Return to lockdown…

Midnight tonight the city of Glasgow goes back into lockdown, except for me who have now been classed by my employer as an ‘esssential worker’ so I get to larp as Charlton Heston in the Omega Man going through deserted streets for the next fortnight.

Truth is I expect the lockdown to last longer as frankly, too many arseholes are ignoring the rules but they tend to be the first complaining loudly, but here we are again but in the cold, damp darkness that is a Glasgow winter as opposed to spring/summer. This time it could push people over the edge as after all, we were never designed to be this antisocial as a species and as Covid-19 loves people, it means Christmas could be cancelled for a lot of people this year. It could be bleak this winter indeed.

But I’m somehow promoted to a ‘key worker’ so clap for me…

A short gory history of AKA Books and Comics and the second shop of horrors

I’ve mentioned AKA Books and Comics many times before on this blog and how it played a crucial part in shaping Glasgow, and indeed, Scotland’s comic scene in a legacy that last today. What I’ve mentioned maybe in passing is the short-lived AKA 2 shop in the West End which lasted from 1986 til 86 before it was finally dragged out behind the bins and shot.

There’s little evidence the place existed but here’s an AKA advert from the 1985 Albacon (Glasgow’s then annual science fiction convention) programme booklet.

Based near the then new SECC in Finnieston the shop were it to exist now would be in the heart of the most arguably thriving part of Glasgow and certainly one which is the most active. It is a great location in 2020 but in 1985 Finnieston was a burnt out post-industrial husk and even though it was near Kelvingrove Art Gallery and the West End it didn’t bring the trade all concerned hoped but it was cheap rent, plus it meant Pete Root (one of AKA’s owners) could vanish to the shop merrily bagging and pricing to his hearts content.

The building was shared with Bob Shaw who was a major figure in Glasgow’s SF scene, and had co-owned what became Futureshock on the Woodlands Road. Bob by this point had his finger in many, many pies so used the upstairs part as an office/workspace and indeed, I’d often be there til late producing badges or helping in putting together magazines, or whatever Del-Boyesque scheme he’d got going this week. Truth is Pete was no fan of Bob, neither were the other owners John McShane and Bob Napier, but needs must and Bob did actually bring people to the shop in his own odd little way.

The shop was huge. It is in the same location where the Sandyford Surgery exists today, so you can see the attraction in the building. Downstairs was also cold as there was no central heating, so gloves and a scarf were often essential during the winter months as it’d get cold and you’d hardly be chasing after customers. It’d be a moment of dread if asked to go up and take some stuff for the shop but I’d often go up as it’d be nearer home plus I could pretend I was cool hanging around the West End. So things ticked over for a while then one night while making badges one of the lads was making a cup of tea and discovered something which was there was a false wall built into the kitchen area. Behind this false wall was a room. After some fiddling the door was prised open wide enought to see what was in the small, dark room.

On the floor was a mattress, some bedding and pointing down at the mattress was a clunky old video camera, with some more what looked like clothes and a box ot small cupboard just visible. The quick realisation was obvious that here was Bob’s homemade porn studio. We knew he’d ‘indulged’ in porn films as one of our group had the misfortune of seeing one but we never thought we’d actually stumble across the place of production. This brought up a dilemma as Pete and John had to know because this was dodgy, but we all sat on it working out I suppose if we were old and mature enought to deal with it. At the same time some dubious people were turning up to the shop, plus one day Bob was involved in a fight with a visitor upstairs so things were clearly more than just a dodgy businessman pushing his luck so Pete and John were told. After that the shop whimpered on bleeding money until the plug was finally pulled and Pete returned to the Virginia Galleries to bag and price to his hearts content while John’s liquid lunches would often last days.

As an idea it was ahead of its time by 30 years. I currently live not far from that location in buildings which used to be disintegrating tenements but are now bright newish flats, and the area which then used to be full of bookies and dubious pubs are now full of gastropubs and boutique shops selling all manner of things to a mix of relatively wealthy yuppies and students from Glasgow University. A shop there now would clean up. Not so in 1985. As for Bob he’s still around somewhere, and though AKA as a shop is now long gone what AKA2 taught everyone was not to overstretch themselves by creating a money pit with a pornographer. In fact the death of AKA2 pushed AKA into what I think was it’s strongest, most influential period from 1986 to 1990 as it soldified what it was while bringing on board customers who in some cases shaped the face of comic books to this day.

More of that another time though.

Harlan Ellison’s guest of honour speech from Albacon 1985

Back in the distant past of 1985 there was a science fiction convention in Glasgow called Albacon which had the late, great Harlan Ellison as guest of honour. He was supposed to be there in 1984 but couldn’t come that year, so Norman Spinrad stood in for him.

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His guest of honour speech is legend among those who heard it. There was a recording made and for years I had one, but sometime in various house moves it was lost to time.  These days it’d have been slapped online but I gave up on that ages ago which is a bloody shame as it was glorious.

Well, when searching for something else I stumbled across the grail as the speech is in fact online and downloadable. I never thought I’d hear this again in my life. Some of it hasn’t dated well but the thing is a work of someone who was a genius and this is a wonderful bit of SF history.

Listen to it here.

The best cosplay I’ve ever seen

Cosplay, or fancy dress as we said back in the day, is now a firm part of the modern 21st century comic convention. I’m split on it as Cosplayers are fun, but watching some with their freshly bought kit, it makes me a tad sad not to mention nostalgic of the days when fancy dress brought new levels of creativity.

And so last week I saw an Alien costume which was great because it was pure creativity and imagination. WP_20200201_14_22_06_Pro[1]

See the fearsome Alien!

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This sort of stuff is great, and I love it. Same with this.

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And some of these cosplayers actually buy comics!

Come to Rutherglen Comic Con and buy comics from me

The comic convention season for 2020 starts this Saturday in sunny Rutherglen, with their annual comic con.

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It’s a good show in a nice location with a good selection of guests like Gary Erskine, John Lees and Fraser Campbell, and in the past I’ve done well at it. This year I’m bringing some slightly different stuff, plus this is the last of the one-day shows where I’ll be bringing a full selection of back issues. Future one-day events will still have my back issues, but I’ll be offering a wider selection of packs, trades, and stuff I normally don’t bring to the smaller events.

So next time the full flash is displayed will be Edinburgh so this is your last chance before then to possibly pick up some dreamy back issues.

I’ll be near the entrance. Just look for Neptune Comics.

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So come say hello and buy some comics!

Welcome to Nedageddon

Today is the second day of TRNSMT, so getting around in Glasgow currently feels like this.

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TRNSMT is now confirmed to be the replacement for T in the Park (TitP) in Scotland’s music calender after that festival was finally put to the sword.  TitP had mutated from the original idea to have a Glastonbury/Reading type festival in Scotland to one where loads of kids piled onto a site drinking as much as possible in as short a time. The problem though was the campsites which were problematic and eventually the festival ran out of goodwill from the powers that be.

This is a pity. TitP in the early years had it developed down the Glastonbury route would have been amazing, but instead it went down the V Festival route as it lapped up the juices from its corporate teat as it became just a drain on resources for police and the local community.

So two years ago TRNSMT was born which sticks a large festival in Glasgow Green in Scotland’s largest city which causes all the problems you can imagine. Sure, it’s a great chance to see some great acts but the prospect of thousands of Glaswegian lobster people affected by the unusually sunny, warm weather means thousands waking up on Monday like this.

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So the sounds of music and the smell of cooking neds fill my wee flat as TRNSMT tries to desperately work out an identiy that isn’t just a big piss up in a park in the centre of Glasgow that sells overpriced piss.

The long trip to Briggadoon…

This is the last post I’ll be making for a bit as I hit the tracks tomorrow to head south to spend a few days in Bristol before heading to Glastonbury on Wednesday. Just look at the site as it is now on the webcam…

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And the sunset, oh lordy that sunset!

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So after a funeral tomorrow I get to park all the problems in the world up for around 10 days.  I frankly cannot wait to set seat in my train seat and finally turn off tomorrow afternoon, but most of all I can’t quite believe how much I’ve missed Bristol and the South West.

But I’ll be back tomorrow night and although I don’t expect to post again before Glastonbury you never know but for now, stay safe and see y’all the other side of Glastonbury Festival.

RIP Bob Napier, an unsung hero of comics

For what seems like a lifetime I’ve been working on a blog about the unsung heroes of British comics. You know, the type of folk who at best may get a passing mention in one of those articles about British comics that leaps from 2000AD, to Alan Moore and then to Vertigo often missing out the folk who didn’t just keep the scene going, but actually helped carve the foundations and build the bloody thing in the first place.

One of those names on the list has been Bob Napier, and sadly, he’s now passed away after battling illness for some years. He was a founding partner in the legendary Glasgow comic chop, AKA Books and Comics, not to mention the entire Glasgow comics scene owes him a debt because if you’re sitting in the city enjoying the scene and the ‘geek’ culture of today one of those people who built the well you sup upon is Bob Napier so raise a glass in respect to the man.

Bob was a big man. Although his other partners were in various forms more public than Bob, he was very much the driving forceand kept things sane when at times it could have went horribly off the rails. He co-founded the AKA fanzine born from drinking in the back of Wintersgills in Glasgow’s West End though to the opening of the shop in the now defunct Virginia Galleries. Although not a full time employee like John McShane and Pete Root, or an occasional presence like Steve Montgomery, Bob imprinted himself on AKA to the extent that to miss him from the history of the shop or the Glasgow scene is an injustice which sadly is far too common. Even in this piece here, Bobbie is reduced to an ’employee’ which is a slight although corrected shows how history often reduces the role of important figures. Though his appearance in a Marvel Captain Britain strip now makes him a Disney character which I think he’d have liked…

I only saw Bob a few times after the disintegration of AKA in the 90’s. As regular readers of this blog will know I was living in England, and by the mid 90’s my trips home were becoming less frequent so the last time I really spoke to Bob was when he had a wee unit in the old Candleriggs Market selling comics for prices which today would be a steal but then were pretty decent. I remember we had a chat, caught up, I bought some Flash back issues, promised we’d go for a pint with Pete Root next time I was up and with that I never saw him again apart from briefly seeing him at the Glasgow Comic Con at the Royal Concert Hall a couple of years ago which made me regret ever living up to that promise of a pint as his battle with illness had clearly taken its toll.

However let’s not end on such a note. We all live with regret but it is with Bobbies friends and families that our sympathies and attention should lie. If you can make it, his funeral is 9am on Saturday the 22 June at Daldowie Crematorium in Glasgow. Say cheerio to one of the people who did all the hard work in appreciating, loving and building up comics at a time in a city where it was hard to do so.

Cheers Bob, I hope to have that pint with you and Pete some day in an afterlife where the taps run with beer and comics…

Living with Airbnb

I live in the badlands between Glasgow city centre and its West End which is great as it isn’t too far to get into town and it only takes a stop on the subway to get to the West End. It’s a great location.but you do have to put up with issues of parking, noise and other such problems that come with the location in a city that’s growing.

Most of the time I can live with all of the negatives. There is however one cuckoo in the mix and that is the increasing number of Airbnb flats in the area with two in my close alone, and dozens, if not more in the wider area around me.

Now I don’t mind Airbnb. It provides a cheaper option to hotels and a more personal option to hostels which are really now used for weekend piss ups which I’ve done myself in say, weekends in Cardiff. These are money makers for pretty much every big city not just in the UK but across most of the world, but if Airbnb is better then what’s the issue?

Noise is the obvious one. I’ve been woken up this week twice by people piling back to their Airbnb pissed up or very late having just arrived from wherever they’ve come from. Now the lad who owns the flat is very nice, and does how best to ensure his guests respect the fact they’re living with people who are living their lives as normal while they party and there’s the next problem; mess. I’m tired of going to work having to step over mess created by people who couldn’t care less.

But there’s also a massive problem with the loss of community. IF you don’t know who your neighbours are from one day to another you’ll never grow a sense of community IF you think it sounds awful it is, but worse lies over in Edinburgh where Airbnb and overtourism have seen massive problems in the city. The same sort of problems that are springing up in cities across the world where Airbnb have been allowed to grow unchecked.which is going to lead to massive problems if not sorted out now. Imagine cities with areas full of transient people with no sense of community or even respect for the place they live? Because that’s where we’re heading if curbs aren’t made.

But til then I’ll be having to cope with sleepless nights and mess.

RIP Billy McNeill

Celtic and Scotland legend Billy McNeill sadly has passed away. It wasn’t a shock as he’d been ill for some time but this absolute giant of a man will be best remembered not just to be the first Scottish and British player to get his hands on the European Cup, but for being one of the very best players Scotland ever will produce.

I’m a Partick Thistle supporter but to not admire the man and there’s fans of many a Scottish club, Rangers included, who think the same. A giant who’ll be missed.