Bonny Scotland – Things for which I am grateful #278 – 287


Bonny Scotland278

Edinburgh Castle from the Grassmarket.

Edinburgh Castle from the Grassmarket.

I count myself extremely fortunate to have lived in the stunning capital of Edinburgh279 in 1991-92.

I probably would never have ended up there had I not befriended an amiable Scottish chap by the name of Richard in the queue for the Hacienda nightclub in Manchester some six years previously.

As our friendship blossomed, I went on several trips to his homeland, none of which I have any recollection of whatsoever. I’d just wake up back in Manchester feeling like my brain had been covered in batter and deep fried.

Bloke in a skirt.

Bloke in a skirt.

Anyways, after I’d been made redundant in Leeds I managed to get a job in Leith280 which is just a short jaunt down Leith Walk from Edinburgh to the docks. It was more of an up-and-coming area when I was there, with lots of great pubs and eateries.

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I stayed with my aforementioned friend’s parents in the beautiful Stockbridge colonies for the first couple of months. Then I moved to a bijou little pad on South William Street in the West End.

I was shown the ropes of Edinburgh and Leith by the fabulously talented painter, Michael McGinn. (Who also has a rather wonderful antique/retro shop called McQuirkey’s, should you be round and about with your shopping hat on.)

Edinburgh is one of the most beautiful cities I have ever been to. The architecture is staggeringly breathtaking. And the people… well, I couldn’t understand a word they said. It was six months before I realised they weren’t calling me Ken.

Edinburgh is very spiky.

Edinburgh is very spiky.

Glaswegians reckon Glasgow281 is better than Edinburgh because of its people. They think Edinburghers are a bit toffee-nosed. But I reckon it’s the other way round. Glaswegians are jealous, because their city is a bag of washing in comparison. I did go to Glasgow a couple of times. It was like a cross between Manchester and Dresden circa 1945.

A recent Tourist Board flyer.

A recent Tourist Board flyer.

A couple of other notable places to visit are: Stirling Castle282, which is a bit like a miniature version of Edinburgh; you can’t go wrong with a trip to the Highlands283 with its ominous, towering mountains; or the serenity of the Lochs Lomond284 and Ness285. Venturing still further north to the Kyle of Lochalsh286 and the Isle of Skye287 you’d be forgiven for feeling like you’ve entered a Celtic nirvana.

Stirling Castle.

Stirling Castle.

Wallace monument, Stirling. (I walked up this thing with a wee baby strapped to me.)

Wallace monument, Stirling. (I walked up this thing with a wee babby strapped to me.)

The Highlands.

The Highlands.

A handsome lassy.

A handsome lassy.

Loch Lomond.

Loch Lomond.

Urquhart Castle, Loch Ness.

Urquhart Castle, Loch Ness.

Kyle of Lochalsh.

Kyle of Lochalsh.

Isle of Skye

Isle of Skye

Imagine what it’d be like if they actually owned the place!

Which brings me rather clunkily round to the question of Scottish independence. Watching the debate from south of the border I can’t help noticing that the majority of the ‘No’ campaigners focus on financial benefits of staying together whilst the ‘Yes’ campaigners talk about a fairer society.

Scott monument, Edinburgh.

Scott monument, Edinburgh.

I know Jockos don’t give a monkey’s what a Sassenach like me thinks, but for what it’s worth, I’d vote Yes.

To me, it’s nothing to do with money and all to do with self-determination. Heart over head? Probably. But isn’t that what patriotism is all about?

If I had my way, we’d have an independent North of England as well. It’s had its resources and wealth stripped and sent darn sarf for centuries.

With an independent Scotland, the downside for us Angles, is that it would probably sentence us to permanent Tory rule. (Which would be worse than living in Hades, or worse – Norn Irn!) But that isn’t Scotland’s problem – it’s ours. And, if that’s who the majority of people vote for south of the border, then so be it. It’s called democracy. Which doesn’t seem to be very evident in Scotland at the moment with only 1 out of 59 seats being Tory.

Leith.

Leith.

I love Scotland – its history, its poetry, its literature, its spectacular nature, its architecture and its people. (I’ve got some great Scottish mates. Well, I did have before this post.) If they do decide to give independence a shot – good luck to them, I say.

Though, if they vote to stay in the Union, I think we should have a  referendum in England the day after to see if we still want them.

Addendum:

To be honest, I think there should be less borders in the world, not more of them. However, I suppose my leaning toward the ‘Yes’ campaign has more to do with building a fairer society than with leaving the Union. Perhaps if the UK as a whole could do this, then I might not be in such favour of the split. Though, the chances of this happening with Conservatives running the country is nigh on impossible with benefits, NHS, education all being cut whilst their banker cronies are sucking up the big bucks and peerages in London.

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Joy Division – Things for which I am grateful #277


I know a lot of people find Joy Division a bit depressing, but I love their frenetic energy and controlled emotion. (Paradoxical? Absolutely. That’s why they were brilliant.) They had a unique style and voice which no one else had at the time. Plus, they were quite smart! (Punks were a bit too scruffy for my liking.)

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Being at art college in the early 80s, it was de rigeuer to be in a band, and I was no exception. The only slight problem to my impending rock stardom was my musical inability. That didn’t stop me trying, mind.

A group of mates, and I, got together to do a benefit gig for the El Salvador Solidarity Campaign. (The clichés just keep on coming, don’t they.) Anyways, we were doing covers above a pub in Leeds and, as I was petrified of being on stage, I didn’t move a muscle. Well, apart from the ones in my hands to play the bass.

When we got round to playing New Dawn Fades, I started to relax, a little. I loved the song and I could play it pretty well, so I began to go for a little wander around the stage. Unfortunately, I wandered a little too far stage right, and promptly fell off the stage.

I can still see the contorted faces of the audience twisted in fits of hysterics. So much for my dream of being a rock star.

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If you didn’t know, lead singer, Ian Curtis, committed suicide in 1980 just as they were becoming famous. He suffered from depression and epilepsy and, if we’re to believe the excellent biopic, Control, they link his depression to his epilepsy meds.

Ian Curtis with his daughter, Natalie.

Ian Curtis with his daughter, Natalie.

They’re not everyone’s cup of tea, but have a listen if you want to hear a truly original voice that is unfortunately lost to us.

I think I’ll save my anecdote about playing New Dawn Fades, with a band I stumbled upon practicing in an upstairs warehouse in the Italian naval port of Livorno, for another day.

Some facts about Joy Division:

They were originally called Warsaw after David Bowie’s Warszawa from the album Low

They changed their name because of another band called Warsaw Pakt

The name Joy Division originated from a prostitute ‘wing’ of a Nazi concentration camp

After Curtis’s death, the remaining members went on to form New Order

Ian Curtis is survived by his wife, Deborah Curtis, and their daughter, Natalie Curtis.

Deborah & Natalie Curtis.

Deborah & Natalie Curtis.

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Things for which I am grateful #276 – Writing


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I’ve always loved writing, ever since I was a boy. Genre never seemed to matter. I’ve tried my hand at most things: poetry, short stories, screenplays and novels.

Whether I’ll ever be good enough to make a living out of it is another matter.

Even if I should fail in that endeavour, it won’t stop me writing. But I am going to take a little breather as I’ve just finished typing the final words of my second novel, Peripheral Vision.

I hope the first draft isn’t quite as bad as Mr. Hemingway predicts. Though, I do appreciate that the hard work will begin when I come to do the second.

Right then, a little jaunt to the off-license, me thinks, for a cheeky bottle of Shiraz to celebrate.

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If you’d like to read any of my other work please feel free to click the links:
Love is Blood http://amzn.to/1bEApBh
Let me fail in Sunshine http://amzn.to/17Fa0FP
Woman’s Best Friend http://amzn.to/17AZUWk

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Things for which I am grateful #275 – Betty Blue


Or, to give it its French title, 37˚2 le matin. (Which, presumably, should be 37.2˚ le matin. Sorry for being an English pedant.)

Which, apparently, is the normal body temperature for a pregnant woman in the morning.

 

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So what’s it all about? Well, Betty, played by the enigmatic Béatrice Dalle, is as mad as a box of frogs. Why a box of frogs are mad, I have no idea. Perhaps it is because (understandably) they are cooped up in a box. Or maybe it is because the actual concept of frogs in a box is absurd. Why not kittens or dogs? Well, I imagine the former would be quite cute, rather than mad. In fact, I’ve probably seen a video of a box of kittens on YouTube. And a box of dogs would be impractical, as one would need a very large box. Perhaps a ginormous box of elephants would be a better simile? Except, somehow, it’s just not quite as funny as a box of frogs. Monkeys could work.

Whatever the origins of the simile, it does little to rid mental illness of its stigma. So, for that, I apologise. (But, she is.)

Betty and Zorg are young lovers. Laid-back Zorg is perfectly played by Jean-Hughes Anglade. He works as a handyman for a beach shack owner and all is well when Betty first moves in with him. Until she finds his hidden manuscript and can’t understand why he doesn’t want more from life.

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She takes matters into her own hands, (after being sexually assaulted by the shack owner), and promptly burns down their house. The pair head off to Paris to stay with a friend where Betty types up Zorg’s ‘masterpiece’ and sends it to publishers. Zorg takes it on himself to hide his rejection letters so’s not to upset Betty. She eventually finds one and takes her revenge on the man who sent it.

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They move to an idyllic rural town to run their friend’s piano shop. It’s here that Betty finds out she’s pregnant – much to the delight of them both. It’s not long after that she finds out she has lost the baby, (or isn’t pregnant – I can’t quite recall). But the news breaks her heart and she self-harms in a most horrific way.

As a result of her extreme actions she is catatonic and hospitalised. And that’s about as far as I can take it without spoiling the ending.

It’s a heartbreaking masterpiece of love, mental illness, unfulfilled dreams and what a partner of a person suffering from such an illness will go through to empathise and help care for her.

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If you haven’t seen it, I urge you to do so. And if you have, watch it again. (I watched it again this week after almost 30 years and, what it reinforced to me, was the power of loving commitment – no matter what.)

It’s written and directed by Jean-Jaques Beineix and has an inspirational and mesmerising soundtrack by Gabriel Yared. (See clip below.)

 

 

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The Boating Party with Sean Hayes


Luncheon of the Boating Party, 1881. By Pierre-Auguste Renoir.

The Boating Party is a series of interviews with writers, artists, photographers, filmmakers, musicians, sculptors, illustrators, designers and the like.

In times of economic hardship, the Arts are usually the first things to be axed. But, in my view, the Arts are one of the most important aspects of our civilisation. Without the arts, we wouldn’t have language or the written word. Without the arts, we have no culture. Without culture, we have no society. Without society, we have no civilisation. And without civilisation, we have anarchy. Which, in itself, is paradoxical, because so many artists view themselves as rebels to society.

To me, artists aren’t rebels, they are pioneers.

And perhaps, most importantly; without the Arts, where’s the creativity that will solve the world’s problems? Including economic and scientific ones?

In this interview, I am delighted to welcome Irish creative director, Sean Hayes.

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Who inspires you?

People who have discerning minds.

 

What inspires you?

A belief that everything is malleable. Nothing is set in stone.

 

What was the last thing that inspired you?

Rupert Sheldrake’s banned TEDx talk on YouTube.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JKHUaNAxsTg – t=1088

 

What makes you unhappy?

Misunderstanding.

 

What makes you happy?

Understanding.

 

What are you reading?

‘Who Owns the Future?’ Jaron Lanier.

 

Who, or what, are you listening to?

The rain.

 

What’s your favourite film?

Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey

 

If you could go back in time, where would you go?

December 5th 1975. Bob Marley and the Wailers in concert at the Lyceum Theatre in London to witness the recording of one of the greatest live albums ever – Bob Marley and the Wailers LIVE!

 

What frightens you?

People who do not possess discerning minds.

 

What do you do to relax?

I take photographs. It’s a form of meditation for me.

 

What do you do when you’re angry?

Anger is fear in stealth mode. Deal with the fear and the anger vanishes.

 

What can’t you live without?

Oxygen. Family. Friends. In that order.

 

What’s your motto?

Say simple things in unexpected ways.

 

Where is your Utopia?

West Cork, Ireland.

 

If you only had one year to live what would you do?

Spend the year visiting and thanking all the family, friends and folk who have loved and supported me in life and apologize to those where I failed to return their love and support.

 

Up who’s arse would you like to stick a rocket, and why?

Sepp Blatter. (Swiss football administrator who serves as the eighth and current President of FIFA). Blatter represents everything that is perverse with the prevailing corporate culture of winner-take-all. He exudes a deep sense of unquestioning entitlement and is mindlessly corrupt.

 

Who would you like to be stuck in an elevator with?

Scarlett Johansson.

 

What are you working on at the moment?

Increasing my understanding of the world and everything in it.

 

What is your ambition?

To love and be loved.

 

If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be?

Throw the Internal Combustion Engine onto the ash heap of history. It has stunted the development of cleaner and more sustainable energy sources because the Petrochemical conglomerates make vast fortunes from oil and actively suppress technologies that challenge their hegemony.

 

Which six people would you invite to your boating party?

Elon Musk (Business Magnate, Inventor, Visionary), Rupert Sheldrake (English author, lecturer, and researcher in the field of parapsychology), Scarlett Johansson (Elevator repair person), Graham Hancock (British writer and journalist), Linda Moulton Howe (American investigative journalist and ufologist), Nick Cave (Musician and author).

 

What would be on the menu?

 Ideas.

 

What question would you have liked me to have asked?

Hy-Brazil – a mythical island off the west coast of Ireland – appeared on nautical maps from 1325 until it’s disappearance from seafaring charts around 1865. Why? A great mystery.

 

Thank you, Sean.

To see more of Sean’s work click on any image to go to his Tumblr site.

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Sean Hayes’ biography:

I’m an advertising Creative Director with over 25 years experience of planning, creating and executing marketing campaigns for European, American and Japanese brands. In 2010, I started taking pictures of the world around me with a newly purchased iPhone. I haven’t put it down since. All the images in my gallery have been shot and processed using my smart phone. Preferred subjects to photograph are portraits and landscapes. My photographic work has been exhibited in galleries and exhibitions specialising in mobile photography in Brussels, Milan, Miami, New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

I was a runner-up in the Landscape category of the global Mobile Photography Awards 2013 and was awarded 2nd place in the People category of the same competition in 2014.

Links:

http://seanski50.wordpress.com

http://seanmobilephotos.tumblr.com

http://seanmobileportraits.tumblr.com

 

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Things for which I am grateful #233 – 274 – Art.


As you’ve probably gathered, the arts are a huge part of my life. And this is my mantra:

 

Without the arts,

We have no culture.

Without culture,

We have no society.

Without society,

We have no civilisation.

And without civilisation,

We have anarchy.

 

Which, in itself, is paradoxical, because so many artists are viewed as rebels to society. To me, artists aren’t rebels, they are pioneers. They show us new ways of interpreting the world.

Art galleries are my cathedrals. They are the places I go to escape from reality and immerse myself in the presence of their genius.

Here are a few of my favourite artists. (I haven’t included ones that I’ve already written individual posts about, such as Modigliani, Chang or Lautrec.)

As you can see, I’m quite traditional in a lot of respects. What I love about much of the impressionistic work is the space, light, colour, composition and texture. Quite a lot of them have a simple, graphic quality, too. Which, perhaps, is no surprise considering that that is what I studied at art college.

Some famous names missing. Who are your favourites?

Michael McGinn

Michael McGinn

Aaron Smith

Aaron Smith

Yup, Banksy.

Yup, Banksy.

Edouard Vuillard

Edouard Vuillard

Frida Kahlo

Frida Kahlo

Gaugin

Gaugin

Igor Shipilin

Igor Shipilin

John Singer Sargent

John Singer Sargent

Kees van Dongen

Kees van Dongen

Kris Kuksi 1

Kris Kuksi 1

Kris Kuksi 2

Kris Kuksi 2

Manet

Manet

Mary Cassatt

Mary Cassatt

Matisse

Matisse

Yes, Monet.

Yes, Monet.

Grayson Perry

Grayson Perry

Picasso 1

Picasso 1

Picasso 2

Picasso 2

Pierre et Gilles

Pierre et Gilles

Renoir

Renoir

Sergey Rimashevsky

Sergey Rimashevsky

Sorolla

Sorolla

The chapman bros

The chapman brothers 1

The Chapman Brothers 2

The Chapman Brothers 2

Van Gogh

Van Gogh

Vermeer

Vermeer

Degas

Degas

Francis Bacon

Francis Bacon

Egon Schielle

Egon Schielle

Gustave Klimt

Gustave Klimt

Pierre Bonnard

Pierre Bonnard

Antonio Canova

Antonio Canova

Paul Cézanne

Paul Cézanne

William Merritt Chase

William Merritt Chase

Salvador Dali

Salvador Dali

Richard Estes

Richard Estes

Edward Hopper

Edward Hopper

Norman Rockwell

Norman Rockwell

Jan van Eyck

Jan van Eyck

Foujita

Foujita

Wilhelm Hammershøi

Wilhelm Hammershøi

Frederick Childe Hassam

Frederick Childe Hassam

Peder Severin Krøyer

Peder Severin Krøyer

Berthe Morisot

Berthe Morisot

Camille Pissarro

Camille Pissarro

 

By the way, if any late-comers are wondering what the hell all the numbers are about in the titles of these posts, the reason is: I decided, at the back end of 2013, to write 365 things for which I am grateful – one for every day of the year.

Why? Because, I think a lot of us in the ‘West’, (including me), sometimes forget how lucky we are and take too many things for granted. Which people in other parts of the world would die for, and do so, on a regular basis.

 

 

 

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Peripheral Vision – Mood Board


This is part of a mood board I’ve created on Pinterest to help me with my second novel, Peripheral Vision. (Working title.)

Before I show you the shots, (and hopefully get you in the mood), here’s the synopsis:

After being blinded in one eye by his abusive father, Peripheral Vision tells the story of 8-year-old Danny Kane growing up in 1970s northern England. His violent upbringing results in his descent into a life of drugs and crime. As he reaches adulthood he realises that the only way out of his spiralling slide into perdition is to find the one thing that he treasured most – his childhood friend, Sally, who was taken to Ireland after the death of her mother. Can the search for his long-lost love lead to Danny’s redemption?

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