writer, performer, musician, wine drinker

Monthly Archives: July 2013

14, a Magic Number

I’m not really into numerology, and I’m the opposite of into Maths. All the same, the number 14 seems to feature rather prominently in most of the shows I’m involved in for the foreseeable future.

First, on Wednesday 14th August, I’m taking part in the Writers Bloc collaboration with musicians John Lemke and Poppy Ackroyd at the Book Festival, as the Jura Unbound event that night. It’s on from 9 till 11, and is absolutely free. I’m really looking forward to this, and not just because I’ve booked a night at Hostal Inglis and will therefore, for once, be able to have a drink after the show.

It’s also the first time for a long time Bloc has collaborated on a story; the early rushes are looking good, and next week, the 8th, we rehearse with John and Poppy and see how it all comes together. Their material can be played on the Denovali site.

I’ve previously posted about my Virtual Fringe (see separate page). I’ve decided it’s now traditional for me to release an audio version of a Robert Louis Stevenson story as part of this, so this year it’s Markheim. As an extra bonus I’ll be sharing at the same time my own RLS-influenced Hyde’s Last Words. The Markheim trailer version is now available. And so, indeed, is the HLW trailer version. The full versions will go up on 28th August – weirdly, a number divisible by 14.

It gets spookier. Edinburgh may be filling up with bright, happy, shiny people just now, but come September the nights will fair be drawing in, and how better to celebrate the oncoming darkness than an evening dedicated to the Gothic Grandmaster itself, Nick Cave? Well, if there is a better way, I don’t know it – four bands, three spoken worders (self, Gavin Inglis and MC Andrew Wilson) on 14th September at the Citrus Club. More details to follow on the separate page for this gig.

Rather spoiling the sequence is the Writer’s Bloc Halloween show, on Wednesday 30th October. However, that’s going to be the only disappointing thing about the gig – on a theme of Unnatural Scotland, you can expect the usual mayhem from, amongst others, the returned (from France) Stefan Pearson. We don’t think he’s been anywhere near Lake Pub

Finally, the solo show I’m planning of music and spoken word has a provisional date of Thursday 14th November. I’ll post more about this in the coming weeks, but trust me, it’s going to be something special.


Start all the Clocks

I’ve been thinking about what Robert Louis Stevenson story I should release on my Soundcloud site this August, as part of my Virtual Fringe, for some time. I think now I’ve decided on Markheim, a tale he wrote for the Christmas 1884 edition of the Pall Mall Gazette, but which was too short word length wise for it, and eventually appeared in the 1885 Unwin’s Christmas Annual (even RLS had to scratch about for markets, dear fellow scribblers!)

Other candidates for this year’s story included The Tale of Tod Lapraik, which was in Scots, but to me is not that strong a story – more two stories jammed together. Olalla intrigues me, partly because of its Spanish setting, but partly also because it’s a vampire story that prefigures Dracula (though not the first, of course: Mary Shelley and Sheridan Le Fanu got there before him). However, it’s quite long. The Bodysnatcher would be another obvious choice – on the plus side, RLS knew his Burke and Hare, and I really like the opening scene with the old drunk and the famous doctor; on the minus side, it’s perhaps too well known.

So Markheim it is then: a fine psychological study which owes a lot to Crime and Punishment – although RLS slips in a supernatural element for good measure. Thanks to Russell Gray for the suggestion.

I’ve started collecting sound effects for it: the opening scene contains a lot of clocks. So if I come round your house and show an unnatural interest in how your clock ticks, now you know why…

I also plan to release at the same time a version of Hyde’s Last Words, one of my own bits of RLS-related work.

This Side of Paradise, the other side of The Bridge – and the Dark Side of the Moon

To Edinburgh last night for This Side of Paradise, Illicit Ink’s utopia-themed show in memory of Iain Banks at the Bongo Club. It was a fitting tribute, with strong contributions from Halstead Bernard, Tom Moore, Hal Duncan, Erin McElhinney, Araidne Cass-Moran and mein host Andrew Wilson. It was especially great though to have the show closed out by Iain’s childhood friend and fellow sf author Ken MacLeod with a well-judged piece. This being Scotland, there were no tearful encomiums, just good writing, well performed.

Performers and audience repaired to the Bow Bar afterwards, which if it wasn’t actually the watering hole of choice for 17th century convicted witch Thomas Weir, certainly should have been. For it was a night of strange portents: the Rail Bridge, strung across a sky of deepest blue as I drove over at half past seven, was completely obscured as I came back: sailcloth shards of fog billowed through the cheese-slicer cable supports of the Road Bridge, roiling upriver.

As soon as the car reached the Fife side, however, the mist disappeared, and I drove on in a still, clear, night. My choice of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon proved to be an eerie soundtrack to all of this, and having pressed play just as I tipped down Broughton Street (I tend to leave the music till then, to concentrate on the City of Edinburgh Council’s latest roadworks mind games)  the final bars of the last track thundered to a close the very second I turned into my driveway. Spooky, man.

Oh, and a guy approached me on my way back to the car in the Cowgate and asked me if I wanted any ‘grass.’  What an utterly strange time and place for a landscape contractor to be trying to offload surplus turf.