Previously: Parts One, Two and Three
Fun Fact About Tobermory #6: ‘Balamory’ is filmed here. Oh, hence the name!
Once I’m back in town, I attempt to recharge with a trip to Tobermory Bakery. The arguably unimaginative name is nonetheless apt: despite the Cooperative supermarket right in the centre of town, it’s this bakery which provides the bread for Café Fish and Glengorm. It’s nice how – perhaps in search of a better word – incestuous everything is: local businesses are more than happy to help each other out. I’m by no means an expert in economics or geography, but given the smallness and remoteness of this town, it could’ve easily dissolved into obscurity. Instead, thanks to a concerted group effort, it’s a thriving, successful tourist town. A non-tragedy of the commons. Unfortunately, this is not enough to stop my custard slice from being disappointingly lame. It looks nice, but the pastry tastes a bit stale, and the icing is a bit too thick for the heat (although I have only myself to blame for choosing it). There are dozens of items on display, though, so it’s maybe a bit harsh to judge them on just one item, especially since I’m sitting in a room packed with noisily munching, contented customers.
Remember this? If not… Previously: Parts One and Two
The next morning, I’m not sure what I should do.
Despite being a small dot of a town on an only-slightly-larger dot of an island, the businesses of Tobermory have a surprisingly thorough tourism strategy. As well as the comprehensive website, there is plenty to do here on a rainy day – no doubt useful in western Scotland – including a museum and an arts centre. But today is a bright, sunny, completely un-rainy gift of a day, so it seems wasteful to spend it inside. I don’t have the time (or indeed money) to go on a boat trip, so I decide to go for a walk. I originally plan to go to Glengorm, a castle four miles away, but the only feasible route appears to be a single-track, national-speed-limit road. There might be more appropriate options, but I can’t find any online, and I am in no rush to repeat the Google Maps incident anyway. Additionally, Glengorm is a private castle. (After learning this, it takes me a moment to appreciate the awesome logical conclusion of this fact: someone, somewhere, owns a freaking castle.) Unfortunately, this means the general public can only explore the grounds, and aren’t actually allowed inside. So instead, I decide to walk to Aros Park, about a mile or so south of town, with an obvious, well-marked footpath.
I explain all of this to Dona over breakfast, who insists I should go to Glengorm anyway, because “it would be a shame not to go”. I reiterate the above reservations, but she insists that the road is easy to find and usable by pedestrians. She adds that while Aros Park is nice, it doesn’t take long to wander around and is likely to be busy with people and families making the most of the good weather. (Although, a question that occurs to me only later: why does she assume that I would not like this?) I’m still a bit hesitant, but they are so friendly and reassuring, way more than they are professionally obliged to be – with Dona giving me a cereal bar and banana for the trip, and Roger offering to pick me up and drive me home if I get too knackered – that any inhibitions soon disappear, and before I know it, I am on my way.
“In many ways, the work of a critic is easy. We risk very little, yet enjoy a position over those who offer up their work and their selves to our judgement. We thrive on negative criticism, which is fun to write and to read. But the bitter truth we critics must face is that, in the grand scheme of things, the average piece of junk is probably more meaningful than our criticism designating it so.” - Anton Ego, Ratatouille.
The Edinburgh Fringe has wrapped up for another year (or at least I think it has; it’s hard to keep track), which means it’s time for the annual backlash against comedy critics for being e.g. pointless. This is perhaps a little unfair, as (proper) criticism is just as much a valid art form as anything else. The actual problem is a little more subtle, and isn’t always the critics’ fault; it’s best described as the illusion of objectivity. I suspect that other people are a lot smarter about this kind of thing than I am, but if someone writes something about my comedy – good or bad – I automatically interpret it as objectively true. Similarly: I’m happy to assume that other performers may not be good at what they do, and so turn to reviews for guidance, but do not stop for one moment to offer those reviews the same critical judgement. This can only end badly, because – just like stand-up – some critics are going to be much better than others.
(Curiously, I am a lot harsher with people I know. If a friend suggests something that I end up strongly disliking, it’s unlikely that I’ll ever fully trust their opinion again. I guess I take it as more of a personal slight: “You thought I would like this? It’s like you don’t know me at all!”)
Basically, the point I am trying to make: I confuse ‘The Critic Thought The Comedian Was Bad In Their Opinion’, with the considerably less accurate ‘The Comedian Is Bad’.
I’m interrupting the current series of posts on Tobermory for a write-up of a recent trip to Glasgow. I think it deserves immortalising before everything that happened is no longer relevant. Basically: due to the universally-renowned logistical challenge of getting a group of people in the same place at the same time, we decided to do as many things as we could in one day: watch The Dark Knight Rises, watch some Olympic women’s football, and for some reason… eat pancakes.
A half-joking suggestion that we should start the day with pancakes (for a reason that I have long forgotten) resulted in us catching the 8:37am train from Edinburgh Waverley and ending up in Tribeca, an American cafe in the west end of Glasgow. It is unashamedly American: there is a yellow taxi parked outside (which I later learn is available for hire), a massive American flag pinned to the ceiling, and a playlist featuring nothing but the brightest, cheeriest American music. It’s charming in the small dose of a single visit, but it’s hard not to be concerned for the staff: our waitress is notably not American, and I’m impressed she hasn’t gone completely insane. Their attempt to capture the American spirit extends even to that whole friendly-but-slightly-arrogant nationalist pride thing they have going on: their website claims that they are the ‘best little cafe in the world’, with nothing other than pure confidence to back it up.
Previously: Part One
Fun Fact About Tobermory #2: there’s only one roundabout.
I know I have to get off the bus before it terminates, at the stop by Rockfield Roundabout. However: a. I have no idea where anything is, and b. there’s no mobile Internet signal, so I ask the bus driver to let me know when we get there. When we do, my first reaction is to assume there’s been some kind of misunderstanding: he’s pointing at a mini-roundabout, which surely no-one would go to the effort of explicitly naming. I express this doubt, but a fellow passenger confirms that it’s the right one. (I later discover that this roundabout is, in fact, the only roundabout in town, which makes the fact that it has a name even more inexplicable.)
Fun Fact About Tobermory #1: it is very, very far away.
The trip from Edinburgh to Tobermory involves a 50-minute train to Glasgow, a 3-hour train to Oban, a 45-minute ferry to Craignure, and finally, a 45-minute bus to Tobermory.
This seems like an excessively long time.
The obligatory tourist map of the town suggests that the route is only 154 miles, which implies a travelling speed of less than 30 mph. I’m pretty sure trains, ferries and buses can go faster than that. I’m actually heading there for a work-based thing the day after tomorrow – which I will not be covering here for several obvious reasons – and clearly, the organisers only had one motivation when they chose the location: to make it as much of a hassle to get to as possible.
The Inciting Incident
Although I’ve loved watching films for as long as I can remember, I only got seriously into them – and by that I mean in that stereotypically geeky, read-through-all-of-the-IMDb-trivia kind of way – after I started at university. So while I’ve managed to keep up with many modern releases, there are a large number of classic films that I haven’t seen, and this inevitably causes a lot of outrage whenever it comes up in conversation.1 (In fairness, this is almost entirely due to the fact that my favourite genres are animation and comedy, which tend not to make up a large proportion of ‘classics’.2) And so, in the spirit of trying new things, a few friends and I decided to start a film club, with the aim of working through as many classic films as possible (using Empire magazine’s recent list of Top 500 Five Star Films as reference).
Since this blog is all about improving my writing, I thought it would be a good idea to review some of them. These won’t be traditional reviews – except for a score out of ten – because I don’t know enough about acting, or music, or directing, or any of the other hundreds of things that make up a film for me to write anything meaningful about them. Instead, I’ll focus on the screenwriting, an art that has fascinated me for a long time, and something I like to pretend I know at least a little about. If I were to write a similar film, what would I do the same? What would I do differently? I realise this may be of woefully limited interest, but I’ll only write about films where I think there’s something worth talking about. Like, say, Annie Hall.