Sunday, 3 August 2014

Commission Over

All done. 80,000 words delivered. There will be an event in Wigtown during the Bookfest in October, hopefully a book launch and then you can buy your own copy! Whoooopeeee


I take off my specs
and the sea breaks to pieces
of brilliant glass,
each an electric pulse,
each a prism for the sun.
Cracking open a can of Estrella,
I take up my pen like Byron in Sintra,
or Ovid in Constanta, 
happy with the heat, the fish oil,
and the homage of innumerable fans
back home in the sleet.

Why do I think of the Solway then,
that miserable excuse for a sea,
with its rocks nudging out of the silt
like knees in a bath?
Stone upon stone I ignite a light
of a different sort, in memory,
pale on the gorse, hot in the heart.

Friday, 13 June 2014


She stands
on tip toe,
in a clasp of trees,
hair neatly plaited, 
hands folded,
her face pushed forward
into mine as if
I was the voice,
I was the spirit
rehearsing the words
for those straining ears,
'Chosen among women'.
But not me, 
oh no little Mary,
not me;
remain in stasis,
not speaking, not hearing, 
blessed another day.

Sunday, 1 June 2014

Domino Lingua

When I was just out of school, I occasionally went to the Newton Hotel to play dominos with the auld heids there. I think being in their company then is the best modern equivalent I can imagine to meeting the Delphic Oracle or the priestesses of Vesta because these old men came accompanied not only by their own personal cloud of cigarette smoke but their own brand of magic. I could swear, I will swear, that when you laid the first domino down they knew with perfect accuracy the rest of your hand, who was going to win the game, and the next, and what age your father was when you were conceived. How this was possible I have no idea beyond that they were possessed of genuinely supernatural powers. As befits magi, they also had their own ritual language and song. A double six was "toffee teeth" a double blank a "dooble baker". The winner, placing the victorious double, would recite "too late, too late, will be the cry when the man with the double passes you by." They would taunt each other by chanting "the mair you lose, the mair I booze". Dominos remains an arcane science to me, I just lay down whatever tile comes to hand. I think, having mixed with Olympians, anything more presumptuous would be disrespect.

Friday, 9 May 2014

Shannon the Sheep Shearer

On the way to Australia, I only have to go a few hundred miles at 35,000 feet to meet part of the Galloway diaspora, Shannon from Springholm on her way to train and work as a sheep shearer in New Zealand. She tells me with pride she was part of the ten "sheep shearing sheilas" who raised £14,000 pounds in a charity shearing event held in Newton Stewart in 2013, money that went to the local community hospital and the Royal Educational Trust. "800 sheep" she said, "and there were another 400 in reserve. It was gey tough, but we did it. It's something I could be guid at." 

Shannon worked in her fathers business installing stoves. "I had work, aye, I was lucky, but I'm looking for something else." "Adventure?" I ask. She nods. "Something different, onyways." 

Shannon can't contain her glee at flying off into the blue. She has somewhere to stay and work arranged after a few months of travelling but everything's up for grabs. "I'm going to make it up as I go along" she says, finally. It's a up for grabs", and she gives a deep long chuckle.

Thursday, 17 April 2014


Once upon a time Scaur FC, an amateur football team in Nithsdale, penetrated through to the qualifying stages of the Scottish Cup and were drawn against a team from Motherwell who arrived in the wee village with a bus load of supporters who were soon running backwards and forwards to the little field behind the pub photographing sheep and sending them back to their relatives on their phones. "I've never seen one so close. They're quite friendly looking, eh?" In the pub some of the visitors had cornered a local woman and were asking "aye but what de ye dae?. I mean fir fun? or fir a hairdo?". It was very much a clash of cultures, though everyone got on famously. After they'd left, a stalwart of the club Geordie Logan described how another time they'd  been visited by folk from the city and someone had remarked about one of the sheep which had been dipped bright orange. "Aye", Geordie had said, "that's the type they get the goalies' jerseys from."

Sunday, 6 April 2014

No Deid Yet

Traditional response of the auld heid to the salutary greeting “How are ye?”- “No deid yet.” This response sums up in just three words the indominatibility of the human spirit while simultaneously giving a glimpse of the depths of terrible suffering experienced by the auld heid in the normal everyday course of his long existence. An alternative to no deid yet, if the auld heid is being playfully loquacious would be “Hingin on”, or “Just hingin on an nae mair”.