Sunday, 7 February 2016

The Sunday Posts 2016/ Let Me Die A Young Mans Death



Let me die a young man's death
not a clean and inbetween
the sheets holywater death
not a famous-last-words
peaceful out of breath death

When I'm 73
and in constant good humour
may I be mown down at dawn
by a bright red sports car
on my way home
from an all-night party

Or when I'm 91
with silver hair
and sitting in a barber's chair
may rival gangsters
with hamfisted tommyguns burst in
and give me a short back and insides

Or when I'm 104
and banned from the Cavern
may my mistress
catching me in bed with her daughter
and fearing for her son
cut me up into little pieces
and throw away every piece but one

Let me die a young man's death
not a free from sin tiptoe in
candle wax and waning death
not a curtains drawn by angels borne
'what a nice way to go' death   

Roger McGough.
Photo By Alistair.  

Sunday, 31 January 2016

The Sunday Posts 2016/what did you learn in school today



What did you learn in school today,
Dear little boy of mine?
What did you learn in school today,
Dear little boy of mine?
I learned that Washington never told a lie.
I learned that soldiers seldom die.
I learned that everybody's free.
And that's what the teacher said to me.
That's what I learned in school today.
That's what I learned in school.

What did you learn in school today,
Dear little boy of mine?
What did you learn in school today,
Dear little boy of mine?
I learned that policemen are my friends.
I learned that justice never ends.
I learned that murderers die for their crimes.
Even if we make a mistake sometimes.
That's what I learned in school today.
That's what I learned in school.

What did you learn in school today,
Dear little boy of mine?
What did you learn in school today,
Dear little boy of mine?
I learned our government must be strong.
It's always right and never wrong.
Our leaders are the finest men.
And we elect them again and again.
That's what I learned in school today.
That's what I learned in school.

What did you learn in school today,
Dear little boy of mine?
What did you learn in school today,
Dear little boy of mine?
I learned that war is not so bad.
I learned of the great ones we have had.
We fought in Germany and in France.
And some day I might get my chance.
That's what I learned in school today.
That's what I learned in school.

Tom Paxton
Photo by Alistair.

Sunday, 17 January 2016

The Sunday Posts 2016/Summons to Burns Nicht



KING GEORDIE issues out his summons,
Tae ca his bairns, the Lairds an Commons,
Tae creesh the nation's moolie-heels,
An butter Commerce' rusty wheels,
An see what new, what untried tax,
Will lie the easiest on oor backs.
The priest convenes his scandal court,
Tae ken what houghmagandie sport
Has been gaun on within the parish
Since last they met,—their funds tae cherish.

But I, the servant of Apollo,
Whase mandates I am proud tae follow,—
He bids me warn you as the friend
Of Burns's fame, that ye'll attend
Neist Friday e'en, in Luckie Wricht's,
Tae spend the best—the wale o nichts ;
Sae, under pain o ha'f-a-merk
Ye'll come, as signed by me, the Clerk.

Unknown.

Sunday, 10 January 2016

The Sunday Posts 2015/ The Rose



Some say love, it is a river
That drowns the tender reed.
Some say love, it is a razor
That leaves your soul to bleed.
Some say love, it is a hunger,
An endless aching need.
I say love, it is a flower,
And you its only seed.

It's the heart afraid of breaking
That never learns to dance.
It's the dream afraid of waking
That never takes the chance.
It's the one who won't be taken,
Who cannot seem to give,
And the soul afraid of dyin'
That never learns to live.

When the night has been too lonely
And the road has been too long,
And you think that love is only
For the lucky and the strong,
Just remember in the winter
Far beneath the bitter snows
Lies the seed that with the sun's love
In the spring becomes the rose.

Bette Midler
Photo by Alistair

Sunday, 3 January 2016

The Sunday Posts 2016/ A Wee Cock Sparra'



This comic poem was an annual entertainment for New Year when I was growing up. The Scots dialect of the non-gaelic regions was always only heard on TV in a comic situation, not taken seriously, except in a work of Rabbie Burns. I always thought it was strange that the language I spoke everyday with friends and family and had grown up with was something to be laughed at in 'polite' society. At school you could earn a prize one day for reciting Burns and get belted the next for 'not speaking properly'.

Thankfully that situation has slowly changed but there's a long way to go in recognising and rescuing the diversity and heritage of a native tongue.

Friday, 1 January 2016

Life. Changes. Everything...



So a new year arrives and we look ahead with renewed anticipation but no clarity of vision for who can truly predict the future. New Years resolutions are made and quickly broken but life moves on in its inexorable course for better or worse, for richer or poorer. Things change and things stay the same.


Things have changed for us recently. We've made decisions and brought to fruition plans to make the present easier and the future better by selling up and downsizing from a large detached house to purchase outright a small, semi-detached house at the top of the village we've lived in happily for nearly fifteen years. No more mortgage payments, no more stress and worry about making ends meet and no more hefty bills for heating such a large house from liquid petroleum gas, which had proven to be fiendishly and painfully expensive. Many Winter nights in our last house we simply couldn't afford to heat the place and instead added layers of clothing and climbed under duvets together to watch TV from the couch and venture out from the warmth only when necessary. It's wasn't a comfortable or dignified way to live but financially we had little alternative. But that is behind us and life moves on.



Of course there are small sadnesses in leaving the place we'd spent nearly fifteen years in. A house we shared for the majority of that time with two marvellous little characters in the shape of our cats Bailey and Jess. The gave us many smiles and me more than a few tales for the blog, especially back in the days when I had plenty of nothing but time on my hands after being made redundant. I spent many late nights and very early mornings blogging away accompanied by one or other of them, either prowling close by or draped in a more intrusive way across whatever I was trying to do. I often think of and miss them but life moves on and part of that process is loss great or small. Life teaches us to appreciate moments and cherish memories.



I'll miss the garden too. I enjoyed prowling around its private corners, often barefoot when weather allowed. I'll miss the fruit trees and their annual gifts of pears, plums and apples and I'll miss my friends in sparrow squadron as I came to call the argumentative families of the commonest birds here, but I'll miss those many other visitors too, birds who could always rely on a feed or a drink from spots around the garden and who in return gave me hours of shared companionable curiosity. I won't miss the amount of work needed to maintain the garden though, especially the effort needed to cut the hedge that stretched across the front of the house and drive before turning down to the road. That was a job I came to hate.



I'll miss my pal the old pear tree that stood at the front of the house and dripped its leaves and sometimes its fruit across the roof of the car as we'd pass under coming up the drive. A gentle touch like a comforting caress that said "You're home now." I came to appreciate its rough character and what it must have stood witness to in what we found to be about 125 years of its life. It must have seen some changes but surely also saw that in our ancient village, much also stays the same. People come and go - I was undoubtedly only one person in a chain of others who had tended and cared for the old tree, many perhaps like me who came to cherish her ability to listen well and keep her council and my worries told in confidence. I hope that there is now another in the chain who will appreciate and enjoy her and keep her in good fettle as I tried to do. I would be upset to hear she came to harm but life changes everything and my ability to influence that is passed.



I won't miss our old house, although I will definitely miss its space. Somehow I never thought of it as anything other than a house despite my attachment to the site it occupied. We had lots of great times there but I never felt attached to the house. I never thought of it as 'home'. Maybe because we had always spoken about moving on at some point I never made that emotional connection, unconsciously protecting myself from feeling any loss over it. Who knows?



So we moved on. Now we have a house at the top of the village. Oddly, an older house but in a newer space for while our old house was newer it stood in an old spot while this is an older house but in a location of newer houses. Having said that we have a house from the 1700's just three houses away but that too is new compared to our old near neighbour of Sparrow Castle with its foundations from the 1200's. Now instead of nestled in the heart of the village we stand at it's edge and look out to sea over the heads of most of the village.



The 'new' house isn't old. It's only 60 years old and for all that time was lived in by one lady who lived independently here until well into her nineties. The house is small but well cared for and has a feel more appealing somehow. It needs time, money and effort invested but we can do that. In the few weeks we've been here it's begun to tell us its story and perhaps to hint at what it could be. We in turn have listened carefully and changed our ideas completely from what we thought might be done initially. There's still space to build a two story extension at the side but apart from that we will be less disruptive and more respectful of what we now feel is the integrity of the place. The garden is much smaller and made to be looked after by someone elderly. It will change. We can let it grow into something else. It too will tell us in time what it should be and that will no doubt be different to what I now think it could be. Time will tell and we will listen. In the time we will be here we will appreciate and we will cherish. Birds will be fed and at some time down the line fruit will be grown. I may try and get a cutting from my old friend The Pear Tree. It would be good to let her see new things. It would be good to still have her to talk to and shelter the new arrivals who arrive hungry or thirsty.

While many things change much abides.  A new year begins and we look forward with unknowing anticipation to what may be. We make plans but who can knowingly predict the future.

Life changes everything and nothing at the same time.

Thursday, 31 December 2015

Crivens Jings Happy Hogmanay



As this year ebbs away and we prepare for The New I wish you all the very best for 2016. A very happy and peaceful New Year ain an a'.

Slainte Mhath!

Thursday, 24 December 2015

Merry Christmas one and all.





I wish you all the compliments of the season and hope you and yours have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Awra best for 2016.

Alistair.

Sunday, 13 December 2015

The Sunday Posts 2015/Dilemma





I want to be
         famous
so I can be
         humble
about being
         famous.

What good is my
         humility
when I am
         stuck
in this
         obscurity?

David Budbill
Photo by Alistair

Sunday, 6 December 2015

The Sunday Posts 2015/ Grandmother




By the time I knew my grandmother she was dead.
Before that she was where I thought she stood,
Spectacles, slippers, venerable head,
A standard-issue twinkle in her eyes –
Familiar stage-props of grandmotherhood.
It took her death to teach me they were lies. 

My sixteen-year-old knowingness was shocked
To hear her family narrate her past
In quiet nostalgic chorus. As they talked
Her body stiffened on the muted fast
Though well washed linen coverlet of her bed.

The kitchen where we sat, a room I knew,
Took on a strangeness with each word they said.
How she was born where wealth was pennies, grew
Into a woman before she was a girl,

From dirt and pain constructed happiness,
Shed youth’s dreams in the fierce sweat of a mill,
Married and mothered in her sixteenth year,
Fed children from her own mouth’s emptiness
In an attic rats owned half of, liked her beer.

Careless, they scattered pictures: mother, wife,
Strikes lived through, hard concessions bought and sold
In a level-headed bargaining with life,
Told anecdotes in which her strength rang gold,
Her eyes were clear, her wants as plain as salt.
 
The past became a mint from which they struck
Small change till that room glittered like a vault.
The corpse in the other room became to me
Awesome as pharaoh now, as if one look
Would show me all that I had failed to see. 

The kitchen became museum in my sight,
Sacred as church. These were the very chairs
In which her gnarled dignity grew frail.
Her hard-won pride had kept these brasses bright.
Her tireless errands were etched upon the stairs.

A vase shone in the sun, holy as grail.
I wanted to bring others to this room,
Say it’s nothing else than this that people mean.
A place to which humility can come,
A wrested niche where no one else has been
Won from the wastes of broken worlds and worse.

Here we can stay, stupid and false, of course.
Themselves to the living is all we have to give.
Let this be
To her, for wreath, gift, true apology.
 
William Mclvanney
Photo from family archive.