Monday 7 November 2022


The BBC flipped the existential threat of Covid into an opportunty with their audio-series Outsiders about "writers on how lockdown has changed their relationship with the nature on their doorstep". The episode cited is a great fit because artist and naturalist Amanda Thomson, because being black and gay, could easily alienate comfortable insiders.  And wot if she did? I ask: good art, great art has to be about shifting our cosy certainties and disturbing the equilibrium. 

Thomson grew up in the bosom of her family in the village of Kilsyth: near to Kirkintilloch and about half way between Glasgow and Stirling. My latest Borrowbox audiobook Belonging: natural histories of place, identity and home is her elegy to home and a sense of place. The bosom of her family: her Mam and her grandparents and loadsa collateral relatives accepted her as who she was and that gave her the confidence to leave the little row of crappy houses in Kilsyth, go to college and make a name for herself in the wide world.

The milestone above is part of one of her art-in-nature works but damned if I can find the source again.

Her other book and my next page-turner is A Scots Dictionary of Nature and Belonging shares several lists of Scots words for our interactions with the natural world. Eskimos do not have 50 words for snow but the Scots have that many words for drizzle let alone such other outdoor experiences as:

  • lunky - close and sultry
  • merth - hot and sultry
  • mooth - warm and misty
  • tochy - warm, moist
  • awder - a light mist at sunrise
  • yowther - a haze near the ground
  • smoorach - a slight summer shower

If you don't want to die on your sofa y'have to get out in  some weather and if you have to be there then embrace it.  Belonging is a great book - a chronicle of epiphanies and insights and rare bird sightings - Nan Shepherd for the current age. if some of the meanderings off country walks into the darker streets of racism and disrespect make you antsy, then so much the better.

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