Thursday, 31 August 2017

By yon Bonnie banks and By yon Bonnie Braes

    The skirl of the bagpipes welcomed guests to, Duck Bay, on the southern shores of Loch Lomond at the weekend and as a proud Scot my skin tingled on hearing the piper's lament. The tear's welled up into my eyes and my blood rushed through my veins as though in acknowledgement of the pride I feel to be Scottish.

    It was a day that initially made me want to cuddle up on the sofa with a good book, however, I was in dire need of some exercise. We jumped into the car with no real idea where we were heading and finally arrived in one of the most beautiful locations in Scotland.

     The sky was blue and the wind whipped the black, rain laden clouds, quickly over. Allowing the partakers of water-sports to have some fun and parent swans to take their signet for a leisurely swim. I quickly started snapping some photographs of the loch and if on cue, the piper began to play an old, folk-lore favourite, Loch Lomond.  A traditional song that is still being played and sung all over the world, the lyricist unfortunately remains unknown.

        I wish I could include a sound track to accompany my pictures. But, that's impossible and I certainly wouldn't share my untuneful, singing voice. Therefore, if you just sing, "You'll take the high road and I'll take the low road, and I'll be in Scotland afore you." Get the idea?

Sunday, 27 August 2017

The Mountain Castle

    My classic poetry post has been very popular amongst readers and because of this I've decided to do a few more. Today we're celebrating the life and works of German poet and writer, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, with his poem, the Mountain Castle. The poem itself demonstrates the poet's imagination at work.

 The Mountain Castle

There stands on yonder high mountain

A castle built of yore

Where once lurked horse and horseman

In rear of gate and of door

Now door and gate are in ashes

And all around is so still

And over the fallen ruins

I clamber just as I will

Below once lay a cellar

With costly wines well stored

No more the glad maid with her pitcher

Descends there to draw from the hoard

No longer the goblet she places

Before the guests at the feast

The flask at the meal so hallowed

No longer she fills for the priest

No more for the eager squire

The draught in the passage is poured

No more for the flying present

Receives she the flying reward

For all the roof and the rafters

They all long since have been burned

And stairs and passage and chapel

To rubbish and ruins are turned

Yet when with lute and with flagon

When day was smiling and bright

I've watched my mistress climbing

To gain this perilous height

Then rapture joyous and radiant

The silence so desolate brake

And all, as in days long vanished

Once more to enjoyment awoke

As if for guests of high station

The largest rooms were prepared

As if from those times so precious

A couple thither had fared

As if there stood in his chapel

The priest in his sacred dress

And asked, 'Would ye twain be united?'

And we, with a smile, answered, 'Yes!'

And songs that breathed a deep feeling

That touched the heart's innermost chord

The music-fraught mouth of sweet echo

Instead of the many, outpoured

And when at eve all was hidden

In silence unbroken and deep

The glowing sun then looked upwards

And gazed on the summit so steep

And squire and maiden then glittered

As bright and gay as a lord

She seized the time for her present

And he to give her reward

                              Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
                        28 August 1749 - 22 March 1832

Thursday, 24 August 2017

By Failing to Prepare, You are Preparing to Fail

    I have spent the last month in the Canary Islands and I feel a little guilty as I have done very little writing.  However, I have done lots of reading and that has been perfect bliss. My blogs have went out timeously during that period, but that wasn't by chance that was due to good preparation.

    However, as I assumed my life would be back to normal on my return to Scotland, I didn't outline, or write any posts for this week. That's where I slipped up. Nothing drastic has happened, but my family had plans for my home coming. No, not celebratory plans; plans that meant I had to go and sit in their home while workmen descended upon their property.

    Workmen, hammering, sawing and plastering around me, most certainly did not create the environment that I need to get down to work. Thankfully, my duties have ceased, for the moment anyway that is and I can get back to work.

    I have second edits to do on a manuscript now and prepare the next few weeks blogs, before I am  called upon again. Preparation, of all kinds is a huge part of a writers life and essential. As the Benjamin Franklin quote goes, "By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail."

Thursday, 17 August 2017

The Best Seamen in the Firth

Old Bo'ness Iron Co building

     Sitting on the hill-side overlooking the Firth of Forth lies a small town called Borrowstounness, or Bo'ness as it is known. It's history can be traced back to Roman times and remnants of the Antonine Wall run through the town centre. However, its importance in Scottish history doesn't stop there and I decided to visit the town recently to stretch my legs and take a look around.

Over-looking the Firth of Forth

    Once Scotland's second largest port, Bo'ness shipped coal and salt to Europe, with France and Holland being main traders. While the harbour is no longer in use there is evidence in the town of its industrial past, which included coal-mining, ship-building and iron metalwork.

    Interestingly enough in its heyday, author of 'Robinson Crusoe,'  Daniel Defoe visited here and wrote about the town in his book, 'A Tour Through the Whole Island of Great Britain' (1724) praising the local men as, the best seamen in the Firth.

The town of Bo'ness
    Standing on the harbour looking back towards the town, if it wasn't for a few obvious modern-day additions, the grey-stone buildings make you believe you're living in times gone by. The old churches, town hall and the library funded by Andrew Carnegie dominate the town.

Bo'ness and Kinneil Railway site

    My last stop in the town was the Bo'ness and Kinneil Railway site, unfortunately film crews were filming and I couldn't access the station and platform. But, I did manage to take a few photos of some of the carriages and trucks there. For railway enthusiasts and especially children it's a great place, Thomas the Tank Engine visits frequently and there is a railway museum which is a must.



Monday, 14 August 2017



    My poem this Monday, is by American poet, Joaquin Miller. I love the sea, but as we know it is treacherous and unforgiving. The courage of explorers, such as Columbus has to be acknowledged. This poem tells of the sailors fear and of the drive and determination needed to succeed in any quest.


Behind him lay the gray Azores
Behind the Gates of Hercules
Before him not the ghost of shores
Before him only shoreless seas
The good mate said, "Now we must pray,
For lo the very stars are gone.
Brave Admiral, speak, what shall I say?"
"Why, say, 'Sail on! sail on! and on!' " 
My men grow mutinous day by day
My men grow ghastly wan and weak
The stout mate thought of home, a spray
Of salt wave washed his swarthy cheek
"What shall I say, brave Admiral, say,
If we sight naught but seas at dawn?"
"Why, you shall say at break of day,
'Sail on! sail on! and on!' " 

They sailed and sailed, as winds might blow
Until at last the blanched mate said,
"Why, now not even God would know
Should I and all my men fall dead
These very winds forget their way
For God from these dead seas is gone
Now speak, brave Admiral, speak and say"
He said, "Sail on! sail on! and on!"

They sailed. They sailed. Then spake the mate
"This mad sea shows his teeth tonight.
He curls his lip, he lies in wait,
With lifted teeth, as if to bite!
Brave Admiral, say but one good word:
What shall we do when hope is gone?"
The words leapt like a leaping sword,
"Sail on! sail on! sail on! and on!"
Then pale and worn, he kept his deck
And peered through darkness. Ah, that night
Of all dark nights! And then a speck
A light! A light! At last a light!
It grew, a starlit flag unfurled!
It grew to be Time's burst of dawn
He gained a world, he gave that world
Its grandest lesson, "On! sail on!"

                              Joaquin Miller (1837-1913)           

Thursday, 10 August 2017

Celebrating Youth

Scottish Youth Hostel Association, Stirling

    While many countries celebrate their youths on various dates, the United Nations has recognised August 12th since 1999, as International Youth Day.

    Hostelling has been plauded by the young for a long time, because it's a cheap place for them to stay while back-packing their way around the world. Normally fairly basic accomodation, hostels are usually located near to the main tourist attractions.

    You might say that Stirling's youth hostel is no different, as it's located on the main access road to the castle, in the centre of the city. However, it is a hostel with a slight difference. On first look if there was no signage, it would be easy to believe that it was still a working church.

    Old gravestones are still dotted amongst the surrounding greenery of the Erskine Marykirk. As well as, the elaborate monument and tomb of the church's founder Reverend Ebeneezer Erskine. Looking down onto the tolbooth in St John Street, makes it most definitely an interesting place to stay. That's as long as you're not kept awake by the resident ghosts.

Stirling Tolbooth



Sunday, 6 August 2017



    OMG, it's Monday already. Where do the days go?  My poem today is by poet, artist and art critic, John Ruskin. His words are ghostly and discriptive. Two of my photographs were taken in Dunfermline Abbey, Scotland and hopefully add a little to the atmosphere.


Faint from the bell the ghastly echoes fall
That grates within the grey cathedral tower
Let me not enter through the portal tall
Lest the strange spirit of the moonless hour
Should give a life to those pale people, who
Lie in their fretted niches, two and two
Each with his head on pillowy stone reposed
And his hands lifted, and his eyelids closed

From many a mouldering oriel, as to flout
Its pale, grave brow of ivy-tressed stone
Comes the incongruous laugh, and revel shout
Above, some solitary casement, thrown
Wide open to the wavering night wind
Admits its chill, so deathful, yet so kind
Unto the fevered brow and fiery eye
Of one, whose night hour passeth sleeplessly

Ye melancholy chambers! I could shun
The darkness of your silence, with such fear
As places where slow murder has been done
How many noble spirits have died here
Withering away in yearnings to aspire
Gnawed by mocked hope-devoured by their own fire
Methinks the grave must feel a colder bed
To spirits such as these, than unto common dead 

John Ruskin 1819-1900

Thursday, 3 August 2017


    Time plays a huge part in our lives. We constantly check our watches, clocks, computers, and phones for the time. We all have places to go, people to see, we arrange a time to meet and make appointments. The rate of our heart is measured by the number of beats per minute (BPM) and our transport systems run to timetables.

    Cooking instructions on our TV dinners and recipes in our favourite cookbook all include times. One year finishes as another one starts, on the strike of twelve. As the clock's hands tick-tock, our lives pass, but what I'm grateful for is that you all took the time today to read my post.