Monday, April 06, 2009


I am no longer Runaway Granny! How shocking is that? I came across a huge file on Saturday, stuffed with print-outs from the first year of the blog, some doodles with AOL and MSN and the travel journals I kept since I left in August 2003. I didn't begin writing here till May 2006. There it was, the tale of my travels, neatly sitting in glossy sleeves - I had also scrapbooked some photos to go with it...but it looked too white to be interesting.

So, last night I cut and pasted it onto coloured sugar paper and made that wonderful episode in my life more attractive. There are a pile of emails I sent to people so they could follow me around the world. As I watched it take shape beneath my hands I realised that I was not that person anymore; I have keys, a car, possessions and a new life beside my loch. I am backed by a mountain, surrounded by trees and granny duties.

I need a new blog. Abra-cad-dabra Ali Kazam...POOF! Present and Sometimes Functional! Ta-ra! And, the new writing blog is here.

Runaway Granny will stay here - it'll slip gently into the past and always be there when we need it. So, I'll say TTFN...Ta ta for now. xx

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Home V Health

I've given up chocolate. No it's not for Lent: it's for health and agility. I drove number-one son and three of his sons towards their camping spot on Loch Lomond today; I even got out of the car and walked...yes I said walked, along a lovely wooden boarded path, through the woods - in the rain I should add, under my big umbrella. All very earthy and natural (not to me) and I did enjoy breathing in fresh air - as opposed to the cloying lily-air in my flat (someone gave me lilies). So, when they climbed the stile and set off in a more difficult direction, I continued along the path to see the pretty view I'd been promised.

And it was nice but not really interesting enough, light-wise, for photography. The wind belted right across the golf course at me and my umbrella; it turned us all upside down and outside in. Definitely time to go home. Oh my legs! I must've walked all of 500 yards. So that's my exercise done for this weekend.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Another Memoir Extract: TRAVEL

1993 : Sitting by myself, wearing white leggings and big T-shirt; bare feet up on the opposite seat, boots under the table and a pile of library books in front of me. I’m watching a man with dark hairy arms, in the seat next to my feet. He has a pinky ring on his left hand and a sturdy beard buried in The Scotsman. Long hairs seep out of the neck of his cotton shirt. I wonder about his hands, how the long fingers would feel on my neck, tangled in my hair. Men like women with long hair. The glint of gold on his collar bone brings me to my senses; I can’t bear a man in chains. A child is grizzling further up the carriage - please let them get off at Berwick. Farmers are out hosing their fields. Still in the flat countryside of England, windbreaks of young trees laze in the beating sun. Fields of rape-seed turn the landscape into a painting with pylons etched between long looping power lines like suspension bridges.

Our table is littered with Yorkie bars, plastic glasses and orangeade. We were lucky the train was empty. I’d forgotten to book seats and had been worried but soothed with the idea of us all in separate carriages. Lee, Paul and Claire spread themselves out around the car but are now sitting together playing cards.We have become civilized travellers. I used to be the-mad-woman-on-a-train, screaming at my children under my breath, between my teeth and kicking their feet under the table. It was a case of, ‘Sit there, be quiet, give him that, leave her alone, don’t say things like that, look at the sheep, there’s the seaside, don’t, you’re the oldest, don’t talk to him then, play cards, shut up, leave me alone, give him some paper, see the mist rolling in, no you can’t, just because, shut up and sit down, Jesus Christ, you’re disgusting, blow your nose, I don’t know, another hour, watch my coffee, WILL YOU GIVE HER SOME PAPER!

'‘There’s the sea!’ Claire stands up. We’re coming up to Berwick. I like coastlines; see myself as The French Lieutenant’s Woman standing on the edge of land, pointing my tragic but beautiful face out to sea, watching for my future; waiting for something to happen. I want a house where the air is on the move: not stagnant - well-travelled air and a great expanse of sky. Sometimes I stand on the pier at Tynemouth. I’ve never been further than one night in Amsterdam.

Lee is 16, Paul 12, Claire 11…and I’m still alive. I dreamed the other night that I was smoking; I haven’t smoked for six years. The skin on my fingers is white/pink – nicotine stains long gone, nails white-edged. I dream a lot; sometimes they’re so strange I fear for my sanity – not the usual crazy feelings but real questions. I once dreamed that I halved Claire in two, put the bottom half inside the wardrobe and sat the rest of her up in bed. A day or two later a loud knocking on the door made me so afraid of what I’d done. I imagined a social worker at the door demanding to see my daughter. I tried to put her back together but the bottom half had withered slightly. Selotape held her together for the interview, which I don’t remember and everything turned out all right! I don’t know why I halved her in two.

A gypsy told my fortune last week. I saw her coming but couldn’t make my body avoid her. She grabbed my hand and talked fast with a strong Irish or country accent into my face. I couldn’t break free and could feel passers-by watching us as we stood beneath the hot air vents in the shopping centre. She said everything would be okay, that someone long-dead watched over me, that a man loved me and I would move house but not far. I kept asking her how much it would cost and she continued talking. As she tucked a small bunch of lucky white heather into my fist she asked me for three pounds. I couldn’t speak throughout the spiel, my chest was bursting into my throat. She took the money and I walked hard for the Haymarket exit, stumbled into Northumberland Street gasping for breath, trying to hold off tears. Why am I crying? I said to myself over and over again.

I glance at the children, ‘Look at the cows, they’re lying down. That means it’s going to rain.’ Lee is teaching them to play Chinese Patience. They’re not listening to me. I press my face to the window as the train curves. I can see its head and tail until my breath clouds the glass. Berwick is behind us now, only half an hour to Edinburgh. We spent a week in Berwick when Claire was one – she had her first birthday in a sand pit. The beach was impossible; it reeked of rotting seaweed, fumes waving up the cliff to keep us away from the edge. How many edges can there be in any one life?

Monday, March 09, 2009

Extract from My Memoirs

‘There is a bleed,’ he said.
Not, ‘Your daughter has had a cerebral haemorrhage.’ No, I get the dumbed-down version. Her brain is bleeding into the nape of her neck, where it will disperse. Well that’s nice and tidy, isn’t it? I’m sitting in a tiny room being diagnosed as thick. I want to be bombarded with enormous words and unintelligible language. She’s only been here a couple of hours and has already had two brain scans; they wouldn’t spend that kind of attention on nothing. I’m choking here, trying to be passive and not in the least dangerous.

A new doctor, Mr Surgeon, throws an assortment of options on the table, all of which include the possibility of death. Claire is an adult and only she can make this choice.
‘I’m only nineteen,’ she screams. ‘I can’t make a decision like that.’
My heart is filling up all the space in my mouth.
‘With the operation there’s a fifty-per-cent chance of death.’ His face never moves and all I can hear is a death sentence. He stands at the bottom of the bed – this is nothing like the scenes in TV drama; he doesn’t take anyone’s hand or pat the patient’s arm.
‘What if she doesn’t have it?’ I ask.
‘It could heal itself, or she might fall into a coma.’ He’s a silver-haired automaton. ‘She could live the rest of her life and it wouldn’t burst again but…’
‘I can’t…’ she says. ‘Just do it.’ Her boyfriend is on the other side of the bed, frozen into silence.

The surgeon goes on to describe risks and complications during and after the operation, then in the recuperation period. She is all I can see and hear; her whole life is inside me - I’m pregnant with this beautiful young woman, this busy, loving and sparkling entity. Suddenly I’m a mother again. I’ll be her Rotwieller; she’s too nice; she’ll need me. My head fills with memories of other hospital trips; sons with broken bones, blood and gore and handsome doctors; sexy arms holding x-rays up to light boxes; long muscled thighs stealing my attention. This is different and I am consumed. Death has stalked me all my life but this is my children; I need to stand up and fight. I can’t be that woman anymore, that single parent with one eye on the lookout for the right Mr Right.

They said she'd have time to rest before the operation but here they are wheeling her bed out of its place, unlocking the brakes.
‘It’s only five o’clock,’ I say, walking beside the bed.
‘Mum! It’s too early. He promised.’ She’s crying, grabbing our hands.
‘My God,’ two of her aunts come around the corridor and fall into this scene. Jean is instantly terrified; her husband died ten years earlier from the same thing – he was sent home from three hospitals, nine visits in two days, to die in his armchair at the age of thirty-two.

We trail through the hospital to Theatre, like the day my mother-in-law was taken to the nursing home; the whole family followed her wheelchair, two-by-two, down the road to help settle her in, all of us trying to hide our tears from the children. My mind is flashing clips of film and all the while I walk beside the bed, holding her hand, shushing her, telling her it’ll be okay even though her voice and face are boring holes in my heart. I am stunned at how quickly they take her from me. Ron, her boyfriend, doesn’t know how to act and I lead him to the front door so someone can give him a cigarette. My sons clasp me in their arms and I am dwarfed.

How do you spend five hours while surgeons are cutting into your child’s head? You imagine anything but the saw that will split open her skull; you call everyone in your phonebook and ask them to send up prayers for your only daughter; you allow yourself to be held and soothed by an enormous extended family outside the building, where they keep arriving; and you attempt to drink the awful coffee, watching your six-foot nephew stand and drip tears onto the cafĂ© table. Then you have to get away from them to be on your own, just a quick walk around the block, not long enough for them to worry. The traffic flows past me, unaware of my trauma, on its way to the tunnel, belching pollution but I need to take deep breaths; it doesn’t matter what goes into my lungs. I am caught in the glare of a huge sunflower painted on the side of a building – it’s a sign.
‘I won’t lose my daughter. I know this.’

When I come into sight of the family I feel them relax. We move upstairs into a waiting area opposite the lifts. Of course there are arguing factions; sisters-in-law not talking to each other, separating the group, all of us trying to ignore it. A lift opens and I catch sight of Mr Surgeon standing at the back. Suddenly I’m flying at him, aware that he wasn’t going to come out and talk to me. He leans across and presses the button to stop the door closing and walks towards me, still with the calm face.
‘Tell me, is she all right?’
‘Fine. No problems. She’s in intensive care. You can go down there now.’ He gives me this good news without an emotion, no smile, but I want to wrap my arms around him. Maybe I just did.
Only a handful of us stay. This family constantly amaze me at the support they instantly present at the first sign of trouble. I urge them to go home, promise updates. My two sons and Ron gather ourselves and move to intensive care.

This is my daughter; she is complaining about the tubes that are collecting around her neck, hanging down from her head; her hand tries to swat them away. It’s proof of her personality, her repaired brain. Even an atheist’s prayer is heard by whoever is up there; my friends are diverse and odder than normal – thank God for them.

On the day she was born I was surrounded; by the kind of neighbours who were part of normal life then, the knock-and-walk-in; gossip or begging bowl; founts of local knowledge. Meg from next door and Maggie through the wall were keeping an eye on me because I’d been in labour all day – if you could call it that. I’d had a little pain in the morning, regular enough to make me believe. My father-in-law came up to collect Lee for a birthday party. When I told him that I was in labour he brushed it off.
‘You’re not in labour. I should know, I’ve had fourteen kids.’
I made him take Paul with him too. It was a Saturday so Matt had gone off to do his thing but I’d warned him to keep calling for updates.
‘We should’ve paid the phone bill,’ I said. Father and son – nothing like each other and yet the instant deafness makes them twins.

The weight of that child bore me down but I couldn’t sit; I could only wander around the flat. There was no pain. Where I went Meg followed. Flo downstairs ferried messages up to us from Matt until they stopped. My waters broke and we sent her down to call the ambulance. I tried lying on the bed but when the urge to push came I leapt up and held onto the bunk-beds, crossing my legs, trying to keep her in. I was terrified of everything that could go wrong and frightened that the lack of pain was a bad sign.
‘Where’s the bloody ambulance?’ We all said it at one time or another and sent Flo back down to find out.
‘Eddie forgot to give the address,’ she said. ‘He’s out of his face but it’s on its way now. Hold on.’
She’d asked me earlier if I wanted a joint. I said no. It never did anything for me; alcohol had always been my thing.
‘Oh God I can’t hold it any longer. Flo, roll your sleeves up, you’ll have to do it.’
Meg was hanging out of the bedroom window watching for the ambulance. I kept ranting about germs and shouting at her to close it.
‘It’s here,’ she ducked her head back in, and then out again. ‘Hurry up, she’s delivering,’ she called down three flights to the crew.

The head was out and still no pain. Flo’s face froze. I was so glad to see the two uniformed men walk into my bedroom and take over – so was she. She moved up to my side and took my hand. Meg did the same on the other side. I told the ambulance man that I had no contractions.
‘So just take a deep breath and push when you’re ready,’ he said.

She came out in a rush and I didn’t ask what sex – I assumed it would be another boy. I couldn’t believe I had a girl at last. Meg threw the window up and leaned out.
‘It’s a girl,’ she shouted to the street.
Another ambulance arrived, bringing the midwife who delivered the afterbirth and took care of Claire. Maggie was in the kitchen making tea. My bedroom had never been so full – tea for eight.

They packed me onto a stretcher and took us downstairs; that was scary. The midwife carried Claire behind me. When we got outside the front door the whole neighbourhood was lined up applauding and wishing us well. I pulled the blanket over my face, wanting to kill Meg because she’d whipped them up and was embarrassing me…and that stupid Matt had missed it all.

And that stupid Matt missed most of her life; there is no explanation for his behaviour and neglect of his children – even a conundrum can be solved. He has been told and will be here tomorrow. Even after all this time I still want to kill him, pan his face in with a hot skillet, stab him to death with a blunt spoon but I will be calm. I won’t let acid drip from my tongue – Claire will be proud of me.

Sunday, February 08, 2009


Oooh we got snow! And it looks like the real thing; there has been the odd fifteen minute flurry over the last few weeks but this is lying on road and roof. Maybe I won’t have to go to the dentist on Tuesday. Luckily I can work from home if I have to but I can’t see it lasting – we don’t get snow in Glasgow! Well not the kind that grinds everything to a halt, not for years and years. In fact I only remember it happening once, when my son was about three; 1979, maybe. Diesel had frozen and there was no public transport – main roads were packed white and hardly a car to be seen.

I’m sitting here, cosy and warm with the heat of the laptop melting my knees, watching a repeated CSI and trying to pad/edit the novel. I do have to go out tomorrow but just along the road. The car is invisible; not in a drift – it’s not that bad. I love being inside when the weather is interesting and made supper suit the mood - a bowl of mashed potatoes. Life is good.

Of course I could check out the weather forecast but I never believe them anyway. Maybe we’ll be buried in it by next weekend. I went for a drive around my loch yesterday; blue sky and sunshine made it feel like a spring day; I got out of the car and sat on a bench for about a minute before changing my mind. I’d taken the SLR camera that had survived the fire, to test it and finish the film still in it, but the sun was too low and glared off the water right at me. Oh the mountains were stunning in their whiteness; I was right under Ben Lomond. It would all look fabulous now.

I'm reading Steph Penney's The Tenderness of Wolves so feel completely swamped by snow. Oh God what a life they led then, those early Canadians - here's a toast to all adventurers and settlers who drove themselves to early graves because they wanted something better.

Monday, January 26, 2009


I am a good editor; I love nothing better than ripping writing apart, cutting and stripping, always trying to sharpen and hone – that’s why I never get to the end of anything except poetry! That and ideas for new novels. I can’t sit down and write a simple short story because I find subtext, themes and before you know it there’s another book in the wings. So, it’s either poem or novel; there’s nothing in between – even the flash fiction I write demands to be big, bigger, biggest.

Inspiration, stimulation and perhaps increased circulation has got me moving in the right direction and I’ve been working on two of these poor, neglected works. Maybe this year. Have I said that before? Definitely.

This time though, I’m approaching projects that are well developed and am charmed by the characters and their stories – bloody impressed is what I am! I created these babies and they’re okay, so I should finish them. I will. Then why am I fannying about on here?

Alright, I’ll do something in a minute; I’ve also neglected my lovely blog; I’m supposed to be a serial blogger, but not this month, or last month. Hopefully when I look back on this time, from my busy writing routine, I’ll name it My Thinking Phase and have fond memories of how comfortable this sofa was. I’ll wonder why I thought I could write whole novels from that position instead of sitting properly at my desk or at least a table. But I know writers who write in bed!. Why can’t I be a better writer on my sofa?

Of course it doesn’t help that the telly is flashing in the background; I can’t hear it over the noise of the washing machine but I’m still aware of the movie and keep pausing to catch up – it’s a bomb on a plane thing, and I have seen it before – yeeeaars ago…so why am I watching it? Because I can.

Saturday, January 24, 2009


All I’ve got to do is stop
eating trash – start
walking fast, to slow
down the onset
of death.

All I’ve got to do is be
tick the boxes – see
in gym.

All I’ve got to do is swim
instead of float
facing front – not up
pay attention
take part.

All I’ve got to do is grow
a love of sport
bore myself to death –
not list’ning, go

All I’ve got to do is find
a way to play
when I’m not looking –
vacate my mind

All I’ve got to do is stop
messing around
pound the pavements, right?
You’re hounding me
I’ll try.

All I’ve got to do is learn
to accept death.
Flattened by a bus
or heart attack –
who cares?

Monday, January 12, 2009


I’ve been writing!!! I think I’m back in the swim. Also been spending time on the collaboration site Protagonize but it seems to have been taken over by young writers from a site that’s closing down; it’s all very cliquish and busy with their chatter. I’m hoping the excitement of a new place will settle and things will return to some kind of normal, but it still has the same effect on me – it makes me write, is still stimulating as long as you don’t mind being ignored. I’m not there for ratings – I want more than that; I want writing practise and collaboration.

This has been a great weekend in that I’ve done nothing but read and write…and watch a little telly; I’ve been cool, calm and collected. There has been NO decorating or cleaning or cooking – tomorrow is another day and I plan on doing all three. The slow cooker is set on top with a chopping-board, bags of ancient potatoes and all the veg from the fridge; I’ll be making Stovies (Glaswegian stew with sausages). I’ve lived on pies all weekend; they were wonderful, mostly because I haven’t been able to cook or heat pies for the past 18 months. My little oven & grill is great…but the good news is that I’m being given a gas cooker, but will have to pay to have it fitted. Still, it is good news; I haven’t stirred anything in a pot for a long time.

I’m beginning the New Year with bank charges and visits to the dentist for root treatment – but what a slap in the face! I hope it acts as a torrent of cold water to wake me up and make me use the space I’ve created for anything other than watching bloody TV. I will turn it off. I spent hours last weekend in front of so many repeated episodes of CSI. This weekend might’ve gone the same way if I hadn’t set up the table in the corner here and brought in my twirly chair – I usually curl up on the sofa with the laptop which is not really conducive to writing. I promise to turn it off and write.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009


I’ve been given this award by Jo over at though not sure I deserve it for neglecting the blogging world over the last few months, but I accepted it gratefully/graciously, and am ready to pass it on. (bow) I thank you. Oh it’s too much, I’m embarrassed and my ball-gown is getting soiled by my happy tears. Okay, enough of the speechifying, I would like to present this award to the following people, for their wonderful blogs:

BetteJo at
Poppy at
Mum’stheword at
Jenn at
Tania at

The RULES for presenting this sought after Award are:

Pick 5 blogs that you consider deserve this award for their creativity, design, interesting material, and also for contributing to the blogging community, no matter what language.

Each award has to have the name of the author and also a link to his or her blog.

Each award winner (upon acceptance) should show the award and put the name and link to the blog that has given her or him the award.

Link to the Arte y pico blog, so everyone will know the origin of this award.
Show these rules.

Monday, January 05, 2009


I’ve just finished reading Dodie Smith’s ‘I Conquer the Castle’. It’s absolutely fabulous. I bought it a while back – see earlier post – and read a couple of chapters but had gone back to my phase of not-reading-books-but-reading-blogs-and-watching-too-much-telly. So, I picked it up last week, when I’d finished the first novel I’d read for ages, Carol Shields’ ‘Swann’. Now that was interesting for different reasons but I’ve left my notes on that in a little book at work, I hope – I can’t find it here. Anyway, back to the castle; this is a book to dive into – amazing narrator, I loved it the whole way through and wanted to live there, with them, but only in the summer and autumn months.

It’s cold here; the sun has shone like a little liar through the windows all day but I was suspicious and put on my boots and woollies even though I would be in the car, mostly. I did everything I was supposed to and treated myself to skin treatments for my poor old face which seems to be suffering from some kind of teenage flashback – SPOTS; the kind that turn up and hang around for ages then another arrives just as that one is fading – so that there is always two…and I can’t keep my fingers off them. Disgusting I know, but there it is. In my new life I’m going to be rid of them, fitter and healthier. I might even attempt to walk around my loch.

Just been over at Poppy’s place, catching up; she wasn’t in so I had a good read but no tea or sherry or cake. I need to get back to my literary life; been back with and getting rid of novels I’ve read or don’t want to. This morning I received a beautiful hardback, ‘Essays on Women’s Lives’ by Kennedy Fraser. I’m going to prowl through that next, before a second Carol Shields and a Margaret Forster. But first, I’ve got to get up off this sofa and TURN THE BLOODY TV OFF!