Friday, 28 May 2004

photos of Iain MacDonald 3

Here I am as a philosophy lecturer in Montreal University. A trendy one, if my photo is anything to go by. And I speak French too!

hebridean footnotes to punk no 2

John Maher, the Buzzcocks' drummer, now runs John Maher Racing ('performance engines, transmissions and components for your aircooled Volkswagen') from Leverburgh, Harris.

alex's business

This is Alex Matheson's website for his business. I hope it's going well.

Thursday, 27 May 2004

looking in on sleeping babies

On screen, people fighting crime or injustice are always looking in on their sleeping children, often as a way to cleanse themselves from the unpleasantness of the world they find themselves in. A cliche, but - though my world's hardly unpleasant - I do it all the time now. I hope this doesn't mean I'm going to come to a sticky end, which is what usually follows.

photos of Iain MacDonald No 2

John's already come across this one: Monarch Iain Macdonald of the Van Zor Grotto in Vancouver. We both have glasses, but I don't have a hat or a chain of office like he does - an oversight on someone's part. 'If you are a master mason, inquire about joining a grotto in your area. You and your lady will be welcomed into an enjoyable and rewarding experience.' Some of the other photos on the page are excellent too - 'our master of ceremonies at his post' probably my favourite.

tailors to the emperor

Part of Charles Saatchi's collection of publicity material went up in flames this week. A nation mourns.

Wednesday, 26 May 2004

photos of Iain MacDonald No 1

This is the traditional/folk multi-instrumentalist from the Highlands. He doesn't look much like me, but you might guess we came from the same part of the world. Possibly the most well-known Iain MacDonald (or Iain Dòmhnallach). He's very good. I saw him long ago when he was with (my uncle) Ryno in Fir Chlis, and on a recent holiday in Lewis at a Gaelic music college concert.

My version of the 'Are You Dave Gorman?' challenge wouldn't take long to complete.

a book cover

I finished reading a detective novel yesterday. It was a 60s paperback, and the cover photo was of a rifle and a pistol. No pistol is mentioned in the book until a plot twist very late on - but I was ready for it, thanks to the cover. A very odd cover image decision.

easier than Munro-bagging

I think Hamlet's the only Shakespeare play I've seen more than twice (unless you count Return to the Forbidden Planet). The current reckoning is that he wrote 37 plays; a quick scan of this list suggests I've got eight to go.

I finished reading Richard III recently, and it was interesting to see that in all the textual variants between the different early editions, the choice as to which was Shakespeare's original seemed largely based on which was the best - the self-fulfilling prophecy approach to genius.

Consistency of Bible manuscripts, many centuries older, compares very favourably with the consistency of early Shakespeare editions.

Tuesday, 25 May 2004


I saw Hamlet at the Old Vic last Thursday, while my better half and our better generation were up in Shrewsbury in advance of my working weekend. I think it's the seventh time I've seen it on stage (mostly in my first few years in London): at the Royal Lyceum in Edinburgh (Simon Russell Beale played Osric, I think); at the official Edinburgh Festival (in the CofS Assembly Hall, I think) with David Threlfall; RSC Barbican with Mark Rylance; Barbican (RSC or not) with Kenneth Branagh; Riverside Studios with Alan Rickman; Old Vic with knitted costumes and scenery, and actor whose name I could look up; National Theatre with Daniel Day-Lewis. So, eighth time.

This one's USP was that all the young characters were played by young actors. If its aim was to remind us that Hamlet was just an annoying mopey student, then it succeeded. Polonius (Nicholas Jones?) was easily the best thing in it: usually played as a tedious windbag, in this he was a loving father and wise counsellor. Imogen Stubbs was Gertrude: she played her essentially as Rachel from Friends, which was entertaining in its own way.

Mark Rylance was the best I've seen: it became a very funny play in his hands. I'm sorry I didn't get along to see him do it in Shakespeare's Globe, where he's now artistic director.

You can't see Hamlet too often. Bethan would disagree.

PS John commented, 'I know I shouldn't agree, but I'm with Bethan on this one.'
I said, 'As one apocryphal American said to another on the way out of a performance, 'It's nothing but cliches'.'

Monday, 24 May 2004

hebridean footnotes to punk no 1

Jamie Reid became famous as the designer of The Sex Pistols' artwork and publicity materials. He was living in Lewis when he got the call from Malcolm Maclaren. Not sure what he was doing - this interview suggests nothing much. Little did we know.

rinkydinkyding kading

Ice cream van chimes. Greensleeves and The Teddy Bears' Picnic are pretty common. But we've started hearing one near home which uses the main theme from The Third Man. I wonder if they've ever seen the film.

Thursday, 20 May 2004

a well-rounded education

Phill Jupitus described Mark Lamarr's passion for music in an interesting way on Jonathan Ross's radio show once - 'he knows about music he doesn't even like'. JR of course turned it into nonsense, by chipping in 'about music that doesn't even exist', and they were off. But it was a good description.

PS John commented, 'I recorded 2 hours of Jonathan Ross' show onto my iPod at the weekend only to find myself listening to Mark Lamarr instead. Have been listening to episodes of Just a Minute from 1975 instead.'
I replied, 'Do you not like him? It's always a special day for us when Mark's on instead of Jonathan. Although sidekick Mark Steel relies too much on the '[something I disagree with]? That's like [preposterous analogy]' comedy structure, which Ian Hislop reacted against on Have I Got News For You?'

Wednesday, 19 May 2004

art versus architecture

Word magazine last issue had a sub-feature on art school bands. It included Pink Floyd, on the strength of Syd Barrett's art-school background, and listed their most art school moment as The Wall concept - by which time of course Syd was long, and far, gone. More interestingly, the other three original band members (Roger, Nick and Richard), who were still around, were all architecture students. Which by any reckoning makes The Wall in fact their most architecture school moment.

(David Gilmour was, I think, an art student, though I'm not sure about that.)


There are places where owning more than one pair of shoes, if you are a man, marks you out as a dandy. As indeed does using the word dandy.

Tuesday, 18 May 2004

island life

It was John's revival of his blog, with its new - and to me, mysterious - name of Fresh Foot that kicked me off on this.

There are only two weblogs in the Outer Hebrides that I've come across.

One is a kind of set of weblogs by Neil Finlayson, who I think is my second cousin. They're pretty techy and static - except that having looked it up again for this, I see there's been some recent activity.

The other, 'proper' one, which I look at fairly regularly, is Island Life, kept by the Heggies to cover their relocation to Leurbost from Yorkshire last year, for their friends and family.

I often wonder if it's turning out as they'd expected: are they less busy (they've each set up a business - he computers, she home furnishings and textiles); is their quality of life better; are they becoming part of the community; and so on. I'd ask them, but I think they get enough correspondence from people they don't know, much of it from people seeking advice on how, where and if they should relocate. But they seem to be enjoying it.

PS John commented 'Fresh Foot: I realised that you asked me about this and I hadn't responded. Well, it was one of those spur of the moment things; a conjunction of "fresh leaf" and "best foot forward". In addition I do in fact have moderatly fresh feet.'

PPS John's weblog is now (2005) called MMV (more muttered verbitude).

nutter in tesco's

While in Tesco's one lunchtime last week I made a suggestion to a couple of members of staff who were standing chatting - to the lady, in fact, who I knew was the important one because she had a bunch of keys (a la ET).

The sandwiches are in a chilled unit with narrow deep shelves, and people always take ages and get in each other's ways because you have to bend down and peer in to see the labels telling you the fillings, because the labels are on the upper half of the package - all you can see easily on the shelves are the bottom halves of the sandwiches, which give a little clue but not much. I suggested they should put the labels on the lower half of the package, which would make things quicker and easier.

The lady gave the impression she thought it was a good idea, and said she would 'pass it on to head office'.

Who'd have thought I'd ever be so old that I would give unsolicited advice on sandwich packaging in supermarkets?

Monday, 17 May 2004


'Tonight there's going to be a jailbreak, somewhere in this town'.

I'm no expert, but I'm guessing it'll be in the vicinity of the jail.

Neither the first nor the last to notice this Thin Lizzy lyrical oddity, which I heard on the radio again this weekend.

At school we (not sure who we all were) came up with the idea of the Poison Pen Pal Club, whereby people could get things off their chest and vent their spleen in letters which they could send to us. Don't think we decided whether we would just throw them away, write back ourselves, or pair them up like proper penpals so they could continue to write unpleasant letters to each other about things which meant nothing to the reader.

Some years later saw an episode of Mash, which had certainly been recorded before our day, which used the 'poison pen pal' line.

And Jack Nicholson's letters to the sponsored child in Africa in About Schmidt are not far from the schoolboy idea.

Perhaps Phil Lynott had in mind a metaphorical rather than literal jailbreak, in the vein of The Boomtown Rats' Rat Trap. No, probably not.

PS John commented, 'Now, did you think that writing M*A*S*H was too much hassle, or did you decide that the internet requires this as it does lower case "i"s and other grammatical shortcuts?'
And I replied, 'I thought giving it the full caps (even without the stars) would draw the eye and give it undue prominence. Honestly, the things I think about.'

daddy's girl

Daddy's girl and mummy's boy - parallel constructions, but one's a term of affection and the other's an insult. Funny old world. (Though some people would tell you that the world is neither funny nor old.)

Friday, 14 May 2004

that's you, that is

John's quoted in the Independent today, because WH Smith are cutting the number of different magazine titles they stock, and Sight and Sound will be one of those to go. John is S&S's publisher, which makes him sound very important indeed.

Another title also going is History Today, which I know better as a Baddiel and (nearly said Skinner) Newman sketch.

One of the things I dislike about WH Smith's is that whichever branch you go into, wherever you are, will have essentially the same stock of books and magazines as the others. Where's the fun in that? Another reason why second-hand bookshops are better.

raw spirit

Borrowed Raw Spirit by Iain Banks from the library on Monday lunchtime because I had nothing to read over lunch. Of course, I spent most of lunchtime in the library finding a book.

Most extreme example of such behaviour was when still in school, bought something in Roddy Smith's to read on the bus home - The Penguin Complete Sherlock Holmes. Finished reading it at home on holiday a few years ago. The books aren't as packed with moments of extraordinary detection as one might think - the public image of Sherlock Holmes has transcended what exists on the printed page.