Some British birds by Edwyn Collins

I've just finished reading Falling and Laughing: The Restoration of Edwyn Collins by Grace Maxwell (his partner and manager). What an amazing book. I bought it a while ago and forgot about it until we were up north recently and visited Whaligoe Steps, near Wick. This is a set of 365 stone steps (one for every day of the year, although there are a few missing now) built into a steep cliff-face beside a natural harbour. They were built in the 19th century so that local fisherwomen could haul the creels of herring up from the harbour and take them on to market (another few miles walk) in Wick.

They're no longer used for that purpose, but they're a little piece of history and even though they're not signposted a steady stream of people comes to visit. When we were there we were greeted by Davie (or Davey?), the local man who helps to maintain the steps. He was a character, and a blether, and told us all about the famous people who have visited the steps over the years (including Billy Connolly and the Coast team, who both filmed there). He mentioned that Edwyn Collins is a regular visitor from his home in Helmsdale and had even written a song about them. So to cut a long story short (we were there for ages) he also mentioned that there was an exhibition of Edwyn's bird drawings at the Timespan arts centre in Helmsdale. We nipped in on the way back home from Orkney and it was lovely.

The book and exhibition both explain how important drawing was to Edwyn's recovery from two brain haemorrhages in 2005, and how important birds have been to him since from childhood. The exhibition has been updated to include some colour drawings, and shows how much his drawing has progressed as his recovery goes on. It's a heavy story at times but the determination of everyone involved is truly amazing. The book is a very funny, heartwarming read and I was sad when it ended. This is old news really but I'd avoided reading or watching too much about Edwyn Collins until now, as I thought it might be too harrowing (I'm not good with illness). Instead it was life-affirming and a real joy to read.

Its also great news that Edwyn has a new album in September!

An amazing and inspiring story

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