September 19, 2010

The Welcome to Scotland brochure is a fabulous publication. A map of Scotland is included, with highlighted numbers denoting each location worth visiting, and directing the reader to the advert for that attraction.

A visitor to Scotland can easily locate dozens of interesting and historic attractions from John o’ Groats to Gretna. There’s everything from castles to distilleries, and from monuments to activity centres. Wildlife parks, the camera obscura, museums… they’re all there.

In the north there’s a ferry service to watch marine wildlife. In the south, Trike Tours. In the west you can visit The Museum of Ayrshire Country Life, and in the east there is the Secret Bunker.

Of course, I wondered what the recommended tourist attractions in West Lothian might be. There was one number: 39, right beside the M8.

Was it Hopetoun House or Cairnpapple? No. Was it Almond Valley or Linlithgow Palace? ‘Fraid not. Not one heritage site mentioned. No ancient locations discussed. No glowing hyperbole advertising our wildlife or play-areas… nothing.

Instead, there was a little advert that mentions “central location” and “close proximity to Glasgow and Edinburgh…” The point it’s trying to make – I think – is that it’s easy to get to West Lothian. But when I showed it to a number of people they took the message to be that West Lothian is a great place to leave from if you want to get to somewhere interesting!

As a founding member of the Association of British Copywriters (ABC), I have to wonder… Well, I just have to wonder.

West Lothian: a great place to pass through.

Frankly, I think we have more to offer than that. Don’t you?

Drew McAdam



September 13, 2010


As a performer, I do a lot of travelling in my job. And sometimes I get fed up with it. Another airport lounge. More security queues. Another hotel room.

Just think of all the worst parts of your holiday caught in an endless loop, and you’re halfway there. And if I’m driving to gigs, it’s just a continuous ribbon of grey tarmac stretching off into the distance. It just goes on and on.

It’s not unusual for me to wake up in the morning in yet another hotel room, not knowing where I am.

I know it gets to other performers, too. One American rock singer even has an area of his house fitted out exactly the same as a Holiday Inn room. It has the identical furniture, duplicate fittings – everything down to the last detail. He did it so that when he’s in a hotel room, he feels at home!

Yes, that probably is taking things to extremes.

 The person from whom I bought my car recently saw how many miles I had clocked up since I’d bought it, and thought there was something wrong with the mileometer! There’s not.

But on one occasion I was driving to Inverness for a gig. It was raining, the way it can rain only on the A9 – horizontally. The roads were wet. I was stuck in a long line of traffic that crawled along behind something I can only assume was being pedalled by a one-legged pensioner.

Miserable? You bet I was. All that was going round in my head was what a lousy job I had. I had to contend with the stage nerves, and the hours of preparation. But the travelling was probably the worst thing in the world – and there had to be a better way of making a living than THIS.

And then it happened. I spotted a wee man on the road verge. He was soaked to the skin, with water dripping off the peak of his cap… and he was digging a ditch.

Suddenly, it was as though the clouds had parted and the sun had come out. Who was I kidding? I had the best job in the world. How could I possibly complain?

I turned up the radio, and broke into a smile.

So, now, when I’m feeling drained from travelling, I think of that wee man. I don’t know who he is; but I know he would be glad to swap jobs with me at the drop of a soggy bunnet.

Sometimes it’s something insignificant to put everything into perspective.

Drew McAdam



September 5, 2010


I’ve just returned from a series of four performances in St Petersburg (formerly Leningrad) Russia.

I had always assumed that Russia would be a place of grey buildings, grey people and grey potatoes as a staple diet. I couldn’t have been more wrong – well, not in that particular corner of the former Soviet Union, anyway.

Honestly, this gorgeous city overshadows even Paris for drop-jaw beauty. It has the most striking and ornate architecture, fountains and parks. Then there are the palaces, canals and churches. There is nowhere to compare.

But the thing that really struck me – in terms of the difference between there and here – is the attention to the little things. Little things like the perfectly-tended flower beds. The lack of litter. And the road surfaces.

This is a place that during World War ll, was bombed and shelled incessantly day and night for 900 days. That would make a bit of a mess. But now there are perfectly kept parklands, and roads so smooth you could run a golf ball down them and watch go until it vanishes over the horizon.

Manual labourers are out each day, clearing litter, scraping away weeds and planting flowers. Every historical site is promoted and marketed in such a way that you feel compelled to visit them.

But in West Lothian? Untended hedgerows, roads that would put a jungle track to shame, and as for historical sites… Did you know that Chopin once visited Polbeth? David Livingstone was a regular visitor, too. In fact Paraffin Young built a scale model of the Victoria Falls in the stream that runs through the village.

In St Petersburg it would be a major tourist attraction; here the only thing it attracts is car tyres and shopping trolleys.

Moreover, in St Petersburg the roads are so smooth that many youngsters get around using in-line skates. Can you imagine how far you would get trying THAT in Bathgate or Whitburn before you hit a pothole and ended up in A&E? Not far, I reckon.

Of course, we are often told by our Road Department that the potholes are caused by the icy winters we get here. Oh, really? Well, just for your information, in St Petersburg a winter temperature of – 20 Co is not unusual.

No, I wouldn’t want to live there: the massive blocks of apartments on the city outskirts are home to the majority. And tower blocks are never pretty.

But, honestly? When you see how their administration has taken a war-torn rubble-pile and produced something of which they are rightfully proud, you realise that if they can do it, then there is no reason why our administration couldn’t do it, too – if they had the drive, determination and ability.

Actually, given the advantages that we have, Oor Cooncil administrators should hang their heads in shame.

Drew McAdam