*There are international news reports poison gas has been used by government forces in Syria-August 2013; Bristo Square is within the main Edinburgh University campus. In August it is used for the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

Chemical gas to kill

Then it was Iraq now Syria;

Edinburgh Festival

Walking through to The Meadows

Visiting the university

Each time in Bristo Square

I remember her and the photos

The dead and the empty streets

She was a student from Iraq

I, a history undergraduate in the Enlightenment city


Wars and conflict or struggles                           

Are inscribed not in the chosen words of books

But in the eyes of the living left

For dead or their families.


*Sensei-meaning teacher within the martial arts in Japan/elsewhere

Thae speir thon,

They say this,

Whan the student is ready the maister appears

When the student is ready the master appears

Ay a truism fer ivvery human endeavour

This is true for every human endeavour

Lairnin as deep as Nessie’s lair

Learning which is as deep as Nessie’s lair

Maun be self-chosen, held ticht

Should be self-chosen, held dear

On yer ain path

On your own path

Ane of the best dominies A seen

One of the best teachers I saw

Kent ma potential

Knew my potential

        luiked ower

          looked beyond

The puir stance an balance

The poor stance and balance

Kennin gowd is precious, warked fer

Knowing gold is precious, is worked for

Ne’er cums easy.

Never comes easy.

Mikie the Midgie

Mikie the Midgie

He sups on the plants an glaur

Totterin jist efter he’s done

Mikei feels a lack o power.

He’s been chawin a mickle earth and sand

That’s baith coorse an radioactive

Thare’s trouble wi thon piece o Fife lan!

It’s a deidly MOD gift

Michtily compactit

Noo nae quick cycle o life an deith fer him

His life span is twenty year or mair

Nae Easy Jet cruisin fer this insect Concorde

He has wings tae reach Nevis’ rim

Gangs supersonic gey regular

Tae the Edinburrae pandas’ lair.


PB Isle of May

Thanks to for their permission to use this great picture.

Weddin Scramble

Afore the genome mappin project

Afore the internet, e’en Thatcher or Obama

Thare wis the kirk scramble in Ainster

Tae us bairns Babylon and Ramesses wis cum

As we skitit an barged fer the siller

In the days whan the idea o Big Brither

Wis the eldest awa on the trawlers or the airmy

Screichin an rinnin awa wi the spoils

Fer Italian ice cream wis oor focus;

The May Island luiks on still

As Ainster herbour huids its creel boats ticht

Bairns on Smartphones Skype worldwide miss

Pictish, Viking an Flemish fuitprints

In the Billowness san that taks a millennia tae mak

An mak agin.

Wedding Scramble

Before the genome project

Before the internet even before Thatcher or Obama

There was the church scramble in Anstruther

To us kids Babylon and Ramesses had arrived

As skidded and pushed in for the change

In the days when the idea of Big Brother

Was the eldest away on the trawlers or the army

Screeching and running away with the money

For Italian ice-cream was our focus;

The May Island looks on still

As Anstruther harbour keeps its creel boats safe

Kids on Smart phones Skype worldwide miss

Pictish, Viking and Flemish footprints

In the Billowness sand that takes millennia to create 

And create again.

Northern Cape, South Africa


Not the fist-sized bruised clouds

Above your heads from Scotland

When out running in Africa they lasted

Seemingly forever elongated above the red earth

Out from the township meerkats appear up

Like school principals checking their flock;

Out to work in the townships

Working in schools we stayed with families

Tswana, Afrikaans and Xhosa mixing

With our senses amid smoke, sun and love

In my house out on the fringes of town

Where apartheid and hate put them

My Oma-grandmother had lifetimes of pain

Etched in the lines of her face-times

Of making do and surviving the loss of the men

Colleagues saw likewise yet still more and more

Made part of a home part of a rhythm

Not so different and sometimes better;

At the end of our time

When he wept the fourteen year old I taught

What education destroys, cuts into was made new

Pointless paper work, managers who bully

Was stripped away.


Journeying to see the ancient carvings on rock

That made the Ring of Brodgar seem young

Death came close in

Our metal box

Hit and spun as the truck that struck us

Tumbled and broke the men on top

Rushing to help the dying men-

Men who had been strong, worked a full day

We did we could before help came.


Never learning their names who died then

We remember the living in that north

Adopting on leaving our friends briefly

‘Go well, come back.’