Friday, December 29, 2006


impossible songs

impossible songs

Christmas Blur

This week has been a complete blur of the usual confused and meaningless but well meaning Christmas celebrations. We’ve had a crowded house with small, excited children running everywhere whilst their adult minders occupy couches, drink and play video games and watch DVDs. No snow, no frost, no real seasonal weather hints or reminders whatsoever, just tasteful plastic holly on the door and a fridge full of food that must be eaten by the 29th. The poor cat, confused by the activity and normally warm and comatosed 20 hours a day, has taken flight and stayed outside for long periods, narrowly avoiding the attention of the holiday hunter’s shooting parties in the nearby woods.

This morning I was up at 6ish preparing a chicken and sweet potato curry amid baby bottles, burnt toast and kettle steam, then away to work. It’s been a similar pattern all week, a mad mix of holiday, work and feeding the family non-stop.

Bob Dylan on the radio

His Bobness on Radio 2: The recent themed radio shows by BD have been a great mix of music and Bob Dylan’s rolling, irritating and engaging chat, a relief from the usual mid-evening fodder. Listening to him and his wide choices of music made me ask myself, what music do I really like and want to listen to these days? Whether it’s the chart videos running endlessly on free view TV, Beatles re-mixes, Frank Sinatra’s Christmas tunes, some unknown singer live in the Cannons’ Gait, random button presses on the car radio, I don’t know. The stuff comes in from all directions and I feel incapable of filtering it all in any way. So what would I choose to listen to if I was sitting down, alone, simply listening for pleasure? A Bob Dylan themed selection? It might just work.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Obvious Trees

impossible songs

impossible songs

Trees in the woods,
Wood in the tree,
Stones on the ground,
Stone all around.
Twigs and scrapes and mud misshapes,
Walking and looking,
Bending and picking,
And turning your back,
For a quiet moment.

Friday: Got up early and decided to eat something – boiled eggs and toast. I was tempted to eat some leftover Christmas Pud and cream but decided against it. Ali and Paul left an hour ago to drive to Manchester to attend an imminent birth no less, so I have an hour or so to kill before leaving for work. Hopefully a healthy new niece or nephew will appear today for the first time in some bright and clean Mancunian Hospital. I just noticed that the eggs had a sell by date of 5th December on them. Funnily they tasted great and I feel strangely invigorated by this eating experience, what else is lurking in the fridge?

Work sucks more than usual at the moment, I’ve been handed some crappy tasks with deadlines like 5th January and to add insult to injury every time I email somebody for help I get an “out of office – back on the 8th” message. Lucky for some. This kind of thing didn’t used to happen or am I even more deluded than I think? Whatever, by 5.00pm tonight I’ll be well and truly switched off to the world of work, for four days anyway.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Building a better tattie scone

impossible songs

impossible songs

Baked Alaska V the Tower of Tattie Scones.

In a straight fight which one would win? The internally cool, glaciated, raspberry beret desert sauce and mysteriously crustational BA, (as served up by Henry from Detroit at the Hawes Inn, South Queensferry – who’d just bought an 1815 copy of Dumas’s the Count of Monte Christo). OR, The Central Scotland traditional, tattie scone sandwich and architectural folly of thick cheese sauce/blackest of black fest puddings/three scones triangulated by a Stanley Knife and piled high as a tyre stack, (as served up by a pleasant waitress wearing a little too much eye liner at the Bay Inn). In a height contest the BA wins by about 1cm. The width of them both looked about the same. Of course one is a starter, the other a desert. In a competition it doesn’t really matter anyway.

Wednesday: Various things turned up via the post, lunch at the Hawes (hence the Baked Alaska), a puzzling episode of the Simpson’s, a lost cardigan, a gift from a secret Santa, lighting the coal fire for the first time in months. I also discovered that I’m the only person on the planet who hadn’t realised that Torchwood is an anagram of Doctor Who, a reality check there. The spectre of Christmas getting closer but not seeming perhaps quite as daunting as it did last week – arrangements are coming together and I’m coming to terms with the inevitable. If there was no Christmas we’d just invent something else, possibly even more expensive, artificial and tacky to fill the solstice gap. We’re stuck with it, make the best of it.

Thankfully amid the current chaos I’m not travelling anywhere, but some loved ones are. Fog and cold paralyse the nation easily it seems, or is it all just jacked up a little more these days?

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

The Christmas Angels are bored

impossible songs

impossible songs

Short diary of unrelated events

Saturday: Bought large Christmas tree and erected it in the lounge. Ali festooned the crippled fir tree with numerous flashing lights and bright shiny things. Meanwhile I poked a cable through the toilet window and nailed a series of Star Trekky light strips outside. From the outside the house now looks like a pizza shop on the Costa del Sol, but that’s ok. In the evening we snuck into the Priory to hear Norman L perform some fine new songs, a Robert Fripp guitar solo piece (really for a quartet!) and a Geordie folk song. We then were invited up and did an impromptu and polite version of our song “Rainbow” and also cleaned up some red wine that was spilled upon the floor by Santa Claus. Then it was a late night run up to Freuchie to view the new gas fire in all its glory.

Sunday: Awoken by an early morning phone call from work (I reacted to it at about 4pm). Visited Abercorn Church and the surrounding woods to forage for materials for Ali’s latest art project. A quiet evening in with the kids watching Mr H Potter.

Monday: Up sharp to take the kids to school, all on a light pop tart and tea breakfast. In the evening some frantic Christmas shopping at Craig Leith then down to Easter Road for an OOTB meeting at Scott Renton’s place. After a decent chat with the rest of the committee it was back home to help out with Ali’s artwork – which had moved on a pace. Will it be ready for Christmas?

Tuesday: Christmas lunch in Dalgety Bay with some colleagues from my office. A party seated next to us were from the “Angina Club”, that got me a bit worried. Then I thought, well it’s better than being next to the “Irritable Bowel Club” or the “Sexually Transmitted Diseases Club”. The tattie scone and black pudding tower, over which I had fantasised for a few days, was only just ok. I had visions of a real tower of tattie scones (ideally topped with a fried egg), a bit like an American pancake stack. What I got was not quite that, it was three tattie scones sandwiching black puddings with cheese. I guess it’s just the half hearted way we do things here in Scotland that bothers me. I recall visiting a series of pubs in the midlands in the 90’s called Mad O’Rouke's Pie Shops. Their speciality was an actual cow pie complete with horns, (a la Desperate Dan) and the traditional starter of Black Pudding Thermadore and the Pogue’s music thundering in the background – they knew how to please a punter. Hmmm...Home again for more wrapping, a cool Baileys and an invigorating spot of ironing.

Friday, December 15, 2006


impossible songs

impossible songs

I flew in a helicopter over the Statue of Liberty one sweet and silver lunchtime. Strapped and trapped in a whirling Volvo above this welcoming lady. The blue islands and city scapes beat out their heart's rhythm way down below. They were crying for some Indian braves or French refugees, some Scottish clansmen from the clearances or pilgrims running from unbelief. Calling out for them to come, pass through and go away. The brave Indians built these skyscrapers and looked out for buffalo ghosts, down deep from the girders. Perhaps all were built a little too short to catch that horizon. Now Donald Trump gazes down at herds of yellow cabs and vendors, pavements strewn with gum and cigar butts and yesterday’s lottery tickets. Our crashing Volvo of the skies veers between these pillared canyons and Art Deco buttresses, glassy walls and a storm of cell phone signals, heaving and circling as we look down to study the carrion. We flew in a helicopter over the Statue of Liberty, something changed and something changed me.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Polish Violins

Impossible Songs

impossible songs

impossible songs

Wednesday night: Played a short set at the Jazz Bar in Chambers Street Edinburgh as part of the Emergenza festival. It turned out to be an unexpectedly good night with Confushion (Fraser and John) taking the honours, though overall the standard with all the acts was pretty good. It was certainly much better than last year with a better sound system, a quieter and attentive audience and more even performances from all the bands. I really liked a duo called “The Radar” who really deserve a bit more exposure and recognition. We had a drink and chatted with friends Norman, Fraser, John and Karen afterwards whilst a Polish violin quartet closed the evening. I’ve no idea quite why they came to be there, music nights in Edinburgh can be strange at times. Ali was reluctant to leave mid-way through their set (about 11.45) but I’d had enough so we hit the road.

Earlier in the day I trekked across to the Gyle to collect the kid’s new laptop from a courier firm, I missed the home delivery on Monday so naturally had to queue in the rain to pick it up. Next a trawl of Christmas shopping venues and then back home to spend the afternoon setting up the laptop and generally fiddling with it. I also ate a strange tea consisting of six bits of haggis cooked in the George Foreman. Sometimes being home alone is not so good.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Nothing in particular

Impossible Songs

impossible songs

impossible songs

List of nothing in particular.

Knowing lava lamps are uncool and not caring.
The familiar sound of rain.
French cafes.
Losing it.
Getting it back.
Living your own life.
Sitting in the dark.
Milk and brandy.
Thinking Sandy Denny isn’t dead, (I heard her on the radio).
A song about Scientology.
The mystery of radio.
Being at peace in a mad world.
Not bothering about the consequences.
Playing at the Jazz bar tonight.
Fiddling around with guitars, tunings and capos.
Boiling eggs and not counting the minutes.
The silence of the countryside in the early morning.

Podcast update. We got a nice mention and a “top of the set” play on Independent Music’s Podcast from somewhere in the deep American Midwest. He described us as “mysterious” – happy overall but a bit puzzled over that description.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Lava Lamp

impossible songs

impossible songs

Far away birthdays

Saturday: Another long run up to Aberdeen for my daughter’s birthday lunch. Still with quite a few months to go until her wedding next year she is currently looking fantastic. The air, ambience and lifestyle offered in Aberdeen is clearly doing her good, as is having her fiancé close at hand also. Best present? Well from my point of view the lava lamp is hard to beat. Those red and purple globules of oily stuff ascending and descending like strange malformed plum tomatoes and surreal hot air balloons. It was great to have my three sons, three grandsons and two daughters all together in the one place, something that, due our busy lives and commitments seldom happens.

Music of the day: Should have been the Beatles “Love” album but I forgot to put the disc in the sleeve so it ended up being The Feeling and the Story of Punk on Radio 2 (how weird a phrase is that?).

Meal of the day: Chinese carryout minus rice – we forgot to order it.

Purchase of the day (almost): I was going to buy my daughter a copy of “Asian Brides” magazine – stupidly I didn’t realise these niche/cultural markets existed. In the end it was a routine wedding mag with a free music CD and loads of tips and flyers – Ali stepped in to administer the usual good sense.

Purchase of the day: Tiny, naff Christmas tree sprayed in sliver, £3.99 from Tesco.

Shock of the day: Well not for me really but the long haired guy in the X Factor getting the bump was a minor surprise to most of my family.

Parallel Universe of the day: Probably the one where William Wallace marches through England conquering all in his wake and eventually stopping at the Mediterranean settles down to rule over the new “Auld Alliance”. What’s modern Europe like today as a result of that? Would there be a Franz Ferdinand, a John Logie Baird, a Claire Grogan or a John Byrne?

Monday, December 04, 2006

Working Lunch

impossible songs

impossible songs

Secret Eye

Once again I met with the Secret Eye in a small Chinese restaurant in the port of Rosyth. Thankfully the rain had stopped. At first I listened intently to his opening tales, there was light and there was new colour, but as lunch progressed they became increasingly far fetched and my interest waned. My attention span has never been particularly strong – as I’m sure you must know. I munched through Crispy Wan Tan as he began to bore me with details I didn’t need to hear, I trawled the fork around the dry plate of my main course, (Red-neck of chicken) and felt myself stumble into one fuzzy day dream after another. It was becoming a long meal.

Finally when we reached the banana fritter stage, the Secret Eye began to share with me some of his more relevant and up to date information. He had inside knowledge (he believed), he said he had contacts, he had capability and he had taken notes. His jigsaw puzzle description fell from its open box and was scattered across the patterned table cloth. I recognised many of the pieces and though I had not seen them for a long time I could still make sense of their shapes and place them accurately together. The Secret Eye said, “This is what I have seen, you have it and now my work is over, what you do now with these pieces is your affair.” I thanked the Secret Eye and passed across the customary forty pieces of silver, a fair wage for a job well done. “So what do you plan to do next?” he asked me. I just laughed and took a sip from my orange juice. “There is no next, there are no actions to take, these puzzle pieces don’t belong here with me or with you,” I said. “Take your money and spend it for the good of your lifestyle, then take your information and hide it away forever, like dogs bury bones and postmen lose letters. Think of how climbers hang from ropes and petals float and how the woodpecker feeds from the tree bark. Swing a little in some warm summer breeze and relax about life.”

As we rose from the table and settled the bill an ambulance sped past on the road outside. Its siren was blaring and its blue lights were flashing. “We don’t know who is in there,” said the Secret Eye. I looked at him directly and whispered, “I know, but you need not worry, for it is just another lost angel that you can never now know”.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

We love the BBC

impossible songs

impossible songs


I arrived late at Out of the Bedroom (in the cellar of the Cannons’ Gait Bar, Edinburgh) on Thursday night to find sweetly organised musical chaos taking place. The BBC were filming three “sponsored” musicians for a slot in a new BBC2 Gaelic arts show due to be screened in the new year. Of course the very scent of a TV camera crew had produced numerous wanabees and OOTB strangers all hoping for their five minutes of fame. In many ways it was interesting to consider all of the OOTB regulars (and supporters) who didn’t show on the night compared to those who did. Anyway the place was heaving and all available open mike slots were unusually swallowed up by about 7.30. From what I saw and later heard about, a few good performances did take place despite the evil eye of the camera. Some lucky people were also interviewed by the TV crew. Of course there were highs and lows and mild terminal boredom at times but certainly it was all worth while. It was curious also to see how some optimistic and naive individuals had equated the presence of a camera crew with the opportunity to “do an X Factor”, imagine thinking the Beeb would film a whole night at OOTB and then screen it? I’m pretty sure that when the show gets an airing OOTB will only really feature in a small fraction. Anyway Ali and I took some belated satisfaction from selling the BBC producer four CDs. I’m just thinking that the next time the numbers are a little down how effective it would be to start a “the BBC’ll be in again on Thursday” rumour.

Clear air turbulance

impossible songs

impossible songs

Air travel is really ok most of the time.

Things – performance issues that you don’t know about or understand the details of, in aircraft handling shouldn’t really worry you (or you shouldn’t let them worry you).
The old airbus doesn’t perform so well going into a 45 knot wind, or does it? Thursday evening coming into Edinburgh courtesy of Easyjet was bumpy to say the least. I suppose you could certainly argue that if it doesn’t crash and you land in one piece at the correct airport then it’s a pretty good aeroplane. I think, that I’ll decide that it is a good aeroplane and that despite having had a slightly awkward flight based on this experience I’ll not worry the next time I’m in one. It is no doubt a lot better than an Islander, a BAC111 (ah memories), a Dash or one of the early 737s. Then of course there was the Tri-Star with that enormous engine in the tail and the weird “condensation” problem inside.

Never better.

Getting older and losing energy, anybody up for that? Older isn’t better but it is tolerable, less things fit into the time he way they used to and reactions and processes no longer flash across and spark as they once did, and I tend to forget things. But losing energy? Well yes and no. Time flies by and there are always things to do to fill it even the smallest gap. When was there ever a slow time? Was there ever decent thinking time? Probably not, so much of my perception of things now is a confused mixture of illusional and delusional blurred by my need to keeping up contacts and the spinning of the plates. Anyway after a few glasses of wine and weighing up the pros and cons the truth is; things were never better.