Sunday, 29 January 2012

And What About Us?

The lovely G sits with her legs stretched out in front of her in front of the full length cheval mirror in the corner of our bedroom. Fully dressed, she has her head cocked to one side brushing her hair as Jess rubs herself backwards and forwards across the small of her back. Across the room I have head and shoulders deep in the built-in wardrobe as I hunt for a T-shirt and a pair of socks, but pull-back when I realise she's speaking. I've learned after years of tuition that it's better and less painful to pay attention at all times - or at least to appear to. That doesn't mean that I understand all the time of course. I am just a bloke after all.

 I look across at her. 

She reaches one hand out to touch the base of the cheval mirror.

 "You know, if all I had was just this, the pine chest, the craft table, my laptop, I-player and my log (I know she's talking about a table - top driftwood candleholder which I bought her for Christmas, gaining mega brownie points.... ) I'd be quite happy living without anything else."

Jess sits down and looks at her for a moment before looking at me.

I look back and then at G.

" And what about us?"

"Well, ah - erm - yes, of course – I mean you and Jess as well."

Jess looks back at me and yawns a wide mouthed catty yawn that ends up looking like a smile. I grin back.

"I should think so too! Eh Jess?"

Jess stands, turns to G and butts her on the bicep before starting to rub herself against her again.

A thought occurs.........

"Ummm - Can I bring the bed along?"

Still rubbing herself against G's back Jess is looking directly at me.

".....and the cat food."

See you later.

Listening to; Eddie Vedder - Without You

The Sunday posts 2012

"Felis Cattus” is your taxonomic nomenclature:
An endothermic quadruped, carnivorous by nature.
Your visual, olfactory, and auditory senses
Contribute to your hunting skills and natural defenses.
I find myself intrigued by your subvocal oscillations,
A singular development of cat communications
That obviates your basic hedonistic predilection
For rhythmic stroking of your fur to demonstrate affection.
A tail is quite essential for your acrobatic talents:
You would not be so agile if you lacked its counterbalance;
And when not being utilized to aid in locomotion,
It often serves to illustrate the state of your emotion.
Oh Spot, the complex levels of behavior you display,
Connote a fairly well-developed cognitive array;
And though you are not sentient, Spot, and do not comprehend,
I nonetheless consider you a true and valued friend.

'Ode to Spot'
by Lt. Cmdr. Data

Photo of Jess by Alistair

I think we're going to need a bigger boat!

Are  there any people in the civilised world who haven't seen the blockbuster "JAWS"?  If you're like me, you're probably pretty sick of it being trotted out at every opportunity by satellite companies. Like ‘James Bond’ movies, it seems there's never a holiday passes without yet another rerun doing the rounds on one station or other.

Having just said that, I found myself quite bemused a few weeks ago as I pressed the record button on it yet again. I've no idea what came over me. Later, I'd meant to delete it, especially since we were getting a bit low on recording space on our digital recorder, but for some reason hadn't got round to that either until looking through the planner with the lovely G for something to watch. I was just about to delete it when the lovely G volunteered that she'd never seen it before. Considering we've been together for 25 years I was pretty amazed that despite all the conversations about movies we've had and all the movies we've watched together that this vital part of her cinematic education was lacking. The reason? She'd always thought it would be too scary.

That was a surprise too, particularly considering some of the films we've been to see over the years. She's always seemed impervious to me but, having been too young to see "JAWS" when released, she later wasn't allowed to watch it on TV as her parents thought it too gory. Somehow that imprint remained firmly fixed in her mind.

Earlier today we were watching a BBC nature documentary called ‘Earth flight’, a beautifully filmed series following migrating birds. In the episode there was a scene showing seabirds scavenging remains from shark kills. That she was watching this at all was a surprise in itself as she's usually too squeamish for reality like that, yet for the first time she seemed comfortable watching sharks or crocodiles successfully capturing their prey. At the end of the programme she further astounded me by suggesting that tonight we should watch "JAWS" although with the proviso that she would snuggle up next to me on the sofa in case she got scared

“JAWS” is a classic cinematic milestone and technologically it was a marvel in its day. I loved it when I first saw it at the cinema. That first time it was scary, exciting, incredible and ground-breaking. Now having spawned generations of similar stories – “Aliens” was famously described as being “JAWS” in space – it seems simple, clichéd and a bit naive. The acting of the main cast is great but some of the lesser characters leave a lot to be desired, especially through repeated viewings. Because of the countless similar films over the years, the scene set up is highly predictable and those teaser ’scary' scenes are clearly signposted by the absence of the shark’s signature music.

Tonight for the second time, I got to experience it for the first time!

With G tucked up against me, an arm around my waist and mine around her shoulders I got to feel every shiver; every fright; every sharp intake of breath. I shared her excitement; through her reaction it was all fresh, all new. I jumped too when that head appeared through the hole in the boat for the umpteenth time of watching. I left my jaded perception behind and was thrilled anew by a great big plastic shark. It was brilliant! And I got cuddled to bits!

What a shame she’s seen Star Wars………

What movie would you want to see again for the first time?

Saturday, 28 January 2012

Wordfuse - Motoring edition

Blogger pal dbs over in Canada may have invented the 'wordfuse' as far as I know. He takes two words and 'fuses' them together to give added meaning or comical emphasis when viewing some of the anomalies or absurdities of modern life.

This 'wordfuse' occurred while sitting in the car the other day with The Lovely G. I became aware that the conversation was basically a list of instructions from her to me.

 I now deem her irrevocably to be my 'SatNag'.

But that's just tongue-in-cheek sweetheart - honest!


{Backs away slowly tugging forelock...}

Listening to:

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

The Gift Of Humanity

Burns Cottage Alloway

Tonight across Scotland and the world, people will celebrate the life and work of Robert Burns. Born 5 miles away from where I was born, we grew to adult hood in the same area, knowing many of the same places and tramping much of the same landscape. Many of his poems speak in the language and rythm of the local dialect and make clear connections.  His presence, his memory, is revered there maybe even more than anywhere else. You can walk into a graveyard in Ayr or Mauchline and find the graves of the cronies and characters, the loves and lassies that inhabit his poems - imagine finding the graves of characters from Dickens or Shakespeare: David Copperfield; Oliver Twist; Uriah Heap; Romeo or Juliet. You can with Burns because he wrote about what and who he knew.

I think it was the poet Wallace Stevens who said the open-minded reading of poetry helps you to live your life.  I understand that now; that poetry makes you aware of your own humanity and the humanity of others. That's the gift Robbie Burns makes across the years.

I remember my maternal Grandmother often singing this to me. My Mum also used it to sing and hum small children to sleep.

My Love Is Like A Red, Red Rose

My Love's like a red, red rose,
That's newly sprung in June:
O my Love's like the melodie,
That's sweetly play'd in tune.

As fair art thou, my bonnie lass,
So deep in love am I;
And I will love thee still, my dear,
Till a' the seas gang dry.

Till a' the seas gang dry, my dear,
And the rocks melt wi' the sun;
And I will love thee still, my dear,
While the sands o' life shall run.

And fare-thee-weel, my only Love!
And fare-thee-weel, a while!
And I will come again, my Love,
Tho' 'twere ten thousand mile!

See you later.

Listening to

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Keeping it real.

I like the idea of reality TV, really I do. It's very name tells what it should do on the tin doesn't it? Reality should have a huge place on TV, with its potential to communicate, inform, inspire and influence, yet I get royally furious with so many of these programmes which just set themselves up as entertainment when what they are really there for is to hold up people for ridicule as a freak show and pander to the egos of megalomaniac 'celebrities', fame hungry media whores or deluded and misguided, desperate-for-attention idiots. I hate the way panel shows offer 'participation' at a price, manipulate opinion and votes and change some poor 'winners' life so radically and so quickly, having created a public that's desperate not for any winning individual but for just the next serving of more of the same pap and who will never have interest in a winner for more than a few months beyond the end of the series, so desperate have their manipulated tastes become for 'bigger', 'better' and yet 'more' of the same crap. Most of I won't watch.

I don't get this modern need for fame and why it's become so important for so many. I see 'stars' with no discernible talent or point and a media industry totally aimed at promoting and celebrating this lifestyle. So many who only feel happy or validated when flashguns are popping and pictures are on front covers of crap magazines, who have 'achieved' fame yet never worked to get the recognition. Why do so many want this instant fame-on-a-plate. Is so much missing in life for so many? Isn't it cringingly ironic that we allow someone like Cheryl Cole, or Piers Morgan to judge talent? I mean - COME ON PEOPLE........

And yet, now and again there are things which make me feel a bit better about the 'reality' side of TV. Some shows are now drawing back from the freakshow spectacle aspect and are coming to the fore with a more positive spin on some of the challenges which face some less fortunate than most; a programme showing extreme weight loss over an extended period of time, supported by an expert who does genuinely seem to care and a production company focused on the subject and the benefits of working hard to achieve something, not the cheap hit potential of an oh-my-god-look-at-them-I-feel-better-about-myself-now programme. A programme with an agenda that's positive, a view that's measured, balanced and even a bit understated.  A programme that stresses it's a long,hard road but it can be done. About time!

Now too I have even found a talent show that doesn't immediately have all my warning bells going off. A dance competition where judges are industry experts with passion for the art rather than mere self promotion. {and who enjoy and respect each other} Where talent is recognised and there's no gawping for gawpings sake but people who may not have a real gift but who have real passion for the subject and not the fame might still make it in front of the cameras to be treated sensibly, decently and compassionately by all. That even celebrates some of the more eccentric sides of our culture in ameasured way. A competition that takes itself and its candidates more seriously. After three years of shows I think it's getting better too. {If only any prize money was invested in building and growing future potential of winners instead of just as a reward}

Oddly I'm hooked on 'Got to Dance'. OK I'm still not comfortable with programmes giving away life changing amounts of cash but that's my opinion and not everyone needs to share it, but I can watch this show and that's not at the front of my mind. I'm amazed by the talent of some of these people - even some of the kids. I'm enthused by the commitment, the work and effort contestants put in and the pleasure they get from it, the bond they create with their partners and the sheer passion they all have no matter what kind of dance they do. I think it's great to watch.

Any one of these have more talent in a scraping from their fingernail than a boatload of big brother contestants any day of the week.

Let's keep it real.

see you later.

The Sunday Posts 2012


I met a traveler from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;
And on the pedestal these words appear:
“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

by Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822)

Monday, 16 January 2012

If Music Be The Food of Love.....

Late night listening transports me back in time.

 It's 1975 and it's late, but here in my bedroom the schoolboy me is wide awake. The first chords have just struck on what will become a lifelong favourite album as for the seventh, eighth  or twentieth time tonight I'm listening to Mike Oldfield's 'Ommadawn'. I just bought it today and I've spent hours devouring the artwork and every word on its cover. It's an obsessive trait that I'll carry long into my twenties - until the demise of vinyl for the more modern CD, with their loss of artwork and cover design as a communication medium. Oh for the return of the gatefold sleeve!  But like many in the years to come I'll cling to the old ways for a while before I can let vinyl go - partially at least.

 I lie stretched out flat on my single bed, the curtains closed to the smallest glint of light from outside and the turntable on the chest of drawers is turning the disc at the required speed. I have the feed arm up so the record will constantly repeat. It's not a great record player but it's all I'll have for another couple of years yet until I can afford to buy one of my own that will give me the kind of quality sound that albums like this deserve. Now though any money I get is invested on buying vinyl. Albums only - singles are for fools swayed by the rubbish on 'Top Of The Pops'. Real men - and of course I include my fourteen year old self in that category - buy albums.  Real men are interested { and interesting} because we buy artists and albums by our inate understanding of what's mature and meaningful, not led by the pop charts, although any future trawl through my record collection may not quite prove that point. Or not yet at least. My tastes are developing and opinions are largely unformed.

So here I lie, horizontal, connected to heaven by the headphones  {saved for over weeks of self sacrifice and reduced record purchasing} plugged into the record deck and preventing my parents from realising that I'm playing this - like all my albums - at near full volume. This means that I can hear the needle chart its way across the track, adding its own base note. That would be frustrating to the modern me but it's completely normal at the present time so I'm all but oblivious. Still, I yearn in the dark for a better player; more clarity and especially; more volume.

 Maybe I have the album cover lying on my chest, but it's also possible that I 'm doing some air guitar or silently doing some fantasy conducting of the talented Mike { by dint of album ownership I now get to call him that} as I guide him intricately, knowingly and insightfully through the multiple shades of meaning in this piece, showing him that I understand: I get it.

I'm lost inside now, carried by layers deeper and deeper into the sound, hairs rise on my arms and on the back of my neck as if connected to an electric pulse. Each listening has lead me to a new discovery and I'm acutely aware that magic is happening.  In years to come my union with such magic might be heightened by alcohol but now it's pure and unadulterated by beer, the opinions of others or the need to be cool. Tonight is a musical experience that'll both change me and continue like this for the rest of my life - horizontal, at full volume and in the dark - and all the better for it. I'll come to learn that it's great to share but I've somehow already found my ideal way of communing with important albums is solitary Tonights experience will also open the doors to teach myself how to wash away anxiety and think clearly while being soothed by important tracks or albums; something I'll be particularly grateful for in the next angst ridden couple of years.

It's the first album that's done this to me, completely blowing me away and carrying me off into other worlds, other realities. The first time that an artist has shown me there are incredible possibilities out there. I've never heard anything like this before and I'm entranced, enthralled, enthused, amazed and astounded. It's so different to the crappy pop music that's everywhere. Soon there will be others being loved too: Jean-Michel Jarre: Rick Wakeman: Vangelis: Supertramp: The Floyd: The Who and Thin Lizzy amongst others, but for the moment I know nothing but this sublime album which reaches to my core and tugs emotions so far as yet untouched. It's so perfect I want to cry. That's a first for me too.

As a result of tonight, in the next couple of months I'll also become intimate with Oldfield's first two albums: Hergest Ridge and the sensational Tubular Bells but even these wonders won't have the same effect as Ommadawn.

Tonight it's just us here in the dark. Tonight it's doing all the talking and tonight for the first time - I think I might be in love.......

Play on.........

See you later.

If you also fancy another bit of what does you good?

Thinking About Joining The Childrens Panel?

I don't normally repost items but Childrens Panels across Scotland are currently looking for new volunteers. If you are interested and thinking about joining this might give you a bit of an insight into what happens. For more information click on the link below:

Hullo ma wee blog,

Unfortunately not every child gets the safe, secure and nuturing upbringing they deserve. Too many are raised in chaotic conditions where abject poverty, neglect and addiction are the norm, leaving children at risk for their welfare, their future and sometimes their very lives. This is a post about Children's Panels which are lay tribunals set up under Scots Law to hear cases for the protection, care, guidance and treatment of children at risk between birth and age of 16. {or 18 in some cases.} This process which puts the child's interests before all else is unique and has been a worthy feature of the Scottish legal system for many years.

On the day of a Children's Hearing, the three of us making up a panel - always a mix of sexes to prevent any kind of all male/female bias creeping in - get together beforehand to have a short pre-hearing meeting to discuss the information contained in the reports that have been provided. These will be at the least - unless it's an emergency hearing called at short notice - a social work compiled child and family background report and a school report but could also include reports from health visitors, specialist medical practitioners, residential homes reports or any other agencies that the child or family are involved with. The families attending will also get copies of the reports involving them at the same time. Any serious compromising of the length of time to consider reports, especially if it compromises the families right to have ample time to consider and potentially to seek legal advice, would almost certainly ensure that we would decide only to 'continue' - postpone until another date could be arranged - so the families rights would not be infringed. {a sure-fire winner at any appeal}

 The sometimes hefty reports the panel have access to are provided seven days before the hearing to allow us to read and absorb the information and consider elements of risk relating to the child's situation and potential next steps that need to be taken to improve or remove the risks to the child. These measures, if we decide to put any in place after a discussion of the case with those involved at hearing, are legally binding on the child and supporting local council authority and can include conditions dictating an action that should be taken by the child or by any of the professionals who are supporting, such as varying where and how the child should be educated, where and with whom the child should live, who, how often and under what protective circumstances the child should have contact with and what treatment, controls, support or guidance should be provided. This effectively means that there are a wide range of measures that can be put in place to protect a child who is at risk either from their own actions or the actions {or neglect} of others.

 Normally we will hear three cases in a sitting with each of the cases allocated an hour for discussion and during the sitting each of us will chair a pre-allocated case unless one or more of the members has not had the separate formal training to chair tribunals. If this is the case the trained members will chair more than one case ensuring that due process is followed and writing up the formal record of decisions and the reasons which are given to the child and other relevant persons {normally the parents and local authority professionals but can include others such as foster carers etc} used by following panels in future reviews of the case and in the event of an appeal being made against the panel's decision - any appeal would be heard at court and not by another panel. The reasons written therefore have to clarify the consideration of risk by the panel and the thought process used to come to the final decision and explaining why the panel consider this to be in the child's best interests.

The Hearing:

The family enters to take their seats from the waiting area along with the professionals attending. The professionals at a hearing are normally Social Work and School as a minimum but could include many others such as Lawyers, Health Workers, Family Support Workers, Foster Carers or representatives from Secure Facilities. This is the first time the child and family has been called to a hearing. The child is a boy of about 9 years old and he sits beside his mother, head down. Father isn't in attendance even though he should be but I know we'll deal with that in a moment. Opposite the family and professionals, across an oval beechwood table sits the three person panel that makes up the tribunal that is a Children's Hearing. Today there are two men and one woman. I'll chair the hearing for this case. During the session there will be three cases and although each is scheduled for an hour this is flexible based on needs and circumstances - we take the time needed for the family - and this is the first case of the day. Each of us will chair a case as we are all experienced members, trained to fulfill the procedural and legal obligations chairing a hearing brings. The room is bright and airy, the decor subdued pastel and there are framed paintings done by young children on the wall; a child on a chute; a child in a swimming pool or sea wearing a rubber ring; an unidentifiable animal or bird in garish colours. In the corner there is a small table with a box of crayons and some sheets of paper to draw on, a book and some stuffed animals. There's always a box or two of tissues around within reach of an emotional child or adult.

As the kerfuffle of a group of people coming in and taking a seat takes place I try to observe the child without making it too obvious. He is small for his age and as he sits back in the chair his feet barely touch the floor. His head is still down and his body language is very closed. His hands are clasped in his lap and he has made a hand wringing gesture twice when he did sneak a glance around him. Even though he's done this he hasn't looked in the direction of us in the panel sitting across from him. He takes a deep breath and blows it out through pursed lips. He looks what he is. A stressed and scared wee boy.

I call his name gently across to him and when I have his attention I smile and ask how he's feeling. I get a fairly blank look in return for a second and he looks to his Mum who is still getting herself sorted out.

"Hello ****** you must be feeling pretty scared just now. After all this is the first time you've been to see us at a hearing....."

I now have his full attention but he's not about to say anything just yet.

"Has anyone spoken to you about coming to see us and what happens at a children's panel?"

I got a head shake in response, but he also says " A bit."

"You've got to find this all a bit scary, coming into a room full of strangers,especially if no-one's explained about what happens in a hearing to you."

He's still staring at me.

"How would it be if I told you a wee bit about it while everyone's getting sorted out. Would that be ok?"

I get a nod and he leans forward a bit.

"Well first of all I bet you've heard from pals at school that a hearing is where boys and girls get sent if they've been bad. Maybe you were told too that a hearing will decide you are to be taken away from your Mum or Dad and sent away to live somewhere else."

His eyes are huge and there is a tremble in his lip. He wrings his hands.

"Well you're not here because you've been bad, so don't worry about that. That's not the only reason that children come to see us here. Don't worry either that anyone's going to take you away from your Mum and Dad, OK?. That's not going to happen. We would only take a boy or girl away from their Mum or Dad if we had to because it really wasn't safe for them to be at home and that doesn't happen very often. {A white lie - it's reasonably common for us to see children who simply aren't safe at home, but he doesn't need to know that and this isn't one of those situations} We're people who think children are very important but we know that at times, things might happen that can upset or worry you and sometimes things happen to children that make them feel unsafe and scared. Sometimes things happen, and people - even Mums and Dads - don't know what to do to make things better. If we hear about someone where this is maybe happening we ask them to come and talk to us to see if there's anything we can do to help make things better so that you're not worried or scared anymore. A hearing is just is a meeting to talk about what's happening and to help decide what needs to be done to help you and who would be best able to do that. So it's not just boys or girls that have been bad that come here.

While we're talking about things it's my job to make sure we talk about everything we need to so I will ask different people to speak and I will probably ask lots of questions. If you feel you can talk to us about anything then you'll be able to tell me what it is. I'm also here to make sure that you understand what's being said and you get a chance to talk if you want to. After we've all had a talk me and my two colleagues will say what we think would be the best thing to happen, then I'll explain what this will mean. Before you go away today I'll make sure you know what's going to happen next and why we think this is the best thing to do. Are you OK with that?"

He nods.

"Do you feel a bit better now?"

He nods and I get a glimmer of a smile. I smile back.

"That's good. Let's get everyone started then will we? I'll watch out to make sure you're OK when everyone's talking."

I sit back a bit.

"Now then ladies and gents. Thanks for coming to the hearing today for ******. First let me introduce the panel and then I'll ask each of you to introduce yourselves before we begin......."

Sunday, 15 January 2012

The Sunday Posts 2012

My Shadow

I have a little shadow that goes in and out with me,
And what can be the use of him is more than I can see.
He is very, very like me from the heels up to the head;
And I see him jump before me, when I jump into my bed.

The funniest thing about him is the way he likes to grow
Not at all like proper children, which is always very slow;
For he sometimes shoots up taller like an india-rubber ball,
And he sometimes gets so little that there's none of him at all.

He hasn't got a notion of how children ought to play,
And can only make a fool of me in every sort of way.
He stays so close beside me, he's a coward you can see;
I'd think shame to stick to nursie as that shadow sticks to me!

One morning, very early, before the sun was up,
I rose and found the shining dew on every buttercup;
But my lazy little shadow, like an arrant sleepy-head,
Had stayed at home behind me and was fast asleep in bed.

By Robert Louis Stevenson from his collection entitled "A Child's Garden of Verses".

Friday, 13 January 2012

Grand-motherly advice.

When I was in my early to mid teens my Grandmother once saw fit to sit me down and lay out a clear moral framework for me via a lengthy lecture.

It included:

"And watch out for bad women who will lead you astray and corrupt you with their loose morals........"

After that, I looked Granny, honest I did.

Never found any though....... not for ages.........

If it hadn't been for your advice I might never have found out about them at all.

Thanks Granny!

See you later.

Listening to:

Problems with Blogger - No Comment.

I've been having problems with Blogger for the last couple of days which has stopped me replying to comments on my own blog or leaving comments on others. It also meant that I couldn't read posts on blogs I follow where comments had already been left either. Any attempt at going to any of the pages described above simply lead me to a blank white page that wouldn't connect to anything.

Having posted a question on the Blogger Help forum I found that lots of people are having the same issue and fairly quickly got a response. Unfortunately this didn't resolve the issue for me but lead me to other comments which ultimately seems to have done the trick.

So, if any of you are having problems like this - go to the 'settings' area of your dashboard, select 'comments' and change the siting of the comments away from 'embedded below posts' to one of the other settings. It seems to have mainly done the trick for me although I don't understand why. I can now reply to comments on this blog again but I still have a problem reading some favourite bloggers posts with comments where they have comments embedded below the post. Oddly though it's some and not all......

I'll need to keep working on that. Hopefully blogger will be aware and produce a fix too - it's annoying. {and they're not the easiest people to find how to contact!}
At least I'm back in the land of blogging for a while - until the next problem hits at least!

See you later.

Listening to Mike Oldfields wonderful and peaceful version of 'Etude' from the movie 'The Killing Fields':

Monday, 9 January 2012

Kids and Parents - eh?

These days it feels like often no-one is willing to take responsibility over their own actions or those of their kids. God knows how teachers cope day after day.

To me this sums it up nicely. although I doubt it's a real answering machine for the school. The voice kicks in after about 30 seconds.......

see you later.

Sunday, 8 January 2012

The Sunday Posts 2102

Nae Day Sae Dark

Nae day sae dark; nae wüd sae bare;
Nae grund sae stour wi' stane;
But licht comes through; a sang is there;
A glint o' grass is green.

Wha hasna thol'd his thorter'd hours
And kent, whan they were by,
The tenderness o' life that fleurs
Rock-fast in misery


No day so dark; no wood so bare;
No ground so rough with stone;
But light comes through; a song is there;
A glint of grass is green.

Who hasn't endured his thwarted hours;
And knew when they were past;
The tenderness of life that flowers;
Rock-fast in misery

William Soutar

William Soutar (1898-1943), the author of this poem, was born in Perth, Scotland. While serving in the navy during the First World War he contracted an illness which left him paralysed, apart from his arms and hands. He was confined to bed for the last fourteen years of his life but nevertheless produced a number of lyric poems - including this.

Saturday, 7 January 2012

Caution - May Contain Nuts.....

Am I nervous? Oh Yes. Terrified more like! I don't know why on earth I've agreed to this. Sitting here behind the table, faced with all these complete strangers and waiting for my introduction, I feel almost physically sick. No one who knows me can believe I've agreed to this and more than a few have almost wet themselves laughing. Yet here I am, nervous as a kitten, stomach tied in knots and feeling like I'm just about to lose my non-existent lunch. I must be nuts!  I didn’t think for a second I'd start out this way when I began looking for an outlet for my writing.

I’d been writing for a couple of years by then, blogging mostly but also sending a few bits and pieces in to papers and magazines in the hope of getting something published. I’d joined a writing group too in the hope that I could improve my skill and perhaps make some contacts along the way. I subscribed to a couple of writing oriented magazines and used them to follow up on articles on improving chances to get published and check out the adverts for writing opportunities. It seemed hopeless – most of the adverts looking for writers expected you to pay them to publish your work and the others wanted everything for free. No-one wants to pay for anything these days it seems.

And then I found some adverts looking for writers to help others; give a few talks on process; hold a few workshops and be available to check and feedback constructively on work submitted. Best of all there was a fee for your efforts and for a lucky one here and there a paid position for a period of time of intensive work. I began to see a rare advert or two for writers in residence too. One of these was working in prisons helping develop communication skills and thinking process; keeping prisoners in touch with their kids through the writing of stories; helping set up an in-house newsletter.

Although I tried I never got anywhere; the competition for these rarest of opportunities was intense even where fees were negligible; people desperate to get something that could be useful to build a credible CV. Weeks and months passed by with nothing.




A writer in residence is saught to deliver lectures, workshops and demonstrations to groups and individuals in a holiday environment at our establishments here in the UK and in Spain. An open minded, creative and flexible attitude is required to ensure this experience delivers to our members interested in developing their writing and communication skills in a fun and relaxed manner.

Roll on three months and here I am: sweating; mouth dry; heart palpitating. I wait for the society chairman to finish his speech and introduce me. A new wave of anxiety and nausea washes over me as I look at the lectern I had requested. Somehow I thought I would be more comfortable speaking from behind a lectern but now as I look at it's clear, gleaming perspex under the auditorium lights, I know that's not going to work. What was I thinking? Bugger! I look left and right along the table for an exit but just the sight of the other committee members drives the thought from my mind and my head snaps back to looking down at the notes in front of me on the table.


I can't even look at the audience! I try to get a grip on my emotions while the voice of the chairman drones on. I take a sip from the glass of water beside me, close my eyes and concentrate on my breathing, silently but desperately telling myself   "Calm. Quiet. Peace. Calm. Quiet. Peace."  as I do. I become aware that the chairman is drawing to a close. Too late now, there's nothing I can do. I have to make the best of this. Who knows, it might be the break I'm looking for after all. Suddenly, I'm aware of applause. I open my eyes and see the chairman at the front of the stage, half turned towards me, his arm outstretched in a welcoming gesture. I swallow and take another sip of water. I gather my notes and stand up, pushing the chair back with my legs as I do. I hold my notes demurely in front of me and move out from behind the safety of the table and walk the few paces to the lectern where I put them reluctantly down and take one last deep, calming breath while I wait for the applause to peter out. I hope I don't look as terrified as I feel.
There is silence. I swallow -hard.

"Mr Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen of the committee. Ladies and Gentlemen.

Three months ago it would never have crossed my mind that I would be standing here today thanking anyone for the 'opportunity' of becoming the first writer in residence for the UK Society of Naturists.

Or that I'd be doing it in the nude……"

See you later.

(By the way – this is a work of fiction!!! - honest)

Listening to this;

Friday, 6 January 2012

Seeing The Light.

There are probably fewer things that remind us more of how reliant on modern technology we are than a power cut.

We get more than our fare share of them in our quiet wee corner of the country, especially in the winter when you are in the grip of those short days and long cold nights and losing power also means we lose our modern central heating and gas fire. It's a pain - and we're only about 4 miles from a major power station, which really rubs it in as no matter how often we get cut off they are always gleaming brightly in the dark like a beacon of pure unadulterated smugness.

We've had a power cut tonight when there are no storms like those that happened over the past week when thousands of homes were cut off for days - although thankfully not including us. We did have a couple of outages yesterday or the day before, enough to have us lighting up the candles around the place and leaving spares in handy places and matches close to hand. You've got to be prepared, right?

 We like candles in this house and often use them of an evening by preference, but that's a whole different ball game to having no choice in the matter. It always seems to happen when your engrossed in something of course; TV or a book or a DVD. Tonight I'm here on my own ,just Jess and I cosy on the couch watching something on the TV recorder, I'm thinking I need a cuppa and am getting up to go and make one when - WHAM - total blackout. I let out a groan {and probably an expletive}. That'll be that for the cup of tea for a while then......

Luckily I have my mobile phone nearby and grope around to get it and use the built in flashlight which lets me maneuvre round to the fireplace, get the box of matches and light a couple of the bigger candles on the coffee table  before getting upstairs to the bedroom where we'd left a battery powered  light designed for camping - one of those ones which can hang and give a light round 360 degrees. I bring it down but decide to leave it off and stick with the candles. I go and get the laptop and bring it back to the lounge too, thinking I might watch something on BBC iPlayer but when I come back and sit down with it I decide to write a short blog instead. The battery will last a few hours........


The lights come back on.

I leave the laptop, make a cuppa and fill the big flask in the kitchen with hot water to last the night. Experience tells me these things usually happen in multiples.

A few minutes later I come back through to the lounge, coffee cup in hand and take a couple of steps towards the sofa....


Thank goodness I left the candles on..........

See you later.

Probably in daylight.........

Monday, 2 January 2012

Always Expect The Unexpected......

Well hello and welcome to the first post from my new blog called

  'The Porage Diaries'.

Dont worry - 'Crivens Jings' is here to stay and will keep on in the same vein I hope but I'm going to try a blog of a more specific nature.......

To be frank I never expected to be setting up another blog right now even though I'd laid the foundations for 'The Porage Diaries' well over a year ago, when the name came to me one day in a haze of porage and sunshine. I know - most people see porage as a winter food, but I happen to like it and am known to have an occasional foray in a poragely direction at any time of the year.

We all get gifts at Christmas time. Most of the time these are more than welcome but sometimes the odd gift will arrive that's either unwelcome or at least greeted with less enthusiasm. This year the unwanted gift I got was type two diabetes which is quite annoying. Even more so when I consider that the person that gave it to me was; well - ME. Now, I take full responsibility: I'm a Scot - well known as having one of the worlds most unhealthy diets, which I have wholeheartedly embraced for many years.: I'm overweight - for many reasons, explanations or excuses which will probably come out in various guises as the blog develops: I'm in the danger zone of middle age {53}: I've lead a pretty sedentary lifestyle for far too long even though I knew I should have been doing something about it  {introduce those explanations/excuses again here} and finally: I'm a typical male 'ostrich' in many ways. There is simply no-one else to blame.

I'd been unwell for a few months and had complained to my doctor of lack of energy, aches and pains, insomnia, a general increasing weight despite addressing {somewhat} my diet for more healthy stuff and a dozen other things that I couldn't put down to any particular change in circumstances. This lead to a whole seies of blood tests over a short period of time and a diagnosis of an underactive thyroid and a slow process of medication and monitoring to establish the correct dosage of medication which I'll have to take for the rest of my life - a process that's not yet complete. During this time one of the tests threw up an anomaly with liver function leading to another series of tests and an ultrasound scan which showed that everything was tickety-boo and there was nothing abnormal. I came home from the hospital that day happy that my fears about the big 'C' were unfounded. Two hours later my  doctor's surgery phoned to say that there was a problem with my last blood tests and that my doctor wanted to see me right away, so first thing the following morning I saw her and was told that my blood sugar levels had suddenly rocketed and more tests were needed to confirm her suspicions that I had diabetes.

So it was that the week before Christmas I got a confirmation call that her suspicions were correct. Most of that week was spent reading up on the information she had provided, supplemented with information from the web and in making significant changes to my thinking. I have to admit after the previous few months I took the news quite badly and perhaps focused on some websites which emphasised the more negative and serious side of the condition and it's impact on long term health prospects. Probably as a result, my mood and well being took a big dip and I think I convinced myself that I felt dreadfully ill for the bulk of Christmas until one day I just suddenly realised that there are millions dealing with this and doing so successfully. I realised I'd perhaps been given the kick in the pants that I needed to get things back in balance and that tackling this could be beneficial in every way:

 I suddenly felt doors opening instead of doors closing. there are many opportunities that could come out of this condition - now that I have it and can't avoid that reality. There are things to discover, things to tackle and things that can be discussed and shared. 'Crivens Jings' showed me that I could use writing as catharsis as I did when I was made redundant. This too is something that I can write about while I experience, come to terms and understand what the implications have on the reality of my life ahead. While I'm not stupid enough to be looking forward to living with any kind of diabetes, I can see that there are benefits to be had for myself and maybe for others in writing about an experience that I can't avoid. So now I have to face some consequences and deal with this condition.

Do you fancy coming along for the ride? I promise you rants, raves and reflections - and porage:


See you later.

 Listening to:

New Music....

Something new for the New Year: The first track released by Scots prog-rock band 'Abandoned Stars' who hail from Edinburgh and include my two brothers-in-law in the line up playing drums and bass guitar.

The track is called 'Beyond Reason' and comes from their first EP  'Opening Act'

Members: Tony Hodge - Drums / Peppe Schiavone - Guitars / Olivier Hadder - Vocals / Leen - Bass  


Sunday, 1 January 2012

New Year Tradition.

The New Year celebrations are traditional here in Scotland. We're  rightly world famous for our cheerful and exhuberant welcome to each new year and the extended partying that often accompanies it for several days afterwards. But many countries celebrate it in their own unique ways; the ball drop in Times Square, New York; The fireworks over Sydney Harbour Bridge; favourite TV shows to bring in the new year; a dip in the ocean on January 1st etc.  Being married to someone of Swiss German descent I was introduced to a tradition from over there which I really enjoy. It's a TV sketch called 'Dinner For One' which is played across Switzerland and Germany every New Year without fail at some point.  They absolutely love it and fall about in stitches, which is strange considering it's completely done in English. I've no idea where the tradition comes from or when it started or how it came to be taken so much to heart by so many, but somehow I too have fallen for it's charm, innocence and fun.

I hope you enjoy it too.

The Sunday Posts 2017/Mince and Tatties.

Mince and Tatties I dinna like hail tatties Pit on my plate o mince For when I tak my denner I eat them baith at yince. Sae mash ...