Writer's Notes

                                  Writer's Notes   -   Index
     Mar     2019        JOHN HUGHES         Wheelie Bin Dilemma
    Jan      2019        WILMA FERGUSON  Were you Ready for SAW?.
    Jan      2019        PETE MARRISON     The Third Day of January
    Oct      2018        EDWINA TAYLOR     Mary Mary
    Sept     2018        KATE GORDON        The Sunday Post
    Aug     2018        PETE MARRISON     The Ubiquitous word GOT.
    July     2018        PETE MARRISON     Brothers in Arms.
    June    2018        PETE MARRISON     It's never too late.
    May     2018       ANNE O'NEAMUS.    Infestation.
    April    2018        KATE GORDON.        Away From It All               
    March  2018       MYRA DUFFY:           A Writer’s Journey 

           Wheelie bin dilemma
 Another recycle bin has arrived...wheelie?
The council appear to have gone all touchy feely
Grey, brown, blue and now green.
A calendar for collections, simple it seems.
Friday is now the new collection day
Just to add to my confusion and dismay
The new green bin for plastic glass and tins
Much more separation for our sins
Cardboard and paper now go their own way
Their very own bin not much more I can say
The big brown one has all the food to digest
While the good old grey is for all the rest

The first week arrives in anticipation
Have we got it right, to save the nation
Curtains twitch as neighbours peer
Out their window with dread and fear
Have they selected the correct bin this week
Or like me need counselling to seek.
Friday 4.30 am I awake in a sweat
My bin is not out well not yet
Adorned in pink dressing gown I rush downstairs
Head outside trip over garden chairs
Grab the bin place close to the road
A hasty return to my abode

Back in bed the deed is done
Others I see have missed the run
7.15 the bin lorry arrives beep...beep...beep
Feeling smug I fall back to sleep...sleep...sleep
Dreams of living in a better climate zone
Rudely awakened by the ringing on my phone
A text from my neighbour you’ve put out the wrong bin
It’s not green but blue I could sense his grin
Another two weeks before they return to the street
I just want crawl into one and have a greet


              Were you ready for SAW?                                                                    Jan 2019

Well, the closing date for General and Special Categories for this year’s Scottish Association of Writers’ 50th Anniversary Conference has passed. While early submissions are welcomed, I often wonder just how many people are that organised. Some of us in previous years (no prizes for guessing who) have resorted to hand delivery in order to meet the deadline, only to find access to a block of flats denied. 

 In September, I am enthusiastically thinking of what I might write for the various categories then come November and December, Christmas has taken over my thought process and in early January, my brain is mush and I am scrabbling about for anything to enter. 

 The process of following the guidelines is, in itself, quite unnerving. I ask - 

·         Have I the correct word count for each category?

·         Have I attached a cover sheet for each entry?

·         Does the cover sheet contain the required information, namely Competition
                category, Title of  entry, One word pseudonym, Number of words or lines?

·         Is the text centred on the page?

·         Have I used a large font size?

·         Do I have a Footer on each page of the manuscript?

·         Are the pages of each document numbered?

·         Do I have an Insert Form for each entry?

·         Does the information on the Insert Form match that of the manuscript itself
                      (very often I change the title but forget to change the footer)

·         Have I enclosed a stamped addressed postcard for confirmation of receipt
                    of entries?

·         Is my cheque made out to the appropriate Payee and for the appropriate amount?

·         Have I noted my entries and pseudonyms? 

(Not the first time I’ve forgotten what I entered. On one occasion I was lucky enough to win the Margaret McConnell Trophy and when the title and pseudonym were read out, I didn’t recognize it as my work and approached the podium with trepidation because I couldn’t remember what I’d written.) 

It’s quite a checklist so having established all of the above, I then put all of my entries in ONE polypocket since I don’t want my manuscripts to arrive in a soggy mess due to rain. Having sealed the envelope, I then have to resist the temptation to open it all up again, just to be sure I’ve done everything. (Methinks perhaps I have a touch of OCD.) Then it’s off to the Post Office to ensure adequate postage.

And from talking to others, I know I am not alone in thinking that once I get to the conference, I’ll wish I had done more, or more correctly, wish I’d done better.

Nevertheless, I am looking forward to a great week-end.

Wilma Ferguson 


      The third day of January.                                                                       Jan 2019

Many years ago, as a child I looked forward to the magic of Christmas. The carol singing both in the church and in the streets, the festive lights in the shops, the almost ceremonial opening of the presents and the specials meals on Christmas day.

Those were the days when it all came to a halt at three o’clock on Christmas afternoon so that we could listen to our glorious King or Queen presenting their annual message on radio or TV.

During the festive week and through into New Year, we managed to visit or be visited by all the aunts and uncles, cousins and grandparents. I remember a few old maiden aunts, as well but no maiden uncles.

The magic faded somewhat as teenage cynicism, television and too many seasonally wrapped pairs of socks started to appear.

As a parent with young children the magic reappeared together with an apparent urge to make next Christmas even better than the one before. More presents, bigger presents, a taller tree, more decorations, even more food on an already abundant table.

That was all in the dark ages. It is now the pagan festival of the internet. The whole of Christmas is available on line. It is now so easy to get the ingredients of Christmas, but capturing the spirit is a lot more difficult.

About ten years ago I decided that January 3rd was a day to look forward to; it would all be over. The shops would again be open, normal schedules would have returned to television and I would no longer be shaking hands and greeting every Tom, Dick and Harriet I met in the street.

The drudgery of dreaming up gifts for people who not only have everything, but have constantly told you not to get them anything, is a pain. Planning and shopping for enormous amounts of food to force on people whose normal diet is corn flakes, beans on toast and heartburn tablets, is the equivalent of pre-planned grievous bodily harm.

Have you ever asked anyone what sort of Christmas they’ve had and they’ve replied “Quiet, you know, but nice” ?  They are the lucky ones. The rest of us have been force-fed happiness, smiles and Christmas spirit.

I discussed it with Tom, an equally cynical and cranky old curmudgeon of a friend of mine and we agreed “The third of January is the best day of the year.” We now celebrate it annually at our local greasy spoon café. We order a cup of black coffee and give each other a packet of humbugs. We are as miserable as ever, but comfortable in our misery.

It would have still been OK if we hadn’t mentioned it to two more old geezers, a couple of years ago, Dick and Harry, who to decide to join us. Dick really got into the spirit of it: he designed 3rd January greetings cards to pass round. Just to be polite, the rest of us had to do the same for the following year. That was when Garry joined our unfestive bunch showing off his brand new woolly bonnet.

The wives are insisting on coming along next time, but ordering a proper meal. They are threatening to dress in smart clothes and bring ‘wee’ gifts. They’ll probably even be expecting to enjoy themselves. Some people never learn.

So, next year I will secretly celebrate 4th January all by myself.  I will tell no one.

Pete Marrison

                               Mary Mary                                                                         October 2018

"Mary Mary, quite contrary, how does your garden grow? "

"Funny you should ask that," says Mary " I've been having  so much trouble with rabbits. I shall have to take a  gun to them. They are playing havoc with my silver bells and cockle shells. I tried putting wire netting round, but they still got in. How? I don't know. It's as clear as mud to me. Then to make matters worse, a poor wee spring lamb got caught up in the wire. It was thrashing around when I found it and was quite terrifying the little maids all in a row.”

 "Anyway, where are my manners? I'm prattling on here like a soap opera and you are no doubt gasping for a cup o' tea."

 "I thought you'd never ask." says I, "But no,  I  need to dash.  I've just had an idea for another short story."

Edwina Taylor

                                  The Sunday Post                                                    September 2018

Growing up in Scotland in the fifties and sixties, the Sunday Post was part of the culture.

This newspaper, published by DC Thomson was founded in 1914 but until 1919 it was an extension of the Saturday Post. In January 1919 the first edition of the Sunday Post as we knew it was produced. News was not a big feature of this publication and as young people we were not too interested anyway in boring old politics or news. The first page we turned to was the fun page where we could catch up with The Broons and Oor Wullie. It is hard to believe that these characters are still on its pages today. We knew the Broons intimately. From Maw, Paw and Grandpaw to the bairn who probably is still a toddler. The family lived in a tenement flat at 10 Glebe Street, Aucenshoogle. When I started my nurse training in Glasgow Royal Infirmary I was amazed to find that there was an actual street of this name right across from the hospital. I knew there was a place called Auchenshuggle as it was near where I lived. Unfortunately  I never did meet any of the Broons. The Broon’s house looked like my granny’s room and kitchen and Maw Broon looked liked many a granny at that time. I am not sure how a family of eight plus parents managed to live in that house. Grandpaw had his own house. I wonder why they did not farm out some of the family to him. 

     There were all the stereotypes among the Broons; Daphne, the plain one, Maggie, the glamorous one, Hen, a big drip of a man, Joe, who actually looked quite good, the twins, and the bairn. Horace was the geeky, clever one with sleeked back hair and wee round specs.They were a normal family,the boys working, the girls going out dancing and maw keeping the house. A recent popular publication is Maw Broon’s cookbook with recipes for good Scottish home cooking. The highlight of their year was the visit to the but n ben somewhere in the countryside where they would cope with midgies and all the other  inconveniences experienced by a family from the city. There was usually a problem or a dilemma at the start of the story which would be resolved in some way by the end.

     Oor wullie was next. Wullie was a bit of a scallywag and seemed to spend a lot of his life sitting on an upturned bucket. He was always in dungarees and had fair hair which stood up in spikes, so he is right on trend today. When he wasn’t doing this he was getting up to some sort of mischief with his pals, Fat Bob Wee Eck and Soapy Soutar. Their arch enemy was PC Murdoch. Their favourite mode of transport was their cairtie which in my neck of the woods was called a geggie. Along the bottom of the page it said, Oor Wullie, Your Wullie, A’body’s Wullie. You might remember that but I wonder if you remember Wullie’s surname?

Answers on a postcard please.

Kate Gordon

               The ubiquitous word GOT.                                                                August 2018

When I was twelve years old, our English language teacher, Mr Glasier, insisted that we never use the word ‘got’ either verbally or in any of our essays.

One of my unfortunate classmates was called John Gott. Mr Glasier never forgave him.

It is a chameleon of a word. It means something different depending upon its surroundings. Occasionally, it is very difficult to replace.

      Common parlance.
I’ve got to leave you now. 
                               Your wife’s coming up the drive.
                                                       I must leave you now.  
I’ve got back ache.             
                               I’ve decided to take a day off work.
                                                       I have back ache.
I’ve gotten me a busted back.
                               I’m from West Virginia.
                                                       I done gotten me a busted back.
I’ve got rhythm; I‘ve got music.                   
                               I’m cool.
                                                       I’ve got rhythm; I’ve got music.
I got there before him.        
                               My car’s faster than his.
                                                       I arrived before him.
I got engaged.
                               Will it all end in tears?                 
                                                       I became engaged.
I got an engagement present
Lucky me!
I received an engagement present.
I got the short straw.
                               Unlucky me!
                                                       I picked the short straw.
I’ve got a good idea.
                               Well I think so!
I’ve thought of a good idea.
They got me to join.
                               They twisted my arm.
                                                       They persuaded me to join.
I got to drive a Ferrari
                               And crashed it!
                                                       I was able to drive a Ferrari.
They got the culprit.
                               He was a bad guy.
                                                       They caught the culprit.

It really got to me.
                               I’m easily hurt.
                                                       It upset me.
I got that from my father.
                               It’s in the genes.
                                                       I inherited that from my father.
I got first place.
                               I was the only one competing.
I won first place.
I got a first class degree.
                               I am a brain box.
                                                       I was awarded a first class degree.
I got Physics at school.
                               I remember none of it.
                                                       I studied Physics at school.
I got a taxi.
                               I was on expenses.
                                                       I took a taxi.
I got you.
                               I heard you the first time.
                                                       I understand you.
I got you.
                               You are about to fall.
                                                       I am ready to catch you.
I got a new car.
                               Well it’s almost new.
                                                       I bought a new car.
I got lucky.
                               I won the lottery.
                                                       I was lucky.
I got off the train.
                               Mind the step!
                                                       I alighted from the train.
I got off scot free.
                               I had a good lawyer.
                                                       I was found not guilt.
What has that got to do with me?
                               It wasn’t my fault.
What has that to do with me?
     I got a hole in one.
                                    I’m a lucky golfer.
                                                            I hit a hole in one.
     I got me a grizzly.
                                   I hunt bear.
                                                            I shotten me a grizzly.
     I’ve got a new coat on.
                                    And trousers!
                                                            I’m wearing a new coat.
     We’ve always got on well together.
                                    He’s rude to everyone else.                                                    
                                                       We have always got on well together.
I got away with it.
                               I was lucky.
                                                       I escaped by the skin of my teeth.
                               I have caught you.

Imagine having to learn English as a foreign student; that’s just gotta be a nightmare. 

Pete Marrison 

         Brothers in arms                                                July 2018

Two late middle aged gentlemen in morning suits are queuing at Buckingham Palace to receive their MBEs. 

 "Haven't we met before?"
 "Maybe; your face seems familiar. You're not in the Arms Industry by any chance?"

"Well yes, I'm getting a gong for designing this new laser guided anti missile missile, but I don't remember your face at any of the Defence Fairs."

 "No, it wouldn't be that, I'm in the biological warfare side. Different shows."

 "Could we have met at university? I was at Cambridge -  Porterhouse College".

"I was in St John's; so no reason to have met.” 

 "It was the late eighties.”

 “Wasn't that the time of the peace rallies?"

 “Yes, and I was one of those young idealists!” 

 "Ah yes, so was I. Now I remember. Weren’t we in the same police holding cell overnight?"

 "You're right. Then next morning, at the magistrate’s court, we were bound over to keep the peace."

 "And we have."

Pete Marrison
         It's never too late                                                 June 2018

I was in my late seventies and I was bored. I needed something to do other than walking, golfing and messing about in the garden and workshop.

Yes, I read a bit on rain days, but there are too many of those days.

For several years I had been thinking about ‘writing’ as a hobby. I’m a slow thinker.

In December 2015 I saw a short advert for a writing group in the local library on Thursday evenings. I phoned and then met Laura at the library.

“The group has stopped until after Christmas,” she said, “but come to out first meeting in January.  Meanwhile let’s pick out a few seasonal words and you can try writing a short story which includes those words.”

Below is that story:-


                                                       Writers Block

Laura said “Write a story about Christmas including ‘Red, Holly, Elves, Scrooge and Snow’ ”.

Well that set me back on my heels. I had only come along to talk about writing, not to actual do writing. However, better make the best of it; you never know, it might be good for a laugh.

Where should I start? The mind is a blank. Should the structure be top down, bottom up or middle up down (MUD). The mind was totally confused already and yet I was still on my way home from the Library. Maybe I should stop trying to think and just let the ideas come to me.

A week goes by and I start realise that the ideas seem to be passing me by on the other side of the street. OK then leave it all to the subconscious; let it work out a story. Think of the five buzz words last thing at night and by morning the solution might be there.

Another week goes by and yet another strategy had bitten the dust. Maybe I’ll just have to get down and do some work. Perhaps concentrate on the perspiration and go easy on the inspiration. At least I do know how to start – ‘Once up on a time’.


Once upon a time, a miserable, but hardworking young gardener called “Scrooge” noticed that during autumn, if the weather conditions were right, the leaves of the holly tree had a tendency to curl up and then change colour and became a variety of attractive shades of red.

He morosely observed that this more frequently happened when there were night frosts, sunny days and not a lot of wind.

For many years he tried to vary the growing conditions in his garden to try a fool the holly trees into thinking it was cold but sunny or warm but wet and other strange weather quirks. All to no avail.

In his garden were some old worn out and chipped ornamental Goblins and Elves and the unhappy Scrooge suddenly remembered that the Elves had been chipped out of limestone blocks. Within seconds the first Goblin had had its head chopped off and ground down into powder and that powder had been worked into the roots of one of the young holly saplings. Scrooge’s excitement soon died away and he eventually forgot about the limestone.

However, about six months later, it was coming up to Christmas and one morning young Scrooge awoke to see snow on the ground. Feeling even more miserable than usual, he started to sweep away the snow and as he did, he noticed something red lying on to of the snow – some sort of leaf maybe. His heart flipped, it was just at the side of one of the holy trees, in fact the very tree where he had sprinkled the limestone dust. He looked up and saw that the whole holly tree had red tinted leaves.

He also glanced across at the headless Elf and the Goblin next to it which seemed to be winking at him.

Maybe it was the thought of Christmas, the miracle of the red holly or just the beauty of the clean snow, but Scrooge felt his melancholy fall away and a smile glued itself to his face and his soul.

Several months later, this revitalised and still happy Scrooge met a nice young lady, they married and eventually, a beautiful baby girl was born.

Scrooge and his wife and baby Holly lived happily ever after.

                                     THE END

When I read it out to the group a few weeks later, the consensus seemed to be that although the preamble was OK, the actual story about the Red Holly and Elves was rubbish.

The main thing was that I enjoyed writing it.


ANNE O'NEAMUS           Infestation               May 2018       

            The current spell of good weather is to blame for this plague. 

            It's a ubiquitous, pestilential, annual infestation. 

            Beetle-black bodies glint iridescent in the sun.

            Shiny-capped heads dance in the light. 

            Whether single or in clusters, the whirring sound signals their presence.  

            Yes, summer means cyclists.

                                KATE GORDON.       Away From It All          April 2018

I have just spent a few days in the lovely Trossachs with no internet or mobile phone. I am sure my fellow writers will be thinking that I will return with some wonderful pieces inspired by the tranquillity and beauty of my surroundings. They’ll be wrong.

I did go with an empty notebook which remained unopened, and some pens which were used only to fill in the Herald crossword. It is amazing how much time you can pass just observing the world around you. 

Some wee sparrows were building a nest in the guttering on my balcony and I whiled away a good few hours watching them fly in and out with their little beaks filled with straw and bits of garden debris.

A herd of wild goats foraging among the bushes had me reaching for the camera. I failed to get a decent picture but did get a close up of their ferocious looking horns as the beasts came up and peered in the window at me.

Another thing I watched was some rubbishy daytime television. I told myself that this is allowed when you are on holiday. So, not a lot of writing was done. However, before I left home, a short spell of unwellness prompted me to write this.

        Fur Ye

There’s nae sich thing 
if ye’re a wumman.
Everythin is yours,
fae the totties tae the dug.
A the dishes
an the mugs,
the hoover an
the waashin machine.
You’re the queen o
a ye survey, inside an oot.
There is nae nae doot
who belangs tae the gairden
an a it entails.
Even the snails
are yours.
If ye ever hiv the flu
an the ither hauf
has tae dae the chores,
ye’ll get an hourly bulletin,
tae make sure it’s sinkin in,
Ah’ve wiped yer flair,
 hoovered yer stair,
watched yer weans,
cleaned yer drains,
cut yer hedges,
weeded yer edges,
fed yer cat,
ah’ve done a that

Happy Easter to all at Erskine Writers.

Kate Gordon


MYRA DUFFY:       A Writer’s Journey     March 2018

I joined Erskine Writers in 2007 and quickly found how supportive everyone in the group was to a ‘new’ writer. Although I wrote when I was a child and had had a lot of non-fiction published over the years, I was coming back to fiction after a long absence and the help I received gave me the confidence to proceed. 

If you can’t manage to come along to the meetings, held on a Tuesday afternoon at the Bargarran Community Centre, you can become a postal member and access information through the website.

You will have the opportunity to try all kinds of writing from short stories to poetry to flash fiction.
Although I now write novels, (mostly cosy crime set on the Isle of Bute) I continue to write poetry and short stories. I’ve uploaded one of my flash fiction stories below.

For more information visit my website www,myraduffywriter.com or find me on Facebook and Twitter @duffy_myra



I don’t want to think about that holiday, how it ended. We’d set off in high spirits, so in love.
     ‘A little villa by the sea,’ he said. ‘Just the two of us. We can chill out, enjoy the sunshine, away from the hustle and bustle.’

     There was only a moment’s hesitation. He must have known I’d been in love with him for years, would have done anything for him.

     ‘What about your wife?’ I said.

     ‘She thinks I’m going on a golfing holiday with the lads,’ he grinned.

     How could I refuse? It wasn’t only because he was my boss that I’d fallen in love with him, though it was hard not to love him. The gifts of expensive clothes, the jewellery hand-made to order: he was a man who always got what he wanted.

     The weekend was all he promised. We swam in the turquoise blue sea, ate at little secluded restaurants, made love under the stars. He said he and his wife didn’t get on, but he couldn’t leave her. She was the one with all the money.

 On the flight home, he was distant. ‘Perhaps we should cool things for a while,’ he said.

     We collected our bags in silence, as though we meant nothing to each other.

     At the newspaper kiosk, the headlines screamed, ‘Wife of well-known businessman murdered.’

     He gave me no sign, just put me in a taxi and turned to leave without a word.

     It was then I realised. I wasn’t his lover. I was his alibi.
©Myra Duffy 2018