Unreliable and possibly off-topic


Thursday, August 31, 2006

Sleep deprivation

I'm incredibly shiny and happy, despite the fact it's been >24hrs since my last taste of sleep (a 2 hr nap yesterday afternoon). Since then, there's been a 12.5 hr nightshift segwaying into a gruelling 3 hr formal grievance hearing for H., acting as her supporter and a witness to certain statements made during her trial.

The rough background is that H., a teacher, was suspended from duty for an 'assault' at her workplace on a unsupervised toddler playing on her motorbike, which could easily have crushed him quite to death. At trial, H. was exonerated and the sheriff (judge) made a scathing summary that the prosecution should never have been brought, and that a valuable teacher's career had been ruined in the process. That's as much detail as I can reveal here, but today's grievance procedure concerning H's counterclaims of harassment, bullying and victimisation went well. She acquitted herself admirably. Go H.!

Sleep deprivation is known to improve depression- certainly true for me today. In fact I've noticed before that once dawn breaks on a nightshift, there's a surge of energy and 'hedonic tone' that lasts as long as one stays awake. Clinical studies support that sleep deprivation can make significant benefits to mood of patients with major depression. Indeed, one of the primary effects and ?mechanisms of anti-depressants is to delay and diminish proportions of REM sleep.

Heavy rain last night so only one yellow slug to talk to on the porch, but the patients were producing interesting signals meriting attention and promoting wakefulness. Later H.'s dignified performance at the hearing made both me and her union rep proud. I'll be going to bed shiny and happy.


Sunday, August 27, 2006

Almodovar- 'Volver'

A film of sisters, mothers and daughters, through which I fell in love temporarily with Penelope Cruz. R. and I adored 'Volver', a feminist film in that the few men are peripheral figures, plot props and unfleshed vehicles, who blow through like the wind and are the source of insanity. R. is always emotive at the cinema, to which I've accommodated and even grown to appreciate over time, and tonight we shared tissues as well as laughs. My Spanish is crap, but I picked up the Madrileno accent, smearing a 'v' to a 'b' sound.


Big Wan's Birthday

Happy Birthday, Big Wan- 14 today, or 15 as the Koreans count it. I'm still repeatedly surprised that this young man, taller than me, could have come from me. Imagine!

This last year's changes in him remind why rites of passage are cross-culturally common around this age. Last year he was a child, but this a young man- I have to try to remember this and not call him Baby Joe anymore. Today, I'm thinking back to Fireworks Night when he was born, watching chrysanthemums bloom in the sky while I held him for the first time in a pethidine haze. Now his Auntie D. doesn't even recognise that new bass voice over the phone, and friends (girlfriends too) keep my line tied up all the time.

His dad and I both get on his case about the 'daydreaming attitude' mentioned in every one of his report cards from Primary 1 on, but secretly we both value and admire it. I couldn't think of a better future than a world of big wans, and when I look in his face I see a little of me, a little of his dad, but more of something entirely new, surprising and individual.

One of the things I love best about my lad is his refusal to despise me, at least yet. I still get lots of affection, and everyday happy experiences like cuddling up on the sofa to watch a Romero film together, or discuss our escape plan for when the zombie virus hits. We're planning to hole up on Inchcolm Island in the firth, because zombies can't swim, you know.


Friday, August 25, 2006

Alba Flamenca

R., who treated to me to this Fringe show tonight, tells me that 'Alba flamenca' means 'Flamencan Soul', whereas I (a non-Spanish speaker) had the 'alba' as 'white'. My lack of Spanish didn't prevent me falling in love temporarily with the singer, David Palomar. Is that name something to do with doves? I dunno, and language isn't necessary when you can sing like that, and wear such a worn-in face. R. has tried and failed to teach me the syncopated back-beat rhythms of flamenco, but I still loved it; also the dancers, the older of whom is R's flamenco teacher at Dancebase. According to R. she's a pied noir (French-Algerian), and quite magnificent in her frilled, lined dresses, which emphasise her spare but womanly form.


Wednesday, August 23, 2006


Nightshift screws up your body, as anyone on a rotating work schedule knows. This morning I woke with a hangover- that leaden, thick-headed, sluggish feeling- despite having ingested no toxins whatsoever yesterday save a pepperoni pizza, and having slept a good 8 hrs. It's not surpising that both nightshift and poor sleep are associated with increased mortality. (PubMed: shiftwork mortality). What's worse is I earned just 31% of usual pay despite all the usual circadian disruption, because the patient DNA'd (did not attend). Meanwhile, I'd amended plans for the previous and following days to allow daytime sleep both before and after the shift. Home early (11 pm) after the abortive shift, I was wide awake and battering off light fittings when everyone else in the world was sleeping decently. Bah.

Still, a brisk walk up the Braidburn this morning with Heather and the Reekster cleared the head. Road closures meant we had to go by a different entrance than usual, with a route climbing Blackford Hill. I kept up on the way out but begged for the flatter route back, and Heather took pity on my whining. She's very good to me.

On the way back, we were checking out the allotments on the side of the hill and spying into the grounds of the big detached houses backing onto the park, featuring enormous conservatory extensions and heated outdoor swimming pools. We're eating brambles along the path, and Reekie making friends with a half-malamute puppy at the burn. Indian balsalm (which has a strange segmented stem like bamboo) was spreading invasively in the boggy land in the trough of the hill, scabious growing in the grazing meadow and H. spotted a tiny brown frog up high on the hill, far away from the pond. Where was s/he going, so far from still water? I discouraged Heather from taking her/him home to her garden pond, because I heard once that frogs return to their ancestral ponds to breed, and the poor mite would be confused by transposition.

In one allotment was a stand of fennel-fronded asparagus, and in another a row of artichokes, turning to flower like giant thistles. For eating, they're best harvested before the bloom emerges from the choke (seed bed), but maybe these were being grown for their architectural floral value.


Monday, August 21, 2006

Fringe benefits

R. treated me, the kiddos and two other friends to see a dance performance yesterday- 'Ketzal' from the Derevo company of Leningrad. As when R. and I saw them 2 years ago, the production used sparse costumes, props and sets, spacey minimalist music. The troupe, both male and female, dance in loincloths with shaved heads, paring everything back to the bone. With just seven (I think) dancers, they made quite beautiful shapes and structures with their bodies, invoking shamanic imagery. In the finale, the stage is flooded with water to make a rainforest in which the Qetzal bird, his fellow-gods and humans enact their struggles.

As in 2004, it would pointless to superimpose a narrative, except that the animism of Mayan and Aztec culture were strong themes. I thought it was fantastic, but was alone in my opinion. Poor R. is suffering with 'flu and wouldn't really have been able to enjoy anything, the big wan was embarrassed by my teasing about the dancers' bare breasts, and can't see the point if there isn't comedy or zombies involved. The others were just mystified, although I think the wee wan (who's a dancer) appreciated the movement aspects.


Saturday, August 19, 2006

Lost Chord #6

As with recent Lost Chords, this is a joint effort between me, my elders and my youngers, particularly the big wan.

Bessie Smith; Yellow Dog Blues
Richard Thompson; Austin City Limits
The Fall, Big New Prinz
Peter Tosh; Legalize It
PJ Harvey and Bjork; Satisfaction
Scientist; Zombies
Dillinger; New York
Yeah Yeah Yeahs; Rich
Gil Scott-Heron; The Revolution Will Not Be Televised
Psychedelic Furs; Sister India
Chris Whitley; Automatic Love
The Fall, Eat Y'rself Fitter
Clash; Lost in the Supermarket
Gang of Four; At Home He's A Tourist
Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds; Stagger Lee
Joni Mitchell; Sex Kills
Mahalia Jackson; Joshua Fought the Battle of Jericho
Ladytron vs Johnny Cash; Man Comes Around in Blue Jeans
King Missile; Jesus Was Way Cool


Links update

The sharp-eyed will see the links have been edited, and the formatting fucked up into the bargain. I'll sort that when I can be arsed. If browsing, check out those from PoV regulars, Justice4thePoor and Qlipoth. Also favoured is RaBlissBlog, from where I have learned I am a flatheid.


Thursday, August 17, 2006

IKEA/Mastercard; The Finale

To the tune of The Red Flag:

It took three gruelling months or more
But triumph klaxoned at the door
The postie brought the cheque to us,
Hosannas and hallelujahs!

The Halifax will get their whack
They'll get the bailiffs off my back, so
IKEAs and Mastercards
Can eat my shorts and kiss my arse.


Sleeping furiously

In the middle of the night while watching people sleep furiously, one's mind wanders. If indeed 95% of British blackcurrants go into Ribena (as advertised on TV), how am I able to pick unlimited blackcurrants just down the road, and from what is British blackcurrant jam made?

A trick for staying awake when every circadian rhythm is telling you to sleep or die (which hits me at 3.30 am) is to go outside for a beastie hunt. There are currently moths of several unidentified species fatally attracted to the lights indoors, and if bored you can leave the door open so they can entertain by flying in circles and battering off the light tubes with a distinct zapping sound. Some are a good 6 cm in extended wingspan. Same for the craneflies. During the heatwave last month, I found a honeybee trying to get through a window pane to those attractive colours inside at ~1 am. She should have been sleeping (and I believe they do), but was driven into mania by exothermy and the extreme temperatures. Outside on the slightly slimy stone backstep, there are also woodlice in many-sized multitude, and best of all, yellow slugs, Limax flavus.

The first one I spotted, I now realise, was a huge individual at 10 cm; a ghostly, almost phosphorescent yellow-grey in the light of the security lamp. I thought s/he was lost, since there's no foliage to eat on the stone backstep. But I learn that the yellow slug (unlike the larger, darker garden slug) subsists on fungus, detritus and presumably the algae that slick the wetter parts of the patio. There were four of 'em having a party out there last night, spiral patterns left on the porch after they retreat by dawn down cracks in the paving.

Slugs come in keeled and round forms, some bearing vestigial shells. Improbably, their anus and genitals are located under their mantle at their forequarters, so that their internal organs undergo a 180 degree twist during development.


Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Mastercard III

Would you adam-and-eve it? For a second time, a promised refund cheque from Mastercard did not arrive today. And today, I was told it would be 7 working days from the urgent request on Friday to receive my refund. That's over a month since these Mastercard shennanigans started, never mind the previous IKEA debacle. I explained that I was very disappointed in the standard of service I'd received, and asked to speak to the manager. I explained to the manager that twice I've been promised a cheque that hasn't arrived. She assured me she would phone me back with information on an emergency cheque today, but true to form there's been no call.

Is it any wonder that 'customers' and ' service clients' go postal occasionally?


Sunday, August 13, 2006

Passports and Mastercard

R. agrees that the passport photos taken last week are not acceptable, and I shouldn't be condemned to be identified as a drowned sheepdog for the next decade. On attending the one local photographer nominated by instructions, it had been a year since my last haircut and also raining. Not a good look.

The passport photo criteria are much stricter than for a British passport- different format (in inches, not cm), looking straight ahead with face exposed, and no smiling.

The saga of the IKEA/Mastercard refund continues. I'd been assured that a fat cheque would arrive after 14 working days (3 working weeks) of request, made last month, but it didn't arrive on Friday as promised. I'm ashamed to say that I made a restrained but voluble complaint to the poor call-centre worker I was connected to, asking why Mastercard can charge my account within 24 hrs of a purchase, but can't manage to deliver a legitimate credit refund within their own slack time parameters.

The world of banking and finance, as far as I understand it, involves the transfer of electrons representing packets of monetary value. Obviously, I have failed to understand that some electrons are very, very slow, and some others very, very fast.


Thursday, August 10, 2006

Lost Chord #5

Johnny Cash and Pete Seeger; Roll My Britches

Joni Mitchell, Woodstock

The Fall, Totally Wired

The Fall; Smile

Gorillaz; Clint Eastwood

Buff Medways; John the Revelator

Knack; My Sharona

Nick Cave & Kylie; Wild Rose


Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Dialogue scrap

Kids, I and R. have had a lovely dinner and are playing Truth or Dare, instigated by the Big Wan. R. chooses Truth.

Big Wan: R., if you had to choose, would you rather shag Gordon Brown, Tony Blair or John Prescott?

Discussion ensues lighting on lesser of evils, in which I call Tony Blair a cunt.

Wee Wan: I'm calling Social Services on you- you said the c-word!


Tuesday, August 08, 2006

AL Kennedy

It's either crassness or jealousy that the Independent's Edinburgh Fringe reviewer gave AL Kennedy's stand-up performance (Indie 08/08/06- not available online) at the Fringe only two stars. The reviewer's problem that he expected to be entertained- it was advertised as comedy, right? What a dumb fuck. I think he (and I've just checked- it is a he- surprise, surprise) fails to start to appreciate her originality and failure to conform.


Sunday, August 06, 2006

Odds, sods, dags

Good work to everyone who demonstrated in London yesterday, and to the four arrested on Prestwick's runway yesterday protesting bomb transports to Israel. And I don't give a toss whether the paperwork was in order or not.

Dear Michael Hardiman posed a parenting question at PoV to which many responded, leaving me feeling like an absolute thug. I suggested that restraining a violent three yr old might be a good idea, or assigning them to a 3-min 'time-out'. The 'good' parents are all able to talk their three yr olds out of such states, and my resorts to 'time-out' when in extremis are cruel. If I'm honest, the few times I used time-outs, they were cop-outs, but prevented greater harm because I was going to kill the little bugger/s otherwise. It was them or me. Am I digging the hole deeper?

Her Majesty's butt problems reached a crisis this week. She staunchly resists any inspection or examination of any of her personal areas- especially those marked by curly fur at her caudal and ventral aspects. However, it became apparent the butt dreadlock problem hadn't resolved when she developed an unpleasant odour. A painful (for me) and much protested exam proved the problem at her derriere was getting worse and not better. She prides herself on her immaculate appearance and blinding whites, so I suspect this situation was not nice for Her either.

First measure we tried was a bath, conducted with a basin of lukewarm soapy water and a shower nozzle with a gentle flow. Knowing from Her temperament this wasn't going to be any easy task, I enlisted both kiddos as helpers to restrain her while I washed her bum. All we succeeded in doing that day was getting all scratched up, soaking the bathroom, turning the cat into a screaming flattened creature of fury and wetting the dags so that they stank even worse. Cat's tails are amazingly scrawny when wet. For two days afterwards, both She and we were traumatised, she a pariah being pushed away for the smell of her, and we waiting for the dags to dry out for Round Two, which was to cut them off.

Round Two we were better prepared for, having met before to plan a strategy and equipped ourselves with heavy duty Marigold gloves and a towel as a straightjacket. The big wan was on front end restraint, the wee wan at the back end dealing with the furiously lashing tail and I with the scissors to excise the offending dreads. I would like to say it was a straight in-and-out operation, but this was not so. It was a distressing 15 minutes while She was caught, restrained, escaped and caught again, boxed with me, hissed and spat, fought with the kids. She almost convinced me at one point that we were cutting away some kind of tumour, or giant cat haemorrhoid, and that I was killing her. I never knew there could be so much venom in a 7 lb animal, though I suspected.

The good news is that She smells sweet again, and within an hour of the trauma She was back looking for adulation. She still has a few small locks left, but we'll leave it a couple of days before having a go at removing the last of these and thereafter she's going to have to be groomed whether she likes it or not, even in curly places.


Thursday, August 03, 2006


The end-stage jam product, courtesy of Heather; and nectar on a scone. The wee wan wrote the labels for the jars, and this one's a tummelberry- the Tummel being the river flowing through the heartlands of Pitlochrie. A 'pit' prefix is widely suspected to signify a Pictish settlement. Since they weren't stupid, they knew good land when they saw it.


From dirt to jam

Some photos of Tuesday's berry-picking expedition with the redoubtable Heather. It was predicted to rain, but we visited in a window between rainstorms, while collecting local Scottish varieties of blackberry-raspberry crosses- tayberries, loganberries and tummelberries. The jams by Heather are truly delicious- I doubt they'll last till winter at the rate of scones being gone through.

The berry path


Spoils of war
It was great fun, but a day later the penance from the scratches from the canes kicks in as they heal. Itchy as hell, but worth it.


Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Big wan

What happened to the big kiddo, who used to be my wee boy? Last year, his school was nominating as him as having social adjustment problems, but since the New Year I've barely seen him. His social life at 13 yrs is better than mine's ever been, two inches taller than me and too damn smart for his own good. If I were his teacher, I'd smack him.

The same day he arrived back from his Irish holiday he was out with 'friends', who now visit the house in large mixed-gender roving packs. This is fine with me, but we have to establish some rules: they (or he) can wash up their own bloody tea mugs and they should not be paraded into my bedroom while I'm in deshabille after a nightshift to say hello. That's a time and a place, and while I'm sleeping is not the time for formal introductions. I gather that I'm considered a 'cool' parent because there's art on the walls and books on the shelves, and because I swear at my kids (?).

Anyway, he graced us with his presence for a berry-picking session with Heather today, and between his sister, he, Heather and me, we took through the till about £25 worth of produce to be sweated into jam for winter. That's not counting the berries we ate, nor the ones the big wan smeared on my face as warpaint. He's too much for me, so I've left him and his sister at Heather's to make jam and give me a break. Heather's more than a match for him, and will hopefully kick his butt. I don't think he can have any idea how much I missed him and his sister when they were away, nor how much I enjoy being with them.

Of course, what happened to the big wan was puberty, which is the very last subject he would wish his mother to discuss.