Friday, December 30, 2005


Went to see the winners of the BP Portrait Awards today. I actually already had a look at them a couple of weeks ago, but something made me go back. My initial impression had been a very pleasant one, but at a second look, it seemed more mixed. The initial surprise (or is it?) is that there is a lot of very detailed, precise, and--for want of a better word--traditional work here. However, there's a lot of rather facile stuff too. A good few pieces seem to be developed using large scale photographs (not in itself a fault), but have added little by the process of painting. My overall criticism is that they're too bland, and too afraid of being paintings. The winner, in particular, would be as effective as a photo; if there's been any imaginative transformation here, it's well hidden.

Works I do like:
Monkey Painting - I missed the monkey first time round
Portrait of Chantal Menard - Old fashioned in technique, but of a pierced and tattooed babe
Gran Turismo is a great image, but why paint it?
Anna and Kiki is quirky, and that's good
Older passed me by the first time, but is great
Wife and Daughter is a very sweet portrait, and reminds me that not all the pieces here work as portraits.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Athsma is rubbish

Am having one of my fairly rare boughts of athsma. Spluttering and wheezing is just what you want at this cold, miserable time of year. It does get you some sympathy though, as you sound much iller than you are.

Sunday, December 18, 2005


Reading one of the bits of the Guardian, I come across one of those trendy fashion features, you know the ones, where bored skinny models lounge around a grim urban interior and scowl at you while wearing overpriced clothing. Except this one seems to have gone a bit overboard in the grim set dressing. Surely there's rather more mould growing up the wall than even us sophisticated urbanites want to see? And, come to think of it, there's no model.

It turns out to be an article about the aftermath of hurricane Katrina, the grim interior somebody's abandoned house.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Office party

In common with half the country, we had our office Christmas lunch yesterday. My instinct was to dress down a little, which I did. Most male staff of a similar grade to me had done the same. Most lower grade staff (and why does the Civil Service make you adopt the language of class distinction so effortlessly?) had dressed up, with ties and formal shirts appearing for the first time ever in some cases. It meant that this was probably the only day in the year when A. and I, who sit back to back to each other, were dressed similarly. For the women, though it was a different story, with the uniform response being to dress up.

Oh, and I got the world's least useful present in the secret Santa.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Bird spotting

When I catch the bus on Gorgie Road these evenings, there's often a heron sitting by the weir on the Water of Leith, seemingly oblivious to the traffic and noise about twenty metres away.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Very peculiar

Apropos of nothing in particular, it's a source of great frustration to me that the second series of A Very Peculiar Practice has not yet made it to DVD. I fell on series 1 with delight when it was released. Practice was a highlight of my teenage years and a programme whose originality and delightful oddities were unlike anything else that I can think of. After kicking off with two nuns scavenging in the bins, we are introduced to timid but likeable Dr Steven Daker, who acts as a sort of foil to a grotesque gallery of colleagues: Old Jock McCannon, follower of Yung and Ronnie Laing, now finding himself out of favour in the sick university; the attractive but threatening Rose Marie and her feminist machinations; Thatcher's child Bob (Could you manage Robert?) Buzzard, ever on the make. Add a delightful girlfriend, a maths genius room-mate and a Vice Chancellor of Machiavellian guile, and you are in for some excellent television.

Monday, December 05, 2005

A vertical kilometer

I'd like to record my first use of an ice axe in a good few years. I ascended Ben More (the Crianlarich version) on Saturday. It was steep and short and snowy at the top. Some mild misery on the descent.

It does seem to have reawakened the Munro-bagging urge in me. I spent a lot of Saturday night studying maps and guides.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Wasted heat

Something that irritates me quite a lot during the winter, and particularly in the run-up (the what? - is it an athletic event?) to Christmas, is the habit of shops leaving their doors wide open in freezing weather. This is no doubt to make customers feel welcome and remove any barrier to them entering and spending lots of money. It is shockingly wasteful of heat though. I wonder if it's budgetted for separately. And I've never noticed anybody anywhere pointing this out before.