Wednesday, 23 December 2009

what i did today

winter solitude -
in a world of one colour
the sound of wind

Friday, 18 December 2009

buying poetry

do i need to say anything? got from overheard in the office

Borders customer: It's by... I don't know her name, but she's the new Poet Laureate.

Borders clerk: Her name is "Laureate"?

Borders customer, sighing: Never mind.

karen solie

Under The Sun

Rain is the merging of cool air with warm
under general conditions of humidity. Try to remember
it has nothing to do with love
or grief. This is the consolation of philosophy:
it's out of our hands. The business of bars
and stores, our separate beds, the garbaged
offices of alleyways, is aging. It sighs
in the blood like salt, slows us, and is why
our hearts are heaviest on the moment
of waking: the weight we ferry, the fright,
the long vowel opening at the centre
of a consonant world that draws the hurt up,
an empty bowl, while history's rebar is replaced
and a species coughs its lungs out
in another room. Private lives of insects
and the single notes that move them, hard-won
courage of raccoon and crow who eat our garbage
and hate us, are foreclosed. We are lonely. We
are here. Inside a vestigial swimmer bears
memory like the phantom pain of when the earth
was new and we were a promise in the sex
of its making, its heat and pools. Cells' random
liquid birth. In the molecular ache of land
as it cooled, when, before tears, before
property, it rained for more than a million years.

it's a wonderful life

so t says to me, no she hasn't seen it's a wonderful life.

yes, i know she didn't have a tv when she grew up and there's various other reasons why world of cinema is unknown to her but it's a wonderful life? that's like, that's like, not having heard of christmas trees i splutter.

so straight after she finished work we're off down the movie house to become part of, not being an addition to, the five people who get it together to see a rare big screen showing of this christmas classic. i can scarce believe it, even if i like an empty cinema.

and, despite there being no heating, t is rapt. characters she says, people talking, little in the way of music. a narrative! so different she says from anything we're likely to see get made now.

i've seen it so many times i stopped watching it years ago but there's enough time to have past for me to get over myself a bit. i ease myself around the ending which, really, is as nothing compared to what they'd do with it now, in favour of looking at the minor characters, the faces. and seeing on the big screen is great. some of the stuff james stewart does is sublime. there's a scene where he goes to speak to his brother's wife and just for an instant as his face passes he has such an expression, totally immersed in what he's doing.

it's a shame so few of these old classics get a big screen airing these days probably because when they do, no one goes. i had a list spooling in my head of stuff i'd like to see but, as i've found out in the past, it's easy enough to organise a print and hire the place but, no matter what anyone says, nobody goes. what a pity.

we get back to the house and discover that t's brother and his partner, after much trying, have finally got themselves pregnant. much excitement ensues. we're definitely spending more time in sweden this coming year. i listen, i worry they've got ahead of themselves announcing it. i feel apart, seen it all before, as if i'm back in the cinema watching someone else's life, someone else's hopes and dreams, flicker on the screen.

Thursday, 17 December 2009

list two

the good being over, let's get to the bad and the ugly.

books. i read some turgid nonsense this year and no mistake. quite how i managed to get myself to the end was beyond me. stand up john avde lindqvist. not only am i stunned that tomas alfredson managed to get let the right one in into the form it finds in the film, i'm even more amazed after reading lindqvist's handling the undead. oh. dear. god. alien maggot things arrive and the dead come back to life. they wander about. people aren't happy. and then, fortunately, it finishes. to be fair perhaps it's just not my cup of tea. nor t's, who threatened to beat me round the head with it for 'making' her read it. maybe we were just missing something...

but i'd have lindqvist round the house to chastise me and show me the error of my ways before i'd read the following again.

the possibility of an island by michel houellebecq. older bloke. likes young women. a lot. not so keen on the older version. doesn't appear to think they can be intelligent. doesn't like arabs. likes porn. possibly read some books once and quotes or alludes to them now and again to gull the reader into thinking there might be something worthwhile going on. there isn't.

jeff in venice, death in varanasi by geoff dyer. another one who seems to be working out his longing for sex with young women out in his fiction tho perhaps not as flagrantly as houellebecq. this does contain however possibly the least convincing drug taking i've read anywhere in fiction. no seriously, i've seen the 'drug' episode of inspector morse and it was better than this. if there was an award, like the bad sex award, for truly shit depictions of drug taking (by wankers) then this would win hands down. and it only gets worse from there. cue half a book of some tit in india 'finding himself'. maybe he starves to death. i hope so.

the question remains : if given a free plane ticket to go and beat either one of these around the head with their own work of fiction who would it be? tempting as it might seem, given i've liked some of dyer's other books, it'd have to be houellebecq, just for general bleating whininess. even his mum doesn't like him.

yes, yes, as t points out, the fault is mine for persevering in the first place but really..? these boys owe me for stealing bits of my life.

bad films. a rich and wonderful vein this year. from (see above) the beat my heart skipped - middle class wanker wannabe gangster (but isn't - property speculation ffs!) but it's okay he can play the piano. a shocker! transformers 2. holy jesus, i've done that. and the day after tomorrow. again (why? why? why?). oss 117 cairo: nest of spies, a film with a houellebecqian view of the middle east. been there. fast and the furious. i do take my life a quarter mile at at a time. small beer!

and then the rarefied oeuvre that is jason statham in any of crank/transporter/death race. death race was mince as it lacked the humour of the original, which was a shame, transporter 3 let itself down because they had that whole is he/isn't he gay action man thing going on in the first two and now he gets the girl!!? but it was still funny. esp the arch villainess who runs about in her pants. crank tho, was truly atrocious, like grand theft auto but with people. ridiculous story, tho not as preposterous as crank 2, stupid characters, jaw droppingly stupid. i've made myself a promise that sometime next year i'm going to dodge the whole look after myself, not drink etc thing and get you'll be arrested if you go out in public like that wasted while watching all the transporter and crank movies. now that's commitment!

but the worst film of the year? korean film let me down with both kim ji-woon's the good, the bad and the weird and more especially park chan-wook's i'm a cyborg but that's okay, esp the latter after the vengeance trilogy. howard mcain's spin on beowulf, outlander, was just, well bollocks really, but the worst film?

easy. step up guy ritchie. rocknrolla. you what guv? not quite as bad as revolver but in the same ghastly vein. do a double bill of those if you think the statham is so bad. go ahead. i dare you!

i love bad films, films you can drink all over, talk through, fast forward, laugh with, laugh at, re-enact, fall asleep to. if i really was going to get marooned on a desert island i would take a couple of special books, a special film or two but you can be sure in the false bottom of that suitcase there'd be a stack of bad movies and a bottle of vodka!

list one

it's that time of year again. it's going to be a bit of a bust festive season so an early list....

so, books. the year started well as i made my way through the collected william maxwell. i was taken by giorgio bassani's tale of privileged folks in wwII the garden of the finzi-continis and i was doing okay on the poetry front with a collected cavafy and stephen scobie's at the world's end. after that tho my reading good fortune fizzled out and for much of the year i seemed to be going through the motions.

fiction. i don't like comic fiction that much and i certainly didn;t read richard happer's the hills are stuffed with swedish girls for literary quality. three men in a boat it isn't but the comparisons are obvious - even so for anyone who's gone hillwalking in scotland, is scottish and male, then it should be laugh out loud funny. out stealing horses by re petterson i enjoyed even if i wasn;t as taken by other books of his i read as a result. not much happens, most of it takes place in scandinavian forest but all of that was recognisable to me and i liked it for that. netherland by joseph o'neill seems to be another book that, like petterson's, divides its critics. both the characters and the setting were familiar to me and i liked the absorbing obsessiveness of the cricket.

fiction book of the year tho will be china mieville's the city and the city. i loved the central conceit of 'unseeing' of being able to train oneself to not see other people, another culture. not long back from hungary the nameless eastern european setting worked perfectly for me. enagaging and thought provoking i did try one of his other books but couldn't get past the first pages! i'd read this again in a snap.

poetry. i was desperately unengaged by much of what i read this year. even when it was well written the first person trials and tribulations of what it is to be a middle class white person left me cold. not to say that when it's done well it isn;t sublime - hello kate clanchy's samarkand but i was burnt out by it early doors. i was taken by tim turnbull's stranded i sub-atomica but without him reading it, it wasn't the same. possibly my poetry book of the year would have been songs of earth and light by barbara korun but, as i;ve been more inspired by pamphlets this year my poetry collection of the year is going to be david c purdie's the godothin.

poetry for me, should be something that takes me somewhere else and should show something that looks like graft to me. purdie's godothin did both for me in spades. i love all that old poetry anyway but this was the one thing i really settled to with the feeling i was really going to enjoy. and did.

non-fiction. and not unlike last year but maybe even moreso, the non-fiction occupied me much more than the fiction. from the earthbound entertainment of a bunch of cycling books to david whitehouse's the moon: a biography. i was thoroughly entertained. special mentions to - when skateboards will be free by said sagrafezadeh, a bio of an iranian american growing up with his communist dad. kate clanchy's antigona and me which i've mentioned on here before. Roger Crowley's rollicking and informative empires of the sea which deals with ottoman expansionism in the mediterranean in the 16th century, a real boy's own thriller of a read which leaves you wondering how on earth europe managed to survive at all let alone why the ottomans seemed to love to shoot themselves in the collective foot.

but non fiction book, and book of the year easily was paul fournel's need for bike. short, perfectly formed, yes, it's a cycling book but it's also a meditation on movement, masculinity, fatherhood and everything in between. i adored it from cover to cover.

film. i watched some honest to god quality bad films this year but the list of good films i saw was astonishingly brief. starting with jun ichikawa's tony takitani, slow but lovely. sergei bodrov's mongol was epic and lovely to look at. t watched them! for the first time and we both agreed, even allowing for the giant ants, it should be remembered better. lots of us went to see the last star trek movie and we all laughed. let the right one in ticked our swedish language boxes and scored well with me for being one of those rare films that's better than the book.

top film i'll split with a documentary. gary hustwit's helvetica is a crafted labour of love and consists of a series of interviews with people who both love and loathe the above font. it's graceful, measured and a reminder of just how much work and thought goes into really good design. and the other would be philip claudel's il y a longtemps que je t'aime. i took a while to get round to this and, despite a plot hole you could drive a bus thru, i loved it from beginning to end. it would be easy to say the two central characters were great but they all were, a mercy when so much of the film i watched this year was devoid of anything like characterisation, narrative or anything else!

Tuesday, 15 December 2009


There was a movie theater here once. It played silent films. It was like watching the world through dark glasses on a rainy evening.

One night the piano player mysteriously disappeared. We were left with the storming sea that made no sound and a beautiful woman on a long, empty beach whose tears rolled down silently as she watched me falling asleep in my mother's arms.

The eyes cannot be philosophically trusted, but in the meantime they can be entertained.

These are dreams that a child would know. Dreams in which objects are renamed and invested with imaginary lives. A pebble becomes a human being. Two sticks leaning against each other make a house. In that world one plays the game of being someone else.

The clarity of one's vision is a work of art.

all quotes from Dime Store Alchemy - The Art of Joseph Cornell by Charles Simic

Thursday, 10 December 2009

quiet day in the house

true, i have foregone the cycling but it seems like an age since i've had the house to myself.

so the wood fire's on and i've spent a happy afternoon co-reading anne sexton's biography, collected letters and complete poems. i haven't done this before and i'm really enjoying it. the poems as she wrote them, the events in the biography coincident with the letters she wrote at the time.

alongside this i've been looking at w d snodgrass, whose poem heart's needle i need to read more closely. you can listen to pt5 of it here

tree poems

yes i know it's not monday or even friday but seeing as i've been doing a bit of work with wood today i picked up the following at sunny dunny's blog and i'm quite taken with it so i'll reproduce it here

Write down three things you know about one kind of tree
Who else lives in your tree, or depends on it?
Imagine your tree as a character or spirit. What would it say?
What does your tree do in each of the seasons?
What does the future hold for your tree?
Put everything together into a poem or a story for telling. It should be in four verses or paragraphs, with each verse or paragraph having four or five lines.
What kind of illustration would accompany your writing? Can you do it yourself, or would you like to work with someone else in the group?

anyone who can manage any form of tree hugging (and yes i mean actual hugging) in whatever vein they choose will deserve the special swiss badge of respect....

opal palmer adisa

all this

living in oakland
i never know
when i leave my home
if i’ll return alive
i’m less valuable than gum
on the sidewalk that sticks to your shoes
three friends were killed this year
they weren’t into dope or gangs
and i saw my first dead person
when i looked down at ron
in his coffin i couldn’t move
i thought i would faint
felt like a piece of paper
being blown on the street
someone in the line nudged
me forward
afterwards several of us
drifted to the park
by school and i just cried and cried
none of it made sense
ron was the captain of our
soccer team
i might be dead tomorrow
or the next
but i want to live
i want to go to college
for ron
for myself
i want a chance
to fall in love
play soccer at college
travel to senegal or kenya
make a wish on the full moon
like my mother says
focus on staying alive
staying alive
stay alive

off we go to the pamphlet fair

organisationally we're spot on. i pick t up from work, car stocked with food after her long day, and off we go to the scottish poetry pamphlet fair, an event to which she's not been before.

and much busier than last year. lots more readings, a two minute limit, rigorously enforced by the employment of a cymbal, worked well for me but caused perhaps a few slightly ruffled feathers elsewhere. perhaps, we gently suggested later, it was a bit raucous for the more mature ear and that maybe the duck caller employed at the poetry library recently would work better. or a loud yawn and tumbleweed as one wag suggested!

but, it seems, the readings served to get people to actually buy the pamphlets, which can only be a good thing. we bought many things. perjink press's rather lovely wild flowers, featuring poetry from giles conisbee and kirsty lorenz. in the south apparently they have two pamphlet prizes, one for the poetry and one for the design. if that was the case here then surely this would be in with a shout just by virtue of sheer loveliness. we were equally taken by the forest mob's selection of pamphlets where they'd opted for a see thru plastic cover with a contrasting design on the paper below. very much liked that. and they had lots of short fiction, which was even better. i walked away with dave coates' cover story. i've heard him mentioned on claire's blog but this is the first i've read. i'd highly recommend it.

calderwood press was well represented. kevin cadwallender's dog latin has a number of poems i've heard him perform before but which, i'm happy to report work equally well and maybe, whisper it, even better on the page. very much in contrast, performance wise, was jane mary wilde's words, words, words. i'd already bought it but by the time she did bone woman (i think) i was ready to buy it again. i've only flicked thru it today as i'm saving it but the breadth and depth of it so far are really impressive. it was a great shame there was no-one there to read david purdie's the godothin, a work which surely begs to be read out loud. if david purdie needs a proxy reader, colin will, i'm your man.

i was happy to see the words on canvas group's pamphlet and snapped that up. a quality product and no mistake as well as a project i'm very keen on. i'm hoping to go to some do of theirs in january so more of that later my shifts all being well. last but definitely not least i got a c clarke's aleph to zayin a reflection/humorous aside/acrostic something about the history of the alphabet. with illustrations! i couldn't resist it!

i had a lovely wee conversation with claire's partner, whose name i should know, but thanks to her blog shall always be 'the boy'. we noted that while there was a good turn out he, claire and the forest lot were perhaps in the youthful minority. a shame but how to fit in more readers? for me tho, halfway i guess on the age ladder, while i like the energy of the younger poets, there's something about the quieter insights of the 'more mature' that i'm finding increasingly more attractive.

and the readers? too many to list. kevin, almost singing, a highlight. gavin bolus we very much liked, jane mary wilde as above, whoever the woman was at the end who did the thing in scots. someone who looked not unlike my mum, who both t and i thought was going to do somethig much different when she said 'incident with a roadie' but which turned out to be 'incident with a roe deer'. dave coates, who i didn't realise was dave coates, did a surprisingly. in my head, low key reading given his material. jenny lindsay, who has something coming out on red squirrel once she's finished fiddling with it, who i jinxed by thinking, she's really good at this memorising thing. and colin donati, who i didn't request to do it, but t would have, and wasn't disappointed to hear, his scots version of jabberwocky. if there's a prize for a single poem in scots then the campaign for colin to get it starts here.

and many more.

a fine event and t bubbling with enthusiasm on the way home. with any luck it'll have been reflected in sales for those on the stalls. stanza next. can't wait.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

george gascoigne

Gascoigne's Lullaby

Sing lullaby, as women do,
Wherewith they bring their babes to rest;
And lullaby can I sing too,
As womanly as can the best.
With lullaby they still the child,
And if I be not much beguiled,
Full many wanton babes have I
Which must be stilled with lullaby.

First, lullaby my youthful years,
It is now time to go to bed;
For crooked age and hoary hairs
Have won the haven within my head.
With lullaby, then, youth, be still,
With lullaby content thy will,
Since courage quails and comes behind,
Go sleep, and so beguile thy mind.

Next, lullaby my gazing eyes
Which wonted were to glance apace.
For every glass may now suffice
To show the furrows in my face.
With lullaby, then, wink awhile,
With lullaby your looks beguile.
Let no fair face, nor beauty bright
Entice you eft with vain delight.

And lullaby, my wanton will:
Let reason's rule now reign thy thought,
Since all too late I find by skill
How dear I have thy fancies bought.
With lullaby now take thine ease,
With lullaby thy doubts appease
For trust to this, if thou be still,
My body shall obey thy will.

Eke lullaby my loving boy,
My little Robin, take thy rest.
Since age is cold and nothing coy,
Keep close thy coin, for so is best.
With lullaby be thou content,
With lullaby thy lusts relent.
Let others pay which hath mo pence;
Thou art too poor for such expense.

Thus, lullaby my youth, mine eyes,
My will, my ware and all that was.
I can no mo delays devise,
But welcome pain, let pleasure pass.
With lullaby now take your leave,
With lullaby your dreams deceive,
And when you rise with waking eye,
Remember Gascoigne's lullaby.

this was the guardian's poem of the week last week and i was rather taken with it. more gascoigne here


i decided to waste my early start today by watching games britannia on iplayer, not solely because i was overcome by torpor but because it tapped into a long and recently defunct history of board gaming. i didn't find it the most engaging documentary - i wasn't convinced by his discussion around the alea evangelii, given that hnefatafl and its other more local variants didn't get a mention and mistaking a senet board for a chess board? that just won't do! - but its worth a watch, esp for the british museum games guy, who sports a proper beard and looks precisely how a games guy should look!

i love board games, always have. for years, mainly with my friend euan we played just about every board game we could get our hands on. true we had other players who came and went but the enjoyment for us was watching our gameplay evolve. euan won more that much is true but his observation was that he only won because i enjoyed playing too much, so that assuming he didn;t force me into a position where i had to win all he had to do was wait long enough in order to beat me so that we could play again. i loved all those games so there's never a time when i think about games when i don't think of him. if there's an afterlife he's waiting for me, dice at the ready!

i went thru a scrabble phase for a few years, mainly with my friend s. we had a thing for old games, played the roman tabula, the egyptian senet, variants of mankala, fanorona (which we could never get our heads round). s couldn't win at tabula, but the mankala/senet battles were legendary, mainly because she beat me silly on a regular basis and we had some spectacular fall outs as a result. but it was the scrabble we thrived on. we had no time for other players, it interfered too much with the game play as by then we'd moved well away from a simple word game into a fierce no holds barred territorial battle.

but it's backgammon that's sustained me thru the years. i learned it when i was wee, played my sister constantly on the board i still have. i practised like a mad thing and got good enough to know that i wasn't good enough when it came to playing for money. not because i couldn't play but because the money changes the dynamic. i kind of lost my way with it after the street gaming experience and the only time in recent years i've played in any way seriously was with my friend t, who beat me comprehensively and inexplicably the one time we played. i've never been beaten so consistently. sure i was out of practice but backgammon, whatever else it may appear, isn't a game of chance. i put it down to all that maths education she's got.

anyway, i'm watching this games programme and there's a scene where the narrator guy is in this cafe in london where the people are just playing and there instantly was the desire to play again, the notion to get on a train and go there right now. what i do instead is check what's around locally and it turns out there is a local backgammon club, even a league!

of course i could play online but who wants to do that? i can't be doing with computer games. they seem just so... pointless. euan and i used to talk around this all the time. the best thing about games is people. you can tell a lot about a person by the way they play, the strategies they employ, the ones they don't. or you can just set the board up and, back in the day, drink some coffee, smoke a (lot of) cigarettes and just pass the time. a machine can never substitute.

now, what about that nine man's morris....

Friday, 4 December 2009

he crashes, he breaks!

i've been neglecting the mountain bike of late. not only has the weather been rubbish but, as i;ve said before, i've no upcoming races etc coming up so little motivation to drag myself out in the cold and wet. i've been out on the road bike a couple of times, neglected the trainer.

and got fat......

which won't do. so off today to destination x. it's been a bit frosty so i'm hoping for a bit of bone in the ground but unfortunately no. my less environmentally conscious bike compatriots, coupled with horses and at least one motocross bike have, in conjunction with the rain, annihilated large bits of the trails. annoying.

but at least it's a big bit of forest. off i go down my favourite fast bit, not too fast as it's chewed up, but fast enough. out of practice tho. sure enough i sink my wheel into something, brake (why? why? why!?) and next thing i know i'm head butting a log. then all the feeling returns and i cant say i'm happy about it beyond having sensation and movement and nothing obviously broken. i look up. i do this when i'm post-crash, let the soreness wash over me, take a breath look up. there's the trees. it's a wonderful thing to see them from this angle, the perspective, the blue sky, the lack of sound beyond the swish, swish of the branches, the slow creaking of the trunks.

best back on the bike before i get too cold. no more crashes.

at least tonight i'll be able to avoid the ignominy of having to use a stick to walk but my walking isn't pretty. my head hurts and my chest feels like someone's hit me with a bat. fortunately there's nothing super obvious as yet or i'd be hearing about it from t. but still. i don't, these days, crash that often and no matter what happens at work today (friday, hurrah!) some part of me is still with those trees.....

Thursday, 3 December 2009


so i was wading my way through an interview with sting on the culture show the other night in which he's wittering on and on about his new 'folk' album, his follow up to his lute album songs form the labyrinth. i have to say i'm not a sting fan, not from the police days and certainly not anything in between but the lute thing? i'm not shy of a lute so fair play to him but really, if it's lute music you're after, look no further than rob mckillop

anyway, so sting's got this folk album out and he's in the pub singing away with a bunch of folk musicians, looking a bit embarrassed i somewhat uncharitably thought but not unpleasant nonetheless. but then at the end he slips in the title - if on a winter's night. eh? did i hear that right? sting's named an album after an italo calvino book? now i'm now expecting giant intellectual leaps on the bbc but surely someone might have thought that might have been of interest? but no....

off to spotify then for a listen to sting's christmas album of old english folk songs and... what's going on with his voice? is he trying to do gravitas? i'm unsure. and it's not overly pleasant. for me. other people might like it and probably do. good for sting for doing something different tho, if only more people did, or were allowed to, either by their record companies or more specifically by the public.

it did put me in the mood for the north tho, so back i went to bloodaxe's new version of briggflatt's by basil bunting which handily includes a rather excellent cd of him reading and a dvd about him which i haven't watched yet. bunting's big contention was that poetry should be heard and on this outing no wonder. on the page it's dense stuff but when he reads it, it's rather wonderful, like one of the ents, but from the north of england, from the lord of the rings movies.
apparently he structured it, among other things, around scarlatti's sonatas. that's bold i say so back to spotify and a bit of scarlatti.

and even if i'd need four hands to play it, that is lovely. so thank you sting for getting me here. and that maybe is a bit calvinoesque....

and something from the man himself

It is only through the confining act of writing that the immensity of the nonwritten becomes legible, that is, through the uncertainties of spelling, the occasional lapses, oversights, unchecked leaps of the word and pen. Otherwise what is outside of us should not insist on communicating through the word, spoken or written: let it send its messages by other paths

Monday, 30 November 2009

the idiots abroad

so geo says he's just up north of me at the weekend. i'll maybe come up i say. and that's vague enough. fortunately i don't cycle the sixty or seventy miles it wouldn't have taken me but do have a loop round loch rannoch which is just sublime. the sun shines, schiehallion is coated with snow, the water is like glass. at one point a heron floats up and we cruise along together for a stretch. i wish i'd brought the kayak.

so, time to meet up. but i can't remember where. and there's no signal. i drive twenty miles back down the road until there is one. you drove past me twenty miles ago says geo. i can;t drive back up that road i say. i don't blame you he says.

you'd think after twenty five years or so we'd have got better at this. but no. top bike ride tho.

Sunday, 29 November 2009

so what did i do

in the interim?

two pictures, neither finished but happy with both.

7000 word short story, done and dusted. happy with it.

the poetry thing (see elvis)

much piano

looking at the moon

converted my long term mountain bike buddy to the dark side that is road cycling

pined for winter racing.

try to get over the notion that Nach dem Spiel ist vor dem Spiel makes any sort of sensible sense

do a woodwork piece. dusty!

practice old english pronunciation

hit thumb with an axe

Saturday, 28 November 2009

three and seven are special

yes, yes i've been missing from blogworld this last couple of weeks and from world of computer generally. quite why this should be i cannot say - rain has trapped me inside for long enough. mainly i just can't be doing with it. lack of training for my new year's race could be something to do with it - i have no need to be out on the bike in bad weather so i'm just not. t is concerned by this tho having said that she's been sufficiently unwell this last couple of weeks she's in no position to throw stones (not that she could, even if she wanted to).

i'm placed in the position that i'm a bit rubbish when i've got a sick house mate. i can deal with day to day sick (a couple of days) or proper sick (hospital) but lingering lurgy is not me - it's like being at work but really not. so i disappeared for a bit to let her sleep it off some more. whihc kind of worked even she's post viral and miserable now. not constant girny miserable but that way where your body's not been working for a while and needs out and about. i watch and learn, finally go out on the bike and - it's rather lovely.

but still no blogulising, precious little emailing. computer land is just plain depressing. so, instead, much lunar nonsense at the weekend with friend geo. and some particularly bad film watching. i see something call push which looks lovely but seems to have no story whatsoever. we recover with the wrath of khan. hilarious. geo finds the whole not drinking thing a bit odd, despite the fact that i'm drinking with him, in fact just drinking, for only the second time this year. it feels pretty odd and to be honest i'm more concerned with getting a read at my book. still. i get mildly
drunk while he passes out on the floor. ah, the years it was me! as he sleeps it off i get up bright and early and lose myself in renaissance world and the battle of lepanto, which i've only just discovered. books, you have to love them.

back to the house where t is now capable of movement. i have a load of writing stuff to do plus paintings to paint. ostensibly. i start work on one which must, absolutely must, be for t's mum. except it's so not. i diverge away from the original plan and end up with a spectrum of blues that's going no further than my wall. t, who seems to have mastered the making and selling thing effortlessly, is both amused and unimpressed and also back to the drawing board when it comes to trying to get me to paint more/sell some.

anyway, i reach the end of the week feeling somewhat out of sorts for no good reason. but today an envelope flops through my door. a letter! for me! i can't remember the last time i got an actual letter. and yet here it is, from dear mmoneypenny who, for various reasons, is also absent from computer world. all manner of bits and pieces are there. which is great. communication from a foreign land is like communication from another world.

what's all this bilingualism on the envelope? de partout....jusqu'a vous - it's just got a romantic ring to it. and then it's full of paper. coloured papers, coloured inks, strange diagrams and a ticket stub that's resistant to any interrogation. one bit of paper she's used has various addresses from her home town on it - it's scrap paper she says but really, it's anything not, these names and numbers are mysterious cyphers, un-knowable.

while i love the world of blog and genuine affection for the people i've 'met' here as well as all the things i could never have done had it not existed what a different thing it is to get a letter, and not just a letter, a package, a sample set. some sort of tangibilty. so thank you mmoneypenny, you've made my day/week. three and seven are special and i hope you enjoyed them...!

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

dominic rivron is a bad man

so, off the back of dominic's generous making mp3s link in the last post i get to thinking about the capture of sound, about its notation and reproduction. and while it's true i haven't even dented the previously discussed sound project i do have a piano. yes, i do have a piano.

so off up the stairs to do some plinky plonky explorations. and what fun!

except for the bit where i'm aware that i have to be able to do this again. naturally i can't figure out how the computer connects up to the piano. and naturally it's too much hassle to get the microphone set up and even if i did my tone memory is something so far in the past i don't how reliable it would be, if it ever was.

so i'm left to write down the notes. of course intuitively i should know how they go together, but will i? and what about some sort of time signature. which means of course i need some sheet music rather than the blank page shorthand i'm using. sheet music! i haven't written anything on sheet music for thirty years!

so thank you dominic rivron for introducing yet another time vampire into the time constricted boundaries of my day! and y way of doing so, a big fat smile on my face!

Monday, 16 November 2009

singing and the like

the great potential of the net shows itself yet again with dominic's idea for a web singalong of purcell. it's a great idea and one day i really will need to try and get myself taught to use all that software magubbinry.

particularly because i was very much taken with the soundslides here (and the bike ride of course). i'd highly recommend, no really stop what you're doing and take the time, to have a browse of this guys soundslides. they are great and demonstrate (to me anyway) just how superfluous tv is these days

john clare

Secret Love

I hid my love when young till I
Couldn't bear the buzzing of a fly;
I hid my love to my despite
Till I could not bear to look at light:
I dare not gaze upon her face
But left her memory in each place;
Where eer I saw a wild flower lie
I kissed and bade my love good bye.

I met her in the greenest dells
Where dewdrops pearl the wood blue bells
The lost breeze kissed her bright blue eye,
The bee kissed and went singing by,
A sunbeam found a passage there,
A gold chain round her neck so fair;
As secret as the wild bee's song
She lay there all the summer long.

I hid my love in field and town
Till e'en the breeze would knock me down,
The bees seemed singing ballads oer,
The fly's bass turned a lion's roar;
And even silence found a tongue,
To haunt me all the summer long;
The riddle nature could not prove
Was nothing else but secret love.

Thursday, 12 November 2009

it's latin radio

it's a long winter in finland. or it must be something like that....

whatever, back in the day i used to like a listen to the news in latin. years went by, i lost the link and spoken latin seemed to disappear. but not today! thanks to finnish radio there is this


Tuesday, 10 November 2009

people ask me

what sort of cycling i like best. all of it but most of all something like the feeling of this, which was already starting to die out when i was young but the notion of which got me out on my bike and keeps me there.

Monday, 9 November 2009


i do two readings this weekend, one in perth and one in edinburgh. the perth one is shorter, an open mic type event and most of the people i know or have met before. we have a few laughs, there's less obvious drunken-ness than the last time and i don't have to do on the spot ad libs which is a relief!

sunday i go off to rob mckenzie's grv night where i'm first up before tessa ransford and rober alan jamieson. i don't do nerves, not since i had the realisation that i spend some forty odd hours of my week speaking to strangers on subjects a sight more tense than a poetry reading, but even so it's a quality line up and i don't want to let the side down. plus colin has made the trip up from dunbar and i'm giving some of the island poems an airing.

i have the timer on my phone, which is a help as time goes by quicker than i thought. i open with the island poems, do a couple of the science-y poems (which i've subbed last minute for the edinburgh poems as there's not that many edinburgh people there!), three work poems, the black bicycle just to give myself pause, a couple of 'issue' poems and a couple of domesticana poems to finish. which sounds a lot, mainly because it is, but it also meant i missed out on a bunch of other themes.

and it all seemed to go down okay. i did the leonids poem for t, seeing as its one of her favourites and i like reading it more and more, tho there's a sticky line in it still i'm not happy with. the work poems i'd been uncertain about, not just because i haven't read them in public but because of the subject matter which, it has to be said, i'd toned down, or so i'd thought. folk seemed into them tho possibly, as i'd hoped, because it was an area that was new to them. i think my favourite of the night was a list poem where i mull over scottish minerals.

i'd been looking forward to having a blether to colin on that score but he, like us, needed to be off and by that time i was ensconced in various conversations which included one about the exeter book and things old english ( sorry about that colin!), topics i don't often get a chance to get involved in. it turns out tessa had done a poem in connection with the exeter book also, which i'll stick up here at some point as it's rather lovely. it was grand to be able to talk about language just a shame we didn't have more time. esp for colin donati, whose scots version of jabberwocky was t's poem of the night but given, his, mine and tessa's discussion on old english and the like, something she never got to tell him.

a big thanks to rob for sticking me on and, assuming i can get the time off, we look forward to the discussed february date.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

william cowper

The Castaway

Obscurest night involv'd the sky,
Th' Atlantic billows roar'd,
When such a destin'd wretch as I,
Wash'd headlong from on board,
Of friends, of hope, of all bereft,
His floating home for ever left.

No braver chief could Albion boast
Than he with whom he went,
Nor ever ship left Albion's coast,
With warmer wishes sent.
He lov'd them both, but both in vain,
Nor him beheld, nor her again.

Not long beneath the whelming brine,
Expert to swim, he lay;
Nor soon he felt his strength decline,
Or courage die away;
But wag'd with death a lasting strife,
Supported by despair of life.

He shouted: nor his friends had fail'd
To check the vessel's course,
But so the furious blast prevail'd,
That, pitiless perforce,
They left their outcast mate behind,
And scudded still before the wind.

Some succour yet they could afford;
And, such as storms allow,
The cask, the coop, the floated cord,
Delay'd not to bestow.
But he (they knew) nor ship, nor shore,
Whate'er they gave, should visit more.

Nor, cruel as it seem'd, could he
Their haste himself condemn,
Aware that flight, in such a sea,
Alone could rescue them;
Yet bitter felt it still to die
Deserted, and his friends so nigh.

He long survives, who lives an hour
In ocean, self-upheld;
And so long he, with unspent pow'r,
His destiny repell'd;
And ever, as the minutes flew,
Entreated help, or cried--Adieu!

At length, his transient respite past,
His comrades, who before
Had heard his voice in ev'ry blast,
Could catch the sound no more.
For then, by toil subdued, he drank
The stifling wave, and then he sank.

No poet wept him: but the page
Of narrative sincere;
That tells his name, his worth, his age,
Is wet with Anson's tear.
And tears by bards or heroes shed
Alike immortalize the dead.

I therefore purpose not, or dream,
Descanting on his fate,
To give the melancholy theme
A more enduring date:
But misery still delights to trace
Its semblance in another's case.

No voice divine the storm allay'd,
No light propitious shone;
When, snatch'd from all effectual aid,
We perish'd, each alone:
But I beneath a rougher sea,
And whelm'd in deeper gulfs than he.

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

else lasker-schuler

Ein alter Tibetteppich

Deine Seele, die die meine liebet,
Ist verwirkt mit ihr im Teppichtibet.

Strahl in Strahl, verliebte Farben,
Sterne, die sich himmellang umwarben.

Unsere Füße ruhen auf der Kostbarkeit,

Süßer Lamasohn auf Moschuspflanzenthron,
Wie lange küßt dein Mund den meinen wohl
Und Wang die Wange buntgeknüpfte Zeiten schon?

An old Tibetan rug

Your soul, which loveth mine,
Is woven with it into a rug-Tibet.

Strand by strand, enamoured colours,
Stars that courted each other across the length of heavens.

Our feet rest on the treasure

Sweet lama-son on your musk-plant-throne
How long has your mouth been kissing mine,
And cheek to cheek colorfully woven times?

trans unknown

thanls to roxana for raising else lasker-schuler on the poetic radar. but really more for maschentausendabertausendweit which must surely be my new favourite german word

ileana malancioiu

The Doctor on Duty

Go away quickly, she said to me, I'm afraid,
you see that Doctor X is on duty
he surely knows what to give me to help me to breathe,
he told me nobody dies while he's on the ward.

And indeed, that very young doctor
who was not as famous as his heart was good
came in the middle of the night and gave her
something that kept her breathing until the next day.

Afterwards she understood
that his shift was finished and we had started
that terrible day about which already
she had begun to say it would never be over.

The one who was on duty looked down
on us without interfering:
I never said that nobody dies
while I am on duty, I am not at fault.

trans eilean ni chuilleanain

My Sister Beyond

My sister beyond
keeps her head bent
near the horse shot dead
frail and bony
his saddle falls.

I can't stay longer
on that bony back ,
I fell
waving a dry branch
even before I crossed
the fatal boundary.

Let your soul stay
near me
like the saddle I mount
and then dismount in spring
when the grass
of the neglected garden greens.

Silently the horse collects
his scattered skeleton
leaving only his spirit
on the other shore
she mounts his saddle
in her velvet dress
he shows her how to hold her seat.

Night comes to the garden
full of strange horse-breathing
that struggles to continue
even when the sun shines.

I hear his hooves tramp
his nostrils snort
as they snorted in times past.
I find the trace
of his wet rolling
where the grass is greenest.

The grass springs back
the trace vanishes
my sister rides the horse
across the plain
and drinks the water of life.

Meekly I approach
the deserted fountain
a broken balance
this is the place
for the midnight struggle.

My sister is beyond
I see her leave
on her magic horse
that was shot one year ago.

trans joanne growney and radu doru cormin

Tuesday, 27 October 2009


You who never arrived
in my arms, Beloved, who were lost
from the start,
I don't even know what songs
would please you. I have given up trying
to recognize you in the surging wave of the next
moment. All the immense
images in me - the far-off, deeply-felt landscape,
cities, towers, and bridges, and unsuspected
turns in the path,
and those powerful lands that were once
pulsing with the life of the gods -
all rise within me to mean
you, who forever elude me.

You, Beloved, who are all
the gardens I have ever gazed at,
longing. An open windowin a country house - and you almost
stepped out, pensive, to meet me.
Streets that I chanced upon, -
you had just walked down them and vanished.
And sometimes, in a shop, the mirrors
were still dizzy with your presence and, startled,
gave back my too-sudden image. Who knows?
perhaps the same bird echoed through both of us
yesterday, seperate, in the evening…

and for the german speakers....

Du im Voraus
verlorne Geliebte, Nimmergekommene,
nicht weiß ich, welche Töne dir lieb sind.
Nicht mehr versuch ich, dich, wenn das Kommende wogt,

zu erkennen. Alle die großen
Bilder in mir, im Fernen erfahrene Landschaft,
Städte und Türme und Brücken und un-
vermutete Wendung der Wege
und das Gewaltige jener von Göttern
einst durchwachsenen Länder:
steigt zur Bedeutung in mir
deiner, Entgehende, an.

Ach, die Gärten bist du,
ach, ich sah sie mit solcher
Hoffnung. Ein offenes Fenster
im Landhaus - , und du tratest beinahe
mir nachdenklich heran. Gassen fand ich, -
du warst sie gerade gegangen,
und die Spiegel manchmal der Läden der Händler
waren noch schwindlich von dir und gaben erschrocken
mein zu plötzliches Bild. - Wer weiß, ob derselbe
Vogel nicht hinklang durch uns
gestern, einzeln, im Abend?

selling a bike

after being unable to sell my (motor) bike earlier in the summer - got to be thankful for the credit crunch for something - it turns out i've got someone interested in my old alpinestars almega that's been sitting as a rebuild project in my garage/shed/flats since about 1997.

and yet when i got it all out yesterday and took pictures for the guy who's going to restore it i couldn't help but get mist eyed. here was the custom lacquered frame of my early mountain biking days, the first really 'fast' bike i'd had, my pride and joy, the scene of many of those early adventures. in the end it got itself replace with a univega y bike that i never really preferred and i stupidly loaned it to an idiot who never cleaned it which is how it ended up in bits. the friendship never really recovered!

it's just a stack of metal and bits yet i feel very attached to it, just like the worn out bits of kit i can't part with and leave out for t to dispose of when i'm not looking. what is it that makes us so attached to inanimate things. i can;t figure it out. whatever, the bike is going, it has to go. at least until i change my mind!

Monday, 19 October 2009

the astronomy

as i ambled my way back into consciousness on saturday the phone rang. geo and fs were up at the bothy. telescopes had been set up. did we want to come? t and i unfurled our inner geeks and set off immediately.
true the quietest and loveliest part of our day was the walk up the glen, geo being a person who fears the quiet, so that the rest of our weekend was accompanied to the sound of constant radio 3 and the winding up of radios but this was small complaint in light of our location, where t had not not been.
i'd talked up fs and his sky knowledge what with him being qualified in the astrphysics and all and he didn't let us down. within an hour the clarity of the sky was letting us seeing the banding on jupiter. as the night fell t managed to spot all manner of other things including andromeda, the beehive cluster. shooting stars and satellites among others. later i'd get a spot of jupiter with all four moons.
but really what beguiled us, as usual, was, in the absence of any significant light pollution, the night sky and how fabulously ignorant we are of it. having a mate to guide you round it and having the time to see how it moves is well worth it. we had a real sense of how truncated our city type life is by not being able to do that thing that most of our ancestors could - looking up and being amazed.
as ever with the astronomy our time was limited by incoming cloud so by morning (the pics above) the glen was much more what you'd expect of an october morning in scotland. what you can't hear is the shouting of the deer...

Friday, 16 October 2009

david crystal

no t in the house to distract me, tv watching creeps insidiously into my tea time. in this case it's the bbc's it's only a theory, a dreadfully formatted programme in which various academic types present theories to a panel and they vote on whether it's valid. awful, esp when you've got someone genuinely interesting on.

in this case, david crystal. i loved crystal's books when i was doing the linguistics bit of my last degree, so much so i'd still really fancy doing more education solely on the topic. but, it struck me as i saw his name pop up in the schedules, i've never actually heard him speak.

brilliant. proper boffin beard, passionate enthusiastic, fighting the corner of the young with respect to language and his theory that texting is good for english, not bad. watch it on iplayer. dreadful programme ( it is tv!) but worth it for him alone. thoughts of dc are available at his blog

what books would i recommend? all of them!

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

ann drysdale

The Ram's Skull

There it sits on the table.
An exercise in metaphor.
Eyeholes vacant;
Overstated horns akimbo.
Ridiculous in death.
The tutor speaks:
"Forget reality. See shapes. See thoughts.
See half-formed visions of a greater consciousness.
Just look and see and, having seen, say."

They look. I look. We look,
And one by one they speak,
Saying they see landscapes, caverns and waterfalls,
Great rocks and oceans and the homes of eagles.

Now comes my turn: "Ann, tell us what you see."
I see a ram's skull; heft it at arm's length,
Ponder in pantomime,
Then to the word-befuddled class declare
"Alas, poor Herdwick!" - and they roar
Till all that carefully constructed metaphor
Falls like a clown's trousers round the tutor's feet.

I feel myself dismissed - his tight lips telegraph:
"Trust you to settle for a cheap and easy laugh..."
Later, alone, I beg to contradict,
Such laughs are easy but they don't come cheap.

Who wants to be a poet anyway?
Sometimes I hate poets. Hate them for not knowing
The ram beneath the skull.

A Swaledale tup.
He'd have got bonny gimmers, this old chap -
For old he was; some of his teeth are gone.
See how the horns curl round and round again
Finishing in the comic little lift
Left over from his lambhood. Close and tight
They sat upon his cheeks, trapping his head
Till someone cut a slice from each of them
To ease the workings of his mighty jaw.
Somebody did a nifty hacksaw job;
Somebody else sweated to hold him still,
Digging their fingers into the greasy elf-locks,
Pinning his ear back with a grubby thumb.

Somebody cared. He'd not have lived so long
Without a good master. All of seven-shear.
Keen, too. See in one horn the drilled hole
Where they close-coupled him to a companion.
Ramshackled, lest they tupped the ewes too soon.

Seven times a fleece fell, damp and rank-smelling,
Stained with the old musk, bedewed on the skin side
With his essential oils. Oh, the rare stink of him
In the height of the season.

And once, on a latefrost morning, he was new.
Licked into life by an old blackfaced ewe.
Perhaps a child fed him and knew the touch
Of whiskery lips, the thrust of his blunt head.

How could they look at a ram's skull and not see
That once that skull would have been small enough
To fit roundly, slick as a cricket ball,
Into the cupped palm of a shepherd's hand.

things one should not do

favours. especially those involving computers.

can you do a book for the writers group i am asked.
no problem i say. 35 lines for poetry, asap.
1st arrival, 52 lines. nice

but that's okay and not altogether unexpected. no worries. just send me the stuff when you've got it. and it arrives, no content but some odd files and the message, i've just laid it out. uh-huh. but you can't send the layout given the programme we're using.

if you just put it in a folder with the files.


sorry about that, will i just send it anyway?

roughly translated, you've shown me what to do and i'm going to piss about, piss you about, waste your time and go off and do something completely different. excellent.

and while i'm on the subject. deadlines.

is there something in the 'creative' brain that can't process the concept?
i fear there must be as i'm sitting waiting at the moment for work (illustrations) which i'm not only using to publicise the person making it, but which i'm also paying them for! what am i getting? nothing, nothing at all, that's what.

then last night's gem as we embark on another new venture i get asked but how is it getting funded? well that'd be me. which of course i should realise is the wrong answer because in arty world poetry really is supposed to make things happen, as opposed to money which actually does.

even the venal world of advertising is better. but at least i'm not in the theatre. i swear to god if someone mentions 'craft' to me this week outside the world of cheese i won't be responsible for what happens.

* you can scotticise any of the above by inserting any of the popular expletives we know and love anywhere in the text. and frequently

Friday, 9 October 2009

kate clanchy

Poem for a Man with No Sense of Smell

This is simply to inform you:

that the thickest line in the kink of my hand
smells like the feel of an old school desk,
the deep carved names worn sleek with sweat;

that beneath the spray of my expensive scent
my armpits sound a bass note strong
as the boom of a palm on a kettle drum;

that the wet flush of my fear is sharp
as the taste of an iron pipe, midwinter,
on a child's hot tongue; and that sometimes,

in a breeze, the delicate hairs on the nape
of my neck, just where you might bend
your head, might hesitate and brush your lips,

hold a scent frail and precise as a fleet
of tiny origami ships, just setting out to sea.

i meet kate clanchy briefly earlier this year after a pre stanza reading. i don't normally go for the meeting of the poet thing but, given i've only the most vestigial sense of smell, i was so taken with the above poem that, once she'd finished, i felt i had to tell her. which obviously wasn't creepy at all! but i did get the impression it wasn't the first time it had happened, indicating perhaps the surprising prevalence of anosmic type conditions and possibly the lack of writing describing it.

anyway, i was quite taken with la clanchy, not just because she seemed decent but because she falls into that small group of women who constitute poets of my age. so not only did i get some of her poetry but, as i was in tesco's the other day, thought i'd give her latest, antigona and me a whirl.

and glad i was of it. the book, prose not poetry, features the relationship between clanchy and her helpmeet/friend antigona, an albanian refugee. true clanchy's london existence is not to me as distant as that of the albanian mountains but both are distinctly not my mode of being so either portrayal was of interest. clanchy was unflinching in highlighting the many conflicts in her middle class existence and its effects on people like antigona while at the same time doing a good job, i thought, in portraying antigona's transition from the stratified world of her birth into the confusing one of london.

it'd be easy to dismiss, esp seeing it on the shelves as tesco, as another chick book but it really isn't and is well worth a look if only to remind ourselves of the cossetted and privileged nature of our existence. i like the domestic world clanchy creates in her poetry. it's a difficult trick to get right and she succeeds in transferring that to this work without any of the faux sentimentality that clogs so much of its equivalent.

cheap at tescos. buy it!

*the poem comes from canchy's collection slattern. you can hear ot being read here at about 9:30 tho it's not clanchy and has annoying piano music

Thursday, 8 October 2009

stanza 2010

stanza 2010's headline writers have been announced and it's a very strong lineup so far.

note also the virtual poetry thing coming up on the 14th nov.

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

the hospitality of montrose

so me and t got ourselves up to the gingham curtained world of montrose to have a look at the wildlife in the basin. having done this we headed up to rachel's for a visit.

small girl refused to recognise us until parental approval had been granted. he's dressed this time said the lady of the house so you may speak to them. will we feed them ma-ma said the small one. yes said the dowager after some thought, but don't use the good china. we perched ourselves on the wooden chairs while rachel said a short grace. i haven;t seen one of those cake trees for a while but hers was lovely. no really.

politeness forbids me from revealing the details of our small talk but suffice to say some efforts of character assassination were made. herself even went so far as to accuse someone of being a parvenu. a bumbling one at that. we went to make our leave but rachel had hidden my car keys so instead small girl quizzed us on the kings and queens of england until she felt we were sufficiently well versed to be allowed to leave. out the back door obviously as rachel called to her neighbours 'tradespeople!'

* it should be pointed out that the above is a confection of outrageous exaggeration and downright lies. we had a lovely time, we were baked for (yes, really) and small girl kept us thoroughly entertained. a cold is throwing racing into doubt for this weekend so we may return friday. thanks again ; )

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

autumn colours

so off we go to spend a weekend in the tweed valley. i'm off on the bike with some of the singletrack people. day one we're up on minch moor, along part of the southern upland way. wind is forecast and it doesn't disappoint. we receive a bracing battering and agree it's the only time we've seen bikes blown about when they're lying flat. the rain doesn't fail us either! but changeable tho the weather is, it's a fabulous day.

the following day, the weather's died down a bit, the sun is shining and seventeen of us embark out onto the gypsy glen route at glentress. for those of us who've been out the day before it's sore on the legs. but the descent down the ridge back into gt is the best i've done this year. unfortunately we then have to climb back out of peebles up to the top of gt red. by this time i haven't the legs for a technical descent so i take the easy way down the red route but even then i have to detour onto the blue two thirds of the way down as my legs are done.

meanwhile after a day of craft investigation in peebles on the saturday t takes advantage of the weather to get herself along to the gardens at dawyck. as she correctly points out, i should have been there but as i wasn't it doesn't interfere with her picture taking...

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

muriel rukeyser


The word in the bread feeds me,
The word in the moon leads me,
The word in the seed breeds me,
The word in the child needs me.

The word in the sand builds me,
The word in the fruit fills me,
The word in the body mills me,
The word in the war kills me.

The word in the man takes me,
The word in the storm shakes me,
The word in the work makes me,
The word in the woman rakes me,
The word in the word wakes me.

carl sandburg


Here is dust remembers it was a rose
one time and lay in a woman's hair.
Here is dust remembers it was a woman
one time and in her hair lay a rose.
Oh things one time dust, what else now is it
you dream and remember of old days?

more than the tdf

while it's true the vuelta left me a bit cold this year i did enjoy both the tour of ireland and the tour of britain even if neither matched up to the spectacle of the tour de france. that said i have turned t to the dark side of bike race viewing, maybe it's the men in shorts, so much so i think she may make the trip into london.

so i put the men's world championship road race on with little expectation on sunday having spent way too much time watching the women's event after work on saturday morning! nicole cook, a shame, but emma pooley looking forward to stepping into those shoes.

anyway, so i watched the beginning, we had breakfast, lolled about and the cycling men did their thing. i meant to go out on the bike but i'm struggling with the training miles at the moment so did several other things which weren't that. then came back to where the peloton were still doing their thing. than again later to watch different coverage, much to t's chagrin, because the last couple of laps really were that good.

fabien cancellara. what a star. having, unsurprisingly, aced the time trial, he was well up for a win in the road race as well. the noise of the crowd when he hit the front was tremendous. so much for the dour swiss! but it was a race in which the italians and the spanish, particularly the spanish, raced not to lose to cancellara rather than win for themselves. you could see the frustration as they marked him out of the race, both covering his repeated attacks and then refusing, or more charitably, unable, to attack themselves. what a performance from cancellara, and zorg for getting him up there. what a shame he was to be frustrated.

kolubnev launched himself out for a gap and while he was on his own, just like cancellara, he isn;t cancellara. the move was covered by rodrigues, who couldn't or wouldn't work. kolubnev kept his head down, focused. cancellara made a couple of half hearted stabs but you sensed that he knew as well as us his race was over.

then all of a sudden a familiar figure. cadel evans, for it was he, had toiled to get into the lead group, now all of a sudden he was out of it, accelerating, attacking! stupidly, dunderheadedly the group gazed bovinely at each other. quite rightly cancellara just shrugged, why should he be the one? and evans was gone. gone up to kolubnev and rodrigues. past that pair and up the road. mr second place, yesterday's man had a gap, then a bigger gap. the eurosport guys were beside themselves. could evans finally do what he just hasn't been doing? actually win?

the gap grew bigger. would he have a mechanical? would he, a la vuelta, puncture and get swept up? would somehow his notoriously fragile personality, for which the words mercurial and eccentric seem to have been made, kick into play? none of the above. he coasted it. over the line and a brief kiss to the crowd and that was it. evans wins!

to their shame, and despite some quality protesting from david harmon for which it would be a travesty if he was disciplined, neither eurosport or the bbc managed a decent post race interview. it would've been great to have seen the fragile evans happy for once. at least he can say no-one will ever criticise him for not attacking again! it may be he'll never be the easiest character in the peloton, tho having seen the circus that surrounds the likes of armstrong, i strongly suspect i'd be the same but i can't help feeling, as with so many, he's deserved more out of his career. it may not be a grand tour but the rainbow stripes are at least something, a recognition.

chapeau, cadel evans. at last!

me? the rain pours down. i have to fix some brakes then settle down on the trainer. the joys!

Monday, 28 September 2009

they are reading

pandora by jilly cooper

the sort of book she says that makes her feel dirty just by reading it. but she tells me her flatmate has, for reasons she won't share, everything by danielle steel and ,being a compulsive reader, she couldn't leave the house without a book. and this was the result. she makes no excuses. she does reveal however that when she was young she had a speech impediment so her parents made her read out loud every day. so she shares some steel with us. it's not pretty.

it means mischief by kate thompson

what is it about? she can't say. it's the type of thing, she tells me, that's perfect for the night shift. without substance, un-memorable, totally non-taxing. she buys them from charity shops and returns them when she's finished.

Monday, 21 September 2009


we made one of increasingly less frequent forays into tv land last night mainly because i wanted to see what jonathan meades was up to in his latest round britain excursion after seeing his rather fantastic exposition on the architecture of aberdeen last week. this week he was off to lewis and harris, a place not unfamilar to us so we were curious to see what he made of it.

lovely. possibly the best documentary on lewis and harris i've ever seen. true it's jonathan meades and his singular style is possibly not for everyone but they've got 1001 x-factor clones to watch. equally true, from an island point of view, he's an incomer but then again, so's half the population. but it's that incomer perspective that lights up the screen. instantly he's in love with the landscape (and it being harris why wouldn't you be?) and we're treated to fantastic panoramas of green seas, cloud over the clisham and ariel shots of luskentyre. pus a hundred and one others that kept the familiar island viewer guessing where he was.

he had a go at the church but came out firmly for sabbatarianism or at least one day when everything is shut. i could've applauded! he did this leaning against the facade of one of the stornoway pubs i drank less frequently in but the first one in which t did, and famously disgraced herself by trying the foolish gambit of trying to drink as much as i did. i may not drink much now, if anything, but then i was deep in my proper island drinking the only thing that i hadn't done, in the view of some of the locals, was to fall in the harbour, at which point i'd be a 'proper stornoway man'. ah yes, those were the days and meades didn't fail us with pictures of the locals tottering about in howling rain of a friday night.

lastly he addressed the issue of all the crap that lies about the island, particularly in lewis. so he was up on the barvas moor looking at the sheds and musing on just how it's possible to get a vehicle so far into a peat bog. and then onto it's roof!

absolutely a must watch. i defy anyone who's lived there for any length of time not to have at least a wry smile. there are for sure a couple of things that may niggle a bit, but it's jonathan meades, it's what he's there for. at the very least you'll see a house identical to the one i lived in, mainly on the grounds it's lewis specific housing design 1 and therefore everywhere. and yes, even i had a bit of a yearning to go back. on the next ferry!

the element of lavishness

continuing on the letter writing...

i'm currently reading the element of lavishness, the edited letters of william maxwell and sylvia townsend warner and they are fabulous. i could go on and on about them but instead i'll give you a couple of examples (using titus's p161 method to yield the following)

Warner to Maxwell, January 4th, 1966

We are both sympathetic to your views on violent games. When Valentine had been finished in Paris, the height of elegance with a skull on her dressing table and everything fashion demanded of her, her parents went mad and decided she must have a course at South Coast College of Domestic Science. There she was called upon to play hockey. since she did not know how to play hockey she was put to keep goal (I do not follow the reasoning). There she stood, detached as a heron, all scorn and misery, till she saw twenty two beefy young women rushing towards her, brandishing hockey sticks. She cast down her stick, and RAN for her life.

Warner to Maxwell, January 24th, 1966

...I shall worry about you, not that I want to. But i am convinced it is very dangerous to have anything to do with the law. I think you should carry a little bunch of sweet herbs to ward off jail-fever, and a foot-warmer in case there is a power cut while you are considering your verdict, and some kind of sustaining meat lozenge for the same reason and a small foam rubber cushion. Two months, good God, with intermittent sessions hereafter. I hopes at least you have some of Wordsworth's sonnets at heart; since there will be no advertisements to read and translate and versify and set in canon and mentally embroider in cross stitch. You will have my prayers and i will write to you regularly.

They maintain this arch and playful tone throughout there letters, with real poignancy at the end of warner's life as her ill health bears down upon her. it's a real insight into a different, vanished world and the beautiful language of both is a joy to read.

further on the letter writing subject i was listening to if you're reading this a documentary on letters written by soldiers to be read in the event of their death. it'd bring a tear to a glass eye. worth the listen.

Thursday, 17 September 2009

letter writing

i was posting things today and it struck me i couldn't remember the last time i'd written, far less posted, a letter.

i had a conversation recently, somebody or other had died, can't remember if it was a patient or a staff member's relative tho i think it might have been the latter, and what they had left was letters. it seemed rather poignant and got me to thinking that maybe we aren't as emotionally numbed as we like to make out, rather that we can make fine distinctions when we need to.

i have a box of letters up the stairs from when i was in my teens and very early twenties. whether i've written them or received them doesn't matter so much as their being there. i have some from the first person i ever lived with and thinking of them i can see her both then and now much more clearly, can connect with them emotionally far better.

i miss the paraphernalia of letter writing, the choosing of paper, the look of the writing, the colour of the ink, the particularity of the pen. i miss getting letters. true all the communication we have now is convenient but compared to that letter, that special communication, the anticipation of opening it. when i lived in the states, in the days before the internet, my mates would send me letters, missives from home, the best of which came one christmas accompanied by a c90 of random recordings of the radio. i still have it somewhere and when i look at it i can still fell both the closeness and the distance.

more letters i say ( on a blog!). we will lose this custom at our peril!

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

bike story of the week

from here, reproduced in full

If you were cycling along Littlehampton seafront, last monday, I'm sorry, on behalf of my wife and 3 year old daughter.

They happened to be out practising riding with a child seat. My competitive Wifey spotted you in front, and set off in hot pursuit. (Neither of us have done much cycling since the kids arrived).

Sadly for me, her catching you isn't what I'm apologising for.

I'm really really sorry that when overtaking my daughter pretended to 'zip up' before raising her fingers and pointing skywards, a la Alberto. (she enjoyed watching Le Tour).


robert herrick

To a Bed of Tulips

Bright tulips, we do know,
You had your comming hither;
And fading-time do's show,
That Ye must quickly wither.

Your Sister-hoods may stay,
And smile here for your houre,
But dye ye mst away:
Even as the meanest Flower.

Come Virgins then, and see
Your frailties; and bemone ye;
For lost like these, 'twill be,
As Time had never known ye.

tour of britain

an early start then and we're off down to peebles to watch the start of the third stage of the tour of britain. my plan is to park up at glentress then cycle back into town. i neglect two factors - it's monday and i should've left at least half an hour earlier in order to get around edinburgh and my plan to cycle the mile into peebles means that t will actually have to go on her bike, which i've cunningly placed in the back of the van but which, up until we reached peebles, she was unaware of or ignoring.

sure enough we're too late to get parked in peebles so we head to glentress. i get all excited when i see the katusha squad roll by. t is not so impressed. i'll have to cycle on the pavement she says. no problem, i say, it goes all the way to peebles. but i have no helmet, she says. oh yes you do i say. and so forth. all of which sees us eating cake and drinking coffee in the hub cafe before wandering down to the bottom of the road to watch the road pass. we do not cycle - 'it may be gravelly'.

many, many motorcyclists pass including a great number of police - surely denuding motorcycle departments across the country, then the cars and finally the racers. i see them long enough to take two pictures and then they're gone. but is that it blusters t, ruined by a summer of tour and vuelta coverage. well yes, i say, that is it, failing to convince her that there were indeed a hundred or so guys in the peloton.

back to gt where i hammer into the red route on the new bike while t has a wander round the walker path to look at the nature. we both declare ourselves well satisfied.

later we have a wander round peebles where, unbelievably, she's never been and it's a shame we didn't make it as all the shops are done up, there's bunting and all that stuff. but she's very taken with it all. so much so she suggests we spend more time there, a fine suggestion i think and i've only mentioned dawyck very briefly in passing.

and the tour. the kai reus story is a good one, coming back after a serious head injury a tricky business at the best of times far less to top end sport. but it's thomas de gendt who's caught the imagination with his crazy attack from the front, from the start 'tactics' which, although they saw him in trouble yesterday, have still got him in both green and polkadot.

a fine way to spend a day. will i be back to cycle the stage 3 route. probably. will i be able to do it in anything approaching 4 hours. i doubt it!

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

he is reading

the oxford handook of acute medicine

he is drawing a diagram of nerve pathways in the brain. it would be easier, he says, if the brain wasn't so complicated. it makes his hurt just by thinking about it and he is sure when he is finished his diagram it will not look like a functional map of the brain, only his deepening confusion.

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

emily dickinson

Water, is taught by thirst.

Water, is taught by thirst.
Land - by the Oceans passed.
Transport - by throe -
Peace - by its battles told -
Love, by Memorial Mold -
Birds, by the Snow.

dannie abse

The Water Diviner

Late, I have come to a parched land
doubting my gift, if gift I have,
the inspiration of water spilt,
swallowed in the sand.

To hear once more water trickle,
to stand in a stretch of silence
the divining pen twisting in the hand:
sign of depths alluvial.

Water owns no permanent shape,
sags, is most itself descending;
now, under the shadow of the idol,
dry mouth and dry landscape.

No rain falls with a refreshing sound
to settle tubular in a well,
elliptical in a bowl. No grape
lusciously moulds it round.

Clouds have no constant resemblance
to anything, blown by a hot wind,
flying mirages; the blue background,
light constructions of chance.

To hold back chaos I transformed
amorphous mass - and fire and cloud -
so that the agèd gods might dance
and golden structures form.

I should have built, plain brick on brick,
a water tower. The sun flies
on arid wastes, barren hells too warm
and me with a hazel stick!

Rivulets vanished in the dust long ago,
great compositions vaporized,
salt on the tongue so thick
that drinking, still I thirst.

Repeated desert, recurring drought,
sometimes hearing water trickle,
sometimes not, I, by doubting first,
believe; believing, doubt.

lorine niedecker

My Life by Water

My life
by water -

first frog
or board

out on the cold


to wild green
arts and letters

my lettuce
One boat

two -
pointed toward
my shore

thru birdstart

of the soft
and serious -

bike news

it'd have been foolish of me to expect that i'd go a whole year without buying a new bike. true i'd mulled over both a tourer and a replacement front end road bike but in the end, post moray, a full suss race bike was definitely on the cards. naturally its purchase has increased the entrenchment of the weather system!

not that this is the bike i actually want to use today, much to t's bemusement. the cx bike is out of the shed and, esp given the weather, i'd much rather be here practising for the start of the cross season. but even that must wait as i'm out tonight with the tuesday girls trying to persuade them an hour long race really shouldn;t be beyond them

on the racing front all congratulations to new world champion, family man and general good guy steve peat. for over excited commentary i do believe there is no equivalent to rob warner - go to about 1:36 on the link. highlights -

nick beer - a man with a perfect name
this man is so calculating he makes socrates look like he's got learning difficulties
i'm going to have a stroke....

peat thoroughly deserves it and it's been a long time coming. it makes a great change from the plastic interview techniques of the bbc/sky etc to see the post race interview, bemused, inarticulate, just like the rest of us. and warner in tears! (peat and warner are long time friends. warner is a famous idiot)

fuck, i knew you had it in you, you fucker

not on terrestrial tv! apparently some cloth heads are trying to make something of peaty's waving of the english flag on the podium. fools. for many of us, even if only for that day, peat is the greatest living englishman. well done.

the sharp eyed

may have noticed an increase in the length of the label list this last couple of days. i was getting frustrated not remembering what poetry i'd listed ages ago so i've labelled it all for convenience.
henrik nordbrandt and octavio paz emerge as poetic top bananas. which is fair

p161, sentence 5

reach out from the computer, pick the book my hand falls on. open the page, count the sentences....

From ethnology to pedagogy, we see that the guaranteed success of writing hinges on an initial defeat and lack, as if discourse were constructed as the result and occultation of a loss that is the condition of its possibility, as if the meaning of all scriptural conquests were that they multiply products that substitute for an absent voice, without ever succeeding in capturing it, in bringing it inside the frontiers of the text, in impressing it as an alien element.

Monday, 7 September 2009

e. j. scovell

Deaths of Flowers

I would if I could choose
Age and die outwards as a tulip does
Not as this iris drawing in, in coiling
Its complex strange taut inflorescence, willing
Itself a bud again - though all achieved is
No more than a clenched sadness,

The tears of gum not flowing.
I would choose the tulip's reckless way of going;
Whose petals answer light, altering by fractions
From closed to wide, from one through many perfections,
Till wrecked, flamboyant, strayed beyond recall,
Like lakes of fire they piecemeal fall.

Sunday, 6 September 2009

theodore roethke

The Geranium

When I put her out, once, by the garbage pail,
She looked so limp and bedraggled,
So foolish and trusting, like a sick poodle,
Or a wizened aster in late September,
I brought her back in again
For a new routine -
Vitamins, water, and whatever
Sustenance seemed sensible
At the time: she'd lived
So long on gin, bobbie pins, half-smoked cigars, dead beer,
Her shriveled petals falling
On the faded carpet, the stale
Steak grease stuck to her fuzzy leaves.
(Dried-out, she creaked like a tulip)

The things she endured! -
The dumb dames shrieking half the night
Or the two of us, alone, both seedy,
Me breathing booze at her,
she leaning out of her pot toward the window.

Near the end, she seemed almost to hear me -
And that was scary -
So when that snuffling cretin of a maid
Threw her pot and all, into the trash-can,
I said nothing.

But i sacked that presumptuous hag the next week,
I was that lonely

Saturday, 5 September 2009

50 years of naked lunch

it's been a long time since i was into william burroughs but, in those days, it'd have been a foolish person, to have dared question my burroughs knowledge. seeing the chemical boys at the spl this week brought back memories of that enthusiasm - is burroughs i wondered, mainly the territory of young men with reasonably specific extracurricular interests?

but no, perhaps not. t returned form craft business today with a copy of artwork tucked in her pocket and scant details of a burroughs 50th symposium in paris. despite my earlier week misgivings i was buying the plane ticket! only to find it was in july! the website is in french but it's worth a look for the burroughs fan, if only to have that sinking feeling of regret about what we've missed.

fear not tho, there's all manner of other events, including some in englandshire. me, i'm buyiong a new bike tomorrow but despite that i;m going to try and find a way to see if i can go to new york. other than that i'll be getting the book of essays - did some stuff with ian mcfadyen years ago and an interesting fellow he was.

now where is that copy of western lands...?

she is reading

nothing lasts forever by sidney sheldon

its great she says. three women, one investigates a murder, one gets murdered and the other sleeps her way to the top!!!! i should use more exclamation marks to get across the enthusiasm with which she describes her read. she's totally into it and doesn't do that 'you must read it' thing - for her the read is something she totally disappears into. talking to her gets a smile on my face tinged with regret that i don't seem to have that total absorption any more.

i do have another candidate for tonight's reader but the book she's reading is in russian. you should know what it's about she tells me. come on, i protest, i only learned a few words of russian when i was six. she laughs dismissively at this and tells me that she could tell me what she was reading but how would i know it was the truth. those bulgarians! lol

Thursday, 3 September 2009


bum to it all
i'm going to die
i'm going to cut off my
head and fry it in garlic
fry fry fry
then you will all see that
i am not
alive anymore

"Garlic head Death", Sylvia Plath

so says the uncyclopedia on writers
very funny and worth checking out if only as an escape from all this relentless rain

Frank M. Chipasula

The Burning Rose

an elegy for Mkwapatira Mhango

You handed them a rose of truth
but they pitched it in the fire

The rose burst into Lux in Tenebris and raged
across the early morning lake
from Mulowe to Monkey Bay
And the rose rose and bled and fell down,
rose and bled, rose and bled, and flew
up in one raging flame that licked your house
and ate up your wives, swallowed your children
and your guests like a rose hungry for love;
And the rose flapped against the walls
of the house that rose in flames like fiery roses;
And the rose bared its thorns like in a lovely snarl,
Thorns hefty liked a crazed cow's goring horns,
Hoofed with hatred, while a blazing petal
Wagged its long tongue up through the roof
And licked the children's cries
that rang like cathedral bells clanging
in the bald-headed tyrant's ears. And the rose,
Kyrie Eleison, fell like showers of clotted
blood poured in lavish libations on the kerosene
rose that bloomed from a terrible matchstick.

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

sotto voce at the spl

so we pile into the car and dash off to the spl for the sotto voce slam, arriving with mere seconds to spare meaning, handily, i don't get my name on the list so i can sit back and enjoy the readers.

a high standard and a wide range was set and congratulations to claire for walking off with the magnificent statuette. her poem about miners was, i think, my favourite of all the poems i've heard/read by her even if it was her granny poem that got the crowd going (and t blubbing in the car in the way home - mark of a good poem claire!)

it was good for me to sink myself in an evening of poetry as i've been feeling poetically out of sorts lately. i was restored by the range of material on display, from some deft wordery by some young bloke whose name i immediately forgot to anne connelly's clever spin on the doping, in the aeronautical sense. t esp liked her poem about sailor's knitted jersey - ganzie? sometimes it's easy to get into a state where you feel a bit isolated so it was great to be in about a group of like minded people. work for both of us meant we had to dash off so apologies to those we didn;t get a chance to blether to.

and it turns out it was t's first time in the poetry library! i can;t understand how this can be. so next day off we ave together it's definitely a visit back.