Monday, 9 January 2017

Elixir of Life

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Jackie Kay is in the news these days and the Scots 'Makar' (national poet) has written a special poem which will now be given to every new baby born in Scotland.

I first wrote about Jackie's work on the blog site several years ago and it's great to see that she continues to her mark on the world in such an impressive way.

I'll post her poem on the blog site separately in the next day or two - in the meantime here are a couple of previous entries from the archive which mention Jackie and her book 'Red Dust Road'. 

  

Elixir of Life (04/02/16)

Image result for glass of pee + images

I have decided to treat myself to a copy of David Aaronovitch's new book - "Party Animals: My Family and other Communists - dark memories of Marxism" which I'm sure will be a great read.

But to celebrate the occasion I thoughtI'd re-publish man a post from the blog site archive which recounts an event in the life of Jackie Kay, a successful author and poet these days, whose gravel voiced dad John was the Industrial Organiser of the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB) in Glasgow, back in the 1980s. 

And if you follow the advice of the party comrade from Edinburgh over a daily tipple, you'll never be sick a day in your life.  

I'll have what he's having (3 June 2011)

Jackie Kay's memoir "Red Dust Road" tells a delightful tale about the crazy things that loving parents sometimes, unwittingly, visit on their children

Philip Larkin had something to say about that in one of his famous poems, but Jackie Kay seems to have survived, blossomed even as the result of her experience.

It certainly doesn't seem to have done her any harm.

The background within 'Red Dust Road' is that Jackie is 7 years old and her Mum and Dad (Helen and John Kay) have gone off on holiday for three weeks to the Soviet Union, as it was then.

But their two children can't travel with them, so they stay behind in Scotland with family friends.

After week or two with one family, Jackie recounts the following story in her book which clearly left a vivid impression.

"So they took us to another comrade, who we'd never met, who lived in a wee cottage on the outskirts of Edinburgh at the end of a very overgrown garden.

I was seven; Maxie was nine. The wee man baked a huge gooseberry pie. I've never tatsed another like it. The juice from the gooseberries was oozing out of a hole in the middle.

The wee man had peculiar habits. He would pee into a milk bottle at night, and in the morning the bottle would be half full of his pee, an intense orangey yellow. I remember seeing the bottle on the shelf in his kitchen, and staring at the colour for ages, half appallled, half fascinated.

Then he would beat up a raw egg for his breakfast, add a little of the piss, to 'gie it the right consistency', and half a pint of milk, transfer the mixture to a glass and knock it back in one.

'Never been sick a day in my life', the old man said.

I couldn't wait for my parents to come back from Russia."

I'll bet - but I haven't laughed so much in ages. 

Successful Scots (28/08/11)


Earlier this year I published two posts about Jackie Kay's book - 'Red Dust Road'.

A few months later and Jackie's memoir has been voted 'Scottish Book of the Year' - which is richly deserved and comes as no surprise - to me at least.

I hope I played a small part in Jackie's success - by singing its praises on the blog site.

But if you haven't read the book as yet - you must do so.

Because it will warm your heart - make you laugh like a drain - and bring tears to your eyes.

Red Dust Road (26 May 2011)

I've just finished reading Red Dust Road - the life story so far of Jackie Kay - one of Scotland's best known poets.

Jackie has an interesting 'hinterland', as they say, adopted soon after she was born by John and Helen Kay, lifelong socialists from Glasgow.

Jackie's birth mother was a young Scottish woman from Nairn and her birth father was a young Nigerian student whom she met briefly while he was studying in Aberdeen.

Red Dust Road tells the story of Jackie's life with John and Helen Kay - and her subsequent search for her birth mother and father.

The book is a delight - funny, sad, powerful and poignant - all at the same time.

The opening chapter tells the story of Jackie's reunion with her birth father Jonathan in Nigeria, where he has become a born-again Christian, and she tells the 'hilarious' tale with remarkable honesty.

As she does when speaking of her birth mother whose Mormon beliefs convinced her that adopted people ask to be adopted while still in the womb.

Apparently, her mother believed that Jackie had found the perfect parents - in John and Helen Kay - because her birth mother had prayed for this to be so.

Jackie recalls: "I tried to picture the embryonic me, knocking on the wall of her uterus, shouting: Oi, you, can you get me adopted?"

I knew Jackie's father John Kay, he was the Industrial Organiser of the Communist Party in Scotland for many years and knew everything there was to know about the trade unions in those days.

A fine man who would have scoffed at all this religious mumbo jumbo - some of which has clearly rubbed off on his daughter, Jackie.

But the amazing thing is that Red Dust Road is not in the least bitter or resentful,  just thankful and hopeful for the future which I think sums up the true spirit of John and Helen Kay as well.