Writings, photos, politics and rants... *Original content - may not be reproduced without my consent.*

Saturday, 22 February 2014

Rab Noakes and Tomas Lynch at @milngaviefolk

My live music experiences started in the early eighties. Pubs, clubs, gym halls; small venues with big names and with local unknowns. I feel lucky, mid-Ulster at that time was a bit of a cultural backwater and after the appalling Loyalist paramilitary attack that killed The Miami outside my town, I now realise how brave the showband musicians who still played to the non-sectarian weekend working-class crowds in pubs on Friday and Saturday nights really were.

Bands from the British music scene sometimes braved the troubles and my spitting distance experience of them was probably very different to the heaving gigs English, Scottish, Welsh and even Republic of Ireland fans had, because the big names came to play in front of crowds of at times, a couple of hundred young people braving, or ignorant to the threat of sectarian death squads.

Tonight in Milngavie, I felt that lucky. A crowd of just over 100 crowded into the small Frazer Centre taken over for the night by the, what I learned in conversation with other audience members, LEGENDARY Milngavie Folk club for a gig by two superb performers, Tomas Lynch and Rab Noakes.

Tomas Lynch, full of nerves, enthralled with songs of beauty and rhythm some old and a few new to me. His story and his stories looked and shone and beat and strummed and picked and smiled and cried out of him. A man battling demons but projecting angels. A hidden diamond in the rough who deserves more time. I hope next time he plays those pipes.

On comes Rab Noakes, a man I first saw only a couple of years ago. A member of another world of music I am only now accessing as a recentish immigrant and newly freed dad of a more and more independent teenager. The Scottish music scene is incredible and recent finds for me have been Noakes, King Creosote, Dick Gaughan and The Vaselines. OK, The Vaselines are a group I am revisiting because Glasgow City life has made the people performing these wonderful songs accessible. Friends. Yoga teachers. People frequenting the same restaurants and coffee bars as me. Pulling music from the ether that is dreich, dark, dear and green. Noakes and Gaughan I discovered at the anniversary of Reid's socialism in action. Music played to commemorate people working, dignified, fighting the exploiters and much to the anger and venom of the Thatcher butchers, showing the workers could build ships without the bosses. Noakes, 20 years my senior, with the voice of a young man, singing songs of love, travels and murder an arms length from me.  Talking to the crowd, listening, agreeing and disagreeing and like Lynch, unafraid to spit at the Thatcherites out there because he knows we agree and express fear of the ultras draining Scotland and rUK of resources and hope and sister and brotherhood. And those stories of inspiration, travelling and his music comrades satisfied those of us enjoying connections.

I met some new musical friends tonight; songs Rab sang from his album in the making and some of his older stuff I hadn't heard. I also met new versions of Beatles songs and a gorgeous "new" album recorded in 1993 by Lynch. I met new friends appreciating the same enthralling sounds.

And I'll be back to Milngavie Folk Club for more new friends. Original, inspirational, accessible singers and their songs of sunshine, heartache, defiance, murder and love.

Friday, 21 February 2014

Stay with us... @davidbowiereal

In Scotland, the word "stay" has a slightly different meaning than in rUK.

Here, where you "stay" is where you live. David Bowie does not "stay" in UK. He is a tax exile who stays in New York and Switzerland.

Kate Moss nervously read, while dressed in David's babygrow, "Scotland stay with us."

Was the leftfield tongue in cheek ex-Nazi supporter, when he sent his catwalk model servant to the English... I mean "Brit Awards," to make his political opinion known, offering Scots a holiday in one of his many foreign homes? A wee trip abroad with the man with cocaine holes in his brain?
Personally, it would be a holiday in hell. He is a tad pretentious. Imagine lying by his pool while he constantly warbles a new song about being in space with Richard Branson flying in a balloon, mixing up the lyrics to make his nonsense sound even more pretentious? Not for me.

But I might be tempted to stay with Tory tax exile, Michael "blow the bloody doors off" Caine, or the other American tax exile Londoner Rod "Ark Royal" Stewart. Even Skeletor-like Tory Mick Jagger, who also decided his taxes were better paid towards the Vietnam war than the NHS has a cool friend who might drop by if I was to stay with him.

Which aging English rocker or meeja star would make me think to vote no? None to be honest. But glad to hear the sense that Billy Bragg brings to the debate.

Thursday, 20 February 2014

'cause @afneil and the "No" media say so...

Hey! People in Scotland! Stop having an opinion on social media!

Get it into your thick, Jock, colonised heads- only the Westminster aristocratic/millionaire/billionaire hegemony have sensible voices.

The Posh BBC/Etonian accented middle aged men will have your opinion for you because they are naturally, smililey, obviously right.

All the time.

Regardless of your opinion, you are a nasty "cybernat."

So shut up!

You are just being idiots, and bullies. Leave those in power alone, ok?

They know what's best for you.

#Bowie we don't need heroes, just democracy.

Let me, on the off, say I quite like a lot of David Bowie's music. The pretentiousness of his persona does not bother me, though my wife can't stand him, or the other working class Tory glam rocker I have kind of forgiven, Bryan Ferry. But this isn't about music. It is about Bowie's misjudged plea. His distance both physically and in knowledge really did nothing to persuade anyone.

My difficulty with Bowie"s call for Scotland to "stay with us" is four fold.

One, Bowie sent a lackey, in Kate Moss, to collect his award/ make his political statement. This is kind of sums up how the British colonies have been treated over the years by the aloof, unrepresentative London based media and power structures. It comes across in the same way the arms length Tories, who we in the Yes Scotland Campaign know are providing the No campaign's funding, PR and policy- ie. they pull the strings, but get others to do their dirty work.

Two- Scottish artists featured thinly at the "Brit" awards (as did Northern Ireland and Wales), Emile Sande giving an award was the only representation of the huge music scene across our country and she was only there to give an award so there was little chance if a reposte.

Thirdly, this kind of partisanship is demonised when it is about Northern Ireland. Irish politics, with roughly the same percentages of pro and anti union present in the country, is never mentioned by rock stars or any other media darlings - so the only cue for this was Cameron's call for unionists to ask us to reconsider- though I suppose with Bowie's neo- fascist past, his want to please an unelected leader shouldnt be a surprise.

Fourthly, he left the UK in 1974, unwilling to pay his tax, so can hardly say, "stay with us," as he doesn't live here, or was this an invitation for us to a sleepover in his New York or Swiss home?

Next, London tax exile in a tartan suit, Rod Stewart sending Donald Trump to woo us..?

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Class Bigotry

It is shocking that someone is abused as a "lesser being" because of the colour of their skin. I understand the feeling of being on the receiving end to an extent as I have been judged, abused or dismissed because of my mid-Ulster accent. All of those who have given me abuse, have been middle class, white and relatively well off. On one occasion a retired, blue rinsed posh sounding woman in Milngavie town centre, who opposed a Yes vote (as I had been giving out Yes leaflets) told me to go back to my country (I have been in Scotland since 1994). In the same 'respectable, affluent' town (one that now has a food bank- so prejudices can go both ways), someone rode up to me on a bike and sang the first few lines of the sash because, I assume he had assumed I was a catholic. I'm not. Nor am I a nationalist. I am an internationalist and I abhorr racism and bigotry.

I read a report that Tory middle England posho MPs have been caught making fun of those MP's with accents not clipped for Oxbridge debating societies or 1940's newsreels. The assumption by many that posh means knowledge- an assumption made by mostly other posh or socially aspirational people, was shown up on channel four's Benefits Street debate last night.

Latte and life sucking upper middle class people sat in judgement over those who need the help of our welfare safety net. The tension was obvious. Allison Pearson, a Telegraph columnist, walked off the show after being proven to have lied in her paper column, about figures to back up her predjudices about people's lives and a part of society she knows nothing about. The judgement and snobbery  (to be kind to some of them) and misunderstandings about poor people these people who have access to power share is scarey.

The UK, no matter how much it is repeated that it is not by middle class snobs with access to power and the media, is still hugely class divided. And their snobbery and attacks on the poor is a class driven war being won by them. Abuse of people because of their disadvantage- educationally, financially etc is dreadful. Abusing them does not give them the social mobility afforded to any middle class person. Stability does not come from abusing the depressed- those who have grown up in, are surrounded by, the misery of the "bucket" estate or scheme (a term I became familiar with when I lived in Wiltshire).

To the street busker and to the asian Scot SNP MSP who were racially abused on camera- well done for standing up to these bullies. Bullying and predjudice needs to be confronted. Racism, bigotry, homophobia and the last "acceptable"  bigotry- that against the disadvantaged. Even Graham Norton got in on it on Friday night, describing the exploited poor people on The Jeremy Kyle show as "scum." My only access to power is my piddly wee twitter account. He can say awful things to millions of people- and that - like the Telegraph's Pearson, is, at the very least, an uneducated privileged person's abuse of power. 

I hope in the near future, we look back at the bigotry against the disadvantaged with the horror in which we look back at "Love Thy Neighbour," and Jim Davidson's awful racism.

All bigotry by privileged people is an abuse of power.

@nwsocialist tweeted at 9:48 AM on Sat, Feb 15, 2014:
Graham Norton... "scum" meaning exploited poor people? The last acceptable bigotry. @grahnort

Sunday, 9 February 2014

WW1? Let's celebrate Peace in June.

Sign up to our event - come and let's organise a day of music, poetry, drama and PEACE!  Let's celebrate those who, during wars, say - NOT IN OUR NAME!

Sign up on Facebook HERE

Saturday, 8 February 2014

To @the78Glasgow

Vinyl, music, food...
I found another batch of my old records today. Loads more New Order, but what was special was rediscovering Sylvester's "Do Ya Wanna Funk," The Patti Smith Group, "Easter," The Smith's first LP (and the only Smiths album I ever bought) and the springboard to many other groups including The Velvet Underground, Joy Divisions "Still."

I had an afternoon of moving into the house we bought five years ago as I shifted boxes into the roof-space onto boards I bought over a year ago.

And found music I had left behind years ago.

I sang along with "Because the Night" and fetishised the grey card cover of "Still." I flattened the warped copy of Ceremony and remembered how annoyed I used to get when a couple of tracks on my copy of Brotherhood jumped. It doesn't matter so much nowadays.

Listening to them all, I thought, "It's so obvious which of my groups would be remembered." Patti, Morrissey, Curtis- all slightly unhinged - all lyricists of experienced truths.

And I ate my breakfast, had a hot chocolate for lunch and booked The 78, my favourite place to eat in Glasgow.

My second place to eat in Glasgow is another vinyl themed place- Mono. And Stereo, their other wee place isn't too bad. Too City Central for me, but comfortable and lively when you must make the stressful journey into the metropolis.

Dishes, walk dog, chat to other dog walkers, wonder why the storms haven't hit here; steer through trial biked churned mud in the field and listen to Patti one more time.

And then Sonya, Cody the dog and I listen to Luna, Manic Street Preachers, Jesus and Mary Chain and Kraftwerk driving down the yellow lit, dreich Switchback, Crow Road and Expressway, past the SECC, the Finnieston Crane and onto Argyll Street to The 78.

The dog gets excited as we get closer. He does this when we get close to any familiar stops; and we park near the cottage like 78.

There used to be an advert in Ireland for Easons bookshop. It was of fast moving people milling around Belfast City Centre, modern go getters getting going, working, consuming, bees. One person is seen moving towards a door and walks into the bookshop and everything slows down to normal speed. The bookshop is calm and sane. And it's this kind of feeling that walking into The 78 gives. A place for serenity, a shabby chic, healthy place. The music is always just right. The lighting as it should be and nothing on the walls that shouldn't be there.

Its a place we can relax. A place to be.

The people relaxing or serving are a real mix. One middle aged woman relaxes on one of the settees reading a book. A bunch of children with their mum and dad next to our table coo and call Cody. Couples with an age ranging between "fresher" to retired, laugh, discuss and ignore each other.

The young waiter, honest, new, tells us the soup of the day was "different" but not exactly his thing. We order it. I play safe and go for the 78 classic burger and Sonya goes for the falafel burger from the specials board.

The music, unobtrusive but as always cool; the sort of music you hear only in "shabby chic" places or in anywhere cafes in France. Every time I go in, I want to ask, "what is this?" but who would be so uncool? It was like that when I was young and went into record shops. The (always bearded, patched jeans, stony faced) geezer behind the sticker covered counter, framed by the badge covered board behind him, would sneer if you asked him what was playing, his face saying, "how can you not know, you pleb?" while the name of the track and artist punctures your confidence like a teacher telling you are a stupid wee boy. In those days independent record shops just didn't get capitalism. That's why they changed their name every year or so and then became a travel agents or an off licence. I don't think the superb staff in The 78 would sneer. But that formative experience has effected me. Asking about music makes you a lesser person. Perhaps I'll ask next time. Confront. Recover. And nowadays I am the bearded man.

The soup arrived. The bowls were really full. The waiter apologised for spilling some onto the plate. He couldn't help it. Whoever filled the bowls full of the thick, warming, delicious harissa, butter-bean, cauliflower and almond soup knew their physics. The surface tension and the waiter's better hand had held Sonya's huge portion in place on the journey from one end of the reasonably crowded and reasonably densely furnished place of sanity. We say it is OK, and mean it. He barely spilled a teaspoon full. What numpty would complain at that? He is genuinely embarrassed. Jaisis, when I was a waiter, many's a sin I committed with an awkward thumb or misplaced finger. Nobody died. I don't think so anyway. And if they did, it was never traced to me. And what didn't kill them built their immune system. I did them a favour.

The combination of ingredients is unusual, but quite delicious. Whoever comes up with the recipes is a creative.

We chat about the upcoming referendum and how it is now a complete no brainer. It is Scotland's chance at last, to escape the Thatcherism of Thatcher, Major, Blair, Brown, Cameron and Clegg. It really is time to escape the class and soul war of the landed aristocracy that has plunged so many into desperation.
Cody, very patiently, licks his white socks paws.

An x in a box that our forefathers wanting to escape Toryism would have given their right arm arm to be able to cross. Just one wee x to say yes, we will take care of our own now we are free of the anti-democracy the house of the privileged Westminster has become.

The couple at the next table listen and do the human eqivalent of Cody's polite licking and look around the room at the walls, ceiling and floor, interestedly.

Our plates are politely taken away. My head is on the referendum, the pirate ship my P3 class are making and my wife feeling ill. I realise after we leave the new waiter is the German guy I thought was Northern Irish last time.

The burgers arrive. Did I mention that The 78 is vegan? A place we vegetarians and dog owners don't mind if you animal chewers go tl. But don't expect a pork risotto or some sort of cheesy chicken concoction in the menu as a concession to murderous meat oddities. It's all or nothing here. An anti-rib/steak shack.

My burger is really delicious. I want the recipe. Few bought vege-burgers are nice. Most taste processed. These don't. Their texture us not "vege pretending to be meat," no. Neither are they sweetcorn covered in stodge. Mine is soft, well milled, something. And beautifully spiced. And their homecut chips are what mum used to make before oven chips stole the deep fat frier from our homes.

Patiently waiting, alert on the floor under the heavy wooden table, tied to the old wooden, reclaimed chair leg, Cody appreciates one or two from Sonya who has been completely beaten by the soup, the burger and the oncoming, creeping, snivelling cold.

I'm not beaten and soldier on to the fig and date sticky toffee pudding with vegan ice-cream I know now is Swedish Glace. I love Swedish Glace, so the fact it isn't homemade doesn't spoil the syrupy gorgeousness of the dish. In fact it completes it. All washed down with a really good cup of coffee- a feat not always pulled off by other restaurants who seem to buy the cheapest, nastiest ground coffee and dilute the hell-fire smoke out of it. Not The 78, Mono or Stereo.

We talk about theatre we never get the time to see and gigs we cant afford because we are fiscally or time poor. Being an old male person, I have to explain what a 78 is. She doesn't feign interest too well, even when I tell her of the load we found in a dump when we were wee and their Bakelite like consistency and how they broke like porcelain when we threw them and the old Jag we played in and hid stuff in the glove-box and smoked the singles the shop lady sold us. She is shivering, definately coming down with something.

I take a photo of a 78 poster for a twitter person who has asked me where is the 78? I tweet, pay the superb German waiter, lift local "what's on" flyers and magazines I won't read and Cody pulls us out and to the car.

And she watches a screaming, stressful murder mystery film and I take myself into another room to listen to the sublime Power, Corruption and Lies (Your Silent Face is just gorgeous), Transmission, Novelty, and Still. And type this with my thumb. And I'll go to bed when I've played Patti Smith one more time at 33 rpm. The speed of an LP. I've never owned a 78.

"A melody, a memory. and a chest of souvenirs... the string... a symbol and a silver tongue of love."

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

After Scottish Equal Marriage bill, An Irish Speech for liberation

On the day after the momentous Equal Marriage vote in the Scottish Parliament, the day when gender and sexuality stopped being an insult and our bigoted society began to mend itself (and on a day I received this text from an MSP friend-

"I was greetin, & there was a standing ovation - in Chamber & gallery! So proud to b part of history"),

we should remember that we have close neighbours who are still legally oppressed.

Ireland, the place I was born and lived in until I was 27; a place that is beautiful and full of wonderful, forward thinking people, still has the most vicious, bigotted people driving public opinion, North and South. Nasty, narrow minded people who should not be given the time of day, never mind time in the Dail or Stormont or the media.

Ireland has also been a place where great art and great speeches supporting emancipation have been made.

Connolly, Larkin, Heaney.

And now Panti. Please watch. This will go down in history.

Follow her on twitter @PantiBliss