Archive for the Words Category


Posted in Books, Dreams, Words on September 24, 2010 by Johnnie

O would some Power the gift to give us

To see ourselves as others see us!

It would from many a blunder free us,

And foolish notion:

What airs in dress and gait would leave us,

And even devotion!

Robert Burns


The first sign of madness

Posted in Advice, Film, Grave News, Words on August 12, 2010 by Johnnie

I talked to myself a lot as child.  I would act out TV dramas on my own, playing all the parts, goodies and baddies (but obviously romantic entanglements were out because I couldn’t play women, and there was no such thing as ‘gay’ when I was growing up), always timed to last as long as the real programmes themselves, including ad breaks (where I’d go to the toilet or have a snack).  I was frequently overheard, because your childhood bedroom is never the soundproofed, reality-protected haven you hope it is.  For these crimes, I was always described as a “Cadbury’s” (as in, Fruit and Nut) and threatened with the “wee green bus”, the one that comes to take you “away”.  The threat was never rescinded, as I recall.

I still do talk to myself.  Sadly, the threat of the straitjacket never stopped me.  Not only do I talk to myself, I answer too; the first and second signs, they always said.  I still catch myself mid-self-conversation, no matter where I am.  Usually it’s around the house but it can just as easily be when I’m walking a busy street, alongside traffic, where drivers, passengers and commuters can see me and judge what they see perfectly adequately.  I get mildly embarrassed at the time but it goes away.  The wee green bus to Bedlam hasn’t pulled up quite yet. Continue reading

Dark water

Posted in Dreams, Words on August 4, 2010 by Johnnie

“Don’t do it!” we shouted, with our usual mirthful, carefree abandon.

Bob looked up and around at us, a tiny smile appeared at the side of his mouth.  I can’t remember exactly what he said as we passed him by, but it was something to the effect of: “I’m just having a rest.”

The bridge was the halfway point between our office and the bus station.  Our place of work, Centenary House, was the most miserable, sick office in Scotland.  It was practically abandoned, apart from a security guard on the ground floor and a single floor of temporary staff.  The floors above and below us were empty, dead.  Everyone who worked there called the building Cemetery House.

Colvin and I would celebrate leaving the damp, dripping corridors of Cemetery House every day of the week.  We’d cross the Clyde and wander into as many record shops as we could on our way up to the bus station.  We travelled by bus because it was cheaper than the train and more spare cash meant more records.  We gave our mothers money every month and what was left after our travel expenses was our own.  Other than work deadlines and staving off repetitive office brain death strain, we didn’t have any worries in the world.  We naturally assumed no one else did either.

Then, one day, we met Bob on the bridge. Continue reading

Oui, je bored… think I’ll just commune with the dead

Posted in Dearly Departed, Grave News, Words on July 28, 2010 by Johnnie

Whenever my friend and I were bored during the long, winter nights of the early 1980s – when we were restless teenagers, fed up listening to Tears For Fears and there was only Bergerac on the telly – our thoughts inevitably turned to talking to dead people.  Out would come the little table, the Scrabble pieces would be arranged in an alphabetical circle, and we’d complete the set-up with a lop-turned glass and a torch, because candles were dangerous – unlike disturbing the spirits of the dead, obviously.  Then, we’d begin to terrify the living jobbies out of ourselves with our earnest enquiries of, “is there anyone there?”

I remember, quite vividly, the first time we tried it.  Another friend joined us for the occasion, a lad slightly younger than us, which would later get us into trouble from our parents – his nightmares that night were quite hideous, apparently.  Anyway; be it intervention from the other side or straightforward nervous pushing from us, our polite call to the ghostly land beyond was soon answered.  Continue reading

Tea-time tale

Posted in Food & Drink, Words on July 27, 2010 by Johnnie

A few days back, a colleague and I were discussing the timing of some inconsequential matter, and I happened to estimate it occurred “around dinner time”.   He smiled and said, “so that would be tea time for me”.  It reminded me of a recent piece by an Irish journalist I’m fond of reading, who disparaged the type of people who have their dinner in the middle of the day.  Is it, I wondered, simply a class issue, or are people who still have their ‘tea’ as the last meal of the day caught in a time warp?

It took me back to the first time I had to think about the nature of the names we give our meals.  Back in the early 1970s, we were very much a ‘breakfast, dinner and tea’ family – those were the words I was taught to use, and when you’re finding your way in the world, you form comforting associations with words, times of day and, most particularly, food.  But then, only a couple of years later, the children of some friends of my parents rudely introduced me to the word ‘lunch’, and those comfort zones were destroyed forever.

To this day, I still think the word ‘lunch’ was invented in the mid-’70s by snooty, upwardly-mobile bullies.  I have no idea why I adopted it, but it was probably under duress, as I remember quite clearly being sneered at for not using it.  Continue reading

Gallows humour

Posted in Books, Words on July 19, 2010 by Johnnie

“It was now the representation of an object that I shudder to name –and for this, above all, I loathed, and dreaded, and would have rid myself of the monster had I dared –it was now, I say, the image of a hideous–of a ghastly thing –of the GALLOWS!–oh, mournful and terrible engine of Horror and of Crime–of Agony and of Death!”

When I first read Edgar Allan Poe’s The Black Cat, it was tucked away amongst some depressingly bad ghost stories in a collection of supernatural tales bought for me by my grandmother.  She was surprisingly willing to indulge what my mother called my ‘morbid streak’, something I am eternally grateful for.  Not long afterwards, I borrowed Poe’s complete works from the school library (an edition my grandmother made sure to buy me soon afterwards) and so began a lifelong love.

But it was a new love that (literally) hung on a single word: gallows. Continue reading

Ciao, Twitter

Posted in Dearly Departed, Disasters, Geeks, New Stuff, Words on July 5, 2010 by Johnnie

After too many tweet nothings, I have departed Twitter.  I won’t be missed.  And I get another portion of my life back into the bargain. Continue reading