Whisky, uisge beatha , water of life

“After Auchentoshan”

Chug-a-chug-a, chug-a-chug-a

rattling into the hills

on a small train

green grey brown flash past,

bridges and sheep flicker

in the corners of your eyes.

It’s been a day of big oak barrels, gleaming copper,

cool underground smells, heady fumes.

A bottle of dark gold

whisky uisge beatha water of life

nestles like a curled-up story in your bag,

waiting for dark after-supper time

when hot-coal colours flicker in the fireplace,

familiar well-loved voices warm the air,

talk is long and slow,

hummed notes distill

into bright rich song.

~ Marta Ziemelis. Written in Glasgow and Dubai, copyright August 2013.

Auchentoshan is the name of a whisky distillery near Glasgow, which I toured on my recent visit to Scotland (more about the trip in this post). Part of my reason for going to the distillery was research for a translation project I’m currently working on, and the other part was sheer curiosity. Definitely an intense place – I think I’m beginning to understand why whisky has the potential to fascinate people so much. Slàinte!


Wandering to Tea


Raw silk cotton half-dark,

white stucco, whitewashed brick embrace,

smells of incense and spice.

Music in the corners of your mind

Turkish lamps, draping the low ceiling

with gold-light lacework.

Chessboard crazy-mosaic tables in different shades of wood

Low cushions in soft bright colours

Corners that feel like home,

an arm about your shoulders.

A hundred different types of tea,

all flowing – flowing endlessly

Warm round pot on the sticky tabletop,

a hot comfortable cup in your hands.

Shelter, discovery, smoke-scented gentle love – all at once.

~ Marta Ziemelis. Written in Glasgow and Dubai, copyright August 2013.

I recently took a trip to Glasgow, Scotland, to visit a close friend. During the week I spent there I came to some realisations about myself, and made a number of discoveries. One of these discoveries – with which the seasoned and maybe also the new travellers among my readers will be familiar – was that if you are shown around or told about a newly-visited place by someone who lives there, you will stumble across wonderful spots you might not have discovered on your own. That’s how I found myself in the Glasgow tea-house Tchai-Ovna, which inspired this piece. If you are ever in Glasgow and fancy a good cup of tea, I suggest tracking it down.