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Saturday, 30 November 2013

It's not easy being suave and cultured

Mary has a good opinion of me, because I talk to her about politics and religion. It's one of the many things I like about her and it's something I'm keen to hang on to. 

But the harder you try to be suave and cultured, I find, the more your inner idjit gets out.

So we're chatting together in her living-room, as she eats the dinner I've brought round and I sip a small Talisker she's poured for me, and she asks me how I'm doing.

"Struggling," I say. "Recessions are tough for a freelance, and living off your wits gets harder as they lose their edge with age."

"Have a biscuit and don't be daft," she says. "What age are you?"

"Fifty-five," I say. 

"Just a boy," she says

"Can I get you a coffee?" I say, leaping lithely to my feet to prove that she's right.

"I have it with all milk nowadays," she says. "In my favourite mug."

"What does your favourite mug look like?" I call from the kitchen with a sinking feeling, as I can see about 40 mugs around the room. 

"It looks like a mug," she calls back. So I stick my head through, to find her pushing her plate away and looking expectant. "Gimme a clue," I say. "What kind of mug?"

"It looks like this," she says, making a mug-sized shape with her hands. "It has a nice pattern on it and Fay gave me it as a present."

Short of the gift tag still being on the damned thing, I fail to see how that helps me. But I head back to the kitchen and play for time by pouring milk into a saucepan and heating it on the hob.

"You like it boiling or just hot?" I ask.

"Boiling," she says. "But not all over my cooker."

Ninety years old, yes. Fluffy and feeble, no. 

"She does this frail old woman act," Susan often tells me. "But she's anything but. She's manipulative. She used to write letters to the papers under different names, in praise of the charity she started for unmarried mums. She even changed her handwriting for each of them. That's devious."

"It's resourceful," I tell her. "And it's all for other people. That's what I like about her. She is unselfish. She's spiritual."

"She should be," she'd say. "She prays to the Holy Spirit all the time."

"For the benefit of other people," I'd point out. "God and scheming make a great combination. Ideal way to get things done, if you ask me."

And a little divine assistance wouldn't go amiss now, I'm thinking, as the milk boils over and I shut the door fast, so Mary can't hear the hissing. It is hard to get milk off a hot plate but I do my best. Then I scrabble around the kitchen some more, searching for this daft mug she's so keen on. 

Suddenly I spot it in the sink. Tall, tapering, with fancy flowers on the outside. I know it's the one. Don't ask me how. Maybe being this close to Mary means God is on my side tonight too. 

The thought makes me overconfident and the mug slips from my fingers and smashes itself to bits on the floor. I stare at it for a moment, my mind numb, then look upwards. "Thanks a bunch pal," I tell Him, as the milk boils over again, I reach out to grab it and tip the entire saucepan over the hob.

"Bugger, bugger, bugger," I say, as I survey the scattered chaos in a once lovely kitchen. "Bugger." 

Five minutes later I've cleaned up as best I can and made her black coffee in a Huckleberry Hound mug, with "Oh My Darling Clementine" in large letters on the side.

"I am sorry, Mary. I couldn't find your posh mug and you had run out of milk," I say, as I hand it to her. 

"Never mind son," she says, patting my hand, taking a small sip and pretending she likes it. "It's lovely to have you here to chat to, about all the stuff that's on my mind. 

"You are just so calm and sensible."

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Sam Shepard at the Citizens

True West, an extended snapshot of what can happen to estranged brothers who spend too much time together, is an unsettling play that has clear themes, dramatic tension and flashes of broad humour, even slapstick, but little narrative arc or plot resolution.

So the characters live on in your head, long after the actors have left the stage, like the unresolved itch of something you intended to do.

But tonight it could be different. Tonight we might get the full story from the man himself - playwright, musician and Hollywood actor, Sam Shepard.

Most of the audience at the Citizen's Theatre stay on for his question and answer session after the play, but a few head home, leaving vacant seats in the stalls. So with the usher's permission we abseil down from the upper circle, in time to see the rangy 70-year-old amble onstage in blue jeans and dark coat, and take a seat beside the play's director Phillip Breen. 

Shepard has the wary look of someone facing a Glasgow audience for the first time, and his initial answers are monosyllabic. A question about writing clearly relaxes him and he starts to open up.

"You don't necessarily have a lot of motivation or predestination about where you're going," he says. "You just start. Characters, situations and places appear, but there is never a lot of thinking about it. That takes place as you're writing."

Vivid images of the origins of the play we've just watched remain in his mind, three decades later, he says. "The sound of crickets and coyotes, the presence of the desert. Los Angeles is the weirdest place in the world. 

"Why do we plant a city in the middle of the desert like that? It's like gobbled up by demons."

A powerful presence in True West, the desert is where one brother lives and the other yearns to go, hoping its demons will restore a grip on reality weakened by years of writing for a living. 

It's a play born out of Shepard's own struggles with the script of what turned out to be a cinematic masterpiece, Breen explains on the Citizens website. "One can just hear the conversations with potential producers of Paris, Texas and Shepard's own self doubt in some of True West's most blistering dialogue: 
"'In this business we make movies. American Movies. Leave the films to the French.'"

Shepard is less analytic about the products of his creative efforts, but chats fluently about the process. Asked which brother in the play is based on himself, he says "Everything you write is based on yourself, no matter how much writers want to deny it. I've read over and over that Shakespeare is the one playwright who stays out of his material.

"Bullshit. Every character that Shakespeare wrote is himself. Yes?"

An appealing feature of his interactions with the audience is this element of dialogue. He poses questions as well as answering them. "Does that make sense?" "Do you know the man?" "Have you been to Minnesotta?"

Shepard ranges over writing and acting, his early days in Hollywood and his thoughts on Meryl Streep, with whom he recently acted. "She comes in and it's like a leopard let loose in the room. You have no idea what's going to happen next."

He even chats about Patti Smith, his former lover and still a friend, he says, whom he recently accompanied on the banjo, when she recorded Smells Like Teen Spirit.

With the thoughtful, engaging air of a guest at your dinner table, Shepard makes the effort to answer every question put to him. But there are aspects of any work of the imagination that can't be pinned down, even by the one person you might expect to know. 

As the session draws to a close, 
a woman in the audience asks what happens to the two brothers we have just spent an evening with, after the curtain has fallen on True West.

Sam Shepard shakes his head. "I have no idea," he says.

Friday, 22 November 2013

The Right Stuff

It's not every day you get to see a Hollywood legend in Glasgow, chatting about life, literature and the unsettling disconnect between myth and reality. 

So the evening ended well. But it began badly, when a helpful young lad at the Citizens ticket desk studied me sympathetically and beckoned me over to a quiet corner, where Susan couldn't overhear. 

"I'm sorry sir, your tickets were for the matinée," he says. "You've missed it."

"Surely not?" I say.

"See for yourself," he says, pointing to '2.30 pm' on the print-out. "It's now 7.30 pm."

"Is there a problem?" Susan says, starting to walk towards us, looking smart, successful and all set for a civilised night at the theatre.

"Do you have seats anywhere for this performance?" I whisper to the lad.

"We're packed out tonight," he says. "Sam Shepard, who wrote the play, is in the audience and will be answering questions after the performance. There are seats in the upper circle though, which you're welcome to, since it was a genuine mistake."

"That's kind of you," I say, taking the tickets and steering Susan to the small opening at the back of the vestibule. "I didn't know the Citz had an upper circle," she says. "What an adventure!"

Ten minutes later we're still climbing and she's struggling to see the funny side. A flurry of snowflakes stings my face as we come across a young woman in a fleecy parka, hunched down outside a tent, boiling water on a primus stove.

"Cup of tea?" she says and I'm about to say "Yes please" and take a break, when I notice Susan is showing no sign of stopping.

"We'll push on to the top, thanks," she says. "Is it much further?"

"Half an hour at most," the woman tells us, and we resume tramping steadily upward. 

Breathe, step, breathe, step. It's a hypnotic rhythm that numbs the brain, so when the storm clears suddenly to reveal three rows of seats with faded plush pile, it takes me a moment to respond to the friendly young usher who says we can sit anywhere. 

"Follow me," Susan says, taking me firmly by the hand.

"Bloody hell, it's a long way down," I say, when we're seated and comfortable. "Can you see the stage?"

"I think that's it," she says, pointing. "It looks about the size of a postage stamp."

"No, that is a postage stamp," I say, reaching to pick it off the balustrade. "The stage is much further away."

"Got it now," she says. "I can just make out small furry animals moving around on it."

"That's the hair on the actors' heads," I say, taking a pull on the oxygen mask provided for patrons and settling down to enjoy the performance.

True West is a tense tale of mismatched brothers, by writer and actor Sam Shepard, whom I'll always remember as Chuck Yeager in The Right Stuff, a fantastic film about the first American astronauts. Yeager was one of the greatest pilots ever, but the astronaut programme rejected him because he didn't have a degree. 

"I am so looking forward to seeing Shepard after the show," I tell Susan. "His Chuck Yeager was out of this world. Shepard played him as laconic and insanely brave, as he pushed the envelope and rode his supersonic steed to the sky." 

"Let's hope he brought his supersonic steed with him tonight then," Susan says. "Because all we'll be seeing from up here, if he didn't, is the laconic and insanely brave bald patch on the back of his head."

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Bronzed hunks in the sun

"Tell me again," Susan says, as we're sat in the University Café, which seems unchanged since I first parked my bum on its hard bench seats and ate its plain but tasty food, on moving to the city as a fresh-faced youth from Ayrshire, many years ago.

"Sure," I say. "They have crocodiles that rip your legs off, snakes that can poison you with a glance and spiders that pursue you implacably, before sinking their fangs into your soft, pale neck, even if you climb on the table to escape.

"Not that bit," she says with unaccustomed patience. "The next part."

I sip my black coffee pensively and shake my head. "There wasn't a next part."

"There was," she says. "You mentioned rugby players." 

"Oh yeah," I say. "There'll be loads of those, of course, strutting around in skimpy shorts, exposing their bulging muscles and hard bronzed bodies in the sunshine. You'll need to avoid them too.

"Are you all right," I add. "Your eyes don't normally point in different directions."

She fans herself with the menu, which surprises me on such a cold November morning. "Just feeling the heat," she says. "You're right. That sounds awful. But my son has asked me over for a holiday and I miss him. I promise I'll stay away from snakes and crocodiles."

"And rugby players," I say. "Don't forget the rugby players. Australians can be rough and hard and pushy, I've heard, especially with women."

She gives a little moan and stands up. "Back in a minute," she says. "I need some air."

So I study the menu, featuring chips, eggs and beans in various combinations, which sends me back to being 20 again, and sitting on these same seats, counting the coins in our pockets, to see if they'd stretch to a coffee. Then I look through the window at the bottom end of Byres Road.

Scents stir memories, Proust says, but for me it's a quality of the light, especially in Glasgow's West End in autumn, that carries me irresistibly backward. The hazy glow on leaves struggling to stay attached can transport me instantly to times past that now seem golden, but held their share of anguish.

The door opens and a flurry of russet leaves rises from the pavement, as Susan sits back down again. "That's better," she says. "It's chilly out there." 

"So you're going to Australia?" I say. 

"You want to come?" she says.

"No and I'll tell you why. I was in second year at university here and starting to struggle. I'd met a girl and was spending all my time with her and missing lectures. We got on great for a while then I started to see a darker side. She had a selfish streak and a terrible temper. 

"I made the mistake of introducing her to a pal called Jack Arbroath, over here on a scholarship from Sydney. Great guy. Used to entertain us with stories of wrestling reptiles and hunting snakes, spiders and women. He was irresistible to women."

"Don't tell me," she says. "He stole yours."

"I should have seen it coming. They ran away to Australia and I never saw either of them again."

"Broke your heart?" she says.

"I really missed him." 

"So going out there would stir painful memories," she says, patting my hand. "I understand."

"It's not that," I say. "I'm scared I bump into her again."

"You won't," she says. "Australia's enormous. Much bigger than Ayrshire."

"Is it though?" I say. "A couple of towns on the coast and a million miles of desert. You're bound to bump into people you know in the Spar shop." 

"I'll protect you," she says.

"You won't," I say. "You'll fall under Alligator Arbroath's spell too and I'll be left with Sandra."

"Does he play rugby?" she says.

"He does. He also wears baggy shorts and has bouncy corks all round the rim of his hat."

"You're right," she says, fanning herself with the menu again. "It's too dangerous for you. I'd better go alone."

Saturday, 16 November 2013

Tales of love and chocolate

"She's taking you the wrong way again," my niece says, as we're headed to the garden centre for a coffee, a chat and a chocolate cake, and my satnav starts telling me to turn right.

"My grandma used to say the longest way round is the shortest way home," she adds.

"Grans always have daft sayings that sound profound," I say. "Mine used to tell me not to sit with my back to the fire because it would melt the marrow in my bones." 

She chuckles. Cathy has an infectious laugh and lovely eyes that sometimes look sad when she thinks you're not looking. I've enjoyed making her laugh since I first met her, a fortnight old.

We saw less of each other than I'd have liked, as she was growing up, because my own kids were young and she lived a long way away. She still does, so we catch up when we can.

"I miss my grandma," she says, and I give her hand a squeeze and we drive in silence for a while.

"When I worked at Rolls-Royce there was this guy called Colin who'd come out with total gibberish," I say. "Then he'd blame it on his gran. So he'd go 'A nod's as good as a wink to a ripe banana - as my old granny used to say'."

"My grandma used to say, 'Don't put dogs in windows,' Cathy says and goes quiet. "I have no idea what that means."  

"The chocolate cake is nice here then?" I say, as we turn into the car park at Woodlands Nursery. 

"You'll love it," she says. "They make it with chocolate. Then they mix in chocolate and put chocolate on top."

Sure enough a powerful chocolate theme is evident in the cakes and cookies displayed in the nether regions of the sprawling garden centre, where their little cafe is located. 

Inside the glass display case, walnut fudge, black forest gateaux and chocolate layer cake occupy pride of place, like battleships defending the Dardanelles, while the lower shelves are densely packed with éclairs, brownies, macchiato muffins, millionaire shortbread and thick chunks of rocky road

I order a slab of cake the size of a door wedge, while Cathy goes for ice-cream and one of the lighter sponges, decorated with hazelnuts and summer berries.

"I'm not going to get out of here alive," I tell her. "If we sit too long I suspect they'll coat us with chocolate and sell us to somebody."

"What kind of chocolate would you be?" she asks.

"Hazelnut cluster," I say. "Sweet and wholesome-looking, but hard inside. What about you?"

"Cherry liqueur," she says, chuckling again. "Rich, satisfying and slightly piquant."

"It's nice to see you, kid," I say and this time she gives my hand a squeeze. 

"You should visit more often," she says.

"If I knew there was this much chocolate here I would," I say. "I've got a problem though. The cake on my plate is scrumptious. But all those still on the shelves are catching my eye and making me wish I'd picked one of them."

"You'll never be content if you keep looking over the fence and coveting your neighbour's house, or his wife or his ox or his ass," she says.

"That's very true," I say, giving the waiter a little nod. 

"My grandma used to say the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence," she says. 

"Mine used to say there's no sense risking a cholesterol deficiency," I say, and order a large portion of walnut fudge, two hunks of rocky road and a chocolate-topped cappuccino to go.

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Concepts of cool

"You can't make me!" I cry several hours later, when Molly has gone to bed and Iain and I have been relaxing for half an hour to blues and rock from his eclectic collection.

"Just a couple of tunes," he'd told me at the start. "I got to be up at six to get to work. No more all-night sessions for us, I'm afraid."

So first he'd played the Abbey Road cover by Booker T. "Not a band I ever listened to," I say, as they're swinging it on Come Together. "But they're good."

"Steve Cropper on guitar," he says. 

"Remind me," I say. 

"Booker T and the M.G.'s, Derek and the Dominos, Blues Brothers," he says. "Voted greatest living guitar player in 1996 by Mojo magazine."

Next we get Black Cat Bone by the Nimmo Brothers from Glasgow, followed by Seasick Steve and John Paul Jones, first with Dan Magnusson on drums and then Dave Grohl. 

Then he springs it on me. "You got to hear this," he says innocently. 

"What?" I say.

"While My Guitar Gently Weeps on the ukulele."

"No!" I cry. "I don't want George Formby in the same part of my brain as one of my favourite Beatles numbers."

It's not George Formby," he says. "It's Jake Shimabukuro."

"I don't care if it's Jake and Elwood Blues," I say. "I don't want to hear a ukulele. I'd rather listen to a sex-crazed cat playing the kazoo."

"You can be very opinionated," he says. "Shut up and listen."

Sure enough as soon as I hear the sound this Jake's getting from his uke, I'm sold. "That's cool," I say. "Wouldn't it be nice to be that good? You played something when we were young. What was it?"

"Truant," he says.

"Something else," I say as a distant memory niggles. "I got it. You played the cello."

"I did not," he says.

"You did. I saw you at a school service once, sawing away like a pre-pubescent Pablo Casals."

"Bugger me, you're right," he says, as his own delinquent neurons connect. "My mum sent me to cello lessons for a year. I gave it up because it wasn't cool."

"And joined the chess club, I remember. You had no clear concept of cool then, did you?"

"See nobody taught you stuff like that," he says. "It should have been obvious that playing guitar got you girls. Hell, even the drummer pulls, once in a while."

"Mostly weird women though, with blue hair and snake tattoos, who only want you for meaningless sex."

"I can see that would be tough for a man of your moral rectitude," he says. "Point is they shouldn't have been teaching us maths and Latin in secondary school. They should have been teaching us how women work."

"First-year could have been chat, dating and foreplay instead of algebra, geometry and trig," I say. "Art would have been life drawing. In geography we'd have learned where to find the G-spot."

"Women didn't have one then," he tells me. "Well they did but nobody called it that. They gave it that name a few years later, after a German doctor called Gräfenberg." 

"Cunning linguists," I say. 

"That would have been second-year," he says.

Friday, 8 November 2013

A wonderfully fluffy pussy

Having recently celebrated her ruby wedding, Molly is reflecting on her enduring marriage to my oldest friend Iain. 

"We are very different people," she tells me, as the two of us are sat in the front room of the house in Bradford that I've visited for not far short of their forty years together and now feels like a second home to me.

"I noticed," I say. "He's a bit of a prat for a start."

"He is," she says. "Which is why the two of you get on."

"He and I have a lot in common."

"But he and I don't," she says, giving the cat that's just wandered into the elegantly decorated room a tickle, and getting a rumbling purr in return. "That's my point."

On my last visit, when this hairy moggy had wafted into the room, his tail held high, a friend of Iain's had blurted out, "What a wonderfully fluffy pussy." 

I'd spluttered drink and sprayed the feline with an aromatic mist of fine Ardbeg. He liked it and has rubbed against my leg with greater ardour ever since. It's a memory that makes me smile but a dangerous distraction from Molly's conversation.

"Sorry?" I say.

"I said take cooking dinner," she repeats with a tinge of asperity. "With me it's fast and functional. I make the meal and clean up as I go. Iain is different. He turns it into a major production. First he puts on that terrible, wailing blues he listens to, like Arabs burying their dead. Then he dives into the kitchen.

"Five hours later he surfaces with something that smells and tastes incredible and is laid out like a gorgeous work of art. But behind him he's left a scene of terrible devastation, like a Scotch invasion of the football pitch at Wembley."

"Bottles of whisky have never invaded Wembley," I say and instantly regret it. But it's too late to back off so I chunter brainlessly on. "The word you're groping for I suspect is 'Scottish'."

"The word you're groping for I suspect is a clip round the ear," she says, reminding me she is not a woman to be taken lightly, something Iain learned long ago and one reason, no doubt, that their relationship lasted.

There are others. Complementary qualities seems to work in a marriage. Molly is a kind, chatty, no-nonsense homemaker and former career woman in a man's world. Iain is philosophical and funny, with bulging brains but a tenuous grip on everyday detail. 

He once drove all the way to Scotland to scatter his mum's ashes, but forgot the ashes. I could just picture her, back on his living-room mantelpiece, shaking her head in long-suffering resignation.

"You're not listening any more, are you?" Molly says. 

"I'm getting nostalgic," I say. "I like it here and I'm a bit strapped for cash right now. How about I move in with you until I get back on my feet again?"

"What?" she says, her complexion, always pale, going several shades paler. 

"Iain and I are very alike, as you said, so you wouldn't even notice there were two of us. When one came into a room the other would leave. That way you'd only ever get one prat at a time."

"I need a whisky," she says, standing up and clutching her forehead.

"You don't drink," I say.

"Only in emergencies," she says and totters theatrically out of the door.

Sunday, 3 November 2013

Sex hormones and satnavs

People have strong feelings about satnavs. I love mine and couldn't function without it, even switching it on when driving roads I know well. It frees my mind for thinking and tells me when to turn. 

I'll use it just to drive to the village shop and back, if I'm thinking about a particularly tricky problem. It saves me suddenly realising I'm in Swansea and wondering how the hell I got there.

Rachel hates satnavs and stops talking when mine starts giving me directions. "I don't want to compete for your attention with another woman," she says.

"You're not," I say. "It's a machine."

"It's a woman's voice," she says and she's right. I have my satnav set to Jane who, judging by her accent, comes from somewhere in Surrey, rides to hounds and wears high heels and tight jodhpur pants that .... Ahem.

"Thing is I don't want some guy telling me how to drive my car," I tell Rachel, as she goes silent mid-sentence again, while Jane's mellifluous tones tell me to turn right at the next roundabout and somehow invest the instruction with inviting innuendo. 

"That's interesting, isn't it?" I say.

"What is?" she says.

"The whole opposite-sex appeal, same-sex competitiveness thing. You even get it with a machine."

"It's biological programming," she says. "Your body and feelings respond to the female voice, even if your brain knows there's no female there. Male hormones are more powerful than male brains. But we knew that."

"There's no call to be sexist," I say. "It works with women too. My sister has her satnav set to Sean, who oozes Irish charm, the slimeball."

"No, you're right," Rachel says. "I have a colleague who's convinced it works across species too." 

"What does?" I say.

"Being a man," she says. "He reckons he can charm the females of any species, especially mammals."

"What like lions and tigers?" I say. "Is he nuts?"

"Could be," she says. "But he's a biologist so there might be some science behind it. He says it's chemistry."

"Like test-tubes and bunsen burners?" I say.

"Like chemicals in the body," she says. "Especially hormones. They have a huge effect on behaviour and lots of animals have the same hormones as us."

"Ah, right," I say. "I think I read that one of the hormones in HRT comes from horse piss."

"Used to," she says. "You're talking about oestrogen, the female sex hormone. Which is a good example because it's one of the oldest hormones in the world. So you find it in every kind of vertebrate, from trout, seals and salmon to giraffes, gorillas and Lady Gaga."

"And that means they all act the same way around anything with male hormones?" I say. "Sounds far-fetched to me."

"Me too," Rachel says. "But that's just his hypothesis. What he knows for sure, he says, is that he can get females of any species to like him, by being sensitive to what they're doing and feeling - and by letting them smell him."

"Before I let a lioness that close I'd need to know I didn't smell like a gazelle," I say.

"You have reached your destination," Jane tells me and I give her a little pat, then look around and realise that once again my favourite female has got me to my destination with the minimum of fuss. She is fantastic. 

"I wonder if satnavs have oestrogen in them?" I say. 

"No they don't," Rachel says, reaching up and switching Jane off sharply. "She's never going to feel the same way about you as you do about her. Get over it, pal."

Saturday, 2 November 2013

Dance me to the end of love

Another Saturday Night
So we're at the Jack Vettriano exhibition in Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Sis keeps asking my son what he thinks of the glossy images of men and women in dark, dramatic poses. And he keeps trying to sidestep the question.

"They're very evocative," she says. "Like scenes from the Hollywood films on TV when we were young. What do you think, Doug?"

"I can see why people like them," he says and I glance at him, wondering why the evasion.

The Singing Butler
Vettriano is a self-taught artist from Fife, who found overnight success when almost 40, by displaying his paintings for the first time and discovering they sold faster than ice-lollies in the Sahara.

Prints of The Singing Butler now net him a quarter of a million a year and the original - one of a hundred the Kelvingrove borrowed to create the first major exhibition of his work - went for three quarters of a million in 2004. He is Scotland's most successful artist ever.  

And the art critics hate him.
Soho Nights

"He can’t paint; he just colours in," said Sandy Moffat. Duncan Macmillan called his work "dim erotica". Jonathan Jones said his paintings were "brainless".

The criticism hurt the working-class guy and sent him south to live in London. But there has been a backlash. "People don’t like being told their taste is crap," reported The Scotsman

So craven critics, once happy to badmouth Jack in print, now ask not to be named. And prominent people are starting to get behind him. There is an emotional content to his paintings, says writer A.L. Kennedy. "There's a sexuality that's really sexy."

 Le Déjeuner sur l'Herbe 
Complaints that he objectifies women come mainly from men, she says. "It's not a subordinate thing. It's not naked women under a tree surrounded by men in suits, who are ignoring them while eating - which is just rude. They should at least chat to them or offer them a sandwich."

So an hour after entering the crowded exhibition we emerge into the dim October day, and cross the road to the little cafe where my son and I had chatted about the Tao.

Love Story
"Tell us what you really thought," Sis says and he looks uncomfortable.

"And why you wouldn't tell us inside," I say.

"I wanted to like them," he says, still hesitant. "I really did."

"But you couldn't?" she says.

"Not much. But with all those people around trying to enjoy his paintings, I'm not going to go, 'I'm an artschool student and Vettriano's crap'. Nobody needs to hear that." 
The Arrangement

"Why didn't you like him," Sis says.

"His technique isn't wonderful and the content is kinda repetitive," he says. "Maybe people read meaning into them that isn't there. Seems to me to be all on the surface. Anything deeper is in the mind of the viewer."

"Did none of the paintings work for you?" Sis asks, and he tugs on the lobe of his left ear. 

"The self-portrait was interesting," he says. "There was real feeling in that one."

The Weight
"Ah ha," I say. "I think I know why. In Vettriano's mind he is the only person in the world who possesses depth, substance and genuine emotion. Everyone else has a role, like buyer, critic, model or sex object. But they don't have an interior life. He does. What do you think?"

"Well let's see," he says scratching his chin and smiling. "Good with words, no talent, talks bollocks. I think you should be an art critic."