Tag Archives: writing

The 15 Least Romantic Edinburgh Date Ideas

17 May

1. Boneless Dip Meal at Meadowbank KFC


Seduction is a tricky business. Sweep bae of their feet with a piece of crispy chicken. Afterwards why not squeeze eachother’s blackheads in the carpark?

 2. Whopper in Waverley Station Waiting Area


Stare longingly into bae’s hair as they watch the train times gently flicker across the Waverley Station timetables. Share aspartane rich beverages through a communal straw and get a lend of thirty pence to go to the toilet when done. Enjoy the meat sweats together later.

 3. Lothian Road

3284822036_135f93aaaa_bDazzle bae with a trip to the majestic pubs and clubs of Lothian Road. Take the big step and ask them to hold your hair whilst you’re being sick in a doorway at 11pm.

4. Poorly Attended Fringe Festival Act


Find an intimate venue far from the bustling Fringe Festival Crowds and marvel as an up-and-coming comedian or spoken-word poet practices their stagecraft. Savour the feeling of their spittle landing on your cheek as they massage their ego and insult your intelligence.

 5. Cav


Lose yourself in the Cha-Cha Slide at Cav, and encourage bae to do the same. Find them later in a quiet booth stroking someone else’s thigh.

6. Diane’s Pool Hall with Bae

Diane's Pool Hall, Morrison Street, Edinburgh (exterior)

Or any similar venue that offers a combination of cuesport and champion pint drinking. Flaunt your skills on the baize and hope that bae can hear your sweet nothings over the rising chords of Darude’s Sandstorm.

7. Greggs 

LX3 12 Dec - 028

Seal your tryst with a Sausage & Bean Melt. Get there just before closing to ensure your scrumptious gift doesn’t burn their mouth.

8. Strip Club?


Share a priceless moment at one of Edinburgh’s thriving lap dance bars. Catch the glassy stare of the dancers as they work for your titillation. Get a chippy afterwards and throw it on the ground outside for an authentic feel.

 9. Twenty Chicken Nuggets at West End Mcdonald’s


Stroll hand in hand down Princes Street before making a sharp turn into Maccy D’s. Wait in silence together as your nuggets are prepared then get through as many as you can before talking. Try not to sit near a window.

10. Fountainpark Dance Machines


Beat the crowds to Fountain Park and dance the night away on a mechanised dance arcade game. Aggresively hold your position until a group of teenagers start shouting at you. Bus it to Nando’s on Lothian Road afterwards if you haven’t used up all your change.

11. Portobello Sex Party


Head to the suburbs for a private sex party where you can watch bae have sex with complete strangers. Check any surfaces before you sit down.

12. Manky Techno Night and After Party


Not all techno nights are manky, but most are. Turn your back for one minute and bae will be having their chest rubbed with neon paint by a harlequin. Pass the time in a corner, fearing for your sanity.

13. Pack of Crisps


Don’t let budget constraints scupper a budding romance. If you find you are spending all of your money on yourself most of the time get your sweet baby a pack of crisps.

14. Scotmid Tannoy Slowdance


If you listen carefully you’ll find that your local Scotmid plays a variety of heartwarming ballads over their tannoy system. Invite bae for a slowdance down the aisles and a browse in the discount section.

 15. Moonlit Walk on Calton Hill


In the words of the great Ray Charles, ‘the night time is the right time to be with the one you love.’ Share this exquisite moment with a passing flasher emerging from a hedge.

Images by Mr MPDkyzLaVladinaCharlotte KeeysbrewmookeasylocumAnosmiaRusty Clark – Heading to Quebec!((brian))forayinto35mmCabaret VoltairetawalkerHealthGaugePhotographingFairies  used under Creative Commons license.

With a Twist: Waldorf Astoria Magazine

14 Nov


Here is a small piece I did for Waldorf Astoria Magazine about The Caley Bar at the Waldorf Astoria Caledonian.

unforgettable cover 3When the job came up I was like “yes finally, my Hunter S Thompson Mint 400 moment”.

unforgettable cover 4I went along and spoke to the staff and tried the cocktails. It was all very nice, and there were no giant bats or anything.

unforgettable coverIt was only small but it made my Mum happy.

unforgettable cover 2

The piece is now in Waldorf Astoria hotels all over the world.

Cigs, Edinburgh’s Banksy

12 Nov

For months I have been haunted by a latent presence on the streets of Edinburgh. Cigs.


Viewforth/Union Canal

Not since the Caves at Lascaux has man witnessed such mesmerising treatment of bare stone, such bold purpose. In ancient Pompeii, the artisan tiling his mosaic could not have hoped for greater dexterity of hand and symmetry of line.


Leith Walk

I have been tracking down this elusive talent for some time now. I believed initially that his base of operations was in Leith but then I witessed the scene below on a drive to North Berwick one day. Who knows his dastardly reach?


City Bypass

Nobody knows exactly where Cigs comes from. What scant records there are show that as a young apprentice he did mottling work on the famous mural of Erich Honecker kissing Leonid Brezhnev on the Berlin Wall. Latterly he sprang up in Paris where he made the murky subway system his subterranean workshop. He also worked with Richard “Richie” Morando aka ‘Seen’ in The Bronx for a few months in 1996.


West Bowling Green St

But it is the subversive ‘Edinburgh Series’ that Cigs is most lauded for. These surgical vignettes are to be found all over the Scottish capital, from Tollcross to Torphin, striking fear into the hearts of the city’s elite.


Tollcross Area

Cigs is a wraith, a shadow, a Mr Hyde, a Moriarty. His lurid crest is as familiar to me as the lines on my palm. He’s in my head.

Damn you Cigs!


West Port

Once I thought I had caught him in the act. I was walking back from a night out and took a shortcut round the back of the University. Turning down a gloomy alley I saw a hooded figure addressing a virgin wall some distance away. I took my chance and approached.

“Cigs you fiend,” I shouted, “Cigs, is it you?”

The figure twisted round gracelessly. It wasn’t Cigs. It was a drunk man vomiting whilst simultaneously trying to urinate.

“Dinny smoke mate,’ he said, before resuming his wretch.


Leith Walk

Who are you Cigs? Are you a force for good?


Tollcross Area

Perhaps there is a little bit of Cigs in all of us. The unending urge to make our mark, to be seen, to be remembered. But as the ancient Greek philosopher Democritus once said “Our sins are more easily remembered than our good deeds”. For Cigs the price of fame is the life of the nameless fugitive and absent visionary.


Newhaven Road

What next for Cigs? Rumour has it that Cigs will soon be making a feature length film (working title “Exit Through The Butcher’s Shop”). And a major retrospective at The National Galleries of Scotland is also in the offing, where Cigs’ work will be shown alongside Jack Vettriano’s, among others.


Drummond Street


If you are reading this Cigs, drop me an email. I always protect my sources.


24 Jul


There is something to suit everyone’s taste,

nothing goes to waste, prices exclude VAT,

dim sum chicken feet, rat-a-tat-tat,

ding-a-ling-a-ling, hoi sin, Szechuan –

prawns, duck, pork, squid, twenty quid.


Battering the Fiat’s soft grey shell

under the streetlight’s mango glare,

he soaks up the city’s spicy heat.

That’s what he’s here to do – for you.

He gets £6.50 an hour & tips, and sweet chilli chips.


The hallways have their own distinct aromas,

a hum of shoes, the lemon breeze of cleaning.

In one he visits twice each week the ancient

smog of cat hangs dense as glue

and stinking gusts of sloth are deep and sudden.


The place is a nightmare to get to,

slipped round a bend on a wooded road,

turned in on itself,

the windows black,

the lights in the vestibule motorway orange.


The man is a crone, his face a troubled oyster.

He can hardly walk,

his delivery  is essential.

He asks each night for his fortune biscuit,

a colossal freight compressed in his ogle.

The Dissertation

6 Apr

You’ll know him for his stories

Some are eerie, some just gory

And that poem of his ‘The Raven’, well I’m sure that’s one you’ll know,

He’s the source of my frustration,

And my fucking dissertation:

‘On the textual orientation of the works of Edgar Poe.’



I know just what you’re thinking,

You’re thinking: ‘what’s he drinking?

Who on earth would write a paper on the works of that old loon?’

Good point, but I’m in shit,

I need to fucking finish it

Before the English Lit department shuts this afternoon.



Well the word count isn’t great,

And I feel compelled to masturbate,

And organise my socks in rows of black and rows of white.

Perhaps I’ll write to Granny…

Clean my room from nook to cranny…

It is really quite uncanny that the hoover looks so …right.



Jesus Christ this essay’s bad,

Two thirds wanky, one third mad;

I didn’t think it possible to reach this kind of low.

Quoth the Raven: Nevermore.

Quoth the student: I am bored

And I don’t think I can stand much more of old Lenore and Poe.



My degree mark will diminish,

If I do not get this finished;

Just a few more hundred words and that is that, what’s done is done;

I’ll get my cherished third

Never write another word

And forget I ever heard of Poe, get drunk and have some fun.



And the student still is sitting,

Never flitting, still is sitting,

In a bedroom full of open books and folders on the floor,

And his eyes have all the seeming

Of an idler who is dreaming

Of a doctor deeming him unfit to write it anymore.



Read the dissertation here.

(image: Forsakenfotos/FlickrCC)

Sea Story Blue Sea Red Story Blue

15 Aug



I handed it to her.

‘No, I don’t want to read this,’ she said.

I said… well … I don’t know what I actually said.

But she kept saying no, no, no, and then she yawned and fell asleep.

I left her sleeping on the boat. As I climbed ashore I undid the rope tied to the jetty and let the boat drift out to sea. She would wake up in a few hours or so and sail back to land. She would be alright.

Two days later the story was all over the news. Local Lady Missing Out At Sea. I read the newspapers and watched the story unfold on the television. I felt acutely self conscious all through that day and the next.

On the fourth day I decided to notify the authorities of what had happened. I told them that I knew the lady well and that she would understand why I had done it.  I said that we would have a good laugh together once this was all over and asked if they needed to know anything else. I was encouraged to come down to the police station to give a formal statement – I declined.

On the fifth day there was a knock on the door of my house and it turned out to be two plain clothed police officers there to escort me down to the station. I told them that I had spoken to their superiors the day before and that everything had been sorted out. Still, they insisted that I accompany them down to the station and warned me that, if I did not do exactly as they asked, they would take me there by force as they had a warrant for my arrest – I agreed.

At the station, after filling out a number of forms, I was ushered into a small room with no windows. One of the walls of the room was a mirror. As I had seen many police dramas and films on the television, I was aware that were probably people behind this mirrored wall watching my movements and assessing my character. I tried to look calm. I sat down and waited, sitting very still. For ten or twenty minutes nobody entered the room and I was left to my own thoughts. Calmly thinking over my situation, I decided to try and make a daring escape.

I am at the table now, thinking out my escape. In my pockets I have a coin, a packet of cigarettes and a cigarette lighter. I can think of no escape plan involving these objects. Other things in the room: there is the chair I am sitting on, the table I am sitting in front of, the door (which has a silver handle, shaped like a moth without wings) and the mirrored wall. I am not handcuffed. I also believe that the door is unlocked, as I do not remember anybody locking it. I am going to get up from the chair and simply walk out of the door and then out of the station.

My plan has worked. I am now on the street outside of the police station walking back towards my house. On second thoughts, I will not go back there as shortly, I expect, the police will be looking for me and my house will surely be the first place that they will look. I am making a right turn down a side street towards the sea. I now plan to get a boat and look for her, as finding her will put an end to the trouble I am in.

The sirens have started. Great wailing sounds. I have lived here all my life and have heard them only once. And that once is this time. I do now feel a little bit worried and sick: perhaps I should not have escaped from the police station without talking to the police. Now they may think I am a danger to society and shoot me when they find me. There is a blue boat bobbing on the quay. I will take this boat and sail towards the horizon.

I am at sea. The wind is breezing through my hair and the salt spray has dried out my skin, the sun is beginning to set. I can no longer see land behind me.

A cloud covers the moon. Her boat is red, but I am well aware that I will not recognise any colours when it is pitch black.

In the night I feel safe, like a little spider crouching on a bit of dark in the carpet. I fall asleep on deck, closing out the stars behind my eyelids.

That was a week ago, I am beginning to starve. I also think I am going a little bit mad. Over the past days I have kept a record of my thoughts in a black diary I found somewhere in the boat. I forget where. I have written something down four days in a row.

Day 1 – I am happy that I am on my way to find her but worried about the police. Hungry.

Day 2 – I am happy that I am on my way to find her but still worried about the police.       Very Hungry.

Day 3 – I am no longer worried about the police but I am starting to doubt whether I         will find her. Extremely hungry. Slightly Mad.

Day 4 – I am starving and going insane. No police. Her not found.

I have made a friend called Jim Lad. He is a cabin boy but he is sick, and I must continue nursing him back to health. Jim Lad is the descendent of a great admiral who sailed the high seas killing pirates and crooks. Jim Lad has the fever but still has a glint in his eye. He talks of doubloons buried on an island in the region and says I must find them before the evil Captain Barnacle and his crew of crooks. I pity him, as he is slowly dying and talks little sense.

Jim Lad I say, Jim Lad how do you feel today. Jim Lad says he’s fine, surviving at least. Jim Lad I say, do you know of a red boat with a cargo of one sleeping lady? Jim Lad says yes, he does, it be on the horizon.

I run to front of the boat and indeed see a vessel on the horizon. Jim Lad I say, it might be the pirates, might it not? Aye, he says, but I am sick and you are starving, that vessel’s our only hope. Right you are Jim Lad, right you are.

I pitch a course for the vessel.

The vessel is red and a woman waves from on deck. Jim Lad, I say, Jim Lad it’s her, it’s her. Mooring up beside the vessel I climb aboard, leaving Jim Lad on the blue boat. I embrace her. She takes me into the cabin and introduces me to a friend of hers.

Her friend is a mermaid called Ariel, who is sick because she cannot swim. I am greatly saddened by the tale and tell both women of my new friend Jim Lad who is also sick and is lying on my blue boat. Leaving Ariel in the cabin I walk out on deck with her and discuss what must be done.  I tell her in no uncertain terms that Ariel and Jim Lad are dying and that if we are to get home we must leave them together on the blue boat and take the red boat home. Though distressed by this prospect, she agrees.

Back on the blue boat I speak quietly to Jim Lad of a beautiful mermaid that cannot wait to meet him. By now he is very sick but he smiles as I carry him onto the doomed red vessel. Laying him down on the floor I say Jim Lad, you will be very happy here.

She and I watch the blue boat sink into the distance over the horizon. I ask her why she would not read it. Laughing softly, she says she knew it would be too sad and that she would cry if she finished it.


20 Jun

‘I’d like to report a missing bag please.’
            ‘O.K then, let me just get a pen and paper. O.K, right Madam, can you tell me what colour it was?’
            ‘Gold Jag you say. Classy.’
            ‘Bag I said. I said bag.’
            ‘Yes bag. B…A…G.’
            ‘Oh bag.’
            ‘Yes. Bag. That’s what I said. My bag is missing. I have a missing bag.’
            ‘Sorry, I thought you said Jag, like the car.’
            ‘I know, I know. Look, I’m running a little late, can we get on with this.’
            ‘O.K then, so, what colour was your bag.
            ‘Gold. I told you already. It’s a gold bag.’
            ‘Gold, oh yes, right. Let me just note that down, G…O…L…D bag. Can I ask where you last saw the bag?
            ‘On the number 2 bus. It was stolen.’
            ‘Fine, that’s absolutely fine. But can you tell me where exactly in Poland?’
            ‘You must be joking.’
            ‘I assure you Madam, this is quite a serious matter. Krakow or Warsaw?’
            ‘Where was it stolen then?’
            ‘The number 2 bus.’
            ‘Well you should have just said that. There’s no need to get snappy. O.K, let me just note that down then, right. Now, what was in the bag, and what exactly were the circumstances of it being stolen? Tell me everything.’
            ‘Well, I was on my way to buy some buttons in Clark’s, on Fir Street. I sat down beside a tall woman at the back of the number 2 bus. She got off four stops before me on North St. When I went to get off, my bag was gone. The bag contained all my money, my cigs, my notebook and my car keys.’
            ‘So, let me get this straight. You were on your way to buy some fur in Button’s, on Clark Street. You were standing up beside a short man at the front of the number 2 bus. He got off on Forth Street while you went south for a few more stops. When you got off you realised that you’d left your bag on the bus. Your bag contained all your honey, your wigs, your coat hook and your barbies. Correct?’
            ‘Are you thick or something?’
            ‘I have been feeling a little under the weather lately, yes – how kind of you to notice.’
            ‘Look, just leave it.’
            ‘Hang on a second.’
            ‘My colleague has just informed me that somebody dropped in a bag earlier today containing, remarkably, two jars of honey, six blonde wigs, a coat hook and three barbies. But it was a green bag. Are you absolutely sure that your bag wasn’t green Madam?’
            ‘Let me take a look at it.’
            ‘Here it is.’
            ‘Yes, that’s my bag. That’s definitely my bag. Case closed. Look, I’ve really got to run.’
            ‘Glad to be of service Madam. And if your Jag turns up we’ll be in touch. I’ll get on to the Polish Embassy first thing tomorrow morning.’

Dennis Kennedy MSP

30 May

Dennis Kennedy MSP  – a quite breathtakingly fat individual – waved graciously, smiled once more, then slipped out of sight into his campaign car with all the deftness of an oil tanker. At last, he thought, clutching at the door handle with his bulbous shortbread fingers. These voters really don’t let up, do they? He groped his way into the gleaming vehicle, taking many laboured breaths through his nostrils as he did so.

           Daffodils – the air freshener. His favourite brand, modelled on his favourite flower. He used to eat them on his long walks across the estate as a child. 

            ‘Move over will you,’ he said to Carl Plopp, his chief adviser, a man who always smelled very strongly of soap. The most striking thing about Carl’s gangly appearance were his massive crimson ear lobes. When the light hit them one got the vivid impression of a pair of ruby red earrings.

            ‘Sorry Dennis,’ said Carl politely, avoiding eye contact.  Carl had that jarring nervous habit  of addressing one by one’s name on an almost sentence by sentence basis.

            ‘Dennis, I was thinking. About the policy changes Dennis, that we’re seeking to –‘

            ‘Not now Carl, please.’

            Carl looked pensively upwards and bit his lip.  He took a lobe gently between thumb and forefinger and looked through the tinted glass of the campaign car window at the turmoil outside. He picked out two or three faces, good, wholesome, disgruntled Scottish faces. Disgruntled at Dennis or merely the state of the nation? He couldn’t decide.

            ‘Drive on Morris,’ said Dennis to his long time chauffeur Morris Butcher, ‘just honk the horn if you can’t get through.’

            As he shimmied into the car-seat’s leather lap Dennis caught a glimpse of his svelte new P.A’s glossy inner thigh. Oh! How he would like to clap his bulky hand on that little fillet. And what a squeeze he would give it. Now what was her name again? Janine? That’s right isn’t it? Janine. Gosh it’s busy in here isn’t it. Three, four, five people! Laptop each; smartphone each; and all manner of other dingly-dongly things. Busy busy busy. But – Dennis was full of timely buts – where in God’s name is the damn debate? There was never any debate anymore. People didn’t even know the meaning of the word. To hash out, to talk over, to deliberate, to discuss. He was in a bit of a slack mood – he often experienced torpors like this after a fudged liaison with the public.

            ‘Don’t be afraid to crush that woman over there Morris,’ said Dennis, ‘you see her? That one. That one there. The one in the turquoise anorak.  There. You see her? I should have the  secret police come around and bloody arrest her during the night.’

             Carl looked away again shaking his head.

            ‘Oh come on Ploppy,’ said Dennis chuckling, giving Carl a little slap on the thigh.

             A member of the electorate, a squat woman, fiftyish or so (whom Dennis would later invite to dine with him, unsuccessfully, at his townhouse in Stockbridge) was standing talking to the press with a lit cigarette in her hand. She was gesticulating wildly, running her exasperated hands through her short shock of egg yolk yellow hair.

            ‘What’s all this?’ inquired Chris Belcher (Dennis’ gifted media architect) vaguely.

            ‘Oh just some bigoted woman. Used to support me – us – the party – blah blah – but now you’re a disgrace she says – an effing charlatan – oh Belchy, you know the rest.’

            ‘Well I’m sure you handled it accordingly minister,’ said Belcher.

            ‘Turn on the radio Morris,’ said Dennis, ‘the noise of all these people outside is giving me a bloody headache. Oafs…fs, fs, office, eugh, eugh,’ he started coughing violently (cigars), ‘office party on Friday’s going to be literally mental isn’t it?’ he said, trying to suppress the cough and looking puffily in the direction of Janine the PA, his newest and youngest member of staff. ‘Literally mental’ was a bit of vocab his twenty year old often used. Things were also frequently ‘random’ for him and of course ‘literally random’. Everything was always so literal with that boy.

            Janine looked up in alarm. Outwardly she came across as a quiet, meticulous individual. After leaving boarding school in Perthshire it was off to Queen’s College Oxford (PPE), then down to London for a few years. As soon as Scotland finally became independent it was back up to Edinburgh, home. Actually this last move hadn’t really been part of the life-plan – the internal spreadsheet – at all. She had only intended to come back to Scotland when she was ready to raise a family. This stint (and she hoped it would be a relatively brief one) was a career move, pure and simple. Janine was in her late twenties, she didn’t have a lover, she was a free agent. And she knew from personal experience that there were only about three  bachelors in the whole of Edinburgh that would be of  any use to her. Nevertheless she was enjoying it here, for now. More than she would have thought anyway; yet the green space, the seaside smell, the flickering reminiscences of idle teenage summers all came together occasionally to make her feel queasy and weak in the stomach. But she had little time to reflect on the rumblings and stings of nostalgia: she had an important job to do, she was sculpting out a career for herself. She blushed under Kennedy’s gaze, ‘yes, minister, yes you’re-’

            ‘Christ,’ whispered Chris Belcher hoarsely, looking suddenly very pale, ‘Dennis,’ he hissed, pointing directly at the heart (and namebadge) of the Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs, ‘Dennis, turn that bloody thing off for God’s sake. The microphone. The microphone! How could you have been so bloody stupid? Morris turn up the radio.’


(jingle jingle) Breaking News (jingle jingle)


From our award winning political correspondent Greg Mundell.


News just coming in that the Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs Dennis Kennedy has threatened to crush a woman underneath a motor vehicle whilst simultaneously labelling the voting public ‘oafs’. This shocking news arrives amidst the unprecedented revelation by Kennedy that the Scottish Government has a ‘secret policing’ arm.

            We are coming to you live from Edinburgh where Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs Dennis Kennedy has been out talking to voters in the run up to the elections in June. This is of course the first set of general elections since Scotland achieved Independence last year and a vital time for all those involved in Scottish Politics.

            Mr Kennedy believed that he had had a successful day out canvassing voters in front of local television cameras. However, the veteran politician had unfortunately left his microphone switched on as he vacated the rally in his campaign vehicle, which lead to a series of off-colour remarks being broadcast to a nationwide audience of dozens.

            Local hag, excuse me, local bag-lady Mary Montrose, who works tirelessly for a paltry wage at a supermarket on the outskirts of Edinburgh was the unwitting victim of Mr Kennedy’s eviscerating verbal attacks. A lifelong supporter of Mr Kennedy and the United Scotland Party she pitched up at her local rally to show support for Kennedy and voice her concerns about the nation’s future:

            ‘Oi, you, Kennedy!’

            ‘Why, yes Madam? Great to see you out. How are you today?’

            ‘Now, dinnae sell me any of yer snake oil ye big fraud!’

            ‘Whatever do you mean?’

            ‘You’re takin’ this country to the dugs!’

            ‘Now, of course you are entitled to your opinion Madam, but I simply don’t agree. The United Scotland Party are a party for Scotland and we have the national interest at the heart of everything we do. After all, we were the ones that took this country out of the union, out of oppression and let it flourish, let it bloom. ’

            ‘Ye’re a bunch ay bloomin frauds I tell ye!’

            ‘Have you any grandchildren madam?’

            ‘Aye, eighteen.’

            ‘How are they all?’

            ‘Eh …’

            ‘Well isn’t that grand. Good luck to you and your wonderful family. Great to see you out today.’

            Mr Kennedy proceeded to get swiftly into his campaign vehicle and drive off, but not without lambasting poor Mrs Montrose to his colleagues:

            ‘Crush that woman over there Morris!’ said the bloodthirsty minister to Morris Butcher, his driver.

            ‘I should have the secret police come and arrest her during the night!’ he said to Carl Plopp, his chief adviser.

            And as for the general public, Mr Kennedy had this to say:

            The noise of all these people outside is giving me a blasted headache! Oafs, fs, fs!

These unbelievable remarks are bound to be a huge blow for the USP’s re-election campaign. A frank and full public apology is to be expected in the coming hours or days.


This is Greg Mundell, award winning political correspondent, from Edinburgh.


Good afternoon.


Dennis crushed the microphone – little electronic traitor – between his fingers. His first thoughts were ones of repulsion and retreat (specifically, opening the car door, flopping onto the blistered tarmac and rag-dolling away unconscious down the road). Yet the next inkling was like a friend’s calm hand falling upon his shoulder and bidding him to take his time. Dennis, said the ghostly voice accompanying the hand, you will weather this. Remember Dennis, remember how the vultures swooped as you finally revealed that it was you – you were the hero that had liberated Walter Scott’s last pair of pants from The British Museum in London. And that time you misquoted Burns and the Russians thought you were declaring nuclear war on them! This wasn’t the first time something like this had happened (it certainly wouldn’t be the last). He would weather this squall.

            Nobody spoke. Carl Plopp shed an individual tear which he would later disavow. Belcher tore out a clump of his own hair. Even implacable Morris had his head in his tattooed hands.

            ‘Morris,’ said Dennis quietly, ‘the air freshener, is it Daffodils?’

            ‘Yes guv.’

            ‘Good. Keep buying that.’


23 May
On Saturday mornings I learn the lanes of Edinburgh -
             track their trickles of life.  
I came across Second Hands last week
             and I will certainly go back.
                                    Stacked full it was,
                                    jam packed -
            with nerve tingling
            bits of old bric-a-brac.
                        Walking in - as you do -
             the inner earphone music looped - cocooned,
as it were, in a personal soundtrack - you stalk softly
through this neatly jumbled past
on permanent display.
As the feet shuffle the eyes dart - and extract
rich colour codes - of pearl and puce,
                        faded claret, sumptuous green,
                               burnished gold, dust -
You pick up and play - with silver shades
                                          of tiredness.
                        A pile of cheap picture frames
                                    lazily reclaimed -
                        queue for release.
Some photographs of you - a lady, a beau, a brigadier -
 decompose gracefully, shelved -
                        until such time as
            someone sets them sleeping once again -
                        in their own Petri-dish attic
            of lost minutiae.
            Looking up - from invoices, charts,
                        crinkled maps -
                        the minutes of administrative
                        meetings from ordered pasts -
             I spot - in an awkward, ramshackle line -
                        pictures of the picturesque,
  profligately framed - one eye towards the sublime.
 And, in a lonely nook, 
 alongside a pile of austere railway books, 
           bandy, barely standing but for a cord
                        weaved through his varnished bones
            and a surrogate steel spine -
  an old medical skeleton, head empty and drooped,
            leers maniacally at the carpet.
Idiosyncratic relic. No happy home can accommodate him.
     Think medical professors - long dead - obliging you
          to see through the poor soul’s disappeared flesh -
            and behold her grinning skull.

To Edinburgh with Love

31 Mar

Last summer a set of dazzling paper sculptures began popping up at strategic locations all over Edinburgh. The story took off on twitter and eventually on news sites around the world. As more and more of these incredible objects appeared an irresistible puzzle began to unfold.

What makes a good mystery story? Well first of all you need a great setting (Edinburgh would suffice). Then if you can cobble together a cast of compelling characters, throw in a few twists and maybe a murder or two you’re already half way there. What about a whodunit using Edinburgh’s literary establishment as the canvas? The culprit – a renegade artist – would leave clues scattered around the city, intricate sculptures handcrafted from Scottish novels and poems. That might just work: ‘The Strange Case of the Paper Sculptures’.

Oops. I’m afraid that’s already been done. Pity. But before we go any further there was no murder involved, unless, that is, you take into account several books being snipped up and rearranged into sculptures. Just a little mild bookicide then.

It all began in March last year when staff at the Scottish Poetry Library stumbled across a sculpted tree – later dubbed The ‘Poetree’ – left anonymously on a table in the library. It was an object of rare beauty and considerable craftsmanship. A note left by the tree, addressed to the Library’s twitter account @byleaveswelive read:

‘It started with your name @byleaveswelive and became a tree.… … We know that a library is so much more than a building full of books… a book is so much more than pages full of words.… This is for you in support of libraries, books, words, ideas….. a gesture (poetic maybe?)’

The whole thing was baffling. Local news picked up on the story quickly and tried in vain to establish who had created this little masterpiece. But nobody knew where it came from, nor was anyone forthcoming with information. And it turned out that this was just the beginning.

In late June a similar piece was discovered at the National Library of Scotland sculpted from a copy of Ian Rankin’s novel Exit Music. It depicted a gramophone sitting atop  a tiny coffin – which quietly ushered in a recurring theme in these anonymous works: anxiety at the potential death of Scotland’s creative heritage. As the artist’s note read: ‘A gift in support of libraries, books, words, ideas….. (& against their exit)’. Rankin’s work would also become a running theme in the sculptures, echoing the mystery at the heart of their creation.

Then it was the Filmhouse’s turn to receive a gift. This time it was a tiny cinema scene with filmgoers watching a big screen as men and horses gallop out of it towards them. A remarkably complex piece. One of the audience is even a tiny Ian Rankin holding a tiny little pint of Deuchars.

By this time every institution in Edinburgh with some kind of literary connection was expecting to find a little something in their midst. Our anonymous artist (‘the Banksy of Books’ or ‘Booksy’ as the Gaurdian wryly dubbed them) did not disappoint. Pieces appeared at the Scottish Storytelling Centre, The Edinburgh Book Festival, The Central Library, The National Museum of Scotland, The Writer’s Museum and finally the last piece was deposited back at The Scottish Poetry Library, where it all began, with, intriguingly, a note. A goodbye note, as it turns out, in which the artist revealed that she is a woman:

Some had wondered who it was, leaving these small strange objects. Some even thought it was a ‘he’! ……. As if!’

She writes that the entire enterprise was:

A tiny gesture in support of the special places…..

and that the poetry library was close to her heart:

here, she will end this story, in a special place … A Poetry Library ….. where they are well used to “anon”.’

What is remarkable about these sculptures is that each piece is as esoteric, beautiful and as lovingly created as the last. The ‘Poetree’ with its message of renewal and rebirth is certainly a standout but I really can’t pick a favourite!

There has been some discussion of an exhibition of all the pieces together but for now you can see many of them on display in the places that they were dropped. I recommend a visit. Perhaps we will never know who the artist was that so modestly distributed her works around Edinburgh last year. But does this really matter? Wouldn’t that dispel the magic ?

If you are looking to find out more you can find a copy of the mystery artist’s letter in full and a very detailed narrative of the events online at http://thisiscentralstation.com/featured/mysterious-paper-sculptures/