Sunday, April 30, 2017

Shave the djembe

Still looking a little rough at this point but headed in the right direction we have here the newly re-skinned djembe. eBay we thank you for your rich source of materials. The goat skin drum skin turned out to be a little too hairy so it was duly trimmed and the excess skin around the edge was also cut. Remarkably only one of my fingers were cut in the process but sad to say the actual goat made quite a sacrifice in order to give this drum it's characteristic African tone (but with a Scottish accent).

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Scorched brown world

The pre-frack but still gloomy view from St David's Harbour on the shores of the Forth in the Kingdom of Fife. Iconic bridge structures struggle to be seen in the distance as the clouds gather over May's insane and fractured vision of a unified land.  If they ever frack under the Firth of Forth it'll all end up a brown, burnt, scorched mess, as if some civil war had raged. You'll all have some cheap gas for a while but once that burns away there will be no water to drink. Bit of a simple choice to make. Set fire to the ground under our feet here in Central Scotland, let it smoulder away and enjoy a barren wasteland for the rest of your life (that could be seen as a view on a possible outcome of independence). An expert of fracking and schisms of all sorts passed this knowledge onto me, now I'm clued up.

I often criticize the BBC for obvious bias and poor choice of news story and (in Scotland) irritating parochial coverage that quickly skips to the lowest common denominator. Well today they did produce an honest and decent piece of  work on men's help on Radio Scotland's morning show. Lot's of good fact, useful opinion and shared experiences. More please. 

Friday, April 28, 2017

Pigs at the Horn

I'm something of an aficionado of the greasy spoon cafe, there's so much bizarre food enjoy and life to observe. It's like a guilty pleasure tableaux of behaviours, food and strange versions of modern hygiene. Today's example is from the infamous or more simply famous "Horn" on the A90 outside Dundee. For a fairly pricey (i.e. more than you'd expect to pay for normal sized food) £3.95 you get this massive bacon roll, way too much meat obviously, so that's reflected in the price. Along with a mug of lorry driver coffee this kept me conscious for about six hours before any further grub was necessary. 

Many old folks congregate here, sipping strong tea and guzzling sugary cakes, most of which (the cakes that is) don't look quite right. They have sunglasses and leisure wear and take a long time to decide where to stand and what to eat and where to sit. Next door there's a massive caravan warehouse full of massive caravans. Maybe people come in for tea and cake as they ponder their next big holiday and lifestyle choice and then go across and hand their bank card over for a gleaming white box on wheels. Eventually pulling it around or just "managing the steps" will kill them, but we all have to die of something. I stuck with the bacon roll, it seemed the safest option.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Purple Jungles of the mind

In the false, enticing and strangely purple jungles of our inner selves we explore and get nowhere until we stop exploring and simply allow ourselves to fall quietly and peacefully over some handy cliff edge. The good news is that the drop is shallow and the landing is ultimately soft. The purple leaves work well and good natured locals normally appear quickly to administer things that look like drugs but aren't but they have the same effect - or is it affect. 

Once you recover from the upset things just don't seem the same as before and you begin to understand that you've been waiting on this moment for all of your life. That's when it hits you, square in the ego. All of the smorgasbord, the lack of risks taken and the number of times you did risk everything only to find yourself back here. This is no bad thing either, it's the luck of the draw and the top of the morning...eventually and it was all going so well and then I noticed that a few pixels were out of line. It only means one thing, a glitch.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Cubase virgin

You don't really realise how little you know about recording software until you come up against an enormous iceberg of technical complexity like Cubase. Today I downloaded what is fairly basic version in a bid to move away from the old digital (but nearly analogue) desk system I've been using for years. Turns out that Cubase, which I've used but never actually operated represents a bit of a quantum leap forward. Aside from using this software the actual download, registration and installation process is hardly straightforward. First there's registration with all the usual checks and balances, then registration involving firstly a 16 digit code which then morphs into a 20 digit code which then refuses to go quite where you think it should... much head scratching and multiple window opening follows but of course this is Windows 10, a set up that never quite works with you in my opinion, but I'm learning. Then there's a 5GB download which, in this neck of the wild woods is a three hour slog but it worked first time. Then it's five prelim, get you started and bloodied, videos that I will have to watch a number of times then...relax. Thankfully I've got a fairly basic version with not too many bells and whistles. The learning process is however underway and will run probably for the rest of my life. It proves that it's one thing to observe someone using a tool and quite another for you to pick it up and try to use it yourself.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017


When it's Tuesday morning and you get  an email from Amazon saying that your item should be delivered some time today but there is no actual time given.

Best ever

So who are Britain's greatest ever female vocal group, a tough call but is it Bananarama or Fran and Anna?

Or is it FranandAnnaandaBanana?

Monday, April 24, 2017


Here's a cover version of the song "Waterfall" originally recorded and performed by Fraser Drummond and John Farrell. This version was recorded in January last year by Pol Arida at his studio in Edinburgh and then remixed by ourselves late in 2016. The waterfall photo was taken last year on our trip to Iceland. 

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Sunday morning

It's Sunday morning at most of the places in our time zone , anyway here's a cat (Tigger) sitting on our roof.

Random images from Twitter

If nothing else social media is gloomily entertaining. It's the almost artistic the way random images come together, juxtaposed in close and unintended proximity as unrelated as bingo numbers or lottery balls. Whatever next? Quickly the images become a large and odd glass tower of photo stops as we ponder the harsh reality of climate change, a person drinking the milk from a cat's bowl, Marilyn Monroe, Nicola Sturgeon and Ruth Davidson and Jurassic Park. These arrived one by one in my Twitter feed, an activity that happens everyday in some strange pattern, hundreds of times, each pattern is unique, often unnoticed or acknowledged. No connecting narrative, no theme, just streams from unseen sources flickering away in their own darkness. A sad, repetition that moves across our screens and seldom makes any kind of sense or impact, gone in a blink, never to be seen again. Life flashes by in a minute.

Saturday, April 22, 2017


For Sale: Gnome Boots, never worn. 

It's all an urban myth but then what's so wrong about a bit of mythology. What did Hemingway really do, say, write or drink? We think we know what he wrote but then ...who wrote the Bible or the Koran or Jane Austin's, Bod Dylan or E M Foster's work. Probably, maybe, possibly and perhaps it's theirs but maybe they stole it or shared it or it was from an alien life form nearby, transmitting. Clearly I don't know where I'm going with this other than trying to express some of the sense of the dislocation I feel with most media sources these days. 

When the news is fake, the people are fakers and the audience (mostly) don't care, then anything can be said, with or without impunity and certainly without integrity. I for one welcome this absurd situation but absurdly I cannot support it. That's because most of what passes for news and the commentary attached is backed by spite, hatred, prejudice and unashamed self interest. It's not even any kind of amalgamation of conspiracy theories or parallel news, it's turkeys voting for Christmas, repeatedly. Who writes this stuff anyway?

Friday, April 21, 2017

The small world of large birds

In a move clearly designed to snare me in some opportunistic way google keeps pinching images from my phone and rendering them in the style of a Soviet 35mm camera of the 1960s. I refuse to take the bait. It's one thing to have a blog hosted for free but quite another to go all the way and partake and  imbibe of the Queen's Shilling. That'll never end well. So there's one of mine and one of google's set above in the "pheasant of the day" category. It may be the only one for a while, the females have all but disappeared, I suspect they're hiding in the woods, breeding and laying eggs and all that sort of Spring type avian behaviour. The end of the seasonal photo op.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

As I walked

As I walked out one summers (spring) morn on account of a requirement  to get a driveshaft fixed and a new wheel bearing I came across these trees. They look nothing like this in real life. I normally whizz past them but today was not a day for whizz, more a day for cheesy toast and sauntering against and into a brisk wind that blows over from some far away place filled with litter. My adventures continued as I visited hospitals, a vet's surgery and a garage. I spoke to builders and blacksmiths and finally found an Allan key of the correct size in an unexpected place. I armed myself with it.

Once safely back home I fixed the sliding door, the cupboard door and some other random doors, I spent (wasted) two hours of my life trying to come up with a guitar riff that would go with John Bonham's half shuffle groove segment (approx 1 min. 25 secs). No luck there but I will return to the task, it's a challenge all young men and iffy musicians should tackle with courage and no small amount of sweat. Then I was mugged by a series of pheasants all determine to beat the squirrels and blue tits to the peanuts I casually toss their way. All in a days work.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Making a way to the hospital

It's all routine, I'm in for a pre-op check. Form an orderly queue. See what I'm made of. A few hours and it'll be over. A few hours of waiting that is, but it's still free at the point of delivery. Who knows where it will be once the Tories cement their unholy selves in for another five years? Five years according to the will of God and Theresa. I'm not going to think of that, I'll remain positive, perhaps some event or other, some unplanned crisis will choke them all and we'll get a more balanced and caring government. Still none of this answers the question and I know I'm in a bit of a social media and chosen media echo chamber but who, in the electorate, really believes in them and would happily vote for them in June thinking that their lives will somehow be better under their rule? That there are a majority of people in this country that feel that way is what I find difficult to swallow. Anyway, here's a small piece of well deserved serenity.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

An Extraordinary Cup of Tea

Above: A key lodged in a table top in some magic, sticky, solid mist. If you're locked out and you need this...forget it.

Today I (we) visited the Log House or the  Round House or the Log Tower or something like that. It's way out west in the middle of the country where great rivers find their source. There you can share a classy tea along with a nice lunch served on wooden boards once trodden by famous ballerinas at early points in their careers. In my country wood is very important you know. Today's tea was described (in less words than I'm about to use) as Bollywood Nitrate Lapsang Souchong from the lower slopes of the Himalayas, always a great location for tea of good flavour. Some say that's where the green shoots are. 

As you can see it was served in neat little strainer of a pot along with tepid milk and bear-proof honey on the side. It was a sweet treat. It lasted ages in a mind bending TARDIS tea pot fashion, it stimulated many areas in need of stimulation and I now feel slightly detoxed as well as light headed. Any day soon, once I get myself back together, I'm headed  for those sacred slopes to chill, meditate and recover. I may also take a little more of that tea.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Wooden headed

As my middle name is wood it's only natural that from time to time I consider myself to be a little wooden headed.I have a sense of oneness with natural materials, wood being my favourite.  Mostly this happens when I bump my head. That kind of elderly fellow feeling of a lack of coordination kicking in, not being quite aware of where your head or limbs or torso are in space whilst all around them other items, some still and some travelling, are bound somehow to make contact with you. Your level of control is inadequate somehow for the complexities of the world; coffee tables, counters, bed legs and any object above shoulder height. This can be painful or it can be embarrassing, I'm not sure which is worse, actual physical injury or that feeling of being a clumsy horse loose and out of control in an elegant world. I suppose it stems from a mismatch in reference points, Where I think things are and where they really are. If  I could draw a diagram of this I would but I feel I might, through wooden headed-ness or a similar weakness, miss some key piece of detail rendering it useless. In a way that would prove my point but then again I lack the concentration to appreciate graphics and instructions. That's another kind of sore head. I suppose a formulae type of explanation could work with matchstick men figures hitting and missing bits of suspended wood, doorways and the hatchbacks of hatchback cars or the boot lids of others. It doesn't really matter, it's bad and pointless science that no one really worries about or thinks about until you get a right crack on the head from that thing that is now in the wrong place and was in the wrong place in the first place. 

The universe is a cruel place, dark and airless for the most part and then, when you find a warm and well lit corner, things just turn up and clatter you on the head. Maybe Stanley Kubrick got the whole ape thing wrong in 2001, maybe they should've just been bumping their heads on cave entrances and low branches so as to illustrate how far we haven't come in thousands of years despite the Sentinal's best efforts . Maybe using Windows 10 for a few weeks will help.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Add selected

A long day's journey into Spring. Tired out by doing nothing in particular other than being, breakfasting and gather milk and tomatoes. There was a little trampoline observation, the battle of the electric butterflies and too much wine. Now order has been restored, bees are freed and the sun is sinking slowly, over yonder west of here. Next: the installation of MS Office on a Windows 10 platform. These doodles are not mine, I've a talented family.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Newly weds and nearly deads

Apparently a large number of  the people who live on the south coast (?) can be described as mostly newly weds and nearly deads. At the start and close to the finish of something. I like the phrase, it seemed to resonate around with me  and I'm looking for some container to put it into. This isn't it. The phrase remains an orphan in my circle but in the world of the local estate agents, plumbers and fixers it'll mean a whole lot more. That's not where I run or where I position myself. Perhaps it's a song title, some kitchen sink drama lived out in three verses, a chorus and a middle eight, shot in black and white as a couple move through the struggles and pleasures of ordinary life. That thing that most songwriters seem to know so little of, they're too busy with their introspection and their egos to bother. Of course I don't mean any of it, I'm just trying to plant a phrase and, unlike the tomato seedlings I buried today, not finding it so easy to  get it to take root anywhere.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Spring in the walled garden

A heavy lunch today in the cash friendly/card hostile cafe in the Walled Garden, Fife's best kept hidden garden and temporary white topped caravan site.  Somewhere off in the woods, along a bumpy road and then strangely at the top of a hill, there it is. A mug of herb and mushroom soup, a ham salad sandwich was enough to floor me, that and two flat white coffees. I've just no staying power anymore, weak willed and lacking in stamina and the ability to resist reasonable temptation. The afternoon turned out better than expected. Once soup ran out I was in the mood to wander. I made it all the way to the root of the old pier where, as usual, nothing much was happening, but it looked good. 

Well that was yesterday, today I'm revelling in the reflected glory of a bright new Windows 10 laptop screen (Apple fanboy no more) and understanding it's many quirks. I've also had a new, snake like and supple caffita fitted, my health is in good hands, thankfully not mine. At the moment neither Windows 10, Apple whatever it was and my plumbing are fully connected. Tests, intrusive probes and intensive treatments will no doubt sort it all out in due course.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Space Rock

Orbital Challenger: Nothing really new here, just some space rock. That's basically a few weird noises, some NASA radio recordings, a drum beat from Dr Drum, distorted guitars all joined together by a a few simple riffs, drops and whatever you call the other musical plot devices. I could make up a story as to how it was inspired by my childhood in the 1960s or by last year's visit to NASA at Cape Canaveral but neither of those things would be true. Happy Wednesday.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

The Sorority of Lesbian Dogwalkers

I'm just parking this title here, in a Monopoly board kind of free parking way, letting it settle, letting it brew. It came to me in a dream, like a word from above or in an inspirational moment but actually it didn't. It was a chance remark made on a car journey heading north, slowly stuck behind a tractor ( or a fucking tractor to give it it's full title). The title seemed to stick, like it was there, living a breathing and full of stories, adventures, encounters and relationships. Dogs, women, customers and punters and the occasional puzzled man out there somewhere on the horizon. So it's here, for a while before it heads off to some other, non-specified place.

Here's a remix of Air Kisses, an old song of ours, when I googled the title an image of Trump and Pence came up. They all seemed to fit...

Monday, April 10, 2017

Brunel's Birthday

From the Guardian: Engineers have tested one of the UK’s most intriguing railway legends: that the rising sun shines through the Box tunnel near Bath on the birthday of the 19th-century genius who created the line.
For many years railway enthusiasts and mathematicians have argued over whether Isambard Kingdom Brunel, the creator of the Great Western mainline, did design the two-mile tunnel with his own birthday in mind.
On Sunday – 211 years after Brunel’s birth – the line was shut because of upgrade work, providing Great Western Railway and Network Rail with a rare chance to observe whether the sun really does shine through the length of the tunnel on 9th April. It does.
The supposed link with Brunel’s birthday was first reported by the Devizes Gazette in 1842. The Daily Telegraph followed the story up some time later but until now, as far as GWR knows, there have been no photographs of the supposed phenomenon.
Matthew Golton (GWR) said the idea of building such a long tunnel between Bath and Chippenham was hugely controversial and was described during a debate in parliament as “dangerous, extraordinary, monstrous and impractical”. Railway pioneer George Stephenson said passengers would be terrified.
The project was over-budget and behind time. At the height of construction, 4,000 people were working on the tunnel and the engineers were getting through a tonne of candle wax and a tonne of explosives every week. One hundred people died during its construction.
It is no surprise that Brunel might had added a mischievous detail to his astounding design. “There are lots of good reasons why Brunel might have wanted to provide a riposte to his critics by not only completing the structure but putting a special architectural signature into the job,” Matthew Golton of GWR said.

Analogue People

Sunday, April 09, 2017

Brews and dogs

A sunny spring afternoon so we spent some of it at the international HQ of the Brewdog Brothers in Ellon Aberdeenshire. Not everybody likes Brewdog, they are nontraditional, a bit spiky, pompous and self righteous and the beer is pricy, it's also mostly quite good, but I'm no beer expert. So I managed to visit a brewery, drink no beer and emerge only with a Brewdog dog collar (for an actual dog), a bottle opener and a beer mat. Oh, I ate some pizza and drank some apple juice.

Friday, April 07, 2017

The joy of a new phone

Well it's a kind of joy tinged with confusion, head scratching, questions etc. My favourite question being "why does none of the sparse literature that comes with the phone actually explain anything and when you go on line to download the manual, as per instructions, you find there isn't one after all?" So more trench warfare begins, mostly in my head and a little on line of course. Typical. 

Eventually the new micro SIM card was authorised and it breathed in some non Korean oxygen and so the phone woke up, slightly after the two hours it was supposed to take. By then I'd discovered that there was no memory slot so another means of copying contacts over had to be found. I worked it out after a few minutes of mistakes. Then a barrage of confusing messages mostly saying "such and such has now stopped, configuration in progress and Microsoft Excel has been launched", things I don't want to know but do now. 

What I do want to know is how to set the alarm, that took up most of the time. I'll be waking up to some strange modern bleeping tomorrow and thinking I'm in hospital. Things that are designed to be intuitive never seem to be for me, my intuition is clearly elsewhere and running a different code. The phone's OK anyway.

Thursday, April 06, 2017

Nobody understands anything

When it come to broadband, it's performance and actual substance that is, it seems that nobody really understands anything. Who knew that placing a router near a (glass) window, on the floor or beside seemingly benign electrical items can disastrously affect performance? It can cause the poor router to have a seizure or start operating in Japanese. The whole thing (?) is just incredibly flakey and temperamental, like having an Italian film starlet or some conceptual artist at work creating something in your home. The stubborn refusal to operate when most needed; ordering on line, fiddling with bank details or sending that vital email is a pain. It senses your anxiety build and then makes it worse by cranking up the tension, showing some promise and then fading away altogether till only the desolate amber glow of disconnection remains. 

BT of course run their tests to find the cause, "try it in another room", "stand on one leg", "did a bird perhaps fly in and unplug something?",  "what did you have for tea?", "barefoot, socks or rubber soles?", "urine a funny colour perhaps?". So many factors to consider, then mitigate against, then eliminate, then sit down and read a book for a while as the lights of communication change colour or flicker out altogether. 

Well that was last night. Today I'm sitting in a basin of tepid water with a beanie hat on reading the Broons Book 1967, while a cat munchies Dreamies in the next room, overhead a helicopter is flying by and the radio is playing Planet Rock melodies and I'm considering using the nose flute. I also had a banana and made a to do list of things I might well do some day. Funnily the internet is now working, it's all so simple really, just give it what it wants. Chaos.

Meanwhile here's a nice picture of Shetland seaweed that Tom Morton took, I found it on the internet.

Wednesday, April 05, 2017


Older age brings with it a certain desire to wallow in the warmth of nostalgia. That complicated but simple lie we tell ourselves that whilst "we've never had it so good" or this is "as good as it gets" the hazy past remains a place of peace and golden perfection where mostly good things happened. Anyway, any recent history that happened during my conscious  life is of interest, if only for me to learn how my opinions or experiences may differ from that of the author. The case for 1971 being the best year in rock history is likely to be a pretty solid one. David Hepworth knows his  cultural onions and at that point in modern time I was but a mere lad of 16, confused, ill informed and advised and with little or no concept of harsh reality or the unique moments in history that I was living through. In other words I was the same as everybody else, passing through, sometimes sad, sometimes blue etc. etc. 

Now it's all gone for a ball of chalk; memory is an unfaithful mistress and forty odd years of living have deeply etched over the vivid images and sounds of those days. Blue skies, grey skies, lots of sky and lots of self indulgence and ignorance mixed with the teenage arrogance that (hopefully) you grow out of by the time your twentieth birthday card hits the mat...I was perhaps a little late in blooming with that attribute. I'll read this, disagree about a few things no doubt and then reflect that if somebody wrote a similar book about 1972 or 1973 their case could be equally strong. None of it matters now, all those bright young creative and influential people are now in their seventies or just plain dead, read and remember, weep maybe but don't look back in anger.

Tuesday, April 04, 2017

Graphics Interchange Format

For whatever reasons (presumably the rise and rise of the smart phone and the smart arse) the .gif formatting of files and the cottage industry that goes with it must be booming right now. There someplace over the blue horizon in pleasantly decorated sweatshops, craftsmen and carftswomen with their craftrobots craft these marvellous forms of 3 second illusion so that the great (insert suitable country as necessary) public can keep themselves amused and entertained for a small period of time in between visits to coffee shops, bingo parlours and gymnasiums.  

On a more serious note there is that strange stopping of time, the almost hypnotic effect where the loop runs on, like some golden drum beat or bass line that you never want to stop. Slowly you enter the groove, then you're snared and hooked, you're sucked in by the repetition and the mindless state that it produces. Everything; movement, colour, tone and expression runs in the short cycle that is the equivalent of a musical earworm or six McNuggets never being enough and twelve more are then required. A visual sugar hit. As it's an image it sears the mind, and as it's likely to be some impossible or imagined creation that makes no proper sense and doesn't belong in the real world the effect is even more compelling. 

I have however learned to pull myself away, to resist and not to go where the pulsing beat and the flashing picture lead, that poison place of ruin and no return, it's easy you just click on the next one and graze elsewhere a little longer. 

Monday, April 03, 2017

Short Stories for Long Afternoons

Note to self: this is what you get when you Google "Short Stories etc..."

Also "Short Stories for Endless Evenings".

Sunday, April 02, 2017

Must try harder

Must try harder: I love this little gem (above), it popped into my Facebook feed, you can almost see the smug, digital index finger wagging. 

"If you'd just made a little more effort, put salt in your porridge and were just a bit more sociable lad, then you'd get to see more videos of cheeky cats, cute puppies and clips of old politicians with new comedy soundtracks added it, but will you? Oh no, not you! You're just not interested or committed enough, you're  not pulling your weight and as result we're certainly going to have to ration the treats and funnies that we provide. You need to make some more friends, get people to join up, work that network! This is a business you know! Oh and by the way you've been deleting and disliking adverts from some of our most loyal and best paying customers, you do realize that you get the privilege of Facebook use for free? We need these insurance company's and car dealer's money to run this and make a healthy tax free profit, so let's see a bit more of that team spirit and enthusiasm you showed back in 2007 when you first joined up.  You liked every fucking purile post then, remember?"

Smartly moving on: How things can escalate quickly when on a virtual date and learning the Icelandic language. Take care out there in the land of the hot springs.

Read this and weep: So it seems I've lived 62% of my life under the rule of various Conservative governments and by a simple calculation the other 38% under a fair few dodgy Labour governments. When you're down, you're down all the way. 

Saturday, April 01, 2017

Matchsticks under the Mircoscope

I've recently been lining up my Super-Pubic Microscope with my regular Samsung phone in order to capture the strange world of used matchsticks, a random Reddit thread took me there and now I'm a buff. All as seen on BBC2's famous thing about stuff to do with physics where some celebs and scientists sit around in a studio in Salford ribbing each other and making jokes and profound statements while you gaze slack jawed at your smart screen supping milky coffee on the couch (catch it on iPlayer any day soon). 

These geometric shapes are really there and are original, along with the carbon stains and burned up sulphur snow flakes. The colours have yet to be given proper names, a team at Leeds University are working on it while we speak, they've received a grant for the research piece. Funding can be an issue. Looking wider and across fields it turns out that there are many such problems in the world. Meanwhile I'm keeping busy un-developing the photographs in a kind of post-industrial post-analogue way. April already, no holidays booked and no cookies to crunch. There are no precise outcomes.