The cover of “At The Loch Of The Green Corrie” drew me in. When I was young I read the books of W E Davies, and of his visits to remote lochans in search of wild brown ‘ferox’ trout, and thought that perhaps this was in the same vein. It isn’t. It examines a physical and spiritual journey taken by the author, Andrew Grieg, and his relationship with the poet Norman McCaig.
I’ve no great love or understanding of poetry, but I found the book fascinating. Shortly before his death Norman gives the author a challenge, to go to Assynt and seek out an old acquaintance of his, who may, or may not, divulge the location of his most favourite spot on earth, a loch where he must catch a brown trout. This journey is woven with the history of the author and his friends, and of McCaig and his circle of friends, poets, anglers and drinkers. The narrative flits back and forth, changing between times and places, releasing parts of individual’s stories and catching your interest, then moving on, before circling back later. It is an interesting method, and it kept my interest up right to the end.
One theme in the book disturbed me, that of the politics of the writer. Not disturbed in the sense I found it odd or weird, but that it seemed not to fit. There are occasional references to politics, of New Labour winning elections, of the deaths of Donald Dewar and John Smith, the passing of the ‘old school’. The school of thought which promotes the idea that Scottish nationalism is somehow inward and backward looking. That idea too is old school, and perhaps should be allowed to disappear. Early in the book the author writes of McCaig: “The idea of patriotism was abhorrent to him”, which suggests that McCaig’s views are somehow nobler or more worthy than others, and on that note I’ll disagree.
His poetry is certainly worth listening to though. I can’t say that I have any greater understanding of poetry at the end of this book, but I have an awareness of a culture I perhaps wasn’t as aware of as I should be, and a stirring to visit a part of the country I have yet to see, which inspired McCaig to write:
Who owns this landscape?-
The man who bought it or
I who am possessed by it?