In a rare non-industrial accident yesterday I got my finger caught in a cash machine. You could in fact say that the HBOS machine bit me whilst all I was doing was removing a legitimate wad of cash from it's innards in the normal way. For a moment I felt like an alien or outcast who had never encountered these things before and now saw it as an enemy, jumping away from them, dodging them or running quickly by when passing one in the street. There's the germ of a sci-fi plot here I suppose, with people consumed by angry, rampant cash machines all over the world. Thereafter the world ends and the cash machines rust away quietly.
I also wore a jumper inside out for a while quite unwittingly and got soaked three times in various cloudbursts. Not the best day ever.
Friday, February 29, 2008
Wednesday, February 27, 2008
Faye Fife Diet
You'll be aware that the Fife Diet is rolling on over in Fife with families happily chewing on a fine mixture of Puddledub Buffalo, pickled cabbage and spuds from the Howe (no sex, drugs, rock and roll, wine or coffee). They have a few months to go and hopefully no one will die as a result or go ga-ga.
Should that happen, as an alternative I'd suggest trying the Faye Fife Diet. This simple plan involves only buying food from major (Fife) supermarkets and only under the following circumstances:
a) It's on BOGOF Offer on the aisle end.
b) It's in the "reduced for quick sale" fridge.
c) It's in the casualty section.
d) It's in a dump bin at a really silly price.
This means you'll eat a lot of frozen prawns and chicken pie, Cathedral Cheese, humus, celery, brown and pink steak, bashed tomatoes and Greek yogurt. It may not be so bad.
The trick is putting something edible together from this selection and surviving for a year on it all. It is of course "Faye Fife" (not because of those punky popsters) but because it is mean, thrifty, fairly pointless and lives up to all the bad things that "the others" (non-Fifers) believe about those who dwell in Scotland's only Kingdom. From a urban terrorist point of view it also means you buy up all the loss-leaders, crap and minimum profit items thereby undermining the great clay feet of Tesco, Asda and Morrisons.
Goldfrapp: Seventh Tree
A whirling, spiral maze of pop weirdness, strange and vague lyrics, harsh observations and scan free, childish, meaningless vocal noodles. Synths and guitars that sound like Nick Drake jamming with the Human League, drums straight from Sgt Pepper and Alison Goldfrapp whoops and whispers on top of it all in a completely over produced muddle.The CD is shorter than it should be, the cover art is awful and it all looks to have been cobbled together in a chilly Wiltshire wood on a Tuesday afternoon. It is also the best thing I've heard in ages and I'm likely to wear it out with play after play on the car CD. Fantastic.
Monday, February 25, 2008
Everybody comes from somewhere else
Or so I've always told myself
One man has beans, another wealth
That's the politics of stealth.
It started in the Middle East
Had a quarrel but got released
Some know famine, some had feast
Built their fine temple, killed their beast.
Then they chose their different names
They spoke in strange tongues, up in flames
They saddled horses, loosed the reigns
Talked to a big god, they could blame.
Now time to journey to the moon
To suck in valium, lick their spoon
Watch the horizon, play this tune.
I hope I join them, one day soon.
I hope you join them, one day soon.
Sunday, February 24, 2008
The great helium mines of Texas and the Mid-West.
Deep below the badlands of Texas near Waco Junction lies the world's only deep helium mine.
Gas caught up in the ancient rock strata is carefully removed by expert migrant workers and used for numerous industrial and commercial projects. The mine was first opened and worked in early 1933 by Aristotle McDonald a former cattle man, gold prospector and stunt cyclist.
Aristotle failed to see the massive potential of the gas and sold the mine and all the future rights
to the Minnesota Mining Machinery Mechanics Co, (later to become 4M) for $1,000,000 and
then retired. 4M mined the helium throughout WW2 where it was used for balloon fuel systems and the brilliant but flawed experimental helium bomb project. Thereafter the mine continued production, building up sales and exports and it does very well to this day albeit the reserves are not finite. "For how long and how low can the Texan helium go?" is the question.
As long as it lasts the precious helium will be pumped into large road tankers (all fitted with lead
tyres) and taken to Hallmark retail outlets, Zeppelin factories and cheap comedy gag suppliers.
The truth is: After an oil drilling operation in 1903 in Dexter, Kansas, U.S. produced a gas
geyser that would not burn, Kansas state geologist Erasmus Haworth collected samples of the
escaping gas and took them back to the University of Kansas at Lawrence where, with the help
of chemists Hamilton Cady and David McFarland, he discovered that the gas contained, by
volume, 72% nitrogen, 15% methane—insufficient to make the gas combustible, 1% hydrogen,
and 12% of an unidentifiable gas.
With further analysis, Cady and McFarland discovered that 1.84% of the gas sample was helium. Far from being a rare element, helium was present in vast quantities under the American Great Plains, available for extraction from natural gas.
All this has put the United States in an excellent position to become the world's leading supplier
of helium and yes it is mined in Texas - and I thought it was all a big lie!
Friday, February 22, 2008
It could be the best or the worst film of 1970 and the metaphorical and actual lowest point in America (and it's history). What's not to like about this weird film? Teenage angst, the Grateful Dead, Pink Floyd, a tiny plane, sex in the desert, the police, students on the rampage, being misunderstood, death and the ultimate question and a house blowing up in slow motion. Set the controls...
I spent most of this morning doing a little interactive learning on equality and diversity. I was surprised at how many of the little tests and situations I bumbled through correctly. The video clips built into the session were a little in the style of the cult soap giant "Crossroads" 1969 but I persevered and I'm now an expert (?). It is quite remarkable at how, when now taking these tests and building up training on this topic you can see how your attitudes have changed and (in my case) improved over the years. The world has spun for yet another 24 hours and many more things have spun in time and around in my head.
Open mike at the Stag. The monthly shuttle across the Ferry was a pleasant experience last night. I arrived late and puggled but Ali and I played about six songs without any major hitches. Not bad when our one practice this week was done in between episodes of Torchwood. Our commitment to music never ends. Thanks to Tommy and Norman also.
Double sided sticky pads are a nightmare to use.
Tile paint is best in black it seems.
I don't enjoy seeing a cat being sick.
Sleep is a gift and a treasure.
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
I don't know why but the story of Steve McQueen's struggle against cancer and his desperate battle to beat it using unconventional methods has always intriged me. McQueen was the loner, anti-hero type in many of his films and chose to take a similar unconventional path in a bid to beat his illness. None of what he tried worked and McQueen died at the age of fifty in Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, Mexico of a heart attack following surgery to remove or reduce a metastatic tumor in his lung.
He had been diagnosed with mesothelioma in December 1979, and had travelled to Mexico in July 1980 for unconventional treatment after his doctors advised him that they could do nothing more to prolong his life. McQueen was cremated, and his ashes spread in the Pacific Ocean.
Mesothelioma is a form of cancer usually caused by asbestos exposure. McQueen may have been exposed to asbestos during his service in the United States Marine Corps, or during his racing career.
Strangely McQueen sought a very non-traditional treatment that used coffee enemas and laetrile, a supposedly "natural" anti-cancer drug available in Mexico but not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the method failed to stop the cancer. For some reason his brave and possibly stupid attempts at finding a cure made him more of a hero to me than any of the roles he played in his movies.
In weaker moments in evenings and when driving in fog I listen to Radio 2. Tonight on Mark Radcliffe's show I encountered the tale of Jimmy Squibb, a speedway ace from the 50s to the 70s. With a name that could have graced any action strip in a copy of the Victor or the Eagle he has emerged from historic obscurity and is alive once more as a two wheeled legend. I used to watch speedway on black and white 425 line TV when I was a kid, a bizarre motorcycle and mud fest that lacked the frenzied leaps of the scramble tracks but I absorbed it anyway(there was nothing else on). Funny but I never did hear of Jimmy. Speedway's probably got a huge following in Scandinavia and Eastern Europe now and Jimmy Squibb (with two bs) will, no doubt be a cult hero - if only I'd known all of this sooner.
Saturday, February 16, 2008
Things that are not quite right but we're stuck with them:
Hot Cross buns being on sale, all year and always on BOGOF offer in Tesco.
The demise of seasonal fruits.
Brick hard strawberrys forced grown in Kenya or Holland and appearing on supermarket shelves like late, confused tourists leaving a flight.
Easter eggs available from January.
Mother's Day, Pancake Day and Valentine's Day all running concurrently.
Daft and excessive packaging on things in general.
Where are Macintosh Apples? All that you get are pink insipid things, or (green) Golden Delicious.
Why the hell are smoothies so expensive? Who is kidding who here?
The way the labels on bacon always cover the fatty bits.
Non-standard sizes of Mars Bars. There should be one size (normal) for a Mars Bar. How else are you expected to work, rest and play on one?
Another visit to Aberdeen, nice lunch, nice ice cream, cold weather, daughter and son-in-law's flat inspected and found to be rather good, complete with high BG factor and sitting in a swish area full of Bentleys, Range Rovers and cake shops.
Mr Cougar is unwell thanks to some faulty pipework, a little like me on some Sunday mornings.The downside is that his pipes must come from Detroit, Ebay, Hong Kong or somewhere crazy and because of all the strawberrys on the plane they can't get a seat, not even in the cattle truck part till Monday.
The global markets can work for and against us all it seems.
Thursday, February 14, 2008
Heart as big as a wheel, carbon on the valves, leaks in the matrix. It has been a busy week and today marks only Thursday.
Valentines are good things, great when you get one all to yourself. I got an electric one that has it's very own brain. Actually a modern man/woman machine replicant that cannot be confounded or stopped. Like a nuclear ferret on speed it seeks out the correct answer for that eternal burning question: "How much do I love you?" The current pulses all its yellow life around the universe and back any number of times, I don't quite understand it. It's more complex than a Torchwood plot and more dangerous than the underside of Cardiff during a solar eclipse, and as Life on Mars returns for a second series but without the meaning my question gets a better and more correct and unique answer everytime.
The answer is of course YES and 6 cream eggs.
Other answers could be: YES and a Vauxhall C'mon toy. YES and a balloon. YES and a bunch of tulips. YES and a visit to the cinema. Love is a wonderful thing.
Tuesday, February 12, 2008
It can get everywhere and be everywhere. That delightful dark material, that building block, that black gold, that factor of fear and fun and scary emission figures. Now if it's on your valves just what do you do? The carbon moves in mysterious ways and I for one wouldn't have it any other way. Valves do stick from time to time but once freed the roar and the power are things of a rare and focused beauty. And as for the heating matrix...
Now I lay me down to sleep to dream of BOSS DR880 (or whatever number) drum machines.
Sunday, February 10, 2008
Birds on wires etc.
The meaningless mess of various fast food outlet's signs grow and grow whilst we spectate from our queue of hostile traffic. Then I start thinking "what would the correct one be for ours?" Surely "International House of Fish Pie" (IHOFP), or simply "Pie House", a title that works on so many levels. Then there could be "International House of Pasta" (a second stab at IHOP) or just "International House of Grub" (IHOG).
At this time of year I always take a few moments to apply a liberal amount of Vaseline to the seals on the doors of my car. Firstly because it keeps the pesky magpies away (they don't like the taste) and secondly it's very good for those wintery chapped hands we all suffer from. It doesn't do much for self inflicted steam iron burns or the little rash you may get between your toes however, these need proper medical care. Thirdly it stops the car doors sticking when it's frosty. A wise young man in Boots the Chemist told me this once whilst stuck between flights at Heathrow Airport.
Today I took a spade and like some traditional French "old man of the road man" attacked the nasty potholes in our unmade drive. Various bits of rubble and bric-a-brac were deposited in a vain attempt to soften the many blows we are taking in the bumper and lumber department. A fair days pay for a fair days work I say (I don't know why), so the pothole wages are red wine and sushi and the chance to meet and pass the time with some genuine townies who are out for a walk with their ugly dog.
Today we are listening to:
Aberdeen v Celtic (on the steam radio)
The Greatest Hits of Jefferson Airplane
Two songs by the Eagles, the names of which escape me
Cats purring and tumble driers whirring.
Thursday, February 07, 2008
Today has been Thursday all over the UK, I imagine without exception. Our law system has been placed under a small threat by the Archy of Canty but that gay blade and son of the manse Dr Broon stepped in at the eleventh hour at half past five and waved the rules. We are all spared but extradition is still possible. Meanwhile interest rates are falling by a quarter of a percent and so are spans of attention. England beat the poor neutral Swiss 2 - 1 and who really cares about that. Traffic is building up but me and my motor skipped around it all via Dalmeny listening to an epic song by Elbow "Grounds for Divorce". My car has comfy seats so I can relax at long last. Home and I ate the scramble eggs and toast that I had made only a few seconds before, what a coincidence and few crumbs to contend with. Now it's milk and whisky all the way and I hope to sleep until morning.
Favourite crisp: Kettle Chips au naturelle.
Favourite CD (this week): Trout Mask Replica.
Looking forward to: New Goldfrapp CD next week.
Favourite toothpaste: Macleans in a squirty tub.
Favourite Microwave: Sharp "Express Cook".
Favourite socks: Scoobie Doo Christmas Special.
Looking forward to: Arrival of mini helicopter.
Tuesday, February 05, 2008
Come Monday the great toll-free time of our lives begins when after 40 odd years the Forth Bridge is free to use. Perhaps as a gesture the redundant booths could be used to hand back shiny pound coins to the many jaded motorists who have faithfully paid for God knows what during the life of the bridge. I'm not counting my free range chickens yet though, I imagine that the price of oil will rocket up a little more so the others can keep up with Shell and the money saved on the toll will end up in the tank. In the short term I'm reclaiming the streets and dodging the pot holes.
Curry sandwich. Today I ate lunch in a west coast eatery and wishing to avoid a full meal opted for a spicy chicken club sandwich. What I got was an enormous cold chicken curry divided between small triangles of bread complete with a tiny but healthy salad. Memo to self: avoid the spicy sandwichs in future (that means stick with crayfish and rocket from Pret a Manger).
Carbon on the valves - one of my favourite phrases from the movies.
Monday, February 04, 2008
This is the view from the "summer seat" at Cellardyke Harbour. My grandmother spent every sunny afternoon sitting at this spot for many years, talking to friends, neighbours and passers by. Everything seemed to be at a slow and easy pace and the talk was of the past, the dead and the old days. I spent my first year in nearby Dove Street before moving away to the cranes and noisy docks of Rosyth. I came back numerous times but I never felt at home or at ease - there is something in the air here that is not good for me. The narrow, shaved and salty streets, the squawking gulls to whom fish are now a luxury, the cruel barbershops and the ghosts of my dead fishermen forefathers all now drive me away and leave me uncomfortable. I choose to be elsewhere, away from this corner of Fife.
Small towns and communities can at times turn in on themselves and foster a hostile, insular and fearful outlook and mindset that promotes uncertainty towards change and mistrust of anything from the wider world. I see this now manifesting itself in the language of my aged mother who has become stuck in the communal mind of Cellardyke in the 1930s. There is no escape either, with each circular spiral of memory she is regressing back into the homespun and well meant but dangerous "wisdom" that her mother and father cobbled together at the turn of the last century and ignorantly used to infect an entire generation. Old age is a trap if you allow it to be and it can quickly snap you back to a childish and feeble state where all the worst things are possible and nothing good ever happens. So blame it on the kirk, the schools, the poverty, the herring, the culture, the war or the Churchill government: nothing makes any difference now, the past is not a good place to be stuck in.
Friday, February 01, 2008
List of the improbable:
The warm snow of January.
Clear and dry motorways.
Not liking a fish finger sandwich.
Red dawn, red sunset.
Switching off all appliances.
A Christmas tree that does not shed it's spines.
Tricky situations made easy.
Locked up in Parliament.
Headlines that make sense.
White wine that tastes like red.
Toilet breaks at the right time.
Three out of four speakers working.
No junk mail or spam, ever.
Frost that is not frozen.
Liking a cold wind.
No head injuries whilst doing DIY.
A degree of doubt that is certain.
Three yoghurts in a row.