Category Archives: Uncategorized

Partridge In A Mimosa Thorn Tree

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December, the final month of the Gregorian calendar year, known in South Africa as the month of the Mimosa Thorn Tree, whilst pagans in the North move from Litha to Yule, crossing the Winter Solstice. And of course the time of year when religious folk forget about the pagan festival that they steamrolled over with Christmas – but then if there is a reason to agree with Dawkins that religion is such a bad thing the Magdalene Laundries are a fine example.

Scott’s Of Selkirk is a local Borders festival where most of the inhabitants of Selkirk dress up in victorian costumes and offer free mulled wine and mince pies whilst you browse their goods. It is bizarre seeming the juxtapoisiton of an electronic cash machine and a queue of Victorians waiting to use it. By lunchtime I was ready to sing in the choir…. but instead fuelled on sherry I bought books on Myths, Suicide and Castration (Freud). We had coffee at the Selkirk Deli sharing a table with an 86 year old lady who told us she was looking for a man, possibly in the new Tesco, and her friend in a wimple sold us a Scocha CD (her husband is the English chap masquarading as a Scot in a leather kilt) and answered her mobile phone in Victorian garb which buzzed from her matching muffler. Had a tour of Squirrel’s loft and on returning to the Gutbusting casino night, where my strategy of card counting was offset by the dealers shuffling, I picked up a bottle of wine and spiced Westphalia chicken at the BP garage on the A68, which is pretending to be a wine shop (reinforcing Lothian and Borders Police Don’t Drink and Drive policy) with Petit-Chablis and decent clarets. Discovered that one of our fellow GutBusters uses the school bus driver/hypnotist to stop smoking.

December will be Soay’s Choice – where we pick the sheep to be dragged to the abattoir in Galashiels (who recently had a highland bull escaping down the street almost killing an old man). November is normally slaughter month but things are a bit late this year thanks to the warmer weather.

My dog and wife and fallen out – when Kim sits down the dog leaves the room and when she leaves the room Cara returns.

December is very blood thirsty as I wade through movies (Nosferatu, Vampyr, Blacula, Dracula) and books including Dracula’s Guest the unpublished first chapter of Dracula, Carmilla, Dr Polidori’s Vampyr based on Byron’s fragment.

All I want for Christmas is my front tooth – finally my dentist fitted my bridge (in between taking other teeth out from women playing musical chairs in the waiting room). We lunched at the Blue Bell Hotel (which was challenging with half my mouth frozen) and on walking to the car spied a chap in black with a black top hat walking down the middle of the main street in Belford followed by a hearse – it was a most errie and bizarre sight, no following cars, no-one else around.

As flattered as I was that Schmap had chosen my photographs of St Mary’s Church, Whitby, for their tourist guide – I was surprised to see such sloppy research that they used it to represent St Mary’s Church in York (which unless global warming has really changed things is nowhere near the sea shown in the photographs).


In a microlight (Quicktime VR shot)

Robert Ashley’s Automatic Writing wins the prize for ‘Least Festive’ music – being about Tourette’s syndrome and sexual abuse (not at the same time).

Deck the halls with boughs of holly,
Fa la la la la, la la la la.
Tis the season to be jolly,
Fa la la la la, la la la la.

Don we now our gay apparel,
Fa la la, la la la, la la la.
Troll the ancient Yule tide carol,
Fa la la la la, la la la la.

See the blazing Yule before us,
Fa la la la la, la la la la.
Strike the harp and join the chorus.
Fa la la la la, la la la la.

Follow me in merry measure,
Fa la la la la, la la la la.
While I tell of Yule tide treasure,
Fa la la la la, la la la la.

Fast away the old year passes,
Fa la la la la, la la la la.
Hail the new, ye lads and lasses,
Fa la la la la, la la la la.

Sing we joyous, all together,
Fa la la la la, la la la la.
Heedless of the wind and weather,
Fa la la la la, la la la la.

Kirkstone Pass Funeral

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We set off for the Lake District early one moonlit morning, through the flooded Eden roads (fields looking like paddy fields with rows of trees poking out of the waters where the River Eden had burst its banks), to the Keswick Climbing Wall. After a breakfast of real cornish pasties, where Kim asked if we could have the buy 2 get 2 free offer (we had to point out that it was buy 10 get 2 free – kim must be thinking in binary) we bypassed the Cumberland pencil museum and found the high wall.

We learnt to tie our rope knots and belay then it came for me to abseil down whilst alasdair belayed – I dropped letting go of the wall and rope and Ali received the largest wedgie he had ever had – he was also tied to a barrel to counteract my weight and his lightness. The climbing instructor just asked Ali – How are your Man Bits? All great fun but we had to go, changing into our funeral garb for the funeral of a friend. There was almost more funerals as Kim hit a patch of deep water across the road, squealed but fortunately the audi patents paid off with computer controlled 4 wheel drive keeping us on the road.

The Jesus church at Troutbeck is set in a most gorgeous valley at the head of Kirkstone Pass, and the church itself is stunning with oak beams and a fantastic stained glass window. A wren was flying around in the church adding a sense of magic to the occasion, along with the dead fox that we parked beside. Music by Catriona McKay played by the celtic band from Kelso High School, was a haunting celtic refrain which with the surroundings made for a phenomenal experience. We threw our soil or scattered petals in the grave and in the rain made our way back to the car when the most gorgeous rainbow appeared apparently terminating in the graveyard and arcing to the town where luncheon was served.

Hymns sung included the pagan fertility carol – The Holly and the Ivy albeit with Christian words tagged on clumsily, and the rather bizarre All Things Bright and Beautiful with the ‘Purple Headed Mountains’ from Martin Shaw’s 17th Century ‘Royal Oak’. At least the Lord’s Prayer was the original one without this ‘Time Of Trial’ nonsense.

We returned over the Kirkstone Pass with very little fuel, not a great place to breakdown, and saw an overflowing lake (overflowing onto the road). We passed through Hawick high street to see the Christmas lights – which are second hand from Monte Carlo.

Children of the Night

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Microlight repaired and waiting for collection in Rochdale – so we took the chance to visit the North East coast where everything seems to be brought to you by the letter S – we went down via South Shields, Sunderland, Saltburn-by-the-Sea, Staithes and Scarborough – saw the sands, salty sea and scaled steep steps.

Starting with the Baltic Gallery with flat screens in the stairwell eerily echoing faces singing John Lennon songs. South shields harbour gave us a walk along the sea wall, we saw the Marsden coast, Sunderland sea front and went hunting for the Apollo Pavilion in Peterlee (named after the miner Peter Lee) – but the unpopular piece of architecture denied listed building status and any form of sign telling you where it is (the information signs lead to a multi story car park) so we gave up on this quest and headed for lunch in the Castle Eden Inn in Castle Eden which did not sell any Castle Eden Ale (or any real ale at all).

Through the Blade Runner landscape of Middlesborough we reached Saltburn-by-the-sea and its delightful pier. Its elevator was out of season so we marched up the 200 steps from the beach for a great view over the pier and sea front and cliffs. Staithes was next on the tour and is a picturesque fishing village down a steep road, where locals used to urinate on alum to make a dye. Racing the sun we reached Whitby and raced up the 199 steps to St Marys Church and Whitby Abbey where we clambered over the back wall to watch the sunset over Dracula’s castle (Bram Stoker never visited Transylvania and set Dracula in Whitby – the Count was an illegal immigrant and the novel is one of the Invasion Novels). I should have brought my wicker coffin. We managed to get a room with balcony overlooking a courtyard and with a four poster bed in the Shepherd’s Purse and headed to the Magpie Cafe for their famous fish and chips, via some pubs selling Black Sheep ale. The Magpie is only closed one evening a year and this was that evening, so after finding all the other fish and chip shops closed we headed for Greens which is a marvellous restaurant (where the owner weaves large willow unicorns with the help of the waitresses). Kim retired for the evening unable to buy any Whitby Jet as the shops were all safely shut, leaving me in the pub next door with a retired chemist who had a friend that had died of anthrax poisoning abroad, a barman who had a geography degree and a group of nurses out on the piss. Breakfast the next day was delicious in the restaurant next to the pub and my wild mushroom omlette set me up for the romp around Robin Hood’s Bay.

There is a plaque celebrating the time when a ship floundered in the bay and the whitby lifeboat had to be carried overland 6 miles in deep snow by 18 horses and 200 men in 2 hours to launch and rescue everyone. Scarborough is down the coast with a wonderful beach and victorian splendour with a spa and the surreal sight of people dancing a slowed down version of the Gay Gordons to an eerie tune in a huge but empty ballroom that reminded me of The Shining. Scarborough beach was very chilly, it was November after all, with people minesweeping on the beach.

Flamborough Head was the furthest south down the coast we were going – it is a set of chalk cliffs and the oldest lighthouse in the country – they used to set fires on top of it. It was windy and cold too so we headed for lunch which meant fish and chips at Bridlington and the Pride of Bridlington (seafish 2006 best north east restaurant). We found it using a combination of google maps, google which told us there were lots of estate agents in that road and driving around until we saw lots of estate agents and then the blue frontage of the best fish and chips. A lovely blonde girl delivered delicious fish and chips and a ‘bag of bits’ which we munched happily on the Bridlington sea front with its surreal art work and ‘as far as the eye can see’ beach.

We were racing against time now as Mainair shut at 4 – but the M62 delivered us in plenty of time to pick up the plane, meet folk from Perth airfield over coffee and drive back in pouring rain. We assembled the plane the next day in high wind in a hanger. Gordon strolled into the hanger asking if we wanted a hand, we said ‘thanks but we had instructions and thought we could manage’ – he pointed out that the wing was upside down….

Moon Of The Falling Leaves

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November enters with the news that my drumming teacher has been impounded – her house in Smailholm is all sealed off in a search for anthrax. There is even an air exclusion -

NAVW: Q)EGPX/QRTCA/IV/NBO/W/000/030/5537N00233W003
FROM 06/10/30 12:44 TO 06/11/06 14:00 EST J4544/06
E)TEMPORARY RESTRICTED AREA OWING TO AN EMERGENCY AT SMAILHOLM (SCOTTISH BORDERS) RESTRICTION OF FLYING REGULATIONS HAVE BEEN MADE UNDER ARTICLE 96 OF THE AIR NAVIGATION ORDER 2005 IN THE AREA BOUNDED BY A CIRCLE RAD 3NM CENTRED ON 5537N 00233W. PILOTS ARE FORBIDDEN TO FLY WI THE DESIGNATED AIRSPACE WITHOUT PERMISSION OF LOTHIAN AND BORDERS POLICE (EMERGENCY CONTROLLING AUTHORITY). ATC UNITS CLOSE TO THE INCIDENT AREA ARE REQUESTED TO ADVISE ACFT ON THEIR FREQ OF THE CONTENTS OF THIS NOTAM. MIL ACFT SHOULD COMPLY WITH JSP 552 201.135.9
F)SFC G)3000FT AMSL

So we can drive past the house or walk along the road but cannot fly under 3,000 feet over it… They have now found minute quantities in the village hall where we play and it is being decontaminated – not us of course.

Conspiracy in Kelso – the local alternative energy supplier, who was one of the Tweed Horizons Sustainable technology winners along with us, was going to reveal who the antichrist was and was supposedly bumped off with a heat ray – he was talking at the same conference as David Icke. Kelso was also home to a devious paedophile who shaved his beard off as a disguise and had a cell in his house. He is now banned from the town… I am not sure about the logistics of banishment these days – does he get put in the stocks if he is found within the town walls, or thrown into the castle dungeon?

In other news red wine contains the ingredient which stops the bad effects of gluttony which mystify my doctor, and so another excuse to tuck into my stock of Lebanese wines

Coffin Making workshops are not normally something that would attract my attention, but since I recently crashed my plane, capsized a seakayak and escaped (still) anthrax poisoning I decided that it was more interesting. It interested nine other people too, who converged on the Lauder Village Hall. The end results were different – some had full sized coffins (I measured up one lady for hers – she was here for the long term), some had magnificent displays of craftsman work on half sized coffins, some had works of art (as defined like something noone else had ever seen which would be mine). The instructors comments of ‘not as asthetically pleasing as the other ones’ (hey depends on your asthetics of course, they said the same to Pollock who just captured the most expensive work of art record in the world) and ‘gosh this is amazingly robust given its shape’ (which I tended to agree with since it survived the car journey back). Advertising the coffin on ebay for deformed dwarves – it will be a race between the bidders and my aging dog. If the folk who lost out on the Pollock bid want to garner a competitive art exhibit please email me immediately…

Our neighbour’s Border terrier was savagely attacked by another neighbour’s boxer (the breed and not a gloved opponent bound by Marquess of Queensberry rules) – we went to visit the patient to find it bleeding and there was almost a ‘too many paramedics spoil the dog’ incident – but it ended happily with us dabbing the terriers bleeding vulva in the sink with antiseptic.

Stuart has now found out that when performing a musical critique it is best to be well outwith the swinging circle of the instrument – as Alasdair deliberately hit him hard with the guitar. Of course they chose the day when granny had her annual visit, for their display of brotherly hate.

Our water aerobics instructoress/domanitrix has been on a Hopi Ear Candle course – which is as dodgy as it sounds.

Early morning mondegreens with Scotland the Brave lyrics on the radio misheard as ‘Bladders Leaking’ from ‘Blood a-leaping’.

There was an old Mike who swallowed his crown, I don’t know why he swallowed his crown … yes with a loose crown held on with dentafix until the dentist cements in it correctly, it was perhaps on reflection unwise to tuck into a lunch of beans, kebab and potatoes. The crown disappeared silently leaving a worried Mike – worried from reading Google search results about what to do if your patient swallows their crown (contact your liability legal team immediately, as your patient may die, seems to the best answer for dentists) to the sickening thoughts of recovery by goldpanning through my excrement. Kim corpsing on the floor is not helping. Whilst wearing a black balaclava and using a ‘poo’ stick to prod the highly rated excrement, a knock came at the door – it was a women doing a survey – ‘can I speak to your father; she asks Alasdair, ‘err no’. She pressed on ‘we just want to know what your father does of an evening’ – my son just said’ You really, really don’t want to know, really, trust me’ and shut the door. I gave up eventually presuming I had missed it or it was still stuck to the side of an intestine, better than it stuck to my gums. To keep to the excrement theme there is a crossword where the answers are all fecal.

In an awful climbing accident in horrendous weather conditions in the Cairgorms, two Aberdeen university students were killed. One of them was in Geography lectures with Stuart and had gone to Aberdeen uni at the same time. Stuart had looked at the climbing club but chose sky diving instead as there was a bit too much camping involved. Stuart’s flatmate did join the club and was at Glenmore Lodge when the boys went missing.

On the vampire theme, BBC radio have a new Dracula adaptation; Transylvania is joining the EU and at the same time British Airways bans stewardesses from wearing crucifixes – there is no update as to whether garlic chicken has been banned from the menus.

Since I have a coffin I went online shopping at the Coop and see they do online funerals – have chosen my headstone – such a likeness.

November ends with Saint Andrew’s Day. Andrew is the patron saint of Scotland, mainly because at the Synod of Whitby St Columba was deemed less important than Saint Peter so in a desperate race of oneupmanship the Scots picked Saint Andrew who was Saint Peter’s older brother. Like all things Whitby there is a vampire connection too as Andrew went around preaching in Transylvania (he is patron saint of Romania). In any case his alliterative Apochryphal Acts of Andrew are worth reading, translated by the ghost story author M R James.

Music of the month is definitely British with the wonderful Scottish composer, Judith Weir, and the Englishmen George Lloyd, the remarkable Cyril Scott and William Alwyn. Most enjoyable. And Imogen Heap who is truly wonderful, especially with her remarkable Hide and Seek.

Poetry from Felix Dennis who is planting tens of thousands of acres of trees – which sounds the best use of land (other than for runways).

Octobervest

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A dead soay sheep crawling with maggots was an revolting way to start the month, followed by giving blood and I find that I am in the 9% of Scots with Group B positive (a lifestyle choice too – Be Positive). The Japanese believe that us B+ folk are attractive but agressive, empathtic but selfish (thats me), credited with intuition and balanced and flexible (useful for rock climbing). Forty percent of us are millionares which is a reasonable goal. It was also time for the bi-annual blood pressure check so we got the home machine out in case we needed to do something before a doctor in a short skirt says I have high blood pressure again. My pulse appears to be that of a well-conditioned athlete at 50 beats per minute (but then it could be as lazy as I am).

Geoffrey, our badger glove puppet, is settling in now – with Cara and Professor Moriarty no longer attacking him. Badgers seem to be the Semites of the animal world – continually persecuted although now protected by law – gassed for suspecting carrying rabies, bovine TB and of course more recently anthrax, the Daschund was named ‘badger dog’ because it was used in hunting them. Although I am not sure what Mel Gibson thinks of badgers, they come out quite well in childrens literature.

Online 3D Virtual Worlds have come of age – I have been playing around with Second Life where I blunder around as Mike Curtiss – looking for rock climbing the easy way in my mountain world.

My free Moo cards have arrived with ten of my favourite flickr photos on them. Excellent and cute business cards…

It now appears that the badger drum I played was infected with anthrax but my reassuring letter from the NHS seemed to suggest that it was a low probabilty that I would die (not zero note, just low)

Gardening time – so whilst Kim uncovered the front stone border from the ravages of time and tractors, Ali and I played lumberjacks with a long ladder and a hand saw. Our gardener cam along with his heman chainsaw which the tree promptly broke – leaving Ali and I with our hand saw and axes to dispatch the stubborn trunk – which filled in the time since my drumming classes have been cancelled for Anthrax reasons.

I read an article that said that one of the highest earning Google Ad sites was Plenty Of Fish, another dating site with ladies offering Intimate Relationships to Just a Chat. Since google ads target ads to do with the subject, the ads were all competing dating sites – so for the site to make the 10,000 dollars per day there had to be lots of people desperate enough to click an ad to find another dating site. Whilst on the subject of dating sites – there has to be a money spinner in providing a service to remove ex-spouses from dating pictures – so many pictures on these sites seem to have ‘the other half’, ex or otherwise, hanging around their neck like the albatross from The Ancient Mariner.

It would be remiss of me to miss out on Gothic Personals though, also powered by Google Ads – yes a dating site for Goths. The search form is a cracker – you can find Polyamorous or Transgendered goths and any of the subtypes of Gothism.

Having been described as ‘Naughty’ on one of the dating sites, and with sailing and climbing as my pursuits, I invested in Knots for Climbers. Now I wander around with a piece of rope in my pocket and am unsure what happens if I use a sailing knot whilst climbing or a climbing knot whilst sailing – they all look the same to me at the moment, whether a Knot, Hitch or Bend. Not too sure what airline security are going to make of it all too.

Booked on a “Make Your Own Coffin” course where I have to bring my own lunch and secateurs and get to take away my willow coffin at the end of the weekend.

Enquiring after the ‘Fur Lined Trout’ at the National Museum of Scotland I was met with a cryptic “Not On Public Display, Sir” from the enquiry line. We took the chance to find their cryptozoology section, expecially with the mermaid in it – however on asking one of the lady attendants if I could see her furry trout it became clear that she was protecting it or had absolutely no idea what I was talking about. The museum was jolly otherwise and we took a side trip to Greyfriars graveyard and to the Mapplethorpe exhibition of naked men and women (they wouldn’t give me a discount for only looking at the explicit photos but they did give a discount for the 15 year old girl we took along).

We were driving down to swimming when a car careered across the road, then was driving on the wrong side of the road before turning off on the wrong side of the road – on the back was “One Life, Live It” – a short life if he does that often methinks.

Visit to Glasgow meant racing around the Kelvingrove Museum, with a spitfire haning from the ceiling and loads of disembodied heads it is a cabinet of curioisities. I was drawn to the painting of Barra by Peploe and to a Lowry painting of a seascape rather like the photographic ones by a Japanese artist/photographer (lots of pictures of sea and sky labelled by which sea they are).

Halloween had Kim and Ali off to throw underwear at Tom Jones, returning on the M8 narrowly missing a cow (they called 999 to report a maurading cow on the motorway). I stayed at home with Bell, Book and Candle – the book was Magick by Aleister Crowley (bizarrely with lots of information on yoga rather than raising demons), the bell was a Yak bell and the candle managed to collapse and drip all over the stove and wooden fireplace. Kim was also not too impressed at me using all of her sea salt to form my protective circle. A skull and a hawthorn wand and a glass of cider and wearing my head torch to read the rituals and All Hallows Eve was off to a swing.

Best Very Short Story

For sale: baby shoes, never worn.” — Hemingway

Photo Of The Month
Jump!

Quote of the month

“To love is to risk not being loved in return. To hope is to risk pain. To try is to risk failure, but risk must be taken because the greatest hazard in life is to risk nothing.”

Poem Of The Month

The Green Eye of the Yellow God by J. Milton Hayes

There’s a one-eyed yellow idol to the north of Khatmandu,
There’s a little marble cross below the town;
There’s a broken-hearted woman tends the grave of Mad Carew,
And the Yellow God forever gazes down.

He was known as “Mad Carew” by the subs at Khatmandu,
He was hotter than they felt inclined to tell;
But for all his foolish pranks, he was worshipped in the ranks,
And the Colonel’s daughter smiled on him as well.

He had loved her all along, with a passion of the strong,
The fact that she loved him was plain to all.
She was nearly twenty-one and arrangements had begun
To celebrate her birthday with a ball.

He wrote to ask what present she would like from Mad Carew;
They met next day as he dismissed a squad;
And jestingly she told him then that nothing else would do
But the green eye of the little Yellow God.

On the night before the dance, Mad Carew seemed in a trance,
And they chaffed him as they puffed at their cigars;
But for once he failed to smile, and he sat alone awhile,
Then went out into the night beneath the stars.

He returned before the dawn, with his shirt and tunic torn,
And a gash across his temple dripping red;
He was patched up right away, and he slept through all the day,
And the Colonel’s daughter watched beside his bed.

He woke at last and asked if they could send his tunic through;
She brought it, and he thanked her with a nod;
He bade her search the pocket saying, “That’s from Mad Carew,”
And she found the little green eye of the god.

She upbraided poor Carew in the way that women do,
Though both her eyes were strangely hot and wet;
But she wouldn’t take the stone and Mad Carew was left alone
With the jewel that he’d chanced his life to get.

When the ball was at its height, on that still and tropic night,
She thought of him and hastened to his room;
As she crossed the barrack square she could hear the dreamy air
Of a waltz tune softly stealing thro’ the gloom.

His door was open wide, with silver moonlight shining through;
The place was wet and slipp’ry where she trod;
An ugly knife lay buried in the heart of Mad Carew,
‘Twas the “Vengeance of the Little Yellow God.”

There’s a one-eyed yellow idol to the north of Khatmandu
There’s a little marble cross below the town;
There’s a broken-hearted woman tends the grave of Mad Carew,
And the Yellow God forever gazes down.

Glencoe

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After my Barra rescue we had to return the trailer to Connel Flying Club in Oban and decided to make a weekend of it by staying in Glencoe, my favourite mountain area. We needed to repair the trailer and one of the microlight club members Ali is a welder so he was the third port of call, after picking up the trailer at East Fortune and then delivering our new Google Mini to our data centre in Edinburgh – where I was locked out and was busy cracking the combination lock when I looked up to see Kim on the other side of the gate – the back entrance was actually open and she walked through…

Ali the welder was near Dollar overlooked by the Ochil hills. Ali not only welds but has some great metal sculptures and a grass runway next to his house. Several blue flashes and general swearing about the metal being zinc treated and the job was done and we were on our way to Oban.

We stopped off at the Green Welly Stop for a venison burger at Tyndrum and to prepare for hill walking they seem to put the toilets a mile away from the cafe. Driving along the road the emergency landing roads that I had spied on my previous flight north were cordoned with ski poles which the wing would probably hit on landing. Connel bridge crosses the Falls of Lora – which were not as impressive as I have seen them but swirled away under the superb metal Connel bridge. Oban airport runways are being resurfaced and the place looks like a building site at the moment but the microlight club is friendly and we delivered the trailer with some thank you wine.

North to glencoe and booked into the Clachaig Inn (which has the welcoming sign ‘No Hawkers or Campbells’), we were too late to walk into the Lost Valley so wandered around the bottom of the hills looking forward to walking the next day. Dinner overlooking the loch and the sunset at
Holly Tree Hotel (named after the Appin Murder and in a converted Kentallen railway station) – there is a lovely pier there and there was a white rope laid out (obviously not done his seaman course and tidied up the rope with knots) – so we rearranged it into the form of a chalk murder investigation body. Kim’s dinner was a small trout, mine arrived being carried by two people – it was the Special Seafood platter – and took over an hour and three plates for the debris of mussel and oyster shells and langoustine.

We returned to the entertainment at the Inn which was an R&B band called Deep Blue – after ordering a pint of real ale which turned out to be cider we
started to recognise the band members playing Guns and Roses – they
were from Kelso and the guitarist was Alasdair’s friend – and what a performer excellent guitar playing along with his tattooed father singing and folk from Heiton and Sprouston near our home. There was something else odd – this was a climbing pub but the folk in the pub wearing leather hats and one in a dress didn’t look like the hunky folk I used to climb hills with – it turned out to be a gay stag night – less Munro bagging and more Munro debagging. Apart from one rough homophobe guy wandering around asking people if they were gay (one curiously saying ‘I used to be gay but I am not any longer’) the evening was entertaining with good music and a set of drunk glaswegian women dancing.

Apparently on retiring for the evening I managed to stub my toe and my
wife assumed that Father Jack had moved in with us as a torrent of
abuse filled the room.

The next day we awoke to rain hitting off the window – the Lost Valley was truly lost in very low cloud and heavy rain. I asked the waitress which country she was from, used to a large influx of eastern europeans – she replied Essex, which to my knowledge isn’t actually a country. The rain was getting worse so we decided to become tourists that morning.

The Glencoe visitors centre is interesting as it uses a vernacular architecture and used a variety of techniques for recycling and renewable energy. The view is stunning from there and the bookshop reveals an ecletic collection – I ended up with a book called ‘How to Shit In The Woods’ (covering defecation in sylvan surroundings in extreme detail) and a book about telepathy experiments on the west coast of Scotland. There was also an exhibition of the Himalayas by the photographer who took the pictures of the Tennant lager can lovelies.

We decided to abandon the Lost Valley walk and head for the indoor Ice Factor at Kinlochleven – the road is picturesque along Loch Leven and Kinlochleven is a lovely spot, on the West Highland Way and the only industry is now tourism with the aluminium industry now a museum (which like the industry was closed on Sunday). The Ice centre there has a large ice wall and 8 and 15 metre climbing walls – as we watched a group of people leaving all with limps we knew this was for us and we started with the climbing wall intending on moving onto the ice wall without realising how absolutely exhausting climbing was on vertical walls. My arms stopped hurting after 12 hours where other parts of my body still ache. Kim and I scrambled up the first wall, falling off to show that we were saved by the rope being held by or instructor (who is a part time fireman
and had just been on helicopter training). I had problems with the Egyptian climbing style that prevents you supporting most of your weight on your arm muscles, and I ended up supporting most of my weight on
my arm muscles which was extremely tiring as the chap said it would be, so gave up halfway up the second wall exhausted – Kim carried on though to do another two walls before thankfully our time ran out. We skipped the ice wall due to severe exhaustion, but totally dedicated to doing a lot more wall climbing before setting off for the nearest climbing rock, and headed back to see if the weather had cleared for the Lost Valley (it hadn’t), visting Glencoe village and the Massacre Monument.

The yellow car game has turned into a violent car journey where driver
or passenger wallops the other if they spot a yellow car – it was a
slapfest when we passed a large queue of JCBs working on the Glencoe
bridge. It is getting a bit too automatic now and I almost walloped an
old lady on a bus in the lake district when a yellow car went past..
We decided to call a truce as I was reading ‘The Short History of
Tractors in Ukranian’ and was developing bruises on my arms…

Back to Tyndrum I got a badger puppet from the Big Green Welly and had
fish and chips at The Real Food Cafe (which is a marvel with Pollock
and chips as good as Anstruther, with beer from Alva and a wall of
recommendations including Radio 4 and Scotland the Best – this is a
must stop on the way North). We stopped off at friends near Perth
almost reversing into their Golf, these are the friends we previously
left during the night walking over their Beechgrove Garden in the dark
so bashing their car and buggering off because they weren’t in would be par for the course. The drive home was filled with cars heading in the opposite direction with miserable looking people returning from kelso races.

Glencoe is one of the magical places on earth.

We got back to find a maggotty dead sheep in the field – one of the soays had died last week – I must have miscounted my daily count or they were doing their prisoner of war bit holding up a dummy sheep.

Crash Barra Wallop

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It was the annual microlight outing to Plockton which as the fates would smile upon us was on the best two flying days of the year (so far). The flight north to Plockton (near Skye) was wonderful, a 10 knot tail wind got me up there in 2 and a half hours over a cloudless Scotland with gorgeous lochs and munros (making navigation difficult as they all look the same). A night out at the Off The Rails converted station restaurant with a live train service arriving outside it, was followed by drinking with the friendly Haven Hotel owners. a Swedish pierced waitress and a skinhead who admitted this was the first time he was going to do breakfast in a hotel (it was nice).

The morning after I was balancing on the new bobbing Plockton pontoon with boats tied up and a bizarre notice saying ‘No Water as we have run out of funds’ and walked to the airfield where the place was crawling with firemen (and a firewoman) who were going to be trained on helicopter protocol (don’t stick your poles vertically when leaving the chopper otherwise you damage them, the expensive rotors and yourself). This delayed my own flight as there were fireman being whirled around down the runway, I took off when they had finished and then realised that I didn’t have a jerry can back rest so promptly landed again and strapped one in. So finally onto Barra – the plan was over Skye (which was entirely cloudless and gorgeous) and with a tailwind over the 18 mile wide Minch to the Outer Hebrides. The views were stunning and I could see the Outer Hebrides archipelego stretched out in the distance and dum-dummed the Fratellis Chelsea Dagger theme just to keep my mind off the sea below.

Barra is a wonderful island with wonderful white beaches and blue water. There is a causeway linking to the isle of Vatersay – where before the 1990 Eu funding fell upon the causeway, farmers used to have to tie their cattle behind a boat and make them swim across the channel to market. Whisky Galore happened and was filmed at Barra with Compton Mackenzie living on the island (and I met the son of the man who dug his grave when the gravedigger didn’t turn up to the funeral). Barra was voted most Scottish place in Scotland and the Most Beautiful Island in Britain and also was reported wrongly to have the highest paid doctor in the UK

Barra airport is unique as it is the only airport in the world that you land on the beach. And that was what I was going to do.

There was a 35 knot headwind, apparently from Hurricane George, which slowed things a lot heading south over North and South Uist and this meant there was severe rotor from the hill lying to the south of the beach runway and it was very difficult maintaining a circuit around the runway – I extended the downwind leg (which was over the sea as the tide had come in) to give me a chance to prepare for final. Landed on the golden sands then headed back to the airport.

I was finding it difficult to move the wing at all as it was being held down by the gusting wind – the tower sent ground staff out to direct me out of the parking bay of the Twin Engined Otter flight and it was during this movement that a strong gust tipped the wing and trike over onto the sand. The bar pushed back into my life jacket and I have bruising on my ribs from that, the life jacket may have cushioned that blow.

Damage to the aircraft was that two propellor blades were torn off, the wing was ripped, hang bracket bent, jesus bolt bent, trike body was damaged and base bar and radiator bent. Pride was also a bit bent. Then came the realisation that I couldn’t fly out and no one else could fly in or ferry in because the weekend had started…the Sabbath was looming.

I was driven by one of the airport guys to the hotel at high speed down these single track roads with him saying, ‘You know I don’t care if I live or die anymore, what will be will be – I do base jumping from cliffs and parachuting’ – which was endlessly encouraging – he had been inoculated against Anthrax in the army (he used to skin badgers on Salisbury Plain).

We went to see the Vatersay Boys play traditional Scottish music in a pub ceilidh in CastleBay (unimaginatively named because there is a Castle in the Bay) which was a drunken night to say the least, with me being rescued by the hotel waitress at 2:30am walking down the wrong road lost on Barra (which has one circular road so it is almost impossible to get lost apart from the road to Vatersay which I had taken for some totally unknown navigational reason).

The hotel cocktail barman, who writes erotic poetry in his spare time and approved of me reading the superb Swithering poetry book, lent me his sea kayak, which I promptly got stuck in seaweed in the area where Whisky Galore happened and was filmed but I couldn’t find any boxes of whisky left, I managed to tip the kayak over on the ferry ramp too so got totally soaked – hence my mobile phone will no longer work and I have lots of receipts washed clean. I then had to walk to the airfield to check the plane, in soaking wet clothes, and took the chance to disrobe and squeeze the seawater out of my clothes when a passing walker was wondering what on earth was happening in the phone box with a semi naked person and a lot of water squooshing out. Between the plane, kayak and ceilidh I was getting very tipsy on Barra.

I was driven around by a taxi driver who fancied himself as a tourist guide – but since he had a tracheotomy that meant removing both hands from the wheel on single track roads, without stopping of course, one to point at the obscure tourist attraction and one to close his gap so he could speak. I met an American politics lecturer from Edinburgh who had visited Alcock and Brown’s crash site in Galway and everyone seems to have their own air crash story.

Kim and I got the plane on the trailer through super human strength as the sun rose over the beach at Barra airfield, then raced for breakfast and the 5 hour ferry (where bagpipers played in the lounge bar for the entire trip to ensure no snoozing)

We drove back and it rained probably because we didn’t have any covers for the trike, and it never stopped raining all the way back from Oban (well it did but we stopped off on the way at the ghastly Loch Lomond Shores with its vibrating rail in the cafe and allowed the rain to catch up). We got to the airfield to find that the trailer had partially collapsed which could have sent the trike off somewhere on the M8 which would have complicated the insurance claim somewhat, however my guardian angel had obviously held it in place.

So air accident investigation reports all filled in and insurance contacted we just need to get it back to the manufacturer to get rebuild for the next adventure…

Although we got back in time to catch the TV programme about men marrying their sex dolls, we had just missed the story about the Boy From Barra – a boy who had been reincarnated in Glasgow had been in Barra in a previous life, yes really stick with this – it was in The Sun rag (I hesitate to call it a newspaper) and in a channel 5 featurette (I hesitate to call these documentaries on Channel 5) and featured a child psychologist who specialises in reincarnation… so it must be true.

Hurricane George also took another victim by blowing adrift my Orkney chum’s yacht, which was eventually rescued by the Stromness lifeboat. We are hoping to create the Hurricane George Victims Support Group (HGVSG) to assist those who have been stricken in their planes and yachts from the terrible backlash of global warming, as foretold by Al Gore when he didn’t have any hope of becoming president. Together we can apply for European disaster funding to help provide vowels for our acronym and bottles of Nyetimber 1998 to help the recuperating airmen and sailors fresh from their fight with George.

September Song

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Woo Yay September is here, time when my Folio Books subscription is due and I buy second hand versions off abebooks and use the money I save to buy bottles of award winning English sparkling Nyetimber Classic Cuvee 1998.

Reading Michel De Montaigne’s essays which include delights such as Cannabilism, On Smells (A woman smells nice when she smells of nothing) and On Thumbs. Listening to the music of Hildegard von Bingen who wrote lots about masturbation in the 12th century. Watching The Fountainhead file under So Bad Its Good.

And the weekend begins, for me with an hour in the swimming pool clinging closely to the most attractive girl in our gutbusting group, followed by a woman presenting her buttocks to us whilst doing her muscle stretching exercies in the steam room and then an expensive tour of the continental market in the St James fair struggling back with bags of olives, razcherries, french cheeses (their entire september export by the look of my burgeoning cheese board), penis shaped bread with testicular rolls to match the phallic salami. The chocolate and lemon crepes didn’t make it back to the car….
We have old friends coming for lunch so it is a relaxing morning for me listening to Ginastera estancia ballet dances, whilst ploughing through paradise lost, whilst everyone else prepares… Dinner at the Ednam Edenwater was simply superb again, New Zealand Isabel and Margaux complimenting the superb food.

My son Stuart went down to Alton Towers yesterday with 4 of his chums in one of their parents new Discovery driven by a special constable – they went on the top 5 rides and got in for 15 pounds instead of the normal outrageous price, then drove back filled with adrenaline and english ale (not the special constable who was driving I hasten to add)

Gutbusting now includes the ridicule of all clinging to a piece of rope and moving like a crab to the deep end and then pull each other out of the pool – on pulling Kim and I out we were asked – who wants to come first, Kim got in first with I insist on coming first – after that it was impossible to pull anyone out of the pool due to giggling. On the way up to the air show I was muching potato and bean pie for breakfast along with a bacon roll – when Radio 4 announced “Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried he shall receive the crown of life” as I threw the debris into the bottom of the car with a Doh!

And so to Leuchars with the red arrows 4,000th performance starting with them landing downwind with one over the audience and ended with a go around from the last arrow – they also timely have a routine called Stingray but no mention of Steve Irwin, although Elgars Nimrod Variations poignantly marked the death of the 12 RAF Kinloss airmen with a lone nimrod in the skies. The Battle of Britain memorial flight was unpatriotically underscored by the American composer Samuel ‘Barbers Adagio for Strings. Only an hour queueing at Anstruther Fish Bar which was superb as ever, but I have mastered the queue now by leaving Kim in line whilst I slip off the colourful Ship Inn next door and get a text message when we are near the front. The long drive home was punctuated by Radio Scotland lapsing into lesbian lust – discussing picking up a woman and counting her piercings at the end of the Proms…

We visited the superb Customs and Excise exhibition at the air show (in a caravan that had been confiscated as part of a drug bust) and came away with Customs and Revenue bags which made for an interesting backpack whilst wandering around the Kelso Sunday market…

It was a day out so we went off Quad Biking, squirrel had been stung by a bee (Where the bee sucks. there suck I) and was on steroids so missed out. We drove quads, dressed in what looking fetchingly like anthrax biosuits, as fast as we could through pylons, around bales, through banked tracks and over obstacles – I only got stuck once in a ditch. Lunched on ostrich at the Craw Inn, after seeing the Hutton Exhibition and headed off to Siccar Point for a spot of nude swimming. Jamie commented that although I had been swimming in his drinking water when sailing, I was now swimming in his sewage. Thankfully there are no sharks there because my leg and hands were ripped on the rocks – wonderfully chilly and refreshing though and swimming up rocky coves was wonderful. We managed to order a Flake mcflurry at macdonalds as Stuart was feeling chilly after swimming and throwing up salt water – but they had run out of icecream in Berwick and we managed to block the drive through whilst they sorted out Macdonalds actually giving you money back.

Spent all weekend on the RYA Seamanship course so I am now a Salty Seaman, even though it was in unsalted Edinburgh’s drinking water reservoir. However, I can now apparently control a boat without a rudder or daggerboard using my weight and the jib sail (if ploughing into the beach can be described as control), and pick up a man overboard (without running him over or pullinghis head off as I did the first few times). Was sailing a catamaran (had to capsize that and get it back again which was a challenge) and an expensive Laser 2000 which was a swift little craft. I am sore all over – although that might have been from helping place a large concrete block in a hole for a mooring post (not only do we have to do the course we have to build part of the place too). All great fun and I got the chance to show that Freezing the Balls off Brass Monkeys was apocryphal.

The elderly neighbour went off to Cuba on a Saga tour ‘to die’, although she came back thus robbing me of the chance to fly out and reclaim her remains on a 10 day tour of the island. However she did bring me back a pair of maracas as compensation.

Berry Of The Month – the Goji berry otherwise known as the Wolfberry has reached Kelso at last – yummy and healthy too apparently.

Name of the month has to be Etruscan King Lucius Tarquinius Superbus who poorly negotiated the Sybelline Books from the Cumaean Sybil (three books for the price of nine).

Poem of the month

Had I the heavens’ embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half-light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet: But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

Yeats

The top ten Sexual Positions to give Women orgasms (whatever they are) garnered from the interweb

1. Woman on Top
2. Reverse Cowgirl
3. Rear Entry
4. Modified Missionary
5. The Butterfly
6. Coital Alignment Technique
7. Standing Facing Each Other
8. Standing Rear Entry
9. Sitting Lotus Position
10. Spooning

to be enjoyed whilst listening to Jack Jones warbling Wives and Lovers with the superb lyrics, a cautionary tale to any wife -

Hey! Little Girl
Comb your hair, fix your makeup
Soon he will open the door
Don’t think because there’s a ring on your finger
You needn’t try anymore

For wives should always be lovers too
Run to his arms the moment he comes home to you
I’m warning you…

Day after day
There are girls at the office
And men will always be men
Don’t send him off with your hair still in curlers
You may not see him again

For wives should always be lovers too
Run to his arms the moment he comes home to you
He’s almost here…

Hey! Little girl
Better wear something pretty
Something you’d wear to go to the city and
Dim all the lights, pour the wine, start the music
Time to get ready for love
Time to get ready
Time to get ready for love

Cloud Cuckoo Land

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For the CAA who skulk around blogs looking for descriptions of illegal activities – the following description is entirely fictional as an example for other pilots of what could happen [really]

The plan was to fly down the Lake District to meet my son who was cycling down (a challenging 160 mile each way cycle ride with his chum), I would take Mrs Forrester my folding brompton bike which fits in the passenger seat of the plane so we could meet somewhere in the area. That was the plan.

The plane was full of fuel, Mrs Forrester was in the back and Mike’s gear was in the back, along with Mrs Forresters heavy handcuffs, and Mike. We didn’t bother weighing as it was patently overweight (Mike was certainly). It was a cross wind take off, bar in and rolling down the runway – revs over 6K half way down pushed bar forward – no response (oh fuck). Abort point not reached yet – push bar ahead again and sweep into the air groaning past the abort point skew round with the cross wind and push into the air.

It was fairly turbulent and I could see over the Lammermuirs there was a lot of cloud and there was blue sky. The blue sky was tempting – that meant no turbulence and a gentle flight with a good tailwind. To get to the blue sky required a climb into cloud that was moving northwards, fast. To clear the cloud I banked left and continued climbing over the wave of cloud crashing down like a tidal wave. Once over I was in heaven – an antarctic landscape with occasional holes with only cirrus tens of thousands of feet above and a tail wind – I was hurtling southward at 85mph. Here was the cloud cuckoo land of Aristophanes Birds and it was a mirage.

Windows in the cloud allowed navigation, GPS confirmed and timing and compass provided more navigational data. Then the windows disappeared. They disappeared totally. There were no windows – apart from the last one which was now disappearing with a 25 knot tailwind meant that I had assumed there was no way I was going to reach it. On the ground doing the figures and realising that the clouds were not actually moving north but it was a relative movement to the aircraft I would have made the last window, but I didn’t.

What followed was a frantic chasing of windows which turned out to be mirages in the luminous clouds. I was according to the GPS north of Penrith (the airfield I wanted was getting closer – so close but so far away under an unknown amount of cloud. I was also running out of map as I didn’t need any map south of the lake district. This was a serious situation and I started to desperately look for windows. There was one – in a cauldron of cloud.

I descended into the cauldron – clouds on all sides like a snowy mountain – but again it was no window just a grey patch of cloud. I climbed out of the cauldron in a spiral climb back to the antarctic landscape, which now had also added in climbing cumulus – I was at 7,000 feet and may be pushed higher – this was getting desperate as I even if I turned back I might not escape the climbing cumulus and the 10K ceiling is there for a reason (oxygen starvation above 10K).

Then a window – definitely, there were green fields and a road – and it was near Penrith – spiral dive through the hole descending fast. Made it through, hooray, and then noticed the Television aerial I had missed by a few hundred yards. I was also headed North so turned, avoiding the aerial to see the hills which were touching the clouds base – so if the hole had been over there I would have done a controlled flight into terrain (which on reflection might have been under the first cauldron I tried to descend into). My promise to myself was never to do this again.

The way south to Bedlands Gate follows the M6 and a line of aviation unfriendly pylons to arrive at a grass strip which has a tree at the start of the runway which I managed to miss. I landed and then took off again when I hit the bump on the runway and landed again (fortuntaly they don’t charge per bounce) – just as well it is a 450 metre runway.

Hangering the plane I managed to jam my finger in a trailer, and then when the friendly chaps asked where I was off to, I revealed Mrs Forrester and my plan to cycle her to Kendal. There were puzzled looks and the question – have you heard of Shap Fell? Who the fuck put a 1400 foot summit on my cycle route from Shap to Kendal. When I reached Kendal I was completely knackered and leaning Mrs Forrester up against walls and hiding to allow anyone to steal her. But this plan had a flaw – there was no one in Kendal – the place had been hit by a neutron bomb – the streets were deserted. I booked into the Rainbow Tavern, where the barman apparently wants to run tourist flights around the Lake District, and went on what I thought would be a short pub crawl sampling some real ale of England.

First there weren’t that many pubs with real ale, although those that had excellent ales. Secondly at nine o’clock all the people in Kendal returned dressed to the nines and ready to party. Discos started in pubs and young ladies in rara skirts and older ladies in more tasteful cocktail dresses were knocking back the vodkas and red bull. Folks of all shape, size and degree of tattoing were now dancing everywhere in a erotic melee. They they all moved to the next pub – I managed to elucidate the intended map from a lady from a hens night – they were all local as well (this wasn’t incomers partying like a stag/hen night – this was a local melee and apparently was a weekly thing)

The end point once the pubs had emptied the purses and wallets of the good people of Kendal, was the 5 story night club Passions. This where they let their hair down. I left falling down the stairs at 3am to find my way in the dark around the back of the inn where the rear gate had been set up to only look locked. After faling over various dark objects cunningly hidden in the dark I managed to make it to my room, behind a dark door that was in a dark wall.

Kendal is a strange place, a christian science bookshop and a quilting exhibition and wainrights cast off possessions including his pipe in a museum and a totally hot generation of partying girls. What a strange combination – perhaps there is more to christian science than I first thought.

To celebrate my hangover I cycled to Windemere the next day, noticing that Kendal had returned to its Lovecraftian empty state. I followed the cycle track which promptly took me out of the way, so on my search to avoid yet another hill and looking for the 6 minute train – I ended up on a bus to Ambleside. Mrs Forrester tucked in the baggage shelf because although bikes aren’t allowed on a bus (she is a folding bike which the friendly drivers were amused at).

Grasmere was a short cycle from Ambleside (which is full of bookshops) and is a busy road so I took to the pavement. That was a mistake. The first accident was hurtling down a hill to be hit by an overhanging branch which walkers will easily duck under, the second was the bush of nettles and large thorns which met with my bare left leg enthusiasticlly. Grasemere was a lovely place filled with unlovely tourists. The Rowan Tree cafe had the attraction of a riverside terrace, spinach and mushroom pasties and a metal drainpipe I could handcuff Mrs Forrester too.
William Wordsworths grave is there jidden with the rest of the Wordsworths and another William to test the poetry lovers, and a daffodil free daffodil garden. It did have the attraction of a bus stop to Keswick.

Alasdair was lost in the lakes, Kim and Stuart and Cara were now climbing Haystacks and out of mobile coverage – the Forsyths had migrated to Cumbria and were all uncontactable. Keswick is full of hill walking shops, pizza and fish and chips and a cornish pasty shop, and a lot of street entertains – pushing the definition of the word entertainment. I stopped to eat my pasty and folded Mrs Forrester so she stands – which people seemed to misrepresent as the start of a street entertainment – standing around to see if I was going to do more (or perhaps they were amazed that I could drop so much pasty filling down my T shirt).

There is a wonderful and magic stone circle outside Keswick – normally these attractions are deserted, but folk who visit Keswick are obviously put off with the quality of street theatre and all flock up to the stone circle. To add to the magical experience of people clambering over the stones and whooping for no good reason, there is an ice cream van with a particularly noisy generator. And I had to cycle/walk up a very steep hill to enjoy this and the views of the hills in cloud.

Kim and Stuart (and an exhausted Cara) drove me to Penrith, which is definitely not a party town. The George Hotel bar had some attractive girls discussing their friends veneral disease and the dilemma of the Aids test – it was concluded that it was better not to know. I left then to try and find a pub with real ale – an hour later I had tracked one down. Alasdair was by now at the other end of the lake district so we had avoided meeting (waving whilst cycling past each other) the reason I had flown down.

I had again wrongly assumed that since Penrith was north that everything south was downhill. In this topsy turvy world it was all uphill to the airfield, and I even took wrong turns to add to the miles. I stopped for a breath of air after the Clifton hill to enjoy the stench of sewage – it was a lovely churchyard there but I didn’t stop long as I can only hold my breath for a couple of minutes.

The sight of low cloud meant there was no flying over the lakes – the lakeland hills were higher than the clouds and there was a brisk northern wind. So northbound in low cloud to see a cessna on my left heading north and fighting turbulence saw two military transport aircraft cross my path after carlisle. The low cloud meant traversing the southern uplands lower than I would have liked, with an eye to landing fields in the event of engine failure.

Surprisingly the transit through the valley of death as I had thought it – was smooth and I was delighted to see blue skies ahead and the eildons. That was when the turbulence started – thrown across the sky, up, down, wing drops it was continuous, past Hawick and I reached the Lammermuirs and then it got worse with oscillations and unexpected fast descents and ascents. I managed to get above the fast moving cumulus clouds and things calmed down, until I got nearer the airfield and it started again. Unbelievably the wind was down the main runway so managed to miss the black wrapped hay bales at the entrance to the runway and could relax at last.

Lammas

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Lammas, not to be confused with Llamas, is a time to bake men shaped bread, and gingerbread men arrive at this time of year. It is also a Finnish word meaning sheep and this is the month that sheep will be caught and taken to the big pastureland in the sky (the butchers).

On the bits of religion that Sunday school forgot to mention we have – Holy Body Parts. Since Christ is supposed to have disappeared entirely through the first alien abduction known as the ascension, the only articles left to venerate are the bits he left behind previously including his foreskin, milk teeth and umbilical cord. At least there isn’t a holy Camel Toe much studied in The Weather Man in between Nicholas Cage being hit by fast food. In the dangerous book for boys one of the less dangerous things is the listing of the ten commandments – I had quite forgetten that on the Sabbath your cattle are not supposed to work either – not sure how that effects Flora and there is no mention of Soay sheep so they can go back on the treadmill 24/7.

Summer recess of parliament is normally a slow news period but this month sees an escalation of the Lebanon/Israeli ‘its not really a war yet’, the Pure Songs Initiative is cleaning up Rangers football fans chants and Tommy ‘hairy body’ Sheridan is packing them in the aisles with his self defence and it is surely no coincidence at BBC Scotland that the words ‘and former prostitutes’ drift over the images of MSPs as they march into court. Drugs in sport rears its ugly head with the Tour De France winner being banned for having too much testerone (11 times normal) and in contrast it is the 25th anniversary of the Penlee lifeboat diaster – where real bravery in the face of death to save others makes me think we should start sticking cheating sportsman in the stocks and throw rotten fruit at them, sometimes the old ways are the best…

Ali and Malcolm next door have decided to cut our hedges up to the height they can reach and left them half way with a fringe which is reminiscent of a ned (chav for the southern readers) so we have named them Nedges.

I decided to take my son sailing, this was to let him try a new sport but I hadn’t counted on his observational skills in witnessing the chaos that is mike in a boat. I was doing the RYA2 up at Whiteadder Reservoir, and it was straight into a Pico and off to practice – well everyone else was doing that I managed to get the mainsheet wrapped around the tiller and hence managed to lock both rudder and sail and went into a descending circle with ever increasing speed and angle of hull before capsizing. So capsize practice first thing in the morning in a chilly reservoir with no wet suit – what a rude awakening. This was followed during the navigate around a triangle of buoys, by trailing one of the buoys with my rudder and confusing everyone else as to the course, I was eventually chased by the rescue boat who recovered the errant buoy. The other joy of the pico is that the boom whacks you on the head if you do anything wrong – however I managed to wrap the mainsheet around my sandals (and my neck) and was busy untangling myself when the boom was flying back and forward – I managed to lie in the bottom of the boat untangling whilst the pico sailed into the beach. Kim flew over in the microlight buzzing the clubhouse but we were safely in trhe cold showers by then. Ali spotted all the mistakes and reported (with animated gestures) to Kim, who was at this time collapsed on the floor in stiches.

We got onto larger boats the next day (the Wayfarer) which required a crew of two so an Aberdonian housewife won the lottery to crew with me – we rigged and set up with, yes you guessed this one already, the mainsheet wrapped around the tiller rendering the boat completely uncontrollable. Fortunately the Wayfarer boom doesn’t act as a Pit and Pendulum blade, so the shreaking housewife and I managed to have time to unravel and gain control. After that we were model sailors apart from saying ‘All Aboard’ when I should have been saying ‘Ready About’ and when told to lay alongside the rescue boat we managed to aim for (on instructors advice) the outboard motor and hit it (not on instructors advice). Oh well after tying a few knots and being lectured on racing (where the strategy seems to be to sink your opponet where you get a time penalty but are still in the race) I walked off with my RYA2 certificate and a licence to hire and capsize.

No one else noticed outside Scotland but Tommy Sheridan’s spirited defence against the News of the World was an entertaining aside for all us. The headline writers were working overtime – my favourite when he dismissed his legal counsel was ‘Tommy drops his briefs’. He won and was awarded 200K (which one assumes as a good socialist he will be distributing amongst the poor) and is now standing as head of the Scottish Socialist Party – whose MSPs all testified against him (and may be being done on perjury charges and are counter suing him letting the entertainment run and run).

Following my flight to the Lake District we enjoyed a night at the Edinburgh International Festival with a delicious vegetarian meal and espresso cocktails at David Bann and a quick run up the hill afterwards to the glass fronted Edinburgh Festival Theatre to enjoy two short operas by Kurt Weill. The first directly linking to my flight was about Lindergh’s flight across the ocean, stunningly visual with a cockpit suspended across a row of clocks, a map of the route and projected seas and fog (the fog brought back many memories). Following the interval drinks (I can make it from the front of the circle to the interval bar to be in the first 2 people now with only hurling a few fur coated ladies out of the way) was ‘The Seven Deadly Sins’, an opera about me I thought. It was a perfect mix of music, contemporary dance and writhing semi naked bodies.

I heard a knock on the door and the sound of salsa music drowning out my Radio 3 orchestral piece so crept downstairs to investigate to find a dancing electricity meter reader in our hallway writhing around, fortunately clothed, and entering our meter numbers. This might be the way forward for keeping your staff fit and cheering up customers by having tangoing gas men, polkaing postmen and waltzing milkmen – then again, perhaps not.

One of our fellow djembe drummers sadly and unexpectedly died of Anthrax posioning, two of the drummers are on 60 days medication as they had visited his house, which is now a biohazard area with up to 20 people in the area being sought”. So cue the Badger, Badger, Badger, Anthrax” song.
Public Health got in touch with a survey and seemed a might concerned, as are others, with my dry cough.

The launch of the heritage website consisted of drinking wine in aimable company,
with impromptu depressing poetry readings from a local poet with a captive audience of myself and a blonde harpist.

So to the Innerleithen Folk Festival with an cringingly appalling first act, some kids singing about Soggy Socks and the brilliant Malinky – even the name is good, but the music was superb. Helped along with a bar the music just got better.

The Kelso Triathalon meant that to avoid going in it we had to help out at the side of the pool. The only person who would sit near me after hearing of the anthrax story was a GP and even she was a bit unsure. We counted and acted as timekeepers for a lane in the swimming part which meant we got soaked when they tumble turned, so the strategy of getting an inside job in the uncertain weather failed miserably. Relaxed the rest of the day in the company of d’Indy orchestral poems and trios.

The Scottish Borders Bright New Futures Parents and Carers guide proudly declares it is produced by the Kelso Locality Integration Team, although they don’t print its acronym. Which reminds me that The War Against Terror is also an acronym.

I am busy post processing a film called ‘Teen Mum’, yes it is a documentary on teenage pregnancies done by a government funded project we are part of up here with films on youth activities. Google videos is having to put it to their obscene panel to watch the entire film to make sure it will not offend anyone out there – wow what a job! All the other movies went up without any problem so the title is obviously causing concern…

Then my son opens the morning mail and out pops packets of vibrating condoms – he had filled in a survey on caio for Durex and has ‘won’ the aforesaid sexual assistants along with the incentive of getting 20 quid if he reports back on how they/he performed. I have agreed to assist in this but he doesn’t want to see the feedback…. now he is busy texting old girlfriends to see if they want to assist in this research.

Cows have regional accents, now does this mean that Flora the Highland cow has a highland accent ala Hamish Macbeth or a Scottish Borders one? I am surprised she doesn’t baaa since her only companions are soay sheep.

Our annual croquet match is a time for excess in drink, in food and in cheating. The weather was great with clouds all around except for a patch of blue above our garden, which reinforced the tale I told that I had hacked into the weather satellites to guarantee sun for our game.

We feasted off barbecued fillets and sirloins of Angus, our last slaughtered highland bullock, who was simply delicious, followed by enough creamy and sugary sweets to keep the middle eastern guest sweet tooth, and his dentist, happy. The wine and beer was flowing to eliminate the croquet competition along with dandelion and burdock for the drivers and our cleaning ladies vodka for the children (which we only found out about once they started vomiting over each other).

A varied set of guests including a lady who had been investigated by MI5 at the age of 13, was involved in the theft of the stone of destiny and recently had MI5 tailing her in Selkirk when she told BBC Scotland that the current government should all be assassinated; a nude model for lesbian artists in Berwick, an Israeli with his shisha pipe and dessert tobacco and guitarist sons; a friend of Mr Nice the most successful drug trafficker who used to smuggle drugs in rock bands speakers; our old lady neighbour who told us that she used to be a stripper in Marseille and our staff who were remarkably well behaved (and lost to me at croquet).

Croquet was a chance to kick balls into position when the opposition weren’t looking, but after been spotted on a video in previous years all eyes were on Mike for most of the match. Mike and Uri teamed up and swept the opposition off the pitch including an unlikely two hoops in one shot by me which sealed the match. I am not sure the prize of yet another glass of wine was sensible as I decided it would be a good idea to pretend to be a horse to get teenage girls to ride on me and I curled up and fell asleep whilst watching Spinal Tap in the evening, which was just as well as everyone else was cleaning up teenage vomit.

Pluto is no longer a planet, something that Holst knew ages ago (his Planets Suite doesn’t include Pluto, possibly because it hadn’t been discovered then).

The Fortean Times carries an article about Stoat packs, 50 to 80 of the darling creatures attacking wayward travellers through the country, carrying their dead away and wrapping themselves biting and clawing around peoples legs. The image alone is one to shudder whilst walking through fields – cattle are not the only dangerous thing in the countryside and size is no indicator of danger.

The joy of reading Paradise Lost with William Blakes pictures (no it is not a graphic novel) is enhanced by a book on the dualism of Milton and the symbiosis of his poetry.

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What is Mike doing?