Sunday, April 29, 2018


Old pier, daily photo. Quite  a nice day today what with one thing and another.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

The persistence of memory

Smart phones are not so smart, for one thing they cannot organize their own memory. Perhaps it's because they don't actually sleep and so are denied the REM moments whereby memory and brain files are quietly sorted, edited and put away on their proper shelf in a well managed location that's easily found and recovered. That's how I imagine it anyway. Phones, being stupid (despite the hype) have to be tended and constantly prompted to do things, things that actually prolong their life and operation. They are worse by far than small children. So every so often my phone and I sit down and do a deal whereby I removed various clumps of shit, move whatever files I can persuade to go, (that's onto an SD card) and delete great swathes of unnamed, unwanted, unloved cached data. After this enema has been served up it's back to normal operations and the usual sluggish, slightly reluctant performance. A bit like a SKY box that's been left untended for too long and suffered abuse. Technology is at times almost wonderful, then at other times it's wonderful...almost. Another thing, why is it that the memory details that the phone displays never add up to whatever final total is shown?

Friday, April 27, 2018

Small Town Dr Who

"We live in a cruel world where some things cannot be unseen and some unseen things can sometimes be seen and some things are somewhere in between those scenes and the serene but still remaining unseen". Said the umpteenth Dr Who.

I spent an interesting morning in the company of Cowndenbeath's Doctor Who. A would be TARDIS repair man and traveller in time and space. Of course I'm sworn to secrecy as regards his exact location and the full nature of his business. Having listened to his testimony and seen a few of his inventions I'm forming the theory that nearly every Scottish provincial town has, somewhere in it's housing estates, council flats or maisonettes a Doctor Who figure busy working on unravelling the secrets of the universe and at the same time keeping us safe from alien predators and bandits. These unsung heroes come in many guises and versions, they go about their business without much fuss and we (the general public) are the ignorant beneficiaries of all the effort, ingenuity and good will that keeps us safe and able to live humdrum and useless lives tapping phone screens and necking energy drinks. Their illumination is masked from plain sight by plain sight itself,  such are the workings of the universe via clockwork. We can indulge ourselves and safely walk the streets and trip over loose paving slabs and pot holes thanks to their endeavours and their shield of hidden protection. It's a crazy, mixed up world and it's closer to you than you think but then again not quite.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Collages of lost collections

In no particular order (because nothing ever is), just trying to re-imagine some fragments from my lost record collection, fashionably incomplete but with all of those glossy, shattered pieces like painless splinters of memory, inconveniently gathered back together from some wispy, unclear time when I was a slightly younger man with better hearing but less equipment.

What's on the telly?

Actually that was last night's TV musical wallpaper, closely followed by an episode of Thelonious Monk, Series 1. Everything is free and floating, we are living in some strange cultural Utopia but we call it something else because we lack the language.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Sorry Internet

Sad when your financial certainty comes crashing down and you're left with...uncertainty. TSB's enormous own goal of upgrading their website and systems without properly telling anyone continues to cause pain and frustration. Seems they've bought into some software and black boxes full of Chinese chips that are not quite fit for purpose. As IT developer careers float down the river like dead bodies their help line(s) just repeats an apologetic but unhelpful message, complaints go in but are unanswered and customer service has taken a step back about 50 years. 

It's always going to be a problem when you rely on automation, as I do, to carry out the tedious and routine bits of everyday life and then one fine day the service disappears up it's own arse. AI doesn't look so good to me. I may start writing cheques again and keeping an open ledger of my spend on sweeties. I may actually visit a branch, talk to a human, pull out a wad of cash and then simply return to having a fat wallet/empty wallet on a monthly basis. I don't know. 

Attempts at logging into the supposedly working online bank (says their CEO) means you're put in a virtual queue (the message is that you're on a holding list*, that's a neat new term for "don't bother us, we've fucked up") and have to stare at a frozen screen until it times you out. I'm losing the will to pay my bills, thanks TSB.

*I wonder what other on line businesses will adopt the "holding list" concept to manage customers, can't that ending well for anybody.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018


Today I learned that ASMR was a thing. Autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR) is a term used for an experience characterised by a static-like or tingling sensation on the skin that typically begins on the scalp and moves down the back of the neck and upper spine. It has been compared with auditory-tactile synesthesia. There's a lot of it about, channels on YouTube and so on. Everybody's in on it, even IKEA. I'll just leave it here.

Anti rust league and angry owls

I've joined the anti-rust league, a non political organisation that's hell bent on bending the hell out of and rustproofing various metal objects that live mostly outdoors. Without any special training, coaching or counseling I've been wire brushing, chemically treating and applying black paint to some sorry items that have been over exposed to the elements, elephants and adverse weather. I am the personification of their iron fisted saviour and also a good person. I've still to get them hung up and screwed back into the masonry from whence they came. That'll be another story for another day.

Here's an angry owl windscreen washer nozzle that I encountered whilst driving. It was there, perched on the other side of my windscreen, eyeing me up. From time to time it exhibits a tendency to squirt water in my direction but never actually hits me because there's piece of laminated glass between us at all times. A rather fortunate design feature on the car and I will feel safe as long as that glass holds up.

Monday, April 23, 2018

J G Ballard predicts

Just another happy piece of prophetic writing captured in a stolen photo. Coming true, maturing and shared via the technological overload we have invoked (or created, or been seduced by, or innocently bought into, or been exploited by, or been drugged by or just happened choose). The thing is an easy escape does not seem like an open option at the moment.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Marathon Man

That rare and satisfying feeling when you see your son complete the London Marathon in a pretty decent time on a very hot day. All done via the all seeing but slightly stuttering and worrying eye of the marathon app. Sadly the BBC coverage missed his triumphant finish.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Log store envy

It can happen to anybody, anytime with little or no warning. You're OK about your stash of logs , the world is a simple, happy place and then you spot a bigger and clearly better one. Sometimes life is unfair.

Thursday, April 19, 2018


Old cinema, old night club, old gathering place. The old ways of doing things. There once was entertainment, bright lights, music and the sounds of laughter and the gasps of amazement. Woosh. Artificial darkness. The stars came down, settled in and moved on. In buses and cars, in reels of film, on vinyl, flickering images fused in technical ecstasy and beefed up through amplification, we saw and heard. Billboards and lobby cards lined the route, sweeties and programmes. Glamour puss. Oh how they danced. Ice cream and alcohol. The Arena. Good old days. The social hub. Wrecked and ruined, on a slippery slope. We all had a good laugh then.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

One missing piece

It's a fine jigsaw, it has 999 pieces but, to be wholly satisfying and finished properly it should actually have a more round number, 1000 to be exact. It's very frustrating for the puzzle solver to realise that after a lot of time and effort has passed and been expended you're a piece short. Short just at the "Sk" part of "Skippy" to be precise (photo top-centre). A chocolate bar/biscuit from the 1960s that Cadbury produced, now it's obsolete like Spangles or Aztecs. There's a hole in the puzzle, there.That's really all I have to say, the puzzle is now up for recycling by whatever the best means might be. We're agreed that it's for the best.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Strange Days

I came across this pictorial oddity whist reading a piece on the Fender Company's recent struggles and product history. I don't think that there was any actual explanation given as to how this photo came to be, presumably a model launch or similar publicity stunt. It's such an odd mixture of at-odds rock players, that's what I like, Fender covering a wide range of stylistic bases. 

Left to right and back again: Stuart Adamson, Fife's finest and for much of his career a Yamaha player, great to see him in this company albeit he looks a bit stunned, he'd be the youngest too so feeling the pressure. Eric Clapton, he could've been there on his own and that surely would've been publicity and clout enough for Fender. Hank Marvin would I guess only appeal to a British audience but it's nice he got a look in, his influence is huge. Steve Howe, I always thought he was more about Gibsons but maybe this was taken when he had the guitar shop. Richard Thompson, a giant in more ways than one and a folky Strat icon. Dave Gilmour, again a Strat user at genius level and the most melodic and tuneful of the pack (though you'd never have said that in the early days of Pink Floyd). And finally Jeff Beck, arguably the best and most technically proficient player but at that time wasn't he playing Les Pauls and just hammering them to death night after night? 

Monday, April 16, 2018


Ambling up White Caterthun hill fort in Angus we came upon these daffodils, a tribute and a quiet remembrance perhaps. I'm glad they found a sunny spot.

The ruins are pretty much ruined, boulders strew everywhere but he shape remains, speculation is that they were hill forts built up over 2000 years ago by Pictish tribes. Our distant relatives maybe, 1000ft up on a hill. Inside the defences some kind of good life would likely prevail. There was water (?), organisation, iron-works and basket weaving, safety from wild animals and protection from what must have been a difficult climate. That's one theory, I prefer the idea that the lonely White and Brown Caterthuns up there were base/supply ports for atmosphere craft and flying saucers.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Out here in the fields

Very old and complex trees.

Meditation. For me the most important part of the day, connecting and being, simply taking in and breathing out the peace and the mindful presence of things higher and farther away than me. I discovered this special place that may be within but equally it may be without. I'm actually pretty confused by it all but covering that up with an applied air of seriousness and a colour wash effect. 

Given time, a good climate and the application of a few chemicals things will grow in this field.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Little actual contact

In that still time before the sun fully achieves a working altitude the mind can wander. Drugged by the sleep and the thought of porridge or some exotic yogurt, pineapples in chilly suspense or the crackle of some ill tempered radio host, step into the kitchen. It must be morning if it's a new day. We could possibly run out of milk. There may be clouds in the sky, I should look upwards more. There's a slow building, cold wind blowing in from the Forth. Magpies are gathering and the pigeons are considering this week a good one to breed in. They flap a lot, break branches and chase each other around with little actual contact. The kettle has boiled and I count my distances around the square circle that is the shower bottom, a white glazed rock pool under a waterfall. Considering toast and then dropping the idea, buttered side up. Of course that was all just yesterday, today we return to rain.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Post from Apple Dan

Here's an apple, purchased via the supply chain from an unknown origin. Once cut in half (the non traditional way) the apple gladly revealed it's secret. Inside was a five pointed star and a small number of apple seeds. There was also a tiny piece of parchment rolled up into a scroll. Carefully I examined it and using a pair of tweezers I unrolled it. I could see that there was some tiny lettering written on the parchment, faint but legible. I took out a magnifying glass and read the following:

Dear Finder, 

These words were written on some spring day, when the blossom was newly ready and I was young. I had but a faint idea and little hope that I would ever complete my task, it seemed daunting. So much to think over, compose and then write down and so little space and time. You see I am the guardian of the seeds. I start the process, I begin the multiplication, I wish for greater things. I invest. The seed I watch over may end up as a huge tree, or a single piece of fruit, or simply as a fallen shard of blossom dropped from the branch and trampled underfoot. Whatever way all will return to from whence it came, eventually. It is the passing of time and these options for new life that I promote, so please take good care of it (and them).

Yours Sincerely,

Apple Dan

It seems that there is a cat for sale in the local Tesco, decent enough price but there may well be some hidden costs involved in any long term ownership.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Smoke on the water

I love the story of the over zealous individual who reported a set of "heavy metal campers" braving the spring weather out on an island on Loch Leven to the emergency services. Thinking that they were a death cult on some kind of suicide mission Scotland's finest invaded their wild camp site using boats and a helicopter in the dead of night. First of all they broke into their parked up cars looking for clues and possible suicide notes and despite finding nothing weird began the invasion and rescue (?) mission. Wow, that is all quite a leap of presumption and imagination. Turns out it was a dads and kids weekend complete with teepee, open fires, face paints and some metal music playing in the background to set the scene. These dads (academics and engineers as it turns out) will be heroes forevermore as far as those kids are concerned.  "Do you remember that time dad took us camping out on Loch Leven?" Danny Boyle needs to make a comedy movie based on these odd events, now.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Wordsworth Country

Yesterday's weather was better than today's, that's almost official. We're going to a revised version of Hell in all it's Catholic and Gothic glory in an elaborately designed  handcart. Here's the site where the SS Wordsworth ran aground in an April storm over one hundred years ago. All hands were saved but the precious cargo of daffodil bulbs was never fully recovered and the loss of that cargo delayed the Spring of 1916 by almost four Gregorian months. Scotland was shortly to be consigned to the Dark Ages of badly organized gardening and religious fervour. A series of events almost unheard of in the register of modern shipping losses though a few folk songs were subsequently pieced together and played on leather bound accordions by the old folks. That was followed by quite a lot of murmuring. 

The timing of the Tropic of Cancer seasons has never fully recovered and a large area of the Scottish coastline was badly contaminated and remains so to this very day. At low tide the darkness of the tainted mud and the skeletal remains bear witness to the seasons' tragedy as the fog rolls over. So to you weary walkers of the Coastal Paths, a word of warning; tread carefully and respectfully and be mindful of the history that lies beneath your boot prints. 

P.S. Please don't collect your dog shit in plastic bags and then hang it up onto the branches of wayside bushes or place it on the top of our dry-stane dykes. It only encourages local aggression and fosters despair in the farming and fishing communities that our fragile economy depends upon.

Monday, April 09, 2018

Tit Photos

Blurry blue tit in between flight and branch.
I spent about an hour this morning staking out the birdhouse in the garden hoping to get a decent photo of a Blue Tit either going in or coming out. I know they live there, I've been observing their activity but I'm damned if I can catch it on film. You'd think that, based on the ongoing support I've supplied them with all winter they'd at least hold still long enough to allow a simple photo to be taken, but no, my human presence clearly disturbs them and when I show up, stand still and get ready to point and shoot they're gone. There will other days, my arms ache and all I got was this poor photo.

Sunday, April 08, 2018

Out and about

Photo by Malcolm McLean.
Out and about for a change, chugging through  a few tunes in Edinburgh (well that was last Thursday but time is a fairly elastic concept according to unpopular physics). A capital city some sort. The venue was Woodland Creatures organized by the OOTB Clan. 

Later, but I'm not sure quite when, we arrived into the newly composed world of Wes Anderson via a couch based viewing of Moonrise Kingdom. A film which quickly renders anybody susceptible to visual contradictions into a dreamlike state where reality becomes some faraway friend you can't quite contact. Typical night off for us, as usual chocolate and coffee were the drugs of choice.

Saturday, April 07, 2018

The beginner's guide to septic tanks

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. That's how it is here, off grid, far away from civilized services and plumbing you can ignore etc. So once again the tank was playing up and the consequences were starting to show. Being both emboldened and embittered I decided that a surgical solution was required. I was going in...or at least going to have a wee look down. I suspected that the tank was full and that it needed emptied but on prizing off the hatch I found that it wasn't. Hmm. I could see a lot of solid material around the inlet pipe. How best do you a) explore and b) clear that? Turns out that a modified plastic  apple juice bottle when taped to a length of cane is the tool you need. I dipped the tool into the top of the inlet pipe and removed a few scoops of material using it like a plunger. Immediately the suction I'd created released the water piled up and trapped behind and with a lot of gurgling and agitation the pipe cleared itself. The rush of water caused the tank to fill up but not overflow...maybe the soak away is working after all? This situation requires careful monitoring. Happy tank filling everybody!

Friday, April 06, 2018

Writer's block

Today the fields were full of eager buyers, farmers in their 4x4s viewing the various lots of machinery and plant that were up for sale at the farm next door. The farm is "restructuring", contracting out as it were, so the equipment must go. There were hundreds of people, trudging through mud, looking, photographing and ultimately bidding hoping for a bargain. A sort of farmers day out for farmers. You see the ground is too damp to plow or work so a sale day is kind of a useful social activity, though it could also be viewed as feasting on a warm corpse. There may be more warm corpses around the corner. More farmers selling out to the big boys or nobody at all and then just kicking back. But today I was chilling, I resisted the temptation of a cheap tractor or a stack of used potato pallets and instead mused over things like writer's block and the piddling streams of creative output and the good ideas that seem to lack the adhesive necessary for them to stick and gain traction. Ho hum, it's all just around the corner.

Wednesday, April 04, 2018

Django hates jazz

Strangely it's now over two years since my once brilliant career stuttered to a halt, I've hardly given it a second thought. Time flies by real slow. Cutting across the cobwebs that have formed over the keyboard, catching up with the laundry, experimenting with the drains, avoiding the rain. Easter is finally over and April has opened up on us awaiting to be enjoyed. I'm eager to get on with it. Too much soup on the menu and regular woolly hat requirements, the over seasoning of foodstuffs and mushrooms taking root on windowsills. I'm convinced that the sun will slowly emerge one day and that the mood music will go upbeat by quite a few beats, because the beats are beating but not towards any interesting or challenging rhythm at the moment.

Sunday, April 01, 2018

Cleaning the coffee machine

Cafe etiquette is slowly coming apart. When a cafe is closing at 1600 is it OK to clean the coffee machine out at 1550 and so be unable to sell coffee for the last 10 minutes of operating time? I don't think so. South Queensferry on  an Easter Sunday afternoon. Otherwise fine, maybe best to blame the bus timetables.