Dark Age Candles (VIII) : The Attacotti

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As a little break from Axis & Allies I’m now in the National Library of Scotland working on the Attacotti theory I’ve been working on.  A few weeks back the Shetland Times printed a strange version of my Attacotti theory, which they allowed to be intercepted by the curator of the island’s main museum. “Probably not,” says Dr Ian Tait. Well, we’ll just have to see about that.

IMG_20160512_034941Our quest begins with something I’d noticed in a map left behind at my new house in East Lothian. Most versions of Ptolemy’s Geography mention an island called Sketis off the north-eastern coast of Scotland, which past historians have assumed was Skye, misplaced. However, in the map I was looking at, it had a completely different name – Ocitis. This is the version found in most manuscripts of the Geography, & for me it contained a clear phonetic match to the Cotti of the Attacotti. Now these guys were a northern British tribe which turn up in the 4th century.  Ammianus Marcellinus, who wrote a history of Rome in the late fourth century, mentions (book 27) describes them as ‘a warlike race of men‘ who fought alongside the Picts & Scots in what is known as the ‘Barbarian Conspiracy’ of the mid 360s.

It will, however, be in place to say, that at that time the Picts, divided into two tribes, called Dicalydones and Verturiones, as well as the Attacotti, a warlike race of men, and the Scots, were ranging widely and causing great devastation; while the Gallic regions, wherever anyone could break in by land or by sea, were harassed by the Franks and their neighbours, the Saxons, with cruel robbery, fire, and the murder of all who were taken prisoners.

In the same century, St Jerome traveled to Gaul, where he observed certain members of the Attacotti getting up to some rather bestial behaviour, writing of them in his Adversus Jovinianum (c.393AD);

Why should I speak of other nations when I, a youth, in Gaul beheld the Attacotti, a British tribe, eat human flesh, and when they find herds of swine, cattle, and sheep in the woods, they are accustomed to cut off the buttocks of the shepherds, and the paps of the shepherdesses, and to consider them as the only delicacies of food.

So, the Attacotti were a bunch of warlike cannibals, some of whom found themselves in Gaul. The evidence for them on the Continent comes in the Notitia Digitatum, compiled about 400 AD, which lists four Attacotti auxillary regiments as fighting in the Roman Legions, two of of whom, the Honoriani Atecotti seniores & the Atecotti iuniores Gallicani,  were stationed in Gaul. It seems that after Count Theodosius’ restoration of Roman order in Britain, the Attacotti were recruited to fight as auxilia palatina in the legions. The Notitia reads

In Italy: Atecotti Honoriani iuniores

In the Gauls with the illustrious master of horse in Gauls:
Atecotti Honoriani seniores
Atecotti iuniores Gallicani.

AtecottiComparison

For a long, long time, scholars have speculated on the homelands of the Attacotti, but to no avail. However, while looking at an Ogham inscription on an obscure Pictish stone discovered on the Shetland Islands, I hit paydirt. Etched into what is known as the Lunnasting Stone, it reads;

ettecuhetts: ahehhttannn: hccvvevv: nehhtons 
(Forsyth 1996)

Chispologically speaking, Ettecuhets is a lovely match for Attacotti, especially when we combine two variant spelling in the Notitia, being ‘attecotti’ & ‘attcoetti,’ as in;  Attecoet / Ettecuhet. Elsewhere on the Shetlands, at a place called Cunningsburgh, another Pictish stone also seems to mention the Attacotti.

  Transcription :   +TTEC[O^G][–] | [–]A[V^BL]:DATT[V][B!][–] | [–][A!]VVR[–]
     Reading :   ETTEC[O^G] [–][A!]VVR[–]A[V^BL]: DATT[V][B!][–]

There is an island called Mousa, just a stone-skip across the waters from Cuningsburgh, which is home to the greatest of all the stone, Pictish roundhouses known as Brochs. Archeologists calculate a date of 100 BC for its construction, which leads us to a possible discovery of the etymological root of the Attacotti.

brochs_mapIf we look at the distribution of the Pictish brochs, we see that they are found chiefly in Caithness, the Orkneys & the Shetlands. Archeologically speaking, the majority of them date from around 100 BC to 100 AD. If we conject that the broch-builders are part of the same tribe, & that the Attacotti at Cuningsburgh built the broch at Mousa, then we can assume that the Attacotti were also found on the Orkney islands & also on the mainland at Caithness. The central portion of this ‘empire’ are the Orkney islands,  which fits in perfectly with the nerve-centre of a Pictish diaspora as described by Hector Boece, a sixth century Scottish Historian.  According to Boece, the first Scottish region in which the Picts ever settled was the Orkney Islands, after which they spread south into Scotland as far as Lothian. In his ‘History & Chronickles of Scotland’ Boece writes;

Nocht lang efter, a banist pepill, namit Pichtis, come furth of Denmark, to serche ane dwelling place ; and, efter that thay war inhibit to land baith in France, Britane, and Ireland, thay landit in Albion. Sum authouris sayis, thay come first in Orknay ; and, sone  efter, in Cathues, Ros, Murray, Mernis, Angus, Fiffe, and Louthiane : and expellit all the pepill, that inhabit that region afore thair  cuming. Thir pepill war callit Pichtis, outhir for thair semely personis, or ellis for the variant colour of thair clething ; or ellis thay war namit Pichtis, fra the Pichtis namit Agathirsanis, thair anciant faderis. In probation heirof, Orknay wes calht the auld realme of  Pichtis. Siclike, thee seeis betwix Cathnes and Orknay war namit Pentland Firth ; and all the landis, quhilkis ar now callit Louthiane,
war callit than Pentland.

Another 16th century historian, William Camden, gives us some slightly more readable information about the early Pictish settlement of Scotland, stating that at,  ‘…the time of Reuther King of Scots; when the Scots, by an intestine division, warring upon one another, each Party being assisted by a considerable number of the Picts, they fought so desperately, that, besides Gethus King of the Picts, the greatest number both of Scots and Pictish Nobility were killed, with many thousands of the Commons of both Nations. Which great slaughter, with the invasion of the Britons at the same time, constrain’d the Picts (who perceived themselves unable to resist) to fly, some by land and others by sea, to Orkney, where they abode for a time, and made Gothus, brother of the foresaid Gethus, their King. And after a few years, having left some of their number to people and plant the Countrey, they return’d to Louthian; and having expelled the Britons, settled themselves again in their ancient possessions.

Between Camden & Boece we learn that the original Pictish settlement in Scotland had its main powerbase on the Orkneys, with a secondary settlement in the Lothians. This leads us to another passage in Camden, in which the mainland across from the Orkneys – Caithness – seems to be named after King Gethus himself;

Now Orkney, being a cluster of thirty Isles, separated from one another by little arms of the Sea: they are said in a certain old manuscript to be so call’d from Argat, that is (as it is there explain’d) Above the Getes: But I had rather interpret it, Above the Cat; for it lies over-against Cath, a Country of Scotland, which, from the promontory, is now called Catness; the Inhabitants whereof seem to be falsly called, in Ptolemy, Carini instead of Catini.”

Whatever ‘certain old manuscript‘ Camden was using, it definitely gave the Caithness region an original name of Getes, with the Orkneys being ‘above them.’ That the G & C are interchangeable can be seen in two historical notices of the Pictish kingdom of Cat. In the Pictish Chronicle, the seven kingdoms of the Picts are given as, ‘Fib, Fidach, Floclaid, Fortrenn, Got, Ce, Circinn,’ while the Irish translation of the Historia Brittonum  states their names are Cait, Ce, Cireach cetach cland, Fib, Fidach, Fotla, Foirtreand.’

Returning to King Gethus, that he was a contemporary of ‘Reuther King of Scots;’ as given by both Boece & Bellenden allows Gethus to be inserted into the following time-frame;

Kings of Scots
Fergus I : said to come to Scotland in 330 BC
Feritharis
Mainus
Dornadilla
Nothatus
Reuther : ————-

Kings of Picts
————– Gethus :  gives his daughter in marriage to Reuther
Gothus
Gethes
Cianus :  Taken prisoner by Claudius in the Orkneys (43 AD)

 These dates place the Gethus/Gothus brothes a couple of generations before the Claudian conquest of Britain, say, 80 years or so, which to the middle of the first century BC. This reinforces the connection between the Getes & the Broch-builders, & for me there is too much frantic chispological activity going on to deny that the Attacotti were connected to the broch-building ‘Getes.’ But lets just see if we can strengthen the theorum with as much evidence as we can;

The Etymology of ‘Attacotti’

When looking at the the name, Attacotti, I wasn’t convinced by Philip Rance’s ideas about the Attacotti being based on the Irish Aithceach Tuatha  (Deisi and Magnus Maximus: the Case for Irish Federates in Late. Roman Britain 2001). Instead, I decided to have a pop myself & divide the name up into Atta & Cotti. Both Latin & old Gothic render Atta as ‘father,’ which could translate as ‘father gothus,’ indicating that they were descended from the Orkney Pitcs. That the Picts are said to have a possible Scythian & German origins support a Gothic ‘Atta.’ However, after discovering the former naming of the Shetlands as ‘Ocitis,’ I realised that dividing the name into ‘At’ & ‘Acotti’ seems more prudent. In Latin, Et means both, & we have already seen how the Ogham describes the ettecuhetts. This then leads us to something like, ‘both acotti.’ We have seen how ‘Argat’ means ‘above the Getes’ & was applied to the Orkneys. The Shetland Isles are also found above the Getes,’ which fits into the idea of two divisions of the ‘Acotti,’ both of which lie beyond Caithness, which I’m giving the rather poetic name of ‘The Kingdom of the Two Cats.’ As already stated, support for this comes from that island called ‘Ocitis’ found in Ptolemy I mentioned at the start of the post. Its there, right at the edge of the page at the 20th parralell.

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     map 1         2000px-OrkneyShetlandConstituency.svg

Ptolemy describes four main islands off the far northern coast of Britain. What I found interesting is that with the map of Scotland clearly turned 90 degreees on its axis, then the two Ptolemic islands, Dumna & Ocitis seem to match the situations & correlations of the Orkneys & the Shetlands. This suggests that Ptolemy – who never really left the Meditterranean – may have used two seperate travellers accounts for this part of the world, which became superimposed upon each other. This means that Dumna would also be the Orkneys, that Ocitis would also be Thule, & thus Thule would also be the Shetlands. Evidence for this comes as flows;

Ocitis as Shetland

In one MS, Ptolemy’s Ocitis appears as Sketis, about 70 miles easterly off ‘Cape Orkas.’ Most scholars say this was Skye misplaced. But Sketis becomes Schetis becomes Camden’s Schetland  just as easy, and Shetland is about 70 miles NE of Scotland, i.e. Cape Orkas. We must also acknowledge that the Shetlands were also known by the name of ‘Inse Catt’- ie island of the Cats.

Dumna as the Orkneys

255px-DamsayIn the very centre of the Orkney archipelago, there is a small, flat islet called Damsay, which could well have derived from Dumna. It seems that in the distant past, it was quite an important spot. The island is home to a number of submerged constructions, with Caroline Wickham-Jones, of Aberdeen University, telling the BBC in 2009;

We have certainly got a lot of stonework. There are some quite interesting things. You can see voids or entrances… There’s this one feature that is like a stone table – you’ve got a large slab about a metre and a half long and it’s sitting up on four pillars or walls so the next thing we need to do is to get plans and more photographs to try and assess and look for patterns. The quality and condition of some of the stonework is remarkable. Nothing like this has ever been found on the seabed around the UK.

The thinking here is that in the deepest iron-age past, the Orkney Islands were actually named Dumna, with its spiritual centre being situated somewhere on or about the island of Damsey. The name should derive from Domnu, the Celtic goddess of the Summer Solstice Goddess. She is described as the Mother of Water who absorbs and reflects the rays of the sun as it climbs to it’s annual zenith. A place so far north as the Orkneys, then, would be a perfect place to celebrate the unbroken sunlight of midummer

Thule as Shetland

Several contenders for Thule have been proffered over the years, from Iceland to the Scandinavian land-mass, but in a genius & comprehensive bit of investigation – in an age long before google – Camden tells us quite decisively;

But if that of the learned Gaspar Peucerus, in his Book De Terræ Dimensione, be true, that Schetland is by the Seamen call’d Thilensell (and I know no reason to except against his testimony) Thule is undoubtedly discover’d, and the Controversie at an end… Schetland is the same with Thule, we may believe, First, from the situation of it in Ptolemy: For Thule is plac’d in the sixty third degree from the Æquinoctial by Ptolemy, and so is Schetland. call’d by some Hethland. Again, it lies between Scotland and Norway; where Saxo Grammaticus places Thule, as but two days sail from the point of Cathness; in which Distance Solinus also places it: And Tacitus says, that the Romans spy’d it afar off, as they sail’d by the Orcadesin their voyage round Britain (83 AD). Lastly, it faces the coast of Bergæ in Norway; and so lay Thule, according to Pomponius Mela, in which author the text is corruptly Belgarum littori, instead of Bergarum littori. For Bergæ, a City in Norway, lies over-against Shetland; and Pliny makes Bergos to be in this tract, which I take to be the small Country wherein Bergæ is seated; as none will deny that Norway is Pliny’s Nerigon.

Both Pliny & Strabo noted the comment of the fourth century BC Greek Geograper, Pytheas, that Thule was a six-day voyage north of Britain. Which in the terms of a antiquital voyaging seems about right – in 54 BC, for example, it took Cesar 18 hours to sail from Boulogne to Dover. That Thule was a Pictish possession is inferred from the poet Claudian who, writing about 400 AD, places them on the island;

The Orkney Isles with Saxon Blood were wet,
And Thule with Pictish gore did sweat.

What the Saxons were doing on the Orkneys in 400 AD is unclear, but the Pictish presence on Shetland / Thule in 400 AD is pretty much sealed.

Birdmen

It seems pretty much nailed on that the Attacotti were based in the northern islands of Scotland, & as such we can strengthen the theory ever more. Earlier in the post we saw how the Picts left their Lothian possessions on the death of King Gethus, but later on in time returned to their lands in Lothian. Camden writes;

After a few years, having left some of their number to people and plant the Countrey, they return’d to Louthian; and having expelled the Britons, settled themselves again in their ancient possessions.

What is remarkable here is that in the Lothian regions, at Traprain Law, the capital of the Votadini tribe, a silver horde was found in which the shield pattern of the Honoriani Attacotti Seniores seems to have been replicated on a silver plate. Indeed, the coinage in the horde determines that it was deposited during the reign of emperor Honorius himself.

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This image is a reconstruction based upon fragments found in the horde.
To this we must add the presence of King Loth, a 6th century Pictish king remembered as ruler of both the Lothians & the Orkneys. Historians have often been a tad bemused at this double kingdom, but we can now see that he was in fact the ruler of the Attacotti in the 6th century. To this we can also imagine that the etymology of Gododdin – a  version of the Votadini – could also be connected to the ‘Cotti’ of Caithness, etc – where the Pictis chronicle calls them Got.
Looking once more at the Notitia shield patterns, it is with the Junior Honorianes that a real clincher can be found. Their shield carries a curious image of two heads facing each other, with at least one of them seeming to be a bill-beaked bird. An extremely similar image is also found on a Pictish stone discovered in 1887 at Papil, West Burra, in the Shetlands.
papil03
The stone was found at a pre-norse  Christian centre – the name Papil comes from papar – a Nordic word for priests – & was removed to the National Museum in Edinburgh, though a replica still stands in the churchyard of St Laurence’s Church, Papil. Kelly A Kilpatrick, in his ‘The iconography of the Papil Stone: sculptural and literary comparisons with a Pictish motif’ (Proc Soc Antiq Scot, 141 (2011), 159–205), writes of the birdmen,
 They have commonly been regarded as a misrepresentation of the Temptation of St
Antony, but this theory is debatable and needs to be compared and contrasted within the wider framework of this motif in Irish and Pictish art. Examples of axe-brandishing human and beast-headed figures are, however, found in Pictish sculpture, and are comparable with the imagery on the Papil Stone. Furthermore, the bird-men motif on the Papil Stone has striking parallels with contemporary battlefield demons in early Irish literature
 A common interpretation of the Papil birdmen is that they are a distorted representation
of the Temptation of St Antony, a scene in which Antony was tempted by women disguised as birds who whispered into his ear. This was, in the words of Radford), ‘a favourite scene on the Irish crosses, where it is usually pictured in a more realistic manner.’
Detail of the Temptation of St. Antonny the hermit. Moone high cross, Kildare
 
The Papil bird-men have a stronger connection with axe- and weapon-carrying hybrid & monstrous human-like figures in Pictish sculpture. There are 10 similar examples in the corpus of Pictish sculpture, three of which, it should be emphasised, have bird-features. They occur as single figures or as single figures associated with an anmimal or beast, & also as paired figures like the Papil bird-men. They must have had a long currency in Pictish art, for they are found on a variety of monumental media, ranging from simple incised stone boulders to panelled motifs on elaborate cross-slabs and even on a sculpted shrine panel.
Of these, the image of a dog-masked man found at Cuningsburgh, Shetland, where as we have seen there was an inscription to the Attacotti, seems the most important. Also of interest is a stone found at Murthly, Perthsire.  When comparing it with the Juniores shield pattern, we see that to the left is the long-beaked bird & to the right is the stubby-nosed dog or boar.

Lettuce Bingo

IMG_20160508_141741209Things are settling down nicely in the world of Damo. Baro is a dream come true, my nearest nice walk being a lovely half hour around a lake, built by Sophie’s grandad. There’s an upturned rowing boat there & something tells me a Shelleyan hour a day will soon be spent bobbing about on water working on my poetry. I’ve also been planting potatoes & onions in the garden, plus lettuce seeds in the window, the first of which is above. The garden is also a dream for kids, & we had a rather fun time last Thursday with MArnie, Lindsay & their two wee ones, plus ours, Kenny’s tribe (with both wives) & Cadey, teh daughter of Ian who will be working on the Tinky Website this summer.

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Last weekend we all nipped over to Glasgow to see colin. On the Friday night me & the big man hit the comedy night at the Drygate (review can be read here). The nest day me & Colin mowed his massive lawn while Emily & the girls hit Weegieland for some shopping. The Storries also agreed to have some kind of shindig on the 25th of June, when we do our Nice n Sleazy’s gig in Glasgow. We do have to get a urinal or portaloo or something, though – that’s their condition – & Im not allowed to call it Storriestock!

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Back in the shire, on Monday there was a proper ‘Last of the Summer Wine’ moment. Donna (in Pencaitland) had seen two skips in a bath in Gifford. Apparently its all the rage in New Zealand to stick one in the garden & have a fire-bath. “Do I know anyone with a van?” she asks. “Well, Carol’s just bought one!” I replied.  So ta-daa! & now we ALSO have a bath to do domething with in teh garden – but I’m thinking more hot water from the tap through a hose rather than heating it up from underneath.

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Pops at the victory parade for Burnley’s championshio

Poetry-wise, I’m chugging through Axis & Allies now – including a few new last-minute additions. the last poem I wrote was inszpired by a newspaper article in the Daily Mirror – which I get delivered in the mornings now  – describing the blitz of Liverpool, May 1941. I’ve also got my office looking today, with my library in its traditional nice chronological order. In fact, the whole house is looking nice – Emily’s done well. Im keeping my Burnley house, though, the premiership’s coming back to my beloved town (they just won the championship) so it’d be foolish to leave! Saying that, Baro is gorgeous – views front & back & lovely walks all round, its gonna be great to to & fro between the two from now on.

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My first spot of painting – the bird house

Yesterday was a good day. I got up real early & drove down to Garvald to let Carol’s dogs out. Didnt know I had to shut the utility door, so they were out in the village all day – but no harm done!! Anyway, after that I realised I was experiencing one of those majestical & serene mornings that East Lothian in May musters with effortlessness. So I took the chance to have a drive about, up to the foot of Lammer Law, scoping it out for a future climb. For me, the photographic results were gorgeous

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Finally, on the Tinky front, things are looking busy. Getting Will on board has had a bonus knock on effect. He works at Red Dog in Edinburgh, who just so happen to run the main stage at the Meadows Musical Festival (June 4-5). So a combo between me, him & the ‘Interview with Al Roberts,‘ we’ve got the gig – penultimate slot on the Sunday. The Email reads;

 

Good afternoon everyone!

Guy from Red Dog Music here. I’m getting in touch to let you know – if you didn’t already – that your band has made it through to the final line-up of the Meadows Festival 2016!

In terms of next steps, all I need from you is a confirmation email letting me know you’re okay to play the slot designated in the list below, and we can start getting promo material out with your name in lights, and put together an official schedule.
If you have any questions, please get in touch with me directly by replying to this email, or call me on 0131 229 ???? during office hours.
Saturday 11am Edinburgh Samba School
Saturday 11:30 Richy Neil
Saturday 12pm Hailey Beavis
Saturday 1pm Sea Bass Kid
Saturday 2pm Miracle Glass Company
Saturday 3pm Jamie & Shoony
Saturday 4pm Samba Sene
Saturday 5pm Secreto Tropical
 
Sunday 11am inChorus Choir
Sunday 11:30 The Beastie Drummers
Sunday 12pm Surf Manchu
Sunday 1pm We Are Dollstoy
Sunday 2pm Noah Noah
Sunday 3pm Monosapiens
Sunday 4pm Tinky Disco
Sunday 5pm Nipples of Venus
Hope you’re all having a great week, speak soon
Kind regards
~Guy @ Red Dog
 ———

Ive also been preparing to record the Tinky Album. I’ve decided its gonna be as good as Seargent Peppers & the first Stone Roses, indeed drawing certain motifs from each in the tradition of proper art. Its also gonna be finished off &  mixed down in krefelf, with Cliff. “About Fuckin’ Time!” he says. So its gonna be a busy summer which, at  the moment, looks like this;

 

Friday, May 27th – Henrys Cellar Bar, Edinburgh

Saturday 28th & Sunday 29th – Recording, Prestonpans

Sunday June 5th – The Meadows festival

Friday 10th- Sunday 12th June – Eden Festival

Saturday June 25th – Nice n Sleazys, Glasgow

Wed 29th June – Wed 6th July – Recording, Krefeld

Friday 15th July – Leith Depot, Edinburgh

Fri 22nd – Sun 24th – Audio Soup, Edinburgh

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Lettuce Seed Bingo (this morning) – just one more square needed (top right) and I’ll have a full house!!!!

Return to the Shire

 

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So I’m back, back in the Shire, & slowly but surely the house is beginning to take shape, life rhythms are beginning to settle & the buds are beginning to spring onto the branches in my lovely new garden. I’ve been planting this week – spring onions, normal onions, potatoes & brussels sprouts in the garden, & lettuce in pots indoors. Axis & Allies is going swimmingly – really getting into the guts of the thing & sprinkling a few new stanzas into the mix, including a couple on the Swing Jugend, a teenage countermovement based upon Brirish & American jazz music. I’d got these from a massive trawl thro all my history magazines, which resulted in another 15 or so new stanzas. I also spent a bit of time with teh Lao Tze Tung & the notebooks of Paul Brunton to kuralise for the future.

IMG_20160429_123748026_HDRAll of last week we were toing & froing between Baro & Dalmeny – packing & unpacking , cleaning & making a mess – it was chaos. Sky came along at one point, installed a dish, then took it down again (no line of site), while the ex tenant (Lorraine) made a visit to finally clear her huge hoard of crap from the house. Last Friday, after Tinky practice, I went back to an empty Dalmeny for one last night there – a memorybank of bliss, it is the cocoon of my greatest lovefelt, & it was weird, yet wonderful to depart. All the furniture that was left was a matress in the attic, of whose removal from the building Emily wrote;

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Last weekend was cool. Not only did Burnley get promoted back to the Premiership, but I took Tinky Disco wholesaledown to Arran for the Deoch an Dorus festival. It was a nice little life moment – I’d pent many good years of my youth on Arran Street in Burnley (number 7), & finally here I was, crossing the serene waters on a ferry with my funky new band. We have recently acquired a new memner – Will – whose a great addition on keyboards. A right funny scene transpired on the morning of the festy. Kenny had stayed on his couch, but with Will in Jonny & Rabs car, had to leave early. Getting a 60 year old, coffeeless self-confessed staller to leave his comfy quilt was impossible & it was amusing to see Jonny practically manhandle him out of the door. Only a timely intervention of me grabbing Will’s keys & promising to lock-up saved any bloodshed.

From there me & Kenny picked up Al, who had skived the previous night’s rehearsal complaining of Delhi Belly & that there was only one hope – if he rested he might… might… be able to play at Arran. After a ‘miraculous’ recovery in the night he was in the volvo, followed soon after by Mike & Sernea, & away we went, stopping at Colin’s in Glasgow en route. In the usual Storrie fashion we were ploughed with eggs, coffee, toast, etc, & we left confirming the entire posses stay there for our Glasgow gig on June 25th.

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Dalry, en route to the harbour

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We were joined at Ardossan by Roy (he’d come down on the train) & a coupel of hours later, we were across the water in Arran. A lovely little fauna-fantastic place – Scotland in minature , with the highlands up north – Deoch an Dorus was sited by the sea at North Sannox picnic site. Small but intimate, the party was fun & gig was great, a real energy – plus I had a couple of eccies – first full ones in months. A great, rave, but a hellish return, especially after discovering I’d put my tent up on a mini-flood plain. The Mumble review of the festy is here, including the organisers response to the dead seal story worked up by the tabloids.

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I picked up that very paper yesterday – it was in the Tweedale Arms in gorgeous Gifford. I’d driven down there to watch the Champions League semi (Real 1 Man City 0) after looking after the girls for the afternoon. Nearby was Andrew & some other locals playing cards, & an open fire, & I’m like, I’m home. Later today I’ll be ‘commuting’ back home with Ems (Im in the NLS right now)… an 11 minute train from Waverly to NewCraigHAll, followed by a 25 minute drive home. This afternoon a few kids & mums are coming over for my first parents & kids thing ever – I’m hopelessly out of my depth, but we’ll see what happens.

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15 more cantos to go

 

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12994460_10153715180348246_7239557658124594534_nI am now sat in the office, the National Library of Scotland, Edinburgh.  Downstairs are my new bass guitar – a fender jazz bass – plus a new amp. Total cost £527. The money’s come from Emily’s recent house sale, god bless hair – I guess I did do some painting & stuff, so its cool. It would have cost more, but Tinky’s new keyboardist, Will, works there & got us a discount. Earlier today I had a sing-song with Mike – we’re working on the songs (for once) & its sounding good. We’ve a gig coming up this Saturday – Wee James’ birthday – plus the big one at Arran at the end of April when Tinky go West-side.

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Working on the lyrics with Mike

Its been a couple of weeks since I got back from Skye, in which time I’ve decided to add 15 more cantos to Axis & Allies, bringing the total up to a Dantean 100. This means 135 tryptychs, some of which are already typed up, but about two thirds are still in pencil form, barely touched since I etched them out a decade & a half ago.

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The New Ranch – Donna’s centre

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The same period saw the visit of Donna Waddington, Emily’s mum & grandma to the girls. It was fun having her over, in tow came some poetry books from her husband on the Harlem renaissance. Her visit also gave me & Ems the opportunity to head to Burnley for a couple of days. En route we saw, for the first time, the new cottage we’ll be moving into – next door to Kenny’s partner, Sophie Younger. Its a cracker & the gods really have smile on us. Its weird how fate works – Emily was destined to marry a bass player & I to live in East Lothian. Both of these transpired, but it is only at the second time of asking, & sharing each other’s destiny, that our fates have been properly worked out.

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Leaving Gifford about 11 AM, I drove us over the Lammermuirs & into Duns for a baguette & a pannini. Ems loved it & we can pop in from time to time in the future. From Duns we shimmied through the borders on a mini-burnsian tour… Kelso, Jedburgh both passed by before a wee look at the Otterburn battlefield, where I read some of my modernized ballad on the battle – a mixture of the English version & the Scottish ‘Battle of Chevy Chase.

 

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12961551_1621654548159495_7174585620595428844_nFrom there we pottered at Hadrian’s Wall awhile, before passing through Haydon Bridge, a delightful small town spanning the River Tyne. In fact, most of the Border towns a quite beautiful & calm. We also checked out Langley Castle, & decided a romantic night there roundabout our honeymoon would be splendid. We also checked out a marvellous waterfall, whose name Ive forgotten, but was a roaring swirl of nature at its rawest.

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From there we headed due south, along a series of obscure & some rather dodgy roads, especially the one that dropped into Dent valley – a ridiculously magnificent place full of all of nature’s bounties. Then came Settle & before we knew it we were in Burnley at seven o clock in the evening. En route we’d driven from Midlothian into Edinburgh & then into East Lothian, into the Scottish Borders & over the border into Northumberland, before passing through Cumbria (twice) & North Yorkshire before entering Lancashire.

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After calling on Nicky & co (addicted to a new game), we proceeded to chill out at mine, where I turned my house into Damospa – foot rubs, bath-runs & lazy film nests included. Friday night we spoilt all that, however, by hitting the beers with my dad, including a rather funny session with the Accy Roaders down the White Lion. The drive back to Scotland the next day was tiring & hungover to say the least. This route was still wonderful, more new roads.

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IMG_20160416_101835917En route I checked out Black Tower’s view of Pendle – which is almost the one contained in the Shephereds Calendar woodcut. I’m getting closer. I think I have to go back another mile or so to get the exact spot. We then passed through teh Bowland Forest – an amazing place I’d never traversed – through antiquated Slaidburn & Dunsop Bridge – the heart of Britain – before dropping down into Lancaster & connecting with the M6 & the much quicker drive North.

220px-Lunnasting_stoneAlongside Axis & Allies I have also began work on Humanology – my version of the Thirukkural. A prompt was me chatting to Donna about my poeslation while watching the BBC$ ‘Treasure of the Indus series’ in Tamil Nadu, & she, in a rather ‘support my daughter’ fashion urging me to do something with it. So I’ve started & I must say I am fairly romping through it. I am also carrying on with the work on my ‘Camlann & the Pictish King Arthur,’ including a new bit of research with the Attacotti. These were an unplaced British tribe of the 4th century who ate shepardesses’ paps & the buttocks of shepherds, & their name turns up in an Ogham inscription on the Lunnasting Stone in the  Shetlands where they are the ‘Ettecuhets.’ I gave the story to the Shetland Times  actually – its a good un – but they did the usual thing & asked a local historian who did the usual thing & said it was bollox. People just can’t see the woods for the trees.

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Druidry_101_html_108ea1b4The thing is, I’ve started looking at the inscription (Ive got books on Ogham in front of me in the NLS) – & I’ve realised one word has been mistranslated – its actually hcungu, or Cungu, which opens up some very interesting possibilites..

 

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Eriskay & Skye

 

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Two mornings ago, & eighteen years to the day since I set off from Leyton on my first poetic tour, I completed the pen & ink version of Axis & Allies. No more shall I find myself in wonderful scenic spots, converting my research into rhyme & knitting together my vasty poem.  It was our last morning in Skye, & waking before dawn I walked the short distance from Seaview Cottage, a charming cottage on the slopes over Dunvegan, NW Skye, to the Pictish stone erected above the old Colomban church at the Millennium by the locals. With me was Bridei, a mad spaniel & companion to many of my walks in East Lothian – 13 years old but still going strong. Once at the stone I watched the sun tumble up into the Skye & completed my last three tryptychs:- two on the ascent & descent of Mount Olympus & the very last being a stanza on the escape from Treblinka.

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Before then, clearly, was that wonderful week in Skye. After the motown night in Haddington – which was rather sparsely attended, but good fun all the same – we set off on the great drive North. After the unfortunate business of the Green Welly stop-off, I took the wheel & drove practically the rest of the way – through Glencoe, Fort William & on through a wild storm across the Kyle of Localsh to Skye. Not bad for someone who hasn’t even got a provisional. Emily took over once more 20 miles short of Dunvegan – the endlessly winding roads & growing darkness had tired me out – & we arrived at our cottage in Dunvegan just as night was closing in. Unfortunately the estate agent had got the dates mixed up & we were unable to get in – cue mad dash to the hotel for food & a few frantic calls, before not too long after we were in our lovely, warm cottage.

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440_1613682118956738_8202965278448732262_nSo began a great week, our party consisting of 4 kids (Roxy 6, Ivy 8, fergus 10, Eliza 12) – 2 mothers (Emily & Carol), 2 spaniels Bridei & the newly revitalized Larch)  & a poet.  We all got on rather famously, wandering about the island in a jolly old fashion. On the Monday I took Fergus walking up the great table-topped hill that overlooked Dunvegan Bay, on the Tuesday we checked out the old lighthouse near Glendale, while on the Wednesday Emily & I escaped the circus & took a ferry from Uig to Lochmaddy on North Uist. Arriving late at night, we slept in the car by the Atlantic, then took a curious drive round the islands as far as Eriskay in the south. The latter is a charming wee island bejewelling those dazzling azure waters that fill the soul with joy & hope. South Uits is also a great spot – full of history & lovely views. but further north the feeling of visiting the Outer Hebrides is less pleasurable – a number of charmless pre-fab houses built by workers of the oil industry, while flat tepid peat-bogs roll out to the unassuming hills.

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Coral Beach – wrote the penultimate bunch of tryptychs here

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I am now back in Dalmeny, catching up with things & beginning to edit Axis & Allies. I have read through about 50 stanzas of the poem’s final total of 765. I am also engaged to be married, the circumstances of which engagement are rather amusing indeed. Of course Emily & I have fallen massively in love, & have thought of double-barreling our names & inventing a suitable crest, & all that. Anyway, a lass I know who knows very well I’m seeing Emily sends me the following Facebook messages;

SAT 8:13

Damo lost your number. Are u in Edinburgh? Need a chat friend
Call me 07723408***

“How I do love to go up in a swing, up in a swing so high, over the fields and the valleys below, over the fields so high”

SAT 12:45
I’m near loch Ness heading back to Edinburgh – what’s up?

SAT 14:39
My babies have gone to Thailand for 3 weeks. A bit wobbly but out with wee sis tonight. So all ok. Stay good bro x

Bombs
Trump
Blasts
Where is our haven
Let’s have a larf
2000, 2100, 2010? Forgot
where is the purpose
I got stuck
Conformed
little scarecrow person
Straw for a heart

SAT 18:04
Happy holidays

So I showed these to Emily, & a few minutes later I’m checking FB & see people congratulating us on our engagement…  plus the following message from the FB girl only 3 minutes after Emily put the announcement up;

Congratulations! Super happy for you both c
C

Total mental & proof of how women communicate on an astral level. Anyhow, we got over a hundred likes & loads of congrats, plus an engagement party offer in Duval, so I guess its official. Funny as well, I finished my poem in the morning in Skye, drove down the majestic Great Glen of Scotland to get home, then found myself engaged by the evening. Yeah – that’s the way to finish an epic poem.

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Equinox

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So Spring is definitely springing, indeed  the weather is better & I’m feeling just dandy. The past week has seen me go through the entirity of Axis & Allies & clean up any messy bits, & also organised it into its final order. This consists of 85 legend-headed =cantos, divided as follows;

L’Amfiparnasso (1 canto)

Cantos 1-27

L’Intermidi I (1 canto)

Cantos 28-54

L’Intermidi II (1 canto)

Cantos 55-81

L’Altoparnasso (1 canto)

 Each canto contains nine stanzas, so the final total of tryptychs is 765, which equates to 15,300 lines. That’s a nice even number I reckon, ‘15,000 lines’ kinda sounds funky.

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In the past week I’ve got through a few more stanzas on the Waterloo campaign – theres’ about 8 to go now. I imagine I’ll be composing my last poems on Skye – maybe up a mountain or something – that’d be cool. I’ve also started a grand read-through – I’m at Romulus & Remus at the moment – a start of a car-wash-style edit to clean the whole thing up & turn my 39 year-old poetical mind onto some of the perhaps weaker wordsmitherie of my youth. Ive also been going through my stuff to find the best images to support Marching on Parnussus. I have all the text for that typed up – except for a few journal entries from my Dublin trip in 2003. The ide is that both A&A & MArching on Parnassus are going to be finished at the same time – crossing the streams so so speak. Tus when I write my last stanzas in Skye next week, the blog entry I write will be the last of the Parnassus writings also.

 

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Lifewise, last week was dominated by Tinky Disco & the gig at the Audio Soup Equinox at the Biscuit Factory in Leith. It was a stormer – eventually. There were big ruptions in the band concerning  Kenny’s drumming. ‘He’s not in the band for his musical abilities,‘ I tell them, & he barged his way on stage anyway. Whether this means the end of Tinky as is stands, time will tell – but I cant really let the fellow down, especially as he’s gonna help us find a place to live in East Lothian – hopefully near his lady, Sophie.

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The house sold last week – £168,000. there was some pressure-poker style bidding from a young couple, & Emily nearly crumbled & took £160,000. Waiting a couple of days, however, earned her another £8000, so thats amazing really. But since then the realisation that we need to find somehwere to live has kicked in & we’ve already driven out to east Lothian once – while looking regularly at places in Peebles, nearer Jack. It was while out there that we called on Carol, to comfor her during the hospitilization of little Larch, a mad black spaniel that we all adore. It seems likely it was posioned by the farmers weedkiller in the big field behind hers at Garvald, & after several operations (£800 each) & several nights at an Edinburgh vet hospital (at £1500 each) shes up to £10,000. Luckily she’d just been given a bonus of £18,000 by Scottish power, which looks like it’ll be all going towards llittle Larchy. Now, I reckon 18,000 people in Scotland would have preferred to have had a pound off their bills…

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IMG_20160317_181144616_HDR Driving out of East Lothian, I put up a few posters for this Friday’s motown nigth at teh Railway in Haddington. The idea is to do a monthly night, cgarge a fiver on the day & make over £500. Totally Doable. This time last year I was DJing in Burnley, & have had a rapid education in Northern Soul & Motown over these past 12 months. Its cross-generational music that, if chosen well, is proper banging. East Lothian is the perfect place to do it – theres not really much happening out there, so it could be quite a lucrative enterprise. I’ve got the PA ready at least, the final piece being a fifty quid mixer bought the other day, & the whole thing sounds sweet now & Im looking forward to bringin my tunes to the Shire, for as I hear on every side, ‘I love a bit of Motown.’

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 Last week I also had my ‘widget’ removed from my eyelid. A blocked eyelid gland had proceed to swell up to the size of a small malteser. After a wee trip to my GP, they forwarded me to teh Princess Alexandra Eye Hospital in Edinburgh, where after a 10 minute operation it was gone. My doc was proper friendly, & will be visiting Seattle May 1 for a conference. I told him to visit Duval, Emily’s homepad. It was interesting to get some get-well soon messages on Facebook, especially when it was all done so quickly & was over in a flash.

Mark Calvert Aww Love .

Claire Stowell Get better soon x

Elaine Stables Have a quick recovery x

Donna Waddington xoxo oh, hope you are o.k., honey, wish you the best!!!

Donna Waddington i woul never want to do this, This for me would be a nightmare.

Tricky Aitken In least its sorted mate, speedy recovery

David Wales Get well soon bro

Emily Randall Pirate Damo! x

Clare Brierley Get well soon

Damo Tipiji Does anyone want to buy an eyelid widget £35 – one careful owner

Euan Weddell Get well soon smile emoticon

Lee Veitch Is that your brother do it Damo lol

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Edinburgh from the Princess Alexandra upper floors

To finish this blog I’ll mention last Tuesday’s outing to Glasgow, where I saw a play at the Oran Mor, an Author’s talk at the Mitchell Library (part of the Aye Write Festival) &  finally a comedian at the Griffin pub, as part of the INternational Comedy Festival. A full day, then, & I even commuted, driving the car to Ratho Station, parking it up & catching the bus to & from Glasgow. A full days Mumbling for me, then. Here are the three reviews. Talking of three reviews, the next three days I’m going into town to watch a play a night, a good way to fill my mind with words before my final assault on A&A.

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DAVID F ROSS

contactDavid F Ross is cool – simple as. A successful architect & silver-fox, a few years back he’d started writing, a cathartic exercise into his past, reliving those days & dreams of his early years – when he’d ran a mobile disco & wanted to be in a band. These two themes have formed the subjects of his first two books, the first of which was widely acclaimed ‘The Last Days of Disco.’ Set in the early 80s, it is a beautiful elegy to vinyl & a lost epoch.vespas-final-visual-page-001.jpeg  His sequel, & the main subject of his chat at Aye Write! festival, concerns the story of a fictional band in the early 80s, called ‘The Rise & Fall of the Miraculous Vespas.’ What Shane Meadows did for 80s nostalgia south of the border with ‘This is England,’ Ross seems to be doing the same in Scotland. Indeed, he dropped the hint that he’d like to see it made into a film, & there is a certain rollicking cinematographic quality to both books.

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vespas-final-visual-page-001In his talk, Ross described that it was easier to recall events from this time, as in youth one experiences extremities of emotions, a quite existential aspect of his thinking which shows there is depth to the works that most readers might not see at first delve. Written in the Ayrshire vernacular, ‘The Miraculous Vespas’ is less a band, & more a vehicle for human relationships as summoned & reflected by Ross into his work. Well-researched, it uses real characters, including Boy George, & one imagines as time goes on this book will leap beyond its kind-contemporary pop-artiness, & into the realms of true time-capsule history.

For the actual experience of listening to Ross, I found him eloquent & attentive for the first hour, but things went off the rails a bit when he introduced fictional from his book – Bobby Bluebell & the manager Max Mojo. The fans loved it, but I just thought it was a bit daft. Still, that is nothing to detract from the clear & peculiar visionary genius of Mr Ross, a true bard who can glimpse into, & recreate the past.

 

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The Mitchell Library

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GEMMA FLYNN

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 Laughs: three-stars  Material: four-stars    Delivery: four-stars

CaXiDYmWYAE4Yxi.jpgOne-hour Comedy shows are rather like corn sheaves; they are planted in the winter, show their first green shoots in the Spring, start creating the cornbuds in May & are ready for the golden harvest in August. In the same way, comedians will start their Edinburgh Fringe show rolling in March – at the Glasgow Comedy Festival – hone it down Brighton in May & then reveal it to the world at large, fully ripened, at the Edinburgh Fringe.

Gemma Flynn, then, is very much caught in this cycle. Having survived last years ‘madmax dystopia’ of the Fringe, this diminutive delight set to work doing stuff, seeing stuff & picking out the funny stuff in all that stuff. Glimpses of brilliance glittered through a slightly jerky set, not helped by the clumsy use of her applemac in giving us clips of various things from modernity – mainly based upon the Kardashians (?!).

Watching Gemma in full flow is rather like joining her on the couch for a TV chat show. The room was packed, although most seem to have known Gemma, who she included in her patter; which, I must admit, had a really enjoyable & intelligent burr. Gemma is young, & so is her material, but she just kinda has it. As the year progresses, & she gets used to her material, sorting out the wheat from the chaff, come August we’ll all be sucking on her succulent cobs.

four-stars

 

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BILLY (The Days of Howling)

Script:  2.png Stagecraft:  2.png  Performance: four-stars

IMG_3160i.jpgThis a strange play. Disconnected, waffling – it is as if we are led in bed with our three actors after they had drank far too much caffeine after ten o clock. They cant get to sleep & they are just thinking aloud – thinking & speaking aloud. None of this is in harmony, however, until the end that is, when finally the three separate soliloqueal strands fuse together in a sweary & shouty finale. Is this the Howl, one asks, or it more the voice crying into the hurricane, when Ginsbergdeclaimed, ‘I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked.’

Billy’s main theme is the chaos that ensues after an adult makes the wrong step in the minefield that is kindergarten playground. In this case, Alice’s mum notices Billy eating & Cheeto — & the rest is history (or for me rather, it should have been left in the historical records.) I wasn’t convinced by this piece at all, although the hour was definitely saved by the spirited acting of Hoary Lyon (admin lady), Rosalind Sydney (Alice’s mum) & the big-boned & bubbly Anthony Strachan (Billy’s dad). Perhaps that is down to translation, not perhaps of the language so much, but more the format conjured by French playwright, Fabien Cloutier.

Before I entered the Oran Mor was in a pretty good mood, but left having something of a personal existential crisis. Perhaps that was the point, I’m not sure, or maybe I am….

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 FACEBOOK UPDATE ON LARCH

i want to be near to kids in case of bad news and I need to go and comfort them.   it’s a kind offer though.   I’m seriously reaching the end of my tether.   Not slept in 3 days,   Oh, and fab news about the house,   that’s fantastic
Thurs 13:39
Larch deteriorated.  Only a matter of a short time I fear

Carol
Nice to see you both. Hard circumstances. Just to say skye is still on no matter what. In fact if we lose larch the kids will need the distraction more than ever. Lets plan for a really jolly time regardless
FRI 18:50

Emily
Yes, my kids looking forward to it too! Any news today?
SUN 11:04

Carol
Larch fully conscious, eating a little, wagging her tail and having her tummy tickled by her nurses. Still poorly and tired but much better. Happy equinox. The sun is in the sky and God’s in his heaven. Peace and love
Wow

Carol
I went to see Larch today. She’s in a sorry way, poor wee soul. but pleased to see me and still getting a bit better., broke my heart to leave her but I could feel the love for her amongst the vets and nurses
07:39

Carol
Morning. Hope you’ve well. Also hope we get some of this weather for our Skye trip. Emily, are the girls with you Friday night? If so I cook babysit so you can go to Dsmos thing in Haddington x

Carol

Morning. Hope you’ve well. Also hope we get some of this weather for our Skye trip. Emily, are the girls with you Friday night? If so I cook babysit so you can go to DAmos thing in Haddington x

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Three in a Week

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In the whole of the last week I managed to eke out another three stanzas for Waterloo, one of which reads;

Pawn-Push

As from Night’s throne delicious dawn-nymphs crept,
Across the Sambre cherish’d eagles flew,
Or rather waded – as they did men wept,
They’d dared to dream those dreams becoming true;
Beyond frontiers,
Marching thro man-high rye,
As morning slowly clears brash pit-murk from the sky.

Across the bridge Napoleon
Penetrates the Belgic lanes,
On every side a veteran
Strongest of his long campaigns,
Ahead the palace of Laekan
& with him what remains
Of this best army, whom with phrenzied heart
Surge forwards, urging murdering to start.

Ney gallops thro the old Empire
As sunny skies open,
‘My orders sire?’ ‘With fight & fire
& forty thousand men
Seize Quatra Bras, from there we’ll bar, conjunction… WELL! GO THEN!’

Charleroi
15th June
14:30

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So I am creeping towards my goal, a final read through of the poem in its full & natural entirity, which serendipity has decided shall be taking place on the Scottish island of Skye. We’ll be there in a couple of weeks, actually, on a wee holiday – a friend of mine quite high up in Scottish Gas has rented a large cottage for the Easter break. A suitable place to conclude my work, for the Cuillin hills, as I recall, are as epic as it gets.

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 The past week has been pleasant enough, the centrepiece of which was the State Birthday of my friend Stevie Vickers, aka, Victor Pope, at the Leith Depot in well, Leith. For it I finally reassembled Tinky Disco – our main singer, Mike Daniel, had been going through the ringer recently, but has returned for duty. A practice was head, in which my bass lost its connection. Luckily Emily’s neighbour, 80-odd year old Andy, who still rides his motorbike, had a soldering iron. Cue a funny hour fixing the bass & finding out about him – his lads a major-general in the army & received his MBE on the same day as Kylie – & even took her out for dinner. Andy is a Rangers nut & at the end of the ‘fix’ told me, ‘there’s only one thing wrong with your guitar pal – its green!”  

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The gig at the Leith depot was fun – a lot of folk showed up & I gave a little speech reminding folk of a little chat I had with Steve in 2008, when he lived in dirty Leeds & I said he should move to Edinburgh as there’s loads of good folk & musos up here – the State Birthday, then, was a lovely validation of that. As for Tinky, we should be sharp for next Friday, a gig at the Biscuit Factory for the Audio Soup Equinox party. They usually hold it at the Belhaven Fruit farm, near Dunbar, but have moved it to the city on this occasion, to a factory space converted into a party zone.

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The past few days have seen the first few folk entering the house & picturing themselves in it, as the grand wheel of property owning rolls into the lives of young couples. Its interesting highlighting the strengths of the house & hiding its weaknesses & hoping that they’ll want the house sooo much they’ll chuck in a few extra bob. Emily has been stressed recently because of the house sale, because of the unsurity of roofing her children – but I am instilling her with a sense of confidence in the future, that East Lothian awaits & we will find the most salubrious house & lifestyle there.

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(from the ESPC website)

This extended end terraced villa is pleasantly positioned within the ever popular village of Dalmeny close to the seaside town of South Queensferry and Dalmeny Railway Station for convenient commuting. The attractive family accommodation merits internal viewing to be fully appreciated and comprises; welcoming entrance hall, comfortable light and airy lounge enhanced by natural wood flooring, feature fireplace on a tiled hearth and glazed door giving direct access to the rear garden. Located off the lounge the well designed dining kitchen which has a range of modern base and wall mounted units with co-coordinating natural wood work surfaces/flooring, Belfast sink and elegant French doors to rear garden. To the lower floor there is also a study/bedroom 3/playroom with access to the side vestibule. Finally to the upper floor there are two bright and sunny double bedrooms, large floored attic providing excellent storage with potential for conversion (providing the relevant planning permissions are in place) and appealing partly tiled bathroom comprising white three piece suite with electric shower over bath. Further benefits include gas central heating, double glazing, good built in storage and large two car drive.

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Today it is Emily’s birthday: she is 44, but, as her 6-year old Roxy told her this morning – looks 28. In her I get the benefits of beauty AND maturity, & wonderful soul-woman who cares for me as deeply as I her. Looking after wee ones is grueling & for two weeks in three we welcome the wee ones’ father having them in Selkirk. The first of these is especially welcome, as we would have just had a 12-day stint with them. I had the changeover last Friday, dropping them offat a lovely house on the Dalmeny Estate where the kids wer having lunch with a few other kids & their mums. Roxy asked especially if I could drive her there, the conversation breaking out into the playful.

‘Will we be going to the club tonight, m’lady.’
“Yes, about ten o clock.’
‘Is that not a little late, ma’am?’
‘O no – I do like to stay out all night these days!’

She is only six!

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After this, a surprise trip to the Playhouse to watch Puccini’s Tosca (Emily’s first opera) & the State Birthday, we moved onto the couch for basically the rest of the weekend – recuperating to the very fine ten-part Icelandic murder-mystery, Trapped, & the fact that Burnley have just gone 7 points clear at the top of the championship. Probably the most blissful time we have spent together yet!

Queensferry 

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Back in the Saddle

 

 

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The last few days have been pretty interesting, I guess, & have seen me compose the first two tryptychs of this last little flurry of Axis & Allies composition. I last left the blog in Edinburgh, just before a vital chess match, of which Chris Donkin – the Wandering Dragon archivist – had to say;

Falconers Flyers ‘polish’ off a wunch of bankers to avoid relegation

The C team played their final match of the season away at the Ukranian Club last Tuesday against Bank of Scotland B. They needed to win to avoid relagation. Now dear reader, I will level with you. I have been back in Scotland 7 and a half years now and have played in every division against every club. I have developed great admiration and affection for many of our fellow clubs. Musselburgh are good guys, the Civil Service are great (and generous) the Edinburgh Chess Club have always supported us when we have needed a venue and they are all good guys. Dunbar, Badgers Brook and Sandy Bells are great fun. In fact I like most of our fellow clubs …. but I have never really taken to Bank of Scotland. On Tuesday they took on our C team in a crucial division two match. With all games in play our board 2’s (Damo Bullen) phone was heard to be vibrating. It was on silent but the vibrations could be heard. Of course everyone knows the rule – all mobile phones must be turned off. Damo also knows this rule – but most of us know Damo !

 

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The thing is you only default the game if your opponent claims it. I am led to believe that the game (level at the time and an interesting position) was claimed with some glee. I really can’t understand this – no matter how important the fixture. Why would you want to claim a game in such circumstances ? …. but hey ho (rant over). Damo was defaulted and the Bankers moved into a 1-0 lead. Fortunately this is not a sour grapes story because Bill Falconer’s men then went on to win with some style. The Polish contingent (Konarski, Walkowiak and Straczynski) scored 2.5 / 3 with only Adam Walkowiak dropping a half point. Captain Bill led from the front with a fine win and Tony Akers rounded off the night with a draw. Final score Bankers 2 Good Guys 4. The last word is that the C team are now safe and will play in division two again next season.

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I responded by Email (today actually) with;

Great that the C team still won! Well done lads!

In my defence, I was keeping an eye on the Blackburn-Middlesbrough game – I’m a Burnley fan & it was one of the rare occasions I wanted Ba$tard Rovers to win – they did, keeping the Clarets at the top of the Championship, a position we lost last Friday when Middlesbrough used a game-in-hand to overtake us. Luckily, we did the first seasonal double over aforesaid Ba$tards last Saturday in 35 years
x
Damo
PS – if you are in a similar situation as I, turn phone to silent AND vibrate off – they’ll never know

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On Wednesday I had a great run through of Alibi with my new team – its been 9 years since I last did it, but I reckon its good for another outing. There’s Haylee Goldthorpe as Lily, Harry John as Nelson, Victor Pope as the cool pool General, Jimmy the Beggar is now Brenda the Busker, played by Clare Brierley. The idea is we’re gonna perform it live, & after a wee tweak of the script – chucking social media in & localising it to Edinburgh – its looking good for the Summer.

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On the Thursday, I Mumbled the Edinburgh University Shakespeare Society’s production of King Lear at the Pleasance Theatre, a rather well-written review, I think, which I shall reproduce here;

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Script: 5  Stagecraft: three-stars Performance: four-stars

4A0A5589.jpgNext month sees the 400th anniversary of the Bard’s ending-day. Perhaps he knew his fame would outlive him – but probably not how far the scope & expanse of his genius would penetrate. It is a staple of all the worlds’ studies; his language, human expositions & dramatic dialogue should stand forever as both a teacher & a delight to us all. In this commemorative year, then, the Edinburgh University Shakespeare Company has tackled King Lear, a murderous tragedy that wades in blood & guts only second behind the visceral early-crowd pleaser, Titus Andronicus. Touching on themes of family division & the onset of age with its wafting senilty, King Lear is a true classic, whose darkling & depressive mood plunges a sword-point into dankest depths of all our psyches.

4A0A5461In the hands of the EUSC we are presented with a set straight out of Superman II (1980), with the ladies bedecked in evening wear; including rather pointy stilettos. At their heart is Will Fairhead’s grey-haired King Lear, who commands the stage with an increasing cantankerous acerbation. His touching descent into madness wins over one’s suspension of disbelief completely, especially when accompanied by a reddening face after a particularly loud outburst. Of Lear’s daughters, I found Agnes Kenig’s Regan very fluent, very believable, but the Mumble’s main praise must be bestowed upon Olivier Huband. He played Edmund to perfection, his stately soliloquies doing Shakespeare proud, while you actually could feel the electricity as he flirted with Goneril & Regan.

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Olivier Huband’s Edmund

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So did it work? I would say yes, it did. The cast comblended well together to deliver so complex a psychological montage, & did so bristling with energy. I wasn’t so sure about the accompanying sound-effects; a Dantean soundscape with a deep pulse that got louder as we descended into the mental hells of our protagonists. Perhaps it was meant to get us all nervous, but I just found it a bit annoying. Action-wise, while there was a seamless transition between scenes, the dialogue was at times a little rushed, especially in the mouth of Pedro Leandro’s fool. Saying that, the laddie was engaging all the same, a tantalisingly brilliant breath of fresh air in such gloomy play, composed as it was just after the demise of a more frivolous Elizabethan Age (1606). There really were some great moments of well-played theatre – the death scenes in particular were charged with high drama – while the soul-tortured monologues definitely demanded our attention. I did think at times the production was a little too shouty – Shakespeare’s words are essentially wooden, & it is up to the individual actors & actresses to bring them to life – but perhaps not quite so vividly… a cheeky subtlety here, an un-noticed nuancity there, plus a tension-pricked pause from time to time & this play could have been even better.

Reviewer : Damo Bullen

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On Saturday me & the lass & the two girls drove on a deliciously crisp day through Fife. Dropping me off in Fife, they continued on to Newport-on-Tay where they had pals, while I covered the Stanza poetry festival. I saw a few things, including the fantastic Jemima Foxtrot & a talk on the Tao te Ching – something I’ve recently picked up in connection to my work with the Kural.  What was weird was me spending the majority of the afternoon with one eye on my phone & the Burnley result. They were playing Ba$tard Rovers & beat our arch-rivals at Turf Moor for the first time in 35 years or so.

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IMG_20160305_172755135Emily picked me up from Saint Andrews at 3 – Stanza had been cool, but the place was full of university students dressed up as if they were in the Tyrol & running about like mad-heads – not cool. A few miles away lay the delightful firth-side town of Newport-on-Tay, with gorgeous views across the waters of a grey-granite camel-hump’d Dundee. Collecting the girls from her pals place – a delightful old house with an epic garden. We then drove back to Dalmeny, calling in Strathmiglo en route. My object was to find & photograph its Pictish Stone, which I was allowed to do while the girls played in the excellent park. In recent weeks I have been slowly peeping at my work with the British Dark Ages once more —- for me Strathmiglo will be connected to the Gildasian Maglocunos, while I am pretty sure the Isle of Avalon is across the Tay at Inchyra.

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Sunday was a fun day, starting with an early drive to Tescoes with the girls (im completely illegal by the way) to get some Mother’s Day pressies for Emily. My chief present to her was preventing them from giving them to her til nearly 11 AM. Later that evening I also had a run-out with Tinky Disco, playing ‘Grandad’s Having a Come-down’  for the first time. We were on first at a jamboree at Henry’s Cellar Bar – a wee New York style joint with a  great atmosphere & sound. There was no-one there, of course, but that was the point – for we’ve a big gig coming up in two weeks time & its nice to get back in the saddle.

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Earlier on that day I took myself off into Dalmeny Estate & etched off two stanzas, both of which introduce the De Lanceys into the poem. There was one passage in particular I really liked, for it felt as if I was speaking of mine & Emily’s love. It reads;

No Fairer Love

Could e’er two hearts entwine

The perfect, ‘I am yours,’ the spotless, ‘you are mine.’ 

It was weird being back in the saddle, so to speak. Parnassus, Olympus & 2011 seem a long way off, since which I have composed only one new stanza for A&A – the one dedicating the poem to the American people. That was done in my office in Burnley, but it really felt good to be outside, absorbing the poesis, & pouring it into the mould my choosing, whose mechanics are something quite innate to me.  With there only being a few new stanzas to compose – about 20 – I believe I shall really enjoy this week or so.

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Today, then, was Monday, & I have spent it painting Emily’s house fixing doors & stuff in time for the surveyors arrival tomorrow – she is selling up & a return to East Lothian is looming ever swiftly on the horizon. I am currently sat in South Queensferry library, covered in dried white paint & just finishing off a bit of Mumbling.

One Last Blast

OK

So I’m not quite finished.

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I’m currently sat in the National Library of Scotland on a Tuesday afternoon. This morning I went to the doctors on Ferry Road in order to start the ball rolling as to having a lump removed from my eyelid (blocked gland) & tonight I’ll be playing a vital Chess match for Wandering Dragons C – its the last match of the season & we must get at least a draw to avoid a relegation play-off.

Over the last winter, only the salubrious bosom of my woman & her warmth has kept me sane through a particularly wet & windy Scottish winter. But today is the first of March, the heralding gateway to six months of lets say, better, weather. It should also see the very final effort on my two epic poems - Axis & Allies & The Silver Rose, the contents of which I have been musing on of late. Last year I was happy to have the edited down versions; 154 sonnets for the Silver Rose, & 243 tryptychs for Axis & Allies. Yet spending time with my inspirational spirit-woman has renewed my vigour & given me ample ambitions as to create ‘true’ epics – ie poems with a bit of meat to em, eh? Through the Winter I have also been assembling my collection of Axis & Allies related journals, entitled ‘Marching on Parnassus,’ the pursuit of which has propelled me to furnish this ultimate leg of epical poetic composition with a piece of modern blogging, to complement & consummate all my previous efforts.

Tinky Disco has been evolving over the winter...
Tinky Disco has been evolving over the winter: should be a good 2016

 

Our vocalist is Superstylin Mike Daniel
Our vocalist is Superstylin Mike Daniel

Last weekend, my good lady Emily & I set off from Dalmeny in order to collect my Apple Mac computer in Burnley, which contained the majority of my work. After dropping off her children at the ‘Big Red Barn’ near Biggar, where they were picked up by their father (who now lives in Selkirk), we continued south under a lovely blue pre-spring sky. Over the past few months I have been steadily teaching myself how to drive, & it was while pasuing for a break at Gretna services that I explained to Emily I was ready to tackle a motorway for the first time – which after downing an energy drink I did with some success – for a good 20 miles & at speeds of over 70MPH.

We reached Burnley that night – pretty exhausted, & slept soundly. The next day was a busy one -starting with a drive about Pendle in search of the correct positions in which I am convinced 16th certain woodcuts were made for Spenser’s poem, the Shepherd’s Calendar. We didn’t quite get the exact spots, but are getting closer & next time we’ll nail it.

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Pendle Hill & what I think is Pendle in the woodcut

The rest of the day was spent calling on all my ‘relations’ – a walk with my sister & niblings near Darwen, a coffee with my father, some beers with nicky et al. & a coffee with my Uncle Jeff – who has just been sworn in as the mayor of Burnley & who I now have to call ‘his worshipfullness.‘ On the Sunday morning I was picked up by Nicky & driven to Accrington to watch his son & my godson, Li-Bau, play youthful football under yet another cold but crisp-clear blue sky.

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Me & the neice, rebecca, & His Worshipfullness, mi Uncle Jeff

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12243078_1587099681614982_4837497757531020370_nLeaving Burnley, we headed north once more, & I took over the wheel at Windemere in order to drive up & over the Kirkstone Pass, a road I had never traversed before. With the weather still perfectm it was a glorius drive, though I had to deflect Emily’s constant ‘point outs’ of beautiful scenery, nervous as I was to be driving such a winding road. After drinks & nibbles at the Kirkstone Inn, we headed north, with me handing over the wheel just before Penrith.

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GetInline

GetInlineFrom there we nipped up to Carlisle for chips in the city & a coffee with an old pal & new Mumbler, Paul Rivers. Then, with dusk falling, we drove up to Selkirk to collect the girls from their fathers, before one last wee mission – calling on David Wales at Innerleithen. Last year he’d put on a festival called Juiced Up near Dunbar, at which Tinky Disco had played. This year he’s doing it again, & after a wee chat it looks like I’ll be running the dance tent this time round.

A couple of hours or so later we were finally back in Dalmeny, where I set up my apple mac, in preparation of getting busy these coming weeks. My fallow period is well & truly over, last year’s composition of the Language of Birds really undammed the poesis & now its starting to gush through my spirit – lets see where the muses take us.

Edinburgh

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A Happy Ending

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I am currently sat with my fiance – yes fiance – the beautiful miss Beeson, of Seattle. She is scrolling through the text messages we have sent each other these 5 months past in which we have found ourselves in a love of the marital kind. She – we – live in Dalmeny, by the gorgeously scoto-cosmic Dalmeny Estate, a perfect poet’s playground only a few miles from Edinburgh, my choice city of residence for over a decade. I see her love  as a reward for completing Axis & Allies earlier this year, in the same fashion as when my muses spirited me onto a Swiss Air Jet & flew me home to England back in ’98 after dedicating myself to the art of poetry on the continent.

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So with this shift in my life, I feel its time to wrap up my blog for the forseeable future. I began it back in 2010, shifting into it my group email journal-making, which in turn had sprung out of the hand-written journals that had accompanied my first poetical composition missions pre-2002 (when I signed up to Hotmail). Between these three methods of life-archiving I have recorded the 15 years spent on writing my epic poem, which should serve as a great accompaniment to future students of Axis & Allies. As for that poem, at present it is unpublished & hardly known – mainly on account of the public taste for poetry at the turn of the 3rd millennium, in which the trend is for short snappy pieces rather than for anything of substance. In spite of this I remain confident that as the years pass, & as the publish taste for poetry evolves,  my poem will take its proper place in the pantheon.

Click to read Axis & Allies

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This blog has also seen me make the marked transition from singular poet into polymathic bard, launching a series of investigations into many of the great & famous mysteries of history, such as the identity of King Arthur, the location of the Battle of Brunanburh & more recently the biopic of the young William Shakespeare. So, in time-honoured fashion, I shall now take & bow with a cheeky smile leave the stage – my epic is truly born & as yet I am still in my thirties, It is now time to enjoy the rest of my life with my beautiful wife-to-be my side.

 

Ciao for now

x

Damo

Dalmeny

8-11-2015

Dalmeny Estate
Dalmeny Estate