Yes, I remember Hoy.

Hoy m 24-11-2014 21-58-10

A lazy summer’s day,
crossing a stream
below a clump of trees,
knee-deep in ferns,
we heard (but did not see) a golden oriole.

It seemed to be saying
“Put the radio on ”
in lovely lilting liquid notes
“Please put the radio on “
over and over again
“Please please put the radio on “

no sign of irritation
no note of ennui

no hint of weariness

such a sweet song
such a gentle tone
such a calm, sweet nature.

And now
all Anna has to say is
“Put the radio on “

to make me laugh
to lift me out of a dark mood
to make me remember
the sounds of summer
and the feel of  happiness,

Hoy m 24-11-2014 21-58-10

Learning a language

I was standing at the long bar in the Museo de Jamon in Madrid,  half-lifting an arm, half-opening my mouth in a vain attempt to catch the bartender’s eye when the Spaniard beside me, either out of pity or irritation, told me that to activate a waiter in Spain you simply called out Oiga, and forthwith demonstrated how it was done.
Oiga. The bartender responded immediately. No offence taken; none given.
The man went on to tell me that he could identify the nationality of  people by the way they entered a bar. The English, he said, stop as soon as they’ve crossed the threshold, look round sort of helplessly, fiddle with their tie (this was long ago when men wore ties), wait to be told what to do next.
So the next time I was in a bar I walked straight to the counter and tried out the Oiga gambit. The waiter seemed quite comfortable with it (although I wasn’t!).
To me it was like shouting  Oi to a perfect stranger.  Probably a class thing. A middle-class language thing…. I wonder if you would be good enough to pass the salt, please….sorry to trouble you, sorry to disturb the universe….

poppies spain PRINT good

When we were having a stroll in the Spanish Pyrenees one summer, we passed/were passed by other walkers and, as is the way of hill walkers, greeted/were greeted with a friendly Hola. So we decided to perfect our pronunciation of this one word greeting, replicating the Spanish stress, tone, intonation and pitch rather than simply saying  Hola with the English stress etc.  of  Hello.
It was surprisingly difficult. It made me think how much information you convey with a simple greeting. About class, age, personality, sexuality…..

Going back to my schooldays, I remember my excellent French teacher, Miss Yuill, telling us about the mysterious French sense of humour where foreigners were concerned.
” It was a picnic, ” she said, ” une pique-nique, beside a field of poppies on the hillside above the beautiful town of Collioure, famous for all the artists who painted there… many of you have heard of Matisse?……Good. Picasso?……. André Derain… There is something so special about the bright, clear light in Collioure.  Derain, who was Matisse’s friend, said that ‘Collioure has no shadows’. Can you imagine such a pure light?”
She paused, and gave a little smile, remembering.
” Anyhow it was a beautiful, warm sunny day, ” she went on, ” and we were having a picnic and Jean-Pierre had just passed me one of these French cakes that are so light, so delicious… ” She smiled again, then frowned.  “When  out of the blue,  à l’improviste, a wasp descended on the back of my hand and I leapt to my feet and shook it off and cried out ‘Dites donc! Un guêpe!’ And you know what? Everyone laughed. Yes, everyone laughed and I was so embarrassed, so hurt…..And you know what they found so funny? You know why Monique and Jean-Pierre and all these lovely people laughed at me?”
She paused and looked down  at her hands. We waited. She sighed and looked up.
Une guêpe. Silly old me. Not un guêpe. Une guêpe. Une guêpe!”
The class was silent. She sounded so angry with herself.  Or with her remembered self. All that time ago. Thirty, forty years. And still so hurt. Still so angry.









” What was Bill’s second name? ” I ask my wife who is trying to replace a light bulb. I am having problems making out a list of people I want to invite to our anniversary party.

 “Here, ” she says  and passes me down the dud light bulb. ” Can you hand me up that 100 watt one? There. On the table. No. Not that one.The 100 watt one. Yes, that one.  Thanks. Bill who?  OOOPS! ” I grab the ladder just in time to stop her and it from collapsing but the light bulb smashes at my feet.

” God, you’re so useless! ” she says, not so much to me but to the world in general.

After the party ( which went very well I thought ) she says, ” You know who didn’t come? That lovely man who saved you from drowning. Bill Watson. We never really thanked him enough. Such a brave thing to do. Why couldn’t he come? “

I tell her he didn’t come because I didn’t send him an invitation because I couldn’t remember his name.

She is outraged.

” He should have let you bloody well drown, ” she says




J’avais vu ce grafitto philosophique gribouille  sur un mur en France mais sans quelqu’un  la c’etait un peu bizarre, ca manquait quelquechose – alors mon ami a pris ce photo avec moi dedans pour lui donner un corps de signification.
Le ‘moi'(ou le ‘je’) qui existe mantenant est totalement different alors le ‘je’ qui existait la n’existe plus.


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.