Unreliable and possibly off-topic


Saturday, September 30, 2006


1. Get new passport photo.
Slap on- check. Weather OK- check. Fourth time lucky?
2. Buy new underwear.
Fabric joining the cups on the last generation of bras has stretched so thin that the cups are moving apart like tectonic plates. Pants a disgrace to be run over in.
3. Buy toilet rinse.
To camouflage smell of Victorian piss rising from the common sewage shaft behind the toilet.
4. Get electric lousezapper comb.
Wee wan's hairpets still there after religious combing, though population very low. Her hair is so fine that the eggs and hatchlings can cling on through the comb's teeth.
5. Order Flamin' Groovies' reissued 'Teenage Head'.
Use kiddos' Amazon gift certificates. (Oh, and pay back kiddos.)
6. Lodge spare key locally.
Pub downstairs? Conveniently open from ~11 am to midnight. I don't hang out there, but once gave first-aid to a diabetic patron in hypoglycaemia, adding goodwill. Also there's the enforced banter with the smokers outside while I'm unlocking the stair door. Most are nodding acquaintances, but a non-local adolescent wolfwhistled me last week, and was reminded pleasantly for his trouble that I was old enough to be his mum.


Wednesday, September 27, 2006

More on identity

Some more of those unpleasant interfaces with authority. In order to pay off mortgage arrears, I asked my friendly local bank to transfer my IKEA refund to my current account.

Because the transfer was over £1000, photo-ID was required. Now, were I a card fraudster, would I be transferring funds between same-named accounts? Moreover, photo ID is not easily obtained. My driving license is away on a holiday (for reasons etc.) and my passport should be off for renewal in London. Stretching the truth, I told the white lie that I'd no photo-ID whatsoever (almost true), but the teller was unshakeable. I could get a buspass for ID, she counselled. Next we started haggling over how much money I could draw down without photo-ID. My first offer was £1000, countered oxymoronically with the statement that any sum over £1000 was verboten. I tried £999- also greeted with derision. Her maximum was the £950 on which we eventually settled.

Another situation requiring photo-ID was having new security keys cut for the stair and flat. Just as well I'm late sending off the passport renewal, thanks to the R. veto of the rainsoaked photo. These are the same spare keys I left in the house along with my regular keys and mobile yesterday.


Double ow

Sore throat and gum pain from the wisdom tooth that declines to erupt. Its flap of gum is prone to local infection/inflammation, in this case probably related to the sunflower seeds I've been cracking, sucking and munching like an old Chinese geezer. I'll live- saltwater gargles are the treatment- but it doesn't enthuse me to get the job app completed for deadline today.

Yesterday the internet gods took away my avatar, forcing me into a replacement whose colour balance was just wrong. I loathed it, but my zygote is back again. Thank you internet gods. Now please could you correct my job app so that it is no longer a rambling treatise incorporating stock phrases referring to my boundless 'enthusiasm', 'experience', 'team player', 'self-starter'. Eternally grateful, ion.

Sabotage is the best word for it. Went out to get wine to inspire my job app and left without either my keys or my mobile. Have you any idea how few phone numbers are remembered at my age? H. keeps a copy of my key for her unannounced inspections, but no way of contacting her. Same for both kiddos. The only number I know off by heart is my folks', so I've been lurking by the BT phonebox while my mum and my keys were tracked down, then the key sent on by taxi express. Anyone would think I didn't even want a job after this waste of an hour.


Monday, September 25, 2006

Lost Chord #7

King Missile; Detachable Penis

John Cale; Dr Mudd

REM & Patti Smith; E-Bow the Letter

Stones; Respectable

Lou Reed and John Cale; Berlin 1972

Divine Comedy; Bad Ambassador

Schipa; M'appari

Radiohead; Goldrush/Everything in its Right Place

John Cale and Lou Reed; Style It Takes



There's a pattern developing. First it was the juniper pickled herrings from Clarke's fishmonger at Musselburgh- the tastiest I've ever eaten, even if this establishment is trumpeted by the appalling Clarissa Dickson-Wright. A few days ago it was the large vacupacked bag of kimchi from the Chinese supermarket, mostly eaten in a single sitting. Bought a jar of brinjal pickle at the same time, but it's disgustingly sweet and nowhere near hot enough. Yesterday I was passing the Turkish deli and just had to buy a jar of pickled chillis and another of mixed pickles. Now H. tells me she has a glut of runner beans in the garden, and I'm salivating at the thought up putting some of these up in mason jars with pickling spice, garlic and chillis. After 6 months or so they'll still have an al dente crunch, but be infused with piquant flavour.

Kimchi, for those not familiar, is pickled Chinese cabbage with garlic and chilli, traditionally fermented by burying it in an earthenware pot. It's full of lactobacillus and Vit C, but may also be a culprit in the high rates of gastrointestinal cancers amongst Koreans. Should I become of a victim of its pleasures, I'll die happy with the prickle of capsaicin on the tongue.

The low-temperature 'cooking' processes for the herring and the kimchi are different, though both often involve salt and acid. Kimchi is fermented, with the lactic acid produced by anaerobic organisms contributing to the preservation process. On the other hand, the chemistry of fish pickles such as seviche or rollmops is more like conventional heat-cooking; the acid lime juice or vinegar attacking and denaturing the protein content of the fish.


Saturday, September 23, 2006


What a lovely day, partly because of global warming and unseasonable sun. I received a warning about what it really feels like to be old from the bruising and scratches after yesterday's Braidburn injuries, but took myself out despite the pain to meet R. and our artist friend C. at the Botanics. Once mobilised I enjoy the outing, especially because of C's preternaturally articulate and social 4 yr old son, going on 20 thanks to an involved, interested and interactive mother. How many 4 yr olds do you know who would offer to share tastes of chocolate ice cream with adults? Very few.

As always, my favourite plant is the giant Gunnera by the duckpond, where you can play Land of the Giants, nipping under the enormous leaves and checking out the gigantic flowering spikes. They have a whole field/maze of these at Traquair house in Innerleithen, but it's expensive to get access there.

C. has been an artist-in-residence at a Fife town this summer. She's been approaching local myspace users as collaborators, most of whom have been wary of exposure. Not so me. She, R. and my mum have already bared our bums for previous projects, and I see no reason to stop now.

Photo from


Friday, September 22, 2006


That was fucking sore. Not so much the grazes but the nettle stings. H. and I have been down the Braidburn with Reekster as usual, today collecting the free Bramley apples dropping off a couple of trees on the steep slope near the Rave Quarry. H. shinned up the tree and was plucking the fruit and dropping it down to me on the slope, when I lost my footing and rolled down about 15 feet of scree, hawthorn and nettles. Apparently I didn't make a sound as I tumbled, but it sure stings now. The photos don't do justice to the real appearance, due to bad contrast.


Manchester Sat 23rd Sept

Solidarity with everyone who's protesting in Manchester tomorrow against the actions of a warmongering, monomaniacal, arse-licking psychopath. This place is shamefully bare of politics, partly to preserve my mental health, but right is right and might is wrong.


Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Shield bug

A visitor dropped by the other night during nightshift- a magnificent green shield bug, posing on the toilet door and waving its antennae in a friendly manner. This offered a chance to get it to know it better and try to classify it amongst the 50 British species.

Shield bugs are true bugs (Heteroptera) with sucking mouthparts, membranous wingtips and hardened proximal wingparts. Sometimes known as 'stink bugs', they emit an almond-flavoured cyanide compound when threatened. I did not want to annoy my friend, so did not test this.

My friend was of the Pentatomidae family, and almost certainly Palomena prasina, the common green shield bug. It's phytophagous (sap-sucking), with those amazing mouthparts (example from a milkweed bug, right) carried under its head and thorax. Its early instars (juvenile forms) feature even more attractive colouring with black spots on the emerald wingshields, but the adult becomes more brown and drab as summer becomes autumn. They are allegedly sparsely distributed in Scotland, so I was privileged to receive my visit.

Pics from and



Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Happy Birthday, Wee Wan

This is the kind of kitty we like as a birthday treat. But below is the kind of cat we got. Last night, for wee wan's birthday, Her Catness stole a bobble toy off wee wan's shelf and played with it to death while we slept. And She's not the least bit ashamed, either.


Monday, September 18, 2006

Wee wan's birthday

One of my sentimental kiddo posts again, for tomorrow the Wee Wan reaches her double figures, turning 10. I've been uptown shopping for some little gifts, and on the way back dropped into the Ron Mueck exhibition at the Scottish National Gallery. The particular giant sculpture that had most impact on me was this- 'A Girl'. The huge face, the crushed features, took me right back to wee wan's birth.

The labour ward was full that night, so I wasn't allowed any proper pain relief. You're not allowed opiates in the pre-labour ward, even if you're in labour. I made it to the delivery room just in time to puke, scream and push her out. It was a palaeolithic birth, and I would've been better off, as it turns out, to have delivered alone at home or in the fields for all the help I got from the NHS. In fact, one student midwife complained to me that night about the flux of mothers, and all those babies selfishly and fecklessly conceived, presumably in drunken hazes, over Xmas and New Year celebrations.

And there she was, 'una regazza!' as my mum said from Italy that night. I was hoping for a girl, because I'm a daughter of a daughter of daughter back to Eve, and felt I knew instinctively about being and raising such. Mueck's sculpture reminds me how when born, the child is bigger than she will ever be- a realm of plastic possibilities and paths, that only becomes narrowed with learning and time. They're nothing and everything at that time, a world of possibilities. Luckily in the wee wan's case she became modest, kind, independent, sassy, clever and imaginative, and is currently writing her first book.


Saturday, September 16, 2006

Lack of sleep makes you stupid

Watching sleepers the last few nights has ruined my circadian rhythm and also made me thick. Weds night I checked my email to find that a train company had kindly emailed my booking for two returns from Glasgow to York, and charged my credit card £137. Now, I do not live in Glasgow nor can I afford a weekend in York, though that would be lovely in principle. This sent me into an orbit of rage and distress, as a helpless victim of the "identity theft" that ID cards will (of course) prevent in the future.

I rattled off a hysterical email to the company claiming fraud, criminality and theft before remembering at 3 am that-
My sister lives in Glasgow
She has a couple of days off work next week
We share the same ISP and
Have the same initials and surname

I believe that the tickets were salvaged before the Serious Crime Squad were called in, and sis and I had a bit of a laugh after. Have a nice time in York, my dear.


Wednesday, September 13, 2006


An early walk up the Braidburn today, when we had the pleasure to meet Nanook and his 'dad', Dougall. Reekie loves Nanook, an adolescent malamute/alsation cross dog. Nook is huge, gorgeous but quite shy, hiding between his dad's legs when smaller but more dominant dogs approach, but now becoming more extrovert. Reekster, an 'undressed' dog, can be aggressive towards others but displays a sweet gentleness and playfulness with Nook even when trying to get a quick blow-job from him, as dogs will. My folks' dog, Jakie, although 'dressed', is LGBT (we joke), as he'll try it on with any gender in any orifice with relentless cheerfulness. Indeed, after I met H. and Reekster I learned both already knew Jakie and my mum from the Braidburn, when Jakie had turned Reekster LGBT too.

Normally extremely biddable, Reekster hates leaving Nook behind and resists commands to 'walk on' even after a long play. I have a fondness for malamutes, as my first childhood dog was one such. He was a beautiful but very bad dog who would trash the house, shit deliberately in shoes, vandalise the pantry and who destroyed my treasured stuffed toy monkey and my pink parasol. One time he scratched the front door to within an inch of its life, crashed through the bathroom window glass to escape, and was lost for 2 weeks before posters brought him back home. I've since learned that malamutes are known for being destructive when left alone, as Loki was.


Monday, September 11, 2006

Ramonas reprise

My very first blogpost 18 months ago concerned the Ramonas, and here's the T-shirt I got at that gig. Size XS (only size left) and pretty tight both then and now. When it exposes the belly the look is less than cosmetic. R. doesn't like going out with me in this because it attracts even more dyke perceptions and allegations than usual. I couldn't care less- the kiddos were conceived the natural way- but she's sensitive. The last we had was after Volver, when I was about to go off to a punk gig with some young thing who tried to freak me out on the street, and ended up getting freaked himself with lezzer fear. Some of my best friends, etc.

Playing the Jimi Hendrix CD (Axis) given to the big wan for his birthday, I find one of the PC speakers is blown. More expense to replace these- bah! I don't think the dole considers that an essential expense, although I might disagree.



Lovely heatwave this weekend and double Reekster walks down the Braidburn. The rave was winding down, with silences between the thumpy music. The DJ must be getting tired after over a week of raving. The ravers are friendly and happy lazing in the heat with beer and cider, and say hello as you pass, smile and nod. Very little trash left because the dreadlocked are eco-warriors, to their credit. The golfers are outraged at the music, but I see no reason they can't share the space some of the time.

Her Catness wants something, but what I don't know. She reaches up to pat my legs, looking sincerely into my face, or grabs my legs as I pass (with claws retracted). What is your problem, Noosh? Your water and crunchie bowls are filled and still You beg. It can't be that You're bored of crunchies because You turn down fresh prawns and baked salmon, and Your litter tray is clean. Here She is in one of my favourite postures called 'bunny paws', after those ridiculous tufts between Her digits which She can't stand being touched. She also uses bunny paws to hold down her bowl when eating, though crunchies don't struggle much.

The tomatoes have been cut down and added to H.'s compost bin- RIP. The fruit delivered was sparse. No bees or wind to cross-pollinate the plants. Next year, we'll be doing artificial insemination with a paintbrush- a floral sex therapy. It'll be all Sungold next year- much more flavourful and prolific than Shirley.


Saturday, September 09, 2006

Circus story

Got some of the circus story from H on Thursday night, after she babysat for the kiddos. She has to be in the mood to talk about the past rather than the present or future.

She'd been working at a blind asylum in Melbourne after her marriage to the jealous quadriplegic broke up, and was 28 when she she ran away to join the circus. She signed up as a teacher to the 4 kids in the troupe, and didn't know till she turned up that she'd also be responsible for driving a truck and trailer. I gather that she kept a series of much-loved kangaroos during this phase, of which she speaks very fondly, but I haven't the species specifications yet. There's some hair-raising detail about her travels round western Australia, including the miners and brothels of Kalgoorlie.

We took Reekster up the Braidburn today, where there's a rave taking place this weekend. Near Morningside! The thumpy music is ringing out through the valley, and we left Peter Ballocks hanging out with the dreadlocked young things by the quarry. They seemed like a nice bunch.

H. has about 6 jobs, Peter Ballocks none, and she's training me in self-reliance. She is very good to me.


Rough notes

Last night's dream had me in Berlin, attending some kind of political summit. The streets were filled with protestors carrying fake Uzis, and also robocop German police and British squaddies with real weapons. It was hard to tell the difference. We were making our way to a friend's flat when an older professional man approached us as if we were expected and gave us a pink personnel folder, then ran off. The folder seemed to be a military record, and had cryptic handwritten notes on the cover. Along the road, we saw others carrying the same personnel folders, and then squaddies with a megaphone calling out that anyone possessing a pink folder should immediately hand it over. People were queueing up to hand over their folders, but we made the decision to take ours to the protestor police. We were led to a squat and questioned when the folder became shiny and reflective, apparently a good sign, then released. Outside again, the city was now semi-destroyed with refugees wandering, but it was the start of something new and exciting.


Thursday, September 07, 2006

Playground behaviour

Collecting the wee wan from school yesterday (one of the pleasures of dolies), I note that there are signs banning smoking in the playground. Quite right too- who wants their kiddo to take up an antisocial, supremely pointless and addictive habit? One of the few cases where 'do as I say, not what I do' applies.

But not banned is the smacking of kids by parents awaiting pupils, and I witnessed a boy of about 4 yrs getting smacked stupid by his mum, not that he seemed to notice, care or become at all upset. That's what being smacked stupid means, I guess.

But let's not pretend I'm Mary Pure. Although the circumstances are lost in the mists of time, I did slap the big wan's bum once at the end of my tether, and then spent the whole evening in tears apologising to him. His memory is that the straw that broke that camel's back wasn't even his fault, but his sister's. Just shows how useless the practise is.


Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Mrs Mopp

Apologies H. I don't remember this, but apparently when she phoned this morning about 9 am, I told her not to come today. I was still asleep, but articulating some of my unease about our Tuesday dates. The historical background is that these arose when I was paying her for her help with cleaning last year, when I had a wage to pay her. Now a dolie, I can't pay for her excellent householding expertise anymore. She's still been coming over every Tuesday since, and we struggle and negotiate over how we spend that time. She wants to continue cleaning, and that's quite wrong from my point of view when I can't pay her. A recent negotiation has been to take Reekster down the Braidburn on our Tuesday dates, something we all enjoy. But today it was pissing down, and for the first time she respected my wishes and just sat down with me and chatted instead of buzzing around hoovering. I let her help me change the linen, a chance she leapt at, but I was happier just chatting. This woman has travelled all over Australasia, Europe, North and South America and has wonderful stories. Next Tuesday I want to hear the detailed story of when she joined the circus.


Monday, September 04, 2006


On a kick for biographies since joining the public library. Have read the biographies of Gertrude Bell (a female Lawrence of Arabia), Tallulah and most recently the compelling biographies of Rimbaud and Byron, always quarrelling with others. What twats those last two were, but curious nonetheless. I have much greater affinity with the Shelleys, whose atheist and liberal child-rearing were somewhat sneered at by Byron. He preferred to send his 'illegitimate one' (Allegra) to die in an Italian convent at age 5 of louse-borne typhus. It puts nits into perspective. Bah! But speaking of shiny and happy, here's what I did to Shelley's plaque last year.


Berry genetics

The bramble (blackberry) picking planned for Saturday was cancelled due to 'weather', but H. still popped up with spring onions and carrots from her garden to augment the bowl of crudities for the sleepover. Weather looks better for picking today or tomorrow, when she has a spare hour. The picking grounds are secret, because I need as much jam from H's kitchen as I can provide ingredients for and scrounge.

Colin Tudge's 'Engineer in the Garden' has brought to my attention some idiosyncratic aspects of berry reproduction and genetics.

The Rubus genus (Rosaceae family) are excellent examplars of 'introgression', a preference for breeding outside their selves, which tends to also produce polyploidy, a multiplication of chromosomes. Examples of these are the berries we've collected for jam this month- rasps, tayberries, loganberries and tummelberries. And the red- and blackcurrants, too- all Rubus. Rubus species come with a basic half-set of 7 chromosomes, which through polyploidy are represented in diploid, tetraploid, hexaploid and octoploid forms in indigenous Taiwanese species. Half of these species and subspecies are called Focke, presumably after some collector, which amuses me.

Rubus are prone to accept pollination from outside populations, and develop anatomical and physiological barriers to prevent 'in-breeding'. Swedes, cabbages and rape (all Brassica) are all the same 'species' as per Mayr's definition- a practically interbreeding population. Brassicas are preferential outbreeders, and thus must be raised apart from each other in order to breed and seed true.

Polyploidy (multiplication of chromosomes) is an evolutionary event that happens rarely in mammals, but is fairly common in plants and instrumental in farming. The domestication of some of the most historically influential starch foods (wheat, maize) were dependent on polyploidy. I do recommend Tudge on the subject.


Saturday, September 02, 2006

Friday night, Saturday night

Friday night used to be dancing night, but at my decrepit age it's more sedate. R. wasn't feeling well- 'women's troubles' (that's an inside joke from Volver)- but was persuaded to come round for her tea nevertheless. I roasted some butternut squash and potatoes, and baked some salmon with a blood-orange sauce- quite palatable. Later we watched a crappy 80s thriller on the TV, because she can't take zombie films. Perhaps because she has no TV, she's not inured or desensitised to blood, gore & violence, and reacts strongly to dramatic representations.

Tomorrow night the big wan's having some friends (n=6) to sleep over. The wee wan and I will lock ourselves in my room and let them exercise their teenage kicks undisturbed unless an ambulance needs to be called or breakages are excessive. David T has suggested I supply a bowl of condoms along with the crudities and dips, and I have a pack of morning-after pills if required by any guests (that's a joke, parents). Unfortunately his best friend, who is a girl, has been grounded by her mum for dyeing her hair blue. It's her hair, for Christ's sake, but it's possible there's more to the story than let on by big wan.