“Altarwise by Owl-light in the half-way house
The gentleman lay graveward with his furies…”  –  Dylan Thomas

The obscurity of this sonnet paradoxically carries a certain advantage. The absence of a readily intelligible surface of meaning relieves us of the usual obligation of analysing the real or supposed intellectual content of a work. We are left with words isolated from a general message and consequently more likely to be found interesting in their own right.

St stanes pic

just been to see ‘django unchained’
(would rather have read ‘prometheus unbound’)
especially didn’t like the bit
where tarantino (a la hitchcock) appears on the screen
in his own film
as a cowhand
(pudgy and pasty)
just to say
you just can’t get enough of me, can you?

standinstanes oil 2

Difficult to know what these stones mean which is probably part of their attraction.

Rhynie Stone

This happened when I started my training on  provosts at RAF Ternhill. After a session of aerobatics with my instructor I did another session straight away, solo this time …loop…barrel roll…stall turn….loop – but this time something went wrong. Perhaps because of such a constant succession of g force experiences, I blacked out in the  loop –  greyed out really because I was vaguely aware of what was happening – I was aware that the plane was falling out of the vertical, sliding to one side – one part of my mind was very actively aware of what was happening and was jumping up and down screaming You’re going into a spin! Wake up! You’re going into a spin! while the other part of my mind – just as aware of what was happening – was reacting in quite the opposite way, telling me quietly like one of these hypnotic tapes not to worry, don’t open your eyes because if you do what you’re going to see is going to be so very unpleasant so just relax, relax, things will work out, just you wait and see
and when I did open my eyes I was looking down at a farm 1,000 feet below going round and round and round….

the picter


o years an years ago
at a roup in whit used tae be
st mary magdalene’s  kirk
(noo the vertical world climbin centre)
I bocht this  pentin
that I still like
a street wi a garij an a big hoose
an in the backgrun
a kirk steeple wi a clock
(10  past 10)
it wis signed d adamson
nae capitals d adamson jist like that

fowk asked
whin they saa it on ma wa
is yon nae thon kirk
jist aff the perth road
next tae the ryehill surgery?
which is whaur I thocht it wis masel
when I bocht it

but it wisnae

in fact it wisnae dundee ataa
or aa thae ither places that wir suggested
it wisnae perth
nor wis it letham
nor kirrie
nor caputh
it wisnae  friockheim
it wisnae crieff

I searched them aa
ilka weekend fir twa/three months
till I began tae think
d adamson hud jist imagined it
pentit it oot o his heid

it’s aye the hinmaist pooch i yir jaiket
whaur ye fin the keys

last friday
I hud tae collect a dug
fae the osnaburg bar in forfar
an ther it wis
ahint the osnaburg
ther it wis
starin me i the face
the vennel wi the big hoose
the garij an the railins
the kirk steeple i the backgrun
an steerin bi a photo o d adamson’s pentin
I fund the very spot whaur he’d stood
(or sat)
a thae years ago
tae pent his picter
ma picter noo

naethin hid chinged
jist the time on the clock.



That time of year thou mayst in me behold


when yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
 upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
 bare ruined choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.

In me thou see’st the twilight of such day
as after sunset fadeth in the west;
which by and by black night doth take away,
Death’s second self, that seals up all in rest.

In me thou see’st the glowing of such fire,
that on the ashes of his youth doth lie,

as the deathbed whereon it must expire,

consumed with that which it was nourished by.

Magdalen 1

This thou perceiv’st, which makes thy love more strong,

To love that well which thou must leave ere long.



Years and years she spent pushing  at the door which didn’t budge an inch and only when she was old and grey and tired did she pause long enough to read above the latch the four  letters in faded white that said  P U L L




” Oh let us in!” they cried, ” please please let us in!” not realizing that in was where they were and that it was we who were locked out…


” Oh let us out!” we cried, ” please please let us out!” not realizing that out was where we were and that it was they who were locked in…

cats and dogs

cats don’t care

I remember as a kid reading ‘The Squaw’ b y Bram Stoker about a cat that exacts a horrific revenge on a casual American tourist in Nurnberg who carelessly killed one of its kittens and thinking ‘Mmmm. So that’s what cats are like!’
I also remember in Africa becoming the accidental ‘owner’ of a Burmese cat which leapt one night through the open window of the guest bedroom, claws akimbo,  onto the back of  nervous, vulnerable Jenny Allardyce, who had just arrived in the country and whose screams woke the whole household.

The calculating cat pictured below was a neighbour’s cat which I grew extremely fond of and used to feed with  smoked salmon (it rejected all other food offerings) in the forlorn hope of winning it over.


dogs just want to please

I must have read ‘Greyfriars Bobby’ and ‘Jock of the Bushveldt’ 2 or 3 times each in my primary school days then of course there was Bullseye in ‘Oliver Twist’  and Lassie, the supercollie and so on… all reinforcing this image of the dog as man’s best and most loyal  friend.
I had a labrador called Sean for many years and used to talk to him when I had a problem I couldn’t solve and strangely enough it often worked ( I also used to talk to Sean in a funny sort of way when I had no problems at all – ‘ Well old boy, I feel like a brisk walk before dindins and would be delighted if you would do me the honour of accompanying me…After you, old boy, there’s a good fellow…’

elaine's dog

In general you know where you are with a daft, lovable, obedient dog; it’s very different with  cats – you have to be on your best behaviour with a cat.

cats and dogs

are chalk and cheese

Getting there

Late afternoon, Boxing Day, in the rain…an oldish guy (in his fifties?), well-fed, not exactly poorly dressed, no dog at his feet,  playing his trombone in the shelter afforded by a city department store against the rain; playing ‘You are my sunshine….’ a few missed notes….

Okay but not enough happening.

I’ve come round to wanting a narrative content in the photographs I take/look at. Not that I’ve moved on from landscapes, portraits, but just that for the time being I like pictures that tell a story that 1000 words can’t.
So this is a beginning: a story: outside a Marks & Spencer store; an oldish guy, not a beggar, playing a trombone for passers-by; a youngish guy, tall, athletic, smart casual, with lights flashing on his footwear stopping just long enough to drop a coin into the old man’s yawning instrument case. The trombonist half turns to acknowledge the donation……

Getting there…The Kindness of Strangers…getting there.


South of France

We stayed on a gite a couple of miles outside and above Cannes. The photograph below was taken of Myra swimming in one of the huge water tanks on the farm. Our friend Parba got sunstroke so we covered her with cucumber slices which seemed to do the trick. The Italian farm labourer who had the adjacent cottage and who had seen me take photographs knocked at our door with a bowl of olives and showed us his polaroid photographs which he thought we would like. He didn’t have any French. The photographs were of his room: his fridge, his cooker, his record player, his bed, his chairs, his carpet, the view from his room……it was like meeting up with a needy Van Gogh.  Nice guy. Lonely.
But aren’t we all (lonely, that is – not necessarily nice!)?