Fiona’s Story


Gina McKee

Gina McKee

Give the BBC their due.  I know I’ve ranted a bit about their Olympic bias but they sure can do drama and despite mixed notices in front of tonight’s Fiona’s Story I thought it was outstanding.

Mind you, it had Gina McKee as the lead and she cannot put a foot wrong in my book.  An A-class actress indeed and she carried off a very difficult and sensitive role with great subtlety.

It was a complex emotional plot, based on McKee’s husband being nobbled (no pun intended) for downloading child porn and then gradually attempting to take the emotional high ground by assuming the position of victim as opposed to perpetrator.  McKee’s character, the wife, got landed with all the emotional shit and painted into the bad corner at every turn, despite being as sympathetic as one could possibly tolerate.

A very fine performance (BAFTA anyone?) in a very fine production.

The Mary Whitehouse experience


Hold them in girls.

Hold them in girls.

Jeana has become a consumer champion.

I don’t blame her, because like her I too think Darnell – on Big Brother – can hide behind his Albinism as much as he likes – but that does not give him any excuse/opportunity to call the (rather loud/shreiky) Oz girl a slut and an ugly bitch.

After a fairly decent series (manners wise) he spoiled it a bit.

But it’s got her (Jeana) going.  She’s been pummelling C4 with Mary Whitehousesque troublesomeness.  She’s been shrieking at the screen.

She’s been going for it.

Result!  Darnell gets a wee talking to.

But anyhoo. Who cares? Certainly not me.

So, to much more interesting territories…

During the rather sorry and aforementioned ‘Darnell must go’ interlude we were discussing reading lists for the school year that lies ahead with Ria. She seemed quite interested in Magnus Mills’ book ‘The restraint of breasts.’ Perhaps she thought it was a good old fashioned boddice ripper.

Until I pointed out that it’s called The Restraint of Beasts.

Hilarity ensued – as it did when she proposed changing the middle consonants of the next candidate. The Shipping News.

Mary Whitehouse would have turned in her grave.  If she was dead.  Is she?

Obama death threat


Come on Barack.  Cross the line.

Come on Barack. Cross the line.

Of course the real risk to Obama’s accession to world power is that some fanatic kills him.

The fact that a right wing white supremacy unit set out to pick him off on the anniversary of Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech might, in hindsight have seemed obvious but it remains a real and present danger to this man’s life.

And, in that respect it remains a real and present danger to this world being a better place to live in.

I think the FBI has to be congratulated (assuming it was them who did it) for uncovering the plot by a bunch of hick Nazis to kill one of the world’s most important people.  And let’s not kid ourselves he IS one of the world’s most important people.

Scotland is an exciting place to live, from a political perspective, right now because Alex Salmond’s SNP-led government has thrown off the shackles of what couldn’t be done before.  It has a real sense of the new and it’s genuinely rather exciting.  So imagine if you took that same approachh to American politics.

Sheesh.

Lots of comfort zones blown to smithereens.

That’s why we need Obama.

We all know that.

That’s why the wierdos need to be kept on top of.

Please, no Lee Harvey Oswalds.

Jonathan Coe – The House of Sleep


This is the third of JC’s biggies that I’ve read. What a Carve Up is magnificent and The Rotters Club is a hoot. But, aficionados told me the best was yet to come. I don’t know if it was the stop, start nature of the way I read it (it took me well over a month) but it just didn’t hit the same mark for me.

The plotting is dense (and frankly too dense for me to keep up with. (Ah, maybe that’s because you’re dense. Ed.) And yet the structure of shifting the story from the early to mid 80’s in alternate chapters is hardly rocket science. It’s set in a hospital that specialises in treating people with sleep disorders, situated on a cliff top in Ashdown where previously the man in charge, the more than slightly bonkers Dr Dudden, lodged in his university days. That’s where the whole thing stands or falls because the cast of characters all had some sort of link to the house back in the day and it all just got a bit too silly for my liking.

Maybe it was the characters. He rarely writes particularly sympathetically but this book is populated with caricatures that I never really cared for.

Don’t get me wrong though it is crafty and, in parts, crafted. He can deliver gags with ease can JC but too many of them in this novel were teed up and delivered ‘boom boom’ style.

I did laugh out loud on several occasions though.

Nah, if you only ever read one JC book, make it What a Carve up.

Nick Leslau. secret millionaire.


The Chairman of Prestbury looking suitably suited, booted and tieless.

Watching this week’s Secret Millionaire put the series back on track for me.

It was starting to look staged.

Not this week.

Nick Leslau is a super rich property developer with a yacht in St Tropez and a lifestyle to die for. (We shouldn’t like him, should we!)

In the programme he gave across an air of inexperience when it comes to sharing his good fortune (not true in fact). But his honesty about his feelings towards the poverty he encountered in Glasgow’s Possil Park was totally refreshing and his humility throughout the programme was highly engaging.

But it was his humility that most stuck me.

His closest experience was with a group of disabled people and he opened up so frankly as to, no doubt, give his PRs heart failure. But he was simply reacting to what he saw in the most basic human way. His admittance that he ‘couldn’t deal with disabled people’ made him so real, so frank that you couldn’t fail but love him.

His gifts, as it happens, were super-generous but delivered with a plan.

This is a man I would dearly like to meet and tell him how good he is.

365 by the national Theatre of Scotland


I was privileged to be among the audience at the opening night of The National Theatre of Scotland’s Festival production of 365 -a new play by David Harrower (appropriate name) and directed by Vicky Featherstone, at The Playhouse in Edinburgh last night.

The show was sold out and for good reason.

It’s a polemic piece about the plight of young people entering society after life in care. The show explores, through a cast of about 16, mostly in their teens, what the reality of life is in such a friendless, hostile and downright scary environment.

It’s performed by an ensemble, so no one particular actor stood out. But the technical achievements were noteworthy. Set, sound design, lighting and choreography were all outstanding. Paul Buchanan’s specially commissioned song that forms a central part of the denouement is spine tingling.

The acting is universally good and at times excellent.

But the greatness of the play is all about the writing.

This is very modern theatre and, as such, doesn’t follow a plotline or typical narrative structure and although it’s fairly bleak it’s by no means humourless. Fundamentally though it touches on the very darkest side of society – misogyny, neglect, class, prejudice, sexual orientation, fear and lack of confidence. Essentially it is about loneliness because most of the relationships we witness are a veneer.

Life as a kid with no familial network is not a good place to be and David Harrower brings this into sharp relief quickly and consistently.

I think it could do with a touch of editing but overall this is an important, thought-provoking and engaging piece of work.

I notice it’s playing at the Lyric, Hammersmith from 9 – 29 September. Not knowing the theatre I suspect it will be rather less spectacular than in The Playhouse which, as a stage, offers wide open spaces (and which contributed to the theme of isolation by its very brooding presence).

It’s distinctly Scottish, but the points it makes are universal and you lot in Englandshire shouldn’t struggle too much with the dialect. (You might not like the language though. My god, the National Theatre of Scotland like a fucking swearword do they not?)

Nancy Langat


Kenya's Nancy Longat winning 1500m.

Kenya's Nancy Longat winning 1500m gold at Beijing.

Kenya’s Nancy Langat won the Gold in the 1500m this afternoon. But you’d be forgiven for not noticing it as Brendan Foster wittered on in True BBC biasedness about fourth placed Lisa Dobriskey.

Is it just me or Brendan Foster past his sell by date?

God we can be tedious bastards, us Brits. But we’re quick to criticise the Americans for it.

Anyway, because Brendan did not properly acknowledge your victory Nancy, I will.

Well done Nancy Langat.

FCT wins inaugural Evening News award


Winning production

Winning production

FCT’s production of Jeckyl and Hyde has won the award for best Musical in the Evening News Drama Awards. My review of the show here was hugely complimentary but sparked a deluge of debate regarding whether or not the choice of show was appropriate.

Obviously winning an award does not seal the argument but it is yet another fantastic achievement.

My father would have been mightily proud.

Congratulations also to Edinburgh Theatre Arts for winning the best Drama Award for Blue Remembered Hills.

Amateur drama in Edinburgh desperately needs the sort of filip that this sort of recognition provides and so we must thank the Evening News for their recognition.

You wanna be in my gang?


no one's listening now gary.

Too bad. No one's listening now Gary.

Gary Glitter.

What can you say?

His capacity to attempt to wriggle out of the mess he’s in is startling.

First he claims he is having a heart attack to avoid boarding a plane to the UK and, remarkably, recovers.

Upon arriving at Hong Kong airport though he’s been given a red card. What next Mr Glitter.

A great example of reaping what one s0ws.

Sympathy?

Nope.

You’re not the leader any more.

Michael Johnson has a wee laugh to himself


Usain Bolt once again bolted up, this time in the 200m final, becoming the only man ever to set world records in the 100 and 200m Olympic finals in the same year.  He destroyed the field again.  What an incredible pair of performances.

In doing so he robbed Michael Johnson of his 200m World Record and Johnson responded, when asked by Sue Barker on the BBC tonight how he thought Bolt compared to Phelps (if one can even make a genuine comparison ) by saying, and I kid you not that (and I paraphrase) “Bolt had a far greater impact because Phelps never ‘rewrote’ anything.”

Och man.  Have a word with yourself

He won eight gold medals, more than any other human being EVER.  To add to his six from the last Olympics.  That’s 14 Gold medals.  What’s more he broke six world records.

Now, I’m not comparing the two but to say Phelps never rewrote anything smacks of a collosal ego.

What the subscript says is this.

“Bolt is great because he beat MY long standing world record.”

Boo.

Hoy you lot.


The rest of the world must be rubbing its eyes in disbelief as Hoy and co have put the Great back into Great Britain.  These Olympics have been startling.

Excuse me.  Is this table upside down?

Excuse me. Is this table upside down?

Hoy is now a national hero (frankly he was anyway) and Scotland can take its place at the top table with pride.  (Scotland on its own would be well inside the top 20.)

Well Done Chris and everyone else.  You have made Britishness desireable once again.

Putting the Great into Great Britain.

Putting the Great into Great Britain.

In the middle of it all


Ooh, the sound of the thwack of leather on willow.

Ooh, the sound of the thwack of leather on willow.

Life just now is like some sort of sporting nirvana. Yet, instead of being able to sprawl about, beached whale-like on the sofa at home watching the Olympics I have the tantalising proposition of a lifetime sporting ambition ahead of me.

Tomorrow I go to the first ever Scotland v England cricket match.

Now. That should be fun.

The weather forecast?

rain, rain stay away.

rain, rain stay away.

Not good

God given talent – Phelps


Who ate all the pies?

Who ate all the pies?

I have to say I think some of the “He’s not that good, swimmers can swim 100 metres front, back and sideways and win a medal.” is total bollocks.  If that was the case Mark Spitz would have won more than seven golds in his career, so too would Matt Biondi, Ian Thorpe – The Thorpedo, and how about Shane Gould?

The fact is they all fell so far short of Michael Phelps’ mark as to render the best swimming Olympian argument  redundant.  So, then one has to move on to other sports to dis the ‘best’ argument.

Steven Redgrave’s five rowing golds in succesive Olympics is nothing short of miraculous and I think that makes him a contender.

Carl Lewis’ multi disciplinary and multi-Olympics’ success does too.

But stand back a second and look at what this remarkable man has done and you have to say…

You’re the man.

By the way, he ain’t finished yet.  14 golds and counting.

2012 olympics. London.


BBC bias.

Why oh why oh why does every event in Beijing have to allude to 2012 in London.  Please just let us enjoy these Olympics.

Please?

You know what it is.  It’s Britain’s endless ability to see itself as superior to the rest of the world.  And they’re scared.  These Olympics have been astoundingly good.  Forget the politics for a moment.  It has been a feast of sport in magnificent facilities with an opening ceremony that you simply could not have conceived of. So what does the BBC do?  It projects forward to 2012 in such a way that makes this Olympiad seem of secondary importance.

It insults me.

It insults Britain’s Olympic team.

It insults Beijing.

It sucks.

bolt of lightning


Who's the Daddy?

Who's the daddy?

I’ve just had the privelege of watching the Olympics 100 Metres Men’s final in which Usain Bolt not only rewrote the history books he rewrote how to run 100 metres.  First off a new world record.  Second, he did it winding down.  Thirdly, he had so much fresh air between him and second place that it was verging on embarrasing.

But the style?  It was simply beautiful.

Learn with father


Fuck 'em.  Just drive confidently.  No one will ever notice.

just drive confidently.

On Sunday Amy is 17.

What does a 17 year old girl want to do most these days? Actually you’re wrong. She wants to learn to drive.

Amy’s Provisional license came through yesterday and so we went for it.

We got in the car and I taught her to drive.

Actually, you know what? I did!

She started the car without burning the starter motor out, she found the bite, she drove up and down the road; through the gearbox from first to third gear – up to 30mph.

And steered!

All in an hour.

I never shouted.

I didn’t panic.

We didn’t fall out.

We rock man!

Lewis Hamilton, eat your heart out.

(You know what? I was really proud of her.)

fct 2008


It’s been a crazy day.

Golf, driving lessons (more later) and at the end of it the latest FCT festival Show. Their 29th and the first with no hand of my dad involved.

The Director, Claire Stewart, speculated in her programme notes that parts of it would have given him ‘the tingles’ and there can be no doubt that she called that one right.

This show is actually so impressive that it makes you step back and re-evaluate this theatre company. But please don’t expect what follows to be unchallenging.

FCT has staged 58 productions and it’s fair to say they’ve seen the good, the bad and the ugly with a very strong leaning to the former. But, folks, The Lords of Creation? Everyone screws up sometime.

This show though? This was FCT on steroids.

A Cockerney setting.

FCT loves Cockerney – great excuse to do ‘accents’

However, it had a bleakness that was, unusually for FCT, not offset by a few gags and a singalonga happy chappy come on it’s not all that bad, number. (Doin’ the Lambeth Walk and all that.)

No, this was tragi-comedy without the laughs.

This was bleak.

But, hey, was Robbie LS looking for laughs?

No.

He wrote a very focussed morality tale about good v evil in which (of course) good wins – well, the Victorians were a bit predictable.

Technically this was the most accomplished show in FCT history (perhaps Oh, What a Lovely War had more technical innovation but the lighting, sound and set in this show were awesome.) I sat in the back row and heard every word.

The choreography, I don’t know if you’d call it that, movement might be a better word, (see previous reference to lack of Lambeth Walks) was so considered and impactful as to punch you.

Aggressive, in your face.

Magic.

Low, moody eyelines prevailed and worked fantastically . At one stage the chorus lined the auditorium, turning and looking pointedly and uneasing the audience. I loved that.

The costumes were probably the best I’d ever seen, so themed, by colour especially and such high quality. They contributed greatly to the sense of time.

The band? How insulting to call them a band. This was an orchestra. Their role in this performance was fundamental and flawless. At times I thought it must be a CD playing, it was so flawless. And boy, you guys owe a debt of gratitude to your sound man for mixing it all so brilliantly!

So, turning to the show itself. I’ll caveat the rest of my views with a question, a challenge I suppose, and one that I wasn’t alone in asking!

Was this show ‘on-brand’ for FCT?

At the interval I thought not. Even after it, and despite how good it was, I’m still asking myself that.

As Thom Dibdin said in his review in The Edinburgh Evening News the material causes problems for a Youth production, and I agree with him.

In the first act, at least, it seemed to me that it had been a little too unremitting in its gloom and too heavy on reliance upon the principals’ performances. The second act (nearly) changed my mind. Mainly because the highlight of the show ‘Murder Murder” opened the act, drew your breathe away and established the chorus as a vital part of the energy of the show. And the chorus is fundamentally what FCT has always been about. I’d be sad to see that go.

FCT need never consider a festival production of Waiting for Godot. (musical or otherwise.)

It was a small cast by FCT standards – only 33 – and I wondered, for a while, if less was really more, but the second act reassured me.

All of this sounds a bit negative, but the experience was far from negative. Because, cutting to the chase, this was singularly the most impressive FCT performance I have ever seen.

I’ll have to revert to superlatives now. Hannah Scott was awesome, just collosal in her performance as the hooker with a heart, Lucy, she very nearly stole the show.

But let’s be honest, how could she? She was supporting Matthew Smith who played both Jeckyll and Hyde with a maturity that has to defy his age. (I have little doubt that he will fulfill his ambition of singing on the West End because he is a major talent.) It so happens I also saw him in lighter mode at the Holy Cross Players Panto and he was a hoot.

Every single principal was on the nail, but ultimately it comes down to direction and I have to say Claire Stewart has once again performed a PB.

Whatever your views of the script/libretto (and in our group they were mixed) what Claire Stewart drew out of this group was simply brilliant. “Murder Murder” was one of the finest moments I have ever experienced in a theatre.

As a whole I feel the show is flawed. It’s a bit too bleak, and lacks light and shade during a lot of the, quite long, first half storytelling stage but every opportunity to squeeze a bit of interest out of it Claire Stewart took.

Overall verdict? Outstanding

The Dunfermline Junior Masters.


Tom qualified for the Scottish Junior Masters second round at Ratho Park today and here’s a few shots to remember the occassion by.

and the competitors are ready and raring to go!

And the competitors are ready and raring to go!

The gallery marches purposefully up the fairway

The gallery marches purposefully up the fairway

Tom learned all he knew about posture from his father, Farquar.

Tom learned all he knew about posture from his father, Farqhuar.

Do you think it's safe to come out now?

Do you think it's safe to come out now?

Certainly no lack of commitment in the follow through.

Certainly no lack of commitment in the follow through.

And the winner is...(n't)

And the winner is...(n't)

All in all a great experience and a good solid performance with 35 points in the Stableford. Didn’t quite qualify for the final at Gleneagles but he is still only 13. Good on you Tom.

Bravo!


He knows how to swing a baton you know.  (Actually, he doesn't.)

He knows how to swing a baton you know. (Actually, he doesn't)

Well, it’s been a full on day of TV highlights and blogging, what with the Olympics highlights and all that. I’m fair peched!

But the best was saved for last.

Wow.

The new BBC Celebrity Reality Show that had a great deal of potential to be awful is, wait for it, mesmerising.

‘Maestro’ features eight celebrities trying to conduct the BBC Symphony Orchestra.

Week one’s obvious loser was John Snow who had about as much control as a Heart of Midlothian midfielder and was unceremoniously sent to the pit.

Goldie (the Drum and Bass guru), by contrast, held them in the palm of his unpolished (unlike his teeth) hand.

It was riveting.

Good night.

Canoeing


David Florence rides the Big Sur!

David Florence rides the Big Sur!

Honestly, I’m an expert in every sport in the world you know.

I was only commenting to my mate the other night about that David Florence from Aberdeen, saying what a great canoeist he was and only goes and pops up with a silver medal in the Olympics.

Shame he had a BBC microphone rammed up his face while the last three competitors potentially left him with nothing.

The whole thing offered him absolutely no opportunity whatsoever to run about at the side of the river screaming “Get it up you, ya twat!” as one after another competitor fell away.

Instead he had to be polite, unassuming, gracious and lovely.

Then again.

Maybe he is.