it’s a fine journey over the Forth these days with three breathtaking bridges to gawp at.
The new one, just a wee gap away from being crossable, is a particularly awesome addition with its wind-resisting spider web cables forming three artistic, spiralling cones along its length.
We take the turn-off at Junction 2A because we’re heading for the village of Letham in Fife. There isn’t much in Letham. Some trees, a bus stop, a village hall. It’s the village hall we’re heading for this Saturday night because something special’s happening.
Something special happens there every eight weeks but this night is going to be ultra-supercool-uber-special.
My brother Michael, his wife Anna, her sister Claire and Claire’s husband Roy sat down at their kitchen table six years ago and wondered what they could do that would bring the community together. Michael and Roy, having grown up listening to John Peel, heads under the bedclothes, smuggling revolutionary new sounds into their brains, wanted to organise musical events with great bands, nae riff-raff.
“Let’s call it Letham Nights,” Michael said and the name stuck. Letham Village Hall is a perfect venue for intimate gigs. There’s a high ceiling for the acoustics and a high stage so that everybody gets a good view. It can hold 200 people at a push.
Behind the stage there’s a working bar, the Clap & Tipple, manned by volunteers. Add strings of fairy lights and a brilliant sound engineer and you’ve got the recipe for a getalong scene, as Blue Mink sang in the early Seventies.
Every Letham Night I’ve been to has had a kind of magic about it but like I said, this one’s going to be a few notches more than pure dead brilliant.
Because tonight is the 50th Letham Night and to mark the occasion, the committee have laid on a live gig by one of Scotland’s national treasures, legendary Fifer King Creosote.
Kenny Anderson aka King Creosote is coming off the back of a long tour but you wouldn’t think so. He blows the room away. We shouldn’t be surprised. His last album, Diamond Mine, a collaboration with Jon Hopkin was nominated for the Mercury Music Prize and so is the one he’s showcasing now, Astronaut Meets Appleman.
There are three bodies on the stage as well as King Kenny. The one who really catches the eye and tugs at the heartstrings is Mairearad Green from Achiltibuie, north of Ullapool. She doesn’t just add backing harmonies. She nurses pure emotion out of a squeezebox that gives the band’s sound its passionate, romantic soul. That’s not all. At crucial moments, when they need to amp up the feeling, she shoulders a set of bagpipes and gives the room goosebumps.
By the end of the night, the band are a sweaty mess and so are we, bouncing up and down at the front of the stage singing along to a song we just learned.
But my best memory comes at the very start of the night, when my brother recites a poem in honour of my upcoming 60th birthday.
It might be the best one he’s ever written and here it is for you to enjoy . . .
Beware of the Bull
In the field by the loch
We dug up grubs from dockens
Kicked over crusty pancakes
For yellow-striped brandlings
Tasty treats for trout
Ignoring the warning
He climbed the fence
Eased his wellies into the shallows
Up to his shins
And cast into the riffle
I watched for a while
And he, rapt in concentration
Lulled by the lap of the waves
And the shimmering light
So when the stealthy
Gave out its fearful roar
Enough to make the bravest Matador
Quail in his suit of lights
He staggered forward
Knees buckling, boots filling
Ready to run, cowed
Until he turned and saw
That it was me
The bull. My weedy
Imitation had fooled
The jester, unguarded him
And left me laughing,
But only up my sleeve
I feared a hiding
Until, despite his sodden feet
He broke into that
Generous golden cackle
And I knew he loved me.
Ewan needs to lose the Morningside marbles for proper Leith lingo, likesay
I went to Cineworld on Sunday night and watched Trainspotting 2. After the screening, as I hung around outside the Ladies waiting for my wife, two women went past.
One said “Phwoar, Ewan McGregor’s hot, eh.” “Too right he is!” said her pal. Well, I hereby apologise to all Ewan fanatics.
If you love Ewan McGregor and hate spoilers, look away now. Do not read this piece. Ewan McGregor was the luckiest actor in the world to get cast by Danny Boyle in the original Trainspotting movie. I thought acting was about pretending to be somebody else, in this case, Mark Renton, a working-class junkie from Leith.
McGregor certainly looked the part, skinny as a whippet in tight jeans and T-shirt with hi-top trainers and a suedehead. But when he opened his mouth to speak, out came Morningside marbles.
I was addicted to the book before I saw the film. Irvine Welsh took the English language and wrestled it into the Leith dialect likesay eh. I was hoping Ewan McGregor would take the time to do the same.
Nah. Nae luck. He must have just looked in the mirror and thought, I look the part, that’ll do. He was never stuck for acting roles after Trainspotting. But in every single one he remained exactly who he is, Ewan McGregor. Even when he put on an American accent he was clearly Ewan McGregor. In T2 he’s still Ewan Mcgregor. He will always be Ewan McGregor.
Luckily, T2 is rescued from the clutches of this woodentop by two of the best characters ever to leak out of Irvine Welsh’s biro: Begbie and Spud, left, played by Robert Carlyle and Ewen Bremner respectively. Begbie is violent and funny. Spud is tragic and funny.
Begbie needs to get out of prison so he asks his cell- mate to stab him gently in the stomach. The thicko nods and lunges. The sharpened drumstick he’s using goes straight through Begbie’s belly and exits via his back. It shouldn’t make you laugh but the cinema exploded. Spud’s big moment is equally black and just as comic. He can’t kick the heroin so his wife kicks him out and he decides to end it all. He necks a cocktail of pills and pulls a plastic bag over his head.
He is well on the way to expiring when Wooden Ewan pays a visit in the nick of time. As he tries to rip the bag off his old mate’s head, Spud spews colourfully into it giving the audience its second mega-laugh of the night. I don’t know what Spud sicked up into that bag, but McGregor, for once, managed to look genuinely appalled. Be warned, it’s the only acting he does in the entire movie.
Let’s give tangerine Trump the pip
I love that more than a million people have signed a petition to have Donald Trump banned from the UK.
The tangerine tycoon has just tried to ban as many Muslims as he can from entering America, causing inconvenience, grief and anger to thousands, including Somalian-born Olympic gold medallist Mo Farah.
Trump claims this is neither racist nor anti-religious. Making him feel unwelcome here by signing the petition is just one of many little things we can all do to make ourselves feel better and the new president feel worse.