Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Pure mad mental gear, man

I went to the sales in Glasgow today. I know, I know. I stored up as much calm and Zen-like detachment as possible in advance.

Shopping for jackets and work clothes was enlivened by spotting the latest streetwear trends. While in the posh jackets department of Frasers, some neds came in and started enthusing about the products on display. Obviously Burberry is so 2005, and all the kids now are into Aquascutum and Crombie. After a bit, the lads seemed to be following me between shops. "This guy's pure intae aw that mad gear, follow him!" I finally threw them off and bought something in Austin Reed.

I predict that soon only Conservative politicians will wear hoodies and trainers. The kidz will be hanging out in their hacking jackets and leather brogues, smoking walnut shag and listening to John Betjeman.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Nice walk

After a frustrating fallow patch, I went for a nice hill-walk today. With the short days at this time of year, one's options are limited, but we managed a couple of Munros from Drumochter. This does make things easier, as you are (vertically) half way there. The weather was good after the horrible storms of many recent weekends, although the large quantities of recent rain have washed away most of the snow. We had the traditional will-we-need-crampons conversation at the car, and said items were left in the boot. I did take my axe, and found a few places to use it, although the lack of one would not have been a problem.

Some fine wildlife on show too: a mountain hare; two ptarmigan pottering about on a very small snowfield; and a herd of hinds sheltering in a col.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Fast service

I occasionally order books through abebooks, and the service is impressively fast, even though it relies on the international postal service. That fine work Categorical Data Analysis arrived today, as it turned out, from Taiwan. Abebooks being what it is, I hadn't really noticed where it was coming from. I make that 4 days.

As a bonus, Royal Mail actually managed to fit the book through my letterbox, rather than knocking the door, running away, and making me collect it from the sorting office.

Monday, December 18, 2006


"I've got a lot of sprouts", says the woman on the train. "Can you make soup with them?"

Sunday, December 17, 2006

One's pictures

Saw a nice exhibition of Canalettos at the Queen's Gallery yesterday. Very interesting to see how contrived and altered the images from this famously "detailed" artist are. Perspective is used as a distraction. The collection has a matching set of 12 paintings that trace the Grand Canal through Venice. George III bought them from the wealthy patron who commissioned them, showing that he had some taste (or he was well advised). The present royals have precious little of this, as becomes clear when you see the awful tat on sale in the gallery shop.

Spotter's guide

The Guardian does have a sense of humour, it seems. After their innumerable wallcharts of flora, fauna, cheese, dinosaurs, they have produced one of Guardian readers. However, I think that some of the types noted are rare visitors.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006


I feel I ought to post something about the murders in Ipswich (where I lived for many years), but I don't think there is anything original I can say. I did take exception to some of the newspaper headlines, including the Telegraph this morning - something along the lines of "fifth call girl found murdered". If they were bank managers, would they put that in the headline? There are faint overtones of "they may just be tarts, but I suppose five is a bit excessive". Although of course, their profession is almost certainly why our murderer chose them.

Friday, December 08, 2006

She feels better now

Earlier this evening, I watched a woman ahead of me in the queue at Borders spend £65 on Christmas cards.

"Well at least that's done!" she said when the transaction was complete.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Reasons to be cheerful

I am currently enjoying a double CD of Ian Dury - an artist who rather passed me by the first time round, although I am of the right age to have been a rabid fan. I am slightly embarrassed to only do this after his death.

I can remember my primary school teacher talking to the class about Ian Dury's appearance on Top of the Pops (which means this must have taken place on a Friday morning in 1979, I suppose). She descibed his shortcomings at length, and clearly wondered what the world was coming to. "Imagine getting paid for singing hit me with your rhythm stick! What rubbish!"


I have quite a nice painting easel that allows you to adjust the height of your work using a nifty little ratchet mechanism. Last night, a heavier than normal load meant that said ratchet dropped onto my thumb, which I was using to mark the position that I wanted. Bleeding, pain and swearing ensued. Don't try this at home, children.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

That would do it

Just outside Glasgow this morning, there was an announcement:

"We apologise for the late running of this train, which is due to being slower than normal on the approach to Glasgow Queen Street"

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Nice show

After a couple of fairly miserable weekends, today was officially a nice crisp autumn day. Just the occasion for a spontaneous cross-town walk to the Dean gallery, there to see Consider the Lilies, a selection of paintings from the McManus galleries in Dundee. The galleries are getting a makeover at the moment, and Edinburgh (and later, London) are the beneficiaries.

For once, I get the timing right and have a pleasant experience, as it's not too busy and I can have scones and coffee first without screaming children who are being dragged round by their earnest parents. The show itself is excellent and makes me ashamed never to have visited the McManus. After it re-opens, I should go. The work does play to my personal likes, having a lot of strong figurative work from 1910 to 1940, with none of that suspect continental what-do-you-call-it?, cubo-futurism or something. Whatever that bloke Picasso does, anyway. Many artists are unknown, or half known, and as so often, the lesson is that there are many more good painters around that our collective canon of "good art" can contain. David Foggie and John Maclauclan Milne are entirely new to me. Hugely impressive too is James Gunn's portrait of his wife, as flashy as a Sargent, but painted with genuine affection and observation - her gorgeous Paris clothes a study in themselves.

Also a fine selection of etchings by Ian Fleming (no, not that one) on display downstairs.

All in all, a suitable prelude to my own efforts this afternoon.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Back again

Sorry about the lack of service. My excuse for the last few days is that I was being ill under a duvet with only a copy of Alan Bennett's Untold Stories and a pack of Immodium for company.

Much better now, and I hope that that was my spell of ill health for this winter.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006


The re-formed Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band rocked the Usher Hall last night, and I was lucky enough to be there. I've read various accounts of how entertaining, funny and anarchic their shows used to be, but have now experienced it for myself. Just think how great they must have been when fronted by Vivian Stanshall.

I have now seen the Head Ballet. And more shows should have fireworks, robots and musical legs. And saws. And spoons.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Unafraid in Norwegian

I got the chance to don my anorak at lunchtime: the Norwegian submarine Uredd was docked next to Ocean Terminal at Leith. The second floor gave an excellent viewpoint from which to watch its refueling.

Monday, November 06, 2006

I'm on the train

Although my new job continues to look promising and everyone is nice and friendly, the commuting is pissing me off. First Scotrail publish a work of fiction in which they claim that the train from Edinburgh to Glasgow takes between 50 and 55 minutes. The reality is more like an hour most days, not to mention the delights of cancellations and the consequent sardine-like packing of bodies. A biased estimate, as we statisticians say.

I think some Zen-like detachment is needed. I already try to read, but other people can be very distracting. Maybe I need an iPod.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Parcel for you

The Guardian tells us that Christmas is being delivered this year by the world's biggest container ship. If I still lived nearby, I could have gone to Felixstowe and seen it come in. And the containers would no doubt have been placed on trains and rumbled past my house.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Museum, mountain, work

I've been a bit lazy about posting, but I've been getting out and about quite a bit in the last few days.

On Thursday, I finally managed to get to the refurbished Kelvingrove Art Gallery. It deserves a longer post, but basically, I'm relieved that they haven't broken it. I do have a few reservations about some of the thematic displays, but everybody's doing it like that now. Like many, I was delighted to find some of my much -loved objects from childhood. There's the Dali, of course. Then there's Fulton's Orrery (not moving, alas). And I recognised a lot of the arms and armour from a school project in about 1985. I even found the skeleton of the wonderfully named Baron of Buchlyvie, the champion Clydesdale horse from 1911. My favorite of all eluded me for a while, until I went to see the Italian art gallery, which now contains the fantastic Avant armour. This was first pointed out to me by an art teacher at school for its coldy functional, yet oddly beautiful lines, and fits nicely in an art gallery.

I spent a damp weekend in Torridon (is there any other type?) with a certain mountaineering club that I have been vaguely meaning to join for a year or so. Fun, but quite awkward when you don't know people. I did play a couple of games of pool in a pub for the first time in years.

And today was the first of my new job in Glasgow. It rained this morning too. I'd forgotten that Glaswegian paving slabs always seem to be so badly laid that they squirt jets of muddy water over your feet when you step on them. Mind you, I'd also forgotten the fine Victoriana of the centre of town, with its red sandstone chambers. The job seems fine, but what can you tell from one day?

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Great wee bus

I'm beginning to like the MacEwan's no. 100 bus. It skirts the Pentlands on its way South, making it very useful for walking trips. It has friendly drivers who chat to the passengers. It is obscure, only anouncing its presence most discretely at the bottom of the signs at selected stops. This gives the whole experience an air of freemasonry.

I was more adventurous than before, taking the bus to Biggar, there to ascend Culter Fell. The back seat was occupied by four pensioners sucking on boiled sweets. The waft of Murray Mint and the clack of boiling upon denture reminded me strongly of elderly aunts who used to feed me such sugary Scottish treats when I was wee.

On the way back, when I stepped off on Morningside Road, somebody asked me if it was a special bus, or if anybody could get on.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006


Saw the Queen last night. The film by Steven Frears, that is. It's enormously enjoyable, with well-observed performances from Helen Mirren and others. I wonder what Michael Sheen will do when he stops looking like a young Tony Blair? But he seems well supplied with other parts.

My own experience of Diana's death was quite odd. I was on holiday in Poland. At breakfast, Mrs Slawinska tried to explain the situation to myself and two other Brits. There was the word "Paris", the word "Diana", then she crossed herself. We weren't sure what to make of this, but managed to get an English language paper later, which confirmed what had happened. I missed all the "show us you care" stories in the press and flew back the day before the funeral, getting to Ipswich quite late at night. I was thus rather unprepared for the frenzy that greeted me next morning as I searched, hungrily for breakfast. Everything was closed, and a group of people were watching a big screen in the middle of town. Sometime after midday, I got fed.

So I'm afraid I can't quite forgive her for leaving me hungry that morning. But go and see the film, because its great.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Eternal student

When buying some art materials earlier today, I was given a discount by the nice lady on the till, with no prompting of any kind. Maybe my unshaved appearance and denim jacket made me sufficiently studenty. Anyway, my opinion of Millers Graphics has gone up.

Doors Open Day

A belated post about Doors Open Day, that fine and very British institution. This is my third time in Edinburgh, and I don't think I've repeated myself yet.

Highlights included Riddle's Court, just off Lawnmarket, which for some reason I hadn't heard of. One painted ceiling from around 1590, reminds you once again that the past was often brightly coloured.

The Scottish Arts Club was ridiculously civilised, complete with pianist. I could have stayed for lunch, but settled for Greggs instead.

Later, I took a bus down to Leith and tracked down the Edinburgh Sculpture Workshop, in its pleasingly post-industrial setting. It won't quite be the same if they ever get round to putting up their new building. I enjoyed the pretentious self-descriptions of the various occupants of the studio. Fit for pseuds corner in most cases.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Children of men

I had great hopes of this film, with its strong story from P.D. James and its equally strong cast. For once, I wasn't disappointed; this is a very good apocalypse film, albeit one in slow motion. The premise is that humanity loses its fertility, so that we all die out from the bottom of the age pyramid up, at one year per year. About twenty years on, our man Clive Owen gets dragged into some radical group run by his ex-girlfriend (the lovely Julianne Moore), and finds himself smuggling a pregnant girl through a Southern England that is more like Bosnia on a bad day. The tone is unremittingly dark. If the film poses the question "How would humanity react to this moral dilemma?", the answer is; badly. Clearly nobody cares any more. It's the sort of film Spielberg would make rather badly, but then there are no cute kids for him to languish over.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Guess what

The job that I didn't really want has just been offered to me. Not sure what to do now. I've never turned down a job before, so that would at least be novel.

Saturday, September 23, 2006


Yesterday was my last at my employer of the previous year (11 months, actually--we wouldn't want you to have a year's tenure and have any rights or anything). Traditional leaving drinks were had, and some vouchers to spend in Tiso (they know me fairly well) were given. I will miss a few things: the scones in the canteen, lunchtime walks in the park, the office banter.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

West coast rain

Another interview yesterday, and another non-humiliating experience. If this goes on much longer, somebody might offer me a job. Glasgow was damp under a flat grey sky, reminding me of my childhood. I do think my potential employers want an awful lot for what they are paying, and it's not even permanent. Good for my soul though, and a flashy office with a nice view.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

I am one

I notice that I've now had this blog for exactly a year. If you have participated in any way, I thank you.

Monday, September 11, 2006


I should record something of my long and mostly enjoyable weekend. On Friday, I had a job interview, which felt quite positive. Even if I fail to get the post, it does break my recent run of interviews as theatres of humiliation. So that's good then.

Went away on Saturday with friends. The original objective was to climb in Coire an Lochain, but concerns about the cold meant we walked round the Northern Corries instead. It's well over a decade since I did this last, and that in full-on winter conditions, so it all felt very new. I was a bit depressed to see the amount of erosion on the plateau. That's what happens when you put in a road up to 650m. I also hadn't seen the funicular railway before. I suppose I disapprove, but on the other hand Coire Cas was fairly shagged up already.

Sunday did see some climbing activity on some seacliffs on the Moray coast. On the way, we passed Sueno's stone, and RAF Kinloss, complete with floral tributes at the gate. I did a couple of routes, but found it more relaxing to sit on the beach and watch boats go past.

Today, I mostly washed dishes and vacuumed.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Bring on Front Row

I am a hopeless Radio 4 addict, but my loyalty is cruelly tested sometimes. The 6.30 comedy slot is extremely variable. Last week I had the misfortune to listen to the awful Not today Thank you. I'm ashamed to say that I've listened to this week's just to see how poor it was. The synopsis says:

"Brian is shocked to discover that someone has defaced his precious brand new statue - of himself!"

Words fail me. Why would any commissioning editor fall for a pitch like that? At least the word "hilarious" didn't appear. And then the Archers, where "Ed goes too far". Which means I take comfort in my blog.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Red squirrels

After quite a gap, I went walking yesterday. I'm running out of accessible Munros, so chose Beinn Mheadhonach, which is quite a long way from Blair Atholl. A useful exercise that showed I hadn't turned into a fat slob, since I undercut the Naismith time quite considerably.

In the woods near Blair Castle, I passed one of those very worthy signs that tell you about wildlife.

"Red squirrels is it? I bet you never see them round here."

Of course, I'm wrong, as I immediately see two of them scampering up and down a tree. I'd forgotten how cute their white tummy looks.

Friday night

Went to see (well, mainly hear) Dick Gaughan on Friday night. I only really know him by reputation, which means some pretty old albums. In all honesty, I wasn't that impressed. There were a lot of irritating mannerisms of folk music, such as the endless retuning while introducing a song (I know acoustic guitars go out of tune quickly, but really). Also a rather baroque and over intricate style of playing, no doubt developed over the years and impenetrable to the newcomer.

After the show, I met two nice American ladies, Pat and Sandy, who are Emma's Revolution. We discussed writers who are poor performers of their own songs, among other things. Being in the business, they reckoned that the sound was done badly. Too much treble on the guitar, apparently.

My life is sometimes interesting.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

The problem solves itself

I caught up with C and her dress problems today. Apparently, the dress ended up by being a perfect fit.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Wardrobe issues

C is going to a wedding tomorrow. She has a problem, however, in that her dress requires combined tactics in order to fasten the zip correctly. Her flatmate will be at work, and nobody else can fulfill this vital task. What to do?

Suggestions included:
  • Putting on the dress the night before.
  • Getting up very early and enlisting help of flatmate before she leaves for work.
  • Waiting for the postman and getting him to help.
  • Fastening as much as possible, covering it with a shawl and seeking help from friend on arrival at the station.
Being a girl must be exhausting.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

The Doctor

Have just finished Tom Baker's autobiography; a lucky find in a local charity shop. Like me, he enjoys ironing.

Friday, August 11, 2006

The Count

Can I just say that Count Arthur Strong is absolutely brilliant?

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Fingermouse without the finger

I've been quiet for a bit, but it's mostly been for good reasons, like Rog. visiting, or going to fringe shows.

I feel I must record this, however. C in the office is what is known as "good value". She seemed very enthusiastic the other day about going to see Puppetry of the Penis--that magnet for screaming middle-aged women. Today she embarked on the subject again, but it rapidly emerged that she had misinterpreted it somewhat. She imagined it as like Fingermouse: lots of felt puppets, but with a substitute finger, you might say. Us lads however (and how do we instinctively know about this?) had to put her right.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Pyrennean pictures: 2

This is us on the summit of Besiberri North (3015m). I'm the one on the right looking somewhat thoughtful. I made the mistake of drinking water from the burn on the way up, and it disagreed with me rather. The human body has a great capacity for getting you through things, and I stayed fairly functional through the tricky scramble that led to the summit (about British Diff), and back down it (perhaps even trickier). I then proceeded to feel awful, throw up and generally delay things once on easier ground. I got some rough doctoring from our resident anaesthetist (You're going to throw up again. Yeah, told you so.) and was persuaded to continue, minus rucksack. By the time we got to the nice alpine meadow at the base of the ascent, I was virtually back to normal.

It is a nice hill though.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Holiday at work

Work these days feels like a trip to the seaside, what with the excessive heat, and the screeching seagulls nesting on the roof of the building opposite, not to mention the happy whine of the angle-grinder as the construction site on the other side gets to work. Ah, summer days in the office!

Friday, July 21, 2006

Pyrennean pictures: 1

This is near the dam (Cavallers) that seemed to be the starting point to many of our days.

There's a lot of climbing round here, including loads of very hard stuff that we didn't attempt. It does make you realise how much rock there is, and how little of it we have in Britain. So little that we get all bothered when somebody suggests putting a few bolts in. No such scruples here, and I'm not complaining, as it gets you up those slabs very nicely.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Back again

I've been on holiday for a week (will post some interesting pics soon, I hope) and have spent this week so far catching up on laundry and sleep.

Odd to come back from walking around in Spain to a heatwave. British heat at its most intense is still fairly pathetic.

Today the park near work revealed yet another surprise. Wandering past the herbaceous border, I startled four young foxes who were hanging about there.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Nice pictures

As you may have noticed, I've just discovered how to add pictures. This was Ben Cruachan in March. Good Windows wallpaper perhaps?

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Buses and beetles

It's a long time since I used any Citylink buses, but it was almost comforting yesterday to discover that a couple of things hadn't changed:
  • The driver thinks he's doing you a special favour to be giving out any change, and never has enough. Citylink owe me a pound.
  • They make any journey into the Highlands seem impressive by doing it nice and slowly. We stopped at Stirling for a 10 minute break (to change horses, perhaps?)
My journey was to Lochearnhead, there to ascend Ben Vorlich. The animal for the day was the beetle. Perhaps the hot humid weather brings them out?

On the way down, the falls at Edinample are very impressive, although the grounds of Edinample Castle prevent you seeing much. There's currently a bridge being rebuilt here too. This means there is no parking and no access to the next glen, from whence the Munros book recommends that you start. Oh, the little loves! Having to read the map and work things out for a change.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006


A woman on the bus this morning is eating muesli, with a spoon, from her bag. Suddenly, she notices my interest and stops.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Power source of the future

Nice to see that this month's Prospect had an article on fusion power. I was peripherally involved in this in the early 90s, as my PhD was sort-of-relevant to fusion devices, and my supervisor still had some tenuous connections to the Culham lab. Therefore, off I went at the end of my first year to the Culham Plasma Physics Summer School. This had its plus points, such as wandering round Oxford in the evenings, drinking at the Turf Tavern, and staying in St Edmonds Hall. Basically though, the course was quite dull. We all had to be indoctrinated into thinking that fusion was the energy of the future. It did seem oddly half-hearted though, as if its all being 40 years off meant we didn't have to bother too much at the moment. And that, as the Prospect article rightly noted, is the point. Fusion power as a feasible generation option is always 40 years away, regardless of whether you are in 1970, 1992, or 2006. The principle is perfectly sound, but the devil is in actually engineering and building the thing. It's easy to demonstrate in broad terms how containment works, but as somebody during that summer school pointed out, in practice it's as easy as restraining a wet bar of soap with elastic bands.

Saturday, June 24, 2006


Googling for something to do with chickens, I found the titles below. They are studies undertaken by a veterinary expert.

  • Alleged fraud on armchair ostrich farming
  • Losses attendant on mis-supply of ostriches
So if ostriches have been mis-supplied to you, I can recommend where to go.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Birdwatching at work

Went to a meeting in Perth today. The office is in an industrial estate, and has some resident oystercatchers breeding in the surrounding landscaped area. We got distracted at one point in the meeting by one of them rattling on the window (does it look like water?). During our buffet lunch, we got a perfect view of a couple of them foraging for whatever squirmy bugs it is they eat and shoving them into the beak of their chick, a grubby ball of feathers on stilts.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Da Vinci bollocks

I was in the mood for a film last night, but there was a lack of anything interesting to watch. So it was you-know-what, which I expected to be rubbish. And it was. My excuse to myself was that I enjoyed the locations, which is more or less true. I did some picture spotting during the scenes in the Louvre (did you catch Oath of the Horatii flitting past?). The London bits around Westminster Abbey were also well known to me (though our Tom appears not to need to pay to get in). And the Rosslyn chapel is familiar too, being just down the road a bit. Anorak that I am, I also recognized the bit of ruin that Tom and Audrey are standing in front of towards the end while mouthing some bland nonsense.

So, pretty locations then. Apart from a nice turn by Ian McKellern, there's no other reason to see it.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006


I've just discovered a website with beautiful panoramas. I can foresee some wasted hours ahead. My sighting of Ben Lawers from Arthur's Seat now looks quite tame.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

More hills

A more sociable walk today, with an ascent of Ben Vane. The cloud kept us cool in the walk-in, then cleared on the way up to give a pretty good, if hazy view. Even Ben Nevis put in an appearance, with a tiny snow field glittering in the distance. I officially declare Ben Vane to be a cool hill. It's steep and has boulders and scrambly bits.

Interesting that none of us were repelled by the pylons and pipes of the Loch Sloy hydro scheme that's next to it. I mean look, it's a landscape-it has stuff in it.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Don't argue with an economist

We were having some enjoyable office banter today at the expense of a colleague who drives the pathetically short distance from Tollcross to the office. Clearly, he'll be first against the wall when the revolution comes, but being an economist, he points out that once you own a car, the marginal cost of driving it somewhere is trivial.

As if to back him up, the buses have been irritating, overheated, crowded and generally rubbish for the last few days. Tonight there was an unreconstructed drunkard on the back seat of the 30, singing sectarian songs and being ignored by all the sweaty office workers.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Not so beautiful

After reading Sylvia Nazar's A Beautiful Mind recently, I thought it would be good to catch up with the film version, which I missed at the cinema.

Oh dear. The film never really gets beneath the skin of its subject. There is no very convincing account of how brilliant he is or why it's important when he discovers something new in game theory, so that you don't know why anybody should care when he goes mad, or understand why he should get a Nobel prize. This is a pity, because I found the background about Princeton in that era to be one of the most interesting aspects of the book. Princeton in the late 40s was like Paris for artists in 1900. I was rather hoping the film might show the occasion when Nash met Einstein, the result being "You should learn more physics, young man". Somewhat peripheral perhaps, but it would have been a scene that told us a lot about the brashness of Nash, the milieu in which he found himself, and the fact that he was treated seriously.

I suppose the main idea of the film was to show Nash's delusions as real, and I think this aspect works somewhat better than the rest. Ultimately though, it's an excuse to insert some bits of a crappy espionage thriller into a film about a mathematician's struggle with mental illness. It distracts from the main point.

The ending is particularly unsatisfactory. The implication is that he just hung about the library being eccentric but basically likeable until one day he was offered the Nobel prize. In fact, his behaviour was probably a good deal more odd and hard to deal with, and he actually got better after about 1990-a controvertial statement, since you aren't supposed to recover from schizophrenia. The fact that his son also had schizophrenia was excised, as was his divorce from Alicia, and his other illegitimate child.

I wonder what the Mike Leigh version would have been like?

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Held up

A woman behind me on the bus this morning shouts into her mobile: "I'm held up in traffic!"

I suppose she does this because it sounds better than "I'm a bit late".

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Flickering lights in a dark cave

Sometime, I should really post something longer about barbeques and why the hell we bother with them in this country, but for now this will have to do.

An hour or so ago, the tenement across the back from me attempted to have one. Since it was raining at the time, they lit it just inside the close. From my window, this appeared as a dark cave with some flickering flames in it. A group of people with umbrellas stood round the door watching. It looked like a metaphor for the futility of the human condition.

After a while, they stopped. Hopefully, sense prevailed, and they went out and got chips.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Poor farmers

One unanticipated advantage of my current job is that I can now see at least some of the flaws in the rants about the state of farming that are regularly published in the press. One of my favourites is the ideas that subsidies such as those handed out by CAP produce lower food prices within the EU. In fact, subsidies have exactly the opposite effect. We pay twice to support farmers; once through the general CAP budget, and once through the elevated prices produced by the intervention system. Given our country's attitude to food price (basically, sod the animal welfare as long as its cheap) I'm surprised that this point isn't made more often.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Why won't it just work?

Spent a fair bit of this afternoon trying to work out how to use a piece of GIS software. An odd feeling for an unfrocked technical author, as I have divided loyalties. Like all users, I want to be able to make the thing work NOW, and no, I'm not bloody going to read that carefully crafted section entitled "About ArcMap". On the other hand, I can tell as I crack their shiny spines that they have been quite nicely done. They've taken the trouble to say "want" not "wish", and the steps in the procedures actually make sense. I've written "About ArcMap" and its friends quite a few times myself. Maybe I'll read it some time to express my solidarity to a brother scribe.

At one point C. gets an ex-boyfriend of hers from upstairs to come and have a look as he supposedly used to work with this stuff. Yes, that does sound weird, doesn't it? He can't answer my question and instead spouts a lot of bullshit. He comes over as a right arsehole, claims that what I want can't be done, and takes ages to go away.

A bit later I discover there's a GIS support group, phone up somebody, and ask the same question. I get a correct and helpful answer within about 30 seconds.

Friday, May 05, 2006

2 billion dollar's worth

I recently finished Richard Rhodes' The Making of the Atomic Bomb, and never has an 880 page hardback seemed so compulsive. It was an impulse lift from the popular science section of Edinburgh's Central Library. However, rather than putting it down again because it was (in every sense) too heavy, I recognised it as a work Roger had pressed on me some time ago, and thought it was worth a punt. It was.

Richard Rhodes has done vast amounts of research, and takes a long run-up to the subject. We are eased in shortly after 1900, and given a deft introduction to a rapidly changing field, peopled, it seems, by a cast of brilliance. I'm familiar with a lot of the physics and the characters though my degree, but I still learned a lot about this era. It's well written too. The better sections read like a novel, and as in a good novel, some well-placed anecdotes enliven the book and stick in the mind. What about Fermi running along the corridor of his lab so that he can measure some short lived isotope? Or Otto Frisch coming close to a critical assembly by leaning over his workbench, thereby reflecting the neutrons with his body? Or a younger Frisch working out fission with his aunt (Lise Meitner) on a Christmas skiing trip?

And it all cost 2 billion dollars.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006


At lunchtime today I saw the kingfisher. It's one of those experiences you can't describe without resorting to some tired old cliche. A flash of electric blue above the babbling stream - that kind of thing.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Arty stuff

Just had my first OCA tutorial for the present course. It went better than I feared and cheered me up quite a bit. The venue was a nicely bohemian studio in Leith, a milieu I have benn unaccustomed to of late. I got paint on my hands and everything.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Currently flying to star-stained heights...

I've been greatly enjoying Dory Previn's Mythical Kings and Iguanas since buying it on CD a few weeks back (Mary C. Brown and the Hollywood Sign is currently playing). This is a much loved album for me, but one that I'd not heard for a good many years. One of my older brothers (possibly Colin) had it on cassette, and it was played many times as a background to much of my childhood, so that even after a gap of over a decade the sequence of tracks and many of the lyrics are still familiar.

Returning with a bit of maturity, I just about understand the lyrics of the title track, note for the first time the desperation of the Lady with the Braid, and generally marvel at the quality of this greatly underrated masterwork from 1971.

The version I have is slightly spoiled by having another album on the same disc. Good value, yes, and there are some good tracks here too, but the juxtaposition inevitably makes it hard for anything that tries to follow this brilliantly structured album.

The reprise of the title track is playing now. Up we go, on bent and battered wings...

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

A fine hotel

I can't be bothered writing a proper what-I-did-in-my-Easter-holidays piece, so you'll have to make do with a few ramblings.

I walked in to Feith Uaine bothy (alias the Tarf Hotel) for a couple of nights. Enough snow still there to make an ice-axe feel justified, but not as much as in the main Cairngorms, which were occasionally visible. Melt water swelled the rivers, and rivers and their crossing became a theme of the trip. I wasted a long time on Saturday trying to find an elusive wire bridge, only to discover today that there is an exquisite Victorian suspension bridge just below falls of Tarf. Pretty, but probably too far away to be useful.

Walking in and out turned out to be the highlights of the trip, with Saturday's drizzly bridge seeking forming the filling to the sandwich. I particularly enjoyed picking my way down Gleann Mhairc, which had a lovely waterfall, a herd of deer, and another of Athol Estate's picturesque bridges (but in stone) at the bottom.

And in the bothy, I met somebody who, like me, used to live in Ipswich. But he's better now.

Monday, April 17, 2006

First cuckoo of spring

I saw one of Edinburgh's harbingers of spring today. It was my first clear sighting of a group of tourists, wandering past my road in the sunshine, heading, perhaps by instinct, towards the city centre.

Sunday, April 09, 2006


It seems I'm only posting about walks these days, but where's the harm in that? Today I managed to go walking with Alastair, who I know from ages ago, for the first time in far too long. Options were open on leaving Edinburgh, but Alastair had a hankering after snow and there was some on the big hills, so up the A9 it was. Around Aberfeldy, Schiehallion emerged top of the list. Somewhere near Braes of Foss, it occured to us that we had both done the hill exactly once before, on the same miserable day 14 years ago - the occasion being a mutual friend's last Munro. So it was fitting that our reunion walk should be here on a day when we might actually get a view.

We made a fast ascent that probably did my fitness a lot of good, passing a lot of other walkers who showed a wide variety of levels of preparedness. This ranged from that chilly jeans-and-trainers look to totally unnecessary crampons. There was a few inches of new snow, and a biting wind on the top. I totally failed to recognise the narrow boulder-strewn summit from last time.

Oh, and the John Muir Trust have sorted out the footpath quite nicely.

After, we went to see the Fortingal Yew. Interesting, but would it get a second glance if you didn't know it was very very old?

Monday, April 03, 2006

Frogs and tunnels

Yesterday's entertainment took the form of Meall Cuaich, a somewhat isolated Munro near Dalwhinnie. This was precisely the journey that I failed to start about six weeks ago. But despite preparations for the Scottish Cup final, and engineering work at Haymarket, my train journey was simple this time.

Meall Cuaich isn't exactly in virgin wilderness, as an extensive hydro-electric scheme runs through, under and/or past most of the landscape hereabouts. This gives a very easy gradient to the start of the walk as you stroll by the side of several miles of acqueduct. It's also a nice platform from which to observe other hills. After passing a small but clearly active power station, the path narrows and steepens and the real business begins. The path has only recently emerged from snow and has a lot of puddles, which are inhabited by a lot of frogs and frogspawn, so clearly spring is upon us. The hill itself has a flat top, a fine view and there's not a great deal else to say. On descending, I get to practise goose-stepping on steep, soft snow. Then I'm at Loch Cuaich, and admiring some civil engineering, in the form of the end of a tunnel, gushing water. A plaque informs me that it's carrying water from Loch an t-Seilich, is about 4 miles long, and was completed in July 1940. I bet nobody stopped at the time to celebrate a bold piece of British engineering. And in general, it's funny how little known is the considerable amount of such tunnels, dams, and assorted concrete that can be found in unexpected parts of the Highlands.

I must be getting a bit fitter. On arriving back at Dalwhinnie, I realise that what I'd been thinking of as a "short" day has taken six hours, and I've walked at least 16 miles.

Friday, March 31, 2006

Computers are fast these days

I created a SAS data set with 144 million observations today. Admittedly, it took a while, but it is remarkable that it happened at all.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006


I very much enjoyed Transamerica last night. Felicity Huffman's portrayal of a transsexual is very well observed, and assisted, I imagine, by some very skilled make-up and costume. That bloke-trying-slightly-too-hard-to-look-feminine look is captured expertly. I particularly liked the drag queen lipstick and over-abundance of pink. So is it just a light veneer covering a very formulaic road movie? Perhaps, but, for me, the changing American landscape did add something. It's all to easy for us to forget the size of that continent and driving across it probably would change your outlook of a few things. I suspect the film exagerates how quickly you could do this (we get to Texas with suspicious speed), but there is some plot to get on with, and the deadline of Bree's approaching surgery means that the journey has to proceed briskly. Anyway, a nicely judged piece that doesn't try to force a message. And that's good.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006


It seems Ian Hamilton Finlay has died. It's been a bad few weeks for octagenarian eccentrics. I hope Little Sparta is preserved.

Thursday, March 23, 2006


Thanks to a lot of moisturiser, my face is surviving, but it is flaking a bit now.

Walking past the Mound while sheding fragments of skin, I discover that Thursday is late night opening. So I wander into the National Gallery, where some musicians are playing classical music. Cue half an hour looking at paintings. (Yes, I know, this sounds impossibly cultured.) I am struck by a Van Dyke that I never really noticed before. He's much more interesting than I gave him credit for.

Monday, March 20, 2006


That's the colour of my face today, after yesterday's sun and snow. It entertained my work colleagues greatly. I had a meeting with some external bods this afternoon. Nobody mentioned that I was doing an impression of an electric fire.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Slow but pretty

I can report a fine day on Stuc a'Chroin, with Alan (old walking friend). There was still a lot of the copious amounts of snow that fell last week lying around, which made things very pretty, and slow. Lovely and clear too, with a semicircle of snowy peaks to look at (we're on the edge of the Highlands, remember). There was practise in traversing steep snow, which I've not done for a while, and the complex and rugged ridge gave us a lot of fun. The freezing level was at about summit level, so all snow was soft and getting softer, and therein lay a problem. The walk-out should have been a brisk trot down Glen Ample and no messing. But you can't trot on a path covered by a foot of wet cement. You labour slowly, with aching legs and curse when you posthole (which is a lot). Alan was suffering more than me, through having children and not walking much recently.

There's always something, isn't there? My last walk was fuck-off cold and icy, so this time it was crampons and thermals, but we really needed sunglasses and Ambre Solaire. And new legs.

Thursday, March 16, 2006


This morning two treecreepers were doing their thang on a large gnarled tree in the Meadows. I stopped to watch for a bit. Their tear-shaped bodies bobbed and darted about on the trunk like mice. Then it started snowing, so I moved on.

If you've detected an increase in bird notes in this blog recently, it's largely because I talk to Bob at work a lot and he knows about stuff like this. He's a good teacher--using interesting facts to hook me in and never overloading me with information. The bit of river near work holds a surprising number of birds and often starts us off. There's the exotic ducks that I've discovered are goosanders, the rather charming grey wagtails the other day (an easy one since they do a lot of tail-wagging), and the redwings foraging in the football field. I've still not seen the kingfisher, though. Patience, patience.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

That's that

As of tonight, when I received my rejection letter, I officially joined that elite club of people who have failed a Civil Service board. From what I've seen, the others have all been bright, articulate, and highly employable, so I feel honoured to join them. I suspect it's all for the best, as if I'd got in, the hideous and inexplicable rejection would occur a couple of years in. Colleagues have been very comforting about the whole business and have provided many other examples of recruitment/promotion disasters.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Political Science

The lyrics of Randy Newman's song of that name from 1972 are astonishingly prescient and could be a neo-con anthem:

No one likes us-I don't know why
We may not be perfect, but heaven knows we try
But all around, even our old friends put us down
Let's drop the big one and see what happens

We give them money-but are they grateful?
No, they're spiteful and they're hateful
They don't respect us-so let's surprise them
We'll drop the big one and pulverize them

Asia's crowded and Europe's too old
Africa is far too hot
And Canada's too cold
And South America stole our name
Let's drop the big one
There'll be no one left to blame us

We'll save Australia
Don't wanna hurt no kangaroo
We'll build an All American amusement park there
They got surfin', too

Boom goes London and boom Paris
More room for you and more room for me
And every city the whole world round
Will just be another American town
Oh, how peaceful it will be
We'll set everybody free
You'll wear a Japanese kimono
And there'll be Italian shoes for me

They all hate us anyhow
So let's drop the big one now
Let's drop the big one now

Friday, March 10, 2006

Sainsburys, tonight

I go on an unenthusiastic single-male type trip to Sainsburys.

A wee girl stands eating a creme egg at the end of an aisle with a streak of chocolatety dribble down her face. It works for me. I buy some.

Two blokes behind me in the queue discuss salad dressings and whether they've got enough balsamic vinegar. Then they talk about hard maths. They don't make me buy anything.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Goodbye, Ivor

Ivor Cutler is dead. I discovered this while reading newspapers after a meal in Hendersons. Both the Guardian and the Telegraph have good obituaries.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Bothy trip

Had a very enjoyable overnight trip to the Bridge of Orchy area on Friday/Saturday. The weather was fine, the bothy was in good shape, and it was nice to see that Crannach wood has been fenced off to keep the deer out. Since it was cold, and snowy on the tops, there were a lot of deer about, too.

Anyway, onward to Beinn Mhanach, which I climbed very slowly. Unfitness, extreme cold, or a large pack? I'm not sure, but we got there in the end. I enjoyed making the rising traverse around Beinn an Dothaidh to get to the Beinn Dorain col. There's a certain smugness about not losing height that no other exertion can remove. Another reason for satisfaction was the emptiness of this side of the hill. After a brew of tea, I climbed to the col, which was like a railway station by comparison. Thence to the Bridge of Orchy Hotel, which these days has decided to be friendly to walkers. So I suppose there are some advantages to being in a crowd.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006


Watched Solaris on DVD a few nights ago. That's the recent Soderberg version, not the very long Tarkovsky one. Anyway, it came up very well on re-viewing. As on my first encounter, I found the music captivating and somewhat hypnotic. Maybe I should locate the soundtrack album. And Natasha Whatsit is a bit tasty.

Incidentally, I see this blog now has at least 2 readers.

Here day, away day

The statistician's away day (just think about that concept for a moment) is now past. It was actually about a day and a half in Peebles Hydro and wasn't as bad as I feared. I don't really take to such events, partly because they take place in hotels (which I don't understand) and partly because of the awkwardness of coping with over 100 people whom I don't know. Like the odd loner I am, I go for a walk up the wee glen beside the hotel after the first day. It's a pleasant evening, despite having snowed earlier, and there's a noisy tawny owl in the woods. All in all, it could be worse.

Going back into the office after this short break, I'm struck by what a nice environment it is. I realise clearly for the first time that I'm going to miss this if, as seems likely, I don't get a permanent job there.

Saturday, February 25, 2006


Saw Capote last night and liked it a lot. It's always a pleasure when a film appears from the publicity to have a certain message, but on viewing turns out to have rather more to it. To put it another way: it's good when trailers don't spoil films. Thus, I thought that Truman Capote's researches into a nasty murder in Kansas would simply gain him an insight into his own background and how he could have turned out. However, what gradually swims into focus is that Capote's book can only exist because of the deaths of the victims, and that it can only be finished with the death of the murderers. Since stays of execution are granted, this takes about five years, and leads to an excellent bit of cinema. A very fine performances too from Mr Hoffman, and some lovely shots of bleak midwestern landscapes.

Friday, February 24, 2006

The natural world

I've not posted any nature notes for a bit, so I'm glad to record some fieldfares in the Meadows happily bathing in a puddle, while some inexplicable buskers (it was very cold) played at the people hurrying past.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Meanwhile, back at the office

Of course, everybody in the office asks about the interview, and I reply with an appropriate variant on "bloody awful" in each case. Over the day I do become just a little more hopeful. Somebody points out that to the fresh-faced new graduates, clutching their freshly minted degrees, the competency based interview is a much greater horror than to cynical old me. Well maybe.

It's hard to get back to work, as I feel like I've been away for ages.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006


Had an interview this morning and it didn't feel too good. It was unfortunately conducted in a tricky dialect of HR Bollocks. I am not fluent in this. Let's hope that everybody else was equally bewildered.

It rained quite a lot today. Just as I escaped after my competency-based ordeal, a lorry ran through a huge puddle and splashed me liberally.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

I, a statistician

I still have some trouble self-identifying as a statistician. It's one of those archetypally dull things, like chartered accountancy--though, thankfully, much more interesting in reality. I've just been doing some tutoring. Hearing yourself say things like:

"No, remember that the null hypothesis states the variances are equal"

and expecting to be understood, is very spooky. And who came up with hypothesis testing, with all its Godawful multiple negatives? Not to mention the frequently misinterpreted p-value.

Is this a way for sane people to talk?

Friday, February 17, 2006

Biofuel madness

There's a lot of talk about biofuels at the moment (see my previous note on the Broons). It seems to be an idea whose time has come, or at least its time to be talked about has come. What almost none of the pieces in the press mention is how much space it takes to grow sufficient feedstocks. Basically, growing your fuel is very inefficient, regardless of how you do it. It's even less efficient than renewables like wind power, and that's saying something. A recent EU estimate stated that 17% of the EU's agricultural area would be needed to support a 5.75% uptake of biofuels by 2010. That's an awful lot of land for a small overall change in our fuel use. You have to wonder if we haven't better things to do with land, like growing food on it.

But what about Brazil -- that beacon of eco-fuel use? Well, they have an awful lot of land and a lot of heat and sunshine, so the conversion of sunlight into fuel, via some biochemical pathways is about as efficient as it presently can be. This is often forgotten when optimistic comparisons are made. Other factors have been important too. The programme was originally partly motivated by a desire to reduce their dependence on oil imports, though they have a little oil of their own now. It does rather worry me that those who form our policy have not been very well briefed on this.
I predict a backlash to the current biofuel hype in maybe 6-12 months, with claims that we've been "misled" about them.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Scotrail are rubbish

I got up ferociously early this morning to get the 06.40 train to go walking near Dalwhinnie. Just before starting, there is an announcement asking passengers changing at Perth (that's me) and some other stations to get off and wait for further instructions. Like a fool I obey, and guess what? The train leaves normally and (as far as I know) goes to Perth. There are no further instructions, and the whole thing was a screw up. If only I'd ignored the announcement, I'd now be walking around somewhere more interesting than Edinburgh.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Edward Scissorhands

Am just back from seeing Matthew Bourne's production of this at the Festival Theatre. Dance is not exactly a performing art that I follow, but you have to make some exceptions. I thought the show was excellent, with music nicely adapted from the film. The ensemble pieces had a lot of energy and humour, and the sets and staging were very impressive.

An interestingly mixed audience too. Initially the theatre seemed to be full of school parties, but on further study there were plenty of those older ladies that you always seem to find in theatres, plus some Goth presence. My neighbour sported leather trousers and a velvet frock coat. I felt underdressed.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Claws of Axos

I acquired this Dr Who DVD on Friday to add to my already all-too-large collection. I'm not greatly taken by it as a story, but it has a fantastic little extra that tells of the fascinating details of Reverse Standards Conversion, complete with Open University style graphics. If only there were more details...

OK, I'll take off my anorak now.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Why we do this

What started out as a rather ho-hum hillwalk today turned into one of my best ever days out. The target was Meall nan Tarmachan, chosen because I saw nothing of its lovely four tops and rugged ridge during my first ascent over a decade ago. In fact my clearest memory is possibly of my clothing steaming dry in a bar in Killin later that day.

Today's weather looked OK--dry and calm, but somewhat cloudy. Up we went and entered the cloud at around 700m. Near the top and half way up a rather steep slope, somebody points out that you can see blue at the top. And at the top, we emerge from the leaden cloud into a sunlit world of sparkling ice and crisp blue shadows. We stop for food and crampon fitting, and the top of the cloud slowly sinks, revealing Ben Lawers; several miles off, but seen in pin-sharp detail. Yes, it's a cloud inversion, and a close-to-perfect example of its type.

The summit of Meall nan Tarmachan reveals an incredible view. It's a relief map of the southern highlands, but with everything below 1000m obscured by an ocean of cloud. To the south, there is an unbroken sea, flat as a millpond. To the north, all the famous peaks as far as the great glen, are floating like whales.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Cattle truck

I'm getting the 22 bus a lot these mornings, which usually means being crushed against somebody's oxter and having to climb over the bodies of the slain to get off. Why don't Lothian Buses put on double deckers at the busy periods?

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Unless I've miscounted...

...Frank and Bob have obliged us with another couple of lengths of railing.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Stealth railings and seagulls

The railings that I noted previously have grown, but only slowly. I think the workmen are moonlighting from another less interesting job. "By day they poured concrete, but by night Bob and Frank were two of the country's leading fitters of historically accurate decorative ironwork."

I'm crossing the Meadows more often again. This morning, several hundred seagulls kept me company. As the wind blew, skeins of birds would lift off and float across the grass, then drop again like a fold of gauzy material.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Match Point

I saw this on Saturday night and wasn't going to post anything, but the number of reviews claiming it to be a masterpiece, leads me to state that it's not. It is very good, with some nice performances from a mainly British cast (how odd to see Penelope Wilton and John Fortune in a Woody Allen film), but for me it never gets much better than that. The ball-hitting-the-net motif is very nicely done and the final plot twist is effective, but there are a few glitches from the famous Manhattanite: I've never seen snow in London the likes of that seen in one scene (too much Dickens, perhaps); and the Royal Opera House seems unable to afford an orchestra (piano only).

And I am embarrassed how long it took me to see the Crime and Punishment reference.

Still, keep making the films, Woody.

Sunday, January 15, 2006


I'm glad to report that some workmen started putting up railings at the end of the Meadows this morning. The stone strip (too low to be a wall really) that runs along here has been railingless since about 1940, when the previous railings were taken down as part of the war effort, then (according to my Dad) left lying in heaps, because we weren't actually that short of cast iron. Quite why this has to be done on Sunday morning escapes me. Only a small stretch has been put up so far, but some reasonably authentic street furniture is always welcome.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Statistics and owls

Went to an interesting RSS talk last night. The location of these talks is a rather lovely Georgian town house in the New Town. There are quite a lot of portraits of famous mathematicians and scientists on the walls, but I've never noticed before the rather lovely pencil (?) drawing by William Dyce of James Clerk Maxwell as a child, apparently embracing a large owl. I find it a rather compelling image: the young scientist embraces wisdom. Or am I just overloading it, and it's a piece of pure whimsy? I'd love to know more. My main knowledge of Dyce is as the painter of a version of Christ in the wilderness, where the landscape used is very clearly Scottish.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Getting better

I'm glad to say that I feel quite a bit better, and hope to go to work on Monday. I need to work out a reply to the traditional enquiry of "Did you have a nice Christmas?". "No, it was fucking miserable" may not strike the right note of cheery comradeship.

My spluttery wanderings round Newington the other day lead me to find a £2 copy of Joshua Reynold's Discourses on Art in the Bethany shop. I also explored the excellent and idiosyncratic Word Power books yesterday, which shows that moderate enjoyment can be had without adequate bronchial function.

Re-viewed Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy last night, and confirmed my impression that it was good. Some fans seemed to hate this version, but I'm not sure why. And there should be more knitted sequences in sci-fi films.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

More misery

As if the misery recounted in yesterday's entry wasn't enough, last night I had my worst asthma attack ever. I suspect something I ate disagreed with me (a fried egg sandwich being the main suspect), giving me a temperature, uncontrollable shivers, scary asthma symptoms, and more than a little fear. As somebody who rarely suffers from any sort of ill health, it's doubly frightening that your body can suddenly bring you so low. Towards midnight, my stomach felt a little more settled, and I decided not to send for the ambulance after all. This morning I was back to feeling just wheezy, thus confirming my fried-egg-sandwich theory.

Since I spent most of the day in bed, there's little else to report, apart from some very pretty fog that came at 3.30 or so, then lifted to reveal a crescent moon.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Me, moaning about Christmas

Since I am supposed to go back to work tomorrow, can I just say what a crap festive season/midwinter festival this has been?

I like this time of year little enough, what with short days, the lack of public transport, the lack of non-Christmas items in the shops, dreadful weather, and that utterly humourless bonhomie that comes over many people. Add to this feeling ill and wheezy, and still not knowing many people in Edinburgh, and you have a truly miserable couple of weeks on your hands.

Let's just count the good things, shall we:

  • I did manage to read through quite a backlog of books, including some Hunter S. Thompson, Alan Bennett's latest, Pompeii by Robert Harris, Eastern Approaches by Fitzroy Maclean.
  • I saw some good films (Constant Gardener, and Narnia at the cinema, and a revisit for Young Adam and Nixon on DVD) .
  • I visited Edinburgh Zoo for the first time since about 1978, it being a suitable activity for somebody who wants to get exercise and diversion, but not get too far from a coffee shop or the bus back.
  • I managed to see the physics bods (colleagues during postgraduate days) for the first time in several years.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

A guid new year to ane an' aw...

For once it is a nice day too. Assuming that I'd been well enough to go somewhere interesting for Hogmanay, it would have been possible to go for a decent walk today. But that's too many subjunctives and most New Year trips that I can remember consisted of watching drizzle fall from low cloud on Jan. 1st, while attempting rehydration.

The wheezing is somewhat better, which meant I did manage to ascend Arthur's Seat. All the far away hills that one can so unexpectedly see from here were visible, including Ben Lomond, Ben Ledi, and Ben Lawers. I still can't quite get over the amount of Scotland that this view spans, but then we do live in a small country. As usual, the summit was full of tourists, and also as usual, I ended up taking pictures for a few people. It's sad how few of the good folk of Edinburgh take advantage of the exercise on their doorstep.

There was also a triathalon in the park today, which gives you some stupidly fit people to stare at.