Tag Archives: scotland

The Gate of Desire Ajar

21 Sep

There’s a poem on the wall next to platform 10 in Glasgow Central station. posted up there to mark the relaunch of the Caledonian Sleeper service (unfortunately with sharply increased prices, meaning that I will be unlikely ever to sample its comforts). It’s by Alfred Cochrane, an English cricketer and I was rather taken by it, so I looked for it on the web, naturally, and couldn’t find it – well, not apart from a couple of references in old issues of the Oban Times.

It is called “Northward Bound”, apparently (or
“Northward Bound Once Again”), and it beautifully sums up the call of the Highlands, which even the least energetic among us (i.e. me) feel the power of. It has a rather poignant, bittersweet beginning, but works its way up to a much more uplifting ending.

I think it deserves to be more widely known, so as it’s not online, I’m going to put it there. (Don’t worry, it’s out of copyright – just.)

And in case you have difficulty reading from the photos, or you’re using text-to-speech, here’s the full text:

Does your heart still beat with the old excitement
As you wait where the Scotch expresses are?
Does it answer still to the old indictment
Of a fond delight in a sleeping car,
As it did when the rush through the autumn night
Meant the gate of desire ajar?

Or has the enchanting task grown tougher?
Has the arrow beyond you flown?
The hill that was once rough enough grown roughter,
The steepest climb you’ve ever known?
For the forest abhors a veteran duffer,
Sorely beaten and blown.

Ah, the years, the years, they are rusty and mothy;
The flesh it is weak, that once was strong.
But the brown burn over the stone falls frothy;
The music it sings is a siren song
And the pony’ll take you as far as the bothy,
And that’ll help you along.

See! From the tops the mist is stealing!
Out with the stalking glass for a spy!
Round Craig an Eran an eagle is wheeling,
Black on the blue September sky.
A fig for the years! Why, youth and healing
At the end of your journey lie.

Alfred Cochrane

Do you believe in ghosts?

25 Oct

“How many of you believe in ghosts?” Tom asks. A few hands go up. “And how many of you think it’s a load of old cobblers?” A few laughs, a few more hands.

“I knew a lad once who didn’t believe in ghosts,” Tom begins…

Ghost Stories UK Volume 1

You can probably guess that it didn’t end well for the lad in that story, but to find out exactly what happens to him you will have to download volume three of Word of Mouth Productions’ new audiobooks, Ghost Stories UK. All the stories have a flavour from one of the nations of the UK. The extract above is taken from my story The Carlisle Ghost Walk, which you can probably guess falls into the English category. There’s also The Child Taker, which is very scary and set in Wales (volume two) and The Glen (volume one), which is my favourite, and is set in Texas. Confused? Well, buy volume one and all will become clear!

Each volume costs £3.99 and is only available for download. There are actually four volumes, but I’m not on volume four, I’m afraid. Word of Mouth Productions is currently commissioning stories for collections in the sci fi, horror and murder mystery genres, and they are keen to encourage new authors, so it’s worth sending them a pitch if you’re trying to get a break.

By the way, The Child Taker was very long, so the audio version is abridged. If you’re curious about what was left out, drop me an email using the contact form and I’ll send you a copy of the original.