Just An Observation


With less than three weeks to go until Brexit is supposedly upon us I think following the government’s lead in simply avoiding talking about the impending disaster  about to hit- anyone else noticed the suspicious rise in distractions on the news recently?- is perhaps the best ploy.

Or is it?

At this moment it doesn’t feel if it can possibly happen at the end of this month as planned, as there seems little or no preparation in place; this is despite having three years to implement such measures but something the Government has dismally failed in at huge cost to the integrity and economy of the country.

I mean who exactly would want to enter into any trade deals with the UK looking at the way they have mishandled all negotiations with the EU?; demands followed by tantrum throwing, inept deals followed by tantrum throwing, ridiculous suggestions rejected following by tantrum throwing, then cancelled votes on ridiculous suggestions followed by a pathetic stubbornness to shift on anything. Yes, it’s all going so well.

Since her time in office Teresa May has not managed to pass one solitary piece of legislation that has been of any advantage to any section of society- apart from a few specifically tailored for her privileged and elitist pals of course- and ultimately her legacy will be that of the Prime Minister who effectively destroyed what little credibility Britain had left on the world stage. Scotland having been ignored totally during this whole shambles can surely do better and it really is time that those who voted against independence five years ago looked at the overwhelming evidence in front of them as to how little regard the UK Government affords the nation it claimed so strenuously to respect and want to hold onto.

Away from this Brexshit nonsense- it really is a never-ending and wholly unsatisfying conundrum- it has been an interesting week in many other respects.

The ‘Leaving Neverland’ documentary on Channel 4 has made for uncomfortable viewing and Michael Jackson’s accusers have faced a barrage of hostility regarding their claims the singer sexually abused them from a seriously young age. Whilst aspersions are being cast upon the validity of their statements, not least because the two victims in the programme have previously denied any sexual abuse took place, it made for hard viewing and the sheer pain each revelation obviously brought back made a convincing argument that Jackson was a cruel, manipulative paedophile labouring under the delusion of an inflated ‘God’ complex.

The sheer terror these boys must have felt when they were being questioned and the secrets they felt they were duty bound to keep, harbour a deep and intense damage they will probably never recover from. The lack of comapsssion from Jackson’s devoted fans who are obviously complaining that it is all lies in a bid to discredit their idol reminds me somewhat of Tory followers who despite all the overwhelming evidence placed in front of them  remain in denial.

In other sad news this week I was deeply saddened by the news of TV Presenter. ‘Yoof’ Representative  and all round fabulous style icon Magenta Devine’s sad passing. A much-needed spokesperson for ‘cool’ in an era when cool people were in abundance and ruled the world- nowadays we’d be challenged to find ten cool people on the whole planet- she wore her status, not to mention her omnipresent dark glasses, as if it were a  couture outfit with style, grace and élan.

I remember meeting her at an early Sigue Sigue Sputnik gig when she invited me back to their after party at a swanky hotel where she tried to persuade me to join their touring entourage for the sheer hell of it. I remember being extremely flattered and even more so by the fact it came from someone so in touch with the moment we were living in: an indominitable spirit which touched me then and still arouses fond memories.

Now that Oscar fever has died down – I say fever although it was more of a damp squib with Bohemian Rhapsody and The Green Book entirely undeserving of their awards in my opinion- I can highly recommend Fighting with My Family about a female wrestler making her way to the top of her profession despite the many obstacles in her way. Don’t worry if wrestling is not your thing- it is sooo not mine- as the story at the heart of the film is touching, humorous and rewarding whilst the performances are captivating. If Beale Street Could Talk adapted from the James Baldwin novel is also a great film, beautiful and langurous  and kicks The Green Book into touch with its sensitivity regarding the injustices inherent in what it was like to be  African-American in a bygone era.

If all this is not enough then at least there is something to look forward to in the return of Line of Duty soon although  somehow it is still not soon enough! The next couple of weeks also sees the return of the legend that is Lee Scratch Perry at Summerhall- March 21st- and this time I have no intentions of missing him as I usually always seem to manage to do, much to my regret afterwards!




Can You Ever Forgive Me


It is easy to forget in a world of blockbusters, big star names and an endless cycle of publicity hungry franchises that occasionally a film of real substance, human frailty and hopelessness can brak through and engender some real empathy even though its central character- the author- Lee Israel portrayed brilliantly by Melissa Mc Carthy- is wholly unsympathetic and pretty unlikable on nearly every level.

Alongside McCarthy’s compelling performance credit must also go to Marielle Heller’s direction and Nicole Holefcener and Jeff Whitty’s thoughtful and incisive screenplay which pulls no punches and makes little attempt to draw a veil over some of the less savoury aspects of Israel’s personality. Throw Richard E Grant into the mix with a performance, which just falls short of over the top, as her bitchy friend and eventual co-conspirator Jack Hock and the stage is set for  the makings of a great film.

With her  career having stalled after a commercial failure Lee Israel finds herself on the sidelines of the eighties literary circle where what see sees as lesser talents are commanding advances in the millions whilst she struggles to get a meeting with her agent who eventually tells her that there is no public appetite for her latest project on vaudeville star Fanny Brice.

Totally out of step with the times and lacking the social skills for survival in a new era of celebrity driven authors Israel stumbles upon some personal and intimate typed letters from Katherine Hepburn and hits upon the lucrative idea of forging letters from other notable figures- Dorothy Parker and Noel Coward are amongst those Israel attempts to impersonate- to fame hungry collectors and historians.

All is going well until someone notices some anomalies and a lack of discretion out of character with the person Israel is trying to emulate wherein she has her collar felt by the FBI and has to enrol the services of Jack as she has now been visibly identified, placing her on a watch list.

Of course as always in these situations everything unravels and Israel finds herself in extremely deep water.

It is amazing that a character  as abrasive and rude as Israel can arouse any support from her audience- this is a woman who makes distasteful jokes about her disabled friend after all- but somehow Mc Carthy’s performance manages to make you root for her even though you don’t ostensibly like her.

In essence the film details loneliness and frustration in an articulate way without ever articulating either of these things explicitly. This is its real substance  and what makes it so entertaining.


Just An Observation


So with Brexit merely a few weeks away it would seem that things are even less clear than they were even a few months ago and let’s face it they were as clear as mud back then. The government is in disarray but pulling together to ensure that we all head into the abyss with them. Except they won’t be heading into any abyss any time soon as they all have the financial resources to ensure they will remain unaffected by any of the wounds they are inflicting on the rest of us. In fact some of them even stand to turn a profit. Now who saw that coming? More accurately who didn’t?

One thing that is clear is the whole thing has been a Tory catfight that somehow escalated into national crisis with threats of food shortages. medical supplies in disarray and even Martial Law being threatened as a means to quell any dissenters. I don’t recall seeing any of those things emblazoned across the side of a bus in the Leave campaign.

It is quite astounding-and disgusting- that one political party has managed to create such mayhem and discord with a nation at each others throats and living in a constant fear of what is coming next. Party before country is certainly the Tory manifesto and unfortunately this looks unlikely to change in the near future as people continue to vote for them and Labour offer no alternative whatsoever; unless a party with no backbone is likely to secure your vote.

What disgusts me even more is how complicit the mainstream media is in this deception; every time the government receives another damning blow they write about it as of it is some sort of triumph. Don’t even start me on the BBC by the way…

However with all this chaos and disappointment on an almost daily basis it was good to hear some good news from the capital this week as the Save Leith Walk campaign which has been gathering momentum over the last months actually succeeded in their aims to stop the demolition of the beautiful Art Deco frontage on Stead’s Place in the face of totally inappropriate plans put forward by Drum Property Group. The latter’s plans were unanimously rejected in a rare case of common sense prevailing by Edinburgh council and although the fight is far from over it was heartwarming to see a community take on a big corporate business structure and actually win.

As said before the fight is far from finished but the fact that such a grass-roots endeavour by the locals and residents was able to garner such widespread support- national as well as local politicians, celebrities, musicians , Hollywood film stars etc. all threw their weight behind it- shows a strength of will that made me proud to be Scottish.

Now if only we were allowed to sort out this Brexit mess…then again we have another solution at our disposal and I doubt the time will ever be more right than it is now.

Particularly pleased to see that hopefully Leith Depot may get a reprieve as it really is an essential venue not just for the local community but also for the city’s musical scene as a whole. Coming as the news did during Independent Music Venue Week couldn’t have been more serendipitous really.

Talking of Independent Music Venue week there are some great gigs on this weekend at Sneaky Pete’s, Opium and Summerhall as well as finishing off on Sunday night at the aforementioned Leith Depot with Callum Easter which promises to be a belter of a gig which sold out almost as soon as it was announced.

If the cold weather doesn’t inspire you to leave the comfort of your abode then Netflix has a great couple of series’ which I can highly recommend. First up is The Ted Bundy Tapes which I reckon will see off the upcoming biopic starring Zac Efron for creepiness and sheer tension. It doesn’t set out to glorify him in any way but ultimately any form of attention or recognition directed towards a serious narcissist will feed the ego and the mythology and that is always an unhealthy risk. I think in the most part this series manages to avoid these trappings but despite this it does whet the appetite for wanting to know more.

Also well worth catching is Sex Education starring Gillian Anderson which I mistakenly thought was a ‘teen’ show but on closer examination found it to be well written with great characters and extremely addictive. It is a show which attempts to push boundaries but also knows when not to go too far; a rare thing these days.

Out at the cinema there are also several great choices including The Favourite, Mary Queen of Scots-ignore the historical inaccuracies and get swept up in the drama- the emotionally rewarding Stan And Ollie and out today the interesting looking Can You Ever Forgive Me.

All in all there is plenty to be getting on with and now that the 96 days of January are  officially over it is maybe time to come out of hibernation!

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As far as UK politics goes this really is Panto season!
It would seem that after two and a half years of Brexit negotiations, corruption, lies and sheer effrontery the UK government in the hands of the Tories has turned the whole shambles into a shit-show that is the laughing stock of the world.
I mean who seriously after this week of Tory backstabbing, leadership challenges and camncelled votes on the most important issue in recent history can in all truth stand up and say they are proud to be British. If anything the term ‘British’ has become more of a concept than at any time since it first enterd into the national vocabulary. In effect the whole thing is a shambles which puts any panto to shame.
Watching Theresa May cling onto what little power she still has is a sorry sight that surely even she,entrenched in her delusional arrogance, must see is a humiliation too far.
Then again when you consider what is waiting in the wings to audition for the lead role for the next scene of the panto- Michael Gove, Jeremy Hunt, David Davis or the eternal buffoon that is Boris Johnson-then as much as it pains me to say this May might just be the best option yet; you know when I am actually saying this that things are really bad but the only thing the Tory party can truly be relied on is to provide us with a leader that is even worse than the one we already have. It is like they are trying to outdo any dystopian fictions by George Orwell or any other noted alarmist authors; however they are messing around with real people’s lives with scant regard for the implications of their actions’
It is totally shocking that any government would put its party infighting before the needs of its country but that is what we are witnessing on a daily basis.
Of course the reaction here is as frustrating as it merely incurs a shaking of the head, a little tut-tutting and then busying ourselves about on our daily business. Compare and contrast with the rioting in France over the last two weeks and it becomes clear a revolution on the street will never happen here when there are celebrities going through ‘tough times’ in a jungle or the final of the X- Factor has to be rushed home to.
In other words the reserve of the British simply doesn’t match its frustrations, anger and arrogance- the whole Brexit farce was a matter of arrogance that has resulted in Britain being shown exactly its position in the world and it is not quite what people expected nor is it what they wanted to believe.
At the moment I am simply glad that Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP are looking after the interests of Scotland in the face of treacherous behaviour from the rest of Westminster and providing the only real opposition to this rapidly collapsing government.
Elsewhere Christmas is in full swing but I have noticed the uncertainty of the country’s fate has tainted even that as the atmosphere out there on the high street is as challenging and angry as is to be expected when people are unsure about their futures. There is definitely a sense of hostility every time I have ventured into town- it is always rather stressed around this time of year but this feels as if there is an underlying difference I can’t quite get my head around- as nobody really knows what is going to happen or where they stand.
The deterioration of the high street doesn’t really help there and as for the Christmas Markets which basically just sell overpriced tat, alcohol and burgers I avoid them like the plague as they are a major part of the problem and offer no solution to the problem our retail industry faces. Local businesses which pay rent and rates throughout the year and keep an essential part of our heritage alive are what should be supported not some fly-by-night operation which swoops in adding little to our already beautiful landscape and culture replacing it with flashing lights and cheap,shoddy goods. Not that I am averse to a little festive cheer but the Princes Street decorations simply look tacky in my opinion. They are simply not in keeping with their surroundings.
Lots of good music coming up over the next few weeks before the New Year arrives. I suppose the big one is The Filthy Tongues, The Trama Dolls and The Countess of Fife all sharing a bill together at The Liquid Rooms on December 29th. Having been present at gigs by all three this year I am certain this is definitely the gig of the season and one not to be missed.
Bring on Christmas I am more than ready for you this year!


Just An Observation

So let’s begin with Theresa May dancing into the abyss…
What a pleasant moment that was for a second and so much more appealing than the image forever burnt into my retinas as she ‘danced’ onto the stage to the strains of Abba’s Dancing Queen for her speech at the Conservative Party Conference. Luckily I was never a particularly huge fan of Abba so that song hasn’t been ruined for me the way it must now surely be for so many others; Abba themselves have said they are displeased with the song being used in a political context and without permission but how unlike the Tories is it to pilfer whatever they want for their own gain with scant regard for anyone else?
The last question was purely rhetorical by the way.
I think worse than the dancing-yes there is worse than the dancing as that is merely a distraction and a failed attempt at self-deprecation- is the fact that May took to the stage like some conquering hero who has something to celebrate rather than admitting that she has ballsed up just about everything she has touched since taking office; on a gargantuan scale to boot. Therefore the faux bravado was as insincere as everything else that emanates forth from her.
Aside from half-arsed dancing, insincere posturing and pathetic sniping at each other not much else came out of the Tory party conference other than the fact that austerity is over –or nearly over it wasn’t very clear- which I am sure will come as a relief to the many still languishing in poverty and an uncertain future with Brexit hanging over their heads which, incidentally, is supposed to bring in its stead at least fifty more years of austerity.
Me too!
I suppose as always things are worse over in America where this week Trump saw fit to mock a female rape victim and claim that it is a worrying time for young men in the USA when they can be accused of such heinous crimes. I’m sure the backward logic works to those of a backward nature and ultimately they don’t come more backward than Trump.
On a more positive note there is a huge independence march in Edinburgh this weekend which at least offers those living in Scotland a glimmer of hope of extricating themselves from the mess that is the UK at this moment in time. Apparently upwards of 30,000 are expected to attend and even the attempts to ban a rally in Holyrood Park has been overcome and replaced by traditional and legitimate events such as picnicking, performing the Highland Fling, tossing the caber and folding the flaps-something to do with potato scones I am reliably informed- so if an afternoon of folding your flaps next to someone tossing their caber appeals then this is the place to be this Saturday afternoon.
Not much happening on the music scene this weekend after last weekend’s highlights which included the Nightingales and the Shamanic experience. The latter featuring such luminaries as Fay Fife, Martin Metcalfe and Kid Congo Powers accompanied by the real-time painting of artist Maria Rud projected onto the amazing backdrop of the Old College Quads building ranks as one of the most impressive events I have attended for years. Even the chill of an outdoor September evening could not detract from the artistry and talent on show here.


Just an Observation

So that is the Fringe and festival departed for yet another year and it feels as if the city is actually inhaling then physically exhaling with a huge sigh of relief. Of course the inevitable claims about it being the busiest year yet have already emerged although I am more of the belief that what they really mean is has been the most profitable year yet as money rather than art or culture seems to be at the very crux of the whole event with each passing year.
It certainly was busy though as I witnessed last weekend when I made a misguided attempt to head into the centre of town and lasted less than half an hour as trying to negotiate my way through congested pavements which periodically spilled onto traffic filled roads just proved too much to bear.
The council in their infinite wisdom have proposed that more pedestrian thoroughfares are the answer-banning traffic from city centre routes- forgetting that actual residents, many of whom have to work in the fringe and Festival, still have to get to their work and the existing delays are bad enough without exacerbating them any further.
Then again when did the council ever pay any attention to its residents when there are tourists and students to cater to?
At least the weather has improved which it seems to do every year as soon as the whole shebang concludes; still not sure why this is but the skies clouded over and the rain poured down as I was on my way to the opening parties and remained for most of the days and nights as I was out.
I must admit I lost interest in the whole thing and stopped reviewing shows about two weeks in as I could not bear the forced atmosphere, the awful weather, the overcrowded streets and the general feeling of commercialism overruling culture. There was also a general feeling that no-one actually seemed to be enjoying themselves and the ever expanding reliance on alcohol and pop up bars has rendered the whole thing into one long over-extended stag and hen party!
Very cultural!
I was saddened to see the Sikh temple in Leith was attacked this week as bigotry is not the sort of thing usually associated with integrated Leith which is generally very welcoming to all types. The community hit back and showed solidarity and support however and this is heart-warming.
Likewise the Save Leith Walk campaign seems to go from strength to strength despite opposition and disinterest from the Council, who seriously need to start listening to their populace I believe.
The hot topic on everyone’s lips this week has been Theresa May’s totally inept attempts at dancing on a tour of Africa. Not really sure what to say about this as the two videos already out there are hilarious and cringe worthy in equal measure and if dancing comes from the soul then it is quite obvious that. just as many already suspected, she is not in possession of one; the videos recall the Tin Man from the Wizard of Oz meets Mr. Burns from The Simpsons.
It really seems as if she is dancing for a trade deal to try and sort out the Brexit mess but her dance moves are not going to convince anyone of anything other than the fact that she is incompetent at absolutely everything she turns her hand-hips and feet also in this case- to. She really is a national embarrassment.
It is now of course safe for the locals to go out now that the Fringe is over and a good place to begin would be with Run Into The Night a great Glasgow two piece band who are playing at Leith Depot this evening as part of a tour to promote their debut single. Well worth catching this band and support from The Raptors ensures a great night all round. Next week also sees Matt Johnson bring The The to Glasgow’s Barrowlands and Royal Concert Hall on two consecutive nights which is also essential viewing. There is also Fresh Produce who are back next Thursday 6th September at Sneaky Pete’s with a great line up.
For nights in The Bodyguard by Jed Mercurio who also wrote the fantastic Line Of Duty is essential viewing and a great way to round off any weekend as we make our way into Autumn.
All this and the weather has definitely improved. Bring on the Autumn!



This powerful and visceral production attempts to tell the story of racial prejudice at different points of history ever since the first slave to break free of his mater’s control took the name William Freeman at the moment he believed he became a free man. However this huge step forward was only a beginning and as is shown time and time again during this cleverly performed collaborative drama between Strictly Arts and Camilla Whitehill his free status was perhaps not as free as he had assumed nor has it automatically been delivered to black people since that moment; not even- probably especially- today.
Cleverly utilising a cast of six who slip in and out of roles as quickly as there is a time shift the story is easy to follow as it focuses on prejudice, violence and inequality therefore the names, places and dates don’t really matter as it is an ongoing problem with possibly little hope of any real resolve.
Great performances and simplistic backdrop allow the stories to speak for themselves and the lightning pace of direction and nuanced dialogue reveal a talented cast who can slip in and out of characters and somehow manage to inhabit them simultaneously.
Freeman is definitely one of the most captivating, intense and powerful thought provoking productions on the Fringe this year. If you get a chance it is one not to be missed.
Freeman is on at Pleasance Courtyard at 5pm until August 27th