Thursday, October 11, 2007


When I was about ten, I made myself a skirt with a piece of red felt; I sewed it into a tube, hemmed the top and threaded elastic through for the waist then I hemmed the bottom with white cotton! Mum had taught me how to do a back stitch for seams, but hadn’t impressed upon me the importance of using the same colour cotton for invisible hemming. I didn’t notice the little white stitches dotted around the hem…and was out in the street, wearing my creation, in a flash. When my mother spied me posing in this MINI she dragged me inside and made me take it off…AT ONCE! I couldn’t see what the problem was…it was beautiful. She eventually raised the hems of my dresses a few inches, which didn’t make any difference at all; they still covered my knees…this would be about 1964 when it seemed that the whole world noticed what you were wearing.

She made all my clothes; another bone of contention in later years when fashion reared its ugly head. I hated almost all of the clothes I had to wear, but I do remember a pretty summer dress that had merry-go-rounds on it; that dress was made immortal in a patchwork quilt. Sundays were horrible; I was dressed nicely, and forced to wear a straw hat with flowers on the brim…the hat stayed on my head with the help of elastic string under my chin that itched and drove me crazy. I tried leaving that hat everywhere but there was always someone busy enough to find it for me. I even tried throwing it into the burn but the wind skited it along the bank and it landed safe on the grass. I spent half my time running away from those hats. I was sent off to Sunday school every week, wearing my hat. And, when every other child in the place was showing her knees below her dress, mine were ten inches up and under dresses that practically reached my ankles – this was definitely not fashionable!

Monday, October 08, 2007


Oooh, my friend Carrie and her man are back together again! He’s been and put an end to his past; closed down the shutters for good and the divorce is on its way. He’d been legally separated for years but recently came to the conclusion that he had to find out just how he really felt, so he went back to see if there was anything to be salvaged of the marriage. The break broke both their hearts; they’ve spent the last three months or so apart, and haven’t been able to completely cut communication – a painful friendship. Why are men so dense? They can’t see past their comforts; he’s lived with Carrie for five years and didn’t know that he loved her; was afraid to find out the truth because then he’d have to spill his emotions, ask himself questions and find the answers from a place he refused to acknowledge – his heart. And he is such a sweet man, one of the very few I’ve known; I never had one like him.

I feel sorry for his wife; she might have had high hopes for reconciliation – she had been asking him to return for a long time, which is probably why he was so confused. At least they both know now, and everyone can move on. There are no children involved; it’s all grown-up angst. He and Carrie will sit down now and negotiate their new future; they were happy together but he always had this weight around his neck, and she knew that he wasn’t completely committed to her. I sincerely wish the best for all three of them.

Sunday, October 07, 2007


I think the word muse is old-fashioned, and suggests that writers sit at their desks, always waiting for a 49 bus; and it's just not true. Writers write, then they edit and then they write some more before putting it away. All the writers I know begin from a prompt or an old/existing piece of work; they don't really sit facing a blank screen/page - that's a cliché.

You see this image of writers in movies, like say, The Shining; he’s sitting there with his mind out seeking inspiration and is taken over by an evil spirit. There is also the portrayal of this character as one of these, ‘I’m going to sit down one day and write a book,’ people, who believe that writers do indeed just sit in front of their typewriter and wait for this thing, The Muse, to strike.

Some poets wake up with a whole poem swimming inside their head but mostly they’re pulling images out of their diaries and notebooks to create a piece of work that will evoke some emotion from their readers. It’s amazing when you are gifted with a complete poem but it doesn’t happen often. Usually you are scanning around for a political element to sink into your anecdote or countryside musings; musings is a nice comfortable word which is a million miles away from a capitalized muse preceded by the definite article.

No, I don’t spend time waiting for my Muse; the usual reason for my procrastination is just bone idleness. I can’t understand why my head persists in this practice; it makes no sense. It is enamoured by the amusing situations and characters but when the words build into the tens of thousands it seems to take fright and run off screaming, and I have to drag it back. I’m closer to death than I ever was so I’d better try harder to get it under control; otherwise all these half-written tales will never be born. I remember one day, in the bathroom, when I was five months pregnant; I suddenly realised that there was no going back – it was going to hurt whatever happened; this lump would force its way out of my body, dead or alive, and I would have to suffer the pain. I need to align myself with this image and push these creations out. So why don’t I just get on with it?

Thursday, October 04, 2007


I’d rather be a cleaner than a teacher; when people tramp all over your work they apologise, and sometimes ask your permission to continue. Students don’t usually say that they’re sorry for giggling in your class and disrupting the lesson plan you spent ages working out. Thank the stars I didn’t spend time in that area. I did quite enjoy popping in at Book-week and doing creative writing workshops, or reading something with the younger years. Teaching English to ten 10yr old Spanish kids just makes you paranoid. I couldn’t hack it – give me a mop every time.

I like adults; people should be born at nineteen, with all the angst already flashed through their dreams, although babies are nice – maybe we could have babies as toys. But I quite like four-year-olds, they’re funny, and intense. Though I have seen some awful little beasts on the streets here; I saw a male one last week, belting around on a bike, swearing and growling to himself. He looked about five! And I have seen worse on the streets in the west end of Newcastle; carrying their booty from houses the older boys had broken into. Even comparing kids in the same family, the cousins, my God! When Amazon took her lovely, only child up to visit the Loch Lomond mob she was traumatised watching ToughGuy put the half-nelson on her little red PowerRanger. My older son, TocToc has five children and they all just tumble over each other. One of them can be sitting watching television, quietly, and another will suddenly leap on him. It’s a mad house. Just watching PowerRanger’s face is great entertainment.

I don’t visit often – I like to talk to them on the phone. Though, maybe that’s why they all go a bit hysterical when they do see me. On their own they’re fine, and I would take them most places without having to go back and apologise. I once took three of them out, together…oh my God! Never again. Comedian was about two and I had him in the buggy. As we walked around the west end of Glasgow he leaned out, calling ‘Dickhead!’ at people passing by. I was mortified. My oldest grandson said, ‘Just ignore him granny, he’s a bad boy.’ But they are usually good, and they stop swearing before they turn three. When PowerRanger was about 14mths I held his hand at the top of the stairs, in TocToc’s house, and went to take hold of ToughGuy, he suddenly sat and slid down the stairs on his straight legs! I don’t know why I was surprised. My only granddaughter is three, and is as tough as any of them; they used to drag her around like a rag doll.

It’s a wonderfully strange world; I’m told that their teachers love them, but it wouldn’t be me.

Monday, October 01, 2007


The Archangel smelled of Guinness and home-made steak pie. Eurythmics pumped ‘Sweet Dreams’ into the air and Delphine found herself sinking into the music, all the way to the bar.
‘What can I get for you?’ the man sitting behind the counter must have spoken.
‘You sent for me,’ she looked into his face; his eyes had tears hanging in them.
‘There’s only me, I don’t know...’
‘No, but I do.’ She let him pour a drink and took it with her around the room. ‘Do you mind if I have the arch? And this little space behind…yes, this is it.’

He stood up and heaved his shoulders back but his mouth wouldn’t work. Delphine put her hands on his, held them together and shook him awake.
‘What did you say your name was?’ he looked surprised that he’d spoken out loud.
‘I’m Delphine. Call me Del. I’ve just got to get some things from the car. Are you any good at DIY?’ She was out of the door before he understood what she’d said. And back again with her arms full of fabric.
‘I’m sorry, who are you?’ he rubbed his face.
‘Don’t worry about a thing Bruce, I just need you to nail some of this up for me.’
‘Look, Del is it? This isn’t the kind of place for you. Nobody comes here, it’s dead.’
‘Nothing wrong with dead; I like dead.’ She handed him lengths of purple voile, and told him where to pin it. ‘Can’t you feel it Bruce? Isn’t your hair tingling at the roots?’
‘Only ‘cause you’re scaring me shitless,’ but he laughed.
‘I’ve got needles and pins all over,’ she glanced up at him and they both shivered.
‘I don’t know what the hell I’m doing…or you for that matter.’ He said.
‘Go and open the doors.’ She spread black velvet on a table under the arch; her hand swept tarot cards in an arc, images up. They lit the room. Delphine stood up and switched on a lamp that sparkled stars across the ceiling. Bruce returned and sat at the table with her.
‘Why are you here?’ his face trembled.
Delphine selected a card and placed it in front of him.
‘I am…the answer to all questions.' A jangle of horns, braking cars, slamming doors and shouting clamoured outside.
'Let the President and Prime Minister in first.’