Monday, January 30, 2012

Basic phenomenons of wave physics

Domestic goodness: Stirring green and orange lentils until they swirl, boiling in the pot, gazing into the murky maelstrom as it spins and bubbles adding chopped onions and seasoning. Then come the pre-cut vegetables, whatever is in the bag, homogeneously crisp and anonymous but full of assumed goodness. So the final part of the process, simmer and forget. Consider drinking alcohol, sitting down or cleaning out the cat's litter tray. Perhaps building a fire or just to stare out of the window, flick TV channels and wipe your nose, cut bread with a knife using a sawing motion, post silly pictures on Facebook, fumble over Ebay items, take medicine and plan the next dishwasher campaign. Once these things are done and exhausted the soup will be about ready and you may allow yourself a generous kettleful. You then ask yourself, "will this magical broth from Heaven's deep springs cure my cold and soothe my aches and pains?" No man, no woman and no baby knows.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Straight to vinyl

TV boxes from the back, what are all those extra inputs for?
Thanks to a combination of global warming, food additives, stress related stress and irritable car ventilation syndrome my nose is blocked. This leads to improper (but still effective enough to allow me to function) breathing which sets up a spiral of physiological despair leading to a simple sore throat. Of course I blame the greedy bankers, uncontrolled immigration, shouting sports TV presenters and the great and terrible lizard people who really run the government from converted sewers. They're out to get me and all the other common little people who have dirt under their fingernails and freakishly short inside leg measurements. The only known antidote is the antidote, if only I could find that secret phial. Could it be in Fife Fish Pie, sponge pudding surprise or just be hidden in lashings of warm alcohol?

As I'm at a winter induced low point health wise I sought solace in my old friend and sparring partner;  statistics. The warm glow of looking over added up and processed numbers and pleasantly repeating numerical patterns should do the trick, and it does. I've also broken my duck on using XL for Mac, it almost works and it's leading me straight to vinyl.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Cracking jokes in desperate situations

First and foremost I'm pleased and proud to announce the arrival of a new grandson, taking the grandson count up to four whilst the granddaughter count remains at two. On hearing of the new birth I dithered for a few precious seconds waiting on some primal kick in the consciousness, sure enough it came along and with only a petrol station Mars Bar to fuel me and half a tank of North Sea gas in the car I headed due north. The weather was closing in, it seemed to be raining inside the car and I quickly recognised that my decision making powers had been weakened, compromised and exposed in all their frail beauty. This was obvious from my failure to negotiate two familiar roundabouts accurately, the dark January world was become a panicky blur. Emotions were running and I was driving in the opposite direction to them, badly. Mind and body are week and feeble at times but the secret sugar ingredients in that rare Mars Bar had magical hungry properties. Once these were released upon me like some  silver anointing I was high and free once again. The road became visibly wider, the rain translucent and the car sang the sad sweet song of youth as if was 5ker instead of the geriatric racehorse I've allowed it to become. The miles and weather merged and sooner than now I was in a warm hospital holding a warm baby. A nice welcome to a new member of the family. There probably is no better feeling in the world.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Fashionably late

As usual I'm surfing well behind the mad crowd. Star Wars Uncut has been in orbit around Alderon or wherever for about two years, won awards and may well be on the next film in the series by now. 1.5 million other worldly views later I stumble upon the 2 hr 8 mins home baked epic. I don't recall the original being so long, or so funny or strangely disturbing and addictive. You can never tell what's out there and what's going to bite you. May the fashionably late be with you.

Monday, January 23, 2012

They came from outer space

It's been one of those days, one of those grey Mondays when strange viruses decided to visit the planet and launch some kind of pre-emptive strike against us. At times resistance seemed futile but valiant attempts at counter attacking were tried and then became tired out. Our weapons were a mixture of creamed yogurt, fizzy drugs, hot water bottles and a liberal amount of optimism. Some of these things used  individually may work but maybe not all of them at once. Some folks, those of a medical persuasion, call it Norovirus, I've no idea why.  Anyway we know the great alien, long armed, red, green and silver creatures are still out there, stalking us amongst the shattered ruins. Little do they know that we're in a safe place underneath the stairs and that our own special little virus is waiting for them.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

The iron-hearted forges of Middle-Earth

Benign guitars in an elliptical orbit around the Belt of Orion in that funny shaped bit of the universe that you can't quite make out from around these parts due to the large amount of light pollution that prevails. 

The day I first tasted Stilton: I was at least 29 years of age, immature (in most cheese related areas) and about to receive a certificate celebrating my unplanned success in economic studies and statistics from Bath University. Before the action my troop and I rested briefly at the Hare and Hounds pub up in Endsleigh and I ordered a ploughman's lunch. When it came I gasped (inwardly), the plate (and the lunch laid out on it) was huge, great slabs of mysterious cheeses, crusty breads and a small mountain of salad and pickle, all for £3.99. As I'd consumed about three pints of Guinness by this point my taste buds were sharp as a Swiss Army knife in a hot trouser pocket. The Stilton hit me like raw opium, hammered in with a blunt cork-screw. The rest of the afternoon remains a blur but I do have a photograph somewhere showing me holding a buff certificate but as evidenced by my stupid grin clearly hallucinating on a strong cheese based narcotic. It was 1985, a longer year than normal by all accounts.

166 v Mondeo: Moving away from my weaker Alfa moments I decided to sit in a keenly priced Mondeo in order to weigh up the practical side of the competition. The Ford is rock solid, everything appeared to be working and it was all pleasantly familiar, a sensible buy and easy to live with like a faithful slave. Then I thought about the Alfa again, a complete bitch of a car, an interior like a Renaissance moon rocket, designed by Italian alcoholics, lines as sexually enticing as a set of stiletto knives doubling as shoes, leather and chrome mixed up in a stylistic mess of sci-fi and steam punk. Fiddly, failing electronics, mad ergonomics, short legged seating and an engine that looks like it was conceived in Oz, built in the iron hearted forges of Middle Earth and then polished by the sun on some Alpine peak. Bugger this.

Baffling packages of inconsequential poo: Frank Zappa said; “Popular American musical taste is determined by a 13 year old girl called Debbie, the daughter of average, God-fearing American white folk, unwitting dupes of the 'Secret Office Where They Run Everything From'. Serious contemporary composers are superfluous to American society and should remove themselves from this world before it removes them, they should throw some Cyanide and swizzle it into the punchbowl along with some of that white wine that 'artistic' people really go for.” I'm sure it made a lot of sense at the time (same decade as my cheese graduation), it still does (apart from the inexplicable explosion in Hip Hop and Gangsta-Rap which came from somewhere else altogether and is equally depressing and disturbing). At least it doesn't pretend to be pop. Meanwhile my open D tuning revisit is yielding all sorts of non-populist and non-inconsequential possibilities, Frank would be proud of me.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Open D tuning revisited

Stocktaking and match a case with a guitar day. The age old under the bed dusty secrets were revealed and the bizarre collection of cheap guitars given a little essential maintenance. This resulted in rediscovering the creative impact of retuning to open D. Hours of pointless but enjoyable amusement and IPA drinking  followed.

Last glimpse of that sumptuous, simulated but faulty  interior. Curse you Alfa Romeo electronics.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Dashboard in the Gremlin

The actual Gremlin dashboard actually. (Gremlins dont exist but problems do).

Gremlin in the dashboard

Sold as seen: Well it all looked good pretty good, Alfa 166, 2.0, Carabinieri blue, alloys, tan leather, too many miles or maybe not enough. Electric seat adjustment (3 ways) yes, mirrors adjust and retract, yes, service history, check, cam belt change, yes, engine gleaming like a suit of Etruscan armour (with plenty of oil), yes, dashboard console system, Arrgghh! No back light, serious gremlin related unfixable problems. Reject! Only three left in

Quite liking M&S sweet and sour chicken with egg fried rice but oh!..those Plus Points.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Throw your guitar onto the fire

Wheeler Dealers. Classic tea time mind massaging TV: Wheeler Dealers. After all these years it's come to this, the Discovery Channel's finest: no news, soaps, quiz panel, reality show to put up with,  just watch car related/repair/rebuild TV, eating fried eggs and drinking beer. (And cleaning out the cat litter, moving stuff into the garage, destroying giant cardboard boxes, cleaning out the coal fire, recycling, laundry, feeding cats, cleaning the kitchen floor, putting away the shopping, dish washing and then building and lighting the fire). I also booked us a night's stay here, yahoo!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Understanding Zappa

Still life with soup but minus peach.

"I think that being a cynic is the only rational stance to take in a contemporary society. I would find it quite a compliment to be called an arch-cynic; that sounds almost important."

I'm not so slow a reader that it shows but it's taken me nearly three months to wade through Zappa's biography, only now, as we (that's me and my guardian angel) reach the eighties is it becoming an enjoyable read, bearable in some form or in a strange way uplifting. He's not a likable guy but he is remarkably normal and honest. Can't think of anybody (living) in the current mess of modern music who compares. I do like the view that, as most people are dumb (there is proof) then if we're made in God's own sweet image, then he must be pretty dumb. Worshiping him might be not so good an idea. It does make an uncomfortable kind of sense, it also applies to aliens, politicians and time travelling tourists from the future.

Drove my 6th Chevrolet type vehicle today but who is really counting? This one was an Orlando, a bizarre piece of convoluted design that looks like something out of Transformers meeting something out of Flash Gordon in a piece of Korean artwork. Big, lurching, unattractive and gas-guzzling - I might just want one.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

nIcE,bRiGhT,wAsTeD tImE

Nice, bright, wasted time. The frozen wastes shine in the floating January sun. Everything stuck together by the rare pure ice of 2012. A tiny glacier eats up gardens, hedges and fences, make sculptures from cardboard and twigs, pebbles and tyre tracks, piled up and collapsing in icy avalanches, refusing to move. Cars and doors are stiff, the early morning resistance of white windows and fused locks, ice to the fingertips and words stuck to solid breath. Traffic warnings and winter terms are scattered across the airwaves. Jack-knives, collisions, black ice and skid risks. Every part of life becomes more risky and over reported. Coffee seems hotter, more welcome, less boring, steamy.

Cats refuse to move, hide in blankets and dodge the still, chill drafts. Reluctantly ,moving slowly and deliberately under protest and under our feet, as if their fur coats had stopped working. We don't stop working, we journey out, tense in the shock of the low temperature, hurrying to get back indoors or basking as the car heater finally yields some of it's precious heat. I make a pot of hot chilli, let it steam and challenge the season, hold it in a bowl and breath it in, drive away the evil spirit, kill the imagined germs. The Winter spirit that ranges across the land, for the time being, like a cold steel guitar, a long note blows over Central Scotland, the peculiar Celtic blues play and sing out across the silver landscapes. Nice, bright, loud, wasted time.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Look through any window...

 unfinished project. Today was cold and crisp, the light was bright and fragile, the breakfast was bacon, eggs and toasted rolls, the day was today. A day in the life. Look through any window.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Scotland: Cut down in it's prime

698 Gregorian years since a victory over the English, that's history etc. So why keep on keeping the score? Alex Salmond is someone who can only be described as indescribable. I've watched his antics this week and been appalled and embarrassed in equal measure. His crowing cackle, bulging eyes and whining voice, his warped self belief and his evangelical sense of purpose and artificial empowerment are staggering and irritating. Worthy of a bad Orson Welles character portrayal and in some ways asking for an assassination bid from the lunatic fringe of lunatics out there somewhere. I know that I'm seriously temped to throw any convenient heavy object at our under perfoming HD TV whenever his smug mug appears. Conveniently and as I was working on the south coast of a place called England this week I was quizzed by some bemused local inhabitants about the SNP's plans and purposes. Nobody down there gets it other than seeing it as a back door plot to have two future proofed Tory governments operating between Scotland and England – a cunning, subterranean plan to wrestle power from dimwitted leftish wingers forever, connected by a mixture of high speed and low speed railway systems.  

Friday, January 13, 2012

The Stilton Diaries - Day 4

The continued consumption of Stilton in some haphazard pursuit of hallucinations via dreams continues. My first observation being that the crackers don't really work but the additional spicy lentil soup does when used as a medium to transport the cheese effect from the tongue to the centre of the brain does, almost. There also was the added effect of a laboriously slow news day being strung out on Reporting Scotland. As a result I slept for all of twenty five minutes on the couch and dreamed of...err, nothing in particular. The remaining cheese crumbs on the chopping board were however very much appreciated as a primitive sort of desert. More wine might help.

Sometimes I even dream about rare European cars emerging from grey clouds and the subsequent happy years of ownership. Then there are new levels of mechanical reliability to be experienced and many fine examples of enduring build quality to be enjoyed. Late night cheese help this fantasy move along. All the answers can be found on eBay.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Urinal dislocation

At times a man may wonder just how many urinals he has used and blankly peered into (as well as peed into). Which one was the best, the worst, the most bizarre? Then he realizes that actually he cant really remember much about them or their details or anything else. So he then ponders on how the brain may retain some impression, like a pencil sketch, but quickly he sees that there is very little of this information held for any length of time. A strange eraser is at work, beyond all human control. A feeble mind mapped photograph is taken but it rapidly becomes fuzzy and vague to the point that nothing can be recalled at all.

Life is lived and then, for the most part it's immediately forgotten.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

When the Stilton kicks in

Day two of the mind altering Stilton based experimentation process found me seeing some quite strange animals ranging across the garden, as if in Bible times. I'd always suspected that the game keeper had a hidden agenda and there was something unearthly about his midnight whistling, that and the break of dawn cooing and crowing episode, just below the living room window sill. After a while I drifted into a deep sleep and almost drowned. The main problem was that I'd left a suitcase in the boot of a hired car, a compact European model, the car however was normal sized. I was about to check in for the flight home but my dear wife was becoming more and more frantic about the lost case, fortunately the ground staff carried out an exhaustive search, stopping any passing vehicle but the suitcase refused to respond. It was then that I found myself trapped in a series of revolving doors, none of which I could escape from but from the corner of my eye I could almost swear I saw somebody with my suitcase. In fact every other person I saw was carrying it or at least an exact replica. When I finally made it to the check in (or was it the check out?) I was informed that the 20 minute late flight was now 40 minutes late in being early. The compliant and beaten passengers filed back into the lounge, there was a tangible air of disappointment but the colours were brighter than anything I'd ever seen in any airport. Just then Ali found the diamond earring, in a safe place, where it should have been all along. What a relief and a long paragraph.

I still blame the Stilton for this unforgivable episode.

Monday, January 09, 2012

Can white men sing the blue Stilton?

How different the world would been had Aldous Huxley laid off the Californian mescaline and just gone straight for the Stilton. The (disappointingly thin and weedy) Doors of Perception and Heaven and Hell would have had more volumes than a Song of Ice and Fire and a generation to hairy twerps would have found cheese based drugs instead of the other less tasty South American kinds. Dairy farmers would be millionaires (and therefore no longer dairy farmers) so itinerant townies would have moved in and made poorer quality Stilton for the masses and the Poundland dump bins. A sharp, short, badly economic crisis would then follow and the rest as they say is a bad Monday headline in the Sun. Whatever the outcome dreams would have been sweeter, more colourful and even more brighter and bizarre. Such is the power of the Big S, Stilton to you sir

I scored a mighty, reduced price, ex-Christmas slab at an out of town supermarket the other day, it was 50p and about to expire according to the many health warnings on the label, I paid no heed to this however. A third of it has now gone and funnily enough so have about a third of my brain cells, but oh! how we laughed. Even today's stupid news stories about the SNP failing to see that independence might actually affect other neighbouring  countries and the Tory Cabinet touring the future Olympic slums almost made sense to me. Such is the power of cheese when applied straight and undiluted to the forehead. Last night was just a blur apart from an appearance of Sherlock Holmes' smarter brother and a wee glass of Port that was floating about six inches in front of my eye line. Luckily I was found fit to drive today but was then marked down as completely unfit for shoplifting. Bugger that, I'll just grate a little more cheese then. To sleep, perchance to travel in time and get locked in a shower.

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Radio Sucks

Our real radio on a Friday afternoon in January.

Well actually it doesn't, I'm almost enjoying the eclectic output of Radio 6. There I've finally said it.

Saturday, January 07, 2012

The Demented Waving Brothers...

...would cry out "fried eggs!" just before giving that final, fateful wave. I've no idea why but it must have had some significance. It was also a suggested chant in Om's list of "good things to shout at people". Anyway here are two I prepared earlier.

Lost Les Paul

Lost: 1957 Les Paul Guitar c/w Bigsby. Black. No serial number. Last seen in Toronto Airport, 17th June 1970. As per the above photo.

Response via comments below please. Reward.

Rob Brydon's jumper?

In the picture: Rob Brydon can be seen here not only with Steve Coogan but also wearing  my jumper. A jumper which I believed to be in the bottom of the washing basket when all the time it was away spending a week of fine dining, lounging in posh hotels and footering across the North of England with somebody else - a Welsh comic actor in fact. A fundamental piece of the jumper/wearer relationship has been broken between my jumper and I. I'm not sure that I can ever trust it again.

I talk to the trees but they are busy talking to themselves: Today we went to Linlithgow to try to find a wool shop. Thankfully there was one (albeit I was disappointed to find that it wasn't actually made of wool) and it had the green wool required for my daughter's latest art project. Shops are brilliant really. On the way back I became aware of the conversations taking place between the trees that had survived the recent gales. They were all pretty relieved (many complaining of back and elbow injuries) but obviously more upset over their many friends and colleagues who had fallen, never to rise again. Seeing them being cut up into small pieces with chainsaws doesn't help either. A sad and cruel end for those wooden hearted stalwarts of the forest. I didn't realise how unpopular cyclists were with trees either.

Friday, January 06, 2012

Dingleberry Pie Rescue

Sadly this little bird failed to make it through the stormy week we've just experienced, a cat (who I refuse to name) is of course to blame. The bird expired upstairs in the bathroom, for some reason that's where cats take their victims.
The original Dingleberry Pie rescued from various awful fates and wheelie bins.  Part of the  post storm clear up and freezer emptying exercise. Tasty and with a spongy texture but also producing Pac-Man memories strangely enough.

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Fantasy v reality...

...on this corner they meet, at the top of the street, not every single day but pretty much most, if don't see them there, I can only assume you're a little bit lost (or have very poor eyesight).

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Doing everything they can

Collapsed trees block local roads...
...and cut vital services.

Battery powered: And so it came to pass that my unfortunate prediction unfortunately came true, a few brief seconds after releasing the Monkey thing to the blog sphere the power did indeed cave in and my world fell into sudden chilly darkness. 101mph winds were sweeping across Scotland brining a familiar pattern of chaos, angry dog walkers complained the MSPs and radio chat shows (all about this sort of thing and why was there no red warning?). Scotland seems to be located in the wrong place at the moment. Bugger all you can do really, as far as I can see. So as the storm raged in our small part of the universe dozens of brave trees fell over in that strange way they do, emitting loud, fatal snapping noises, then as if by some higher purpose landing across roads and bumping into telegraph poles - and so we were cut off. I immediately took a hot bath and reflected on the best toe nail cutting methods, shame I don't have a best toe nail. Then the Christmas decorations were boxed up for another year. Thereafter a deeper gloom descended as the brutal truth became clear, torches were located, candles set up like sentries, a gas burner located and guitars tuned – the power free siege and standoff had begun. I did venture out to photograph the wooden road block, buy whisky and marvel at the many dead traffic lights, as it's a public holiday nobody in their right mind will fix anything, it's not in the contract apparently.

I had also discovered that our extensive radio collection was mainly mains powered and each set stubbornly refused to accept the multiple battery requirements I offered. Why things are designed to be awkward beats me and why middle aged men are also designed to be victims of these awkward designs beats be twice. Eight batteries are needed to power up a sleeping radio, (where are they kept?) hardly economical but now I can connect with modern society without just sitting in the car running the engine for company. Thankfully Radio Scotland stopped playing accordion music for a few hours and settled for broadcasting long lists of closed roads, dead trains as they played more Mull Historical Society (every bloody day it seems), REM, Bob Dylan and Adele, pity about the obvious tyranny of the populist playlist. Three days into 2012 , one power cut, Hurricane Bawbag II and I'm already missing Radio 6's sweet vinyl sounds, never thought that would happen.

The power outage outstayed it's welcome. As evening broke upon us a great coal carrying exercise began. Two huge fires were started in a vain attempt to kill the cold and dark in a heated pincer movement, this was working fine until I realised that with no electrical pump operating the hot water system, it was in danger of over heating, the consequences would be bad I imagined. A extended period of washing dishes in scalding water in an OCD manner followed while Ali massaged salmon and fresh bread into an edible format. Meanwhile in the background a ticking time bomb was not really ticking, just melting, my precious mixed curry, hash brown and stir fry vegetable collection, housed in a now dead a slowly warming freezer. Ugh. The good news is that red wine seems to be impervious to these mild domestic emergencies, indeed it appears to taste better the deeper the crisis, particularly in the studied glow of slowly failing candles. Good to know.

After 36 hours the power is back on. What a relief.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Blog Monkey

A wall painting from the mythical island of Madeira.
The potential for a power cut: Waking up this morning to winds blowing around the house sounding like tortured Jumbo Jets, the cats are frantically purring up their own storm, determined to create an island of peace in some cosy corner were their fur wont get ruffled. Outside people are failing to light their first precious cigarette, read newspapers at bus stops or cycle in a westerly direction as the storm passes over. The radio waves will be full of information packets about routes and bridges being closed to high sided vehicles and so on. It's a dismal Tuesday in January in the UK, what do you expect? I've a clear path set before me; apart from some real work that's hanging over my head like the sword of Damocles, some real ironing that's hanging on coat hangers and some necessary hanging around just to get life on track in this brave new January. I must not get distracted by stupid Twitter feeds, my holiday weight as opposed to my true weight, the pile of left overs in the fridge, the dead mouse out of reach in the airing cupboard, the perpetually leaking windscreen or the many communication failures that dog me. At least I've got the blogging monkey PI down from my back and it's only 0815.

Monday, January 02, 2012

Possible resolutions and a poor choice of font

As it's a new year and stuff like that we decided to redecorate the lounge, it was a big job but a lot of fun, nearly there then. It took three fried eggs and three slices of toast to prompt my recovery. Along the way we considered possible resolutions that might fit with our new environment:

Make people smile.
Write more songs.
Earn enough to give someone a job helping me with things I don't do well.
Do good things.
Do everything the best I can.
Do my best not to do bad things.
Not beat myself up if I do bad things or fail to do good things.
Not beat myself up about feeling good about the good things
Stay alive and healthy.
Have the guts to stand up for what I believe is right, even if that is sometimes scary/crazy.

(All the above stolen with gratitude from Woodstock Taylor who stole them from Woody Guthrie who stole them from...)

Sunday, January 01, 2012


Topical Saltire type picture taken on our recent holiday, this in no way means I'm sympathetic to the cause of the SNP, just a nice photo and a way to wish a happy new year to one and all etc. So now that the different year has begun we can finally all calm down and use that extra leap year day to go out and do something interesting or at least delusional.