Friday, October 31, 2008


Neil Young never sleeps and plays an Em on a Gretsch possibly thinking towards his big night in, on the Beeb tonight from 9.30. A strange choice for Halloween but then why shouldn't it be. Old Neil is welcome around here for as long as he likes or until the next special comes around.

Halloween has become another Americanised piece of waffle and elaborate, inappropriate celebration. I don't mind parties (I'm going to one soon) but the clamour for product and tat going from increasingly mad fancy dress down to special cakes and pizzas wears me down. Of course I've spent a large chunk of time today carving out three pumpkin heads for my grandchildren. The secret of a successful pumpkin is to use a really sharp knife and make all the cuts cleanly and quickly (and then drop an IKEA tea light in). A cutting principle that no doubt is mirrored in modern surgery and I'm sure a few aspiring doctors have practiced on pumpkins and sheep's heids from time to time (but they don't add the tea light). So the pumpkin lanterns are ok, all different if slightly angular, with a cubist styling theme going on in their finely sculpted features but scary and stark enough for the under fives. If I give them away to the kids I also wont have to suffer the rotting smell that'll arise in about three days time.

Other than that I'm on my own tonight but I did get a nice wee phone call from my other half from an airport far away in the Far away East. She'll be home in a few (long) hours and I'm looking forward to hearing about her marathon traveling experiences and marvelling at how broad her mind will have become.
If you don't get the Shakey's thing forget it.

Thursday, October 30, 2008


Here in West Lothian the previous week's winds and rain showers have gone leaving a cold, still atmosphere and a thickness evident in the clear and cloudy mixture of slow moving night time weather. Standing alone and listening in the garden hearing nearby trees creak, the rustle of the last of the leaves and the scampering sounds from hedges and borders as small creatures try to hide or forage. The cats miaow in the distance, tracking and scaring their fragile quarrie and then returning to deposit the half eaten remains like a prize or a piece of well done, hard worked homework.

I stare into the sky and see occasional stars whose names and positions I've never bothered to learn and never will. They seem to stay stuck in the heaven's blanket but then suddenly move by themselves in time to grey clouds drifting somewhere under the black and blue of this late hour. I let the stars navigate around me and ponder the old time sailors who read the sky like a map and saw a way home or back again, is there anybody left who could do that today?

On the ground slugs and bugs and creeping things wander in a stop go motion across the stones and slabs with no obvious purpose. Leaves and wind blown debris block their paths and they make silver spirals to avoid collisions or to leave a marker for some slower moving friend who cant keep up in the fast lane. If they are lazy and caught in a dawn raid then hungry, beady eyed birds will breakfast on them and their night will have been wasted. They move because that is what they do but their direction is always painfully circular and contemplative. I wish there was some profound lesson to learn in watching this but it's only a dumb sameness and a routine and crawl along the edge of darkness for a moment to survive in and then move on.

Proper night music isn't rock or acoustic or jazz or anything clever and quirky, it's the realm of growling Bing Crosby, slow Sinatra or the greatest male vocalist of all time, who could sing and create the mood of the deep purple and a fog catching the corner of your eye before the light's splinter hits - the late, great Matt Munro (who isn't pictured here because I'm going to watch Question Time or something and I only have a Bing photo handy).

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Ross, Brand and Tennant.

Ambient and absent.

The news creates the news, particularly on the BBC (who still have the best set of TV and Radio Channels) when it's own scandals and changes are deemed more important than world shattering events. Stories of pop culture trivia make screaming headlines while screaming victims make small print and the cutting room floor. Russell Brand can be funny at times and is ok in very small doses, Jonathan Ross can be clever, informed, cheeky and lewd depending on the topic, David Tennant can be Dr Who or he can do his final metamorphosis into the next jobbing actor/comedy star or wanabee who takes the producer's fancy. Are they all worthy of being in the headlines? Well Ross and Brand act like rude 10 year olds and get paid more than football players for their gleeful and irritating wit and so deserve to get fired for their stupid pranks. David Tennant will act his way into a knighthood or a political position in the Scottish Parliament once the shock and awe of his regeneration subsides. Whatever, life will go on and a billion Chinese people wont give a stuff.

Charlie Chaplin had the right idea, don't talk much and just be a little subversive from time to time, you'll get the message across eventually.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Louie Louie is played on the radio.

"He's a good enough song writer but could he have written Louie Louie?" So said Frank Zappa and I agree up to a point and maybe beyond it. Now that the great man is dead where are we to go for caustic observations, free and dangerous music and extravagant use of the wah pedal?

Now that the weather is reminding me on a daily basis that global warming is more of a myth than ever I can only thank the bright winter stars that the grass stops growing at below 5 degrees and no longer needs to be trimmed, other than that there is nothing good to report about the Scottish climate.

Also in the news, BP have announced more huge profits thanks to the fluctuating price of oil and their excessive charges for the crap they sell in their Wild Bean Cafes, I am happy for them (the board) and their numerous share-holders. This is because I'm convinced they will either burn in some oil fueled ironic hell at some point or they'll suffer ignominious humiliation when they are all reincarnated as toads and are squashed by BP fueled motorists whilst crossing damp stretches of roadway in West Lothian. So Instant Karma will get them and they will simply pass into a dark void beyond anything that those presently living can imagine or describe.

The banks are still persisting with their light and good humoured advertising campaigns on all TV channels despite their precarious positions. Expensive cartoon people with big noses riding sleek trains revel in the 5% interest deals that are bolstering up their savings and allowing their unsustainable lifestyles to continue - but that's not reality. I like the photo of the guy holding a placard in Wall Street that reads "Jump you F**kers!"

Monday, October 27, 2008

Jeff Beck at Ronnie Scott's

After a day spent mainly pottering, taxi driving and frying sausages I escaped into the whispy world of Sky Plus and watched a few things I'd recorded some time ago (or possibly recently, I didn't check) - Jeff Beck being the main thing. Jeff cuts a strangely Spinal Tap and not quite aged enough figure these days. He still has the bushy hair and the Indian bead thing going on as well - at 65. However image aside I enjoyed his concert(s) at Ronnie Scott's, some fine noodling and impressive slide work but a case really of style over substance. Jeff Beck is an excellent player and technically streets ahead of most exponents of the big fat guitar but he lacks the basic framework to be truly brilliant, that being decent songs to play over and into.

Having said that his instrumental version of the Beatle's "A day in the life" was marvellous and his soloing with Imogen Heep and Joss Stone was top of the range and tasteful. Old man Mr Slowhand came on for an encore but it really was "old boys" jamming the blues by then and didn't do much for me. Interesting to see Page and Plant lurking in the audience, makes you wonder what might have been had they all agreed on a band format back in '68.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Perthshire Amber and the rain

Perthshire Amber

In something of a genre shift for us we played a few songs the Perthshire Amber Festival in Pitlochry today in the rather nice Festival Theatre. The weather was awful but the welcome and the atmosphere were warm and we both enjoyed playing before one of our biggest recent audiences through a nicely tuned and clear PA. Overall the music was a varied mix of traditional and original from a variety of performers, most playing to a pretty high standard. There was also a music lounge and bar for jamming that looked enticing but we didn't have enough time to participate in any of the stuff going on (this year).

We also had a long chat with Jennifer Maclean (the wife of Dougie) about the perils, pitfalls and pleasures of running festivals, something we've struggled with, both in OOTB and South Queensferry Arts. She was very encouraging about our music (as was Dougie) and about the business of festival organisation and management. We left happier, wiser, with some good contacts and of course a little wetter.

The drive up and down was spent in a perpetual haze of grey spray so little if any amber in Fife or Perthshire was observed. At one point heading home (via Freuchie) I hit a flooded part of the road doing about fifty and a huge brown wave of water covered the car front and back, after that I was a bit more cautious in my approach to surface water.

Yesterday we resumed the search for our lost cat Syrus after giving up the ghost about a year ago. A neighbour reported seeing him about 3/4 of a mile away, stalking in and then running across her garden early on Friday morning. So (in the rain) it was back to shouting and clanging on the metal dish, whistling into the wind and shining torches into the bushes. Let's hope we can at least confirm he's ok, if a little wild and possibly skinnier. It is likely that by now he'll be beyond returning to his former domesticated self but you never know, a cold snap may drive him back to warmth and regular feeding, we shall see.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

A day in the life

I'm not at work this week as the kids are on half term so today has been a laundry and recovery day following our trip up north. I did sneak some training in by heading out on my bike in the wind and rain for a brief cycle this morning. That was followed by sorting a bit on the car, clearing out some rubbish and filling the washer, at the same time some serious snacking was going on in the background.

I dabbled a bit on Facebook but it is such a crappy, clunky and devious little package that staying on it for twenty minutes is an effort. On line banking is a different beast, one that works well (for me) and does the simple processing of transactions and changes with the minimum fuss and there's no clutter from pop-ups and hooks as on MySpace and Facebook. Maybe some kind of social networking site based on conservative banking software is what we really need.

British politics remains as dull as ditch water, shifty Tories padding across the decks of Russian yachts, poor Sarah Brown looking dutiful and unhappy in Glenrothes and Mandelson and Darling preaching restraint to bankers over repossessions. Makes you wonder how many ex-banking employees homes will get a visit from the repo man over the next few months.

After a year of Sky digi-box ownership I've finally discovered how to save favourite channels (there aren't too many), I had a idle ten minutes before starting on the ironing, now I can quickly see that there's nothing decent TV on with a single flick of the remote, progress.

Tonight it's over to Fife for football training in the rain, a search for gloves, shopping for essentials, making up some kind of well cobbled together meal and throwing more coal onto the fire - the sex, drugs and rock and roll will have to wait another week.

I don't remember the 50s either

Now that another birthday is over I can reflect quietly on what little I can recall from the 50s, a decade arguably best forgotten. The funny thing is I can't really separate imaginings from early memories and photo views so I'm really struggling to grasp at what I do recall. School playground noises and first impressions, cold and coal fires and the little people in the radio playing violins or talking in strangely plumy voices - now that was entertainment. The 1955 Les Paul Jnr. in the photo was well beyond my knowledge and understanding but I may well have heard it's sounds mixed into the BGN somewhere on the Light Programme.
Edinburgh(Edinburghshire on the postcard) was where I would be taken for a day out in the train, fish and chips in Woolworth's cafe and chewing gum from a vending machine in the Waverly. This of course is a pre traffic problems Princess Street captured in 1955, we now know that the trams are about to make a return so to resolve the conflict once and for all.
This fine piece of paper would have fed a family for a month in the 50s and still paid out some divi from the Coop, a roll of Andrex has a bit more value to it now.
While we stumbled around in our hob-nailed boots here, the Americans were busy building Disneyland and preparing to invade my arid imagination with cartoons, films and loud music and daft ideas that would make me wish I was living there. That's a problem in the Scottish mind set, always feeling that you're just a few steps behind and missing out on something that you can't quite get to.
An early Batman cover with possibly Fascist overtones and frankly some bad composition and artwork, I never thought he'd still be going strong in 2008 as a the Dark Knight.
When real men with shiny heads and crew cuts played football, smoked twenty fags before the game and drank a couple of bottles of Piper Export at half time. The crowd peed into rolled up newspapers instead of visiting shiny metal urinals, ate pies at least a week old and the ball was modeled on the cannon balls used by Mon's Meg. Sponsorship was unknown and I doubt if TV coverage amounted to anything - cinema newsreel footage maybe was as much as you got. My earliest memories of football matches were that they were hard to understand, very cold and scary due to the huge crowd pressing in around you. Now you get a plastic seat on a concrete step set to encourage piles, the passing of numerous germs and claustrophobia.
Something went badly wrong in the motor industry somewhere, this the kind of car we all wanted (and still do) so we could look cool, be like the Jetsons or something from Lost in Space. What did we get? The Morris Marina, the Austin Allegro, the Austin Maxi, the Ford Popular, the Kia Cee'd...where did it all go wrong?

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Stormy Sunday Blues

Leaves blowing everywhere and rain spattering windows and windscreens, wet and cold and very much the seasonal turning of the weather. Down at the football field today at Inverkeithing it was like standing at the edge of Terry Pratchett's Disc World whilst watching a game. No hiding place from the wind and squally weather, it all seemed to come from every direction at the same time. None of this helped the flow of match or those like myself holding onto the touchline at a weird angle, grimly trying to remain upright. We lost the game 2 - 1 but it was a good humoured friendly and the Barclay representative was cool about the outcome.

The preparation of food as presented on TV and it's disproportionate importance as an art form is now really annoying me. TV chefs (decent cooks is all that they really are) hog the limelight and talk bollocks about something half the world can't do on a regular basis - eat. I'll be happy if the credit crunch bites into these twats enough to ration their ingredients and tasteless indulgences out of existence. Who cares how you chop onions or drizzle oil or marinade chicken and it's never going to make entertaining TV as far as I'm concerned. So that's another pointless rant from me over and done with.

Tomorrow it's my birthday and I'm 53 - so far the presents (received early) are lookin' good: A bottle of wine, mint chocs, Seasick Steve CD, Elbow CD, wallet, Bunny Suicides diary, car organiser and a Russian Roulette chocolate set (already used and won and lost) and a good few nice and funny cards as well. So what's still to come on Stormy Monday?

Thursday, October 16, 2008

No possessions

I've been doing a lot of scampering around thanks the wonderful airline Flybe this week. The pleasant grey and concrete city of Dusseldorf was the main destination and strangely enough all the flights were on time and without incident. The taped message however about emergency routines struck a profound chord (I was listening for a change), "you must leave all your possessions behind" true, you might be as well to start getting rid of a few right now for all the good they'll do you. It's funny how some of the most spiritual people I've known are also the most materialistic and grabbing. I think that the basic problem is their desire for certainty, you may seek it in doctrine and theology but you'll also find affirmation and security in all the stuff (of whatever kind) that you can surround yourself with. A pity you can't take it with you though.

Best things over the past few days:

Large meat feast (of unknown origins) in a Greek restaurant somewhere in Northern Germany.
Pink pepper sauce served with the above.
Grandchildren returning from a few days spent in the wigwams of Loch Lomond. They were excited and invigorated by the experience.
Football in St Monans on a bright Sunday morning - overlooked by my aunt's old house (long since passed out of the family).
Seasick Steve on CD.
Sales and stats from CD Baby.
Mr Cougar is MOT'd again despite a slight emissions problem, now put right.
Realising that burnt shepherd's pie a few days old is perfectly OK to eat.
Reading the Times from cover to cover to pass dead airport time.

These guys above remind me of those nameless individuals who like to place their nasty (and that's not nice) comments on this blog from time to time. These troubled folks seem to think that there should be some deeper point to what I'm writing and that free speech is not to be encouraged, however badly it's cobbled together. They also hide behind the web's screen of apparent anonymity which they mistakenly think shields their cowardly actions from the wider world, or does it? Just don't f**k with the senior service when leaving your IP address behind.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Intermittent Stimuli

Not quite the truth about the Big Lebowski

I find the BBC's Robert Peston a bit irritating these days, his face and expert opinions are everywhere. The misery of the collapse of capitalism has made him famous and he looks and talks like the twat in charge of the swimming pool in the Brittas Empire. Enough of the BBC and the financial crisis.

Will the killing ever stop? A shrew, three mice (one stuck in the cat flap) and a mole. Bored cats avoid the rain somehow but still retain their ability to hunt and kill.

The weekend is nearly upon use and there is much to do but much of the stuff that has to be done is weather dependant so it will not be done. I did however, as a pre-emptive strike, design and build a further two shepherd's pies to sustain through these dark and godless times as we watch the walls in our finance news proof bunker.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Capitalism in action

Today we are all a little poorer and further in debt to the public sector and ourselves. The sub-prime market stretched out of shape by ordinary folks and trailer trash has broken up entirely. The little people and victims of the greed within the finance world have brought down the high and the mighty. Like some Biblical prophecy finally come true the world of bad debts and irresponsible lending has collapsed as market confidence is gone, lost for a generation. A true revolution has occurred but nobody planned it and no expert saw it coming, now all that can be done is to mop up the mess and hope for the best. Schools, hospitals, roadways and railways will suffer but we'll never know by how much. The bloated Olympic Games fiasco will run on regardless as if we care about it here in the backwoods. So at some time in the future, in some dark place a clutch of bankers will receive a generous bonus for a job well done - did I say conspiracy?

It's not just money that's running out, today at Birmingham Airport, Hertz ran out of cars. "You'll have to wait an hour for the next trailer load", said the frazzled assistant. I'd had enough of trailer trash at this point and so headed next door to Alamo where cars were a-plenty, some were trashy but they were all drive able. This is capitalism and the free market in action, go out and go elsewhere.

Today's fine-fare: A fair bit of coffee, a chicken sandwich from Costa, biscuits from a red tin, fish and chips in Wetherspoons (and a pint) and odd drops of yogurt. None of these have helped my sore throat but I never expected them to either.

Monday, October 06, 2008

The Existentialist Factor

A weekend in which the vital ring was sorted, shepherd's pie reinvented, accounts settled, grass cut and various interesting or vacuous TV shows watched and digested has passed. All in all it was very satisfying and I feel a better person as a result. Today I am at home, alone and about to embark on various house and home related duties whilst the cats watch, puzzled and tolerant as ever. After a quick school run and a mid morning cup of tea with Mr Gorman of SQAF fame I'm awaiting the weather breaking and my energy running out as per usual.

The weekend football yielded some positive results, the Pars getting three points at Clyde, Joe's team getting a decent 3 - 3 draw at Glenrothes (he scored 2 of the goals) and the Buddies beating the Huns after a lifetime spent trying. Never give up and expect the unexpected.
A strange picture here, where Little Red Riding Hood (wearing fur) pets the (big, bad) wolf as it steals her scattered picnic and the contents of her handbag, make of it what you will, there are many roads and vehicles to carry you towards the great light of understanding and awakenings. Sadly this is not one of them.

Most blogging is just a repeat of the same things over and over again anyway, common themes, rants, events and the daily drudge regurgitated. Pictures are added in, often they are irrelevant to the text, they are simply there to bridge a gap or add a feel or pad out the thin text. This one is no more unique or better value than the next, just a cry in the darkness and a wolf with it's snout stuck indifferently in a scented handbag, all because it knows no better.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Ring a ding ding

Today we shopped without any obvious dropping for the engagement ring. The well chosen model being an antique (pre 1837) Georgian diamond and pearl example bought from a highly reputable source in the diamond district in Thistle Street Edinburgh. It was safely packed away in a little box and duly placed on the correct finger whilst eating chips and drinking coffee by the checkouts in IKEA. We like to do things properly and traditionally in this family.
The finger + ring + flowers from Emma photos were taken once we'd made it back home armed with our IKEA biscuits, cat cushions and shower curtains. The rain never seems to stop but life in all it's fullness and richness carries on regardless.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Brotherhood of the Cougar

That strange and mystical bond does exist, between man and machine and between Cougar owners and other Cougar owners (male or female). It's a spiritual and esoteric thing that holds us together in our long life's journey across the wide asphalt plains. Sometimes it takes a real and tangible form like a headlight flash, a gesture or letting you pass a tractor or some tiny European scooter that's wavering in your path. It's a mystery and wonderful one that enthrals and captivates - a bit like worrying about next week's MOT Test.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Bad Robot

As mentioned previously we received this fellow as an addition to our many pets, strays, creepy crawly and wild animal collection. He needs little if any food and is a but seasonally challenged. He is of course a robot but with human feelings and needs, all thanks to some clever nano technology and the out workings of the principals of necromancy, something of a lost art in modern day Scotland but we try. Keeping dead things alive is tricky, that last minute cough is not easy to deal with and the electric start treatment always makes me uncomfortable. Just looking again at young Frankie Boy there is a certain family resemblance.

Last night we went to see an adaption of Sunset Song at the Kings Theatre. It was well staged on hard wooden set that dipped and dripped like a Salvador Dali canvas with nicely distorted perspectives that captured the hardness of the Scottish heart and added to the tragic allegory of the tale. I don't get out much and I seldom experience live theatre so this was a nice wee treat and a reminder that simple things can work well in the right context and with the right story.

Clint the lazy cat at full stretch and fast asleep.