Tuesday, May 29, 2007


I thought I had become accustomed to how crap the drama and comedy on Radio 4 can be, but Blood in the Bridal Shop plumbed new depths. Variously described as a drama and a comedy, this really was dire. I enjoy a challenge sometimes, and decided to listen to all 15 minutes of it rather than switching off at the end of Front Row, as I would normally. This felt a bit like trying to hold your breath underwater: you end up diving for the off switch with bursting lungs.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

War art

A couple of exhibitions recently have pointed me to the work of Edward Baird (1904-1949), a little-known painter from Montrose. When I visited Kelvingrove last, I found his Unidentified aircraft, which feels as strong in its way as any of the images in the Imperial War Museum. He also had some work in the recent exhibition of works from the McManus in Dundee: a fine portrait of his father in law playing chess with ghostly pieces. Neither of these can be found on the web, so you'll have to take my word for it. He suffered from ill health and died fairly young, before he could complete much of what he was obviously capable.

My musings on Baird came from visiting the Dean and Modern Art galleries yesterday. They have quite a nice show of graphic work from WW I in a corridor, with German on one wall and British on the opposite wall. Odd how the German work looks much stronger (Otto Dix, Max Beckmann) that the victors. Is this just because we've been trained to see it in terms of the original work that these artists later did? Whereas Augustus John's stock has rather diminished, and who now would want to look at his rather limp and unfocussed image? The work by Eric Kennington still looks good, though he could be illustrating anything.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

At the circus

More signs that I am working inside a le Carre novel: somebody today told me that they were sending me something via the "overnight bag".

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Fellow traveller

I wondered what the woman on the train was fumbling with in her bag. There was something furry in there. As we waited to get off, a fancy rat popped its head out and had a good look around. I wonder where she had taken it.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

If in doubt, eat chips

I bought chips on my way home tonight, and entered the close with a nice warm newsprint-wrapped parcel and a sense of anticipation. At the top of the stairs I was unable to open my front door. How odd: the key just won't turn in the lock. Peering through the keyhole, I can see that part of the lock is out of line. I've no idea how that happened, but it is. I instantly get a vision of an evening spent phoning for locksmiths, waiting for locksmiths in the drizzle, paying locksmiths, explaining to the landlords what has happened...

Call me shallow-minded, but at this point I decide that I might as well eat my greasy food while it's hot. I do so, and very fine it is too. I then have "one last try" at the door, and it opens.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Hills, Mottes, Poles

A pleasant return trip to Biggar in the Clyde valley, this time to ascend Tinto Hill. A lot of walking across farmland and along disused railways (and why did the Borders lose quite so many lines?) was involved.

If you've been paying attention, you'll have guessed that while hills may form the stated reasons for my trips, the real interest can come from many other areas. The Coulter Motte was on my route, and it is a fine example of a site that is historic but not actually much to look at. If the word "castle" conjours up for you vast curtain walls, bristling with fenestrations and drawbridges, then go and look at this. It's a not-very-big heap of earth which once had a wooden building on top. This must have been about as small as you could make a motte and bailey castle without being laughed at. I wonder if it was just impossible not to build this way in the 12th century, in the same way that Scots baronial seems to have been expected in the 19th.

And in 1940, General Sikorski reviewed the Polish forces in exile from a stance in Biggar main street. So there.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

On my doorstep

Spent a pleasant hour or so this morning in the Meadows watching the start and finish of the Edinburgh 10K race. It's hard to ignore really, as I can lie in bed and hear the PA system, albeit in garbled form. Interesting to see the range of body types and running styles. Of course the top runners all look much the same. I do wonder if the elite men are shorter than the elite women, or was it just the ones I saw?