Friday, April 09, 2004

The Last Post (For A While)

I have plenty to report: My silence in recent weeks has been due to the kind of portentous change that bloggers like Robert Fripp report in infuriatingly vague terms. Anyway, having been with my present employer for five and a half years, I've been feeling increasingly unable to contribute or feel satisfaction from my work. It seems to lack meaning. I'm a bit depressed. A headhunter came to me with another position with another firm, and having undergone a mutually satisfactory interview, I will be joining them on April 26th. The work will be harder, and I will be far more visible and accountable. And, yes, that is a good thing. I need a shake-up.

I was 38 on Wednesday. Still am. Went to see Fish at the Liquid Rooms. After feeling vaguely unsettled that I wasn't in a bistro with my fiance, I got into the swing of things. I suspect the front of house sound man was wishing he were somewhere else as well.

Today sees the publication of my first professional work of fiction, a Doctor Who short story about the early CND Aldermaston Marches. My contributos copies of Short Trips: Past Tense arrived today. By an astonishing coincidence, a few hundred miles south of here, a revived march is starting as I type.

I'm glad to be leaving my current employer, because I have neglected my relationship with my job and need to move on. I'm also glad to be about to cut down my weekly bike mileage because 90 a week is giving me sore legs and making me too tired to use the gym as much as I'd like. I suspect I may be about to revert to being a bus-travelling gym user.

Plans for the weekend are unclear. I think Helen wants to go away to some remote island. As it's Easter, I'm not sure this is a good idea. Also, I have plenty to do at home.

Five weeks until the wedding.

Monday, March 22, 2004

Six Non-Sequiteurs in Search of a Theme

Tonight will be my first meeting with other Doctor Who fans since the announcement that Christopher Eccleston is to take the lead in the new TV series. I shall have a pint for each if his predecessors.

Spent five hours on Sunday clearing the banks of the Union Canal at Wester Hailes. We had the neighbours round for drinks in the evening, during which time the phone rang at least six times. Crazy!

Started watching The Opposite of Sex on Saturday, but it was dull, so we watched an old Jonathan Creek instead. I think I have created quite a fan in Helen.

Clocks go forward this weekend. That means G and Ts in the garden before dinner. Best Man is coming to case the joint at the weekend, too.

Quite sick of work.

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Gym Boasting and Edinburgh Studies

Since Friday 27 February I have cycled the nine miles to and nine miles from work every single working day, often detouring to visit the gym or the shops. I haven't been drenched with rain once. This morning I was up at 0600, went to the gym to do my workout (getting on to the disturbing stuff now, involving rope splits and balancing on big balls like something from The Prisoner) had a quick swim and cycled to work. By 0900 I had already listened to four episodes of Doctor Who.

Here are some pictures from a fortnight ago, the day Helen and I set up our wedding gift list.

Street-level selling

Edinburgh's Shangri-La


Princes Street, showing Scott Monument at dusk

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

A Day Out In Glasgow

It's been ages. Sorry. So I'll be quick. No pictures, then. Soon.

I wrote this month's Star Letter in Viz. Yes, be impressed.


We had a great Saturday. Went to Paisley to choose wedding rings from a young jeweller who Helen selected. Then up to Pollok to see the Burrell Collection's Turner seascapes exhibitition and go around Pollok House itself, and then up to the Glasgow Science Centre on the South bank of the Clyde opposite the SECC for much fun with magets and spinning circles. Then to Hillhead for a few drinks in Brel and dinner at a nearby Italian before taking the train back to Edinburgh.

It was a nice day, like being on holiday, which reminded me that we need to get out of the house more often and we tend to rattle around bouncing off each other in there as there are always chores to do.

I have a new routine at the gym which perplxingly includes 10 minute on an exercise bike. I already cycle 90 miles a week at least so this seems a little spurious. I came dangerously close to making a complete arse of myself on one of those 53cm exercise balls.

I highly recommend upgradestore.co.uk, who rescued me from a corrupt BIOS in record time. You order online, send them your corrupt EPROM and details of your motherboard and they send you a reflashed BIOS. Excellent.

Friday, February 27, 2004

I feel really on top of things at the moment. That's probably because Helen is keeping all the intricacies of the wedding preparations secret from me. I just have to get the gift list sorted out and I'll be happy. Discussions have ranged from "Why don't we just ask them to give us money?" to "Well, we could insist they make a donation to charity instead. I will not be happy until I have a large wide-screen television.

My bus pass expired yesterday, which made today officially the first day of spring. So last night I checked by tyre pressures, packed my panniers, and got my bike ready for the first ride out to work at Queensferry. I got up early and the ride went well, in cold but sunny conditions, and I was almost whistling with smug satisfaction as I arrived at my desk. Three hours later, it was snowing.

I've just kearned the songs that Yes are considering playing on their tour this Summer. If they play a fraction of them I will be very happy. There are some I haven't heard them play for 24 years, some I've never heard them play, and some that clearly involved a lot of bargaining between the musicians, as they'll each be playing on material that they had no original input into. I think they've started to acknowledge that the band is bigger than all of them. Bravo!

Upcoming gigs this year include Fish, Steve Howe, Marillion, Yes, Peter Gabriel, and Rush. It's as though the last two decades never happened! That would make me someone who was waiting to have his first legal pint in a little over a month.

I'm looking forward to this weekend with Helen. For all her considerable faults (too numerous to list here without exceeding the blog server's capacity, as you can imagine) she is a deeply wonderful person, and I am all adrift when I am not with her as I was last weekend. So I shall revel in cooking us a meal tonight, choosing wedding presents over the weekend, and going to hear her sing with her choir on Sunday night.

Saturday, February 21, 2004

Helen is away again. There is more on telly tonight that I like than I deserev - Casualty, Jonathan Creek, Top Ten Sitcoms - Porridge, It'll Be Alright on the Night, and Ross Noble - Unrealtime. Praise be to Sky+

I had a haircut today. [Added 27/4] And a skinful by the look of things.

Friday, February 13, 2004

I feel fantastic. I think it must have been all the endorphin-promoting chillies in last night's chilli con carne (healthy, mind - made with low fat turkey mince). I watched a documentary about Tetris on BBC4 while eating it, that was so boring I fell asleep. It was far more about the intellectual ownership of the game than the addictive qualities it has. I have a Tetris brain - I love stacking things neatly, killing two birds with one stone, and fighting the tide of Things To Do. The house was far tidier when I went to bed last night than when I got home, which felt like a win. After the housework I rewarded myself with an hour of Marillion on DVD. This is the first time I have sat down alone in front of the telly this year.

I read the first couple of chapters of Hugh Walters' Passage To Pluto in bed. I loved his books as a boy. They're naively optimistic tales of an international space programmme, and specifically four young astronauts who explore the solar system. I stumbled on Walters by accident in the library when my Mum was directing me to Jules Verne, alphabetically adjacent to Walters. I think Pluto was the first one I read. Knowing the way my mind worked, I probably assumed that as Pluto was the furthest planet, it would be the most exciting book.

Slept blissfully, save for a horrific nightmare. My fiction editor had rejected my latest pitch (which I'm sure he's going to do in a week or so, anyway). Worse, there had been a heavy rainstorm at home, and water was leaking through my attic study's sloped ceiling on to my desk and computers. The wallpaper developed bumps, one of which opened, due to the wet, and disgorged a swarm of wet and angry wasps. I realised the other bumps were also full of wasps. I don't know what was more traumatising; the inevitability of being stung, or the possible loss of data.

This weekend, we'll finally send the wedding invitations out, and I'll be choosing a suit. Quite appropriate for Valentine's Day.

Thursday, February 12, 2004

A biblically long day. Up at 5:15 to get in early. Some hot IT action today, which gave me some good experience for next time I'm on call. Quite exciting, really. I still want to be a carpenter or an electrician. When I expressed the wish to do a more honest job last night, Helen observed that it would bring me into contact with the public and I wouldn't like that. She has a point. It's quite safe in here with the other geeks and weirdos.

I would have knocked off by now but I'm in an excruciatingly unengaging telephone conference now. I will be so happy to leave and read Eats, Shoots and Leaves on the train home and then go for a swim.

Tonight's project, I have decided, will be to tidy and clean the freezer. There may be a lot of ice I have to use up in a hurry as a result. It would be a shame to let it go to waste. And I am a Friend of Gordon's, after all.

I started feeling very sorry for myself during an Olympian ironing session last night. I normally love ironing but I was watching an episode of The Prisoner (A, B & C) which was not as thrilling as others have been. I'm feeling really tired a lot of the time.

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

Bit into a Polo mint on Sunday and lost a large chunk of tooth.

Went to dentist yesterday and lost a large chunk of next month's salary.

I've been having an amusing few exchanges with internet nutters. One of them described the Radio Times as "hersute" (sic). If he really means hirsute, then it must be an oddly-bound edition in his TV region.

I feel utterly misanthropic. I hope a good sesh down the gym tonight will mellow me. The 6 Gin and Tonics and Large Curry I'm planned later ought to help, too.

Monday, February 09, 2004

We had a very mixed weekend. Friday night was relaxing, involving having dinner cooked for me and then watching some television that was actually on that night. The Sky+ box is transforming life at home. I suspect we both had slight hangovers on Saturday. I kept postponing a trip to the gym until I decided not to go at all. I did, however, fill two enormous black polythene bin liners with audio cassettes which are now destined for landfill. I do like being cruel to be kind like this. There are now only two boxes of cassettes. One contained my 147 barely-distinguishable live versions of Roundabout and the other contains actual albums. They will become CDs somehow. For the live recordings, I'd be happy if they went to a good home. I may revisit them however and do something quite surgical and bold. For example, the mono recording of a 1996 John Wetton concert I made and have subsequently never listened to fulfils perfectly Dawna Walters' criteria for lobbing out. Once I've done the music, it's books next.

I had a bitty and unfulfilling afternoon, during which Helen spurned me on mavour of the content of the latest issue of "Weddings and Pastel Colours, Lace and Soft Focus, Nuptia, Your Special Day, and Weddings" magazine. I attempted (and failed) to fix my laser printer, which will become landfill. Resorting to my Inkjet, I had to replace the cartridge. It menstruated indelible blue ink all over my hands (and foot), and I look like an apprentice octopus-wrangler as a result. Yes, I said menstruated. I have seen the pantie-liner commercials and know that it's just an odourless-looking light blue liquid. I don't know why women make such a fuss over it. Tsk.

I went to see Forgotten Sons, a Marillion tribute act in the evening, while Helen stayed in and watched a film on antique VHS she had rented from a retro place round the corner. Satirical observers may be able to say we were both enjoying superceded forms of entertainment. The Sons (as I shall now call them), were excellent and played a fair approximation of the Marillion sets that kept be ebtertained in the eighties. However, as there were three men and a dog in attendance, I can only conclude that there was a genuine Marillion/Fish reunion concert somewhere else in Edinburgh that night. It's the only possible explanation. I spoke to the singer - imagine David Brent in Harlequin pants - after the show and apologised on behalf of Edinburgh. That's technically the Lord Provost's job, but I thought I was up to it. Drink had been taken.

On Sunday, we went for a walk in the Borders, near Abbey St Bathans. The wind-chill factor was intense. In fact as Hurree Jamset Ram Singh would have said, the intensefulness was terrific. About half way though the walk, I stopped being a grumpy neglected old git and began to regale my lovely wife-to-be with anecdotes from my youth. We shopped at Sainsbury's on the way home and partook of the cafeteria's delightful Thai Vegetable Soup. Damn fine.

Approximately five months after moving in to our house, we finally put our pictures up this weekend. It makes me feel much better.

Thursday, January 29, 2004

Sorry I've been quiet - I've just spent a week on-call for work. This involved keeping a mobile with me 24X7 and being able to log in and fix any problems within an hour of it ringing. That means no cinema or theatre, no restaurants or parties, and no booze for a week. But the money comes in handy. I came off call at 3 o'clock yesterday afternoon and celebrated with 20 lengths of the health club pool, and a reacquantance with gin, wine and vodka. My head fairly nipped this morning, I can tell you. We went to see Lost In Translation. This made me want to visit Tokyo. I identified more with Bill Murray's character Bob Harris (no, not that Bob Harris) tremendously, and told Helen she now knew all she would ever need to know about men.

Wedding plans continue apace. We've booked the honeymoon, and ordered the dress. Next come the invitations. It's agony. Not only do I look at my list and think "Is this all I've got to show for nearly 38 years on this planet?" but the compromises and fiddles are soul-sapping. I'm looking forward to it, though. Just as well, I suppose.

Helen is out tonight and tomorrow night, so I might get some life laundering done. Tonight I am planning to audit my recent DVD recordings and cook a pork vindaloo. These are exclusively male activities, you'll agree. I have to come up with a short story outline, too. It's not coming easily a second time. Colin and Alex are coming for dinner on Saturday, so I'll get to cook that goose I ordered for Christmas. To my delight, the latest Doctor Who audio seems to be utter bilge. And I'm told I'm far more entertaining when I'm being savage.

This is the Caledonian Brewery, near our house, with the Edinburgh-Glasgow railway line in the foreground

Friday, January 16, 2004

It's been a busy week. Highlights include being elbowed on a bus by a stranger getting off, and called a "fucking cunt". When I asked incredulously, "What's your problem?", the stranger replied "You, you English radge". I have no idea what I had done to provoke her. I was left surrounded by Scottish people on the bus, and feeling full of pent-up emotions. My initial hope, that the next person she addresses in this manner turns out to be an 18-stone psychopathic rapist, has calmed down. I must admit that when I got to the gym, which is where I was heading, I was able to put a lot more energy into my routine. I manged 100 Abdominal sit-ups for example, and pressed all my weights in one go instead of pausing.

I did several things for the first time ever yesterday. One was walking down much of Gorgie Road, which has so much more to offer the pedestrian than the cyclist or bus passenger. It was very atmospheric at dusk. I was reminded of West Kensington, bizarrely. Another new thing was buying meat from a butcher's shop. They were very friendly and I find butcher's meat far less suspicious than supermarket stuff. I cooked pork chops in an apple and mustard cream sauce, together with potatoes lyonnaise and spiced red cabbage. Fantastic.

Sky were supposed to come and install Sky+ today. But my explicit request that the job would need a Heights Team had gone unheeded, and they sent three men who were very pleasant but suffered from vertigo. The native Americans are coming on Monday, though, which is a relief. Nevertheless, Sky is an example of just how badly you can run a monopoly and get away with it.

George Bush with British astronaut Michael Foale, current commander of the International Space Statiom, speaking live from the ISS before Bush's announcement.

I'm on a bit of a high about two announcements this week. George Wanker Bush has redeemed himself slightly by announcing a space exploration roadmap that means that with a bit of luck I'll see a permanent moonbase and a human on Mars in my lifetime. Anyone who thinks this is an inappropriate use of resources will presumably not mind their descendents being wiped out by a passing asteroid, nuclear exchange, or global pandemic, when there is no human colony anywhere else in the universe. There is a distinct possibility that Earth is the only place where there is any kind of life, and we must preseve it. Our DNA is more important than our individual lives. If children in Africa stave because aid money is being spent on learning to live off Earth, then so be it. It is ultimately short-sighted not to make provision for the future.

I'll step off my soap box now.

The other announcment was that with the discovery of Day of Armageddon, there are now only 108 missing episodes of Doctor Who. And it's a belter of an episode, too. Can't wait to see it.

Monday, January 12, 2004

If I see another American inappropriately put quotation marks around a word in an email, I'll fucking "scream"!!!!!!!!!!!!

Sunday, January 11, 2004

We started the evening with some drinks at the Malmasion hotel in Leith, and then on to Restaurant Martin Wishart, where I spent even more than I had on Helen's birthday at Jacob's Ladder in Dublin last year. The ambience was sophisticated but incredibly friendly and the young staff made us feel completely relaxed. The complimentary pre-starter appetiser comprised a thimble of potato and leek soup, a Chinese soup spoon of salt cod in a chilli sauce and an amazing sort of wire candlestick, holding a Gefilte fish ball and a tiny pastry cornet of black pudding. It served as a taste-bud soundcheck and we were ready to go for the main course. Helen having opted to go for fish followed by fish, and me going for game followed by meat, choosing wine was going to be tricky, so we asked the wine waiter for assistance, The young Frenchman recommended two burgundies, so we opted for the Gevrey Chambertin, at a mere £52. It was worth it. On then to the meal. I had a game tarlet followed, by a nouvelle cuisine beef stew. We opted for cheese, and there was a cheese waiter who toured us round the board, and offered samples before we made our selection. It was the best visit to a restuarant I have ever had, and next time I have a spare £150 rattling around in my pockets, I'll be there like a shot.

Having consumed vodka, sparkling chardonnay, Glenlivet single malt whisky (Mmm - bourbon casked, lovely and treacly), 80 Shilling beer, gin and tonic, and Burgundy in the course of one evening, I have a fairly throbbing head this morning. I was therefore a little unsympathetic to Poppy, when she came in to the bedroom and lay on my pillow licking her private parts noisily this morning. (And the cat was no better! DYSWIDT? Aah!) Also, I have a sore throat, a persistent cold, and an eye infection that makes me look like Doctor Evil.

I don't care. It was all worth it for the best meal out ever. Only a year to Helen's next birthday.

Saturday, January 10, 2004

I feel refreshed and reinvigourated after the Christmas break and glad to be back at work - the return to routine has been good for my mind and my digestion. My resolutions have been off to a good start - muesli for breakfast and nothing more than soup and sald for lunch. Nary a crisp or chip has crossed my lips. I have been eating the several pounds of milk chocolates received for Christmas though.

Thursday marked a nadir in my time management career. I arrived at work late for what I though was my 7:00 start time. I checked the calendar and found I wasn't supposed to be working early that day. However I was supposed to have been on 24 hour standby from the day before. And I'd taken the Bat-phone in to be repaired that day instead. All was not lost. I still had the SIM card, inserted it into my own phone and 'fessed up to the Boss, who took it all in his stride. And German Colleague was happy to fill my shoes today, when I'd promised to go hill walking with Helen.

We went to the Pentlands above Bonaly, five minutes drive from our house. An unchallenging, if windy walk, marked by seeing some soldiers camped in the woods. Here are the snaps -



Tonight we're going out to Leith to sample a restaurant that comes with good write-ups. It's Helen's birthday tomorrow. On Thursday it will be just four months until she is my wife!

Tuesday, January 06, 2004

There is a noticeboard at the gym. It lists "Achievers of the Month". I am one of four this month. Chew on that!

Monday, January 05, 2004

The Christmas break ended dramatically. We went to see the film Touching The Void on Friday night, which engaged me completely. There is a good interview with the director here. It is the story of two climbers in the Andes, who run in to trouble in adverse conditions. When one breaks his leg, the other has a difficult choice. And it's all true.

The following day we went for a walk, at Traquair in the borders, up to the summit of Minch Moor. It was very snowy indeed, and we both disappeared up to our thighs at some points. But it was well worth it for the summit and the forested hills on the way down. It was extraordinarily slippery, with snow frozed into ice and we both nearly fell over several times. Wouldn't it be ironic, we though, if one of us broke his leg, like the man in the film.



We became over confident on the way back down and turned into forest too early. Helen pointed out that we couldn't possibly be on the path we should have been. There were no landmarks and we were about to lose daylight in an hour. We had a good look at the OS map and compass and took a gamble - heading into the forest itself on a cycle path, in an attampt to get to where we should have been. The path meandered, and it was very dark under cover of trees, but we eventually emerged at a crossroads we couldn't remember being at before. Another small gamble about which path to take later, the path started to look like the route map again. We just made it to the car before darkness.



Friday, January 02, 2004

One of the least-well deployed terms in the English language is "I would have thought". I don't know whether it's specifically a Scots thing but the two best examples of its abuse have arisen there.

When I went to see Genesis on their last ever tour at the SECC in Glasgow, they took to the stage and embarked upon No Son Of Mine. Of course they did - it followed their rule to always kick off with a banker from the previous album. Yet the man behind me said to his companion "I would have though they would have opened with Dance On A Volcano". This tickles me for two reasons. Firstly, he didn't say "I thought they would have opened with Dance On A Volcano" - he said "would have thought". Why? He didn;t actually think this. So under what hypothetical circumstances would he have thought this. Why was he so keen to distance himself linguistically from this never-actually-held belief?

Another one was when I mentioned to a real world work colleage that I wrote for Doctor Who Magazine. "I wouldn't have though there was that much to write about", he helpfully responded. Why?

My response is as follows

  1. I have little interest in what you think now

  2. I have still less interest in what you used to think, but no longer do, having been corrected by reality (The strains of No Son of Mine or the continued existence of Doctor Who Magazine, for example)

  3. I have even less interest in beliefs you not only no longer hold, but in fact never have held. Such beliefs are virtually infinite in number and are of no significance whatsoever


So, if you ever feel tempted to inappropriately deploy "I would have thought" in front on me, be cautious, because you may very well find yourself saying "I would have thought you weren't going to punch me then".

Anyway, here are some railings earlier today.

Thursday, January 01, 2004

Hogmanay was cancelled last night. It was the only time I have ventured on to the streets at New Year, despite having been in Edinburgh at that time of year for the last eleven years. I finally decided to brave it this year but it was cancelled. All my fault.
Here's the full story
On December 30th, we went to Dunbar for a walk. It's one of a series of seaside towns that line the East coast of Scotland, South of Edinburgh. In the Old Days, people from Edinburgh would actually go on holiday to Dunbar or North Berwick, but now it's only the two of us. We often go for walks, taken from books of walks. Often these are writtem by a man called Jarrold. His powerful imagination means that the routes have no relation whatsoever to the terrain. Possibly, this is because they were all written in 1956. But our latest book was fine. At first the weather was fair, but later it snowed.