SIGNS and MESSAGES


Notice in a student kitchen:


sign bm

The indignant voice of John Knox lives on in Edinburgh:

sign v

A Glasgow road sign no doubt trampled underfoot in the rush:

Byres Road sign

Dull & Boring

Dull is a small, one-street village in Perthshire on the North side of the river Tay; Boring, in Oregon, has a population of 8,000. They got together in 2012.

Ab 7

I came across this existential/defiant/plaintive fading statement on a wall in France:

j'existe 6

A sarcastic sign:

crash 2

A plaque on the wall of a house in Lerwick, Shetland:

Mrs Humphrey's

A security-conscious Christmas card:

Xmas card

An Asian alleyway in Lerwick, Shetland:

ORK THURSO 025

A reassuring neon sign outside Edinburgh’s Modern Art Gallery:

sign ok

My Lovely Amelia


 Amelia

I like nothing better than taking photographs of my lovely Amelia against some famous landmark: Amelia and The Eiffel Tower; Amelia and Nelson’s Column; Amelia and The Coliseum; Amelia and Edinburgh Castle; Amelia and The Angel of the North; Amelia and The Great Wall of China; Amelia and Ayers Rock; Amelia and The Great Pyramid.   I have them all.

Last week we went to India so I could photograph her with The Taj Mahal in the background.  The Taj Mahal looked  wonderfully grand, touched with pink by the setting sun and framed by majestic palm trees. It brought to mind that wonderful photograph of red-jacketed Princes Di  seated primly on the little wall  in front of the oblongs of water with this magnificent pristine building behind her not quite managing to put her in the shade. People have often remarked when I show them my photographs that my Amelia has a touch of Diana about her, the eyes mainly I think, the way she lowers her gaze at times.She is too beautiful for words.

My photograph of Amelia in front of  the Matterhorn, cheeks aglow with the cold. eyes sparkling, head slightly tilted, is another that people seem to like but my own favourite is of Amelia against the background of The Victoria Falls, not just because I have managed to catch little ribbons of  rainbows in the spray behind her with the water seeming to hang in the air like smoke but mainly because I seem to have finally captured that little smile of hers that I think is every bit as enigmatic and beautiful  as the Mona Lisa’s.

The one Amelia likes best is of her outside Buckingham Palace where the Queen and Prince Philip waited patiently till I had taken the photograph before passing between us.

Fatherly Love


Lan 6 pic

When my wife, Angela, announced she was pregnant, everyone in the family started putting bets on who the father was, with Miguel, our lodger, the clear favourite at 5/4.

When the baby was born, a boy, with fair hair, blue eyes, and sticky-out ears, I think most people were secretly disappointed but I was overjoyed, not because he looked so much like me that everyone had to accept I must be the father, but because Angela was so happy and our little Timothy was so beautiful.

My only regret was that I hadn’t backed myself at odds of 20/1.

Amelia and Buckingham Palace


Amelia

I like nothing better than taking photographs of my lovely Amelia against some famous landmark: Amelia and The Eiffel Tower; Amelia and Nelson’s Column; Amelia and The Coliseum; Amelia and Edinburgh Castle; Amelia and The Angel of the North; Amelia and The Great Wall of China; Amelia and Ayers Rock; Amelia and The Great Pyramid.   I have them all.

Last week we went to India so I could photograph her with The Taj Mahal in the background.  The Taj Mahal looked  wonderfully grand, touched with pink by the setting sun and framed by majestic palm trees. It brought to mind that wonderful photograph of Princes Di  seated on the little wall  in front of the oblongs of water with this magnificent building behind her not quite managing to put her in the shade. People have often remarked when I show them my photographs that my Amelia has a touch of Diana about her, the eyes mainly I think.

My photograph of Amelia in front of  the Matterhorn is another that people seem to like but my own favourite is of Amelia against the background of The Victoria Falls, not just because I have managed to catch little rainbows in the spray behind her and the water seeming to hang in the air like smoke but mainly because I seem to have finally captured that little smile of hers that I think is just as enigmatic and beautiful  as the Mona Lisa’s.

The one Amelia likes best is of her outside Buckingham Palace where the Queen and Prince Philip waited patiently till I had taken the photograph before passing between us.

WILLIAM and KATE


The ancient mariner arrives at St Salvators’ by taxi from Leuchars…..

*  *  *  *  *

Is this the right day?

Am I perhaps late?

Where is Wlliam?

Where is Kate?

I don’t know the bride

I don’t know the groom

I don’t know who

is marrying whom

Yes this is the place

today is the date

but he is not William

and she is not Kate.

2 Old Ladies (unfinished)


2 old ladies

watch a girl pass.

She is riding a bright yellow bicycle

that is perhaps too big for her

and wearing a skirt

that is perhaps shorter

than the 2 old ladies would like

not that they are nasty,

the old ladies,

just old and attached

to fashions that have faded,

things as they used to be,

the past when everything was different.

Brian is waiting

for his girlfriend, Joy

who was the girl with the short skirt

on on the bright yellow bicycle

He is on his second pint,

feeling irritated:

he has lost his mobile

and Joy is late.

Joy is late because

she has had a slight accident:

she has been knocked off her bike

by a van which did not stop;

she is shaken, not badly injured:

a bruised right arm,

a scraped knee,

a cut on the top of her head.

However the 2 old ladies

who saw what happened

called for an ambulance

which has taken her off to  Hospital.

She has tried phoning Brian

without success.

That is why she is late.

Of course Brian does not know this.

Later he will feel guilty

about feeling irritated

when all he should have felt was

concerned.

When Daniel, the van driver,  gets home

he feels stiff from driving,

so far, so long.

He has driven non-stop from Coldstream

to his house outside Dunfermline.

He lives there on his own

but likes it that way.

Simpler that way.

He organises his life

to avoid problems,

unaware that problems are also solutions.

He is unaware of lots of things, Daniel,

unaware for example

that he had knocked Joy off her bicycle

when he took the left turn

onto the Saline road

but when he notices the scratches

and dents

on the left side of his van

to his credit

he  wonders  if he should contact the police.

He does not know of course

that one of the old ladies

had made a note of  his number.

Nor does Brian know

that his  lost phone lies exactly where he left it

half a street away

on the chair outside the really good restaurant

(whose name he could never remember)

where he had put it down

while chatting to the Bulgarian waitress

with a degree in Modern Languages

and whose English was so idiomatic

it sounded foreign

and……………………………………………

Changing Rooms


i  remember

(in aleppo once

back in our early oh-what-a-wonderful-world days

when nothing was too much trouble)

having been given

in this our first hotel

a room with a view

overlooking the car park

and sensing your disquiet

daring to ask  the manager

(a large man with little english

and a fierce moustache)

for a room 

(if that was at all possible

and not too much trouble)

with a view out to sea

(if there was such a room)

and i remember exactly how he leant back

in his black leather armchair

and looked at us

from one to the other

and twiddled his thumbs

then closed his eyes

and nodded

and oh the triumph of  it all

the relief

the joy

(whereas 

as i discovered much  much later

you simply wanted

a room nearer the lift).

Good Buddhies


The Buddha in the garden was here when we moved in.





*******************************************************************

We bought the house from a dentist and his partner who was somebody well known in jurisprudence (I’m not even sure I know what that means). Anyhow neither seemed the sort of guy who would go in for yoga or meditation or any of these Eastern practices which we in the West treat with such reverence as being superior ways to understand the world and the part we play in it. Sitting cross-legged for hours at a time and mumbling OMMMMMMM deep down every couple of seconds or so never seemed to me the most practical way of dealing with life’s pesky problems.

The question was should we get rid of it, move it, keep it where it was. I thought of it as not ours, not us, but a foreign deity imposed by a departed dentist and his jurisprudent partner; Moira (who had recently started Thursday Yoga classes at the University) thought of it as quite nice really and reminded me that the shortest distance between two points was not necessarily a straight line and that since she did most of the garden work anyway the Buddha should stay where it was. If that was all right with me.

And that is how the dentist’s Buddha became Moira’s Buddha and came between us. If I moved it a foot or two to prune a rose bush or whatever, the next time I went into the garden, the Buddha had moved back to its original position. If I turned it  to face nor-nor west, next day it would have swivelled its gaze back to the mystic East.
I started to talk to Moira about it but she  frowned,  lifted an admonishing finger and shook her head. “Let’s not talk about it, ” she said. ” I know you don’t like it but let’s not quarrel about it. If you don’t mind.The shortest distance between – ”
” Okay, O wise one, ” I interrupted. ” Okay, Grasshopper. Okay.”

I became quite grumpy. I know I did. Moira, bless her, didn’t complain about my moodiness but that somehow made me grumpier than ever.


Then I had a brainwave. I bought another Buddha, not quite so serene as the dentist’s  but looking as if he knew a thing or two about giving your common or garden djinn a pretty hard time of it. I didn’t know quite what my game plan was – I think I thought I was starting a Buddha war and that my Buddha would turn up trumps.
Moira just shook her pretty head as she usually does when I embark on a new idea and let me get on with it as, god bless her, she usually does..
I put the Buddhas side by side on a bare patch of earth. They stayed put.

Time passed.
We changed.
The earth changed.
The garden and our two resident Buddhas changed.
In a funny sort of way they cancelled each other out. The garden became for us a haven of peace, a place for coming closer together yet remaining infinitely apart, independent yet together; no man (or woman) is an island sort of stuff. If we found ourselves quarreling we would simply step out into the garden, stand in front of BUDDHA ONE and BUDDHA ALSO ONE, bow, press palms together, make the  deep down sound and wait for the bad waves between us to subside.
Which they invariably did.

  Ommmmmmmm

New Age gods can sometimes be the answer to age-old problems.

The Night Visitor


What’s it like to be dead?

ONE NIGHT  last week I sat up in  bed and  and saw when I switched on the bedside  lamp that what had awakened me was  the  bedroom door  being   flung open to admit a woman dressed in a green ballgown who kept blundering and banging into furniture and things and swearing not quite under her breath as she did so. When I coughed a second time and caught her attention, she paused long enough to say she was sorry for being  such a damned nuisance, she had been on her way to the Hunt Ball at Denholm House when she realised she had forgotten her spectacles, couldn’t see a damned thing without them, had turned back to get them, was sure she had left them on the table beside the bed, had run into a group of enemy troops, been taken prisoner and executed as a spy,  but because of the missing spectacles she was doomed to roam the earth looking for them and only when she had found them would she be released and had I seen them anywhere?

I asked her how she had been executed. She said she had been shot at dawn against the wall of  the church, blindfolded which was sort of ironic and that it had been extremely painful and she didn’t want to talk about it.

I asked her what it was like being dead and she said there wasn’t much to it, you got used to it after a while and was I sure I hadn’t seen her spectacles anywhere?

I was feeling sleepy and disappointed in her impatient replies to my genuine questions, so I turned over and in spite of  her thumps and effings and blindings, quickly fell asleep again.

I woke up just as the sun was rising and was relieved to see that there were no overturned chairs or broken vases left to mark the stumbling passage of my myopic night visitor. At least she had had the decency to tidy up before she left for wherever these nocturnal peripatetics  go to during the day.

But my very expensive varifocals which I distinctly remember leaving  beside Edgar Allan Poe’s Tales of Mystery and Imagination on the bedside table were missing.  Could she –
I began to panic. Without them I’m blind as the proverbial bat.
I looked for them everywhere, using my hands to feel for them on the bed, under the duvet, beneath  the pillow,  without success, and as I was down on my hands and knees, rapidly running out of hope, peering and groping under the bed, out  they popped onto the carpet from  the breast pocket of my pyjama jacket.