SCOTTISH BORDERS TO GLASGOW

Living in the delightfully rural Berwickshire in the Scottish Borders does have some draw-backs. Something that many young people born and raised here are often quick to point out is that there is little to do. What this usually translates as, is that there are very few opportunities to engage with organised activities and events and pre-packaged entertainments. There are certainly plenty of things to do (at times I feel spoilt for choice), but these do rely on a deal of creativity, inquisitiveness and self-motivation. Opportunities to get out and about to enjoy the environment to the full are everywhere – as long as one is prepared to get out and walk, run, cycle, paint, photograph, write about, sing about, communicate with people, visit local attractions, discover historical facts about ……………….. etc.

What is lacking, however, is a wide range of opportunities to experience live performances of music, comedy and drama; and a comprehensive integrated public transport system to get to and from the things that are on offer. There are a number of gems, but the range is limited, the locations are widely spread apart and don’t occur as often as they do in city locations. A very good friend of mine once explained the problem; “there just aren’t enough chimneys.” He was referring to the low population density; what contributes greatly to what makes this part of Scotland such a wonderful place to live in, also creates a number of practical problems for anybody seeking to lay on cost-effective entertainments.

So it was that I found myself driving along the M8 en-route to Glasgow on a Saturday evening – some things that I want to experience just aren’t on my doorstep. That particular day was ‘the day after the night before’, the first official day of competition in the 2012, 30th Olympiad in London. I had managed to stay up to watch the whole of the Opening Ceremony in which Danny Boyle had managed to cause a sensation with his far from traditional spectacular. The political undertones had caused certain tongues to wag furiously, but in general most opinions that I have seen concentrate on the genius of Danny Boyle’s ability to distil much of what makes contemporary UK/Britain the way it is into such an expansive and inspiring production.

Inevitably, being a Saturday afternoon, I was driving with the radio on and was listening to a round up of the day’s sporting events, mainly a combination of the first day of the new Scottish football season featuring reports of the first Ramsden Cup matches, alongside details of the initial Olympic achievements.

The other major factor to come into play during my journey was the scattered torrential rain showers, some of which contributed to a dramatic vista in the distance, and others that had to be driven through. Driving along the motorway and entering Glasgow I caught sight of a brilliantly coloured rainbow in my rear-view mirror – a timely reminder of the ground breaking and controversial decision of the Scottish Government earlier in the week, to agree to seek to introduce legislation to allow same-sex marriages in the near future.

So it was against this background of thoughts that I parked immediately outside King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut in St. Vincent Street. I had been aware of this legendary venue for many years, yet this was to be my first step across the threshold. For a place with such a massive reputation it turned out to be much smaller and more intimate than I had expected. Rather than being a problem, I was very reassured as I really do prefer such venues to the bigger and much more impersonal ones. I am glad that I had seen Bruce Springsteen at Hamden, but please give me ‘up close and personal’ any time.

Even before I knew just how intimate the venue was, I did know that the gig was certainly going to be fairly ‘up close’, as I was due to interview the singer/songwriter that I had come to hear, and to take some live photos of her performance. Toni Etherson had appeared on my radar a few months back, and I had been most impressed by her work so when the opportunity to see her arose, I jumped at the chance to go. A review of the actual performance is available on my Tumblr site, along with my other reviews (www.dstrachan.tumblr.com).

Having driven across Scotland, this was one of these occasions where I left after the first act; in addition to being keen to savour the memory of the magical performance, I had checked out the other acts in advance and felt that whilst they might be competent enough, the tracks that I had listened to hadn’t jumped out and grabbed me enough to encourage me to delay my return to the east coast. Had the venue been nearer home and served by a reliable public transport service, I have no doubt that I would have taken the opportunity to give these other acts a fairer hearing.

In the meantime I will file the memories of an excellent set and a wonderful person away for future recall, and look forward to more from Toni in the future.

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