Sunday, January 27, 2008

Small things

impossible songs

impossible songs

In the grip of small things:

Shelves and a grand panoply of odd items.
The use of tools and implements.
Dreams about the tooth fairy and ufos.
Friends drop by after 30 years - in a marvelous manner.
Drinking whisky till two and time slipping away.
Understanding that memories are a primitive form of time-tourism.
Finding out about food and being left wondering...
It was the best of times it was a Sunday morning sleep in.
I drove to Pitlochry in the the rain and in the dark only to be waved down by a man with a torch who turned out to be my son.
33.2 mpg at a steady 75.
The wonders of a model helicopter that you fly in your lounge.
Having a small helicopter take off from on top of your head and not thinking that to be strange.
Sorting out a credit car mess and feeling satisfied.
A dangerous light-headed feeling threatens.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

New Shoes

impossible songs

impossible songs

Things I have been doing over the last few days:

I bought emergency new shoes in Asda as the current pair had sprung a difficult leak.
Visited my mum in hospital and then met a school friend (who works in the hospital) whom I hadn't seen in 40 years.
Received a welcome postal package of fine art work from two of my (under 4s) grandsons.
Visited OOTB and saw two brilliant acts and talked to a guy (aged 71) who had built and was playing his "glute" (guitar and lute) - marvelous stuff.
Bought a new set of tyres for Mr Cougar from Farmer Autocare.
Ate some cannelloni with Ms Ali Graham.
Got my January Cream Egg and also ate it.
Listened to the wind blow.
Visited a new Aldi in Dunfermline where I purchased three packs of Ritter Sports and a bottle of wine.
Booked a flight to Birmingham with my £75 credit from Flybe.
Got a track played on a New Jersey podcast show (second this month).
Filled an ipod nano and an ipod shuffle with tunes.
Thought a little about Heath Ledger and Brokeback Mountain and 10 Things.
Saw half of Torchwood.
Scaled the heights and plumbed the depths.
Researched Egypt and various dark materials and prepared to sort out the felt tip pens mess.
Cleaned the kitty litter.
Browsed the web and read some emails.
Slept soundly for no good reason.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Ancient Egypt was not cold

impossible songs

impossible songs

It was so cold this morning that I nearly cried, I was chipping ice from cars and pouring warm water over their frozen locks. This is not a civilised way to be. It makes you understand why life began in the Middle East or the bosom of Africa or Cyprus or some other where that is warm. Temperature is important for growth and welfare. Some crazy misfits must have migrated to Scotland, driven away by their lords and tyrants, rulers who couldn't put up with their constant jabbering, their incomplete personal hygiene and their ability to do nothing for long periods of time. We here in Caledonia are those people from that lost and unkempt African tribe. Mind you we did in the process escape from a somewhat bizarre set of cultural and religious beliefs. Unfortunately whilst on the long road out of Egypt we came up with a few daft pagan ideas ourselves, these morphed into Christianity, the Masonic Lodge and Conservatism which thanks to Dickens, Henry Ford and Spike Milligan have turned into the absurd spiritual systems and political practices we tolerate today. Frying pans and fires I suppose. As William Wallace once said when asked about the cancelled football fixtures "If it was not so cold in Scotland we'd have invented cold and exported it all across the world before selling out to the Japanese". It's a gift really and you can get all these facts on a novelty tea-towel at our local petrol station.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Do what thou wilt

impossible songs

impossible songs

Unfortunately the January cold is causing us to wilt. Thoughts stop and coughs cackle in the background. MRSA runs rampant. The chill fog descends. Normal folks have cravings for deep fried chicken suppers and lashings of tea. Your breath freezes in the air and your toes are numb. Potted plants refuse their water as they stiffen in their pots. Going out is painful and coming home to a cold house is like jumping into an October swimming pool in the north of Spain. Windscreens become cryogenic coffins for early morning inhabitants and the TV, glowing warmly in the corner is not at all interesting. Cats have cold paws, handles nip your fingers and ears grow pink, then red, then numb. We go to bed early and rise early and work early, crawling like vampires and lost ghosts. The bathroom light dazzles cutting across the mushrooms lazing in your sleeping head. A warm shower is temporary refuge but no shield from the myriad infections floating and hanging in the still air. January's nearly over and I've not eaten a single cream egg so far.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Mr Cougar at home

impossible songs

impossible songs

A new and hairy pussycat has come to stay with, we don't know for how long but his name is Mr Cougar and unlike the smaller variety of cats we own he doesn't chase mice - yet. He also has a rather nice Ford Zetec 2.0 engine which purrs most of the time, hopefully it will be a long while before it clanks, pings or even worse clonks. The purring is a good sign, my limited experience of real cats and real cars tells me so.

His first run out into the wild was to Ikea on Saturday as part of a small convoy (one other). Like many families we arrived there, shuffled around, sat on things, lay on things and queued for various kinds of warm foodstuffs. We exhibited the classic "grand-mall confusion and size unbelief" as well as "mild indecision" and some "loss of bearings". We also drank weak coffee and bumped into fellow customers carrying trays of similar food items. The kids ate squishy ice cream (which I failed to capitalise on) and my daughter Erin got an unexpected bargain. After a while we emerged, blinking back into the sunlight and then crammed our well chosen and ultra useful things (two stuffed hedgehogs, a rat, shelves, frames, a rug, two plants and a mail box) into Mr Cougar's large boot.

We went home and unloaded - shopping is quite simple and pleasant really. The Ikea food effect wore of and as tea time beckoned I surprised myself and a few other people by somewhat experimentally, nicely roasting some sweet potatoes, peppers and onions in honey, all to go along with the previous night's left over home botched curry - now strangely enough more tasty and potent. It was possibly the best meal of the month and if I hadn't had to head over to Fife it would have laid me out nicely on the couch for the rest of the evening.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Cars and deamons

impossible songs

impossible songs

Blogs are our deamons these days. Little virtual alter egos that inhabit our personal space and allow those around us a brief glimpse into whatever has currently taken up the small attention span we were born with and have failed to develop. Reading blogs from any source is a mixture of fun and hard work but when seen as a kind of homework for the soul can be rewarding. Producing a blog is also something of a cry in the dark which renders some posts particularly poignant as we all struggle to find meaning and value in whatever has gripped us during the day. Those who remain outside and aloof (with a blog deamon) may be ina less exposed position but also lack the milestones and references those blog entries create in a life and any given day.

Car anxiety. I’m looking for a new (different) car. At first I though I knew what I wanted but then, once I’d started looking and pricing and worst of all thinking about a car it all became complicated. There seem to be a number of variable factors in this, the first being money – the buying budget and the running costs. These elements drive a wedge between the aspirational, heart based purchase and the economical and practical head based purchase. Inner conflict is guaranteed and is not easy to resolve. Then there are the practical and mysterious ways you have deal with the motor trade, a curious and ill mannered bunch generally that I presume everybody views with suspicion. Engagement is not easy, grumpy men and side glances and hot engines and frosty windscreens on cold days are not attractive. It seemed like a good idea then to explore the web and try Auto-Trader and Gumtree and the like and see what’s on offer, of course there are so many out there, all waiting to break down or fall apart the moment after you commit. It’s like a bad marriage waiting to happen. One diversion however is to avoid the car sales sites and just play around with the sites that sell personal numbers. Like a mad and expensive game of Scrabble you can get close but never near to that perfect number / phrase or name. If you did then no doubt it would cost ten grand any way and already be the property of the Duchess of York or somebody.

Cars that look likely purchases are: A Ford Cougar (heart), a Nissan Primera (head), a Honda Accord (heart with a bit of head), Freelander (possible insanity), Suzuki Vitara (definite insanity), Saab 9.3 (heart and some head), I’m going to have to discuss matters with my trusty deamon.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Scrubbed Up

impossible songs

impossible songs

A rare moment showing us scrubbed up rather well and with a certain amount of welcome bling-bling things going on. The occasion was Kate and Les’s glorious winter wedding back in December – on the 27th to be exact. The wedding was one big party and we all had a great time with many new variations on Scottish celebration themes being successfully explored. The many music stands are not part of our equipment.

London & Take That

impossible songs

impossible songs

Above is a marvelous picture of London, layer upon layer from the cold water to the blue sky. Taken by Ali one bright and chilly January Saturday morning (Ali having spent the previous evening in the company of Take That and a BeeGee and various other celebs). I naturally stayed home and kept the cats and various vagrant mice company whilst dreaming of a Ford Cougar 2.5 auto – a car that will never be green but always cool.

Speaking of never being green (and I am a little) I refuse to wash out empty salad cream bottles (we had some and consumed it at Christmas) and mayonnaise jars and thereafter recycle them. Has anyone ever tried this? It takes enough water to irrigate the Seringetti just clean the rim, so I’m sorry but these have to go straight into the bin. I dread the day when this kind of behavior will become a criminal offence.

If we are to teach our children that Middle Earth’s history is in fact that of (central) Scotland then I think it important that for anthropological and archaeological reasons we agree on the locations of the various key places. The Shire is of course most of Fife, Rivendell is Dollar Glen, the Grey Havens are Cellardyke Harbour, Mordor is somewhere in a the area of Falkirk, Armadale and Bathgate, the Dead Marshes are by Grangemouth, Minus Tirith is Limekilms/Charlestown and Smaug the dragon’s lair is up the M90 somewhere after junction 4. I hope this will help puzzled school teachers every where get their facts right, they (and their unfortunate pupils) know little of Scottish history or WW2 but loads about the unification of Italy, the beers of Belgium and the Great Fire and pork shortage of Peking in 1908.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Heavy Metal Guilt

impossible songs - Lost again

impossible songs

Presbyterian Guilt amongst other things.

Scratch an East coaster and you’ll pretty quickly get to the engine room of the Scottish psyche, the one and only inbred little time bomb that controls and cripples half of this nation, Presbyterian Guilt. An invisible, mighty and misunderstood force that creates and promulgates impromptu and automatic apologies for living, breathing, eating, sleeping and taking up valuable space on this earth. If you are doing anything beyond these things it’s even worse because you "don’t know your place" and slightly beyond that "you don’t deserve to be there (or here)". This extreme behavior is triggered by illness, success, winning the lottery, being on your deathbed, getting caught out at something and being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Guilt is the great corrosive cancer of our time controlled by the SMG, BBC Scotland, the Daily Record and some of the more agile minds in Holyrood. It’s been with us since the Reformation, having it’s first full guilty piece of incendiary bombing in the burning of a few thousand witches, imagine having that on your conscience. Let’s hope that a few more generations of Polish, English and Asian immigrants dilute it all down a little. It is understood that the Church of Scotland is squeaky clean on this, they are so detached from seeing any meaning in modern or ancient religion that they would never try to capitalize on it… or have they by stealth?

Rumour also has it that there is an independent primary school in West Lothian where small children are being taught from the Lord of the Rings and told that it is ancient Scottish history. Copies of Oor Wullie, the Broons and the Dundee Courier are regularly burned in the playground. It will be interesting to see if their levels of guilt are reduced over time compared to those who have stuck with a more traditional educational path.

For West coasters I should also say that they are not without the somewhat significant equivalent, namely Catholic Guilt. Possibly more extreme and abstract and quite worryingly a worldwide phenomenon that knows no bounds, just imagine half a billion guilt ridden Hispanics and a few hundred folks from Motherwell purging themselves after watching an episode of Ugly Betty. At least Presbyterian Guilt is limited to our green and pleasant land and shores, bits of Germany and the buckle of the Bible Belt where it seems no intelligent human life has been detected so far. I’m surprised they haven’t started a heavy metal chapter yet that could tour Scandinavian in the summer illustrating their points with pigs heads on stakes in an attempt to win converts amongst the young and the bewildered.

Just in case you’re wondering about me, (and I am wondering about me), I don’t really believe that there is a great sectarian or tribal dotted line that crosses Scotland with age old rivalry and a territorial bias. That would be ridiculous though it might be wise to check now and then on Google Earth in case the picture ever changes. Someone might have a new satellite fitted with different and more sophisticated sensors financed by the people that gave away the Nobel Peace Prize. The whole idea of visible particles of division and ways of seeing them is a crazy flight of fancy and totally unacceptable in our modern, enlightened, Adam (bloody) Smithed, New Labour infested heartland. It’s all just another heavy metal guilt trip.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Ex-happy mouse

impossible songs

impossible songs

The unhappy modest mouse

Today a local mouse was made rather unhappy; firstly by two kittens who were rather unsure as to why they were picking on him, other than some basic instinct was at work. The other reason being that these kittens had panicked him into running into even more danger (our house) and therefore far away from his own natural habitat and a place of comparative safety. The kittens really have no idea what to do with a mouse once they’ve cornered it. Killing it is a possibility (this was tried on Monday and seemed to work), but as their concepts of life and death are vague they preferred on this occasion to have some kitty fun with the mouse. At the moment the mouse is seeking political asylum beneath the washing machine (formerly known as the great white robot). In what may be the beginning of a long running Mexican standoff, the kittens are standing guard, unsure as to what may happen next.

I should also mention that the mouse first appeared in the house just as I was about to dish up a late tea for myself. There was a sharp squeak noise followed by a kitten carrying a complaining mouse through the kitchen cat flap. The mouse then escaped from the cat and tried to hide under a curtain, this confused the cats (the other was by now on the scene) and they were stuck without a plan. I had no option but to ignore my meal and try to rescue the mouse, however my attempts failed and he fled deeper into the house, all the way across it to the front door. Alas then he was caught again by a cat and I managed to chase both out of the house through the back door. All went quiet for a few minutes until in an act of wanton insanity the mouse ran back into the house (under the back door) and headed for the laundry room. It was some time before the puzzled kittens realized what had happened and came back in themselves. Somehow they sensed the mouse was under the washer and now the psychological battle between rodent and feline minds has begun.

I ate a late tea and closed the kitchen door; I’ll pop my head round later this evening to see what progress has been made. (In the end the unhappy mouse sadly became even more unhappy and "disappeared" dispute my efforts to rescue him).

A trampoline walks.

The recent high winds moved our large trampoline completely across the garden, a distance about fifty feet onto the middle of the lawn. There it now sits, a little bent but in an upright position and ready for the first springs of spring. The strategy to move the trampoline back to it’s rightful place has not been formed yet. As I recall it took four strong men (none of which was me) to put it in place when we moved house last year. It strikes me that another strong wind blowing in the opposite direction might do the job and so confirm to me the existence of a natural cycle of and for all things. I wonder how long I’ll have to wait for this to happen.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Building a better Nintendo

impossible songs

impossible songs

Nintendo Repair Course

Today I’ve discovered a new game to play on the Nintendo DS, namely taking it apart and putting it together on a regular basis. After the first three hours of fiddling however it does get a bit tedious especially when you make no progress at all in fixing the defect, in this case a damaged top screen. So I’ve taken the bloody screen out and reconnected it, at all three points about fifteen times, I’ve screwed the whole thing back together and fired it up but the newly purchased replacement screen refuses quite steadfastly to play. Probably if I were a Chinese 11 year old the repair job would have taken few seconds but for the likes of me, middle aged and cack-handed it is simply too much. It seems that even my wide ranging experiences gained in my teenage years of working within the emerging Scottish electronics industry (Bournes potentiometers 1973 –1975) has done me no good at all. It looks like it’s back to Ebay or Amazon for a replacement and no capable dad brownie points scored whatsoever.

Gay Boy Chilli

Take a pot of red meat mince, mushrooms, sweet potatoes, onions, various elements of sauce, rice and a generous portion of carbon footprint and you have the newly introduced Gay Boy Chilli. The secret ingredient in the actual Gay Boy Sauce, about which we can say or reveal very little other than it is primarily vegetable based (thankfully) and is tomato orientated. After 8 hours of rampant hunger and unsuccessful Nintendo repairs it works a treat with bottle of Sicilian red wine, a cat staring at you and a portion of boiled rice.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Hospital pass

impossible songs

impossible songs


The basic problem with visiting hospitals is that everybody there (including some of the staff) always look so ill, displaced and worried and down in the mouth. In a way it’s like going to court and thinking that everyone there looks guilty of something (again possibly true depending upon your theological notions) or a bank where everybody’s plotting fraud. Hospitals are of course necessary and useful places but they have a funny and unique smell and the entrance halls are filled with people who seem to act like human flotsam and jetsam, confused and faltering, not sure where to go and peering at the many signs and arrows with saucer like and sunken eyes. I don’t want to ever end up in hospital - although I am confident I would make a good compliant patient, most of the time anyway. I’ve decided that my next twenty-five years or so will be spent energetically dodging hospitals and the like. I can just about manage the odd visit to the doctor’s surgery for advice and quick fix of antibiotics but the big bed and the thumb curling and acronym whispering of the young doctors is something I must avoid.

Standing in a hospital foyer observing the smoker traffic is like watching wounded salmon leaping up a waterfall. Twisted and crippled individuals helped by sticks and contraptions try to get across the wide space from the wards, past the shop and the desk and the cash line, to the open water of the front door where they can puff for five chilly minutes upon a cigarette. Some make the journey in wheel chairs, they have one leg or no legs, are wearing bits of pyjamas and remnants of clothing in no obvious style, there only goal is a quick smoke. You feel that these folks have been reduced to some awful, pitiful level of desperation and need where this long trip to daylight from the canteen like wards forms the highlight of their every waking hour.

In hospital old people give themselves a tough time, everything is strange, with the toileting, tea and the food coming in for unjustified and unfair criticism. It is as if they had enjoyed only the best when in their concrete homes and now that they are here in a sanitary prison nothing is to their taste. Brews of tea are too weak, milky or strong. Food is tasteless, cold and never what they fancy (but they don’t know what they fancy). That they are ill and their taste buds may be a little askew and bitter seems not to dawn on them. Showers are ever so hot or very cold, never quite right and toilet routines are far from satisfactory. The staff however rise above these petty complaints and get on with looking after patients who act as if they should be in the Ritz Carlton when they are safely billeted in the long suffering and withering NHS, (which is an OAP itself now – sixty glorious years on).

Friday, January 04, 2008

Favourite Transistor

impossible songs

impossible songs

Favorite words – part of an occasional series.

Functionality – not a proper word but a good one to use at meetings to describe IT or systems problems and set-ups. Rolls nicely over the tongue and in the correct context can cover a multitude of meanings when you don’t know what you’re taking about.

Transistor – a bit of a retro word but as a child one that caught my imagination and seemed to signify space travel, miniaturization and the promise that in science anything is possible. Printed circuit or silicon chips never had that same magic for me.

Heresy – In some ways it’s odd that a word like this should ever have been created. It can only exist in a world where absolutes are believed in and fought for. When you have to be right all the time and defend your cause life can be pretty tough; you need strong words and methods. Heresy is one of those words nobody would use in a normal voice; it has to be screamed slightly insanely accompanied by a pointing finger and a sneer of self-satisfaction.

Cookie dough (as in ice cream) – I know it’s an Americanism and two words and therefore slightly flawed but cookie dough is a great combination of unhealthy eating sounds and images.

Appaloosa – see previous post.

Snuggle – a word that simply sounds like it is, conveying warmth and safety.

Turnip – an unsung vegetable and a word that for some reason is currently being edged out by "Swede", a name that may seem more sophisticated to the consumer. There is something honest about a plain sounding word like turnip, as if it was made up by a farmer or somebody in the fields and it describes the thick, unyielding vegetable very well.

It's people not animals who farm

impossible songs

impossible songs

Snow bother

The TV weather girls and men are in hysterics because a small amount of snow has fallen on the East Coast. It’s hard to imagine them getting any more excited if UFOs had landed instead of the snow. As usual it’s the pale, watery, unusable snow that we always get stuck with in this country – not that I’m complaining about snow, just the slow news day faux-excitement. In Ohio or Idaho or Fargo a fall of snow means 10 foot drifts for weeks, if that were to happen here it would require a completely different winter lifestyle and a better standard of news reporting.


Yesterday morning was taken up with the surgical removal of the Christmas tree, firstly from the safety of it’s base and then from the safety of the house. Both departures were greeted with disapproval by the poor tree, now past its best and so it showered me and a vast area of the floor with green spines in silent protest. It is now deep in the forest ready to be called upon to play its final role in some family celebrations by getting chucked onto an early spring bonfire. It was a good tree but by the 3rd of January, Christmas is a distant memory and the tree is well and truly redundant in our lives.


I’ve ordered a new flat screen for a Nintendo DS, a New Year casualty that was brought on by a sudden impact with the tiles of the fireplace. Now my full range of electrical skills will be put to the test once it arrives, much fiddling, squinting and swearing will also follow. The (good but broken) PC is next on the list of things to repair – or contract out as the case may be.

Animal Farm

The old fifties Halas and Bachelor cartoon version this story was on TV over the holiday. As grim and as stark an adaptation as you’ll get, almost in the minimalist style of some Ministry of Information film but powerful none the less. I wonder what today’s students make of it’s eternal messages of revolution and despair, of triumph over oppression succeeding only in oppressing others. A wise man once said, "all power is tyranny" I wonder who he was? By the way the illustration above is (sadly) not the actual book cover but a funky little piece of re-realization that takes a completely different view of the title’ s meaning.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Appaloosa Christmas

impossible songs


It was Joni Mitchell who first made me aware that there was such a thing as an Appaloosa horse, the song "Coyote" mentions one in no particularly meaningful context other than you’d imagine she had such a horse because of the illusion on truth embedded in her lyrics. These beautiful white and grey spotted horses come in nine basic coat patterns .The patterns have names given to them by the Palouse Indian tribe who are credited with breeding them in the Palouse river valley in the USA. If I ever get a horse…I could include it in a song, then I’d have to write one, not an easy thing to achieve these days.

Christmas is over and I for one say "thanks goodness". It lasts too long, one day would be fine, a big festival and then recovery time from all the self indulgence and rampant greed and spare time dozing in front of the TV. On the plus side I’ve found out how to roast pork and make crackling, how to roast chicken, bake onions and mash all sorts of random vegetables into a buttery pulp. We’ve also started baking bread and then eating the whole loaf immediately thanks to the novelty of a bread-maker. My trousers still fit, I’ve had quite enough sleep and strangely enough I’m looking forward to getting back to work.

impossible songs

Facebook still sucks

impossible songs

impossible songs

Facebook sucks like a leech

The tedium of Facebook, Myspace, Bebo and life on line in general is getting to me, or is it lack of a fast PC and not ever feeling hungry in the last few days? My systems may simply be in New Year overload or in rebellion inspired by the Ricky Gervais Big Brother rant on Extras earlier this week (or last week). If life is a long, protracted illness ended by death (said Mr. S Milligan) then blogging, blethering and social networking on the web are modern forms of a part of this illness that defy definition and frustrate with their "next big thing with no shelf life" appeal. . Some might say they are desperate attempts at achieving a sense of permanence and significance in the (generally) normal, dull lives we lead. Tell the world what your favorite movies are, what you are cooking and what things you support. In return get requests to join fringe groups, minority groups and get pestered by a selection of other (sad) weirdoes that are desperate to have you join their cause. "It’s life Jim, not like ours and I’m damned if I can make any sense of it". The thing is once your profile is set up and out there, nobody ever reads it and it just hangs on in eternal limbo. Of course this reaction may be part of some seasonal cyclical behavior running within the cosmic wheels but I think for the mean time my Facebook and Myspace will be allowed to languish while others snipe at them from a safe distance – I can’t bring myself to take them down altogether. In life everything is about maintaining a proper sense of proportion, most of the time, if you can crack this then your judgments and subsequent decisions will be close to being decent. I choose therefore to drift away from on line social networking for the time being. Goodbye cruel cyber world and for how long will I hold out?