Back in the Saddle




The last few days have been pretty interesting, I guess, & have seen me compose the first two tryptychs of this last little flurry of Axis & Allies composition. I last left the blog in Edinburgh, just before a vital chess match, of which Chris Donkin – the Wandering Dragon archivist – had to say;

Falconers Flyers ‘polish’ off a wunch of bankers to avoid relegation

The C team played their final match of the season away at the Ukranian Club last Tuesday against Bank of Scotland B. They needed to win to avoid relagation. Now dear reader, I will level with you. I have been back in Scotland 7 and a half years now and have played in every division against every club. I have developed great admiration and affection for many of our fellow clubs. Musselburgh are good guys, the Civil Service are great (and generous) the Edinburgh Chess Club have always supported us when we have needed a venue and they are all good guys. Dunbar, Badgers Brook and Sandy Bells are great fun. In fact I like most of our fellow clubs …. but I have never really taken to Bank of Scotland. On Tuesday they took on our C team in a crucial division two match. With all games in play our board 2’s (Damo Bullen) phone was heard to be vibrating. It was on silent but the vibrations could be heard. Of course everyone knows the rule – all mobile phones must be turned off. Damo also knows this rule – but most of us know Damo !


The thing is you only default the game if your opponent claims it. I am led to believe that the game (level at the time and an interesting position) was claimed with some glee. I really can’t understand this – no matter how important the fixture. Why would you want to claim a game in such circumstances ? …. but hey ho (rant over). Damo was defaulted and the Bankers moved into a 1-0 lead. Fortunately this is not a sour grapes story because Bill Falconer’s men then went on to win with some style. The Polish contingent (Konarski, Walkowiak and Straczynski) scored 2.5 / 3 with only Adam Walkowiak dropping a half point. Captain Bill led from the front with a fine win and Tony Akers rounded off the night with a draw. Final score Bankers 2 Good Guys 4. The last word is that the C team are now safe and will play in division two again next season.


I responded by Email (today actually) with;

Great that the C team still won! Well done lads!

In my defence, I was keeping an eye on the Blackburn-Middlesbrough game – I’m a Burnley fan & it was one of the rare occasions I wanted Ba$tard Rovers to win – they did, keeping the Clarets at the top of the Championship, a position we lost last Friday when Middlesbrough used a game-in-hand to overtake us. Luckily, we did the first seasonal double over aforesaid Ba$tards last Saturday in 35 years
PS – if you are in a similar situation as I, turn phone to silent AND vibrate off – they’ll never know


On Wednesday I had a great run through of Alibi with my new team – its been 9 years since I last did it, but I reckon its good for another outing. There’s Haylee Goldthorpe as Lily, Harry John as Nelson, Victor Pope as the cool pool General, Jimmy the Beggar is now Brenda the Busker, played by Clare Brierley. The idea is we’re gonna perform it live, & after a wee tweak of the script – chucking social media in & localising it to Edinburgh – its looking good for the Summer.


On the Thursday, I Mumbled the Edinburgh University Shakespeare Society’s production of King Lear at the Pleasance Theatre, a rather well-written review, I think, which I shall reproduce here;


Script: 5  Stagecraft: three-stars Performance: four-stars

4A0A5589.jpgNext month sees the 400th anniversary of the Bard’s ending-day. Perhaps he knew his fame would outlive him – but probably not how far the scope & expanse of his genius would penetrate. It is a staple of all the worlds’ studies; his language, human expositions & dramatic dialogue should stand forever as both a teacher & a delight to us all. In this commemorative year, then, the Edinburgh University Shakespeare Company has tackled King Lear, a murderous tragedy that wades in blood & guts only second behind the visceral early-crowd pleaser, Titus Andronicus. Touching on themes of family division & the onset of age with its wafting senilty, King Lear is a true classic, whose darkling & depressive mood plunges a sword-point into dankest depths of all our psyches.

4A0A5461In the hands of the EUSC we are presented with a set straight out of Superman II (1980), with the ladies bedecked in evening wear; including rather pointy stilettos. At their heart is Will Fairhead’s grey-haired King Lear, who commands the stage with an increasing cantankerous acerbation. His touching descent into madness wins over one’s suspension of disbelief completely, especially when accompanied by a reddening face after a particularly loud outburst. Of Lear’s daughters, I found Agnes Kenig’s Regan very fluent, very believable, but the Mumble’s main praise must be bestowed upon Olivier Huband. He played Edmund to perfection, his stately soliloquies doing Shakespeare proud, while you actually could feel the electricity as he flirted with Goneril & Regan.

Olivier Huband’s Edmund


So did it work? I would say yes, it did. The cast comblended well together to deliver so complex a psychological montage, & did so bristling with energy. I wasn’t so sure about the accompanying sound-effects; a Dantean soundscape with a deep pulse that got louder as we descended into the mental hells of our protagonists. Perhaps it was meant to get us all nervous, but I just found it a bit annoying. Action-wise, while there was a seamless transition between scenes, the dialogue was at times a little rushed, especially in the mouth of Pedro Leandro’s fool. Saying that, the laddie was engaging all the same, a tantalisingly brilliant breath of fresh air in such gloomy play, composed as it was just after the demise of a more frivolous Elizabethan Age (1606). There really were some great moments of well-played theatre – the death scenes in particular were charged with high drama – while the soul-tortured monologues definitely demanded our attention. I did think at times the production was a little too shouty – Shakespeare’s words are essentially wooden, & it is up to the individual actors & actresses to bring them to life – but perhaps not quite so vividly… a cheeky subtlety here, an un-noticed nuancity there, plus a tension-pricked pause from time to time & this play could have been even better.

Reviewer : Damo Bullen






On Saturday me & the lass & the two girls drove on a deliciously crisp day through Fife. Dropping me off in Fife, they continued on to Newport-on-Tay where they had pals, while I covered the Stanza poetry festival. I saw a few things, including the fantastic Jemima Foxtrot & a talk on the Tao te Ching – something I’ve recently picked up in connection to my work with the Kural.  What was weird was me spending the majority of the afternoon with one eye on my phone & the Burnley result. They were playing Ba$tard Rovers & beat our arch-rivals at Turf Moor for the first time in 35 years or so.


IMG_20160305_172755135Emily picked me up from Saint Andrews at 3 – Stanza had been cool, but the place was full of university students dressed up as if they were in the Tyrol & running about like mad-heads – not cool. A few miles away lay the delightful firth-side town of Newport-on-Tay, with gorgeous views across the waters of a grey-granite camel-hump’d Dundee. Collecting the girls from her pals place – a delightful old house with an epic garden. We then drove back to Dalmeny, calling in Strathmiglo en route. My object was to find & photograph its Pictish Stone, which I was allowed to do while the girls played in the excellent park. In recent weeks I have been slowly peeping at my work with the British Dark Ages once more —- for me Strathmiglo will be connected to the Gildasian Maglocunos, while I am pretty sure the Isle of Avalon is across the Tay at Inchyra.








Sunday was a fun day, starting with an early drive to Tescoes with the girls (im completely illegal by the way) to get some Mother’s Day pressies for Emily. My chief present to her was preventing them from giving them to her til nearly 11 AM. Later that evening I also had a run-out with Tinky Disco, playing ‘Grandad’s Having a Come-down’  for the first time. We were on first at a jamboree at Henry’s Cellar Bar – a wee New York style joint with a  great atmosphere & sound. There was no-one there, of course, but that was the point – for we’ve a big gig coming up in two weeks time & its nice to get back in the saddle.



Earlier on that day I took myself off into Dalmeny Estate & etched off two stanzas, both of which introduce the De Lanceys into the poem. There was one passage in particular I really liked, for it felt as if I was speaking of mine & Emily’s love. It reads;

No Fairer Love

Could e’er two hearts entwine

The perfect, ‘I am yours,’ the spotless, ‘you are mine.’ 

It was weird being back in the saddle, so to speak. Parnassus, Olympus & 2011 seem a long way off, since which I have composed only one new stanza for A&A – the one dedicating the poem to the American people. That was done in my office in Burnley, but it really felt good to be outside, absorbing the poesis, & pouring it into the mould my choosing, whose mechanics are something quite innate to me.  With there only being a few new stanzas to compose – about 20 – I believe I shall really enjoy this week or so.


Today, then, was Monday, & I have spent it painting Emily’s house fixing doors & stuff in time for the surveyors arrival tomorrow – she is selling up & a return to East Lothian is looming ever swiftly on the horizon. I am currently sat in South Queensferry library, covered in dried white paint & just finishing off a bit of Mumbling.

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