What I Thought Of……….The Death Of King Arthur by Simon Armitage

The Arthurian stories have always been a source of enjoyment for me. In fact when I was a child and even as a young teenager, the abridged versions of these legends were fascinating to me. I voraciously devoured anything I could get my hands on about Arthur, or Lancelot, or Gawain. (Sir Gawain was my favourite and, if I’m honest, the more romantic and fanciful part of my childhood imaginings always wanted to be like Gawain – but chivalry, a decent steed and a Green Knight against whom I could pit my wits and courage were in pretty short supply on the streets of Glasgow in the 60’s!)

Until the last couple of years though I’d read nothing of Arthur as an adult, though I’ve watched and enjoyed the BBC series “Merlin”! That changed when Simon Armitage’s version of ‘Gawain and The Green Knight’ was published. The tale of the Green Knight had always been one of my favourite stories but reading it in poetic form was a revelation for me. I raved about it for weeks afterwards and for my poor family and for my colleagues at work I became a bit of a Gawain-bore! I even managed to persuade the staff book club at work to have it as the chosen title one month. (Everybody hated it – the Philistines – but I soldiered on Gawain-like, upholding the honour of Arthur and his knights through the darkest corridors of the un chivalrous nest of vipers and heathens that was the Local Government Civil Service where I worked at that time!!)

So having loved Simon Armitage’s version of Gawain, I was really looking to reading his version of the Morte D’Arthur. However it never quite hit the heights I’d expected and I actually found it a little flat in places to read. I think part of the reason was that the alliterative style that I’d loved on every single line in the Gawain book didn’t have that same effect as consistently in this book. I’ve thought about it since I’ve finished reading it and can only put it down to the sheer length of the Morte D’Arthur poem. I think it weighs in at more than 4000 lines – and essentially I found 4000 odd lines of alliterative verse a bit wearying in places. Having said that some of it was superb – especially the descriptions of the blood and gore and horror of the battles for places like Metz and Lorraine. Among the parts I especially loved were these:-

‘Then chieftains could be witnessed on chalk-white chargers
chasing and chopping down chivalrous chevaliers,
regal Romans and royal kings,
their ribs ripped apart by ripe steel.
Brains burst through their burnished helmets,
battered by blade on those broad fields,
They hewed down heathens with hilted swords,
with a host of hundreds by the edge of the holt,
No silver could save them or secure their souls,
not Sultan, nor Saracen nor senator of Rome.’

 

‘ Then our chivalrous men charged their chargers
and chased and chopped down many noble chieftains,
hitting out heartily at helmets and shields, hurting and hewing through those heathen knights.
Through kettle-hats they cleaved, cutting to the shoulder – 
such a clamour of captains was never heard on earth!’

 

Great, gratuitous, gruesome gory alliterative stuff!

The poem is a huge sweeping panorama of the final battles of Arthur leading to his death at the hands of the traitor Mordred. I enjoyed this overall sweep of the story, though in places I found the poem’s tendency to go off into tangents and then come back again broke up the flow of it a little for me. As befits the legend that is Arthur, and as befits a 4000 line poem, there’s a vast range of characters but they all have a bit of a ‘walk-on part’ feel with the exception of Arthur himself. And perhaps that was also an issue for me in being slightly underwhelmed on reading it – while I always fancied myself becoming Gawain or Lancelot I never really fancied myself as Arthur!

While parts of the book didn’t quite hit the mark for me in some ways, what I did enjoy, and hadn’t expected, was the pleasure I got from reading something with such fantastic origins and with such a wonderful history. All the time I read it and even now writing about it, I’m conscious that this is a poem that’s hundreds of years old and is part of a tradition of story-telling which has been passed from generation to generation over centuries.

I believe there are only two surviving copies of the original Morte D’Arthur in existence and one of these is in the wonderful library at Lincoln Cathedral. Simon Armitage is due to appear there in May to talk about the Morte D’Arthur. If you’d like to know more about it you can get details from Lincoln Cathedral.

Even though I couldn’t praise this in the way I could Gawain and the Green Knight, I’m still in love with the wonderful world of Arthur and the Round Table and I think the chance to hear Simon Armitage speak on it is something I wouldn’t want to miss! And when I’m there listening, in my head I’m sure there will be a part of me that fantasising about being the wonderous Sir Gawain!

What I Thought Of………. The Impossible Dead by Ian Rankin

……….I’m an Ian Rankin fan and this is a worthy addition to a long line of good books.

It’s taken me a bit of time to become at home with the shift from Rebus to Inspector Malcolm Fox and his “Complaints” team. But I’m definitely into it now and even though I actually do “miss” Rebus, I still look forward to these books.

The plot of the Impossible Dead takes Fox and his Internal Affairs sidekicks to investigate a possible cover up by some officers for a corrupt colleague.But the meat of the story, so to speak, lies in the connections between that possible cover up and the murder of a prominent lawyer in the 80’s. The deceased lawyer also has strong connections to the Scottish Nationalists and from there the plot weaves in some of the splinter extremist terrorist movements for Scottish Independence in the 80’s.

As is always the case with an Ian Rankin novel, the story is great. It’s that excellent and well-balanced combination  of interesting and complex, but not overly complex. The linkage to the Nationalists and Independence also adds a really topical context for the book and feels right as a link with both recent history and of course for present-day Scotland.

The main characters of Fox, Kaye and Naysmith are coming into their own as the three main officers in the “Complaints”. I like Fox – there’s the same determination to do the job and the same gritty realism about him as there was with Rebus. The other characters of Kaye and Naysmith act in some ways as a counter-balance and in some ways as a catalyst for Fox, in the same way that Siobhan and Cafferty did for Rebus in the ‘Rebus’ books. But there’s a lighter feeling to Fox than there was to Rebus – I like it though don’t necessarily prefer it. I think that lighter feel shows partly in his life problems which he seems to face in a less self-destructive way than Rebus and I also think it shows in how he looks at Edinburgh and the surrounding area. I always felt that with Rebus, he saw everything in darker hues and missed the beauty of the place, even if it was only on the surface. The character of Fox seems to me to have a more open-minded look at, and perspective on, “Auld Reekie!”. As ever Rankin makes great use of Edinburgh throughout but in this book its extended to make similarly good use of Scotland, its politics, history and landscape.

Like every other Rankin book I didn’t spot the killer – but when the puzzle unravels it’s entirely believable! Near the end of this book he finishes with a very popular Scottish quote – and in my opinion that quote also applies to Rankin’s writing of crime fiction – “Wha’s like him? – Gie few – and they’re aw deid!!”

“Two Moons….. You Saw Me Standing Alone…..” – Book Review of 1Q84 Books 1 and 2 by Haruki Murakami

………..From the outset I want to nail my colours firmly to the mast – I absolutely loved this book, loved everything about it and have now ordered Book Three and can’t wait for it to arrive so I can live a little longer in the world of 1Q84.

The book follows the lives of the two main characters Tengo and Aomame in a series of alternating chapters focused on one or other of them in turn. Tengo is an aspiring novelist and writer, who eventually takes on the task of “re-writing” a book for subsequent submission for a literary prize. Throughout the book this is a great mechanism for Murakami to give a fantastic insight into the writing process and beyond. Aomame on the other hand is a kind of avenging assassin, wreaking revenge in the most subtle, understated but super-efficient way, with her victims essentially men who are abusers. In the early stages of the novel there seems no connection between the two in any way but of course you expect that connection and it comes. But it is brilliantly done. As you read it you are fed tiny pieces of the connections between the two but it’s teased out gently, page after page, a bit like a spider spinning the most delicately interwoven web which is only revealed to you by the morning dew gathering on its threads – and even then it’s revealed to you one dew drop at a time as it were.

The two main characters and their intertwining lives are supplemented by the story of Fuka-Eri, a 17 year-old girl who writes the most fantastic novel in terms of narrative but in terms of style and structure it’s all over the place. It needs re-written and that’s where Tengo comes in and eventually Aomame becomes linked into it too. Of course there’s so much more to the story than this but I won’t say more in any case anybody who reads this post decides to try 1Q84 – I wouldn’t want to spoil it for anyone as it’s a joy to read this book!

There’s something odd and a kind of friction and tension within the personality of every character in the book for me, even in the very minor characters, but somehow this added to rather than detracted from my enjoyment of the novel. Consequently, because of the slightly strange feel to everything I wouldn’t say I was able to completely empathise with Tengo, Aomame, Fuka-Eri or any other character in the book. But I was fascinated by them and I felt I did kind of understand them. They are so well drawn that their complexities, features and lives simply leap off the page at you.

The book is wonderfully well written. No matter what he explores in a chapter it is always done with a kind of vibrancy in the writing and yet there is a feeling of a writer applying an economy of effort at the same time. It reads like one of those books where the author says just the right words, just the right amount of words and just at the right time, on every single page.

Above all though for me what I loved most about this book is “story” itself. Clearly there are obvious parallels between it and Orwell’s 1984. I read Orwell’s book a long time ago as a very callow adolescent. I remember enjoying reading it but 1Q84 definitely moved me more than Orwell’s book. (That may of course simply be a maturity thing for me personally).  I loved the fact that somehow this is what I tend to think of as a “clever” book, in fact it’s a toweringly “clever” book, and yet it stayed on the right side of clever from start to finish and never strayed into the “look how clever I am” territory that I sometimes find with some other authors.

At this point I’ve no idea where it will go next in Book Three – but I can’t wait to find out

The Incredible Lightness Of Being……….A Paperback!

I’ve just finished reading the first two books of Haruki Murakami’s 1Q84 – the story is absolutely wonderful and I loved it – but reading it in hardback was bloody hard work at times. I find reading hardback versions so awkward – I struggle to find a way to hold them comfortably for any length of time and end up shuffling about as if I’ve got St Vitus Dance! (I reckon anybody who grew up in Glasgow heard “St Vitus Dance” referred to every day – any time we moved when sitting in a chair or lying on the carpet at home the phrase “Have you got St Vitus Dance?” came out!). If you’re interested, Saint Vitus is considered to be the patron saint of dancers, apparently, with the eponym given as homage to the manic dancing that historically took place in front of his statue during the feast of Saint Vitus in Germanic and Latvian cultures. Colloquially it became the name given for Sydenham’s Chorea disease – I think that’s how it entered Glaswegian parlance rather than the Germanic dancing route! Then again, we Glaswegians have been known to indulge in the odd bit of manic dancing!!!!! (usually on Saturday nights when the pubs near closing time!)

Anyway I digress. Back to the Hardback.

I just find it awkward to hold – it always feels too heavy to hold in one hand and if I hold it in two then my ability to drink tea or coffee and read at the same time is seriously impaired. Pathetic as it sounds I get a sore arm holding up a hardback book (and I know that makes me sound like a real wimp but I can’t help it!). In addition, I always think hardback books are meant to be read sitting up straight, at a desk for example. When I read fiction I want to lounge and sprawl about – doing that with a hardback doesn’t work too well! Mind you they have their advantages – they are more durable and so look better with age (I like that – I’m going to think of myself as a “hardback” from now on!!!). They also look more imposing to me when I see them on my shelves at home – and I like the “image” of them. As a child who was reliant on the library for a supply of reading material, the hardback book had real “status” to my mind – I thought of them as the preserve of the rich, the successful and the intellectuals – though where I got this notion from I’m not sure as rich, successful, intellectuals were rather conspicuous by their absence where I grew up! And yet that impression of the hardback as the preserve of the rich and clever is still with me to some extent even today – and even though I know it’s really nonsense!!

For all the difficulty I have in getting comfortable with a hardback book, I still buy them from time to time but as I look at them on my shelves they pretty much fall into a few categories for me.

Firstly there are those that I tend to buy by authors I love, when I can’t wait for the latest novel to appear in paperback. Consequently there are more hardbacks than paperbacks by Ian Rankin (what’s not to love about the Rebus stories), Ian Banks more recent stuff, and some books by the likes of Roddy Doyle, Louis de Bernieres, Sebastian Faulks, Peter Carey ( I hated the feel of “Parrot and Olivier In America”, couldn’t get comfortable reading it at all and yet I loved that book) and of course Murakami.

Then there are those I pick up in charity shops – they are mainly biographies, and a fair proportion of these are sports related, especially football. I’ve no idea why I buy those in hardback but I do – perhaps it lends physical substance to some of the more ‘limited’ substance and formulaic writing I encounter on the pages of countless footballers’ biographies – maybe sub-consciously my view of the intellectual status of the hardback lends credence to some of the less-than-intellectual subject matter! (of course all things Eric Cantona are exempt from this mild criticism!)

Third come poetry books – I not only buy these in hardback but they are the only genre I actually PREFER to read in hardback – mainly because they are small enough to be solid and also feel comfortable! The durability is the key here. My early days “poor student” poetry books are in a right old state!

Finally, as I look around there are a few hardbacks that I’m pretty sure came when I was a member of a “Book Club” years ago. They’d send you a form to order what you fancied but it would also include the “Editors Choice”. You were supposed to send back to them within so many days if you DIDN’T want the “Editors Choice”  I was hopeless at that and so ended up with several hardback books that I’d not otherwise have chosen. How else can I explain the presence on my shelves of things like the Craig Thomas “thriller” (and I use that word advisedly) “All The Grey Cats”, The Shorter Illustrated History Of The World (aaaaagh!), and John Gribbin’s “In Search Of The Edge Of Time” (read it all the way through and had absolutely no idea what it was on about!)

So while I like the status and the look of the hardback, it’s the paperback I love most. I’m one of those who’ll be eternally grateful to Penguin for their introduction of paperbacks to our shores back in the 1930’s.

Mind you there are other uses and advantages in the hardback book. As Alfred Hitchcock said “‘The paperback is very interesting but I find it will never replace the hardcover book – it makes a very poor doorstop!” and perhaps even more thoughtfully Robert Clark pointed out “Always buy pornographic books in hardback –  they’re easier to hold with one hand!” And on that note…………………………………!

Old age in ducks!……………………

………………….I live in the country and there’s a beautiful old duck pond built-in behind the large barn on the estate where I live. As I passed it earlier today, while walking the dog, I noticed one of the ducks trying to jump out of the pond onto the side – he jumped up onto the side but didn’t quite make it and fell back into the water! Then, after three more failed attempts he abandoned it and swam to the ramp at the side instead! (actually I don’t know it was a “he” – but I assumed he had to be male because I think a female would have been too refined and too dignified to even try it once!)

(The duck with the old age problem of getting out of the water with dignity intact is the one on the right!)

It reminded me of my own attempts to drag myself, walrus-like, out of the pool when I was on holiday in Egypt recently with my family. (That’s a comparison that is probably being pretty harsh on the duck but hey – I’m desperate!). It seems one of the (many!) problems of growing older is my inability to do physical things that I took for granted in my youth  – like getting out of the pool! I could go on and list hundreds, if not thousands, of other things that are rubbish about getting older but I won’t. (Funnily enough there are lots of GREAT things about getting older – honest – but somehow I don’t go on and on and on about those!). As I write, in my mind’s eye I can see the heavenward glances of my family every time I start on my “Getting older is rubbish” speech / rant (!) – and then the “Oh no here goes Grumpy again!” look that passes almost imperceptibly between my partner and my daughter! So I’ll save my list and therefore save myself from the embarrassment of being a curmudgeonly old git in writing as well as in everyday life! (Mind you – what a great word curmudgeonly is – I like being curmudgeonly just so I can say it!)

Instead I’ll console myself with the knowledge that I learned quicker than the duck – after one attempt on holiday I retreated immediately for the stairs and tried to hide the grazes on my stomach and chest that I’d incurred while flailing half in half out of the water on the pool side! Then again, if there’s such a thing as reincarnation knowing my luck I’ll come back as a duck!

What does Haruki Murakami have in common with Kipper The Dog?……..

Kipper…………I spent last week visiting family in the Wirral and stayed in a great little cottage at a place called Hinderton Hall. The cottage was beautiful, quiet and secluded, and in the middle of an expansive and lovely estate. However the best bit was a small lean-to conservatory, that had been added to the rear of the house, which gave great views onto the gardens. And it was there that I finished reading the first two books of Murakami’s 1Q84 (brilliant!). I loved getting up early in the morning, sitting in that conservatory with my first cup of tea of the day and listening to the birdsong as a background accompaniment to the last three hundred or so pages of Murakami’s novel. The setting is so ingrained in my mind that I know now that I’ll always associate 1Q84 with that cottage and in reverse (as we plan to go back) I’ll always associate that cottage with that book.

Throughout my reading life I’ve found that I make strong connections between books that I love and the time, place, or setting in which I first read them! And these connections seem to stay with me.

So in the same way that I now link Hinderton Hall Cottage with 1Q84, some of my other time, space and book connections include…………………..

…………………..reading War and Peace waiting on A Level results on a green sofa in my parents house listening to Genesis’ “Wind and Wuthering” album over and over and over and over (it took me quite a long time to read War and Peace!)

…………………..reading Don Quixote by the pool of a plush hotel in Cephalonia while travelling round Greece. I wasn’t staying in the plush hotel – I was in 50p a night rooms nearby and was simply availing myself of their classy up-market facilities!

………………….reading Louis De Bernieres’ The War Of Don Emmanuel’s Nether Parts for hours in Heathrow after my flight to Australia was considerably delayed – and then being probably the only person on the plane who was grateful for the delay as I realised that evening that the book was part of a trilogy and the delay allowed me to go back and buy the other two books before I left! I loved travelling round Australia, but it would have had at least a small part of the joy taken off it, had I not been accompanied by those fantastic stories of Don Emmanuel, and then Senor Vivo and Cardinal Guzman in the later books!

……………….. reading The Quincunx by Charles Palliser on the balcony of a flat in Tenerife ( I taught in a school on the island and read it every morning before I left for work – I was late every day for at least two weeks!). My copy of The Quincunx is battered by the sun, and water and sun lotion – but even in its dishevelled and dog-eared state, stained, discoloured and with pages loose, I love that book!

………………. reading the end of Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks on the first train of a Monday morning from Liverpool Lime Street to Euston in the days when I used to long-distance commute at the start and end of the week. The train arrived at Euston on time for the other passengers, but for me it was inconveniently early as I was a chapter or so from the end. I couldn’t bear to put it down so near the end and then have to pick it up again to finish it on the Tube – so I sat and read on while the train emptied and the cleaners tidied up around me.

……………… reading Carlos Ruiz Zafon’s The Angel’s Game, with a combination of salty tears and fresh water spray from the swimming pool of a villa in Corfu ( I finished it and cried at the end in the bizarre weather of bright sunshine and a fierce wind which tried to empty the pool contents over me and the book as I sat on the side of the water facing the last rays of the sun that day)

…………….. and most important of all reading Kipper’s Kite by Mick Inkpen to my daughter – it was the first book I ever read to her and though there have been hundreds since then during her “nine and a bit years”, nothing will ever replace the memory of reading Kippers Kite – not even Murakami in a lean-to conservatory in the Wirral!

Songs that make your head go “mosh” at 50!

As I was reading other book blogs on the internet with BBC Radio 6 on in the background, my concentration couldn’t resist the chimes of The Ramones singing “Sheena is a Punk Rocker”  – my head immediately started to pulse back and forwards! I’ve been doing this since I was a teenager – and that’s a long, long, long time ago! I love the idea of songs which worm their way into your consciousness and even sub-conscious and stay embedded there – and then any time you hear them you have an almost Pavlovian reaction as soon as the first bars sound out!!!!

Personally I think you need hair for that metronomic pulsing of the head if you are to “mosh” properly – luckily I still have plenty though it’s predominantly grey and white these days! (There’s a different debate to be had perhaps about the dignity of a 50 year old man moshing – but I don’t care really!)

About 10 years ago I was at the V Festival when the much younger brother of a friend invited us to join them in the mosh pit, commenting that I had the perfect hair for it! It was a great moment – firstly acceptance of a sort by a younger generation for us more at the “dad rock” end of the age spectrum and secondly at last all this hippy like hair I’d carried around for 20 years or more was finally “perfect” for something – I accepted the offer and had a great time in the mosh pit for a set by Placebo – mind you at the end of it I realised that the thing that had come in most useful in moshing with these kids wasn’t my hair but how I’d learned to make effective use of my elbows in a defensive capacity from years of playing football! Even then I was black and blue next day – but happy! Anyway I digress – back to songs that make you want to go……mosh.

Several of mine are from my early days as a half-hearted punk (half – hearted in so far as while I loved the music and the clothes I still wanted to keep my long hair and my fear of needles meant the only earrings I ever had in were clip-ons!) So from back then, to this day, songs that still make my head and neck pulse instantly include “Pretty Vacant” and also “Anarchy In The UK” by the Sex Pistols, The Ramones doing “Blitzkrieg Bop” in addition to the aforementioned “Sheena is A Punk Rocker!”, and “Kick Out The Jams” by MC5. Today my tastes are a bit different – some might say they have become mellower – I like to think of them more as having grown-up! However there are still so many songs that instantly make my head rock – I can’t remember what most of them even are but there are some I am aware of. It always happens when I hear the Arctic Monkeys “Fake Tales of San Francisco”, “Hey Scenesters” by The Cribs, “Take Me Out!” by Franz Ferdinand and the wonderful “New York City Cops” by The Strokes!

One of the things which other men of my age may be aware of is the plethora of hair products out there for us men to hang onto our hair for as long as possible – I use some ridiculously named and ridiculously expensive serum and shampoo stuff  – and while there are lots of reasons for doing it (actually there may be only one reason – vanity – but I give it lots of different names!) – one of the reasons is definitely so I still have enough hair to get that instant surprise and pleasure and joy from suddenly realising that my head is off and moving to some song or other. Time for me to get a fix of The Strokes I think!

Joining the dots from Coronation Street to Elbow to great Edinburgh pubs…..

……………………..it’s quite logical really!!

My family was watching Coronation Street the other night (they have a soap opera routine which flits from Emmerdale to Corrie to East Enders and then back to one or the other – from night to night the order might change but the purgatory of this stuff is relentless!!!!) and I guess I was half listening and half tuned in when, as part of the story line, I heard one of the characters explain that he had managed to get two tickets for an Elbow gig in Manchester!!!! I should be clear from the outset that rather than it being a compliment for Elbow being name checked on Corrie, in my opinion the compliment is the other way round – Coronation Street finally gets some credibility by linking itself with Elbow!

Now for me there is good music – stuff like Coldplay and Radiohead and Arcade Fire and Arctic Monkeys –  and then there’s music I adore – stuff like Two Door Cinema Club and Doves and I Am Kloot and Guillemots – and then “aboon them a’ (as the wonderful Robert Burns lauded the haggis!) for me come Elbow!! Guy Garvey – or as he’s referred to in our house – Sir Guy of Garvey (somehow I think he needs a name or title to raise him above that of any other artist/musician!) – is for me the most talented individual in music today  – lyrically I think his work is wonderful (in evidence I offer a line from the beautiful song “Starlings” – “You are the only thing in any room you are ever in” – the work of a genius!) – in addition their melodies and harmonies are great, the production is always breathtaking and when you see them live they are simply better than anyone else I have ever seen!

Now all this may sound utter hyperbole – it probably is utter hyperbole – but to me it’s as true as the three other deeply personal facts that I hold to be absolutely true – firstly that brown Smarties are the best, secondly that Scotland as a country invented the modern world (and there is a great little book bearing broadly that title which is proof enough for me!) and thirdly that my partner is the most beautiful woman ever. And I hold these are absolutely correct – I now have Elbow being referenced on Coronation Street to prove they are as good as I think they are – the book I referred to can prove the second of my facts – I’m currently looking for the evidence to prove the first personal fact and frankly I don’t need any proof on the third personal fact!

This referencing of popular music in a mainstream soap opera watched by millions every week got me musing about popular music being referenced in books – either playing in the background or linked into the personal tastes of book characters – and that led me to conclude that I think the books which do that most in my experience are the wonderful Detective Inspector Rebus books by Ian Rankin. I love the books, I love the way they are written, I love the setting (Edinburgh is a great city) and of course I like Rebus’s taste in music! (I think Rebus does reference Elbow in one of the books but I can’t remember and when I skimmed through them I couldn’t find it – if someone knows the answer put me out of my misery!)

And that led me to also reflect that perhaps more than even his taste in music, I love his taste in Edinburgh pubs! The main drinking establishment referred to in Rebus is of course the Ox – and I’ve been to the Oxford Bar – indeed I think it’s so closely linked with the books that it is oft referred to as Rebus’s bar! But to be honest it isn’t my favourite – for me the best pub in Edinburgh is a tie between “Mathers” and the “Athletic Arms”! I used to love Mathers openness and atmosphere, sitting or standing by the bar in Mathers is a joy – and as it was in a great location at one end of Princes Street it was a common haunt for me in my student and post-student days. The Athletic Arms is known to all and sundry as Diggers – obvious enough when you know it’s placed in between two large cemeteries! It’s a great traditional pub – back when I frequented it mind you, there was little chance of sitting at the bar as the place was always rammed. But it sold  great beer – McEwans 80 Shilling was the beer of choice then – and the barmen wore these old style maroon coloured jackets and had a caustic line in wit for anyone unfortunate enough to be ordering something they didn’t approve of (I remember one mate getting a tongue lashing for having the temerity / stupidity to ask for whisky – with coke in it!!!! Sacrilege!)

So in going from Coronation Street to Elbow to Edinburgh pubs, the moral and message of this ramble is simple.

If you get a chance to hear Elbow – take it! – If you are ever in Edinburgh and get the chance to drink in Diggers or Mathers – take it! – And if you are ever in Edinburgh and ever hear of Guy Garvey drinking in, or Elbow playing in, either Mathers or Diggers  – then let me know of this chance……………..and I’ll take it!