Not quite Dear Green(est) Place.

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The literal translation of Glasgow’s name is ‘Dear Green Place’ and the City has traded on this for many years now.

However, an analysis by mapping firm Esri UK ,analysing Landsat 8 satellite images from spring 2016 for the 10 cities with the largest populations in the UK, has found that in fact Edinburgh is far greener and is actually the greenest medium to large sized city in the UK as the image above (from today’s Guardian) reveals.

The top ten was as follows:

10. Liverpool 16.4% green

9. Bradford 18.4% green

8. Manchester 20.4% green

7. Leeds 21.7% green

6. Sheffield 22.1% green

5. Greater London 23% green (good old Royal Parks)

4. Birmingham 24.6% green

3. Bristol 29% green

2. Glasgow 32% green

1. Edinburgh (a whopping) 49.2% green

Sorry Glasgow, but Edinburgh is half again greener than you are.

It’s notable that much of the green in Glasgow is in the East end.

You can read all about it here.


Manchester by The Sea: Review


About one third of the way through this, quite long (137 minutes) movie the swelling strings and organ of Tomaso Albinoni’s Adagio for Strings and Organ in G Minor start to stir and build through 8 minutes and 35 seconds.

Unlike traditional screenplay music the classical piece, performed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra, does not subtly grace the background, it grabs you by the throat and dominates the proceedings to the point, almost, of discomfort.

(Some reviewers feel it is heavy-handed, I felt it was well judged.)

The fact that it is in a minor key and is achingly melancholic bursting with sadness, despair and grief absolutely encapsulates the mood of Lonergan’s creation.

I found these lyrics written for the Adagio and they could in fact be the inspiration for Kenneth Lonergan’s Screenplay although I very much doubt he has seen them…

So turn away!
Turn away, turn away

I am alone, I am alone!
I am alone
I am alone
I am alone

Go turn away, go turn away
Turn away, turn away
Turn away,
Turn me away

Go home!
Gone in darkness
Light, surpasses

All ….
All, is one now!
All, is gone now!
All, is gone
I am gone.

I don’t recall a Hollywood movie so built around grief and that grief is etched into every pore of Casey Affleck’s face. Surely he is a shoe in for best actor at this year’s Oscars.

Lucas Hedges, as his orphaned nephew who Casey Affleck, as Leo – a dead end Janitor – suddenly becomes guardian to after the death of his brother, plays a nuanced role as the troubled teen who can at least find solace in school, sex and band practice; even if his band is dire.

(Actually, there are also a lot of laugh out loud, mainly awkward, moments in it which were entirely unexpected to me.)

It’s  essentially a two header between them although Michelle Williams plays a strong support role, albeit brief in screen time.

To be honest, even calling it a two-header is to downplay the importance of Casey Affleck in this movie.  In truth it is really a study of him alone with supporting characters used ostensibly as dramatic devices and props.

The trailers do not reveal the depth of the storyline, which is devastatingly sad, and for some almost too much to bear.  My wife sobbed almost uncontrollably throughout the third act.

But despite all this, personally, it didn’t quite capture my heart.

Maybe I was in the wrong frame of mind.  It’s a great, albeit slightly one dimensional, movie with a brilliant central performance and a strong screenplay with a good ensemble supporting cast, but that’s not enough to make it the movie of the year.

That said, I would strongly recommend it.


Ali Smith: Autumn. Book Review.


“It was the worst of times.  It was the worst of times.”

So begins the first of Ali Smith’s seasonal quartet, Autumn.

It’s a riff off Dickens’ Tale of Two Cities and she returns to it repeatedly in this extended part prose part, almost, poem.

It’s a study on time and it’s an abstract novel in its form and this can be (at times – no pun) quite tedious as she wordsmiths and wordplays her way through pages and even short chapters at a time, but if you can grimace your way through what I imagine most critics will see as the book’s highlights you find yourself immersed in a rather captivating platonic love story about a dying 100 year old single (gay?) man -a poet and songwriter – and a young, precocious English lecturer who has secretly loved him (her childhood neighbour) since she was 8 years old (and he was 75).

Daniel is dying. Elisabeth (sic) is visiting him in his care home and reflecting on their deeply respectful on-off life together, against a backdrop of a dysfunctional mother and an estranged (or dead) father.

Much has been made of this being the first post-Brexit novel but really it’s really a contextual backdrop give that the timeshiftimg story concludes in Autumn 2016 in the wake of Britain’s extremely divisive and frankly ridiculous decision at the polls.

It’s clear Smith shares my political stance and uses her Scottishness to highlight the differences between our green and pleasant land and the carbuncle that is Englandshire.

A feminist strand that runs through it is Smith’s clear admiration for the World’s only (deceased) female Pop Artist, beauty and actor, Pauline Boty, and, in particular, her painting of Christine Keeler: Scandal 63.  An artist of the time but out of her time.  Ignored but found, forgotten, found, forgotten, found, forgotten in the years after her unheralded heyday.


Scandal 63 with the artist, Pauline Boty

At times I found this a challenging read but remarkably it’s also a page turner (it really does race along in very short chapters) and, in that respect that makes it quite an achievement.  I will certainly continue to read the quartet as it emerges.


Does my bum look big in this?  Bum by Pauline Boty.



Well done The Sunday Herald. You’ve gone global

No doubt you’ve seen yesterday’s superb Sunday Herald TV listing for Trump’s inauguration, but if you haven’t here it is.


Great so see the paper get high quality recognition in this piece in Time.

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Silence. The latest Scorsese filming masterclass. (With some reservations.)
January 2, 2017, 8:11 pm
Filed under: Arts, creativity, life, movies, religion, Uncategorized | Tags: ,


To follow up The Wolf of Wall Street with this movie demonstrates that no director has the sheer vision and chutzpah of Martin Scorsese. We are talking chalk and cheese in extremis here.  Not even P.T. Anderson or Alejandro Iñárritu can match his range.

As each movie goes by he lays greater and greater claims to be the greatest movie director of all time.

But Silence will not be, by any means, top of the popularity list.

Because this is film making borne of extreme passion (clearly the source novel connected with him).

This is a cinematic therapy session, a philosophical 15 rounder and languid, arthouse fare that few will love.

It’s a beast of a movie, weighing in at 2 hours and 41 minutes.  There is no action.  No soundtrack (music) to speak of.  No sex.  In fact hardly any women.

And it’s about the tension of religious powerbroking in 17th century Japan.

For many reviewers I’ve read (and my wife’s view) it’s just plain boring.  And I can understand, but don’t agree with, where they are coming from.  It is incredibly slow.

Scorsese’s lifelong editor, the mighty Thelma Schoonmacker, has either been over-ruled in many places or is complicit in its sheer lack of pace.

Certainly it could be cut in places where some repetition is evident and probably unnecessary.  That said, its pace is its schtick.

The central premise about religion being the root of all the shit the world had to deal with then, and has to deal with now, is highly topical and that’s what makes it an essential movie of our times.

It even-handedly plays out the battle between Buddhism and Khiristianity (sic) and leaves the viewer to decide if religion is the root of all evil or that some religions have more merit than others.  Given Scorsese’s Catholic upbringing this is an impressive feat.  I know not whether he remains a believer or an abstainer, but either way this could have made for an overplayed hand either for or against Christianity.  The fact that the movie is neither is to his huge credit and gives it it’s real moral backbone.

It’s roundly well performed, the cinematography has a lot of merit and the overall production values are excellent.

But this is not entertainment as such; this is a slog.  A reason to appreciate cinema.  It’s notable that StudioCanal is behind it.  Surely the greatest contributor in recent times to arthouse cinema.

There are no laughs in this.  None AT ALL.  But it is a venerable movie. And I loved it on many levels.

And put it this way, it sparked a pretty intense post movie debate about the merits of religion then and now.


My 8 years of Royal Lyceum Theatre bliss…
December 7, 2016, 10:47 am
Filed under: Arts, creativity, life, music, theatre, Uncategorized | Tags: , , ,



Amy Manson in Caucasian Chalk Circle

Bliss?  Blessed more like.

I have had the extreme privilege of spending 8 years on the board of The Royal Lyceum Theatre Company in Edinburgh and last night it came to a close.  Good governance rules said two terms of four years was my limit and so I’ve had to move on.

I have plenty of alternative pursuits to engage me but I wanted to publicly thank the staff and fellow board members of this venerable institution for making it eight years of sublime mental stimulation, a huge schoolroom, both artistically and professionally and the scene of more parties than anywhere else in my life.

It has been monumental.

Now, it would’t be me if I wasn’t to choose a few favourites and so my top ten from my period on the board are as follows…

Caucasian Chalk Circle: Mark Thomson (my all time favourite)

Waiting for Godot: Mark Thomson 

Educating Agnes: Tony Cownie

The Venetian Twins: Tony Cownie

Bondagers: Lu Kemp

Pressure: John Dove

The Crucible: John Dove

The Suppliant Women: Ramin Gray

Dunsinane: Roxana Silbert

Hidden (various directors for Lyceum Youth Theatre)

Love Halloween or hate it (that’s me folks) you’ll love this.

Jimmy Kimmel has an annual prank that he plays on kids.  This year he got a whole load of his viewers to pretend that they had eaten all of the candy that their hard earned Trick or Treating kids had collected.

The range of reactions is priceless.