Dec 2011 - Jan 2012

January 28th

An update of one put up 18 months ago.

posh bastards



January 27th

Currently typing up prose pieces for the projected anthology this year. The following was published in 1991 after I was asked to contribute an article to the Scotsman for a series in which people wrote under the heading "What I Hate About..."  It was republished in my Reports from the Present in 1995 but I had forgotten about it.   As for internal references: in 1991 Ally McCoist was a player with Rangers, not as he is now, its manager. Paul Dazinger was a member of the American golf team which beat Europe in the Ryder Cup. The report from the war in South India you might recognise from Orwell’s 1984.


What I Hate About the News is its Definite Article



It’s one thing to have wide-angle spectaculars of twelve-rockets-at-a-time whooshing upwards into a dark desert sky, patriotic flag somewhere on screen; it’s another to have wide-angle spectaculars of what happens to the conscripts on whom the over eight thousand disintegrating “bomblets” fall from each salvo. That is taboo. It is also apparently taboo for party conferences in 1991 to discuss what has been—and is—the suffering, destruction and death caused by “the largest bombardment in military history” for which MP’s trooped through the Aye lobbies in the time since the previous party conferences met. It really is quite extraordinary. As someone born in 1944, I was reared in the slightly comfortable belief that there was something peculiarly wrong in the behaviour of a German nation whose people apparently never saw—or never bothered to find out—what was happening in the camps during the war. Now I know only too well that my own country can be firing Cruise missiles into foreign cities whilst the only topic hanging over Glasgow whilst this is going on, is whether or not Ally McCoist will be on the bench or on the park that afternoon. True there has been a deal of self-congratulatory public sympathy, for a convenient while, over the plight of the Kurds; convenient in that for over seventy years no-one cared twopence about their repression by several countries, and convenient in that the present oppression can be laid at the door of Saddam Hussein. Even more to the point, the forces who had laid waste so much within the country of Iraq from which the Kurds had fled, could be portrayed to the public at home as angels of mercy.

Every time a report is about to appear describing the horrendous state that Iraq has been left in after the bombing, another He-Wants-To-Take-Over-The-World story swamps the TV channels with another revelation. In fact, as a TV show, the “war” and its aftermath has been a great success. Witness when there was talk of the bombing getting under way again recently: the Suneven carried the headline Gulf War II. They’d got the semiotics spot on. George Bush announced he was thinking of releasing a sequel to the original video. Unfortunately we in Britain can’t expect to share every triumph with the Americans: as the American golfer Paul Azinger put it, “We went over and we thumped the Iraqis and now we’ve won the Ryder Cup.” Azinger was expressing a truth about how both events have been handled for domestic consumption. The PR firm which John Wakeham hired to handle Gulf War marketing can take pride in the commodity it persuaded the public to consume.

Of course they did have precedents to guide them. There was the famous TV broadcast—I can’t remember if it was BBC or ITV—“A newsflash has this moment arrived from the Malabar front. Our forces in South India have won a glorious victory. I am authorised to say that the action we are now reporting may well bring the war within measurable distance of its end.” And there was the daily hate-sessions on TV with The Beast, that Demon from the Deep who is son of Scargill and Khomenei and Gaddafi and Hitler and Benn and Stalin and Red Robbo, all fused into one and stretched from Saudi Arabia to Turkey. But we bombed him! My goodness how we bombed him! Napalm and fuel-air-explosive, multiple rocket launches (the “black rain” as the Iraqi conscripts called it), Cruise Missiles fired from ships, B-52s carpet-bombing Basra, thousand-pounders in the daily routine of two and a half thousand planes. And the helicopters that can hover just over the horizon and fire these rockets that take out the tanks though they don’t even know they’re there! Kapow! Zap! And then there was the bulldozers and the earth-shakers that could just bury them all alive in their trenches as you charged through the desert! Crrrunch!

A landscape with nothing but bodies and vehicles that looked as if they had been in a tandoori, which is maybe what a fuel-air-explosive bomb is, in its way: but we won. We won. And it’s been worth it. Now we can make sure The Beast never uses weapons of mass destruction, he’ll never get using the chemical weapons such as we’ve been making and stockpiling for decades, he won’t get any nuclear weapons like the Israelis, he won’t get any napalm, or fuel-air-explosive bombs, or Stealth Bombers, or F-111s, or Cruise Missiles, or any other of the things we need in order to further the Peace Process in the Middle East. So we can sell more and more arms to the Israelis and to those Arab family dictatorships that will keep the good old petrol tank away from the “Empty” sign, and maybe one day when somebody nice to Mr Bush replaces The Beast, we can organise pop concerts the like of which you’ve never seen to help the poor starving and dying Iraqis who will all officially have become Human Beings again. Then and only then can we maybe think about bombing Iran. Or maybe Syria. Or do you think it will be Cuba? Or finish the Libya job as an hors-d’oevre? One thing you can be sure of: it will all be part of the Peace Process.








January 26th





January 25th

burns supper a







January 24th





January 23rd

In the dark;  the space that is at least your own.


January 19th

If I want to become depressed, I only have to read not the latest war plans in the media's spot-today's-villain PR baloney of the Nato-UK-American-Israeli-Gulf monarchs’ alliance; I only have to read the feature called “Today’s Poem” in the local paper the Herald.

It isn't the formally safe poem with its safe "poetic" content that necessarily depresses. It’s the brief pious homily that precedes the daily poem, instructing the reader How To See What The Poet Sees. It's a time warp, Scottish Certificate of Education Higher English circa 1962.

Whatever the poem, old or contemporary, it's  a Herald pinkie-in-the-air dose of daily "cultural" medicine, day after day deadening the spirit with a wee warm glow. The wee warm glow that tells the reader “This is what poetry is;” and the wee warm glow that tells the reader that an “expert”—albeit, like most reactionaries, an impregnable snob—is holding them in the safe hands of the uplifting wee warm glow that is poetry.



January 18th

Upcoming public readings:

Tuesday January 31st Reading the Waves event Street Level Gallery Trongate Glasgow 7pm      Poet and songwriter/singer Linda Jackson’s annual evening showcasing some of her College of Glasgow creative writing students’ work, finishing with a reading by guest writer, this year myself. (I did it two years ago, it’s a good night with music as well as the words).

Thursday February 23rd The Stand 5 York Place Edinburgh 6 – 7 pm  A reading mainly of work on my CD launched in Glasgow in November. As then, CD’s can be bought at the event for £8 instead of the usual £10.



January 12th 2012


nato spring




December 31st 2011

Sirte, Libya November 2011.  Deserted, formerly a city of 100,000 people.

chocks away

patronage 1b

patronage 2



December 28th

The artist Stephen Skrynka is choosing and designing text being cut into a steel fence to surround a new public building in Bridgeton. The finished fence will include the names of the six local Calton weavers shot by troops during the weavers’ strike of 1787; some poems from local schoolchildren, a poem by Edwin Morgan, and my own poem from Six Glasgow Poems “The Miracle of the Burd and the Fishes”.

Stephen has sent me from his iPhone this picture of the sheet containing my own poem newly cut at the welders.






December 25th

This year's card.


maist a yi




December 24th




December 22nd


December 12th 2011

Start again, in the theatre of war that is language UK plc.

Cameron is bombing his own people! But that's ok. So is Milliband, and Clegg.

My mother was bitten by clegs a few times when she was out the back garden. She had an allergy to their bite, and her legs would get blisters like the yolk of an egg. It was quite serious. She hated clegs.

This from the Dictionary of Scots Language online:

clegs a





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