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My Mother Rode Her Motorbike

 

My mother rode her motorbike

Up and down the boulevard

From Glasgow to Dumbarton

 In 1941

And the bombs fell down on Clydebank

Set the evening sky alight

And burned a memory in her mind

That burned until she died

 

My father flew a Lancaster

Falling towards Canada

Stalling towards Canada

In 1945

He lived to fly another day

Lived the moment every day

Fought his demons every day

Until the day he died

 

***

 

Man of The Land

 

I was born in the home of a working man

A poet and a singer and a man of the land

He would have died for our freedom and he carried his scars

Hidden in the fold of his heart

he lived his life by his moral code, loved his family and he tried his best

To provide

he couldn’t provide what we needed, and he knew it

All his life

 

 

And I sat by the pool in the dying sun

With the geese overhead and he handed me his gun

And we killed for food I felt the thrill

The primeavel hunters instinct

I cried for the beauty of the stricken bird

He held me, and I cried for the ways of the world.

 

 

And I sat with him then, a tired old man

There’s parts of me that understood

To love your father without the guilt

We both curled in when he reached for a drink

And I never knew if I’d the right to forgive

He cried for his failures and I

For the ways of the world.

 

***

 

 

No Tears, No Chains

 

He fell through the door like a tree scared the shit out of me

six feet five in his stocking soles

A giant of a man and a wee bit mean

I offered him a drink, a rope to a drowning man

He reached out a paw and took a might swig

Collapsed in the chair and the stories began

 

He said

I sailed a ship across the sea

To a country far away,  the land of the free

No tears no chains

 

30 nights I slept under frozen skies

Ate what I could when the dogs were done

Woke up with needles of ice in my eyes

I stood all day praying for the work to come

Left that hell when I walked away

Walked ‘till my shoes and the roads were one

 

 

Back home I married for love and she gave me a son

I was working hard on the sea and the land

Filling the pot with the trap and the gun

She left with a man called Bertie and she stole my life

Deep inside the flame had died

I found the bottle when I lost my wife

 

 

 

I followed them then half drunk, half blind with hate

Tracked them down to the dear green place

A couple of rats in a secret space

I took him one black night down at Betty’s Bar

Dragged him out by the coat lapel

Looked him in the eye and put his face in the tar

 

I put a gun against his head

Left him lying there for dead

No tears, no chains.

 

***

Solitary Traveller

 

A lonely traveller on the road

Face well pinched against the cold

Legs well oilskinned, back well packed

In sturdy boots and cosy cap

Reluctantly you move aside

To give-way seems to hurt your pride

 

Who are you?

 

Surprise, surprise you’re in the shop

An orphan onion that’s you’re lot

Back-pack unpacked to mine for money

Revealed a pot of heather honey

You nearly fainted at the price

Well it’s Colonsay, it’s twice as nice

 

Who are you?

 

For two long days you breathe sea air

Buy postcards, stamps, and ask the way to Oransay

Where time stands still

Day planned like a sergeant’s drill;

Footprints vanish in the sand

Trousers rolled up shoes in hand

You make the priory and no more

That’s history in half and hour

 

 

We meet again down at the pier

Waiting ‘till the ship appears

Rucksack crammed you’re quite unskilled

A passing traveller’s nearly killed

You climb the gangway, slip from view

Someone else we never knew

 

Who are you?

 

***

Brightest Star

 

I never thought you’d leave so soon

You took the warmth from summers bloom

Now I see you everywhere

The brightest stars don’t hide away

At night I close my eyes and dream for you

 

I stand here blessed I’ve watched you grow

You’ve so much more to learn, to know

So much love and so much time

To live your life, as I’ve lived mine

At night I close my eyes and dream of you

 

As you stumble hour by hour

With memories of your fairest flower

If I could split my joy in two

If I could pray, I’d pray with you

At night I close my eyes and dream with you

 

***

The Hall in '59

 

They danced the Quadrille and the Lancers too

The men in suits with their polished shoes

The ladies shone in summer dresses, arm in arm and warm embraces

And Renee danced with Ella then

When girls were girls and men were men

The dancers swayed to the music played

In the hall in ‘59

 

Gentlemen’ take your partners for a Valeeta, to start the night

And Dougie jumps down from the stage

Finds a partner and makes his way to the dance floor

It’s now filling up

Anticipation, and some good luck

Maybe romance is in the air

For a handsome lad and his lady fair to

 

Chorus

 

Donald Oransay, get your pipes and play for an eightsome

You can take your time

We need two more couples for the bottom set

Dougie’s game, that’s still one to get

They twist and turn, their legs a blur

Jasper HOOCHS as he pa de bas

Keep playing Donald their no done yet

The backs of their shirts are soaked with sweat

Now! what to do, the chain, the wheel

Now! Swing your partner, now your done and

Donalds cheeks are rosie red

The dancers gasp their thanks and then they

 

Chorus

 

Ruaraidh Beag’s outside the door

He’s had a couple, three or four

The music spills out from the hall and

Ruaraidh jigs and swigs

Kelly’s jeep’s a handy bar

There’s no drink taken in the hall

It’s the last dance, everyone take the floor

But Ruaraidh stalls outside the door…..as they

chorus

 

***

The Journey

 

I wake to the sound of the coal scuttle rattle

As my father sets the fire and lights the lamp

That casts it’s shadows and flickering light

And cracks a chink in the long dark night

I pull the blankets over my head

I don’t want to leave the snuggle of my bed

I’m just waiting for the morning

 

I slip out of bed down the creaky stair

There’s ice on the windows and I feel the heat from

The Raeburn in the kitchen

And it draws me in

And I dress in the heat

And the day begins

And I don’t want to move from the friendly heat

But the door opens wide and there's rain and there's sleet and I'm

Waiting for the morning

 

Then we're out the door, the sky’s still black

The trailer's on the tractor with a bale of hay

That’s a seat for the journey  and

The engine coughs and catches

And it’s then we’re off

"The boat’s on time" my father says

And the drizzle falls and wets our hair

And the tractor growls and we’re nearly there

Just waiting for the morning

 

There’s a flame in the distance as we make our way

Down the jetty to the shed and Para’s there

The rain runs in rivers from his oilskin coat

As he shows us inside, with the creels and floats

And you feel his strength 

And you lean on him like a rock

 

The engine idles as the ferry-boat swings

On her ropes, ready as the journey begins

And Donald’s grumpy, but Donald’s there

you’re never scared when Donald’s there

Waiting for the morning

 

The ferry-boat eases out from the pier

Hits the first wave and we’re soaked with spry

Someone squeals but we’re not scared

You’re never scared when Donald’s there

The ship looms huge in the shadow light

Then we’re in the lea, Para ties a rope

And the door opens up on the side of the ship

There’s hands that grab you as you tumble and trip

And scramble up the ladder with a helping hand

 the journey’s over before it began

and we're

Still waiting for the morning

 

***

Lizzie Brown

 

I had an afternoon to spare

On my own in Oban

I took a walk out of the town

Past the cathedral

I don’t think we'd arranged to meet

Take a walk, go down the street

I’m 40 years too late.

 

Then I see you standing there

The sunshine through you’re hair

The laughter in your eyes

I kissed you on the cheek

Your skin as smooth as ice

Breath as sweet as wine

 

I’ve not seen you at all

You’ve stayed forever young

I hear about you now and then

From a friend who knows a friend

Let’s meet up and have a meal

Catch up on 40 years

You’re a part of who I am

 

But I wouldn’t change a thing

Would we have made it anyway?

 

 

As the evening sun slips down

I start walking back to town

Look out over the bay

As the daylight slips away

And there’s a wee bit of my heart

Lies broken on the ground

And I remember Lizzie Brown

 

***

Tractor

 

There’s a tractor sits on the hill

Where it looks like it’s always been

If steel could tell stories I’d tell some to you

I remember the day it stopped

Like an old man with his gold watch

Resting for a moment 1982

 

High above the high water line

Lies a relic of a past time

The boat was pulled up to escape the spring tide

And she lay in the sand

Waiting for a helping hand

Now she’s broken, forgotten 1962

 

There’s an old man sits at the bar

He remembers his forgotten war

Dougie drinks to remember

The days of his life

The tears flood his eyes for these years under Asian skies

Bangalore, Karachi 1942

 

***

 

Home Is Where The Dog Is

 

I miss you when you’re missing

I love you when you’re gone

You’d think that after all these years I could get along

Then I look around this empty house

Still full of all the years we’ve wandered through

But it’s not home without you

 

I can eat my fill of fry ups

Drown myself in beer

Drink full-fat coke and Irn Bru

‘till my waistline disappears

Then I look around this empty house

Still full of all the memories that we knew

But it’s not home without you

 

Home is where the dog is

Home is where I‘d keep you if I could

Home is where I love you and

I tell you not as often as I should

 

So I read the Daily Record

Watch football on the box

Play Norah Jones and Morrissey

And mix and match my socks

Come half-past nine I’m wandering round this empty house and wondering what to do?

 

I scroll through 90 channels

There’s nothing left to see

I’ve eaten every chocolate biscuit

Cream cracker, lump of brie

So I re-heat my fray bentos pie

Even though the crust’s gone mouldy and it’s slightly blue

Without you

 

Home is where the dog is

Home is where I‘d keep you if I could

Home is where I love you and

I tell you not as often as I should

***