Quakeless, faulty hickorigrad, too long home of homosocial golf,
Captained by ex-military chaps who failed the course,
And course-setters, all mortar-boarded with digital swank:
Where there’s a Will there’s a Kate.
All-weather Mecca of mediaevalists, on your Middle Age high-rise
Leylines converge, or three do: North Street
South Street and Market Street, each thrawnly cobbled with cars.
Opposite that restaurant a heretic was burned,
Brass gobstopper in his mouth.
Up that church tower a big gun was hauled
To bombard the righteous. In God’s ‘Reformation bombsite’
John Knox, Borges, and Mary Queen of Scots
Glare at a fish and chip shop.
Full-on, the pale, crucified cathedral
Oversees high seas among Greek and eroding coding,
QR codes, canapés and creels.
Debt-ridden, teetering forever on the edge
Of fiscal and non-fiscal cliffs,
Scholars gallop over sunstroked sands,
Yowling their chill inspiration.
The Castle uncrumbles, saving itself,
Only just, from North Sea blues,
Smug about its pioneer photographers,
Vestiges, Sir Kaleidoscope, sleet.
Even on a bad day you can spot a heron
Towards the Rock and Spindle, or nab a poet
Or the ghost of one, in a dwam on The Scores;
On good days, precisely aligned as lasers,
Pipes and choir fling grace notes from the organ-loft.
Nothing happens here, six hundred times,
The six-hundred-and-first: Eureka!
Yahs and Wee Fionas, Amurkns, Shanghai connoisseurs,
Pilgrims from Tokyo with clubs
Traipse past scarlet-gowned pier reviews,
Ogle an Art-Deco cinema, a Byre
No cow was milked in, far too many pubs,
And Scots fall in love with it – not quite our country --
Half out of this world, half philosophically shat-on
By seagulls and journalists, half irreplaceable,
A one-off one-and-a-half:
Global village, Herculanaeum-on-Sea.
Not from here, I call it home.
From The Scottish Ambassador (Jonathan Cape, 2018)