Give me a clue


It’s good to see grandad up and about again, sitting in the sun by the window in his scarlet waiscoat with the tartan rug over his knees. He is staring down at the quickie crossword on the back page of The Herald.

Give me a clue then Pops, I ask.

He used to rattle through crosswords, any crossword, in no more than the time it took him to have breakfast, the paper propped against the marmalade jar, the radio in the corner behind him giving out the day’s news and weather/traffic reports. He used to give me a clue,  just to make me feel included, and then help me to arrive at the answer,  just to make me feel pleased with myself.

Come on,  Pops. Give me a clue.

He taps the pen between his teeth, frowning.

P something  Z  something something something  something  something something  S,  he says. Nine letters.  Someone’s  illness.

I count out the letters on my fingers. Parkinson’s, I tell him. Parkinson’s disease.

He looks out of the window. Next-door’s cat is stalking something along the garden wall between the wheelbarrow and the garden shed.

Gran comes in and puts his tray on the table beside him. Don’t let it get cold now, she says.

I won’t, he says and leans forward over the tray then looks up and smiles. Mmmmm, he says.  Smells good, looks good and it’s going to taste good. Thanks Dot.

When Gran has gone, he looks at me and the smile goes.  Zed,  he says.  P something Zed. Not P something R.  And nine letters,  not  ten.

I lean over his shoulder and together we stare at the half-filled- in grid and then at the unsolved clues.

‘Pleased’  is wrong, I finally tell him and point at his answer for 6 across. ‘Pleased’ is wrong, Pops.  It should be ‘amiable’. So it’s  A something  Z,  not P.

What’s with all this Pops malarky? he asks,  making no movement to correct his error, not even looking up at me. You’ve  been watching  too many American cartoons.

I’ve always called him ‘Pops’.

‘ Pa  za  lo  va’s ‘,   he says with an air of finality,  filling  in the answer,  drawing out each syllable to match the slowness of his writing.  Yes,  Pazalova’s  Disease,  he says and with a flourish puts the pen away in his breast pocket . That’s it. Finished.

The cat pounces but on what we can’t see because it’s behind the wheelbarrow.


A man with no hair strolls into a library and says loudly to the attractive 22-year-old librarian, ” Fish and chips, please, salt but no vinegar.”

The attractive 22-year-old librarian frowns and says, “This is a library.”

The man with no hair whispers, ” Fish and chips, please, salt but no vinegar.”


Have you heard the news today?

No news is good news.

About the couple who won all that money on the lottery?

Makes me feels jealous.

And the poor lass who took an overdose. Did you hear about that?

Where were her friends when she needed them?

You’re right. A friend in need….

So. What news were you talking about?

That NorwegianThe one who killed all those people.

Aye. That was terrible. See her down there?

The one with the wee skirt?

Aye,  her.

What about her?

She’s the one I was telling you about yesterday. Blind but you’d never know. Lovely lass. Lovely lass.

What’s her name again?

Morag. Morag Scully.

That’s right. Scully. Her mother was in the same class as me.

Well, see you tomorrow. see and no get yourself mugged!

That’ll be the day. Bye bye then. Love to Helen.

Bye bye.

COLOURS (mainly RED) and how they work

or as America has  it – ‘COLORS’

I don’t know much about how colours work nor do I really have a favourite colour though I suppose I do tend to favour (or is it ‘favor’?)  blue – what does that tell you about me?  Can you pidgeon-hole people by their choice of colour? Of course you can. Just like you have psychosemantic (as well as  psychosomatic)terms like ‘endomorph’ and ‘mesomorph’ and ‘ectomorph’ which label people by their body shape and suggest that their physique defines their psyche and vice-versa so you can probably label a person by colour preference.

There are already generally agreed links between colours and personality types:   red = passion; yellow= cowardice; blue=depression; white=fear; green=jealousy; black=rage.

So that would suggest that my colour preference indicates I have a slightly  melancholic personality. That’s pretty depressing. You see red when you lose your temper. When you give in, you show the white flag. Othello was destroyed by ‘the green-eyed monster’. The white feather was given to conscientious objectors. And so on: a red rag to a bull; to have a yellow streak; to have a fit of the blues….

But I digress! What I was initially thinking was that a colour and its application trigger emotional and aesthetic responses.

Colour combinations of course add to the complexity: some mixes are complementary like gin and tonic; others less so like whisky and orange juice.  As my grandmother used to say: blue and green/should not be seen…..

but for example, red and yellow together seem to me to send out pleasing vibrations. Or is that the way I see it and nobody else?

Red is a striking colour as teachers well know when they underline students’ errors and write pithy comments in the margin with their angry red pens. Red stands out. Red gets noticed. Red doesn’t cough apologetically. If you’re a shrinking violet don’t put on a flamenco dancer’s dress. Red grabs centre stage.

This is the back ofDundee University’s Dalhousie Building which because of its colour and shape makes you stop and stare and get your camera out

and those red legs and golden shoes and the black skirt also might make you stare and admire the total effect very aesthetically

and like the graceful stance – the fact that she was a pretty girl and was aware that she was a pretty girl adds powerfully to the overall effect. There’s nothing prettier (or more ephemeral) than youth; youth’s a stuff will not endure – we all know that….once we no longer have it.

But yet another red.

 One fine day in Stromness,  I was struck by the red of this building, particularly because of the contrasting, accentuating blues of the sea and sky. I think it’s the rear view of the impressive Art Gallery viewed from the harbour.


There is something Norwegian I think about this use of colour in buildings in Orkney and also in the Shetland Islands. Up North in Voe, for example,  its red wooden bod  looks very different from any colour scheme you will find when you have recrossed the Pentland Firth. Especially not in the grey, granitey towns of the North East which were never strongly Viking influenced.

Back to flowers again, flowers inside – Wordswoth’s finest – blazing in the sunlight but helped to do so by the red of their red coffee pot container

and later in the week, the bluebells replace the daffodills, not so effectively (in my opinion ) but still able, partly because of that strikingly red coffee pot, to radiate  beauty and vitality, even if in a slightly more subdued way than the vibrant yellow-red combination of the daffodills

and can there be anything more effective in striking a deep chord in the human heart than the blood-red of a field of poppies, even without the accompanying row after row after row of bone-white crosses.

The University of St Andrews


We used to walk along the pier then go back along the pier

wall on Sundays in our red gowns after church, usually in

twos, talking and non-talking, a pleasant monk-like ritual.

Out of term time, tourists do the same trek but without the

prequel chapel experience and lacking the mediaeval charm

of the red gown


This was a serious cloistered place where we came to see our

examination results pinned to the  notice boards  for all the

world to see.  Here is all the world studying our results.


Outside the chapel on the cobble stones are printed and

interlinked the letters P H to mark the killing of Patrick

Hamilton. I think he was burned as a heretic. Ah religion,

what cruelties are (still) committed in thy name!


Half-way up the wall is the window out of which the hanged

body of Cardinal Beaton was displayed. He was a Catholic

plenipotentiary who eventually paid the full price of his

unpopularity. Ah, religion etc.


The marriage of Prince William and Kate Middleton attracted

fame and focus to the University where the couple met and

fell in love and spent important young years of their lives as

students. Gather ye rosebuds, carpe diem, you’re a long time

dead.  Gaudeamus igitur iuvenes dum sumus….. Still a

powerful message.

GOOD FOOD and where to find it.

                                           FOOD IN ABERFELDY

                                                     FOOD IN EDINBURGH

                                                            FOOD IN GLASGOW

                                        FOOD IN DUNDEE


              MORE FOOD IN EDINBURGH                                                                      



This is a single-track road in Shetland that might have been built by the Romans (if they had ever got this far). It takes you to Bigton and St Ninian’s Isle where Douglas Coutts, a local schoolboy, discovered a hoard of Pictish brooches and rings (and the jawbone of a dolphin) in a larch box. The planners have been generous with their allowance of passing places. (Looks a bit like the Nazca lines in the Atacama desert)



This is a rough camel track in Turkey with a weary young girl pulling at a reluctant camel carrying building stuff to the top of the hill where they were extending a restaurant. When I met up with them later as they were preparing to descend, the builder gave the camel a smack on the rump with his shovel just to help it on its way.


This is a street in Stromness which has the atmosphere of a Giorgio de Chirico painting.


Sylvia Brown’s Hostel is near here, the friendliest and most relaxing place to stay in this most friendly of towns. You bump into students from Estonia, painters from Peru , dentists from Denmark, violinists from Vienna, anglers from Angelsy, lap-dancers from Lerwick,  all varieties of human life is to be found here. Also nearby, with great views across the harbour,  is the impressive Art Gallery which was having a wine and cheese affair the first time I went there and a whisky and no cheese affair the second. And not just any whisky. Highland Park whisky. And that’s not the only surprise, they have some interesting and striking artworks on display.

 The occasional car drives past but as yet there is no traffic problem.



St Andrews’ Butts Wynd, a link for students between the Quad and the Library and also the link between the Scores and North Street. Funny name, the cause of much coarse  guffawing. The Students Union used to be up there on the corner is but no longer. How things change behind your back, when you’re not looking.

As names go, I prefer Dundee’s  ‘Horsewater Wynd’.