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Robert Service – A Grain of Sand

Good picture montage and narration of another Service poem. Unfortunately I can't embed this but it is well worth a look. Click Here to view.

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Robert Service – Maids in May


Robert Service described his own poetry as 'dogerell'. It was probably the self-effacing Scot in him which led him to this conclusion. His poetry was something I grew up with because my father loved Service's work and would often quote from it. There is hardly a Service poem which isn't either thought provoking, sad, funny or simply beautiful. 

Click Here to read a brief biography of Service and a complete list of his work. 



Maids in May

Three maids there were in meadow bright,
The eldest less then seven;
Their eyes were dancing with delight,
And innocent as Heaven.

Wild flowers they wound with tender glee,
Their cheeks with rapture rosy;
All radiant they smiled at me,
When I besought a posy.

She gave me a columbine,
And one a poppy brought me;
The tiniest, with eyes ashine,
A simple daisy sought me.

And as I went my sober way,
I heard their careless laughter;
Their hearts too happy with to-day
To care for what comes after.

    .    .    .    .    .    .    .

That's long ago; they're gone, all three,
To walk amid the shadows;
Forgotten is their lyric glee
In still and sunny meadows.

For Columbine loved life too well,
And went adventure fairing;
And sank into the pit of hell,
And passed but little caring.
While Poppy was a poor man's wife,
And children had a-plenty;
And went, worn out with toil and strife
When she was five-and-twenty.

And Daisy died while yet a child,
As fragile blossoms perish,
When Winter winds are harsh and wild,
With none to shield and cherish.

Ah me! How fate is dark and dour
To little Children of the Poor.


Robert Service – Bar Room Ballads

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When I were but a lad, a chap called Bill Knox used to do a spot on Scotland Today called Crime Desk. This was where there was a round up of all the stolen compressors and cement mixers from various building sites, with an appeal to the public for information as to their whereabouts. There was usually a tag line that a reward was being offered for information. It was like a low-tech regional predecessor to Crimewatch I suppose.

Of course there were other crimes too such as vandalism and sub post-office hold ups for which the police were looking for the public to assist them with. These were the type of crime for which Bill could barely conceal his contempt for the perpetrators. He would explain thus: 'Now to a tale of the sub post office in Toryglen. Mrs Simpson the postmistress was just getting ready to close at 5:00 on Thursday when a couple of (slight pause and gritting of teeth)…neds (the word was almost spat) burst in and demanded money. They brandished a firearm and escaped with a three figure sum' (brandish is a wonderful word isn't it?)

I couldn't find a picture of Bill on the net but during my investigation I found out that sadly he died in 1999. It turns out he had a very distinguished career as a crime writer (both fact and fiction) as well as his broadcasting work. His name seems singularly apt. William Knox – a dour presbyterian type, almost peculiarly Scottish, with the kind of stiff upper lip disdain for anyone who would stray from the straight and narrow. It was Bill who introduced me to the word 'ned'. I wondered then if it was short perhaps for ne'erdowell.


Step forward almost three decades. The term 'ned' now refers to an uneducated yob of the age group 14-28 (or thereby) who stereotypically drinks Buckfast a tonic wine made by a monastic order in Devon, and generally makes a nuisance of him/herself with anti-social behaviour. Buckfast is a 'Tonic Wine' originally formulated for old ladies to get ratarsed  have a small tincture for 'medicinal purposes'.








It is however extremely strong in alcohol and is loaded with caffeine. Thus the 'double hit' for those who partake.

Somewhere along the way it has progressed from the libation of choice for genteel old ladies who wished to take a walk on the wild side to the badge of identity for the bored and ignorant progeny of the underclass in post industrial central Scotland. I heard a statistic recently (although I'm not certain of its validity) that 90% of the Buckfast Abbey output is sold in Lanarkshire.











MSP Rosie Kane famously expressed sympathy with neds a couple of years ago. She speculated that ned was an acronym for non-educated delinquents but this is in fact a 'backronym' which means simply that it is a description made to fit. David Cameron , with his 'hug a hoodie' exhortation was perhaps sympathising with Rosie's sympathy!

I doubt that mind you. It seemed that Rosie was almost citing racism for those who spoke out about neds. After all here is a group with their own culture and almost their own language. Certainly the whining delivery of their speech is a phenomenon I have only noticed in the last 15 years or so.











 The apparel of the ned can vary but they tend to favour shell suits and or designer clothing, particularly Burberry. The baseball cap is also greatly favoured.



For more photographic evidence

Click Here 








 The ned phenomenon has also now made its way into mainstream culture. Ford Keirnan and Greg Hemphill have regular ned sketches on 'Chewin the Fat' and the following video by 'The Wee Man' sent Youtube in to overdrive and was the catalyst for many single and ringtone sales.





 What would dear old Bill Knox have made of it all?


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Jethro Tull

A special piece of educational material here for my friend and correspondent Helpless Dancer.

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Laurel and Hardy. Pure Genius.

Although Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy produced their best work pre-war (1939) and retired in 1950, in the 70's and 80's their comedy was still being televised on a regular basis. I remember loving the little short films which were often shown in groups of two or three on a Saturday morning. Timeless is perhaps an over used description but the humour of Laurel and Hardy was certainly that. If proof were needed then one only has to look at how many DVD's of their films are still selling well.



I am grateful to the writer of

this Wikipedia Article for providing the following which sums up the duo perfectly. 


The Laurel and Hardy on-screen characters are of two supremely brainless,
eternally optimistic men, secure in their perpetual and impregnable
innocence. Their humor is physical, but their accident-prone buffoonery is
distinguished by the stars' friendly, kindly personalities and their
devotion to each other. Stan and Ollie are children in a grown-up world: a
skinny-and-fat pair of life's innocent bystanders who always run afoul of
irate landlords, pompous citizens, angry policemen, domineering women,
antagonistic customers, and apoplectic bosses. But they face the world
together, no matter how disastrous the consequences, and their friendship
sees them through more than 100 adventures. Whatever else they are, they are
gentlemen: "Mr. Laurel and Mr. Hardy."
Laurel and Hardy had an inbuilt physical contrariety to aid them, and they
enhanced this ludicrousness with little touches, being very careful never to
desert reality. Stan kept his hair short on the sides and back, but let it
grow long on top to create a natural "fright wig" through his inveterate
gesture of scratching his head at moments of shock or wonderment and
simultaneously pulling up his hair. To achieve a flat-footed walk, he
removed the heels from his shoes (usually Army shoes). When talking with
Ollie, he would frequently look at his partner's forehead instead of his
eyes, enhancing his out-of-this-world coloration.




Part of Laurel and Hardy's on-screen appearance called for their faces to be
filmed flat, without any shadows or dramatic lighting. To recall the
traditional appearance of clowns, both comedians wore a light pancake makeup
on their faces, and Roach's cameramen, such as Art Lloyd and Francis Corby,
were instructed to light and film a scene so that facial lines and wrinkles
would be "washed out." Art Lloyd was once quoted as saying, "Well, I'll
never win an Oscar, but I'll sure please Stan Laurel."
Off-screen, Laurel and Hardy were the opposite of their movie characters:
Laurel was the idea man, while Hardy was more easygoing. Although Hal Roach
employed writers and directors such as H.M. Walker, Leo McCarey, James
Parrott, James W. Horne, and others on Laurel and Hardy films, Laurel would
rewrite entire sequences or scripts, have the cast and crew improvise on the
soundstage, and meticulously review the footage for editing, often
moonlighting to achieve all of these tasks. While Hardy also made
contributions to the routines, he was content to follow Laurel's lead and
spent most of his free time on hobbies such as golf.


There is also a Laurel and Hardy Official Website (!) HERE although it hasn't been updated recently. Oliver Hardy trained as a singer before turning to comedy and Stan Laurel was also a kind of song and dance man in his early career which began in Glasgow.

Of course if you were to ask anyone what their favourite Laurel and Hardy clip was, I'm sure this would be high on the list. From the 1937 film Way Out West (yes sevently years ago) this is the classic Trail of the Lonesome Pine.

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It’s Very Nice But Is It Art?


So you think you know art?


Now here is your chance to put your skill as an art critic to the test. Click Here to see a collection of items which you decide are genuine works of art and which are just photos of any old net rubbish.  









You'll get a mark at the end. Don't forget to report back and let me know how you did. I got eight out of sixteen. So get cracking. Ist it art? or crap?



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1930’s Building Site Health and Safety New York Style

I am indebted to Alastair over at his blog (See Alastair's Heart Monitor on my links). He posted another one of this series of prints. I actually have this one on my office wall at the emporium. Look at these guys. Hundreds of feet up on a steel beam on a construction site. No hard hats,safety slings or protective clothing and posing for a photo playing harmonicas. Actually I don't think the three guys at the back have really got moothies at all.

When I was in New York in the 90's and visited the Empire State Building, the speed of the lift (elevator) was enough to give you a fright! I can hardly look at this picture without a shiver yet it was all in a day's work for these guys. In the 20's and 30's, the competition amongst the monied elite to build the biggest and best towers and office blocks was incredible. I'm sure there was some phalic symbolism as well as monetary boasting going on.




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