Unreliable and possibly off-topic


Thursday, March 29, 2007


What a week- lots of all-nighters, daytime naps, obtunded consciousness (through sleep deprivation, not exogenous substances) and now quite losing track of the days. Another nightshift tonight. I must report that the back-porch slugs and snails have been absent over the winter and yet to reappear. I learn that our local slugs don't survive the winter and so I must await the new generation this spring. Some snails can live up to 12 years, but not local ones, who average 12-18 months. Imagine fitting in a lifetime of pain, pleasure and experience to that timespan! Every moment must be incredibly intense!

Today I was trained successfully in a number of jobbie skills. I really like my colleagues-to-be and the training was patient, clear and helpful. Then I shopped for the proper crunchies for Her Catness and Her catnip. They have a huge selection at Dofos- powder, leaf, spray or stuffed toys. I chose what I assume is the feline equivalent of primo skunk by splashing out on the leaf variety, and achieved a very affectionate homecoming from Her. Or rather, the shopping was received affectionately, for She had to scent-mark both food and catnip carton most thoroughly. I imagine that She imagines this puts Her in their good books.

Then it was off to the Jobbie Centre to try to sign off, to no avail. First, I'd written down my NI number wrong, so didn't exist. My fault. Next, I was advised by two separate advisors that it would really be a bad idea to sign off for a part-time job, even though if I pass probation it'll become full-time. Their understanding of the rules is that if I leave the jobbie or am kicked out at the end of 3 months probation I'll lose eligibility for the mortgage interest relief currently received, worth ~£370 month. I've found info on the DWP website that suggests that this benefit will kick back in immediately if I sign on again within a year, but they disagree. Currently, one of the advisors is seeking further info to see whether his training or the DWP website is correct. Oh joy. If the advisors are correct, what would I do? And what would Jesus do?

Upshot is that both advisor and I are each right, or each wrong. If I get fired within a year, benefit kicks back in immediately, but if I leave voluntarily it doesn't. Strategy: for the first 2 months be on best behaviour, but if it's unpleasant or undo-able become so intolerable that probation is failed. Bingo!


Sunday, March 25, 2007

Family Mediation

Their dad was never verbally articulate at the best of times. Not because he was stupid, but because open conversation was impolite and somewhat vulgar in Morningside when he grew up. Instead he thinks bad thoughts and communicates these through a moue that can be sensed over the phone. He hates above all airing dirty laundry in public, even (now) in private to the Californian mother of his children, who makes him intensely uncomfortable with sincere questions, like 'what is the real problem?', or 'can you give me an example?', which strike him quite mute. That's why he asked for Family Mediation, for a mummy to hold his hand while he imputes without evidence; but apparently he is less than impressed with our counsellor. I gather she didn't instantly endorse his infantalisation of our splendid kiddos, or agree with his sense of incipient danger from their mother. After all, their mother only gestated them (badly, smoking all the time), and their lack of delinquency and wide-ranging aptitudes are solely due to his good influence. It's a miracle the kiddos aren't yet obviously damaged.


Friday, March 23, 2007


Feeling dangerously good today. After a frosty start it was summer, I swear, at noon. Repo-ed my wee car from H-etc's this morning, since the years' ban expired yesterday. I knew beforehand it wouldn't start as its engine was flooded, but the AA were most prompt and by 10.30 am I was back on the road, feeling like a new L driver. The muscle memory for driving comes back instantly, but that subliminal timing at roundabouts- the judgment of other cars' spaces and intention- is still warming up. They were the worst when I first passed The Test fourth time. I recall on my first nighttime drive waiting forever at Slateford roundabout for what I considered a safe space, while drivers behind queued up and honked aggressively.

To get some driving practise and exercise the engine, I was off to an edge- of-town H&M, needing a replacement for the wide-legged black linen trousers recently ruined by candlewax and furthermore tempted into sinful extra spending on a cotton dress @ £15. It's entirely an impulse buy, with a white background and an orange+black psychedelic print: impractical for outdoor pursuits like dogwalking and camping. I expect to hate it tomorrow, but today it suits my mood and £15 is only 26% of a week's Income Support. Peter Ballocks tells me that I'm entitled to £100 pounds clothing allowance from the DWP when I sign off this month, so write it off as mad money.

I feel like the cat when she takes her turns skeetering up and down the hall at 1 am. R. wants to plan another road trip up north, like the one in ~2003 when we toured National Trust gardens and Historic Scotland sites of interest in Sutherland. She's suggested the Pictish trail up the northeast this spring, and who am I to demur as long as we can bypass Balmoral. Today I have a possible job, a car and freedom.


Someone's bricked in Nigel Griffith's constituency office window, with the epicentre of the strike right on his blown-up window-wrapped nose, and it wasn't even I.


Wednesday, March 21, 2007


On Sunday a small group of us (including R and H-etc) attended a tour of the Scottish Parliament, designed by architect Enric Mirrales. The Parliament building (never mind the institution) attracts strong opinions both pro and anti, but I've always been on the pro tendency. A tour of the internal building only reinforces that proclivity. Virtually the only right angle within the building is the meeting of floor and ceiling, giving a wonderfully fluid, quirky impression. It's hard to tell which floor you're on with so many mezzanines and a building complex whose undercrofts climb up the Canongate, but in every area glass gives you sneaky peepholes onto the outside world or other hidden areas within the functional complex. Mirrales preserved Queensbury House within the larger compound, so in the atrium accessing the Chamber the new enclosure incorporates the harled walls of the old building. The use of organic materials such as oak and granite give you a sense both of history and finiteness, and from the Debating Chamber you can look over to the volcanic plug of Arthur's Seat and Salisbury Crags, scattered with gorse and with tiny ant-people climbing up to the summit for fantastic views of the city.

I got in trouble in the Chamber because I was fascinated with the oak and sycamore desks for the MSPs, which incorporate steamed and bent wood and hi-tech services such as voting buttons and VDU screens. I was fiddling with the mechanism of a document holder on a desk when someone in the public gallery above cried, "Excuse me!". I was quite happy for anyone to be excused, but it turned out a security guard had a problem with me investigating and possibly breaking the apparatus. As it turned out, it was the First Minister's desks I was examining. Naughty, bad schoolgirl!

Image from


Sunday, March 18, 2007

Edinburgh notes

The new official jobbie, if I sign a contract, has meagre pay for a woman of my accomplishments but a beautiful building circa 1830? in which to work. The office I've selected looks onto the back gardens between the big house and the mews (stable block) behind. From a desk in front of the sash window I can contemplate the neighbours' gardens in which reside Lawson cypress, silver birch, hazel with catkins, rhododendron, elderflower and honeysuckle, and be insulated in a location in a busy town centre untainted by traffic noise. While discussing the contract, the sole perk I've requested is a key to the private gardens to the front, out-of-bounds to the hoi-polloi except (potentially) me. In my lunch hours, I shall saunter under the trees in an empire-line dress trimmed with silk-satin ribbon, compose chloraesthenic governess poetry and plot revolution.

Edinburgh street plan (1817 & 1831) courtesy National Library of Scotland


Thursday, March 15, 2007


Nigelbloke wrote back to me today on hideously self- aggrandising House of Commons stationary after I made the mistake of sending him a 'good dog' email on Monday. Previously Nigelbloke has received just sticks from me on his voting record, so it seemed only decent to offer a carrot when he developed an incipient backbone and resigned in order to vote against Trident renewal.

Nigelbloke has been 'overwhelmed by messages of support', you'll be glad to hear. Furthermore, "[He has] no time for those who argue to delay this decision- tough decisions should never be put off". Decisive, elegantly coiffed and vertebrate. What more could a constituent want!


Wednesday, March 14, 2007

I Do- I Like Green Eggs & Ham!

When 'upgrading' to beta, Blogger asks for a google account. Partly for convenience and partly for pure badness I fed it the hotmail one and coaxed it to swallow. Now when signing in, Blogger gets a momentary dry heave, then thinks better of it and eats up its MSN hotmail lunch. This probably means Gates' and Google's agendas are the same (and you can fill in your own gaps here), but even so each signing-in seems a small sweet victory.

Let not 'signing in' be confused with 'signing on'. Due to a recent part-time opening at SlugWatch Corp, I may soon be able to attend the JobbieCentre to 'sign off'. I had just about gotten on top of the DWP system when now I will have to learn an entirely new set of skills involving Working Tax Credits, Child Tax Credits, income tax self-assessment, NI and MIRO. It was only recently that I applied for and received the free school meals and school clothing allowance from the Cooncil to which we've been entitled for a year. This served well in the epiphenomenon of irking the worst bourgeois sensibilities of kiddos' dad; but if I must give up such benefits in better interests, so be it.


Monday, March 12, 2007


My constituency NuLab MP Nigel Griffiths has an appalling voting record in the House of Commons, voting with the whip on every issue. He backed Blair on the Iraq invasion despite concerns over the UN resolutions and voted against a later inquiry when the reasons for war went arse-over-tip. He's firmly of the Blunkett/Reid/Clarke school on ID cards, with surveillance the best form of defense against terrorism. His shameful record is accessible here. I do not like him one little bit. However, today he has resigned his government post on the issue of the replacement for Trident. Nigel will not be voting with the government on Wednesday to support the renewal of Trident.

I'd like to think that Nigel had an epiphany that perpetual war is not the best future for our children, but it's probably more prosaic. He's sitting on a marginal seat with only a 400 majority and elections are not so far ahead. Scots (whom he allegedly represents) are surprisingly unkeen on having Yankee WMD on their doorstep for many reasons, including the instinct for self-preservation and the will to live. I shan't be expecting him at the next protest against the existing and still-lethal nukes at Faslane, but it's a nice thought.

Another cynic
has analysed Nigel's resignation, and also finds the majority issue of note.


Sunday, March 11, 2007


After staying up with the slugs two nights this week, it should have been about Friday today, but somehow it's Sunday. What the hell? The phone keeps ringing while I'm asleep. Sometimes I answer and explain briefly that I'm asleep, sometimes the ring incorporates into a dream. Once the ringing became the buzzing of a swarm of beetles that I kicked off a ladder and then followed me while navigating the labyrinth under New St garage. Then I'm awake in the early hours when the decent people I should be phoning back or (in the case of the kiddos) feeding are safely asleep. I gather the poor weans got themselves pizza last night while I was out for the count. This reminds me how work and drugs serve to anaesthetise proles so they can no longer think or plan for themselves. Since not working, I can't believe how much I used to pack into a day, especially when the kiddos were little. Amazing!

Three developments this week, all of them mixed blessings:
1) Driving licence returned
After an unfortunate and shameful misjudgment, I can soon drive again and the poisoned chalice of my wee banger (used by H-who-is-very-good-to-me for the last year) will revert to my care and concern. Therefore yesterday in a dream I couldn't remember how to drive properly, and was caught in a police trap the first day at a complicated multi-roundabout, somewhat like the Maybury. Suffice it to say that this was not the actual cause of my ban, and that the car has been well tended by H-etc. over the year. The Cooncil has re-zoned my area into pay-fer spaces over the year, adding to the old costs (insurance, road tax, upkeep, MOT, petrol). The last year without driving hasn't been that difficult, truth to tell, cushioned by H-etc.'s supermarket runs and an excellent central bus network in Edinburgh.

2) Family Mediation meeting
Attended this straight after a nightshift with the slugs, an intervention suggested by the kiddos' Dad and gratefully taken up. The focus of Family Mediation is childrens' well-being after a family break-up. We have separate interviews at first, then will meet later to try for agreement in the kiddos' best interests. The counsellor was used to orders of magnitude greater discord and dysfunction than we present, and in conversation it's clear that the bulk of their work is court-ordered interventions between truly warring parents and damaged kiddos. Meanwhile, over the last week kiddos' Dad has made several conciliatory gestures regarding kiddos' activities and social involvements. In the cyclical nature of his censure, I predict that this battle was a feint and an anxiety pang on his part. Because history is contingent, I can expect another such in approx 18 months' time and I shall gird my loins accordingly.

3) Jobbies

The slug-watcher corp seem to like me and took me to dinner at a posh bar with pumping music to reinforce this. The dining room was so dark I couldn't read the menu. They made me an offer to make me provisional slug researcher, which I do anyway. I happen to like the workers they've employed, which helps bed in.


Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Take-away Veg Pakora at Home

This is the seriously excellent and cheap recipe for veg pakora, refined over the last few months. It's well worth the effort of sourcing, roasting and grinding the whole spice for both the pakora and their sauce.

You can find all the less common ingreediments at Bismillah on Nicholson Square. If you don't have your own potter (H-who-is-very-good-to-me) to make you a mortar and pestle for grinding, fear not. Your kiddos or a handy kidult will be happy to place your spices in a plastic bag and use an ordinary hammer to percussively reduce them to powder.

Whole garam masala, dry-roasted and ground
Anardana (dried pomegranate seeds), dry-roasted and ground
Mustard seed
Kalonji (black onion seed)
Tamarind paste
Chopped coriander leaf
4 or 5 medium potatoes, peeled and chopped to a large dice
3 onions, chopped
Gram (chickpea) flour
Self-raising wheat flour
Natural yoghurt
Veg oil

Soften your onions in oil for 10 mins or so and reserve, then Bombay your potatoes so;
Toss 2 tsp of mustard seed into a frying pan of medium-heated oil. When the seeds start to pop, add the tatties and 3 tsp ground garam masala. Add salt, then saute the potatoes for about 20 mins with a lid on top, turning occasionally.

Assemble a sweet/sour yoghurt dipping sauce by mixing the yogurt with tamarind paste in a 3:1 ratio, adding chopped coriander leaf, garam masala and kalonji. You can buy ready-made tamarind paste, or alternatively soak a quarter of the dried fruit blocks in boiled water, extracting the seed husks and blending to a paste.

Make the pakora batter with a 3:1 mixture of gram flour to self-raising, with a large pinch of salt. Add water and mix to a stiffish pancake-batter consistency before tipping in the veg along with 2 tsps anardana and 3 of garam masala.

Heat a wok with 1 litre of sunflower oil. When sufficiently hot, an experimental drop of batter will sizzle and rise. At this point, scoop aliquots of veg and batter mixture (palm size) and gently drop into the wok, four pakora at a time. Keep the cooked pakora warm in a low oven while frying subsequent batches.


I Do Not Like Green Eggs & Ham

I do not like it, Sam-I-am. After gentle suggestions for a couple of months, Blogger became insistent today that I had to change to 'Beta'. Blogger says I will be very happy, but since I was entirely happy before being forced to 'upgrade', my joy is somewhat attenuated.

The blog was quiet lately while a guest visited and was entertained. There had been lots of outings planned, but weather intruded and it turned out DVDs, home cooking and the fireplace were more inviting. A guest who brings 'Blue Planet' on DVD as a gift will always be welcome. The kitchen has been the site of many culinary adventures, of which the refined recipe for veg pakora and tamarind sauce is a particular hit. I shall post this later.

Mum had txted me about the lunar eclipse at the weekend, but there was nothing to see when we went out the stair for the spectacle. The cloud cover was bad. Despite owning an old-age bus-pass, Mum has embraced the facility and language of txt better than I can ever hope to, though she has always demonstrated excellent spelling and punctuation in the past.