Sunday, 31 August 2008

The long way up

My legs are a little achey today as yesterday Harry and myself climbed Ben Arthur, or the Cobbler, as it's most popularly known. A good walk, 884m (2946 ft) in height and and 5.5 miles in all, though it seems longer. Harry is the expert when it comes to the hillwalking having completed all the Munros south of Fort William, as well as walks in New Zealand and Sri Lanka to name a few. Unfortunately I am a mere amateur. The last time I was on the hills was around three years ago on Ben Vorlich. Harry led us into Arrochar in the morning, the small town that sits on Loch Long, and from the small car park at the foot of the hill we set off. Unfortunately for us it was a very grey, misty day and the clouds hung low over the peaks around Loch Long but the rain held off and the temperature remained pretty warm, with only a slight smir of rain in the air, making it a pleasant climb up the front side of the hill.

We took the harder route up over the rocks and burn descending on its southern side. The mist held fast though and the views and skyline were still completely cloaked at the top of the mountain. The rocks were also quite slippy so, once at the top, we had to opt out of 'threading the needle' which is involves crawling through a hole in the summit rock formation from the north side and climbing up on to the very highest peak, a metre length rock standing over a 100 ft drop. The rocks were just too slippy for any foolhardy attempts.

We rested at the foot of the needle and had our lunch talking with some fellow walkers, who were taking a break from Fir Park. After our short break, Harry led the way down the northern side of the mountain, not hitting the proper path until around a quarter of the way down. We passed many a walker on the way down, all following the walkers code of pleasantly greeting one another as we stomped along on our various routes to and fro. I was even surprised to meet someone I knew from back in the Auldhouse days when I worked behind the bar. Alastair was sitting rolling a cigarette, having a break with his son, his camera tripod sitting at his side. He was going up the hill to try and get some photos. On the trek I managed to get a few shots on the hillside myself but it was just unfortunate the views from the peak were mere cloud. I'll probably revisit it at some point in the near future and try and get a decent view next time (I'll be putting the rest of the photos I did take on reidnet's photo album shortly). As we descended it looked as if the mist was clearing a one point only for it to quickly drift over again and submerge the top half of the hill once more. Even though the views from the top were poor there's nothing quite like a good walk in the hills. It's strange to think that these hills, and fantastic landscapes, sit just an hour outside the chaotic city scenes of Glasgow and home.
In the evening Ka and myself headed to the Shawfield Stadium, for the first time, to the dog racing, and to meet up with Claire and Martin and the rest of the mad squad to celebrate Claire turning the big 3 - 0 . There was also the hope of maybe winning some money at the same time. Claire's brother, William, had hired her a wee surprise. After we arrived and hooked up with Cheryl, Roslyn and Aaron inside, Claire, Martin and some of the others turned up after a few glasses of champagne on the Scooby Doo Bus! All drinking champagne except the birthday girl, herself, of course, who is preggers. Scooby snacks have certainly changed since I last watched the cartoon. Needless to say some fun was had, but alas, Ka and myself were unlucky with all our bets and didn't win anything. Claire's Dad managed to win over fifty quid, Jane managed to win a good thirty pounds but our dogs were pipped at the post (or finishing line in this case) everytime. Can't win 'em all. We all had a good time though and enjoyed the night.

Friday, 29 August 2008

Jubilant scenes

Woohoo! Friday time again... at last. The weekend is almost here, and I'm skiving in work writing this. I've just had The Friday Scone with my tea after lunch. It's a tradition. We all chip in three pounds, once every eight weeks or so, and get The Friday Scone at the end of each week. Whoever's paying on that week, jumps into the office at nine o'clock on the friday morning and lifting their arms into the air shouts wildly, "The Scones are on me!". We reply by all cheering happily and run up, hoist the person up on to our shoulders and carry them to their seat in the office applauding. Or that's how it should be!
Not unlike a scene from Edinburgh from during the week, when Chris Hoy and his fellow Scottish athletes came home from the Olympics. Even though they done brilliantly in getting their golds, silvers and bronzes I bet the athletes are feeling more jubilant at the fact they've come back victorious when the British really didn't expect too much. The athletes went over to Beijing with the majority of British folk not really giving two hoots and came back with riotous crowds, medals weighing them down and MBEs. That'll maybe teach the British population to pay more attention next time instead of suddenly appreciating the Olympic Games, and our athletes, when things start going our way.

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Be seeing you

AMC tv in conjunction with itv have started production on a new, modern day version of 'The Prisoner'. I think this is great news as the original sixties tv series was brilliant. An intelligent, weird, complicated science fiction reflecting much of the attitudes and occurences of what was happening at the time of production in the sixties. It will be interesting to see how the new story is told for today's audiences as the producers have said it is not a prequel, sequel or reimagining which means The Prisoner of the sixties is still very much in their thoughts. Jim Caviezel of 'Frequency' and 'The Passion of the Christ' is playing the new No.6 which the great Sir Ian McKellan as No.2 (which presumably means the character will not change in every episode as he did in the original sixties version). I wonder if Patrick McGoohan will get involved with the project? Maybe pop up as an 80 year old prisoner in the new Village.

Friday, 22 August 2008

Welcome to reality

Lazy day today with a hangover. Chaz was round for dinner last night and ended up staying till 4am. Ka served up melon for starters followed by a lovely pasta dish. Needless to say we had a few beers and a good laugh for the rest of the night. We switched on the tv around 1am and ended up watching some programme giving us 'through the keyhole' like guided tours of some 'famous' peoples' houses, most of which had some stunningly bad taste. Mostly footballers or ex pop stars. Most of them having more money than sense. Watching these programmes makes you grateful for what you have and thankful for not having the millions to squander which these supposed celebrities obviously do.
In my drousy wake of a hangover today I started reading Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451. Written back in the fifties this is a great story of a future, hedonistic, suspicious society where book reading has been outlawed and any books found are burnt and destroyed. Books are thought to be the main contributors for giving the populace ideas and thusly becoming a threat to the control of society. The main protagonist is Guy Montag one of the firemen, or book burners, who starts reading in secret and starts getting ideas of his own. Not unlike Orwell's 1984 who also used themes of censorship, repression of society and the totalitarian regimes. Both using a sole, single character who is the outsider, the non conformist, who battles the state, at first privately, realising in themselves that there is something very wrong with their society and seemingly only they know.
I feel like that sometimes when I read the newspapers and watch the tv and only find flamin' reality tv. Newspaper headlines, articles, photos, channels that host the programmes, programmes about the programmes, programmes about the programmes that are about the programmes. What is it with all this Big Brother rubbish? Why has it been allowed to survive nine series? Why do people find watching these morons so entertaining? And now X-Factor is back. Gawd save us! Another fourteen weeks (or however long) of hell ahead! Maybe we should be burning our televisions and making television Big Brother illegal? Set up a secret police force that comes round and batters your door down if your caught watching it. Thrown in the back of a van and taken away to a giant rehabilitation centre. Sounds good to me!

Thursday, 21 August 2008

Rivers in the Underbelly

After a generally lazy day yesterday, we went into Edinburgh last night for a few drinks and to see the crazy American lady that is Joan Rivers. After a few drinks in the grassmarket, including a visit to The Last Drop, we headed to the Underbelly under George IV bridge and the Central Library. The venue itself is a collection of dark, stone walled vaults conencted by spiral stairs and small, poster covered rooms leading into warm, dank, dungeon like rooms ending in a stage which serve as the main arenas. On the way up to the White Belly (the room where Rivers was appearing) I passed Glen Wool and Jimmy Carr on the spiral stairs. Wool we'd seen on his 10 minutes Comedy Gala stint on the Monday night. Rivers arrived from the back of the room, once we were all seated, her craggy, raspy voice immediately echoing throughout the vault as she handed out fans to people and got up on stage only to find her microphone stand fixed at the wrong height. Of course she immediately started complaining as she tried to loosen up the mike to bring it up a little higher and when she found she wasn't strong enough to unscrew it she then looked up at the audience gathered before her and asked for some help in the form of a big, strong...lesbian. From what I could see there were a few definite contenders in the audience but a big, burly man from Bognor Regis eventually got up to help her. She was a complete hoot for the whole hour. The time flew by. She was at her funniest when talking about her supposed life experiences including her recent walk on the Great Wall of Chine for Cancer Research, her dating disasters and her cynical approach to life in general. Really funny and great comedy entertainment from the supposed 75 year old. You can barely tell what age she is now! After another wee drink afterwards we headed out into the streets again to make our way back to the car (which seems to have recovered from its swimming lessons the other night). We walked through E4's Udderbelly and generally took in some of the great Fringe atmosphere which makes Edinburgh such a great, fun place to be at this time of year.

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Comedy Gala and rivers

Having a great week this week as I'm not in work! Woohoo! No work, nilch, nada. Wake up, when I wake up, get up, when I get up, do whatever, when I decide what whatever happens to be at the time.
Yesterday included going out for brunch at the local and then heading into the country's capital to check out some of the Fringe and head for the Comedy Gala 2008 in aid of Waverly Care. This was a night in the city's Festival Theatre on Edinburgh's South Bridge Street. A great night of at least twenty comedians getting up on stage and giving either a taste of their own fringe show or just a general outburst of their usual stand up banter for approximately ten minutes each. Each with their own styles, outlooks and moralistic approaches to life the variety of talent made it top class entertainment from the likes of Michael McIntyre, Mark Watson, Jim Jeffries and so many others. McIntyre was the host for the first half of the night and possibly, for me, one of the most entertaining comedians of the lot. Sean Grant and Stephen K Amos were also a great hoot. Definately worth looking out for in the future if not tomorrow when we head back in to Edinburgh for more Fringe fun including an appointment with Joan Rivers at quarter to midnight. hey, the woman might be seventy odd but is still hilairious, or f***ing hilairious as I'm sure she'd put it (followed by a walking stick pulling her off the set of 'Loose Women' by the neck). Looking to head in around five for something else to take us up to the 'witching' hour though and hopefully it will not be p*ssing down with rain tomorrow.
Just before settling down to watch the stupid and fun Kung Fu Panda there we fought our way back to East Kilbride through torrential rain on roads that could be easily mistaken for rivers - and Ka was driving?! Sure, she's a skilled driver now (thanks largely to my Master like teaching) but I do not think she'd expected to be driving a glorified river rapid vehicle before she passed her test. The wee clio seemed to transform into Chitty Chitty Bang Bang on the back roads from Hamilton, swimming through the roads rather than driving. Unfortunately my hands were too busy gripping the side dash to be waving cheerily as any passers by. Unsurprisingly there were few passers by except in other struggling vehicles. The expressway was jam packed, probably due to flooding, so I instructed Ka to take the back road route from Hamilton over the small stoney bridge round the back of St Leonards. Unfortunately this is where the trouble began as each of the roads up to the bridge was a flow of gushing, swirling, flooding water as if ever river and stream surrounding EK had simultaneously burst its banks like some bad Pierce Brosnan disaster movie. However, just like some bad Pierce Brosnan disaster movie, we pressed on against all odds and survived finding the deepest water of all more or less on our doorstep, outside our street on Maxwellton Road. So deep infact the Clio managed to gain another wheel from somewhere as a wheel trim managed to get lodged in our underside. This created a worrying, grating noise, the origins of which of course, we did not know about at the time and made me wonder whether the Clios exhaust had left us and spun off down the Maxwellton river. When we finally came to a stop, with smoke drifting up from under the Clio's bonnet, I did manage to free the newly acquired wheel trim as water dribbled down onto me from the pipes and, (thankfully still attached) exhaust. A journey we hope not to repeat in any way going to and from Edinburgh after going to see a woman called Rivers!

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Everything that happens will happen today

Everything that happens will happen today released online today. Sounds great - have a listen!

You can buy the whole album on the website here

Friday, 15 August 2008

Strange Overtones

David Byrne and Brian Eno have once again collaborated on a joint project and are releasing a new album and singles. They are also touring with it. No UK dates yet but hopefully they will cross the pond. You can find out more here.
Byrne is, you may already know, one of my all time favourites and Eno is definately a favourite producer (he made U2, amongst others, the success they are today) so looking forward to hearing the new material. 'My Life in the Bush of Ghosts' was their last collaboration together back in 1981 which was recently remastered and rereleased. My Uncle Tom bought it last year not long after it's rerelease much to Aunt Linda's indifference as she did not particularly appreciate it. Personally I always thought it was wonderful, but like most of Eno's music, not everyones' cup of tea. Eno's music is often quite strange, moody and experimental which is probably why I like it. He done a project with U2 back in '95 called 'Original Soundtracks 1' where the band and Eno called themselves collectively, The Passengers. This album was fantastic and definately not deserving of the slating it got on release. I think people just expected another U2 album with a few twists, very different to the fascinating music that they actually got. It's probably the most experimental music U2 has ever produced, thanks to Eno. It's definately their most abstract piece of work anyway. They should do more of it! Same with Bowie and Eno. They produced some brilliant music together. It's a crying shame they never got round to making Outside Part 2!

Thursday, 14 August 2008

Free falling

Got an email from Sharon in California two days ago.
She's only went and jumped out of a bloody aeroplane?!
Crazy person! She says she did it for her 30th birthday? (Maybe she's going through the mid life crisis..?)

Looks fantastic though. Well done Sharon and hope the rest of your birthday was just as exciting! (The rest of us only free-fall on our birthdays on the way out the club!)

Monday, 11 August 2008

It's a cracker

Went in to work to the expected questions about the car this morning. Mary and Margaret having another heckle from their box. I explained that it'll be fine. No great emergency. They looked a bit disappointed. Finally returned Lost Ian's DVDs this morning. He gave me the whole series of 'Cracker' to watch around two months ago and I managed to finally finish it at the weekend. What a great series that was. Definately Coltrane's finest hour - why aren't they still making it?! Brilliant telly with so much depth put into the characters through the brilliant storytelling of Jimmy McGovern. Great. By the way, the reason he's called 'Lost' Ian is because that's the name he's given in the flat. Ka has never met him so he goes by the name of Lost Ian as, like us, he is a big Lost fan and records it for us every week as we no longer have Sky (after Sky decided they would no longer sell their channel to Virgin Cable back in '07). The same goes for Creamy Chicken John. John gave me a brilliant Aussie recipe for pasta last year, involving herbs, cream cheese etc which Ka has used on more than one occasion and as a result he is now called Creamy Chicken John. There are other names which I'm sure I'll write later but just can't think of at the moment or which I daren't mention!
Came home after work to find Claire (Montgomery) and Jane in with Ellie relaxing after a plate of Ka's meatballs and spaghetti. Nice. Fortunately there was some left, which I'll keep for myself till a later date. Had a bit of Ka's gorgeous lasagne in work for dinner, straight from the microwave. Have never been sure of microwaves. Work is the only place I use them, except from the occasional hot chocolate. Sometimes it's like Radioactive city in that work kitchen with all the microwaves droaning away at the same time probably damaging our brain cells with their cooking power.
Also watched the excellent 'The Matador' starring Pierce Brosnan and Greg Kinnear at the weekend. Very enjoyable movie again with great characters. Brosnan played a blinder. A hired aging hitman stressed out with age, anxiety and maybe even guilt alongside Kinnear's straight guy salesman. I wasn't solely just sitting watching tv all weekend by the way. It just sounds like it... but the fact I have to drive whilst holding the door at my right shut is a definate hindrance.
I was hoping to get out on to the Scottish hills this weekend but it looks like work is going to get in the way of that now! It may have to wait till next week. Harry said he's going to pick an easy hill for us to climb. 'Easy'? Why easy? Does he think I'm not up to it? It must be about three years since my last Munro walk mind you... Ben Vorlich. 3232 ft high. That was a great day but tiring. Towards the end of the walk I think I was actually tumbling down the hill rather than walking.
Off work for a week next week though so hope to see some of the fringe in Edinburgh. There'll be plenty of walking then.
Claire's just left with a piece of lasagne for Martin. Hope you enjoy it mate, that was my dinner for tomorrow!

Sunday, 10 August 2008

Going grey

Finished another rose painting this weekend. 'A grey rose'. Thought I'd try some grey tones this time with good old black and white. Quite tricky to duplicate a grey colour if you run out of it on the palette. The canvas had been lying about the flat half completed so I took the opportunity yesterday to get on with it and finish it off although I did keep allowing myself too many breaks to watch the swimming at the Olympics. Good to see Great Britain get a gold today at the cycling on the women's road race thanks to Nicole Cooke from Wales. Well done to her!

Friday, 8 August 2008

Big doors swing on little hinges

This morning, my door fell off. Well, almost. I arrived at work in my wee clio, clambered out as per usual and just as I went to shut the door it seemed to slip, closely followed by it banging off the car's body and bouncing back at me. Mary and Margaret, two of the smoking women from the office, (when I say 'smoking women' I mean they are smokers...) were out on one of their smoking breaks (funnily enough) and immediately started heckling me from the front of the building. A bit like a louder Statler and Waldorf, except female. The top hinge of the door was bust. After visiting the garage I learned it's actually the pin that holds the hinge. Will most probably have to stay off the road now while I wait for my garage appointment. The door does stay closed whilst driving but is not fixed properly in it's rightful place thus the noise of the wind and the nearby traffic seem strangely loud whilst travelling and you feel the need to hold the door in place as you drive... reminds me of a go-cart we built as kids when I had to constantly hammer one wheel as I flew down the hill to keep the wheel from flying off as it was not secured properly. Thankfully the clio has not lost any wheels in such a fashion so I won't be needing my hammer for a while yet.
The little incident made me face a few facts about life. My clio is getting old. It's over ten years old now. Many would have traded it in years ago but I've grown kind of attached to it over the past six years or so. Purchasing it off my former boss in Birmingham, it was my only trustworthy companion in the wilderness of the West Midlands and of course it came with me back up to Scotland and found another new owner and driver in Ka. I'm hoping it will live on for another year or so at least but you never can tell what's round the corner can you. Especially if it's Ka that reversing round them (joke!).
Talking of my time in the West Midlands, I was telling folk in the office how we used to sing Britney Spears songs in David Bowie voices - the way he would sing them - in the office I worked in down south. Shirley Ann was quite impressed at my Bowie impression of 'Hit Me Baby One More Time'. Felix (my immediate boss [he moves very fast!] in S&UN) and Shirley Ann had been watching the Life on Mars tv series recently on DVD which got us on to the subject of Bowie. Shirley Ann was shocked to find out from Barry that the line 'Mickey Mouse has grown up a cow' was a true lyric to Bowie's 'Life on Mars?'. She had no idea it was part of the real lyrics. Mickey Mouse - the saviour of kids entertainment when he was born, something pure and honest that was exploited and used to make the money, cashing in, becoming the 'cash cow' for Disney. Humanity losing it's purity and morals and Bowie looking for somewhere else, somewhere for hope and a better life. That's what I always took the song to mean anyway. It's also about a girl realising she's gay apparently. "But her mummy is yelling, "No!"
And her daddy has told her to go".
'Life on Mars' was brilliant television, pity it's all over. We've now got the 'Ashes to Ashes' spin off with the lovely Keeley Hawes. Looking forward to a second season of that - whenever that will be. 'Ashes to Ashes' was another great Bowie song. But then again I think they're all pretty damn good. Apart from anything on the 'Tonight' album. He's been very quiet of late. Come on Bowie - get another album out!
Listening to the Vampire Weekend and 'Accelerate' the latest REM. 'Accelerate' is definately their best and most exciting album in a while with some great tracks (well, all of them are great in fact). The 'return to form' is an often over used expression but in this case I reckon it's spot on. Ka's been listening to her Alphabeat album. I got her tickets two weeks ago to go and see them in November. I keep insisting that she doesn't need to take me. I don't mind if she takes one of her friends. Unfortunately there doesn't seem to be many other takers...

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

Whose day is it?

Today was just one of those days. A day were stupid things infuriate you and small things aggravate you. I should apologise to all those I work with for being a miserable b****** today. Lost Ian, Creamy Chicken John, Gareth, Andy, Shirley Ann, anyone else? I was just grumpy that's all. Computer crashed, playing catch up with planning the newspapers, playing catch up with car ads... It just wasn't my day - and no, I don't know whose day it was Lynsey Ann.
Getting ready to go out somewhere. Must have been summer time as we were off school. My mum had just accidentally put a heel through the lino in the bathroom. This adding to her fluster she shouted at us to hurry up then sighed, 'It's just not my day'. Lynsey looked up with a puzzled frown on her face ' Whose day is it then Mum?'

Sunday, 3 August 2008

The perfect tea

Have just spent half my Sunday building a chest of drawers. Then emptying the old chest, reorganising the clothes and reloading into the new. The other half - the first half, was a little quieter as I had a bit of a sore head from last night's wander into town. We started with a 'Dutch Iced Tea' in Revolution. This refreshing cocktail consisted of Jack Daniels, Cointreau, Bacardi, Vodka and coke. Quite strong but definately one to keep in mind for future excursions into the cocktail bars! We were sitting with a bunch of folk from Johnstone, one of which snapped a picture of us telling us afterwards we'd be on his Bebo page the next day. What an honour, I thought. One of his mates seemed a little too drunk but assured us it was because he was high on the sweeties 'man'. What 'sweeties' he was referring to is anyone's guess. Smarties is my guess. Too many E's in them. Afterwards escaping from Revolution we visited the Hope Street Bar Bhudda where Ka had a Champagne Raspberry cocktail (pictured half empty) and then onwards to the Butterfly and the Pig on Bath Street. I unwisely had a beer to finish the night when we got home which is always bad for the head the next day (nothing to do with the vodkas beforehand of course). Back to work tomorrow though and the beginning of another week.

Friday, 1 August 2008

If I had a million dollars

Sun , rain, sun, rain, sun, rain. Evening. It's kind of confusing this Scottish summer. Usually when the sun comes out over Scotland people have one of two responses. Strip down to their bikini or continue to walk about wearing hats, jumpers and scarves and slowly die horribly in the sweltering heat. If I'm either one of them it would have to be the hats and scarves variety (as I don't own a bikini). Monday was by far the hottest day we'd had up here in ages and on my way up to the gym I noticed most folk were still walking about in their jumpers and jackets - even though the sun had been out, glaring down at Scotland, the whole day. Tuesday, however, we were back to rain and now, at the end of the week the weather doesn't know what the hell to do. Mum and Dad are away camping somewhere so I hope it's dry wherever they end up.
We completely missed this solar eclipse of the moon up here today, probably because of the afore mentioned rainclouds. Apparently Europe only witnessed a partial eclipse anyway but British astronomers caught some good shots which can be seen here on the BBC website (except from the one with the kids... and the dog - that's just silly). It was also in the papers today that they have found water on Mars. Which means the possibility that life was on Mars, even if it was millions of years ago. Mars could have had a whole other species of being long before the dinosaurs even rose up out of the ocean on this small, blue planet. The Phoenix space probe, which was sent down to the planet a few months back, dug under the planet's soil, the resulting samples of which were scanned by the orbiting Odyssey spacecraft. Science fiction this ain't. Either is the story on Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic taking bookings for his suborbital flights into space for the pricely sum of $200,000 per customer/tourist. The first flights are expected to be as soon as the end of this year. Let's just hope they're a little more successful than his attempts at flying around the world on his balloon! Branson is cool. I like Branson. He's an extravagant billionaire whose not afraid of what his critics sneer. What other multi millionaires invest millions in flying tourists out into space? If I had a spare $200,000 I'd sign up! It must be the coolest thing - to see your own planet from space... All of us running about, living our little lives, working, breeding, eating, exercising, reading, driving, watching, playing, wondering about our weather, when the whole enormity of the universe moves around us. Just to go to the edge of our planet's atmosphere, a mere toe in the bathtub, and get the slightest hint of that would be mind blowing. Anyway, getting a bit deep there... sorry.
A Happy Birthday should go to Morgan who was the grand old age of four this weekend. Morgan is Ka's sister's daughter to whom I am known as Uncle Michael. The title is very strange to me as I've never been an 'Uncle' before and it makes me feel ancient. Thanks Morgan and hope you have a great party tomorrow, even though you won't be reading this... as you can't... yet. Hope it's a nice sunny day for you but at the same time - Mum and Dad, if your reading, remember to pack the brolleys.