Thursday, September 30, 2021
Looking out into the west, over the stone wall of the cemetery across the dark loch's troubled surface. Already the waters are eroding the old wall, the rock barrier between the graves and the cold blue/black of the loch. The waves lap, they pound, they hold back and then they pull forward. The graves and their hidden, ruined bodies can do nothing, they are simply there, old and overgrown, weathered and stuck down in the clay and dead among the boulders. The long tussle for power goes on daily. When will the wall tumble and wash away as the loch finally passes over and across?
Wednesday, September 29, 2021
My thoughts on an aspect of climate change: When the whole world is underwater* in 2121 there will be no need for publicly operated trains, 3D printers or privet hedges. I imagine that fish and rainwater will figure quite highly in our diet and that the newly water based primitive peoples will find solace and comfort in the story of Noah and other flood based accounts of early civilizations. Our clothes will be made by harvesting floating plastic bottles from the sea and recycling them into opaque robot suits using cable ties. We shall live and float on artificial islands where we will hope for the best and urinate gingerly over the side. After a while some people will develop gills. We'll be able to eat them as they can be legally classified as fish according to the UN charter, so it's not all bad then.
The artwork shown above is conveniently titled "Underwater" and draws much of it's inspiration from a long and soggy meditation taken whilst considering mankind's impending watery doom.
*Don't mention the movie "Waterworld".
Tuesday, September 28, 2021
An inner voice whispers: “There is no internet. No phone signals. No shops or pubs or amenities for 14 miles. We’re at the road’s own craggy end. Whatever you do don’t get into an emergency situation of any kind.”
The roads are narrow, clogged with errant sheep, confused pheasants and the occasional brooding stag. The sun, moon, the glacial, battered landscape and the clear, warm unseasonal breeze are magnificent. We are in “the Glen”. A short period of minor adjustment to the new reality will be required.
“My Jaguar is in the workshop” said our landlord as he apologized for leaving us alone, whilst driving away in an inferior but clearly more reliable car. Jaguars eh? Dusk was descending so I made friends with the birds. There are a lot of them here, always quite angry with each other as they bicker at the various overflowing feeders. We’re not the only stupid things on the planet it seems. Red squirrels eventually pick up the confidence to raid the feeders too, they’re a bit more violent, they wrestle with the tops and poke at the nuts and seeds or bend the wire frames with tough buck teeth that I presume are worth risking to attack the metal larder.
We wake up early. The garden is full of sheep, well four sheep, two ewes and their faithful, fatty lambs. We’re concerned but there are sheep in all the fields so this is probably normal, so long as they don’t eat the plants or the chicken food and so on. The next day there are twenty seven sheep in the garden.
At night the skies are dark with no light pollution, there is no one nearby, no vehicles or streetlights. We can see into space. There’s the moon and Jupiter and some other blingy things. Wispy clouds allow the celestial fairy lights to peep through at us. We’re alone. Like Joni and Graham we light the log fire. This is our house now.
Out in the glen we hear the sounds of dogs and quad bikes. The shepherds are at work, driving the flocks down from the hills. Then a darker shadow grows across the glen. It’s 8AM, there’s a large blue HGV parked down on the single track road, it’s engine running. We hear the sheep bleating as they are led towards the wagon. They are quickly scuttled inside and so off to wherever. They won’t see the glen again, that’s for sure. Today there are no sheep in the garden. As I grow older, I’m mostly ambivalent than ever about Indian food.
At times we will crack and seek out civilisation, there, shining at the end of a forested tunnel way down the potholed and beaten track. Blinded by the sun going out, blinded by the sun coming back. A pheasant ricocheted across the windscreen, thankfully unharmed and we live on to eat a canteen breakfast in a garden centre. It’s surprisingly good complete with an almost perfect fried egg. Like the rest of the clientele we are of a certain age and attitude, killing time before we take in the final backwards view from the bottom of a shallow grave or inside a plastic urn. (I don’t really think about these things often, just at garden centres). We will be the last of the boomers one fine day, they’ll all miss our purchasing power and wit and wisdom then.
The weather is always just outside, we try to ignore it as we walk into the hills. It comes and goes. Today we are in the footsteps of Queen Victoria. Not my favourite queen, royalty being something of a peculiar human invention albeit leadership of some type is always needed. It’s the lack of “qualifications” and the family connections I object to, that and the abuse of privilege and rank. The walk is unplanned, we leave the house and turn right and trek onwards, already we’ve broken all the rules by being unprepared and vague in our intentions. We do however have an extra, older walking companion who has planned all this but simply forgotten to tell us about the details.
We move up the glen through a variety of conditions and surfaces. There are trees, stones, and the sounds of rushing waters as time ticks down slowly in God’s own country. It’s a “there and back again” kind of trek so we’re back before the dinner burns up, down from the hills and eating shepherd’s pie in the cottage.
At night, when the books are exhausted and the keyboards are quiet, we take refuge in a grainy TV signal’s output, looking much as it might have done in the 1960’s but with washed out colours. For some reason the volume is also governed down so a high level of concentration and focus is required just to get through regular, pastoral TV otherwise it’s just another blurred experience. Any bodily creak from a stray bone or couch can render the program narrative quickly incomprehensible. I find a few glasses of red wine apply the necessary numbing quality needed to adjust to this pace of broadcasting and so enjoy the variable and distorted content. Misheard dialogue and blurred vision is always entertaining.
Life here is not without it’s drudgery. The regular filling of the bird feeders being an essential task. Sometimes also removing struggling birds trapped in the feeders is required. They just get lost in some feeding frenzy at times. Sunflower seeds are their favourite, even though it takes time and technique to split them open and consume them, the birds don’t mind. Peanuts are more run of the mill, pecked at and eventually destroyed with the hammer action of the bill, pulverised and gone. I scatter random nuts and seeds on the ground, the squirrels, chickens and Guinea fowls don’t seem to mind. Everyone gets fed.
It’s been a mostly sunny and blue skyed break; the strong September sun is unexpectedly bright and strangely warming. The house faces south so we bask in it all as the friendly clouds allow. I’m reading a book about young arty types on Hydra in Greece, a historical work of fiction. At times the alien heat almost works and some slight transportation takes place if you just close an eye for a moment and forget about Brexit and fashion anxiety. The glen, but on a Greek island; perhaps not quite yet and no Leonard Cohen striding around, making conquests, stringing along fickle muses, buying houses and then carelessly warbling off into the sunset. No. We are firmly in Scotland and the dead grey churches are out there as a stiff reminder; empty, standing like some strange presbyterian theological litter, comatosed now but once intent on chewing up all the green grass at the edges of the fields.Eventually I finished the book, a bit later on in the week. It was both profound and flimsy. A lazy holiday read so as you might expect mildly irritating, those Bohemian types are hard work, but that’s just my take on it. Over time I’ll reflect, I’m less than good in the moment, I need space for my thoughts to either ferment or mature. I’m not sure what they do naturally and they can’t be left alone for too long, they only turn on themselves and become feral.
By Friday I’m back to having a second attack on actually reading the final book in the Knausgaard saga, part 6 of My Struggle. I’m struggling with this one. It’s heavier and more reflective and I feel it strangling every thought in my mind at times. I’m blinded by the tirade of words, like some verbalized Mozart or shredded guitar figure. I’d planned to finish it sometime during lockdown last year but didn’t even bother. I decided to allow myself to coast over those unreal months. Now we’re on the sunny uplands of further self-inflicted austerity I might as well try, there may be some comfort in his bleak but busy with the minutest detail, elongated prose and self-exploration.
I'm still reading...
We made it home safely, fuel shortages and a stupidity surplus all failing to slow us down. Thanks to the weather gods and my lovely wife for making it a very enjoyable and peaceful week. Our first break away since everything went crazy last year. The glen leaves it's mark once again.
Monday, September 27, 2021
Sunday, September 26, 2021
Saturday, September 25, 2021
Friday, September 24, 2021
They were called the "Whitedicks", Jane and Bobby Whitedick. Their's was an old European name, they'd traced it back to France where it seemed they were descended from the Blanc-Ricard family. A noble house that had done quite well for itself up until Napoleonic times. Somewhere along the line, they suspected when a great, great grandfather had landed in New York, the name changed to Whitedick. No one knew why it had been changed or clumsily translated. The English derivative would be Whytdyke, or so they understood, it was the old Saxon version. Family history was patchy, records had been lost and there was a bit of here-say in the detail.
When a TV producer friend was chatting to them a few years ago he seemed keen for them to star in their own reality show, "At home with the Whitedicks!" That was the proposed title. It never happened. They were all quite drunk at the time and in the end settled for obscurity.
"In no currently surviving art works, Charles Blanc-Ricard is portrayed as a shadowy figure, lost in the passing of history. He may have been an agent operating between kings, queens and red-cardinals. Passing messages, arranging meetings, sealing contracts and trade agreements with Australia and Darien. Today he would have been a spin-doctor and/or a special advisor. Born into the then upper-class Blanc-Ricard family, minor noblemen with lands west of the Loire Valley and up into the Vendee, he was a sharp tongued and ruthless operator up to his neck in cheese. No biscuits. His wheeling and dealing eventually led him to the court of the King, Louis XII in about 1490. His career progressed via both complaints about his behaviour and compliments about his shrewdness. He made enemies easily but he also created alliances and dependencies. Common wisdom says that's how it works."
"Charles, via influence and factional bribery eventually caught the eye of the King and bit by bit became a leading advisor. He assisted with the King's "Pragmatic Sanction" ( The Pragmatic Sanction excluded the papacy from the process of appointing bishops and abbots in France. Instead, these positions would be filled by appointment made by the cathedrals and the monastic Hell's Angels chapters themselves). He also produced a devotional "Book of Hours" which the King grew to rely upon for his spiritual welfare and as an aid to his meditation and prayer."
Thursday, September 23, 2021
Thanks to Iain Mackinnon who posted this old photo on Twitter the other day. Strangely I immediately recognised it as an actual Pink Floyd gig I'd attended a few years(?) ago in Edinburgh's Usher Hall, November 1974 as it turns out. They played all of Dark Side of the Moon, One of These Days and Echoes as I recall.
Little did I know that in the next year or so I'd have lost my job, get barred from pubs, move to Glasgow, move to Jersey, live in a barn, get a brand new Telecaster, see my band start up and break up, watch my father die, become a rubbish "Christian", join two cults, get a dog, stop smoking fags and weed, meet my first wife, meet my current wife ... phew!
Tuesday, September 21, 2021
Monday, September 20, 2021
"It's probably best for all that you should consider everything you write to be, in that moment, the most important thing you've ever written."
Here in our reality based community nothing is new. Every TV show is a rerun, every meal is leftovers, clothing and fashion is on a design loop, every plot and policy is a carbon copy, every tune has a familiar melody, all our friends look like us now, warranties and patents have run out. Cats and dogs have grey faces. That was just before the machine stopped ...
From an old diary page with worn corners: "Some people feel sorry for those who lived in the past, as if they missed out on something; the higher standards, the education, the developments and the security we now enjoy. But there are days when I'm not sure what I really enjoy because maybe it's only what I've been trained and conditioned to enjoy and so maybe deep down I'm not really enjoying it. It's just a learned bit of behaviour without heart. Trouble is I know I wont enjoy it at all when the machine stops ..."
"I saw a farmhouse burning down, right there, in the middle of nowhere, in the middle of the night. We rolled right past that tragedy until we came up on the roadhouse lights".
We were travelling and that quirky old-school music was playing, all sounds and visually stimulating words. I could have been asleep. The dials flickered as the beat and volume changed. I hadn't been out for a while or tuned in much. I didn't really understand that nobody travels very far these days, "there's no need" say the government. It's too risky, you no longer should take such a chance, now that the machine has stopped.
In those occasional conversations you share over a meal, someone is slowly chewing their food. While I speak I cannot help but read their jaw and head movements as a nodding confirmation of whatever point I'm trying to make. As the evening progresses I slowly realize that we really agree about very little regarding anything that actually matters to me. (It was always my choice not to use brackets in this final paragraph).
Sunday, September 19, 2021
Saturday, September 18, 2021
Friday, September 17, 2021
I've never really been a fan of Gibson SGs but this one, a 1971 (SG Deluxe) model, has lived a life and in all it's battered, road worn finery still looks the business. When I think of the faked up relic style guitars out there, there really is no comparison with the surviving original models. Trouble is it's priced at (all things considered it's reasonable I suppose) £2249. Not the right guitar for me but if you're interested you can get more details here. This old campaigner has been up for sale in a shop a few miles from here for a while, so who knows? It comes with a suitably beat up hard case and just needs a good home.
Thursday, September 16, 2021
Wednesday, September 15, 2021
Sometimes you hear the people above moving about, appliances making sounds and vibrations. Outside vehicles pull up in the middle on the night and workmen being excavation work. A dog barks. There's the smell of cookery in the air. Footsteps. Traffic noise creeps in through open windows. Streetlights. The sounds and effects of weather. The hot water boiler. TV reception. The postman's footsteps and the people who clean the stairway and common areas. Flat living. It's mostly OK.
One thing I've quickly realized is that, based on the use of communal rubbish and recycling bins around here, most people have no clue. Our area is reasonably civilized, in my opinion, but I can't help but notice that people just don't understand or care about recycling. They won't flatten out cardboard boxes, they don't wash out cans or containers, they think that you can recycle polystyrene, food waste appears in the recycling and so on. They are either ignorant, confused or careless to the point of not bothering at all. Unless everyone takes some responsibility and follows guidance (?) we're screwed.
Not quite sure what to make of Hookland yet ...
Tuesday, September 14, 2021
The world of horticulture is rife with long and crazy names for everything. I never can remember the names of plants or flowers, pretty sure that these aren't Amphetamines either. Peat Worriers, Dingleberries or Beckhampstead's Glory, interesting but for me they form a barrier to deeper understanding. The other barrier being laziness.
Weeds are tricky to identify too, seems a shame to pull them up when the bees and other buzzing, flying things are clearly enjoying the flowers or buds and they just look ... greenish with tinges of yellows. It's like taking away a kid's popcorn halfway through a gaming session. I need a plan.
Monday, September 13, 2021
Sunday, September 12, 2021
Thinking of reincarnation, many people say that they'd like to come back as a cat. I can agree with that. The problem is you tend to think that if you do come back as a cat you'll have lifetime of human experience still hard wired into your soul that you can call upon to make the best of your feline status. I'm not sure that reincarnation works that way.
Based on my extensive observations there's nothing to suggest that cats have the fainest idea that they might be ex-humans or that they might be able to benefit from skills and experiences gained in a previous human life. They're way too jumpy and affected by noise, sudden movements and surprises as well as being deliberate space invaders showing a complete lack of self awareness. They just don't get it.
It seems to me that a big, secret part of the reincarnation process is wiping clean any previous memories, instincts and habits so that you, once occupying your new host body, don't give the game away. To do so would break some massive universal rule and screw up the whole process. That might result in the destruction of the fabric of time and space etc. Of course it may be that the direction of good karma and reincarnation is only one way; say cat to dog to horse etc. (like the food chain the "Old woman who swallowed a fly"), and we are at the top with our next jump simply being into oblivion.
On the other hand, cats being fussy buggers when it comes to food may also be something you might attribute to ex-human reincarnation allowing some measure of ongoing consciousness and memory. But I don't.
Saturday, September 11, 2021
Internal YouTube pressure forced me to try the Memphis tuning. I ordered the strings from the uncool Amazon basin mainly due to the pandemic and personal convenience. They actually took a week to arrive, direct from Memphis I like to imagine. In case you don't know the MT is just using thinner gauge, unwound strings (as from a twelve string) in the four lower string positions.
The tuning is the usual E, A, D, G but up an octave. The idea is that, when played along with a regular tuned guitar the higher sounding MT guitar adds a pleasing top end to the overall sound.
It's been extensively used over the years by various artists but not me. Played on it's own the tuning sounds ... interesting, might be tricky finding a good piece or song to use it on.
Friday, September 10, 2021
Thursday, September 09, 2021
There are some empty grocery shelves out there, mostly missing once common or basic things. Perhaps there is a silent panic on. Thankfully I stumbled upon a shelf full of this stuff. If there is a conspiracy theory over us being starved out via a lack of tinned fish, fresh raspberries and paper towels then perhaps an unexpected discovery like this redresses some of the balance. Sorry about the sardines.
Wednesday, September 08, 2021
Autumn 2021: We've now evolved to be pretty good at mixing and making coffee and dispensing the hot liquid in streets and towns. The illustrious vendors also charge a fairly high price for it. We have however become shit at about everything else. The £5 artisan loaf is not so far away, indeed it may already have arrived but is outside of my limited orbit.
Aside from all that piffle I'm enjoying playing deep blue figures of eight in the key of noodles with this upcycled rig whilst alone in an empty house. My elemental "quack" tone on the neck pickup is the talk of the disco.
Here's a non-portable hand piano I made earlier:
Tuesday, September 07, 2021
Fife Fix: The misty might of Inchkeith, fortified and for the most part forgotten, an island in the Firth of Forth as seen from Burntisland. The two sharp, dark reef tops to the east are unknown (by me) and unmarked on the map but clearly there. Shipping hazards you'd want to avoid if afloat. Just another small piece of local geography and helpful orientation. It's always nice if you can understand where you are and what you are close to.
Monday, September 06, 2021
"Every morning I read a few inspiring paragraphs from this and then I quietly go about my normal business of gently but firmly undermining and slowly dominating their so called civilized world. I have a simple strategy, I allow them to destroy themselves with their duplicity and greed, then I patiently await the sight of their putrid dead bodies floating by on the grey river's current. I may well cultivate my time into finding the funk in every situation. It also occurs to me most mornings that I am but a mere mortal. A simple but strangely satisfying fact that so far I am unable to change."
Sunday, September 05, 2021
Saturday, September 04, 2021
Now a word or two from our resident motoring correspondent: Welcome to the near future. Vehicles are now simply household electrical appliances on the move. Charge them up and off they go. Dispose of them in an appropriate way when their working life is over. Same as it ever was, you may say.
Friday, September 03, 2021
To whom it make concern. One of our ghosts has recently gone missing from our property. He answers to the name "Sir Patrick Spence" and has not been seen/encountered since midnight on Sept 1st. He's 5' 6", pale, indistinct, icy cold and speaks (mostly low groans but occasionally slipping into French) with a medieval broad Scottish accent. We are quite concerned for his welfare and general greyness. I'm afraid that he's not been chipped either, having declined to take part in the process due to it being, in his opinion, "the work of the very Devil himself".
Patrick will be somewhat baffled by wherever he currently finds himself and may appear confused and possibly slightly aggressive. Usually a few calming verses of holy scripture will settle him down accompanied some crushed fresh garlic, a dram or two of malt whisky and sprigs of StJohn's Wort, should you have any handy. Don't mess him about with exorcisms or holy water either, that seldom ends well. Feel free to redirect him in our direction simply by pointing Eastwards and telling him he needs to follow the "path of salvation" and not the spiral path of purgatory.
The other household ghosts are all very worried about him as he is the captain of their Scrabble team (currently deservedly residing at the top of the local league) so things are a trifle fraught at the moment. Many thanks.
Thursday, September 02, 2021
It was all a crazy dream: "I don't have such a thing. I did not wish for it and it doesn't exist other than in some imaginary place - but I do like a bit of Metallica now and then. I wont be getting a tattoo or a T shirt either."
Wednesday, September 01, 2021
The tiny control screen for the bathroom's underfloor heating, now in English having been translated from it's default Chinese - I actually read and followed the instructions. It's mostly understandable now though some mysteries remain. The Chinese App that goes with it has been rejected strangely enough by my Chinese phone: incompatible, perhaps even dangerous it said. Having said all that the floor is pleasantly warm.