La Banda Europa

Check out this wonderful craziness.

I met Jim Sutherland last week at a Guardian event in Edinburgh. A really interesting and modest guy with a great vision for this orchestra.

I particularly liked the ideas of the four Hurdy Gurdies that feature in his orchestra.

He brought along a Japanese Saw player (Su-a Lee) who performed ‘Somewhere over the Rainbow on the saw’. Cracking and really beautiful.

You can hear some of the music on their myspace site here. I urge you to do so because it is stunning. Beautiful. Magical.

And this is what his myspace site says about the orchestra.

La Banda Europa is an extraordinary 35 piece band of virtuoso musicians assembled from some of the finest musicians across Europe

The Hurdy Gurdies are amazing to look at, like Elizabethan ships, with a sound somewhere between the violin and the bagpipes. The nykelharpas are similar, having a strange, other-worldly sound to them.”

In 2006, composer, Jim Sutherland was awarded the Creative Scotland Prize for artists of distinction It is one of the richest arts awards to an individual in Europe….. The Award allowed him time to develop his ideas for an orchestra that could make a unique ‘sound of Europe.

“All in all we’ve got some incredible musicians, some of the very best in the world on their particular instruments.”…… …..“The Armenians play an ancient instrument called the duduk made from the wood of the apricot tree and which sounds like a woman singing alto.”

The whole thing was initially Inspired by Jim’s score for the BAFTA and Brittish Comedy Award winning film Festival when they famously flew the Drambuie Pipe band over to Seville to record Jim’s score with La Banda Tres Caidas, an Eighty piece Semana Santa band.

“Instruments like the ancient Celtic carnyx will grab the eye – it’s the only one of its kind in the world and was reconstructed from one found in bogland in Scotland. It’s a bronze war horn which was 6ft long and held vertically above the player’s head.”

Jim initially put the orchestra together to perform his score for ‘Before the Wolf’, a theatrically presented outdoor production. Niel Butler of UZ events raised the funds and facilitated the shows. These first performances were very successful and have lead to enquiries from event organisers and festivals throughout Europe.

“Bagpipes of 5 countries, Swedish nyckelharpas, , Armenian duduks, Turkish drums, trumpeters from Scotland and Serbia……..Many of the players in the Banda Europa are exciting composers in their own right.”.


An atheist was walking along a cliff edge when he slipped and fell to his almost certain death, but fortuitously he grabbed onto a branch sticking out from the cliff face. Having gathered his wits he immediately began screaming for help.

To no avail.

In a last ditch act of desperation he looked to the heavens and shrieked…

“is there anybody out there?

A voice boomed back…

“Yes! GOD!”

“Can you help me?” whimpered the aetheist.

“Of course, put your faith in me and let go of the branch. You will then fall into my protective arms.” responded God.

A long pause ensued, broken by the aetheist who then shrieked…

“Is there anybody else out there?”

The very best of Ethiopiques

Sometimes a record comes along that literally blows your mind.

This is it.

It’s a collection of the Ethiopian club music scene of Addis Ababa circa 1968 – 74. And it’s unique, hypnotic, sexy, trance-like because the rythms are so un-western.  Yet it adopts western influences of jazz and soul and meshes them with military precision (many of the artists are from the Ethiopian army bands) and African mystery.

It is actually, to die for.  OK, some tracks fail to quite mesh with my westernised ear – but not many.

Unquestionably my album of the year so far.

You can hear more (and read all about) here!

Needless to say, the kids hate it.

He’s at it again!

Great golf week for Tom.

First off he was playing at number three in the team match at the weekend against a six handicapper (Tom’s off 21) and they play off scratch in these matches. Nevertheless, he halved the match having missed a putt from a foot to win. Doh!

Then yesterday he won the first medal of the season (he won three last year at Ratho and three at Dundas, plus another two prizes). The good thing was this medal was also the qualifier for the Dunfermline Building Society sponsored SGU Scottish Junior Masters.

He might now be cut to 19. I’m 18. Yikes!

Michael Wills

I was extremely privileged to be invited to attend the Remembering Service for Michael Wills at The Apex Hotel in Edinburgh’s Grassmarket yesterday, along with Jeana. We knew Michael through his wife Elspeth who both Jeana and I worked with, and for, at different times in our lives.

Michael was, is, one of Edinburgh’s unsung heroes. Having retired from a distinguished career as a librarian at Edinburgh’s Heriot Watt University he took to retirement with relish.

Michael was a striking physical specimin. He suffered for many years from Ankylosing Spondylitis which may have been a consequence of a broken back many years ago. Whether or not this is the case I know not, but either way it meant he walked with a pronounced stoop. His gregarious nature and constant smile marked him out as different from ‘ordinary’ people. In that respect the photo above is very representative of him.

Michael was a true intellectual, but he was in no way elitist about this and this was reflected wonderfully in the unique Remembering Service which featured original poetry (the stunning ‘revising the Blue Guide to Scotland’ by Anna Crowe), Happy the Man by his wonderful wife of 39 years, Elspeth, and a poem written in his honour by his nephew Jonathon Wills.

But the readings from The Origin of the Species (First Edition – where there is no mention of the creation – Michael was a staunch aetheist) and The Song of Solomon (ironically perhaps – a bible story that Michael sent Elspeth as a love letter in his courting days) really added to the eclecticism of the day

A truly moving and beautiful ceremony – we were indeed glad to have had a small place in Elspeth and Michael’s lives.


Golf with a 7 Iron

My mate Mike is a rubbish golfer. He can’t hit a driver to save himself but he’s solid with a 7 iron. Plop, plop , plop goes each shot, down the middle, sinks the putt and it’s a par.

It’s real safety officer stuff but it grinds out results.

So, to Rangers.

Their European campaign, although succesful is like playing golf with a 7 iron. Nothing ventured, nothing ventured.

It makes you weep how dull and unimaginative it is. It’s horrific. But hey, the ends might just justify the means.


There are ways to beat the system. this is a great one.

I’m grateful to Pat Rodger for sending me this little peach.

From the Townsville Bulletin (on Australia’s Gold Coast)

George Phillips was going up to bed when his wife told him that he’d left the light on in the garden shed, which she could see from the bedroom window.

George opened the back door to go to turn off the light but saw from the porch that there were people in the shed stealing things.

He phoned the police and explained what was happening; the controller asked

‘Is someone in your house?’

‘No’ he replied.

The response was that all patrols were busy, and that he should simply lock his door and an officer would be along when available.

George said, ‘Okay,’ hung up, counted to 30, and phoned the police again.

‘Hello’ he said ‘I just called you a minute ago because there were people stealing things from my shed. Well, you don’t have to worry about them now because I’ve just shot them.’ Then he hung up.

Within four minutes three police cars, an Armed Response Unit, and an ambulance showed up at the Phillips’ residence and caught the burglars red-handed.

One of the Policemen said to George: ‘I thought you said that you’d shot them!’

To which George replied, ‘I thought you said there was nobody available!’

Mayor McNiffe bites off more than he can chew.

Interesting story on the news tonight about the porky mayor of Pembroke, Keith McNiffe. (That’s him standing second left of the bloke sitting in the red gown.)

McNiffe has claimed to be disabled and taking payment from the Benefits Agency for the last two years. Apparently he claimed to be so fat that he couldn’t even walk. However, he was caught on video running (sic) the line at an amatuer football match and had done so 59 times this season.

Given the frequency of his exercise it begs the question. Why did he look like a Walrus in a Matt Lucas cast off costume?

I’ll tell you what’s occurin’

Gavin and Stacey.  That’s what’s ocurrin’.

We watched the last episode of  series two through tears of mirth and melancholy in almost equal part last night, only seconds after watching the show win two BAFTAs.

Like James Corden I was puzzled by the fact that it was nominated for most things that had a suggestion of funnines about the category, but not best sitcom, but, hey, that’s the BAFTAs for you.

After all, Coronation Street didn’t get a nomination for best Soap.  That’s a joke is it not.

Anyway back to the Gavster. This is a magnificent TV series and it all stems from the writing – in this case of James Corden and Ruth Jones. I don’t think the series has reached the critical mass it should have ,  But it will.  Oh yes it will. British comedy at its very, very best.

One further observation on the awards…C4 stuck it right up them.  Good on ya C4.  We luv ya!

At last a new dishwasher

We finally gave up on the old rubbish dishwasher. It was always leaking and the timer didn’t really work, it often failed to switch itself off at the end of a cycle and could end up washing the dishes all day. I felt there was only so many times you could call the Gas Board out to fix it. (By the way this is the best cover ever for your domestic appliances, they come out on a weekly basis to fix things in this house, if need be.)

So, on Saturday morning, I was doing some weeding in the garden, Mark put the new dishwasher in. There was no swearing, nothing, a very peaceful morning. Mark even managed to lift the old machine into the garden on his own. I was very impressed and told him so.

Then I noticed and said to Mark. “It’s still full of all the dishes.”

“Yeah, but I’ve put the new one in.”

Job done, off he went.


Saw this poster in Salamander St last week.

Not good.

Is this some sort of fascist intelectualism? Because, if it is, it’s probably lost on most people. Myself included

(PS. Having written this post I then found out that it is “art” intended to stimulate debate about global capitalism and Polish immigration. Well, it worked but it’s kind of up itself. – see the explanation in the comments or follow this link to The Collective Gallery’s website.)

The last shadow puppets

Oooh a real treat on Jools last night. The debut of the Last Shadow Puppets which is a side project of Alex Turner (little monkey that he is) and Miles Kane (Eck’s best mate from The Rascals). I was gonna show you some of their stuff but they seem to be banned from Youtube for copyright reasons, so you’ll have to do with the cover of the album instead.

Supported by a small orchestra, well it wasn’t the Boston Symphonia, they performed “In my Room” which, I have to say, was electric. (Albeit mostly acoustic.)

Alex Turner is a major talent on these shores and I just hope he goes on to prove it and that we (ha ha “we” – I mean of course the music press who love to knock people down as soon as they get up) give him the space to do it. More importantly (in the short term). I just hope that the Jools gig is backed up by the album.

Incidentally, weren’t Portishead strange? Anything but the background music that I’ve been led to believe the forthcoming album is. For my part I can barely contain myself.

the house at Amityville. (But it’s in South Queensferry)

the house at Amityville. (But it’s in South Queensferry)

Originally uploaded by mark gorman.

This creepy house has been unvieled from a covering of trees in the last week. It’s been empty for years and was put up for sale last summer. I was tempted to buy it and do it up. The day I went to view it, it was surrounded by an urban forest, but over a 24 hour period the forest has been removed. I suspect the house may not be far behind and, if so, I will try to chronicle its departure. Yuk.

Edwyn Collins to Play Glastonbury

Edwyn’s recuperation continues at a remarkable level and I read in the paper today that he is to play Glastonbury.  Coincidentally, can you believe how chuffed I was that a post what I wrote in December last year was stumbled upon by his amazing wife Grace and even merited her comments via my bro-in law Alan McBlane?

If you’re interested here’s the link.

And, to celebrate, here is undoubtedly, to my mind anyway, his finest moment.

This is one of my all time favourite songs.


The Searchers may be a good movie – but it’s a bit slow.

At the back of Edinburgh Waverley opposite the Fruitmarket Gallery, said arts establishment has erected an art installation by Douglas Gordon. It’s a screening, on a bespoke screen, of The Searchers slowed down to run over a five year period because that was the timeframe over which the movie ran.

It runs 24/7 but isn’t very visible in daylight.

You’d get through a few popcorns though wouldn’t you. If you watched the whole thing, like

It’s called 5 Year Drive By (The Searchers) and I think it’s rather a good idea, if all a little silly really.

Football’s gone bonkers

The Cabbage could get into Europe.

Hearts could win the Diddy League. (Although, if memory serves me correctly Mr Romanov predicted that they should be, about now, in the Semi Finals of the Champion’s League defending last year’s title)

Carlisle United look like getting promoted two years’ running.

Queen of the South, yes, Queen of the South are in tomorrow’s Scottish Cup Final.  If they win they’ll be dancing in the streets of Queen of the South (in fact by all accounts they already are.

Cardiff City are in the English FA Cup Final and they’re not even English.

Rangers are in the EUFA Cup Semi Final.

I blame it on global warming.

Sun(y)life Hearts Plan

Are you worried about the future?

Let’s face it, we’re not getting any younger and we all have to think about our lavish lifestyles after our careers are over.

  • Are you well past your best?
  • Are you looking for an easy life?
  • Are you looking for an easy way to enter Britain?

Then you are eligible for the Hearts Life-Plan!

WE PAY YOU over £10,000 a week, there’s a pointless medical and no salesperson will call (you might even get a shot at being manager).


There’s a FREE house, car and limitless golf at some of Scotland’s finest courses.

Don’t take our word for it, read these recommendations from some very satisfied clients….

“When I’m no longer playing, I know my family will be financially secure”

Mr Beslija, Belgium

“I recommended the Hearts plan to all my friends back home.”
Mr Saulious, Edinburgh

“The Hearts plan supplemented my pension, just when I thought it was too late.”
Mr Pressley, Glasgow

“The generosity of the Hearts plan is unmatched in the world of pension finance. It was the best move I have ever made.”
Mr E Kurkis, Lithuania

“Even when everyone said I was too old, Hearts were prepared to supplement my pension with an outrageous offer.”
Mr Neil, Edinburgh

“Despite being permanently injured I was still eligible for the Hearts Life-plan – year after year!”
Mr Pinilla, Chile

So don’t sit there worrying about the future – relax – that phone will ring!

Hearts Life-Plan is regulated by V Romanov and his pals at the bank and is funded by the 10,000 who have invested in the “HMFC Season Ticket” pyramid scam over the last 3 years.

Eric and ern

I watched a Morecombe and Wise best of on TV last night and they showed this drama.  To call it a sketch would be to totally devalue it.

It is probably their finest hour.  and, yes, here it is.


A one-liner that had escaped my attention for some reason – until now – beat it though.

As a police car speeds past their homoerotic bedroom, sirens blazing,  Eric leaps out of bed adorned in silk pyjamas and dressing gown and declares

“He’s not going to sell much ice cream going at that speed, is he?”

They do not come funnier.