Archive for the ‘scotland’ Tag

Pictures and words for another Finn & Finnegansfolk

In the part of Finnegans Wake we are currently studying in our seminar group at University of London/Senate House (online at present in the era of the new spunnish grippe) there is a reference (p.548) to the Isle of Eigg in the Inner Hebrides.

With Impress of Asias and Queen Colombia for her pairanymphs and the singing sands for herbrides’ music

When I first arrived at Channel 4 I was tasked with establishing IDEASFACTORY, a talent and creative enterprise development initiative. The person hired to run the Highlands & Islands region of the network lives on Eigg (Population: 110). I am in the habit of sending her literary references to the island when I come across them.

The first I stumbled across was in Evelyn Waugh’s Officers & Gentlemen. [Oct 2018]

The second was in Muriel Spark’s The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. [Oct 2018, Rome]

James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake is the third so far. [May 2020, Lockdown London]

Lucy, my old colleague, has kindly sent some information from Eigg (where her emails are @eiggbox.com and @isleofeigg.net) about these “singing sands”:

The Singing Sands are on the far north west coast of Eigg, looking out towards the Isle of Rum. They are named the Singing Sands because they squeak when scuffed underfoot; although only on dry sand. The sand is quartz, eroded from the Valtos Jurassic sandstone the north end of the island is made up of. Apparently, the grains are very even shaped, making them more squeaky!

The long straight formation in the pictures I sent [see below] is a basalt dyke. The basalt is harder than the sandstone which was eroded by the sea to create the dykes. There are a lot of these dykes stretching out from the shore between Singing Sands and Laig Bay to the south.

One thing I find amazing is that sometimes when you go down there, there’s no sand at all, just rock. All the sand has been swept out to sea. It must sit just off the beach on the seabed to be swept back up on the beach at the next high tide. Laig Bay beach is just half a mile or so to the south of Singing Sands. It’s the most photographed beach on Eigg. At low tide the sea goes right out, making the long beach even more impressive. The sand on Laig beach is a mixture of quartz black basalt and white shell, leaving distinctive fern and swirl patterns as the water recedes. Two beaches, very close together, but completely different sands. I don’t know if the Singing Sands sand falls down into a deep trough and so doesn’t move south, but that’s how I imagine it.

Singing Sands have two other names – Camus Sgiotaig. Camus means Bay, but the meaning of Sgiotaig (prounced Ski-Tig) is unknown, probably an Old Norse word. There are a lot of Norse words used in and around the Small Isles of Eigg, Rum, Muck and Canna. Singing Sands are also known as Tràigh na Bigil which means chirping beach (Tràigh = beach), but most folk here just call it Singing Sands, or (less so) Camus Sgiotaig.

Beach is one of the words in my very limited Irish vocabulary – in Irish Gaelic it’s Trá. Trá – Tràigh clearly close cousins. A lot of Norse words are also used in the Wake because of Dublin’s connection with Viking invaders.

Lucy made a special trek to the Singing Sands for our group and made this video to demonstrate the ‘singing’ Play Video [11 secs]

She also send this video for us to see the beach and hear the wind and birds Play Video [20 secs]

And she kindly took&sent these photos too:

Isle of Eigg inner hebrides scotland island beach singing sands

Camus Sgiotaig

Isle of Eigg inner hebrides scotland island beach singing sands

Isle of Eigg inner hebrides scotland island beach singing sands

Isle of Eigg inner hebrides scotland island beach singing sands

the singing sands for herbrides’ music

Isle of Eigg inner hebrides scotland island beach singing sands

Isle of Eigg inner hebrides scotland island beach singing sands

Isle of Eigg inner hebrides scotland island beach singing sands

Isle of Eigg inner hebrides scotland island beach singing sands

a basalt dyke

Isle of Eigg inner hebrides scotland island beach singing sands

Lucy also sent me some singing sands sand through the post – it hasn’t yet arrived as it’s dependent on the ferry service which is reduced due to the plague.

Lucy is involved with Eigg Box which supports artists and creative entrepreneurs living on or visiting the Isle of Eigg.

Eggs are significant in the Wake as Finnegan died falling off a ladder and is frequently compared to Humpty Dumpty who fell off a wall and was equally fucked.

Humpty Dumpty

Humpty Dumpty had a great fall

The Fall of Lucifer - Gustave Dore

Lucifer had a great fall (The Fall of Lucifer – Gustave Dore)

Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel Fresco

Adam & Eve had a great fall (from Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel Fresco)

More people who had big falls.

Simple Pleasures from Inverness

zoe graham glasgow singer

Zoe Graham

Two rabbits by the botanic gardens. Sunset from Inverness Castle (reading Forever and a Day). Watching the City of Inverness Pipe Band practising – the stirring sound of the bagpipes. Walking along the River Ness to the Ness Islands – siesta on the bank near where the anglers hang out. Two herons. The calling of seagulls. Watching the coloured lights on the bridge with Josh R. Highland gin & tonic. Leakie’s bookshop (in an old church) – finding a 1950s hardback copy of The 39 Steps. Watching bees in the botanic garden. Eating local mussels with lemongrass and chilli. The sound of the fast-flowing river. A snooze to Kind of Blue. A cheese platter. Watching the last ep of 13 Reasons Why. Doing a good job of a careers talk at Xpo North (with a ceramicist and a writer). Catching a bit of Zoe Graham playing her solo looped music. Doing a great panel on 21st Century Storytelling with Michael, Nick, other Nick and Paul. Paul’s classic Scottish lunch – a chocolate eclair and a can of Coke. Michael’s speaking style. Schadenfreude of Germany getting knocked out the World Cup. A pint of lime and sparkling Highland water after a long riverside walk.

Inverness

The 4 best things to come out of Scotland

While I’m still under the influence of the Macallan’s I thought it best to capture the best of Scotland – I was daydreaming for just a moment at the Burns Night gathering we’ve just been to at Cha Cha Cha in the shadowy alleyways of Muswell Hill, transfixed by a pile of Tunnock’s tea cakes, wondering what else as magnificent as a Tunnock’s Caramel has emerged from north of the border…

1. Tunnock’s Caramel Wafer

tunnocks_caramel_wafer_coasters_gillian_kyle_5

5 layers of wafer, 4 layers of caramel, fully coated in real milk chocolate. The dog’s cahones.

2. Mike Scott of The Waterboys

Waterboys-Mike-S_2005213b

5 layers of Yeats, 4 layers of Dylan, fully coated in real wild Ireland.

3. John Buchan’s stories

7a2386b2ed246507e2151df4540d6276

My favourite copy

5 layers of outdoors, 4 layers of clubland, fully coated in real imperial conservatism.

4. Bobby Wellins’ sax on Starless & Bible Black

Dreams-Are-FreeW

5 layers of melancholy, 4 layers of beauty, fully coated in real jazz delicacy.

 

 

 

Or perhaps you know better…?

Simple Pleasures from Glasgow

The Glasgow School of Art Charles Rennie mackintosh art nouveau architecture

Being there for your children when they have a crisis – Mackintosh design and architecture – breakfast at Banners in Crouch End – working with young, fresh talent – Indian summer – wearing shorts – Robert Elms Show on GLR – the theme from You Only Live Twice – the cloudscape looking down from 34,000 feet – busting through the clouds at speed – shower gel made of Burren flowers from County Clare – video editing – a walk at sunset – sweet corn soup – dessert wine – Dora’s chicken soup with carrots and semolina – Edwardian interiors with ceramic tiling – fizzy water with a slice of lemon

Don’t You Go

If you ever wanted to know the value of Scottish-English union it’s perfectly captured in John Martyn – born in England, educated in Glasgow, genius fruit of the union of an English mother and Scottish father – and if you voted today in the Scottish Independence referendum I hope his words guided your hand:

Can’t you see it in my eyes? I’m saying
Don’t you go
So many reasons you should stay here, baby
Don’t you go, don’t you go

one of the great Anglo-Scots

one of the great Anglo-Scots

So here I am sitting in a land colonised by Scots (at the Beech Hill in Derry) following the outcome of today’s vote. I’m genuinely and deeply concerned about how things turn out. As I watch this non-television let me set out 4 of those ‘reasons you should stay here’, 4 reasons why it would be a shame (in its true sense) for this family of nations to be torn apart…

1. The history of the world is one of the ebb and flow of the scale of our nations, seeking the optimum size to organise ourselves at. Roman Empire too big. San Marino too small. Scotland is too small too. It is not a substantial enough market to thrive. You only have to look south from here to the Republic of Ireland and, for example, to my industry, television/media to see that 4-5M people does not enable you to compete effectively or have a stable base from which to work outwards. 63M constitutes a really good market from which to radiate.

2. Diversity strengthens, tribalism diminishes. Genetics makes this very clear.

A mix of Jamaica and Derbyshire

A mix of Jamaica and Derbyshire

3. If Scotland leaves the UK, by definition it becomes a competitor and although a neighbour, effectively only on the same basis as Ireland, Norway or France. Any business with a UK remit will no longer have any duty or strong rationale to buy from Scottish suppliers.

4. There’s so much conflict and shit in the world, we need to find family and friendship, unity and co-operation wherever we can.

british and irish lions

Here’s hoping unity and being greater than the sum of our parts wins the day.

Update 06:08 19th September 2014

The voting results have reached their conclusion. We remain together, for which I’m grateful. My hopes are these:

That the incredible energy released by this exemplary exercise in peaceful democracy with its turnout of a standard-setting 86% is channelled into [Alex Salmond is just making making his speech of defeat as I write – he just used the words “at this stage” with reference to Scotland’s decision, typifying once again his weasel nature, given his promise to respect the result] is channelled into making the future of Scotland an even greater success.

That Scotland with all that energy becomes a powerhouse alongside my own native London in driving this union forward.

That the massive issues facing our united kingdom of inequality and poor representation, the need for social justice and sustainable living get tackled by all our populations. As a lifelong non-Tory, non-Labour voter I’ve never had a vote that truly counted.

That we do not take one another for granted as nations and revel in our strength together.

Strength in numbers

Strength in numbers

Best of British – Top British films of the last 25 years

Mike Leigh's Naked

Mike Leigh's Naked (ooh matron!)

My response to today’s Observer Film Magazine list of ‘The Best British Films 1984-2009’

My 15 favourite home-grown films of the last quarter century (in no particular order) are:

  • In Bruges [not in The Observer list, made by FilmFour, a cracking script by Martin McDonagh]
  • 24 Hour Party People [I’m not a huge fan of Steve Coogan but he’s brilliant in this #24 of 25]
  • Venus [Peter O’Toole and Leslie Phillips make a great double act, not in The Observer list]
  • The Remains of the Day [deeply moving performances by Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson, not in The Observer list]
  • A Room with a View [perfectly executed film of its type, not in The Observer list]
  • Naked [the fruit of David Thewlis’ creativity #14]
  • The Hours [Nicole Kidman shines among a host of brilliant actresses, not in The Observer list]
  • The Constant Gardener [another powerful Ralph Fiennes performance, not in The Observer list]
  • Last Resort [Pawel Pawlikowski bursts onto the British scene, not in The Observer list]
  • Hunger [a bold, fresh artist’s film from (the other) Steve McQueen but not an arty one #16]
  • Chaplin [captures something of the greatest film-maker of all time, not in The Observer list]
  • Secrets & Lies [a culmination of Mike Leigh’s approach #3]
  • In the Name of the Father [powerful acting spearheaded by Daniel Day-Lewis, not in The Observer list]
  • A Month in the Country [a gentle, bucolic one – not in The Observer list]
  • Defence of the Realm [a top-class thriller shot by Roger Deakins, not in The Observer list]
  • The Commitments [energised by the powerful lungs of Andrew Strong, not in The Observer list]

Bubbling under: Borat, Howard’s End, High Hopes, Shadowlands, Johnny English, East is East, The Bounty, Son of Rambow, Billy Elliot

venusI enjoyed flicking through the pages of today’s Observer Film Magazine, The Nation’s Choice, focused on contemporary British cinema as I supped my Cullen Skink outside a pub on the Shore of Leith, winding down from the manic activity of the Edinburgh Television Festival, said soup surely worthy of sitting alongside Tarmac and Lino as a GSI (Great Scottish Invention). [It would have been fun to check out the online discussion the mag urges us to visit but after ten minutes searching for it on The Guardian/Observer site I gave up.]

Leafing through I realised this has been a fairly significant part of my life over the years, despite being more focused on telly – from the photo of my old flat-mate Emer McCourt alongside #21, Ken Loach’s Riff-Raff, to Loach’s producer Rebecca O’Brien who sat at the table I hosted at the TV BAFTAs a couple of years ago; from Mike Leigh who I met at Dick Pope‘s around the time my first son was born (the same son who three years later slammed a heavy glass door onto the renowned director in a Crouch End shop) to Dick himself, one of my first bosses at Solus, who shot #3 Secrets and Lies (and much of Leigh’s oeuvre besides); from Ben Gibson, Director of the London Film School, with whom I was involved trying to set up a South African film/tv scholarship to Ewen Bremner, featured in both #1 Trainspotting and #14 the marvellous Naked, who I met when he was making a training film early in his career (written by John Mole and, unbeknownst to the casual viewer, based on Beowolf).

Beyond this punctuation of connections though is the steady presence of Channel 4, FilmFour, More 4, Britdoc (the Channel 4 British Documentary Film Foundation) – in particular, my esteemed colleague Tessa Ross whose fingerprints are on so many of the films (from Billy Elliot to #9 Slumdog Millionaire), dubbed recently the Mother of British Film-making. Choose Life is engraved on the glass doors of Channel 4’s Glasgow office in recognition of the Channel’s role in bringing the landmark movie that is Trainspotting to life. #11 Touching the Void was commissioned out of Peter Dale’s More4. #16 Hunger was patiently nurtured by my much missed colleague Jan Younghusband in Channel 4 Arts (her ex-husband Peter Chelsom made Hear My Song, which starred my friend Adrian Dunbar and whose script crossed my desk at Solus (and still sits in my bookcase) on its way to Roger Deakins, another of my bosses at Solus – the kind of thing which links the Channel 4 nexus and my pre-C4 web of experiences). The next generation is represented by Mat Whitecross, whose film Moving to Mars is being broadcast on More4 in November and was part-financed by Britdoc, run with flair by former C4 fellow Commissioning Editor Jess Search. I haven’t worked it out exactly but I’d say well over 30% of the Top 25 has FilmFour/Channel 4  input. Stephen Frears’ big break with #5 My Beautiful Launderette. From #17 Shane Meadow’s This is England to #10 Four Weddings and a Funeral, the full gamut. What an incredible record and a significant contribution to the last quarter century of British cinema.

Can’t kid a kidmapper

cover by NC Wyeth (1913)

cover by NC Wyeth (1913)

Follow the Kidmapper: a literary blogumentary from Tim Wright

From 30th June to 25th August, Tim (who wrote MindGym with Ben Miller and me) is following a route across Scotland from the south-western tip of Mull to the outskirts of Edinburgh, as charted in Chapters 14–27 of Robert Louis Stevenson’s ‘Kidnapped’.

You can follow his travels & travails at Kidmapper.

Tim considers ‘Kidnapped’ a fantastically exciting book – “the story of David Balfour running for his life across the Highlands, sometimes accompanied by tough and rebellious Alan, sometimes pursued by the English army, seemed so visceral and exciting to me that I wanted to try it for myself. So that is exactly what I am doing.”

From the blog you can read and discuss the book itself, listen to extracts being read out in the places the book describes and keep in touch with where Tim has got to each day.

“Perhaps there’s something you’d like me to do or think about whilst I’m walking. Perhaps you’d like me to visit specific sites and film them for you. Or better still, perhaps you’d like to come out here and join me for a walk, add your own responses to being on the Kidnapped Trail and have an adventure of your very own.”

If you want to start from the beginning, the first episode is on Tim’s YouTube channel and you can find him as ‘kidmapper’ on most popular web services.

So this is the latest chapter in Tim’s on-going exploration of web narrative, which incudes the outstanding In Search of Oldton whose launch I had the honour to host at Channel 4 way back when.

I’m feeling inspired now to handcuff myself to a blonde and run across the heather-strewn glens of ‘The 39 Steps’.

We seem to have a bit of a Hitch here, darling

We seem to have a bit of a Hitch here, darling

And on the subject of following…

You should follow me on Twitter here

Pamela (Madeleine Carroll) should follow Richard Hannay (Robert Donat) there

The English army should follow David Balfour there

Why all the following?

Paranoia Twitter-style – part 4

Following 1 - gulp!

Following 1 - gulp!

Following on from the Russian idiot, the blank generation and the blonde babe with big tits, in the words of Robert the Rose Horse I am beginning to get that old funny feeling – “Following 1” and the 1 is I and I. Luckily this time I know the stalker and she lives safely tucked away on the Isle of Eigg off the West coast of Scotland.

Update 9.iii.09:

What's the connection?

What's the connection?

So what is it that me, Stephen Fry and the New York Times have in common in the eyes of this lurker?

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