Bring home the bacon

4th November 2005 at 00:00
On the first day of the October holiday, I found myself back at the place where I received inspiration for my most famous poem. I'm talking, of course, about the "Bacon Roll" song.

What do you mean you've never heard of it? I'm sure I have mentioned my contribution to King o the Midden, an anthology of poems for children in Scots.

It was in Glencoe, in the mid-1990s, that the line "Had masel a honkin, mingin, bowfin, hingin bacon roll" first came to me. It was inspired by an elegant second-year pupil, one of a party some colleagues and I had taken camping. Visually she kept up appearances, at one point scanning an open field and asking if there was anywhere she could plug in a hairdryer. It was when she opened her mouth that the air of grace was shattered, especially when her fellow campers' attempts at cooking had been less than successful.

Glencoe inspires far nobler feelings in me than are suggested by the "Bacon Roll" lines, but I have never attempted to put them into verse. I love the feeling that human beings are there on sufferance. Disrespect the weather or the terrain and you will find yourself in serious trouble.

I love the way that you almost hope for rain when you drive past the Buchaille, because it looks better that way. I love the fact that the Spar shop in the village has no girlie magazines on the top shelf but has three titles devoted to Land Rovers instead.

The October break also featured a family trip to the open-air museum at Beamish, between Newcastle and Durham. I got to ride on a tram. There was a village school, set up as it had been in 1913. I felt that it had far more in common, both in terms of layout and methodology, with my own primary school of the sixties than my primary school of the sixties had with the primaries I go into in my current job.

A tawse hung from a nail on the wall. Visiting children sat in rows, slates in hand. A not unkind matriarch stood at the front of the class and did tables with them. On reflection, perhaps my generation was at the forefront of an educational revolution. In primary 1 and primary 2, we sat in groups and sometimes got to use paper.

Back to Glencoe. The purpose of the trip was for an old pal who is now resident in Australia and me to revisit hill walking haunts. We hiked up into the Lost Valley, taking the wrong path at one point just for nostalgia's sake. Changes to the landscape from our last foray three decades before were minimal. Some things don't need to change.

Gregor Steele also got to see the Wallace and Gromit film while on holiday.

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