29 December 2007


Some new tasting notes here and some new pics here.

28 December 2007


My left eye is my stronger eye, according to my optometrist and the prescription he gives me. It's been thus for quite a few years now, possibly since I first needed glasses. It's not stronger by much, a mere .25. .25 of what, I don't know, but I don't think that matters very much.

It was Hammersmith station, and I tried reading the Piccadilly and District Line Eastbound maps to work out how many stops we had before we got to Knightsbridge. I assume we were going to Knightsbridge - I was with my mother and she took me to Harrods quite a bit. I needed to squint to work out the station names. I was only 10 or 15 feet away from the maps. My mother sighed and told me we'd need to book an eye appointment. 

That was 18 years ago. My eyesight's about 3-4 times worse than it was for that first prescription. I don't mind being short-sighted, at least not literally. I like my glasses and I don't have any issue with contacts. Every couple of years or so I need to get a new 'script, usually just a fraction stronger. I keep an emergency pair of glasses in the glove box of my car. 

My old optician used to, in between aggrandising tales of his hugely successful sons, recommend laser correction. In the interest of full disclosure he confessed he'd make quite a bit of money if I took him up on it. Sometimes he struck me as more of a salesman than an optician - most of the time, actually. I declined. As I said, I like glasses, have no issues with contacts. 

And the thought of shooting a laser into my eye kind of freaked me out. It still does.

Last week my optician found something, or thought she did. Some sort of discolouring of my optic nerve, or lack of colour - it was too pale. She recommended a second opinion and I took her recommendation. Her colleague dilated my pupils to the size of planets - disconcerting though compelling mirror viewing - and looked at my eyes for a very long time. 

Retinal oedema on my left eye - the strong one. There's a risk of retinal detachment and the possibility that they're going to have to shoot a laser into my eye whether it freaks me out or not. 

26 December 2007


London decided to revert to some nostalgic, fairy-tale version of itself, draped in a pea-souper. If you can't have a white Christmas, a cold and foggy one is a decent substitute. And god was it cold. The damp allows the chill to bypass the flesh and hit the bone directly. You're cold from the skeleton out. Layers don't help. It can only be cured by comfort. Getting home after braving the mad streets, the shops with their dry, harsh attempts at warmth that leave you dehydrated and longing for the freshness of the chill outside. Getting home and knowing you don't have to go out again. It's that relief that warms the heart, that thaws the skeleton so that once again you're warm. You get ready for that to be your Christmas, and you look forward to it.

Then the temperature rises, the cloud rolls in and the real London asserts itself over the fairy-tale. The rain starts to fall and everything in the world is wet. Outside is no longer whimsical or an adventure, just something to avoid. Inside though, is full of lights and laughter, the clink of glass and the tearing of paper.

22 December 2007

cold cometh


gimme paracetamol 


the good stuff.

with the codeine depth charge.

do opiates help colds?

do i care? 

can't hurt.

actifed. sudafed. anything with a -fed.

tablets or spoonfuls?



what the hell is that?

homeopathic. proven to yadda yadda yadda... 

fuck that tastes awful. ah well.

oh. spicy curry. extra spicy. it's supposed to help clear sinuses.


yes, really. doctors recommend it and everything.

mmmm... spicy curry, painkillers, opiates, homeopathics, the 'feds and beer. 

well of course there's beer, you can't have spicy curry without beer.

i'm feeling better already. 

a wee whisky before bed and this cold's history...

21 December 2007

not quite a summation

I've been remiss. A very long time without words, or even a word.

To distil the goings on of the last few weeks into a coherent post would be difficult. 

To be honest, I'm not sure I remember everything that's happened. Several 4 or 5 am finishes followed by 9am starts, the odd day off to hibernate, endless takeaway pizzas, whiskies, beers, fine wine and enough espresso to knock out the most stalwart Milanese. Then there's the gingerbread lattés bolstered with fine cognac, sushi, Thai curry, Bengali curry, Afghani curry, roast venison, fine cheese, gallons of port, the odd sherry, a criminally corked Burgundy and many, many late night drams of Laphroaig Quarter Cask. 

I've had moments of heroism, moments of cowardice and moments of apathy. Rage, glee and bewilderment set my heart racing, sinking and singing in turn. Sometimes my brain refused to stop, sometimes it refused to start. 

My shoulder's been cried on, and I've held back my own tears. 

I danced on tables, singing into a small umbrella. 

I drove 13 hours when it should only have been 8 and a half. 

I made it to London though, and here I am.

And now the tree sits naked, for there are no lights. You have to do the lights first. Without them it sits naked, boxes of decorations surround it, unopened and waiting. 

02 December 2007

sunday musings

It's dark at four, am and pm. A mis-timed nap or too-late a night and you don't see the daylight. 

The whiteness of the Christmas lights is relative. Compared to the silver-lined brilliance of the stars they're madeirized, tarnished brass, but no less cheerful for it. They're warming, while the beauty and clearness of the stars chills. 

It's the right time of year for epiphanies, regardless of belief. The crisp cold of the air brings clarity, and not just of the starlight. As usual, it's the simple truths that come out - overlooked, ignored or denied until now. They're revelation brings comfort regardless of the mind and heart's turmoil. 

The clouds still linger, but the space between them expands, the starlight shines through and I see clearly, myself, writing. 

24 November 2007

choices or decisions.

 It's either ruptured ligaments or torn cartilage. Or perhaps torn ligaments or ruptured cartilage? 

I'm not sure which. Even if I had a choice, which I don't, I don't know which I'd choose. Shot in the knee or smashed with a sledge hammer? 

Given such options I look to happier decisions. Short stories, novels or travel writing - the three highest stacks in my piles of the unwritten. 

Self-discipline has given way to misplaced self-pity. 

What a load of bollocks. 

I'll choose the former and flip a coin as to the ligaments and cartilage. 

18 November 2007

pics from an adventure

Why do guys become such weenies when they have a cold/injury? Please ignore my self-pitying previous post. Instead have a peak at the pics from my most recent adventure.

My knee does still hurt though. I'm icing it as I type this.

cane and unable

My knee has not experienced the stratospheric miraculous recovery that I had hoped for. In fact, I am now using a cane. The cane isn't for my bad knee though, it's for my good knee. It's not liking the extra work and limping on both legs can't be good. So I've succumbed to the cane - I've not used one since blood poisoning nearly lead to the amputation of my right foot. 

That's another long, stupid story that I hesitate to commit to paper or web. 

The cane is bizarre - with time it can become like another appendage. I hope to be better before that, but in the meantime I hobble the street, counting my pace, trying to make sure it's doing its job. I look like Hugh Laurie's House in both infirmity and miserable demeanor, but in nothing else.

It could be worse, I know that. It could always be worse. 

It could have been both knees.

16 November 2007

spidery ink

Webs of hair thin black lines creep from the letters. The ink I use is too heavy and the pages bleed, smudges abound and my hand cramps as the day's happenings come back. I sift through what matters and doesn't, what doesn't matter but amuses and what might matter later, when I think about it. Down it goes. The narrow roads, the hills, the water, the endless sheep, the horny does and hornier stags, the endlessly changing sky, the vast expanses, the towering mountains appearing from the clouds in silence. The teasing sun, occasionally shining a spotlight on some deserted stretch of nowhere, drawing our eyes towards yet more indescribable beauty. 

It's all there, in my swollen notebook - over a thousand miles of notes, snippets of tales, beginnings and endings. 

An adventure.

10 November 2007

limping pizza

Right. I think I need to stop eating pizza. In fact, I'm not going to have a pizza again in 2007. Pepperoni, jalapenos and extra cheese have done me in for the last time this year. 

In other news, I've thrown my knee out and am limping like a gimp. The tale surrounding it is one of complete and total idiocy. I'm not quite ready to tell it yet. 

Tomorrow is another adventure. And adventure with a limp.

08 November 2007


Different inks from different pens - twenty or thirty pages of notes taken a year ago almost to the day. It's a chronicle, a diary, a journal of a small adventure, a road trip throughout the highlands - from south to north and from east to west and back east again. It starts with a night in the great hall at Tullibole and finishes somewhere along the A9, heading south. 

I was diligent in keeping notes and narrative. Every night before bed, every spare moment I updated. I lost pen after pen. I don't think any entry is in the same ink as the one prior. The routine grew on me. The questions of the day settled by chronicling them. Sleep never eluded me on that trip, though it was a strange and different bed every night. 

The plan was to clean it up. Type everything up, flesh it out, give it some reflection, then shop it. 

Instead it sits among my pile of the unwritten. I read it now and I'm surprised at how much I've forgotten. It needs work. It sits there and I feel urgency and trepidation in turn.

Sunday sees another road trip, to even more remote corners of the north, to Scotland's empty quarter above Ullapool. Gnarled coast and tiny roads await, as does my notebook. Perhaps this new adventure will stir the memories of the old one. Perhaps. 

I hope so. The pile of unwritten is growing, and there's too much overdue.

And I need a new adventure.

05 November 2007

monday boredom.

The bar's quiet - a bunch of drunks, Scots and Yorkshiremen, sit on the couches and mutter gibberish. I can't even be bothered to eavesdrop. We've shut the doors to keep the cold out. The tide's receded and there's little sound from the sea. The boom of distant fireworks thud and echo every few minutes. It is the fifth after all - remember, remember and all that.

Only yesterday the car swerved along the wee highland roads like a roller-coaster, surrounded by the autumn's silent fireworks, vibrant in defiance of the dreich, overcast skies. We pulled over and wandered through the woods, following trails and half-trails towards a lazy stretch of river. Small adventures are better than no adventures, and this seemed perfect for a brisk November Sunday.

Afterwards the fire popped and the soft scent of wood smoke drifted throughout the pub. The food and beer warmed our bellies. We chatted in quiet, happy tones, planning new adventures.

Monday comes first though, and the rest of them. And sometimes a quiet bar with loud, irrelevant drunks isn't a bad thing.

Photos here.

11 October 2007

Edinburgh Airport without a pen

I had no pen.

I scratched my head and looked around the stark, strip-light glow of the departure lounge. The fluorescent bulbs hummed in the background. My rucksack bit a bit into my shoulder. My clothes had that awkward discomfort that you get in anticipation of flying. I don't know what it is, but if you've flown - ever - you know what I mean.

Duty Free offered a whisky tasting and I accepted. A new range from an old distillery - shiny new packaging, aged in all manner of oak - genuine differences wrapped in layer upon layer of marketing bullshit. The modern booze trade to a 'T' as it were. To be fair, the whiskies tasted nice - better than their predecessors. My cheeks felt a quick flush.

I had no pencil.

I handed back the miniscule plastic tasting beaker and wandered past the rest of the shopping area. I couldn't afford anything but asked to see one of the cameras anyway. Eventually there will be money in my account - eventually I will be able to afford it. I handed it back with a smile to a bored sales assistant who didn't deserve it.

My notebooks sat in my rucksack, but no pen, no pencil, not even a stubby one, sharpened to the eraser.

The mutter of footsteps and quiet chatter, BBC News 24 on the widescreens scattered throughout the terminal, everything sat subdued in the boredom of waiting. It was a perfect time and place to scribble.

I didn't have a pen. I had my notebooks, but no pen. My laptop was in the shop. I couldn't write.

It was an odd feeling. It started as a slight discomfort. I flexed my fingers and thought of all the things I wasn't writing down. Ideas arrived from nowhere and I tried to etch them into my brain. It didn't work, so I popped into the newsagents to buy a book and some pens. I needed to write. I wanted to read, too.

Nothing moves at pace in airports. Everyone's flight is delayed, and so they wander. They shuffle along the linoleum tiles, bored, uninterested that they're going somewhere. The queue in the newsagents shuffled, uninterested. Their eyes wandered, their hands clutching bottled water, sweets, vapid magazines.

I found a book, but no pens. That couldn't be right. An entire shelf of puzzle books, crosswords, sudoku and mad-libs, but no pens? I looked again. Fat Crayola magic markers? Yes. A simple biro? No. My turn at the register.

'Just the book, sir?'

'Do you have any pens?'

'Hey, Kenny, do we have any pens?'

'Uh... dinnae ken... no. Nae pens.'

'Just the book, please.'

No pens.

My new book and I walked by our gate and to the coffee shop. The smallness of Scotland struck me as I recognised at least 4 of the people sitting at the gate. Not friends, or even acquaintances, but faces seen in passing, either on the street or in the paper or some such. An MSP, a Lord - the disturbing familiarity of strangers lingered as I ordered a mocha and a sandwich.

Dark Star Safari, by Paul Theroux, took me elsewhere as I munched and sipped. This was not the bored, lackadaisical traveler with a muffled shuffle through the airport, staring at a magazine or texting wantonly. His next flight wasn't just another aluminium tube to shuttle him to another bored and antiseptic terminal. He was going somewhere to fall off the face of the world, to leave the texts, the magazines, the email, the New York Times, the world where travel was just another commute, where stepping on a plane was as mundane as stepping on a bus. There may be anguish, discomfort, fear, disease, triumph and all manner of surprise in store, but there wouldn't be boredom, nothing would be same-old.

Notebooks, no pen.

Ten pages in, my sandwich and mocha finished, I looked around the airport. I needed to write, to do, to go somewhere, and not to Heathrow. Where else? Nineteen departure gates to choose from - surely one of them would have some preferable destination, somewhere far from the comfort zone and familiarity of Britain or even Europe? A glance at the departure board would quickly answer my question, so I didn't look at it. It was time to explore, even somewhere as boring Edinburgh airport warranted a bit of exploration.

I went to the far gates: 17-20. Southampton & Exeter, the other gates closed. Both lovely in their own way, but well within the comfort zone. Still, there was another newsagent. And they sold pens. I bought a couple and headed back towards the main terminal. The connecting walk had a skywalk (or whatever they call what are just flat escalators) and gorgeous panoramic photos of Edinburgh punctuated by grand quotes by the great and good, extolling the city's virtues. I ignored the flat escalator and strolled along, still inspired.

I had pens.

The international departure gates lay in darkness, all closed. Only then did I look at the boards, seeking some flight elsewhere. There were none. The remaining flights were all shuttles, commuter flights to the main hubs around the island. Even the last Belfast flight had gone. The flights for the next morning were posted - several to the continent, Paris, Munich, Madrid... the only one that interested me was Stornaway. Still Scotland, but remote, isolated, surrounded by sea and wilderness.

I shrugged and walked back to my departure gate. I couldn't have changed flights anyway, not these days, not checked in and through security. Even if I could have, like the camera, I couldn't afford it. But it was nice, for twenty minutes or so, to look. To question where I would go, and what I'd do when I got there. To not mundanely text, to not play solitaire on my iPod, to not stare at the other bored passengers-to-be, but search instead for something else, something different.

Back in the departure gate I saw an old friend and his new girlfriend. Familiar reintroduction and pleasant, staid chat commenced. It was nice, comfortable.

But throughout my thoughts drifted, turning back to my pocket, to my new book, my new pens, and where I could go.

30 September 2007

white horses

The white horses are gone, departed with a whisper. The sea's calm now and the night is settling with mild temperament. Pastel clouds brush the sky and the seals are swimming about with a nonchalance that only sea mammals can pull off.

The water on the sea walls is just a hush, a whisper, a memory of the sea's rage of the days before.

Perhaps that's why the seals are so nonchalant.

27 September 2007

Not nippy.

The cold bites. It's not nippy.

It doesn't nip.

It bites - with fangs.

Usually at this time of year I'd make some unsubstantiated prediction about the winter.

'It'll be a cold one' or 'I reckon there'll be a lot of snow this year' or some such rubbish.

It's very old-man-ish. There's no logic behind the predictions. I just spout them out because it seems like something to say when a new season's upon you.

This year I have no idea. It's cold now - I know that. Fashion is an issue of layers at the moment, and I have several. My army of jumpers is being put to good use after a summer of hibernation.

Today is a fuzzy day - several beers and a rare couple of herbal refreshments last night have left me feeling a tad... behind...

25 September 2007

paper storms and needless nerves

I'm bad at paperwork. The thing with being bad at paperwork is that there's always evidence. Piles of it - stuffed into drawers and cupboards - demands, reminders, requests, citations - all sorts really. It builds and builds. Sometimes it catches you.

I was meant to be in court yesterday. Unpaid road tax fines or some such disaster. What with moving twice in the last 6 months and a true cowardice when it comes to officially postmarked letters, I'd just let things slip. I panicked. A sense of despair and doom lingered for awhile. Beer didn't taste as good as it should. I wondered what I was going to do.

The court notice had a number to phone - a direct line. It daunted me. It was just a phone number. I could phone and claim my total ineptitude. I had images of someone on the other end of the line, bored and vindictive, listening to me squirm, throwing my pride away and begging for a stay of execution, waiting for my last gasp of an apology before telling me I could turn myself into Fife Constabulary immediately. Do not pass GO. Do not collect £200.

I phoned with trepidation, after running out of excuses not to. No one bored or vindictive answered. A nice lady let me pay over the phone and the crisis was averted. No court appearance and no warrants for my arrest.

I've got two jobs at the moment, and they're overlapping a bit more often than I'd like. 9-5 followed by 6-12 doesn't leave much room for anything else. Once again I'm living on espressos and wondering what I felt like going a whole day without caffeine. It's a mystery. It's also a bit weird - when you work that much, you forget you get paid for it because you don't have any time to spend what you've earned. It's a nice surprise to find money in the bank (or wallet) at the end of it all.

Until the paperwork rears its ugly head and spends it all.

On the plus side, there are strong signs that both jobs are to fall to the wayside in favour of something better. Right - time for caffeine.

15 September 2007

whipped cream & duffel bags

My mother refused to buy cans of whipped cream. She wasn't worried about whippits. I was a little sheltered for that sort of thing. I was also only about 9 years old. The thought of using whipped cream to get a buzz other than a sugar rush was alien. Besides, I was hyper enough. No, her rationale was that she could whip better cream than came from a can. She was right. What she didn't realise was that cans of whipped cream were fun. Junk food and a toy, all in one. That was the killer for me, that was why I complained, why I folded my arms in 9-year-old indignation.

My mother refused to fold to my indignation. Much like the cereal wars, this was a battle never to be won. All was not lost though. Instead of buying me cans of whipped cream she taught me to make my own. It wasn't hard. Good double cream or whipping cream, sugar, a big bowl and a whisk. Playing with a whisk beat fiddling with a can any day. In retrospect, it was the first food I ever really made. Frozen pizzas in the toaster oven and milk over cereal didn't really count. Too much sugar and it was inedible, too little and it was sickly. Over-whipping lead to a churned, butter-like mass. Over-whipping happened a lot. I loved making it. I didn't need to be hungry, or even wanting dessert. It didn't matter. It was mine - if it came out right, it was because of me, if it was ruined, well, that was my fault too.

Cooking the other night I pondered my whipped cream days. The gravy bubbled and reduced (a touch more stock and a hefty splash of red wine for good measure). The smell of caramelised onions and roast tomatoes with garlic permeated the kitchen.

I've not made whipped cream in years. I've not thought about it in years either. Its resurfacing is a bit of a mystery. There's no terrible whipped cream tragedy that blocked it from my consciousness. It's just one of those things that lies buried in the bottom of an old duffel bag. I was just rummaging through some old memories and out it popped.

Speaking of old duffel bags (this is a link), I have one that sits in a corner between my standing wardrobe and the door to my room. It's old military issue - army or marines - a sort of desert tan canvas. At one point it fit in everything I could possibly need for a summer. At the time, I think it could fit me in it as well. I was twelve. Somewhere along the way it went missing, transferred from London to Florida. Later on, years later, I found it again and brought it back to the UK. An old address is stenciled onto its canvas. It's beaten and battered but still strong. I found myself rummaging through it for a jumper yesterday.

Summer's retreated. It's time to empty the duffel of my jumpers, scarves and gloves and fill it again with shorts, flip-flops and linen shirts. Stew on the stove, simmering for hours on end - pots of tea brewed strong and my woolen hats pulled snug over my ears.

The cold's come back. Proper cold, the sort that defies the sun, that joins with the damp to chill the bones.

09 September 2007

Indian Summer

I'll take any summer I can get. My shorts and flip-flops have not been retired yet. Jumpers hang around the waist. My sunglasses are fixed to my face and I eat ice cream every day. Beer tastes better, earned by merely enduring the warmth of the sun.

The joy of falling asleep on top of the covers and waking up without a chill.

The light fades a bit earlier though, and the sun's lazier in the morning. Indian summers tend to be short, but I'll take what I can get.


Some new pics up here and here. Weddings and wanderings from a brilliant weekend.

26 August 2007

lost day?

Yesterday was a bad morning. I woke up at 9 and simply wasn't ready for the day. I threw on my groovy bathrobe and wandered into the sitting room. Yellow walls and glorious morning sunshine seared my retinas. Flatmates shuffled around, fuzzy headed. I drank a pint of water and mumbled something at them. It was probably 'morning'. It wasn't 'good morning.' I'm pretty sure of that. I sent some fuzzy-headed, hungover, non-sequitur text messages and bed claimed me back.

It kept me until 12. I decided against a run. I thought I felt better. I wandered around, aimlessly, until I found the pub and hungover flatmates. We decided on beer and food that was terrible for us. I bought flour and yeast but didn't bake.

I reread the last few chapters of the Monty Python autobiography because I didn't remember reading them the night before.

I didn't do much, really, and I enjoyed every moment.

20 August 2007

first loaf

Everything worked.
Flour, water, yeast and a touch of salt - that's all it took.
A bit of kneading followed. Then a rest.
It rose.
I was convinced of disaster but it rose.
Then a bit more kneading, a bit more flour.
And it rose again.
It was ready.
Into a very hot oven and it baked.

And it tasted wonderful. Beyond a shadow of a doubt the greatest bread ever baked.

But I might be biased.

17 August 2007


Most of my life I've had single beds. There have been breaks in this. My old Belfry had a peculiar 1 2/3 size bed. My mother sewed special sheets for it. It was an antique and, according to family legend, a rather famous relative slept there.

Well, as famous as my relatives get.

But for the most part, in Boston, London, St Andrews and Linlithgow, it's been single beds. The odd occasion where I've had a queen or even a double have been met with glee. I spread myself out as much as possible, usually waking up diagonally buried under a pile of pillows, searching for the ends of the bed with both finger and toe tips.

My new bed is a super king size. It's really two singles put together, but with some clever engineering, you'd never know. It's enormous. I get lost on it. And I'm not small. I woke up perpendicular at one point.

I didn't sleep well though. Acres of bed space and little comfort. It wasn't the mattress, or the pillows. The sheets are nice - Egyptian cotton. No - it was seeing just how little of the bed included me.

It was lonely, and I was small.

15 August 2007

too fast.

There ought to be a law.

It should state:

If you are still rollerblading, hillwalking, skydiving and drinking cask strength whisky into your late seventies, then you're moving too fast to get caught by cancer.

Sadly, legislation, should it come, would be too late.

13 August 2007


So the new home feels like home, and not necessarily new. But that's good. The air's fresh with a sharp tang of salt, there's always a breeze and glorious sunshine battles with torrential rainfall.

There are lots of people though. Tourists mill about, vacantly, asking for directions while holding unopen maps in their tanned, chubby hands. Families wander with brightly clothed children yelling and pointing with glee at nothing in particular.

It's summer, finally. Not sure for how long though.

09 August 2007

je suis returné, plus ça change and many other French sayings...

I no longer have a Belfry, or even a treehouse.

Instead I have the sea again, and that settles all doubts.

St Andrews hasn't changed much.

I think I have. A little.

The view from my window.

01 August 2007

evening beer

The mid-evening sun lends its warmth still and I squint down the lane. It’s empty. The fields shine green and gold. The one on the left is vibrant. You can almost hear the veg growing. The air hums – everything’s alive. The farm’s on the left. I wander into the steadings, jingling the coins in my pocket. One of the pigs wanders by the barn door, wondering if I have any food. She’s a Tamworth. I say hi and walk over to the brew house. There’s a hint of malt in the air, amidst that cool, damp stone scent. The 80 /- barrel’s tapped. I drop £4 into the cigar box on the worktop and fill the pitchers. The sun still lights the steadings as I walk out, two pitchers in hand. The lane’s still quiet, the fields still alive.

It strikes me, walking back to the cottage, that this is a stolen moment. Taken from a time of gaslight and horse-drawn carriages; some rural ideal, that maybe never existed in reality, but that people remark on whimsically regardless.

But it’s here, and it’s now, and damn the beer tastes good.

I’m leaving soon. I’m going to miss it.

30 July 2007

along came a...

It's been 4 months since I started rewriting chapter 6. Quite a lot has happened in those 4 months.

I've had my first spider bite.

Say what you will about spiders, but in terms of telling tales, having a spider bite is far cooler than a mosquito bite. You never mention mosquito bites. They're boring and annoying. You scratch them when you think no one's looking, hoping no one gets the wrong idea.

With a spider bite, you let folks know. You hope they wince with arachnophobic distaste. You scratch freely and mumble about bastard spiders. Then, when you've been doing this for over a week, you realise something that should have been obvious from the beginning:

Spider bites fucking suck.

They itch more than mosquito bites, they hurt more than mosquito bites and they take ages to heal.

Not as long as chapter 6 is taking to rewrite however. It's irksome and lingering. In the midst of it all sorts of things continue in whirlwind fashion whilst this one chapter floats in limbo, half reformed. It nags me. Moments of relaxation abruptly halted by stabbing anxiety about chapter 6.

So fuck it. I'm going to leave it. It's not ready to be rewritten. I'm taking it off the schedule. It will not plague me any more. I'm moving house, sorting out new jobs and generally there's a whole lot of new shit happening.

So I'm starting a new book. This one's been rolling in my head for just under three years now. I'm hoping to have submission chapters ready by the end of the summer (not that summer's actually begun yet). Like much else that's going on in my life, this is pretty exciting. I figure if I shop two sets of submission chapters I'm twice as likely to get picked up.

So that's a two-in-a-million chance then...

20 July 2007

in a week

I've not gone running in almost a week. I drift between pangs of guilt and shrugs of not giving a shit. The two are spread out evenly, the pangs and the shrugs. I figure that's pretty healthy - a good balance always is.

While not running I've done other things.

I've noticed a lost hubcap. I don't know when I lost it, and I'm pretty sure I'll never find it again. I don't miss it. In fact, I'm tempted to get rid of its two remaining brethren. They're tattered and make an awful racket when the windows are rolled down. Perhaps if I wait long enough they'll all be gone.

I've been to a funeral. I got there late. I stood outside the door and listened for awhile to the muffled eulogy before entering with the other late-comers.

I've held back tears and helped dry others'.

I've given a lot of hugs.

I've received a few myself.

I've driven a lot, and as such have not drunk enough.

I've not worked on the book. This also provokes pangs and shrugs, though with less balance. There are far more pangs than shrugs on this one. I figure that's pretty healthy too.

I've contemplated life, death and the universe a great deal and know no more about any of them.

I've watched the first series of House on DVD, and wondered whether I was funnier when I was grumpier.

I've chose sleep over exercise, friends over sleep and orange juice over beer.

The latter might have been a mistake.

18 July 2007

the burnt ends

It's not a shorts day. In the battle between clean laundry and weather-friendly clothes, the latter lost. I'm cold, but I'm not smelly. That must count for something.

It's not a flip-flop day either, but in for a penny...


My father jokes that his dowry was a poodle.

She was black, quite small and deeply devoted to my mother. This put us at odds for the first 5 1/2 years of my life. Tilly and I competed for mom's affection and attention. More often than not, she won. To be fair, she deserved to - I was petulant and spoiled, while she was loyal, loving and probably smelled better than I did. Tilly was a smart dog, and knew if I hugged my mother in her presence it was in part to get a jealous growl from her. She snapped at me but never bit me.

I hated her. She resented me.

Just before my sixth birthday, we arrived at some sort of truce. I stopped baiting her and she stopped snapping. She let me hug my mother. After a month or so she let me pet her. It was civil. I finally understood her place and she begrudgingly allowed me mine. She rested her head on my leg once or twice.

At the end of the summer the family went to the Cape to visit friends. For the first time, Tilly slept in my room. One night, late, I woke to her wheezing on the floor. She rasped, and felt hot to touch. I woke my folks.

The vet put her to sleep that night.

I've not thought of her in awhile.

10 July 2007


I want one of these...

There's much else going on, but for the moment that will do.

05 July 2007

this morning

There's only birdsong.

The fridge is silent. There's no swish of the washing machine, no rumble of the dishwasher. No gentle thump as the water pump and boiler set to their morning work.

Just the birds, and the tumult of thought, the receding tide of last night's dreams.

The bloody power's out.

I swear a lot and wipe the sleep from my eyes.

The power returns, but not the hot water.

I swear some more.

27 June 2007

just so you know

That if ever you've finished your chips/crisps/pita/other-some-such-dipping-victual before you've finished your hummus/guacamole/salsa/other-some-such-dip, it is important to use your fingers to scrape that last tasty bit out of the bowl/ramekin/other-some-such-dipping-vessel.

In fact, it's imperative.

Anyone who tells you different is in league with The Man.

the relativity of time

June has flown by in a gallimaufry of torrential rain, ubiquitous fog and fleeting sunshine. There was quite a bit of damp, cold and wet involved as well. And it's not quite over yet. Who knows what the next three days of the month have to offer?

Not I.

I do know that there are a stack of unpayable bills sitting to the left of me. To my right is a cup of lapsang souchong. There are other things scattered about as well, but they don't grab my attention as much.

Except one thing. There's a large, unopened bottle of ale on my desk. Sometimes I look up from the screen and ponder it. The lapsong makes me smile, but not as much as the bottle of ale.

Where has June gone?

15 June 2007

too literary...

Tara, the walking rug that keeps me company while I write, is a curious beast. Daschunds tend to be, and long-haired daschunds moreso. I've known a few in my day.

Perhaps they know, deep down, that they look kind of silly. Elongated, sausage-like and earnest. Tara is a lovely dog but ridiculous. Her hair drags grass-cuttings, twigs and all sorts of detritus through the house. She has a beard, snauser-like. Sometimes she feigns back pain to convince Christina to lift her onto the couch, sometimes she deftly leaps to the couch herself, when she thinks that no one's looking. When she's excited to see you, she'll rise to her hind feet, back pain forgotten, and try to give you a hug.

It's endearing. It's also laughable and absurd.

I find myself making fun of Tara. Not in a hurtful way. In a soft voice, usually while scratching her belly or behind her ears. I make fun of her beard, the way her butt shakes when she walks, how badly she smells. The fact that she's a bit thick. I push her away when she tries to lick me.

As long as it's with a gentle voice and looking her straight in the eyes, her feelings don't get hurt. She still tries to lick me and we get along just fine. I reconcile my affection for her with my incredulity at her silliness.

I've been a bit nicer today. More scratches behind the ear and fewer soft-spoken jibes. Her silly presence is welcome.

An email arrived this morning. It was complimentary and vague, written softly. It spoke of how they enjoyed my chapters (but never what they enjoyed about them). It ended the soft compliments with the regret that it was 'too literary' for their agency.

I suppose it's better than being 'too rubbish' or 'too vacuous'.

I could use a hug right now. No words or consolation, just a long, quiet hug.
Instead I'll scratch the belly and behind the ears of a smelly long-haired daschund who I won't even let give me a kiss.

13 June 2007

new extinct things.

They found a new dinosaur! A new species, no less. How cool is that?

Well, I think it's cool.

So there.

Listen to I Still Remember and Sunday by Bloc Party.

12 June 2007

snap and tang

The sun roof's open, so are the front windows. A warm breeze billows into the car from all directions. The M90 moves apace, The Who belt out Baba O'Reilly, and the road bridge pops onto the horizon. Downhill and up again, the motorway twists and turns. Goosebumps rise on my forearms, and the bridge is just ahead.

The air changes. It drops several degrees. The breeze doesn't billow; it whips and snaps into the car, chilled with the salt tang of the sea.

The windows stay down, the sunroof stays open and the sunlight stays bright.

Scotland in the summer is wondrous. When it's not grey.

And sometimes when it is.


–noun, plural -bos.
1.Roman Catholic Theology. a region on the border of hell or heaven, serving as the abode after death of unbaptized infants (limbo of infants) and of the righteous who died before the coming of Christ (limbo of the fathers or limbo of the patriarchs).
2.a place or state of oblivion to which persons or things are regarded as being relegated when cast aside, forgotten, past, or out of date: My youthful hopes are in the limbo of lost dreams.
3.an intermediate, transitional, or midway state or place.
4.a place or state of imprisonment or confinement.

–noun, plural -bos.
a dance from the West Indies, originally for men only, in which the dancer bends backward from the knees and moves with a shuffling step under a horizontal bar that is lowered after each successive pass.

I prefer the latter.

08 June 2007


I don't think tea counts as caffeine.

If it does, then yeah, I drank caffeine yesterday. If not, then I didn't. Trying not to drink any today. I'm very sleepy though, and most tempted by thoughts of naps. Naps are civilised.

Cats nap. They seem quite civilised.

Except, of course, when they lick their butts. And cough up hairballs.

Otherwise though, very civilised.

05 June 2007

caffeine day II

It's upsetting that coffee isn't tasting good to me anymore. I'm sure it's a temporary thing. It had better be. I think the defining factor is utility. I'm not drinking the coffee because I really want a coffee.
What I really want is a bit of a caffeine detox and a day in bed.
I'm drinking the coffee because I need it to stay awake.
I'm at work.
I'm at my job. It's an important distinction.
I'm not working.
When I do work, it will not be at my job. It will be writing.

Some studies suggest that caffeine is psycho-reactive. That if you ingest it as a stimulant, it acts as such, but if you view it as a relaxant, it will chill you out.

I think that's bollocks. My blood's boiling with the stuff. I'm still exhausted, but shakes keep me awake.

04 June 2007

caffeine day

If I shut my eyes, I'll fall asleep.

Today I'm writing, selling wine and taking pictures.

That's everything I do. Well, everything I do for a living...

The latter two are hobbies, but the only ones I get paid for.

Go figure.

1 triple espresso latte down and I can control my eyelids again.

Another and I might forget how warm my bed is.

I doubt it though.

29 May 2007


The sambuca was my idea.

So was the whisky.

As was the gin and tonic.

And it wouldn't be a birthday without several pints of Guinness.

And the odd lager. And a couple of Little Creatures.

Oh, and there was a half bottle of Californian Orange Muscat.

But I didn't drink much of that.

Someone else did. On the beach, curled up against the wind, the pink, orange and pale blue of the hidden sun crawling beneath the northern horizon.

My clothes smelled of bonfire yesterday morning.

And my head hurt.

26 May 2007

tomorrow morning

The clock will say 6 - something and I'll be awake. The sky will be dank and grey - a sort of daylight. Pillows askew, duvet kicked to the end of the bed, for a moment I'll wonder where I am. Mystery solved I'll scratch my stubble and run my hand through hair that isn't there. Math begins. Hours until my flight, time to stretch and run, time to pack, to eat breakfast, to get to the airport, to do it all and not feel rushed.

I'll get up and scratch my head again. It doesn't itch, but it wakes me up.

I'll smile and think of everything to come.

I'll be 31 tomorrow.

25 May 2007

comfort glove (too hot for security blankets)

The London Belfry is clutter-filled and only some of it is mine. Though mine is the most cluttered.

From my seat I see a turntable, a disused laser printer, a pile of clean laundry, countless blank cds, odd shoes, a belt, drawerless files, a pair of binoculars, several pairs of headphones, an empty beer bottle (guilty), a bag of paper for recycling and a baseball glove.

The glove is new, and it's mine. A birthday gift requested on a whim and given early. The leather's still stiff and I don't have a ball down here to break it in. I've been wearing it quite a bit. Rubbing oil into it. Squeezing it, squishing it. Smacking my fist into it and pretending to wind into a pitch. Wanting it to be broken in already, for the stiffness in my left pinky to disappear. Wondering if I have any friends in Scotland with gloves so that I can actually play catch. I don't think I do. It doesn't matter. Not really.

I can't type with it on. Not with the left hand anyway. So now it's laying amidst the rest of the clutter. When I get up from the keyboard and pace I'll slip it on and and start smacking, bending and twisting again, not thinking of baseball. Thinking of the next word, sentence, paragraph, chapter, book.

22 May 2007

short note

There are some new pics up on my picasa page.

I'm off to London tomorrow morning to see the folks and others. Beers on the Thames, good food and chat should ensue. I'm writing quite a bit at the moment, so there will be some bits and pieces popping up here and there.

Veronica's posting some old stuff on the roads and paths - check it out. She's ridiculously talented.

The Sox lost last night. They'll win tonight.

I'm crossing my fingers anyway.

21 May 2007

rips and tears

My favourite Red Sox hat frays at the brim. Sometimes I burn the errant threads, out of boredom more than anything else. My jeans tear at the cuffs. There are holes over the front pockets. Most of my t-shirts faded a long time ago and I can't think of a jumper I own that's in one piece. Ten years ago there may have been cigarette burns. Nowadays it's wear and (mostly) tear. Jumpers work hard in Scotland.

Sometimes people ask me if I buy my clothes that way, or single them out for abuse to attain a 'look'. I smile and shake my head. There's little point in indignation.

I look scruffy, but I'm comfortable. I'm sure I'd still be comfortable without the holes.

This morning I taped the torn pages of my battered manuscript back together. There isn't an undogged corner. Illegible red scribbles cover the pages. The odd red wine, coffee, beer or tea stain pops up here and there. Now several leaves glisten with tape. It fits in my laptop bag. Every time I pull it out and start going through it some of the pages are out of order, upside down and often both. No matter how many times I fix it, there's always something new to sort out. That's just in the physical sense, not the literary.

I love it, and am proud of it. There is great comfort in its weight, the threadbare pages covered in my words, typed, scrawled and spilled. There will be another, maybe two more 'scripts like this. Before the really heavy one, before the one with a hardcover and a picture of me on the back.

I don't think that will be as comforting. It will be a relief, a vindication, a blessing, a triumph. But not comforting. For me, the comfort is the dogged paperback, squishing into a pocket in my rucksack, read and re-read. Loved. That someone might someday do the same with what I've written, that glimmer of hope that someday this torn and taped 'script will boast a creased spine, page corners folded in lieu of a bookmark, the odd dirty fingerprint and be shoved into the last available space in someone's bag, that's a comforting idea.

I wear my clothes out, I wear my 'script out. It takes time. It takes living. It takes patience.

In the meantime, there's comfort; beers in the sun in tired flip-flops, red ink stains on the top knuckle of my middle finger.

Then an agent, a publisher, somehow and somewhen.

And, perhaps, a new pair of jeans.

12 May 2007


I think I cracked my skull on the way down
I think I lost my head when I lay down
The fear of facts presented in the cold light of day

I say the time has come for decision
Better steer my boat for a reason
Lost on the way I went over horizon
She went out of sight
The girl lost me a lifetime
- The Beta Band, Assessment

My latté is not frappé. It's piping hot and keeping me from shivering in the shop. I refuse to turn the heater on because it's May. The Scottish Weather lulled us all into a false sense of security, and we know it. We knew it. None of us trusted it and we're still surprised that the jumpers and waterproofs are back out of the closet and keeping out the damp and the cold. Any day can have any season here. Mild and sunny in January, bitter and damp in May. It confuses the passage of time. It distracts from how fast it is going.

I've been distracted.

It happens so easily. It's not only the weather. It's everything. I started listening to the chorus. The harmony of voices chiming about jobs, reality, sorting myself out. It gets easier to listen the less protein you've eaten, the more invitations you have to decline, the more you order tap water instead of a beer, the more you mumble the thank-you when your friend takes pity and buys you the beer anyway.

Slowly, I started to forget. Keeping the wolves at bay became more important than dream chasing. Jobs sought became less and less relevant. I've dreamt not of an agent, or a publisher, but of a salary. I've wanted comfort.

Dreams cannot be killed, but they can die. They can stagnate and fade and crumble slowly into vague fancy, leaving the dreamer empty, without even bitterness. If there's bitterness, then the dream isn't dead, it's fighting, reminding, spurring.

It's time to fight, to spur, to remember. To write and rewrite, to pursue, to chase, to know that keeping the wolves at bay is just that and nothing more. I will get angry, bitter, despondent. I will get hungry, thirsty and lonely. But I will be true. I will not be complacent, I will not capitulate to the ease of comfort. I am a writer, and I will write.

I will also turn the heater on. It might be May, but it's fucking cold.

10 May 2007

Her eyes red, but there are no tears. Dark smudges beneath them. There have been tears. She nods on the phone and paces the pavement, oblivious to all around her. She looks in the distance and sees who is speaking and the pain they describe all at once. I’m stealing this. It’s her pain and I don’t know her and it doesn’t matter and I want to comfort her but I can’t. I don't know her. So I steal her pain because I’m a coward and I share it to make amends.

I’m so very sorry.

09 May 2007

white whiskers

My stubble is now salted. Not hugely so. To be honest, I don't think anyone else notices. But I do. It's a small streak of white whiskers that run down the right side of my chin. My finger finds them at odd moments and twists them, scratches them, assesses them, trying to work out if they're different from the rest. They're not. Not that I can tell at least. But they interest me nonetheless. They are a sign of age that bear no pain. There's no morning stiffness, no prolonged hangover, no pessimism that comes with them. They just are, and I've become quite fond of them.

I don't shave often, twice a week tops. It's not a fashion thing, or a 'look' that I go for, it's just general laziness. If I didn't abhor having a beard so much I probably wouldn't shave at all. Still, it's nice, every once in awhile, to scrub up good. A close shave, shirt and tie. Its infrequency makes it all the more special.

I can't shave at the moment. In the early hours of Sunday morning I took a punch to the chin. A hard one. It knocked my head back into a stone wall and nearly sent my bottom teeth through my lower lip. While my fingers fiddle with my white whiskers my tongue traces the inside of my lip, probing the fast-healing indentations. The base of my skull behind my left ear aches where it hit the wall.

The punch came without provocation or reason. The bonfire was warm, the chat merry, old friends and new sipping wine and waiting for the sun to appear. I don't remember the hit itself. I remember shaking, curled in a ball, being told what happened. I went down. Marcus took a punch to the head, then stopped him, throwing him against the stone and sitting on him. I got up. I retaliated, raining both fists on him. Raging and frightening my friends. I don't remember.

He hit me first. I'd done nothing to him. But I look at the cuts on my knuckles, the bruises on my hand, and it all lingers, unsettled. Wrong in equal parts. He left the beach, confused, apologetic, saying that it wasn't who he was, it wasn't him.

It wasn't me either.

04 May 2007

chickens and the weekend.

Collin, the cockerel, does not care whether it's morning or afternoon. He screeches whenever. Having said that, he likes his beauty sleep and the sun is already up by the time he starts his rant. When he will finish is anyone's guess. He's still going now, and it's lunch time. He's a stunning bird, and struts around knowing it. Trixie, his long suffering mate, tolerates his babbling, strutting arrogance with an air of patient resignation.

The weekend beckons, work and play to come. Far more of the latter, I hope.

03 May 2007

Some words

Don't eat crisps that are five months out of date, even if you are really hungry (and can't afford anything else). Honest. Take that advice home and cherish it. You'll thank me.

Old friends, good food and a couple of glasses of wine. Banter around the table while the puppy begs for love at your feet. Going onto the roof to watch the waning sun set behind the bridges over the Forth, the city spread out, silhouetted, still, just for you.

Everything is alive right now.

It's going to be an amazing summer. And it's only May.

30 April 2007

weekend whirlwind

There was driving.
And then there was sand, and sun, and horses. And many many pictures.
Then there were old friends, still smiling and laughing. Some new friends too; more laughs and smiles.
After that came the stage, massive and inviting. A loud audience hollered and howled and clapped and whooped and wailed.
We made them laugh. We made ourselves laugh.
Heart raced, blood rushed, head buzzed.
I'd forgotten.
We took our bow and went to the bar.
The beer flowed afterwards, then the wine, then the whisky.
There were pretty blue eyes, perfect lips, a beautiful smile.
The morning hurt. An hour or so sleep and a short drive.
Shower. Almost human.
Green fields, blue skies, picnics, horses and a headache.
Food, wine.
Home (someone else's) and a comfy couch.
Awake again and dazed.
Dinner, wine and more friends.
Bed. Six whole hours. Bliss.
Wake-up call.
Bumbled. Charged camera batteries. Ate a bowl of cornflakes.
Green field, grey skies, lots of horses. More picnics, stressed friends.
380 photos. Some of them don't suck.
Pub. Beer, burgers, drunken rugby boys.
Car. More driving.
Home again.

26 April 2007

first of the season

This afternoon I wandered in the Edinburgh sunshine and supped upon my first frappé latté of the season. Cool, creamy caffeine goodness put a spring in my step and a slight buzz in my veins. I smiled at pretty girls in summer dresses. All was right with the world.

I refuse to check any news websites in order to maintain this illusion.

25 April 2007

Wednesday miscellany

The kitchen's a mess and I have a lot of laundry to do. My manuscript is screaming at me, and one particular piece of editing that I've been avoiding for months... well, its time has finally come. The new belfry has survived its first pause, and should be getting a few more bits and pieces in the near future. I survived a last-minute, hectic photo job on Monday night, which may lead to new things. Over the last week I've received two job rejections and no word from agents.

The highlight of the weekend was a loud, mirthful argument with an incredibly sexy lesbian over which one of us loved vaginas more. I think it was a tie.

19 April 2007

on air

For those who would rather hear the dulcet sounds of my voice instead of strain your eyes reading the screen, I'm guesting tonight on Old Jock Radio. Should be a good show - former Beta Band guru and current Black Affair ninja Steve Mason will be there with Les, Dod and myself. Be warned, we swear. A lot. And just because they're a bunch of miserable grumpy bastards doesn't mean I am. I am the shining voice of common sense and optimism.

showtime: 9pm-11pm BST.

solved mystery

The utility room in the cottage has two windows: one that opens and one that does not. The one that opens sits above the one that does not. It's usually left open for ventilation while the washing machine is on. Outside the cottage, beneath the open window, there's a large utility sink. It's about four feet below the window, possibly four-and-a-half. Trailer Trash uses this as a step and then somehow manages the vertical leap to the window. It's quite impressive, even for a cat.

It was only yesterday evening we figured it out. We came back from the supermarket to find TT waiting for us. None of us could have let him in, and the small, awkwardly placed window was the only possible entrance. It turned out we'd all suspected one another. I secretly suspected there was a hitherto undiscovered entrance to the cottage - a secret passageway that the cat was using. Well, maybe hoped more than suspected. I've always wanted a house with secret passageways.

Part of me will miss the uncertainty of the last few days, wondering whether there'd be an uninvited feline making a racket and hiding behind the couch when I woke up. But not the part that likes to sleep late.


I've added a greatest hits section in the right hand column. Feel free to have a look when you get over the irony.

18 April 2007

tt redux and other matters

Meowing fractured my slumber at quarter to six this morning. It was so loud I expected to see him sitting at the end of the bed. He wasn't, so I got up, nearly falling down the ladder in half-sleep. A peek out the window found him at the front door, meowing like a machine gun. I'm tempted record it and post it online - people would think I'd looped it. Cats don't meow in rapid fire. Well, Trailer Trash does, and can't seem to stop. I opened the door and yelled at him and then checked the Sox score.

We lost.

Back in bed and a fitful nap later and there's a clamour in the hall and the squeak of a door and from my perch in the Belfry I see TT creep behind the futon couch. I shooed him out the front door and checked the Sox score again, hoping it was different.

It wasn't.

In other news, I've jotted a note and a rant on the wine blog, which had been woefully neglected, and the new belfry is proceeding apace.

17 April 2007

tt tom

The history of mankind is littered with sayings, words of wisdom that play with language and state the obvious in a cute, quirky way that can all be collected in a cute, pocket-sized book and placed next to the toilet where they will be read by the bored.

I would like to make the following contribution to that lexicon:

"Never let anything whose name begins with Trailer Trash into your house in the early hours of the morning."

It's not quite as catchy as catching the tiger by the tail or sleeping dogs, but it's apt. I descended the ladder of the new treehouse/belfry/bed this morning to find the local stray sitting on the couch. He stared at me as though I'd interrupted something important. Then he meowed, piercing, like the alarm clock that won't snooze. Which, incidentally, is what my alarm clock was refusing to do. Perhaps the cat was trying to talk to the alarm, tell it in meows to shut the fuck up.

The alarm off, I pondered the cat. He pondered me. I like cats, I really do. Someday, in the reasonably distant future, I will have a cottage in the country with cats, dogs, a big family and a mahogany/leather clad writing room where I will create great literature. What I won't do, ever, is get wrecked on fine champagne and think its a good idea to bring the local stray in to the house and then dump him in the guest room at two in the morning.

It seems I don't have to do that, as my housemate's doing it instead.

The stray's name? Trailer Trash Tom.

Pondering over, I threw the cat out and checked the Red Sox score.

They won, but I didn't go for my run.

15 April 2007

new beginnings

I've started a new blog. It's going to be different from this one. It's going to have stories and snippets and possibly even poetry, should the mood take me. It's also an excuse to try different blogging software. I'm a geek, what can I say?

It's here. There will be stuff on it tonight.

I have a hangover and am pretty sure I acted a total wanker at one point last night. I'm at work and wishing I was in the sun.

14 April 2007

long distance fan

I wake up early.

The sun is bright.

Part of me wants to stay in bed.

I ignore it.

It's easy to ignore.

It's five in the morning.

I unplug my laptop and carry it to the one spot in the house that gets wifi.

My breathing stops. It makes no difference, I know that. But I still stop it. I hold my breath. Just like I breathe out if I take a long exposure shot with my camera. Just like, I've been told, I'd pull the trigger of a rifle on a hunt.

And then I check the Red Sox score.

You see, if I hold my breath, then they can't have lost the night before. And if they do, well, I might have grabbed a scrap of air when I shouldn't have. Superstitious? Hell yes. It is baseball, after all.

This morning it wasn't sunny, and it was seven. I had to be in work by ten and I debated about whether or not I should go for a run. The haar was in off the Firth. Pirate ghosts wandered the fields around the house and the running path beside the loch. My bed wanted me back in it. I didn't want to go for a run. I held my breath and checked the score.

Red Sox 10, Angels 1.

I went for my run. It's going to be a good season.

07 April 2007


Bad white wine does not go with ice cream. That is an absolute truth. I should know better, really, being a born again wine merchant. I should have finished my glass of white and scrounged for something more appropriate, a whisky, or a PX, or something suitably ice cream-friendly. The thing is, it doesn't really matter. Sometimes you just drink and eat what you like regardless. If that means I get booted from the hallowed halls of wine snobbery, so be it.

Speaking of ice cream, does anyone else out there like to eat it with a teaspoon, just to make it last longer? Because I do. I love it. That's another truth, every bit as absolute.

I've moved four miles closer to Edinburgh. Still just outside Linlithgow, but it's the other side that I'm just outside of. It's still the country, but different. There's a cockerel that makes a racket, not just at sun-up, but whenever he feels like it. There's an abundance of home-grown vegetables kicking about. There's a stray cat named Trailer Trash Tom. The sunshine yellow walls boast the remains of hippy home-school geography lessons, with a technicolour atlas of questionable borders. I keep the Raeburn topped up to keep the cottage warm. I sleep in a loft bed carved from a tree. My hosts call it the treehouse. I call it the belfry.

Flat, agent & job hunting continue apace.

15 March 2007

for courses

I've spent a week trying not to write about a dog. It's harder than it reads. Canine behaviour is wonderfully idiosyncratic - it screams to be chronicled. A writer's cursed though: as soon as he, she or it mentions a canine, the writer buries himself (etc. etc.) under hundreds of years of literary cliché and universal dog truths expounded by people who were probably better both with dogs and writing than they, the writer, are or ever shall be.

I dealt with a daschund. E. B. White dealt with a daschund. I'd rather read E. B. White's words about daschunds than record my own. Recording requires reliving and I'd rather forget pandering to the pooch, thank you very much.

The non-canine parts of the week have been equine. Horses are just as nuts, have just as many pages of prose devoted to them and I'm even less qualified to share my nuggets of experience, such that they are, with the masses. Or even those that read this blog.

Unlike the canine, I don't want to forget any of it. I've enjoyed learning and re-learning. I can tack up now (not quickly), and even get Pico to stop when I tell her (on occasion). There's a heady rush when you get up to a fast canter and don't feel out of control. Horses smell better than daschunds.

Of course, the heady rush does little to dull the pain of nuts crushing against the saddle when you don't rise on the trot properly. Nothing does.

07 March 2007


Breakfast cereal is a cornerstone of childhood. It was for me anyway. My mother and I battled constantly about it. Like all other red-blooded American children I wanted a bowl of cereal designed to put as much sugar into my bloodstream per spoonful as the laws of physics permitted. I read Calvin & Hobbes and was crushed to discover that Chocolate Frosted Sugar Bombs, Calvin’s breakfast of choice, were fictitious. Bill Waterson’s irony flew over my head along with my mother’s cooking spoon when I demanded Count Chocula for the nth time. To my mother’s credit, I never got it. We compromised. Which means she told me what cereal I was allowed and that’s what I ate. It was Honey Nut Cheerios. That was the confectionary limit of my permitted morning intake. I rebelled. I screamed that I hated Honey Nut Cheerios and never wanted to eat them again. I’d claim to go on strike. I’m not sure from what precisely. Neither was my mother, who would shrug and watch as moments after I went on strike I’d pour a glass of apple juice and fix myself a bowl of Cheerios, the episode forgotten with an immediacy that comes only with childhood and old age.

Summers were different. Summer vacation arrived and my treat was that I could have whatever breakfast cereal I wanted. It’s only now that I see the wisdom in this. There’s a considerable gap between loading a child with sugar and sending him into a classroom with twenty other kids and loading a child with sugar and sending him careening into endless sunny days with bikes, beaches, woods and adventure around every corner. The former would result in the disaster while the latter was necessary, the more sugar the better for those summer days. Physicists and engineers seeking perpetual motion machines and better fuel efficiency should look at the output of a ten year-old boy on the Delaware shore after an intake of two or three bowls of Cap'n Crunch. Or, more often than not, Honey Nut Cheerios. My prize won I discovered I actually liked the cereal that was good for me rather than the one that gave me a rare preview into what a comedown from class As would be like. Perhaps I was institutionalised, and like Brooks in The Shawshank Redemption found my freedom to be too much, returning to the familiar in the face of it all.

Perhaps that’s a little melodramatic.

It amused my mother to no end though, that after the histrionics of school year breakfast I would gleefully return from the cereal aisle, wearing only a pair of Jams and a pair of flip-flops, and drop a box of my morning nemesis into her shopping trolley. As summer faded into September battle lines would be redrawn and the fights over breakfast bowls began again.

Trips back home come with little reminders of past behaviour. Every time I order fish, or a salad there’s a bemused comment about my dogmatic refusal to try new things in my youth. My parents marvel at the difference between then and now. I do too. I look at pictures of myself now and don’t recognise the face. In my head, my mirror image is that of my ten-year old self, brushing blonde locks out of my eyes while trying to ride my first 10 speed (grown-up) bike without killing myself. The scar on my eyebrow, the lines across my forehead, the ubiquitous stubble and bald head belong to someone else. I’m kicking and screaming again, not at the breakfast table but at the mirror, not out loud, but in my head.

The face in the mirror is me. I’m not riding my bike and I’m certainly not brushing my hair out of my face. I’m writing a book. I’m hosting wine tastings. I’m looking for a place to live in Edinburgh. I try to chat up beautiful women every once in awhile. Life is handing me the same breakfast compromise my mother did.

I was home for a few days. My nephews had been the week before and they left a half a box of their breakfast cereal. It was Honey Nut Cheerios. They tasted ace.

04 March 2007

much ado about...

It's too hot in my parent's new house. I noticed it last summer but wrote it off. It was a hot summer, after all. Houses throughout London turned into saunas. It provided meat for several of my own blog posts, whether as a point of complaint itself or as a metaphor to be twisted sloppily into a complaint about something else. I expected it to be too hot.

I'm a bit surprised to find it too hot in March.

I'm not here to escape from the cold. I'm here, ostensibly, to get my laptop fixed. A hangover from its high velocity voyage out the rear windscreen of my deceased Cavalier, its hinges are askew. If it were a door it would be an inconvenience; a shove of a shoulder to close it and that's that. Sadly, it's a computer.

Every time the door shudders the house around it collapses.

London without money is odd. It's similar to sitting in my room in Linlithgow: a hermitage. Except instead of freezing my arse off, I can't breathe for the heat. And there are no cats to talk to.

My writing's pants of late. This post has set a new record for false starts. The tide's turning though, for this and other things. I'm so used to a sense of impending doom that I'm not sure what to call its opposite - not without sounding like an arrogant or hopelessly optimistic wanker at least.

Some new(ish) pics here.

17 February 2007


Sleep is fitful at the moment. I'm trying to restart the book. I never realised there were so many different shades of writer's block. The most recent has been tenacious. The grip loosens though, and I remember bit-by-bit what needs to be done. And bit-by-bit, I do it. It's slow though, almost interminable. It's also deeply disheartening.

I've posted some of the pictures from my St Andrews jaunt last Wednesday. Enjoy. There are a couple that I'm pretty proud of - I love the sheep (even though it's not that great a picture).


The sun shone bright over the Forth. The careless and optimistic would think spring had come early. I've had too many winters in Scotland to succumb to such foolishness. I've also had too many winters in Scotland to waste such weather.

The bridge sat empty and Fifi's stereo blared boogie-worthy tunes. Further north the light on the bare trees turned the smallest, youngest, branches purple. When, just past Cupar, the painfully slow tractor took the turning to Kenback and Dairsie Castle, I followed it. It's a quiet road, a narrow road. Past the tractor and left after the narrow bridge came a knackered old land rover, hazards flashing, arm waving. I slowed. In the distance an army of sheep, chased by a dog and a quad bike. I stopped. They swarmed around Fifi, bleating and confused. I laughed and assembled camera and lens. Up the hill towards Strathkinness a falcon sat on a fencepost, pretending to be asleep. I didn't stop. The midday sun lit the bay and town below, the mouth of the Eden glowed.

Sometimes the road behind the tractor is the better road.

February is blurry so far.

The wine job is surreal. The routine resembles the memory of a dream weeks after you've woken up. The details fade into broad strokes and the boundaries blur. My shifts are brief and, if in the morning, I forget by the evening that I've worked at all.

I get paid for it. Not very much though.

08 February 2007


While England and Wales recoiled from the strange atmospheric and seasonal phenomenon known as "winter" - taking them by surprise yet again - we received only a light dusting of snow, most of which is gone now. It made for a stunning run this morning. The canal froze over and the fresh snow on the ice revealed the tracks of swans and other birds, searching for holes in the ice to find food. I planned to return with my camera, but all was melting as I ran back.

The barometer in the hall fascinates me. It has a section for 'Change'. It's not qualified by anything else. The other categories are all specific, ranging from 'Very Dry' to 'Heavy Rain'. 'Change' could be anything. As it's a barometer, it's probably a change of weather. A paltry detail. I still like to see the hand pointing to change. I cross my fingers and smile, excited, and hoping it's for the better.

The winter light was amazing today
. But the snow was gone.


Things are odd in Russia, what with killer squirrels and extreme gambling.

29 January 2007


It seems like it should mean more than surrender. Perhaps because it has more syllables. I distrust simple synonyms. There should be a modicum of variation in meaning between words, even if it's only a hair's breadth. I prefer capitulation to surrender regardless. Irrespective of their identical meanings, surrender seems to be something demanded by another party, while capitulation is a decision one makes for oneself. That could just be the candy coating on a bitter pill though, I don't know.

I accepted a job at a small wine merchant in Edinburgh last week. I start soon.

The book's prologue is proving excruciating to rewrite, but worth it.

Beethoven's Sonatas and The Be Good Tanya's The Littlest Birds compete for airtime on my playlist at the moment. An odd mix, but a good one.

New pics

23 January 2007

destiny, coincidence and the universe

I didn't sleep well last night.

I inadvertently murdered the peacock butterfly.

Yes, the nice one I took a picture of.

No, I don't feel particularly good about it.

Yes, I stepped on it in the dark.

Yes, I probably, as I was debating, should have let it go - or at least moved it somewhere that I wouldn't step on it.

In any case, it put a sour note on the morning debate. The morning debate was whether I was to go to a wine tasting or not. I decided to go. Good champagne at 1030 in the morning, even if I have to spit it out, consoles my guilty, butterfly-murdering conscience.

The tasting was nice. Some of the wines were good. Met some old colleagues. Then, for no reason, I looked at the back of my clipboard. There was an old name tag on it. It said "Andy Cook Luvians Bottle Shop" on it.

How fucking weird is that? My old flatmate/boss/best mate's clipboard? At a tasting I nearly didn't go to, and wouldn't have gone to if I hadn't killed the butterfly? The wines were overshadowed by a sense of weirdness and destiny for the rest of the tasting. I kept expecting something hugely important and life-changing to happen. I had another glass of Tokaji just to make sure I didn't miss it.

Nothing else happened. We ate lunch, I said goodbye to my mates and grabbed my car with 2 minutes left on the meter.

It was kind of disappointing: destiny quickly replaced by peculiar coincidence. I'm beginning to think that's how the universe works.

22 January 2007

on meercats, Marmite and other matters

I ran out of Marmite this morning. This has no precedent. No one runs out of Marmite. Jars sit on kitchen shelves for years, thin layers scraped onto toast in such minuscule quantities that they get passed on from generation to generation. The emptied jar may well have been full on my first visit to Manuel House in 1977. I went to Sainsbury's immediately. I needed butter and orange juice as well, but the Marmite was paramount. Like the ravens of the tower, I was convinced the kitchen would collapse without any yeast extract.

I hate supermarkets. Loathe them. My hypocrisy and myself quarrel endlessly about the situation and in the end my hypocrisy wins and I wind up in Sainsbury's. There's not much else Linlithgow has to offer.

I grabbed a basket and wondered over to the organic section and saw red.

Well, pink actually. My least favourite so-called-holiday arrived early. It was a stand of Valentine's Day cards. There were no nearby staff to throttle and harass for having such a heinous and garish display next to organic fruit, so I fumed inwardly. Not before staring at it for a moment, opening and closing my mouth in silence, somewhat like a guppy. A braver, more antisocial individual would have pulled it down in rage, but I'm a big wuss. And getting barred from Sainsbury's is a bit juvenile. Aldi yes, Sainsbury's no.

Recovering from the shock and muttering terrible words under my breath I picked up my shopping.

My thoughts had been drifting around the harmony of the universe and the future of the human race. Like a Christmas carol in October, the pink monstrosity ripped me from any optimism I had regarding human and planetary advancement and left me spitting bile at how shallow, dreadful and awful our species is and the sooner as an asteroid takes out Hallmark and all else the better. Hopefully whatever species survived and achieved sentience in our wake would have better sense than to celebrate a bullshit faux romantic holiday with the same initials as venereal disease (a joyous irony, nes pas?).

This sense of disgruntlement abated with the joys of posting a couple of letters. The girl who works at the local post office is quite possibly one of the most beautiful women on the planet. I'm not kidding. This is not hyperbole. She is. What on earth she's doing running the shit-hole post office in Whitecross is beyond me.

Once, I had a terrible crush on a barmaid in Ogston's in St Andrews (now the Gin House and lacking any character). It was one of those amazing crushes that reverts the bearer of it to the stammering stupidity of a schoolboy in a playground. One fine afternoon I bought a pint from this aphrodite of the beer pumps and was delighted that I had exact change as, in our limited relationship of customer and server, it was the greatest courtesy I could bestow. I felt gallant. I acted, however, like a gibbering idiot, waiting for change. She stared at me for a second as I beamed with an open palm. "You gave me exact change."

My demeanour with the pretty girl at the post office is far more cool and collected. I can order stamps and everything.

Last night I paid for my complacency with nature documentaries. UKTV History spoiled me with hours upon hours of Attenborough at his finest explorations of life on earth. Blue Planet, Planet Earth, The Life of Birds - nature at its most beautiful, narrated with composure and authority. The man is an institution.

Flicking the channels last night I stumbled upon Meercat Manor. If Blue Planet and Planet Earth are the pre-Murdoch Times of nature docs then Meercat Manor is The Sunday Sport. Bill Nighy narrates as though telling a dirty joke. It's hysterical. He actually uses the line "He's not coming to make war... he's coming to make love!" about a meercat. I laughed so hard I scared the cats. I almost expected him to scream "Yeah baby!" as the meercats mated.


This duck deserved to live.

20 January 2007

Recent discoveries

I found the butterfly again. It's on the first floor landing now, so I guess it can fly. Either that or it's a great climber. Or perhaps it can jump well. I'm not sure. A large chunk of its rear left wing is missing.

It's a peacock butterfly apparently.

I haven't seen it move recently, but it's in a different place every time I walk past it.

I got back from Brora to find the wood pile almost totally gone. There's some wood about to be chopped, but there's no fireplace near my desk, so I don't feel compelled. Where the wood that was there has gone is another matter.

The pics I posted the other day have been edited and titled and all that. So if you haven't seen them yet, have a peek.

The days are getting longer. It isn't happening fast, but it's happening. I noticed it today when I fed the cats. It was dusk, and not pitch black.

Yes, I know the days get longer at this time of year, but there's a difference between the academic knowledge of a phenomena and the observation of that phenomena. I love it when the days start to get longer.

Off to Edinburgh this evening. I would be getting drunk, but I'm driving.

18 January 2007

Back from beyond

Go to Brora. It's WAY North, but it's incredible. And quite cold. I drank a lot of wine, got a lot of work done and talked a lot of rubbish. Wonderful. Several pics are available here.

And cypriot pointers are awesome dogs.

And everywhere I go, there's a wee fat pony. How weird is that?

10 January 2007

the butterfly effect

The menagerie in and around Manuel House has grown. The new resident is small and I think a bit confused. It may be a moth but I prefer to think of it as a butterfly. Not just for aesthetic reasons, though it is too pretty to be a moth, but because I've grown fond of it. As such, I hate to think that this small creature is eating my jumpers behind my back. So a butterfly it is.

It's living on the fourth step of the main stairwell. Most of the time it sits still, its wings folded up like a great sail over its torso. This afternoon I spied it walking to and fro with its wings spread, stretching them occasionally. It didn't move from the step. It never even attempted to fly.

This has left me with a small dilemma. Do I take the butterfly and release it back into the wild? It doesn't seem to want to go anywhere. Has it chosen that step to die? I searched the net a bit and nothing online suggested that butterflies favour heinous orange carpets as their final resting place. Is it stuck, or injured? I have no idea. Again, there's little on wiki about it. But I get the feeling it's not long for this world. Fortunately the cats aren't allowed in that area of the house. Bagel's not as picky between moths and butterflies as I am. I check the step on both ascent and decent to make sure I don't squish it.

There's a small chance that before the week is out I'll be posting submission chapters and a precis to one of the world's top publishing companies. The butterfly is spreading its wings and not bothering to fly.

Not me.

09 January 2007

Wooden Miracles!

Incredibly Beautiful & Lovely Barmaid: "What are wooden miracles?"
Yours Truly: "What?"
IB&LB: "Wooden miracles? What are they?"
YT: "That says maracas."
Fits of giggles followed. The maracas were for the band of course. Well, the audience really. If it's a band of two and if they're both on guitars or bongos or harmonica, then they can't be playing the maracas can they? Or the tambourine for that matter. So the maracas and the tambourine were shared among the small and enthusiastic audience. I drank sherry and Guinness, banging the tambourine and trying to achieve some sort of rhythm. I boogied. The bar staff boogied. My nachos arrived and the barman took over on the tambourine. I got up and sang. I locked eyes with a pretty girl who danced with abandon. I danced with abandon. The air bounced with tunes and good vibes from good folk. The sherry bottle was finished after the tunes were. The pretty girl with pretty eyes and dancing feet invited me and Broomy back to her flat for a party. We grabbed a bottle of whisky and some beers and accepted the invite.

Not a bad Sunday night really. Wooden miracles indeed.

04 January 2007

evidence & resolution

I've posted a heavily edited selection of photos from last weekend's parties. They're here. Some of them turned out well, some not so much. Not sure I needed to take 300 in total.

My resolutions for this year are not coming as easily as I'd like. Last year they were obvious - finish the book and exercise more. Amazingly, for the first year since I quit smoking, I accomplished both. People aren't supposed to fulfill resolutions. Not all of them anyway. They're supposed to lay in a crumbling heap with all the rest of the damaged goods after new years: broken by the third. It's the fourth and I've not worked mine out yet.

Listening to Takk by Sigur Rós and it all seems resolved.

Draw again. Write more. Keep exercising. Do stand-up at least once. Get a job. Get published. Read more.

Some of those are more difficult than others.

03 January 2007

Psychosomatic Detox

I'm not crazy.

If you accept that as fact, then the following are not the words of a lunatic.

I can talk to my cats. And they talk back to me.

I just don't know what I'm telling them.

It's easy to work out what they're saying, though. It's either: 'feed me', 'let me out' or 'stroke me'.

They have their own voices - Sam's is a sort of deep whine, whereas Bagel's has a bit more of a chirp to her meow. I imitate Sam's voice when speaking to him and Bagel's when chatting to her. Sam's banshee wail is more fun to do.

Sadly, as another season of seclusion has begun, just chatting to the cats is already losing its novelty value. If I knew what I was saying, I could be assured that my rapier wit was appreciated, but mostly I just imitate what they're saying. That makes it boring for all three of us. No one likes they're sentences repeated to them ad nauseum. Five-year-olds throughout the world have known that since time immemorial.

Resigned to the failure of my feline chat, I've cast aside inhibitions and decided to sing to them instead. Humans wouldn't tolerate this. I'm not a very good singer. To be fair, I think the cats only barely tolerate it. They view it as a necessary suffering while I dispense their dinner to them. Their stomachs drive them far more than their ears.

To be honest, I enjoy singing to them. They get a bemused look on their face and I'm sure release a giggle-like purr. And they get their food of course, so it works out for the lot of us.

When I'm not singing to the cats, I'm attempting a some sort of detox. It's a cynic's exercise as I think the vast majority of 'detox' practices are total bollocks. But I need the change of pace. It's detox for my brain and the habits and dependencies it builds up. If my body happens to benefit as well, so be it, but I'm not expecting it to. Nor is my detox quite what a hippy nutritionist would recommend. I won't give up marmite or white bread or any such thing. It's the hardcore junk food, stuffing my face and the endless fountain of beer, wine and all else that I've been drinking deeply from that are finis for a few days. The invigorating buzz of multiple espressos are on hold as well, replaced by herbal teas and mineral water. No booze, no stilton, no beer, no pizza, no wine, no fun.

It's dreadfully boring.

However, like singing to cats, it's suited to seclusion.

And it's only until Saturday.

02 January 2007

Whirligig of time

"...thus the whirligig of time brings in his revenges."
(Twelfth Night (or What You Will) V,i)

It's arbitrary, I know that. The difference between 2359 and 0000 going from Sunday to Monday is only that of a minute. It's my choice to make that minute important, to take stock of life and see for only a moment the future stretching ahead, bright but out of focus. I know the cynics brush it off as just an excuse for a party (and there was a party, of that I can assure you). They're right, to an extent. It's just another day, another night, and another day again.

I see it as a new year. I buy in, gleefully, to the idea of closing the door on the past year and facing the new one with a big grin and hope of adventure.

Sometimes though, the past year shoves its foot in the door, not wanting to leave, not going quietly into that goodnight but rearing the uglier aspects of its 365 days gone by. The party was a roller coaster, some moments sheer joy and giggling delight, the tickle of champagne bubbles a tease, the laughter of good friends a song, and the road ahead clear. Then came the downs; the memories and emotional detritus of the last year and some before bubbling up thicker and more viscous than the champagne. Wonderful, beautiful, awful and horrible, surrounded by friends and sometimes very alone, the party New Year's Eve was epic on an intimate scale.

I finished the first draft of my book. Sometime between the late afternoon and early evening on New Year's Eve, perhaps later, I wrote the last sentence. I tried a couple of small celebrations - parties within the party - bottles of fine champagne with a few select friends. It was lovely, but left me in a daze. Only tonight has it sunk in entirely, when I've realised that I don't have any paper to print it out, and I haven't read it yet.

Now I feel I'm on a precipice, and I'm trying to work out whether I've just climbed up it, or am about to fall off of it.

I choose the former.

Happy New Year all, the best is yet to come.