No Good Can Come Of Ed Balls

April 28, 2013

At 4.16pm on the 28th April 2013 Ed Balls nervously looks at his watch. He has decided to commit himself to the garden on this Sunday afternoon, so as to avoid the internet.
At 4.20pm over 20,000 people tweet and retweet the words ‘Ed Balls’.
“Oh mate, you’re trending on Twitter!” reads a text from Andy Burnham to Ed Balls. The Shadow Chancellor remains bewildered by the affair, but knows he is powerless to stop it. He picks up a trowel.

The following day, a meeting commences within the production company behind weekly smash UK sketch show, Satire-day Night Live.
“Jamie showed me this brilliant thing this morning!” exclaims the producer, pointing at one of the researchers as he loads up the projector to display a Storify page containing the best of ‘Ed Balls’ tweets, including those from John Prescott, Jeff Stelling and the man from the Snickers adverts of whom Joan Collins plays the diva version.
“Who is this Ed Balls? We need him to host the show this week!”
“Steve, I’m not sure that the number of people who understand an internet meme equals even a fraction of our audience. Is that really a good idea?” replies a worried looking production co-ordinator. The producer calls her a past-it square and encourages the team to laugh at her correct pronunciation of the word ‘meme’, as he has never heard it said aloud before.

Ed Balls receives a relatively one-sided phonecall two hours later. He wonders why he has been asked to host an episode of a popular Saturday night entertainment programme, before deciding that his involvement in the Fabian Society’s annual pantomime must be the reason. He accepts.
“Sorry, I can’t make your Britain’s Got Talent party this weekend after all, Chief, something’s come up.” Balls begins his email to Miliband. He smiles as he types a modest description of what he has been asked to do.

Saturday night.
Five minutes to air.
Balls waits backstage, nervously flicking his cue-cards against his left hand in anticipation of being guided to the wings. This moment arrives after what feels like a lifetime and as he is ushered towards the stage where he rehearsed just hours earlier, he can hear the audience laughing and cheering at a game the warm-up comedian has them playing.

The theme music starts up and the audience are led to clap and show appreciation. Balls is gently pushed onto the stage. Bright lights and dry ice. The noise dies down.
“Hello, I’m your host for the evening, Ed Balls.”
There is a polite round of applause followed by an uproarious cheer when the words ‘Ed Balls’ flash onsceen behind him.
“Ed Balls!” He joyously shouts again, struggling to be heard over the crowd, and claps his hands together, “And this is Satire-day Night Live!”

An hour passes, along with an opening monologue, a musical number and a sketch parodying 1999 film Being John Malkovich, in which Ed Balls travels through a tiny door that takes him inside his own brain. The culmination of the evening is Balls, exhilerated, bowing with his fellow cast members onstage to thunderous applause and standing ovations.

Twitter goes mad. Lee Mack’s management post to his account that Ed Balls is a comedy genius. Tom Daley dubs Balls “a total legend”. Blogs erupt from all corners of Britain and the Sunday papers spew gushing reviews of his debut performance, “Ed Balls: The New Adrian Edmondson?”
“Balls To The Wall: Shadow Chancellor Slays Primetime Audience”
“We Are All Ed Balls”

Miliband is not pleased. His phone rings continuously with questions from journalists about his colleague’s charismatic television appearance and hinting towards his leadership qualities. Meanwhile, Balls takes Monday off work to appear on This Morning and Channel 4’s ‘What’s Cooking?’.

The offers roll in for months and months on end, 95% of which are graciously accepted. In early September, Balls agrees to host six episodes of a new panel show based around the Twitter accounts of celebrities. In the final episode, Justin Bieber appears via satellite link-up to poke fun at his own gaffe from two weeks earlier where he tweeted about a meeting “UK Prime Minister, Ed Cameron”.
At this point, Miliband has been in a good mood for a fortnight due to taking the Canadian teen idol’s online Freudian slip as a victory for himself. He purposely misses the television show and, as a result, is blissfully unaware of Bieber telling Balls and the panel that he posted the wrong name due to believing that Ed Balls was actually in charge of the country. Andy Burnham texts Miliband with a simple “LOL.”
When questioned as to what’s so funny, he responds, “Ed, I think you’d better watch Channel4+1 in an hour, mate.”
Miliband is not pleased.

This, along with his brilliance being pointed out to him on a daily basis, plants a seed in the head of Ed Balls. In the months that follow, interest and faith in Miliband decreases and rumour that Balls is due to take over as Leader of the Opposition spread fast. Miliband eventually steps down as leader of the Labour Party due to three health scares as a result of his now sky-high blood pressure. Ed Balls steps up.

The support for Labour in the 2015 general election is overwhelming.

Ed Balls is now your Prime Minister.

What have you done?

Operation: Styles

February 28, 2013

I have heard of One Direction. They write catchy pop songs that are mainly enjoyed by girls in the 12-14 age range. My personal experience with their track ‘What Makes You Beautiful’ is a limited one, but still it gets stuck in my head a baffling number of times per week. In fact, the only occasions I can think of actually taking the time to put it on have been whenever I ask, “What should we listen to?” and my boyfriend replies “Slayer”. I’ll start playing ‘Raining Blood’ on Spotify, then secretly line up ‘What Makes You Beautiful’ on Youtube to fade it up at inappropriate points during the RIFFS, whilst shouting “IT’S A BLOODY MASH-UP!”.
Anyway, I have nothing against One Direction, but it does amaze me that boy-bands are still a thing. It’s bewildering, but I have accepted it.

I saw them on TV a while ago and out of curiosity I wondered how old they were. I am not a sex-criminal, I swear it was just curiosity and the belief that none of them could be older than me. I was correct. This is a regular thing that happens now and it’s depressing. Nothing I will ever do can be impressive now, I am in my early-20s and am over-the-hill.
At present, the oldest member of One Direction is 21 and the youngest just turned 19. The newly 19 year old is Harry Styles, a name I had heard thrown about for a while, but didn’t actually know it meant until last October or thereabouts. It felt good to learn. I love learning things. I’ve got a yearnin’ for learnin’. Please don’t ask me the names of the others because I don’t know. Again: not a sex-criminal.

I put this new-found Styles knowledge out of my head and didn’t think of him again until the end of last year when I was alerted to the Twitter feed Harry, My Cat Died, which I have since come to love more than I will ever will any of my children. The noble, brave and mysterious figure behind the account makes it their duty to retweet inane things that fangirls post to Styles. Well, that’s the way it started at least. For reasons unknown, many One Direction fans like to inform Harry of the tragic death of their pets to try and get him to follow them or retweet them or just reply. Like that age-old tradition of writing a letter to Santa and hoping that he follows or tweets you back.
As time wore on, though, our hero started uncovering some darker messages directed at Styles. Many were presumably retweeted on the premise that they had to be total bullshit, for example, people claiming their parents had died that day and that a follow from Harry would cheer them up, despite a look at their timeline showing no mention of dead parents. Then one day at the start of December, it became clear that things had gone batshit mental when HMCD retweeted a message for Harry Styles about the grandmother of the sender who had apparently died a few days previous… followed by a picture of the dead grandmother being kissed on the forehead by a grieving relative. Since then, the account has gone above and beyond in terms of finding really bizarre tweets and I am now holding HMCD wholly responsible for this strange new fascination I have with not only with Styles, but mainly with his fans. This is how they get you.

Inspired by the crazy Twitter feed, I wondered just how possible it would be to actually get Harry Styles to follow you on that website and decided that it could be a REALLY FUN CHALLENGE that I could DEFINITELY DO. I boldly announced my mission on Twitter and asked if anyone else wanted to try so we could maybe have a little competition. The first One Direction ambivalent person to get Harry Styles to follow them would win. How hard could it be? I strapped myself in and began to think of tactics, then checked his profile, saw that he had 8 million followers and immediately realised that I had made a foolish, foolish error. At present, this figure has risen to over 11 million. Oh.
The few people interested in participating asked what the rules should be and I decided that there should be none. I did think that one might be “No blatantly asking him to follow you”, but judging how few times that seems to have worked, I say if you want to try that, go for it… idiot.

So, step one was to decide on how to make first contact with Styles. A lot was riding on this first comment I was going to send to him and I decided that I’d have to make my debut special. I vowed to never ask him directly to follow me and would only use my wonderful charm. Imagine if I managed to snare him with just one tweet? Could this be A NEW CHALLENGE?! No. I was around eight minutes into this one and had already lost the will to continue, upon noticing that anybody Styles followed was immediately pounced upon and followed by thousands of One Direction fans. Nobody needs that. BUT I continued and had a look through the list of people he was following. On the whole, they seemed to have very unique, personal and original usernames, normally things like “1Dfan” or “styles4evz” or “directioner456”. This whole bland username thing has always confused me on internet forums, but it has reached Twitter too. Many One Direction fans appear to change their display names to ‘Harry Styles’ and their profile pictures to shots of Harry Styles and never talk about anything except Harry Styles, but still desperately want Harry Styles to follow them. Wouldn’t it be better if they had a bit of their own personality on their page somewhere? If you really want someone (not even necessarily someone famous, but maybe even just a fellow fan) to follow you and become your friend so much, would you not want them to actually follow YOU and become YOUR friend, rather than that of a generic username and picture combination? Sorry for this brief interlude, but this is the kind of shit that keeps me up at night. It is genuinely so bizarre.

I started to consider the possibility that Styles’ following pattern was perhaps totally random and just based on the few begging tweets he actually happened to see on the rare occasion where he’d check his replies, but that couldn’t be right. I mean, each and every one of the, at time of writing, 1428 accounts he follows seems totally worthwhile and I am 100% certain that he keeps track of every single person on that list. I imagine he is so aware of the fascinating posts by each of them that in a pub quiz or on Mastermind, he would totally nail the question “On what date did Twitter user ‘LiamsAntiSpoons’ post the words ‘Do you ever feel like stabbing yourself in the eyes because you see faggots on your timeline but you can’t unfollow bc rude’?”

I’ll be honest with you, blog, the fact that Twitter is totally pointless for people like Styles, who have millions of followers, kind of took the fun out of the challenge. I thought that his replies must move so fast that if he does read them, anything me or my competitors said would be drowned out almost instantly.

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Look at that! In under a minute, so many people had favourited or retweeted a picture of a banana just because Harry Styles posted it. That screengrab is from November, but it’s usually into a couple of thousand doing each thing nowadays.
This put me off the challenge even more than my initial scepticism, and I had the perfect excuse to give up on it for a while over December when I was working six days a week. I told myself I’d reconvene in the new year.

New year came and went and I planned on finishing this entry (I started it in November and just returned to it yesterday, 27th February), but again put it off by writing another post that was actually important, followed by three that were not so much. Fortunately, at the end of January, due to being unemployed, easily amused and still fascinated by Styles’ fans on Twitter, I managed to sort of get a rumour about him off the ground. It was a social experiment, really, but did remind me that Twitter can be hilarious fun. The whole story is here, please read it for an example of how crazy and emotional some One Direction fans can be. I know fangirls have always been this crazy and that it’s only because sites like Twitter exist that those previously blissfully unaware are now enlightened, but it doesn’t make it any less terrifying. The majority of them don’t even proof-read. Crying shame.

I have decided that now is the time for Operation: Styles to commence. Mainly because, forgetting that the plan was to perfectly and carefully craft my first contact with him, I absent-mindedly sent him a message. Admittedly, though, it was a good one.
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See? Gold! And true too. If I was the entire readership of the NME I think I probably would have nominated for Ian Watkins, formerly of Lostprophets, as Villain Of The Year, rather than lazily putting forward an inoffensive 19 year old who actually seems like he might be a nice person.
You heard it here first: NME readers are alleged-paedophile apologists.

If you plan on joining in, let me know and we’ll make this ridiculous and FUN.
Let the games begin!

Some more nice things…

February 16, 2013

Right, this is getting silly. It’s February 2013 and I’ve only made it to writing about the end of August 2012. Being a completist, I MUST DOCUMENT THAT WHOLE GAP. Also, I worry that I’ll have no memory of anything when I’m old and senile, so this is really for my future grandchildren so they can learn the phrase “Cool story, bro.”
I’ll try to make it quick. I said try.

-The day Guardian Liberal Camp ended was Morven’s birthday, so my parents came down to Edinburgh and we all got to hang out, which was lovely.

-The next day Dave and I headed to Glasgow to see lovely lovely Jeff Lewis again. We were due to fly out to Berlin the next day so were staying in a Travelodge by the airport… in Paisley. Yikes.
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The gig was so good, though. Possibly the best I’ve seen the whole band. Frustratingly, we had to leave early to catch the last train back to Paisley (we probably could have stayed later and caught a bus, but we didn’t think to research it). We were walking out as Jeff and a guy he’d been interviewed by earlier were onstage covering tracks from Little Shop Of Horrors. Great fun.

-In the morning we woke up early, trudged across the road to the airport and were on a plane by 8.30am. We got into Berlin at around lunchtime and found our hotel, which was just down from Checkpoint Charlie. The first day was spent walking around and then sitting with beers in Alexanderplatz. We weren’t there for long, but managed to get to several museums and drink many beers. We also got to the zoo, where the majority of my photos are from, and started a new picture-series called ‘Dave & Kirsten Pretend To Be Really Bored/Annoyed In Front Of Famous Landmarks’…
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I wasn’t quite getting it, but I just love that Brandenburg Gate…

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The Reichstag?Not so much.

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Humboldt Box? More like HumBORED Box…

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TV Tower-Schmeevee tower…

Dave ate all the currywurst all of the time. We also went to a bookshop called Another World. It was so bizarre. I think some of the books could only be loaned out and not bought. Upstairs was fiction and non-fiction, all in English. There was a toilet and a fridge full of bottles of beer for sale. There were more books to look at downstairs, which was essentially a room in someone’s house. There was a kitchen fridge and dining table and pan lids in odd places. It was just a flat but with books lining the walls. A guitar on the floor said “for use downstairs only” on it. Great place. Absolutely Black Books.
OH! We also saw BLOODY JAPANDROIDS! They played Glasgow a week before releasing Celebration Rock and we were all set to go, but it was coming up to deadline time for me, college-wise, so I couldn’t really justify it. It was one of my big gig no-show regrets, especially when the album came out and it was my favourite of 2012. So it was good to see them live, and in Berlin too. We pretty much planned going around the fact that they would be playing then.Can’t wait to see them again. Oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh!

We loved the whole trip, though. I’d only been to Berlin once before, in 2007 and knew I liked it then, but I totally fell for it this time. We’ve been talking about how our dream is to move there. Dave was saying this before we even went, despite having never been, but he’s convinced now. To be living in Berlin by the end of 2013 is the goal. An unlikely one, but aim high – expect low.

-The day we left to Berlin was pretty hectic as we were hoping to catch two gigs in Aberdeen via Glasgow that night. What a ridiculous sentence that was. We got the U-Bahn to Tempelhof, then the S-Bahn to the airport, then a plane to Glasgow, a bus to Glasgow centre, then the Megabus to Aberdeen. I started to feel pretty ill in Glasgow, so spent most of the Megabus home trying to sleep to no avail. We got in pretty late, so had to head to our first gig soon after. The Unwinding Hours at the Tunnels. It was good for a number of reasons. Mainly, because my buddy Young Joe was supporting and he’d just come back to Aberdeen after living in Australia for a year, and all of my friends were at the gig. Euan provided some wonderful heckling for Joe to deal with. Good work, U-Win. After that gig was over, we went to see buds play as Das McManus at Drummonds. I would have loved to hang out with everyone, but a mixture of illness and sleepiness were getting to me, so I left Dave in town and caught yet another bus home.

-The following evening, Claire and Jan cooked me and Dave dinner, then Euan, Woods and Mike Blair came round. It was one of the most enjoyable evenings I had had in a long time and reiterated that these are the funniest guys I know. It hit home how much I missed all my buds when I was in Edinburgh, as at this point, I still didn’t really know anyone down south…
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Great bunch of lads, all the best.

-I had a birthday back and once again travelled back to Aberdeen in order to spend it there. It was tinged with extreme sadness, though, as I found out on the way home that Aberdeen Music scene veteran and all-round lovely, friendly guy, David Mackay had passed away. This was especially difficult as there was due to be a gig put on by my friends that night, so pretty much everyone there knew David and was hurting. I thought that it might be cancelled, but music was everything to him, so I think that would have been a bad move and, as cliched as it sounds, he wouldn’t have wanted that. We partied for him, and despite the shadow hanging over the whole evening, it was a really lovely night.

-Again, my parents came down to Edinburgh. Well, my mum came down, my dad came up. He’d been away in London and Gateshead, following Dexys on tour. For as long as I can remember, they’ve been my dad’s favourite band. He is obsessed with them. Before this year, the last time they toured was 2003. He and a couple of friends followed them around on tour, which was ace because that’s exactly what I’d go on to do with bands a few years later despite not being able to venture as far as my old man. I can’t remember how many times he saw them that year, but I remember that he went down to Edinburgh to see them and asked my sister, who had recently moved there for uni, if she wanted to go. She did. They both had a fantastic time and so dad asked if she fancied going to see them the next evening in Newcastle too. I don’t think he had tickets, but knew someone with spares. He hadn’t intended on going himself, let alone bringing his 18 year old daughter with him. He made my sister phone my mum to tell her.
This year, they dropped the ‘Midnight Runners’ of their name and released their first album in 27 years. They toured and my dad dragged my mum to see them in Glasgow, Whitley Bay and London. Then they announced dates in September and he went to London, Gateshead and Edinburgh. We ended up going along to the Edinburgh show purely because one of his friends had free tickets. Dad has sort of befriended Big Jimmy Paterson, who plays trombone, as they grew up half an hour away from each other and knew a lot of the same people. He gifted Jimmy with a copy of the P&J and several butteries, but apparently the rest of the band snaffled them. I really like the idea of Kevin Rowland eating a rowie.
The whole gig was great and theatrical, but mainly it was just pretty nice to witness something that my dad is so enthusiastic about.

-As the time for me to move to Edinburgh drew closer, I started to get sentimental about Aberdeen. One instance of this came about after seeing Thomas Truax in the granite city for the third (I think) time in March 2012. It seems that he has a lot of adopted homes and Aberdeen is one of them. He always comes and usually has everybody’s pal Alan Cynic supporting him, which makes it even more fun and feels more like a party with your friends than a gig.
So, despite him announcing gigs in Glasgow and Edinburgh, I decided that I’d catch a train up north to see him in the environment I’m used to. Then Dave, realised he wouldn’t be able to make it home for the Aberdeen gig, so we chose to go and see TT in Edinburgh as well, partly so that Dave was given the chance to see him, and also because it turned out to be free and at the new Forest Cafe. It was a weird one, though. Amongst the lovely crowd were two assholes. They needlessly heckled the first support act and later refused to pay the 65p corkage charge that was politely requested of them by a staff member. Then they went outside and started picking fights with people. They weren’t allowed back in.
THEN after Thomas’ first song, some aggressive grump from upstairs stormed in and squared up to TT, telling him to turn it down. He was visibly shaken by this and took a few seconds longer than normal to get into his next song, but he did it anyway. There’s no need for hostility like that. Especially to, as Truax described himself, the “hired help”. It turned out to be an excellent gig, though. What a guy.
Still, a couple of days later, I made the alarmingly familiar train journey back up north in order to see him on home turf. I met up with Claire and we walked to the venue together, where several people we knew were, so that was delightful. The gig was great. None of the on-edge feeling as everyone had had in Edinburgh. A bunch of us headed to the pub after the gig whilst Alan and Thomas went back to drop off his gear. We told them to join us but thought it was probably too late. They showed up at the pub fifteen minutes before closing. Excellent. We headed to the Tunnels for a party that was happening there. We sat around chatting and later we all ended up on the dance floor until closing. Surreal moments of life.
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We headed back to Alan’s once The Tunnels closed at 3. I only intended going there to have somewhere warm to wait whilst waiting for a taxi, but there was whisky to be drunk and music to listen to, so we ended up staying until stupid o’clock and I managed to get one of the first buses home. I hadn’t done that in a very long time, and despite feeling very old afterward, it was a very fun evening with some great people.

-In October I got a temporary job with the Royal Mail. Hooray! The catch was that it didn’t start until the 3rd of December and only lasted three weeks. Fuuuuuuu!

-Gig! Salo/Battery Face/Dope Body in Glasgow. Good fun noise.

-I made a fancy dress costume for the first time in years. Lovely Jill in Glasgow had a Halloween party. For the first time in ages, I didn’t have anything booked and so could make it to one of her gatherings! The theme was Predator and Prey, so I went as a shark. I spent ages trying to source an outfit that wasn’t ridiculously expensive, but no such thing existed, so I made one out of a hoodie. Least threatening shark ever…
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Dave didn’t think he was going to  be able to attend until the day before so didn’t have time to come up with a costume. Instead, he stuck on a suit and went as famous predator Don Draper. Good work.
The party was ace and the next day Jill and I got to have a very hungover but enjoyable trip to a local greasy spoon for some bacon. Perfect cure.

-Gig! Adam Stearns/The Wellgreen/Euros Childs.
Ridiculously pleasant gig. All the bands were good and then everyone played together for Euros Childs. The highlight was probably an incredible and mesmerising version of First Time I Saw You.
Here they are doing it in London. So beautiful…

-Dave had a birthday. It coincided with the US elections, ideal for an American History nerd such as he. We ate too much food and Obama got re-elected. What a day to be alive!

-I met up with Twitter-pal Jon Ronson when he was in Edinburgh to promote his latest book and we went to the pub. He brought along Sarah from Belle & Sebastian, but I didn’t think to bring anything. Faux-pas. He is great and she is great. He went on to do a talk in front of a portrait of the queen to a room of adoring fans. He read from the last two books and a tiny bit of the first draft of the book he’s currently writing, which was fantastic and hilarious, as per usual.

-Gig! Halfrican/The Yawns/Ty Segall. Yas. So good.

-I went back up north to help out as a pre-production assistant for a short that’s being filmed in April. Over two days, we were responsible for looking after, signing in and answering questions of 70 people who were auditioning for various roles. It started as a stress, but we soon got into it and it was good fun.

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-I have had to look after my little nephew at various points over the last year. It’s nice being in Edinburgh and able to do so. I took lots of photos of him, but this is my favourite for the hilarity value.
Fun competition: spot the real animal.

-I helped out on some pre-production for a film that’s due to go into production in March 2013. Filming took place on a landfill site. It was certainly an interesting couple of days…

-Gig! Adam Stafford/Jens Lekman!
We headed through to Glasgow early to meet up with Claire and Jan, then they went to see Dirty Three with Dave. Damn clashes! I think I made the right choice, though, as the gig was ace.I discovered Jens Lekman on the back of a vanity search of the word ‘Kirsten’ on Spotify. I just wondered if there were any songs about Kirstens, is that a crime? So I heard his song ‘Waiting For Kirsten’ and enjoyed it so listened to more. The next song I heard was ‘An Argument With Myself’, which reminded me of Jonathan Richman (especially ‘Monologue About Bermuda’) and led me to decide that I’d definitely like to marry Lekman at some point… just for a bit. Anyway, the gig was phenomenal. He’s so funny and the band were so tight. He played most of the new album as well as a few old onesHe was at the merch stand after the show and so I told him I was going to buy my mum a copy of his new record for Christmas. I didn’t really have much to say to him, but I did insist on a photo and he took it as he could work my phone better than me. TECHNOLOGY!
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Look at what an excited red mess I am! Whereas, if Jens were a Brad Pitt film, he’d be Babel

-Gig! Casual Sex/Chain and the Gang!Dave was excited to speak to his hero Ian Svenonius and I took a photo of them. I didn’t realise the unnecessary flash was on in the first one, so I took a second, then Svenonius insisted on a third. Ace.
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-D-Maczzz graduated for the second time. This was for his Masters, though. He and his buddy Ross decided as the only Scottish guys on their course, they should wear kilts. I do not normally approve of kilts, but they both looked LOVELY in theirs.
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Here comes trouble…

-I began a temp job with the Royal Mail at one of the mail centres. Days were 2-10pm, Mon-Sat and consisted of either sorting letters into different pigeon holes by post-code or sorting parcels into bags. It was dull work, but allowed me to have money for Christmas and also meet some ace people. I decided to coincide my working there with re-reading Bukowski’s ‘Post Office’. I found that I wasn’t getting laid as a result of working in the mail centre nearly as much as he did. What a let down.

-As a result of working all the live-long day in December, I didn’t really get to do much else unless it was on a Sunday, which was my day off. That worked out well for…

-GIG! Let’s Talk About Space/Sebastien Tellier!
I’ve kind of been avoiding writing about this as I really don’t know how to explain what happened. The gist: It was the last night of Sebastien Tellier’s tour and we were in Glasgow. He had taken LSD before it and drank copious amounts of vodka throughout. I think he must have only played about eight songs, but he was so hilarious that it didn’t really matter. This review does a much better job of explaining than me. I know it’s a bit of a cop-out, but “you had to be there…” is probably the only phrase that is applicable. I wish someone was recording the whole thing.
Baffling and draining, but probably one of my favourite gigs I’ve ever been to. Well worth the four year wait.

-I had my final day at the Royal Mail in my oh-so-attractive attire.
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As a reward, we went for a German beer at the Christmas market afterward. Rain pissed down and it was freezing, but it was the best thing I’d tasted in a long time, made even sweeter by the fact that I’d just spent the day arranging christmas cards into size order. Bleurgh.

-The next day we were supposed to have a stress-free train journey back up to Aberdeen for Christmas. It didn’t quite work out, though. We thought we were being really clever in booking a train back early and not on Christmas eve. We heard about bad weather up north, flooding and things, before we left, but had kept an eye on the train times and we weren’t going to be delayed so it was fine. We got on the 9.30am train at Waverley and had a pretty normal journey until crossing the Tay Bridge, when an announcement told us that due to landslides between Montrose and Stonehaven, the train would be terminating in Dundee and there would be no buses as all the roads into Aberdeen were closed due to flooding. Everyone got off and was told that our options were to wait around, get on the train we’d just been on and go home, or try to make our own way up north. Figuring we’d rather be stranded in Montrose than Dundee, we jumped on the next train heading there. The ride was pretty exciting as the tracks were completely flooded on approach to Montrose. It was crazy going through the water at a reasonable speed like intentionally speeding up on a bike to go through a puddle. Rain was still pissing down in Montrose and the roads to Aberdeen were beginning to open but there were still no buses from the station so we sat and tried to come up with a plan in the Tesco cafe. We were there for quite a while. We looked up bus times on my phone and saw that there was one going to Stonehaven next, so we made our way to the bus stop to catch it. It arrived and the driver told us there was no way they’d make it to Stonehaven as the flooding was worst there. He said there was an Aberdeen bus an hour and a half later but wasn’t sure if it would just bypass Stonehaven completely, or what.
So we did the only thing we know best – sat in the pub. De-lightful. I was shocked by how my mood was unaffected by this frustrating slow journey north. I was chipper, it was strange. Eventually we got on the bus to Aberdeen and eight hours after we left Edinburgh, we were finally home for Christmas.
That night we went out for the annual Festivus Gathering and told our tale. A Christmas miracle!

-The whole festive period was lovely. We were in Aberdeen for bloody ages and I think I managed to see nearly everyone for a catch-up. Success.

-Then it was 2013.
We’re nearly finished…

-GIG! Bonehouse/Smithsonians/the Shithawks/Fat Goth/Carson Wells!
Ace ace ace. Carson Wells are so good. Such a fun night. Buy their EP, they’re a lovely bunch of ladz.

-We returned to Edinburgh and found that one of the flats in our building had been broken into. Hooray! Paranoia!
Then we began our battles with the Council and the Job Centre. Too frustrating and boring to mention, but it certainly proved what a load of bollocks the right-wing press speak when they go on about how easy it is to get benefits.

-GIG! Daemons/Mark Rennie/The Kitchen Cynics Orchestra/[ ]
[ ] once again proving that they are one of the most exciting bands to watch in Aberdeen right now.

-I started learning to BLOODY DRIVE. Something I always said I’d never do. I don’t like it. I was awful at it, but after five lessons, I have progressed to “okay”. I don’t want to do it anymore.

-Buzz Aldrin walked past us at Waverley. SPACEMAN BUZZ ALDRIN. Incredible.

-One Up closed in Aberdeen after 30 years. Gutting. I still can’t quite believe that it’s true. We headed in for one final visit when we were up for a family-based weekend. I bought ‘Love This Giant’ by David Byrne and St Vincent and ‘Gloss Drop’ by Battles.
Aberdeen will be much poorer now due to the absence of our lovely independent record shop…

-My Granny turned 80 on the same week as my uncle turned 50, so we had a big family lunch to celebrate. 31 of us. Ooft. It was so good to see everyone and chase some excitable kids around. Here we are…
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-I was in Aberdeen for pretty much every weekend in January. Last time we were up, we decided to go for lunch in one of my favourite places. Here, my four years of coming up with nicknames for regular customers at Waterstone’s came back to bite me, as in the restaurant, our waitress said, “You guys look really familiar, did you used to drink in the Howff?”
“Yes!”
“I used to work there! I thought I recognised you when you came in. I was thinking ‘It’s Cool T-Shirt Lady!’.”
So I got a regular customer nickname too! Don’t like all this ‘lady’ lark as I’m not 60 year old, but I do own a number of ridiculous t-shirts… Funny funny.

-GIG! We Are The Physics/Desaparecidos!
It was so good. Really short, though. On the train home, I had to witness a depressing thing, but it doesn’t fit in with this blog title as it wasn’t a nice thing and so I’ll direct you to my complete account of it here.

-I paid a frustratingly brief trip to London for the first time since March 2010 (disregarding our five hour stay in December 2011) for a follow-up to Guardian Liberal Camp. It was lovely to see everyone again and get to catch-up, as well as getting the chance to speak to some talent managers and people in tv again.

And that’ll do for now.
I think I might try and do at least a blog a week again. I say that and know I won’t stick to it, but it’s a nice thought.

BYE!

The Network 2012: Escape From Guardian Liberal Camp

January 28, 2013

[During a write-up of my 2012, I thought this warranted its own blog post as I predict it’ll be massive. Better five months late than never…]

In March of 2012, I was encouraged to apply for a training scheme run by the Guardian called the Network. It was set up to help people who want to work in TV and takes place in August, during the Edinburgh International Television Festival. It’s four days of workshops, masterclasses and Q&A sessions with beautiful people who have made it in the television industry. Two people from my college class had attended in 2011 and recommended it, so, despite not knowing much about it, I went for it. Apparently over 2000 people applied to get a place on this scheme, but only 60 were accepted and in June I found out that THIS GUY (that’s me) was one of them. No, I’m not sure why either.

In being accepted, it was confirmed that we would get delegate passes to the entire TV festival, free accommodation and meals for the duration of the four days and entry to exclusive events. It sounded pretty good. As I already had a place to stay in Edinburgh, I emailed the co-ordinators and said that I didn’t need the accommodation, but I was told it was compulsory as it was the central meeting point for transport to Network venues and would also allow me to socialise with fellow Networkers. Totally fair enough and I knew that at the time, but as I was still embarrassingly uninformed about what would be happening at the Network, I also thought it was a bit odd. I mentioned it to Dave and he jokingly asked what weird cult I had signed up to, so I had to admit to him that I didn’t really know what it was, “but Jamie and Erling went last year and lived to tell the tale!” I cried. I mentioned that it was set up by MediaGuardian, so we speculated about it, claiming that it’d be a big bleeding heart liberal camp set up to turn me into even more of a filthy lefty. And thus, the affectionate nickname Guardian Liberal Camp came about.

SPOILER: It turned out to be ace, though.

The first day was a Wednesday and we were instructed to make our way to the Napier University building, where we’d be based for most of the time until Saturday, for registration. The night before, I’d planned what bus to get, but on the day I ended up walking. And it began to rain. Hooray! It took about an hour to get there and I stood in line with the people I’d get to know over the next few days. Once I’d signed in, I chatted to a few people and figured out who was going to the same introductory sessions and masterclasses as me and then made my way to my first one: Scriptwriting Essentials. It was enjoyable. The first half consisted of us all compiling a list of great dramas and comedies and explaining why we thought each one worked so well. In the second half, we had to get into groups and come up with an idea for a comedy or drama show and pitch them to the whole room. I can’t remember what we pitched, but it was okay for twenty minutes work! After that, I had an appointment to speak to someone about my then-rubbish CV. They made a lot of helpful suggestions that I had somehow never even thought about before.
Then all of the delegates sat in and watched a man tell us how to “Network”. It was basically a lecture on how to make a good first impression and I missed the first fifteen minutes due to my CV thing overrunning, so maybe I didn’t appreciate it as much as I would have had I caught it from the start.

We hopped on a bus and were taken to our accommodation to drop off our bags and quickly get ready for that evening’s shenanigans.
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Ridiculously convenient…
Then we were driven to the EICC to do a quiz hosted by Iain Stirling and drink jugs and jugs of free beer. If I’d had any doubts about the Network before, by this time they were non-existent. All the teams were named after TV personalities. We were Jonathan Ross. We didn’t do spectacularly.
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Frisky and Mannish did a couple of minutes after the quiz and we were encouraged to move through to the foyer. Nobody budged, though, as you had to pay for the bar through that way. We all chatted for a long time, until we were shepherded onto the coach and back to our rooms.

The next day everybody woke up and headed for free breakfast. We were staying at Pollock Halls where the breakfasts were the thing of legends and rightfully so. Incredible food. We headed back to Napier where we all had different masterclasses from industry dahlings. I saw Daisy Goodwin, who has worked with Talkback and founded Silver River Productions. She was very engaging and funny and did her best to answer all questions that were asked. After, we had a Q&A from some of the cast and production team behind Horrible Histories. It was ace. Children’s tv is incredible, I definitely wouldn’t rule out trying to find work on those shows. After this panel, we had the thing I was most looking forward to. Andrew Collins asking Charlie Brooker questions, followed by a question and answer session with us and the miserablist.

Now, the subject of Charlie Brooker is the only thing I get vaguely hipster-ish about. “I liked him before had a haircut and was on tv all the time!”
I believe it might have been my pal Jamie (HI JAMIE!) who first mentioned to me that I would like Brooker’s first book ‘Screen Burn’ as he was reading it and finding it hilarious. Not one to dismiss a recommendation, I eventually tracked down a copy and fell in love with this almost-anonymous man. It was only a matter of time before I started reading his weekly columns and watching Screenwipe on BBC4. From then on, I’d found a new hero. I even put ‘Meet Charlie Brooker’ on the top of my list of life goals on an ancient ancient, pointless blog post. See? (Incidentally, it looks as though I have still seven things off that first draft of an unimportant list still to achieve!)
So, that was a few years ago and Brooker is obviously now pretty much a household name on these Isles. While that is ace, I’ll admit that I soon became out of touch and couldn’t keep up with all of his broadcasts and tv appearances. As a result, I wasn’t aware of a lot of things he was doing. I watched the programmes he had written, Dead Set and Black Mirror, but have still shamefully yet to see 10 O’Clock Live or many of the other shows he’s been involved with. It sounds harsh to say “I lost interest in him” and that’s not strictly true, I still read his columns and thought he was brilliant, but I guess I had just lost my naive obsessiveness! When the programmes for the TV Festival and the Network were announced, I saw that Brooker was involved in lots of events, as he normally is, but worried that we wouldn’t get to see him give talks or anything as we’d be too busy with our workshops. Despite slacking in my fan duties, though, when I heard he would be having an exclusive chat and Q&A for us, all the excitement of the olden days came back. For the first time in years I actually felt nervous and excited at the possibility that I might get to meet someone I had respected for such a long time. This felt refreshing as the month prior to the Network, I’d spent most of the Fringe feeling pretty jaded. It became weirdly normal to walk past my favourite comedians or stop and say hello to them in the streets throughout August and I had been worrying that I’d lost some excitement in my life. It was a relief to feel so excited about being in the same room as Charlie Brooker as it meant that I wouldn’t be shouting “Damn Stewart Lee, won’t you leave me alone?!” any time soon upon spotting my favourite stand-up in a cafe or somewhere.
Anyway, Charlie Brooker and Andrew Collins came into the lecture hall where we were and I just grinned the widest grin I probably ever have. I am 90% certain that I looked like a serial killer. They began to talk and both of them were great. It was so long ago now that I can’t remember the full details, but they spoke about how Brooker got into broadcasting and his route to getting to where he is now was so bizarre that I couldn’t tell if I should be relieved that there is clearly no set way to get into television production or worried that it could be completely down to chance.
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Brooker watching Brooker.

After 40 minutes or so of chatting and showing clips from Screenwipe and A Touch Of Cloth, the floor was opened up and we got to ask some questions. They were answered hilariously and honestly, but too soon the whole thing was over. I’m pretty sure he made some new fans that day as well as thoroughly pleasing the ones he already had. He stayed behind to sign things for people, but there was a big crowd around him and also people trying to leave the room, so I couldn’t get to him. It dawned on me that I didn’t really have anything I wanted to say to him, I just wanted to shake his hand and get the two (I know…) books I’d brought with me signed. He had another thing to be at, so had to make his way downstairs. The lift was taken, so there was a super-surreal few moments where a couple of us were wandering down the corridor of a university and around seven flights of stairs with Charlie Brooker and Andrew Collins…
Their cars were just arriving as we got to the reception of the building and the crowd around him had almost disappeared, so I saw my chance to get my books signed. He took my old copy of TV Go Home (yeah, y’hear that? OLD copy. The original one. Not the reprinted edition that you have, you shyster! [/reluctant-hipster]) and as he was signing it I commented that I was quite disappointed that when they were showing Screenwipe clips they didn’t show A Career In Telly. For a second he went quite wide-eyed as if he’d just remembered he’d left his straighteners on (reference to him having a hairstyle these days) and then laughed and said, “Thank God! I’d forgotten about that…”
This is the clip…

When I first saw that on tv, I let out a “Ha! I imagine that’s so true!”
Now, after two years on a tv production course and still attempting to get a job in the industry months later, I let out more of a weary “Heh… that’s so true…”

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From ‘The Atheist’s Guide To Christmas’

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I said thank you and goodbye, then immediately regretted not getting my photo taken with him, but wasn’t sure if he’d be up for that. I glanced back around and saw that some of the other girls were getting their photo taken with him, so I bolted back and asked if I could get one too, whilst apologising furiously.

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So that was pretty good. I could have ended my Guardian Liberal Camp experience right then and there, but my GOD, there was even more to come. I don’t think I stopped smiling that whole day, though.

–**–**JOKE BREAK!!!**–**–
Q: Why did the hipster burn his tongue?
A: Because he drank his coffee before it was cool.
–**–JOKE BREAK ENDS–**–

Back on track… The day was far from over. We had lunch then returned back upstairs for more masterclasses. I forgot that I was actually scheduled to see Alex Mahon, CEO of the Shine Group, talk and ended up at Peter Fincham’s instead. For a comedy-obsessive, though, this worked out quite well as I was well aware of Fincham and the shows he has been involved with. In a similar way to Daisy Goodwin’s masterclass earlier, Peter Fincham spoke about his career and time at TalkBack all the way to his current position of Director of Television for ITV before answering our questions. It was ace hearing him tell tales of Talkback, because boy, do I love Talkback! I am now regretting not speaking to him afterward, but I think he had to rush off to something else, which probably would have made me ramble more incoherently than I normally would.

After this, we joined our groups who we would be taking part in our workshops with. There were five different groups, dealing with drama, creative, production, news and, the one I ended up in, research skills. We were introduced to our mentors, Oliver (executive producer of Snog, Marry, Avoid) and Lauren (former researcher on the same show), who told us that over the next three days we’d be in charge of researching and producing a mini-episode of Snog, Marry, Avoid. As one of my guilty pleasure tv shows, the idea of this delighted me and we got to it straight away. We only had about an hour or so before having to head back to the EICC, so just enough time to get to know everyone in our group and get a start made on the work, but I knew immediately that it was going to be a lot of fun.

At the EICC, we were due to see Elisabeth Murdoch give the keynote speech. I was unsure about how to feign enthusiasm for this, as I have nothing but contempt for her father and when her brother gave the same lecture in 2009 he attacked the BBC and made a number of ill-judged and uninformed remarks about UK broadcasting on the whole. A bold move in front of a theatre full of people who work for British broadcasters. I soon began to feel bad, though, and realised I didn’t actually know anything about Elisabeth Murdoch. I knew that I wouldn’t much like to be judged on things that my relatives might have said or done, so gave her a chance. She did a fine job of the speech and rightfully questioned why she was only the second woman to ever deliver that particular lecture. Amusingly, she seemed to try to backtrack on things that her brother had said years before. I couldn’t tell if they were her genuine feelings or if they may have been slightly forced.

Next up was dinner, followed by a party hosted by Channel 4 that was held in the bloody National Museum! It was incredible! The place looked lovely. Again, the beers were free and plentiful, which was good as we were supposed to spend this time “networking” with TV big-wigs. I felt a little uncomfortable going up to people I didn’t know who were enjoying chatting to friends and colleagues they might not have seen for a long time. I’m sure they were all well aware that Networkers would be doing the rounds, but I was lacking in confidence. And business cards. I decided to just enjoy the wonderfully peculiar surroundings and save the hobnobbing for the final night’s party. It seemed that many of my other new pals felt similarly and many of us got on the bus feeling a little embarrassed that we couldn’t pluck up the courage to interrupt the conversations of potential employers or mentors.

Friday! And the last full day. Again, we headed to Napier really early and were due to spend the whole day taking part in our workshops. For us, this involved writing scripts for our mini-episode, sourcing contributors to do vox pops on the mean streets of Edinburgh, filming all the links and pieces that we could and most importantly, turning our wonderful and beautiful actress into a hilariously orange object of ridicule.
Please note: In actual episodes of Snog, Marry, Avoid, the people who are being “made-under” are real and not actors, but as we only had two days to produce our episode, we had to source someone with acting experience or else the whole thing would have taken much longer.

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Poor girl. We were especially proud of the underwear over clothes look.
A group of us went out onto the streets to film the reactions to our model from as many guys as possible, and ask them whether they’d snog, marry or avoid her. Unsurprisingly, there was a resounding “avoid”.

The whole day was great. For me, the best part was scripting as not only is scriptwriting what I want to do with my life someday, but also because we got to write a bunch of really cheesy puns. We had a such a good team, Lauren and Oliver were especially ace and patient with us. Our afternoon was punctuated by another trip to the EICC. All we had left to do was film some links from Ellie Taylor, the presenter, and then we’d be done. We went to the Sherlock panel, which was a highly anticipated feature of the whole festival, then headed back to a conference room to film Ellie’s scenes.

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It was so good to watch the whole thing come together, especially as we’d been with it from the very start and created it from nothing. After we’d finished filming, we got the room back to normal and accidentally spied on Richard Bacon, who we could see from our window. Television!

We were required to go to the Channel Of The Year Awards after this. It was a bizarre hour long, atmosphere-free awards ceremony hosted by Jason Byrne, who seemed as bewildered as everyone else by the whole thing. Lots of good people presented awards, including Rhys Darby and Adam Curtis. One of them was presented by the woman and dog that I’m told won Britain’s Got Talent. I did not understand. You could tell that it was not yet 7pm.
Thankfully, that was soon over and then it was time for dinner. We had a surprisingly long time to get ready for the evening’s festivities: the final night’s party at the amazingly posh George Hotel. We got there and were entitled to one free drink. I’m pretty sure that everybody ran to the bar menus to check what the most expensive things were. Good work, guys.

As with the previous evening, I still felt uneasy about approaching people, but decided it’d be better that night as there was an actual cash bar and where else is easier to get chatting to people than at a bar as you both wait to be served? It didn’t happen, though, then I somehow managed to lose my friends. The bus was due to pick those who wanted to go home up at 12am and a few people I recognised, including those from my workshop, got on so I did too. Before we left, I started to panic that I was missing out on a golden opportunity and nearly got off the bus to go back to the party, but it started to move just as Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss were making their way inside. Fuck.
So, I was feeling pretty bad about myself on the trip home, and then again when I got back to my room. I started thinking about the whole month and everything got on top of me. I realised that the Fringe was nearly over and I hadn’t had nearly enough ridiculous experiences as in previous years, so, as I was not tired in the slightest, I decided to have a late night wander around the Fringe hotspots and see if anybody I knew was kicking about. I was thinking about my buddy Ryan who lives in London now and hoped I might run into him as I knew he’d be back working at one of the venues for a month. As luck would have it, ten minutes later I saw him taking money out at a cash machine. We didn’t get to hang out, though, as he’d apparently been up since 6am and had been doing festival work all day. I let him go home, checked a few other places with no results, admitted defeat and headed back to Pollock Halls and bed.

The next day I felt a little better about myself. I caught up with the friends I’d misplaced the night before and it turned out that they’d had a good time, but were all hungover, so I guess I missed out on that. We went back to Napier where we were told there wasn’t much for us to do as everything was filmed and in the edit already. Our group played Guess Who? and went to get a coffee together whilst doing the done modern-age thing: adding each other on Facebook. Soon it was time to head to the EICC for the final time where the Production Skills team ran an entire showcase of what all the groups had been up to over the previous couple of days. It worked out very well! We watched the Creative team pitch programme ideas to Phil Edgar Jones, who then had to choose the best. The winning group won a week’s worth of work experience at ITV, pretty cool.
Then we watched what the Drama Skills group had been working on – some scenes from Waterloo Road. It was really well done, looked like it would have been really ace to be involved in scripting.
Finally we got to see our own effort in the form of our Snog, Marry, Avoid episode.
Unfortunately the sound was a bit ropey in places due to the mic cutting out during Ellie’s presenter links. It was a little rough around the edges, but not bad for two days of work!
We were also shown what the News team had been up to. Their segment was brilliant, lots of little news reports from in and around Edinburgh about local goings on.
The whole Production Skills team did a marvellous job of the whole afternoon with no major hiccups.

At the end of this showcase, Konnie Huq hosted a panel consisting of six industry pros. They were supposed to talk us through their careers and then answer our questions, but there were so many of them that the questions part never really happened. To make up for it, everyone who had been on the panel stuck around and spoke to people individually. I finally plucked up the courage to approach Pat Younge, Chief Creative Officer of BBC Vision. I asked him his advice about getting into comedy writing and he gave me some useful tips and email addresses of people in Scotland to get in touch with. Networking at last!

…And then it was over. I felt oddly emotional about saying goodbye to people, despite the fact we’d only been together for three and a half days. Overall, the whole experience was brilliant and I’d definitely recommend it to anyone looking to get started in tv production. I learned a lot about the industry and saw the realities of certain aspects. Despite the fact that I probably didn’t make the most of the schmoozing opportunities that were handed to me on a plate, I found the Network to be really rewarding and useful. Most of all, though, I just generally had a good time, met some ace new buds and Charlie fucking Brooker. Can’t say fairer than that, really…

Some nice things…

January 27, 2013

After the sadness of the previous entry, I thought I’d concentrate on doing a relatively light-hearted summary of the rest of May-December 2012. I don’t plan on it being long, but I never do and it always ends up being so. Let’s see…

-I had numerous doctor and hospital appointments throughout the year to try and figure out what is wrong with my rubbish body. At one point, I saw a doctor who hadn’t seen me before. It was an interesting appointment. I’m doing this summary with the help of my blipfoto account, where I post a photo a day and more often than not, a very short description of my day, so here is what I wrote for this day: “Ah, exactly as predicted. Another hospital appointment today only to be told that mystery illness is still mystery illness. ‘Stumped’ is the word I’d use to describe the doctor.
It all became too much and I got so frustrated that I cried and immediately felt like a little pussy and apologised, explaining “I don’t make a habit of breaking down in tears in front of strangers…”
Realising the mood was a little tense from then on, I tried to lighten it a little, “hey, maybe they’ll name a disease after me!”
The doctor didn’t laugh.”

-The last few weeks of college passed s l o w l y. After our run-in with the mad professor, I just wanted out of there as soon as possible, but stupid little things kept me from doing so. Technical fuck-ups in the edit suite, the prof wanting unnecessary paperwork, the prof changing his mind about what he would be assessing, us realising we’d been given the wrong checklists for assessments months earlier and so we had to hastily re-do or add bits and pieces to what we thought was completed work, the professor in general. We decided that the man should be referred to as the Professor as, not unlike Hubert J. Farnsworth of Futurama, he would often exclaim “Good news, everyone!” and proceed to tell us something that was good news for other people at our expense or something dull that he had forgotten he’d already explained to us countless times before.

-A bunch of buds went to a cracking little gig held in the rehearsal space of some other buds. The bands playing were Ashley Park, Dirtdrinker and Carson Wells. It was brilliant and had the following rules written on a whiteboard…
1. Bottles in bag.
2. Finish your drinks.
3. Leave between songs.
4. There ain’t no toilet.
5. If there’s a fire… oh!
6. Don’t be irritating.
BYOB. DIY. ACRONYM AS FUCK.

-It was the year of degree shows. I’ve already mentioned, two entries back, my good buddy Garry‘s show in Dundee. Dave and I went to the poorly laid out Edinburgh College of Art one too, but we were so annoyed at things not being where they were supposed to be that it distracted us from enjoying the nice things. I remember there being some freaky taxidermy, though. Finally, Jill, my mother and I went to see Amber’s work at Gray’s, along with the other people I’ve met over the years who were due to graduate. Amber’s stuff was great, she’s going to be a kick-ass graphic designer. Mum was really overwhelmed by how good everyone’s stuff was and said it was really inspiring. It was lovely to be able to go to the show with her and take both of our minds off of the shittest June in history.

-I finally finished college. Other than multicam, second year was pretty awful. I’m grateful for getting to meet some great people and learn a lot, but I was delighted to be out of there in the end. Shame, really.

-I moved to Edinburgh despite still working in Aberdeen at weekends. My partner-in-crime Pam returned to work with us after three years away and it made my final couple of months there so much better.

-Brodie, Claire, Lauren, Brodie’s friend Doug and I headed to Amsterdam for a couple of days. We didn’t really think it through and we were there from a Tuesday night ’til Thursday night, which meant only one full day there. Still, it was a cheap flight and hotel. It turned out to be a lot of fun and took my mind off of the crappy event that had occurred a few weeks previous. Also, I got to meet up with my cousin Neil who stays just outside Amsterdam, so that was excellent. Our flight on the way home ended up being delayed and so we didn’t board our plane until 10.30pm. This meant that the staff were in such a hurry to get us home that they had turned off the full body scanners and didn’t bother to stop anyone when they set the metal detector off. Think of all the illegal unmentionables we could have smuggled back with us! Sorry, Britain.

-I got bloody blocked by Alec Baldwin on Twitter! He still hasn’t unblocked me. At first I was weirdly gutted about it, but now I think it’s hilarious. Anyway, I wrote a blog about it here, so if you fancy trying to get him to love me again, please send him the link.

-We went to a recording of one of the live shows for Stewart Lee’s alternative comedy programme. On the bill was Josie Long, Maeve Higgins, David O’Doherty and Bridget Christie. Best line-up. StewLee was kicking about too, but not performing, just watching.

-I quit my bloody job. This was the original draft of my resignation letter.
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-That same day was one Lauren McPhee’s birthday. We were still in Aberdeen and due to see tUnE-yArDs in Glasgow that night, so caught a train down. We had a burrito in Pinto, which I enjoyed about half of before realising that the chicken was pretty pink. We went to the gig, which was ace, as expected and then to the Flying Duck to meet McPhee and pals. I started to not feel right before we left for Sleazy’s, then when we got there I had to run to the toilets and throw up loads. Hooray food poisoning! I was sick a few more times over the course of the night, then we went back to McPhee’s, sat down and watched Mamma Mia. I think it cured me.

-I discovered Breaking Bad at some point near the start of the year, but was properly obsessed by the time July came around. It is now my favourite thing ever and I’m not sure what I’m going to do when they show the final eight episodes in a few months time…

-On one of my final weekends of work, Frankie Boyle came into the shop. Pam had done an event with him when she worked in Edinburgh and he’d apparently been a total dick to the staff and customers, so she mouthed “Noooooo!” at me when he arrived. He didn’t buy anything, though. I think that’s the first time anybody famous has been in since Bill Connolly in 2008…

-JAN AND CLAIRE GOT ENGAGED! Best guys! To celebrate that and also the fact that they’d bought a flat, they had a lovely party with loads of great guys. We bought them a whisky decanter too, so I felt a bit like a grown-up.

-Then the Fringe began. It was an odd one this year. I knew it’d be different as I’d have less time to see things I planned to due to reviewing shows for the Skinny. As the Fringe is always delightfully surreal for us, I predicted that my involvement with the paper would bring out some ridiculous moments. We were off to a good start even before August began. I was sent along to the launch night of a venue hosting comedy at the Fringe for the first time, the Shack. There was a misunderstanding, though, and I was told that there would be a wee showcase of some of the acts followed by drinking and chatting with everyone involved. There wasn’t, though, it was a meet and greet type affair only. This meant me awkwardly sitting alone for an hour, waiting to be taken into a room to watch some comedy, whilst everyone else chatted and drank together. I eventually managed to catch the promoter when she had a rare moment not surrounded by adoring fans and also ended up chatting to two of the people who would be doing sound for the venue. Lovely. The following day the Fringe-weirdness continued as we agreed to walk my sister’s dog and James’ dog with comedians Sara Pascoe and Suzi Ruffell. We walked round some of the crags at Arthur’s Seat and they were lovely. That night, I went to the launch of the newly renovated Assembly Rooms. I hadn’t been since 2010 and it had been done up beautifully. The first person I saw on arrival was StewLee, then later, after taking advantage of the free bar, I saw Les bloody Dennis. HOLLYWOOD! After a few minutes of drinking and standing in a lobby, we were ushered into one of the bigger rooms to watch a showcase of Assembly acts. Tommy Sheppard kicked things off and that was pretty emotional and lovely. Unfortunately I can’t quite remember everyone who we saw, but the bill included Phil Nicol, Stewart Lee, Liz Lochhead, some Latin musicians and dancers, Camille O’Sullivan and the Lumberjacks.

-Before the Fringe properly kicked off, I had my final weekend of work to deal with. My last day was nice and didn’t consist of a lot of work. In the afternoon, we watched Andy Murray on his way to winning the Olympic Gold on my phone. The bastards never got me a card, though! Four years I was there! (Pam swears she signed one, so I think they may have just forgotten to give it to me). Fortunately, though, my present from Matt was a shot of his puppy, Ted. BEST GIFT! He had to be given back, though…
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-FRINGE CONTINUED! This might become a list of who we saw interspersed with stories of nice things. I’ll italicise the shows. I apologise in advance. You can skip to the end if you’d like.
We saw Josie Long, Hannah Gadsby, Claudia O’Doherty and Doctor Brown in the first two days. On the third day we saw Richard Wiseman and Nick Page. I’d woken up feeling awful that day, with a headache making me feel sick. I had a Doug Segal show to review at 7pm and dragged myself along to it, feeling progressively worse. As we were shown in to our seats, I was sat at the end of a row so was reassured by the fact that if I had to go and throw up, I could run and it’d only be causing-a-scene embarrassing, rather than puking-on-a-stranger embarrassing. I mentally compiled my “Listen, I screwed up…” email to my lovely editor Bernard, but I managed to last throughout the show, miraculously. There were two times where, during a big round of applause, I grabbed onto my bag and was seconds from leaving, but somehow I managed to calm myself down and stay where I was. I kind of regretted this when I was chosen to go up onstage under the insanely bright lights and help perform a ‘mind-reading’ stunt, but again, even more miraculously, I didn’t vomit! Sorry for all this talk of sickness. I was too ill to go to Do The Right Thing that night, which was sad as my new best pal Les Dennis was a guest.
Wil Hodgson, Yianni and a show called Emerald Smiles. That night we followed groups of people with light-sticks up Arthur’s Seat in the dark. It was weird. FREE ART!
Rom Com Con. Nick Doody. Andrew O’Neill and Marc Burrows.
Morven and I went to Setlist, the show where the comedians are given a series of keywords that form a setlist that they’ve never seen before and they have to do material based around that. It’s always a good night because you can see old pros totally die (and even that’s funny) or newbies totally blow them out of the water. The night we went, we saw Phill Jupitus (who did his set as Eddie Izzard because Izzard had been in Edinburgh days before but hadn’t agreed to do Setlist), Roisin Conaty, Al Pitcher, Nick Doody and Matt Kirshen. Roisin Conaty was outstandingly good and Nicky Doody went well. The others… not so much, but it was still a fun night.
After seeing Nick Beaton for review at the Shack. Afterward, I got accosted by a man I’d written a review for, which at the time hadn’t been published, and he asked what I’d said. It was very awkward as the show was very average and I felt uncomfortable. I didn’t even know he knew who I was. Shuddering, I ran to meet James to go and see Tom Stade. On the way, I bumped into Robin Ince and Michael Legge, which was lovely but brief. Tom Stade turned out to be pretty disappointing due to being so half-assed. Never go and see a comedian on the basis of them having a lovely accent (unless that comedian is Tony Law).
Several members of Team Swim Team were reunited in Portobello! The biggest #madswim hosted by best guy Josie Long had 12 people at it, including me, Dave, Cat and Ross. It was good fun and afterward we all headed to a Portobello bakery and I decided I would quite like to live there.
At night, as Robin Ince was only in town for a couple of days, we caught his Happiness Through Science show and later his Angry Show with Michael Legge. The latter descended into brilliant chaos as Legge had to leave fifteen minutes through to get to another of his shows that was clashing with this one. In his place was Josie Long, 2/3 of the Trap, John Luke Roberts and someone I can’t remember for the life of me.
Josie Long and Sam Schäfer. Danielle Ward.
This would have been about halfway through the Fringe, but something wasn’t right about this year. I just wasn’t feeling it. I think it was a mix of things, but mainly having to plan every little gig meticulously, knowing that I’d have even less time than normal as the final days of the Fringe would be taken up by Guardian Liberal Camp (more on that later) and the fact that I’d gone weeks and still hadn’t had the annual sighting of the DO’D on his bike. Things picked up, though. McPhee came over from Glasgow and we went to see Tony Law, who was incredible. We didn’t really know what to do after so we sat in the Courtyard for ages as I thought it might be nice to see who we could spot. We befriended flyers and these guys, by accident.
Screen shot 2013-01-10 at 16.38.53
It started to feel more like the Fringe which did make me wonder if the Fringe maybe is just about drinking. I managed to beckon the DO’D over to us and despite the fact that he wasn’t on his bike, this added to the August in Edinburgh feel. We had to part ways in the evening and I went to see Stuart Black. I was a little on edge at first as I was the one audience member, but another two people came in and we chatted to him before and after about it and he was great.
I saw my buddy Grace for the first time in over two years. She came to visit us and do some Fringe type things in the process. We wandered around and weren’t sure what to see, so when we heard some guy on the Royal Mile advertising free stand-up from an actual LADY, this intrigued Grace, so we went. The room she was performing in was in the back of Espionage and was full of booths and tables facing each other. Unfortunately, she had a projector set up, so due to the layout of the seats, nobody could actually see anything she put up. Ungood isn’t a strong enough word. We spent most forty minutes trying to pluck up the courage to leave because it was so awful, but the performer’s daughter was between us and the exit. We made our move twenty minutes from the end and felt no guilt or shame. We just weren’t her target audience. After that we had an ace curry from the Mosque and went to see see Catie Wilkins, who was very funny.
The next day we went to see Bruce Hammer’s Bananapocalypse on the DO’D’s recommendation. It was pretty good, impossible not to compare it to Garth Marenghi, but still very original and funny, lots of potential in that young man. In the evening we saw David O’Doherty‘s own show, during which we partied a bottle of wine because we are cheap and the weather was too crap to drink it in the park like we’d planned. The show was ace, as always.
Grace went back to London at what was really the third week of the Fringe, but for me was the final two days. Davie and I celebrated two years of being together by seeing Michael Legge and going for a curry. On my final Fringe day, I saw Bridget Christie who, like the DO’D is consistently great.
So all in all, a good Fringe, if a little slower than previous years. Well done for reading that if you did.

That’ll do for now. I’m doing these backdated blogs for my own benefit, really. Next one will be about Guardian Liberal Camp, then one about my dumb-ass life since then and hopefully after that, a blog about a man in a boyband.

BYE!

Now and Then

January 7, 2013

I’ve done about twelve drafts of this post but haven’t yet found the right way to word it.

I’ve been meaning to get back to writing on here. In fact, I have a silly post about a young man from a boyband that I’m eager to finish, but it feels weird to come back to here without an explanation of absence. Something happened in June that highlighted how unimportant all this blog-nonsense is and it put me off wanting to write anything for a long time. Also it seemed disrespectful in a way, that in the past I’ve written about such trivial things that I shouldn’t even remember, only to continue never even referring to this huge, horrible thing that has happened. I’m torn because it seems weird not to mention it, given that it has split time into “before” and “after” or “now” and “then” in the lives of my family members, but at the same time I really don’t want to risk anyone I love seeing and being upset by it.

I’ve decided that I should write about it as at the time, I never really told many people that it had happened and upon reflection of the last six months, it would probably explain a lot of things that I have said or the way I’ve acted. In particular, one of my best friends, as far as I can tell, is still unaware any of this has happened. I want her to know because I think she’d be sad that she didn’t have a clue of the heartbreak my family and I went, and continue to go through.

On June 10th, I went to work at the bookshop and was having a completely normal day until my dad turned up at 4.30, half an hour before the end of my shift. This in itself wasn’t such a rare occurrence and I assumed he’d just popped in to say hi after meeting friends in town or something. I saw his face, though, and immediately realised that things probably weren’t okay. He took me aside and struggled to get the words out to tell me that he thought my uncle, his brother, had been killed in an accident. We drove home to pack overnight bags and then drove out to my dad’s hometown, where most of his side still live. On the way, it was confirmed that my uncle had been hit by a bus and killed instantly. People I know have ‘died’, but someone having been ‘killed’ is a hard thing to get your head around. There’s no chance to rectify a stupid mistake, a lapse in concentration, a stumble. There’s no chance to say goodbye. Seeing my family for the first time was the worst thing I’ve ever had to experience and I felt so helpless. The house was so full of sadness and pain and love. Any time there is a family tragedy, though, I am reminded of how utterly brilliant my lot are.

For a change, I’m not going to go into much more detail of the day as it really isn’t necessary. I had planned to move to Edinburgh on June 18th, but that ended up being the date of the funeral. My parents went back to work two days later, so I figured I’d start to move then. It turned out that all of us had acted too soon. They weren’t ready for work and all I wanted to do was be with them. On the second day in Edinburgh, Dave had to go to work and I was left alone for the first time in what felt like forever. I just felt awful and wanted to be back at home with my family. I phoned my mum and she said that she felt they were foolish in returning to work so soon. The next couple of months were spent similarly. I was still working in Aberdeen over weekends, so it meant I was spending a lot of time at home, but everything had changed. Work was different after that as it was where I’d first found out about the accident and that made me not want to be there. As much as I wasn’t exactly enthralled by the bookshop anyway after coming up to my fifth year working there, I still completely lost interest in turning up. It wasn’t important. Nothing was really important anymore. I used the excuse of having to travel back every weekend as a reason for quitting at the start of August, but it was just time to, really. There’s not a day that passes where I don’t think about my uncle and that day on the whole; the horrible way things panned out, the unanswered questions and the fact that I’ll never get to see his silly grin, suppressing laughter whilst reminding my dad, in hushed tones, of stupid things they did when they were younger. But, as much as a giant cliche it is, we all have these memories and when they unexpectedly pop into our heads, it’s pretty nice to remember him as the hilarious story-teller and pretend-grump he was.

I wrote this year off in June, but since moving out, things haven’t been great anyway. I don’t want to be misunderstood here – I am so unbelievably glad that after almost a year of heartache, I am finally living with the person I love and I’m excited to see where we end up. It’s just difficult as on top of everything, I’ve not been able to find a normal day job, let alone one I’d actually love as a career or whatever and I’m shocked that that could make me as miserable as it has. I have a few little bits and pieces that I might put into a new blog that’s not as sad as this one, because for all of the crappiness of 2012, some nice things did happen, but they have been overshadowed by June.
For the first time… ever, probably, I am seeing the dawn of a new year as a new and more positive era or a fresh start, so here’s hoping it goes that way. Let all wrongs be righted.

[I am never going to be fully satisfied with this entry.]

Three months later…

May 28, 2012

February was when I last updated this and that seems like so long ago. Since August, I’ve been wishing life away and hoping for June to come around quicker than it is due to, so it feels so strange to think that it’s almost here. More on that later. I’ve done quite a lot since February and I’ve felt productive, but I think this might just be down to the fact that I’ve watched several tv series and documentaries. More on that later, too. Actually, maybe I’ll save that for a separate blog. One big ol’ review blog.

So, what’s been done?
-I saw Thomas Truax for the third time. He is by far one of my favourite musicians to ever see live. Each show is a delight.
-I made a short film called ‘What Has Annoyed You Today?’ It turned out to not be anything like I hoped it would be. I was going to stand on Belmont Street with this sign

and ask the public to rant at me on camera. As it turned out, the public were feeling pretty happy that particular Friday, which sort of ruined things. Then it started to rain really heavily and we figured that might get people angry, but less likely to stand outside in one spot and tell us about it. In the end, we ran into One Up and accosted Yogi who told us a few things that annoyed him. We then found a girl who worked at Books and Beans. She gave us a terrifying rant about… I’m still not too sure what it was about. Something to do with the sun waking her up I think. Either way, it was good because her rage was obvious. We vox-popped a few other people and filmed an intro and it turned out quite nicely and very silly.
-At a party for Fine Rare Mike Blair’s birthday, we watched Sand Sharks and Troll 2. Sand Sharks was the best. It had Brooke Hogan as a marine biologist. Worth a watch.
-I got involved in an incident at college that turned out to be one of the most nerve-wracking and stressful things I think I’ve ever experienced. I don’t feel I can go into too much detail until I am no longer part of that place, but boy, it’s quite a story, the moral of which is: some people are dicks and think they can fuck everyone around and nobody will ever do anything about it, but they are wrong. Do something about injustices – it’ll be worth the stress and you’ll feel better about yourself. God, that was horrifically like a cryptic Facebook update, which I loathe.
-A shrine was set up at work to Glycon (and Alan Moore). We can never have another Author of the Month as this would mean the removal of Glycon, which I hear would be blasphemous.

-I went down to Glasgow to the Creative Loop media festival. I was mainly going because it was a free trip to Glasgow and twitter-bud Jon Ronson was due to be speaking at it. The first day was okay, but a lot of the workshops I went to weren’t what I was expecting. After that day’s activities, I stayed in Glasgow, met up with Davie and spent the evening in Mono and then seeing Pointless Anger: Righteous Ire with special guest Josie Long. It was super lovely. We headed back to Edinburgh that night and I caught a train back to Glasgow the next morning. The train being slightly delayed meant that by the time I got in, I’d missed the first thing I wanted to go to at the festival. As Jon Ronson wasn’t on until that afternoon, I wandered around Glasgow for a bit, looking for a birthday present for a friend and ending up only buying things for myself. I made my way towards Sauchiehall Street from Fopp and ran into Robin Ince at some traffic lights. We had a quick chat, which was nice as the last time we spoke was in August and he had nearly been destroyed by the Fringe at that point. I made my way to the CCA, where I was still too early for anything. I ended up accompanying Erling from my class to a talk about the relationship between director and editor. It lasted a long time… I bought a drink and sat with a book. Ronson turned up and we spoke for a bit. He seemed pretty nervous about the talk as he has spent the last year speaking to audiences exclusively about psychopaths and he wasn’t quite sure what to say at this festival. He pulled it off, though, and did a brilliant hour or so. It was a mix of things, the main messages appeared to be that it’s easy to produce your own stuff these days and important to not make fun of your subjects, no matter who they are. After it, we went to see Mark Millar in a tiny, tiny room. He was also very enjoyable, but did say a few things that seemed contradictory. He said that he often gets asked why none of his work is set in Scotland and it’s because not a lot of people would understand or relate to it, whereas, everybody, due to films and tv shows, knows the language of New York for example. I totally get this and agree with it, but then later he said that there weren’t enough commercial films set in Scotland. He told how he was bored by films about Scotland being set in council estates or being about drugs. Again, I agree with him here, but wonder why he isn’t trying to do anything about that. I’d love to make a tv series set in Scotland, but would hate it to become parochial or rely too much on being Scottish. I think something that just so happened to be set in Edinburgh could be as big as anything else that’s on, provided that it didn’t go down that route of “Och, we’re so Scottish and we’re aboot tae spik in dialect fer the hell of it, just in case ye didnae realise we’re from Scotland”. Ramblerambleramble.
-Dave and I went to North Berwick again where we drank wine on the beach and almost got stranded on some rocks because we were talking too much and not taking notice of the water surrounding us. Great stuff. It was a beautiful, hot, cloudless day.
-Two days later, it snowed. No cause for concern, I’m sure… Nope…
-The day I was due to go down to Edinburgh for the second week of the easter holidays, I awoke at 5am with a horrendous pain in my mouth. A few weeks previous, my tooth cracked, then just two days before, it caved almost completely, leaving only a jagged edge. All of the day before I was due to head out on holiday, it rubbed against the bottom of my tongue the whole time. By the day I was supposed to leave, it had blistered my tongue. I’d never noticed how often you use your tongue before this. Even drinking was a nightmare. I tried to get an emergency dental appointment anywhere. It was Easter Sunday. Instead, I was advised to get one of these.

DIY DENTISTRY! Amazing. It sort of worked for a while, but whenever I tried to eat, it would come out. I ended up getting an emergency appointment at the dental school in Edinburgh. They put a temporary dressing in for under a fiver. It was brilliant.
-We went in search of the secret Wild West in Morningside. Down a street and along a little alley that leads to a mechanic’s workshop, there’s this abandoned cowboy film set. It’s fantastic.


As sentimental as I’ve been getting recently about leaving Aberdeen, I think that if Edinburgh keeps throwing up little hidden gems like this, I’ll be okay.
-The rest of my week in Edinburgh consisted of going to see This Must Be The Place at the cinema. I’d been waiting for it ever since Graham Linehan had posted pictures from it on Twitter over a year ago. It was bewildering. I still can’t figure out if I enjoyed it or not. Another day, we walked to Sofi’s in Leith where there was an exhibition of Bill Murray pencil drawings. It was a nice pub and the pictures were lovely too. I wish I could have been able to afford some, but alas, art is expensive! A few days later, we went to see Andrew WK in Glasgow. We partied very hard. It was especially good because my cousins were there too.
-After years of talk, the super-pals finally went paintballing. In February, Baz suggested that for Amber’s birthday, we all pitch in and take her paintballing. We ended up getting a really good deal, but had over two months to attempt to keep it quiet. All she was allowed to know was that she had to be free on that day and her boyfriend, Chris, was taking her somewhere. She had no idea of our involvement or what it consisted of. Months of secret hand signals, Facebook planning-groups, giggling and tongue-holding ensued. Jill said that every time she ran into Amber, she nearly said, “I’m so excited for paintballing!” so became convinced that she should just avoid her until the day. Keri wasn’t aware that it was a surprise. Despite all of this, none of us let it slip. Until on the day, Chris admitted that they were going paintballing. Amber texted Baz with loads of nervous rubbish about how she knew what Chris’ surprise was.
On the day, I went round to Asda to pick up supplies for a picnic that we planned on having after the paintballing was over. As I walked past Amber’s house, I had it all planned out what I’d say if she came out the door or something. She didn’t, though, so that was fine. However, when I got to Asda, she was just coming out of there. I let out a “shiiiiit” in my head and said to her, “Oh, I was just coming to see if you were working!” (lies, I know she wasn’t working. I AM SO CLEVER)
“No, I have today off for Chris’ birthday surprise.”
“Ooh a surprise!”
“I know what it is, though, we’re going paintballing!”
-Oh feck- I thought.
Then I indulged in chit-chat to find out if she knew we were all going. She didn’t. This was fine. Until she said she had time to come in and wander round Asda with me WHILE I PICKED SUPPLIES FOR THE PICNIC! I told her that I needed to get things for Dave coming home the next day, though, which was half true so I passed off the millions of croissants and sweets as that. The whole way round, she rambled about paintball. I got her off the subject for about two minutes with talk of the Avengers but that didn’t last!
As we walked back to her house, I left her at the door saying “Okay, well, have fun and don’t die. Let me know how you get on. Take lots of pictures.” and she bought it.
So. Keri, Baz, Mark and I headed out to Battlegrounds, which is just outside Banchory. I attempted to make a documentary of the day, but my camera ran out of battery in the car. Damn the panic of the morning making me forget to check that I’d be okay for batteries! Somehow, we managed to get lost by missing a turning. We eventually found our place and Jill and Jamie arrived shortly after. Chris and Amber weren’t there. Baz had told Amber to text “to see how she was getting on” and she had let her know that they were lost. At this point, she still didn’t know we were there, so we had to think of a way of letting them know where to go without her figuring it out. Baz texted her to tell her to call Keri for directions, claiming that Keri had dropped her boyfriend off there before. Sneaky. They eventually turned up. By this time, we were in all of our gear, including masks. Amber looked nervous on approach. She looked right at us but didn’t know it was her buds. Until we lifted up our masks and she looked slightly relieved, “I thought we’d be playing with a bunch of strangers!” she said. There were around thirty other people there, but they had gone off to play the first game while we waited for Amber and Chris. I think this came as a bit of a shock to them as they thought it’d just be the eight of us. I was really nervous before actually playing. My team had Chris, Jill and Jamie on it. Dream team. In the first game, I GOT SHOT IN THE FACE! As this mess of yellow just appeared out of nowhere in front of my left eye, it wasn’t as terrifying as I thought. I didn’t realise that you had to stick your hand up if you’d been shot and then return to the “dead-zone”, so as I made my way there, I got shot in the back. Yikes, that hurt. But I was glad to have had the ordeal of being shot out of the way early on. I would have been terrified for the rest of the day otherwise.
So that was fun. Our picnic was lovely too. Great day.
-Whilst out filming in Dyce, I heard that Adam Yauch had died. This pretty much ruined the rest of the evening. I love the Beastie Boys and spent the next few days binging on their music and feeling incredibly sad. It still doesn’t seem real, I always thought I’d get to see them live again someday…
-I conquered a fear and made an appointment at the “Genius Bar” AND I actually turned up to it! They didn’t fix my laptop problem, though, so that was rubbish.
-Amber and I went to see Labyrinth at the Belmont. If you’ve always thought it was a ridiculous film, try seeing it on the big screen. My god.
-I had some work experience at STV. It was incredibly fun. I was there on the week that the helicopter ditched in the north sea, so that was pretty exciting. Fortunately, there were no casualties, but we did have to race along to the helipad at the hospital to film. Ace. Then on my final day, I got to go to the cinema and boo at a child dressed as a robber with Chris Harvey. Surreal but very funny. Also, I was allowed to a Wood Group press conference. I had to hold my tongue at some of the things Sir Ian was saying and every time he looked my way, I was convinced that he could see into my soul and knew that I once used a picture of Dick Dastardly to illustrate him in a blog.
-I headed down to Dundee to see my lovely friend Garry for the first time since 2009. I was there to check out his work at the Duncan of Jordanstone degree show and it was fantastic. Seriously. Please check out his work here. Really good to see him after such a massive gap too.

The next few weeks look set to be annoyingly busy with getting college work finished on time, but then it’s onwards to Edinburgh. I can’t wait. I’ve been getting sentimental about everything, knowing that the move is not far away, but I think I might put that in a blog of its own. I’m a silly old fool.

Come crawling back

February 18, 2012

I’m sorry I have left you to fend for yourself for such a huge length of time, blog. The reason I’ve taken so long to return to you is that I’ve been scared and ashamed. I’ve been anxious as to how you’d treat me. Would you be disappointed? Angry? Violent? Upset? Or would you care at all? Would you take me back and let me try and make things like they used to be?
What’s that, it’s cool? Oh. Okay. Cool.

So, how have you been?
Please write your answer in the following space and then send me your computer screen via UPS along with a stamped addressed envelope so it can be returned to you with my feedback and £20 worth of High Street vouchers.

Here’s some stuff about my stupid little world from August 2011 to February 2012.
-I moved back in with my parents. This was fine to begin with as I liked having money again. However, the novelty of this soon wore off and I began to feel as if I’d regressed, which allowed me to feel sorry for myself on an almost daily basis – yippee hooray! On top of this, so much other stuff in my life had changed in a few short weeks. Dave moved to Edinburgh and I was hardly seeing him, college had stopped being enjoyable so I wasn’t sure if I should continue with it and so much negative bollocks happened at work that everyone started to become miserable and insecure. This continued for the next few months, but weirdly, I’ve felt much better since the start of the new year. Funny how the mind works.
DEPRESSING BIT OUT OF THE WAY – GREAT JOB!
-I heard from a lovely man called Bernard who is the comedy editor of the Skinny and he invited me to join his team of people who write bits and bobs about comedy.
-I went to see Thomas Truax again with Jan, Claire and Rory. He is one of the most entertaining live acts I’ve ever witnessed.
-I saw Mike Watt live in Glasgow. Dave’s face was an absolute delight when he spotted the man walking past him before the gig AND he got to speak to him later, which I think made his life.

-Iain, who had been manager of our shop for 22 years left us. That makes it sound like he died – he didn’t, he just moved to Oban. He’s sleeping with the fishes now (they have a Sealife Centre there).
-Matthew Valentine returned to me from a year in Australia. Not only that, but he started working with us again. Joyous!
-I met up with a family friend for the first time in years and we started work on a documentary together.
-I was charged £4.09 for a bottle of beer in my favourite pub, the Prince of Wales. It was on this night (November 1) that I realised if I’m being shafted by the Prince, there’s really nothing left for me in Aberdeen.
-Life started to look up again when Guided By Voices announced that they would play their first UK show since 2003 and that they’d be at 2012’s Primavera Sound. I was constantly grinning at the thought of seeing them live at least twice in one year and was really excited to save money so I could afford both dates, until a few weeks later when they pulled out of them both. Bastards. I still love them, though. Begrudgingly.
-I went to see Tinie Tempah. When questioned on why I was planning on going prior to the event, my reason was “because it’ll be hilarious”. I am 21 years old, I should really stop doing these things for ten minutes of amusement.
-Started a new timetable at college which consisted of being in from 1-9pm. Downward spiral continued.
-Davie and I went to ATP at Butlins. It was magnificent. We took the train from Edinburgh to London, only just escaping the really heavy winds that battered Scotland, where we had five hours to kill. We went to the science museum and realised we should have gone to the Natural History one instead. Next time! We then caught a train to Taunton and stayed there for a night. We caught an early-ish bus to Minehead as we misjudged how busy it would be and ended up being two of the first people at Butlins. Over the weekend, we saw Les Savy Fav (twice), Marnie Stern, Surfer Blood, the Budos Band, Wild Flag, OXES, Archers of Loaf, No Age, Hot Snakes, Battles (twice), Nissennenmondai, Walls, Washed Out, Gary Numan, Thank You, Flying Lotus, Caribou, the Ex (with Getatchew Mekurya), Toro Y Moi, Sun-Ra, Junior Boys, Silver Apples, Omar Souleyman, Four Tet (and bits of DJ sets from Theo Parrish and DJ Spinn & DJ Rashad). I think I still might write a blog about this at some point and just backdate it as it was a pretty hilarious adventure. On the Monday, we took the bus to Taunton, the train to Bristol, then flew to Edinburgh. Tiring but worth it.

-On the Thursday before Christmas, Dave came home. We met up with our friend Danny and then went round to Shane’s with Julie for some mulled wine and a catch-up. It was so lovely. On the way home, I unexpectedly vomitted. Winner! Thus followed a crippling stomach bug just in time to make me miss Festivus and ruin Christmas. GO TEAM!
-New year happened. We had a quiet one round at Jill’s. I made one resolution, but more on that later… (actually, two resolutions if you count “I am not allowed to buy a book until I’ve read at least two that I already own” as one)
-Davie and I watched all of Twin Peaks in the space of a few days. I forget how magnificent Kyle MacLachlan can be.
-We started multicam assessments. It didn’t go anywhere nearly as stressfully as I’d imagined it would.
-I bought a new iPod. It is silver and 160GB and cost the most money I’ve spent on one thing in about two years.
-On the final day of assessments, we drank champagne and headed out for food, beers and karaoke. Last June in Inverness, a handful of us did karaoke. Jamie and I wanted to, but couldn’t pluck up the courage. By the time we had drank enough bravery, we were too late to submit our requests. I was gutted that I wasn’t allowed to pretend to be Jarvis Cocker and Jamie couldn’t be Madonna. So we went to the Moorings, and for Gillian’s sake, I got my song request in before being drunk. Their song choices were poor and the only Pulp song they had was ‘Sorted For E’s and Wizz’, which I went for. I did it and enjoyed it then turned into Jenna Maroney from 30 Rock and did ALL THE SONGS! (well, I did ‘Fight For Your Right’ and then duetted as Nick Cave to Gillian’s Kylie Minogue for ‘Where The Wild Roses Grow’ and later did a beautiful rendition of ‘Baby Got Back’ with Chris. Admittedly, for that last one, I may have been slightly inebriated). It was one of the best nights out I’ve had in ages, and to top it off, after karaoke, the guy running it announced that I was the winner and had to come back for the following week’s final. I laughed maniacally for a full five minutes about this. The prize was going to be a bottle of jaegermeister, so I decided that I’d retire undefeated and not turn up to the final.
-My buddy Steve came up to Aberdeen to do a gig at the Lemon Tree. It was very good, he’s really really funny. After a beer and some chips, an alcoholic old man verbally abused us at the bus stop and later on the bus I witnessed the driver essentially take an aggressive man hostage for calling him the C-bomb. I had not realised that Aberdeen had become so mental and terrifying, but still a bit hilarious. This was a Wednesday night. What?!

So, that was life.
I’ve had a bit of an ulterior motive for posting this. I wanted to do a post about my mission of 2012, but couldn’t come back and just pretend like nothing happened. It would be unfair to you, blog, and you don’t need any more injustice.
I’ll just get on with it.

At the start of last year (or possibly the end of 2010), Dave and I for some reason started describing things as “fine rare”. I think, looking back, that it may have been an attempt to out-do one another’s enthusiasm for certain things. One of us would announce something, the other would exclaim in what can only be described as ‘generic-old-person-from-the-northeast-of-Scotland’ enthusiastic voice “Och, that’s fine!”. The first person, not wishing to be outdone would say “fine rare!” despite it not being a recognised phrase.
BUT NOT FOR LONG!
Ever since, we’ve been trying to get these two words into circulation as a sort of social experiment. Our hope is that the old people of the northeast will be saying it in years to come. It sounds like it should be a real thing that people say as it’s like ‘fit rare‘ (genuinely couldn’t find any other sites with a definition of that).

It pretty much just means ‘very good’. It’s multifunctional and can be used in any context as a positive response. (Or ‘nae fine rare’ in the negative.)
“How’re you doing?”
“Aye, fine rare. Good Christmas?” (here ‘fine rare’ is said almost as if one word)
“Aye, we had one of those capons instead of turkey. It was fine rare.” (intonation placed on the ‘fine’)

THEN, on Hogmanay, Dave, Jamie and I were round at Jill’s for a very quiet celebration. Normally at new year, despite my wishing to be in bed by midnight and bypass the whole ordeal, we have a big gathering with all the Bridge of Don bros and stay up far too late. This year we were hit with the realisation that everybody has moved on now. It’s sad, but inevitable and necessary, we’re still the best of budz. Anyway, we actually sat quietly and chatted, it was lovely. Every year, somehow, the BBC Scotland Hogmanay show presented by Jackie Bird ends up playing in the background and we ignore it until we try to figure out when it is actually midnight. This time, we managed to watch the whole thing. What a fascinating piece of television it truly is! At one point, Jackie started talking to a man in the audience. While she was doing her piece to camera, he pointed to her and said excitedly, “It’s Jackie Bird!”
He was right.
It was at this point that I decided that an exclamation of surprise or delight should be ‘Jackie Bird!’ with the emphasis placed on the ‘Bird’. She is basically to become the new Gordon Bennett. Variations of this are acceptable, for example, Gillian told me she will use ‘Sweet Jackie Bird!’ as her way of expressing disbelief.

Take these words out to the world, blog, use them as you see fit.

I love you. I promise I won’t leave it so long next time.

Madness

August 30, 2011

There have been two incidents in the past week that have made me feel like I am going mental. I am aware that isn’t the most politically correct way of putting it, but it’s all I’ve got for the time being.

Scribbler
The majority of August was spent in Edinburgh with Dave for the Fringe (there will probably be a giant blog on this in about three months’ time) as he moved down there at the start of the month. Whilst waiting in the queue for a cash machine, I said aloud that I’d have to buy my sister a birthday card. “I guess I might get a nice one somewhere on Cockburn Street…” I mused.
“Why don’t we go to that place on Princes Street that we went to last year?” Dave suggested.
“Which place?”
“You know, that place you said you always go to and really like…” He saw my blank expression, “…on Princes Street..?”
“I have no idea where you’re talking about. What place?”
“I don’t remember what it’s called, but it’s got, like, green neon lights and stuff. We went there last year.”

I had no recollection of going into a place with green neon lights the previous year but neither of us would believe the other, so I told him to show me where it was or else I’d think I was going mad. As we walked along Princes Street, I was eager to reach where Dave believed this mythical shop lay. I imagined we’d get there and it wouldn’t exist, he’d look foolish, I could write him off as a mental and I’d be right and quietly smug.

When we passed Hanover Street and I was told, “I’m pretty sure it’s just round here…” I prepared myself for victory.

Until we came to this building.

“Here we go!” Dave said cheerfully.
I looked at it. It was certainly a card shop. It had green neon lights. I had never seen it before in my life and was shocked it existed.
“I have never been in here in my entire life.”
We went in. The walls were lined with greeting cards. It was nice, but nothing special. This threw up a number of questions. Why did I not remember this place? Why would I say I really liked it when it wasn’t much different from a number of other places? Who was I buying a card for the year before? When would we even have had time to go between the drunkenness and comedy? Was Dave thinking of someone else? Why did he know where this place was if he had never been with anyone before?

I was distracted from my card purchase and tried to ask all of these questions at once. It came out as, “I… cards… What?”
I think seeing my confused face worried the boy and we both felt like we might be going crazy. We only spent about four days in Edinburgh together last year, so I talked us through the first two, trying to figure out when we’d have a card-buying gap. He started to doubt himself. We have still not solved this mystery.

Drip Drip Drip
I was awoken from a dream about getting tickets to a Larry David book signing (he doesn’t have a book out, but it’s only a matter of time, right?) when I accidentally kicked Dave in the leg. How selfish of him to get in the way.
It was 3.27am.
I heard a strange noise. It sounded like water dripping and hitting a piece of plastic. I listened for a few minutes as it went on, then sat bolt upright, worried that it might be a leak.
“Are you okay?” Dave whispered.
“Yeah, just wondering what that noise is. Can you hear it?”
There was a moment of silence before it happened again and he told me he had heard it too. At least I wasn’t hearing things.
I lay down again, putting off having to get up and check it out. By 3.30am I had convinced myself that it was something more sinister than just a leak. It was definitely a ghost or a demon.

Oh, why have I not got round to round to reading Richard Wiseman’s ‘Paranormality’ yet? It would definitely reassure me that it’s not a ghost. Oh, come on, why am I even entertaining this idea? I am a logical person. I’m like Richard Feynman but without the smarts and the talent.

“Do you mind if I turn the light on?” I whispered.
“Okay.”
I did so and ran back to bed, like a frightened toddler.
“It sounds like it’s coming from by the door.” Dave told me.
“I hate you for making me watch Paranormal Activity that time.” I told Dave as I reluctantly got up to investigate the ceiling around the door. There seemed to be nothing out of the ordinary. I rushed back to the bed to report to Dave.
“There’s nothing there or anywhere else, it’s definitely a ghost.”
During this time, the noise had slowed down slightly and was a little more faint, as if it was coming from just outside the door. I took a while, but eventually flung it open and got ready to jump out of the way in case a spook came at me. Nothing.

Am I going mental?

After a few minutes, I apologised, turned off the light and lay with my eyes open in bed. The noise could be heard every few minutes now, even more faint than it had been before. Dave fell asleep quickly, but I couldn’t. Outside, where it had previously been quiet, a dog started barking frantically. Soon after, a group of women started laughing maniacally. It was quite disconcerting, especially after I convinced myself that the dog I could hear was actually right on the other side of the wall from me and was barking at the house. I could picture it perfectly, it would be barking whilst its two owners would be panicking, trying and failing to drag it away, “This is so unlike Steven, I wonder what has gotten into him!”

Drip.
It’s probably just house noise…  It’s not house noise. Why else would it pretty much stop after I switched on the light and went looking for whatever it is? Demon. For sure.
Drip.
Oh please, can it not be? We’ve got the landlord coming round tomorrow, what do I tell him?
Drip.
What if it’s not even a ghost playing with a bucket, and it’s the ceiling dripping blood on me, like in Tommy Wiseau’s ‘The House That Drips Blood On Alex’?
Drip.
I should maybe start writing all of this down in case the demon takes over my body and it makes me kill Dave and myself. People would ask questions. I have no intention of killing myself or Dave, it’d be really annoying if people started to think that.
Drip.
Am I going mental?
Am I going mental?

I think I might just have been really tired.

White Male, 52, Seeks Attention

July 28, 2011

I have re-written the original article about Morrissey’s latest cry for attention.

MORRISSEY IN ILL-JUDGED

COMMENT SHOCKER

British singer Morrissey has said another stupid fucking insensitive thing equating a genuine tragedy and the loss of 70+ people’s lives to the state of the meat business in an attempt to make a glib point about vegetarianism.

The apparent parody of a petulant sixth year pupil and former The Smiths frontman was on stage at a show in Warsaw, Poland on Sunday night when he gave his thoughts on the two terror attacks in Oslo, which claimed the lives of at least 76 people.

According to Britain’s Daily Mirror, introducing the overrated and unnecessarily lengthy song Meat Is Murder, the outspoken vegetarian told the crowd, “We all live in a murderous world, as the events in Norway have shown… Though that is nothing compared to what happens in McDonald’s and Kentucky Fried S**t every day.”
He continued, “Mum! Mum! Mu-um, you’re not looking! MUM!”

The paper claims fans flocked to web forums to slam the remark. The Outrage reached Twitter four days later.

A spokesperson for the singer says, “Morrissey has decided not to comment any further as he believes his statement speaks for itself and also he can’t think of anything clever to say in response, without having to back track, that would make sense in any way. He wanted people to start talking about him again and instead of writing some decent songs, he’s decided to lazily compare two unrelated things under the guise of making a tired point.”

One gig-goer told us, “He’s not doing vegetarianism any favours. I am going to go out and eat as many animals as I can just to spite him.”
Another said, “I was very angry at his inability to come up with a good pun for Kentucky Fried Chicken.”

Morrissey has been vehemently opposed to the meat industry throughout his 28-year career, and has even banned burgers and sausages from being cooked at venues on his current tour. However, he has allowed the skinning of pheasants to take place in the car parks of the venues as, according to the bequiffed ‘That Joke Isn’t Funny Anymore’ hitster, “They just look funny and different from me, so they cannot be tolerated. They are a sub-species.”