Wednesday 29 December 2010

On Whatever

You reach a point where the bullshit has to stop. You make investments - money, time, emotions. This is nothing new, of course - you've been here before. You knew what to expect. But this time it's different, because you realise it isn't a game. It's your life.

Wednesday 22 December 2010

Doing a Reading

Here's some videos of me reading from Drive!

Terry has a rather large problem. His father wants to destroy him.

Meet Terry's father, The Reverend Kinlochleven. He's an ordained Minister of the Church, but fancies himself as a bit of a gangster.

Sammy plays the drums in a band called Drive!. He's good, but he's not Clem Burke.

Monday 20 December 2010

Book News

"...the great achievement of the book is its depiction of the pub and club-centric music scene in Edinburgh in the 80s...anyone who was there is sure to be enthralled by this fascinating debut novel." The Skinny

Just a reminder that Drive! is still available at the following links:

Sunday 19 December 2010

Good Neighbours

There is a barricade of shoes
blocking access to our door.

They are not our shoes.

There is a barricade of shoes
blocking egress from our flat.

They are not our shoes.

I pull the laces tighter
on my MA1s;
manly leather grips my shins.
I cut a swath through
Bulgarian Adidas, Nike
and Hong Kong Prada.
Plastic and faux-pigskin
bounce off the walls - I miss the light
by inches.
of the size 9 boot.
A language that respects no borders.
A proportional response.

Thursday 9 December 2010

Flower of Glenalmond

I can see him now:
the young man,
who was really just a boy.
It was almost summer.
It was a foreign country,
but not then.
He had removed his shirt,
as if it would make a difference.
He had a piece of paper
flattened on his knee.

Three weeks left in this oasis.
(he always wrote of people)
Sunday bells appealing
across a billiard lawn,
tolling the knell of this parting dream
in which I find myself
so willingly immersed.
Three weeks of borrowed time.
Flower of Glenalmond.
How true.

He was trying to understand something,
that would-be poet.
(his words remained hidden for years)
Self-inflicted wounds also heal,
I want to shout,
Things had run their course.
I know this now.

As I watch,
the boy turns
and raises a hand to his ear.
Is it a sudden breeze he feels?
Or is it hindsight
whispering garbled words of comfort
from an undreamt-of middle age?
Another language, almost.
Words from a foreign land.
Not Scotland.
Not now.

Tuesday 7 December 2010


The seed took root
beneath the box.
The seed, in fact, was there
before the box was lowered.
No confusion, though.
The shoot, blind,
knew which way to go,
and curled easily round the wood
up through the loose soil
to the surface.

It was a beautiful flower,
but it didn't last for long.
The wind blew,
scattering petals to
I don't know where.
The flower died, of course.

In the grave,
all that is left of the root
is a feeling,
as the seed,
well compressed,
sprouts poetry.

Monday 6 December 2010


And here's your starter for ten. How does the Dux of the school end up in the white slave trade?

Ah, old Bamber, God love 'im. One of those bastions of TV quiz shows who fell by the wayside as the years progressed. Bit after my time, though, his demise, I mean. My trusty Guardian informed me that he was replaced by none other than Jeremy Paxman, and what do we know about him? Newsnight? Giving politicians a hard time? If the truth be out, and it soon will be, I couldn't really tell you. I'd already fled the country by the time he was elevated to the status of Quizmaster, albeit on a show whose audience is in a constant state of bafflement. Which raises the question - why do they watch it? I'm all for audience participation. Well, I would be. I'm a teacher. Or was, until I came across this little earner. But what's the point? 'Sulphate compounds carry how many oxygen atoms?' Who cares? I mean, it's even worse than the specialist round on Mastermind.

The truth has to be faced. University Challenge was one of the essential low points in the series of events that led me to...well, here.

Let me explain.

Wednesday 1 December 2010

The Hotel Continental, Thessaloniki, 1st December, 1989

It was 21 years ago today that I came to Greece to 'be a writer', whatever I thought that meant. I was twenty four years old. I thought I knew it all. Of course, I knew nothing. My ticket was the cheapest I could find, from a dingy office in Oxford Street. It was one way.

The Hotel Continental, Thessaloniki, 1st December, 1989

The first night
of a new life.
The street is called 'Komninon',
if I have deciphered correctly;
it's a while since I did Greek at school.
Is it a flower? I wonder.
Or a mountain?
I have no idea, but
Komninon is here,
and so is the Hotel Continental.

We ascend in silence,
the concierge and I.
The lift is vintage,
a concertina door,
not a creak as we rise, slowly,
hoisted by elastic bands nearing their last.

We splash through puddles of second floor Domestos,
or the local equivalent.
At least the place is clean.

Then alone in this small, cold room.
The bed, the table, the chair.
Through closed windows, a partial view of old men playing billiards,
the angle of shoulder, elbow and cue,
and laughter I can only see.

I find (despite the bleach) what I knew would be there.
I knew it all along.
My cliche: the squashed bug on the wall.
On closer inspection, two bugs,
still wet.
The previous guest,
reviled by their twitching copulations,
has recently voted with his shoe.

I sit at the table.
This is why I came.
The first words of my new life.
Full of insight.

My God,
what have I done?

I look to the window,
but the billiard room is dark.
No more silent laughter.
I stare back at myself,
my pencil poised
in a hand that isn't mine.