Saturday, 27 September 2008
Friday, 26 September 2008
Colin, your latest radio work is a five-parter, The Whole of the Moon. What is it about?
It's a story about secrets, set in Edinburgh's legal world. It's about an up-and-coming prosecutor, Jo Ross, who finds herself investigating the secret history of her own family, and in particular the deeds of her father, a veteran police officer. I was allowed unlimited access behind-the-scenes in the Scottish courts while doing research for the story.
The title comes from The Waterboys' song of the same name:
You held in your hands
I had flashes
But you saw then plan
I wandered out in the world for years
While you just stayed in your room
I saw the crescent
You saw the whole of the moon . . .'
How much have you been involved in the casting and production?
A lot! I have worked with the producer and director Patrick Rayner many times and we talked about casting as I was writing. But Patrick is a renowned expert when it comes to casting. In his long and award-strewn career he has worked with so many actors, and knows instinctively who could play a certain role best. As a result, we have a superb cast who worked so very well together in the studio.
Vicki Liddell and Steve McNicoll are the two leads and they inhabit wonderfully the characters I created. I was there, as always, during the two days of recording. Lines have to be changed because even although I might say them out loud when I've written them (and I do!) they might not have the proper rhythm when actors say them in the studio. Also scenes may need changing when cuts, because of timings, have to be made.
Is writing five daily episodes more of a challenge than writing a single, self-contained play?
I'd never done it before, so writing five fifteen-minute episodes certainly concentrated my mind on getting on with the story. I like a challenge - it is good to be shaken out of your comfort zone!
The characters sound fascinating. Do you have plans to explore their stories further in the future?
Yes, Radio 4 have just commissioned a second series. That will go out next year. The two central characters Jo Ross and Iain Rae have been 'with me' for a long time and I am keen that they develop and grow as people as the stories progress.
I first came across your work through your radio play, Hill of Rains, which starred two of radio's most distinctive voices - Bill Paterson and Lorelei King. What were they like to work with, and how well do you think they interpreted the characters you'd written?
They were extraordinary people to work with. I could not now differentiate between the characters I heard in my head and those two wonderful actors. When you have people that gifted working on something you wrote it is an absolute joy. They brought magic to it, and an intimacy that is rare.
Hill of Rains made a marked impression on me because of the great depth of feeling which seemed to underpin the 'romantic comedy' aspect of the story. Did you set out to write a romantic piece or was it always your intention to explore more profound themes at the same time?
I don't ever set out to write about a particular theme. It is normally the person who 'appears' to me. And that can be triggered by observing someone's hand movement, or someone's gesture. In this case, I was walking in Edinburgh on a winter's afternoon. The sun was low and I became aware of someone walking over a small hill away from me, and the person's silhouette in the sun was exactly the same as my mother's. She had died a couple of years before. The story grew out of that mood, and that extraordinary moment.
And the music - Peter Maxwell Davies's Farewell to Stromness - for me it was absolutely perfect. Whose idea was that?
The producer and director Marilyn Imrie takes all the credit for that.
You've also dramatised one of my favourite books, Nancy Brysson Morrisson's The Gowk Storm , as a stage play. (How I wish I'd seen that!) What inspired you to turn that particular novel into a play?
The cover of the book! I was in a bookshop . . . and the cover stood out from all the other covers. It was spooky, as if I was being haunted by that face. I bought the book, took it home, and read it in an afternoon. I knew as I was reading it that I wanted to bring it to the stage. It was so dramatic, so moody, so atmospheric.
So, some similar themes to those in Hill of Rains, then?
Women trapped by men! It's beginning to sound like a familiar theme although I don't do themes!
And full of the importance of Scottish weather, too. Is that a coincidence?
I am affected by the weather. I remember running wild in the wind when I was a child. And growing up in the far North of Scotland you are affected, deeply, by whatever the climate brings!
Are there any plans for another stage production of The Gowk Storm?
In these financially straightened times it would be difficult. It had a cast of ten, which is enormous. But if any millionaire philanthropist is reading this blog . . . you know where to find me.
And after The Whole of the Moon - what's next in the pipeline?
I am finishing a stage play which will be staged at Oran mor in Glasgow at the end of November. It's called The Bones Boys, and will be staged in the A Play A Pie A Pint series. It's about two monks, on a journey fraught with danger.
Many thanks, Colin, for being the subject of this week's Friday Interview.
You can listen to The Whole of the Moon every weekday on Woman's Hour from Monday 29th September, at 10.45-11.00 am and again at 7.45-8.00 pm on Radio 4, and each episode will be available on 'listen again' for seven days following its broadcast.
And finally, for anyone unfamiliar with the original Water Boys song which inspired the title of the drama, here they are singing The Whole of the Moon in 1985:
Thursday, 25 September 2008
Susan at Green Chair Press has been branching out a bit and come up with these interesting wooden ampersand necklaces . You can buy them here.
This collection of cool ampersands is taken from this nice little article on the subject .
Here's another ampersand enthusiast discussing 'ampersands with attitude': 'Sweeping curves, flirtatious finishes and bold statements - these are the things that make ampersands an exciting character to use and, better still, to design.'
Finally, the perfect plate for ampersandophiles
Monday, 22 September 2008
Sunday, 21 September 2008
The beach this afternoon was crowded with swimmers and sunbathers, kite-fliers and windsurfers. Beach huts - completely deserted only a couple of weeks ago - were thrown open. Windbreaks were staked out and towels laid on the sand. And the silver sea teemed with yachts.
Despite feeling rather under the weather, I decided to take the dog out after lunch and ended up strolling in the sunshine for a couple of hours. The evident delight of everyone around was quite infectious and uplifting. And oh, how I envied those afloat on such a beautiful afternoon.
SD#3 has decided that she's not going to be a rugby player after all; she's gong to concentrate exclusively on dancing. So Sunday mornings are my own again - hooray! At least, they're mine and hers together, and I can see that we're going to be getting through a lot of Famous Five books and making plenty of cakes and scones (baking being her other passion at the moment) over the current season. Of course, we'll go along to support SD#2 on home match days, and remind ourselves of the delights of chips and Guinness and bacon butties in the clubhouse, but it will be an occasional treat, rather than a weekly ordeal.
Am still using the not very reliable borrowed camera. Received a quote last week from the repair shop for fixing the new one I accidentally ruined, and the cost of replacing the sand-jammed parts is prohibitive - more than half the purchase price! An expensive consequence of a friendly chat (just as the destruction of my previous mobile phone was an expensive consequence of an impulse supermarket purchase). But, hey ho, c'est ma vie. The sometimes unwelcome consequences of spontaneity.
Saturday, 20 September 2008
Late August, given heavy rain and sun
for a full week, the blackberries would ripen.
At first, just one, a glossy purple clot
among others, red, green, hard as a knot.
You ate that first one and its flesh was sweet
like thickened wine: summer's blood was in it
leaving stains upon the tongue and lust for
picking. Then red ones inked up and that hunger
sent us out with milk-cans, pea-tins, jam-pots
where briars scratched and wet grass bleached our boots.
Round hayfields, cornfields and potato-drills
we trekked and picked until the cans were full,
until the tinkling bottom had been covered
with green ones, and on top big dark blobs burned
like a plate of eyes. Our hands were peppered
with thorn pricks, our palms sticky as Bluebeard's.
We hoarded the fresh berries in the byre.
But when the bath was filled we found a fur,
A rat-grey fungus, glutting on our cache.
The juice was stinking too. Once off the bush
the fruit fermented, the sweet flesh would turn sour.
I always felt like crying. It wasn't fair
that all the lovely canfuls smelt of rot.
Each year I hoped they'd keep, knew they would not.
Thursday, 18 September 2008
It was on Late Juction three or four years ago that James Yorkston first slid into my semi-consciousness and there he has stayed. I find his unique voice induces a hypnotic kind of hazy, autumnal feeling. So the timing of his new CD, When the Haar Rolls In, released earlier this month, was perfect. As with his other albums, it hasn't taken many listenings for it to get right under the skin.
I really can't better this perceptive review of the album by Robert Crossan, which sums up When the Haar Rolls In quite perfectly.
There's an inexplicable dearth of decent Yorkston clips on YouTube. I posted one here a while ago. There's nothing from Haar yet. This has quite a different sound from the new album, but is nice: The Hills and the Heath:
Tuesday, 16 September 2008
Monday, 15 September 2008
Can it really be this time of year again? Barely have the splashes of Hedgerow Jam been wiped from the walls, it seems, than it's time to start all over again. This headlong galloping of the seasons must be a factor of advancing years, I fear.
Still, I'm not complaining. Far from it. It remains my contention that the whole blackberry-picking-jam-making thing is one of the most sensually pleasurable experiences (in the public sphere) in life. I [b]rambled on about it here at self-indulgent length last time around. Suffice to say today that blackberries were picked on Sunday, arms were scratched, legs were stung, fingers were stained purple, insects buzzed, golden autumn sunshine bathed and all was, briefly, well with the world (or at least that tiny portion of it I call my own).
Next weekend it will be jam. Yesterday's haul has gone into blackberry and apple crumbles. So that's what we'll all be eating for breakfast (yes, breakfast), lunch and tea for the rest of the week. And only one of us will be complaining about that, and it won't be me.
(How did I manage to spawn a child who doesn't like blackberries?????)
Friday, 12 September 2008
It was the plane in which, on 31 August 1940, Pilot Officer Gerard Maffett took off from Martlesham Heath, Suffolk as part of a formation sent against raiding German planes. The Squadron claimed several Messerschmitts but lost two Hurricanes, of which this was one. Pilot Office Maffett was killed when his parachute failed to open in time as he bailed out at low altitude. The remains of his plane lay where it fell at Walton-on-the-Naze.
Well this morning I received a comment on that post from Andy, who lives in Berkshire, where Pilot Officer Maffett was finally buried. This is what Andy said:
'Gerrard Maffett is buried in Bray Cemetery near his home town of Maidenhead. I walk past it with my dog, and the kids when they can be bothered, most days. He was just 22 years old when he was killed. His mother, who lived to be 100, and who's ashes rest next to him, lost 2 sons in that war. A story repeated how many times ? This grave, along with so many others, is looked after by volunteers and is kept beautifully. I think it is important that the sacrifices that were made over and over again should be remembered now and in the future. As a " local " you might enjoy " One Hurricane One Raid " by Geoff Rayner which tells the story of the pilot and his aircraft. There are lots of places and even names you might know. I also hugely enjoyed " First Light " by Geoffrey Wellum, The authors account of flying through the Battle of Britain aged 18 ! No wonder his squadron called him " Boy" '
Thank you so much Andy. Bray is not far from where my parents live. Next time I'm there, I shall make a point of visiting the grave of a young man who flew to his death in the skies I can see from my window.
Thursday, 11 September 2008
So, continuing the established themes, here we have Bonnard's woman (Marthe) at a window;
a window onto the sea;
and (what could be nicer?) a writing desk at a window.