Archive for August, 2008

Having a bit of a McLaugh

Wednesday, August 27th, 2008

Scotland does like to have tartan with everything. I listen to the radio in the night a lot because I don’t sleep well and normally I switch between Radio 5 and the World Service but in Scotland it seems to be all Scottish programmes – Fred McCauley who is a great comic but seemed to be on all night when I listened. The next night there was what seemed like hours of an interview with two students about their poetry website. Switching from Newsnight with global news to the Scottish version is like leaving a rave for an evening of whist.

Still, I was pleased to see that local Edinburgh lad Chris Hoy had done so well in the Olympics along with three other gold medalists and I congratulate them all. It did seem though that nothing can be simply celebrated and enjoyed without some glum nationalist coming out to say that it isn’t good enough because Scotland doesn’t want to have anything to do with the UK. The Scots sport minister wants his own Scottish team with their own flag. Bit sad for their athletes – Chris Hoy seemed to have enjoyed being a part of the larger team. A Scots piece in the Times bewailed the overwhelming bagpipe and tartan angle applied to culture in Scotland with the danger of a nationalist annexation of matters cultural (and I suppose sporting too)

That Edinburgh is a UNESCO World Heritage site doesn’t surprise me at all. It is a truly wonderful city and I’m always happy to be back there. I am, however, a bit surprised that it has status as the first UNESCO city of literature. According to the official Scotland web site “few people realise that, outside of London, Edinburgh has more literary associations than any other part of Britain. Almost every well-known literary figure has visited and three of Britain’s most successful writers, J.K. Rowling, Alexander McCall Smith and Ian Rankin, presently live within a mile of each other.”

I don’t want to kick up a fuss but Oxford has, I gather, more published authors per square mile than anywhere in the UK. When I lived in Blackheath the local bookshop would put “local author” on any book produced in the vicinity in the hopes of encouraging us to buy it. If they tried it in Oxford, there’d be no place for the books. Edinburgh has three successful writers living there apparently. Gosh, terrific but hardly, dare I say it, so special as to warrant the city of literature label. I see Colin Dexter around all the time and sometimes have to jump out of the way of Richard Dawkins on his bike and that’s before I’ve had much of a think about other successful authors who live here. And before I’ve looked at dead authors. Or the academic authors.

Still, must admire the chutzpah of the Scots. They got their lovely city literary status which our lovely city didn’t. And it is an wonderful city – even if they do go on about their three authors!

From the outer fringe

Tuesday, August 26th, 2008

Now here’s a review you won’t read anywhere else. Or possibly not.

In the Fringe programme is a performance of Aykbourn’s How the Other Half Loves and intrepid friends set off to see it. They didn’t realise they were being intrepid but that’s because they didn’t realise how far from the centre Murrayfield is. They knew it was not the usual fringe experience when they were checked into the community hall, individually by name. The man who introduced the event was apparently so delighted to see such a large audience he almost forgot to mention the two intervals. And when the intervals came about it turned out that the audience had to get their tea and chocolate digestives in two shifts. As they were leaving, one of the rather elderly audience apparently said to his companion – “oh, it’s dark. We ARE out late.”

Not to be missed, I feel.

The only non-blogger in Edinburgh! Part 1

Saturday, August 23rd, 2008

Edinburgh; festival time. It’s a world of its own really. The Madrid crash registered only about 12 hours after it happened and normally I’d have been aware of it, almost as it happened.

Since most of the media decamp northwards at this time of the year for the Festival, the Fringe, the Book Festival, the Television conference and even the politics Festival there is no shortage of comment and reportage, although not from me. Sitting in the book festival café in a brief interval between the curtaining rain, I realised that the familiar looking bloke on the next table was, indeed Ming Campbell and that the huge laugh during Yasmin Alibhai- Brown’s one woman show emanated from Christopher Biggins.

Yasmin, who we met about five weeks ago, on holiday, told us about her show so, of course, we went. It’s the story of her early life in Uganda and her relationship with Shakespeare. It was really excellent. Informative, clever and amusing. The friends we went with, who had recently been to Uganda, loved it and we all felt we want to find out what happened next.

We’ve seen some good stuff. On the Waterfront, directed by Berkoff (a man who I think is a genius) was very good indeed. Our only quibble would be that the actor playing Johnny, the criminal leader shouted all his lines. A measured menace might have been more effective (and made some of the words more audible). A Life in the Theatre was also a great show with excellent acting by the two players and the one-man Lies Have Been Told about Robert Maxwell was a marvellous 90 minutes.

Each year I begin to think that I can probably give Edinburgh a miss. And now I’m hearing people saying “next year” with an ease that suggests that maybe not just yet.

Sorry I spoke

Friday, August 8th, 2008

Once upon a time I nursed in France with a wonderful French nurse who had trained in the UK about 20 years before. Her English, as one might expect, was perfect but her idioms betrayed the years since training. She would, for example, talk of elderly patients as “zis old bird” which outdated slang I used to find slightly unsettling and rather amusing.

I now find myself trying to check my own language. Not for ****!!! type expletives (which have remained encouragingly unchanging I find) but for arcane language or references revealing my own antiquity. It’s a bit challenging sometimes because I also try to avoid current slang despite being surrounded by people whose universal mark of approval is “cool”. There is definitely a time to abandon “cool” and I’m there. This limits my vocabulary a bit but I try to make “fab” sound post modern ironic (whatever that is)

I read a story decades ago about a time in the future, a time of great pressure and little joy, where citizens were given a fortnight to holiday where they would in the past. They were however absolutely required to return at the end of the two weeks or the state would send out officers to take them back. The couple in this story went back to the late 50s England and decided to stay and attempt to fool the hunters. How they were found out was through a small error; the man did not hitch his trousers up slightly from just above the knee before he sat down as, apparently, everyone else in the 50s did. I fear that, like him, it will be the unforeseen verbal error will get me.

Heigh Ho.