Books: I've written about my love of The Pogues before, and my disappointment at how they've gradually (and literally) pissed their legacy away with a series of increasingly shambolic reunion gigs. But for a period in the mid-to-late-80s, they were unstoppable. Their lead singer told his side of the story in his 2001 book A Drink With Shane MacGowan, although the interview format and the author's short attention span made it more interesting as a laboratory experiment than a memoir. Now it's the turn of accordionist James Fearnley to have a go at documenting the band's history, and Here Comes Everybody makes a much better job of it. Fearnley freely admits in a note at the end that the book is "a work of creative non-fiction," in which he's recreated conversations and events to show the way he remembered them happening, rather than perhaps the way they really happened. It makes for a fascinating read: full of anecdotes and humour, but brilliantly depicting the exhilaration and frustration of the band's parabolic relationship with success. MacGowan may not have written a song worth a damn for 15 years now, but his cover quote is one for the ages: "it's just how I'd imagine I'd remember it."
Comedy: I only really discovered The Bugle Podcast last summer, when its protagonists Andy Zaltzman and John Oliver stormed a late night Edinburgh comedy show and made highlights of it available for audio download. I liked the idea of a weekly podcast featuring two guys attacking the news with a satirical sledgehammer: I was less comfortable with the podcast being hosted by The Times, and having to battle through their website and paywall in order to get at it. Well, since last summer, things have changed: Zaltzman and Oliver bit the hand that fed them once too often, The Times sent them packing, and the podcast is now a completely independent affair run through Soundcloud. The latest edition, Bugle 192, shows them enjoying the freedom to give Rupert Murdoch a good kicking while he's down. My one irritation with the whole thing is that I've also just discovered the weekly Radio 5 show 7 Day Sunday, which often features Zaltzman as a guest, cheerfully recycling topical jokes he's already used on The Bugle a couple of days earlier.
Travel: The other big discovery I made in Edinburgh last year was the deliciousness of BrewDog beer. The Belated Birthday Girl agreed with me, and for Christmas she bought me a small parcel of BrewDog shares as part of their Equity For Punks offering. As shareholders, we were therefore entitled to attend the company's Annual General Meeting, held at the end of April in Aberdeen. It was a unique combination of corporate presentation, gig and piss-up, plus a brief coach outing to the building site that will eventually become their new brewery. Plenty of beer on sale at reasonable prices (£2 bought you a pint of their lower end beers, or a half of their braincell killers), plus free tastings of some of their newer products, including a spectacular 15.1% Imperial Stout called Dog A. The bands weren't bad either, with The Little Kicks and Bombskare providing the highlights. I took lots of photos while drunk: these are the ones that were in focus.
Anyway, it all looks very exciting if you enjoy that sort of thing. Me, I'll probably just be sitting at home with a nice cup of tea and reading your comments below. Assuming you leave some, of course.