Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Tomorrow Never Comes

How long will it last -
A month, a year, a day?
It may be soon past,
When all there is to say
Is: "I wonder why we ever..."
Or: "I'd like to know who..."
Or: "Were we really together...
"Just us and me and you?" 

So just in case
Let's make quite sure
That no-one ever says:
"They could've done more..."

Let's do all those things
We shouldn't but want to
Before the red robin sings
And snow falls onto
Our hopes and covers them
before we have chance
To seek and discover them,
Let's have one more dance.

Whilst the music still plays
And let us be the ones
For whom everyone says:
"Tomorrow never comes."

But today stays right here,
as you should, my dear.



Sunday, 27 March 2011

Moonshine and Mountains

from three be four
a fading photograph
burst splendidly into youth and lies
back in the heather so soft
to soothe the ache at the very roots
of the young pine
more than just the peak pointing higher
than neap tide waves would warn
more than just the only song beneath
the sound of coming storm
so much but a year can but
yearn for one by three in all
clutching carefully clover four-leafed
shall the seagull shadow die
cast in the first night of day
only the one eye can perceive
only the seagull can know only
no-one can be sure
only memory free from wise men's 
lies can believe

8 August 1974


Wednesday, 23 March 2011

First Day

"Er, excuse me, I am supposed to report to staff department at 9 o'clock." I said in that terribly polite tone one uses on the first day in a new job. I had battled my way through a pair of ancient swing doors into a dark green marble-walled, marble-floored and marble-ceilinged vestibule. One of the walls had a hole in it through which peered a pair of spectacles.

The reply came as rather a surprise. Not that I really expected the little gentleman to say "Och, laddie, jest yoo be waiting there fra wee while," but I did expect a little tartan flavouring. "If you would like to take a seat, sir, I'll ask someone to come and collect you." said the spectacles.

I sat down and stared at a magazine called SMELSA or something like that and spebt ages trying to figure out what the title meant. Just as I had given up hope and was reaching for what could have been a gaelic edition of the Financial Times, a gentleman came bustling down some plush red staircase and remembered my name at me.

"I'll take you to the department where you'll be working," he said.

"Good morning," said I, which seemed a pretty stupid thing to say in reply but it wasn't a bad morning for the time of year and it didn't matter anyway as He Who Came Down The Red Stairs was half way towards some more swing doors.

When he opened them I realised why there were so many doors about. Behind them the carpet came to a grinding halt and ahead stretched a long narrow corridor, painted a digusting shade of yellow or brown, and no more Red Stairs anywhere.

Bustling Man suddenly dived into one of the doors which, luckily, opened at about the same time. I expected to see one huge desk with a tiny one nearby, the former occupied by a quill-penned, bespectacled, dusty Thin Man and the latter covered in leather-bound ledgers, topped by a tea caddy with a sinisterly vacant expression on the seat behind. It wasn't that bad at all. there were a number of leather-bound ledgers here and there, and it did take a minute or two to wind my way around a maze of desks, but it didn't seem a bad place to start office life.

The Departmental Manager had practically stood to attention when Bustling Man walked in. "Must be something to do with the Red Stairs," I thought. However, despite seeming to do something nasty to his knee in the process, he smiled pleasantly at me before muttering something about St. Patrick.

He went on to tell me all about the Computer and what it didn't do - therefore what I had to do. I couldn't remember whether I'd said Good Morning but as he was doing such a good job explaining how The Computer didn't I thought it best to look intelligent.

the rest of the day was spent shaking hands with Mister M and Mister A and Miss T and Miss M, who later turned out to be Freds and Berts like the rest of us, trying to find room for an extra desk, dicovering where the canteen staff hide the roast beef and staring at some green stripes on white paper with black blotches here and there. (I later doscovered that this was Computer Print Out paper, not new wallpaper as it had looked like it might have been.)

Just as I had learned which way up the main File Interrogation (Vee hav vays?) Schedule should go, the place caught fire. At least, I thought it had caught fire. Everyone disappeared in a way not unlike those girls on a David Nixon programme. "Ah, it must be quarter to five," said I. It was. (Why on earth the bother with the Big Ben rehearsal every Monday morning I do not know as it seems abundantly clear that everyone knows exactly how to get out and to do so extremely quickly already.)

As i went out I glanced up at the Red Stairs. Bustling man was coming down, accompanied by Big Tall Smiling Man. "Of course," I thought, "must be another way to the canteen. Wouldn't believe they were the chefs, to look at them, though." I soon learned that they weren't but it was an interesting thought at the time.

Actually the canteen deserves some mention. Not because it was all that exciting, but it was the only other place I had been all day. It was Upstairs - hard grey stoney ones for the likes of normal staff. But there was no haggis. No haggis. I mean, after travelling 400 miles for a job bring in not much more than £2.50 for each mile in the forthcoming year, there really should have been haggis.

Summer 1973 Two years after starting my first full-time job in Edinburgh, I wrote this article for SEMLAS the Society's in-house magazine.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

This Is A Party Political Advert ...

Since we came to power
Without scratching the bath
Prices have in fact only quadrupled
Free with ten thousand packet tops
Noise levels in most cities have dropped
Snap, Crackle and Pop
Unemployment is no longer a problem
Because this powder really works
More housing is being planned
Weetabix the builder tra la
Meat prices have risen somewhat
No, it's soya bean!! It's soya bean!!
But petrol has stayed level
Ah but don't 'ee knock it all back at once
Jim lad, I mean, Mr Callaghan
Costs less than other leading brands
Does go on a bit
Easier than any other gloss paint
However we shall make sure that
It even protects you from tropical heat
By Spring next year
The gum that really lasts
We shall have won the battle
Against even ground-in dirt.


16 August 1973 One of my favourites.


Monday, 21 March 2011

Before and Altar

Of course, the Minister was late.
Well - he had to be:
I was getting married
And two not-so-quick halves
At the Six Bells
Before joining two not-so-Christian halves
With church bells
Must have been a necessity.
I didn't mind that so much
But when "What are we doing here?"
Was his first question
I began to wonder and
With "Are you sure you want to
As his second,
I felt like demanding my
Six pounds for services to be rendered,
Seven pounds fifty for the organist ("He's good."),
Including VAT and the Collection,
Anyway, he rustled about in his robes
And mumbled about in his beard,
Cried "God for King .. er .. I mean
"Andrew and Anne.
"Let no man pass under."
(With the emphasis on man
As if I'm not allowed any fun.)
He then pronounced Usmananwaif
Rather well
And looked coy
Which must have been the sign
For us to do the necessary -
Kissing ceilings and all that.
Quite enjoyed that bit,
Although we did wonder why
Everyone suddenly stood up.
To get a better view?
No. Photograph time.
When everyone got a chance
To justify wearing
Hats like double Pimms,
Suits like Bonnie & Clyde,
Colgate toothpaste and

After that and reception were
All over we headed for Crete
With little evidence of the day
Apart from rings on our fingers,
Smiles on our faces
And absolutely clear consciences
About unaltered passports
Proclaiming us still
Mr and Miss!
"Well .. er .. we forgot .. er .. to change it,
"You see.


16 August 1973


Friday, 18 March 2011

Afterthought Before

Dew on the grassy slope -
Each little world of uncertainty
Stretching awake in the twilight.
Where will the sun go?

Blue on a pale cloud -
Coverlet over daily routine
Wrinkled brow of morning.
What colour did night see?

Forget-me-not leaves -
Children on their knees 
Unfurling to remember daytime.
Who'll turn the last page? 

Gold ring on her finger -
Window on another lifetime
Turning again through time.
When shall we meet again?

23 May 1973 Two days before my first wedding, I remember wondering a lot about what it all meant. 


Friday, 11 March 2011

Rosyth Halt

Standing in a crowded old carriage,
Red seats covered by grey suits,
Fur coats covered by wickerwork

God! I've missed the stop!
Suppose I'd better get off -
Running in mid air,
Trying to catch up with the platform -
A huge slab of grey steel
Newly forged slipping past
Like an escalator going nowhere,

Following now a small stone path
Of fawn through oily green
There's a bridge over water that
Cannot be seen but
Must be there.
The train looks like a small wooden toy -
But there's no chil;d's hand to push it.

Almost casually the engine turns and
Topples over the edge of the bridge.
Carriages helplessly follow their leader
But there's no child's hand to save them.

Muffled splash is the background of my wonder -
I just stand there feeling rather strange
And very relieved,
Wondering why the hell I got off but
Thanking God that I did.

No house in sight but a shed nearby
That for one second was a phone box
And then for another a signal box
But I enter regardless.
Inside I am just two feet tall
And clambering up to a phone which
Seems to materialise as I think of it.

Some faceless official hands me a coin
For the phone.
He just sits there
In blue, dark blue and black,
Oblivious to the world outside.

Presumably sometime later
I tell them the story in full
But no-one seems to take interest
As I hold out my hand in desperation -
There's no child's hand to hold mine.


22 February 1973 From a dream. Rosyth Halt was the old name of a station near the Forth Bridge. Strange.


Thursday, 10 March 2011


The front door is a funny purple colour
And the back door lock is stiff
The hot tap leaks and drips all night
And there isn't a bath at all.

But there's you and me and a fire
To keep us warm when it works
And a pile of saved-up shillings
To spend on smiling in the hall.

There's a squeaky bed with a lumpy mattress
And a light that you have to get
Right out of bed for the switch 
And a draught at just the wrong height.

But it's our little flat for
Five pounds a month on Monday
All all that we want is right here.
And it's your turn to turn off the light.

30 January 1973 First home 38 Nelson Street, Kirkcaldy 


Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Still Portrait

In shades of brown
The autumn faded memory
Still lingers;
Youth held in youth
Like the sparkle of water
'Neath Winter frost.
Eyes that still gaze
Through tears and joy
Of long ago now
Look far too young
To love someone of my years.
So far away
In time and istance;
Maybe somewhere I lie too
looking far too young.

30 January 1973  I rented a room in Edinburgh from an old chap who'd come to Scotland from Lithuania, or Latvia maybe, in the 40s. He showed me a few old photos - all the had from his home and family.

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

How I Wish It Would Thunder

How I wish it would thunder
And the skies darken over
Letting loose an enormous downpour
Of truly torrential rain;
To hear that restless rumble
First overhead, then afar,
Growing steadily fainter
As the sky becomes brighter. 
False fear falls to real relief
When you know it's all over.
How I wish this damn drizzle
Of mournful mist would cease;
Neither more nor less water
Would fall in a great storm,
But this lasts so much longer
As we all wait to smile again.
No-one screams, no-one worries,
No-one runs for shelter in doorways ,
And there are no children's noses
Pressed firmly against window panes,
Nor eyes blinking at lightning,
Or watching skies brightening,
Gazing in wonder.
How I wish it would thunder. 

2 January 1973, Alloa, Scotland


Sunday, 6 March 2011

Little Shed

I ran into the little shed
For shelter from the storm.
Comforting pine wood panels
Kept me dry and safe and warm.

The lightning flashed,
The thunder roared,
As I played with some sawdust
And drew on some old bits of board.

I drew a picture of yesterday
With my finger in the dirt -
Of sunshine and those blue skies
And the little girl I'd hurt.

I'm drawing pictures now of another day
Called sometime soon and when,
But she'd cried when she saw the rain fall.
Perhaps the sun'll soon shine again?

If it does then she'll forget me
And marry, have children galore,
But I hate the thought of more rain for her.
And wish I'd thought of that before.

The windows are hazy - like my mind.
I reach out to try and clear
But whatever it is that makes me unkind
Is stuck on the outside I fear.


October 1972




Thursday, 3 March 2011

Not Any More

And I turn again
With my back to the wind
Of change and cool unknown,
As I return to my homeland
With a handful of memories
And a hopeful smile in my eyes.

The nearer I get to home
The further I stray from home
And you with your welcoming warmth.
Yet still I carry on
Down endless grey paths
To a land that no doubt will have changed.

Deliberately alone,
Accidentally lonely,
I feel that I just have to go there
So that someone will tell me
In words harsh not soft 
That it's their home -
Not mine any more.

March 1972


Wednesday, 2 March 2011


Sleep my dear
And let me watch you
In wonder as you dream.

Dream, my dear,
And dream of me
Watching you
Sleep, my dear. 

20 April 1972

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Do You Take This Man...

Will you be there
When I smile at you
Will you be there
When I cry
Will you be there
When I feel so good
Will you be there
When I sigh
Will you be there
When I sleep with you
Will you be there
Whilst I dream
Will you be there
When I'm unnoticed
Will you be there
When I'm seen
Will you be there
When the day goes wrong
Will you be there
When I'm sad
Will you be there 
When I feel strong 
Will you be there 
When I'm glad 
Will you be there
When I wonder why
Will you be there
When I ask you
Will you be there
When I want you to
Will you be there
When you want to, too. 

20 April 1972



Winding pathway through the conifers
Takes us to a milk-white cloud 
And, busrting through in an instant of snow-flakes,
We stare disbelievingly at the wonders of the night.

See the tortoise race the hare,
Hear the long grass whispering, 
Feel someone calling out,
Know you're in paradise.

Strange eyes in well-known faces
Glance our way in surprise
As we take to the stage and star
In our very own première. 

With our bright lights or
Our smiling faces or
Our effortless performance or
Our sound of applause,

Hoping that Grandma
Will be proud of us.