Dundee born writer Jim Crumley is going to translate a piece of my text into Dundonian. The piece opens the book and I wanted the first text to be from the city, of the city so I am very pleased Jim agreed to do it.  Jim writes about the wild animals and wild places of the world, the wilderness. A little different to my preoccupations but both share a common language in wanting to tell the stories that come from observation and reflection. The stories I make are urban based, yet as rooted in landscape as Jims narratives of eagles, whales or wolves. And it his language, that comes from this place that connects the people directly to this landscape. Without it my words in the text are dulled. I need to hear the music.

A book, a bench and a performance.




The Masters show in August is not long away now, and , as the title suggests, it will consist of a book, a bench and a performance.

The show will be a physical culmination of the research, writing, process, and making of the stories I have discovered and imagined through the two lines I have walked in Dundee repeatedly and  I think is as much a portrait of place as a narrative of place. The world I have inhabited has slewed between a factual documentary of Dundee to a fictional ballad of loss and longing and connection to people and where they call home.

The notion of ballad is one that returns to my thoughts as I have always seen the writings, drawings, paintings and photographs in part, as a musical score. Indeed, in my notebook from earlier in the year I talk about what I think this book is, and I say it is an artists book, a guide book, a travel journal, a conversation, a script, a score, a repository for the little known, the uncommon and slightly absurd. There in essence is how it will be.

And, at least I have a bench ! The Council have just emailed to say that I can borrow a bench for the show. I can choose one from any of the parks as long as it doesn’t have a memorial plaque.

The book however is another matter. I have started on the demolition and reconstruction of all my work this year, and with the help and support of my friend and designer we have a form to work with. Much to do.

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There is a performative element also to the piece, a composition written for the opening night of the Masters show which will be performed in various venues around Dundee during the 10 days of the degree show. I am going on tour, taking the words and images that came from the city and returning them as something altered, as a new story to add to the stories. Presently I have four dates booked including the central library and the Discovery ship.The voluntary groups I worked with are my first audience . It will be great to perform it for them first.





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Hangin’ over the bridge, peeking for broon trout,

too warm for your gansie the day.

Bin bags filled with water

splitting their sides,

laughing at her Arbroath joke

about soup.


Gas mantels, flax seals, the Troubles, bingo wins, trainee beekeepers. Being scunnered, trees, jokes about wind, photees of the Tay rail bridge. Culverts and herons, a mallard, the Ferry, pulleys for the washing. Grandchildren, comics and songs and the plastic cable ties that sometimes dinnae work.




the burn.








He calls me ‘little spuggie’.

Sorry Edith.

But I’ll take it,

its nice.

My second gift,

a still life of Dutch compare,

funny and brlliant.

I smile.

And lastly,

they show me how to eat jaffa cakes


Apparently I’ve been getting it wrong all these years.





( spuggie is Dundonian for sparrow.)



April fools




Hi ho.

hi ho,

its off to work……

‘An’ wha’s ‘Grumpy’ the day?’

Burnt grass,

Black Watch.

A cold under baked morning,

not fit to rise.




Shiny boots and woodpeckers,

buzzards and mibbe a newt, but na’.

Macaroon bars at a celtic game,

the lade,

the ponds,

the Watchie,

the ghosts……..

fun- sized mars bars,


meeting a childhood friend not seen for thirty years.







keeping secrets



March 25th 2014


It was one of those cool, ash-coated mornings, the kind that are good for a job such as this.

The sun, sallow, thrawn, slunk low in the sky.

Down by the burn where Asda and Lidl took the plunge, a sparrowhawk skimmed the trees as we climbed through the fence.

The silence of holding breath.

Tooled up,

strung taut a line in a funereal tone we came to the place in plain sight.

With an L-cut in the earth we buried the stash.

He laughed about Paris in Springtime.

“Shut it “, she snapped tight a cable tie.

The canary grass fizzled in the easterly wind,

from Russia with love.





This may or may not have occurred in quite the way detailed but, one thing is for sure, we did plant some trees.



a luppie o’ tatties






Her Mother worked in the mills,

sixpence a day,

age eleven.


A luppie o’ tatties an’ a hauf loaf.


Her Granddad swung great bales of jute and carried them on his shoulders,

as now,

he picks up his Granny and swings her round

the soldier boy back from Jordan.

Her Dad lost his fingers in the mills machines,

the war, an evacuee aunt.

A London accent too thick to be clear

her Dundonian as foreign

as an Afghan province,

a teuchter,

a dub,

in the wash house wi’ Granny.


10th March 2014.


Tilting at windmills

with hogweed stalks.

Crabby apples

and love-bitten damson.


A Sherlock greatcoat,

a turquoise wink



ice climbing in Glencoe.

But to Angus for the tatties,

the howkin

the berries

for the slates in the buckets at the weighing.


(notes – These conversations came about from a trip with the conservation group to a piece of waste land behind the Michelin factory in Dundee. The title Plunkin’ is playing truant from school.Sherlock and wink refer to herons and knigfishers spotted along the burn. The slates in the bottom of the buckets was a trick to get more money from the farmers. )



13th March 2014



I can’t draw,


my hand is someone elses.

‘That rubbers getting a lot of use ‘, she says.

Her Dad was the second Scottish man to swim the English Channel.



Thats better than kissing David Cassidy.




6th March 2014



awa to where ?



To the bleaching fields by the Dighty,

spreading linen on the grass

to dry and blonde.

Its fallen angels

sooking up the sun.


(notes –  1. Tenerife- ee and Finger-only were someones memory of a friends pronunciation.

2.The Dighty Burn had dozens of mills along its length and the linen was originally bleached and laid out to dry in the fields next to the burn.

3. The Fallen Angels beauty parlour is round the corner of the community centre. )