Tuesday, October 31, 2006
This morning, on stepping oustide my front door, I was catapulted into the earth's atmosphere. In the moments which followed, I saw various kinds of flotsam and jetsam - discarded rayguns, wrappers from astronaut ice cream, a Hillman Imp being driven by Laika, the space dog - before performing a quarter-front somersault with two-and-a-half twists, and landing perfectly on the cushioned soles of my Polyveldts. (I learned this move - known as a "Ball Out: Randy" - during the summer of 1971, when I worked the trampolines in the Lodge Grounds, North Berwick).
On landing, I inspected the step and discovered the cause of this "trampoline" effect. In recent months, and for reasons that remain obscure, the postie has been leaving elastic offerings on my front step. These come in the form of red rubber bands. There are now hundreds of them, and over time, with the soft caressing of the autumn wind, they have tangled together, into a mat of red elastic tumbleweed. Ordinarily, this would be untidy, but not dangerous. However, the addition of the everlasting sole of the Polyveldt shoe had a dramatic effect, transforming this gentle, if lithe, senior citizen into Spring-Heeled Jack.
The odd thing is, I never receive any letters. No cards, or letters from the lost or the loved, no bills, no credit card offers or complimentary charity Biros.
Wednesday, October 18, 2006
Mr Idi Amin May Have Been A Genocidal Maniac, But He Was No Fan Of The See You Jimmy Wig, And For That He Must Be Praised
As well as being Honorary President (Acting) of the Peebles Showboaters' Amateur Dramatic Society, it is my great pleasure to be Creative Director of the Peebles Stargazers' International Film Festival, which is Scotland's longest-running festival devoted to the films of Mr Burt Lancaster. This year, we have been screening a double bill of Elmer Gantry and The Swimmer, and I was happy to give the festival's annual lecture, The Politics of Zeal, which sought parallels between the "big tent" evangelism of Elmer Gantry and the Colgate Corporatism of Mr Tony Blair, and his eager apprentice, Mr David Cameron.
But as well as the films of Mr Lancaster, the Stargazers' festival has a "surprise movie". This year, it was the British premiere of The Last King of Scotland, which has its official premiere in London tonight. Without wishing to spoil the fun, I can confirm that it is a film in the modern style, with shaky camerawork and very loud drums in the places where actors might once have been asked to provide dramatic tension. The performances are good, with Mr Forrest Whittaker giving a decent impression of the charismatic despot, Mr Idi Amin.
Paraphrasing slightly, the message of the film seems to be that the hero, played by Mr James MacAvoy, should have stayed at home in Scotland and worked as a country doctor in Tannochbrae rather than fleeing to Africa to have Ugandan relations with the wife of Mr Amin, whilst also supporting a genocidal regime. This is hardly a moral with universal application, but it is not without merit.
My favourite scene was the one where Mr MacAvoy's peely-wally medic meets the Ugandan president for the first time. Mr MacAvoy, called upon to deal with Mr Amin's sprained wrist, steals the president's gun and shoots a cow in the head. Unsurprisingly, Mr Amin is a little peeved. Not being from Dalkeith, he is unused to people borrowing his firearms to murder cattle. A moment of tension ensues, until Mr Amin realises that the doctor is not just an idiot - he is a Scottish idiot. "Scottish?" says Mr Amin. "Why didn't you say? If I could be anything except Ugandan, I would be a Scot." There is a small pause. Then Mr Amin adds: "Except for the red hair."
Thursday, October 12, 2006
I hesitate to share this knowledge, but there is a truly frightening video of Mrs Alice Sheridan, mother of Mr Tommy of that ilk, singing. You can see it by clicking here. Before doing this, you should be warned that watching it is rather like attending the wedding of a stranger in Glasgow; or possibly the funeral...
Monday, October 09, 2006
Without wishing to cast asparagus on the motives of Mr Alastair Campbell and Mr David Blunkett - fine former public servants both - I am a little disturbed that both of them have gone on record as recovering depressives. A cynic, which I am not, might find a link between their "confessions" and the success, in the opinion polls, of Mr David Cameron's Sunshine Party. In the twisted morality of the times, saying sorry is bettter than being right, and weakness is seen as a form of strength.
Of the two men, Mr Blunkett is the most deserving of sympathy. He was played for a chump by an unscrupulous lady, and then had to suffer the indignity of being the subject of a play by Mr Toby Young, a writer whose success is built on his ability to fail consistently.
Mr Campbell's confession was less expected, and hence more startling. Mr Campbell confessed that he had sometimes been unable to carry out his duties, which comprised mostly of intimidating the journalists who inhabit the Lobby. If they noticed these lapses, the Lobbyists failed to mention it, perhaps because they were feeling a little browbeaten themselves.
One trusts that those poor souls who suffer from mental disquiet will have been cheered by the entry to their number of Messrs Blunkett and Campbell. But, however ungracious it may be, I harbour a doubt. Is it not the case that depression is becoming a fashionable condition? It is hardly possible to open a newspaper these days without reading of a pop singer or a politician whose brilliant life has been clouded by a murky sense of self-doubt.
Such behaviour is a modern aberration. There have always been "dafties", of course, and one must wish them the best whilst measuring them for soft shoes to help them tiptoe unnoticed through life. But this recent fashion for depression is not an illness at all, but a cry for attention. My mother, Mrs Elder (or Ma'am) took a North Korean approach to "blue moods". She carried on regardless, laying waste to everything in her path, harvesting good cheer from her ability to turn her sense of adversity into the submission and compliance of others. It's true, she often cried herself to sleep, but - as she often said - "warm tears are cheaper than Ovaltine".
Incidentally, am I the only person to have observed a link between Mr David Cameron and the situation comedy, The Fall And Rise Of Mr Reginald Perrin? Mr Perrin, as played by Mr Leonard Rossiter, worked for Sunshine Desserts, a metaphor for pointless toil. I imagine, CJ, the fearsome MD whose office furniture was designed to break wind whenever an underling sat in it, would have approved of Master Cameron's rallying call: "Let the sunshine win!"
Wednesday, October 04, 2006
I try, if I can, to avoid thinking about Mr Tommy Sheridan. But, like his ideological soul-mate, Mr George Galloway, he is a magnet for controversy. Mr Sheridan would have us believe that this is due to the efforts of MI5 to blacken his name, but I find this an unconvincing argument. I have seen The Ipcress File, and I understand it to be an accurate reflection of the activities of The Service. Rather than exposing subversives to trial by media, they would - I'm sure - be subjected to a sophisticated torture technique involving flashing lights and "psychedelic" music. In addition, I am reliably informed that the Service does not work in the manner described by Mr John Le Carre - possibly because such behaviour would be expected of them. Instead, our spooks tend to operate from the backrooms of golf outlet stores in metropolitan shopping centres. That is why, when applying for a job as a spy, it is now more important to have a working knowledge of mashie niblicks than it is to speak a foreign language.
But, like Mr Ronnie Corbett, trapped in a Radio 4 studio with Mr Gordon Ramsay, and talking on the subject of his father's bakery, I digress. My point is Mr Sheridan, and his continuing disagreement with the News of the World. I must stress that I have no first-hand knowledge of this affair. Indeed, until Mr Sheridan's activities were reported or (if you insist, M'Lud) invented, I was of the happy opinion that "swinging" was something that was best achieved with the assistance of Mr Nelson Riddle's orchestra. But I am, I confess, baffled by the latest turn of events. According to the News of the World, Mr Sheridan was videotaped by his best man, Mr George McNeilage, from behind some tiles which he (the best man) was putting up in the living room. Is it, I wonder, common for living rooms in the West to be decorated with tiles? Do they also have jacuzzis and plunge pools? And, given the News of the World's reliance on journalistic fancy dress, usually involving a "fake sheikh", could Mr McNeilage not have been better schooled with his camerawork?
It is, though, peculiar that Mr Sheridan's alleged confession came so soon after Mr Peter Shann Ford used audio analysis software to show that the distant son of Langholm, Mr Neil Armstrong, was grammatically correct when he made a small step onto the moon's surface. The missing "a" in the sentence "one small step for (a) man" was obscured by static. Oddly, even with the latest techonology, Mr Armstrong says nothing about visiting a club called Cupid's.