Unreliable and possibly off-topic


Saturday, March 25, 2006

Morecambe Sands

Morecambe Sands

Made an option, made a break.
Rise now as the moon dictates.
Forget the sun- accept your shift.
Make your bunkbed, equip yourself.

Blunder blind into the van
Hunker down and try to dream of
Home and family, son and daughter
Waiting silent across the water.

Photos, a phone call every Sunday
Try to keep fresh their smell and memory.
Say their names into your pillow
Make them whole and not just hollow.

Toil and work upon the sands
Dig deep, dig shells gasping into your hands
Keep your gaze upon your feet
It doesn’t pay to think or see.

The gentle sea comes sidling in
The shallow sands give no resistance.
No remorse and no restraint
Irreversible, thoughtless, blind, relentless.

“Sinking sands, sinking sands!”
The mobile phones record the hands,
Chilled fingers fumbling on the keys,
The water quiet, surging, ceaseless.

Let water take you, water bright
Lead you under, lead you right
To where the currents writhe and wreathe
To roll you home, again to breathe.


Friday, March 24, 2006

Pub life

It's been at least 6 months since I entered a local pub, but found myself stranded at the Foot o' the Walk today for 2.5 hours while my daughter attended a swimming party under the auspices of a single dad. Which was fine.

I'm ducking off to avoid a mum whose daughter is second-best friend to mine. Ironically, I try to avoid the mum (because she is a heavy drinker) by taking refuge in the pub, while I fill out my housing benefit form. I love the Central Bar's stained glass, and found myself a safe female-occupied table, but the smoke fug was unbearable even though I smoke fags. I had to move on to a less smoky bar just to get air.

There I engaged in conversation two blokes whom I thought gay, but who gave me second thoughts later that they were still not 'out'. They have holidays in Orlando and New Orleans. I thought we had an interesting conversation covering topical politics and history (Big Pharma, Falklands, 9/11, Gulf War 1, Disney, Regan and McCarthy hearings), but clearly they thought me quite mad. I apologised for boring them when I left to collect my wee one from her party.


Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Settlement of affairs

Becoming dole-scum has several beneficial epiphenomena, inc. getting on top of paperwork.

Dole-scum chores today have included making serial calls to the local council, child benefit, DWP, building society and Inland Revenue. I could bore for Scotland on how I've been pushed, passed and fucked around, and fannied about by multiple benefit agencies- but would good would that do?

Best fun I had today during my new f/t applicant job was this Inland Revenue call operator. She who fired off questions in Weegie at a repeater rifle rate that would've flummoxed any other respondant. She wanted info from my last 2 years' P60's and last years's P45, but she never said that. All I got was staccatto requests for my total earnings in 2004, or my earnings to date in this tax year. No help offered that this would be found on the available documents (P60s, P45) which luckily I had to hand. Our dialogue became increasingly fractured and discordant until I called alpha dog, and asked her whether we should make the interview hard or easy, and that either was OK for me. It got easier after that.


Sunday, March 19, 2006


Eerily, my spoken voice is changing- the voice of which Zizek made so much in his Perverse Cinema review last week. The voice stands outside of the self.

Anyway, mine has been alarming both me and my significant others while it's lowered to Garbo depth and developed a Joplin-esque rasp. Proximate causes include my persistant cough from smoking fags and Niddrie hash (nothing new), but distal and different are that I can go for days without intentionally using my larynx, apart from gutteral remonstrations or cooing to the cat. That larynx is maybe almost literally rusty.

Made up for Trappism today by talking for sigma 5 hours on the phone to mum, sister and old friends, and had regained at least five tones in voice range by the end of this marathon. Clearly I should take up singing exercises and spoken soliloqies to exercise the voicebox.

The 'Dispatches' 9/11 Falling Man docu last week stopped short of exploring an association with the tarot's hanged man, also inverted, silent and peculiarly free.


Giro day

Receiving the flimsy green butterfly of that giro has made a huge difference to my mood and perspective. This is proof that opening official correspondence in brown envelopes can be mood-elevating as well as a downer, and shouldn't necessarily be avoided at all costs.

It's not the giro amount (negligible) that causes relief, but being authenticated. Now a real person with a proven identity exists within the system and can access certain basic material provisions. When you have children to support, this is of unbelievable significance.

If anyone feels provoked to mither about welfare mothers, deadbeat dads, nanny state, your tax pound etc., I cut these dead by virtue of my thoroughly middle-class, drone-like 20 years of employment until this point. I paid into the pot, and now I can drink even if it's piss.

Not that I don't also believe that 'they owe us a living', because as it happens I do. That wee giro gives me a bit of breathing space to look past immediate pressing needs, and contemplate permutations.


Saturday, March 18, 2006

Ferret heaven

Genuinely excited to learn that David Traynier may be moving in with ferrets. A photo of one of the putative housemates, an albino called Yellow, confirms the curiosity and mischief of this subspecies, the only domesticated mustelid.

I think I've bored on the topics of ferrets before, and reserve my rights to do so again. One of the very few obligate carnivores in the history of domestification apart from cats, and thus expensive to feed. Unaltered females (jills) die if not mated when in season, making them difficult to breed and prone to inbreeding, as owners have to manage their breeding peculiarity by restricting the number of breeding jills. Furthermore, unaltered hobs reek (an acquired taste), despite their adorable personalities.

Ferrets are a banned animal in California, as well as some other US states. This does not prevent an underground railroad of owners and vets. Its just as well that some vets will help underground owners, since a majority of US ferrets come from a central breeding house in whom a substantial proportion of the product develops metabolic disease, adrenal cancers or leukaemias. Two of the four ferrets owned by a Californian acquaintance have developed such diseases.


Friday, March 17, 2006

San/!Kung 'bushmen' of the Kalahari desert

Linguistic and sociological discussion were raised this morning on R4 'Today', when an aid organisation representative debated with Baroness Tonge over her descriptions of 'Bushmen' as 'primitive' and 'stone age'.

I didn't have any problems with either Jenny Tonge's or the aid representative's language as intended, but they differed in ieterpetation and nuance.

The former quite factually used anthropological terms to described pre-contact Khoisan as a hunter-gatherers with a pre-metallurgical neolithic technology (stone tools and ceramics). The latter was able to highlight a plight where these people are being forced into reservations which are not adequate to fulfill the low population densities required of their lifestyle. Botwana and Namibia are regulating and concentrating a people for whom the assigned lifestyle is not sustainable.

But were I San, !Kung or Khoisan, I would rather by named by this, my own word, than the colonial term of 'Bushmen' used blithely by both commentators.


Good news

Don't think too hard about the US assault on Samarra happening today, or it could spoil your enjoyment of everyday pleasures.

Here's the happy news.
1. Arrival of first giro. Thanks Agnes Hagess- I knew you were helping, even when I went spare.

2. School reports and parents' nights for both kiddos this week- shining. The wee one (P5) is 'extremely able in all subjects, inquisitive, confident, independent, helpful and sometimes astonishing in her knowledge'. The big galumpher (S2) got mostly E's and F's, with the familiar warnings that he should focus better.

In some kind of PC reversal, F's are what were formally known as A's in my day. He even got a few F+'s (in English), much to our mutual amusement. Luckily he scored best in the subjects he wants/ we want him to take for Standard Grade at credit level. Maths, English and French are compulsory, and he's taking the three sciences and two social studies subjects, Modern Studies and History, for the free options. His Religious and Moral Education (RME) and Art teachers have each been lobbying for him to take these for Standard Grade too, but there isn't room, sadly, within the curriculum. He got almost all F's for those (snort), and I'm very proud of them both.


Tuesday, March 14, 2006

To the Education Authorities

Please stop writing to me with your petty nit-picking, form-filling problems. Have you no sense of level?

My son wore dark brown trousers instead of black, though with a school sweatshirt, and you wrote to me. His version of events was that the deputy head laughed off the nazi enforcer as absurd when he presented my son for remonstration.

This week my laddie forgets to hand in the note I wrote for 5th March when he was languishing on the couch with 'flu, and you write to me again. Please target your efforts to the more vulnerable pupils who doubtlessly need you, and leave my boy alone.

Yours faithfully, etc.


The thick plottens

I was telling honey that I'd found the website( of the folks in San Diego county from whom Jen had probably acquired her Shiba Inu pup, and he started reminiscing about another breeder in the area from where he'd acquired his cat, an American Bobtail.

As we talked more, the coincidences about the two breeders built up and up. The cat breeder had a menagerie of exotic animals, and so do the Shiba Inu people, who also sell Nigerian dwarf goats and bengal cats.

When honey took his bobtail, Cero for his jags (vaccinations), the breeder told him he'd stopped breeding bobtails because achieving the breed standard was too difficult, and switched to bengals. Honey's credit card bill for Cero was in the name of a building-supplies firm, which he'd queried at the time, and the Shiba Inu people also sell flooring and tiling. The bloke who sold Cero was a large man with a salt-and-pepper zapata moustache. Ditto the Shiba Inu bloke. When honey tried to phone Cero's breeder, the number was dead, and the Shiba Inu people ask readers to note their new telephone number.

Circumstantial evidence points to these breeders being one and the same, as another reminder of this being a small and shrinking world. By the way, Cero is a looker (although he was cheap because his tail's too long and kinked), but what a pussy (i.e. wuss) and a daddy's boy. He hates sharing. Others say the same about Noushka and her hissy fits, but that's different.


Sunday, March 12, 2006

Shiba Inu

I've taken another one of those fancies, as when mad for ferrets, and the object of my desire is the Shiba Inu, the smallest of the Japanese spitzes. In yesterday's Crufts coverage, a foxy-muzzled cinnamon Shiba Inu lost to a poodle (pah) as best in the Utility Dogs section. It was robbed.

Actually, I shouldn't be so hard on poodles. The few I've known have won over my biases against prissy dogs, as intelligent and fun-loving characters. Although I don't particularly care for their looks, their coat is hypo-allergenic. It's the toy category with whom I have a real problem.

Back to the Shiba Inu, and onto my shaggy dog story. Last Xmas honey and I were watching a re-run of Crufts 2003 on Animal Planet, and for both of us it was the Shiba that won the competition. A proper dog and not a mutant, but in a small, compact package. Apparently these little fireballs can jump 5 feet easily, and are prone to haring off after any prey due to their hunting heritage. The Japanese spitzes inc. the akita are thought to be amongst the most 'primitive' of dog breeds (relatives of Siberian samoyeds and Aleutian working dogs), and closest to the ancestral canine companion. In this case, 'primitive' is meant in an evolutionary sense in that generalisation as opposed to specialision is dominant, with common traits present that are subsequently lost in more narrowly-adapted dog breeds. A proper dog, like I said.

This week, honey tells me that his sister has acquired a puppy for her family, and guess what- it's a Shiba Inu bitch in a chocolate/cream colourway, now called Izzy (short for Isabel). As another coincidence, my daughter Nini (her nickname) was called Isabel for her first three days of life, and I love the name. Jen has very good taste in dogs and names.

Izzy sports the tight, high-held spiral of a tail common to all spitz-type dogs, and the same ridiculously fluffy butt of Noushka. Jen says when she gets scared the tail uncurls and goes straight. I think that it's these people who bred Izzy, and from whom she was locally acquired.

I've never owned a dog (being too responsible), although my folks have always had one, most recently in the form of Jake- a large, hairy, bearlike, unbiddable hunk of dogness, probably an alsation/collie cross. If I become irresponsible enough to acquire one, it will almost certainly be a mongrel from the local home, like my folks' dogs, or Noushka was. But if I had my choice and coulkd overcome my unsettledness about pedigrees, a sesame (black-tipped red coat as in the pic) or cinnamon foxy-faced shiba urajiro colourway would be most appealing.

More history of Japanese spitz-types here:
including a moving story of dog loyalty akin to Greyfriars Bobby.
More on urajiro colourway (ventral creaminess) here:


Friday, March 10, 2006

Mouths of babes

Nini asks me what PJ's 'Down By The Water' means, and I'm trying to explain, in- adequate - ly, the roles of folk tales, songs and myth. Sometimes so uselessly it's all I can do to get by, far less explain the universe and history of philosophy to a 10 yr old, to whom it could be so simple if only I had the words.

My copies of Graves' 'White Goddess' and Frazer's 'Golden Bough' disappeared somewhere down the line, so these need to be added to the Wanna list, else how can the bairns be taught. Kids are never so quiet as when a folk-tale is being read.

Meanwhile, I'm subsiding contendedly into semi-grannyhood, which I can't recommend highly enough. Very soon (since the years fly by now) those kiddos will be grown-up and granting me the grandkids I so look forward to. Just not too soon.

In folklore circles, it's largely recognised that the Grimm Bros transcribed existing oral tales, while the same is not true of HChA, whose imagination ran away with him in the Little Match Girl, the Red Shoes or the Wild Swans.


This message is brought to you by...

What is wrong with TV meteorologists? Some bimbo just tried to tell me that there was a patch of cold air over the east and mild air over the west coast today. 'Mild' air'? Mildly cold, mildly warm, mildly wet or windy? Or maybe she's talking about higher or lower barometic pressures, but who the fuck* would know. It was a 'Brass Eye' moment, and I am not pleased.

And this has nothing whatsoever to do with that 3" pile of scientific papers staring at me, waiting to be evaluated for a systematic review, the job app deadline this morning or the Child Benefit Agency's correspondence. Not connected at all, and no, it is not that time of the month.

* For DD, who doesn't care for foul language, especially from ladies.

I'm equally offended by this CNN article referring to a perfectly respectable mustelid (a marten) dying of bird 'flu on Ruegen as a 'weasel-like creature'. That's just disrespectful. And no, I still haven't done that job app.


Wednesday, March 08, 2006

International Women's Day

I would've missed this date were it not for the Indie's front page today, but warm regards to my female friends, family and sisters. To these I send a recommendation for Atwood's latest treasure, the Penelopiad, and as further warning PJ Harvey's 'Dry' Plants & Rags , also evoking the swans in nettle vests from Hans Christian Andersonen.

It's different for girls, who're born with a bellyful of ova developing through the medium of the ovaries that their own mothers' were born with. X chromosomes and mitochondria are passing down in embedded embryological matrilineal lineage. Thus, I move to collapse and subsume Valentine's, Mother's and Daughter's Days within one all-embracing celebration.


Stupid things said to your kids

Nini was dawdling (as usual) while getting ready for school this morning, and I found myself shouting, "For Christ's sake, get your nose out of that fucking book and get moving!".

Swearing and blasphemy are common enough in the household, but I never thought I'd be criticising my kid for reading. Had to laugh, as it reminded me of one of the Linda Smith obituary anecdotes from last week-

Mark Steel Comedian-

She was so good at relating anecdotes about other people. There was one that every time I think about the way she said it, it makes me cry. She said she was at a cafe, and there were two young mums sitting at the next table. They both had kids, young children in pushchairs. One of them was talking to the other, but she stopped and looked at her child, who was slouching, and said: "Oi, sit up, you cunt." And then just carried on.


Monday, March 06, 2006

Criminal justice

It's been sub-judice up to now, but I'm delighted to report that a teacher friend was finally exonerated today of charges of assault on a 3 yr old pre-school laddie in the playground, through a summary trial.

The essence of the story is that my pal spotted from the school window a stray toddler playing unattended by the unstable stand of her 600cc motorbike in the open school carpark. Knowing her bike could crush him, she went out to check his safety and supervision, and when he saw her coming he took off towards the main road, where (unbeknownst to my friend) his mother was chatting. My friend tried to grab the kid to stop him running into traffic, and this was subsequently inflated into a assault charge. The kid's mother admitted in court that she'd lost sight of her toddler on a road, and stated (unbelievably) that if her child had been crushed by the bike it would've been his own fault, and that would've been OK. Life is cheap on that estate. Far worse was that her child's behaviour might have received intervention by a stranger- that (in truth) was the assault.

In his judgement of Not Guilty, the sheriff (m'lord) stated that the prosecution case was an example of political correctness gone mad, and should never have been taken to trial. It was a waste of public money, has ruined a long-serving teacher's career and robbed needy pupils of a teacher for 10 months while she's been suspended awaiting trial. And he was right. Our lawyer commented that it was a shame reporters hadn't been present to record the verdict.

A toast tonight to my friend, after 10 months of stress and suspension, but for whom this issue is not over. For trying to save from harm an unattended child, she was arrested at her home, taken to a police station, fingerprinted, photographed and charged. Her career is in tatters and she can't return to her previous school. We were led out a back entrance by a courtroom policewoman, who'd heard the alleged victim's mother telling her sister that she'd beat up my friend if she met her outside. O tempora o mores.


Sunday, March 05, 2006

Today's dumbest Observer articles

Sundays are for leisure, and apart from the intrigues of Jowellgate, the best belly laughs today came from these two on-line articles-

Jo Revill, chief health correspondant, arguing for optional Caesarean births. A culturally-and personally-biased, mildly hysterical polemic from a fundamentally blinkered and misguided, me-generation viewpoint. She doesn't know it, but is moving philosophically full-steam ahead into Brave New World and the Handmaid's Tale. I may write more later, if so moved.

A puffed-up journo interview with an 'Asperger's' rock star, who receives a patronising copy of Haddon's 'Curious Incident' as a personal gift.


Friday, March 03, 2006

I wanna (a list)

Second-hand digital camera.
My old one was recently condemned as uneconomical to repair, so I can't currently capture or present that which takes the eye. Edinburgh had a spectacular hour of blizzard white-out this afternoon, in which I had the pleasure to be out, luckily in hat and scarf. Watching falling snow makes one quite giddy, and the snow profiled the town geology, statues and architecture starkly.

Second-hand laptop.
Half the spelling mistakes here are due to deteriorative wear-and-tear in my keyboard's function. Three keys have been badly repaired with super-glue, and another six or so are wonky. If I had a new laptop, I'd equip it with one of those super-strength keyboard condoms you can get, to preserve it from wear and tear.

Second hand jersey.
It's as cold as a witch's tit today, but all my warm woollen sweaters have holes from hotrocks or snags from outdoor excursions, and I have nothing decent yet warm for interviews. A trawl of the 'dress exchange' agencies is in order.