Word Pictures


My blog has been a poor abandoned thing lately, hasn’t it?   Oops.

The last “proper” blogposts were made in memory to people I have lost recently. I love them, miss them like hell and oddly really enjoyed writing a picture of them.  It was nice to sit back, letting the memories roll over me and cry and laugh all over again.

But it is May, the cherry blossom throw pink confetti to swirl about streets and I feel caught in the spring summer, summer spring? brightness around me.  I have been dancing in the kitchen while howling along to tragic 80’s tunes on the radio again, rejoicing that winter is finally over.  It is more than a season for me. It is a state of mind. 

And boy, that was one hard winter for me.  And probably everyone around me.  Actually more than probably.  My nearest and dearest were probably fighting the urge to smother me with a pillow while I lay on my face breaking whinge records for Scotland. The misery sighs I huffed out at regular intervals could have powered several wind turbines.  As well I live near a wind farm. I would have hated if all that whingey woe had been wasted. We must have got a few kettle boilings out of that at least.

But I made it to the cherry blossom time.  It was touch and go for a bit but here I am. And there they are.

And now, as I try and catch the pink petals, I wonder.

What next?


FEED | Webstagram

FEED | Webstagram.

Will this work I wonder? I thought it would be fun to link to my instagram pics. LOTS OF CAT PICS! SO MANY CAT PICS. I SWEAR I DON’T HATE DOGS.

Oh look it worked! I think. Oops no, it is my own instagram stream rather than my pics.  Oh well. Back to the blog twiddling board.  You should look though.  They post great stuff.

All further attempts have failed.  I am being THWARTED by the internet.  Growl.


I think it did? Possibly? Note to self: Knock it off with the bright ideas. They only end in keyboard faceplanting.

1, 2, 1,2, 1,2,3,4…hold it…NOW!*


(apologies to original owner/creator – I don’t know who you are to credit you)

While discussing New Year Resolutions with the Baron, he showed me this pic.  This is his inspiration for 2012 and rather cheekily I have nicked it to be mine.

2011 wasn’t a splendid year for me. Lots of Hopeless Heights time and a bit of loss. Loss of people and a bit of loss of confidence due to illness and mental exploding giraffes. The Brain of Kiz has not been a happy place.

Anyway where was I?

Oh yes. MAGIC.  IT HAS TO HAPPEN. Or just life. Life would be excellent. Of the vaguely vertical, occasionally leaving the house quality. That might help the whole photography thing I love and generally used to fill my time with.  There is really only so many pictures I can post on instagram of my cat before dog lovers turn up and stamp my iphone into glass shards for the good of the eyes of the internet.

After this decision and a bit of a lie down, I started to make plans. For the mental bridge the hell out of here. And the conclusion is I am open to suggestions. Concrete plans just make me lie down a lot more. Add that to a mystery illness and I am forgetting how to use my legs.

Well there are some teeny wee plans. Planettes even.

One was to try and use this blog more.  Bizarrely I found myself worrying about posting anything.  So many go through my mind and get discarded.   Mainly through fear.  Fear of my appalling writing skills being critiqued.  Fear of putting myself here.  The only thing I really can write about is my life.  And that means actually me on this blog.  Nothing I could stand away from if someone objects to it.  Arrows would hit. *looks at picture*

The other was dig out Maw’s unused treadmill and trot on it a bit. My best thinking is done in the shower.  The staring at the tiles while scrubbing my hair lets my mind wander off and do thinky things without me getting in the way. But the lack of anything to write on in there lets me down. And generally the ideas are gone the minute I reach for a towel. A running friend was telling me how she finds that handy for thinking and generally improving misery brain. If I can amble (I am built for comfort, and definitely not speed, so no actual running for me thank you) along on a treadmill and stare into the middle distance will it have the same effect? Will it be easier to write down ideas without having to stop what I am doing?  Will a bit of deliberate exercise eject some of the exploding giraffes out of my headspace? Worth a shot. Especially since Maw has never used the damn thing.  Someone should make more use of it. Rather than going for the traditional hanging clothes on it that always happens to exercise equipment.

The mystery illness is somewhat getting in the way of the latter so I have focussed on the former for now.


Now the diagram makes me think of a place in Jupiter Artland. There is a piece by Ian Hamilton Finlay. A small bridge. On either side is a stone with the words “only connect” carved into it. I might as well try that eh? A new feature on this blog is a list of the blogs I read and enjoy.  It isn’t all of them, just the first ones that came to mind with a little twitter prompting.  I expect it to grow through the year.

Baby steps. I am still not sure what I want to do exactly with this blog but hopefully this year I am going to find out. 

Happy 2012. May it be where the magic happens for you.

*The title of the post is connected to the opening of a song from the 80’s.  Extra points if you can work it out

‘Mon Then!


I think I have said before that I wasn’t always Scottish.

Well I didn’t feel Scottish. I was born in mainland Europe. My birth was registered as British with a bonus registration in Edinburgh. We then lived in England for a number of years before circumstances eventually led my family to settling in Scotland.   So I always felt I began as European and worked my way along to becoming Scots.  Of course when I arrived in Scotland I was utterly bewildered. Scotland has a language, a culture, a huge developed identity.  I had no idea before I arrived.  My mostly Scottish parents had never said, never explained anything about their/our homeland.  Their accents were light and they rarely even used Scottish words that I can recall. But I realise now that when you are surrounded by non-scots there are two paths to choose. One is the full Scot, no quarter given with language, singing Flower of Scotland when pished. And the other is choosing the quieter road, using the English words instead of your childhood scots ones to save on endless explanations.  The second path I think has often been used in the past as Scottish manners. As I got older I realised the Scots automatically used two languages. “proper” English at school etc. (or a vague attempt with Miss Jean Brodie style teachers correcting poor English) and the Scots you spoke to friends and family.  You answered in the language you are spoken to. Or at least you did then. (I suspect my father may have gone the first path when he had a drink in him but I was never present for these times)

It feels different now.  You don’t have to be educated to travel (there was nothing like that to aid in the development and usage of “proper” english,) the tv quite often speaks with a Scottish accent thanks to the efforts of broadcasters to promote more regional news and entertainment efforts. I also I wonder if this is, in part, because of the internet too. In the days before it you made your choice about whether or not you carried your scots with you to another land, the loud or the quiet path.  But since you can travel the world now without even having to leave your chair then the language doesn’t automatically get adjusted. And we aren’t just a wee bit popped on the top of England any more. The loud road is less a conscious donning of national identity and Scottish people being just themselves. The internet means we get the opportunity to show who we are without tweaking for tourists or being the party Scots in the bar far from home.  (though we still do that very well I have to admit)  

And the best example I have seen of Scots being splendidly and hilariously ourselves with a global audience was this week with “Hurricane Bawbag”  Not strictly a hurricane but it will certainly do.  The windspeeds were definitely comparable so the name felt entirely appropriate. Along with the other names tried out such as Marydoll, Boaby, and Senga before Bawbag and the great Scottish sense of humour won out. And trended on twitter worldwide.

And I have never been so glad of it. I was home alone, am currently suffering a bout of Labyrinthitis (not ideal for battling wheelie bins in gale force winds) and the potential to be terrified out of my wits by groaning trees swaying, debris whizzing past the windows and the wind battering off the house was seriously high.

But I wasn’t. Thanks to the internet and specifically twitter. It provided me with up to date information from the council, the police and the main news bodies.  Up to date travel information for my family and minute by minute weather reports. And a lot of laughs.  The thing that really binds Scots together more than the language is that sense of humour. The jokes made in the face of the winds, things being blown over, the wind turbine that somehow managed to catch fire.  The brilliant OMG TRAMPOLINE youtube video that did the rounds.  And the media embracing the Bawbag name.  (STV’S slightly prim explanation of exactly what a bawbag is utterly hilarious. I give them kudos for mentioning Jeremy Clarkson in the same paragraph. Nicely done)

Wonderful stuff. A scary situation made normal.  And weirdly, fun. I had one of the best days even while lying down and swearing while the house shoogled under the onslaught of the extreme weather. Like somebody said: “You may take our garden furniture but you will never take our patter”

I belong to you Scotland.  And I swear (as much as I can before my maw tells me off,) I have never been happier about it.

Dancing In High Places


I remember the first time I met Michael.

It was a ludicrous hour of the morning, at a party that was attempting to last for 3 days. It probably did. For some, possibly alcoholic, reason I don’t remember much else about that party, just him. But towering over proceedings at well over 6 foot something or other, with a mop of dark curls, bright blue eyes and a demented grin, even at age 18 or so, he did tend to draw the eye.

I thought he had one of the most of the beautiful faces I had ever seen. I drunkenly told him that years later and he pulled as many stupid faces as he could manage while laughing uproariously. I hit him and huffed but I never changed my mind.

We didn’t see each other often after I left Edinburgh and the night for a life of bucolic boredom and daylight. We would periodically bump into each other in the nightclub dark, mouths close to ears to be heard about the whomp whomp whomp of the loud music, me on tiptoe and him stooped over, winding his body around and over me like a particularly odd tree. We would rip the pish out of each other, flirt, I would sit with a bit of a petted lip while he told me off about the state of my health with firm instructions not to quit on my body. Whole years of feelings, views, smiles and tears would be compressed into half an hour or less, He could tell me off, make a heartfelt apology for a past crime on his knees and make me blush, all in one conversation. I still don’t know he did it. He knew everyone, was everywhere and he could still make you feel you were the only important thing in front of him. That kind of laser focus was unnerving, flattering and completely Michael. Every time I assumed his attention was occupied with something, he would turn and catch a detail I expected him to miss. I am still in awe. More than once, as I left the post club street social at 3am, breaking away from the crowd to go home, I would hear him calling my name and find him galloping after me to kiss me goodbye. He seemed able to scan a space and find anyone he wanted. He was always on the dancefloor, arms and legs every which way. He couldn’t see something without climbing it. Walls, lamp posts and even on one memorable occasion, a party one floor up in a tenement via the scaffolding outside. Much to the surprise of the guests inside who turned round at the sound of knocking to find him peering in the bay window. You didn’t know what he would do next but whatever it was would be so him you would wonder how you hadn’t expected it all along.

He had a way of tilting his head and looking at you so seriously. A still pause while you waited for his lips to quirk into that grin and the devils to dance in his eyes. And dance they always did, even as the mop of curly hair grew long enough to be restrained in a ponytail and laughter lines started to trace across his face. I think those devils were what led him. Thinking and doing were never far apart. What those devils saw was where Michael’s feet would soon be dancing. It was the most wonderful thing about him. His passion for life, for people, for everything. Amazing. And a little frightening. There was safety in Michael’s hands but always that little bit of danger in his eyes. Those devils always had him dancing on an edge somewhere. Quite often a physical one, while laughing at people worriedly calling him back. I think I both loved and hated those devils. They gave Michael his spark, his energetic magic that drew you in but I genuinely worried the price of that magic some day would be Michael. That he would some day burn out and leave us in quiet darkness.

I was wrong, in the end those little dancing devils didn’t take Michael. A car did.

But I will always remember his magic.



Last month Bill Alston died.

And another piece of a world that made me… me disappeared.

He was my art teacher at this point in my life.  Well, in a way he was one of the ones responsible for getting me there.

My home life was not easy.  Up to age nearly 8 I was used to an entirely different life.  When it ended, any change after that just rocked me.  Most of my childhood memories seem overlaid with the emotion of fear.  That any second someone was going to shift the goalposts on me and my life was going to crumple up again.  All the sureness I had about who I was up to that point had vanished.  I looked different to everyone else, I sounded different, I was suddenly an outsider who just couldn’t blend any more.  I stopped trying to do things since trying something and not being able to do it made you obvious, gave more grist for the teasing mill.  So you can picture how well I managed the jump to secondary school at age 12.   I spent the first year feeling very lost, a tiny fish in too large a pond.  In second year, at age 13, was when I met Mr Alston. And his class was the first place where I felt happy and most importantly, safe in a very long time.  I could do what was asked of me in that class. I was never made to feel stupid. If you forgot your homework, Mr Alston was apt to shrug and say “people forget things, I forget things too”  For someone who absented herself out of her brain a lot to get through a week this was such a relief.  It removed the dread often felt while going into other teacher’s classrooms. 

My happiest memories of school are in that classroom. It was warm and bright with a tiled floor and the standard belfast sinks. Writing about it suddenly makes me remember the smell of the paints and the vinegary tang that hung round the door of the tiny darkroom.  I remember a poster of Billie Holiday on the side of a cupboard, staring soulfully into the middle distance, with the white flowers in her hair.  Oddly I seem to remember it as it being the brightest art room despite the one along from it being on the corner of the building with far more windows.  Funny how the mind plays tricks on you like that.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think Mr Alston ever set out to be the Robin Williams to our confused Pucks.  He was just gloriously himself.  The other teachers concentrated on getting you through exams (very well I do admit,) Mr Alston just let you be as artistic as you could be and experiment.  You could go to him and say “I want to try this slightly weird thing with this medium on that” and he would just go “ok” and quite often whisk something out of a cupboard that would aid you. He would look at your work and see something in it when you thought you had made a pig’s ear of it.  I thought I had taken a brilliant photo once, from a different angle from everyone else that day and on developing it, was utterly deflated to find it just looked dull. Mr Alston looked at it a moment, went away and came back with a better quality of photo paper than the usual stuff they let us use for me to reprint it on. And suddenly I found I had a photo I was really proud of. I still have it somewhere, in a scrapbook.  I watched him casually drawing faces in his after school art club and was fascinated, he happily taught me, and after that, would let me march through the art department borrowing unnerved kids from other classes trying to catch their image on paper, I remember being allowed experiment with pastels while everyone else painted, wearing the tip of a finger flat blending great swathes of colour together while listening to him talk about all kinds of things.  About how different the world was when he was our age, “in those days if you wanted to go to uni or art school, you just *went*” but always encouraging our further education dreams with “remember you can think just as well as they can”

That last one really stuck with me. That was the phrase that made me decide that yes, I was going to go to university when no one else thought I could.  All the mistakes I have made in my life, my one real regret is I never saw him again and properly thanked him.  For his time, his attention and that bit of wisdom that gave me enough faith in myself to make a choice and choose a change in my life. For the first time ever.  And when I had the opportunity to say something worthwhile to say to teens, I found I had a piece of wisdom to pass along. I hope it carries a few of them into adulthood the same way it did me.

Thank you Mr Alston.

Bill Alston’s Website


Hold that thought. I refuse to admit defeat.