Archive for June, 2012


Hah! Is that so? Maybe you should consider dumping him, n the ground of lack of imagination.

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June 28, 2012 8 comments

Today, I’m worrying about the state of the world, because of a lady’s kindness.

Yesterday my wife and I were on a train, bound for Barcelona, when she had a coughing fit, a bad one, the kind that makes your face go puce and wonder if your lungs are coming up. And I was helpless. There was nothing I could do but hold her hand and make sure she had water to sip, when she could. The guy in the seat in front, he was pissed off , for sure. Well wouldn’t you be? There  you are, listening to Europop on your iPod, and you can hardly hear it for some bloody woman. He looked around, and had the good sense to look away again. I was not at my best, that was for sure.

Then a quiet voice, unexpectedly English, said to me, ‘Give her this. It’s lavender, and it will ease her breathing,’ as she handed me a tissue that she’d soaked from a small bottle. She was right; it worked, the paroxysm passed over and the rest of the journey was calm. We both thanked her as we all got off the train at Passeig de Gracia, but she simply smiled and went on her way. I have no idea who she was, and there isn’t a cat’s chance in Butch’s kennel that I’ll ever find out, but on the off-chance, if anyone does know a tall, slim auburn-haired lady who caught the Medio Distancia from Flaça to Barcelona yesterday morning, please put me in touch with her, as Eileen and I would like to send her something in return.

So why am I worried about the state of the world? It’s because such a simple, kind, personal gesture from one stranger to another has become such a rarity that when it happens, it’s both astonishing and moving. Would I have done something similar? Before yesterday, I’m not sure; today, I’d like to think so.  So thanks again, Ms Whoever-you-are. We need more like you.

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Cooling down

June 26, 2012 2 comments

We’re travelling back to Scotland tomorrow, exchanging 32c for around half that. Am I looking forward to it? Yes, and no.

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Kathy Hughes

June 26, 2012 4 comments

I’ve been getting a lot of ‘OMG!’s about  the ending of Funeral Note. Next one, next year; title, in due course.

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June 24, 2012 4 comments

I’ve just read a piece on the BBC website by a man called Adam Gopnik, on how an author should deal with a bad review. My review of Mr Gopnik’s article is short and sweet; it would have been twice as good if it had been half as long. He may take that or he may leave it; his choice, but I’d recommend the latter, since it wasn’t written with malice in mind.

How do I deal with them? Mostly, I do not react, unless I feel that the reviewer is being personally offensive, in which case he or she will get to know about it. Reviews on Amazon are the exception to that policy; that facility offers, in my view, an open door to wannabes, egomaniacs and idiots, and they are all best left to their own devices. It’s a pity that it isn’t more carefully moderated, since there are some valid points made there and valid views expressed, but they tend to be suffocated by the dross. In basing judgements and purchase choices on Amazon reviewer ratings, it’s worth noting that they give Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf, four stars out of five in book form, and four and a half in Kindle.

To any would-be reviewers among you, and indeed to any professional reviewers, remember this; however qualified to comment on someone else’s work you may believe you are, you are simply an individual with a keyboard, expressing an individual opinion. Whatever you thought of a work, that is your view and yours alone. Every  person who reads a book, whoever the author might be, will form a unique mental picture of the events described.  Some will agree with you, some won’t; do you have the right to dissuade any of them from finding out for themselves?

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Joy Innes-Greig

A trip on a Lothian Tour Bus? That’s not a bad idea; I may take you up on it.

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June 22, 2012 5 comments

Happy birthday our Mia, two today . . . or as she says ‘dos’.

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Neatly tied off

I’ve been watching, slightly out of sequence, the second series of BBCtv’s above average drama ‘Silk‘. For me, this one was made by the performance of the brilliant Phil Davies, who seems to be in the prime of his career, and the ominous Frances Barber, who’s probably a pussy-cat at home but who does an excellent on-camera line in formidable women. It looks as if she will return in series three, but I don’t see an opening for Phil, not after the way it finished

I have only one complaint. I thought the director went a little far with the detail of Billy’s prostate investigation. It can’t have encouraged too many guys to have symptoms checked out. For those who watched it and wondered, as I did, what was the song that Billy had on his player as he went through the scan, it was ‘Puncture Repair‘, by Elbow. (Down-market Coldplay, IMO.) Appropriate.

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Stephen Moores

Thanks for your good wishes. In fact the next Skinner novel is created. Sorry, my fingers didn’t bleed, not even a wee bit.

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Wild in the country

National perceptions can be so unfair. I read this first, mistakenly as ‘Australian’.

Didn’t think an Austrian would have had it in him . . . or her.

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Elie, then and now.

June 21, 2012 2 comments

The renowned Jack House once wrote a piece for the Evening Times: ‘Elie for the Elite’. (An exaggerated claim, for my family wasn’t, but still, it was a popular perception in the Fifties.) The first nineteen Julys of my life were spent in that East Neuk village; looking back, they all seem to morph into one.

Both my parents were teachers, so we enjoyed the long holidays that were compensation for poor pay. The final school bell had barely rung before we were on the train, bound for the rented house that we knew well. ‘The Fife Coast Express’ took three hours to get there from Queen Street, until Beeching butchered it.

Every July, Elie, and its ‘suburb’ Earlsferry, turned into the west of Scotland. It was a thriving community as my young life evolved, with proper shops: two newsagents (‘Clean Andra’ and Dirty Andra’) Boullet’s bakery and tea room, and two grocers, one owned by the fearsome Miss Allison, by her side Mr Turner, a Richard Hearne lookalike, of whom tales were told. The days followed a pattern. Mornings I would golf, or pull my dad’s caddy-car; afternoons were for the beach, often huddled behind a windbreak or sheltering in a beach hut. Cinema in Earlsferry Town Hall, Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, (Tuesdays and Thursdays if wet: no kidding). I grew up there, fell in love there, fell out of love there too, then back in again.

Only six years after my last July in Elie, my very young family and I moved to Gullane, where I’ve lived ever since. Scarcely a day goes by without my looking across the Firth, at Kincraig Point, where lurks MacDuff’s Cave, which gave Earlsferry its name, with its hazardous Chain Walk, and at the tiny line of the town to its right.

My cousin Annie and her husband Graeme live there now, in retirement; I can see their house with binoculars. I should visit them but something holds me back. Probably it’s all the ghosts: Miss Allison and her (as he was) ever-silent Mr Turner, Janet Gowans and Minnie Sutherland,  our landladies, John Elrick, who owned the Nineteenth Hole, my friend Kenny Crawford, but most of all, the town itself. It’s a dead place now, killed by prosperity, as most of the houses became second homes.

Ironic, is it not?  Old Jack House was right after all.

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June 20, 2012 2 comments

One of the great things about my job is this; I can do it anywhere:

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Further thoughts on Euro 2012

One of the things I love about football is its infinite capacity for creating situations that are at best ironic and at worst potentially doom-laden. For example, has there ever been a better moment, in the current century at least, for  Germany and Greece to be drawn to face each other? This has the potential to be the game of the tournament; not one for the purists, but for those among us who are old enough to  remember what a good kicking match was really like, before the anonymous sissies in committee rooms in Switzerland tried to turn it into a non-contact sport. I am looking forward to it like no other, in the expectation that the Greeks will play to their strengths, of which they have only one, strength itself, and the Germans will play to theirs, i. e. reacting theatrically to the slightest touch and feigning life-threatening injury. ‘Mrs Merkel, your boys could be in for a hell of a doing!

One of the things I do not love about football is its governance. We’ve all heard abut Sepp Blatter, but he’s not the only lunatic running the asylum. His potential successor is right there with him. The latest piece of cynicism perpetrated by Michel Platini’s UEFA, who really could not come close to running a raffle, has been highlighted by two of the game’s most respected black players, Rio Ferdinand and Vincent Kompany. For their fans’ racist abuse of the Italian Balotelli, the Croatian FA has been fined €80,000. For displaying the name of a bookmaker on his underwear, the Danish player Bendtner has been fined €100,000 and banned for one game. The message: UEFA is more concerned about commercial issues than about racism. It will be interesting to see what penalties lie in wait for Ferdinand and Kompany for pointing this out and protesting against it.

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Untrue blue

June 20, 2012 5 comments

There’s a road here in L’Escala that has become known by the Brits, and even by a few natives, as the M25. On that road, there is a bar and a bakery, combined. I passed it yesterday and saw a Union Jack flying from the apartment above. My assumption was, and still is that its display was related in some way to England’s encounter with Ukraine in Euro 2012. If that’s correct, my message to the wavers is this: if you can’t find an English flag then please remove the blue from the one you have, it’s our colour, not yours.

Nothing against your team, folks, but if they go far enough to come up against Spain, (unlikely, since that would require them to beat Italy and probably also Germany) I will be strictly neutral. God knows how our Mia’s going to line up when she’s old enough to take an interest. She’s half English, quarter Catalan and quarter Norwegian, plus, if I have anything to do with it, she will also be a Motherwell supporter.

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Mark Elliott

Thanks for that. Funeral Note is bringing me many positive messages. (I trash the others, naturally.) You say that as an ex-cop you know a few Bob Skinners. I wonder, do you know any Christine McGlashans, or Danny Provans?

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Well met

A pleasant evening in La Clota, enlivened by meeting Anna and Gavin from Morpeth. Hope to see you both again some time.

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Lovely day in L’Escala. Our Mia came for the day, took one look at us, picked up her beach bag, and headed for the door: aged two minus six days.

So we took her there. I think she had fun. I know we did

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Do the other thing

I lifted this from today’s Herald, a piece by Martin WIlliams:

  • SPL sponsorship deals worth £6 million a year could be in the balance if the current £80m Sky and ESPN deal is scrapped.
  • Sky, the senior deal partner, is understood to have placed a financial gun to the head of the SPL saying it will withdraw from its five-year deal, which starts in the coming season, if a “newco” Rangers are not allowed back into the SPL.
  • One of the conditions of the lucrative deal is that Celtic and Rangers remain part of the league. It is also a condition that they play each other four times a season.
  • The commercially lucrative Old Firm derby has become the jewel in the crown for Sky Sport’s Scottish football coverage, having secured the rights to every Rangers v Celtic league clash.
  • Rangers’ new chief executive Charles Green has begun talks with the league over his newco application.
  • That application will be discussed at an SPL board meeting on Monday.
  • But it has emerged a further £6m a year for SPL clubs would be affected if Sky pulls out, because advertising and sponsorship deals depend on TV cameras at games.
  • It is estimated that Sky’s departure could cost SPL clubs up to £20m a year, with a further £2m a year lost to the lower leagues of Scottish football.
  • When the deal was announced in November last year, it equated to a staggering 24% rise on terms offered in 2009. The TV deal allows Sky and ESPN to each show 30 games, meaning 60 in total per season, though Sky secured the four Old Firm head-to-heads.
If this is true, it means in effect that Sky believe they own Scottish football. They don’t. Fuck ’em.
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Andrea Bailey

Thank you for your message, and for the time you invested in composing it. Your support of my work and your perspective on it is much appreciated. It’s informative also; your view on gun control is one I hadn’t appreciated, but I do now. I might not agree with it, but I understand it, and that’s the important thing, as I believe you’ll agree. I’d like to address two of your comments.

The first is that if some of my characters appear to be anti-American, it does not follow that the accusation should apply to me. I’m trying to create an imaginary  world that’s populated by all types of person and reflects many shades of opinion, of which the majority are probably not mine. In fact, I have American family on either coast, and many American friends. If I might be provocative, I’d suggest that the people of your nation should be more concerned by what many of you appear to think of each other, than about what’s happening outside.

The second is Tony Blair: I understand exactly what you’re saying about him and about his unwavering support for America immediately after 9/11. Incidentally, my immediate concern as I saw that outrage unfold was for my sister-in-law’s husband who spent a good chunk of his working life in the WTC. Luckily he wasn’t there when it came down. I’ve read George Bush’s account of that time, Blair’s own, and others. I’ve come to consider that as the pinnacle of his premiership. Unfortunately, in the eyes of many British people he took his support too far thereafter, in committing the British troops to the invasion of Iraq on the basis of allegations that were unsullied by any evidence. In the eyes of some others, QJ among them, he probably did the right thing for the wrong reason, but with a lack of long-term planning or any proper vision of what would follow after. That has made Tony something of a Pariah among those who fell at his feet when he was first elected fifteen years ago, and left him looking more and more like a rabbit in the headlights whenever he’s called to appear before the unending ‘Inquiries’, that have become a bane of British life. It’s nice to know that someone still loves him.

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Serco: a cause for concern

Another great piece of journalism from Kenneth Roy, in the Scottish Review

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