ESTRAGON (renunciado de nuevo) : No hay nada que hacer.

VLADIMIR( se acerca a pasitos rigidos, las pernas separadas): Empiezo a  creerlo. (Se queda inmovil.) Durante mucho tiempo me he restido a pensarlo, diciendome, Vladimir, se razonable, aun no lo has intentado todo. Y volvio a la lucha.

BEST FRIENDS: A Narrative Problem

In writing fiction, there’s a key narrative  change of direction which, if taken,  allows your characters to live a life of their own or, if not taken,  condemns them to live out some unresolved fuck-up in your own  psyche.

You create characters, try to involve your readers in their lives but you have to decide in which direction your narrative is going to take them – down into the gloomy depths of  thomashardy country or (eventually) up into the sunlit foothills of janeaustenland …..?

They went everywhere together, Charles and Mary.  She, the baker’s only child, very polite and well-behaved; he, the youngest son of  the Primary School Headmistress, lively, confident. Usually they went everywhere at a canter as if they knew that they had to hurry to pack  as much as possible into their  time together.  

Look at them! They are so proud to be with each other, they want the whole world to know that they are best friends.

* * *

12 years have passed and what a handsome, elegant  couple they have become, still in step, not so much in a hurry now but still hand in hand, still proud of each other, still heading in the right direction…….

And at this point you  have a writing problem:  a) do they go on  being happily in love, able to overcome problems because of these  feelings for one another or b)   does  it begin (and continue) to go all  wrong for them in spite of the love, friendship they have for each other?  

The direction the  narrative takes will tend to  reflect your  own life-view unless you steel yourself  like a good parent to let your characters go.

See how Mary is already more aware of being photographed by a stranger than of  being talked to by the ever-charming Charles.


It struck me the other day that triangles have a bad name:- a love triangle; the Bermuda triangle etc. Then I thought of other geometric shapes – the square for example which connotes the ordinary, unadventurous, dull; and the circle which suggests ‘well-rounded’, complete. Then I thought how these basic shapes are used in nature and in man-made constructions…………….

This is Bracklinn bridge. Unusual construction shape for the North of Scotland.                                                                                                                                       

This is the interior of a bothy on the shore of Rackwick Bay in Hoy where I found a lone but not lonely German and we shared what was left of  my bottle of Glenfarclas.

Why the 3-dimensional triangles of the Pyramids? I met a traveller from an antique land who said………

Then I thought I must look at paintings, especially post-modern stuff, and see how basic shapes are used to create structure and balance….mm


The more they eat

the hungrier they become,

these consumers of the world,

till eating,

still eating,

becomes like breathing.

They are body balloons

these window-shop-gazers,

peripatetic grazers,

each day growing a little bigger

each month a lot bigger

until one day….


what they took from the world

the world takes back.


‘Mind has mountains; cliffs of fall/Frightful, sheer, no-man fathomed.’  (Gerard Manley Hopkins)

No worst, there is none. Pitched past pitch of grief,
More pangs will, schooled at forepangs, wilder wring.
Comforter, where, where is your comforting?
Mary, mother of us, where is your relief?***

My cries heave, herds-long; huddle in a main, a chief-
woe, world-sorrow; on an age-old anvil wince and sing-
Then lull, then leave off. Fury had shrieked ‘No ling-
ering! Let me be fell: force I must be brief’.


O the mind, mind has mountains; cliffs of fall
Frightful, sheer, no-man-fathomed. Hold them cheap
May who ne’er hung there. Nor does long our small
Durance deal with that steep or deep. Here! creep,
Wretch, under a comfort serves in a whirlwind: all
Life death does end and each day dies with sleep. 

*   *    *

I think I know what Hopkins meant. Eliot talked about ‘objective correlatives’ -“a set of objects, a situation, a chain of events which shall be the formula of a particular emotion such that when the external facts are given, the emotion is immediately evoked.” Hopkins uses the effort and terrors of mountaineering as a metaphor for life, an attempt to evoke in tortured words what he experienced daily and nightly in his tortured and torturing mind.

I climbed Mount Kenya 3 times. Hopkins climbed his mountain every day.

The Indians are coming

Me (flute and halo warbonnet) Dakota Sioux. Dark Eagle. Me very cold. Long way from home. Squaw not happy. We what you call eleewal emagrans. Play plenty music for not plenty money. Little Proud Mouth (him on  left) him our dancer. We go BOOM pom pom pom Boom pom pom pom and Little Proud Mouth he make two steps. First BOOM he put out right foot. Second BOOM left. Going up. Going down. Going up. Going down.

Next week Tenerife. Squaw happy there.

                                                           *   *   *

Bootes The Wagoner

Staying overnight with friends in Melbourne,  Veronica, my wife,  who usually sleeps like a log, woke me by suddenly sitting bolt-right up, as if spring-operated.

“I’ve got to do something,” she was saying more to herself than me. ” I’ve got to do something. I’ve got to do something.”

While I was still trying to figure out where I was and what was happening, she threw on her white dressing gown and I heard the outside door open before I could even ask what it was that anyone had  to do at this time of night for god’s sake.

I looked at the alarm clock. Its green hands indicated 2.15. How embarrassing! I thought. She’ll wake the whole  household! and I waited for next-door’s big brute of an Afghan hound to start its barking, loud enough to wake the whole neighbourhood!

Next time I looked,  it was 3.10.

I got up and looked out of the window. The street lay empty in the white moonlight.  Empty except for Veronica  standing like an angel in a circle of light from a street lamp,   looking upwards, her dressing gown pulled tight about her.

I tiptoed downstairs.

The outside door was still wide open. I began to shiver as soon as I stepped outside.

Veronica gave me a quick glance  then resumed her upward stare.  I looked up but couldn’t see a  thing.  I looked down at her bare feet.  ” You must be frozen”, I told her. “Do you know what time it is? You’ll catch your death for god’s sake!”

She barely seemed to notice my arrival.

“Look!” she said softly like you try not to disturb a bird you’ve come across singing its heart out. “Just look at that!”

I followed her gaze but  still couldn’t see anything.

“Bootes, ” she said softly and pointed.

“Look.  Bootes the Wagoner.”


Reading a person like a book is sort of easier when it’s two persons and you’re the nosy bystander

This couple, for example –

She leaning back

He leaning forward

She with folded arms

He elbows on table

She head slightly turned, slightly forward

He head slightly back

She legs crossed, forward

He knees bent, back…

So tell me

what’s going on here?

Who’s in charge?

Are they having a friendly chat over lunch?

Is it the end of the affair?

Are they just work-mates?


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       THE MOLDAU

 This painter from Dijon, Jean-Pierre Difrague,  and Amy his American girlfriend (of a day and night) * were passing under the  the Charles bridge in Prague* when someone jumped into the river and disappeared from sight.

Jean-Pierre could have dived in after him but didn’t. So could Amy but she couldn’t swim. She thought she saw his face pass under water with eyes and mouth wide open but afterwards was never sure whether she had just imagined it or not.

After that Amy and Jean-Pierre went their separate ways. The suicide was a youngish  unmarried insurance clerk from Osmoroc who, according to his family and colleagues, had no reason to jump off the Charles or any other bridge.

                                                             WATER OF LEITH

    Anthony Gormley pops up in the most unlikely places. Here he is ankle-deep in the Water of Leith, just below Embra’s Gallery of Modern Art. It is quite a surprise to come upon this coppery naked man –  a bit like coming round a corner and surprising Jesus walking on water – it would have been  even more of a surprise in the Scottish winter.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  THE TAY, THE TAY, THE SILVERY TAY

A lone swan. But not necessarily a lonely swan although who knows what goes on in a swan’s head when it’s floating majestically on a wide, wide sea?

(Day after day, day after day
we stuck, nor breath, nor motion;
as idle as a painted swan
upon a painted ocean.)

Rhythm and stress are  effective here but for the quality of sound French takes the biscuit:

Le cygne chasse l’onde avec ses larges palmes
et glissssssssssssssse

The French language has a great sound to it – very expressive, very impressive too come to that – my favourite line is ‘pour reparer des ans  l’irreparable outrage’ which trips off the tongue and which I had to learn in school but which has stayed with me ever since, grown up with me as it were.

The Anglo-Saxons called the sea the ‘swan-rad’.  Did you know they have been known to fly 2000 miles mostly over sea and at heights above 25000 ft?    The swans do some remarkable things as well.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                LUNAN BAY

This place (near Montrose) deserves more history than it seems to command. The Vikings landed here in the year dot and that’s as far as it goes. A pleasant, placid place where the temperature seldom encourages you to strip of your clothes and race into the seal-surfing, fish-flashing, boat-bobbing sea. But once or twice a year (this was one of them) there is no better place to be. See the two swans? I am reliably told they  mate for life but perhaps that’s no longer the case in these modern times. This place is worth a visit.

The West Sands, St Andrews

 How easy to be happy when you’re this age,  sand, sea, bucket and spade and you can while the day away digging holes, watching them fill with water, building turreted castles  surrounded by moats, write your name in the sand with your heel, eat 99s  and look forward to doing it all over again tomorrow.  This is at St Andrews, better known for its golf course although this was the beach  used in the famous opening sequence of  ‘Chariots of  Fire‘ and of course, eight years ago, the adjacent university was the meeting place of the world’s best-known and best-loved romantic couple, the handsome WILLIAM and the beautiful KATE.

 As the song so eloquently puts it: ” Oh I do like to be beside the seaside.”