An experiment


Partly from choice, and partly because I’m never entirely sure what I’m doing, the posts in this blog have been about a lot of different things. They include – a cat called Nergal, writers and books, fear, racism, a short story vaguely about a busker, and a few other subjects. In other words, anything I choose to write about.

I love having the freedom to choose what to say. I know- in many other parts of the world, people don’t have that freedom, and can be fined, jailed, or killed – for writing something that is off-limits. Even in our bastion of hard-won freedoms, writers can be bullied, framed, and prosecuted for writing something that annoys rich and powerful men or women. Julian Assange is still suffering in a London jail for exposing the secrets and crimes of the world’s rulers. And, in our so- called social media, anyone who comments on a controversy can be speedily branded a very, very naughty person, or given a more colourful epithet. Like ‘bum’ or ‘poo head’ or whatever is the latest insult circulating in that vast playground jungle.

I’m not keen on giving up my freedom to choose what to write about. Okay, that’s an understatement. I’d rather eat a dead hedgehog, uncooked, than give up my freedom to choose what to write about. However, in that strange way in which ideas sometimes arrive in my brain, I had an idea of letting go of a little bit of freedom – to let you, dear reader, help me to decide what I should write about next. To try to limit the subjects to things I might actually be able to write about, I’m offering a choice of 10 subjects. These are listed below – you can choose your top 3 and email me your choices or just comment on Facebook. Or, if you have no access to modern technology – yes, dad, that’s you – you could pass on your suggestions through some roaming emissary. And, if any reader has a special subject, which he she would desperately like me to write about, that can be one of your choices. My suggestions below include – openings for blogposts, snippets of posts, and possible themes. I’ll let you know the results over the next few posts.

Option 1:

One thousand years from now, centuries after the people on this planet have cleansed it of the evils of poverty, war, inequality, and injustice – pupils, students and other readers will look back at the history of our times and before with horror and amazement. It may seem to them as it must have seemed in the years after Darwin’s ideas came out, when people realised that they had evolved from wild animals. The difference would be – that the people of the future will look back at times when many humans were monsters. They polluted the air, the seas, and the land. They slaughtered their fellow human beings. And, unbelievably to the people of the future, their ancestors hated and oppressed people because of the colour of their skin. People of the future may look at their own skin, as if for the first time, and say to their ancestors: why? Why would someone be treated horribly because of the colour of their skin? It doesn’t make any sense.


Option 2:

The old man smiled and nodded. He looked up towards the high ceiling but seemed to be focusing on a place only he could see. “I tried to believe in God, for years. I tried hard, but I always felt – if I had to try so hard, it couldn’t be right. I should just be able to believe without having to try.”


Option 3:

Words have long been a huge mystery to me. They are things but not really things. Can we describe what words are made of just by using words? Or would other ways of saying be necessary? A painting perhaps, or a symphony, or a movie? Or maybe – a mathematical equation.


Option 4:

Trying to focus on writing a story whilst walking through a storm is never easy. Sometimes, it’s impossible. What I generally need to do is – find shelter and write as much as I can before I must go back out into the storm. Sometimes, a howling wind follows me, and I cannot concentrate because of it. Or, I’m followed by a clinging memory of the cold, and the remembered wet sting of the rain feels like  the real thing. Or, if the storm is made from scarier stuff than wind and rain, then…


Option 5:

Some things bore me a lot more than others. Take TV adverts, for example. No, seriously- take them as far away from me as you can go. I hate TV adverts. Glaikit faces grinning out of the screen with their bright teeth and plastic hair. I don’t want to buy anything they’re selling. I especially don’t want to buy into the assumption behind most TV adverts: that I’m just a thing waiting to buy other things. A ‘consumer’ I think they call it.


Option 6:

Memories- the tricks they play on us and the games we play with them.


Option 7:

Children’s stories.


Option 8:

Appreciating paintings and photographs.


Option 9:

Mental healing.


Option 10:



In time, I may write about all the above, but to start with I’ll stick to the top 3 as chosen by readers.

This week, the weather in Dundee got better. We had some warm days, with blue skies and sunlight swaggering around everywhere, grinning, and saying: “Hey, remember me?” Most of us had forgotten what sunlight was, so Dundee’s streets were dotted with lots of pale, puzzled trolls, blinking against the sunlight and wishing they could instantly evolve sunglasses. 

In the mornings, I’d take the cat down to the back garden, and open the big, creaky door, and find a technicolour movie experience. I loved what the special effects team had done with the grass: no real grass could be so brightly, incredibly green. And that sky! It was like a snow globe without the snow, but the sky was a pure, captured blue – shining and impossibly deep. And best of all were the birds singing. Some sound engineer had really gone over the top with the volume and clarity controls. Songs trilling once, twice, three times; then a dramatic pause; and then the same song repeated more quietly, as if it was in the distance. And I’ll never figure out how they got the air to taste so sweet.


Harvey Duke

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