An Independent Socialist – A World In Gray

Please do not be fooled by the blurb you see attached to the video! There really isn’t too much talk about the then imminent Scottish Independence referendum. It really is all about the remarkable Alasdair Gray. A man I wish I had been aware of, learned about and began to have some kind of – albeit without any actual personal interaction with – affinity for while he was still living.

There is a sadness I feel that, having moved to this amazing city just a few short weeks before, that Alasdair left us at the end of December in 2019.

Yes, you have to pay to watch the film – documentary – but if you love art, love the murals around Glasgow, have ever read Lanark or 1982 Janine and loved them – see that mural at Hillhead subway station each day (I can’t tell you how many times I have passed it by already and never realised it was there – with great shame) …

Just watch it.

Even as I am still finding my way through Lanark, I take in all the places I recognise. A number of them are local or not very far away. I even found myself reading a letter to a local paper he had submitted about wondering what was to become of Sighthill (the general area, not the cemetery – that wasn’t the topic of Gray’s letter) It is literally just up the road. Just go down to the end of the adjacent street, past the bowling green, round the corner, past the speedway track – up Finlas Street turning into Carlisle Street, until it meets Keppochill Road – and there you are. Sighthill Cemetery. Three weeks ago I didn’t even know it existed! There is NOTHING to mark it out on Google Maps. A few times coming down the A803 from the city centre by car or on public transport I could see there were some graves but I had assumed it was attached to a churchyard – not an actual full cemetery. A cemetery so vast that – as far as I am aware, only the Necropolis is larger (although trying to confirm this with research would indicate Sighthill is larger in acreage so I am a bit confused). Needless to say it is a large expanse and perplexing not to be revealed on a map!

Gray within the pages of Lanark seems to mention a street nearby, Ashfield Street. There is only one Ashfield Street in all of Glasgow. A few Ashfield Roads but no “street”. Only this one. It must be it! And there is talk of Riddrie where he grew up and the area that is now know as Robroyston but was once Garngad – all not terribly far away, further over to the east and north of us on the other side of Bishopbriggs.

But I shall stop waffling and let you watch it! I found it enthralling.

Bravado In A Baseball Cap – Respect Yourself!

He has changed the post several times now since he originally posted it last night. He likes to fuss over the posts most times, chopping and changing text as he goes, adding things, removing others.

Perhaps he was right about himself when he said to Ricky Ross at the end of that recent interview “I am not a writer” – you certainly like to edit enough! This tome of yours must be going through endless drafts! Lol. Sorry, Jim. But the amount you edit posts tickles me. You had all day to post your thing about Jimmy Iovine. Have you never heard of a “word processor”? Lol. Or “cut and paste”?

I’m not a writer, either. But I make sure what I am posting on my blog is – by and large – exactly what I want to say the first time. (I am compiling this post now in my “Notes” app on my iPad Mini, as an example.) The only editing that goes on is the spelling mistakes I missed during composition and proof-reading that I then see AFTER posting. I never usually change the make up of the post. Adding content and taking other content away. If I do add content, it is usually posted with an obvious “UPDATE” attached.

But I digress.

The point of this was the added wording I read on the post this morning – its 10th edit.

That term again! This thing about “realness”. Why does it sound like hypocrisy to me sometimes? And why the hell do I continue to care!? How do you measure “real”?

What does he look for? What’s the secret? Why do I try so hard to crack it? Why do I want “in” so much on the Kerr world?

He hates a quitter, but he seems to be equally turned off by the wrong kind of persistence. So…do I care too much? TELL ME WHICH ONE IT IS, JIM?! I know you don’t care…well maybe neither should I. Geez, I wish I could!

I had a really dark thought this morning as I awoke opened my eyes and you were the first thought there. You’re always the first thought, the last thought and always there through the night too. There seems little escape. And the only means of escape from it I could see this morning was…well, very black, and not something I am going to admit to thinking. But it seems the only option available to me at the moment. Well…not an option available to me. I’ll keep it cryptic.

Again, I digress.

I admit. Last night…my comments. I was hoping he’d bite. That he’d say something. Reply to me. Prove me wrong about my thoughts on Jimmy Iovine. Jimmy probably knows best. I mean, what the fuck do *I* know about writing a song. But…how many songs has Jimmy Iovine actually written himself? For all the work I see listed upon his CV, the one thing that appears missing on it is “songwriter”.

So, what is this “realness” Jim talks of that Jimmy supposedly possess? From what I can see he’s just a blagger, all bravado. By all means a great producer…just by the stats of the list of production under his belt. Ah, but does QUANTITY equal QUALITY? Just has the courage of his convictions and therefore that seems to make him right. How do you learn from anything if you go through life thinking you are always right? And how does that command respect? Am I missing something here?

I fell asleep last night…at some point…very, very late. It was a very warm night in Glasgow last night. I tossed and turned, restless. It wasn’t just the weather keeping me awake. It was also that question that keeps appearing. “Why won’t he talk to me?! Why have I lost this thing I felt I had? Why can’t I just stop fucking caring?! Just…respect myself and not give a toss about what this man thinks any more. Stop wanting to be his friend.”

Until the bitter end…

Lanark Last Night

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I have just started Lanark. Only just. I’m not the fastest reader and I started much later than I wanted to, which meant my eyelids already were starting to get heavy barely one chapter in. I managed two. Lol. And am already attributing the identity of Sludden to a certain someone. Lol. And I would be any of those hangers on – apart from Gay – I should be so lucky! Or Rima (she has standards – it seems so far anyways). So I guess it only leaves me to be Frankie – most likely – or the other one whose name escapes me (irony!).

Anyway! Early days.

But I am already wanting to explore the world of Alasdair Gray so much more already as a consequence of those couple of chapters of Lanark.

So very later last night, after listening to a new episode of The Archers (now caught up with the real world – Ambridge is now in lockdown too) – and a very emotional yet beautiful Desert Island Discs with Charles Hazlewood as the castaway – highly recommended listening by me, not always easy, granted! (I still keep wondering when the frig they are going to get Jim on there!). I then put in Gray’s name in the search wondering if the BBC had done any adaptations to his books, etc, so thought I’d see what a search of him would bring up.

Well, it brought up this in the search results. A wonderful interview with BBC Radio Scotland’s Janice Forsyth. I didn’t know what to expect from it when I started listening. I had assumed Gray would sound very dour and “Weegie” for one – but I found his voice mesmerising and beautiful. He has such music in his voice. A beautiful burr and lilt that I just was not expecting – almost as if he sang as he spoke. As a consequence, as enthralled in the interview as I was, I found myself drifting off to sleep halfway through, to awake again for the final few minutes and the talk of the hardships of making a career from art – making a sustained paid professional income from artistic pursuit.

His final goodbye was pure music, and rather poignant for this must have been one of his final interviews. He passed away at the end of December last year.

I fell in love with him. He sounded like a magical being. Like a pixie or elf or something. Little did I know my flippant little line to Jim the other day about “starting a book at chapter three – seems like my kinda guy” would ring so true.

You can listen to the interview via BBC Sounds HERE

A Little Peace…

Recently I have been told by a few people that I write very well. One suggested I contact a music magazine and lodge an application to work for them. This person had written articles themselves for the magazine in question and they gave me the email address of the editor.

I didn’t do anything about it. I would fear pursuing it. It is one thing to write at one’s own leisure your own thoughts and feelings or to write your own musical reviews and share that content on a blog that you have sole say over. It’s quite a different thing to work for someone else and work to a deadline. I’m not sure I could do it.

Just today a person asked me if I write professionally. The answer is no I don’t. There is one minor thing I do in which I write small pieces of text, but I don’t work to a deadline and my “boss” for the most part gives me free rein over what is written.

But could I ever write like this?

That, I strongly doubt. Granted, I have not spent over 40 years of my life writing professionally. And for many years prior to that most likely being quite good at English, enjoying the language and writing stories. Jim did.

I never had the imagination to create imaginary places. Never felt I had “the gift” for that kind of thing. Compared to what I’d hear from others in class, my stories sucked. So as a consequence I guess I felt like writing was just “not my bag”.

Until I read Anne Frank’s diary. To read her diary is to find that, no matter how insular you feel. No matter how insignificant your world may feel to you, you are living a life and you have your own dramas, hopes, fears and dreams. And yes, ultimately her story was so much bigger than what was going on in that tiny annex…but the way she made the minutiae of that circumstance feel is just SSOOO compelling!

Could I have worded how I felt about her diary like that as a 13 year old reading it for the first time? NO WAY! But it was an impetus for me to keep a diary myself. And YES, my life was far, FAR more insignificant (in no way suggesting Frank’s was). BUT…I was writing. I was using language. Trying hard to teach myself a level of expression that was escaping me from not being at school. I just kept wanting to teach myself.

I read books. Not sweeping epics of prose, just regular novels. I tried with Shakespeare. Lord knows I tried. But I attached myself more to James Joyce and Oscar Wilde. I read the poetry of Henry Lawson and Banjo Paterson and children’s books by May Gibbs and read the 87th Precinct detective novels of Ed McBain. I read “trash” too. Sidney Sheldon novels and Anne Rice vampire novels. I went from Anne Frank to Anne Rice.

I asked for a concise dictionary for my 15th birthday and read it like a novel.

At the library, I would look at the encyclopaedias and VOLUMES of dictionaries and wish to have them at home. You weren’t allowed to borrow reference books. I could never understand why.

To be asked in recent times whether I write for a living is amazing. To be told by others that I have some kind of “flair” or “way” is wonderful. And just maybe on the odd occasion I allow myself to accept such compliments and think I am worthy of them. But for the most part? No.

Beyond Jim’s beautiful way with words and expressing himself was this…

How could someone believe “an eye for an eye” is good? Because, isn’t that ultimately what war is? An eye for an eye? Fighting fire with fire? Two wrongs don’t make a right, do they?

Why is it such a childish thought to want peace? Not to have wars? And why do we never learn? Why are we destined to make the same mistakes over and over?

How is pacifism NOT the answer? How is love not the answer?

I want to end with this. Because it is just so beautiful in its simplicity. No big words. Just the basics and the question of “why”?

F.A.C.A.D.E

Put on your facade.
Wear it like a jacket.
Like false armour.
Let it mask your face.

Show your teeth.
Make your most convincing smile.
Never let anyone see what’s really behind it.

Don’t crack.
Don’t falter.
Don’t look weak.
Ungrateful.
Fed up.
Tired.

Keep wearing the mask.
Don’t let it slip!
Catch it before it falls.
Never let it drop.
Always smile.
Stay strong.

Keep acting.
Be Shakespearean in your manner.
Be Academy Award winning.
Have them saying, “Bravo! You always seem so happy.”
Get an Emmy.
A Tony.
Perhaps if you can whistle a tune even a Grammy.

Play the part.
Pretend.
Fakery is rewarded.
So fake it.

Fake
All
Corners
Around
Daily
Encounters

Slow News Sunday Summary – April 28th

Well, seeing as most days there is not much to report, I have decided to coin the SM “Slow News Sunday Summary”. A look at what morsels have been reported via SMO or other related avenues during the past seven days.

  • Cherisse on tour with Kelly Jones in June/July
  • Sir’s been to Sicily
  • Sarah’s Saturday night gig
  • Rejuvenation albums now available individually as singles

On Wednesday it was officially revealed by Cherisse on her social media that she will be playing with Kelly Jones (Stereophonics’ frontman) during his solo tour of the UK in June and July. A fan had heard an interview with Jones on radio saying that he was “interviewing” a drummer to tour with him and that SHE currently plays for Simple Minds. A rather large giveaway, but I was remaining nonplussed about it until word came from Cherisse herself.

I had a drumming lesson with her on Thursday and we talked about the news. She said some fans got into a panic, asking her whether it meant the end of her time with SM.

Have no fear, peeps! She’s just grabbing the opportunity for some gigging while there is SM downtime.

Also taking the opportunity to explore other musical avenues during the SM downtime is Sarah Brown, who was a guest of a group called Casca, playing a gig last night in Camden. I would have loved to have gone, but honestly, I cannot reiterate how skint I am right now. But I would have loved to have gone and shown some support.

Jim had a few days in Sicily earlier in the week. Some downtime for him from a busy schedule of writing, etc… all actually very elusive as to what else he’s doing other than him saying he’s “writing”.

Anyway…mustn’t dwell on how quiet it is, eh? And actually, I SHOULD be thankful because I have sod all money to do anything with … and that would be FAR worse! If they were touring around and I couldn’t do anything about it.

Speaking of things that cost money that I can’t really do anything about…
After now having released the Rejuvenation box sets and having had us all invest in those (well, those of us who could…), the albums and CDs are now available to purchase individually.

I am now in absolute dilemma mode. A huge part of me wants the box sets because of the packaging. Another part of me says it means I can invest in the vinyl that I was most interested in getting from the box set with a smaller outlay spread over time. The CD/DVD box set I definitely DO want to invest in. But it is going to have to wait.

Until next week, folks…keep it Simple x

Desiderata – Max Ehrmann

The opening line to this was read out in a question on a TV quiz…and…it just struck me as sounding like the chorus to The Signal And The Noise. I had never heard of it before! It’s amazing how these things fall into place. It’s a wonderful piece of prose, and something we could all do with reading daily…either as we retire for the night to have with us fresh in the morning, or when the new day begins for us each morning.

I know Jim said recently he gained a strength and resolve from reading the Indian classic Bhagavad Gita. I started it….but unlike his previous mention of Siddhartha (of which I read and enjoyed and saw empowering positives from)….I found the former tougher going….and that was just through the description of it going through translation from German and into English…and, just the description of the book through those passages made me wary of it. Akin to why I have avoided Sun Tzu’s The Art Of War. I know many people get philosophical positives from these works….Gandhi – possibly the world’s most renowned pacifist, is said to have derived strength from reading Bhagavad Gita. How this can be befuddles me…but it’s said he saw it as an allegory. So, perhaps I will try to finish reading it – well, BEGIN…as I have not actually got to the passages of text in the book, yet.

But, I do have to say that, for now, this passage of prose from Desiderata – esp. that first sentence of it, as read out in the quiz question, really threw me for six and got me looking into it. I think this is much more a mantra I could live by. Perhaps as it is not overly complex in its language, but simple, short and succinct.

I would love to ask Jim whether he knows it or is familiar with it…but I have posted to the SMO visitor wall a couple of times already, so I best not. Perhaps for a future time…

Click HERE to read the Wikipedia entry on Desiderata.

“Hunting Words I Sit All Night” – Trinity College and the Book of Kells

A bucket list dream was ticked off today with a visit to Trinity College. About 32 years it has been on the “must see” list…and finally! It happened. It was very surreal at one point and couldn’t quite believe I was there – standing, perhaps, where James Joyce himself may have stood. Just…wow!

Also went in to view the Book of Kells and was particularly taken with the writing of the monk in St Gallen. Beautiful words that really struck me. Strictly no photos inside (apart from in the Long Room), but thankfully the wonderful Pangur Bán was printed in a pamphlet. The “turning darkness into light” reminded me so much of what I say about Simple Minds’ music and Jim’s song writing. That “dark light” I talk of.

When I am home and rested, I will read more on the St Gallen monk(s). Much too far back in time for those guys to enjoy a Toblerone/two. Monastic life would have hardly allowed it anyway.