Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Writing Space

Over the past few years I’ve been blessed with having a space dedicated for my self-indulgent and, ultimately, fruitless task of writing. 

When I lived alone, despite the whole flat being a single room (en suite, mind), the prime spot was given over to a desk for my computer while eating was relegated to a separate, smaller table in the corner.  The writing desk took pride of place, at the end of my bed and by peering around the monitor I could see out the window.  The view wasn’t spectacular, being mainly of the first floor flat next door and a narrow strip of terrace between the two buildings.  If I angled my head I could also see into the flat on the floor above mine, but that served little purpose except to freak out the Argentinean woman who lived there mere months and caught by gaze more than once.  Still, it was a space in which to work and those years were my most productive in terms of hours spent creating words, if nothing else.  Of course, that was probably more to do with living alone and doing whatever I wanted whenever I wanted rather than the desk itself, but having somewhere which was permanently ready to write at was a bonus.

When my fiancée was still only my girlfriend and we moved in together, she generously allowed this practice to continue.  Despite her new job expecting her to work at home a couple of days a week, it was I who bagged the dedicated space while she borrowed the dining table each time.  This spot didn’t have a view, being plugged in behind the kitchen door and needing a lamp to be lit at all times to alleviate the gloom.  Still it was mine, covered in a scattering of messy papers, notes to self and scrawled ideas.  I’d come home from paid work, charge up the laptop and be away back where I’d been the night before without having to rearrange my space.

All of this is just so many excuses for my lack of productivity in the past year.  I write this sitting at the kitchen table, not because there isn’t a desk I can use elsewhere in the house, but because it is early on a Sunday morning and I am trying not to disturb my sleeping fiancée, who prefers to spend those hours in bed, sensible girl.   It should be fine, but the words are a struggle.  I have to fight to out, retch each sentence up onto the white screen.  Blaming the space rather than my lack of inspiration seems easy.

My writing tailed off while we were homeless last year.  Finding the mental and physical space to open up my laptop and connect was difficult in other people’s houses.  Asking someone to keep the noise down when they were offering me somewhere to sleep would have been out of order.  Configuring a space so I felt comfortable, or co-opting it so that I had priority of access for one week would have been excessive.  Then, when we finally got into the house it was a dust fogged ruin for three months with hardly any opportunity for either space or time in which to write.

Clearly, if I’m being rational, then it is the mental, emotional and physical pressures which have kept me from producing anything of worth not the lack of a special spot.  The need for a writing desk is rubbish.  I took my novel to Turkey, where we escaped to last October, and so while my fiancée enjoyed the sunshine and devoured books, I drank tea and wrote.  A writing retreat in January to a house in Sussex saw the most productive weekend I’ve had in years, getting a whole short story out in three days even though there were people around, wine to be drunk and the chairs were distinctly uncomfortable.  So practice supports the theory that it really shouldn’t matter where I am.  It’s all just an excuse.

Real writing space is mental space.

I love the study we’ve set up, especially the view out over Lewisham.  Not the most picturesque, you could argue, but I enjoy the sight of the houses tumbling down the hillside, the distant spires, the multi-storey car-park, the occasional glimpses of the trains on the raised tracks nipping between buildings, and in the far distance Oxleas Woods climbing the sides of Shooters Hill, beyond which is Kent.  The desk sits square with the window and on the wall a clock reclaimed from an East German factory ticks the seconds away I spend writing, failing to progress with, aptly enough, a novel set partly in Berlin.  Behind me bookshelves are packed.  The cat comes and sits on the windowsill, sharing the view.  It should be my sort of paradise.

And yet nothing happens.

We share the desk this time, which is a little more challenging.  I have to be more considerate.  I have to tidy away my papers at the end of a session, lest she tidy them away for me.  All of which is fine, if a little stuttering.  In fact, I appreciate the enforced tidiness.  I like the traces of her left on the desk.  Her phone charger.  Her iPod. Occasionally her diary, forgotten.  A work report, partly read, partly annotated.  It all reminds me that I have another, especially when she’s away.

Sharing isn’t the problem, it’s my head.  Getting momentum going, finding that sweet spot where the words and narrative just flow through my fingers, almost without thought, as though the story has been inside me the whole time just waiting to come out:  It won’t happen and I don’t know why.  

My fiancée recently, rightly, corrected me when I referred to two days’ leave I’d taken from paid employment to write as work.  It’s something I choose to do and something I love, but also something I hate.  I can’t stand my words at the moment (including these ones).  I find them trite and uninteresting; bland and boringly dreary.  Originality escapes me, but I have to keep believing it is inside somewhere.  I’ve gone too far to give up now.

I don’t know what else to do except keep typing, even if that’s not strictly speaking writing.


Thursday, 24 April 2014


Some years ago, when GPS was still had an air of witchcraft and novelty about it, I was hiking across the top of Kinder Scout, in the Peak District, with the group of friends you’d expect.  Kinder Scout is hellish.  The summit’s plateau is a bog stained, trench riddled, hostile, bleakly miserable place to trudge through the relentless drizzle it attracts ninety percent of the year.  The inevitable low  cloud, peat gulleys and lack of marked paths make it particularly tricky to navigate.  Many times, I have ended up in ever-decreasing circles, trying to circumnavigate a large expanse of sucking bog yet not actually making any progress forwards.  This time, though, it was going to be different.  This time, John had a GPS tracker.  ‘Linked to up six satellites,’ he proudly announced, tuning it in at the waterfall’s top where we would leave sensible walking and enter the labyrinth. 

Less than five minutes later: ‘Er, slight problem guys,’ John called. ‘I’m out of battery.’

This is why I like physical maps.

They’re tangible and reliable and any failing is almost certainly down to the user, not the map itself.  I can fully accept me getting something wrong, that happens all the time.  I am significantly more irritated when a service paid for buggers it up.

Reading Rachel Hewitt’s memoir of the Ordnance Survey maps in Saturday’s Guardian, I felt a nostalgic pang.  I am a dedicated fan of OS maps.  The chest that lives on our landing is packed full of OS maps from Kent and Surrey to the Norfolk Broads, down to the surfing beaches of Cornwall, the Devon coves, up through most of Wales, the Chilterns, into the Peak District, Yorkshire Dales, the Lake District and on to the Northumbrian Coast.  Each evokes memories of a holiday or weekend break around the country, coloured contour lines and over-sized blue pint glasses tracking time spent.

OS doesn’t seem in any danger of disappearing.  The majority of its business comes from maintaining its MasterMap, the most accurate and detailed representation of a country anywhere on Earth, updated 10,000 times a day and used to inform everything from housing stock indexes, road planning, defence to postcode districts.  Actual maps, physical or otherwise, sold for use account for just seven percent of business.  So, OS seems fine, but there is a decrease in the use of maps generally.  From road atlases to A-Zs, people are increasingly shunning paper in favour of the screen.

This is an argument my fiancée and I regularly have:  I don’t use a sat-nav, but I do have a road atlas in the car.  My fiancée gets car sick, so I may be driving and simultaneously grappling with the map on my lap to check the point for the final turn.  She doesn’t like to look at the atlas, because it makes her feel sick, but will always offer to use the mapping software on her phone and I will always decline.

Quite why I turn down the offer of help is unclear even to me.  I am luddite, I prefer books to e-readers and physical music to downloads, both of which are largely aesthetic decisions (although I maintain that physical music sounds better than downloads), and I don’t think anyone seriously thinks that replacing maps to be used in the middle of nowhere with an App on your phone is a sensible idea – not when issues of battery life and reception that can be disrupted by low lying cloud remain – but why the affection for road atlases and A-Zs?

It can’t be accuracy.  My London A-Z is from 2000 and large swathes of it are completely wrong.  Streets that are now one-way are marked as two way, housing estates in Peckham long demolished are still present, the A12 triple lane bypass exiting the East End marked by dotted lines of the proposed route.  My A-Z captures not an accurate representation of the city around me but a relic of what it was like when I first moved here.  I keep it for nostalgia reasons and, despite its inaccuracies, I prefer it to electronic versions.  It makes me think more.  It makes me more aware of my surroundings.  It prevents me becoming ones of those people I overtake on the motorway at night, their satnavs plugged to their windscreens, showing forever straight onwards.

OS maps are the same.  They require you to concentrate, to read the map and translate it into the topography around you.  It’s more rewarding than simply turning left when prompted.  Maps help you to learn and remember.  I can usually find a route after using it once because I’ve been paying attention, because I understand the world I’m passing through not just obeying instructions delivered in the voice of an ironic washed up eighties icon or by an arrow hesitantly on a screen in my rough location.

Maybe it’s only a small step away from the hogwash being spouted by Grant Morrison.  Maybe instead of fiction suits a map allows you wear a geographical suit.  You blend into the landscape, urban or rural.  A little bit of magic takes place.

I just need to keep it in perspective else there be another slight problem, guys.


Wednesday, 16 April 2014


They say you should never meet your heroes and, perhaps, that advice should be extended to never reading your hero’s semi-autobiography.

Grant Morrison isn’t, technically, one of my heroes, literary or otherwise.  He doesn’t have the world sagging weariness of Graham Greene or the majestic warning of George Orwell or even the playful zip of ambition that Nicola Barker’s work carries.  He did, however, get invited to the davidmarstonwrites 100th edition party.  Or at least a fictional construct of him did.  And that’s because he was hugely important to me, as a teenager, exposing me to the idea that writing could pushed by imagination.  You could get away with anything, no matter how little sense it made, as long as you were good enough. 

Unlike the other three, Morrison is a writer not of novels but of comics – or graphic novels as they occasionally, pretentiously claim to be.  Supergods, with the subtitle of ‘Our World in the Age of Superhero’ that it doesn’t really live up to, is part potted history of American comics, part autobiography, part barking mad philosophical statement.

When I was a teenager and first getting into Morrison it was through obnoxious counter-culture vehicles like the Invisibles, Doom Patrol and Kill Your Boyfriend.  Pop art wearing punk boots and a sneer; drug references I pretended to understand; the secrets of the universe laced with fetish sex, glamour guns, French philosophy and an anti-authority widescreen wink.  His work was cool, if somewhat tricky to explain.  Concepts like the painting that ate Paris, Danny the transvestite street,  the Marquis de Sade as a time travelling sidekick to Carter and Regan from the Sweeney, all seemed fabulous in the moment, but – even now – seem just bizarre when said out loud. 
The Invisibles - more anti-authority than
Superman (art Steve Yeowell)

In the past decade, though, Morrison has stepped away from funkily interesting work and wholeheartedly embraced superheroes.  He’s, reasonably enough, followed the money and worked on Superman, Batman, the X-Men and so on.  All the ones you see at the cinema.  He kept the imaginative narrative concepts, kooky dialogue and twisting story loops, but repackaged it as a summer friendly blockbuster.  And in Supergods Morrison claims that his earlier snotty abrasiveness for such brash commercialism was a sham all along; that he’s always loved superheroes, he was just waiting to be reinvented again.
The Mystery Play - "God's dead" - more interesting
concepts than fighting super-villains (art Jon J Muth)

They’re not something that’s ever really worked for me.  Flying Gods with personality problems? Popcorn entertainment, sure, but I don’t have the reverence Morrison seems to have suddenly always had.  I loved his work on Animal Man, back in the late eighties, and perhaps there was, underneath the mischief making, a loveliness to his handling of a third-rate superhero.  But, for me, the interesting bit was the metafictional subtext.  Morrison wrote himself into the comic.  It became a fiction about fiction.  A non-superhero superhero comic dedicated to the memory of Morrison’s childhood imaginary friend, surprisingly touching in the final panels.  That was what made it work, not the fight with Mirror Master. 

Morrison writes himself meeting third rate
superhero, Animal Man (art Chas Truog)

Still, who am I to judge?  As Morrison’s ego splattered pages in Supergods repeatedly remind the reader, he’s made a lot of money from writing about the death and rebirth of Batman.  Supergods’ smugness really got my back up.

There’s a point to all this.   

Despite moving into our house in July last year we’re still unpacking.  Until recently, the spare room was piled high with cardboard boxes.  Partly this has been because of not wanting to unpack and then move things around as we decorate and renovate and partly it has been a surprising lack of furniture to hold all our stuff. 

And by our stuff I mean, of course, books.

We’ve just had custom made floor to ceiling book shelves and cupboards installed in the recesses either side of the lounge fireplace.  This means that the cheap flat pack shelves I bought from Homebase fourteen years ago and have been moving around the city ever since have migrated to the study.  This, I thought, would give us (me) sufficient capacity for more books.

I was wrong.

They are all, essentially, full.  The lounge shelves are jam-packed, if the cupboards are half empty.  Three shelves remain empty in the study.  Where, I wonder, did they all go in the flat?  How did I fit this much stuff in that tiny studio I had before?  This realisation, plus the endless back breaking lugging of them around for half the summer, is forcing me to rethink my attitude to endless physical book consumption.  Maybe it just isn’t practical.

Something needs to be done, but my hoarding/miserly nature makes me reluctant to throw everything away.  So what am I to do?

Back in Supergods, Morrison talks about that time he was kidnapped by a four dimensional meta-alien and shown the secrets of language magic which enables him to simultaneously inhabit the 4D higher plane, our own 3D world and the 2D universe of comics.  Morrison seems to seriously believe he is capable of putting on his fiction suit and entering a subsection of our own reality, one we can all read.  That he can create a character who looks like him (or he modifies his look to be like), writes a scene in which the character is tortured and the writer nearly dies from an illness mirroring the exact same injuries the character sustains.  Eccentric doesn’t even begin to cover it, and while I agree the coincidences that support Morrison’s belief that the things he writes then come true are incredible, it’s just the world working in mysterious ways. 

It happens to us all.

For example, between Christmas and New Year I read Ian McEwan’s Solar.  A one point, there is a scene where the protagonist is on a train and accidentally eats a stranger’s salt and vinegar crisps.  The stranger, rather than reacting aggressively, feels pity for Michael Beard’s apparent lack of grip on humanity and responds by trying to share the crisps.  Beard thinks his crisps are being stolen and so eats with more vigour until the stranger disembarks the train.   Shortly after New Year a variation on this scene appeared to me in Douglas Adams’ four volume of the Hitch-hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy trilogy, So Long and Thanks for all the Fish.  Arthur Dent is waiting in a train station and buys a packet of biscuits to go with his tea.  The cafe is busy and so he shares a table whereupon the same scene ensues, only for Adams it is the characters’ innate Englishness which means the confusion can’t be resolved by talking to each other.  Shortly afterwards I was in a pub where I accidentally started drinking someone else’s pint, even preparing myself to complain that the barman had poured the wrong beer.  The mistake was quickly sorted out, but in Morrison’s imagination such a thing could be an example of fiction taking over life, the words I’d read seeping into my reality.   It isn’t.  

More interesting are the cycles of mental and creative death and rebirth Morrison believes he – and society – go through.  He ritually goes through transformations from scruffy punk kid to shaven headed sharp suited wrap around shades magus and then on to his next incarnation.  From the dark to the light and back again.  He suggests music does the same, from punk to plastic eighties to rave and on to Britpop.  Morrison’s changes are more than just a haircut or a shift from resentful abrasive writing to optimistic cloud surfing.  With each rebirth he is creatively recharged, anticipating, he says, the next popular zeitgeist (and making lots of money); he becomes the future.

Hanif Kureishi, being interviewed for Guardian at the same time I was pondering my response to Supergods in another coincidence not an example of the cosmos at work, agrees.  Every ten years, he claims, writers have to become someone else.  The very act of writing recycles so much of your life, expunges so much of you onto the page, that you need to create a different persona just to have another vein of material to tap.  Just to keep going.

I sort of do this, only with less self-conscious bravado and over a period of time rather than a sudden transformation in a hotel bathroom. Over the past seven years I have gone from corporate suit to unemployed arts student to penniless writer back to a regular member of society.  I have spent the past year, like Morrison, chasing the money.  As I find my writing career failing to even start, my paid career has stepped up.  I have moved into the property owning class I once vilified and will be getting married in the summer.  Time changes and perhaps it is time for a change; perhaps I need to look at the baggage and the books I’ve been dragging around with me and instigate a purge.

As I run up to my wedding, part of me feels I should be undertaking some sort of herculean tasks, some challenges that define who I am.  Perhaps, instead, before I become a married man, there is still time to become a different man one more time.

Or just to work out how all the different parts of me need to be balanced and get a new haircut.

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

London Bridge

I don’t use the trains so much these days.  One of the joys of being in a relationship with my fiancée is that it finally spurred me, at the then age of thirty-one,to learn how to ride a bike.  So, most mornings and evenings I can be found weaving amongst the crawling traffic on the Old Kent Road.

I find it hugely satisfying.  Riding is cheaper than the train, usually more reliable, almost always quicker and thirty minutes of heart pounding exercise each way will be the main reason that I’ve dropped several trouser sizes in the past couple of years.  (Although, drinking less beer, eating less motorway service station food and not spending all day, every day sitting down has probably helped – and even then, alas, the withdrawal of my stomach seems to have stalled and I need to recognise that the benefits of the 16 mile daily cycle have hit a plateau and I no longer have an excuse for a second breakfast).

There are, however, a couple of things I miss about commuting by train.  I lose about ninety minutes reading time every day, which is sorely missed, but I also miss the company.  Riding is a solitary activity.  Not that I previously commuted with friends, but there was always a bit of the city in the carriage with me.  Long term readers of David Marston Writes will, no doubt, remember how snippets of dialogue or stolen images glimpsed on the railways between Brockley and London Bridge used to add colour to my posts.  You might think that cycling would allow me to see more of the city, which is kind of true, but it all passes by in an instant and, anyway, I’m focussing on the lorry turning right fifty metres further up the road.

Most of what I saw and overheard was either amusing, in a smug superior way, or socially awkward.  Nothing serious ever really happened, except that one time, years ago, back when I still lived up Honor Oak Park way.  There used to be this big bear of a man I saw regularly on the trains.  He got on and off in Honor Oak too and was easy to spot from his height, girth, sports casual jacket, over-sized unlaced trainers, big grey beard and enormous headphones.  He always stood out and back then the signage around London Bridge was even worse than it is now, so I was always reassured by his presence that I was on the right train.       

One early summer’s evening I strode down platform fourteen heading to where I expected the front of the train to be once it finally came in.  I picked him out from a distance, bobbing his head while he waited on one of the benches.  The sun streamed in through the glass roof and played its way through the green iron rafters.  Out beyond the end of the platforms the railway lines criss-crossed their way out south and the city dropped away to either side, skittling around the base of the Guy’s Hospital tower.  London looked beautiful in the way it tends to do, a couple of times a year:  Lovely and serene and filled with new possibilities.

As I got closer the speed of his head bobbing increased steadily to the point where I remember wondering what on earth he was listening to.  At the very moment my feet passed his chunky shoes he sprang up.  Instinctively I turned to face him.  His mouth was torn wide in a silent scream, his eyes pooled, glassy and lost.  There were flecks of spittle in his beard as he keeled forward hitting the ground with a surprisingly soft thud.

I was frozen to the spot for what seemed like an age, but can only have been a second.  I couldn’t think what I should be doing; the young me completely failed to react.

‘It’s all right,’ a woman said firmly brushing my useless self aside.  ‘I’m a doctor.’  And with those reassuring words the station came back to life.  I could see a guard running down the platform.  Someone else had their mobile phone out and was already calling an ambulance.  I hovered in the background, still not being of any help, until, eventually, I left them to it, feeling guilty at how little I had to offer, but not wanting to get in the way.

I hadn’t thought of that evening in ages until Tuesday.

My bike is out of action for a couple of days.  The rear derailleur inexplicably snapped clean off as I dropped down the gears to get over Vicar’s Hill and home so I’ve been commuting by train again.  Tuesday evening, I’d left work promptly to get to the bike shop before it closed.  As I said, I don’t normally use the trains anymore and when I do it’s when I’ve been out of a drink so it’s usually dark.  Ten to six in April and the station is bright and full of spring.  I was also taking a train to Honor Oak Park, where the bike shop is, for the first time in years - these days I tend to go to Lewisham or Ladywell – so I had to change in London Bridge. 

It was an annoying gap between the trains.  A ten minute wait for a departure with the shop closing before too long.  I walked down to the end of the platform, the front of the train, closest to the exit at my destination.  It was a Victoria loop train, one of the ones that chugs out south to Crystal Palace before banking west and back into the city via Battersea, a painfully slow route from London Bridge to Victoria, but you usually get a seat. 

No-one else was on the platform so I thought I was the first one on the train, but in the carriage I found someone else.  A guy, about my age sat with his head down, cheeks flushed violent red, feet up on the seat opposite, not moving.  Underneath his outstretched legs was a torn Primark paper bag and, I assumed, his mobile phone, crashed to the hard floor, the back pinged off and the battery next to it. 

‘You all right, mate?’ I called, but he didn’t stir.  I moved closer.  His knuckles were scuffed, some scabbed over, some still bleeding.  ‘London Bridge, all change, yeah?’  He still didn’t respond, his chin pressed hard into his chest.  I shook his shoulder gently and then more firmly. 

Someone else had been more decisive than me and collected a guard from the platform.

‘Sir!  Hello,’ they tried to no avail, even going so far as to blow their whistle in his ear, but the body would not stir. 

The guard was stood by the open doors muttering coded messages into his walkie talkie and I saw the closed sign being turned over in the shop window, when suddenly a voice said:  “Fackin ‘ell, this ain’t Vauxhall.’  The voice’s owner woozily gathered its belongings, including the scattered phone components, lifted the Primark bag from the bottom clutching the contents to its chest, staggered into the hand rail pole and wobbled up the platform, still swearing.

Three or four years after the man collapsed in front of me in the station, and six years ago now, I was tending bar in the Brockley Jack one evening when I saw a ghost.  The man walked in through the door, big floppy trainers unlaced, headphones around his neck, same grubby jacket, same stripy jumper underneath.  I’d never known that the platform incident had been fatal or otherwise, but for some reason I’d just presumed the worst. 

For a ghost, it was thirsty.  He drank three pints of lager and ate two bags of dry roasted nuts in about forty minutes, propping up the bar, glancing at his watch and the door as though waiting for someone and then he left.  I kept meaning to ask him how he was, to say that I’d been there, but I didn’t know how to begin.

Probably best to keep it that way; probably best to keep all these people as just stories of the city half known and half imagined.

Thursday, 3 April 2014


There are times when the world starts to give off little end of days signals, as though something big is coming and it isn’t going to be pretty.  Sure, it’s finally stopped raining, but we’ve gone headfirst into a ridiculously mild spring adding further fuel to the impression that we broke the world a while back and the warranty has run out.  Then you’ve got the North and South Koreans having their annual festivity of rockets being launched is getting a little out of hand, Turkey’s authority disintegrating in a ridiculous petty banning of modern life, the hell that life must be in Syria, Russia flexing its muscles and reclaiming lands it never really let go of, half the Sahara is blowing through the country, people bothering to listen to Nigel Farrage and the Tories creeping up in the opinion polls despite making a hash of the last four years.  It all feels a little desperate.
Oh, yeah and then there’s Scotland.
The top half of the country – as in the current union of the United Kingdom – will be given the option of deciding whether it wants to detach itself.  This makes me sad, not least because, given the above, if I was Scotland, I’d leave and abandon the asylum to the lunatics.
If Scotland votes for independence, then I’ll think it’s a huge shame, but I understand their thinking.  It’s like Renton says in Trainspotting:  ‘Some hate the English.  I don’t they’re just wankers.  We on, the other hand, have been colonised by wankers...We’re ruled by effete arseholes.’  Thinking those in charge are useless is not the same as wanting violent revolution, but it does mean you probably think you can do better yourself.
That was never quite the plan when James VI agreed to be Elizabeth I’s heir in 1603.  Unifying the old enemies with a Scot on the throne must have felt like a triumph, but over the ensuing centuries it’s the English who have a stack of things to apologise for.  The guy at the top may have been, for a couple of generations, Scottish but the ruling infrastructure was still English.  From military and economic oppression, from nicking all the north sea oil money and investing it in projects which benefited the south-east to the disgrace that was Culloden, from pretending that most of the great minds that powered us to being the world’s first superpower were English when so many of them were Scottish, to taking too long to rescind the poll tax legislation, from turfing your ancestors off their land and then using their descendants as cannon fodder in expansionist war after intervention to which you never agreed.  I guess there’re plenty of things we should have handled better.
At the beginning of the century – after I’d done most of my travelling around Europe – it felt like the continents borders had become fixed.  The wars had been won.  Democracy, of a sort, was established everywhere.  The EU was a friendly, parental hand to guide the newcomers.  I guess things were more fluid than I realised.
Part of me wants to quite like Alex Salmond.  He talks a good fight.  He sounds like a socialist.  He’s promising a better world in a way that hasn’t been heard from someone in power since the Atlee government.  Even taking into account that hypocritical thing he does of pretending not to be a politician despite being in politics for decades, if I was Scottish, I’d be tempted to join him.
Except, aside from some distant maternal ancestry, I’m not. 
Unfortunately, if there’s one thing that the chaos that still rippling out from the dissolution of the USSR twenty-five years ago shows, it’s not enough to just have ideals.  I’m sorry.  I wish it was, I really do.  I really wish that thinking and saying the right thing was enough, but it’s not.  And from what I gather, it sounds like Salmond’s white paper is kind of short on detail and makes a few founding assumptions (sterling retention, EU membership) that increasingly appear to be laid on unstable ground.
So, don’t do it Scotland.  Don’t leave us alone.  Don’t give us – the normal, considerate people of England, Wales and Northern Ireland – don’t leave us with something else to apologise to you for.
Because it’s being stitched up, isn’t it?
The government is getting all aggressive.  They’re making threats and sounding vaguely patronising, like a parent who has just about had enough of nuanced, rational argument and wants the discussion to end so they can get back to their newspaper without realising that their child is a teenager now and wants to argue because they think they’re right.  We’ve going to have to do more than threatening to stop Scotland’s pocket money to persuade it to stay.
It’s almost like they want Scotland to break free, as though the Conservatives are okay having less country to boss around.  Maybe they’re so convinced it’ll be an unmitigated disaster that Scotland will come crawling back or maybe it’s just because they’ve done their sums and, well, there are no Tory voters in Scotland anymore are there?  They all vote Labour and SNP and Liberal.  Much easier if they just remove those non-Tory MPs from the equation and maybe they’ll have a majority.    
If I were resigned to it all, then I could say this is all part of the cycle countries go through.  Borders will always be fluid both because of the past and the future.  Our boundaries are man-made, forged by conflict and bloodshed, people under another’s rule because of aggression hundreds of years ago.  These memories don’t fade, either for the conquered or the conqueror.  Just look at how many times the Ukraine has been in and out of the Russian Empire.  Democracy makes it easier and as long as people can dream of a better tomorrow, they’ll be wistful for a yesterday blurred by nostalgia. 
Despite knowing that it is only the natural order, I don’t want Scotland to leave the United Kingdom.  It has some of our best qualities – fantastic countryside, great humour, full of amazing creative people in music, literature, art and film.  It has whisky for God’s sake.  You can’t take that away from me.  I’m sorry I haven’t spent more time with you recently, but please, don’t leave us.  We need you.