Monday, August 31, 2009

Golden Wonders x 2

The last potato harvest has come in, just prior to the monsoon season restarting. Plums are next, in fact right on the cusp of harvesting now and the apples are following up at the rear. Then it's back to famine, pot noodles and cheese on toast.

Question: How long to you have to leave a loaf in the bread bin before it develops strange sweet smelling growths that are white and wispy like alien spiders webs?

Answer: Only a few days it would seem, well maybe a week at a push. It can happen though and when left to it's own devices domestic science never fails to prove it's point with mould, fungus and weird growth spurts.

Dumped this vid on Facebook a few minutes ago, it's about 18 minutes long but worth watching. Deserves to go viral as some might say.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Dunfermline Upper

There was at one time an Upper and Lower Dunfermline railway station. Now there is just a Dunfermline (and a weird hospital stop to the East). The Upper was paved over to host a B&Q, Comet and various curtain shops thereby creating another kind of modern wasteland (and a Sheriff Court). A few good pubs, British Leyland dealerships and streets also perished in the unfortunate aftermath of what is known as 60's economies and 70's town planning and the birth of the retail park. Now all that remains of our grand railway heritage is this sign, propped up against a mail truck in the Bo'ness Railway Museum. Progress.

The news that the nasal and whinging Oasis brothers have finally had a final tiff and jacked it all must surely come as a relief to music lovers from Manchester to Mexico City. Only the tabloids will miss them albeit their musical nosediving will probably continue to keep them in the public domain till Friday (latest). Glad to see their shameless Beatles rip-off finally grind to a foul mouthed halt. Progress.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The road and the miles

I was (and you may be as well) shocked/appalled/indifferent/suicidal/quite happy/grim faced/philosophical/pleased* (*delete as applicable) to discover this vintage bootleg CD recording of the first proper, grown up gig I ever went to. It's out there on the web somewhere and you can probably buy it if you are mad enough. Some sly Dundonian obviously crept into the Caird Hall with a Grundig battery operated cassette recorder concealed inside his greasy combat jacket and then pressed the play and record key to capture the event on some Woolworths (Winfield) C90.

As I recall the overall noise level in the Caird Hall was at ear splitting level and there was a high degree of riotous assembly going on within the audience. Some chaps with long hair and scarves were smoking Players No6, drinking from bottles and carousing with willowy young women in tight jeans and peasant tops. Perhaps the brave bootlegger stood to one side in some perfect acoustic zone so that the music flowed into the primitive microphone he was holding thus avoiding the mayhem in the auditorium. I presume he managed to avoid the attentions of Mr Peter Grant who would have quietly cracked his skull for such an offence, then again it may have been a roadie who did it as an inside job.

I noticed that the review gave it 2 out of 10 for sound quality and 6 out of 10 for content: no surprises there then. At the very least I'd give the front cover a decent score, I think it may include some older members of the Broccoli family who have sadly moved onwards and upwards since ending their chosen careers, hammering spikes into railway sleepers.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Heard it on the tiny speakers

What is the measure of your success? For a holistic view of that and what might mean an appropriate answer, forget it. Too many spikes, flat lines and screaming dips along the way to take any kind of general view. Occasionally however a performance indicator comes along that isn’t just a bank balance print, a speedometer dial or a birthday card count. This week’s semi-permanent and possible to fail at any time measure is the newly discovered Jamendo music player and general gatherer of statistics and slushy numbers on the flickering screen. In our line of extremely low level promotion, activity and generally “not giving a stuff” Jamendo has yielded a strange and unexpected phenomenon - actual attention translated into stats and reviews. I suppose it’s not all that odd but for us considering the relatively short time we’ve been active on this site coupled with the numbers is unusual and a little unsettling - perhaps unbelievable. It may simply be that this wed site holds an audience that we’ve never before encountered and that their appetites and interest are set at levels we are unfamiliar with. Certainly it is a mainly European mainland focused thing (based in Luxembourg), so that removes the plethora of look-alikes and look nothing likes that inhabit myspace, cdbaby and reverb nation etc. Any progress there is hard work and not particularly rewarding, you sweat waiting on downloads, feedback, comments and streams that never come or are reported 6 months after the event. By then you’ve stopped caring. So Jamendo has rewarded us by at least restoring some faith and belief in the power of…power. The scores so far after 5 days activity and no promotion on our part are (according to the Luxembourg jury): 1471 listens, 47 downloads, 7 starred (no idea what that means!), play listed 4, reviews 4 (1 in Spanish), an overall rating of 7.3 out of 10 and one garbled message from an Estonian prostitute. Bizarre in a splendid, remote (phew!) and slightly unhinged European way.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Poor Man’s Noodles - the return

It’s strange how you return to comfort foods, even when you are not uncomfortable, even when you are smug, self righteous and on top of the world. In actual fact I’m none of these (aspirational) things, more hungry than anything. I first discovered the concept of Poor Man’s noodles on some blank afternoon idly watching the second disc that accompanied the feature Spirited Away, one of the few second discs I‘ve ever watched. The director Hayao Miyazaki shows how he treats the animation team to an evening meal following a long session of scribbling and pencilling the characters. He has an enormous vat of bubbling instant noodles into which he adds smoked mackerel and about a dozen raw eggs. Then he ladles the slurpy gloop into small white bowls and distributes it around the workforce who quickly devour it with chopsticks, wide smiles and an some eager satisfaction. Maybe it’s a Japanese custom for the boss to cook dinner now and again and serve his staff with mock Eastern humility. Any way I immediately thought; “eggs, mackerel and noodles, how can such a concoction fail?” Indeed, once I’d gathered the ingredients and tried it out I was not disappointed, albeit some might see it as an acquired taste and the consistency and pale colouring as a little extreme. You have to break through the colour thing though and just enjoy the warm and filling feeling (?). This recipe is not to be confused with some noodle based aberration that omits the fish and adds cheese and butter, not the real thing and you will die bitterly disappointed. So the PMN has returned to my recipe cannon, thinking now of opening a fast food joint based on them. Might not succeed here but in a world of spirits and monsters…

Selected media moments

Tales from Earthsea. Somewhere on the Skybox ex-Film 4.
“When you dance I can really love” Neil Young.
“Cinnamon Girl” Neil Young.
“Silence of the Trams” See it on UTube.
Scotland on Sunday - various topical articles.
Candide on Wikipedia - climbing the cultural mountain.
Channel Four News - Channel 4 presumably.
Learning about Annualism.
Annualing about Learningism.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

My city in ruins...

Farewell then to Scotland's international reputation, ruined for the time being by the actions of the theologically challenged and evangelical Mr MacAskill and the seedy and greasy Mr Salmond. Meanwhile the real power brokers stay deathly silent and remove themselves one or two degrees from the heat of the action and will remain there until the furore dies down. Uncomfortable times.

The rain returned with a vengeance beating down as I hurried over to the kingdom early this morning to deal with some unplanned working events. It was dripping down my nose in the early morning light and down my back: Must get me a Barbour and a sturdy 4 x 4 if I am to pursue this outdoor lifestyle successfully.

Next was an attempt at the classic Sunday morning occupation of goal post erection coupled with net untangling: this should really be an Olympic sport, done by teams of two, denied the essential Velcro, no ladder, ill matching uprights and crossbars, no mole clamps and done in a howling gale against the clock and under the disapproving eye of an eager referee. Surely a sport our beleaguered footballing nation could triumph in and in a small way we'd be involved in the beautiful game at some level, it might in fact enhance our crumbling coefficient. At the very least it could be part of the pre-match entertainment at the World Cup.

Lunch was provided by the local House-Elf garden centre, roll-mop herring, celery salad and a scone on jam. Just about odd enough to keep me going till the mince and tatties platter arrives tonight, it's a common enough meal amongst ethnic minority members and outcasts.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

I vow to thee my clunker

Could this be the greatest product the world has ever seen? Naturally not available in the UK where a conspiracy of purchasing and procurement dumbing down reigns. No, this life saving item can't be bought in the newly "just and compassionate" environs of Scotland, but you can get it for a measly $3 in any Winn-Dixie in the States. Attempt to buy it here and you'll be blanked or end up in Halfords with a smaller European Redex product that costs £10 and doesn't exactly promise the earth in terms of performance.

Anyway, enough ranting, it works a treat on power steering noises and leaks and is currently pulsing through the veins and arteries of Mr Cougar keeping it all sweet (for the time being). As for Mandelson's ridiculous and obscene scrappage scheme, how about some compassion for the ill and aging car population? Save the clunkers I say, the cars that have actually been driven and used properly and clocked 100k deserve better than a paltry £2000 signing off fee. In fact only yesterday Mr Cougar had to perform emergency surgery on a poor old MR2 with a distinct starting problem and a badly located battery (what were Toyota thinking with that design?) on a petrol station forecourt, try doing that with a new Kia Picanto or any Renault.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Big in Japan

Finally we are making a breakthrough on the mainland of that magical and far away place called Western Europe. The cultural and musical trade barriers are coming down and it's looking strangely and unexpectedly good, even in Spain and even in Spanish. This flourish of activity may of course be a total fluke, I'm carrying out a series of intensive tests to establish the full facts. Next step of course is to crack Japan, once we master the Nippon web language and translate our great swathes of material.

In the garden we now have a strain of grass that grows an inch a day. It was chopped on Monday and by this afternoon was back being a jungle. Why isn't there a chemical available? The potatoes on the other hand remain small but tasty and we are now three quarters through the crop. It was worth the dig.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Libyan human rights?

Keep on rockin' in free world etc. etc.

Libya's record on human rights is rather poor. Some 200 North African refugees were rounded up and tortured this month as they crossed over the border, some were killed. At least 20 Libyans were shot this month by troops from their own army. In Libya it is illegal to criticise or disagree with the government and those who do disappear... but we keep on rockin'...

Of course we here in Scotland now occupy the moral high ground, our politicians have shown compassion and mercy, marvellous and lofty examples of humanity at its best some would say. We can now be smug and self righteous and applaud the values that lead us into holding the world's moral compass, so we think. Another view may be that the UK is weak and bewildered, our sense of purpose and justice has become diluted. We huff and puff to impress with our waspish actions, hand wringing and an artificial sense of "the right thing being done". Two hundred and more dead souls cry out for justice from the green fields of Lockerbie and thousands more from the hot sand and dust of Libya. Their voices are unheard in the international clamour for political clout, power and the black, black oil.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Fish supper

After accidentally stepping into some spilled diesel at a Shell station I experienced that awful feeling of losing one's footing on the clutch, at a junction. My left foot was behaving as if it was on the Cresta Run, my car was behaving as if some incontinent lunatic was poking it's innards with a sharp stick. With 15 minutes to go before my son's football match kicked of I decided that a de-stress reward was needed and headed into the garden city of Rosyth for a fish supper needed for a late and partly forgotten tea. £3.90 and three minutes later my diesel soul was clean and I was scoffing hot chips and white fish. Next a short hop across to the legendary Civil Service Club (where as a young man I learned the fine arts of drinking and smoking) and its football pitches for a feast of rainy entertainment that ended in a friendly 3 - 1 defeat. Just can't quite get the chippy/diesel smell out of the car.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Green Mile mouse

I like animals, in fact I'm sitting on one in the left of this picture and not being bad to it all, quite the reverse, a few minutes later "Blue" decided to try to be bad to me by attempting to unseat me, another story for another day. So back to the facts, this morning the cats presented me with yet one more dead mouse. Poor thing, pathetic, spark out on the floor boards and ignored by it's furry killers. " Was it not warm?" asked Ali, "do you expect me to give it the kiss of life?" I said. Sadly I've not got the Green Mile gift but I've found another way to recycle the many miscellaneous dead creatures the cats regularly provide. An easy quick flip with a plastic dustpan over the hedge and into the potholes of our unmade roadway, untouched by human hand regardless of their body temperature. Their tiny remains smoothing the way for local traffic of all sorts.

A break in the weather gave me the rare opportunity for an excellent aerobic strimmer workout. First the fueling ceremony where you try to get a 1:50 ratio between petrol and two stroke mix without soaking your jeans. Then pulling the start chord on the mighty 30cc engine in a bid to coax it into life. With a compression setting that would shame a Harley Davidson this can take time and effort, swearing and sweat. Once it's running then you leave it to warm up (no kiss of life) and then pull the trigger, stall it and start the whole bloody agonising process again. Finally we are roaring and cutting, up to my knees in nettles and thistles, weed debris flashing in all directions as I seem to stand inside this petrol powered vegetation liquidiser (the safety goggles effect). An hour later the garden is totally devastated and I am plastered with green muck so I remove all my spattered clothes at the back door and head for the shower. Phew.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Fish pie

Not quite the table setting for tonight's feast

The oven is on at 200 and the fish pie is slowly baking, we are in rundown, worn out and full Sunday night/Monday morning mode. A busy weekend is passing , six times across the bridge and back again, busy bbqs, weather and it's many moods, football, stir fry experiments, teeming weans and waning teens and no strimming done. Now it's time to make some plans and eat the pie...

Friday, August 14, 2009

How high the moon?

Nothing is happening apart from dodging meteorite showers and observing migratory birds. The weather is playing havoc with the TV schedules and the grass cutting. Somewhere in Edinburgh a festival is taking place and tram building works are stalling while money remains in there as yet another thing to be argued over. Holidays are complete and there is a cheese mountain somewhere else close by. Meanwhile a lorry load of writer’s blocks have been dumped on the doorstep as we await a decision on planning permission.

I’ve two Les Paul type guitars, one a 1973 Antoria, heavier and more dense than a Gibson and 2008 Gibson/Baldwin Les Paul that is a little less substantial but easier to carry. The man behind those designs but not the production has died at the age of 94. His gifts to the world were multi-tracking and a solid lump of wood that has churned out the heaviest riffs and licks for the last fifty years. No mealy mouthed twang or screechy ping from these guitars, just wails and growls and some rare moments with the pots screwed down and the amp cranked up to create the legendary “woman” sound , one that many try to reach but few attain. Thanks for the dream and a possible means of getting there.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Non-Ukrainian tractor

There in some tractor garden, still rusty and in daily use. To pull the lobster pot boats from the land to the sea and back again. Fordson engineering and British steel and iron that can last for fifty salty years, in fields, on roads and in the water. That was at the weekend however...

Back to reality and Scotland are getting gubbed by Norway in a "must win" but "will lose" football match. Being Scottish is painful at times as is following all the wrong kinds of sports when played by your national teams. Painful.

Monsters of Folk. What's this about?

Monday, August 10, 2009

Pea green in Brora

On a sunny beach in Brora pea soup is ladled out, it is everyday, special day and it is far away. I'm enjoying my new appreciation for the north east, the land, the sea, the cliffs, the horses, the people, the food, the pea green soup. Then it was Monday so the weather turned back to normal, rain all the way to the airport in Wick and above the clouds in an aeroplane made by Saab.

Back home now, holiday over and the cats are back and chasing one another across the garden and up onto the arch.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Where mermaids play

The tipple known as Sloe Gin or "sloggin" or Long Island Tea or something, it's not gin, it's not mulled wine, it's something that folks imbibe on sunny afternoons when lager would be too much, Pimms too pretentious and white wine too obvious. Goes nice with a Mars bar, a scone and some black grapes.

Through the gate and onto the beach and if you stare into the sea you may just catch a glimpse of a mermaid playing a violin. The artist who designed these gates certainly did. As for me I'm relaxing after surf and turf and stumbling along cliff tops, peering into Cromwell's midden and avoiding bulls in fields, always the best line to take (and all without a Barbour jacket).

Saturday, August 08, 2009

In a blue sky hole

Summering is better than wintering and the hole of blue sky that we currently inhabit remains around us and above our heads. Grey clouds roll close but seem to be held back from crossing our path by some great force, in this case the influence of the North Sea. It froths and bubbles and carries away the daylight and seaweed and returns to pound now rounder stones and to deposit some fresh driftwood. The chain and flowers in the photo above are nearby, found on an underused quayside, holding back the beach and securing a family of smelly lobster pots.

Things we know now:

It is possible to ride a horse cross country for at least two hours - without falling from it.
Green soup is good.
Sea caves are worth exploring.
The people who named lochs were a bit daft.
Landrovers are comfy up to a point and you can sleep in them.
There are many kinds of tree house.
Buying a derelict cottage to fix is a good idea, but the location must be right.
Prince Charles drives an Audi.
I've got Schuey till Massa recovers.
Macbeth was one of Scotland's best kings.
Rabbit can taste ok.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Wrong end of the scope

I don't want to be remembered as the man with the one white eyebrow hair, that wiry sticky out mutation of hair that torments my head. Nor as the man who, inadvertently whilst looking into the far distance walked into a telescope, parked in the very near distance. Perception at a high percent and the understanding of space elude me at times, I've no idea why. I don't want to be remembered as the man who couldn't quite remember. I have enough self perception however to see where some of this may be going.

Currently I'm sitting in a house with two telescopes, both far and both at times quite near.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Everglades daily photo

Possibly the end of this occasional and seasonal series - behold the wilderness and the native's accommodation.

Today I face the barren wastes of a pile of ironing buoyed up by an elaborate omelet and mushroom concoction that Ali recently created. I can do anything it seems and she can cook anything. Abercorn Yogurt has also been invented, please take a note of the date and time you read this, it may come in very useful.

Meanwhile the Community Council are pressing for changes to the proposed new road bridge road infrastructure configuration, we fully support this venture. We will fight them on the beaches, in the trees and possibly from the pub in the village if all else fails. Scottish Government? No thanks.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Back to work - the long way

Up at 6.20, little or no hangover, mild sunburn wearing out, finding the way back to work along familiar roads signaling the short end of the short holiday season. Never really as bad as you think it's going to be despite the avalanche of out of date emails, too much coffee and the incessant rain beating against the office window, it's a kind of life.

The Lib Dems want airbrushed images to be labeled "unreal" so that young girls realise that stick thin and perfect ten models are really unreal. Next step is to remind comic and sci-fi readers that these characters do not exist, movie goers that Harry Potter is fictional and doesn't have magic powers and that Coca-Cola doesn't refresh as much as you'd like. Cigarettes are apparently good for you, tomatoes make you blush, God answers prayers in mysterious ways and Kate Winslet is a size 8 most of the time. Best news of the day is of course the story that Tutti Frutti has finally been committed to DVD, some of the material may however may have been airbrushed and Big Jazza McGlone wasn't so big and didn't play the guitar parts for real and neither did Suzi Kettles.

Toast and kedgeree for tea, sailing ships upon the sea.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Key Largo daily photo

Pardon the tilt of the earth's crust and the quality of the pastry, these things happen. Just outside of Lower and Upper Largo lurks the little known place aka "Key Largo" famed for shell shops, shell suits, wooden toads and films shot in Hollywood but credited to the Fife Coast, if only. I will return one day to put Bogey right and to calm the many storms and errors in scripts and overall plotting. In the mean time I revel in their high quality rest rooms, water at a $1 a bottle and the smooth road surfaces that greet even the casual visitor. What a hot and funky place.

A full day in the garden saw us inebriated by 1400hrs and full of at least five daily fruits and some square sausage fried in rape seed oil. Yes Mr Salmond we are keeping up the healthy end of Scotland here in rural West Lothian so please do not fret or even consider cashing in your double pension(s). In fact why not stick half of it on a nice little runner at the 2.30 at Epsom on Tuesday?

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Miami daily photo

Still busy with a series of random and unplanned activities in the holiday wake, laundry, visits, unforeseen events, parties and the great grey clouds of the pretty rain variety. Taking time to plan the next great blues riff and lick combination based around Wabi Sabi existential themes and non-narrative progressions.

I've also been digging potatoes in a vain attempt to entertain the grandchildren, they however know better and prefer trampolines and chutes and things less practical. The berries continue to bloom, the plums are slowly growing red and the apples are showing some promise. The more mundane side being the continual need to cut and strim the grass and pull weeds from their stubborn beds. Of immediate concern is the need to fry 24 eggs, acres of bacon and the numerous punnets of strawberries that need to be topped and tailed - champagne breakfast for all coming up.