Friday, June 23, 2017

Contemporary Arts


Something about the term contemporary arts has always made me uneasy, maybe I just didn't understand it or was not  sure quite what it applied to. Perhaps it was too vague for a person like me who likes his labels and genres to be neat and tidy. It could be a 60's BBC2 (as was) or Sunday supplement stigma of elitism that I've applied to it. It could be I'm just a bit dumb or stubborn when it comes to certain terms and of course the world of art is full of them and is up it's own arse for a great deal of the time anyway. My poor education hasn't helped. I strangled my own arts career at birth thanks to failing to listen and failing to act as a teenager, you don't easily get over that. Then, when I finally hit a college there was no art in sight, just the saner and steadier worlds of statistics, accounts and law underpinned by a dose of management theory and beer. In retrospect I learned next to nothing and relearned only how to be  comfortable in a cocoon of relative ignorance. There I was almost happy. 

Now I'm past all that, easy in my own skin and though not well read I'm slightly better read. Truth and knowledge have dripped down onto me like some steady Chinese water torture. All I had to do was be still and let it run past me. Time alive is the best education and so when I sat in a Contemporary Arts Centre yesterday, supping weak tea from a tiny cup and fancy little tea pot I felt no pain or shame. I just blended in, bemused by the backgrounds, the unfinished nature of things, the gift shop mentality, the posters and bills for shows I'll never attend, the glossy pamphlets and flyers, the eager young staff, the conversations and illicit encounters. It's all washing over my head like a life only dreamed and not lived but I'm comfortable with that.

Graduation day, Caird Hall Dundee. Last time I was there Led Zeppelin were playing and it was 1971. Time passes way too quickly I'm afraid.


Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Eggs in coconut oil


After checking on Instagram, always a reliable source and sanity check for facts and accuracy I've established that some folks think coconut oil is brilliant and others think it's the same slimy stuff that passes through the Devil's genitals. Well I'm already confused but I actually quite like coconuts despite two of them diving from a palm tree in a Miami car park one day and trying to end by life, at a mere 56 years for what it's worth. I was only whistling selections from CSN's first album in a quiet and harmonious tone and minding my own business. So I forgive the coconuts and choose to believe that their oil (hopefully grown and harvested ethically) is an agent for good and good health etc. etc.

Various thought processes kicked in and  I was deciding on uses for it and came up with adding it to poached eggs, or put simply poaching eggs in a microwave with a little added coconut oil. It worked fine, that extra, tasteless lubricant allowed them to cook evenly, although it didn't tame the egg's normal explosive qualities. You need to err on the side of caution with eggs in microwaves. Never more than 30 seconds at a time or BOOM! The picture proves it worked. Can't explain why the eggs are square though.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Not the spot

I tried this chocolate beer yesterday. The chocolate was a subtle rather than strong flavour in the beer, dark with a hint of bitterness. It hit the spot but not the spot in the photo below.

Way out on the River Forth there's a spot marked with a G. A "G" Spot of sorts I suppose.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Five Bridges






Spent a nice evening out with friends on the River Forth sailing under (and very close to) the Forth Railway Bridge, the old Road Bridge, the New Road Bridge, the Kincardine Bridge and the Clackmannan Bridge. The weather was strangely perfect and the company fun and convivial. Other sights seen include the eerie and redundant power station at Longannet, the dead submarines in Rosyth Dockyard, the new aircraft carriers, grey seals, castles and harbours, the Ship Inn at Limekilns, Dunmore village (way up the Forth) and of course a very tiny glimpse of our own home. The vessel used was the old faithful Forth cruiser "the Maid of the Forth".

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Hot & Clammy


Some key-note words for today in no particular order. Hot, clammy, cloudy, garden, apple trees, IMS bearing, exhaust gas sensor, Forth Road Bridge, Gorgie Road, root beer, olives, puppy, dog walk, dog poo, cats sleeping, big breakfast, holiday videos, Lionel Bart, coffee, Twix, water plants, feed tomatoes, chicken pie, Radio Scotland, black spaniel, blonde spaniel, shower, birthday gifts, Father's day, neighbours, broadband, cardboard boxes, knives, dishwasher, iron a shirt, sunshine, leaves, bottles, beach, tide coming in, cyclists, door repairs, olives, crisps, watering cans, stepladders, beds, Oliver, Animal Kingdom, sleeping pussy cats.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Edinburgh Daily Snapper

Some unloved property in need of...love, because love is all you really need.
Some graffiti on wall that's already covered in stylised graffiti artwork.

The top of an interesting building (noting that the people inside the building seemed unaware of how nice a building they were sitting in actually is but that may just be my imagination playing up again).

RIP Lionel Bart


OK, I know that Lionel Bart died in 1999. It's just I've be recently reminded of his own erratic genius as a result of seeing one of my grandsons star in a school production of Oliver. Considering that Bart couldn't read music his work in putting together Oliver and coming up with all those truly killer songs is amazing. These joyful, moving and seemingly unburstable melodies are as strong and timeless as it gets. Of course after watching the energetic school production and being drenched in those tunes once again, I was whistling and humming them like it was 1965 and back on the Light Programme. The power of memory and the prompting of music as a reminder of things past is scary. Maybe when I'm old, confused and decrepit it'll be Oliver that's on the padlocked headphones rather than Pink Floyd, Nico or Del Amitri.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Does everything have to be for profit?


Grenfell Tower did not belong to a private landlord but a housing association, how that's run I don't know but the scenes of horror reminded me of the awful consequences of putting things on too long a leash and that austerity measures inflicted on local councils have cut things back well beyond any reasonable level. It's all government policy don't you know. 

I've watched for years as public sector enterprises and systems have been sold off to the private sector by all colours of government. It's been labeled as a sensible, money saving thing to do. Look how well Amey and Bear look after our trunk roads, see any potholes or drainage problems? Services are now run by professionals rather than a bunch of lazy civil servants or idle union card waving workers and of course they need to turn a profit, a tidy one at that. It's not about the customers or the clients or even the service, it's just a dirty big business where the shareholders rule and ordinary people are the fodder. 

I've seen this first hand in my old life with the MoD, money allegedly saved by contractors coming in and of course "getting it right first time". Yeah, that'll be right. Profit and public service do not go together and much of the time they are downright dangerous things to put together. Will things change? Nope, they'll just rebrand PFI or Prime Contracts under some other label and carry on and, if anyone is likely to get the blame, it won't be the contractor it'll be the "Intelligent Customer" who was left behind to somehow make sense of the mess.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Eggy hack


The hidden hacks in poaching eggs methodology, number 12. Actually this one worked apart from my failure to add regular vinegar. All we had in stock was cider vinegar which I watered down but maybe that was a poor choice. So add a touch of vinegar into a dish, break the egg into it, loosely cover with cling film (or risk an explosion or eggsplosion) and microwave for a minute. One turned out a little better looking than the other but that's always the way of things. No messy pot to clean either, just a couple of messy dishes. So to sum up, works fine but cider vinegar does add a little extra apple flavour that you probably don't want with your eggs.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

This sort of thing


Job seeking is a strange activity, particularly when you've been out of the market for a while and are of a certain age and you have a pronounced shuffle. Everybody of course is younger and quicker than you, candidates and employers alike and there is no hiding place. So you do your research, succumb to a telephone interview, an on-line assessment or two, maybe if you're lucky there's a face to face interview and a written test and then generally a black hole of some kind follows opening up and swallows nothing in particular leaving you wondering quite what you did wrong. Part of me thinks "there's no place for the likes of me in this sort of thing", another part says "it was always this way" and another part says "calm down, this is just some kind of vast universal con trick that you're putting yourself through and therefore simply treat the experience as if it were a theme park ride or a museum visit with a commentary. Go with the flow, enjoy the moment, so what? You don't really need this but it's fun and you get to see the soft and sometimes fascinating underbelly of businesses and meet new people you'll never see again." Amen. 

Monday, June 12, 2017

Ben Nevis is grim

The sun sets, seen  from Glen Nevis.

Panorama out to the north west from 2500'.
The Observatory before it got really ruined.
The weekend was dominated by one big family task. Getting up and getting down Ben Nevis. Of course we were not the only folks to have that idea on Saturday past. The day began wet and  miserable and before we were even on the hill the rain had started and we were in our wet weather clothing. We were on the path before we knew it and suddenly the assent began. A long, tortuous climb on pathways made up of rough cut debris, sharp stones and strangely angled slabs of rock, the wind howled and it was a time for teeth gritting, and trudging, heads down into and against the wind. Of course here in Scotland the weather, famously changes every fifteen minutes and even after a few hundred feet we were in sunshine and a few hundred feet later we were back in pouring rain. As Saturday was forecast to the best day of the weekend the crowds were out, streams of colourful, hopeful individuals some well prepared, some badly, all ready to take on the challenge of the hill. Many had brought their dogs, tiny lap dogs painfully unsuitable for the ordeal, happy and eager if stupid sheepdogs, wet Spaniels and faithful, trudging Labradors. A bizarre array of dogs getting on with the job unwittingly, dragging or being dragged by stubborn humans staring into sat-nav screens or the blue horizon. 

The views, in the moments that the clouds cleared were spectacular, huge panoramic swathes of green country below as we floated like gods in some painful, high purgatory, eagerly squinting into the distance before the next grey torrent hid the land below as the great vapour shower passed over. It took us about six hours to reach the top, there were many breaks, stumbles and stops on the way. Once there we passed into the heart of the cloud, dripping wet and stony, stubborn winter snow still prevailing in corners and on suicidal cornices as the crowds of walkers trudged to the trig point for the essential selfie or triumphant group shot. Like some scene from Game of Thrones or Vikings tired walkers huddled amongst the ruins of the old observatory, cowering down by the soaking, sharp stones as the anger of the storm passed over us. There was elation, misery, pain, cold and rather damp sandwiches held feebly by fingers too frozen to unzip or unscrew anything. 

The mountain top is a strange carnival of pained achievement, damp misery and a acute sense of broken and bruised history. Nothing new grows here, it's as desolate as a desert. Here at the highest point in the land you can see nothing but exhausted people, masses marching into the clouds and then laying down to clutch their phones or water bottles as they take a thin breath and huddle to find warmth. Getting up there is a battle, getting back down is an even bigger one.

It was too miserable to stay long on the top, there was no point, the bottom and flat land calls out loudly and the suffering is acute. The descent however was tough. Long redundant muscles are called into action and they don't like it, mine complained from the top down and for days after. It was a long, drawn out slow stumble all the way. The path, created by some stone carving sadist seemed far worse that it had on the climb. Every fall and angle was set against normal foot movements, even fit youngsters, hopefully overtaking us headed for the pub were also suffering. It took us another four hours of concentration and the avoidance of slips and trips to finally enjoy the walk across the flat wooden boards of the River Nevis bridge. Boy was I happy to see it and happy to cross over, back to civilisation and away from the grey, lurking cold hearted monster that is Ben Nevis. Phew!



Thursday, June 08, 2017

Whatever you do


Whatever you do and whoever you are it's pretty important that you vote today. A lot of people went through a whole lot of serious shit to win you the right. To opt out or deny your own personal responsibility isn't good enough. Every individual vote makes a difference no matter what you may think. So vote, but I would strongly suggest that you don't vote for a Tory candidate unless you're happy for us to be pulled back to the attitudes and social conditions that prevailed at the time of this picture.

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Beatles


The word "Beat" can be found in the name Beatles, it's nothing to do with insect life at all so don't be confused. They were a successful beat group before that name was made redundant by either Harold Wilson or the Queen. Soon everyone knew the truth. People of all sorts cashed in and they made cultural waves no one could stop. Back in 1966 they were at the top of their game but they were still not on top (that happened later). The crowds were way  too big, the amps and PA were too small and everybody was just too excited. Then John Lennon made some honest remarks about Jesus and the shit really hit the fan, mostly in the USA whilst in the UK nobody really gave a fuck. There were other misunderstandings along the way, that's how it goes with fame. Now it's all history and rock magazine fodder, people are dead but Sergeant Pepper lives on as do the Beatles in glorious revised/remixed digital sound and grainy film footage. You can't do much about film really unless you sponsor a cartoon version so it's all as good as it gets. Funny to think that it was all more than fifty years ago today, Sergeant Pepper taught the band to play.

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

Post Industrial


Before I cared about a lot of things. Things I thought mattered. Security and productivity and getting by. I was brainwashed and institutionalised it seems. Now those things seem odd. I defended them but governments and organizations and companies didn't. My life was fixed, their world was fluid and moving. I always thought things would stay the same but that's not how things are.We are the small universal cogs, turning against each other, spinning slowly as the gears grind. We feel the heat and the pressure of everyone else's moves, around and from far above. We are locked in, I am locked in. A machine that has given away it's engine, sold it's factories and allowed it's fields to burn. Not being needed is a cruel concept to accept. All so that there can be money made out there in wider markets, better markets, streamlined and unscrupulous markets and some kind of out-sourced prestige built up for us to wave a flag at, now and then when we're allowed out on the streets. Outside pacing on the concrete in order to stop the moss growing on the pavements.

A King in the Land of the Dead



Strange to listen to Dylan's voice in a lecture, still with a sing song quality, still the same words and gypsy vocabulary, still the same weariness in the lilt and in the wasted tone. Perhaps it's remarkable, perhaps it's predictable, perhaps it's just dutiful and all as expected. Giving back to the great and the good so the Dollars can go to some worthwhile charity and the business circle can close like some door to a forever silent vault. Maybe it's a summing up of all those other words, those flat tunes, those violins and guitars, the on stage persona and the lurking madman in the creaking wings. Vehicles for angst and anger and wondering at the world because despite all the things that changed, nothing much did. We're all older now but we're not any wiser, that's just something that we flirted with briefly.

Monday, June 05, 2017

Weekend snaps

"Big Heads" by my six year old grandson.

Paint smudge that I thought looked a bit like John Cooper Clarke. 

Tempo Charity Cafe in Aberdeen. You pay for the time you spend there not the food and drink you consume.

Friday, June 02, 2017

Which Way?


Well if you know where north is you can never be lost. Here's it's marker, close to the head of an alien, some testicles, a key, a lizard, a symmetrical tree or a rendering of a splash or a firework display or whatever you see in the stonework. 

Anyway it serves as a reminder despite what the book may say that " all who wander are pretty much lost" and that "all who wonder are probably just trying to upload their history and CV to some recruitment site and finding the whole process somewhat taxing, over complicated and badly laid out." That may all be a pre-interview test or part of that selection process, there are sadists out there. Then you look at folks doing jobs in some areas and think, "how the hell did they ever get through the recruitment process", then you think "maybe a kindly friend, mentor or family member helped them", then you think "nah!" Then you review your life, where you are, where you're going and sit down with a cup of green tea and giggle to yourself.

Thursday, June 01, 2017

The colour of nothing


I suppose for most people  politics has always been about the science of lies and getting away with it. A bit like religion. The things that control and dominate huge parts of our lives are really half empty shells with some idealism and some ambition rattling around on the dirty bottom.  There's something over the rainbow for us, it remains a promise but it wont be delivered any time soon. Simply because it's not possible. It's the best of times and it's the worst of times. That never changes. A week from now we'll vote, there will be polls and frenzy and up all night media coverage. The result will be known and we'll sigh, either in relief or in the dull pain of anticipating more future problems and conflict, but there's no rainbow's end.