Tag Archives: Scotland

The tracks of my years


I thought I’d try to compile a playlist of songs that represent me, or that speak to me on some level, so here goes.  They’re in no particular order.

  1. Gone Cold by Clutch. Probably the first “new” band I’ve heard in a long time, though I’ve since found out that they’ve been going since the early 90s. I listen to podcasts a lot when I’m driving, and one work related podcast features this song as the intro and outro music. It has a lovely, laid back feel to it, with vocals which drawl gently through the opening lines, but which reveal more of an edge when singing the lines around the song title.  I think I am also pretty laid back most of the time, but can be steely as and when necessary.
  2. Doesn’t Make it All Right by The Specials. When you’re growing up in a pretty much exclusively white rural town in the Scottish lowlands, a song which is very much anti-racist sends a strong message,  This song combines one of my favoured music genres (ska) with a conviction that I felt strongly at the time and still do. Oh, and my favourite band, SLF, do an awesome version of it.
  3. Boogie Chillun by John Lee Hooker. Cut down, raw blues with a wonderful hook, this song is just brilliant. the lyrics, about a child’s desire to break free and get lost in their music at times exactly how I feel.  I go through peaks and troughs, and at their height I just want to be enveloped in listening to and playing great music.
  4. Born On The Bayou by Creedence Clearwater Revival. OK, I’m not entirely sure what a bayou is, and I’ve no idea what shoogling is (it’s one of the words in the lyrics), but this song has a similar sort of feel to me as number 1 above does.  It’s quite chilled, but at the same time full of a sort of restless energy which breaks out from time to time.
  5. Panic Song by Green Day. This song is not long, and it’s not complex: but the intro is nothing more than a build up of energy which eventually explodes into action. In a lot of respects, my anger is like that: it takes a long long time to build, then (and only very rarely) does it get released.
  6. Soul Man by Sam and Dave This mostly made the cut because a) the Blues Brothers did it, b) it’s a fab time and c) they say “play it Steve” (to Steve Cropper) and I am a Steve!
  7. Ballroom Blitz by The Sweet. Again, Steve gets a mention, this time in the intro, but I chose this because it was one of the first songs I remember by a band I used to really like. I think this and Teenage Rampage probably laid the path for me to follow in terms of melodic music with a strong drum line.
  8. White Noise by Stiff Little Fingers. As with The Specials number above, this is very much an anti-racist number, though oddly enough when it first came out radio stations refused to play it because it has a derogatory w-word in every chorus. If they’d checked the lyrics they’d have seen that it was protesting about discrimination for whatever reason, whether race, colour, creed or nationality. What a great message!
  9. In The Hall Of The Mountain King from the Peer Gynt Suite by Edvard Grieg. I’m half Norwegian, half Scottish, and this is written by a Norwegian composer whose parents were Scots and has our hero encountering giants in their home.
  10. Donald Where’s Yir Troosers by Andy Stewart. This is a none too serious look at what it’s like to be a Scot from the sticks, and particularly when they venture down into the big city of London.  I’m a Scot who made the move from a rural part of the country away to England and to a big down. Oh, and if you want an Elvis impression, there’s one on here too – uh huh!

This was harder than I had expected, but I think I got there in the end. I hope you like the list!


Taking the plunge


Many many years ago, when I was a teenager, I spent a summer working in Norway.  I had an understanding boss, and managed to arrange to have a lot of afternoon shifts, starting at 2 or 3 and finishing late in the evening.  This may not sound ideal, but it did mean that I could spend the morning and early afternoon hanging out at an outdoor pool nearby.

The pool was surrounded by a park, and was very popular with young and old alike.  As the weather was warm, it was great being able to jump in the pool to cool off, and this pool had something else – diving boards! Ranging from 1m to 10m high, and with no rules as to whether you could jump off or whatever, there was a lot of fun to be had.  Jump off the top board? Took me a while to build up to it, but no problem!

When I got back home, I remember going to a local indoor pool.  It had diving boards, but these stopped at 5m.  And you could only dive.  So I was standing there, trying to build courage, because jumping is easy, when a little lad who must have been half my age came up onto the board.  He looked at me and said “Yir feart, urnt ye?” [translation from Scottish – “you’re scared, aren’t you?”]

Of course, I had to reply “No”.

And (also of course) he then had to say “Go on then, dive”.

So I did.  And it was epic.  A proper Tarzan swallow dive. Which I nailed!  No belly flop for me, no sir!  And at that time, it was one of the most sublime things I’d ever done or felt.

After that first dive, the fear was gone and you couldn’t stop me: not sure how I’d fare now though!

The image at the beginning of this story reminded me of that episode, hence I thought I’d share it.

The Clown and The Wolfman – Image #128


During the late 70s and early 80s, there were a number of light romantic comedies which were set in Scotland. Many people will be familiar with Local Hero or Gregory’s Girl, but how many of you have heard of, never mind seen, this one?

I went to see this at the cinema when it came out. It tells the story of two young lads in Edinburgh who decide to supplement their incomes by robbing tourist buses. The Clown gets in with a “real” gangster and becomes hell-bent on making a name for himself in the criminal underworld. The Wolfman falls for a courier on one of the buses they rob. Much of the film is shot in the Highlands of Scotland which makes it feel like a tourism commercial. Throw in seemingly incompetent police and wannabe fan club members and you get a charming film.

It’s not complicated or sophisticated, and you can see the plot lines from a mile off, yet no one left the cinema till after the credits had stopped rolling: I’ve never known that happen before or since.  And the reason? The whole soundtrack was written and performed by Big Country. It’s a wonderful piece of work and even now I love listening to it.


With great responsibility comes… Image #116

…great tiredness! Did you guess that? 🙂


While writing yesterday’s post I was reminded of a weekend in my late teens. I was pretty active as a youngster, and did a lot of hill walking etc in the Scouts. In my last year at school I did a Youth Leadership course, which involved a couple of weekends at an Outward Bound centre in the Galloway Hills. The intention was to do walking during the day and relax in the evenings, but invariably we got shocking weather and spent most days playing endless rounds of Twister.

During those weekends I got to know a guy who worked for the local  council, doing all sorts of youth activities. He asked me to help at a weekend he was organising at the same place, where he was bringing a group of youngsters who weren’t quite old enough to do their Duke of Edinburgh Awards (and who almost all had siblings who were). I agreed, thinking it would be quite an easy weekend: do a couple of short walks, drink coffee, enjoy the fresh air. Boy was I wrong!

On both days we walked maybe three or four miles at the most, and probably took two to three hours to do that. Yet each evening I was completely exhausted. I couldn’t understand it. I hadn’t even broken into a sweat walking, the terrain was easy on good paths, and I’d never walked so fast as to be breathless. I was fit and healthy, used to walking much further, for longer, up and down hills etc. So what was going on?

I finally twigged that it was responsibility that led me to be so tired. Having to keep an eye on all the youngsters, to make sure none had blisters, that none got hurt or left behind. It was all new to me and it wore me out, but it was a fabulous experience.

Taps Aff – Image #110

This is an increasingly well used and well known Scottish phrase. It’s used to indicate a move to warmer weather, when it is possible / advisable to remove any layers of clothing above the waist.  It may also indicate sunshine, irrespective of temperature, though is normally reserved for sunny days where the temperature reaches double figures (Celsius)…


Note that in the example above, it was “a wee bit nippy” at 7am and that by 7pm temperatures had cooled somewhat from the highs of earlier in the day.

And the prize for best chandelier goes to… Image #77

Slightly disordered – it’s been a long couple of days – I thought I’d share this image with you. It’s from the Grand Central hotel in Glasgow, and reaches from the 4th floor all the way to the Ground Floor, including a floor between Ground and First.


It was a toss up between this one and the chandelier at Hard Rock, but this one won because a) it’s higher, b) I could stand right under it and c) the hotel has a champagne bar!

Burns Night – Image #25


January 25th is the anniversary of the birth of Scotland’s greatest poet, Rabbie (Robert) Burns. Its traditional for Scots the world over to celebrate by eating tatties (potatoes), neeps (turnip) and haggis (Google it), with the haggis being piped in and a number of Rabbie’s poems being read, including the Selkirk Grace and the Address to the Haggis.

Here’s a great example of the piping of the haggis and the address. You may want to look up the English translation afterwards!

Unfortunately I won’t be partaking tonight, as my Dryathlon prohibits me from drinking whisky, and haggis is a bit difficult to come by in this part of England, though my partner also seems a bit disinclined to try it – strange girl! (I love her really!) Better luck next year!