‘When you sever the ties that bind you to life all that energy unleashed.’Time of the Bindweed
A winged, plumed race of flying beings inhabit a world in which they have the ability to soar through the air, yet, for the majority, they choose not to use their gift, preferring a life of clerical boredom and unremarkable normality on the safety of terra firma. Wings bound and covered, they eschew the few who choose to do what they can but won’t: fly. The reason for this lies in the faintest possibility that those who choose to fly, sometimes, but not always, fall.
This is the plot of ‘The fliers of Gy’, a beautiful, 20th century parable of humanity’s ability to repress itself in order to conform to an invented reality of corporate consumption. Keep your head down, don’t make a fuss, just get through it all.
The beauty of Ursula Le Guin’s invented worlds, for me lies in the wonderful way in which the fantastical combines with themes that have razor-sharp relevance in modern life. Imagine cramming yourself into the X22 commuter bus at 07:15, Hermiston Gait Park and Ride, when you have the ability to fly.
‘La Bête Blanche’ is the new album by Edinburgh based quintet, Storm the Palace. A palatial pastiche of vivid fantasy and very relatable reality.
I love lyrics, always have and always will, and the text (lovingly reproduced on A3 if you grab a copy of the CD) is a poetic trip through fantasy worlds rooted in the daily to and fro of North Edinburgh and Leith. Musically magnificent, with organs, bagpipes, accordions, canines and autoharps, the sonic and thematic experience is something akin to listening to Prokoviev at Easter Road during the Franck Sauzée years.
‘One day you will grow into yourself and then you will blossom for all to see, and no one will take you for any less than you were meant to be’Some of the Beasts and Birds We Saw
It’s intensely personal, words of oft-unfounded reassurance that one generally expects from optimistic parents or banally blasé school guidance councillors. Yet here the wise, hopeful mantra comes from the bones of a swordfish, one found on the beach at Seafield. Legend and actuality blend perfectly, an uplifting mantra, a call out to all of those who don’t dare to fly; unfurl your wings my children and grow, grow into what you are meant to be, not what you’re expected to be! If inspiration is not limited to location, it seems fitting that such life-changing philosophy takes places on the beach just down from the Matalan.
Short of tartan-tinted, shortbread wielding, terrible at football, fried food munching stereotypes, I reckon that if we choose to define ourselves by something as intangible as a nationality, then one facet of Scottishness surely lies in our ability to tell a story. ‘La Bête Blanche’ is a series of stories, from selkies to murderous madams to Hedy Lamarr, and everything in between. However, shining thematically through the dark forests, cold seas and high castles, is a modern narrative linking the tales with every facet of modern life: isolation, uncertainty, ambition and hope.
‘Living out their age-old incompatibility in bliss, or ignorance, or grinding boredom’Happily Ever After
This could be the motto of my generation. So, we’re back on the bus, X22, trundling through Edinburgh as suburbia gives way to Georgian grandeur, and life is played out in 8-10 hour shifts, repeated over 5 days a week. Meetings, both at work and at play, with strangers, defined by what they do, with stories clipped and cut to fit in with a life that nobody really chose. Wings bound and covered, who even wants to fly?
‘Why do we all have to pretend that we know how things are going to end?’Black Swans and Dragon Kings
We don’t any more.