inside the doll’s house

The dying man glows with sickness in his mildewy-looking bed, the light seeming to emanate from where he sits, crammed into the airless, box-like room. He signs his will while his friend looks on intently with concern and restrained grief. The artist who painted Thomas…

time for a change; the death of a decade

  Between the ages of 14 and 16 or thereabouts, the things I probably loved the most – or at least the most consistently – were horror (books and movies) and heavy metal. These loves changed (and ended, for a long time) at around the…

chosen ones and dark lords and everything in between

To start with, this was mostly about books, and I think it will end that way too. But it begins with a not terribly controversial statement; hero worship is not good. And the greatest figures in the fight for human rights or human progress of…

“Ane doolie sessoun” covid-19 and the art of isolation

  At some point in the late fifteenth century, the poet Robert Henryson (who lived in Dunfermline, not too far from where I’m writing now), began his Testament of Cresseid with one of my favourite openings of any poem: Ane doolie sessoun to ane cairfull…

New Year, New Decade, New…

  A new decade, and the year is flying past already. I intended to write something full of enthusiasm and positivity at the beginning of January, but at that point I was still clumping about in a walking boot and using crutches so it had…

messages from the past for the future

  Sitting down to write this, a month after breaking my leg and having to grapple with hitherto-unconsidered questions like ‘how do I usually sit on a toilet’? and one week before a General Election where my preferred of the apparently plausible outcomes is an…

birds & murderers; raptorama

As I write these words it’s the first day of summer and I’m sitting in my study (sounds pompous, but ‘room full of books and records where I work’ is less economical), with Atom Heart Mother playing, looking out at a beautiful sky of quilted dove-grey clouds…

Believing in Them – old books, old eyes, new readings

  In Richard Linklater’s reputedly anti-nostalgic, but actually still quite nostalgic 1993 film Dazed and Confused, Matthew McConaughey’s Fonz-like character Wooderson articulates his Fonzhood in a way that – as far as I remember – the actual Fonz never does*: “That’s what I love about…