Thursday, 29 March 2012

200 words: Young Neil Takes the Wheel.

Old Neily Whyte's rough, indented, sea-weathered hand pulls young Neil aboard and soon the pier at Kames begins to disappear. The green shore waves the puffer boat goodbye as it dissolves into the day. Soon the engine's constant chug through the choppy amethyst water is a relentless backbeat to the freestyle squawk of the gulls, zipping magnetically above their heads.

Young Neil's senses are spraying in the bubbling, beautiful Kyles of Bute. Barely noticing his grandpa and the sailors passing a bottle of Arthur Bell's finest. Nor their merriment and mirth growing arms and legs. From her window, Margaret's heart lurches as she spots the puffer weaving haphazardly though the Narrows. She is unaware that, with a "Grab the wheel, boy" her grandson, aged twelve, has just been made skipper.

What does Neil do with some drunken sailors early in the morning? Steady as she goes, saving the day, bit by bit, he navigates them home...

Back ashore the story washes around the Sound. Next day, his dad Alex, although vexed at his own dad, proudly recounts events at the Millhouse Powderworks...

Close on one century later, still proud of Neil, I pass this folklore through cyberspace to you...

Friday, 16 March 2012

Left Discarded.

Maybe the fact that I've been finding myself working out ways to eat five portions of fruit and veg by lunchtime over the past few weeks should have alerted me.

If not that, then heading to Morrisons in search of avocadoes and oats, having read a chapter of Bear Grylls' book, certainly should have done the trick.

Oh and did I mention that I've taken up golf? Being able to purchase a second hand set of clubs this week has whetted my appetite in a different way- for getting out onto the course.

All of this adds up to one simple fact: I must be getting older. It happens, you know. And as I turned 39 this week, I had a sense that I was deliberately heading out on a pilgrimage: the Mecca of a slightly healthier lifestyle and who knows what else...

Going into Oxfam on Saturday and picking up a driver, a putter and eight irons for the princely sum of £19.90 also set me thinking about health. I can't help but wonder whose clubs I have inherited and why?

But, on a brighter note, approaching forty has also forced me to look back. And in doing so, I've decided to embark upon a spring clean of something that I have held dear for many years.

Writing music has been in my blood since I was a youngster. I vividly recall writing a tribute to our pet cat Tinker at the age of about twelve. Verse one went something like this:
"One day Tinker the cat was walking along the road. Then came a big bad witch and turned him into a toad..." Hardly Paul Simon I know.
From then until now, I've penned a wheelbarrow full of lyrics (many of which should have been wheeled to the rubbish dump, I'm willing to admit) in the hope that some memorable melodies might turn up. Not many have, but I'm still trying. The perfect song is, for me, like that elusive, tantalising hole-in-one that I'm just waiting to ace... 

I've attempted, several times, to quit writing songs, but I honestly can't. I sing in the shower, I sing to my pupils at school (ask them about "The Critical Essay" song), I sing at church and I make up songs in my attic. I enjoy singing to my son and we often concoct one-time fun songs that will be instantly forgotten. The ones that stick become ritualistic, like the song for cleaning teeth each night: "Clean your teeth, Make them clean, make them fit to be seen by the Queen..."

Now don't get me wrong. I know these songs are not going to be remembered by many in years to come. However, they've become part of a collected set of memories and I often use them to recall specific occasions in that 39 years gone by. There's "Smile," the song I wrote for the girlfriend who was to become my wife. There's "West End Walk," the song that I wrote to express the feelings I had during a bout of depression, several years back. They've become little windows that I can look through to remind me of my past. They form part of who I am.

Which brings me to "Left Discarded". It's a collection I've started putting together of some of the music that I've managed to record, somewhere, somehow over the years. The recording equipment I have is hardly state-of-the-art, so as you can imagine, these are fairly rough and ready, but I simply wanted to have them permanently on record. Maybe, the act of doing so will let me move onto something different.

I'll be adding to the collection over the coming weeks but for now, the link below will take you to what has been "Left Discarded." If you get a chance, have a listen and if you like any of what you hear, please download a track or two for free:

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Solar Storm

The instant news
Halts my cereal spoon
In its tracks.

A geomagnetic storm
Derails my teacup too,
From its usual orbit
Of hand to mouth.

No need to panic
States Charlie Stayt
As I resume my BBC breakfast:

I sit and wait
As forward particles charge
In time to the experts.

"Expect them to strike
0600 and 1000 GMT."
(Or later as the day goes on.)

It's all up in the sky tonight:
Altered flight paths,
Sat navs blacked out,
And the aurora borealis
From your own back yard.

This talk could convince an alien
That, by association,
We own and run our solar system;

As, out of our tiny minds,
We launch the line
That we control
The out of control.


Saturday, 3 March 2012

100 words: Caddy Girl, Kilmacolm (c.1920).

Outside the club-house she persists with her motley band of brothers, until a striding, capped American in plus-fours chooses her. With a simple "Bessie's the best at searching rough", he marches on like he's the next Walter Hagen, cigarette trickling from his mouth. Elizabeth manouevres the bag. Soon clubs clink rhythmically across her back.

The only girl on the course, she proves him correct, once, at the fourteenth, unearthing treasure from gorse and heather.

Finally, he tips a full shilling for her troubles...

Chuckling, seventy years on, Elizabeth confesses to several "lost" golf balls, stored strategically in her knickers...


White trash-lovers, Freaks for all they’re worth, Anarchy in beady, brazen faces, Seizing stares, Standing ground...