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Archive for June, 2013

Publication!!

A bit of naked self promotion here – and a desire to share some good news.

I’m happy to announce that I’ve just agreed a contract with the lovely people at Ringwood Publishing for my first novel, Calling Cards. It will be appearing in the shops, on Amazon and in e-book form, hopefully in November 2013, just in time for your Christmas shopping.

It seems appropriate that a psychological thriller set in Glasgow will be published by a local company. Ringwood have published several novels by new Scottish authors and I am very happy to be joining their number.

So … novel one will be coming out soon. Novel two is in final draft form and I’ll be doing a bit of polishing of that once the editing process for Calling Cards is completed. And I guess I had better crack on and get number three in the series finished too.

Writing is a fairly solitary craft. Much of the time it is just the author, his or her imagination and that blank page. OK, these days it may be Microsoft Word and a laptop rather than a piece of paper in a battered old typewriter, but the process and the inevitable times of frustration that go along with it are very much the same.

There is a real sense of achievement when you complete a novel. When you have that fat text file with 100,000 or so carefully crafted words, securely backed up in several different places of course. But there is also a lingering question – how many people will ever read the fruits of several months’ labours?

The fight for publication is not an easy one. Even the JK Rowlings of this world accumulated files full of rejection letters before receiving a publishing contract. And like most industries these days there is far less money in publishing than there used to be, making it even more difficult for new authors to get to the market.

Over the summer I will be working with an editor to finalise the text, a designer to produce a cover and dealing with production, proofing and aspects of the book industry that I know nothing about.

I will be looking at a new web site to promote my work and learning how to market a book. And of course, in time, badgering everyone to buy copies of Calling Cards.

It’s going to be an exciting journey.

 

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Bruce Springsteen and his E Street Band played a quite amazing show at Hampden Park on Thursday. It’s difficult to describe the intensity and the sheer raw emotion of the show, which took place on the second anniversary of the death of Springsteen’s musical foil and long time friend Clarence Clemons. But I’m going to try.

The numbers alone give some idea of the scale of the event. Thirty songs were played during a show that lasted three and a half hours.

Read that again. Three and a half hours. Thirty songs.

After song 29 most of the crowd were exhausted, let alone the 17 strong ensemble that backs Springsteen on this tour. And the man himself? “I’m having a heart attack”, he complained. “I’m sixty fuckin three you know.” But he recovered and played on …

The night started with 45,000 people packed into Hampden Park enjoying the rare Scottish sun on a lovely Glasgow evening. The band appeared just before half past seven and burst straight into We Take Care Of Our Own from latest album, Wrecking Ball, and an older favourite The Ties That Bind. It was high energy and high tempo rock music from the off. Springsteen was soon prowling along the gangways built at the front of the stage collecting audience signs requesting songs, pulling several back to the stage with him.

And the night’s first surprise came at song three, with the rare Jole Blon. It was one of those moments that splits a Springsteen crowd: many not knowing the track while the fanatics were going crazy. It’s Hard To Be A Saint In The City from Springsteen’s debut album and Radio Nowhere followed, also requests. Things then settled down a little with No Surrender, Wrecking Ball and Death To My Hometown all delivered perfectly.

After such an eclectic opening to a show the practice recently has been for a complete album to be played. But not this time, which pleased me as I much prefer spontaneity, especially with an artist who plays very different shows every night.

My City Of Ruins was originally written about Asbury Park, New Jersey, but it has come to have a wider significance as song of remembrance. The extended version here saw Springsteen go through the band intros before asking, “Are we missing anyone?” We all knew the answer.

Bruce repeatedly began to sing a famous line: “we made that change uptown,” but left it unfinished. Then he stood with his head bowed. A moment of silence was called for as he pointed to the vacant spot stage-right that was occupied by Clarence Clemons for so many years. Poignant doesn’t come close; many of us in the front pit had tears in our eyes. And I saw both Nils Lofgren and Steve Van Zandt wiping their eyes too. The song restarted and a video montage featuring both Clemons and organist Danny Federici, who died five years ago, played on the screens.

It was back to the oldies next with both Spirit In The Night and The E Street Shuffle given the extended treatment. There was a loose feel to these jazz influenced songs, with Roy Brittan on piano quite outstanding. Bruce looked to be having a ball, and more requests followed. I’m On Fire was followed by a slow, beautiful rendition of Tougher Than The Rest, played for a young woman whose father who had died recently. And Bruce returned the sign to her afterwards, a lovely touch.

The music kept coming, the band kept playing and the crowd was in great voice too, joining in with every song. A murder themed three pack of Atlantic City, Murder Incorporated and Johnny 99 was an intense period. Darlington County was a party, The Rising a song of defiance and Badlands an anthemic classic that had fists pumping all over the stadium. The soulful Land Of Hope And Dreams was the 23rd song, closing the main set.

The immediate encore followed the pattern of recent shows with the addition of the wonderful Rosalita (Come Out Tonight) to staples Born To Run and Dancing In The Dark. Bruce had earlier promised a women from the crowd a dance, and he didn’t forget. Another woman had a sign asking to dance with Jake Clemons, Clarence’s nephew who was on fine form with the sax all night. She came up on stage and looked to be having a great time – even before being given a guitar to play along with the end of the song. What a memory to have.

Tenth Avenue Freeze Out provided another Clarence moment. The biggest cheer of the night came as the line familiar to all fans was this time completed: “We made that change uptown  … and the Big Man joined the band.” It was a fitting celebration of the life of a musical legend.

Was this the end? No, the band started up once more with a glorious Twist And Shout, followed by an equally joyous Shout, a song best known locally for the Lulu cover. With more false endings that I’ve ever seen, it appeared that the show was never going to end – not that anyone wanted it to. But finally the band left the stage. And then Springsteen himself reappeared to end the night with “a rock n roll lullaby”, a tender acoustic performance of Thunder Road. He left the stage for the last time clad in a tartan scarf thrown to him earlier with applause echoing around the still full stadium.

What an amazing night. Three and a half hours of music from the best damned rock and roll band on the planet, led by a man who takes stagecraft to new levels. He played the crowd, running back and forth, often leading others from the band along. He directed every moment, controlling the massive supporting cast throughout the show. And his voice was strong and true on every single track – he added some meaty guitar solos too, reminding us of just what a good player he is. It was a simply incredible performance from a man in his seventh decade.

After arriving at the venue at 6:30am I was lucky enough to secure a place very near to the front, with only one person between me and the barrier at the front, so I had a perfect view. It is an incredible experience to see a show like this from so close, to witness the effort and energy that is put into the performance. To see every expression on the band’s faces as they marvel at The Boss.

Quite simply, no one does it better.

 

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I read an interesting article in the Herald newspaper at the weekend. It told of a new Scottish football club that was formed after an old one was liquidated. It told how locals had rallied together to build something to replace what they had lost. And it told of this new club’s success.

But most remarkable about this article was what was missing. There was no talk of Oldco or Newco. No mention of buying history or glorying in what the former club had won before it died. No claims of any unbroken lines or dignified pasts.

And that will tell you that the new club discussed here was not The Rangers but rather Gretna 2008.

The original Gretna FC was formed in 1946. After playing at non league level on both sides of the border it was voted into the Scottish Football League in 2002 and made its way through the structure to the Scottish Premier League. Gretna almost won the Scottish Cup and played European football. But the fairy story had no happy ending: administration, relegation and liquidation were to follow.

Fans of the club, however, decided to start out all over again, and on 2 July 2008 the Gretna Supporters’ Society, a supporters’ trust, founded Gretna 2008. The club joined the East Of Scotland League and has now made its way to the top division.

And the new club’s ambitions don’t stop there – the hope is that Gretna 2008 will find its way into the recently formed Scottish Professional Football League sometime soon. The club is currently seeking a licence to play in the Lowland League, one of the innovations introduced by the recent league reconstruction.

“We are run on simple lines. We never live beyond our means, we pay for our upkeep. No loans, no overdraft just a hard look at finances and we only spend what we generate ourselves,” said Craig Williamson, chairman of the Gretna Supporters’ Society.

There is a lesson in there for other failed football clubs. Look forward rather than back. Accept that liquidation is an end point and move on with a fresh start. Take the opportunity that a new beginning can offer to build from the bottom.

And in a example for all of Scottish football the Gretna 2008 story also shows that financial stability and prudent spending are key prerequisites to success.

Good luck to the new club as they fight their way upwards. Hard work and determination is far more appealing than the sense of entitlement that another new Scottish football club constantly displays.

 

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The Nine In A Row CQN Open was held at the beautiful Aberdour Golf Club in Fife  – and it was another great occasion. Here is a quick summary of the day, with links to all of my photographs at the bottom.

 

What’s in those brown envelopes? EBTs of course (That’s Exceptionally Big Tees)

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Some sustenance before taking on the course.

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The Token Tim doesn’t look too happy – but his tee shot won nearest to the pin on the first

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A wee message at the eleventh tee

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The weather picked up as the day went on

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This chip is looking good

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Will it drop??

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Willie Wallace after pitting in from off the green

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Just look at those trews!

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Plenty of books were signed by our Lisbon Lion

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Working out the final scores

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What do you call golfers who claim a higher handicap? Bandits!

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The new champion gets help to lift the trophy

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Paul67 in full flow

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The guest of honour has everyone enthralled

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Thanks to the Organising Committee for all their hard work, and to everyone who attended, making this be best day of the CQN year. All of the photos can be found at these links:

Day:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/gordon_j/sets/72157634156430514/

Night:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/gordon_j/sets/72157634156451382/

 

 

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How could the Organising Committee possibly top the previous eight CQN Golf Open Days at Aberdour? No easy task given how good they have been – but somehow they managed to outdo themselves. It was another great afternoon on the golf course and a thoroughly entertaining evening in the club house. And in guest of honour Willie Wallace we had a true Celtic legend amongst us.

The day started with a few clouds over the lovely course on the Fife coast. But the weather was to co-operate and there would be no rain as over fifty players made their way around the course – with varying degrees of success it has to be said.

On registering everyone was presented with a brown envelope marked EBT. Well, this was the first anniversary of the liquidation of a certain former football club. Inside was a small piece of paper that explained it all: “Enclosed are your Exceptionally Big Tees. These are being loaned to you. Indefinitely.” Superb!

The first group went out just after 10pm and for the next few hours more and more players arrived. It was great to meet up with friends old and new and to chat football and golf. And to watch the tee shots on the first, as the golfers tried to find the small green, despite the steady wind.

Having connections in Carling and Eden Brewery proved to be useful and one of my tasks was to ferry several cases of beer to the eleventh tee. Those golf buggies come in very handy for more than clubs. And after ten holes there were a fair few who seemed in need of a drink before they tackled the remaining holes.

Late afternoon saw Blantyre Kev hunched over a spreadsheet in the Members’ Lounge with the scorecards. He explained to me how the scores and the handicap system worked, but for a non golfer the Stableford Scoring System is up there with the Duckworth Lewis Method. Just let someone else do the sums and take their word for it.

After a few drinks it was into the restaurant for the night’s festivities. Over 70 CQNers were present and the chat was as interesting as ever. Taggsybhoy was MC for the night and kept things moving nicely. There is a serious side to the day – many thousands have been raised for charities, local and national over the years, and this year’s beneficiaries include CLIC Sargent who support children with cancer and their families. A local lad called Patrick gave a fine, and very moving, speech about the work the charity had done when a friend of his was diagnosed with terminal cancer at the age of 19.

The rest of the evening followed the usual format. Johnnybhoy revealed the scores, his description of some of those who had claimed dubious handicaps as “bandits” backed up by a fetching sombrero and moustache combo. Paul67 spoke next, praising all involved in the organisation and the money raised for charity.

The highlight of the night was a Q&A session with Brogan, Rogan, Hogan and Trevino acting as straight man to Lisbon Lion Willie Wallace, who was witty and insightful in equal measures. He talked about the great players he had played with, his role in the Lisbon triumph and the genius of the manager, Mr Stein. Even forty plus years on, it is still Mr Stein, a measure of the respect that he generated,

A rapt audience listened to Willie as he spoke, loving the opportunity to hear about the greatest achievement in Scottish sport from a man who was at the very heart of it. The disdain that the Inter players had for Celtic, the tactics that Mr Stein had devised and the feelings of triumph were all fresh in his memory. It was a performance to remember.

All too soon the night was over – although I have a feeling there were a few hours drinking left for those staying in Aberdour.

My thanks to everyone who helped to make this such a special day. The staff and everyone involved with the Golf Club always make us so welcome to their home, which adds so much to the day. And the Committee put in so much hard work to make it all happen.

So the ninth CQN Open is now over. Ten in a row next year anyone?

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