Tag Archive | Scotland

Two Oh One Three

It’s hard to believe that a whole year has passed since I was last back home in Scotland to celebrate the festive season. 2012 was certainly a very busy and exciting year for me, and 2013 is going to be even busier. Year 2 of my Phd gets properly underway, Jo B. and I have a Symposium to organise, and of course, I am still trying my best to get seasons lined up for TRAUMA (which starts again on Jan 14th). Otherwise, who knows what the New Year will hold? I am probably going to slow down on blog entries here for a while but watch this space and I will try to keep you fairly well posted!

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As well as a lovely few days in Oban with my boyfriend – luckily we managed to see the sights and visit a stunning 13th century castle despite the torrential rain – and lots of good food and relaxation with family, Christmas time meant…presents! Thanks to Jen, Dad, and Mum for my amazing new DSLR-quality camera. I have been frustrated for a while now at not being able to get shots that live up to what I compose in my mind’s eye. The old camera just wasn’t a high enough spec. So, forgive me for showing off a few “artistic” (and other) snaps from the new one! I hope that all the followers of my wee blog got presents that made them equally happy! 🙂

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Gateway to Pleasure

For people in Glasgow, it’s a long-standing tradition to head across the Clyde from Gourock, landing at the Cowal Peninsula’s popular seaside resort and self-styled “centre for pleasure”, Dunoon. Nowadays (in contrast with previous generations of tourists) you are more likely to make the journey by car ferry than by paddle steamer; although the latter is – believe it or not – still something of an option thanks to the celebrated PS Waverley. Anyway, for someone more used to sleek international airports, there’s a sense of old-fashioned fun in making the twenty-minute trip from McInroy’s Point to Hunters Quay. December is probably the “wrong” time of year in terms of desirability: which means that the other visitors you encounter across the water seem to form a strangely exclusive little club. Luckily, it’s one which you’re welcome to join at the nearest Inn after a cold day’s exploring. 🙂

The truth is, even if you love fish, chips, and new woolly cardigans, there isn’t really much to capture your imagination in Dunoon. Its heyday as a resort complex, which began in the Victorian era, was pretty much over by 1970. It remains a nice little place for lunch, some cold, fresh sea air and…crucially…for planning your exploration of the wider area: aka Scotland’s “tourist honeypot“. Or part of it, anyway. The Northern half of the Cowal Peninsula includes breathtaking forests, lochs and hills; many of which are now contained within Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park. Formed in 2002, the park’s creation has, naturally enough, not been without political and administrative controversies. This is Scotland after all. But focus (like we did) on the Red Squirrels; the ferns; the ruined castles; and the long, proud line of Giant Redwood Trees at Benmore Botanic Gardens; parliamentary squabbles won’t cross your mind for a second.

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Removed from those, and from heavy Christmas commercialism, this time of year at Cowal can be measured by the amount of snow resting on Beinn Mhòr (small by Scottish standards at 741m, but still the highest in its area); or by the colours in the woods, which you can walk through easily to look down upon boats, buoys, birds, and the watersports fans scattered around the Lochs. Somehow or other, it seems that both the Romantic Poets and the Scottish Tourist Board have captured something important about the place when they try to convey it to others.

Of course, nowhere this beautiful avoids the glare and the sparkle of the media for long. In some cases (Dunoon is a case in point) those very lights have helped define and sustain the place for generations. Argyll and Bute are popular destinations for television, film, and advertising location scouts worldwide. It’s almost a government strategy to make it so. As well as the more predictable revenue to be made from wood-pulping, tourism, and deer-stalking, filming and photography are important sources of income for this area. Similarly, nowhere is exempt from rising oil prices or from the economic downturn. Hence, the operators of the Waverley paddle steamer (mentioned above) are hoping its role in the new Sherlock Holmes movie – spot it in the trailer here – will help draw attention to its uncertain future. Hopefully they’ll raise the funds to keep bringing people over the water after 2012…

A Few Wee Films

I am becoming a bit of a regular at Monday night’s Trauma film screenings, as well as at their post-screening pub sessions. This means that the Trauma team have very kindly agreed to let me put on a little film season as part of next year’s line-up. 🙂 At the very moment of leaving my country of origin I’ve noticed myself starting to feel ultra-patriotic about it. So, in recognition of that, I have decided to introduce the locals to 3 excellent Scottish movies (two of which are set in Glasgow) that they might not have seen. Below is a sneak preview of what I’ve written for the always enticing and soon to be in-press Trauma promo material.

Scotland on Screen: Against the Odds
Nowhere is Scotland’s masterful combination of politics, poetry, pathos and humour more apparent than in its varied — and often low-budget — film productions. A keen eye for the ironies (and the comedies) of injustice gives the nation’s cinema a particularly strong and always relevant modern identity. Even when situations and characters seem rooted in particularly “Scottish” cultural perspectives the appearance of parochialism is generally deceptive. A distinctly realist approach is typical – but so too are moments of the dream-like and the absurd. At its best, Scotland’s cinema is a provocative and lively cinema of truth: with tradition, history, and myth never far from shot.

Local Hero, with a cast of familiar Scottish faces and featuring Hollywood legend Burt Lancaster, shows how small town folk and corporate giants alike lose all sense of proportion when it comes to matters of money. With just the right lightness of touch, director Bill Forsyth keeps the audience laughing out loud with an array of wittily observed and wonderfully acted characters.

Just North of England...

Lynne Ramsay’s Ratcatcher is a truly incredible film that quietly insists on drawing you in. Set during the 1975 binmen’s strike, we are offered a haunting, beautifully composed, and deeply lyrical account of how one 12-year old boy perceives the squalor, the tragedies, and the little glimmers of hope that fill his environment alongside the rats and the growing heaps of rubbish.

Poetry from tragedy

Peter Mullan’s NEDS, a bold take on familiar themes of masculinity, class, violence, and Catholicism, is also set in 70s Glasgow. 16-year old John is conflicted over how best to make use of his intelligence, moving swiftly and angrily from academic success and educational aspiration to the destructive spiral of gang life. With a young handpicked cast of local ‘non-actors’, there is nothing amateurish about this gritty and semi-autobiographical tale that lifts itself above clichĂ©.

Lynne Ramsay’s We Need to Talk about Kevin, based on Lionel Shriver’s novel, was just released last month. Hopefully that means people will be curious to see, or re-see her astonishing debut, Ratcatcher. I was barely born when Local Hero was released (in 1983) so for me, seeing it on the big-screen will be good fun. What do you think? Any comments on the film choices – or my text – welcome! Wouldn’t any of these be a good way to spend a cold Winter Monday? I’ve added a few screenshots which I’m pretty sure come under “fair use policy“.