Saturday, August 29, 2009

Boycott Scatchland, Arsene Whinger, Diageo agus Scots' fitba

What a start to the new fitba season. Compassion is the IN-WORD. Having shown compassion to Al-Megrahi, I now call on Scots' Justice Secretary Coinneach MacAsgaill, he of good Isle of Lewis stock, to show equal compassion to Gary Caldwell of Glesgay Celtic, Christian 'Nada' Nade of Hearts and the high-heid-yins of Diageo. For they aint getting SFA from me.

The last 2 or 3 weeks, have seen Gary Caldwell outshine himself as an arsehole at every opportunity. Fine for Celtic, but his performance in Scotland's 4-0 drubbing by whale-killing alcohol-taxing Norway is unforgivable. Christian Nade has apparently been a professional footballer and striker for 9 years in which time he has 'amassed' 19 goals - that's 2.1 per annum. Why are cash-strapped Hearts paying this dud's wages and giving him games? His lumbering around the centre circle in Hearts' first leg game against Dinamo Zagreb was an embarrassing advert for Scottish football. Diageo are looking to sack hundreds of whisky jobs in Kilmarnock, simply because their profits are 'down' to £2billion.

On the bright side, the Yanks have realised that boycotting Scotland is not feasible. Refusing to use tarmacked roads, penicillin, television and phones has proved to be a step too far for the 0.0003% of Americans who could place Scotland on a map and have actually heard of Al-Megrahi or Lockerbie. Hearts' redeemed themselves in the second leg against Zagreb. I also hear from a Lochend Jambo and local punk rocker that he terrorised some 'Hibee Yahs' who were cheering on Dundee United in Mathers a few weeks ago. Apparently Hibs are the 'flair team' of Auld Reekie and Hearts are too un-PC. So, the 'Sex and the City' question this week is... Would Ben Fogle support Hibs?

Also, was good to see diving cheat Eduardo get collared by UEFA, much to the chagrin of Arsene Whinger of Arsenal. Now, let's see if the ugly sisters of the Old Firm promote the same justice when playing their fellow Scottish clubs.

As festival time draws to a close and thousands of zany Ben Fogle clones head back to the Great Satan, i managed to catch the free
Rough Cut Nation exhibition of graffiti at the Portrait Gallery. It wasn't as intoxicating as the excellent Whisky Fringe two weeks ago but i was fair chuffed to see someone had captured Hibs' new forward line - see above. They might even score more goals than goalie MaKalamity can flap into his own net, but they won't get into many Edinburgh 'nightspots'.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Hollywood calling - in Gaelic

It is possible that Gaelic-language feature film Seachd has awakened some awareness in Hollywood of the Gaelic tongue. That said, US 'awareness' of the outside world can be bewildering at times - it seems that some of them are 'aware' that our NHS is a breeding ground for Islamic terrorists. Does that then put Stornoway's Ospadal nan Eilean up there with Taleban controlled Afghanistan?

Actually, it transpires that Glasgow born director Kevin MacDonald - he of Last King of Scotland fame - is the one seeking a young Gael for his forthcoming Romans-get-humped-in-Scotland epic 'Eagle of the Ninth'(obviously George Burley was not in charge of early Celtic battleplans). With or without US finance, any awareness that Scotland was historically not a nation of W.A.S.P.s is to be welcomed. The English language itself a mere bairn compared to the Celtic tongues and this moreso in Scotland. The earliest classical Gaelic and Brythonnic literature comes from the 6th century. The English language's first great 'bard' Chaucer is from the 14th. In other words, Chaucer is closer to JK Rowling than he is to the early Celtic bards.

However, there are some doubts as to the historical accuracy of Gaelic as the tongue of the Romans' enemies here. Pictish probably was the commonly spoken tongue though recent archaeological evidence apparently shows that Argyll was settled by the Scotti/Gaels a lot earlier than was previously thought. Monoglot pedants and Scottish cringers will love this wee stooshie but overlook the fact that though the early tribes of Alba in 200AD may or may not have spoken Gaelic, they certainly weren't speaking fkn English!

Filming apparently starts in October in Wester Ross and Loch Lomondside.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Good Edinburgh Whisky Pubs #4 - the return of the Holyrood Tavern

It's back. Ok, it's now called Holyrood 9a. I suspect the namechange is an attempt to stop the auld clientele of 'goths, punks, gays, students and bikers' returning from their new haunt at the Auld Hoose up the road.

Essentially though, it's the same place but spruced up a little. Same old seating plan, same old dark wood, same bar more or less... and all the auld memories come flooding back. Except the auld 'alternative' punters are eslewhere. And it's got a huge range of good beers, everything from Stella and some strong continental classics like Chimay and Duvel to one or two Scottish ales too. It also seems to have turned into a boutique-burger kind of place but with a reasonable selection of veggie meals too.

It's also got a fairly interesting and fairly priced selection of malts which are arranged on some high glass shelves. Asking for the Bunnahabhain 18yo started the ball rolling for an act of balancing by the barmaid on top of a shaky metal ladder. It looked strangely like Fringe pavement theatre. Despite being on the top step and on her tiptoes, the bottle was fished from the shelf with fingertips and passed on to the next link in the chain. This process was repeated as the also requested Bruichladdich 18yo bides on the top shelf. This leads me to ask - Sex in the City style, 'Are the 18yo Ileachs the scud-mags of the whisky world?'

Both these malts were very easy-drinking and pleasant. Frau Wind & Cloud commented that these are the kind of drams you would get someone who 'doesnae like whisky'. The Bunnahabhain came in at a very tasty £2.75. Also spotted on the shelves, at various altitudes, were the likes of Scapa 16, Aberlour A' Bunadh (only £3.50ish for a cask-strength), Bruichladdich Waves and Links as well as the usual Satanic Diageo regulars. One or two interesting blends too, such as Praban na Linne's Mac na Mara, which is handy if you happen to be drinking with the Lord George Foulkes and are sinking them faster than Hibs' goalies flap balls into their own net.

Not sure which kind of punters they hope to attract in the long run. Students probably figure as do MSPs perhaps. Let's hope that the legions of yahs and Ben Fogle clones with their absurd fashions (think of Haircut 100 or young Tories high on a cocktail of Babycham and anal-relaxants) deem the Holyrood to be too close to Dumbiedykes for their safety. I can't see the punks returning though. All in all, well worth a visit. Especially if you combine it with a cèilidh to Bannermans down the road as detailed previously.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Dougie Maclean, the Gathering and Caledonia single malt

It's been a while since but... the Gathering/ An Cruinneachadh 2009 was an intoxicating event. There were even bilingual English/Gaelic signs. Itself a good sign. Years ago, our indigenous tongue would just have been ignored. Now, at least it's visible.

Apparently it was the biggest gathering of the clans since Culloden though i'm not sure if the many rotund and kilted Americans here in the shadow of Arthur's Seat could have charged the guns of Butcher Cumberland. Making it to their coach in the car park 200 metres away was the best Highland charge they could muster.

Clans are something most Scots rarely think about these days. They do have their historical place and as such are of interest to some. Tourists like it. And chinless toffs with not-very-Scottish accents and certainly no Gaelic seem to love it and fight over the right to gain their 'clan seat' and play at being laird. Reminds me of Oi Polloi's angry classic singalong 'Take Back the Land' from their Fuaim Catha LP:

"I'm the clan chief o.k. yah
I support Scotland when they play rugger
But an independent country? there I'd draw the line
I own this land it's mine all mine."

I was amused though to see, in the 'clan village', a wee tent for 'Clan Paisley'. The only tartan i've seen in Paisley were the Burberry baseball caps on wee radges running from the cops and towards their own rough-bounds of Ferguslie Park. I understand though that clan warfare is still a regular occurence in auld FP.

The Gathering was not without it's good points though. Dougie Maclean sings of love with haunting melodies recalling memories of his father and fore-fathers who actually worked the Highland soil, rather than owning it. His softly spoken politics, humour and warmth speak louder than the combined ranks of professional politicians in New Labour and the Tories who still use scaremongering to keep us tied to Westminster.

From there it was to Satan's lair, sorry Diageo's whisky tent, where we managed to blag ourselves into the one or two remaining seats for their guide through some regular malts under the tutelage of Dave Broom and Charlie Maclean. It was beginners stuff but 6 free malts, inlcluding Lagavulin and Caol Ila are not to be sniffed at. Unfortunately, the Special Releases Masterclass, were a few drams too far.

And, as we rolled out of Diageo's bevy bothy, who walked past us but the aforesaid Dougie carrying a bottle of Edradour's new expression Caledonia. 'Is that open yet Dougie?', 'Aye, here, have a dram'. 'Slàinte mhath gu dearbh!'

There are no tasting notes other than it's 46% and on the occasion, it certainly was the uisge-beatha. Aye, and Dougie Maclean was a gent. Catch him at the next available opportunity.