Nothing to see here.

So I have this blog thing. I have no idea why.

Stuff about music, things I build / fix / break again, pictures of places we take the dogs walking, and the occasional coruscating political polemic.

Something like that, anyway.

(The dogs are called Molly and Milo, by the way. Staffie / boxer cross, and Staffie / collie cross. They need a lot of exercise.)

Musick Has Charms To Soothe A Savage Breast.

No, not Bill Shakespeare, another playwright – William Congreve (1670 – 1729) – coined the phrase.

I went to see some old friends play tonight. Charlie and Willie reconvened their band Astrid after 12 years, they have made a new album (what I have heard of it sounds great) and they played some old stuff and some new stuff at King Tuts in Glasgow, and I loved every second of it.

When I last heard them, they were good, but they were young. Now they are older, they have some great stagecraft, and they sound finished, completed. Despite more than a decade apart, their voices haven’t changed that much, their harmonies still work as well as they ever did. I was very, very happy tonight.

There were two standout moments for me: ‘Distance’, where I was too busy singing to film; and ‘Kitchen TV’ which I did film. Enjoy!

I am not an artist.

There you go, I said it. I am not an artist. I do a job that produces emotional responses, I find it difficult to reconcile my professional detachment with the emotional responses that I get from my work, so I express my frustration through making music.

I don’t live a life of art, I don’t think about art that much. I have precious little time for people engaged in navel contemplation when the rent isn’t in the bank already. Art to me is a luxury, an add-on. It’s not my core business. I think about vulnerable people’s quality of life, and I try to uphold their rights and protect them from harm, and I get paid for that. I am already a lucky man. Not an artist.

I work with artists. I work with people who take this stuff seriously, but I do not. I can get as much satisfaction through playing Neil Diamond covers as I do through playing originals. Don’t get me wrong, I have never phoned in a bad performance and thought it was OK. If I play badly, I hate it, I hate myself, and I never do it again (until the next time). But I feel just as bad about getting Honky Tonk Woman wrong as I do about getting an original piece wrong.

But art is a by-product of what I do, it is not what I do. Are you an artist? Good luck to you! I am not one of your number.

A little bit of politics.

The Scottish Parliament elections were held on Thursday. Interesting times, as they say. The reaction to it has been even more interesting, however.

The rules: the Additional Member System is designed to deliver minority administrations and bigger opposition parties. The more constituency members elected in a region, the less their list votes ‘count’ towards electing list members for that region. That is the way it was designed (by the Labour government of the day, by the way). If you’re interested in the details of how it’s worked out, here you go.

Now to the frothing, swivel-eyed reactions:

The SNP did not win a majority of the vote. Well, there were five ‘major’ parties out there (plus UKIP and all the various socialist factions. Yes, I use the word factions deliberately), so you wouldn’t really expect one party to be getting more than 50% of the vote.

The SNP did not secure a majority in the Parliament. Correct. That’s the way the system is supposed to work. It’s supposed to promote coalition, co-operation, a consensus style of politics. That was the make-up of the 2007 – 2011 Parliament, and I think that was a good way to do politics. I look forward to it happening again.

The SNP is obsessed about a second Independence Referendum and now they can’t do that. If you’d bothered to listen to the SNP before the election, you would know that they are no more obsessed with another Indyref than they were when I was first dragged off to Bannockburn by my parents in 1976. It is still on the agenda, as it always was. But in the wake of the 2014 referendum, the SNP is not champing at the bit for another one – they are going to work at increasing support for Independence before they do that. The BBC, the Daily Mail, the Labour Party, the Conservative Party (or the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party to use their Sunday name) on the other hand, are all obsessed with another referendum, and they won’t shut up about it. If I were a member of the SNP (and no, I am not one), I would be thanking them for all the energy they are putting into digging that hole for themselves.

The SNP doesn’t have a mandate for a second referendum. The SNP is the biggest party in the Parliament. If it can get a bill through the Parliament for another referendum, then it’s got a mandate. Self-determination is a human right, and if the SNP stands for the Scottish Parliament with a referendum as part of their manifesto, then they have the right.

Nicola Sturgeon is this, that and the other… This is known as the ad hominem fallacy, and it is a very easy way to lose an argument. You do not attack the person, the person deserves respect – you attack the quality of the ideas that they espouse. Play the ball, not the man, or it’s a red card and an early bath, think about what you did wrong…

The Tories! Who votes for the Tories in Scotland? Pre-1979, lots of people in Scotland voted Conservative. Some of them started voting Labour when the Thatcher government started dismantling Scotland’s economy, because Labour opposed Thatcher at the time. But the current Labour Party does not really oppose David Cameron, they spend too much time abstaining. In fact, some consider that the SNP are the new opposition at Westminster. So you can hardly blame people who oppose Independence for voting Tory – Labour isn’t representing them.

The Greens are Kingmakers! Patrick Harvie is this, that and the other… First up, the Greens are pro-Independence, but they are anti-oil industry, anti-fracking, anti-roadbuilding. The SNP is not that radical a party any more, they are far more likely to find allies to push them over the majority in Labour, Lib-Dems or Tories than they are the Greens. The Greens are pro-Indy, but like the SNP they know that a second Independence Referendum would have potentially disastrous consequences (see Quebec for details) if it resulted in a No vote. Also, Patrick is a wee sweetie, and ad hominem attacks are so uncool.


Record Store Day 2016

First things first: I don’t like vinyl. I don’t own a record deck, when CD came out I stopped buying vinyl. Warmth? Analogue mojo? Ram it where the sun don’t shine. Give me squeaky-clean digital every time.

But my friend owns a record shop. His car keys are on the poker table here, and you don’t hang a friend out to dry, do you? So when Record Store Day comes around on the third Saturday in April, I act like I have musical taste (I don’t); and that I dig vinyl (we’ve already established that I don’t); and I pitch up and lend my technical expertise, my enthusiasm, and my ability to carry heavy things.

In previous years I have been roadie / stage manager for up to 10 bands appearing in the shop, and it’s been chaos. Fun, a challenge, and chaos. So, today I was on the door of a venue just down the road that was hosting six bands over three hours, and tech-ing another DJ venue and a wee vocal PA in the shop.

I did a day’s work. I bought my own lunch, I paid my own travel expenses, I had to look people in the eye and tell the they weren’t getting in because the venue was over capacity, and I had to accept their disappointment on this special day.

I loved every moment of it. All these people love music, they love buying music, they love hearing music played live, they love being around other music-loving people. I was at home amongst these people. Some of them I know, some of them I don’t know, and some of them I didn’t know and I do now.

Record Store Day is a special day for music lovers. Thank you to all the musicians, the guys and gals in the shop, and all the music fans who turned up to make it the party that it is. I’m in this video. Sorry about that.

Getting a man in to do it

We’re opening up the fireplace in the front room and installing a wood-burning stove. This involves removing one structural lintel and installing another one higher up. It’s a supporting wall, so I decided to get an installer in to do it.

We looked around the local businesses, and what do you know? They’re all men. No women in this particular branch of the construction industry, despite it being quite an aesthetic part of the business: a fireplace is the centrepiece of a living room, you would think it more likely to find women doing that sort of work than installing drains or bricklaying.

So we’re getting a man in to do it. I’m reworking the existing fire surround, taking out flammable parts that would be too close to the stove, and refinishing the rest of it. This is it sanded and ready for staining. Made from recovered railway sleepers, I am led to believe. The Irvine Valley railway used to run past the back of our house, so it’s a nice wee local connection.