Wednesday, August 29, 2007
The view from Creg-Ne-Baa in Freuchie, near Cupar.
Another busy week has passed, everyday crammed full with the ongoing cat search (exploring different, protracted and generally unsatisfactory lines), football, kids homework and exploits at their new secondary school, Transformers, Life on Mars, South Queensfery Comedy Nights, kittens in everything, Emma’s return from Sri Lanka, Paul on a mission to find Syrus, many meals and a few bottles of wine. I also spent a few anxious days tracking down my lost kilt, a particularly relevant item as we slide inexorably towards my oldest daughter’s wedding - now only a few weeks away. My precious Black Watch kilt had found a temporary home in a shop near the Hawes Inn, the reunion was almost emotional, thankfully quick and only cost £16.
Thursday, August 23, 2007
My head is empty.
Despite it being a busy and in many ways successful week our missing cat remains the primary concern and despite our natural optimism for all things, an air of gloom is prevailing. My own head feels strangely empty; I don’t think I’ve managed to have a single colourful thought or inspirational moment. Not having a head full of thoughts might seem like a good experience, like some deeper level of peace but actually it’s more like continually staring at a blank sheet of paper that you can neither move away from or write on or shade in. Of course like all things this will pass with either a happy ending or the realisation of an uncertain and sad outcome, we wait patiently. In the mean time the two kittens are sparring, running wild and growing bigger everyday. Their ongoing manic antics almost fill a certain gap.
If you like live (recorded) music and ambling and rambling covers you could do worse than invest in The Saturday Sessions from the Dermot O’Leary Show. Forty four eclectic live pieces on one of those CD things from all sorts of interesting and naturally groovy acts, showing off and sounding pretty raw and no over dubs.
Monday, August 20, 2007
Sad to say our beloved cat Syrus has been missing for a full week now. We’ve searched all his known haunts but in the large wooded and agricultural lands that surround our house it’s not easy to cover all the possibilities. We’ve knocked doors, leafleted and used various cat web sites to advertise our loss but nothing has come of it so far. Losing your cat or your cat getting lost is not good.
impossible songs - flintstones fans.
Yes we have no Pop-Tarts.
In my regular sorties to swoop, hunt, gather and pillage in the supermarkets and of course be baffled by the choices and offers, I’ve also been noticing the disappearance or non-availability of certain key products. Supermarkets sell the illusion of choice and variety but actually fail to offer it. Some items have all but disappeared from the shelves or now come in other, foreign forms. You can’t just blame the product life cycle theorists or supply and demand. It is of course the Food Police hemming us into brands and products we only think we want. The confectionary and crisp aisle seem to suffer the worst and I also have concerns about their cereal stocking policies. This vague, bad but still living feeling is the result of trolley denting in Asda, Tesco and Morrisons. Trips to the Coop and Sainsburys are to stressful even to count in these, the wobbliest of statistics.
The appliance of science.
Why is there no cooking pot that, by using centrifugal force spins the contents so that they don’t stick to the pot during cooking? I have studied this medium at various theme parks: Alton Towers, Disneyland, Busch Gardens, Universal Studios to name but four and not counting Codona’s fun fairs of the sixties. Answers on a postcard please...
Without the Flintstones there would be no Red Hot Chilli Peppers, king ribs and dinosaur chicken bits or Simpsons. They are the spiritual source and traceable ancestor of many fine and misguided media creations and whacky barometers of modern life. Fred, Barney, Wilma, Betty, the Water Buffalos and Dino (so brilliantly named after a red Italian flop of a sports car) have changed all of our lives. I’m now trying hard to think what exactly Top Cat and his gang might have influenced. (Top Cat, Brains, Fancy, Choo-choo, Benny and Spook were their names).
Davy Crocket: A man who killed a bear at only three (was that the time of day?) and then went on to become the King of the Wild Frontier, where ever that was or is. Born on a mountain top in Tennessee, no maternity wing or emergency room in those days. None of these things explain why his song is going around inside my head like a cartoon merry-go-round this morning.
Friday, August 17, 2007
The 2nd Ferry Fringe Open Mike event ran last night in South Queensferry’s Stags Head Hotel (the Stag). A little delay on the PA , a little twiddle on the controls, some tangled leads, a couple of shandys and few willing performers and a surprisingly enthusiastic audience, some local and some refugees from the huge cruise liner currently parked under the Forth Bridge. We’re all sold on song down here and we’ll repeat the event next month, around the 20th at the same venue.
The cat (the big adult one) has yet again gone awol. I spent the early evening hunting for him in what I think are his favourite haunts, how do you ever know these things? So it’s five days and counting since he dropped a mouse on the kitchen floor as I looked down at his grinning cat face - it's 6.30 am and I'm still in my pyjamas.
Dress down Friday. I’m now working on a site that offers the odd (for me) option of a dress down Friday. This means that if you turn up in your automatic choice of school uniform as it were, you look a bit of a chump. Suddenly I’m having to rethink my meagre wardrobe to see how it can cope with this cultural change. Thankfully there’s little if any sartorial effort made by my fellow workers, well the male ones anyway and there’s only three hundred and twenty working Fridays left for me to fret over.
In between brewing large amounts of Bolognese sauce and other magic potions for the weekend, hoovering and daydreaming I’m musing over the possibility of building a kit guitar from, err... a kit. The idea being to obtain a unique and well put together plank and all the accessories that I can then finish and customise in my own eccentric style and then brag to various musos about. I’m not wholly enthusiastic about the Airfix and Mechano aspects of this but the design and finish bit has a certain appeal. Something to pass onto the grandchildren so they can shove the neck through a 4x12 at the high school dance.
Wednesday, August 15, 2007
Should a Jaffa Cake be soft, giving and forgiving all over or should it be crisp at the edges and softer in the middle? The orangey bit should be the same in both cases, jammy. Big, modern soft cookie/doughy biscuits are odd, any biscuit without a crunch is really more of a cake, of course that begs the question, are Jaffa Cakes biscuits or, as their name suggests cakes? If you like them crisp (as close to crunchy as a Jaffa Cake gets) then they are probably biscuits. Of course none of this matters in the least. My personal favourites are digestives, in a jam sandwich.
Scotland’s weather is the same as it is everywhere else.
No gardening for almost a month, the rain has not let up, the plum tree has collapsed and our grand plans (whatever they were) for taming the wild jungle a few feet from this window has not materialised into any tangible form. Well I guess there’s still 2008. No, I am not obsessed with weather, time travel, hand washing or avoiding wet (dunked) biscuits, not in the least.
Heroes and Vulcans
Wednesday night is good for the time being because “Heroes” is on. More unfathomable American time paradox and superhuman tosh in the genre of Lost or Smallville but it keeps those of us of a certain age amused for at least 45 minutes, never easy with an attention span like mine.
Monday, August 13, 2007
Climate change and the quest for a decent protest.
It’s not easy to make your mark in the world today without either falling flat on your face or flat upon your back (James Thurber: The bear who could take it or leave it). All good causes sometimes seem like lost causes and you have to think very carefully about what cause you take up and how you support it. My problem is that I tend to easily see and appreciate everybody’s point of view: Air travel is good; people can quickly and cheaply travel around the world for business or pleasure. Air travel is bad; great lumbering aircraft pollute the skies, burn fossil fuels and encourage no-brain tourists to pollute beauty spots. I haven’t the heart or conviction to complain about either position, I like to hope that one may cancel out the other in some piece of mathematical perfection and all parties will at least for a short period be satisfied. The thing is all our lifestyles and ideals have ratcheted up to some kind of unreasonable point now where it is difficult to remain comfortable on this splintered and unmaintained fence, where most of the time I want to be. I suppose it’s true to say that you can never really win an argument with somebody stupider or more blinkered than you, if they can’t get what your point is or they can’t accept it because they can’t grasp it what do you do? Pitch a tent at their airport or stun them with tasers?
Back to work.
Today I returned to work after two weeks of meandering, pottering, and walking with my hands behind my back and whistling. Doing nothing in particular, reading Harry Potter aloud, sitting outside pubs, scooping up kittens and kitten poo, nose to tail on motorways and lost a mile from your hotel, theme parks and sunny spots and rain battering onto your umbrella, home cooking and far away cooking, Pot Noodles and the greenest of salads, sheep and goats and paddling in a lake. So the summer has gone until the next Indian Summer and the bluebirds have ceased in their song, the house martins are tetchy and the thistles and plums are growing in all directions. The power and destructive capacity for nature is impressive: Flood, sun burn, cold nights and showers of meteors, what a marvellous climate we enjoy in this small corner of the universe. Life is seldom dull and going back to work wasn’t so bad, it allows another strand of purpose to unravel and then weave itself into some other unexpected pattern. Just glad I’ve avoided the M40 today unlike some of my colleagues.
Saturday, August 11, 2007
Alton Towers and the Lake District - a short tour.
High on a hill in Staffordshire there is a golf club and hotel with magnificent, open views across rolling hills and farm land, I stayed there for two nights and it was clean and pleasant and good value. Sadly however none of the helpful staff there had even the vaguest command of the English language, for a short time I was an outsider. We got by on gestures and pointing and a lot of Monty Python style “slow” talk. Do words matter?
The Lake District was a warm cataclysm of brainless traffic non-stop from the M6 to Windermere and Ambleside. Two places that must have been fantastic 60 years ago but are now held hostage by trippers and coaches and dirty money in a mess of street furniture and confused one way systems. After an hour of slowly boiling anger and going nowhere I turned up the road for Coniston and by complete chance discovered a quiet, decent spot on the waterside by Coniston Hall. The stumpy Cumbrian hills that pass for mountains here in the UK were green and magnificent in the August sun, the air was clean and the beer pretty normal but nice. The start of a brief but valuable 24 chill out began. Next day normal service resumed, grey skies masked and choked the peace and the impending rain filled my sails and blew me home across the border.
Endless waiting and getting nowhere. I seem to spend a disproportionate amount of time waiting for other people. Clearly my own sense of timing in other things is wrong and I am therefore unable to work to the button to mesh neatly with whatever should be happening next. This means I am wasting a huge chunk of my own time. It also means that other people don’t share my sense of appropriate “earliness”. If everybody did then they would be in sync with my time and I wouldn’t waste so much waiting on them. A dilemma only I can solve.
Monday, August 06, 2007
Ali and Emma - mother and daughter.
8ight quirky things about Ali & John.
I’m ambidextrous and can do mirror writing with both hands, backwards.
Ali and I have seven children between us: Three girls and four boys, (and I have three grandsons).
We first met when in a Christian cult in the 70s.
I was arrested at the Windsor Free Festival in 1974 while asleep.
Ali is a qualified accountant but has never been to Majorca(?).
We have four cats (three of whom live with us) and two of whom are kittens.
Ali can speak (conversational) Japanese.
I used to gig on the same band/disco circuit as the Bay City Rollers.
The young stag and his guitar
Zipping into and out of the speed camera’s all seeing eyes on the A92 is now a routine for me on my regular trips to the other family bases in Aberdeen and McDuff. We had a couple of days there mooning around shops, watching DVDs and “Heroes” and playing with various grandchildren whilst the seagulls squabbled in the background.
The journey home focused on the search for a Forfar bridie, would this mythical food be better than the local Stephen’s steak bridie or a Gregg’s steak bake? Eventually after fathoming the Forfar one-ways system and high street glaze of charity shops and building society’s I found a baker. I ordered two of the mighty beasts (Joe and I were to partake but Liv only wanted a muffin): the result, not so good, dry short crust pastry and a pleasant but hardly world beating mince filling. The last time I was in Forfar, in the mid eighties at a football match, the bakers had all run out of bridies so I got nothing and have been wondering about them since. The subsequent twenty year wait was not worth it but it reminded me how good our own local baker is.
Friday saw me heading for that unfamiliar form of transport, the train. The goal was to meet up with sixteen other souls, most a lot younger than me for Guy, my future son-in law’s stag weekend in Newcastle. I was apprehensive to say the least but decided to enter into the spirit early on by clattering my bottle of whisky onto the rail carriage table at two o’clock and inviting those there to participate in its demise. Of course they already had a healthy supply of beer and the journey south became pretty pleasant and relaxed. Virgin trains (well this one) are good.
The “Toon” was jumping when we set out for the evening after experiencing a very generous couple of happy hours in a bar near our hotel, every pub and club was jammed and sweaty with various groups all desperate to revel for whatever reason. To be honest I felt like and alien intruder who was using a non-scientific method to study some new life forms, all of whom became steadily blurrier as things progressed.
Next day it was karting and paintball. The karting was manic and painful, 60mph karts on a 1.2km track racing for half and hour. The paintball was painful and manic. Bullets of paint slicing into heads, ears and mouths, incomprehensible games that ended in carnage and an unforgiving surface on which to fall when the bumble bee of paint bearing your name struck home.
After a shower and a decent Italian meal we were back into the “Toon” for more of the previous night’s random exploration and body limits testing. This time a few of our young soldiers were a little wounded from the previous 24 hour’s excesses and manoeuvres so the mood was calmer and the drinking a bit more controlled. The stag himself avoided any real torture, tattoos or ritual humiliation (apart from a ceremonial shooting at the paint ball venue) and once we’d picked up the pieces the next morning we agreed that the weekend had been a great success.
GNER trains took us back to Scotland in what can only be described as an appalling standard of accommodation. Crowded carriages, no seats, and toilets awash, no air-con working and the bar closed for stocktaking (?). Quite what tourists heading for the festival in Edinburgh think of this beats me, I’m sure the Soviet railways in the sixties couldn’t have been much worse.
Art imitates life and vice-versa on our kitchen notice board. The more colourful pieces are fire-engines (red) and fish (blue).
I visited Dalgety Bay a few days ago – (as a taxi driver for the bridesmaids who were to get their dresses fitted). My first thought on entering the sterile and manicured place was, “why would anybody spend good money on a house down here?” Of course me and Dalgety Bay go back a long way, almost 40 years or so to the time when it was a few new Wimpey houses, a shop, a kirk and a large abandoned airfield with a few factories. In those days kids (typified by me) did what we did, hung around, got drunk, listened to music and there was space in which to move and breathe. An unhealthy glow of unreal memory sits upon my recollections of this time I’m afraid, perhaps that colours my current view a little too much. Anyway now the whole Bay area has grown like the Simpson’s cartoon town of Springfield. An un-stylish mish-mash of property developments, council houses given the owner occupier glam treatment and an itchy rash of apartments and so-called waterside retirement properties. It’s taken it forty years to look like this; I wonder how it will be in 2047?
At a more cerebral level Dr Kawashima’s two brain training games are taking over our lives. Scores, ages and sibling rivalry competitions burn on through the various levels sparking minor quarrels and mini challenges. My own preferences currently reside with the more sedate and frankly less arduous activity of Wii golf. Of course I should really be writing songs about deep and meaningful issues or cutting the grass or making plans or putting up security lights but there will be time for all that.
Of course it’s funny, witty and works on all the levels you’d expect it to. Small children laugh out loud, adults grin in recognition, those that don’t get it go to Evan Almighty (a film that looks so appalling I have to close my eyes at the trailers and turn away from the adverts) and then they eat in Pizza Hut. So the Simpson’s movie is really just three long, funny episodes stuck together and either enhanced or ruined by being viewed along with members of the public who laugh at different times from you and with the smell of popcorn and nachos festering in the background.