Hamish Hawk: Caterpillar.

I thoroughly approve of my pal, Hamish Hawk’s remarkable change in direction.

Recorded in Leith by one of the Idlewilders it’s a quite unexpected change in direction from the witty slice of life storytelling dramas that represented the earlier work in his career.

In this, he has reinvented himself so completely that you really can’t tell this is the same artist. He seems to draw inspiration from early Simple Minds (Empires and Dance, Sons and Fascination era) which is no bad thing with jaggy, edgy guitars and synth driving a post punk dance beat and crisp vocals reminiscent of John Foxx in his Metamatic years.

I absolutely love it and it’s no surprise to see it feature on the Radio 6 Music B playlist which should draw much more attention to the forthcoming album. More of the same please Hamish.

(The video’s great too, edited by another pal of mine, Hamish Allison)

Zero Zero Zero: Review

This blew me away from the first bar of Mogwai’s omnipresent, brooding, lurking, evil, insidious, dangerous, murky, scary score.

In fact Mogwai is one of the reasons this programme scored a perfect 10 for me.

It’s electrifying. The violence is brutal but necessary and the story, although often complex, is worth disentangling.

It’s the best use of multi POV I’ve seen in a long time. Very long scenes that start with an innocuous framing device; a door, a forklift truck load of jalapeños, for example, become the jumping off point for two, occasionally three, ‘takes’ on a plot-critical scene. It’s genius.

The acting is obscenely great and as it develops it’s the Hodgkinson-suffering drug dealmaker’s son, played by Dane DeHaan, that eventually sits atop a masterful pile of gritty, entirely believable characters. Outstanding.

It’s a three level story about cocaine smuggling by the mafia from the Mexican Narcos via a New York shipping family (Andrea Risbourgh, DeHann and Gabriel Byrne) who broker a $60m transaction and oversee its calamity-ridden transfer from A to B via most of Africa (the bad bits).

And being Catholic takes a right good kicking by the way.

It’s white knuckle from start to finish (thank you Mogwai) and thrillingly filmed. At one point I said to my wife “I wish I could see this in cinema”.

I expect this to clear up in awards season. Bravo!

Firefly Lane: Review

Image result for firefly lane

This TV show on Netflix is an abomination. An insult to the human race. The lowest level of TV incompetence to have graced our TV screens since Crossroads. In fact it makes Crossroads look a like Martin Scorsese production.

Where does one start in describing this slaughterhouse of televisual ineptitude?

Firstly, it’s a traffic collision of monumental proportions. A black ice F1 race.

The acting is of such a level of blandness as to make tapioca deliriously delicious.

It’s tapioca without the tap, or the oca. Only the i is left, lower case at that.

Acted by crash test dummies.

Scripted by monkeys.

Filmed by the Blind Boys of Alabama.

Soundtracked by Coldplay. Actually, if it WAS soundtracked by Coldplay it would have some merit. It doesn’t even have that.

It time-switches so often in single scenes that Tom Baker would be reaching out for extreme therapy.

It doesn’t even have the saving grace of hotties to get you by.

I’d rather have internal organs removed without anaesthetic than sit through another minute of this gormless guff.

It reeks so much of pish and ham that our house is now an exclusion zone.

You have been warned.

An inconsequential Prime Minister: Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson.

Portrait photograph of a 55-year-old Johnson

BoJo dream of significance.

His desperation to go down into the annals of history means the truth that he’ll actually go down its anus must trouble him greatly.

But, he’s inconsequential. Because he is simply incapable of being consequential.

Picture the great strategic mismatch of our times: Boris vs Spasky it would be like Hibernian FC vs Heart of Midlothian on 1st January 1973. (The result was 7-0 to Hibernian.)

Because Boris has no grasp of strategy, of seeing the ‘game’ in 3 dimensions, any further than his next move.

His strategic nous is nowt.

Steve Richards (on SR’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Politics) got me to thinking about this, and I have been for weeks.

Everything he does, and has ever done is about NOW, tomorrow’s headlines, the PR he can muster from a stunt, a prank, even a pratfall.

Could you imagine Boris’ hero, Winston Churchill, riding a zipwire, desperate for love and ‘likes’.

Churchill gave not a fig for anything but his own opinion. Love him or hate him, he was a cornerstone of the Allies’ victory in 1945, because he though things through, consequentially.

Boris, the Silly Billy, simply thinks “Let’s just get on with it. DO something. Act now and be damned. (Cherish me and my bravado folks. Please.).”

And that’s sort of OK as the Buster Keaton of City Hall, (the Mr Bean) bumping up London’s tourism appeal alongside those other performing seals, The Royal Family. But when you have a country to run, when you have a sick country to run, when you have to make decisions like Brexit that have, like the pandemic, consequences, I’d rather he wasn’t there – relegated to the place in history that he deserves – a charlatan that lucked out and was great at winning elections, but nothing of any consequence beyond that.

His inconsequence has sadly had great consequence for the 116,000 people that have so far died of Covid, because he’d rather support Dishy Rishi’s stunts (Eat out to Help Out) than do the unpopular things that might have meaningful consequences, like shutting our airports.

He’d rather be seen as a Brexit hero among his back bench fascist pals for being strong on Europe and legally enshrining December 31st 2020 as Brexit day, rather than waiting to see how negotiations played out and deciding then.

He’d rather shake hands in Covid wards to gain front page populism (sorry, popularism), rather than press home his own health secretary’s messages of doing PRECISELY the opposite.

He’s rather win favour with a fellow populist autocrat for short term gain rather than eschew his ridiculous policies in pursuit of the right path.

He’s inconsequential, but his inconsequentiality has consequences.

That, is why, we hate you Boris.

I’m not a monster: Podcast review.

Another cracker from the BBC (and Frontline PBS) narrated superbly by brave and intrepid journalist Josh Baker who surely puts himself at risk as he ventures in and out of Syria for both this Syria and his journalistic day job.

It tells the story of a perhaps radicalised hometown queen American Samantha Sally by her Islamic husband, Moussa Elhassani.

I say perhaps because it’s not clear from the off whether Samantha’s coercion by her husband into the depth of Daesh territory, indeed into the Caliphate is willing or otherwise.

Her two children, especially son Matthew, become poster kids for ISIS as they are forced to make anti-American propaganda films.

The story is complicated and the layers of truths, half truths and lies are difficult to disentangle but this is what makes for such compelling listening.

It’s brilliantly told by Baker and is terrifying in what it reveals, true or otherwise because whether Samantha Sally’s story is true or not, others’ like her surely are.

Gripping and superbly produced this one is well worth the long listen.

Under Milk Wood: Podcast review.

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It’s not really a podcast. I listened to it on Spotify.

The recording is of the 1954 BBC Radio drama starring Richard Burton as the narrator.

You’d think Milk Wood would be the name of the location, I did, but it’s actually a Welsh village called Llareggub (Bugger All backwards) and my take is that Milk Wood is a Metaphor for some kind of heaven.

Is it a poem? Sort of.

Is it a play? Sort of.

What it most surely is, is a masterpiece of thrilling fiction, recorded a bit shakily it has to be said, but this only adds to its charm.

Burton’s opening, rollicking introduction is pure poetry as he sets the scene for a village that surely inspired The League of Gentlemen, populated as it is by a bunch of misfits, gossips, fornicators, hussies, murderous plotters and quite mad, offbeat characters like Morgan Organ the obsessive church organist and a would-be poisoner of his henpecking wife.

The character names are wonderful: Nogood Boyo, Polly Garter, Lily Smalls, Dai Bread (the baker), Sinbad Sailor, Willy Nilly Postman (the, errr, postman), Mae Rose Cottage, Lord Cut Glass and Bessie Bighead (amongst others).

It tells the story of a long, but ordinary, day in the life of the village where everyone knows everyone else’s business, or think they do, and dreams meld into reality.

It’s thrilling, beautifully rendered and at times hilarious.

Although nearly 70 years old it’s as fresh as a daisy and with Burton in his pomp this is surely the seminal rendition of a classic that I urge you to tune into.

Simply wonderful.

The Dig

Another Netflix Original, they’re fair firing them out just now!

Featuring splendid central performances by Ralph Fiennes and Carey Mulligan I’m afraid they are rather better than the script they have to work with, which has holes as big as my underpants in places.

It’s a nice idea though. A 1938 period piece about the discovery of a treasure trove in a place called Sutton Hoo in a race against time to find the treasure before war robs the dig of its manpower.

And it has a similar back story to Mank, in that Feinnes’ character does not get the archeological credit he deserves by The British Museum for his work in unearthing the discovery.

It’s beautifully shot and evokes a strong sense of time and place, but some of the subplots are poorly executed; especially the love triangle that centres on Lily James and Ben Chaplin as a young married couple who aren’t actually in love (because Chaplin is gay).

That’s all a tad clumsy and the whole thing, although spiffing in parts, doesn’t quite make the cut.

Fodder, but palatable fodder.

Sputnik: Movie Review

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Alien meets Arrival. (With subtitles.)

A Russian horror story set in Khazakstan in which a returning Cosmonaut has been infected, John Hurt-like by an Alien. But rather than bursting terrifyingly out to terrorise its surroundings this particular organ mate uses its host as a hotel room, in fact, more than that, a symbiotic relationship has begun between the two that perhaps only steely ice maiden Tatyana Klimova (Oksana Akinshina) can resolve.

Turns out there’s more to meet the eye in this sub Siberian outpost.

Secretive Russian military operatives can see the value of this symbiosis in creating a fearsome weapon of war and gradually Klimova is drawn into a moral dilemma as her relationship with both the Alien’s host, Konstantin Veshnyakov, and the Alien itself grows.

To be honest you could probably bail on this after an hour or so, its done its best work by then, but what work, and resorts to Hollywood silliness to resolve itself as the writers realise they’ve created too complex a narrative to easily escape. It would actually benefit from being a TV outing with more space to build and resolve its multi-layered contexts.

So, for its opening hour, I highly recommend it. But take the ending with a pinch, a large pinch, of salt.

The White Tiger: Movie Review.

Taken from the bestselling novel of the same name (I’ve not read it but I’m betting it’s great), this Indian movie production by Netflix is tremendous.

It features a terrific central performance by Ardash Gourav and stand out photography by Paolo Carnera that makes the most of its rural and Delhi based setting.

Why it woks so well is that operates on multiple levels; the value of deities, corruption, comedy/tragedy and a central theme around class and privilege.

India’s caste system is put into a shameful spotlight that we don’t often see in contemporary stories (something that tends to be pushed back into The Empire days).

Here, the movie looks at the 90’s and India’s emerging tech industry as it follows the fortunes of a country servant boy (the spectacularly brilliant Ardash Gourav as Balram) as he inveigles his way into the life of his village’s tyrannical landlords (call that owners in truth).

The family has sent the youngest son to ‘America’ to be educated and he comes home with a head full of dreams, shock at the caste system and a trophy ‘westernised’ Indian bride who won’t stand for the endemic sexism. Balram becomes his driver as he sets out on corruption trips to Delhi. Staying in gauche hotels Balram sleeps with the other servants in the basement carpark, another underworld of its own caste hierarchy.

The movie mixes up humour (rapier like) with a real moral compass that has you ultimately searching your conscience on whether Balram’s means of escape from poverty and subjection is justified (not a spoiler, he narrates the movie on-screen, from the off, from a position of wealth and power).

To my mind. a far better depiction of contemporary Indian life (outside of Bollywood) than its stupendously successful comparator, Slumdog Millionaire.

Every Time We Say Goodbye and Secret Love: by Gus Harrower

I really am blessed to have friends as talented as Gus Harrower.

He contacted me before the funeral of my Mum to offer to ‘do something’. In fact, this is exactly what he said…

Also just wanted to say if you were needing any music for the funeral (I know limited numbers is meant to mean no singing), I’d be more than happy to record some stuff for you.

And you know when people sometimes say, can I help, but it’s all in hand?

Well this wasn’t the occasion.

So we asked him to perform her favourite song, Doris Day’s Secret Love and a rendition of Ella’s Every Time We Say Goodbye.

If you listened to her funeral online you’ll have caught them, but not in all their glory.

So here you are.

A gift from above.

https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/976421443&color=%23ff5500&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false&show_teaser=true&visual=true Gus Harrower · Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye (Gus)

Do you dream in colour?

Bill Nelson asked us (me) this in 1981 and the song title has always stuck with me.

The short answer is yes, unless it’s one of ‘those’ nights.

The one I knew, all week, was coming.

Mono night.

The aftermath of all that’s been happening.

The night of the big sweat.

The night of the big nightmare.

War night.

That’s the dream I have when I’m just, you know, fucked.

Nothing really bad mind, just broken.

Having ‘The Fear’ of work again, after time off, this time for my Mum.

The booze filled binge over: stuporous sleeps to maybe block it all out – was that their purpose?

So, this was the night I was dreading.

(I even walked 10 miles to tire myself out yesterday, in the vain hope that exhaustion would enfold me and ward it off. It didn’t.)

The one where your Chakra is so fucking misaligned that ‘The Dream’ comes to visit.

7/8 hours of grinding fear.

This is it…

A chaotic war torn mash-up of Old Edinburgh, and Aleppo, vying for some sort of order. As crowds of misplaced peoples run incoherently down blind alleyways, chased by invisible man with big guns, spreading fear and chaos at every corner.

No leadership. No strategy. No point. (That’s the worst of it. You can’t affect any of it. You’re just in it. Running. Blind. Panicked. Wet.)

Just get to the other side in one piece.

One always does, of course, stained and exhausted.

Affected by it, up at 4.30 to write this.

Aleppo meets WWII Edinburgh, with smoke, and dust, and chaos, and screaming, and kids, so many kids. Just scared.

But mostly chaos.

It’s a bad one.

Or, do you dream in colour?

My sister Jane’s eulogy for my Mum (as read by Nik).

I have to thank God for my mother. 

She was the kindest, most caring person I have ever known.  

It began in Eyre Place, however the real action took place in 2 Bonnington Terrace, raised from a husk by mum and dad to a wonderful family home.

A home to Peter, Jean, Mark, Jane, Sara, Emily, Emma, Gran, Choochie, Baggins, Bonnie the cat, Clinker the hamster, terrapins and, at one time a family of Sri Lankans, and, on occasion, me (Nik).

2 Bonnington Terrace, where in 1981, as a 15 year old girl, I sat with my mum and dad to tell them I was expecting a baby.  

All hell did not break loose. 

The opposite occurred. 

I was met with a wall of love and support.  

The kindest, most caring person I’ve ever known.

Nik came into my life and he was welcomed into the family without question, again, the kindest, most caring person I have ever known. 

Emma was born. Mum’s support love and devotion never faltering. 

Jack came along; the love and support doubled.

2 Bonnington Terrace.

The parties.  Oh the parties. After show, after hours and in particular after New Year.

The party on the night of the first. Holy moly!

Open doors, open windows, open bottles.

None refused. All welcome.

The house bulged at the seams. Dad regaling, mum hosting; always lasagne, cucumber salad, garlic bread, quiche with spam chunks (shudder), curries, stovies, sausages. Enough to hopefully get us through January with left overs, but, be warned: FHB!

And the people, from the great and the good, to the man who was passing by and heard the music. None refused. Sara, Emily and I providing the entertainment, adorning ourselves with mum’s scarves, performing dance routines to Mike Oldfield; still to this day hearing him takes me back to 2 Bonnington Terrace.

Mum was such a talented person. The sewing! She sewed so well. She sewed a lot for us when we were young (needs must and all). 

Oh, what I’d give for my Black Watch tartan poncho and knickerbockers, or my yellow angel wing dress mum made for my P7 Quali at Holy Cross Primary, or my Brown Laura Ashley dress, or the Pocahontas dress up outfit mum made for Sara. 

So much for Emily: she had to do with whatever no longer fitted Sara and I anymore, and on occasion still does! 

The knitting: watching her knit Fair Isle jumpers, scarves, hats, I remember it all so fondly. One thing always puzzled me though, mum’s strange knitting style.  One needle under arm, one under the chin. Very unusual!  This always perplexed me until mum told me she was taught to knit by her grandmother who had only one arm.

The art. Mum loved art. She loved to paint water colours mainly, classes at Edinburgh School of Art. Still lives and nudes.  Nudes I tell you!  The shock of it all!

The kindest, most caring person I have ever known.

The caring. Mum cared a lot!  But the important bit was she didn’t just care. She did!

Mum never stopped caring for people. Early memories of her volunteering at the Shelter Shop on Ferry Rd, working tirelessly for the Talbot Association every Tuesday. Feeding the homeless and needy of Leith. When the Talbot closed, fundraising for St Columbus at church.  So much time devoted to their worthy causes.  

The Saint Vincent De Paul Society, cleaning caravans for those less fortunate to use, and her wee box at the end of mass.  Organising gifts for children at Christmas. Visiting the sick and housebound.   Helping the ‘old people’ when she was in her 70s. The pensioners’ lunch! Still helping when she should have been sitting. The list is endless.

Not only caring, doing!

The cheese and wine, persuading all those people to give all those prizes.  Small raffle, big raffle, human fruit machine, roll a coin at the bottle, the tombola. The tombola!

Mum knew the amount of good it could do getting the cash out of your purse and into the hands of those that could make a real difference on a local level.

A rough estimate of how much mum raised? Well over £100,000 over the years. Remarkable! It never stopped. Lothian Birth Cohort Study 1936, helping until the end.

The kindest most caring person I have ever known.

Forth Children’s Theatre.  

Shoulder to shoulder with dad from the beginning; costumes, make up, scripts, wine at the interval, programmes, lunches, clearing accounts. Never in the limelight, always in the background. But believe me, none of it would ever have happened without mum.

They were a team though, mum and dad, each with individual strengths and that’s what got things done. Mum was adored by the members of FCT, from the actors to the sound guys, from the props to the lighting, from the make up to the musicians. Adored by them all.

Thousands of them, from all walks of life, somewhere in their hearts is a wee piece of mum – an encouraging word, a wee hug, a slap of pan stick, a needle in a costume.  

They will remember the kindest, most caring person I have ever known.

My mum was pure joy, a delight and I will miss her like you wouldn’t believe.

Goodnight mum, God bless, sweet dreams.