Gardening Projects


I’ve just been sent an update of the Greenferry website . We’ve had a very busy year but the changes to Queensferry have been well worth it. If you’ve been thinking about digging up a bit of your garden, planting some pots or even making some costumes and need some inspiration, have a look at our website www.greenferry.co.uk and you’ll see what can be achieved.

The best bit of all though is the latte and piece of Rocky Road at Picnic coffee shop afterwards. You can sit outside and watch the world go by on the Terrace and be served by some lovely staff, especially our Amy.

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Now, I’m off to finish planning the autumn tubs and containers.

Mary and Alex


We went to Mary and Alex’ Silver Wedding anniversary bash at Bamboo last night. Great fun it was too.

As you can see from the picture below Mary is clearly still feeling highly attracted toward Alex – even after 25 years.

She’s still, you know, in the mood.

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Trouble is; that isn’t Alex kissing her.

Wham, bam thank you ma’am


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“They were young, educated and both virgins on this, their wedding night, and they lived in a time when a conversation about sexual difficulties was plainly impossible.”

The opening line of On Chesil Beach sets the whole book out before you like an expansive, inviting fairway with a distant green inviting triumph or disaster in equal terms.

This is a trip, just as in Atonement, through the crippling static electricity that fucks up common sense in the English class system. A generation on from Atonement (in 1962) it covers familiar ground, the class divide, unspeakable things that need to be spoken, guilt, anxiety and foolishness wrapped up in a comedy of manners. Perhaps this is McEwan’s masterpiece. It’s short and to the point and yet the expanse of descriptive prose that this book crams in, tardis-like, is breathtaking. Barely three pages of dialogue punctuate this book. Instead it is a two-sided insider’s view of how the denoument, inevitably comes to be.

The characters are vivid, believable, kind of likeable (despite their demons) and certainly sympathetic. It is one of McEwans’s great strengths that he can build a range of male and female characters that one understands and likes despite, or because of, their frialties. Not many others are as capable, as often as he is.

The book builds itself around a series of ripsnorting set pieces that, as in every McEwan novel, suddenly and, usually unexpectedly, pull the rug out from his characters’ and his readers’ feet and then sets about explaining why and rebuilding a sense of equilibrium. The letter scene in Atonement obviously springs to mind in this respect as does the unforgettable supermarket scene (see I’m talking in screenplay terms here) in A child in time. Saturday is built around this structure too.

As for the Booker?

He gets my vote every time.

If I was a betting man, and I am.  I’d be placing a few bob on it.

Watch the birdie


I always moan that I have all sorts of bird feeders in the garden and no birds appear.

But the last couple of mornings I’ve enjoyed my morning cup of tea watching the to-ing and fro-ing of lots of little birds. So I just wanted to remind everyone that as the weather is changing and getting colder, make sure you’re feeding all the little birdies.

I buy my bird food at the wholesalers, Lawson Donaldson, at Calder Road. A 20kg bag of wild bird feed for £9.00 lasts me a year and the two bird feeders were only £5.00. So get yourself along for all your garden paraphanalia before the 31st October as it is closing down.

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13th best?


I’m just back from my Queensferry golf weekend in Fife and we played the best golf course I’ve yet to experience.

I was tickled by their “so what” slogan.

Unlucky.

For the record it is more like the world’s 13th best than the 13th oldest.

It is, quite simply, an awesome golf course, and an awesome advertising strategy.

Ouch


I had a very interesting and educational chat with my buddy, Jim Downie, who’s Flickr site is quite outstanding.

See what I mean below…

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We talked photos and he gave me a very wise lesson.

Less is more.

(I should know that.  I’ve been telling my clients that for 20 years.)

So, on his advice, I have savaged my Flickr site (and yes I know I could have gone further, but I did delete 50% of my shots.)  What remains is a better overall quality, but still with some real duffers.

Have a look and let me know if you agree.

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Then we came to the end


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“Thanks Mark for your help on this job. I bought you this great book.”

So my friend Ian said to me in late June as he passed me a hard back copy of the above novel. Unknown to me, mainly because it’s American and a first novel by early 30’s Illinoisian Joshua Ferris. It’s had little critical coverage in the UK and that is a great shame because this book is very much worthy of our attention.

It’s set in a Chicago ad agency.

So, I would like it, I’m an adman.

Bollocks.

It has nothing to do with advertising, despite virtually every page of the book being set in this crumbling, despairing, uncreative prison that is called work. What it is, is a book about work. But more than that, it’s about the tribalism that occurs in the workplace. Tribalism that causes a great deal of hurt, but also a great deal of humour. She’s out because she wears the wrong clothes, he’s out because he wrote the wrong headline et al.

But the real clue to its central theme of tribalism comes from the fact that, like the awesome Jeffery Eugenides’ ‘Virgin Suicides’, it is written in the third person plural.

This simple literary device allows the book to be massively judgemental and, on the rare occasion , when it slips into third person , to be desperately personal.

It is funny as hell. It is sad as hell. It is so well observed that it can only have come from the pen of an advertising lifer. Wrong. Joshua Ferris has barely stepped over the threshold of an ad agency in his life.

It essentially captures, like I’ve never read before, the culture of the workplace. The situation is bleak, post Dotcom-boom the ad agency in question is going bust, people all around are dying (hence the title – on two levels) but a “pro bono” cancer campaign is holding the mutinous ranks together. They all know it’s a facade. So do we.

As the book progresses blackness clouds the skies and we don’t know whether to laugh or cry. The answer is…both.

I urge you to buy this book. You will not regret it.

This little taster might get you going…

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But then, it just makes it look wanky.

It is not. Far from it.

A first novelist’s masterpiece and an American writer to join the Frantzen ranks.

Roll on number two.

Bourne ultimatum


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Having just seen Atonement, maybe it was a bad idea to view this as the second course… because it was a disappointment.

It’s incredibly exciting (if you get incredibly excited by two hours of chases). It has a good, and followable, plot which twists and turns like a Sidewinder on a trampoline, and it has more locations than CSI, but ultimately it left me a bit cold.

Some of the chases, like through the streets and over the rooftops of Tangiers are just plain silly.

Matt Damon and Julia Stiles who is, frankly, absolutely crap and 100% unbelievable as a top level CIA agent are chased by another CIA killing machine who is rutheless and invincible (except for when he has any of the main protagonists within 20 yards ) through a laborynthian backstret only for them ALL to end up in the same house (not just block) simultaneously.

Also, I thought it amusing that the Tangiers police were considerably better at keeping Matt Damon in check than the combined might of the Uber-CIA team that formed the baddies.

Actually, you know what, having written this I’ve just realised…it’s claptrap.

Avoid.

Sorry.

5/10

Atonement. Nailed!


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Atonement is a majestic and moving novel, one of my favourites by one of my favourite authors, so I approached the movie with optimism and trepidation in equal measure.

I need not have worried; it is executed with impeccable taste, brilliantly directed, acted, soundtracked and photographed. Surely it will do some damage at the Oscars.

It’s essentially a caustic attack on the class society in England where the stiff upper lip leads to all sorts of under-the-radar cruelty.

James McAvoy (essentially a bit of a Lady Chatterley’s lover being as he is the housemaid’s son) falls for the toffee-nosed Cecilia Tallis, (Keira Knightley)and, in the process, drives her 13 year old sister into a fit of jealousy that has tragic consequences for McAvoy.

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This is magnified when the young Brioney (brilliantly played by Saoirse Ronan) acts as go-between between the aforementioned James McAvoy (now certainly one of Britain’s best actors) and Knightley (who carries the part off more than adequately).

The film is in three acts. The first set in Brideshead Revisited English opulence, the second in Northern France around the D Day landings and containing a 5 minute steadicam tracking shot that takes the breathe away, the third in the suburbs of war torn London.

Each is rendered differently and observed immaculately. In the snobbery of pre-war rural England the tension can be cut with a knife and the language and mannerisms of upper class torpor are fantastically realised.

The war scenes, aside from the amazing tracking shot, are less well executed (budget restrictions methinks) but the ending is deeply satisfying.

Special applause has to be reserved for Dario Mariavrelli’s soundtrack which uses the sound of typewriter keystrokes as a hugely original percussion instrument that adds energy to the whole piece.

Brilliant.

10/10

hallam foe and knocked Up


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We saw Hallam Foe this last week in a bid to see our must-see films of the year. We managed to catch ‘Knocked Up’ the week before and, despite a fire alarm and the cinema being evacuated it was a great laugh. I would not recommend taking your 12 year old children to this 15 rated movie which only missed out on an 18 because there wasn’t much nudity.

It had all the rest though! You name it!

It did have the benefit of saving us from explaining to the kids what doggie fashion looks like or how to have sex with a six month pregnant woman.

Anyway, back to Hallam Foe. I was dead excited about this, partly because I love movies set in places you know, in this case Edinburgh. In addition my Uncle Rab had a cameo role in the movie which he carried off with aplomb. I’d heard that Jamie Bell was excellent in it too.

The truth is that it’s an OK movie shot in Edinburgh with an original, but paper-thin story line revolving around a somewhat Oedipal relationship between Jamie Bell and a girl that he falls in love with who closely resembles his dead mother. The fact that most of the movie is an exercise in Edinburgh rooftop voyeurism adds a certain originality and, of course, you’ve no idea how it will end.

Jamie Bell is indeed excellent and largely carries the movie but, in the end it didn’t have enough depth for me and so I can only give it 7 out of 10.

We’re on our way to see ‘Atonement’ now.

Verdict is

Hallam foe 6.5/10 (maybe a 7)

Knocked Up, it shames me to say 8/10 (maybe 8.5)

Northern crock? Free houses?


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Ouch. Glad my savings ain’t there!

The whole thing is really a bit scary. The financial markets look fragile, but people say NR has been ‘buying’ business for years so they’ve maybe traded themselves into this position.

I worry about those with a vested interest (like Alistair Darling for instance) telling us there is no risk. Well, you would say that, wouldn’t you?

I, for one, would not be buying that if my money was in there. And I’d be moving my savings out for sure. The media is making NR ‘movers’ look niaive. I don’t think so.

If my mortgage was there, on the other hand, well who cares… But it’s not.

Might take one out though.

Might end up getting a free house.

words can do no justice to it


France 0 – 1 Scotland.

Never, ever have I seen anything like it.

A truly great night.

Alex McLeish and, with his foundations, Walter Smith should be knighted.

Paul Hartley was awesome. Awesome. No, better than that.

James McFadden is a legend.  Surely.

Scottie was also amazing.

As was Ferguson.

We can now believe in ourselves.

I blame Alex Salmond!

A great week for the Gormans


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Last week Tom won The Ratho Park September Junior medal which qualified him for the Medal Winners Final played yesterday.

It also meant he could compete in The Autumn meeting (by putting the same card into both competitions) anyway, suffice it say, he won the winners medal AND the Autumn meeting.

Coupled with his victory in The Stableford in August and the Summer Handicap Eclectic he now sits firmly in second place on the Ratho Park Junior Order of merit.

Superb work Tommy boy.

At her gymnastics club championships last month Ria won Bronze in her division and last week Amy won the Queensferry High School Award in Home Economics.

We are well chuffed.

WHICH WON?


Every Sunday silence is broken as Mark gets ready for church. Complaining that nobody cares enough to go to church anymore.

This Sunday he went to try out Tom’s new Tiger Woods PGA Championship 2008 game for the Wii.

I had gone off to the airport to drop Amy and my mum off and when I came back, Lo and Behold, there was Mark still playing the Wii.

 

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V

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‘Nuff Said.

World Wallies Speed record attempt


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My dad called them Wallieficators.

Most normal people call them false teeth.

Anyway, allegedly (but I have it on good faith), my sister’s father in law was driving his van down the A1 last week.

It was a lovely day and he was leaning, happy as a bunny, with an elbow on the van’s window ledge when he hit a rise in the road.

As he did so the sun blinded him and set off a sneeze reaction.  Because it was so unexpected he sneezed his wallies straight out of the windae at 70mph onto the verge of the A1.

He got 4 days off work though!