The Girl with the Edinburgh Tattoo

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Archive for the category “Politics – the girl who kicked the ballot box”

Letter from America / World Watch Out

I’ll say one thing about that Donald Trump. He’s going to be good for artistic creation. As you may have read in my last post I had the germ of an idea for a Twilight Zone type story which had elements of Back to the Future and Brigadoon (I admit, a bit of an obsession for me!) Well, here’s the finished article.

Hopefully people will find it humorous and a little chilling but I felt incredibly sad when writing it (and not for the obvious reasons of looking ahead to the next four years!). The whole idea of people having to leave a land they love for whatever reason – to make money, chase a dream or perhaps because their own land isn’t fit to live in anymore. So it is anti – Trump but it’s also an early valentine to immigrants, the LGBT community, all those who stand up to bullies – in the past and in the future… and of course the beautiful Western Isles.

Apologies to The Proclaimers for pinching their title – although they pinched it from Alistair Cooke first! (I’ll square it with them if I bump into Charlie or Craig down in Colinton Woods anytime soon!)

Talking of Scottish music legends. Rev Mulvey from Lone Head Records tempted me out of musical retirement to collaborate on this track. Could be a creative four years – if we survive, that is!



Back to the (No) Future



You have to hand it to The Donald – he has succeeded in uniting the world. The show of solidarity across nations is impressive. Particularly with women. Particularly with people who won’t be taken in by grubby, rabble-rousing politics delivered by a rebooted Mussolini brought back to life as a Simpsons character. Particularly in Scotland – but then we’ve always been united in our disgust for the big bully who Trump-trampled his way over large areas of our bonnie land.

Everybody knows the story regarding the Scottish connection now. The young Scots lass leaving the Western Isles to seek her fortune in the U.S. Which got me thinking – surely a new version of Back to the Future is on the cards? In this one the main character would travel back to make sure sweet and gentle Lachlan from the local croft ends up with the young Mary and not the big American blow-hard visiting businessman*. Get it wrong – history is changed and the world is doomed.

There are lots of other Twilight Zone style twists in the real tale. The grandfather settling in America only because he got kicked out of Germany. For the full – and chilling – story check out Matt Frei‘s excellent documentary on Channel 4.

Back to the real world though so I guess we just have to get on with it. That doesn’t mean sticking your head under the duvet and self-medicating with your drug of choice  – however tempting that may be. Get up, stand up and don’t let the big bully win!

*Biff was based on Trump – spooky!




The New Normal? (Looking out for a hero)

Paris Peace imageDoes it seem that this big bad world can’t get any worse? Have the deepest pits of depravity been well and truly plumbed? It’s a living visceral nightmare with wall-to-wall shootings, beheadings, burnings, bomb-blasts, lifeless floating bodies – any horror you can imagine – and more besides.

Was it always like this? Or is just more extensive news coverage?

Back in the 1980s – being young and depressed – I thought this surely had to be the worst of times… imminent nuclear destruction, the Cold War... How could I ever think that in the future I would look back and feel nostalgic? True – there was the Ayatollah, Gadaffi and various hostage-takings but the middle-east wasn’t even the secondary story-line in our western thinking but rather an opening scene in one of the Timothy Dalton Bonds. Africa was a poor starving child who needed help but we could stick some coins in a tin and feel better about that. Any tangible mortal danger to ourselves was the occasional explosion carried out by unwashed people in flares and long hair. These usually happened across The Channel or in London though so if you stayed indoors in your northern town you were OK. Except of course being in Manchester in 1996.

A quick skim through the history books should have made me feel better. Wars, torture, genocide. Yeah, that was in the past – we’ve got to be getting better, right? Wrong! And don’t try dragging out the old ‘imagine no religion…’ either. Religion doesn’t cause wars or conflicts – it’s just the window dressing. Some people will always be greedy and aggressive and find it necessary to push the less greedy and aggressive around. (I always suspected those unwashed people in flares and long hair were less ‘freedom fighters’ and more weed-smoking petty criminals desperate for a life less ordinary – these days it’s robes and beards but they’re still the same people) Every country, every race, every religion has – and has had – its bad guys. And when you have bad guys – you have to have a hero to take them on. From Spartacus, Beowulf, Boudicca and Joan of Arc to Superman, Batman and Captain America we’ve always needed someone to take on the bad guys and make it better. And even if they are hugely flawed themselves, at least their intentions are good.

If this all sounds horribly western and euro-centric – I’m sorry – I’m a child of my upbringing. But at least I can recognise there’s something wrong when the media here concentrate on the week-long anniversary of the Paris attacks rather than an on-going situation in Mali.

The call has been for artists of all descriptions to carry on doing what they do and show that creation is better than destruction. We can offer up our own take – however naive, small or personal – on how to save the world.

For myself – as much as I’d like to strap on armour and drive a chariot over the goons who want to slaughter their way into the history books – I know my limitations. Instead I’m mobilising my characters from The Rachel Redemption to take on the bad guys. This time it’s The Rachel Revolution and I’ll post chapters up as they’re written. It might not save the world but at least I’ll have tried.






You’re havin’ a laugh!

So Nicola Sturgeon is going to wow the Americans on The Daily Show… Does she know she’s been billed as a comedian? It’s true!

That must give The Krankies hope to break the American market. All they have to do is tell TDS they are in fact Scotland’s First Minister plus one. They’ll never know the difference!

Krankie Sturgeon

Sixty Glorious Years!

EurovishOnce upon a time it was terribly uncool to say you watched – far less liked – the Eurovision Song Contest. Now it seems the very opposite is true. So when BBC Breakfast presenters like Louise Minchin confirm with a snigger that they will not be watching, all us Eurovision lovers know we are on the right rainbow-coloured team.

So when did Eurovision get its credentials? It didn’t happen overnight, you know. From flickering b&w folks with evening dress and received pronunciation in the 50s. To candy-coloured childhood days of 60s innocence. Onto the difficult gawky teenage years of the 70s. The 80s and 90s were wilderness years in a way with too many nights lost to too much cheap alcohol and E Number snacks; such was the response to the increasingly ridiculous image of Eurovision which in turn was a therapeutic response to the increasingly momentous events in Europe. From New Romantics to Brit Pop Britain was far too preoccupied to be bothered.

A new millennium and a brave new Europe with Eurovision serving as a crash-course for those without a clue. Who knew there were so many countries that had previously been swallowed up by the Soviets? And – shock horror – they could do things cheaper and better. Okay, maybe there were still mullets and stone-washed denim – but they were getting there.

Now well into the 21st century, Britain – and the old Europe core of countries who always pay but never win – are pretty much nowhere. The vast majority are in it to win it; they put forward their best artists, they take it seriously and they work hard. Any parallels with Europe proper can’t be a coincidence.

As for tonight’s favourites – Sweden is indeed special with existential angst lyrics teamed with very clever visuals. Belgium also plays to type with a deliciously surreal feel that has Magritte written all over it. Australia is well crafted with a typically upbeat mood. Italy channel Il Divo, going all the way over the top and coming back for more. And whilst not a favourite, the UK also play to type with lyrics about catching nasty diseases, self-medicating and getting into fights – with a tune nicked from the potato waffles ad!

Whoever wins though it’s going to be a memorable night with the inimitable Conchita holding court. And with the (potentially positive) result of the gay marriage referendum winging its way from Ireland you can be sure Ms Wurst will put that centre stage – about the only thing that could grab the limelight from her!

So get the party started – and wish the old girl (I don’t mean Concheets!) a huge rainbow-coloured happy 60th!!

From Maw Broon to Nippy Sweeties

Maw BroonApart from the obvious benefits of spending time with friends in Italy, it’s pretty good being away from the whole sorry farce that is the British general election. In particular the tartan spin part which is like the school wallflower who’s had a makeover and suddenly can exert an unholy influence over the cool-set who never looked at her twice in the past. Trouble is there’s those dodgy neds who want to do her bidding but they’re neds who want a punch-up and not political debate. She should tell them to bugger off but it’s difficult, eh?

I was on the Frascati to Rome train on Sunday night and what should have been a relaxing half hour journey after a blissful day with friends turned into something quite different. A hundred or so Germans boarded the train and proceeded to carouse, stamp and sing for every second of the journey. They spanned a large age range and there were women in their number but they were all fired up by being in a group, a lot of beer – of course – and being German? That’s a bit unkind – I like Germany, I like German people – but there was something slightly threatening about the whole mob mentality bound together by a national identity. They stopped short of singing ‘Deutschland Uber Alles’ but the whole idea was the same. Funny then – but maybe not – when I heard the news from my homeland the very next day about nationalistic meat-heads storming a democratic meeting. The chill that ran down my spine was bigger than the one experienced on the train from Frascati.

Proud to be Scottish? Of course! Proud to be a Scottish woman? A thousand times yes. That didn’t start with Nicola Sturgeon though – from Annabel Goldie to wee Jimmie Krankie – we’re strong women who don’t take ourselves too seriously. Most importantly we’re tough and we know how to knock heads together. I’m sure Nicola knows how but it’s the when that’s a bit of an issue right now. Meat-heads have a vote – but for all their bluster they only have one vote each. Unless the marching and the singing and the shouting can convince good people to join their mob. I think – I hope – Scottish people, particularly women, are better than that…

The Diana Redemption – be careful with the myth!

ImageI recently did this interview about The Rachel Redemption with my old friend Commercial Malcolm. Read on if you want to know more about the book, the film, conspiracy theories and more…

CM: Congratulations! It looks like you beat the movie ‘Diana’ to it with ‘The Rachel Redemption’.

SN: Well, strictly speaking RR isn’t the Diana story…

CM: Come on… we all know Rachel is meant to be her. Any regrets about not calling your main character Diana and starting from there?

SN: No, that would have just been too tacky! As we can see from the reaction to the film and other works that have referenced her directly it hits quite a raw nerve with people particularly in this country.

CM: Why do you think that is? Is it cos we’re all royalists – closet or otherwise?

SN: Not at all. The whole relationship between Diana, the British Royal Family and the British public was – and continues to be – a complex one. Say what you like about her – she changed the British royal family forever. They were nowhere when she came along, a complete PR disaster – they probably thought she was going to give them a bit of a boost by being this sweet, shy young thing, good breeding stock who may sell a few frocks for the UK fashion industry. Little did they know that she would become this incendiary device positioned at their very heart!

CM: So you were a fan then?

SN: Again that’s a complex issue. I remember at the time her whole love/hate relationship with the press… wanting their support one minute and then complaining about their intrusion the next. And then that whole Charles and Diana soap opera, trying to get one up on each other with those interviews. It was priceless! I think most people at the time thought it was hugely entertaining – we had never seen the royals like this before… airing their dirty laundry in public. In the end it didn’t really matter whether she had planned it or not – she was bringing the British Royal Family to its knees…

CM: And then the crash…

SN: Yes, the crash. Like the last act in a tragic opera. And at the point of the funeral we all thought that this was the end of the British Royals but they pulled it back, they actually pulled it back! And here they are – stronger than ever – their position is pretty unassailable these days, what with the new generation of royals – that’s her legacy I suppose. So hugely ironic that someone who was so close to destroying an institution ended up being its salvation.

CM: So, very different if she had lived…

SN: Well, exactly, that’s why all these conspiracy theories are so popular. People didn’t want the crash to be the final act, they wanted the whole saga to continue. It’s always the same when someone famous goes before – what most people believe – is ‘their time’. From Elvis Presley to Michael Jackson people want to believe that they are happily living their respective lives out somewhere – away from public scrutiny. I guess it makes people feel better, helps them cope with things. Of course with Diana there was the added dimension of her being at the heart of the British ‘establishment’ and being a thorn in its side. Perfect conspiracy theory fodder.

CM: Just like Marilyn Monroe and the Kennedys

SN: Exactly!

CM: So, you reckon that most people just ‘can’t handle the truth’ then?

SN: Well… it’s a bit dismissive of most people to paint them like that. Fiction, art generally – and with that – people’s imagination has always been about ‘what if…?’ So while we probably all know that certain people have indeed left the stage for good, it’s nice – and comforting in a way – to let our imaginations run riot…

CM: You take some liberties with the Diana story so it was probably a good idea that you didn’t do the ‘faction’ route.

SN: Absolutely! I liked the freedom of my main character having a twin, being married to the Prime Minister, having political influence, being at the centre of major news events, finding love…

CM: A bit like fan fiction then, but with real people?

SN: Yes, but using real people as inspiration in fiction is not new – I can’t claim that one! But I like the ‘fan fiction’ point – it’s like, well – you had this life but maybe I could have written you a better one…

CM: I got that. Plus, another thing I liked was that you didn’t shy away from the more ‘difficult’ aspects of Rachel/Diana. But the Prime Minister/Tony Blair character comes in for a bit of a pasting.

SN: And so he should! A major inspiration for writing the book was how TB will always be tied up with the whole Diana myth – with the on-the-spot eulogy and the whole ‘people’s princess’ thing, but the huge irony is that she would have been horrified at what he went on to do. I like to think she would have become a thorn in his side as well… getting involved with Middle East politics and becoming more and more vocal in his condemnation…

CM: Maybe it was Tony Blair behind the crash then…

SN: I couldn’t possibly comment…

CM: Well, whatever your beliefs I think The Rachel Redemption is a bloody good read and I’ll bet – more entertaining than the Diana film!

SN: Thanks for that.

CM: Finally, I must ask you – you wouldn’t have cast Naomi Watts, would you?

SN: Well, I must say that I think Naomi Watts is a terrific actress and has an amazing CV up until this point… but taking on a role like this… she was always going to be on a hiding to nothing. It could be the most wonderful film ever made – and I believe there is some doubt on that one – and deliver the best performance ever but she would still be vilified. So I can’t understand why she took it on. It was one big brave – or possibly misguided – decision!

CM: But of course, if anyone wants to check out your ‘fantasy casting’ of The Rachel Redemption they can do so by visiting

SN: Thanks for the plug. All the best with your current project and maybe I can return the favour by interviewing you soon?

CM: Cheers! I’ll keep you posted.

Hypocrisy and international relations – plus ca change

Raif BadawiOf course it was great there was international representation in Paris a week ago to mourn the victims of the terrorist atrocities and by extension, uphold the right of people – whoever, wherever – to exercise free speech. But like most funerals and memorial services you can’t always stop the dodgier members of your family from turning up. So it was a bit unfortunate when Saudi Arabia rolled into town. Even at the best of times, most of us would think that’s a bit rich but when they’re currently in a very public dishing out of an installment-based 1,000-lash punishment on Raif Badawi for indulging in -err – free speech that’s displaying a brass neck that must surely have been seen from outer space!


Je suis Charlie Toujours

Je suisThe pen is mightier than the sword but unfortunately not that great against a Kalashnikov. Of course a sword belongs to an ancient, less enlightened time and ironically if the vile scum who stormed the offices of Charlie Hebdo yesterday had been armed with blades their human targets may have had a chance. That’s why these people are so dangerous – an archaic year-zero mindset coupled with the tech and hardware of the modern world.

So religious fundamentalism is to blame, right? In a way – but I don’t believe these idiots would be meek and passive spiritual beings if suddenly the whole world starting following the Koran to the word. Many of these people (I struggle to find an apt term) have mental health problems and live on the edge of society before finding refuge in a hot-house environment where there is no strong female influence but plenty of male bonding, drug taking and access to violent imagery – covered with a thin coat of religious belief. What they need is a clip round the ear from a Ma Broon character, or maybe have a good drink and pass out face down in their bag of chips at the end of the evening instead of plotting jihad.

Better still – they should have a laugh.

There’s much debate about what events and subjects can be considered suitable for comedy and as a veteran of many Edinburgh Fringe shows I’ve often been in the situation where I’ve wondered – is that going too far? But once you’ve sat in a dingy room with a bunch of strangers laughing at yourself, each other and things you thought you would never laugh at it’s amazing how liberating that can be. All ego is stripped away and you realise that every taboo can be laughed into perspective. All colours, nationalities, beliefs and non-beliefs come together to say – it’s not that bad – have a laugh! The threat of death can’t deter morons who believe they will be rewarded with virgins in the afterlife for spilling blood in this one. Hit them where it hurts – laugh in their face – and tell them:

Nous sommes Charlie!

Game of thrown-ups!

salmond thumbsupWhat should Alex Salmond get for Christmas? I would say a large reality check with a good measure of humility on the side. In his mind, however, he already has the second-best present on his list ticked off. As well as polishing up a brass neck that can be seen from outer space, he’s buffing up the brass crown he was hoping to be wearing come this festive season. It won’t go to waste, though – as he’s already indicated he’s quite willing to plonk it on someone else’s head – probably Ed Miliband’s – come the new year. So, from would-be-king to kingmaker – we knew it all along, didn’t we?

Without sounding too Russell Brand about it all – it would seem that the vast majority of politicians are egomaniacs and can’t be trusted. With people like Alex Salmond and Nigel Farage particular examples, with their never-ending gall and talent (of a sort) to wring out every last ounce of self-promotion from a situation, however negative. It was particularly jaw-drop-inducing that big Eck should hold court on the day that crashing oil prices were heralding the scrapping of jobs in the Aberdeen area, once known as Trump-town. Not such a safe bet for funding a new nation then, eh?

That shouldn’t mean we should give up and not engage though. It was great that so many people got involved during the referendum debate, however a sad aspect was friends and families being torn apart and in many cases still not speaking to each other. The key is knowing that politics is a dirty old business and that people who were at each others’ throats one day will be doing deals the next, leaving us lot looking like a bunch of muppets if we continue to trade insults and wage war on each other.

But back to some other items on Alex Salmond’s Christmas list – perhaps the Game of Thrones box-set and a copy of Machiavelli’s The Prince? Some chance! He could act as adviser on both of those. I’ve heard he’s actually (gasp!) going to be taking some time off (we’ll see… ) to rest a repetitive strain injury on his wrist. I’ll resist making any cheap comments but merely say it must have been all that rubbing!

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