On the 11th June 2014 I received a message from Alexander McCall Smith: “Your films are very beautiful”. One of these films was on the Great Tapestry of Scotland:
I subsequently made this film about visiting the tapestry in Stirling castle with my family:
Alexander McCall Smith kindly invited me to meet with him and wrote this in my grandfather’s old invoice book for his orchard:
McCall Smith’s laughter is infectiously healthy! I met Augustus Basil. This was a day that I will not forget.
The following sentence comes from ‘Chance Developments’ by Alexander McCall Smith (from the signed copy that he kindly gave me):
[‘The future lies in the past’ might be one way of considering my films]
How silly it may be, but I sometimes imagine myself as the Antiquary and often stamp this (in water soluble ink) on places from the “past” that I have visited today:
I was born in Edinburgh in 1967. After studying Medicine in Aberdeen I studied Landscape Architecture with the University of Edinburgh gaining distinction in every subject and the Scottish Chapter prize.
Alexander McCall Smith describes Edinburgh in terms of the light. The very light that was appreciated by James Clerk Maxwell:
“This is a city of shifting light, of changing skies, of sudden vistas. A city so beautiful it breaks the heart again and again.”
Alexander McCall Smith has brought light to so many (quotes from Chance Developments):
Alexander McCall Smith has a most wonderful PA. Thank you Lesley for understanding my wide-eyed self. Edinburgh’s shifting light, changing skies and sudden vistas.
I am looking forward to reading Alexander McCall Smith’s latest book in the No 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series: The House of Unexpected Sisters.
The Scotland on Sunday reviewer, Kirsty McLuckie, gave this wonderful description:
“it effortlessly weaves strands of seemingly disparate narratives into a coherent whole.”
The reviewer also picks up on the tempo:
I recently read the novel ‘How to stop time’ by Matt Haig and in a brief passage of this he talked about an ancient tree that had outlived any sentient being:
For the last two years, in my greenhouse, a cutting of the Fortingall Yew has been growing. The Fortingall Yew is estimated to be between 2000 and 3000 years old.
I took six cuttings and potted them up but only one has survived. I have potted it up so that I can give it to Alexander McCall Smith in thanks for the kindness and support that he has given to me as an artist.
On the day that I retired from the NHS, after more than 25 years as a doctor, our postwoman delivered me a present. It was from Alexander McCall Smith and included a copy of one of his recent books: Pianos and Flowers.
Pianos and Flowers is a wonderful collection of short stories of the romantic kind. Alexander McCall Smith imagined each story beginning with his careful observation of a still photograph. I recall when I first met Alexander McCall Smith, he invited me through to his study and asked me to choose a photograph: he then went on to create a story based on that image: told just to me there and then. It was a tonic of the best kind.
The stories in Piano and Flowers will also do you good. Few writers have Alexander McCall Smith’s ability to convey the feel and beauty of humanity.
What follows are a few passages from Pianos and Flowers. This is not a review. I do not really do those. However as a maverick artist I like to present a little of what mattered to me – hoping that this ‘personal take’ – begins to share the wonder of the writer’s imagination. As ever, I use words in images and images in words in what I put together. This is a way of presenting that I learned in Little Sparta. I hope that you will forgive the Artist if you find the unsaids and unknowns between each image interrupting. Not all can be easily explained.
However, stories told by a true storyteller can mean more to us than perhaps we are able to say! Thank you Alexander McCall Smith.
It has been recalled, perhaps not entirely correctly, that Cleopatra’s Needle was destined for Bridge of Allan! However it did not make it beyond the banks of the Thames.