WEEK THIRTY-ONE – Caledonian MacBrayne/The Clockwork Orange

>> Caledonian MacBrayne

The Clockwork Orange <<

CalMac                       clockwork

Scotland relies so much on the efficiency of its transport networks for the nation to stay on the move. A product of our challenging national topography is the often quirky and curious systems that have evolved to ferry us around. This week’s pairing brings together two mainstays of the Scottish transport system. The labyrinthine complexities of the island-hopping ferry services operated  by Caledonian MacBrayne (or ‘CalMac’) is something with which a West Coast tourist is required to become familiar if they are to get where they want to go. The happy sight of an approaching ferry is one of the pleasures of holidaymaking in Scotland.  Contrast this with the essentially simple circularity and regularity of the Glasgow Subway system (affectionately referred to as ‘The Clockwork Orange‘) – unlike most urban underground systems, it consists of just one route around the city, with the only choice being whether to take it clockwise or anticlockwise.


On The Ferry, Going Home
by Kate Hendry

He drives me into the belly of the boat, crams us
between camper van, fuel tanker, sheep truck.
The car-deck’s dingy walls are riddled with pipes –
diesel, water, steam, waste. ‘Lock up your vehicle’,
we’re told, ‘head for the stairs.’ I follow him out.

On deck, sea reaches over railings. I’m caught
in waves of darkness, peaks of sickness.
Barrelled life-rafts won’t save me. They’re sealed up
like the malt whisky he refused to let me buy for him.
The unexpected end of our holiday.

I retreat to red leatherette seats. Sweaty, cold.
Canteen sugary tea, a Tunnocks caramel wafer.
He reads tourist leaflets, pretends we’re not at sea.
The mainland comes into view. In the mini-shop
We stock up on souvenirs for our children.

Two tartan teddies, a post card each –
Scottish island with white-cottaged harbour ­–
(too late to send). When I read the back
I see it’s not the place we’ve left but somewhere
far away, on a different route entirely.


The Clockwork Orange
by Stewart Conn

Our most frequented stretch: Hillhead to Buchanan Street
or burrowing under the Clyde, after the Citz, the tunnel
walls streaming, rats scuttling, stations knee-deep in litter,
each arrival announced by a rumble and gust of sour air.
Yet the Clockwork Orange secure in our affections: we’d
vouch visitors a treat on our state-of-the-art Subway Circle

then note their shock (though its cable days long gone)
at the ill-lit entrance, toy-town rolling-stock; debouching
from shoogly carriages, through clattering gates
on to a narrow platform;  hauling cases up the steps,
not an escalator in sight – unsure whether to believe
they could buy the unique aroma, bottled, as a souvenir.

Hard, given my absence, to credit today’s streamlined
version, carmine-and-cream livery, contoured sliding
doors. For all its elegance and speed, la nostalgie de la boue
prevails: as though on archival film, two fur-coated ladies
emerge, turn left, and a bauchle in a green uniform bawls:
Hey missis, for tae get oot that wey youse’ll need a pick and shovel.



Kate Hendry is a writer, tutor and editor, living in Edinburgh. user_199172_1431518510 She has taught English and creative writing for the Open University and Edinburgh Napier University. She runs the Nothing But the Poem reading groups at the Scottish Poetry Library. Her work has been published in many magazines and anthologies, including Agenda, The North, Northwords Now and The Rialto. Her first collection will be publish by Happenstance Press in 2016.

Stewart Conn’s publications include In the Kibble Palace, The Breakfast Room (2011 Scottish Poetry Book of the Year), The Touch of Time (all Bloodaxe), and Against the Light (Mariscat). An exile from the west, he has for many years lived in Edinburgh whose inaugural Makar he was from 2002-05.



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