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You’re on a train

17 July 2019 | Diary

You’re on a train. The man across the aisle is reading a book and he keeps smiling and occasionally snorts with laughter. It’s one of those times when someone is reading something funny and just can’t hold it in. Something is really tickling him.

The cover of the book is nondescript but you want to know what’s so funny, so you make as if you’re standing to stretch your legs and you walk around behind him and glance over his shoulder to try and catch a glimpse of the text. The book is blank.

That’s how you discover YOU’RE IN THE TRUMAN SHOW. It is Season 2 and the ratings are in the toilet.

A revolving column of doner kebab meat

16 July 2019 | Diary

To Liverpool to see my parents. They don’t live in Liverpool; I just didn’t want to go to Dudley and they didn’t want to come to Glasgow so we meet partway.

At the Walker Gallery, we see Glasgow Museums’ travelling exhibition about Charles Rennie Mackintosh. It feels a bit silly being there when Samara and I essentially live in a Mackintosh theme park, but we see plenty of archival items that aren’t typically on display in Glasgow. I think about my pals in Glasgow Museums boxing up these treasures up and loading them into the van.

I’m disappointed that Dad at no point says, “Ohhh Rennie!” with reference to ‘Allo ‘Allo. He spots a Blackadder in the list of names on a war memorial by the Mersey though so not all is lost.

In the exhibition, I’m taken with a Talwin Morris ex-libris bookplate. It reads, “There lyeth more in ye telling than in ye tale,” which I like. “Style over substance,” is a tedious criticism, isn’t it? It’s Sontag or bust for me.

We retire to a pub and talk about how Mum doesn’t like The Beatles. She keeps speaking with her mouth full. She used to tell me off for that.

Not for the first time, I feel bad that my mum saw her baby slowly transmogrified into a weird, awkward man who lives so far from home. But when I see the Kenn Dodd statue in Lime Street station, I realise it could have been worse.

Dad points out that the statue version of Doddy’s tickling stick looks like a revolving column of doner kebab meat. It does too.


16 July 2019 | Diary

AJ from New York is staying over. Kicked back on the chaise this evening, he suddenly sits bolt upright. A moth has landed on his eye.

I don’t say this at the time, but I actually saw the moth en-route. It came up from a gap in the the floorboards and went straight for his eye. Direct flight, no connections.

I still think our rent is too high.

Allergy Catch-22

15 July 2019 | Diary

Wanting to get my eczema fixed, I attend a clinic this afternoon for a long-overdue “patch test.”

This should involve having adhesive patches applied to my back, each one instilled with a common allergen: wool, polyester, dust, gorilla saliva, etc. I’d then endure them for three fun, fun, days before reporting to a dermatologist to see which materials must be expunged from my world.

In the event, my skin is too eczematic to conduct the test. It doesn’t seem particularly bad to me, but the nurse says the test wouldn’t be conclusive and I’m to come back in two weeks to try again.

The fact that my skin doesn’t feel particularly bad to me at the moment is a little troubling. Apparently I’m in state of allergic reaction so perpetual that, to me, it just seems normal.

So now I’m in a state of Allergy Catch-22 in which I’m too allergic for the test that will allow me to escape the reaction. Bloody hell.


14 July 2019 | Diary

Fraser and his six-year-old daughter come over for tea. They bring books. And what books!

I’ll see you in the autumn.


13 July 2019 | Diary

Cooking together in the kitchen, we’re surprised when a clothes moth appears seemingly out of nowhere. We do not dwell on what the little bleeder is doing in the kitchen.

The moth scourge is known to all who live in old Glasgow houses and, while they’re easy to smite when you catch them in repose, they’re surprisingly difficult to twat in mid-air.

They have a crazy tendency to turn invisible (perhaps the light hits their wings a certain way or they fly too close to your eye or something) so once they’ve got your attention, they hold it for a while as you try to spot them again before they escape. It’s mildly annoying and it happens at least once day.

Tonight’s moth had apparently become invisible to Samara but not yet to me, so when I lunge and squash it against the tiles of the splash guard, I look like a genius. “Your power!” she says, “It’s real!”

Deeper than sense

12 July 2019 | Diary

Ever since Peter introduced me to the pre-installed app in my phone, I’ve had more than half an eye on my daily step count.

I wish this weren’t the case. I’m a flaneur by nature and step-counting is hardly of the ethos. But it’s also in my nature to be quite obsessive, and anything involving personal data capture appeals to me on a level deeper than sense.

Last night, I knew I’d be walking from our home in the West of the city to a bar in the East and then back again. This is a longer-than-usual walk so I felt confident of wracking up around 16,000 steps and being able to say something triumphant along the lines of “who, precisely, is your daddy?”

Imagine my despondency then, when on the way home in the early hours of this morning, I look to the app to marvel at my step-based treasure only to be met with the paltry number 1,700.

What Peter didn’t tell me is that the bloody thing resets at midnight. I suppose now this should have been obvious, but I hadn’t thought of it. Modern life is cruel.

Still, the 5,000 steps I technically earned before breakfast this morning can hardly be complained about. Now then. Where do I cash them in?

Big Butts

11 July 2019 | Diary

I’m out for a walk this afternoon when Samara texts me something about how we need more exercise. We’re putting on weight since I became a full-time writer again last year and Samara quit a physically-demanding job for something more desk-based.

I’m about to reply with “I like big butts and I cannot lie,” when something makes me stop. I realise that the person walking in front of me has a huge, entirely-likeable butt.

While this is firmly outside the boundaries of all reasonable likelihood, my catastrophising brain decides not to type this text message after all. It would be just my luck to drop the phone and for it to go skidding along the street only to be picked up by the big-butted pedestrian and for terrible, misunderstanding-based outrage to follow.

You other brothers can’t deny you’d have done the same.


10 July 2019 | Diary

Reggie emails first thing this morning purely to say, “they should have cast Bruce Willis in Die Hand Die Verletzt.”

I like to think he woke up with that in his mind. A good day to die verletzt.

The Present

09 July 2019 | Diary

To dinner with Graeme and Louise. Graeme says he has brought me a present and he passes it to me over the table.

I say “passes,” but “hefts” would be a better word because the present is quite large and heavy. It is wrapped in carrier bags and jumbo bubble-wrap and I have no idea what it could be.

As I peel away the layers, Samara says, “Do you still not know what it is?” because she has clearly worked it out, but I have’t the foggiest. The only thing it feels like through the wrapping is one of those wooden shields you sometimes see in trophy cabinets, but I sincerely doubt I’ve excelled in a team game.

It’s my head.

Once I get over the surprise, I must say that it’s rather dashing. I should wear no glasses more often. Or perhaps I have aged horrifically since the photograph was taken.

It is not wood at all but a serious piece of metal. I dong it with my fork and it sings.

The head was part of an art installation by our friend Sven at the City Art Centre in Edinburgh last year. Graeme went to Sven’s studio sale last week, salvaged my head, and carried it home.

I pose for photographs, holding the head in front of my face. The couple at the next table find this amusing for some reason.

So the head lives in our spare room now, where it can keep visiting friends company as they sleep. “Not a wink,” is a phrase I expect to hear a little more often in our flat.

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