Wednesday, December 17, 2008


When you get to my age it's nice to know life can still hold the occasional pleasant surprise.

Last Saturday was one such event. K had decided to give me an early birthday treat of an overnight stay on the east coast - minus kids - to take in a Biffy Clyro gig.

The Biff are one of those local bands who've been around for a while now, and who I've been vaguely aware of, but knew little about.

Recently they seem to be on a real upwards trajectory on the back of some songs I've caught on the radio and really liked. A proper old fashioned slow burner of a band who've served their time and seem to be reaping the rewards.

Rewards such as a sell out pre-Christmas tour, culminating in a gig at Glasgow's biggest arena - the SECC. The SECC has the scale for the biggest bands, but it's a soulless tin box and not on my list of favourite venues.

K however had been thinking creatively and landed two tickets for their warm up 'pre-tour' gig at the Alhambra Theatre in Dunfermline.

We very rarely do live gigs these days but the thought of a hot band at an unknown, but presumably intimate, venue was sufficiently intriguing an option to have us both eagerly anticipating the night.

First pleasant surprise was the venue. The Alhambra is an old 1920s theatre that has obviously seen a fair bit of money recently.

All the seats had been stripped out, so it was standing room only, including, it seemed on the balcony above the stalls where we located ourselves. I doubt there was a bad spot in the entire house to watch the gig from.

The combination of historic setting, modern facilities, and a generously sized bar with minimal queueing was a good start to the evening. I mused that it must be quite similar to how the long departed Glasgow Apollo would have appeared in it's heyday.

We easily found space near the sound desk and awaited the arrival of the band.

First impression. FUCK ME. Possibly the loudest band I've ever heard. Simple but effective lighting effects, almost zero pause between songs, and a forty five minute blitzkrieg of raw power almost blew me away.

I feared my ears may bleed, but I was loving it - despite a few crackles and bangs from the PA as the sound guys fought to harness the on-stage energy.

Just as I was beginning to think this is amazing but a little light to balance the shade wouldn't go amiss, the band paused for breath - and produced a gorgeous short acoustic set that took my breath away.

There's something distinctly incongruous about watching a sweaty, hairy singer and a drummer who looks like he repairs tanks for a living, singing beautiful harmonious tunes, but it works.

Then the noise returned and the rest of the concert was just a sea of adrenalin culminating in one of the best stage dives I've seen live. Proper rock'n'roll to finish the night off.

The whole night just blew me away. Even if my ears were still ringing 48 hours later.

It's a long time since a gig has left me feeling so alive, and it's made me regret not going to more in the last few years. The counterpoint to that argument being, of course, that most gigs probably aren't so good.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Shannon Matthews Revisited

When Shannon Matthews was rescued by the police, I had a right go at her mother, Karen Matthews.

Unwittingly I was surprisingly close to the truth when I joked about Karen fancying her chances as an entrepreneur.

It now transpires she was part of a kidnap plot to claim the reward money.

Even more shockingly the police have proved she was feeding Shannon - and probably the rest of her brood - a cocktail of prescription drugs for at least 20 months.

Temazepam, amitriptyline, tramadol and dihydrocodeine - with the dosages peaking during school holiday period.

In my earlier post I wrote, 'How she managed to get time for a social life once she'd got to four or five kids, while still in her twenties, is a puzzle to me.'

Well, I'll puzzle no more. But I won't be taking any of her parenting tips to heart.

It's quite clear the kids were viewed as an inconvenience. A nuisance. But they were a very reliable revenue stream. Worth keeping around!

Karen was making £400 a week in benefits. That's £20,800 a year.

Or, to put it another way, the after tax earnings of someone on around £28,000 per year - and that's before taking into account the various discounts or freebies benefit claimants can qualify for.

What a farce of a system. What a horrible woman.

This has been a particularly harrowing period for child related stories. I'd like to think the powers-that-be will be energised by these events and do something positive, but I'm not holding my breath.