Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Dogging in EH7

A friend recently sent me a link from the local tabloids; one more story about a couple caught in flagrante, in Portobello. While the Old Bill might turn a blind eye to certain practises, they couldn’t ignore it happening on their proverbial doorstep. Now Sex Offenders will be banned from Children’s Parks, Royal Parks, Business Parks, Bristol Parkway, Edinburgh Park, Parks-and-Rides and in addition: Police Car Parks. The Sheriff decided against placing the Portobello Doggers on the Sex-Offender Register. Sensible: less paperwork for the Rozzers, right enough.

This poem refers to an incident that was ‘caught on camera’ by a local vigilante: the gutter press scooped it up, and the Readers’ Comments (many deleted as ‘unsuitable’) were rife. I wouldn’t condone those performing such an act in a children’s play-ground; nor comment on the insobriety of both participants. But for the press to print the (albeit, fuzzy) amateur snap, in the name of journalism – it just seems utterly reprehensible.

Dogging in EH7

“One 59-year-old man, who was walking his dog in the park at the time, said he was ‘disgusted’”

for Victoria, who helped me see both Spring and Summer

What if I’d taken pictures to record
The pecking order in the Pond?
Parental Pride of Dominant Swans
Beating off the impertinent ducks,

Protecting their fluffy flotilla;
Mindful of the Stately Heron who
Strut and dive; the oblivious coot’s
Miniature staccato-tweeting progeny.

Toddlers in pushchairs, tiddlers on swings;
Tough adolescents trying their luck
With the opposite sex while preteens
Knotted in monkey-puzzles preen

For mere effect. Recently a copulating
Couple were caught in the act. Presumably
CCTV was installed to protect the children.
From whom: perverts; or the paparazzi?

At the easter convergence of EH7 and EH6,
The birthplace of a wasted walk,
Owners of dogs release the euphemistic
Excuse from the leash: gape and gawp,

Engage in non-illicit banter with fellow
Handlers whose footpaths handily cross.
Who’d have thought that ‘walking the dog’
Could be thought as ‘dodgy.’ Innocence

Corrupted: what is deemed acceptable
In places, or is lent a blinded eye
By some is celebrated. Like graffiti
Sprayed on gravel, worn away with time.

The squawking gulls emulsify Bass Rock,
Squeal inland, deposit their load in the docks.
On the links, at the end of a tunnel of trees,
More graceful birds flit, swoop and flick,

Squirting their cypseline shit on the tarmac.
The dog-walkers pick up their canine crap
In plastic bags. Soggy chip-papers flap
And crackle with yesterday’s sleaze,

Soaked in drizzle and vinegar, dried in winds
Of? Nothing changes. Nothing stays the same.
The sun rises on Leith Walk, but in Lochend
And Dalmeny Park, sackclothed ash descends.

Saturday, 10 October 2009

Twelfth of July

Another weekend in Edinburgh, and another set of doors opened: this time, the ‘Wasps’ artist studios dotted around the city. Tucked behind Easter Road, next to Hibs football stadium, from the window of one particular studio, there was a magnificent view. To the left, the shells of half-built flats at the end of my road; beyond, Arthur’s Seat and in the distance to the right, the Pentlands. The artist explained to me that one of the new buildings had blocked this excellent vista.

But, to her secret delight, someone had set fire to them (just as the housing slump hit in…reported as ‘suspicious’). I was thrilled to hear this story: it makes a lovely introduction to this poem. Art wins over the Economy! Dedicated to my friend Laura, who celebrated her birthday this week – a far more pleasing anniversary than July 12th is to me – this was my view of things on Orangeman’s Day in 2008.

Twelfth of July, 2008

for Laura, my purple friend

There are not many colours describe this
Dull green day, but Orange is not one of ’em.

In Art Class we were shown how green and
Orange clashed and caused the eye to flash.

Then, in General Science, other spectral laws
Demurred, denying the aesthetic senses.

Facing Easter Road, the handle bars of
Shopping trolleys and dim-glow of commercial

Signage skew the shapes of kissing cranes that
Frame the charred remains of a razed block of flats.

Hibernian’s Green Meccano’d symmetry
Rises from between the Colonies:

Two-up, two-down, a garden either side - front
Doors accessed on the right by tall stone steps.

One time, when the setting sun illumined
The perspex shoulders of Proud Twin Stands

A teenager, top deck of a No. 34 proclaimed:
“Tha’s Easter Road, ken – it’s beautifu’, eh?

Lacking light, it has neither colour to boast.
Like the ugly brown manila envelopes few

Poets could make rhyme or reason. We owe
So much. No such thing as a beautiful game.

One summer, I told a friend (who vowed to dress
Like Jenny Joseph long before her time came):

“We get purple sunsets in Scotland!” she was
Up here like a shot. That was November. Now in July

Orangemans’ Day is neither beautifu’ nor Okay.
Lacking any haze, it is merely dull and grey.

Like an out-of-season sea-side funfair park,
The Retail Outlet Centre displays just half a bargain.

Then, as credits crunch and daylight dims its
Ebb in the gloom, an Edinburgh gloam attacks:

A shaft of sunlight cataracts through clouds,
Thwacks its yellow-green optimism over one

Small window pane. The Bingo Hall spills out its
Lucky revellers who, in rapid clicks, ignite.

Saturday, 3 October 2009

Underground Edinburgh

Last weekend was Doors Open Day in Edinburgh (or to be correct, Doors Open Weekend – D.O.W.) This is one of my favourite events, outwith Festival and Hogmanay: a chance to visit places not generally open to public viewing - for free! There is so much hidden from view in this Great City, and much of it, as it were, underground.

All of the cemeteries mentioned in the following poem were featured in this year’s D.O.W. The news story that inspired it was ‘true’ (it was in the papers, so it must be); a couple who discovered that ‘camping’ on Calton Hill was not what they were expecting. At least, that is what we are led to believe...

Underground Edinburgh

for Jo and Dave, my Festive Friends

Early evening, middle-of-May
on a brightly coveted summery day
Folk parade on Princes Street;
skimpy tops and sandaled feet.
In a week or two the tourists descend.
A few months later the Festival ends
(tradition decrees it opens with sun;
climate ensures it closes with sleet!)
In the crisp air of a late warm spring
someone is standing on Arthur’s Seat
clapping an echoing echoing beat
into reverberant chambers beneath.

From Calton Hill one can almost see
this monotonous applause resound
around gravestones; drift through
the broken monoliths, empty booths,
grandiose towers, hiding the truths
of Edinburgh’s hidden underground.

A tour-bus drifts along Regent Road
announcing its magical mysteries
of spooky graveyards, obedient dogs,
body-snatchers and haunted closes.
History students along the Royal Mile
lead Ghost Tours, robed in motley disguise;
through the unstained, puritanical panes
where two or three gather in Canongate Kirk
for Edinburgh Symphony Baroque:
They do not see at the foot of the graves
the gory remains of recent assignations.

At the bottom of the hill, where the tourists
are not led, hidden from the monuments
of poets, politicians, anthropologists,
these catacombs are littered with shards
of tin foil, needles, swabs and silver spoons;
The wealth of this nation, subverted. A sharps
bin tucked inside a wall provides a vague attempt
to prove “Auld Reickie kens beneath the moon.”

Across the road, straddling the tunnel where
the Route of the Flying Scotsman thrusts
into the firmament like a corny euphemism,
every booth is a self-contained cottage. Here
are empty sachets of lube, bottles of nitrate,
shreds of loo-paper and soiled extra-strongs.
A young man emerges and strolls along
Regent Road, nonchalant: rows of coaches
shielding the entrance. It has its uses, Tourism.

The Boy-Racers perform their own form of
Cruising; posing and preening up and down
While their hens apply lippy and artificial tan.
And in Old Calton, coloured condoms strew
The grasses; mainly used as party balloons:
Bring a Bottle, fancy dress, slap and tickle,
You can picture the rest as the Buckfast
Vomit trickles down the walls and stones.

Meanwhile, back on Calton Hill, some visitors
Have pitched an entirely different sort of camp…
“Someone ought to tell that couple:
If they go down to the woods today,
They could be in for a big surprise.”
But it seemed such a pleasant little spot,
Though the ground was a “wee bit” damp.