Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Inner Voices

An inner voice whispers: “There is no internet. No phone signals. No shops or pubs or amenities for 14 miles. We’re at the road’s own craggy end. Whatever you do don’t get into an emergency situation of any kind.”

The roads are narrow, clogged with errant sheep, confused pheasants and the occasional brooding stag. The sun, moon, the glacial, battered landscape and the clear, warm unseasonal breeze are magnificent. We are in “the Glen”.  A short period of minor adjustment to the new reality will be required.

“My Jaguar is in the workshop” said our landlord as he apologized for leaving us alone, whilst driving away in an inferior but clearly more reliable car. Jaguars eh? Dusk was descending so I made friends with the birds. There are a lot of them here, always quite angry with each other as they bicker at the various overflowing feeders. We’re not the only stupid things on the planet it seems. Red squirrels eventually pick up the confidence to raid the feeders too, they’re a bit more violent, they wrestle with the tops and poke at the nuts and seeds or bend the wire frames with tough buck teeth that I presume are worth risking to attack the metal larder.

We wake up early. The garden is full of sheep, well four sheep, two ewes and their faithful, fatty lambs. We’re concerned but there are sheep in all the fields so this is probably normal, so long as they don’t eat the plants or the chicken food and so on. The next day there are twenty seven sheep in the garden.

At night the skies are dark with no light pollution, there is no one nearby, no vehicles or streetlights. We can see into space. There’s the moon and Jupiter and some other blingy things. Wispy clouds allow the celestial fairy lights to peep through at us. We’re alone. Like Joni and Graham we light the log fire. This is our house now.

Out in the glen we hear the sounds of dogs and quad bikes. The shepherds are at work, driving the flocks down from the hills. Then a darker shadow grows across the glen. It’s 8AM, there’s a large blue HGV parked down on the single track road, it’s engine running. We hear the sheep bleating as they are led towards the wagon. They are quickly scuttled inside and so off to wherever. They won’t see the glen again, that’s for sure. Today there are no sheep in the garden. As I grow older, I’m mostly ambivalent than ever about Indian food.

At times we will crack and seek out civilisation, there, shining at the end of a forested tunnel way down the potholed and beaten track. Blinded by the sun going out, blinded by the sun coming back. A pheasant ricocheted across the windscreen, thankfully unharmed and we live on to eat a canteen breakfast in a garden centre. It’s surprisingly good complete with an almost perfect fried egg. Like the rest of the clientele we are of a certain age and attitude, killing time before we take in the final backwards view from the bottom of a shallow grave or inside a plastic urn. (I don’t really think about these things often, just at garden centres). We will be the last of the boomers one fine day, they’ll all miss our purchasing power and wit and wisdom then.

The weather is always just outside, we try to ignore it as we walk into the hills. It comes and goes. Today we are in the footsteps of Queen Victoria. Not my favourite queen, royalty being something of a peculiar human invention albeit leadership of some type is always needed. It’s the lack of “qualifications” and the family connections I object to, that and the abuse of privilege and rank.  The walk is unplanned, we leave the house and turn right and trek onwards, already we’ve broken all the rules by being unprepared and vague in our intentions. We do however have an extra, older walking companion who has planned all this but simply forgotten to tell us about the details. 

We move up the glen through a variety of conditions and surfaces. There are trees, stones, and the sounds of rushing waters as time ticks down slowly in God’s own country. It’s a “there and back again” kind of trek so we’re back before the dinner burns up, down from the hills and eating shepherd’s pie in the cottage.

At night, when the books are exhausted and the keyboards are quiet, we take refuge in a grainy TV signal’s output, looking much as it might have done in the 1960’s but with washed out colours. For some reason the volume is also governed down so a high level of concentration and focus is required just to get through regular, pastoral TV otherwise it’s just another blurred experience. Any bodily creak from a stray bone or couch can render the program narrative quickly incomprehensible. I find a few glasses of red wine apply the necessary numbing quality needed to adjust to this pace of broadcasting and so enjoy the variable and distorted content. Misheard dialogue and blurred vision is always entertaining.

Alone.

Life here is not without it’s drudgery. The regular filling of the bird feeders being an essential task. Sometimes also removing struggling birds trapped in the feeders is required. They just get lost in some feeding frenzy at times. Sunflower seeds are their favourite, even though it takes time and technique to split them open and consume them, the birds don’t mind. Peanuts are more run of the mill, pecked at and eventually destroyed with the hammer action of the bill, pulverised and gone. I scatter random nuts and seeds on the ground, the squirrels, chickens and Guinea fowls don’t seem to mind. Everyone gets fed.

It’s been a mostly sunny and blue skyed break; the strong September sun is unexpectedly bright and strangely warming. The house faces south so we bask in it all as the friendly clouds allow. I’m reading a book about young arty types on Hydra in Greece, a historical work of fiction. At times the alien heat almost works and some slight transportation takes place if you just close an eye for a moment and forget about Brexit and fashion anxiety. The glen, but on a Greek island; perhaps not quite yet and no Leonard Cohen striding around, making conquests, stringing along fickle muses, buying houses and then carelessly warbling off into the sunset. No. We are firmly in Scotland and the dead grey churches are out there as a stiff reminder; empty, standing like some strange presbyterian theological litter, comatosed now but once intent on chewing up all the green grass at the edges of the fields.

Eventually I finished the book, a bit later on in the week. It was both profound and flimsy. A lazy holiday read so as you might expect mildly irritating, those Bohemian types are hard work, but that’s just my take on it. Over time I’ll reflect, I’m less than good in the moment, I need space for my thoughts to either ferment or mature. I’m not sure what they do naturally and they can’t be left alone for too long, they only turn on themselves and become feral.

By Friday I’m back to having a second attack on actually reading the final book in the Knausgaard saga, part 6 of My Struggle. I’m struggling with this one. It’s heavier and more reflective and I feel it strangling every thought in my mind at times. I’m blinded by the tirade of words, like some verbalized Mozart or shredded guitar figure. I’d planned to finish it sometime during lockdown last year but didn’t even bother. I decided to allow myself to coast over those unreal months.  Now we’re on the sunny uplands of further self-inflicted austerity I might as well try, there may be some comfort in his bleak but busy with the minutest detail, elongated prose and self-exploration.

I'm still reading...

We made it home safely, fuel shortages and a stupidity surplus all failing to slow us down. Thanks to the weather gods and my lovely wife for making it a very enjoyable and peaceful week. Our first break away since everything went crazy last year. The glen leaves it's mark once again.

Monday, September 27, 2021

Until Today

“Her mind is Tiffany twisted. She’s got the Mercedes bends.” 

Posting this in as large a font as is reasonably possible because until I saw this in black and white on FB the other day I did not know this was the correct lyric and it does somewhat elevate the overall lyrical quality of the song in my opinion (whatever you may think of it and the rest of the tune).

Sunday, September 26, 2021

Mint and Clissie


Clint and Missie caught by the cattery CCTV (That would be CCCTV). The all seeing eye that never sleeps. Shame about the dead sheep that they are sharing the room with but it'll be worth a discount I imagine.

Saturday, September 25, 2021

Figure on the hill

 


As I'm just making this up as I go along it would be a shame not share my concern with regard to what might be going on in the background of this mysterious and indistinct image. So who is the strange, dark figure on the hill* in the distance? A black cat, a hermit, a wise old owl, a spirit guide? To guess, to speculate, to imagine more I dare not dare (as breathing is my life).

Perhaps it's just me, haunting myself.

*When I say hill I may be really meaning a tree top.

Friday, September 24, 2021

Whitedicks

The were called the "Whitedicks", Jane and Bobby Whitedick. Their's was an old European name, they'd traced it back to France where it seemed they were descended from the Blanc-Ricard family. A noble house that had done quite well for itself up until Napoleonic times. Somewhere along the line, they suspected when a great, great grandfather had landed in New York, the name changed to Whitedick. No one knew why it had been changed or clumsily translated. The English derivative would be Whytdyke, or so they understood, it was the old Saxon version. Family history was patchy, records had been lost and there was a bit of here-say in the detail. 

When a TV producer friend was chatting to them a few years ago he seemed keen for them to star in their own reality show, "At home with the Whitedicks!" That was the proposed title. It never happened. They were all quite drunk at the time and in the end settled for obscurity.

A coin of the realm.

"In no currently surviving art works, Charles Blanc-Ricard is portrayed as a shadowy figure, lost in the passing of history. He may have been an agent operating between kings, queens and red-cardinals. Passing messages, arranging meetings, sealing contracts and trade agreements with Australia and Darien. Today he would have been a spin-doctor and/or a special advisor. Born into the then upper-class Blanc-Ricard family, minor noblemen with lands west of the Loire Valley and up into the Vendee,  he was a sharp tongued and ruthless operator up to his neck in cheese. No biscuits. His wheeling and dealing eventually led him to the court of the King, Louis XII in about 1490. His career progressed via both complaints about his behaviour and compliments about his shrewdness. He made enemies easily but he also created alliances and dependencies. Common wisdom says that's how it works."

"Charles, via influence and factional bribery eventually caught the eye of the King and bit by bit became a leading advisor. He assisted with the King's "Pragmatic Sanction" ( The Pragmatic Sanction excluded the papacy from the process of appointing bishops and abbots in France. Instead, these positions would be filled by appointment made by the cathedrals and the monastic Hell's Angels chapters themselves). He also produced a devotional "Book of Hours" which the King grew to rely upon for his spiritual welfare and as an aid to his meditation and prayer."

"After a short but violent courtship, Charles married the Countess of Forte, they had two sons and two daughters, all of whom survived their parents. The Countess died of embarrassment in 1501."

"When the King Louis died in 1514, Charles found himself out of favour with the new King, Francis I. Charles returned to his estate and effectively retired from life at the court. As a gambler and confident card player he frittered away his remaining years. He passed on in 1527 following a strange incident where, after a night of normal medieval feasting, he hit his head on a low stone lintel and fell backwards onto the head of a pig that was being carried from the feast by a servant. The pig's head was on a spike and as Charles fell he landed upon the spike and was cleanly skewered from the buttocks through to his groin. The swift cut removed his genitals with almost surgical precision and he bled to death."

"Legend has it that the hounds of the household were quickly on the scene due to the smell of blood and instinctively picked up the genitals and ate them in front of the dying Charles while the servants stood back aghast. The offending  and indeed fatal pig's head was used to make a large pot of broth that formed part of the funeral buffet and was enjoyed by the many mourners who traveled from far and wide to attend."

"There are no records of any further peculiar events involving the Blanc-Ricard family until at least 1550. Something else almost as bad as Charles' fate  happened about then but it is unrecorded apparently."

Thursday, September 23, 2021

Nov 74


Thanks to Iain Mackinnon who posted this old photo on Twitter the other day. Strangely I immediately recognised it as an actual Pink Floyd gig I'd attended a few years(?) ago in Edinburgh's Usher Hall, November 1974 as it turns out. They played all of Dark Side of the Moon, One of These Days and Echoes as I recall.

Little did I know that in the next year or so I'd have lost my job, get barred from pubs, move to Glasgow, move to Jersey, live in a barn, get a brand new Telecaster, see my band start up and break up, watch my father die, become a rubbish "Christian", join two cults, get a dog, stop smoking fags and weed, meet my first wife, meet my current wife ... phew!

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

If you're feeling ecstatic

 

... please just calm the fuck down, it'll only end in tears. We all know this. True happiness is found in the mid-range of a golden glow, not the cold blue of the thin stratospheric heights.

Monday, September 20, 2021

Secondhand Ideas

"It's probably best for all that you should consider everything you write to be, in that moment, the most important thing you've ever written."

Here in our reality based community nothing is new. Every TV show is a rerun, every meal is leftovers, clothing and fashion is on a design loop, every plot and policy is a carbon copy, every tune has a familiar melody, all our friends look like us now, warranties and patents have run out. Cats and dogs have grey faces. That was just before the machine stopped ...


From an old diary page with worn corners: "Some people feel sorry for those who lived in the past, as if they missed out on something; the higher standards, the education, the developments and the security we  now enjoy. But there are days when I'm not sure what I really enjoy because maybe it's only what I've been trained and conditioned to enjoy and so maybe deep down I'm not really enjoying it. It's just a learned bit of behaviour without heart. Trouble is I know I wont enjoy it at all when the machine stops ..."

"I saw a farmhouse burning down, right there, in the middle of nowhere, in the middle of the night. We rolled right past that tragedy until we came up on the roadhouse lights".  

We were travelling and that quirky old-school music was playing, all sounds and visually stimulating words. I could have been asleep. The dials flickered as the beat and volume changed. I hadn't been out for a while or tuned in much. I didn't really understand that nobody travels very far these days, "there's no need" say the government. It's too risky, you no longer should take such a chance, now that the machine has stopped.

In those occasional conversations you share over a meal, someone is slowly chewing their food. While I speak I cannot help but read their jaw and head movements as a nodding confirmation of whatever point I'm trying to make. As the evening progresses I slowly realize that we really agree about very little regarding anything that actually matters to me. (It was always my choice not to use brackets in this final paragraph).

Saturday, September 18, 2021

Friday, September 17, 2021

Non-relic SG


I've never really been a fan of Gibson SGs but this one, a 1971 (SG Deluxe) model, has lived a life and in all it's battered, road worn finery still looks the business. When I think of the faked up relic style guitars out there, there really is no comparison with the surviving original models. Trouble is it's priced at (all things considered it's reasonable I suppose) £2249. Not the right guitar for me but if you're interested you can get more details here. This old campaigner has been up for sale in a shop a few miles from here for a while, so who knows? It comes with a suitably beat up hard case and just needs a good home.

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Deja Vu all over again

Some of these people were here and there and involved, others are missing.

Far away in time: Late in the day I know but I was just thinking about CSNY's Deja Vu being 50 years old, turns out that it's actually 51 or so. I missed out on the party as usual. I was humming a bit of "Country Girl" thoughtlessly whilst stirring my morning coffee the other day. It came flooding back like a slow mudslide, that's how it goes, the lyrics came later like some missed phone call. Tempus fugit I guess. 

I saw that there was some special rip off box set to exploit the anniversary, aimed at the "collectors". Outtakes and curios, happy photographs and things only for true fans. A position I could never hold on to due to my life long chronic ambivalence.

I imagine some people of my generation, until CSNY named that album, had no idea what deja vu meant even though they'd felt it a few times. That was me.  Suddenly it existed as some common experience, now there was now even a song that kind of tried to describe such an abstract concept. 

I still like the music, the feel and the album's images, they cut it well. It's simple really, I'm old enough now to have been there and here before, but I was pretty young and dumb at the time.

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Flats & Hookland

 

Sometimes you hear the people above moving about, appliances making sounds and vibrations. Outside vehicles pull up in the middle on the night and workmen being excavation work. A dog barks. There's the smell of cookery in the air. Footsteps. Traffic noise creeps in through open windows. Streetlights. The sounds and effects of weather. The hot water boiler. TV reception. The postman's footsteps and the people who clean the stairway and common areas. Flat living. It's mostly OK.

One thing I've quickly realized is that, based on the use of communal rubbish and recycling bins around here, most people have no clue. Our area is reasonably civilized, in my opinion, but I can't help but notice that people just don't understand or care about recycling. They won't flatten out cardboard boxes, they don't wash out cans or containers, they think that you can recycle polystyrene, food waste appears in the recycling and so on. They are either ignorant, confused or careless to the point of not bothering at all. Unless everyone takes some responsibility and follows guidance (?) we're screwed.

Not quite sure what to make of Hookland yet ...

Curtains hiding Faery, dragging their hems in the dust of lanes. Gates to the Underneath and St. Martin’s Land edged in wildflowers on the sides of hills. To walk Hookland is to navigate the invisible and enfolding. To climb a stile is to risk disappearance.

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Universal Amphetamines

 

The world of horticulture is rife with long and crazy names for everything. I never can remember the names of plants or flowers, pretty sure that these aren't Amphetamines either. Peat Worriers, Dingleberries or Beckhampstead's Glory, interesting but for me they form a barrier to deeper understanding. The other barrier being laziness. 

Weeds are tricky to identify too, seems a shame to pull them up when the bees and other buzzing, flying things are clearly enjoying the flowers or buds and they just look ... greenish with tinges of yellows. It's like taking away a kid's popcorn halfway through a gaming session. I need a plan.

Monday, September 13, 2021

The Devil Drives a Peugeot

 


Not the actual car or the actual Devil.

From our motoring correspondent: The Devil was sighted a few evenings ago, during the evening rush, heading out of Edinburgh, along Queensferry Road, travelling north towards the A90/M90. He was in a small black, sporty *Peugeot with no visible number plates. As you might expect he was moving quite quickly for the conditions, tail-gating, jumping lanes, being noisy and most likely on his phone, the pesky scamp. Has he not done enough damage to the world without inflicting himself on the already groaning and fractured Edinburgh transport system? Does the Council or DVLA know about this and are there any special measures being taken to apprehend him? 

*Apparently when the Devil was being allocated fleet vehicles by God he chose Peugeot over a range of BMWs, Audis and Mercedes cars. He knew full well that nothing empties a mechanic's workshop quicker than the sight of a sickly Peugeot coming in, steaming ominously due to a broken cooling system glistening with broken hoses writhing as if part of the snake pit in the Raiders of the Lost Ark. BMW was his second choice but that was by quite a wide margin.

Sunday, September 12, 2021

Still Life with Oranges


Thinking of reincarnation, many people say that they'd like to come back as a cat. I can agree with that. The problem is you tend to think that if you do come back as a cat you'll have lifetime of human experience still hard wired into your soul that you can call upon to make the best of your feline status. I'm not sure that reincarnation works that way. 

Based on my extensive observations there's nothing to suggest that cats have the fainest idea that they might be ex-humans or that they might be able to benefit from skills and experiences gained in a previous human life. They're way too jumpy and affected by noise, sudden movements and surprises as well as being deliberate space invaders showing a complete lack of self awareness. They just don't get it. 

It seems to me that a big, secret part of the reincarnation process is wiping clean any previous memories, instincts and habits so that you, once occupying your new host body, don't give the game away. To do so would break some massive universal rule and screw up the whole process. That might result in the destruction of the fabric of time and space etc. Of course it may be that the direction of good karma and reincarnation is only one way; say cat to dog to horse etc. (like the food chain the "Old woman who swallowed a fly"), and we are at the top with our next jump simply being into oblivion.

On the other hand, cats being fussy buggers when it comes to food may also be something you might attribute to ex-human reincarnation allowing some measure of ongoing consciousness and memory. But I don't.

Saturday, September 11, 2021

Memphis Tuning


Internal YouTube pressure forced me to try the Memphis tuning. I ordered the strings from the uncool Amazon basin mainly due to the pandemic and personal convenience. They actually took a week to arrive, direct from Memphis I like to imagine. In case you don't know the MT is just using thinner gauge, unwound strings (as from a twelve string) in the four lower string positions. 

The tuning is the usual E, A, D, G but up an octave. The idea is that, when played along with a regular tuned guitar the higher sounding MT guitar adds a pleasing top end to the overall sound. 

It's been extensively used over the years by various artists but not me. Played on it's own the tuning sounds ... interesting, might be tricky finding a good piece or song to use it on.

Friday, September 10, 2021

Sub Pop


Low: An American band that don't really reflect our music style, looks, genre* or core beliefs (I suspect), however I am recording my newly gained interest in them here for future reference. They are relatively young people, relative to us that is. Why do I even feel the need to  make slim and vague comparisons? That's just the kind of thing I do. Naturally they have a better and very minimal web site with merchandise. 

*Their genre may be termed "sub pop" or "slowcore", thanks for asking.


Of course Low could just be a version us in a parallel universe but that's unlikely based on my knowledge of how parallel universes work in practice. Another thought is that we may be a version of them in this universe but without the dungarees and the Mormon faith (things we've more recently tended to avoid).  What is it with Americans and dungarees? I suppose all that goes without saying and any semi-formed up duo indulging in music* could think of themselves this way in some wider form of existence: The Ting Tings, the White Stripes, Simon and Garfunkel, the Chuckle Brothers etc. To sum up I'm unsure as to how much actual control you can exercise over any alter-ego or suspected copy or virtual clone in or around the spheres of parallel existence. A slow moving research program is underway, almost.

*Other things/activities also apply.

Thursday, September 09, 2021

Empty Shelves?


There are some empty grocery shelves out there, mostly missing once common or basic things. Perhaps there is a silent panic on. Thankfully I stumbled upon a shelf full of this stuff. If there is a conspiracy theory over us being starved out via a lack of tinned fish, fresh raspberries and paper towels then perhaps an unexpected discovery like this redresses some of the balance. Sorry about the sardines.

It doesn't mean that Brexit shortages aren't real and that the corrupt UK regime isn't shit and incompetent or that there is a personal god looking after the likes of me. No. It just means that some days a little ray of sunshine gets through the media's hypocritical and sustained gloomfest and lights up my day. In the meantime in the underground we continue to quietly resist (?) and maintain our flexible strategies.