Busted in Baton Rouge.

Loading grain in Port Allen and its 1964 , maybe 1965-bloody hell that gives my age away!

The passage up river had been livened up by a glimpse of New Orleans -no NOLA , no acronyms, there was  a President, not a POTUS-LBJ! LBJ!  how many kids did you kill today? Some shit memories creeping in.

And some not so-

We carry four deck cadets and two engineering cadets-late teens, and they have left behind a Britain well and truly rocking with the Beatles and the Rolling Stones.

But they haven’t left behind the clothes and the hair styles—no close- to- the- scalp  cuts for these boys-Mick Jagger is somewhat conservative compared to our lot.

They get an afternoon off and off they go ashore and I turn to Dick “Pity we’re working, be interesting to see how the locals react.”

“The river pilot couldn’t believe his eyes, his jaw hit the deck when Lofty took him up to the bridge.”

There was a ferry in operation just up from the berth across to Downtown Baton Rouge then not quite a modern high rise city.


Time passes and the boys arrive back somewhat dishevelled but very , very happy.

Seems like, as they ambled up into town, they attracted some attention-autos screeching to a halt, people turning to stare, things like that.

They ended up in some café/drugstore. Sitting near a window suddenly aware of people milling around on the sidewalk and having a good stare inside. Fortunately any apprehension they might have had disappeared when they noticed that their viewers had become younger and VERY obviously female .

Lofty DID have a passing resemblance to Mick Jagger!

The local boys didn’t have a chance-no flowing locks, no Carnaby Street gear, no chance.

The following day is a Saturday and our lads can’t wait to get ashore.

It’s one of the sights I truly regret missing due to the circumstances following shortly.

The ferry docks at the downtown landing and all hell breaks loose.

University is out, High School is out and there are lots of Chevys on the Levees packed with teenage trouble of the female variety, ALL determined to get a piece of  the action.

I suppose it was a form of abduction, kidnap and attempted rape but the boys were pressing no charges!

No charges? Well that brings us to a quiet bar  where the bartender is mildly surprised to see Dick and I enter and order beer for breakfast.

He’s been listening to the radio and after serving us switches it off and shuffles down to the far end of the bar and makes a call.

Shuffles back. “Not from around  these parts are you, ready for another?”

His fingers drum on the counter and he seems a bit nervous, glancing shiftily over my shoulder.

I’m aware of the door opening behind us and the bartender’s seeming relief .

“These the foreigners?”

Two of them swing in close one on either side of us and Dick and I swivel round to face- Warren Oates and Dennis Hopper in scruffy tan suits and a bit pissed off.

Warren flips open a wallet-a badge!

“Bloody hell we’re in a movie !” chuckles Dick.

Bad move, this lot don’t do humour and Warren Oates opens his somewhat tired and stained jacket and shows me HIS GUN!  We ARE in a movie.

“ID.! ID! Show us some ID.”

I shouldn’t have had that beer so early in the morning and I just cant resist, “Sorry I’ve got no idea.”

So, feet no chance to hit the ground, we are in the back seat of some huge jalopy , Dennis Hopper driving and Warren Oates beside him , hand hovering inside his jacket and-

“What you mean you got no ID.? Everybody got ID. Where you from , you don’t carry no I.D.?”

“Scotland! We don’t need ID.”

“Don’t believe it- every country got ID. Wouldn’t go to a country without ID.”

Politely, “Which countries have you been to officer?”

“Aint left Louisiana, aint goin to, furriners.”

Silence until we are hustled out onto the sidewalk  outside a bank.

Lots of cops , lights, onlookers and three men in suits, dark suits, reflector sunglasses.

Warren, “F.B.I.” said with such a mixture of emotion that my febrile imagination pops up with an image of a fiery cross and I decide no more backchat.

Dick and I are prodded up to the glass doors and Dennis engages the Feds.

Eventually, on the other side of the glass, a parade of what is obviously the bank staff. They give us the once-over, twice.

A suit comes out , whispers to Warren. looks at us and says ,”You can go.”

“Is that it?” says Dick.

“Yeah! Don’t let us catch you without no ID again.”

We decide not to ask for a lift back to the bar.

Much, much later we are ambling back to the ship when we come across some of the boys scrambling ashore after watch determined to get a genuine American hamburger.

We find a drive-in on the other side of the road and present ourselves at the serving hatch.

The young lady is intrigued and a wee bit nonplussed-she’s pretty ,but , as the the saying goes “She’s in ,but not all of the houselights are on”

“Caint serve you. Y’ aint got no automobile.”

But she’s talking to some very hungry and impatient prospective customers.

“Why do we need an automobile?”

“For the tray, honey” ( She’s spotted the good looking Third Mate) “It goes on your auto door-for your hamburger and coke , honey.”

We stand back, let an impatient auto get its tray and slide off into it’s parking space, and come up with a workable strategy-we’ve spotted a pile of trays.

“Toot-toot! Hamburger ,fries and coke please.”

You CAN stick a car tray’s hooks down the front of your pants.


Next day, listening to the local news–“—bank robbery, by  two foreigners. Bank clerk knew they were foreigners because they were clean, tidy and very polite.”


Landfalls-from a life at sea.

I never went back to Astoria. I had made a promise to myself go back and have a look ashore. But that was in the Sixties and Astoria was just a little bit of a city at the foot of the Oregon-Washington Bridge. The gateway to the Columbia River.
It turned out I didn’t need to –well, we have all seen Astoria and lots of the little ports on the Pacific North West—you may not realize it but you have—many, many times. When you’ve been truly bored and you find yourself on Channel 4 plus 1 or some channel in the hundreds you will find them- Astoria, Newport ,Coos Bay ! .
All merged into that little riverside/ oceanside port with the killer whale or the dolphin and the FAMILY—are you getting this ? Yes it’s that family with Tom Hanks or Jeff Bridges or even Mel Gibson as the father ,for Godsake!
He’s widowed or SHE’s runaway and he’s got the two kids and she has a Past-and ,you can see this one coming,–yes it’s the cocky lazy little sod called Chuck who lies in his bed all day when not sneaking out to dodge High School and smoke weed with –oops! Some black guys .His sister is a little miss perfect called Marcie ,with the gap in her teeth (and there’s about twenty of them ,white and perfect, more intimidating than attracting) and the sanctimonious remarks who just loves THE DOG—this is called Beanie or Cuddles and is the size of a woolly mammoth and obviously eats an entire buffalo for breakfast and wanders around the crumbling but tastefully furnished shack knocking over the last of the execrable pottery made by the late lamented wife and getting ever so close to the urn containing Granny’s—flash back to some dessicated old relict from the thirties movies- granny’s ASHES.
This bloody monster , the bloody dog ,not Granny ,would bankrupt any normal family but- Oh No it’s here—and nobody’s mentioned you would need to use a JCB as a poop scooper.
And they are all waiting for Julia Roberts to swan in showing more teeth than a Great White Shark with some guy from the smooth- smarmy- bastards- in -a -suit casting department. She’s here to be sooo loving and considerate, though the guy with whom she’s obviously being having a verrrry good time involving flash cars and Gucci shoe’s and a Verrace wardrobe and a rapidly depleting bank account may disagree until we all find out he’s gay and secretly relieved and not hurt in the least-the usual thing.
And then the ever hopeful not-a –chance –in- hell and secretly nasty lady librarian next door , lusting after Daddy knocks over Grannie’s ashes and finds it’s Chuck’s stash and Cuddles gives her a nip and she snitches to the law .
WELL don’t you just hope that the local Sheriff is NOT nice old Ben Johnson from the John Ford movies but—Dennis Hopper or better still Brian Denehy who does a great line in psychotic malevolence—so that when the kids go round to try to get bloody Cuddles out of the dog pound –It’s the dog in trouble not that little shit Chuck- Whoopee! The Bad Ole Sheriff opens the door-the secret door with the spooky music soundtrack at the back of the jailhouse and SMIIIILES!
And did I mention that Moulder and Scully are running round using torches never, ever thinking about switching the bloody house lights on.


I thought I heard Buddy Bolden say————
What the fuck has happened to the old place?
“So, Pete,” I said to myself, ”You didn’t really expect something out of Shining Trumpets or They All Played Ragtime, did you?”
“Oh just for once it would be like you imagined, just for once.”
Miraculously the ship has landed up at a lay-by berth overlooking the French Quarter –just for the night we’ve been told.
We can hear music and a faint buzzing of voices, a whiff of some spicy food and a scent, not of magnolias but of booze. That’s attraction enough after a couple of weeks at sea having left a wet and miserable Hamburg behind.
In my teens I had been a traditional jazz fan and fortunate enough to hear some of the old survivors—Norman Granz toured with Jazz at the Philharmonic, Armstrong turned up in Glasgow, Broonzy, Terry and M’Ghie, Billie and Ella-so I ditched the boys in the first bar and was heading for Preservation Hall.
Fair enough- a lot of work done on the old buildings, balconies, nice ironwork-but clean, clean—a bit of decay, dereliction, a bit of continuity is missing.
The people, the people, lots of them—they are all a bit, well, white, and large, and exude a desperation to be SEEN to be having a good time. Clutching, spilling, drinks, they gyrate half a beat out to the music from adjacent bars. The music aint that great.
I weave my way through the throngs.
A sign- “Preservation Hall”-thank God for that -and I’m bundled over by an enormous lady, a headful of rollers, huge cellulitic thighs oozing out of a pair of Bermuda shorts, her sausage- like fingers crushing a Styrofoam cup of what smells like turpentine, with a splash of blackcurrant, spilling its contents over the little black kid tap dancing at the entrance to Pat O’ Brien’s from which she is being firmly and not too gently excluded by a large gent in a suit and all I can think is” Pat O’Brien’s-Pat O’Brien’s?? This is New Orleans not fucking Dublin!”
So I make it into the Preservation Hall, a pilgrimage achieved!
The band files in.
They are all white.


Off watch, half four in the morning, just wearing lungi, leaning on the rail-it’s peaceful.
A flash of lightning lights up the scene before me. It‘s some distance off flickering down from the lowering tropical clouds to the sea.
Out aft the long greasy swell stretched off to the horizon -a tall enough mast and a big enough telescope and I would be able to look down over six thousand miles of empty ocean to the south polar ice.
The ship pitching and rolling just enough to give that strangely soothing on-off pressure on the soles of my feet.
The twelve to four donkey-wallah materialises beside me ”Sahib?” a warm freshly made chapatti smeared with a bit of masala is proffered “Accha hai!“ as I take a bite and he disappears down below–the Serang had fixed this out with the bandhari it’s got to be a bit of a regular thing this and he’s finally twigged I don’t like condensed milk chai.
A real feeling of peace-the big diesel is thumping quietly in the background and there is that comforting faint smell of hot lube oil and diesel that’s with you on any ship.
It’s always darkest before the dawn?-well that’s a load of crap-it’s a bluey grey stripe between the wet flannel clouds and beaten lead sea.
The wake tapers off into the distance-the usual albatross gliding across it-he’s been tacked on for the past ten days. There are a couple of black columns of monsoon rain chasing up from the south-west. I’ll whip off my lungi when the rain hits and enjoy a soaking. Got to watch out -the last time I did that the Chief’s wife popped out to ditch an empty gin bottle-she’s been giving me a coy smile and a little wave now and again ever since-she’s bloody twice my age.
Turn round and look forward and it’s a bit different–land fall–thin black stripe surmounted by that weird green pink flush across the horizon–we’re running up to Madras .
You don’t think of landfalls as the arrival alongside in some container port or Japanese steelworks or some iron ore terminal it‘s the special ones that give you a lift.
It can be the run in through the scrub and sand of an Indian delta- you open your mouth slightly and breathe in a whiff of woodfire ,of paraffin ,of dried earth and dung -a couple of lights twinkle ,you can just hear low voices, the whir of a treadle sewing machine as the ship slides pass a collection of huts in the darkness.
Japan’s Inland sea-fine layers of mist skeining across the mountains and islands turning two towering red and white banded power station chimneys into abstract beauty.
The inlets and rivers of the Pacific North West -its early morning-the small towns or villages that are scattered along the bank or up about the hundred foot mark show as a faint set of street lights and a couple of cars are the only things on the highway-shadowing the ship-could be the agent and the ship’s chandler headed to meet us on the berth- it’s all peaceful and strangely pretty.
Then the sudden awareness that a Great Horned Owl is perched on the handrail three feet away from you.
It’s bloody enormous. How long has he been sitting there,hitching a free ride up river?
His head swivels round , enormous eyes devour you. I would swear he’s just given me a nod and he’s off , silently swooping off aft , then back round alongside me for a few moments and on up the Columbia River.
“Up to Portland and Washington-
And you can hear the Factories hum
Making chromium and manganese and aluminium”
But its quiet now-just the whispers of history drifting down from the Dalles-the wagon train destination point-down over the Grand Coulee Dam , a monument to a different America , down through the orchards and forests , picking up the ghosts of the Chinese immigrants who helped make the country and out to the sea we have left behind.
The owl disappears.
And I’m back leaning on the rail as the warm monsoon rains envelop me.
I drop the towel and-
“Yoo-hoo! Lo-o-o-vely to see you!”

The Chief’s wife is up early this morning.

































What We Did On Our Holidays.

“ Out with ye! Ah’m no havin’ ye under mah feet on a day like this. No ye don’t-nae wellies , ahm no havin ye like something oot o’ the ragged school!” Ma took a deep breath. “First day o’ the school holidays an’ ye’ve got me goin’ already. Here ye are ! Jeely piece in a poke. And don’t gie me that look wee yin.” Mah wee brother Ian took a step back. “Huvnae done anything Ma.” “Maybe no’ but ye soon wull-OOT! The baith o’ ye!” And as we clattered doon the stairs,”And come in quiet-your faither wull be in aff the six tae two an’ ye know what he’s like at the end o’ the week!”
Oot we went
and there wis Wullie and Jim
and Reid and Alan an’ wee Eilidh ,
aw on oor bikes and an’ off an’ up
through the Cross
an’ past the foundry tae the wids at Chantinghall
an’ a stop tae keek intae the auld charcoal burners hut
which wisnae a hut but a queer roond stane thing
an’ naw there wisnae an auld tramp kipped up in there
so aff we went up ,
up towards East Kilbride,
past the waterworks
and the AA gun emplacements , bits missing, rustin’ awa’ .
And oh!- Bit scary! Slow doon a wee bit,
no’ hard to dae because we’re aw’ pechin’
We don’t stop, fur whit’s this?
A bunch o’ tinks , bivvied up on the edge o’ the road-
aw’ dark an’ ragged ,
peerin’ oot from the hoops o’ their wagons
-an an auld wife whittling away at some claithespegs
an’ a man lookin’ like Long John Silver
only wi’ twa legs
sherpenin some scissors on a grindstone
an’ lookin’ up at us
an’ bringin’ oot a great big knife
an’ grinnin’ at us
an’ drawin’ it across his throat
an’ we’re aff ,
aff like rockets away on up tae the the quarry at the tap o’ the hill .
The gate’s always open
an in we go an’ sit wi’ oor legs danglin’ ower the edge
an look doon at the watter .
An’ up speaks Wullie
“There’s a German bomber doon there-wi’ aw the men inside
-mah faither shot it doon in the war!”
An’ we aw’ snigger cos we aw ken
that ye couldnae get Wullies dad oot o’ the shelter
even when the raids wis ower-
wis true, wis true—wee Eilidh’s dad had telt her.
So we hiv oor pieces
an’ Reid his brought a screwtap o’ sugarally watter and we drink it
and efter, aw the boys line up an’ see who can pee the farthest
intae the watter
an wee Eilidh says it’s no fair
that she cannae dae that
an’ shows us why ,but tha’ts a bit boring.
An off we go again up tae the highest bit
an’ we look doon at the General’s Brig an’ decide naw
it means goin awa’ doon an’ then up again
an’ we stop an’ just look aroon’
an aw’ ye kin see is the Clyde valley, aw’ chimneys an’ furnaces-
there’s oor dad’s work
-and ower ther the Campsie Fells an’ ye can jst make oot Ben Lomond.
An’ we’re aw smilin’ in the sun for we know here’s the guid bit , whit we came fur
–freewheelin’ aw the way back doon.
Legs aff the pedals
an’ doon we race , laughin’ an’ wheechin’
an suddenly it’s the tinks
an’ they’ve heard us comin’
but they’re aw’ oot an’ ge’in us a cheer
an’ the auld wife is wavin’ her basket
an’ LongJohn Silver is doin’ a wee jig
an’ the dogs is barkin’ an we’re oot the other side
an’ it’s
Forty years later and I’m in the driveway..
Standing next to my old blue pickup with its “For Sale £500.” sign. A white panel van pulls onto the verge and debouches five young tinks-I remember that Sam- the- scrap- man’s relatives are over visiting from Ireland-an encampment of vans , wagons and horses clustered round the gates of his yard.
A young fella , his arm gripped protectively by a small dark haired,dark eyed beauty thrusts an envelope at me “Is that enough Mister? Sam said you were alright”
He doesn’t want a drive-he just sits in pickup,, hands on the wheel, eyes shining , looking up at the girl.
She looks at him and it,doesn’t take much to guess whats going on and she says “O.K. Mister”
I get the paperwork and start to go through it with him and he says , he whispers-“Can ye do it ,Mister.Ah canna read or write.”
The world just stops for a minute
 I hold my breath as I take that in.
I look at the boy ,the girl even more protective, moving closer to him.
“It’s alright I’ve got a licence!” Proudly.
So I sort out the registration for him and he and the girl and his pals are all over the truck and I say.“ Come over here.” I show him a couple of old copper cylinders and a pile of pipe and brass fittings from the last couple of jobs. “You can have that lot to take away son!”
They go off, ecstatic. “Wait t’ our Da sees this-good scrap an all”
I walk down past the house to the bench looking down on the burn.
“Ah canna read or write.”
I sit down , that wee loss of breath.,that heart squeeze.The cats have appeared from nowhere , up beside me, that thing they do when they sense something is wrong.
I look along the path on either side of me and down along the banks of the burn and they are all there looking at me-I cant make out all the faces ,but there they are-Burns, Byron ,Scott and Shakespeare, Lawrence and Orwell, Huxley , Shaw and Synge and Steinbeck and Russell and, and-“ face after face, memories of lines written and lines read.” ..
“Ah canna read or write”
My cheeks wet and it’s not raining.
Wheeeech! Ian an I dump our bikes in the close
an up the stairs intae oor hoose.
“Yer back then, getting’ a wee bit worrit.” Ma, a bit bright eyed and flustered.
“Boys.” Dad lookin very pleased w’ hissel .”Good day then?Whats on tomorrow?”
From me “Goin up tae Lanark pickin’ at the gooseberry nursery.”
“Ye like that don’t ye son , make some pocket money ,eh”
“Aye Dad ,as long as they big coarse lassies frae Larkha’ urnae there-They try tae pu’ yer troosers doon and jangle yer willie.”
“John Turnbull! Will you SPEAK to that boy!” from Ma, aw rid.
And Dad w’ a wee grin “Whit time does the bus leave,son?”
And Ma giein Dad a mighty thump on the shou’der “JOHN TURNBULL!”
Ian an’ I aw big eyed as the two o’ them stert fallin’ aboot laughin’.

On Viewing Don McCullin’s” Shell Shocked Marine After The Battle For Hue.


“Do anything for you, soldier?”
He’d leant close to me.
Couldn’t move, couldn’t breathe, tried to whisper “Just, just for Christ’s sake slide this hand down the barrel, stick my thumb on the trigger and let me go.”
But he didn’t.
Just said “Don’t mind, do you?”
And pressed the button.
And took this part of me.
Old tales not quite true.
Camera doesn’t take your soul.
Just took this part of me and here I am, looking at you looking at me.
Not the first time no, no, not the first time.
There’s been other rooms.
Out of the wrappings, out of the box and into the light and another goddamn gallery.
I come out of the darkness and the endless whispers from the rest of us.
We sigh.
There’s no old darkness here, no whispers in these walls. Just memories of sunshine, a salt wind from a beach, ghosts of deer fade across the room.
The committee place us in the old set order and we wait.
Satisfied, they leave, thankfully, lights left on and we stare across at each other.
We whisper.
In hate, in fear, in loathing, in shame, in sadness , in regret, in understanding in some weary tolerance.
We whisper.
Nobody told us that this what hell meant.
Day comes, doors open and in they come.
Tweedy type, hair grey, bit too long, curling over a scruffy soiled collar, wife , pashmina flowing.
They look hopefully at the table by the door.
No wine.
Disappointment wafts across the room. They cruise, eyes flickering left to right, stealthily round the walls and, having made sure that there is no-one they know around, exit-stage left as they say.
The rest-the usual mix.
“Teachers, preachers, imps, pimps and comic singers .” The gesturing guy with the blonde is holding forth in the corner.
“No luck in getting a plumber then?” From the old dames edging towards the door.
They have all made the attempt.
” Too important to miss.”
” Been knighted.”
“Not many laughs here, old boy.”
” All too black and white for me.”
They all do the “Fold your arms, peer, purse mouth, look sideways to see if they are being noticed, nod and step briskly to the next one” thing.
A woman cries, a man gives one of those tight gasps has to sit down, a couple leave the room very quickly and I
Am left
Am left
With you.
It happened, buddy.
Happened before.
Seen it before.
Your eyes gave you away. Your pupils dilated. Once, twice and three in a row.
And that’s why.
You can hear me, buddy, you can hear me.
Listen up.
I’ve been in here for fifty, fucking years, man, fifty fucking years.
With this lot!
That Belgian bastard, do you know what he whispers to me?
That kid over there.
Do you know? Those women? Those laughing boys?
Do you know what they whisper in the wrappings, in the night?
Do you know what I whisper about? The school and the children?”
Do you know that when they take us down we leave a little bit of us, a little stain of us on these walls.
Those stains will whisper to you.
I’ll whisper to you whenever you come in here.
I’ll whisper to you tonight.
I don’t want to, I don’t want to.
But I will whisper to you tonight and every night if you don’t-.
For I don’t want to go back into the wrappings, into the boxes, into the darkness, into their whispers.
Don’t want to, don’t want to.
If you don’t!
Reach into your pocket.
You got a Zippo? Buddy? A match? Christ! You don’t smoke, Get a match, a match.
Pull me from this wall and burn me!
Burn me!
I’ll whisper no more.
Of the school in Hue.
All he had to do was slide my hand down the barrel and stick my thumb on the trigger.
But all he did was take this part of me.

Seasonal Greetings



Find a wee island of peace and quiet amidst the revelry and the joys of friends and family.
And let’s begin.
Before you start reading– a touch of interactive fun.
Spark up the old PC and open up your browser.
You will be prompted to open an url before each story. Listen to the whole thing if you wish or play it as a background.

To put you in the mood – the cover-and into the first tale!

If stuck-YouTube “Ron Geesin –Let it be.




‘twill be a night after Christmas.

The wee and not- so- wee buggers are in bed now having successfully trashed the place or found that they have forgotten their iPhone chargers and are queued up for yours.
Sprinkled with angel dust they sleep and you can remember summer and—


There is nothing like a good SEETHE! You know-a good heart beating , raging , salivating , totally irrational SEETHE!
There they were, we’ve all seen them, a bloody perfectly behaved, peculiarly English, middle class family.
There he is –Neville, we hear, wearing his old school rugger top , slightly baggy khaki shorts and that disdainful ,detached, shifty expression , looks a bit like Bill Nighy but without the charisma.
Constantly avoiding HER eye-oh, oh so that’s it!
She, a fading English rose, blonde , bit too thin , that worried look! She just knows that he’s at it with her best friend, bloody Alicia-A-leethi-a! Christ she was just Alice at school.
Not like her own name-Cornelia-her school friends had teased her about that.
She can’t say anything just in case he finds out about her and Chawrles-how had she got herself into that one-his father, for God’s sake and still sniffing around. AND there’s something up with the company-bloody, botty patting Orlov and his collection of tarts and toughs around every weekend-still lots of money coming in ever since he got rid of the old accountants.
The requisite perfect- kids- in- company are clustered round the table –India, Charlotte and Quentin. Oh yes-perfectly behaved , not like our two rioters, perfectly behaved –two of them are reading books! Books! In the Cream of Galloway Centre. And they are quiet!
I reckon Cornelia and Neville must be slipping something into their morning muesli! Probably into their evening cocoa as well.
They didn’t have the night we had with our two, the cats and the wee black fly invasion.
I suddenly realize there is an aura of peace in my immediate area-our two are off into the play area , a cup of almost tolerable coffee has materialized and Susie is Kindling across the table from me .
Back to people watching , I sweep the room and-IT’S JOHN!
Thank God some civilized company.
There he is, alone at a slightly cluttered table, gazing , somewhat stunned, into space.
I know that look. Good! Someone else is suffering from grand-dadomania .
I slip across to the seat beside him. He does not respond.
He stirs slightly, there is an almost inaudible click and his left pupil dilates twice. A pause.
My right pupil dilates twice.
Again an almost imperceptible double pupil dilation and a low whir-must be my new hearing aids.
Got it!
Probably two months ago, enjoying a morning shave squinting into mirror, a click , left eye pupil dilates twice and—
Time slows, a moment of darkness , then , seems like inside my skull immediately behind my brow , above a complexity of nerves and blood vessels – an amphitheatre, a small brightly lit stage materializes. On the stage a piece of apparatus , brass , wheels ,cogs , numbered gear wheels-a difference engine! Charles Babbage’s computer1 And what’s more it seems to have two operators-It can’t be , must be going daft but, no, it’s Groucho Marx and Margaret Dumont.
I am vaguely aware that on my wristwatch sitting just under the mirror the second hand has just crawling across the gap between 40 seconds and 41 secs.
Groucho looks up at me , astonished, his hand shakes, cigar ash falls. “This aint supposed to happen”
Margaret Dumont takes a punch card from the machine , scowls, draws up her magnficently corseted body and reads “System failure check privacy setting”
A flick of the cigar , a scatter of ash , a raise of eyebrows “Wow! you got somethin’ in mind?”
Dumont spins round- showing off that amazing figure , like a 40 gallon oil drum cased in silk, that had inhabited the erotic wanderings of my teenage imagination.
“Not with you! He’s seen too much and he’s in touch with the other one””
“No need to worry there Babe! HE’S got Stanley Unwin and Carmen Miranda on shift! But I’ll just”
He reached across to a large Red Button. A brass plate read “Return to factory settings.
All went black. Where was I ? Ahhhh1 Oh Yes!
“Peter”-he also slightly bewildered “Just trying to rememb—“
We found ourselves gazing down at our open wallets , held loosely in our hands. A cold breeze threw up motes of dust from the empty canyons of their interiors , my Bank Card sagged listlessly in one pocket and a small money vulture perched on my emergency ten shilling note.
We caught each others eye.
“Not even mine!”
“John? You ever think about Carmen Miranda?”



-and as the post- Christmas boredom sets in and the family goes off for a drag around a picturesque sub-zero beach and you play the old “The old knee (insert organ of your choice-oops –maybe should rephrase that.) is acting up again dear .” card you are left with some afternoon telly.

https://youtu.be/i4O0ZE8qtpk              Kirsty MacColl “Miss Otis Regrets”


“Well, well there’s a first time for everything!” said Hastings , gazing down at the telephone.
“Miss Marple regrets, she’s unable to lunch today, Poirot.”
“How can this be, ‘astings? Always , always on the first Tuesday of the month we meet for our afternoon tissane! Our little menage a trois. Ask her why!”
“Did you hear that Miss Lemon–can you elaborate? “
Hastings listened, shrugged and looked over and relayed.
“Miss Marple regrets, she’s unable to lunch today.”
He listened, cocked an eyebrow reeled back and rather shakily continued,
“She is sorry to be delayed,”
Poirot gazed up, suddenly anxious.
“But last evening down in Lover’s Lane she strayed, Poirot“
Both Hastings and Poirot were stricken, Miss Jane had gone back to cruising! They had tried so hard to help her!
They could hear Miss Lemon, obviously distressed, going on,“ Put the phone on that new loudspeaker thing!”
“Miss Marple regrets, she’s unable to lunch today.”
“Yes! Yes!!!” from Poirot. ” Go on! Go on! And I had the profiteroles prepared!”
“When she woke up and found that her dream of love was gone, Poirot“
Hastings paled, and sobbed “Its Bloody Japp, I know it, I know it! She gave herself away last month don’t you know !”
“She ran to the man who had led her so far astray,”
Miss Lemon shouted through the loudspeaker. “Not Japp !, she ditched him weeks ago —it was Inspector Davy! She‘s been having him on the side since the Bertrams Hotel job! Old Japp was one of her one nighters! And it says here”. A rustle of paper.
“And from under her velvet gown,”
“Wearing velvet, silly old tart!!”
“She drew a gun and shot her love down, Poirot,
Miss Marple regrets, she’s unable to lunch today.”
“Crikey ! , Albert- the- newsboy’s just come in with this listen!”
Poirot was in tears –Davy and Japp–one lover he could tolerate–never so many!
“When the mob came and got her and dragged her from the jail, Poirot“
“The bloody Sun stirring ‘em up—mark my words, old boy” from Hastings.
“Oh Myyyy GooooooD!” from Miss Lemon’
“They strung her upon the old willow across the way,
And the moment before she died,”
Poirot was weeping uncontrollably, tears cascaded down his chubby cheeks he reached for the delicate lace edged handkerchief protruding from Hasting’s breast pocket.
It unfolded, billowing into form as the pantalletes he had given Jane only last week-such betrayal!”Pain mushroomed in his chest shooting down his arm –the last words he heard were–
“She lifted up her lovely head and cried
“Hercule! I am unable to lunch today!”
Japp, alerted by Miss Lemon , broke into the flat. He found Poirot cradled in Hastings dead arms. Hasting’s pistol by their sides . There was a note on the table.
Miss Marple was unable to come today.






–and Oh! Oh! So hopefully some form of justice.

https://youtu.be/qePHCNoEtqQ Blind Willie Johnson –Dark was the Night


London after midnight, only the music from the pleasure boat on the nearby river breaking the silence of the garden.
A trail of broken flowers littered the path from the shattered plaque.
A frail red-coated body, lit by the full moon, faced up to the two men , now backing away into the shadows.
“Too late, too late, Arthur – She’s out, out!”
“Ease off ‘Tone-good job they fitted the tracker.” Arthur gazed down at the handset emitting a steady flash. “We gotta move-and quickly”
They ran off towards the river.
The London darkness hides its secret places-none more so than this, she had been assured. Sound proof, Farady- caged, armoured , debugged daily.
It would have been too claustrophobic for her if they had not shown her the door, the special door, opened only by her palm print, leading to safety.
A noise, she looked up from the paperwork spilling from the box beside her. Looked up expectantly, hungrily, at the door. She smiled as it eased open, four long, white, oh so white , fingers curled round its edge.
The DCI had had an unexpectedly quiet night shift, catching up on a mountainous backlog of paperwork and then all hell had broken loose. Phones were ringing throughout the new offices and he could see cars racing out from the building up towards Whitehall.
His own phone had automatically materialised in his hand and he listened intently, was that a note of hysteria in the Commanders voice. “Highgate? Highgate CEMETERY!”
“D.S. Evans-with me!” Then they were off, blues on twos , Harris , probably the maddest driver in the Met hunched , grinning, over the wheel.
They swung out, cutting across a fucking armoured column for chrissake, headed up towards Downing Street.
He looked back over his shoulder to see, what seemed to be every bloody vehicle available headed off down towards Chelsea
“What the?” from Evans and just to add to the confusion “Total radio silence! Immediate!” The car radio went dead, the DCI’s phone rang, “Highgate Cemetery , they are waiting for you , escort with ou now!” As he heard this two motorcycle escorts appeared from nowhere and headed them up the Kingsway and Camden Town.
At Highgate there were ARUs very where looking very, very itchy- finger- on- the –trigger-ish , bloody helicopters didn’t help to calm things down.
Sergeant, in charge, came over “Everything locked down tight, nothin’ in,nothin’ out.
Local plod here will take you in. Got some Park Attendant type with him. He kicked this lot off. SOCU’s in there at it and a couple of very heavy suits. Only you lot allowed through.” He stepped back and waved them through the gates.
A helicopter clattered overhead spotlight blazing.
“Put that fucking light off!” The ARU guy shouting into his mike. With a result. Darkness enveloped them as the Parkie lead them into the cemetery babbling “Thought it was bleedin’ kids, druggies, mebbe some bastards tryin’ to blow up our Karl again. Last time I do nightwatch ‘ere I tells yah. ‘Orrible! Orrible you wait an’ see”.
And suddenly they were there –tapes, markers, white overalls, one bent over something long, curled on the grass, the two suits gazing at him indicating he had free access, a whispered “All this goes nowhere without us, Inspector.” Karl Marx looming out of the gloom seemingly smiling at what lay at his feet.
From the kneeling SOCU a “My God, cant be , Christ just look at this!” He gestured toward the body, bodies, on the grass.
The DCI bent over and his heart contracted, he gasped, suddenly desperate for air.
The lower body looked greyly up at him. That face, that face, just couldn’t be!
The upper one’s face was buried in the neck of the lower one, her body pinned somehow to the lower one. Some sort of wooden handle. A hand bag lay incongruously to one side.
But that lower one, that face he had seen only hours ago banging on about Brexit bloody Brexit.
Noises to one side “Let go of me you bastards”
Four ARUs bundled two prisoners towards him with a “Well , well . Look who we have here then!”
The DCI could only stare, incredulous, he spluttered “Mr.Blair and Arthur-Fucking –Scargill what the fu’ ?” He was interrupted by the ARU officer “Had this with them”
He extended a long canvas bag, faded lettering, ”Fettes College C.C.” , Held open to reveal “ A shorthanded pick, a heavy wooden mallet and some wicket stumps.
The SOCU forensic leant over, picked out a stump and waved it airily at the bodies.
“Well that answers one question.”
He threw the stump back into the bag and stooped over the bodies.
“Get a fucking move on!” from one of the suits, “We’ve got to get them out of here now!”
The forensic replied “Don’t like doin’ this but orders is-“
He reached down , grasped the end of the stump in the bodies and-
“No! No! Noooo!”, screamed Scargill .
Then true darkness descended.

One for the fundamentalists and then a wee story about Santa. After all it is Christmas.

https://youtu.be/bn9tGg2K3rM Billy Bragg “When the Ship Comes In”

“We’ve been through a bit of a rough patch lately. What with the family, the bloody neighbours an’ all and your Big Pal.
Take us off into the sun, you says, away from all this, just you an’ I. Book us on Sunshine Cruises, the Love Boat, away from the daily drudge, you an’ I- TOGETHER! Get our marriage off the rocks. Well you got that one right -not a bleeding rock in sight just rain, more rain and sea, sea!“
Noah shuddered. When Gladys got going his dreams of a bachelor existence boiled into his consciousness.
“Book us on a cruise! First of all we gotta build the bleedin’ boat! No chance of a bit of a hand from your big Pal in the sky, comin’ around, lo-and beholdin’.- Can I pass you the saw Gladys –that’s as far as he got. An’ its effin’ enormous, says to meself. -Well O.K. nice big outside room, ensuite, balcony . Nice ‘n ‘ quiet and then’ BRING THE KIDS! And that useless lot they married -all them fancy modern names, well they are Babs , Nelly and Ada to me and don’t let me get started on the tattoos.
An’ I says to you some some second honeymoon this is gonna be and to cap it all your Big Pal turns up a shoutin!
“ Lo! I have gazed into the future and the weather report is truly shitty for the next forty days and forty nights, you must take the family pets and all other twosomes you can gather. “An’ all you can say is- O.K. why has your voice changed O Lord?”
And He says “Lo! I have gazed again into the future and seen a man whose name will be Mor-gan Free-man and he has truly the voice of a God or even the President of The U.S.A. to come. And I have heard this and found it GOOD!”
She paused to get her breath and Noah desperately tried to placate her.
“Gladys m’dear –it’s not too bad. We got most of ‘em in. Some more than others-all them little hamsters, for some reason, bloody everywhere they are.
But when we run out of toilet paper they came in real handy especially when I got the elephants on bidet duty-touch of luxury that, my love. “. he gazed at her soulfully.
She sighed, bless ‘im, he really did love her, pretty handy in bed even with all the noises, smells and the bloody rain- he really did make an effort.
She grasped his hand and gave it a little squeeze.
“Suppose I’ll have to tell you. All the girls is preggers. All these wet, dark nights with nuffin’ to do.”
“How can you tell so soon, how can you be so sure?” he said.
“The hamsters! They turns pink when you are havin’ a bit of a wipe-an’ then their little tails turns blue-amazin’ little things! After all this we could make a bit of money sellin’ them off.”
“Gladys?” he said “YOU alright?”
She burst out laughing shook her head and led him off to bed.
Days and nights wetly passed.
“Lo! Noah, my man, gimme five!”
“He could at least knock” Gladys grated “Trouble. He’s back! Never here when we’re mucking out. HE couldn’t arrange to bung this lot up for forty days, an’ he calls himself GOD.”
“Shhh! My dear. He is prone to thunderbolts and lightning, y’know!”
He turned and faced the grey heavens. “Wot’s up O mighty one with a taste for total genocide-you dispensing some mercy this morning?”
“How on earth did you know that, things are just too miserable-it is time to send forth two pigeons to find the promised land and let’s get you all ashore. For I have a great variety of assorted wars, diseases , famine and immeasurable misery with a few splashes of happiness planned for you and your descendants. Speaking of which all the ladies save Gladys are –“
“WITH CHILD!” Noah and Gladys shouted.
There was a palpable sensation of wounded prescience. A sizzle of realization.
Noah and Gladys gave the Great God MOR-GAN time to compose himself.
“Noah thou must dispatch the doves to find some land which must be out there , er , somewhere. They will guide you to safety!”
”Yo! GOD! The cats got the doves and the pigeons but worry not! I did despatch the Dodos. In a beautiful pea green boat with a jar of honey and —“
“Beat ME to it again. Losing My touch. That’s it I’m off!” There was a final flash of lightning a roll of thunder and the rain stopped.
On cue the sun rose.
Time passed.
“Dad! Dad! They, sorry, IT is back” Japthef , Ham and the other one chorused abandoning their throw- the- dung- furthest variation on the morning muck-out.
Noah and Gladys looked over the Ark’s side. A pea green boat containing an obviously upset Dodo waving a piece of parchment bumped rhythmically alongside.
They helped the Dodo aboard and relieved it of the parchment. There was a roar, a flash of stripes and the poor bird was dragged off below decks , Noah mouthing a “Sorreeee!” in its wake.
Noah gazed down at the parchment “Solly Bernstein’s Kosher Takeaway and sit-in. Grand reopening. Gentiles welcome.”
He pulled Gladys , enfolded her in his arms and whispered,” Dining out tonight my beloved-to celebrate our landfall!
From Gadys a giggle “Not just a landfall!”
She handed him a small,damp and highly indignant hamster-PINK!-With a blue tail.




https://youtu.be/jFMyF9fDKzE Eartha Kitt Santa Baby


“So this is how it all ends.” He sighed.
He gazed up at the circle of blue-black clear night sky illuminated with an infinity of stars.
It had all gone wrong when Rudolf had found the last of last winter’s silage special a reindeer’s delight of treacly oats, fruits and figs from a hundred fireside tables, the Guinness that the Irish children left out for him. Matured and gaseous after a year’s fermentation.
He should have seen it coming.
And indeed he SAW it coming when Rudolf’s tail went up
Prancer, Dancer, Dasher, Vixen, Comet , Cupid and Donner und Blitzen caught the full blast , resulting in a diversion to the carwash at Tesco’s just off the M56.
Somewhat mollified by three passes through the carwash and with Rudolf relegated to back runner they had proceeded on the evening delivery.
He had slid himself into the first chimney and within a couple of minutes become firmly and irreversibly stuck. How had he forgotten to extend his arms above his head?
Voices filtered from below.
“It’s the pigs! It’s the pigs! Light that bloody fire and throw the shit on!!”
Oh No! Sudden warmth , smoke- was that incense?
Well it had to happen one day-he had lasted, in one form another , for seemingly aeons and he had an attitude of rehearsed resignation to what was about to happen. Besides the smoke was very pleasant, relaxing, mind expanding.
Memories swirling- them woodland nymphs! Not a stitch on. Called himself the Green Man then. Worth the make- up.
Then, when he was Wodan-those Northmen knew how to party – even giving gifts back-what was her name that big Valkyrie –Brunnehilde. Ahhh!.
No bloody chimneys then- just a hole in the thatch.
Enormous big stone chimneys not too bad, occasional dried out sweeps boy then bloody building regs and gas flues all that slimming and flexijointing , he needed a year off to recover and retrain.
And any way kids, now not believin’ and bloody Amazon takin’ over and havin’ to sack all the dwarves, gnomes and Christmas Faeries(those that hadn’t come out an’ joined that Tranny outfit) He was down to a couple of hundred deliveries to some thankless little bastards who didn’t want a bloody wooden rocking horse and shoutin’ up the chimney “WOT PART OF iPAD DON’T YOU UNDERSTAND YOU HAIRYOLD PERV!”
The smoke was getting’ really nice now, just a bit of a racket goin’ on down below , dogs barkin’ the crackle of police tazers , just a BIT like good ole Valhalla.
There was no pain. His extremities had been permanently numbed by years of wintry night travel. Unfortunately ALL of his extremities- as his good lady persisted in reminding him.
God the boys had thrown some real good stuff on the flames WOW!
He took a deep , long sniff.
Time to go, time to go.
More smoke.
Nicely tired he looked back up at the night sky, he had never seen the stars so bright.
Two thousand years had given him an acceptance of his fate.
“Ach!” He smiled up to the heavenly disc above ,“Not a bad way to go”
Rudolf’s rear end backed into view.
Bugger It-we need the pantomime villain!
https://youtu.be/lXgH_NBMACA Go West – Pet Shop Boys – World´s Armys


The boy loved this end to the day. He squatted on the little hillock , looking out west into the setting sun. The sky was red, streaked with underlit grey clouds, the furthest showing a drift of rain.
A lion coughed, well away, not even disturbing the huge herd grazing for miles out into the Serengeti. It was answered by the mild rumble from the elephants at the waterhole. Otherwise it was quiet, peaceful except for a low persistent muttering just there by his right foot. He looked down, something moved, something long, twisting through the patchy grass.
He jumped back but let out his breath. Something smaller, some things smaller.
He knelt down peering, listening and saw-
Donny the Dung Beetle! And heard! “Eugh! Eugh! Sspyut!”
Donny took another mouthful.
“There must be something else in this life.” Donny thought, not for the first time.
His friends in the little column ahead, trundling the end products of the inhabitants of the plain had tried their best to cheer him up, drag him out of his depths of despair, fed up with his constant moaning about his diet.
“Have ye not tried wildebeeste?” shouted Sammy , over his shoulder, happily trundling a number- twenty- three- on- the- menu (chimpanzee on a banana diet), nibbling the rough edges off to achieve an almost perfect spherical shape suitable for the rough terrain.
“Wildebeeste! Plenty of roughage, a hint of sage and a bit of thornbush, lovely!”
Provoking an outburst from Big Alec, next in line,”Bloody vegetarians! What did the gods give ye a high acid digestive system for? Lion’s what ye want! Lion-wi’- indigestion-that’s on the menu. Number sixty-four!. Half of it goes straight through you, you know, but there’s some nice big lumpy bits of gazelle in the rest. Nice to take your time chewing on that.”
“Just don’t go on about lumpy bits!” Fat Freddy staggered, white as a sheet, out from the grass to rejoin the column. “For god’s sake don’t go near the Fruit Bat Special, they’ve been on the figs again!”
Donny settled down, suddenly pleased to find some fermenting poppy seeds.
He was not the only one to make this discovery for gradually the discontented muttering, spitting and the constant “Yeugh! Yeugh” from the column softened to a placid “Mmmmm!” then to a complete silence and a concerted “Oh No!” brought about by Iris the incontinent elephant.
As night fell the boy made his way back to the kraal.
Had he looked over his shoulder he would have seen the stars shimmer for a moment as the gods materialised to gaze down at the tired and somewhat wet column.
A general air of satisfaction hung over the Reincarnation Committee .
Lord Ganesh gave Iris a little pat of approval and turned to the others, ”Well that’s proved a success. I must say that I’m rather pleased that we didn’t go for the tapeworm option, a bit too cruel, even for him.”
He bent low over the column, close to the little fellow with the tuft of orange hair. “Even for you , Donald.”





She was sure she had seen him somewhere before. The way he had looked at her from the table was disconcerting and unnerving.
Age was having an effect, although not on all her abilities, she smiled inwardly. She still noticed things, sensed opportunities and acted!
As the Head Waiter guided her to her table past that very expensive blazer draped carelessly across the back of the chair, pocket bulging, a glint of gold. Its owner in shirtsleeves. Shirtsleeves at the Dorchester! What had things come to?
A light collision, her knitting bag spilling a tangled ball of blue wool, a knitting needle, her purse. A confused apologetic scramble and all returned to the depths of her bag. Silly, confused, delicate old lady, she hadn’t lost her touch. The young man, flushed “All my fault, in the way, sorry!”
She hadn’t lost her touch, these little souvenirs would keep her going, allowing her time for her work.
WHO? She sipped her tea.
It was as if he had sensed her interest. He stood up, inclined his head and glided, no, shuffled daintily towards her.
WHO? The mists thinned, no, surely not?
“Madame , so sorry ,mademoiselle.” He was at her table.
A small man, waxed moustache, well built one could say charitably. Immaculate in a soft, double- breasted suit that just shouted Saville Row. Small feet, shoes patent, shining, and curiously , for summer, indoors, fine grey gloves.
Their eyes met.                                                                                                                              Hers, practiced, innocent, demure, gazing up through her eyelashes.
His, clear, piercing, a hint of sadness, a memory of pain implied by the small creases radiating from their corners.
“Forgive me. I am sure we have met before but,” she paused.
“You can’t quite remember.” Was that a French accent? No not quite.
“May I?”
Giving her no chance to reply he sat across from her.                                                          “Some petit hints perhaps.” He lent towards her.She was conscious of a light fragrance of lavender. “Huys? Le Touquet? Berlin, The Adlon and Paris. Paris and a flight home.”
The mists lifted. She rocked slightly in her chair and saw him then-sitting at the back of the Dakota, away from the rest of them clustered round a hamper of smoked salmon, caviar, champagne. My God they even had crystal glasses. That sour faced Captain Muggeridge was with him fussing over his bandaged hands and feet, the toes weeping blood.
She found herself gazing at the grey gloved hands resting on the table unaccountably thinking of that last night with Ludwig. Her Ludwig! Sitting at the end of the bed clad only in his black uniform jacket, silver lightning flashes catching the lamplight.
“Had a tough little Belgian bastard in this morning.” He smiled knowing that his ‘tales from the office’ would rouse her for a second course. “Finger nails out. Hard man. Hammered his toes, that got him screaming. Passed out. Didn’t break. What do you suggest for his morning treat liebchen?”
A question unanswered due to the arrival of the Free French and a very quick exit of Obersturmbanfuhrer Ludwig Keisl.
Things had looked bad for her until the arrival, miraculously, of Muggeridge and his little group of SOE thugs. Armed to the teeth, decked in British flags, roaring round Paris with a very special list, filling up the truck with old friends and some new faces-Chevalier, Chanel. Wodehouse and, for gods sake, how had SHE got here!
Mrs. Simpson, sorry the Duchess of Windsor, clutching a bag, jewels and papers, letters!
An offer of comfort, a friendly word, a kiss on the cheek and a bit of insurance tucked into her blouse.
The memories provoked a little sigh,,aware suddenly of the little man leaning towards her.
“So, Miss Marple. We meet again. We meet at last. “ He looked down at his gloved hands. “They still hurt, they still hurt!”
He opened one hand and dropped something shining onto the table top.
Twin lightning flashes.
Her heart contracted, something was happening to her breathing.
“From the Obersturmbahnfuhrer , Miss Marple. He resisted for a long time. Hercule Poirot is not without some imagination.
Peter Turnbull.