29 December 2005

up but slow

My father should not be allowed to drive. It's quite frightening. So's my mad aunt's driving. When she talks, she veers.

I'm up. And sort of in one piece. My knuckles are still white.

Finished the Bryson book - brilliant. Read it. Honest.

Dial-up connection veeerrrryyyyyy sssllllloooooooowwwww...


Up north again...

Up to Scotland for New Years. So there may not be many posts. Or there may be. I don't know. No idea what my 'net connection's going to be like.

In other news, a friend from uni just played Princess Diana in a terrible ITV drama. She was very good though.

If I don't speak before, have a happy new year all!

And If I do... well, have a happy new year anyway.

28 December 2005

Flakes of Death! Sun of Doom! ...and some more culture binge

As much as I embrace this island as my adopted home, there are certain things that I will never understand. For instance; the British reaction to weather confounds me. It is winter and it is snowing, and not very much for that matter (6 inches is the deepest), and it is as though the weather apocolypse is upon us. At least according to the meteorlogical media. Every news channel greets the snow as if each flake had the number of the beast on it. Which is impossible as everyone knows that no two snowflakes are the same. Unless it's in different fonts?

In any case, it seems ridiculous. It is winter. Winter is when it gets cold and snows. Remember? There's a reason that Christmas cards have snow on them. Yes, you have to be careful driving in the snow. Yes, there will be people who are not careful and their cars will flip over. Duh. The seasons just work this way. Has it gotten to the stage where any weather report that isn't either, "partly sunny with a chance of rain" or "partly cloudy with a chance of rain" is greeted as though Jack Frost himself is the new axis of evil, bent on bringing proper seasonal variation to Britain?

The proof comes not only in winter but in summer, when these self same weathermen & women hyperventilate that it's warm. Now, I know that the UK doesn't have the best weather in the world, but it's not rocket science that there will be days in the summer that it's pretty hot. And yet it's still treated as front page news. Sometimes I think everyone on this rock would be happier if it were 15°c with a shower or two and intermittent sun breaks every single day of the bloody year.

I went with crazy aunt and slightly batty mum to the Tate Modern today to see the Henri Rousseau exhibition and came out with mixed feelings. Some of the work was very impressive and others not so much. He had a gift for light and yet rarely used it. In my humble opinion at least. Worth going to see as it is very different. As is the massive Main Hall exhibit by Rachel Whiteread, Embankment. Very cool and somewhat spooky to walk around.

On the way I saw the family of swans that hangs out on the river and while there I took some London pics... herewith (the last one is of the Whiteread thing):

27 December 2005

The tie pic and other stories

• Ta da! The penguin tie - isn't it cool? Well, I think it's cool. So there.

• Someone's stolen a bun from a shop in Nashville that's meant to look like Mother Theresa. Check it out. I think it more looks like Nick Park's (head dude at Aardman Animations, and creator of Wallace & Gromit) version of Mother Theresa to be honest. Decide for yourself. In any case I think both having a bun that looks like Mother Theresa and stealing that bun is moronic. But that's just me.

• There's a contest to make your baby look like an iPod. Pretty speechless about that. Cute kid though.

• December 31st will technically be the longest day of the year. Weird huh? They put an extra second onto the day to compensate for variances in the earth's rotational speed. So 24 hrs and 1s. Or an extra second of New Years revelry, depending on your plans for the evening. Does this mean the countdown for the Times Square apple will be from 11, in a Spinal Tap type way? That would be cool. But pretty unlikely.

• I'm reading Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything. It's a fantastic book, especially for someone who, when the fork appeared, chose the arts instead of the sciences, and occasionally wonders whether they made the right choice. Read it.

Let it snow...

It just snowed for like, 15 mintes. And now the sun's come out - no fair.

I'm resuming normal exercise today having had a 6-day hiatus. It's going to suck. Like, really.

I've got to send my iPod nano back to Apple because the screen's gone funny. And not because of pansy scratch marks but it seems to be possessed.

And speaking of possession, the belfry is kind of a weird home sometimes. You see, there are lots of trees whose branches come into contact with the roof and windows and general structure of it. And trees, well, they can make some pretty weird noises. Branches scratching on windows and all that. And they groan. That's spooky. There have been a fair few nights and early mornings that I have been officially creeped out. There have been times when I've crept down the spiral staircase, my old cane in hand for defence, convinced that someone's opened the door downstairs. It's a good thing there wasn't, for I looked ridiculous on every occasion.

The snow is now one of those microscopic flurries that, were it to continue, would provide about an inch of snow after about a million years.

26 December 2005

Fun stuff...

If anyone out there is a fan of The Office (the original UK version not the rubbish US version), then check this out - it's very, very funny. You can subscribe to it in iTunes as well.

heh heh.

Ho ho ho...

Nobody fought.

The food was amazing (I did the stuffing, the gravy for the beef and an apple, pear and plum crumble).

There was A LOT of food.

Those new to Christmas at mine were welcomed with open arms and had a blast.

I got a cool tie.

I'm serious - one of my favourite presents was an awesome tie. And no, that doesn't make me boring.

My parents danced like teenagers.

I got lots of hugs from pretty girls.

Look - it's a navy blue tie and it has all these penguins on it - half the penguins are skinny and half are fat. And next to the skinny ones it says, "A fairy hat penguin" (it's wearing a fairy hat) and next to the fat ones it says, "A hairy fat penguin" as it's furry. I love it. So there.

Nobody got too drunk.

The port was lovely. As was the stilton.

Fats Domino replaced Christmas carols just in time!

Everyone was genuinely on good form.

I think most of us were pretty shocked by how well it all went. Reading into that sort of cynism? Well, I think I'll just leave it and be happy we had a brilliant Christmas.

Some pics, taken with my brand new Canon EOS 350D digital SLR (tied with the tie as best present):This is me with Alia & Kath - old friends who were a brilliant addition to Christmas fun an not only enjoyed themselves but pitched in big style.

Looking out the window onto the river on Christmas afternoon. I like this shot. Getting used to autofocus. It's weird and makes funny noises.

One of the best gifts of the day: Freudian Slippers. Slippers with Freud's face and your toes are in the tongue. I'm sure whoever invented these was a genius. Someone gave them to my aunt (who has consumed the vast majority of my Green & Black's Butterscotch) I want a pair for myself. I would wear them with my new tie.

My aunt and my mother dancing to Fats Domino for my dad. My aunt kindly did loads of washing up (as she'd done no cooking) - hence the blue rubber gloves. My mate Ali in the background helps himself to the port while enjoying the floorshow.

They were dancing and I nearly caught them in the act but I didn't but it was still sweet and lovely.

Today has been a day of many leftovers. And a walk to the pub for a pint. In the pub were American tourists arguing over whether Leicester was pronounced "lie-sester" or "lie-chester". Fingernails on chalk would have sounded far better. The beer tasted ace though!

25 December 2005

Almost there...

Presents wrapped, lots of food, midnight mass attended...

Never did get those hobnobs though... hmmm...

Happy Christmas all!

23 December 2005

Where you're at and where you want to be aren't always the same...

...for instance, I am in Edinburgh Airport nursing a monster hangover. I want to be in my bed. With a cup of tea. And perhaps a hobnob. I haven't had a hobnob in a million years, maybe more. I don't think I have any hobnobs at my house. Which is a total bummer, though worse things have happened in the world. I do have some Green and Black's Butterscotch chocolate. It's sitting in a drawer in my kitchen in London. Or at least, it should be sitting in a drawer in my kitchen in London. The presence of my aunt Cynthia in that kitchen may well mean that my chocolate has been sacrificed to the cravings of a 61-year-old twice divorced artists whose lunacy is wonderful but whose appetite for chocolate is frightening.

Revelations of the last two days:

The tasting yesterday was wonderful.

Pete's puppy's gotten BIG.

I'm a terrible poker player (thankfully I wasn't using real money).

Drinking all day with good mates is silly fun, but painful (I knew that). And it's the mates that make it fun. Not the drinking. That's what makes it silly.

I will never see everyone I need to when I get up to St Andrews.

Friends with truly dreadful music taste (McFly suck - the world needs to deal with this) are still friends. But try to keep them away from the stereo.

A tiny blonde behind the wheel of a giant Range Rover is funny. And silly. Especially if it's a mate.

Lara Crawford may be the world's cutest puppy. Even if she isn't puppy-sized anymore.

Sometimes I'm so hopelessly disorganised that I shouldn't be allowed any responsibility whatsoever. I had 3 important things to sort out in Scotland and failed to accomplish all of them. Granted, they weren't life or death things, but it makes me feel stupid. And a bit useless. And my mum's ill and that's no fun at Christmas. Well, it's no fun at any time really.

In a shock to my system it looks as though my flight is going to be on time.

I'm contemplating hobnobs still. They're great. Why don't I eat them anymore? Do they sell them at the airport? I shall soon find out.

My new headphones are awesome.

Pretty girls should smile more as it makes them prettier.

I'm babbling again.

22 December 2005

Alabama - or something like that

So, to decipher some of the nonsense I wrote last time, I went to the Cellar Restaurant in Anstruther last night. It's one of my favourite restaurants on the planet. The menu doesn't change that much and it's not the home of cutting edge culinary experimentation, but it is possibly the most beautifully cooked seafood you can ever put in your mouth. Simple, elegant, and just perfect. I ate scallops, halibut, bisque and... oh, yeah - petit fours. Petit fours? you say. Well yeah, but the kind of petit fours that taste like an entire box of chocolates in one chocolate. It's that concentrated. Except without the being sick part you get from having an entire box of chocolate. That's where the genius kicks in. So while we were eating, Peter Jukes - head chef, proprieter, owner, legend and current chairman of the master chefs of Great Britain, sits with us and not only chills and chats for the entire night, but every time we wine geeks order a bottle, he buys one as well, of equal or greater merit. We drank 2 bottles of champagne before we got to our table that we didn't pay for and the best, in retrospect, wine of the evening was one that he dragged out to compare to our main course wine. And his stories of the culinary planet would make Ramsay blush and Bourdain giggle like a schoolgirl. So cheers Peter, for making my first night back up totally brilliant.

And on a totally unrelated note - it's almost 20 past eight and pitch bloody black outside. Sorry, that's an exageration - it's got that weird blue glow you get like, an hour before dawn. Y'know? How could I possibly forget how dark it gets here? Well... I dunno, but coming back around the shortest day of the year is like reminding oneself with a railroad spike. Possibly the same railroad spike that is jammed in my brain and reminding me of all the wine I drank last night. Ugh. Waitaminute... it's not too "ugh-esque". Oh... yeah... it is. Only 11 champagnes to taste today. Bring it on and read about it here.

And if you hit that link before like, 8 pm GMT, there's nothing there yet. So relax.

Sweet home...?

Introduce yourself to a chef. Right now. Interrupt them if you have to. I'm serious. You should have some interest in what they do. If you don't, stop reading. No, really, stop. Do you like food? At a deep and beautiful level? Then go for it. If you hesitated in any part of these first sentences, then shut your laptop and type "road chef and food like it" into Jeeves or Google or something. I love food. I cook food. Sometimes I get paid to cook food but never enough. And it doesn't matter. I still love it. It's like wine tastings. I'm taking part in a tasting tomorrow that I will lose hundreds of pounds on. Pounds I can afford? Fuck no. Fuck, fuck no. In fact, I should be taking my head down to the chemist and having it weighed. But it's an important tasting. Ah well.

I have no idea what I'm doing, and seldom do, but I am happy I'm doing it. So a fine restaurant is hosting my "know fuck all tasting", hosted by a friend who knows "fucking less that me" - and I guarantee that. But it's still going to happen. I'm tired though. And I hope I do a decent job.

21 December 2005

Bottoms up...

Well - finally got the tree finished last night, with all the lights working and all of our strange decorations on show. The ugly stuff usually goes in the back, but this time I put the strange banana in a purple sombrero in plain sight.I like the purple-hatted banana. Can you spot it?

I also got a shot of my mother's very groovy oriental screen. She was given it by her godmother or great aunt or something. She may well have been both - stranger things have happened. Especially in my family.
At the moment I am sitting in the Gate 5 departure complex at Heathrow Terminal 1, waiting for my delayed flight to board. I'm going to St Andrews for a fine champagne tasting with the Naughton Dining Club. Many people have pulled out, recommitted and pulled out again and everything seems as disorganised as ever, but I'm sure it will be fun. Going to one of my favourite restaurants ever tonight for dinner and the tasting is being held at another favourite for lunch tomorrow. I sense a great hangover or two in the works.

In other news, I got all my shopping done for Christmas. Everyone I needed to get a present has one. Hope they like them. Of course, if they don't, that's just tough shit.

Breathing big sigh of relief.

There is intelligent life...

I chuckled and rejoiced at this, this morning. Perhaps hope is not lost for my nation? Fingers and toes both crossed. I hope Georgie W is spitting nails at this one. Heh heh.

More later. Promise. Been rubbish. Tree's up though. Even got pics.

19 December 2005

Hereditary insanity?

I don't know whether it was my aunt posting her Christmas list to Father Christmas or my mother demanding I tie beef fat to the bird-feeder that tipped me off to the ultimate truth that my family are not only nuts, but indeed madder than a bag of rabid badgers. It makes for seasonal amusement, to be sure.

No shopping done.

Tree up but semi-naked.

No idea what to buy mom (beef fat tied to a bird-feeder?...she's got that already).

17 December 2005

Culture binge (and other binges)

The National Gallery and the Royal Academy of Arts. I don't think I'd been to the main galleries at The National Gallery since I was doing my art GCSE. I only went through the 1700-1900 rooms. Being genuinely moved by art? It doesn't happen often. But I was blown away, just wanting to stare for hours. Monet's Parliament at Sunset just tugged the old heart strings, as did his studies of poplar trees. Van Gogh's farmhouses made me smile. When I was younger, I appreciated impressionists in a "they were incredibly important" kind of way. It was all academic. So, does my new-found appreciation of fine art signify some increased maturity? Dunno.

So then the Royal Academy, and their 3 Emperors exhibition. As much a sensory and cultural onslaught as an exhibition. Textiles, tapestries, pottery, scrolls, calligraphy; every facet of court life in China over a period of about 150 years. Quite a bit happened in that period apparently, including the introduction of Jesuit missionaries in the imperial court, bringing the first western influences into Chinese art. It was, however, the calligraphy that took me, and not the imperial stuff, but the works of the Literati - the deposed artists with ties to the previous, Ming Dynasty. Their subversiveness expressed in the raw emotion of their writing was startling when compared to the disciplined strokes of those in the status quo. And I don't even know what it was saying. Quite a bit of it reminded me of Blake, the combinations of words and images, though without the dogma and lunacy. Remember those Smirnoff adds, where it would show a bunch of hornets flying? But looking through the Smirnoff bottle there'd be helicopter gunships? Well, with the more tame illustrated poems, usually quietly observant of nature, you could imagine holding the Smirnoff bottle over it and seeing some crazy Blake. In any case, if you're anywhere near London while this exhibition's on, go and see it. Worth every penny. I got in for free though, but if I'd had to have paid £11, I wouldn't have minded. Honest.

I then found that the best burger in London is available at The Wolseley on Piccadilly. It ain't cheap, but damn it's good.

Prior to all of these events was a night out in the ultra-fashionable Notting Hill area, where £50 for a round of 5 cocktails is the norm. I know the area fairly well as I went to school around there, though in those days the bohemians had the edge on the ultra-chic. Nowadays it seems as though the bohemians have become the ultra-chic... sell-outs. It was cool in an antropological sense. Ultra-style bars that only serve beer in half-pints (not amused), cocktail lists that seem to be taking classics and putting an exotic fruit in them and charging the earth (lychee mojitos? you've gotta be fucking kidding me), and people surrounding me that are unbelievably pretty and pretty vacuous to boot. I drank a lot to convince myself that the fat, bald, wannabe writer, American fit in (as that's what most American writers abroad do to fit in - Hemmingway? Fitzgerald?). Not too much though... didn't make an arse of oneself. Some of the cocktails were brilliant. My chat was, possibly, on form. We ate a lot of dumplings. I was with an old friend and some friends of his, and most of us appreciated some of the ridiculousness of it all. I was ultra flash and took a taxi home (the tubes were shut - what can you do?).

First book

Christmas 1983. I was 7. My sister, Kari, gave me what I thought at that precise moment was the worst present possible. In a year that should have been crowned with the holy trinity of GI Joe, Transformers & Star Wars (with St Lego making a miraculous appearance), I received books. And not books with big pictures, nor the instructions to build big Lego spaceships, but books with just words. And a couple of drawings that didn't even have speech bubbles. I think I made a brave face, and as she was my oldest sister, she gave me a lecture about how great reading was and how these were the books that she started reading with and I just fidgeted and wanted to play lego/Star Wars/GI Joe.

I didn't touch them until February of 1984. The books were C. S. Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia. The first book in the series was The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. I started reading it to put myself to sleep and read it through until it was finished. It was a landmark moment in my life. I was too young to recognise Christian allegory or care very much about it. I was, however, the perfect age to think that talking animals would be the coolest thing ever, were it not for the idea that there were other worlds around every corner being the coolest thing ever. I wanted Narnia to be real, just like I would want to be Indiana Jones or blow up the Death Star. I read all the books and re-read them. I read other books, (including The Dark is Rising Sequence by Susan Cooper - best children's fantasy series ever) and kept seeking new worlds. I'm still seeking new worlds.

So, I went to see the movie the other day. And for the first hour or so, I was 7 again. I wanted to believe and did believe in that place through the wardrobe. It felt brilliant. I don't think I can judge its merits objectively because it achieved what for me was its only goal. Making Narnia real. So if you read the books and hoped that there really was a wardrobe that led to another world, go and see it.

12 December 2005

Fat pigeons

The wood pigeons that nest in the tree next to the belfry are hideously fat. So much so that flight seems to almost elude them. Their efforts to get airbourne are Herculean and I'm shocked every time they succeed. Their weight surprises me, as they produce so much shit (and deposit it in front of the door to the belfry), that they should be skeletal by now. Big fat pigeons. Lots of poo. Ah well.

Unpacked and with a new name

Well, I've unpacked and am now firmly established in the loft of the wendy house/garden shed. I've decided to call it the belfry, in spite of the lack of bell. In fact, I shall purchase a bell for the sake of literary accuracy. I like the term "belfry". There is a small cupola on the roof, whose purpose is a mystery, and if that's a cupola then my loft can be a belfry. There are no bats in this belfry, though there seems to be no shortage of spider or moth. I'd have thought with all the spiders there would be few moths, but perhaps that's naïvity on my part. So, as the majority of my writing will be from this cozy belfry, this blog has been retitled. I like the title. It's got both "belfry" and "chronicles" in it; cool, huh?

06 December 2005

Holiday's over... and other episodes.

I've moved. This time from my parents' house to the garden shed out back. They call it the Wendy House. Highly emasculating, nes pas? This wouldn't be so bad if I'd unpacked. But I didn't. Well, not really. There are boxes from 6 years ago with stuff that I forgot I owned. And most of my stuff from St Andrews - well, unpacked in that it's no longer in boxes or bags... sadly it's not tidily put away either.

It's been a voyage of discovery. For instance, a pair of shoes I hadn't worn in ages? Well, went to slip them on and found the spare battery for my digital camera in one of them. I thought I'd lost it. Always the last place you look. Or, in this case, somewhere you just wouldn't look for it, like, ever. So the mysteries that await fill the mind with a mixture of wonder and the mundane. Such is life.

So yeah, I'm living in a bomb site that I've detonated. But my folks are home and we haven't fallen out yet, which is a good thing. Building the energy to tidy the bomb site while balancing that with writing? Well, that's quite hard. And apparently there's some holiday coming up that I need to be ready for - something about a tree and a baby.

Last weekend was interesting. Friday night was spent in the exciting company of "tour operators". I drank a lot and, to my shame, ate a McDonald's.

Saturday was a day off.

Sunday was an epic Christmas lunch party that ran from 1pm to 1am and involved lovely ladies and old friends as well as a couple of new faces. I felt atrocious yesterday and deserved to, as I consumed a vast amount of red wine. That said the day did have its perks.

Last evening found yet another pub in London that is brilliant. The Horse & Groom in Belgravia (ultra-high-rent-district), a pub that boasts free sandwiches, great beer, lunatic scando bar managers and nice wood paneling. Caught up with the lovely Clair and the nice but not all that lovely Ru & Marcus. I didn't need to catch up that much with the latter 2 as the aforementioned Sunday lunch boasted their presence, but Clair I hadn't seen in ages and was in brilliant form.

This evening cultural enlightenment took centre stage and I went to a talk by Saba Douglas-Hamilton, of Big Cat Diaries fame, about her mother's family planning clinic in Kenya. It turns out she was a St Andrews alum as well. It was a great talk, and she struck me as one of those people who just manages to be very talented and lovely enough so as not to inspire cynical jealousy. It turns out her mum worked with my aunt many years ago. And I'm pretty sure she's related to an old friend. So it's a pretty small world, really.

So feeling informed and enlightened the folks and I went over to the table where the native crafts were sold to raise money for the clinic and I got the coolest bathrobe ever. And if you don't believe me, just check it out:See? I love it. I'm wearing it as I type this, I kid you not. In any case, I'm looking forward to a good quiet night's rest.

29 November 2005

Retox. no pics.

Had 3 beers and a Chinese meal tonight, including grilled pork dumplings, Kung Po chicken and fried rice.

Tasted pretty good.

Is there guilt?

Nah. I'll do an extra 5 minutes exercising tomorrow. Honest.

Detox. And 2 pics.

I've not had a drink since 1am Sunday.
I've not had red meat since 10am Sunday (and that was only a tiny bit of sausage).
I've been eating falafel, hummus, salad, cous cous, egg noodles, wild rice and wild mushrooms. All organic.
I've been drinking water, Innocent smoothies (though I miss Get Juiced), fresh squeezed OJ and quite a lot of tea.
I work out every morning. I stretch before I do this.

The food thing is hard. I cannot believe that there are people, vegetarians and vegans, that willingly do this, claiming they actually enjoy it. Have they not tasted bacon? Do they not know how tasty a good steak is? Buttered toast & Marmite? Food should be fun and make you happy - if it were just about being healthy then comfort food wouldn't exist and we'd all be living on protein pills. And people who don't care about what they eat? Don't trust those people. The flavour of good food is the flavour of life, and the enjoyment of one leads to the enjoyment of the other. Food should first and foremost be a statement about what you love in life, not some socio-political commentary through fucking tofu. Now granted, I love wild mushrooms and cous cous. And hummus even. In fact - if I didn't like these things I wouldn't be eating them, regardless of detox. But there's something missing; egg noodles are brilliant when fried in sesame oil and served with strips of pan-fried sirloin laid on top, wild mushrooms thrive in risottos (or served on toast having been fried in butter), salads - well, salads are fun when they're on the side of something. So that's my petulant rant about food.

All that said, I feel a lot better for taking a break. I feel good in the mornings (until I do my nordic-track nonsense) and my sleep seems pretty healthy. I still want a burger. Like, right now. I've got some great looking organic mince in the freezer as well. hmmmm. I mean to stay off booze for the week, but I never really made a conscious decision regarding meat.

Chiswick Mall during a very high tide. The River Thames has totally submerged the road. It's quite cool and happens a couple of times a month.

It's not often you see a street lamp in the middle of a river.

27 November 2005

euphoric weekend.

This week is to be a detox week. Thursday, Friday and Saturday night haunt this Sunday with a combination of total exhaustion, reunion revelry and that emptiness that comes when one says goodbye to old friends after too short a time together. My body aches from dancing like a total lunatic.

Still, just seeing the gang was incredible. The friends there I've known for 11 years, and the good times just keep coming. Albeit not quite as frequently and with longer subsequent recovery periods... ah well.

It was a lovely wedding and I felt so happy for the mr & mrs that I surprised myself. I try to be grumpy and cynical about everyone getting married all the time, and the hassle, and really I'm just a total softie. Well done to Luke & Ang.

Oh, and if you're ever in the Blue Velvet in Newcastle, ask for "Cluuhhr". Honest.

Matfen Hall - lovely location. That's Guy, the best man coming out to greet us.

Left-to-right: Guy, the best man, Luke W, the groom & Mark, usher and Luke's older brother.

The happy couple, all married and everything.

Ric Clark, singing to the chocolate fountain. Yes, you read that right: a flowing fountain of chocolate. It was amazing. I shall refuse future wedding invites should they lack one of these for late evening entertainment.

That's me and the lovely Julie D - she's a total legend and lovely in spite of being Belgian. She inconveniently lives in Leeds and with someone. Ah well...

I love the look on Luke's face for this picture. It looks as though he's cut the cheese as well as the cake.

The first dance was lovely. There were tears.

Adam Bissill, our very own pet pretty boy, tearing up the dance floor. I don't see him often enough; he makes me laugh by breathing.

This is my favourite picture of the whole day - taken on the coach ride back to our hotel. Classic Jamie and Guy.

This has been an inarticulate post. That's due to a pretty heavy weekend. The pics aren't that great because Saturday was a swift progression from being hungover to being drunk again. But I think that's a testament to an amazing weekend and wedding. If I'd been all poetic and succinct about everything, it meant I wasn't enjoying myself enough.

25 November 2005

Another wedding...

I'm off to another wedding tomorrow. In Newcastle. One of my first friends from St Andrews. It should, and will, be awesome. I don't think I'm going to take as many photos though. It's taken me 2 1/2 weeks to get all the Ireland ones up, after all.

24 November 2005

I've renamed this post for a few reasons: 1) It's been updated 2) It wasn't just pictures, as the previous title suggested 3) Can't remember

I wrote yesterday, and it felt incredible. I built characters and found out stuff about my characters that I hadn't thought of before as fingers hit keys and words kept coming. It excited and frustrated me at the same time... like in Force 10 from Navarone when they blow up the dam and at first nothing happens; a few cracks here and there and a dribble of water, but no mad rush. I'm frustrated at the lack of mad rush. But it's good trickle at the moment and it felt so good to overcome some of the various mental blocks that had been plaguing me that the trickles are great and bring on the dam bursting. Sadly today was an errand day, lacking in those large chunks of time needed to bring about dam-bursting literature, so I've been taking notes when I get the chance instead.

Enough babbling... but it's so great. Anyway. Last night after feeling very accomplished I met some old friends for dinner in Soho - nice fish restaurant: had lobster tails, which I LOVE. And just generally caught up with the Hedges brothers (Jamie & Blair) and Hignett. Most of us will be at the wedding in Newcastle this weekend but it was nice to chat without having a massive wedding going on in the background.

One of my errands today was picking up some pics from the developers, including a roll that I'd thought I'd lost from Ireland, and I'm very glad I found. Sadly I was out of focus for my only really cool "team" photo, something I'm really pissed off about. In any case, here're a bunch of pics from all over the place:
IrelandThe out-of-focus team pic. From left to right: James Wicken, Georgie Wicken, Andrew Hendry, Matt Wicken, James Miller, Suman Wicken & Luke Potter. Curse my lack of focus skills. Brilliant mates to travel with, though, and they'll always be in-focus to me (cue cheesy vomit mime).

We thought these were the Skelligs, but we were mistaken. I like this picture though. I have no idea what the islands are called, either. Answers in comments.

The southern coast of the Ring of Kerry. Quite pretty, really. It's cool being able to watch the weather in another county (across the water, those hills in the rain, that's County Cork) and realise that either you've just had that weather, are about to have that weather, or some totally different weather's about to hit you.
St AndrewsLow tide always gives some cool texture opportunities. On the left is the big pool outside the aquarium. I don't quite "get" black & white yet, but I really like the photos on this roll - almost half of them are ok, which is good for me. That said, I didn't actually attempt to take pictures of people. So maybe I was cheating a bit.

The infamous West Sands on a crowded Sunday. It was unbelievably cold - those hills and the forest obscured in the distance? That's an ice mist. Yet everyone was out kiting, playing football, walking the dog and allsorts. Lunacy, but admirable lunacy.

The harbour from the balcony of my old flat. Ice mist in the hills. I really do miss St Andrews, and especially this flat. But I'm glad I left.
LondonHammersmith Bridge. I took this on my way to the station to get the tube to get the train to get up to St Andrews.

This is the river by my house at low tide. The actual print for this scan is overexposed. This is one of a set of three, all of which have much higher contrast and saturation on the prints. This is the only digital one that seems to have balance. I almost know what I'm talking about, but not quite.

This is a car driving in front of my house at high tide. I expected it to flood. It didn't - I'm really chuffed I got this picture - I think it's wicked. I don't know why this hippy van has been parked outside for so long but I'm glad it got away from tidal ravages when it did.

I babble too much about my pictures. It's because I'm not used to them and I don't know what I'm doing enough to chat about apeture and shutter speeds and other posh things. I disappoint myself more often than I please myself. Being more comfortable with words, I feel better babbling; attempting to explain. I don't know if it works or if it's just nonsense. If it seems arrogant, me trying to explain, it's not meant to be. It's a case of me not understanding the medium yet, not knowing what is good and what's rubbish, and therefore trying to justify my decisions in posting them. I put up what I like. There. That was easy. I should just leave it at that. But I probably won't.

22 November 2005

Ireland SLR pics. And some other things as well.

These I've mulled over for awhile... bore my vast (not) readership with more pics from Ireland? Well, I really like these. I'm proud of them, darnit, so you'll just have to grin and bear it or wait until I post another nonsense about British Gas or frog-gigging or something.

This is Luke P in front of the parish church in Castletownsend. It was empty on All Soul's Day, and I couldn't work out why, until I discovered it of Church of Ireland as opposed to Roman Catholic.

The harbour at Castletownsend, the morning we left - I was taking pictures while everyone tidied the flat. Oops.
I really like this - even though the colours aren't that vivid, you have the stunning Ring of Kerry coastline in the background, and James Wicken returning from a quick pee in the foreground. Nice juxtaposition.

This was just lucky - and I'm sure there's something wrong with it because I think I like it too much for it to be as good or nice as I think it is. If you spot what's wrong with it, don't tell me.

A close up of the Skelligs - they're really jaggedy, don't you think? Norman Ackroyd RA, one of my favourite print artists, has done some really spectacular studies of these, like this one.

Looking out towards the Skelligs from Bray Head (odd name, that). Should I have risked life and limb and stood right out on that bit of turf, high above the pounding surf and very, very sharp rocks, just to get a cleaner shot? No. Just a hobby guys. There's no one standing in front of a tank in Tiananmen Square with their shopping. Anyway, I still like the shot. I even like the foreground. So there.

In other news, I think I have a job. Temporary, but it means that I'll have some form of income. I'll know more when the 'rents return.

Oh, and go buy the The Best of the Beta Band Music double CD. Their music is awesome and the extra CD, live at Shepherd's Bush from their farewell tour, is incredible.

21 November 2005

Raisins, movies, shop-cricket & frog-gigging... it all adds up to a wonderful and bizarre weekend.

So, back in St Andrews. Was it weird? Shouldn't I be packing? Am I really drinking Dom Perignon '96 while I type this first sentence? Well, the answer is yes to those last two questions. I should be packing, and I do have a glass of seriously fine champagne at my side. But in the misleading spirit of blog entries, it will not be at my side throughout. In fact, it is a sad truth that this first paragraph will be the only one accompanied by bubbly, and that the rest will most likely be written on a train where I mull over the truths I uncovered over the weekend. Or try to recover from my hangover. Or both. Probably both.

I must say though, while I still have bubbly, the following things:

I love St Andrews

Gayden Metcalfe is a total fucking legend.

Bad Santa is a film of genius.

Shop-cricket is the greatest sport of the 21st century.

Hope is not lost.

The new Harry Potter is the best yet (film, not book).

Ben Murray is the world's best shop-cricketer.

These make little sense now but will be explained, not necessarily in order, throughout the course of this post. I just needed to get it out while I still had the bubbly. I'm writing this at 119am. The rest will be written later in the day. Once I finish packing. I need to pack. Because I'm going home tomorrow. It is odd to leave home to go home.

It's now 10 to 11am. I'm on the train and have been tring to sleep but keep waking myself up snoring. Which can't be very pleasant for the people around me, and it is a busy train. I'm also in the "quiet" coach. Which means that while infuriating American tourists speak at inconsiderate volume I can't put my headphones on and drown them out with my iPod. It's one of the more shallow levels of hell, for sure, but continued exposure is indeed torture. I'm surprised the US government isn't using it on terror suspects. Or maybe they are - maybe everyone in the misnamed quiet coach is a terror suspect and the babbling tourists are undercover CIA, chatting inanely about their holiday until someone in the carriage, unable to take their continued questioning of the car rental system, confesses to every terrorist act commited on every continent for the last 25 years. If they keep it up, they will have a queue of confessors.

So, good weekend really. Good enough to need more sleep on the train. Friday night was dinner at the Seafood Restaurant in St Monans, which was awesome. Lots of good food and good wine, followed by pubs. Stevie Mac at Bridges then made the most dreadful cocktails in the history of the world. From the look of it, there were about ten shots of vodka, five tequila & two blue bols topped up with pineapple juice and shaken maniacally. It was then poured into 3 waiting glasses and emerged the colour of a radioactive slush puppy. We were informed it was called a legwarmer. We responded that it would be better described as a stomach churner. Put off by that we switched to Guinness and went home light-footed and very drunk.

I went for a run again in the morning.

Saturday was more effort finding everyone I needed to catch up with. In this case it was the lovely Louisa, who always makes me smile. She's off to Australia today. Very exciting. We had a pizza for lunch and caught up on the gossip.

Then an incredible rugby match - New Zealand vs. England. It's a shame England didn't win but what an awesome game. All there agreed it was one of the greatest games of rugby anyone had ever seen. Sadly Ireland vs. Australia wasn't quite as fun. Somethings missing from Ireland and it's O'Driscoll. They just weren't as exciting as they have been in the past 4 years. It was a shame. Of course, while watching loads of rugby one drinks lots of beer. So on our way again we ordered food and more beer, culminating in Guinness accompanied by chips n' mayo. Too much mayo. Ben and I needed whisky to clean our systems, so we went and bothered Andy's lovely ex, Kirsten, at the Russell Hotel. This was great fun, probably moreso for Ben and I than Kirsten, as she was trying to work and we were trying to make her laugh.

So we left and bought beer and rented Bad Santa, starring Billy Bob Thornton. This is not a movie for the easiliy offended. But it is one of the funniest films I've seen in a very long time. Dark, cynical and miserable, this is the greatest movie to watch if you're getting fed up with Christmas, or just one of those people who hates how early the decorations go up. You have to see it. It is also life-affirming, not because it has a heart-warming, life-affirming message. Oh God, no. But because it shows you a bunch morally retarded reprobates whose lives are so unbelievable dreadful that you can only feel better about how wonderful your life is. Honest. If you watch this movie and think for a second how good they have it, then I weep for you.

Then we went and played darts in the Whey Pat Tavern.

Sunday was Raisin Sunday and for those who don't know, Raisin Sunday is binge drinking raised to a nihilistic art form. A student tradition that has been bastardised into a drinking marathon where the basic premise is that older students (academic parents) get younger students (academic children) drunk. The goals are sex and oblivion in no particular order. In some cases parties start as early as 9 am. I saw someone passed out at noon, having had 17 shots already. Every year I see it I realise I'm maturing when my own great memories are overshadowed by the self-destructive reality of it.

One of my academic sons was up for the weekend and I met him for a pint while he was still some semblance of sober. He'd travelled up for his academic son, my grandson, to get Raisin Revenge on him. Knowing the carnage to follow I retreated for the better part of valour and went to watch Scotland play terrible rugby at Ben's.

After the rugby I needed cheering up. So I went to the new Harry Potter movie. On my own because I am comfortable in my own geekiness to sit in a cinema and watch a movie aimed at an audience 17 years younger than me. And no one else wanted to go with me. It's brilliant. The best of the bunch and I recommend that you reach in, grab hold of the inner child and go along. That said, it's pretty dark, so make sure your inner child isn't easily freaked.

Dinner and shop-cricket followed the film. I've mentioned shop cricket before, but only in passing. Here I even have photos. We even got teams together and scored properly. We had some newcomers to the game, whisky afficionados Rob & Dave. A good hour and a half of intense gaming in a three match test. I barely know what that means but we played two matches and won both, so decided to go to the pub. There were no breakages, in spite of our best efforts. The Italian wines behind the wickets did look a bit worse for the wear to be honest, and closely resembled fallen bowling pins. Both Ben M & the infamous Harry Watkins were on storming form. The photos aren't great quality (taken with the camera on my phone) but I think they get across the general idea. The pub that followed was the Castle Tavern, newly considered cool because of its incredibly cheesy jukebox (I've known this for a long time and have been drinking there for 11 years). It was full of very drunken and quite subdued students. I was expecting rampant snogging and dancing on the tables. That's what it would have been in my day (insert grumpy old man harrumphing here). One of the guys I was with, Ben McLeod, was in first year with me. We worked out that it was our 12th Raisin Sunday. 94, 95, 96, 97, 98, 99, 00, 01, 02, 03, 04 & 05. Frightening.

It was here that I bumped into the legendary Gayden Metcalfe, complete with a lynx fur hat and a massive hug. I should explain. Gayden was one of my favourite customers at Luvians. One of the few of the priviledged students that actually possessed depth of character enough to play the social system and have fun with it rather than becoming a slave to it. She parties hard and loves it. It means she's taking a little longer with her degree but I'm hardly one to comment. Anyway, Gayden was telling me about her summer and the sport of frog-gigging. Now, this is pretty surreal. Chatting to an impeccably decked out lady, complete with fur hat, surrounded by drunkards in Diesel, Armani, Prada & Pink, in one of the sleaziest pubs in town, and she's describing frog-gigging. Because I'll be honest, I hadn't a fucking clue what frog-gigging was. So she told me in her southern belle twang. You get a canoe and you go out into the swamp at night with a spotlight (or in her case, flashlight). It's a canoe with an outboard motor, ultra swamphick chic. You have a big spear and you listen for frogs. They make that bass ribbit noise apparently, you keep a sharp eye out for alligators. There are lots of those, and they're bigger than the canoe. And their eyes shine red in the flashlight. Which, you know, is scary. Anyway, avoiding alligators, you follow the noise of the frog songs and when you get to the frog you spear it and have frog legs for breakfast. I reckon most of the other girls, and quite a few of the guys, in the pub that night would have stood on the nearest barstool and shrieked castrato had they seen an alligator's eyes glowing red in the night. Or a bullfrog for that matter. So yeah, huge props to Gayden. Made my night, I liked Raisin Sunday again and had hope for my partying successors.

So here I am on the train, a comedy of errors involving overcrowding, too much luggage, muslim clerics in the wrong seats, & loud Americans (who, I swear to God, saw a sheep out the window and screamed "Oh my god, look! It's a SHEEP!!). Now, if you've ever been on the train between Edinburgh and London, you'll know that there are a lot of sheep to be seen. They're pretty ubiquitous to the journey. Everywhere. It makes one think the legendary Graham Greene wrote fantasy, as the title of one his novels is The Quiet American, and I've yet to find one. Myself included. I shut up pretty quick when others are around though, for fear of being guilty by association.

So that's my overbearing, overwordy gibberish about the weekend. There were some downsides, of course. The same as when I used to visit London (as opposed to live there); I couldn't see everyone I wanted to - so to Ellie H and Captain Crawford, my most immense apologies for missing you. And Malia, babe, I'm sorry I didn't get to cook some food for you - I'll make it up to you on the 29th, I promise.

I'm pretty tired. I'm thankful I was organised and actually booked my seats. I want, some day, to drive the top, coastal half of this east coast line with my camera and take photos of the coast as it is stunning. I'm glad heading south is heading home this time. Was St Andrews weird? Yeah, but no moreso than usual.

18 November 2005


This is my 101st post. Big dorky geek am I.

Last night I accomplished everything one needs to accomplish when visiting St Andrews:

Massive Balaka - check

Too much to drink - check

Lament how awful students are - check

Lament how awful but attractive students are - check

Lament how not a student anymore - check

Go back to someone's flat for "just the one" - check

Marvel how the barstaff at your local didn't notice you'd been away - check

Breathe immense sigh of relief that you don't live here anymore - check

Sigh with immense regret that you don't live here anymore - check

Remind oneself that the fat, bald almost 30-year-old isn't going to go home with the vacuous, sexy, over-privileged almost 20-year-old. - check

I went for a run this morning to clear head. It worked but it hurt. Try running carrying 3 stone that you shouldn't be and you'll know why. Bleah.

Fine dining tonight. Though it means I have to miss a party for someone I adore at a place that I love. Which is not supposed to be the case, dammit. Poo. Everything in my life should be neatly scheduled so I that don't have to miss the things that I love.

Now, for the ultimate morning-after-back-in-st-andrews-question:

What am I going to do for lunch?

16 November 2005

Something cool

I found this today, during my lunch break. It looks very cool.

Another conversation

Little Nagging Voice: Good morning.

Me: Oh no.

LNV: It's your own fault, you know.

Me: Really?

LNV: Yeah, really.

Me: How so?

LNV: It's pretty obvious. And you know how so, because I know how so, and I'm a part of you.

Me: Don't remind me.

LNV: You're not in a very good mood today. And I'm going to start asking questions soon...

Me: Please don't. It's been a long and kind of extended weekend and dealing with questions from my own conciousness makes me feel dizzy.

LNV: A long extended weekend? It's Wednesday. You must've worked real hard last week to earn a long weekend.

Me: Bugger off.

LNV: So when did this weekend actually start?

Me: ...

LNV: Around 18 October, maybe?

Me: I've done loads, keeping the house tidy...

LNV: Jan does that, not you.

Me: Sorting the mail - my folks get a lot of mail.

LNV: That took you an afternoon. Yesterday afternoon, in fact.

Me: Setting the clock.

LNV: This is getting pathetic.

Me: Taking the garbage out.

LNV: Yes, congratulations on not forgetting it this week.

Me: Fuck you.

LNV: So, how's the exercise going? Considering you hate the shape you're in, you'd think you were hammering away at the NordicTrack.

Me: I only did it twice last week - I got sidetracked. And drunk. And I had house guests.

LNV: Dude, you can only manage 15 minutes tops anyway. If you dragged your lazy arse out of bed when you woke up instead of rolling over and going back to sleep, you could have done it without ignoring your guests.

Me: Well, yeah, I suppose, but - I love my bed.

LNV: It's not your bed. It's the guest bed. As soon as the 'rents get back, they're going to throw your arse out back. And do you love your bed more than you hate being fat?

Me: No. But, well, being well-rested is almost as important as being in good shape.

LNV: If you were in good shape, your lazy arse wouldn't need to sleep so much, dipshit. It's not as though you're resting after a hard day's work.

Me: Well, duh.

LNV: Nice comeback. Is that exceptional wit making its way into the novel?

Me: Of course.

LNV: Did you notice my snide remark about lack of hard day's work?

Me: Yes.

LNV: And what work are you supposed to be doing?

Me: Writing.

LNV: And are you doing this work?

Me: You can't give me shit for not being able to write! It's you that's stopping me; whispering in my ear that I'm deluding myself - that I won't be able to get it published, that sooner or later I'll capitulate and crumble and run with my tail between my legs back to Luvians or some other job! And that it would be better to watch a video rather than waste my time trying to write... How dare you give me shit for not writing!

LNV: That's not me.

Me: Of course it's you, you're the voice that nags me.

LNV: There are lots of different voices.

Me: It sounds just like you.

LNV: Well, it's not. That's the Self-Doubt Voice; he works a lot with the Procrastination Voice. They're not popular with the other voices. And of course we all have the same voice, we're all you. Duh.

Me: Very witty. And why am I not comforted by there being lots of you?

LNV: Hey, be grateful we're merely facets of your conciousness; we could could be different personalities, and then you'd be in the loony bin.

Me: Don't look now, but you just comforted me instead of nagging me.

LNV: Oh.

Me: Don't worry too much; it wasn't all that comforting.

LNV: Good. So, what are your plans for the rest of the day?

Me: I'm going to go exercise and then work on my novel.

LNV: Are you sure?

Me: How could I not after this conversation?

LNV: Anything else?

Me: I've got to pack for St Andrews this weekend.

LNV: Can you really afford that?

Me: No.

LNV: Didn't think so.

15 November 2005

The Bear Necessities...

Nicknames I have had:

Pumbah (the warthog from the Lion King...)
Dr Bré (like Dr Dré, geddit?)
Baloo (my number 1 all-time favourite - named after the bear in the Jungle Book by one of my best mates while dancing around to The Bare Necessities as he was convinced that I was indeed Baloo reincarnated. It may be the best compliment I've ever received)
Patch (shinty name)
The Weird Kid (I was 4, and liked wearing mismatched socks and shoes, ie 1 sneaker & 1 loafer - our downstairs neighbour thought that was weird and named me appropriately - I considered it a title of honour. Well, to be honest, I just thought it was cool - honour doesn't come much into a 4 year-old's emotional spectrum)
Richard the Turd (not a favourite)

Why list these? I got drunk with a friend last night and we got ridiculously nostalgic, toasting our friends far-and-near, and recalling exploits of the past and dancing like lunatics to the terrible tunes of our youth. We demanded an epic reunion and refilled glasses, trying to remember how Whigfield's Saturday Night dance went and laughing that she's now doing gigs in dodgy nightclubs in Peterborough.

It was great, and just what I needed. Sometimes you need to go over what you loved, what you did, all the people you were with to get on with doing new things.

Now when you pick a Pawpaw
Or a prickly pear
And you prick a wrong paw,
Well next time beware

Don't pick a prickly pear by the paw
When you prick a pear try to use the claw
But you don't need to use the claw
When pick a pear of the big Pawpaw

Have I given you a clue?

The bare necessities of life will come to you...

I think I'll go write something else for the rest of the day.

14 November 2005

4th time lucky

I failed. Stupidly. What a moron I am. And it wasn't like I drove like an arsehole - I didn't. I just forgot to look when I was reverse parking. Motherfucker. And my examiner was really nice as well. Didn't let on at all that I'd failed only 10 minutes into the goddamned thing. So my plan to drive up to St Andrews this week has changed slightly. I have no idea what I'm going to do. I've spent £400 on lessons in the last 2 months. Really quite annoyed. Aggrevated. Grumpy. FUCK!!!! I want to cry and punch someone and wake up and realise I haven't taken it yet. Just want to have it done with. Serves me right for waiting so long. Another test booked. 14 December. Please let it be over with then.

The reception...

I was mildly sceptical about the reception banquet. I was told that it was mediaeval and that the band played mournful folk ballads. That was not my idea of fun. I was ready to cringe and willing to drink myself to the state where I didn't care. Fortunately, rumours of mournful folk ballads were wildly exaggerated and the whole mediaeval thing was very well done.

Matt took the sword, as the groom was Lord of the Castle for the night. It was a pity there wasn't a dungeon as Andrew Hendry's drunken antics managed to upset anyone that wasn't used to it. Meaning all of Matt's new in-laws.

Luke P's best man speech. Funny and not 100% incriminating. Matt breathed a hefty sigh of relief and then Luke proceeded, during the course of the meal, to tell Matt's mother everything about his misbehaviour during and subsequent to university, including the arrest for drunken golf cart thievery. Wicked.

The first dance. Aw. There was a lot of dancing, and for good reason; the band was awesome!

Adam attempted to keep Andrew from too much trouble, and this is a rare moment where he succumbed to some booze sleep. Sadly it did not last, instead it seemed to reinvigorate him. Looks can be deceiving. Sleeping he looks all peaceful and innocent; awake he's a lunatic drunken pervert. In the nicest way.

The band. They were amazing, the everyone leaping about dancing like mental. So much so that apparently Georgie Wicken broke her jaw. But I've not confirmed that, and my source is famous for his bullshit.

Andrew unleashed. He was stopped before he could finish exposing himself to the wedding party.

All in all it was an amazing wedding. I'm still kind of recovering.