Maybe Its Time To Change, I Dunno, Go To Idaho And Clean BBQs...

Well I think I might just be done with this stupid Island. What is the point of this place? We grip to these grey hills like they mean something, like it matters that we are here, like it matters that they are there, well it just so overwhelmingly clearly does not. They could sink into the sea and we could sink with them and no one would even notice. Why should they notice? Our world here is really not as special as we like to claim it is. There are many others like us and many other places like this. So why do we other? Seeing the same people every day, seeing the same sky and the same grass everyday, resting your head on the same pillow in the same bed in the same room for ever and ever and ever. Well fudge to that. I’m out.


I’ve got options you know. According to a friend the states there are amazing BBQ cleaning business opportunities in Idaho. So I might just go to Idaho if you’re not careful, is that ok? Is that ok with you? Well you’re not going to make me stay because I’m going so bye.


Still Air


It’s a musty old shop this shop sometimes. I don’t tend to open up the windows too much over the winter months because, as I’m sure you can all imagine and/or know, it gets really, really, really very cold. It gets so cold that often you actually can’t open the windows because they are frosted shut. I’actually broken a few window frames in my life trying to let some air in during the winter months. Like, you wriggle it and shake it and try and give it a few bangs then just get a little carried away and give it one shove way too many and you hear that foreboding creaking of wood and you know you are in trouble.


So yeah, you can’t really be opening the windows all to often. Even if they aren’t frozen shut, opening them undoes all the good work your fire has been doing over the days and nights of these long, cold, bitterly cold winter months. So, here I am, stuck in a stuffy warmth for months at a time, huddling my sheep’s wool around my shoulders. Drinking tea for the warmth, taking the bag out sooner every time. The radio broke so now it’s just me and the silence, the long cold winter silence.




Well, I’ve sort of sorted both problems in one fell swoop, and quite by accident. Some lad drove through town last week with ‘Beatson Industrial Fans And Electrical Motors‘ written on the side of his van. Now this was a van I had never seen before, which I knew meant something was going on. Predictably enough, a half hour later, I hear the bell of the door going off and in runs Gary’s boy Charlie ‘Come down the Church there’s a fella selling fans!’. So down I go and ended up picking up a bloody big fan that keeps heat in but circulates air AND makes a nice calming whirring sound, a sound apparently beloved by many…

It certainly seems to work for me. I sleep down here now by the fire. Curled up on the floor like a dog, a happy dog.

Great Scottish Poems

A few years ago BBC Scotland (the bastards) gave us our ‘100 Favourite Scottish Poems’ as selected by their listeners. I appreciated their naming of the list as ‘favourite’ rather than ‘best’, though favourite is still obviously favourite of a select few, those who are so bereft that they actually listen to and participate with BBC Scotland.



But there we go, we live in a world of fools and philistine, and are most probably both ourselves. Here are some of my favourite Scottish Poems.

The Watergaw by Hugh MacDiarmid

Ae weet forenicht i’ the yow-trummle
I saw yon antrin thing,
A watergaw wi’ its chitterin’ licht
Ayont the on-ding;
An’ I thocht o’ the last wild look ye gied
Afore ye deed!
There was nae reek i’ the laverock’s hoose
That nicht–an’ nane i’ mine;
But I hae thocht o’ that foolish licht
Ever sin’ syne;
An’ I think that mebbe at last I ken
What your look meant then.


Beautiful words. The brutal beauty of the Scottish landscape provides ample opportunity for metaphor with the harshness of lost love.

Scotland by Alistair Reid

It was a day peculiar to this piece of the planet,
when larks rose on long thin strings of singing
and the air shifted with the shimmer of actual angels.
Greenness entered the body. The grasses
shivered with presences, and sunlight
stayed like a halo on hair and heather and hills.
Walking into town, I saw, in a radiant raincoat,
the woman from the fish-shop. ‘What a day it is!’
cried I, like a sunstruck madman.
And what did she have to say for it?
Her brow grew bleak, her ancestors raged in their graves
and she spoke with their ancient misery:
‘We’ll pay for it, we’ll pay for it, we’ll pay for it.’

Another wonderful work, we truly find our national self in poetry. A self which so often can seem confused and lost.

Canedolia byEdwin Morgan

oa! hoy! awe! ba! mey!
who saw?
rhu saw rum. garve saw smoo. nigg saw tain. lairg saw lagg.
rigg saw eigg. largs saw haggs. tongue saw luss. mull saw yell.
stoer saw strone. drem saw muck. gask saw noss. unst saw cults.
echt saw banff. weem saw wick. trool saw twatt.
how far?
from largo to lunga from joppa to skibo from ratho to shona from
ulva to minto from tinto to tolsta from soutra to marsco from
braco to barra from alva to stobo from fogo to fada from gigha to
gogo from kelso to stroma from hirta to spango.



More Ideas. More Water. More Worry.

So we got the bloody hot tubs. No surprises there. From the moment she got the idea in her head I could tell there would be no stopping it. I tried to put up a bit of an argument but it was all a bit of a song and dance. All a lot of nonsense if I’m honest. I was like some alcoholic telling himself he’s not going to have another whisky when he knows full well what is going to happen. I was like some fool telling himself he’s going to really do it this time, stand up to the office bully, tell him what he really thinks of him. Then it comes down to it and he shuts up and takes it as always. All those false starts, and he can feel every one of them for what they are. Because when you’ve got a weakness you know what it feels like. No matter how much denial you’ve buried it under. You know.


The Barnacle Geese take to the sky.

So now we have a hot tub. With bubbles. I expected a lot in my life, but I never expected to own a hot tub with bubbles. But there you go. However, with my daughter, if you give her an inch she’ll try and steal a mile. And she’s on it again. Now she wants me to get a bloody swimming pool complete with some swimming pool heat pumps or something so people can have a dip all year round. In the Scottish Isles.

snowThese Scottish Isles.

When she said ‘You’ve got to get a hot tub Papa’ I strongly remember saying ‘Hot tubs! You’ll be wanting bloody swimming pools next!’ Well, here it is, she wants swimming pools. I’m really not sure, it’s undoubtedly true that people have liked the hot tubs, but they don’t require much effort to enjoy do they? You just sit there and groan. Well, most of the people we’ve had in there so far have just sat there and groaned. But maybe that’s just how they enjoy all things. Weird mainlanders the lot of them.

So what do you lot thing? You were all useless last time but I’ve been told that the internet apparently has some value to human endeavor and progress. Well I’m endeavoring to progress here, and maybe a warm swimming pool would be just the thing to get that going.

I don’t see what’s wrong with a dip in the fresh Scottish Sea. But I guess I’m just a hardy local.


“…and he [a shepherd] muste teche his dogge to barke whan he wolde haue hym, to ronne whan he wold haue hym, and to leue ronning whan he wolde haue hym; or els he is not a cunninge shepeherd. The dogge must lerne it, whan he is a whelpe, or els it will not be: for it is harde to make an olde dogge to stoupe.”

I read this little bit in The book of husbandry by John Fitzherbert, a book writen way back in 1534. When he says ‘it is harde to make an olde dogge to stoupe’ he means it is hard to train an old dog to learn the practice of getting his nose down to the floor and follow a scent. I’m pretty sure this’ll be one of the earliest versions of the ol’ phrase ‘you can’t teach a old dog new tricks’, that is basically what their on about here. You got too learn these things ‘whan he is a whelpe’, when you are a younger. That is just the way it is.

But the world waits for no man, and I will be damned if I’m going to sit around whilst what I’ve built falls apart around me. I’ll be bloody damned if that is going to happen to me. I have seen enough people turn into old codgers bemoaning the modern world. Hell, I’ve been one myself for the past 5 years or so, sitting here moaning, I’ve had a tough time of it and I suffered, but I’ve wallowed to long, I ain’t going to wallow no more. Roy is back. And I got to make make plans.


Taking in the view with Bessie. She’s the lady on the right.

So it’s plans that are going to be made, because Roy is no fool. So I was down at the market in Bunnahabhain last weekend, and I was chatting with an old friend who shall remain nameless, he claimed to have the inside track on a hotel that was going bankrupt and selling of all its nonsense. Apparently some great retirement dream of a luxury experience on Islay quickly fell fowl of bad planning, bad food, bad ideas and a bad marriage. Ain’t that always the story.


Down the bay.

Anyway, one of the things they happen to be selling off is a couple of, and bear with me here, hot tubs. Yes, the bloody warm bubbly things. I know. He said that if I was quick I could pick some up. Well. I’ve got a few little lodges on the land, and my bloody daughter (whenever she shleps back from that London town) keeps saying I should be packing them with bloody tourists. Well, she’s going on at me now, telling me to check out the popularity of log cabins in scotland all over this internet. She says I should snap these up and put them with the lodges and get people in. Sounds alright.

So maybe I’ll give it a go, it’ll be worth a shot I guess. Nothing better to do. And you’ve got to make plans…

My Isle.

The Praise of Islay

See afar yon hill Ardmore,
Beating billows wash its shore,
But its beauties bloom no more
For me now far from Islay.

O my dear, my native isle,
Nought from thee my heart can wile,
O my dear, my native isle,
My heart beats true to Islay.

Though its shore is rocky, drear,
Early doth the sun appear
On leafy brake and fallow deer,
And flocks and herds in Islay.

Eagles rise on soaring wing,
Herons watch the gushing spring,
Heath-cocks with their whirring bring
Their own delight to Islay.

Birken branches there are gay,
Hawthorns wave their silvered spray,
Every bough the breezes sway
Awakens joy in Islay.

Old Photograph Port Charlotte Islay Scotland

This old ditty reminds me of what I’ve lost. This beautiful little song sings the praises of a vision I can barely see these days. Islay, O my dear, my native Isle. It is me and I am it. I only wish it would be so forever. Now when I allow my mind to linger to much on this place I still call home, another old song comes to mind:

Your old road is
Rapidly agin’
Please get out of the new one
If you can’t lend your hand
For the times they are a-changin’
Bob Dylan

I don’t really know these roads anymore, the rocks pushed to the side and the middle smoothed to ease the passing of new feet. My feet had learnt the rocks, learnt them from birth, learnt how the island moves and sways, where the winds blow, when the tides run. I learnt this place from the beginning. It was mine, I loved it, I cared for it. I still care for it.

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I don’t mean to sound sad or bitter, I welcome all here. I mourn what has gone though, knowing it won’t morn me when I pass. I sit here in my little corner of this wide world, in my little shop, waiting to meet whoever it may that comes through that door, more often stranger than old friend these days. But I welcome you all.

Come find my corner if you wish. I’ll be there.