Monday, August 08, 2011

Truly incredible: By folding bike and inflatable raft from Sumburgh Head to Muckle Flugga

Kudos to these guys. This was almost unthinkably hard and very, very dangerous. They were lucky with the weather.
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Inverness and the Belladrum Festival, before the deluge

Two days working in Inverness, staying at the eccentrically excellent Anderson in Fortrose, and reacquainting myself with Dolphinsludge, Queen of the Highland Fleshpots.

The quilted shooting jacket, with its bandolier of shotgun cartridges, is for age eight or thereabouts. Hidden corners of Inverness still display aspects of the landed gentryism lurking around the Highlands.

But there are so many glorious aspects to the place...not just the river, the Ness islands, the bouncy bridges, but the substantial and robust cultural scene. The Eden Court complex was absolutely buzzing when we arrived to see the Canadian film Incendies - movies, the imminent book festival, the presence of the Netherlands Youth Orchestra. I met old friend John McNaught, who proudly pointed me in the direction of the revived Highland Print Studio. And then there is Charles Leakey's bookshop.

I love it best in winter, when the massive woodburning stove is throbbing and crackling with heat. But to point my camera at corner of the huge 'Scottish' section and know that I could comfortably and happily buy the whole's a kind of happiness. I didn't, though.

On to Belladrum, where I was working at the Co-op Verb Garden, the spoken word tent, interviewing the likes of Sharleen Spiteri, Fyfe Dangerfield, Frank Turner and Kassidy, appearing on panels about the press and music, and performing (with Jon Beach) The Malt and Barley Revue (great local whisky tasting from Jon) and the new religion show My Bad Gospel.

Highlights for me elsewhere were Woodenbox And A Fistful of Fivers - stunning live - Admiral Fallow, Teddy Thompson, the superb local food (especially the venison burger and the puddings) the new healing Fields setting in the old walled garden and the presence of Tchai Ovna for tea, and the Piano Ranch, complete with mossy VW.

We stayed at the legendary Caley in beautiful Beauly (next time, a length of tweed for a suit, if I can afford it). A wise move, given the deluge that descended on Saturday night. Then it was a flood-ridden route to Aberdeen.

Congratulations to Joe and team again for Bella and to Stephen, Jim, Chris (sound/light) and everyone else. Thanks to everyone who said hallo. And thanks too to the Campbells at the Caley and to Jon Beach of Fiddlers for the whisky (which I never got to drink). Next time.