The Girl with the Edinburgh Tattoo

The Street Charm of the Bourgeoisie

The Divine Miss D


I’m gutted that I can’t get along to see the inimitable Daphna Baram at The Stand in Edinburgh tomorrow night (17 Nov). But if you’re in the area and want a reminder of those heady, laughter-filled days of last August’s Fringe (see below). Get yourself along…  I believe it’s only a measly two quid (with other acts as well!) Whatcha waiting for?

Caught the marvellous Miss D (aka Daphna Baram) ‘s show at Cowgatehead 3 (20.30) the other night. Ballsy, bold, bolshy – it’s a brilliant show with tales of serving in the Israeli army to having a heart attack at age 39. There’s the reliable Jewish schtick of constantly disappointing her mother – for example not marrying the doctor that treated her or just not marrying at all. Daphna moves with ease between the political and personal in a riotously funny show. Be quick though – she finishes up on the 16th. Go see!

Earlier review (from Austerity Pleasures): Another woman who could most probably wipe the floor with some of the autocue-numpties from Mock the Week is the force of nature that is Daphna Baram. The tiny Kasbar space on a Sunday lunch-time did well to contain Miss D’s huge personality and her rich and ripe collection of (mainly) one-liners which veered from the political (serving in the Israeli army) to the sexual (‘how many of you guys lost your erection when you heard my accent?’). Stunning – like a politically aware, pre-Hollywood Bette Midler.

Lighten Up!

SalmondeffigyI hope the Sussex Police didn’t have any serious crimes to investigate yesterday when they found themselves to be the latest cast members in the never-ending soap opera known as ‘We Wuz Robbed!’

Seemingly the papier-mache versions of Alex Salmond were thought – by some – to be disrespectful and insulting. Personally speaking – I thought it was fitting that the English had a turn of putting up with the giant Bawheid for a change when we’ve had to suffer the real thing for the last few years.

Some commented that ‘how would people feel if it had been an effigy of David Cameron?’ Well, I guess the vast majority would have been quite happy and even the minority – who count themselves as fans (are there such people…?) – would understand it’s joke, it’s a laugh. And what’s probably worse than not having a sense of humour is not having a grasp of basic facts or news stories that happen beyond the end of your road – David Cameron (along with a mini Nick Clegg) was the Lewes Guy of choice back in 2010… FYI.

Here’s a funny thing though – if those strange people who’ve got nothing better to do than make crank calls to the emergency services had managed to get along to sample some of the many shows on the Edinburgh Fringe back in August – they would have heard joke after joke being made about Alex Salmond – from both sides of the debate. One of the funniest routines was centered on the notion that Big ‘Eck should ‘take one for the team’ and die before the referendum thus ensuring a victory for the Yes campaign. And yes, this was from a Yes supporter!

So please, please – lighten up (I don’t mean that literally – don’t call the Fire Service – I’m sure they have enough to do with their time…) and get out more. There’s nothing worse than being a parochial small-mind – apart from not having a sense of humour… but I guess that goes with the territory.

A wake-up call for us all

So that’s it, eh? All over. Half of Scotland relieved and half with broken dreams. Well, slightly more than half and slightly less than half respectively. It’s strange though – even though I believe the vote went the right way for Scotland and the UK – I don’t feel particularly like celebrating. Why?

Firstly, it was scary. It was edge-of-seat stuff at some stages – if maybe not as near the edge as the media was making out, such was their need to avoid the accusation of appearing one-sided or partisan. Or perhaps they were trying to make it seem more neck-and-neck in order to ratchet up the tension. Either way – they’re still being accused of bias. Sometimes you just can’t win, eh?

Secondly, it’s incredibly sad. Seeing tearful yes supporters today doesn’t make me feel good. One of the reasons I was ‘no thanks’ is because I have a deep distrust of nationalism – whatever country, colour, shape or form – it’s divisive, nasty and the oldest trick in the book to exploit people who feel themselves dispossessed. And when the ‘who’s the more patriotic?’ thing started – that was a low point. Plus the whole celebrity-endorsement-industry when applied to something this important is ridiculously redundant and is something that has to die a natural death.

Reasons to be proud though – the turnout was a record-busting 84.5% and people who had never voted before did so. And – even with a minority of muppets misbehaving – the whole thing was carried out fairly and largely corruption-free.

The next few weeks are going to be crunch-time. All parties have to work together and Westminster has to deliver. The biggest message however is that Scottish Labour has to get real and engage with their core voters again. They can’t – and mustn’t – be allowed to bumble along and only visit the housing estates and areas of deprivation when they’re looking for votes. When it comes to promises they can’t forget because the people won’t.

Just Another Dream?

BrigadoonIn my half-awake state this morning I heard Justin Webb report on increased food prices, decreased supply and general hardship due to newly erected border controls. By Christ! I can’t have slept that long, can I? But I was quickly assured it was Africa – and its ebola restricting measures – he was talking about and not Scotland. As I allowed myself a bit of a lie-in (I have until 22.00 to vote after all) so many surreal images and events started to creep into my head. Did I really witness the following – Alan Cumming expounding political theory; Vivienne Westwood wearing an unfashionably large ‘yes’ badge; David Cameron looking like a dead man walking; Brian Cox (actor) spending so long over here you have to wonder if he’ll ever get back into the US; revitalised careers from Ricky Ross to Franz Ferdinand, George Galloway to Tommy Sheridan? All these things and more have appeared in my referendum-waking-dream-bubble. 

Knowing the only way to banish these images was to get up out of bed and get on with it – I did just that. But what about tomorrow, eh? Whatever is decided, all of us who live here are going to have to get on with it day after day after day…

I live near a polling station and the guy across the road has bedecked his home with an orgiastic flurry of ‘yes’s while his neighbour has a simple ‘no, thanks’. Does Mr Yes think he can influence voters Derren-Brown-like or will his enthusiasm look like hectoring? We Scots don’t like being told what to do, remember!

Who knows what influences people? The Ad-men used to think they had it all sewn up but these days they are finding themselves increasingly emasculated with soshul meedja taking their place. But is that way of coercing any better than what the Mad Men in sharp suits used to do? In so many ways it’s worse with no form of regulation and the huge potential for bullying on a grand scale.

Grassroots campaigns can be great – they’re passionate, they’re exhilarating, they’re furrapeepol! If maybe not for all the people, right? So in the cold light of day when the prating slebs have headed home to Hollywood and people and communities over here have to carry on living and working together – maybe the great party won’t seem worth the almighty hangover.

Another news report I heard in my half-sleep this morning was about the increasing radicalisation of the disillusioned and dispossessed via social media. It may have been radical Islam they were talking about but I can’t be sure…

Never Mind the Ballots – a parable

Madame BovaryA while ago, in an attempt to give a friend a few words of big-sisterly-like pre-wedding advice, I came up with the following – ‘a few years down the line you might look around and think you can do better but it’ll just end up being the same, so better to stick with it’. I hope it wasn’t as clumsy as that and as cheesy cliches go, that’s pretty much up there but I thought I’d dig it out again at this historic time for our country. Okay, okay the divorce analogy has been done to death of late, achieving a cliché status of its own but like all clichés – they exist because they’re true and apt.

What am I suggesting? Stay in a loveless marriage when you can break free and do what you want? Well… it doesn’t work like that – you still have to hook up with someone/be governed by someone (that’s the deal in parables/real life). And even if it’s totally wonderful at first living in a shack, reading poetry to each other and dancing barefoot in the woods – you will get sick of the new Mr Dreamboat when all his annoying little habits begin to seamlessly join together, he starts to question how much you spend on getting your hair done and you never have the money to go out anywhere. Finally you will look at him one day and realise he has a creepily familiar look. OMG – you married your cousin!!  You’ll hark back to the days when you were in demand – wooed and courted by politicians, footballers, pop stars and Hollywood actors. You’d get in touch to ask them to help you but they’re busy trying for a cameo in the latest Tarentino and besides they’ve got a new pet charity project on the go now. (You were sooo 2014… )

Ah, but you’ll have proved something to yourself, surely? Maybe so, but it’s cost you a bit and you’ll still have some bozo telling you what you can and can’t do. Never mind, you can say you did it all for your grand-kids and see how grateful those little bastards are.

Okay – end of parable – allow me to be sick – sick of assumptions – assumptions about being working class, ‘arty’, patriotic, having a social conscience, having more in common with a care worker in Liverpool than the laird of the manor down the road, or vice versa… if you’re that, you must be this…

What am I trying to say? Think for yourself and about yourself. Don’t become a mindless muppet for someone who shouts louder than the other guy and drags  you along on some bandwagon. Be proud of who you are and don’t be bullied into fitting some stereotype. It’s your life – you can make your own decision – but you have to free your mind first.

Scottish Referendum


Brilliant! Says more in a few lines about being Scottish than in all the nationalistic nonsense churned out by Hugh McDiarmid and the like.

Originally posted on Poetry For The Divided:

Is this the new history?

Which replaces all the previous facts?

Lines on a map

do not make a country.

What would the:

Picts, Celts, Britons, Romans, Northumbrians, Vikings, Gaels, Angles, Norse,  and more

Make of what is becoming of their lands?

All knew it as home long before it was called Scotland.

I have been born, raised, lived and dreamed

In my land

But now to be a stranger

In my own home?

The boorish pap of the yes men

Who knows the future?

The question is asked

The answer given without summary.

View original

Selling Scotland by the Pound/Euro/Groat…

Salmond 2Let’s forget about the currency debate for a while – well those riding on a wave of nationalistic nirvana don’t seem to think that’s very important after all… Let’s imagine what a country desperately ‘open for business’ would bring. How can we make a few bob when the economy goes down the drain? Here’s the solution – sell off chunks of our country with no thought to the residents. And don’t worry about the government because ‘King’ Alex Salmond will drop his drawers and let an American billionaire do what he’s already been doing metaphorically to the land and the residents up in Aberdeen.

If you want to know the full story go and see Anthony Baxter’s A Dangerous Game which is a brilliant and chilling follow-up to You’ve Been Trumped. Then ask yourself why King Alex wouldn’t be interviewed for the film.


A Class Act

InderGlad to say I had a bumper last day on the Fringe with one particular jewel in the crown. I hope Inder Manocha will forgive me for using the colonial reference but as his show White Man’s Burden doesn’t as much play with political correctness as give it a good smack around its sanctimonious chops I think he’ll be OK with it.

Inder is Anglo-Indian, he’s also middle-aged (46), middle-class, loves the theatre and Shakespeare but being brought up in 70s England – as well as having experienced direct, casual racism – he has an inner Bernard Manning giving him a running commentary on everything he does. As such he’s a bit crap at being politically correct. He gets a hard time from a young girl at a diversity training workshop for joking about the absurdly lengthy list of ethnic categories on offer and using the ‘P’ word. He feels alienation when his grandfather speaks of the corner shop family business or the traditions of the old country. He challenges a burka’d woman for making him feel uncomfortable and feels ashamed at his own feelings of prejudice against Americans. So nothing is clear cut, he’s a sum of many different parts and can’t be squeezed into a diversity-training tick-box.

The small and intimate space of The White Horse back-room suits Inder and his semi-confessional tone perfectly. As you would expect from such an accomplished actor the show is expertly performed; but as a gifted comedian – for every moving passage there is a satisfactory pay-off with some quality punch-lines. I’m still laughing at the concept of having ‘gay teeth’!

Another lovely aspect of the show is Inder’s actorly eye for detail – like a simple two-move hand gesture, borrowed from his granddad, that expresses a world of hope turning to despair. You’ll recognise it in an instant along with so many other things to do with life, love, family, identity…

That’s certainly the ‘message’ I took – no matter what your ethnicity is, you are still held hostage to a myriad of fears, paranoia and expectations from others. But the marvellous thing about Inder is that he never appears like a ‘messenger’. Enthralling, moving and very, very funny.

Kelly’s a Hero or a Zero?

Kelly KHe’s a sly one, that Kelly Kingham. His promo piece and his appearance – cheap suit, no tie, shirt buttoned to the neck – suggest middle-aged geezer giving the comedy game a go. I picked him for that very reason as I’d had my fill on the Fringe of blokes reaching that ‘difficult’ age of 30 or thereabouts. Try reaching 50 and see how you like it – Kelly’s promo seemed to say. Ten minutes in and we seem to be on the predicted ground. The generally slightly-older audience are lapping up the slightly old-school, slightly un-PC banter. Jokes about the wife’s ‘plumbing’ and fending off a pitbull with the family dog – along with a liberal sprinkling of the F-word – is the kind of fare that a family-friendly comic from 70s telly may have served up, post-watershed. But when Kelly seems to momentarily lose his thread and do a Tourettes-like bark, whenever he mentions his dog, just a bit too often, you realise something is up. Then as the one-liners about nicking stuff from the office (‘it was only a photo-copier, well… maybe more than one’) start to become uneasy bedfellows with asides on death, fractured relationships and wasted lives, you reassess the tieless-suit ensemble and realise he’s wearing the uniform of a broken man.
A few comedians on the Fringe this year have been doing the old ‘Is he? Isn’t he?’ (a comedian, that is), morphing into a ‘tears of a clown’ denouement. And even if they don’t go all the way down that route, the whole idea of getting serious has been cynically summed up in some of the other shows I’ve seen (’45 minutes in, inject some pathos and end on an uplifting note’). The great skill with Kelly Kingham is the pathos is woven into the material but if it wasn’t there his act would still be laugh-out-loud funny, so it works on two levels. Another bold move is that the funny stuff is a perfect fit for his working-man’s-club-graduate persona, he never appears arch or ironic so when we’re laughing uproariously at things we might not have considered laughing at before it’s very real and strangely liberating. Don’t worry though – there’s nothing majorly offensive in Kelly’s material and after seeing him you won’t suddenly be brainwashed into reassessing Roy Chubby Brown’s back catalogue!

It’s strange, but for a show I thought was going to be a bit of light entertainment – it’s the one I’ve been thinking about the longest. I’m not sure if all Kelly’s shows are like this but either way, if it’s straight-up funny or multi-layered you’re after, you should definitely check him out if you get the chance.

Eins, zwei – give them a try!

Last year The Fringe was awash with German comedians. This year it’s more of a trickle. There’s always Henning Wehn who was die erste but maybe not die beste. Challenging him for the USP (which is not so unique these days) of being German and a comedian is Paco Erhard; whose image – to all those living in Edinburgh over the few weeks – must be more familiar than that of close family members by now. I’m not lying – Paco’s professionally produced hoardings, proclaiming five star reviews, are everywhere. So it’s no surprise there was a capacity crowd in a no-too-small venue pretty early on in the run. Of course, that is going to put the more cynical and critical among us on guard… but happily I thought Paco equipped himself pretty well. The tick-box subject matter (war/football/Europe) was dealt with swiftly at the start and in a way that assumed the audience had heard all that stuff before. But had they? And even if they had – could he be sure they didn’t want to hear it again?

Paco’s thing is that he’s a rubbish German. Inspired by On The Road, he has free-wheeled around the world, lived a counter-culture life and has been a UK resident for some time. In these respects he can claim to be more chilled than his fellow (original) countrymen. So when he barks like a control-freak at latecomers to his show – it’s a joke, right? I’m not so sure, as there’s an extended piece when he recalls getting tetchy with an elderly female neighbour and her imagined fear of local crime. At this point he gets quite animated and agitated – in fact, he’s like that most of the time and while that isn’t typically German behaviour there’s a steely core that makes him appear more of the stereotype and less Jack Kerouac. Maybe that’s the point though – that he’s rubbish at being a rubbish German. Cowgatehead, 20.45 until 25th Aug

Quite different is Comedy from the Middle and the East (Capital Bar, 17.20 until 24th Aug) which showcases young comedians based in Berlin. The host and main man is Stefan Danziger who has a confident and assured manner – oh, and his material is very good as well. It’s always going to be difficult during the whole Fringe circus to come up with fresh and funny, and Stefan has the added burden of having to deliver the expected to those who have chosen to see a German comedian. But before anyone gets the chance to mention the war Stefan has already set out his stall and racked up a fair few laughs. His brief biog is: born in East Germany and moved as a child with his parents to Russia and he’s now based in Berlin. Those brief facts give Stefan a stack of comedy material that is interesting, original and – teamed with his excellent timing and well-judged slapstick – very, very funny. From being beaten up by his Russian classmates for supposedly being a fascist to targeting Berlin hipsters – it’s all good, intelligent stuff.

The other resident star of the show is Carmen Chraim who is originally from Lebanon. Animated, with a kind of indefatigable energy, she expertly controlled the crowd which included a ‘Fife posse’ of older guys who looked as though they had wandered in. I’m sure they never expected to be laughing and singing along with a young Lebanese feminist on a wet Saturday afternoon far less eating out of her hand by the end! I’ve seen a few male comedians with Middle East connections so far this year but none have had the balls to address ‘the troubles’ so head-on. It’s been left to the women to do it – and get the laughs. The brilliant Daphna Baram was one and I think Carmen is on the road to being just as good. Highly recommended.

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