Category Archives: New Mexico

Interview + Podcast roundup

Hello all –


It’s been a while (The Unsung Letter is on hiatus for a little bit) but I thought I’d share some places where I’ve been lately.


I spoke to the Times, The Herald, and the Sunday Post and you can read the interviews through the links.

Most recently Alistair Braidwood of Scots Whay Hae and I had a chat all about Mayhem & Death, On the Edges of Vision, Flesh of the Peach, travel, rejection, loneliness, grief and making art – and Jeff Goldblum, of course. Have a listen here. It’s a good long one, so maybe make yourself a cup of tea first.  Mayhem & Death was reviewed on Scots Whay Hae here.


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Filed under 404 Ink, Helen McClory, Mayhem & Death, New Mexico, New York, On The Edges of Vision, reading, Scotland

The lure of damaged places

Down in Comely Bank, another part of Edinburgh, I added another couple of photos to my growing collection of shots of abandoned buildings.

I have been thinking now of how the eye is drawn to the wreck, the boarded up window, the collapsed roof, the weeds sprouting from the windowsill.  So, a post, drawing a few of them together in my mind. some you may recognise if you’ve been following this blog a while –

Romantic Shack, Catalonia.


Ruined store (?), Ocate, New Mexico


Dead Restaurant, Tierra Amarilla, New Mexico


A window in Golden, New Mexico


Abandoned house on private property, Espanola, New Mexico


Empty house, Bruntsfield, Edinburgh


Condemned clubhouse, Dunbar


Pub, Comely Bank


This last one, along with the building in Bruntsfield, is not lost entirely. There was a sign in the front saying work would be done. At some point.

But how long is time, in a building without people?


Filed under 2012, art, Edinburgh, New Mexico, Scotland



Thinking of vistas in Dear Friends and Gentle Hearts. Thinking: the title fits this, an ache, a wetland of blurred polluted roadscape. The fields endlessly going by and into memory.



Thinking of how we must respond – even in not admitting to responding – to memory, yes, to a landscape, to a sight, to a disconnect of emotions, insistent and tidal, in the songs we hear, the smells, the tastes, textures of rock and bark and flagstone and subway seat. The internet allowing us to express in words wonders, but not to experience them, or only fleetingly. And in life only if there is time, if we are permitted to, permit.



Thinking also, how hard it is to sing in words.



I try to make up a singer, a woman who sang full of space and pain, for Aida to fit her pain, her longing in. I can almost see what she looks like, how she sounds. Her name, Patty Devine, sounds like she’d sing soulfully, Urban, drink-addled, though D. thinks that name signifies a Country singer. I don’t know. I like that sort of space too. A changeable, changing vista. Room, hopefully, for the reader to hear what they need to, out of her non-existent mouth.


Filed under 2012, art, New Mexico, New York


West Sands, St Andrews, dusk



Sunset, Cornish field



Day Break, Cebolla Mesa, New Mexico



Towards the University of St Andrews Library, St Andrews



Candlemaker Row, Edinburgh, this morning


Edinburgh Castle, from the Grassmarket, today


Day, Valle Grande, New Mexico


Sunset over the Rio Grande Gorge, New Mexico



“What are days for?

Days are where we live.
They come, they wake us
Time and time over.
They are to be happy in:
Where can we live but days?


Ah, solving that question
Brings the priest and the doctor
In their long coats
Running over the fields.”
– Days, by Philip Larkin


Filed under Edinburgh, New Mexico, Scotland, The Now

Stone Dance








Why the three-fold thistle?

Why has the flank of the wall burst apart?

Is there ever a way in through the doors to that castle?

Is that gold in that gate stone?

Where are those men going, at a rush, except to death?

Why do the stones dance?

Must they dance?

When stone dances, what song is playing?

And do we dance?

Or must we wait our turn, if ever our turn, if ever we write not on paper water lips but stone?


Filed under Edinburgh, New Mexico, The Now




1. A reclining figure. A grainy texture. A view of red sandstone houses, curving downhill.

2. Smirr and mist and threads of trees. A village at the head of a loch, sped by half-witnessed.

3. Blackened branches, gathered from the mesa top. Foiled food slow cooking, steaming.

4. A collapsible nylon room. Clarity on the stones, the bright green leaves.


It’s like this: Low evening light, morning light. Fire, ashes. Desire for a certain place, now far and in the past, or an instance that was understood only later, in pictures. Or a place that was Spring, in a remote desert camping ground. Or a beautiful third-floor flat, long since leased out to others. The one who helped find it, dead too young. It’s the sorrow and the striving, the echo down the corridor to the tiny impossible bathroom, to the living room with the bay windows where the light has room to let itself sprawl, golden, grey, pink, to the bright aquarium with the mouthing goldfish, Shen-Long the weather loach undulating in the current.


It’s the collecting of other people’s photographs of a path or break through a looming green forest, the human figure tiny, laden, fragile, in tartan-patterned flannel and thick walking boots, carrying a metal cup and sleeping bag lashed to their knapsack. It’s the wishing for more than stone, however well-weathered that stone is, for a wild range, at last, rather than muted sickness. For the outdoors, the flimsy, the breath of plants, the movement and rustle of the body passing along the trail, the cooking in ember, the tea over flame. The chik of bats spinning in the gloaming, the wave on the dark loch.


And for you?




Filed under 2012, celebration, New Mexico, Scotland, The Now

Storyboarding, Storymaking

D and I are whisking off today on the trains bound North for Oban, the gateway to the isles (though we aren’t sure what our plans are on that point).  Not a literary journey, but likely a very picturesque one.  As you can guess, I will probably have plenty of photographs to share. I hope I don’t overdo the images to the detriment of words, and that soon I will have a lengthy, word-rich post for you to sink your teeth into. You might also ask, what happened to Endless Reads 2012? Tobias Smollett happened to it. Smollett and all his Georgian puffery and personal wretchedness…I hope four-odd hours confined to a carriage will help me toil through more pages than I have managed so far. He’s going to be one of the two-weekers. Not giving up yet!


More fun so far has been starting a second illustration class at the Edinburgh College of Art.  This time, we have to design one lengthy project, alongside general practice and keeping an observational sketchbook.


Tonight, we were set the task of producing a mock-up of our project ideas.  I decided to do a series of illustrations showing Aida’s long bus journey from New York City to New Mexico. It would be a blurring of reality and the work-in-progress, of the real journey D and I took and the rough outline I’ve made in the draft of The Millennial. Non-fiction visual narrative, I suppose? I said I would put them together in a little booklet, perhaps. After class, one of the other students came up to me with a suggestion that I add diary entries for each panel, to give a feeling of intimacy. I’m havering on this idea, though I was so grateful to have kind feedback. I like the idea of having it a silent sequence,  removed from the burden of text (I know I’ve been writing too much when I say that, and welcome Oban as a wee break from type-type-type).


Here are the rough (oh so rough) drawings I made, plus a little extra one just for fun. There will be more scenes in the final project, I think. More drama, as there was on the actual journey.

Diary of a houseplant. The real-life one didn't take to being sketched, and has turned very peely-wally in the few hours since.


Filed under 2012, Endless Reads 2012, Illustration, New Mexico, New York, Planning, reading, The Millenial, The Now