Unreliable and possibly off-topic


Sunday, December 31, 2006


Hogmanay traditions include a house cleaning from top to bottom and a window opened to let out the Old Year and beckon in the New. Cleaning is not among my fortes, but I've excelled on the window exhortation for two years now. The double glazed window at the back of the house blew open while I was away in a sunnier clime, became warped while flapping back and forth in the fierce westerlies and has never fastened properly since. Now boarded closed at the top, the unsealed bottom allowed a refreshing breeze in summer but a moderate gale in winter. About 50% of my extortionate 50% dearer gas bill flies out that window. However, I am 300% more organised than at the time of the IKEA debacle because it's taken only 11 months to call out a glazier, who condemned the whole window on the spot as irreparable. I will ask Peter Ballocks to come round with his toolbox and some 2-by-4 next week to shut up the bottom end too. If he uses screws instead of nails, I can simply remove the carpentry to regain ventilation in summer. Simple!

R. is away in a sunnier clime, but seems to be reading here if not her email :). R., please look out for a lucky cat charm for wee wan in Taipei. Around 1" tall is optimum. If you can't find one (and they're more Japanese than Chinese), you know she'd love some kind of replacement talisman. Maybe a lucky Chinese lion like you got for our folks? "No doggu! Ryon!", the lady said, as I recall. I expect you can find them as phone charms, which makes them a little less loseable. Not that there's any pressure or anything.

DVD heaven here, since the big wan spent his birthday gift voucher on films I like. Big Lebowski fails to fade with time and repeated viewings and Princess Mononoke (from the makers of Spirited Away and 'Howl's Moving Castle') has also gone down well. There aren't goodies and baddies in the Disney mould but humans, animals, spirits, demons and gods.

Can't wait for the New Year bumper bio-book shipment, courtesy of another set of parents.
Colin Tudge; "The Variety of Life: A Survey and a Celebration of All the Creatures That Have Ever Lived"
Colin Tudge; "The Secret Life of Trees: How They Live and Why They Matter"
The first hopefully a broad-based survey of biodiversity over the earth's lifespan, the second a study of how angiosperms (a relatively late evolutionary product) have influenced ecology. Like Jared Diamond, Tudge is a science writer who can elegantly link up the microscopic with the macroscopic.
Nick Lane; "Power, Sex, Suicide: Mitochondria and the Meaning of Life"
Lane's preceding book, 'Oxygen', is one of my alltime favourite science books. This one should put in context the ecological and evolutionary impact of aerobic respiration, a gift and a poison in one breath.
John Grogan; "Marley and Me: Life and Love with the World's Worst Dog"
A popular success in science readers and dog-owners alike, recommended by my folks.
Claude Combes; "The Art of Being a Parasite"
A significant proportion of the world's organisms are parasitic or symbiotic, and the rest of us are consumers of one kind or another. Co-evolution and adaptation in diseases, parasites and symbiotes is most intriguing. Which reminds me that I must zap the wee one's hair again after she's finished her Boney M session of singing in the shower.


Thursday, December 28, 2006

Lost chord #10

She Moves Through the Fair
Jane Holohan
Richard Thompson Music starts @ 1min 47s
Marianne Faithfull Never heard, but imagined

Joan Baez Silver Dagger
Violent Femmes Gone Daddy Gone

The Who
Pinball Wizard
Can't Explain
I Can See For Miles
I'm Free
Pictures of Lily

Beck; Loser
Hell Yes


Maneki neko

She's being brave, but the loss of wee wan's amulet-sized maneki neko (lucky cat), probably at the school trip to the panto, has been a blow. That piece of $1 dollar tat from Chinatown has been in her pocket for a couple of years now, and is solely responsible for her academic achievements in school and the highly-commended in jazz & tap. The hunt is on for a replacement, though it can't be the same. I feel sure one of the Kings Theatre cleaners would've felt its power and picked it out of the sweetie wrappers from the floor of the stalls. It's resting somewhere on a doily atop the mantelpiece of a coal-effect gas fire in a council flat, rubbed-worn and charged. Next week its rescuer will win the lottery.


Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Boxing day

It's over again, temporarily! H. made the annual greedfest most agreeable over two days, with a short respite for kiddos' presents in between. Peter Ballocks was sedated by a sliver of hash, but still adept enough to turn out delicious scallops mornay. This year instead of a sit-down gorge-out there were soups, crudities inc. asparagus, hors d'oevres and amuses bouche for the taking, along with mulled wine and eggnog. As a grazer by habit, this seemed a practical model to adopt. Much more comfortsble to have handpicked mouthfuls rather than force fed pabulum.

It's a matter of pride that both the kiddos' big presents were small but well received. Big Wan is booked for a London midweek break with his Auntie Neez and babby Aaron, while wee wan is plugged into her new camera-equipped mobile phone. Both these gifts are really for me; to allow wee wan some growing independence at the end of a mobile tether, and to foster the close relationship between an auntie and her godson. I'm not sure you can fit that in a box.


Friday, December 22, 2006

Ho ho ho

That's the bad bit- the consumerism- over with today, so now I can settle back and enjoy the holiday. H.-who-is-very-good-to-me ferried me to the supermarket in our car to get my hors d'oeuvres' ingreediments for our Xmas feast. Only unobtainable item was a halibut fillet with which to make ceviche, but H. can pick this up at Clark Bros fishmonger in Musselburgh tomorrow. The kiddos' gifts are sorted, and now all that's left are some wrapping to do after kiddos are abed, and Sunday afternoon simmering a soup and assembling canapes for a lazy, fish-filled Xmas day. It was trolley lock from the supermarket entrance to exit, and disappointingly not all shoppers were showing the Xmas spirit, even in a Sainsbury's. What's the world coming to?

Some haven't waited decently to open their presents. Her Catness mugged the bag of Hannukah goodies within an hour of its delivery, expertly extracting the catnip-stuffed mouse intended for Her. That night after licking it silly She rampaged and careered like a pinball around the flat into the early hours. Now the poor mouse is eviscerated, its eyes and ears torn off and abandoned for dead, and She shows not a hint of mercy nor remorse. It was the same with the real mice when She came in.

Big Wan has been shown to have an extremely unsteady camera hand, despite not drinking. This is his close-up of my fancy silk jacket from SF's Chinatown.
And this some of my favourite people. I've been very poor about cards this year, since the festive spirit only touched me yesterday. Happy Eid, Channukah, Xmas, Winterval to my family, friends and my odds and sods. Several of you have honoured me with unreturned cards or presents, which are much appreciated. That list includes but is not confined to Sau, Nick, Jackie and CR Goff III. To you and those others I wish a splendid New Year.

ion xx


Thursday, December 21, 2006

Are we there yet?

It was finally time to give in to the season today, after being primed by the early traditional Xmas dinner by R. and Alex on Saturday, then a Hannukah night with latkes, sour cream and apple sauce and meatloaf last night at my Edinburgh folks'. There was ham mince in the meatloaf, but I think YHWH would understand. My dad wears a baseball cap to cover his head as commanded in ?Leviticus while he recites the Hebrew prayer and lights the candles on the menorah. The rest of us are exempt since we're not born of a Jewish woman- YHWH does not see us. In two or three sentences he describes the story behind Hannukah, when the lamps in the Temple had enough fuel only for one night, but lasted for eight. He uses the shammas (the caretaker) to light the other six candles, handpicked by the youngest child, wee wan. Some festive lights are now up round the bookshelves and fireplace since one can't turn back the tide of time, but I'm not putting them on the Monstera because that plant is older than my kiddos.

This Tuesday we met both the older George and Sadie's mum on the Braidburn, which was a great pleasure. They know H. as a motorbike moll, owner of Reekie, but I've yet to establish an independent identity, as I have no dog of my own. I've heard about Sadie's mum for literally years and eventually made a family connection by explaining that I was Jake's sister. That kind of kinship works down the Braidburn.

Picked up R.'s filthy virus on Saturday and needed ibuprofen to propel me uptown for Xmas shopping. Big Wan has it too. I've done extra-well for presents- a calendar of Albrecht Durer prints from R. and an Xmas cake decorated with as realistic a hellebore, mistletoe and holly as one could imagine from H.


Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Mycelium and the chicken dream

Wee wan does not have 'too much sugar in the blood'- hooray! A bit of fungus is fine, but diabetes is no fun at all. I took the urine sample along in a tupperware bowl which I will wash and re-use for food, much to wee wan's disgust, but healthy urine is sterile you know. Now we'll wait to see what type of hyphae the mycologists find. Luckily I have a date with a dog and two friends today, one of whom can advise whether the new prescription will work for ringworm. The GP's eyes narrow when I start with, "My friend who is a doctor mentioned that...", but screw that- it's my kid.

As last week, the most exciting event was the dream last night. I was living in a kind of medieval souk of winding stall-lined alleyways somewhere near Holyrood, and in my shed was a chicken living inside a metal gimbal only just large enough to contain it. That seemed excessively cruel, so I freed and held it while it flapped and shat all over my hand. But I couldn't let it go free because the whole medina was full of wandering cats, all tortoiseshell like Her Catness. Thus I was condemned to wander the 3-D maze of alleys clasping my shitty chicken, trying to get my bearings by triangulating between views of Castle Hill and an Iron Age dun below the medina.

This dream is partly related to a brain-damaged chicken sponsored at Gorgie City Farm many years ago. It had been victimised by the Rhode Island Reds and left so head-injured that it would accept being carried around. Also, I ate a chicken ready-meal last week while in a persistant vegetative state, and am suffering the guilts.

Today, I hope that everyone's dog is well- even mine, David Duff.


Thursday, December 14, 2006


A slow week, huddled by the fireside. H. and I have been dressing in full dogwalking regalia (green wellies, silly hats, torn anoraks) to brave the weather. After a thorough soaking down the Braidburn or Musselburgh beach, there are few more comforting experiences than to snuggle horizontal under a blanket watching the inestimable 'Judge Judy' dispense justice while the gales and downpour pound the windows. If this activity is sluggishly conducted in pajamas, all the better.

I seem to be exhibiting an attitude problem about the part-time work. Not with the work itself, but that it is termed 'part time' when technically it is casual work; as and when required, with no minimum wage. Pedantically, I'd prefer the accurate term was used instead of the euphemism, so we can be clear about boundaries. This month we are so very 'part-time' that the pay office forgot to process our payments. Oops.

Wee wan hates going to the GP, mostly because she's enjoyed rude health. However, she does love animos and may have acquired a zoonomic fungal infection. The primary oval lesion on her left ankle, spotted in October, has been joined by about 15 others on both legs, looking very much like ringworm. I thoroughly pissed off our GP by mentioning that a doctor friend said Canestan cream is not the treatment of choice for ringworm. My use of the term 'lesion' also annoyed him. He'd prefer that I call them 'pink spots'. On further research it looks like Canestan should work for ringworm, but then again it hasn't. Off to the nurse for skin scrapings on Monday and a piss test to screen for diabetes (or 'too much sugar in the blood', as he terms it). He is so miserly that he doesn't even provide a sterile container for the urine sample, as 'a clean jar will do'. I recall this admirably economical attitude from when I was pregnant, and also noticed that he rubbed wee wan's ringworm (infectious) with his bare fingers, then called in the next patient without washing his hands. Yeugh..

The solstice decorations are not yet up Chez Ion. This year we'll be taking my mum's tack and draping some lights over the Monstera and round the bookshelves. That's festive in my book. We were invited for Channukah with my Edinburgh folks tonight, but threw them over for an Xmas dinner with R., H. Alex and family. I'd better get my ass in gear to find gifts.


Monday, December 11, 2006

Favourite dogs

Yesterday the inevitable happened, and my favourite dogs met down the Braidburn. H., I and Reekie were walking from one end, my dad and Jake from the other, and we met at the halfway point entirely by coincidence. There's a dogwalker's fraternity down there. I don't know half the human regulars' names, but most of the dogs'. I'd heard through the dogwalker grapevine that Reekie and Jake had previously met and enjoyed a gay one-day stand, before H. and I had ever met.

And so it happened again. Jake was delighted to meet me, his 'sister', and though neutered assumed top dog and cheerfully shagged Reekie, who acquiesced happily despite still possessing his testicles. However, Reekie had (despicably) already had a gay encounter (this time as top dog) with a three-legged greyhound further down the path. That's just taking advantage. None have any shame. I wish I'd had my camera, but for all I know such images may be prosecutable.

Incidentally, I'd intended to buy both these significant dogs in my life a "ball launcher" for their Xmas, but Dofos was sold out. Still had a little love-in with the shop cats, each in their Xmas glittery collars. Will have to try again at the weekend, when stocks may be in, after phoning first to check stocks.

My mum tells me that her friend who keeps giant African land snails has been blessed with babies, now looking for homes. Tempted as I am, responsibility for other pets is not a good idea, and I have respectfully declined. I understand that they can be euthanised by freezing, though I wouldn't like to have this on my conscience. I did freeze the Jungle Nymph eggs, but before they had hatched, as there's much less guilt at this stage. Maybe GW Bush would like to adopt the snails, and any other snail eggs, in his quest to preserve life.


Sunday, December 10, 2006

Tackling yobs

Dominic Grieve, a Tory MP, has called for citizens to be free to tackle yobs without fear of prosecution. He must be a very foolish man, and is asking for a kicking.

Last week I waited at the bus stop after dark alongside a couple of blokes (down on their luck), one with a dog. That one started shouting abuse. "Stop that ya cunt! Do ye think Ah'm fucking stupit?". Others began walking away from the bus stop. Avoiding eye contact, I was glancing sideways to see what the problem might be, and gathered his invective was aimed at his attractive, longhaired black collie cross, who was lying patiently waiting with him for the bus. Then a strange wheezing and hissing noise started, the smell of gas drifted along to me and I realised he was sniffing lighter fluid.

Now, I am no expert, but in my youth witnessed acquaintances getting frighteningly off their face on solvents. They would have imaginary fights, take off their clothes, start talking to the air with no memory of these behaviours afterwards. What was the point if you couldn't even remember how you'd felt, and control of one's actions was destroyed by whatever effect the solvents induced?

Despite concern at his abuse of his blameless dog, I was not so foolish as to confront someone incapable of understanding their actions. If Dominic wants to take on such behaviour, he is more than welcome, but shouldn't be surprised if he ends up in hospital.


Saturday, December 09, 2006

Dream diaries

Took part in some kind of protest demonstration marching from London to Brighton, joined by colourful folks along the way. Modelled on the Jarrow marches, I suspect. Twice a day we'd stop for water and food at sympathetic roadside cafes. Our last stop was at a rural cafe in Basque country, which later transformed into a castle. I knew it was Basque because the locals all had an 'x' (pronounced 'sh') in their name and I couldn't understand their speech, but recognised compatriots from non-verbal communication. In the cupola of the castle a panoramic IMAX screen was set up to let us watch films, and was in the back row enjoying a cuddle with a very attractive Basque laddie. Later this turned into a virtual reality or even real reality war game with a neighbouring tribe. I went out holding my baby to confront the marauders, as the Basques had agreed, and was instantly caught by one of the rivals. He raised a gun and said, "You're dead" without shooting. I acquiesced quite happily that my role in the game was over. It was a pleasant dream, since all the fighting was non-violent.

I was looking after several Giant African Land Snails who kept taking off in various directions. I was very worried about their feet because there was rough terrain including broken glass from which they needed protection. I knew their mucous would shield them to an extent, but when one reached the glass field I had to unsuction its muscular foot from the surface and pick off the glass shards. Poor snail.


Monday, December 04, 2006

Odds and sods

Temporary respite in the gales lashed on us the last two days. Maybe now it's safe to go outside without being menaced by street furniture. Her Catness is happy enough, for one of the aerial cables strung from the tenement roof has been severed and is snaking invitingly outside the window, requiring Her full attention. She fails the test for Cat Mastermind because She attempts repeatedly to catch it through the glass. That could be my fault for crumbling the last of H.'s homegrown catnip for Her this morning, giving Her madly dilated pupils. Her associates know better than to try to engage when She has 'big eyes'.

To keep in my scientific hand, I conducted the withdrawal phase of my n=1 study this last fortnight. Method; suspend topical antifungal treatment for M. furfur for 10 days. Results: Experiment suspended at day 10 when itching and follicular rash returned. Conclusions: PF confirmed, and GP is a twat.

Misanthropy reaches its height this month, for I fucking hate both Xmas and New Year. Normally this attitude is controlled (if not eliminated) by regular dogwalks, but the weather's been keeping me in. We'll be taking refuge on Xmas with H. and Peter Ballocks, when H. and I are planning a fish extravaganza. We're all anti- turkey, though stuffing is one of my favourite foods. My local folks are thankfully low-key through a mixture of anti-consumerism and Judaism. My dad often involves the kiddos in Channukah; a candlelit, story-filled festival of the chosen people.

On a gastropod theme, some may (like me) enjoy this site on Giant African Land Snails. I was pressured by the kiddos last year to acquire one such as a pet, but resisted despite a love of invertebrates. Reminded them of the outcome on Sticky-Boy and Sticky-Girl some years ago. I particularly recommend the section on anatomy, including diagrams of snail internal organ arrangement. Once one realises the diversity of reproductive stategies on this planet, one can never think of sex the same way.