Sunday, November 29, 2009


I loved Morrissey on Desert Island Discs today. I feel like I've finally grown up when people like him are the subject. Although conversely I like the fact that he is still very much a Peter Pan, who refuses to play in this crazy world of ours.

See his eight records here.

Funny how things come along in twos, like buses, because I've also been watching a documentary film on Warhol, another of my fascinations, and one of Morrissey's choices, Nico see below, also featured there. The documentary also made me think what a great job Sienna Miller did in the film about Edie Sedgwick.

I would love to get to Pittsburg to see the Warhol Museum. He made a box up at the end of each day to hold all the bits and pieces of the day's events, and the museum has them all on a vast rack of shelving. One box is simply marked, "mother died".

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Lost Few Days

I've had some lurgy for the last ten days, I can't call it flu, as I'm not willing to submit myself to the sea of viruses that is the GP's waiting room. But I think I am starting to revive, if only by virtue of the drop in my coughing fits.

I can't believe that it will be December next week and as usual I have little desire to do the whole Christmas thing - if I could I'd buy a ticket to some off season hot spot and disappear until March.

But I did make some progress on the garden before I got ill, having bought some incredible show auriculas from the wonderful Alison at Angus Plants. They have fantastic names like "Cinnamon" , "Baggage", and "Snowy Owl".

Mine are all potted up in gritty compost in a cool greenhouse, waiting to go out on my new "auricula theatre" which I made from an old set of oak shelves I bought at a jumble sale, and which the lovely Jamie, my new 6'4" handy man, put up for me on the shed wall. (I really regret the dearth of men with power tools in this family - I blame my mother for taking me to see 7 Brides for 7 Brothers, it left me thinking I'd marry into a family who would be able to whip up a barn before lunch.)

And I have my seed order from the amazing Plant World Seeds nursery. They have some wonderful things, including rare wild S. American seeds that do well here. I'm planning to grow lots of grasses, as I love their movement, and how good they look when frosted.

Next week I have to submit myself to N's make-over plans for me, she want to supervise me buying an outfit to wear to the dinner for the launch of the National Galleries anthology. It will end in tears..........

And a couple of wee things:

you left a gap in the world today
the colour of a blue November noon

no more palmate leaves
no more sticky sap for bees
no more waxy candles in June

goodbye old friend,
this late in the year
we need light


walking in sharp November light
carrying my fog within


Crabbit Annie

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Poetry Junkie

I went along to Kevin Cadwallender's launch of his pamphlet Dog Latin last week. It has been published by Calder Wood Press, and contains a wonderful selection of pieces. If you want to sample some of Kevin's work see here:

I also met Crafty Green Poet at the gig, which was lovely, as I've enjoyed her blog for some time now.

After that Anne and I scooted up to the School of Poets class at the Scottish Poetry Library, and Kevin jokingly called us a couple of poetry junkies. There are worse things in life to be me thinks..........

On Wednesday I went to fashion show that my friend N's daughter-in-law helped organise, she's a designer and lecturer at Glasgow School of Art. The show reworked charity shop clothes into high fashion and it was really well done, with goody bags and an after show party.

And Friday I saw a Japanese friend and we went to see the Scott and Shackelton photographic exhibition at the Queens Gallery Herbert Ponting shots from the ill-fated Scott expedition are absolutely stunning.

Now I have a bad cold, something I always seem to get when I'm exposed to lots of people, I just don't have any resistance to things any more. So I'm lying low and living on lemsip.

The photo is of some of the gilding on the door of the Queens Gallery - horse chesnut leaves and flowers. Here in my home town they had to chop a massive old one down this week, as it was diseased and had a number of deep wounds on it limbs. Seeing the huge gap it has left behind made me think of this Niedecker poem:

My Friend Tree
by Lorine Niedecker

My friend tree
I sawed you down
but I must attend
an older friend
the sun

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Great Great etc Uncle Patrick Henry

Colin Will has been clearing out some of his poetry books to give himself more room and to raise money for the RNLI. I "bought" three, including James Tate's Selected Poems and this poem spoke to me, because for those of us from hard-working peasant stock I'm not sure that it helps to know that six generation of your family were dirt poor. The fact that they survived as best they could, against the odds, to allow you to be here today is all you can be grateful for.

The narrator of this poem sounds like an arrogant teenager and they are never impressed with anything their parents, let alone their forebearers have done, but sometimes something a parent says will stick and you return to it years later. I think Tate may also be saying that history is usually written by the winners.

Great Great Uncle etc Patrick Henry

There's a fortune to be made in just about everything
in this country, somebody's father had to invent
everything--baby food, tractors, rat poisoning.
My family's obviously done nothing since the beginning
of time. They invented poverty and bad taste
and getting by and taking it from the boss.
O my mother goes around chewing her nails and
spitting them in a jar: You shouldn't be ashamed
of yourself she says, think of your family.
My family I say what have they ever done but
paint by numbers the most absurd and disgusting scenes
of plastic squalor and human degradation.
Well then think of your great great etc.
Uncle Patrick Henry.

My grandfather is our family's equivalent of Uncle Patrick Henry, and I have recently discovered that the Imperial War Museum now has a synopsis of his recordings with them, so if you think you have lived read on:

Hood, David Linley Smith


British private served with 2nd Bn Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders on Western Front, 1915-1916; served as officer's batman with Headquarters, Fourth Army in France, 1916; served as aircraftsman with 2 Royal Flying Corps Repair Depot in France, 1916-1918; served as engineer aboard RFA Cairndale in Atlantic, 1939-1941 including sinking, 30/5/1941; served as chief engineer aboard RFA Gray Ranger in North Sea and Arctic, 1941-1942 including sinking 22/9/1942; served aboard RFA Dingledale in Atlantic, Mediterranean and Far East, 1942-1945

REEL 1 Background in Falkirk and Glasgow, 1898-1914: family; education; employment. Aspects of enlistment and training with Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders in GB, 1914-1915: background to (underage) enlistment, 8/1914; failure of friend's father to get him out of the army,; reception at Stirling Castle; training in Plymouth, 1914-1915; interest of Lady Astor in troops; how he was befriended by experienced soldier. REEL 2 Continues: crossing to France, 3/1915; different regimental marching rates. Recollections of operations as private with 2nd Bn Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders on Western Front, 1915-1916: joining B Coy; orders to move into front line at Loos; manning front line; burial parties; first use of gas masks; affected by own gas, late 1915; mining and counter mining; attachment to Royal Engineers mining company. REEL 3 Continues: alert for German spies; narrow escape from group of Middlesex Regiment troops looking for spies; listening post duties with canary; his rescue from asphyxiation in mine; sight of unit casualties from Festubert during hospitalisation; effects of sudden thaw, 3/1916; incident in which he was under shellfire. Aspects of period as officer's batman with Headquarters, Fourth Army in France, 1916: appointment as officer's batman; sight of Prince of Wales; his officer's duties at headquarters; attitude towards luxury at headquarters. REEL 4 Continues: background to transfer to Royal Flying Corps; plans for post-war employment; story of what happened to his commanding officer from 1916; leave in Scotland; news of death of relative on Western Front. Aspects of period as aircraftsman with 2 Royal Flying Corps Repair Depot in France, 1916-1918: training as mechanic; types of aircraft worked on; contact with aces; obtaining parts of Von Richtofen's aircraft; capabilities of Royal Flying Corps aircraft; memories of the 'Mad Major'; news of Armistice, 11/11/1918; further details of aces. Aspects of demobilisation and return to civilian life, from 1919: demobilisation, 1/1919; obtaining marine engineering employment on Clydeside, 1919. REEL 5 Continues: apprenticeship on Clydeside, 1919; post-war interest in British Legion; his political opinions after First World War. Reflections on service with 2nd Bn Argyll of Sutherland Highlanders on Western Front, 1915-1916: problems of lice in kilts; case of soldier arrested for desertion.

Recollections of operations as engineer aboard RFA Cairndale in Atlantic, 1939- 1941 including sinking 30/5/1941: his position with Royal Fleet Auxiliary; transport disruption, 2/9/1939; problems joining ship in Glasgow, 3/9/1939. REEL 6 Continues: convoy to Freetown, 9/1939; oiling duties in Freetown; last sight of HMS Jervis Bay leaving Freetown; electrical storms in Freetown, late 1939; problems with barnacles at Freetown; return to GB via Caribbean, early 1940; problems getting hospital treatment for wife; attachment of oiler to Force H in Gibraltar; previous experience of oiling HMS Ark Royal during her trials; attempt to decoy Scharnhorst, 4/1941; rescue of survivors of sunken merchantman. REEL 7 Continues: news of wife's death, 5/1941; belief of wife's Scandinavian relations that Germans would win the war in 1939; wife's escape from Denmark to GB early during the Second World War; second attempt to decoy Scharnhorst, 5/1941; preparations for emergency at sea; torpedoing of ship; abandoning ship; rescue of survivors; return to Gibraltar, 31/5/1941; return to GB. REEL 8 Continues: character of Glasgow's Ghost Train; his declining to give up berth to female US officer. Recollections of operations as chief engineer aboard RFA Gray Ranger in North Sea and Arctic, 1941-1942 including sinking, 22/9/1942: joining ship; sea trials; instructing US personnel in oiling, autumn 1941; plan to interfere with German shipping off Norway; his opinion of Polish forces; prior recollections of pre-war exercises in Bemuda. REEL 9 Continues: joining Convoy PQ17, summer 1942; collision with iceberg; orders to return to GB for repairs; fitting of new bows in North Shields; joining Convoy PQ18; fate of Convoy PQ18; start of return Convoy QP14; plan for ship to break from convoy for Scapa Flow; torpedoing of ship by U-435, 22/9/1942; provisions in ship's lifeboat and preparations for emergency. REEL 10 Continues: abandoning ship and rescue by HMS Northern Gem; return of survivors to GB; provision of public lunch for survivors in Glasgow; condition he was in on his return from Arctic; his opinion of wartime decorations and awards; conversation with newly appointed officer in charge of oiling at the Admiralty. Aspects of operations as chief engineer aboard RFA Dingledale in Atlantic, Mediterranean and Far East, 1942-1945: joining ship in Glasgow; oiling work of West African coast; contact with civilians in West Africa; arrival in Tokyo Bay, Japan. REEL 11 Continues: state of Hiroshima, Japan; Japanese preparations for naval defence of Kure; opinion of Japanese; participation in North African landings, 1943; second hand story of torpedoed San Demetrio and his encounter with the tanker's second officer; work oiling HMS Ajax; rescue of casks of unfermented wine from Algiers harbour."

The photo is of Trois Arbres Military Cemetery where my great,great uncle Andrew is buried. My grandfather had to read the telegram message about Andrew's death to his paternal grandmother, as she was illiterate.

Sunday, November 01, 2009


Yesterday I had a really lazy day as I felt pretty tired having been out and about the two previous days.

On Friday I was at the launch of the National Galleries for Scotland "Get Inspired Get Writing" anthology, which showcases the work of the winning entries of the last two years, including my own poem "Life Class". I was really pleased to discover that the introduction is by Janice Galloway, a real heroine of mine - I saw her speak a couple of years ago on Edward Lear at Stanza and it was one of the best things I've ever heard. But the best bit is that she mentions my poem, which is just a huge thrill. I attach a couple of photos of the book.

After that I went on to a friend's event, which was a quiz night in aid of a Scottish youth charity. I was on a team with some former colleagues and we had a great night, although we didn't win. But the names of the quiz teams were hilarious -my favourite was "Quiz Team Aguilera"

On Thursday my friend A. and I did a wee bit of work on a collaborative project that we hope to see published in the Spring, and then we had a lovely walk in the grounds of the National Museum of Modern Art - again I attach a few shots here of the grounds, a Barbara Hepworth piece and a new installation, that says in lights "There Will Be No Miracles Here" - I've frame it against some city church spires.

It's been a great few days, although the down side has been hearing that a friend who went through treatment with me has had a recurrence to her bones and another good friend is dealing with her son having just been diagnosed as bi-polar. I sent this particular friend a poem I've just written and she replied saying she is claiming it for herself as, "it captures how I feel impeccably" - and that means more than anything else to me.