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.


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.