Musings With A View

I was sat in my favourite coffee shop, my book finished. I had already made a mental note of my next one. Could see the shelf it resided on at home, the volume nudging its way forward to prominence.

There was only a handful of people here in the waning light, a litany of indistinguishable murmurs in a fade-out of Evensong.

I was watching the rain, coming in at an acute angle, as the shadows lengthened despite the town centre lights flickering into life. This cross-over time was occurring later than the last time I was here. Night was bleeding in.

Often I make a casual case for a move further north, envisage a settling down among complicit folk. But could I really do it? This town outside was my town, my roots deep and tangled. There were people passing, hunched over against the winter rain, people I have known since a younger sun shone upon their face.

I could close my eyes and still find my way around this town, imaginatively. Every short cut and ginnel. See the ghosts still anchored to place.

These ghosts traverse, still, their long trodden paths.

My thoughts turned to how late was the day, and how soon the seasons expire.

A Tale For The Time

This time of year is ideal for gathering around the hearth and listening to stories. Of course in this day and age you may not have a hearth, but a cosy nook or corner will do.

Here is a story by a friend of mine, MJ Kobernus, read by Kailaan Carter, also known as The Soliloquy Man.  The story is The Gingerbread Man, not the one you may be familiar with, but a comedic/horror one quite suitable for these dark days and nights.

Grab  yourself a coffee, set aside seven minutes, and give it a listen. The fire is already crackling.



Heading North Is Here!

The day has finally arrived: my poetry collection, Heading North, is published today by Nordland Publishing. I’ve seen a preview copy and I’m really pleased with it, and proud of its inclusion into Nordland’s Songs Of The North series.

The blurb on the back of the book reads:

Andrew James Murray is a writer and poet from Manchester, England.

Heading North takes us on a journey where we travel from the childhood and youth of summer in the South, to the mortality-facing winter of the North.

‘We ride in the wake of glaciers,

leaving behind the sunshine straits’

‘North, north, always north,

heading into midnight’

For those great, supportive people who have visited Jackdaw and expressed an interest, here is the link to it on Amazon UK:



For American readers, here is the link to

In Books

It has been a few days since I lasted posted, but the time has not been totally unproductive.

I have walked the streets of Maycomb as tensions rose. Trekked the Mississippi Delta trails in search of a bluesman. Sat uncomfortably with a Manson family member. Drank cocktails with a foul mouthed Marilyn Monroe.

All the while glancing, reluctantly, back over my shoulder.

One day I may just sever that rope.

The Vagabond Book (First To Find It Wins)

I have just finished reading Blackmoor, by Edward Hogan. It is a book neatly summed up by a phrase that comes right near the end of the story: ‘…loss far exhausts blame.’

I picked the book up from a second hand bookstore in Shudehill, Manchester, for the princely sum of £2.

In the middle of the book, placed between two pages, was a cash receipt, for unknown items, from an unknown shop, dated 2010.

2010-four years ago. Was that the last time this particular book had been read before it came into my possession? Had the receipt been placed there to mark out a significant sentence? Was it the place in the novel that the reader had reached, only never to return? Or was it merely the place of a random, forgotten, settling?

On the front, inside cover, was a name written in ink, partly scrawled out. The first name was Jenny, the surname was illegible. Next to the name was written ‘£1.’ Buying the book at such a discounted price didn’t cause me to bemoan the  fact that at some time (maybe four years ago?) the book was sold for half the price that I had paid for it.

On the inside, back cover was written, in pencil, ‘Scope. Whitley Bay.’ So, at some point the book had resided on a charity shop’s crowded shelf in Whitley Bay, some 112 miles away from the Shudehill shop where it had tantalisingly caught my eye. That’s some journey. But there is nothing to indicate that Whitley Bay was its starting point. Had the book been passed along a network of eager hands, finding temporary homes along the way in various refuges such as charity shops, book stores, market stalls, and homes of the erudite?

Kindles are good, they are practical and convenient, reducing space and search time, but with them you don’t have that sense of shared ownership. The compulsive responsibility to pass things on. How many people had held this paperback in their hands before me? Sometimes, though not every time, you get clues. Cash receipts, bus tickets, scrawled names and place names.

This afternoon I added my own contribution to the book, writing ‘Manchester, 2014’ beneath the Whitley Bay legend, and handed it into the RSPCA shop in my home town.

Long may its journey continue.

Imagine one day that I’m browsing in a coffee scented shop, overlooking the sea, down south in Cornwall, or maybe finding respite from the rain up north in Inverness, and I pick up a copy of Blackmoor, maybe moved by nostalgia, or curiosity, or something else that comes into play when you are promoted to act out of instinct, and inside the back cover I find written ‘Scope. Whitley Bay,’ beneath that ‘Manchester, 2014,’ and beneath that a descending list of other place names, and dates, added in chronological and geographical order, providing a traceable route and history all leading to that very place.

How freaky, how amazing, would that be?

Odds, anyone?

Keep looking people-that itinerant book is out there somewhere.



When In Manchester, Nog

I was sat in Starbucks last night, thinking of tax, and people watching.

I had time to kill before meeting up with my wife outside the Apple shop to assist her in the attempted resurrection of her seemingly deceased phone.

Sat to my left were four Asian men, perhaps holding a business meeting or family conference. To my right was an amorous, touchy-feely couple, possibly Latin American. Surrounded by unfamiliar languages, in the safe knowledge that they would hold no distractions, I pulled out the cheap second hand book I had just picked up from Paramount.

I do love those second hand book shops, a lot more than Waterstones. The books smell dusty, show signs of being loved and caressed by strangers hands. Some have notes scribbled inside which you try to decipher and imagine probable cause.

When I’m out and about and see other people reading, I am filled with an abiding curiosity to know what they are reading. I try to steal sly, surreptitious glances at the covers. I get tempted to ask, but I am wary of other people’s boundaries and hate to initiate small talk.

I began to read my book, unfamiliar tongues dancing around me and circling my Americano. After only around ten minutes I became aware that one of the Asian guys, middle aged and not discreet, kept sending curious glances my way. Was he weighing me up, wondering why I would be sitting alone and radiating silence? Perhaps he was gauging how much coffee I had left-maybe there was another, fifth member to arrive and he wanted my seat?  Surely he wasn’t trying to decipher the text on my book cover?

To my right, love’s young dream continued oblivious.

Then, after a studious few minutes, the man asked me:

“What are you reading?” 

There-he just came out and asked the very question that was so often on my lips but had never escaped. And it would have to be when I was holding a book like this-when I had only just started and there were no easy answers.

There may even be the problems of a language barrier.

I could just give the title and the author-Nog, by Rudolph Wurlitzer. But that might come across as a bit curt, a little cold. There was the quote at the top of the book, by Thomas Pynchon:

The Novel of Bullshit is dead.


No, I wasn’t going to risk that misunderstanding. I turned to the blurb on the back,

In Wurlitzer’s hypnotic voice, Nog tells the tale of a man adrift through the American West, armed with nothing more than his own three pencil-thin memories and an octopus in a bathysphere.


An octopus in a bathysphere.

Maybe the other two quotes on the back would help?

Jack Newfield, Village Voice:

Nog is to literature what Dylan is to lyrics.


Or what about good, dependable, Newsweek:

Somewhere between Psychedelic Superman and Samuel Beckett.


He held my gaze as I thought it over. I took another gulp of coffee.



Of Shadows and Sagas: A Time to Remember and to Read

As I write this in the comfort of my lounge, outside tonight the wind is howling, furiously, as though angry at its inability to gain entry into my sheltered refuge.

The odd, hunched figure can from my window be seen hurrying past, assailed by the calvacade of leaves and torrential rain.

The barely noticeable shortening of days, accompanied by the imperceptible shift in temperature from late summer into mild autumn, has definitely given way to the unmissable crossover point of autumn and winter.

Above the wind I can barely hear the fireworks exploding.

Samhain/Halloween…All Saints’ Day…All Souls’ Day…Bonfire Night…Remembrance Sunday.

It feels like this is the time for remembering. As the nights grow deep and long, just as we light candles and bonfires to hold off the dark, so we turn within to shine a light upon our own shadows, far within the recesses of memory.  Examining and reacquainting ourselves with the inner cast of our lives. Acknowledging those who have slipped from sight. We bring them out to breathe.

This time of year is also a great time for reading-armed with the fortitude of caffeine and electric or candle light, removed from the outside assault of climate and enveloping darkness.

I have always turned to stories around this time, without really analysing why, that can be found in books such as The Táin and The Mabinogion. Legends and tales told over centuries, losing myself in the storytelling of people long gone. Connecting with the idea of a people gathered around the hearth, imaginations fired.

When people ask me where my favourite place is, my reply is ‘North’. Scotland-the Highlands and the Orkney Islands, Scandinavia. You are never likely to see me sporting a suntan.

There is something in the landscape, the myths, the culture, born from the tummult of land and sea, that speaks to me.

And this is my time of year. The cycle has come around again.

I was about to start the Icelandic Sagas, but instead I have turned to East of the Sun, West of the Moon-Old Tales From the North.

photo (42)

This is a collection of Scandinavian fairy tales that have had many interpretations over the years, but this copy is a reproduction of the 1914 version which has some fantastic illustrations in it by Kay Nielsen.

photo (43)

The attraction of this book, as opposed to the Sagas, is that I can share it with my children. There are fifteen tales in it, so that is one per storm struck night, for just over a fortnight.

Wind, rain, darkness, a father, children.



Imaginations fired.

My favourite time.