From my Diary

7pm, Wednesday May 4; launch event for Private Investigations, the 26th Bob Skinner novel.

Venue: Waterstone, 175 High Street, Kirkcaldy.

7pm , Thursday May 5; event for Edinburgh Bookshop, contact shop for tickets on 0131 449 1917.

Venue: Eric Liddell Centre, 15 Morningside Road, Edinburgh.

12 noon, Saturday May 7; public signing.

Venue: WH Smith Books, Gyle Centre, Edinburgh

3pm, Saturday May 7; public signing.

Venue: Atkinson-Pryce Books, 27 High Street, Biggar.

1pm, Sunday May 8; public signing

Venue: Waterstone West End, 128 Princes Street, Edinburgh

3pm Sunday May 8; public signing.

Venue: Costco, Loanhead.

Categories: General

Grimm reading

April 18, 2016 1 comment

Scanning through the Herald this morning, I came across a story with the headline, ‘Actor couple warn parents not to leave it too late if planning pregnancy.’

It began, ‘A leading actress has warned couples against delaying parenthood after she and her film star husband had to turn to IVF to have their daughters.’

What’s wrong with that? Well, putting aside the fact that the Herald actually admitted to lifting the piece from the cesspit of prurience that is the Daily Mail, putting aside its inability to differentiate between jobbing actors and those in the front line of their profession . . . it isn’t news.

Thousands of families across the country have the same story to tell, and the fact that the lady who is quoted has appeared in such dramas as Grimm (so did my mate Nurmi, another jobbing actor, until they killed him off in the current series) and The Vampire Dramas adds nothing to it.

What’s bad about it? The subtle implication that IVF is in some way wrong, and the emphasis on its cost. For most people it isn’t a career-driven choice, it’s a first and last resort.

My message to  the Herald and its editor: think before you publish, even on a slow news day, and most of all, work harder. I’m a paying subscriber to your online paper, but I have a background in your industry, and so I know sheer downright laziness when I see it.



Categories: General

Mixed Emotions

April 18, 2016 Comments off

Just as Valderrama peeled off some of the rust in my game after seven weeks off, so too did it inspire me to dust off the cobwebs from my keyboard. It takes special places and experiences sometimes…

Source: Mixed Emotions

Categories: Uncategorized

Circus life

A couple who work at the circus go to an adoption agency.
Social workers there raise doubts about their suitability.
The couple produce photos of their 50 foot motorhome, which is equipped with a beautiful nursery.
The social workers then are doubtful about the education that the child would get.
“We’ve arranged for a full-time tutor who will teach the child all the usual subjects along with French, Mandarin and computer skills.”
Then there are doubts about raising a child in a circus environment.
“Our nanny is an expert in paediatric welfare and diet.”
The social workers are finally satisfied.
They ask, “What age child are you hoping to adopt?”
“It doesn’t really matter, as long as he fits in the cannon”


Categories: General


April 11, 2016 5 comments

“You can’t let it get to your head when you win, and you can’t let it get to your heart when you fail. You’ve got to take it as it comes.”
Quote of the week, but whose?

Categories: General


Before I move on from Scottish Field, the current issue has a ‘restaurant review’. The subject is an eaterie which I will not name because it isn’t very flattering.

Leaving aside the idiocy of any person making a judgement based on someone else’s taste buds, the thing about the piece that aroused my ire was its by-line: ‘The Mystery Diner’.

I’m sorry, but if you do a hatchet job on someone’s business and you don’t have the cojones to sign your name to it, you are beneath contempt. You’re not a journalist, you’re a vandal daubing a public place with a spray can.

The editor of Scottish Field is Richard Bath. My name is out there for everyone.


Categories: General

Land grab

My dear wife has a subscription to Scottish Field, the country life magazine that has become a national institution. She reads it more than I do, but today I picked it up to study a piece by my old acquaintance Bill Jamieson. I thank him for it, and believe that it needs a wider audience.

His article points out an anomaly in the brand new Holyrood legislation which  replaces Stamp Duty in Scotland with a Land and Buildings Transaction Tax, which will make home owners who complete a purchase of a new main residence before selling the old one liable for an Additional Dwelling Supplement of 3% of the total purchase price.

In other words, you buy a new home, let’s say for £350,000. You will be liable for LBTT at 10%. That’s right, you will pay Revenue Scotland £35,000 for the privilege of making that purchase. Then, if your old place doesn’t sell before your completion date, you will be liable for a further £10,500 on your second home that isn’t.

I’ve picked that figure to catch the eye, I admit. (Mind you, try and buy a Cala house for under £350,000.) LBTT will be levied on a sliding scale; if the purchase price is between £145,000 and £250,000 the rate os 2%. Between £250,000 and £325,000 it’s 5%. Whatever the level, it’s a tax on people’s aspirations and it doesn’t sit well with me.

When Eileen told me about this, my first reaction was to assume that she had misread it. But no, it’s for real. This is what Revenue Scotland says about it on its website.

“Q: I am buying my next house which will be my main residence. I am selling my existing main residence but the contract for sale will not go through until after my new purchase is completed. As I am selling one property and buying another, will the Additional Dwelling Supplement apply?

A: Yes. When you purchase your new house, because you will not have sold your existing main residence, you will own two houses. You will therefore have to pay the Additional Dwelling Supplement on the purchase of your next house.

However, on 2 March 2016, the Scottish Parliament’s Finance Committee agreed to amend the Bill at stage 2 of the Bill process to allow for the situation where the buyer purchases their new main residence before they sell their old one. In such a situation, if the sale of the previous main residence takes place before the tax return for the purchase of the next main residence is made, no Additional Dwelling Supplement is due.

If you have already submitted a return for the purchase transaction, you will, be eligible to make a claim for the repayment of the Additional Dwelling Supplement you paid once your previous house is sold, provided that completion takes place within 18 months of the purchase of your next home. Example 2.05 explains how to claim a repayment of the Additional Dwelling Supplement.”

I have no plans to move, or to buy an additional home in Scotland; if I had, I’d be shelving them.

At a time when the Scottish housing market needs to be stimulated, the party of which I am a member seems to be doing its best to cut its throat. Leaving aside the morality of a tax on home ownership, would it not have been more sensible administratively, and less damaging to the individuals caught in this nasty little trap to make the tax fall due 18 months after the completion date on the purchase transaction?


This too: similar taxes are due on property purchases in Spain. As a result what happens in practice, the parties agree on a declared price for housing transaction, and an actual price. When the two come together in the Notario’s office to complete the purchase, said public official will leave the room during  the process, and the balance of the price will change hands, in cash.

How long will it be before the passage of brown envelopes containing £50,000 in cash becomes commonplace in Scotland?



Categories: General, Politics

Best of causes

I am not big on plugging other people’s books, but I’m happy to make an exception for ‘My Dog, My Friend’, a new compilation put together by Jacki Gordon and published by Hubble and Hattie, a dog-dedicated imprint that’s part of Veloce Press.

It’s a couple of years since Jacki approached me and asked if I would contribute a doggie story to her collection, the clincher being that all author royalties would be going to the Samaritans.

I don’t have a dog, but what the hell, I’m creative, so I did a small piece dedicated to the boy Canelo, the younger of my step-son’s Labradors, in Spain. He and I have a special relationship. You’ll find my story on P 102 of the finished work. Canelo’s in good company, since my felllow contributors include Fred Macaulay, Esther Rantzen, Simon Callow, Charlie Dimmock, Richard Holloway and William McIlvanney, and many others.

You’ll also find this very nice photo of my subject being walked by his Granny.

‘My Dog, My Friend’ can be found on Amazon and, as they say these days with a twist of acid, in all good book shops.

Strongly recommended, and poignant, given the charity that will benefit, that it should be published in the week of Robin Williams’ suicide.

Categories: General

Double doses

March 31, 2016 6 comments
And one more thing. I am very pleased to announce that I have reached agreement with Headline for two additional Skinner novels.
These will be fitted into the schedule to allow for the publication of two titles in 2016, and in 2017.
Now all I have to do is write them.
Categories: General


March 31, 2016 1 comment
Big day in my life. I’ve signed off, more or less, with my editor on next year’s book. Yes, it’s game over on Skinner 27.
Now I can focus on the launch on May 5 of Private Investigations. You can order signed copies now, from
Categories: General


March 27, 2016 1 comment

I watched the first seven rounds of the Chris Eubank/ Nick Blackwell fight last night, but switched off for two reasons: one, an early departure, two, I didn’t want to see the brave lad Blackwell being hurt any worse than he was.

Today, he’s in a coma, and I’m not surprised. It must have been obvious to everyone except the referee andthe lad’s   corner that there was a tragedy in the making, but it took the doctor to stop it.

I’ve watched boxing all my life, but I’ve never had the foreboding that I had last night.

Categories: Sport


Here I go off on one. I have just discovered that Oxfam are selling second-hand books, and God knows what else, on line. Well, f*ck you, Oxfam and co.; try widening your social conscience.

Once upon a time, North Berwick had  a nice book shop called Readmore. Then the charity shops arrived, more than you could shake a stick at, and Readmore went out of business. The same story was told all across the land.

Not long after that I was at a dinner hosted by a Scottish Government minister. As the evening drew to a close, he asked each of us to name something we would like him to do.

I stepped up and said, ‘Yes, please regulate charity shops. Bring them under control, license them, and stop them fucking up the retail environment of  every community they descend upon.’

I thought that would make me very unpopular with my fellow guests, but it didn’t. In fact heads nodded all around the table.






Categories: General

Music while I work

February 27, 2016 Leave a comment

St Teresa: Beth Hart. Absolute goddess; indeed, they both are.

Categories: General, Videos

Tony Blackburn

February 25, 2016 1 comment

How many more people will play the price for the BBC’s guilt over Jimmy Savile? A guy with half a century of popular broadcasting behind him has been axed, brutally and summarily, on the basis of what the current director general Lord Tony Hall describes as ‘my interpretation’.

Instead of lashing out at the unlikeliest of scapegoats, an individual known generally as the hardest working man in radio, Lord Hall should do the decent thing and fall symbollically on his sword. That’s my interpretation.

Categories: General


February 21, 2016 3 comments

Ask me where my nationality lies, when I’m in the land of my birth, and I’ll tell you I’m Scottish and proud of it. Ask me when I’m in Spain, and I might tell you that I’m a citizen of the European Union and content to be one.

The first of those feelings will never change, and not so long ago, I would say that neither would the other. This morning, I can no longer assert my continuing loyalty to Europe.

I’ve spent the last few days looking on at the Prime Minister’s posturing in Europe as he fought, no, begged more like,  for a fairer deal for Britain within the EU. What did he get? He secured what an old leader of mine in the Government Information Service, now deceased, would have described as ‘a form of words’.  Old Charlie’s were meant to be interpreted in a certain way, but almost invariably could be read in another, by anyone with a sharp enough mind.

Dave’s deal in Brussels cuts no ice with me I’m afraid. There’s been some tinkering with the benefit system, okay, but the notion of child benefit being paid in respect of children who are residents of another European nation is just plain ridiculous to me.

That aside, the PM’s triumph will do nothing to restrain the untrammelled inward flow of economic migrants willing to work for the minimum wage, and for less if the employer is shifty enough. I’m an Amazon customer; the last year or so has seen the introduction of a thing called Amazon Logistics, through which most of my deliveries now arrive. Amazon Logistics seems to consist of people in rental vans, never the same one twice, almost invariably with east European accents, and names to match on the cards on the lanyards around their necks. What’s their hourly rate, I wonder?

If you think that’s xenophobic, live with it. I don’t; I see it as the cost of being a good European Union member. That’s one reason why Dave got his deal; the smaller nations, any one of whom could have vetoed it, know that we play by the rules, no matter how disadvantageous they are to our indigenous work-force. We don’t have regulatory fiddles like the French. We don’t have anything as craftily insidious as the Spanish NIE system, which requires citizens of all other EU member nations to register as foreigners, before they can work, buy property or even buy a car, then imposes a bureaucratic system that makes it as difficult as possible to do so.

To be honest, I can live with that stuff, insofar as it doesn’t impact upon me: I’ve had an NIE number for over 25 years, obtained in ten minutes in the Guardia Civil office in Figueres and I’m not likely to be looking for a delivery gig with Amazon logistics. No, my concern over Europe is long term; it’s this  ‘ever closer union’ from which Dave says he’s opted us out.

The way I see it; mainland Europe is moving slowly but inexorably towards becoming a single supranational entity, a collection of independent  states bound together under a single constitution, with a single defence force and overarching federal laws under which everyone must live. Sound familiar?

Eventually Europe, which is already much bigger than the US or Russia in population terms, will elect a chief executive; that person, usually German, will be called ‘President’, and will be called to account by a federal European parliament with which he or she will be regularly at odds. The Prime Minister says that we won’t be apart of that, but in decades to come how easy will it be for us to resist pressure to join, and how will we be able to resist as a nation if that pressure acquires a military edge?

That’s not going to happen in my lifetime, but my grandchildren will see it, of that I’m sure. It’s not a scenario I would wish to bequeath to them.

It is said by the Remain campaign that our economic strength depends on our EU membership. Really? I look across the Atlantic and I do not see Canada being disadvantaged by not being the 51st State. I look around the world and I see nations who are already our cultural and economic partners in a thing we call the Commonwealth. Then I look at home and I see strength and talent in abundance, plus a generosity of spirit which is, frankly, being taken for a ride at this moment in time.

I’m a  member of the Scottish National Party. Our strident leader says I must be a member of the EU as well, but she hasn’t asked if that’s okay with me: it isn’t  Nicola. Put to the choice my first loyalty will always lie with my family and with my descendants. That’s why I’ll be voting ‘Leave’: for Rex and Mia.



Categories: General, Politics


February 21, 2016 5 comments

Yes, I know. I’ve been away, but my excuse is the same as always: I’ve been working on a book. In this case, it’s a Skinner, number 27 in the series; the title will stay secret for  now, but save for a few days editing, it’s done and about to be dusted.

Categories: General

Music while I work

She’s been around for 20 years, but I’d never heard of Beth Hart until I saw her on Jools Holland’s Hootenanny at New Year. But I’m catching up fast.

Categories: General

My Big Cousin

December 21, 2015 3 comments

When I was a kid in Lanarkshire, cousins came in two sizes, Big and Wee. Until two more came along when I was aged eight and ten I had one of each, and they were both girls. My Big Cousin was three years older than I was. Thus she began as an enormous presence in my life: somehow, although time made me bigger and stronger than she was, that never diminished, even when we weren’t around each other.

I’m not saying that I looked up to her as a wee lad, for I never did, but she never looked down on me either. She was striking, as a girl and later in womanhood: people looked at her, whether they wanted to or not. She wasn’t perfect growing up, but as the elder of two daughters she was expected to set an example and that can be a tough row to hoe. Given the difference in our ages, we got through childhood as acquaintances rather than close companions, but as adults, the bond between us grew, possibly because we shared the same weaknesses, and looked out for each other as necessary. After our granny’s funeral, the pair of us went out and got hammered: it seemed the right thing to do at the time.

She had bad luck in her life; some she made for herself, but most of it befell her. There was a failed marriage, then a second that appeared to have been made if not in heaven then certainly by a dating site that specialised in matching perfectly suited couples. That ended tragically soon, and I don’t believe she ever got over it. There were tough times afterwards, but her towering personality saw her through them all, and she never lost that special edge.

She died yesterday, suddenly, and to the shock and astonishment of those of us who never thought she would. We hadn’t seen much of each other in the last couple of decades, but most recently we met for lunch at a family gathering arranged because we all had reached the stage when we only got together at funerals. We left talking about the next; it’ll never happen now in its fullest form . . . the next will be another funeral . . .but I am so, so glad that one did.

Today I’m left, thinking about her and unashamedly tearful as I articulate something I’ve never expressed before, out loud, or in the written word. I loved her, and she leaves a hole in my life bigger than any other, save one.

She bequeaths to me the mantle of seniority, unenviable, because it puts me at the head of a queue, the one we’re all in. The generation before ours, the one our grandparents made, they’re all gone, and I’m the oldest of the survivors. But because of that I’m blessed in that  I have memories of her that only her younger sister can share. For example, she was a damn good golfer as a kid, and would have been a hell of a lot better if she’d bothered her arse as an adult. Also, she was blessed with a voice that was her only angelic gift. Two years on the trot, in her mid teens, she sang the lead in her school Gilbert and Sullivan production. When they did Pirates of Penzance, I heard one lady say to her pal on the way out , ‘My, that lassie, she could have been a professional.’ She was right.

I found this on YouTube just now and when I played it I was gone, lost, for the girl in it could be her: almost, because she lacks a little of the quality of my teenage cousin.

I’ve included it because I know that her greatest creation, the daughter who managed to inherit all of her strengths and none of her weaknesses, will wind up reading this blog,  and she really does need to see it.

All I can say, as I crack up completely and post this, is that I hope God likes a good drink.

Categories: General, Videos


December 2, 2015 Leave a comment

It’s doing to be difficult be difficult to be less popular than Sir Stephen House, but already I have reservations about his successor. I am not sure that Scotland needs another Chief Constable with no background in Scottish policing. Yet another example of the weakness of the Police Scotland concept, in my opinion.

Categories: General

Belief beggared

December 2, 2015 4 comments
I’ve been watching London Spy on telly. Very expensive actors plodding their way through a script that begins with a real-life tragedy (Oldest trick in the mystery genre; take a real homicide and fictionalise it.) and evolves into a hugely unlikely plot revealing a central premise that is so nonsensical it is barely explained. Must have cost a bomb to produce, yet it’s broadcast on Mondays on BBC2, a form of relegation.
So I wondered, how did this come about, and who is the creator Tom Rob Smith, that he was given such licence and that such resources were invested in his work? In search of a clue, I looked him up on Wkipedia and found this:
“Smith lives in central London with his boyfriend Ben Stephenson, the Controller of BBC Drama Commissioning.”
Sometimes, very rarely but it happens, words fail me. In this instance I have only this to say. If that’s what it takes for Skinnner to be on TV, forget it.
Categories: General