My Coastal Walk

I moved to Dunbar a year ago with my wife and young son. Emma and I don't drive and we work in Glasgow, so while we've clocked up thousands of miles of rail commuting we've had neither the time nor the means to explore East Lothian beyond the beauty of our harbour home and the charms of Dunbar.

So it was a special treat to further my explorations of the local environment and the writer inside me in the company of Sheree Mack, Hannah Lavery and Colin Will – each of them indefatigable and inspiring. We walked, we talked and made writing stops. Spontaneous composition, something I'd never done before, felt free and vital as I listened to the words Hannah, Sheree and Colin had written right there and then, us all breathing the same air. Pithy and eloquent phrases flowed out of them. I picked up my pad and pen and tried not to over-think.

For me, still Lothian-lite, Colin's knowledge of nature and topography consistently opened and blew my mind.  In addition to an illuminating knowledge of local bird life, he pointed out the concrete blocks scattered liberally on the sandy landscape. Tank traps, he told us, built by Polish soldiers in World War Two. Ah, I thought, the sort of structures that inspired the architecture of Brutalism. Jonathan Meades would have a field day here. On the beach sand Colin also showed us more elemental defences - traps still stuffed with the remains of wooden poles, deployed to foil the enemy descending silently in gliders.

My phone dishonourably discharged itself in Gullane so I could only catalogue the first part of the trip. A search for a lightning cable in North Berwick ended with me empty-handed except for a rapidly-deteriorating plastic bag carrying a cache of Ladybird books I'd bought from The Penny Farthing on Quality Street.

Back in Gullane, with a fine brunch at Falko inside us, the four of us had made our second stop for writing and Sheree filmed me at the bus stop laying out the first few notes of a theme that I riffed on longer and deeper when I laid it on the page this morning...


Squinting through a stronger sun towards a small monument
and Gullane’s  links and turrets, with the nagging suspicion
this is someone else's Sunday.

Goose Green, Stanley – names shared  with the Falklands;
The Falcons and The Finches  -  these street names raise suspicion
this is someone else's Scotland.

A Scotland measured by clans in Pringle jumpers,
with everyone constituents of Kinross & West Perthshire
chieftaned by a latter-day Sir Alec Douglas-Home.

Is "fae Leith via Haghill" tattooed on my forehead?
Let's not be disingenuous - a genteel friend of granny
would, in the early seventies, fetch our car-less family

and drive through gentle drizzle, tour us round small holdings.
We’d take tea as far as Fife where three-tier silver
cake stands and doilies hallmarked our Sundays

in someone else's Scotland, and Dad said the memorial
across the Kinghorn highway marked where Alexander,
the last of the Celtic kings, had fallen from his horse.