Sunday, 29 May 2011

The Man Who Was Compulsive About Segs

It started innocently enough, with a pair of brogues he bought in BHS for twenty quid. He was wearing them as he left the shop; his other shoes, a battered pair of Hush Puppies, were a disgrace. There was a problem, though. His new shoes looked as cheap as they were. He watched the lunchtime office workers in the High Street. Suits and black shoes. Black shoes like his. Their shoes also looked cheap. But you could tell who the bosses were. They looked older, certainly, and they were dressed the same as their subordinates, but there was a defining characteristic: you could hear them coming. Thus was the solution arrived at. Timpson's. Three packets of Blakey's, Segs, call them what you will.

That was how it started.

The Hush Puppies were next.

He started going to jumble sales to buy shoes.

He became a Timpson's regular. Soon, he was a twice a week man. Always the same purchase - three packets of Blakey's, Segs, call them what you will.

The house was beginning to fill up.

He left no shoe untouched. It was bad enough with the Hush Puppies (he should have recognised the signs back then), but he was out of control. Loafers, boat shoes, rope-soled sandals - nothing was left to its silence. He started buying socks at jumble sales - he needed clean hose at all times, as people were forever asking him to remove his footwear when he stepped over the theshold. He was a man who left his mark wherever he stepped. In his own ears, he sounded expensive. He sounded like a boss.

He knew he had a problem when he caught himself eyeing the soles of his slippers and thinking there was something missing. Psychiatric advice was sought. The doctor was a fellow sufferer, unfortunately, and filled him in on a pioneering technique being developed in the States: Segs Heel Grafts. Why bother with footwear? If the dentists could do it to your mouth, why couldn't the chiropodists do it to your feet? He left the surgery with a printout from the Internet. He felt as if he were flying, even though he was clicking heavily along the pavement. The possibilities were endless.

He is currently looking into a more subtle approach. Gene Therapy, along with the ingestion of calcium with a cast iron supplement. The metal targets the cells of the heel bone. It's another innovation from the States. He is awaiting the results of the trial period with bated breath. For the moment, his compulsion is in abeyance - he's given up the jumble sales. He still goes to Timpson's, though, twice a week. He's trying to cut down, but it's difficult. He doesn't know if he will ever be cured; he is trying to keep his expectations realistic.

Saturday, 28 May 2011

Somebody Got Punched

Ye mind ae me, Ronnie?

You're the wee cunt
that swiped the two boatles ae Tuborg
fae behind ma door
oan the Cape Franklin.

That wisnae me!

Friday, 27 May 2011


See her?
Aye, her - the yin that looks like Laurie Anderson.
That's right -
she works in the frozen fish shop.
Nae flies oan her -
or er fish.
Ah saw her yince,
servin auld Mrs Maria -
her wi the dementia.
She gave er change ae a fiver
even though she paid wi a twenty.

Naw, ah didnae say anythin.

Nothin tae dae wi me.

Thursday, 26 May 2011

from 'Musical Death Knell'

...there was a glitch, however. It had nothing to do with the music. It was something personal. Blind Lemon Sneddon had a cheeky wee face. Slappable. There was no getting away from it. When you saw his photo you wanted to scud his lug. Some people might have put this down to sour grapes on the part of disgruntled musicians, but even people who knew nothing about music reacted in this way to his picture. And there was something else that was beginning to annoy folk. Even though he’d only released two CDs, Blind Lemon was now regarded as a bit of a celebrity. Appearances on game shows, opening fetes; a 5-minute spot on Loose Women getting the piss ripped out of him for a fee. Someone made a joke that he had reached a point where he could fart into a microphone and sell the result. And that’s precisely what Blind Lemon did. It was called ‘Windsongs From My Sphincter’, produced by none other than Gruff Plangent, Edinburgh’s finest. It had sold a thousand copies in the first week, according to BluesNews.

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

A Wee Guest Poem: Mairi Campbell-Jack


Tenacious means to hold fast,
to not let go,
to keep your grip - firm.
No matter how you are
rocked and buffeted.

No matter how you are rocked and buffeted,
when you feel your grip
begin to slip, when exhaustion
leaves fingers weak, you will find
you do not fall.

You do not fall becuase
circumstance has crept
and pressed so close
his breath
is in your hair.

His breath is in your hair
because his body holds
you in place - whether
you wish it or not.

Mairi Campbell-Jack is in her 30s and lives in Edinburgh with her daughter, working part-time in Public Relations and Public Affairs. She blogs at tweets at @lumpinthethroat and will have a double pamphlet titled This is a poem/A Violation of Expectation published by Red Squirrel Press.

Monday, 23 May 2011

A Wee Poem: Oral Exam

Oral Exam

the disabled kid –
the kid who can’t speak English –
gets a perfect ten

the Scotch examiner –
who is known to write haiku –
bends the rules to suit

This poem
is not a haiku.
It’s not about
smashing the system
pulling the wool
over anyone’s eyes.
It’s about playing the game
and slipping you the King you need
when I know
my hand
is so much better.

if we meet again,
for Proficiency, let’s say,
I won’t be gracing you with faces
from the bottom of the deck.
Do yourself a favour.
Read some JK (not Rowling).
You might want to think twice
about playing cards
with foreign language users.


Sunday, 22 May 2011

A Wee Guest Poem: Hamish Montgomery

nothing to offer
an empty hand touching none
sunlight in the palm

glaswegian hamish writes haiku, sonnets, stories to communicate: sometimes to be beautiful, expose, argue, relish, tickle, reveal, tell, please, read.

Thursday, 19 May 2011

A Wee Fiction - Peach Blossom Paint

........first published in the Midwest Literary Magazine.

Stuart was a painter. He wasn’t an artist. He painted people’s bedrooms. He was living in a derelict house down by the cemetery. It was rent free. He had gained entry by kicking the door in. He’d fixed the place up. He got a good deal on a padlock from the Georgian who sold him fags down the market, and hooked up a cable to the streetlight. The only problem was running water. He had to fill buckets from the standpipe in the cemetery. That was a bit of a chore. Embarrassing, too, when there was a funeral on.

To read the full story, go to the Midwest Literary Magazine site:

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

A Wee Guest Poem: Brian Hill


This is how bone appears:
Stripped of the superstructures of flesh.

All light is unseen until some substance
Throws it back into our faces.
Some light, even in reflection,
Passes through us.

The eye and its mind are ignorant.

Small mutations of energy
Change the nature of being
While immutable bone creaks
Under the weight of the living.

Why should we look, as we do,
Through what shape we possess,
Into its scaffolding of support;
Or even, between, into pulsing organs
Which have no words for us?

Soul and spirit are another light,
Energy on the spectrum somewhere,
Reflected or refracted just the same
By what we believe to be real.

The mind and its eyes are ignorant.

The invisible shapes the visible:
Other energies warp around us
And show us the bones of the world,
The ligatures of earth and heaven.

But blood, like light, is shed. Our wounds picked over,
We tear ourselves apart to look beneath the skin.

Brian Hill is designer and filmmaker living in the wilds of Moray. He was, and still is, a founder member of Brian and the Brains and has also been known as the rhyme-slinger, Hilly cunctator, the cartoon cowboy, and latterly the planetarium poet. In between he has teased a living in the voluntary sector, designed for money and made tiny movies. He did have something published once and has written (and performed) many poems on astronomy, the cosmos and our heathen past, usually in complete darkness. His last public work was a voice over and short poem for Gill Russell’s Long Wave installation at the Clan Donald Centre in Skye, late 2010.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

A Scotsman, Greece, and an English Exam

On Sunday I sat my English exam. It's the equivalent of a Scottish Higher. If I pass, they'll think about letting me continue working as an English teacher. They don't care if I've got a degree and a PGCE. This is Greece. If you pass your Higher English, or the acceptable equivalent, you're in.

I arrived at the school an hour early (I'm that kinda guy), got an iced coffee from the tuck shop and smoked ten fags. We were led to a room on the first floor. I was the only person over sixteen. Apart from the Invigilator, of course, who told us to turn off our mobile phones and place them under our chairs. Mine was already turned off. It was in the inside pocket of my jacket. She told us again - phones off and under the chairs. We stared at her as one. Nobody moved.

The exam was in three parts. We started with Writing. The rubric said something about childhood being the best days of your life. I scribbled for half an hour. Then it was pencils down. Next was the Listening test, multiple choice questions based on short dialogues, then longer pieces featuring an intelligent octopus and the Wright Brothers. The final part was Use Of English and Reading, 120 multiple choice questions - Grammar, Vocabulary, a Cloze passage and four reading passages. It was all very straightforward, as well it might have been. I've been teaching the syllabus for this exam for the last 21 years.

I went downstairs at the end, dying for a coffee, but the tuck shop was shut. So I stood at the side of the car and had a fag. The exam isn't over yet - I've got an Oral in two weeks. I drove home. Later that evening I treated myself to a bottle of Rets down the Caff and worked on a story about cliques.

Monday, 16 May 2011

A Wee Guest Poem: Christie Williamson


Da answer phone's caald
unblinkin licht
accuses me o da crime
at darena spaek hit's nem.
"Look at de," hit seems ta say,
"fir aa dy thinkin, an runnin aroond
an rantin, an bellin desel at life
an gallavantin, du's come hem
ower laet, an dis truth
kin nivvir be erased.
Du haes nae new messages."

Christie Williamson is a poet originally from Yell in Shetland, now living in Glasgow. He writes in English and the language of Shetland, in between bringing up two small children and clinging on to a precarious position in the choppy waters of 21st century finance. His debut pamphlet, "Arc o Möns", was published by Hansel Co-operative Press in 2009.

Saturday, 14 May 2011

It's What Elephants Do

I am Scottish, although I've been living somewhere else, as a foreigner, for the last 21 years. I visited Scotland a few weeks ago, and I felt something strange. I knew what it was then, and I've been thinking about it since I got back.

I am more of a foreigner in Scotland than I am over here.

This might sound cute, but it's not. I've made humorous asides through the years about feeling more at ease in my adopted country than I do at 'home' (for me, a loaded word if ever there was one). When I visit Scotland I'm no more than a tourist, ha, ha! But I've reached a point where I am starting to miss it. I won't call it homesickness; I'll leave that to teenagers on their first trip away from mum 'n' dad and to those people who find some kind of solace as they wallow in nostalgia. I am too much of a realist to bask in the warm aroma of what it used to be like, when we was fab. No, I'm not dwelling on the past. I'm trying to get a handle on what happens next.

I lost count of the number of times these things had my brain reeling: Council Tax; Chip and Pin; Cashback; Credit Rating; Self-Service Petrol Stations; Do You Want A Hand Packing That; The DWP; The One Stop Shop; Too many Druggies, Single Mothers and Young Poles In The Neighbouthood; Aye, They're Foreign And They Come Over Here, Claim Everything And Send It Back. The list could go on. When everything is collated it turns into a pile of stuff that would make for a very boring conversation indeed. And who's got the time to sit down with the likes of me to take me through it? Maybe I'm just too slow. Cashback was explained to me three times, and I still don't get it.

Maybe I'm just getting old.

All the more reason to go back.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Being A Man

Being A Man (for my father)

Being a man
is something I've been working on
for years.
It's hard, this
being a man.

Being a man
isn't about
able to dive for golf balls
in a freezing reservoir
able to cart sacks of silt
over the bar of a rusty bicycle.
Being a man
isn't about
able to plane a piece of wood straight and true.

It took me a while to realise;
I can't define
being a man
in terms of what it's not.
I can only define
being a man
in terms of what it is,
when it's too late.

Being a man
you see
is about
able to take the weight
of your seventy six years
and feeling each knot of pleated cord
slip through my fingers.
Being a man
is about
able to feel
when your journey is done -
you are weightless.
Being a man
is about
being able to let go:
the tail of the cord drops
and splays on the wood.

I feel suddenly alone.

I can only define
being a man
in terms of loss.

There is nothing more to be said about
being a man.
Now it is time to go back to
being a son.

Being a boy.