Category: Life


What mystery in your own life could be a plot for a book? It’s a question put to me recently at the Goodreads website and it brought to mind an incident from the past.

Years ago, a seemingly bizarre incident occurred in West Lothian, the next county along from my home. It caught my attention and I followed the news reports with fascination. A local man had reported an alien encounter that involved his being overcome and rendered unconscious. The cynical might immediately have filed it under the too much to drink and late home without a good reason category. However, the events occurred during the working day, there was no drink involved, and there appeared to be evidence to corroborate the man’s claim.

At the time, the event made news all around the globe and caused quite a buzz, but as with all news, it quickly faded from the headlines. Nonetheless, it remained an intriguing incident. Many years later, I revisited it as a documentary producer. Sceptic I may be, but having done the research there did appear to be something of a mystery underlying the incident.

It was the only such event in the UK ever to have been investigated by the police as a crime, which immediately set it apart from other reports. I spent a lot of time trawling through the archives to get a proper handle on the event. Then more time tracking down those involved – which was not easy so long after the event.

Eventually, persistence paid off. I managed to secure access to all the key people involved: the police investigator, the police forensic scientist, the doctor and a number of others including the victim’s work colleagues and most importantly the victim himself. As the contributors’ evidence was assessed, it gradually became apparent that unlike many other such claims this story had some real substance to it.

The incident is explored in a standard 30-minute documentary programme and I posted a version on YouTube a while back – having first split it into three episodes to work round YouTube’s 10-minute play length restriction.

Here are the YouTube links to the three parts of the documentary:


Do watch the programme and draw your own conclusions. All I know is each person involved on the day of the incident was entirely convincing during our extended interviews, and they were certain that something inexplicable had happened that day. None of the contributors had anything to gain from what they said during the interviews and all were respected members of their communities and professions.

So, that incident is certainly a big mystery and while you’ll need to make up your own mind about the balance of probabilities, it undoubtedly represents the core around which a good and perhaps quite frightening plot could be built.

There’s another related mystery that offers an entirely different plot theme, which some might consider equally as sinister. At the time of making the programme, I wrote to the Ministry of Defence with a freedom of information request about the incident. Yes, the MOD actually had a UFO recording and investigation section.

The MOD wrote back to say they had neither records nor knowledge of the incident. Really? This incident featured in all the newspapers, headlined on the radio and television news and uniquely was the subject of a full-scale police investigation. Really? The MOD had simply missed it? Particularly odd when you consider the incident took place just a few miles from key defence assets such as the British Army’s then Scottish Division HQ, and the Royal Navy’s Rosyth Naval Base. It happened at the height of the Cold War, at that time anything odd occurring around such facilities was necessarily logged and monitored. That the MOD had no record of the incident was a mystery within a mystery.

I don’t understand what triggered the initial event, though having met the people involved and thereafter devoted many weeks to study the interview tapes and supporting evidence, I am quite sure all the contributors told the truth, as they understood it – it really is a mystery.

As for the MOD having no knowledge of the incident? It’s just as inexplicable, and almost as impossible to understand, unless some files are too sensitive even to acknowledge they exist. Perhaps there are secret files kept outside the filing system in a place where they can never be unearthed by inquisitive researchers. In any event, one thing is certain, the MOD must have learnt of the incident at that time. Why they chose not to log it or where they actually logged it, and why it appears to remain too secret to acknowledge, only the Ministry of Defence knows.

Edinburgh Lighting up for the Festive Season.

Greetings from Edinburgh.

Princes Street Gardens

Princes Street Gardens

The Dome in George Street

The Dome in George Street

Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh Castle

Floodlit Edinburgh Castle, apparently in festive red. On the other hand, perhaps the castle commandant has just read the Temple Legacy.

My best wishes and thanks to everyone for your support over the past year. Hoping the holidays turn out well for you all and I’m looking forward to sharing more stories in the coming year.

 Happy Christmas.


The Party’s Over – again

Festival Crowds

Festival Crowds

Well, August has come and gone. Once again, it’s been a hectic time. The great atmosphere in Edinburgh during the summer festival period never fails to delight – for residents and visitors alike. As in previous years, I’ve spent plenty of time soaking up the atmosphere and attending a wide variety of events.


Actors canvas in the Royal Mile

Actors canvas in the Royal Mile

I’ve been to a range of shows, mostly comedy, including some stand up and all great fun. I also took the opportunity to revisit the Celts Exhibition at the National Museum of Scotland – a building that plays a significant part in my first novel, The Temple Legacy.

National Museum of Scotland

National Museum of Scotland

 As might be expected, I’ve made several visits to the Book Festival – some for specific events and on other occasions just to browse around and get a coffee. Its location is really convenient, set in Charlotte Square Gardens at the very heart of the New Town.

 Book Festival

Hats off to the Book Festival, it really takes engaging with younger readers very seriously. Providing lots of good age appropriate events and safe areas for younger children makes it so much easier for families to visit. And with such a wide variety of offerings in the programme, it would be almost impossible for any reader not to find things to enjoy. Talks and engagements were on offer from a wide range of authors who between them seemed to span every theme and genre. Then there were experts giving insights into science, the future, history, business and politics – everything. It has been a really rich and varied programme that offered something new for every taste, every day.

Some high points for me included talks and readings by friends. At the Blackwell’s Writers at the Fringe event, Toni Jenkins gave a great insight into her novel The Sender. On another afternoon, I joined others in the Book Festival’s Spiegeltent where Sarah Eakin was reading as part of the Story Shop event. The author of Wed, White & Blue, Sarah’s seamless delivery was very impressive.   

Sarah Eakin

Sarah Eakin

Of the other events I took in, all were fascinating and met or exceeded my expectations while often providing unexpected insights that have got me thinking about aspects of my own work. These included events on both fiction and nonfiction.

Kate Summerscale’s writing is renowned for lifting the lid on true historical crime incidents. She talked about her research methods, story selection and her latest book The Wicked Boy. Her use of creative narrative to bring real events back to life always provides new insight, knowledge and entertainment. Her new book explores an incident of matricide during the Victorian era to offer an insight into human character and experience. Of course, it explores a shocking crime, the consequent punishment and, eventually, perhaps even some form of redemption.

Well done to Scottish crime writer Val McDermitt who did a great job of interviewing Kate Summerscale and directing the course of the event.

Kate Summerscale

Kate Summerscale

One of my favourite historical fiction writers is Conn Iggulden so I was delighted to take the opportunity to see him at this year’s Book Festival. Having delivered several series of novels, his range of writing is clearly very impressive. With equal success, he’s explored Rome and the world of Julius Caesar, the emergence of the Mongol super power under Genghis Khan and, more recently, the Wars of the Roses. Ostensibly, his session at the Book Festival was to consider the tensions and processes involved in drawing a series to a close. But his talk, both on topic and the frequent asides, was such good entertainment value that I’m sure I would have been happy whatever his focus.

Conn Iggulden

Conn Iggulden

Another summer festival season has come to an end but that’s never it in the Festival City. There’s always something else coming up on the horizon and it won’t be long before there’s something new to see.

Festival Street Crowds

Festival Street Crowds



Horns of a Dilemma

Ouch, whatever side you came down on in the referendum, seems it’s going to hurt a bit anyway.

Long horned bull, standing - Tanzania

Long horned bull, standing – Tanzania

Before the referendum, we all thought carefully, read, and listened. In the end, with all the counterarguments, it just boiled down to picking your points and personal instinct.

But hats off to our ruling elite, they contrived to be leading both sides, so no matter what, collectively, they’ll be okay. And if things go bad, our elite knows to blame us ordinary folk for making the wrong choice – if it goes well, then hey, they told us to do that too; they win again.

Throughout history, every successful society has had an elite; I can accept that. While I don’t aspire to belong to it, I can live with its existence if it contributes to a more stable society for everyone. Similarly, I don’t mind people being rich. But being rich or being the offspring of the rich is no reason to have influence over how my or anyone else’s life is run. Attaining positions of leadership should be based only on ability, integrity, and a desire to deliver the best for the population.

Our elite have overseen the development of a completely unbalanced economy. They have overseen the evolution of a tax system that ensures ordinary folk pay while others don’t. They have failed to link up strategic plans across key aspects of the country’s activity. We have an unjust justice system. They even failed to challenge the weaker aspects of Europe while in a position to do so – like the sclerotic and inadequate rules that allowed Volkswagen to make fools of us all. And of course, our elite have provided a home for the worst aspects and practices of free market global finance.
In or out was an important decision. But the recent furore has masked the other important decision we face: what kind of country do we want?

Do we meekly accept more of the same? Following whatever route our less than stellar leaders now map for us. Or do we demand that the inevitable shake up Brexit brings is used as the opportunity to implement a fair society for everyone? A fair tax system, honest financial systems, fair treatment of people, properly supported health and welfare services, honest business regulations and appropriately severe sanctions against those who seek to exploit us.

In a quiet way, I’m proud of my country. I want it to succeed regardless of the in or out decision and whatever international trading arrangements we end up with. But more than anything else, I want to live in a country that is honest, fair and principled.

Looking at the horns again, perhaps this next decision is not going to be quite such a dilemma after all. Regardless of in or out, I’m for demanding integrity of our leaders and for national strategies that serve the people fairly, first and last.

Long horned bull, sitting - Tanzania

Long horned bull, sitting – Tanzania

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