The Dean of Drumnadrochit



Woody and I
parked my Lambretta
beside the village hall.

From here, as if in Vietnam
we could clamber up the hill
through a muddy undergrowth
and down again unseen
behind the hotel staff quarters.

I was the burning romantic one
The Outsider, the Dean of Drumnadrochit
the Brando of Ballachulish
Woody was the rough lad from The Isles
tall and crinkly round the eyes
as if his whole 17 years of life
had been an unexpressed joke
he was waiting for a chance
to laugh at.

He wanted to join the RAF.
and I would be a writer.
We made a solid pair
with a purpose…..
absurd it was
but lacerating ourselves for first lust
in a black September night
was a suppressed laugh
and a uniting influence.
It was also absurd
and beyond discussion
that the hotel management
didn’t allow visitors in the maids’ rooms.
Predictable and unacceptable….
(the silly old reactionaries)
and it gave us the bond
we craved.
I had seen The Guns of Navarone.
Woody, who often watched TV
was familiar with Milk Tray adverts.

Dressed in black polo-necks
we fell into ditches
and whispered and signed
and covered each other
down through the dimly moonlit brambles
to the cottage where the girls were.

We knocked furtively
and the door was opened fast
by Lindsay
who was sliding chocolates
between her ripe red lips
and who giggled
and flashed her black eyes
over my shoulder
in case the boss was watching.

It was somehow recognised
that she was mine
though there was no reason
to presume this
except we had already kissed
at the Barn Dance.
She was vivid
in tight
blue denim flares
white shirt
on white breasts
red scarf
below lipstick.

Woody was whisked
to another room,
and I followed Lindsay
like a dog follows
someone with a stick
as she chattered
with  gleaming teeth
opened two cans of export,
sat us on the couch
and kissed me violently
with beery breath
and an Aberdeen accent. 

Lindsay was good at snogging
on couches.

All the time we kissed and groped
and rolled in her long black hair
she was telling me about Maurice.
Maurice, an older taller boy
who went to more dances
was apparently
the world’s greatest lover.
Maurice, a bit of a smoothie
but wow was he good in bed.
Not sure if she liked him
but hey she certainly liked his loving.
I listened to this
as we clasped each other close
feeling a mixture
of libido
and terror
at this simultaneous rejecting
and receiving.
Why did she talk about Maurice?
I was ready to give her my passion,
my love even
and the desire hurt
even more than the jealousy.
I had an aching in my heart
and in my crotch,
and it seemed that night
that there was an aching

she said it
because she was a sex-maniac who didn’t care
because she was falling in love with Maurice
and I would do meantime,
because she just wanted me to be unsure
in order to control me,
she said it because she was a sadist
because someone had told her to say it.
she didn’t mean it
she did
she thought I was too


I heard giggles and squeaks upstairs
then cans opening
outside in the hall,
a laughing Woody
came in with more beer
two chambermaids
and a joke about it.

We were flushed under a blanket,
breaking our wrists to reach each other’s genitals
though she was muttering something
about a Bloody Mary
which I presumed
I didn’t understand
because I wasn’t a Catholic.
We buttoned our waistbands and flies
and I put Lindsay’s red scarf round my neck
muzzling into the last warm
hormonal fragrance of it
and left, still wearing it
for the cold assault course up the hill
beer swinging round my belly
long sighing murmurs below it
and a dark excitement
circling my abdomen
by the harsh route
back to the community hall.

Once out of earshot
Woody was loud and proud
about his victories and acquisitions,
though I suspect he didn’t believe
in risking unwanted pregnancy either.
(Penetration was of course
out of the question
because no contraception
was foolproof)
None of that expected laddish
irresponsibility for me,
you wouldn’t catch me
at a shotgun wedding,
or even wielding an unlicensed weapon
I was a principled, old-fashioned boy
or was I perhaps
not only stiff
but scared stiff?

Surely Lindsay hadn’t  actually
done it with Maurice, had she?
I could believe it of Maurice
but surely not her,
girls just dont do that, do they?
(Not any girls that I know anyway.)
Then Woody said something smutty
about Lindsay
and I glowed with pride silently.

On the way home
the Lambretta skidded on gravel
going round Carr’s Corner.
I lost control and Donny Mc.Phee, the builder
from Torlundy was coming the other way
with a full load in his dumper truck.
Donny had to take therapy for years
and was never the same again.
I left intensive care after 10 days
and made a full recovery.
Woody lost an arm,
both legs were almost severed
and he lay screaming under the truck 2 hours.
He never made it to the RAF
and decided to become a writer
which he learned to do with his left hand.

I joined the ambulance service
and kept Lindsay’s red scarf
for the next ten years
sniffing it occasionally
when I felt like a memory.
Eventually I threw the wool fabric away
but stored the red scarf inside
my personality
where I’ve carried it
into my eighties.

These days
I watch TV alot
with my wife of 40 yrs.
I shuffle out of the bathroom
with a yellow stain spreading on my trousers
slump on our couch
and wonder about
the future of my grandchildren.
I think about matters
of philosophy
religious belief
and the great

Most of all
I worry about Maurice









Mary Jane

was plain but plucky
plug ugly but lucky in life and love
a seizer a chancer
when they first invented
the go-go dancer
in a pub called Canny Mans in Morningside
a place where the ladies of Grange
are at home and range, long and grey
rectangular as granite
and sex are bags for putting coal in
such was the elocution there
during the sexual revolution where,
on a giant cakestand
Mary Jane, broad of frame
and game became
half-dressed and gyratory
and the Canny Men of Edinburgh
a little masturbatory

Outside a Giant Poodle sniffed and quietly led its
mistress back to the conservatory























When I was five I suffered greatly from the cold,
despite wearing warm mittens on elastics.
Sometimes I’d run home to mother
with icicles hanging from my bare knees
and frozen tears on my cheeks….

…then I met Janice, an older woman
(she was six, at 4’2″ a head and shoulders above me)
and every inch an arsonist.

I immediately knew she was different.
She taught me how to play with matches,
we joined the Bryant and May Club
and subscribed to Swan Vestas Weekly.

We started with small twig bonfires by the river,
then graduated to litterbins.
Oh the joy of the colour of flame
curling round things
black bubbles
columns of soot
thick as thieves!

We thought of trying petrol tanks
but decided to wait until we were older
and could handle it properly.

Then one day we set fire to a whole cornfield.
The Fire Brigade had to come
and interview my mum…
…she skelped my bum
and sent me to bed
with no supper.

Lying there
I felt so much warmer
round the bottom
and at the bottom
of my burning heart.

Janice grew up to be 6’6″
and every inch a role model
for terrorist men.
She became an IRA trainer
but I never saw her again.






















Arctic Coast

to a web of strings
under a frozen ocean,
groaning as it
wrestles its own

in a pile of tin cans
with a few tin cans to live in;
they used to link them all
with lengths of dirty string
stretched  taut across the hemisphere
in some boyish bondish
dream of interception.

Here, listening in, were
polar bears and foxes
the line rubbing on blue ice
where the woolly mammoth fell
and the Siberian tiger, shot
between the ears
limped off into wilderness
trailing scarlet.

(Us next? they said)

Here, the over-vivid reds
were sent.
Their voices would echo
in frozen fields
of solid sperm,
unwelcome thoughts
detritus, concrete
execrable words
and muddy excreta in spring,
a grey prospect
in an unchosen place
of spindrift and chill warnings.

The bleak fifties
the tin can
so many had died
in their boots and ushankas
through lack of tinned food
was taught in all schools.
It was known in the west
they could cross straits
and lurk under beds
in apple pie towns
or jump into tincans
leaving the earth
to see it better
write a red letter

(Best do the same
they said.)

listening, always listening
except when the aurora
paraphrased the paranoia
and sang like saints around the sky
stinging mortals with reminders
that their tincan technology and
superpower psychosis
was scrambled by the
supercharged states
of darkness
and light
of all colours

no listening then
for a while,
God’s electricity
would silence
morse tappers
keep fingers off buttons
make nuclear heads
and ears sing with crisp life
in this cold fossilized war

when the singing faded
over that great shared pool
with the planet’s wildest edges
big men and big talkers
took sides again loudly,
tapped phones
ate meat
and drank bourbon or vodka
to forget they were
being listened to.
























The militia of Berisha
trundled their tired old uniforms
into the town
for a show of strength
there was
smasmodic shelling
at the failure of pyramid selling
and salvos at the failure
of the point of pyramid saving
the rebels were poor, male, angry,
they wore wild hats
and had given up shaving.

I could have told them
it was an iceberg with no tip
especially with the Mediterranean
melting your backward flanks.
but its a good excuse
to wheel out the tanks
and counter the atrocities
the feudal animosities
hanging on in turmoil
to the longforgotten
state of it






















A Dump in Ascension

“Have you ever had a dump in Ascension?”
the man of the world asked.
“This reminds me of it.”

Inside the old CCCP regional building
the men queued for their morning relief
clutching pages of pravda
at doorless cubicles in ascending order.
The commandant used to shit first at the top,
then the major and less major players
then the squaddies squatting
in the great levelling position
which slopes till the lowliest
egalitarian condition
is to proffer your bottom
at the bottom.

Here the entire party’s neoclassic discardment
conforms with the monument of its architecture,
slides hugely along a corrupt
back channel of emolument
and down down down
that huge hole in the argument.
























Arab Spring

At first I was all for it….
a revolution? Why not?
I’d gone east when it started
and coming home
the city was changed,
quiet, tanks blankly
staring on corners
snipers on the roofs
and I could not reach my wife
Nasreen…untouchable… perfect jewel…..
fear made me impotent
my sons were unmade
I was alone in the night
and this was the price of freedom…

Then the TV showed
the rebels frying a human heart
with smiles and a joke
I vomited
unable to accept
but little choice ….

Now I’m a good revolutionary
though I scratch my head sometimes.
My mate Sharif feels the same….
he’d make a good foreign secretary
what with his languages
and so on.

I still remember the TV though
It was like Eid….
where you slaughter a sheep humanely
then skin and cook and eat,
celebrate with your loved ones
except with this
the human was skinned first
kept alive as long as possible
while the nurses in burkas
sliced him with scalpels
saying this is the flesh
the flesh of a rat
and Sharif was there
with a gun…..

I’m sure he’d make
a good foreign secretary….
what with his languages
and so on
and me,
I’ll start a human resources company
come the summer























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