In June DGWGO Posted an article all about how local poet Stuart Paterson early 2014 was awarded a Robert Louis Stevenson Fellowship by the Scottish Book Trust, and how in November he was off to France for a month, to write in the old hotel where Stevenson met his wife and where the Glasgow Boys spent many a summer painting and revelling. Stuart has been in touch to let us know how it is all going , and below are his first two blogs that he has sent in ! Enjoy

1 a 1 a stu stu 014It all began late last year when another poet told me about the Fellowship. I`d spent the previous year on an extremely voluntary sabbatical, which involved moving back to Galloway after 14 years working in Manchester, 13 of them in children/families outreach and residential care. But it wasn`t all Grimsville. I met the love of my life and got to see City win the league. I then spent 10 months roaming the hideously beautiful hinterlands of Scotland, arm-wrestling woodsmen in remote island bothies, traditionally harvesting the gaga with the stolid men of Next, learning to knit in Gaelic, that sort of thing. And I still never got to St. Kilda. What is it with that place? No wonder nobody lives there. 

And, of course, the money stopped and so did all of that. I eventually procured seasonal employment, in early 2014, working for the council as a public facilities maintenance official responsible for the upkeep of said facilities just down the road at the beach car park. I`d submitted a large portfolio of poetry written, mainly, in the previous year to the Scottish Book Trust, to be considered for a Robert Louis Stevenson Fellowship, in December 2012. As luck would have it, on the same day I learned I was to be the local bog cleaner for the season, I received a phone call from a Mrs. Q**** D`******, RLS Fellowship heid bummer and all-round nice person to boot. I was informed, to my good, great astonishment, that I was one of four writers to be awarded a month-long stay in a picturesque French village, Grez-sur-Loing, Hotel Chevillon, `Chocolat` with knobs on. Frederich Delius lived & composed next door. August Strindberg wrote Àmong French Peasants` here. Carl Larsson bided here & his house in the garden is a marvellous artist`s retreat & studio. The Glasgow Boys caroused and painted here – there`s a great painting of the old bridge at the bottom of the garden (see attached) by John Lavery. You could’ve knocked me down with une plume, I were that chuffed. And I really, really was.

I worked the season mucking out les latrines at Sandyhills, couple of hours each day, twice that in high season. It was a good day when I didn’t find budgie smugglers stuffed behind a toilet pipe or dead crabs in a sink, and you`d never think there was actually that much sand on the planet. And the spiders……. But it was a job, it was five minutes walk away, it paid the bills and, c`mon, it`s the Costa del Solway. And I had November to look forward to, in France, at that place much visited by Robert Louis Stevenson – Louis to his pals, RLS from here on in – and where he first met his future wife and lifelong partner, the American Fanny Osborne. Things could`ve been a lot worse, although I heard the bar takings in Oban and Mallaig were disappointingly low that summer.

1 a 1 a stu ChevAnd now, here I am. I love it. The building itself is all atmosphere  And I`ve met and made pals with RLS himself. He`s great and has given me Normandy Calvados and buys me beers which he doesn`t pay for. He also told me he`d have voted Aye in the Referendum. Unfortunately he speaks no English, works in the woods and is called Gilles. But it`s definitely RLS. The hooded eyelids, the sad tache, the chic goatee, the consumptive cough, it`s him alright, I`m not fooled. He is, for all intents and purposes, delighted to be my personal RLS for the duration of my stay.1 a 1 a stu RLS road

I`ve found some unexpectedly good friendships. I have already told the local (disaffected) youth to keep the noise down, effectively, and without confrontation. And I have made my first ever, EVER omelette. And what about the poems? They are all around me like tiny spores, just waiting to burst and spread their spore-adic poemy goodness like confetti at a wedding. And it`s that kind of place, and it`s that kind of vibe – the present day but in black and white, history with progress, the past like so much ivy clinging fiercely to a cliff face.



More on all this next time. 164 years ago last Thursday, in Edinburgh, RLS entered the world and we`re all the better for it in the long run. On Thursday night, I took RLS for a pint in the wee bar across the road. 1 a 1 a stu TreesThe framed photo of him which I brought with me, late 1870s, taken near here, got to meet its reincarnation, in the pub, and all of the Hotel Chevillon residents joined me in raising a glass to our best and most trusted traveller himself. And I bet Gilles had a strange urge to buy a donkey.


On November 13th, 1850, one Robert Lewis Balfour Stevenson was born into the noted Stevenson family, at 8 Howard Street, Edinburgh. Engineering & design was very much the Stevenson game & it`s easy to imagine young Smout (or `Runt`as he was known at a young age due to his lack of size) being lost to the more practical professions, lighthouse engineering or the law. Thankfully, for us, his was a restless & curious mind, a travelling soul who would one day fetch up here where I am now, in Grez-sur-Loing, already about his travelling business, ready to meet future wife Fanny Osborne with whom he`d embark on a life-long journey which would see him settle (& eventually die) on Samoa in the south Pacific.

More about my own experiences here at another time. On Thursday night, I took a framed RLS print for a pint, on his birthday, me & 2 Finnish artists & an American fossil fern expert. It`s what he would`ve wanted. How unfortunate, that my carefully researched plans into acquiring & bringing a life-size RLS cut-out should eventually come to nought (they couldn`t make a fold-up version alas) – I`d rather have liked him standing next to me in the local bar while I slopped red wine all over him in the midst of ranting about the Referendum result. I think it`s enough that I`M here, where he was & where he wanted to be back then, & that a glass or two was raised to a framed print of him looking extremely Stevensonesque at Barbizon in the 1870s. It was tough going, mind – I`d never got a framed picture drunk before.

Grez-sur-Loing 13-11-2014

A strange thing, you`d think, taking a framed print
For an evening of banter & drink
But here, where plans were made, travels mapped,
Love found loitering in late Spring shade
Two centuries back, we will walk out on your birthday,
Man & print, to Le Bar Relais.

In mid-November the weather seems
To be trying hard to remember you,
Day upon day of sun & that sort of hypnotic light
Which tempts dragonflies to lazy flight,
Mesmerises the world into thinking
We´re a lifetime of seasons from winter.

Last week, after hours of floundering through
Nearby woods, I found a path home &
Rather magically, a tiled sign announcing
Chemin Robert Louis Stevenson
Complete with portrait –your body trees,
Your face made of futures, en route to Grez.

You`d come this way in 1876
From Barbizon, walked miles through forest
And met your future wife at Hotel Chevillon.
I walked you home, updated you on Scotland,
The Referendum, heard your resigned sigh,
Was glad to know that you`d have voted Aye.

Tonight, Louis, we`ll show them who`s boss,
Slap imaginary shoulders, put right the world
To when it was, down Normandy Calvados
And when midnight comes walk to the old bridge,
Drink the river, unpaint the moon,
Meet each other this beautiful side of never.

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