Wednesday, 29 August 2007

News from nowhere

Hugh Masekela tells me that the ANC government in South Africa is afraid of the transforming power of music; two of the greatest comic book artists in the world reveal that they are going to make a graphic novel out of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde; the film maker Stephen Frears - who made The Queen and My Beautiful Launderette - dismisses the broadcaster Jeremy Paxman as a "savage" and a "bullying prefect".

Between Aug 6 and August 26, I had 26 news by-lines in Scotland, mainly in the Times Scottish edition, but also in Scotland on Sunday. They were all original stories, and not taken from the PA newswire, as is the case with a large proportion of national news on either the BBC or in the daily papers. Some were followed up all over the world. You can read a handful of my news pieces if you click the "News Stories" heading on the right.

The Masekela story travelled furthest. I interviewed him on the phone when he was touring America, prior to his visit to Scotland, and the story ran nationally in the Times. It was picked up by news agencies in South Africa, and afterwards I wrote a feature based on the original interview for four South African papers.

I interviewed Masekela for a second time when he arrived in Edinburgh, and chiseled out a second news story which ran in Scotland on Sunday - about reforming his partnership with Paul Simon - which again was picked up around the world.

That was how the news worked. As for Masekela himself, he gave an utterly sensational concert at the Queen's Hall in Edinburgh, arranged at very short notice. He normally rehearses a band for 10 days, this time he prepared only for two hours. The result was extraordinary, a moving performance utterly set in his own political struggles and it brought a Sunday night audience of white-haired Scottish Presbyterians to their feet with Stimela - his anthem about the gold mine, and a final chant for freedom, from the days before apartheid ended. Unforgettable. Really.

Tuesday, 28 August 2007

Monarch of the Glen

I spotted an advertisement on the internet which said "Become a Highland laird for £29.99". So I paid up, had myself fitted for a kilt by the leading designer Howie Nicholsby, and drove up to claim my one square foot of land in Lochaber.

I'd never worn a kilt before - I'd always vowed that I'd have to be paid to wear one. And I was, but only after I wrote this article for Scotland on Sunday. Click the "Monarch of the Glen" link on the right under the heading "My Writing" to read the piece.

Footnote: It was Howie Nicholsby who designed the black kilt which the then first minister of Scotland, Jack McConnell, wore on Tartan Day in New York a couple of years ago. This single outfit made McConnell look such an arse that it sparked a protest vote from millions of Scots sickened by wee Jack's sartorial excess. As a result he and his Labour Party lost the 2007 election, thus putting the country on the road to independence. By contrast I look rather fetching in the Rupert the Bear tartan, and, far from nauseating people, found myself followed up and down the glen road by hordes of rosy-cheeked highland lasses.