Monday, September 29, 2008

Beecraigs, trout and sausage.

Saturday was spent mostly wandering around in circles at Beecraigs Country Park, West Lothian, quite pleasant really. I was offered two large, frozen trout for a mere fiver at the fish farm "to help empty the freezer" as the man said, but I declined the offer. My heart was already set on some kind of wild meat formed into sausages and sold in the nearby farm shop or M&S food from the petrol station. The wild meat was either wild boar, deer or some thing less well specified so I opted for the M&S versions, a pot of cream and a Lottery ticket. The sausages appeared later as part of a hurried breakfast menu for 6 on Sunday morning, I grabbed one between a slice of Hovis and headed out to the football as is customary around here.

As I drove over the bridge to Fife I was haunted by the thought of the trout and the opportunity I had missed to re-fill the freezer. I was also haunted by a large green singing and dancing Frankenstein that we had been given as a Halloween Engagement present. The perfect combination of crazy gifts and events you may think and you'd be right. The reason for this of course is that Ali and I are now planning to marry (later in the ?) and it's almost October 31, in 31 days or so. My daughter had the idea and the £10 necessary to carry it out, all to celebrate the up and coming happy event.

When it happens it'll be a small and intimate family affair.Using some wax crayons I quickly sketched a likely layout design for first stage of the reception, as below.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

My mind's a blank

This is a sunburst Telecaster.
More pictures in the occasional series of rambled oddities called "things I like".
This is a red Mercury Cougar.
Today on the 9am news I heard Gordon Brown say "I fully support George Bush's initiatives on the handling of the economic crisis, regardless of the details". Regardless of the details? It strikes me there may be a few significant details in a $700 Billion Dollar package of measures that affects everybody in the US and huge chunks of the rest of the world, it might be an idea to know what some of them are before you pledge support and sign up for it. Capitalism is fine in theory and often decent and rewarding in practice, if you were born in the right place with any kind of spoon in your mouth. However the current economic buffoonery we're now seeing has seriously undermined it as a model for a generation to come and what credible person would want to become involved in politics right now?

Things we are eating this week:

Pasta and sauce mixed with smoked sausage.
Toffee Yum Yums.
Scrambled eggs, beans, Aberdeen Angus sausage and toast.
Trifles, cookies and corner yogurts.
Irn Bru, coffee, tea and yogurt drinks.
Chicken in red wine sauce.
A lot of asparagus, either steamed or boiled.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


On Monday I was back in Livingstone admiring the clarity of the road signs but still trying to understand what the planners had been thinking when they laid it out. Festooned with roundabouts and narrow interchanges, surprising little right turns and oddly cambered corners. It was designed for the age of the Hillman Imp, the Singer Vogue or the Vauxhall Velox, when three gears, sticky plastic seats and radio were luxury and refinement. You can easily imagine these cross ply shod beasts rolling along the roads and sliding around the grey bends and the driver's being happy with the motoring experience (even I can recall that feeling). Now it's Subarus and Beamers that scuttle across the lanes, every driver impatient and anxious to stay just above the speed limit as they jostle from queue to grinding queue. Perhaps Livingstone's infrastructure should be better loved as a relic and a lesson now that the bulging malls and Wallmart clones have stretched it beyond any reasonable limit. So what should towns look like, where are the good examples and how can the present methods of human connection and collection have a future? What is the real purpose of West Lothian apart from being an alternative and opposite to somewhere else called East Lothian?

I suppose that that as an extension of the house, towns are machines for living in, but a bit more widely, the problem being the relative width we all take up. Our social bottoms have all become a lot bigger in the last thirty years and staying at home to work or doing the shopping on line isn't yet having an impact on the width problem. In the mean time I'll continue to scuttle along the rat runs of the Lothians avoiding motorways at peak times and sneaking a glance over the hills and across the shining Forth to the apparently wider, greener shores of my home (Garden) State - Fife.

Another strike today and another shuffle to sort a kind of "single parent" problem as the schools closed, albeit appeared open to me. The key people (viewed no doubt as drones by their detached chiefs) deserve more and are making a valid point to their employers and the community and I'm using up my holiday quota and a bit more petrol in the process.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Fair Game

A man makes curious shapes from timber and cookie dough with the aid of (what appears to be) either a chainsaw, a tiny guitar, or a Steely Dan III (? read your William Burroughs) and a partly finished tent.

The weekend was spent for the most part in child friendly pursuits. With three small grandsons on a reckless sleepover and ready for fun it was never going to be dull. Mainly we travelled around the garden via wheelbarrow express, shopped for school shoes in Livingstone, watched and played various kinds of football and stumbled in and into the mud at the Hopetoun Game Fair. I had a great time.

Livingstone is a disturbing place, many people there are still habitually wearing white shell suits and unattractive scowls, they drink large amounts of fizzy liquid and walk with no apparent purpose from retail outlet to retail outlet, passing various building sites and baker's shops in the process. These building sites make the promise of eventually providing more spaces for this mindless wandering and sneering. It may be that in these vast halls of modern learning, the discussions and expressions of deep and profound thoughts will be shared with fellow scholars over the crowded mobile phone networks. Once the works are finished I'm sure it will be an excellent place to dawdle and ponder, as might have been said of parts of Spain at one time.

The people at the Game Fair are a different breed from the "townies" of Livingstone's wide open spaces, few daring to sport Chav fashion or Kappa joggers here. Green was the colour theme as people tried hard to blend into the undergrowth and control various kinds of ugly and excitable dog-creatures at the same time. The catering was not however up to par, £3.50 for a Frisbee style cheese burger complete with tomato sauce direct from the Hammer House of Horror surplus sell-off. The wasps remained in seasonally fine form and the birds of prey looked well groomed, smug and hungry, some peasant eye-pecking would have been nice but it's been banned since the Industrial Revolution.

Everything you need to survive out of doors is for sale here, most of it crap and overpriced but oddly "authentic" in some kind of non-Chinese way. It was strange to see two vendors leaning on huge 4x4s trying to sell hot-tubs the size of Cadillacs. These come complete with fins, shiny decks and seats, buttons and jets that can be aimed at every orifice. Just the thing to take back home and dump in the garden of your semi in Livingstone, as proof that bad taste gets everywhere quite easily these days.

The weekend footballing pilgrimage saw us visit the Fife town of Balingry where the local side were quickly destroyed in a 14 - 1 rout, with the Barclay family representative hitting a hat-trick. Many restless natives escorted us away from the pitch once the final whistle had sounded, their congratulatory messages ringing in our ears. I could be wrong but there is some evidence to suggest that Balingry and Inverkeithing are still at war with each other having never fully settled their differences after the great rape-seed flood and pig riot of 1557.

A 4x4 wooden turtle climbing on the ancient grassy banks of the Hopetoun lagoons : a snip at £25.00.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Lack of ideas

The notion that there is lack of good ideas around just now is neither true or false or some kind of mental corruption from which we (or maybe only me) are all suffering. Things seem to have stopped or have run out or are in a cycle of repetition that confuses unfamiliarity with innovation. We are failing to recognise the repetition, we see it as originality and are duped and believe what we think we see to be progress. To do this is to avoid or at worse deny the obvious cycles that are continually running around us in the world and often in our own lives. This revolving door universe is not necessarily a bad thing, it is where we are, in a place, in space where things just "come around". Accept it and get over it and ride the universal curve.

Radio is a good medium.
The Scots are confused about a number of issues.
Blue or green milk - which is best?
Who listens to jazz for long periods and do they really listen or is it wallpaper?
Economics can be studied but can't be understood.
Spell checkers save careers.
The west is in fact the best.
A garden can be restful and stressful.
Irritations to the surface of the skin are just that.
I'm confused about the purpose of most insects.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Banks etc.

When I was a small child banks were all dull, dusty, dark wood and as uncomfortable as libraries. People whispered, money was passed across the polished counter high above my head and then secreted away like a strange drug or a bad and unspeakable family member to the sound of scratching pens and safe doors thumping shut. Going to the bank was an event in itself and, as far as I could understand something to be slightly fearful of, don't go there without good reason or you'll be in trouble was the unsaid message. Accounts were managed using leathery passbooks in blue and gold full of handwritten figures describing Pounds, Shillings and Pence and only the rich and business men or lawyers used cheques instead of real money.

Then it changed and it turned out that these banks are suddenly run by traders and salesmen thinly disguised as cartoon best friends to manage your life, insurances, money and investments. They look at products and market shares and shifting lumps of cash and credit as if they were airliners lost on a Pushing Tin radar screen or burgers sizzling on a hot plate and about to burn. They produce ugly, noisy and expensive advertisements and try to convince you that their meagre percentages and supposedly low charges are good lifestyle choices that will improve your lot and allow you to sleep soundly at night. You will be safe and happy in their greasy hands. Now the bottom has fallen out, the greed and the unsustainable hard sell have caught up and a black hole has opened up in front to end their progress. It's hard to feel sorry for the die-hard bankers, in my view they've squandered a privileged position and in a few short years turned something respectable and solid into a cheap poker game with no winners.
Tank Girl thanks you for looking in and hopes for a return to fame following a bad film and long spell in undeserved comic strip obscurity, such is the fate of one with a fickle public following and fan base.

Things the cats killed today and brought to the back door: Two mice, one finch and a rather large white egg (now presumed dead) from an unknown source.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Doctor Doctor

I am not a Fascist but I like the design.
I had a doctors appointment this morning, I was supposed to tell him about three different ailments (none life threatening). Out of the three I managed to forget two (well skip over one by forgetting a feline connection) and only talk about one properly. It wasn't that I didn't want to discuss them, it was that I simply went blank, had a chat and he wrote me a note and I bumbled out and into the early morning rain. I'll be back once I've mastered the fine and lost (to me) art of multi tasking.

For diversion at lunch time I did a piece of web research on Italian aircraft of the Second World War. They all had great names and numbers and all looked like they've inspired modern Japanese cartoons with their great cowls, fat under carriage set ups and fins and silly paint. None of them were any good either, each one or model a catalogue of aviation disaster, crash landings and losses in battle. All too slow, heavy or under developed for a task still being defined and led by British and American engineers who were too far ahead to be caught. A sad and brave time for the pilots and crew who flew to defend Fascist ideals that were as doomed as their aeroplane designs.
The Glen Campbell (no not Glenn Lampshade) version of this Green Day opus is rather good in a strange and modern way.

RIP Rick Wright who died on Monday aged 65. The quietest man of the quieter men that were the quiet monster Pink Floyd. I liked his plink plonk keyboard and soap sud synth additions to their material. I liked his nonchalant approach to the music amid the carry on, back-stabbing and fluff that passes for rock and roll and entertainment.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Thought for the day

The real reason for the lack of personal progress in so many of our undertakings and projects is a lack of the drive that leads to proper obsession. Obsession is the mad spark that turns an ordinary act around on itself and pushes it to a new limit where it becomes special and unique. Without that colourful burst of energy to propel and idea somehow beyond itself it will amount to nothing. If you believe in something then get obsessed with it. That is unless it's religion, terrorism, mass murder, collecting aeroplane sick bags, hand washing, stalking fellow humans, biting your nails, being the member of some political party, jumping red lights, speed, drinking beer or eating fast food. None of these things will ever have a happy ending.

So was Della Street obsessive with the secretarial and office skills she provided for Perry Mason or did she just suffer from an unrealised, unrequited love for the detective bloke who was, in real life the son of Hedda Hopper who also may have been a relation of Dennis Hopper but no relation to the cartoon grasshopper "Hopper" in the film "Bugs Life"? The answer to this and many other questions is of course out there somewhere.

Recording sagas: The word "ambient" springs to mind as both a description and a damning criticism for my latest efforts. Why are structures so hard to find? Why are song constructions either so forced that they jar and irritate or so loose that they drone on in no particular direction? Creation comes from obsession and my obsession sessions are not running on long enough with enough sustained effort to get them over the critical hump. As somebody famous and in the recording know might have said, "a lot of "B" sides in there son". It's a start.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Parking paranoia

Following on from the little shunt a few weeks ago that resulted in Mr Cougar getting a new front wing and five night's B&B a kind of silent parking paranoia has crept over our lives like a crawling weed or virus. The main cause are those we refer to as the "Churchy people". These itinerant visitors come to the local "Churchy" events next door and quite naturally park their cars in the area around our house. It can get busy and as it's not well lit, not really surfaced and many of them are old (in a good way), so there is it seems a high chance of further unplanned events taking place. It's not of course surprising that the good people of the congregation when coming back from another riveting and inspiring service might have their thoughts placed elsewhere and not on driving or reversing out of parking spaces. They are thinking about the glorious path that their church is on, their missionary lives in a hostile and sinful world and what they need to get at Tesco on the way home. Accidents are inevitable in this heady mix of inspiration, kilted and Sunday best chatter, impeccable behaviour and niceness and driving home in the family bus, but we are watching from the window...
After a month of not drinking I had a few glasses of wine over the weekend, watched a predictable (as ever) X Factor and steamed some vegetables and other assorted goodies for a late tea with various children and grandchildren - the drink produced no adverse effects. I slept well, breakfasted well and have just done a (sweaty) spot of gardening and will be asleep again in about five minutes.

Toad count: Last night two at the back door, one behind the cooker and a rather large one that I locked in the downstairs toilet, it's a seasonal thing.
Mouse count: Three dead in the garden and one dead under the back door mat (ugh!).
Bird Count: One dead under the garden table.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Which one's Pink?

Funny how you can use words, hear them, speak them and still not have their (obvious) meaning register with you, well me anyway. I've been aware of Pink Floyd since 1967's See Emily Play and the Piper etc. but never really though of Pink being pink the colour, I never, ever thought that pink was actually pink. Furthermore I didn't think that Floyd was the christian name Floyd. Pink Floyd have always been and meant the sum of their total parts and not the parts themselves. I'm sure there are many other examples of not taking the literal meaning of things or connecting with the obvious particularly with band names. Mind you I did think a bit more about the name when Tommy Mackay was first performing his rather clever "Pink Floyd are shit" song, a worthy piece written from the perspective of Mr Syd Barrett.
I've always wanted to do a similar thing to the (above) Ummagumma picture for Impossible Songs (Dr Drum would take up most of the foreground) with a couple of older sports cars bringing up the rear in place of the Commer van. There's not really enough flat land around here though and the hike to Cambridge is just not do-able.

Nice comment below (ta) from the one and only Glenn (two ns) Lampshade, alas I knew him not very well.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Glen Lampshade

Tonight I heard a gentleman on the radio describe himself as a "Chippie from Wolverhampton going under the pseudonym of Glen Lampshade". It seems all his pals on the building sites where he's employed adopt odd names for themselves to alleviate the boredom generated by hanging out on such sites, their associated trade activities and the inclement weather that goes with the task. It's good but not great. He was also struggling with the dogs that lived next door and their constant barking, he was on the edge. Every so often I listen to Radio 2 in the evening, so far it's led me to Elbow, the Fleet Foxes, the Felice Brothers, Josh Ritter and Percy Plant, now I've landed up with Glen Lampshade at the dawn of his career. It's not been a bad year really.
Songs about stuff: "Runnin' up that hill" by Kate Bush is about problems achieving a female sexual climax, "Four seasons in one day" by Crowded House is about PMS, "Rattlesnake shake" by Fleetwood Mac is about masturbation - I can't think of anymore.

The pros and cons of ready meals. Pro - they're ready in minutes, cons - they taste crap, pro - they're cheap or on BOGOF, con - they are full of crap, pro - you can fill your fridge with them and not cook for weeks, con - you can fill your fridge with them and not cook for weeks, pro - there are no dirty dishes, con - we have a dishwasher anyway, pro - there is no waste, con - you'll end up with a huge waist. There must be an answer hidden in the fine balances and tuning between convenience, diet and necessity.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Questions and solitude

The repetitious addition of stolen images and re-hashed ideas, fruitless searchings, self centred lists, trivia and the trivial and opinions that don't matter to anyone. That's the way it goes with blogging and predicting the end of the world. Time wasted and diversions explored in a bid to find meaning and reason. Am I bothered?
It may not end up being called "Off the Rails" and that may in fact be a true statement of it's position but for better or worse the current attempt at a South Queensferry Arts Festival has been renamed and we've done the decent thing: started a group for it on Facebook.

Last night's episode of Smallville stretched a thin thread of plot to the limit and then allowed it to snap. Clearly the writers were having a bad day and so were the viewers. There is the germ of a great, epic sci-fi series in there somewhere but the network seems to be struggling to get it out. Perhaps this will be the last batch and the story will die on the vine naturally, starved of ideas before it teeters into something far worse.

At least we didn't all end up dead in a black hole today. Perhaps the next revolution will catch us unaware and sleeping, the best way to go I think.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

It's the end

Good news for those of you who have never visited Switzerland, a free ride is headed your way. Tomorrow when they switch on the big bang particle accelerator or Cern Collider we're all headed there for a short, sharp Swiss style party. There may not be much time however to take in the fine Alpine scenery, long road tunnels, Lindt chocolates or knife shops as we're all sucked into a central European oblivion that's better than anything at Alton Towers.
From the BBC:

Three decades after it was conceived, the world's most powerful physics experiment is ready to be powered up.

On Wednesday, engineers will attempt to circulate a beam of particles around the 27km-long underground tunnel which houses the Large Hadron Collider (LHC).

The £5bn machine is designed to smash particles together with cataclysmic force, revealing signs of new physics in the wreckage.

This will re-create conditions in the Universe moments after the Big Bang.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Entering a world of pain

Sometimes a world of pain opens up before you with little or no warning.
Yesterday we were busy multi tasking on a number of projects, some time was spent on the ever present domestics, some time on the practical and even some on the creative. The first two are relatively easy as they can be done thoughtlessly and whilst on the automatic pilot of day dreaming. Creative stuff is more arduous and frustrating - if you fail to get onto a roll. I was playing with loops and synchronising various looped guitar parts with Ali's vocals, also looped. Trouble was I kept on deleting Ali's vocal and/or losing track of where I was - the alcohol drought was not helping either, that little flash you get in the corner of your eye can go a long way to oiling the creative wheels. In the end I gave up and sat on the couch in a darkened room watching the Big Lebowski, only for it's calming, mind numbing and inspiring effect you'll understand. A mug of cool White Russian would have been nice but we're not going down there so much these days.

The evening was concluded in an unusual and noisy manner by the sight and sound of a biplane buzzing our house like the Red Baron. At first I feared the worst that a) we were at war with some local landowner or b) a stray plane had escaped radar control and was about to crash into our newly vacuumed lounge. Neither proved to be the case, the plane we believe was performing stunts, complete with smoke trails, for the amusement of a wedding party at our neighbour's nearby stately home, the same one no known sat-nav can ever find. I did get a bit stressed as he dived and banked over the brick chimney pots and then disappeared behind trees, his plane's engine roaring a continual, rowdy complaint to way it was being treated. In the end he retreated to East Fortune or somewhere and we could both breathe again.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Walking with impressionists

On Friday we spent a pleasant evening avoiding the ever present Edinburgh rain and then viewing the Impressionist exhibition currently running in the National Gallery. It was an eat and greet event with the added effect of at least two trayfuls of drinks hitting the deck thanks some nervous waitering. I had to hold myself back from helping out to tidy the aftermath. I always feel sorry for the students who end up serving at these bashes, shuffling from one foot to the other whilst passing out the food and drink with no prospect of a decent tip from anyone.
This ugly little number (by Degas) was the painting that most folks wanted to see last night. Bought by a straight-laced Glasgow tailor for £180 in nineteen canteen it caused a "fair stooshie" at the time. The lady on the left may have been of easy virtue and rumour has it that she is a little down in the mouth as her pussy has just been run over by a passing trick cyclist. The poor bloke on the right appears to have been recently expelled from the Russian State Circus Clown School. Not a lot of laughs down the pub that night but at least the free flowing absinthe may have transported the couple to Timothy Leary's garden for a few quiet hours to reflect.
These Tudor guys were bonkers with power if you believe in TV history (which you might as well believe as anything else), drunk with mad passions and a self-belief that's the size of Europe because all was possible for the king and his cronies. Re-write the bible, reform the church, upset the Pope, hack a few skulls open, whack the peasants over the head and keep a harem of footballers wives on the go down in Slough. It's utter tosh but entertainingly shocking and good to unwind to after a busy working week.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

In love with Sarah Palin

Sarah Palin and her favourite road kill recipe. Why not try one today?

If I could I'd vote Republican (if only) for Sarah Palin, but in order to do so I'd have to adopt a new lifestyle and nationality that are beyond me to adhere to, love and understand and frankly are just a little too extreme politically. So I'm stuck with trying to support and share the same baffled Northern European country with ugly and unpretty Scottish politicians who don't shoot deer or wolves, don't play ice hockey or drink gallons of cold beer outside while standing deep in the snow in their sealskin lined boots and don't winge. My life is now pointless and I'm bored stiff with the time, money and coverage given to dealing with the awful and awkward Wendy Alexander.

The good news is that Jimi Hendrix's burnt out Strat still plays ("I heard it on the radio" as Eric Burden said (also on the radio) a few hours after the great man died) and that some rich bastard is going to buy it for a stupid sum of money and no doubt stick it on his dining room wall in a glass case. Truly just the fate that Jimi intended for it the night he attacked it with his can of Ronson and Zippo.

The other news that I'm fairly indifferent about is that poor car dealers/makers have had their worse sales month since 1966. As I recall it was about the same time (1966) that they launched the Mark 1 Cortina and the Austin 1100, so not something you could easily blame on economic downturn then. Maybe the simple fact is that so many new cars today are complete crap in both looks and practicality and that nobody wants to buy them. The latest batch of prime time, TV car commercials, Nissan and Citroen's being the worst, certainly don't help.

A joke: The difference between a rock guitarist and a jazz guitarist? A rock guitarist plays three chords to thousands of fans...

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Any old lie will do

Why are some people so much more interesting than others? You notice this particularly in politics. Some politicians have been in the business and culture of politics so long that they have ceased to share any common contact or connection with real life.They are like isotopes in a nuclear reactor, both powering and poisoning at the same time whilst shielded by the lead casing of their chosen career from the rigours and tedium of the outside world. Gordon Brown and Alister Darling both come across as prime examples. Wee Alex Salmond is smug and self righteous and eager to snipe at all and sundry and has to win every argument to regularly refuel his stunted self esteem. David Cameron rides a bike not because he has to but because he thinks it makes him look normal, how could that ever be? Sadly none of them pump over priced petrol or scrape through McDonald's drive throughs to collect their tea, or buy a pint of £2.95 lager with the last of their change, pick their noses or choose some reduced chicken from the chiller cabinet in Morrison's. I guess we wouldn't want them to either but it would be good to think that they knew what it felt like to have to do these things now and again.

"Cindy McCain, washed in the rain, no longer" (The Fleet Foxes).

Aspects of life I can enjoy:

The joy of cold ham on warm toast.
Waking up warm and snug in the morning.
Getting my car back from the repairers.
Losing track of time.
An almost complete pedal board in working order.
Practicing on a regular basis.
Drinking fruit juice.
Thinking a bit more about personal fitness.
Happy cats purring in the dark distance.
The freshness of the morning.
Searching for the right laptop but never buying one.
Wikipedia powering the imagination.
Coming home.