When I speak to people from other countries about Edinburgh I am always proud to talk about our men and women of genius, and particularly our writers.
Characters created by our writers are as diverse as the infamous school mistress Jean Brodie, the pirate Long John Silver and young wizard Harry Potter, not to mention sleuth Sherlock Holmes and both Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (based on former and highly notorious Edinburgh councillor Deacon Brodie).
Scotland has produced poets such as Norman MacCiag, Sorley MacLean, George MacKay Brown and Hugh MacDiarmid in the last century alone.
Dublin has Bloomsday to mark James Joyce’s Ulysses whereas we have Burns night, although that celebration appears to last for about a month.
I was delighted to see that the tenth anniversary of the city becoming the world’s first Unesco City of Literature is being marked by a celebration of Walter Scott and his debut novel Waverley.
At last Thursday’s council meeting the moment of reflection preceding the meeting was given by our new Edinburgh Makar, Christine De Luca.
In the wonderful poem she had composed to mark the anniversary, she made reference to the creative history Edinburgh has and also to the successor cities as City of Literature.
One startling statistic hit home. She made reference to Ireland’s four Nobel Prizes for literature. It struck me that Scotland, for all our great philosophers, poets and novelists, has never had a winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature.
I think a Scottish Nobel Prize winner is long overdue. What better way to celebrate our first decade as City of Literature than to have a few of our men and women of genius nominated in this field?
Last Thursday I asked council leader Andrew Burns if he would look into how we can accomplish this and he promised to do so.
The one limiting factor is that you have to be alive to win a Nobel Prize. Walter Scott, Robert Louis Stevenson, Spark, Buchan and Conan Doyle are no longer eligible but we do have many very good living writers with the right calibre. Alasdair Gray and William McIlvanney spring to mind and the Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy is also a Scot.
I wonder if you have any suggestions for who we can and should nominate?
The Cream of the Sixties rock and pop scene
I WAS born right in the middle of the swinging Sixties and though very young at the time I do recall many things about the era. One of the things I recall was that there were very few Scottish rock and pop stars. But the Sixties swung, even in Edinburgh, and Cream were part of that era.
Bassist Jack Bruce, who died on Saturday, wrote many of the band’s hits and was also the lead singer. Tunes such as Wheels of Fire, I Feel Free and Sunshine of your Love many people know instantly.
The way he played bass was extraordinary. A classically trained cellist, he fell in love with the double bass as a teenager and only took up cello as his fingers were still too small. He was a stalwart of the Glasgow and London jazz scenes as a teenager, playing alongside greats like Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts before either became stars.
Creative tensions drove Cream apart after two years – Bruce and drummer Ginger Baker, while always in awe of each other’s talents, were often at each other’s throats and apparently Eric Clapton got sick of it and moved on to even bigger stardom.
Bruce moved into other areas of work, particularly jazz and blues, though never anything as commercially successful as Cream, who sold an astonishing amount of albums in their two years. To a creative genius like Bruce it wasn’t all about money.
Cream had very successful reunion concerts in 2005 where they played as long as Baker’s arthritic hands would let them. Many of the tensions had eased with age.
Jack Bruce’s passing on Saturday robs Scotland of our first true rock legend.
All change for players in political game
A FUNNY business politics. Just a few short weeks from the referendum, two political careers of the leaders of Scotland’s largest two parties have reached their climaxes, though perhaps for both not quite their ends.
For Alex Salmond, while he will no longer be First Minister a return to Westminster is being hinted at.
For Johann Lamont, pictured, her tenure as leader of the opposition in Holyrood came to an abrupt end at the weekend amid accusation and counter accusation about her position being undermined and interference in the running of the Scottish Labour Party.
Enoch Powell said “all political careers end in failure” – a ludicrous and nihilist view. Often judging someone’s career is about where they have travelled from, as much as how far they have come.
Labour have some serious problems which can only begin to be resolved by passing more power to their Scottish party. They could do a lot worse than look at the way the Liberal Democrats have been federally structured for the past 25 years. At present the role looks like a poisoned chalice.