Monday, 28 April 2008

Old cricketers crease up

Laxman Sivaramakrishnan (LS to his mates) might be a photofit of a prosperous, dignified Indian gentleman, but soon his eye was drawn to the unfamiliar sight of long-legged cheerleaders prancing around on the square. In no time at all, LS had disappeared from the studio, apparently to 'inspect the pitch' but in the teeth of allegations that he was 'installing himself at short leg'.

From the column for Scotland on Sunday. You can access all the columns on the right of the screen, under the heading, Broadcast Sport, or read it here. Old cricketers

Losers on the brink of greatness

"I can hold my head up high. These laddies are playing for a few pounds a week, and these supporters are paying them the money, and they watch them. An ex-footballer said to me the other day, 'East Stirlingshire must be one of the only clubs who when they get beat, the supporters clap them off the park'.”

Those are the words of Les Thomson, the chief exec of East Stirlingshire FC, on the eve of he club's game with Montrose, which might lift them from the bottom of football's Scottish third division for the first time in six seasons. A poignant tale which you can read here: End of the longest losing streak

The good news is, they won.

Shirley not?

THERE IS a paradox about Shirley Manson. Here she is in Edinburgh's Harvey Nichols, the posh person's department store, promoting her mum's favourite charity. Yet the publicity machine which blazed her name across the world at the end of the 1990s insisted that she was a Gothic foulmouth.

"Nobody could out-rude me," she admits, laughing. Steve Marker, the band's guitarist, has said that when Manson joined Garbage she told "really disgusting stories which would make a sailor blush". One interviewer, musician Pat Kane, left in a cold sweat when Manson told him that she was "a great believer in pornography". And for the man from Q magazine, Manson was even more specific. Interviewed in Edinburgh's Doric wine bar, she broke the ice by declaring: "I once f***ed a guy in that toilet." Blue Plaque society, take note.

You can read the full interview with Shirley Manson, on line at the Sunday Herald: Shirley's changing face

The photograph of a per-Garbage Shirley, aged 21 or 22 is by Graham Clark, whose website is well worth a look. Checkout Graham's images for his Benchmark exhibition, which ran in the City Art Centre, and which captures a weird Edinburgh phenomenon, the personalised park bench. Graham Clark's photography

Wednesday, 23 April 2008

70,000 years without sex

" is ironic that a fish which had survived for 70,000 generations without sexual reproduction would be vulnerable to the predations of shags."

Man inserts joke in The Times of London shock. Read the full story here:

How being a hussy keeps Amazon Molly alive

And if you like that, you might like this - the psychological explanation of why the England football team always lose on penalties, also from The Times:

The power of negative thinking

This one is about the appeal of "retrosweets" to sad adults who like to suck on a bit of nostalgia. The article appeared in Scotland on Sunday:

The very dab

Wednesday, 16 April 2008

Column inches

Is sport something you enjoy on telly, in the comfort of your local boozer? Or perhaps you are wearing that armchair a bit tighter round your hips these days, because you spend all your free time in front of the goggle box at home? If you answer 'yes' to either of these propositions, your might appreciate my column on broadcast sport, which is appearing these days in Scotland on Sunday. You can read the most recent here: Green and unpleasant land

Check out the Times interview with Liz Lochhead, which you can read in the entry below. In the weird format of the Scottish edition of the paper, a piece like this has to be punchier than your average feature. Luckily, Liz gives great quote, and so the article just about works.

You can hear Liz reading four of her poems on line. 1953 is particularly beautiful. Go here for the poems, and a photo of a younger Liz: Liz Lochhead reads her poems

The photographs on this site and which accompanied the Times piece brilliantly capture Liz's personality. They were taken by Ashley Coombes of Epic Scotland. Go here for Epic's archive of work. Epic Scotland

PS Scroll down the page for some interesting images. Anyone notice the resemblence between the young Lord Snooty and the older Alex Salmond. I wonder if, by any chance, they are releted?

Monday, 14 April 2008

Liz Lochhead's schooldays

The Times, April 14, 2008

In any other country, Liz Lochhead would qualify as a National Treasure. Author, translator, playwright, stage performer, Glasgow's poet laureate, grande dame of Scottish theatre, she bridges, with unassuming ease, the gap between the seriously literary and the outright popular. Last year she turned 60, and she takes as much pleasure from collecting her bus pass as she does from her new commission for the National Theatre of Scotland.

She shows no sign of slowing down. Next week, her latest play, Educating Agnes, a reworking of The School for Wives by Moliere, which she has written for Theatre Babel, opens at the Citizens Theatre in Glasgow.

Before summer is over she should have completed her National Theatre script, Horse on Fire. On the horizon she has a teaching engagement at Eton College - a potential culture clash which she relishes. And she is mulling over the possibility of writing a new revue for this year’s Edinburgh fringe. The only thing wrong with being 60, she concludes, is her sense that life is shortening. “You’ve got a bus pass, but you don’t know how long you’ve got to run about, so you might as well have a great time.”

As she lingers over coffee at a café near her home in Glasgow’s West End, her claim that “I haven’t been this buzzed up for a while” quickly becomes utterly believable.

Since she translated Tartuffe 23 years ago, the French playwright Moliere has become a touchstone for Lochhead’s career. The words she uses to describe him – “shocking”, “cheeky”, “camp”, “outrageous” – could apply to her own verse, and her account of his death on stage in 1673, during a performance of La Malade Imaginaire, suggests that one day she may be game for the ultimate revival. “He had pulmonary TB, and he died in the wings, in a play he had written to disguise the cough he had. Imagine that. He’s extraordinary,” she says in wonder.

Educating Agnes is a comedy driven by the extremes of jealousy, and in Arnolphe, played by her old friend Kevin McMonagle, she has found a dominant central character who is the model for a certain type of man. He is, says Lochhead, “that fatal combination, a misogynist and a romantic.”

Lochhead is no French language scholar. For Educating Agnes, she worked in Glasgow’s Mitchell Library with a near-contemporary text alongside its English translation, a combination which enabled her to see the original rhyming scheme.

Like its predecessors she has rendered the play into Scots English. The significance of her chosen language may be obvious now, but it makes all the more extraordinary her past indifference to the issue of devolution. In 1979, she was in Canada during the first Scottish referendum and did not vote.

“We were feminists and the Labour Party kind of fudged it for us,” she recalls. “I wasn’t that interested and neither were my friends. I feel ashamed about that. Canadian nationalists would say: ‘What, you come from a country that’s not interested in having more say in its own affairs?’ I began to get more interested in nationalism. You could see parallels in their relationship with America.”

When Lochhead returned to Scotland – settling for good 25 years ago – her indifference melted away. By 1997, she was ready to say up all night for the referendum vote and now, though “not passionate” about independence, she sees it as a logical step.

“There have been some disappointing things,” she reckons. “The last First Minister, what was his name? Jack McConnell. Him and Bridget sitting there talking about his affair. Just so there would be no ‘smoking gun’. I thought, could there not be a time when people just say ‘I’m not going to do this stuff’? He tried pretty hard, but I was never a great fan.”

She is glad that Labour is out of power. Their “macho thing” had gone on for too long, combined with an institutional jiggery pokery in central Scotland which “they wouldn’t even see as corruption.”

An older, respectable Labour culture she knows well. Her father was a “John Smith Labourite” and she was grew up on a stolid post-war estate in Newarthill in Lanarkshire, an experience evoked in her poem, 1953. Lochhead had a gift for drawing and painting, and it was only after she had enrolled at Glasgow School of Art that she began writing.

In 1971, two of her poems won a competition. Travelling to Edinburgh to collect her prize, she met the writer Alasdair Gray on the train. They became friends and the following year, after he had been awarded an Arts Council grant, he paid for a typist to copy out her poems creating the transcript of her first book, Memo For Spring.

Lochhead stood out immediately, not just for the verve of her work, but because she had broken into a Scottish literary world dominated by male poets: Edwin Morgan, George MacKay Brown, Norman MacCaig. But although a dozen volumes of poetry have followed, she has increasingly turned to the stage, forging enduring friendships with writers and performers.

She chuckles over the Merryhell Theatre Company, whose brilliant revues she scripted with Gray, James Kelman and Tom Leonard. In 1982, they took a show called “The Pie of Damocles” to Edinburgh, and Lochhead vividly conjures up a triumph in the infamous bear pit of the late-night Fringe club.

“It smelt of performers’ fear. The dressing room was full of pints of urine, because everyone peed and then went on stage. It was like hell. Arthur Smith was on before us, getting booed and [the actress] Siobhan Redmond and me were quaking.

“Then Kevin McMonagle strode on very slowly in his white dinner jacket, and began to sing Tom Leonard’s My Way.” (Though some may mock/ the macho talk / upon the Walk / of No Surrender / I’ve drunk the rent / I’ve clocked the wife / I’ve spewed my ring upon the fender.) “There was silence, their jaws dropped open and then they clapped like mad. While they were still cheering, Siobhan and I ran on and did our stuff.”

Her songs from that era still captivate readers (I’m not your little woman / I’m not your better half / I’m not your nudge, your snigger / Or your belly laugh) and that warm glow could, she says, inspire another revue.

Working with young people fires her up. Five years ago she was writer in residence at Eton, and will return this autumn. The 12-year-olds wear tail coats “like Lord Snooty”, she says. “I’d be in a nice sitting room and they’d come in and toast crumpets and do their stuff. I would go, ‘Take me to Hotel du Posh.’ But I love it.”

Closer to home, she is friendly with 28-year-old playwright, Daniel Jackson, who has just won a residency at London’s Royal Court. “I think I’ve got a mentoring streak. Maybe it’s because I’ve got no kids. It’s exciting being around people who are beginning to find out things, especially people like Daniel. I think he is a more talented writer than me, but I’ve more experience.

“I dreamt on Sunday – I must be feeling slightly vulnerable – that Daniel was directing a piece of mine. He took me aside and said ‘This is shite.’ It took me all Sunday to forgive him. And it was just a dream.”

But only slightly vulnerable. Lochhead likes the notion of being a mad old woman, and revels in free travel on her bus pass, delighting in the fact that her husband, Tom Logan, six years her junior, has to pay full fare. And being 60 can be fun, she says. “In your 30s, as a woman, you’re scared to be too friendly with people in case they think you are trying to be too attractive. Do you know what I mean? All that bullshit just falls away.”

* Educating Agnes opens April 23, Citizens' Theatre, Glasgow

Salmond backs 'Project Edinburgh'

The Times, April 12, 2008

The First Minister, Alex Salmond, has given his backing to ambitious plans, designed to promote Edinburgh as a capital city “fit for the 21st century.” He believes that the city’s status was not properly recognised by the previous Labour administration, with its West of Scotland bias, and is anxious to promote its role as the capital of the whole nation.

His endorsement comes as a new manifesto for 'Project Edinburgh' is launched by Sir Terry Farrell, the leading architect who is the city’s design champion, and who has in the past charged local councillors and officials with being in the grip of “the forces of lethargy.”

Mr Salmond has had two meetings recently with Sir Terry and is said to be keenly interested in his ideas - though he has not yet seen the detail of his 12-point “action plan for change.” He is, however, known to be enthusiastic about the new mood within the city, following the recent change in its leadership, and is determined to promote its image as a great European city.

Last night Sir Terry said: “As the capital city in a Scotland which is increasingly self confident, Edinburgh has a crucial role to play and I told Mr Salmond that he had a role to play too. He understood and I think accepted that, and I was impressed by how much he had accelerated his knowledge of the issues involved in just a few weeks.”

Sir Terry, who was appointed to his council-sponsored position in 2004, revealed late last year that he had felt a sense of failure in the post, after working under the former Labour administration in the city, and its “atrophied” planning procedures.

But he said the new SNP/Lib-Dem coalition, which was formed after last May’s elections, and the appointment of Dave Anderson as a new director of city development had transformed official attitudes to Edinburgh. Mr Salmond’s support, he added, was a turning point for the city.

However Sir Terry warned that Edinburgh still faced the challenge of overcoming complacency and a lack of vision.

A spokesman for the Scottish government said that Sir Terry was to be congratulated for “raising awareness of the importance of good quality development and urban design in delivering a successful future for the city of Edinburgh.”

Athens of the North transformed

Edinburgh - once the Athens of the North - faces a huge challenge as it seeks to adapt to the 21st Century. Should it be a creative and expanding capital city, drawing new investment and visitors from all over the world, or is it condemned to become a declining urban shell - a victim of traffic congestion, second-rate buildings, blighted suburban estates, and the fatal complacency of inactive leadership?

This is the choice posed by Edinburgh’s design champion, Sir Terry Farrell – and it is a challenge which at last has been accepted by some of Scotland’s most powerful figures, including, it now appears, the First Minister.

In recent weeks, Sir Terry has overseen an unprecedented appraisal of Edinburgh’s cityscape, in order to establish a series of key design and architectural issues which he believes must be addressed if the city is to secure a prosperous future.
Part of his work has involved lobbying politicians, and last night he said that, with the support of Alex Salmond, “it is clear a turning point has been reached” which could deliver a vision of a vibrant 21st century capital city.

His upbeat mood is in stark contrast to his feelings last autumn, when he told The Times that Edinburgh was in the grip of the “forces of lethargy”. A new political regime in the City Chambers and newly appointed council officers had now transformed the mood, he said.

Sir Terry, whose recent work includes the redevelopment of several London landmarks including Charing Cross and the new Home Office headquarters, was first appointed to his unpaid role as Edinburgh’s design champion in 2004. The April issue of the architectuiral magazine, Prospect, is devoted to his vision for “Project Edinburgh”.

Over more than 50 pages, he pulls few punches in his appraisal of the city’s past planning regime, singling out “complacency” as the most disastrous failing within both the public and the private sector, and highlighting a lack of vision from civic leaders living off the city’s reputation for historic architecture.

Sir Terry’s ally, Ricardo Marini, is even more outspoken. In a fierce attack on the “silo approach” of council officials he accused many of concentrating on specific issues of housing, roads, education and health provision but failing to grasp wider issues, such as th overall design of one of the world’s most beautiful cities.

“After four years, sadly there are senior officers who still think that what they have been doing is the right thing to do,” said Mr Marini, who is the city council’s design leader. “This inability to admit to having a problem is a glaring symptom of the challenges we still have.”

His charge is that over the past 40 years, Edinburgh has been developed on a piecemeal basis, with design decisions devolved to commercial companies rather than taken by civic leaders with a clear idea of how the city should look. This has led to areas of architectural blight, with little relevance to the great traditions of one of the world’s most beautiful cities.

In his manifesto, Sir Terry sets out 12 challenges, ranging all around Edinburgh and its environs. Many of his pronouncements run counter to existing development plans and are certain to upset powerful commercial and business interest within the city.

One section of his report is devoted to docklands and urges the development of an “urban framework master plan”, stretching from Joppa in the east of the city to Port Edgar in the west. The scope of the project cuts across proposals for 16,000 homes on a 144 hectare site at Leith Docks prepared by RMJM architects for Forth Ports, which have already been submitted for outline planning approval.

A spokesman for RMJM said that this vast scheme had been worked up in consultation with the council. But the firm appears to be at odds with Sir Terry’s design philosophy.

“I am saying to the council, ‘What demands are you making of the developers?’ I want to know how that development links to Leith and to the city centre. These are the questions I don’t have answers to, either from the council or from the applicant,” Sir Terry told the Times last night.

In the centre of the city, Sir Terry laments the condition of Princes Street, at once “one of the most spectacular streets in Europe” and yet “something of a failure” with “second rate” buildings, going on to question whether shopping should be its primary role.

“On Princes Street it is not possible to build large stores without radically altering the streets behind. Yet despite these constraints, Edinburgh keeps trying to convert this great part of the New Town into a kind of mammoth shopping complex,” said Sir Terry.

His alternative mixes flats, boutique hotels and clubs in the upper levels of buildings, which are currently used for storage, and the introduction of cafes and restaurants at street level. He stresses that the impact of the city’s controversial tram system should be minimised and “appropriate for a world heritage site”.

The area around Picardy Place, the huge road junction at the north east end of the city centre, is heavily criticised as a “depressingly triumphant example of the erosion of place”, through the demolition of buildings in the 1960s and the huge rise in motorised traffic. Sir Terry warned that impact of the tram could make conditions in the area worse. However, he welcomed new proposals for the nearby St James Centre which he suggested could bring a new sensitivity to the development in the area.

Sir Terry had little to say about Caltongate, the most controversial city centre building project. This £300million development planned on council land close to the Royal Mile, has been bitterly opposed by local residents and conservation groups and Sir Terry has still to be given the opportunity to see plans for the site.

His comments in Prospect suggest he remains unconvinced by the vision for the area. “With the building of new council offices and with the proposed Mountgrange masterplan for the Caltongate, Waverley is now being encircled by city centre developments that are strengthening the connection between the Old and New Towns. But nevertheless, the station itself still seems like an enormous plug or block, and various ideas have been mooted as to how to utilise and reconnect the urban realm around it,” he said.

Other ideas mooted by Sir Terry include the completion of “unfinished business” at the west end of the city, around Lothian road. New buildings, he said, were required on Morrison Street, on derelict land close to the Edinburgh International Conference Centre, and pedestrian facilities had to be improved at the junction between Lothian Road and the Western Approach Road, “one of the worst examples of suburban highway planning foisted on a town centre”.

He also called for the transformation of Edinburgh’s outer estates, to improve the quality of life for their residents. “Because Edinburgh’s heart is of such internationally recognised quality, this makes the comparison with its blighted outer zones all the more stark,” he said. “Social housing estates planned after the war were never properly integrated with the rest of the city and can be deeply depressed, both physically and socially. Edinburgh’s outer estates are non-urban in the truest sense.”

Wednesday, 9 April 2008

Her and her big mouth

She’s got big hands, bloody big feet and a great big voice. "Hurry up," she yells, "I’m freezing me tits off."

Janet Street Porter is sitting with her Olive Oyl legs dangling over the triangulation point on the top of Edinburgh’s Blackford Hill. She’s not being rude, unkind or unpleasant, she just’s being, well, Janet Street Porter. Sort of stentorian...

That's a flavour of my encounter with Janet Street Porter. The link is working again so you can go here for a funny interview: Walkabout with Janet

I was on holiday last week, but managed to contribute this column on TV sport to Scotland on Sunday: Armchair anaylst

Wednesday, 2 April 2008

Fashioned from the same mould

Sunday Herald, 30 March, 2008

SITTING IN the rooftop café of an expensive Edinburgh department store, a fashionable young couple are having a friendly row. "You know, you blow my mind on a daily basis," she says. "Seriously, all cringing aside, you're really brilliant." "I'm lucky," he grunts, "I love what I do." "You're not lucky. You're talented." "He gives her a look: "Give it a rest", it says.

Whatever is the opposite of sibling rivalry, fashion design duo Christopher and Tammy Kane have found it. Strangers are immediately struck by the sense of ease which surrounds them. They finish each other's sentences with no hint of rudeness or aggression; they throw insults and compliments at one another without fear of causing offence. The Kanes are brother and sister, young and beautiful, best of friends. They are also among a handful of the most successful and sought-after designers in the world.

This is an improbable story of rags to riches in the rag trade. After surviving the best part of 20 years in Newarthill, a village of numbing drabness near Motherwell, the Kanes suddenly find themselves taking dinner with Hollywood celebrities - "Patrick Dempsey and his wife" says Tammy, still in awe - and having camera lenses poked at them by Mario Testino.

In Tammy, the transformation seems more absurd. Four years ago she had a job offering art therapy to little old ladies in Lanarkshire; this month, at 30, she has arrived: her fashion tips are featured in the pages of Vogue. Until that moment, for the last three years of their success, Christopher, small and shy, has been sent out alone to gather up all the glory. "I don't think I'll ever get used to it," he says. "I feel like a complete impostor

The storm of success has been blowing around them since Kylie Minogue bought dresses from Christopher while he was still studying at Central St Martin's College in London. In summer 2006, just three hours after his MA show closed, he was summoned into the presence of Anna "Nuclear" Wintour, editor of Vogue and the hatchet woman of the world's fashion press, who is thought to have inspired the main character in The Devil Wears Prada.

"I was in her hotel room, having a cup of tea and a wee chat," he recalls. "Anna Wintour's in front of me. I was like that ", his jaw hits the floor. "You hear about her, but you'd never think of meeting her. She was lovely."

Wintour told Christopher that he reminded her of the late Gianni Versace and that she would like him to meet Gianni's sister. Phone calls were made and three days later he was backstage at a Versace show in Milan, chewing the fat with Donatella, the grande dame of fashion. "There were models running about, dresses didn't fit, it was just insane, really far-fetched," he says, still shaking his head.

If you're used to the rarefied air of fashion, you'll recognise the synergy between the Versaces and the Kanes. Gianni was the brilliant designer who founded the Italian fashion empire, Donatella his muse and critic. After her brother's death in 1997, she took hold of the business and carried it forward with astonishing single-mindedness. So nine years later, when a gawky Scottish boy dropped a sheaf of his fashion shots at Donatella's feet and out poured photos of his sister modelling his clothes, a bond was forged. Two years on, Tammy and Christopher name-check Donatella as if they are regular house guests - and they are.

In the meantime, team Kane has become an international phenomenon. He is the driving force in design at their Dalston studio. Tammy runs the business, keeping factories organised and suppliers on the move. Then in the evening, as she has done since he was a student, she will try on the clothes which her brother has made during the day. "Models are extortionate," he notes.

The results are spectacular. Their London Fashion Week show this February was news all around the world. "Kane stands on his own with this collection," trumpeted the New York Times. "London's boy wonder" gave "a subtle elegance to simple clothes" agreed the International Herald Tribune.

Even to the untrained eye there is a certain democracy in the Kane style. All sizes and shapes are catered for. Last October, Christopher caused a stir at the Swarovski Fashion Rocks Show by dressing Beth Ditto, singer with The Gossip and a robust size 16.

"We made her two dresses, one for the red carpet and another one for onstage, all covered in crystals. When you're on the runway - the red carpet - the paparazzi are flashing and basically it would lighten up. Then when she was on stage it was like a huge spotlight," says Christopher.

"It was one of the best, definitely one of the best," says Tammy, still revelling in the moment.

The women they admire most are often from an older generation - Christopher's muse, he says, is Carine Roitfeld the 50-something editor of French Vogue - and sister and brother are exultant that Cher has just bought one of his jackets. "You can't go, Who?' when you hear her name. That really cheered us up," says Tammy. These are the kinds of endorsement they have dreamt about for years.

Tammy and Christopher are the youngest of five children, whose mother Christine was a cleaner and whose father was a draughtsman - "the posh side of the family". Though there are five years between them, brother and sister shared a talent for art from an early age, and it was Tammy who first recognised her brother's prodigious skills.

"We'd hibernate, in the living room," she recalls. "We'd paint and draw and when I was interested in something, I would share it with him and vice versa.

"I'll always remember his primary school teacher. No matter what he was given to draw, he drew a woman with a dress. The teacher said to my mum, I'm really concerned, this is all he ever draws.' We're just like, So? What's the problem? At least he's drawing something.'"

The things which interested them when they were children still inspire them now. The Clothes Show, fodder for wet Sunday afternoons, switched them on to fashion. For thrills they watched Prisoner Cell Block H. Now they pool memories like these in their catwalk shows.

"We were looking at denim last year, like the denim overalls they wore in the Cell Block H launderette " muses Christopher.

" the character, the feral feel of it " says Tammy.

" the feral feel gone wrong," amends her brother, "like something supernatural. It's like Carrie in a Stephen King film."

They draw on family and friends too. "One show was very much early Aunt Essie," remembers Tammy. "I still have some of her suits. It was just her, it was all lace and we were thinking about lace for our collection. We looked at each other, and we both said, Aunt Essie! Granny Kane!' There are just things that remind you of people.

"My mum's overalls " she nods at Christopher " those gingham overalls for cleaning. It's bizarre. But we never go, I want that to look like my mother's overalls', it's not like that. Whatever he makes will turn out like a reminder. They're just characters from the past."

"It's romantic when you get into it, and really quite personal too," says her brother. "Anyone creative might be like that. A poet might write a poem about his mum."

Their business has its roots in 2000, the year Tammy graduated from the Scottish School of Textile Design in Galashiels and Christopher was accepted at Central St Martin's. Already, they knew they would have their own fashion business. That autumn, they bought train tickets to London, Christopher to study, Tammy to earn their keep. At first they lived together in Dulwich in a house known as The Fashion Commune, a memory which still makes them giggle. "A crazy American pal put that sign up. I'm sure the neighbours were terrified of us," says Tammy.

Soon after they arrived in the city, Tammy got work with Russell Sage, but when she helped her baby brother find a work experience placement at the studio, her new colleagues were dismissive. "They said, Oh he's so young, he won't be able to use the sewing machine'. I'm like, That boy could sew youse out the room.' Tammy's voice still drips with north Lanarkshire disdain.

Not surprisingly, she didn't last long in her job. "I was surrounded by people who thought they knew better than me, and I can't handle that. I took a step back, and waited for Christopher and supported him." She worked in shops, then as a receptionist for Aston Martin. After the death of their father, Thomas, she moved back to Newarthill for a year to be with her mother, and do her stint as a therapist. But all the while she kept her room on in their London house.

"People must have thought I was really crazy," she says. "My boyfriend used to get frustrated. He'd go, What are you doing? Why are you doing a shitty receptionist's job? You can't. You need to go and get what you studied for.' No-one would believe me. There was definitely an element of doubt, like, She's crazy'."

Christopher mocks the detractors. "She's not using her degree, she's not doing what she's trained to do '"

"So it was just brilliant when it all happened," says Tammy, breaking out in triumphant laughter. "Everyone who'd been judging us for years - especially me. It was just a big " She leans back and grins over the big double-V sign which she's waving in front of her face.

"F*** you!" says Christopher, for the benefit of the blind. "Sometimes it gives you a lot of pleasure, basically saying that to people who thought it would never happen.

"It's true what he's saying," says Tammy, suddenly serious again. "Even people that we're still close to, it's that self-doubt."

Christopher agrees. "That's something in Scotland. If someone does well, there's always someone quick to put them down again. It's annoying."

Equally aggravating, they agree, are the wind-up merchants who accuse them of selling out and abandoning Scotland. They're like the irritating drone of flies. "People were talking about us doing shows up here," says Tammy.

"I was trying to explain that there's actually no point. If you want to give a show, do it with people from Glasgow Art School, Edinburgh Art School. Give them a platform. Our platform is London - the reason being the international press. We don't need to do a show here to feel good and feel Scottish."

Quite right, says Christopher: "Our mum and dad are Scottish. Our whole family is Scottish. We're Scottish."

Fashion, which can seem so ephemeral, sticks deep with the Kanes. The passions it arouses are intense, and often make it hard for them to part with the things they have made. Christopher admits that he can hardly bear to see some women wearing his clothes.

"Even when you see a dress on the shop floor, hanging there. It's something personal something you worked on in the small world of the studio. And then you see it on a girl, or in the street "

"If it's someone amazing, then you're happy," puts in Tammy.

"Yes, you can't influence who buys it," her brother admits. "But sometimes it's like: Shit.' Because you really care for it. It's our intellectual property in a way. I still find it very weird."

Life, for both siblings, has recently taken a new turn. Last September, they moved out from each other and in with their respective boyfriends. They are happy with this development. "It's good to divide work and home life," says Tammy.

"Yeah, it's good to get away from each other sometimes," rejoins Christopher.

But parting is such sweet sorrow for these poets of the fashion world, and they are already playfully devising new domestic arrangements. They would like to buy a house, announces Christopher, and then in unison they shout: "Next door to each other!"

Christopher giggles. "We could ring a bell in the hallway." Tammy laughs too. "That's sick isn't it?"

And then her brother gets all serious. "I don't see anything wrong with that, I don't. Tammy's my best pal. Best pals live together. Best pals see each other. So that's what it is."

Pictures show Kylie in one of Christopher's dresses, and Chirstopher and Tammy, 2nd left, and 2nd right,with friends

Lovelock: optimistic, but not for humanity

The Times, Saturday 29 March, 2008

For a man billed as one of the most important environmental thinkers of his generation, Professor James Lovelock does not sound like a regular tree-hugger.

Yes, of course he accepts that mankind’s energy consumption has brought on the climatic catastrophe which is engulfing us. But he immediately scoffs at the technologies which have been most frequently proposed as alternatives to oil and gas. Wind and wave power? They are “a wicked joke”, he says shaking his head. He prefers the nuclear option.

And the notion of planting trees to offset carbon emissions? He dismisses that as “a crazy idea”. Then with a sigh he says, “That’s the trouble with the Greens, they live in a Green world. It is an ideology and not a science.”

Lovelock is speaking at his home, an old mill in an idyllic corner of Cornwall, but audiences at the Edinburgh International Science Festival will soon get a taste of one the great contrarians, who insists he deals in neither optimism nor pessimism, but realism. Next week he will award the Edinburgh Medal to his friend and colleague Christopher Rapley, the director of the Science Museum in London, and introduce an oration, “Great While it Lasted - Now what?”

The “it” of the title refers to humanity’s relatively comfortable existence on Earth, and the answer, should you be rooting for humanity, is likely to err towards the apocalyptic. Rapley and Lovelock are friends and colleagues and their views entwine. “I think 20% alive by the end of the century would be optimistic,” says Lovelock.

All of his thinking is based on the increasingly influential Gaia hypothesis which he first proposed more than 40 years ago. This described the Earth as a self-regulating, interconnected super-organism within which life ebbs and flows. In his most recent book, The Revenge of Gaia, he warned that the ebb tide is on the rise, bringing on a catastrophe which will have deep consequences for every living thing.

The prognosis is grim. The Sahara is already marching northwards, and swathes of mainland Europe will soon become a desert. Britain, with its maritime climate and relative fertility will inevitably become “a lifeboat” and its population will treble as Europeans migrate here (well, it is their “unconditional right” to come, because of EC membership, notes Lovelock).

When will this happen? “If you believe the [United Nations] Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – I do, but I think it’s an underestimate – by before mid-century, say 2030 or 2040.” If you look back on the Earth’s history, he says, you can see that change happens quickly.

So, within two or three decades, as climate rises by eight degrees centigrade, populations will shift rapidly over the face of the globe, most heading North as the arctic warms up.

Canada will be obliged to open its door to its southern neighbour. Russians will be relocate to a rapidly-warming and congenial Siberia: “no more gulags there” chuckles Lovelock. China will look westwards and complete a process which is already firmly established by annexing Africa. “I don’t think the Africans will lose. The Chinese mightn’t be the most ideal colonists, but it’ll be better than the current state.”

Again, Lovelock insists, this is not a pessimistic view. “You have to recognise that we are not the end product of evolution. Everything keeps evolving. It is wonderful that a planet, after three and a half million years has evolved a species like us, that can think and communicate and to begin to understand what the universe is all about. But we haven’t got far enough yet – we have a lot more steps to make.”

Though he has a PhD in medicine and a fellowship of the Royal Society, Lovelock dislikes academia. He has worked alone since the age of 40, developing a device which detected CFCs in the Earth’s atmosphere. But for years, his environmental theories ensured he remained on the fringes of accepted scientific wisdom. Then in 2001, 800 scientists signed the Amsterdam Declaration on Global Change; suddenly Lovelock was the wise old man.

In a recent contribution to the magazine Nature, with Rapley, Lovelock proposed a possible solution to the crisis engulfing the world. They suggested a system of sea-going pumps and pipes which bring algae to the surface from nutrient-rich layers of the oceans which lie at depths of 100m and more. At the surface, the algae could absorb man-made carbon dioxide and excrete it to the ocean floor.

It sounds plausible and an American engineering company is already investigating a similar system, but success is only a possibility. “It’s not impossible we might find a way out,” shrugs Lovelock, “but I wouldn’t put your shirt on it.”

For now the challenge of his work drives him on. He has been offered “the ultimate upgrade” next year by Sir Richard Branson, a flight on the Virgin Galactic. This will take Lovelock and tourists who can afford the £100,000 fare on a sub-orbital flight over the Earth at a height of 100km. Lovelock is already preparing a book, Seeing the Face of Gaia, to coincide with his flight. “ It will hit the fan as far as publicity is concerned – and what a bright moment to publish,” he says.

He has a shorter journey this weekend – from his home in Cornwall to Edinburgh. But while po-faced Greens insist on taking the train, Lovelock has different ideas.

“Did you know that if you calculate the amount of breath the 6.7million people put out, it’s four times as much carbon dioxide as all of the airlines put together? If you want to improve your carbon footprint – don’t give up you flight, why not stop breathing or hold your breath? A lot of old fashioned envy comes into the flight business. It’s nothing to do with the planet.”

So he didn’t consider taking the 10-hour train journey? “O God no, I wouldn’t dream of it. I’m flying from Exeter. It saves you a pile of money. All you have do is book a couple of months in advance.”

* The Edinburgh Medal Presentation and Address, McEwan Hall, Edinburgh. Monday, 6.30