Help - this is what happens

The Soul Now Departing … This is What Happens on the Wrong Side of the Tracks

I know that dark place so well, even the cry to God for help, the pressing weight of life’s failures, and the need to be set free. Denise C McAllister

Wrong side of the tracks

soul now departing USA

I insult him, it’s not intended, not major … a niggle, that’s all.

‘Are we on time?’ The guard blinks, oh dear, can’t unsay it. This is Germany and an express train for goodness sake.

His top lip curls, he stiffens. ‘Of course sir.’ Metallic clarity from stiff lips. He turns, red beard bristling, and marches out of the compartment. I expect he’s thinking bloody English. Like many Europeans, Scottishness doesn’t spring to mind. Neither of us know what’s coming.

I was only asking …

My question is fair, the express left Hannover a few minutes late and I’m on a tight connection. Still, it looks like he may fancy punching a bit more than my ticket as he stalks back through the door. I shrug and pull my jacket on, my luggage is lined up for departure. I check my watch, sigh and am sitting back when …

Bang! The soul now departing …

Some sounds you never forget. I’m in the front carriage and this is one: a crunching, splattering thud at the front of the train. My instinct knows what the impact means. In a split second the brakes slam on, hard, with a squealing, skidding shriek of biting metal. Hundreds of metres down the line we stop with a final spasmodic jerk.

Feet thud up the coach. My “annoyed” guard crashes through the door beside me, pulling on a high visibility waistcoat. An enticing waft of coffee trails after him, an incongruous match for his urgency. He hurtles on: feet pounding an urgent rhythm. He slams a braced shoulder into the next door. It crashes open. He’s gone, feet beating towards a hasty engagement with tragedy.

What happened?

In the café bar, next to my compartment, I find the steward.

‘What happened?’

‘A person is killed.’

‘How long?’ I say.

‘One or two hours delay.’

I shake my head, ‘Sad.’

‘The police have to come.’ She says. Of course, it’s a crime scene.

I buy a coffee and return to my seat.

Meanwhile, from left field …

An unkempt, burly middle-aged man wanders in. One shirttail hangs out. His hair is a tangle of spikes with a pasty, red-eyed, bearded face. His jumper, jeans … everything is wrinkled … and he wants to talk.

‘I only speak English.’

He nods. ‘It’s awful,’ he says and takes a quivering breath. He’s thinking, there’s more to come. I wonder if he saw something. He responds to a question in my glance. ‘My mother died last night.’ Brief hours ago. It wasn’t expected.

Today’s event is overwhelmed by his personal loss. We talk about grief and death. I offer a verbal hug, he half smiles, then remembers and his eyes moisten. We talk some more. For a long moment he’s somewhere in his mind but I wait. ‘My kids are meeting me in three hours.’

‘Good. They need you’ I acknowledge his envelope of pain with gentle eye contact. I bet his need is greater …whatever … waves of supportive love, regardless of rationale, ease pain.

His eyes mist. ‘I will go now.’ We share a nod and he’s gone. The door swishes gently back.

Form to fill

Another guard arrives. He stops. A pile of envelopes escape from his hands and scatter over the floor. ‘Don’t pick them up sir.’ He gathers a few strays up the passage way and returns. He’s not terribly good at bending over. Still, he scrabbles around until there’s an untidy clump under his arm. He looks at me for a moment. ‘It takes a kilometre to stop from that speed.’ He hands me a form with a brown envelope.

‘I’m an English speaker, what do I do?’

‘Ask at Hamm Station, they’ll look after you.’

‘And this?’ I wave the form.

‘You will be compensated for the delay.’ I notice the form is pre-stamped for two hours. He’s done this before. There’s a deep sadness in him. He moves on.

Gap-seat conversation

A man looks at me through a gap in the seats. He’s a clinical psychotherapist who speaks English. I join him. We consider the human damage and the mental-health consequences for the staff.

What makes a person step in front of a speeding express train? Our conversation is both interesting and painful. Like it or not, I am affected.

Conversation killer

We stop talking when my original red-bearded guard comes back. His thousand-yard stare says it all, he’s numb with shock. [His grey face and staring eyes are stark in my minds eye  as I write.] His training must be good. He’s still following an emergency routine.

The steward returns and offers water. This, she reports, is her fourth experience of death on the line.

‘It happens a lot.’ She says.

‘Does DB look after them?’ I jerk my head at the departing man.

‘Yes, they need it.’ Her calm is stoic and distant. Her thoughts are with colleagues.

A way out

wrong side of the tracksNext there are firemen in the woods by the train. They work in the brush, raking away. My first thought is they’re looking for body parts. But no, that’s not it. They build an escape route for passengers.

screen-shot-2017-01-15-at-16-40-23In ten minutes the corridor is full of people leaving the train. A crowded bendy bus awaits.

In 20 minutes I’m in Hamm station and having my travel arrangements adjusted by a pleasant and helpful DB customer service person.

She fills in my claim-form and tells me to add my address and bank details—no need for a stamp—they’ll refund half my fare. As she works I admire her multi-coloured fingernails and tell her so. She smiles and we shoot the breeze for five minutes or so.

Even I’m getting on with my day. In quiet moments I wonder about that person, so near to me at the moment of death.

40 minutes after that I’m on a fast train to the Dutch border.

It’s a people thing

Next day on the plane from Schipol I sit with a young German student who studies in Scotland. Turns out her train to Amsterdam was delayed by my train. We have a great chat.

All the people I encountered were friendly, helpful, concerned, efficient and they cared. Even an irate guard managed restraint. They looked after me. They could have been British.

© Mac Logan

a world of hurt and learning

He speaks expert sense … has he studied the seven social evils?

Seven Social Evils

ignore seven social evils

using skill and judgement list which of the seven social evils created pain for these two

According to Canon Donaldson, preaching at Westminster Abbey, March 20 1925, there are 7 Social Evils:

  1. Politics without principle
  2. Wealth without work
  3. Pleasure without conscience
  4. Knowledge without character
  5. Commerce and Industry without morality
  6. Science without humanity
  7. Worship without sacrifice

Challenging list for me, never mind politicians. Then, blow me, a politician makes …

Expert sense

I think the right response in a democracy, to assertions made by experts, is to say ‘show us the evidence, show us the facts’. And then, if experts or indeed anyone in the debate can make a strong case, draw on evidence and let us think again – then of course they deserve respect. Michael Gove

no place in politics.jpgA great quote from a clever person. Sound bites being what they are, perhaps some of his other assertions are rather less expert.

His signpost is clear. Can he (does he intend to?) establish a key principle in politics. If Mr Gove can do that, I’d say his legacy is as bright as can be. I’d only change the ‘e’ word to a ‘p’ word to now read:

I think the right response in a democracy, to assertions made by politicians, is to say ‘show us the evidence, show us the facts’. And then, if politicians or indeed anyone in the debate can make a strong case, draw on evidence and let us think again.

Simple truth

Thanks to Mr Gove for expressing a simple truth – tell it as it is. Surely theres no hypocrisy here.

Mrs May, BoJo, LiFo, colleagues, are you paying attention?

© Mac Logan

Happy Day?

Rage, Anger, Untruths, War … or Human Kindness … Christmas spirit

Recompense injury with justice, and recompense kindness with kindness Confucius

Rage, anger and human kindness

Human Kindness – yes please …How many awful, cruel, dishonest and utterly nasty people have enraged you recently?

Corruption, bank cupidity and political mendacity always generate heat for me and, of course, there are many nice people involved. Truth to tell, annoyance and anger affects the clarity and quality of my thinking.

The Dark Side

Is corruption, criminality, conspiracy, hypocrisy and waste all there is?

Seeing tweets from some people the other day, I found their anger and cruel comments remarkable. Reading much the same on Facebook is much the same. Polarised opinions rule a battlefield where one person’s St Donald is another person’s devil incarnate.  The focus stays on the awfulness of individual politicians and apparatchiks; no words on solutions just bile … interesting.

Other side

Just this morning I’ve been in touch with friends who live in Seattle. Their kindness and hospitality breeds a special kind of warmth in my heart and, as I think about it, I recall the generosity of many other people when I was there.

Now, closer to home:

  • A laugh with the woman in the barbers as she trimmed away and we sorted the world’s problems in fifteen minutes.
  • A discussion with a friend about to confront a difficult situation and, with it, a chance to assist a person who has generously supported me with a downtown office for writing in bonny Dunfermline.
  • A chat with a friend who chose to take our communication to a new level of intimacy and trust.
  • A warm hug from my grandkids.

All of these things fill a store cupboard of positive and loving energy.

Gifts from friendship

The other day a business associate visited. He’s a big guy, six feet five and solid. He walked in holding a copy of Angels Cut and asked me to sign it. (He later bought 20 more for some customers – all signed.) I was moved by how pleased he is for me. Paradoxical, perhaps, buying a fierce tale of corrupt criminality, murder, the abuse of power …

Remember Jack Nicholson in As Good As It Gets. How the story unfolds and he finds the love and kindness in himself and the joy as others reciprocate. The show made me smile and put me in touch with a finer perspective of humanity, I smile thinking of it.

Mac Paradoxical*

Funny isn’t it, on the one hand I’m a concerned, sometimes annoyed, observer of our human frailties – I write tough thrillers to challenge mischief and mendacity.

On the other hand: a touch, a gentle word, friendship, kindness, love; such strength and depth running alongside the bad stuff. Good and evil cheek by jowl.

It’s easy to slip into a negative feeling about political mischief, corruption and so on. I’d be very surprised if most of the vilified people don’t have a kind and generous side, and people who have little but good things to say about them.

How can we help each other to tap into the well of human kindness and respect? Could that change the world?

© Mac Logan

*free book to anyone who can say that ten times quickly

Happy Christmas - elves relax

Christmas greetings – elves relax … and think of Govan

Elves Relax?

What happens to the elves when the Christmas rush is over? This cartoon provides definitive if not completely reliable answers.

What’s Govan got to do with Santa’s elves?

Have a look see. All the very best whoever, however, wherever you are.

Christmas Greetings

Xmas Cartoon 2016.jpg

Discovered this 1950’s cartoon on the web … added the words.

Brexit, crossroads of confusion: built by a parcel of ignorant, inept, dishonest rogues

Angel Falls.jpg

a prettier cliff than the one we’re heading for

ignorant, inept, dishonest …

Andy, a friend from the USA sent me a question:

“Seeing your post reminded me that you haven’t commented on Brexit. Do you support it, hate it, fear it, neutral about it?”

 It’s a hard question to answer, Andy, but here goes.

Believe it or not?

Do I believe in Brexit? NO
Do I believe in Bremain? NO

The trap is believing in either. We need factual, clear and objective thinking before opting for any course of action.

Is there a problem?

Does something need fixing? YES

Could it be that the Brexit problem is a Frankenstein-like creation of our Westminster politicians? In round terms, yes. I believe the initial impetus for Brexit came from political self-interest rather than national interest.

Brexit’s genesis may have been a fear, in our Tory party, that Nigel Farage’s UKIP and the right wing might hijack their power. They wanted to retain (or take back?) control, not from Europe but, more-likely, other ultra-conservative factions and parties.

Life of its own

The UK government created a monster. As the beast gained a life of its own, so spin, mendacity, greed and unbelievable in-expertise were brought to bear.

The fantasy and conflict, which hurtles on unchecked, is driven by strong feelings rather than powerful facts. One need only discuss the ideas behind Brexit with people of pro or anti persuasion and a defensive/aggressive energy may quickly overwhelm a conversation.

What’s truth got to do with it?

If the Brexit concept is mis-founded and illusory, where might our solutions lie?

Both sides of the Brexit argument didn’t base their arguments on fact, especially when they went to the country. Their dishonesty is shameful, and some might even say criminal and fraudulent.

I have no spur
To prick the sides of my intent, but only
Vaulting ambition … Wm Shakespeare – Macbeth

Mills of GodIn the absence of clear information and facts both sides made up their own truths. In fact by early November the Crown Prosecution Service began to consider a complaint about Leave campaigners misleading voters. I’m not sure about the outcome, yet.

Then, of course (royalty or what?), there’s the Judicial Review of the governments powers

Back to the cliff-edge

Broadly speaking both sides of the political debate agree that the British people “have spoken” and so they will implement Brexit. There seems to be agreement that there is a huge economic downside coming up … the cliff-edge our leaders talk about.

What have UK politicians done so far?:

  • Conned and divided the citizens of the UK. They can’t and don’t deny it.
  • Generated an upsurge of anger about immigration, the EU’s workings, lack of UK sovereignty, bloody foreigners, and so on … with little truth in sight.
  • Fanned divisive angry flames, fuelled by their own self-righteous dishonesty as we walk backwards, in an enraged emotional fog, towards what everyone calls the “cliff edge” – even if nobody knows where, or exactly what it is.
  • Ignored significant and growing evidence that the UK faces catastrophe by Brexiting, so much so it seems almost suicidal.
  • Presented Brexit as an essential action, even if it is, admittedly, based on lies and spin; even though there is little or no coherence to their plans or thinking. Remember Iraq?
  • man-flu realityCarried on as if this self-generated crisis is the most important thing ever. I’d say 3.9 million children in poverty (expected to increase by 50% by 2020) is more pressing – our government has just had to admit it abolished the Child Poverty Unit.

Lunacy either way

The UK is divided on Brexit and our politicians lack the competence to call a halt, establish the facts and be clear about what’s in it for our children and grandchildren. And they want us to push the leave button right now – nobody seems to know the goal, never mind the fall out – big risk …

the Columbus factor

We mustn’t forget the Columbus factor and its relationship to Brexit:

  • When Columbus set off he didn’t know where he was going.
  • When Columbus got there, he didn’t know where he was.
  • When he got back, hold on, Columbus did get back. In our case we won’t be getting back … what if it’s a mistake.

Pious hypocrisy and all that

The best part of being a hypocrite is you can still denounce hypocrisy.

The piety with which both sides of the Westminster bubble say ‘the people have spoken …’ is tainted with hypocrisy. I’d add to that these words ‘… in good faith.’

My faith is broken. My fellow citizens and I entrust our well-being and prosperity to  unworthy people who betray us at every turn with their cupidity and corruption.


I say, wake-up fellow citizens, we’re about to be mugged again but many times worse than 2008. The people who voted for or against Brexit, in fear, anger and indignation, are in the process of being let-down and betrayed.

I don’t know who said: a company is know by the people it keeps. It’s a thousand times more relevant for countries, governments and politicians.

What would I do?

Me, I’d reset the dials. I want facts and information. I want politicians who speak for me … and tell the truth. I want clear, measurable future goals/outcomes on the EU and other major issues. And my aspirations:

  • The EU is incorruptible and operates in simple, clear ways. All citizens benefit and know why.
  • UK politicians are credible/capable and provide honest fact-based, understandable information which citizens use to select politicians and direct major decisions … including leave the EU if that’s the best way forward.
  • No region of the UK feels disenfranchised.
  • Political ideology (expediency) is not the driver of change – facts are.
  • Politicians who lie and deceive citizens face criminal prosecution.
  • There are no children in poverty in the UK.

so, Andy …

I’m unsure whether we should stay, go or fix Europe– [here’s a new word: EuroFIXit] because please fact check everybody:

  • I do not know why, beyond party politics and crazy thinking, we’re doing this.
  • Where is the clear, compelling, all UK citizen-benefitting reason for going or staying?
  • Strong feelings distort reality. Can we trust aggressive emotions and unfounded beliefs to win benefits in abundance? Or is this just another political bun fight for which we’ll continue to pay the price for generations to come.
  • We need to be a United Kingdom and we’re not. This isn’t about one side or the other winning, it’s about us all winning … Europe as well.
  • How reliable is the competence, insight and capability of politicians and senior civil servants in this unique situation?
  • Money will be made, but not by the bulk of our citizens. Have a look under slimy sewage-coated corporate and governmental stones to see where the profits of deceit go. The Brexit dividend has started.
  • Nobody really knows what to do.

Regarding Brexit, I believe there’s a high risk my children, grandchildren and successive generations will pay a high price for this stupidity. We need clear thinking. Sometimes the best course of action is to do nothing.

Are we at a cross-roads or what?

© Mac Logan

Related links:

Adventures on the Brit border

Ethics in UK Government

UK immigration is a two thousand year old story

UK immigration a two thousand+ year old story

The former British prime minister, Margaret Thatcher, declared some years ago that the English (or was it the British?) were all “homogenous Anglo-Saxons”. Really? Marika Sherwood

UK immigrants are ancient?


Some headline.

Pardon me? Two thousand years ago London was diverse? Yup, some had African roots. Some had had Chinese roots. Never mind from all-over the empire roots.

For your average blame-the-immigrants or send-the-bast**ds-home people, it may rock the boat. There are Chinese and Arab blood-lines in my family now, through marriage. What richness we benefit from.

  • new ways of looking/thinking about things
  • approaches to family
  • great food ideas

Two thousand years?

Imagine, people of African and Chinese origin living in our green and pleasant land twenty centuries ago. Not to mention the likely origins of the Picts, Celts and others.

OMG what about the poor racist yobs who hate immigrants and foreigners? Are their beliefs based on a fantasy race of Anglo-Saxons? A Germanic people who arrived 500 years later?

Late arrivals

Goodness, did the Anglo-Saxons arrive later than some of our other forbears? Historians appears to suggest around 450 CE (AD) doing the usual plundering, looting and land-grabbing.

Do the racist and misogynist groups in the UK actually, by their own definition, claim decent from late arrivals to the UK gene-pool?

There’s only one thing to say to that … so what! As those in the north say: We’re a’ Jock Thomson’s bairns.

Misogyny … oopstwo thousand year old story

The idea that Celtic women could also be queens and leaders of war bands, might not come as a surprise to modern historians, but to the Greek and Roman men who witnessed and recorded the exploits of these women it was considered abnormal for them to act publically and autonomously. Becki VandenBoom

Then, of course, there’s Boudicca and her ilk. The way Celtic (original British) men and women lived together. Not like the Romans, of course, they absolutely knew a woman’s place.

So did the Celts for that matter, they just had a different take on equality.

So, big man, what are you trying to say?

Love, care, accept, help, forgive, hug and generally appreciate one another.

It seems only a few greedy, inflated and narcissistic egos keep our war-economies going at the expense of food, clothing and education for all peoples. Learning and respect is what’ll save us.

Imagine it was your kids or grandkids dying in Aleppo.

How can any of our politicians and business leaders of the Global Economy look us in the eye?

© Mac Logan


my time's up

My times up — hey Dad, I’m smiling

[Grandfather, who has laid himself down to die, opens his eyes]
Old Lodge Skins: Am I still in this world?
Jack Crabb: Yes, Grandfather.
Old Lodge Skins: [groans] I was afraid of that. Well, sometimes the magic works. Sometimes, it doesn’t.
From the film Little Big Man

hey Dad … I’m smiling

Your Dad says his times up and you’re smiling? Why?

When Dad turned 70 I visited him and Mum at our family home in Corrie on the Isle of Arran. This is what happened:

First goodbye

‘My times up.’

It’s not every day your Dad says he’s going to die. We’d been having a philosophical discussion when, out of left-field, he dropped the bombshell.

‘How long have you got?’

‘Who knows?’

‘You mean, as far as you know, you’re okay?’

‘My times up. It’s important to be prepared.’ On that he was right. ‘I’ve I had my three-score and ten.’ He was always biblical. It’s a chat I’ve never forgotten.

As I write I smell the scent of home cooking leaking in from the kitchen. The seascape seen through a window, shaped by my great grandfather, changed constantly. The distant roar of angry waves cuffing the rocky shore provided a rumbling accompaniment to our voices. It took twenty years for our chat to come back to me.

Second goodbye

At 90 years old, Dad had a burst appendix. Told to expect the worst, I rushed south. Mum was off somewhere when I arrived. The echoes of feet slapping lino resounded from painted walls. The smell of bleach, cleaning liquids and stale food reminded me of his situation.

This time? 

They told me where to find him. His bed was empty. A spider of fear walked up  my back.

Then a jingling like Santa’s sleigh started. He appeared shuffling, slow as a turtle, pushing a gantry of drips. Dad didn’t take things lying down including the toilet.

‘Hello young-man.’

‘Hello old-man.’

He gazed at me for a moment. ‘I hate those catheter things.’ He’d just had a tough op for goodness sake. We talked for a while.

‘What happened to the three-score and ten, Dad?’ He looked tired, but not at death’s door.

His eyes fogged with thought. As the haze cleared, a twinkle appeared and with it, an impish smile. ‘Preparation my boy.’ I returned north reassured.

Bless me …

I visited again a couple of days later (300 mile round trip). He knew I was coming. He sat, erect in a hospital chair, beside his bed. He wore his dog-collar and a black jacket, looking every inch a Church of Scotland Minister. After a hug, he asked me to get on my knees.

‘Preparation Malcolm,’ Using my proper name, this was formal. ‘I’m going to bless you.’

I knelt, leaned forward and he laid his hands on my head. His words commended me to God, I can’t remember them, emotions ran high. The video link is worth a watch.

NHS floors were hard in those days, too, my knees cracked as I stood up. He wiped a small tear.

We talked, laughed and had tea and biscuits from an apple cheeked Cumbrian nurse.


The next goodbye was yet to come, but that’s another tale.

© Mac Logan