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


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.