31 December 2017

One cheer for another year

Another calendar year, me still here, reason enough, as the poster suggests, to be "in good cheer"?

The elderly lady sitting in silence with her companion may not look very cheerful, but moments later her face lit up with a smile and her eyes sparkled as other companions arrived. I know for myself that I can sometimes be inwardly at my most content when outwardly I may appear miserable. And conversely, I can sometimes be outwardly smiling and laughing while inwardly thinking, "I need to get myself away from these people and out of here." Inward contentment would be nice, for next year.

29 December 2017

26 December 2017

Now or never

Now is almost nothing
but is all that does exist
Gone before you grasp it
but the only thing there is

Aileen's song

Your universe is vast and wide
but part of hidden greatness
beside you and inside of you
of spaces you can’t access

That is where the secrets lie
of how you come to be here
the pointed process and the why
so far from you, but near

The masters and the servants
the creatures and their minds
offer only fleeting glimpses
of the truths you cannot find

25 December 2017

24 December 2017

Merry bloomin' whatever

My daughter and her man asked me if I would like to walk along to the pub with them in order to buy them some drinks. It is so lovely to be wanted and needed at this time of the year.

A slice of land

Oh Aileen! Oh Adrig and Edrig!

"My gosh!"
"Look at that thing!"
"There's a whole fleet of them!"
"It's rotating!"
"Not from this world..."

22 December 2017

From 0752 to 1613

On the day when the light began to return to the land between 56.31° and 56.39° North

18 December 2017

Late light

It's later than you think, according to the old saying and song; but Next is just about to begin. So it's also earlier than we may think. Whatever next?

17 December 2017

Cold Sky

I know the solstice is a few days away, and I know the latest sunrise is a few days after that, but the earliest sunset, which was a few days ago, is an important landmark here. The Equation of Time and all that.

My father, his mother, his father

Another old WW2 photo unearthed. My father who grew up fast between Normandy 1944 and Germany 1945, my grandfather, as a retired professional soldier, having served much of his time in Africa, spent WW2 in the Home Guard, aka "Dad's Army". Grandfather died before I was born. Grandmother made it to age 101, father to 78, and I am still going, meantime. I have not had to fight in a war, which is progress, I suppose; but ever since I was a child I have had to fight a perpetually ebbing and flowing battle against a deep sense of pointlessness and depression. Perhaps we need tangible physical fights to keep our minds from contemplating other things. My father and a pretty young girl he found in Edinburgh made me a few years after this photo was taken. Is it ungrateful to say that I have many times thought it would have been better had they not bothered? Grandmother seems to be managing a faint smile here, in the midst of patching up the mess made by fighting men. Her favourite saying was, "Every blade o' grass holds its own drop o' dew."

16 December 2017

A slice of light between the clouds and the sea

Reminds me why I like this planet, despite many of the people, and the nasty microbes, and wild animals, and some more of the people, and some other people too...

15 December 2017

No way in

I need to get in. I was supposed to get in. I could not get in. There is, apparently, possibly, a clue to the solution to a mystery in there, perhaps. It looks the part, on a dark cold night near the winter solstice, for the location of mysterious things. I will assume a misunderstanding, and try again. And if I do get in, I hope I get out.

14 December 2017


Into Edinburgh again for a conversational lunch on a wet and bleak day for which we Scots invented the word "dreich"; but it is still a good place to look at even with the sun in hiding and the cold rain dripping down your neck.

A nice view for a breakdown

I took this photo just after my left leg gave way, leaving me supporting myself with an arm on a fence while I hoped to recover and thinking - oh, still, what a lovely view to look at while I wait... I wonder if I will eventually make it back to the car; which I did, eventually. And apparently the reason for the mixture of numbness and pain, wrapping strangely in a wide band right around my knee, may actually be a nervously communicated combination of a tethered spinal cord associated with my congenital spina bifida occulta - I have known about that since an x-ray aged 30 and it is nowhere near as alarming as it sounds - and a possible minor herniated disc, all aggravated, but not caused by, my recent fall. Those are the possibilities and maybes that would be the good news. Other alternatives would not be so good. The treatment, for now, was described as "rest, watch and wait." There is no point in scans if I am not recommended for, or accepting of, surgery; and the advice is that surgery would not be a good plan, as it doesn't always go to plan, and can probably be avoided, unless things deteriorate rather than improve. Nobody is putting a scalpel near to my spinal cord unless things deteriorate significantly, be assured. And anyway, I have had such a crisis before, or at least a somewhat similar one, without the detailed speculative diagnosis offered this time, and was walking freely and golfing again not long after. Anyway, my arm is much better, and to earn a living as a writer and lecturer all I need be able to do is write, and talk. And I am writing this now while trying to stop repeatedly bending my neck downwards to initiate the weird sensation that is apparently, probably, caused by the fact that somewhere near the end of my spinal cord it is tethered to its casing rather than being able to slide up and down freely as it should. But when you try to stop doing something you tend to keep doing it, yes? The good news, if the offered diagnosis is really anywhere close to what the problem is, is that I will have had it for years; but age has a way of allowing such things to catch up with you, eventually. The crisis will subside, or may subside, apparently, before I do. Irritation, inflammation, swelling - just as they can come, so they can go. Apparently it was "a bloody stupid idea to walk all those miles yesterday, in the state you were in even before you started," according to the opinionated lady lying next to me, unimpressed by my view that I may have been able to "walk things off." But what does she know? I have a golf game on Craigie Hill booked for late next week, and have not entirely abandoned the hope that it may proceed. I have not told the lady that yet though. Meanwhile my leg is currently rather unwilling to bend at the knee, so I will let it sleep. Goodnight.

12 December 2017

Chilly childish cheek

A 55 minute cold walk to collect the re-clutched car from the crazily inaccessible location of the repairer my insurer sent to rescue me, and still limping, and increasingly as the long march proceeded, from the effect on my left knee of the fall that broke my right arm three weeks ago; and as I held that fence to negotiate carefully a patch of ice, terrified of a further fall, a young girl following on from that group of schoolchildren seen here descending the stairs from the railway bridge ahead, said to me, "Oh bless your little cotton socks old fella, now watch you don't fall," but more in cheek rather than genuine concern, I felt. Thus I have become the butt of "old geezer" type remarks, of the sort, I admit, I have delivered myself, probably in the early seventies, perhaps not directly to the geezers concerned but certainly with a laugh amongst my young friends. Then I thought of what these children have ahead of them, probably, perhaps... the struggles, the challenges, the first times for so many new things, and I sighed, and felt glad that was all behind me, although two miles of icy roadway still lay ahead. I made it, little cotton socks and all, although darkness had descended by then.

11 December 2017

Cold calling

Car clutch croaked, hence standing freezing in minus 10 degrees Celsius at a bus stop at 06.50, then bouncing in a bus for half an hour, then walking ten minutes, bouncing in another bus for fifteen minutes, cupping coffee to reheat bones, only to enter a room full of students, explain my plight, and hear them tell me that I shouldn't have bothered for they would not have minded at all if I had just cancelled the lecture on reduction-oxidation reactions and quantitative analysis. And I was so diligently trying not to disappoint them.

10 December 2017

My father, the boy soldier

My daughter wanted to see her now long-dead grandfather as a soldier, so my brother scoured the old photographs. There are only two. The first taken in his mother's house aged 18, I presume. The other looks like a professional image probably taken a few years later. He arrived in Normandy in June 1944 and ended up in Germany, via Amsterdam. I know that he killed, and I know that he saw friends killed; yet when I asked him as an elderly man what his time in the war was like he said, "They were the best years of my life." I found this a very strange reply. I am not very fond of looking through old photos, whether of relatives or of myself. Too many unwelcome thoughts arise.

Added later - Another picture unearthed:

Cold water under the bridge

6 December 2017

Another day dawns

Another early walk to make some young students' lives miserable for a few hours. Two mornings a week I do that. These mornings cheer me up. Was there not some old phrase along the lines of, "If you can bring misery into someone else's day then your own miserable day will not have been entirely wasted"? Maybe I just made that up.

5 December 2017

Dog day afternoon and night

Just after photographing a vast bank of cloud swelling up in the western sky, an old woman approached me and said very loudly, "You're bald! My son is bald! But he's handsome!" And while I pondered her use of "But," I reached a tentative diagnosis of the manic phase of bipolar disorder, rather than dementia, while the photos of her son came out, and then she started ruffling a young child's hair and telling him he looked like her son as a lad; and then she opened her purse and began dispensing coins to all of the children in the coffee shop while their parents looked bemused; until she returned to me and asked me where I lived, and what I did, and where was my wife, and did I have grandchildren... until eventually I had to abandon my attempts at work, shut the laptop, make my excuses and go.

Then later, walking on the dark South Inch, a big hairy dog galloped past me heading to catch up with its human, until a few seconds afterwards I felt a nudge by my knee and looking down I found the dog with my glove in its mouth - a glove I did not know that I had dropped - and the dog nudged me again, until I accepted the glove and moved on. A Retriever? How clever, how kind.

But then as I approached the walls of Perth prison, just beyond those glimmering buildings up there on the right, a dismal December dread suddenly filled me. I don't know why, although I have an idea. And I felt cold, and old, and alone, neither wanting to walk forward or back. What time was it? What should I do? The work was done by then. A bit further on and a few miserable visitors were leaving the prison - two women, one child, one bent and hobbling old man. I changed my mind three times, turned back, and went home; where a headache grew. I felt miserable. Nobody knew. My mood is lifting now, with no more sore head, in early bed. Goodnight.