Sunday, 16 August 2015

The Sunday Posts 2015/The Right Honourable Eyelash’s Summer Panic

For readers outside the UK, Andy Burnham is a candidate for the leadership of the British Labour Party. He has a video on Youtube touting his credentials as Mr. Everyman. It is said he is entirely made of plastic, a sort of man for all reasons. There's more info in this article in the Guardian.

Here is Irish poet Kevin Higgins' contribution to the Burnham saga.

This is not the gas
I’d hoped to be passing here today.
I wish I was able to tell you
a government of me

would starve useless
eaters of bacon butties
and deep fried Cadbury’s Cream Eggs
in Dundee and Sunderland
just a little more slowly than this government
is so brutally doing at present;

that under me
every old age pensioner,
like the old lady across the road
who died last year of the winter, will receive
their own personal nuclear submarine.

Sadly, recent polls
have rendered such dreams
politically impossible.
As things stand, for half a vote
I’d happily come around and polish
your baby’s bottom;
play hide and seek
with your pet hippopotamus;
tell you no student should have to pay
for university by going on the game
more than five nights a week;
mow your lawn;
nationalise the railways; or cure 
your husband’s baldness.

Between now and elect-me-day
if you need someone to plant
slobbery kisses on your elderly uncle’s
surprise third buttock,

anything you want, I am it.

Sunday, 9 August 2015

The Sunday Posts 2015/ oor Wullie

Fair fa' your rosy-cheekit face,
Your muckle buits, wi' broken lace,
Although you're always in disgrace,
An' get your spanks,
In all our hearts ye have your place,
Despite your pranks.  Your towsy held, your dungarees,
Your wee snub nose, your dirty knees,
Your knack o' seeming tae displease
Your Ma an' Pa.
We dinna care a tuppenny sneeze
We think you're braw.  You're wee, an' nae twa ways aboot it,
You're wise, wi' very few tae doot it,
You're wild, there's nane that wad dispute it,
Around the toon. But maist o a' ye are reputit
A lauchin' loon.  Weel-kent, weel-liked, you're aye the same,
Tae Scots abroad and Scots at hame.
North, south, east, west, your weel-won fame
Shall never sully.
We'll aye salute that couthie name:
Oor Wullie.


lauchin' loon=laughing boy
weel-kent=well known

Sunday, 2 August 2015

The Sunday Posts 2015/Linguist

If we lived in a world where bells
truly say 'ding-dong' and where 'moo'
is a rather neat thing
said by a cow,
I could believe you could believe
that these sounds I make in the air
and these shapes with which I blacken white paper
have some reference
to the thoughts in my mind
and the the feelings in the thoughts.

As things are
if I were to gaze in your eyes and say
'bow-wow' or 'quack' you must take that to be
a dispairing anthology of praises'
a concentration of the opposites
of reticence, a capsule
of my meaning of meaning
that I can no more write down
than I could spell the sound of the sigh
I would then utter, before
dingdonging and mooing my way
through all the lexicons and languages
of imprecision.

 Norman MacCaig, October 1964.
Photo by Alistair

Sunday, 19 July 2015

The Sunday Posts 2015/ The Last To Leave

                                                   Over The Top {Gallipoli 1915}

The guns were silent, and the silent hills
had bowed their grasses to a gentle breeze
I gazed upon the vales and on the rills,
And whispered, “What of these?’ and “What of these?
These long forgotten dead with sunken graves,
Some crossless, with unwritten memories
Their only mourners are the moaning waves,
Their only minstrels are the singing trees
And thus I mused and sorrowed wistfully

I watched the place where they had scaled the height,
The height whereon they bled so bitterly
Throughout each day and through each blistered night
I sat there long, and listened – all things listened too
I heard the epics of a thousand trees,
A thousand waves I heard; and then I knew
The waves were very old, the trees were wise:
The dead would be remembered evermore-
The valiant dead that gazed upon the skies,
And slept in great battalions by the shore.

Leon Gellert, Australian Gallipoli veteran, 1924

Sunday, 12 July 2015

The Sunday Posts2015/The News Where You Are

That’s all from us.
 Now it’s time for the news where you are.
The news where you are comes after the news where we are. The news where we are is the news. It comes first. The news where you are is the news where you are. It comes after. We do not have the news where you are. The news where you are may be news to you but it is not news to us.
The news may be international, national or regional. The news where we are may be international news. The news where you are is never international news. Where you are is not international. The news where you are comes after the international and national news.
The news where you are may be national news or regional news. However, national news where you are is not national news where we are. It is the news where you are.
If the news where you are is national news it is only national where you are.
The news where we are is national wherever you are.
On Saturdays, there is no news where you are after the news where we are. In fact there is no news where you are on Saturdays. Any news there is, is not where you are. It is where we are. If there is news where you are but not where we are it will wait until Sunday.
After the news where you are comes the weather.
The weather where you are is not the national weather. The weather where you are comes after the news where you are, and after the weather where you are comes the national weather. Do not confuse the national weather with the weather where you are. The weather where you are comes first but is lesser weather than the national weather.
Extreme weather is news. However, weather that is more extreme where you are than where we are is not news. Weather that is extreme where we are is news, even if extreme weather where we are is only average weather where you are.
On average, weather where you are is more extreme than weather where we are.
Tough shit.
Good night.
John Robertson.

Sunday, 28 June 2015

The Sunday Posts 2015/ Abdul Abulbul Amir

The sons of the Prophet are brave men and bold
And quite unaccustomed to fear,
But the bravest by far in the ranks of the Shah,
Was Abdul Abulbul Amir.

If you wanted a man to encourage the van,
Or harass the foe from the rear,
Storm fort or redoubt, you had only to shout
For Abdul Abulbul Amir.

Now the heroes were plenty and well known to fame
In the troops that were led by the Czar,
And the bravest of these was a man by the name
Of Ivan Skavinsky Skavar.

One day this bold Russian, he shouldered his gun
And donned his most truculent sneer,
Downtown he did go where he trod on the toe
Of Abdul Abulbul Amir.

Young man, quoth Abdul, has life grown so dull
That you wish to end your career?
Vile infidel, know, you have trod on the toe
Of Abdul Abulbul Amir.

So take your last look at the sunshine and brook
And send your regrets to the Czar
For by this I imply, you are going to die,
Count Ivan Skavinsky Skavar.

Then this bold Mameluke drew his trusty skibouk,
Singing, "Allah! Il Allah! Al-lah!"
And with murderous intent he ferociously went
For Ivan Skavinsky Skavar.

They parried and thrust, they side-stepped and cussed,
Of blood they spilled a great part;
The philologist blokes, who seldom crack jokes,
Say that hash was first made on the spot.

They fought all that night neath the pale yellow moon;
The din, it was heard from afar,
And huge multitudes came, so great was the fame,
Of Abdul and Ivan Skavar.

As Abdul's long knife was extracting the life,
In fact he was shouting, "Huzzah!"
He felt himself struck by that wily Calmuck,
Count Ivan Skavinsky Skavar.

The Sultan drove by in his red-breasted fly,
Expecting the victor to cheer,
But he only drew nigh to hear the last sigh,
Of Abdul Abulbul Amir.

There's a tomb rises up where the Blue Danube rolls,
And graved there in characters clear,
Is, "Stranger, when passing, oh pray for the soul
Of Abdul Abulbul Amir."

A splash in the Black Sea one dark moonless night
Caused ripples to spread wide and far,
It was made by a sack fitting close to the back,
Of Ivan Skavinsky Skavar.

A Muscovite maiden her lone vigil keeps,
'Neath the light of the cold northern star,
And the name that she murmurs in vain as she weeps,
Is Ivan Skavinsky Skavar.

Percy French
Photo by Alistair.

Sunday, 21 June 2015

The Sunday Posts 2015/ I'll Leave The Ocean Behind

I've been out on the ocean
Sailing alone, traveling nowhere
and you've been running on high ground
With just you around
Your heartbeat's the only sound
But I know, once in a while we will find
The sound of your heart beats with mine
And when it's time
I'll leave the ocean behind
So I'll look out for a lighthouse
See through the fog, Search the horizon
You'll be like in a movie
Where everything starts; You can see clearly now
But I know, once in a while we will find
The sound of your heart beats with mine
And when it's time
I'll leave the ocean behind
Cause I know, once in a while we will find
The sound of your heart beats with mine
And someday, the crash of the waves will be far away
And I will sail in your eyes
'Cause when it's time
I'll leave the ocean behind

Jes Hudak
Photo by Alistair

Sunday, 14 June 2015

The Sunday Posts 2015/Bonnie Dundee

Tae the Lords o' convention 'twas Claverhouse spoke
E'er the King's Crown go down there are crowns to be broke
So each cavalier who loves honour and me
Let him follow the bonnets o' Bonnie Dundee

Come fill up my cup, come fill up can
Come saddle my horses and call out my men
Unhook the West Port and let us gae free
For it's up with the bonnets o' Bonnie Dundee

Dundee he is mounted and rides up the street
The bells tae ring backwards, the drums tae are beat
But the provost douce man says, 'Just let it be.'
When the toon is well rid o' that devil Dundee
 There are hills beyond Pentland and lands beyond Forth
Be there lords in the south, there are chiefs in the north
There are brave downie wassles three thousand times three
Cry hey for the bonnets o' Bonnie Dundee

Then awa tae the hill to the lee and the rocks
Ere I own a usurper I'll crouch with the fox
So tremble false whigs in the midst of yer glee
For you've no seen the last of my bonnets and me

Photo by Alistair.

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Connections, coincidence and claret

Wood panelling, Barns Ness Hotel.

This is a repost of an earlier post in memory of my Grandfather Sam Robertson who, as a member of the 1/5th Royal Scots Fusiliers moved from V beach to the firing line near Fir Tree Wood in Gallipoli exactly 100 years ago tonight. The next four days and nights would be his brutal initiation into 3 years of life in the front line in WWI.

Hullo there ma wee blog,

I don't have a clue what to call this post as it feels like it might be a bit of a ramble due to it being a late night - currently nearly 2am - and, sitting at my usual place at the kitchen table, I have a wee Singleton of Dufftown single malt whisky by my side. Don't worry though, like me its old enough to be out on its own at this time of night.........almost.

Ah, actually I know now where this is going and why..........

On Monday past we were invited out for a quiet informal meal and get together by some friends in Dunbar. We went to a hotel called "The Barns Ness". In the hotel is a small plaque explaining that the wood on the walls of the dining room came from a ship called the 'Mauretania' which was the sister ship of the 'Luisitania', which was torpedoed at the start of WW1 with horrendous loss of life. The beautifully carved wood was recovered from the ship when it was broken up at the end of its working life.

Nice story, nice meal, nice evening out right?

Aye it was, but it was more than that too.

As I have a bit of spare time on my hands at the moment I have been doing a fair bit of reading. As usual, I don't just read one thing at a time, so currently I am reading Stephen Fry's 'Moab is my washpot', Titania Hardies 'Rose Labyrinth' and John Buchans 'History of the Royal Scots Fusiliers'.

John Buchan, who is best known for the novel 'The thirty Nine Steps' wrote this history, in memory of his brother, an officer who - like my grandfather - served in the regiment. Alastair Buchan was killed in action on the western front, April 9th 1917. This was part of the battle of Arras. 38 Scots battalions including RSF took part in the attack. In British terms, a predominately Scottish affair, with more Scots involved than at Waterloo and many times more than involved in the battle of Bannockburn.

My grandfather survived being shot on 3 separate occasions, was returned to action each time and spent the best part of three and a half years in the front line, first in Gallipoli and then in The Western Front. Family history says he finally badly twisted his ankle on duckboards in a trench and while lying alone but for a couple of others in a tin shed at a field station, suffered an artillery bombardment of several hours. My Grandmother believed it was this episode, incapacitated, cruelly exposed and incapable of finding shelter, that left him with the condition which in those days was known as 'shell shock', but is now known as PTSD or 'post traumatic stress disorder'. From the accounts I heard as a child which were heavily sanitised, he came back a changed man and although was able to function in his previous job as a local postman for a few years, had to undergo increasingly long periods of hospitalisation and ultimately, complete incapacity. All the years I knew him he was bedridden, shaking constantly. Like many others he never received any war disability pension or recognition of his condition as being war injury related.

Much loved, he died in 1967 having lived with his condition for fifty years.

I was eight  - and devastated.

Joining up in early 1915, he sailed from Liverpool on board the 'Mauretania' on 21st May and landed in Gallipoli on June 6th. His battalion of almost 900 men was part of the 52nd division which was approx 10900 strong. The 2 battalions of RSF were immediately put into the line where between July 3rd and July 13th, losses were 4800 men. Early 1916 the campaign was abandoned as a failure.

The regimental history records this episode as follows:

' The losses for the 52nd division were such that for the Scottish Lowlands it was a second Flodden. In large areas between the Tweed and Forth scarcely a household but mourned a son '


' Unless one has seen it there is no imagination that can picture a belt of land some four hundred yards wide converted into a seething hell of destruction. Rifle and machine gun bullets rip up the earth, ping past the ear, or whing off the loose stones; shrapnel bursts overhead and leaden bullets strike the ground with a vicious thud; the earth is rent into yawning chasms, while planks, sandbags, clods and great chunks of ragged steel hurtle through the air. The noise is an indescribable, nerve racking, continuous, deafening roar while clouds of smoke only allow intermittent view of the whole damnable inferno '

It cost Winston Churchill, whose idea it was, his post as first lord of Admiralty. {Ironically he was made Commander in Chief of the Royal Scots Fusiliers}

The 2 battalions split, some to Palestine and the rest, grandfather included, to the western front.

Grandpa's story as described to me as a child trying to understand was simply that he was hurt in the big war and that we didn't talk about it. Much later he was described to me as a very brave man who had "gone over the top" on several major engagements. Who knows in reality what his experience was. Not me for sure. But I did experience the impact of that experience. My father helped his Mum look after his Dad every day as we lived nearby.

So before work - like his dad he too was a postie at first - he would go and wash and treat his Dads bedsores. Before he came home he would again go in and take care of any needs that might be required. At least twice a week I too would go to see Gran'pa and while there I would be given the task of shaving him with an old Phillips three headed electric razor. We all had things we did with Gran'pa and shaving him became my role. Being very small, at least when I started, I would have to climb onto the bed beside him and reach around his face while I shaved him, taking great care not to move the wooden frame that held the heavy blankets off his legs. Although by that time Grandpa couldn't speak more than two or three words at a time, I remember well his voice as he ran his damaged hand over his face and found a wee bit I had missed. "Here,"  he would say and I would go back and do that bit again and he would sometimes chuckle, a rumble deep in his chest and his jaw waving back and forth showed me he smiled. Sometimes he got me to go over bits again and again as a bit of fun I think. Job complete, I would carefully dismantle and clean the razor with its special miniature brush and show it to Grandpa for approval before putting it back together with small hands and sliding it back into its case.

Shaving an adult is a highly serious thing for a wee boy you know.

Being so close physically to him so often I remember every crease, nook and cranny of that old man's face. I remember the look in his eye as he watched me shave him or give him his tea in an odd china cup with a spout on one side and a lid on   {In fact I have it still - just a magpie really!}  He seemed able to look right into a wee boys heart. I remember his skin, his hair and his smell; how his face felt as small hands patted after-shave on;  how he would try and hold me as I reached across him at the limit of my balance as I shaved him; how he would wince if I fed him tea that was too hot. I would sometimes lie on Grannies bed across the room from him and we would read silently together, him with a book on a darkwood frame, beautiful and specially made for him by one of my uncles, and me with my book propped on bare knees.

I remember spending a night, being very young and sleeping in Grannies bed, in the same room as Gran'pa, and hearing him moan and occasionally shriek during the night until Gran got out of bed and went across to murmur something to him for an unknown while before coming back to bed with a quiet but commanding "Now, now, you. Back to sleep. Nothing to worry you here. Just Gran'pa dreaming. Just a dream," as she got back into bed herself.

And thats why I found myself thinking of him and of years past on Monday night and silently raising a glass in that wood panelled dining room of the Barns Ness Hotel.

See you later.

Listening to;