A Spooky Story


The sun sank, the clock struck 6, and Francis Blythe rose from his coffin.
“Feeding time, at last!” He whispered into the night.
He stood up, dusting off the English soil that lined the inside of his coffin. It was an additional security measure. Should his ancestral land ever stop existing, at least there would be a small corner of a foreign field that would be forever England.

He strolled through his ancestral manor, towards the den, towards the night. The furnishings could do with some replacement, he thought, but he considered modern styles too gauche. Better to wait another few decades for the antique market to improve. That was one of the key benefits of immortality: long-term style decisions could be made with confidence.

Blythe settled in an armchair, snapping his fingers to ignite the fireplace. It was necessary to wait some time before leaving. So he read, largely works of Victorian fiction and histories of old Kings. Blythe had noticed a change in the local population. A couple of centuries before, they had woken with the sunrise and gone to bed soon after the day’s end. Gradually this had been replaced with alarms that woke them unnaturally at 7 every morning, the people worked till 6 or later, then they fell asleep beyond the witching hour. Their days had grown harder, their leisure time had shrunk. If he could’ve converted more to his way of living he might’ve considered it, but he had to consider the strength of his family.

Many of his previous converts had flown from him. They were making their own lives, their own lines. They were in the New World, and the antipodes. Some of them had made good during the Empire and were living on the subcontinent. But Francis stayed where he was. There were risks away from home.

In England, he was just viewed as a bit of an eccentric. He was rarely seen. He left his house only to find books to occupy his waiting hours. Fortunately, the style in suits had not changed substantially in almost a hundred years so he could still get by without shopping. His voice sounded a bit dated but not enough to cause concern. Most importantly, he knew the customs well enough to avoid detection. He had to occasionally feast, but Francis covered his tracks. He picked on people who wouldn’t be missed.

Francis Blythe glided into the streets, the twelfth bell having been met. Tonight he had his eye on a small blocks of flats on the periphery of the town. The area had been dubbed Little Warsaw due to the Polish population there. Francis’ feeding times were rarer now, blood these days often richer in nutrients, but when he needed sustinence he used his other abilities.
“43, London road.” The postman had told him under hypnosis, “A single one, was living with a bunch of ‘em but he’s earning good money now. Ball, or something.”
That would suffice, and so he released the postman back into the neighbourhood.

He found the block of flats without a problem, one of those run down post-War concrete nightmares in a horrible state of disrepair. Francis scoffed, he wouldn’t keep his animals in such a place. This would be a mercy killing. He found the name ‘Balan’ on the intercom and reasoned it was correct.

Every now and then he’d found it necessary to lie. Though vampires traditionally like to be invited in, and he would be touched by the trust, these days everyone was much more closed off. So he roughed himself up a little before using the intercom.
“Hej,” came Balan’s voice, “Who is it ringing?”
“‘scuse me, mate,” Francis started, “eh’ve left me keys insoide, goin let us in?”
It was a mishmash of accents, but over the intercom it sounded more approachable and friendly.
“Ne problem, pal,” and the buzzer rang. In the grand court of vampiric rules and regulations, this would constitute an invitation.

Francis became mist and flew up the stairs. When he had first changed that was always one of his favourite powers to use. The misty flight. He had to stop on each floor and see if he could find the right flat. At the third level he saw it. Balan. He was getting hungry now. He was going to devour this man as soon as he saw him. Francis knocked politely, three times, with the knuckles.

Balan opened the door and found himself thrust backwards immediately. This thing had a hold on him and was pushing him backwards into the wall. The flag of his home country, a blue, yellow, and red tricolour, fell down as the beast stabbed his throat with its teeth. He died and it continued sucking his life force to the last drop.

Francis felt incredible! This was some of the finest blood he’d ever sampled and it coursed through his veins as a sprinting horse over an open field. The familiar rush and pleasure was unreserved. It sated him as nothing else could. With a kick of spice too.

But the spice was too much. What had moments ago thrilled him suddenly turned hot and bitter. It hurt his exhalations. He could feel his inner self twisting. He threw up. But it did no good. Francis tore the fallen flag off his head, stood up with himself last ounce of strength and looked around the room. He saw bread, next to a bowl containing a white spread. And the room smelt of garlic. His blood was now garlic.

Several weeks later police would be confused to find a Romanian man drained of blood and a weird, dead, ulcerated mess of a man in an Edwardian suit.

The writer of this piece has a sore neck. Not from a vampire, but sleeping on too many pillows. Happy Halloween!


When narratives break – Thoughts on the Czech election


PRAGUE, Czech Republic – As the dust settles and clears following the recent Czech election, nobody looks especially cheerful. This is part and parcel of the normal Czech attitude to life. The country is pretty good, it’s culture satisfying and beer cheap, but corruption is an acknowledged issue, and there are complaints about the food quality and relatively low wages by European standards. Still, people don’t walk around with big smiles and don’t shout their political affiliation from the roofs.

Looking at the newspapers it could be tempting to look at the recent election gloomily. Indeed, ’Is the Czech Republic Turning On the West?’ by Jochen Bittner in the New York Times is keen to fit the Czech election into the narrative of Europe veering to the far-right and anti-establishment figures taking hold around the world. Though the ascendant far-right is a problem in Europe, the Czech Republic is neither distinct in this category nor especially pronounced. The far-right AFD got more of the vote (12.6%) in Germany than the far right SPD got (10.6%) in the Czech Republic. Furthermore, there is a real problem in how newspapers are reinforcing a broken narrative – that of the anti-establishment.

It happened in America with Donald Trump. He framed himself as somebody different and the news ran with that angle. Where was the criticism about the billionaire schmoozer sucking up to all kinds of political power? That gets hand-waved as “Just business”. He got painted as anti-establishment despite the fact that he’d made fat stacks from that very system. Where is his motivation to change it? A true anti-establishment candidate would have fewer riches and less grease on their palms.

This is a problem with Bittner’s take. He tells the same story about Andrej Babis (last name pronounced Babish), the winner of the Czech elections, framing him as an anti-establishment underdog. How Bittner accomplished this feat while noting that he’s a billionaire and the former finance minister is anybody’s guess. In truth, Babis is as establishment as Emmanuel Macron. He’s as connected to the political elite as anybody. Just because the guy under investigation for corruption says he is against corruption, doesn’t mean you should agree with him.

In fact, journalists more than anybody should be prepared to speak truth to power and call out politicians when they attack the status quo while embodying it.

Too many news sources have gone with this angle. The Guardian and The Independent have also fallen for this narrative. It is an extremely narrow read of the situation. The Financial Times is much more measured.

In addition, Bittner is extremely uncharitable towards the Czech people, most of whom didn’t vote for Babiš or Tomio Okamura of the SDP. Bittner is prone in his NYT piece to suggest the election results are some failing in the Czech electorate. He makes out that they are somehow unequipped for democracy and have illiberal minds. It’s a particularly offensive mischaracterisation of the Czech people, a people for whom freedom is so important. If the Czech seem not as eager to grasp further EU integration as others it probably has something to do with their history under Communism. The Czechs have fought vigorously for their democracy and independence and are hesitant to give it away quickly.

As it stands, I can only comment so far on this subject. My Czech skills are limited to finding simple objects and basic conversation. This being acknowledged, I can see a narrative and can smell when it’s wrong. It’s evident that even newspapers that are normally very good are pushing a narrative of right-wing and anti-establishment victory, probably owing to the current US situation. More people should counteract this because it’s spreading mistruths and making right wing dominance seem an inevitability. It is not an inevitability and people need to rise up and create a non-horrifying political party that can win votes.

A Bad Night’s Sleep

Vladimir: Suppose we repented?
Estragon: Repented what?
Vladimir: Oh … (he reflects) We wouldn’t have to go into details.

– Waiting for Godot, Beckett

There’s a guy in my building. He yells. It’s just past 12 and he stands in the staircase yelling. Maybe that’s why I’m awake when it’s gone 3. Maybe that’s why I haven’t been sleeping well. That doesn’t feel convincing.

So this guy, who I regretfully confess I hate because, though I feel sympathetic of whatever he’s dealing with, I cannot abide by him yelling up the place and tanning the post boxes in with his fists. It’s not very neighbourly of him. Sympathy is a fragile thing and can be crushed when a guy leads you to existential angst.


Find attached for your amusement an eye selfie. To wax poetic, it is a blue eye, quite light, with touches of green and a little yellow around the pupil. A healthy pond eye. When it’s night and I try and visualise it, it turns murky. I feel like a stagnant pond lives in my head.

Being up a little later than normal brings on this kind of existential anguish. That place when you’re in bed and trying to relax but then you’re brain asks you to replay a bunch of scenes from your past and think about whether or not what you did was right.

They have a nasty habit of branching and twisting, turning into gnarly roots and thorns of doubt and self-hate. It makes me feel very small. But then they crash into each other and I see a path out, a light!, a way away from the torment and into sleep. I pursue it in my mind – darting between branches, sometimes up, sometimes down. In the end I just get more scratched up, bruised and stuck somewhere else. And it’s darker still.

Why? Why does my brain do these things? I’ve come up with a few pet theories and borrowed some from other places. Basically, I’d say I’m fairly mentally healthy. I’m happy with the people in my life and think I deserve them. It wasn’t always the case. As happy-go-lucky and carefree as the image I present, sometimes interactions get hard. Despite being a “perfection is a myth” kind of thinker, I set and hold myself to fairly high standards.

Okay, I’m almost good enough for this world and the people I know in it, but am I really good enough? Consciously, yes. They are all rational people who’d ditch me if I wasn’t bringing them value. But unconsciously, well, I know myself quite intimately.

And I don’t think I think I’m enough.

Full disclosure, I haven’t got any mental health issues as far as I know. My head maybe got knocked about a bit from a vehicular incident way back when, but they provided me with a possible laundry list of symptoms and I don’t have any of them to a significant, measurable or medicable, degree. I don’t really trust people who claim to know or understand the brain anyway, it seems far too complex. It’s a great way to sell stuff to say you know how to fix it.

Diagnosable mental health problems not being an immediate factor, and having a fairly high esteem of myself, I struggle to discover the problem. Carl Jung wrote about the “collective unconscious”, a concept that I think I understand without actually reading. Our brains have this kind of societal and cultural memory, a primordial database of experience. It’s a great idea and it does feel mollifying, a fantastic word for “makes feel better”, to know that these pains are understandable. It sucks that other people have to do this, too.

I wish there was some quick fix. If I could just whip myself, or pray, or confess to some virgin in a box, but I have the very real feeling that redemption is a myth. You can apologise for something. You can perform acts of atonement or reconciliation. Redemption, though? That’d take time travel. You can’t make things that’ve happened not’ve happened. It’s why if a rapist apologises it doesn’t fix anything. It doesn’t magically heal up emotional scars when somebody owns up to what they did. They shouldn’t’ve done it  in the first place, but people can only try and get better. And they need to grow from their pain.

Another bit from the collective unconscious, I think I’m riddled with Presbyterian Calvinism despite not going to church. It’s like that guilt that Catholics say they have, but Calvinist guilt sticks. Maybe that’s the source of discomfort. I’m a Scottish guy living a life of moderate comfort in a world I’m not supposed to think exists for pleasure but to be saved by grace.

Fuck it.

Maybe I just hate that guy’s yelling.

The writer of this piece feels not exceptionally well right now.

A Pumpkin Patch in Prague


That “don’t touch the pumpkin” sign was a good idea but a bit in vain. Kids touch everything

The weather has turned autumnal and the leaves have gone fallish and so we went to the botanical garden to look at the harvest. Pumpkins, of course, are not native to the Czechs Republic, or even the entirety of Europe really. They are as American as pumpkin pie. Therefore, if you’re looking for images of the best pumpkins you could ever see I implore you to get an Instagram account and look up #pumpkins #pumpkinpatch #us #idontuseinstagramsodontknowpreciselyhowthetagswork. If, though, you are here for some pictures of nature and probably a bit about love and babies then do stay. Pull up a hammock and settle in for my tale.


There’s a snake in my introduction!

The botanical gardens in Prague are up by the zoo. It’s a very strange bit of Prague because it has that sort of geography like you’re always going uphill. Uphill to get in and uphill to get out. Still, it’s a nice part of the city to get a panoramic view

[Imagine a panoramic view of Prague here]
{Caption: Somehow it’s uphill over there too!}

Prague is essentially a bowl, all the outlying parts are higher than the centre.


{Caption: Artist’s rendering}

The pumpkins were a lot more impressive than I was expecting, really. I’d seen pumpkins before but not with the sheer variety of those on display here. They ran the gamut of size, colour, and shape. It was like one of those Dove natural beauty adverts where they are selling soap by showing pictures of different sized women’s bodies, but with pumpkins and dirt instead.

While I liked the display, my fiancée took exception to the overly bumpy ones.

The main reason we went to the botanical gardens was of course for the pumpkins. To my Scottish and other non-Americans readers, did you know pumpkin patches are a huge thing to Americans? I really can’t remember us having them. Then again, they are one of these traditions that are quite fun to graft onto our own traditions as it’s surprisingly entertaining to look at what are essentially lots of squashes.

Her: “I like having someone to go places with”

When my fiancée said that it took me by surprise, in a sense. On the one hand, why wouldn’t she be pleased, I’m a catch. But on the other she does a huge amount of the thinking about our activities so it sometimes feels more like I’m some kind of event parasite. But nah, turns out I’m good to be around for her. And she’s brilliant for me, too.

[All right, all right, save it for the squashed pumpkins, you’ve done your mushy bit this month]

So yeah, I love her very much and want to stick with her.

One thing that I got thinking about in the gardens, other than how pleasant the air was and how I should get out of the city more, was how it seems everyone had a pram and two toddlers. Some of them had a pram, two toddlers AND a papoose. It really reminded me how much I want kids.

Strange thing for a man to be talking about, I’m sure, but I’d properly like a couple of kids and preferably in the next few years. I can’t be doing with the current vulgar habit of fucking around for 20 years. I fucked around for 2 or 3 years and it felt like too long; the occasional burst of pleasure punctuated by long sullen dry spells. Quite boring when hardly anyone commits to anything, just like diplomats or civil servants too afraid to pre-guess the aims and intentions of the decision makers who just smile vaguely. Not my cup of tea, really. I’d prefer to get started on life already.

There’s this view going about around millenials and kids, like we don’t want them or something. It’s identical to most theories about millenials in that it ignores the most pertinent root cause: millenials aren’t having kids because millenials don’t have money, basically the same reason we don’t own a lot of diamonds. Instead we have student debt and increasingly pricier rents as buy-to-let landlords convert a lot of housing stock to AirBNB. There are loads of external reasons why millenials aren’t having kids, but I think, personally, we’ll just have them anyway.

Just like how Sheryl Sandberg said that women who wanted to get ahead in their careers and lives had to “lean in” to additional responsibilities and work priorities, millenials who want kids need to have them regardless of any help we’ll get. The situation isn’t perfect for having kids? The situation is never perfect for having kids. People have them in all weathers and situations, however. People have them in wars and famines. If you delay having kids because of the economy or not owning a house there’s a very real chance you’ll delay it too late.

So today’s lessons; pumpkins are wonderful, they are a good tradition which is very entertaining, and if you want to have your own little pumpkins you need to lean in to the additional work they require. I think it’s a good nutritious balance of information for a Sunday.

The writer of this piece’s fiancée is doing yoga right now and it’s quite entertaining to watch. If you, or anyone else you know, have pictures of pumpkins, do share them in the comments section below.


Widdle pumpkins

The Centre of Light – Signal Festival 2017

Going to write two of these things as there are so many photographs of light shows and I want to do them justice. Catch part II, maybe tomorrow or something


“Constrained Surface” – Ryochi Kurokawa

One of the most fun things about city life is the sheer variety of events. The week just past was Signal Festival 2017. The Signal Festival is an annual exhibition of art installations, all of which are centred around their use of light and sound.

My fiancée and I were actually shushed during the above display, which was funny as the sound was primarily a type of industrial-ambient, the clanking of chains and the sound of a nut being thrown into a metal bucket. Eerie stuff. It’s somewhat like asking somebody to be quiet because you can’t hear the rain on the window.


“#glass” – Tets Ohnarib

Before anyone gets to thinking I’ve become conscious of marketing, that hashtag was part of the title of this piece – I do my research.

It’s a really cool concept. So the two pillars look like they have shattered and spilled all over the ground, but the breakage defies physics. After all, it wouldn’t break in a full circle, that’s crazy talk. In addition, the pillars are still intact. It made me reflect on how things are not always as they might appear.

That’s the power of misdirection.

And the point of misdirection is normally stage magic. And what could be more magical than your audience becoming the performers?

This piece, “Heardt” by Anna Feyrerová, Bára Anna Stejskalová, Richard Dobřichovský and Tomáš Bukáček, performs precisely that. A piano connected to the lights to create different patterns based on the music played. Anyone could sit in the piano and create the show, though it seems most people who tried had at least some skill when we were there.

They also weren’t that drunk because, and this will surely shock some Prague people, did you know we can no longer buy drink in Prague 1 after 10pm? What is this, Scotland? I tell you, this city is changing. Not necessarily for the better.

Anyway, here’s a idea of me dancing with two tins at the “Beyond” (Playmodes) exhibit in Old Town Square.

You know how I like to tell a story, well what’s the story here? The story is that the true story is the light show you find along the way. Like, check this out –


Prague Castle from across the Vltava

And to conclude, the festival is really cool, sadly a little short, and my bird likes expensive tins, but more on that next time.

The writer of this piece is a fan of art and light and hopes that he brightened your day.

How to work with people

Yesterday I had a wee chat with my friend Roisin who told me that she has worked with me more than anyone else. Here is a song to celebrate.

Thing is, just the other day my friend Teddy told me that he’d worked with me more than anyone else too.

Am I uniquely easy to work with? Not really, but there are definitely a few principles that make me a useful and easy person to work with which you can cultivate in your own life.

1) The work in itself

So a bit of critical theory here, I believe an infinite number of things can be created. Some of those things are better than others. Though objectivity in your own creations is extremely difficult, it is of absolute importance. You already know what the fuck ups are. It is already in everyone to solve them. Sometimes it needs a nudge.

What I mean by that is that in every creative endeavour it isn’t hard to see the fractures and flaws. Some of these are structural and necessary. Style is another name for mistakes. Other times problems should be ruthlessly cut out.

Working from this base is the foundation of collaboration.

Understanding that an objectively better piece of work is possible from whatever you’re reading is fundamental to providing decent, usable feedback.

2) Letting visions meet

Part of working with people is understanding that you have your own idea and they have their own idea about what should happen. It depends who is helping who.

If they are helping you; respect that they are giving you their time to make your work the strongest it can be. Also understand that you can make mistakes and their input is valuable to fix some of them.

(I’m not brilliant at this sometimes, one time I wrote that a horse had cloven hooves then refused to correct it because I liked the sound. Horses, famously, do not have cloven hooves.)

If you are helping them, it is important that you understand where they are coming from then be respectful in elbowing them in the right direction.

One time, I advised Roisin on taking the cannibalism out of the first scene as it’s kind of unrealistic when the guy ate only a few hours ago. She did and I believe the work benefitted.

If either of you are to make the best piece of work possible from the material, it takes respect and honesty.

3) Seperating people from perspectives

If you look in a mirror for a while you can sometimes notice the image reflected back does not concur with your own vision. There is a good reason for this involving bending light and the ocular nerves of the brain but I think it suffices to say that true reflections are sometimes more evasive than they appear.

Inscribed above the oracle of Delphi was the expression “Know thyself”, the first part to wisdom is to know where you are coming from. Sun Tsu said something similar, about battle being between knowledge of yourself and the enemy.

When it comes to working with people, you must be able to divorce their perspective from them as an individual. The fact is that our relation to every person on the world is different, there is a different energy to every connection. This can impact how you take on their feedback. It can also impair how you give it.

Most people don’t want to hurt or be hurt by those they hold close.

Accepting that there is a better standard of work just out there which they can help you secure, you must find a way to seek it uncoloured by predispositions.

And that is how you work with people. You form your vision, let your vision and theirs mingle, and then you decouple personality to truly let your minds merge. It is a magical process at the end and it’s always an honour to be involved so intimately in the process.

The writer of this piece could do with a tin and a cigarette

Superficial – Why to tell the truth more often

You have the love of humanity in your heart

I see it all the time. The Facebook pictures of nights out and the delicious food and the funny story, and people having great times all the time. It’s weird how social media encourages everyone to run around and say how great they are all the time.

It’s a truism, we live superficial lives. We are disconnected from everyone, communities are disintegrating, but in the midst of it all we all shout out “I’m fine” and don’t invite anyone else to care. This is a huge problem. Today I’m going to write about the problem, but also about some potential solutions.

The main problem with saying we live superficial lives is actually not that it’s true, but that as a statement it lacks all nuance. We must dive deeper – beneath the surface. We must dare to behold things as they are.

There are more methods of communication freely available to us than ever. Technology allows us to communicate with almost anyone via video call. Communities are easier to find and form than in previous ages. We have facilities our ancestors of 50 years ago couldn’t have dreamt of. The issue is not with possibility.

The superficial problem goes deeper, in that it is a crisis of consciousness. People don’t stop and think. Not with the good part of their brains, anyway. You can see this with the whole fake news and echo chambers thing. It works like so; you make people feel threatened, they retreat into their survival instinct lizard brain, reliant on thoughts they formed in their early years to survive, which goes back further into their collective imagination. From here it’s just a matter of writing addendums to their lizard thoughts. It’s dangerously enticing. It reaches across ideas, almost everything ever written has an agenda, but micro-targeting and algorithms have made these poisons so much more dangerous. Our ability to share quickly and easily spreads bad ideas quicker than good ones. Attractive lies are always easier to write. Our inability to think using our higher processors is making us worse than apes. It is the worst form of superficiality. The type of thin superficial philosophy encourages us to hate by charming our lizard minds.

What makes this more terrible is the fact that people are less receptive to new ideas, are quick to hate, block, and delete, and when they communicate they don’t do so wholeheartedly. We’re scared of being hurt. I was terrified p, I still am a bit, of someone coming up to me and tell me to drop the act. Now I’m pretty open and honest about who I am, so many of my stories end in some embarrassing situation for me, but the fear that somebody will discover the truth is frightening. Getting past these sorts of fears is essential to open communication.

I’m not perfect, but part of me is okay.

So the problem is twin. It is multiplicity and it is the closed off thinking that lies encourage. How do you combat lies? Honesty.

The Facebook posts that I really like but which can become too much are the ones where people admit they aren’t having a great time. Why’s that? It’s not that I hate my friends, far from it!, but because I get to see friendship in action. I go to see how they are but they already have 50 or 60 people seeing to them. That’s the power of being emotionally honest right there. It builds a network of people who really care.

From time to time I can seem pretty terrible. I think I’ve got a bit of a cynical streak about the way people are, but it’s because I envisage better. So please, get out of your lizard brain and stop spreading lies. Tell people you love them and care about them instead. The way it’s marketed can sometimes make love seem the most superficial thing in the world but anybody who actually feels it knows that it’s actually the most substantial.

The writer of this piece has stream of conscious’d most of this piece after a night involving some sauce and a couple of cheeseburgers. The burgers are the bigger problem.

via Daily Prompt: Superficial

A Love Story – What you learn from paperwork

In our increasingly global world it’s easier than ever for people to fall in love, regardless the colour of their passport. In the past it feels like a lot of these relationships would have been merely sexual, but it is stunningly common to find someone who isn’t from your country. I am one of three Scots that I knew in their 20s in a long term relationship with a non-Scot they met in another country. It’s brilliant, but it does present a challenge – borders.

And not just borders. The men and women who police borders.

Strangely, borders don’t come up in many love stories. I hear love story and I think dramatic death. It’s weird because if anything borders are far sadder. Imagine being stuck behind a basically invisible line, the person you love on the other side, and not being able to embrace or kiss them. With death, it’s just over. With borders you coninue living, but separate. It’s brutal, and it’s been the case for millennia.

Today is a nice time to live, relatively. It’s easier than ever to be with people you want to. It’s not always amazingly quick and it’s rarely totally simple, but with a few strokes of a pen you can be together. Treaty of Westphalia, be damned.

What this means, though, is that you have to do a lot of paperwork. Sometimes it’s in a foreign language, but I imagine it’d also be a bit of a pain to do in your own. It often involves going to several offices and waiting behind a different interminable queue of sweaty, irritated people in every one. It almost always has the impassive face of an office worker at the end. She sees hundreds of cases a day, from a thousand different tired faces, and she doesn’t like to bend very much.

All this paperwork has made me realise two contradictory thing. First of all, a form cannot express everything about a relationship. How could I explain to them that they should let my fiancée stay in Europe because I love it when she sings The Proclaimers in the kitchen and it’d please me greatly if she kept doing it?

These forms are obviously made to protect the border from being crossed by people they don’t trust to have good intentions or whom may become burdensome on social service skills or whatever, but at some point they realised they had to let people in love be together or lose some of their humanity, but if the form cannot encapsulate such information then how can they tell anybody is really in love and is justified in having one by such precepts? I’m sure less than reputable characters are willing to dive into the morass of bureaucracy. It’s a problem and it’s why borders are policed so heavily. People will do dangerous things to get into or out of some places.

Secondly, however, and in total contradiction, the process proves I love her. It’s quite apparent I love her. I am willing to do the paperwork. I can wait in the queues. I can go to offices staffed by Ukrainians and demand updated forms of a contract to prove we are together. I can be very persistent and light fires under bureaucrats to keep the process moving because I know she has a time limit so I also have a time limit as we are sharing our life and if these office sloths don’t stamp a little quicker it’s not just their time and not just my time but our time they are wasting.

Paperwork signifies commitment, and it teaches you to be true in your choices as well as your signatures. You don’t want to have to do more than you have to.

The writer of this piece is bristling with italics and has decided to itch them out on the end here for catharsis.

Scotland vs Catalonia

What’s fir ye’ll no go by ye – Scots proverb


The referendum in Catalonia today brings up a few memories. I remember the promise that we might manage to break away from the UK and do something different, we could be something else. I remember how right it felt casting my ballot, and the anticipation. Could it happen? We now know that it didn’t quite happen that time, but it was a lot closer than it had been forecast a few months before. Catalonian today is a very different situation. We don’t know if there will be any international respect for the result, but I think it may be yes. The Spanish government seems so much worse at keeping an unnatural construction together than the British government is.

The Scottish brain is deterministic. We take it for granted that things just are, like they’re set in stone and don’t change. They never change. They can’t change. It’s not fate, or even some sort of divine will, necessarily, it’s just the nature of how we are. We like dark humour. Pretty sure it comes, in part, from the philosopher, John Calvin, who was so influential in the Scottish Kirk (‘kirk’ means church in Scots, for my international audience). Part of it may also be the Catholics with their guilt. We got all the most miserable religious traditions in Scotland, nothing too life-affirming.

When presented with an opportunity for change we are shy to take it unless it seems totally natural and necessary. It would alter natural laws if necessary change didn’t happen. Gravity prevails. Momentum grows until some force shrinks it. That’s probably why the independence referendum failed back in ’14, the change didn’t feel necessary enough for half the people.

Now Catalonia is having a referendum too, and I wonder how it’ll go. So far, it’s going badly. There’s violence reported on the streets, as the Spanish government has properly cocked it up. While the UK decreed a referendum could be legally run, the Spanish have decided to send in armed police. It’s neither a good look nor a good tactic.

It seems like the Spanish government have underestimated the appetite for a referendum. Referendums can be useful for putting matters to bed for a few years, or going disastrously wrong, so it’s diappointing that they’ve decided to go for the route which reeks of the Spanish dictator Franco. Catalans and the world will make these parallels quite easily.

What’s more, police violence – and I reckon it’s the police doing most of the hitting, the Catalonian independence movement is famed for its non-violent nature – suggests that there is no good reason to be part of Spain other than not being hit. That’s not a brilliant argument. The police violence makes Independence seem like the more natural choice. People are not normally for those who hit them with sticks.

Against a backdrop of police violence on the streets, I could even see how a deeply pessimistic people like the Scots could be brought to support independence. As for the Catalan mentality, I cannot comment. I have not met any Catalans. I am saying on this based on a fundamental understanding of people: You catch more flies with honey than with seizing their budget and hitting them.