Archive for the News and Tittle Tattle Category

Edinburgh Tenements

Posted in News and Tittle Tattle with tags , , , , , , , , on August 26, 2010 by craigherbertson

Sean Connery’s birthday brought back some memories of life in the Tenements. Sean was born in 176 Fountainbridge Edinburgh in a tenement a few streets up from my Grannie, Meg Buglass. Grannie Buglass lived on the first floor at Number 1 Lochrin terrace, the last in a row of tenements in Tolcross. Sean’s mum, Effie, used the same wash-house in Fountainbridge and they worked together as Cinema usherettes at what was popularly known as the Flicks, doubtless because the still pictures flickered. They sold sweets at half time.

It was a fairly spartan life then. No telly, no fridge, no dishwasher or washing machine, no indoor toilet and entertainment was the flicks if you were lucky and the fitba on Saturday after work if you were a bloke.

My Granddad, Fredrick Buglass, a Sergeant in the Black Watch and a Telecommunications engineer, owned his own apartment in the Tenement – a mark of a prosperous and thrifty working class man – He was a Secretary of Tolcross Hearts supporters club and a fund of tales. His idea of entertainment was telling stories and singing songs. He was a proud and patriotic man and my memories of him are very clear. He would sit for hours at the open coal fire, dressed in a cardigan, smart shirt with sleeves rolled up and brown pants, reading his newspaper and smoking a pipe with hand rolled tobacco. The fire, a source of endless fascination for a five year old, used to heat the boiler above the stove where Grannie would prepare the breakfast in utter silence. For breakfast Granddad had porridge in the morning. While he could crack a walnut with his tattooed biceps, Granddad was incapable of eating lumps in his porridge.
Granddad off to fancy dress
Ganddad’s job consisted mostly of climbing up telegraph poles but he often told me tales of working on the new Forth Road Bridge or invading Germany. Although at times the tales were a little hairy – his friend who had walked off into the mist on the Forth Road Bridge to fetch a tool and was never seen again was pretty nightmarish – the army tales in particular were all fun and laughter. He was a tough bloke but in common with the attitude of the times it was others who would tell you. While he talked of his regiment carrying the little stray dog and passing it from one soldier to the next as they marched through Germany in 1918 others would tell you of the time he went down the tenement stairs to confront a sailor and soldier who were fighting. He picked them both up bodily, one in each arm, banged their heads together and threw them out of the door.

Edinburgh Tenement

The doors at the foot of the tenement were of course open in those days. They sported huge brass handles. No locks: through you went, thrusting open a huge battered door, up a series of scrubbed and washed steps, hollowed by many, many bare feet.

I can still see the sign that hung on Grannies door that indicated who’s turn it was to wash the stairs. God forbid if you didn’t do it well. Grannie would open the door dressed in the ubiquitous floral pinny, The milk would be there in the lobby, doubtless delivered in the past by Sean Connery along with the great sacks of coal and the papers. Just before you, as you entered the door, was the Glory Hole where all the odds and ends were stored in little tins, chests and cupboards. On the left was the guest room, rarely used, which housed the phonograph and the vast collection of seventy-eights with titles like ‘The British Grenadiers’, ‘The Green Eye of the Little Yellow God’ (with a melody by Milton Hayes & Cuthbert Clarke, 1911,) ‘Abdul Abulbul Amir’, all favourites of my Granddad who would sing or recite them by heart with a humorous glint in his eye. Straight ahead was the toilet with its old iron bath – an innovation which had come about the same time as Goldbergs, the new superstore with an escalator and a cafe on the roof.

Goldbergs

It’s probably incomprehensible to most people that I didn’t realise a bath was a thing to be enjoyed until I was twenty. My associations were of four inches of tepid water.

On the right the living room and kitchen with huge high ceilings and windows opened with a massive hooked stick, a gas oven, an open fire and an old railway clock given as a retirement present to my Granddad. When my Granddad was gone Grannie removed the chimes as they had always irritated her. The high windows looked out onto the Green, a place mostly forbidden to me in case the neighbours got annoyed. On the right of the living room was the small bedroom where I would sleep with my Grandmother at the age of nine when Granddad was gone. In the latter days of the 1960’s I was her excuse to watch late night horror films

My mum had been at Brunstfield Primary school and was a year or two below Sean Connery. He left at thirteen and she was off at fifteen to work as a typist before marrying and raising three boys. Often on a saturday in the 1960’s, she would drop me off, the youngest of the bunch, while she went to the shops. I would occasionally be sent for ‘messages’, rolls, butter or the like, but mostly I would play on the floor with a small glass jar which contained about fifteen toy soldiers. The floor was linoleum with a single carpet – wall to wall carpeting was an unheard of luxury. If aunt Jessie came round we would play cards for matches – Newmarket, trumps and patience. Essentially, there was nothing much else to do but as with all social things it was still fun doing it.

The outside toilet had gone by the time I was being dropped off at Grannies but the tenement door was still open. Grannie was still eating calf brain sandwiches with relish. She had all her teeth removed in her twenties in the new fashion for dentures. My mum never fancied calf brain much and was proud of her gleaming white teeth. She still liked the fur coats though, worn with pearl beads but she wouldn’t wear the inevitable little hats. We had moved to a new housing estate in Northfield, near Portobello. There were three cars on our street and much much later a television with a grainy undecipherable picture. Mum still made porridge and I inherited my Granddad’s dislike for lumps.

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Portobello High School

Posted in News and Tittle Tattle with tags on August 25, 2010 by craigherbertson

I am ex pupil of Portobello High School, which must be demolished to make way for a new school. I’d like to remind anyone interested that a campaign to preserve the common land near Portobello is still underway. Anyone who can support the majority of local residents who wish to keep the golf course and the green belt free please see what they can do here:

http://www.portygreenkeepers.org.uk/

Tales from the Smoking Room

Posted in Bits and pieces, Tales of Horror with tags , , on June 23, 2009 by craigherbertson

I’m delighted to announce the publication of a 40 page A4 Homebrew Zine of Victoriana horror and steampunk by the Hand of Danjou press. Edited by Benedict J Jones and V C Jones and with cover art from Will Jacques


Contents

The Strangled Garden – Stephen Bacon

Room Three – Matthew Crossman

The Iron Ape – Mike Harding

The Decent Thing – VC Jones

Parlour Games – Mike Chinn

Serendipity – Trudi Topham

and a happy little Daniel Mulholland story:


A Game of Billiards – Craig Herbertson

Available here Tales from the Smoking Room

The Fourth Black Book of Horror: Dark Fiction Review

Posted in Bits and pieces with tags , , on May 23, 2009 by craigherbertson

“The reader is guaranteed to find something to send shivers down the spine.'”

Charles Black’s latest anthology recieved its first review – very favourable. Unable to pick a winner, the  Dark Fiction Review picked out a few random tales including my offering. The reviewer said some nice things:

“…Soup…written by Craig Herbertson. It’s a wickedly dark tale of a secret society and the nefarious goings-on as one society meeting draws near. Reminiscent of traditional ghost stories (with a little dash of M.R.James) in its writing style, it’s a sumptuously told tale that is a fine start to the book

The quality of the contents forces me to adopt a similar policy so here’s a random selection.

Johhny Main’s ‘With Deepest Sympathy’ is a sharply told and cleverly conceived tale which would sit well with the classic Pan Horror anthologies.  Little gems like  ‘ She’s dead? oh well – that is fantastic news!’ contrast with shivery moments of classic terror.

‘A Cry For Help’ by Joel Lane is a creepy, modernist tale with the sentiment of Dickens and a style not unlike P.K. Dick. Had me guessing until the last line.

I admit I was one of the few readers who thought that ‘The Crimson Picture’ by Daniel McGachey in ‘The Second Black Book of Horror’a story which received superlative reviews – was a good rather than great tale. I happily concede that McGachey’s ‘And Still Those Screams Resound…’  is a scorcher of a story; beautifully conceived and constructed. It’s setting, the central concept, the characterisation make it one of those unforgettable classics.

Welll it was a random selection. There are other tales of equal merit but I hope it’s enough to get you out there on the web scrabbling for a copy.

Ship in A Bottle

Posted in News and Tittle Tattle with tags on April 3, 2009 by craigherbertson

My old friend Desmond Newton died on 30.01.2009. His obituary is in the Times.

Des was a uniquely talented man. He put ships in bottles. He was proud to present a miniature of the royal yacht Britannia to the Queen when she visited the Liverpool Maritime museum but prouder, doubtless, to have entertained thousands upon thousands of children with his talents.

My old Partner Bernie Shaw wrote a song about him called ‘Ship in a Bottle’ and Des played it on Children’s BBC ‘Corners’ when he demonstrated his skills to the world.

‘There’s a man down the dock, Des Newton’s his name catching the spirit of the sea is his game’

Well, sadly he’ll no longer walk down the dock between the buildings of the Maritime museum but that’s where I’ll always remember him – smiling, laughing and joking with us two buskers on the Pierhead. And something of him will always remain in those fantastic bottles with their miniature ships.

Des once came to me on the Pierhead looking unusually agitated. He had his old Burns guitar, very rare and he could have sold if for a lot of money. He’d come to give it to me for a song because he was desperately keen that it go to someone who would both cherish and play it. I assured Des that if I didn’t use it enough I would give it away to someone who would know it for it was. After many years I finally passed it on to my friend Rob Carroll who plays it to this day. The guitar case still contains the promotional photo of Des in his cabaret days, laughing and smiling as he always did.

I’ll certainly miss him..

Fantasy Writing. A Set of Tips and Admonitions to the Unwise. No6/ Yet more things to avoid

Posted in Bits and pieces on December 8, 2008 by craigherbertson

Don’t ‘thee’ and ‘thou’ unless you have read Marlowe and Chaucer and enjoyed them both

Fantasy Writing. A Set of Tips and Admonitions to the Unwise. No5/ Yet more things to avoid: The Map

Posted in Bits and pieces, Fantasy Writing with tags , , on November 26, 2008 by craigherbertson

There are only a few good maps of fantasy lands. Each dull map, with its hastily squiggled in mountains, clumsy nomenclature and bunched up forests should at least bear some resemblance to a plausible geographical landscape.