Showing posts from October, 2018

Polphail – By Duncan Harley

Wall art is not entirely about pre-pubescent puerile penile fantasies and homophobia. Much of the creativity implies a need to be heard and a desire to communicate to a more adult world.

The graphic sexual images, rudely erotic comments and insulting narrative may in essence be a cover for the need to be understood or indeed misunderstood. “FUCK HITLER” when sprayed on a Stalinist inspired 1960’s damp concrete multi storey edifice may in reality be a subversive comment regarding planning policies. “Mo Mo is Fat” when painted on a fast food outlet door is open to wide interpretation. Is Mo Mo fat because the business owners don’t care about the hydrogenated fat content of the burgers on sale? Or is this simply a meditative Buddhist take on the perception of a reality near you. Try reversing the text.

The eastern oil boom came to Aberdeen some 40 odd years ago and the effects are still resonating. Fast wealth, fast drugs, fast cars and some extremely fast ladies abound. Stories of rags …

Tiger Hill @ Cairnbulg

July 2014 saw the crew of the Fraserburgh lifeboat summoned to rescue the crew of the fishing trawler ‘Sovereign’ which had run aground at Cairnbulg some nine years before.
A member of the lifeboat crew told reporters that a tourist had been standing on Tiger Hill when she spotted the ship lying on its side on a reef. "She must have thought that it had just freshly sunk and made the call to the RNLI."

"It is a familiar landmark to locals but you can see how easy it would be for a visitor to mistake it for a vessel in distress" he continued "It was a mistake made with the best of intentions."
The Banff-registered trawler had in fact run aground during a storm in December 2005 with the five fishermen on board being airlifted to safety.

The rusting wreck later made international headlines when it made a surprise appearance on a promotional cinema poster for the Hollywood movie Life of Pi. The blockbuster, an adaptation of a Yann Martel novel, features the st…

The Carron To Mumbai – by Duncan Harley

Scotland’s love affair with Indian food knows few bounds. As a Glasgow student many years ago, I variously got to grips with endlessly bland lamb-bhuna styled carry outs and mind-numbingly awful  starters following a good few pints of  lager. Various mediocre meals were served up as authentic Indian sub-continent cuisine and we accepted them as the norm. It seems odd nowadays, but if the consistency varied from one restaurant to another, we moaned. A McDonald’s style mindset prevailed and the security of a cloak of blandness took precedence.

Thankfully the days of Indian food by numbers are fast ending and the recently opened Carron To Mumbai at Stonehaven is a stunning example of the new enlightenment in Indian cuisine.

I first became aware of the Carron Restaurant a good few years ago. Family visits for birthdays and get-togethers led me there and the place simply blew me away. The food was one thing, but the Art-Deco setting was quite another. Combine the two and, well you get the…

Theatre Review – Duncan Harley - Evita @ HMT

Margaret Thatcher once said that “If a woman like Eva Peron with no ideals, can get that far, think how far I can get” and she had a point. The Iron Lady however took several decades to claw her way to the top; Eva took just the one. Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Evita first took to the stage in 1979. A film version followed in 1996 starring Madonna as Evita and Antonio Banderas as Che. With the stage version now pushing forty, the story-line remains controversial.

Portrayed as a working-class girl who whored her way out of the slums and exploited the poor, her legacy remains subject to debate. Hard to ignore however is her undoubted political prowess. Assuming control of the Argentinian Ministry of Labour in 1946, she generously handed out wage increases and promoted women’s suffrage whilst privately embracing a lifestyle lavishly populated with couture clothing and expensive jewellery.

Greats such as Elaine Page and Madalena Alberta have taken on the mantle of the lead over the …

Zombie Apocalypse - Duncan Harley

An Aberdeenshire regional newspaper today carries the startling news that Aberdeen City Council have failed to plan for a possible Zombie uprising. Alongside lurid tales of ‘Washed Up Whales’ and ‘Drivers Hit by Potholes’, the daily lays bare the shambles of the council’s emergency response procedures.
Seemingly procedures are in place to deal with flood, landslide and terrorist attack alongside detailed plans to protect council tax payers from the effects of nuclear fallout and an epidemic of typhoid. 
But, to date at least, the council planners have given little thought to the prospect of a Zombie Apocalypse.

The council are of course in partnership with The North of Scotland Regional Alliance Partnership.
Described as a ‘Multi-agency co-ordination in Scotland is (sic) based on three Regional Resilience Partnerships (RRPs - North, East and West) which are broken down into 12 Local Resilience Partnerships (LRPs)’.
The agency clearly has a poor taste in grammar.

But moving on, the …

Aspire – A Garioch artwork inspired by the pupils of St Andrews School

When Aberdeenshire Council Landscape Services Officer Ken Regan realised that he had a dead elm tree on his hands he decided to approach Chainsaw Sculptor Gary Shand in the hope of persuading him to transform the 25ft high stump into a piece of public art.
“I had seen carved tree stumps in the parks of Barcelona … the notion that folk could almost randomly stumble upon them appealed and when this opportunity arose it seemed appropriate to create one for Inverurie” said Ken.

Sited in parkland on George Square beside St Andrews School, the sculpting process immediately drew comments from local residents. Carving a tree trunk with a power-saw is after all a very public process.

Said Gary “It was really interesting overhearing the comments. At the beginning folk were mainly asking what it was for and what did it mean. Towards the end of the week I detected a sense of ownership. Folk had literally adopted the piece as a part of their local environment.”

The design stage involved consultat…

Here Lies Lester Moore – By Duncan Harley

Writing competitions are just that … competitions. You either win, or you lose and, in the big scheme of things losing seems likely. After all, there can only be one winner and the rest of the pack are destined to some dark hole in the vast behind of some ugliness best described as the deep pond of despair. I should know. In a fit of participation, I penned a piece for a competition recently. Themed on the note ‘Noon’, the tale centred on a cowboy village in the Garioch – or more correctly near Huntly, the piece failed to even make the long-list and said literary judges have, to date, quite forgotten to get back to say why. Makes a mockery really. But then, I would say that …
Here, for what it’s worth, is my High Noon, Hadleyville piece:

“Hidden in full view alongside some minor road linking Tranquillity with Huntly, the wild-western village hosts a graveyard appropriately named Boot Hill. There are no genuine graves here, only empty headstones made of wood, but visitors to Tranquill…

School for Scoundrels

The snagging list for the next book pounds on. Off for an edit, the new tome – to the best of my knowledge – has but three embarrassing bloopers. Not so last night’s blog about Dracul, which had just the two.
Fortunately, both Dacre Stoker and J.D. Barker were forgiving and, following a wee hint, suitable amendments were made to the inaccurate portions of the piece.

That’s the essence of the blogging problem really. Bloggers generally have no editor. You write, publish and generally wing it. Unless readers take umbrage, or better still make suggestions, the blogosphere relies on feedback and hopefully kind words.

I don’t as yet have a cover image for the new book, but here – in the hope of some pre-publication appreciation – is an extract …

“In his circa AD 98 biography of his father-in-law Agricola, Tacitus records amongst other things the victory of the Roman general Agricola’s armies over the Barbarian hordes of Caledonia. Much has been made of the fact that, although Tacitus goe…

Dracul by Dacre Stoker and J.D. Barker – reviewed by Duncan Harley

It’s Dracula season in North-east Scotland. Local writer Mike Shepherd is about to release a new book about Bram Stoker’s Cruden Bay connection and Dacre Stoker – in conjunction with Illinois born writer J.D. Barker – is about to unleash a prequel to Stoker’s Dracula classic. Dacre Stoker gave a talk at Cruden Bay in early 2017 and both Janice and I were privileged to attend. Alongside setting forth some solid ideas about the history and the mythology of vampirism, Dacre let slip the fact that his forbear, Bram Stoker, let loose upon the world that classic of the bloodsucking genre ‘Dracula’.

Indeed, the very venue of Dacre’s mid-winter talk – The Kilmarnock Arms at Cruden Bay – boasts a guest book entry which reads something like “Delighted with everything and everybody and hope to come again”. The signature alongside the entry reads “Mr and Mrs Bram Stoker”.

Bram Stoker, author of the Gothic Vampire Horror tale ‘Dracula’, and many other literary sensations, stayed with his wife a…

Theatre Review – Duncan Harley - The Band @ HMT

Gary Barlow reckons that Take That was Britain’s very first successful manufactured boy-band and he is probably quite correct. I mean he, of all people, should know having composed pretty much most of their early hits. When the band went their separate ways in 1996, the angst amongst the fanbase was so great that helplines were set up to help with the grief.

Gary went off on a solo career as did Robbie Williams, the youngest band member, and although the post Take That years have been tumultuous to say the least, the music and the songs from the boy-band years at the top feature in play-lists across the land.

Now, courtesy of Tim Firth, the legacy of Take That forms the backdrop to what in essence is a celebration of the power of an enduring friendship shared by a group of friends from the day.

This is not by any means the story of the boy-band nor is it a simple juke-box musical intent on squeezing dry the hit-playlist of the glory days. Yes, the boys are there in almost every scene. An…

When Huntly was Hadleyville - By Duncan Harley

Not may folk know it, but there is a cowboy-town just outside Huntly. Not that you would likely stumble across it by accident of course. Hidden in full view alongside some minor road linking Tranquillity with Huntly, the wild-western village hosts a graveyard appropriately named Boot Hill.

There are no genuine graves here, only empty headstones made of wood, but visitors to Tranquillity kind-of-generally get the drift.

Boot Hill is of course full of those folks ‘hung by mistake’ and ‘shot at noon cause he stole a horse’. The carved markers speak of bank-robbers and cattle rustlers who, in some far dreamland took that step too far and suffered the indignity of a good bit of neck-stretching after shooting the Sherriff. Not that Huntly is a stranger to the wild west. In far off days The Bruce ravished the land in what became known as The Hership Of Buchan. Burning and slaying as he went the somewhat nasty man ensured loyalty via the sword. The early American settlers must have read abo…