The Dream

A crow sits in a dead tree, a leafless reminder of mortality within an ocean of green. His krraaak krraaak sounds echo and are returned by a sky of fluid blackness. He spreads his haughty, metalled wings and hangs their tips as he listens for a sound of dying. Blue sky glints, jet eyes glisten, the bird seems lit from within as knowingly he watches and waits for a prophecy of carrion.

In a shallow gorge beneath the tree a stream flows. Deep amongst the shadows a splash of red edges the water, affirming the fluidity of movement in a fleck of discordance. A face stares upwards at circling black in a sky framed by rocky protrusions and jagged branches. The face is pale, gaunt and haunted. Short breaths emanate from between bluish lips. A red tee-shirt, wet, clinging, covers the torso but conceals little of the skinny frame.

The gorge is overgrown and lush, simultaneously welcoming and unnerving. On the other side, vegetation parts and a face appears. A long face, a thin face, a face that belongs. A twig breaks underfoot and the face turns to look directly at you. The eyes are deep green, intense, penetrating, hypnotic, and you feel the gaze reach deep into your soul. Memory bubbles in your consciousness: memory of childhood, of longing, of misunderstanding, of mystery; and still the green eyes hold you. Virescence fills your perception; the leaves and grass and lichen and ferns and still the eyes, the knowing eyes.

The sound of the water gurgling in the gorge increases in volume until there is no other sound but water, there is no other place but here, no other time but now. And below you the motionless figure in red.

You begin to scramble down to the stream. The earthy sides of the gorge crumbling under you as you descend. The roots of saplings and the bracken provide uncertain security, something to hold as you slip downwards. A rock dislodges and tumbles ahead of you, bouncing and rolling. The sharp clack of stone against stone, softened by a subtle plash, and the rock comes to rest mid-stream, making new patterns in the water, changing the shape of the brook.

To your left, slightly upstream, lies the reason for your descent. You move closer and find it is a young girl. All she is wearing is a red tee-shirt and underpants. Her left side is in the water, her right lies on wet stone and sand. The edge of the stream caresses her, strokes through her fingers, laps against her waist, her leg. Her wet clothing glistens and you can clearly see the shape of her narrowness under the material. Her ribs are discernible, the concavity of her abdomen and the slight swell of her belly. Her hips, the joints of her shoulders the flow of her skin. She breathes shallowly and, as you lean over to look in her face, her breath catches and a soft moan escapes her lips.

“Please. Don’t be afraid. I’m here to help you,” but you have no idea how you are to help her.

You look upstream, downstream, there is no sign of how she got to this place. No evidence of passage. Did she fall? Was she thrown? Perhaps she was born out of the earth of the stream bed? You look upwards and the face of the forest is still there, watching you, encouraging you, pouring warmth into your soul. A hand appears by the face, three fingers outstretched, making some sort of sign, and then there is nothing. No face, no hand, only the bushes and the walls of the gorge echoing the soft water sound and the noise of the watching crows far, far above. And the motionless girl.

Leaning over her, you see her eyes move to yours; blue eyes, alive, aware. There is no fear in them, only sadness and acceptance. You pick up her hand, her cold hand, and, as your warmth flows, you feel an answering pressure from her; she needs something.

Just at that moment there is a grating sound and in the stream above her head the waters part, flowing around empty space. Unnatural but not out of place. The stream bed is visible and the silt trembles. Slowly a mound appears, growing shakily, uncertainly; and a noise emanates from it, a deep earthy croaking, as of something long buried and long forgotten. The wet earth falls away and a large, ugly bullfrog sits disoriented; its grotesque body made beautiful by the nature of its skin. Pearlescent, multicoloured, glittering, bejewelled, a Faberge frog made living. Croaking deeply the frog hops to the side of the girl’s head and appears to nuzzle her ear, then it turns and leaps into the stream, sparkling into the depths of a small pool.

As if released from invisible restraints the girl moves; first her head, then her shoulders, arms, hips.

Around you the gorge has gone, melted to a shallow depression. You find yourself in a sandy glade, through which the small river runs. Rock edges enclose a pool and beyond fades into forest. You are on a pebbly beach and, close by, a huge fallen tree lies over a runnel, creating a sheltered haven. As the girl struggles to move, you help her to her feet and stagger to the sheltering tree. In front of it is a wood-fire, prepared but never lit.


[To be continued]

I Am a Father*

I am a father.

I have no idea whether I am a good father or a bad father, I only know that this is what I am and this is my purpose in life. It sits well with me and I am happy.

In the nine and a half years that I have been a father I have been flying by the seat of my pants. You see my own father died before I was born and so I have no reference, no guiding experience of what I should or shouldn’t do or be… but I try. Sometimes I win, sometimes I lose but I guess I will have to wait another 20 years or so to see whether I did it well or not, to get the report card from my kids.

But my greatest joy is something that my father never had the opportunity to experience. I have a son… I have a SON.

I could never have anticipated what that would mean or what an impact having a son would have on me. My first two children were girls and I loved them with every ounce of existence but to have a son? When he was born I was over the moon but almost immediately a fear set in. How could I be Daddy to a boy? I even resented his existence for a time. I had been happy and content with the girls in my life, I knew girls, I knew women but I knew nothing about boys. When I looked at him I would feel an enormous empty ache fill my chest, grief for my father, my daddy; that strange figure in black and white who left me alone. I didn’t want my boy because I knew that I would fail him, I knew that he would hate me and grow up resenting me because I didn’t know how to be. I couldn’t explain these feelings to Amber or to anyone, I mean, it was warped wasn’t it? I was a bad man for even thinking such thoughts. What kind of a father felt these things towards an infant?

So all I could do was continue. I saw this little lump of male flesh grow into a real baby with a smile the size of the moon and with the biggest blue eyes of any boy child I had ever seen. I watched him go through the same stages the girls had but he seemed slower, less able, somehow less of me. Everyone told me that he was just like me, in miniature… I only saw Amber. I just could not see anything of myself in this child and whilst I loved him, there was no connection, I couldn’t feel the bond that I had read about… this father – son thing, there wasn’t the tie there was between my girls and me.

Then suddenly, when he was about two, he started needing me. Not in the way the girls needed me but in a strange and different way. He needed something ONLY I could give, he needed me. The more he needed me, the more I warmed to him and the more my soul thawed. I saw so much in him, so much that I had never seen in myself. I saw the growth of care, the bravery of a three year old, the concern and love of a four year old for his sisters, the insatiable curiosity of an agile mind, the unquenchable thirst for life of a boy, the sheer joy of loving and living. But most of all I saw the growth and development of a relationship the likes of which, in my wildest dreams, I never thought possible. I saw the flowering of this strange, unknowable father – son friendship.

Every waking moment I sought him out, not to interfere or to hamper, but to watch, to listen, to experience him. I wanted to hold him and to smell him; I wanted to be close to him constantly. I learned his ways, his moods, his frustrations. Each day, as I learned him more I saw little pieces of myself… the lost things, the frozen things, and as I saw them I began to see who I was, for the very first time in my life.

My boy loves me with a raging, open, unsullied and unconditional love. He loves me like I have never been loved. He loves me the way I have always needed to be loved and I, in return, love him like a hurricane. My boy is teaching me about myself and he is letting me see myself through his eyes. My boy is helping me grow up and my lack is a lack no longer. He has birthed the man in me. My boy is unique, he is only himself; he is the brightest star, the sweetest note, the widest ocean. He is the blue of the sky and the freshness of the breeze. My boy is the sun on my shoulders and the road beneath my feet, he is my life and if anyone ever tells me he is like me I swell with pride and know that I could only ever hope to be like him.

My son is the father I never had.

(*posted on in 2006)

Memory Plays Tricks Sometimes

In the centre of Glasgow there is a grand railway bridge. Locals jokingly call it “the hielanman’s umbrella” suggesting it as a gathering place for parsimonious northern natives, displaced to the big city by reason of glamour or employment. In the absence of traditional highland regalia it’s difficult to tell the teuchters from the ordinary Glasgow stock.

Below the platforms of Central Station you will experience, I believe, the very Breath of Glasgow.

It has a distinct and unique smell. A moist combination of chip-fat, newsprint and the exhaust fumes of countless corporation buses; and old cigarette smoke. It is delicious and homely and, when underpinned by the throaty roar of accelerating taxis, is as comforting as the chunky arms of a favourite aunt; the deep rumble of trains overhead, her heartbeat.

At night, though to be fair it always feels a little less than daytime there, the place becomes a flashing, sparkling mess of life, filled with issues and desires. A place where the rest of the city, the rest of the country, becomes insignificant and wan. It’s certainly not the nightlife hub of Glasgow, but its food outlets, amusement arcades and brightly lit emporia of tat, make it as enchanting, and as cold, as Vegas.

It’s Glasgow, just as I remember it.

It’s Like Feckin’ Groundhog Day

I have been here, it seems, about a million and eleven times, and here I am again.

Previous blogs have gone and should be forgotten; this one, under my own name, is intended to be a forum for my writing and more in-depth engagement with the world than Facebook, Google+ and Twitter will allow me. I hope it develops nicely, with some decent interaction and positive development, but we’ll see.

I’ve posted loads of bits and pieces for your delight and delectation. Some of you will have seen them before, some of you won’t. Enjoy anyway. Please bear in mind that some of the older stuff dates back to my angst ridden youth, so approach it all with forgiveness in mind.

On the up-side, there will probably be fewer posts about arses… but I make no promises.