A new directory has just been published, containing nearly 3000 contacts for everything green throughout Scotland. Andrew Burnet met its editor/publishers, Brian Fleming and Alistair Paterson.
Where would you find reﬂexology in Kinross or organic produce in Castle Douglas? Or are you just another city slicker trying to green up your lifestyle a bit? Then look no further. The definitive guide has arrived, in the shape of Green Fax. About three years ago Brian Fleming, while working at Glasgow‘s Complementary Medicine Centre, decided to ‘bring out a little leaflet that would tell people what was available at the centre’. He enlisted the help ofwriter and ‘general free-lance person‘ Alistair Paterson. Together they established Green Crane Press, and it took off from there.
Published this week, Green Fax has 250 pages, and nearly 3000 entries covering 300 different towns and cities around Scotland and (in the thin ‘lnternational‘ section) England and the rest of the world. And it doesn’t stop there. Between distributing the book (somewhat stymied by Edinburgh District
Council‘s cleansing department, whose operatives reversed a truck into their car last week) Fleming and Paterson are already at work on Green Fax2, which promises to be even bigger.
Green Fax falls into four categories: Alternative and Complementary Medicine (the book contains a foreword by pioneering homeopractor Jan de Vries); Green Consumerism; Local and Global Politics; and Personal Development. The listings are arranged geographically, and while the largest sections cover Glasgow and Edinburgh, there are few corners of the country which receive no mention at all. A dozen of the Western Isles, for example. receive some coverage.
‘I suppose,‘ says Fleming, ‘our different backgrounds dictated what was included. It‘s very much a
subjective evaluation. There are some obvious ones like the environment. but other people probably wouldn‘t have taken in the yoga, the meditation. . .‘
‘What we want to emphasise.‘ continues Paterson, ‘is the holistic attitude towards green issues. “Green” is just a buzz-word that‘s in vogue -- it‘s become the word to describe everything of a holistic nature. Ifyou look at green politics. the concern is for the whole planet. for ecosystems. Similarly. when you look at health as concern for the whole person you include spiritual health. We‘re making a kind of statement for global conservation. but there‘s a parallel with personal conservation. And that‘s not just about eating the right foods. it‘s also about spiritual development.‘
The listings are accompanied here and there by diverse quotations from Swift. Thoreau and the Druids (‘Three signs ofcruelty: needlessly to frighten an animal. to be needlessly tearing trees and plants and to be insistent in asking favours‘). and introduced by the poet Kenneth White.
The book was researched over the course of a year. through personal contacts. trade directories. libraries. noticeboards. the files ofalternative businesses and organisations. and any other avenue which presented itself. ‘Everybody has a vested interest.‘ says Fleming. ‘in telling us what they do. because it‘s not costing them anything.‘
What you can‘t expect from Green Fax. however. is quality control. ‘We haven‘t made any value judgements.‘ says Fleming. ‘We decided not to go into qualifications. We‘re trying to give the breadth of the picture rather than the detail.
and we‘re not putting an editorial stamp on it and saying all these people are kosher.‘
‘I think you‘ll find. though.‘ continues Paterson, ‘that the vast majority of the medical practitioners listed there are bonafide. We avoided bad ones simply by not taking note of people who‘d simply written on a scrap of paper that they do something or other and stuck it on a noticeboard. People who‘ve gone to the trouble ofgetting cards printed professionally mean business.‘
It‘s hardly the most stringent selection process. but the importance of Green Fax lies more in its scope than in the achievement of perfection. Omissions and dodgy inclusions can be amended next time around.
Other plans for Green Fax 2 include essays on each of the four main topics. illustrations. maps and ‘a bit more on how to use the book‘. By then. the green movement will have progressed (‘the “green” bubble will burst.‘ Fleming believes, ‘but it will go on in a bigger way, called something else.‘) and the book‘s role may be more clearly deﬁned.
‘I suppose it‘s a green Yellow I’ages.‘ says Fleming. ‘1 can imagine people having it beside their telephone book. In a sense. this is a trade directory for Scottish greens.‘
Green Fax is published by Green (.‘rane Press. price £9. 95 . It is now available front most alternative and some mainstream bookshops. .S'uggestions. enquiries or submissions for inclusion in Green Fax 2 should be addressed to Brian Fleming and Alistair Paterson. Green (‘rane Press. 17 Queens Crescent. Glasgow G4 98L. 332 4924.
Michel Tremblay will be lamlliarto many as a playwright. ‘The Gold Sisters' received great acclaim when it was staged at the Tron in Glasgow last year. With eighteen plays, seven lilm scripts and two musical comedies to his name, it is surprising that he has had time to write eight novels too. ‘Making Room’ is the llrst to be published in Britain, but chronologically it comes alter the live novels in his series ‘Chroniques du Plateau Mont-Royal’.
Phenomenal success at home in Quebec and his growing reputation abroad have not lessened Tremblay's appetite tor work and tor things new. The switch between novels and plays, all written in Quebecois French, keeps him on his toes: ‘When you know about plays. it could get too boring, too easy. Why not have a go at something else and come back to plays alterwards? You do not get the immediate reaction with novels that you get with plays, and I do miss that. When you publish a , novel, even your lriends take a tew ' days belore they call you back to tell you what they think. It's like you're in
limbo. Novelists are used to that; I’m not.’
‘I write tor the theatre when l leel like addressing people. I write a novel when I leel like telling a story in the ear at my best friend. The tone at my novels is very much softer than my plays. My plays are very aggressive, and my novels are not.’
Moving between the two media has won Tremblay new admirers. ‘People who hated me when I was only a
playwright and hated my aggressive plays discovered me when my first novel came out twelve years ago. Older people, tor instance, discovered me. The public I didn‘t have with my plays, I won with my novels. Alter that, those people could take my plays.’
‘Making Room' is a classical love story. Two people meet; they tall in love, but there are complications. There is an age-difference: Mathieu is twenty-tour, Jean-Marc is thirty-nine. Mathieu has a small son. Jean-Marc is cynical and set in his ways. He has a tribe ol jovial, trank lesbian lriends whom Mathieu has to learn to accept.
Tremblay wanted to write a story with broad appeal. ‘Jean-Marc is cynical. I like characters who are cynical about what they did and what they are. He is sure at the beginning at the novel that he'll nevertall in love again. Mathieu is young. He brings a kind at hope and he brings his son Sebastien. Jean-Marc takes Sebastien as a poisoned gilt, but he turns out to be a beautilul gift. I wanted to look at the idea of a second lamily. Everybody is born with an imposed lamily. Then you have choices— to repeat the same lormula orto lind a new tamin
structure. I did not want the book to be a gay book written by a gay man lor gay people. I wanted tor once tor a book about homosexuality to be read by everybody and anybody. And I wanted to write a book in which anybody could identity with the characters. Alter page seventy-live, you target that it's about two men— it’s just about two people having problems.‘
Those problems are wide-ranging: Mathieu’s ex-wile‘s lover's family are riddled with bigotry and they try to prevent Sebastian's weekend visits to Jean-Marc and Mathieu. Meanwhile, those visits are dreaded by Jean-Marc, who linds himsell woken up by Sebastien at the crack at dawn to do doggy voices. Through it all, Sebastian's naive sweetness makes the complicated adult world simpler, as he boasts at school that he has three lathers, reducing his arch-enemy to tears at jealousy.
The book is a positive and gentle reappraisalol the lamily unit, in which children, in true Shakespearian tradition, are the small, grubby symbols ot hope lor the luture.
Making Room is published by Serpent’s Tail at £7.95.
b8 2—6 January — 8 February 1990