Tuesday, 31 March 2009


He Removed His Face.

Solemn drunk staggers between cars, from lane of stopped traffic into still moving traffic. The light is red, so we are slowing and coming to a stop, and he watches for his gap. Towards the moving cars he does a hand motion, as though he has removed his face, a wiping motion, then crumpled it in his hand, then thrown it aside to the road. This done he crosses somewhere behind me, and gathers himself once more on the pavement, his shirt tails tugged out, his face gone grey, his hair lank. He does his dishevelled best to progress in the dignified fashion of the truly hammered.


Wrinkles As She Grins

Girl with her auburn tinged brown hair tied back takes a shelf in the coffee house. Sat on a high stool, she grabs a free newspaper that is sitting off to the side. She wears a thick long scarf, multi coloured, wrapped repeatedly round her neck and lower face. She sits propped and ready, watching for them to shout when her coffee is ready. There are a couple of false alarms, where she is half off her seat, before her turn comes for real. Once she has her coffee she can settle, take off the waist length grey jacket, with its fuzzy lined hood. Beneath that she wears a warm blue woollen jumper, a couple of inches of black t-shirt peaking out from the bottom so that it almost looks like a skirt over her blue jeans. She wraps the jacket round her legs, covering her lap. Then props her head on one hand, sips coffee, turns the pages of the paper, reading carefully. Occasionally scanning the coffee for anything that might catch her interest amongst the background noise of people receiving their orders and chattering. One page clearly delights her, her nose with one nostril pierced with a thin ring, wrinkles as she grins with appreciation. After a while she digs into her backpack and digs out her phone. Checking the time, she decides its time to leave, so she wraps that long scarf back round her head, before pulling her jacket on and zipping it up. She bends down and picks up the branded super market bag with her groceries, and the generic blue polly bag, into which she shoves the paper. She slings her bag over her shoulder, then with shopping in one hand, she picks up the cup and saucer with the other and takes it back to the bar on her way out the side exit.

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Monday, 30 March 2009


Neon Flocks 1 - January Early.

There are dozens of them in the rain soaked streets, circling like sparrows in the sky. Drops running down their child faces. Skinny barely post-pubescent girls in pre-club/under 18 uniform. A group of them striding between cars – bright yellow trousers, a neon colour, gathered at the ankles by reflective bands. White vest tops, emphasizing how skinny they are, scooped to show the potential of some future cleavage. They have a swagger, a look in their eyes, these feral Lolita.

At the junction a group with legs bare, either wearing absurdly short shorts or obscenely short skirts. Spotting others of their kind they yip and run frantic hug and the chatter of high frequency conversations. A third group strides in the same direction – half of them n plain white forensic suits, hoods up eyes staring out. One amongst them in a neon pink shirt that goes with the neon pink t-shirts the rest wear beneath their whites. To go with the skirt an open black hoodie, shoulders slumped, hands buried in her pockets beneath she wears a black top, scoop necked and naked belly.

The next dozen are in short skirts, coupled with brutal heels, a white track suited guy in their midst, nervous for all his feigned bravado. Around them adults part, watching their passage. Even though it’s only 6 pm it’s January and its dark and bleak. Everyone other than this stream of teens is dressed for the weather, complimenting the weather – blacks and grey, rain coats and jackets, rare elements of colour so subdued as to be negligible.


Neon Flocks 2 - March Late

A Friday night in March. After 10 pm at night. It’s dark. It’s wet. The forecast is wintry. The under age clubs have clearly emptied out. They stand in their packs, huddled by the bus stops, gathered in the fast-food places, stuffing their faces. Not used to seeing them in this phase, normally it’s the flocks on the streets, bight and shiny and full of ferociousness. Here they are faded, hair gone lank, make up smudged some. they sit round tables, while I drink coffee, some of them their mums have turned up to meet them, they look amused while their daughters just look exhausted. There is something particularly like a rave culture to the style but surely they aren't still listening to faded 80's hardcore classics? But I have no idea what they might be listening to. Buses come and go, the crowds thin out, and it takes on the feel of a more normal Friday night once again. The surreal underage interlude coming to an end


Based On A True Story

Coming out of the cinema after the film has finished, back of 10 at night kind of time. There is a homeless guy standing waiting at the exit, one I have seen before, though not the regular guy that sits crouched on the ground. He has the ragged older bloke look as he stands there with his inch stub of a polystyrene cup. Got any change, he asks, proffering his discoloured hands, clutching his receptacle. Sometimes I give money, sometimes I don’t. Tonight I do, saying, give me a second, I might have some. I pull out my wallet, and decide to give him a couple of pounds, searching out a few 50 pence pieces and a pound coin. As I do this, he asks what I saw, so I tell him.

He says he likes to get in and see a film sometimes, that there is one he’d really quite like to see at the moment. Its this true story, he says, about this group, four guys and a woman, and like one of them had super-powers. The Watchmen? I ask. Yeah, he says, then he explains how he found a newspaper, in the street, just the other week. The paper was from 1977, he makes this point clear, and it told the story about this group and how they attacked criminals. One of them had powers, though he wasn’t sure what those powers were, but the rest of them were just regular people. Though, he guesses, they’ll have changed that in the film, and no doubt they’ll have powers.

He told me how the police were happy for these folk to get the people they couldn’t get. But how that had changed when some like interfering politician or DA or someone get involved. So they had to put an end to it, except this one guy, with bandages over his face, and make up colouring them round his eyes, and mouth, who kept going. Through the conversation the guy seems to be a hybrid of Rorschach and the Joker. The conversation is weird and intense, I humour him, say how surprised I am not to have heard this and its news to me.

He steps towards me, confidentially, explaining how this guy walks up to the paedophiles and rapists, and he makes a stabbing motion to demonstrate what he does. A voice in my head gets a little nervous as he stands this close and goes through these motions, but I don’t really take it too seriously, I don’t really feel threatened, and the same voice questions my judgement. He goes into a rant about the legal system, how different and ineffectual the American system is compared to the Scottish, and how easy it is for bad people to get free, and kind of well obviously we need people who can make a difference.

He peters out after a bit of that, so I take that as my opening to leave, conscious of the fact that given the opportunity he will go on, conscious that I need to get home, conscious that its getting late and I have work in the morning, conscious that I can’t really say those things to a homeless guy. But we wish each other well and I get on my way, bemused by everything that just happened.

Saturday, 28 March 2009


Larger Than Life

He is big. He has apple cheeks and tousled hair; women are always seducing him and blokes try to beat him up. He registers both with amusement.
Here are the two things you must know, should you ever meet him: Time has no meaning for him, and he is trouble.
Nobody knows what he does for a job, so I ask him myself when he arrives, two hours late.
"I am enjoying la dolce vita", he says with a wink. He watches with sympathy as I frown. "I own part of a software company."
"What kind of software?"
"Oh, military systems."
It's the same offhand tone he employs to explain the reason for his slight delay: His watch stopped while he was making love this morning. "You know. No shock resistance."
He winks again.


Friday, 27 March 2009


Wrapping of Tin Foil.

Girl with long brown hair, clutches a cheese and tomato roll between her fists, home made with its wrapping of tin foil. She stands with her back to the street, taking careful bites. Studying the products in the window of the health food shop.

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Thursday, 26 March 2009


Number Mapping.

The office is undergoing ongoing refurbishment, which makes for frequent moves of entire departments at a time. To coordinate the receptionists/phone managers deal with all the phone numbers in the building. Before a move, they go round the floor with a map of desks and names, and take note of the phone number. So that once the person has moved the number should automatically be mapped to the phone that is on the new desk they end up at. I wonder about the logic, for the most part they have a directory of names and numbers – so the theory should be that they already have everyone’s numbers already. Of course, in practice, there will be exceptions - contractors, vagrants, resurrectees but they should be in the minority. Regardless, the two women in purple blouses, black cardigans and shock blonde hair take a side of the floor each, working down from desk to desk. She asks my number and I point at the post-it. Hmm, well, if you don’t mind, I’m going to check that. She phones reception, can you tell me what number this is? She notes it, you were right! I know, just because I can’t remember it doesn’t mean I don’t know what it is. Though, as they go round, its amazing how many people have been sitting for weeks at a desk, and have no idea what their number is. She slaps my back, hard, in congratulation and moves on, my back is still pulsing from the blow.

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Wednesday, 25 March 2009


Nessun Dorma

There is always a different girl on the door of the Italian restaurant. They need a girl in the doorway, because this Italian is downstairs, basement level, from another street level. So the girl stands with the menu and calls out to passers by. The last time my brother and I were here it was an olive-skinned brunette, who couldn’t escort us down fast enough to get away from the manager who was loitering with her, he always hassles her to eat more she complained. Then on the way out she asked us what we had, when we told her she said it sounded great, I suggested she should go and get some, and she replied by saying she didn’t want to get fat.

This time there is a blonde girl, shoulder length hair, caramel coloured jacket. She asks if we are part of the Clark group, we look confused, oh, there is a table of 10 and they haven’t all arrived yet, she explains, leading us down the stairs, leaving the manager loitering on the front step again. I remind my friend once we are sat, the last time my brother and I were here, the manager sang. The place was packed, and he would call for silence and then burst into song after a short introduction. He did it three times before he finally left for the night. The place is pretty quiet right now, so maybe we will be ok?

The manager comes into the restaurant, an aging guy, balding, rumpled suit, a bit scatterbrained from the look of him. He potters about, keeps an eye on the too young skinny guy, and the gorgeous foreign waitress who is one of the most consistent members of staff here. We have our dinner, and are finishing up with coffee. He wanders by, glances curiously, with surprise he asks, black coffee? We laugh, and nod, sure. Its busier now, but we are finishing anyway, ask for the bill. While we wait, the manager clangs a spoon of a tray.

The restaurant becomes silent, and he stands there, some people come, some people go, he tells us. I am going to sing you a song, he declares, though I am not a singer. Nessun dorma, he informs us is his song of choice (someone goes ooh) before telling us that it is not an easy song to sing, so if he can have silence. The bill lands on our table, and we count out money, splitting it between us, as bursts into song, giving it his all. For a moment he blocks the exit at the bar, then steps forward. So a couple take their chance and lunge for the door, but he turns and follows them, waving his arms in the air, singing even louder than before as he does so. The rest of us laugh at the absurdity, and most people start to clap. There may have been more to the song, but he seems pleased enough to have reached that climax.

We take our leave, he thanks us as we pass, pats me on the back. The blonde girl is standing at the top of the stairs, one earplug in her left ear, did you have a good meal, she asks. Yes, we reply. Good, she smiles, and wishes us a good evening.

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Tuesday, 24 March 2009


Booking A Table In The Korean Place

When we walked into the Korean restaurant it was empty, but they were warning us about how fully booked they were. They let us have a table, as long as we were out by seven. We said no problem, and they gave us the table right in front of them, not sure whether it was a kitchen, certainly seemed to be some preparation going on, but also various other activities. From here I can see out the window, along the street, and a slice of side street off there. I can see them come down that side street together, passing the window in front of me, taking the corner. A lanky couple, a kind of hybrid smart casual, smart blazer jackets - hers brown with checked, his black or blue. They go out of sight, but I suspect I am about to see them come through the door, and I am right. She is Asian, he is white, but they could be brother and sister, or the perfect couple. Both have long, long hair, dreaded, and their body language is so complimentary. She does the talking, asks if they can book a table? Tonight? Maybe about 8? For 4 people, he adds at the end. The waitress doubtfully says she will check. She asks the controller, tonight he asks astounded by the absurdity of the idea, but he double checks, other people have already been turned away since the place is that busy. The waitress has obviously warmed to the idea, so she emphasizes - about 8! Ok, the controller says, reaching up to his check list of tables and reservations, which is taped above his head, on a rim behind the counter just where we can’t see. Grudgingly, he says, maybe, about 8.30? Perhaps that will put them off? Yeah, that’s great, the girl says, eager. Ok, for 4? He double checks numbers. We need a name, the waitress says, taking the reservation, before saying she’ll see them later. They slouch out of there, heading back the way they came, then changing their mind, turning round, and heading back along the main road in the other direction.

Monday, 23 March 2009


Recognising them with their clothes on.

It is funny to see them afterwards. Recognising them with their clothes on. The girl, with the short hair, now in a black top, with a plunging neckline and jeans. Beside her, the girl with the shoulder length hair, the one that had been fully topless at one point, rather than just transparent, the one that had played the drums – she wears a yellow t-shirt, a brown long sleeved beneath that. They pass below us, as we sit on the mezzanine floor, on their way to the bar post-show. One of the pony tailed girls appears from the passage leading to back stage, in one hand a bulging luggage bag, in the other a fat polythene bag fit for bursting. They open the door to Tramway 1 for her, and she puts them just inside, and skips off to find the other girls. As she goes by, I can see she has her lip pierced, and I know that it was her mouth, amongst all those mouths, that we had seen on the screen with the lip ring. The guy that did the first version of the show’s monologue wanders about - masturbation, suicide, orgasm, murder, enjoyment – as broad shouldered and muscled as he had been, the t-shirt he wears now equally snug against his torso. Then there is the guy with the Mohawk, who is more obvious, a turquoise blue v-neck t-shirt, a chain around his neck. The first time we saw him he was in heels and a dress, Mohawk and lipstick. When asked which dancer I thought had the best legs I said it was him, absolutely, no doubt. He stands by himself, leaning against a pillar, tired, a little lost perhaps, cradling a glass of white whine. Though, soon, he has three girls around him engaging him in conversation. Its not long before the place starts to empty. The drummer girl is retrieving her bags, pulling on her jacket. The Mohawk bloke is peeling one of the event posters from the wall, rolling it up, I’ll donate it to the company he calls out to a member of staff. We put our jackets on, and leave, the drummer girl is talking to a taxi driver, walks back in, passing us, a woollen hat on her head, earthy coloured, with a flower stitched on to it. We leave, she chases up the rest of her group.

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Sunday, 22 March 2009



The poster makes me stop short: It is colourful, like an enormous "Where's Waldo?" spread. Except for the little skeleton men intermingled everywhere in the crowd. It resembles the Where's Waldo edition of the medieval Dance of Death.
I take a closer look at the title.
"Interactive Exhibition About Death", it proclaims in bouncy letters. "In the Children's Museum".


Saturday, 21 March 2009


Dinner Parties

Ah, gala dinners.
The man on my left is a genetic scientist who, of course, knows my boss. The many years of drinking and plotting to write a book together! Which topic? "Oh, we've long since forgotten." The man on my right is a gay hypnotherapist, who also owns a shop for opera tickets and deals in antiques: flamboyant, wealthy, utterly without ambition.
The man on my left and the man on my right know each other, of course, from an infamous dinner party at a mutual friend. The drunken shenanigans long past!
The wife of the genetic scientist is piqued by all this knowing one another. "This city is really a village", philosophises the wife of the genetic scientist. "We do not have this in Germany."

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Friday, 20 March 2009


Bratislava Is An Airport Of Limited Appeal.

Waiting on the bus to Bratislava. Looks close to 10 minutes after scheduled departure. 4 passengers. Watching men in red, white circles and red crosses on their backs, stream steadily out of the underground and across the road. In front of bus one and a half hours to the airport. 7am.

Bratislava is an airport of limited appeal in a world of cheap airports of limited appeal. Arriving from Vienna, 7 am bus, arriving an hour or so later, hazy after a really bad nights sleep. To realise I have no local currency and hours to kill. I’ve had no breakfast, I have no food with me and I can’t spot any kind of exchange office anywhere. There also seems to be a reluctance to take my card to allow me just to get some basic stuff. Eventually I find someone who will take my card if I spend over 200SK. Wow. Sounds like lots, but I work out that it doesn’t get that much regardless of what the exchange rate is. So a breakfast of iced green tea and paprika Pringles it is then, with a bottle of water, being what I was originally after. Stansted offers more, but weighed down by baggage, I need to wait at least an hour to check bags in before finding lunch.

The flight is full of dubious Slovaks on their way to London. The girls sat beside me being particular cases. Arriving late with heavy carry on that is too large for the over heads. They use their mobile phones as MP3 players the whole flight despite repeat warning not to. But they play at being furtive, hiding them beneath jumpers. At several points through the flight strange me turn up, their other halves scattered around the plan, more dubious associates. The second a shaven headed thug, disappears to the toilet, the two of them quickly disappear after him. Then coming in for landing, they field strip their phones like seasoned experts, exchanging SIM cards, with a flip of the battery, for the local conditions.


Pick A Seat, Any Seat...

Guy in the cinema to see the Watchmen. Has glasses, short dark hair, black jacket and jeans, clutching an orange poly bag of goodies from the Sainsbury’s round the corner. He sits down in the front row of the middle section. Then he moves along three seats. Then he gets up, moves across the aisle and sits in the first seat on that side of the stairs. Before he gets up again, moves into the forward, really close to the screen, section, and picks a seat there. Each time he sits you can see he is undergoing an agonising in decision making process. It seems not seat can be right enough to keep him happy. But then, in that fourth seat, he settles, for now.

Thursday, 19 March 2009


When Do The Clocks Change? (1)

12 noon, I open my drawer expecting to find various packets of food I can chuck together for lunch. Instead I find rice, rice, and nothing but rice. Oh. Miscalculation. I know I have stuff to go with rice at home, but in terms of having them here, I fail. So it goes. That leaves the canteen, which will mobbed going at this time, but needs must. As I exit the building I can see a colleague sauntering over, hands in his pocket, wearing just a shirt in the unusually warm day, and wearing my jacket I think he has made a smart move. I walk fairly fast, catching up with him a little at a time, till he joins the end of the queue on the front door step of the canteen and I step up beside him.

P was in our department last year, but has moved on this year. He is from one of our English offices, so is only up here periodically. It’s good to catch up. He had to borrow money for his lunch, so is keen I stand close by as he gets the ham and chip roll and tea in a polystyrene cup, like he always gets, in case he doesn’t have enough. But he does, and I get my food. The sign says “chicken kiev, chips and vegetables”, so I ask, suspecting, what the vegetables are, to be told that they are peas. I don’t like peas, actual mixed veg would have been fine, but not peas. We do have beans as well, she offers, I take her up on that option.

We wander back, stop at the middle of the grass section, the clearing, the cobbled bit after the bridge over the pond. We sit on a bench, and enjoy the sunshine and we chatter. He knows most of the people that wander by, exchanges comments with most of them. We get to discussing when the clocks change, so when the next person approaches he blurts “hey, when do the clocks change,” the man looks startled, and we can watch him fumbling for an answer. Our group conclusion is end of the month. We finish our lunch, and return to our offices, looking forward to the clocks changing, because then, then it will be summer, for real, or something.

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Over a Coffee Cup

She sits there, strong aquiline nose, sharp but fragile eyes. Her mouth quirks. She says, "I just never thought I'd fall for his I'm a lover of fine arts and I sponsor a Tibetan kindergarten crap." Was there ever a kindergarten? "I won't believe it till I see it."
You can see her pitting herself against the feeling of failure. He fooled everyone. She tells herself that. "He ran the company to the ground intentionally. Cut his losses and ran."
80 employees out in the rain. She is beautiful. My informant.

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Wednesday, 18 March 2009


White heart and Asian guy, Red Bag and Pin Stripe

She walks passed me as I sit in the street, eating a quick dinner, watching the world go by, before meeting a friend for a film. An Asian girl, wearing a patterned white jacket, with fluffy white collar, contrasted by her long dark hair. But it is the red hand bag and the red trousers that come to just below the knee, the chunky red suede boots, that catch the eye.

After dinner, I go for tea in Borders. Take a window seat and read. A sharp man, pin suited predator, sits with an Asian girl, her hair cut sharp across the fringe. Dressed in black, she contrasts that with a white heart pendant. A second man arrives, also Asian, with the white guy wandering off after he has made introductions between the two. The Asian guy goes for coffees, then the shark returns, another Asian girl in tow. White jacket, red bag, red trousers, red boots. The same girl that had passed me earlier. The two pairs separate to different tables, and conversation takes on the buzz of a first, arranged date. White heart and Asian guy, red bag and pin stripe.

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A Pink Corona.

In the cinema. A couple She has short blonde hair, boyish, punky, with a pink corona. She wears a navy blue nearly sleeveless blue top, it has a plunging neckline, which exposes the vivid ink across her chest, a heart on a chain dangling in front. She wears a short denim skirt, with bare legs, a studded belt, and flat, plain, tan coloured shoes. She walks with a definite swagger. He is a good deal taller than her, ropey muscles, with hints of tattoos at the wrist, at sleeve line, more subtly shown off. A black hat, woollen bunnet style, with skip cap front, worn at a slight angle, and never taken off. He walks with a slouch, his hands buried in the pockets of his jeans. As soon as they are seated she trots back down the stairs, nipping to the toilet before the film starts.

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I Couldn't Live In America

Two gay guys take a seat in Starbucks in Borders with a pile of fashion/gossip magazines. They have a dolled up art school look, so that for a second I think they are punk girls. Though it is clear quick enough that they are not, though the art school suggestion might hold true. The brunette with sculpted hair is the louder of the two, the blonde content to look at the pictures and listen to the steady stream of cattiness. Though, when he does talk, his voice is low enough to be inaudible at this distance.

“Don’t Dolce & Gabbana look more like brothers than lovers?”
“I couldn’t live in America - not with a 1st lady with eyebrows like that!” With that comment I wonder what country he thinks he is actually living in rather than the Scotland he actually is.
“I just don’t get Christian Bale!”
He points at some salad shown in advert, picking out the various ingredients and what he would eat, before shifting from bitchiness to diets.

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Tuesday, 17 March 2009



I’ve not been this way since Thursday night, when I drove home from our writing session. The I HAVE LIVED HERE FOR AGES sign had started it, so obvious hanging on the roundabout in front of the church. Since then I had been constantly watching for more signs. But retracing my route on Sunday afternoon I see all the same signs, until I am back at the roundabout. Driving up the length of the Y to the split, I take the one on the right, not the one I came back on Thursday, or that I will come back on later tonight.


I was starting to think that there weren’t going to be any other signs, when I spot the first one, at the start of the park, on the fence, behind the church. The sign says in familiar blue text “I meet my dad here in Cowan Park.” I pull in just past the pedestrian crossing, and take a picture.

Half way up the length of the park I spot the second sign, again it is easy to pull in, just by those newish flats on the left. This sign tells us about the amazing people, and their amazing nights. I take a picture, glance in to the swings, half expecting to see the skater boarders that had been in there that one night I went in there with Alison when she wanted to find somewhere to skate.

The third sign is trickier; we are into the busier stretch. On one side of the road, a building site, the old folks home that was off the road that has been bought over and is being reworked, the front wall in bits. On the other the social club, set off the road, with its surrounding wall and car park. At this point I’ve already passed the sign, it was too busy to pull in sooner. So what do I do? Getting out, going back and taking a picture, that looks tricky, even being stopped where I am is probably not a great idea. But I work out, if I roll down the window and stick the camera out, and point it back, I should be able to get something of the declaration “This is where we met” and the accompanying love heart, pinned to the fence at this end of the park. Again, I carry on, watching for more signs, but I don’t see any, though I’m content I added three to my collection.

Hours later, on the way home again, coming back down the other branch of the Y, the one I’d been on approaching the first sign before. I don’t expect to spot any signs here; I’ve already driven this stretch. So I nearly miss that first one, traffic is heavy, and my brain shrugs and says whatever, forget it, not worth it. And its gone.


Then I see the second sign. And again its gone. What do I do? I can see why I missed them, they are both flat on to the road, you wouldn’t see them naturally driving, you’d need to be watching for them. I get to the I HAVE LIVED HERE FOR AGES roundabout, and I loop all the way round. I drive back to a point where I can park, a point where I can do a U-turn once I am done, a point half way between the two. I walk down to the first sign I LIVE THIS WAY. I take its picture, using a bus stop to try and support my camera. I turn to walk back, spying a woman in the top floor of the flats, watching me, no doubt wondering what the hell I’m doing in the street at 9pm with a camera. I walk back, pass the car, across the road and head for the ITS WHY I’M HERE sign. Again I try and use something to support the camera, its dark, its across a stretch of grass. Both signs are attached to the fence, behind the fence a derelict factory, it’s white walls turning grey with decay. It used to make pet food, or was it toilets? Or was it toilets then pet food and now nothing? For a moment, I can’t remember, its been so long since the building was used for anything at all, despite the sprawl of grass to its side with the fence round it and the standard Enterprise signs that say that there are opportunities to be had. I walk back to the car, turn it round, back up to the roundabout, and on home. No more signs to see, but that is now a total of ten signs, and still no idea what any of them mean.


Waiting To Happen

The Dutch tourist prowls the terrace, tray in his hands. He roars "BOO!" in the ears of strangers. How they jump! How they flail, hahaha!

I wonder if he realises that he is the one carrying
- two coffee cups,
- a Sauerkraut and Bockwurst plate
- and three bowls of soup,
stacked in a precariously teetering tower.

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Monday, 16 March 2009


Love Letter To The Wild.

Writer’s night. Though only a couple of us have turned up on this Thursday night, in this coffee house. We grab a table upstairs. Right at the top of the stairs, there are two guys in low slung chairs, which I guess look comfy. They are sprawled, arms reaching across the table to each other, holding hands.

The table we take is the only one which is big enough for four people, half way along the floor. At this end there are two other tables with people at them. Facing me, there is a table with two girls - one in a burgundy top, blonde hair, smart black trousers that are a little too tight when she stands. She has a soft face, makes her look like she is the younger of the two, though chances are they are of a similar age. The other girl, has a harder face, a more pronounced nose, darker hair, and is readily the more attractive of the two. She is wearing a taut white blouse, that strains against heavier breasts, even though its mostly unbuttoned, showing the black of the long sleeve top beneath. They’ve been here awhile, they’ve finished the tea and the cake that they bought, with Burgundy being a fidget, playing with the remains, when she isn’t playing with her phone. Black seems less interested, less engaged in the conversation, running her hand through her hair, pulling her cuffs over her fists, propping her chin on her hand.

In the corner, by the window, a man sits by himself. Hands propping up his head. He seems lost in thought, glancing out the window, staring into space. He has that “just out of work” look, jumper, with collar, shaven head. In front of him there is a large cup of coffee, looks like its mostly full, and a plate with an untouched slice of cake. Thoughts so deep that cake goes untouched, what thoughts! After a while, he pulls out a note pad, starts to write with determination. Tears the sheet off, leaves it sitting on table in front of him, it sits there for a while. Then he picks it up, hands beneath the table, he screws it into a ball, then you can hear the paper tearing.

Black says how she never goes dancing. Burgundy says they should, that perhaps they should take a class. Burgundy’s phone rings and she arranges to meet someone, at the Arches, beneath the station. She sits back and rubs her belly absently, conversation idle. Burgundy shows photos on her phone, then a badly recorded clip from some gig, where the sound distorts horribly. Black goes to the toilet. Then Burgundy takes her turn. They are winding up, looks like. But Burgundy stands, takes Black’s hand in hers, kisses her cheek, and leaves alone. Black watches her leave, watches her disappear into the street and round the corner.

Suddenly he takes a bite of the cake, after we’ve been here an hour. He is oblivious to everyone else, sitting in his corner, thinking. He doesn’t notice the girls, doesn’t notice Burgundy leave. Doesn’t notice when Black pulls out a notepad and pen. Her pad has a pink plastic, flowery cover, spiral bound side, pocket pad. Her pen has multiple colours, and she writes distractedly. He gets his pad out again, coincidentally, one of those reporter type pads, floppy, with spiral bound top. He just uses a black pen, and writes intently. He rips the page off, places it on the table, plonks the sugar shaker on top of it. She puts her note book away, pulls out a brochure, for some pharmaceutical company, flicks through it. He swigs the remains of his coffee, which must be at least two hours old. He places his car keys on the table, pulls his jacket on, with determination he doesn’t leave, he reaches for the paper, rest his hand on it, then forces himself. He stands, and exits.

She sees the empty table in the corner, with the window, and grabs her stuff and moves. She has the brochure ready to read, when she spots the sheet of paper. She starts to read the little she can see, then stops, bowing her head to read her stuff. Then she can’t resist, she picks up the sugar and reads the page, flips it over to read the other side. Holds it there, taking it in, absorbing it. Places it back down, puts the sugar back on top. She removes an application form from the brochure, folded in half, reads through it. She sits with her pen poised as though she is going to start filling it in, but decides to re-read it, make sure she has grasped the subtleties of the questions. Then she folds it, clearly bored, and unconvinced by the prospect. She shoves the brochure back in her bag, pulls on her jacket, and leaves.

Now that both tables are clear, I tell A about what they have been doing. And we both look at the sheet of paper sitting there. And we both look at each other. And we both look at the sheet of paper sitting there. He breaks first, gets up and wanders over to the table. Takes a quick look at the page, but doesn’t read it all. He comes back, it’s a love letter he says. The guy has written a love letter and left it on the table. Is it for one of the members of staff? That might make sense. Moments later, a couple come up the stairs. They spot the table in the corner, by the window, and she charges for it, her high heels clopping as she goes. Look, someone left a letter she declares instantly, and sits down to read it, how random is that she says on finishing. A pause, then, I’m going to hand this in, she gets back up, and clumps back down the stairs to hand the letter to the staff. We last a little longer in our writing, but leave soon after that. As we exit the building I glance back, and see that love letter to the wild, lying behind the counter, in captivity, perhaps gone unnoticed?

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As the street winds on you begin to see them. The tip of a tail, the poke of a snout, a slice of green hide behind the fluttering white banners. The bus hurtles onto the main road and there across the river, there they are: Stumpy legs buried in snow, humpy backs arched against the sky, slumpy necks winding through the air in search for food.
Dinosaur Park!
Poised and green, they're staring at you staring at them. You look for a week for the entrance but none exists. Between you, there is only the river and the deep deep snow.

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They raised a multifunctional building in the village, for all the emergencies you can think of. There are signs over each of the great green gates.
Fire Brigade
As the bus rounds the corner, I see the sign over the last gate:

I imagine the emergency call coming in, the gates crashing open, the cars rushing out, full of passionately playing violinists and one quiet harp.

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One Night In Vienna (Vienna Postcard 3)

Akahiko claims that it is easy Japanese dining. I look in the window. As I walk away, unconvinced, a voice calls “excuse me!” I turn around, a man, glasses, unshaven, darker than me. “I have vouchers“, he flashes them at me, 2 x €10 for Akahiko. “You give me €15 and I give you these €20!” I shake my head, no. Maybe it’s a legitimate off, but I had already been walking away. Maybe it is legit, but I won’t spend €20 here. And maybe it’s a con? How would I know? What does the small print say, what is the validity of the vouchers, I expect all that to be in German I can’t read. No thanks.

Instead I end up in Go Wok. Go Wok, Go Tasty, Go Healthy, the sign says. A bowl of sweet and sour soup. A plate of red Thai curry. A glass of Pepsi. A little Chinese woman comes round the tables, a fist full of discs in plastic white sleeves. Bootleg DVDs it seems. The couple at the next table are happy to buy a couple. Him serious, older than her, somewhere in his 30s easy. She is younger, I would guess mid 20s.

The way the doors work becomes a joke. People outside look at the doors funny and they slide open. People inside move and the doors opens. Stand inside to leave, and they don’t acknowledge your existence at all. Every 10 minutes it happens to a new victim, who stands their too long looking confused and lost.

I drink gemmaicha, couple at next table drink jasmine. She goes to the ladies, on the way back she climbs into his lap and they kiss, before retiring to her own seat and adding sugar to her tea. It becomes a competition between them, to see who can sugar it the most. What the fuck is wrong with these people? Why order jasmine tea if you are going to add that much sugar? Might as well order dish water, they wouldn’t notice with that much sugar.

American girl in Starbucks. Dark hair, lovely smile. Earl grey, 2 bags. Take one back to the hotel, don’t need both. 9.30 time to close, we three last to leave. The couple go right, I go left. It takes me passed the window, their table. And I turn, after then, excuse me, clumsily asking if they speak English? You left your gloves on the table, back in the Starbucks! They thank me, and he goes back in. As I draw passed the window again he reaches the table, and I see the phone that was hidden beneath the gloves.

Behind Stefanplatz, listen to the sounds of tiny birds, chattering now the day is done all else is quiet. In a row there, glass cases, quaint little adverts, Gibsonian in some way. On the platform behind the station, a small boy kneels, as if in prayer. A roll wrapped in paper clutched between clasped hands, which he nibbles, tiny fractions at a time. While his parents consult a map of Vienna.


Afternoon Tea with Gangsters? (Vienna Postcard 2)

The waitress had dark hair, tied back in pony tails. Red waist coats, black knee length skirts, with white aprons and white blouses, and black ties. An old man plays the piano, classics from musicals, phantom of the opera and the like. Smokers everywhere, the air is thick with pollution, an increasingly rare thing as you travel. Closest to us, the Russians, chain-smoking, some kind of gangster, with their red flushed faces.


The Tunnel (Vienna Postcard 1)

There is a group of vocal Italian girls in the Tunnel. More arrive, setting off a chain of greetings, noisy hugs and kisses. The red haired waitress, with her lip ring and my green tea, she is a little on heavy side, but sexy with it. The double doors keep the heat in, but the outside one sticks repeatedly, sucking off a couple of degrees of temperature. Each time the inner doors open it leaves a stabbing chill. Salesmen come in, going from table to table. First a young black man selling flowers. Then an older one selling Der Standerd, wearing branded jacket and grey woollen hat. Where is my red haired goddess? I need to order ein grüner tee bitte, and with the cold I need to order it soon! The other waitress - dark hair, dark curls, dark eyes and a thick jumper - closes the outer doors and the temperature goes up instantly, and it really is great.


The Cake Eaters


Numbed from the attacks of snow and wind they ate on. None of them knew how long they had been sitting here.
It was chocolate cake.

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Surely The Plane Will Fly Just As Well Without Her


"That week! That week would be perfect for skiing. Can we make it that week?"
Oh how annoying. The stewardess has two days off, then a flight to Bangalore or Nairobi or Addis Ababa or somewhere, then another two days off. Impossible flight plans!
"Can't you swap?"
"Yeah, whatever. Or I just won't be there."

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The Landlords

"Good evening, we just came for the bill."
She jumps up from the table with a happy greeting. 8 months pregnant. He chews.
"I'm sorry, did we bother you at dinner?"
She says not to worry, she's finished eating already, and laughs a fluttery laugh. She watches our hands as we take out the money. He chews.
We attempt a few pleasantries. She's fumbling with the change. We say, "good night."
She wishes us a good night, too.
He chews.

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Sunday, 15 March 2009


Make Tea, Not War

A couple get hot chocolates in the book store coffee shop. He carries them on the tray, they go up to the sub-basement looking for a table. Minutes later she reappears at a freshly empty and cleaned table. The place is pretty busy just now, it was when I arrived, I had watched the empty tables fill while they made my tea with a certain anxiety, its got worse since. The guy returns a moment later, balancing the tray down the stairs. They both sit their, black jackets, and both with long black hair. He slips his jacket off easy, wears a t-shirt under it MAKE TEA, NOT WAR, which makes me smile. Her jacket is zipped up, under that she is wearing a black hooded top, with the hint of a flowery blouse showing. She struggles a bit more with her jacket, while she does he takes her chocolate flake and props it in the top of the glass with the hot chocolate. She scowls at him, tells him off, she wanted to do that, but its too late, and she has to retrieve the chocolate stick, take a tentative bite. He stands, off to look for the toilet, finding the longest route possible to get there he sets off upstairs, back down here, then round in the wrong direction. In the meantime she pouts and drinks her chocolate, half of it gone by the time he gets back. He looks surprised by how little she has left when he returns, she shrugs, you were away for ages! He doesn’t take long to catch up, and soon they are finished, put their jackets on and leave, and I turn the page in my book.

Friday, 13 March 2009




I drive round the round about. When I catch a sign in front of the church. How strange I think. It has a home made feel. Some how raw. Is it part of the church? Sometimes people put up banners - 10K run, new cafe opened, Happy 40th Birthday!

I pull in, get out the car and walk back to look. "I HAVE LIVED HERE FOR AGES." I take a picture, bemused with no idea what it means. Walk back to the car. As I get back in, I catch sight of two girls carrying a TV. It is a dodgy area at times, but that bad? I look in my mirror again, watch them unpacking their car. Looks like part of an ongoing process, two girls moving into a new flat. I drive on, but almost straight away I spot the next two signs, and my bemusement grows.


Again I stop the car, having barely made any distance. I cross across the dual carriageway. A wooden fence around a housing estate, a path leading into the darkness of a park. Poorly lit, dipping down a hill, there are voices out there in the distance. A jogger crosses the road, walking, hi-vis yellow vest, as he reaches the path he starts to run again, entering into the night. The first sign must be from Megan, she meets Steph at this point in the mornings. The second sign must be from Steph, who naturally meets Megan here in the mornings. I take pictures again, and return to the car and drive on.


As I continue to drive, now that I have seen 3 of these signs, I am looking for more. I stop at traffic lights a few minutes later. Casually I glance across the road after a moment of waiting for the lights to change, and there, another sign. I fumble for my camera, can I get the picture before the light changes to green? No. I click and miss. Getting through the junction, I pull over for a third time in this stretch of road. I get out the car, and as I do, I spot the fifth sign right across from me. Each sign has been fastened to a fence, this one just before you reach the second church in this stretch. I cross the road, and take a picture of this last sign "WE DO EVERYTHING FUN HERE". That done, I trek back away, determined to get the one I failed to get at the lights. While I'd driven along, I was conscious of an unusual number of people walking along the street - as though they were all heading towards a party somewhere. I cross the sideways line of the cross roads for the last sign - meet me here, then the names of the friends to meet. As I take a picture, I'm conscious of the chatter behind me. I turn and walk back to the car, a group of women walking by it, a group of guys hanging back, one shouts, come on Jamie, fucking hurry up! Jamie, who I can't see, shouts, I'm coming. I get back in the car. I drive home. There are no more signs, but every time I see a fence, every time I see a flat surface, I slow expecting to find the latest cryptic offering.


Two Authors Chat In Book Shop?

Two men stand in the book store. Both grey haired. I can hear fragments of conversation. One of them is in a red jacket, shorter. The other has that smarter, over-coat, jacket, shirt, tie, just come from work thing going on. From the fragments, it would be suggested that at least one of them is a published author. If not both of them. I finished two of the books, the suit says, how about you? The casual says, something I don’t quite catch. Not quite the answer the first was looking for, he clarifies, there was that crime series you were doing? Oh yes, the second understands now, that’s finished. Really? Yes. Though - someone I don’t catch - has expressed interest - implication of someone related to television - implication of scripts - so yeah, I’m looking at some re-writes, some edits. Ah, and the conversation goes on like that. There is a crime season in the book shop, a half dozen crime authors doing signings. But none of those appear to be tonight, as I check the posters to try and work out if I should know who either of these men are.

Tuesday, 10 March 2009


Drags A Rake.

The one armed man drags a rake along the path made of stones, braced against his shoulder and stump. Back and forth he walks in the pleasant evening air, like he is sculpting out a zen garden. While people sit in the garden; watching, smoking, drinking coffee. The show starts in half an hour; the Chinese ballet collaborating with an English choreographer.


False Alarm At The School.

Stopped for pizza on the way home. The shop has four customers. Two male kids, who are being loud smart arses. A young girl, who wears a hood up even inside, has low slung jeans, who has that air of too young and just old enough going on. And a man. They have an existing banter going on, while the guys working there just look on, contributing only when called to. The guy calls the older of the boys “a cheeky man” or something after a particular comment, collecting their orders and leaving the kid shouts “I ain’t no man, I’m only 13, how could I be a man?” And he makes it sound like an excuse he has used for getting out of trouble a dozen times before. The man complains about a car, earlier, outside the pizza shop, that didn’t get out of the way of a fire engine. The pizza guy says, yeah, that red one. The girl tries to understand why it’s a big deal. The guy tries to explain how lives can depend on reaction time. The girl asks whether there was anyone killed, the guy explains how it was actually a false alarm at the school. An idea which manages to confuse the girl, so no one was at risk? But they could have been! He insists. So you’re a fireman? She asks. No, I’m a fire investigator. I go in after the fire and work out how it started. Oh. Her dad pulls upside in a van, she complains, he is getting another van, it annoys her. Why is that, vans are good, the man tells her. But none of my friends can get a lift in a van! As though it were obvious. Then she turns to the pizza guy - is my pizza not ready?? He checks on the pizzas. Why’ve you put on two? She asks, as though he is stupid. I only ordered one. The fire guy laughs, points at me, because he ordered a pizza as well. She looks at me, a little shy after all her loud mouthed behaviour - did you? Yeah, I admit, I did. And that seems to be ok, she nods, looks away.


Fingering A Yellow Rose.

A woman walks along the river, the winding path, a wall between the path and the drop below. She carries a bag, the head of a yellow rose just peaking out, her hand caressing it gently, as though no one can see. And she smiles to herself, those petals between her fingers.


Hot Dogs For Floor 2.

The inter floor chatter of the cinema. Anyone with cooked hot dogs for floor 2? Anyone got a working coffee machine? The young girl takes my order - a tea. Mutters into the squat black hand set. Talks into the white phone. While opening the hot water valve. Go ahead. Distant voices. I’m the only one on this level, so I can’t really leave right now. Do you want sugar? She asks, switching from one conversation to another. I take the saucer away as the white phone starts to ring again.

Monday, 9 March 2009


Her Favourite Hair Tie.

There is a homeless couple in one of the side streets, down the side of the shopping centre. He rests his crutches against the shoe shop window. Shuffling towards her, he tells her how to stand, how to hold herself. Its raining, heavily, they are both wearing suitable jackets, he reaches out and adjusts her hood, making sure she is ok. For a moment it seems like he is teaching her to stand, so that can take a turn to use the crutches for when she is begging for money. But as I pass I am less sure. Content with his lesson, he picks the sticks back up again, positions them in his armpits, but then notices something on the ground. He bends, awkwardly, propped up as he is, picks a hair tie from a puddle. That’s my best one, she tells him. Oh you can wash it clean in the toilets, he tells her, the public toilets being the next street along.


Tourist Info On A Rainy Sunday Evening.

Stopped by two guys in the rain, we all have hoods up against the deluge. “Can you tell us where Buchanan St is?” one asks. “Sure,” I point to the bank down the street, on the corner, “take that turn, you’ll come to the concert hall, and that’s the top of the street.” It occurs to me they aren’t from here, and perhaps they are looking for the bus station, which is on this side of the concert hall, “That is what you are looking for?” I ask, attempting to clarify. “We are looking for the tourist information office,” he explains. “Ah, yeah, its down there, but its after 6.30, I’d expect it to be closed”, and on a Sunday as well. “It’ll be closed?” he asks. “Well, I can’t be sure, you could check, but I expect so.”


Get Me A Hot Chocolate.

Father and daughter in the book store coffee shop. Her hair is red, with blue bows, and she is dressed in black, except for her trainers, which are white, with pink stripes. He is bald, his head shaven to compensate, stubbled all over, black jacket, a hint of green T showing at the collar, with blue jeans. “Get me a hot chocolate,” she says. “You’ll not drink a hot chocolate,” he tells her. “I will,” she insists. “You won’t.” “If I don’t finish it, I’ll give you the money for it,” she bargains. He gets her a hot chocolate. She finishes it. Shows him the empty paper cup. He points out the thin film at the bottom, barely ml of fluid. So she balances the cup, upside down, on her face, until it drains, to keep him happy.


Expired Visa.

Foreign guy takes a table that’s just been vacated in the book shop coffee store. He doesn’t buy and drinks, but sits on the phone until a girl arrives. She is full of energy, pretty, long dark hair, dangling earrings, colourful scarf. They have just started chatting, she promises him articles he will find interesting, as she passes him a memory stick. When suddenly two older women appear, very British compared to this foreign couple. The girl jumps up overwhelmed with surprise, none of the three having expected to see each other in Glasgow at this time. The girl is just back from Sri Lanka, her visa ran out, but she is hoping to get out again, that’s where her mother is from. In the past, for a week, she played guide to these woman when they visited Sri Lanka, spent a week together. They ask where she is staying, she says, sadly, that she is sleeping on a friends couch. But then says with excitement that she has been accepted to university in Edinburgh. The women say that is great, and ask where she will be staying there. Again sad, she says she doesn’t know yet. Then excited, again, she declares she needs a job! Phone numbers are exchanged, with the agreement that they will meet up again in the next week, while they are all here. Leaving the couple to themselves again, she takes his hand in hers, smiles, tells him that she had shown the women his picture last time they met. Then they put on their jackets and leave.


Fast Food. Three Couples.

Fast food. Three Couples. Two teenage girls. Gossiping and giggling. Fat girl is facing me, has pretty face, keeps glancing in my direction. After her food, she takes diet Irn Bru bottle from a pocket. Followed by a Time Out chocolate bar, and a packet of McCoy’s Thai Chicken crisps. Her friend goes for a packet of spicy Nik Naks. The couple in their early 50’s sit at table next to me. She tries to work out what she did with the napkins. He insists they don’t have any, she insists she did bring them. I offer one of mine, which she takes. I suggest perhaps he put the tray on top of them. They check, he didn’t, but she finds them on the floor by her feet. Never get married, he advises me. Next to the two girls, across from me, a couple who are least into their 60’s, reminding of someone’s grandparents. She wears a thick purple jacket, has thick white hair to go, styled to give it full body. He brings the tray of food. She dunks her tea bag in her cup, with one hand, heavy with gold rings. While telling him to get his bunnet off. He takes it off, a flat cap, then his over coat follows, lain out on seat beside him. He is dressed in an old man suit, a shade grey/brown, with brown shows. On his head a crown of white hair, bald pate revealed by the removed cap. His hands grey, with blue lines showing up clear. Aye, take yer bunnet off, says the 50-something guy. The old bloke doesn’t hear him, so he turns back to his wife, just like ma dad, ma mum was always telling him - yer inside, get your bunnet off.

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Saturday, 7 March 2009


The Correct Way To Serve Saki

There is a couple behind me somewhere. She raises her voice, so I look. But can’t make them out too well. They look as though they have taken the effort to dress up for going out to eat dinner in this noodle bar. She has long hair, a sleeveless blouse, he has a shirt, and chunky watch. “How could I know I was late?” she snaps, “I was in that house by myself!” As she swears and shouts in response to some comment or other one can only assume the house has no clocks, and that he should know this. He says something, and she is off again, it sounds like she has had a few drinks, probably doesn’t realise she is being so loud. But then given the attitude she is taking, she probably wouldn’t care. Meal down, bill paid, she cheerfully takes a different tone as she sits and tells the waitress about the wonders of saki, and how it should be served properly.


Free Hugs. 1.

They stand in Buchanan St. 20 something’s, boys and girls with their home made signs - Free Hugs! The sun beats down, hotter than its been for an age. The streets filled with people. Some stop and look - sprayed blue letters, long hair, orange t-shirt. Multi coloured letters, wraps her arms round a football fan. She wears a green dress, retro style, short hair and smiling with her folded cardboard. A dad with a brute Mohawk, his son with a penguin balloon - she stands arms spread, waiting, grinning, and waiting. Teen girls, look on and laugh - “imagine giving them away! I’d charge!”


Sitting In The Dark.

Sitting in the dark. Alone. First idiot to arrive. Now that is a neat trick, and a bad sign. Oh well, shit happens, and we carry on, regardless.

Tuesday night staff don’t seem as interesting as Wednesday night staff. Except Monica, reliable Monica. It seems like she works every night. It seems that she’ll serve me at some point in the proceedings.

Maybe I should sleep? In the dark, close my eyes. See what happens. Light isn’t good enough to read by. That’s for sure.

Others start to arrive. An older guy, by himself, takes front row. A younger guy takes second row. A couple sat behind me.


Waiting For The Band. 1.

Girl in blue is off the shoulder and foreign. Serves me tea, serves me coffee. And I still can’t make out where it is she is from. Her hair is a ruffled bob cut, all flared up, like she is some kind of sexy girl triceratops. Girl in black, wears stars around her neck. She wears a sleeveless V-neck T and black jeans. She walks like sex. Her hair all tied back and interesting. That V shows enough cleavage to lead the eye, her lack of sleeves shows enough scars to lead the eye.

Downstairs. An oddly laid out venue. Cavern like, with soft squidgy cube seats. Listening to an absurd cover version of one of my favourite Mt.Zion tracks that jingles around in a fashion that misses the point of the original entirely. It is bizarre and disconcerting. While the addition of Sigur Ros to pre-gig soundtrack is unsurprising.

The talk around me covers the world. Trips to Iceland and Stockholm. South Africa and not South Africa. A year in Delhi.

Front row. Long dark hair, under a black woollen hat. Red phone in her hand, she scrolls and manipulates. Pink Converse on her feet. Dark Asian girl tied back black hair, tight. Red jumper with a flower. Her friend isn’t as darkly skinned, wears a striped red and purple jumper, with socks that match.


Sexy Girl Triceratops

Girl in blue is off the shoulder and foreign. Serves me tea, serves me coffee. And I still can’t make out where it is she is from. Her hair is a ruffled bob cut, all flared up, like she is some kind of sexy girl triceratops.

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Introductory Postage

Postcards. Little observations. Collections of things seen in the real world. Jotted down on a bit of paper. Sent out into the void for people to read. I have a collection of these. Always got paper on me. Decided to create a space to share them. Probably be a bit mixed in terms of when they were originally written, versus new pieces. But we'll work through that. An experiment to see if these fragments work in the wild.

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