gibberish


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.

 



T2: Review. So much better than the original.

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On the day that the infamous ‘Banana Flats’ in Leith were accorded ‘A listed’ architectural heritage status I was in the cinema to see the sequel to the movie that contributed to the Brutalist building’s cultural credibility.

Trainspotting left me cold in 1996. Danny Boyle’s casting of Ewan McGregor as Renton sat extremely uncomfortably with his characterisation in Irvine Welsh’s mind-blowing source novel.  The stage adaptation that featured both Ewen Bremner and Susan Vidler was much more mind-blowing and credible than the movie.

A public schoolboy from Creiff simply did not fit my vision of an, albeit relatively educated compared to his peers, junkie from West Granton.

The low budget special effects were largely corny.

The baby on the ceiling?  Come on.

The filthiest toilet in Scotland?  With crystal clear water?  Come on.

But the music was outstanding and it clearly nailed a cultural moment (I hesitate to say zeitgeist).

So, my expectations of a sequal, especially of a cult youth movie, twenty years on, were hardly sky high.

They should have been, because in my view this is everything that Trainspotting was not.

“Choose Life. Choose a job. Choose a career. Choose a family…. “ Renton’s cynical rant in the original is a sardonic take on the AIDS campaign that fitted so perfectly with the drug addled HIV capital of Europe  moniker that Edinburgh ‘enjoyed’ in the mid 1990’s.  The city’s unique needle-sharing skag culture had contributed to a minor epidemic, and choosing life was  not a decision, merely a potential outcome.

This underclass had zero control.

Zero choice.

Only Renton (who at least had supportive parents) had the wherewithal to escape; not just from the vicious circle, but from the country itself. Set up with £12,000 of his mates’ money, the proceeds of a London drug sale that he had, admittedly, part funded (That gets overlooked and is a slight plot-hole for me.) he escaped to Amsterdam and a new life.

That he chose.

T2 opens on Renton’s return to the Promised Land, an Edinburgh where the airport meeter greeters are Eastern European.  A family without his mother (he didn’t make the funeral).  A Leith that is part-gentrified, although Sick Boy’s Salamader Street flat symbolically overlooks a massive scrap metal yard, the graveyard of dream cars.  A metaphor for life’s finite span.

The movie (very) roughly adapts Welch’s Porno, but with many flashbacks and additional scenes from the Trainspotting novel that could have been in the original (not least the scene in Leith Central Station).

The budget is six times the original and it shows.  In a good way.  The cinematography bristles from start to finish (Anthony Dod Mantle) and the script bristles with comedy and tragedy in almost equal measure.  The scene in the King William Bar (1690) is a classic.

Not all the characters have fared as well as Renton.

SickBoy, although lithe (thanks to the Charlie) owns his Aunty’s boozer (the beautifully named Port Sunshine – Hibees ya bass) it’s a doss house and in need of investment. His Bulgarian girlfriend Veronika is the only new character to join the fray and cleverly plays the tart with, half, a heart.

Spud’s still a, now suicidal, junkie.

Begbie’s still a fucking bampot on the run from the jail.

Spud, Sickboy and Renton join forces to turn the Port Sunshine into a cultural heritage landmark in Leith attracting considerable public investment.  (For cultural heritage read brothel, sorry, sauna.)

It turns into a hilarious revenge thriller with Begbie on the rampage.

In a turnkey scene Renton sits with Veronika in the fancy Harvey Nichols Forth [sic] floor restaurant.  He reminisces on the Choose Life soliloquy but reframes it, every bit as cynically, for 2017.

“Choose Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and hope that someone, somewhere cares … Choose reality TV, slut shaming, revenge porn. Choose a zero-hours contract, a two-hour journey to work. And choose the same for your kids, only worse …”

This is the point of the movie.  I don’t think it’s about nostalgia as so many reviews have said.  What was great about the foursome’s life in 1996?  Fuck all.

No, this is about regret and the search for middle aged redemption.  A new opportunity to escape the cycle of shit that the trio (Begbie couldnae give a fuck) have immersed themselves in.

It’s an echo of the 1996 dream that, for Sickboy and Begbie, was stolen from them in that London hotel room.  But you know, deep down, it’s not going to work out.  Is it?

Danny Boyle and John Hodge have created a monumental movie.  Poignant, funny, beautifully nuanced and reflecting (not nostalgically) their acknowledged masterpiece of 1996.  The weaving together of three generations of the key chartacters’ respective lives is effortless and the music mirrors that extremely subtly.

Ewen Bremner is the real star with his beautifully sad performance as Spud.  Ewan McGregor has grown into Renton’s skin and can finally be forgiven the original miscasting. Robert Carlyle’s Begbie just manages to steer clear of charicature, and delivers moments of high camp scary bastardness.

The whole thing is a fucking blast.

Go see it.

By the way, credit to Harvey Nichols for granting the rights to use, and adapt, their outstanding shoplifting commercial as part of the movie.



Manchester by The Sea: Review

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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

Alone!
Damned!
Go home!
Gone in darkness
Light, surpasses

All ….
All, is one now!
All, is gone now!
All, is gone
Truthfully
Truthfully
Truthfully
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.

 



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.

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

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Jock’s Jocks by Gary West: Review

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For those of you not in the know, Gary West is a Professor of Scottish Ethnology and presenter of Pipeline on Radio Scotland.

What Gary West doesn’t know about the bagpipe in its multifarious manifestations ain’t worth a skirl.  So it’s no surprise that this absorbing evening of drama, humour and music opens with Professor West playing small pipes to the accompaniment of the ten stringed, renaissance dated, cittern.  I have to say this was my first ever exposure to such a delightful beast.

The scene is a Scottish kitchen where three men and a youngster (played by Gary West’s son Charlie) have gathered for an evening of chat and music.  It seems a tradition.

Arriving late, Charlie brandishes an envelope full of ‘stuff’ that excites the men.  They want to know its contents but West junior only wants a dram.  For that he has to play the fiddle for the group’s entertainment.

Duly obliging we then watch, over the course of the next 40 minutes, a bottle and a half of fine malt disappear at breakneck speed.

A bit like the play really, which gathers no dust – unlike, until now, the contents of the envelope.  For these are the transcripts of interviews with Scots (mainly Highland) soldiers recounting their memories of WWI.

It’s fitting, then, that these stories are recounted in the Scottish Storytelling Centre on Remembrance Day.

In one particularly moving section of the play, which effortlessly slips from seemingly ad libbed pure storytelling and reminiscence into full blown theatre, the four men, in turn, reel off the names of men engaged in Gallipoli (a battle that has, over time, been appropriated almost exclusively to the Australian army).

Not so.

4th, 5th and 7th Royal Scots Fusiliers, 1st Battalion Kings Own Borderers, 7th and 8th Scottish Rifles, 5th, 6th and 7th Highland Light Infantry, 5th Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders and more, many more.  Each take their place on stage as their involvement in this terrible bloody battle are recalled in personal memories.

The toll taken on the horses who battled through extreme conditions, only to be slaughtered on arrival, exhausted, on the beaches draws gasps from the audience.

Indeed horse stories feature prominently in the evening’s entertainment along with the human reminiscenses.

All four actors deserve praise for they inhabit the lives, however briefly, of the collection of memoirs some funny, some poignant that have been painstaking collected, at first on paper and then on tape, by Jock Duncan (hence the name): the ensemble is completed by Scott Gardiner and Chris Wright.

They interact with ease, chuckling, heckling (there;s a few university gags thrown in, singing, playing their tunes and reading, often in deep Doric dialect the tales that underpin 20th Century Scots culture so sadly and so profoundly.

These are survivors tales, but it’s noted that in one bloody field there were but three graves and now there are six acres.  And that’s just one site.

This is a play that deserves a wider audience.  Although it was sold out it had only the one performance and yet it is a new and massively worthwhile piece of cultural history that would entertain and engage universally. (Many of the songs elicited audience participation, although I’m ashamed to say my only contribution was to Waltzing Matilda, which bookended the Gallipoli section on ‘moothie’ and in song.)

The University of Edinburgh’s School of Scottish Studies Archive is to be praised for supporting this and I, for one, hope it reaches a far wider audience in the years to come.

 

 

 



And here it is folks #bustertheboxer. The new John Lewis christmas ad
November 10, 2016, 8:01 am
Filed under: advertising, Arts, creativity, stories | Tags: , , , ,

My friend Gillian Cairney said yesterday in the light of Trump’s accession to the throne.  “I need the John Lewis christmas ad. Now!”

Well, here it is Gillian.  Enjoy!

It made me smile although I think it slightly lacks the emotional pull of earlier ones.

 



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.