Sunday, September 28, 2014

Countess Minto

The last time

"Their real lives lie before them, teetering on the brink of adulthood …the time when we leave the ghetto like state of incompleteness known as childhood and attempt to make something of ourselves," (gleaned from the latest Knausgaard of course).

There on the carpet, misaligned and mismatched are the photographs that we try to lay together to form some kind of map and tapestry that may take us to a place in the past. A strange landscape viewed from the present day’s solidity from where we hope to understand how and why we came to be here. Then there is the absurd hope that maybe even in all those complex contradictions, appetites and disgusts that still swirl around in our souls and minds and unconsciously and so powerfully continue to govern us, that the light of understanding will shine.

I don’t know if it was Keith Richards or Brian Jones that played the guitar riff in the song “the Last Time”. I seems like it should’ve been Keith, perhaps that just makes it cooler. All I know is the puzzlement and excitement that I felt when I heard it, when I grappled with the strange, glistening sound and the rebellious rasp and edge in it’s tone. It didn’t quite fit with the rest of the BBC Light Programme’s output. Adults didn’t like it; it was like some kind of active poison to them. They recoiled as if a gun had gone off. No “Sparky the Magic Piano”, or the Springfield’s “Island of Dreams”, or the sweet sequined voices of Alma Cogan or Doris Day or  the comedy songs of Charlie Drake and the Goons. This was music from the future, like Telstar or Jonny B Goode. It’s probably the most significant audio moment in my life but I struggle to remember details to connect with and hold it. It’s buried in the debris of a thousand radio shows and flickering TV screens, wedding tunes and great cinema overtures, black vinyl spinning discs leading all the way to the abstract and indistinct sparks of sound we now lose in the deep darkness of file systems and cloud storage.

Back then music was like some living cartoon that danced across the growing, confusing head-space, you memorised it like a drug formula or an exam question. You sang yourself to sleep with the hummed melody as the frost formed on the inside glass of your bleak bedroom window. There, half asleep and half awake as the ambulance took your father away in the grey dawn where cigarette smoke hung and then descended on soft furnishings and tissue. Then up and dressed and out into the wild; you still trudged to school none the wiser of the night’s event, fortified with Frosties and a Melamine cup of sugary tea. As this NHS drama played out Keith’s guitar riff played in, like some bated fish hook bound to pull you away from a terrible ignorance and a fearful existence. Maybe you’d get the belt, wet yourself, get punched or, more likely just get ignored, just like the rest of the herd as you live out your orphan destiny. 

Daydreaming into a decade of insignificance, you could hardly matter less if you were microscopic. Here were the best and most obedient post-war working class job fodder, human confusion, sickly white and unable to grasp the concept of education never mind where it might, given patience and circumstance lead. It may have been the end of the age of the Empire but nothing big occurred inside the 425 line flatness of my being, just the reverberated ring-a-ding of that guitar sound. An elemental force that might change the world, still mostly red and expressed in Mercator Projection with frayed edges. It made me happy and was only really blocked out by getting struck in the face by an unexpected and wet football or a kicking from a big boy who preferred the Beatles.

Friday, September 26, 2014


Junior shoots his shadow somewhere far away from a golf links.
Today: A week after the big vote I'd kind of stopped thinking about it, then a fellow fitting carpets in the house began a we go again. I'm also puzzled about the furious and all encompassing enthusiasm for the Ryder Cup, a golf match of some sort. People seem to be going nuts and selling their souls, blocking up traffic and generally paying over the odds and it's the biggest thing etc. to arrive in the home of golf since golf. It is however only available to view if you've got a Sky Sports package. So I avoided all that and spent the afternoon pursuing red fluff around the house, cutting wood, glueing wood, drilling wood, destroying wood and then standing back and admiring wood. No wonder I'm worn out.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Playing the game

When you play their game and leave your happy little trails of habit and indulgence everywhere then you cant really complain when they come after you with their live bait. They are part of the fabric, they are part of our fabric and I have been chosen to receive a random but surely mechanised blessing from the great god of consumerism and appetite. Here it is tailored to meet all my most basic of needs, true, uncompromising and patronising. Even now at this hour (?) I feel strangely compelled to jump in the car and cash in this bounty. It may be that in this fragile mental state I'll succumb to the bright lights and colours of the carefree aisles and throw a few more items in the basket. I might even top up with petrol, DIY products or foreign currency on the way home. But then today is Thursday and tomorrow is an M&S shopping day, via the dental surgery of course. You guys at Tesco might need to try a bit harder to get that £250m back. 

Wednesday, September 24, 2014


As you might expect I'm drawn to these possibly dull and indulgent scratches and itchings formed from the remains of 1993 sessions. I've no idea why. They're just cashing in. It's a Marmite thing. Then the vinyl versions start to look attractive and that's without drinking copious amounts of wine or being in possession of any of the correct equipment. Things tend to come from nowhere, build up or inflate and turn into mild obsessions like they were oily fish, motorbikes or single coil guitar pickups. Now that I've passed the point of middle age and the painful crisis and bad behaviour that comes with that you'd think I'd know better. The fact that I'm typing this out as if it meant something perhaps proves that I do. All I need to do now is remain as far away as possible from for six or seven months. Easy.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Solitary Man

Dundee is not famous for it's burgers but it should be, (well apart from the Bob Servant cheese burger van mythology and the various consumer wars described). Anyway yesterday's tasty morsel was of the classic "Bambi" variety complete with a chili beef base and topped by a not too damp and not too dry circle of delightful black pudding. It was served up with triple fried chips (no idea how that is done) covered by a light blizzard of Parmesan Cheese and a green(ish) salad.  Who dares to say or even suggest that there's no such thing as sophisticated eating to be had on the bleak and windswept east coast of Scotland? On the way back to where ever I was going I also encountered a well dressed but quite static Elton John peering from a tenement window. Good to see you sir!

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Eastern European filter use

Due to suffering from having a large throbbing and embarrassing red spot on the tip of my nose and almost coming to terms with coming to terms about the NO VOTE vote,  I took to hiding in plain sight in  shops and cafes and universities and the great seats of learning in the most populous city of this now murky nation of ours/mine/nobody's (delete as necessary) namely Glasgow. Here some snaps I took along the way conjuring up all the magic of those neo-post-industrial city-scapes and the faded grey films from the heroes of our splendid past...

Actually this is the sky over Aberdeen on another day.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Songs of despair, full of life

So for the time being we seem to be going through a mixed bag of shite as a nation (note small n), well Scotland's still a pretty beautiful place; best to concentrate on that for a few days.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Time for reflection

I stood with a reassuringly sweet cup of coffee watching the rain earlier today. The rain was light, gentle and warm, not the Scottish rain I'm used to. So I reflected on the big day and I thought about the vote I'd cast later  on. The reasons and arguments, the facts, fictions, deals and promises, all now damp in the rain and remote from me; now only looking inside. 

Then I thought about that rain and where it's been, caught up in distant  monochrome Scottish summers fighting occasional bursts of sunshine that lit up  the summertime galas of the early 60s. The typical Scottish day out. The working classes and school kids given a day to sit in the watery sun, march in a line, play games and eat sugary cakes and drink cheap orangeade. Then we'd go home early in a crowded bus.

Every year for the parade we were allowed flags and streamers as a treat. The streamers were rubbish but the flag on a splintery stick was wonder, a golden and wild thing. A sword, a war horse, a weapon, a flying machine, a battering ram and when the time came a flag to wave towards mum or dad who might just be looking on as we passed by in our glorious and tattered army. We had two clear choices when it came to flags back then, the Union Jack or the Lion Rampant, each for a Shilling from some corner shop. Strangely there was no blue and white Saltire to buy, it's day was still to come. 

Every year I picked the same flag, the Lion Rampant, I don't know why but it just seemed the natural choice, back then.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Eve of Destruction

Whatever happens tomorrow in these graffiti ruins there will remain the wild spirits of unrest, poison and recrimination. The great blame culture will kick in and progressively kick an assorted set of undeserving victims. There are you see no victimless crimes. When we vote, whatever way it goes, all those dead and misty souls hidden inside will arise, to prise out an extra dose of guilt, to make up the full and bitter measure and allow us to swallow whole a thousand years of pain and four hundred years of Calvinist lies. That's all we deserve, the scum of the earth ruled by the scum of the political classes and whatever road we choose there is no happy ending or redemption. There's just us, the people, a disjointed force for good and mediocrity, a forever raggle-taggle nation of chalky faced doubters, dreamers, jokers, refugees and artists, rusting steel men and carved out hollow women, cats, dogs and concrete housing schemes housing concrete and crumbling money grabbing schemes. Here we go, here we go, here we are...

Tuesday, September 16, 2014


Why of course, I will certainly vote NO now that I've seen the true and mighty pledge made by these three fine gentlemen safely and securely posted on mock parchment on the front page of the ever so reliable and well balanced Daily Record. 

It can't happen here

Some kind of song for the referendum 

It can't happen here
It can't happen here
I'm telling you, my dear
That it can't happen here
Because I been checkin' it out, baby
I checked it out a couple a times, hmmmmmmmm

And I'm telling you
It can't happen here
Oh darling, it's important that you believe me
(bop bop bop bop)
That it can't happen here

Who could imagine that they would freak out somewhere in Scotland...

Frank Zappa (edited and amended).

Read more: Frank Zappa - It Can't Happen Here Lyrics | MetroLyrics

Monday, September 15, 2014

The meaning of words

So let's just get a few risk parameters sorted out before anybody, anywhere starts wading into the odd contents of the Black Box of Guilty Pleasures (No2).

Common-Occurs almost hourly   

Routine-Occurs almost daily    

Frequent-Frequently occurs during the year, possibly several times a month   
Probable-Likely to be observed several times a year, possibly monthly   

Occasional-Likely to be observed once every year  

Remote-Likely to be observed of the order of once every 10 years
Improbable-Likely to be observed of the order of once every Century or the risk of dying from cancer or heart disease
Unlikely-As likely as being killed in a road traffic accident or a high risk industry such as deep sea fishing or commercial diving     

Very Unlikely-As likely as being killed at work in an office environment 
Extremely Unlikely-As likely as being killed by a vehicle as a pedestrian or by a clinical mistake during medical care    

Incredible-As likely as being killed in an air crash  
Inconceivable-As likely as been killed by being struck by lightning  

Negligible-As likely as being killed by being hit by a crashing airliner  

Monday, September 08, 2014

Right here, right now

There seems like a thousand almost abstract and angry reasons why, year after year I've struggled to believe in and support the Labour Party. Well I just can't do it anymore. There's a huge and painful guilt that's built up in me as they spout nothing meaningful whilst my parents and grandparents surely roll in their graves over the hopeless, inadequate and feeble excuse for a party that Labour has become. I'll never support this generation of well educated but ignorant toadies with their inability to see the obvious and their abject failure to rise to the true challenges of opposition and come the day actual government. Anyway Irvine Welsh puts it so much better than I could in his piece in  Bella Caledonia (and I don't necessarily agree with all the spin and black magic that they spin either).

Friday, September 05, 2014

Masterpiece of the selfie

So Volume 3 arrived today courtesy of the various minimum wages slaves and elves that push out the output at the unscrupulous but strangely convenient Amazon online facility. I dislike giving these people money but I am fully aware that in logistical terms I am one with them in some distorted spirit fashion. That's the problem you get living and working in the real world, where boxes are kicked and shifted and blankets are stacked. If you don't understand by now then you never will. All I need now is some handy haven of peace in which to relax.

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Sweet song of youth

It's hard to believe that 1974 is now forty years ago, even harder to believe that my summer 2014 soundtrack has been the newly released CSNY 1974 40 track live tour bonanza. The truth is even by 1974 and at nineteen years of age I was bored with CSNY and the great explosion of West Coast cheesy soundalikes they spawned. I drifted away from that music and cut my hair and avoided these guys for quite a few years albeit Neil Young remained a curious guilty pleasure for shock factor and short term listening. No commitment required just keep up with the payments and you'll be fine. Now I'm back again, full circle, not much hair and it's 1970 or something like it. 

This album, like most live recordings is a challenge, truly awful in places, truly...memorable in others. The politics and issues remain hot, strangely relevant but the rough edged protests and howls of derision have achieved ... well not much really. The streets of the USA are no safer, the world is no kinder, there are too many guns and CSNY just become more swollen, unhealthier and grumpy. Where did it all go wrong and why are so many "good" things, well meant things, proven by time and the relentless recordings of history to be utterly futile? We don't really learn from our mistakes. So lets take it a name at a time:

Crosby - he comes out fighting on this, a better singer and performer than I thought but buried by the twin guitar peaks and background hollerings of Stills and Young.

Stills - the good looking poster boy could really play then, his singing however is a madcap set of growls, swoops and relentless repeated nonsense words but he silences Young with his thoughtful and busy guitar work (not high enough in the mix for some reason). A real talent but not much staying power as it turned out.

Nash - always irritating with that nasal Northern whine, the weakest contributor and someone who seems a thoroughly boring but nice guy  in real life. How did he ever get off with Joni Mitchell?

Young - Already in 1974 the old head of the band , steady, confident  and full of tricks. He must've hated Stills for showing up his haphazard guitar work but he played a long game and came away as the ultimate survivor.

Best live tracks -  Love the one you're with, Wooden ships, Black Queen, Long may you run, Old Man, Deja Vu and Ohio. 

That's it, summer's over.

Monday, September 01, 2014

I wish

I wish that I'd have been part of this fabulously patronising "No" campaign mailshot. Surely the most over egged and puerile example of the school of "we know best and do what yer feckin' telt." Best left there then. Of course another excuse for a rant are those pesky, sunny afternoon, pleasure sucking wasps that live nowhere and inhabit everywhere. I've reached the point when I can no longer see them as grumpy bees with other Tshirts on or with a hangover. Now they just seem like the Devil's spawn sent hot and angry over the border to destabilise the otherwise peaceful and relaxed parts of Scotland. A cold beer in peace is a thing of the past/pest. Pest infestation promoted by the good and anxious people of Better Together.