Below the surface
above the surface
ancient boats
in the air 
move in a world
where nothing floats
and watery life and watery light flows everywhere

Then when I turned to catch the view   
out of the curacao-blue 
I saw this weathered mooring stick 
rise from its own reflection and - 
Excaliber minus holding hand - 
impressively priapic, 


As yi grow aulder,  yi begin tae  relate mair tae auld,  past-their-sellby-date things,  like
                                   landlockt boats


Tae escape ma fiftieth birthday
A took ma mind fir a bit o a daunder
(or it took me)
awa doon tae Corra’s snaa-white sanns,
whaur ilka simmer,
happier nor Larry,
da nebbie selkies sun dersels
an dere,
half-happit i da lang dank gerss
wis dis desfrukit skeleton o a boat…………

It brocht tae mind
first wan o Johnny Donne’s deep wee poems
‘…bit ayways at ma back A hear/ Time’s tumtitumtum hurryin near..’
- dat wan -
syne wan o Norrie MacCaig’s twa-fag verses
- ‘So Many Summers’ it wis cried -
aboot a desfrukit boat jist like dis yin,
wedderwarpt, gapplankt,

A sat doon on da boat an lit masel a fag.
Wis he sayin dat time teems us aa?
Abdy an aathin?
Du an me as weel as da boat?
A hae ma doots.  A dinnae think so.
I do not think so.
A feel kinna like 
yin o thon bren-washt terorists -
gin A gang
A'll tak abdy an aathin wi me.

Onywye as soon as A got hame
A lookt up 'So Many Summers'.
It wisnae ataa da poem A hud in mind.
Da poem A hud in mind
wis dis yin.



early one morning

 I saw this horse

standing like horses do

because lying down would entail  getting up –

all those long slender legs to organize

to raise its  heavy   barrel of a body

(not to mention the long neck

…..and that big head)

against the fearsome force of gravity.

Meanwhile the sun was lighting up the autumn leaves,

whitening and brightening the pale and acrid smoke,

casting long, long shadows

across the yellowing grass.

and later on I saw this hare

couched in the grass

(no, I didn’t mean ‘crouched’,

though ‘crouched’ would have done  just as well)

huddled in the long green grass,

thinking either it was invisible

or I was blind

or both

so I was able to sneak up quite close.


The whirr of the shutter

and it was off like a shot.


then in the sunny afternoon,

strange for our northern autumn,

two families wandered barefoot

onto the sunlit beach,

doing what people on beaches do:

drawing with  heel and toe,

geometric shapes in the sand


using  inadequate   buckets

and bendy  plastic spades

to build Canute castles and moats

against the incoming tide


rescuing odd things –

dolls’ heads, old ropes, tyres;

sea-sculpted pebbles

so good to handle;

sea-smoothed driftwood

sculpted by Giacometti;

ancient bottles with messages  for help

signed by Robinson Crusoe….

stuff like that…..


just gazing,

gazing out to sea

but not really looking at or for anything,

letting the mind  free-wheel

like a bicycle

on a gentle downhill slope,


like Sisyphus,

standing, hands on hips,

watching his  great lump of a stone

go rumpetytumpetytumpetytump

all the way


to the bottom




Then out of  Tay’s curacao-blue

I saw this weathered mooring stick

rise from its own reflection and –

Excaliber  minus holding hand –

impressively priapic



And now

when on my couch I lie

in vacant or in pensive mood

and  find

only these pictures

flashing  through my mind,

and  sip my drink and  reminisce……

while I grant that this,

remembered images, the stuff

of poetry, the bliss

of solitude,

may be for some reward enough

it’s  not for me

so, like the man from Porlock,

please  intrude.



Some smart-ass has been fooling around with this photo and if I knew how to I would erase the witless text but anyhow this is the house where I was born and where I spent the first dozen years of my  sadly short life.  We were poor and often went without but I can’t  recall ever being unhappy. Hungry, yes, but unhappy, no.

Even the yearly gathering of the stones was good fun in its way –  hard work, yes,  but after we and our neighbours had finished and  had  all linked arms round the cairn  to sing the Ingatherin song, we would troop off home still arm-in-arm for the big meal and more singing and dancing.  It was always  a memorable day. And night.
But it was hard work. My father diligently farmed the harsh land between the house and the sea,  giving up more and more of his time to the ungrateful fields,  less and less to his impoverished family. Unlike his Ayrshire  counterpart however, one day the coulter of his plough threw up something a bit more valuable than a wee mouse nest – a larchwood chest containing a dozen Celtic brooches,  five rings, a couple of bracelets and the jaw bone of a porpoise. We all stood looking down at the opened box, our mouths as open as the box then  mother began to cry but not unhappy tears and father just looked at the shiny gold ornaments and shook his head then looked at us all and grinned his big grin and shook his head a bit more.
With the money he eventually got for that miraculous find, we all left Gartwick, a move about which I had mixed feelings –  leaving my best friend Callum and the hens and the pony and the fishing was only partly made up for by ( can I use 3 prepositions together like that? Anyway I have!) the excitement of  the moving to someplace new,  someplace I’d just read about.  New York.
Only I never got there. Just before we left I went down to the sea to, I suppose, bid some sort of farewell to all the good times I’d had, and

Arrivals and Departures

Partir, c’est mourir un peu

or as Burns said:

But to see her was to love her;
Love but her, and love for ever….

Had we never lov’d sae kindly,
Had we never lov’d  sae blindly,
Never met-or never parted,
We had ne’er been broken-hearted.

So fare-thee-weel, thou first and fairest!
Fare-thee-weel, thou best and dearest!
Ae fond kiss, and then we sever!
Ae fareweeli alas, for ever!


or, according to Groucho,

Hello, I must be going
I only came to say
I must be going
I’ll stay the whole night through
and all the next day too, but
I must be going.

Goodbye, goodbye,
don’t sigh
I’ll see you by and by
Hi! Hi!
wipe that tear from your eye
don’t cry
just try to remember
that day in September
(or was it November?)
the best day in our lives though
of course we didn’t know
it then.
Ah well…

Amen. Amen.


A week ago I found a note tucked under my windscreen wiper in our Tesco carpark saying Sorry for scratching your car there wasnt enough room to open my door properly. 
I looked for scratch marks but couldn’t find any. I e-mailed all this to my friend Martha. She replied: That’s like a Twilight Zone episode… a decidedly uneventful Twilight Zone episode, but still….. 
This morning I was back at Tesco’s for my weekly shopping and when I got back to the car… yes, you’ve guessed it.. except this time the note said Sorry for the dent there still wasn’t enough room to open my door properly. 
And you’ve guessed right again, there was no 
When I e-mailed this to Martha, she obviously thought I was pulling her leg. She simply sent me a copy of her previous reply: That’s like a Twilight Zone episode… a decidedly uneventful Twilight Zone episode, but still….. 
I have persuaded Martha to visit me. I have parked my car in its usual berth and Martha is parked nearbye with a good view of my little Polo. I am heading off into Tesco’s now to wait for her to phone me when the phantom driver materialises and begins to stick his/her little note under my windscreen wiper.