Friday, March 25, 2005

"An engineer. He suffers from insomnia"

"Ghost capital, real city of varied stones, the great gray place of winds and wynds, old, new and festive by turns, between the river and the hills with its own stone stump, that frozen flow, that fractured plug of ancient matter that fascinated him.
He came to stay in Sciennes road, just liking the name, not knowing the place. It was handy, both for the university and the Institute, and if he pressed his face against the window of his cold, high-ceilinged room he could just see one edge of the Crags, gray-brown corrugations above the slate roofs and smoke of the city."

From The Bridge by Iain Banks.

The above quote comes about half way through the book. The city is Edinburgh, the Institute is the Grant Institute of Geology.
I read this book for the first time as a first year geology student at Edinburgh University, living in a high-ceilinged flat on Sciennes Road. When I read the words above I pressed my face to the cold window and saw the edge of Arthurs Seat and a little of Salisbury Crags.
I put the book down for a few days.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

sigur ros

Five years ago I went to see godspeed you! black emperor at the Lemon Tree in Aberdeen, Scotland. At the time I was waiting on a job offer in Houston, TX, USA so I could be re-united with my wife and children (the job and the adoption came through a week and a month later respectively).
The Lemon Tree was (maybe still is) a pub - the band sets up in a corner on the same level as the audience. There is room for 200 people at most. It's as basic a set-up as can be imagined.
There were two support bands that night - a tough gig for anyone given who the main band was. The first band were forgettable in the extreme.
The second band were sigur ros.
It's hard to state the effect of seeing them play had on an audience who had never heard of them before. Jaws dropped. At least two people I saw started crying. No-one went to the bar.
It was a life-changing moment. One all the more powerful for the fact that GSYBE came on next and played an awesome set which seemed almost irrelevant. The fact that GSYBE had the courage and generosity to have sigur ros go on before them, when they must have known what effect it would have on the audience, still amazes me.
A week later I was in Houston, dealing with things that still burn me today - finalising the adoption of our kids, finding somewhere to live, regularising my immigration status.
I was drunk, impatient and scared that night. I was all of those things after I left the Lemon Tree. Somehow though, they mattered less to me after what I had heard.