Category: People

Raul Detained

A while ago I blogged about a short film that my nephew and his friend, Raul, made. The film is called ‘A State of Superposition’ and chronicles Raul’s experience of leaving Somalia and coming to the UK.


Now Raul has been threatened with deportation on Wednesday, to Tanzania where he knows nobody. He is 18. He has only had a few days warning and a campaign has been mounted to halt this. If you could take a few minutes to help us, all the details are here. Thanks.

Raul Detained.

via Raul Detained.


Jane B.

The lights come up. Jane Birkin is sitting on the edge of a piano school. She is singing ‘Requiem pour un con’. Her hair is piled on top of her head in messy curls and she is dressed in black trousers and a white shirt, half unbuttoned, like the cover of ‘Horses’ but more tailored. She is accompanied by violin, piano, trumpet, drums – so much better than drowning her out with electric guitars – and the occasional rattle of a passing train (we are underground, the room is like a tunnel, only a few doors to the west of Central Station). There is something quite brilliant, subversive even, about her singing not just the songs that were written for her as a young woman and muse but those that were sung by Serge Gainsbourg himself. Especially on ‘Comic Strip’ where she takes the Serge line, leaving all those ‘shebangs’ and ‘pops’ to someone else.

She takes a deep bow after every song, with a ‘Merci’.

At the end she thanks us for our faces.


Jane and Agnes

Jane Birkin with Agnès Varda (from Jane B. Par Agnes V. I wrote about this here VardaFR )

The Partick Swayzes

In which our pub quiz team name became an in-house cocktail and got mentioned in The Herald.

‘West End bar The Sparkle Horse has a slate behind the bar on which the winning pub quiz team has its winnings chalked up, and then the team members can spend the cash on drinks.

This week’s winners were the imaginatively named The Partick Swayzes, combining local geography and a late lamented American actor. After a few rounds, the prize money was much reduced so the slate simply read “Partick Swayzes, £3.50.”

At that three American tourists came into the bar, spotted the slate and ordered: “Three Partick Swayzes.” As the barman tried to think up a cocktail to give them, four regulars piped up that they would also like a Partick Swayze, so if you have any idea what should be in it, let us know.’

Ken Smith, Sparkling Company, The Herald, 23rd January 2013.

We came second (beating Belle and Sebastian in a tense tie-break for silver) and it was a week earlier than stated in the story, but still…

Partick swayze


‘More dust in our houses, less dust in our brains!’

I have been warned about January in Glasgow, the dark and the associated blues.  After a joyous ringing in of the New Year – out of tune bagpipes notwithstanding – with friends old and new, an animal in our household perishing on New Year’s day set rather a grim tone for the month. Happy to get back to work in theory and full of new year resolve – stuff to do, stuff to write – the actuality was a shock to the system (no sparkly lights, no day time movies, no selection box items, what was I even writing about again?)

So, while my creaking brain gets back into gear at work by day, I am also setting about combating the January blues with films, by night. My friend helpfully sent a list of the films that look good at the GYFF. I have already booked tickets for what I am expecting to be The Most Exciting Cinema Event of my Life and am eagerly awaiting the programme from the Glasgow Film Festival.

Before all of that kicks off though, we have rather slim cinema pickings here, so I was pleased to be asked along by a friend to a screening of ‘Scuola Senza Fine’, showing at Transmission Gallery as part of their season ‘A Future at our backs!’ The film chronicles the experiences of a group of Italian women who had taken part in an initiative called the ‘150 hours’ course where employers funded courses for auto and steel workers (150 hours every three years with the workers putting in the same amount of hours from their free time, more here). This was later extended to women who were not employed by the factories, such as the group in the film. This group took the course and, reluctant to go back to their old lives, set up a load of new seminars. The film is remarkable and inspiring. First and foremost, it brought back to me the radical power of learning. These women were overflowing with thoughts as they set about making sense of their own lives, lives that involved an awful lot of graft and suffering. It portrays friendship and feminism and joy and kitchen dancing.

‘More dust in our houses, less dust in our brains’ is a phrase that came from women’s participation in the 150 hours project. A fitting motto for January.

A small animal

Adey digs into the ground with a clean spade, borrowed from a neighbour. The ground is soft with rain and lumps of clay that break easily. It is unseasonably mild and the air is wet. I look up at the windows to see if the neighbours are watching, but no one is. We put the shoebox in the ground and I shovel some earth on top. We will be able to see this spot from our back window.

An animal has died, a small one at that. I recently read an essay by Zadie Smith in which she distinguishes joy from pleasure, the idea being that a certain amount of terror and potential loss is contained within joy. She talks about dangerous joy as being bound up with inevitable loss. She uses the example of loving a pet, ‘You are quite certain your dog will leave before you do. Joy is such a human madness.’ Investing even a small amount of joy in an even smaller animal would appear to be even madder.

The animal came from a rescue. The idea was that she would be company for the other animal who since his brother’s death had taken to facing the wall and not getting out much. The other animal was taken to meet her first, as their kind often take against each other on sight and this can be irreparable. They were fine, nonchalantly sitting in each other’s company. Once home, territorial warfare erupted. Her finest move in this game was leaving a row of neat poos in a line outside of his hutch. Somewhere along the line this turned into devotion. The two would sit together like mismatched slippers, or else tear about the flat. Too busy with each other, we took enjoyment in them without being paid much attention.

When we moved to Scotland, people asked what we were going to do with the rabbits, I don’t think that would’ve been asked of a dog or cat. Sure enough, they came with us (they hated the minicab to Euston but found first class on the train to be more agreeable). They then resumed tearing about (more space) and sitting like slippers in the new place. They even started to hang out with us more. Mabel, the small animal in question, walked a line between insanely cute and slightly unsettling.  In recent weeks Adey would often be working and look up to find her sitting a couple of feet away staring in his direction. Still keeping her distance but moving closer. For a rescued animal wary of humans this was progress indeed.

A small animal, but she will be missed.



‘What was it you were wanting? A holly one? I only do large holly ones, it’ll have to be fir if it’s a small one you want. Those big holly ones are mainly used for grave wreaths anyway. For hanging on graves. I’ve got more in the back, I’ll get one for you … People are leaving it til late this year. I’ve got orders in, mind you.  But the chocolates are already reduced in Marks and Spencers. They were reduced last week!  Do you want ribbon on it? Which one? Not that it makes much difference, they are all the same. And I was in Asda last night, deserted! That tells you something about the state of things. Do you want the ribbon wrapped around, or left hanging loose? The good thing about the fir ones is they don’t mark your door. Anything with holly scratches…

Right, there you go, that’s you. Put it over your arm is the easiest way. [brightly] The festive season begins!’