Dementia and Memory – Winning Entry

We’re delighted to let you know that the winner of the September flash prize on the theme of ‘dementia and memory’ is 79-year-old Donald Adamson. Donald is originally from Scotland and is now based in Finland. His entry, ‘Scratching To Be Let In’, was picked by the staff team as their favourite and he wins a copy of Dr Lucy Pollock’s The Book About Getting Older, kindly donated by Penguin.

About Donald

Donald Adamson is from Dumfries. He was educated at Dumfries Academy and Edinburgh University. He worked as a teacher of English in France, Finland, Iran and Kuwait, then spent several years working for Longman Publishing. In 1996 he returned to Finland to work as a lecturer in Finnish universities. He currently lives in Tampere, Finland, where he still occupies himself as a poet, editor and translator. He is married to Riika, and has two grandchildren, Tess and Magnus.

Donald has translated Finnish poems for How to address the fog: Finnish poems 1978–2002 (Carcanet/Scottish Poetry Library, 2005), and A Landscape Blossoms Within Me, translations of the Finnish poet Eeva Kilpi (Arc Publications, 2014). His collection All Coming Back was published by Roncadora Publications (2019) and a collection in Scots, Bield, was published by Tapsalteerie in 2021. His awards include first prize in the Herald Millennium Competition (Adjudicator Edwin Morgan), the 2019 Scottish Federation of Writers Competition, and the Sangschaw 2022 Scots Translation Competition.Donald Adamson’s childhood home looked towards Criffel, which rises almost directly from the Solway coast. A poem arising from that background was recently published in The Earth Is Our Home (ed. Gerry Loose, PlaySpace Publications, 2022).

Scratching To Be Let In

I meet her on the bus, my neighbour, and we chat, and the conversation turns to holidays, and to Spain.
     I say, ‘I have a nephew there. They live in …’ My voice falters, ‘that city where the bulls run. Ach, what’s it called?’
     ‘I know exactly where you mean,’ she says. ‘Is it Toledo?’
     ‘No,’ I say, tapping my head. ‘Is this dementia? God, I know the name well enough.’
     ‘Happens to me all the time,’ she says.
     ‘Me too,’ I say. ‘It’ll come back to me. But it bothers me this forgetting of names.’
     ‘I’ve been like that for years,’ she says. ‘I’ve stopped worrying about it. But this place you’re talking about. Is that where Hemingway lived?’
     ‘YES,’ I say. ‘And there’s a plaque on his house. I’ve seen it.’
     She says, ‘And it’s near that city where they have the Guggenheim Museum.’
     ‘Bilbao,’ I say. She’s right, but that’s not the place I’m thinking of.
     All through the journey I have a sense of syllables waiting like a shadow, formed into some vague, indeterminate rough-haired breed, a dog scratching to be let in.
     We get off the bus. And as I turn my door key the name comes to my mind, as free as a bird that has never known captivity. Of course! That’s it!
     And I think, I must tell my neighbour next time I see her. Tell her … tell … what’s her name?
     It’ll come back to me.

Thank you to everyone who entered our September flash competition, they were all exceedingly inspiring. We aren’t running an October flash competition, instead the focus is on the Annual Poetry Competition which you can find details for below!

Annual Poetry Competition

Theme: ‘The Environment’
Deadline: 31st October 2022 – Entries now closed

5 thoughts on “Dementia and Memory – Winning Entry”

  1. Donald, this is a tender, beautiful piece. Sense of syllables…….scratching to be let in. A perfect description of being lost. Congratulations, well deserved.

    1. Thank you, Morag. It was fun to write. And thanks to my neighbour, Annukka, whose conversation on the bus provided the inspiration.

  2. Another very insiteful poem Donald. I admire your clever use of words. So many of us – sadly- heading down that frustrating path. Regards to you and yours

  3. Scratching to be let in… a great story title. This is wonderful dialogue and it is really enjoyable to read. There’s no doubt about it, forgetting is a daft thing.
    It’s also as common as a moose in a hoose. Thank you! Wish I could read Finnish…!


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