I was born in Devon in 1950 but grew up in Scotland and have lived there most of my life. I now share my time between Glasgow and Vancouver. I’ve written stuff since I was a kid and I studied English Literature at Glasgow University with a vague idea of becoming a writer. I didn’t take to academic life and tried to leave and go travelling. I was persuaded to finish my degree. I became interested in film-making whilst a student and have earned an erratic living as a freelance cinematographer and director since. I work in both factual TV and fiction films. Luckily my work has involved much travel to many parts of the world for short but intense periods and I would say I feel relaxed and most “at home” whilst in transit ! I often write whilst on the move.

Film-making is very like writing poetry, though poetry is much cheaper. Both depend on editing.

I find beauty and emotional interest everywhere and in everything. I like to see things.

Flanders Moss
All summer I hard-pruned
the branches of your life
while your Bramley apples
swelling on their spurs
watched me through the window
as if I shouldn't be there...
Soon they would fall, ripe and fulfilled
and your house
would be on the market
by winter.

I waded in warm treasures from your girlhood
letters from long-gone suitors
pieces of silver and porcelain
diaries of how the weather had been
these last sixty-five years
your letter of apology
to the car insurers
for admitting liability

Yes you were truly my sister

and I cut them away, the thickets of your time here
opened a view of a valley humming and meadowed
like the bright road North at Flanders Moss
where I often stop and stand amazed.

After, it was even more quiet in your gentle place,
the rooms empty, waiting to welcome the new or young
to be at peace with your lovely ghost
and look for ways to have fun
to write cards for neighbours
plant beans in spring
to bake tasty flans, Spanish pies
and sweet iced buns...

The weather chilled, there was a sale in October
and the job was done.

Loch Ness
Slow down
please slow down
what's the rush
there's plenty of time
I had wanted to say
but didn't

and now we're here
upside down
in the black bottomless water
and there's still hope
which we could swim towards
if we could just release ourselves
these seatbelts kept us from
the blades of a pulverising ruin
though a laptop hit my temple twice
as we rolled, held in a violence of space
glimpsing the bruised moon
the shot stars
the giddying whiplash
the treebranch snapped, the splash
then just gurgling and creaking
and that strident song still playing
on the radio.

Someone in the front is whimpering
my blood drips on a broken neck
how to get the belt undone
how to open the door
I think we're going down now
there's not much time now
and there was so much of it
before

This Mobility Scooter
is not quite the Maserati I envisaged
I wanted to impress the chicks
do 0-90 in half a block
with my hair flowing back
but here I am at 93
having been round the block
many times
and there's no hair to speak of

still it's low set....
has slots for stick and parasol
a basket for my six-pack
its painted red
can turn
on a dime
and it's mine

New City Workers
Down at the end of the park
where the fire-eaters practice
and the barbecue pits
consume their scorched remains
where the jugglers drop things
and many rainbows seem to die
hazard tape hums in a summer breeze
and people in pink tabards
are driving caterpillars
depraving the street
with the hiss of asphalt

The roller driver, bald with a pigtail,
"My other car's a Lotus" on his chest
has been there done that got the t shirt
and a long man with a rake and some tar in his beard
who's never been there but keeps his ears open
tells him Maria's brother Mario got moved to Sewage
and Maria who drives the power broom
is tattooed on the right calf....a skull with a knife in its mouth
and underneath it says "life sucks"
and they say she's moving back to her old country soon
and could use a cardboard box...
maybe two

Gahini, Rwanda
The Ruhengeri Highway runs over a misty red land
and we drive it like a holiday. Pastor Charles
a teacher of Tutsi stock with his new midwife Lesley
who's white and in love, are talking just a little
of the hushed failings in Kigali
a Bishop who never prays, stays in his palace
where Belgians go to drink and a flower can grow
to magnificence in a fold of one night's earth, a hornet
make a nest and twelve babies in hours
for this is a warm fertile country.
The mission of Gahini makes splints of papier mache
maggots can clean a wound, God is here
and service is sweet in the breath of many,
though in 1993 a woman
can still be buried alive as a witch
while the jacarandas sway above her
with those luminescent mauve-blue cascades
rustling in the breeze over the noise of her smothering.

We stop for sorghum beer.
There are black buffalo beyond a stand of trees
and Charles says be careful. Big, warm-eyed and still
they are the most dangerous mammal in Africa
and I say I didn't know that, so many things I didn't know
that Lesley's bride-price had been a cow, that John and Jemima
received it for her birth-parents back in Aberdeen
and the party had been the best of nights. Best ever.
We go to Gahini church and the children are giggling
there are coloured birds and monkeys. Nothing
can be kinder, sweeter than these smiles,
these clasping hands.

Lesley visits friends in Tanzania
just as the machetes and masus are picked up
there is a vicious rasp to the earth,
bludgeoned girls spiked in the banana patch
how much rape
can this land take....the men
who only relaxed and spread aids
"out the back" in shebeens and sheds
now flash with the mob’s monstrosity
the women are made limbless with blades
or some sliced slowly in two
and the children run to the churches to hide
discovered later their shredded flesh over altars
discovered disembowelled in the naves
smashed into hundreds and thousands
their blood the sweetest and stickiest
on the floorstones of the porches
all over the red countryside

Lesley never returns
Charles is never seen again