Unreliable and possibly off-topic


Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Bits and pieces

After an intensive tutorial from SW, his recent pics of The Fall (Edinburgh, ?21st of May) should be found here.

Fall pics

This should be a lot faster and less irritating than loading these up here.

But one photo to post here is these flowers I'm taking along to the celebrations tonight for my student Lynne, who submitted her PhD thesis yesterday. I'm extremely proud of her, and a little proud of myself.


Saturday, May 28, 2005

Back in Kansas again

And very glad too to experience kids, rain, wet flowers, an occasional kind word and greenery again. But it was a close shave. Alive (just), but R and I experienced more fear and loathing than the Doctor and his Attorney could possibly shake a stick at. And I hate leaving a preposition at the end of a sentence, believe me. Who needs drugs when you have Turr?

The horrible experiences of shipping out of San Diego airport started at 5am. Phoned for a taxi then, to leave ample room to arrive for checking in at 6am, but the taxi doesn't arrive till 6 am and when it does there is a rugby scrum at the check-in desk where females, the disabled and children are elbowed to the side, just as happens in air disasters. Read the statistics. The low-cost airline has automatic check-in kiosks, but they can't cope with non-US passports. When we can't be a square peg in a round hole without 'photoID' (the essential validation of all Murrcans), we're insulted, vilified and negatively assisted by the staff.

Ok- we're both sleep-deprived and disorientated, but that's no excuse for bullying, as occurred. My crime is to be flying on a US passport one-way (as a UK resident) and am accused of having insufficient documentation, at which I lose it at their crass asumption that all US citizens live in the Homeland. Bad move, and I will be punished.

After checking in, we join a 200 yard line to traverse Security. I have churning guts after too little sleep, too much coffee and a Campylobacter loaded mexican meal, and am releasing fetid farts while I try neither to shit my knickers nor lose my place in the queue. The smell is helplessly rank, but R (bless her) adopts attack as the best form of defense and loudly proclaims to all the queue that some disgusting cretin is farting in line ahead of us. I suspect my blush gives me away, but it was worth it for the later belly-laughs, so painful my ribs felt to splinter, when we discussed it on board the plane. She knew it was me, of course, but she has more balls than a bowling alley.

Meanwhile, closing in to the gates of Homeland Security, I'm thinking of the Auschwitz transports as we inch our way painfully towards the X-ray belt and the 'EntryScan' drugs'n'guns detector pod. I'm advised by a notice to surrender all lighters and matches, to which I readily comply in fear of being fingered as a turrst, and desperately try to remember if I've left a joint's worth of hash in any of my many pockets. The sweat's pouring off me by now, my intestines in spasm, and we're close to missing our flight.

At the gates of doom, this security guy starts shouting orders at me in clipped syllables that do not include either 'please' or 'thank you', reinforcing my escalating alienation. I'm sent to the metal detector, when I'm stopped by an Amazonian guard who screams at me to take off my shoes. Apparently (and we can laugh at this later) she's saying I have to put them on the X-ray belt without a bin, but I hear an order to take off my shoes without bending, and it's not possible, though I comically try before the absurdity makes me (literally) hysterical with tears and outrage, and physically shaking though I have nothing to hide. There's a sign overhead that warns us that joking is a criminal offence, but it's the only rational response as a cow being led to slaughter by clownlike brutal abbatoir workers.

R, as always, is selected for the special treatment of EntryScan and a personal search of all person and baggage. She starts telling the whole world that we're being victomised for not telepathically knowing the system, and that as an Australian (just one of her nationalities), she's a subject of John Howard's Govt who's supporting Bush and Blair, and it's a personal vendetta. We've both totally lost it by now. I wait for her on the other side, hyperventilating, crying and angry as a hornet.

I'm still not sure if it was just us who found this humiliating, degrading, terrifying and alienating. Lots of others were bucolic and bovine in their dwams, but it wasn't OK with me. And I'm not even black, Asian, or poor. I seriously

It's good to be free, right?


Sunday, May 22, 2005


It's an affliction I get worst when abroad. R is at a business meeting tonight, leaving me to my own devices, although I've had a cordial and and agreeable meal with my folks.

1. San Diego rolls: after cucumber and nori salad, gyoza (fried dumplings), hot saki, and an oyster shooter we (parents and I) try out a San Diego variant of the California roll, which substitutes eel for crab, and is covered in a punguent eel sauce. And it was very good. I have fish sauce pleasurably repeating on me.

2. Later, at a loose end, I take 'Religion and the Decline of Magic' down to the hotel's sports bar to read with background noise. The baseball overwhelms any reading I might muster, and the obese man next to me at the bar invades my personal space while he vocally spectates the baseball game, which is horrible and sad. It confirms the observation gained during a 5-hr stopover in Newark New Jersey airport that Murrcans in 'waiting' mode have lost the power of literacy, and instead stare at a screen with news or sports, or (if vaguely literate) read magazines.

Don't get me wrong- I consider magazines as an art form and an ephemera in their own right, but on a 5-hr stopover something more substantial than 'Heat' is required. Luckily, the chapter headings of magic, religion and astrology successfully dissuade any would-be obese, baseball-obsessed suitors (I can almost hear the guy next to me thinking 'crazy chick') which is the barrier intended. I have a lucky escape.

3. They're having a high-school prom in my hotel tonight, and at 8.30 pm a bevy of couples (mostly african-american) are sashaying in out of stretch limos and cadillacs; the girls in vertiginous heels and the boys in black and white suits and two-tone trilbys. I learned from Faux news today that the average prom dress costs 500 dollars, and feel a compulsion to urge them all to cut the crap, pomp and circumstance and properly get down. I hold this recommendation in, however, not wishing to spoil what they see as the most important night in their 18-yr old lives. I may sneak down later just to see the broken high-heels, the ties askew and the ripped, trodden dresses. That's what it's for, if only they realised, but I'll let them learn for themselves. There's no telling the young, and no value in tarnishing their idealism.


Saturday, May 21, 2005

Stranger in a strange land

R and I have arrived on airplanes and to a hotel so expensive that the staff treat you like shit and charge for every small service (e.g. drink of water, using the pool, internet, gym). First of all, it's assumed that all air travellers will know telepathically that shoes with heels wider than one inch (yes, still imperial here) should be removed at security, and laptops removed from hand luggage. I suggested that they present notices if this is their practice, as we weren't Murrcan. The security staff (all chicano or african-american) were quite sympathetic about this, and explained that they used to have a staff member to organise this, but they'd been cut back. What a job.

At the hotel, they sent us up to a non-smoking room despite pre-booking smoking (R is very kind to me), and then the receptionist insists he'd asked us about this on checking in- errr no. Then when there's no local directory in the room the service-line tells us it must be there, which it's not. It's hard being wrong all the time, but maybe I can learn.

The spoken English of both the taxi-driver and the receptionist here in San Diego share a neglect of the definite article, missing 'the' from their syntax, though one is Arab and the other Russian. The taxi-driver tells us the naval base here is empty, since all the military are in Eye-rack, and that the Mexicans here are a problem community. Even if you're a pariah, there's always someone more untouchable to label, I gather.

On a Saturday morning, it's conspicuous that the only pedestrians in downtown San Diego are dog-walkers, manual labourers, tourists or homeless. The skyline here is otherworldly with mirror-glassed high rise hotels and big ships in the naval harbour. A lot of homeless here, who R would've photographed for this blog, but I declined because this seemed disrespectful. The climate is good if you're sleeping rough, and Santa Barbara has a civic campaign to clear homeless out, hence a fairly high density. At 10 am, a homeless veteran in leg callipers and a wheelchair dozes at his crossroads 'pitch' in the morning sun with his McDonald's cup for alms at his feet.

Meanwhile, though I only took 9 kg of luggage (R's was 18 kg) I have only an unseasonably heavy coat, insufficient basic clothing, unsuitable make-up and no antiperspirant. That's what you get for packing at 5 am in 20 mins flat. Luckily I can borrow from R :). What would I do without her.

I slept a lot on the planes over, thanks to the gift of temazepam, and arrived relatively refreshed. When awake, I'm reading Keith Thomas' 'Religion and the Decline of Magic'. I read this some years ago but returned to find I'm getting much more out of it this time around. The examples of magical/pagan thinking in the pre-Reformation Catholic church are fascinating, addressing how religious people accomomdate disasters/sickness/ill-fortune to God's intentions. I wonder what the homeless think about this, and accommodating their ?predestined ?deserved fate. Lots in there also about Diggers, Lollards and Quakers, which I find interesting. Maybe SueS can tell me a bit more about this time and its philosophy.

Had a nice comment from partner SW (Marty) on arrival, and am hoping the kids are surviving intact in his tender care. I gather he took them to see the premiere of 'Revenge of the Sith' today, since Dodo wished by telephone that the 'force be with me'. Thanks Dodo- but I'm worried M is a bad influence on you, dearie. M- given that you'dd altered your neurochemistry in anticipation of the film, I do hope you took a taxi to the flicks and didn't drive, and please just lie to me if it's otherwise. Some things should be on a 'need to know' basis.

PS Marts- have you shown the kids Antony's excellent spoof website?

I know Joe will adore this.

PPS Kebz commented on the difficulties of entering the Land of Freem and Moxy with an Al-Qaeda name, and I can confirm this. I shall be presenting at this conference the work of a respectable, able Omani research fellow from my unit who simply couldn't face the expense, travel and interrogation involved in a simple 5 day trip to the USA.


Thursday, May 19, 2005

Curse of the working classes

By tomorrow evening I shall be in the Land of Freem an' Moxy, attending one of these dreadful conferences that blight an otherwise charmed life. However, I've set myself up with several pleasurable distractions for the week- my dad and step-mum travelling down to southern California to spend the weekend with me in between sessions, and by room-sharing with friend and colleague R.
R is not necessarily a calming influence, but we courteously take turns to decompensate at these stressful events in a manner both comforting and profitable. Each of us have received and dispense a robust form of CBT for this, and share a similar Myers-Brigg pattern. When worst's come to worst and there's simultaneous fugues, memorable Thelma and Louise road trips like those in Iceland and Majorca have ensued. My tasks this afternoon have included making sure we both have sufficient nylon legwear and our prescribed drugs to last the trip- a peculiarly modern entry on the travelling checklist. As usual, R will be hauling 'big blue', a portakabin in the shape of a suitcase, at least half of which is makeup, and I 'little red', a neat carrycase which sometimes passes for handluggage. That's not in the Myers-Brigg inventory.

Big blue

Meanwhile, I'm hoping that the army of monarch butterflies who over-wintered in central California this Xmas might be taking another stop-off in southern Ca before they hit their breeding grounds in Mexico over the summer, 6 generations after hatching in Canadian milkweed meadows the previous year. By this generation, the larval stage is short and the winged adult stage much prolonged. It transforms the meaning of 'lifespan' when these have a macro-cycle, dependent on latitude and temperature. Here's hoping there's a monarch grove nearby at which to zone out.

Also, there will be excellent Mexican food and margheritas, California rolls as sushi, avocado and alfalfa sandwiches, avocado and mango salsa in Titan portions. Too much avocado is not a state I've ever experienced. And if we're observant, there'll be blue pachuco tattoos on the hands of the waitpersons.

I've taken the precaution of downloading onto the laptop Galloway's testimony so I can play this as required and ad libitum, as well as hear more about Kebz's babby when it arrives. Just hope the Galloway .ram file passes security safely, now that there are X-rays, fingerprints, iris scans, ionoscopy, tardis booths, magic wands, searches for deadly razors, lighters and nail scissors as well as smelly foot inspections as a matter of course now, when entering the evil empire. Travelling companion R, with her striking looks and East European passport, never fails to attract the special attention of security officers, brought up on James Bond films and the Cold War, at entry airports.

Also to be tested will be whether streaming online Dr. Who can be received on Saturday evening. BF has been tasked with recording MES on Jools tomorrow night, but I won't be holding my breath. At that hour he'll still be playing Star Wars ™ special edition Trivial Pursuit ™ with the kids, since letting them stay up and eat crap is his secret babysitting weapon. They're suspiciously happy about him taking charge while I'm gone, presuming that since my head zips up the back I'm ignorant that anarchy prevails in my absence. However, one of the physiological changes irrevokably induced during childbirth is to grow eyes on the back of the head that see clear across the Atlantic Ocean. So they'd better be good.

P.S. Welcome to the passers-by who googled for 'quinsies', 'wandering jew', 'chinese star signs' [ion- whit? Did I spraff off on rats one time?] and 'Thierry Meissen'.


Tuesday, May 17, 2005


Up the hill again tonight, this time with kids, a jamjar and a magnifying glass to capture and get a better look at one of those shiny black pencil-skirted bogflies. But by the time we'd gotten up there the wind was blowing up and the sun clouded over. Those exothermic invertebrates get sleepy and torpid under these circumstances, and laze in their camouflage instead of reacting. We got a hoverfly and a shieldbug by Dunstan's Loch

Ephemeroptera such as mayflies are comparatively easy to classify with magnification due to their absence of functional mouthparts and digestive system in their shortlived imago* state. They only live a few days in this adult, reproductively-capable form, but it's a pinnacle acheivement for any individual mayfly, its influorescence and goal. It comes after at least a year's gestation, metamorphosis from an egg to aquatic nymph to transitional dunfly to aerial mayfly. The adult mayfly who survives to reproduce is one in a thousand, its martyred siblings and now its angel-winged flight rare epiphenomena, and all to facilitate a simple admixture of genes.

Sub-adult stages of the mayfly

More mayfly-lore from ignore the spelling for the detail.

Mayflies are the oldest of the winged insects and are unique in being the only known insect group which has a sub-imago* stage. This is a pre-adult stage which undergoes a final moult even though it has fully functional wings. The sub-imago stage is also called a "dun", whilst the imago is reffered to as a "spinner", being brighter and shinier than the sub-imago. Mayflies are associated with an aquatic environment, with the nymphal stages living in rivers and streams, and the adults which are found flying along waterways. The adult stage of mayflies is extremely short, often lasting for only a day, or even only a few hours. Adults have no functional mouthparts and there only purpose is to mate, which takes place on the wing after which the females may lay eggs in less than an hour. Their purpose fulfilled they quickly die. Eggs are laid in a variety of ways by females. Some scatter eggs singularly along streams and rivers, other lay their eggs in batches, whilst others actually crawl under the water surface, using emergent vegetation and lay their eggs directly onto water plants.

Nymphs vary in morphology according to the life strategy they use within the water. Nymphs either burrow in the river bed, these being cylindrical in shape. Crawl on vegetation, these nymphs are usually sturdy with strong legs and tarsi to obtain good purchase against the current. Some nymphs swim and are therefore very streamlined to aid passage through the water. Others live in the fast currents feeding on algae films and detritus which passes in the current. These nymphs are dorso-ventrally flattened and capable of clinging to rock surfaces against considerable forces of drag. Nymphs breathe using a series of gill filiments which can easily be seen extending from the sides of the abdomen. The gills are flat leaf like organs and house numerous tracheae into which oxygen from the water diffuses. There are usually seven pairs of gills and the nymph will often flick them periodically if placed in still water, this removes the oxygen deficient water immediately next to the gills and replaces it with more oxygen rich water. The nymphal stages are considerably longer than the adult stage. Ephemera danica takes two years to mature to the short lived adult stage. Some nymphs moult over twenty five times before becoming adults.

*Imago- defined as '2. (Zo["o]l.) The final adult, and usually winged, state of an insect.'


Monday, May 16, 2005

Entomology for beginners

A couple of insect-heavy days.

1. Swarms of shiny black flies with long thin abdomens, total length approx 2-3 cm, 'playing' together at an altitude of approx 4 ft above the drained Hunter's Bog in Royal Park yesterday, which runs alongside the reedy St. Margaret's Loch at the foot of the hill. Perfect breeding ground for ephemera, and perfect hatching conditions yesterday after a spell of sunnier weather.

What were they? Well, I didn't recognise them as Odonata (dragonflies, damselflies), they didn't appear to be any of the familiar hymenoptera (social insects) and they weren't beetles or bugs either on first glance. I had the memory they had but one set of wings which would make them Diptera (true flies). However, pics of horse-, deer- and gad-flies, common names for different species of Tabanids (also sometimes known as clegs in Scotland), didn't match either, and they didn't seem to be biters (female tabanids are blood-feeders). Hmmm... yet they also weren't lacewings or craneflies, leaving most Dipterid classes excluded. I'm now wondering if perhaps they were Ephemeroptera in the Linnaean and not the poetic sense (i.e. 'mayflies'), even though I didn't notice the pronged tails typical of these.

For short searches for common invertebrates, I've found this site very useful, and for the obsessive there's an amazing downloadable tool to aid classification efforts. Go here and download a small exe file in order to view diagnostic criteria and wonderful illustrations of British entomological fauna.


2. The carpet-beetles are out in force now, much to the children's horror, and Her Catness is kept busy with hunting. She caught her last mouse at least a year ago now- the live one she brought to show me on the bed, while I was in it- and is starved of feline challenges. These slow-movers are really a waste of her talents, especially because they play dead when threatened, but she likes to keep her paw in anyway. In the absence of better mammalian prey they can flick the switch that induces the dilated pupils, butt-waggling and tail-twitch of the hunting response.

I call them carpet beetles, because that's where I find them, but they look more like black mealworm or flour beetles- shiny, black, 4-5 mm long. True carpet beetles are rounder and variegated with brown striped carapaces. Plus the larvae I find are blind white mealworms and not hirsute 'woolly bears' as true carpet beetles'. This means they've found a convenient foodstore in my cupboards where they're eating hearty. I had to throw out an unsealed bag of cous-cous a few weeks ago when it was found to have nourished a healthy colony of the buggers.

For comparison:

a) Mealworm (larva) and (adult) darkling beetle (Tenebrio sp)

b) Carpet beetle and woolly bear (Anthrenus verbasci)

c) But to confuse matters, our pets seem to be pictured here as carpet, not darkling/mealworm beetles

3. Shared the bus home with a worker honeybee busy trying to best the windowglass to get back to Arthur's Seat, or so it seemed to me. Although working over 15 minutes to get out in the open air, she (haploid she, remember) took rests to groom her antennae, presumably to comfort and refresh her pheromone-honing apparatus, and to check the angle of the sun against her homeward flight. Her saddlebags were packed with pale-yellow pollen and her 4 neural ganglia somehow, miraculously, counting off bee-time on some internal clock to calculate longitude. When she finally buzzes free against the draught from the open bus doors, up at the terminus in Musselburgh, she'll navigate back home to a hive at the foot of the hill in Duddingston in less than an hour, so I'm not worried for her.

Furthermore, Alasdair Gray clearly likes animals in general (see Tall Tales frontispiece/contents pages) and bees in particular. The revised Picador 1991 edition of 'Something Leather' I'm holding here has these beasties swarming across the author's biog, dedication and contents pages.

And what's that middle top on the cover of Ten Tall Tales?



A happy synchronicity yesterday, when I found a book on James Hutton's work at the bookfair, 'The Man who Found Time', by Repcheck. It opens with a quote from SJ Gould-
He burst the boundaries of time, thereby establishing geology's most distinctive and transforming contribution to human thought- Deep Time.

Hutton's birthplace, workplace and research lab was the landscape around the Lothians, so this is redolent with known places and images. Hutton's theory had aeons of geological activity laying down strata of minerals both during slow sedimentary and erosion phases and saltational volcanic and siesmological events. He proves it to himself and skeptics Playfair and Hall when they find the hypothesised sequence in an observation of a horizontal stratum of Old Red Sandstone lying on top of older, vertically-twisted graywhacke in the shorecliffs of East Lothian.

Furthermore, I learn that the Gutted Haddie, a gully between peaks at the summit of Arthur's Seat, only came into being in 1744, when a dramatic landslide following storms cleared the surface rock, exposing the hard volcanic stone underneath. Hutton had recommenced University studies, this time of medicine, at the time of this event. He would have been living with his sisters and mother in the Old Town, perhaps on the Lawnmarket just down the hill from the Castle on the Royal Mile's slide down to Holyrood and Arthur's Seat.

There's an 1830 clickable, zoomable Old Town map of the Royal Mile here.

Also, sau may be interested the learn of a small brass plaque, badly in need of a polish, on a block next to the Assembly Rooms in Edinburgh's New Town. I noticed this for the first time yesterday. It marks 60 George St, where Shelley and his wife Harriet honeymooned in 1811, shortly before her suicide. I'm tempted to go back with the Brasso™ and give it a buff as a mark of respect.


Saturday, May 14, 2005

Alasdair Gray

Alasdair Gray (author of Lanark, amongst others) cuts an odd figure in a rumpled suit, goatee, with wild hair, bottle-bottom specs and blossoming midriff. Rocking with laughter at another's reading, he knocks over and breaks a wineglass- he's sober, just apparently born without proprioception.

His spoken voice is a presbyterian squeal, well suited to the irony embedded in his wide-ranging work. At Word-Power's radical bookfair opening, AG read the monologue of the talkative dentist in 'The Trendelenburg Position' from his latest collection, 'Ten Tall Tales'. Pomposity, indignation, self-righteousness and pressure-of-speech pour out of him like water from a ewer. There's a 30-sec audio clip of AG reading this linked on this webpage.

If you haven't heard AG speak, his 3-minute essay on a nation of arselickers, broadcast on R4's 'Today' in April 2003, just after war broke out, gives a taste. This kind commentator at imakecontent transcribed some of AG's verbal essay, and provides a link to the 'listen again' audio record.

AG's other talent is as a graphic artist, his illustrations as quirky as the man.


Thursday, May 12, 2005

How to waste time well

In asking "Does law mean, you know, law?", Philip Challinor provided me with a thoroughly enjoyable hour thinking and researching the word origins connected with hills, laws and the volcanic plugs dotting the landcape of the Lothians.

There's lots of laws round here, of this definition

Law, n.2 Also: lawe, lau(e, la. [North. and north midl. ME. lawe (Orm), lau (Cursor M.), midl. low(e, OE. hláw, hl?w
a grave-mound, also, a hill...Espec. one more or less round or conical in shape; often applied to isolated hills

This takes 'law' for hill, back to the 14th C at least, and like the surname Law links this with O.E. hláw. Interestingly, on the west coast of Scotland, hill-laws are more commonly sea-mounts, whereas here in the east the waterbound volcanic plug of Bass Rock sits next door to landbound Berwick and Traprain Laws.

But I'd like to think that hill-laws might be distantly related with legal-laws, through O.N. lagu (to lay down).

Such a derivation or accretion for law is reminiscent of the Icelandic Alþing, which met in a natural ampitheatre at Thingvellir near a fissure where the West European and North American continental plates crunch. Here the meaning meeting, legislation has become concrete as the amorphous English monstrosity of a word thing. It's the legislative meaning of þing that's passed down in our word hustings.

Once you start counting, there are so many local volcanic plugs (Binny Craig, Dechmont Law, the 7 hills of Edinburgh), and each the seat of an ancient settlement- a local concentration of people and power.

Cairnpapple houses a bronze age kist and a couple thousand years of burials as well as the TV transmitter for all of West Lothian, as the highest point in a 15 mile radius. It's guarded by a herd of curious cattle who menace on the approach to the site.

In East Lothian, Traprain (correct spelling- but pronounced by locals as Trappain) houses Loth's Stone (legendary hero for whom Lothians named) and, until the early 20th C, silver tribute from the Votadini to the Romans.

Castle Rock, the classic 'crag-and-tails' volcanic plug, now seats...errr a girt big ugly military garrison.


Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Odds and sods

1. Lenin's Tomb recently featured a comment-box chess game, a particularly appreciated OT branching. Strike against purely political posts, for which ML or PoV are amply equipped. Bogol featured a vg post with a recipe for calm chowder. These are simple pleasures.

2. Now that GG has defeated Oona King (unmistakenly celebrated), the knives are out and his warts are showing. No- not the barrels of oil 'scandal', but his poor wife's quandary. Is he a cheater or are the phonecalls from women claiming affairs a CIA plot? For the sake of balance, Pandora (Indie gossip column) has also published a scandalous ditty linking Oona romantically to Straw.

3. In my wish-fulfillment dream last night, there was unlimited imaginary access to a monstrously large bathtub filled with bubbles. It was... dreamy, from the set of a Busby Berkeley movie.

4. Wrote to AL Kennedy today after another seething 9/11 article in the Guardian, who's speaking at the Word-Power radical bookfair at its opening tonight, c/o her agent. The poor kids Nini and Dodo will be dragged along to the bookfair, but Elaine always includes kids' book selections too on the stands. Maybe they'll remember later that money spent on books is never wasted.

5. On disembarking today, a solitary black shoe is upright on the pavement near the bus stop, standing up in strappado leather and tapering heel height. It's situated between the BlindSense charity shop (ivory wedding dress, never worn, 75 quid, in window) and the late-license ikea-outfitted style-bar. Which is it attached to? A number of branching stories could be constructed, some of them linking to Mary-Ann, whose appalling death seems emblematically chilling.

6. To David Duff- there's nothing here for you, and nothing to interest you. You have mistaken me for someone else, so please be gone. Strangers disturb me- you're cramping my style. These are notes to myself, and you do me disservice by criticism.

7. Now that spring's here, we've been up the hill (Arthur's Seat) a coupla times a week recently, enjoying the later nights and the yellow of the broom.

Here's the contours of the Hill as you approach it via St Margaret's Loch, and up through the valley till you're past the Lion's Head and in through the cleft between hill forts to the upper loch, Dunsapie, which boasts ducklings at present. That high pass is surely the 'Lion's Crotch', a placename invented by NiNi which we're now forbidden to mention. Swans are still brooding their egg clutches, and protecting them from the predatory gulls.

Arthur's Seat is allegedly the geological formation that prompted Hutton (and afterwards Lyall) to imagine deep geological time, and is one of a chain of volcanic plugs stretching along the Lothian coast inc. ?Cairnpapple, Arthur's seat, Trappain Law, Berwick Law, Bass Rock.


Saturday, May 07, 2005

Bad news in Edinburgh South

From Guardian's aristotle:

The 2005 general election Votes Share %
Nigel Griffiths, Labour 14,188 33.2
Marilyne MacLaren, Liberal Democrat 13,783 32.3
Gavin Brown, Conservative 10,291 24.1
Graham Sutherland, Scottish National Party 2,635 6.2
Steve Burgess, Green Party 1,387 3.3
Morag Robertson, Scottish Socialist Party 414 1.0

Labour majority: 405
Time of declaration: May 06 2005 03:02
Turnout: 70.0 %

So close (only 405 majority), and yet so far. On the other hand, can't pretend I would've been opening the fizzy wine had Marilyne won, either. I'd only really have been happy with Steve Burgess or Morag Robertson anyway.

Fuck politics for a game of soldiers, and may Nigel hate every minute of the next 4 years for his bad conscience.


The Basa's photo from edinburghsucks reveals why Nigel's window remains pristine and whole. It's the CCTV camera mounted on his doorway, and pointed straight at the area outside his office. Bollocks. And WTF didn't we all engage in a little postal ballot fraud to rid ourselves of this prat.


Still catching up... election

Couldn't stay in the house over election night- in need of distraction- but I arrived home at approx 5 am to learn the delayed result that George G had won out over Oona King in Bethnal Green and Bow. Then had to sit through some disgusting racist crap by Tony Banks, followed by an interview of GG by Paxman that should go down in history as the worst ever. It's on the BBC website if anyone needs to review it- disgusting, biased, bad-humoured, childish. I went to bed at 6.30 am hoping for an hour of slow wave sleep before dragging myself out for an early start at work, but slept right through the alarm. My colleague M covered for me, but I was very, very, very bad to do this.


There were also good showings for several other anti-war candidates (Reg Keys, Craig Murray, Salma Yaqoob etc), well documented elsewhere. Sadly, Rose Gentle lost her deposit against Adam Killgram, but it's more important to be right than to win. Give it time. She still has the option to take a private prosecution against Tony Bliar for his illegal war against Iraq, which killed her son Gordon. Impeach Blair, prosecute him and make him pay.



Thursday, May 05, 2005

Lost Weekend

I realise everyone else in the world is focussed on the election today, as they should be, but this blog is stuck in a timewarp, having failed to record my lost weekend.

My daytime at the MayDay rally already had me tipsy (note the passive voice, as if it was out of my control) and was topped with a bellyful of Class As in anticipation of the Fall's gig. We'd sold our spare ticket to a stranger on Vicky St, but on arrival the queue at the Liquid Rooms was suspiciously short. The promoter at the door had the task of telling all who rolled up to the sell-out show that the gig was cancelled because Mark E Smith was still pissed-up in Aberdeen. How many times has this happened? Deja vu, or what- Mark has cancelled on me before, and it's entirely in character.

I was pumped up, indignant and garrulous, so complained volubly about MES in Anglo-Saxon to the promoter and anyone else within hearing distance, bought a backlog of Fall fanzines from a dad who'd driven up from Bolton that day to see them, sympathised with another 40-something couple who'd planned the gig as a birthday treat for the wife and spoke to another group who'd come all the way from Inverness for nothing. Mark is class, but (like me) unreliable. The gig is rescheduled for 23rd May, but I shall be in the US at a conference then, so this was no comfort to me. And so the adventure began.

My BF raced off to offer to buy back the spare, now redundant, Fall ticket from the wee 18-yr old business studies student from Kirkcaldy to whom we'd sold it, while I 'vented' (as psychologists say) to the world at large. We then coalesced as a group- me and BF, 40s couple, wee student- for some alternative trouble, which I suggested should be the rival gig by BombSka/BombSkare (a local ska group) at Bannerman's pub nearby, to where we repaired.

Bannerman's was heaving already, but I spotted a sofa being vacated and asked the dodgy-looking guys at the table if we could take it, to which they assented on condition I was a Hibee. Although entirely lacking interest in any sport except men's gymnastics and the luge, I was happy to lie my ass off in order to get my bum on a seat and a glass of wine down my gullet. Within half an hour I'd become best friends with the blokes- a long-distance truck-driver (R), an 'interior decorator' (D) and a failed accountant (C). They shared my conviction (at that time) that I was irresistible, sexy and interesting, and donated me yet more Class As at the table while I delved their psyches and life experiences. Meanwhile my BF was looking after our newly-adopted teenager (G- the wee student who'd bought the spare Fall ticket), introducing him to radical socialist political thinking (G is business studies student) and trying to get me to go in to see the band in the backroom. G is worried about getting home to Kirkcaldy until we offer him a crashpad that night.

But meanwhile, I'm enjoying the crack and the attention at the table far too much, and we're getting into my favourite topics- history, etymology, anthropology, politics. The boys (BF and G) went into the backroom while I continued my slide into debauchery with R, D and C, and helped them explain that night's Beltane festival and the 'Silver Bough' (Florence McNeill) to some Norwegian & Canadian tourists.

I was still fully intending to bunk into Beltane on Calton Hill (they were charging 5 pounds this year- scandalous), but became distracted by the conversation and D's surrealist meanderings, his Cockney gangster impressions and his remarkable cheekbones and face. I persuaded D to come outside so I could treat him like the bitch he is and make him pose for me. Photos below. Meanwhile, I'm having rhythmic auditory hallucinations that PJ Harvey is playing 'Rid of Me' in the background.

Quite suddenly it's 1am, I've kissed most of the blokes in the room, and the pub and gig are being cleared. The boys (BF and G) want to go clubbing instead of to Beltane, and I'm being lured back to strangers D and C's nearby, evil den for music and smokes. And I went. D is off-the-wall, witty and a complusive confabulator (see Oliver Sacks essays on Korsakoff's Syndrome), but I'm just enough with it to see past my usual gullibility as he tells me about his grandmother, Lady Lorimer. A clue is that at every song he puts on the CD, he starts a spraff with 'This reminds me of the time...', then paints an imaginative, richly-embroidered and fictional scene. I see pictures of their kids, tell them about the midnight sun in Iceland and we discuss allsorts, singalong to classic psychedelic music and swap experiences. The boys, G and BF, picked me up at approx 4am after their techno club and we got home without any mishaps, unintended sexual activity or recriminations.

I left my digital camera that night in the pub, and the chances of it being handed in were approx 200 to 1. But I had loads of good karma from my spontaneity, my misplaced trusting attitude and taking care (maternally) of G without deflowering him. In the morning, the pub still had the camera behind the bar. There is a God, and she notices random acts of kindness.


Tuesday, May 03, 2005

MayDay 30 years ago

There were maybe a handful of hundreds at the MayDay march and rally this year, but when I was a girl, thousands marched behind proud bright union banners and party placards to take over the whole of Holyrood Park in what was then known as the Miners Gala. There were stalls and rides and raffles and a big stage for the speakers and performers, and we kids would run crazy being sent on fools' errands (run up to the chapel on the crags, kids, and first one there gets a sweetie). There is no Miners Gala now, because there are no miners- all across Fife and Lothians the pits are now closed down, but I do remember...

My parents sent me to Socialist Fellowship, which was a kind of baby CP, and the couple who ran our group would organise a bus to take us and the other SF groups from Glasgow through to Edinburgh for the big day. The group was a real mixture of kids, including academics' brats, working class kids and immigrant kids (at that time, particularly from Chile and the Punjab), and every week we'd have singing (my favourite), and play games, and try to learn our Socialist Fellowship Precepts, printed on wee red and white cards. I was in that group for years, and all that time it was run by a wonderful couple called the McFalls, Gracie (4 foot nothing, but a big wumman) and her towering bearded husband, Wullie. Their teenage daughters Linda and Lesley helped out too. That was a long time ago, but I still think of them now and wish them well. Thanks, Gracie.


Monday, May 02, 2005

MayDay photos

Alison (AL) Kennedy

Angela from Make Poverty History

Colin Fox (SSP MSP) with friend

Green speaker

Compere, comedian Susan Morrison

Photos of the crowd

I may as well confess that's me with AL Kennedy and a kiltie man, and the Tony Blair mask was being worn by one of my daughter's classmates in her wonderful 'Armed and Dangerous' T-shirt, but unfortunately my kids were at their dad's. I met some members of the local IWW (industrial workers of the world) group, with whom I used to be involved, and learned they've recruited more women and some high-ranking members of the SSP, forming an anarcho-socialist crossover. This being the case, I may go back, but am still thinking about that. Last time, my involvement ended badly with Judean People's Front-type nastiness.