Saturday, 10 July 2021

Just keep swimming?

The above is a poem from a few years ago (text at end of the post in case you can't read photo poems). This week I added it to a recent photo of the mouth of the river Tay (taken in Broughty Ferry). I put it on social media – it didn’t make a big splash or anything. Still, here it is again.

I’ve lived near serious water since 2002 and I know it has a huge (positive) effect on my mental health. When I wasn’t mentally healthy it was feelings of being trapped that did a lot of the daily damage and living in a landlocked situation (in West Yorkshire) was something I was glad to change. When I didn’t live near the sea I wrote poems about photos of the sea (see Flat good – it’s about halfway down this page of little poems) and every chance I could I got away to water. I knew that just standing on a beach looking at the sea really helped me then and it still does. Lockdown without a river or the sea? Not sure that would have worked out so well for me… Congratulations to anyone who managed/is managing that.

Then this poem (The big sound). Sometimes when we write poems I think we have some quite clear ideas about what a poem is ‘about’ (even if it has other layers as well) but with this one I really didn’t have a clue. It just popped out and it felt like a poem (to me) but I couldn’t have said what it was ‘about’ or why it had appeared. I liked it enough to put it in my second little collection but it’s just floated around in there since then, not caused any waves (sorry … I guess I am a tabloid headline writer in another life*).

Then this week I was reading some Covid-19 news. Cases are rising, rising, rising in the UK and places are opening, opening, opening at the same time. I hear people saying they are keen for ‘the end’, for ‘normal’, and these are not things I really recognise but at the same time I know what they mean. And suddenly I remembered this poem and had another look at it, looked at the water, put them together.

When I posted it online this week an old friend said it seemed ‘about hope’ which is interesting because I think it gave me the exact opposite feeling! Moods and words are such odd beasts. It's all in the interpretation perhaps.

Also this week I wrote another poem for a wedding (a private commission). I haven’t written a huge amount since January but my goodness this one just poured out (and the person who commissioned it was super pleased with it too). In some ways it’s a small thing (woman writes poem) but in others it’s huge (for the people concerned, their big day and all that). I’m not married, I’m not a fan of marriage, but I am a fan of love and I can write about that till the cows swim home. So maybe The big sound is a hopeful poem. Maybe love is the big sea, and maybe love (in all its many forms) will get us out of this big fix … but until then here are some cows on a beach (coincidentally on the other side of the mouth of the river Tay). A friend and I took a long walk back in 2015 from Leuchars to Kinshaldie beach and then right along the edge of the water to the Tay road bridge. Just before Tentsmuir Point we were surprised to see a small herd of cows on the beach. Were we hallucinating? Were the cows on some kind of holiday? I don't think I've seen them since ...


Tentsmuir Point, 2015. Photo: Andy Fellows

*Just kidding. The media in the UK is one of the most destructive forces we have. It is home to lots of souls who will, at some point I think, be in whatever hell looks like these days … Boris Johnson’s boudoir, perhaps. Insert vomit emoji here.

The Big Sound

There was a river flowing by,
On it went, on its way,
Calling out to us all,
Swim with me, be my tide,
And we tried, splashing fast,
Getting wet, wet and tired.

Then just when we thought
We couldn't manage
One more stroke -
The river turned into the sea.

Monday, 28 June 2021

Songs that stick

Scurdie Ness, near Montrose

So is it too early to start planning my Fun A Day Dundee project for next year (asking for a friend…)? I know the annual art making and sharing doesn’t happen till January but … there’s reading and thinking to do first, right? 

After January 2021’s me-fest (a poem for every place I’ve lived – 31 in all) I’m looking in another direction this time and I welcome you to join in, contribute, come along for the ride. The plan just now is to focus on songs and, in particular, songs that I came across at the fortnightly folk club that I went to when we lived in the small Scottish/Angus town of Montrose (2004-18). I don’t know if there will be poems this time (maybe, maybe not, let’s see how it goes...). The idea for this focus came to me recently when I was listening to our music library on shuffle and heard a lovely song by a singer/songwriter that we heard at the club a few times (the first time in 2005). I hadn’t heard the song for a while (maybe years) and forgotten how lovely it was. Here’s the song (performed by the writer and his music/life partner – they perform as a duo, Dana & Susan Robinson, they live in Vermont, U.S.A):

There are quite a few folk songs called Safe Home, I think, but that’s my favourite (so far). And of course home has been something we've all had to think about more than ever in recent times. And it has been a really challenging time for musicians, especially those who aren’t mega famous and who rely on live gigs to keep their profile up and their fridges anything like full.

At folk clubs like the one in Montrose you get a mix of artists as the guest performers. You hear quite a lot of tunes/instrumental numbers (and I learned to appreciate them, folk club novice that I was in 2004) but it was always the songs that I was most interested in. Like many of us (maybe even most of us) I’ve been a song fan as long as I can remember and my tastes go pretty wide. At the folk club the songs played come under one of the following categories:

  1. Traditional songs (where most often the writers are ‘unknown’, Robert Burns kind of sneaks into this one as well though, he’s pretty unavoidable in Scotland).
  2. Songs by ‘big hitter’ songwriters of the 20th century, many of them, but not all, from over the big water to the west (Bob Dylan, Tracy Chapman, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, John Prine, Nick Drake, John Martyn etc.). 
  3. The odd rock/pop song cover (and the more daring the act the more pop they go … a Fife band called Coaltown Daisies used to do a good Titanium when they visited). 
  4. Songs by the visiting artist themselves (a mixed bag – sometimes amazing, sometimes less so, though of course these things are subjective). 
  5. Songs by other less well-known songwriters (people who are only known on the folk scene or maybe not even known there).

I’m currently reliving my trips to the folk club in Montrose (back to those pesky/useful diaries again) and trying to pick 31 songs to write about (again one for every day in January). I’m trying to focus on songs in the 4 and 5 category (but I may creep into 2 now and again as well) and I’m going to try to contact the songwriters (where possible). There are songwriters who may have been in 4 or 5 when I first went to folk club in 2004 but who have so many great songs that they are now making their way into category 2. The final piece of the puzzle is that I’d like people to have a go at covering the songs in question and doing a rough recording if they can (rough is good). It’s a collective project I’m talking about here… a folk club, a ‘sing in the round’ kind of a thing, if you like. On YouTube.

So please get in touch if you’re a folk clubber and have any particular memories of songs you heard at the club and have never forgotten (comment on here or on Facebook or wherever you find yourself – I keep trying to get off Facebook but so many of you are still only there and I don’t want to lose you!). Or if you fancy having a go at covering one of the songs let me know that too (very alternative versions always welcome). There is plenty of time to practise before January. I will print up a list of the songs when it’s ready (I’m on the 2008 diary today so it might be a couple of weeks till I’m done).

Safe home (unless you’re already at home in which case just thanks for reading).

Thursday, 3 June 2021

Blogs fight back!


Arbroath, last weekend.

So, all the world's a podcast right now ... but blogs are still with us and here are a couple of newish ones that I can recommend to you (both of these are written by people I know pretty well).

A friend of mine and her colleague are setting off this weekend on a cycling trip from Land's End to John o' Groats. Follow their progress on a blog here. Donate to their fundraiser if you can here too.

Our daughter has been writing a blog for much of the lockdown era. She has a collection of theatre programmes and her blog concentrates on the musicals she's seen (with quite a bit of life added into the mix). Read her blog Heather Loves Musicals here. On Instagram you can even hear her sing a little bit of one of the songs mentioned in her most recent post.

I was quite caught up in the world of blogs a few years back. I started my first one at the end of February 2007 (this one - first posts here) and continued with it (pretty regularly) till 2011. I wrote about all sorts and did very little editing (I'd probably cringe if I read some of it now!). Lots of the other bloggers I interacted with regularly in the early days still have blogs going and you can see them in the list on the lower right hand side of the web version of this blog (you might not see the links on a phone/tablet version, I have no idea why). I also had a blog for the poetry events I organised 2008-2010 (here). Then in 2011 we had our family 6-month trip to North America and of course that had a blog too (this one). I still read that epic quite a lot (especially in recent months) and I'm glad I kept to the discipline of writing it for the whole trip. I do keep handwritten diaries too but they are pretty simple affairs (more to help the memory than anything) and the travel blog has a lot of detail (plus all the photos of course) and it can really make me smile (sometimes even laugh at my own jokes...). And on our return was I going to start up another blog..? Why, yes (the one you're looking at now...) oh and why not - another cup of coffee for the road - here's another one I put up for a long poem I wrote at the end of 2011.

There are lots of reasons why I continue with blogging (even if it is irregular these days - I'm on the computer a lot for other work now and the eyes get tired). I like the speed of it, the freedom, the ability to post about absolutely anything. I suppose they are a bit like sketchbooks and/or scrapbooks in that sense and you either like that kind of thing or you don't (and I do). I do put poems up on my blogs (sometimes when they're very new). I know this can affect how other places (magazines etc.) will publish your work but I have totally abandoned the 'sending poems to magazines' business. I did it quite a bit for years, had some success (a few such triumphs mentioned on my website if you're interested), and quite a few rejections, but it takes up such a lot of time and it wasn't for me in the end (it's a lot of admin and admin has never been my favourite activity). 

Anyway, I've no particular poems to share with you today. Just thought I hadn't posted for a wee while so wanted to keep things moving on here. And if you haven't seen it on social media already here's a pic of the new Michael Marra mural in Lochee in Dundee (by artist Michael Corr). I've written about Marra on most of my blogs somewhere along the way, written poems about him, written about seeing him at live gigs, written about books about him. He died in 2012 but my goodness his music and his presence certainly live on, especially here in his home toon.

Wednesday, 7 April 2021

More fun, more love

This weekend sees the online exhibition for Fun A Day Dundee 2021. Of course it’s online, everything’s still online, but the only upside to this is you can see it from wherever you are in the world (programme of activities above). From this Friday evening at their site (Scottish time) you can see work (and links to more work) from all the participants who took part in January of this year and as usual there is a huge range of work (arts, crafts, carts, rafts…). Any time from Friday please head over and explore – but maybe on a screen bigger than a phone (unless your phone is gigantic) as there will be a lot of work to see.

I took part in the project this January and was asked to write a reflective piece about my contribution (‘31 Postcodes’) for the exhibition blog this weekend (and as you can see on the programme that piece will be live on their site from this Sunday afternoon - it's up now so here is the link). There’s plenty to read in that piece so I won’t repeat it all here. Instead let me just remind you that all the poems and posts from January are still on this blog (or Instagram) to look at/listen to (starting on 1st January 2021). Also I have put together a YouTube playlist to accompany the project called 31 Postcodes. It has a track for every home/place I’ve lived – not always the favourite piece of music that I listened to there but the one that most comes to mind when I think of that particular place and time. For some of the places it was pretty tough to pick (because I lived there for a very short or very long time or because I listened to so much different music there) so I didn’t soul search about it too much and just plumped for something that seemed right. It’s seems almost criminal to have a list without Stevie Wonder or Nina Simone and so many, many others but it’s only 31 entries so I did what I could. Here's some background to each choice.

For postcode/poem 1 (1967-73) - The Beatles Penny Lane

In this house I often played with a pile of old 45s that my half-sisters had left behind when they moved away. There were a few Beatles records in there and this was certainly one of my favourites. There was also some Cliff Richard…

For postcode/poem 2 (1973-4) - Mud Tiger Feet

I have strong memories of a ‘twist’ competition at my 7th birthday party to this record. I think I tried so hard to win I gave myself several stitches. Please howl with laughter at the TOTP video on the playlist…

For postcode/poem 3 (1974-6/7) - Rock Follies Sugar Mountain

I watched this TV series with my Mum. I was probably far too young but I really enjoyed it and she loved it (Julie Covington was a big fave of hers so we only ever listened to her Evita, no Elaine Paige in our house – sorry EP).

For postcode/poem 4 (1977-8) - Earth, Wind & Fire September

I had the vinyl album of The Best of Earth, Wind & Fire Vol 1 and I loved it.

For postcode/poem 5 (1978-83) - Chic Le Freak

A school disco favourite. You'll have to read the posts to understand why the dates overlap at times...

For postcode/poem 6 (1979-83) - Neil Young Old Man

As a teenager I found this song fascinating and listened to it over and over (and the rest of Harvest, an album that was at that point about 10 years old). I don’t remember borrowing this from a sibling nor do I remember choosing it for myself so it’s as if it just magically appeared in my room. I also listened regularly to local radio, Michael Jackson’s Off the Wall, Spandau Ballet’s True, and far too much Black Sabbath and ACDC (in the smoking room) but somehow it’s Neil who’s made the list for this address. 

For postcode/poem 7 (1983-4) - Shalamar A Night To Remember

I saw this band ‘live’ at the Capital Radio ‘Best Disco in Town’ on the Strand (though it was more PA than full band I think…). At the time it seemed very sophisticated – I was new in London, remember and I bet they wouldn’t have come to Middlesbrough in 1983! Looking at the Youtube video I realise why I bought a pair of black and white stripey trousers around this time…

For postcode/poem 8 (1984-5) - David Bowie Oh! You Pretty Things

I’m sure many of us have Bowie tracks that come in and out of our lives. There are lots that I like but I had quite a Bowie phase in late teens and I loved this track back then (that and Wild is the Wind). 

For postcode/poem 9 (1985) - Madonna Into the Groove

Around this time I saw Desperately Seeking Susan in Madrid (dubbed into Spanish as it was mainstream and not an artfilm). I was 18. I loved it and somehow particularly because it was in Spanish (the name Susan sounds totally different for a start).

For postcode/poem 10 (1985) - Joaquin Sabina y Viceversa Incompatibilidad de Caracteres

Lots of Spanish and Latin American music was played in this house but I thought I should pick a Spanish one for Madrid so here is one from that era. To be honest the song I most associate with this house is Dire Straits’ Money for Nothing as my Basque flatmate had a cousin conscripted in the army who used to visit us when on leave and play that track over and over (very loud). That is a song I would happily never hear again.

For postcode/poem 11 (1986) - Silvio Rodriguez Vamos a Andar

This Cuban singer/songwriter was much beloved by almost everyone I knew in Madrid. I even saw him live there but the memory is a bit vague… I think it was some sort of arena and not really the environment for his very gentle voice.

For postcode/poem 12 (1986-7) - Billy Bragg A New England

Not such a gentle voice this time. One of my best uni friends had stacks of homemade cassettes in her room in the first year (Cocteau Twins, Everything But the Girl, Elvis Costello, lots of bands I’d never heard of like The Woodentops and The Three Johns – I’ve still never listened to either of those) and she also introduced me to Billy Bragg (the sound, not the man). We saw him live at the Cambridge Corn Exchange (where we also saw, I think, Hugh Masekela and Ben Elton, but not on the same bill). Another uni friend played me the Tom Waits album Heart of Saturday Night for the first time and that is still a firm favourite in whichever house I’m in (and definitely my favourite of his albums).

For postcode/poem 13 (1987-8) - George Michael Faith

As mentioned in the blog post for this one, this was one of the sounds of my 21st birthday in our student house. 

For postcode/poem 14 (1988) - Mel & Kim Showing Out

Stock Aitken Waterman were evil but their music was almost inescapable around this time. I did have a weakness for Mel & Kim and I did watch quite a bit of Hitman and Her (it was terrible but remember, kids, we had less choice at 3am in those days).

For postcode/poem 15 (1988-9) - Diana Ross & The Supremes Ain’t No Mountain High Enough

I’ve often hidden in the 1960s or '70s and my last year at college (1988-89) was one such year (it felt nicer there, I didn’t have to think about the future). The video on the playlist is just Diana because all the Supremes ones I could see weren’t live.

For postcode/poem 16 (1989) - The Stone Roses Fools Gold

My brother had a party in this house of my Mum’s when she was away once and some friends and I (foolishly) took LSD and listened/danced to the first Stone Roses album on repeat literally all night long. My brother’s friends found us very confusing (they were more drinkers). Why were we so thin? Why did we only want to listen to one album? What were we laughing at?

For postcode/poem 17 (1989-90) - Omar There’s Nothing Like This

Although I was mainly raving around this time I liked to listen to the Leeds pirate radio station WYBC and it had a soul show that I loved on Saturday afternoons (i.e. my weekend breakfast show, nice and soothing and calming after a night of acid house). The DJ was called Soulmaster Hazzy and he played this track a lot in 1989 – sometimes 3 times in a row (you can do that on pirate radio).

For postcode/poem 18 (1990) - Happy Mondays Step On

Again I was listening/dancing to a lot of dance/house music at this point but that is a little blurred timewise (which tracks were out when, what was part of the mix…). I do remember dancing to this though when friend and I used to go to cheap student nights mid-week (we weren’t students, just dedicated followers of sound and syrup). We didn’t know a lot of student music but we knew this one.

For postcode/poem 19 (1990-91) - Diana Brown and Barry K Sharpe The Masterplan

Again there was much house/rave music in the air but friends and I listened to this track a lot (home and away) and I also remember hearing/seeing Sharpe at a sound system at Notting Hill Carnival at around this time (well, I think it was him - it could have been anyone, it was very busy). 

For postcode/poem 20 (1991) - Gil Scott-Heron Three Miles Down

I listened to a lot of GSH driving once I had a car with a decent sound system in it (it was a cassette player). I had the live double cassette Tales of Gil Scott-Heron by Gil Scott-Heron and his Amnesia Express and I would really recommend it. It really gives the feeling of his live shows (I saw him at the Leeds Irish Centre, the internet suggests this was 1992 and that sounds about right). 

For postcode/poem 21 (1991) - Fresh Four Wishing on a Star

Slow dancing at the end of a very long all-night house party… I think that’s what this was about.

For postcode/poem 22 (1991-2) - Sabrina Johnston Peace (Brothers in Rhythm Mix)

This one is mentioned in the poem – I didn’t love it especially but my flatmate played it very loud and very often. She was new to rave/house music - this was her first love, in that sense.

For postcode/poem 23 (1992-3) - K & M Funk and Drive 

You’ll not find this on Spotify. It’s a funky house record that was rereleased under the name Elevatorman (also not on Spotify). The boyf of the time played it a lot.

For postcode/poem 24 (1993-5) - Tricky Hell is Round the Corner

DJ Daisy and I both loved the Maxinquaye album by Tricky. Full of great tracks.

For postcode/poem 25 (1995-6) - Underworld Rez/Cowgirl

I could pick a millions tracks for this one but I went with one that we danced to rather than played ourselves (as DJs). Happy memories of bouncing around a dancefloor somewhere in London at 4am when we’d finished our own set.

For postcode/poem 26 (1996-98) - Joan Osborne Crazy Baby

A suitable come-down track for so many reasons. From the great album Relish.

For postcode/poem 27 (1998-2002) - World Party She’s the One

When I was pregnant I was pretty sure we were expecting a girl (all my sisters had had girls) and I often found myself singing this song (I listened to quite a bit of Radio 2 around this point – I didn’t like a lot of it but 6 Music was still playing far too much punk for my taste in 2000 so it was a compromise). Obviously the better known version of this track is by Robbie Williams but I am medically allergic to anything to do with Take That so I can’t recommend you listen to that. This is the original and it’s very similar, Robbie didn’t do anything different with it.

For postcode/poem 28 (2002-4) - The White Stripes Black Math

When our lives were full of pre-school sounds The White Stripes made a nice alternative to Part of Your World and Bibbidy Bobbidy Boo every now and then. We all used to bounce around the house to this track (including daughter and any other kids present).

For postcode/poem 29 (2004) - Buena Vista Social Club Candela

This period was a couple of months in a small house with my Mum so we kept our noisier music at bay and chose music she couldn’t complain about (she once asked if the washing machine was on – it was Radiohead… it was years later I realised she was probably being funny on purpose).

For postcode/poem 30 (2004-18) - Ana Laan Happiness is a Long Discipline

We were 14 years at this address and a lot of music under the bridge. I picked this one because it’s a good approach to life and the singer/songwriter is an old friend who should be better known in the UK (she lives in Spain). She is brilliant, sings in Spanish, English and other languages. This song is from her 2007 album Chocolate and Roses.

For postcode/poem 31 (2018-now) - Michael Marra All will be well

Marra gets a mention in the Dundee poem, as of course he should. This isn’t the song of his I know best or listen to most but it seemed a good note to end on, especially now. Marra was good at writing about all of life – the good, the bad and the ugly – and giving it a touch of something like magic as he went. He is in my Premier League of singer/songwriters (which is an extensive and brilliant team but I’m not going to start listing all those on the team who didn’t make it onto this particular list of 31 tracks or we will be here all weekend and then you won’t have time to go and check out all the Fun A Day exhibition!). 

Thanks for reading and by the way the 'more love' in the post title is a reference to a song by Tim O'Brien. I first heard it at Montrose Folk Club (performed by the band Real Time, sung by the lovely Judy Dinning, sadly no longer with us). The Chicks (formerly the Dixie Chicks) cover it too.

Saturday, 13 March 2021

Oh mother!


Another day

Hey, Mum, I still see you – 

in an urn, in a cupboard,

in the corner of a room.

It’s not ideal but there it is – 

you always were patient.

Other options were too tricky,

or busy, or expensive.

You’d say treats are for the living,

memories and motherhood,

a mixed bag.

Simple but not simplistic,

you are so widely dispersed.

In the garden, in the kitchen,

you go where we go

every day.

RF 2021

Here it aloud here.

Times are emotional, am I right? But you know, they always are, it’s just that sometimes we’re more aware of it. After the frenzy of blog activity in January this year I've had a month or so away (recovering...) but here are a few marvellous things that have made me feel even more emotional than usual this week:

1. A poetry round table as part of the StAnza festival. 

Everything is online this year of course (which suits me better to be honest... I struggle to sit in quiet audiences in real life). The poet reading her work was Tishani Doshi and her most famous poem (Girls Are Coming out of the Woods) certainly brought a tear to my eye (and hers) yesterday for all too familiar reasons. I think it was actually her tears that prompted mine during the reading. She is very good on how to both hate and love the world around us. 

2. The book no one is talking about this by Patricia Lockwood

I saw it mentioned on one of author David Nicholls’ Twitter book launch days and bought a copy (and not from Amazon...). It is not an easy book to get into (especially if you are aged, like me, over 50 and possibly guilty of using all the wrong emojis) but I persisted and it is so worth it - such lovely writing! Poets are all very well but I do often feel that many of the most poetic writers are people who work in other areas (see also this week Vesper Flights by Helen Macdonald and too much music to mention). On some days I feel like I only really like about 5 poems in the whole history of literature (bah humbug). On a related note, daughter and I also listened to Nicholls himself talking about adapting novels for the screen this week (you can catch up with that for free here). 

3. The radio shows on BBC 6 Music in the 6 Music Artist in Residence series 

And in particular the ones curated recently by Arlo Parks. These are a joy, joy, joy but the first of her six programmes only has one day left on the player so dont hang about. I am also really enjoying a weekly programme on BBC Radio Scotland (the Roddy Hart Show on Tuesday evenings at 10pm). In this weeks show his album of note was Arab Straps As Days Get Dark and I particularly enjoyed the spoken part of Tears on Tour (“what would you call the opposite of a comedian?” etc.). Well, a poet maybe...

Anyway, more when it comes.

About the photo - my Mum, Margaret Fox (formerly Parr, née Bryant), died in 2010 aged 86. Today I took her out into the garden for a photo shoot.

Sunday, 31 January 2021

31 Postcodes - Poem 31


Bird’s eye

Who knew this river city space 

would be our long-term lockdown home,

with all these hours to sit and stare

whilst still aware that others don’t 

have time to wipe a sweaty brow, 

or tears that won’t stop falling.

We hunker down, adapt our skills,

and look for news that doesn’t come,

as pigeons swoop their grey through town,

so odd with all the people gone;

they miss the pies and chips and things,

the seagulls just keep calling. 

We climb the Law to see our strength,

the ceiling’s high, the jackdaws too,

the view has questions, hear it sing, 

like ‘what would Michael Marra do?’

We stumble on towards the wise,

the fort is burning, falling.

RF 2021

We moved from our Montrose home in 2018. In some ways we hadn’t meant to stay there such a long time (14 years – a long time for me to be in one place) but our daughter was in school and doing well and we didn’t have a better idea so we stayed put. She was due to finish school in summer 2018 so a few months before that we finally put suburbia up for sale. It took a little while but eventually someone wanted it and we moved into a city again (Dundee, in September 2018). We knew this city pretty well (Mark had been working here since 2002) and we had always fancied having a go at living here. As cities go it is really striking – the river, the hills, the coast – and it’s a good size (not too huge, not too small). So far, even with all the lockdown business, we really love it. As Leeds was when I moved there in 1989, Dundee is at one of those points in its history when people are trying to make it a more stimulating, attractive, interesting place to live. Of course, opinions will differ on how that should be done, how much should be spent and on what exactly, but this isn’t the place for that discussion (and we’re new here…). I do know that Dundee is one of those places that many people feel passionate about – it has a special history, a special outlook, a dryness to the humour (all of these things encapsulated, I think, in the work and talent of one of its most significant musical sons, Michael Marra). I saw him perform a few times in Montrose and once in Dundee in 2009. He was brilliant and, like many others in his class (Nina Simone, Gil Scott-Heron...), what you might call painfully wise. 

In Dundee we’re back in a flat again (for the first time in a while) and it’s even a ground floor one (part of of the building in the google photo above). I’m sure I once swore I’d never do this again (feet above your head and all that) but somehow it’s OK. We’re up on the hill, we have some views and I’m old enough (and, miraculously, mostly chilled enough) to be not too bothered by others’ noise (in fact I even sometimes like hearing the noise of others’ children and generations above us and next door). And do I ever, upon hearing all the little footsteps and other chaos, just put in my headphones or pick up a book or a coffee and smile to myself? Why yes, I believe I do.  

We didn’t intend to move house on exactly the same day in 2018 that the new V & A museum opened in Dundee but we did. Luckily we didn’t get caught up in the traffic jams that accompanied the grand opening/concerts etc. and neither did our furniture. At the end of a long day’s moving we fell into bed but then suddenly heard a lot (and I mean A LOT) of banging. At first I thought ‘man, that neighbour at the back really knows how to bang their garage door shut, over and over’ but eventually we realised that it had to be more than that. We got up and went to the front of the house … just in time to see the very last lights of the huge, the-like-of-which-has-never-been-seen-before firework display and lightshow that had been put on to celebrate the opening of the V & A. We heard it was fantastic.

And then we had a year and a half of doing everything we could to enjoy the benefits of city life before the Covid days began. It’s a strange time to be in a city just now – so much of what makes cities tick can’t even be wound up. I walk through the city centre and seeing almost everything closed is such a strange sensation (like a really long Xmas Day – and I’m not the biggest fan of Xmas). For someone who’s spent so much of her adult life worrying about crowds and crowded spaces it’s a gift in some ways (to not have them) but it’s one I really didn’t want. Usually if I have to get a train anywhere, for example, I spend far too much time worrying beforehand about whether the train will be packed or not and what I will do if it is. At the moment I watch the almost empty trains sail by the city and long to be in one (an empty train is my idea of heaven!). I love travelling – I just (still) really struggle to do it in crowds or packed spaces so all this empty transport is like the biggest tease. I also wonder if, post-pandemic (whenever that is), I will be so desperate for change that I will move on from some of that old crap in my head and not be so weird about crowds (it’s pretty tiring and tiresome…) but it’s only a fleeting thought. Again, I’m old enough and chilled enough to not worry about it too much. Most of us have something that bugs us about ourselves. It could be worse.

More than ever, none of us know what will happen next. This is not a time for making plans so whether we will stay at this postcode for anything more than a few years is hard, or even impossible, to say. We like it here. We may stay, we may not. I don’t find moving generally upsetting or difficult (as I know some do). I find it exciting to be honest – there are so many places in the world to explore (and that doesn’t just mean obviously ‘exotic’ locations – the village next door can be exciting too, just because it’s different, and people have had to acknowledge this more because of lockdowns, I think). I also know that my feelings (about homes and moving) are a privilege because they come from a place of safety and being loved and cared for. A lot of this project for me has been trying to take a look back at my particular journey so far (the ordinary and the extraordinary – most of us experience both somewhere along the way) and a lot of it has reminded me how much of mine has been enjoyable (even if I didn’t necessarily realise that at the time). I’ve also read enough accounts, listened and watched enough documentaries about refugees and what seem like some people’s impossible journeys to know that difficult times means different things to different people. Some images from TV of the past few years live long in my mind – people stuck in terrible conditions in Calais, people risking their lives at sea, and one picture that’s stayed with me from something I watched years ago is that of a group of young men, mostly from Afghanistan, just sitting in a railway hut in Serbia. They had been there a long time and they were cold, abandoned and forgotten and with nothing to do but just sit there. They were waiting for countries to let them in, waiting for borders and minds to open instead of close (and some of them were still there in 2020 according to this article). And, even if many of us haven’t experienced anything like this so far, we could all be in that position one day and we should do what we can to support those, here and elsewhere, who don’t have the security of any kind of healthy home (never mind holidays). It’s hard to do much without a safe home: it’s essential, fundamental, basic.

And here I am now at the odd stopping point that is the end of this project. It’s the last day in January 2021 and this is the end of my Fun A Day Dundee project for this year. I know this one hasn’t exactly been anyone’s idea of ‘fun’ (I did ‘fun’ last year) but it has been a great exercise for me in terms of writing and doing something a bit creative. Mostly my work these days is aiding others’ creativity and it’s been good to see if I still have anything to offer up from my own well, as it were. I appreciate all the lovely responses on here and on evil Facebook, evil Instagram and the merry madness that is Twitter (I really only put these posts on the latter because poet and former blog friend poet JoAnne McKay isn’t on any other platform and her comments are total quality). Creativity is such a simple thing, in itself, and this felt good to do. I’ve learned I still have a memory (bit of a shocker), and that I still have friends and love (likewise) and a roof over my head (even if that roof is a couple of floors up with another family in between). Most of all, I’m still alive, still breathing, and still looking around me now and then and wondering ‘what the hell is that?’ and sometimes ‘can I eat it?’ It’s OK. It’s more than OK.
Here’s a pic of me in 1970 (aged 3) outside my first home (left) and then just yesterday outside our current home. As you can see I am now, and have always been, a fashion icon:

If you’ve enjoyed following me on this project please feel free to pass the blog link on to friends and family or anyone else you think might like it. They might want to start at number one (it’s back here, 1967, just outside Darlington in Co. Durham, England). Thanks for reading everyone and here’s to Fun A Day Dundee 2022!

This poem is part of the annual Fun A Day Dundee project where participants try to do something creative every day for the month of January. You don't have to be in Dundee to take part and there are other Fun A Day projects around the world. People post as much of their work online as they want to (largely on Instagram but it can be elsewhere too). In January 2020 I wrote a 31-word poem and posted a drawing to illustrate a word of it every day for a month (more info here). This year I am posting a whole poem a day (one poem for each of the 31 addresses I have lived at, covering the period 1967-2021). Videos of the poems show the places remembered in the poems but were taken from recent Google Street View. The videos are on my Instagram, maybe elsewhere too. Use the hashtag #fadd2021 on social media to see other people's online contributions.