Tuesday, April 04, 2023


 the ballot paper — 
shifting sands
previously published in tsuri doro, issue 10 
I have two senryu in Issue 85 of Failed Haiku, you can read the whole issue here.

Monday, January 23, 2023

Learning Scots Gaelic!

 I've thought about learning Scots Gaelic for a long time, but have now finally signed up for an evening class with Edinburgh Council's Adult Education Programme

The council currently only offers three levels of courses, Beginners, Post Beginners and Intermediate. University of Edinburgh offers a wider range of classes, though they're more expensive. 

Over a million people across the world are learning Scots Gaelic with Duolingo. Find out more here

More Online Resources

Learn Gaelic is a free online resource for learning Scots Gaelic. It shares a Gaelic word a day on social media. 

Speak Gaelic is a Scots Gaelic learning programme, offering online classes and producing learning materials for other organisaitons (our class uses these resources). 

BBC Alba offers broadcast TV primarily in Scots Gaelic.

Scots Gaelic Week (20-26 February)

Saturday, January 21, 2023

Chimneys at Lauriston Castle

 There's something quite beautiful about the chimneys at Edinburgh's Lauriston Castle!

You can read more about today's walk around the castle grounds over on Crafty Green Poet.

Tuesday, November 15, 2022

Manchester Voices

 Manchester Voices is a fascinating research project run by a team from Manchester Metropolitan University. The project explores the accents, dialects and identities of people from Manchester in the North-west of England. 

The team identified four distinct Greater Manchester dialects - ‘Manc’, ‘Lancashire’, ‘Wigan’ and ‘posh’. Most people would probably say I have a 'posh' accent (and many people tell me I do sound posh), but really I have a Lancashire accent (posh Lancashire?). Of course, my accent has been affected by living in Edinburgh for over 30 years!

There's lots to explore on the Manchester Voices website! You may also be interested in the following articles about the project:

D'you know what I mean? article in the Mancunian Way newsletter

Vocal Pride on the Manchester Metropolitan University website

A permanent exhibition of Manchester Voices will be found in the city's central library.

Sunday, November 06, 2022

Three Thrillers from Northodox Publishing


Her Sister's Shadow by Catherine Wimpeney

Greater Manchester DCI Kay Harris is haunted by the memory of her sister's recent suicide. Concerned for her mental health, her superiors  push her into taking some time off. Kay retreats to her family's holiday home in the Scottish Highlands, taking with her, Ava, a young woman she prevented from committing suicide. 

Wimpeney is a former mental health nurse and qualified psychotherapist, and used her experience in writing this thriller. The subject matter is fairly heavy, including issues around expectations of women in the workplace, bullying at work, mental health support and trauma recovery, but the book is lightened by a good sense of humour.

As a birdwatcher, I liked the frequent bird based similes that Kay used to describe things, eg "Their phones rang intermittently, like robins marking territories". I was disappointed that this disappeared from the book quite quickly, though perhaps that was a deliberate attempt to add to the sense of Kay's deteriorating mental health. 

It's an engrossing read, though slightly uneven (and perhaps could have done with better editing). Definitely worth reading if you're interested in the issues.

Her Sister's Shadow by Catherine Wimpeney,



 The Girl Beneath the Ice by Joseph Darlington  

School pupil Tasha Barcroft is found frozen in a river in the middle of a very cold winter. It falls to Inspector Dafydd Todor to find out how she died. 

This story focuses on different people in Tasha's life, including her boyfriend Lucas, schoolgirl Frigg who had been bullied by Tasha, Mrs Barcroft, Tasha's grandmother. Did any of these people have motive to kill Tasha or was it in fact Todd, the recluse who lives in a makeshift home in the forest while apparently being employed as a ranger (though he seems to not even know whether he really has a job, making him pretty unbelievable as a character)?

The winter setting is very effectively conveyed through description of the weather and landscape and the book is a real page turner, the reader definitely wants to know what happens next. However, there seemed to be inconsistencies in the plot and in the understanding of the physics of frozen rivers. 

Worth a read if you like thrillers set in winter. 

The Girl Beneath the Ice by Joseph Darlington. Under the Bridge - Paperback

Under the Bridge by Jack Byrne

The year is 2004, a body has been discovered in the Liverpool Docklands. Anne McCarthy, a new reporter on a local newspaper, is keen to investigate the case and finds that she has let herself in for more than she bargained for. 

The body dates back to the 1970s, a time of industrial strife and smuggling. 

By getting involved in the investigations, Anne uncovers hidden histories and secrets and the lives of the Wicklow Boys, a group of men smuggling contraband into the docks. Meanwhile, Anne's friend Vinny, who is starting a research project into what makes up the Liverpudlian identity, starts to question what he knows about hos own family history.

This is a thoroughly researched, tautly written thriller bringing in the history of Irish immigration into Liverpool and questions around Liverpudlian identity, while telling an excellent story.

Under the Bridge by Jack Byrne.

You can read my review of Airedale by Dylan Byford (also published by Northodox) on my Crafty Green Poet blog here.


All four books published (2021) by Northodox Press, a publishing company committed to books from the north of England.  


Disclaimer: I won these books in a competition on Twitter

Tuesday, November 01, 2022

Join the Campaign to Save the Edinburgh Filmhouse

Cinema goers were saddened last month when it was announced that the Centre for the Moving Image was going into administration, meaning the end of Edinburgh's Filmhouse Cinema (and its online sister Filmhouse at Home), Aberdeen's Belmont Cinema and the Edinburgh International Film Festival. The reasons given for the collapse of the charity include the effect of the pandemic on reducing cinema audiences (I've rarely been to the cinema since COVID struck and have watched films online including on Filmhouse at Home), the recent huge hike in energy prices in the UK and the general cost of living crisis. In truth, apparently, the signs had been there for years, but the charity hadn't made them public. I think if problems had been made public, then people would have rallied round to save the cinemas and festival before all this happened. 

At the same time, one of the major art galleries in Edinburgh has closed its doors until the Spring and there are rumours of other closures across the Scottish arts sector.

We need our cultural institutions! Depending on the film, cinema can offer escapism or directly address the issues that face the world. 

So, a campaign has been launched to Save the Filmhouse. You can read about the campaign on the Edinburgh Evening News website here, find out more on the campaign website or follow @SaveFilmhouse on Twitter

Edited to add: A crowdfunder has now been set up to secure the future of Filmhouse


Thursday, October 27, 2022

Friday, September 16, 2022


The aura 
of cataracts -
broken moon
previously published on Kalanopia
I also posted a haiku today on my Crafty Green Poet blog, you can read it here
Links to recently published haiku - click on the coloured text: 
A selection of haiku on Lothlorien Journal
A selection of haiku on Tsuri Doro (scroll down to read mine). 

A selection of haiku on Under the Basho.

Tuesday, August 16, 2022


We cannot speak for you
we have not walked your path
the path that wore down your shoes
the shoes that are now piled high
in glass cases that we file past

We have not walked your path
and cannot speak for you
but silence allows your deaths
again and again and again

Previously published on Poetry,Songs and Writers of Scotland.

Friday, July 01, 2022

Poetry in the Chess Cafe

“Poetry is like chess” the old man said to me.

He was sitting in the corner of a diner
looking vacantly through the window
at the sunlit city street.

“Not only in the sense” he continued quietly
“of the length of time you need to think.
But also there's an instinct -
the right move or the right word
can arise it seems from nowhere
and inspiration is all around.
For example, I am no past Grand Master
so why do I talk of chess?”
He looked downwards at the floor
where the black legs of the diner chairs
stood quietly on black and white tiled squares.

“Perhaps we are but pawns” he said
“but that is just the starting point
for another poem another day.”

He nodded briefly at me
then turned his gaze back to the street.

Previously published as part of the Ekphrastic Challenge in response to the painting The Poet, by Lily Prigioniero (Italy, b. USA) 2021