Sunday, November 30, 2008

Things that begin with T

Tea Cups - used to safely hold hot herbal drinks, the kind that have become fashionable as a result of our shameful Imperialist history, drug cravings and thirst.

Telephones - handy devices used to make and receive crank calls at odd hours of the day or night.

Thailand - far eastern country currently struggling with getting the correct balance between tourists, police and demonstrators.

Tourists - hard working but bewildered people who have gone as far as their money could get them and now want to get back home without spending any more.

Tourism - the name of an educational course carried out by the Open University and a number of badly named colleges scattered across the Central Belt.

Toyota - Japanese car firm that specialises in manufacturing cars and pick-up trucks made in Japan and other places. Noted for their "snick-snick" gear boxes.

Tantrum - extreme form of behaviour particularly noted in chimps, Scottish politicians and school teachers.

Top-Gear - amusing and irreverent TV programme and periodical that celebrates and champions the motor vehicle and the views and values of middle-aged men.

Toxic - toxic pop tune performed by "Forces Favourite" Brittany Spiers.

Thomas the Tank Engine - blue choo choo loved by small boys everywhere. An urban myth has it that Thomas was in fact the fifth Beatle.

Transcendental Meditation - a form of ritualised day-dreaming generally practised by twats and bored rich people with nothing else to do.

Twats - see above.

Travel - the art of moving smoothly between places either for business or for pleasure.

Time travel - as above but with an added dimension and a degree of danger and uncertainty.

Turnip - root vegetable that is notoriously difficult to cook and control. Popular with the agricultural classes and students for it's ability to create tummy gas.

Twix - two fingered chocolate sweet manufactured by the Mars Corporation.

Tree - leafy form of erect, growing wood worshiped by some religions and left wing pressure groups.

Tasmania - small island even further away than Australia. Popular in cartoon loving circles.

Tudor - obsolete crisp making company and one time despotic ruling family of England.

Ten Years After - 60s rock band famous for the tedious overplaying of electric blues related music at Woodstock.

Tinkerbell - Disney fairy character mildly related to the J M Barrie original and Julia Roberts.

Tentsmuir Forest - dull and over-rated area on the Fife coast that could do with being bulldozed by Donald Trump's people.

Trump (Donald) - Real estate whizz-kid who owns large golden buildings in New York run and operated by surly and unhelpful staff of questionable Afro-American origins.

Trumper - fine aristocratic and old English family from the heartlands of the Midlands. Often shows a degree of unwarranted tea-cup enthusiasm following marriage or spending too long in the cold.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Things that start with an F

F - sixth letter of the alphabet.

Ford's database - a wonder of modern engineering and the result of much IT blood, sweat and tears and strategy. Also slightly worrying due to it's big brother prowess but who really cares, if you've a driving license, a Tesco card or a mobile phone they've got you sussed anyway.

Friday - a day in the week but the one that generally leads to a longer than usual stay in bed the next day but not always.

Fat Freddie's Cat - See below.

Fabulous Furry Freak Bros - See above.

Finlay - a small grandson, in fact the smallest.

Fandango - Album by Texan rockers ZZ Top.

Fix - to repair, could be quick, could (as in most cases) take a little longer.

Frog - a variation of toad, as seen in various parts of the house, garden and orange plastic B&Q buckets.

Fleet Foxes - see Felice Brothers.

France - better than England but not as good as Scotland.

Fish - creatures that like the wet, say very little and are nice with chips and brown sauce.

Fudge - English version of tablet for softies.

Freuchie - small village in the middle of the Kingdom of Fife.

Fife - small and pleasant (sometimes grumpy) Kingdom containing Freuchie.

Fascist - extreme and unsavoury right wing political beliefs generally more stylish and interesting than the left wing version. Not a recommended choice to follow for a variety of good reasons.

Flintstone (Fred) -stone age cartoon cultural icon, dinosaur owner and male role model.

Faro - pleasant small town and plastic airport in Portugal.

Farm shops - always a host of interesting and expensive provender on display, some local, some not so. A valid diversion and second career choice for farmer's wives or possibly the partners of gay farmers.

Fender - a popular make of guitar made famous by Buddy Holly and Bob Dylan. also the maker of the "Tweed Deluxe Amplifier" and the "Twin Reverb".

Fellini - Italian movie maker with a fountain fetish.

Fetish - overly focused need or sexual preference.

Finish - the opposite of start and generally a welcome relief and a place to revel in the wonder of endorphins.

Felice Brothers, only here because I dropped the the from their formal title.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

White birds

A strange and cold selection of china birds stare across and down at us as we busy ourselves in the kitchen, patter out to the garden or rescue the hoover from the cupboard of oblivion. Apart from some cheap and interesting guitars, three pairs of sunglasses and CDs dating back to the dawn of music they form my main collection. Of course I forget about them as they roost in their lofty nests, often I fail to look at them for long periods of time and when I do I wonder if any of them have crept up in value. The birds of prey of course have a secondary function as (empty at the moment) whisky decanters plucked from the vaults of Edinburgh's own £9.99 special beverage, ex-Whyte and Mackay's vaults. The ducks are ducks.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Dumpsie Daisy

Another picture from an occasional food based series that I am unlikely to repeat.

The jam here somewhere or there on the right, served as part of a scone and jam and cream ensemble, is a new flavour I've never before encountered: Dumpsie Daisy. Fortunately it's not made from either dump (?) or daisies but a conglomeration of rhubarb, ginger, apple and plum. It tasted ok but it'll never beat strawberry in a straight fight. I'm not sure Dumpsie Daisy is a proper name at all the more I think about it - it should really be two schoolgirl characters in one of Ali's pre-war Dimsie Books.

We had to escape from our house to the nearby Garden Centre due to an unexpected funeral turning up and causing major congestion outside and so had to sample the delights of the cafe for an hour. Strangely it was full of grey and slow moving retired people bent on killing time and eating salad rolls and other (also retired) grandparents child minding for a day and wheeling the little monkeys around the shop.

The funeral traffic passed away and the muddy skid pan that we call a road is now deserted, the cats are settled down now, having not killed anything for about 6 hours and the washing machine leak and flood that threatened to destroy the day earlier on has gone, I hope.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Self portrait

Following on from some Sunday breakfast inspirations and the cancellation of the football due to snow in Fife, (bacon and cream cheese bagels it was) I have completed a self portrait using the simple medium of brown bread, a Wall's sausage of some questionable % meaty variety and Heinz tomato sauce. The white coffee mug is not really relevant but adds a sense of scale and significance to the piece. It works on so many levels really.

Those of a religious persuasion may, in a certain eerie and troubled light, see a slight resemblance there to either the Prophet Mohamed, Saint Paul or Groucho Marx (all of whom would need to wearing tortoise shell Rayban Wayfarers to make it work) and will also need to ignore the pig parts in the sausage please, offers for this work are welcome but already too late as it's been scoffed.

In a further food based experiment I've come up with an alternative to the ubiquitous and over-priced fruit smoothie. My home made alternative (as shown below lurking next to the Flora in the fridge) offers all the taste and goodness of a store bought smoothie but with additional and nutritious lumps - it's the LUMPY. These allow you to thoughtfully pause as you drink so the consumer can reflect and chew, a perfect combination to lengthen the taste experience. Full production will begin once I get the shed built, the strawberry patch free from dead giraffes and the apple trees planted.

The Lumpy prototype resting.

Friday, November 21, 2008

I can't explain

I've come to the conclusion that most of the world's troubles and most everyday troubles are down to one thing, the failure to provide a proper explanation. This revelation came to me as I dozed on a flight from Exeter to Edinburgh during the week. When I look back upon my life (not always with a sense of shame) I've always been the one to fail to explain and to mumble and therefore blame. Maybe it's all in the question being asked and not the answer. I was asking someone about the tidal range on a site and he told about me the depth of the water, then I asked about the maintenance arrangements for a piece of equipment and instead he told me how it worked, then I asked him about the working pressure of the equipment and he quoted figures nothing to do with that. I smiled and nodded politely and wondered about my accent and tone and general demeanor, then got back in the car. So I've got a feeling inside but I can't explain...

In Exeter airport I had the joyful experience of sitting next to a Paris Hilton clone in the coffee shop. She was shouting in an American accent into her pink phone using phrases like "And he's like.." "And I'm like..." "And we're like..." then just when I thought the dialogue couldn't get any worse up popped a Nicole Richie clone to add a third thread to the shrill and clearly pointless conversation. Now I am an expert on the lives of some dance troupe from Wales and their creative tensions and group dynamics. Nice enough girls really but you wish they could reduce their levels of hysteria to something close to inaudible when out in public. I suppose they were just trying to explain...

Peggy the pig got a nice big carrot to chew this afternoon as we shopped in a farm shop, a place I'd normally avoid but not today. My grandson poked the carrot through the fence and Peggy didn't quite take his fingers off but certainly enjoyed the carrot. I was on a log buying mission and filled the boot of the car with logs, kindling sticks and various home baked pies and West Lothian vegetables, all designed to see us through this cold snap. My grandson managed the quip of the day, he picked up a turnip and said: "My mummy says these make you pump!" Good explanation for an eternal problem.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Random busy-ness

Most of the weekend has been spent on the hoof, in the car, around hospitals and football fields and staring up into water dripping down from ceilings (it never drips up). Overall things have worked out, mouths have been fed, processes and procedures completed and the coal fire has learned how to relight itself, a quite useful if a little scary skill. You might think it to be a significant evolutionary step like gravy mix or self cleaning ovens, it keeps the house warm anyway.

In a single idle moment I did reflect on how I am no longer the treasurer or a committee member for OOTB - a weekly open mike night in Edinburgh. After five years of various bits of hard and easy labour I'm out of the bedroom altogether and possibly slightly relieved. The truth is there is only so much original local music you can stomach and I've heard most of it over the years and to be honest I'm bored with a lot of what's about, but I had a few laughs as well.

That's not to say there are not good people and musicians dodging around, it's just like I've eaten a whole sponge cake when I should have had just a slice. So I'll take (more of )a break and then hover for a while whilst trying to understand and appreciate another wave of the marathon strummers trying to make sense of their little world, (you can't!), the grunge kids who don't know it's not 1992 anymore, the middle aged, mid-life crisis impressionists (that'll be me), the serious and virginal blues-men and the ever lovin' ever losin' hippies, god bless them all.

Thanks to the staff of this surprisingly good West Lothian hospital for looking after us (?) this weekend. A cleaner, less cluttered and better mannered hospital would be hard to find anywhere I reckon.

Saturday, November 15, 2008


A rendered and artistically challenged version of my running and cycling efforts yesterday, at least I look like I'm having a good time (which I was). The bike and the helmet were borrowed, the legs, the blood supply and the sweat were however all mine. The storm of oil paint, the heavy, squally smudges and the low flying acrylics caused havoc with my rhythm. I finished last but I was the oldest and least well prepared competitor. The best part was that when I woke up this morning I didn't feel half as bad as I should have.

So one more time "I've got a bike you can ride it if you like, it's got a basket, a bell that rings and things to make it look good. I'd give it to you if I could but I borrowed it". Just don't ever continue with this and go into the other room, you may not return.

Mitch Mitchell RIP. An old drumming friend of mine said he was the best (as if that can ever be settled) but he was special for a short period when The Experience were the band to follow and black vinyl Track records held all the best memories, fired the most colourful of dreams and inspired the formerly clueless to get out and do something - I think I'm talking about the Class of 69.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

More blonde ambition

Today I've mostly been eating toast, getting wet from passing rain showers and training for my "Children in Need" cycle and run mini (but big to me) biathlon, I hope to survive it and in surviving it complete it, the time being immaterial. I may at the end of the activity eat more toast and drink large amounts of Coca-Cola, in fact I'm visualising the finish right now and scoffing whatever I can imagine just to get my mental processes set onto a positive path. Every little extra effort helps I believe.

The mix up of tracks below are the 13 contenders for best of 2008 and after some careful consideration there is no clear winner and it's probably apparent to all casual readers that some essential piece has been omitted but who really cares.

White Winter Hymnal – Fleet Foxes

Rule the World – Take That

A & E - Goldfrapp

Air kisses - Jools & Verne

Why be blue – Carlene Carter

Mykonos – Fleet Foxes

Snare Drum – Lucy Wainwright Roche

Pools – The Delorean Sisters

I told her on Alderaan – Neon Neon

Grounds for divorce – Elbow

Started out with nothing – Seasick Steve

Only with you – Dennis Wilson

Frankie's Gun – The Felice Bros.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Best in show

Perhaps it's a sign of terminal boredom or being bankrupt in the Royal Bank of ideas, perhaps it's a time of life thing or maybe I've been listening to a little more music than before. Whatever we've decided that a Best of 2008 music CD is called for and that this fine piece of work will double as a greeting card that we can send out and so wish our friends and family some happy times.

It's a pretty abstract idea really, wishing somebody a merry Christmas, the key verb being "wish" of course. There may be a latent and potent power attached to wishes, I'm not sure. I've wished many things and quite nicely some have worked out, others have gone the other way, did my wish work or was it just coincidence? So we wish that people might have good things and times and have attached few pieces of stolen music and songs to the wish package.

So it's corny but not as bad as the "end of year newsletter" card where a list of holidays, promotions, kids achievements and home improvements are spread across the families annual report. If you get one of these CDs I hope you listen to it and like it, you may do neither and I may fail miserably to produce them but the wish will still be in there, which is more important if a bit less tangible.

The other thing is that looking back over the year in November (all 11 long/short months into it) it's been incredibly busy and eventful. Surrounded by weddings, funerals, pregnancies, babies, divorce, travel, illness, cars and houses and working more hours than ever - I'm thinking that we've done and seen enough in the last 11 months to fill 12. Stop the bus.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Pittenweem silence

Today I found myself spending the two minute's silence standing on the edge of a football pitch in Pittenweem looking out across wind blasted Scottish fields at the church spire in nearby Anstruther. Close by is the cemetery where most of my close family relatives are buried. The boys linked arms in silence before the start of their match, braced themselves against the cold and probably wished the silence would be over quickly so the game could start. My thoughts went out to the lives of my uncles, aunts, parents and grandparents and the wars they saw and lived through. My dad's, an unlikely sailor and the ships that sank underneath him three times, my uncle torpedoed in the Atlantic Convoys, another uncle in the Army in Italy and Germany, another in the African desert, my grandfather loading Swordfish aircraft at Crail, my other grandfather on a trawler in the North Sea - then the many friends they lost while they survived and died, older, wiser and sadder men. Our generation knows a few troubles and pains but nothing compared to what they experienced. The freezing wind and the ref's whistle to begin the game brought me back from imaginings and reflections and we drew 2 - 2 with the East Neuk, Goal a game Barclay getting yet another.
I'm bored with Obama already (even though he's a good guy), his screeching, clawing fan club, the unearned plaudits being poured upon him and the incessant media coverage. He's been elected, well so were Hitler and Mussolini in some numerical, populist way. The hard part is running the show properly once you're in. He's yet to deliver a pizza but the world expects a miracle and he and his family will pay a heavy price for it if it fails to appear. As for a racial minority success and triumph, I'm not so sure if today's white on black on yellow on brown isn't really some kind of historical blip. Haven't black people been running Africa for most of the past 5000 years? Same goes for the Indians in the Americas, the Arabs in the Middle East and Chinese in China. These white guys who arrived with guns, Bibles, bad attitude and STDs a few years ago sure screwed things up for a while but in nature all balances have to be restored eventually, so by all means Obama try and sort it out, you're riding up out of a down turn but they'll all expect a beefy payback.

Friday, November 07, 2008

From Warwick to Glenrothes

Some of Britain's ugliest ex-politicians, TV pundits and newer MPs make a noble stand against dyslexic vasectomies while the poor Daily Mail photographer behind them falls through a trap door but manages to save his mum's camera.

Most of my daylight hours this week were spent in the Midlands, home of traffic cones , dirty trees and olde worlde things and places such as Warwick. I camped out there and watched the football feast that was Celtic v Man U whilst eating fish and chips and drinking a few pints of the aptly named "Slaughter House Ale". A fine way to spend a bonfire night during which I didn't see a single bonfire or a firework.

I made it home in time for News at Ten on Thursday, tired and traveled out but I couldn't sleep so having avoided the US elections earlier I opted for the Glenrothes version. The panel of experts were wide awake while my mind sparkled with thoughts of what I needed to do at work the next day. No rest for the wicked as anyone with an active night time mind will tell you. The best bit was Nicola Sturgeon's new eye-liner look and her red shoes. The newly elected MP stuttered through his thank you speech and seemed like a decent enough chap, a shame he's on his way into a political wilderness for the over 60s with Scottish Labour.

After a fitful sleep (whatever that means) we awoke to find the central heating had expired, the cats has disappeared and the weather had turner strangely mild. I was left with no option other than to head to the shops to get a box of fireworks, chase a cat and a limping mouse around the house and await the success of the plumber's last minute rescue mission. It'll all be fine eventually.

Monday, November 03, 2008

It takes all types

Today it too cold to do anything except go to work, run about in dark country lanes in a desperate attempt to get fit for a charity run that's looming, eat yesterday's curry and look at a small to medium to large pile of ironing and imagine how it would be if it was all done. The struggle to stay warm and alive has at least five months to go. Brrrr.

The artwork below is by Erin and is representative of the strange and ongoing going ons attributed to the people who brought you the Mighty Boosh, jiggery pokery and the Bouncy Castle Song. Above it all Erin and Ali enjoy some wild toffee apples whilst dressed in the latest personal protective clothing available for party goers and young professionals alike. I may have been on the other side of the camera but I'm not sure.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

An entire world away

I picked up Ali at a slightly inhospitable Aberdeen airport yesterday after her backwards and forwards and sideways trip to Australia and back again. A fearsome and fun filled itinerary included Manchester, London, Singapore, Sydney, Bangkok and Aberdeen in seven of your average earth days. This of course isn't average earth, that doesn't exist unless you believe in Dr Who. From my simple point of view I'm so glad she's back complete with the over sized Ozzy chocolates, the books for the kids, the laundry and my new opal cuff links.

Last night we cruised around the 'toon dressed as Ninja aliens and hairy creatures infested with spiders from Mars. I ate some bits of kangaroo, some fragments of crocodile, some morsels of emu and drank champagne. Ali picked up low down cereal cartons with her teeth and the grandkids did us proud as young Batman and junior Woody from Toy Story. Then it was a rush down the road to Cupar for 10a.m. football, a MacDonald's breakfast and a bright and sunny game sadly lost 4 -1 and only worthwhile for another Barclay family goal (vicarious credit and pleasure for me of course).

Music this week: Pacific Ocean Blue by Dennis Wilson scores highly, Elbow also and still, the nice discovery of Lucy Wainwright Roche (who Ali met in Manchester) and a reminder that Eddi Reader knows a thing or two. Didn't miss Jonathan Ross on the radio this Saturday as I drove north - somebody who talked a lot less and played Glen Campbell and the Yardbirds did it fine for me as I hid behind the sunglasses. Neil Young also reminded me quite pointedly why I first got myself into this music thing, hammering innocent guitars and starting the clipping of minor chords and fooling around on the edge of feedback. He also stole all my mannerisms some time in early 1971 and the ability to used the word "mind" in any given lyric.

Dennis Wilson stands under a steel piled jetty with concrete caps and decking: What would I know about structural marine architecture, self production and songwriting? God bless him where ever he is...