Saturday, August 6, 2011

three from the tombs

the gorbals, 2008. photographs by rosa b.

Of course, this is not the first that I have pried up the corners of anonymity. Cautiously. An ill advised act of self sabotage, I am inclined to believe.

The faint waft of marzipan. Imagined sulfur.

The forensic evidence - provided by my now wife - is of your sibling from a period sometime in 2008. Or 9. Broadly coinciding with the first phase of 'regeneration' which prompted my wandering out onto the bleachers. Driven by the starting pistol in a convoluted demolition derby. At first glance, it appears to capture the no longer quite so young bohemian in pensive mood. Hangover is by far the safest scenario; the attempt to memorize a shopping list, windows ablaze, the greenhouse effect. Nothing of substance can be seen through the fragment of glass between lower face and shirt cuff. A bottle. A four storey blur down on the street.

On the whole it is a quite flattering representation. I have come across much worse.

The second photograph in the above series of three opens a window on the universe we inhabited until September last year. The third, by its nature, is more easy to document with confidence: a little after 9:30 AM, July 1st, 2008; south west as the crow flies, shot from my kitchen window. They did not bother to evacuate us that first time. The building rumbled up through our feet, the panes rattled.

When it was done, I may have curtsied like a fighter in the tenth round. Glass jaw exposed. Weaving back to my stool after a mandatory count.

Our very diluted Hiroshima.

We breakfasted and dined on dust. Teeth rudely pulled. Marveling at the cavities.

Three from the tombs, midnight to six.

For lack of USB support, nothing was uploaded.

Our camera - my wife's camera, to be precise - met its end sometime over Christmas that same year. The result of a tumble, I am told. Did it fall or was it pushed ? The former, I suspect. We did not replace the camera until very recently. Either way, that the flash card survived is some cause for relief. Perversely more robust than those undeveloped spools of old. I have allowed too many memories to wither and fade. In and out their can. The fridge. A stretched canvas paling over sprockets.

Twelve years ago, when I stepped out of the elevator onto the 22nd floor, I was of a mind to establish a dark room of sorts. In two minds, more accurately. The walk-in cupboard never proved inviting enough. The electricity meter jostling for supremacy from behind the coats like drapes.

So it is we resurrected something of the path between Bridge Street and Partick, and several stops between. The stuttering trajectory of a clockwork orange.

Ripened. Squeezed. Poured.

Well. The temptation largely prevails to bombard one and all with snapshots of Milo. My youngest son. To blow the lid for good. For various reasons, this unsettles me vaguely. I might ask him, of course, to waive all rights; I might take a wobbly grin as tacit consent.

Tottering without guile as I ink his little thumb on a plate of pureed tomato. For the record.

For better or worse I have resisted the urge.

Some time last year my wife encouraged me to apply to the Creative Writing Programme at Glasgow University. Much of the material which formed the basis for my portfolio submission was culled from pieces originally published here. It is quite some time since I have dabbled in academic circles. A quarter of a century. Their offer of a place took me a little by surprise.

So did the announcement that my wife was pregnant. Those routine demands of a baby. A move across the city, fortuitous though it was.

I deferred until this year. I accepted a renewed offer.

Well, wait just a second. While I am elated to have at least secured the opportunity, the end result is far from a foregone conclusion. Not even here is funding at postgraduate level a given. The not insignificant cost of tuition fees.

All the thornier when one is seemingly unemployable, a burden on the public purse.

Am I boring you yet ? Is that cr@ss enough for you ?

Still. I have determined to somehow do it. This may be my last stab at turning things around. I have applied to an assortment of trusts, of course. Those ones for which I am even shakily eligible. The activity of drafting 'begging' letters fills me with dread. Some days I have embraced it quite enthusiastically, some days I am given over to crippling anxieties.

A general proclivity to fall in line with the great economic downturn of our times.

I mention this merely as a means of belatedly lancing the boil. To spill my cards out on the table.

I have never been much of a one for poker.

The wise money, granted, may predictably ride on those who play their diamonds and spades close to their chest. Red and black. The short odds.

Frankly, I am sick and tired of the yellow.

Better to let it all hang out. Better to deck the empty bleachers with steaming crimson coils.


Brushback said...

Yeah, that first picture is sorta flattering - kind of Brando-ish.

I've never been near a building as it was being demolished, I don't think.

RossK said...

Just remember one thing.

Well, two, actually....

The trusts love the begging.


Once one of them bites all the others get jealous.

Best of luck!

(and if you have to steer some wordstream their way that slows some of the flow here for awhile, do it. We can handle some slack water for awhile).


Holly said...

You, sir, definitely belong in academe. The kudzu & the ivy need pruning, and other, older Milos need to profit from your mentorship.
Fingers crossed!

PS - great photos ;-)

@eloh said...

It was your last offering that had me contemplating, not just my awe in a reply, but a challenge. Met or not, with hot or cold.

I had come to the firm belief that no one, such as you had presented yourself, could possibly write with such eloquence and wisdom.... but wait... the subjects you broach must be lived to be expressed so deeply.

What a paradox.

Anonymous, yes... but only to a degree. Those who read and devour your writing know you well.

SO the challenge... Not who is Ib, but the path that brought Ib to such scholarly heights.

I thought I could talk you into giving me 10 chances to discover at which University you had been a Professor of Philosophy... and the philosophy of what.

I ruled out Harvard... contemplated Yale (I have a friend who did his graduate studies in Physics at Yale) but ultimately ruled it out. No, you were somewhere else...

My first guess... London, Professor of Psychological Philosophy. Followed quickly by the University of Glasgow... all a moot point now.

Yes Ib, we will take a backseat to whatever takes your time. People need to be taught to think and you need to take your rightful place in the world. If that is teaching or getting yourself published.... do it.

So now I know who you are and the path you walked, sometimes crawled....

Ib the Baron of Glasgow..............

and don't think for a minute that this has made me forget about those baby pictures!

P.S. I'd tell you what a handsome man you are... but comments like that from old ladies...just gross.

ib said...


Brando, huh ? Well. We have a weight issue in common. And I admit, the shot does appear a little staged. Very possibly, I had just ran out of cigarettes.


Thanks, man. I'll gather up the luck which is tossed my way at this late stage.

ib said...


Thanks. I never believed I might be going back to school. I don't think the kudzu has strangled the ivy as yet. I could be wrong. My grasp of horticulture is severely limited.

The potential for anything beyond merely jamming my toe in the door long enough to matriculate remains some way off.

I'll pass on your compliments regards the photos to Rosa.

ib said...


I've been rattling the bars for so long now, it amazes me that anyone is still listening. Desperation. Plain and simple. Agitating to make my voice heard.

Pissing all over myself from one post to the next.

Harvard ? Yale ? I am outrageously flattered. And jaundiced enough to fear that you might be gently mocking.

I hope not. I don't think so. I respect you too much.

Tim said...

There is no more good money. It's all fucked up now. Take all you can get and never forget, the kids find out what you did to them when you had the reins completely, it has to be good or they will torture you when you become old, feeble and at their mercy. I'm hoping you get to go sneak around Oxford and post all the dirt. Try to think of it as hustling, not begging. Best of luck, man.

ib said...

Well. It did occur to me at one point to put a kidney up for auction. Not sure if it would fetch much. In used car terms, my body resembles one of those cash only deals lurking in the dark end of the lot.

'One Careful Owner' is stretching credulity. Not even good lighting would convince a prospective buyer otherwise.

However the cards fall, I'll continue hitting on the keys regardless. Bending the letters to my will. As one doctor at least recently observed: 'London's Burning' (Again). Nero had his lyre. The lira may be in short supply, but the itch demands to be scratched.

Tim said...

I just hope you get what you want. Me too.

ib said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
@eloh said...

I have been an outright a-hole my whole life.... there are stories. Someone once said that being an a-hole is no accident, one must work at it. I have.

What you detect in my eloquent comment.... is my a-holey disappointment that I shall have no game. Being an a-hole it is always about ME in the end.

I'm going back to the baby picture (little Milo) and oogle it some more....

jonder said...

Good for you, Ib! Your writing is too good to be given away for nothing on this small (but stylish) venue. I have had many thoughts of going back to school. But as my sons get older, and their needs become more expensive, it's easy to find reasons (read: excuses) to put it off another year or three.

Anto said...

go for it ib. went back to college meself a few years back. i was bolloxed tired workign shift w/ 3 young kids in the gaff but the commited to it and if only for brain-stretching it was worth it. your writing is excellent.

a song from my next door neighbour when i were a lad:

jesus, have you watched Sky news covering the 'riots'. fucking hilarious.

ib said...


A-holiness is all that I aspired to for long enough. There ought to be a diploma in it, at the very least. A papal dispensation, even.

Now. Don't be alarmed; I find it hard to think of you as an a-hole. With anything other affection. Of the genuine order.

The real assholes are those who can't take a dump without hitting the shower as soon as the water hits the u-bend.

Go ahead and oogle, by all means.

As I type, Milo is blowing raspberries over my shoulder. In his playpen. Highly pleased with himself, I might add.

ib said...


The intention has been lurking for some time, I confess. Somewhere between the back of my skull and the tip of my tongue. Furtive. Gnawing.

It was the fear of not doing which made me do it in the end. The act of unraveling the fuse only leads to still more anxieties, I find.

Maybe I am anxious as bird.

Maybe that is my natural state.


Thanks for the Dublin props.

We have been watching London burn. All day, and all of the night. Well. Very nearly. This morning, at 1 AM, I was sorely tempted to unfurl the duvet in front of the tv. Just to get a handle on where the flames would lick up next.

We fell into bed sometime between Clapham Junction and the Sony distribution centre in Enfield. I experienced some alarm as the rioting spread to Chalk Farm. NW1. Like pouring petrol between the stripes on Abbey Road.

We seldom watch Sky News. Not having a dish. Most of our newsreel footage has filtered in through the BBC. All of it, in fact. The tone of it reminded me curiously me of the Quatermass Experiment meets Kids Rule OK from IPC comics in 1977. Oddly more quaint than Toxteth in 1981 - despite the very real threat to women and children at home in their beds above the rows of retail units - more staged, Kubrickesque, than eruptions in Brixton earlier that same year.

The hilarious thing, I think, was that it took Cameron and Boris so long to decide to cut their holidaying short. Priceless. Their determination to dismiss it all as juvenile delinquency overspilling Trumpton's bandstand.

Half man, half biscuit.

Mr. Beer N. Hockey said...

You get to be Rodney Dangerfield in Back To School!

ib said...

Rodney, yeah. Can't make the dive, but I may have the same bumbling gait.