Contains how not to influence TV stations, a night with naked Greta Garbo, how to make Munrobagging less rubbish, Olympic teenypants
A version of this appeared in the Scottish Daily Mail August 23 2016
What are the most exciting words in the world: “Let’s buy chips”, “Let me wash up” or “It’s an open bar”?
Way far down on the list has to be: “you promised we’d go hillwalking”. I don’t even remember agreeing to this but at some point between the men’s triathalon and the marathon I conceded that there had been enough days spent watching other people exercise in the Olympics, and it was time to march up a hill for a day.
Even in August, Scotland basic hiking kit includes boots, trousers, tshirt, a jumper, an overcoat, pacamac, change of socks, sunscreen, and a torch; because whatever the weather is when you start out, will have been turned on its head on a hill.
In 1577 a man called Thomas Hill wrote a manual with tips on how you could change the weather. Unsurprisingly, it was hugely popular. Even less surprisingly, it was also highly improbable. Hill recommends firing a gun to disperse thunderstorms, while the black-brown pelt of a seal is supposed to keep clouds at bay. If bothered by wind, the area could be calmed by sowing lentils — the linking idea being that lentils are famously windy.
Given that most Scots struggle to access either pistols or seals, most of us have to resign ourselves that hillwalking is probably going to involve drenching rain, while getting closer to nature and further from flush toilets.
The closer to nature thing is flagged up as a big plus with hiking. Not just cows and sheep but herds of deer, otters recreating Ring of Fire, or trout practically offering themselves as a barbecue lunch. I have been on hillwalks with people forever pointing out interesting birds or fish while I see nothing. These people are like that creepy little boy in the movie ‘’The Sixth Sense’’, except with a supernatural ability to see golden eagles.
The only exception to wildlifelessness was a bushwalk I did in Queensland Australia with a very outdoorsy man who made me eat ants at 7.30am because he thought they had an interesting lemony taste. Because I didn’t want to be feeble, I not only ate my ants, but mimed disappointment when a termite hill full of potentially good eating turned out to be derelict, and agreed to walk the riverside to source something “a bit like sauerkraut”.
“Careful,” said my bushman. You should always stay ten metres away from the river edge, in case there are crocodiles”
“You mean there are (bad word) crocodiles here?” I asked.
Apparently so. “And it’s appropriate that you should use that bad word, because this is their mating season.”
When it comes to tackling door pursuits, perhaps you too stand out like a dog in a sandwich? In which case I recommend Grandfather Mountain in North Carolina. You take the exit off the main road , follow signs for Grandfather Mountain, drive a few miles to the hillwalkers carpark, and realise you are now three feet away from the summit.
If that wasn’t cheering enough for my kind of hiking, perched on the mountain’s peak is a zoo so you can boast to folk back home about seeing black bears, otters and even a puma on your hillwalk. And if you are especially keen on foraging, you can walk across to the peak shop that sells ice cream and twenty kinds of fudge. Scottish Government take note: a tuck shop on Tom a Choinich might be the way to draw us out of our urban lairs
In the last few days we’ve learnt a lot about SNP MP John Nicolson, one-time journalist and an enthusiastic amateur renovator and decorator. This weekend he penned a column calling for balanced, impartial reporting. Alas, he seemed unaware he was writing this for the SNP’s fervent fanzine, The National. Now he has admitted complaining to STV bosses about a journalist he doesn’t like, whilst holding an influential broadcast position on the Culture, Media and Sport committee. Time for Nicolson to draw on that decorating experience, and reupholster his reputation.
It’s fair enough to challenge or correct a journalist; some months ago, I tweeted STV digital comment editor Stephen Daisley about the absence of women from his online platform. To his credit, he then added the likes of the excellent Hannah McGill and Melanie Reid.
However Pete Wishart and John Nicolson are not mere members of the public. As MPs serving on Scottish affairs and Sport, Culture and Media parliamentary committees, they hold pertinent positions of power.
I don’t believe that every SNP politician would behave in this manner; MPs and MSPs may even regard this as twerpish behaviour, but the party’s group loyalty may prevent them from saying so. I know: “may” is doing a lot of heavy lifting in that last sentence, but it’s noticeable that there have been no backslaps and bravos for Wishart and Nicolson from their political colleagues - and that’s heartening.
The Olympics are over, but any leftover gold medals should go to the BBC’s diving commentary team. On Saturday, one splashy dive resulted in a sudden display of lower décolletage to viewers
“That tells us two things,” whispered the Rio expert.
“One — he over-rotated before entry. And two — he didn’t do up his trunks’ drawstring enough”
It’s also curious that shapeless white pyjamas featured so often as costumes so often in Rio 2016 opening and closing ceremonies; or perhaps they were inspired by the attire of Scottish audiences for much of the BBC’s Olympic coverage
If you were thinking of giving the Edinburgh Festivals a whirl, this weekend may be the very worst time to go: it’s bank holiday, the TV festival is in town, the place is packed and it’s week 3, so even the performers are tired and fed up.
It’s hard not to mourn the days when the Edinburgh Fringe was a looser, more pioneering and frankly cheaper event. Nowadays, a day out festivaing can cost a family close to £100; which rather stifles the idea of taking an adventurous punt on something unfamiliar, performed in a room small enough to keep hostages.
One of my first festival shows was an attic venue hosting the premiere of an exciting new play about Greta Garbo. That was all I knew when we arrived, and were bundled though the door because we were late. This was confirmed when we discovered we were standing onstage, with an irritable movie star in a turban gesturing impatiently at us to shift out of the spotlight.
We slunk to our seats, where the drip-drip of new information about the production continued.
Within a few minutes, we registered that our play was in Portuguese, without subtitles. None of us spoke Portuguese. And during a surprisingly meticulous love scene in Act 2, I found out that the performer playing Greta was fearless about stage nudity, and very relaxed about proximity to audiences. And also, a man.
Lady Gaga is to make her big screen debut in the latest remake of A Star Is Born, playing the unknown singer who marries an alcoholic star.
When her career soars, his hits the skids.Gaga follows in the footsteps of Janet Gaynor, Judy Garland and Barbra Streisand, and while I have a very soft spot for the Judy Garland version from 1954, it was the Streisand version that garnered the most famous reviews — “A clear case for the Monopolies Commission” and “A bore is starred”.
Now Gaga has a chance to stamp her own personality on the role as a young performer trying to make it with only her passion, talent for turning every uptempo song into a Eurovision stompalong, and a dress made of meat.
Life-sized naked statues of Donald Trump are appearing all over America, and they are not very flattering. Apparently, he has very small hands