Unreliable and possibly off-topic


Sunday, October 30, 2005

It's my party

and I'll cry if I want to. But give me a few hours yet. I've wrapped up little gifts for my friends J and N, who share the party, and am wearing tonight the spoils of last night's birthday party. I have enamelled green bangles and a shell necklace to wear with a Vietnamese silk camisole in green and turquoise and traditional black chinese silk flared trousers. And for once, lots of dark eye make-up with poison green eyeshadow.


Procrastinations R Us

I've done it again, and put off an acheivable something until it became a soaring obstacle. I've been helping Heather, who's dyslexic, with some paperwork for a union grievance against her management. I've been able to boil down some specific accounts to well-structured responses to management behaviour. Heather, who's told me about her nomadic careers in the circus, caring for a quadriplegic husband, chambermaiding and in educational support, all the time raising solo a son now well established at university.

But confronting me are 30 closely-written pages from Heather to transform into a case for constructive dismissal and/or harassment. And there is a real case there, amongst the misspelt emotive accounts, but I need some time to read and digest this lot and transform it into a rational case. Today, missing my man, and angry about this, I'm playing for kicks the Velvets' 'White Light/White Heat', and again came across 'The Gift', but I'm changing the ending.


Friday, October 28, 2005

Black bean stew

This the recipe concocted today. Some feel strongly that ham hough/hock should be boiled skin-intact with beans in order to impart flavour.

Black Bean Soup
500g Dried black or pinto beans, soaked overnight and boiled for 10 mins next morning to leach out their purple poisons
500-750g Smoked ham hough (hock, for you hicks), sliced into pot-friendy pieces by your local neighbourhood butcher
1 yellow onion, 3 shallots, 3 cloves garlic, diced and sweated off
3 bay leaves
10 cumin seeds
3 deseeded tomatoes, or generous squeeze tomato paste

Simmer for approx 3 hrs, then strip the ham off bone. Serve with a generous sprinkling of green coriander (cilantro-YouEssers) and a dollop of sour cream.



'The Fall' and Mark E Smith reminscences on BBC4, to which sau alerted me, have been great. But missing from the recent John Peel retrospectives on R4/BBC4 so far has been his appreciation of Richard and Linda Thompson, or June Tabor. Down Where the Drunkards Roll is a well-loved example, along with other modern folksongs on that album, including I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight and Poor Little Beggar Girl. But be that as it may.

I've had good news today- arrangements to bring my dear one's cat over the ocean are progressing apace. Cero's been microchipped, rabies and distemper innoculated. This cat, who has very mixed feelings towards me, has been the biggest obstacle yet encountered to my dear one's emigration. You may not know, for example, that a cat is much harder to emigrate than a daughter. Let me tell you...

Cero is an American Bobtail (warning- this link plays cheesy music), and they have a rather odd disposition, being more canine than feline, and prone to single-person attachments. Cero has a crooked stunted tail, and has not been partial to sharing his dear dad with me. He's a total pussy with his dad, using his paws with sheathed claws to hug him when he's scooped up. Meanwhile from me this cat will not even accept a pat, because that might represent an act of dominance. I get flattened ears and skulking. He's latterly converted his sulking behaviour to more active forms, by making and occupying a space at the head between me and his dad in bed. Hey- I'm patient, and I happen to like Cero's attitude. But dear one's delightful arty daughter has been a pushover compared to that cat.


Thursday, October 27, 2005


Before being corrupted by New World sloth, we had Hallowe'en and not Halloween, as google now recommends. Hallowe'en is what I grew up with, and so did the immortal James Frazer, author of the Golden Bough (1922) and Florence McNeill of the Scottish Silver Bough (1957).

Hallowe'en is definitely my favourite time of the year, not least because my birthday falls about now, as do those of my mum, step-dad, step-mum, and two of my oldest friends. I had Hallowe'en parties as a kid for my birthday, so the trees turning and leaves crunching underfoot have always had good associations. This weekend I will have the annual plethora of birthday engagements. Friday to Heather's for some of her fragrant Thai cooking, Saturday at my Edinburgh folks' for a family dinner and Sunday with the old pals and their spouses at Bann's, the best haute-cuisine vegetarian restaurant in town. It got to be my choice this year. Although I'm nominally carnivorous, the menu here makes meat superfluous.

It's Samhain too, so around now on a kid-night we'll break the tediousness of late sunrises and early nightfalls with a ceremonial spooky apple-dooking, some dancing around and pumpkin lanterns. Their dad persists with hollowing out a neep (turnip), but it's so much more work and evidence of pure stubborn bloody-mindedness. A pumpkin just needs de-seeded, but some people always hafta take the hard way round.


Wednesday, October 26, 2005


Heather, my friend who's helping me get a clean house, came round this morning and kicked my butt. I, still in my dressing gown, shamefacedly picked up the undigested catsick with paper towels and dried the dishes she washed for me. But she found no black beetles during a thorough Hoovering and mopping, so that bastard that casually climbed the wall last night, serenely surveyed by the cat, must be an interloper.

Hint: The black beetles are one of the main joists of my kids' Dad's current complaints about my shortcomings, of which there is a long list.

While I was away earlier this month, Heather completely cleaned, sterilised and organised my flat. Arriving frazzled after a nightmare homeward journey (see previous posts), I walked into a gleaming flat of cool reflective surfaces. Heather had tidied everything into neat piles, clearing all the surfaces, washed all the glosswork and mopped the floors, even changed my sheets and folded my underwear in the drawers. She'd left flowers in my sittingroom and bedroom, a box of wine and a chilled glass in the fridge. It was the best welcome home I've had for a long time- thanks so much Heather.


Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Things I meant to do

  • Clean up that spectacular turd-like catsick in the kitchen
  • Do the dishes
  • Make veg pakora from scratch
  • Send on an Ian Sinclair psychogeography text to Dad
  • Trace the source of the scant black beetles still hanging around in odd places
  • Train the cat to kill and not just stalk black beetles


(OT) Hair products

I've been experimenting with different products to try to resurrect the length serially abused with peroxides, pinkeners and other dyes. It's mostly kept up using crocodle clips these day to allow me free to read freely, but it's the longest since 1996.

I've been trying out a cross-section of black-girls' products, as my dear coconut-fragrant friend D. recommends- she a pale caucasion of unrepentant Edinburgh accent despite 20 years in Hackney, but a killer Jamaican mimic accent and black-girl nail extensions. I've applied black-girls' Tea-Tree Hair Moisturising Treatment and a Coconut Hair Moisturiser to little effect. I'm still combing out a frazzled matt after washing these out. After 'Ion' conditioner, the matts smooth, relax and comb out.



'Dance Hall at Louse Point' by PJ Harvey is my current favourite CD. The title track, an instrumental, could be Capt. Beefheart track. Ugly at first listening, before an internal rhythm and eloquence makes itself known. Louse Point is a beach on Long Island, NY, I gather. Maybe they have lots of sea-lice or sand-hoppers there to explain the name, or maybe a guy called Louse once owned it. It faithfully covers Lieber and Stoller's "Is That All there Is", a hit for Peggy Lee in the tradition of Weill, Brel etc.

By coincidence, one of Bogol's conversation starters on decapods of the biological kind sparked another louse tangent. Lice are wonderful parasitic creatures, evidence of the cleverness and adaptability, co-evolution of the web of organisms.

They're old enough that they've evolved not to kill us, except when hijacked by other micro-organisms seeking a vector.


Sunday, October 23, 2005

For R


The Viking way sent them sailing on a burning bier
Towards the west, chasing the sun forever.
Fireworks to celebrate what’s past and gone.
Carbon, oxygen, gases. Not him,
But what’s left over after the flame goes out.

But you’ll see him, I promise,
And his holy ghost, with you and in you.
Maybe at odd times, from the corner of your eye,
While tending his garden or the lilies he planted,
Their soil fertilised by the dead pets he loved too.
Fire and earth always with us,
And a candle’s light, a tiny sun, to remember.


Saturday, October 22, 2005

Yellow menace, bird flu, beloved et al

Sudden death is almost becoming accustomed now. Beloved's ex-wife is Chinese. raised in Taiwan. Her two sisters made a trip to mainland China earlier this month. On return this weekI, one (a fit 60 yr old) fell into a high fever and died within 24 hrs at home, while the other sister is suffering debilitation from a severe diarrhoea at last check-in. Bird flu, SARS or what? A fit 60 yr old woman shouldn't die of unknown causes.

Beloved was winding down quietly at his blues bar last night when he had an extraordinary experience. He was becoming irritated by the brushing against his back of a woman, an older woman of age 60+, there with her lesbian lover. Eventually she spoke directly, touching his arm for vibes, and said that she couldn't do this often, but that she could sense trauma from him. That's no surprise to an old trooper, but further she told him his brother had recently died but he continued to watch over him. Beloved never over-reacts- he'd have been as laconic, phlematic as alwys. The wise crone tells him he has an old soul. When a young euphoric woman approaches, this crone says she can't read new souls like hers, and blows her off. Turning back to beloved, holding his hand, she asks if he has any other questions for her. Just like a man, he mumbles something existential and self-serving- 'que sera sera' etc. But ten minutes later she grips his hand again and says, 'Move! Just move, and don't look back. You'll be successful and happy. Don't look back'.

There's been a few crones in mylife, my mum amongst these, and also the Cecilia I met on the ferry to Gigha last year, or the summer befi=ore.

Whah? How to explain Dirk's interlocutor's perspicasiousness? We talked a little about it, me talking the mystery out of strange coincidences, echos and mirrors. I suggested instead of getting spooked out, that beloved should listen to an inner voice echoed back. Yes, he needs to move and yes, he deserves happiness.


The good, the bad and the ugly

The good:
A Glasgow outing with my mum to see our bums, and R's, in clinical blow-up display at Catriona Grant's stark, post-classical photographic exhibition, The Examination Room. Catriona spoke articulately about how this series of exquisitely composed institutional landscapes, taken on large format 10x8 inch negatives on an old analogue camera, used double exposure and long exposure times at particular times of day to replicate certian recurring features:
ghostly portraits of nude women in an abandoned institutional building, speaking of history and aggregrated time accrued in an outworn, decaying institutional space,
reflections from fragile eggshell or composite walls
cubicles doors into multi-dimensional spaces incorporating time as well as depth

Today Catriona mentioned that she'd tried both professional female models and non-professional males as subjects for The Examination Room but found each lacking in their own way. The professional models were too at ease with their nakedness and the men too active and ungainly, rather than emanating the passivity and dignity that the naive models seemed to assume during observation.

The bad:
My digital camera is screwed up, and I've no idea how to get it fixed. Its lens stays open and won't close despite re-charging, its display paralysed.

The ugly:
Anoushka, le chat aux Quiffes des Oreilles, has become yet ever the lap-cat, especially since I returned from the Land of Freem and Moxy last week. However, her tender attentions were less than welcome last night when these were accompanied by the rotten smell of carnivorous faeces. Between us, me and the kids used rhinoreceptors to locate this to a dreadlock on her fluffy britches, round the back end in places she prefers us not to touch. DoDo, who borders on OCD regarding germs, was incapable of dealing with such infectious matter. But after a family meeting, DoDo held her down at the front end while I, equipped with paper towels and kitchen scissors, excised a stinking dread and consigned this to the bin. Yeuch.


Thursday, October 20, 2005

Travel Tales III

This post is specially for R, who accompanied me on our previous eventful flight rom San Diego (smiley), especially because it concerns airport security.

Me, Brazilian born-again lady, blue-eyed Isreali man and decent Scottish bloke arrived at the hotel that night at 2 am in short succession, meeting in the lobby and exchanging stories and taxi sharing. I alerted them to the local 24 hr A&P supermarket round the back of the hotel, which I'd spotted from the taxi and where Scottish bloke could get fags that night, and I some fruit salad in the morning.

We had dinner vouchers from our airline (value $10), but there was no dinner service still going at the Inn. Plus (worse), no booze- nothing for it but to settle for a hot-tub temperature bath (a rare luxury} and Discovery Channel (another treat- since subscription to the Sky package myself remains an excluded option). In the room, I talked on the airline's dime to my beloved from a public phone with two citizens of Christ discussing sin and forgiveness in the background to this. However, beloved assumes task of responsibility of phoning my son and his Dad to ensure Her Majesty de Quiffes des Oreilles was fed over my delay.

I'd just settled into one of the queen size doubles in my room that night when the fire alarm went off, and didn't go off after a minute or so. I look outside the door to see a couple kissing on the landing, waiting for the all-clear to resume a coupling. Scottish bloke from nextdoor in sweatpants ensemble, me in a camisole and hastily pulled on trousers run downstairs to smell worse burning on the ground floor. A man in a wheelchair used his partially paralysed feet to propel himself down the ground floor corridor to a locked door blocking our exit via the lobby. Just as I'm making noise that the door's locked, the duty manager races down the ground-floor corridor dressed in a white vest and boxers, scrambling to unlock the door.

It turns out someone at reception has burned some popcorn from the A&P in the microwave, but it smelled pretty bad when we sole evacuees assembled in reception- me, Scottish bloke and , an American guy in a wheelchair, possible cerebral palsy, as suffering from aphasia and spasticity. Probably living at the hotel long-term under some kind of tinpot assisted care package. This dude had single-handedly lifted himself, unattended, out of bed into his wheelchair and trundled that chair with numb flapping penguin feet to the lobby. I held open the door for him to get out to the lobby. Once the 'fire' was declared beaten, we all three shared a good laugh, and Ian (Scottish bloke) and I got him back to the bedroom. I slunk into bed and fell asleep to the pre-tuned evangelical radio, tuned subliminally low, which issued from the alarm clock.

In the morning I confirmed a flight for that night through an 0800 (freephone) number, and negotiated with the hotel a late midday checkout f9r my party of four. Ian very kindly signed off on the taxi fare for all of us to the airport. Business expenses, he said- thanks Ian. I managed through persistence to acheive another 8 dollar meal voucher the next day, and spent all but 2 dollars of this on beer. I made that my goal.

The final indignity was the security at Newark 'Liberty (sic) Airport' for the last flight. I had 1- hours to wait between hotel checkout and flight take-off. LAX has at its international terminal an open-air courtyard at which those inclined can smoke. Not so Newark. Oh no. You have to go in and out of a TSA security checkpoint to smoke at Liberty Airport.

The first time I passed through the TSA checkpoint at LAX , I was pulled aside for a special in depth personal and baggage search. The same thing happened at Newark, so I asked why. This, I was told, could be either because I'd booked onto an alternative flight, or because I'd paid cash for my ticket or through a random search ID. All could apply to me. Anyway, as a security risk this meant that I was 'selected' (and yes- they used this term) for a 'secondary search'. Three times in a row over that 10 hrs I passed through the care of a female TSA worker, and by the end after sweeping my smelly feet, bra underwiring and crotch thrice, we were practically kissing cousins and she wanted to marry me. Actually by the third pass we were pals, me having explained to her my tobacco addiction.

Once on the flight, things settled down, not least due to the NRT patch affixed to my belly. I'd made sure to have a window seat, since I sleep best in these, but as joined at the last minute by an overweight NY gentleman who proceeded to appropriate our common armrest from the get-go, then also invade my personal space by opening the pink FT to its full-spread, across my book-view. I used my free voucher for an alcoholic drink of my choice to sleep though as much as possible an unavoidable contact with him.

It was drizzling on Edinburgh Airport's runways, as I absolutely love best, and we arrived in a thin mist, generating yet more steam and condensation from the engines. Hallelujah. I find the toilets, the turbo-ventilated smoking area and my luggage, and stride out in the morning light to a new day.


Commercial break

Maybe it's Murrcan influence, but I thought I'd do some personal advertising. After all, I had a jetlagged week of these stateside from those half-hour infomercials at 3 am on cable TV.

They can really educate a person, especially a sleep-deprived and jetlagged one. I learned that my slight middle-aged abdominal spread is not my fault, but due to stress and increased cortisol secretion! And there are over-the-counter treatments for these! I also learned I can have buns and abs of steel for just 159.99 per month in three easy payments! God- if only I'd known before now before I became a Cranach pear.

Anyways- here's my top consumer tips this week. My previous power to post images has now escaped me, so even the lazy will just have to click the links.

1. Liz Christy, a weaver in Eire. My dad bought for me one of her scarves, a textile piece based on impressionist colour spectra of Monet's 'Waterlilies' colours, during a memorable midgie-infested trip to Skye last summer. I lost this dear friend during some bartrawl this spring, and it was sorely missed. Liz has kindly supplied me from her jewelled loom a replacement- this beauty.

2. Catriona Grant- Scottish photographer, exhibiting now in Glasgow, as before in Belfast and NY too. My mum and I, both of whose bums have featured in her work, hope to go through for her opening on Saturday. Not to be confused with this Catriona Grant, another interesting and worthwhile Catriona.

3. American Spirit- cigarettes. You know you shouldn't smoke tobacco, but if you do why not have something without big sticks, or grammes of added saltpetre.

4. Ion Color Defense Hair Care Solution- My hair is wrecked from a late predeliction for being blonde and not sandy. My previously smooth and shiny locks these days sometimes resemble an albino afro , and my hairdresser has recommended urgent action, because I'm worth it... But seriously- this stuff (the conditioner) is the best softener for chemically-toasted hair, bar henna (and that could have alarming consequences currently, I've yet come across- and all because I just liked the name.

Normal programming will resume shortly.


Monday, October 17, 2005

Bob on my mind...

Prolly my best favourite he provided

Furious Bob

Like a Rolling Stone
Once upon a time you dressed so fine
You threw the bums a dime in your prime, didn't you?
People'd call, say, "Beware doll, you're bound to fall"
You thought they were all kiddin' you
You used to laugh about
Everybody that was hangin' out
Now you don't talk so loud
Now you don't seem so proud
About having to be scrounging for your next meal.

How does it feel?
How does it feel?
To be without a home?
Like a complete unknown?
Like a rolling stone...

You've gone to the finest school all right, Miss Lonely
But you know you only used to get juiced in it
And nobody has ever taught you how to live on the street
And now you find out you're gonna have to get used to it
You said you'd never compromise
With the mystery tramp, but now you realize
He's not selling any alibis
As you stare into the vacuum of his eyes
And ask him do you want to make a deal?

How does it feel? etc

You never turned around to see the frowns on the jugglers and the clowns
When they all come down and did tricks for you
You never understood that it ain't no good
You shouldn't let other people get your kicks for you

You used to ride on the chrome horse with your diplomat
Who carried on his shoulder a Siamese cat
Ain't it hard when you discover that
He really wasn't where it's at
After he took from you everything he could steal...

How does it feel? etc.

Princess on the steeple and all the pretty people
They're all drinkin', thinkin' that they got it made
Exchanging all kinds of precious gifts and things
But you'd better lift your diamond ring, you'd better pawn it babe

You used to be so amused
At Napoleon in rags and the language that he used
Go to him now, he calls you, you can't refuse
When you got nothing, you got nothing to lose-
You're invisible now, you got no secrets to conceal.

How does it feel? etc


Travel Tales II

Alone in a ghost airport, stranded in a foreign city that I later learn is the 2nd murder capital of the USA. And they got gats, bro'! It takes 30 mins t0 reach the clinically depressed Three Degrees at the counter, waiting to deflect any individual tale of woe from their 'customers'. As instructed as 'policy' they'll only supply the services explicitly asked for.

Thus when I complained about having no luggage and no toiletries, I was tossed off with a complimentary toiletry bag, and expected then to PFO. I subsequently waited through the queues to acheive a complimentary phone card, a hotel room and a dinner voucher (even though this was 2 am and way past dinnertime). Later, we stranded Europe-bound passengers from that flight compared complimentary vouchers, and I was the clear winner, having ridden a thin line between aggression and justified assertion.

I ganged up with 3 other passengers that night to split taxi costs, who turned out to be a young male Jewish Israeli, an elderly born-again Brazilian and an England-emigrated Scot. I kid you not- you couldn't make this up. And- seriously- all of these rode on the back of my customer wheedling skills. None of them had a hotel booking or a phone card before they saw my technique with the 3 Degrees and their white supervisor, and rode on my coattails.

Needless to say, I got on best with #3 of these, to whom I could complain about the lack of access to booze at 2 am and the weirdness of Murrcans. He ended up piking up all our tabs for the taxi back to the airport on expenses, cause he was a guy. He was the only one of our ill-gotten party to understand my distaste of the messianic gospel radio to which my alarm clock was tuned. But #2, the older Brazilian Protestant also fell in love with me for making sure she got an airline-booked hotel, for carrying her heavy suitcase up a steep flight that night, making sure she got to the airport OK with us the next morning and arguing for further meal vouchers for her. She told me I was a good person and blessed me as we parted at Security. Whaddaya say, except as I do- may your God bless you too? #1 wanted to use me for cab fare-sharing that night, and after seeing me showered and refreshed the next morning, wanted to make *me* too for Rosh Hashanah. Yeuch. I gave all 3 strangers a true story of a late love and they all wished me luck.

to be continued


Travel tales I

Some may recall the tragicomic tale of my second-last return journey from the Land of the Free, and this latest one was another nightmare.

When I left San Diego Friday at 9.30 am, there'd been 5 days of rain on the eastern seaboard and Newark, JFK and La Guardia airports all seized up the day I left. My first connection for a Newark-bound flight arrived late, and once boarded (3 hrs late) sat for a further thirsty and hungry hour on the tarmac, having missed its take-off slot. For many like me, this was our second leg and we'd had nothing but coffee or water and salted peanuts for our breakfast flight. The cabin staff had only a nasty hot sandwich to serve for the trans-continental flight, which took off 4 hrs late. It took an hour after boarding for just water to reach my row. The poor cabin staff we reduced to broadcasting a plea for passengers to be patient and calm, and not to blame cabin staff for circumstances beyond their control. By the time we reached Newark at 12.40 am the next day, many of us having missed onward connections, there was a swelling of mutinous mutterings amongst the passengers. The captain assured us that airline helpstaff would be greeting the plane on arrival, and that arrangements were in hand for those with missed connections. 'This rain is a tragedy' cried the old Jewish lady in the seat next to me, but the promised representatives did not greet the flight and the helpdesk was unmanned when we disembarked. It was a ghost airport.

My connection was the last to leave that night from Newark, delayed till 12.45 am by the weather. I ran a kilometre of airport concourse in a record 3 mins, to make the connection's gate at 12.42 am. The gate's display was still calling the Edinburgh flight, but the desk was unstaffed and the embarcation door closed. Not a soul was in sight.

All the shops and plastic food outlets had pulled down their gates. Over the kilometre of concourse I ran I saw only two stranded passengers, yoof sleeping off a night's clubbing in LA on airport benches, waiting for the next flight to San Jose or Eureka.

I'm a big girl now and I started to get a little pissed (in the American sense of the word) that first the airline fucks me up, and then they lie to me. I hate that worst of all. I found the one customer service desk on the floor still staffed, and stated my problem. The deadened assistant heard my brief explanation, and told me I'd be lucky to get a hotel that night at that hour what with the number of missed connections that day. Anyway, she'd way past finished her shift, and the only staff left were in the baggage hall. There was mistaking the assertion in her voice.

Down in the baggage hall a stream of passengers, some in wheelchairs, some with lost baggage and some stranded, snaked through and out the baggage services room. A panel of three low-paid African-American women manned the desks, looking exhausted, bored and stressed at the same time...

to be continued


Saturday, October 01, 2005

Bloody hell

My son DoDo took my hand when we were crossing a dark road tonight, snd his engulfed mine. We lined up our hands to compare and every of his fingers was about 1 cm longer than mine. I should've expected this from the fact that his shoe size now exceeds mine, but this was the first direct experience of his growth. In his height competition, he's thus far overtaken his Granny, Aunty Mars, step-mum and Aunty Neez. Tonight, a fair measure in stocking feet had me a spare 5mm taller than DoDo. It won't be 6 months before he overtakes me, for sure. Bloody hell, it was but yesterday that he was born, all blue 52 cm of him, with a then tiny but furious fistful of fingers.