Illustrated by Hugh Bryden
Roncadora Press, 2008  £10.00

Rain. That is what has stayed with me after reading Postcards from the Hedge. In ‘Lochinver’:

Black swallows black
and the storm howls like a dog.

Throughout the poems “Leaves loll like sluices/ and rain torrents stone.” Even during a romantic break, “We are 90% water 10% metaphor,/ our meeting is dissolved.”

Accompanying the poems, sketch after beautiful black-and-white sketch shows rain lashing down. Two of the few dry ones show Hugh McMillan’s feet (“ No fancy products wasted on their upkeep”) and the man on the train who had been drinking and then ate the poem ‘Dear Jane’:

When he ate

the poem he seemed calm for a bit,
but then was violently sick.

Then again, that could be rain I see through the train window.

The drawings seem simple at first but have a depth that draws the eye in. The poems are the same, they draw the reader through the rain and into something very personal, intimate even … or drunken … or just downright funny.

Postcards from the Hedge not only comes with an A3 fold-out map showing the route this pamphlet takes but with a generous helping of humour. For example, ‘Three Letters to McMhaolain Mor from a tenant, 1745-46’ is packed with excuses such as:

I am sorry to have missed you at Culloden
but I had an apex ticket and had to return
or pay a heavy supplement.

This is a wonderful combination of drawings and poetry. You really have to hold it in your hand, map spread out on your lap, to appreciate how good it is. However, the final comment must undoubtedly go to the person from Go Scotland, who said:

“I fear I cannot recommend this book for our outlets. Though you have a way with words, and though the route you take is undeniably scenic, the incidents of chaos, recklessness and drunken lunacy, accompanied as they always are by a light to steady drizzle, do not, I feel, represent Scotland in its most attractive light…”

Actually, it made me want to visit. I own a good set of waterproofs.

Sue Butler

Available from Hugh Bryden, 14 Corberry Ave, Dumfries DG2 7QQ>
Map with poems on the back in a postable tube (£5.00) also available.