Book Seven

The first of the travelling books. It started life as a spiral bound Strathmore sketchbook. I added a front cover of hard cardboard and pasted on a page taken from a mathematics text in Irish Gaelic. I worked on it through the winter of nineteen ninety-two. I had gone to live on the west coast of Ireland to write. The book opens with sunny, optimistic descriptions of Edinburgh in November.

November 21, 1992

Edinburgh again. The smell of coal and rain. Cars and diesel. Rain. Gey and a drizzle and then a stronger rain. Later, a rain that might be thinking of snow, branching out into larger drops, falling slowly, subject to a different sense of gravity; the drops from an eavestrough or awning falling slowly to sit in your hair with a trickle down your forehead.

Edinburgh has so much old stone. Stone that ages black, ages by turning the colour of the coal smudge that devours it, the oldest monuments black with a grit that hurts your eyes to look at.


It is rainy and damp. This is the kind of dampness that will fit into the bottom of your pocket and follow you for days. The kind of dampness that keeps oil paint from drying. Window frames painted in the nineteen-twenties are still wet, the paint catching at the ridges of your fingerprint. The kind of weather in which your hair goes mouldy and your fingernails curl into your palms. Fires give off only steam. Fruit begins to rot while still in the bud, before it can even grow.

It was weather like this when Jerico's uncle exposed his heart. He could be walking through that permanent dampness and think only of her. But always he saw her dully, as if through a heavy mist or under miles of water. Edinburgh, he thinks, reeks of stone, of black hearts kept in the cellar, of metal turned black with coal dust. This is your city, where nothing glows brighter than the headlights in the rain. Stone and clocks. A city where nothing is choreographed but the clouds and the drizzle.


Most of the rest was completed in a cottage in Connamara. I loved it there, despite the winter and the weather. This book contains a pop-up of donkeys made while staying at the donkey rescue service. There are also a number of pictures of Welsh countryside where I spent Christmas with a collection of New Zealanders. I wrote a lot of letters that winter. I lived for the arrival of the postman.

Here is a list of books.

Tim McLaughlin

Photographer and writer based in Vancouver, Canada