About me


Jim at his office deskI've tried doing the whole formal bio thing and it's frankly a bit boring. So I thought I'd stick to the bullet points and you can make of it what you will. I've tried to go for a flavour of me rather than listing all the ingredients.

The best place to get to know me is though my writing and through my blog. There are some 400 posts there, something for everyone, and I do try and respond to every comment left.

 Things I like

Chocolate

I'm not a chocoholic but if more things tasted of chocolate in this life than currently do you would hear no complaints from me. I used to be able to eat what I liked when I liked but these days I have to ration out the sweet stuff. I never used to understand when women said all they had to do was look at food to put on weight but since I turned fifty that's me. Still I make room for a wee piece of chocolate every day.

Cats

My mother always had cats. Strays each and every one of them. No sooner did one use up his or her nine lives then within a matter of a few weeks another sorry-looking creature would turn up on our doorstep. I was never allergic as a kid but much to my annoyance I've become so. That's never stopped me crossing the street to try and pet one.

Hugs

My parents weren't big huggers. In fact I was in my thirties before I discovered the joy of hugging. I draw the line at trees though. And there's nothing worse than hugging someone who doesn't hug you back.

My wife (she made me write this)

Actually she didn't make me write this. I'd be lost without Carrie. Well more lost than I am just now. They say that behind every great man is a great woman; well that's true of us mediocre men: there's a great woman behind us wishing we were great willing us on to greatness.

My daughter (she didn't)

I've always been very proud of my daughter. She's a lot like me and yet despite the disadvatages that she's inherited from me has become very much her own person. I've never once regretted not having a son. A Porsche, perhaps.

Writing

I'm talking about the physical act of making words appear on a page — and it doesn't matter to me if it's typing or handwriting, whether it's fiction or non-fiction — I get a great kick out of the creative process. When I got married the first time my wife got a gold band and I got a new typewriter.

 Things I don't like

Gooey stuff (custard, rice pudding et al)

And yet I can eat (and enjoy) yoghurt as long as it's cold enough. Go figure. I suspect it has more to do with texture than anything else.

Gardening

When my wife and I were looking to buy our current flat I imposed two conditions: firstly, that we should each have our own office, and, secondly, NO GARDEN. I'm not anti-Nature. I'm just not much interetsed in hand-to-hand combat with it.

Opera

I've tried, I really have — and it drives me mad not being able to appreciate it — but I just can't especially if the libretto is in English. I don't much care for rap either and I'd like to say it's not an age thing but I suspect it might well be. Choirs are a different matter. I love them. But I have no desire to join one.

Reading

Writers are supposed to be voracious readers. If you ask any writer for advice the first thing they'll tell you to do is read and yet the fact is I've never been able to sit for hours on end with my nose stuck in even a good book. Since I've started writing reviews I'm getting better but I think I'm just a very fussy reader.

Insomnia

To be honest I've mixed feelings about my inability to sleep through the night. I usually get a lot done in the middle of the night. The problem is I pay for it during the day.

Mess

If you were asked to picture my office you'd probably imagine me drowning in books and papers whereas the reality of the situation is quite different. I can work in a mess — I can write pretty much anywhere — but if I have a choice then I like a clean desk.

 Things I remember

Having meningitis

I had bacterial meningitis (the bad kind) when I was about three. This is probably my earliest memory actually. Interestingly, three years later, my brother came down with viral meningitis (the not so bad kind).

The birth of my daughter

Knowing where babies come from is one thing. Actually seeing a living person come out of another living person is something else entirely. Even thirty years on I can't find words to describe it.

Meeting my wife on the internet

Yes, now how did that happen? Seriously. I naÏvely thought by corresponding with a woman on the other side of the world I was safe. Yeah, right.

The first time I was ever paid for a poem

I got £1.50 from Aberdeen University. I still have the paperwork that came with the cheque.

 Things I've done

Worked as a draughtsman

It was my first job and all I'd wanted to do since I learned how to draw. I started there the day after I left school but it didn't work out. I really wasn't prepared for that.

Sent poems to Philip Larkin

And had them promptly returned, unread, attached to a boilerplated letter signed on behalf of Dr Larkin by his secretary. At the time I was royally offended. Of course it's not impossible that he did read them and they were so bad that this was how he chose to respond. I'm not sure what's worse.

Failed my driving test

Twice. The third time, when the examiner said I'd passed I turned to him and said, 'You've got to be joking." I no longer own a car. There's nowhere to park in Glasgow.

Been to one rock concert

Blondie in 2002. We left halfway through the band's set just after they were drowned out by the crowd while singing 'Maria' which I think is my favourite Blondie song.

 Things I've not done

Read my poetry in public

Until recently I'd only ever been to one poetry reading. I would probably have been about twenty at the time. I've since been to one other and only stayed half an hour. I don't write my poetry to be read aloud although I have read it aloud. I find I lose track when people read poems out loud unless they're poems I'm already very familiar with.

Roller skated

I've only ever ice skated once. Or to be honest I was dragged around an ice rink by two girls, one on either side. And I never tried again. I've also never used a pogo stick. Or bungee jumped. Or gone white water rafting. Or any of a host of different things. Adventurous I am not.

Joined the Mile High Club

I have flown but that's the first of a very long list of places I've never had sex.

Eaten oysters

Perhaps if I had then I might have felt like joining the Mile High Club. Probably not. Well, definitely not. I eat to live, not live to eat.

Been to university

Something I regret. I think it would have made the world of difference to my writing. Rather than working in isolation I think it would've helped enormously to be around other writers.

 Places I've been

Dublin

Could someone please tell me where all the Irish people were? I went to research a novel and was bitterly disappointed. It didn't help that it was a bank holiday and half the shops were closed.

California

Loved the ice-cream sandwiches.

Scotland

I've lived in a few places in Scotland over the years but Glasgow will always be home. The only significant place I've not visited is Inverness. I crashed a van after hitting some black ice besides Loch Ness and some Geordies appeared out of the fog and helped me get out of the ditch I was in. I've always had a fondness for folk from Newcastle ever since.

 Things I have

Everything Beckett ever wrote

That includes DVDs of all the stage plays and CDs of all his radio plays. Without a doubt one of the greatest writers ever.

A model of Gerry Anderson's Supercar

I've also got models of Fireball XL5, S.I.D., an SPV and a Spectrum Patrol Car. Nothing from Thunderbirds at the moment but I had them all as a kid and, yes, Thurderbird 2 was my favourite.

36 Garfields

It started as a bit of a joke but my wife just kept on buying them. I've a Pooky and a Nermal too. The biggest one sits in a chair in the living room.

4 computers

That would be two laptops, a PC and a netbook. My wife has a laptop, a PC and a netbook. Those are the ones that work. I used to have a palmtop too. I also have a programmable calculator that I suppose is strictly a computer too. Despite that I woulnd't call myself a lover of gadgets.

 People I respect

Samuel Beckett

Ever since I got up early in the morning to watch Waiting for Godot on the Open University I've been hooked. I shy away from calling anyone a hero but he's as near as damn it.

Philip Larkin

'Mr Bleaney'was the first poem I ever read that made sense to me. No babbling brooks or daffodils or vagabonds — this was something I could relate to. It's probably not too far a stretch to say I might not have become a writer had I not encountered Larkin's poetry when I did.

Richard Brautigan

I bought three books in a charity shop in Saltcoats because I liked the covers — I think they were 10p each — but it was years before I thought to read them. Best 30p I've ever spent that's all I can tell you.

Woody Allen

I've been a fan since his early days and stayed faithful. There's no such a thing as a bad Woody Allen film. Hannah and her Sisters is probably my favourite although I was quite taken by his 2009 film Whatever Works.

René Magritte

Considering how rational and logical I am Magritte should be one of the last painters I would appreciate and yet I connected with his paintings immediately without feeling the need to explain them.