Jean Gorman (2 Aug 1936 – 16 January 2021) RIP.

Our Mum.  

She was quite the lady. 

I think that’s the word to best describe her.

A gentle soul with a heart of pure kindness.

A study in elegance.

But a tiny wicked streak that she never suppressed.  

Even the Althzheimer’s, that overtook her consciousness bit by greedy bit, sapping her of energy and her certainty didn’t devour her completely.

It spared her humour and kindness.

Our Mum passed away peacefully on Saturday.  

She went to sleep a week before that in her new home, never to reawaken.

Robbed of her last days and our goodbyes by a terrible fall that broke her hip.

I say robbed, but we said our farewells anyway. 

Even in this bleak Covid midwinter each of her four children were allowed a small time with her to say goodbye, God bless, sleep tight.

And then she was away, off to a welcome party in a place where she will be able to hear everyone and everything.  To help anyone that needs helping.  And, best of all, to sip a glass or two of wine with her beloved husband, Peter, the man she missed more than anything.  

She couldn’t be robbed of that love.  Oh no.

Her passing will be grieved by many, but, you know what, it’s not all bad.  

That wicked disease can’t grind away at her no more.

She died peacefully; loved, cherished, adored.

Her funeral is yet to be arranged but keep your eyes on here and I’ll let you know.

I’m sure it will hit your screens in some form.  

Of course, Covid will chasten the farewells of her many friends and admirers.

But please be reassured, her passing was calm, peaceful and pain free.  Something we must all rejoice in.

Me and my sisters thank you all from the bottom of our hearts for your kind messages.

But she’s gone, gentle into that good night.

Saint Frances: Movie Review.

A great way to kick of 2021 was to watch one of Mark Kermode’s top 10 of 2020 on Netflix

This lovely American Indie movie, Saint Frances, written by and starring Kelly O’Sullivan. Nope, me neither.

It’s the story of a 30 something ‘girl’ who’s pretty much failed in life so far, who simultaneously gets a new boyfriend who gets her pregnant but is happy with her undertaking a quick abortion (and go halfers on the fee), and lands a summer job as a nanny for a six year old kid who has mixed race lesbian parents.

The kid’s a brat and is running through nannies.

So you know how this all gonna pan out right?

Well, not really. What we embark on is a fairly, but not overly, emotional study in female empowerment (and actually entitlement because one of the moms is a pretty high achieving ball buster), loneliness, self-worth and social value.

The one guy in the movie isn’t cast asunder as unimportant but he plays a side role. He’s a good guy actually.

The four-way Mom, mom, nanny, kid (and a new baby which makes suppressed Mom, depressed Mom) dynamic is complicated and rarely sees the main protagonist played by O’Sullivan in a position of strength. Meanwhile her abortion has some fairly gross out complications although none that derail the narrative.

It’s actually a bit of a comedy but it’s a lot more than that. It’s certainly bittersweet, but sweet enough.

Hugely thought provoking with several powerful central performances, a strong exploration of issues that face women today (one critic said it was too woke for its own good but I disagree) and a few really good laughs along the way.

What’s not to love?

Amazing Grace: Film review.

Amazing Grace [Official Trailer] - In Theaters April 5, 2019 - YouTube

The thing that marks out this spectacularly honest documentary is Aretha Franklin’s melancholia.

It’s as if she’s been transported there by another being. Her God? She is so in the moment. So devoid of ego, unlike her entourage, as to make it a truly ‘religious’ experience, not just for her but for the viewer too.

The melancholia manifests itself as a lost look. Separated from the action, the film making onluy there for one reason. To sing.

And there is zero theatrics. Zero showmanship. Zero bullshit.

just an honest to goodness outpouring of singing as best as she can muster and her best will just have to be good enough. Cos that’s all she’s got.

I’ve never seen a music documentary so compellingly believable about the motivations of its maker, that motivation appears to be the love of her God and her fellow humankind.

It’s quite remarkable.

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 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 ( 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.

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.

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.

Are you my basic bitch?

I was intrigued to hear of the term, ‘basic bitching’ on Adam Buxton’s podcast this week. It was not one I was previously aware of, and was described by Joe Lysett as ‘lovers of Eastenders and Loose Women’ (although he described LW lovers as basic fascists.)

It’s a brilliant putdown.

It got me thinking of what I would categorise as basic bitch stuff. I would add that, in my list, the offending articles are by no means gender specific.

So first off gold and, to a marginally lesser extent, silver relief typography on paperback book covers. Brain fodder.

The Pretender's Gold Scott Mariani - Tesco Groceries

80’s music festivals. And 80’s radio stations/compilations. The 80’s was jam packed with great music, none of which makes it to any of these filthy fora.

Watching West Brom v Burnley matches on Sky. Why? ( A subset of this includes Sheffield Utd, Brighton and Livingston/St Johnstone.)

Any TV show with actors that whisper when sotto voce is absolutely not necessary. For this reason Iain Glen’s entire filmography is pure basic bitch.

The 40 million Republicans that actually believe that the American Election was rigged. I mean basic is stretching it here. Dangerous is a better word. Get a fucking life, you dorks.

Beige. Just beige.

Baylis and Harding soaps. I’m no fashion icon but B and H makes beige look crimson.

Wearing excessive perfume, or worse, deodorant. The throat-catch level that makes you wanna honk your guts up in the street. Funnily enough too make eau de cologne is generally just about tolerable.

People who won’t watch TV programmes or movies because “they’ve got subtitles.” They, in fact, have subtitles on their foreheads that read: ” I’m a basic bitch.”

Zoe Ball. And her fake, like, everything.

“Red Wall” Labour voters who voted leave and Conservative at the last election with no rational reason. (“Real” Tories escape my criticism because at least they believe in their ideology – if they have one.)

Piers Morgan.

The Daily Mail.

Schwartzkopf crystal.

Those “100 Best…” TV programmes where all the interviewees remember, say, a Bero Flour ad from 1968 in perfect detail.

Mackay &Co.

The quiet kid that overcame the school bully.

When I was a schoolboy, a high school kid, I was fairly mercilessly bullied. Not physically. Mentally.

It was a Catholic comprehensive, so drew in kids from all over the city and that meant some future prison candidates that I wasn’t equipped to cope with.

I was specky (“Hoi Specky!” “Joe 90”) suffered from acne (“Plookie faced twat”) chubby (“Fat bastard”. My mum said it was puppy fat and I’d grow out of it) intelligent (“professor”) and a weakling (at least compared to my tormentors who were tough, coming from really rough neighbourhoods in Edinburgh).

So I developed an aptitude for evasion. I got street smart, learned how to talk my way out of situations and gained a sixth sense for anticipating aggro and finding escape routes.

But it got to me. I was anxious and uptight. I found respite in studying hard, and did reasonably well.

But I had a dream. An escape valve. That I would become a dentist and exact my revenge on these horrible kids later in life when I was extracting their rotten molars.

It wasn’t to be, (I didn’t study that hard) but I made my own progress in my own way.

It was challenging.

So, I’ve felt for Joe Biden, “Sleepy Joe”, who’s been mercilessly ridiculed by the professional bully that’s Donald Trump: “I’ve achieved more in 47 months than he’s achieved in 47 years.” “Your son’s a junkie.” “You’re the mayor of Antifa.” “You’re the puppet of the commies.” “You’re a criminal, and so are your family.”

Like me, Joe had to put up with a lot of crap and take a ton of verbal blows. But he has quietly gone about his duties, believing that in the long run his core character would see him through this merciless tirade of abuse.

Joe had one thing to cling on too. Decency.

Joe knew he was right and the bully was wrong.

Joe knew that most folks would eventually see through this awful behaviour and side with the guy who was only trying to do his best, believing that integrity, truth and a consistent message that was founded on democratic principles was surely more acceptable to the majority than ego, narcissism, autocracy and, yup, bullying.

And yesterday Sleepy Joe got his tormentor where perhaps he metaphorically wanted.

In the dentist’s chair.

Drill whirring.

Anaesthetic run out, used up in his patient’s earlier self-administered self-centred medication.

He could go for the root canal and cause untold pain to his tormentor.

But he’ll spare his victim. Because Joe’s a good guy.

Well done Joe.

Kamala Harris starts with a bang.

Kamala made a great speech at the Democratic Convention on Wednesday.

But it was her call to action at 17.59 that really nailed it for me.

When she calls out inaction and apathy and cynicism…

…when she calls to American voters to dump the sick, sexist, racist, psychopath as a scourge of this planet.

Where were you when the stakes were so high?

Conversations With Friends by Sally Rooney: Book Review.

Conversations With Friends

By now you’ve no doubt been ‘Normal Peopled’. The wonderful BBC TV series that took lockdown by storm with its naughtiness and that chain.

That was Rooney’s follow up to this, her debut. Both took the book world by storm for her naturalistic style and ‘millenial-friendly’ zeitgeisty schtick.

I loved the TV show and decided to follow it up with her first book rather than go straight to the source text that so inspired me on screen.

The buzz about Rooney has been something else and I kind of get why, although I’m yet to be 100% sold on the written word she produces.

Conversations With Friends is unquestionably a great piece of writing, stylistically driven and, in places, page-turningly involving. But only in places.

My disappointment lies with the storytelling. Neither Normal People nor this has any great contribution to make to the canon of great stories (nothing unusual in that you say) so that leaves you picking through the bones of style, context and meaning.

And that’s where I think Rooney both scores and misses in almost equal measure. When it works she grabs you by the throat and can be astoundingly deft in her writing, but when she’s off I feel her style can become rambling and, dare I say it, just a little dull.

She may have sorted this by Normal People and I will find out because this ticked enough boxes to keep me curious and to read the Booker nominated follow up..

Her study of friendship, relationships, sexual or otherwise, and self esteem can be intriguing, particularly the latter of these as the main character in both novels is a 20 something female that has real doubts about their own skin. It’s this vulnerability that makes the relationships interesting and creates a level of depth that you don’t find in books with silver lettering on the cover.

Good enough to intrigue me then, but falling short of the fully fledged Monty in my opinion.

YouGov’s fact of the day.

Red Blood Cells: Function and Structure

I was taken aback by this fundamentally crucial lack of personal (and potentially life-saving) knowledge.

YouGov asked Brits if they know their blood type

Only 45% of Brits know their blood type, whereas 55% do not.

Only 19% of adults under 25 know their blood type, compared to 55% of the over 65’s

I’m O neg. That’s pretty handy. For pretty much everyone on the planet.

And it’s why I donate, because mine is the ‘Vanilla’ of blood types.

It goes with anyone.

Dolly Parton’s America: Podcast review.

Dolly Parton's America : NPR

After my last two journeys into the dark side of the human condition this is the flip side.

Dolly Parton, sorry Saint Dolly Parton, is such an American dream and institution that it’s about time a tribute as glorious as this was created, whilst she’s still alive, fighting fit and full of vim and vigour.

This extended interview series with the queen of country charts her life and songbook but places it all in the context of an America that exists around her.

We hear much about American politics, religion and culture and how Dolly and her extensive business empire and philanthropy fits into the broader cultural mix.

It’s delightfully presented by fanboy Jad Abumrad and reported and produced by Shima Oliaee at WNYC Studios and OSM (awesome, get it?) Audio.

It’s a sheer delight from start to finish but touches on the darker side of Dolly’s life: her women’s rights attitude that has been in evidence since her earliest, surprisingly bleak output through to her refusal to air a view on Trump (half my fans are Republicans why would I state an opinion on this?)

I’ll predict now that Dolly WILL come out with a view on Trump, before the election, and it WILL NOT aid his cause. Because Dolly is a Bellwether. Her view can influence American opinion – nothing she says is ill-considered or trivial – apart from maybe her own self-deprecating boob gags.

This is uplifting entertainment with a serious undertow.

I highly recommend losing 8 or more hours in Dolly Parton’s America.

You will thank me.

Dicktionary pic of the day #21.

The ‘Pictionary’ round in my weekly music quiz has proven to be a hit so I’m sharing it here.

My ‘drawers’ have 30 seconds to recreate a classic record, either from seeing the sleeve (as in this one), or by being given the name of a song.

The results are the basis of this simple question.

Day 21

What classic album cover is this?

Answer given tomorrow.

Please don’t answer here but please do click like if you think you know.

Answer to Day 20

Dicktionary Pic of the day #20.

The ‘Pictionary’ round in my weekly music quiz has proven to be a hit so I’m sharing it here.

My ‘drawers’ have 30 seconds to recreate a classic record, either from seeing the sleeve (as in this one), or by being given the name of a song.

The results are the basis of this simple question.

Day 20

What classic album cover is this? (A tricky one.)

Answer given tomorrow.

Please don’t answer here but please do click like if you think you know.

Answer to Day 19

Guy Robertson. RIP. One of Scottish advertising’s greats.

Screenshot 2020-06-07 at 15.59.17

Generous.  Gregarious.  Gallous.  Great.

That was Guy.

I came to know my great friend, Guy Robertson, initially as a TV icon – upon winning STV’s The Business Game, for his fledgling agency, GRP, not long after its launch in 1986. Soon enough I came face to face with him, 33 years ago, in the Tait and Mclay Golf Cup held at Burntisland GC, where his victory celebrations were cut short by some wee ned stealing his clubs from the car park.


It was to be the start of an unforgettable friendship peppered with hilarity, passion and shenaniganery.

You see, Guy was a one off.

He had no peers.

Nobody was like Guy.


Of spirit.

Of his time.

Of his hard-earned cash.

Guy was one of NABS, our industry charity’s, greatest supporters. Every year, for the last 15, he’d pull together his legendary team of rag tags and bobtails, that he had somehow coerced into the long trip to Edinburgh, even though most of them had nothing to do with advertising. But Guy was paying, because he wouldn’t see NABS short. (And travelling First Class on Scotrail.  Always.  The only person I knew that did that.)

One of the last times I met him was when his team took part in the inaugural NABS ping pong tournament at Maggie Mays in Glasgow’s Argyle Street.  He was there to win (just like he was at the music quiz, and twice did) but sadly the callow youth saw off his beer swilling buddies in the semis.

And, not surprisingly perhaps, he was a mainstay of, and major contributor to, the longstanding Golf Day.

His spirit was defiant and anti-establishment (despite his posh-school upbringing and dubious respect for too many men in blue) but kind, caring and just, you know, inspiring.

He blasted into his term as Chair of the IPA with gusto and no end of enthusiasm.  An enthusiasm that was ultimately extremely rewarding for him as he sat shoulder to shoulder with adland’s great and good and concluded, aghast, that he was just as capable as most of them.

It was through this that he met his, and GRP’s, beloved mentor; Adrian Vickers.  They made an odd couple in truth, but it was a relationship that thrived on Guy’s generosity, gregariousness, gallousness and greatness.  Adrian played his part too, genuinely enthralled by Guy’s wit and his willingness to soak up the great man’s greatness.

And it’s a funny old thing, but that rubbed off on him in an unexpected way, because he’d recently begun applying those mentoring skills with the most important person in his life, the light of it really, his daughter Jemma, and in such a way that he found a renewed passion for the business.

After graduating from Aberdeen, with a degree in Business and Marketing, Jemma formally joined Guy’s new business, GRA Independent Marketing and Advertising last year and has displayed the same vigour in building the business with him as he always did and she fully intends to build on his legacy in the years to come.

Guy and I relished our roles as self-proclaimed advertising outliers.  We both eschewed the establishment but, in our own ways, eventually embraced it.

We liked to sit at the back, giggling, talking when the talkers talked.  Being naughty schoolboys.  Sneaking that wee extra glass of free wine.  Him in his blazer.  Me in my soup-stained t-shirts.  Sara Robertson shooshing us with a heavenward look and a barely concealed smirk.


Guy lit up rooms.

He couldn’t help it. Flashing a pearly smile at the ladies.  First at the bar for the boys.  Telling tales.  Rarely of woe.

Even when he had to break the news of his, Garry and Iain’s partnership finally succumbing to the financial crash-fuelled recession he spiced the gloom up with glee.   So much so that I was moved to share, on my blog, his message to friends to tell us of ‘GRP no more’.

He began his valedictory note thus:

Warm felicitations from the West End of Glesga,

And ended on a typically self-deprecating note…

So, thanks for reading my rambles and apologies if it comes across as somewhat self-indulgent, I guess that’s because it is!

(The full email is posted here.)


I don’t need to explain to any of Guy’s many friends why that great Glasgow adjective, gallousness, was Guy’s very essence.

Guy was gallous, it’s as simple as that.  And I mean that in the most respectful of terms.

To me, as an Edinburgher, it means bold.  It’s immutably Glasgow and Guy was immutably Glasgow.  I was jealous, deeply jealous.  When we were on the town together gallous Guy made me feel like his accountant sidekick.  I was a great admirer and always savoured his dazzling personality, wit and repartee.


His personality sometimes shrouded his greatness.

A quick thinker.  A sparkling wit and a gift for selling.  All givens.

But also strategic, opinionated, scholarly and a great lover of his art.

GRP didn’t thrive on his personality.  It thrived on his substance.

And greatness comes in many forms.  Guy’s greatness encompassed the many qualities that I’ve shared already but true greatness, to me, comes from the heart, from the essence of a good human and Guy was as good as they get.

Guy, your tragic and, frankly unscripted, denouement was in keeping with a life that refused to follow convention.

Your legacy will be one of greatness.

One of uniqueness and, once the grieving is over, one of joy.

Thank you for every moment my friend.

I will miss you terribly.



Dicktionary Pic of the Day #11

The ‘Pictionary’ round in my weekly music quiz has proven to be a hit so I’m sharing it here.

My ‘drawers’ have 30 seconds to recreate a classic record, either from seeing the sleeve (as in this one), or by being given the name of a song.

The results are the basis of this simple question.

Day 11

What classic album cover is this?

Screenshot 2020-05-27 at 14.00.10

Answer given tomorrow.

Please don’t answer here but please do click like if you think you know.

Answer to Day 10

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Dicktionary Pic of the day #5

The ‘Pictionary’ round in my weekly music quiz has proven to be a hit so I’m sharing it here.

My ‘drawers’ have 30 seconds to recreate a classic record, either from seeing the sleeve (as in this one), or by being given the name of a song.

The results are the basis of this simple question.

Day 4

What classic album cover is this?

Screenshot 2020-05-21 at 14.04.12

Answer given tomorrow.

Please don’t answer here but please do click like if you think you know.

Answer to Day 4

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The most impressive images of Edinburgh you will see this year. Covid-creativity at its best by Emilie Lumineau.

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New York magazine starts an article on the epic movie  I Am Legend, this way.  

A virus hits in 2009, infecting everyone but Will Smith. By 2012, New York is rife with monsters at night yet empty during the day: a spookily beautiful dystopia.”

Although it’s a great film we all know that the best thing about it was the abandoned cityscape that time had created.

So imagine my jaw dropping when I saw Emilie Lumineau’s virus-inspired vision of Edinburgh, should the lockdown continue in the same way.

Emilie is a graduate of Napier Uni and is working in the hospitality marketing sector but it is her private work that has caught me eye and you can see more of it here.

I have to say, it is truly outstanding work.  Simply the most interesting and exciting (and frankly beautiful creative idea I have seen about the lockdown since it started.

Thank you Emilie.

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My guilty schadenfreudey secret.

Why The Coronavirus Testing Target Is A Distraction From Other ...

Is it just me or is my schadenfreudey hatred of this hideous government’s behaviour getting in the way of my humanity?

All last week I watched Matt Handjob’s 100,000 testing target coming more and more into the spotlight the closer and closer it came to failure.  By Tuesday it looked dead in the water but then, lo and behold, amidst fanfare, triumphalism and a smIle bigger than Priti Patel could muster at a successful tribunal, he hit gold.

Not only was the target met, it was smashed into oblivion. (Better not just to creep – appropriate word in the context – over the line, eh?) But, you know, even as the printer ink was evaporating on the press releases one could see that the 122,000 declared tests included 40,000 tests that were ‘in the post’.

And of course the 122k, is now under 80k today: Sunday.,

And today it also transpires that last week’s tests included 31,000 that had been sent to care homes with inadequate instructions and, guess what, only 7% have been carried out (that’s under 3,000 and so knocks a further 28,000 out of his numbers for the week; although perhaps not the day).

Many of those home deliveries appear not to have been supplied with return envelopes – so what are people supposed to do with these tests?  Pop down to their GPs and hope the queue’s short enough to avoid the risk of infection?

So, target met (yet not met) then immediately fallen short of.

(When I ran, a golden rule when taking on steep hills, was to run through the top, not hit it and slow down.  That leads to momentum loss and more harm that good.  Seems a decent metaphor for this.)

I should, surely, on a human level, be pleased about the meeting of this colossal target. I, surely, should be celebrating this mammoth achievement.

But I’m not. Mostly I’m guiltily revelling in the schadenfreude of it all.

Why?  Because this government makes me sick to the pit of my stomach.  Not in a Trump-buffoonery way.  (He’s mentally ill, so he kind of almost doesn’t even really count.)

No, it’s a much more considered (and by that I mean ‘thought out’), systematic, partizan-political, stomach-churning approach to mass mis-communication that they have taken.

That it’s a conceit conceived by conceited cunts where headlines are much more important than head-counts is what makes it all so galling.

I feel I am living in the middle of the greatest lie ever constructed by a political elite that can’t, won’t, don’t know how to rail against the sort of eugenic-tinged canker that Dominic Cumming spouts and Boris, puppet-like, blurts out on the hustings.

But this isn’t hustings, those are long over.

This is the real thing.

The time for grown-up leadership, something I can’t even begin to conceive of from this burke.

And I too feel like a cunt, for wanting them to fail in hitting their targets – because it makes it feel like I want our healthcare to fail, which, of course I don’t.

It’s actually only this government that care about these numbers that are meaningless.

What is the significance of the 100,000 number?

Absolutely nothing, apart from the headlines.

I don’t really want to contrast this approach with the deliberately low-key tone of the Scottish government’s because you will probably immediately accuse me of hypocrisy and my own political point-scoring.  So, I will acknowledge that the Scottish job is arguably easier, even if health and social services is devolved.

Decision-making and, more importantly, its communication comes without fanfares in Scotland and our usual political infighting has largely been parked by all sides – to all-sides’ credit.

I’ve not touched on the PPE lies here.

Nor the late start as Boris was bungling Brexit, before turning flaggingly-late to the pandemic.

It’s piss-poor and I simply have to get over myself.

Rant over.



Intermittent Fasting Results: 114 days in.

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This isn’t me.  I’m still closer to the ‘before’ than the ‘after’ but I’m getting there.

I’m not one for fads and I don’t find dieting easy, but I can do it.

On January 5th this year, under the guidance of my daughter, a fitness and nutrition coach in London, I embarked on an intermittent fasting regime that is now nearing the end of its fourth month.

But has it worked?

Well, I’ve shed an average of over half a pound a day throughout that period.  In total 61lbs so far.

What’s the basis of my regime?

Four things:

  • Daily exercise
  • Intermittent fasting
  • No alcohol
  • Vegetarian diet with a careful balance of my macros

I’ve been walking in excess of 15,000 steps a day (an average of 14,000 this year so far).

I walk when I wake up and don’t eat until 1pm.

Then I typically eat a high protein brunch (scrambled eggs is the most common, with Avocado often).  I then eat again at around seven and, apart from frozen grapes in the late evening, that’s me.

My diet is now 100% vegetarian, although definitely not vegan.

I drink a lot of coffee, although decaf after 6pm, and often with oat or almond milk rather than skimmed cow’s.

I have binned the alcohol, although I will be back when this is over.  (In some ways this is the toughest part of the regime, even in Lockdown).

My 61lbs loss is 22% of my body weight (you do the math yourself) and I’m closing in on  the first of my targets, to be under 200lbs for the first time in probably 30 years.

The attainment of a normal BMI seemed unthinkable at the start of all this – if it is indeed even a meaningful thing – but I’m into the low 29’s and closing in gradually on the elusive 25.  But that needs another 28lbs weight loss so it’s a long term, rather than short term, goal.

Update as of Monday 15th June, 2020.  I’m now on day 161 and my weight loss is 76 lbs. (28.1% of my body weight).

I weigh 194lbs, so the first big target has been hit and I’ve switched to decaf coffee 100% now.  

My ‘intermittent fasting’ continues.

An alcohol free lockdown. (Or, how to fight coronavirus Corona-free)


There have been reports that the average drinker is drinking more in the lockdown caused by Coronavirus.

I’ve done the opposite.

In fact I went dry on January 5th as  part of my annual ‘cleanse’.

As is my want I also began a diet and a new exercise regime that is based principally on walking 10,000 steps a day.

This year, for the first time, I also went vegetarian.

All four disciplines remain fully in effect.

101 days later I find myself 53 pounds lighter and feeling the benefit significantly.

I will report on this in a later post but, for now, I wanted to share with you and encourage you, if you’re thinking of taking the sober plunge, with my observation that not drinking through the lockdown is neither the end of the world, nor an unimaginable fate worse than dearth (pun intended).

One motivator for me in this is that I am self employed.  All of my work has dried up and I am not receiving a penny of government support, despite trying to feed a family of five, all adults, and none of us earning a bean.

My son and my daughter’s boyfreind are both just back from travelling – one was too late to find work and the other was unceremoniously dumped the second things got tough – only a few days before the furlough ruling was approved.

My wife doesn’t work and my daughter is a student.

Luckily I have savings and, let’s be honest, our outgoings are significantly reduced (especially as I was able to negotiate a three month mortgage holiday).

So, not drinking (my wife doesn’t anyway) has meant the budget stretches a fair bit further and that could be a primary motivator for you if you find yourself yearning an alcohol-free life just now.

But is it purgatory?

No, I have to say, the good news is it’s not.

The benefits, aside from financial, are manifold and for some of you that get ‘the fear’ when overindulging – thankfully not something I have ever experienced – that could be the biggest one.

In past purges I have substituted with alcohol-free beer, but I think it’s a bad move.  This time I took a conscious decision not to ‘substitute’ in this way and it lessens the sense that I am being punished.

My poison, instead, has been stove-top coffee (Illy Rosa is the king in my opinion) – caffeinated during the day and decaf in the evening.

Some other low calorie ‘treats’ you might like are frozen grapes.  Truly a guilt-free option of an evening.

You’ll find a number of benefits

  • weight loss – if you’re a fat bastard like me
  • good levels of energy
  • much better sleep
  • excellent concentration – particularly helpful in the endless Zoom quizzes you may be, like me, taking part in.
  • I think, generally speaking, better mental health all round

My advice would be to go ‘cold turkey’ rather than trying to wean yourself off.  Get in a good supply of caffeine free diet coke and the aforementioned coffees, but I like to start with a hangover so that at least on day two you immediately feel better.

If you want any support along the way drop me a line.  I’m happy to personally share my experiences.

Mazel tov.




Pine by Francine Toon: Book review


It’s a sort of gothic horror for our times, although I’d describe it as more mystical than horrifying, and it brings in aspects of police procedural, but with no police.

Instead a crime is traced by 11 year old Lauren, a fairly neglected, and bullied at school, single-parent child.

Her dad, Niall, an alcoholic, has lost his wife (disappeared) in unresolved circumstances before Lauren can even remember what she looks like.  But is she dead, or is her ghost/spirit/person occupying the fringes of the novel?

Lauren has assumed mystical behaviours consistent with witchcraft, and perhaps inherited from her missing Mum.

It’s set on the edge of a pine forest in Northern Scotland and it’s written with great skill by first time novelist, Toon.  But what it scores highly on, in terms of writing panache and storytelling, it loses out a little on in tension.

It feels a little familiar and seems destined for our screens.  Indeed, for large parts. I felt I was reading a film transcript which let it down a little.

That all sounds a little dismissive, but if you are looking for a lightish read with a degree of writing quality (it’s published by Penguin after all) It’s worth picking up.

It’s a decent read.