Carrie Marshall — writer, broadcaster, songwriter — talks overpriced confectionery, sausage guns and rodent assassination

Mars Bar: Smaller than a toddler’s pinkie and costing more than a car.

For me, the best thing about this website is that I’ve met some really amazing, interesting and funny individuals through my interactions here. The other day I put out a tweet looking for volunteers to take part in my Sprout Questionnaire. In my book, if you volunteer for the Sprout Questionnaire, you are, by default, slightly peculiar. And slightly peculiar is exactly the type of person I know I’ll get along with.

Carrie Marshall is one such volunteer. She is a writer and broadcaster and, in her own words, a spectacularly unsuccessful songwriter, although I think that summary vastly underemphasises an incredibly diverse and accomplished CV (which I’ve been checking out on her blog). She’s trans, lives in Partick and has just bought a drum kit to delight her neighbours. She posts thoughts at bigmouthstrikesagain.com, tunes at soundcloud.com/dmgm and tweets as @carrieinglasgow. Why not check out her words and sounds for yourself?

Carrie Marshall

We had such a laugh compiling this. I thought my questions were funny (I’m pretty much the only person who finds me funny) but Carrie’s answers were way funnier. It was a total treat for me. Thanks for taking the time, Carrie, and for properly getting into the spirit of the Sprout.

OK, here we go…

  1. You are a superhero? What’s your name and what can you do?

I would be The Baseball Bat of Justice, because all the short superhero names are taken. I’d have the power of administering swift, summary justice to correct bad opinions: “I’m not a racist, but -” THWOCK! “Yes, but not all men -” BLAM! “It’s political correctness gone -” SPANG!

  1. In a failed prank to make a cast out of polyfilla, YouTuber Jay Swingler recently cemented his head inside a microwave. It took firefighters an hour to free him. What’s your worst ever fail and was it life-threatening?

I’ve managed to turn DIY into an extreme health hazard. A couple of Christmases ago I went to fit a magnetic knife rack in the kitchen and blew the mains electricity up with my first squeeze of the drill. We called out Emergency Panic Man — like a superhero, but a lot grumpier and much more expensive — and he was clearly using all of his powers to not call me the dick he obviously thought I was.

  1. What item of clothing do you covet?

I bought it. When I was little, Suzi Quatro made me feel all kinds of funny with her bass guitar and leather trousers. I’ve had basses for years and quickly discovered that they weren’t what had made me feel funny. So I recently acquired a pair of leather trousers. Can I breathe in them, let alone move? No. But do I look sexy? Also, no.

  1. To the outrage of many, Barrs recently changed the classic recipe of Irn Bru to reduce the sugar content. What similar changes have got you fizzing?

It has to be the ever shrinking size of treats such as crisps and chocolate. Have you seen a Mars Bar lately? It’s smaller than a toddler’s pinky and costs more than a car. You’re not going to get a day’s work, rest and play out of that.

  1. You’re a musician. You have a choice: to be a one hit wonder (with immediate riches and a secure future playing cruise ships) or to have poverty-stricken critical acclaim. Which one will it be?

Poverty. Has to be. The thought of playing a song I’ve grown to loathe every night to the kind of people who’d happily tie bricks to my feet and throw me overboard is a pretty good illustration of what Hell is probably like. You can’t eat acclaim, but you can often use it to persuade people to buy you drinks. Better to be Aidan Moffat than Barry Manilow, I think.

  1. Who is your (living, dead or invented) spiritual twin?

I’d like to think it’s Jodie Foster, with whom I share a birthday. But sadly it’s probably Mr Blobby, with whom I share a figure.

  1. Life lessons: despite the consequences, I have obstinately refused to learn the lesson that cutting my hair in the mirror is a bad idea. Which life lesson do you consistently fail to heed, and with what consequences?

I’m going to plagiarise the late, great Douglas Adams here:

I wish I’d listened to my father.

– what did he say?

I don’t know. I wasn’t listening.

  1. To my regret, I sing like a tortured cat. (Even I can’t stand to listen to myself). What skill are you lacking that you’d like to have?

I wish I had social skills. I can never get it right, I’m either laughing too loud at things that really aren’t funny or staring blankly at someone who thinks they’ve just said the funniest thing of all time. I wish I was the person who says the really excellent things I think of at 4am when I’ve gone home in disgrace. Or I’d like to be really good at fighting.

  1. A butcher in Totnes recently saved himself from an icy death after being trapped in a walk-in freezer by using a block of black pudding to prise open the door. In your opinion, which breakfast item is most likely to save your life?

It has to be sausages, hasn’t it? Links, not square. You could quickly fashion a sausage gun by bending one and pointing it in a determined shooty kind of way, or squeeze the meat into the gaps between a door and its frame to protect you from floods, smoke, sarin attacks and killer bees (also, I’d love to get somebody angry enough that they’d unleash all four of those things against me. That’s going to involve some serious criminal mastermind shit). You could roll a bunch of them into a sausage-based decoy that the bad guys shoot at, giving you time to escape. And you could make two into a cross to fend off Vegan Dracula. And then afterwards you could entertain the local urchins by making sausage animals.

  1. Thanks to talks between the two neighbouring countries, two North Korean figure skates will attend the coming winter Olympics in South Korea. What is the biggest concession you’ve made to a neighbour for the sake of an easy life (or to avoid nuclear annihilation)?

I watched my former neighbours raise their garden so high the top of their fence was 20 feet above mine. I hadn’t spotted it in the planning application they tried to hide from us. All it needed was watchtowers and spotlights, and to my great shame I didn’t say anything because I didn’t want conflict. The best I could do was park really close to their driveway and throw tons of dogshit over their fence for the next few years. And my former wife killed their hamster, although I don’t think that was deliberate.

[HMT] Sorry, incapable of writing much more. I really hope your neighbours aren’t reading this. I know dead hamsters shouldn’t be funny but…

 

Chris McQueer answers my Sprout questionnaire

Surviving on the run with his granda, turning invisible, signing up for NASA and reinventing the diary, meet Chris ‘say aye to everything’ McQueer, a man with some very valuable secrets.

Sprout questionnaire? Yes, for once this isn’t bad spelling on my part. My Proust questionnaire has been put through the mincer and this is the result. A Sprout Questionnaire. Nothing at all to do with leafy green vegetables or European capitals, but hey, that’s probably a good thing.

[Actually I got the idea for the title from a game I’m playing by myself (I repeat, by myself) on Twitter #authoranagrams. The clue is in the hashtag. You can join me if you like @TaylorHelen_M.]

The first willing (I think he was willing) victim of the revamped questionnaire is Chris McQueer.

Chris is a 25 year old writer and sales assistant from the east end of Glasgow whose debut collection of short stories ‘Hings’ has been published by 404Ink and is out now. His work has also appeared in Gutter magazine, The Skinny and The National and he has performed at Glasgow’s Aye Write book festival, Belladrum Festival and on BBC Radio Scotland. His stories are riotously, brilliantly funny and more than a touch surreal, and show Glasgow in all its irreverent glory but, (and maybe I should whisper this bit) beneath the spurt-your-drink-out-your-nose laughs and the don’t-let-your-granny-read-it swearing, they address serious issues like class division. Everyone should buy a copy if you haven’t already.

I’m really chuffed that he agreed to take part in this piece of ridiculousness.

Over to Chris…

1. You are a superhero. Who are you and what can you do? Continue reading “Chris McQueer answers my Sprout questionnaire”

West End Pat answers my Proust Questionnaire

Pat Byrne: smitten with the West End of Glasgow and intrigued by the people, the parks, the history, the architecture and the atmosphere

Logo for Glasgow West End: Pat's Guide

Pat Byrne is the person behind Glasgow West End: Pat’s Guide, a website aimed at promoting this great part of Glasgow. It focuses on the local community, with a ‘what’s on’ guide and loads of useful information about restaurants, shops, pubs, galleries and more. She’s also a writer and involved in other projects, most recently Ten Writers Telling Lies, a unique collaboration between a group of storytellers, poets and the singer-songwriter Jim Byrne and which was performed as a live event and is now available as a book with an accompanying CD.

Pat was born in Glasgow’s Royal Maternity Hospital (known to most of us as Rottenrow) but her childhood was spent in Old Kilpatrick, a village half way between Glasgow and Loch Lomond.  As a child, one of her great treats was to go ‘up the town’ so the city has always been close to her heart but her discovery of the West End came later, as a student in the 1970s. Now, she says she’s ‘smitten’ with the area Continue reading “West End Pat answers my Proust Questionnaire”

Little Blog of Horrors’ Ayden Millar answers my Proust questionnaire

My favourite journey? The drive up north to The Drovers Inn or Rest And Be Thankful. Scotland is just bloody breathtaking.

The latest contributor to my Proust questionnaire series is Ayden Millar, a Scottish lifestyle blogger based in Glasgow. I came across her Little Blog Of Horrors when I was browsing Glasgow blogs and was immediately impressed by the the fabulous mix of content, how well written it was, and how striking the photographs were. (Actually, to be honest, what first impressed me was how flipping cool she was.)

Ayden’s blog started life as a university project when she was studying at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama (now Royal Conservatoire of Scotland) where she was encouraged to keep an online journal of her work, experiences and reflections. Once she discovered the fashion, beauty and lifestyle community which existed online, it started to develop into something much more personal and less uni related. Seven years later, she works freelance in the art department for the TV industry and updates her blog regularly.

On the Little Blog of Horrors you can find everything from fashion to makeup, hair and skin care, tattoos (Ayden has some cracking tattoos), and her favourite places to eat, drink and play in Glasgow and beyond. Here she obligingly and honestly answers my rather intrusive questions, introduces me to a poet and an artist that I didn’t know (but probably ought to have), and reveals her slightly unsettling obsession with zombie apocalypse scenarios and her shameless delight in bbq sauce stuffed-crust pizza (who even knew that was a thing?).

1. What was the first music that you ever paid for?

The Spice Girls’ Album, ‘Spice’ in 1994.

2. What was the most recent music that you paid for?

A cheeky wee pre-order of my boyfriend’s band’s latest self-titled album, Alburn.

3. What was the most recent book you read?

A Mindfulness Guide For The Frazzled by Ruby Wax.

4. What is your favourite novel?

The Beach by Alex Garland.

5. Who is your favourite poet? Continue reading “Little Blog of Horrors’ Ayden Millar answers my Proust questionnaire”

Novelist Catherine Hokin answers my Proust Questionnaire

I can’t choose between gravy-based and custard-based options

Blood and Roses by Catherine Hokin

The second victim in my series of Proust questionnaires is the Glasgow-based author and novelist Catherine Hokin. Not only is she a fabulous writer but she is extremely generous and supportive of the rest of us who are trying to do the same thing. In her debut novel Blood and Roses, she draws on her fascination with medieval history, political propaganda and hidden female voices to bring a new perspective to the story of Margaret of Anjou (1430-1482, wife of Henry VI) and her pivotal role in the Wars of the Roses.

The theme of Catherine’s blog posts and articles is often dangerous women and I suspect that, under her apparently gentle exterior, she may be a pretty dangerous woman herself. Her answer to my first question is evidence enough.

Here she struggles with that age-old dilemma—whether to go for a gravy-based or custard-based meal—and reveals a slightly bizarre situation involving hats with animal ears (a situation that cannot possibly be hypothetical as it has clearly left her traumatised).

1. What was the first music you ever paid for?

Telegram Sam by T-Rex—it was a red vinyl 45. I was impressed [Ed: Me too. Impressed, that is].

2. What was the most recent music that you paid for?

Does shifting to Premium Spotify on the basis of severe guilt count? If so it would be Positive Songs by Negative People by Frank Turner.

3. What was the most recent book you read?

 The Devil’s Feast by Miranda Carter—delicious.

4. What is your favourite novel?

Wise Children by Angela Carter.

5. Who is your favourite poet?

I’m meant to have one of those by now but it hasn’t quite happened. I’m a bit more of a prose person.

6. What is your favourite work of art?

Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks.

7. What is your favourite museum?

The Kelvingrove in Glasgow.

8. What would you spend your last tenner on?

I’m assuming this is an apocalyptic scenario so a Continue reading “Novelist Catherine Hokin answers my Proust Questionnaire”

The University Café: Glasgow, Italy and Ice Cream

Pasquale in his suit and Guiseppa in her white apron, the windows full of adverts for Cadbury’s chocolate and Capstan cigarettes and, above the door, a sign masquerading as a lamp. Or a lamp masquerading as a sign. Ices.

The Soul of a City

There are certain landmarks in any city that always make the postcards or the souvenir bookmarks and mugs and tea towels, landmarks that even a stranger would recognise silhouetted against the skyline. In Glasgow, they might be the Finnieston Crane, The Mackintosh Building at the Art School, the Squinty Bridge (or the Clyde Arc to use its official name) or even the statue of the Duke of Wellington on Queen Street with his obligatory traffic cone.

But then there are those places that are less recognisable to folk who don’t know the city but which are easily identifiable to those who live there. Places which don’t shout their touristy credentials quite so loudly but which engender words like institution and hidden gem. Places barely changed for years which—because of the lives that have passed through them and the events they have marked—have come to embody the soul of the city and with which we can all illustrate our personal histories. In Glasgow, that might mean The Pavilion Theatre, for example, or the Glasgow Film Theatre, or the blue Dr Who-style Police Box at the entrance to the Botanic Gardens, or any of the numerous legendary (and I don’t use the word lightly) pubs and bars that adorn the city.

The University Café is one such place. Situated on Byres Road just around the corner from the University of Glasgow (the clue is in the name), it has been selling teas and coffees and its own ice cream to West Enders and students since 1918. It was a favourite of mine when I was a student and more recently a regular treat-stop when my nieces came to visit. My mother-in-law was brought up round the corner in Partick and remembers going there as a child. Even Jamie Oliver is a fan. There are two pages devoted to the University Café in Jamie’s Great Britain and apparently his 20 minute visit there extended to nearly an hour by the time he’d eaten breakfast and been shown how the famous ice cream is made.

Pasquale and Guiseppa

Recently, I had the enormous pleasure of chatting to Carlo Verrecchia, the current owner. In his early 60s now, he’s been working in the café since he left school, aged 16. He explained that his Italian grandparents Pasquale and Guiseppa Continue reading “The University Café: Glasgow, Italy and Ice Cream”

Man With Glasses Answer My Proust Questionnaire

Perfect happiness? A girl from Paisley named Michelle.

As you may have gathered if you’ve read my post about unknown unknowns, I’m pretty new to twitter and all that malarky and not exactly gifted at it. However, it isn’t all bad. I’ve made some pretty good discoveries since I started twitting. One of the bands I came across early on (i.e. about a month ago) are the fabulous Man With Glasses. They are based in Glasgow and hence qualify for my questionnaire. Their music is instrumental electronica, melodious and up lifting and I’m really chuffed that they agreed to answer my daft questions. Ian plays along with a fab mix of humour and sincerity.

1. What was the first music you ever paid for?

Rockin’ Over the Beat by Technotronic.

Still love this!

2. What was the most recent music that you paid for?

Trick by Jamie T.

3. What was the most recent book you read?

Seventy-Seven: My Road to Wimbledon Glory by the wonderful Andy Murray.

4. What is your favourite novel?

Of Mice and Men.

5. Who is your favourite poet?

I have not ventured into the world of poetry………

Maybe I will at some point but I prefer action more than words (maybe that is why my band Man With Glasses play only instrumental music).

6. What is your favourite work of art?

The Metamorphosis of Narcissus by Salvador Dalí.

7. What is your favourite museum?

My girlfriend’s Continue reading “Man With Glasses Answer My Proust Questionnaire”