The Girl with the Edinburgh Tattoo

The Street Charm of the Bourgeoisie

The Road to Independence can be Murder!

Just to let you know that Edinburied will be released this Monday (21 July) and will be available from Kobo, Barnes & Noble and all the other major ebook stores; with Amazon hopefully not far behind.

So if you’re looking for a bold thriller, set in Edinburgh in the run-up to the Scottish Independence referendum – look no further!

I’ve put together extracts and themes from the book in a dedicated blog:

If you would prefer a printed copy, let me know via either blog.

A Hero For These Times…

Edinburied Cover 3-1Let me introduce you to Fraser – former Bros lookalike from Stornoway who came to Edinburgh hoping the elegant Georgian streets would be paved with gold.  But now – fourteen years later – all he has to show is a collection of broken dreams and wasted opportunities but maybe his luck will change in 2014…   After all Fraser’s got a lot going for him – he’s tough, he’s savvy, he’s highly desirable.  Both sides of the Scottish Independence debate would love him as a poster boy – if only he could decide whose side to be on…

Yes – the wait will soon be over as Edinburied hits the ebook-stands in the coming weeks. It’s a wild and highly topical Edinburgh-set tale of murder, sex, politics… and the Referendum. I’ll be posting extracts on a new, dedicated blog – so look out for that .

In the meantime – if you’re in Edinburgh over the next few days and fancy exhibiting your out and proud credentials in public – get yourself along to one (or all!) of the Pride Scotia events. See you there!

A Whole Different Balls Game

ScudamoreFootball can be great –  but it does have such a lot of ridiculous macho posturing sexist baggage with it. So I do have to be choosy as to what matches I can take time out of watching my collection of past Eurovisions, doing 5K runs and reading Emile Zola for. I’m afraid the FA Cup final yesterday didn’t make my must-see list but I did get the odd glimpse and noticed they were playing with a pink football! Was this a cheeky little symbol of the love that dare not speak its name sneaking into the ‘beautiful’ game?

It would be time too, eh? With stats showing that 3 – 6 per cent of the male population are homosexual it does seem a bit far-fetched that the footballing profession is so under represented especially when the appearance and behaviour of individuals within that profession make John Inman look like Grizzly Adams!

The conclusion is of course football must have the national average quota of gay people – probably more. But if those Premier League dinosaurs can’t accept the most basic of women’s rights I’m thinking the advanced LGBT class is going to be a bit beyond them.

I believe it was Bill Shankly who said that football wasn’t a matter of life and death – it was more important than that. How true – it’s a staggeringly important and influential (well, everywhere apart from the U S) way of life that takes kids out of poverty and makes them into gods. It defines nations and shapes cultural identity. It’s a great working class tradition that can be enjoyed by all the family but it can reflect the underbelly of society – violence, racism, sexism, homophobia. The governing bodies have done much in dealing with the violence and the racism so why not make a stand with the sexism and the homophobia? Time for a clean sweep and I can’t think of a better start than a certain head of the Premier League…




Princess Envy – strewth!

'No worries the film's zack, I'm hitting the turps later!'

‘No worries the film’s a pig’s arse, I’m hitting the turps later!’

What is it with Australian actresses and the whole real-life princess thing? Most established stars would run a mile in their Louboutins at the merest suggestion of portraying tragic regal icons like Princesses Diana and Grace and leave it to the up-and-coming to wear egg-white omelette on their face and try over the years to have the whole sorry mess drop off the end of their cv. Not so those brave sheilas – Nicole Kidman and Naomi Watts – who stick their manicured fingers up at the critics and naysayers and wholeheartedly plunge themselves into the thankless task of imitating two goddesses of the twentieth century. And not just your usual common-or-garden goddess either – Princesses D & G (what an apt designer epithet!) were both the real fairy-tale deal with sweet young girl turned princess turned saint with a whole lot of back story along the way – political intrigue, controlling men and their families, duty over personal happiness, the endless glamour, the tragic car crashes taking our heroines far too soon…

So why do Misses Kidman and Watts do it? They are both well respected actresses with a staggeringly varied body of serious work between them. From Eyes Wide Shut to Funny Games, from The Paperboy to Mulholland Drive they have proved they never shy away from challenging roles. So is it the case when they signed up for Grace of Monaco and Diana respectively – and possibly not respectfully – they were bravely pushing the artistic envelope? Not realising that the money men’s thoughts were probably more along the lines of producing a piece of designer fluff that’d make a quick buck through curiosity value if nothing else. My own personal theory regarding Nicole and Naomi’s motivation is all to do with their antipodean republican background – they couldn’t give a XXXX for royalty – whether it be British, Hollywood or Monagast! And that gives them a whole world of creative freedom shaped by that marvellous egalitarian Aussie attitude of not really caring about what the sniffy snobs in the old countries think.

So good onya, girls! Crack open the Castlemaine and have a right old cackle at the crits. Oh, and don’t worry if the work’s bodgy you gave it a burl!

Join Us – Join the Euro Party!

Austria-Conchita-Wurst-1Here it is again – that gorgeous big glittering day-glo all-singing all-dancing Euro party that’s camper than Julian Clary wearing pink knickers serving up afternoon tea in a caravan parked on Brighton beach! We love it!

In past years you had to wait – like a kid at Christmas – for the jaunty opening bars of Te Deum to creak out from your telly set as the clock struck eight – it was then – and only then – that you were able to see and hear all the weird and wonderful and sometimes brilliant pop offerings from that exotic land beyond The Channel called ‘The Continent’. How things have changed – now anyone can join the week-long run-up party via your chosen form of soash meedja on your chosen device. And forget about your drunken house parties and deliberating in Sainsburys about what kind snack could represent Lithuania – that went out the window years ago. Instead get texting, tweeting, emailing your Euro pals and if you don’t have any – make some!

Quick observations so far:

The undoubted star of the show is Conchita Wurst for Austria. Calm down, calm down! Conchita isn’t a bearded lady he/she is a drag queen pure and simple. She does have a lot of class with a good strong voice and the song is a grower… weirdly it strikes me as something that could have come from Jesus Christ Superstar. And Conchita definitely has that look – even down to the simple robe-like gown (just take away the make-up and the jewellery) – and of course there’s the whole theme of resurrection – Rise like a Phoenix. Conchita as a messiah for gay rights? Marvelous!

The real controversy is going to be political (reale) of course: Russia v Ukraine. Now I like a bit of pol con at major international events and it’s good that people can get their point across (remember ‘we don’t want (to) Put(it)in’?)  but I have to admit I did feel sorry for the two young Russian lassies as the announcement of their place in Saturday’s final was greeted with boos. On the other hand Ukraine – typical to form – has a good strong female who this year has a man going through his paces on a giant hamster wheel. Go girl! Both songs aren’t bad at all with the Russian one having a big-Bond-theme edge but the chance of them picking up many (or any?) points is as likely as Rolf Harris getting his community service with Barnardo’s.

France are expectedly wacky, in an expectedly hip-hoppy kind of way; Poland are trying to be ironic (feminist, I think) with busty women doing household chores in a suggestive manner: girls – I can see what you’re getting at but it really doesn’t work; Holland have gone all country and it’s been mooted as a potential winner – but it’s not Eurovision in my book; Hungary has an interesting anti-domestic violence theme sung by a fine young man on loan from the US – it has an electrifying L A Confidential feel to it; Greece has bags of energy with the other big prop (see hamster wheel as above) of the evening in the form of a trampoline, the song’s all right as well – but they surely don’t want to win, do they?

Finally – what about our own wee Molly? It’s fine – she’s a strong woman – she’s written the theme toon – sung the theme toon… It doesn’t sound like a British entry so that might work in a our favour. Max points for expressing the sentiment we should all keep after the streamers, Sambuca and cheesy footballs remains have been tidied away  – ‘We are children of the universe‘ or Europe at least! Join us!

Update:  Congratulations and jubilation to the magnificent Conchita who triumphed last night –  wonderful that she’s continuing to keep the whole issue of gay rights very definitely on the front burner. And to all those cynics who dismiss Eurovision as a piece of meaningless fluff – think again. There was a lengthy discussion on Russian TV last night regarding the major issues touched upon as above with the writer of the Russian entry calling for more tolerance across the board. You don’t get that with The X-Factor!




Last night I dreamt of the inevitable

Monday 21st April

Here we are in the countdown to home return and after three weeks of successfully relegating all thoughts of home to my deepest subconscious visions and images started to appear in my dreams last night. And did I feel homesick for the grey understated grandeur of Auld Reekie with its wide streets and pavements, general lack of grafitti and litter and its cool, genteel air? Not really, maybe because I know my return is inevitable so what would be the point of squandering my final days on some daft abstract concept like ‘home-sickness’. Now there’s a bourgeois conceit if ever there was one..

It’s Easter Monday and I can’t over-emphasise how quiet everything is – there’s marginally more going on than yesterday (Tuodi and Conrad were both open in the morning and Circolo delgli Artisti has an all-day Pasquetta Festival on but it all looks a bit Glastonbury without the music or any of the entertainment – that may happen later but it’s a blisteringly hot (to us honkies!) day so we return to the refuge of the flat. And as even the mighty Yeah! is closed – where sanctuary could normally be found – tempers get fraught and the day ends on a bit of a downer.

Tuesday 22nd April

In a semi-desperate effort to mop up some of the ‘must-do and see’s’ before our time is up (stupid really, we will be back) we venture into Rome centre after buying 4 x 100 min travel tickets at the local Tabacchi. That gets us to Testaccio no problem – the new ‘improved’ market looks new but not improved so we have a quick scoot around but tempers start to fray and bladders start to bulge so the inevitable search for a toilet ensues – we end up at the Protestant Cemetery and use theirs (top tip when at Pyramide!!) We then make our way to Ponte Milvio – way up in the north of town where we’ve never ventured before – to view the padlocks symbolising lovers’ declarations and the site of some battle involving Constantine (I’m being very flip here – I know it’s staggering significance re christian and western history). We then take the tram down the lengthy via Flaminia, sweating as the 100 mins on our second lot of travel tickets ticks away. We get off at Piazza del Popolo, wander around the Augustus Tomb area – decide we’re too tired to view the new museum there. We try to buy to two tickets to get back to Pigneto but draw blanks everywhere – it dawns on me later that the tickets must be becoming collectors items as they feature various popes. Even by Rome standards the centre is looking pretty mental (all to do with JP2’s sainthood thing) so we decide to walk all the way back to Pigneto. If nothing else it was a good (and much needed) workout. So focused was I that I apparently walked past Denzel Washington carrying a shit-load of designer bags (Richard told me later). Quite depressing really that he was fulfilling that complete stereotype but then I went off him when I read that he would only do love scenes with ‘women of colour’ after bowing to pressure from certain groups of narrow-minded people. Sa-a-a-ad.

Knackered in extremis so get a very early night.

Beyond holiday – a lesson in social experimentation

Over the half way mark now and have gone well and truly native – I know when the grumpy check-out people work their shifts in Tuodi (there’s only one really) so have arranged my shopping routine accordingly, we don’t stay in of an evening accessing old British sitcoms on Youtube and playing them through the telly in the flat, we know to scrape together the exact money when paying for things in shops and when we don’t have the change we give an Italian-like shrug, we cringe whenever we venture into the centre of Rome and hear Brits or Americans speaking or looking clueless.

Highlights so far:

1. Lucilla – who has gone from landlady for the month to dear friend – showing us around Castelli Romani and introducing us to her lovely family and showing us the most staggering hospitality.

2. Richard and I putting together a seven hour playlist of classic British tracks that was unleashed in Yeah! last Monday and will exist for all eternity on Spotify – just waiting for the touch of a hipster’s finger to release the Brit genie from the bottle.

3. Any night with Alessandro and his unbridled passion for all things British. Even when he’s only being fuelled by green tea his enthusiam ignites the room. What a guy!

4. Ciak pizzeria – forget what I’ve said about any other pizza place – this is the real deal! It may even be as good as The Jolly… with the added bonus that it’s in Italy – wow!

All these things have made me feel like my little heart is about to burst.. hopefully there will be more experiences in the next week and a half…

Remember – ‘Don’t worry that your life will end – worry that it may never start… ‘

Seven days in -flagging, waving or drowning?

Sunday 6th April – One week into the social experiment (don’t call it a holiday – right?) that is my four weeks in Pigneto, Rome. Okay you backpackers, world travellers, ex-pats and exchange students – that may not seem that impressive to you but it’s four weeks out of my healthy comfort zone of one day fasts, limited caffeine and dairy diet, fresh (in comparison) Scottish air and soft Scottish water – so to me it’s a big deal. But apart from that I (we) are taking to it like ducks to water. So on this lazy Sunday afternoon as we sink a couple of beers in Yeah! to a consistently brilliant soundtrack – alternating between Morrissey and Pulp – here are some (general) observations so far:

1. Social capital is key – forget your northern european stay indoors culture. People get out and about, to see and be seen, even if it’s just to down an espresso on the way to work or back home – it’s five minutes of chat and goss. Totally invaluable!

2. There are a lot of very cute dogs and they seem to like eating bread when it’s chucked out for the birds in the park – what do the birds eat?

3. Everyone wants to practise their English which is a disaster for learning Italian – hey ho…

4. Everyone smokes and drinks coffee – along with the pollution – how does everyone look so healthy? It must be having access to loads of fresh fruit and veg and a good old mental attitude.

5. There’s a brilliantly integrated vibe whereby younger people, older people and cute little dogs can chill out together into the wee small hours. There’s no hint of aggression or any pressure to drink yourself silly (one week in we’re still working on that one…) Maybe it’s because the sanctified surroundings of Yeah! are something particularly special but I get the feeling that’s just the Italian way.

Pigneto in particular:

The Energy Park is a great place for chilling out, people watching and one cheeky little Jack Russell with a fondness for bread (see above). Today there was a demonstration to save the lake in the park from developers who want to build a shopping centre there. The demonstration was passionate with loudspeakers, banners and people banging on a padlocked gate. The gate did seem quite flimsy so I’m sure the banging was more symbolic than anything else but as two Jocks we were tempted to offer to kick it in for them if that’s what they wanted…  The police were there and even though feelings were passionate it did seem good natured with pregnant women and little kids in the crowd. Also there seemed to be no paranoia re filming the event. It seems like a good cause and I hope the people of Pigneto triumph!

We went to Marguri for a pizza the other night with our new good friend Alessandro. Checked tablecloths; people from little kids to really quite elderly crowding in quite late on; strangers sitting close together (gasp!); bright lighting (eek!) and just the complete Italianess was like The Jolly turned up to eleven (is it possble to feel nostalgic about an Edinburgh pizzeria when in Rome?) In short though – well recommended for a great quality Neapolitan style (puffy base) pizza.

Above was actually only our second eating-out night. First off was Food Art just down the road from Yeah! Highly recommended with a yummy veggie antipasti, Roman style (crispy base) pizzas and a litre of house red for only 5.50!!! They apparently make ther own seitan which I’ll try later as we’ll definitely be going back.

Tuodi is our local supermarket, just across from Food Art with a bigger branch just at the top of the pedestrionised bit of via del Pigneto. There’s also a Conrad half way between the two but think Tuodi has the edge for prices and choice. Finding it pretty hard tho to source any spices other paprika, luckily we brought our own packet of curry powder and Richard cooked up a spicy storm last night. We’ve invited Alessandro around for a curry night – R has told him (ironic humour here) it’s a national Scottish dish and I think he believes him…

Saw a terrific local band called Zman (there’s an accent on the ‘a’ which I can’t do on this keyboard) in Yeah! the other night. A four piece – guitar/vocals, bass, percussion, keyboards/saxaphone – playing sort of psychedelic folk-rock. A bit like early David Bowie meets The Doors with touches of Gruff Rhys’ Candylion and The Coral in their more acoustic moments. Well worth checking out.







Two Jocks in Pigneto

Well, one Jock and one Jockette trying to put as much distance between themselves and the endless Independence debate trundling on  back in Jockland – for at least a while. So what better place to hide out for a few weeks than the marvelously happening and creative Roman suburb of Pigneto. Prettier and with much more of a village feel than the neighbouring university-centric San Lorenzo; and much, much more authentic than the Notting-Hill-like-stop-on-the-tourist-trail that is Trastevere. Yeah! cafe has already become our second home in Rome – reliable wi-fi, charming staff, a staggering range of refreshments from super healthy veg juices to less healthy super measures of Talisker via tea, coffee and all manner of sweet and savoury tarts served up unbegrudgingly whether it be 7am or 2am – yes, you read it right – which means that surly ‘the coffee machine’s been turned aff, it’s after 8pm’ attitude is going to piss me off even more when I get home. Yeah!’s main thing is their devoted presentation of a constant and eclectic soundtrack – The Stones Sympathy for the Devil is playing as I type but we’ve already had Beady Eye, Jimi Hendrix and David Essex (!) this afternoon. And I had my mind well and truly blown when Peter Cook’s Bedazzled emanated from their speakers the other day – I thought I was back in my front room!

Pigneto may be a little village size but there are numerous cafes, bars and clubs which will just have to be visited before the end of April. Watch out Pigento – the Jocks are in town!!

Perche Roma?

Why indeed? As I start my fifth full day in Rome I realise that’s probably four days and a good few hours more than a lot of tourists / holidaymakers spend here. But – shock, gasp – I still have another 23 days to go. So – almost a month more than your average tourist / holidaymaker. So why am I here for that length of time – when there is no ‘reason’ as in work, study, family? Well, I don’t know if you’ve come to that general time of life when you are struck by the whole meaningless mess of it all… things that used to make you happy no longer have that same resonance, a simple trip or a few days in a new city might have served in the past to recharge your batteries and made everything right again – all that stuff just doesn’t seem to work anymore. So do you go somewhere new or go somewhere you’ve been before and loved and try for that ‘authentic’ experience? So – deep breath and fingers crossed – I’ve gone for the latter. Will keep you updated with all the tears, trials and  tribulations (hopefully some happy times as well!) Stay posted!



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