Friday, 30 May 2014


We walked for miles along the empty beach today, took flasks and sandwiches and had the most lovely walk in the sun. The tide was out and receding even further; just us and one other couple + dogs. Where is everybody? Its half-term up here, one might think that there would at least be a few kids and grannies around. Perhaps they are all at the Metro Centre.

To get on to the beach, you have to first of all make your way through the dunes which at this time of year are covered in exquisite ground-hugging spring flowers; daisies of course and buttercups everywhere but  there are primroses and a profusion of geraniums, some entirely purple, others purple and cream, a few pure white. We came across a patch of dark mauve orchids in full flower.


I saw Under The Skin this week, already being claimed a ‘cult classic’ by predominantly male film critics. It was directed by a man called Brian Glazer and stars the American, Scarlett Johansson who is on screen for around 99% of the time. Her glassy performance, as an alien disguised as a woman is quite mesmerising but to be honest, I couldn’t understand it. Were you supposed to have read the book? Who was the guy on the motorcycle? In fact the word Why? was on my mind for most of the film. The musical score is just brilliant and I can’t deny that I was engaged for some of the time. It is shot on location in Glasgow, a city I know well. In the end however, despite the allure of Scarlett  I kind of felt a sense of hubris.
I very much preferred Glazer’s earlier film, Sexy Beast .

Wednesday, 28 May 2014


The Bookbag have posted a four star review of Riccarton Junction this morning.

Click here to look.
There is also a short interview I gave the editor here.

Tuesday, 27 May 2014


Just thinking today about the year 1949. That was the  year Ozu filmed Late Spring [see previous post]. It was also the year that Boogie Chillen’ became number one in the American R&B Chart.
John Lee Hooker went on to record three versions of the song although as far as I am concerned the original on Modern is the only one that matters. I must have heard it a million times but am still diverted if I hear it on the radio.
I was amused recently by a short interview on TV with Keith Richard who said. ‘We were doing a gig with him once. I said, what key are you in John? He just shrugged his shoulders. It could have been F-sharp or E-flat, whatever his guitar was tuned to that day.’ Either way, a masterpiece.

Sunday, 25 May 2014


Late Spring is the title of a 1949 B&W Japanese film directed by a man called Ozu. We watched it last night on TV. I have seen it before. When I lived in London, when I was interested in Art Cinema, went on courses, watched Raise the Red Lantern and obscure stuff by Derek Jarman I sat through it bored and puzzled; it went completely over my head. I had never been to Japan then; didn’t have any understanding of Japanese traditions or culture, couldn’t even begin to embrace a 1949 B&W film in which nothing happens.
Sight and Sound rate it as the 15th greatest film of all time.
Briefly, it is about Noriko who is twenty-seven years old and still living with her widowed father. Everybody tries to talk her into marrying but Noriko wants to stay at home caring for her father.
Rivetting stuff? But it is, it really is. Nothing is told, all is shown. In the opening scene, she is wearing traditional Japanese dress. But pay attention; she is carrying a [Western] handbag. And is that fixed smile she wears for most of the first half of the film genuine? Or is it something else? Someone [Adam Mars Jones, who is a man and a writer I greatly admire] actually wrote a book about this film called, Noriko Smiling. I’ll say no more.
My Creative Writing Tutor, John Seymour went on and on at us endlessly about. ‘Show not Tell’. Both as a reader or as a member of the cinema audience it means you have to work harder. Remember things; why did he say that? Why would she do that? Why does Isabel jump back in the taxi at Waverley? The pleasures of both reading and watching the telly are so much greater when you have worked it out for yourself.