Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Stuff of the year

2008 then:

My old mum died at the age of 85 after a short illness.

My fourth grandchild, the lovely Imogen was born.

The family grew and grew (grandchildren's birthdays are great), some lost teeth and curly hair but they all like staying with us.

We had a cracking holiday in the Algarve and ate lots of sardines.

Emma's big birthday was celebrated with the best party of the year.

Mr Cougar joined our fleet of utility vehicles.

We went to New York and did everything.

Paul became Dr Paul.

We played at Perthshire Amber.

The garden was extensively remodelled and improved.

The kittens became cats but Syrus did not return from his extended wander.

I left OOTB after five years of involvement.

The credit crunch happened and still is - thank you GB.

People split up, grew apart and some came together.

Met up with and old friend I hadn't seen since 1977.

Erin and Guy moved into the best ever flat in Aberdeen.

I kept my head above water at work and a step nearer retiral.

Built three decent bonfires and set off a few fireworks.

Supported faithfully at various large and small football matches.

I flew on 36 different flights to get here.

Ali had a whirlwind trip to Oz and the far east.

Various health scares and traumas were dealt with successfully.

The Holyrood muddle may yet get us a new Forth crossing.

Recorded and mixed a few tracks, had ideas and have plenty more on the go.

Discovered BOFFER.

Ended up with £45.50 in my TSB current account.

Stuck with Facebook (and the rest of the on-line gibberish) despite my healthy dislike of it.

Cooked a full Christmas dinner (almost).

Blogged the usual load of tosh and almost got away with it.

The Fleet Foxes: easily the best band of the year, let's hope they don't die from over exposure now that they've made the Radio 2 playlists.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Walgreens medicines

Today I am doing my best to overcome the head cold that has been dogging me for a week. The small selection of American sourced Walgreen remedies I rely upon haven't dented it so far, I may have to seek specialist advice. The trouble is I get up feeling awful then slowly recover until early evening when the pain and the splutter return, my cold is a creature of the night. It thrives and grows in the dark and warm and then scurries away, complaining bitterly when daylight finally comes round but leaving nasty traces behind. I've also carried out brief sorties into it's territory using Beecham's products and some ASDA paracetamol, it's a war of stealth, patience and attrition now. I will get the better of it before the first rays of 2009's golden dawn or die trying.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Safe pair of hands

We're in that limbo period between the big seasonal days, stupid sales are on, between the world of work and real life and feasts and leftovers. The house is full of family and the dishwasher is on overtime and AC/DC are on the radio. So what's that to do with what I know today I didn't know yesterday?

I don't like Portishead (the band not the place).
Thomas and the Magic Railroad is an awful kids movie.
Potatoes when mashed can survive much maltreatment.
Fluff and dust neither rest nor sleep.
People are strange.
Wii snowboarding is not my best sport.
Crackers get worse with every Christmas.
Digital radio is fun.
There are issues with Word in ubuntu.
Blueberries are perfect with Muller corners.
I can beat the common cold (but it takes time).
We're getting a new second in the New Year thanks to the Atomic clock.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Merry Christmas (late)

Who can be bothered blogging about what they did over Christmas time? Not me - but happy Christmas.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008


Now it's downhill all the way to Christmas Day and I'm home and ready to start preparations by reading about turkey cooking times, doing some fridge unpacking and plunging my hands into cold water to rescue drowning vegetables. I also now know that there are few available chestnuts in the world, holly doesn't seem to come with red berries anymore and though the cat is trying to pick up a pen with his muddy paws and can never succeed at this. It probably wont snow either but I never did expect it to.

Last night we ventured out to China China in the heart of the metropolis and ate mock Chinese food all hot and packaged into the atmosphere of a festive factory canteen. The kids enjoyed the experimentation and the ice cream machine and I didn't over eat due to a rampant sore throat and inner conflict about the whole "all you can eat" philosophy. I came home and drank two glasses of brandy, took some non prescription drugs and watched an episode of Smallville and today I do feel a little better.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Iconic image survives and thrives

Nice to see a little reminder of past glories, bonfires and parties whilst trawling around and across the wicked web. This locally produced image is the work of Mr CBQ (link left) as featured on his latest creation and some previous material. I can only say that whilst he lit the fire with care and appropriate caution (as I recall) I built it. The shadowy images in the smoke and vapour are of course some of my beloved offspring standing on top of an ancient wall.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Older people sleeping

Over soup and sandwiches today that eternal, compelling question once again arose, "Why is it difficult for old(er) to stay over at your/our/anybodies house?" I've just returned from a night of couch hoping in Aberdeen and thankfully it doesn't seem odd for a chap of my somewhat stretched out years (cat age of 254) to spend the night on the couch. In other parts of humankind it's unthinkable, as if older people have strange and elaborate sleep needs and rituals that can only satisfied in a familiar and controlled environment. Perhaps they sleep upside down like bats, or in coffins, or they need hourly injections of milky drinks and the use of free flushing toilets - all night. Whatever way I'm not there yet, perhaps a full and frank initiation is carried out a benchmark ages like 60 or 65. Of course Charles Dickens the inventor of Christmas, class wars, misery and pre-electronics radio always had to sleep in a cast iron north/south facing bed in order to benefit from the earth's magnetic forces washing over him - there may be more to this than I realise.

My phone's not here yet despite a series of long calls to the sub-continent, refusal by a telephone company to text delivery details, befuddlement at the anomalies in the post code database and me being "in" at the time of delivery (but the delivery company say I was "out"). Was I in or out? Do I really want to have to learn to work another phone and horde another box, charger and instructions in a drawer, all "just in case"?

Mr Cougar suffered a dislocated mirror thanks to an undocumented street incident in the area of North Anderson Drive, Aberdeen. The culprit may have been stumbling junkies, weary football fans after a day of delight in Inverness, dog walkers daydreaming, old people sleep walking or aliens looking for samples, I'll never know. Ford's designers didn't quite get that part of the project right and added in "snap-off" mirrors instead of folding ones (like every other car on the planet), Duh! I only noticed the damage when leaving the fair city so a quick pit stop repair was called for, thankfully it snapped back on and none of the electrics suffered.

Replacement mirror not required: This time.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Dude! Where's my phone?

I waited in all afternoon for the delivery man who was due to bring me a new and sexy Sony Eric Idle phone. Did he show up? Did he bizzzz!!! My patience has been stretched but I did concoct a decent curry and wrapped a few presents whilst wastefully standing by. Grrrr!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Vox Wyman bass

Blue tin of biscuits.
Vox bass, similar but not the same.

A visit from Fingers Farrell prompted the opening of the blue biscuit tin, the one that has been on top of the fridge for a month patiently waiting on Christmas, visitors or some kind of domestic emergency. I only ate three, not sure how many the others ate. The purpose of the visit was to collect an ailing Vox Bill Wyman bass dating back to around 1964. It was played regularly in the 70s and 80s (by me) and then after a holiday up north spent a few years forgotten and somewhat neglected in lofts and cupboards. The lacquer is cracking, both pick ups are broken (but original) and various parts are loose, mouldy, rusted or seized. A fine project for any guitar enthusiast and I trust Mr F to do a fine fixing job on it.

Electronic drums are fab. Not the wee Dr Rhythm type I mess with or fiddly machines but the big, full size kits that can sound like anything you like. Brilliant in fact, as I discovered today watching somebody who knew a thing or two working out on such a kit. Why did they not catch on?

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Hallelujah 2

Rest in peace if you can, Facebook fans want you alive again and No1 to prove a point that seems important, suddenly. Popular culture and a huge machine argue for the poison X that marks the treasured No 1 spot - but it's only a song after all and they blow in the wind and fly like flags, nag memories, tear at edges and tell people things that others don't understand (or so the special listener thinks), it's only a song after all. Rest in peace.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008


After two nights of wrapping Christmas presents I was starting to get ragged around the edges, in the mind, with the sticky tape and to make matters worse my knees were sore. I'd also realised about 24 hours after Ali had said it that as a general rule presents should all be wrapped in the same paper according to the recipient. Some how that plain piece of packing truth and logic has eluded me all these years. Like most men I thought you used the nearest, handiest sized bit of paper and then moved on to the next pattern. The resultant uncoordinated effect somehow enhancing the Christmas experience and bringing great joy and so on. Once this festive light penetrated my brain a new and well blended school of packaging emerged - apart from the stuff I did yesterday which does have a certain chaotic charm to it.

Chaos is common at Christmas, in shops, on the road, in peoples houses, on TV, in schools and workplaces. Everybody (apart from you non-Christmas weird folks) is contaminated by this festooning madness and desperate attempts to some how gather together a never ending list of gifts, quaint and inedible foods and random shiny objects. I succumbed to the lunacy many years ago and a masochistic and truculent way enjoy the whole thing: Christ bringing chaos to the world, none of what happens ever being quite what he must have planned or hoped for. It shows how far people can deviate from some simple ideas in just a millimetre of time - and heaven on earth is as likely as peace on earth.

Hallelujah is the Christmas number one, sung soulfully by a decent young singer from X-Factor but totally ruined in the sanitizing process. Shrek and dead boy Buckley gave it a new context and now it has truly been kicked into broadcasting oblivion in the worst way possible. Can you imagine Chav families squatting around their walnut stereo-gramme or head expanders and puzzling over what those lyrics have to do with Christmas? God knows it'll turn up on all the Chrissy compilations from next year on and along with Mad World just to add another layer of theological and unthinking chaos to the mix. Mr Cohen's pension fund will however get a nice little boost in January.

Everybody's happy, everybody's laughing.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Kryptonite and stars and cowboy boots

The celebrations are well underway, our pet starfish has been candy appled (as in apple the fruit) and metal flaked into Christmas and our best piece of green Kryptonite has new sparkly neighbours to join him by his seat of wisdom and solitude. Soon chestnuts will be roasting on the open fire etc. etc.
Today I ventured out into the shops, the idea being that I would buy a series of items that I had carefully listed about five minutes before I left the house. These items were all destined to be Christmas gifts for loads of people. Sure enough when I reached the shops stuff was everywhere (apart from Woolworth's, a shadow of it's former self and now looking more like down town West Beirut did in the 70s), so I had to start choosing things to buy. This didn't really take long as most things were available, all shiny and bright today, all new and desirable, glittering prizes to be stored under the transplanted tree until we can take the suspense no more and rip them to shreds.

I was taken by a sprightly old guy at one of the check outs, joking about being under 25 as he bought his wine in Livingstone's Walmart. He was old from the top of his head to his knees. Below the knee however he was young enough to be wearing silly cowboy boots like Bono or John Wayne - good for him, I want a pair.

Bankers eh? What are they like? Back in a previous life I endured long training sessions being taught about Materials Requirement Planning (MRPII) and when it came to inventory management (and you don't really want inventory but real life tells you need some) the banks were the boys we looked up to. Normal organisations just kept losing inventory (trucks, heavy metal, spare parts, pallets), it just drifted away, but this never happened with banks. They had the best storage and inventory control systems going because nobody ever lost track of money, while the dumbo dinosaur manufacturing industry just couldn't keep track of all their washers, springs and bolts. Well that was back in the 80s, seems that things are different now, we've no manufacturing left (MRP II too late!) and now it's the turn of the hedge funds and the banks that fuel them to have trouble getting the numbers to add up. Somehow another 50 Billion just sneaked away while they were sipping on cocktails and listening to Elton John. Bugger the lot, bring back MRP II, proper compliance checks and some decent stock visibility and control.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Non domestic non goddess

I like cooking if it's leading some where, in other words not just for me. I also like the squirrelesque tactic of preparing food and hording it until a nuclear winter comes along or rampant inflation makes us have to eat nettles and thistles as in days of yore. Today I made a vat of soup (15% only) and a dumpster sized pasta bake even though I wasn't hungry or particularly bored - now I await Ali and my daughter and son in law to arrive, they'll not really fancy any of that but just have a nice cup of tea and Tesco cookie.

Turkeys at Christmas. Firstly Christmas is far too long a festival whatever it is supposed to be about, it should last a weekend but it, like an unwelcome house guest lasts a whole season. This is not a sustainable situation, soon there will be only two seasons, irrespective of weather or tides and they will consist of a short wet summer and a long cold Festive Season (where autumn, winter and spring used to be). So I ventured out to order a turkey at our local farm shop only to be told they'd just one left and it was the size of a bungalow and would cost a week's wages and it'd feed West Lothian and it wasn't quite dead yet.

On paper and in my head it all seemed so simple, perhaps a few shopaholic locals confused the barn for a rural branch of Woolworths and absconded with all the decent sized birds. Now that I think about it they may have done me a big favour, a nice slab of freshly machine gunned venison might be the perfect Christmas roast to share with the family.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Not hitting bottles

The world is clear, cold, frosty and diamond white. I am seeing clearly through the mist and star light thanks to an uncompromising diet of fruit corner yogurts, big Kit Kats, microwave foodstuff and the occasional fresh vegetable coupled with my flat on back sleeping technique and a lot of running up and down staircases.

The days leading up to what some in the west describe as the Christmas season has so far been almost healthy and pretty much alcohol free - since Sunday. Not sure I feel any better overall, probably because as you get older some body functions become odd and less efficient. Shaving cuts are generally disastrous events requiring the pressure of Desperate Dan type thumbs on the leaking chin to stem the flow. I could illustrate other related things by describing staccato piccolo playing or the uneven flow of cat food from a squeezed sachet (but I won't bother) - or the gases produced by a Greek Pizza oven left on overnight and the hissing breath of a black Prussian locomotive steaming out of Belgrade Station.

One nice side effect is that I can no longer eat three mincemeat pies in a row, drink a whole pint of milk or scoff a packet of Jacobs Fruit Clubs. In some strange way I am now at peace with (very small parts of) the world and comfortable in my own wrinkly skin.

Did you notice that the girl in the photo also has two mouths?

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

This is not how I am

Listening to Ross Harper from the Scottish Green Party would make anyone want to run out and buy a diesel helicopter (see Pigs from Uranus - Oz circa 1970). He spluttered and stammered through a radio interview this morning whilst watching the traffic cross the Forth Road Bridge. His comments on the plans for a new road bridge included the classic lines, "I'd spend shed loads on money on ferries from Kirkcaldy and Burntisland" and "I've been here for five minutes and I haven't seen a single bus cross the bridge". As a regular road user crossing the bridge at the same time I could see three heading south, and blue lighted ambulance stuck in traffic and a traffic jam backed up to Masterton but he doesn't think we need a new bridge. His other sage like advice was based around investing more money in the stupid, creaking and unpopular public transport systems (that have plainly failed) which he somehow expects to run across two bridges that are approaching the ends of their working lives, both will ailing infrastructure.

As for the Liberal Democrats, I've just experienced the consequences of their ill informed rantings in a very personal way. With no idea about factual validity or the consequences of their actions these loose cannons continually blow meaningless but annoying smoke up their own arses and into decent peoples faces via a media system that can't differentiate between actual news and wispy opinions. Thank you very much.

On a more constructive political note I quite like "Wee Eck" Salmond's choice of Christmas card this year, an oil painting of a pillar box red trawler parked in MacDuff harbour. Bully boy Salmond's taste is ok with me, however he may well have missed the ironic twist of displaying a sea fairing image less to do with fishing and more to do with money laundering, drug and cigarette smuggling and the passage of illegal immigrants. I suppose since the EU screwed the fishermen they've not a lot of choice. I'm ready and waiting for my card to be delivered any day.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Wooly jumper at the end of the world

Came home today to find that the cold was still as cold. After a long journey from the Midlands of England's Midlands I resorted to putting on my biggest, woolliest jumper (made by Incas and bought in NYC for $10) and going straight back out into the cold. I had an appointment.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

The islands at the end of the world

It's always tricky to try to name your all time favourite place, there's always a paragraph in the Sunday papers where people talk about Dunkeld or Princess Street or some blasted heath 100 yards from a concrete time share complex. So I asked myself where mine might be and there are of course numerous contenders, all of which reflect different aspects of my 53 year penal term spent vainly getting used to bits of Scotland and it's quirky geography. So in a moment of abstraction and sausage sandwich chewing I remembered where it was and most likely always will be.

In fact it's very easy to find, get along to the east end of Cellardyke in Fife, past the old drying greens and the remains of the outdoor pool and look out towards Caplie Caves along the coast. Some where out there the sky and sea and land meet and when I first saw that spot - as a very small boy, it seemed to me like the edge of the world (and possibly the end). I knew nothing then of maps or the Fife Coastal Path or the North Sea or Norway, I just knew that over there was a magical place some how way beyond my understanding, a big world defined by a hazy grey line that was somewhere and nowhere. Strange, probably dangerous and always unknowable, if I didn't know myself a little better I'd say it's almost as close to a proper spiritual experience as I've ever come - but in a geographical way.

I still think of it that way, I ignore the fact that Crail is nearby, that Kilrenny is over the hill, that the Firth of Forth turns into the North Sea and that the world is (most likely) world shaped. When you get a bit older, a look through your own eyes, as they once were, is rather refreshing and often a lot better than the current view. I need to go back there one day and stare out to see...
Anstruther lifeboat leaving harbour 1955, my uncle Alex Keay is pulling on the rope in the bow. The original can be seen in my daughter's bathroom in Aberdeen (things get passed around a bit in this family).

Friday, December 05, 2008

Strange sweets from the edge of the world

Not easy to cover these guys adequately, even on a good day.

Some Friday afternoons have a wild and unscripted feel to them: two hours to kill before I pick up the kids from school, so much time and so little high quality activity to fit in. The musical background from 2 - 4 tends to be Tom Morton on Radio Scotland. The car parks vary between Asda, Comet and Currys and the food shopping is usually completed in 20 mins tops with a quick browse over laptops and other things not really needed. It is also possible to obtain coffee in a sweet polystyrene cup and so whittle away at the time. Anyway the mighty Tom had a covers show today (well and hour's worth) and as ever a personal list is required - the (usual) best, predictable covers ever etc. and in no particular order:

Umbrella - The Manic Street Preachers
Hurt - Johnny Cash
Time of your life - Glen Campbell
All along the Watchtower - Jimi Hendrix Experience (on all lists, always)
Ziggy Stardust - Bauhaus
Valerie - Mark Ronson
Super Trouper - Camera Obscura
Careless Whisper - Willie Nelson
Superstition - Jeff Beck
Mr Tambourine Man - The Byrds

That should do it for this week.

Strange sweets - we're still eating them now the lemon pie is over, the chocolate frogs have gone and the jelly beans are proving to be surprisingly tasty.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

The many things that cats don't understand.

An altogether better speaker.

Civilised cats (tigers in fact) who have learned to wave at windows.

I have given up on my mission to civilise cats, I've come to the conclusion that there is nothing I can do to house train them into wiping their paws on entering our humble human abode. The cats clearly see no difference and upon returning to the warm indoors insist on stamping their muddy paws, capable of retaining and spreading muck better than any re-inking stamp, all over the house. Even picking them up and wrestling with them whilst wiping the offending paws with paper towels doesn't seem to fix the problem. The mud is sticking and the cats refuse to learn. Beatrix Potter would know how to deal with these furry snakes with legs by writing a humorous short story about their dirty socks and tattered whiskers and making a handsome profit in the process no doubt, God bless them.

The Rt Hon Michael Martin MP, Speaker of the House of Commons, is a complete twat and a disgrace to modern politicians anywhere. This opinion is based on the stirring performance he gave in Parliament yesterday as seen on numerous TV newscasts. Please retire this person to an appropriate home for the bewildered before serious damage is done to an already creaky and disreputable system (but one that is strangely still the best in the world). Politicians and (muddy and disrespectful) cats and bankers; beware the wrath of Karma.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Starlings over Rome

Today I've managed to avoid going to Rome and getting mixed up with the five million starlings that have descended upon the Eternal City. They've also ascended above the city and with unmeasured abandon and little thought as to the overall effect, busy themselves creating their artworks in the winter skies. In so doing they infuriate the locals by their roosting, avoid the harsh weather further north and delight tourists and people with fancy cameras and Flikr accounts.
Today it is cold, cars are iced up, noses run and the only good thing to eat and beat the chill is a hot Pukka pie - which I did. I would've made soup but that seems too complicated and the vegetables are still firmly rooted in the shops. I will now retire to the lounge where the ironing, the fire, Ali on the couch and the glow of the TV are already beckoning in a weary, warming way.
At least I've started the annual ritual procurement exercise in true homage to those three seasonal wise men, Dickens, Nicholas and Coca-Cola and started my Christmas shopping at Amazon, the lazy man's answer to retail blues. A simple list of things that people don't really need but have to have is quickly translated into a string of irritating emails and two pages on a credit card statement that not only sets fire to the carpet when it plops through the letter box but lasts until June. Joy to the world and MasterCard. I'm sure none of this was quite what God, Jesus and the other angelic folks in the arithmetically challenged trinity had in mind 2008 years ago when this snowball began to roll but DHL, the Post Office and numerous white van firms are still rejoicing in the Christmas Chaos. Next is the tree erection episode and the Brussels sprout peeling contest.