Billy Sangster

Stuff out of my brain

Why Aren’t We Talking About Hydrogen?

I’ve been meaning to blog on this subject for quite a while now.

It’s great that renewables are high up on the public agenda these days, with all the talk of electric vehicles, offshore wind farms and tidal arrays. But there’s an obvious gap in the mix, a glaring hole in our thinking, a gap that could quite easily be filled with a technology that might be just as, if not more, important than anything else we are talking about.

Hydrogen.

The most abundant element in the universe could be just what we need to solve our energy needs for the future.

Electric vehicles are most likely to form the core of our future transport needs, but I think we need to realise that as a power source, electricity stored in batteries is only one option. Hydrogen has the ability to be stored and transported much in the way that gas or petroleum is and we already have a nationwide gas network which has been undergoing a massive upgrading procedure in the last 10 to 20 years. It also might mean we won’t see a mess of cables strewn from the windows of flats in city centres as people charge their cars overnight.

So where do we get hydrogen?

Hydrogen can come from a number of sources, but the one I’m most interested in, which is also the cleanest form of procuring the gas, is electrolysis. If you take some water, pass an electric current through it, the H2O molecules are broken apart in their constituent elements – oxygen and hydrogen.

Simple Electrolysis Diagram

Reverse the procedure and you produce electricity and water.

Talk to almost any climate change sceptic or pro-fossil fuel or nuclear advocate about wind turbines and you’ll get the “too unreliable” argument thrown at you. If the wind doesn’t blow, we won’t be able to produce electricity. If it blows too much, i.e. at the wrong time, when demand is low, the power generated is wasted.

Offshore wind farms are a pretty good solution to the first problem; the wind blows a lot more consistently out at sea.

What about the second? What’s the point in producing electricity if we can’t readily store it (without taking impossibly large amounts of lithium out of the ground)?

Well, how about we insist every offshore wind farm has to have a water electrolysis plant built in the vicinity. We can produce hydrogen and ship or pipe it back to shore (or convert the electricity once it gets to shore, although the first option would be better, because the AC > DC > AC procedure of producing AC at 50Hz can be interrupted at the DC stage and utilised straight to the electrolysis plant), like we do presently for natural gas.

I’ve never seen a hydrogen fuel station, though…

Technology has come a long way since the (whisper it) Hindenberg disaster. We surely now have the means at our disposal to safely transport and store flammable gasses.

At the first mention of replacing fossil fuelled cars with hydrogen fuelled ones, you usually hear the shout “But there aren’t any hydrogen fuel stations at all yet…” or “Who’s going to pay for hydrogen fuel stations to be built..?” The answer to that must surely be that we convert existing fuel stations to gas. The fuel companies will need to invest in this new technology or else lose their business to electric-only vehicles.

What are the government doing about it?

The Scottish Government recently produced their Draft Energy Strategy document and while it is certainly lengthy, there are no doubt some very interesting points in there.

Basically, the Scottish Government are on board with developing hydrogen, although I think personally we could be raising more public awareness of what can be possible with the technology and creating more stimulus for investors to research and develop the ways and means of making it a viable future energy source.

How do you know it works?

There are a number of successful projects already servicing the public, or are in development for deployment in the very near future.

Aberdeen council (believe it or not!) have been pretty enthusiastic about using hydrogen, with the successful introduction of their hydrogen bus project, as well as the biggest installation of hydrogen fuel cells to date underway intended to add to the clean energy needed to run the new Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference Centre that is currently being built.

The islands of Scotland have had a long running problem with power generation – they have enormous potential for clean power generation (electric), probably the best in Europe, but have no way of getting that power to the National Grid. They desperately need interconnectors to take advantage of this opportunity, but the UK government seem to have no intentions of investing in this in the foreseeable future. Too busy throwing money at Hinkley B, HS2 or the myriad of priority London projects on the go (Cross Rail, anyone?).

Attempting to address this is the wonderful Orkney Surf and Turf Project which is already converting previously wasted electricity into hydrogen to be stored and facilitated much in the way I’ve already outlined above.

Another great project is the Levenmonth Energy Project, which also shows great promise in this field.

Who will own it, though?

This is the crux of my apprehension about the production of hydrogen. Look what happened to the promises of “free fuel for all” when Scotland discovered oil in the North Sea – are your bills any cheaper? Mine neither.

We must keep this technology in the hands of Scotland’s people. It needs to be nationalised from the get-go. The Scottish Government should create a publicly owned “Scottish Hydrogen” company – and quickly, like yesterday. Announcements like the abolition of diesel cars in the not that distant future have a way of speeding these things up – we really can’t afford to let this fall into the hands of oligarchies and establishments only out for profit before all else.

So why aren’t we talking about it, then?

Well I am! I urge you to do the same. We need to raise public awareness of this brilliant green energy that is round the corner.

Let’s start talking about it and, above all else, make it happen.

Here are some relevant paragraphs from the Scottish Government’s Draft Energy Strategy:

The pattern of our energy use over the year demonstrates the value of gas in managing the large swings in energy consumption, the seasons drive our energy use up in the winter. This pattern also demonstrates the potential value in storing energy, within days and seasons, to offset energy demand at peak times. Energy can be stored in different ways including as potential energy in pumped hydro storage facilities, as chemical energy such as batteries, biomass or hydrogen or as thermal energy in individual properties (such as a hot water tank or a battery).

A positive contribution from the oil and gas sector Ahead of the United Nations COP21 Summit in Paris, oil and gas companies representing more than 10% of global primary energy supply vowed to strengthen investments in natural gas, Carbon Capture and Storage and renewables. Investment and R&D from these companies could substantially improve the rate of technological development in low carbon technologies.
The expertise gained through 40 years’ experience of operating in the North Sea, such as vital subsea skills, will prove invaluable for the engineering and innovation challenges posed by the low carbon transition.
Scotland’s expanding offshore wind supply chain builds on established expertise and experience in oil and gas and significant investment in port and harbour infrastructure – such as Nigg Energy Park, test and demonstration facilities at Hunterston and Levenmouth – and support for inward investment and supply chain development.In addition, the infrastructure that is in place from our hydrocarbon energy system provides a range of future opportunities. For example, many of the skills and supply chain requirements for future hydrogen infrastructure already exists in the oil and gas sector, with vast experience of producing, storing and transporting gases.

The Scottish Government also recognises the importance of understanding how new energy sources and industries can be developed or introduced in a way that promotes economic opportunity, while minimising any significant additional long-term pressure on meeting Scotland’s climate change targets, or other sectors.

  • 81 – This draft Energy Strategy proposes to explore the role for hydrogen in the energy system in Scotland and seeks views on our approach to doing so.
  • 82 – At point of use hydrogen is a zero emissions fuel, and by 2050 could be a major component of the UK’s energy system.
  • 83 – The versatility and flexibility of hydrogen gas and hydrogen fuel cells offers the potential to provide a range of services to the energy system and to integrate low carbon solutions across the heat, power and transport sectors.
  • 84 – Fuel cells could enable the more efficient use of natural gas, through combined heat and power (CHP) applications at a range of scales. Fuel cells using natural gas can be modified to operate using hydrogen at a later date.
  • 85 – The Scottish Government has supported a number of projects which demonstrate how hydrogen produced from renewable sources via electrolysis can be produced, stored, and used when required for local energy and transport. There is significant potential for these projects to be replicated or scaled-up in the future. Hydrogen may have the potential to deliver the lowest cost and least disruptive solution for the decarbonisation of heat.

Hydrogen as a means to decarbonise heat.

  • The draft Climate Change Plan pathway includes a moderate amount of hydrogen gas in the gas network from the mid-2020s. This is consistent with some test sites in the UK and Europe.
  • However, there may be areas of the gas network where hydrogen could fuel 100% of the gas demand – as is proposed by the H21 Leeds City Gate project13. In Scotland, the Scottish Government is supportive of SGN’s interest in the practical demonstration of blending hydrogen with natural gas in the network. In the longer term, these trials could be extended to carry 100% pure hydrogen, as part of a carefully planned conversion to parts of the gas network.
  • While more analysis will be required, there is some evidence to suggest that hydrogen can offer significant cost savings for customers compared to alternative low carbon heat sources such as electricity, or district heating. A recent KPMG report also found it more practical and more acceptable to customers.
  • Hydrogen gas at scale will most likely require natural gas (methane) as the source feedstock and as such in order to be low carbon, carbon capture and storage facilities will be a necessary system requirement. Scotland is therefore uniquely placed to support an emerging hydrogen economy.
  • These proposals, at national scale, have the potential to substantially reduce the total system cost of decarbonisation, but they will require further innovation in technology, high-volume hydrogen production at an acceptable cost, and a carefully managed hydrogen ‘switch over’ – as with the switch to naturalgas in the 1970s.
  • Coordinated activity by the public and private sectors over the next five to ten years will be essential to achieve any large-scale roll out of hydrogen and fuel cell technologies from the mid-2020s.

SUPPORTING THE DEMONSTRATION AND COMMERCIALISATION OF CARBON CAPTURE AND STORAGE AND CO2 UTILISATION. Scotland’s North Seas are the largest carbon storage resource in Europe. Coupled with our existing oil and gas capabilities, ready supply chain, and existing pipeline and platform infrastructure, this means that Scotland is currently the best-placed country in Europe to realise Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) on a commercial scale.

  • 87 – The near-term demonstration of small scale projects leading to the medium and large-scale deployment of CCS, along with the development of CO2 Utilisation15 (CCU) applications, will be critical for the cost-effective decarbonisation of heat, power.

Scotland’s islands Many of Scotland’s island communities are already successfully demonstrating complex energy solutions: energy innovation is being driven by their isolation from mainland energy and supply networks, and the availability of some of the most powerful renewable energy resources in Europe. Orkney’s role as a ‘living laboratory’ has great advantages in terms of identifying problems and solutions to energy challenges from which other parts of Scotland can learn: Orkney is home to what was the UK’s first smart grid, enabling renewable generation to be connected to Orkney’s distribution network at a considerably lower cost than conventional network connection; Orkney’s ‘Surf and Turf’ and ‘BIG HIT’ projects demonstrate a fully integrated energy model where hydrogen is produced using electricity from tidal and onshore wind turbines, stored in a fuel cell, and used to provide low carbon heat, power and transport. The projects will benefit the community through providing employment and training as well as reduced harbour electricity costs and increased revenue.

Levenmonth Energy Project in Fife uses electricity produced locally by a 750kW wind turbine, supplemented by solar, to produce green hydrogen by electrolysis. The hydrogen it produces will fuel one of the largest fleets of dual fuel hydrogen-powered vehicles in Europe. Powered at site and by an additional dispenser at Bankhead, the system is utilised by the councils own feet of hydrogen vehicles.

I Climbed a Mountain

I decided I needed to do something to start getting fit again, so I climbed The Mither Tap, the second biggest mountain in our local range in Aberdeenshire, Bennachie.

“Totally done in” seemed to be the sentence of the day.

Bitcoin Truths

Apparently the recent surge in Bitcoin had been due primarily to an extensive uptake in China, mainly due to the current and prevailing weakness of the Yuan.

In a recent interview with Gabriel Vine, Vinay Gupta puts across (quite rudely and forcibly, it must be said) his opinion that because now two thirds of the Bitcoin mining pools are resident in China that Bitcoin is now broken.

He has a valid point here, in that because China is run by an authoritarian regime, at any point the government could decide, theoretically, to order a roll-back of the blockchain. All it would take was a transaction to occur that wasn’t deemed to be in the interest of the government.

With all that’s happening in China just now, I wonder how strong the authoritarian regime is and if it’s in any way being threatened by the upsurge in capitalism in the country? I mean, who would have thought it possible to have Chinese billionaires?

Bolivars, Rupees or Bitcoin?

Woke up this morning to a new peak in the value of Bitcoin. It’s at its highest level in the cryptocurrency’s short history.

Bitcoin Surge

The last surge was in 2013 and that was mostly due to speculators trying to make a quick buck. It quickly lost value again but after hitting a low is has steadily increased until it was valued at around £736 today. The last increase was very rapid, which no doubt shows a certain level of speculator investment again, but this time it’s underpinned with an increase in uptake, which bodes a lot better for the fledgling payment system.

Whether that increase is due to increased usage in India, where the government have banned small denomination notes, or in Venezuela, where their Bolivar is at absolute rock bottom, or whether it’s due to the introduction of zCash which offers cryptographic privacy or selective transparency, or the impending introduction of the new Mega, as Kim Dotcom would have us believe, is open to speculation. Scrutiny of the Bitcoin blockchain could probably reveal a more in-depth analysis, but that’s beyond my means at the moment.

Here’s hoping Bitcoin retains its value and we see a genuine uptake of this elegant solution to online money.

How Regional Lists Work - Scottish Parliamentary Elections

There’s been a lot of talk about the Scottish Parliamentary Elections in 2016, particularly the Regional Vote. This uses the D’Hondt method of calculation. It’s complicated, so I’ve had a wee look and this is how you work it out:

In total, the Scottish Parliament has 129 MSPs. That’s made up of 73 constituency MSPs and 56 regional “list” MSPs.

The constituency seats are allocated through the “first past the post” method, just like in the UK General Election.

The eight regions each have seven MSPs (8x7=56) that are picked from “lists” made by each party. The seats are allocated through a method closer to proportional representation.

Take the North East Scotland region – it’s made up of ten constituencies. Now say in our hypothetical, imaginary, fictional election, the constituency results are as follows:

  • SNP 8 seats
  • Lab 1 seat
  • Con 1 seat

And in the Regional List vote (your second vote), imagine the results are as follows (in votes cast):

  • SNP 140,000
  • Lab 50,000
  • Con 40,000
  • LD 11,000
  • Grn 8,000

What happens then is we take the amount of constituency seats won by each party and add 1. That’s the First Divisor. Therefore, the party “first divisors” are as follows:

  • SNP 9 (8+1)
  • Lab 2 (1+1)
  • Con 2 (1+1)
  • LD 1 (0+1)
  • Grn 1 (0+1)

Next we divide the total votes for each party by its First Divisor and the result tells us who wins the first regional seat:

  • SNP 15,556 (140,000/9)
  • Lab 25,000 (50,000/2)
  • Con 20,000 (40,000/2)
  • LD 11,000 (10,000/1)
  • Grn 8,000 (8,000/1)

Lab have the highest number, therefore gain a regional seat, given to a politician on their list. That brings their total of MSPs to 2.

Now we go on to the Second Divisor, which, like before is calculated from the new amount of seats each party has +1

  • SNP 9 (8+1)
  • Lab 3 (2+1)
  • Con 2 (1+1)
  • LD 1 (0+1)
  • Grn 1 (0+1)

We do the total votes division again:

  • SNP 15,556 (140,000/9)
  • Lab 16,667 (50,000/3)
  • Con 20,000 (40,000/2)
  • LD 11,000 (10,000/1)
  • Grn 8,000 (8,000/1)

This time Con gains a regional seat, bringing their total MSPs to 2

See how it’s working? The Third Divisor is now:

  • SNP 9 (8+1)
  • Lab 3 (2+1)
  • Con 3 (2+1)
  • LD 1 (0+1)
  • Grn 1 (0+1)

Which means:

  • SNP 15,556 (140,000/9)
  • Lab 16,667 (50,000/3)
  • Con 13,333 (40,000/3)
  • LD 11,000 (10,000/1)
  • Grn 8,000 (8,000/1)

So Lab gain again this time. We carry on like this until all seven regional seats have been allocated.

The results in our hypothetical case end up:

  • 1st divisor – Lab +1
  • 2nd divisor – Con +1
  • 3rd divisor – Lab +1
  • 4th divisor – SNP +1
  • 5th divisor – SNP +1
  • 6th divisor – Con +1
  • 7th divisor – SNP +1

Then the final result:

  • SNP 11 MSPs (8 constituency + 3 regional)
  • Lab 3 MSPs (1 constituency + 2 regional)
  • Con 3 MSPs (1 constituency + 2 regional)
  • LD 0
  • Grn 0

That’s how you do it!

I think.

Edinburgh Fringe Trip 2015 - Saturday the Eighth

I woke up slightly groggy on the Saturday morning with that regretful feeling of guilt and betrayal at myself for drinking again. I had planned to not drink at all while here, thinking it might ruin my Saturday with a hangover. Fortunately, for the moment anyway, after I’d had a drink of water I felt okay and thought about planning my day a bit better than I had yesterday.

I’d made sure to charge my phone overnight and stuck my iPad on as soon as I got up, so I’d have decent mobile power all day. The phone’s on O2 and the iPad EE so I usually have decent coverage between the two of them wherever I went. Yesterday the phone was on its last legs by evening so I made a mental note to use the tablet for checking the Fringe app and the phone for having a wee look at Twitter and Facebook every now and again.

Why, oh why am I such a slave to technology? Probably because when you’re away somewhere on your own it seems less lonely to have your “friends” at your fingertips at a second’s notice. And there’s the showing off aspect of posting gigs you’ve seen as well. What a tosser.

Anyway, my hotel was on Queen Street, so that’s the New Town, very close to most of The Stand venues. I thought that seeing I’m over here anyway, I may as well start with a couple of gigs in the area.

I had a look and saw that Stu and Garry were doing their comedy improv at half twelve in Stand 1. I clicked “buy”. I also decided to go back and see the “Richard Melvin Presents…” show again (see Friday’s post for details), so I clicked “buy” again. I decided to have a wander to Princes Street to swipe my card and get my printed tickets at the ticket place there, maybe get some breakfast at the same time. This clicking “buy” was too, too easy. I was beginning to feel like I was overspending. Which I was.

Ticketed up, nowhere in Princes Street appealed to me for breakfast, so I headed back to York Place and got a sausage sandwich from a cafe round the corner from the venue. It was still rather early so I took a stroll through St. Andrews Square, where they had a number of stalls set up and a big outdoor gin palace set up in the centre. All very pleasant, but with that “moneyed” feel about it.

Time to go to the first gig, so it was back to Stand 1.

Stu and Garry have been around for years, but I’ve only seen them once at a comedy club in Aberdeen a while back. I remember thinking they were the funniest thing of the evening back then and wondered if I’d still think the same on this slightly hungover Saturday. I wasn’t disappointed.

Just the right level of audience interaction and the perfect chemistry a great double act should have. I found myself laughing out loud more times than I had the whole weekend. These guys are still as great as I remember and I’d thoroughly recommend their show to everyone. Five out of five to my eyes.

The Richard Melvin show was next and like the day before, it didn’t disappoint, in its loose shambolic format. The interview with John Lloyd stood out for me, not because it was particularly funny, but because he was exploring some interesting concepts. So much so that I decided to take a punt on his solo show later that afternoon. It was comedy, but with a serious edge to it, apparently.

I emerged from Stand 1 after that gig intent on buying a John Lloyd ticket, but standing right outside the entrance was Simon Donald of Viz fame, giving out flyers for his show at Stand 3 & 4, which was right across the road, in half an hour’s time. I’d seen his show in the app the day before and had decided then that I’d give it a go today. Unfortunately the timing clashed with Lloyd’s show, so I had to make an instant decision. Although it was more expensive, and against a nagging feeling in my head, I plumped for the Lloyd show. I’d have to go back to Princes Street to collect my tickets though, but I’d have plenty time if I was giving the Simon Donald show a miss.

I hung about St. Andrew’s Square again, grabbing a slice of very nice pizza from a stall and waited until ten minutes before the show started to make my way to the venue. Only then, when I pulled the ticket from my bag and looked at it, did I realise that John Lloyd wasn’t playing at the Stand venue I thought he was. It was the Assembly Checkpoint. Wherever that was. I just knew it wasn’t at this side of the city.

I whipped out my phone, opened the app and went to find the venue on the map. It was 1.1km away, and I had five minutes to make it there. No chance, but I was so angry with my stupidity that I decided to try and make it.

Five minutes after the gig had started and still not knowing exactly where I was going, although I was very near, I gave up on the Lloyd gig. I was close to the Liquid Rooms on Victoria Street where Christian Reilly was about to play, so I decided to cut my losses and go see that instead. I’d seen him last time and he’d been great. I headed up to the front door of the Liquid Rooms only to see a sign that the entrance to the place wasn’t there, it was down in the Cowgate. More rushing around.

I found my way to the venue door eventually and was lucky as the queue wasn’t that big. After a further ten minute wait we were allowed in and pretty soon the place was packed, with nowhere near enough seats for everyone who wanted to be there.

Christian was brilliant again, albeit with one or two technical difficulties at the beginning, so I stuck a fiver in his bucket and awarded him four and a half stars for his efforts. He needs a bigger venue, though.

Coming out from there I began to feel distinctly weary of the whole experience. I was still pissed off at myself for being so stupid about the John Lloyd debacle and checking my bank balance realised that, as I feared, I’be been a bit cavalier with my finances over the weekend. My feet were by this time killing me and I was beginning to feel an uncomfortable chafing of the inner thigh after all the walking I’d done. I really felt that going to the pub and having a pint was the only thing that would cure me, but this was impossible as I was getting the last train back up the road that evening and would have to drive to my house once I got there.

I decided to take an earlier train back to Aberdeen.

So that was my Fringe weekend. Great gigs, disappointing end. Sitting here home and rested now, I’m regretting coming home early but that’s the way the cookie crumbles and my cookie had totally disintegrated by Saturday evening. One of these days I’ll get it sorted out better. Stay in Edinburgh longer, have plenty cash, not having to cram so many gigs into so little time.

Will I ever learn? Probably no.

Edinburgh Fringe Trip 2015 - Friday the Seventh

When returning my bairns to their mother’s house, after having them for the fifth week of the school holidays, I found out that they were going away to Dundee for the remaining time before they went back to school, meaning I’d have a child-free weekend ahead of me. What to do?

I decided pretty quickly that, seeing as this would be my only chance, I’d take advantage of the free time and go down to the Edinburgh Fringe for a couple of days. I didn’t manage to go there last year, but had done in 2013 and I’d really enjoyed it, vowing to return with better planning and more money next time. I also told my pal Andrew I’d give him a shout when I did it again, as he lives in Edinburgh and enjoys a show or two.

One quick Twitter conversation later and alas, Andrew was in London this weekend.

Solo it was, then.

I looked at the train prices on the Trainline app and saw I could get an open return for fifty six quid. Fine. That’s do-able.

I went to look at hotels and found I could get a room at a Travelodge for eighty six quid for the Friday night. Expensive, but also do-able. I added a Saturday night to the deal but that night alone was one hundred and eighty quid. Certainly not do-able.

One night it would have to be, then.

I dropped the bairns off and parked my van in the car park at my old flat It would be pretty safe there (Well, I’d had no incidents in four years.) and jumped on the first bus that came along to get me to Union Square, so I could start my journey in earnest. After rushing over from bus terminal to train station I had a fifteen minute wait until the 11:03 arrived, then that was me, leaving sunny Aberdeen for (hopefully) sunny Edinburgh.

Two and a bit hours later and I was in the capital. I hadn’t researched any shows before I’d left, but had found out through a conversation with Twitter pal Julia Sutherland that the show he’d done previously to Richard Herring at the Stand every day at two was being in part resurrected by producer Richard Melvin. It started at Two o’clock.

The train arrived in Waverley Station at 1:35 and after a swift hike up the road to York Place I procured a ticket and was sitting front row in time for the show to start.

Richard Melvin was presenting most of it, with Julia (more or less) taking the reins for the interview (it was Hal Cruttenden). There was also a trial panel show format section (The Fame or Shame Game), a bit of stand up with a twist where the audience, in which were already a few comedians, were allowed to heckle the performer (usually forbidden in The Stand) after a hooter sounded halfway through. The next part involved a stand-up being asked to perform part of his/her act without swearing. In order to help with this, an audience member had to hold a teddy bear to remind the comedian that a seven year old might be sitting in front of them. The show ended with Lach doing a song with his guitar incorporating all that had happened throughout the hour. A bit like Mr G of Russell Brand podcast and radio show fame set to music instead of rap.

They are still finding their feet with this, as it’s only the first show proper of the run, but also a bit chaotic because it’s supposed to be. On the whole it worked and I had a good laugh, which is always a great way to start your festival experience. It’s on daily at Stand 1 (apart from 17th of August) at 2pm and it’s £8 – Richard Melvin Presents…

I’d give it four out of five stars just now, but I bet it’ll be up at five by the end of the run, once they’re into their stride and depending on the guests they manage to lure in.

Julia has her own show there on the seventeenth, so I’d say that should be worth a punt as well.

I had actually intended to grab Julia and ask her for a wee interview about both shows for the podcast, but I lost my nerve in the end. She probably thinks I’m stalking her anyway, so maybe for the best that I left it.

One other show I’d heard about on Facebook was a play about Byron called Touched by Fire. My pal Jamie Rodden was in it, so after a swift visit to my hotel to check in and leave the heavier stuff, like my jacket, that I was carrying with me, I rushed across to the Royal Mile to the venue, booking my ticket on route thanks to the excellent Fringe app (iTunes version or Android version). I battled my way through the throngs to the festival office up there to swipe my card and get my tickets printed before panicking slightly while trying to find the venue.

I got there in time, thankfully and wasn’t disappointed as Jamie turned in an excellent performance of the troubled Lord. We had to don masks as we entered, which we were asked to take off again during the show as part of the act. Thoroughly enjoyed it. Five stars for me and that’s not just because I know the main actor in it.

I had a wee wander about after that, picking up something to eat and a bottle of water down in the Grassmarket before my next show, which was Ashley Storrie over at the Counting House. It’s part of the Pear Tree pub in West Nicholson Street and it was part of the free festival. I like these, you get in for free, but have to pay to get out, paying what you think the show as worth. The performance wasn’t on for half an hour yet, so I went to the Pear tree and had my first bottle of beer since the General Election. It wasn’t to be my last that day.

Ashley was good so I stuck a few quid in her bucket. Four and a half stars and I can see her reaching five at peak festival time when she’s got a few performances under her belt.

Next up was Ashley’s mum who just happens to be Janey Godley. Again a Free Fringe event, again very good, so I stuck a few quid in Janey’s bucket as well. Three stars here, but not really Janey’s fault as there were interrupting latecomers throughout the show and the heat of the venue seemed to upset Janey’s flow.

After those shows and another few beers I decided to go to the Jazz Bar of all places. I’m far from an afficionado, but an old school pal had messaged me that his son was playing saxophone in the resident band. So there I went.

I still don’t get jazz, it’s all above my head. I reckon you have to be really brainy or something to understand it and that’s just not me, but I could tell that Rudy was a great sax player and I found myself enjoying it regardless of my lack of jazz credentials.

As the old joke goes, “In Peterheid, jazz is a film aboot a shark…”.

Well that was me, back to the hotel rather worse for wear and unfortunately nowhere obvious (that I knew of) open on route to get something to eat. Well, apart from McDonalds, which I refuse to enter and KFC, which I give in to. I say give in, but I got as far as standing in the queue, reading the menu board and leaving before getting to the front of the line, cynical and exasperated, because there was nothing for sale under six pounds. No other menus. I’m pretty sure there were cheaper options, but I think you had to be in the know to have that information and I just wasn’t in the know.

A bag of crisps from the Travelodge vending machine had to suffice that night.

A great Friday and hopefully Saturday would be equally as entertaining.

Live at Tom’s

We recently played a gig the Live At Captain Tom’s online music programme. Here it is:

Beware the Glory Hunter

So boots are quaking in constituencies all across the land as polls arrive suggesting a few upsets at the General Election in May.

The squirming anger of the entitled is painfully plain to see.

If it happens as predicted (but let’s be honest, the SNP gaining even thirty seats from the opposition would be an amazing success) I, for one, will be only too glad to see the back quite a few of this current generation of career politicians.

SNP constituency branches must be careful from hereon, however, as this success might make the party the prime target for the type of career and money-orientated wannabe politicians who blight the landscape of the current labour party.

It might be just what the Labour party needs, though. What sometimes happens when a traditionally high-flying Premier League football team unexpectedly finds itself relegated to the first division? The high earning players need to be shed and the team finds itself having to more or less start from scratch, with a bunch of young unknowns. The team rebuilt quite often gains the hunger lacking from the previous incarnation. Players playing “for the shirt” again, if you like.

Hopefully, if this apparent decimation was to happen to Labour’s branch office in Scotland, we’d see a party renewed with focus and vitality, ready to give the SNP a proper run for its money.

This has to happen.

Much as it would gladden my heart to see SNP domination, realistically we can’t become a single party state (not that that would happen in Westminster’s case, but thinking about Holyrood in 2016). That would be as, if not more, unhealthy than the current state of affairs.