Sunday, July 30, 2006

Turbid Nomads Sceptical of Sharks,

It’s been a terrible week since the demise of my administration; I must intensify the implementation of a new regime. The arduousness climaxed yesterday at the first match of the SPL season: Celtic versus Kilmarnock.

Paper tickets are a thing of the past, the new admission system works by scanning barcodes of membership cards – the new admission system should work by scanning barcodes of membership cards. Humanity should never be taken for granted. It’s nice to be nice. Patience is a virtue and humility is priceless.

Never believe the hype. Celtic scored 4 goals and Kilmarnock only managed 1. Mo Camara was useless.

Father Ted moments serve a purpose.

Roddy Woomble’s new album, My Secret is my Silence, is a piece of brilliance and worthy of recognition.

The last ever episode of The West Wing made me feel proud to be American.

A coastal bogtrot today helped me in my ongoing battle to achieve one of my most steadfast ambitions: to never become fat. Two of my other unwavering ambitions are: to see the Northern Lights and to make it back to the home planet, but a trek from Earlsferry to Anstruther and back again during daylight was never going to help me realize these goals. It appears the walk was not without its controversies either.

Flamin’ Norah!

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Invited Doubters who Incite Caricatures,

Books are written with the intention that they be read all the way through and I like to respect the author’s wish, especially when the author is someone of the calibre of Joseph Heller, writer of Catch-22 (my favourite book). It was with regret that I decided to abandon Portrait of the Artist, as an Old Man after 50 pages.

Drawing on his own experience, in a self-deprecating style, Heller tries to explain the feelings and tell the tale of Eugene Pota, an author who is celebrated for one book in his early career, in the final stages of his life as he struggles to write something to recapture the glory the literary press had previously bestowed upon him.

This book was released posthumously and indeed, it does seem very intellectual, in fact it verges upon being pretentious, and it is riddled with smart ironies but I felt it was missing something to make it readable. The book seemed more like a collection of ideas; indeed, a clever metaphor for Pota’s own struggle to cobble his thoughts together into a novel, but this seemed to hamper the development of a plot. I think this would be a great book to analyse as a student of English and it is indeed a brilliant piece of work but I don’t think it’s accessible to someone hoping for a leisurely read. I’d have liked to study English but it was too much of a risk, sooner or later, someone would have demanded that I look at some more dross by Shakespeare. Shakespeare was a nincompoop.

I’ve always enjoyed Joseph Heller’s books, Catch-22 is legendary, the same wit that is evident in Something Happened and Closing Time, the sequel to Catch-22, is a delight. Some day I will return to Portrait of the Artist, as an Old Man, I don’t really believe that Joseph Heller could have written a poor novel.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Beleaguered Hunters of Moribund Journalism,

Eventually, I’ll be headhunted by the broadsheets – many of them are not so broad nowadays – because they’ll release that my social commentaries and cultural reviews deserve a wider audience than The Bellyaches massive and I could add thousands to their readerships. At the very least, I can say it’s more likely to be me than the other guy.

Thankfully, Thursday was a slow day; part of it was spent back at Loch Leven. This was – sitting in the car, reading and listening to the radio - when I received the results that I had been hoping for – I was edited out of Radio Café. I wouldn’t have minded being on radio saying something sensible but I was babbling something that I really didn’t believe. I was only trying to help the lovely BBC lady, if it was a commercial radio station I wouldn’t have offered any comment. Nobody would’ve known it was me and anyway, I don’t know anybody who listens to Radio Scotland, which is a shame. It’s a great station, it does magazine programmes; like the Radio Café, really well, its documentaries are really interesting, it has a range of music programmes that cover all genres and there’s a real sense that the channel is rooted in the people and is (usually) not celebrity-obsessed.

I’ve finished Little Green Man by Simon Armitage, in fact, fairly quickly, again due to the marathon sessions of waiting by the lochside. They didn’t have the books I wanted in the library, so I loaned this book by Simon Armitage. Simon’s better known for his poetry, which is excellent, he’s always a worthy guest on the Mark Radcliffe show. It’s the first time that I’ve read a proper story in a while, my reading’s been based mainly on war and space but I enjoyed Little Green Man. The book is about Barney, he’s a thirty-something whose life is in something of a trough but he cannot see this, in fact, he cannot see the truth in most situations and that’s his downfall. Inspired by the rediscovery of the Little Green Man, a sort of childhood trophy earned by completing dares, Barney reunites his old friends, in an attempt to recapture the happiness he thought he had known as a child, with disastrous consequences. I know Simon best from his radio appearances and the book is written in the first person, so I did foolishly keep treating Barney and Simon as interchangeable and keep thinking “Why did Simon do that?” The book includes a hefty portion of nostalgia, for childhood games and toys, so I reckon parts of the book must rely upon Simon’s own childhood experiences but I don’t think he’s as naïve as our Barney. It’s a good book with many wise thoughts committed to paper in amongst an inspired and unpredictable plot.

The current album in the car CD player is We Are The Pipettes, I wonder if this is really appropriate, however, there’s no crime in playing some good pop. I’m well used to driving around with Belle & Sebastian or Polyphonic Spree belching from my car windows as some pitiable antithesis to the neds and their hardcore dance drones, I suppose The Pipettes could enhance this effect, if I allow them to. The Pipettes have played live on nearly every radio show I can think of, so I was already familiar with many of the songs on We Are The Pipettes, but as a result of hearing them live so much, the album feels over-produced. I really like the album and I expect the feel of the production will disappear from my mind in the coming months. My favourite song is Judy, and I'm quite prepared to look out for Judy, it might be the same one who had a dream of horses.

I listened more to this CD as I travelled to Anstruther to see Vic and Bryan’s Big Scottish Adventure broadcast live from the harbour with live performances from members of the Fence Collective. As I drove past the harbour on my way to find a parking space, I saw a bad thing, in fact, two bad things next to the Radio Scotland campervan: Colin and Justin. I parked up and walked to the shop and bought a £1 worth of rock’n’roll wine gums. When I got back to the harbour, the show had just started; it was quite weird to watch DJs that I listen to often in action, padding about as they read from their scripts. I wandered off while they played a pre-recorded clip about croquet (never a big sport in the Kingdom) and arrived back in time to see the Pictish Trail do the first live song; the Pictish Trail always impresses me and it was a difficult environment with the local neds, wasted on cider, staggering across the front of the OB unit and the boy racers revving their engines in the background.

I marched off around the harbour again; I didn’t want to hear about how Colin and Justin had re-decorated the Radio Scotland campervan. When I came back, with ice cream, they were hawking themselves to the crowd who were only interested in listening to Vic and Bryan’s show; they were forcing people to have their photo taken with them, inviting people to ask them for autographs and generally seeking attention.

The next performer was HMS Ginafore, it was a pleasant performance, I can’t say too much based on one song but she has a good voice with a slightly haunting quality. After the song, I bought some more junk from the shop; Quavers and Lucozade, too much standing about leads me to do stupid stuff like this, I’m probably encroaching on the one per cent body fat danger limit after all that garbage.

Soon, Gummi Bako was in the seat armed with the guitar. He was really great; he took everyone by surprise with his lively performance and his range of voices, his head looked as though it might be ready to explode when he was doing the squeakiest bits. The three songs were a good example of the capabilities of the Fence Collective, they really do deserve more attention from the national radio stations, but anyway, I’m looking forward to seeing the Fencesters again either at the Pittenweem Arts Festival or the Embra Fringe Festival in August.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Inadvertent Intruders in Hazy Capitals,

I’ve been reminded twice, by DJ Tom Robinson, exactly how great a record Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen) by Baz Luhrmann is. I like any sayings, songs or the like that are even vaguely profound. There was thankfully little need for sunscreen today, although I was wearing some, due to the haar. I decided the best thing to do today would be to leave Dullsville behind before I was bogged down in any of the mishaps.

I journeyed to Embra via the train from Kirkcaldy railway station. The station car park is finally being extended, it’s long overdue. I had complained a number of times to Scotrail and my MSPs about this, my point was that by the time people drove around looking for non-existent parking spaces, they’d miss the train and then it’d be, in fact, quicker to drive to the city. On the train, I was reminded of Me and the Major by Belle & Sebastian, because this old man kept staring at me; I was listening quietly to City & Eastern Songs by Jeffrey and Jack Lewis on my iPod, in all but appearance, and perhaps smell, I’m the model train commuter.

The city doesn’t yet have that special festival buzz about yet but there’s an atmosphere that’s just ready to explode. I walked down the Royal Mile to the Parliament; I was going to go walking up Arthur’s Seat, I had never done so before and it doesn’t look too difficult to a rookie. But as I ambled across the Parliament building forecourt, I was flagged down by what I thought was a lost tourist but as she approached I saw she was wielding a microphone and a tape recorder.

‘Don’t look so terrified. I’ve just come from the BBC and I’m wondering if you could be of assistance’
‘I’m going to ask you what seems like a very strange question for a programme and I want you to answer.’
‘Well, I suppose so.’
‘I’m going to ask you and it’s going to be really odd, “Which rock or pop band or artist do you think should have a musical or an opera made about their career?” Okay? Are you going to take part?’
”Does it have to be a long comment?”

After recording something to be edited out of a show on Radio Scotland, perhaps the Radio Café, I started roaming around Arthur’s Seat, I just picked the first path and started striding up the slope, at such a pace I was passing most of the other walkers. It was quite terrifying after a while; the drop at the edge of the path was drastically steep. I passed a family of four, making sure I was farthest from the cliff, just in time to see the mother gaze admiringly out onto the city, with the castle, the parliament and untold monuments and treasures below, and utter profoundly, “Look, kids! There’s Homebase.” Soon this path was no longer going upwards, that was of no use to me, I wanted to go to the top of something. I then found a path and it turned out I was climbing up Salisbury Crags, the front lip of the volcanic plug that’s referred to as Arthur’s Seat; they’re not as high as the more southern summit. I made sure to stay away from the edge of the cliffs on at the top of the crags, in case the wind, which was gusting in quite strongly – and bringing the haar with it –, should blow me to my death. I descended in a fashion that was not unlike skiing owing to my trainers which are nearly untenable. In hindsight, I couldn’t have climbed the other summit in them.

I have always wanted to visit the Scottish Parliament building, I think it’s brilliant, and I had read on the website that admission was free. I went in hoping to perhaps wander about a little, but I found that the only privilege that comes with free admission is the right to roam around the foyer and buy tickets (costing £3.50) for the guided tour. I came to this conclusion after trying the available doors and trying to wander down all the corridors only to be blocked off by barriers, I was told off by security guards twice. I also picked up on the fact that no one was manning the elevator, I went up to the second floor (I wondered if perhaps they were encouraging the tourists to take the lifts) and began to look around but soon another guard came bounding round the corner, ‘Get back in the lift and press “G”.’ I gave up, having only managed to peek into one committee room, I was quite disappointed, but I decided to come back if I had time and succumb to the guided tour, although I wondered if I should, they had probably marked me down as a terrorist, they had already cautioned me about the “knife” I was carrying (a small blade on a keying).

I walked to the west end of the city centre to the Dean Gallery and their latest exhibition: Van Gogh and Britain: Pioneer Collectors. Vincent Van Gogh is a bit of a hero of mine - he’s everyone’s hero really. I don’t know much about art, I suppose every piece from a child’s scrawling on the walls to a £135 million portrait is subject to personal taste, I can’t justify any more beard-stroking today. I have a natural talent for art, just like golf, and my name was added to the official list of “Gifted Pupils” by the art department, but, like golf, it was something I never followed up. I never studied art as a Standard Grade or Higher, but we learned about Van Gogh in second year, and were taught to imitate his style for a project. My favourite painting on show today was A Wheatfield, with Cypresses, it’s amazing and I could have quite happily stared at the swirls in it until the exhibition closes in September. The stories of the British art dealers are the supposed theme of this exhibition but really the details of various sales and exchanges (receipts, diaries and newspaper articles are on display) are quite boring and insignificant, the artwork is the fulcrum of this exhibition.

I did try to look around the other paintings in the gallery but the stuff by Picasso and Dali looked like creepy rubbish to me. I walked back to the Parliament and surrendered £3.50 to take part on the guided tour. The group was mainly made up of a Suffolk history of art club, I though this would make the tour more interesting, but they weren’t the characters that I thought they’d be (one member of their party threw a tantrum and refused to do the tour, and was seen to be doing what I had done earlier). The tour lasted 45 minutes, it was not as extensive as I’d hoped; we weren’t shown the MSPs’ quarters or the debating chamber (closed for repair) or lead around the gardens and courtyards. I still love the building and it was good to see a little more of it, the funniest part was the Scottish Socialist Party parliamentary office, with provocative slogans that were anti-Bush, anti-Blair, anti-war, anti-nuclear, anti-CIA and pretty much anything else. As I left the building I passed a man, wearing a Celtic strip, 'F%#*ing eyesore, that is.'

I bought a sandwich and sat in Princess Street Gardens until the time for Kirkcaldy train.

As Dave Gorman or Danny Wallace pointed out in the book Are You Dave Gorman?, there must be people who commute by back and forth from Edinburgh to Fife using every day who never tire of the scenery zipping past the window of the train as it hugs the shoreline and hurtles past the seals basking on the rocks with the landmarks of the city just about visible (close enough to capture the imagination, but too distant to identify) in the distance on the other side of the firth - it’s true, but a man did keep kicking me all the way home.

I did not demand a Belle & Sebastian musical.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Oblivious Perambulaters of the Subaltern Stratum,

Another day, another loch; Loch Leven – twice; neither time by choice.

He plods on like a dullard; he is never fully punished for this. Each time a predicament arises, he slowly meanders a long, oblique way around it, like a river that is too weak to leave the besetment behind as an insignificant ox-box lake that will soon dry up and disappear.

A crow took off with an apple but dropped it.

For the first time in my years as a driver, an attendant pumped petrol into my car.

Exploitable Clods in Celebrated Lands,

My regime is in place, and after one day, things are possibly running too smoothly.
I wouldn’t say that I’m on tour, but I’ve decided to try to see more of Scotland. I spent today traversing some of The Trossachs. Loch Lomond & The Trossachs was named Scotland’s first National Park – unfortunately, I forgot this important fact.
Admittedly, I did not delve so deep into the Park but I was slightly disheartened by what I saw around the Callander area. The natural topography of the area is undoubtedly stunning – mountains, glens, rivers, lakes, forests – and weaving along some of the wee roads to and inside the national park area was great fun.
I decided that to pull up at the side of a loch and take a break from driving, I looked at the map and chose Loch Katrine, because I had also read that there is a decent walk for rookies near Loch Katrine dam. I followed the signposts to Loch Katrine (the first clue) and upon arrival, my Higher Geography lessons came rushing back to the front of my mind – Loch Katrine is one of these hideous “honeypots”. A honeypot is a site within a National Park to which all the tourists are attracted, this area might be damaged sacrificially, but the rest of the park’s natural beauty is left in pristine condition. The authorities slap all kinds of stuff that appeals to non-discerning tourists – at Loch Katrine; a café, a gift shop (other than a photo, I can’t think of any suitable souvenir that would be required from a loch), a cycle hire service, boat rides – right in the middle of a gorgeous area and it becomes quite repulsive. I paid to park my car (I don’t know why, I suppose I wanted to see what all the fuss was over) and I took off on the walk around the loch. Loch Katrine is held together by the slopes of the mountains and they look awesome, despite having been eaten into by corries, across the loch with natural forestry on their slopes. The loch has several islands that appear just as scenic but it’s difficult to enjoy much of the landscape: cyclists zoom past, boats, filled almost to sinking point, tourists babble loudly. The footpath itself is a wide concrete road (possibly a conventional road before the idea of the national park was forced upon the area) just above concrete reinforced embankments all the way around the north side of the loch.
I wandered up a path away from the road around the loch to the Glen Finglass Falls – a man-made waterfall built by the water board. This was mildly amusing and then I followed a trail through the woods – real bogtrotting away from the numpty tourists – which was obviously an official but little-used. It rejoined the main road around the loch, the tourists were probably startled by me bounding out of the woods into their midst. I continued walking round the loch for another ten minutes but it wasn’t any more enjoyable, it was pretty disgusting. I headed back and of course, I tried to utilise the woodland trail but I entered at the wrong point, so it was very real bogtrotting and perhaps another “Let’s-go-down-the-sunny-side-of-the-hill” situation.
On a legendary ascent of Lomond Hill, back in Fife, we debated how to descend from the summit.
“What way shall we go down?”
“By the official footpath. The same way we came up.”
“Boring, old Leif, always sticking to the rules.”
“Well, if you don’t want to go down the proper way, let’s go down the sunny side of the hill.”
The sunny side of the hill was quite pleasant until we found ourselves wading through marshes, traversing streams, sinking in mud and clueless, with respect to finding our way back to the car park.
I eventually found my way back to the car park, employing a technique of throwing myself at trees on down-slopes to avoid rolling in a Last of the Summer Wine-stylee to their bases. I returned to the car, retrieved my Pay and Display ticket, which had plenty of time left on it due to my curtailed visit, and stood by the meter to pass it on to the next gullible tourist; a slight victory in my game of one-upmanship with the authorities. I continued to Loch Venacher, parked up there and listened to Mark Radcliffe quietly whilst watching people fishing. Fishing isn’t a real hobby; it’s like waiting for buses, it’s just some way to get past telling people that they aren’t just going to sit or stand by the river. “I’m going out to sit by the river.” sounds rather silly, although there’s nothing wrong with that. “I’m going fishing.” sounds acceptable.
It was a worthwhile day, I ought to see more of Scotland and get past the farmland and out into the real wilderness. National Parks are bad ideas, I’m sure the income to the area is greatly appreciated but I don’t think it’s really worth it. I definitely don’t want to see any more National Parks being created around the country.
I finished the day playing football with the Argos squad, I put in an efficient performance, by which I mean that I did not exhaust myself but I was still good, this was fine but I was still soaked in sweat in the heat despite only walking around. I suppose I could have stepped up my efforts but I’ve learned to play football like this lately, it’s much better because when I do apply myself fully I usually end up doing crazy stuff.
It’s a hot and stuffy night.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Novel-Relishing Obdurate Militarists,

With the hot, sunny weather – tyre blow-out weather – I’ve spent a lot of time reading in the garden, and a long time before my trip to Glasgow Airport (I crossed the Kincardine Bridge on the way home) and even before being annoyed at the Israelis and their bullheadedness during Sunday AM, I finished reading the final pages of Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut.

Due to my miserly ways (although technically, I probably did not save any money), I searched for a cheap item on Amazon so that my order (Nine Times That Same Song by Love is All) qualified for free (but much slower) delivery. I decided to go along with the crowd and buy a book by Kurt Vonnegut, the reviewers pointed me in the way of Slaughterhouse Five.

Vonnegut utilises his experiences of WWII and the Dresden bombings to tell the semi-autobiographical story of a misfit soldier, Billy Pilgrim. Slaughterhouse-Five was a quick book to read, but yet it spans over the entire life of Billy Pilgrim and ingeniously points out the absurdity of some of the conventions and fashions in society and, more obviously, the idiocies and peculiarities that occurred during the war. What makes Slaughterhouse-Five special is how the protagonist Pilgrim is portrayed as a hopeless, naïve and benevolent boy - I know even these soldiers are braver than me - a character who is probably closer to the reality than the glorified heroes who feature in many other war novels.

Billy Pilgrim’s ability to time-travel is a stroke of genius on the author’s part; Billy travels between the war, the field hospital, his time on the planet Tralfamadore, his childhood and his life after the war; many of the scenes are steeped in black humour and it adds great variety to the novel.

It’s an amusing and deeply intriguing book, I think if I was to read it over again, I’d take even more from it. On this evidence, Vonnegut does appear to be a master of time and setting (in my opinion, controlling the setting and time is the most important aspect of fiction) just like Iain Banks, I think there are similarities in this book to Walking on Glass, despite Banks’ book being based on something completely different. Slaughterhouse-Five is also similar to my other favourite book, Catch-22, but not in way that I’d think it was a replication of Joseph Heller’s classic. I’ll be reading Slaughterhouse-Five again, it even has aliens.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Cumbersome Triangulaters Upon Logy Days,

Musicology is something that I like to dabble in, I hear songs on the radio or occasionally MTV2 and if I like them, I buy the album.

Released on Type Records, Eingya by Helios is a worthwhile record. I originally heard a Helios record being played on the soon-to-be abolished Blue Room; this information will provide a better idea of the album’s sound than my description. Keith Kenniff, the man behind Helios, has created a chilled ambience record, using piano, guitar and electronic sounds and for my money, it’s better than Will Bill Orbit’s stuff.

Love is All are punk-funk exponents from Sweden and they’ve recently released the album Nine Times That Same Song. I do love an album that is described by its title (see Derdang Derdang by the Archie Bronson Outfit) but this gimmick could never be universally adopted, there’s are only so many ways to label the items in the Oasis back catalogue as “dross”. I was taken by Love is All after seeing the video for the single, Busy Doing Nothing, on MTV2; it seemed like rather good fun. I don’t really know what they’re singing or screaming, that’s punk, but the big fat sax throughout adds to the occasion. It might be Nine Times That Same Song and it might be true to say Love is All are one-trick ponies, but if the trick's that good, they'd be silly to do otherwise.

I was never going to not like Aberfeldy’s new album, Do Whatever Turns You On, but that’s not because I’m some blinkered zealot or because I won a copy from the Mark Radcliffe Show. I always take this type of band to heart, the multi-instrumental indie-pop kind. Young Forever, the debut album, was filled with plenty of catchy riffs and great lyrics, some would say twee – I like twee. The follow-up is different, its leading single, Hyponotised and the title track are of the typical Aberfeldy mould (if there is such a thing after just one album) – with the superb backing-vocal harmonies – but the rest of the album relies on more on synth beeps and riffs than its predecessor. It’s a pity that there’s no Ladybird Arc on the album, but it’s still a fantastic listen and they’re definitely worth seeing on their upcoming tour.

I needn't have to alert people to the existence of YouTube, but there Aberfeldy clips are on there and if possible, in between watching the clip of the best bit of Deliverance or Belle & Sebastian performing Electronic Renaissance, watch them.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Other People who Want to Know What a Nobody Thought on Tuesday,

You can’t see that you’re just the same as all the stupid people you hate
I’m not saying I’m free from blame because I need all the friends I can get

Britain must be very proud; it has the best defence lawyers in the world. The police uncover ed £100 000 worth of heroin in a man’s house, with the other evidence, it's fair to say that he’s obviously not a law-abiding citizen, they arrested him and he’s back on the street within a week.

I’ve only watched around 30 minutes of television on Tuesday, The Wright Stuff (featuring right-wing shock-tactic exponent Kelvin MacKenzie) and Behind Bars (City Hospital in a prison). There was always something morbid about City Hospital, as though foreboding a catastrophe by broadcasting the scenes live. Sympathy for the patients was undoubtedly the main emotion experienced by the viewers but now the presenters, Nick Knowles and Nadia Sawalha, expect the same feelings towards the prisoners. Is the BBC hoping to catch a prison riot live on air?

When the Alternative Land Use Party sweep to power, they will be tough on crime. We’ll adopt the Liberal Democrat policy of punishing the rich for being rich, although not by taxation. Once they reach a certain level of wealth, they will be required to participate in mandatory vigilante squads - it may not sound fair, but they’ll be the ones who can afford the best weapons. Idiots like Mr MacKenzie who talk a good game, will be tooled-up and sent out onto the street to protect the nation. The House of Lords will be abolished; the Lords will be patrolling the streets, armed with grenades, nunchucks and pointed sticks.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Stimulated Naturalists Bound for Lacustrine Havens,

Loch of the Lowes, near Dunkeld, is visited annually by ospreys. I like to visit the Scottish Wildlife Trust reserve there each year, they have an excellent set-up.

This year, the SWT have begun charging an admission fee to enter the hides, £3 for adults. I didn’t grudge this, apart from the visit to their nature reserves, they have an excellent website with a webcam and diaries from each of their reserves - I don't think the RSPB are so praiseworthy.

There are three hides, including the new Crannog Hide which allows more of the loch to be seen, and each of the hides is fitted with decent binoculars and telescopes for people, like me, who haven’t brought their binoculars or don’t have any. Two of the hides are fitted with television monitors showing a live feed from the osprey’s eyrie.

This year has been quite sad for the ospreys at Loch of the Lowes, three chicks were born but two mysteriously disappeared. The surviving chick is fully-grown but has yet to leave the nest.

I think I arrived a little too late, the mother could be seen feeding the chick pieces of fish; it would have been wonderful to have seen a fish being caught or brought back to the nest. I watched for quite a while, the young bird, occasionally started flapping its wings but it never truly threatened to leave the nest. I, at least, wanted see an osprey fly but they weren’t going to. I started observing the rest of the loch – ducks (wigeon, tufted duck and mallard), geese (greylag, Canada), great-crested grebes, mute swans and the swallows and martins that skimmed the surface – and that’s when I missed the female take off to leave the youngster in the nest alone. Time wore on, it looked as though I wouldn’t see one fly but just as I had my handle on the Crannog Hide door to leave, two ospreys appeared, and they soared above the loch. Before flapping down lower and one appeared to be swooping into the other loch (there is another loch beyond the trees in which the ospreys nest). They’re not at all graceful fliers, they have a sort of “M-shape” wingspan, I think there’s more majesty in the buzzard’s flight and I reckon that’s due to their shallow “V-shaped” wingspan. Nevertheless, Scotland is blessed with these rare and beautiful birds in the summer and Loch of the Lowes is the best place to see them.

After watching the air show, I browsed the visitor centre; they have a fabulous large glass window that looks out onto their bird tables and feeders in the forests. It was a joy to watch the bustling wildlife that had descended upon these. I saw siskins, redpolls, greenfinches, chaffinches, a greater-spotted woodpecker, coal tits, great tits and blue tits – they’re not terribly exotic species but the opportunity to see them in abundance at very close quarters is quite special.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Scattered Perusers of Harebrained Fables,

It’s difficult to imagine what will shift the gloom that has besieged me for a couple of weeks, perhaps August or September. It’s difficult to explain what this gloom is and I do not know what has caused it.

I have a good sense of hearing. I’ve had to process too much sound of late: listening to the noise, pinpointing its source, giving it meaning and reacting to this interpretation.

I’ve been listening to Idiot Pilot’s Strange We Should Meet Here, Let’s Get Out of This Country by Camera Obscura and Idlewild’s The Remote Part. These seem particularly relevant at this time.

After an episode with a broken down fridge freezer in the middle of the night, I was awake to finish Espedair Street by Iain Banks at 5am. I enjoyed reading this book; it’s the fictional story of the life of a former pop star, Daniel Weir. The book is by the Lord of Time, Iain Banks – it’s almost impossible not to like a book by Iain Banks. I found myself identifying with the main character, even though we didn’t have anything at all in common.

My grudge-uation photograph arrived today. I’ve tried reasoning with it. I can sense the unease that I felt at the time in the rigid pose and the annoyance that I felt towards the photographer who kept trying to get me to pull a daft face. So it’s a rather serious and perhaps sleepy-faced me in the photo, but my hair is nice. I’ve considered switching the photograph for another, there’s about 7 of that same me, I don’t know what they’re going to do with them all, I don’t want to see me peering out from the corner of every room.

Beach Debris was worth reading again today.

The skies were overcast; the temperature was 22 degrees Celsius, visibility was superb. I spent the afternoon in Pittenweem. Mark Radcliffe was doing a marvellous job deputising for Steve Wright on Radio Double One. I took some photos, I really love the one of the Bass Rock and Berwick Law, even though I could see each in greater detail with the naked eye than the inadequate camera captured. I wonder what the prominent feature is on the horizon on the eastern side of Berwick Law.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Indecent Begetters of Tenebrous Brews,

I spent the summer wasting. The time was passed so easily.

Sat upon the brae, indulging in the gratifying sunshine, as much because I like to as of the need to rest, I mulled over nothing and intermittently, planned how to avoid mulling over nothing.

Some smoke emerged from the scrubs. The insipid puffs grew. Long before the flames jabbed higher than the treetops, an almost cyclonic tower of filthy, portentous, bewitching smoke had swirled up and over the cliff edge.

Two men told me that two men had stolen reels of electrical cable – after burning the plastic sheathes, they were to sell the precious copper to the reclamation yard.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Urban Spacemen on Fuzzy Lands,

As is often the case, on an east coast summer day, the transitions between blistering sunshine to unwanted squalls were all masked by the Haar.

There has been little reaction to the drugs bust in the press. I was hoping to make an appearance on STV’s Scotland Today as the concerned local resident - “They seemed like the average family, who would have thought something like this was going on under our noses? I’m shocked. There are small children playing in the street, what if they had wandered into his shed and began eating it?” – but they never appeared. The incident was briefly mentioned on Kingdom FM news and it gained a few column inches today’s East Fife Mail. Perhaps more news will surface in next week’s edition.

I finished reading The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe this morning and the space shuttle Discovery blasted-off last night, so there was no coincidence. I did fear for the shuttle after the reported problems (bits falling off, over-heating fuel tanks) but everything seemed fine. I did watch the launch online, it was gripping viewing.

“What are you watching?”
“The shuttle launch.”
“I can see you becoming one of them.”
“That’s impossible.”
“It’s beyond me."

I haven’t done anything to prove to NASA that I have the right stuff. I loaned this book from the library because of the frequent references to it in Moondust. The Right Stuff is written in a different style to Moondust and as such they’re too different to compare, The Right Stuff is written as a narrative in the third person whereas Moondust is written in the first person, and that’s as much autobiographical as it about the astronauts.

The Right Stuff documents the earliest stages of the American space programme. Laudably, Wolfe covers both strands of the American attempts to win the battle for the heavens: the quick, dirty rocket and capsule method employed by NASA and the re-useable rocket planes being tested by the Air Force. After the disappointment of the Apollo series, it’s arguable that the rocket planes being tested at Edwards Airfield around the time of the Mercury programme presented a better opportunity for long-term space exploration but the government opted for capsules seated on top of rockets to carry human passengers into space. And that’s what much of The Right Stuff is about, the 7 Mercury astronauts had shown that they had genuine skill and bravery as military pilots and they found it difficult to come to terms with the fact that they would only have limited control in these automated capsules – they wanted to be pilots.

The Right Stuff paints the whole psyche of the pilots of the day and explores the rivalries between the astronauts and pilots as they each vied to show that they had the right stuff and tried to not be left behind. It’s really interesting and has many funny moments, those astronauts and their wives had many stupid and laughable traits.

Throughout the book, I developed a real hatred of American hero John Glenn, but that perhaps says more about me than it does about John Glenn, or how Tom Wolfe portrayed him. I really enjoyed reading the book, I doubt I’m really all that interested in the technical details of space travel, it’s the romanticism of it that I’m taken by and The Right Stuff is really insightful and it gives me some more stuff to marvel at and ponder.

I may not have the right stuff to sit on top of a rocket; I was too nervous just watching Discovery take-off yesterday, but in a way, we all have the right stuff, it’s just a matter finding out what for. And if we get left behind, we’ve got to hope that it’s in a nice niche.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Frustrated Musicologists in the Barren Kingdom of Fife,

The Kingdom of Fife needs more live music. All of today’s artists head towards Edinburgh and Glasgow, an appearance at either usually constitutes the Scottish leg of their tour – it’s very unfair on those who don’t live in those two cities.

I’m not asking for a Foo Fighters gig in Kennoway Masonic Lodge or Radiohead to headline the function suite in the Danskin’s Arms, Methilhill (that would be plain crazy, they'd have to play in support of the legendary Tam & Margaret). I just want a better effort from the Kingdom of Fife’s three main venues to stage better events. I don’t think I want to see a band at Kirkcaldy’s Adam Smith Theatre but they still ought to try stage more comedians. Rothes Halls, Glenrothes would probably argue that they do stage top live music events; of course, they’ve had Billy Ocean Colour Scene, Ian Brown, The Proclaimers (twice), The Delgados and Grim Northern Social since 2000. Carnegie Hall in Dunfermline does stage a great music festival, Tigerfest, every year and the line-up is always full of the best up-and-coming Scottish bands, but the 4-day run is the complete extent of their decent music performances for the year.

The venues are surely up to hosting the rising stars of the Scottish indie scene, of the same status as those who played at Tigerfest this year: Aberfeldy, Popup, Datapanik, Bricolage. I wonder if places like the Rothes Halls fear that these gigs wouldn’t attract enough people but, surely that can’t be the case, they have their own marketing systems, with mailing lists and advertisements. But today, the bands are able to rally their own fans through the internet, with myspace. It wouldn’t be difficult for the venues themselves to post notices on a few of the local forums – AFTN, Fence, The Bellyaches – or seek collaboration with some of the countries top DJs – Radio Scotland’s Vic Galloway and Tom Morton – or the nation’s poorer DJs - the XFM Scotland and Kingdom FM lot. Some kind of shared initiative with Fence Records would be appealing to me. The Fence Collection are always putting on some great stuff but even still, loads of the Fence Records artists have to do their gigs in Edinburgh and beyond.

If the band booker at any of the Kingdom of Fife’s venues needs to consult a musicologist, I’d only be too happy to impart the wealth of knowledge I’ve gleaned from years of being a radio freak. I’m starting the campaign here to wake the Kingdom up to live music, I’ll have the Red Hot Chilli Peppers playing Buckhaven High School assembly hall by Friday.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Voyeuristic Shirkers Observing Felonies,

It was a misty day. It rained steadily throughout, evaporating as quickly as it fell. The droplets were reasonably big.

I made a delivery to Buckhaven before travelling to Leven High Street, all on foot. I bought some rolls, oranges, passion fruits, fruit juice and clothes hangers.

The hangers would be necessary for the large-scale tidy-up of my quarters. A tidy-up was necessary because of my efficient laundry system and all the new green things.

I continued the tidy-up with some dusting and vacuuming. I did lazy dusting – used the brush attachment on the vacuum cleaner. I did use a slightly damp cloth for some areas. It’s all part of my paradoxical anti-chemicals stance. I probably smell.

The powers that be have again been debating what song should be Scotland’s national anthem. They have failed yet again to realise that it should either be Judy and the Dream of Horses or that they should borrow Lard’s Mull of Kintyre 7” and play it at the appropriate junctures.

The raid finally came. There is a family in our street, in which, neither of the two parents work, but, by all accounts, the children can buy and sell their classmates and the family, as a whole, seem to splurge lavishly. The obvious source is drugs. The clues were all there: frequent changes of car (used for strange journeys at strange times), a red van regularly visits, and all kinds of lowlifes showed up in the middle of the night and were led into his shed. The police have made numerous visits to the house during the few years that they’ve lived in our street, but they’ve never really gone further; he must have been able to hide the evidence on all those occasions – including torching the cannabis plantation, to the delight of the cul-de-sac, before one of these visits. This time, CID had appeared to have staked out the delivery van and followed it back to the house in an unmarked vehicle. Loads of constables then descended from vans and cars. They appeared to leave nothing uncovered. The parents were taken away in the van. In this case, I have no sympathy for the children; they revel in the drug money and are rather brazen in their pursuits.

Excogitative and Mellow Ogres on Chronological Checkpoints,

Saturday was the anniversary of my birth. This anniversary and New Year’s Day always make me a rather melancholic, they’re sobering checkpoints for reflection - I always look back and think that I’ve achieved nothing in the last year. My achievements might seem worthy from the outset, but that’s never how they feel.

Saturday also marked the end of a full year since I finished my Industrial Experience contract at the R&D laboratories at the chemical plant. I spent the last birthday pondering my time there. It was a strange year, a year of contrasts. My final assessment was quite remarkable; my lab supervisor, my manager and my academic supervisor sat round the table with me. First, they extolled my dedication, my professionalism and my high standard of work, everyone agreed that I was a living legend then, “But with every appraisal, it can’t be all positives. You appear to have attitude problems.” From my mixed year, I should’ve known this meeting wasn’t going to be completely smooth but all the same, “attitude problems” is a startling accusation. It turned out to be constructive criticism, “We’re not saying you have attitude problems, you’ve did a thoroughly professional job, it’s just that you appear to have attitude problems.” They were referring to the laid back impression I often give and how it can seem lackadaisical and nonchalant.

“Well, do you agree?”
“Maybe.”, I shrugged.
“You’re doing it again.” they said as I sipped some water
“And again. You’ve brought three cups of water to this meeting as if your thirst is more important than the content of the meeting.”

They complained that this image could also seem quite negative and that I was my own biggest critic. I admit it, I do portray a worriless exterior, often unintentionally, and I do have a habit of pulling a misleading face. I’m also quite a harsh critic of myself (I could possibly compile a book titled “The Bellyaches: Unleashed”, featuring all the unedited drafts). I generally don’t get stressed – good planning, then faith in my ability to deal with what transpires and I’m also reasonably able to accept things in my stride - and if I do, I don’t think everyone has to hear or know about it. People who know me well can often see my levels of stress through the calmness I exude.

As I have this reputation, I can’t help but play up to it and exaggerate it to feed my peculiar sense of humour. I’m quite quiet too and armed with the uncontrollable image and the strange humour, I perhaps didn’t fit in too well in my lab, I didn’t need to and it was maybe advantageous that I didn’t. I can’t be sure; they were an odd bunch, there was politics and there were cliques and inter-lab rivalries. On review, the other lab seemed friendlier, they were a tightly-knit bunch, I only worked in that lab for short periods now and again, but I was in and out of it daily borrowing equipment and pestering people. Even in my lab, people were never particularly malicious and I did get along with everyone, a job is about doing the work to get paid – it’s important to keep learning, it helps if the job is enjoyable and the people are pleasant.

The strangest incident, was not born out of ill-feeling, it was probably just thoughtlessness of the cliques. On the day of the lunch that they had booked in my honour, in light of the fact that I’d soon be leaving, I was working on the report, possibly reading over the finished product and predicting what aspects that might be discussed, that I would present on the assessment day when I suddenly felt the presence of someone standing over me.

“Are you not going to this lunch?”
“Look at the time.”

I had been studying the report quite hard and hadn’t noticed the time or the fact that the whole lab had emptied. They had all left for my lunch without me – the guest of honour. Thankfully, the guy that alerted me was one of the ones who technically belonged to in my lab but didn’t like the folk of my lab, so he spent most of his time in the other, although his desk was in our lab. I went along to my lunch with the kind folks of the other lab, who were leaving a bit later. I suppose it was all a misunderstanding, but I was slightly bemused by the incident.

The card that they had passed around is quite revealing; it’s possible to see from the card the messages from the people who were signed it only because it had landed on their desk and the people who were genuinely nice and then there were a few messages that I hope were a result of my unflappable character and droll humour. My favourite message reads, “You’ll realise it was all worth it in the end (maybe!). Best of Luck”, I know it’s seemingly hollow to someone else, but I have to take some comfort in it. I’d never rule out working there again. I’d be of equal status to the rest of the lab and things would be different. I’ve learned that although retaining this character of mine is easiest, and something I should do, it’s best to try to impress people every now and again, it’s not beyond me. If the world wasn’t so superficial, I could just behave naturally, but I know people form preconceptions based on certain mannerisms and it’s easier to stop people to forming preconceptions (linking lassitude and indifference with a laid back exterior) by avoiding those mannerisms than it is to change the prejudices that exist amongst the whole of society. A professional is a professional regardless of their demeanour.

My employment ended on my last birthday. Apart from the pensive mood, this birthday was somewhat uneasy, I also don’t like people wasting time and money on gifts for me; they have better pursuits. I was also stunned, at least inwardly, by some other news. I feel that my achievements, whatever their true worth, exacerbate this other bad news. I’m torn between sympathy, guilt and anger, it's arguable whether I'm entitled to be raging and this adds to the frustration but I must remain calm – it shouldn’t be difficult.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Prodigals of Belaboring Rains,

On Friday, it rained a good, honest type of rain. It rained hard and constantly. Although it was a quality downpour, in choice of what I could do to spend the day, it did leave me somewhat limited. I decided that I would set off for one of those aimless and petrol-wasting drives. I drove west, with Midlake’s The Trials of Van Occupanther, and whilst in the general area of central Scotland, I decided I would make Stirling the end-point for the aimless journey.

I had never been to Stirling, although I had visited the Wallace Monument, so I thought it would be worth having a look around. It’s a strange place, a place of blatant contrast, in the people and the buildings. An innocuous and dull identikit shopping area surrounds the historic Old Town. I did browse the shops in the Thistle Centre because I had never been before and because I need new clothes. I did buy a few things. I find buying clothes very difficult, as I am very picky: I don’t like random numbers adorning garments, I don’t like logos (I’m not an advertising space), I don’t like random slogans, I’m not a fan of zips, I struggle to wear bright colours and I have countless other reservations. I used to buy lots of blue clothes, but now nearly every shop is filled with items with navy blue/sky blue designs so of course, I have to be obtuse and find some different. As a result, I search for green things; they don’t make many green things.

After buying all the green things I could find, I put my purchases in the car and ventured out into the rain to see the Old Town, in doing so I crossed between the two classes of people I found wandering about Stirling in about equal numbers – Scottish gadgies and misguided tourists. I was surprised by the number of tourists, transport links to Stirling aren’t the best. Stirling obviously has a very interesting history, it was the former capital of Scotland. Stirling grew up originally because of its strategic position upon an easily defensible hill, where Stirling Castle was built, and its close proximity to the River Forth. The fjord and later, the bridge at Stirling was the major crossing point of the River Forth and the furthest downstream crossing point until 1890 when the Forth Railway Bridge was constructed at Queensferry. I wandered up the cobbled streets past the Church of the Holy Rude, the only church to have staged a coronation apart from Westminster Abbey, to Stirling Castle. Stirling Castle has been the home to many kings and queens and someone might find its history very interesting. I was feeling very republican and didn’t have much time so I didn’t pay to go and look around inside the castle.

I was actually more interested in the view off the side of the crag. The dense, grey clouds that were emptying themselves across Scotland, had engulfed the Ochils, quite a bland mountain range, and had given them a slightly mystical quality. The River Forth is also visible from the castle. I’ve always been fascinated by rivers and for me, the best part of climbing the Wallace Monument is the view of the River Forth and its bizarre meanders. After wondering at the slightly less impressive view of the river from the castle forecourt, I returned to the car sodden and drove back to the Kingdom of Fife, passing a strange scarecrow-like figure that seems to have been erected recently, at the side of the Stannin' Stane, as a joke.

That evening, I played football and was quite brilliant, of course, the talents of the other players are not spectacular, but it was nice to play well, especially after Tuesday’s game. I had a relapse into illness at the beginning of the week, and I stupidly thought I could manage to play football. We were doing well, but I gradually wilted and eventually had to run off 15 minutes early to be sick and go home to cower in my bed. I ate a Cadbury’s chocolate bar for the first time in years a fortnight ago and was then mysteriously sick for the week or so later, I don’t think it was a coincidence and the public must revolt against them; for too long, this country has been treated to substandard chocolate or rather, substance.

I learned on Friday night that the pathetic entertainer who made numerous appearances in the local clubs and pubs has been undone. He was a rotten comedian, “we’ve got a Proclaimer in the audience”, and he did a karaoke routine that involved a series of rapid costume changes and nakedness. I branded him sick, disturbing and unfit to entertain the public but a great number of the locals stood by him. I’m an excellent judge of character and so I’ve been proved right.


A LEADING club entertainer has been given a week to repay £1000 he stole from a children's charity. Tam, 63, nicked cash aimed at helping two terminally ill young twins go on holiday to America. Tam had performed at shows in 2004 to raise funds for four-year olds Saul and Savannah-Rose Fraser, who have Battens disease. He had already admitted embezzlement in court. Yesterday, Sheriff Grant McCulloch gave Tam seven days to repay the funds to The Saul and Savannah-Rose Fraser Trust. Sentence was also deferred for a week at Dundee Sheriff Court. Disgusted mum Alana Fraser, 34, said: "He was not only stealing from us but the Dundee public too." Tam, of Dundee, has been on the club scene for 40 years and had a No1 hit in Australia. (Daily Record, June 30 2006).

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