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Isolating at home 

Horizons have closed in yet further; we have not left the flat for a week as our flatmate, a care home worker, has tested positive for Covid-19. She is recovering and no-one else has any symptoms, so we're hopeful that we can contain it.

We have segregated the flat; my space is the kitchen, where thankfully I am able to compose and record music as well as doing my best to keep life varied for all of us through food, whilst trying to live as cheaply as possible. We have found out exactly who can come through with deliveries - local butchers, good; wholesale food suppliers, good; Southside self-isolation supporters group, massive thumbs-up! All the major supermarkets - not so good.

And of course this week I should have been sailing out of Oban aboard the tall ship Lady of Avenel with the Sessions and Sail voyage. When this is all over we will all be dying for some outdoor time, as well as tunes and music in good company.

I hope everyone is staying well and staying optimistic; take care.





Sailing to the Pacific 

I was recently sent this picture by my good friend and shipmate Jim Anderson from Fremantle, and it's taken me right back to sailing the Pacific!

I've always made this site primarily about my music, but it's nice to tell a story now and again. Especially right now, when all this being cooped up is really making me - and no doubt others - dream about travel and widening our horizons once again.

I signed on the tall ship Soren Larsen as 2nd Mate in September 2000 - I'd guess the pic above will be from 2000 or early 2001. I'd been working at sea as a cadet and 3rd/2nd mate aboard oil tankers, but my heart wasn't in it. I was looking for two things - music, and adventure. I recall night watches on the deck of a tanker when my head would be bursting with musical ideas that I was desperate to put together, and the agony of having no outlet for them. I was also driven mad sailing past shores that fascinated me; I promised myself that soon I would travel properly; and that I would give the music a chance.

So, I resigned from Maersk Tankers in July 2000; my last tanker was based at Ascension Island, where I learned the stories that later inspired me to write the song Comfortless Cove.

By September I was aboard Soren Larsen in Charlestown, Cornwall, preparing for a 13-month trip to New Zealand; intimidated by the ship and the challenge, but more excited than I'd ever been when starting out on anything. Here she is - the Soren Larsen. Maybe I'll tell more of this story if it's interesting...

Stay well,


Desert Wind - Live Video. Missing going out! 

I've recorded a little live video this afternoon - at home, performing the song 'Desert Wind'. I'm really missing playing music in company, and playing gigs; but sending some of these songs out there helps. I hope it helps you through this as well!

I wrote Desert Wind a couple of years ago, it's based on my travels in Australia and South East Asia. It was inspired by all sorts of reflective, mystical thoughts about the experiences we have, and where they go... 

It was also an attempt to describe the wind that blew over the Australian desert - there was something that seemed very strange about it to me, maybe it was just so different from the wind I know well, a wind that always has something to say about the sea. The sound of that wind seemed to capture somehow the concept I was trying to get across! 

I hope you enjoy the song. 

I am also considering, inspired by friends who are doing the same thing, to tell some of the stories from my travels, both by sea and by land. Let me know if you'd like to hear some of these! 

Take care of each other, and stay healthy! With love, 






Music, Skype conversations, Isolation - sound familiar? 

It would be interesting to hear people's take on isolation, and how it's changed your lifestyle. I bet a lot of it would be very familiar to many of us. Feel free to add a comment on how you're living or how you're getting by!

For me, I'm trying to put this strange time to good use, mostly through writing and composing music; I'm fortunate in that I have a recording set-up in the flat here. (As soon as I produce something I'm happy with, you'll be the first to know!) But, working at my desk with a microphone, a keyboard, a guitar and a fiddle availale to me - well, it could be worse.

Exercise is important; it seems very clinical now - I'm aware that I'm going out for the good of my physical and mental health, and try to make sure I do it once a day. My bike is my saviour, and there is a great feeling of freedom in cycling through streets and parks of Glasgow (At a suitable distance from others of course!)I'm concerned about anyone who's struggling financially right now - I seem to be scraping by despite all gigs and work being cancelled, and am hopeful that I'll be able to claim a living through the job protection scheme until I can get back to work. So I'm one of the lucky ones. Those working in the health service I thin kof particularly - a hard job at the best of times.

It's really nice to be able to keep up with family through Skype or online platforms. My folks, brother and sister in law in Shetland; Sister and her partner in London. We're chatting, having drinks together and playing quizzes; but we're also really hoping we get to see each other again very soon. Till then, this is the best contact we get.


I hope everyone's surviving and remaining healthy; please take care and look after yourselves.


Emotional day in isolation 

It's been an emotional day, having made the final decision to cancel the first of Sessions and Sail's voyages this year. April's trip in Shetland will not be going ahead.

I'm hoping everyone out there is doing OK in these strange, isolated times.

Another emotional moment at 8pm as we hung out the window to bang pots and pans, and the only sound across our silenced city was thousands of others doing the same. A huge welling of emotion and support for the incredible nurses, doctors and NHS staff, and a reminder that all across town - and all across the UK, and the world - there are others isolated in their own spaces, feeling, thinking and fearing the same things that we are.

...A picture of a foredeck session from last July; hopefully we'll have some blue skies, music and good company to look forward to soon.


SEX! And now that we've got your attention... 

Dozens of birds are singing outside, and it feels a bit like spring -  there's blue skies at last, although I'm sure they're normally criss-crossed with contrails - I don't see any today.

This Corona virus is hitting almost every aspect of life, hard - I worry about friends in the airline industry, who may lose their jobs; I worry about friends in the NHS who will likely be overwhelmed with extra work very soon. My musician and self-employed friends have seen their entire income dry up over the space of a few days.

In a way this emergency seems like a wake-up call; we in the first world have desperately and increasingly needed to change our ways for a while now. The planet has been burning up and we've continued to increase carbon emissions; we've been caught up with bickering over issues that really don't matter; we've been falling out and being uncivil to each other on social media. We've been driven by this bickering into electing leaders who really aren't up to the job. We've been letting health services run down, and we've been creating an economy of zero-hours and self-employment where many of us have no safety net should the work dry up.

Perhaps this health scare will draw our attention and give us the opportunity to do something about these problems, a bit like the old advert that said 'SEX! ...and now that we've got your attention, the local council elections will take place on Monday....'

Because what's really important is becoming crystal clear. Family, and their continued good health. Community, and the support it can offer. Friends and people who will stand by us. Unity in the face of adversity.

I'm seeing the same thing, happening all over the world. People singing on Italian balconies. People in Wuhan vlogging about their experiences. People in Glasgow forming community groups to provide resilience. Volunteers and donations everywhere. It's really tough, and this is the only way through it.

I for one am facing having a lot more free time, and a lot less money, than anticipated. I'll get by; and the time can be well spent - simple pleasures, and if necessary helping others who may need it.

This river is a kilometre from my flat, and if the birds are singing here, they'll be really going for it down there - I'm going for a walk. 

Stay safe and stay healthy!



Big changes of plans - for all of us I guess. 

Not quite the trip we'd planned... I was all set to head to Lisbon for a long weekend with my sister and brother. Train tickets all the way there to avoid flight shame!

But by 0400 on Thursday morning, en route to St Pancras Station, it was beginning to seem like a really bad idea. Watching the world fall apart on twitter and on news websites. I decided it was irresponsible and foolish to carry on.

We've all lost several hundreds of pounds worth of tickets and reservations but as things have panned out the past three days, it was the right decision.

It's becoming clear that 2020 is not going to be about success, but about survival. Watching the gigs and events get cancelled one by one, chalking off almost all March's income. Wondering how deeply I can cut my wage and survive. Considerations I'm sure all self-employed people are having right now; and I'm aware I'm far from the worst off. Hoping friends are going to be OK. We're going to need our communities like never before.

Washing hands every chance - carrying a bar of soap around with me in case there's none available! I think the avoiding crowds, avoiding contact, and frequent hand-washing is essential - slowing the spread of this virus so much as possible to give the health service breathing space to deal with it when it hits fully.

I'll be back in Glasgow this evening and my lapel emoji says it all!

Wishing health and safety to everyone; we will get through this.




On the road with a guitar in 2020 

2020 has been a challenging, and rewarding year so far! Weather - it never stops raining; life - it's hard to find time for all the recordng, study, gigs and composing I'm trying to fit in!

In January, Celtic Connections allowed me to hear some musical heroes, inluding concerts by Nitin Sawhney and Anais Mitchell, as well as the opportunity to perform at Coastal Connections, the Celtic on Campus and Danny Kyle open stages.

In February we managed to launch a single with Reidhle, the vibrant new trad line up I'm in on fiddle, along with Jamie Anderson on accordion and Jenna McRory on guitar. Here's a listening link: Reidhle

I'm headed south by train to London today, then tomorrow across the channel and through France and Spain for a weekend meet up with my sister and brother. Doing it by train all the way means I can avoid flight shame, and also can bring a guitar. Who knows, I may manage a jam or two while in transit!

Sessions and Sail begins!  

After a busy winter preparing, I'm arriving in Orkney for this year's first Sessions and Sail trip! 

The weather is perfect - blue skies and a sailing breeze - and, apart from some stress watching the ship's much-delayed progress making her way up from England, everything is looking good for the week ahead. 

On Sunday the group will gather, and the tunes will comence! 

November gigs in France,  

These tracks lead home... from the delapidated station in Quievrain, Belgium, to Edinburgh via the Eurostar, Brussels and London.

I travelled down to south-west France on November 23rd to play a few gigs with Tildon Krautz. A mediatheque concert near Bordeaux, followed by a house concert by Bourg de Visa, then two days of recording with the band.

They had kindly set me up with two solo gigs in the region as well. These concerts took a very pleasant fomat - dinner was served; we ate with the guests after soundchecking; then as dessert is cleared commenced the music.

December 1st was a drive to the North of France, where on Sunday we played the Salle du Fetes in the small town of Esnes. This area has known better days - the mines have closed, industry has moved on and the area has a slightly neglected feel. However, the 100-strong crowd were enthusiastic and friendly. Later that evening our hosts, Josie and David-Jo, took us out for frites with their family. They are good people - he runs the local library, and she arranges concerts, shows and events in the town.

Across the Belgian border the following morning, it was time to make my way home.