Monday, December 29, 2014

Intermission*

The curtain came down on The Asterisk Years for 2014 on Sunday and it was fitting that it was in Carluke given the enormous role people from town have played in the project. After the initial flurry of dates, I realised that the tour was an enormous commitment and that time would be needed to re-charge the batteries at some points during it. After a couple of things fell through, I seized the time from now until we resume in Drogheda on January 24th for a complete break and thank God I did, more of that later.

From the two huge screenings in Glasgow in the middle of November, the first place the film was going was Larne. Now, if you're reading this and are part of the Larne tourist board, you owe me money because every time I go there I spend the week before telling everyone how fucking great it is. This is because Larne is, bar none, the place I go where the most folk say "why the fuck you going there?" Apart from the obvious "They invited me", the point of taking The Asterisk Years round the world is to go anywhere and everywhere to get the story out there. The bonus of Larne it has great Tims like Gary Bergin and Martin Wilson, the latter being the current Mayor, who don't hide who they are and what they are all about and I'm drawn to that. It was shown in The Station Bar and once a few technical difficulties were sorted out, the film went down a storm and this was a tough crowd. It's a Friday night pub crowd, most who have a good drink in them and don't know me from Adam, Hugh or otherwise. You know what that is like? It's like being a nude model in front of a room full of artists and waiting to see if they want to paint you. But with a packed pub and tremendous reaction, you feel like the next stop is the Louvre.

Also, where else would I be made an official visitor?


A lovely addendum to the Larne trip was the story of Una. Let down for a babysitter at the last minute, she couldn't make the Larne screening so we decided to take the film to her. So on the Saturday afternoon Gary drove to Whiteabbey and we were very warmly received. Which was handy given that we almost took a wrong turn and ended up in Rathcoole. I know I said I would take the film anywhere but I am going to leap here and say that no one in Rathcoole would be up for screening it. More fool them. The small moments though are the best moments and the afternoon we spent with Una, Patsy and family was one of the best moments.


From the north of Ireland, it was onwards south to Dublin and the actual seeds of this screening were sewn in July. As many of you will know, I have some fantastic friends in Dublin and they are the reason for my numerous visits there. Back in the summer, I knew I wanted this film to show in four places, Glasgow, New York, Philadelphia and Dublin. All them are places that mean something to me and contain people who have had enormous positive impact on my life. So I had been talking to my friend Conor about doing a Dublin screening and we took an opportunity at a Dublin-Meath GAA game at Croke Park to meet up with Ciaran Kenny from the Naomh Padraig CSC in The Clonliffe House and made an agreement in principle for a December 6th showing.

This is important for two reasons, the first is the CSC were in the midst of moving venue and had not set home at this time and second is this is the kind of thing that is required to get an independent tour like this going. That day, I flew over on the early flight on the Sunday morning, ate breakfast, went to the pub, then the game, then met Ciaran, then went out with Conor, Mick and the Bhoys and was on a flight again at 6am on the Monday morning. It all sounds like a doss eh? What's not to love about 24 hours solid on the bevvy? Well, no sleep, nervous tension about all the arrangements and deadlines you need to meet, and your last taxi driver speeding you to the airport and offering you 10 euros for a coffee in the airport because he's been told that the other people in the cab are in an army. Not that I am looking for medals (I'm not a lover of armies that give out medals) but going the extra mile is what you need to do when you hang your balls out there. I've always hated this perception that folk who come from places like where I do are lazy, feckless, workshy and all the rest of the bullshit Daily Mail terms we hear. Most of the folk I know work their bollocks off day in, day out and that's something I've tried to do throughout this project, no matter what it takes, keep going, keep focused, let the haters hate and remember the big picture. Anyway kids, that's your life advice for today.

Dublin was a fantastic screening. Mark at the Bad Ass Café was a fantastic host and another big crowd pitched up and I was especially delighted to hook up with Harper and Joe from the HomeBhoys as both played huge parts in this project and both are solid comrades for life.

Why else would they hold me up?


At this point, my life was college, Celtic games, squeeze in some family life and then weekend consumed by a screening. I could say I couldn't tell you the last time I just sat down with a mate for a beer or chat but I could. It was a Friday night in November and I was sharing a beer with my pal Paul at his house when the polis phoned to say someone had tried to sledgehammer in my front door. This was on the back of a mug posting spoilers of the film on social media four hours before. Relax? I'd love to.



The following week was off to the Irvine CSC and that was another nude model scenario. I'd never been in the club before and only really knew Danny McCambridge, the host, through email. So on a Saturday when most folk were consumed by Christmas shopping, I took a train to Glasgow Queen St, a short walk to Central, and then hopped on a packed train to Irvine. Danny met me at the station and experience tells you this is a good sign and that proved to be the case. The Irvine CSC is a fantastic club full of great people. Great set up to show a film and a nice wee bonus of being able to raise £200 for The Kano Foundation.


And so to Nairn. Now I'd been to Nairn in July and knew a lot of the Bhoys there, none more so than James Wallace and his girlfriend Donna (who doubles as my bodyguard) so I was completely relaxed about this screening right up until the day before when I woke up chilled to the bone, sore throat and feeling like I was ready to climb back in the womb. This coincided with my last day of college for the year and I had a report to finish and a 15 minute presentation to do. I went in and explained to the lecturer about my physical state and she said "Well, thanks for coming in and doing this then" Eh, aye, cheers.

After a gruelling day, I was home, on the couch and on the Beechams. One crap sleep later and I was up for a train to Inverness. The fucking cattle train. Three and a half hours later I arrived in Inverness and was met by James and Duncan at the station before being driven by Nairn. This was mad Friday and I felt like death warmed up. Still, it was the usual warm welcome from James' father and a beautiful room, same as last time, provided. The bed was calling me like a buxom wench with two frothy pints but it was off to The Stables Bar for a test and then a bite to eat before the show. The folk in Nairn are fantastic, guys like Kenny Nicol and Big McGoo are full of life and fun and they gave me the energy that night to keep going until around 11pm. Meeting Liam and his pal from Inverness also did. I was wrecked though and went to bed for another crap sleep before the usual poached egg breakfast and back on the train for the next three and a half hours.
 
I had five days in Ireland to see my youngest son and take a break for Christmas but in reality, I was absolutely fucked. The flu was gripping me like a medium sized T shirt and it was hard to really enjoy myself when the only day I wasn't travelling, due to various family commitments, was Christmas Day and it was taking it's toll. Back Friday night and I was exhausted and ill. I was in no state to go to the Ross County game but I had to because I was picking up a signed ball for the Carluke do on the Sunday. At this point I was probably looking to folk like I had just crawled out a swamp.
 
And so to Carluke on Sunday. I actually felt reasonable on Sunday morning, after a dose of Beechams and Ibuprofen and had to be pretty anal with them, telling them I'd travel alone and back because I wanted to control my arrangements so I wasn't relying on anyone else.
 
 
 
I was picked up at the station by the inimitable Richard Swan and we were joined by the McCardie brothers, Brian and Martin, and off to the hall. And what a hall. The Carluke Bhoys do not do anything by half and the welcome and hospitality I received from President Peter Connolly and his committee of Michael McKeever and Dougie Mooney is something I will never, ever forget. Then, I was blown away by the reception the film got, a standing ovation, and was presented with the picture below, which now has pride of place on the living room wall, and I was speechless. It sums up the Carluke Bhoys and Richard Swan in particular (Was delighted to meet his wife Joanna and get enough material on him to last a lifetime though) and makes all the crap worthwhile. Most of it isn't crap though, that's because of folk like you.
 
Now if you don't mind, the curtain is closed for now, yer auld pal needs a break until we resume again on January 24th.
 
And breathe....
 
 

Sunday, December 21, 2014

A Christmas* Message





Well, been a while since I did one of these.

So if you aren't interested in a personal message from me to folk interested in what I do, swipe away now.

I wanted to take the time to reflect and give thanks to all those who have supported me in 2014, bar none the most incredible, bizarre and crazy year of my life. If I had to pick a word to sum it up it would be "relentless". From the second in January that I decided to try and make a film of The Asterisk Years right until now, doing this blog after a seven hour round trip to Nairn with man flu to do a screening, my life has been in the control of others. In fact it sums up supporting Celtic as well. It's ups and downs, twists and turns, brightly coloured and never boring. I'ver been on a total of around 40 planes, 20 trains and buses daily and bounced all over the place in pursuit of this story.


They say with a book that it's your baby until you finish it then it becomes the baby of anyone who buys it. That's true but the difference with a film is that you don't sit over the shoulder of the person reading it after they have bought it whereas at each screening I am there, watching the reactions and listening to the comments. Something you don't even consider when making it. No night or crowd is ever the same. I do a Q&A after each screening and you can never second guess the questions. They range from in depth analysis of the content to whether parts of certain people's anatomy still work. Often folk, strangely if you ask me, just want to ask questions about Celtic and, whilst I am always happy to talk Celtic, occasionally it seems to be forgotten that I don't actually make the decisions at Celtic.  The surreal aspect isn't lost on me either. Like when a guy in Nairn on Friday said to me after the Q&A "Now you know how John Paul Taylor feels" at exactly the same time I got a text question from John Paul Taylor.

There's also the fact that some people are dialled into the information whilst others are witnessing it for the first time. So a balance is needed, probably like a comedian telling a joke for the 50th time. Along with a thick skin. You find out a lot about people when you effectively expose yourself to the world. There were a few people in my life who liked to pat me on the head when I tried anything and then when something actually became a huge success, they never mentioned it and barely speak to me now. Others never spoke to me for years and now are all over me. A couple are even nice to my face but wish nothing but misery on me behind my back. You go through a few stages of different emotions because of this, anger, sadness, frustration, disappointment, before the love and support of others washes all that away like a power hose on a Mini Metro.



Of course these situations were a million miles away when I had the idea of the film. In all honesty if I knew how much work and money was required, I'd probably have never even attempted it. I had to ask lots of people to trust me, I had to devote virtually all my spare time to the project and effectively hand my life over to others for them to comment on, judge and feel like they had the right to constantly criticise me. To give an insight, it took nine months for the entire process of making and editing the film to be complete and despite the hugely successful screenings thus far which have ensured almost 1000 people have seen the film already, I estimate I won't break even on the film until post-America. Throughout that I was constantly attacked online, I was threatened and mocked, I was dehumanised by dafties with Twitter accounts, I was constantly told the film would never get made and was constantly given advice by people who, at most, have maybe been to a cinema once.

Not that I am complaining mind you.

I went into this with my eyes open and a clear focus to get the story out there and keep maximising the impact. That's worked so far and my own barometer is when you can silence a Friday night pub crowd with the content of the film.

One of things I've always been about is never doing anything the way folk expect it to be done. It's the old Punk in me (Nigel his name is) about never adhering to the rules and betting the way everyone else thinks is wrong. The Asterisk Years doesn't need the acceptance of anyone, not least the media. 2014 has woken me up to how many people still hang on every word of the mainstream media and need them to say something before they will believe it. I see my job, in terms of the type of citizen journalism I do, as providing an alternative. That's all.  I am not in the business of needing the approval of anyone or needing anyone to tell me what to think about something. Even with the film, I lay out the evidence and Jah makes it entertaining, but it's still you, the viewer, who has to make your own mind up on what to think about it.

The ability to critically think should never be underestimated and it is what is required to make stuff like this succeed. That's the one thing I ask of a viewer.

I feel like I speak about the abuse I get too much. I've already briefly mentioned it here and it does add weight to the abusers but it actually has become a part of my life now. Even on Wednesday there, I was in Frankie and Benny's in Ocean Terminal in Leith and was just casting a widening eye over the starters when a woman screamed in my face that that I was a "Taig scumbag" and that I will be shot soon.

The Meatballs were decent at least.



The flip side of all this has been the support. The amount of people who have stepped forward for me and offered all sorts of things is something I will never get used to. I know those who go on a career path think that it is their natural calling for folk to love them but I've never been on a career path, far less thought folk should love me, stuff just seems to happen to me. Well, actually, sometimes I can make it happen too and The Asterisk Years is definitely one of those things. For me personally, confidence is a huge thing. Anyone brought up on a council estate knows how much confidence is knocked out of you from the minute you can understand words. You only realise this when you get older though and meet people who have been conditioned all their life to feel entitled. So I tried to constantly remind folk throughout this project that a lot of it was about opportunities that are denied for people like us and that we could give opportunities to people through this project. That's why I am immensely proud that this project has given folk the platform to showcase their talent, it's ensured kids can go and see Celtic, hungry people will be fed and homeless people sheltered.

With that being said, it would be nothing and none of that would be possible without the support of the people in the streets, on social media, who stop me at games or on pubs, or on trains and even planes (My claim to fame is being recognised by the passport guy in Dublin, hopefully for the work) Trying to build something that has credibility and fights back at the PR charade that has engulfed Scottish football for a generation.

It does require a lot of hard work though. Take this week again, fresh from the pre-meal outburst, I went home and man flu hit me like a wet kipper across the face and the prospect of a trip to Nairn on Friday feeling like I wanted to crawl back inside the womb wasn't exactly inspiring.

But you have to go.

It's not easy going to different places and meeting new people if you are constantly working on building your confidence and sometimes you feel like Danny Fucking La Rue in a "The show must go on darling" kind of way as one weekend merges into another.

And the reward comes from the people you meet, new friendships you make and new groups that you enlighten with the information (I can say that last part because that's been the main reaction everywhere). My firm belief is that most people are good. You may put out an opinion on Twitter that some people will go berserk about instantly. That's never really the reaction in a group of people when you are face to face with them.

There are different sections to the Celtic support, those who attach themselves to a CSC or specific message board or who just have a particular opinion about who we are. I don't bracket myself with any of them and am delighted to have met folk from every part of the Celtic support even since the premiere in November.




One thing I have to mention, because others are now aware of them, are the stalkers. I have three who never, ever leave me alone. I've had to block one out of everything I am on and I do because his messages got so sinister that I was half expecting to wake up in Misery.

I am sort a "what you see is what you get" type of guy, often to my detriment, because if you ask me a stupid question you'll get a stupid answer, similarly if you try to noise me up, I will noise you up right back. It's something I've tried to curb but I don't come from a place where you nod like a daft cunt when someone is trying to get one over on you.

A flawless moral guardian is something I will never be.

The Asterisk Years was never about me. What I tried to do is make the transition from the sort of cult fanzine style stuff I did(and a lot of folk love) into the investigative stuff it became. So there was a fair bit of me in the book, less so in the audio book and barely any in the film. The next book has none of me at all. With that being said, I had the story so I had to tell it and that's the way we made it in terms of the film.

No apologies for that.

No apologies also for anything that has been done to progress the project through the last 18 months.

Sincere and heartfelt thanks though to everyone who has supported the project and continues to do so. Particularly those who follow me on Twitter, are in Paul Larkin Books on Facebook or joined the mailing list at www.rightgadgie.com

You are the foundation upon which everything has been built.

With just one more date to go for the film this year (and the fact that it is completely sold out) it's time for a bit reflection, a bit relaxation and to get a first draft of the next book done.

Until then, thank you and thank you again, those who stuck by me, I hope now you're glad you did.

Merry Christmas and a Champion New Year.



Paul

*Not really.

Buy The Asterisk Years: The Edinburgh Establishment versus Celtic right here:
http://www.lulu.com/shop/paul-larkin/the-asterisk-years-the-edinburgh-establishment-v-celtic/paperback/product-21192881.html