Rip Van Winkelesque she wakes

I’ve just refound this site and reading what I wrote way back in the day, I don’t recognise myself.  I have no recollection of mastering the art of blogging, inserting links into text etc, etc.  Wow!

Well, being unemployed (and maybe unemployable) with nothing but an Msc in Poetry to my name, what should I do but pick up the thread of this half-buried thing.  Maybe share a poem or two? Well that would be a start I guess and now I’ll do a tutorial on how WordPress actually works.


A nouvelle cuisine:

two glass eels from Fujian

separate three grapes

a snail in its jus

surrounded by pearl-white spraint

that is jus-de-snail

bluefin otoro

on a bed of wakami

(or alternative)

one green pea gelée,

a sprig of mint perched, waiting

for the frost to bite

Girl on Beam

 For Jenny

On a beam,


as her mother’s

doubt, she stands,

hamstrings taut;


her perfect

backward flip.


New Beginnings

Seasonality is a thing I cherish even though I hate winter.  The change in meter is energising even when, as today, I’ve had to turn the central heating on for the first time since Spring.  Edinburgh is a tourist city all year long but still it has its particular surges.  The Festival is an annual migration that, love it or hate it, brings a distinctive verve to the place.  So too the arrival of the students.  On my way to my Saturday night shift at the hospital this weekend I was stopped by a serpentine of raw recruits, each daubed with a green E on his or her cheek.  The lads, so callow, barely through puberty it seemed, their gawky bodies too quickly grown so they didn’t know where to put their shoulders; they slouched like dreamy wanderers in a land of promised treasure they dare not touch.  The girls in fly-away mini-skirts unaware of the autumn winds that are on their way.

This year I will be joining them.  I matriculate on Thursday onto a one year, full-time Msc in Creative Writing.  Msc, you query.  Well, so did I, but why not a Master of Science from the College of Humanities?  Is it not time we stopped making these arbitrary distinctions?  Creativity and writing are universal after all.

My ID photograph shows a woman of middle-age, albeit a relatively flattering image.  If you enjoy University Challenge you may, like me, pause when Jeremy does his ‘average age’ thing.  Nineteen, twenty-two.  What would I do to those averages if I ever took the challenge?  Not that I have any intention.  Several minutes too slow for the buzzer even when I know the answer.  But, still it is a thought.  How will I get on with my woolly thinking in a tutorial of twenty-something English Lit grads?  My degree (in biology) is now 34 years old.  I read at a snail’s pace, chewing over, rereading to try to make sense of the text.  I’ll have to sharpen up my act methinks.  Am I daunted by the reading list?  You bet.  Am I excited?  You bet.  And if my tutor on the Cubism week in the second semester can help me to understand the poetry of Gertrude Stein I will be delighted

Pablo Picasso – Gertrude Stein 1905

And because this is ostensibly a poetry blog, here is a little poem apropos nothing


 Did I tell you

I almost died

at the age of two

from cyanide?

Another time

I almost died again

A foolish thing –

not at all the same

My mother caught a crab

the year I left home

Therapeutic radiation

withered her jawbone

But she survived

dispatched from the ward

disfigured, frail

the size of a bird

A good friend died

of – I won’t say what

it doesn’t matter

chance would have it

My father thought

he’d conquer death

by never planning

his leaving bash

Until he died

from sulfonamide

I used to wonder why

he lived whilst others died

and now he’s died

I am surprised

Still, as I write this

I’m alive

Poetry from my holiday

I promised to write something about my holiday in Shuna but words fail to express the experience.  Why have I, for decades, travelled to foreign parts for holidays when I have this on my dooorstep?  Dear little ‘Fishkettle’ ferried us around on fishing expeditions and to neighbouring islands.  We saw porpoises and otters and wonderful seabirds.  We pootled over to Luing across the Sound of Shuna and saw their famous red cattle and their whitewashed cottages.  Don Paterson wrote a poem about Luing.  I’m going back there asap.

Solar power and wind power have brought some modern facilities to South End House – low voltage electricity to power lights – but this is not why you travel here.  It is to experience the unique peace, tranquility and indescribable beauty of the Western Isles (and a chance to try out your wellies for consistency off-road – mine were fantastic).  According to Radio 4 in 50 years the Western Isles will have a climate akin to that of Madeira.  So get over there soon if you want to experience an antique land.

Out walking alone on Shuna

Half way through life and lost

(the straightway never in my ken)

I walk this place of bog, scrub forest

and clearings of head-high bracken.

With every step I take, it strafes my ankles

There is rain in the wind which does not slacken

or spare but tears at the stunted trees angled

through how many years of wind from the west?

I know not.  I know nought.  Only the half strangled

cry of a shag.  A sailing boat hauls wind up the coast

—   A West Highland Festival of Sail joyrider

I watch a while, sat on a slate, thought lost

in a sensual mist, smoking. Feeling I’ll remember

today with sadness and with joy in equal measure

These fleeting moments cut from the August calendar

Sense this day.  Astringent. Crude.  Bracken-pure.

Fixed by roots and stalk, unambiguous

The squelch of my boot, the meh of sheep, the scent of their spoor

in my nostrils.   Should this not be enough

to satisfy a beating mind?  Then turn

(artifice is absurd, ridiculous)

I round the cliff.  The whitewashed house sits stiff, stern

with its list of chores to be done before we eat tonight

Could it be some oxide of iron that’s leaching from the burn?

The Otter and the Otter Stone

I saw her

At some distance

Sleek like a wave

Wash to the shore

Flash of silver throat; whiskered —

I should have hollered

Had I been sure but

Just then she arced her tail —

Once she’d gone beyond, beneath

Then I understood, what she had been

Still the otter stone remained

All following week I watched

That stone willing it to uncurl

Show me its whiskers and its tail

Round Robins Any Time of the year

ImageHi all you folks who didn’t get a Christmas card from me a few months ago because Christmas is just not a time of year I cope well with these days.  It’s all I can do to cope with the weather let alone all the million and one things you have to do just because it is Christmas.

So the weather outside is frightful (despite being July), the blogosphere’s delightful, so l thought I’d send Season’s Greetings to you all.

Where has the time gone while I’ve been busy writing poetry and doing the odd shift on the labour ward?  I’ve definitely been letting the grass grow under my feet though I got the scythe out yesterday (second dryish day of the summer) and made a start.

Apparently the isle of Mull has had the driest few months anyone can remember (heresay but from an honest source) whilst the rest of us have been deluged.  Being a bit of a catastrophist, I predict that the jet stream is about to return to more normal positioning just in time for our family holiday in a couple of weeks on the neighbouring island of Shuna after which time the drought-ridden isles will get all their annual rainfall in a week.  Just a feeling.

This is the island of Shuna

I’m not sure if this is the house we will be staying in but there are only 5 houses on the whole island and we can only approach the house by boat (no road).  No electricity either so that should be exciting.  I’ll let you know how we all get on and I’ll be sure to take pictures.

Almost as soon as we get back, I’m off to my first ever Arvon course at Moniack Mhor with Don Paterson and Nora Chassler – Fiction and Poetry.  I’m so excited because I’ve heard so many wonderful things about Arvon courses.  Will, of course, let you know how I get on and hopefully I’ll have a few draft poems/fictions to inflict on you here.

Moniack Mhor

The great thing, I realise about blogging instead of writing a once-a-year round robin is that you don’t have to get everything down in one go.  So I’ll stop here and fill you in on the rest of my doings on the labour ward and beyond next time.

what a flibbertigibbit I am

How many times can you start a blog?  As an experimentalist I tend to dive into things and learn the ropes as I go along so this is my third attempt to find a blog home that suits my taste.  Plan for some furnishings over the coming months but meantime will make do with a couple of deckchairs and a stacking box if you care to join me for a little snack in my shack.  For starters here’s a poem inspired by Twitter.





Mashed potato and #edtomato



More than #youcausedthecrash



#oilexploration #exploitation