Promises Made By A Man On A Quest On The Late Night Train To Partick

Hey everyone, On Monday evening I had the pleasure of attending the Final of the Scotia Bar Short Story Competition & believe me it was a pleasure. Though I hadn’t attended any of the heats I knew the standard was going be high & believe me I wasn’t disappointed

With eight quality storytellers having qualified against tough opposition in the qualifiers Monday night really was game on right from the word go. I confess that though I knew all the finalists, I wasn’t really neutral, but I suspect they all knew that & the had a vague idea that I may be supporting my wee chosen sister Catherine Baird.

As Jim Ewing kicked off the night with a story about a man on a quest for God you could sense the excitement in the air & I have to say those at our table were buzzing with anticipation & speaking for myself confident of a result for our Catherine. As Jim concluded his story I was left to ask the question on every Celtic fan’s lips Did the man find Henrik?

Next up to the mic was the talented Renfrewshire writer Mo Blake with her story entitled Bird Woman. There was some excellent use of language & imagry as Mo used showed she can really engage with her audience though if I’m being honest I did think her quiet delivery let her down a wee bit as she sometimes struggled to be heard.

Mike Black was the man charged with following Mo & that he did with the story which I think wins the prize for the longest title of the night. The Ballad of Kandy Coated Toffee Apple. This tale of sex drugs & rock ‘n’ roll had all the ingredients of a cracking story & it didn’t disappoint. It really was packed with power & passion from beginning to end & delivered well by a man on form .

The last story before the interval was The Dandy Of New York by one of my besties & another member of my self selected family Maryanne Hartness. For someone whose poetry is usually of a serious nature, this story gave her the chance to show a greater range of her talents. Her description & liberal use of humour which was effectively sprinkled throughout this enjoyable tale showed that this girl has more strings to her than your average fiddle. Though if I’m totally honest it may just have been a bit too out there to connect fully with the judges.

Knowing that Catherine was first up after the break, our table was not the sanest place to be during the interval. However though we enjoyed our sandwiches I think we put our potential champion on a comfort food diet which consisted only of words of encouragement & nothing else .

Finally the big moment arrived, & Catherine stepped up to the mic to read her story. Promises was a story which touched every corner of the heart as it dealt with the very difficult topics of the loneliness & social isolation felt by older people in society with sensitivity & sincerity.

The choice of topic, the death of a family pet could have been a disaster waiting to happen if it had been badly delivered. Well let’s be honest, some of the worst songs ever written have been on this subject,but there was no danger of that happening in this instance. This is a polished performer who knows how to create realistic characters & bring them to life.

As she rejoined the company I was quietly confident about her chances of success, though I always temper such confidence with a note of caution. Well as I said this was a high quality field & we still had three more competitors to get their chance of glory.

The first of those three competitors was Linda McLaughlin. Her story Substitute, was a mix of gritty West of Scotland reality laced realistic images & excellent touches of e humour, this was authentic Glasgow at its best. It was so well crafted that you could smell the atmosphere of a typical Glasgow Friday or Saturday night & let’s be honest a Glasgow audience like a genuine portrayal of their city which they can actually identify with& that is exactly what Linda gave them.

The penultimate reader of the evening was a man who no matter what competition he enters is always a serious contender. Be it poetry or prose haiku to short story Wullie Purcell is someone who can never be written off. His entry for this competition a Body & a Batterin was easily the funniest story of night & captured the essence of the world of aspirational would be West of Scotland Paisley patterned hard men. Well where else could someone have their nickname changed from Manky to Petal & still remain hard except in the imagination of this wonderful storyteller.

As we reached the end of the line is was only fitting that the final story would leave at our destination & George McEwan’s Last Train To Partick was one scary story though it did have its lighter moments & George a master of delivery knew exactly when to lighten or indeed darken the mood as appropriate. As the train parked I swear I could hear a well known Glasgow detective inform us there’s been a murder.

At this point the judges Marc Sherland Ian Hunter & Jean Rafferty retired to consider their verdict & decide on the winners & overall champion for 2012.
It felt like they had been away for an age before they made their reappearance.

On doing so, they commented that the overall standard of the competition had been very high & that all of the finalists had produced an excellent standard of work. However they had made a decision. So after running through the stories which did not make the top three they decided that 3rd place went to Linda McLaughlin the runner up was Wullie Purcell, at this our table burst in to spontaneous hugs & cuddles all round. It was like that moment when you know you’ve won Eurovision, before the official announcement came that the winner & 2012 Scotia Bar Short Story Competition was Catherine Baird.

To say I was ecstatic would be a massive understatement. This is right up there with those other great moments in my life such as Yuptae winning the Danny Kyle. The SNP Landslide Victory at last year’s Scottish Election. Brattback’s Goal which brought the league back to Paradise after nine long years of waiting. Gaining my honours degree & competing in the Scottish Slam Championship to name but a few.

Why does it mean so much to me? Well those of you who know me well or who are regular readers of this blog will know that as far as I’m concerned family is about a lot more than just biology its about who you actually value &want to be part of your life. So on that criteria Catherine is the best wee chosen sister anyone could wish for, so at the end of a wonderful night I have to say I think I reached cloud nine & you know what I haven’t came back from it yet?

Love & Best Wishes
Gayle X

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