Guru Dave

Radiate #sunrise this morning after the full moon #transitions #cacti #nofilter #January ūüĆĶūüíö‚ėÄÔłŹ

I haven’t posted on this blog for a while. The sudden and unexpected deaths of both a close friend and a grandparent on Christmas Day left me shaken and in need of solace¬†beyond the written word.

I was lucky enough¬†to find that, in part, beneath the vast desert skies of Baja, California Sur, in Mexico during a pre-planned¬†yoga teacher-training course. A landscape where mountain ridges¬†give way to the Pacific coastline and plains of cacti and sand-blasted rock formations stretch out in between. At¬†home, I have a black and white exhibition postcard tacked onto¬†the kitchen wall above the sink of the artist Georgia O’Keeke standing hands on hips, looking out in awe and with a sense of purpose at the all-encompassing, sensual landscape of her beloved New Mexico beyond. She keeps me company while scouring pots and pans.

Seemingly alone in the old Mexico desert during a wilderness experience that the new-age Californians at Yandara Yoga termed a ‘vision quest’, I was awakened by the presence of another creature sharing my improvised pillow of rucksack and blanket. For a moment suspended between mutual respect and curiosity, a large hermit crab and I looked one another in the eye and then each jumped back in alarm¬†triggered by evolutionary survival instinct. The hermit, a greater expert in nomadic ways, scurried his transformer claws through the sand dunes in search of a more peaceful resting spot. I sighed and rolled over.

Later, from the relative comfort inside my tent pitched on the El Pescadero peninsula, I could just about make out the mournful songs of migrating gray whales rising up from deep beneath the Ocean surface. The ancient sea mammals seemingly sending out a bass note for those drifting in and out of sleep on the shoreline to receive in call and response. Then the sound of these soothing hymns was punctuated by the percussion of angry waves crashing against forgiving rocks made soft by repeated nightly blows. The tidal waves were powered by the reverberating energy of a new moon, which in turn caused healing aloe vera plants rooted in the desert dust to blossom into momentary flower overnight before sealing tightly shut again come morning, as though in an imaginary dream. And just enough moonlight to light up a New Year’s Eve dance floor for playful¬†yogis on the beach.

Casa Nev #home the past few weeks. Going to really miss this tent- a vast desert sky above, the sound of waves crashing, and dreaming of gray #whales singing in the ocean beyond. Yes. #baja #nature #Pacific #January ūüźčūüĆĶ

The generous, undemanding intimacy afforded by strange creatures in the night helps navigate the more ambiguous terrain of loss and grief, signally new trail markers on which to get back on the path to a familiar, firm footing of living in the day to day present alongside loved ones.

The Yandara teacher training in Baja had an emphasis on regular bhakti, devotional practice involving singing and dancing as a community¬†in the evenings. This was called Satsung, together time. Mantras included the chanting of ‘guru dev namo’/ ‘I bow to the divine teacher within’. I first sang this song, over and over again, until in a blissed out trance of mind and body union, with the woman¬†who introduced me to yoga some ten years ago, Tabitha Dean. I initially misheard ‘dev’ as ‘Dave’ and so she came to be known to me as Guru Dave, later shortened to Guru-D. It suited her. And so it stuck.

The source of the divine means different things to each of us. For me, it is simply the oneness and inter-connectivity of the natural world that surrounds us and is us. Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust. The universality of Om.

Perhaps the surprise gift of whalesong¬†is nature’s way of reminding those of us land-bound to keep singing and dancing throughout the surfacing ups and deep downs of a life well lived, for we will all return to the sea one day and, meanwhile, might do well to truly appreciate the sensations of salty air stinging our bare arms¬†and of solid quartz cooling and supporting tired feet. Both Tabitha and my late grandfather, Tom, loved to sing and dance, whether at a warehouse party in Dalston or on the Scottish football terraces. They were both gurus in their own unique ways and I will miss them both so very much.

Maggie Out Pie

Mix fried onions, tinned tuna fish and baked beans. Cover¬†with mashed potato, toasted bread crumbs and grilled tomato, then cook¬†in a casserole dish for 30 minutes at 180 degrees. Atop the mashed potato mound should be a homemade flag attached to a cocktail stick – initials, a saltire, or in 1990- a skull and crossbones. Maggie Out Pie was alike in recipe and ingredients to Boxing Day pie, United for the Cup pie, baby Lucy arrives pie, and Dad is cooking tea pie. But all the more filling because we had never tasted it before. I didn’t know who Maggie was to have deserved her own pie except that Dad seemed particularly pleased with himself that Sunday evening. Everyone asked for seconds. Big helpings of the pie filled our small tummies and we slept soundly. The¬†sweetness of the baked beans and fried onions went in. The bitterness of the Poll Tax, the Pitts and Privatisation went out, I was told. Now our bigger tummies and open eyes are hungry again for new pies and it is our turn to cook them.

Citizens Advice

Lima to Leith is a long journey-

Ten years and ten thousand pounds of papers, stamps and patience

For membership of club Britannia.

Weak, grey tea cools in Home Office china

(No biscuits)

Sipping, whispering, shuffling.

The congregation stands for oor Lizzie’s song

But looks far beyond through tinted glass

And caring not for which flag they see,

Are reminded of those absent from the room.

Small boys in bigger boys’ suits are pushed forward for

Selfies on the Registry steps.

Later, there will be Brexit.

Welcome aboard little Britain, come what May.

So, slainte! Skål! Prost! Salut! Cheers my dear!

Time for Italian fizz and a holiday to Spain.

God Save All of Us.









At the Half-Way House, Balallan

When the moon waxes it makes a B, when the moon wanes it makes a D

and C is for Christina, her twin sister, and me in between

at the Half-Way House, Balallan

– parish of the lochs, a lord and the poachers,

the longest village in Scotland.

Long are the nights, and darker the days

when twin sister asks ‚Äėdo you believe in good and evil?‚Äô

                                                                                      Waxing and waning

peat flaking on the stove, me pouring the gin,

                   our waterproofs steaming from Todon moor

and C is for the Caledonia tape in the caravan.

‚ÄėLet me tell you that I love you‚Äô, we sing.

                             Half-way between Harris and Lewis

                        with black dogs and bibles on our knees.

     Sunday is already here,

when I reply ‚Äėno, I believe in this’.

The village of Balallan (Gaelic: Baile Ailein) is a crofting township on the border of Lewis and Harris in the Outer Hebrides, stretching 4 miles along the head of Loch Erisort. The Sabbath is strictly observed by many islanders. 


To Sunnybrae cottage

To Sunnybrae cottage, we journeyed

Back southwest, back seven decades

With the Solway firth, stretched out like a creased sheet waiting to be washed

Then aired in a new, to me, telling of her stories

I filled my pockets with fallen acorns and the rain pushed us on

Passing place names like Creetown, Beeswing, Rockcliffe

Pausing for brambles and breath at the mouth of the Penkiln

We arrived at where it all began and where I will one day return

For you Grandma, the homecoming Queen of green, green Galloway

Creative Dundee

<p><a href=”″>PKN16 Jemma Neville</a> from <a href=””>CreativeDundee</a> on <a href=””>Vimeo</a>.</p>

Creative Dundee is a network set up to support and strengthen creativity within the city of Dundee. A programme of regular events bring people from a huge variety of backgrounds together in the same room to share ideas, inspirations and experiences, and build a common vision and voice for the city. Dundee has changed massively since I grew up here in the 1980s and 90s. It is an exciting time for renewal and investment with large-scale regeneration of the waterfront including the building of V&A Design Museum.

Pecha Kucha¬†is¬†a popular, quick-fire format ‚Äď presenters have¬†20 images and show each for just 20 seconds. Creative Dundee invited me to give a Pecha Kucha talk in November. I spoke on the theme of the ‘Dens Road’.

Dens Road is the Dundee street home to both of the city’s football stadiums, Dens Park and Tannadice. ¬†In Scots, a ‘den’ can be a place of sanctuary, of home, of making. It is also the name of an animal’s shelter and childhood fort. The Dens Road us the title of a poem I wrote about feeling at home.

I found the Pecha Kucha format of no notes and not having control of slide changes really challenging but would highly recommend it as a way to practice clarity of communication and open up new conversations.