RETRO. I guess it’s a retro kind of word now. But, in truth, it’s the future. Moving forward, to use the meaningless and redundant trope de nos jours, will mean looking backward.

Exhibit A: vinyl. It’s now outstripping CDs in sales, though it could be because the latter are, to use an outdated word, passé. At any rate, folk say the sound is better than both CD and digital. They say: “Which would you prefer, 12 inches of real pleasure or some virtual representation on the internet?” And, no, they weren’t asking you, madam.

I cannot comment with any authority on – reader’s interjection: “Anything” – sound quality, but I know that “digitally remastered” albums usually make things worse (it’s someone else’s decision about what should be more prominent or muted in the mix) and I have learned to avoid them.

They make make the music antiseptic. Mind you, I wouldn’t over-emphasis vinyl’s superiority. Too often, as I recall, it’s The Jumpy and Scratchy Show, the pitfall of physicality being that it can get damaged.

But I agree that it’s more real even if, realistically, I rarely play my vinyl albums now. I just like to know they’re there, taking up precious space. It’s as much about the big arty covers as anything else. I love examining and fondling these. Indeed, the new breed of vinyl-lovers see them as “lifestyle accessories” and, sometimes, hang them on the wall.

It’s like having books on shelves, I guess, and in this regard it was pleasing to read in that Herald newspaper of Topping & Co opening a new bookshop today in Edinburgh’s Blenheim Place at the lovely east end of Princes Street. In a Playfair building beneath Calton Hill, the new shop, with its tall wooden bookcases and rolling library ladders, will contain 70,000 books.

Bookseller Hugh Topping says: “We absolutely believe in the physical book … [The] books people see on our shelves haven’t been selected by some creepy algorithm that’s built a profile on you …”

Oh, the algorithms! They make helpful suggestions but, some days, we just don’t need any more algorithm ’n’ blues. It feels like we’re being controlled, even if ostensibly for our own good (or at least Amazon’s).

A bookshop gives you somewhere to go. It gets you oot the hoose. It offers one of life’s joys – serendipity – in what you might find.

Here’s a thing: ebook sales have dropped 20 per cent since 2014, while independent bookshops are growing. It’s funny: everyone I know said they’d never buy a Kindle, then they did, then they loved it, then they just drifted back to books.

I’ve high hopes the same will happen with physical newspapers. I read (loosely speaking) seven or eight papers a day digitally, but sitting down with a proper paper in one’s hands is a better, less antsy, less jumpy and more satisfying experience.

Soon, to be seen with a physical newspaper on a bus or train will denote a person of taste, someone set apart from the banana-necked mob gazing down neurotically at their devices.

My plan for you, dear reader, is this: by all means, sit down at your computer and hurt your eyes skim-reading stuff online till you’re satiated (but still unsatisfied); then have a nice walk down to the shop, saying hello to neighbours on the way and, after a wee chat with your newsagent, head home with your Herald, get a cup of tea on and a scone buttered (jam optional); chill out, see more, read more, learn more, laugh more and have a right good leisurely experience in the real world of physical things.


IT gives me the shivers just reading about wild swimmers. These are hardy individuals who plunge into the cold, briny sea, yea, even unto wintertime. This is supposed to be good for your wellbeing, cleansing your soul with a shock that gives your heart a good boot up the jacksie tae.

But it’s not for me. I went in the sea in the far north once in May; took three days for my teeth to stop chittering. That said, I have a cold shower after a sauna twice a week, but I can never stay under it for long.

On yon YouTube I follow a braw Swedish blogger who makes holes in a lake’s ice before immersing her body. She herself is a follower of Wim Hof, yon Dutch fellow who climbs icy mountains in his pants and holds records for cold immersion.

He says it makes you immune from diseases, but my guess is that it’s not for everyone, particularly those with poor circulation. At any rate, VisitScotland is touting Scotia’s seas as a good place for a nippy dook. And just think: afterwards, you get soaked by the rain. Yep. Come to Scotland: it’s wet all over.


MUCH tittering has been directed at conference-attending academics who wore traffic-light badges to indicate whether they were open (green), closed (red) or somewhere in between (amber) as regards people being allowed to speak to them.

The conference, at Roehampton University, was on the subject of “Thinking Beyond: Transversal Transfeminism”. I see. This was more ammunition to people who think our universities have become loony bins but, secretly, I think more than a few people would fancy getting their hands on such badges.

We’ve surely all had days – lives indeed – where we might find such badges handy, though I can’t imagine many punters in Scotland respecting them.

“Hey, how ya doin’, bud?”

“Can’t you see my traffic light is at red?”

“Oh, right. You one o’ thae transversal transfeminists, like?”

“Please go away.”

“Aye, right. Anyway, how ya doin’, bud?”

To be fair, it would seem awfully stand-offish to have one’s badge on red all the time. It might make you seem angry or anti-social or, not to put too fine a point on it, a nutter. Folk will think that the light’s on but there’s nobody home.