Living with the Truth Stranger than Fiction This Is Not About What You Think Milligan and Murphy Making Sense

Wednesday, 20 May 2015



I lay in the park in the sticky heat
taking in walking wet dreams
to cool my thoughts till
their smoked glass bodies
melted in the heat haze.

The girl in the collarless coat
sat a little away from me
and our eyes met –
for a moment.

23 May 1980

Isn’t the Internet wonderful? You can get weather reports going back decades. Here’s an excerpt from one for May 1980:

Many parts of the United Kingdom had a spell of exceptionally sunny weather between the 9th and 19th but from the 20th until the end of the month amounts of sunshine were once again rather variable.

The girl in the collarless coat was real. Odd that I would relocate her to a park. I never saw her in a park. I saw her a few times—in my head it was a few times—on the path that ran from our flat to the corner shop. My wife and I had moved at this point. We were living in a Council flat in Calderwood in East Kilbride. This was back in the day when you could still get Council houses without having to wait half your life for one to come free. I remember nothing about the girl now and yet, thirty-five years later she reappears in a different park. Another excerpt from the novel I’m editing:

I do remember a girl from a long time ago all swaddled in a shabby, three-quarter length, collarless coat—it was green, verdant, yes—though I am at a loss as to what is was about her that caught my eye, perhaps simply the coat because now it is the only thing I can picture with any surety. She was no stunner. The best one could say was that she was… bonny, yes, that’s the word.

In the poem there is a connection. In the novel there is not, at least not with the girl; there is with a cat. I have to say I’ve always been fascinated by the amount of… I want to say ‘information’ but that’s really not the right word… the stuff that can pass between two total strangers in a split second. If I was spiritually-inclined I might think that we recognise each other from a past life or something but I don’t believe any of that which does leave me at a loss to explain the phenomenon.

I can tell you where the park I had in mind above was—Blythswood Square Gardens in the centre of Glasgow—but I have no clue why there. Not even sure I’ve ever seen anyone sunbathe there. That said that’s also where I set poem #550 ‘Sunbather’ which I wrote in July 1983. The park in my novel is a loose version of Victoria Park although it’s never named.

Interesting all the hard k’s in the poem.



Kass said...

I'm musing over and over on the first stanza. I like it, but how can a wet dream cool your thoughts? It must have been REALLY hot if your thoughts could cool the heat haze. Anyway, I'm feeling sweaty just reading your 'good on ya'.

Jim Murdoch said...

I hate being hot, Kass. It’s hot today and I’m sitting here working with my shirt off. I’d rather not be—I’m not the kind of guy who likes to wander around with his shirt off (I’d never do it outside)—but one has to be practical and it is hot today (by Scottish standards at least). I honestly cannot remember the last time I sat out in the sun and the last time I actually sunbathed will have been years before that which is probably a good thing since I’ll be less likely to get skin cancer although there’s no guarantee. My dad loved the sun. He used to work constant nights so in the summer would lie out in the garden and sleep. We’d have to keep an eye on him to make sure he didn’t bake. Not me though. Now I’m quite content to lie and think—it’s a luxury really—but back then I wanted to be doing stuff. Lying down seemed such a waste of time.

Ping services