Balloch Open Mic Newsletter November 2021

ann mclaren

Quote for November:

‘Keep your heart clear and transparent, and you will never be bound.’


Because of Covid concerns at the Balloch House Hotel the November Open Mic was moved to a zoom event, which was well attended.

The Open Mic started off with The Wish’ by Graham (Morgan). Powerful, beautiful written and delivered prose. Dora (Wright) once again demonstrated the serious side of her poetry. We experienced some technical difficulties during John (McMahon’s) reading but eventually we were able to enjoy John’s keen observation on life. Elizabeth (Carey) read a philosophical piece, written during the pandemic, giving all food for thought. George (Gibson’s) poems evoked scenes and, again, were very emotive. Christine (Robertson) read her very poignant poem about O.C.D. Mary Irvine read two flash fictions. Then it was time for the headliner… Examples of some of the above may soon be read on Balloch-Open-Mic blog.

Ann Maclaren

Ann (MacKinnon) spoke with Ann (our headliner) about the latter’s entries in the Arts’ Council Anthologies, which is published twice a year. We were all advised to submit to these anthologies. When asked about her ideas for writing she revealed that her writing is character based and that she ‘eavesdropped’ on people’s conversation – in restaurants, on ‘buses, over heard snippets, one-sided mobile conversations where the unheard part could be invented. All provided writing material and Ann is working on a series of pieces based on things overheard on ‘buses. She then went on to read a flash fiction which can be read in full on the above link. ‘The short story, ‘Pat the Pig’ was a sad story in some ways but one with which many would identify…

All in all a successful meeting, despite Covid and the internet gremlins.

Zoom Meeting A Week Later

A week later was the turn of the zoom for people who can’t attend a live session. There were eight readers, with an equal ‘split of prose and poetry. Harrison (Hickman) read from his new novel ‘Behind the Window’, which deals with the consequences of actions having long-lasting results. Catriona (Malan), a very accomplished poet, read a selection of her poetry drawing, in words, the differing scenes of nature. Elizabeth (Carey)’s short story, ‘Woodland Whisper’, told from the point of view of the mighty, two hundred year-old oak, reflected the symbiotic relationship of nature. It also made plain our responsibility to Nature. Dora (Wright) read an eclectic mix of poetry, the effects of Covid, the demise of real family meals (round a real table). ‘See Me’ was a touching reminder of human failings. Martin (Goldie) read a Covid related poem but it was his poem ‘West to Inverchaolain’ that had everyone spell-bound. Stewart (Rose) read a short story at which, although a serious subject – the possible transmission of Covid, the group couldn’t help laughing. In honour of November 5th Mary (Irvine) read her flash fiction ‘What if Guy Fawkes had succeeded…’ – See below. Steven (Hastings) took the opportunity to read a poem oy written for the Mental Health Arts festival which never happened! Guess why!! He then had the group laughing at one of his ‘Broons’ Poems. There seemed to be a reluctance to say ‘Goodnight’ so Stewart ‘performed’ a brilliant version of ‘Sweeny Todd’ – both funny and gruesome! Elizabeth regaled us with ‘The Power of Music’ which led to a short discussion. Catriona rounded off the evening with one of her poems from the booklet ‘Optimism’, produced by The Mackintosh Group.


Don’t complain about the rain;
see how it’s eased the blackbirds’ throats
till they raise their beaks and loose their own gentle shower of liquid notes

and listen to the hiss of drops
on a million leaves on every tree
that bring, to the city’s stony depths,
a hint of the sound of a distant sea

and tonight, where rain laid a mirror-tile
on the edge of the roadway’s ugly tar,
like something magic, the dark sheet caught
the now-light of an ancient star.

Catriona Malan

And news from one of our early headliners – Robin Lloyd-Jones

In his latest book, ‘Scottish Wilderness Connections: wandering and wondering among landscapes and seascapes’, Robin Lloyd-Jones takes us to the wondrous beauty and diversity of Scotland, to places most of us can only dream of visiting in reality. He draws from a wealth of lifetime experience and adventure. Through his ability to use language emotively, in prose, in different forms of poetry, he displays and conveys an acute awareness of the natural world, on both land sea. From ‘A Sense of Place, to ‘Magical Sea Caves and Minotaurs’ Lairs’ there is so much to praise but, if you love Scotland, you will enjoy all the pieces in it.
Please do not ignore the introduction. It is the author speaking to us all.

‘Scottish Wilderness Connections’ is available from or www.lom

Balloch Open Mic December at Balloch House Hotel

December 6th, Dumbarton Poet Stephen Watts, as well as ‘The Wanderlust Women (Donna Campbell, Lesley Benzie, Tracy Patrick and Linda Jaxson). Promises to be a good night…

December 13th Open Mic Zoom 7 p.m. A Christmas/Winter theme (not obligatory)

What if Guy Fawkes had succeeded…

The whole country was in turmoil. The King was dead. Prince Henry, heir to the throne was dead. Prince Charles had disappeared. The Princess Elizabeth was said to be in Catholic hands. Thousands had died during and following the devastating destruction of the House of Parliament.

Catholics had risen all over the country, murdering Protestants, regardless of gender or age. Many were fleeing to the ports, in an attempt to find a friendly ship to the safety of the Low Countries, hoping to escape the carnage. Catholic priests came out of hiding to preach the gospel of the true faith. Icons, statues and rituals were being returned to the Churches. Thanks were given, again in Latin, to God for helping his true followers to rid the country of the heretics.

The man who lit the fuse, fearing imminent discovery, had died in the premature explosion but not so premature it hadn’t achieved its aim. Now he was being proclaimed a martyr. It was only a matter of time before the Holy Father would be petitioned to declare him a saint.

Catesby was happy Fawkes had died. After all, Fawkes, a Catholic by conversion, was not really one of them. But he had been needed for his knowledge of explosives. His death also produced that by which the Faith became strengthened – a martyr to the cause.

In a house outside the chaos that was now London the plotters met to discuss the progress of their great enterprise. The Establishment was gone. The four-year old Prince Charles would never be found. That was confirmed. Princess Elizabeth was safe at Coombe, protected by heavily armed guards. She would be proclaimed Queen and instructed in the Catholic faith.

‘And until she comes of age, we shall rule as regents. There is, of course, the matter of her husband,’ Robert Catesby drank heavily from his goblet.
‘A Catholic, naturally.’
‘Naturally, Thomas.’
‘There is Philip of Spain. We could ask him to be King.’
‘Although I see an end to the war with Spain I am not in favour. We didn’t kill one foreign king to replace him with another.’
‘There are good Catholics of English Royal lineage, the
Percy family…’
‘Speaking of foreigners, Robin, what about the hangers-on who came with James, the ones not in the explosion?’
‘They shall be given time to leave – as they came, with nothing. Anyone who refuses will be killed.’
‘And what of Charles? He could be a rallying point for a restoration of Stuart rule.’
‘I am reliably informed, Kit, that he will pose no threat.’
‘You mean…’
‘I mean, Kit, there will be no pretender to rally to.’
‘But he’s only a child, Robin.’
‘And children grow up, John. I repeat, I have ensured he will never be a threat. Come. There is much to discuss…’

On a lonely windswept beach two men knelt on the damp sand before a young boy. They each kissed the bewildered boy’s hand. One of the men removed his own cloak and wrapped it round the boy who was received gently into the waiting long boat. The two men watched as the boy was hoisted aboard the waiting ketch. The anchor was slipped and the ship disappeared over the horizon.
he wind blew the words, ‘Go with God’ after the ship.

The men shook hands.
‘Now it begins.’
They mounted their horses and rode away…

Mary Irvine.




Balloch Open Mic 6th December, 2021
Ann McLaren at Balloch Open Mic 1 November, 2021

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