Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Tourists, tatties and King Creosote

I'm sorting out the tattie patch in the back garden, when the gate opens and in strolls an unidentified male, person, tallish, youngish, dark hair.

"Hallo. I'm Michael and I'm in your area...and me and my girlfriend are looking for something to do."

Good grief, he's looking for work. I ponder offering him a spade, but then:

"My girlfriend wants to go horse riding. But I think the nearest place is quite a long way."

Indeed (relieved, just a wandering Easter tourist. But would a tourist walk into a Glasgow back yard and make such an enquiry?). Forty miles, over on the west side if you want to hire a hoss.

"Yes, we phoned, but got no reply. Do you know anyone with a horse?"

Aha, this is someone drawn to Shetland by the infamous 3 advert (Socks the Moonwalking Pony). I do know people who either own or are on nodding terms with horses. But none of them let complete strangers sit on their equine pals. I explain this. Speak to Bruce the blacksmith, though, next door. If anyone knows, he will.

"Oh, Brucie? We've already spoken to Brucie." (Brucie? I try to imagine the look on Distilled-Essence-of-Yorkshire Mr Wilcock's face if anyone called him Brucie). Pause. "You don't have a horse yourself, do you?"
Even longer pause.

"It's just I was told that you had a horse."

We've never had horses. Or a horse. At this moment, Rug the St Bernard ambles over and sits down next to me. I can see Michael regarding this extremely large dog and thinking to himself: But, but...he's sitting next to a horse! There's a dog-shaped Shetland pony right...there!

"What are you doing?"


"What are you doing?"
I'm, err...just preparing a potato patch for planting.
"Potatoes! I'd like to plant potatoes! Are you hoping to be self sufficient?"
No, just hoping to have some tatties we've grown ourselves. Very nice to meet you, I say, advising him to try Bruce the Blacksmith as I'm sure he hasn't actually spoken to him at all.

And lo, he departs.
I continue digging, somewhat puzzled.

***   ***   ***

Later, Marf and myself head Lerwickwards to see the King Creosote gig the Lerwick Deathstar, the Squinty Box, or, as most Shetland dwellers apart from the Rampant Lerwigian And West Side Bourgeoisie call it, That Bloody Mareel.

What to say about Mareel? It's a twin-cinema, music venue, cafe and music education complex which is a good idea in the wrong place at the wrong time. Owned and operated by Shetland Arts Development Agency, it is  a state-of-the-art arts centre. It is, at (around) £14 million of over-budget expenditure, unable to pay its staff without a fiscally opaque deal with the local council, engaged in unseemly wrangles with the main building contractor for the project, and involved in so-far secret deals with the council for £600,000 of funding to stop it closing. Prematurely, as it's only been open seven months. As essential council services are cut - such as the crucial playscehemes for disabled children, Mareel's unrestrained cappuccinistas suck up the publiccash for mair kultur and training in wine appreciation.

It has a brilliant auditorium, excellent educational facilities and a recording studio. But it's not working. The cinemas are being filled, but the vast cost of bringing in current movies is scything any useful profit from that. And to general consternation, the music venue isn't working either. It's suddenly become painfully evident that the demand, in a scattered rural community of 22,000 people, for expensive live music is very limited.

Last night, 165 paying customers  (and the great benefit of the 350-capacity venue's movable seating is that it looked like more) saw Kenny Anderson, King Creosote, play an affable, frequently hilarious and sometimes very moving set, accompanied by his trusty percussionist Captain Geeko the Dead Aviator. AKA Andy Robinson from the late lamented Skuobhie Dhu Orchestra.

Kenny had broken his ankle, which made for much banter, including an odd and very uncomfortable monologue which included a story about his brother fathering a child during an SDO gig in Brae. It may have been nonsense, but it had the ring of truth. Ill-advised if so and painful as that snapped ankle must have been. 'Doubles Underneath' was spoilt slightly by a truly crap capo - get a new one, for goodness' sake - but all told it was a hugely entertaining night. Kenny's twisted, strangely opaque and yet detailed lyrics, coupled with his extraordinarily sweet and flexible voice, make him a unique national treasure.

Would have been just as good in the Town Hall, though.  Or possibly a large tent in Brae...

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