author and playwright Alan Bissett, who grew up in Hallglen.

Speaking in January, Alan said: “It’s about being from a particular place and what that means.

“One of the aims of both these projects is community – to make people realise they are from a specific place.”

The Falkirk Herald has reproduced below extracts from three of the short stories contained in the new anthology.

‘One Nil’ by Dickson Telfer

‘When the whistle sounds forty-four thousand boos pollute the Govan air. I stand transfixed, unable to celebrate with the Shire fraternity as my brain hasn’t yet managed to process what has just happened. I can see the joy, but it’s soundless, drowned out by the prolonged throb of blue negativity, as if a weight is depressing one of the bass notes on a keyboard, its thrum being pumped out of hidden speakers under every Ibrox seat.

I cast my eyes around the stadium, but there are so many of them and they’re so far away, it’s hard to pick out any detail, unlike fixtures at the likes of Cliftonhill, where the expressions of the Albion Rovers fans can be seen by simply glancing left or right. I manage to clock a few guys in the nearest section to us though, segregated by red and white tape and torn-faced stewards. One is roaring at the pitch, face purple with rage, needles of spittle striking the back of the head of the person in front of him. Good job she’s wearing a hat. The other has his hands in the air, mouthing M’ON THEN to a cluster of Shire fans. Well, I say Shire fans, but they’re people I’ve never seen before. Doubt they’ll be at Peterhead away next month.

When the rage subsides, I can hear the Shire young team sing ‘Self Assembly Furniture’, a song that confuses many an opposing fan. During play though, like every other song we sang, it barely travelled three rows, shot down by pounding drums, the Sandy Jardine second minute clap, ‘We are The People’, ‘Rule Britannia’, Oooooooh bouncy bouncy bouncy bouncy na-na-na-na-na and so on. The one I’m most disappointed didn’t penetrate though was directly after Andy Stirling leathered the ball in the net and we all went nuts, care-free about compromising our voices, screaming to be heard... ‘Are you Stenny in disguise?’ But it was like an 80s ghetto blaster competing with Motorhead’s backline.

Andy Stirling’s looking up at us, clapping. I raise my hands over my head, return the gesture and feel my heart pound, like pride is going to make it burst out of my chest and stain the concrete black and white. I take my phone out my pocket and take a photo of the scoreboard. RANGERS 0 EAST STIRLINGSHIRE 1. I set it as my wallpaper, turn the phone off and put it in my jacket pocket.’

Dickson Telfer is a writer from Falkirk. He is working on his first novel.

‘Bruce’s Taxis’ by Samuel Best

‘I sit back in my seat, adjusting the seatbelt as it cuts across my chest. The nylon’s caught my throat and I reckon it’ll leave a mark. Across from me, Niall’s draining the last of a near-flammable mix of vodka and coke with heavy gulps. He’s started early, and strong, and there’s a part of me wary of where this night could lead us. Or him, rather.

‘You’ll need tae finish that, pal,’ the driver says, and Niall waves his hand, still drinking, his Adam’s apple moving quicker.

‘City Nightclub, ta,’ I say, and as Niall holds the empty bottle up like a child showing off to a parent the driver guns the engine and we’re off.

‘Out for anything special the night, boys?’ the driver asks, scenes of Linlithgow High Street blurring past us, the reflection of streetlights and restaurant signs fuzzy through the rain-mottled glass.

‘Jist payday, ken?’ Niall says. He rubs his hands together, greedy-like, and the driver nods.

‘Ken whit’s weird?’ Niall starts. ‘See how it’s called City Nightclub, aye? How come Fawkirk’s no a city?’

‘Is it not?’ I say. ‘Seems like a city, doesn’t it? A small one, but still a city.’

‘Exactly. I mean, as far as I ken, it’s no a city. Jist weird the club’s called City. Like, who thought ae that? It’d be like gontae Glasgow an gontae a club cawed, like, Toon.’

‘Who decides what’s a city and what’s a town?’ I ask.

‘Dunno. Clearly someone no payin attention, like. An how comes places like Glasgow and Edinburgh get made cities but places like Fawkirk dinnae? I mean, how d’they decide?’

‘Is it not something about needing a church or something?’

‘Eh, Ben, look nae further. It’s cawed Faw-kirk fur a reason. Place is teemin wae churches. An it’s no like it’s lackin in, ken, historical clout, is it? Battle ae Fawkirk. Battle ae Fawkirk Muir. Who’s buried in the graveyards? Great Scottish heroes wit fought fur this country. No even jist that, but descendants ae King James VI. I’d say that’s a pretty gid reason tae be taken seriously, would ye no?’

‘Aye, yeah, I see your point. I mean, Linlithgow’s a Royal Burgh. Stirling’s a city. Why is Falkirk just a town?’

‘When it’s no jist a town, is it? Even mair recent than aw ae that, Fawkirk was where aw ae the iron wis gettin made, where oor canals were started. Ken streetlamps got invented here? It’s a total hub. It’s a centre ae things. It’s no cawed Central Scotland fur nuthin, right?’

Samuel Best is a writer from Falkirk now based in Glasgow. He edits the literary magazine Octavius.

‘Homecomings’ by Constance Saim-Hunter

#The fog was tingly, slightly puzzling and surrounded me with damp penetration. The limp air made breathing harsh. Most of the others had already set off but I lingered, holding onto the black railings at the big gates to Victoria School. My Fair Isle bonnet, knitted last winter and now a bit wee, clamped my ears and muffled even more the soft sounds around me as I set off along Thornhill Road. Victoria Park had disappeared, just the low wall guided me along the pavement to the Belisha Beacon at Ladysmill and the safety of the Lollipop Man.

Ye’re awfy late hen. Yer Mam’ll be wonderin whaur ye’ve got tae. Awa ye go hame noo.

Woodburn Road and Montgomery Street, each house with a hedge where my mittened hands trailed to keep me straight. Despite the, once again hand-knitted Fair Isle mittens, my hands were drippy cold. Not like in the mornings when I’d clutch two copper pennies hot from the top of the cooker to pay the three ha’penny fare on the bus ride to school. Most houses had lights on but the eerie mist was hardly broken around the street lamps. In time with my footsteps I whispered some of my favourite words, letting them roll around my mouth – ‘gob-bly-dook’ was the best but ‘per-ni-cke-ty’ and ‘com-pen-dium’ were exciting too. Past the Nursery, I started to run on this more familiar part of the road. Running blind but determined to get home as my hands groped for the hedges, crossing Alexander Avenue to the pavement still showing the chalked beds from yesterday’s game,and up the path. Home.

- Is that you, hen ? C’moan get yer duffel coat up on the pulley. It’s yer favorite the night, SMT.

Aye, Soup, mince and tatties. I was home.’

Constance Saim-Hunter was educated at Falkirk High School and recently moved back to the district after living abroad for 40 years.