Thursday, April 30, 2009


A good and convivial evening in the ancient Coach and Horses Pub in Dumfries to wet the Spider's Head. Next stop on the Spider Tour (via Penpont Rural Institute: mainstream, or what?) is Thomas Tosh in Thornhill on Saturday May 9th at 3.00pm. May finally manage to track a clarsach down for that one.

Thursday, April 23, 2009


Hurrah for BBC Alba! Absolutely priceless moment last weekend when a gaggle of English holiday makers and caravaners burst into a nearby pub to watch the Manchester United game and found instead the locals couched sagely round the TV watching a game between two teams the visitors had never heard of (Queen of the South and St Johnstone) with a commentary in a language they couldn't understand (gaelic). Of course none of the locals could understand it either but they pretended tO be fluent.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Drumsleet History Town?

Just back from Stirling where we stayed at the King Robert Hotel and could watch out the bedroom window as the sun set behind the stalwart Rab Bruce and his mighty warhorse. This was a family trip and it was very touching to watch the weans galloping about in the grass shouting WHACK WHACK as they set about English heads with their imaginary battle axes. Bruce's statue at Bannockburn is a noble one and I prefer to think the facial features are a true representation of the great man though I have seen recent forensic research that suggests Bruce looked more like Stan Laurel.
It's depressing to see, however, that the National Trust for Scotland is still making a pigs' breakfast of commemorating this most important and significant of Scottish battles. The tiny heritage centre still shows a crap and amateurish film the colours of which have completely faded and which is narrated by a man who has been dead for about 30 years. I'm probably completely mistaken about this but I've always had a hunch that there is an agenda within NTS to play down places like Bannockburn while pumping lots of dosh into commemorating national disasters like Culloden. This feeling probably orginates from my very first visit to the battlefield when visitors were regaled after the show by a matronly figure in NTS uniform who announced in plummy tones "Of course we're not like that anymore" to which my companion (a man sadly now dead) replied, to my lasting admiration, "speak for yourself you old cow". This was a rather coarse riposte but well deserved nonetheless.
Stirling Castle on the other hand is an ongoing work of great promise and deserves to be Scotland's leading historic attraction. Stirling in general has a lot going for it and it was a bit sad to reflect on poor old Drumsleet, a town with almost as much historical significance but one sunk in a mire of despond.
My plan to regenerate Drumsleet has remained unchanged for the last 20 years. It must be re-invented as a History Town. It has excellent Burns connections already but its role in the Scottish wars of independence (Bruce first proclaimed himself King there after murdering John Comyn across the road from the new pound shop)should be played up and this needs a huge and sexy focus. I don't mean some crap 'Robert the Bruce Experience' where tourists look at some sad waxworks while getting their pockets picked. We must dig up the entire area that bounds Irish St, the High St and Buccleuch Street and excavate the remains of the old Greyfriars Monastery and build some state of the art thing like Jorvik that combines real archaeology and history with imaginative reconstruction to tell the whole story of the Wars of Independence. There would be massive logistical and financial difficulties, I know, but imagine.....

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Sunny Days

Warm and luscious weather. Well done Tom Pow for winning the Best Scottish Poetry Book of the year. What with Rab Wilson winning the McCash, it's turning out to be a good year for the forgotten Region. Perhaps more to come?

A Sunny Day

Leaves scoop up light, spill
some to burn in puddles
or the blunt fretwork of twigs
where birds chuckle and twitch.

The sun has come
like some forgotten cousin
looking for a bed and a lift
early tomorrow to the airport.

We will probably react
with 40 cans of Export
for the price of 36. Then,
in the cool of the evening,

skulls will be gently split,
as the Nith lies languid
and exotic as hammered gold,
and it will all end as it started,

a sudden lurid surprise
in the grey slate of skies.

Monday, April 13, 2009

It's not an Egg

but it's half a mile down the road.

Happy Easter everyone.

Thursday, April 02, 2009



Having been reunited yesterday with my bag amid emotional scenes, I can at last break my silence on STANZA, Scotland’s premier poetry festival. I can say without a shadow of a doubt that it’s the best poetry festival to lose your bag in that I have ever attended. Everyone from the Director downwards is to be wholeheartedly praised for their efforts in tracking my bag down. The personal intervention of the Director himself reveals a true generosity of spirit but it also, I suspect, reveals that the man must be a heart.

Culleophiles are men and women who have through circumstance or inclination formed an unfathomable attachment to their bags. These people nearly always travel long distances by public transport and are often too ugly or damaged to form relationships with others and who, therefore, invest in their bags a huge degree of emotional importance. The bag is not essential for what it contains- indeed it may only contain a pair of well used socks, some old bus tickets and a crumpled up phone number of someone whose name you’ve forgotten.-but for the fact it has for years been a dependable and reliable companion through thick and thin, good and bad. The bag is privy to and part of the most vulnerable and secret sides of these people.
And has the bag asked anything in return for this loyalty? No. It requires no biscuits or walks. It doesn’t want to bring up a family or look at the bank statements.

I do not, by the way, want to suggest that the Director of the Poetry Festival is ugly and damaged. Having met the man I know him to be handsome, talented and blessed with many friends. But he understood.

Only other culleophiles can appreciate the utter torment I have been through in the last 10 days and I must thank the local support group for the little gifts of jam and whisky that have come my way. I would also urge culleophiles who are of a poetical bent to attend this excellent and wide ranging festival without fear.