Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Christ The Commie


It's been a funny old year, Saint, and i don't mean funny haha. Started with 3 idyllic months loafin in South India and ends with achey limbs every morn as my body adjusts from the cushy life of a pen pusher to the rigours of manual work.

If (as i'm fairly sure) Jesus Christ was indeed the first Communist, i've moved closer than ever to being a Christian these last 12 months. Still no buyin that son o God shit but all his chat bout kickin out the money lenders, lovin thy neighbour and of course "from each according to their abilities to each according to their needs" has deeper resonance than ever for me.  (JC didnae really come out wi that last yin but i bet he'd've coined it if Karlo (or Louis Blanc) hadnae beat him to the punch.)

Prior to 2009 an average working day consisted of sitting on a wee seat wi wheels, pressing buttons on a keyboard, spraffing on the phone, speaking and staying awake at the odd meeting, drinkin a bucket of black coffee and occassionally wondering what possible value there could be to society from the shit i was doing. I was overpaid for this nonsense to the extent that i never worried about what was spent on music, books, films or the pub and could always take a few months off between contracts to faff about in South Asia.

During 2009 my average working day has been a bit more tricky to define - maybe cos i've done 8 different jobs that spring to mind right now. Whatever, the very best paid of these jobs (fishing of course) has remunerated to the tune of less than a 3rd of what i got as a test analyst. Every one of them (bar telephone market research) has involved far more physical effort and a lot more personal danger than the IT stuff.

I am truly struggling to understand why capitalism values IT testing as more worthy of cash than work which makes a tangible improvement to the world we all live in. I dinnae get it but i like to think Jesus would. Maybe it's time for a second coming and i don't mean a slightly disappointing lp by the Stone Roses.

So, as i stoat aboot waitin on the new Messiah and, if you aint gonna make it to the party of the decade in Leith's own Village Bar, may i wish you a very happy New Year.

And i mean that most sincerely, folks. Gouranga yakuntz!

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Never Mind The Bollocks


It's Christmas time, there's no need to be afraid.

Unless yer job's to humph lazy gadgie's (erm...sorry...valued customer's) messages up 4 flights o tenement stairs. What was it wi those cheapskate Victorians that they didnae speak to Otis or Schindler and instal lifts in the flats? Sheesh!

And what is it wi some good peeps of Embra that they cough up actual dosh for bottled water instead o turnin on a tap?

I hate to moan (honest, guv) but fir fuck sake, last Friday night some radge valued customer had me heavin 84 litres o bottled water plus assorted crates o beer, boxes o wine and frozen vol au vent cases (gastronome superbique) to the top floor of a Polwarth flat. I lived for many a year in Polwarth and the tap gear tasted like Himalayan dew.

Taste the thunder!

Moan over. My belly's shrunk a bit, i've got muscles again and the weirdo plastic water guzzlers indirectly pay me a wage. It may be the root of all evil (it is for sure, nae doots there) but cally dosh is mighty handy when you've been largely without for a while.

So right now i'm kinda diggin this xmas consumption madness. I may hardly see ma pals and get mighty jealous of a weekend when they're out there doin the stuff but come New Year i'll be trimm as trab and back in the black.

And i can only thank the sweet baba Jesus for that.

Friday, 13 November 2009

A One Eyed Dug


One night when i was 19 i got blootered on about 8 pints of McEwan's Export wi rum and coke chasers then went home and smoked a few bongs wi ma flatmates. I whiteyed. Next morn i woke up rough as broken biscuits, scraped the smell o booze off ma teeth and crawled off to get the bus to work (accounts department, Scottish Gas, Granton).

Halfway down Pennywell Road i felt shaky sweats and had the sinking realisation that a big bad spew was in the post. I made the bus doors just as the gut heaved and the insides o ma cheeks filled wi vile fizzy barf. The doors swung open, i chucked in the gutter and swayed towards a lamppost outside the Gunner Bar. Then i really got into the swing o the whole projectile vomiting thing.

Bent round a lamppost, throwin up ma ring i was aware of passing school kids havin a laugh and takin the piss right outta me. I didnae care, just wanted to die really. Then i thought a bairn had grabbed me round the waist but, as i twisted ma neck for a swatch, realised i'd been jumped by a big slavery dug. This wisnae good.

So i hooked ma heel under the dug's face and booted it backwards off me. Relief turned very sharply to horror when i glanced back to see a grey muzzled, one eyed brute with its bright pink cock most definitely ootnaboot. I'm sure it licked its lips as it rolled onto its back, took aim and gushed doggy spunk over ma face, hair and spew ridden suit.

I got straight back on a bus home and phoned the work. My maw was a telephonist at the gas board for 20 years and of course it was she who answered my call. I spewed again when she told me the whole place was buzzin wi news of the summer temp who'd been sick in the street and molested by a dug.

Mothers shouldnae have to hear stuff like that about their boys.

Saturday, 31 October 2009

Weeds


Jodie Foster's character (agent Starling?) put it pretty well in Silence of the Lambs (overrated apart fae Foster) when she said, "If you assume, you make an ass of u and me." Or somethin like that. Twas a visionary aphorism, spesh given it was dished in the dim and distant pre-text message era.

I've always assumed that a weed was simply any plant growing where it's not wanted. Well it is that of course, but according to the best English dictionary in the world, it's also "a skinny, feeble or ineffectual man".

During the long, damp summer of underemployment just passed i've no been very skinny but have often felt feeble and ineffectual. In any other recent week, that feeling mighta been reinforced by the other type o weed.

While removing unwanted items from a vast, tangled gravel path i spotted 3 alpine lookin plants which i reckoned would look okay planted up among a few winter pansies, violas and erm....other stuff. So i duly planked them into half an old whisky barrel only to be telt by my horticultural guru that the one pictured above is mos def a weed and the sooner i bin it the better. Part o me thinks sod it, i like it, it should stay but frankly, i'm still a gairdnin learner and it has to go.

So aye, that weed info woulda been a right bummer had it not followed hot on the heels of news that i've earned masel a proper non min wage, part time job. After a ridiculously complicated application form, full on psycho babble interview, drivin test and recommendation fae Cupar Debs (love you, honey) i've been accepted to start as a Customer Deliveries Assistant (delivery driver) for erm....one o the big bad supermarket companies.

Probs (def) wouldnae have been ma first choice but the future boss seems sound as a pound, the money's no bad, Debs digs it and the hours'll fit neatly wi the other activities i wanna develop. Oh - and beggars cannae be choosers. So next (first?) time you order groceries on-line get ready for a big Naldo sized chap on yer front door. You nivir know.

By the way, whatever happened to Jodie Foster?

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Cup Cakes

It's been a slow week - virtually naeb'dy wants gardens tended, walls painted, electric cabling replaced or even fish howked oot the sea. And absolutely naeb'dy wants software tested. Ho hum.

Working highlight of the week has been home delivering Chinese meals - always a pleasure to be the bearer of barry scran, but hours are anti-social, pay is keech and the gaps between deliveries are as dull as the SPL.

Social highlight of the week was gettin el reekio on Sunday in the really rather jolly Port O Leith. The Port has a fine selection of competitively priced bevvy, a jukie to die for and lenient yet clued up barstaff, all of which encourage the kinda clientele only a proper misanthrope could fail to love. And they let dugs in. Perfect.

Culinary highlight of the week was baking cup cakes - pictured above just after i'd scoffed yin. These may look like a drunk 2 year old wi a broken arm made them but they were in fact deliciously moist and chocolatey til i stuck them in the fridge for 24 hours (they went all stodgey). Ta very much indeed to Jelly for the inspiration - Jelly, your cakey obsession's a fine one to have and i'll see and keep this weekend's batch ootra fridge.

So here comes another weekend. "Weekend" loses much of its lustre when work's irregular but this one has Ruth and Ming's wedding to jazz things up a bit. Yeeahaar - bring on the ceilidh!

Friday, 16 October 2009

Ibrox Park And A Mystery Solved


Big SHOUT OUT! to Johnny for recognisin the ghosty wee gadge in the top right of the pic above. A version of her/him was sprayed on a wall at La Cala beach (Andalucia) and Johnny pinned it to "He Man And The Masters Of The Universe".

I'm way too old to have watched the telly prog but i've heard of Castle Greyskull. It's where those cuddly Glesca Rangers play their home games.

Can any of my Teddy Bear chums tell me which players are shown in the pic above? There's something bout the boy in the middle reminds me of Fernando Ricksen but i could be mistaken.

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Homage To Caledonia

The post title's pockled straight from the book by Daniel Gray about Scotland and the Spanish Civil War. I first spied it on Tocasaid, whose most recent post is the sorta thing i wish i could write masel. Well worth a peek.

It got right up my substantial hooter that the folks were way too staunch to ever take a family holiday in Spain while Franco ran the show. We hadnae been taught much about fascism at primary school and i couldnae see why a few "lucky" pals came back from summer holidays wi sun tans, sombreros and those big bull fight posters while i got a stick o rock and a Beaver's Club badge fae Butlins. To be fair, family holidays (even in Leven) were barry as a bairn, but i was ay a bit jealous o the crew who got to Spain.

Like my close shave wi private education, i'm now well chuffed (and unjustly smug) that i never went to fascist Spain. 34 years on, private education still puts a brake on equality but Spain's now an apparently shining example of modern, secular democracy (despite, or maybe even because of its King Juan Carlos). Nae doots, many citizens of Basque and elsewhere in Spain would argue that point.

But enough o that stuff.

We took our freebie in Spain last week to eat, drink, swim, read and run (a wee bit). The scran was ace, the wine was €1.85 a bottle, the sea and pool were refreshingly cool, i finished James Robertson's fantastic Fanatic and knackered ma good knee in the hilly terrain around La Cala de Mijas. We also took road trips to Ronda (pic'd above, looks no bad if ye click and enlarge) and to Nerja and we saw wheens o great graffiti, a wee selection of which is shown below.

Al and Mel D reckon this dude was on telly in the 80's but i've nae idea:


I like this even if my picture's a bit pish:


this is good anaw:


and finally, tis guid to note that the bullfighters arenae as macho as they mibby like to think they are:


Hats off to Enrique!

Saturday, 3 October 2009

Espania Porfavor


Today's been a guid yin (depsite ma team bein pish and gettin beat off St Mirren). All summer long, thanks to my rather wonderful mates (in collusion wi they econmy wreckin, pensioned up, bank chief fuckwits), i've done all kindsa crazy ass jobs that no middle aged office boy ever expects to get a crack at. I've been indulged by my skilled chums as labourer, learner, tea boy, driver and some time sad sack dead weight.

Today i struck out on ma ain and did my first coupla real jobs on behalf o " Naldo Gardening Services" (aka summat else). I cut grass, sheared privets, trimmed shrubs, snipped edges, shifted trampolines, hoed off moss, sawed out pampas, dead headed roses, swept up clippings and even advised on composting techniques. The punter cats seemed impressed. They made me coffee, offered biscuits, told me bout their D Day experiences and asked me back. I'll be back (a week on Monday).

And in the meantime, me, Mand, Meljo and Al are off to Andalucia for a free week's hol. Really. Meljo won it in a tombola at last year's Embra Tree Fest. So we'll be brushin up our Flamenco, whackin back the cervezas and guzzlin doon the tapas.

Naekunt digs a gloater and i do love yiz aw, but for a week at least, "consígalo bien arriba usted". In a nice way natch.

Gouranga, kiddywinks.

Monday, 28 September 2009

Tutti Frutti


Tutti Frutti is finally available to buy (or chorie) on dvd and, as it's in my top 5 tv progs ever, i watched all 6 episodes in 2 sittings over the last coupla weekends. There's a wee scene which reminded me of a bit o daftness my maw got up to when i was 6 or 7.

We'd no long moved to Kent and one long hot summer day there was a chap at the door. Rather than just answer it, my maw shooed me through to the kitchen and under the table, with a "wheesht" finger at her lips. I hadnae a clue what was goin on but was fair enjoyin the game til there was a sharp rap on the kitchen window and this posh voice went "I say, are you alright in there, i can see your leg under the table." We were rumbled and out crawled my maw to make a false confession to the local vicar.

She telt him we were "lookin for something under the table". Chat was then reasonably pleasant if a little stilted til, after inviting us to next Sunday's service, our man o the cloth went on to suggest that Vote Labour posters wouldnae go down well in the area and should be removed from the window as soon as poss. To her shooge credit, my maw lost it at this point and told the rev we were athesits who'd never attend his stupid church and we'd put up whatever posters we fancied. Get it right up ye, Mr vicar (she didnae add).

So it's been 22 years since Tutti Frutti first hit the screen and judging by the nick o sound and picture quality on the dvd, the tapes have been festering away in a dusty old cupboard since then. Thankfully the writing, direction and outstanding cast make up for this shortcoming and after a while it's like watchin a great subtitled film, you stop noticing and just enjoy.

I'll no say too much about Tutti Frutti. If you've seen it before, you'll ken what i'm on about and enjoy it again. If you've never seen it, do yirsel a massive favour and track it down. For my dosh it's easily the best telly or film work ever done by Robbie Coltraine, Emma Thompson and Richard Wilson (pictured above wi Katy Murphy), all 3 of whom made it big on the back o this.

A wop bop a loo lop, a lop bam boo!

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Ullapool

The royal family and the obeisance they inspire in otherwise sensible peeps give me the boke. So i was delighted to hear some architect gadge on the radio ripping into Luggy's Poundbury project the other day. His main point was that there's no good organic reason for this place to exist and that all successful settlements have an obvious raison d'etre. I ken bugger all about architecture, town planning or any of that stuff but i couldnae help agreeing.

Ullapool's organic reason for being is very obviously the sea. It was founded as a sheltered, deep water, easy access point to the vast herring shoals which used to head this way from the Atlantic Ocean. Today, most of the herring is gobbled up by floating factories much further west. The herring fleets of the British Isles and Scandinavia mos def aint wot they used to be. There's still fishing to be had out of Loch Broom though - most of the catch is shellfish and most of that ends up in restaurants in Spain and France. So Mand loved every second of our self-guided tour of the fishing boats last Saturday (oh no she didnae).

U-pool's also where the CalMac ferries head to Stornaway even on a Sunday and there were a fair few yachts and cruisers bobbin round the bay. The town's sea-going credentials are clearly alive and kicking despite the scarcity of herring. But we werenae in town to fish, ferry or faff in the sea, we were in town to catch up wi Goa chums, Eve and Donald. Oh aye, and to get reekin oot wir coupons on the booze.

To be fair, we did take my fascinating tour of the boats and we hit the barry wee Ullapool Museum for an hour or so. The museum's housed in a converted church originally designed by the prolific and highly talented Thomas Telford. (Bit wrong i ken, but i cannae help crackin a wee smile when churches are converted into somethin a bit more useful than erm...houses of worship.) TT also designed the grid pattern streets of the old town as well as the Village Hall where we caught Super Furry Animals 4 years back.

And that was pretty much that on the culture and tourist trail for us. We knocked back the chance to head south to Gairloch, Gruinard Bay or the wondrous gardens of Inverewe. We failed to head north and climb the spikey peak of Stac Pollaidh, pictured below by the snaptastic Dave Henniker.


We couldnae even be ersed jumpin 15 miles along the road to Corrieshalloch Gorge with its fab swingy rope bridge thing. Instead we hit the Argyll, the Arch and the Seaforth - scene of Al D's infamous karaoke incident. Al better relate that tale one day soon right here cos if no i'll do it for him and he'll come off a lot worse in my version.

As well as the sea, the scenery and the touristy stuff, U-pool's got a great rep for live music with local bands, traditional music sessions and erm...karaoke on most nights somewhere in town. This weekend coming it'll host the annual Loopallu festival (didja see what they did wi the name there?) I'm a daftie cos i shoulda planned the trip for this weekend so we could've seen our groovy chums, got pished and grabbed some top notch live music. But Ullapool's no gonna disappear anytime soon and there's always next year i spose.

In the meantime, Jo of the Isles will have some of her poetry read out on Ullapool based Loch Broom FM. I'm gonna try and get some kinda podcast link to it up here but should you fancy a cheeky wee taster of her works (and i think you should), follow this link to Ottertalk. It's right guid gear.

Monday, 7 September 2009

Sconny Botland

The man in the picture, George Burley, was manager of Hearts for about 3 months. His record in competitive games was won 8, drew 1 (against Celtic at Parkheid and theirs was a dodgy offside goal). That's the best run of 9 games the Jam Tarts have had in their 125 year history, even better than anything done in the '50s when Hearts and Hibs regularly won the League, League Cup and Scottish Cup - oops, sorry.....Hibs havenae won the Cup since 1902.

Burley was sacked as Hearts manager cos the owner, bad Vlad Romanov, is a megalomaniac who likes to pick the team himsel. Within a few months Vlad went on to sell Hearts' 3 best players including the captain to Celtic. This was too much for me to take and i've never paid to see Hearts at home again. I miss the fitba, don't see as much of my dad and have lost touch with a few peeps because of the self imposed ban but i'll no be back til the owner's gone (probly once he's stripped every last asset and flogged the ground to a property developer).

George Burley's now manager of Scotland and despite the balloons who run the Scottish Fitba Association and the overpriced, substandard guff we usually have to watch, i've long been keen on big match days out in the Weege. Most folk dinnae rate Burley as highly as i do - they're no fellow Jambos, they didnae see much o the barry way we played under his stewardship and, frankly, his record with Scotland's been fairly keech (i blame the dearth of decent Scottish players no the manager).

Scotland games arenae often memorable for the actual match but it's fab to have a day at the game wi non-Jambo footy chums. On Saturday there was me, a Sheep, a Hun, a Tim, an Arab and 3 Hibbies (trendy fuckers). We got tipsy in Glesga boozers, spraffed nonsense wi randoms and fuck me if we didnae get to see our team win for a change. Win in style. Score a coupla peaches. Spend the last 40 mins sprayin the baw and takin the tash. It was feckin magic. Okay, we were playin Macedonia not Brazil but check this oot (groovy Arabic commentary included) and tell me you wouldnae have loved to have been there. Hampden Park was rockin even at half time when we'd been shite beyond belief so when we actually scored goals the joint went bonkers.

We probly still need to beat the Netherlands on Wednesday to have any chance of qualification for the World Cup in Sooth Efrikay. We probly won't do that. But for the unrestrained joy of Saturday, i remain extremely grateful to G Burley and the team he put out. Shame Copie nutted me when the second goal went in but my egg shaped lump will recede far faster than the memory of a top day out.

Moan the Sconny Botland!

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Long Hot Summer Just Passed Me By

32 years after the Jam's first single release and 37 after he first formed the band, it's still tres cool in some quarters to bang on about how barry Paul Weller is. In some eyes, the so called Modfather cannae put a foot wrong. Everyone loves the Jam and a lotta cats dig Weller's patchy solo output but most peeps dinnae really get the Style Council. Personally i loved them, dodgy boatin clobber anaw.

They dressed like fuds but this was was the early 80's and let's be honest, who didnae? Early on the band released a tiptop cheap as chips soul-infused mini album, nane too originally entitled Introducing The Style Council. This smashin wee platter included the doleful Long Hot Summer single with its catchy line "...the long hot summer just passed me by".

I ken how they felt. September awready. Cheesy peeps.

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Back In Denim


When i was a bairn i had this recurring nightmare where i was stuck on a haunted, cartoon stylee roller coaster a la Scooby Doo (think i was Shaggy's wee brother). It used to scare the shit outta me. I was reminded of it a week past Sunday on the 10 hour boat journey from Girvan to Port Ellen. There was a force 5-6 hoolie blowin and our 50 foot trawler felt like a twig. I wanted it to stop. I wanted to get off. I wanted my ma to come through and tell me it was all just a dream. But as tea cups flew round my lugs and the sea scooshed over the prows, as up and down became tricky concepts to fathom, i knew this was no dream and i'd have to hang grimly on til we reached land. Or just died, i really didnae care which. (In truth, a hug off Mand woulda helped a lot.)

By next morn, the wind had eased right off to erm....quite flippin stormy, so we were away at the back o 4 in search of queenies. It occurred that i hadnae spewed and probly wasnae gonna, which was a big bonus. But i was still strugglin to stay balanced and kept whackin my napper, elbows, knees and shins off hard metal surfaces. So the fear subsided but the physical pain was really kickin in all over my body.

The bangs and bumps were nowt compared to the pain induced by shovelling though. 3 times a day, i shovelled 1.5 tonnes of queenies from the deck into a 5 foot high hopper. This had to be done at top speed as the hopper feeds a "riddle" - a spinning metal tube with holes to allow smaller, immature queenies to escape back to sea. The riddle errs on the side of rejecting larger queenies and needs a constant flow or it'll chuck everything back.

If i wasnae shovelling, i'd be perched at the other end of the riddle, stopping anything that wasnae a queenie (cod, dog fish, plaice, dover sole, lemon sole, squid, octopus, sea anemone, jellyfish, big clumpy weed) from slipping down a chute for bagging in the fish room. From an average 1.5 tonne lift, we'd be doing well to bag 600 kilos of clean, trawled queenies (less if i was shovellin than if it was Demetrei, my very hard, very funny wee Rumanian crewmate).

There were 3 other boats working the same patch and each night after trawling we'd all tie up at Ballycastle and unload our catch into the same refrigerated lorry for despatch and processing at a fish factory in Kirkcudbright. Most nights there'd be a spot of net mending or deck tidying then 3 or 4 hours kip before heading back out to sea. A coupla times we'd unload then head straight back out, depending on the weather and likely sailing time back to that bitto sea between Rathlin Island, Kintyre and Islay.

So, aye, this was physically the hardest thing i've ever done. I got used to rough seas quite sharpish but i never did stop fallin about the place and have scratches and bruises the length of my body. Despite the use of heavy gloves, all that shovelling and unloading ripped shreds out my hands, which are now scabby and claw like. And the work meant i lost a bucket off my belly and developed visible muscles across my upper body. Shame i'm still too knackered to actually use them.

Living for a week at a time in a dangerous wee wooden box with no bog or shower and a sleeping berth slightly shorter than masel and the height of my forearm meant i was gonna get dependent on those around me for support. Demetrei was great though his grasp of Embra Scots meant he never knew what the feck i was on aboot (no sure why but i slipped deeper into Embrese on the boat than i would on a Sunday sesh in the Nix - reckon langauge was a wee comfort blanket for me). And Demetrei cannae steer a boat for love nor money.

Skipper D and assistant Skipper P love the sea and when not dishin out the orders, showing me how to steer or thread net-mending needles, they espouse their passion for conservation of what's out there. They desperately want European politicians to get a grip and tighten up the rules on what's allowed to be taken from the sea. They don't like greed in any form and particularly dislike the factory dredgers which hoover up 10 times what we can, direct from the seabed. Great guys.

I got an occasional glimpse of wonderful scenery - the cliffs of Rathlin, Kintyre and Islay are a splendid sight for weary peepers, though i was usually too busy to sit back and really enjoy them. (Got some great pics but left my camera on the boat, erse that i am, so i'll post them when i get it back.) The coast road from Larne to Ballycastle is really spectacular and i cannae wait to get back there next summer for a wee campin trip.

For now the queenies are off the agenda, the lads are further north and west looking for clams. This only supports a 3 man crew so i'm ashore for the foreseeable. I'm back in the market for a job but if nothing's come up by November, i'll be back out there on the boat, this time hauling in prawns.

Hmm....all that work, no enough sleep, shitin in a plastic bag AND freezin winter weather. Hud aes back.

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Rum, Sodomy and the Lash


Last weekend was ma birthday so a wee blow out was well in order. Turned into a proper topper: saw Tom Tom Crew (tip top hip hop inspired nonsense from fit young Aussies), wolfed curry at Khushi's Diner (great scran and byob wi nae corkage), attended the Mela (South Asian arts festival) in Pilrig Park, took in Rough Cut Nation at the National Portrait Gallery (must go back when it's quieter) then danced and spraffed masel dizzy at Headspin. Wound down with an extended Sunday sesh in Easter Road's Royal Nip (cheap as chapaties, rough as rocks, friendly as fuck and plenty raucous punk on the jukie).

I highly recommended all of the above, though you'll have to wait a year for the next Mela.

This week was supposed to involve watchin Scotland hump Macedonia (surely) at the fitba, deliverin loadsa phonebooks and listening to Archie MacPherson in conversation. Alas, poor Archie, summat else has come up.

Tomorrow morn i'm takin a ferry from Cairnryan to Larne then bussing up to Ballycastle in north County Antrim to hook wi my favourite fisherman. The following day i'll be out at sea chasin queenies for up to 12 days. For a strict veggie landlubber like masel, this is indeed a strange choice of activity. I am (almost literally) cackin masel at the thought of it (strange, nervous, gurgley belly).

What if i spew up aw the time? What if i cannae take the smell o fish, diesel and sweat? What if shiting in a bucket's no as easy as it sounds? What if my soft wee body crumbles after a coupla long long days of proper graft? The negative possibilities are kinda endless but the positives mos def outweigh them bigstyle.

If i can hack it, i'll be doing something most peeps only get to watch on telly, i'll meet new and very different people, i'll lose some weight and get a bit fitter, i'll have loadsa time to read, i should sleep well cos i'll be knackered every night, i'll surely come back wi some great tales to tell and i might even earn a coupla bob while i'm at it.

So i could be gone for a coupla weeks. Please be nice to Mand if you see her. Don't tell my maw what i'm up to cos the worry will ruin her wee break in Ibiza. And if you do see me skulkin down the Walk in less than 12 days time, don't rub it in too hard that i wisnae up to it. I may well no be, but at least i'll gie it a bash.

Hawnaw....

Friday, 7 August 2009

Super Furry Animals


One day close to last Christmas i hit a coupla wrong buttons on the laptop and accidentally created my own blog (for someone who tries to work in IT, i really am that stupit). Just for a laugh i went with it. When it came to choosing a name for the thing, i looked round the room and saw a cd case for Super Furry Animals' Fuzzy Logic album. I'm no really a detail buff, like to make sweeping and ill-considered points and seldom think things through unless i'm lyin awake in the middle of the night. I also love the Super Furries so reckoned Fuzzy Logic would do just fine.

This morning's a crackin sunny summer one, started like most these days with coffee, toast and an interent job search. No much luck but next week i'll be deliverin the new phone book to people in the Leith Links/Restalrig/Lochend areas - 11 pence a copy. I didnae quite crack open the Bollie when i landed that one (nivir cracked Bollie in ma life, as it appens) but it'll get me ootnaboot and it's better than doing nowt ataw.

To cheer me up before a wee jog round the Links, i stuck on the Super Furry's latest Dark Days/Light Years album. Unusually for SFA, this one didnae really grab me at first but its cheeky melodies and subversive lyrics are slowly weavin a way right into ma heid. In a few minutes, i'm gonna be whistlin Lliwiau Llachar through my teeth as i puff along on the run. It's beautiful and the chorus is in Welsh. I kinda like the idea of singin along to something i don't understand. There's a whole SFA album in Welsh called Mwng and my good (monoglot) buddy Mert can sing every word. Lovely.

SFA are the greatest band that's still a band in the world. Their albums are chock full of great songs that sound like simple 4:4 pop, mental psychedelic noodling, thumpin techno, garish prog nonsense, folk songs, tv theme tunes. They're all underpinned by the barriest, most humane and funniest lyrics (when i understand them) i've ever heard (including those by bands that arenae bands anymore like the Clash). The words to "Juxtaposed" and "Cityscape Skybaby" can almost reduce me to tears when i'm in a certain kinda mood.

And tother day, Scottie B, who first took me to see them at the Corn Exchange (i was slow on the uptake) sent me this link to an interview wi lead singer gadge, Gruff Rhys. Makes me wish i had progeny that Gruff could run off with to work in the circus. I've seen the band live loadsa times now in Embra, Glasgow, several festivals and best of all, in Ullapool town hall (that gig was a one off and nowt to do with the apparently very wonderful Loopallu). As well as the barry music, when they play live, the Furries put on a bit of a show with silly costumes, projected films of their day in the locale and overhead hand-written projected messages to the crowd. Startlingly full on stuff.

One day soon i'm gonna sort masel out and go see them play in Wales. Despite my love for this band, i've never been there and that's just no good enough.

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Rows Arenae All Bad


If you've been hangin wi the same person since the days Bobby Gillespie played drums for the Jesus and Mary Chain, you're gonna have the odd day when you run outta decent stuff to say and end up havin a big old row about bugger all. Such was Friday. One minute we were debating rice or naan, the next we were hissing abuse over tarka dal. A less than half scranned curry was abandoned and soon we headed in different directions to get pished alone. This was a bit gash.

But the upside is that waking on Saturday morn, we both knew a bit of effort was required.

Pausing briefly to gulp coffee and alka seltzer, we were out the hoose and up the toon by the back of 9. We hit Henderson's for a spot of Breakfast With Burns - a wee taster for 3 Burns related shows at the Hanover Street veggie restaurant, with brekky chucked in for free. The shows in question are John Cairney's one man recounting of tales and poems of and by Burns (very funny judging by the wee bit we got); Loving Burns, which is Alicia Devine's vision of Burns through the eyes of some of the women in his life; and 18th century music on geetar and funny shaped recorders by John Sampson and Stewart Hanratty.

All good stuff after which me and the lemon were mos def talking and laughing again. Oh, and we met Elph in Henderson's (one of us is stalkin the other, i'm sure of it). He reminded us about Rough Cut Nation at the National Portrait Gallery, to which i'll take my camera. Elph is also gonna be working on a piece live at this Saturday's Festival Headspin (11-5 at the Bongo Club). That's gonna be a cracker of a night.

But back to last Sat. Heading back down the Walk stoatin round a few charity shops, we picked up a groovy 60's/70's retro mirror for a mere 3 quid. Result, though when we got it home, our hearts sank a tinge at the sight of an IKEA sticker on the back. Ho hum, looks no bad even though awkunt else in Scotland has one just like it.

So how to fill our Saturday afternoon? Pittenweem Arts Festival. Pittenweem's one of many old villages strewn along the East Neuk of Fife from Elie to St Andrews (that's my definition, sure others would argue). They used to land fish and build ships all along this coast. Now they mainly play golf, sell fish (fine for pescatarians, bit pish for the likes o me), cater for lucky tourists (very picture skew) and play home to an unlikely number of musicians and artists (it's that quality of the light, dahlings). The Beta Band were born round here and the Fence Collective still do it in these parts.

Pittenweem is unlike anything i've ever been at. Every second or third home, shop, garage, church hall is turned into a wee gallery, crammed with original visual arty bits by local and international painters, sculptors, embroiderists (?) and jewellers. It's magic. You get to talk to the artists, ask them about their work, tell them when you don't get it, tell them when you do get it, haggle bout the prices, comment on their beard etcetra. Cos it's gettin close to ma birthday, Mand was felling mighty generous and dug deep to buy me 2 signed postcards (2 quid a pop). Framed originals were a bit out of our current league. I tried that line bout the artists bein old and lookin like they'll peg it soon at which point their works'll rocket in price. But I was reminded that i'm neither an ageist nor a capitalist so told to shut ma geggie and be done wi the cards. Which was fair enough.

Pittenweem Arts Festival is on til the 9th of Aug and well worth a deek if yer in the area. One of the artists showing is Graeme Murray. I was at Primary School with Graeme, met him for the first time in years at a wedding a few weeks back and bumped into him again on Sat, this time whilst viewing paintings in his own home. Now that was weird.

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

AKB Cycling Club

8 members of the AKB Cycling Club hooked up at the Roseleaf on Saturday morning for July's outing. Those pictured above are Jason, Pablo, Gizz, DJ Wanless, Laura, Scottie B, Stevie D and masel. As Johnny K was too busy running his splendid bar cafe to make the bike run, he took the photo and Lynne served pre-run Irn Bru and tea (the Scottish Breakfast blend's a mighty fine brew). I half fancied grabbin a beetroot and chilli pickled egg (nobody does them better) but having just scoffed a scrambled egg roll, felt well egged up and swerved it.

So the run: a quick scoot along the Water of Leith lead us through Vicky Park past Trinity Primary where i spent 4 of the happiest years of my life (really). We battered on to Telford Path, crossing the big red bridge over Crewe Toll then under Telford Road where we stopped for a quick marvel at the fine graffiti. Must get Dunk down there sometime soon - i could spot the Elph work but he'd nae doots put a few more names to the tags. Well groovy spraycan action. I'll take some pics next time.

We soon ran out of disused railway lines and followed cycle route signs through suburban Silverknowes and the mansions of Barnton to Cramond Brig. At this point, the official cycle path runs close by the A90 to Queensferry but AKB cyclists occasionally eschew officialdom and we turned sharp right into Dalmeny Estate. This vast area comprises farmland, mature forests, beaches, a golf course, Dalmeny House and hunners o tidy lookin workers' cottages. It's owned by the Roseberrys who're very clearly no short of a bob or two. Jolly decent of them to allow a proletarian mob to spin across the lawns and through the muddy puddles of their impressive back garden.

30 mud spattering mins after entering the Estate, we reached the Hawes Inn at South Queensferry. This old boozer's parked right under the Forth Bridge and gets a mention in Robert Louis Stevenson's "Kidnapped" which, if memory serves is set just after the Jacobite Rebellion. So the Hawes has been around a while and seen a bit of action. It's doubtful that any of the action's been quite as manky as the tale one of our crew related in the beer garden. He was young, he was daft, he wisnae used to the drink. And he shall remain anonymous.

Many years ago his first ever works Christmas night out was held in the Hawes. The work supplied wine on the tables (half white, half red). Luckily for this tale, our hero was the only red wine drinker at his table and guzzled several bottles to himself. He likes his scran anaw and soon went seeking the lavvies in desperate need of a keech. Due to the bevvy, he got a bit lost and stumbled into a bedroom with no en suite facilities. By this stage, he'd relaxed the sphincter a bit too much and really had to evacuate sharpish. Very sharpish. Rather than just keech in a corner, our boy thought he'd have a laugh with it, jumped up on the bed and laid a fresh jobby on top of the duvet. To compound this heinous faux pas, our lad nashed back to the table, grabbed the boss and took him for a peek and a giggle at what he'd just done.

Apparently, there was a slightly frosty atmosphere in the office on the Monday.

Once we'd stopped fallin about the garden, half of us headed back to Leith and the rest crossed the Forth Road Bridge to North Queensferry. We returners took the offical cycle path via Dalmeny village as far as Cramond Brig where we followed the river Almond to its mouth. From there we cycled along Silverknowes esplanade then jumped the road (boo) for a wee bit along Lower Granton Road til we picked up the Trinity cycle path back to Leith.

All in all a fab day out and once again, most pleasing to see how far we could get with minimal use of roads. AKB cyclists don't like roads.

Saturday, 25 July 2009

Peter McDougall

Irvine Welsh's Trainspotting blew me away. Mand drank in the same Leith boozer as his uncle (Gillis's - cheap beer, dugs, pipes, bunnets, slippers, local civil servants, women in pinnies and sadly long gone) so we got a sneaky wee preview and thought we'd just discovered Embra's own Dead Sea scrolls. Turns out Trainspotting's much more interesting than those scraps of old papyrus and we were chuffed to bits that it went down so well when the people got to read it.

Welsh's brilliance makes it easy to overlook some of the other great modern writers who've plied that trade in their own version of the Scots tongue. James Kelman's a favourite and Peter McDougall's another. I'd almost forgotten Peter McDougall's tv plays of the 70's and was reminded purely by (target marketing) chance when an on line shopping site sugggested i'd mibby dig The Peter McDougall Collection. They were right, the bastards and i bought it straight away.

As a family, among other groovy stuff we went to the pictures a coupla times a month (Corstophine Astoria), hit the panto every year (Kings, Toll X) and watched a fair amount of telly (mainly snooker, films, fitba and Play for Today). Maybe cos McDougall and my dad both come from Greenock and worked for a while in the shipyards, PM's were the plays of the day that really got us going. 3 of these - Just Another Saturday, Elephant's Graveyard and Just A Boy's Game - feature in The Collection along with Down Among The Big Boys and a wee documentary about McDougall and his work.

Just Another Saturday stars Jon Morrison as the 15 year old mace twirler for a flute band on the day of a big Orange parade in Glasgow. The parade's a familiar (though pleasingly rarer) sight for any who've lived through a Scottish central belt summer. The Lodge's early co-operation with shooting contribute to the almost documenatry feel of much of the play. Twould appear that, as production proceeded, the Grand Order sussed McDougall's play wasnae gonna be shoogely sympathetic to their cause. They withdrew support and filming of later march scenes was done in Leith and Newhaven. Billy Connolly pops up late on in the play, looking and acting like he did in his Welly Boot Song days. There's also a great wee performance as Morrison's maw from Eileen McCallum. As well as being a good chum from high school's actual maw, she's a splendid actor and really sparkles in this role.

Morrison and Connolly team up again in Elephant's Graveyard. This one's a barry 2 hander about a coupla guys hiding out for the day from their wives and lives in the hills up the back of Greenock. It's easy on the peepers and gently paced yet the dialogue's fast, furious and often hilarious. It's a wee shorty of less than an hour and seemed almost trifling when i watched it a coupla night ago, but of them all, this is the one i've thought most of since.

Just Another Saturday is the one i remembered best from my youth. It features Ken Hutchison, Gregor Fisher and Frankie Miller (all pictured above) and contains my fave and most repeated tv line ever viz. - "McCafferty, yer tea's oot!" This play's an utter cracker. It's scary, funny (fuckin funny), tragic, heart warming, angry and bitter. The cast's outstanding and also includes Hector Nicol and briefly, oh so briefly, a superbly comical Eileen McCallum, again as an exasperated mother.

All 3 of the above were directed by John MacKenzie. Talented gadgie.

Down Among The Big Boys was shown on telly many years later (it reeks of the late 80's). It clearly had a bigger budget than the Plays for Today and the cast, including Billy Connolly on the cusp of his polo playing days, were mainly well established. I loved every minute of it. 'Tickety Fuckin Boo' indeed.

Other than that, McDougall wrote the screenplay for A Sense Of Freedom - Jimmy Boyle's autobiopic (?) and a late 80's teleplay called Shoot For The Sun, set smack among the same kinda mid 80's Embra junkies as Welsh's Trainspotting. I mind one nippy Feb night being asked to wait on the corner of Albert Street and the Walk while a scene was made for Shoot For The Sun. Near froze ma nuts off but i almost felt famous when it finally hit the telly.

I wish Peter McDougall had written (would write) much more but what he's done's been done supremely. He's managed to get the voices of real and often neglected people right up there on telly - the most important medium of its time. He's made me laugh and want to greet along the way and for that i thank him.

Monday, 20 July 2009

Rabbie's On The Coke


Mand came home from work (whatever that is) tother day wi a bottla coca cola featuring Rabbie Burns on the label. 250 years since his birth, Homecoming and aw that.

Really no sure how i feel about this. I love Burns' poetry, i like the taste of coca cola, it's packed full o sugar and caffeine, it's almost as good as coffee (nah, no really) and the firm that makes it's a shower o shites.

You can buy coke everywhere i've ever been in the world. Which isnae right. Coke represents the very zenith of consumerist imperialism. I despise it. But it tastes good and helps wi hangovers. Irn Bru's overrated on that front. Sorry.

Now i'm on that subject, nowt touches Alka Seltzer when it comes to the mornin after, spesh when mixed wi an effervescent vit c tab. As Archie MacPherson would put it, "Whoofhca!"

But i digress. Should i dig the zenith of consumerism bummin up Burns or should i see it for the shabby opportunism it really represents? I think the latter - it's like the Clash on a Levi's ad. Wrong.

I'll be keepin hud o the bottle though. Tis a cracker.

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

More T, Vicar?

Twas with a shooge amount of trepidation that i was anticipating last weekend's T in the Park. The weather's been pish, the line up wisnae the greatest and, bein kinda long in the tooth, the thought of 3 nights in a muddy field full o buckied up nippers and boomin shcemie techno beatboxes was nane too appealin. However, C Mitchell and Acky were gonna be around and we were campin next to Jules (carriageway) and Nobby so some barry patter was bounty be on the cards. Plus the Specials were due to play and i couldnae miss them. Oh and, erm....my ticket was free so there was nowt much to lose.

First impression was that the event's mushroomed significantly since my last trip to T in 2006 (daily capacity's now 85,000). On the way into the campsite i was truly freaked by the level of wobbly pishedness on display. How grim was it gonna get by Monday morn? We did however, meet a Hare Krishna gadge whom i managed to get to shout "Awkuntzbarry" in return for me goin "Gouranga". He asked if it was Gaelic and we told him it's Embrese for "Everyone is good". Beautiful.

Having entered the arena, i spent 2 hours locating then queueing for beer tokens. Well pissed off to be stuck in a queue while my chums grooved out to Camera Obscura. Still, the site's surrounded by decent wee hills and a big big sky so i contented masel checkin the changing colours as the sun sunk gently in the west. Right pretty.
On finally obtaining said tokens and exchanging them for actual lager (£3.50 a pint, bitto a scandal but the Tennents was much tastier than that Carling keech at RockNess), i grabbed a snatch o some very jump abooty Pearl and the Puppets then rejoined ma pals for the last 45 mins o the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Tunes were tops and the singer looked fab - there's no such thing as too much lipstick and i'm always game for pvc and buckles.

By now it was late and we had to decide tween Kings of Leon (been there, bored by that) or Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds (never seen, always been intrigued, featured in the second rubbish pic). Seemed like 84,750 peeps took the Kings' shilling cos the crowd for NC and the BS was paltry in extemis. But who cared about that? The Bad Seeds sure didnae cos they fair battered out some filthy, malevolent, sleazebag rock, gobbed a lot, pulled great shapes and looked like they enjoyed it as much as the paltry group o punters. Well chuffed Copie and Scottie B had plugged them so heavily. Thank you, geezers - king cheeseburger really was born in Tupelo.
Back at the campsite, punters were pleasantly chatty, chilled and even keen to kip. Me, Nob and Mand were the last peeps in earshot to hit the sack and managed to grab a few happily zonked hours before waking in our sauna tent. The sun was up and we had toasty weather. Nobby had a stove and made cups o coffee wi veggie sausages on a roll and squeezy cream cheese. Jules crashed choccy bics. Mand crashed apples and oranges. Flippin magic.

So we hit the arena with a spring in the step plus gin and vodka in our bags. First sight of note was some tasty Elph graffiti on big cement bollards (3rd rubbish pic above). Later on i met Elph himself. For such a skilled sprayer, he's a right decent gadge (if i had any talent other than makin soup, i'd probs be a big heided twat). Anyway, we checked out Beardyman in the Slam tent (sweaty as fuck and too many beats), Unicorn Kid (17 years old, enthusiastic, talented, no really ma thing) then soaked up some rays wi beers, chat, laughter and James playin away in the background.

This was all a warm up for the one, the only, the truly magnificent Specials (top dodgy pic). Even without the toothless Jerry Dammers, the Specials brewed up a storm for the large 30 and 40 something crowd they pulled to the sunny main stage. The Specials have, for many years, been my favourite unseen band and i was almost in tears as they rattled out Ghost Town then left the stage. Trouble wi festivals is that non-headlining acts get noe more than an hour in the spotlight and it was all over much too soon. Oh well.

There was very little of interest to me on the rest of Saturday's bill and i'd happily have jumped a bus back to Embra for Headspin. Thank the sweet baba Jesus, i heard 2 great tunes from the 1990's and then was huckled by Jules into seein Florence and the Machine. I'd seen this mob on the tellybox at Glasto and thought they were fairly gash. How wrong i was. Florence can really leap aboot, isnae scared to down plastic bottles o vodka flung on stage and can sing like an angel on acid. She had a hoachin wee tent in the palm of her hand throughout and for me, this was by a mile the most pleasantly surprising band of the weekend.
The long feared rain rolled in on Saturday night and was still tumblin down come Sunday mornin. Urgh...this is what festy nightmare are made of. But miraculously, by midday the rain had eased and the sun poked through the cloudy murk. We still missed Squeeze and Seasick Steve due to a reluctance to venture far from our tents but by the time we did hit the arena, the weather was decent enough to wish i hadnae stuffed my daypack with every bitto waterproof clothing in Scotland.

VV Brown cheered up my hangovery mood with some happy happy tunes. Pete Doherty was right on top of his game and put me in mind of Joe Strummer (but better at guitar and no quite as angry). Lily Allen was cack as expected, Hockey disappointed, Shnaw Patrol were like pouring a pint o ditchwater down yer lug, Pendulum sounded great but i couldnae get near their stage and neither could i get in to see Tommy Reilly, of whom everyone sang massive praise.

So it was left to Blur to round things off. Another band i'd never seen before. You just cannae argue wi a proper band with great tunes and, what i imagine to have been the biggest crowd of the weekend went bonkers, singin every word from start to finish. Tender was possibly the greatest live song i've ever heard and the crowd forced a reprise from the band 3 or 4 times. Precisely what it's all about for the likes o me. Was also good to see that Damon Albarn looked rough as fuck (nae offence Damon, rock and roll eh?)

So all in all, a great weekend away and, if the line up's any good next year, i'm gonna do my best to hit it again. Organisation was spot on, the security and polis were happy and helpful and the punters were in great form - met some barry randoms including wheens o English cats who rate T as their favourite festy. There are signs of me ageing though - feel completely done in today, actually ate some food over the weekend and even had 2 jobbies, which is certainly a first for me at T. I think the presence of those big shite tankers (4th crappy pic) had somethin to do with the genuine cleanliness of the bogs. Or maybe my standards are slipping.

Anyway, my main point is, stick 85,000 people together and, in general, they're fab.

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Fannies, I Love You

Been mopin bout the hoose far too much of late. This is due to it goin all quiet on the testing, painting and gairdnin fronts. The pishy weather means i cannae even add finishing touches to my ain windaes (painter's tip time: undercoat and primer need good dry weather to do their thing on fresh timber).

So, as mentioned in the AKB Harriers post, me, Pablo, Wanless and Al D plan to enter a relay team in next year's Embra snickers. To this end i've kicked off a proper training schedule. Aim is to try and run an 8 mile section in about an hour. That may prove too adventurous for a welto of my erm...age and lifestyle. We'll see, but in the meantime, i've trained just twice and the dodgy knee's nippin already. Any tips on nippy knee protection?

Other than that and an evening Macjob on the phones, i've been diggin out old tunes and playin them louder than i should (crazy, huh?) You can get away with a lot when yer neebs are at work. Anyway, shame of shames i'd forgotten just how good Teenage Fanclub really are. Been kinda ignorin the Fannies since catchin them at Connect 2008, which i now realise was just plain daft. According to the website, they're playin a few festy dates over the summer, though not T in the Park which i'll be gracing wi ma presence this coming weekend (come on weather, sort yer act oot!)

Until i see them live again (and they are astounding in the flesh), i'll kick back and blast the flawless Bandwagonesque, Thirteen, Grand Prix and Songs Fom Northern Britain lp's. Aural beauties, every one.

Monday, 29 June 2009

Urban Art in the Scottish Highlands

A healthy squad of us - including bairns Ben, Isaac and Beth - went camping in stunning Highland Perthshire on Saturday. Ostensibly there to take in the Fourth Element Urban Art exhibition at the highly impressive Aberfedly Watermill we took yonks getting away from Embra so held off on the art til Sunday. We'd usually camp in the wild but the presence of kids, meant we stayed at the Aberfeldy Caravan and Campsite - a right well appointed joint with friendly staff and punters. Special shout to Ungs and Kase, the Dutch guys who bought a coupla jars of Mel's homemade jam.

So Saturday evening was spent sipping lagers, playing chasey wi the bairns, knockin up some badminton, strolling and skimming stones by the bonny banks of the River Tay. Mel and Seony enjoyed a wee paddle which lead to the inevitable water fight - silly, damp girls. We also had a boot the cheap plastic fitba as far as you can along the path competition (Scottie B won).

Aberfeldy's a particularly fecund part of Scotland and at this time of year, the variety of trees, shrubs, herbaceous plants and flowers looks and smells spectacular. It also hosts an abundance of wildlife - my own favourites being the big birds o prey (sure i saw an osprey on the Sunday) and the bats which wheel past yer lugs and at one point whizzed between Mand and me at lower than waist height.

Anyway, the art. Woke up on Sunday feeling nane too shabby - amazing how well you can feel on 10 cans o lager and 4 hours kip when you've breathed real fresh air and drunk plenty water. The staff and punters still seemed to be speakin to us so we must have behaved better than usual (those bairns are a civilising influence).


As mentioned, the Watermill's a crackin establishment with an impressive bookshop featuring a lot of books about the area and by local authors, a decent coffee shop (tasty orange and poppyseed cake, Mand loved her lemon drizzle number) and of course a gallery full of work by Banksy, D*Face, Blek Le Rat, Dolk, Eelus, The London Police, Insect Boy, Street Improvements and Embra's own Elph. It was kinda weird seeing this sort of art trussed up in frames rather than on walls but i loved most of it and would gladly have splashed some cash on a print if i had a proper job and a spot more disposable income. I think Dunk o Cupar could have spent a bob or two himself.

My 2 fave pieces were those above - D*Face's 'Statue of Liberty' and Banksy's 'Grannies'. The Watermill's lined up a varied programme of literary and visual arts events and i'll mos def make the effort to pop in next time i'm in the area. Reckon we've all rediscovered that campin bug so it shouldnae be long til we're back. Come on the long hot summer.

Saturday, 27 June 2009

Doffin Ma Bunnet

Dunk o Cupar loves graffiti because it can transform a mundane public frature (like the wall above) into something much less prosaic. Dunk also loves giving up his spare time (or bunkin off work) to do a favour for someone else. Thus he was inspired to take the wall above and turn it into the wall below. This wall is located at the Pilrig Family and Children Centre on the very outskirts o Leith. The staff, parents and most importantly bairns who work at or attend it are blown away by the difference this has made to a previously dull wee corner of their centre. And i cannae blame them, it's great close up and fab from a distance.

Dunk came up with the idea of muralisin after a chat wi Mert who works at the centre. It's been spoken about for a while but on Thursday, he and Gill got down to the serious business of designing then executing this barry piece o work. I was privileged to help out wi the less tricky bits o the operation (reeds, some foliage and the Arthur's Seat inspired backround hills) while D&G painted all the beasts. The list of beasts includes a heron, deer, badger, rabbit, otter, pine marten, fox, mole, salmon, owl, sparrow hawk, gulls, ducklings, an oyster catcher, kingfisher, snake, ladybirds, ants, bees, a frog, spider and a coupla butterflies which were added after this shot was taken. There are other beasts in there, but my heid's too full of other nonsense to mind what they are right now. Click on the pic to enlarge and pick them out.

Mert also deserves a whole lotta credit for cooking our dinner then getting down and dirty wi the painters once the bairns had gone home for the day. A great effort fae the laddie and his toadstools sit perfectly in bugsy corner to the bottom right o the wall.

This is hopefully the first of many such ventures by this crew and our extended welto family. Rumours are rife that some sorta Welto Foundation is to be launched and a group'll be set up on Facebook. I dinnae really do Facebook but will provide a link once one's available. Anyone who fancies doing or commissioning bit o voluntary work for a decent cause in and around Embra or Fife should mos def get in touch. Anyone lookin to contribute spare cash or materials is also strongly encouraged to gie aes a shout.

It's inspiring and quite humbling to have pals as groovy as Dunk and Gill. The Mert boy's no a bad yin either. I tip ma titfer in each of your directions.

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Oban


Spent last weekend in Oban aka the small bay (Gaelic), aka the gateway to the isles (kitschy tourist brochure speak). First time i've been there in many a year. Oban really is a gateway to many of Scotland's finest isles and ferries nash in and out the busy wee bay all day long. The Cal Mac ferry above batters to and from and Mull 7 times a day. Boats also regularly ply (love that word) from Oban to Collonsay, Lismore, Coll, Tiree, Barra and South Uist. One day soon i'm gonna get that camper van back on the road to Mull and the isles.

In the meantime, local prawnboat skipper, very tall man and all round guid guy, Doll, is arranging a wee trip for 6 of us on his boat from Oban to St Kilda via Uist, Harris, Lewis and erm...other places. That's gonna have to happen next summer now as diaries are kinda full but it'll be worth the wait. St Kilda - ya beauty, bring it on.

Anyway, Seony, Johnny D and masel werenae in Oban to island hop but to fix a big garden and check the local boozers. The garden was very big, it was full o buttercups, it was a rocky, claybound, messy pile and now it looks magnificent. Really. Well worth the sensation of having been used as the ball in a game o shinty. Well worth walkin all week since like i've just shat ma pants. I can only hope its owner agrees cos it feckin hurt. Good fun though.

In between the gairdnin we were, as mentioned, checkin out the boozers. Rather disgracefuly i cannae mind the name of our first (very loud) port of call but it was swiftly followed by the Waterfront (much better than a Simple Minds song), Cuan Mor (serves great food, including tiptop nutroast wi mashed tatties an cheese), the Aulay (proper radgeworks clientele, very cheery staff) and finally the Lorne (weltoest boozer in the west, barman wi froggy tatts and the hardest looking friendly bouncer ever seen).

Oban's kinda pretty to look at (from a distance) and packed to the gunnels wi tourists but it's rough as biscuits under the surface. The peeps we met were not genteel - they swore like fuck, grabbed each other's baws , nipped each other's erses, did that wet finger in the lug thing, smoked like kippers. They stared a bit at first and took the pish when i asked "Do you ken where the Lorne Bar is?" (ans: "Yer pal Ken's round that corner and so's the Lorne.") But i liked them. They mainly said hullo and cheerio and apologised ("fuckin sorry about that, pal") when falling across our table.

Oban even manages to smell o chips and big old fishing boats in an inoffensive way. Which is some trick to pull off. I think Muhammad Ali said it best when he said, "I shall return". And i shall.

Thursday, 18 June 2009

Messy Nessy


As many bairns of the early 70's will testify, successful Apollo missions, Dr Who and Space 1999 lead us to believe we'd soon all zip around in jet packs, looking like David Bowie and eating delicious yet nutritious 3 course meals in single tablet form. By the 1980's it was clearly all up - the mountain bike was the future of transport, Sigue Sigue Sputnik just looked like a bunch o fannies and nothing would ever taste as good as a Pot Noodle (though there was a certain tablet available that made jet packs, Bowie and actual food seem totally irrelevant).

The tinfoil coloured dreams kinda slipped away til one day in the early 90's strange bleeping noises were heard to sound a bit like music. The geezer in Avalanche said the noises were off Orbital's Brown album so i bought it and a strange wee love affair with the sound of Sevenoaks began. Dunno why but whenever i hear Orbital i'm reminded of the techno dreams i had as an 8 year old. So twas wi great delight on Saturday that i was back behind the settee of dreams, hiding from the Daleks as Orbital twisted their rib thumpin tunes to a tentful of rhythmic jumpers on the shores of Loch Ness. I last saw them 5 years ago in a tent in Balado and despite the apparent lack of any new choons, they're as groovy as ever and easily the highlight of this year's RockNess.

And that's quite a compliment cos, as Jason, Johnny D, Mand, me, Jules, Jamus, Scottie B, Pudge, Nobby, Stevie D and a good few thousand randoms will testify, Rock Ness was magnificent for several reasons. First up, it's in a beautiful location, right on the south shore of the Ness near the village of Dores. The campsite is spacious wi plenty remarkably clean bogs, washing spaces, barbecue areas and fresh water taps. The sun shone near enough aw weekend. The naturally amphitheatrical (?) gig site comprises two large tents, one shooge (prob too big) main stage and a coupla smaller tents for dj sets and after hours shenanigans (the party pumps til 3, which is a pleasant change from the likes o T in the Park).

But all that cack's superfluous without a barry line up and happy punters and Rock Ness had both in abundance. Check the line up here and take our word for the punters being second to none encountered so far at a festy (Inversneckers, we love you). Funny, friendly, helpful, tolerant and bizarrely dressed by central belt standards- nivir seen so much effort or so much tasteful dayglo paint in ma puff. Seemed like the whole Northern Constabulary was there for the duration but i only saw one gadge bein lifted and, as Jules pointed out, by the nick o the 2 banjoed banterin burdz screamin at the polis leadin him off, he was bein done for nowt more offensive than bigamy. Is bigamy actually very offensive? Sorry if it is.

Special word must go out to the 2 Glaswegian soundin lassies who asked if i was their gran. Possibly the funniest people i've ever met in ma life. I like to think Vera Lynn once sang a song about us. A great weekend, thoroughly recommended and hopefully to be repeated next year. Oh, and judgin by the tricky set he spun on the Rizla Bus, thon Jazzie B fella must surely hail fae Penicuik.

And finally, it has been confirmed that if Scottie B wins a mountain o dosh on the lottery, he's gonna get Daft Punk to play at Muirhoose. James Murphy says he'll warm up on the decks. If no, we're gonna get Damp Punk to play at Pilton. The AKB All Stars will reform to warm up and Drizzly Rascal's rumoured to be mullin an offer, long as he can do an after party dj set in the Gunner.

Block Parties are comin back to North Embra. Watch out world.

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Radio Boohoo

Penicuik and the Bronx have a lotta things in common - the most obvious being that they've both given this beautiful world more than their share o tiptop dj's. In fact, it's fair to point out that Penicuik per capita has produced more tasty turntablists than any other ex-coalmining community in Midlothian.

Due to recent enforced idleness (gee thanks, all you bank execs), i've been helping Penicuik's favourite acid house dj with an extensive decorating project in the Ferry. This is a good thing cos it gets me up sharp, the banter's barry and my bloated torso's been put through a decent work out every day. My soft wee office worker's mitts are takin a tankin but that's well worth it for the respect i now get from other blue collars in the street - spesh when spattered in dust and paint.

I'm no gonna start readin the Sun, whistlin at burdz or drivin like a fanny - they're aw white van man myths. But there is one dreadful aspect to this, which is that Mr Acid Hoose dj listens to Radio 2. And i like it. Easy to scoff but after a few days whistlin along wi the likes o Diana Ross, 10cc, the Carpenters, Sister Sledge, Stevie Wonder, Take That, Leo Sayer and shit i even heard the Jam a coupla days ago, i was fair lookin forward to Lionel Richie's live session on Ken Bruce's mid morning show. Check it oot here and tell me it isnae solid gold.

Ken's patter's pish ('dry wit' the website says - it's lyin) but his choons are ace and his wee pop quiz ay gets me an the dj goin. Ken's followed at noon by Jeremy Vine - far snappier on the radio than he is on Panorama. Jezz likes to chuck a lotta news and interviews in wi the music and, bein a current affairs sorta gadge, time fair zooms roond fir me til 2 when erm....Steve Wright comes on. Okay, Steve Wright, tis tricky to defend the man who so blighted the Radio 1 of my youth but hey, just listen and learn. This man embodies my staunch belief that naeb'dy's irredeemable.

After Wrightie, it's Chris Evans of whom Jim Royle once so eloquently remarked, "He may be a millionaire, but he's still got ginger pubes." Clearly the ginger pubes were the positive side of that equation and Evans has gone up in my estimation since he so spectacularly lost the plot, lost all those jobs, lost the gaggle o sycophants and discovered a bit of humility. A decent radio show, well paced and cleverly presented. I'll never get old hamster chops Wogan though. For all his Oirish charm, he's way too Daliy Mail fir me and the radio stays well off til the Bruce at half 9.

So this would all be kinda okay if i didnae have to admit that the dj and me were both painting in time and singin along to ahem......Summer Lovin. Most ashamedly, we both knew all the words and our brushtrokes were beat perfect. Seems like great auntie Judy was absolutely right when she told us that auld age doesnae come itsel. Oh well.

Monday, 1 June 2009

AKB Harriers


Embra's weekend weather was right toasty and lent itself to loafin in the Links with a coupla tins, a frisbee and a fitba. A wee bit o that (minus the tins) occurred on Saturday but yesterday was all about the AKB Harriers crackin the 2009 Edinburgh Marathon (hereafter referred to as the Snickers).

Laura (above) lead off for the AKB relay team and was swiftly followed by Mary, Ronnie and Mel. They fair scooted round the course (Mel looked like she was actually skippin on the last leg) and it was clear by their ease of progress that training had paid off. Bizarrely, this year's Snickers was sponsored by a tattie merchant and each runner received a bag o spuds along with their medal. Here's hopin they were maris pipers (surely the most versatile and tastiest o tubers). Anyway, the Harriers fully deserve all the joy those tatties can bring - a magic effort fae the lassies and lad.

The first leg of the course ran right by our front door and i must admit to bein quite moved by the sight of 17,000 runners of all shapes, sizes and abilities poundin down the hill. Brought a wee lump to ma throat and inspired me to rope Al D, Pablo and DJ Wanless into agreein we'll go for it next year (nae backin down now, lads).

Supporters for the day (Chip, Scottie B, Stevie D, Wanless, Pablo, Al D and masel) took the Innoccent Railway cycle path under Arthur's Seat then picked up the Brunstane Burn path out to Musselburgh for the finish. From Musselburgh, we took the John Muir Way past Cockenzie and Port Seaton almost as far as Longniddry. All three paths are highly recommended for walkers or cyclists keen to get from city to coast avoiding roads almost all the way.

John Muir by the way - what a barry gadgie, not only did he have a pure comedy beard but he pretty much invented the great US outdoors. Barry day out but, due to a coupla months off the bike, my erse is fair nippin the day likes.

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Would You Adam & Steve It?

The Church of Scotland would.

On Saturday evening, the commissioners of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland ratified the appointment of Scott Rennie as minister of Queens Cross Kirk in Aberdeen. Scott Rennie is openly gay and despite winning the support and approval of his prospective congregation and presbytery, there was opposition to his appointment from within, and markedly without the Church of Scotland.

The Kirk has a commendable history of liberalism. It has long championed universal and free education, the National Health Service and the Welfare State. It has officially supported the Anti-Apartheid Movement, the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and the Scottish Consitutional Convention. And of course, it was way ahead of the game when it came to ordinating women as ministers.

Despite that record, i feared the threat of splits, literal readings of scripture and institutional conservatism might stymie the Church of Scotland's chance to be a leader again among churches of the world. I shouldnae have worried. The vote was close - 326 to 267 - but the arguments seemed to focus not on what the bible says but on what Jesus Christ would have done. As an atheist who was brought up believing that Jesus was the first socialist, i'm delighted that JC's still considered the good guy by people who know much more about him than i do.

A wonderful day for the Church of Scotland and fitting testament to the bravery of Scott Rennie. Now if they could only get over that guff about believing in God.....

Thursday, 21 May 2009

Elph v. Rabbie Burns


Just over a year ago, Dunk o Cupar took me on a slightly deranged tour of Amsterdam. We went nowhere near coffee shops, galleries, falaffel bars or boozers but traipsed up narrow closes, into clothes shops and store rooms in search of graffiti. Dunk loves the stuff and i'm learning to.

Hip hop art hit the back streets of Embra's Georgian New Town yesterday when Elph was let loose on Bonham's auctioneer warehouse in Thistle Street Lane NW. Elph is one of Scotland's best known graffiti artists and currently exhibiting "Lest Bogles Catch Him Unawares" - pieces inspired by Tam O'Shanter, a favourite poem since it first spooked me in primary 6. (He also designs flyers for Headspin, which happens to be my favourite club in the city.)

Lest Bogles celebrates Rabbie Burns' 250th birthday and is showing now at the Henderson Gallery. Rabbie's birthday has also inspired Homecoming Scotland - a slightly twee attempt to lure more tourists to Scotland during 2009. I hope this attempt succeeds though cos Scotland's a groovy place to visist.

Anyway, there's nowt twee about Elph's work and a visit to the Henderson Gallery is a great shout for anyone into Burns, graffiti or both. And i must tip my big Kilmarnock bunnett to Bonham's for handing over the exterior of a drab looking warehouse to Elph's spraypaint action. Get yirsel along and check it oot.

Rumour is that Elph and chums will be doing bits and pieces in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery in Embra while it's closed for renovations (repopens Nov 2011). I'll keep my peepers peeled. Definite word is that Elph's work is among that in 4th Element - an exhibition of urban art at the Watermill Gallery, Aberfeldy from 23rd May til 6th July. This one features names to get Dunk super excited - Dolk, Eelus, Blek Le Rat and some gadge called Banksy. What a barry reason to hit glorious Highland Perthshire.

Thursday, 14 May 2009

Fair Play il Papa

I've never been shy to slag off the Pope (this one or the previous) for what i perceive as his promotion of homophobia, misogyny and the systematic abuse of power. His failure to save millions from HIV by prohibiting the use of condoms also gets me right up on the high horse. As unimpeachable (infallible?) head of the richest and most influential church in the Western world, he's a pretty soft target for the likes o me. So fair play to the man for his recent behaviour in the Middle East.

First up he went to the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem where he made clear his revulsion at what was done to the Jewish people by the Nazis. He also laid right into those who would deny or belittle what happened during the Holocaust. Let's hear no more pish about him having served in the Hitler Youth, membership of which was compulsory when he was a lad.

Then he hosted a high profile meeting with the Chief Rabbi of Israel, local Christian bigwigs and the head of the Palestinian Islamic Sharia court. No mean feat to get them together and a clear indication that he's in favour of closer links between what i (as an admittedly scripturally challenged atheist) consider to be 3 branches of the same religious tree. Jews, Christians and Muslims have been battering lumps out of each other and the rest of us for far too long. It's high time they cut the crap and accepted that they all believe in 90% of the same stuff (they just dig different headgear).

And yesterday while visiting Bethlehem, the Pope called for a sovereign Palestinian state and an end to the Israeli blockade of Gaza. That's very big cheese indeed. I wish the UK and US governments would be so unequivocal on the matter. So for the moment, Holy See, The Holy Father, Pope Benedict xv1 or Holy Joe to yer muckers back home in Germany, i salute ye, sur.