2020: The year in retrospect.

Trump's demands for $2,000 stimulus checks, explained - Vox

I’m not even going to mention the obvious subject as it’s affected us all in different ways, other than to say my list of theatre and cinema highlights is extremely short and has been replaced by TV and podcasts.

One of the highlights was moving from self employed to employed status after 15 years.

Things were looking uncertain until an unlikely opportunity arose with Whitespace, a company I have been involved with, one way or another since its inception 25 or so years ago as a subsidiary of 1576. Finally I can wholly lay claim to the title of being a ‘Whitespacer’ as a Strategy Director. It’s been immense having worked on not one, but two, global cosmetics brands, a global pitch for a motor company and a series of successful pitches and client engagements including a huge Oil and Gas start up, a home builder, the new www.netzeronation.scot website, Business Gateway, the Port of Leith Housing Association rebrand, a University, an online learning business, a charity and a lovely tech start up in pharma. Stimulating, all of them.

Sadly my time with Front Page came to an end after a long and happy relationship, it still is. And I’ve worked throughout with another long term client in the wonderful Nexus 24.

The experiment with The Marketing Centre proved to be unsatisfying in the end but I gave it my best shot and they are good guys.

I’m grateful to them all for their support, friendship and income.

Two more relationships came to an end, after 10 years I stood down as Chair of FCT and simultaneously my nine years as Chair of Creative Edinburgh came to a happy conclusion. Both were my choice and I wish both of them well in the future.

But my role as Scottish Chair of NABS remained deeply satisfying and we ran a tremendous National Music Quiz and Art Auction plus the 15th Scottish music quiz, all going online for the first time, and resulting in a record year of income for NABS. A great result driven by an amazing voluntary team in Scotland. Special thanks has to go to Anna Kormos and to Marian in Manchester for their huge contributions.

My Mum’s dementia (Alzheimer’s) has worsened steadily and in August we took the inevitable decision to put her into a care home. It’s been a great decision because the staff at Northcare Suites (100 Telford Road) have been superb. It’s the lap of luxury and although she remains terribly confused, and visits have been strictly limited, she has settled in well and is in good overall health otherwise.

Amy continues to amaze us with her tenacity, creativity, drive and ambition and she started not one, but two, new businesses this year. One in Health and Nutrition (https://www.amygormanhealthnutrition.co.uk) which has seen her build a solid portfolio of clients and a part time role at The Foundry in London, the other as a freelance fundraiser where she has enjoyed great success with at least four clients this year. All the more incredible because she left CAFOD to go it alone in February just as the unmentionable struck. She is awesome.

Ria and Tom both worked at Amazon over the summer. The job from hell. But Tom, in particular, immersed himself in it so hard (60 hour night shift weeks) that he saved enough to escape the UK and move to Whistler in Canada for the next two years. It was brilliant having them and Keir with us all summer and we miss them terribly.

Of course Ria skooshed her first year in Dentistry at Dundee and is back there, living with Keir in Perth where he has an interesting job at a whisky auctioneers. She’s working like a trojan and filling us with pride. All three of them are.

This gave Jeana the opportunity to reignite her homemaking career which she revelled in (but I’ve/we’ve missed our steady procession of AirBnB guests, her second career, that we grew to love so much). Next year maybe.

She started a new career and excelled, as a baker! Brilliant lockdown sourdough and maybe even better fruit bread. Both to die for, and if we eat too much of either, or both, that’s exactly what we’ll do. Dangerous!

Of course, having finally succeeded (after five failed attempts) in the Glastonbury lottery it was cancelled, as was Primavera (who still haven’t refunded me by the way). That was a big blow and I missed the chance of escapades with the boys in Barca and Alan in Somerset. Next year? Hmmm, dunno.

No holidays at all, not even Perthshire in November. I desperately missed our annual pilgrimage to Italy in particular. Next Year? Hmmm, dunno, maybe.

The most exciting and preoccupying thing, for me, of the year was seeing the 45th President of The United States of American undone. He’s scum, and election night found me beside myself as it looked at one point as if he’d gone and done the impossible, but the good people of America proved they DO have a conscience and 80 million of them at least have a brain.

It puts the achievement and humanity of Obama onto an even greater pedestal and the man has become a beacon of brilliance for the world to see, if he wasn’t already.

Biden and Harris (the 46th and 47th Presidents) were not perhaps the most dynamic offering for the American electorate, but decency is back and soon I expect to see a woman in the White House Oval Office. She will be great once Biden passes the baton. He did what he had to do – carefully, graciously and in a dignified manner that befits the office. He’ll no doubt have to buy his own lightbulbs on movers day, but the fact that he knows his way around will not obligate the outgoing filth to show him round.

Sadly we, in the UK, are stuck with filth for now. The disgrace that has held office in Downing Street is there for all to see and no further comment is necessary.

Turning to the best bit.

My best of’s.

It wasn’t a vintage music year but I enjoyed, very much, the following:

Michael Kiwanuka rightly won the Mercury, although I backed Moses Boyd.

I also greatly enjoyed Songs for our Daughter by Laura Marling (even though she doesn’t have one) and she would also have been a deserved winner.

Taylor Swift’s two albums were excellent folksy releases.

I listened to a lot of Dub Reggae, mainly from the 70’s.

Sudan Archives’ Athena was excellent.

Big Thief and Dirty Projectors both brought smiles to my face.

Janelle Monae’s sole single release, Turntables, is awesome.

And I loved Weyes Blood’s Titanic Rising (although I think that was a 2019 release).

What I can’t understand is the adulation Fiona Apple’s Fetch The Bolt Cutters garnered. I tried, believe me.

Here’s a link to my Best of 2020 tunes on Spotify. (Too much old stuff on it for my liking.)

In cinema there was little to thrall about so Steve McQueen’s Small Axe series almost picks up the ‘best of’ gong by virtue of its feature length running times (particularly Lover’s Rock).

But the prize goes to another Adam Sandler masterpiece. The quite ridiculous Uncut Gems. Wow!

Parasite was a big disappointment to me, as was Fincher’s Mank.

True History of the Kelly Gang (pre you know what) was epic and wonderful.

I also saw and really liked Little Women before the shutdown and 1917 which is outstanding and a contender for my movie of the year.

I liked the Go Go’s documentary.

The Trial of the Chicago 7 was great Sorkin fare and gets there on merit, but hardly a classic.

The Borat sequel only makes it onto the list because of the lack of competition and the brilliant expose of Giulliani.

And so to TV. The year of TV.

It kicked off with something I thought wouldn’t be bettered, Normal People, but it just got better and better.

I Will Not Destroy You.

The Crown.

We Are Who We Are.

The aforementioned Small Axe.

Unorthodox (a little gem).

The Queen’s Gambit.

Song Exploder. (A Podcast conversion to Netflix)

Homecoming (another podcast convert – especially Season 2 with Janelle Monae)

The Plot Against America.

Educating Greater Manchester.


Dracula (on BBC).

Quiz (it was a good year for ITV drama).

Dirty John.

The Third Day on C4.

Industry (a late contender for series of the year. Please bring it back. Filthy and brilliantly performed).

And another was the excellent Criminal. A franchise that extended across Europe using the same police interview room (with different casts for different countries) to create unusual very cleverly plotted procedurals that were anything but procedures.

But, at the end of it all I’m going to give it to The Comey Rule for the remarkable performance of Jeff Daniels.

In podcasts, my new found love, there was so much it was ridiculous:

Shout outs for Adam Buxton and Louis Theroux.

Steve Richard and Matt Forde made politics lovable.

5:38, Hacks on Tap, Left Right and Centre and Pod Save America enthralled me through the American election.

In drama podcasts, Tunnel 42 was magic, as were both seasons of The Horror of Dolores Roach.

Slow Burn is brilliant but Season Four (David Duke) wasn’t its best. For that you need to listen to the Clinton and Watergate series’.

Hunting Ghislaine was also brilliantly horrifying and it was great to hear yesterday that the bitch is not being bailed.

In music Soul Music (BBC Radio 4) and Song Exploder were both joys to behold. As was The Clash Story.

But my Podcast of the Year is a toss up between 13 Minutes to the Moon (Season Two about Apollo 13), Transmissions (the story of Joe Division and New Order) and Wind of Change, the conspiracy story about the CIA writing The Scorpions’ classic song of the same name.

And then there’s Desert Island Discs of course.

Turkey of the year was Phoebe Reads a Mystery. Appalling schmuck.

I had a terrific reading year too, finally joining a Book Club:

Feck Perfunction by James Victoire is a great business read.

The Salt Path by Raynor Winn

One Two Three Four about the Beatles by Craig Brown is superb. And Kraftwerk: Future Music from Germany was another great musical read. A musical trilogy was made up with The Eavis’ Glastonbury 50. An event I never made. Naeb’dy did.

Pine by Francis Toon is a good Scottish book. Not as good as Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart (but I still don’t think it should have won the Booker – far better were last year’s TWO winners Girl Woman Other by Bernardine Evagelisto and The Testaments by the incomparable Margaret Atwood – not her best but still fantastic).

I really enjoyed Ian McEwan’s rewriting of history in Machines Like Us, a real return to form.

I read two McEwan’s this year. Solar was the other, but it was shit.

The Testament of Gideon Mack is a great wee Scottish story by James Robertson and I’m also enjoying his 365 Stories as my bog book this year.

Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney wasn’t as good as Normal People (the TV series).

Worth Dying For – The Power and politics of flags was good fun.

I finally read Small Island and loved it. As I did in reading Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer. Hilarious.

Tender is the Flesh: by Agustina Bazterrica is a tremendous, undiscovered, Brazilian novel about post apocalyptic times where humans are grown as food.

But my two books of the year were epic masterpieces, each of them. Rodham by Curtis Sittenfeld and The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead. Both dealt with American discrimination, the former of women, the latter of Black lives. Both are beyond excellent.

My walk of the year was Glen Etive, with Ria, all 26 miles of it.

Oh, one last thing. I lost weight.

Small Axe Episode 2: (Lover’s Rock) Movie Review.

The True Story Behind 'Lovers Rock' and Steve McQueen's Family History of  Blues Parties | Esquire

The first part of Steve McQueens ‘quintology’ of race related British films was the excellent Mangrove, about life amid (police) racism in 1971’s West London and concerned the trial of the Mangrove Nine. A group of Carribean immigrants who largely chose to defend themselves in the face of cooked up (no pun intended) charges. It’s a fine courtroom drama and is highly recommended.

Part two, in my view, is even better.

Lover’s Rock is built on a simple premise.

Init starts with the preparations for a ‘Blues Party’ in somewhere like Notting Hill in 1980’s London before easing gently into the party itself.

It holds little real narrative thread but, instead, somehow manages to convey a feeling of actually being at the party, scripted in Jamaican vernacular that’s often hard to follow (for me a white Jock) but it doesn’t really matter because, between the combined talents of McQueen and his astounding cinematographer Shabier Kirchner and editor Chris Dickens, we are drawn into an atmosphere that is truly immersive.

You know all those shit dance floor scenes you’ve seen in a million low budget productions? Well, this has none of them despite the fact that maybe 50% of the action takes place in the wooden-floored front room of a London detached house, with a Sound System crumbling its faded grandeur.

It’s monumental, as is the epic (largely) dub reggae soundtrack that suffuses it from the start.

The highlight is the central action around two songs, Janet Kaye’s Silly Games and one I confess I don’t know that brought the males on the dance floor to a Babylonian moshpit of sorts. (So good they play it twice).

Special mention must also be made for the Carl Douglas’, Kung Fu Fighting sequence.

All of this is epic because of the way McQueen’s direction oozes through the cramped flesh of the highly tactile dancefloor, sweating out ganja and suffocating in its smoke throughout.

It’s a breathtaking and wondrous achievement that will bear repeat viewing.

Recent reading: Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart

Shuggie Bain Audiobook by Douglas Stuart - 9781529019315 | Rakuten Kobo New  Zealand

It kind of pains me to review this, the latest, Booker Prize-winning novel, and only the second by a Scot.

No Muriel Spark (three times shortlisted), no Robin Jenkins, no Michel Faber (OK, an honorary Scot) no Alasdair Gray, no Ali Smith (four times shortlisted), no Graeme Macrae Burnett (shortlisted) have been deemed worthy of the title “Booker Prize winner”.


Only James Kelman has previously scooped this great honour for Scotland. And next to the Pulitzer, (and The National Book Prize, actually) it’s my favourite literary prize because, on the whole, it awards interesting, readable writing of quality and substance.

Is Douglas Stuart’s debut novel interesting, readable writing of quality and substance? Indeed yes, but the reason I’m not overwhelmingly endorsing a lauded opus from my homeland is the one that may be the most important of the four, quality.

So let’s get that off my chest and out of the way before I move on to why it’s a quality book, just not a “Booker” book.

It suffers, terribly in my view, from unchallenging editing.

The story is wonderful (although slight for its girth – a secondary problem with the editing role) and deeply moving at times. But I’m not sure Staurt knows what it is.

Is it Shuggie Bain’s coming out narrative, the reason he is gay?

Or is it really “Agnes Bain by Douglas Stuart”, the story of a hopeless alcoholic mother struggling with her addiction and her traumatic relationship with a certain kind of emotionless Scottish male persona, again and again and again. A struggle that, sure, begats a homosexual son, in a community, and at a time, where homosexuality was neither tolerated nor understood?

I feel it is the latter, with Shuggie a Greek chorist, not the eponymous protagonist.

Where Stuart has been led down by his editor is in a lack of criticism; simply rolling with it, encouraging catharsis by the retelling of the deep psychological trauma this autobiographical (or is it biographical) retelling has had upon its author.

It’s main problem is that it’s suffocated by metaphor. (They are similes. Ed.).

Every descriptive passage of the story has three, four, maybe five times too many of them. Less, we all know, is more and in this case so much more would emerge from a dramatic culling of Stuart’s flourishes.

Don’t get me wrong, he pens a good metaphor/simile, but three per para? Please. No.

It ground my teeth. To the point that I was whimpering internally every time the dreaded ‘like’ word made an appearance, again and again and again.

And it’s such a spoiler, because with judicious wielding of the red pen this would truly have deserved the moniker “Booker Winner”. Because, apart from that, it’s all there.

His grasp of modern Scots’ working class vernacular is outrageously good, wickedly funny and sparingly used. Where Irvine Welsh uses the patois to shock, Stuart uses it to colour, vividly and brilliantly. And brilliantly funnily.

(Note: I also wish “smirr” had been used once and put to bed.)

The central tale of his poor mammy’s awful life is beautifully told and the reader is wholly absorbed in the futility of her helpless and unsupported battle against the demon drink, so pathetically wound up in Carlsberg Special Brew.

He paints good character portraits of Shuggy’s brother Leek, his bastard dad, Shug, and his mother’s almost white knight, but ultimately dark destroyer, Eugene.

And despite the dreaded ‘likes’, that cause many a stumble, the vast bulk of this, too long, read this is a page turner with manifold moment of emotional heartbreak, occasionally leavened by gallows humour and a smattering of pure emotional joy that makes this a tremendous debut. Just not a “Booker Winning” debut, for me anyway.


My favourite Booker winners (That I’ve read anyway)

Margaret Atwood The Testaments and Bernardine Evaristo Girl Woman Other (both 2019)

Richard Flanagan, The Narrow Road to the Deep South (2014)

Julian Barnes The Sense of an Ending: not perfect but great (2011)

Yann Martel Life of Pi (2002)

Peter Carey True History of the Kelly Gang (2001)

Margaret Atwood The Blind Assassin (2000)

Ian McEWan Amsterdam: although not his best book by a long chalk (1998)

James Kelman How Late it was How Late (1994)

Roddy Doyle Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha (1993)

Hunting Ghislaine with John Sweeney: Podcast review.


The fact that Sweeney, best known for his work on the BBC’s Panorama and Newsnight, felt the need to include his name in the title of this tells you something.

He’s a man on a mission and, until the last episode, it felt that mission was being delivered with a cool disdain that nevertheless erred on the side of balance. He wraps the production with a rather more pointed conclusion that undoes a little of the, earlier, brilliant work.

But that’s a minor gripe, because this is a beast of a production in so many ways.

Firstly the music chills you to the core, right from the off.

Secondly, Sweeney himself is a class act. A formidable presenter with an intellect to match.

And thirdly, the content and its protagonist(s), are, indeed, beasts. And not the cuddly sort.

By the closing credits Sweeney has annihilated Maxwell and, jury aside (we’ll have to wait till July for that decision), he has good reason, if not proof.

She’s a piece of work is Ghislaine Maxwell.

Brought up by a monster and in a long term relationship with another (both dead, maybe both by suicide) she inherited an attitude of princessly, entitlement from her, probably sociopathic, criminal of a father, whom Sweeney further paints as a narcissistic sadist.

She’s a daddy’s girl extraordinaire, spoilt but not spared the lash (which Sweeney conjects she may have developed a taste for) she treats others around her as expendable trash on her rise to the top.

But the top of what? The top of nothing, frankly. OK, the top of a society invitation list, maybe. But this woman has not contributed an iota of ANYTHING to the furtherment of any aspect of the human race.

Her lover, Jeffery Epstein, needs no introduction, and although we nevertheless get plenty of that from Sweeney it’s really her role as his handmaiden and chief pimp that constitutes this story.

And the story is brilliantly, quite lasciviously told, in tones of barely concealed glee as Sweeney hacks her legacy to pieces and feeds it to the listener in bite sized pieces.

She is devoid of goodness.

She’s a coward (running away into hiding the second Epstein’s protective layer peeled away).

And she’s a rapist. So entwined with Epstein’s actions, sometimes joining in after hunting down and luring his prey that she can only be seen as conjoined with the filth that his (stolen) money facilitated him.

It’s gripping, frightening and disgusting.

It’s no wonder Sweeney seems so emotionally involved.

He’s a man on a mission and I , for one, sincerely hope his target rots in a jail cell for the rest of her entitled days.

Bravo John. Bravo.

Why Brexit is bonkers.

I just found this ancient post that was sitting in my drafts.

(From an article Jan Fleischauer in Der Speigel)

The United Kingdom is currently demonstrating how a country can make a fool of itself before the eyes of the entire world. What was once the most powerful empire on earth is now a country that can’t even find its way to the door without tripping over its own feet.

Take this perfect example…
Journalist: “If we leave the EU without a deal, doesn’t there have to be a hard border in Ireland?”
May: “We’ve been very clear that we do not want to see a hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland.”
Journalist: “But if we leave without a deal, that does mean a hard border, doesn’t it?”
May: “We are working to make sure that we leave with a good deal.”
Journalist: “But if we leave without a deal, there will be a border in Ireland, won’t there?”
May: “If we leave with no deal, we as the UK government are still committed to doing everything we can to ensure there is no hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland.”
Journalist: “But you’ll inevitably fail, because according to World Trade Organization rules, there has to be a border. Shouldn’t you level with people and explain that?”
May: “As the UK government, we remain committed to doing everything we can to ensure no hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland.”
You can read the full article here.

Prescient, moi? The day the hotdesking experiment died.

Minneapolis, U.K. | STUFF FROM THE LOFT.
An ad from our heyday.

When we moved our company, 1576 Advertising Ltd, from Edinburgh’s Old Town to its new New Town home in 1997, or so, we were determined that we wouldn’t create a series of ghettos in its Edwardian Town House of five floors (30 rabbit holes) so we instigated a policy, from day one, of ‘hotdesking’.

Hotdesking you say?

In 1997?

Surely this couldn’t work either technically or socially?

You’re right on both counts, sort of.

Technically it was tricky. (I mean, just look at the email address.)

But we made it work. We’d run Ethernet cabling throughout the building, at great cost, and we were 100% Macced up.  (No-one else was.  It was a PC world in those days.)

But we were obstinate determined.

So, although the logging in and out was tricky it was by no means impossible.

It was the social experiment that really failed.

We wanted to stimulate fresh thinking by having creatives mix with planners, producers and account handlers. 

We wanted variety in people’s lives.

We wanted to discourage the collection of desk detritus that comes with nest-building in a permanent workspace.

And, as it turns out, some 20 years later, in this post-Covid world, I truly believe this is about to become the norm.

People will now have the option to blend working from home with office based toil.

Work spaces will shrink so that 100 workers can fit into the space that served only 50 before. Technology-sharing (and therefore hotdesking) will become de rigour – we are already seeing it in co-working spaces anyway.

Where our 20th Century social experiment failed was that it was too soon. We couldn’t convince our otherwise pioneering people that rather than seeing us as GIVING them variety we were perceived as freedom-thieves.

It broke my heart. 

I thought I was right, then. 

I know I was right, now. 

But prescience can represent pearls to swine. (Although I was no swineherd.)

It was all part of our belief in the importance of culture. Underpinned by this quote I just unearthed from Campaign Magazine in November 1999.

“1576 went through some serious rites of passage this year. After what

seemed like a charmed relationship, the agency split up with Direct

Line, the lucrative mainstream account that had given it the freedom to

build its creative profile on less profitable accounts. ’It was a

watershed,’ Mark Gorman, one of the three founding partners, says.

’Direct Line was a significant piece of business but the relationship

wasn’t working any more. We resigned it because we put a lot of thought

into our culture. We want to differentiate ourselves from other agencies

by the way we work with our clients.’

Campaign 1999.


Bill Gates and life after Covid.

Bill Gates and Rashida Jones Ask Big Questions - Podcast | Global Player

He’s a great man (with a horrible voice, it has to be said).

A truly great man.

And an example for humanity of what you can do with wealth. Not only is he leading the fight for the developing world in medical research and disease control through his donations, but by his fundraising too.

And he has a new podcast with Rashida Jones called “Bill Gates and Rashida Jones Ask Big Questions”.

The first episode is excellent and I was really interested in an optimistic view he took on post-Covid society. It may not be a unique view, or even his own, but it struck me as relevant.

His postulation is that post-Covid our life patters will have been so fundamentally disrupted and restructured that they may never return to the old way of working.

One, positive, consequence of not being “downtown” office-based will be that instead of gravitating to massively busy city centre drinking dens (post work), we will instead socialise in our communities far more. So that suburban bars and restaurants will massively benefit and the city centre hostelries will be permanently maimed.

I would speculate further.

As the “High Street” collapses, and the bars and restaurants that populate them, follow retail in its demise the city centre will entirely re-purpose into residential areas and those bars and restaurants will become community hostelries rather than after work boozers.

All of this will, in my view, contribute to a levelling out of geographic meaning and a better balance to all of our lives.

Go Bill.

A Promised Land: Podcast review. Barack Obama’s autobiography. (Part 1)

Not so much a podcast, as a sharing of BBC Radio 4’s Book of the Week by Barack Obama, narrated by the great man himself.

In interviews, Obama can be a bit ponderous but narrating his life story he rattles along without hesitation and takes your breath away with the quality of his written word and his beautiful almost soporific rendition.

It’s a thriller of monumental proportions picking off, in turn, his Primaries for President, the first election, The credit crunch, the ACA, Michelle’s visit with The Queen and, most grippingly of all, the killing of Bin Laden.

It’s two and a half hours of majesty that I devoured in one (long) walk and wanted more, much more.

And I’m wondering if the audio book, given this, would be a better bet than the written version; although I’d want the spine to grace my bookshelves to prove that I am an advocate for the man that will go down in history as one of greatest presidents (human beings) of all time.

I love him, man.

I really, really do.

The Piper: Podcast Review – BBC Radio 4 Drama

Drama on the radio is not easy. On headphones, more so because every mis-step is amplified to the max, so the BBC is to be largely applauded for this mainly succesful four and a half hours of sci-fi/thriller output in a retelling/updating of the Pied Piper of Hamlyn story with a decent contribution from its young cast and a lead role from Tamsin Outhwaite as the Police DC and mother who is caught between family ties and police duty.

As the mother of a mysteriously missing girl in a South Coast town, where strange things are happening to the energy supply and daily countdown announcements from a dissociated voice (accompanied by eerie music provided by Natasha Khan of Bat For Lashes), we are drawn into an in-depth tale of how the missing girl’s sister and cousin react to her abduction by the mysterious Piper.

The tale itself is given enough room to breathe to allow for pretty detailed character development between Ali, the copper and mum, who goes rogue to protect her family, and her extended clan. Particular shout out has to go to the deaf child, Poppy, (Rosalina McDonagh) who commands the headset every time she is on, and Ivy (Charlee Lou Borthwick) who is excellent throughout.

It’s a bit far fetched at times and it’s very earnest, demanding a huge amount from its cast that largely pull it off. But it’s a struggle at times to forgive it its more overwrought emotional spider’s web of dramatic outpouring. Nevertheless, it’s superbly produced and directed (directed by Kate Rowland and produced by Russell Finch) throughout, and although I found it a chore at times to keep following it (and the thinly veiled premise of the old Pied Piper idea is never actually revealed fully) I stuck with it and give it a solid 4/5 for quality and largely believable dialogue by writers Vickie Donoghue and Natalie Mitchell.

Are you a Brexidiot?

All news about Brexit | Euronews
It’s time to say what I really think, now that the game’s up the fucking pole.


“It’s an oven ready deal.”

“The NHS will get £430m a week.”

“We’ll save £50 billion a year.”

Did you actually, really, fall for that? Did you?

Did you really?

Did you factor in that Boris Johnson is a fucking lying cunt?

Did you believe that Dominic Cumming was a human being?

Do you think the moon is made off cheese?

Or did you just want to get rid of those foreign bastards that are are stealing our jobs? You know, the ones where they’re looking after your old dear in what was later to become a pox ridden no go zone.

I cannot even begin to say how angry I am with this government of lying, self-centred, evil cunts. A cabinet of nodding yes men and women having their strings pulled by a fucking moron. An actual fucking imbecile. A man who makes me want to physically violate my television every time I see the smirking, stuttering bag of shit utter a sentence that is packed so full of obfuscation and, just nonsense, complete nonsense and piffle, and condescension, as to render it entirely redundant.

This, a government that has lined the pockets of its equally smirking cunt friends as they buy their untested plastic vials while people wait for their inevitable redundancy. Thank fuck Johnny Foreigner has been banished to the eastern wastelands eh? Less competition for them.

It’s all so brazenly arrogant.

It’s all so, so fucking entitled.

It’s all so redolent of The Emire, but not striking back. We, the British EMPIRE, will retake what belongs to us: our sovereignty.

And these European, fucking, Beaurocrats will bow down to our Oven Ready Rights.

Well, actually Boris. Cunt. You were always fighting 27 against 1 and these Europeans think you are as much of a cunt as I do and they’ve made you look like a fucking fool and a cheat and a clown and a hopeless, simply appalling negotiator. A toff playing Ibble Dibble with a competitor, 27 in fact, that sees you for what you are. Arrogant, unprepared, deweaponised, trading on past glory. A threat.

And what do we do with threats?

We mitigate them. We extinguish them.

Go fuck yourself Boris. Your citizens fucking despise you. Well, if they think about it rationally for even a nanosecond we do.

Mank: Movie Review.

Mank' Review: David Fincher's Immersive Old Hollywood Drama - Variety

This movie troubled me.

Even though I adore the director, David Fincher’s, work.

I mean; Zodiac, Se7en, The Social Network, Fight Club. What more needs said than that?

But Mank is a different matter.

For a start it comes at the process of movie-making from a completely different perspective.


And therein lies my biggest problem. Who was Fincher making this movie for? Who was his audience? Himself? The Academy? A small band of Cineasts? The critics?

I’m sure all of the above love it and I’d place myself on the edge of the latter, but to love Mank you first have to love Citizen Kane, and there’s the rub. Do people love Citizen Kane or do they revere it?

The entire premise of Mank is that you have a love, liking, fascination or even at the base point, knowledge, of what many (critics) consider to be the greatest achievement in cinematic history.

And that could make for a monumental homage. But I’m not sure it does.

It has a number of things going for it though, that help. The cinematography is immense, in beautifully crafted monochrome. Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross craft another fine score grounded in the incidental music of Kane’s era.

The costumes are great and there are some good performances. Gary Oldman is winning great plaudits for his portrayal of the drunk titular character, Herman Mankiewicz. But, shoot me, it’s not THAT great and the central scene in Randolph Hearst’s mansion, in which he turns up drunk to a fancy dress dinner party and makes a long speech to all assembled, occasionally slips into Billy Connolly drunk territory.

The movie is long and it’s wordy. It’s shot full of flashbacks that tell the back story, sort of, as does Citizen Kane. And there are numerous in-jokes for those familiar enough with the source material to get them.

But, as Mark Kermode points out, there is a certain lie to the piece. It’s ostensibly about the ‘theft’ of Mank’s script by Orson Welles, yet Mank and Welles shared the Oscar for best screenplay for Citizen Kane (the movie’s only Oscar) so it’s built on something of an untruth.

It held me, don’t get me wrong, throughout, but it never gripped me and I found myself having to tell myself how great it was, rather than believing in its greatness.

Roma, another monochrome Netflix Original, suffered from the same sense of entitlement. I’m great amn’t I rather than stealing up on us and winning us over by just, you know, being great.

That’s why The Actor and Cold War, even The Lighthouse, are all superior recent monochrome movies to these over-worthy, Academy-aimed personal projects.

Intrigue: The Ratline: Podcast review.

Another in BBC Radio 4’s excellent Intrigue series, to sit alongside the superb Tunnel 42.

This time a nine-part series follows the search for the truth behind the death of WWII Nazi officer, Otto Wachter, who is alleged to have been responsible for mass murders of Jews in Poland between 1942 and 1945.

The Grandson of one of the deceased (murdered) Jewish victims (his entire family was wiped out in the Grand Action) Phillipe Sands is determined to expose the murderer for what he is and sets out on his trail by meeting Otto Wachter’s own son, now in his 70’s, who lives in a castle in Austria.

What follows is a complex tale of espionage, counter surveilance, cold war intrigue and the role of the Vatican in an unGodly cover up and escape from retribution of a whole succession of senior Nazis who seemed to be more palatable than communists to the Italian illuminati in the Cold War era.

For those familiar with the heart breaking tale of the Underground Railroad, so beautifully brought to life by Colson Whitehead in the book of the same name, The Ratline is effectively the rather less palatable Nazi version of it, in which mass murderers of the Third Reich were ‘Persil Cleaned’ and set on their way to anonymity and freedom (or a bit of Commy bashing) by the Italians.

It stinks.

Writer and narrator Phillipe Sands is to be congratulated for his composure in telling the sordid tale without completely losing it as his grandfather’s despicable killer is followed through a jigsaw of clues back through his footsteps in the lee of the war, showing not a morsel of humility or reconciliation.

Wachter’s poor, deluded grandson believes him to a good man at heart, and offers up a lot of evidence of his activities to Sands, his friend, (strange and unexplained but the key to the door) but it’s pretty compellingly set out that he was a murdering bastard and got all that was ultimately coming to him.

It’s a grand, if complex, reconstruction of history that rewards careful listening.

Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo: Book review.

The author is a mixed race, heterosexual woman and respected teacher of writing, having garnered an MBE for her work, before scooping the Booker last year, in the same year as Margaret Atwood for her The Testaments novel.

The 12 female (well 11 female and one binary) central protagonists in her novel are mainly black, often gay and never dull.

Her mini-epic sets out to create a spider’s web of connection between them, without resorting to the convention of storytelling, although each extended chapter in the novel is a story of its own.

It’s rippled with humour throughout and I found myself, as a middle aged white heterosexual male, wondering whether some, if not a lot, of the time she was almost having a dig at the almost tropist characters she creates whilst, simultaneously, revering their personalities and individual identities.

It’s kinda weird, because she seems to have her tongue firmly in her cheek much of the time, whilst quite clearly creating a platform for the expression of the views of women who rarely have a voice. Or, if they do, one they can only usually express on political platforms. And whilst some of these characters are most certainly political (especially the angry feminist gay, black playwright Ama – largely autobiographical), others, like the 93 year old Jamaican Scottish borders farmer(ess), are anything but.

It predominantly works, and each ‘chapter’ gains momentum with every page, introducing, like a David Mitchell trick, characters from previous life stories that almost went unnoticed in another’s.

More than once I found myself stopping to ask, “haven’t I met this person before” and being rewarded, after a bit of reverse speed reading, with a little treasure trove as I realised that indeed I had and that the skill of Evaristo was in hiding them under the radar, yet making them a critical part of her web structure.

It’s a triumph in places and overall scored highly for me, but not unreservedly, partly because the ending is a bit of a mixed bag.

The novel demonstrates much skilled, almost poetic, wring in a variety of styles that makes its fairly large bulk perfectly digestible.

More than good, maybe great, but not a classic, for me.

As ‘dishy Rishi’ takes away our support to the developing world do you still see the good in him?

Rishi Sunak - Wikipedia

We’re a nation of paradoxes, most are.

But one of our greatest virtues was our willingness, enshrined in law, to share some of our great wealth with others less fortunate; 0.7% of our income in fact. Part of the Tory party’s manifesto pledge to never reduce.

Until last week.

At which point Rishi thought that a 28% cut in our foreign aid, to save 0.2% of our national budget, was a good thing.

In a year where we borrowed $400bn how on earth could saving $4bn (exactly 1%) be significant?

Cutting 28% from our support for those that need it for water and shelter, rather than trinkets and indulgence, (yes, I acknowledge we have a poverty issue in the UK but that $4bn ain’t being transferred to UK food banks is it?) hardly befits a nation that has held the right for decades to hold its head high among its international peers.

Maybe Rishi admired Donald Trump’s devastating snubbing of WHO? (Thankfully to be resolved by Biden.)

Or maybe it’s because multi-millionaire accountants simply see it as a number, not a lifeline.

I think its shameful and disgusting.

Sleep well you despicable, glory-grabbing bastard.