Sunday, December 26, 2010

Boxing Day just

I love the smell of Pot Noodle in the morning, or even at 1235, the actual time. Some well meant predictions from 2010:

“I pledge to vote against an increase in tuition fees”, Nick Clegg, Vince Cable, Danny Alexander etc.

“2010 will be an excellent year for higher education”, Alan Johnston.

“A British nuclear disaster and a Tory victory (?)”, Sarah Goldsmith.

“David Cameron will fail to form a government”, James Macintyre.

“England to win the World Cup”, Mathew Burgess and Marco Dion.

“David Milliband to lead the Labour Party”, Nick Robinson.

“This winter will be unusually mild and dry”, Met Office on 28th October 2010.

“Quantum physics to discover how to generate electricity from water”, Jane’s Psychic Predictions for 2010.

“The Euro is a protection against the (financial) crisis“, Jose Manuel Barraso.

“We’ll write more material and play more gigs in 2010”, Impossible Songs.

I admire all good and hopeful intentions of these prediction makers, sadly they didn’t get it right for a variety of reasons. The older you get the more you realise that nobody really knows what they are talking about, but clearly they enjoy living in the illusion and broadcasting whenever is convenient. So what about 2011?

When the day began I had a headful of wild, trapped and untapped ideas. It was a marvellous experience, mulling over how these ideas would eventually translate into some kind of reality. It all looked so promising until I thoughtlessly sipped a cup of coffee and read one of the Sunday papers. The mind work was immediately erased and I am left, desolate with a blank sheet of crumpled paper somewhere inside my head, that is until I start again tomorrow.

Spent the rest of this chilly Boxing Pox afternoon studying Durer’s Rhinocesors, Franks Casket, the Lindow Man and the potted history of Barclay James Harvest.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Last Christmas Post

Merry Christmas etc.

As it was Christmas Eve I decided to spend my Lottery winnings on a slap up breakfast whilst on the way to work. 32% of the loot was swiftly squandered on a McMuffin meal at the frozen drive-thru. By the time I got to the office I had to reheat the entire ensemble in the microwave and waft the sausage and latte smell from the window. Tasty! The remaining cash has gone towards that villa in the Vendee, a silver Bentley, a '59 Les Paul and various trust funds and charities. Satisfying.

Once breakfast was over I wandered around the estate and from time to time stood still and listened, mostly for snow noises and odd items of wildlife. Peaceful and for those few brief moments I truly felt goodwill to all men, women, squirrels and people in general. The timeless magic of Christmas, the deep cold and some mid-winter madness had descended upon me, like some seasonal and very pleasant drug. Lunch was with my close family after a sleigh run, French onion soup and playing with the grand kids. All very excited.

When I got home and parked up, the cat (Clint) ran out of the house and pissed on my car. Odd, slightly insulting but forgivable behaviour. Then we ate Bambi burgers and brown sauce, visited Aberdour, drank two G&Ts, some homemade plum vodka and a slug of Japanese whisky. Merry Christmas when it comes around, there is no law against it as far as I know.

Thursday, December 23, 2010


The real tragedy in the Tommy Sheridan case is twofold, Gail's mistaken loyalty coupled with loved-up blindness and the self inflicted death of Scottish Socialism for at least a generation. Well done Tommy, your idiotic and self-righteous behaviour sustains the awful political imbalance at a time when it's the last thing we need and in the process ruins innocent lives.

Travel plans

Snow Patrol

We have normalised into a snowbound, blinding white lifetime experience. Cold is the new warm, drafts are the new summer breezes and slides are the new steadies. Everything takes longer, traffic moves occasionally and when it does it seems to be in slow motion and on the verge of imminent collision. Travel has become a tense, peculiar experience, like in some perpetual frozen water flume or via Flybe. Our arrival anywhere is uncertain with the only certainty being the ever decreasing temperatures exploring the plummeting minus scales. Coal fires struggle against the freezing air, spitting weak willed heat in the great chasm of cold that surrounds and envelopes all like a silent cold breath of death.

The beauty and wonder that we once observed in snow flakes and winter frosting now mocks us and holds us in it’s icy grip, enthralled not by the artistry and intricacy of pattern but by the choking power of this white blanket of suffocation. We remain stuck in our tracks, no traction, no action, only the cruel depth of unfathomable cold that holds the germs and bacteria at bay, that stops the virus spreading and chills the tiny birds as they fall to earth in the stillness of the early morning air.

Meanwhile the public blame the politicians, BAA, the Royal Mail and the authorities who can only blame the un-forecast weather, the recession, the general lack of funding and the climate’s changes on all of their predecessors. Of course nobody is wholly responsible, we are unable to plan for the unexpected and the unthinkable and such planning, if it ever existed would quickly be dismissed as unaffordable and unrealistic so why bother? Ditch the mathematical models, the speculation, let the cold wash over you and rush away, like bank statements or exam results the numbers are only scribbles on a page or symbols on a dial, they are not excuses for misery or inaction. Embrace the perverse non warmth and uncertainty of the new ice age, it will only last until the next lunar eclipse, the next schizophrenic volcanic episode or the outcome of the next unsatisfactory general election.


Playing games in the dark is too risky, a court has ruled and the darkness and any associated play that may take place in it has been outlawed forever. Lady Justice Smith and Lord Justice Ward have dismissed an appeal by the Boy Scouts over a £7000 compensation claim. So no more games in the dark for the Scouts or any other character building organisation that might seek to remove the young from their tedious and tame lives, now incessantly lived in a pointless cotton wool wrapped and video screen glare. Apparently “Playing in the dark creates an unacceptable risk” if you are young and live in Castle Bromwich in the West Midlands.


Because it’s cold all of the time basic things like food consumption and sleep form the majority of the day’s highlights. Today is steak bridie and donut day, an annual event when, on the cusp of Christmas celebrations and other vague and misunderstood Solstice pursuits we have a Stephen’s lunch and an unrelated quiz. The nourishment elements outstrip the quiz - generally I perform quite poorly in the quiz but perform rather well in the bridie and donut consumption. There is no prize for that only the warm and unseen glow of internal smugness. Merry Bridiemess.

Monday, December 20, 2010

What's wrong with Jeff Beck?

Listening to "Emotion and Commotion" is a curious experience, the touch, the tone and the technical ability are all there; just not enough emotion or commotion. Another puzzler of an album sliding into the ranks of easy listening, great mashing, growling standards and growing old rather gracefully but it all adds up to something that's a bit ineffective.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Ubiquitous flakes

Snow x 3 somewhere in the trees panorama. Today has been yet another snow day.

Cherry Mallow Pop Tarts: bought in the cold and snow in a pleasant enough Safeway in Banff, Canada, sometime back then in September. They made the long journey back from Canada to Scotland - now sadly are gone, but they did form the foundations of a few highly nutritious breakfasts. Note toaster setting four was used hence the burnt edges.

Trying hard to be a real dog but failing miserably in the cafe at Sainsbury's (as per yesterday's chocolate snowball), this fine fellow keeps watch over the car park and the rival and apparently inferior cafe at M&S across the way. Naturally he ignores the chavy and unhealthy KFC premises that lie between. Your own cuddly dog for a mere £14.99.

Snow photography, still trying to capture those elusive but ubiquitous flakes.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Safe as milk

The death of some old rock star or musician becomes a regular and (as the heroes fall) a more poignant event each time. Today it's the Captain (first person to use that moniker as I recall) who has shuffled far beyond this mortal thingy. As part of that elusive "sweet song of youth" memory, I remember sitting upstairs listening to Beefheart, downstairs my parents were watching the Black and White Minstrels. In many ways that sums up the generational divide that took place then, certainly in my life in the early seventies, it says something about what might be considered weird now and mainstream then. Progress, prejudice, knowledge and the dawn of art rock.

Sainsbuy's cafe: beware the hot chocolate snowball. A mind bending, overdosing sugar rush that pushes the on the boundary of good sense and health, almost like some sweet poison, not sure I could stomach it again.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Frozen Friends Cryogenics...

…was the name of a virtual company I formed, the name being stolen from a Larson Far Side cartoon. The company was a dummy manufacturing (and cryogenic) outfit that I was using to test MRP software. That’s “Materials Requirements Planning, in fact it was MRP II now that I think about it. As we were struggling to freeze the dead effectively and working against time it meant that there were a lot of refrigeration components in the inventory and just to keep it interesting some bodies. Frozen Friends was used as a training aid, a pilot site and as a place to trial the software repair patches that invariably dog such systems. Now it’s gone, my career (?) has moved on and that’s that. I still have fond but vague and misty, almost frozen memories.

Ready meals are never quite as ready as the name suggests. For one thing I don’t like micro waving them so they get the oven treatment. That takes thirty five minutes, maybe forty five if the meal was mistakenly frozen so there is a lot of waiting attached to a ready meal feast. They do that peculiar shrinking thing also where they shape shift mysteriously in the over, they bubble and blacken at the edges and then form an unexpectedly strong bond with the plastic tub. Hungry and lazy people like me eat them from the tub, this saves on numerous other dull and wasteful processes and gets to the heart of the matter, eating the boiling gloop. That’s a more appropriate name, boiling gloop.

Christmas cards are pointless but I lack the courage and conviction to stop sending them (or giving them to be precise). They seem now like objects from a bygone age, like pigeon post or the pony express, like stone tablets or slate and chalk. They have a life of about five seconds, the time taken to read the names and greetings and then say (either inwardly or outwardly to your partner) “oh it’s from X and Y, nice…” Then the card is made to stand in a geometrically challenging way on a flat surface, forgotten until it’s removed some time later, usually the 2nd of January. Humbug, Extra Strong Mint and Berwick Cockles, must be Christmas time again.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Facebook map of the world

Where Facebook connects and where it doesn't.

The best guitar I never did buy

I didn't buy it but I owned it for about six months in 1975. This sunburst Telecaster was to be the bed-rock instrument in a band of Jocks doomed to failure before it even got started. The guitar was brand new at the time, needing played in and stretched and the truth is I wasn't much of a player. You could say I was improving,very slowly. Had I know my rate of improvement was to be as turgid as it turned out to be I'd probably have taken up the saxophone or retired and practiced deep cleansing meditation. There is nothing worse than having unbridled enthusiasm and buckets of ideas but no obvious work ethic or discipline. The concept of the band was therefore more attractive than the reality and of course it foundered, eventually broken apart on the rocks on the beach at St Oeuns on Jersey. I recall the rehearsal processes, long and feeble versions of songs by Poco, Blind Faith and Little Feat, all done at a clattering and unrelenting pace, punctuated by arguments, as if we were inventing punk rock by pulling balmy West Coast songs through a relentless distortion mangle, framed in a smoky haze. The good parts go down as lessons almost learned, how not to overdo reverb, how not to communicate, prioritising work and the dangers of terminal shoe gazing. Had I kept a hold of the guitar (I'd have had to steal it to do this), I'd probably have sold it on soon after and that would've been that. Now it lives on in the back of my head as a ghostly, frustrated memory, the symbol of a failed effort, wasted time and some good fun. I've never owned another Telecaster either, you can't replace what you never had.

Monday, December 13, 2010


Monday (which was today) was mostly cold, very cold. Ate some soup that had matured nicely in the fridge over an eight day stretch, no side effects so far but worried about the blackened chickpeas. The post also arrived; miscellaneous Christmas flotsam from Amazon, also cards, circulars, letters for other houses and Tesco vouchers. I suspect there is much more to come. It is truly December in a Siberian sense. Somebody has also mixed up the teabags. Why would anybody do that?

On TV, nothing in particular, a Sky Plus documentary about the recording process of "Band on the Run", great potential but not realised mainly due to some painfully unnecessary repetition and McCartney's irritating vocal delivery. How time passes and how much gets forgotten.

There may be meteors overhead, watch out.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Movie credit

Rare moment capturing the credit footage from a documentary film made in Exeter that kindly used a piece of our music in the soundtrack. Not expecting an Oscar however.

Smarter than average

Two separate baby sitting sessions in Aberdeen this weekend. One long awaited encounter with Santa Claus for a grand daughter (no tears at all), one daughter's birthday and a long lesson in Lego building techniques from a grandson. I was very much impressed with his no nonsense approach to building the rig pictured above. He sat down at his little work table, ignored the delights of the X-Factor (a favourite programme of his) and put together the model with very little (potentially clumsy and disastrous) adult input or supervision from me. Not bad for a wee lad who has just turned six. You can guess what he'll be getting from Mr Claus in a few days.

Morning shadows of a Christmas Bambi and vigorous pot plant splash themselves across a wall in a wintry Aberdeen.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

4 Degrees

What a relief to hear the divine music of ice melting, dripping and splashing, running through cracks and puddling on the ground. The new thaw seemed not so good when I nearly slipped and fell on the slush covered from step. Note: thawing snow is as slippery as frozen snow.

After a rare "fish tea" courtesy of a chip shop in Winchborough it was back to digging out the cars in the dark as they emerged from the white and silver snow garage they've been entombed in for more than a week. After a few serious slithers and slides I made it up the lane and sticking faithfully to second gear emerged two miles later onto a black and almost firm road. Winter driving is such fun.

Meanwhile in the big city of London some people voted and as a result of the vote some other people got upset. Claims were made that promises had been broken but the people who made the promises said they never really made those promises and that everything that has happened is probably for the best and there's no point complaining because it's the way things are these days because whilst it's not quite what we had in mind it's better than you'd have got if someone else had got it all their way.

The fundamental interconnectedness of all things. Something I don't quite believe in.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Empty cold head

Now getting towards the end of a long, cold and busy day. During most of today my head was full of ideas, opinions, views, thoughts, long rants, short rants, working out solutions, thinking on the spot, occasional moments of peace and some concentration and reflection. Now the batteries have run out, I cant get bothered about Nick Clegg, the weather, the low temperatures on the roads or the blatant increases in petrol prices that have occurred over the last 24 hours. It is not within my power to change or influence any of these things. The biggest joke and disappointment of the day is the realisation that whilst the Scottish government think they are running things, the truth is that they are in charge of very little and no better than a sorry bunch of small town councilors arguing about whose turn it is to pay for the chips.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

How come Dundee Uni has a satellite?

Not sure if Leeds University does. So another 40 year milestone, quite an amazing album and one overlooked by a generation and me (over the last few years). Arguably the most visceral live drum and bass sounds ever recorded, other good things are going on also. You have to listen.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Cyclists in the snow

The snow has not been a friend for sometime, it is now like some feckless, irritating, ignorant, unwanted alien creature who wets the floor, trashes your stuff and eats his way through the contents of the fridge and the wine rack leaving dirty laundry in his wake. I have fallen out of love with the snow. It gets everywhere and ruins everything and now ten days into this year's new miserable experience I want it to go. Apart from that life is good, here's some reasons to be mindlessly cheerful.

Today's tea: fish pie, funny carroty-broccoli stuff and salad, late but nice.
Cyclists in the snow: these lunatics clearly have some kind of death wish as they weave between sliding traffic, half blind in a blizzard.
Music: Raw by Confusion.
Radio Scotland: endless traffic prattle, broadcasting texted rants and observations about the absence of guidance, leadership and coordination by the "authorities" during the freeze. No surprises there.
James Naughtie on R4: predicable and not that funny, naughty schoolboy error nicely blown out of proportion by the BBC.
Facebook: like X-Factor in a way, you love it and loathe it but it keeps families connected and the Forth Bridge has an FB page!
Brushing the snow from the cars and the path: Oddly satisfying, presently pointless.
Weather forecasts: fantasising that they are completely wrong and tomorrow will bring a massive thaw.
Cheap grub: BLT from Sainsburys reduced to 39p.
Cats: troubled and confused by the snow but now sleeping in close proximity.
The Trip: BBC2 2200.
Waking up warm at 0600: and wondering about the weather conditions.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Bird strike

Abstract icicles image in detail.

Sometimes you just cannot win. As the weather worsened we decided to make an extra effort to feed the wild birds that visit the garden. Our short journey through the snow to and from the hanging feeders created a track, a perfect route for the cats who dislike moving in deep snow. The birds in turn threw large amounts of seeds onto the snow and other birds (or birds in general) fed from the snow as well as the feeders. The snow is two feet thick, the distance between the ground and the feeders is therefore reduced. The end result is that the birds are fed but the cats (or one cat in particular) are taking the opportunity to strike back at the birds. So we've fed numerous birds but three have died as a result. One brought into the dining room, one brought into the bedroom and one poor soul in a shallow, snowy grave in the garden. As James Thurber said "you are as well falling flat on your back as falling flat on your face", (from the short story The bear who could take it or leave it.) In some ways it's a bit like some of the nobler aspects of British or Western foreign policy, you try to do the right thing but get the wrong result or at the very least not the actual result you expected. Now we need another pack of peanuts and maybe to stop messing with nature.

Silvery trails through history see.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Tesco daily photo #3

Battlefield Central Scotland: A newly frozen wasteland, forsaken by the Tories in favour of the Home Counties, unloved by Muslims and Communists, red squirrels and white vans containing bread and dairy produce. The mad panic brought about by extreme low temperatures and poor quality television programing has resulted in more mad panicking in the form of uncontrolled bread purchasing. Bread fever has cleared the bakery shelves of Tesco, they can now only be described as desolate and abandoned. It seems that any product containing elements of bread must be bought and presumably hoarded and ultimately gloated over by the happy but manic buyer. All over South Queensferry innocent young children, denied the right to attend school due to complex health and safety legislation must now consume their own weight in PB&J sandwiches every day in order to compensate for the temperature imbalance and their parents apparent lack of intelligence and common sense. Form an orderly queue please.

As society breaks down and wolves descend from the mountains to consume our dirty laundry and cuddly pets, ordinary and once useful artifacts are discarded in the general panic. These include shopping trolleys (no good when there is no shopping), BMW 3 Series Coupes, empty wine bottles once destined for the bottle bank, bicycles, electric blankets and woolly Nepalese headgear. We wait patiently in the deep shadows, watching the skies until a new leader emerges...

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Exclusions and terms and conditions apply

Indisputable photographic evidence of something.

Dear Mrs Anabelle Goldie,

I am writing to you as I consider you to be a sensible and mostly straight up person and an all round good egg. I now have proof that snow is truly demonic and I wanted you to know, it could not have existed in the Garden of Eden and was brought into this world by the unfortunate "fall of man" approximately 5050 years ago or so. Above is a small part of photographic evidence I am putting together to form a comprehensive dossier on the unsavoury and antisocial behaviour of this supernatural and frankly bloody freezing substance. This (eventually buff coloured) dossier will be passed onto the (strangely quiet at the moment) so-called Scottish Government so that they can take proper action against this illegal frozen H2O - namely the phantom menace that is snow. Hopefully the full force of the law will come down upon said menace and it will be banned from these fair shores etc. etc.

Yours in anticipation,

Cardinal Sir John Knox of Bathgate.

Polis stopping traffic and chatting to punters, £60m or thereabouts was also lost to the economy at the same time - strange or what? (Note closed bridge thing not far away).

After 42 years on uneventful events the great bridge was closed today totally severing cultural links with the Kingdom of Fife (temporarily). For 12 long hours we teetered on the brink of complete collapse, anarchy and no pies from that posh farm in Puddledub until they got their act together and arranged for the 42 year old Lada snow plow to be fixed up at Tom Farmers in the "Toon", whit a relief! The Queen will be making a statement shortly.

Snowplough over the speed bumps

Frozen waste.

No exit, no entry, no escape.

Today will go down in mankind's and West Lothian's battered history as the day when everything stopped (and it's only 12:10). The full fury of a long frustrated ice-age has settled upon us, it's anger at the over exaggeration of global warming building up for months, now we shall choke, freeze and stick like ice to a shovel to our broken roads and un-cut in bus stops. So in a climate fight what would win; relentless, sizzling global warming or the stinging deep freeze of a new and poison ice-age?

The cats are not dealing with the snow very well. It's as if their universe has collapsed and they are trapped in the confines of the house with no proper access to their beloved fields and woodland. They sit in curious crouched positions, eyes staring, drooling, peering through the dim gap of the cat flap looking out into a new, foreign, white and inhospitable world, a world too deep with snow for any kid of basic or serious cat manoeuvres. They have cat cabin fever and will shortly need appropriate and possibly expensive counseling. Your financial contributions towards alleviating this difficult feline situation would be very much appreciated.