Sunday, June 24, 2007

The unbearable lightness of Wii-ing

Roy Harper V Stella TM + impossible songs

impossible songs

Stella Tennant-McEwen.

If I ever take up a career as a drag act I think this would be my (special beer based tribute, lager and 80/- of course) stage name. I suppose it could double as a porn star name or a pseudonym if I ever tried to write some chick-lit or a serious but mainly anecdotal cookery book.

Hats off to Harper - for the last time.

Funny how you stumble across pieces of the past as you browse around on You Tube whilst doing the ironing. Today’s rediscovery has been Roy Harper, a favourite of mine in the early seventies. Roy fizzled out and of my radar for a long time and though his name comes up now and again, (as does his now famous son) I’m not sure what to make of him thirty odd years on. Some music doesn’t age or travel well and I really can’t decide about dear old Roy. It did strike me, watching bits of Glastonbury on the Beeb that many of the players in today’s new bands (How bad is that? A real granddad observation) aren’t really good “players”. They can churn out catchy, long and sometimes quite good songs but you get the feeling they’ve not quite got all the chords or colours in the paint box yet. The trouble is of course that once you get all the tones and pastels, the good ideas to match the execution dry up because your growth spurt has gone, aka that difficult third album and arguments with the drummer and bass player.

REM & the Muppets.

Yesterday on You Tube it was REM doing “Shiny Happy Monsters” on Sesame Street many years ago. How we laughed, how the children were confused, how the lyrics were altered and how Kurt Cobain hurt when he saw his heroes dancing with furry carpet off-cuts. The girl from the B52s looked ok though.

I need a Wii Wee.

It has to be the greatest advance in games since the invention of microwave popcorn or perhaps the DS. The Nintendo Wii is as funky as a train load of Swedish architects and as neat and tasty as Uncle Ben’s two minute rice. Now that it has arrived life will never be the same again, until the next new thing that is.

Imaginary illness.

I am less that 100% because I am but then again who is 100% all the time? Perhaps it is possible to be 125% at times and then 75% for an equal amount of time to compensate. Of course I have no way of knowing what 100% of how good you feel is when there are so many variables and variations to take into account. In life there are no reliable bench marks unless perhaps there is the small dark, warm wave of peace and contentment (an absence of anxiety of any kind) and fuzzy sense of well being that comes over you for a few moments just before you fall asleep at night. It’s all a bit like regularly dozing off during the commercial break in the Simpsons.

Tommy can you hear me?

Tommy Mackay v Tommy Sheridan on Talk 107 today at 12.30. The TM songs sounded great, crisp and vital as ever but Tommy S always has to have the last word and just where did he learn to talk like that? God knows who all listens to this show on a regular basis on a Sunday morning but great to hear Tommy Mac confounding the plodding Tommy S with his musical knowledge and supersonic wit. The former MSP wouldn’t last long in any serious debating society.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

24 hour onions

cbq bridge & impossible songs

impossible songs

Some passing thoughts and observations:

The mice are dancing on the roof again or it may be raining.
A crow is tapping at the window because he thinks the woolly cushions inside are dead sheep. Darwin?
The squirrel is on the bird feeder along with a blue tit and chaffinch. They all ignore one another, as good animals should.
You may have to interact with people on line if you want truckloads of friends on MySpace.
The hammock of the gods is not in this garden nor will it drive our ships to new lands.
Vodka is an evil drink and no good comes from swigging large amounts of it.
Spicy onions are very bad; I particularly dislike the “24 hour” effect they produce.

New Job

I’ve been successful in the job market and got myself a new job. After waiting three weeks for the outcome from the interview a positive response came today. In the cursed three weeks I’ve gone through a cycle of emotions and moods, from fretting and nail biting to ambivalence and indifference. Now I’ve got it, I do feel at peace and quite pleased with myself. I wonder how long this will last? Ali says it's Karma.

In a Garden of Music

The great lost song of Alison's past has been resurrected from a deathly sleep or coma or something. Ignored for a quite a few years its right back in our big black book. I for one am glad and I’ve figured out the chords and other cute bits also.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Younger than yesterday

impossible songs - Ann, John & Ali.

impossible songs

Don’t look back in anger; in fact don’t bother looking back at all.

Peering into a glass darkly and remembering “how it was” when you were 16 or 21 is a common enough thing to do. Me, I’m currently stuck with looking back at when I was 50, not that it was a bad time or negative experience, it’s just that the CBQ photo vault, which probably rivals the CBQ CD collection in size, has produced some previously unseen footage of my long gone, pre-bonfire fiftieth birthday party. Ah! Those were the days, heady idealism, all things possible, petrol was 84p a litre, you could puff a cigar in pub, Freeview was unheard of and the Artic Monkeys were just fish and chimps. I think we had about 4 myspace friends as well, the party was rather good though the images and events of the last few hours of it are now completely beyond recognition to me or the grasp of my frail memory.


Generally we did nothing. Some party debris was cleared and a troupe of passing astronauts kindly zapped all the Japanese Knotweed. Answering the door to a man in a space suit is a slightly disconcerting experience, unfortunately communications broke down as you might expect and the mission seems to have been aborted with the offending weeds, evil and virulent as ever, lying strewn across our lawn threatening to engulf the house. Being the law-abiding citizens that we are we did nothing to disturb the piles of evidence. The evening came and went, we ate chicken, I slept through large chunks of Dr Who, Chronicles of Narnian Rock and something about Las Vegas and gambling, Ali of course read a number of heavy and serious papers during this same time in order to maintain some of the intellectual balance we are trying to achieve.


A strange cat and clearly bemused rabbit were holding a Mexican stand-off in the garden as I made the early morning tea, I returned to bed to watch the drama dissolve due to lack of animal interest and a stiff neck. Next came some strange industrial noises from outside which we assumed heralded the return of the astronauts. We hoped they'd come in order to remove the dead weeds in the approved and sanitary manner, as described in Wikipedia. Alas not, instead a barbeque was being set up in our parking area for the good people of Linlithgow or thereabouts to celebrate a young’uns birthday. We did question the organisers about the possibility of further weeding events but they were preoccupied with tenderising meat and passing large amounts of prophane. They then borrowed some of our sugar; however I got a piece of cake due to my sharp and clever negotiation skills. I was left with no choice other than to hitch a lift with Ali to the nearby but far away village of Newton to pick up a paper and a can of tomatoes. The long walk home did me some good and I saw two dead moles and received many friendly and courteous waves from passing motorists. Much of this weekend’s happenings have struck resonant chords, echoing various Ivor Cutler poems and noodles, as good a means as any to avoid the grim, dark cloud of impending depression that seems to stalk most of Scotland’s older inhabitants. I’ve also been whistling the tune below; you can download it from the Daily Reckless on a good day.

PHILOSOPHY (Mackay/McNeil)

Jean Paul Sartre got it right
He said 'Hell is other people'
That means you
Frank Sinatra in 'Strangers in the Night'
Put it another way: Do be do be doo

Plato posited ideals
Marx and Engels - meals on wheels
Socrates was for free will
And midfield wizard for Brazil
Or was that John Stuart Mill?

Philosophy - it isn't tough
Come and have a go if you're Kierkegaard enough.

Descartes thought, therefore he was
But he put it all in Latin to make us think
He was smarter than he was
Good old Descartes, take a drink
He was French and he did maths
He got verrucas at the baths
Just the same as all of us
No solutions - what's the fuss?
Is it obvious?

Philosophy - it isn't tough
Come and have a go if you're Kierkegaard enough.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Another bonfire night

impossible songs (cbq bonfire photo)

impossible songs


Spent the evening in a Greek restaurant in London, Meke was on the menu, a series of small, eclectic dishes of all sorts served up to our party (of six). The meal was followed by a visit to a busy central London pub (the Plough) where punters were spilled out across the pavement on the thundery heat of a June evening. Of course the conversations became more fractured and convoluted as the evening burned down and the drinks kicked in. Then home (?) to a £150 hotel room reminiscent of a cabin on a Trident submarine sitting at station under the North Pole. Hot, sticky, ventilated by who knows what and not big enough to swing any kind of feline creature in. Very glad to get home on Thursday evening.


The “let’s celebrate the end of the Ferry Fringe Party” took place at our house. A host of local luminaries, comedians, musicians and artistic types turned out to eat, drink and party in the faltering June weather to mark the end of the festival weekend. I’d written off any prospect of a bbq earlier in the day but the dream of a bonfire prevailed and of course took place despite a persistent drizzle. We burned all the surplus festival paraphernalia, fired of a few sparklers and drank lots of beer. Indoors, once the drinks kicked in, a series of impromptu musical events began, these took the form of:

An improvised piano piece and the “Crocodile Song” from Cloudland Blue Quartet and young Finn, roots and blues of the highest calibre from Confushion, subversion and satire from Tommy Mackay, Ivor Cutlery/Norman Lamont sharing the same stage and (briefly) the same body, Impossible Songs fiddling across a fuzzy landscape and Fraser and Karen's Joe intervening from time to time with bursts of staccato and well fitted harmonica. Oh! How we danced and around two in the morning, fell asleep.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Daisy Duke eat you heart out!

impossible songs v some daisies and the green green grass of home.

impossible songs

Down amongst the daisies.

Thanks to CBQ for this shot (I’ve cropped it a little) but it really captures a moment when we were at the Two Bridges Hotel, all playing on Saturday afternoon as part of the Ferry Fringe. Outdoor gigs on sunny days are the best thing. Daisies don’t last for too much time and some of this particular carpet was hoovered up by my kids who, even before the music started took the opportunity to construct a daisy chain three metres long.

Cheap Sunglasses

impossible songs

impossible songs

Cheap Sunglasses

It never occurred to me before but I now realise that it is possible to grow into your sunglasses. About fifteen years ago I bought a pair of Ray-Ban Wayfarers in a Sunglass Hut outlet somewhere in Florida; I paid about $40 for them. They were an impulse buy and I liked them but when I wore them they fell off my face, they didn’t seem to fit. This was annoying and distracting when walking or driving or trying to look cool. They were consigned to a drawer or the glove box never to see the light of day again, until this year. So now they fit me! So the good old advice your mother/father/parents gave you about growing into that jumper/coat/anorak or trousers wasn’t wrong. Time (and getting a fat face) is a wonderful thing.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Ferrystock III

Some of the finest (aye! why not say that?) musicians you’ll ever meet gather under the Forth Bridge.

Norman rocks out some impossible songs and an afternoon photo collage follows on...

impossible songs
The arts festival, Ferry Fringe has bowed out and seems to have been a rather jolly and successful few days of arts festivaling. Tons of hard work went into putting the programme together and sustaining it with many vital participants, the main hero being Norman Lamont the hard working and forever harassed chairman who rocked out rather nicely on Saturday afternoon as we all played in what looked like a small field of daisies two feet deep outside the Two Bridges Hotel. Thanks to all who played on the afternoon: Tommy Mackay, Cloudland Blue Quartet (he did the photo montage), Sparrahawk, James Whyte, Lindsay Sugden and Karen Austin, Confushion (John and Fraser), Norman Lamont and Impossible Songs.

Sadly I missed the rather good sounding SQAF open mike event but I did manage a rare episode of Dr Who and a peek at Chronicles of Rock re-telling music history in a distinctly oblique and untrue way. The Sabbs invented heavy metal? I beg to differ, as I recall I was there at the birth at the Caird Hall, Dundee in 1971 when a violin bow struck an E chord on a sunburst Les Paul 1954 Original plugged into 1000 watts of WEM amplifiers. From that evening my life was never quite the same but then I’m not the one making TV programmes. History is of course written by the victors and those with the right amount of clout on BBC2.

A weekend of much carrot consumption, a sponsored walk (in the rain) on the Forth Bridge, a strange but pleasant soupy Sunday lunch with Tommy and Caroline, deciding that I’m on the verge of being mildly obsessive, strimming thistles and weeds, observing swifts nesting in the coal cellar, a protracted on line Tesco order, a brief dinosaur hunt with a grandson, a double sausage and brown sauce roll, a long daisy chain, one dead rabbit, no newspapers read at all, sorting out our PA and recording gear (at last), Greek yoghurt and honey and few noggins of lager shandy and red wine.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Dancing on the Forth Bridge

impossible songs

impossible songs

Not your average Friday really, I spent the morning in the company of fellow Ferry Fringe committee members distributing art exhibits around the pubs and shops of the ‘Ferry. Being with two such committed comedians as Jo Jo Sutherland and Tommy Mackay made it all pretty good fun and a useful learning experience. The previous night we’d all put together a decent open festival show, the highlights of which were of course the aforementioned Mr Mackay, Ivor Cutlery (the first and only Ivor Cutler tribute band) and a Scott Renton ensemble. The spicy Moroccan food and cheap drink went down well and Ali and I were exhausted by the time we finally made it home. Anyway back to today and next on the agenda was a publicity session with the Ferry Cheerleaders, Ali, Gowan Calder and I shepherded these enthusiastic girls around a series of locations, the Boat Steps, the High Street, Scotmid and finally for an encore outside the great blue beast that is the local Tesco. A surreal end to the afternoon.


The next odd experience of the day was finding ourselves stuck in the middle of the Forth Bridge in stationary traffic for one and a half hours. In scenes reminiscent of 28 Days Later we wandered on the surface of the normally thumping bridge as a serious road accident was cleared from the Southern bound carriageway. The weather became suddenly brilliant and the views and atmosphere both unique and unworldly. To add to this people stepped out of their cars and actually talked to one another, Lotus owners spoke to Skoda drivers, truckers to bikers and car drivers conversed with bus passengers who had for the evening abandoned their buses and become pedestrians on the adjacent walkway. My own young passengers Joseph and Olivia marvelled in this weird atmosphere, it was a bit like suddenly finding yourself standing in the middle of a frozen lake and Joseph composed an SOS note (as above) just in case things got out of hand. As it happened we braved the worst that the traffic gods could throw at us and made it home in time to see the second half of the Simpsons and eat a pizza and ravioli tea.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Message in the Stains

impossible songs

impossible songs

Message in the Stains

Well blood stains that is, on the floor, on the cat flap, under the bed. More dead rabbit gifts ceremoniously presented to us by the cat, who little does he know it, is about to get a little cat sister to threaten this country side idyll he enjoys.

Nothing more has happened with actual stone moving message thing but we now have a squirrel living (occasionally) in the bird house, a toad living in the coal shed and great swathes of Japanese Rhubarb (Knotweed) marching like the brooms in the Sorcerer’s Apprentice across what could laughingly be described as a lawn.

The sweet music of the tumble dryer.

The Ferry Fringe Arts Festival is now looming close on the horizon. The rusty wreck that is “impossible songs” has enjoyed a few fractured practices. Slowly a set is coming together but as ever time is running out. Too many things to do in too little time with our focus... well, unfocused. Anyway I’m looking forward to a fun weekend which promises to be full of Festival activity, family stuff and a sponsored walk across that damn Forth Bridge on Sunday. The opening event is on Thursday at the Priory Arts Centre at 7.30pm. A full programme of music, comedy, static art exhibits, food and drink will be on offer, if you can make it through the traffic and down the big hill then do. You’d be mad to miss it.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Message in the Stones - 2

impossible songs

impossible songs

The message in the stones – a follow up.

We both looked at the stones for some time trying to puzzle out the meaning of the shape. We checked around the site for evidence of entry or anything that might give us a clue as to the source and nature of the disturbance. The search was fruitless as clearly the culprit(s) had left no trail or cleverly covered it. The only thing was a bird feeder about 6 metres away, cast to the ground from the green pole it had been fastened to, an incident reminiscent of last year’s crow wars at Parkhead. Back to square one then as there was no obvious connection between the two areas. The distinct U shape in the stones really tells us very little either, all very puzzling. The pattern has been formed by something digging down against the house wall and scattering the stones across an area of about 3 square metres. At its deepest the U shape is about 10cm and is 75cm across. All the stones are a grey type three, each about 10 -15 cm long, none weighs anymore that .25kg. They are all rough stones, not chips or pebbles, the kind you would use to edge a loose path or driveway.

Looking out from the spare room you can clearly see the disturbed area. Strangely and coincidently it was in this room in which that the cat became “upset” yesterday. The question is did something or someone spook him as he looked out the window? When we left the house late yesterday morning he was asleep in this very room.

Some around here saw that at dawn there is a strange glow on the Eastern horizon, a distant red ball of flame flickers and hovers, ascending through the trees and finally hovering, still and predatory like, glowing in the distance. At about this time kettles boil, pop tarts are unleashed and shower curtains are accidentally torn down. Nobody has reported other instances of the unexplained movement of stones in swirls, spirals or U shapes. It’s all a bit like crop circles without the crops and with stones instead and on a much smaller and more isolated scale. A mini phenomenon that is clearly from the vague zone of the vague unknown. What will we find there tomorrow after tonight’s activity?

When I looked out this morning (Monday) nothing had changed, hmmm....

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Message in the Stones

impossible songs

impossible songs

The Forth Road Bridge is f**ked.

Yes it’s official, as sure as Gordon Brown is going to bowl right out of Fife and down the tubes at the next general election our marvellous main crossing point into and out of the fabled Kingdom is well and truly screwed. Engineers in the early 60’s made a 40 year pact with the Devil about the steel used on the bridge and in the wire supports, they cut the quality to meet the budget in exchange for some good jobs in the city, an honour or two and a lunch engagement with the Queen. Well now that 40 years are up, corrosion is the new king and you guys are not getting your souls back, no way. The rest of us of course are finding new ways to pay, like sitting in your car for an hour to experience the privilege of crossing the cloudy waters of the Forth in whatever direction and coughing up a quid for the pleasure. Nice to see that no “visionary” politician (either UK or Scottish) with anything approaching balls the size of tiny marbles foresaw any of this or bothered to speak up. What kind of people are these? A new bridge or tunnel or causeway should have been planned and been under construction years ago, any sane inhabitant of central Scotland would tell you that. Of course I’m making the feeble assumption that there is a body of sane individuals residing somewhere in the central belt of Scotland. Sorry must be my mistake.

Picnic table for the Three Bears.

Saturday afternoon was spent wrestling with the bolts and timbers of an enormous garden picnic table on the Freuchie patio (or slabbed area). It required over 40 bolts to hold the various giant sized chunks of redwood blocks together to form a piece of furniture that the Three Bears, Goldilocks and most of the cast of Shrek (whatever number of movie it currently is at) could comfortably sit at and dine around. Some of the sweat was returned thanks to downing a cool 7.6% bottle of Bud once assembly was over. Then it was path building on a grand scale (6 slabs laid) through vast swathes of jungle poppies, lupins and lavender. A bit like the cutting the Canadian Pacific line or the Trans-Siberia railway I suppose. I am still hurting 24 hours later, Ali remains unaffected apart from the sneezing fits and mild tremors. When the Tourist Board come to check us out I reckon the path alone will be enough to get us 5 stars and a Michelin gong.

Dead rabbit alfresco and indoors.

The two of us being away for a night displeases that cat it seems. I came home to find various used and abused rabbit components in the lobby and something unmentionable on the new rug in the spare room. Clear signs of his feline pussy boy disapproval for our normal adult human antics and for me the opportunity to clear up more neurotic cat generated mess. Don’t you just love them though?

The message in the stones.

Something has moved some fairly large stones around in the back garden adjacent to the kitchen window and formed them into a U shape. Some other stones have been scattered on the lawn nearby. It wasn’t like that on Saturday morning but it’s like that now on Sunday afternoon. I’m not sure I’m aware of any weather phenomenon that does this or any animal for that matter, so it remains a puzzle to me how it happened. Ali’s theories on possible sources are: Badgers, sheep, squirrels, frogs, hippies and aliens. Answers on a postcard please if you’re a secret stone mover and message sender or if you know of things/people that do this kind of thing.

A new idea.

The Travelling Wanabees held their first impromptu, informal group meeting tonight. Whatever next?

Friday, June 01, 2007

Oblique strategies

impossible songs

impossible songs


Spent the evening at OOTB, some decent performances and a few quite unique acts and approaches. How about 15minutes of open mike tabla drum playing (in the Hindu style) or a guitarist who also plays bells with his feet or a Canadian visitor who proudly told us what tuning he was using for every song and which string was which? Got home in a zombie state at about 00.30, drank a yogurt and promptly fell asleep, deeply. This was in itself quite fortunate as I missed the cat bringing at mouse into the room in the wee small hours, an unwelcome but well meant present for Ali once again.


The first day of June and rain and sun were the order of the day. As I was home all day I decided to mess around with guitars and the PA and worked a few things out and practised a set for the Ferry Fringe next weekend. The dining room is a complete mess as a result. One thing I’ve realised is that you can never have enough leads and you never ever have the correct combination of jacks and adaptors that you want (unless you are in Martin’s studio in Germany).

Below are a few odd thoughts recorded for whatever reason...

Writer's block material

Watching a garden full of rain and trying to connect, internally, conceptually with whatever is going on. Trying to force myself to make a plan for outcomes undecided. Carried on this ridiculous pillow of winds that finds me ever eager to move and not wallow and still hold on to a directionless compass. Spinning magnificent plates that care little for the efforts of their spinner as they overcome their own dizziness in an imaginary universe. I gawk at the broken pieces but don’t share anybody’s guilt. These plates were never mine and I did my best for then, for a short time. In my pocket is a tube of ceramic glue, guaranteed to fix broken china. I fumble with the eager tube, I hear that song from T’pau playing somewhere in the distance and I close my eyes. Some time elapses and I’m in back in my own skin, the broken plates are in the bin, carefully wrapped in newspaper and a chicken casserole is doing nicely in the oven, thank you.

The long drive home

I packed a mental suitcase with all the odds and ends and belongings that clearly don’t belong. Some are tired, some are folded and fresh, some dirty and mixed up; all retain a degree of strained usefulness however. I shall open it up and inspect and layout the contents carefully during the long drive home. Then I realise that if I’m driving I shall be unable to open the case, doing two separate things at one time is not my forte, I don’t do multi tasking. Only one answer, heave the mental suitcase out of the car window whilst doing 80 in the fast lane (I could do 80 in the slow lane). Only drivers on my wave length will notice the debris and what’s another lost suitcase. I can claim it on travel insurance.


I drew a map of my mind. A few oblique strategies entered into me and sat quietly in no particular order at the back. I wished a list of “isms” upon myself, all the isms in the world, all the black, white and shining bright isms cascading upon me. I drew a series of lines between each one to see the connections and reveal the patterns. “Fairytale Management”, somebody said. “Or something quite like it”. Of course I understood but grinning only slightly and thinly, (to hide my lost crown) I withdrew and allowed the lines to travel on by themselves. When I woke up they had all gone, but a fine layer of golden dust remained upon the table top.