With a Twist: Waldorf Astoria Magazine

14 Nov

Here is a small piece I did for Waldorf Astoria Magazine about The Caley Bar at the Waldorf Astoria Caledonian.

unforgettable cover 3When the job came up I was like “yes finally, my Hunter S Thompson Mint 400 moment”.

unforgettable cover 4I went along and spoke to the staff and tried the cocktails. It was all very nice, and there were no giant bats or anything.

unforgettable coverIt was only small but it made my Mum happy.

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The piece is now in Waldorf Astoria hotels all over the world.

Cigs, Edinburgh’s Banksy

12 Nov IMG_0478

For months I have been haunted by a latent presence on the streets of Edinburgh. Cigs.

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Viewforth/Union Canal

Not since the Caves at Lascaux has man witnessed such mesmerising treatment of bare stone, such bold purpose. In ancient Pompeii, the artisan tiling his mosaic could not have hoped for greater dexterity of hand and symmetry of line.

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Leith Walk

I have been tracking down this elusive talent for some time now. I believed initially that his base of operations was in Leith but then I witessed the scene below on a drive to North Berwick one day. Who knows his dastardly reach?

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City Bypass

Nobody knows exactly where Cigs comes from. What scant records there are show that as a young apprentice he did mottling work on the famous mural of Erich Honecker kissing Leonid Brezhnev on the Berlin Wall. Latterly he sprang up in Paris where he made the murky subway system his subterranean workshop. He also worked with Richard “Richie” Morando aka ‘Seen’ in The Bronx for a few months in 1996.

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West Bowling Green St

But it is the subversive ‘Edinburgh Series’ that Cigs is most lauded for. These surgical vignettes are to be found all over the Scottish capital, from Tollcross to Torphin, striking fear into the hearts of the city’s elite.

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Tollcross Area

Cigs is a wraith, a shadow, a Mr Hyde, a Moriarty. His lurid crest is as familiar to me as the lines on my palm. He’s in my head.

Damn you Cigs!

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West Port

Once I thought I had caught him in the act. I was walking back from a night out and took a shortcut round the back of the University. Turning down a gloomy alley I saw a hooded figure addressing a virgin wall some distance away. I took my chance and approached.

“Cigs you fiend,” I shouted, “Cigs, is it you?”

The figure twisted round gracelessly. It wasn’t Cigs. It was a drunk man vomiting whilst simultaneously trying to urinate.

“Dinny smoke mate,’ he said, before resuming his wretch.

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Leith Walk

Who are you Cigs? Are you a force for good?

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Tollcross Area

Perhaps there is a little bit of Cigs in all of us. The unending urge to make our mark, to be seen, to be remembered. But as the ancient Greek philosopher Democritus once said “Our sins are more easily remembered than our good deeds”. For Cigs the price of fame is the life of the nameless fugitive and absent visionary.

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Newhaven Road

What next for Cigs? Rumour has it that Cigs will soon be making a feature length film (working title “Exit Through The Butcher’s Shop”). And a major retrospective at The National Galleries of Scotland is also in the offing, where Cigs’ work will be shown alongside Jack Vettriano’s, among others.

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Drummond Street

If you spot any of Cigs’ work around the city do feel free to take a snap and send it to alasdairpeoples@gmail.com. If I get enough I will post the entries in another section on this site.

If you are reading this Cigs, drop me an email. I always protect my sources.

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Indyref Instant Melts

18 Sep

indyref instant melts

My view on the referendum debate.

You’ve Got to Have a Strategy

13 Aug

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I was living as a lodger at the time in one of Edinburgh’s less discriminating quarters, trying to make something happen in my career and my love life. I had a strategy and I was trying to stick to it. And I have to say things were going reasonably well. Somehow I had managed to find a position at a reputable firm of Edinburgh lawyers – a commitment I fulfilled  a couple of days a week – and to make ends meet I picked up a couple of shifts in a trendy bar near the station at the weekend. There was a barmaid there that I had a crush on and I pursued her amorous attentions chiefly through the medium of instant text messaging.

I used to send her jokes in the evenings. Tuesday, Tommy Cooper:

  • Said to my gym instructor: “can you teach me the splits?” He said: “how flexible are you?” I said: “I can’t do Tuesdays.”
  • You’re a loser
  • Want to go to the cinema?
  • Maybe, probably not though

Progress. Minor, yes, but definitely progress. Wednesday, Woody Allen:

  • Went to the zoo today. There was only one dog there: it was a Shitzu.
  • Sounds ruff
  • Yeah it’s the kind of thing that really TICKS me off
  • Just beagle-ad it’s over

The heart flutters; a pun, tiny as it is, is in my world just short of an aphrodisiac. I fell asleep sometime after that feeling energised, content, unswerving. My strategy was working.

A few hours later I awoke in darkness, a constriction in my throat, my legs damp with sweat, my back arched towards the ceiling, my entire body gripped by a freak paralysis. Materialising somewhere in the corner of the room was a soft voice, disembodied, very low, and terrifyingly there – at the door? in the closet? in my mind?  – it was difficult to know. It fired questions at me, made terrible claims:

“Who is she?”

I couldn’t reply, I had never felt such fear.

“Tell me who she is?”

I gasped, make it stop I said.

The voice left on a plaintive note.

“She can’t have you.”

Mercifully the paralysis subsided a few minutes later and the strange voice fell silent. What dark force was out to sabotage my budding oath with the barmaid I could not fathom. But it had not been a dream, no no. I had been wide awake – that I was convinced of.

I am quite a rational man – perhaps it’s the lawyer in me – and it is not often I find myself stumped. Shivering under the covers, I went through all the possible explanations I could think of for this horrifying visitation. Was I simply going mad? Perhaps – although I had no prior history of depression or anxiety. Had I been drinking too much? Certainly I had put a few back in pursuit of the barmaid, propping up the bar whilst she served in that charming way of hers. But not enough to prompt this unannounced horror.

I had read once of a phenomenon called lucid dreaming. In lucid dreams the dreamer perceives the dream image in uncommonly vivid detail, almost as if they were actually awake.  This I thought to be the most convincing explanation for what had occurred, although the realisation did nothing to calm my nerves. The only other thought was that something of the occult had taken place. But as I say I am a rational man.

Sleep proved difficult that evening as you can imagine. At one point I sat right up in my bed and finished off the glass of water I had laid out for the following morning. As I licked my lips I noticed there was lipstick around the rim of the glass. Not mine I assure you – my landlord Mark’s.

Mark would leave red stains like this all over the home, like calling cards. On occasion I would open my papers at the office to find lipstick in the margins. Did he do this to his previous tenants? Did he torment them the way he tormented me? It was a very small flat, one couldn’t fail to notice these things.

He often complained that I didn’t take any notice of him, but as you can clearly see from this piece of writing, I did. Indeed, as I pen this account it strikes me that just as I had devised a strategy to court the barmaid so Mark had devised one of his own to court me: the lipstick stain. His smear campaign.

Look, right – I work, I work on collating my jokes, I go to meet the barmaid – it’s difficult for me to make time for anybody, let alone my landlord. Two people sleeping in the same house is that not enough? You know, a bit of company?

Not for Mark.

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Losing my train of thought for a moment, I noticed that Mark was still awake, sitting in the living room listening to music of a choral nature. I threw on my dressing gown and emerged from my chambers.

I knocked on the living room door. ‘Are you alright Mark? It’s 3am.’

His reply was … unbalanced. It sounded as if he was speaking Latin.

I entered the room. ‘What are all these candles for Mark? Christ, there’s hundreds of them.’

Mark said nothing. He was sitting in the lotus position, his back towards me.

‘Is there something you’re not telling me Mark?’

Finally he spoke, his voice deep and gravelly like Darth Vader’s.

‘This is the fourth moon of Garniroth, it is prophesised in the Book of Memneer that a sacrifice must be made,’ he said. As he spoke, his body levitated above the candles. He rotated and fixed his gaze on me. The choral music – which I had at first thought charming – became shrill and demonic.

I turned to go and put the kettle on but my feet were rooted to the ground.

‘Mark I can’t move.’

Mark’s eyes glowed with unnatural brightness.

‘Mark help me I can’t move.’

He levitated towards me and attached large chains to each of my limbs. It was then that I realised Mark and myself were not batting for the same side. It is of course clear to me now that Mark was a foot soldier of Satan. While I had gone about the town boasting that he was trying to seduce me he had in fact been lining me up for a starring role in some sort of depraved ceremony. As well as the standard feelings one has to deal with in such situations – Mum! etc – I felt quite sheepish. I had thought he was just a bit randy.

‘The great Zoldan, wraith of the fourth quadrant demands your liver. To Xerxag, Doge of Asteroth, go your teeth. Your remaining organs will feed the dead armies of the night and I, Mark, will wear your rancid skin as a cape for a thousand years.’

The mystery of the visitation had finally become clear. By some twist of demonology Mark had managed to speak to me directly without actually being present. That much was clear to me now. And he had wanted me all to himself not because he was jealous – how foolish of me to think the disembodied voice had concealed a lonely heart – he had merely wanted my human flesh for sacrifice. But I had little time to evaluate this delicate situation.

Mark had wafted through to the kitchen and was rootling around in the drawers for sharp utensils. He returned with a kebab skewer, a cheese grater and a tupperwear box.

‘Mark,’ I said, as he prepared to insert the skewer into my nostril, ‘sincerely I am ready to bend to your will. But I have one final request. I want to hold you in my arms and kiss you, for old times’ sake. Grant me that much old boy. ’

He looked at me quizzically. ‘So be it.’

As soon as the chains dropped from me I bolted for the door, in the race I took a skewer to the neck and chest.

Staggering into the stairwell and out onto the street I fell to the ground clutching my mobile phone. I didn’t have much time; I was bleeding to death. My movements had to be strategic or else, surely, I would perish. Going out guns blazing I texted the barmaid. My hands trembled over the buttons:

  • Help, please, oh god, I need to get to a hospital!
  • what is it?
  • It’s a big building with lots of doctors, but that’s not important now!

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Delivery

24 Jul

delivery

There is something to suit everyone’s taste,

nothing goes to waste, prices exclude VAT,

dim sum chicken feet, rat-a-tat-tat,

ding-a-ling-a-ling, hoi sin, Szechuan –

prawns, duck, pork, squid, twenty quid.

 

Battering the Fiat’s soft grey shell

under the streetlight’s mango glare,

he soaks up the city’s spicy heat.

That’s what he’s here to do – for you.

He gets £6.50 an hour & tips, and sweet chilli chips.

 

The hallways have their own distinct aromas,

a hum of shoes, the lemon breeze of cleaning.

In one he visits twice each week the ancient

smog of cat hangs dense as glue

and stinking gusts of sloth are deep and sudden.

 

The place is a nightmare to get to,

slipped round a bend on a wooded road,

turned in on itself,

the windows black,

the lights in the vestibule motorway orange.

 

The man is a crone, his face a troubled oyster.

He can hardly walk,

his delivery  is essential.

He asks each night for his fortune biscuit,

a colossal freight compressed in his ogle.

The Dissertation

6 Apr

You’ll know him for his stories

Some are eerie, some just gory

And that poem of his ‘The Raven’, well I’m sure that’s one you’ll know,

He’s the source of my frustration,

And my fucking dissertation:

‘On the textual orientation of the works of Edgar Poe.’

 

I know just what you’re thinking,

You’re thinking: ‘what’s he drinking?

Who on earth would write a paper on the works of that old loon?’

Good point, but I’m in shit,

I need to fucking finish it

Before the English Lit department shuts this afternoon.

 

Well the word count isn’t great,

And I feel compelled to masturbate,

And organise my socks in rows of black and rows of white.

Perhaps I’ll write to Granny…

Clean my room from nook to cranny…

It is really quite uncanny that the hoover looks so …right.

 

Jesus Christ this essay’s bad,

Two thirds wanky, one third mad;

I didn’t think it possible to reach this kind of low.

Quoth the Raven: Nevermore.

Quoth the student: I am bored

And I don’t think I can stand much more of old Lenore and Poe.

 

My degree mark will diminish,

If I do not get this finished;

Just a few more hundred words and that is that, what’s done is done;

I’ll get my cherished third

Never write another word

And forget I ever heard of Poe, get drunk and have some fun.

 

And the student still is sitting,

Never flitting, still is sitting,

In a bedroom full of open books and folders on the floor,

And his eyes have all the seeming

Of an idler who is dreaming

Of a doctor deeming him unfit to write it anymore.

 

Follow this link if you fancy reading the dissertation.

(image: Forsakenfotos/FlickrCC)

Local Business Review: Cafka

19 Mar

A Wednesday in March. What to do? Lunch on a park bench? Lank loom in a book shop? I decided to slurp down a quick coffee. But where to go? The choice: a cosmopolitan Starbucks, frazzled businesspeople, young mums – or slum it with the herbal freaks and bean-addled student crusties in one of the city’s independent coffee houses; slouched buildings with names like Café Caffeine, Bean-Cradle, Milk Lumps. For various reasons I chose the latter.

I meandered into an arty little place called Cafka.

At the door there were three sexless individuals who smelled of cumin. They were discussing an art installation being erected in the window of Cafka. One of them was smoking a roll-up, the other two were rolling roll-ups. Their clothes seemed to be made from curtains and their voices had the spaced, jobless drawl of those who smoke weed before lunchtime.

‘Yeah, that’s it man. It’s an … it’s an enigma.’

I glanced at the installation. It was about as enigmatic as a pube.

‘ A … presence.’

‘For sure, for sure.’

You’ll no doubt be amazed to hear that the piece was entitled ‘Enigma; Presence.’ It was a television with an ashtray on top of it. In the ashtray were three stubbed cigarette butts, each a different colour. On the screen there was a woman in a white dress walking three cats along a beach. The colour of each cat corresponded to the colour of one of the butts.

‘Yeah, it’s like… like…’

‘Yeah…’

This was creative production at its lowest ebb (or so I believed at the time, having not yet seen the initial drawings for a giant fresco of Alex Salmond in Falkirk should Scotland go independent) it had the unexpected effect of making me feel better about my life. I had to commend these people: with their banal and deeply absurd exhibitions, they were inadvertently providing much needed comic relief to Edinburgh’s creative sector.

Inside I ordered a coffee (a coriander macchiato, the best on offer) and sat down on a rug-splattered chair that felt alive, alarmingly. The décor in Cafka is smothering; every inch of wall pasted with past installations and leaflets for obscure music events; D.J  Gadge and the Reindeer Egg; Derek’s Accordion Apocalypse; Cod Sounds. I sipped my drink and put it down, not intending to pick it up again. Sat opposite me was a bearded man wearing lensless glasses. He was flicking through Cafka’s bi-monthly newsletter: The Scene. I picked up a bedraggled copy.

It was trash.

The main article was a florid piece about ‘modes of expression’ which profiled a day in the life of the artist who had spawned ‘Enigma: Presence.’ There was a small picture of her standing alongside an older piece: ‘Presence: Enigma’. I squinted my eyes at the black and white image; were they?… yes … they were. The artist was definitely sporting a pair of lensless glasses. I looked up. It couldn’t be, could it? It was. I was sitting face to face with the artist. His name was Michelle X. He let out a high pitched cough through his beard. I noticed he had breasts.

I left Cafka in high spirits.



 
This review was commissioned by The Ancient, Honorable 
and Fragrant Order of the Pink Goats. If you would 
also like me to review a fictional venue, do not 
hesitate to get in touch.
(image:Wonderlane/FlickrCC)
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