The Emergency Vet


Daisy was somewhat lethargic on Saturday 9th May, certainly in comparison to her normally boisterous and robust behaviour. She vomited frothy yellow bile but did not seem to be affected by the experience. Her stomach seemed to be growling overnight and her sleep was unsettled. On Sunday morning she ate a lot of grass in the garden and then threw it up. Shortly after this her face erupted in lumpy swelling across her cheeks and her eyes.

My insurance company provides free access to FirstVet, an app which provides online consultation with a vet. After the consultation, it was recommended that Daisy should be taken immediately to an out of hours Vet Hospital.

We went to the VetsNow facility in central Glasgow. The arrangements for the visit were unusual due to Covid-19. The practice has a dog run at the rear of the building; an enclosed mesh-fenced concrete run. All contact was made with the staff through the phone and a “handover” of Daisy in the dog pound to a gowned and masked member of staff took place. Daisy barked in distress as I walked away to my car.

Although absolutely necessary, the process felt alien and unsettling: a prisoner exchange. It felt like being a checkpoint on the border to an emerging dystopia; the country called “the new normal”. The building was in the heart of Charing Cross, where the M8 motorway junctions bisect the city. The twisted entrails of the urban motorway usually growl continuously but now the city was quiet, sunlit and empty.

Looking around the parking area behind the hospital, it became clear that quite a few pet owners were sitting, isolated in their vehicles. Watching the small bundle of a cat who had been euthanised being exchanged through the steel mesh of the dog run between a masked and gowned Vet and a grieving owner was the saddest of things to see. The impossibility of contact and consolation coupled with the fact that this last act of the cat’s existence had to be played out in a public space was distressing.

A while later, a call came through to me from the Vet. Daisy’s hi-pitched bark was chopping up the calm of the surgery. However, the news was good- heart,  lungs and temperature were all fine; ruling out poisoning. She had responded well to an anti-inflammatory injection. The best guess for her condition was that it was a strong allergic reaction something unknown in the environment. A bee sting, a bite, rotting carrion…


Given that much of her exercise is off-lead and she has no fear of deep cover, I’ll never know what prompted it. Thankfully, she responded really quickly to the treatment and within a few hours the swelling subsided to nothing.

The combination of technology between the FirstVet app and the use of phone and text message- including a google maps link for directions allowed really effective care to be given to Daisy and I am very grateful for this.  However, I feel tremendously sorry for any owner who has to undergo the sad but necessary ordeal of separation at the last moment from their pet. A smaller sorrow than the pain of a human loss, but an indicator of how this virus seeps into every aspect of our existence.


How I Fell in the Mud

This is Daisy the Dog, she did not get muddy like me!

A strange tale of social distancing gone very wrong…



The walk through the Seven Lochs Park on a Saturday afternoon with Daisy the Dog is normally the personification of solitude. You might see a few other dog-walkers or cyclists, but in the main you get the space to yourself.

Not today though…the Coronavirus outbreak has created strange times.

The place felt packed: bit of patience required, I thought.

With Daisy being so good off the lead I was able to call her back before she could interfere with slow-moving family groups. She was great and would go into a sit and wait.

And wait.

And then wait some more.

Have you any idea how slowly a wee family out for a walk who have a five year old on a bike with stabilisers take to walk 100 metres while you wait to let them through?

I thought teenagers walking from Science to English held the record on sluggishness. Oh no, the child attempting to pedal their stabilised bike is the star here.

Ach, I could cope with that! Have a bit of patience and understanding you grumpy old man…

The German Shepherd was muzzled but utterly manic- not so easily coped  with. It looked like it was going to break away from its owner. This dog had some socialisation and aggression issues, so I put Daisy on the lead and just walked off the path into the woodland.

Situation resolved? No, problem two emerged.

Some sculpturally artful benches had been damaged a while back, depriving young people in the locality of seating opportunities when enjoying al fresco drinking. This forced a large group of aforementioned  young people to use the walls of the bridge I need to cross as alternative seating.

Now, I have no problem walking by young people when they are having a wee drink, but this was ten social contacts that I did not want to have today. I will admit to being irked by their failure to pay any attention to social distancing advice.

However, the stream narrowed away from the bridge and I could easily jump it and bypass the awkward social encounter.

No…I could not easily jump it.

I landed on a bank that was made of oozing filthy mud, sank knee deep into it and face-planted. I got into less of a mess when I did the Tough Mudder back in the day.

The mud probably had more biohazard issues waiting to to be discovered than I cared to think about. How would that be for ironic? Try to dodge Covid 19 and unleash  some undiscovered pathogen from the black slime that covered my body.

I was stripped of dignity and given an immediate rage infusion that vented as a hissing stream of not so nice words that matched the filth I was covered in.

The only saving grace was that nobody on the saw me and I didn’t get a chorus of laughter from the bridge occupiers.

Better calm down a bit now- Here’s a bit of Robert Frost

“The woods are lovely, dark and deep, but I have promises to keep

and miles to go before I sleep, and miles to go before I sleep”

Anyway, that’s how I fell in the mud, and now that I’ve got that off my chest I feel a little bit better.




Am I Running?




Here is a go at a Villanelle that I wrote five years ago. It is a bit awkward, but in hindsight I am glad that I didn’t put it in the wastebasket. I thought the tangled group of old running medals would go well with the ordered lines of the poem.


Am I running to you, from you, with you?

When the dark sky-lid shuts in the winter world

In not sweet night that I never pass through.


My step and breath are locked to pursue

Numbers and titles, bright pennants unfurled.

Am I running to you, from you, with you?


In races beneath tight grey or soft blue

Skies. I wait for your smile the once whirled

In not sweet night that I never pass through.


Had I known these days would be so few

Then sweet words would have softly uncurled…

Am I running to you, from you, with you?


And now these days are a world not made new

By bright discovery, but hurled

In not sweet night that I never pass through.



And lack of interest will always accrue

A cost obvious but unforetold.

Am I running to you, from you, with you?

In not sweet night that I never pass through.
















The Bravest Rescue Goes to Holyrood


Our wee film, now named “The Bravest Rescue”, premiered in Motherwell Civic Theatre in October. The local Member of the Scottish Parliament, Claire Adamson, came along and was impressed. So impressed, that she organised a screening of the film in the Scottish Parliament, Holyrood, Edinburgh.

Here’s a link to my sixth year journalism students blog about the event.…ttish-parliament/

Many thanks to Kenza for the photo curation and Wiktoria for the edit.

I was given the privilege of speaking before the screening, along with my colleague and friend from Saint Aidan’s High, Caroline. Here is the text of our thoughts on the value of partnership and collaboration in film and education.

Scottish Parliament Presentation Continue reading

Student Journalism

JMAC Landing Page


Hi out there,

This is just a wee plug for my student journalists in sixth year at high school. They have been developing a great blog with lots of student news and views and have been creating some great news pieces and images.

You can take a look at their excellent site by googling JMAC the blog experience

Have a look and leave a comment if you like what you see.


Zombie! Inside a Wrecked Mind

I have been using “The Enemy” by Christopher Higson for the first time with one of my lower school classes. We had a good dialogue about how the infestation that had wiped out the adult population or turned them into shambling Zombie may have left some residual human capacity in those affected by the disease.
I wrote the following short story to explore the background of the character “Small Sam” and to give the students a stimulus for their own creative writing.

A Zombie’s Story- Inside a Wrecked Mind

Ann felt so angry and sick and rotten. It had started with a sniff and a sore head, a bit like the flu, but she knew it was worse than that. It was the rage disease- the thing that was destroying the world and turning parents into monsters who wanted to devour their children. It wouldn’t touch her, Ann knew that her huge love for her babies would save her.

She was wrong.

Continue reading


This is somewhere between poetry and prose.

Privet is a an evergreen bush, often used for hedging between houses in Britain


Intricate and supple twigs

Thin and pliant with green


Leaf and leaf and leaf

In fresh lime

In yellow gold

In dark olive

Like green fractals

Extending one idea forever

Tendrils shoot out,

They are clipped, cut, swept-

But the hedge persists

It wants to sprawl and prosper,

Send out its scent,

A note of high, green sweetness

That is the clean heart of summer.

But it is kept as a cool barrier between the houses

Continue reading

The Queen’s Pyjama’s


If you would like a look at the script for the Wishaw Area Schools Film Project here it is.

It is rather long and it has lots of dialogue in Scots, but it will give you an idea of what we hope to produce when shooting starts in August.

The Queen’s Pyjama’s 

A dramatized account of Willie Angus V.C.


Wishaw Schools World War One Heritage Project


Gerry O’Brien, June 2018


This screenplay is the product of collaboration between students, teachers and Community Learning staff from the Wishaw and Shotts area.

After a series of development meetings and discussions the life of Willie Angus was settled upon as the focus for the project and this script was written.

It should be noted that whilst the script does its best to use the known facts about Willie Angus and the events leading to is award of the Victoria Cross, that it is a dramatization of his life. As such, dialogue, characters and places are intended to catch the spirit of the times. 

Copyright Gerry O’Brien June 2018



Page Break




Scene 1: The Football Field

Scene 2: Post-match analysis

Scene 3: The Changing Room

Scene 4: Hearth and Heart

Scene 5: The Fitba Strip

Scene 6: The Parade: the HLI leave Carluke

Scene 6.1: On the Tram

Scene 7: In the trenches- the raid goes wrong

Scene 8: The Aftermath

Scene 9: Have a drink of this Tommy!

Scene 10: “Ah cannae listen tae this”

Scene 11: Generals and Corporals

Scene 12: Going Over the top

Scene 13: The Rescue

Scene 14: In the Hospital- The Queen’s Pyjamas

Scene 15: At the Palace

Scene 16: Homecoming



Continue reading

Are Ye Bound for France my Dear?


Are you Bound for France?  Margaret’s Song

Are you bound for France my dear, my dear brother oh!

Are you bound for France my dear, my dear brother oh!

Will you stand sae tall and proud

Hear the pipes blow sae loud

Are you bound for France my dear, my dear brother oh!


Are you bound for France my dear, my dear brother oh!

Are you bound for France my dear, my dear brother oh!

Will ye put your toys away?

Nae boys’ games left tae play.

Are you bound for France my dear, my dear brother oh!

Continue reading