Showing posts from February, 2018

Black Bag - The Faithful Border Bin Liner

A number of eons ago I knew a man by the name of Graham Murdoch who along with Dave Smith published a series of comics with a distinctly Scottish Theme under the name of "Keltic Komix". 
Titles such as "Last Quango in Harris" and "The Mystery of Achnagoulash" took Scotland by storm as the pair travelled from town to town selling the comics from an old pram which they steadfastly pushed from Aberdeen to Inverness and beyond.
Graham moved on to write and illustrate "Black Bag - The Faithful Border Bin Liner" in the adult comic Viz under the pen name of Snoddy (his pet cat). Black Bag of course was a spoof of the comic strip Black Bob the Faithful Border Collie, which appeared in the DC Thompson comic "The Dandy" from 1944 to 1965. 
In the original story line, Black Bob helps his owner, a shepherd round up sheep while also solving crimes, apprehending villains and generally doing splendidly good deeds.
In the Snoddy version, an upper-class b…

A Psychedelic Sweetshop and some Silver Beetles

One of the pieces in my new book concerns the history of the early days of The Beatles. Not that I knew them or anything – although I did once meet an Elgin man who claimed that Paul played at his brother-in-law’s wedding -  but I have been privileged to both listen to the songs and I have of course visited a few of those local venues which – in those heady 1960’s – played host to the Fab Four. Now there’s a mouthful of words!
There are of course many historical venues associated with the band and one of my favourites is Fraserburgh’s Dalrymple Hall. Billed nowadays as the Beatles ‘Lost Tour’ the 1960 tour included performances at Elgin, Bridge of Allan and Dingwall before climaxing at Fraserburgh.
The stage at Dalrymple is on an upper floor of the building and leans towards the audience at some crazy angle or other. In the big scheme of things its surprising that performers, including bands and theatre groups, can remain completely calm whilst treading those illustrious boards.
Of …

My Tiny Hand is Aching

That’s a good few more limited-edition signed copies of my best-selling tome delivered to a well-known specialist whisky shop in Inverurie and my tiny hand is aching from the holding of the pen. As I have no doubt said before, ‘The A-Z of Curious Aberdeenshire’ sits well with a dram and perhaps – dare I say it – a Cuban cigar. I was pleased to learn that a copy of my book is to accompany a hamper-full of locally produced Aberdeenshire products to a charity event where hopefully it will raise a few pounds for the relief of hardship in our green and beautiful land.
Yes surprisingly, despite the boom and bust of oil and the incessant flood of capital into Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire, there are still poor pockets of folk all around. Charity shops abound on the High Street alongside the inevitable bookies and, somewhat shamefully, food-banks inhabit the lanes and side streets. And this in the so-called ‘oil capital of Europe’.
The situation if of course nothing new and I well recall apply…

A delivery of books

A friend posted a splendid video onto FB this week. Titled ‘a murder of crows’ it set me thinking about collective nouns.  A bank of monitors, a range of mountains, a troop of mushrooms, a rope of onions and a coterie of orchids immediately sprang to mind.
Then came a ream of paper, a budget of papers, a string of pearls and of course a pod of peas.

A phantasmagoria of phantoms and that collective-term an anthology of poems followed close behind – and why wouldn’t they after all.
It set me thinking about a visit to the high-land of Tibet a few eons ago.
After a good few frustrating days in Nepal awaiting a visa – my partner of the time had somehow alerted the Chinese authorities to the possibility that the trip had a hidden political agenda, which it did not – and despite the best possible planning, the prospect of entry to the land of the Yeti seemed already to be in jeopardy.
This was a shame since I had simply thought that we were off to experience a holiday in a magical and stra…

Inebriated geese near the coastal town of Banff

That’s the second edition of the book both printed and delivered to both my doorstep and of course to bookstores all around the globe.
Hopefully this second printing will sell out just as fast as the first edition. I calculate that it took just a smidgeon over 2,467 hours and seventeen minutes to pen the book but only around 18 days for it to completely sell-out. Work out the math.
The Amazon rankings seem to suggest that, for part of today at least, my book is number seven in the category ‘history, Scotland’ and number 44 in the category ‘folklore and legends, United Kingdom’. Well that can’t be bad surely. Mind you, the rankings change by the hour seemingly so I may be only a shining prince for a day. That shiny yellow Lamborghini looks to be within grasping distance, albeit in Dinky Toy format.
As for the rest of today? Well I bought a chicken from a well-known supermarket outlet – ostensibly for my pet cat Lucy. It was only £2-10 and came already roasted. Not that I am particular…

New Books and Panties

That’s the reprint done and dusted. Not that I had anything much to do with it. The whole point of having a publisher is after all to free up from the business of handling that end of the process. Not for me the ink-stained hands and the ear-shattering noise of the printing-press. Not for me the tedium of taking orders, invoicing them and shipping them to bookshops around the globe. And not for me the tedium of trying to actually get paid for my work. That is what a publisher does and, to date at least, The History Press seem well qualified in this regard. So, hopefully, those bookshops which have sold-out the first edition will shortly be selling out this second edition. Onwards and upwards etc.

As for that header – New Books and Panties. Well it’s a not very successful play on Ian Dury’s debut album.  Wiki, and I am confident that they are right, says:
‘Released in the UK on Stiff Records on 30 September 1977. Usually thought of as the first album by Ian Dury and the Blockheads (hi…

Shooting the Messenger

It’s a funny old world. Following on from last nights review of Company at Aberdeen Arts Centre, I have been variously insulted and attacked by those who should perhaps know better. In the big scheme of things, that is the price of review tickets. Not many folk know this, but apart from a free programme and a press drink at half-time, that is all us reviewers get for our efforts. Yes, there is of course a free seat in the best seats in the house. And yes, it is such a privilege to be freely admitted to every performance of every production ever to grace the stage. But, and I say this gratefully, there is a cost.

The process of reviewing involves not only the viewing of the production but the penning and the thinking as well. An overnight reflection is often good. But some deadlines don’t allow such pleasures. I am generally privileged and have 12 hours or so to sort out my thoughts. And, I think that that is a godsend. Some of my fellow hacks are not so lucky and have to pre-write t…

Sondheim - writers are such fools really

The writing of words is such a learning curve. And the publishing of words is at best fraught. I have said this before and will no doubt say it again, but that moment when the send button is pressed is such a bastard. Once the words have gone to wherever words go, the power and control has been given to another. An editor probably, and an overly pedantic editor might just be on the horizon. Or would it just be a friend intent on sorting out the mixed-up rhetoric. I have met both. Well, when I say met, I mean something much less. Since, some of the unmet editorial influences have been disastrous to say the least. And some of the met have been similar. Mind you, and on balance, those whom I have taken tea with have mainly excelled and taken good care of my words and intents. Leopard, Aberdeen Voice, Northern Scot are but to name but a few.
Today, I was set to do battle with a new foe. Invited to review a Sondheim musical I was faced with a multitude of wordily issues via an unknown dig…

You must be Joe King

Readers of my new book are maybe wondering why a good few of the images are credited to foreign museum sources. The Tryggve Gran chapter is a case in point. There are various archives which hold local images of his aeroplane at Cruden Bay. Sadly, however only the Norsk Tecknisk Museum in Oslo was kind enough to allow me a fee free image for inclusion in the book.

Scottish sources wanted what they imagined was a suitable cut from my author’s royalties. In a similar vein, Museums Victoria in Melbourne were more than happy to source and then send me images of a James VIII silver guinea for inclusion on the basis that a photo-credit would be nice. I can respect that.

I have of course met this sort of kindness before and it is of course very much appreciated. Balmoral Estates went to a lot of trouble to find me an image of Balmoral Castle and Fraserburgh Heritage Centre bunged me an image of Buffalo Bill Cody atop his white charger on the wild West Pier at Fraserburgh. All good and all ver…