13 August 2005

Nooks & crannies...

I just read this while checking out some Red Sox stuff. How cool is that? Granted, it would have been cooler if the guy didn't have to check out any satellite pics, but there's something about finding forgotten places, items, whatever that compels. We don't know everything, not everything is written down and there is still a massive amount of room for discovery in the world. I'm not saying a sign-posted path should be beaten to all these things, on the contrary - most of them should be left untouched. But still. That's not the point - there's still adventure to be had! There's stuff to find! Find it! Don't always tell someone though. And clean up after yourself. It would suck if the next explorers stumbled upon your cigarette butts and empty beer cans.

Little things...

The Red Sox beat the White Sox last night and in first place against the Yankees by 5 games. This is a very good thing. I'll stop before I bore you all with Baseball. But today is looking a great deal better than it did at 9 this morning.


First off - gadgets. I suppose I would describe myself as a bit of a gadget geek. I have an iBook, an iMac, an iPod & and a Shuffle, digital camera, DV camcorder, smart(ish) phone, iBoom, dictaphone, and many other odd objects kicking about - some of which I don't know the whole story behind why I have them. I got my new phone the other day, and it works. I upgraded because my previous phone didn't work, so the new one working was a bonus.

I took it out, I played with it - successfully transferred all my contacts to it, had a go at the camera which was pretty incredible for a phone. And now I'm at a bit of a loose end. There isn't anyone I need to phone in particular. Or text. And when I take a picture, I want to use a real camera.

And my computers... I'm finding that unless I have something to do - be it email, check something on the net, write, update this blog, load some photos or do some web design, I don't really want to just be using them for the sake of fiddling.

Am I growing out of gadgets? It would be a good thing, particularly for my bank account. But still a considerable rite of passage. Some guys never get over them.

It's like realising that I'm a morning person in denial. I wake up naturally about 7 but for some reason force myself to go back to sleep to be rudely awakened by my alarm and feeling far worse than I did an hour before. I might preempt a New Years resolution and start getting up when I wake up. I'll keep the alarm on for back up.

Anyway... things have been strange over the last couple of days. I feel like I was away for a lot longer than I was. And I had loads of stuff to write. Simple, obvious observations and questions that piqued my curiosity. But I can't quite get a grasp of them. I'm wondering why I write this blog. My mother told me she was surprised by how personal it is. I hadn't noticed at the time. Reading over it, there are a few things discretion should probably have edited. But it's there. There are some things I don't talk about, I suppose. This is accessible to anyone after all.

Originally I meant to use the blog as a means to write everyday, even if I couldn't focus on one of my big projects, I'd be getting stuff out of my head and onto the screen. It wasn't really meant to be a journal, which is what I think it's becoming. If I forget my intentions, what I wanted to say, does it matter that I had them in the first place?

I have an issue with self-doubt at the moment. I'm questioning almost everything I do and everything I want to do. It's an attempt to be objective but judging how dreadful I feel about things this morning it's shifted to full-blown pessimism. It may be something to do with working all weekend.

It's not all bad news - an old friend is in town and she makes me smile so big my cheeks hurt. And she's amazing at hugs, as are all the friends she brought. So here's to some big hugs and cheering up.

12 August 2005

W. A. C.

There is a time for silly. This week that time was Monday night. After a day of much work, the clock struck 5 and my mid-week weekend started. So after buying much meat, beer, coffee beans and wine I caught a lift with Sam and the lovely Charlie (for Charlotte, not Charles) and off to Naughton (big house in the middle of nowhere - often the party epicentre of North Fife) we went. Well, we had to stop by Cupar first to pick up Pete W, sous chef extraordinaire and also the bearer of fine booze. Little did we know that there was a bearer of shit booze as well - but more on that later...

So we got to Naughton to find much joy, revelry, beer and football. Pete C was on top form in spite of a 5am start and almost 10 hours driving the horse box up from Hertfordshire. My 2nd girlfriend was from Hertfordshire. Anyway. Lil was there as well and then Ellie, Elise, Dave, Louisa, Harry, Becky, Noel, Kirsty (late, as bloody usual, but she brought great buns... and some bread rolls) all turned up in a staggered arrival pattern. It was a wee bit chilly but the BBQ spirit had taken us and I started making burgers inside while everyone persevered to have fun outside.That's the 2 Petes (C on the left, W on the right) - In the background you can see Noel telling Lil he'd like to take pictures of her. Or something...

Sadly it was not the weather that perturbed our BBQ in the end... it was a lack of propane. We noticed this when the BBQ was getting colder. Fortunately we hadn't put the burgers on yet and the salad had yet to be tossed. So it transmogrified (total Calvin word there) from a BBQ party to a kitchen party after vein attempts to play football were also aborted.

So we ate burgers, a hastily prepared salad and a massive amount of ice cream, for the lucky there were Stroopwafeln..

Kitchen parties rock. We had the iPod hooked up to the speakers and were talking total nonsense.Then the purveyor of shit booze made themselves known... yes, Sam had brought the legendary, the one and only... Wild Africa Cream, a true train wreck of a drink, combining gag reflex with nausea. We all tried a taste, some from brandy snifters while the more brave, lunatic among us took a slightly different route, choosing instead to face the danger head on, so Pete C grabbed the bottle and tucked in. I stuck to the brandy snifter myself but the result in both cases was the same. It was so unpleasant that the bottle was put aside and beer and wine were used in copious quantities to rinse our violated palates. It was destiny that it would make a reappearance.
Kitchen parties at Naughton consist of loads of silly things happening all at once and nobody really all that sure which particular silliness they're taking part in... this is a good example of the situation... sometimes there is table diving and almost constantly laughter. I'm not entirely sure what everyone is laughing about in this instance but I guess the point comes across. Much hysteria later and we all realised that the kitchen was a terrible mess. So we ran away... It was suggested that we play charades. So we did. We split into teams and came up with a forfeit... yes, the leopard-spotted beauty returned and the forfeit determined. If you failed to get the charade within 1min. 30sec. then the person charading had to sup Wild Africa Cream from a champagne glass. Unsurprisingly, Dave had to drink after this bewildering effort.Eventually we ran out of cream... so I made some more from a mix containing tequila, bailey's, malibu, whisky and anything else we could find. That got drunk too. I think that's when we all went to bed. I'm sure there's other stuff, but I can't remember. To be honest, I'm not sure if this all happened as I described it. But it was just what I needed. As was the convalescence that followed. Probably another post that, as I'm tired and need my bed.

07 August 2005

Pittenweem & Elie

The last day or two have been brilliant. Yesterday a friend of mine in Pittenweem invited myself and my flatmate over to his to watch the harbourside fireworks display celebrating the opening of the nth annual Pittenweem Arts Festival. It's essentially a massive art exhibition with almost a hundred "galleries" - some of them as simple as an artists front room - open for viewing throughout the town. It's made special by a few things. First of all, the town is tiny, pretty much a village, yet the opening and the festival itself attract several thousand visitors. The other thing is that while the fishing industry is sadly dying in this part of the world there is something rising from the ashes. There isn't the desolation that the death of local industry can cause in some places. It gives room for optimism...

So anyway, Andy and I rocked up to Steve's with a case of beer, a case of wine, loads of sausages and my own home-made burgers. I'd never been to Steve's before and the view was amazing.A few more people started arriving and after a few sausages and a burger we decided to head down and check out the festival itself, so a brief walk and another amazing viewlater and we were in the thick of it (that photo is of the Isle of May - the first history of Scotland was written there, in the now ruined monastery). Great atmosphere, good pipe band (a totally different league from the guy who loiters outside the cathedral in St Andrews) and a few pints were had before we went back to Steve's to see the torchlit procession. It was getting dark at this point, so my pictures weren't turning out so well,but it was quite cool in an almost Frankenstein type way, with the villagers grabbing torches to storm the castle.The fireworks then started shortly afterwards. I was at the event last year and the haar (sea-fog) was so thick that instead of actually seeing the explosions and hearing the crack there were just muffled booms and technicolour glowing in the clouds - which was cool, but not quite fireworks. This was the real deal this time, the night was clear as could be and I felt like a kid again, wanting each boom and blast to bigger than the last. I tried to get a cool photo, but a photo of a firework is never quite the same. This is the one of about 20 that I like the best:And it's still not great. I also took a lot with my SLR but have no idea how they turned out yet.

After the fireworks Andy I went back. Quite tired. We questioned why a small fishing village was able to host such a fun, culturally enriching festival while St Andrews got stuck with the bloody Lammas. LA Story was on - a film I have curious affection for.

Today then brought me to Elie, another coastal town in Fife with a fantastic beach within the harbour. The Ship Inn do an outdoor seafood BBQ on Sundays which fit the bill for an awesome lunch. The light kept changing and I tried taking a pic or two using my Oakleys as a filter - I kind of like it. I think it gives it a bit of sepia tone without being too grainy.

So, a burger and a cajun-spiced salmon on the way we met a new friend, named Fudge. I'm not a big small dog fan. In fact, small dogs have to be extra cool in order to outshine the image of annoying yappy dog in my mind. Fudge succeeded in this - he belonged to the table next to us and was a Norfolk Terrier. I asked if that meant he had webbed feet and either they didn't get the Fens reference, or were horribly offended. I hope it was the former. This is Fudge, being lavished with attention by Jill and Andy while Chris watches.Lunch was really good, but kind of filling, so I went for a walk to check out the always quiet beach on the other side of the harbour. I wanted to get everyone on a walk but they just fancied going back to play boules in St Andrews. Ah well.

Cadiz pics

These are the crazy city walls that defend the old city of Cadiz. Those road entrances were only added in the 50s. For hundreds of years before hand the only entrance was that central gate.
This is the only decent shot I got of the cathedral due to my poor navigation skills. Still, you can see how it's half marble and half oyster stone (that's the local stone).
This is one of the forts that defended the city, with Graeme looking out for enemy warships. He didn't find any, so we went to lunch.

This is where we had lunch. Those are real pig legs hanging from the ceiling. It was brilliant.

These are the Cruzcampo beer taps. Bronzed pig legs. Now that's a beer tap, none of this rubbish tennents with neon red "T"s.

The whole city juts out into the Atlantic and is protected by these enourmous sea walls. I would have loved to see it during a storm but was happy that the weather, aside from a bit of rain when we first got there, was quite nice.

Those hills, across the water and partially obscured by mist... that's Africa. Graeme and I were giddy when it clicked. Across that water and behind those hills: the vast continental expanse stretched beyond. It was a very strange and wonderful feeling. Like, oh, around that corner, that's a continent.

Jerez part the last...

This last batch of notes seem a great deal more coherent than any of the others, due to most of the day being spent in a car, giving me a lot of time to write.

"Fri 13 May

Got away in good time though Puertal a bit of a mystery - we tried for a good 20 min. to get into the city befroe deciding to fuck it & go straight to Cadiz, which was stunning.

The bridge across the bay from the North gives the misleading impression of an island - though it's nice to be leaving the industrial Puero Real behind.

Ave de Andalucia along the neck of the peninsula reminded me of Miami & not in a good way. Mostly tasteless highrises with the exception of Hotel Playa Victoria - quite tasteful.

The entry to the old city is monumental. The ancient city walls are around 10 metres thick (perhaps more). Gives the impression of a city very much used to siege. We sort of follow the flow of traffic and, on the way to finding a parking space find the bus stop where the tour bus takes off from.

Find parking under Plaza St Antonio. I remember the plaza from the Jerez tour map (flip side: Cadiz). It's poretty central & I have the Rough Guide out to find lunch & points of interest. We stumble upon the topiary gardens (name?) & some other Boulevards that look over the Bahia Cadiz. I thought the Ficus were Mangrove trees. Only in retrospect does this seem as stupid as it is.

The guide points to 2 potentially brillianrt lunch spots very close by (plaza?) - but first breakfast. Graeme & I both seem keen on some places & less on others. I'm beginning to really like Cadiz. We agree on café con leche e tostados at Salon Italiano.

We wander to the bus stop via PLaza de Espana - pic opp - then get on the tour bus. Pretty girl collecting tickets. My headphones didn't work to start. Something about an electric clock & Ben Franklin.

Leave the old town along the West Side and see the beaches - huge - surfers, ugly buildings, moving cemetary (!)

Back to old town - neoclassical prison, now courthouse, Friary where the last stand against the French took place early 19C, Cathedral - took 122 years to build due to the decline of the city, originally to be ENTIRELY marble, but oyster stone used eventually. Nice forts. After tour we seek Cathedral and fail due to my total ineptitude with a map. Along the way we find the Market which looks AMAZING & see loads of the back streets - really love Cadiz.

*POI - the fishermen paint houses different colours to make it easier to see off shore (apparently) - go to the fort - very thick walls. Stunning views. Hotel Atlantico: State owned 5 stars. Royal family stay there.Lunch @ Cumbres Mayores - what a bar/restaurant/deli! Beer taps are bronzed Jamon joints! Food is amazing - salt cod and anchovie sarnies that have incredible flavour, jamon amazing, Graeme orders chorizo & stew that rock! As good as it was, as we left I spy the seafood bar across the street & feel a pang of regret. Next time... & there will be a next time!

Mistake with parking ticket & we're out of there with all of our stuff. I was a bit nervous. Half a mind to see the cathedral on the way out but Cadiz traffic conspires against us. Oh well. Next time.

Drive is punctuated by CD player hiccups until Tariffe when the scenery becomes very interesting & incredibly, we see Africa. Don't think any of my high velocity photos will have come out worth a shit but still... to see Africa...

We pass Gibraltar & decide to let it pass for the sake of time & it being full of sunburned English wankers.

The closer to Malaga we get the more distasteful Spain becomes. Far too many signs in English, far too many golf courses, far too many HIDEOUS developments. The incredible majesty of the hills that these colonies lay at the foot of make it more sad. Good for the economy etc. & all that nonsense, but it does nothing for my sense of the aesthetic.

After a bit of a farce trying to refuel the car before handing it back we get to the airport & spend 90 min waiting for the wrong checkin desk to open, paying too much for beer and thinking the food has dropped in quality since Cadiz. Malaga airport sucks, & checkin, when we got to the right desk, reinforced my hatred of golfers considerably. Deepened by the number of total fucking arseholses with excess luggage that made the checkin process molasses slow. Fucking 90kg each. Wankers.

Bought a bit of ham & pork loin for Andy. Airport food indescribably bad. Bonus in GIANT SAN MIGUEL NOSTRO. Wow. Good buzz for the flight. Fit stewardess as well. Take off close to on time. Assigned seats & chairs with pockets a bonus. My own bed tonight... ah well"

So that was my holiday... monumentally boring to most people, though most people don't read this blog. But Graeme, I hope you read it and it stirred up some memories because when/if you come back from Australia we have to go back. Last batch of pics will be up soon.