Summer Spot

Maddy has just completed her drama course. The graduation ceremony with parents and grandparent has come and gone.

The reality of jobs and income hasn’t been forgotten but the numbers don’t lie. As the last bit of rent in Glasgow is paid and the money for the mad week in Spain (with all five friends) has registered fully on card and account she feels it.

They are here for two weeks. In a shopping centre that makes Kafka’s dreams look like paradise. Brutal, grey concrete with pound shops and empty units in the lower end like decayed teeth in a shopping mall’s wide mouth.

She is the foil to Andy’s ‘Game Master’ as they entice families and shoppers with families to join in their madcap competitions and sketches next to the small café (closed) platform and its open space.

They have an inflatable ‘ring’ and welcome arch as well as real sand for their stage.

Andy is brilliant. He was a car mechanic in the East End of Glasgow before hearing the call of thespian angels. Tall, lanky and from an Indian family he is fun, protective and can reel the punters in.



The third day a young mother with a one year old and a three old comes down. Her long black hair seems more lively and voluminous than herself. Her lovely edge of the hand floral tattoo contrasts with the drawn face and tired green eyes. Her mouth never wavers upwards.

Maddy takes both away-pushing buggy and holding the other’s hand while Andy orchestrates the ordered chaos.

As they hush and freeze for the punchline (and loud bang) to happen her phone goes.

‘Ay, tonight…I can phone. I will have to get some credit on the phone. And my mum has promised to give a bit toward some bits for Natalie’s starting the Nursery.’

The finale and bow-relayed on a wee screen to the audience outside causes a small ripple of applause. Children are reunited and some parents look both relieved and happier than when they started.

Maddy listens to what Mummy says as she clears the sweat on this hot, hot day which is so un-Scottish as to be positively alien.

‘…Daddy is still away for that work for a long time, now. We can phone him later and tell him what a wee star you were,’ she says.

The young mother turns and with a thin arm and very slender wrist takes Natalie’s hand.

Maddie wonders if they will see them tomorrow or another day and heads to the Newsagent for something to drink. She passes the jewellers shop and the stall in the walkway selling mobile phone covers.

- One

I have translated the precepts of Sensei Funakoshi into Scots based on Sensei Cruz’s original work which can be found elsewhere on this site but just as karate is a lifetime’s study and practice so is the study of the masters’ writing and learning who came before present day teachers. As Sensei Hazard (our Sensei) states, ‘You are your own best teacher.’ The real understanding of this comes and deepens only with maturity. Sometime as the odd joint begins to protest in your body.

I will develop this theme over time…

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1 Do not forget that karate-do begins and ends with rei.

- One


Balance it between Self and foe

Seen, unseen, past or future

All given what they would deny you:

Rei-respect: yours, theirs.

Creel Boat Elegy

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My poem, Creel Boat Elegy has been put to music by George Mackie-who is part of The Sair Banes: Nick Shovlin and Alex Gillin. Nick is the vocal on this draft track :) It will feature as part of a night in August that will also feature my pal and fellow Makar, Ross Wilson with his poem/song.

Below is the poem and link to the song. Many thanks to George.

Creel Boat Elegy
The meal never finished, the children forsaken
Ainster is in tears, the North Sea chill has taken
In a flat sea wanded over by the still mist
Both faither and son will be sairly, sairly missed..

Most years the mermaids they kiss and drag doun
So savour the chips laid oot by the wounds
The herring has gone, the creels lie empty
See them sail oot by the light of this high April moon

Even if the teeth of the skerries and rocks hadn’t bitten
A pale aura of strange silence lies over the boat
Rescued but empty she lies broken, amid oily reek glisten
Gulls screech, swirl in their Hadean eighth notes.

Aye the same, aye different the April sea relents
For the summer nears and the gods they seem near spent
But watch come the autumn and the white canyons beat down
Wife and bairns look on as the lines of grey, white urge toward town.

From Ainster tae Pittenweem


It was the Pittenweem Fishing Festival
A chain o ladies in bunting would link the towns:
The fishing boats would grace the Firth of Forth
A line o trawlers and ithers fae Ainster tae Pittenweem.

On the bow o the lead lady
Heidin oot as the Isle o May looked on
Ma faither piping Highland Mary or Scotland the Brave
White palmed applause ablow fae a douce* watter;
Nae lik the savagery we kent in December or January.

Drinking lik Vikings aw wid enjoy whatever weather
The gods gave and even the grey seals took solace
As the water and land became one.

*Douce watter-soft/calm water.

Fame in the Cape


Years ago in the winter (oor summer)
We, I wis famous: Scottish dominies oot tae Sooth Africa
The Northern Cape schuils gied us bield.

We thocht we wir gien thaim ‘innovation’
Whan it wis saul renenwal
Kennin straught that love, hope cuin survive hunger
E’en deith or stervation.

An whan the steel drums gied it laldy,
Whan thir dancers performed
A wis greetin lik whan the first bairn wis born
Lik whan Andy Murray won lest year…



After the Independence vote
It will mean nothing, not an iota
He will stay be in care, still be in need
And the teachers, the Care Partners
Will do their best-never filling
What his early years didn’t give him.

We know many like Fraser
Boys or girls whose poverty is seen
Only by the constant movement and lacking
Early and later wounds give and gave.

For Fraser, for thousands like him
This political union has failed
Where ‘social justice’ is mouthed as a placebo
Simply for the Scottish stop
Before the London bus is taen*.



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This piece is from my 1999 collection, Temples fae Creels (Kettillionia). Another piece The Pool is on the Poetry Map of Scotland set up by the Scottish Poetry Library-link below.

Fife’s autumnal skin-leopard
Has breathed an raxed
Its lang spine.

The fields o cut stubble
Pierce cauld December air,
Heuch, wuid, lost dubs
Are threatened by
Lan souchin.

Neist tae it
A’m ane o a few
Warm in oor metal boxes
Pechin tae beat the bankers’ maws-
Lickin wet tarmac
Licht gies transient shimmers,
Preein the muckle constants.

Raxed-stretched, heuch-cliff/hillside, dubs-puddles, souchin-breathing, neist-next, pechin-working hard/breathing, pree-sample, muckle-big.