My Amazon Author Page

Find my Amazon author page via this link

"A Scottish Wind in the Willows on high end skunk."

"I enjoy Kate's stories..."
"A fun and spooky read..."

"The characters are so involving and
loveable that you do want them to really exist. It does read like you've
stumbled across someone's long lost diary from and alternate timeline/universe.
I quickly got into the story and loved every second of reading it...
total gem of a read by an author who deserves a lot more recognition."


Wednesday, 14 February 2018

Paul Simon - Like Water on Stone

Paul Simon - Like Water on Stone

(Also published on


Small Town Railway Stations, City Streetlamps, and synchronicity before the internet age.

The recent news that Paul Simon’s April tour will be his last made me stop in my tracks for quite a while — certainly for longer than I would have imagined, thirty or forty years ago. It was an unexpectedly poignant moment; unexpected, and yet not unexpected, really, because despite my best efforts his music found its way into my life and became significant to me. Other musical tastes have waxed and waned. His music has remained.

From the late sixties onwards it was there, and not there. Never sought out, never physically owned in album, cassette, or CD form, but Heard, rather, as a gentle background presence in cafes and from jukeboxes and on buses and in bars. Often accompanied by the smell of snow on a duffel coat brushing past you in a bookshop doorway — a stranger you’ll never meet, books you’ll never share. Fresh coffee or bread or sweet tobacco on a dusty city street during a lull in the afternoon. A sandwich wrapper, and a magazine, abandoned in a park. Other people’s lives, other people’s choices, other people’s music. Songs drifting from upstairs windows on chilly autumn afternoons, floating through darkening small town streets like a mist, and the mist condensing into a stream and trickling quietly on through stones and boulders, inexorably wearing away at a pebbly resistance to liking his work.

And yet who could not like it? Some of it, at any rate. I can’t say I like it all, certainly I don’t. I don’t, for example, like Graceland, despite it being his best-selling album, apparently. It’s the earlier stuff that resonates. When I really think about it I can say for sure that from his entire back catalogue, half a dozen songs are so outstanding and emotionally true and evocative of certain times and places that they have become part of the literal soundtrack of my life. The alternative soundtrack of my life, that is — because they had to battle against a deep teenage fear of liking the naff, or rather, of being seen to like the so-called ‘naff’, rather than ‘acceptable’ bands such as Led Zeppelin and late 60s-era Rolling Stones, and a pathetically immature and cowardly fear of being identified as a ‘nerdy’ type. The fact that they aced this battle with shame testifies to the strength and quality of these few songs. They are absolutely outstanding, lasting pieces of work.

Had the word ‘nerd’ been in use in my neck of the woods when I first heard Paul Simon I’m ashamed to say it’s certainly how I might have described him, and his fans, ‘back in the day’. Simon and Garfunkel weren’t proper folk and they certainly weren’t rock or even the type of decent mainstream pop you might enjoy blaring from your portable transistor radio in its dinky leather case with the neatly-cut holes for the speakers, the volume control and the tuner. Their songs were learned by earnest teenagers and twanged on plastic-stringed guitars when they were doing music as a hobby round at the English teacher’s house on the evenings when they weren’t doing Maths homework or attending Scripture Union. Or so it seemed to me at the time. Looking back from where I am now — and I think I knew it too, deep down, back in the day — I can see that there was nothing wrong with that and that these people were good and decent and most likely made a deserved success of their lives through application and earnest effort. Secure, thriving lives. Not like me, a nasty wastrel, with a faux decent taste in music.

All this occurred of course before you could find a song online in seconds; when it meant something to hear a random melody, a brief snapshot of another country, other lives, other, potential versions of you. A kingfisher flash of colour, a brief parting of the clouds on a drab day. What was that song again? Where did I hear it? Where can I find it? You had to wait, to find it. You found it by looking through record shops, asking friends, or listening out for it on the radio. If it wasn’t in the charts, sometimes, it would take weeks.

I remember crowding with other girls into the gym doorway to watch our usually stern and terrifying P.E. teacher dancing alone and beautifully, or so it seemed to us, to Bridge over Troubled Water. It was Number One at the time, and a monster hit that was soon to become tiresomely ubiquitous. Its ethereal quality allowed it to transcend the rule that you did not get to play pop music in school. Ever. We were silent, astonished, dazzled. She became transformed for those few minutes, she became the silver girl, sailing on by, and I never forgot it.

Bridge Over Troubled Water, the entire album played on a loop through loudspeakers on a coach travelling across Europe during a school trip to Austria because it was the only cassette anyone had. An earnest fourth year played along on her acoustic guitar, and joined in with the harmonies. I wanted to hate it, and her, but I couldn’t.

Same album four years later, played on a loop in a Scottish Highland hotel bar, regularly frequented. Still I couldn’t hate it. Water on stone. It had won me over.

My Little Town. Who, having grown up in a small town, anywhere in the world, cannot relate to that song, those lyrics, that yearning for freedom from stifling small town life? Or was it just Scotland in the 70s? Are lives different now — do people still save their money, dreaming of glory, twitching like a finger on the trigger of a gun, or has the internet made everything different? I don’t know.

I Am a Rock. Starlight on snow, seen from a bedroom window. I have my books, and my poetry to protect me. A Winter’s day, in a deep and dark December. Every December those words come back to me and I honour the song and the hurting spirit of my book-and poetry-loving teenaged self.

The Only Living Boy in New York. I listened to that song endlessly in my car as I drove the twenty miles home from an exhausting job. Here I am…

Homeward Bound. Brown leaves blown along a grey city pavement. I turn my collar to the cold and damp. Winter dusk. A New York City I’ve never known, never will know. Cafes, basements. Rain, slanting rain beneath an Edinburgh streetlight. A striped muffler, double-wrapped, beads of rain on a woollen coat, huddled into. A deserted railway station on a winter’s night, a feeling of home that I can never now reach, a home long gone. Waiting, going somewhere, going nowhere.

America. Cathy I’m lost, I said though I knew she was sleeping. I’m empty and aching and I don’t know why. My life, right there, although I’m three thousand miles and an ocean away, passing through Fife on the way to doesn’t-matter-where. And the Moon rose over an open field…

American hitch-hikers from another galaxy, another possible, impossible world, heading up the old A9, heading North, saying howdy to me and my ten year old friend, small-town kids on our bikes on an August afternoon, because they heard us say, shy and giggling, they’re Americans, I wonder if they’ll say ‘howdy’. Reaching, reaching, to a world beyond glass. Dreams.

Friday, 2 February 2018

Roads and Paths, January, 2018

I've written a piece for The Bugle called 'Why everything nowadays is basically just a load of old pants, and not in the least like it used to be in the old days when everything was always so much better in every conceivable way'.
I'm now writing a follow-up piece called 'Why everything nowadays is so much better in every conceivable way than it was in the old days, when everything was not in the least like it is now and basically just a load of old pants.'
They haven't accepted it or anything.  In fact, I haven't even sent it away.  In fact,  I haven't even written any of it yet, and probably never will.

Friday, 26 January 2018

Incredible String Band - The Hangman's Beautiful Daughter (Full Album)

I haven't ever listened to this before.  Nevertheless. I was looking at Mike Heron's recent book You Know What You Could Have Been and wondering whether to buy it (when I've got the money). It interests me mainly because of his account of late 50s/early 60s Edinburgh.  Slightly before my time but on the cusp of what I can myself remember, having spent some time around the Edinburgh 'Bohemian' quarter in the late 70s . Before it all went downhill.   I believe it's vitally important to write down what it was like BEFORE. So that people will know.  I think I might definitely have bought the book had Mike Heron written it all - however, he didn't, he only wrote the first 99 pages, his tale ends in 1966 and the rest is basically a separate book by Andrew Greig, whose work I don't know at all.

I once met a woman who said she had been in the Incredible String Band.  I've no idea if that was true. I was in my mid-teens, in a Perthshire hotel bar having a respectable lunch with my parents, and she approached me, and sang a song.  It was quite remarkable. I also happened upon Robin Williamson singing live at a small outdoor concert in the Borders.  Also quite remarkable.  Chance encounters.
Cheese.  Remember when cheese tasted like cheese?
No, me neither.

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Am I invisible or am I a vampire?

Why is Tuppence averse to work?  Why are you, you might well ask, and who are you to criticise, since you never do a hand's turn.  Well, I can answer that one.  It's different for me, because I'm Older, and life was different Back Then. I never had to work.  In fact, we took a pride in not working, back then.  We diddled along, as best we could, living on supplies stolen from the Tunnels and stuff Geoffrey found in the bins at the tourist car park.  We asked for nothing and we took nothing, except what we needed plus a bit extra just in case.  Of course as you know,  the tourist car park has in recent years been transformed by Val and Dave Nark into an eco-friendly holiday park with yurts and 'pods' all ready with welcome packs filled with Val's hedgerow jams, nettle gin and the like. Forty pounds per person per night and that's in low season, thank you very much. I wouldn't pay that for a rat-infested glorified tent with a 'green' toilet, but lycra-clad, wet-suited, kayaking, paddle-boarding fools with a penchant for quinoa do.  The bins are now lidded and labelled for recycling by the way.  Any spare food goes for composting.  Not that there is anything - nothing that appeals to us, at any rate.  Nothing worth nicking.
No, what we need is a good old Wallace Arnold bus tour.  Overfed pensioners who can't finish their crisps and chuck half-empty packets out the window, along with cheese and pickle sandwiches, cocktail sausages, Chelsea Buns and Empire biscuits.  Discarded Chelsea buns would enable us to make an attempt at a five a day,  not that we care about such things, with their half-dozen raisins and the glace cherry on top.
Anyway - why is Tuppence averse to work?  Answer - he isn't, not in my book.  Tuppence works very hard at the things he likes to do, for example playing in his band and firing his pistols at random strangers. What's wrong with that?  Leaving aside the exploitation aspect, why should he have to clean toilets for three pounds fifty an hour, when he doesn't like it?
I challenged Val Nark about this the other day but she just barged past me as if I didn't exist. Perhaps I don't.  I'm actually starting to wonder.  They do say you become invisible when you reach a certain age.  At least that's what Mrs Tupfinder-general wrote in a letter to Polly, the 'Bugle' problem page agony aunt last week.  Am I invisible or am I a vampire, she asked. Because I can't see myself in the mirror.  Is it me, Polly - am I yet another victim of 'male gaze syndrome'?

more on this later.

Next time - 'Polly' turns out to be none other than Bert Vickers, moonlighting taxi driver and part-time journo, who learned writing in prison.

Monday, 8 January 2018

Donnie McPhartney and his secret black pudding ingredient (part one)

'I can't see the Dorty Bizzums making it big.  That's what Donnie McPhartney told me anyway, as he piped black pudding mixture into genuine organic casings.'
Tuppence was distraught.  He'd been all the way to Inverness, on a high after our Hogmanay triumph (more on that later)  hoping to get more'gigs', and Donnie McPhartney was the very man to see, so he'd heard.
'Wherever did you hear such a thing?'
'Someone said something at the Puff Inn after our Hogmanay gig.  I can't remember who - it was late on.'
'But Donnie McPhartney's a butcher.  He's renowned for his black puddings, but...'
'That doesn't preclude him being a booker and promoter and talent scout as well. He bought Eve Graham a vodka at the Station Hotel in 1978 - and that was when she was big.  He's a good fellow to keep on the right side of.'
'But he doesn't think much of the Dorty Bizzums.'
'He hasn't seen us perform though.' I didn't like to say 'play'.  'So how can he know?'
'He said he has a nose for talent. He says he can smell success before he sees it. And I just smelled of cheese and onion crisps, plasticine, and someone else's stale tobacco. That would be yours Uncle Tuppy but I never said anything.   I did say that we might add in comb and paper, and whistling, and maybe rubbing the rims of several wine glasses with differing levels of fluid in, to make ourselves more current, but he just shrugged and continued filling his black pudding casings.'
'For goodness sake.  You'd think he'd have someone to do that for him.  After all, it's a well-established business.'
'You mean like a modern-style apprentice, like I was, at £3.50 an hour?'
'The thing is, he likes to do it all himself.  The black pudding contains a secret ingredient, you see, that makes people develop not just a taste for it, but a craving.  They get physically and psychologically addicted, very quickly.  It's like crack cocaine.'
'And he doesn't want anyone to find out what the ingredient is.  Well I'm not surprised.  It sounds like it's probably illegal.'
'I'll pretend I didn't hear that Uncle Tuppy.  But I suspect you're right.'

next time - after a top-level meeting back at the Outcrop, we decide to go to Inverness to find out what exactly Donnie McPhartney is putting in his black puddings.

Thursday, 4 January 2018

Further to my post about M.R. James...

Further to my earlier post about M.R. James, I have all but given up reading his 'Collected Ghost Stories' because as well as putting me off my sleep, they're creeping me out on walks.  This will not do.  Sleeping well and walking in the fresh air are crucial for most people's general well-being, particularly in the case of anyone who, like me, hovers on the verge of insomnia much of the time, and both are interlinked.  I've learned that if I don't get out for an hour's walk in the fresh air during the day, I will not sleep well, unless I'm physically ill.  And if I don't sleep well, I tend to lack the energy to walk. I cannot allow myself to get into that unhealthy cycle. It's not just the exercise that matters. It's the calming, meditative effect of walking and observing nature that allows my mind to settle and relax.   So, I'm modifying my night-time reading and have returned to Richard Lancelyn Green's lengthy and reassuring introduction to the Penguin edition of E.W. Hornung's The Amateur Cracksman, for about the eleventh time.
I say 'all but' and 'modifying' because I'm still dipping into M.R. James, even though it makes me look over my shoulder to check if some nameless beast is following me from the shadows, and I'm frightened to move the duvet in the dark or put the light on in case I find the same awful be-wigged, hairy-mouthed ghastliness has continued to follow me and is now staring at me from hollow, cobwebby eye sockets.  Yesterday I startled a hare when walking by the ruins of Clunie Castle,  an atmospheric place 'steeped in history' if ever there was, and therefore almost certainly haunted, if you believe in such things, and wondered if there was some significance to the hare, given what we know about the mythology surrounding them.
As I looked at the ruins I thought, of course, about James's story 'A View from a Hill'.  I almost wished I had those magic binoculars so that I could see what the castle had looked like in the 1400s when it was built. There are no surviving illustrations, and I can find precious little information about it, which is surprising given that it's a place of some apparent significance and that the ruins are relatively large.
My quest continues.
Overall, it does occur to me that perhaps being creeped out and unsettled - in a mild kind of way - has its merits - it makes you think about things from a different angle.

To be continued...

Wednesday, 3 January 2018

Flowers in my garden and nearby, 2017

I took loads of photos of flowers last spring and summer, and they just get lost in the mists of time if you don't do something with them, so here's another collection of pics.  Garden flowers and wild flowers.