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  • it was freakishly cold even by scottish standards. 50 mph winds, driving rain, sleat and snow. scotland turns up a lot of bad weather but this week had been pretty miserable for everyone on site. we had battled through a tough install and it was the last day. i was working at newhaven harbour, a windy corner at the best of times full of wee squalls skirting around edinburgh. nobody was about, energy was down and people were slow to start the day. i wandered out along the seawall to the lighthouse on the point from where i could better see the work.

    billy was waiting at the end of the pier. snow white hair with a slash of red where he'd cut his head during the 17 nights he'd been sleeping out. a biddable grandad who had stopped taking his medication and was huddling in doorways at night and huddling in libraries during the day, finding refuge in books even though he never was a reader. 3 books this week already.

    a merchant seaman. a traveller. a man who had his eyes open wider than most parochial scots and could tell tales of the wonders the world held for you.

    a very lost, wee kind man. sixty eight years old with a wife and sons and grandsons. some living just a few hundred yards from where he was cowping for the night. a brother down south who he did'nae like to bother and a holiday home in bulgaria where he liked to rest and chop wood, simple stuff. ordinary life stuff. he talked for a while and refused breakfast when offered. he had money he explained and was meandering between cheap greasy bakery chains. i believed him. he seemed lucid but so awfully distant. ive had my share of depression and we talked about that and not seeing straight. about going home. im not sure if he did. he just wandered away and i felt quite uneasy; confused as to what had passed between us.

    he didnt seem the type said andrew the D.O.P. who arrived in time to see billy leave but not see billy.

    wee sad billy, the king of the dolphins with a scarlet scar in his bonny white hair.

    i hope he started taking his medicine again. i hope he went home.

    i know i will make work about this eventually and that doesnt seem enough somehow but its all i know how to do.

    i think about him a lot, it bothers me.
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