12 Jun 2015


Just a quick post about a wee piece of my work that has found its way into issue #3 of Idle magazine, which you can read here (I'm on page 86). It's a pretty little publication that was brought to my attention by Katie (who is also featured in the issue, on page 70) and I'm really pleased to be included.

20 Apr 2015


Summer and The Void are getting nearer and nearer, and I am no closer to knowing what's going to happen next than I was back in September. Isn't life wonderful and mysterious and exciting? Ha ha. I'm totally fine! No unshakeable feeling of quiet terror at all.

Let's just watch this soothing video of the sky colours from my bedroom window and let the nice Edinburgh evening sounds be a balm for my anxious soul.

(Piano music is Song on the Beach from the film Her)

4 Apr 2015

viva forever

(One night at the start of this semester while still working far too late, I found myself listening to every song every released by the Spice Girls and clearly entered some kind of surrealist automatic-writing-esque state because before I knew what was happening I'd written this monstrosity. The following week I took it to the writers meeting at the magazine and some people seemed to sort of like it, so I thought I'd put it here rather than letting it just gather dust on my hard drive. You are welcome.)


The Spice Girls: were they really the prolific crop-top-wearing purveyors of girl-power pop songs they appeared to be, or could they have been omniscient soothsayers come to warn us of the trials that lay ahead in the British political landscape? Literally everyone asked by this writer said “What? No, of course not. Are you OK? Do you need to sit down?” However, in this essay I will provide ample evidence from the lyrical oeuvre of the union of undercover Higher Beings commonly known as the Spice Girls that proves this to indeed be the case.

Firstly, in order to quash the inevitable cries of “But the Spice Girls were just a group of averagely tuneful young women who sang songs about the power of friendship! Shall I bring you a glass of water? I’m going to ring your mum…” I put it to you that with some careful listening it becomes evident that the ensemble were taunting us with the truth we were all too stubborn to see – namely that they are benevolent time-travelling visitors from outwith our galaxy. Clues range from the less-than-subtle references to their time-traversing nature – “We fall into the future” (Headlines) – to explicit, almost mocking, claims of other-worldliness – “The spicy girls are here on planet Earth […] We are the chosen ones” (Spice Invaders). If you need any more proof than this, the last studio album Forever (2000) plays host to a recurrent sense of frustration with their assumed human forms: “I’m tired of being undercover,” they sing in Get Down With Me, while the soulful ballad Let Love Lead The Way features the melancholic lament “Why is there joy? And why is there pain? (ooh) Why is there sunshine and the rain?” Clearly, after nearly a decade of trying fruitlessly to communicate essential information about the future while the world responded only by shimmying and wearing Union Flags about their person, the sheer futility of their efforts was beginning to take its toll. They were tired, and ultimately left us to our own devices, going their separate ways to live out the rest of their human lives with varying degrees of material success.

But what of their premonitions? I propose that looking a little deeper reveals significance far beyond catchy tunes that extol the benefits of personal empowerment through casual sex and having fun with your gal pals. Lyrics such as “Started getting burning hot, I’ve found my pride not easy” (Last Time Lover) while appearing to refer to the tribulations of romantic relationships in the crazy mixed-up world of the 90s, may in fact be a harrowing vision of the effects of global warming and the dangerous refusal of our world leaders to admit to the problem. Will the government’s “pride” ultimately lead to our “burning hot” downfall? Perhaps, but global climate change is a phenomenon documented well prior to the formation of the Spice Girls and this hardly constitutes evidence of their foretelling abilities. In the same composition, however, we hear the line “I wouldn't tell just anybody about the fox that I've been chasing.” Could this be a vision of the ban on fox hunting that will be implemented in 2005, ten years in the future? Almost certainly, I would say.

This is merely the tip of the iceberg. On the track Tell Me Why, the seer known as Posh Spice sings “…when you’re the one who decided to erase all our plans and say you approved”: ostensibly a rebuke directed towards a former lover, the themes of disappointment and betrayal are eerily reminiscent of the sentiments expressed by the disillusioned youth of Britain after Nick Clegg’s notorious and irreparable backtracking on his stance on tuition fees. The lyric “Too much of nothing is just as tough” from the hit single Too Much offers a discomforting prediction about the coming global recession that will see the country fall on hard financial times, while Something Kinda Funny from the same album (Spiceworld, 1997) pleads “Ooh, don’t take from me more than you really need” – a request that will have proved in vain when the expenses scandal comes to the nation’s attention in 2010.

On a lighter note, the unusual address at the beginning of Goodbye of “Listen little child…” can only be in reference to the birth of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s son George, whom the augurs in their infinite wisdom see fit to offer such valuable life advice as “Look for the rainbow in every storm”.  Perhaps the strongest piece of evidence to be found amongst the quintet’s entire discography, however, is that of 2 Become 1: a haunting Neoplatonic canticle that appears to predict the immensely improbable union of the Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties into one coalition government. If this final revelation cannot secure your belief in the divining powers of the Girls of Spice, surely nothing can.

In conclusion, we have seen that the Spice Girls were never just the simple chanteuses they appeared to be and in fact toiled diligently for many years to bring us vital and disquieting visions of the future which we, dull mortals, were too dazzled to comprehend until it was too late. How many more of their warnings will only become apparent to us after the fact? Will the true significance of “zig-a-zig ah” ever be revealed? Only time will tell.

6 Mar 2015

venus, mars, moon

Do you remember how I used to draw things sometimes? Yeah, I still do that when I have the time and energy, which isn't very often at the moment but it does happen, when the planets are in alignment. These are some sketchbook pages from recent times.
 I went to Rosslyn chapel the other week, which is a very interesting and beautiful place, and on one archway there's this Latin inscription in the stonework which I thought was pretty cool.

 I think drawing people in the foetal position is like a therapeutic thing for me, I doodle things like this quite a lot, especially when I'm a bit on edge. There's something about that long curved line from shoulder to knee that's really satisfying to draw.

So I didn't realise it at the time, but yesterday there was this planetary event whereby Mars, Venus and the Moon formed a kind of triangle, and just by chance I actually saw it as I was walking home. It was quite the sight - like the moon and stars you see illustrated in children's books, that kind of perfectly composed formation you'd never think would actually happen.

13 Jan 2015

wiggle wum

On one cold December morn
a worm sat in his nest of mould-io,
a tear fell from his little eye
because he was so cold-io

"O wiggle waggle wiggle wum,
I wish the warmer days would come,
the ice and snow: I wish they'd go
because I am so cold-io"

A little mole came passing by,
he said: "Step inside, I'll keep you warm,"
so he gobbled up that little worm
because he was so cold-io

I've been thinking recently about when I was very wee and my grandma used to sing me this weird song, apparently an original creation by my great-granddad. I say apparently because that's what I've always been told, but by all accounts he was a bit of a scoundrel so I wouldn't be surprised to find he'd passed off someone else's nursery rhyme as his own. For a while I would get very upset on the worm's behalf and so my grandma used to add another verse in which the worm emerges again in spring. Did the mole regurgitate him? Had the earth worm been living in the mole's small intestine for months like a tape worm? These are questions with which I was not at all concerned at the time as long as I didn't have to confront the fact that a fictional worm was dead. My mum says that she never got this consolatory extra verse when she was a kid. She just had to accept that the world is a cruel place.


Speaking of the cruel and nonsensical world in which we live, my lovely maidenhair fern is not very well at all. It's been looking peaky since early November when the lack of decent daylight hours started to take its toll. Alas, during the time I was away for Christmas it really took a turn for the dead, although after some severe pruning what's left of it looks like it might be sort of OK. Maybe if I can get it to somehow hold on until the weather gets warmer it'll stand a chance. Maybe.

For that matter, I hope I can hold on until the weather gets warmer. The next five months seem both very long and very short at the moment - long because five months is a long time to be anxious and stressed for, and short because I'm not sure five months is enough time for me to physically do everything I need to in order to, you know, graduate. I mean, it is, and I will, and I know that. I'm just doing a really good job of feeling sorry for myself.

In any case I don't have much free time these days for things like... fun, or having a life. (I don't really have time for taking poorly-focused pictures of myself looking sad with a houseplant either, but I got a remote for my camera for Christmas and I thought I should at least work out how to use it.) But it won't last forever and neither will winter, despite how it feels sometimes.

I will be warm again, I will emerge from the belly of the mole. I might be a partially digested worm when that happens, but whatever. At least I'll be an alive partially digested worm with a degree in modern European languages.

4 Jan 2015

end of the roll, end of the year

This past Christmas was spent with my mum, by the sea. It was all gentle wintery walks and scones and red wine, but somehow I missed the usual chaos and large family arguments that keep us all low-key pissed off for most of January. Still, it doesn't really have to be Christmas for that.

I spotted these weird Father Christmas hands when I was walking along the seafront the other day. From my side of the wall I could only imagine two possibilities: 1) that it was just a pair of disembodied rubber hands wearing fur-trimmed sleeves, or 2) a whole Santa propped up with his face against the wall and his arms in the air as though he were about to be executed. Either option seems a strange choice as far as yuletide decorations go.

Another year, another twelve months all full of days. 2014 was the year my hamster died, my sister got engaged, and I spent a lot of time on trains, as usual. There was some other stuff too: I lived in Spain for five months, moved back to Edinburgh, miraculously made it through the first semester of my last year with minimal catastrophe. I saw some things with my eyes; heard some things through my ears. There was weather. Yep, quite a year.

31 Dec 2014

Crathes Castle

Crathes Castle meets all the requirements for a satisfactory National Trust site: there's an old building of historical significance that's only open five hours a year, a bit of woodland, a bulb shop, and a café where the soup of the day is always carrot and coriander.

The benefit of going for a day trip to Crathes when it's so cold you can feel the skin peeling away from your face is that you can walk around the totally empty gardens and feel like Mary Lennox.

 This tree has a face. It's probably definitely a tree spirit that would tell me to ~listen with my heart~ if I waited around long enough.

odds, ends

 Penarth at dusk

 90s pre-Raphaelite looks in botanical gardens

 Tiny origami at the ECA art book fair

 Landscape from moving vehicle

3 Dec 2014


Yesterday was my 22nd birthday. It's hard to believe that on this day a year ago I was waking up in my room in Grenoble after what was, in hindsight, probably the weirdest night of the whole semester in France. We'd ended up in the notoriously exchange-student-populated London Pub, which until then we'd managed to avoid completely, where the barman gave us a free tarte tatin (with three candles stuck in it, to make things festive) and amongst other things I ended up trying to explain the appeal of Monty Python to a Frenchman with a bloody nose while everyone else butted in with an unhelpful impression of John Cleese in the Holy Grail. You know the one. The one you shouldn't do in front of a large group of intoxicated French people.

This year, no Frenchmen, no tarte tatin; just sweet cocktails in a wee underground bar in my favourite city with some of my nicest friends. My birthday has always been a bit inconveniently timed, just at the beginning of exam season, but thinking about it this will be the last year I'll have to contend with revision and essay deadlines for attention on my birthday. There are some benefits to entering the real world at last, I suppose.

Being 22 feels... a bit different, actually. Maybe it's because a lot seemed to happen over the past year, as opposed to in previous years where things felt more or less the same. It changes from day to day, but on the whole I do feel like I tentatively have my shit together. I don't freak out when children talk to me like I'm a grown-up anymore. I own three whole sets of nice matching underwear and I really rarely lose socks in the wash. I think I'm a reasonably intelligent, talented person who could conceivably accomplish something eventually. The older I get, the more it feels like a good thing that I am me and not someone else, and I feel like I keep getting better at being me too. Which is good. Imagine if I was getting worse at being me, just kind of slowly disintegrating and losing my corporeality... OK I don't know what I'm talking about anymore. I'm a bit hungover.

28 Nov 2014

birthday season

The amount of effort I put into wrapping presents is inversely proportional to the quality of the gift itself.
These presents are not very exciting at all, but they look pretty and that's the main thing.
 Suddenly it's nearly December and I feel like I missed November happening. 
Where did it go? What did I do all month? I can't remember. Time is a construct etc. etc.