LAST week ah hud a couple o events in ma diary at aither side o Scotland; yin at Wigtown Buik Toun, an yin in Embra. Baith o the events wir pairt o the Book Week Scotland ongauns an nae dout a wheen o ye’se wid hae attendit seemilar events aa ower Scotland.

The waither wis gey reuch fir traivellin; snell, cranreuch condeetions; the Crawfordjohn road icy an treacherous! It’s aye-an-oan sic a schlep tae get tae Embra frae New Cumnock! But ah sodgert oan an goat tae the metropolis in plenty o time fir the gig, at the Fruitmarket Gallery in Market Street, Embra.

Ah’d bin invitit tae tak pairt in a gleg mix o readins an discussions that hud bin organised bi the gallery’s forward thinkin enterprise manager Iain Morrison. Ane o life’s guid guys! The event wis juxtaposed alongside the current byordnar exhibeetion installed at the gallery bi the Glesga-based artist Jacqueline Donnachie. Jacqueline’s wark is informed bi her interest wi issues relatin tae social justice, access tae services (the likes o legal support an benefits) an disability. Her braw installation daels wi challengin aspects o wir society an is modren art at its cuttin edge. As weel as Jacqueline’s exhibeetion an ma ain readins, they alsae hud twa poets ower oan an exchange veesit frae Dublin; Christodoulos Makris an Julie Morrissy. Seein as it wis Sanct Andra’s Day ah decidit tae read ma satirical standard habbie poem that wis prentit in The National that verra day! An ah’m canty tae report it went doun geyan weel wi the audience. Ah alsae goat tae speik anent ma NHS campaignin, an a bit aboot ma experiences as a whistleblower in the NHS. This alsae struck a chord wi an audience wha wir weel tuned in tae sic stories an experiences o social injustice. O brave new warld that hus sic people in’t!!

In the interval we hud some braw entertainment frae ane o the support group Upward Mobility’s bands, made up o young fowk wha hae lairnin disabeelities. Their leader/conductor wis really great, an hud aa the audience clappin alang wi the music! Christodopoulos an Julie’s poetry alsae dealt wi the themes an memes o the nicht an tackled some gey daurk subjects that ye see oan the news ilk day the nou; dowie stories o reuch treatment o immigrants an intolerance o sic fowk – an the nerrae-mindit attitudes o blinkert bigots an racists! Christodopoulos made us aa think wi his poetry, that didnae pu its punches! Julie alsae taen oan some challengin subjects; the doun-trodden lives o weemin in Ireland bi the kirk an state in the daurk days afore feminism an gender equality. Some o her poems listin the myriad terms in law an Irish legislation that defined weemin as saicent cless ceetizens. Serious poetry fir serious minds! Aa in aa it wis a graund nicht o culture, art, poetry an music! It lichtent ma hairt afore the lang daurk drive ower the heichs an howes back tae Ayrshire.

Neist day the waither hudnae let up ava an ah hud anither lang drive in prospect tae the ither side o Scotland; this time tae wir national buik toun at Wigtown. Agane, ah’d bin invitit doun tae this as pairt o Book Week Scotland. Zoë Bestel, wha’s the kindae co-ordinator fir the young anes adjunct o WTF (Wigtown: The Festival) hud the remit tae set up an event fir young fowk in the toun. She hud ettled oan a discussion panel tae talk aboot the issues an challenges facin young fowk in oor society, wi a special luik at nutrition an mental health. The Scottish Book Trust’s theme fir this year is Nourishment; sae ah guess wi wir conseiderin manna fir the body an the mind!? Zoë Bestel is alsae a verra accomplished nu-folk singer/sangwriter an musician. Ye can check oot her byordnar musical talent here – an it’s weel warth a listen!

Zoë jyned me oan the panel, an makkin up the third o oor triptych o speikers wis Zoë’s mither, Heather Bestel. Heather is a weel-kent life coach an psychotherapist wha helps support fowk wi personal issues. She dis a loat o wark in schuils tae wi verra young kids, teachin thaim the rudiments o relaxation, mindfulness an meditation.

As we aa ken, teenagers in Scotland are faced wi a wheen o psychological challenges. It wid seem that the pressures o modren life are leadin tae mair an mair mental health problems fir oor young anes. Ae schuil o thocht pits some o this doun tae young anes bein “ower-protectit” frae the slings an arras o life, sae that they arenae prepared tae dael wi some o the pressures that previous generations jist tuik in their stride!? (Discuss!?).

A life spent oan yer mobile phone an social media can lea weans prone tae cyber-bullying, else haein tae measuir up tae the impossible eemages oan billboards an adverteesements that say they hae tae be beautiful, or thinner. Nae wunner we hae sic muckle rises in the incidences o body positivity or eatin disorder problems!? Problems that gin they arenae tackled an dealt wi can escalate tae full-blawn serious psychotic disorders.

We hud a lively twa hours o talk an discussion that tackled these kindae issues heid-oan. Young anes frae the WTF youth fringe wir in attendance; Abby, Milly an Kirsty, an they aa made positive an thocht provokin contributions tae the conversation an ongauns. Mony aefauld coping mechanisms, therapies, advice an ideas wir explored that wir firmly aimed at helpin oor young fowk tae dael wi an cope wi some o these aa too familiar threits tae leevin a healthy life.

It is verra much tae a wee toun lik Wigtown’s credit that they mak sic uisefu events as this available tae the youngsters o their community. It’s a place that punches way abune its weicht when it comes tae pro-active social/community acteevities.

Twa diverse events oan aither side o Scotland – set up an rin bi organisations an carin fowk wi Scotland’s best interests at hairt. The embers o a future, better kintra are lowin bricht!