Monday, 31 December 2018


My interest (obsession?) with Dorothy Wordsworth continues.

I cannot work out if I like her or really really hate her at the moment. It used to be very definitely the former so any slip from that position is confusing.

I have sat the book in the bathroom so I can look at it now and then to try and decide how I feel. The passage below is one of many that has made me laugh a lot. I imagine the Scotts fast asleep or otherwise engaged and then lingering in bed for as long as possible; "have they gone yet?" they would have asked each other. Or maybe they had nothing for breakfast - James Hogg famously complained of Scott's poor egg and roll petit dejeuner hospitality and had to reeducate him*. Dorothy's slightly peevish comment "[we] waited some time in a large sitting-room". Perhaps this was why Scott was so helpful later on in their journey. I had forgotten that the Scotts themselves lived close to Roslin at this time before the Abbotsford years (when Scott would copy features of the chapel in his library - he was of course a mason himself). So as usual everything annoying about Dorothy the guest nobody wants to see with her dull brother until you get to the description of the fern in the chapel which takes me even further (than Hogg's breakfast) on an Umberto Eco travel in hyperreality and suddenly I like her again.

Confusing - see for yourself:

SaturdaySeptember 17th.—The morning very fine.  We rose early and walked through the glen of Roslin, past Hawthornden, and considerably further, to the house of Mr. Walter Scott at Lasswade.  Roslin Castle stands upon p. 246a woody bank above a stream, the North Esk, too large, I think, to be called a brook, yet an inconsiderable river.  We looked down upon the ruin from higher ground.  Near it stands the Chapel, a most elegant building, a ruin, though the walls and roof are entire.  I never passed through a more delicious dell than the glen of Roslin, though the water of the stream is dingy and muddy.  The banks are rocky on each side, and hung with pine wood.  About a mile from the Castle, on the contrary side of the water, upon the edge of a very steep bank, stands Hawthornden, the house of Drummond the poet, whither Ben Jonson came on foot from London to visit his friend.  We did hear to whom the house at present belongs, and some other particulars, but I have a very indistinct recollection of what was told us, except that many old trees had been lately cut down.  After Hawthornden the glen widens, ceases to be rocky, and spreads out into a rich vale, scattered over with gentlemen’s seats.
Arrived at Lasswade before Mr. and Mrs. Scott had risen, and waited some time in a large sitting-room.  Breakfasted with them, and stayed till two o’clock, and Mr. Scott accompanied us back almost to Roslin, having given us directions respecting our future journey, and promised to meet us at Melrose two days after.
We ordered dinner on our return to the inn, and went to view the inside of the Chapel of Roslin, which is kept locked up, and so preserved from the injuries it might otherwise receive from idle boys; but as nothing is done p. 247to keep it together, it must in the end fall.  The architecture within is exquisitely beautiful.  The stone both of the roof and walls is sculptured with leaves and flowers, so delicately wrought that I could have admired them for hours, and the whole of their groundwork is stained by time with the softest colours.  Some of those leaves and flowers were tinged perfectly green, and at one part the effect was most exquisite: three or four leaves of a small fern, resembling that which we call adder’s tongue, grew round a cluster of them at the top of a pillar, and the natural product and the artificial were so intermingled that at first it was not easy to distinguish the living plant from the other, they being of an equally determined green, though the fern was of a deeper shade.
We set forward again after dinner.  The afternoon was pleasant.  Travelled through large tracts of ripe corn, interspersed with larger tracts of moorland—the houses at a considerable distance from each other, no longer thatched huts, but farm-houses resembling those of the farming counties in England, having many corn-stacks close to them.  Dark when we reached Peebles; found a comfortable old-fashioned public-house, had a neat parlour, and drank tea.

From Recollections of a Tour Made in Scotland A.D. 1803 and you can read the full text here at Project Gutenberg for nothing.

*Hogg invited Scott to visit for breakfast and when he saw him coming laid out everything in the house for a week and then claimed it was an everyday meal - breakfast was never lacking in Scott's residences for Hogg thereafter even including "reindeer tongue"! this story is found in James Hogg's delightfully frank Anecdotes of Scott.

Tuesday, 20 November 2018

Abridged, Blockchain and MyData

A few interesting things:

  • the dark and wonderful Abridged is now available online. Just let me say that again. It is now available online for free. Go and enjoy!
  • Scotchain 18 took place in Edinburgh  - Scotland is a leader on Blockchain and its implementation in industry and this was a fun meeting with lots of fintech goodies.
  • is starting its Edinburgh Hub with its first meetup on 27th November. Speaker details revealed soon. "Making it happen and making it happen right".

You can find our more by following the links which you may like to do.

Wednesday, 24 October 2018

New work ahoy

I have poems appearing in the current Honest Ulsterman and upcoming Abridged (the control issue). All extremely satisfying publications and I am really pleased to be in them. You can get physical copies of the two former but Abridged especially runs out very fast so hunt them out if you are in Ireland or Scotland any time soon.

Gutter was the bestselling publication at the Edinburgh International Book Festival this summer thanks in part to the extensive coverage, interest and quality of its special Freedom Papers.

More news to follow but in the meantime please enjoy this picture of me talking about cybersecurity in Daventry.

I had the following quote at the end of my slides from Norman MacCaig for this geeky event: you can click on the picture to get a better look at it. The beautiful lichen on the trees is from a seaside place called Yellowcraigs in Scotland.

More on Abridged hereHonest Ulsterman here and Northwords Now here.

Also worryingly something has happened that I thought never would and I have begun obsessing at moments about Dorothy Wordsworth or Doz as I now call her.

Monday, 30 July 2018

Gutter launch night out, Edinburgh 13th August 2018

It's always a treat to get some poems in Gutter and to make it even better there is also a big night out on 13th August at the very wonderful Lighthouse books to launch Issue 18 and the Freedom Papers.

It's free too. All good.

More about Gutter here and Lighthouse books here

Wednesday, 2 May 2018


Paris was warm and the chestnut trees were out. Mozilla has a beautiful office. There was a strike but that didn't seem to matter. It just meant a taxi in from Charles de Gaulle and a taxi out to Orly on a beautiful afternoon putting together all the glimpses I have had of the city over the years into a new geography.

Thanks to Kristof Van Tomme at Pronovix for the pictures

Things to note: Montmartre is very hipster as I guess it always has been. Were Alice B.Toklas and Picasso hipsters? I kind of feel that Alexandre Dumas père would have been. Also you can get birch water at Mozilla but I made a coffee instead.

This seems to be a year of revisiting places I have known and assumed I know well. With each one London, Dublin, Belfast, Paris and shortly Vigo there has been a pleasing shake-up and sense of another way of looking.

Last exam and coursework of my master's first year this week and then a summer of possibilities featuring predominantly at the moment: woods, my Indian bird list and APIs.


Postscript: French woodland makes me dream of martins. Montmartre is the mount of the martins. And on the rive gauche there is a Montsouris - hill of the mouse. Luckily they are separated by the river.

Friday, 13 April 2018

In the bathroom with Norman MacCaig

I seem to hang around with poets in the bathroom.

I follow Carol Ann Duffy's principle of keeping poetry handy to read in those spare moments. And I am probably one of only a handful of people living who can claim to have washed Hugh MacDiarmid's bathroom floor when the cistern flooded.

Hugh MacDiarmid's bathroom sink in Brownsbank Cottage

Today I had an encounter with the poet Norman MacCaig a Scottish poet of whom I am very fond. He was a friend of many including Seamus Heaney. And I like the way he opens up a landscape and shows me how, by drawing its lines, we can see its shapes, patterns and pathways all the better. Something I would aspire to. Plus he used to hang out at nice pubs in Edinburgh such as Milnes Bar with other poets: always a good idea.

Coming across his Collected poems, I used them as a kind of divination tool and I Ching.

The outcome was good. Section 3 of the poem No end, no beginning written in 1968.

When you, in your unimaginable self,
suddenly were there, shut boxes opened

and worlds flew out coloured like pictures books
and full of heavy lethargies and gay dances:

when I met a tree, my old familiar, I knew
this was the first time I was meeting it;

and the birds in it singing - for the first time
I could crack the code of their jargon.

And the boredom and the loneliness
in the lit rooms of monotonous streets became

terrible and pitiful - you made me a member
of the secret society of humanity.

The future that had been failing muscles,
sagging flesh, cindering eyes -

all mine, all only mine - swarmed in the air
and spread its new meaning back

into every yesterday. Flux, revolution
emerged into sense, into their own

explanations. I could understand them,
not wholly, but I could understand them

as I could know, not wholly the meaning
of your still hand, quiet look, a way of walking

that takes you from the first garden to the future
where the apple hangs, still, on its dangerous tree.

Norman MacCaig

The only problem with this poetic dark art is that this poem literally has no end and no beginning. I don't want to know for the moment. I am only going to live in the present.


You can find more on Hugh MacDiarmid's sink here And more on Norman MacCaig at his Scottish Poetry Library page here

Stuff coming up in Spring

Mostly it is revision which of course immediately sent me into the hills to take photographs of snow.

You can see that and a few other photos on p&g insta if you are interested.

New poetry is out in Ambit

And also in Northwords Now Issue 35

And advance alert that ink sweat and tears is featuring a poem of mine on April 18th .

I am delighted to be featured in all these excellent publications alongside many other great poets and artists.

I will also be doing some geek stuff in Paris on security for API the Docs so if that is also your bag perhaps will see you there.

Just click on the pictures to find out more. Thanks and more from me once my university exams are  over next month.

Friday, 9 February 2018

Bit late for St Bridget's day

A very pleasurable start to the new year with 2 beautiful magazines Ambit and Under the Radar arriving on my doorstep featuring many delights including some of my poems.

You buy copies here and here.

Garden and bird projects continue and I will post on this in a bit.

Also been hanging around some Dublin universities and checking out Xbox gamertags for ladies.

More on this on insta and twitter - enjoy. I will leave you with the mission of finding your own way there. Tip: if in doubt, look up.