Friday, March 28, 2008

Ghost in the Shell station

impossible songs

impossible songs

A series of pointless rants:

Petrol at £1.05 isn't really expensive compared to paying £1.50 for a bottle of water at an airport WH Smiths or £7.99 for a twist of printer ink in Comet or £2.45 for a tasteless Latte in cardboard at Starbucks. That's really all I have to say, a fresh perspective is wonderful if you can gain it and you can find peace at 35.1 mpg. None of this means that I can excuse the evil oil companies and supportive banks their petty minded profiteering (or Alister (banned from every pub) Darling).

Terminal 5: I will spend the rest of my life trying to avoid this place and then once I get there marvel at it's wondrous baggage handling devices and helpful and courteous staff. Nobody tries to do a bad job but sometimes things just don't come together at the correct time - but I'm not sorry for BA or BAA. Air travel now is an awful, unglamourous and tedious experience filled with shuffling queues and pointless shopping opportunities for the feeble-minded. It could be so much better but like many modern experiences it's been reduced to a MacDonald's style of quick and dirty service. Managers are absent, staff are vacant and systems are inhuman. Blade Runner meets Brave New World and humanity is the loser. If you can, stick to the fast lane in your own comfort zone with the music at 11 and marvel at God's wonderful creation - the motorway.

Alex Salmond booed at Hampden: Good, it's time this pompous wee bugger heard what Scottish people really think of him and his daft and dated ideas and the shower of no-hopers that pretend to govern Scotland. Between them all there is hardly one that could open and down a bottle of Buckfast, unscrew a screw top of Mcewans Pale Ale, smoke twenty Regal or swallow a Mars Bar supper (with brown sauce) - call yourself Scottish? We reserve the right to do what we like and die from whatever poison we choose to imbibe (at least before the English invade us again) .

Wednesday, March 26, 2008


impossible songs

A Ferrari stuck behind a bus. Rev up your engine all you like, you can't get past the bus.
A pile of old photographs - in an order that keeps shifting.
Vegi-burgers & brown sauce.
Cinnamon Girl by Neil Young.
A chocolate brownie Easter Egg.
The cars owned by members of your family.
The growing season.
Holiday clothes, t-shirts, shorts and flip flops.
It only takes a simple hair clip to stop a mighty washing machine.
The water in West Lothian is full of gunge it seems.
Understanding the hallmarks on silver.
A casket of ashes.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Following the silver herring

impossible songs

impossible songs

My recent reminders on family matters and family history has brought back the clear memory of a formidable woman who I hardly knew but by reputation was to be a significant influence in my early life. The lady is Mary Jane Barclay (nee Geddes) my paternal grandmother, born and bred in Buckie in the North East. She died in 1968, probably not too long after the above photo was taken in Lerwick in the Shetlands. In it she is doing what she loved best - working outside on a fishing quay.

Her mother died when she was 14 (in 1902) and Mary Jean brought up her four sisters and only brother whilst looking after her crippled father. I guess she did the only thing she could and learned how to gut and clean fish in the local fish market in order to bring an income into the household. They all survived and she married into the Barclays in 1915 and brought up three children of her own but the call of the sea (the smell of fish?) was always there tugging at her sleeve. Right up until the mid nineteen sixties and in her late seventies she'd wander away with a huge suitcase and in a fox fur coat for seasonal employment from Lerwick to Lowestoft cleaning fish. It was what she knew, what she liked doing and she and her many friends (all ladies of a similar age and background) never wanted to stop doing it. Damn the pension, the comfort and the couch!

Sadly the herring boom years did not really last past the nineteen thirties and though she always found work I guess the fishing and landing patterns changed and the volumes decreased. Modern, intensive fishing methods, greed and lack of vision saw the fish stock diminish and the "art of the fishwife" die out. I'm not sure what she'd make of today's EEC quotas, the drug running and smuggling, the fish counter at Tescos or us eating prawns and shrimps by the bucket from M&S; in the old days the fishermen threw them back as there was no market for shellfish. Tastes and times change and Mary Jane's craft, wit and guile has gone forever.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Few things make any sense

impossible songs

impossible songs

It's been a week now since my mother died and I've now had a little time to think and to compose my thoughts. During the week life has of course gone on, I've been at work (a few days) and I've been making funeral arrangements and clearing out her house. Odd items have surfaced from the depths of drawers and cupboards, grey photographs have been thumbed over, letters quickly scanned and clothes and artifacts sorted and binned or collected. People have of course been very kind and helpful and in the busyness I don't feel any real sense of loss.

The last one of an older generation has passed on and now I am in the senior bracket, not the junior or intermediate anymore. There is no immature position left, there is no opting out for me, just a sense of responsibility and not now wishing to miss a moment. This is not a bad feeling by any means, it expresses and makes sense of an order that we all understand and live amongst: we move on as life moves on and we need to do things. My mother has moved on, peacefully as it turned out, and for all of us that time will come eventually.

In the mean time we will forget, other things will happen and overshadow and the churn will resume - one thing after an other as it is, but the details stay with you and stain their pattern into the memory and that is important and worth having.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Hard shoulder, soft heart

impossible songs

impossible songs

Not a place you'd want to be, abandoned by faulty engineering or unfair wear and tear, stuck on the hard shoulder while all of life passes by, ignoring your stranded plight. Based on my occasional and unscientific observations it's the continental motors that seem to end up there most of the time. The French models in particular, those complex design masterpieces by Renault and Citroen, seem most prone failing their owners at a critical time - I don't believe that anybody in the Hollywood set would consider driving one either. I did however clock a burning Mercedes roadster on the M40 last Wednesday evening, so you can never tell, prestige motors and reputation may not count for that much really.

Top failures:

Renault Clio, Renault Megane, Renault Espace, Renault Scenic, Citroen Xara, Citroen Saxo, Colt Spacestar, Fiat Brava, Fiat Punto, Fiat Coupe, Toyota Corona, BMW 3 Series, Alfa Romeo 175, Rover 25, Rover Metro, a Bentley I once saw, Ford Mondeo, Ford Escort, Kia anything, big silly Jeeps, Mercedes 180s and mobile cranes. Now I'm really bored with this...but I do feel sorry for all motorway breakdown victims.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Picture perfect

impossible songs

I like this picture but I don't really know anything about it. That's the way I'd prefer it to stay. It is possible that most people would recognise it. It may be seen as tacky, romantic, primitive, Hallmark Cards style garbage. Who knows. It may be a really good piece that is loved all across the world and placed on postage stamps, matchboxes and condom packets. It may be familiar and beloved by the Italians and French but shunned by the Polish and the Swedes. It may be worth millions of dollars and been stolen and recovered many times. Perhaps the Nazis had it along with all the material from the Amber Room and it has just been found. Possibly many students have it as a poster on a dirty wall or have a small version as a fridge magnet. Nothing about who likes it or owns it makes any difference to it's existence as a brief artistic moment in time. I'm happy with that.

In the end the bottom falls out, the fire dies and the bottle gets drunk dry. So be it.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Uncertain certainty

impossible songs

An experiment on a bird in the air pump.

impossible songs

Uncertainty and unknowing. Where we all go and where nobody goes. A cough and a cry and a sudden rush.

Kids writing on a flat screen with felt tip pen. Rubbing it out with saliva and a wet finger, looking through the dancing light crystals to see into a virtual world of signals and pulses and endless traffic. Ink smudges still cloud the screen.

Listening to Jeremy by Pearl Jam. Guitar riffs.

Watching the speedometer and trying to keep it steady, such a constant metaphor. Blue lights on the dashboard.

Picking up voicemail but no message is there, only recorded street noise and a sudden click.

Retaining an interest.

A party in the dark countryside, lights, a warm house and front door open, a hundred people chattering and sipping drinks, warmth and hospitality for a time.

An old bird house with no bird residents. Fossils.

Reading reviews of films I'll never watch or books I'll never read.

Cover versions of songs by the Smiths.

Touching a cold hand and looking out for something else.

Finding the words.

We simply don't know enough about the richness of the life forms that this planet contains.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Border Crossing

impossible songs

This bike is nothing to do with anything but reminds me of Amsterdam and Yes.

impossible songs

Repeated border crossings

I spent a day and night in Gretna, the day being the one that the football team needed £30k to survive. I was working however and couldn't/wouldn't stump up the cash anyway. I stayed in a hotel that was like a Dobbies garden centre covered in fairy lights and tacky photos of the many weddings that had been held there. Each one less romantic and more desperate than the next I thought. Too many weddings in one place is not good and repeated images create a picture of tedium and blandness, don't get married there. It also rained a lot and found it a hard place to like apart from a good shoe shop set in a damp retail outlet mall.

The charge back up the M74 was uneventful but wet, soaked in lorry spray under an eventually dark and broody sky.

Things to avoid:

Garlic mushrooms.
Crossing borders quickly.
Easter egg shopping trips.
Cold hotel rooms.
Cats chasing mice into houses.
Dipping scotch egg segments into sweet and sour sauce.
Hanging clothes up in your car.
Taking short cuts.
Forgetting the name of the hotel you are staying in and having to stop at each one in Gretna to find the one you are booked into. Then seeing someone you know at a hotel, thinking that it is the one you are staying in and then finding out that it's not but another 100yds up the road.
Being late because you cant find your hotel.

Baby food

impossible songs

impossible songs

Baby Imogen arrived on Tuesday a day or two late but perfect in every way. I intend to get to know her a bit better over the next 36 years or so. There is something quite special about a first grand daughter, they melt you like a fine French pastry dissolving in the mouth.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

No time

impossible songs

A spanner in the works and a loose screw.

impossible songs

Saturday night: A busy week of travel, incidents and accidents and no time to blog or even attempt anything mildly creative.

Bristol, Birmingham, Aberdeen and a few places in between. Sleeping in Holiday Inns and family flats, lots of fried eggs and hanging around in airports. Motorways and hospitals, unwelcome surprises and welcome easter eggs and bunnies (more eggs). A French bakery in Aberdeen where French is spoken across the counter, rain like stair rods and dangerous stairways under our very noses. Yamaha guitars, Stardust, more Goldfrappery and pumping gas and a long queue at the drive-thru. Cats catching mice, Rory the Racing Car and a new door for the garage (yet to be seen in daylight), halfway through a book and things left in the pockets of aircraft seats. My new jeans fit me and a clutch of stolen soap escapes from the friendly mini-bar. Work, work, play, pizza, travel, sleep, Costa, work, Costa, drive, worry and get wet in the rain.

It'll all be fine, resolved and over with next week at this time because all things must pass - but others just keep taking their place.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Mini Helicopter

impossible songs

impossible songs

Meet Miss Wasp our mini helicopter, cat teaser, fly swatter and real wasp killer. If you don't have one of these babies then you will soon because to see one is to want one, to fly one is to fly one, to buy one is to be twelve quid poorer and so on...

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Happy birthday Mother Earth

impossible songs

impossible songs

Another Mother's day in the life. A mixture of the tacky, the exploitative and the very tacky. Flowers are pink, forced and forceful and a full scale emotional blackmail attack is underway. Pub car parks are stuffed with anxious families trying to do the right lunchtime thing and good and upright men buy more crappy gifts to pass to their kids to pass to their mothers. These are then passed onto landfill sites or a recycling centre somewhere you never really see, thanks to tasteful banks of moulded earth and planning certificates.

Of course I was caught up in this today as much as anyone before resigning to watch my son's football team playing away in Ladybank in (as ever) Fife. It was almost a pleasant morning and I had a coffee and Kit Kat breakfast (thanks to the ladies of Ladybank) standing in a muddy but not thankfully stone cold field. The flash gun memory of the speed camera trap on the A92 was slowly dying away at this point. We also won 3 - 1 and now have a 100% away record.

Then across to my current second home, West Fife's pink palace of a hospital to see my own mum who was having a "good" day and then home for a spot of my main aerobic exercise - ironing shirts. The Goldfrapp CD is still working, there are leftover quail's eggs in the fridge and Lost is on TV later this evening. Roll on Father's Day in sunny June, a personal favourite of mine naturally and a holy, golden day that has no commercial or underhand motives attached to any part of it.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Bird's Egg Recipes

impossible songs

impossible songs

Recipe for success.

Not sure how to boil a single quail's egg or twelve at a pinch? Easy. First of all read the
instructions then get on with it.

Recipe books are quite useless and stifle the imagination but they may act as a rough guide.

Consider the various ingredients (quails eggs + salad + what you have handy) as if they were oil
paints you are starting a painting with. Wash in the background.

The egg cooling process is vital and a clean and fresh salad should also be prepared.

A bed of lettuce / spinach is recognised as a comfortable place for said eggs to rest.
Stuff them with a mixture of things.

Eat them and be forever damned. Put your feelings to one side like a grown up.
Three glasses of wine, some red meat and you sleep like a baby.

Fife Customs and little known facts.

In North East Fife smoke must be trained to rise vertically from a coal fire. All smoke is new to
this world, (think of smoke as if it was a kitten or a puppy), it must be trained on how to behave.
Failure to train smoke to move up through a chimney can result in a smokey couch and fireside
rug. Not pretty. Smoke is easily trained by wafting it with a magazine or newspaper. Make sure
these items do not come in contact with the actual flames.

In other certain parts of Fife a bicycle is an important status symbol.

Parking in Fife is easy, simply leave your car at any handy ASDA branch, nose pointing out.

In October it is quite permissible to remove turnips from fields, bash them open on a gate post
and eat them raw.

All clothes in Fife are handmade in China and brought into the area via the bustling seaport of

They all seem to pray for rain on 29Th February and lo and behold.

Petty crime is punished by the use of petty lawyers and petty courts. Petty sentences are not
really up to much however.

There are no ugly people in Fife, they all left in the 1930s along with the herring and the

Glenrothes is the only town in the UK that is not a town at all.

In Fife all domestic cats answer to the name of "Pussy", don't try to tackle the wild ones.