Archive for April, 2016

Just chilling in the conservatory,  getting in some practice and decided to record this. No particular reason.

Listen to Hurt, cover of Johnny Cash cover of NiN song by alternatecelt #np on #SoundCloud

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On and off for nearly two years those words from Bad Apples by GnR have been worming around in my brain, taunting me. This year it got even worse, so just to quiet my inner Axl, I made a real effort to start selling oatcakes. And lo, it turns out Mr Rose might even have a point.
Now it’s seems to have started something, because I’m suddenly working hard towards fulfilling some of those teenage fantasies I put aside to be a responsible parent, as well as making oatcakes.  Fun and exciting things are afoot with my musical aspirations, of which more will be revealed later (some hopefully very soon!).
Today, I had to take stock of where I’m going because I had to write a cover letter for my book, Pearls On The Road.  It’s about selling yourself,  of course. The writer is as much a product as their novels. Think of writers like James Patterson,  Stephen King and even Terry Pratchett, they are marketed brands that people strive to ape when they write and people want to read or read facsimiles of.  Do you know how many times I’ve seen George RR Martin cited on the back of books in my library over the last 6 years? Look what happened to the children’s fiction market  after JK Rowling became so wildly succesful. There’s a thousand Rowling mimics on my library shelves now. But the marketing doesn’t just hinge on a writer’s writing style. A writer like Neil Gaimon, whose life is as interesting as his books, is what every publisher really wants because they are easier to sell. Neil is active on twitter, part of an alternative power couple with Amanda Palmer and seemingly effortless at self publicity. He seems pretty happy selling that part of himself, and it surely works for both him and his publishers. 
So, dutifully, I wrote about how terribly interesting I am. I bigged up my small achievements, threw rock n roll and librarian into the same sentence and hoped that part of me is exciting enough to sell. And yet, it’s made me reflective on my own talents, and made me think a great deal about what confidence and hard work are capable of achieving. 
I have no idea if my pitch with Pearls will work, but what I am realising is that I might actually be starting to be interesting.  Maybe that’s something that comes with age!

Ps, I kinda wrote a wee song about this sort of thing a few weeks ago. It’s just called Sunday Morning for now.

A trip in the forest

Posted: 29/04/2016 by Alternate Celt in Extracts, Pearls, writing

This is one of my favourite moments in Pearls. I’m working away at it, hope to have the first 50 pages edited by tomorrow for a competition. Warning : scene contains excessive,  lengthy description due to the narrator’s consumption of class a hallucinogens.

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We dinnae find picnic tables and a car park, but we dae find a big forest clearin at the end ov a dirt track.  We dinnae hav tae look far fur firewood so we’ve soon got a wee blaze gaun in the centre ov the clearin.  Above us the stars are bright, although the edges ov the sky are tinged yellow on maist sides.  There’s a lot ov towns and cities aroun here, and that’s their sodium glare.  We take out the Acid bottle and carefully tear off two bits ov blotter paper frae yin o the sheets.  On the bonnet ov the car, while Ami is busy constructing a joint from a very dry but otherwise well preserved bit ov bud, Ah very carefully put jist yin tiny drop ov the acid on each ov the wee tabs.  It might be pish, dilutit tae water aw maist, but Ah know there’s enough ov a chance ov it bein quite the opposite that Ah want tae be careful.  Ah don’t really fancy havin a freak out in the middle ov a forest in a totally foreign country.  Let’s no even think about bein on the run frae the polis on top ov that.    Ma teenage experimentation did teach me somethin efter aw.  We take the tabs, Ami lights the spliff and Ah open the bottle ov whisky, and then we sit on the bonnet ov the car tae wait, watchin the fire burn and the stars shine.  The fire fascinates me, fire aways dis.  Ah love the way the flames are  curlin aroun the bits ov wood as they burn them, almost like liquid flowin in reverse.  Ah move oer and squat down beside the wee fire tae watch them closer efter a wee while, clutchin mah bottle ov whiskey but forgettin about it.  Ah hear Ami rumblin aroun in the boot ov the car, and then the radio comes on again, White Rabbit playin softly.  A great song for the come up.  Ami comes swannin roun the car wi the headdress on her head and mair scarves wrapped aroun her shoulders and airms.  She’s found flowers frae somewhere, dried roses and carnations, and wound them through the heid dress.  In the light ov the fire the raven black feathers ov the heid dress gleam and steal mah attention frae the flames.  Ah’m startin tae get that light, bubbly feelin inside, and there’s an extra layer ov sparkle descendin on the night.  Ah might burst out laughin any minute, in sheer relief tae be alive and intact tae see such a beautiful night.  Ah start singin along wi Grace Slick, fallin down the rabbit hole wi Alice even as Ah’m comin up.  Ami starts spinnin aroun, makin the heid dress flare out and the scarves trail.  The moon, as near as damn it tae fu, peaks o’er the top ov the trees and there’s silver threads and tassels, and silver bangles on Ami’s wrists; they flash and sparkle like the stars above us  in the moonlight.  Ah’m still singin, beltin out the words in a loose free way Ah havnae achieved in years.  The twinklin stars above start to fall like silver snow frae the sky.  We baith start laughin, spinnin aroun under the rain ov silver and trying to catch them on our tongues like we did wi flakes ov snow as weans. That’s when Ah realise Ah am totally trippin mah tits off.  The apocalyptic flourish at the end ov White Rabbit rings out through the night an frae mah lungs. 
Time changes, it stops flowin in a straight line frae minute to minute and jumps about so Ah get flashes ov things we are dain out here under the stars.  We’re dancin and singing roun the fire; we’re lyin on our backs on the bonnet ov the Porsche starin at the stars; we’re flopped inside drinkin and smokin and talkin animatedly about everythin; we’re pokin the dyin flames ov the fire and watchin the sparks fly up like little fiery imps escapin out intae the world tae dae mischief; we’re walkin through the trees, layin our hands on the trunks and feelin the life rush through them; we’re crouchin in the shadows ov the trees watchin the patterns on the cars paintwork move and swirl and animate while the car breaths gently in the night; we’re lying on the bonnet again, watchin feathered pink clouds stretch out through a silverin sky as the sun begins to come up; we’re crashin out inside the car, noddin, as the birds in the trees begin tae really sing for the mornin. 
Ah feel like utter shite when Ah wake up, an when Ah see whit’s left ov the whisky, (nuthin), the tequila, (also nuthin), and the rum, (a wee bit at the bottom ov the bottle), Ah realise why.  The day is well gone awready, Ah’ve been sleepin sprawled on the very cramped back seat while Ami has wound back the passenger seat and curled up on that as best as she can.  That’s another reason Ah feel terrible.  Aw ma limbs are stiff and aching frae lying curled up in this position, and ma spine feels twisted out ov shape.  Ah have tae crawl intae the driver seat tae get out and stretch, and this is a painful process made worse by Ami swearin at me an hittin me as Ah squeeze by her.  She’s still maistly sleepin  and has nae idea whit’s goin on.  Ah practically fall out ov the car, stumbling into the afternoon light with mah hands oer mah een.  Mah hair is aw oer the place, bleached blond waves that are  irritatingly bright in the sunshine.  With aw the bangles Ah seem to have accumulatit, and the scarves, the waistcoat, ma black skinny fit jeans and high heeled boots Ah know Ah look like a casualty frae a Glam rock band efter gig pairty, and Ah sure as fuck feel like wan.  As if on cue, the radio comes oan and Motley Crue’s “Girls,Girls,Girls” rudely awakens Ami frae her slumber.  She escapes the car as fast as her sore limbs and hangover will let her, slammin the door and cursing the car for wakin her up.  She’s still wearing the heiddress, and wi the long grey felt coat she usually wears she looks more hippy than glam.  She’s pullin off the casualty look as good as me though.  She staggers oer tae where Ah’m stanin, tryin to light a cigarette wi a shaky hand while still shieldin mah een frae the sunlight.

Life is Strange

Posted: 28/04/2016 by Alternate Celt in Extracts, poetry, writing

Life is strange
Like in the way
Experiences
Come at you again
And again
In different guises
And different voices
It tells you
Just the same things
You should have learned
Last time
Life is strange

Life is strange
Like in the way
Chances
Come to you again
And again
In different guises
And different voices
It offers you
Just the sames things
You should have grasped
Last time
Life is strange

I’m offended when you call me anti-english (re-post)

Posted: 23/04/2016 by Alternate Celt in political

Repost for Saint George’s day 

I wrote this 18months ago, but decided it would be nice to repost it here because the sentiment remains the same.  I get sick of being called anti-English just because I am pro-Scotland.  It really…

Source: I’m offended when you call me anti-english (re-post)

A blight on all our lives…

Posted: 23/04/2016 by Alternate Celt in Life, political

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Tories. Ugh.
I  really try to make a conscious effort not to slide into the dark laziness of hate and dislike for anyone or thing. I even felt disgust at the  way many people celebrated the  passing of  the lady above,  although I understood exactly where that came from. After all I grew up in a Single Parent family in the 80’s, in Paisley and Glasgow. 
I was considering the impact the British Conservative Party has had on my life and I had something of an epiphany. 
Every day the media, politicians and commentators of varying stripes and backgrounds strive to tell us who it is that is responsible for the state of our lives. Some say it’s Muslims, others Europe, others the feckless unemployed or unemployable (how dare people be born with such poor health they can’t work! *shudder*), some might point at the Bankers or big corporations. All these things are somewhat nebulous and faceless fears, easy to manipulate people with because it’s kind of like the scary thing in the shadows that your imagination runs away with. In other words you can put your own fears into these things because they are so vague.
This is all very useful to the real enemy – Tories.
My epiphany was actually almost annoyingly simple.  Every financial struggle, every hurdle I’ve been forced to climb just to get by in “British Society ” has been because the Tories made it so. From bad schools to dreadful housing, from depressingly dull wage slave work to the ghoulishness of filling out benefit forms for my Autistic offspring, from poverty and deprevation to isolation and the difficulty of escaping these things, they are all a result of a lifetime lived under a government of upper class, self interested Tories.
So anyway, I’m not going to fall in to the  trap of nebulous fears, I’m going to escape those Tory clutches by whatever means necessary.  Which, weirdly, might involve oatcakes.

Ghàidhlig

Posted: 23/04/2016 by Alternate Celt in Ghàidhlig, music, musings

Rinn mi bliadhna de leasanan Gàidhlig, ach gu mì-fhortanach tha cuimhn ‘agam glè bheag. Is toigh leam  a ‘chànain agus tha mi a’ gràdhachadh e ceòl.Tha mi a ‘feuchainn ri fhaighinn air ais e, ge-tà, beag air bheag. An-diugh tha mi a ‘dol gu clas òrain Ghàidhlig.*

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I really wish, as a Scot who lives in an area where the language died about 200 years ago, that I could actually have written the above without resorting to Google Translate.  While it’s awesome we finally have Scots Gaelic for Google, I can’t even really tell you how accurate a translation it gave me. I  recall a few handing greetings and polite phrases, I can count to ten if I screw my eyes up and force it out of my brain, and I know the names for dozens of oddly disparate things, but that’s it.
What I don’t understand is why anyone would want to let the beauty of the language and it’s lyricism die. People still sing latin hyms, for Christ’s sake, and most of them are dirges. There’s an entire culture’s worth of myth, memory and practice  tucked away in Gaelic song, all of which are much more part of our heritage in Scotland than any Roman legacy that’s taught in scools to Scots kids.
I’m a bit too far out in the hills to get to the evening classes in Dumfries, can’t afford a trip to Skye for an intensive course, so I’m not quite sure how I’ll get to learn the language that used to echo in these very hills and glens, but I do dream of a part in bringing that back. At least I’m able to sing in it!

*I did a year of gaelic lessons,  but sadly I remember very little. I love the language and I love it’s music. I’m trying to get it back, though, little by little.  Today I am going to Gaelic song class.

CatStrand Acoustic Session

Posted: 20/04/2016 by Alternate Celt in music, musings

I know I’m not exactly the world’s greatest guitar player. I have been dabbling since my mid teens, always with an urge to write songs way beyond either my skill or patience. About a year and a half ago I started taking lessons with my next door neighbour, the awesomely talented classical guitarist Anne Chaurand. I’ve improved dramatically and I’m writing songs again, but I’m still in a sticky place betwixt ambition and skill. Luckily, I live in an area blessed by live music and I even get to play in it sometimes.
I’m nominally in charge of a monthly jam session at our local arts centre, the CatStrand, and I’ve been squawking noisily there for quite a few years and more recently playing guitar.  It’s rolling round again, as it happens on the last Sunday of every month. 
I’ve had a bit of a confidence wobble lately, again because my ambition outstrips my ability, and particularly under pressure.  The interesting thing is that this time I find myself being much more analytical about it and my analysis has led me to the simple conclusion that if I want to meet my own ambitions, then I’m just going to have to keep on working and practicing until I’m can actually play the music I want to write. It’s not like I’m looking to do anything more than feel confident singing and playing music I’d like to hear, so all I need do is work until I’m happy.
Anyway,  do feel free to join the fun on Sunday if you’re in the area! 2pm to 4pm, open to all.

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Galloway musicians Zoë Bestel, Nicola Black, Blackie and Sarah Ade at the CatStrand Acoustic Session

Editing Language and Janis

Posted: 19/04/2016 by Alternate Celt in musings, Pearls, writing

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So, I’m like so busy at work today that I’ve been doing a bit of work on the language of Pearls on the Road.  I got inspired to look at it again after hearing a bit about how the story behind the film The Martian came about, because I would love more than anything to turn Pearls into a film. It’s a road trip with a bright and colourful cast, it’s rather feminist and wild, it’s face paced and has plenty of action that ought to make for a great film.   One step at a time though!
It’s actually good that I’ve taken so long to come back to it, because I have fresh eyes and a better sense of the difference between Weegie and the rest of Scots.  I am considering serialising the edited version just to get more eyes on the text though, and self publishing hard copies of the finished thing for anyone who would like one.  The question remains whether or not this is actually a good idea.  It might have worked well for The Martian, but I’ve been told so many times that Pearls is very “niche” I can’t decide if that will inhibit any following it might get. 
Anyway, I’m not ready yet to commit to the idea, I’m just starting to iron the text out a little.  If you fancy a wee bit of a taster, though, you can find the opening of the story here.

Angel – SoundCloud

Posted: 18/04/2016 by Alternate Celt in music
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I wrote the lyricsfor this rather a long time ago as part of my biggest fantasy writing project, Threads . Iain and I worked on the music some time later. Recently though, I resurrected it for the monthly CatStrand Open Stage. I realise I don’t have any kind of recording of it, so here it is in rough.

Listen to Angel by alternatecelt #np on #SoundCloud