The rain has stopped, stop building that ark

Michael Marra, one of Scotland’s best

Fifty First Timer No.5

The Cremation of Sam McGee – Tolbooth, Stirling Saturday 9th February 2008

This performance qualifies as a fifty first on two counts. Firstly I have always wanted to see Michael Marra live. I almost achieved this last year then he appeared in collaboration with Scotland’s poet laureate, Liz Lochhead but by the time I got around to buying the tickets the event was sold out.

Secondly ever since I first heard a Robert Service poem during a performance at Oran Mor, Glasgow, I made a mental note to find out more about his work.

This staggering show at the Tolbooth was the creation of cellist Christine Hanson. She managed to cajole the finest musicians in Scotland to join her in this performance of multi media magic.

In The Cremation of Sam McGee, Hanson took the rascally poem of Robert Service and composed a series of intricate traditional pieces to blend through the story. As if that wasn’t enough, her compositions were accompanied, not only by the fine musicians but by the bright, inspiring images of artist Ted Harrison, one of Canada’s foremost painters.

Micheal Marra narrated the poem and for anyone one who has never heard Marra speak or sing, to say his voice is gravely is not only a cliché, it is an understatement. His voice is crushed concrete, fag ash and whiskey mash churned together and matured in the corner of a smoky bar room, it is perfect for this narration.

The Line up

Michael Marra

Christine Hanson

Rick Taylor (Peatbog Faeries)

Kevin Murray (The Cutting Edge)

Bruce MacGregor (Blazin Fiddles)

Gordon Gunn

Anna Massie (The Anna Massie Band)

Kevin Maguire

Brian McAlpine (Session A9)

James Mackintosh (Shooglenifty)

Spring is almost here

Today I heard a woodpecker rapping in the trees. Later my bird feeder was visited by a woodpecker, maybe the same one. His comic grin and red backside never fail to make me gasp in delight. Unfortunately he was too speedy for my camera.

Yesterday was spent in the garden, pruning and chopping. I hauled a rusty old bin out of the corner of the big compost heap and started off another household waste compost bin with it. With any luck the resident black bin that happily plays host to hundreds of clever little worms and beasties that break down the waste, if left alone, will mulch away to fine compost by this time next year.


After weeks of picking up, from the door mat, brown envelopes addressed to me in my own hand containing rejection slips, I received one this morning informing me that a short story had been short listed in a competition. The publication wanted to place my story in a forthcoming issue. Result!

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