r2vyln3rdioj14u-rld0ska where mountains meet the sea: January 2017

'A single quaver...'

A single quaver
of loosening ice
extends across the silence,
revives the air
with the almost forgotten song
of snow melting to water
and of water flowing
to reaffirm
as winter’s claw
holds a little longer,
although what was
is strong,
what will be’s

Gael Turnbull, from A Winter Journey

Fèin-aithne na h-Alba / Wha's Like Us

A Man's A Man For A' That

Is there for honest Poverty
That hings his head, an' a' that;
The coward slave - we pass him by,
We dare be poor for a' that!
For a' that, an' a' that.
Our toils obscure an' a' that,
The rank is but the guinea's stamp,
The Man's the gowd for a' that.

What though on hamely fare we dine,
Wear hoddin grey, an' a that;
Gie fools their silks, and knaves their wine;
A Man's a Man for a' that:
For a' that, and a' that,
Their tinsel show, an' a' that;
The honest man, tho' e'er sae poor,
Is king o' men for a' that.

Ye see yon birkie ca'd a lord,
Wha struts, an' stares, an' a' that,
Tho' hundreds worship at his word,
He's but a coof for a' that.
For a' that, an' a' that,
His ribband, star, an' a' that,
The man o' independent mind,
He looks an' laughs at a' that.

A Prince can mak a belted knight,
A marquis, duke, an' a' that!
But an honest man's aboon his might –
Guid faith, he mauna fa' that!
For a' that, an' a' that,
Their dignities, an' a' that,
The pith o' Sense an' pride o' Worth
Are higher rank than a' that.

Then let us pray that come it may,
As come it will for a' that,
That Sense and Worth, o'er a' the earth
Shall bear the gree an' a' that.
For a' that, an' a' that,
It's comin yet for a' that,
That Man to Man the warld o'er
Shall brithers be for a' that.

Happy Birthday Robert Burns!
a song for 1999, a prayer for 2017

The Tale of the Wild Haggis
Burns Night
Editing Robert Burns for the 21st Century

Letter To Heather: On The Line

Dear Heather,

What can I say about the line? The line
returns, always, to its starting point: it is
a question of margins, marginality,
where the line ends
it begins. It comes back like a ghost
haunting our breath. It dies a long death
on its search for the right hand margin
and then is born again. Revenant, Resurrectionist—
the line is all we have
we have to live by. Our lives on the line.

But is that what you meant? The poetic line?
or that primal mark, hand to paper
(sand, canvas, wall, stone: blank surface)
first gesture of inscription
already dividing space, giving figure and ground,
line of a face in profile, line
of trees on a distant horizon?

We walk the line, we draw the line,
sometimes we cross the line. It is a sign
(a lyin' sign) for limit and transgression.
"Oh you see that line that's movin' through the station" —
we line 'em up and shoot 'em down.
The line starts here.

Heather, my favourite line is still the coast:
long stutter of islands and inlets
and on a particular beach, a shifting line
moving to some
equation: where the tide
advances and returns
across the level slip of sand.
I want a line as slow as that, twice-daily pulse,
or the breath-line pausing, reaching out
and coming home. Dear sweet familiar ghost
on the margin once again.


Stephen Scobie, from Spaces in Between: Selected Poems 1965-2001


Dòchas –
rionnag anns na speuran.

Dùil –
rocaid agus rionnag anns na speuran.

Creideamh –
adhar làn rionnagan.

Cinnt –
grian a’ deàrrsadh

Maoilios Caimbeul, from Eileanan
Hope –
star in the skies.

Expectation –
rocket and star in the skies.

Faith –
sky full of stars.

Certainty –
sun shining.
Trans from Ronald Black (ed.), An Tuil

Being a Human Being

(for Mordechai Vanunu)

not to be complicit
not to accept everyone else is silent it must be alright

not to keep one’s mouth shut to hold onto one’s job
not to accept public language as cover and decoy

not to put friends and family before the rest of the world
not to say I am wrong when you know the government is wrong

not to be just a bought behaviour pattern
to accept the moment and fact of choice

I am a human being
and I exist

a human being
and a citizen of the world

responsible to that world
—and responsible for that world

Tom Leonard, from Being A Human Being

in solidarity with the women of the 'Other America,'  the one that raised me

Dance Called America

The landlords came, the peasant trials to the sacrifice of men
Through the past and that quite darkly the presence once again
In the name of Capital, Establishment, Improvers, it's a name
The hidden truths, the hidden lies that once nailed you to the pain

Of the dance called America
They danced it 'round and waited at the turns
For America
They danced their ladies 'round

Candles of enlightenment once lit they say don't burn
To turn the darkest room of suffering to a greater state of pain
Don't tell me that's behind you now, don't greet me, don't meet your dying blind
It's our very last stand together so let's sever, no regrets

They did a dance called America
They danced it 'round and waited at the turns
For America
They danced their ladies 'round

There were days that once held confidence, strength of will and mind
The camouflage that washed your fathers, your sons, and daughters time
Another tongue, my love, my island, you've gone international
With all the praying men of God who stood and watched it all go on

They did a dance called America
They danced it 'round and waited at the turns
For America
They danced their ladies 'round



Rugadh na h-uile duine saor agus co-ionnan nan urram 's nan còirichean. Tha iad reusanta is cogaiseach, agus bu chòir dhaibh a ghiùlain ris a chèile ann an spiorad bràthaireil.
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood. 
Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

In the Time of Tyrants

All that the hand may touch;
All that the hand may own;
Crumbles beyond time’s clutch
Down to oblivion.

Fear not the boasts which wound:
Fear not the threats which bind:
Always on broken ground
The seeds fall from the mind.

Always in darkest loam
A birthday is begun;
And from its catacomb
A candle lights the sun.

William Soutar, from In the Time of Tyrants


For a time at least, we are renewables.
There is some face, some snowline, or some shore
Fuels us, a power-source. Just to dream of it
Is to unravel what the world is for.

But if it fades, we do, and the solution's
At once too self-deluding and too crude:
New dreams we dream alone will not renew it;
Only old, common dreams can be renewed.

Robert Crawford

Saving the Planet

Something to die for

To die: to give up life for
to die for means to live for
would we want to die for what
we would not live for?

We cannot die for ourselves since death is the end of us
we cannot live for ourselves since that is absurdity
we die for what we can give and abandon generously

Here is what we die for:
our family name and honour
our children and children’s children
the principle of beauty in truth
a working mind and heart
humans who live with the planet
who thrive on thrift
who love to share and build
more life, life to die for.

Tessa Ransford

The Piper and the Maker

I could hear the music playing as I came up to the door
And once inside I heard the beat of feet upon the floor
Had Gow himself been there that night he couldn’t have disapproved
As sets of reels got settled and the bows began to move

The fiddles fired the music to each corner of the bar
And the rhythm swung like Basie on piano and guitar.
Keening bright above the rest, the small pipes led the splore
The call went up for dancers, Frank and Maggie took the floor

The players stopped to catch their breath, the dancers gasped for air
The piper stood and loosed his straps and stowed his pipes with care
And as he stepped towards the bar a voice was heard to say
‘You look to me the kind of man could play a sweet strathspey’

‘I have that reputation and it’s kind of you to say,
But I’ve got a demon thirst on me, I haven’t got all day’
‘Well hold that drink a minute now and look at what I’ve here -
A set of pipes worth more of your time than any pint of beer.’

‘The drones are made of boxwood and the chanter’s bound with gold
There’s finest beeswax, hemp and leather – here, I’ll give you them to hold’
The piper looked in wonder as those pipes came out the case,
He strapped them on and closed his eyes and quiet filled the place.

The Devil in the Kitchen and the Rothiemurchus Rant,
George the Fourth and Stumpie and the Bob o Fettercairn,
As each strathspey outshone the last he swore he knew no more
But still the tunes came tumbling out from some forgotten store.

He played strathspeys and jigs and reels he never thought he knew
And when at last the outpour stopped, the silence round him grew,
Until the shock of what they’d heard from everyone did burst
In cheers and yells and shrieks and cries that by and by dispersed.

And as they did the piper turned and to the maker said,
‘What enchantment is there here and was it really me who played?
There’s fearful stories of these things I’ve heard the old folk tell
I fear the hands that made these pipes were guided straight from hell!’

The maker smiled at him and said ‘I understand your fear,
But the wood and leather’s of this earth – no magic is there here.
I will admit these pipes could be the finest ever made
But that would count for not one thing if they were never played.

‘For there’s music in them right enough but there’s music in you too
And the one requires the other for that music to come through.
The pipes unlocked the music that was waiting in your soul
And you unlocked the instrument and made the circle whole.’

Mairi Campbell
Hamish Moore

Sailor's Wife

Sailor's Wife/Lads of Duns/Soraidh/The Kelburn Brewer

Alasdair Fraser
Natalie Haas

Out Of My Own Light

“I’m so darned restless and unhappy these days just can’t make a decision one way or another. If only I could get right away for a while I’m sure it would help. I’ll never get out of my own light while I continue here.”  Margaret Tait, 2nd May 1950

Louise Bichan
Out of My Own Light

an infinite storm of beauty

"When we contemplate the whole globe as one great dewdrop, striped and dotted with continents and islands, flying through space with other stars all singing and shining together as one, the whole universe appears as an infinite storm of beauty." 
back to the future
where does it end?

The Shopping Forecast

The Shopping Forecast issued by the Dole Office
at 1930 on Monday 1st January.

There are warnings of Sales in Frasers,
Debenhams, Esslemont and Macintosh.

The general Shopping List at 1300:

Iceland, North Utsire, South Utsire.
10p off at Iceland, while stocks last.
Lurpak £1.06 decreasing 5 or 6p
by 1300 tomorrow.
North it’s dearer, south it’s dearer.

Faeroes, Cromarty Co-op
Fisherman’s Friends reduced
to tears. Automatic Lighthouse
on the blink. 40 watt
lightbulbs sold out.

German Bite, Biscuit, Thin as Air.
Strudels, Hob Nobs, 5p off.
Peckish, becoming famished 1 or 2
Decreasing 3 or 4
dress sizes.
Gail, forced, ate.

Isle of Jura, Baileys, Rhum.
70p off 70cl.
Westerly, veering uncertainly.
Becoming paralytic after 6 or 7.
Occasional slurring.
Poorly later.

Hiking, Base Rate, Robber Bank.
Variable, becoming high.
Extortionate for a time. APR 20 or 30.
Mastercard and Visa low.
Hard rain. Overdraft increasing 100%

Viking, Forties, GSOH.
Low, 100 miles south of Shetland.
WLTM Siren or Silkie.
No mermaids.
Rising Northwesterly
in anticipation.

That is the end of the Shopping Forecast.

Eddie Gibbons, from A Twist of Lime Street

for auld lang syne

let's go kindly into this new year, dear world.

Thank you for visiting, dear readers. And especially to Ian, Shirl, Andrea, Joo, Robert and Jo, thank you for sharing your thoughts with me throughout the year.

Peace to you all.
Bliadhna Mhath Ùr

thank you, Jim.