Thursday, August 31, 2006

Investigators of Phenomena Involving Nimrods and the Supernatural,

I was playing football this evening; I marshalled a defence that was so tight that our goalkeeper became bored. Eventually, I volunteered to mind the net to allow him a kick of the ball for his money. Of course, he was not as good a defender as me and I was required to make some amazing saves. In between my heroics, I gazed at the lights in the sky – bright orange ones that seemed to hover and vary in intensity in a hypnotic fashion before disappearing completely. They weren’t UFOs but light aircraft waiting to land at Fife Airport.

STV repeated an episode of a series they made called Beyond Explanation last night. The first episode discusses two UFO cases. The first case was Tom’s; he had his first encounter as a boy in Aberdeenshire. Tom saw a red light hovering above the road on the way home from a piano lesson, and then he saw there were three of these lights. He ran home, brought his sister outside, the craft came towards them until it was overhead. They looked up and saw a circle of tiny red lights; the UFO remained above them for 30 seconds. This was the first of many encounters for Tom, each night of the week, he’d see these nights mingling in the sky and he believed they were recording him. He recorded the UFOs once or twice but the footage shown was inconclusive. Once into his thirties, he decided to move to New Zealand to escape the UFOs – his emigration was successful.

The second case was that of a man who might be viewed as a crank, George Smith from Inch, Aberdeenshire. George’s interview was recorded in his corrugated iron shack. One night, when he was sitting in his tartan-clad seat, he felt a strange urge to go outside, once outside, he saw lights that danced in the sky, brightening and fading – all for his attention. But that wasn’t the end of George’s story, he woke one night to see two aliens at the bottom of his bed, they were tall and human-like. When on business in England, he saw these same two aliens in the York pub, they communicated with him by telepathy. Once out walking, he met these two figures again at Inverurie stone circle. He claims to have been on their ship many times but they had only allowed him to recall 7 of his trips on board. He believes that the purpose of his encounters was for George to be given super intelligence to take on special tasks on Earth. With his super intelligence, he’s learned how to generate hydrogen from water; we saw George hook up a car battery to a tub of water and pop the hydrogen created by the electrolysis of water.

There are not enough programmes about UFOs on TV, and they few there are always feature the oddballs. I used to love It’s a Mystery on CITV, it was worth running home from school for and is still the best programme they've ever shown, apart from Taggart.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Impoverished Apprentices of the Republican Traits,

I should have read a book by Roddy Doyle long before now. Regular readers of The Bellyaches will know why I chose to start with A Star Called Henry. The book follows the life of Henry Smart from before he was born in 1901 until he reaches his twenties. Henry is the eldest of many children had by Melody and Henry Smart Senior in their homes in the Dublin slums. His one-legged father is the bouncer of the brothel and a hatchet man for one of Dublin’s main players, Alfie Gandon, and is never at home. His mother becomes overrun by children, so as soon as Henry can walk, he takes to the streets, armed only with his brother, Victor, and his father’s spare wooden leg.

Although the book is set in Dublin 1901, many of the trends within are present in today’s society. Youths leave their homes daily not sure of their destination and they fall into trouble, of course, our peoples don’t fall into the IRA (or an equivalent) like Henry Smart did aged 14. After surviving the failed Easter Rising in 1919, Henry becomes a legend as one of Michael Collins’ most trusted assassins.

Henry travels the country encouraging support for the Republic and training fighters and as the IRA is taken more serious, Henry and his wife live on the run from the Black and Tans and Auxiliaries. Once it appears that the republicans are winning, Henry finds that he is wanted dead by his own men, for supposedly being a spy. This is very much like life, nobody should be trusted; as I exited the library after returning this book, I found that I had stepped out amongst a group of renegade youths who were arguing amongst themselves over who had stolen whose bike, this spat between friends followed me down the street until I slipped down an alley.

The book appears well researched, it proves a decent lesson about the Irish uprising to those who don’t know much but much like Animal Farm, it dispels the romantic notion of revolution. Despite the fact, he killed and carried out his orders with aplomb, Henry Smart along with his fellow Dubliners are seen as expendable by Collins and the leaders of the rebellion from the country. A class difference still remained and the life for the poor was still the same in the Republic as it had been under the King. It’s a really grand book; full of suspense, hope, despair, history and excellent writing. The book is the first of a trilogy; the second volume is available in Leven Library.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Orchestral Indie Pop Scenesters who Adore Such Labels,

Despite being moody, I had a great time at the Belle & Sebastian TontheFringe gig and so too did the hundreds of people who had queued along Princes Street, each hoping to secure a prime spot in front of the stage in Gardens. We were lucky; we were directed to a secret, special queue that moved quick enough to allow us to take up a spot on the terracing quite close to the bandstand. Hundreds of people never made it that far, they watched from behind hedges, the slopes of the gardens or the paths that were part of the queues that they had never left.

Camera Obscura were playing in support. They ploughed through the tracks from their excellent Let’s Get Out of This Country album. They went down really well with some sections of the crowd, whilst some sections weren’t interested, which surprised me. Old favourites like Teenager and Eighties Fan made welcome appearances but perhaps the slower songs from the new album, like Dory Previn, didn’t suit the outdoor environment. If Looks Could Kill was a corker and they ended in spectacular fashion with their Razzle Dazzle Rose racket, for as great as Belle & Sebastian turned out to be, I went home with these two tunes in my head.

Belle & Sebastian fans are an odd bunch; some are so fickle that they refuse to accept that very little ever existed after If You’re Feeling Sinister – they would have been delighted with last night’s gig. After opening with Another Sunny Day, they churned out a host of oldies including Le Pastie de la Bourgeoisie, A Summer Wasting, Dirty Dream Number Two and my favourite, Dog on Wheels. Stuart was certainly in the mood for mucking about last night, he grabbed a wind-up camera from a camera man (with equipment like that, it’s a wonder they ever got they job) and proceeded to shoot the crowd and band, he waded into the crowd to have make-up applied for Lord Anthony and then he dragged a girl onto the stage to act out the story of Jonathan David – it was all very amusing. Stevie also got to do his The Wrong Girl song. It was a great gig in a really nice setting - the castle in the background, the weather staying fine, the nice gardens, planes overhead - I couldn’t help but gaze around half the time. They finished up with the much-requested Judy and the Dream of Horses, before emerging for an encore of Me and the Major and the ad hoc Lazy Line Painter Jane, for which Stuart put out an appeal to Monica Queen to come to the stage. After persuading the police that she was indeed, Monica was allowed through to help the gang close the night with a belter.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Satchel-Toting Wolves Emerging From Manholes,

Maybe it was because the Fringe Festival is grinding to a halt, maybe it was because it was 10.40am, the Pleasance Courtyard seemed calm, empty and peaceful, almost as if it was catching its breathe. People sipped coffees, read newspapers and novels in its midst. Then the people came streaming through the arches, they had come, like me, to see John Hegley for Elevenses.

John shuffles out onto the stage of Pleasance Two from a side door, sedately attired with jacket, cardigan, shirt and tie and shouts, ‘Are you ready to rock, Edinburgh?’. After delivering his song, the purpose of which to apologise for the 11.05am start (it could have been worse, it could have been 11am sharp), Heggers offers the audience tea and biscuits, one man accepts a cup of tea. Once he is confident that everyone is suitably refreshed, he takes up his seat on the swing (of course, he asks the members of the front row to part for their own welfare), similar to the one he had at the bottom of his garden, to reminisce about his childhood. He reads us poems and sings songs that are entertaining and funny but at the same time somewhat moving, poignant and thought-provoking. The crowd gets to join in on Luton Bungalow, What Will we do With Grandad’s Glasses? and are divided into 5 sections (A to E: E being one man sporting spectacles because ‘You can trust your own’) for Greatest Its, I think the line of my Section A was something like ‘It’s the door that creaks that gets the oil’. Not only is John Hegley a master of the English language, he’s better at French than Ted, the volunteer whose task it was to translate Poem de Terre into English for the rest of the audience. It was hard not to admire him taking time out to explain to the kids in the audience what some of the words in the song about Toby the Armadillo meant. I’ve only come to know about John Hegley through his few appearances on the Mark Radcliffe Show in its Radio Double One incarnation and it was the first time I’ve seen him, I’m beginning to wonder what I’ve been doing all these years because this was probably the best Fringe Show I’ve ever seen and I don’t just say that because I’m a morning person.

No leisurely day in Embra would be complete without a trip to the Parliament. The new Festival of Politics was in full swing, if that can be said. The act of calling a photo exhibition and a few debates with some respected faces “a festival” is questionable; relative to the scale of everything else that is happening across the city, it’s rather insignificant – but I hope it can grow and become more interactive in years ahead. All the debates (they’re either free or quite cheap) were fully booked, which was mildly disappointing as I’m desperate to learn stuff, so I was left to browse the photo exhibition. The World Press Photo exhibition features 200 of the best photos, some of them were really disturbing, they were a real insight into the injustices that occur around the world daily that receive no attention from our media. The overcrowding the Malawi prisons, the riots in DR Congo after the elections or the conflicts in Togo and Sierra Leone were all depicted in the exhibition and I was glad they were given equal billing as the pictures that involved American-led conflicts, I wondered where the self-appointed crusaders of world peace were in these scenes.

Outside in the parliament gardens, a woman tried to tempt a dog into the ponds but the dog wasn’t keen, old men downed bottles of Lambrini and reporters recorded their stories for that evening’s bulletins. I wandered up to Princes Street, in the courtyard outside the National Gallery, there were a number of stalls and street performers, one of whom was Vince Henderson, former host of that triumph of TV game shows, Chain Letters and also a presenter of Soccer AM in the early days before it became so dreary and predictable. He was doing magic tricks with a man named Rich (I didn’t catch his name, I do apologise). They were very good and really funny, they had a large crowd and the children participating (in the safer parts). Vince juggled two machetes and an apple and ate the apple at the same time. The pinnacle of their act was Rich on an 8-foot unicycle. Once steadied after a few heart-stopping moments, Vince ran across the courtyard and came back with a garbage canister. He mounted it and proceeded to juggle flaming torches with Rich. They were a class apart from the usual street performers.

I departed for the Assembly Rooms where I was to see Count Arthur Strong. I’ve known about the Count for years, long before his radio shows, Ross Noble said the Count was the funniest act on the Fringe in an interview and I pledged at that stage to see him one day. The Count is now a star of radio, on Radio 4 and as a guest of Mark Radcliffe on Radio Double One. I find him hit-and-miss, one minute, he can have me creased with laughter and the next, I cringe at how painfully obvious the gag is, but I reckon he’s worth sticking by - the good moments are really good. The stage show, Count Arthur Strong - The Musical?, had much the same effect for me, I’m glad I saw it but maybe I wouldn’t want to see it again.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Crusaders Against Baleful Capitalists,

I’m still battling Celtic FC and I’m fed up of their incompetence, although I’m beginning to wonder if there is something more vindictive in their conduct.

Celtic have implemented a new automated swipecard system that allows supporters entry to the stadium. I’ve missed the first halves of both games at Celtic Park this season because the system is rubbish. At the first game, the swipecard machine displayed a message like “TICKET ALREADY USED FOR THIS MATCH” and the turnstile stayed put, so rather than the stewards being told about this, realising that I have a valid ticket, seeing that I’m not inside the stadium, seeing that I should be and allowing me in the side door, I was sent to the Ticket Office where I had to join a huge queue of people with like problems. I was eventually given a voucher that would allow me entry to that individual match. At the second game, I visited the Ticket Office before the match because I was due a refund (for being a concession), they issued me with a new card. I swiped this new card at the turnstiles and the message the machine displayed was “TICKET VALID FOR WRONG MATCH” and of course, the stewards, being as obtuse as ever, sent me to the Ticket Office, where I endured the same lengthy wait for a voucher. This time they retained my card – to investigate why it wasn’t working.

Enraged, I wrote two letters on my return home. The first letter was effectively a bill; I addressed this to the John Paul Taylor, who was previously just the manager of the Ticket Office. The second letter was a general rant about the swipecards, merchandise, stewards, the Ticket Office and the lack of new players being signed; I printed three copies, I addressed one non-specifically to Celtic FC and the other two explicitly to chief executive, Peter Lawwell, and chairman, Brian Quinn. I posted these 4 letters. Later that day, I decided to test the powers of propaganda at Celtic Park, I emailed the second letter to the Celtic View magazine and Celtic TV.

Obviously, they weren’t going to publish my emither, the Celtic View passed it to the Head of Customer Services (John Paul Taylor; obviously, in their penny-pinching pursuits, he’s now in charge of everything). Before he received the letter I addressed to him, he replied via emither to tell me that I would be given a refund, he put someone else in charge of making sure I was given this refund. I received an emither from this delegate asking me to emither back my financial details. I decided to wait until my letters had arrived before taking further action.

The next day, Mr Taylor had evidently received his letter; he called me up to tell me off , saying that it’s wrong for people to hold the general view that his Ticket Services department are rubbish. He gave me a whole spiel about how efficient they were and a whole load of statistics, one of his quotes was, “At the end of the day, people are still buying tickets, that proves that we’re doing a good job.” I dismissed his defence, only to be told “I think we’re just going to have to agree to disagree.” We discussed the swipecard system, I said that there was no back-up system for supporters who haven’t gained entry when they should have been able to (a trek and a queue at the Ticket Office is not a back-up plan). He argued that there was a back-up system; they’ve printed out “emergency vouchers” for every supporter to be used when their swipecard fails BUT they opted against sending them out and they’ve got special hand-held electronic devices to be issued to head stewards (so when swipecards fail, supporters should seek a head steward who will remedy the problem) BUT they haven’t got them working yet – in essence, my argument holds, there’s no back-up system at present.

After having defended the competence of his staff, I had to correct the employee in charge of giving me a refund. Although I thought I might be trying their patience, I told them it was wrong to send banking details via email and that I wanted a cheque to be posted out or to transfer details over the phone. This was resolved when Mr Taylor’s delegate called me. My brother and I were each awarded £30, we might have got more, or maybe less, had I not named a figure in my letter and instead let them decide how much was fair.

So I have been given some compensation for the football I missed, but I still have no ticket for the next match on Saturday because they retained my swipecard for inspection. My brother was returned his card 4 days ago. I emailed John Paul Taylor to ask where my card was -I suppose I did have another pop at the same time, I said I wouldn’t be happy until every supporter who was in my position received refunds, the club publicly apologised and perhaps pledged to cap ticket prices for next season as a goodwill gesture towards fans for the inconvenience they suffered - and he put someone else in charge of seeing that I have valid means of entry to the stadium on Saturday. If I wasn’t already wondering if something sinister was afoot, with respect to my brother (who hasn’t complained) receiving his card and me being left to wait, I discovered that this employee is on holiday all week.

I think they have a vendetta against me because I decided to challenge them. I spoke to a Ticket Office phone operator this afternoon, she said she would send a card out in time for the match, but I have a total lack of faith in their ability to do anything and I sincerely doubt this will be the end of the hassle. I’m hacked off with it all.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Collaters of Laments For Favourite Sneakers,

It’s a sad day. I’ve had to retire my trainers, they’re possibly no longer socially acceptable. They’ve stood me in good stead for around 15 months. When I first got them, I’d tiptoe around in vein avoidance of any marks or scuffs. I’d even clean them and put the laces in the washing machine. Of course, I reached a stage where I no longer cared, I even began to cherish the hole that graced the right one despite the fact it caused me to bring back dirt and sand from many a location.

I am loathe to wear a pristine new pair; despite the fact that the trusted old pair have become uncomfortable, I’m rather attached to them. I’ve bought new ones that I don’t entirely like in Dundee, they’ll be phased in gradually and scuffed sooner rather than later.

I also bought a hoodie, that is green with no logos, or random text or letters spoiling it, and the new Ooberman album.

I’ve lacked conviction today, but languidly, I completed all my minor tasks.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Safest Parkers in Town,

They put me, as winner of some Indian Summer Festival tickets, on the radio, for a few words at least, during yesterday’s Rocket Science as hosted by Rob Hughes.

The weather yesterday was smashing, after the rain that battered the early hours of the morning had departed, we were left with blistering sunshine. I headed to the garden with a book and my digital radio to pass the time until the East Fife match. After a few hours, I heard that Rob Hughes was going to be launching a ticket giveaway for Indian Summer.

There have been so many music festivals this summer with identikit line-ups but Indian Summer seems quite different – it has the big names but not the same ones that have been doing the rounds over the summer and it is also utilising the best local bands - and I was tempted to buy tickets for it anyway.

I rushed inside with my radio and waited for the question. I sent off an emither with the answer before the question was completed and a few minutes later I received a phone call telling me that I had won and that I would be on air after XTC, who are great. I was told to make sure my radio was off, I dashed for the blaring radio but I felt I might not get there before the end of the record so I ran outside. By this time a breeze had whipped up, and during my short conversation with stand-in DJ Hughes, the lisheners must have thought I was on a line from the top of Ben Nevis, I wondered myself if I would be lost. Thankfully, Rob kept the conversation short and got rid of me swiftly, I didn’t sound too bad. I thought I might listen back and sound like some galoot, in fact, I reckon I have a good voice, I can’t see why I annoy everyone so much – it’s a voice fit for radio, perhaps someone will give me my own show where I can play Sufjan Stevens records non-stop soon.

East Fife won 2-1 against Arbroath; it was a typical Third Division encounter with the most delightful 10-man scramash occurring right in front of the stand midway through the second half – worth the entrance fee on its own.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Gullible Musicologists Flying Convalescent Kites,

Roddy Woomble of Idlewild’s solo album, My Secret is my Silence, has been a mainstay of my recent listening. I’ve been a fan of Idlewild since The Remote Part album – the first since they decided to stop making a terrible din. My Secret is my Silence has been lauded as a folk album, it features an impressive cast (John McCusker, Karine Polwart and Kate Rusby amongst others from Idlewild, Sons & Daughters and Foxface) but Roddy Woomble is the star. His lyrics are superb, as they have always been; a favourite of mine from The Remote Part - ‘Is consideration more like an exception – of consideration?’ The gentler folk sound of this album allows them to shine through, on gems like Every Line of a Long Moment, My Secret is my Silence, If I Could Name any Name and Waverley Steps. Whiskeyface is a jolly jig of an instrumental where the violins that flavour this album come to the fore. As Still as I Watch Your Grave, From the Drifter to the Drake and Under my Breath could easily be Idlewild songs. I doubt any singles are to be released from this album and only a few radio sessions have been used to promote this brilliant album so it’s going to take the nonsensical ravings of loudmouth malcontents like me to get people to buy it.

On the Bella Union label, home to My Latest Novel and Midlake, Fionn Regan’s album, The End of History, is a treat. Fionn is an Irish singer-songwriter who apparently has Drake and Young leanings as he strums on his acoustic guitar and sings tales of stuff. I had purchased this album before the end of the first song I heard from him, Put the Penny in the Slot might be this year’s Oxygen (Willy Mason) if the capitalist oppressors who rule the airwaves lower their strict guard and stop playing the Chip Shop Boys or the The Ill Feeling for a few minutes.

Accidents Occur Whilst Sleeping by Lupen Crook is virtually beyond description, in its darkness it drifts all over the place from evil folk music to electronic beats. It’s twisted. Our Lupen sings of rape, skeletons and dead animals. He seems as angry at society as the rest of us ought to be. I like albums like this where there’s use of lots of different instruments: guitars, keyboards, glockenspiel, harmonica, double bass, kazoo , bongos, trumpet, oboe, violins and more.

Ever since hearing Young Folks, I’ve been looking forward to the new album by Peter, Bjorn and John. I was delighted to find that on Writer’s Block, Young Folks (the second best single of the year) is amongst peers.

I’ve recently bought Broadcasting From Home by the Penguin Café Orchestra, I really like it. Vic McGlynn played a piece called Music for a Found Harmonium on her BBC 6music show (that’s soon to be ruined) and such a change in musical direction every now and again is really refreshing.

I’ve also liked Avalanches by Sufjan Stevens, It’s Never Been Like That by Pheonix, Rather Ripped by Sonic Youth and Personality by The Sleepy Jackson (although it isn’t as good as their first album, Lovers). I’m still undecided with respect to Through the Windowpane by Guillemots, I’m not sure I want to mope about that much but I do want to like it. I’m also unreliably informed that Razorlight’s new album is great (so stick that in your pipe and smoke it).

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Melodious, 38p-richer, Curious Exiles,

Coming to you, on a dusty road, it's the second installment of the new feature of The Bellyaches. I know it was missed badly last week, but it had to be cancelled on the grounds that the last episode of the East Fife Mail was light on news and heavy on advertisements. Despite the fact that they have failed to report the triumphs of the AFTN B.A.S.T.A.R.D.s, the East Fife Mail is back on form. For exiles of the Kingdom, and especially the Danish readers, I have reviewed this week's edition.

There's public outcry over the rubbish that has accumulated at the beach near Dumbarnie, a small hamlet between Largo and Elie. It's nice that the East Fife Mail have given publicity to this litter but they ought to have noted that the worst offenders in the game of fly-tipping are Fife Council.The Polis organised an outdoor disco called BLING to keep the young ruffians off the streets. Revellers were breathalysed on entry. I was one of the five turned away, I failed because my breath smelled of sweet soul music.There was drama in Methil with some guns. Thankfully, no one has been incarcerated. Names have been blurred because of the alleged involvement of guns.
According to the District Newsdesk, all the forthcoming action is happening in Denbeath, they've got an invitation, to make a reservation.Apart from the affairs of the fishermen, things haven't ran so smoothly in Weymss. The chairman has had a thinly-veiled pop at the cave guides, but things turned out okay.
There is an interesting opportunity to work in the Anstruther Fisheries Museum, apparently only a 74% commitment level is required, employees are free to trash the rest of the museum.Elsewhere, the door is open for a member of the proletariat to become the personal assistant to Christine May MSP. From this post, it might just be possible to implement a few independent policies or pull a few strings and eventually weasel a path to employment as First Minister.Again, there's no place for me to live. I'd rather my house overlooked the fifth or sixth.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006


After the football triumphs of which I informed the Tournament Fanatics Bereft of Fabulous Beasts, I decided to learn more about socialism. I carried out some reading, of sources that I wouldn’t recommend, and I’ve decided that there’s some good ideas in it – I may have to reconsider the manifesto of the Alternative Land Use Party. I’ve certainly become more principled; I refused to accept a carrier bag for the sandwich I bought from Marks & Spencer despite the fact I was already juggling a jersey (because it was too warm), an iPod and a wallet, I also refused a carrier bag for the carton of milk and loaf of bread that I bought from my local convenience store and I wrote those angry letters.

I decided to read Animal Farm by George Orwell. It’s perhaps one of those books everyone should read, although I don’t believe in forcing people to fall into line. I read 1984 a few years ago, I found it scary but worthy of my interest, other than my recent foray into socialism, this was as good a reason as any to read Animal Farm. I don’t see any need to comment on Animal Farm, it speaks for itself, like Orwell hoped. I would recommend acquiring a copy like the one I found in Leven library that includes the prefaces by Orwell (the original unpublished preface that was eventually added in 1972 and a preface written specially by Orwell for Ukrainian readers) as they were helpful to me in my exploration of these important and poorly-understood theories.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Readers of a Reconnaissance Report by a Blatherskite,

Fringe Sunday was okay, it was a way to spend Sunday afternoon. The concept of Fringe Sunday is that Fringe acts perform to the public for free in the Meadows.

The Main Stage featured a mixture of people who were all a bit shoddy; I suppose they might have been fine to have a picnic in front of, as many people did. The Comedy Tent was packed from early on, I haven’t been in a mood for comedy anyway this year, and they’re all peddling the same jokes: goths in summer, MSN Messenger speak, gingers etc. I am far funnier. Outside the tents, the various physical performers competed for the crowds, circles formed around them as they fooled, but once you’ve seen one fire-eater, you’ve seen them all.

I gravitated towards the New Music Tent where XFM Scotland’s Jim Gellatly was announcing the bands onto the stage. I missed Found, who I’m always impressed by whenever I hear them on the radio or television. I watched Das Contras, a band from the Kingdom who play psychedelic jazz-funk with a Latin flavour; I actually enjoyed listening to them despite the genre they peddle. If a band’s enthusiasm spreads out to the crowd, they’re halfway there.

The next band was The Noel Prior Band. I decided to stay in the tent for this one because the poster said they recently been on the Janice Long show, seems like something Janice would claim. I like listening to Janice Long’s show after the Mark Radcliffe’s show if I’m still awake, but it’s best to be asleep before Pause For Thought. Janice’s musical choices for me are split into two camps, the mildly-pleasant-middle-of-the-road-stuff and the really-cool-inspired-stuff. On this inspection, The Noel Prior Band fell into the first bracket. I find it difficult to see much in bog-standard four-pieces but it was mildly pleasant and the MOR wallowers were given a good time.

Noel Prior plugged the next band, North Atlantic Oscillation, but it was difficult to believe the two bands were really mutual admirers. NAO are a duo, one played drums and the other a guitar over some electronic beats. They had the MOR wallowers deserting en masse. I liked their stuff. Sam was thrashing a guitar and Ben was bashing drums. They reminded me of Idiot Pilot a bit. Vocally, I was comparing Sam to Grandaddy and Death Cab for Cutie in my head.

I had to desert after that. No Step Project was the next act, rapper Soom T’s latest solo venture. British Airways had lost her laptop so she was going to rap over some dance tracks. I just can’t take female vocals over dance tunes, these records are the scourge of Radio 1 and I greeted Soom T’s noise in the same way I do daytime Radio 1, I avoid it.

Distant Cousins who Cherish Chiropterans,

After being angered into to writing angry letters, I was angered further when I found that someone had used up all my envelopes and stamps, but I bought some envelopes on the way to Perth – where I was headed to see King Creosote and the Fence Collective at Perth Theatre.

Perth Theatre isn’t Perth Concert Hall where I saw the Zutons. It’s a much smaller building in the High Street, it’s a typical, old-fashioned theatre with plush balconies and regal mouldings and crests adorning the arena. I aimed to arrive at 8.30pm and I did, it said 8pm on the ticket but usually with Perth Theatre or Concert Hall which are under the same Horsecross management, the bands don’t start playing until 8.45pm or 9pm. However, as I was being shown to my seat, I was disappointed to see Pictish Trail was just finishing his first set of songs.

Gummi Bako was next on stage. He played for a delightful half hour. He’s funny, his songs are funny and he was great to watch. His voices just make me laugh, but behind all the hilarity, there’s a genuine craft and talent for song-writing. It’s about time someone put him on the radio.

Mr Pictish came back for two songs which were very good, King Creosote played accordion on the second and afterwards apologised for the quality of his accordion playing, I couldn’t tell the difference, no one plays accordion these days, but he decided to persevere with it after the break and rightly so.

The shiny, red accordion was in use for songs Leslie (not Glenrothes, calling a song after the world capital of roundabouts would be silly, using the piddly town next door as a name is inspired), Russian Sailor Shirt and for the big favourite, Circle My Demise. KC was later joined by his band; Pictish Trail on guitar and vocals, Le Baron Rouge on bass guitar and On The Fly on drums. The banter between the band between and during (the rotten clapping of Twin Tub Twin) songs was brilliant. The venue was only half-filled, perhaps the rest of Perth had been scared off by the bat that Pictish had found a note warning of, but it was their loss. The night was lively but relaxed at the same time. KC ended his magnificent set with 678 – a favourite of mine, perhaps the anthem of my horrible finals time; at the back of my mind, I always thought that I might just get the 2:1 to launch me on my way to superstardom and the aid of our capitalist oppressors. Along with Gummi Bako, they encored with The Happy Song, the bat wasn’t blasted out but the satisfied crowd went home with their ears ringing.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Tumultuous Greenhorns, Formerly Doctrinaires,

At least 6 years ago, we studied The Cone-Gatherers as a Higher English class at school under the tutelage of the irrational Ms. Flatman; it’s an unpredictable and thought-provoking masterpiece.

I recently picked The Missionaries by the same author, Robin Jenkins from the library. The book is set mainly on the remote and fictional, Scottish island of Sollas. The island’s wealthy owner has lawfully been given permission to see that a small band of Christian sectarians, who claim the island is their ancestral home and that they have been guided there by God, be banished.

The book’s main character, Andrew Doig, is a university student who has spoken at rallies against the decision taken by the Sheriff, also his uncle, which creates tension in his respected family. He also attracts the attention of the island owner’s beautiful daughter, Marguerite, during her visit to the mainland. Invited by Marguerite, Andrew travels to the island at the same time the Sheriff and a group of policemen do to enforce the departure of the religious invaders.

As in The Cone-Gatherers, Robin Jenkins creates suspense through the abundance and quality of his characters that he writes into the plot, their motives and actions are explored thoroughly and I was left wondering exactly who would have the final bearing on Andrew’s journey of self-discovery – the disordered police force were a source of amusement and I was suspicious of them. After vehemently speaking against the removal of the sectarians from the island, Andrew soon learns that it’s not the best idea to cast judgement without knowing all the facts and he has to re-assess his position in life.

There are many relevant lessons to be learnt from The Missionaries; we aren’t always seen by others in the way we think we are or would like to be, sometimes we have to be flexible in what we believe – it isn’t always true and ideas may have to be completely discarded, and sometimes we don’t really believe in what we say we do.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Exhausted Footballers Headed Where Youth and Laughter Go,

The opening day of the Embra Fringe Festival is usually very special and the 2-for-1 offers on most shows just make it better. The Pleasance Courtyard is a fine place to be of an August evening.

I gazed at our tickets to find out the exact venue where we would see Colin & Fergus. I noticed I had purchased tickets numbered 1 to 4. We saw Colin & Fergus last year and they were good fun. I expected much more from them this year after hearing the first episode of Colin & Fergus’s Digi Radio on BBC7. They were playing in a venue called Pleasance Beside – a portakabin beside the courtyard buildings. As we entered, a strange man was sitting in the corner singing the words to ABBA and Elton John songs over the records in a Phoenix Nights karaoke-stylee. This year, Colin & Fergus have streamed their sketches into an hour-long plot: the case of ace detective Rutherford Lodge versus the Three Men in a Tub. Everything they did was a hit, it’s meticulously planned and much of it is ridiculous but that’s where their comedy lies, it doesn’t rely upon the shock value that Little Britain strives for, but on much more fun surprises and on a range of characters that aren’t just there to provide a catchphrase. Colin & Fergus’s show is enormously physical and the expressions on their faces add to the excellent plot, otherwise, they would never get away with something as lame as Scissors, Paper, Stone interspersed with a murder investigation. Along with Dave McNeill, who joined their show this year, Colin & Fergus were sublime and I can’t wait to hear them on the radio or see them again.

We decided to wander up to the Royal Mile and try to admire the street acts. There was an inexplicably huge crowd around Silver. I can’t believe that there’s really a niche in the market for people who coat themselves in metallic paint and move as a robot might. Further up the street, an Asian girl plucked pathetically at what appeared to be a home-made instrument. At the very end of the road cordoned off for official street acts, a man cracked whips. On our way back down, another performer leafleting and plugging their show decided to become rude when we informed her that we had a full schedule for the evening.

After refreshments, we returned to the Pleasance, to see Russell Howard in the Pleasance Upstairs venue. Russell has formed a show, Wandering, to teach us to appreciate the unusual and joyous moments or events that, however incidental, occur everyday, from a women dancing to her iPod or a man putting a botherer in their place. Russell recounted many of his encounters with people, it was a brilliant show. He reminded me of how Ross Noble used to be: quick-witted, energetic, original, super-observant, and erratic. Russell didn’t try to victimise any of the audience, which I regard as an important feature, although I remained worried that he would, but he let people contribute if they wanted to, as always there was one who perhaps tried to become too involved. I’m not sure how to feel, I will either try to appreciate these small moments more when they occur (I might even write about them here) or I’ll be disappointed when I don’t come across these moments (in which case, I won’t write about them – but there’s the guy on the checkouts at the shop where I buy juice and he’s always really friendly to every customer, he never scans all of their groceries, he deliberately does favours for all these strangers, I wonder if he’s some sort of Marxist).

We left the Pleasance Upstairs to Ryan Adams’ So Alive, one of my favourites to get some quick refreshments before the beginning of Mark Watson’s new show, I’m Worried That I’m Starting to Hate Almost Everyone in the World in the Pleasance Upstairs 10 minutes later. I really liked this show, one of 3 Mark's doing at the Fringe this year, he's writing a book with his audience in another and also performing a 36-hour long epic. Mark Watson was really warm and friendly, his audience felt at ease with him, maybe because they pitied him or because he was a touch self-deprecating. The show was based on the story of how Mark Watson was mugged and how he started to doubt the goodness of people. He was aided in his act by a furry sack, containing items which represented each of the seven sins; after audience members drew the items from the sack, he’d talk about the sins. He started the show by holding a vote for having the noisy air conditioning on or off and talking about how there’s always a “lull” in Fringe shows about 40 minutes where the audience just wants the show to finish, he asked an audience member to shout out after 40 minutes had gone. During this “lull”, Mark said he’d stop telling jokes and let us all relax; of course, during the “lull”, he kept chatting to us and remarked ‘you may have noticed that the lull was much like the rest of the show’. I’d definitely recommend Mark Watson to other Fringe-goers, he’s very entertaining and not at all like a wading bird, and I think this was my favourite show of the night.

We saw three really good shows, all for about £12. I have a real gift for not buying into rubbish so I'll have to buy some more tickets to see more stuff.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Tournament Fanatics Bereft of Fabulous Beasts,

During this troubled time in the East Fife’s history, a number of committees and actions groups have been formed; one of them, Fife Fans for the Future (FFFF), organised a 7-a-side football tournament for the public yesterday. This was the signal for the East Fife fans team (the B.A.S.T.A.R.D.s – I always wanted to call the team “The Jim Moffat Football Experience”) to reform.

I shouldn’t really be in an East Fife fans football XI, there ought to be 11 people who want to play football and who are more committed to East Fife than me, however I was roped in because I'm reasonably competent; it suited me to be a member of a team like this, there was no pressure to train or play and games were supposed to about fun. The team travelled the world playing other clubs’ fans teams. I rose from the position of right-back (my favourite) to centre-back (not my favourite, but it’s advantageous to have the best defender in a central position). Results were chequered. I was promoted to captain. Unfortunately, the manager found it difficult to organise a team for each match, the no-pressure, social reasons for forming the team meant that people weren’t committed to turning up for matches. The manager gave up, he was replaced with another who wasn’t committed to turning up and by the time I found myself managing the team, it was a shambles. The second manager railroaded his way back onto the scene but the same events occurred and the team petered out.

Mustering 7 from the old squad shouldn’t have difficult for the tournament, 10 players (the squad size for this tournament) were originally named alongside a guest manager. 4 players and the manager called off. A new goalkeeper was found on the internet forum and another two players were recruited – that meant a squad of 9 was expected to turn up to be managed by me. Come 1pm, when the tournament was scheduled to begin, there were five of us with no strips. 15minutes later, we had 8 players, but no goalie, and Igor (founder of the B.A.S.T.A.R.D.s and key organiser) broke the news that he couldn’t bring our usual strips and had brought his old football team’s instead – red with yellow trimmings, emblazoned their sponsors, (I aim to understand what Marxism is and I'd be welcome to help in doing so). We had a squad picture taken by GoF for the AFTN website who was our sponsor on the day. I invented a name (Craig Paterson) for the goalie in case he eventually showed up and with the final space on the team sheet, I wrote “Dave Griffin”. Dave Griffin is a legend; he’s been with me at every club I’ve managed. In the event of an absolute personnel crisis, a complete stranger (to the organisers) gets dragged onto the team and plays the match, a sort of wild card player.

Meanwhile, 14 teams had been expected to compete, only 5 showed. It was to be a league system with the top 4 going to semi-finals. Despite how rotten we were, there was a chance we might have just qualified.

I asked my players to arrange themselves into my formation and follow my tactics, and I appointed a replacement goalkeeper, ahead of our first game against a team all adorned with Rangers strips called “Juventitmuss”. The black-shirted referee mocked me because I forgot about the whole meet-in-the-centre-shake-hands-flick-coin-and-decide-ends-and-kick-off thing that captains do. The game ended 0-0. We were the better team and we had more shots at their goal but a 10minute match wasn’t long enough to convert our pressure into goals.

The second match of the tournament saw us score our only goal of the tournament. We defeated the Memory Corporation team 1-0, a long range strike by Peter Bell (our best player, he actually plays in the junior leagues – a high standard) was parried by the keeper and James Campbell (intrepid East Fife Mail reporter) dived to head the loose ball into the net. The Memory Corp. (what do the Memory Corp. do?) weren’t bad, we dealt with their attacks well but we were the better side. I even managed a shot on target, the keeper made a world-class save. This was our first game with the blue-shirted referee, he was an idiot; he allowed all sorts of fouls to go unpunished and when I told him that his job was to protect the players and ensure their safety, he was rather unreasonable. I think I annoy my opponents when I play football because I'm always shouting at my team-mates (not the other team's players, that doesn't help me and not usually the referee, I was actually rather polite to him) and it's usually a constant drone, I gain some notoriety for it. I know any team that I'm on isn't going to be the best and organisation is usually our best hope, hence I go about organising.

We faced the tournament favourites in the next match, Grays Bicycles were put together by some East Fife directors and they included some experienced amateur league players. We were on the defensive for periods of this game but I re-arranged the formation with some sublime tactical know-how to limit any damage. They managed a shot against our bar but we also made their keeper perform some heroic stops. It finished 0-0. More stupidity from the blue-shirted referee did not help our case.

With our position in the semi-finals guaranteed, courtesy of our sole victory and clean sheets, I tried to rest some players in the final meaningless group game. Both teams played in red, the blue-shirted referee did nothing to remedy this situation, of course, it was chaotic and it was difficult to work out where my attackers were to pass to them. After a while, I decided just to concentrate on organising our defence and let the attackers do as they wished. The game finished 0-0.

In the semi-final, we faced the Grays Bicycles team again, in a match presided over by the black-shirted referee. They were a little weaker by this time; they had obviously tired and were using their weaker squad players. Nevertheless, we stayed true to form and racked up another 0-0 scoreline. We had a few shots but our keeper wasn’t tested by their efforts. The game was to be decided on penalties – three kicks each. Each team scored two and it went to sudden death. I was trying to avoid taking a kick, I’m generally hopeless at shooting and all activities in the opposing team’s half of the pitch. As manager, I queued up all the other members of the team before me. Every kicker had scored their sudden death kick until their seventh player had his saved by Darren Twinnie, by which time, I had run out of players to ask to take a kick apart from Gordon. I decided to keep Gordy in reserve and I scored, which was nice.

In the final we faced, the Memory Corp. team. We stood a great chance of actually winning the tournament after having already beaten them. The final didn’t go well for us, we had already surpassed our expectations. We just seemed to lose the plot, the midfielders and the attackers didn’t help out the defenders as much as they should have. We conceded a goal in the first half but I expected our team to get stronger in the second half after the substitution. They didn’t. The defence still lacked support and overworked, began to tire, at least that’s the excuse I make for the usually-reliable David Twinnie failing to prevent the clinching goal. I was coming forward more often in the second half to help get an equaliser and relying upon David Twinnie to do the defensive work but soon he was carted off by the St John’s Ambulance man after a late challenge by their player (the blue-shirted fool awarded nothing) and that’s when our hopes evaporated. We got the ball forward into their box a number of times towards the end but it was in vain. I looked around longingly for a Dave Griffin but there wasn't any.

Runners-up was not what I expected we would become at 1pm or even when I thought all 9 players would turn up and even when the preliminary 10 were announced. With this achievement on my football management CV, I’m certainly the hot favourite to succeed Dave Baikie when he’s inevitably sacked. I didn’t go to McPhail’s tavern to collect my runners-up medal at the after-tournament ceremony, I had to quickly rush off to the city.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Petering, Penurious Controllers of Sporting Gangs,

East Fife kicked off a new season in the Third Division today against Stenhousemuir. Stenny were narrowed squeezed out of the promotion places last year so today’s match could have been a tough task for East Fife, but it’s impossible to predict anything in the lower divisions at the start of the season. Such is the lack of money at this level of the Scottish football, each team releases so many players at the end of their league campaigns only to be left with the chore of almost complete re-staffing before the end of July.

After the efforts of the Down With Brown campaign last year, dastardly chairman Derrick Brown has been replaced by Willie Gray and Sid Collumbine. But, in a bizarre twist, Brown has been retained at the club in a paid position, with the title of secretary/treasurer no less. Firstly, Brown was a PR disaster last year – he’s not the type of man I’d trust with any communications outside his own cranium. Secondly, in a bizarre situation whereby a nine year-old girl is the major shareholder overseen by Brown as chairman, he’s not a man I’d rely upon to provide financial security and transparency. The continued employment of Brown has meant that the Down with Brown protest campaign has continued, they say they’ll continue to stand on the mound outside the ground until he leaves, and rightly so.

The shuffling of board positions worries me, the demotion of Brown may merely be a façade, but I don’t know exactly for what – fans generally don’t care what happens behind the scenes if the team is successful. Willie Gray is the new chairman; he was formerly on the board of directors at hated local rivals, Raith Rovers. Sid Collumbine has taken the position of vice-chairman after recently purchasing a number of shares; he has held director positions at both Stenhousemuir and Dumbarton. Raith Rovers supporters recently led their own campaign to remove their board of directors (including Gray) after poor on-field performances and shady off-field dealings. What worries me about the East Fife protestors is that once Brown has gone, they’re willing to accept the tenure of Gray and Collumbine at their club and return to the stadium. I don’t trust either, if I were a supporter of a club – Raith Rovers, Dumbarton or Stenhousemuir – I’d remain loyal to them. Fans don’t change their team. There seem to be many characters in the lower leagues of Scottish football that flit from club to club, I question their motives, they can only be doing this for themselves; exploiting each club. In my view, East Fife need a rich local man who is a fan of East Fife to invest in them, someone who is fiercely loyal to East Fife only and is willing to accept losing his own money to see East Fife be successful.

Today, I paid to watch the game in the stadium; standing on the mound will not remove all the figures from the club who I’d like to see go and above all, I just wanted to watch the game with an unrestricted view. East Fife started with only one player who was at the club last season; although he was never a regular player, so it was effectively a whole new team. Stenhousemuir seemed to have also undergone widespread changes.

It finished 0-0 but it was quite entertaining, both sides had chances. In the first half, an East Fife striker had a great opportunity from 8 yards but failed to beat the keeper; he rolled the ball rather tamely towards the keeper’s left-hand post instead of blasting it high into the net, cult-figure, Stenny goalie Willie McCulloch wasn’t to be fooled. Iain Ross, East Fife’s new keeper made an amazing save from a close-range flicked volley. It’s a real shame that there are no video cameras at these games; moments of action like that really ought to be preserved, it reminded me of one David Marshall (Celtic) made against Barcelona.

Despite all the new players, it was a typical East Fife performance; they kick the ball as far as they can in the direction that they face and they still can’t take throw-ins. East Fife had most of the chances in the second half with Blackadder sending over many good crosses but these weren’t converted into goals. At the other end, Stenhousemuir had an effort cleared off the line by Jonathan Smart, East Fife also survived an epic scramble in their six-yard box.

It’s difficult to judge how well East Fife will do this season on the basis of this game; these two teams might well be the two title contenders. East Fife will undoubtedly fare better if their off-field crisis is solved and the mound protestors return to the stadium to give their full backing to the players in a noisy and exciting Bayview, somehow, I think this will be a hope that goes unfulfilled for a long time.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Remote, 38p-richer, Moonstruck Peepers,

I felt I was beaten to the crunch over the discussion of Harbor yesterday and that I’d be as well to review this week’s East Fife Mail, at least it will keep the Danish Bellyaches massive in the loop.

The main issue this week is the need to capture a hit-and-run driver. Thankfully, the young girl survived, although she suffered horrible injuries. Police hope the man, who is described as local, will turn himself in.

I’m not condoning the crime and it is a serious issue. However, there’s always a ridiculous headline in the East Fife Mail, the offence is too serious for punnery, but at the same time, it's just rather poor. Don’t commit the crime and the headline won’t be needed. 200hours of community service was the punishment.

There was also a fire, the fire brigade dealt with it.

There was a correction; the East Fife Mail printed the wrong address of a man who stole some computers. I’m not sure why the apology is necessary, did a vigilante squad turn up with their baseball bats and flamethrowers at the wrong address?

Some sandals are for sale, so too are some ice skates.

There are some interesting jobs advertised - a position is available for a technical chemist. This seems rather upmarket for the East Fife Mail, but I’m wary of the type of chemistry that will be in practise. The other advert that caught my attention is an East Fife Mail classic.

Finally, the all-important tide times were announced.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Racially-prejudiced, Dubious, Potential Ornithologists,

I asked when I will return to rockin’ the suburbs. I thought that seeing a troglodyte might put things in perspective; I didn’t.

Guillemots and razorbills were unusually close to the shore, I paused to watch them fish and the terns plunge through the waves that sloshed against the erosion defences. In this mood, terns, guillemots and razorbills weren’t good enough for me, I wanted to see gannets.

I was asked how I know which books to read. It’s simple; unless I’m choosing a book because of a specific connection (a favourite author or subject). I always judge books by their covers – my attention will always be drawn to books on which the title and the author’s name are written in a classier font. The cover of Harbor by Lorraine Adams attracted me, it also says “Winner of the LA Times Book Prize”, but that meant little to me, I don’t know if that’s an important award, it might just be a fake title - awards only mean something to those who need them. My Latest Novel haven’t slapped a big sticker on every copy of their album saying “Nominated for The Bellyaches Music Prize 2006”.

Harbor concerns the life of Aziz Arkoun, an Algerian who illegally enters the USA as a stowaway on an oil tanker. He’s initially taken in by a Muslim family but they soon try to rid themselves of him when they learn that he is Algerian. Aziz finds his cousin, Rafik, and moves into his one-bedroom flat alongside several other Algerians and Rafik’s American girlfriend. Aziz is later joined by a brother and some other close friends from his hometown. Their lives are going well until it emerges that Rafik is involved with stolen goods, but these shady dealings cause the police and FBI to mark the Algerian household as a terrorist cell.

This book is sometimes tough to read but it is definitely rewarding. I admire its completeness; Lorraine Adams even-handedly explores the attitudes towards immigrants, through a range of characters representing a wide cross-section of people immigrants are likely to encounter. Refreshingly, Adams does not blatantly ask for sympathy for Aziz and his compatriots, their naivety, flaws and errors of the protagonists in their attempt to integrate into a new country is documented in a way that is quite unusual and that other authors might shy away from doing.

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