The Briggers


I went along to the book launch of this, this morning at the Hawes Inn.  It’s written by Elspeth Wills, founder of Scotinform and my old boss.

It looks like a very interesting read and sheds a whole new light on the building of the bridge.

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Note.  Whilst this is an excellently written post, Jeana (who wrote it) seems to forget that “I’ means Mark Gorman, not ‘she’ as in Jeana Gorman.  It’s a borderline case of unacceptable blog hijacking but you would think that ‘she’ would want her own blog (which she has, as it happens.  Here in fact.)

Anyway, good luck to Elspeth (a good pal of mine) on her latest book.

Murray Mania


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Well Murray’s match last night against Wawrinka was an absolute cracker, but it didn’t look the performance of a Wimbledon winner.  In the first set Murray seemed to have completely lost his touch and although he improved and was facing a man on fire it was unconvincing overall.  However it gave us four hours of top notch entertainment.  Certainly the first time I ever remember Mrs G watching a sporting event for four hours.

Meant we ate rather late though…

I have rather been enjoying the furore over his anti-English stance and I had to hide a smile when after the first round this year the only two remaining Brits out of 11 starters were both Scottish.

More Pimms vicar?

Looking for Eric


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Don’t believe a word of the hype.  Looking for Eric is not a Ken Loach comedy.  It is, in several places, a very funny film indeed.  But it is not a comedy.  At a far fetched push you might call it a rom-com or a social satire.  Me?  I just think it’s another brilliant Loachian movie. (Can you believe he’s been at it for 45, yes 45, years since he wriote three episodes for z cars)?

It’s so sad, so desperate in places and then, yes, so funny.

And then there’s Eric (Cantona).  Ooh ah!

And his goals.  Ooh la la!

And his cod (sorry sardine) philosophising. Oops ah!

The Cantona character is inspired, as it is so self-deprecating- not a quality one associates with the French.

I loved this film; so did Mrs G (I love the Cameo too, where we saw it – although the seats in Cameo 2 were so uncomfortable that I was considering asking for a refund).

God, there I go again.  Moan, moan, moan.

Why is it so good?  I think it’s the way Loach makes his characters so utterly believable and, particularly in this movie, sympathetic.  And as I always, always say it’s because of the writing which is nailed on by long time collaborator Paul Laverty).

One of the back stories, about the elder stepson of Eric the postman (our hero played to perfection by Steve Evets in, I think, his first Loach movie) is really the backbone of the film.  The eldest stepson (Gerard Kearns of Shameless fame) gets embroiled in some nasty business with a local gangland thug and threatens to destabilise Eric’s whole fragile existance.  But what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger and that is certainly proved here.

It’s a gem.  A true Brit movie classic with a wee bit of the Auld Alliance thrown in.

J’adore  Eric Cantona!

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The Anglo-Zulu War was fought in 1879 between the British Empire and the Zulu Empire. From complex beginnings, the war is notable for several particularly bloody battles, as well as for being a landmark in the timeline of colonialism in the region. The war ended the Zulu nation’s independence.

I find this description of Colonialism from Wikipedia interesting.

Colonialism normally refers to a period of history from the 15th to the 20th century when people from Europe built colonies on other continents. The reasons for the practice of colonialism at this time include:

  • The profits to be made.
  • To expand the power of the metropole.
  • To escape persecution in the metropole.
  • To convert the indigenous population to the colonists’ religion.

Some colonists also felt they were helping the indigenous population by bringing them Christianity and civilization. However, the reality was often subjugation, displacement or death.[

A colony is part of an empire and so colonialism is closely related to imperialism.

So to see two fucking British twats rubbing the faces of Colonialism into the South African nation in the ABSA Stadium this afternoon totally disgusting, crass and cheap.

This is they…

lions fans

Or is it just me?

You know what?  After I saw that I was almost pleased the Lions lost.

Or maybe I’m just a Guardian-reading liberal.

Not a wasted evening


I went to see two World Premiere movies tonight.  Yes two.  At the the Edinburgh Film festival.  Both British.  Hugely contrasting.

The first was a gritty junkie movie about breakdowns at Cineworld called Wasted. The trouble is, the only thing that broke down was the projection equipment after 30 minutes of what could only be described as highly realistic junkie squalor with little in the way of discernable plot and a lot of OTT camerawork.  (Did you see what I did with that headline there?) We weren’t enjoying it much and so when the production team said it would ‘soon’ be rescreened from the beginning we made a sharp exit and headed to The Filmhouse to try our luck with Exam – a low budget, but stylish, British thriller come sci-fi come horror movie.  Actually it isn’t a horror at all, despite its billing, but it really is rather good.

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It’s a first time directorial outing by British writer Stuart Hazeldine who has previously made his name as a writer in Holywood.

The story is set in an undated future (soon in fact) where the world has been besieged by a pandemic virus and eight people of multiple ethic origins, and mental states are locked up in a room to sit an exam for a big job (nod to The Apprentice here).

The entire movie is shot in this grey room with eight examination desks.  Gradually the eight whittle down to a more modest concluding cast.  The only rules for elimination in the exam are set cryptically by the invigilator at the start of the movie and it’s a real guessing game from start to finish.

The cast, writing, lighting, effects and direction are all excellent and it’s dead original even if it does stylistically nod towards movies like Pi and Cube.

Actually it’s a really taught piece of film; low budget but eeking every penny out of it by really good and conservative filming (shot on 35mm though so it looks expensive).

Look out for it on its release.  It may do well and I think it will get good crits.

I have to say though that the 90 degree heat in the Filmhouse did neither the movie nor the EFF any justice at all.

Peter Bowker’s Occupation


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The BBC has pulled an ace from the pack with this brilliantly written, filmed and acted three-parter starring James Nesbitt (how good an actor is he becoming?) Warren Brown and Stephen Graham.  If you’ve not seen it watch again on the BBC iPlayer because it’s a class act.  Set in Basra (and back in rainy old Engerland) it charts the stories of three Yorkshire squaddies who each react very differently to their experiences in Iraq.

It’s heavily political, and critically so, not just of the “allies” but of the new regime that the US and UK groomed to create total havoc in Saddam Hussein’s wake.

“Do you still think it was the right thing to do?” asks Graham of Nesbitt.

“I don’t know.”  replies Nesbitt, the man who started out as loyal as they come.

Yes.  Me neither.

What a bloody mess.

Digital Britain?


“Only a Digital Britain can unlock the imagination and creativity that will secure for us
and our children the highly skilled jobs of the future. Only a Digital Britain will secure the
wonders of an information revolution that could transform every part of our lives. Only a
Digital Britain will enable us to demonstrate the vision and dynamism that we have to
shape the future.”
Rt Hon. Gordon Brown MP, Prime Minister

OK.  Let’s see some action then.

Amy’s Prom


It was Amy’s prom on Friday and she and her pals looked spectacular in their ball gowns.  Apparently as each of them bought their dress they put photos on the common room wall to avoid duplication.  I was impressed with this rather ingenious idea.

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Amy looked wonderful.

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Our dash into town to Harvey Nicks at the 11th hour for ‘lashes’ was a success too.

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A really heartwarming story.


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In 1986, Peter Davies was on holiday in Kenya after graduating from Northwestern University .

On a hike through the bush, he came across a young bull elephant standing with one leg raised in the air. The elephant seemed distressed, so Peter approached it very carefully. He got down on one knee, inspected the elephant’s foot, and found a large piece of wood deeply embedded in it. As carefully and as gently as he could, Peter worked the wood out with his knife, after which the elephant gingerly put down its foot.

The elephant turned to face the man, and with a rather curious look on its face, stared at him for several tense moments. Peter stood frozen, thinking of nothing else but being trampled. Eventually the elephant trumpeted loudly, turned, and walked away. Peter never forgot that elephant or the events of that day.

Twenty years later, Peter was walking through the Chicago Zoo with his teenage son. As they approached the elephant enclosure, one of the creatures turned and walked over to near where Peter and his son Cameron were standing. The large bull elephant stared at Peter, lifted its front foot off the ground, then put it down. The elephant did that several times then trumpeted loudly, all the while staring at the man.

Remembering the encounter in 1986, Peter could not help wondering if this was the same elephant. Peter summoned up his courage, climbed over the railing, and made his way into the enclosure. He walked right up to the elephant and stared back in wonder. The elephant trumpeted again, wrapped its trunk around one of Peter legs and slammed him against the railing, killing him instantly.

Probably wasn’t the same elephant.

Think Hard in the News. Two days running!


Well.  Two days in a row I featured in stories in The Scotsman.  How odd.

Yesterday it was a story about branding…

Sweet tooth helps fight the recession

Published Date: 09 June 2009
By Erikka Askeland

WHEN the going gets tough, the tough are reaching for cakes and fizzy drinks to make themselves feel a bit better.

In recession-hit Scotland, consumers are splashing out on sweet favourites, and sales of familiar brands such as Irn Bru and Tunnocks tea cakes and caramel wafers are on the rise.

There are plenty of signs the shopper is cutting back on big-ticke

with Investec, one of the reasons for Barr’s strong performance was the cosy familiarity of the Irn Bru brand,

“There seems to be a resurgence of people going back to brands they trust,” says Mallard.

Mark Gorman, head of thinking at Think Hard believes that Irn Bru is a “fabric brand”, which has survived the test of time and is “fixed in the commercial psyche”.

These are not the cheapest in the shops but to consumers they signal reliability. Scottish brands which he believes make the grade include Irn Bru, Mothers Pride bread, Tennent’s lager, Lees’ macaroons , and of course, Tunnocks.

“Although people will cut back and look for cheap brands, you do tend to find in a recession they are still willing to pay more for branded goods in certain staple ranges,” Gorman says.

Can a fizzy drink really be considered a staple food? In Scotland, he says, it is.

“They are the important things in life, because they do trust those brands. You wouldn’t want to drink own-brand Irn Bru, would you?”

Fergus Loudon, the sales manager for teacake makers Tunnocks, says the group has come back from a slower-than-normal start to the year and its factory in Uddingston is “back to seven days a week”.

He adds that it is the trust people have in the brand as well as the need for a little sugary comfort that drives sales.

Loudon says: “To a degree, it is confidence in the older brands. The likes of ourselves, Barrs, Baxters, Walkers – they are all iconic Scottish companies and they have been around for a long time. I think the consumer can relate to that and they have confidence in the stronger brands.

“They think: ‘Ah, that is good – I haven’t had one of those for a while.’ It is comfort eating. In times of hardship, people will always treat themselves to a treat, whether it is a caramel wafer or a can of Irn Bru.”

However, Roger White, chief executive of AG Barr, takes a different view. He dismisses the “comfort factor” although he agreed people reach for the brands they know when they are feeling shaky.

“It is not about comfort eating or drinking, but people stick to what they know when they are lacking in confidence and they stick to things which are relatively affordable.

“Our brands are just known or affordable. It is easier to turn down things you are less certain of if you lack confidence. You tend to stick with something you know,” White maintains.

Mark Bradford, managing director of James Allan Bakeries, a traditional seller of pies and cakes in the West of Scotland, is surprised by the growth in demand for treats – as long as they are cheap.

Bradford says that sales of savoury pies have enjoyed a resurgence but it is the cream cakes that have sold particularly well.

“Good sellers at the moment are cream cakes, which until recently were not that popular. But they have grown in popularity. You could call them a comfort food, I think people are treating themselves to low-cost treats, which our types of products are.”

In addition to selling sugary sweet nothings, AG Barr also enjoys the benefits of having a strong core market – loyal Scottish consumers.

Gorman believes that loyalty in the home market is a key benefit to companies such as AG Barr which has expanded in the UK and more recently, into Russia.

“It gives backbone to your balance sheet if you know that come what may, you are still going to hold brand leadership in your original territory. That gives you some confidence to build from there. Irn Bru have done that brilliantly in the last 20 years,” said Gorman.


And today it’s a Story about Ellis Watson’s move to First Group…


Watson swaps Menzies post for key role at FirstGroup

It is understood Watson is being groomed as a possible successor to FirstGroup’s founder and chief executive, Sir Moir Lockhead, 64, who is expected to retire within the next couple of years.

Last month The Scotsman reported on the gap in the First- Group’s succession plan following the departure of chief operating officer Dean Finch.

But the appointment of Watson, who has turned Menzies around in his four years at the company, will increase speculation that he is in line to succeed Lockhead. Reinforcing Watson’s high standing, Menzies yesterday made it clear how highly they regard the former Mirror Group executive.

John Geddes, group comp any secretary for Menzies, said he was “sad to see Ellis go”.

Geddes refused to comment on Watson’s role at FirstGroup, which has been in and out of the blue chip FTSE 100 index of top British companies.

But he added: “Ellis is going to join a company which is pretty much FTSE 100. Ellis is an ambitious guy and I am sure he has got a plan.”

William Thomson, chairman of Menzies, gave an unusually effusive tribute to Watson in the company’s statement to the Stock Exchange, crediting him with having “revolutionised” Menzies’ distribution business.

Thomson also welcomed Watson’s replacement, David McIntosh, who has been with Menzies for 19 years.

Watson joined Menzies four years ago from Trinity Mirror where he was managing director, national newspapers, under chief executive Sly Bailey.

A close friend of former Sun editor Kelvin McKenzie, Watson was also involved in firing Mirror editor Piers Morgan after the Iraq prisoner photo hoax. He was best man at Morgan’s wedding weeks later.

Lockhead said Watson, who will take up the position in August, would be of “great benefit” to the group’s plans for future growth. Paul Moore, First- Group’s communications director, yesterday played down speculation that the company’s plans to eventually replace Lockhead.

“I think it looks like another great member of the senior management team,” said Moore.

But Moore said FirstGroup was “excited” about how Watson would promote the FirstGroup brand in addition to his management of the group’s operations.

Watson said in a statement last night: “I’m as flattered as I am excited to be joining FirstGroup. It’s an enormous and successful company and I’m pleased to be joining a team that seem intent on making it even more so”.

FirstGroup is one of the world’s largest public transport companies, operating trains and buses in the UK, US and Europe.

Trading in FirstGroup shares was up slightly to 382.25p while shares in Menzies were up even further – 2.7 per cent – to 133p.

‘Ellis is empathetic … and funny’

MARKETING “guru” Mark Gorman last night predicted that new FirstGroup director Ellis Watson can make the bus and train business “sexy”.

Gorman, the “head of thinking” at marketing consultancy Think Hard, praised FirstGroup chief Sir Moir Lockhead, as “brilliant”. But he insisted Watson would bring something different to the Aberdeen-based business.

Gorman told The Scotsman that people “love” Watson and like working for him.

He explained: “First Group are a great group. They are fantastically acquisitive, creative and dynamic. They export well. They have done really well in the States. They are one of the companies Scotland should be most proud of. Moir has been a brilliant leader for the business.”

He continued: “Bringing someone like Ellis in is a really interesting move. He is empathetic. And funny, he is a great speaker. If anyone can make travel sexy it would be Ellis.”

Gorman, who is head of business development at STV, said that First with Watson on board could challenge the major UK transport groups including Richard Branson’s Virgin, Michael O’Leary’s Ryanair or British Airways.

He added: “The problem with First is they built their brand in quite a product-based way, in a functional way.

“For the size of the business, they have disproportionately under-invested in building the corporate brand.

“I don’t think it has a massive amount of brand equity, not like a British Airways Not even like Ryanair and Michael O’Leary.”

Gorman said there were “a lot of great people and individuals in the travel sector” including Branson and easyJet found Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou.

He continued: “There’s four big brands that have got very high-profile brand leaders. First has done it much more under the radar.”

Yogi


It’s a good day at Easter Road.

It seems we have hired who I have long thought might be Hibs follow up to Mozza (Tony Mowbray).

A  manger who cares and who has a football brain.  I now expect a much better season from Hibs but the absolute key must be about holding focus against the lower teams.  Yogi needs to teach Hibs that although beating Celtic, Rangers and Hearts is good, beating Hamilton, St Mirren, Motherwell, Aberdeen, Kilmarnock, et al is much, much more important.

Only one problem.  In seeking decent images of Yogi Onliner…this was the only good one I could find.

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Ach well, we set them up anyway.

Want to take up a hobby or learn something new


Suntrap Garden, in association with the Royal Caledonian Society, at Gogarbank have a number of night classes and workshops available for the autumn.

EVENING CLASSES 7.00 – 9.00 pm

Flower Arranging    £75.00
Monday 24th August – 28th September  (6 weeks)

Set of Workshops for both beginners & those who wish to develop their existing skills; limited to 12 places. (Materials and flowers extra.)

Design Your Own Garden    £105.00
Wednesday  30th September –  9th December (11weeks)

Leisure Gardening   £80.00
Thursday 1st October – 3rd December   (10 weeks)
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WORKSHOPS

10.00 am to 12.00 Noon on Saturday Mornings
£25 for booking all three workshops or £10 each workshop
(Cost of plants and materials extra)

Winter Containers & Hanging Baskets                  24th October
Explore how to fill containers for colour through Winter and Spring.  (Plants, compost and containers supplied at cost or bring your own.)

Gardens by Design                                      21st November
This workshop offers guidance on basic design principles to help you make the most of your garden.

Christmas Decorations                        19th December
Help is at hand to create two floral displays to make the home festive and colourful for Christmas.  Be the envy of family and friends.  (Materials approximately £25.)

To book or for more information contact Suntrap Garden –
0131 339 7283 (Answer Phone) or e-mail: suntrap@btopenworld.com)

If you would like more information about Suntrap why not check out their blog.

It should be pointed out that my wife designed and uploaded massive files on this post.

Is that good or bad Mark?  Did you want to design me something that looked good?

Yasmina v Kate. The final Frontier


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The Apprentice improved as a viewing experience as the season wore on but it was by no means the best.  Nonetheless we had a good final (Although Rocky didn’t seem to think so.)  The last pick in that horrible playground throwback at the start of the programme; he looked distinctly un-chuffed about that and never raised a smile thereafter.

It was a complicated task, creating a new chocolate brand in three days, something that even we professional marketeers would never be challenged with in real life.  For much of the show Colgate Girl’s team were going to call their brand “Intimacy”, and it was going to come in three sizes; small, large and ribbed, but they saw the light and opted instead for some Faux French pish.

They were outdone in all but the taste stakes by Yasmina’s Shock and Awe brand.  (It was shocking and we were awestruck by how bad the chocolate tasted; anyone for strawberry and basil?)

Did the right one win?  Only Sir (sorry Lord) Alan will know.  I was surprised by the outcome I have to say, but frankly I wasn’t that bothered.

Roll on next year.  Apparently Margaret won’t be there as she’s gone off to finish a Phd in papyrus.

“It’s really interesting.”  She unconvincingly told us.

In honour of her departure I think we need to share  Joe Cornish’s outstanding tribute to her.

All hail King sam


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In 1981 I was fortunate enough to take a chance on a first time director’s movie at The Edinburgh Film Festival.  The subtlety of the movie’s title – The Evil Dead – caught my eye and I was transfixed with terror as Sam Raimi treated us to a low budget classic.  Of course time has passed and Raimi has climbed the Hollywood ladder and now directs Spiderman.  So I was delighted to find that he was back in the horror genre, this time with a big budget, but an unknown cast. and a great title…Drag me to Hell.

I took my 14 year old daughter Ria along to see it, on her request, having warned her that it was no ordinary scary movie.  That it was the real deal.

“Jesus Christ.” she shrieked about 15 times as jump after jump assailed us.

The publicity says this;

“Christine Brown has a good job, a great boyfriend, and a bright future. But in three days, she’s going to hell.”

It’s a comment on our times.  The first Credit Crunch horror movie and a lesson that if you mess with gypsy women over their mortgages you’ll get what you deserve in return.

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Sam Raimi makes sublime horror movies.  He’s taken on board Hitchcock’s theory that 20 minutes of suspense are worth 20 seconds of horror but he condenses this.  You get many, many more shocks per square yard with Raimi than you ever did with Hitchcock and yet he never overdoes them.  But they come at you in wave after wave.  And the humour is brilliant.  He really likes a bit of sicko stuff along the way and makes the most of this.

Blood, snot, vomit, embalming fluid, they all get a run for their money.  We see popped eyeballs, stapled eyeballs, flies entering orifices you wouldn’t want flies in if it was you, limbs eaten whole, animals killed and mutilated.  We get fleeting shadows, whispers, banging doors, flashbacks, mysterious winds and subliminal framing.

We get NOISE.  This film is so loud that even my mother could hear it.

Every single trick in the horror (and comedy horror) book is used.  Is it cliched?  Not a bit of it.

An instant classic that climaxes perfectly.  (Maybe it could even win Oscars?)

10 out of 10.  Perfection.

recent listening. When the haar rolls in by James Yorkston


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To complete a trio of folky delights I’d like to pick up on this stunner that I have ommitted to share with you dear reader.

I have been growing deeper in love with this record every time I hear it for over a year now and it is sublime.  The standout track is almost unclassifiable; Tortoise Regrets Hare puts the hairs on the back of my neck up every time I hear the stunning harmony that Yorkston creates with Nancy Elizabeth (or is it Elizabeth Nancy I wonder).  Its structure is bemusing and its lyrics, to say the least, are unconventional.  Basically I think it’s about jealous love.  But it is so, so beautiful.

Here it is.  Please watch.

Anyway, the rest of it is also amazingly poignant, beautiful, affecting, sad, lyrical, compelling, emotive.  I’ll stop.  I like it.  I like it very much and I think you owe it to yourself to like it too.

I would be very pleased if you did.

As would Mr Yorkston.

Oh, and by the way.  What a cover!  (Mark Bannerman)

recent Listening. The Spinning Top by Graham Coxon


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Graham Coxon has many iterations.  There’s the cheeky chappie BritPop Blur guitarist, there’s the post Blur thrasher (not appealing) then the new lighter post punk pop that frequented his latter two (brilliant) albums.  And now there is this.  Coxon does folk.

He opens as Nick Drake, closes as Robert Wyatt and picks up a bit of Bert Jansch and even Cream in between.

The list of instruments that he and his excellent loose band of musicians (including Robyn Hitchcock) get through is quite amazing;  electric guitar, soprano saxophone, drums, percussion, harmonica, retaliation guitars, bass, sompoton, barcarole concertina, farfisa compact organ, and lorenzo chord organ are Coxon’s contribution.  But you can add to that; esraj, diruba, jori, taus, double bass, glockenspiel, chromatic creeping electric guitar, congas, drums, flute, indiscriminate fire electric guitar, sonar electric guitar, buoy bell and piano.

That all makes it sound like a bit of a mess.  It isn’t.  Far from it.

Because what drives it all along is the astounding acoustic guitar which dominates the mix throughout.  In fact it’s a largely acoustic album despite that panoply of electrical gizmos.  And it’s beautiful.  Probably Coxon’s finest hour.  Of course it will barely sell enough to cover the week’s groceries.  But that’s not a problemo.  He has a reunion tour with Blur coming up to pay for everything else.

His style of fingerpicking is quite remarkeable (for a thrash guitarist) and the lightness of the record is very redolent of late 60’s and early 70’s when British folk was arguably at its height.  It’s poerhaps no surprise then that he dedicates the record to John Martyn.

Away days


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Finding myself in Glasgow on Friday afternoon with a couple of hours to kill I opted for a trip to the cinema to the see the Kevin Sampson penned movie, Awaydays.

I loved his first novel, Powder, which charts the rise and fall of a rock band and expected more than the utter crap that I saw.

Oh dear reader I warn you away from this badly realised and terribly over-ambitious rubbish.

It follows the story of a teenage rebel who joins the Inter City firm (Tranmere Rovers’ I understand) as he gets an increasing taste for violence in the wake of his mothers’ death.

It mixes schmaltz (the relationship with his sister), psychology (a cod homosexual unfulfilled relationship with his ‘best’ pal), sex (clumsily realised at every turn – he’s a bit of a lad – much to his gay chum’s distress) and extreme gang violence (which is so bad that I had to stifle laughter every time there was a ‘big’ gang fight).

The real trouble with this movie is that it’s a multi million pound idea executed on a few hundred grand.  Consequently everything looks cheap.  The fight scenes in particular, which demand to be the movie’s centrepiece, are utterly embarrasing.  The cast is way too small (but try hard) and camera angles have to be really tight to make it not look like a playground knockabout.

Sadly, the ploy fails.

It’s a shame because the central character’s role is well played.  In fact most opf the acting is pretty good.

On the plus side, the music track is fab (but there’s another excrutiating moment when we see a ‘fake’ Echo and tHe Bunnymen playing in a Liverpool club.)

This is bad.  Sorry.