The Passion of Harry Bingo. (Further dispatches from unreported Scotland) by Peter Ross: Book Review.


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Had it not been for my good friend Tim Maguire I would never have stumbled across this wonderful anthology of odd little stories from the underworld of Scotland.  By underworld I don’t mean seedy, just slightly off the beaten track.

The titular hero is a fan of Partick Thistle. (Glasgow’s third football team – the one that people who don’t support football support – actually you might argue that it’s the one that people who DO support football support, because ‘The Jags” don’t come with the baggage of the Old Firm.)

Harry Bingo is 97 and has supported The Jags since 1945 – his passion.

The stories are written in a peculiar style, impossible to replicate, the best I can describe them tonally is a like like a reverential Scottish Louis Theroux.  I like Theroux, but some of his documentaries are seriously taking the piss out of his oddball cast of characters.  Peter Ross has similarly collected together people that at times could be mocked for their unorthodoxy, but while Ross writes with a twinkle in his eye that never turns into a sneer.

We meet a Sikh Pipe Band, The Burry Man, a man that protects the River Clyde dragging the bodies of the dead ashore, a wall of death rider, a bunch of bitchy (butchy) drag queens, The Naked Rambler, The Clavie King and we visit circuses, poultry shows, sex shops, car boot sales ,The Barrowlands Ballroom and the World Crazy Golf Championships.

Each short story, 5 to 10 pages long, sets up an indelible image, some familiar – most not – of characters that care deeply about something in their life – it may even be their job.

In places it is laugh out loud, but never mockingly, we laugh WITH these wonderful people.  The people that make up the rich tapestry that is Scotland’s culture.

They were all commissioned by Scotland’s leading newspapers, mainly Scotland on Sunday but also The Guardian, The Big Issue, The Times and The Herald.

They are little nuggets of Scottish gold.

Go read.  I have a signed copy!

 

A War of Two Halves by Paul Beeson and Tim Barrow, produced by This Is My Story and Nonsense Room: Theatre review


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I am celebrating the centenary of WWI’s Armistice Day with some ‘enthusiasm’.

Peter Jackson’s ‘They Shall Never Grow Old”  which premiered at The London Film Festival got the ball rolling to incredible effect a couple of weeks ago.  It is a must see.

And on Sunday I shall be attending a virtually sold out Far From Ypres at The Usher Hall in which my good pal Gary West will be taking to the stage as part of a celebrated ensemble.

Last night was the turn of theatre in a site-specific production held at Tynecastle Football Stadium.

As a lifelong Hibs fan attending a period drama that ‘celebrated’ Heart of Midlothian’s incredibly altruistic past had a degree of challenge.  It was clear that I was surrounded by a largely partizan audience.  But I’m bigger than that.  If these men could face ‘The Hun’ in the French trenches, I could pay my respect alongside my rivals.

And I’m very glad that I did.

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Paul Beeson and Tim Barrow’s play is a very fine thing indeed.  It was performed on the Fringe and has been timeously restaged in its original form for this monumental anniversary.

One of the potential problems this show faces is the way that some Hearts fans celebrate their team’s mass act of courage as a comparator.  No other team so unselfishly released their players from their contracts in such a way (13 players enlisted together to serve in McCrae’s Battalion, the 16th Royal Scots).

And that’s only part of the story.

Hearts were top of the league, having won 19 of their 21 games, when the mass exodus occurred.  They continued to play for the team, but on the back of strenuous army basic training that included long forced marches.  Their form inevitably slumped dramatically, through sheer exhaustion, and what should have been one of the greatest celebrations in Hearts’ history was dashed.

But what Beeson and Barrow have created is brilliant in this respect.  That achievement is duly noted but not at the expense of the competition.  It is far from vainglorious and largely avoids comparative narrative (indeed the contribution from other clubs is articulated clearly); rather it takes you into the souls of these young lads who fought for King and Country, sacrificing glory on the battlefields of Tyncastle, Ibrox, Celtic Park and Easter Road.

It’s beautifully acted throughout (although sadly no programme was made available so I have no idea who the cast was).

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A central character, one of the players and the narrator, leads us through the build up to the mass enlistment, glorying in Hearts’ impressive form.  This takes place in the new main stand to the sound of radio commentaries of the matches, before we traverse the stadium.  One scene is in the Home Players dressing room, another in the bar, several in the stands themselves before culminating in an achingly beautiful finale underneath the Gorgie Road stand in a makeshift bunker.  The final moments play out by the poignant War Memorial.

I’m sure, for many, this is an intensely moving experience. I found it highly dramatic and sympathetically presented.

There is no tub-thumping in this play.  There is a great deal of humour and the sound design and violin accompaniment by the sole female cast member is excellent and highly redolent of the time.

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Hearts, Hearts, Glorious Hearts features subtly (#HHGH) and is appropriate, without dropping the show’s standards..

The performances are roundly laudable, especially the leads but the ensemble do their part with merit.

This is another must see reflection on the Great War.  It has wonderful provenance, it’s superbly written and directed in what is both a stirring but challenging location.

Highly recommended.  But you’ll have to move quick if you want a ticket.

PS. The Last Days of Making featuring the Tiger Lilies at Leith Theatre (from Saturday) also looks pretty special.

Charlie is my darling.


Can you even begin to imagine the excitement I felt when I popped into Whitespace today and was met with this canvas of our dearly beloved Charlie Robertson created by fellow advertising guru, none other than MT Rainey, herself.

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It’s one of the canvases I’ll be auctioning next Thursday at the NABS Art Auction (it has 76 compatriots, with plenty more in transit, many of which have outstanding artistic merit, but none of which quite hit the emotional trigger quite as effectively as this one does, created, as it was, less then ten days after Charlie’s untimely death.)

I’m hoping it will be something of a centrepiece of the auction and that it might attract some fairly hefty bidding.  Indeed I will specifically take bids on it if you email me direct at Markgorman@btopenworld.com.

I’ll let bidders know what the state of play is rather than playing this one out in public.

It’s called “Charlie is me Darlin'” and it’s beautifully printed direct onto the canvas.  The words that make up the image conjure up, for me, the eloquence with which Charlie thrilled and seduced the world of advertising for forty years.

I believe it deserves to be shown somewhere that Charlie’s many admirers might be able to see it for themselves and I hope it can play its part in a memorable night at Whitespace next Thursday 25th October, from 6pm.  There will be a bar and a lively evening of badinage and bidding.  Please let me know if you’d like to attend.

MT.  You’re amazing.  What a superb memory of Charlie’s life.

Slantie.

Howard’s End.


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Our extremely good friends, Will and Ann, have lived in Howard Place for many years and last Saturday they had a leaving do that got a little bit, well, refreshed.

Anyway, as I left I kissed goodbye to Howard Place.

GGTTH.

 

This. Is London. Greatness from Nike.


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London gets its own Nike ad.

We regionistas should hate it ‘cos it’s Lundin, innit.

But nah; it’s just great.  the fastest three minutes in advertising you will see in a long time.

What I particularly love about it is that it twists the ULTIMATE regional yarn – the Four Yorkshireman sketch from the 1970’s by Monty Python – and makes it relevant to both London and 2018.

Every sport, every exercise, every trope explored with wit and excellent cultural mixing.

Everyone comes out of it well.

Except Peckham.

What’s wrong with Peckham?

A new word for the English language: Hibsed.


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Those of you who, like me, support Hibernian; Edinburgh’s most stylish football team and forefathers of the rather more successful Celtic FC, will be feeling that slightly sick feeling after once again victory was the more likely, more deserved and more bearable outcome on Sunday afternoon at ‘Scotland’s National Stadium.’

But we were Hisbsed.

We snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.

Consequently, a petition has been set up by a Mr Rudolph Skakel on Change.com begging the Oxford English Dictionary to add ‘Hibsed’ to their content.

It has a smell of schadenfreude about it.

For the uninitiated, to be Hibsed means ‘to be ahead in your pursuit of something, only to mess it up before you cross the finish line’.

And we’ve been Hibsed many times.  On Sunday particularly so, and Liam Fontaine, arguably the man of the match, must feel especially Hibsed as it was he who teed up the winning goal for a team that could best be described as diddy.

I mean, you could fit the population of Dingwall, from where they bide, into the back of a camper van and still have room for a couple of tents.

Many have argued that we shouldn’t be so down on ourselves because it was only the diddy cup we Hibsed.  But we Hibsed it in 2004 against the mighty Ferranti Thistle playing under the pseudonym of Livingston (a town so small it has an Edinburgh postcode).

We Hibsed it every time in living memory that we played in Europe and we’ve Hibsed it so many times against the other team in Edinburgh that I’ve simply lost count.

By Thursday morning there’s every chance we’ll have Hibsed it against that other Highland League powerhouse, Inverness Caledonian Thistle, in the big cup (that we put that other team from Edinburgh out of a few weeks ago), and we’ve already Hibsed it in the Scottish Championship having been in a great position to overtake long term leaders Rangers just after Christmas.

So, go on, Mr Skakel.  have you schadenfreudey moment.  the awful truth is, you’re right.