Tuesday, July 31, 2012

More holiday snaps

Thin, cliff edge trees. 
Dead centre of Ibiza. 
The sun sets somewhere in the East. 
Barcelona bike taxi waits for a fare.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Holiday snaps

Useless and unwanted headphones strewn across a bus stop roof in Barcelona.
Pan tiles and vines: Cote d' Azur.
Serious but dead fish: the fish market, Mahon, Minorca.
An image of a young Spanish god, rocks and sticks on a cliff in Ibiza.
Car parked in the shade, the Zen Gardens of Nowhere, Ibiza.
A spectral piece of Majorca viewed from the sea.
Barcelona residents protest about noisy diesel engines running amok at peak times.
The blue, blue sea, a distant Nice,  a beautiful day in the South of France.

What did you see and do on your holidays?

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Some time in Terminal 5

Terminal 5 roof, detail.
Returning to the UK via Terminal 5 at Heathrow, not much evidence of the Olympic Spirit being spread around. Here in Brave New Britain nobody can be trusted, not even the British. As soon as you get off the plane you're checked and photographed, then your passport is checked, then you're searched again. OK, now you are allowed to trawl the leaden halls, mixing with fellow travellers crippled with the hostile razzmatazz, marketing  and muzac, shopping in glittering prisons and canteens, then waiting, anonymous in rows as your steel birds are prepared.

Once the flight is called you're photo is checked, then your papers and passport. If you pass you can fly, if you fail the machine stops and you are cast out...somewhere, perhaps they  put you on a bus. I asked a few of the BA operators, MITIE staff and Border Control folks why these extra checks were in force, nobody answered, nobody quite knows, they just do what they are told it seems, eyes like saucers. A glitch in the great system then halts our plane's boarding, nobody explains, they stand, we all stand, nobody says anything, we stay in line. When you ask why you get no answer, just a nod to move on. So why bother with new passports, their chips and codes and images, why bother with on-line checks and bar codes?  We think we are British and can prove it but Britain or BA or BAA, whoever they are, isn't so sure.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Thank you sir!

It's great when the shared wisdom of the internet is available to the common, perplexed and stressed man when he requires something inspirational to draw upon for his guidance in the ways of primitive arts and secrets. There is no god, no science, no law, nothing out there. In fact there is only...whatever you call it.

Arrested Development

Oops, poor lady, I hope it wasn't her first tattoo, you have to admire her for going public with this.

I lifted this (lazily) from the Daily Telegraph Pole and I'm no great fan of Starkey but I am a great fan of history and the occasional rare burst of common sense:
 There are two arguments in David Starkey’s new series The Churchills. The first is that for Winston Churchill it was the process of writingMarlborough: his Life and Times in the early Thirties, a million-word megalith about his great ancestor John Churchill, first Duke of Marlborough, that transformed Winston into the masterful statesman we know. Churchill, Starkey maintains, was immersing himself in a story which in so many ways would anticipate his own: Marlborough, in his wars against Louis XVI and then in the Wars of the Spanish Succession, was fighting a power, France, whose parallels with the growing Nazi Germany Churchill couldn’t fail to acknowledge.
“France was a profoundly militarised power which expressed itself not only by warfare and foreign expansion but also in terms of its aspirations as a hegemonic culture; and also massive internal persecution of a minority – the Huguenots. When you read Churchill’s account of this you think, ‘Is he talking about Louis XVI… or about Hitler?’”
That would be a perfectly juicy thesis, enough certainly to sustain a series. But Starkey is an intellectual unable to resist stirring the pot as much as a toddler in wellies can resist a placid puddle. And so to argument B: The Churchills is about more than just Winston and his 18th-century ancestor. “The series has a not very well concealed propagandistic role on the importance of history – and the catastrophe that no modern politician has this kind of background,” Starkey says.
His point is that it was Churchill’s absorption in history that made him great. And though he says that the timing of The Churchills is accidental, he sees worrying similarities between now and the Thirties.
“I think there is a real sense now that we genuinely don’t know where we are, or what we are or where we’re going. We’ve lost confidence in our leaders in exactly the same way as happened in the Thirties. There’s a sense of some huge indefinable threat which is both from abroad and within our societies.”
The problem, he says, is that our politicians lack the historical perspective to assess the situation and then act accordingly.
“Arguably since the Twenties, but certainly since the Second World War, we’ve tended to try to understand the world through the so-called social sciences. It seems to me, for example, that the 2008 crash was the moment at which we realised that we don’t actually understand economics any more than a bean counter. Mervyn [King] was my colleague at LSE and he’s a deeply nice man. He’s one of the world’s top two or three academic economists. And he has no idea what he’s doing.”
It isn’t just King, or economists in general, that Starkey feels have failed. “It seems to me the same is true with the management of our social policy, the health service… infinite academic resources have been devoted to the so-called social sciences. It’s obvious we have no understanding of how they work at all. I think the so-called social sciences frankly are mumbo jumbo. If you want to begin to understand the strangeness, the patterns – in so far as there are patterns – of human behaviour then there’s only one way of doing it. That’s by looking at what human beings have done before. And if you do it systematically it’s called history.”

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Great Scottish Summer

Actual Greggs steak bake and actual simulated coffee.

Baby Swifts in the coal cellar, either asleep or awake, I'm not sure.
Seen in Perthshire, nicely overgrown and possibly in the wrong place.
Today it rained so much a train derailed, the motorway closed, there were landslips and every second road was flooded. Journeys that normally took an hour took about an hour and fifteen minutes. The delay made me so hungry I ate a packet of crisps. It reminded me of the time I bit into a Gregg's steak bake and burned my tongue, at least I didn't bite my mouth, that's the worst self inflicted food related experience of all. Anyway the steak bake whilst baked doesn't really have much steak in it, it does contain bits of dead animal cooked up in a brown sauce however, yum. It's an iconic snack here in Scotia.

So after all the transport and traffic delays and strange dank, putrid water lying in pools across the roads and housing schemes I wished, for once, I wasn't here. Please tourists, explorers and aliens, don't bother coming to Scotland (stay in London and soak up the Olympics) everything is truly shite up here these days.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Perthshire Rambler

Every so often you come across a tree that has a chain wrapped around it's trunk. Why does this happen? I don't really know but that's just some of the Perthshire magic that you may or may not come across as you wander through the Perthshire wilderness. Go wild in the country if you will.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Banned by the Brand Police

Olympics organisers have warned businesses that during London 2012 their advertising should not include a list of banned words, including "gold", "silver" and "bronze", "summer", "sponsors" and "London". Publicans have been advised that blackboards advertising live TV coverage must not refer to beer brands or brewers without an Olympics deal, while caterers and restaurateurs have been told not to advertise dishes that could be construed as having an association with the event. At the 40 Olympics venues, 800 retailers have been banned from serving chips to avoid infringing fast-food rights secured by McDonald's.Watch out then all you small businesses, gangsters and ordinary people.

Sporting integrity

Here's a cat who looks like a cat (Syrus)  we lost about five long years ago. We were both pretty upset when Syrus disappeared and searched for him for months, years even. That's what cat people do. Ali spotted this fellow a few days ago and for a moment was...not sure. Today I saw him perched on a wall and looked him up and down and met his gaze. He's a nice, placid, well worn cat but he's not Syrus. You think that anyway and then you start thinking about the film Sommersby, mistaken identity, loss and almost exact replicas. No, it wasn't him.

So far 2012 has been the year of the phrase "sporting integrity". A fashionable term that's un-managed use has allowed footballing professionals, pundits and fans the opportunity to jump from scandalous quicksand to a moral high ground made of concrete - set up in their own mind's mixer. The trouble is the more you use the phrase the less it comes to mean and the more the concrete turns to quicksand. In life the truth is that you cant really trust anybody or be sure of very much...even cats are confusing these days.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Knitting the Olympics

Just back home from a week in the Perthshire hills feeding and having fun with a variety of my children and grandchildren. Some random photos may follow but right now I've just had a really good "good night's" sleep and a strong cup of lukewarm coffee. It's Sunday morning and I feel fine if a little sore in places.

In the wider world the Olympic Games in London remain difficult for the parochial and conflicted Scots to handle as the build up progresses, most of us just don't get it and dislike the corporate big boys, politicians and BBC running the whole show in a way that squeezes the joy and life completely out of it. Nice therefore to see this alternative knitted tribute...

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Cabin fever

Regular rain, the unravelling of the great Scottish summer, TV on the Fritz, maybe too much chocolate or bacon, excess amounts of corn syrup, lack of sleep or space or whatever. These things spawn strange pastimes, generate new skills, boundary stretching artworks and explorations around the edge of all gravity and ability.

Monday, July 09, 2012

Abandoned petrol station

There are plenty of used up, closed down petrol stations here and there but this one is a pretty good example of a business that's just died as a result of enforced road changes and neglect. Nobody it seems has tried to convert it to a car wash or Chinese restaurant either so it's slowly rusting back into the weeds and damp landscape. It's just by the old A9 in Calvine, a few lonely miles north of Blair Atholl, Perthshire, Scotland. The rerouted (and always controversial) A9 runs past only a few yards away, close but not close enough.

Saturday, July 07, 2012

Public service assistance

If your for sale sign becomes dangerously squint then there are people driving around who will quietly and carefully fix it for you by applying the universal rule of three. That means: First we spot the problem. Second we give you an unspecified but reasonable amount of time to fix it. Thirdly, we note you've done hee-haw, you're ambivalent towards stuff, maybe lazy or stupid so we intervene. We cannot tolerate a maladjusted and crooked universe,  we must fix things, it's what we do. Next on the hit list: RBS, Barclays, the Conservative Party, the music industry and Syria.

Friday, July 06, 2012

BBC Retweet

John Barclay
@TommyReckless @BBCComedyCafe Heard the show, of course you were fab. Radio time seems twice as fast as normal time!
01:56 PM - 06 Jul 12 via web
Retweeted by

The Comedy CafeThe Comedy Cafe @BBCComedyCafe
To 1509 followers.

Learn more about @BBCComedyCafe.
View their profile

Friday's trousers

Friday's trousers were/are a nicely proportioned 1950s style grey selection that I imagined would almost render a man invisible should he happen to be walking in the clouds.  They currently match the gloomy, unsummery weather that hovers across the Stone Roses fans at the T in the Park site and down to the Firth of Forth where bridges are being built. In life it's often comes down to the choices you may make about blending in or standing out in the crowd; it seems that apparel is pretty important in this - you have to be careful. Anyway I went about my business, worked a bit, shopped at bit, domesticated a bit, taxied a bit, cooked a bit and listened to Tommy Mackay on the Radio Scotland Comedy Cafe. I did all these things whilst quite invisible, all thanks to my superb Friday trouser choice.

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Band of Gypsies

A few deja vu moments from the Edinburgh Tuesday Night Monsoon Sessions. If you're thinking that these folks look like they can really play then you're quite right.

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Frankly disturbing

Yesterday's blog pic was perhaps a little disturbing. I don't really want to represent myself as a ranting idiot, angry at the notion of god (with a small g) or organised religion in any of it's many forms. I respect other beliefs but I can't quite take them seriously - they don't make sense. So as an antidote piece I offer something that's not too cute but still pretty good, natural, small and full of the magical wonder of things that makes life good. Ladies and gentlemen I give you a bird holding onto a stalk of grass.

Meanwhile, a good jammin' and hootin' time was had in the subterranean suburbs of Edinburgh at Mr FB's birthday event last night. Some great playing, singing, tootling on the sax, percussive ace action, guitar chatter and a whole lot of cake. Nicer than nice and better than the summer weather.

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Mysterious Ways

Yes indeed, God moves pretty mysteriously and also says some interesting things about himself/herself/itself.

Monday, July 02, 2012

Her Royal Highness Princess Victoria Sponge

Today's question of the day is: Is there a name for that highly tasty and pleasurable thing that happens when you bite into a tiny Victoria Sponge cake and somehow you manage to inhale a small amount of icing sugar that catches at the back of your throat and palate just as your teeth descend upon that soft spongy outer and that cream and jam luxury interior? I'm sure that the French have a word for it and possibly even the Germans.

The afternoon was nice, a famous Formula 1 driver bought me a drink, I saw a well respected author, the great and the good surrounded me, I enjoyed the rain because I ignored it, I let some hard worked young pipers ahead of me in a queue and my lovely wife looked beautiful. There also was the memorable cake experience.

Sunday, July 01, 2012


From the kitchen window, near Selkirk in the beautiful Scottish Borders.
I like woodpeckers, the way they look, the way they fly and the tap tap noise they make. They also like to bully the smaller birds and shove them out of the way on the bird feeder but then that's nature for you. Did I mention that my middle name is Wood? That's really all I have to say about woodpeckers at the moment.