Sukayaking Western Django: Brian Wilson Rides Into Town

Edinbane Hall, Tuesday, February 26, 7:30 p.m.

BrianWilson HIS PhotoThe legendary lone kayaker drifts along the coastline for a final, explosive showdown with the Reading Room this Tuesday evening, February 26. When asked for a quote about his reputation for having the best doggone draw in the West(ern isles), he responded, “It’s gotten pretty gritty. I’ve started to hear the word ‘draw’ in my sleep…but man, I got vision and the rest of the world wears bifocals.”

As I watched a video of soprano Renée Fleming’s stunning performance of Belini’s “Casta Diva”, there was something familiar in her portrayal of Norma. I had just heard a 2008 podcast of TV journalist Simon Willis interviewing Brian Wilson about his daring sea kayaking. The soprano’s heroine reflected a tone that was also contained in Wilson’s voice – that of a secret smile.

BRIANbLAZING2008Back in 1995, Blazing Paddles: A Scottish Coastal Odyssey, was the new product of a solitary 1985 adventure Brian Wilson had in his tiny kayak. His 1800-mile feat challenged more than his physical endurance. Navigation around the intimidating sea passages, cliffs and treacherous shores must have been intellectual manna for this philosopher.

Brian once said that in his opinion, circumnavigation is a pretty boring thing to do and that coastlines are the whole thing: Landing, cooking and sleeping on them and wondering about who else did these things, in a time when it was their way of life. They used similar boats in a similar way. His daredevil kayaking appears to be balanced by a lust for knowing the land and the lore.

In 1990, before Blazing Paddles was serialized by BBC’s Book at Bedtime and rescued offBrianWilson sports shelves to become a best seller in the travel section, Brian completed his solo 1200-mile voyage around the coast of Ireland, which later metamorphosed into Dances with Waves – Around Ireland by Kayak. Picture his little kayak “lashed by the tail-wind of Hurricane Gusta, bombarded by the incontinent gannets of the Skelligs and almost run down by a ghost galleon off Mizen Head”. Again, his tales are tall, and do we dare ask him if they are all true or did the faeries tickle his impish side?

Another Scottish adventurer, renowned writer and mountaineer Cameron McNeish, recognized a fellow risk- taker in a review of Dances with Waves: “This is the story of a great journey taken by a larger-than-life individual who is not happy unless pushing out the boundaries of his own experience.”

My apologies to Brian Wilson, whom I told I couldn’t obtain Blazing Paddles on Kindle. It is indeed available on Amazon’s UK site. A 4th edition in paperback will be published in May 2019 (Birlinn Books) but an old edition may be bought directly from him by post (email Brian at Dances with Waves can be found in the library or online.

Expect to be taken on a journey through folklore, history and environmental issues, including wildlife disturbance on the seas. Brian has worked with many of the major Scottish conservation and environmental organisations. He is now a freelance environmental contractor and trainer, specializing in traditional stonework and thatching.

The Reading Room is excited to be bringing Brian Wilson to Edinbane Community Hall and welcomes everyone to join us at 7:30 p.m. Refreshments will be served. Our Good Reads corner will be available for perusal. Admission is £5 and members are free. Please enquire about our reasonable memberships.

For anyone who relishes something to eat before the reading, some members of the committee like to catch dinner at the Edinbane Inn. Please feel free to join us around 6 p.m.

For information on this or other issues, please contact us at or on Facebook: Reading Room – Skye.

This event is partly sponsored by the Scottish Book Trust.

Future events:

26 March: Simon Clayton will host our first Book Club Evening at Edinbane Hall, for discussion on his second novel, “A Place by the Sea”. There will be some copies available at our Brian Wilson event and the novel is also available on Amazon Kindle.

30 April: Ian Williams, “Great Stories Written Badly” and AGM.

(Thanks to Blazing Saddles’ Jim the Waco Kid and Butch Cassidy, for sins untold.)

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About Anjali Suzanne Angel

Born in Southern California in 1948, Angel lived a memorable early adult life among the old-time Hollywood set. She is known for her performance art and her vocal talent. A gig as journalist with the Idaho World News motivated Angel to resume her creative writing. Her love of the history of the British Isles led to her somewhat wacky travel memoirs. A self-professed Scot, calling herself MacAngel, she stays in the Isle of Skye whenever possible. She is an American ex-pat and Canadian; for years, she has lived as a nomad in NE Europe. MacAngel is currently working on a novel and poetry projects.