Sunday, March 25, 2007

25th March 2007: Scarinish

A beautiful day on the sunny isle. This morning I was out and about on my bike. Here's a short video showing Scarinish. This was originally the 2nd part of a two part segment but the first part didn't turn out too good.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

William Frame

Some things are hard to forgive. And the hardest person to forgive is you.

I was cursed with a long memory. I can’t remember sometimes what I did yesterday but recollections – pleasant and not so pleasant – appear, grow dim, vanish and come back into stark relief as regularly and perhaps as predictably as the planetary motions.

I’ve done a lot of things in my life of which I am not proud. Sometimes I wish I could forget. Perhaps I’d be a happier person. Perhaps if I was a happier person I could be a better person, too.

Not that I’m unhappy person, you understand. I have a great wife and a great daughter. Somehow, things have worked out okay for me in spite of the many times I’ve let others or myself down.

Oddly enough, one memory which regularly comes back to haunt me may not seem to you to be any big deal. It’s something that happened a long time ago, back when I was maybe nine or ten years old. So we’re talking mid-1960’s here.

And it was simply this. A new kid came to school. In fact, it was three kids. The eldest boy came into my class. There was a younger boy and a younger girl, as I remember.

The boy who came into my class was called William Frame.

We all instantly took a dislike to William. He was timid. He was skinny. He was an interloper. He looked poor and I think he was poor. William also looked a little unclean. I can remember he didn’t smell so good.

It’s always tough for kids who transfer to a new school. Friendships and cliques are well established. If you’re a tough kid and you can handle yourself this doesn’t really matter but if you’re a weak, scrawny kid that smells a little, like William, some kids are going to turn on you and make you an object of scorn.

Poor William got beat up regularly by some of the kids simply because he was an outsider and easy to bully.

And you know, it’s also easy to fall in the way of things, especially if your pals are encouraging you to take part, applauding you when you did, making you feel like a valued member of the gang.

I can only remember hitting poor William once. It wasn’t in my nature to be a bully, you understand. It didn’t sit well with me. As I say, though, once I did go along with it and egged on by my pals I waited for William and his younger brother and sister one day after school and thumped him.

I can remember clearly that as I hit him I saw the look of anguish on his younger brother’s face. His big brother was being hurt, humiliated, tortured in a sense, and he could do nothing about it.

This is what has remained in my mind all these years. It surfaces every now and again when I start to think to myself that maybe I’m not such a bad guy after all.

Nothing very much, you say? Kids will be kids, after all … right?

It’s ironic in a sense that I now do the kind of work I do. Because now, as a middle-aged man, the pieces of the puzzle start to fall into place. The reason why William and his siblings looked so poor is that they were poor.

And what was the reason why they came to our school so late on in their school lives? Who knows … but perhaps there had been a domestic situation where the family had been forced to move to a new locale … maybe things at home were bad … maybe they had been removed to a place of safety …

Or maybe I’m being over fanciful.

I know for sure that there was suffering and want etched on the faces of those children.

The world had been unkind to them.

I believe in a kind of instant karma. What goes around comes around. A couple of years later I was involved in a road traffic accident in which I was nearly killed when I fell under a bus. Somehow I got away merely with a broken tibia. However, I was laid up until well after the summer holidays and started late at high school

Guess what happened to me.

Maybe someone somewhere frets about beating me up in the same way I fret about what I did to William Frame that day. I really do.

There’s no way to put it right, you see.

I know it’s silly because – and I want to assure you that this is the truth – I’ve done worse things in my life. But for some reason, when I think about this seemingly small incident, I could hang my head and weep with shame.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Campsites and Songs and Running and Acting and Hats In The Air

Now - today's competition question: how did an ugly guy like me manage to get off with a beautiful woman like this?

Yes, this is another one of the phtographs from Chris' archive, taken by his late brother Paul. That's Chris on the right, of course.

I seem to remember this was taken about 1982 - the year we were married - and that Paul was experimenting with lighting.

Hats in the Air: it's gusting over 50 mph here on Tiree as I write this. It's just gone 7:30 in the evening. A bit of hilarity at the Tiree Motor Company earlier: while filling up the car my hand went flying into the air and landed about 100 feet down the drive in a huge puddle. Luckily it was my waterproof Lowe Alpine cap. I eventually managed to recover it but not without getting my poor feet wet.

I'm in another play. Well, not quite a play. Our drama group is putting on a little show called Tales of the Sea at An Talla on the 28th, in the evening. I've not been able to attend the classes as often as our tutor, Becky, would have liked and I guess she's a bit disappointed in me. However, one thing is for sure: the other members of our 'troupe' - including my wife and my daughter - have been putting their all into the upcoming performance.

Everyone - apart from me, that is - wrote something for the show. Particularly, I think young John Angus MacKinnon's writings and talents indicate this guy as a major talent for the future. If you're able to attend you'll be able to see me and Jenny in a short play he wrote.

Campsites: in this week's edition of An Tirisdeach I read of Willie Angus MacLean's plans to start up a small campsite adjacent to his croft. Great idea. Long overdue. But I wonder what the implications are for 'wild' campers?

Creatively, my whole week has been taken up recording a Hank Williams song entitled 'The Lost Highway'. For some reason I really connect with this song, a precautionary tale about 'not doing what I have done' I suppose. I've now got it online and you can listen to 'The Lost Highway' by clicking the link, top right.

I love this song. I worked hard to keep the 'live' feel of the recording. But there was some extraneous noise while I was recording - it might just have been the wind outside my window - and that was difficult to deal with.

Anyway I've had some really nice feedback from folks about the song and I hope you enjoy listening to it.

I was talking to my friend Neil Munn a couple of hours back and he said he couldn't get the Podsafe things to play. I know what he means. Sometimes I double-click, then I one click, then I triple-click - eventually the song starts playing. I won't criticise the folks on Podsafe because they're putting my music out there for me to an international audience for no charge. I just wish this worked better when you clicked ont he song!

Oddly enough, this song, 'The Lost Highway', my version of it, was played today on a Mexican podcast. How weird to hear my name and the song in Spanish!

Well folks, that's about it for tonight. Oh, I forgot the running. Yes, I'm behind with that too! The next Tiree 10K is earlier this year, May. As far as the Tiree healthy living option is going, the ladies are winning. It's a Fiona thing. Fiona Munn and Fiona MacLeod have lost loads of weight by keeping to their schedule.

Me? Let's not go there.

Sunday, March 11, 2007


I may have mentioned this before. It’s just that I’m not very sure. I’m not sure of anything anymore.

I told you all about getting video of me performing back in the early eighties on Glasgow University Television

Then I told you about Chris.

Did I mention how I found my long lost family in Dover? No. But I’ll leave that for another day.

But then, today, this very Sunday, my cousin, Brian Clay, my cousin, emails me to say ‘Hi’. I haven’t seen or spoken to Brian since our Grandmother in Aberdeen died and that’s got to be nearly twenty-odd years ago. Having said that, we’d hardly seen each other in between since the ‘60s.

That's Brian and his wife Linda, above.

Everything is going around and making a complete-ness.

I just added a new song to my online archive. This one is a bit strange. Well, even stranger than usual. I didn’t write this.

The song ‘This World is Not My Home’ is one that I heard while listenting to my Mother’s first record player. Jim Reevers sang it. I enjoyed re-recording it.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Glasgow Diary Part Three, Pictures and Video

Glasgow 1st March 2007

Wow! March!

Hot Fuzz, the movie we went to see at Cine World last night, turned out to be great, Like ‘Shaun Of The Dead’ it was a comedy gore-fest with some surprisingly good action scenes, particularly towards the end. Some nice twists, too.

Chris phoned while we were having a night cap in Molly Malone’s. I was asking him for advice on simple movie editing software and he informed me that the very laptop on which I am typing this has a program called Windows Movie Maker. Well, I’ll be! According to Chris this should be just what I’m looking for.

Today is our last full day in Glasgow. I intend to get down to Jamaica Street, visit a store called Sound Control. I need new guitar strings and a couple of other musically related bits and pieces.

Then we’re heading up to Glasgow University. As this is our 25th anniversary year we decided we should drop in to the University Chapel, where we were married all those years ago.

Tonight it’s down to the Tron Gate and the Tron Theatre for a play called Dissocia. I have no idea what this play is about and only booked it on the strength of grea reviews from the Fringe.

Amazing to be back at the University Chapel, where we were married all those years ago. The place hasn’t changed but then you wouldn’t expect it to.

We took a few pictures and also this video:

Click Here to Play Video

We didn’t add the spooky music by the way. When we were in the chapel it appeared to us that a music lecturer was given a group of students a performance of modern music for the organ. It was all a bit strange.

Student Elections: This could have been a scene from my young day ...
Later we did indeed go to the Tron Theatre to see Dissocia. It was all rather disappointing, a play of two halves and the whole didn’t work, not for Joanne or myself.

And so tomorrow it’s back on the bus to Oban. We’re staying at Harbour View in Oban overnight. How quickly the week went but we really, really enjoyed ourselves. The key was forward planning, booking shows, knowing what you were going to be doing.

This is where my diary of our trip ends. Normal transmissions will now resume.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Glasgow Diary Part Two

Glasgow 26th February 2007

A shorter run this morning. By contrast with Sunday, the streets of central Glasgow this Monday morning were very busy and as I went on my short little jaunt I was having to dodge in between the poor people heading off to work. In all, I ran for only about fifteen minutes but hey it was something. Bearing in mind that I’d had a pretty late night the night before and that there was alcohol involved, well, I did ok!

After that, a continental breakfast in the hotel. It’s a very healthy option, this. In fact, they don’t do anything other than continental. Suits me. This hotel serves the lightest, tastiest croissants I have ever come across.

Then it was shopping. And a little more shopping. Once we did that, we shopped some more. Yes indeed, when the poor exiles from Tiree get back on the mainland they sure do make up for lost time. Our reward at the end of it all was lunch in an Indian restaurant. Businessman’s, of course.

Now we are suitably rested and getting ready to head across the river to Pollokshields to meet up with Chris. More later.

Glasgow 27th February 2007

I said yesterday I would talk to you later. Well, here we are, almost 24 hours later. You wouldn’t need to be a fortune teller to predict that Chris and I would really celebrate seeing each other again for the first time in nearly ten years. And boy did we push the boat out. As you will see from the photographs liberal amounts of alcohol were consumed last night. And what a laugh!

Chris is one of those people – we all have them – who has played and continues to play a formative part in the person I am. My life would have been the poorer by far if I had not met him all those years ago at Bell College in Hamilton.

It goes without saying that I’ve been paying all the day for last night’s revelry. Consequently it’s been a lazy day. We went out for a walk in the morning, Joanne did a little more shopping. Then we went to a nearby pub for lunch called Molly Malone’s. An Irish pub. Joanne had Irish Stew with soda bread and chips. I had a steak burger. Oh – and a pint or two of the black stuff.

I had a snooze this afternoon and it seems to have done the trick.

This evening we go to a play at the Citizens’ Theatre. It’s called The Bevellers and was written by Roddy MacMillan (who played Para Handy in the classic BBC comedy series The Vital Spark). MacMillan has been dead these many years but I remember him also as a fine dramatic actor. And this play, of course. Joanne saw a production of this play the very same Citizens’ Theatre before we were married. It will be very interesting to see if this production stirs memories for us.

Well, that’s just about 5 o’clock. Time to stir ourselves into action and get ready for going out.

Glasgow February 28th 2007

I’m continually amazed at just how cheap it is to buy a ticket to go see a dramatic production in Glasgow. The Bevellers was a great show.

Bevelling was the craft of finishing and edging glass, a long lost craft now, one long ago superseded by machinery. The play was about one lad’s first day as an apprentice in a bevelling shop in Glasgow and the relationships between the workers.

A braw piece of work.

Rain. Wind. We just can’t seem to get away from it. It was pouring last night. The wind whistling down the streets of central Glasgow gives you the impression of being in a wind tunnel.

This morning it was more or less the same. I went out for a run about 08:00 and soon found myself suffering from sore arches and shin splints. What’s that all about? So I stopped after about twenty minutes and headed back into the hotel.

We had nothing definite planned for today so we wandered about a bit. We dropped into Queen Street station so Joanne could go to the loo. There was a promotion going on: Healthy Living for Workers, or something like that. A kind lady gave me a bag containing a bottle of water, a banana, a little travelling toothbrush, a pen and – most importantly of all – one of those stress busting squeezy things. That’ll do for work.

We decided to go to the pictures tonight and went in to book tickets at the cinema just down the road. This cinema has 18 theatres in it. I decided to take a picture of Joanne buying her ticket and nearly got jumped on by this guy who told me I wasn’t allowed to take pictures.

“Cool,” I said. I thought for a second he was going to grab the camera off me. I showed him I was switching it off and that seemed to satisfy him.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Glasgow Diary Part One, Pictures and Video Clips

As promised, I kept a diary, took pictures and made little video clips during our week in Glasgow. Here are the first two instalments.

Oban Saturday 24th February 2007

Arrived in Oban via The Lord of the Isles at approximately 14.50. Joanne thought we might just be in time to get a bus to Oban but as it turned out the earlier bus had left a mere 15 minutes beforehand. So here I find myself surrounded by our luggage, sitting in the large waiting area of the new Oban Ferry Terminal. The new, second pier is being built. At the moment the Isle of Mull is out in the bay, waiting for the Lord of the Isles to leave. With the addition of the new pier that kind of situation will come to an end. And glad I am of it too. On many occasions ferries I have been on have made unexpectedly quick progress in the crossing from Tiree only to have an early docking thwarted because of another boat being in port. I expect MacBraynes – who seem to have survived the tendering process – will look again at their timetable once the new pier is opened.

The bus for Glasgow does not leave until 18.15. That’s quite a wait. Joanne has gone for a walk into Oban. There’s a couple of things she needs to get and I have asked her to pick up one or two items for me too. In particular, I asked her to get me travel sickness pills from Boots the Chemist. I don’t really mind long bus journeys but the one from Oban involves many twisty, undulating, narrow roads and I usually end up feeling a little queasy.

Here in the terminal the Cal-Mac promotional film, on a loop. I don’t make the crossing from Tiree that often but even so I feel that I know this particular piece of propaganda inside out.

Somewhere outside a pipe band is playing. The ticket office and waiting area is getting busy. The toilets are out of order due to ‘a water leak’. Is this related in any way to the excavations going on outside?

And so the long wait begins.

Glasgow 24th February 2007

Boarded the bus at just about 18:00. And yes, it seemed like it was never going to end. Thanks to the travel sickness pill there was no feeling of queasiness. But the bus felt terribly stuffy, warm even, and only now and again did the driver turn on the fresh air blower. I have a theory: bus drivers on the mainland can be a grumpy lot, easily riled. By keeping the bus warm he made the passengers drowsy and – by his way of thinking – less troublesome. Just a theory, as I say.

We’re staying in the Express Holiday Inn on West Nile Street, a few paces from Buchanan Street Bus Station – very handy. We went out for a few drinks after getting settled into our room. The streets were heaving with humanity. Most of it was drunk. Some of it was intent on being quarrelsome. The first pub we went into, two constables were outside taking statements. There had been a fight just a short while before we arrived. Didn’t stop us going in for a drink.

A good, ordinary pub is difficult to find in the centre of Glasgow – well, at least at night time it is. In the end we came back to the hotel and finished off the night in the little bar here.
My intention is to get up fairly early in morning – Sunday – and go for a little run about the streets. Me, I’m full of great intentions. We shall see …

Glasgow 25th February 2007

Even I was surprised when I bounded out of bed this morning and went for a run around the streets of Glasgow before 08:00. Glasgow, or the centre of Glasgow, was busier than I thought it would be. I expected the place to look like a ghost town but no, there were a good few brave souls about.

Actually, the shops were opening even at that time in the morning, or at least in the process of opening. I’m amazed too at how many 24-hour places there are these days. The rain started while I was out and that was actually quite pleasant. I ran from West Nile Street up this street, down this street.

Time seemed to stretch – I only ran for about twenty minutes but it seemed a lot longer. I was quite taken on by the fact that a) I was running on pavement and b) there were so many interesting things to see, e.g., buildings, street workers, all manner of folks on the move.

Here I am outside the Council Chambers in George Square. It’s not a very good shot: I set it up in a hurry because it was raining. In fact there’s a drop of water on the lens!

In the afternoon we went to Glasgow Museum and Art Gallery. This place has only reopened recently after an extensive makeover. Joanne and I used to come here a lot when I was a student at nearby Glasgow University but in all the years I’ve been going there the exhibits seemed to change very little.

Well, that’s all been made up for now. As you’ll hear on the video clip (if you listen very, very hard) I was quite taken aback by the fresh approach the Museum has taken. It seems to me that rather than have exhibits neatly segregated by subject or time period there has been an attempt to show how the past relates to other periods in time and in particular to us in the here and now.

And yes, the Spitfire just knocked me for six!

From an exhibit on domestic abuse down through the years

In the evening we went to The Stand comedy club up in Woodlands Road. Admission was £5 each. Let me tell you, that’s the best value I’ve had out of a fiver in years! Three ‘open mic’ amateurs and three professional comics – including Michael Redmond – and a night full of laughter! I’ll definitely be going back to The Stand.

The star of the night was a young comic from Sunderland. We didn’t catch his name but as soon as we know who he is we’ll let you know. He is a star!

A few more drinks and then home.

Tomorrow, nothing in particular. Perhaps up to Oran Mor for lunchtime drama and a pint. In the evening we go to visit my old mate Chris.