28 May 2017

Names awaited

A visit to the Black Watch regiment museum at Balhousie Castle is of personal relevance to me as at the age of 19 my father landed with the Black Watch in Normandy a few days after the D-Day landings and soldiered his way through France, Belgium and Holland until finishing deep within Germany. The most poignant moment, however, was standing in front of this memorial to the dead from much more recent and more questionable campaigns, and looking at that empty slab at the middle right that has been erected to bear the names of young men or women, currently still full of life, or perhaps who are not even men or women yet but are running carefree around Scotland as youngsters. The presumption that the names will inevitably arrive once the half-full slab at the middle left is filled is disturbing.

26 May 2017

You want a "Happy Face"?

I am the one on the left, without the fur, and just about managing to look cheerful while my friend is her usual enigmatic and I suspect somewhat disapproving self. She understands me, I am fairly sure of that, and she is similarly aware that it is generally best not to betray too much from within. She does occasionally approach me and dunt my forehead with hers, and we both understand that.

25 May 2017

Two time Tay

I increasingly realise that everything I need for pleasure and inspiration is at home, or very close, a thought that was thought while enjoying a Tayside walk today in glorious sunshine and a mere fifteen minute drive from my house.

And in such strong sunshine that I had to turn my cap back and raise my collar, preferring to look even more idiotic than usual than risk sunburn on the back of my virtually melanin-free Scottish neck:

That is my "happy face", by the way, even though it might suggest that I was contemplating throwing myself off the bridge.

24 May 2017

23 May 2017

The need to breed

Flowers exist because they successfully attract insects, apparently. Insects are attracted to feed, and inadvertently help to set and spread the seed, apparently. The seed is the reason for the plant, the weed, and the plant the reason for the seed, apparently. I pause and look because the flower pleases me, apparently. But why, beneath this sunny sky, do I like the flower so much? Is it because creatures that enjoyed what nature has to offer were more bothered to survive, and reproduce, and spread their own seed? One way or another it is all about the need to breed, apparently. To live and feed, to seed and breed.

21 May 2017

Walk on

Moving across the metaphorical page, are we writers or just readers as we go? A bit of both, perhaps? A mix of fate and chance and freedom... or just the dupes of an illusory feeling that we control the steps we take, while walking, writing, reading on? I have plans, so do you, but other things may have plans for each of us too. What to do? Walk on, write on, read on, go through.

20 May 2017

Another walk past the wall

Some of the worst of the worst, the baddest of the very bad, reside in Perth prison, including some who will never get out; but who can look out from those high windows, first constructed to hold Frenchmen captured in the Napoleonic wars, and who may see me, from time to time, wandering past on my way to the bridge across the river to play golf, past the unmarked graves of the last men to die on the gallows there: Edward Johnstone - executed 19 August 1908 for the murder of Jane Wallace (Withers); Alexander Edmundstone - executed 16 July 1909 for the murder of Michael Swinton Brown; Stanislaw Miszka - executed 6 February 1948 for the murder of Catherine McIntyre; then wandering back, then to the golf again, then, back, and to and back, again, again; past some of the worst of the worst, the baddest of the bad, who must from time to time look out, knowing that they will never get out, and who may see me, wandering to the golf, and back, again, again, us all getting older, on opposite sides of the wall.

Mind the gap

Nowadays it is an image that stimulates thoughts of madness, of what the lunacies of belief and brain fever can drive some people to, yet however alarming it could seem out of context and with no indication of relative motion, it was just an incongruously parked truck in a pedestrian precinct containing two young men eating sandwiches with their coffee while taking sneaky glances at a pretty young woman on a bench. Moments later a young man arrived, took the pretty woman by the hand and they walked away, leaving the truck drivers to their sandwiches and coffees and dreams.

19 May 2017

Inveralmond Alchemy

I was busy writing a book in The Salutation Hotel, which has been welcoming guests since 1699, and where Prince Charles Edward Stuart, grandson of King James the Seventh, based himself for a while during his Jacobite Rebellion of 1745, and beneath Bonnie Prince Charlie's old room I supped easily on Inveralmond Brewery's Blackfriar beer, brewed in Perth and named after the city's Blackfriars monastery where King James the First was murdered in 1437... then as the bottle neared empty I noticed the alcohol content of the commemorative brew was 7%. Ah... The world of electrons and molecular orbitals began to seem less important, so I went for a walk by the river beside the King James the Sixth golf course, and opposite the site of Oliver Cromwell's army's old barracks, taking care not to fall into the cold water as I thought about all those King Jimmys, and monks, and murders and battles, and the history which the wide River Tay had all flowed past, just as it still flowed past me fast today. Then the chemistry of brewing wore off, gradually, and my mind returned to the chemistry of chemistry.

15 May 2017

Starbank Inn

Silence, other than mild murmurings from afar, one pint of Guinness, sunshine flooding in from across the blue Forth, serene solitude, 73 minutes, 1346 words... Thus time passes on a lazy Sunday afternoon.

2 May 2017


A few of those who know me probably suspected that my "Last Post" previous post might not actually be my last post. I have said it before and recanted before. There were reasons, but situations change. I am pondering a reawakening of this blog and I have opened up for comments again. Does anybody care? I thought about taking this decision while sitting looking over the top of my laptop at the scene below in the lounge of our hotel on the Isle of Bute. It was a deserted and vast old hotel which seemed to me to be rather full of ghosts, even though I don't really believe in ghosts, although one of them seemed to be whispering something in my ear... or perhaps it was just the beer.

22 January 2017


Yesterday's photo of my real-name namesake Captain Scott's ship Discovery, shown again below, was prompted by the plans I am making for another return to Cambridge, also shown below, on a small plane, also below, that now flies from Dundee to Stansted, very close to Cambridge. I found my return to Cambridge last year, the first for many years, to be a trip of unexpected rediscovery and renewal, so now I will return again this year, on writing business, and hopefully next year, and the next... perhaps. I still have hopes and plans to work on, but of course Captain Scott's hopes and plans ended in death amid desperate failure. Don't they all, eventually? Still, we can try. I will be busy. What was it that Scott's companion, Lawrence Oates, said? Oh yes: "[I]...may be some time".

There are links in all of this. Isn't everything linked?

20 January 2017

New chapters

This old and hacked and damaged tree
like old and hacked and damaged me
has buds held in and nurtured deep
emerging soon in Spring, from sleep

18 January 2017

Another day (please go away)

Another day
another person interfering and trying to manipulate what I do
Another day
another person talking nonsense and expecting me to agree
Another day
another person being ignorant and rude, oh no, it was two
Another day
another person trying to change me from the perfectly acceptable way I want to be
Another day
another mindless idiot spouting faith in things they cannot possibly know are true
Another day
another unwelcome and unasked for interruption to the business of being me
Another day
Just leave me damn alone, the lot of you, please do, please do, please do

17 January 2017

A night on the steps again

My most commonly recurring dream traps me in a large dark building full of Escher steps. It is not hard to interpret, I suppose. It is often based on my old tenement in Leith, but widened into further dimensions, and I can see where I want to get to and the steps that seem to lead me there, but when I climb I soon arrive at an impossible gap, so I retrace my path and try again on what seems from a distance to be the correct route, but then I arrive again at a different but also impossible gap to negotiate, and so it continues, and I am always on stairs with no railings above precipitous drops ready to suck me downward to my doom. I was on the stairs again last night, and awoke exhausted, and then immediately began wondering about the important news I am awaiting about a possible big new endeavour. The dream is not hard to interpret, but I wish it would cease, and I would never again be trapped to spend an evening on the impossible and impassable stairways.

M. C. Escher


Days ruined by an accusation of error based on a lie, but before I knew it was a lie I had to spend the several days wondering... Was it true? Had I made that error? What response would I get to my own response that challenged the accuser for the evidence? Full of self doubt, for I do make mistakes. Don't we all? But surely no? Was it true? Again, again, again, in a turning mind that would not let it be, to just wait and see... Until then, today, in eventual response to the refutation and the challenge for the evidence, the story suddenly changed. Oh... So I was right. Oh... So the lie was deliberate. A con by a chancer trying his luck, and now offering up a very different tale, to wriggle away from what he earlier had to say. And then I was invited to let that cynical slyness pass, to avoid making a problem, and to smooth what could become an awkward path. Oh well, okay. So when offered a possible solution by an intermediary, and asked what I wanted to do, I sighed and said, "Just do whatever will make life easier for you, and him (the lying bastard - [that bit unsaid]), and me, I suppose." And so the lie will be ignored, the path will be smoothed, and the days of troubled mind will be set aside in the big and bulging box that is labelled:


10 January 2017

Invasion of privacy

I took a bath. The window was open, but it is too high for even the tallest of voyeurs to see in, but one prying female neighbour was capable of astonishing athleticism... then the photographer arrived.

The cat may have been wondering if she had found a mouse.

8 January 2017

It is time

It is time
Just look at the clock
It is, isn't it?
Come on now
You know what for
or perhaps for what
even if I do not
and I certainly know what for
or perhaps for what
even if you do not
It is time
It really is
this time
Think about it
and you will know what it is time for
or for what it is time
And like me you will have thought about it a lot
but the knowing is not the problem
It is time to move on from the knowing
and get started on the doing
It is time
this time
It is time
to do, not talk
Just look at the clock


Another one seems to be going now, so sadly, although he is 93
His real being disintegrating each day before us, is dreadful to see
A grey shadow, turning black, creeping over a once bright mind
A stumbling, emerging, confused, incoherence, as consciousness turns blind

Light ebbing from a darkening evening sea
And so who next?
Maybe her, him, you, me

7 January 2017


Coexistence is possible
if you leave me alone
and I leave you alone
and you don't try to change me
and I don't try to change you
We may never be friends
but we may coexist

5 January 2017

Late afternoon in Leith

I love Leith. Rough and ready when I lived there many years ago - a famous old port of working people and pubs and a fair few gangs and thieves and prostitutes; but alive with the dirty messy vigour of humans being human in the best way they could manage, which was often not very well at all. Now greatly gentrified in a wonderful vibrant way, but with all the old traits and characters and drink and drugs still clearly there in the muddled messy mix of humanity heaving and flowing like the lapping sea that surrounds it. I was educated in Leith, until the age of 17, in the days of uncontrolled playground fights and bullies and girls and youthful attempts at love and hate and good and bad, but not much evil, although under the surface, yes that was in there too. I got hurt in Leith, physically, emotionally, romantically. I got tough in Leith, more mentally and emotionally than physically. I grew a hard carapace that even now can hide the wobbling soft pathetic jelly of the man within. And I come back occasionally, not often enough, to walk and eat, and still again yesterday to shake my head with an almost apologetic smile when a surprisingly pretty lass tried to sell the brief use of her slim body to me near the dock gates... where my father used to stand as a young police constable, fresh from fighting a war, but then directing the traffic when not called, as he often was, by a shrill whistle - no personal radio in those days - to intervene in another melee of flying fists and smashing glass in a riverside pub. I love Leith, and I will be back again, sooner next time, to walk and watch and sit and drink and eat, and probably to shake my head with an apologetic smile again and say, "no thanks", sweet, sad, young, dear, lost, lass... no thanks.