Thursday, 16 June 2011


News came to me today of the death of a friend, the poet David Keeffe, or Manjusvara, since he took refuge in a Buddhist order.

Not the last time I saw him, but my abiding memory is of him sitting on the wee platform I set up ten years ago in the glade at the hut garden. It's not really a glade, but it's the only place in our canopy that the sun shines all of the day. Manjusvara was on a kitchen chair, on the platform reading, as I remember, someone else's long life and love affair with a garden. He sat in his red braces with his hearing aids on (he became increasingly deaf and full of joyful mis-hearings) and a cup of tea close to hand. As I see him now, he is still there, head bent in concentration over the page, taking in the rare long afternoon summer sun in hut silence, quietly, composed and still.

Larach Beag, the hut, is hard to find. I like it that way. Many people have told me they will visit; but few do. Some say they tried to find the hut, but gave up.
I realise now that of the very small handful of visitors who have arrived over the years (it has averaged one every two years), they have all been artists or poets: Takaya Fujii, Alec Finlay, Pam Sandals, Larry Butler, Bryan Evans, Ann Russell, Jan Nimmo. 
Some folk are wired to find the unfindable, taking a slow and intentional lifetime to look. Manjusvara, David, was one of these.

That afternoon's warmth remains in the seat of the chair and in the grace of the teacup he carefully washed after use.

Monday, 9 May 2011


A friend, Tom, understanding how my mind works, knew a couple of years ago that I'd enjoy a book by George Faludy, a Hungarian exiled from his homeland twice - once by the Fascists in 1938 and again by the Communists in 1956. He wandered the world, finally settling in Canada, where he spent a couple of months in a cabin on Vancouver Island.

Tom had given this book to Jen, our mutual friend. Tom said he'd ask her to send it on. In the slowness with which anything to do with this hut manifests itself, that book has just arrived in the post from Jen (living on her own island north of here) together with a note of how her garden is growing this spring.
The book is Notes from the Rainforest by George Faludy, whom George Mikes described as Hungary's greatest living poet.

So it's with intense pleasure that I open the book and read on page 2 about that island cabin:

" O solitudo, sola beatitudo! . . . I found myself alone in the cottage lent to me by the friend of a friend, a generous and trusting soul who has turned me loose without previous acquaintance in his two-room cottage. It is simply but comfortably furnished, has walls lined with books to the ceiling, and radiates, as houses sometimes do, the good sense, taste, and happiness of its owners. . . . When I was young the interiors of little houses such as this one - surrounded by forest, loaded with books, warmed by a wood-burning kitchen stove - always filled me with envy and schemes for obtaining one of my own to complete my happiness. But loyalty to one's vocation, if it happens to be poetry, generally means forgoing such luxuries or enjoying them merely as a temporary guest. The odd thing is, however, that although I love dachas as much as ever, the envy is gone. One of the best things about growing old (or even for growing up, for that matter) is the way one gradually learns to contemplate things without coveting them: to treat "life as a vehicle for contemplation and contemplation as a vehicle for joy," as a Spanish philosopher once put it."

The hut at Carbeth is not lined with books - there's a problem at the moment with damp - but if it were, it's still not a thing that many folk envy; but Faludy would have understood its true place in my own life.

The book, sent to me by Jen at Tom's suggestion is a delight to read, but at about the same age now as when Faludy wrote those words, I don't covet it. I'll read it gratefully and post it back.

Perhaps I should mention that Tom and Jen are poets - and both have realised (and act on) what Faludy was articulating: that we are temporary guests wherever we go.
And I more than most in this unfinished hut.

Tuesday, 5 April 2011


Yesterday I was at the hut, waiting for the white van to arrive full of the discarded wood from a stage set. It came and was carried to the side of the hut to be examined at a later date.
Some of it can be taken apart and used for building purposes - rebuilding, adding to, substituting - this is the unfinished hut.

The rain poured down, we made muddy tracks everywhere, but so hard was the rain that it immediately pounded the tracks flat. The most of the wood was left under a blue tarpaulin (I no longer have any idea where it came from - it's been around for years) while the choicest bits - unused offcuts - were stored inside the hut.

This happens most years.  Not the rain (which is everyday stuff), but the end-of-tour stage-set delivery. One year, after my play Mouth of Silence, the delivery also had in it a full-size skeleton. That went to the folk who organise the Hallowe'en walk at Carbeth. Another year saw a huge quantity of ready-made flat walls. A hutter friend took these and made them the basis for a (sort of) brand new hut.

The spirit of recycling has never not been known at Carbeth: if something's not here now, we wait - and it will turn up.
It's patience and that sure knowledge (together with a little healthy idleness) that make this the unfinished hut.
There are others like it - and always have been.

straight lines

From where I'm sitting on the boat, the hut is only a few miles over the hill as the Coastguard helicopter flies.
The walk I just took to the island down at the Basin reminded me of the absence here of the wilding quinces - grubbed up by British Waterways - that in years gone by I would pick and take back to make my rooms fragrant then turn into a preserve.

I had however collected seeds one season, and when they germinated, I'd planted these at the hut as the foundation of a jaggy deer-proof hedge. Last year gave us their first hedge fruits at the hut.

On the way between squalls round the wee island  - only accessible across the sea-lock - are some remaining straggly, contorted, aged, lichen-clad, unruly elders. On one of these I found my crop of the day - Judas ears. I filled my hat full of them.
They really do resemble the folds and fleshiness of ears. In China they are devoured: known as Mu-erh, they are used in many dishes; I'll dry these and use them as flavouring.

Though it's a straight line from here to the hut, if you care to draw such a thing, the linking is far more contorted and dependent on state of mind - wild goes to wild - as the trail of quince and mushroom links hut and boat today, so tomorrow the wild mind will find yet another meshing in that net of interpenetration - even only in another story of food.

Friday, 1 April 2011


In 1980 John Cage wrote:

"I don't understand any of it. Nor do I understand the night sky with the stars and moon in it. The fact we travel to the moon has given me no explanation of it. I would be delighted to retrace Basho's steps in Japan where as an old man he made a special tour on foot to enjoy particular views of the moon."

Some twenty years later, I did exactly that. Already older than Basho when he died, I set out to walk in Japan, visiting Basho's stopping points, moon-viewing all the way.

Of course, in the intervening years - since Basho, I mean, not since Cage's words - the world had moved on. We've covered the hills & valleys with railtracks, with motorways and with cities. These cannot be crossed nor gone through on foot.
Instead, I watched the moon & walked those parts of Basho's journey that I could; spending time instead sitting at huts that he had lived in - basho huts - named (him and huts) after the Japanese bananas (Musa Basjoo).

One of my favourites is the Hut of the Fallen Persimmons. This hut got somehow tangled up into my walks, which became in turn nuclear walks - walks in places affected by nuclear bombs - in desert USA where they were tested and in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In Nagasaki, I met the farmer and tree-surgeon Mr Ebinuma, who had grown from seed some persimmon trees which had survived the atomic bomb blast in 1945. One of these trees I planted in Glasgow Botanic Gardens: the picture of a walking/modernity/landscape destruction becomes complicated at that point of my basho-hut visits.

Many things become simpler in huts.At the garden of the unfinished hut - Larach Beag to give it the official name - at Carbeth, is a yet-unfinished star viewing seat. Inscribed in a never-ending circle round the outside edge of this circular seat will be the words seeing stars seeing ourselves. There are more urgent priorities than finishing that seat, especially when, with no effort at all, I can walk through the hut door, crane my neck and see Orion. And Ursus. And the milliard stars that light the sky there. When the moon's out, then I gaze at that. I have no more purpose in mind than Basho had. Lightness, like him, maybe.

The nuclear walks are the reason for my last book, that person himself - and for the forthcoming book fault line which is in, on or about the premises of Faslane, our own sets of bunkers and submarines for nuclear missiles. But the moon viewing journeys are awaiting the pen, mostly.

One of the simplifications that hut life brings is the joy of not travelling. Of being in place. Being in place means that I'm free to travel inward. The moon comes to me, wherever I am, but at the hut it not only visits, but belongs; hangs in the sky until I next sight it and my own stillness.

This year, I'll be at the hut each full moon, to honour Basho's moon viewing by not travelling but still watching the moon. He knew it's the same moon wherever, then as now. I'll start with April's Waking Moon on the 18th  and go outside each month until October's Harvest Moon which this year will be seen at the hut on the 12th: the day Basho died in Osaka in 1694.

There is no cage for the moon.

Reforesting Scotland

The current (spring / summer 2011) issue of Reforesting Scotland ( has a photograph of the cludgie at my hut on its front cover. The same photograph appears inside (next to a small article by me on Carbeth) with the caption "Gerry Loose's beautiful outhouse . . ."
The outhouse / cludgie is a place I visit on a daily basis when at the hut. I don't want to get  . . . well, anal . . . about it, but it's a serious topic, cutting straight into the debate about water (& therefore water closets): the pollution of ground water, rivers, the water table. The RS front-cover-outhouse runs on ash from the hut stove. No smell; no pollution, quietly buried once in a while.
Yes, I realise it's not possible for everyone, but it works fine at the hut, has done for more than a dozen years.
It keeps the rain off, provides a view of the birds flitting (with the door left open); but also is cold & drafty in the winter. I recommend an outhouse; when inside toilets were first introduced into country areas (& probably cities) it was considered an unhygienic notion).
Maybe that's a point worth remaking and considering.

Friday, 18 February 2011

radio about huts

Interview on BBC Radio Scotland tomorrow morning 6:30 - 8:00 am (repeated 11:05 am Sunday, available for seven days.
Visit here first, then listen tomorrow: