This incredible year of music.

What in God’s name has gone on in the music world this year?

In October alone we’ve had a major return to form from Belle and Sebatian and also by Sufjan Stevens. As well as a great new album from Robert Plant.

We’ve had album after album after album that continue to amaze. And yet 2008 and 2009 were, relatively speaking, deserts.

Next week we have a new Kings of Leon and before the end of the year a new Radiohead and, if Metacritic is to be believed, a new, wait for it, Kraftwerk album.

Oh my sweet Jesus.

There’s a new Norah Jones too. (I know, lacks credibility, but I love her music. Sorry.)

And just wait till you hear the crazy brilliance that is Sleigh Bell. Mama Mia!  On Spotify as we speak.  Please enjoy.

We’ve had Fourtet on fire, Massive Attack on fire, Hot Chip on fire.  The National on fire.

Wild Beasts, Midlake, John Grant, and of course, Arcade Fire. (On fire!)

Each and every one a gem of the highest lustre.


The Plain in Spain stays mainly in Rutherglen

Flamin' 'eck. We only lost 3 - 2. At home.

The headlines will proclaim Braveheart!

The truth is, in my view anyway,  Scotland huffed and puffed tonight.

Spain were not in top gear.  Need they be?  They were playing a team who had just lost to a team who had  just lost a European Qualifier at home to Lithuania.

They gradually worked out a way to get through against the great blue wall.

Two up.

Job done.

Tools down.

And then; oops.

A wee Spanish banana.

Could the worst happen?

Could they really lose to a team who had just lost to a team who had  just lost a European Qualifier at home to Lithuania.

Don’t be daft.


3 – 2.

Cue Lionheart.  Cue whatever.  It’s always like this.

Some good performances (Naismith, Fletcher, Bardsley) and a corker of a baddie.  Whittaker will want to erase tonight from his memory forever.  Run ragged, 100’s of mistakes, gave away the penalty just before halt time, got sent off.  Doh!)

This was not a new dawn for Scottish football.  It was just another close defeat to a huge team that nearly took their eye off the ball.  But it was at least exciting.

Araucaria araucana

Have you ever planted a Monkey Puzzle tree (Araucaria araucana).  Worse; have you ever dug up a monkey tree and then re-planted it.  Worse still; have you ever dug up a 7 ft Monkey Puzzle tree that has firmly established itself in the middle of a gorse bush?  But worst of all; have you ever dug up a 7 ft Monkey Puzzle tree that has firmly established itself in the middle of a gorse bush and then had to remove the roots and stump of a 20ft apple tree before you can replant the aforementioned Monkey Puzzle Tree in its place?

Well, that’s what I did this weekend.

Did I mention to you that Monkey Puzzles have razor sharp leaves and that Gorse has needle sharp leaves and that together these make for a very uncomfortable combination?

No?  Well they do.

However our communal garden area, just across from the house now has a lovely (slightly lopsided) 7ft Monkey Puzzle tree.

I suppose this makes it seem worthwhile…


£250 nicker for a jaggy tree? Ours is bigger than that too!


Antichrist by Lars Von Trier


They're behind you!


I’ve had the DVD for a while now and not viewed it but it was shown on Sky Indie last night so we watched it at last.  I’m not sure if it was edited for TV because it wasn’t as shocking as I expected.  I like Lars Von Trier although he has a rather variable output.  Breaking the Waves is surely his masterpiece, the Idiots, well, a bit idiotic.  This falls squarely in the middle for me.  Full of self importance and symbolism but stunningly filmed.

My 16 year old son arrived home just at the most graphic moments of “real strong sex” and proclaimed “What on earth are you watching!”

I found the acting a bit too mannered for my liking.  Charlotte Gainsbourg just seems to be trying a bit too hard throughout with her breathiness and Willem Dafoe is so desperately earnest that you entirely fail to engage with him.

The “torture” aspect of the movie is actually a bit hilarious if the truth be told.  What’s it all about?  Ach who knows, who cares really.  Female and male stereotyping?  The lack of god in the couple’s grief?  I couldn’t really tell you and that’s a pity because I think it is trying to desperately connect at some higher level.

The scene where Charlotte Gainsbourg visibly cuts off her clitoris with a pair of scissors does make “Stuck in the Middle” during Reservoir Dogs seem rather light-hearted.

Last night I watched the death of Scottish football.


And this is before last night's results have been taken into account.


For a Jambo, Craig Levein is a nice bloke but that in no way exonerates him from open and outrightly hostile criticism in the wake of last night.  It was so embarrassing that I forsee no future at all for our ‘national game’.  We turned up to play a team ranked 37th in the world who had just lost a European Qualifier at home to Lithuania and we failed to play with a striker.  In other words the limits of Levein’s ambitions was a 0 – 0 draw. To a team who had just lost a European Qualifier at home to Lithuania.  The formation was 4 6.  have you ever hard of that?  Apparently Spain play 4 6, but that’s 4 defenders and 6 strikers! And this was to a team who just lost a European Qualifier at home to Lithuania.

If we had a chance I do not recall it, and yet after we went 1 0 down with 20 minutes to play he reverted to a 4 4 2 formation that, whilst unsuccessful, at least put the Czechs under some pressure which is hardly surprising because they are a team who had  just lost a European Qualifier at home to Lithuania.

OK, Rangers have ground out two good results by playing ultra cautious tactics, but they played a striker at least.  The same striker that is in the form of his life and only came on as a sub to create the aforementioned formation to a team who had just lost a European Qualifier at home to Lithuania.  Rangers’ tactical decisions are fair enough.  They were playing one of Europe’s finest – not  a team that had just lost a European Qualifier at home to Lithuania.  (That said, the Turks they played had never made the Champion’s League before and had just been humped at home by Valencia – but it paid off).

Levein looked sheepish, but unapologetic, after the game.  I anticipate that the media will rightly go on a field day and, for once, I support them.

It’s very, very sad that our national game, one that only 30 years ago we were considered amongst the finest in the world at, has become a joke.  A laughing stock.

How anyone could forgive us taking 96 minutes to pip Leichtestein (a country with a population of 34,000) is beyond me.

This result and this formation in particular, sets out our position in stark relief.


And unambitious ones at that.

God help us on Tuesday night.  Although.  Although.  Although. You can just see it can’t you.  A backs to the wall Braveheart performance.

(And an unlucky 1 – 0 defeat.)

Bertie's back!

Romeo and Juliet – Royal Lyceum Theatre Edinburgh

It’s the thing these days to reinvent Shakespeare to the point that the Shakespeare inside is barely recognisable. The Lyceum don’t do this.  Two year’s ago the Lyceum’s Macbeth was heavily criticised for this but I really enjoyed it.  This year’s Romeo and Juliet by contrast has been lauded by the critics, partly for its lack of denial.  Again I really enjoyed it.

What this production does is, for the most part, let Shakespeare’s language wash over you like a spa treatment.  Enveloping you in a warm bath of language that’s part familiar, part alien.  It’s a very compelling and quite riveting experience.

Blessed with a cast of great quality, director, Tony Cownie makes them sing from the off.  Liam Brennan stands out as a monumentally great actor and Will Featherstone is superb as Romeo.  Others I cared for to slightly lesser degrees and sadly Juliet was, for me, a bit of a disappointment – not that Kirsty Mackay didn’t put her heart and soul into the performance, she just didn’t engage me.  It’s a difficult call as act two is an endless lament on her part and so it’s very easy to overstep the mark to the point that Juliet wails once too often.

She did.


Aside from that, this is a truly beguiling theatrical experience.  Pjhilip Pinsky’s music was, as ever fantastic , and I thought I recognised the central motif which I’m sure was a nod to Craig Armstrong.  Like I said earlier, one feels drawn into a different world that doesn’t need a “message for today”.  And it hasn’t got a great deal to say metaphorically, politically, socially; it’s just a great piece of theatre deftly and engagingly handled.

Highly recommended.

The Gang Show

Andy Johnston, an FCT alumni, does an incredible job in amateur theatre in Edinburgh.  Amongst other things he directs the Gang Show which celebrates its 50th birthday this year.  I was browsing the Gang show website this morning and stumbled upon a cast photo from the first ever in 1960- which I know, for a fact, featured my Dad.

I think this is him.

But it might be my Uncle Chris.

Any ideas?


Chris or Pego? You decide.

And this is the cast of 61.

Pego? Click on the image for a closer look.