From scalpel to story: creative reactions after surgery

It’s curious how a moment of creativity can sneak up on you by surprise. After months, even years, of struggling with an idea that will simply not allow itself to be realised, something changes, and the floodgates of the imagination are opened. Here’s how it happened in my case, quite recently. For the last twoContinue reading “From scalpel to story: creative reactions after surgery”

Alan McClure: creator of songs and wielder of words

I first met Alan McClure over 10 years ago when I read a review of a CD from an upcoming trio called The Geese. I quickly bought a copy and was rewarded with a selection of songs that combined wit, insight and enthusiasm with great tunes and memorable choruses. The acoustic band was quickly bookedContinue reading “Alan McClure: creator of songs and wielder of words”

Play-writing as a shared endeavour 

When I first set out to write a play, I envisaged it as the lone writing task, par excellence. I thought of someone like Henrik Ibsen, exiled and working alone with only his dramatic imagination to guide him. The prospect was uncongenial. I called my friend Jo Hockley, who had once produced a play at the Edinburgh Fringe,Continue reading “Play-writing as a shared endeavour “

Hazel Campbell: at the stroke of a brush

The year was 2010. Heading to our favourite cafe/gallery in Castle Douglas one gloomy Saturday, we paused at the front window. A large watercolour painting was mounted on an easel and seemed to be lighting up the whole High Street. Electric blues and vibrant greens shone out around a quirky white cottage. In the foreground,Continue reading “Hazel Campbell: at the stroke of a brush”

Karen Campbell – a writer’s story

Photo credit Kim Ayres Back in the early months of the 2020 lockdown, like many others I was using enforced isolation to broaden and deepen my reading. I found myself reaching out to the works of authors I was aware of, but had not yet ventured towards. In this context, that spring I became immersedContinue reading “Karen Campbell – a writer’s story”

Art, memory and the lobster pot

It is a bright, dry day in October 2021, the full palette of autumn is fully established, and there is still plenty of warmth in the sun. With me are two friends from southern Norway, Lisbeth and Einar. We are spending the day together, drinking coffee in my Dumfriesshire home, exploring the Dalswinton estate, andContinue reading “Art, memory and the lobster pot”

Circles of trees: an ‘arboretum’ in the making

​The idea of the arboretum came about in 2015, when I had the opportunity to take a long lease on the field adjacent to my home in Dumfriesshire. ​Having secured the arrangement, I began to ponder how to proceed. Almost two hectares in extent, the field had been set-aside for years as rough pasture. LongContinue reading “Circles of trees: an ‘arboretum’ in the making”

The Christmas Eve dinner: a mystery story

The motorway is down to one lane in the deepening snow. I’m in a convoy of vehicles making cautious progress as we all head north. Driving home for Christmas.   I reach the Scottish border. The Gretna outlet store, now re-named Caledonia Village, is crammed with last minute shoppers. I take the next exit, headingContinue reading “The Christmas Eve dinner: a mystery story”

Barry Graham and the spirit of Loch Arthur

Over the last decade I have taken many friends, visitors and colleagues to the Loch Arthur Farm Shop, in Beeswing near Dumfries. I’m always pleased when the visit coincides with an opportunity to chat to Barry Graham, who in the interview with me below tells us his intriguing story. One challenge I have had atContinue reading “Barry Graham and the spirit of Loch Arthur”

Weeds, humans and virtue

‘A plant in the wrong place’. I have long been aware of this rather cryptic definition of a weed. A few years ago I mentioned it to my friend Devi Vijay, whilst strolling around the Brooklyn Botanical Garden and puzzling over a few patches of vegetation here and there that seemed out of harmony withContinue reading “Weeds, humans and virtue”