Sunday, February 28, 2021
Saturday, February 27, 2021
Some short seemingly non-existent paragraphs from a short non-existent novel based around a Guardian feature I didn't read.
Machines: Not fully aware robots, AI, androids or kitchen blenders are all around, but any lack of obvious sentience that doesn't mean that the dishwasher hasn't negotiated some form of strange alliance with the freezer, those hive minds are expanding all the time, cutting deals and performing in surprising ways. Always close the fridge door gently, as if someone inside was a key worker and a light sleeper. Switch on and off with care.
So there I was, some time ago, sitting in the pale autumn sun having a coffee and a puff outside Temple Meads railway station in Bristol. It's probably my favourite station because of the smell of fresh cooked pasties and the whole Great Western thing or experience. I was puzzling over the arrangements for my long trip home and what citizenship of Bristol might mean should it ever happen to me. You see I was at that time a person of perpetual grievance. There was always something getting or about to get my goat. It's not healthy state of mind. Mechanical, trigger sprung like and always ready to resent.
I thought that I might have some genetic disorder. A proper propensity to be aggrieved by life in general, by not living in Bath or Bristol, by the death of steam trains, the lack of common order in life and coffee served in inappropriate crockery designed by people who had clearly only ever drunk from a teat. There was nowhere to turn so I turned away. At that point the sun emerged from cloud cover and warmly kissed my cheek.
There was a screech of brakes, I looked up. A cat had nearly been run over by a taxi. The taxi had come to a halt in the middle of the road having clipped a bollard and a cyclist. The driver was now out of his vehicle, bemused and looking for the cat. The cyclist had fallen from his bike. The cat had however run off at great speed like some black flash, behind the bus stop, along the top of a stone wall and now away across a car park. The fright released a disproportionate amount of energy to which cat could only succumb and fly like a furry missile to safety. I saw the whole thing as a study on and an explanation of classical physics. There were no visible injuries but there was potential.
All that is in the past now, it took place five minutes ago and the traffic and the people have all moved on with barely a ripple. I look across at the grim facade of the station. The comings and goings. I would have liked to be travelling on a train but I'm just killing time before the airport bus. Better to sit here in a watery sun, dream of stone and metal than wander the overpriced and soulless alloy and plastic corridors of crowded check-ins and departure lounges where safety cutlery and steaming microwaved excellence prevails. The avoidance of full blown grievance situations and their troubles is a highly sought after skill in this particular century.
It was about then that I awoke. There, safely strapped into my seat onboard some silvery spacecraft which was, according to the information screen, heading directly into the sun.
Friday, February 26, 2021
Welcome to the wall of tone. Turn it up or down or over. Blow up the volume. Try to find the sweet spot. Tweak. Crank it up. A flick of a digit and you're there. Digital to analogue, electric to acoustic. Quiet to loud. But as they said of Jeff Beck, it's all in the fingers. Always.
Thursday, February 25, 2021
Wednesday, February 24, 2021
"Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your Guitar God. I will strengthen your truss rod. Yes, I will help you stay in tune, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand volume control. I may however have erased your details." From the Bible for Mad People: The Book of Pointless Incantations, Chapter 66 Verse 6.
Tuesday, February 23, 2021
By way of further explanation: The words, "Can only have been revisited and doctored by a madman", are inscribed in pencil in the top left-hand corner of the painting. This statement is only visible when viewed sympathetically through the eyes of Edvard Munch, not an easy viewpoint to simulate for the beginner. In future please try to keep most of your anxiety to yourself if possible. I'll try to do the same albeit I have this blog as an occasional outlet.
Monday, February 22, 2021
...you make a salt and vinegar crisp sandwich. Don't forget to choose a nice fresh loaf and include plenty of butter, mayo or brown sauce according to your taste. (This is important life advice that you as an individual are clearly free to ignore, adopt or adapt.)
Sunday, February 21, 2021
David Attenborough suggests that we should all go out (as conditions allow) into the woods or countryside and just sit still and watch that world for a bit. Stay relaxed and focused and after 10 minutes or so you will start to see all sorts of wildlife and natural events that will surprise and delight you. I've tried it, he's right. It was mostly noisy passing birds and common cloud shapes I saw, some slugs and simple things like leaves dropping etc. Choosing a good location does help with the overall quality of this exercise, maybe try the Serengeti or Yellowstone next time .
Saturday, February 20, 2021
By way of explanation: Just a few lines here about Screenshot 44. That's 44 not 43 or 45. Neither of them compared well with the big 44, so in the final analysis I chose 44 as the one to use. Obviously it's from an old map of South Queensferry when our house's site was but a green field. Possibly full of turnips. I've already forgotten the date of the map but it's around 100 years old or so, I guess.
You made be interested to know that as I don't name my screen shot files they are allocated numbers automatically by my laptop (I take screenshots with my phone but that's different so let's not confuse things). I don't take so many and as the file numbering resets back to 1 after 100 my total screenshots at the moment are about 150ish, but this, for the avoidance of any doubt is No.44 in the folder though it's also the 144th shot. 144 is also 12 x 12 but that's a discussion for another day.
Friday, February 19, 2021
"An impressive and mysterious straight line, which runs from Ireland to Israel, uniting seven monasteries and sanctuaries related to the Archangel Michael."
The "Sacred Line of St. Michael the Archangel" symbolizes, according to tradition, the sword blow that the Archangel inflicted upon the devil to send him to hell after the battle in the heavens between faithful angels and rebellious angels who, led by Lucifer, they had turned against God.
Be that as it may, it is surprising the arrangement of all these sanctuaries along a straight line. Is it a warning from the Archangel that, in keeping with the laws of God, the faithful always walk in righteousness ? The Sacred Line, moreover, is perfectly aligned with the sunset on the day of the summer solstice in the Northern Hemisphere.
The northernmost end of the line is on Skellig Michael (Ireland) where, apart from the various Viking and Christian events that took place there, Luke Skywalker is known to have had a retirement home, for a short time anyway.
Thursday, February 18, 2021
You can't beat a good bit of death, although a good bit of life is preferable. David Hockney once said that "the cause of death is birth", well that's about all you might need to know but for greater depth, details and insights on the topic this book is pretty useful. It's a bit of a reference, revelation, guidance and advice book and it's also an easy and at times moving read describing what works and doesn't work so well when a death occurs (and it could be yours) and we must respond and act. So any morbid curiosity you may have about the unseen world of undertakers and funeral protocols is quite natural, understandable and rewarded here. Read on guilt free, equip and prepare yourself for the great unknown and the awkwardly familiar.
Written by Shetland based broadcaster, musician and writer (obviously) Tom Morton, it's an excellent and thought provoking book. There are many insider experiences, tribute examples, practical tips and information sources given that could prove invaluable in times of grief, mourning or for your own future farewell's planning. It also covers Covid related departure issues, being newly published it's therefore up to date and highly relevant.
Interestingly I've gone over a year without reading a book, a situation I blamed on lock-down cabin fever and my 2020 acquired inability to concentrate or focus. A year of not reading an entire book has never occurred before in my adult life but I read this one in a couple of days ... Hallelujah, I'm cured, or could it be the Covid vaccine is working?
Wednesday, February 17, 2021
The funeral for the fridge has yet to take place but it's passing has been a slow, sad, downhill process. At times we suspected there might be a recovery. Cold air wafted across the shelves, the fan whirred and optimistic ice formed. Drinks and spreads remained comfortably chilly, albeit some assistance in the form of icy freezer blocks was regularly required. As it happened it gave up the ghost on Saturday, slowly warming up, in line with the great thaw taking place outside in the wider world. Water, like a clear life blood, ran from the foot of the door. Nothing smells more death like than a broken down fridge.
The assorted saucy sachets seen in the photograph above are refugees from the sunken fridge, why they were ever put in there nobody knows. Now they are homeless. Spare a thought for them.
Tuesday, February 16, 2021
Monday, February 15, 2021
Last week we broke the blender. Some over enthusiastic smoothie processing caused catastrophic failure of a small but frangible internal part. Once again my cursed but blessed friend Mr eBay came to the rescue as I discovered the part was available for our exact (somewhat vintage) model. £7.50 and two days later it arrived in the familiar Chinese packaging though not direct from China. Thank you UK box-shifters.
After the customary fiddling and swearing the new part was installed and to my surprise it all worked once again. The end result being this green porridge-like smoothie made from kale, mango, kiwi, banana and orange juice. This unplanned recipe was of course the result of an unplanned catastrophic freezer failure; one unlikely to be repaired via Mr eBay's good grace and supply chain either. We just need to stop having catastrophic failures, simple as that.
Sunday, February 14, 2021
These are not the biscuits I expected to see when I opened the pack. Every one cracked and broken. A proper first world problem that can't be blamed on European relations, pandemics, the weather or the oppression suffered by our beloved and baffled country. It can't be blamed on the political left's loss of meaningful traction and their shifting policy positions or the unhealthy and one side economic measures and targets we might use to rate our successes and failures. Neither is it anything do with the cultural bankruptcy that produces hour upon our of meaningless streams of TV and digital entertainment focused on the pointless activities and relationships of talentless people I just can't seem to care about. The corrupt press and media moguls have nothing to do with these biscuits either despite their heavy handed influence on all levels of society. I think that these poor biscuits simply suffered some mishap in the warehouse or en route to the store where I bought them. It's as simple as that. They were perfect when they left the factory.
Here's a tyre that will soon be a drum.
And here's the Discovery, snowed in at Dundee with the V&A behind, looking for all the world as if she was back in Antarctica a hundred of more years ago. A time warp back to some golden age of exploration and tragedy.
Saturday, February 13, 2021
I don't mention it much but I do follow and occasionally attend Scottish football matches. I've been to big games in the past but to be honest I really prefer the smaller grounds, the "diddy" teams, the lower leagues etc. Anyway there's none of that right now thanks to the obvious. Covid brand football on TV with no crowds isn't great, it's dull and eerily quiet. It needs to be seen in the flesh, in the cold, in the biting wind, raw and exposed with fans armed only with a hot pie and rather awful cup of coffee. Also standing up if possible, rather than seated, cramped damp and frozen onto plastic wheelie bin lid seats and shouting a heady mixture of nonsense and abuse. Incomprehensible rules, bad refereeing, irritating fellow spectators and a long and winding journey there and back again. Then the remorse following a poor result or the (rare) elation when things go well. What weekends might well have been made for in a better world. Of course today's pretend game is off, frozen pitch. Nae fitba.
Friday, February 12, 2021
If wasn't for Covid and Lockdown this might almost have been a perfect day, or at least a perfect minute. It was close enough. There probably are a lot more perfect minutes than there are days and I don't want to be dissecting time into another type of time fraction just to be accurate. Minutes and days are clear and simple measures. I'm now wondering quite how many perfect little minutes I might have missed or overlooked, also those innumerable special minutes I've now forgotten. So, keeping a clear mind, it's good to experience that minute and quietly reflect on it, if only to balance out the various cares, worries and anxiety issues that we all carry at the moment.
Thursday, February 11, 2021
Welcome to the seasonally adjusted shrine of happy Snow Buddha. Bow down, genuflect, seek peace and forgiveness and all that sort of nonsense. Do it very soon because tomorrow is the new today. He just might melt away before his work on this troubled earth is over and where will you be then faithful follower?
Disclaimer: Snow Buddha (like many other major religious figures) is actually made out of mashed potato using the same construction techniques as demonstrated in the film "Close encounters of the third kind". We apologize if this revelation has resulted in you suffering from any undue stress or upset. Thank you.
Wednesday, February 10, 2021
Scotland is basking in some normal wintertime weather so the law requires that obligatory snow photos are to be shared all across social media. Of course the news services are rightly shocked at this unexpected twist in seasonal events and the failure of crazy people to behave in a normal fashion during both a pandemic and a blizzard. To add further chaos to this wild sensory overload, tiny snow creatures have emerged that threaten to dominate and control us with their icy powers and the ability to spontaneously appear out of nowhere when and where you'd least expect them. Good to see that they look a bit happier and more competent than our current crop of dodgy leaders. But rest assured, whatever happens nobody will be to blame or held to be responsible. As for the winter weather? "Quite unexpected in winter" said a spokesman.
Virginia Creeper captured on a east facing wall just as the winter weather hits home. Oily materials, actual snow, canvas, hemp and mixed media.
Tuesday, February 09, 2021
This blackbird visits the feeding station on our window pretty much everyday. He's fond of meal worms, that's what we mainly feed him. There's no actual menu. I say "this" blackbird but I suppose there may be many and I'm simply seeing them one at a time and never the actual whole group. This assumes a certain expertise and strategy amongst blackbirds whereby they like to fool and confuse humans by only ever appearing one at a time in a number of feeding locations.
Naturally I've been well and truly fooled by this clever ploy even though it may not be a real thing at all. I'm also not sure what the purpose of it might be. More likely it's just that blackbirds like to move and operate on their own and appreciate and value the joy of their own free time without suffering annoying interruptions from other passing blackbirds airing their own disagreeable opinions as they eat. Perhaps we can all learn something from observing those solitary blackbirds.
After the blackbird's third helping of meal worms he silently winked and watched me leave, en-route for the local showgrounds where an empty pavilion has been converted into a Covid vaccination centre. I parked up, wandered through the slush and into the building, then into to a pristine booth where I duly received a dose of Pfizer's best medicine from a young military nurse dressed in combats. Then a fifteen minute wait to ensure all is well and finally joining in on an OAP shuffle parade, straight back to our vehicles and home. So far I've no side effects to report other than my own already well established ongoing internal conflicts. Phew ... safe at last ... almost.
Monday, February 08, 2021
Sunday, February 07, 2021
Saturday, February 06, 2021
Per the previous post, I was idly indulging in some eBay browsing when I came upon this rather unloved and strangely painted Washburn HB 30. Advertised as being 30 years old, unloved and being "sold for a friend". Not a great looker but I fancied a hollow body guitar. There were a few low bids, all well under the value of the guitar so despite my inner voice's better judgement I bid £2 higher than the previous bit. The auction still had three days to go and I fully expected the guitar to sell for at least £150 more than my bid. Oddly enough there was no more activity and my bid won and I duly received the guitar last week.
The guitar turned out to be decent enough, nice action, no major damage, things working and I was pleased with the purchase. The only problem was the horrid and badly painted gold stripe of the front and a load more gold paint on the back, (which was roughly trying to ape the Washburn head stock design). It all had to go. I stripped the guitar down, taped up all the delicate bits and using a combination of WD40, white spirit and paint remover I began to work on eradicating the gold paint. I had the idea of making an old credit card into a soft scraping tool and with a lot of elbow grease the gold eventually came away without too much damage done to the actual cherry body finish (as below).
Friday, February 05, 2021
Thursday, February 04, 2021
Modern politics* remains an ongoing skip fire. These happily dancing flames are however not fanned by right wing extremists, woke activists or sundry Tweets from god knows who shouting aloud on the margins. These flames arise from the burning of eco-logs. Something that makes sense on paper and in advertisements but fails to live up to it's claims in reality. They emit a strange black goo that coats the interior of the stove with eco-treacle and they just don't live up to their low key hype. File under "disappointed". Unfortunately real Estonian logs in handy plastic bags are no longer available, as no haulier in their right mind will bring cargo back into rogue Britain these days. We'll be burning the furniture next.
Wednesday, February 03, 2021
Not giving one and not getting one either. Few knew that Lockdown (insert actual number here) plus a floppy Brexit plus seasonal market fluctuations would lead (amongst other things) to a full scale fig shortage. Sure there are dried ones in bags, ready to be punished, debagged and baked in the oven in some loaf or other (that may well be tasty) but there are no actual real, fresh, juicy, ripe figs in this small corner of the inhabited universe.
Mandatory food disclaimer: Three days on the trot I've written about foodstuff. Clearly the old brain is gumming up in some hungry and dietary fixated way. I apologize. Other slightly less food focused material but still with some foodstuff references and questionable content resides here.
Tuesday, February 02, 2021
Kingdom of the Dough People: Bread goes back a long way in the history of mankind, one of the first processed (cooked or baked) foods, a staple of the human diet. Turns out that it's found it's way to West Lothian now, all the way from across the world in the Middle East's cradle of civilization to right here in the backwoods. Well Lidl's discount supermarket just down the road. There are other baked goods too, allegedly created on the premises by bearded and tattooed artisan bakers and the like. I've had samples. Next, if ever Brexit fever cools, there will be actual Brie, figs and Parma ham and together we'll put together world beating toasted sandwiches, here, in sunny West Lothian, very soon. It's all true I tell you.