Saturday, December 31, 2011

If only God had written the Bible

It's the end of the year, I'm at work and I need pepped up by something. As, generally speaking and subject to modern lyrical confirmation the drugs don't work I settle for some cola and a Kit Kat. Strangely my mind can't settle on much other than marvelling and focusing on the deserving misery of others, not a worthy theme for the demise of 2011 or good for the soul, but these things happen. You can at times be overcome by uncontrollable and often laughable thought patterns that add no value or bring home the Brownie Points. The blurred line between acceptable and guilty pleasure is becoming clearer and I must make that crossing. Perhaps this schadenfreude will leave me as I meditate on the wise words of Obadiah 1:12, but no, that would never work. Middle Eastern claptrap from the dawn of so-called civilisation can't help, I'm far too European now. So seeing or hearing about the smug and self righteous hitting some temporary lifetime reef is rather good and I prefer, despite all my higher, better, (whatever you categorise them as ) feelings to savour the moment. I know fine will it wont last either way but when an inferior snake oil salesman buys a tanker full of somebody else's even worse snake oil you have to laugh.

The Black Keys – El Camino, a late but welcome Christmas present: In heaven there will only be guitars, bass, drums, odd and meaningful vocals and pinches of well placed keyboards. I'm glad I've sorted that out for myself. Maybe one day all music will sound like this, only enhanced by the vocals of Lulu, the production of Rick Rubin and far away in the distance and almost lost in the final mix but discernible just the same the faint growl of a wah wah pedal. I plan to die happy.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Average weather

Back home from a brief sojourn to Madeira only to find that average weather prevails and that soot mostly travels downwards when trapped in a chimney. As I am typing this without the benefit of spectacles or a safety harness it could go in any direction and bouts of bad spelling and terminal malaise will follow. I could try to review 2011 in these odd moments I have captured for my own personal use and reflection but I wont, the past being the strange place it always was and one inevitably distorted by poor memory, creative imaginings and distorted perception. Anyway there still are a few more days to go, garlic pasta to eat, red wine to drink and outside, seasonal adjusted but nonetheless completely average weather to enjoy. I did have a climate graph I wanted to post here that showed the problems we face here in West Lothian but I gave up due to the amount of HTML distortion it created and what's the point in moaning about what you can't change. I'm off to buy an enormous ham joint thing and I've no idea quite what to do with it apart from painting it with honey and stuffing it into a hot oven. After that it'll be a long period of stretched  improvisation in food preparation and home made music - life goes on.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Boxing Day

In a few moments Boxing Day and Christmas and that sort of thing will be over for another year. Here's a Venn Diagram or perhaps a Zen Diagram that doesn't really help explain any of it. In truth it's all a bit of a puzzle really, why has it all turned out this way and is it all too late to do anything about it? Yes and no I suppose.

Friday, December 23, 2011

After all

A wise child once said, "it's so close to Christmas that my feet won't stop jumping." That's almost exactly how I feel right now and even a vanilla milk shake, shaken, ordered and  administered in a long unbreakable glass can't calm me down. My only option seems to be to give myself a good shower, a further shake, spin dry my shorts and share this fine Christmas tree picture I took only 57 hours ago, just around the corner. So Happy Christmas to everyone (except idiots, media types and fundamentalists who don't much care about what I think anyway).

Road to Valhalla

Many readers will no doubt wonder over the photographic technical details that go with the vast array of images presented day in week out across these septic and hallowed pages. So as it's the time of year when it's that time of year again and families everywhere are on the verge of some major feud or other let me appraise you (dear reader) on my cameraesque exploits. Here we go:

Lens - full tilt boogie with optional optical symmetry and die hard glass baubles.
Exposure - 49 degrees of erectile tilt applied, removed and re-applied.
Back light - I use the horse radish manoeuvre with a well clipped pinkie.
Angle of descent - 65w (Imperial) and + or - the difference between 89/3.
Cream - Olympus long tipped applicator with a vanilla log.
Locations - I prefer those best described as wildly euphemistic or of Scandinavian origin. Natural is also a very useful word but means nothing really. If you can spot a stray cat you win an ice cream.

This particular photo was taken at an altitude of 1500m or so above the (visible) sea, ahead lies Valhalla and tributes to a number of key members of European Royal families who quite recklessly wrecked large parts of Europe because they really did not know any better. Thankfully these folks have failed to breed successfully almost everywhere apart from in England where they act as props and spokespersons for hopeless environmentally centred causes and organised religions.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Abandoned Portugal

Interesting but abandoned two storey town house, naked and forlorn except for a flag and strange Christmas picture of baby Jesus cavorting in a peculiar manner. Takes all kinds of religions I guess.

Completely unabandoned urban banana farm, that's what we lack back home, this kind of space saving, food growing, industry creating enterprise set in somebody else's backyard. All we can offer are our rusty Hillman Imp sheds, ex-Irn-Bru foundries and large retail parks persistently selling the same wonky couch over and over again.

In a bustling and vibrant part of town, near to good communication links, shops, parks and the Atlantic Ocean but nobody wants to stay here. Airline pilots, sea-captains and taxi drivers should check it out right away. A bargain at a mere half a million Euros.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Santa Maria

I was looking out of the window today and what should sail past other than an exact replica of the Santa Maria. Apparently they are on a wild journey of exploration, seeking new worlds, dolphins, turtles and that kind of thing. I fully support this venture but sadly will not be joining in, in fact I sat back, drank in the sunshine, ate a very tasty  burger, swallowed a gin and tonic and then had a warm relaxing bath. We noble but lazy Scots no longer have same strong urge that drove our forefathers to step across the distant horizon into the great blue unknown. Having said that I'm likely to get a strong urge tomorrow to rent some sharp vehicle or other and head off into the hills looking for the local version of the witch's house from Hansel and Gretel which we can plunder design ideas from and  so start yet another cultural revolution.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Estrada Monumental

For some reason abandoned and neglected buildings currently appeal to me, particularly those that lie derelict and unloved close to main roads, busy businesses and nice hotels. They remain there in all their drab glory as a poignant reminder that not everything can work out all of the time and that selling tiny and elaborate cakes to tourists can be a cut throat profession.

At the higher end of the food chain exists the common or garden restaurant parrot. These enterprising birds seem to have seen off all the local and lesser skilled dogs, cats and even snails in the neighbourhood. Now they are employed as door guardians handing out vouchers and explaining that they have a brother who has a bigger boat than the other bloke with the (smaller) boat. Pedro and Joanne here have a combined age of 147 and a combined IQ of 198. They also taste like chicken.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Cliff Bay Daily Photo

The actual cliff that has given it's name to this wonderful location, a few hours before the daily sub tropical storm and the flight of the sun beds. Use of hidden sun traps and a full continental breakfast with eggs and champagne is recommended.

Here's today's storm and a friendly rainbow chasing a fishing boat out into the Atlantic. The palm trees object but what can they do but bend over? Meanwhile we retire to the swimming pool, quaff cocktails, surf the web and read books about Groucho Marx.

All the island's garbage is trucked out to sea for deep and dirty dumping or if various conspiracy theories are true possibly exported to North Korea where this kind of thing is made very welcome as material support of a tiny part of a community based project designed to send a peaceful rocket to the folks in China. It also adds a robust and interesting flavour to locally caught tuna and swordfish.

This flight tonight

Travel stereotypes, not often you get most of them in one day or on one flight. First of all it was the bouncy black dude, baseball cap, bling and an ipod with a nicely cracked screen. He sits down right next to me in the aisle seat and immediately I get a really awful whiff of mature body odour. The usual thoughts pass across my mind but I decide to do nothing and just reach for the air tab above my head and try to deflect the aroma. That doesn't work and I decide diplomatically to put up and shut up. Then along comes my heroic rescuer, a gangling chinless wonder with a nine month old tot writhing like a just landed fish. He explains to black BO man that his wife and other kids are opposite and can we swap seats. Black dude agrees and heads away down the plane and young dad and baby are now next to me, the writhing and squirming carries on. We exchange pleasantries and eventually we become airborne.

We hit cruising altitude and the swarthy latin guy in front decides to invade my space, his greasy, oily hair having already been in my field of vision; he reclines his seat all the way, the only person on this two hour flight to think that might be a good idea. Then in a bold move his right arm appears over the head rest and hangs in front of my eye line. What kind of contortionist sleeping method is this? He clearly bites his grubby finger nails. It is at this point that the next door baby decides to follow through in his nappy whilst young dad is trying to share the same seat with his six year old daughter who wants to join the party. I'm reading a book by now, a Groucho Marx biography and I start to drift into his shared claustrophobic New York memories, ten folks in an apartment, I know the feeling, when along comes the in flight meal. Young dad is going to struggle with the bizarre hot nut, chicken and pasta combination on offer (and rice pudding, why do they bother?), it'll only end in tears. It does, then right on final approach the wee one nods off. I'm on double Karma points so far.

The next flight starts quietly (two to do today) though the passenger on our left appears a tad nervous and is twitching and ticking like a, dare I say it, bomb. Soon enough we find out why. This final approach is a real epic experience, lots of turbulence, the wheels touch and then we're up again, the engines are screaming and so are the passengers.  Mr Nervous laughs hysterically in that “I saw this coming and I'm not at all crazy" way, he gets more animated as we gain height and are buffeted by the elements once again. On my right a Mother Teresa lookalike is praying earnestly and there is genuine disquiet in the cabin. The turbulence continues but this time we land properly and applause and relief break out spontaneously. I've not heard that on an aircraft for years. I'm retiring today on triple KPs and the thought of a good stiff drink in a pub across the road from the hotel.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Wrong kind of heat

Two strange things at Bewleys Hotel Manchester:

1. It isn't quite where it says it is on the map or in the micro chipped mind of the satnav world view we follow, we are her new disciples. It has moved, shifted, carried along by the entropy of the universe through traffic cones, roadworks and diversions to some other place. Like some mysterious floating island it appears and disappears, propelled though space and time by the moods of a frosty winter moon. You dive in when you can, when the spirits allow. Those others who disappoint them or fail in their quest wonder the broad lost roads forever or possibly enter a loop of eternal parking madness at the nearby Hilton where the barrier gives you a nasty bite.

2. Even in December Bewleys don't switch the room heating on, they are committed to green things on account of their marketable Irish origins. It is controlled by the hidden switch above a panel in the ceiling near the door, easily found if you are a spy or a cast member of Mission Impossible, they always jump into these places to place bugs and secret cameras. The bus driver explained it all after the receptionist tipped him off about how best to fix it after she'd asked the head waiter. It pays to investigate all active areas.

By way of non-strange things the steak and chips is very nice and the broadband is neat.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Christopher Hitchens RIP

"I have one consistency, which is [being] against the totalitarian - on the left and on the right. The totalitarian, to me, is the enemy - the one that's absolute, the one that wants control over the inside of your head, not just your actions and your taxes. And the origins of that are theocratic, obviously. The beginning of that is the idea that there is a supreme leader, or infallible pope, or a chief rabbi, or whatever, who can ventriloquise the divine and tell us what to do.

That has secular forms, with gurus and dictators, of course, but it's essentially the same. There have been some thinkers - Orwell is pre-eminent - who understood that, unfortunately, there is innate in humans a strong tendency to worship, to become abject. So we're not just fighting the dictators. We're criticising our fellow humans for trying to short-cut, to make their lives simpler, by surrendering and saying, "[If] you offer me bliss, of course I'm going to give up some of my mental freedom for that." We say it's a false bargain: you'll get nothing. You're a fool."

From the New Statesman, interview by Richard Dawkins

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Abandoned Scotland

What's not to like about a Facebook set of pages devoted to Scotland's abandoned buildings and industrial sites. The decay, devastation and the collapse of strong structures and buildings is strangely enticing and attractive. Perhaps it's the unforgiving climate, the relentless rain and the biting cold driving upwards from the earth itself coupled with historic failure and catastrophic economic shifts that render once profitable businesses suddenly sterile. Perhaps it's just that certain something I'd call "Funky Gloomy" that unspoken Scottish feeling that we seem to do so well.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

My mind's a blank

Today the weather on the west coast truly lived up to it's unenviable reputation. Awful. Rain like really heavy rain and a wind straight from the Roaring Forties revival. I was also ignominiously dumped over the edge of a highland single track road by a rather dignified looking lady in a formidable black Disco. She just stared straight ahead into the torrent, perhaps I was invisible. Nice when you can keep your 4x4 on the metal and dispatch lesser 2 wheel drives over cliff edges, a good and selfish piece of driving technique not to be found in the Highway Code I'll wager. Once I reached a proper road surface it was apparent that trees were collapsing and witches were flying across the Kansas sky as I was temporarily blinded by flying spray and debris. None of that could stop me, I remained determined to get home for my roll-mop herring and toast - and I did.

Neil Forsyth
Game Fucking Over “ A flask of Nescafe with Debbie Harry at Dalgety Bay Recycling Centre (in the TV and audio container)”

Above: I won the (non) prize for best creative Tweet later in the evening (fueled by the herring of course). I doubt that it'll translate into a proper follower bonanza though.

Monday, December 12, 2011


Success is not burning the oven chips, getting through on amber light without being caught, sending a text with no bars, tuning a ukulele by ear, shaving in the shower with no cuts, £10 win on a lottery ticket, a day spent doing what you like, making a good cottage pie, a lie in without a headache, warm sea water on your toes when nobody else is in the water, Amazon gifts arriving before the deadline, starting a petrol lawn mower first time, timing a digital camera shot, catching a cat destined for the cattery, Sky Plus working, having a steady metabolism, a garbled phone call from grand kids, a download sale on iTunes, remembering the correct PIN, being happy most of the time.

It's all out there somewhere.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Forth Bridge v Ry Cooder

Doing my usual daily trundle across the road bridge it was nice to see the rail bridge now clear of scaffolding and canvas and looking more like it does on this note; 10 years in the making and apparently 20 years before it'll need done again. A bit of a bummer for the faithful painters though, paid off just before Christmas and no new work till 2031.

I did a shed load of ironing later in the afternoon accompanied by a recorded OGWT Californian edition from long ago, The Byrds, Little Feat, Poco and some remarkable mandolin playing from Ry Cooder. I've never seen anybody attack a mandolin the way he does, what a blistering performance and remarkable pinkie use (?) on the lower strings. A rare old master class. Note to self; forget about taking up the mandolin, it's been done already far better than I ever could in my wildest coma.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Sainsburys Cludgie Crisis

(Stock photo nicked from somewhere - I didn't actually visit any of these troubled cubicles)

It's every young and pimply store manager's nightmare, the busiest shopping day in world history, crowds of frantic shoppers bamboozled by their Christmas purchasing choices and what happens? All the loos fail, upstairs, downstairs, in the cafe and in my lady's chamber. Puzzled tweed wearing pensioners, tweens and yummy mummys stare in disbelief at the neatly typed notices - all those pots of tea, cold Cokes and warm lattes have to end up somewhere but for today it wont be into the Sainsbury's drainage system at Edinburgh's Craigleith retail outlet. A stores spokesman said later "it was the wrong kind of shit." I think I know what he means.

Thankfully my visit to this newly developed flagship store was short, sweet and without any need for a toilet break. The shopping experience being from a bizarrely deconstructed half remembered list; toys from my pals at the "Merchants of Death" (whom I'm bound to support, we must fill that black hole because that dunderhead Osborne wont), 2 x Vanilla Yops, a three foot long French stick, a packet of baby-grows, Trebor strong mints and a gift voucher for some rival high street emporium.

Today it snowed, that seemed to bring out some of the more extreme lunatic driving styles in the capital; an angry young man in a Focus who was wheel spinning for no obvious reason (I fully expect that he ended up on his roof somewhere later in the day), a puzzled SEAT driver with no spacial awareness and a SAAB estate that was lane changing in a rather erratic manner, oh and the Mini with an exhaust that seemed to be held on by elastic bands. All that was in the space of five minutes heading north on the A90. Nothing unusual there then.

Friday, December 09, 2011

Stormy Thursday Blues

Today I got my watch cleaned, pressurised and fitted with a new battery, all for £9.95. The genial salesman/watch fitter assured me that it is certificated to work at 100m pressure, presumably at that depth of water. I take great comfort from this fact, the next time I'm 100m deep in water I'll know that my watch is showing the correct time. Science is indeed a wonderful thing. (That's a red pepper in the background for some reason.)

Yesterday it got a bit stormy and a general panic ensued. Supermarkets quickly sold out of Milanda, fire lighters, Red Bull and Elastoplast. The siege mentality took hold as members of the public fought over Pot Noodles and Scratchcards and numerous car parking bumps took place as people forgot the basic skills of looking out of your window and switching on the rear screen heater. Then a strange silence descended as everybody, faithful to the orders of Nicola Sturgeon and fearful of some awful unspoken consequences stayed at home and watched Come Dine With Me and reruns of Scrubs. Meanwhile I explored the deserted black heart of Central Scotland and did a little Christmas shopping. When daylight eventually broke and the dragon stopped eating the sun I could clearly see that our stalwart fence had fallen over once again. Humph!

Tasteful Sepia shot of battered bird feeders (can somebody please help the battered birds!) and there in the background the remnants of the Great Caledonian Pine Forrest now decimated by the devilish works of Hurricane Bawbag. The Wrath of God has descended upon you says the Daily Mail but you just don't know it yet.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Lurgy strikes

Irrelevant but thought provoking picture and another book I started but failed to finish. It laughs at me and mocks me from the depths of a crowded Billy shelf. I ignore it's smug taunts and watch the telly or fiddle about on Twitter. This is my fate, tormented by those untouched books, periodicals, foreign language tutorials, plays and poetry works for the rest of my life. At least I can cook and strum a guitar.

Our higher thoughts have been laid low, soup is our staple diet, the heating is on high and the dress code is jammies and dressing gowns. The seasonal sniffle syndrome has struck and my crown (that's a false tooth thing) is rattling like a loose marble in a bucket. It will surely pass and I am prone to occasional exaggeration.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

A collapse of nature and other things

"Another of Fife's post industrial installation pieces returns back to nature with dignity." Say's Daily Mail reader Mr Preston Pans from Prestonpans.

Ive nothing against Martin Boyce and its nice for a lowly Scot to win the Turnip Prize but its hard to look at his material and not have an overwhelming sense of Emperors New Clothes Syndrome running riot once again. His MDF and plywood inspired installations look like bedside IKEA ideas gone wrong due to reading the assembly instructions in a darkened room, and then dumped into a skip. OK Im a Philistine and a dullard but if a 2.2 degree from Glasgow School of Art gets you the Turnip award and the applause and respect of your peers fair enough. He must be the best of the bunch.

In the cold light of an old light Im so bitter and twisted that installations based on piano carcasses seen as dead buffalos do nothing for me, I blame my education: A worthy B+ in progressive rock, a credible B in pretentious High School Art watercolour, a C+ in Bazooka Joe Comics, a D in joint rolling and 10 consecutive Navy Days visits, clearly it was never going to work out happily for me. Meanwhile peppered across recent history and Western Europe frustrated geniuses and other oily fingered artists must be either spinning in their graves or eating their worn out shoes in grey garrets somewhere above the Paris/Partick skylines. It's all so predictable, now if he'd burned the £25k prize in a sports bag on some remote beach, that would be art...

Monday, December 05, 2011


This is the new protocol, fabric creatures, fresh from irritating insurance commercials arrive in our house and rule, or at least try. Potentially as clever as crows yet poorly sighted and seemingly unable to tie a tie knot not at all. They quite like the aroma of haggis pizza, Bonjela and Seven Up & Beechams. Outside it's turned bloody cold for the time of year and our windscreens are a whiter shade of ice blue. I just want to hibernate but not in a way that might cause me to ingest my own urine as happens to the Russian Black Bear. Sergei explained it all to me in one of his more lucid and less stuffed moments. His journey here was quite eventful I understand.

Meanwhile just knocking up a quick Christmas story for the kids; the Adventures of the Lonely Little Christmas Tree of Abercorn.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Seasonal shift

The first snows, the first ice, the first scrambled egg and salmon, the first Christmas decorations. This year's (early) theme being, well obviously early but low key and understated, perhaps sophisticated in a more grown up and economical manner than our previous attempts. We still celebrate but we reflect the more sombre times and the various difficulties that seize the globe. We're also still a bit puzzled about what it is we are actuality celebrating so the Christmas tree may be replaced by a totem pole, if we can get a decent and believable one from Dobbies.

This West Lothian, taken this afternoon from the moon, just as she stepped up and peered gingerly Southwards over the horizon wondering what exactly we might have for tea. Poor, confused, conflicted Mrs Moon.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Marmalade Porridge

A slow news day today so I'm reverting to food related posts based on the premise that marmalade when added to anything, be it sweet or savoury, enhances the flavour of the original item. You get the idea, here's marmalade porridge.

Friday, December 02, 2011

Good banking experience

Detail from the newly refurbished Scottish National Portrait and Potted Meat Gallery in our fair but occasionally drizzly tram bashed capital city. Photo courtesy Mr A Leggatt.

Lloyds TSB, prepare for once not to be bashed. I was in a branch today in the Garden City and was pleasantly surprised by the swift and very helpful support I received from the bank staff. My query was resolved in a few moments, the end result was far better than I might have expected and nobody tried to sell me any unwanted banking products. I walked out of the premises with a spring in my step and a twinkle in my eye; no that final part didn't happen but but one day it might. Perhaps today it's been an as good as it gets type of day, little things falling into place rather than out of place or not happening at all. Perhaps I'm imagining this as I slowly slide into bewilderment. Doesn't matter really.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

We'd be happier in space

Some folks think that space travel, eugenics and meteorology if pursued to extremes and if applied and installed in the lives of all people will lead to a happy and stable society. They say that true completeness will be the end result. It will of course not be fettered down by Earth's gravity, it'll be elsewhere, set up in grand style on the edges of the cosmos in shiny steel and tinfoil and food will be dispensed from toothpaste tubes. I doubt it.

Meanwhile, a view from the Guardian newspaper on yesterday's day of action:

"Pro-privatisation zealots will claim that allowing private corporations to provide services hitherto offered by the state will enhance "choice" and lead to a better deal for the consumer. But having seen what happened to our railways and to our gas, electricity and water companies when they were privatised - do we really want to see our health service, customs and immigration agencies and our state-schools go the same way? Of course not. Which is why private sector workers ought to be putting to one side their envy over public sector pensions, and supporting Wednesday's industrial action. It's not so much that the Government's changes are inherently bad, it's the motivation which lies behind them that makes them so objectionable." Well said young man.