The Leither - Issue 158

Page 1

Cammy Day’s Postcard from Chile

A train carriage at Naltahua holds a guilty secret

Leither Priceless Issue 158 KT Producing’s Giant on the Bridge | Monumental Leith | Hitchcock’s Storyboards Sandy Campbell
Independence as a ‘process’ | Food Review: Tipo
2 | | Issue 158

Once upon a time…

Editor at Large

Along time ago an editor summoned me to his ‘office’, which in those days was the old Homes Bar. He cut straight to the heart of the matter, Edinburgh Lothian Transport’s Number 22. At which, his eyes lit up as if Celtic were still in Europe, and he rubbed his hands together with obvious relish. Although his joy was self-evident, there was a wistfulness to his mien, as he took a sip of his dark rum & tomato juice and sallied forth.

“The No 22 bus is a smashing little story, I know we’ve covered it twice before, but I feel there is mileage in it yet. From the Gyle to Ocean Terminal in twenty-eight-minutes. You’d hardly credit it. And it’s a boon to the local community vis a vis that environmental stuff.”

At this he reaches a crescendo, “is there a better bargain to be had in the whole wide world of public transport? All that for £1!” He asks me to add that exclamation mark to drill home his point.

Which sets him of again: his neck muscles bulge like hawsers, and he gulps for air while making a fair approximation of someone swallowing a barrage balloon whilst eating a truckload of Jacob’s crackers.

A hefty slap on the back returns his eyes to their sockets and his tongue to its sprocket.

To fill the silence, I point out that the ferry from Manhattan to Staten Island is free. He sighs, ignores my reply, and returns to his brooding

“Now look at the treatment the No 22 is getting from that tram and their bloody roadworks. Diversions and the inevitable delays that follow, it’s a crying shame, we are witnessing the wilful destruction of one of Britain’s great bus routes.” (Here he takes a swig of Jägermeister from his hip flask “for the gout.”)

“I’ve got it! A Leith take on Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness or Roald Amundsen discovering the Great North Passage. A warts-and-all account of the No 22 Bus route, from terminus to terminus.

“You must start at The Gyle Centre, did you know that the copper used on the roof would cover Murrayfield Stadium seven times?

“Then stroll down to Ballgreen - or Baile na Greine as was - that’s Gaelic for Sunnytown, by the by. You could pick up the Water of Leith here or head on to the West End”, here he loses his way, “do you remember milk bars? I feel sure there was one on Lothian Road, you could do some research on them: sardine sandwiches and flavoured milks…

“Where was I? Oh yes… you must do Leith Street and down The Walk, past the Playhouse (opened by Laurel and Hardy) then on to Borland’s Dart’s and Television shop – where you’ll find all your televisual and darting needs under one roof. (N.B. It’s still there by the way… unlike apprenticeships.)

“Leith Walk then. Fourteen street names on one thoroughfare, sometimes you’ll find two different names on either side of the same road. Tip your hat here to Storries bakery’s bonnie window display of all that’s good to dunk in tea. My recommendation is the bran scone farl. There’s fixin’s!

“Left now at the Fit ‘o’ the Walk, Wetherspoons was still on the horizon, for now it was still a snooker hall, and on to the beating heart of Leith’s regeneration (which is itself to be regenerated) Ocean Terminal.”

The editor splutters to a halt, he looks and sounds like a man who is overcome by excitement at the realisation of his own brilliance. An Advocaat & Glayva soon clears the great man’s throat and he rallies to a final verbal flourish.

“There’s ideas for you boyo,” he says, suddenly affecting Welsh.

“A journey down the Number 22 Bus route, a microcosm of the world in thirty minutes, a veritable melting pot of cultural exchanges.

“All human experience can be found on that route if you look hard enough. I’ll even give you your title; A Journey To The Heart Of The World: Psycho-Geography and LothianRegional Transport Route Number 22.” n


4 It’s a run off between “mark my words” Biden and that piece of walking incoherence, the criminal Trump says Protempore

21 Tools like DALL-E, ChatGPT, and Bard have made it easier than ever for anyone to create deepfake images, Deidre Brock

The Liverbirds



Kennedy Wilson on the female Beatles, chalets for crossdressers, HBO and Hitchcock’s storyboards

According to Albert Einstein ‘life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving’. Tracy Griffen knows all about that!


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Cover: Queen Victoria Hotel in Valparaiso, Ted McGrath

Issue 158 | | 3
Makes you wish for the time when the No22 only came in threes A hefty slap on the back returns his eyes to their sockets and his tongue to its sprocket

Regular readers of this column…

According to our esteemed editor and Jack Russell devotee, are copious. And will be acquainted with the fact that around this time of year I ramble on about winter loosening its icy grip and the frail but obvious signs of spring starting to appear.

My trusty and first reference point is always the small, purple, yellow and white fringed carpet around the edges of Leith Links as the crocuses and snowdrops peep above the frosty grass. Their appearance never fails to instil a sense of anticipatory optimism that perhaps, just perhaps, things are going to take a turn for the better.

Then there’s the light. Sunrises and sunsets start to get earlier and later as we advance to the point where we can turn the clocks forward. Things are starting to move forward. At least that’s a good sign surely?

And then there are small things like people discarding their heavy duty winter wear, daffodils appearing in shops, adverts for summer holidays, and piles of easter eggs blocking every entrance and exit in supermarkets.

We stop hunching our shoulders and look up when we’re walking, closing our eyes to feel the faint return of heat from the sun on our faces. Things just seem to feel better.

At this point, I tend to throw a wintry grenade into the proceedings and go on to list everything that is still cold, crumbling, and staggering towards oblivion in the political world.

And dear readers, despite my genuinely held desire to provide you all with a fragrant bouquet of metaphorical daffodils which William Wordsworth would be proud of, the reality is that it would be a dereliction of duty to do so

when there is so much pain, hysteria, and madness still in the air.

In the last column, I mused on the forthcoming election in America and posited that it would be between the present incumbent, “mark my words” Joe Biden and everyone’s favourite piece of walking incoherence, the criminal Donald Trump. Well that’s now a certainty.

That’s right, the country generally regarded as the most powerful in the world (depending on how you measure such things), will be led either by a man who should be spending his twilight years sucking on a Werther’s Original and watching box sets of the Golden Girls on television, or a deluded convict who thinks that world war two hasn’t happened yet, or that drinking disinfectant can cure Covid.

Is there any hope for optimism here? The short answer is no. Trump is favourite to win the election and has already promised to wreak unhinged revenge on all of his political opponents. Why should we be worried about that?

Political analysts who have far more insight than I do have predicted that a Trump victory in November would, not could, but would, seriously destabilise the world. They point to ‘mounting nervousness’ around the world that he will upend the world economy and enduring political alliances by defunding

It’s a run off between “mark my words” Biden and that piece of walking incoherence, the criminal Trump

Graham Ross

NATO, allowing Vladimir Putin to win the war in Ukraine, exacerbate further stability in the Middle East, and also fail to support Taiwan in its struggle to keep China at bay.

While a victory for Biden wouldn’t necessarily bring an immediate end to any of these issues, it’s far more likely that the emphasis would be on seeking to stabilise matters across the globe, rather than pursuing a megalomaniacal agenda which will only bring the flame nearer to the touch paper.

It’s also likely that the next general election in the UK will be in October, just prior to the American election. Although I’m not a professional political analyst, if Labour don’t win the election, it will be the biggest political upset since George Galloway won a by-election. (Hang on a minute, that’s not right surely?).

So how will Sir Keir Starmer deal with a Trump victory? He’ll probably spend inordinate amounts of time shuttling between European capitals trying to decide on whether it’s time to end our special relationship with the US and seek to become a very junior, non-executive partner with our european neighbours, or hang on to the coat tails of a nutcase in the hope that he’s not quite bright enough to remember the nuclear codes. In other words, to forge a ‘special needs relationship’.

Whatever happens, and despite my gloomy correspondence, it would be a good time to keep your head up, feel the sun on your face, gaze at the flowers, and look forward, hopefully, to a glorious summer.

Scotland at the Euros, cold beer in the park, cricket on the Links, and sand between your toes.

Enjoy it as much as you can. Come November, it could get really dark. n

4 | | Issue 158

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6 | | Issue 158
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In the last issue we went over some street names, which fossilise certain people from the past into our everyday references.

Statues do that even more! Let’s see what we have.

The oldest is the statue of Robert Burns on Bernard Street, put there in 1898 by the Leith Burns Society.

The central panel gives us The Cottar’s Saturday Night, with its homely, family connotations. It’s striking to realise how popular Burns was in the 19th century, his celebrations of ordinary people in their daily lives, combined with his radicalism: ‘A man’s a man, for a’ that’, struck a chord.

In contrast, only a tram stop away at the Foot of the Walk, we have the pinnacle of Empire and Establishment, Queen Victoria. Whose statue was placed there in 1907, six years after her death.

The side panels were added in 1913. One shows a much younger queen arriving by carriage in 1842. It was all a bit unfortunate. Leith had prepared for her arrival at Shore, but she was a bit early and the tide did not permit an approach over the sandy beach.

Not prepared to wait, she diverted to Granton, where the dirty coal jetty stretched into deep water and the carriage finally brought her to Leith, for the official welcome.

The newly formed Leith Burgh Council was dismayed. They quickly built a new dock and named it after her. She wouldn’t be dependent on the tides for her next visit.

But she never came…

Her next landing in Scotland was at Dundee – she was house-hunting, and she picked Balmoral. Thereafter she travelled by train.

The other panel of the statue depicts the 5th Volunteer Battalion the Royal Scots - a Leith battalion - before a resplendent Britannia. A memorial to ‘Loyalty and Patriotism’ during the Boer War. It’s not so much about a tribute to the men as elevating Queen Victoria.

Leith suffered a disproportionally high casualty rate in the Great War, mostly down to the single incident of the Quintinshill railway disaster in 1915. Over 200 Leith men were on a troop train bound for Liverpool and onwards to the Dardanelles.

Although they had not left the country, because they were in uniform and under orders, they were deemed to have fallen in action and given a military funeral with full honours in Rosebank cemetery.

Noticeably, Leith has no honorific

statue to the fallen as there are in many towns and villages across the country. Leith’s memorial was the Children’s Wing at the hospital, such an ambitious project that it wasn’t opened till 1927. The military insignia are still there on the wall facing Taylor Gardens.

The merchant navy monument at Shore, unveiled by Princess Anne in 2010, is built in classical style. Although it serves as a memorial for lives lost at sea on the Sunday after Remembrance Sunday in November, it is also a celebration of a life at sea: adventure, foreign lands, camaraderie, hard work, and dangers, whether natural or in war.

Leith can claim a good part of Ken Buchannan MBE, undisputed world featherweight champion in 1971

It’s well placed here. The Royal Navy keeps us safe: the merchant navy keeps us fed. Leith was Scotland’s premier east coast port for many centuries till the 1960s, when Grangemouth took over. It’s a mercy – if Leith had container berths, we would have lost our street pattern to dual carriageways, rounded corners, and flyovers.

On the Links you’ll find a statue of Dr John Rattray. In 1744 he signed the earliest rules of golf, for playing ‘on the links of Leith’. Indeed, Leith has a better claim to the historical origins of golf than the Royal and Ancient club at St Andrews.

Dr Rattray was surgeon to Bonnie

On the losing side, he was hauled off to London, and it was only after the intervention of a high-placed golfing chum that he returned to Leith with his head on his shoulders.

And we can’t overlook Anthony Gormley. Stretching downstream in the Water of Leith from the Gallery of Modern Art, the six figures are in the water ‘silently bearing witness to the ebb and flow of the seasons’ as the Water of Leith Conservation Trust would have it. The last looks out over the Water’s meeting with the tidal Firth of Forth.

Leith can claim a good part of Ken Buchannan MBE, undisputed world featherweight champion in 1971. Born in Portobello, he did most of his training in Sparta AAC when it was in McDonald Road, and latterly he was often seen around Leith. Ever popular and easy to talk to, in his career he was hugely inspirational to many younger boxers. A statue of him was erected close to St Mary’s RC cathedral, Picardy Place, in 2022. Not many folk get a statue in their lifetime. He died the following year.

Who will the folk of Leith be remembering a hundred years from now? n

Issue 158 | | 7
Prince Charlie at Culloden in 1746. 6 Times, Antony Gormley Figure VI at Western Harbour, Leith Docks Michael Duxbury

A Giant on the Bridge

The content of this column may have varied over the years – at least Tom Wheeler hopes it hasbut one thing it’s never contained is a review

There’s a particular reason for this. Whenever I write, I’m prone to the tendency – almost entirely unhelpful but, I suspect, weirdly common among those who elect to put their work in the public domain – to feel a pervasive sense of low-level dread at the thought of anybody actually reading it.

This feeling is exacerbated whenever I have reason to read back over an old piece. Any salient points, well-turned phrases or moderately funny jokes are skimmed past, while the bits that make

I’m not cut out for that. If I ever did try to write a proper review, it would be couched in so many caveats and pre-emptive apologies as to be virtually unreadable and actually useless. Inedible meal? I might have caught them on a bad night. Dreadful, pretentious, incomprehensible play? Perhaps I missed some subtle but vital point at the very start that would have made the next three hours make perfect sense. Four stars, just in case.

All of which means that the only circumstance in which I can comfortably write about somebody else’s work is when I’m so blown away by it that I’ve no reason to say anything critical about it at all – just an instinct to spread the word. And with that in mind, here’s my non-review of A Giant on the Bridge at the Traverse.

I’ll admit to having gone along with only a sketchy idea of what to expect. But I did know the musicians involved:

also the product – and story – of people within, or affected by, the criminal justice system, including the frequently forgotten ones on the outside. At its heart is the power of the human imagination, with all its capacity for doubt, regret and fear, but also for hope, redemption and restoration.

Each artist portrays a different character within a set of interconnected stories: prisoner D (Solareye), counting the days to his impending release; his twin sister June (Jill), caring for his daughter at home; and Clem (Jo), who assists prisoners and their families with letter-writing, and is familiar with and deeply affected by D and June’s situation.

There’s a narrator (Kim) taking us through an apparent fairy tale that turns out to be much more closely linked to the other stories than is initially apparent. Then there’s Louis (er, Louis), who conducts songwriting workshops in prisons. Which is also what

me cringe are subjected to repeated and microscopically close readings.

I do realise how nonsensical this is. Everyone can call something to mind –or, more likely, countless things – that they wish they’d said or done differently. But if you’re going to foster a regret over several years, at least make it about something more consequential than a clunky gag about Cheesy Wotsits that few people read at the time and literally nobody will remember now.

And what, you might reasonably ask, does this have to do with reviews? Well, if the notion of an anonymous person reading my stuff causes me pain, imagine how I’d feel about it being read by someone whose own work I’d directly criticised, however mildly. Especially when so much of my working life has been spent in hospitality and the arts, two fields in which a bad review, and the word of mouth effect that follows, really can spell the end of a business, production or career.

Kim Grant (Raveloe), Jill O’Sullivan, Solareye, Louis Abbott, Jo Mango. All different in style – strikingly so in some cases – yet coming together in a way that wasn’t merely coherent, but genuinely special.

In so doing, they were joining a collaborative tradition that has become an essential and defining element of Scotland’s independent music scene. Projects such as Ballads of the Book, Burnsong, the Fruit Tree Foundation and Hen Hoose, along with any number of less formal collaborations, have brought creators together across genres, styles and forms. The results have often been surprising, moving and unique. And if there have been any real duds, I must have missed them.

A Giant on the Bridge takes that spirit of collaboration a stage further. It’s the product not just of the artists who took the stage, but of public and academic institutions, in particular Vox Liminis and the Distant Voices project. And it’s

In so doing, they join a collaborative tradition that includes the likes of Ballads of the Book, Burnsong, Fruit Tree Foundation and Hen Hoose

the non-fictional Louis has been doing, along with several others, over the past few years. And the songs we hear are inspired by – and in many cases, the products of – these real life sessions.

It’s a terrific, warm-hearted production that brings together some of the best songwriting talent around. And it’s particularly timely. As arts funding gets squeezed ever further, organisations that receive support find themselves under constant pressure to justify it. And initiatives that treat criminal justice as anything more than a blunt instrument of punishment will always have their detractors. There may even have been some among the packed audience when the show began. But I don’t think there were many by the end. n

Traverse Theatre, March 2024

Ê Info: The plan is for musical theatre auteurs KT Producing to develop A Giant on the Bridge further prior to an Edinburgh Festival Fringe run

8 | | Issue 158
KT Producing L/R: Solareye, Jo Mango, Kim Grant, Louis Abbott, Jill O’Sullivan

We, on the Yes side, need to do something the independence movement has not been adept at so far: listening to Unionists

This is election year on both sides of the pond. As 2025 approaches we’ll find ourselves on the brink of the Starmer/Trump years; Labour in charge at Westminster while Trump gets busy making the world even scarier

It feels like everything is changing so fast. Here in Scotland too. Later this year we will have the most significant election since devolution. Our political landscape will be transformed.

Although not changing the current make-up of the Scottish Parliament, the impending UK election will send the message out loud and clear: the SNP are no longer all powerful.

I don’t think I’m sticking my neck out too much by predicting that when the results start to come in on election night, it will be a UK landslide for Labour and a bad night for the SNP.

A casserole of conflicting vested interests vying for attention alongside an equally shrunken Tory party on life support, at war with itself.

Obviously, from an SNP point of view, I’m hoping it won’t be too bad. A ‘good result’ would be ending the count with 29 seats, down from the current 47. By any measure that will be interpreted UK-wide as a sea-change in Scottish politics; a vote of noconfidence in the SNP.

Sandy Campbell

On the Loose

The new Westminster benches are likely to look very different. Reform will probably make the Tory defeat even worse. They might even win actual seats, resulting in a block of new Reform MPs, joining the opposition benches alongside the Lib Dems, Ulster unionists, and the SNP, shrunk to half of what we were.

But it will be a good night for Scottish Labour. I bet they’re already looking forward to it. Winning on election night is one of those goalscoring/cup-winning experiences. Thousands of voters will have switched from SNP to Labour.

Meaning that a big chunk of the electorate who voted Yes in 2014, and probably still do support independence, have lost faith in the SNP as a party. A one-party government for 17 years hasn’t turned out be a good advert for

how Scotland might be managed after independence.

Of course, others will simply have been motivated by getting rid of this Tory government, and Labour is the knee-jerk response. Whatever the rationale of each vote, a big chunk of the Scottish electorate will defect from the party who won them over 10 years ago.

What will this mean for both parties?

For Scottish Labour, they will have gained huge numbers of independence supporting voters overnight. How will they keep them? How will their new Scottish MPs stand up for Scotland in Westminster? How will they stand up to English Labour?

How the SNP responds will be the food for debate in countless conferences, and after branch meetings. But for me, the question that matters is: what next for the process towards independence?

We have been stuck in a quarrelsome stand-off for too long. A steady 50/50 split on our constitutional future. This has become the yardstick that defines our political tribes. It creates divides where there

The question is, what kind of long-term relationship do we want to have with our nextdoor neighbour?

10 | | Issue 158
Majority sizes in Scottish constituencies, and right, the ‘yellow belt’ of SNP marginals and pro-Union underperformance. Data BBC Election Team

needn’t be any. It undermines the effectiveness of our Parliament and warps the process for achieving independence.

The independence question is not going away. The status quo clearly isn’t working. Brexit has left a lot of work to do on Scotland’s relationship with England.

You could say that the whole constitutional debate comes down to one question: what kind of long-term relationship do we want to have with our next-door neighbour? A neighbour whom, for all their failings, we have been entwined with, both personally and politically, for centuries.

The initiative to break this logjam has to come from us – the supporters of independence, the advocates of change. And now our constituency of supporters will include many more Labour voters. Calling for a second referendum won’t hack it anymore.

Fifty-percent-plus-one was always a terrible idea. The truth is: Not enough of us want it enough. There is currently no deafening clamour for change that would render us unstoppable.

But imagine if there were. That

is our challenge. We, on the Yes side, need to do something the independence movement has not been adept at so far: listening to Unionists. I want to hear their case for the Union. I want to understand their fears regarding independence. And I want to be bombarded by their hostility to the SNP. But most of all I want to hear their ideas for how Scotland can get out of this deadlock.

I seek out Unionists. I enjoy my conversations with them. We find we have so much in common concerning many of today’s political challenges. In some ways the demise of the SNP could do the movement for independence a big favour.

It will no longer be all about how the SNP performs at Holyrood. The post-election independence camp will be spread cross-party. This humbling of the SNP could ‘de-party-ify’ the constitutional debate.

Margo MacDonald once described independence as a ‘process’. Post-election, let the process continue and let’s slowly but surely build a huge majority for independence, irrespective of who you vote for. n

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Earth: The Remake

The planet has jumped the shark; shonky plotlines, bad dialogue and poor production values.

Time for a remake, says Montgomery

‘Reality is that, which when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away’. So said Philip K Dick in his 1978 essay How to Build a Universe that Doesn’t Fall Apart Two Days Later. To be honest we could do with Phil’s advice right now. Things are falling apart. Nothing seems real. A mere reflection of what is. But even that’s badly done. Less Plato’s Cave. More the reintroduction of a previously killed-off character from a soap played by someone completely new.

Jim from Neighbours was the first time that hit me hard. He died some miserable soap death. Then reappeared some years later. Played by someone completely different with a wig and false teeth. Actually, I made all of that up.

Which only goes to show how slippery this thing called reality is. Philip K Dick’s treatise referenced above. And I refer you to it. He may well have written it on speed but it still makes more sense that our current reality.

I’ll resist the urge to mine the farcical Glasgow Willy Wonka Experience at this point – we were chock-a-block with articles on it as the perfect metaphor for our ‘How It Started/How It’s Going’ present. I laughed long and hard at it all though; love a good disaster story.

My partner has oft found me giggling uncontrollably after reading of poorquality Winter Wonderlands, with smoking elves and angry Santas, in dog-shit strewn fields behind ageing industrial estates.

The latter seems a Paradise compared to the hellscape we are spinning towards. I say ‘towards’; we’re already there. All it will take is for the orange fiend to triumph in the States in November for all bets to be off. He could well do it too.

Reason has retreated. Arise the idiocracy.

Not the ‘Jim from Neighbours’ remake. And certainly not what they did to Tom and Jerry cartoons in the 60s – Fred Quimby era only please. Similarly, why the hell did they remake John Carpenter’s The Fog? The 1980 one was a belter. All dry ice and glowing eyes (what more d’you need to scare the bejesus out a 10 year-old?). Then again - getting all meta - Carpenter himself remade The Thing in 1982. And despite the carping, it became a classic.

Proof then that remakes – done right – can be even better than the original. Surely, we could do much the same with this tatty old planet of ours? Although it’s not the planet that’s tatty – it’s us. The planet is Norma Desmond. It’s still ‘big’. We, the species that occupies it, have come up short. Way short. So aye, time to remake the whole shebang. And as I’ve just suggested it, I get to play Director, Producer, Casting Agent and Runner. All in one.


Controversially, I was nearly seduced by the idea of setting the remake a bit closer to the sun or something. But I might just stick with the same place, i.e. here - the third rock out. It has much going for it. Oxygen, water, and a habitable environment for a start. All of it being so cheaply squandered too. But it’s my remake time. And I make the rules. So there.

Trees, Mountains, Rivers & Stuff

Move over God, and step forward Bob Ross - he of The Joy of Painting –resurrected to great effect during log

It’s not the planet that’s tatty, like Norma Desmond it is still ‘big’, humanity has come up short

down. Because old Bob knocked out a cracking landscape in his time on the old Earth. Plus, to the best of my knowledge, people and countries don’t fight wars and kill each other because they disagree on what type of Bob Ross is best. So, Bob for the win.

Belief Systems

Really? Really, though. After all the pish since mudskippers slithered out of the swamp and evolved, we’ve been shafted by belief systems. OK… if you have to have one we’ll task early 80s MOR rockers Journey to oversee it. Their ‘Don’t Stop Believin’ was harmless. Quite catchy even. ‘Hang on to that feelin’.


No contest – has to be Henson. Muppet animals, fish, birds and insects and stuff. Plus they don’t all have to look like Animal the Drummer. I’m talking the sort of comical things that, even if they’re biting, chomping, stinging, pecking or poisoning you to death, you still won’t mind. You’d die happy being savaged by a Muppet wouldn’t you?

Culture and Aw That

A toughie. Imposing a culture is never really a success. Sure, it might take hold. But festering resentment follows. Politicians take note – even soi-disant liberal ones.


Sorry. Not going there. That’s not to traduce the idea of political engagement per se. Or elected representatives. They should be able to go about their business unmolested, unharried, and unthreatened. Rather it is to stop us descending down that corrupt rabbit hole. Again.

The one that’s made this planet worthy of a remake. Until there’s a sequel… n

Issue 158 | | 13

A cracked pencil on Tolbooth Wynd

Glints of yellow and speckled purple drew my thirsty eyes. Soon I was stooping down and fishing the slim object out of the gutter. While it was bloated by rainwater and cracked by muddied soles, it was what I initially thought it was; a pencil. It was the fourth abandoned one I had come across that day, not including a stub on Ferry Road and dismal shards on the corner of Bernard Street.

In The Hitchhiker’s Guide to The Galaxy Douglas Adams suggested that ‘unattended ballpoints’ slipped away ‘quietly through wormholes in space to a world where they knew they could enjoy a uniquely ballpointoid lifestyle’. From my experience misplaced pencils have a more mundane fate, ending up in the back of fusty drawers or in muddy gutters. The creative potential they manifest surely makes them worthy of rescue.

Wooden pencils have a special life. They come into our lives, show their lives easily as they wear - and slowly leave. They need special care and at the same time can be completely neglected (for decades) and still be completely reliable at a moment’s notice.

They are literally made of earth. Though most of them are whittled away they can leave a permanent lasting effect. A company online offers pencils made from the carbon of human remains; about 240 pencils can be made from an average body of ash – is that a lifetime supply?

The pencil is basic. It takes us back to

our school days. Lollipop men, dollops of custard, and Panini stickers, were part of my daily routine the last time I used a pencil as my writing implement of choice. Usually pencils are forgotten by the time you reach High School. Old school.

I began seeking out pencils in search of simplicity. I’d already caught the journaling bug and found myself watching a YouTuber extolling the benefits of using that most basic of writing implements. A digital route to the deeply analogue. Pencils offer a distinct and immediate tactile response and something that won’t distort, run, or fade.

have created with Blackwing pencils. Soft but durable: ‘half the pressure twice the speed’. Simplicity is more complicated than you might think.

On further delving, I discovered that the contemporary Blackwing is a mere reproduction of the original, discontinued in 1998. The dwindling supply turned these pencils into almost mythical objects, going for exorbitant prices online; bought by avid users and ‘analogue devotees’. Not collectors.

When the original trademark expired in 2010, the CalCedars company released their own Palomino Blackwing 602, as a tribute and ‘for those seeking a more natural existence’. With its uniquely shaped ferrules and detachable erasers, the Blackwing 602 is not just a superior writing instrument but provides access to ‘a culture that’s all about living mindfully and finding balance in our fast-paced lives’.

In a charity shop I came across a completely unused Blacksun 1771 from Czechoslovakia, a country that no longer exists. It was made in the 1960s by Kohi-Noor Hardtmuth, one of the oldest stationery companies in the world. I’m hoping that the force of placebo will carry my writing to new heights.

I’ve pencilled this one in to use for a serious piece of writing; something transcendent that would ‘see the big in the small’. An essay that would succinctly say something profound about contemporary society and its contradictions.

A week after finding that cracked pencil in the gutter, it had revived. First it had been slowly dried and the peeling paint sanded off. Next, I spread glue into the cracks, clamping the pencil overnight in clothes pegs. The next morning, excess glue was removed and the whole barrel smoothed - and then given a coat of linseed oil, deepening the shade of the wood. That cracked and muddied pencil from Tolbooth Wynd had been resurrected, ready to fulfil its potential.

Into the Rapesco 64 Sharpener it went. A few turns of the handle crank later, things were looking promising. The wood was firm and gave off that unmistakable scent; satisfyingly dry and woody, with the cedar punctuated by mandarin, pink pepper, rose, cypress.

The dwindling supply of Blackwing pencils became mythical, going for exorbitant prices to avid users and analogue devotees

The world of journaling is full of “equipment junkies” eulogising their favoured fountain pen and the very best Japanese paper with ‘minimal bleed through’. The humble pencil offers an antidote. With a pencil I don’t need to worry about paper quality. I don’t need to worry about ink spilling. I don’t need to worry about losing my writing instrument - it’s a pencil. An easy route to peace of mind.

However, 20 minutes after deciding to give them a go, I found myself down a YouTube wormhole; the subculture of premium pencils.

Notably, videos devoted to the legendary Eberhard Faber Blackwing 602, apparently used by Steinbeck and various other cultural titans. Some of the world’s most legendary Grammy, Emmy, and Pulitzer Award winners

I was back in Primary 5; Miss Cluny was telling us to open our jotters, write the date, and describe our summer holiday (was that the year we went to Eigg?).

A few cranks later, the truth started to emerge; the graphite and clay core was largely missing. What was left was hollow and brittle and soon the shattered remnants lay pitifully on the kitchen table. Not all it was cracked up to be. It wouldn’t have happened to a Blackwing.* n

*Author’s Note: This piece was drafted with a STAEDTLER 110 Tradition (HB) found halfway along Pitt Street.

Charlie Ellis writes on culture, education, politics and sport. He thanks Eva Vaporidi and the SICK Writing Group for their comments on this piece.

14 | Issue 158
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Tipo, Ardfern, Dúthchas & Askr



110 Hanover St, Edinburgh ( 0131 2264545


Afriend, with good reasoning, refuses to eat in any chain with more than three outlets. With such a fair warning in mind, this glutton pretends that Stuart Ralston doesn’t actually operate four wildly-successful Edinburgh restaurants.

Aizle came first, moved to unlikely bigger premises at the Kimpton Hotel on Charlotte Square, and was followed in 2019 by Noto appearing on Thistle Street. Now that the pandemic-we-don’tmention is in the rearview mirror, Ralston has moved quickly to buy vacant premises with good pedigrees.

So where the Two Dogs trundled along on Hanover Street there is now Tipo and Lyla, offering a ten course tasting menu and angling for a Michelin star has risen from the ashes of 21212 after the tragic early death of Paul Kitching last year.

Ralston’s cooking is hard to pin down. Ingredients are heavily Scottish, but with discernible twangs from five years working for Gordon Ramsay in New York. By that, I mean that small plates are favoured, Asian ingredients used cleverly, there are lots of small-producer wines, and there is a very strong focus on the impact of each dish. Many dishes are strongly flavoured, but the overall flow of a meal in Ralston’s restaurants shows a cohesive harmony.

Some dishes are exceptional. Noto’s crab butter, for example. I dream of it regularly, and inevitably wake up drooling. The emphasis is more on cream than crustacean, albeit offset with a sharp dill oil. Highly finessed, the oozing deliciousness is served in the crab shell, with bread on the side. Connoisseurs

prefer to eat it with a spoon and guilt. It is lavish, luscious and the best single dish served in Edinburgh.

Today, however, we head towards Tipo. First, you have to get there, which is not quite as simple as you might think. It involves a long Georgian corridor, climbing up a precarious staircase, before ascending to what must have been a dreary Edinburgh solicitor’s office. Where once there may have been heavy furniture and musty files, now there is stripped pine with subtle pastel banquettes.

We choose the high counter seating over tables. Groups of more than four are placed in a pasta room; an ingenious segregation of which all other restaurants should immediately take note. For a kitchen focusing on Italian cooking, the dining room décor quickly tells us that this is no pizza parlour. Rather, this is a Mediterranean expression of Ralston’s small plate approach: thoughtful ideas, wellprepared food, and a menu that just makes sense.

The food offering is short, and we start with a plate of zeppole. In Italy, these fried doughballs are served sweet, with powdered sugar or perhaps a pastry cream. Here, they come firmly savoury, with shaved confetti from a sharp goat’s cheese. We sip a sparkling rosé, swing our legs on the high stools, and relax. Life is good.

To start, the lamb fritte. It is crusted meat, yet remains remarkably succulent, served with a small slice of white anchovy. Three small such logs sit on the plate, around a beautifully presented puree which nestles a herb oil. It was modern, fresh, delicious and original.

A cured mackerel was served alongside grape and chilli, with puffed rice adding texture and interest; also very good.

Stepping up from small plates to medium, we order a strozzapreti – a hand-rolled pasta typical of central Italy –and a pork chop to share. Again, both hit the spot, bursting with flavour without overpowering the meal.

To finish, we share a home-made cannoli and glass of something sweet from the Veneto. Dinner comes to £150 for two, including plenty of good wine, and we promise to be back soon. Not a plate missed the mark, however small they are.

Back down in Leith, notable changes are afoot:

First, and with much regret, Mistral closed last month after a great three-year run. Sam and Julie have had fun, and so have we all. They are heading back to France, sadly taking their wine with them.

It is a big loss to Leith. We will miss the good times, the excellent sourcing, and Julie’s very good food.

Their premises is being taken over by Roberta Hall-McCarron who runs the Little Chartroom next door. We are told it will be called Ardfern, offering brunch, bar snacks and dinner, alongside a bottle shop. This will be her third place, after Eleanore on Leith Walk. I’ve always rated Eleanore a lot higher than the Little Chartroom, so am interested to see where a more casual offer goes.

Second, Aurora is gone and is no more. It’s doors closed in December. We enjoyed the Best Of Closing Dinner, showcasing

16 | | Issue 158

Witek’s extraordinary self-taught cooking.

The venue on Great Junction Street has been kitted-out by the owners of Purslane, which has a very solid reputation. The name is Dúthchas, a fairly ill-defined Gaelic concept denoting the relationship between people, land and culture.

Hopefully the menu will be better defined, and certainly early online reviews are very positive.

Third, and perhaps less surprisingly, The Chop House on Constitution Street is closing. This was the original premises of three but has been sold off to allow the owners to concentrate on the Bruntsfield and Market Street outlets.

It was a lot of fun when it opened nearly a decade ago, but latterly the quality of cooking declined noticeably. Often, the tables are empty. It hasn’t been able to attract the crowd down from town and, frankly, there are better options for us Leithers.

Ingredients are heavily Scottish, but with discernible twangs from five years working for Gordon Ramsay in New York

The replacement sounds much more interesting. It is to be called Askr, headed by Dan Ashmore who previously worked as part of the Dean Banks group of restaurants, with the cooking done over coal and woodfire.

This is very on-trend in northern Europe, and has the potential to be something a bit different in Edinburgh. We are intrigued, reader, and intend to investigate on your behalf very soon. Oh, the sacrifices I make! n

Kamil From left: Tipo, lamb fritte white anchovy, cured mackerel, grape & chilli, zeppole pecorino

The Newhaven Fisherwomen’s Choir

Over the years since its founding, Newhaven Heritage has acquired many photographs, documents and audio memories of the village as it once was. We look forward to the day when this important archive can be housed in its dedicated Newhaven Heritage Centre in 4 Pier Place should we be given the go-ahead to acquire the two groundfloor flats.

One of our more treasured possessions is an interesting book, the Diary of the Scottish Newhaven Fisherwomen’s Choir, dated 1927 – 1977, that was entrusted to the late George Hackland, one of our founders. It is full of interesting facts, photos and newspaper clippings of the time, which gives real insight into how popular the choir was in its heyday.

Founded, or rather re-established in 1927 by Mrs Marion Ritchie — she was always referred to as Mrs David Ritchie in attendant publicity such was the tradition of the time — the engagements pages start in 1928 with nine concerts, one of which is annotated that Sir Hugh Roberton, founder of the Glasgow Orpheus Choir, visited the Newhaven concert given by the Fisherwomen.

Chris Garner reports in his book, Newhaven, A Scottish Fishing Community 1928 - 1978, that Sir Hugh called Newhaven “a nest of singing birds.” He further went on to declare “If ever I feel I am getting above the world I live in, I shall go to Newhaven to be inoculated…” for the ladies there “…sing straight from the heart.”

Within five years, the Newhaven Fisherwomen’s Choir was performing around 40 concerts per year, all for charity the foremost of which in those pre-NHS days was Leith Hospital, as well as singing at a number of church services.

All this was on top of the daily duties and responsibilities of working in professions connected with, or in, the fishing trade as well as keeping house and home together.

In 1935, the choir was invited to London to perform on BBC radio. This was the second time that they had performed in London having performed in a number of venues two years previously. On Saturday, 23 March the ladies were in front of the microphone to be “In Town Tonight”. Mrs David Ritchie was invited to introduce the choir:

“All the women in our choir belong to Newhaven — a fishing village on the Forth, near Edinburgh. The average age of the choir is fifty years, and quite a number of them are grandmothers. Many of the women still carry the creel. Although the choir was formed eight

years ago, there are hardly any new faces — we are just a big happy family. The women are taught by ear only and yet have a repertoire of over two hundred songs and ballads — every note and word of which is memorised accurately.

I know that many of the husbands and sons of the women who are out at sea tonight are listening, so I won’t talk any more. Let us give them a verse of a real fisherwomen’s song, Caller Herrin...”

This was one of a number of appearances on BBC Radio, some of which were in London, that appear to figure in the diary every other year or so. On Wednesday 16 February, the choir made a recording in St Andrew’s Church for the BBC for a later broadcast listed in the diary two days later.

Two diary listings are interrupted by noteworthy events. On 20 February, 1936, King George V died and a boxed annotation states ‘SEVERAL DATES


R.I.P’ as the nation went into mourning.

The first outing the choir had after this solemn period was to Strathaven when they had the great surprise of seeing Sir Harry Lauder in the front row along with his niece.

Newly resident in the town, he asked permission to say a few words,

Fisherwomen’s Choir at Billingsgate Fishmarket, London

One of our more treasured possessions is


Diary of the Scottish Newhaven Fisherwomen’s Choir, dated 1927–1977

complimenting the ladies on their fine singing. He finished with a rendition of I Love a Lassie before shaking every one of the 28-strong choir by the hand. A memorable evening indeed for the Newhaven Fisherwomen’s Choir.

The other break in their busy diary was between mid-July and late October 1939 due to the fact the ‘2nd GreatWORLD WAR INTERVENED’. This would have included a trip to Liverpool had it gone ahead.

During the war years, the choir spent much of its time entertaining the troops or raising funds for the war effort throughout the years of the conflict.

After the war, the fund raising concerts continued raising significant funds over the years for the RNLI. But that’s for another time.

Today, the tradition of choral singing continues with a non-audition Community Choir gathering on Wednesday evenings at 7pm for rehearsal in the annexe of the old Victoria School.

Anyone who enjoys singing would be made very welcome. Please contact Jed Milroy on for more details. n

Ê Info: Contact Gordon Young

18 | | Issue 158
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edge of a precipice

Deepfake: The

MP for Edinburgh North and Leith

In 2024, over two billion people around the world will go to the polls. There are elections this year in the United States, India, Mexico, Venezuela, the EU parliament, and (almost certainly) the UK, to name a few.

This major meeting of political cycles comes just as fears are ramping up about the spread of disinformation and misinformation, and the dangers they pose to democracy.

These are issues I’ve raised at Westminster for many years, especially when it comes to campaign spending and transparency, and the loopholes which allow shady vested interests to influence our politics. My SNP colleagues and I also pushed for tougher measures in the Online Safety Act - we can’t just leave it up to big tech to police themselves, especially when they can rake in profits from fake news.

Taking proactive steps is difficult though when the technology is evolving at such a rapid rate. Tools like DALL-E, ChatGPT, and Bard have made it easier than ever for anyone to create deepfake images, audio, and videos. It’s no surprise these have quickly become rife in the political arena.

In November, a clip did the rounds falsely depicting the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan suggesting Remembrance Sunday should be delayed, sparking a violent backlash among those convinced of the need to “protect the Cenotaph”. And across the Atlantic, thousands of voters in New Hampshire received a surprise call apparently from President Biden, discouraging them from voting.

These are just the tip of a very big iceberg, and we can expect to see lots more in the months ahead. Polly Curtis of the think tank Demos warns we’re standing on a precipice, with generative AI potentially as disruptive as the internet and social media.

It’s argued the ongoing transformation creates opportunities to reach new audiences with personalised content. There’s also growing awareness however of the risks of this technology, which I hope will focus minds and make us more vigilant. Data will undoubtedly be used in ways that spread falsehoods, bias and discrimination, and there’s a real danger fake news and content becomes so widespread that folk mistrust everything.

Most manipulated or fabricated material comes from the wild west beyond the political mainstream, but there are state-sponsored threats too.

A report by the Canadian Government found at least a quarter of national elections globally have been targeted by some kind of foreign interference. China and Russia were seen as especially active, using increasingly sophisticated ways to influence elections. The report worryingly found it ‘very likely that the

capacity to generate deepfakes exceeds our ability to detect them’.

We’re also seeing AI and fake news playing significant roles in conflict zones. Propaganda videos by Russia have slipped past barriers set by governments and tech companies, pushing Kremlin conspiracy theories blaming Ukraine for civilian casualties and claiming that people in annexed areas have welcomed their occupiers.

Indeed, I was recently at an OSCE Parliamentary Assembly debate on

Tools like DALL-E, ChatGPT, and Bard have made it easier than ever for anyone to create deepfake images

AI’s hybrid security threats, where a Ukrainian rep spoke about the huge resources they’re piling into counterdisinformation. Another key message was that no government can tackle these challenges alone - civil society is absolutely crucial.

Finland is leading the way here with a coordinated drive involving public institutions, the private sector, NGOs, civil society, and citizens, to tackle disinformation and misinformation. The Finns have integrated media literacy into their core national curriculum as well as wider public programmes, and

the country has repeatedly topped the Media Literacy Index in recent years.

The Scottish Government is taking similar steps where it can, integrating digital and media literacy into the education curriculum, for example. Most of the powers to regulate AI are reserved, though, and I’m concerned the UK government’s approach is too handsoff and out of step with other countries.

Last month, for example, the US Federal Trade Commission, led by the impressive Chair Lina Khan, started consulting on plans to ban impersonation of individuals via AI tools. Surely we need to be looking at similar action here?

The UK’s AI strategy should also be revised with a more collaborative, ‘whole-society’ focus, and I support the idea of a commissioner with the authority to carry out these muchneeded measures.

In the meantime, politicians need to make sure we’re not contributing to the problem. Demos’ new Generating Democracy report includes recommendations that all political parties should get behind, including being transparent and clear about their use of AI in the election, and not re-sharing anything they suspect to be false.

This should be the bare minimum as we brace for such a consequential year, both politically and technologically. n

Ê Twitter: @DeidreBrock

Issue 158 | 21 DeidreBrock

Netflix: the ultimate disrupter

Kennedy Wilson on the female Beatles, chalets for crossdressers, HBO and Hitch’s storyboards

In his new book Pandora’s Box (Allen Lane) film writer Peter Biskind looks at the changes in TV over the last few decades. The American terrestrial networks – NBC, ABC, CBS –had rules about bad language, violence, nudity and sex scenes to save the blushes of Middle America. This was a time when TV was bland – a result of the networks not wanting to offend advertisers and seek out big audiences for lowest denominator fare like I Love Lucy, The Flintstones, 77 Sunset Strip and Rawhide.

Writes Biskind ‘if the result was ineffably dull shows whose Wonder Bread characters never swore; never expressed a political opinion; never entered a place of worship other than a church; never lusted after somebody else’s wife or husband or, worse, someone of the same sex; never had a baby out of wedlock – so be it’. But new cable stations (paid for through subs rather than ads) would offer more risky, adult fare.

HBO began in 1971 showing major sporting events and uncut movies without ads. Its main backers, Time Inc, hitched HBO to a new satellite giving the channel national reach by 1975.

By the 1980s HBO was a rampaging success that played 24/7. When the VCR arrived, HBO turned to original programming. Its first success was the Larry Sanders Show (1992-98), which satirised late night telly. Another success was the startling Oz (1997-2003) a grimly compelling prison drama: violence, blood, sex, drugs. ‘There had been nothing remotely like it on American television, and nothing ever since,’ writes Biskind. From Oz a direct line can be traced to Six Feet Under, The Sopranos and Breaking Bad. HBO went on to make Sex and the City which broke many taboos too.

And then came the ultimate disrupter Netflix which started in 1997 renting DVDs in the mail. Ten years later it began streaming and the rest is history. Netflix ‘water-cooler moment’ shows had huge budgets and Hollywood-style production values (The Crown is said to have cost over £250,000 per minute of screentime).

Once Netflix looked impregnable with no opposition, now it has to contend with Disney+, Amazon Prime, Paramount+ and the rest. And like all streamers, Netflix is susceptible to

Chuck Berry was impressed by the girls and wanted to take them to Vegas, but only if they played topless…

consumer belt-tightening when viewers cancel their subs. The streaming services are already offering cheaper options with ad breaks and may well offer safer and more predictable shows and will end up looking more and more like the TV of old.

The Beatles are the gift that just keeps giving. Think of the 2023 hit Now and Then. What’s less well remembered is another Mersey combo The Liverbirds, once labelled ‘the female Beatles’, who only lasted from 1963-66. The group’s story is retold in The Liverbirds (Faber) by band members Mary McGlory and Sylvia Saunders. Although there had been a lot of ‘girl singers’ around at the time, the Liverbirds were hard rockers with electric guitars and drumkit. McGlory and Saunders were joined by Valerie Gell and Pamela Birch. Their hero was Chuck Berry and in ‘64 they played support to the legendary rocker in Berlin. Berry was impressed and his manager said he wanted to take the girls to Vegas but only if they agreed to play topless. They demurred.

In 2004 at a new York flea market a cache of photographs was discovered that shone a light on a little-known aspect of Big Apple life. The Catskills, a country retreat outside the city, had long offered an escape for harried New Yorkers (especially in the sweltering summer). One getaway was different from the rest. Casa Susanna (Thames and Hudson) by Isabelle Bonnet and Sophie Hackett tells of the pioneering ‘bed and breakfast of the cross-dressing community’ that was a haven in the 1960s when transvestism was against the

law and dangerously transgressive.

Casa Susanna offered rented chalets and was founded by crossdresser Tito Arriagada (whose female alter ego was Susanna) and his understanding wife Maria. The place became a sanctuary for a select band of middle-class men who, ‘dressed’, could have cocktails, conversation and card games with likeminded souls without fear of blackmail or having their reputations destroyed.

It’s well known that Alfred Hitchcock meticulously planned his movies well in advance of a single frame being shot. Part of this involved production drawings and elaborately worked out storyboards that showed camera angles, set design and lighting.

By the time he got to the set and the cameras were about to roll he’d almost lost interest. ‘Such was Hitchcock’s reliance on storyboards he often said he rarely looked through the camera,’ writes Tony Lee Moral in the largeformat Alfred Hitchcock: Storyboards (Titan). There’s no shortage of famous film sequences featured: the scene in North by Northwest with Cary Grant buzzed by a crop-duster plane or Tippi Hedren smoking a cigarette in The Birds as black crows ominously descend on a jungle gym behind her. And there’s the most famous film sequence of all: the shower scene in Psycho.

All were painstakingly preplanned leaving no room for dithering when it came to the shoot. It should come as no surprise that Hitch started his career as an art director on other people’s movies. n

Ê X: @KenWilson86

22 | | Issue 158
The Liverbirds by Mary £20)
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Postcard from

Icouldn’t decide whether to accept an invitation, October is a busy time of year in politics, would I ever have a better reason to visit Cuba?

So, I decided to accept the invite from my friend Pablo and his fiancée Consuella to attend their wedding in Casablanca about half an hour’s drive from the capital Santiago.

Taking place in the hospitality area of a vineyard with – despite a temperature of 30 degrees - stunning views of the snow-capped mountains of the Andes. The wedding proved memorable.

I was much in demand for photos as the only foreigner and the only one with a kilt (happily restored to me after my case was lost in the transfer at Sao Paulo airport).

The marriage ceremony included a classical guitarist playing quietly in the background. Followed by local sparkling wine and pinchos in the grounds of the viñas.

The party after the main meal was notable for the heavy consumption, most notably by the bridegroom himself, of pisco, a local brandy-like firewater. By 4am when the taxis arrived to take guests home exhaustion had taken hold.

The next day I had the pleasure of meeting the wider family and sampling homemade food on a trip to Vina del Mar a beautiful port by the sea; waves crashing on glorious sandy beaches, old mansion houses now museums and public galleries, green space amidst high rise projects…

The garden city as it’s sometimes known boasts an amazing coastline, Excellent fish and shellfish are not to be missed, along with the Municipal Theatre and Wulff Castle. Add some of the many festivals and you’ll not be spoiled for things to do!

A couple of days after the wedding my hosts took me to Valparaiso, which had been an important port for ships coming round Cape Horn to the Pacific. However its importance declined after

the opening of the Panama canal in 1914 provided a shorter and safer route.

The city retains many remarkable buildings from the 19th century including the faded glory of the Queen Victoria Hotel. Valparaiso is a UNESCO World Heritage Site but I regret to say that it has a distinctly down at heel look where graffiti is the lingua franca.

The most stunning building in the city is the headquarters of the Chilean Navy where I learned a lot more about Thomas Cochrane from Culross in Fife who from 1818 commanded the navy of the Chileans fighting for their liberation from Spain.

Until his arrival the Spanish had control of the seas and were able to send reinforcements of men and supplies to strengthen their land forces.

Pinochet continued to have a big influence as Commander in Chief of the Chilean Army until 1998

Cochrane’s intervention meant that his ships gained control of the seas and decisively changed the balance of forces on the land. He is better known in Chile than here in Scotland and is still regarded by Chileans as a great hero.

Hero is not a word that can be used about Augusto Pinochet the military dictator of Chile from 1973 till 1990.

Not only did his period in power start with the overthrow of the elected government but his repressive regime ruthlessly extinguished political dissent through killings, torture and censorship and indeed after he ceased to be President in 1990 he continued to have a big influence as Commander in Chief of the Chilean Army until 1998.

It is clear that Chileans are still

24 | | Issue 158

from Chile

Clockwise from main: Maipo Valley Winery ; Queen Victoria Hotel in Valparaiso; Alfredo Jaar’s Public Interventions

Studies on Happiness: 19791981; Thomas Cochrane 10th Earl of Dundonald

working through the full meaning of Pinochet’s effect on their country.

In the National Art Gallery there were two major exhibitions both devoted to the Pinochet years. One of which concentrated on the work of Alfredo Jaar whose Public Interventions Studies on Happiness: 1979-1981 - at a time when most left wing artists had left Chilewas a project that gave ‘the finger’ to the establishment by putting up large posters in cities and beside major roads asking the question Es usted feliz? (Are you happy?).

It asked people to think about their circumstances and was of course a very subtle, perhaps inoffensive, form of protest. The fact that such a mild question could be seen as important 40 years on is a good indication of the scale of the repression under Pinochet.

By coincidence one of my good friends had visited Chile a few weeks before I did. He signed up for a trip to the Maipo Valley for what was described as an opportunity to sample a few glasses of good wine beside a beautiful lake.

It turned out to be more than that.

The area is not only important for its vineyards but also its gold mines and the tour minibus stopped beside a railway engine. The guide explained that the engine was used to transport rock from the mines to the processing plant where the gold was extracted.

However in the Pinochet years the train had a more sinister purpose.

It regularly pulled carriages peopled by Communists and other left wingers which entered a tunnel where troops were waiting to shoot the occupants.

In a private conversation during the tour my friend asked the guide about the Pinochet years and was told one of his close relatives had died in that tunnel.

In my time as Leader of Edinburgh Council I have stressed the importance of Edinburgh continuing to be an international city alert to the issues in the wider world such as Ukraine.

My visit to Chile has only strengthened that view. n

Cammy Day

Ê Info: Cammy Day is Councillor for Forth Ward and Leader of Edinburgh Council

Issue 158 | 25

For Lawrence Lettice, school days were happy ones indeed, while others may see things in a different light

With the added benefit of age and wisdom, you glance over that time in your life with the knowledge that you somehow survived intact, as a variety of youthful memories are revived.

Within the worlds of cinema and literature, the enduring image of a respected and beloved school teacher passing on the wonders of education, and life’s learnings, have gone through many differing incarnations. From the bumbling Alastair Sim, to the politically naïve Jean Brodie, the aged and crusty Mr Chips, even the noble and enriching inspirations evoked by the likes of Sidney Poitier (To Sir with Love) and Robin Williams (Dead Poet’s Society).

The durable image of the school teacher has certainly evolved in many varied and interesting ways.

Of course, some former pupils have experienced horrendous – even nightmarish memories of those who once taught them.

It’s not uncommon to recall what impact a stern, harsh disciplinarian, all too ready with a sharp rebuke and the threat of a stinging leather strap would make.

Not forgetting the equally scary memory of a blackboard eraser (remember them?) flying across the room, aimed squarely in your direction like an Exocet missile, as you duck under the desk for cover! This punishment has been known to cause quaking flashbacks, in the most mature of adults.

Yet, as I look back, I consider myself to have been one of the more fortunate ones, as the memories I possess of my former school teachers, have been invariably good ones.

This fact hit home for me, when I learned of the passing of my former primary school teacher. Even though it has been many years since our paths crossed, I vividly remember her as not only an inspiring and compassionate teacher, but a thoroughly decent woman as well.

When I attended her funeral, I found myself constantly moved by the genuine and gracious impact that she had made upon all who knew her.

As her eulogy gently conveyed to those present, I came away with the thought that her family must have taken enormous comfort in learning just how much she meant to so many.

While also feeling enormous pride in her unique gifts and achievements, that lasted throughout the bulk of her professional life. By all accounts, she led a life well lived.

She first became my teacher around the period from 1967-1970, and when she took over our class, she gained immediate respect, along with a sense of

The happiest days of our lives?

growing admiration from us all.

I remember the pride she took when we all prepared ourselves for the official qualifying dance. Prior to that momentous event, the class went through the rigorous preparatory training sessions, as we attempted to grapple and master the various complex dance routines.

I’m speaking about the Gay Gordons, Strip the Willow and The Dashing White Sergeant, three dances that would easily give a seasoned Marine an exhausting physical workout.

As for the evening itself, all the boys made a sterling effort to look smart, stylish and sophisticated – like a youthfully polished Cary Grant or dapper Sean Connery. While all the girls attempted to channel their inner Julie Christie or Audrey Hepburn. Either way, we all scrubbed up well that night!

It was the measure of our teacher - along with the easy rapport she developed amongst my classmates - that made our time spent with her, one of profound importance. This of course was in those long-gone days before the intrusive interruptions of mobile phones, along with the fraught presence of a corrosive social media.

Though according to some recent alarming reports, a suit of toughened armour wouldn’t go amiss for today’s teachers!

According to some reports, a suit of toughened armour wouldn’t go amiss for today’s teachers

A teacher’s role back then was purely to teach class, usually with a firm but fair hand, keeping order amongst the pupils, whilst remaining that reassuring figurehead. Ready at a moment’s notice to reduce the heat of any potential problems.

Those years appeared to be far simpler and less complicated, in which the teacher wasn’t required to take on the added responsibilities of part-time social worker and psychotherapist.

I guess in these unquiet and fretful times (not forgetting the effect Covid has had over general education) a teacher’s lot is not always an easy one…

When I eventually left the cosy familiarity of primary school, I quickly moved to secondary school where a whole new ball game confronted me.

There, there was more than one teacher to nurture you through a more complex curriculum. As you struggled daily through the growing pains of early adolescence. A heady brew indeed.

Yet, if like myself you found yourself lucky, the right teacher can gently guide you towards becoming a reasonably intelligent and responsible adult, as you carefully faced the future with hesitant confidence.

As I look back, did my generation have it so much better? From where I sit, it appears that way.

Unfortunately. n

26 | | Issue 158
This picture is actually relevant to this article, believe it or not!


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Issue 158 | | 27


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28 | | Issue 158
C H O C I D E !
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Life can sometimes feel wonky…

What we’re looking for is balance – a state in which opposing forces reach equilibrium, so that an object is stable and does not fall over. We seek balance in our lives (work/life balance), balance in our relationships with giving and taking, and balance in our external environment, in that we can live comfortably without turning our planet into an uninhabitable hell.

On an internal level, balance is important for keeping us upright and not falling on the floor. It’s something I work increasingly with in my fitness studio, not just with senior clients, but young ‘uns as well.

Have you ever thought about all the muscles that work to keep you balanced?

If you don’t use it, you lose it, as they say, and as many of us are sitting more, we’re using our balancing muscles less. Our superficial muscles, that is, muscles on the outside (like biceps in your arms), are movement muscles.

However, it’s deep muscles that help your posture and keep you upright. They’re the muscles that you do not see, they work by holding the body in place. You engage superficial muscles with moving, and you work deep postural muscles by holding still.

Think weight training vs yoga. Yoga is actually a series of poses (including plank-type exercises) that focus your mind and your body. Pilates is a combination of yoga (holding poses) and ‘western’ strength (movement type exercises) to work both superficial and deep muscles in your torso/abdominals.

An easy way to work your deep muscles, and therefore your balance, is by standing on an inherently unstable surface – a balance board, Bosu ball or stability disc. If you’re walking, walk off-

road for extra core engagement.

Think about how young children naturally scamper along walls, logs and play equipment. They haven’t learned to fear falling - that’s something that comes with age and experience. The more you fear falling over, the more likely it is to happen. We freeze and forget all the intuitive knowledge we keep inside us. Yes, we all have the ability to balance.

Humans are smart, we like to do what we’re good at. If you’re bendy, you’ll probably love stretching and do it regularly. Self-confessed runners run. But the body needs a combination of different types of exertion to be fit and healthy, including the stuff that might not come naturally to you.

The three components of fitness are: aerobic pulse-raising exercise, strength and flexibility. We all need to do these things regularly to train our muscles, heart (cardiac muscle) and grey matter.

It’s why 19 years into running a fitness business no day is ever the same. That’s because everybody is different. According to Albert Einstein ‘life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving’. And, I would add, avoid potholes.

Being a smart species means that humans sit down whenever we can. We like to conserve energy, in the old days it was so we had fresh legs for running away from lions. Not so much of an issue nowadays!

According to Albert Einstein ‘life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving’

In addition, we love to eat, so sitting and eating (sometimes even having food delivered to us, so we don’t need to forage for it) means we develop a calorific imbalance. That is, we eat too many calories and become sedentary. We get sore knees and joints because we’re carrying more heft. And the more difficult it becomes to move, the less we move.

So, finding a balance between indulging and exerting oneself is important for overall health and happiness. We might think scoffing a pack of chocolate digestive biscuits will make us happy, but in the end we’re sad, because the biscuits are all gone and we want more. So how to find a balance?

The trick is not just to eat less and move more (although that generally helps), but to be canny with knowing your weaknesses and shortcuts. Knowing that your brain is trying to save energy and store calories (again, for running away from a lion) is an insightful start to shedding hibernatory winter layers and get ready for spring.

Cheap attractively packaged convenience food can also undermine good intentions – it is designed and engineered to be irresistible so you eat, and buy, more.

Running a business on Leith Walk is also a good exercise in balance. Instead of focusing on what’s going on in the outside world, one needs to focus on what’s going on in the studio to keep everything thriving. But staying stable whilst the world outside is chaos is another story, for another day.

I remain your writer without portfolio, but also a personal trainer with a mission. n

Ê X: @tracygriffen

Issue 158 | 29
TracyGriffen Writer without portfolio
30 | Issue 158 CrosswordNo.133 answers: crossword 132 Supplied by: across 1 Confetti 5 Oodles 10 National Theatre 11 Apprise 12 Earthen 13 Splendid 15 Nests 18 Throw 20 Pedagogy 23 Equator 25 Stretch 26 South Sea Islands 27 Solids 28 Coral sea down 1 Conway 2 Notepaper 3 Emotive 4 Trade 6 Overrun 7 Latch 8 Sternest 9 Attended 14 Departed 16 Sightings 17 Stresses 19 Watched 21 Gorilla 22 The sea 24 Usual 25 Sligo winner crossword 132 Sharon Ramponi Send your entries to across 1 Fish into A/CD/C perhaps (4,4) 5 Piece in South Africa and Greece perhaps (6) 10 11 12 13 15 18 20 23 25 26 27 28 down 1 2 3 4 6 7 8 9 14 16 17 19 21 22 Her wit to squirm, to squirm in pain (6) 24 Way Oriental filmed the news in yesteryear (5) 25 Cinematographer first, Director David polished (5) DELI • CATERING • DELIVERY Sit in @ 29 Haddington Place, Leith Walk Click & Collect @ Mon-Fri 8am–3pm Saturday 9am–4pm MONDAY-FRIDAY 8AM–4PM SATURDAY 9AM–4PM SUNDAY10AM–3PM DELI • CATERING • DELIVERY Sit in @ 29 Haddington Place, Leith Walk
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Member of the Scottish Parliament for Edinburgh Northern and Leith Constituency

“I am here to help and serve all constituents in Edinburgh Northern & Leith. If you need assistance, or if you would like to discuss any issues or ideas, please contact me or come and see me at one of my monthly Drop-in Help & Advice Surgeries.“

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Telephone: 0131 600 0134



Issue 158 | | 31
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