Friday, July 29, 2011


“Oh, I know who you mean,” said Maggie. “He works in the Co-op. Lovely man. Always so friendly and helpful.”

Richard is tall, covered in tattoos and has a spiked up Mohawk. At first sight you might assume he was likely to knife you if you looked at him.

And yet, everyone you talk to who knows him comments on what a lovely guy he is.

In a recent debate with the management at the Co-op store where he works, about whether his Mohawk should be flattened, such was the outcry from local residents (including many of the grannies the management feared might be intimidated by his appearance), they backed down and his spikes were allowed to remain.

I first saw Richard at the Midsummer Music Festival a few weeks ago as the new drummer for the band The Geese, and immediately started thinking he might be interesting to photograph. When a chance encounter presented itself a couple of weeks later, I asked him if he’d be up for it. The upshot of that is I now have a couple of new photos, which are among my all time favourites.

So I thought I should put them up online.

As usual, click on the for larger versions

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Dumfries Odeon Cinema Sucks

I first visited Dumfries Odeon Cinema nearly 25 years ago, and it felt tatty, run-down and in desperate need of refurbishment or, preferably, demolishing and a better one built.

25 years on, and it still hasn’t been refurbished or replaced.

The seats are grotty, small and uncomfortable; the sound quality is frequently poor; and, in the case of the last in the series of Harry Potter films I went to see with my son last night, the picture was out of focus on the top half of the screen. And I’m not even going to mention the archaic toilets… *shudder*

The film itself was fine – if you’ve enjoyed the other Harry Potter movies, there’s no reason you wouldn’t enjoy this one – but the viewing experience was lousy. And watching it in 3D didn’t make it any less out of focus on the top half of the screen.

Each time I go to the Dumfries Odeon I swear I’ll never go back, but time passes and eventually I figure it can’t quite be as bad as I remember it, or feel that any right-thinking business must have made improvements by now. But I’m always disappointed.

Before we moved to this area, 6 years ago, we lived up in the Central Belt of Scotland. The nearest cinema was the Allan Park in Stirling, but that wasn’t much of an improvement on Dumfries, so we used to regularly go down to Cineworld in Falkirk – a 12 screen multiplex with large, comfy seats, huge screens, great sound and toilets where you didn’t feel you needed to be scrubbed clean with a wire brush after using them. We used to go there at least 2 or 3 times a month.

Dumfries Odeon gets visited no more than once a year.

Unfortunately there isn’t a great deal of choice. There is the Robert Burns Theatre, which has a small screen, cramped seats and doesn’t sell popcorn. Or you have to go further afield to Annan, which from Castle Douglas is over 30 miles away and still isn’t that wonderful.

Basically, there isn’t a really good cinema less than 1½ to 2 hours drive away. So these days we mostly wait until the DVD has come out before we see any new-ish films.

Pity the DVD and video rental shop in Castle Douglas closed down over a year ago...

Monday, July 18, 2011

Qiku at the Mill Sessions

Regular followers of this blog will know I’ve been involved in photographing performers each month for “The Mill Sessions” – a mostly acoustic venue at The Mill on the Fleet, in Gatehouse – a town about 15 miles from here (see Mill Sessions Posts).

Last week's headline performers were Qiku (pronounced kee-koo). Usually based in London, these sisters are in fact half Scottish and half Japanese. They were warm, friendly and a delight to photograph.

The rain was threatening, but fortunately held off just long enough for me to get the shots.

As usual, feel free to click on any of the photos for larger version




They were previously part of a 5 piece band, but are now performing as just the 2 of them, which means there's virtually nothing online about them yet.

So I recorded a couple of their tracks using the video function on my camera. Almost all of their songs are in English, although the 2nd video here has the one song they sang in Japanese.

When they make it big, you can say you saw them here first.

For more about Qiku, visit their website here:
or find them on Facebook here:

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Déjà vu

"Stop fussing, we’ll pay you back. Now type your credit card details in there!"

Less than 24 hours after the T in the Park music festival finished, I received an email telling me that as a loyal customer, I was being offered a 48 hour slot to buy tickets for next year in advance of them being available to the general public.

"Click there! No!!! Not there! THERE!!! 2 tickets! Now, go to the checkout! NO!!! Click THERE!!!"

With processing fees, handling and postage, even at last year's prices my credit card is now £415 heavier.

At least Rogan's enthusiastic once more about his Home Baking business so it shouldn't be too long before he's paid me back this time

So yes, T in the Park seems to have been a huge success and my son is keen to go again next year

"Best weekend of my life!" said Rogan.

Hold on, I've spent 16 years raising you, teaching you, taking you places, showing you how to interact with the world, and your best ever weekend of your life was spent knee deep in mud, really loud music in your ears, eating poor quality very expensive junk food and sleeping in a tent that wasn't able to keep the rain out? And more importantly, without me?

"But I couldn't have gone without your help." Warm smile. "Thanks Dad!"

Sometimes I think I've taught him too well

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Trying to avoid being the biggest bastard parent of all time

“£200 EACH??? You’ve got to be kidding me!”

“Stop fussing, we’ll pay you back. Now type your credit card details in there!”

About 12 months ago I was forced to sit at the computer with my credit card at the ready for 9am on the day of the ticket release, with the 2 of them breathing down my neck. “Click there! No!!! Not there! THERE!!! 2 tickets! Now, go to the checkout! NO!!! Click THERE!!!”

And so it is, a year later, my 16-year-old son, Rogan, is off to Scotland’s biggest music festival, T in the Park, today with his big sister, Holly. The festival is so popular, the tickets are released for the following festival barely a few days after the weekend is over, and are sold out within a matter of hours.

Holly paid me back within a couple of weeks, and Rogan immediately paid me about half from the last of his savings. After several months had passed, however, he didn’t look like he was going to come up with the rest of the money. Each time I mentioned it he’d give me a scornful “I know!” in that voice familiar to parents of teenagers the world over.

“I’m warning you, if you don’t pay me back, I’m selling your ticket on ebay the week before and doubling my money!” But he’d already left the room. Clearly he wasn’t taking me seriously.

To be honest, I was starting to get a little irritated, in that way familiar to parents of teenagers the world over. For some reason no one could fathom and Rogan couldn’t give a good reason for, he’d given up his cakes business, but hadn’t replaced it with any other form of money making process. He’d made vague noises about getting a paper round, although considering this would have meant getting up early and working many hours for peanuts, he didn’t put a huge amount of effort into tracking one down.

With a sinking heart I realised my son assumed I’d let him go anyway, regardless of whether he paid me back. And if that was the case, then where was the incentive to work to pay off the ticket?

I was going to have to convince him I wasn’t bluffing. Hell, I was going to have to convince myself I wasn’t bluffing – could I really face being the biggest bastard parent of all time who wouldn’t let him go when he’d been anticipating it all year? It’s one thing to know you have to be consistent with your children, but no parent wants to be despised by his child.

So over a series of talks earlier this year I managed to get him to see that if I let him off, then I would be teaching him all the wrong lessons in life. He had to learn that he couldn’t assume other people would just bail him out if he made no effort. And that lesson was so important, that I was prepared to be the biggest bastard parent of all time, however much I didn’t want to be.

Fortunately something clicked and that weekend he went up and down the high street of Castle Douglas, calling into shops asking if they needed anyone for a Saturday job. He met with no success. Eventually, however, it seemed to dawn on him that he had a track record of creating highly profitable home-baking stalls so he arranged to sell scones, cupcakes and tablet at Castle Douglas Food Town Day, The Kirkcudbright Medieval Fayre, and the Galloway Children’s Festival.

He made enough money to pay off his festival ticket, sort out bus and train tickets there and back, buy a sleeping bag and rucksack and still have plenty of spending money.

Apart from being very proud of him, I’m mainly just incredibly relieved that I didn’t have to become the biggest bastard parent of all time.

The two of them spent about 3 hours in the garden the other evening trying to figure out how to get the tent up. It was dry and sunny. The weather forecast for this weekend is for heavy rain and possibly lightening storms.

I expect I’ll be picking up two very wet people from the train station on Monday, full of stories of their adventures.