07 July 2006


You may already have seen it - I just grabbed it from a Wired link. Brilliant stuff - though probably not how the free world should be run. Enjoy. And have a good weekend.

*Update* - I don't know why I bother writing that. It's not like this is a news service. I just can't be bothered to do another post, so I'm adding to this one.



What was I going to write? Oh, yeah. Uh. Well, after all that it's stupid, but I've now had over 2000 visitors. I know it's only about 10 people 200 times. And considering this has been up for 19 months now, that's rubbish. But it's also a nice round number.

Tonight was pizza, beer and 80's comedies Real Genius and Better Off Dead. The former a reminder that Val Kilmer was once cool and the other that John Cusack has always been, and always will be, cool. And the French chick in Better Off Dead was hot. I'm not sure she was really French - but she was hot. As good a reason as any to support them in the World Cup final, I suppose. That, and the Italians cheat. Heh.

pirates, curry, poker and awakenings

There are certain inalienable truths to life. Sometimes they are crushing. For a 7 year-old boy, it was learning that he'd never be Indiana Jones, even if he did become a great archaeologist. Which he didn't. For a 30 year-old boy, it's realising that he will never, ever, be as cool as (Captain) Jack Sparrow. Though with a bit of rum, he may be as drunk.

Go see Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest. It's awesome.

I returned this morning from stilted children and giant green daschunds to find an invite to a curry this evening. The invite came from an old mate and involved other old mates. And curry. So I accepted. Thank goodness for that. Already on a bit of a rush from the swashbuckling, a catch-up, a few beers, food and longing for less responsible times was in order.

And to be honest, not much had changed. My half-hearted attempt to catch the tube after dinner was disposed of swiftly by the invite to poker and several drinks. So we got back to the flat and searched for cards and scoured the booze cabinets to work out what was drinkable. And I did something I haven't done in a long time. I just mixed up some crazy fucking cocktails. No nose-in-the-air snobby drinking, this was strip-mining a liquor cabinet and desperate-for-mixer drinking and I made some fun shit and we drank a bunch of it and played poker and talked rubbish. When we were students, we would have done the same and slept until noon. One of the people playing had an important interview first thing, another had to pick up his most important client at 715am, one of us had to write a novel and somebody actually worked for a living. So, if you look at it right, we're even better than we used to be. I'll be running in the morning. The only running I did as a student was - wait, nope. None. Never. Well, shinty perhaps, so that's 3 times in seven years.

So it's groovy. The thing is, it wasn't for a bit. I was thinking too much, letting items of little import weigh me down. I was going to cancel my birthday party. Too many people couldn't make it, it was 2 months after my actual birthday, I didn't really deserve a party, I needed to pack - all sorts of self-pitying bollocks. I remembered a time when nothing short of a nuclear bomb would have stopped me throwing a party, cancellations were quickly replaced by luck, happenstance and beautiful women and even the hangovers were fun. I tried to work out what had changed.
Fuck all.
Nothing's changed.
So the party's fucking on, the invites are still going out, the food's going to be awesome (sorted the menu yesterday - genius), the booze will be flowing and there may even be a piñata. Because piñata are cool. And you know it.

I may even give it a theme. At the last minute. Or give everyone a different theme? We did a mediaeval spaceman party once. Surely that can be topped? Theme suggestions in comments.

06 July 2006

field trips

The green dogs were still lapping at the river on my run this morning. I think one's a long-haired daschund. As strange as that sounds, and unable to shake the image as I am, I saw something even stranger this morning.

Do you remember school field trips? I do. Museums, zoos, aquariums, desperate to be educational, more often than not a disciplinary nightmare for teachers. From the age of 6 to 11 I was taught by nuns. In third grade, aged 8, they took us to Historic Plymouth, Massachusetts. It's one of these places that tries, quite successfully, to be a timewarp, to give people an idea of what it was like in the early 17th Century. A replica of the Mayflower sits docked in the harbour. I remember thinking how small it was. A single dirt road lined by log huts and cabins, livestock running about, a well in the middle of the street, this was ancient times in our minds. Maids in puritan dress plucked dead chickens and turkeys in front of us. Which, to a bunch of 8 year-olds from the city and suburbs, was about as gruesome and primitive as you can get. It also lead to disaster. There was a pile of discarded feathers next to the maid. This was just too tempting. Some of the boys grabbed handfuls of feathers and chased the girls with the bloody ends, running down the dirt road, roaring while the girls shrieked.

Courtship was simpler then.

I was dragged by the ear to the bus. When I was in Boston in May, an old friend remarked how it was always me that got caught, regardless of how many others were involved. He was right. The only homework we had after these field trips was to draw the thing we liked most about the day. I think I drew the Mayflower. My friend Joey drew me being dragged to the schoolbus by Sister Janice, a fistful of bloody feathers in my hand. He wound up in trouble, and I got in more trouble, my reputation as a bad influence proved in Crayola.

Art became a focus of field trips. During my GCSEs, museums attended dutifully with sketchbooks, searching for a great work to do no justice whatsoever. I loved soft pencils- they looked cool on the page and made a mess. 4 or 6B was the way to go. Wouldn't touch an H pencil. Far too boring.

Even when I went back to the States for High School, our field trips brought us to musuems. The Met was my favourite. I didn't have time to draw anything badly because there was too much to see. I should have gone to the Guggenheim.

So today, on my run, on the grass by the river just before you get to The Dove, was a group of about 30 kids, 7 or 8 - no more, having the best field trip ever. It was a stilt party. I ran by 30 kids on stilts, walking and running around having the best time ever. I couldn't imagine, at any point in my education, having a teacher say, "I know, let's find a company that will put all the kids in stilts and let them run around and have a great time". It's fun and wish fulfillment at the same time. What kid doesn't want to be taller? What kid doesn't want to run around in the grass, taller than their teacher, hitting eachother with baloons?

We didn't have stilts in my day. We had to make do with feathers.

05 July 2006

green sheepdogs and other matters

The accumulation of 30 years of trinkets, books, clothes, computers, cameras, lenses, photos, boxes, printers, pens, pencils, sketchbooks, posters, correspondence, trophies, nik-naks, invites, scarves, empty wine bottles, a Big Mouth Billy Bass, a no entry sign, traffic warning lights, alarm clocks, stationery, paperwork, school files, uni files, cds, dvds, videos, birthday cards await my attention. Most to be packed for storage, some to be brought to Scotland. My earnest intention to properly sift through it all, chucking the needless - which is plentiful - and carefully organising and packing the rest, will come to naught. It will be frantic and emotional. There will no doubt be one thing placed in a certain box that brings it all home and tears will follow. Or not. I'm quite numb about it - the urgency and anxiety of this whole house shenanigan has been replaced by an urgency and anxiety to just leave.

Gazing about the Belfry at the piles of stuff that in some way plots the course my life has run gives me the curious desire to just leave it all. Slice through the umbilical cord that is the sentimental attachment to inanimate objects, keep only what's practical and fits a small backpack and leave, with no forwarding address. The backpack would have The Essays of E. B. White, several notebooks, including the new suede one which would double as a sketchbook, several pens, a toothbrush and toothpaste, a clean pair of boxers and a pair of socks. And a spare t-shirt.

Alas, it's a combination of cowardice and sentimentality that keeps me here. It's six of one and half dozen of another. There's also a sense of duty; to help my folks this one last time through the next month - if that's another six, then there's 18 in total. But the three fit so easily together like puzzle pieces that it's hard to tell which one excuses the other.

Rain hit us quite hard early this morning. It's a testimony to how hot it is still, that by the time I ran the ground was mostly dry. The air was not, it was as though the city and river were sweating the rain water back skywards and it was like running in a sauna. As I sweat last night's beer, the city sweat out its morning drink. It was like jogging in one of those water cycle diagrams you had to study in school.

Running today brought some rare surrealism. Crossing to the Barnes side of the Thames, I looked across the water to the Chiswick path I'd just left. The agéd willows, drooping over the river, looked like giant green dogs, stooped on their forepaws to lap at the water. Some like sheepdogs, some like bloodhounds, I couldn't shake the image as I ran into the woods, wondering for the life of me if someone across the river was looking at the willows I was running by and thinking how much they looked like dogs.

04 July 2006

I'm starting to write this without a title. Usually I start with the title. If you're reading it and there's still no title, well, then I guess inspiration passed me over. A title's not hugely important, really.

Sometimes things happen quite quickly. This morning, my father made an offer on a house just up the road, though quite a bit smaller than Staithe, and that offer was accepted. Whether the lady who owns it will be out of it in time for us to move in before we have to move out of here - who knows?

Just over a year ago, last August, I decided to move to London to write my book.
I've decided to move back to Scotland - but not to St Andrews - before the end of the summer. In August, in fact. The first draft of my book will be finished by then.

We had a 4th of July BBQ with loads of food, the Stars n' Stripes waving, some actual Americans, fireworks, and strawberry shortcake. There was treeclimbing and everything.

Need bed now. Sleep's getting better.