Appropriately it was sent on Rabbie Burn's birthday. He is, and always will be is an inspiration for me and countless others. The sheer humanity of the man, the mesmerising, heartbreaking poetry.
Ayrshire, where he hailed from, is a county I can't claim to know well, but I do have memories of tramping the moorlands above Kilmarnock, building a wee fire by a burn to brew up gunpowder tea in a billy-can. And of the station bar in Kilmarnock drinking draft Bass, trying to avoid stiring up the cloudy lees, lest the hops become too overpowering. I had a first boyfriend from there. He had two brothers. All of them, even the sixteen year old were political, were musicians and had a love of early blues and folk and Trotsky. And, naturally, Burns.
I remember the park in Kilmarnock with the stature of Rabbie Burns, and always always I will love that county that produced that genius, that treasure, our national and universal poet.
I remember a small man, a former coal miner, John was his name, from Darvel in Ayrshire. I went to his wedding. He introduced me to On the Road by Jack Kerouac. And John had a monkey, a vicious mischievous monkey that would hang out on the clothes pulley and pee on you.
I remember Largs where the train from Glasgow would disgorge passengers for the ferry to Millport on the island of Cumbrae. There was a great Italian cafe in Largs. Still there I see. And doubtless still great.
I remember, I remember - and naturally enough I have mined those memories and used them and they are in the new book. Not John, not the brothers, not the monkey, not the home made emerald green dress I wore to the wedding, but the smell of the county, Ayrshire, the green fields with many cows, the skies above the flat high deep-heather silent moorland, the train, the ferry, a summer in Millport, these memories imbue my writing as I sit at my computer, in my cottage by the river, in the fishing village in Viet Nam, hearing, but not listening to, the ducks, the Party announcements on the loudspeaker, the neighbours quarrelling, the children playing with a football against a wall.
"A man's a man for a' that...
That Man to Man the world o'er
Shall brothers be for a' that."
Aa' the best.
To read the full poem see www.robertburns.org/