Friday, 21 April 2017

A GRAND ADVENTURE

I'm pretty hopeless and knowing the titles of my different relations. The easy ones are auntie, gran etc, but beyond that is confusing. This weekend I'm off to "my brothers son's" wedding, as I refer to him. He is, of course, my nephew. I'm not big on weddings or the whole social chit chat with strangers thrown together, but I'm looking forward to catching up with my brother, which I haven't done for a very long time, and brainstorming a little on a trip we're going to take into the past together in July.

In 1971, as a little boy of eight, I lived not far from Glencoe on the outskirts of a village called Ballachulish. I have few memories of childhood, but the ones from there are happy ones. One such memory was of the turntable ferries that used to transport six cars at a time across the water before they built a bridge in 1975. One of those ferries was called the Glenchulish, and it survives to this day as the Glenelg ferry, making the short crossing from the mainland to Skye. Just before that it continued to ferry cars back and forth right up until the bridge was opened.


The rest of my memories are a little unclear, but because my brother is eight years older than me I figured he would be the perfect travel companion to try and recall the memories clearer while we are there.

That eight year old boy spent the summer holidays with a small leather pouch collecting money from the waiting cars before the boarded the ferry. I would then make the crossing back and forth with the ferrymen. It was a recent picture online of the Glenachulish that made me wonder what had happened to the other two, the Glen Loy and Glen Duror.


To cut a long story short I made contact with a community group in Ballachulish, and they have given me directions to the locations of the abandoned, decaying hulls. So my brother and I are on a quest to find them and document them at the end of July. We'll also walk the old railway tracks, long since decommissioned, and reminisce of a time now lost. We're hoping to capture most of it on film and edit a short film together to gift to the community group in Ballachulish to the new museum they are planning.

It's starting to shape up to a grand adventure.


Friday, 14 April 2017

THE THREE BRETHREN

It's been a while since our little hillwalking trio, myself, Andrew and Pauline, had an overnight outdoor adventure. Recently we had enjoyed a one day walk to the Eildon hills of the Borders, taking in the Roman settlement of Trimontium, and the Borders countryside was to once again provide us with a destination, this time for an overnighter in our tents. With the Easter holidays in full swing, and sunny skies forecast, we set our sights on a small section of the Southern Upland Way, starting out from Innerleithen and finishing at Galashiels.

Access to the start of our walk was a mile and a half or so along tarmac, across the River Tweed, and then onto the route proper. The path we followed for the entire walk was great, and skirts an area called the Minchmoor.


The first day was a long pull gradually upwards, under hot, cloudless skies, but it was a fabulous, leisurely wander. The Southern Upland Way is the longest route of its kind in Scotland, some 212 miles, from Portpatrick in the west to Cockburnspath in the east.

The Minchmoor section we were walking has evidence to date it back to pre-Roman times as a Pictish Road, and was the main highway well in to Medieval times between east and west.

It is said that the Marquis of Montrose used this very route to flee from the battle of Philiphaugh in September 1645. He was eventually captured and hung in Edinburgh, and his head was displayed on a  spike in the Tolbooth. Lovely. It is said that as he was fleeing he buried a stash of money somewhere along the route, so we were keeping our eyes out for buried treasure.

A couple of hours in we came upon The Cheese Well. It is a natural spring and provided refreshment for thirsty travelers along the route, as it did for us this day as we filled out water bottles. It can be found marked on maps going back to the 1600s and derives its name from leaving small presents of cheese to thank and placate the fairies. These days people leave a coin or two on the engraved rock, so when in Rome, as they say.

A little further on, and a short few hundred yards detour, we came to the summit cairn of Minchmoor. A number of mountain bikers were already there, and in the short time we stood on its summit a number of others arrived, such is the popularity of the area with bikers. We had just come down and back on to the Southern Upland Way when Pauline found buried treasure. Well, actually, commemorative coins stashed in a hole in the wall to anyone who wants one. You'd have to know they were there mind you. There were only three left, and all a little corroded, so we only took one.

As I said at the beginning, we had walked the Eildons a few weeks back, which were now visible in the distance. On that walk we had enjoyed a treat of visiting the ancient Roman site of Trimontium. There we marveled at depressions and lumps and bumps on the ground, showing evidence of a once mighty settlement. As our walk along the Minchmoor progressed we came upon a man-made gouge called Wallace's Trench. This was a purpose built defensive ditch some 4 to 6 feet high, clearly made to defend one area from an approaching force of some size. As our small band of three got closer and closer, it looked from a distance like a slightly raised line of ground. More lumps and bumps of things long buried. But when we finally reached the actual site it was astonishing in its scale and preservation, still perfectly formed as a trench many hundreds of troops could have easily concealed themselves in.


Near to the end of our day was the third highlight of the route, and the title of this blog, The Three Brethren. When Pauline had first mentioned them I thought it referred to three slightly rounded hills next to each other, but in actual fact they are three giant cairns atop a hill at 465m.


Beautifully constructed, and standing some ten feet tall, they mark the intersection of the estates of Buccleuch, Yair and Selkirk. Originally there was only one cairn, built by Alexander Pringle in 1512 (of the wool jumper fame) and owner of the Yair estate.

This was to be our cut off point to drop down on the southern side of the route to camp for the night. As the sun was setting we tucked into our evening meals among the heather, relaxing after a rewarding day.


The sun shone again for us the following morning. This was to be a much shorter day as we made our way to Galashiels, but the walk was through some of the prettiest woods, along fabulous little paths dappled in sunlight, that I have ever walked.


As we descended toward the mighty River Tweed once more, the path was lined with great stands of Douglas Fir. It was popular in Georgian and Victorian times to plant Rhododendrons and Douglas Fir in the extended gardens of large estate houses.


So I started to think we may come upon just such a house. And we did. A beautiful, and grade 1 listed, Georgian mansion, built of red sandstone, the seat of Yair estate and Alexander Pringle that had built the first of The Three Brethren. A long time back the estate and house had been sold to pay off debts, but Pringle went to India, made a fortune, and on his return bought back the family estate.


We now ascended for one last time, across rolling farmland manicured by munching sheep, across well made dry stain dykes, past estate workers burning heather to create new and fresh habitat for red grouse, to eventually sit upon a small rounded hill overlooking the town of Galashiels.


The trip ended as it had begun, with coffee and cake. Of course.



Friday, 7 April 2017

COMMUNITY RIGHT TO BUY

I'm very proud of my community right now. Over the past few years three out of four churches in my neighbourhood have closed and the congregations amalgamated into one church. This then led to the Church of Scotland selling off the churches and adjoining properties now closed up.

Normally these fabulous buildings get snapped up by developers, and are either demolished and some collection of apartments, supposedly "designed" by an architect, are thrown up and sold to the highest bidder. Well, under new Scottish law passed a year ago, any such building put on the open market has to be available to the community it resides in under the "community right to buy" legislation. We have history of such an undertaking, albeit for island communities, but never in an urban setting, but since April last year this right was extended to cover the whole of Scotland.

It is a long process, but basically, if there is support in the community for it to happen, then things move on. To cut a very long story short, the last step is that the Scottish Government issue ballot papers to all registered voters. Somewhere in the region of 60% must vote in favour.

Well, on the 5th April a whopping 98.7% of this community did just that!

Now the purchase price will be provided by the Scottish Government once the Government minister upholds the legislation. This will be published on 26th April, but it would seem to be just a matter of ticking that box. So off we will then go to develop the space for the good of everyone.

Exciting times. Here's the action groups website in case you're inspired and want to do something similar: https://www.bellfield.scot/news/


Friday, 31 March 2017

WHITE VAN MAN

End of an era coming soon. Well, not quite an era I guess. I'm selling my big white Ford Transit van.

It has served me well over the nine years I've had it, and like myself it has changed its purpose in life many times.

At the beginning of 2009 I took the delivery of a monstrous motorcycle. You see, I'd always wanted to own a Harley Davidson, still do, if truth be known, but it was financially well out of my reach. But Suzuki had brought out a lookalike at a quarter of the price, so I went for it.


Though an inexpensive tourer, it was still a very attractive bike to look at, and I knew I couldn't leave it on the street, but I didn't have a garage. That was when a bright idea struck me; buy a van. And so the Transit came to be. I had it kitted out with a cage inside and ramps at the back, and after every time I used it, that is where it lived, though it was always nerve racking driving it up into the van and stopping before ending up in the cab!

I only ever did one big trip on it, up the west coast of Scotland. During the winter it was stored off its wheels in a friends garage. And the summers from then on were not conducive to motorcycle touring, so it rarely saw the light of day. It seemed a waste.

Then an opportunity came in 2011 to bicycle across the United States. Money had to be raised for the six month adventure, so it was a no brainer: the bike had to go.

I still had the van, and shortly after returning from the US I shelved it out to store all my DIY tools and bits and bobs. Almost a workshop on wheels, which helped me service a rental property and carry out odd jobs for friends to earn a little extra income. It served as transport for taking the bicycles away for a weekend up north as well, and the added bonus was you could stand up inside and get changed at the end of a muddy bike trip. By this time I had also become involved in the local community market, and part of that responsibility was to store the A-boards and other paraphernalia for the monthly farmers market. Again, the van did its job.

But it was becoming an expensive shed on wheels essentially, with service and MOT bills rising every year. So the past few weeks have been spent cleaning it up, repairing rust patches and emptying it of everything, ready to put on the market in a weeks time. It has two jobs left to do, one decorating a friends kitchen, and the other helping a friend move house.

I end on a daft poem by Felix Dennis:

White Van Man has a very white van
And a very white van has he,
Except for the dents and rust by the vents
A very white van has heeee!




Thursday, 23 March 2017

THE HERDSMAN OF ETIVE

Nothing gladdens the heart like a trip to atmospheric Glencoe, with the mountains dusted and capped in snow, and the sun shining.

So it was that this week I found myself, after driving for almost three hours, in its spectacular scenery, filming with, of all things, a drone.

This is all part of one of my teenage student's projects this term; Shakespeare's Macbeth. Last Saturday all 52 of them gathered at Craigmillar Castle and the surrounding park, to capture various sequences for the film, most notably the scenes of battle and the witches on the heath. Though the forecast had been for light cloud and low wind speeds, for three hours in the middle of the day it poured down and blew a gale!

Thanks BBC weather forecast!

But the students prevailed and put up with it and got the job done. This is teenagers I'm talking about!

Glencoe was glorious. I was aiming to be there for around 11am to catch the sun on Buachaille Etive Mòr (The Herdsman of Etive"), an enormous pyramid shape of a mountain, guarding the entrance to Glencoe valley. The idea was to fly toward the mountain, gradually gaining in altitude, a shot that would open the film. However, the drone refused to fly, giving me a message that the compass had malfunctioned. Frustrated, I shot a very slow zoom in with the main camera, which luckily I had taken along.

Dissappointed, I drove a few miles further on the Clachaig Inn in Glencoe valley, to treat myself to lunch. The clouds had moved in and everything was looking a bit grey and poor light for filming. However, lunch finished, as I was about to leave a couple of hours later, the sun started to break through.

If only the drone worked.

I decided to phone the repair centre in Newcastle, and explained what had happened. They made a suggestion that because of the high iron content in vast areas of Glencoe, the compass may not be broken, but confused by the iron in the rocks. With fingers crossed, I carried out the pre-flight checks, and low and behold, she flew! Delighted, but with very little battery power remaining, I captured some shots of the late sun spilling on the rock faces of nearby Bidean Nam Bian, my favourite mountain in Glencoe.


At one point I almost took the decision to stay in Glencoe overnight, charge up the power packs, and film the shot I came to do the next morning. But I had enough I reckoned, and headed south for home, marveling at the golden hour of light from the setting sun, bathing the snow covered mountains. It was such a magical time, and there was a wow moment round every corner.


Thursday, 16 March 2017

BIRTHDAY WEEKEND

You would think in a country as small as Scotland, after 50 years of exploring its landscape you might run out of new things to see. But you'd be wrong. It was my birthday recently and I was keen to do something different as part of it. Somewhere I'd never been. In Scotland.

Catching the earliest train available, Pauline and I set out from Edinburgh bound for the west coast, via Glasgow. The forecast was for overcast skies, but dry, though given a little time that could change. In a little less than two hours we were off the train at Gourock and aboard a ferry crossing the Clyde toward Dunoon. Five kilometers north along the side of the Holy Loch and we turned west, toward our new adventure destination.

The road was mostly single track all the way, and around two thirds of the way along we hit a 12% gradient.

Which then changed to a 20% gradient!

Ordinarily, with no kit on the bikes, I would have managed, albeit slowly, to climb the road, but as it was, 200 yards from the top, I dismounted and pushed. And made the top quicker than I would have pedaling!

By mid afternoon we were trundling our bikes onto another ferry and onto our destination for the weekend. Somewhere new for me, the Isle of Bute, and we camped in a forest clearing overlooking Loch Ridden and the little ferry we had just been on. As darkness fell, a full moon rose and illuminated the landscape in soft light, with the only other lights those of the ferry, twinkling on the still water as it made its way back and forth across the 500 metre crossing into the night.



Early morning and the forest was filled with the golden light of the rising sun, and a myriad of different bird song.

We struck camp and headed off to explore. All roads lead to Rothesay, it seemed, as at every junction there was a sign, with different mileages, to the capital. On occasion we came across old stone block mileage pillars, with distances in fractions. Nowadays we simply round them up.

As we rounded Kames Bay we came upon Kames Castle. More accurately it is a castellated mansion house, and the 18th century house was built upon a 14th century tower.


Originally the seat of the Bannatyne family it is one of the oldest continually inhabited houses in Scotland. Behind the castle was a walled garden, with a turreted building at one corner, and as you turned your head west, looking up a sweeping grassy plain, you came to a church tower, standing guard over the local grave yard. Though the church is a ruin now, the graveyard is still in use today.


Following the main road directly south, we reached its furthest point by early afternoon. We could have carried on along the road, turning north, and head toward Rothesay, but something drew us along a track heading down toward the southern most point of the island. It was a misty murky overcast day, and as we trundled along we could just start to make out the outline of the mountain peaks of the Isle of Arran to our right.

Two and a half kilometres on and we came to the end of the road. A small sign pointed up a grassy path toward Blane's Chapel. We had no idea what to expect, and there was not a single glimpse of it as we walked up the rise.

In what we both described as reminiscent of Inca stone work, stood a remarkably well preserved chapel dating back to the 1200s. It sat in the middle of a grassy mound, and was circled by a series of walls. In the graveyard of weathered stones, dates went back to Norse times. There has been a religious site here since the 500s, when a monastery was founded, and at one time this little chapel served the whole island of Bute.


The sun came out as we wandered round the site. It is flanked on the north and east by small woods, while to the west was a natural cliff face, rising up some 20m offering natural protection. Open views to the south led your eyes to the Holy Isle of the Isle of Arran. Maybe this had been on purpose. It was a magical place, so peaceful, and the highlight of the adventure. A real hidden gem.


Further back down the track we stopped a while a some standing stones, before heading to Rothesay and the ferry home.


As we approached the fringes of the town, having negotiated a muddy cross-country path, we arrived at a natural depression in the landscape called Loch Fad, meaning Long Loch. It is interesting geologically, as it was formed along the edge of the Highland Boundary Fault.

Having satisfied our need for coffee and cake in the centre of Rothesay, we just had time to wander round the outer walls of Rothesay Castle, described by many as one of the most remarkable castles in Scotland, for its long history and unusual circular plan.


Built in the 13th century, it fell into ruin in the 17th century and is now looked after by the state. But for me the most striking part of the castle was the unusually shaped moat, defensively surrounding its walls.


With photographs and memories of a two day adventure, that seemed altogether longer, we boarded the CalMac ferry and left the Isle of Bute behind, heading for Wemyss Bay and the train home.

It had been a great birthday weekend.




Friday, 10 March 2017

ALL THINGS COME IN THREES

It's been a long while since our hillwalking trio, myself, Pauline and Andrew, had a wander in the landscape of Scotland. In fact, it's well over a year, so, last weekend we hopped on the three-carriage train to Tweedbank in the Borders.

A Short 20 minute walk brought us into the famous rugby village of Melrose, the starting point for our walk. The town's humble beginnings were as a monastery way back, and in the middle ages it was re-built in its current site, the now famous Melrose Abbey. Originally it had gone by the name of Mailros, meaning The Bare Peninisula, and is referred to in Anglo Saxon writings as Magilros. When the monastery was rebuilt they symbolically represented the old name with a masons hammer, a Mel, and the Cistercian abbey symbol of the Virgin Mary, a Rose, hence, Melrose.


The monastic ruin of the Abbey is the location of the burial, in a sealed lead casket, of the heart of Robert the Bruce, King of Scotland.

Our walk today started with a short, but very muddy, ramble up the adjacent Eildon Hills, a close collection of three distinct points.


It was two steps forward and one back, although more of a slide back than a step, as we tried to keep upright through the sticky red clay underfoot. It wasn't until we reached the saddle between two of the peaks that we left behind the squelchy quagmire. The annual hill run across the Eildons had just passed through, and the pounding feet of a hundred runners hadn't helped conditions. How they had managed to run on that surface though beat me.


We decided to walk only two of the three tops, and as the sun broke through, we headed east for top number two. Coming down from here was an adventure. I found my skiing balance skills were more useful than any hillwalking fitness, as the clay path became smooth and polished with all those before that had negotiated this way down. Still sticky underfoot, it clogged up the soles of our boots and left us with no grip. It sounds rubbish, but actually it was an hilarious hour, as Andrew and I gingerly picked our way down, mostly through jaggy gorse. Pauline on the other hand, had used her Ninja skills and had seemingly floated down unscathed. We met up again at the base for a rest and lunch, and shared our stories of treacherous paths and the close decision of calling mountain rescue.

Folklore tells of fairies below the Eildon Hills, and famously of one 13th Century Scottish Laird, Thomas Rhymer, written about, as well as by others, by Sir Walter Scott. A little further on from our lunch stop, at the point where we popped out onto tarmac road, is a stone tablet, erected in 1929, inscribed with the tale of Rhymer. He had a reputation for prophesy and supernatural powers, and famously prophesied the death of Alexander III. It is said that it was at the site of the stone that he met the Fairy Queen of the Eildons on a "milky white horse". Sir Walter Scott writes that the Queen dared Thomas to kiss her and go away with her for seven years.

Happy with underfoot now firm, and free of sticky clay, we set off in search of the main historical landmark of the day, named after the Three Hills of the Eildons, Trimontium, the largest northern fort of the Roman army.

Built around AD80, at its height it held 1500 soldiers, and became the main stepping off point for Rome's push into the north. Information boards circle this vast area, and one shows an aerial photograph, taken in the time of a drought in the 1980s, where you can clearly see the outline of the fort. 2000 years later!


Buckets of imagination are needed to picture the scene as it must have been, as now it is all agricultural plowed fields.The information boards help, and we all left with a strong feeling that this significantly important place should be properly excavated and opened to the public. It would become a World renowned archaeological site. Amazing treasures have been unearthed, as recently as 1905, 1947 and the early 1980s, from small digs carried out. Imagine what we might find with a full excavation.

At the far end of the Roman site is the modern day viaduct that once carried the railway line. It runs parallel to the old Roman road called Dere Street, that leads away from Trimontium north.


From here we turned south to continue our circuit of the fort, wandering along the disused railway line leading from the viaduct, through a tunnel of trees.

One fascinating item for me was a stone pillar milestone. Replaced by a modern marble replica, an original sits in the Museum of Scotland now. Sited on the corner of the fringes of the fort, all distances north, measured in 1000 Roman soldier steps, began from the one milestone pillar. It inspired me to visit the museum to see the original, found near modern day Aberdeen and mentions the distance from Trimontium.

Our day ended with a wander past the ruins of Melrose Abbey, followed by a trio of lattes in a newly revamped coffee shop called the Greenhouse cafe in the centre of Melrose, with views to the abbey.


Friday, 3 March 2017

CARPETS AND WALLS OF COLOUR

It may be bitterly cold on some days at the moment, but that's mainly because of clear skies. The sun is shining and the deep blue of the sky just makes you feel good.

During the past few days I've been receiving email alerts warning of a possible sighting of the Aurora Borealis, the Northern Lights. Because of the clear skies every night, it presented the chance of a cracking display of colour. Despite my patience over several nights, whilst shivering outside in the late hours, I didn't witness any sweeping brush strokes of dancing colours across the night sky.

But out for a wander a couple of days ago, through my local park and along quiet lanes, I did get a treat of vibrant colours. We are, afterall, entering that wonderful stage of new life, when nature throws its pallet of colours across our landscapes.

It is for me, like many people, my favourite time of year, though I do also love the hues of Autumn. But there's something really uplifting as you turn a corner onto a nondescript, busy road, and come across a simple garden hedge, displaying a veritable wall full of colour and beauty.


This rebirth period of the year also inspires me to wander further, in search of what is coming into flower next. Nearby is a large National Trust estate, and last weekend I happened upon glades of newly opened snowdrops.

Just now it's the turn of the crocuses and snowdrops, and they are creating carpets of colour everywhere. Very soon the bluebells will appear, then the daffodils. Already blossom has appeared on some trees, and soon the heady smell of wild garlic will adorn the cycle paths into the city.

In my local park, the first of the photos above, there is one particular tree that I love. It is easily 30ft tall and the same again wide, and for just a brief period it has the most incredible display of pinky purple blossom. The buds are there now, squeezing their way through, but it is yet to bloom. I can't wait. As a tease I came across this tree, with white blossom, in someone's garden at the end of my walk. Isn't nature amazing.



Friday, 24 February 2017

TODAY I WENT TO PRISON

I'm lucky to be able to indulge myself in one of my passions, filmmaking, for a living. I'm one of those rare people who can say with all honesty, that I love my job. And I'm constantly looking for new ways to stretch my experience, and around seven years ago I started to teach film. I still take on the odd contract to make short films with production companies, but teaching has become far more rewarding personally.

In those early days I was passing on my skills to a variety of different age groups, from those with learning difficulties in their 20s, to elderly, early-onset dementia sufferers. It was remarkable the response that was attained, especially with those with dementia.

Then came an opportunity to run a short term workshop over a period of weeks with school students from challenging, socioeconomic backgrounds.

This was the start of something that led me to where I am now. I had found my niche. Teaching young people film literacy and filmmaking. Almost three years ago now, I took up my current post with PQA, and haven't looked back.

That experience has enabled me to take on ever more challenging positions and projects. Last year was no exception, with a very rewarding project with the Festival Theatre, and then becoming part of a team that is bringing film literacy skills to school teachers, to enable them to take it into their classrooms. This is part of a much wider project by Creative Scotland nationwide.

All of these projects have been adding up to a very wide level of experience and knowledge, but I could see that there was a bias toward those of school age in most of the projects being funded. There was definitely a market for these skills in post-school age, especially for those in society who are disadvantaged. Film is a remarkable vehicle for improving self confidence and raising self esteem in those who feel left behind, and feel that all hope may be lost.

So I was excited to see a new post advertised recently to run a project with young offenders in a Scottish prison.


Of course, it will be a great addition to my wealth of experience, but that aside, I know film will bring a lot to those incarcerated. I applied, and today I attended the interview at the prison I would be working in, along with six other strong contenders. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that it will be me they choose.

I'm already excited at the prospect of meeting my new students. Afterall, who wouldn't want to make a positive difference to someone's life given the chance.


Friday, 17 February 2017

RENT, RENTAL, RENTON

There's definitely a thread, or should I say, line, of drugs running through this weeks blog. Some may disagree with some opinions I've written here, in fact, it may just get "right up your nose".

Never one to turn down a chance to go to the theatre, especially if it's with a free ticket, I took up the invite of my friend Innes to join a packed house at the Festival Theatre in Edinburgh to see the musical Rent. Loosely based on Puccini's La Boheme, it is set circa 1989 in New York City. It follows the lives of a group of friends living in the East Village, as they deal with love, loss, AIDS and modern day life, with transmission through sex and drugs of the HIV virus playing its part in the demise of some characters.

At least, that's what I'm told it was about.

It is closer to a rock opera than a musical I would say, and though the choreography and the singing voices of the actors was without fault, the score was just one big noise. Eventually it all blended into one, and I struggled, as did those around me, to make any sense of what was going on. Thankfully, with the pre knowledge of the synopsis, I was able to occasionally pin a scene on what could be a part of the story, but other than that, I can't say it grabbed me. What you might call a "Marmite" show. I was so unimpressed personally, I did something I've never done before, and left at the interval.

Part of that was the experience, but part was also that I was pretty much exhausted from a recent project I'd undertaken.

Just three weeks ago I invested in a new rental apartment in the centre of Edinburgh city. To say that you don't get much for your money these days is an understatement. It's probably just as well that I'm not going to allow tenants to have pets, as it's so small you couldn't get a cat in there, let alone swing it. At first glance you would be forgiven for thinking very little needed done before getting it on the market. As the first few days rolled by, it became evident that was not the case.

Various bodged repair jobs had been crudely covered up, which all needed corrected, but worse than that, there was an unidentifiable smell. The more I worked in the place, the more I noticed it. To cut a long, investigative story short, I finally deduced it was the stale and acrid residue of a heavy hash smoker! The brown tar-like substance I literally scraped from the upper reaches of the UPVC window frames, was enough to bring back your lunch. I'm not suggesting it was the previous owner, as during my investigative work in lifting the floorboards, there was a strong smell of something similar emanating from the flat below. Two weeks on, and I'm not much further forward in getting rid of it, despite using sealers on the walls and woodwork, as well as deep cleaning. I am now at the stage of stripping off all the wallpaper and starting again.

The bedroom is the one room that is unaffected, and despite being small, it looks great now that it is finished.


Everything comes in threes they say, and to round off the week I had a drug experience of a different kind, in the form of T2, the sequel to the 1996 film Trainspotting.

Same cast, same director. The story centres around the return of Ewan McGregor's character Renton, who, at the end of the original film, made off with the groups illgotten drugs money. Having fallen on miserable times in Amsterdam, he returns to Edinburgh and looks up old friends. But the psychopath Begbie (Robert Carlyle), in an unconnected incident, escapes from prison, and when he learns that Renton is in town, he seeks revenge for being double crossed.


It lacks the energy and pace of the first film, but it has enough surprises and moments of disgust to be just as entertaining in its own right. If you haven't seen the original though, a lot of the references will be lost on you. Production values, helped by a much larger budget of course, were far higher, and it was a lot of fun location spotting in the setting of Edinburgh. There's a nice start to the film to show a lot has changed in the past 20 years, as McGregor's character arrives in Edinburgh, and travels on the modern tram into the city centre, with a look of surprise on his face as he stares out of the window.


A familiar visual moment for me in the first film was when they visit the UKs most remote railway station at Corrour, and the view toward the hill Leum Uilleim, a favourite destination of mine. It was fun when the sequel returned to the same spot. 

Famously in the first film, Ewan McGregors character delivers a monologue, based on Iggy Pops Lust for Life. It memorably starts off:
"Choose a job. Choose a career. Choose a family. Choose a big television. Choose washing machines, compact disc players and electrical tin openers. Choose good health, low cholesterol and dental insurance..."

In T2 they update it well, and it serves to demonstrate some changes of the past 20 years:
"Choose Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and hope that someone cares what you had for breakfast. Choose reality TV. Choose a zero-hours contract, a two-hour journey to work. Choose the same for your kids and smother the pain with an unknown drug someone made in their kitchen..."

Choose Life.

Then a remarkable moment happened as we wandered home, discussing the films merits. As we came to a road junction, a recognisable figure came round the corner. None other than Aidan Bremner, father of Ewen Bremner, who plays Spud in Trainspotting! It was an astonishing coincidence, even more so as it is also 20 years since I have seen Aidan! Ewen was born and brought up where I live in Portobello, so there is a strong connection, and his father and I have been friends since the start of the 90s, when I ran my deli.

What a fitting end to a Perfect Day.