Signs are usually brusque, devoid of humour or humanity –  rather like a sergeant-major’s barked commands to a nervous squad of raw recruits – LIFT….DINING ROOM ….TOILETS …BAR….SWIMMING POOL……SHOP…..SLOW DOWN….. TURN LEFT….. LEVEL CROSSING … EDIT…ADD MEDIA….. PUBLISH…. VIEW POST…… CLICK HERE….. STOP..
It comes as a pleasant surprise therefore to find signs that by their form and style amuse and surprise and entertain:




sign v


A very ironic johnknoxy sign seen in Edinburgh outside the Modern Art Gallery. It reminded me of the  archetypal Scottish joke ……On Judgment Day. as  the souls of the damned were whirling through the abyss down into the all-consuming  flames of hell, they cried out, ” O Lord, we didnae ken, we didnae ken!” and in response this mighty voice from above boomed out, “Weel,  ye ken noo!”

sign ok

but on the other hand……a cheerful and jaunty reassurance above the entrance to the Modern Art Gallery – I think both signs are the work of Martin Creed whose good-natured philosophy is very binary or dualistic or whatever.

sign bm



A polite apocolyptical global warning sign in a student kitchen……


Byres Road sign

A very Scottish sign seen in Glasgow’s Byres Road. Scots are addicted to pies. And bridies. There is word that a left-handed bridie is being developed in Forfar with the thumb-hole in the pastry casing placed correctly for a left-handed grasp.

sign rr   A wonderfully creatively welcoming door in an Amsterdam hotel which believed in giving the place personality, soul, a sense of humour, human warmth sign nn The Conscious Hotel, the same surrealistic hotel whose doors  give you such a warm, poetic  introduction to  Amsterdam. ” Your breakfast is 100% organic and there are plenty of healthy choices but we won’t force you to survive on nuts and berries. At Conscious hotels, you make the choices that are right for you. Except for wearing socks with sandals. Then we might say something..”
Or as Saussure famously said: “In language there are only differences. Even more important: a difference generally implies positive terms between which the difference is set up; but in language there are only differences without positive terms. Whether we take the signified or the signifier, language has neither ideas nor sounds that existed before the linguistic system, but only conceptual and phonic differences that have issued from the system. “


What’s this?

Or this?

Or this?

or this?

Or this?

A work of art doesn’t have to represent something outside itself or be like something else in order to be interesting; the focus may lie in what it is in itself rather than what it resembles in the ‘real’ world.
The mechanics of how it came to be are safely locked away in the mind of the artist

But can you guess what triggered off any of the above five images?

Six Things NOT To Do When You’re On Your Own


Be useful. Take a kitchen knife, go out into the vegetable garden, cut a cabbage, then for the family dinner make a big steaming  bowl of  choux  à la manière de Samuel Beckett  (Set an extra place and keep them waiting).


Be active. First thing in the morning, open the door and stretch and bend in the early morning sun, stretch and bend, stretch and bend, stretch and bend at the same time making a continuous humming sound from deep low down  in the diaphragm. Mmmmmmm mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm. If it’s raining, don’t bother.



Be interactive. Phone a friend who lives in a far-off rainy country and tell her about the weather here and how life goes on and on outdoors because of all the sunshine here. Describe the clothes you are wearing and how bronzée  you have become. Tell her about your natty sandals and about the gorgeous student you met who wants you so much he veel die wizout you. Describe in detail the alfresco  lunch  you had with the jolly Chevalier family on a long table under their apple tree (don’t forget to mention the  bottle of  Chateau Chambertine they opened in your honour).


Be adventurous. Discover your naked self. Take off all your clothes and proceed to the nearest river and practise walking on water. Note that this requires very little skill but a great effort of will power. Persevere. Fail, then fail again (but fail better).
If it’s raining, don’t bother.


Be idiosyncratic. Let out yor inner self. Put on a fancy waistcoat, find the glass ball you have had for years in the attic in the cardboard box  labelled MISC and go into the street with what used to be called a ghetto-blaster. Do a silly dance and wave at the people who gather round. Smile.  Turn the volume up. Proceed  to juggle with the glass ball. Make fun of anyone who shows  either embarrassment or hostility.
If it’s raining don’t bother. 

SIX (If it’s raining )

 Be more extravert. Talk to people. Assert yourself. Go to an Art Gallery and ask one of these Curator chappies about one of the paintings: a simple question like  ‘How old was Cadell when he painted this?’ will do for starters. Then try a more complicated one like  ‘ Is what Guthrie said true?  That he used orange so much in his later paintings because  in the summer of ’26 he got a bulk supply of the stuff at half-price?’
This will give him the chance to show he is not simply there to prevent people from taking  photographs of  the pictures.




Stopping off  for a couple of days in India,

I met a gentle man from Kent

whose speciality was moss.

Very professional he was,

very technical,

using a satellite locating system

to map out and record the whereabouts

of different mosses,



while other holiday-makers were idly lying in the sun,

like seals on a beach,

or doing a splashy crawl

across some hotel swimming pool’s Hockney-blue waters,


(I’ve forgotten his second name)

….Burk? Baker?….

anyhow John, the moss gatherer,

was assiduously filling his notebook

and his camera

with carefully annotated images

and descriptions

of moss.


He had recorded, he told me,

46 varieties,

(both monoicous and dioicous),

of the 12,000  species known to exist.


Just a hobby, he said when I asked him,

no, he didn’t remember when or how it started

but that’s all it was,

a  hobby,

something he and his  friends did

with and in their spare time.


He smiled when I told him

I couldn’t tell a moss from a lichen.Image


This is here now but was there then. A b & w photograph taken some time ago which surfaced to day

I may be the backpacker in the photograph although I have vague memories of seeing the grafitti and asking someone to pose for the photograph but then that may have been another time, anotherplace….

and this is here and there – the Shetland island of Hoy taken last summer from the boat as we drifted past,  with  the bright curtain (bought last November in Perth) balancing the photograph (30cmx40cm) on the wall ( painted white ten years ago)  and the yellow roses (plucked this morning from the garden) in the blue vase (a last year’s Christmas present from the alas deceased Mary Jess) on the brown table that I got at an auction in 1999….