Thursday, December 24, 2009

Santa in Penpont

Happy Christmas everyone XXXXX

Tuesday, December 22, 2009


Some winter images.....will return on Christmas Eve with some thoughts. If Titus brings the rhubarb gin they may not be coherent but no change there.
Hey I've got colour! And I've coloured in the Christmas Tree poem.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Merry Christmas

a month of
waiting, and a week
staring out the window
the village tree is lit,
lights wound and wound
like toilet rolls for flooded noses.
Now Christmas is here the nights grow
long as laminate (a DIY Christmas joke there)
and though robin’s rocked, Santa’s
still to come, on his tractor first,
then later
with the
The wonder of Christmas?
The turning of their years,
Their stalking of time.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Mac The Rabbit

Heid down working on Mac2, sequel to my Best Seller 'Mac the Rabbit'. All proceeds to Mossburn Animal Centre. Buy a copy when it's out in May- all money to a good cause.

"Mac could hear the sound of someone or something on the road. It was not footsteps he heard exactly, but a shuffling movement. He squinted through the roots and could see a shape at the edge of his vision. It was passing through the wood at the other side of the path, not walking but moving, like in mid air. Mac felt the hairs on the back of his neck rise."

Mac The Rabbit

Monday, December 07, 2009

Monday, November 30, 2009

Happy St Andrew's Day

And a sharp sunny morning it is, too. Good wishes to you all, and here is the Illustrated Spider if you haven't already seen it.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Home Time

Looking at Mull in December

Night swallows a last
Silhouette, rigged with web
and running for home.
I sit in the rain:
my coat is two hundred miles away
but my mind's eye is rolling along the ocean
like a pinball,
lighting jackpot after jackpot after jackpot.

I should have been on my annual pilgrimage to Mull this weekend but circumstances have intervened. It’s a priority to make a visit there at least once a year so some thought will have to be given to a last minute breenge in December, against the elements. Mull is the spiritual home, you see, a place of power. Of course you have to ignore the fact that it’s full of folk from Kent, and that the main town Tobermory has airs and graces but there is such staggering beauty in the place, such scope for dreaming. We left my mother there, and there she still is, of course.

A Leaving

Branches cup their shreds of leaves,
there's a wall translated into moss
and two glens, one chipped into the stone
blue sky and sloping east to a dwam of light
like water, the other eery, unbroken
on the loch, though in the wind
the mountains shudder down to my shoes.

In such times it is difficult to see
the start and end of things, which is as well.
This morning I am leaving her on Mull,
as I have done before, only this time
she is scattering through the trees
and the soil and the somersaulting water,
so from now on, no matter the weather,
the island will speak in only one gentle voice.

It reeks of history, of course. The stone circles, the castles, Loch Scridain where the MacLeans anchored their war galleys.

But the main thing to me is the connections, and maybe because of them, strange things have happened to me here over the years. Landslides, love affairs, pitched battles….. and there are lost poems, of course.

Lost Poems

I have come back to Mull
for the poems that were lost here;
overboard from the Lochinvar,
buried in landslips,
left in telephone boxes,
torn to pieces and
somersaulting in the wind.
I am in sore need of them now,
for they were born of bright agonies
before they slipped away:
death, love, betrayal.
All these years
they have been dancing on the shore
perfect as little fawns.
I will set foot in Mull tonight
and they will be waiting for me
by the tree-line at twilight,
wearing the faces I had,
dark, fine and hard.

Near Fionnphort Mary of the Songs is buried. Mary MacDonald wrote "Leanabh an Aigh", the Christmas Hymn 'Child in a Manger', to an old Gaelic tune which she called 'Bunessan'. Poetry, then as now, brought no living so she made an income by making illicit whisky and smuggling it to Rathlin Island off the coast of Ireland.
We were going to the Keel Row in Fionnphort, maybe to do a surprise poetry reading, the type that worked so well last year at the Oban Inn, and failed to work well at the Mishnish,or maybe just to drink and listen to the sea.

Never mind, I'll get there. How could I not? It's like going home.

Going Home

I'm juddering through arteries of rock.
Going home is more than geography:
It's tracing the outline of a well loved face
with the fingers, again, of a child.

Water threads the scalp of hills
and soon we'll tip down to Oban
where the boats are set like buttons
on the belly of the bay
and every pavement used to lead to jam
or little fists of shingle where you could skim
a stone all the way, it seemed, to Kerrera

and where the Columba came
bringing back the half drowned
with their sodden duffle coats
and scarves like pennants home to the warm,
butting in that lst mile through the Sound
while clouds closed like eyelids over stars
and a piper faint as a gull in the roar of the night
played us home, over all the muscles of the sea.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Mr Chips

As the rain slowly drips off the eaves and the wind slaps the windaes I find myself in reflective mood at midnight here in the village. Normally this would result in my reaching for the Bowmore but given my efficacious regime of 4 days off/3 days on and since this is only Tuesday, I make myself a camomile tea instead and sip it, pausing only now and again to think how minging it is.

There are many topics to think upon, of course, swine flu, Hibs splitting the Old Firm, Lydia's 5th Santa letter (this week) and so on, but the greatest of these of course, and the one that pushes to the surface at this silent time of night, is our place in the universe and, as Gerald Manley Hopkins would say, 'the doom that man was born for'.

Thinking about this kind of stuff with a clear mind unfettered by fine malt whisky brings no more clarity and satisfaction, actually, than thinking about it after a good session in the Tartan Bunnet. There are more questions than answers as that old Bodhisattva Johnny Nash used to say.

In the course of this self-indulgence, however, I suddenly realised that I had missed an important anniversary, for October 2009 marked my 30th year of service with Dumfries and Galloway Regional Council as District Pedagogue. Not continuous service (for I took a year off in the mid nineties to die) but 30 years nonetheless. I have a feeling this anniversary should be marked in some way, perhaps by public subscription or a small statue. But I suppose there is acknowledgement enough in the unerring and touching gratitude of all the young people who have undergone my tutelage.

This was brought home to me one day when I was standing in the Prancing Pensioner and noticed what I can only describe as a rough type standing at the other end of the bar. He was swarthy, scarred, and was, disconcertingly, carrying what appeared to be a dead chicken. The unwritten law is if you catch the eye of a nutjob or passing psycopath he will suck out your marrow, but while I was staring conscientiously at a beermat a fresh pint was pushed across by the barman, bought by this stranger and I was forced to raise my eyes. "Remember me?" he said, his face cracking into a louche kind of smile, "You taught me at Maxwelltown High School. You were a useless c... but we liked you."

Recollections like this, so reminiscent of that excellent film Goodbye Mr Chips starring Mr Robert Donat, almost bring a tear to my eye.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Field of Stones

By the river’s brown belch Jasmine
finds the whitest stone ever seen.
It’s opaque though veins and seams
glow with light and hidden streams
of colour. ‘It’s wet, that’s why it shines’.
I zip it up and later put all the day’s stones,
like ‘the snake’ and the ‘good writer’ on the cairns
at our backdoor. I try and remember the names,
but already many of the older piles,
each nugget a cipher for a field of time,
are lost, or as inscrutable as the lines
of Nazca. Who shall puzzle how they align,
the choice of shapes, how they incline
to the setting sun? Only I will, for a while.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Anorak Weather

Since the sad demise of the great Harry Chamber's Peterloo Poets, I have inherited the remaining stock of 'Aphrodite's Anorak'. Anyone wishing to get their mitts on one- not you, Rachel, you get a freebie- please press the button on the right. It includes poems like 'Surprise Attacks', which is the poem I read at Jane's dad's funeral last week.

Surprise Attacks

I hear the sound of a boy
waiting to be ambushed
by his father,
that carpet of smells and roars
like a bear, all hugs and stubble.
Each step breaks on the stairs like ice
and it precedes him, this excitement,
like a shadow mad and off its moorings.
Oh should we not weep
for the ghosts of undiluted joy
and the years I cannot wish for him
but he is eager, all fists for.

It is a long minute.
He is stopped, poised on one leg
like a crane.
Perhaps he will be a dancer
or a poet
it doesn't matter.
Whether he requires it for his art or not
he will be ambushed by his father,
from the tips of pencils
the precipitation of sleep
he will be ambushed by his father,
when he is old and threadbare
and sick of such surprises,
even then
he will be ambushed by his father.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Proof at Last

Brilliant programme on radio 4 yesterday with Melvin Bragg discussing the geological formation of Britain. Answered a few questions.

Proof At Last

It’s in the rock record,
but we could have guessed.
Years ago, balmy Scotland
hugged the equator,
golden beaches, lush forests,
coconuts, bars on stilts,
beach volleyball, then one day
earth’s orbit tipped to an ellipse,
plates shifted, the oceans shut,
and on that flimsy pretext
England came hurling up
from its place in the Antarctic
and slammed us with its icy spine
into the North Atlantic,
shunted right up the sheuch
of Iceland with all the ensuing
mountains, herring, sleet,
Sundays, words like sheuch…
That’s it. No need for further talk.
At last, it’s proved, it’s all their fault.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Last minute effort at the TFE Challenge

Ghastly week, but Sylvia's cheery ditty did provide some food for thought. No title, yet, I'm afraid.

A week spent in the wake of disease,
and the efforts to repel its boarding
then ease its way when all was lost:
the comfort, that he lived a long time
and lived for others. Now I muse
on those who flirt prettily with life
and death, have kids and all the rest
while archiving full time in their heads
the past attempts to top themselves
and relishing with sexy glee the next
successful go. Self indulgence doesn’t
cover it, nor any art excuse it.
It's chaos and fire.
There’s nothing to admire.

Friday, October 16, 2009

A beautiful day, a day for dragging weans throught the woods, for wetting feet, for finding sticks and stones.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Balloon Man

Thought I'd join in TFE's weekly challenge.

The Balloon Man

This is no ordinary man.
His head is the eye of a flower.
He is held between the fact
of pavement and the fantasy of helium,
between the cash in hand
and the need to let go,
between the inhuman sheen of polyester,
and a dripping nose, no hand for hankies.
More than that, though, he is cursed.
His message is implacable.
For ten pounds he will divine your lives:
the hours bumping against a ceiling,
the long years shrivelled and burst.
At night when the streets are tar black
he will float home on a bubble of gas,
and spend the time you’re asleep
making thousands of thin smiles.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Pottery Frenzy

A period of strange and uncharacteristic activity over the next week in the pottery field for the self effacing bard of Park View:

Firstly the bard Shug will appear at Wallace Hall Academy on Wednesday morning in three workshops with weans.

Then Thursday 8th October is National Poetry Day, or Notional Poetry Day as I prefer to call it, in which a galaxy of stars will appear at the Poetry Porch in the Midsteeple.The bard Shug is favoured to be one of the 8 poets chosen (others include Norman McCaig and Jackie Kay) to represent the theme 'Heroes and Heroines' in a series of poetry postcards issued by the Scottish Poetry Library. So Shug's spider will be ubiquitous. He will also appear in the National Library of Scotland's website on NPD with some of the poems from Postcards from the Hedge.

On Friday night, 9th October, the bard Shug will be in Montrose reading with Raymond Vettese in a gig arranged by the brilliant Rachel Fox at the Links Hotel. 7.30 kick off.

Then on Monday 12th October he will appear in Poetry Doubles with the excellent Imtiaz Dharker in the Robert Burns Centre in Dumfries starting 7.00pm.

Round about 10 in the evening of the 12th October the bard Shug will then disappear, like Brigadoon, for another 100 years.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Paddy Kelly and the Banjo Tree

Paddy Kelly and the Banjo Tree

Paddy Kelly, sent oan an eerant
by his auld Mither,
wastit a the cash oan lager
an when he wis plaistert
stummled oan a banjo,
takt it hame, gey prood o himsel.
His ma leathered him.
Whit de ye think yer dain
saunterin back here bluitert wi a banjo
ye saucie gowk, an a the siller gan?
Couped it richt oot the windae.
Next day whit do ye think
but a big braw magic banjo tree?
Paddie’d tak a new yin every day
and strum a the way tae the village:
he didnae hae tae be fu tae play it,
but awbody else had tae be
tae thole listenin,
so the hale toon’s economy was sauft.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Peter Pan

Peter Pan

There’s a picture of him,
moustache at half mast
like Neville Chamberlain’s,
tiny man in a flasher’s coat
with a St Bernard’s, Nana
you presume, waist high.
He’s half turned as though he knew
the camera, like life, was unkind
and found only gravity in his face
now, the jowls, the joyless lips,
the eyes dead as space.
He said to clap if you believe,
but this was after Flanders
and Neverland had taken
all the pure and heartless.
What was left was Jim.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Ghost Story

Ghost Story

Down an alley telling tales
to 12 year olds. They gasp,
scan the shadows for body parts,
and horses come from hell

(of course it’s lies,
no children were murdered here
and made into pies).

“Later when you go past,
you might feel a hand
plucking at your sleeve” and
see in the smudge of glass

a small child, moon eyed,
the image of yourself,
that year, that night,
so rapt and so alive

(it’s sad but true,
the only haunting here’s
by you).

Tuesday, September 15, 2009


Second in the new strange series

Not the Usual Gypsy

She came from behind
a group of shoppers
like a left arm bowler,
took my hand in the kind

of grip you expect,
prior to being conned.
You’re going on holiday
in the next few days,

without your wife,
but your mother will be there.
Aha, I am about to say,
with a rueful smile,

but she shakes her head,
I know she’s dead.
And long since.
You’re tired of work, she says.

I am fishing
for a fiver to swop
for a piece of wishful thinking
but she tells me I won’t

ever have much money.
In that alley beside TJ Hughes,
I wonder: surely then, love.
In her grey eyes nothing

but people passing, as if tipped
off the end of the world.

Feed Ma Lamz

Feed Ma Lamz

Amyir gaffirrz Gaffir. Hark.

nay fornirz ur communists
nay langwij
nay lip
nay laffin ina sunday
nay g.b.h. (septina wawr)
nay nooky huntn
nay tea-leaven
nay chanty rasslin
nay nooky huntn nix doar
nur kuvitn their ox

Oaky doaky. Stick way it.
- rahl burn thi lohta yiz.

Tom Leonard

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Roy Campbell

Next up in McMillan’s occasional series of favourite maverick poets is Roy Campbell.

Born in South Africa in 1901 from Scottish parents, Campbell was one of the most brilliant of a generation of poets in the 1940s and 50s that included Louis MacNeice, Cecil Day Lewis, Stephen Spender, Dylan Thomas and WH Auden. His poetry contains brilliant and vivid evocations of landscape and pictures of exotic detail and clarity. His poetic eye was lit by Mediterranean and African sunlight: he spent much of his life in Spain and Portugal and served his war years in Kenya.

Mass at Dawn

I dropped my sail and dried my dripping seines
Where the white quay is chequered by cool planes
In whose great branches, always out of sight,
The nightingales are singing day and night.
Though all was grey beneath the moon’s grey beam,
My boat in her new paint shone like a bride,
And silver in my baskets shone the bream:
My arms were tired and I was heavy-eyed,
But when with food and drink, at morning-light,
The children met me at the water-side,
Never was wine so red or bread so white.

It was in London, however, that he met Dylan Thomas and became a firm friend, even helping him eat a bowl of daffodils to celebrate St David’s Day. Campbell worked as a producer for the BBC and was able to punt a lot of work to his impecunious friend, as well as help in the shape of hand-outs. Why do we not remember Campbell as well as his contemporaries? Apart from the fact he was a heavy drinker, his political views were wildly unfashionable. He was fiercely right-wing and contemptuous of the liberal intellectual coteries of the day. He tried to strangle Stephen Spender live on stage (Spender forgave him on account of Campbell’s “greatness” as a poet) and claimed to have been the one who shot George Orwell in the trenches during the Spanish Civil War, though the fact he said he'd done this with a longbow, and wasn’t actually anywhere near the front line at the time, casts doubt on the story. He served in the British army during World war 2 and was invalided out. He died tragically in a car accident in Portugal in 1957.


My thought has learned the lucid art
By which the willows lave their limbs
Whose form upon the water swims
Though in the air they rise apart.
For when with my delight I lie,
By purest reason unreproved,
Psyche usurps the outward eye
To trace her inward sculpture grooved
In one melodious line, whose flow
With eddying circle now invests
The rippled silver of her breasts,
Now shaves a flank of rose-lit snow,
Or rounds a cheek where sunset dies
in the black starlight of her eyes

His obituary in the Times read Campbell was an individualist, a traditionalist and a fiery scorner of much that was accepted by his articulate contemporaries as being commonplace truth. But to call him a poet of the right is merely to use a convenient label. It does not explain the beauty of his lyrics nor the marvellous sweep of his narrative descriptive power..

Friday, September 04, 2009

Beauty and the Beast

Beauty and the Beast

I’ve seen the film, but unlike
my daughters I am no student
of the varied vicissitudes
of Belle, the Beauty’s, life.
I like the louche candlestick
and the footstool who’s a dog,
the Beast I’ve not much time for:
loads of men are hairy, have bad luck,
and don’t have a palace to stay in.
Belle’s got a Disney nose, hardly
a nose at all, a tiny inverted V,
just a scratch, and eyes like a lemur’s,
but we cannot doubt her qualities:
she loves her father,
is brave, yet vulnerable
and she has curves that Walt
would not have liked.
In the end all is well,
she marries David Coverdale
so that’s alright,
and lives happily ever more:
so why do I shudder so,
when my girls rehearse
the kiss that wakes the beast?

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

MacDuff documents released

Alan Houliston declares the Tea Dance Open

In the face of growing international criticism the Government of Clatteringshaws has published all official documents pertaining to the controversial release "on compassionate grounds" of MacDuff from his sponsored walk along the Southern Upland Way. "These documents" commented an official this morning, "clearly vindicate our position. No pressure was put on us by any outside agencies."

In spite of these assurances concerns still remain. Can it be an accident that MacDuff's release coincided with a major deal signed for the export of goats to the Masonic Club in Dumfries? Doubts have also been cast on the extent of MacDuff's illness, details of which were excluded from the document release on grounds of patient confidentiality. An independent expert has assessed that, with proper care, MacDuff might live for another 140 years, well in excess of predictions made by the Government.

Fears have also been raised that MacDuff might play a significant part in the upcoming Tea Dance to mark 3,000 years of whisky drinking in the Prancing Pensioner. "It would be like a slap in the face" said one commentator.

Monday, August 31, 2009



In the lee of John Knox’s yew
we toss our cabers as though
it’s the natural thing to do after breakfast.
Over the firth, Dumbarton Rock
is mired in mist, or ghosts,
like the braes of Ben Jiggery Pokery
or the sheen in the American’s eye
as he imagines the cabers of his forebears
abandoned in Lochaber years ago.
Tomorrow we will rake a rickle of stones,
be blood brothers in a chapel buried
in the wilds, and toast our common bonds
in fists of malt, for are we not all wedded
to the same shifting territory of mind,
a country that is and isn’t, as substantial
as a sea-loch’s soughing,
the whisper of an editorial,
the distant ring of tills in the gloaming?

Friday, August 28, 2009

Things that make me laugh

I't’s childish and immature, of course, but there is a paragraph from Martin Amis' ‘Money’ that has made me laugh all week. Not continually, of course, but out loud in a kind of intermittent fashion. It has brightened a week which otherwise has been filled by autumnal storms, work and low level disappointments. I don't know how long it will last, but it's been good. You probably won't find it funny at all.

The main character John Self is trying to cast a movie. He is talking to Martin Amis (small conceit here), who plays himself in the novel, about a projected fight between two of the stars, Lorne Guyland and Spunk Davis.

“”Which fight?”
“The one between Lorne and Spunk. You know, the big fight.”
“No-one’s going to believe that name.”
“Yea yea, we’re talking to him about it. You see, lots of Americans are called names like that. They’ve all got names like Orifice and Handjob. They don’t notice. They think it’s cool.”

The Amis family is good at providing me with longstanding amusement. Jim Dickson’s reaction on finding an archery target in the his pretentious professor’s attic in Kingsley Amis’ ‘Lucky Jim’ has stayed with me for 30 years.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Once upon a Time

Once upon a time, children, there was a country called Afghanistan. It was a very big country full of tall mountains and proud warlike people. It was very poor but big bad countries, like Britain, used to invade it and try and take it over. They always failed.
Now quite recently, in Daddy's lifetime, Afghanistan had a very bad government called the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan. It did some very bad things like starting land reform and building roads and hospitals. It also decided that forcing people to get married was wrong and that girls should go to school. Even worse it tried to stop people playing in the poppy fields. This evil government was supported by a very very big bad country called the Soviet Union which tried to show off by spending more than a billion pounds on drilling wells and other public welfare schemes.
Luckily there were people in Afghanistan who didn't like this evil behaviour and wanted to return to the old ways of wife beating and playing in the poppy fields. These people were VERY religious so you could tell they were good. They formed a heroic band of brothers called the Mujahideen. The Mujihadeen fought bravely until the whole country was in chaos. The bad Russians brought soldiers into to fight the heroic Mujihadeen. Wasn't that wrong? But luckily all the good countries in the world - especially the United States of America-were horrified by this and decided to try and help the plucky little Jihadists. Everyone gave them the latest anti-aircraft guns and money and they were allowed to make lots of cash out of the beautiful poppies. No-one cared that they burned schools down, destroyed priceless cultural artifacts and hated women, because they were fighting for freedom.
There were many great heroes in the Mujahideen. One of them was a very funny little chap with a beard called Osama Bin Laden who wasn't even from Afghanistan but a very good place full of oil called Saudi Arabia. He received money from the good countries in the world to form an international organisation called Al Qaida to continue the fight against the evil Russians. The bad Russians called Al Qaida and the Mujahideen terrorists but no-one listened to them because the Russians were evil, lived in log cabins and didn't know what they were talking about. Thanks to the Mujahideen the bad Russians were beaten and went home. Wasn't that good? The heroic Mujahideen changed their name to the Taliban and formed a very religious government. Everyone was pleased.
But then something extraordinary happened. The United States of America suddenly decided that the Taliban and Al Qaida weren't very good after all! They stopped calling them freedom fighters and decided that it was time for them to be called terrorists.They changed their minds about encouraging them to be so religious, and even decided that they shouldn't play in the poppy fields! They invaded Afhanistan to free the country from the people they'd set up to free the country. It was very confusing, children.
And do you know, some people are so confused they don't think there should be any more fighting and invading until everyone has a big meeting to decide what words like freedom and terrorism actually mean and can stick to them, in their dealings all over the world.

Friday, August 21, 2009

MacDuff released on compassionate grounds

A huge crowd assembled today to greet the return of MacDuff of Clatterngshaws, released from his walk along the Southern upland Way on "compassionate grounds". Clearly distraught after his experience, MacDuff waved to wellwishers as he descended the steps from the Sea King helicopter onto the tarmac outside the Tartan Bunnet where many were visibly moved by the sight of MacDuff's frail frame, ravaged by weeks of isolation and lack of whisky. "I am very pleased to be back amongst my own people" said MacDuff, tears streaming down his face, "I never thought I would see the desert again." A spokesman from the Government of Clatteringshaws said, "Given the medical evidence we have taken the decision to bring macDuff back to the pub." One of MacDuff's first acts was to return the tent he had been using to the child it belonged to. "It stood up well" he said, "and at night the pictures of Winnie the Pooh on the front were a real comfort."
Elsewhere, however, reaction to MacDuff's release have been very mixed. "I don't think he should have been let off" said one man, "it's a total disgrace. I think he should repay his debt to society."

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Statues of Krakow

No, not the Ones of the Battle of Grunwald

Statue of Elvis in Nowa Huta

Smok the dragon who'll breathe fire if you text him

Dzok the dog. A modern Greyfriars Bobby. Dzok's owner had a heart attack and died while driving on a busy road in Krakow. Thereafter the faithful hound did not leave the spot on the pavement adjacent to where this happened. He was sustained and fed by a kindly old lady who lived nearby. The kindly old lady died and Dzok was removed by public subscription to a Dog's Home. On the first night he jumped out of the window and was run down by a train.

I've been thinking that a series of eccentric statues in Drumsleet might prove a useful cult tourist attraction. subjects anyone?

Monday, August 10, 2009

Talking Heid

In the 'Zig Zag' Exhibition in Dumfries, Robert Burns appears as, among other things, a talking heid.

A Hologram of Robert Burns
speaks to a portrait of Miss Eliza Burnett
after the Exhibition shuts

Eliza, go away in:
that arty crew have pickled me,
scooped me out like a mannequin.
I’m a talking head, and my mouth
churns out songs and poems,
not in my rheumy voice,
but in the rich and fruity tones
of some Neil Oliver wannabe.

They’ve made me a museum,
a kist of noise and junk.
In the corner of the room
I see the word Immortality,
but what kind of legacy is here?
Some mad collector’s only.
Does the world need a poison jar
for humanity and honest truth?

Or want to put poetry behind
perspex, as if it wasn’t instead
the core and right of everyone,
the oxygen we have to breathe?
Perhaps now the earth is full
of talking heads in towns like these,
sucking old words like gruel.
Eliza, do you think that passion’s dead?

Monday, August 03, 2009

The Wand of Wisdom

Kilmorie Chapel

Castle Sween

Finlaystone Gardens

Finlaystone House

Just back from the MacMillan clan gathering at Finlaystone. Though I did not go the whole hog and travel down to Castle Sween on the Tuesday I did manage the Highland Games, the barbecue and after that read my poetry to an enraptured audience in the Clan Gazebo. In the morning I woke up in a huge and elegant bedchamber and came down to find everyone else had left, leaving the front door open. Of course I locked the castle up when I left, in case a rival clan should be waiting the chance to attack.

Much whisky fuelled chuckling on Monday night on the subject of the clan rituals due the next day in Kilmorie Chapel which seem to involve a lot of fancy clothes, quite a few Americans and a big sword. Oh yes, and the wand of wisdom,of course.

Finlaystone is in a quite beautiful place beside the Firth of Clyde, the grounds of which are open to the public for a small charge.. Of course if you go to the main gate , knock on the portcullis and say you know the Clan Bard who knows what discounts might be arranged.....

Friday, July 31, 2009

MacDuff Race Shock

Macduff's Training Camp Yesterday

Emergency services are on high alert following the news that MacDuff is to participate in a 212 mile walking race along the Southern Upland Way next week. The news has taken many of his closest acquaintances by surprise and his unique training methods have already prompted some raised eyebrows in atheletic and medical circles.

"It's unusual for a man who hasn't been seen upright since last October to engage in sudden strenuous physical activity of this nature" admitted Dr Ranjeet Singh of the Clatteringshaws Mountain Rescue Service, "but you must remember Macduff, as the Territorial Army's first prototype Cyborg Killing Machine, cannot be judged in purely human physiological terms."

Others are less optimistic. "It's a strange challenge for a man with chronic vertigo" commented his close friend tobacco plantation owner Theosyphillis Neill.

Macduff and his two companions, both prominent local aesthetes, are in buoyant mood however. "I'm completely on the ball," said MacDuff yesterday, "So far we've raised 25 million pounds in sponsorship money for local good causes. I think we'll all be back by November before the rainy season begins. It's the bears I'm worried about, though."

Saturday, July 25, 2009


I'm still processing the events of the school trip- so much as usual in such a short and exhausting time, paramedics in Berlin, train derailment in Poland, robbery in Slovenia (or was it Croatia?).

We went to Auschwitz/Birkenau and Sachsenhausen. It was my second time in both, and I'm always left sad (of course), angry (naturally)but also dissatisfied because the problem with museums (and Auschwitz is a museum) is that they seems to draw a line under events in history. Our guide this year was excellent but he stressed to the students that the lesson of Auschwitz was never to subscribe to the twisted ideology of anti-semitism. Now he is right of course but that's not the only lesson is it? I always think there should be an annexe bringing Auschwitz up to date via Cambodia, Serbia, Rwanda...even Palestine.


Children off the trains
stirred gravel with their shoes, went
hand in hand to the gas chambers.
We must remember.
Off the trains now, they wait
to be told to go to the toilet
or join the queue to buy some crisps,
and march in files through dust,
earphones glued to sweaty hair.
If you think this is bad
says the guide just remember……
Later we light candles
that die in the breeze as the sun
seeps through pine,
and birds, unaware of things
the guide books say, sing.
In Krakow we eat ice cream
below a banner hung from the first floor:
that Arab girl shot last week by a sniper.
Museums draw lines in time, remember,
and people cross, just like before.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Sunday, July 19, 2009

the far south west

Back from a week in the Machars and the South Rhins. Lovely beaches, sunny forecast busting weather and villages that have a flavour of the north west but something extra- is it an extra degree of isolation?- don't know. Here are some
photographs. I will post on my experiences on the 7 country tour of Europe with 72 weans as soon as I recover my photies ( and my senses).