Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Travellers' Travails

Not that I would wish the travails currently being experienced by travellers to and from Britain and Europe on anyone, but maybe there is a silver lining to those ash filled clouds produced by that volcano in Iceland.

Perhaps, just perhaps, it will make people a little less irritatingly blase about the immense privilege of travel. Perhaps it will show them that it is no small thing to travel to and enjoy other lands and that the world is not a theme park but a big, wonderful and sometimes awful place.

Saturday, 10 April 2010


If August is a wicked month, a seductress who holds out the promise of all sorts of sweet and sensual delights, then April is as poignant as a child alone in the street.

During the course of the month, the winter, in all its barrenness, is such a recent memory that an extra piquancy is lent to our yearnings for better times ahead.

April is the green shoot of hope that we must cling to if summer is to be a real possibility.

Friday, 9 April 2010

What Is Vermeer's Girl With A Pearl Ear Ring Really Thinking?


"Listen, lady, listen",
I cried.
"It sings in my ear"
and in my head
The Orient shimmered.
His gift was exquisite
a world unto itself.
powerful with secrets, it shone,
and whole worlds
danced before us
in the pearl gleam.

Amused, my lady placed
the ring in my ear
and I stood
among the beauties and mysteries,
a servant girl,
recorded in the pearl glow,
adding gratefully
to its silent wisdom.
And sparkling seas
that flow out
to strange, unknowable lives
passed before my eyes.

my lady, though rich
and handsome,
is spoiled and bored,
without the wit to understand,
the value of the gift
love lays in her hand.

John R. Nicoll.

Wednesday, 24 March 2010


Ho hum, another day, another cookery programme. The latest person to court our taste buds is Sophie Dahl.

She seems, what with abundant displays of her cleavage and many a "come hither" look to be trying to out vamp Nigella Lawson (the glutton's crumpet - if you'll pardon the pun) which is to say that she manages to make herself look even more ridiculous.

Food and sex? I don't know. It's getting so that I can't even look a Banana Split in the eye without blushing. Don't even mention Knickerbocker Glories!

Cookery programmes are not what they were during their Golden Era which, to my mind, ran from the mid nineties to the first few years of this century.

That was the halcyon age of Keith Floyd, Sophie Grigson, Antonio Carlucci and Claudia Roden. The latter two were, arguably, my all time favourite examples of T.V. cookery programmes.

Antonio had the good taste to keep his cleavage to himself as he took us, week by week, on a tour of the various regions of Italy.

They all had their distinctive dishes and the avuncular Antonio showed us, in rich and colourful detail, the culture behind the cuisine. It wasn't about stuffing your face and I do not remember sex rearing its ugly head. It was entertaining, erudite and, as I have just proven, memorable.

Claudia Roden did the same for the countries bordering the Meditteranean and it was fascinating to see how one country's cuisine influenced that of another, often in unexpected ways.

These programmes treated us as intelligent, discerning adults, not greedy schoolboys with a crush on the French Mistress (Lawson and Dahl). They were a satisfying three course meal finished off with a good brandy in front of the fire as compared to the insubstantial t.v. "snacks" offered up to-day.

The present lot of hosts are a pretty unappetising lot, are they not? If they are not foul mouthed yobs (Ramsay) or hyperactive eternal schoolboys marinated in their own p.c. culinary self righteousness (Oliver), they are nice gels pretending to be sluts (Lawson and Dahl again).

Another cookery programme? No thanks, I'm not hungry!

Picture is of the inestimable Claudia Roden

Saturday, 13 February 2010


The third sunny day in a row. Maybe the "old crow" of winter is getting ready to fly off. Hope so. However, I won't feel that Spring really is on the way until I see my first snowdrop or crocus.

When I was in primary school (a million years ago) the teacher used to put a Hyacinth bulb in a clear glass vase of a shape which would let the bulb itself be held while letting its roots be dipped in the water below. Round about this time of the year - perhaps a bit later - she'd proudly take the vase out of the cupboard and show us how the roots had grown and forged downward in search of water. To this day I can never arrive at Spring without remembering that moment and thinking that Winter had really gone.

Donkey work to-day, committing a bit more of my comic novella to blogform. It's still a work in progress and will change. Feeling a bit naked about it at the moment. Am also working on a screenplay and a children's story about which more later.

Much in the media at the moment about Gordon Brown, the prime minister's, tears for his dead baby. I don't doubt the depth of his suffering but it is very suspicious that we are hearing all this so soon before the election. It sounds like the crassest of P.R. ploys to show that he is human after all. Normally, I would give him the benefit of the doubt but he has broken so many promises (referendum on the Lisbon Treaty not least among them) and shown such utter contempt for the Democratic process that I don't feel like giving him the benefit of the doubt.

Watching Labour trying to hang onto power reminds me of the sound of nails being dragged down one of those old fashioned school blackboards.

Friday, 12 February 2010


Like most of the Western World, the past eighteen months have been pretty grisly for me.

Like you, I have had enough of global financial crisis, climate scares, swine flu scares, politicians lining their pockets and the growing army of politically correct zombies telling me what to do.........and think!

As far as my own situation goes though, there are other factors which have led me to ask where the joy in life is to be found these days. I'm not getting younger (though I prefer to quote Miss Jean Brodie: "I am in my prime!"), my social life is not exactly glittering and I live on my own in a small flat in what used to be a small Scottish Fishing Village called Broughty Ferry. The plus factors are that I live directly above a pub which I treat like an extended living room and the "Ferry" is a charming place where practically everything you could need is five minutes away.

Don't get me wrong I am not feeling sorry for myself. I am just taking stock - doing a personal audit as they are fond of saying these days.

No, its just the brutal fact that I have managed to do so little with my life that has just recently landed like a mailed fist in my solar plexus.

I am self employed, in a very modest way, and that hasn't been a barrel of laughs recently. I seem to spend all my time scrabbling around to pay the rent etc so just so that I can go through the same mad dance next month and all the time my dreams of writing and film making get pushed further and further back into some even more remote hinterland. The things that I want to do I should have been doing by now. That was the plan. I'm a prisoner of my own cowardice. Well, I was until the dawning of this new decade.

Something about the clock ticking over into 2010 emboldened me. This is probably the last chance I have to stop my dreams from congealing beyond the point of no return.

From now on, creative life is moving to the forefront. If I am going to be broke I would just as soon that it was for a worthwhile reason. I don't want the worst of both the worlds any more.

All messages of encouragement gratefully received