Silent as light

The Antiquary: “is preoccupied on every level by the relation between past and present.”

Mary Midgley: “These doctrines are often bizarrely over-confident and over-simple”

George Orwell in Why I Write: “… one can write nothing readable unless one constantly struggles to efface one’s own personality”

Raymond Tallis in Summers of Discontent “There are several things to be noted about emotions. The first is they fill the world with meaning”

Kenneth Calman in Makars and Mediciners:  “It is perhaps here that the role of literature and the arts generally can have an advantage, by the author exposing poor health choices and behaviour patterns, in ways which are more powerful and effective than that of the medical teacher or professor. The writer’s imagination and expression can change things. The word can be powerful.”

Nathan Filer in The Shock of the Fall: “I think that’s what I am doing now. I am writing myself into my own story and I am telling it from within”

Andrew Greig: “He knows fankle from bourach.”

Raymond Tallis in Defence of Wonder “When we are in love we see the ordinary things about another person for what they are: not in the slightest bit ordinary.”

Gilbert K. Chesterton: “The world will never starve for want of wonders; but only for want of wonder

“She makes sunlight dim” (Sian)

Thomas Tranströmer to his lifelong friend Robert Bly: “In this climate it`s all or nothing. Anybody not 100% for is “self-evidently” 100% against. Have I given you a little picture of the climate? All you can do is Follow your own crooked conscience, wait for the moment of truth and hope you won’t need to be ashamed one day of how you lived through these years.”

Raymond Tallis: [Philosophy is a return] into that nearest, which we invariably rush past, which surprises us anew each time we get sight of it”

Tomas Tranströmer: “Balansnummer is ‘balancing act.’ The poem is partly a protest-poem against the prevailing mood in Swedish intellectual life. What I say is that finding the truth, being honest etc. is a difficult individualistic act of balance, you have to put off the rhetoric, all slogans and moustaches and prejudices and . . .”

Stephen Bann, MIDWAY: Letters from Ian Hamilton Finlay: “I recall saying once to Finlay that the special feature of the letter as a literary genre was that one never went back on the first draft to produce a fair copy.”

Nathan Filer in The shock of the Fall: “I have approximately 7.4 x 1027 atoms in my body”

Ian Hamilton Finlay: “Sometimes my wee best seems just not good enough”

Richard Holloway in Leaving Alexandria: “The toughest lesson life teaches is the difference between who you wanted to be and who you actually are. And it can take a whole life to teach it”

Robert Louis Stevenson: “Letter to a young gentleman who proposes to embrace the career of Art”

A. S. Byatt in Possession: “He put little slips of paper in the entries that made up his fragile narrative or non-narrative”

Adam Nicolson in Sea Room: “I’m wedded to this plunging-off form of thought, and to the acceptance of muddle which it implies”

Mukul Kesavan in Looking Through Glass: “Like all chroniclers of the relatively recent past, history ran out against the present”

Julian Barnes in The Noise of Time: “He bought a large scrapbook and pasted ‘Muddle Instead of Music’ onto the first page.”

Ronald Ross: “Science is the differential calculus of the mind, Art is the integral calculus; they may be beautiful apart, but are great only when combined.”

Walter Scott in The Antiquary (in Oldbuck’s room) “Amid this medley, it was no easier to find one’s way”

Margaret McCartney in The Patient Paradox: “The conclusion that variability is bad is distant from the much simpler observation that patients are all different.”

Robert Crawford in Young Eliot: “Leafiness suited him”

Alexander McCall Smith in Chance Developments: “His one and only book, ‘The Future Lies in the Past’, eventually published”

Patrick Deeley in The Hurley Maker’s Son: “I sensed the sun, beaming from a place that was higher than the world”

Penelope Fitzgerald in The Bookshop: “The sky brightened from one horizon to the other”

Hanya Yanagihara in A Little Life: “You made art because it was the only thing you’d ever been good at, the only thing, really, you thought about between shorter bursts of thinking about the things everyone thought about.”

John Berger in Here is where we meet: “To find any sense in life it was pointless to search in the places where people were instructed to look.”

Edmund De Waal in The White Road: “He writes a letter about how things are made, but it is actually about compassion.”

Alice Hoffman in Faithful: “No one could count all the stars. There are far too many.”

Madeleine Thien in Do Not Say We Have Nothing: “So familiar to me, like an entire language, a world, I had forgotten”

John Steinbeck in Of Mice and Men: “Both men glanced up, for the rectangle of sunshine in the doorway was cut off”

She said nothing and she shone

I went to Invermay looking for the ‘Humble Bumble’. I did not find it. However I did find something else.

This film is for Sian by ‘The Antiquary’

200 years of news

The 200th anniversary of the Scotsman newspaper 
took place on the 25th January 2017.

What follows are a few of the adverts from the very first edition 
of the Scotsman:


Trespass, passed, past.

An experimental film from the “Sanctum Sanctorum”.

The spoken words are taken from a Radio 4 production of “The Antiquary”

The backdrop to this film is the ruin of Kingsborough House, Skye. Where Flora MacDonald gave one night’s home to Bonnie Prince Charlie.

Surely all “narratives” (of time past) are but fragments.

Fragments retold and appreciated a new!

In the fragments that are retold I have found that the male ‘voice’ persists. This film is a teeny bit of a corrective to such a “retold” “history”.

Trespass, passed, past. from omphalos on Vimeo.

Cell Mates

What follows starts out from a car park, an almost empty psychiatric hospital car park at that!

Why should you be interested? Well if words are not to be wasted then perhaps the mention that the huge frame of Stephen Fry, polymath and mind extraordinary, alone in this car park, bent double and close to vomiting out his soul, will broker your curiosity?

What has all this to do with the title ‘Cell Mates’ and just why might you be interested?

Well you are alive, you are a mass of cells and you believe that somewhere in all this you have an identity. Cells are the rather wondrous elements of life. Put them in the brain and that cellular life leaps into a dimension rather too easily misrepresented by today’s science. That is what this tale is all about, that, and the 1995 disappearance of Fry, from Simon Gray’s West End play ‘Cell Mates.’


Introduction: Get Lost
All quotes in this introduction come from Romanno Bridge by Andrew Greig (2008)

Nearly all my writings get lost. No doubt it is because I cannot be succinct. It is also because I hate to simplify matters that are obviously complex. So it is that syntactically, and in the bundling of my ideas, I might be considered to lose the point. Scientists find this infuriating; they want bullet-points; poets on the other hand may accept such expression of uncertainty in a wider quest for meaning.

In what follows perhaps you shall ‘get lost’ but I rather hope that if you do, you may stumble across my humble realisation? Those of you who have watched my films or read other forms of my narratives will realise that I deliberately carry the metaphor Lost. I realise that it is rather easy to employ metaphor, but in this case I ask you to understand that there is special reason for such representation, as my family homestead in the north-east of Scotland was called Lost Farm.

In my explorations of family past, identity and name, I have come to the conclusion, voiced by others far more able than I, that modern science has lost its need for wider humanities. My job as a medical doctor, so dear to me, reveals daily that there is more to care than algorithm, evidence base, or simplified categories of disorder. In the same breath I understand the need, never to be ousted, of pragmatism. So in your reading of what follows please accept my humble and sincere belief that medicine must embrace the humanities. Stephen Fry’s disappearance will illustrate this argument.


The car park.
Never in a month of Sundays did I imagine that the car park of my old psychiatric hospital, Clerkseat in Aberdeen, would be the hook! Yet it was, appearing as it so unexpectedly did on my television screen on a Tuesday night in mid-September 2006. Stephen Fry, in the two part documentary The Secret Life of the Manic Depressive the rather good piece that he had put together with his Wimpole Street GP, allowed the camera to witness him in a moment of prostrate weakness. He was pallid beyond granite cold, and that giant frame bent double looked as if it was going to  puke. Fry unable to speak! A condition surely antithesis to the loquaciousness that we are so drawn to.

So that is the moment – the unedited moment that so hooked me. It drew me closer to Stephen Fry and his choice not to make such pain disappear from archive.

“One could imagine each moment as having a door into it, a door out.
And in the light bright space between each opening and closing, a life is lived.”
Page 18 of Romanno Bridge

I have carefully considered whether to continue posting this account on the internet, and have decided that, for now, the rest of ‘Cell Mates’ (long since completed) should remain private to Hole Ousia. Here though is the summary of contents:

MacCaig cells 2

(1) Cell One: Says He Says He!
Quotations by Stephen Fry

(2) Cell Two: Says He Says I
Quotations are from Fat Chance by Simon Gray

(3) Chapter three: Homesick
Quotations are from The Antiquary by Sir Walter Scott

(4) Chapter four: Conclusion: Cell Mates
Quotations are from Cell Mates.

Cell mates still