>> Arthur’s Seat
The Inaccessible Pinnacle <<
From a walk in the park to a serious climb, we reach new heights with this week’s themes. One of numerous locations named for the legendary British chieftain, Arthur’s Seat dominates the capital city and is visible from miles around. Rising to 250m it lies at the centre of the Queen’s Park, adjacent to Holyrood. A regular walk for generations of citizens, its summit provides panoramic views of the city, the Pentland Hills, the Firth of Forth and the shores of Fife beyond. An enormously more challenging ascent, the Inaccessible Pinnacle is the second highest of the Cuillins on Skye, forming the summit of Sgurr Dearg at 986m. Generally referred to by mountaineers as ‘the In Pin’, it forms a towering fin of rock measuring 50m along its longest edge. Notorious as the most difficult to climb of all the Munros (Scottish mountains over 3000ft) it is the only one requiring a rock-climb and an abseil, together with suitable experience. But whether strolling or scaling, the sense of achievement at either ascent is the point and, while the views may hugely differ, each is a reward in its own right.
Taking My Mother To Higher Ground
by Aiko Greig
It is not hard to climb, our sleeping lion, its paths
worn and tourist-trodden. I tell her it will take us
half an hour and we will picnic at its summit.
Our lives had been sedentary for so long
before I left her for Scotland that she cannot
fathom a mountain, a thing to climb.
But I want her to see my chosen hometown
in all its glory: castle to crag, palace to firth.
I want her to feel the victory of reaching the peak.
Our ascent is slow with many stops to rest.
She touches the ruined walls of St Anthony’s,
takes in the changing cloud-light; I kick away
the broken bottles. She questions my directions,
certain I am taking her somewhere she cannot go.
Volcanic rocks skirt our path, gorse, heather.
My rucksack grows heavier. I talk to fill the hollow
that signposts her tiredness, but do not mention
the tiny coffins found here, or my small anxiety
at her slow speed, now that she’s retired to a town
where waves rose so fast, those that couldn’t climb
to higher ground died. Instead, we reach the summit,
two hundred and fifty meters high; we share snacks,
cast our eyes as far as we can on a day with no haar.
She seems relieved, or is it pride? She survived.
The In Pin
by Jacqueline Thompson
You brand me Very Difficult, as if I’m here
to challenge men who fritter days in stuffy
office blocks, evenings in provincial sheds
Sundays crawling up the backs of gods.
You peruse my Munro kin like bridies
on a buffet tray, but I’m the tricky bugger.
I make you strain with ropes. I don’t flinch
at your pitons. Gobs gape at my drop,
arseholes pucker tight as drawstring hoods.
I can’t be Bagged like a tin of shortie
or a bottle of scotch. I’ve felt the shifting
of tectonic plates, cracked and shuddered
through glacial drift. I’ve watched clans clash
like stags, flags indecipherable with blood.
Rain will rust your bolts, their fine red dust
tossed by the wind like ashes. You may fancy
your eroding steps superior to any other
Tommy Tourist’s, but watch your back.
I’m born of lava: my jutting jaw a blade’s edge,
my basalt skull treacherous when wet.
Born in California, Aiko Greig lives in Scotland where she completed an MSc in Creative Writing at the University of Edinburgh. Aiko won a Scottish Book Trust New Writers Award in 2015. Her poetry is published in The Edinburgh Review, Dactyl, and Ink Sweat & Tears, among others.
Jacqueline Thompson recently completed a Creative Writing PhD at The University of Edinburgh. Her publications include poems in The Scotsman, New Writing Scotland, Gutter, For A’ That (Dundee University Press), In On the Tide (Appletree Writers Press), Double Bill (Red Squirrel Press), From Arthur’s Seat (Egg Box Publishing) and Poetry Ireland Review.