Saturday, July 31, 2010

Loch Ness

South looking North.

South looking East.

Hard to find a more dreary place than the south bank of Loch Ness, perpetually damp, dank and almost (apart from the lost) tourist free. Communities seem to cling to the wet rocks and the over powering trees, hanging on in the deepest shadows for grim death or life or whatever comes first out of the green, dripping woods. It's a single track road to ghosts, waterfalls, nowhere and nothing, so it's well worth a visit in other words and other worlds.

Always worth popping into Boleskin House for a cuppa tea, a digestive biscuit, a small bit of human sacrifice and the rites of passage ceremony to the upper seventh level of Thelema a strategic place in the universe of spheres that I've managed to maintain since 1971 or thereabouts.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Hoping for something brilliant and decorating the cave

Stones from the battlefield linked and unlinked in a dry, dead testimony - 1745.

It's not a particularly edifying experience clicking on the "next blog" tab on the top left of this site, I do so occasionally hoping to find some gems of wisdom or a unique piece of information or world view but mostly it's food and families and middle of the road values from Santa Monica to Sevastopol. Fair enough, we're all caught up in our little lives, trying to make sense, document stuff and create diaries, showing what's important to us and what we like. We are carving and painting on a cave wall, making a tiny mark as we pass across our own primitive life scape. Perhaps in the future someone will stumble on our material and reinterpret it and the impression of life we left in some insane and inappropriate way like they have done with stories of Jesus, Mohammad, Mickie Mouse, Marx, Katie Price or George Best. Good luck to you all, try not to believe what you read or all you hear, sometimes people get things quite wrong for very long periods of time and can't change. Meanwhile, I'm decorating the cave.

The sun goes down behind the trees, across the loch, no fish for us tonight (that was a few nights ago!) but we have smoked sausage, Pringles and assorted muffins.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Fishers of men etc.

It’s fabulous if a little peculiar to be doing nothing most of the time, when I say nothing I really mean very little or perhaps I mean something that is still very little but not the same as normal or at a normal level of activity but then I know fine well there is no such thing as normal nor should there be. I’m drifting.

Last night we stood on the bank of the loch and fished for about four hours. We caught nothing. Then along came this guy, kind of ragged looking, unsteady on his feet and with a strange glint in his eye, he looked us and our equipment over and gestured to say that he wanted to use the rod. We had had enough and were about to give up and stop fishing anyway so decided to hand it over, in life you never know what’s about to happen next do you? Anyway he picked up the rod, wound the line up and down a little and then looked at the bait and the hook. “Hmm.” he said. Then holding the rod as if it was a guitar he began to sing “I can’t get no satisfaction.” He was very drunk as it turned out.

The same guy was spotted outside the Costcutter Coop in Granton upon Spey a few hours earlier.

Small green world

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Cabin fever

Ducks sail past my window living on a diet of bread and sticks according to my recent unreliable observations.

Today I am feeling a little better and less hostile towards the clump of perfect families and idyllic silver surfers that surround me. In making peace, accepting them and their green bags of collected dog shite and assorted shades of anorak I can sit back, serene from my conservatory’s (built in Macclesfield) woodland site and simply marvel at the world, the damp, chilly trees and the occasional wildlife that I occasionally spot. Perhaps it is simple, I do not have a hybrid Lexus 4x4, an anorak, a big black dog and children called Sophie or Jack but am pretty close to that, sitting as I am on the edge of this world and peering in - wishing for all my better judgement that I owned a horse called Moss (Kate for short) and a big “bog off “ horse box to tow along, angering my fellow road users and tax dodgers.

Karma Pork Pie

Brokeback Breakfast

Having arrived here as an unplanned event from somewhere else in the universe it’s always good to redress the balance and payback the unpayable debt we all owe the Great Pumpkin. I tend to do this in small ways i.e. I buy two pork pies and a half dozen free range eggs from an environmentally friendly butcher (no chain) with a face that looked liked it had spent many an unhappy hour in the Bar L. He undercharges me by £1.04, do I accept his obvious miscalculation? No, I correct him and for about 30 seconds I feel superior and in touch with some higher life force. Then as a swift return to the gutter beckons I’m about to leave a ridiculously over priced car park - 60p for a full day (!). Having stayed in it all of 15 minutes I hand my part used ticket over to a young lady who has just arrived, her battered faith in human nature is now restored and I can go for some Indian food with a clear conscience and a head full of clouds. I had curried “special” elephant with tiger balls, dishes of edible paint and the usual Technicolor rice.

In the afternoon we rode on horses most of whom had names beginning with M, mine was Moss or Mossy for short. I regarded the mission as a complete success, being the only adult rider as, a) I didn’t fall off b) I didn’t bump my head on any tree branches c) I kept a firm level of control on a spirited, superior mount, a horse that would have been too challenging for the many chubby and no doubt spoiled mini-minors galloping along in my wake.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Nothing to do with Saxondale

Wild, edible birds gather nearby.

Strange to be in these pleasant if manufactured time-sharing environs full of serenely driven SUVs stuffed with families of clean looking children and well fed Labradors. Yummy mums wear wellies and carry back packs with tough sounding names, dads tote boxes and Tesco bags filled with the essential outdoor shopping products. They are all so well prepared and organised. Occasionally the sun comes out and the damp green is bathed in the golden flakes coming at us from that distant star to remind us that it may be summer somewhere but not quite here. By then everybody is engaged in activities and experiences with ropes and paddles and taking hundreds of photographs to fill their hard drives from Milton Keynes to Motherwell.

We arrive to shatter (more like slightly wobble) that wilderness Sylvan illusion in the oldest and most battered car on site, like some version of a Tommy Saxondale family outing or Uncle Buck’s woodland holiday, under equipped for the wild and the wet, Pot Noodles bulging from bags and despite living in the country looking like prize townies on tour with a police car in pursuit. We lack that supreme badge of acceptance into this exclusive, shiny happy club, no bike racks on the back, no chunky cycles on display or garish high-vis helmets hanging on the coat rack. So we’ll just have to do a spot of pony trekking in our inappropriate shoes and jumpers and snap a few red squirrels.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Whizzing waters

The petrified jaws of prehistoric whales stand guard against the forces of commercialism and rampant capitalism to protect the integrity of our highland home. They are not much good at preventing the sinister spread of the waltzing waters brain washing phenomenon unfortunately. I'm still experiencing some trauma and occasional flashbacks.

At a railway station the platform should always be about the same length as the longest train likely to use it. This design innovation allows safe embarkation and disembarkation for all passengers, this one is a good example.

Friday, July 23, 2010

A single fish please

If it's all you fancy then sometimes a single fish can hit the spot. We may make an appointment with one (or can you make an appointment with two?) today or tomorrow. The waiting is always the best bit...

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Garden of earthly delights

First generation apple breaks out from it's blossomy bed. There are more, they may become chutney one day or we may actually eat some raw.

We thought they were weeds and then they turned into flowers, always a nice surprise when that happens.

Duck type creatures swim away from a potential predator on the banks of the Forth.

Mylo, spending a few days with us on holiday whilst the grandchildren are away. Local dandelions form a tasty wee snack for the little fellow. Meanwhile the rain keeps on falling.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

That Fifer smile

Born but a catapult shot away from the Old Course and Home of Gowf, nurtured by the sea breeze on the jagged East Neuk coast, fed from barrels of herring and tatties fae the fields. A product of years of selective inbreeding with a straight line family tree and a dialect no right minded person can get their tongue or head around. The twin Masonic pillars of serial drunkenness and Presbyterian guilt to straighten and break every back, confuse the young mind and reinforce the warped messages with each skelp of the forgiving tawse. Brought up with no concept of ambition or success and enjoying the comfort of clothing already broken in and worn out by successive generations. Scotland's answer to the Rednecks of Deliverance and the Beverly Hillbillies with some decent natured Spanish Gypsy pirate blood thrown in for good measure - mongrels with a peculiar and contradictory pedigree.

So despite the optical illusion it's the mouth that is squint and teeth or tooth that are/is (surprisingly) straight, most of the other damage however is on the inside but thankfully repair and restoration work is underway and ongoing. So God bless Fife and all the historical, hysterical but necessary chromosomal damage caused and despite my escape to the Badlands of Salmond Country I visit her open arms almost everyday. You could call it the Battered Fifer Syndrome.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Toads + Mice - Cats =

Nice concept drawing from Toy Story 3.

In what has been a fairly lazy and non productive day, yesterday that was, (due to an abrupt outbreak of tiredness and a peculiar and stubborn headache) where as well as observing the seven stages of Scottish rain I’ve at least learned a few things, most of them due to watching “the private life of chickens” on TV. I now know that chickens hunt small animals, mice and frogs, kill them and eat them. Of course most chickens on the food industry conveyor belt are never outside, never see and mouse and strangely never lay an egg. I particularly liked the segment about chickens rescued from factory farms and then released back into an open farmyard existence - they adjusted to space and daylight in no time. They're also rather nice in a sticky sweet and sour sauce but we Brits were late to catch onto that, up until the 50s rabbit was eaten much more than chicken, that's enough facts for the day.

3 mice, 3 toads in the house meanwhile the cats are fighting each other. I suppose another good thing is that I can now recognise toad excrement should I ever happen upon it again and that when you pick up a toad: a) they don't like it and b) they let you know they don't like it.

Monday, July 19, 2010


Favourite insults

"Bonjour ye cheese eating surrender monkeys”. As spoken by Groundskeeper Willie in Episode 125 (“Round Springfield”) of the Simpsons when, due to budget cuts he is drafted in as a temporary French teacher. So what works well about this insult and what is it saying?

Cheese eating: Of course we all (almost) enjoy cheese, nothing bad there, however some counties may produce and eat a disproportionate amount of it, does France? No idea. The word cheese does convey other slightly unattractive meanings and there are many negative associations that could be made over cheese smells, mould, fungus etc. or simple being attracted to cheese in some unbalance way. It also downgrades the recipient possibly to some peasant or servile level - all they ever eat is cheese, a basic food.

Surrender Monkey: This is the real punch of the insult, cheese eating merely provides a context and backdrop, “surrender “ immediately conveys aspects of the historical collapse of France following German invasion , sadly without thinking at all of the brave work of the resistance and the French public who made the German’s time in France as difficult as they could. Added to that Modern France, always something of a step behind or ahead of other Western foreign policy could be seen as at the very least “opting out” if not actually surrendering. It’s another stereotype that unfortunately works and does so on a repeat basis. The old joke “why do the French plant trees along the sides of their roads?”, “So that the German army can march in the shade.” is another example of the same thinking.

“Monkeys” is peculiar, whilst it could be seen as racist it’s also childish and much more lightweight and silly, not a particularly cruel insult. Many parents will call their own children “little monkeys” in an affectionate way. Monkeys are, for most people likable, fun and interesting animals, they are also and it helps with the punch of the insult sub-human.

So why does the insult work so well?

a) It is delivered in the mock Scottish GW accent “out of the blue” by an inappropriate character who is regularly ridiculed himself..
b) It has what seem separate but clearly linked messages within the four words.
c) It confirms a stereotype but in a slightly different way than you‘d expect.
d) It has a rhythm.
e) It has been given a longer life due to other topical events i.e. the war in Iraq.
f) It has a “playground” quality that masks the depth of it.
g) It is clean - no swearing is involved.
f) It confirms what many would consider to be a popular (if unspoken) view.
h) It marginalizes a nation so “we” can all laugh together and mock a (sizable) minority so it allows a bullying or superior stance to be taken.
I) It has had a life beyond it’s original airing and use.

What is interesting is that the episodes writer’s thought that it would win awards because of the overall quality of the script and the storyline - it won nothing other than recognition for happening to contain what has become a famous and a favourite insult.

P.S. I've nothing against the French or cheese, not so keen about monkeys however.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Learning to love Orocco Pier

Sitting in a Skoda taxi following the hordes of revellers and assorted out of town wedding guests down to Orocco Pier for an evening of unrestrained revelry, pulling faces, losing the toilets and making up funny stories. The Orocco, that once locally hated haunt of a type of clientele that even now remains undefined other than it was non-local, has transformed itself into a bigger and cheaper version of the previous incarnation. I remain confused. Anyway it does now lend itself better towards acting as a meeting venue for the elite members of the South Queensferry and Compound Literary Mafioso, we can wine, we can dine and we can almost hold a conversation somewhere in the shadows under the sonic umbrella of booming and almost unrecognisable eighties tunes.

I’m not sure that snobby food critics would even cross the threshold because there is no illusion of artistry or scaling the sophisticated culinary heights with it’s cheerful bar food and bulging wine glasses. “Is that a large wine sir? After all it is Friday isn’t it.“ I was so grateful to be patronised and reminded of the day having become increasingly bewildered by time speedily passing as the end each remarkable week of my life approaches. Good to see the health police and the alcohol standards people are not writing the staff scripts, that grim, self righteous, eager beaver, devolution based day will dawn soon enough however.

They do big fat chips as well.

Friday, July 16, 2010

HMT Vidonia

There are no pictures of the HM Trawler Vidonia because she is at the bottom of the English Channel. She sank following a collision with an American cargo vessel (name unknown to me) on 7th October 1944. My father survived, the second of his three experiences of wartime shipwreck. A little more about the ship and those who lost their lives that day can be found here.

Grey and pleasant land

From Fi - trifle #1. Unaffected by the weather.

I know it happens every year but the annoying variations between South Britain and North Britain are increasingly irritating for those in their mid fifties rapidly running out of summers. A hatched line or a grey mass depending on the visuals the forecasters use cuts across our green and septic land like a madman wielding a buzz saw and the bias is always the same way.

We can hardly manage double temperature figures whilst the Home Counties is warmer than the colon of an Icelandic volcano. Some poor lost souls blame our poor diet, some the ravages of rampant capitalism, some the ever guilty BP and some our ongoing habit of clinging onto the whole spectrum of possible or probable original sins. None of these things are true, we just live in a land without a credible summer in a small portion of the world where minor freaks of nature regularly occur and we cant help but notice them. We have no extremes, just a high proportion of predictable grey and on the plus side few if any hose pipe, bag pipe or Bagpuss bans.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

IKEA cat

How cats are seen and rendered by the teams of smooth and chisel faced designers, artisans and craftsmen that work behind the racks and counters in IKEAland aka China.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Flush art

Fluffy stuff in the bowels of toilets is fun, a pool of welcoming detergent bubbles awaits the miscellaneous or perhaps unspeakable waste and transforms it into some sweet Niagara of effluent headed out to the mysterious ways of the sewage works and beyond. Places we do not want to know about or care to understand. They remain an essential part of life and living, file them, alone and unloved under infrastructure.

The golden memory of Concorde

There was a time when Britain was great at most things and we could make assumptions and these assumptions were solid and real because of where we were and who we could be. None of that was all that long ago, even after the mostly red planet displayed in magnificent Mercator Projection that lived on every classroom wall had turned to some fluid rainbow of ever changing and now mysterious set of corrupt and despotic states. We grew up living on the promises but they turned out to be empty, the supersonic travel that lived in the pages of glossy comics along with the hover cars and the clear and straight highways turned into the Rover 45 the M25 and cut down Ryanair 737s. Eventually the great white bird, Concorde with all it’s hope, triumph, exorbitant costs and consumer prejudice crashed and burned and with that failure and catastrophe some vibrant part of the future died.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Top Gear is... Grey's Anatomy, methinks.

Nut Tree & Blackbirds

The King of Spain's daughter, allegedly. (Pointing to a blackbird who was for a short time sitting on her shoulder - see Jill Hepburn's superb vid here.)

I had a little nut tree,
Nothing would it bear
But a silver nutmeg
And a golden pear;

The King of Spain's daughter
Came to visit me,
And all for the sake
Of my little nut tree

It's half time in a dull World cup final, the only interesting thing I've noted is the Queen of Spain sitting, regally somewhere up in the grandstand, she reminded me of the peculiar nursery rhyme. Then I realised that it was the King of Spain who featured in it.

Thursday, July 08, 2010


Strange, rotting, abandoned, forbidden island: get yourself to Japan and turn left, jump onto a boat and don't forget your balaclava. Gunkanjima.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

King Confused

Disappointing to hear King Creosote talking pish on the Radio Scotland airwaves today. Basically he thinks Prince is wrong for giving away his music in the Daily Record, downloads are crap, vinyl should come back, he's cheesed as fewer people are going to his gigs and iPhones are described as annoying calculators. Funny how critics of the current (and it is weird) music business like to refer back to some golden time of records and recordings, generally before they were born (was it the summer of '71?) and long to get back to there when things were "normal". OK, things never were and never have been normal, we live, survive and grow in our own time, don't look back. There is no such thing as normal. Strange days indeed and certainly not any kind of normal. Musicians need to adapt not cocoon.

Mad Jack

I was driving through the West Lothian town of Bo'ness on my way to the local civic recycling centre or as it used to be known "coup". Suddenly I came across this magnificent piece of sculpture in, quite unbelievably, the front garden of a council house. Some people like garden gnomes, some hanging baskets and some cast iron bird tables, this guy has raised the bar for us all and put it up to a completely mad level. I shudder to think what the neighbours and nearby curtain twitchers are making of this.

It's like going out for a pint with Mad Jack McMad and then being joined by his brother Mad Bob McMad and then the rest of the McMad family. Anyway, this is a genuine photo, I kid you not and I dare you to drive through Bo'ness to to gaze upon it's bizarre, brown magnificence.

Not quite as mad, in fact a jolly decent slurp and yes I will eat almost anything.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Quiet time

Hidden worlds observed

I had a noisy time with an unprecedented half hours worth of guitar practice. Funnily enough I could remember where most of the notes were and what the right hand is supposed to do. Effects used were mostly octave splitter, chorus and of course the ever popular delay. Musical? Not particularly but a small step in the right direction.

The noisy time was followed by a quiet time; ironing shirts. People are playing football in South Africa but sadly not on an HD channel, what is wrong with ITV?

Monday, July 05, 2010


Remember when you were a kid and you could lie awake in bed for hours just staring at the wallpaper? Staring into those worn designs and patterns and seeing all sorts of new shapes, hints of suggested objects and repeated phrases that seemed to talk back at you from their paper and pasted up vertical plane. I never did have kids wallpaper, it was what was there and what had been there in the first place, like it had grown up with and stayed with the house and nobody cared about it or bothered to change it. It was a constant in the changing and growing families that passed through the house and I was looking straight into its ancient heart. Old grey men had died looking at these patterns, young eager couples had made love, books were read by candle and electricity, babies had cried unheard in the dark.

My accelerated hallucinations continued, I saw characters, ugly fiends, great mythical beasts and heroes from the yellow pages of handed down story books, they lived in the wall, awake when I slept, asleep as I woke. As I stared I would hang out of the bed, lie upside down to change the view, squint through half closed eyes to accentuate some feature or wait till dusk so that strange lights would reveal bumps and blemishes behind the paper and add elements of relief that I could liken to the faraway Himalayas or Andes, plucked and embedded as in some red map of the Empire in Mercator's Projection from my dusty school room. I played with my eyes and a newly fertile mind making some imaginary canvas from the dull pattern and if I was bored I didn't realise I was. I knew instinctively how to fill time. Now I am older and the sense of seeing and playing has dulled and thankfully we have no wallpaper and my vision and playful mind is stuck elsewhere.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Wasp alert

We are now on full, code red wasp alert. 20+ dead bummy furries hoovered up in the bedroom, one stung toe and a new awareness of the irritant force and sweet summer destruction that wasps produce as they (innocently) go about their business. That of course begs that eternal seasonal questions, "what's the point of wasps?" or "what was God thinking when he created them?" or "are wasps are in fact the Devil's own flying sperm" (I've never really heard that as a serious suggestion). The unprovoked wasp attack led to a few hours of cleaning, dusting and wasp's nest searching, alas no trace of one was found and we remain perplexed as to why they have chosen our bedroom as an appropriate place in which to die quietly. Little pests.

More wild strawberries, growing fat and slightly diseased in the July sun and rain. Popular with the local wild birds as a quick and tasty snack.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

More moon cake

It's neither a cake nor is it a moon, it's an enormous piece of wishing and hoping rendered in the classic materials of a big bright day-dream. Then it's put on display.

I like the idea that the moon is a cake, or at least that it might be a cake. Makes more sense that it's cake than a large circular piece of cheese. Then again in the past, when the moon was misunderstood cheese of that kind was probably more common than cake, in a more primitive world you'd pull your dairy resources to make a nice cheese rather than waste them (and all your neighbours') on some extravagant cake. This is the age of the cake. Well it was until the Western Finance and South Sea bubble burst and the coalition came to power. Now it's back to the age of cheese.

Detail: Cat narrowly avoids serious collision with mobile phone camera. Cameraman escaped with minor cuts and bruises and mental trauma.