Unreliable and possibly off-topic


Saturday, April 28, 2007

Lost Chord #12

Bronski Beat- Smalltown Boy

Robert Wyatt- Sea-Song

Mark Almond- Ruby Red

Ladytron- Seventeen

Topol- If I Were a Rich Man

Morrissey- Every Day Is Like Sunday


Wednesday, April 25, 2007


...I am trusting the dole during my transition to workfulness, that all their necessary counterbalanced inter-agency debits and credits are being performed. I receive many mysterious letters in brown envelopes with mysterious sums cited from all sorts of agencies, to be credited or debited from my benefits. How would I know if there'd been a mistake, without current expert knowledge of benefit pathways or double-entry bookkeeping?

In this week, I made a not-so-bad visit to my arch-nemesis IKEA, installed furniture, books and plants in my office, ordered stationery to my heart's content, and enjoyed an unsolicited visit from H. etc. She let herself in with her key on Saturday afternoon without so much as a warning call, txt or by-your-leave. I could've been in bed with the milkman! Instead I was nursing a cold on the sofa while enjoying Judy Garland and Fred Astaire in 'Easter Parade'. As my former paid cleaning technician, I couldn't allow H-etc. to see how low my personal standards of housekeeping can fall with shiftwork, so dislocated her to the over-the-road-pub ASAP. Otherwise she would've started hoovering, dusting furiously and polishing floorboards on her hands and knees, to my profound embarrassment.


Saturday, April 21, 2007


The local Tesco Metro has installed self-paying outlets at two of the five checkouts, where one scans and pays electronically for goods. I was right up there learning from the American consultant the first day they were installed. A labour-saving device I thought, disregarding some unsettling reservations about loss of jobs for staff. It's all about a customer's convenience. Luckily for the minimum-waged staff, the self-scan technology cries for human help incredibly regularly, and I've seen the human-manned tills outperform the customer-scans on countless occasions now.

Lately I have learned that self-scanning is a waste of time, for four important food groups (alcohol, tobacco, batteries and razors) require human verification. I've learned my lesson and now just wait in the queue for the regular tills. Plus I'm supporting the workers, even if they don't recognise it.

At the Ocean Terminal Shopping Mall today, there were coin-operated hair straighteners in the ladies toilets. I guess that for some young women, ozone and water-logged hair can lead to unacceptable frizz. I was spending up my School Clothing vouchers before the vultures scavenge them back.


Thursday, April 19, 2007

Lost Chord 11

#1: John Otway; Bunsen Burner

Bunsen Burner lyrics

#2: Adverts; Gary Gilmore's Eyes

#3 Ute Lemper; Mack the Knife

#4 Jimi Hendrix; Hey Joe

#5 Futchers; Sally Sensation


Simple pleasures

When I first started this blog, there was overt politics. At that time I hated both world events and my miserable job, which began to take over my life even as I resisted and resented this. I wasn't functioning in the job because I was obsessed by the horrors of the world. I wasn't doing anything useful about the horrors of the world because my job and my resentment of it took up too much time. I was looking for salvation from partners who were probably looking for the same from me, and hence were unsuccessful. I didn't know where to start, only where to end.

So I gave up the well-paid job and the boyfriends, to the horror of my friends and family, many of whom thought that if I just worked my way through the madness all would be well. But I was subsumed by the false consciousness of working as if this meant anything, and had begun to hate myself as well as everyone else. I gave up a lot of money, and spent a pitiful redundancy after 20 years' false consciousness on keeping the mortgage up.

I learned again to shop local and cook properly at home, and even occasionally to clean house. I started to enjoy walks instead of seeing them as wasted time, and to appreciate time with the kiddos. I read about things in which I was interested as much as I wanted. Sometimes I stayed up late at night and rose late in the mornings, and gave myself permission to do nothing. I dealt with the fact that I wanted stuff I couldn't afford, but more and more these became books or experiences, and not material possessions. I began to get braver and more honest with myself.

Though far from perfect in so many obvious behavioural ways, I am more frequently happy than not. I take the pills, but maybe only because I get electric shocks in my head when I stop. I'm working again (at least for now), but aware that this job isn't a personal definition nor a prescription for happiness. If it goes, as these things might, there's a backlog of recipes for cheap good food to exploit. If I can find time, there might even be room to explicate some of the horrors of this world.

The ego I like most was the one who took the kiddos out for a hummus falafel tea at Palmyra last night (an establishment to be recommended) and laughed myself silly at their jokes and confidences. The same person who bruised her head badly twice at IKEA this morning on a low-set sign- not quick to learn- to add to her purple-bruised chin and palm from a fall on Princes St three days ago. She isn't afraid anymore.


Monday, April 16, 2007

Weekends are back

H-etc. arrived back from a whirlwind tour of central Europe on Saturday, and I surprised her by collecting her from the airport. She was laden down with baggage (serving as the pack animal to bring back winter clothes from her son's place), so particularly happy to see me. It was a pleasure to help her out for once, and a relief that Peter Ballocks should calm down now his primary torture victim is back. I told her the Braidburn dogwalkers were asking after her while she's been sailing and inter-railing through Germany, Austria and the Czech Republic, lucky cow. She was shining with the pleasure and pride of travelling with her now-grown son, and how he'd assumed trip-leader role. He is indeed a fine young man, as she frequently reminds us, and has absorbed her core values of hard work, thrift, self-reliance and adventurousness. Peter Ballocks was away finding and losing himself while the laddie was growing up, and has left little imprint. H-etc. and I followed her route on a map as she told of her adventures, and I longed for a similar trip.

You can have adventures locally too, though. The sun brings everything out of itself. This is bad news when it's the regulars from the pub downstairs but good at the Botanics. I'm fumbling with my stair key outside the pub when one of the locals issues out for a smoke. "I'll help you open your bag", he says with a leer, and "Are you a nurse?". I've been on nodding acquaintance with him before, from a time when I administered first-aid chocolate to a diabetic regular who was in acute hypoglycaemia. I thought the gentleman should be taken to hospital, and made them promise they would if he didn't recover soon. I've only had a pint in there once in 6 years, but pass it everytime I leave or enter the house and nod to regulars. Big wan has been interrogated about me by the landlord at the chippie, also wondering if I was a nurse. Anyways, I let the bag comment pass straight over my head and and said something about having too much stuff, but the nurse question was also expressed in an inappropriate manner. "No, I'm a doctor", I said, which is not quite true, as I fished out my keys and headed upstairs.

The Botanics were hoaching yesterday, but rhododendron season is in full spate. Hopefully this will last till R. is back. I took along a litre of water and two books for the afternoon, to enjoy the sun. Met a heat-befuddled peacock butterfly who posed for the camera on the way in the East Gate, but made my way the wester end to escape the pumping music from a 'roadshow' in Inverleith Park and found myself a comfortable corner in the Rock Garden to read. Within minutes a charming ?Spanish ranger asked me quietly and courteously to 'move on at my own pace', as sunbathing and picnicing were not allowed in the rock garden. Looking up and down, there were loads of other people sitting or reclining on the rock garden terraces who were doing much as I was, and I wondered why I had been selected for special treatment.

I think I was too settled-looking; a coat spread out to sit on, a roll-up in my hand, a visible bottle of water as a picnic, a vest top as sunbathing. The girl below me was reading on a blanket, but her shoulders were covered and she didn't smoke. The young couple behind me were sipping water and wore sleeveless tops, but perched upright on a rock talking, and not reading. Who can be irascible on a sunny day in April? I put out my roll-up (reserving this to dispose of in a bin, as always), packed up the books and water and trundled down the arboretum to find a bench.


Friday, April 13, 2007

Authorities II!

Previously was related a tale of how I tried and failed to inform the dole of a change of circumstances a fortnight ago. It was this Wednesday midday that I was on my way to the Jobbie Centre to again report the new jobbie and sort out new benefits, when I chanced to open a recently delivered envelope from the Jobbie Centre. It disclosed that I was booked to see my 'Compliance Officer' that very day, 2 hrs previous, with regard to my claim.

I phoned my Compliance Officer immediately, explaining that I had started work 9 days previous, had neglected to open mail due to shiftwork and was on my way in to the Jobbie Centre anyway to report this. There was barely concealed glee on the other end of the telephone. I was a 'hit' in the Compliance Officer's terminology because I'd started work but not successfully completed change of circumstance information within 7 days.

It seems that certain dolies are targeted for Compliance Interviews, and I had been 'randomly selected' as one such. 'High-risk' are those with a mortgage and lone parents (a double strike), which gives the lie to a random selection process. There was no record of last week's visit to report changes, which had collapsed when I was given incorrect information about my subsequent entitlement to benefits if I took the jobbie. I was in the realm of benefits 'Compliance' but not yet 'Fraud'.

It was no bad thing, in all. I had both my Compliance interview and a 'New Deal' interview in which I had proper advice on entitlements now I'm working 20 hrs/week on a low pay. I will be about £20 a week better off under 'New Deal' due to working tax credits, bearing in mind council tax, grants and a £40 pw grant for one year just for having a job. I explained to my 'New Deal' guy that I had problems with authority, but no intention to defraud. It turns out that if I'd expressed willingness to work earlier, I could've also been entitled to a free bus pass and one-off allowances for interview clothing.

Also learned that kiddos' dad has been unintentionally screwed for child benefit. When the kiddos were born there was a rule that the mother only could receive child benefit, to stop a dad drinking or drugging this up. Times have changed now, and in recognition of the more modern typical 50/50 custody arrangement, the dole acknowledges that fathers (even those not in majority custody) can and should claim child benefit. For fairness, kiddos' dad and I each claim child tax credit for one of our two kids. However, eligibility for extra income support for one's kiddos is determined by claiming child benefit, so kiddos' dad has been disadvantaged. To even things up, I have now submitted a 'letter of surrender' for the wee wan's child benefit, so that should he become unemployed, her dad can claim support for her, in recognition of our equal custody arrangement. It's only fair and balanced, unlike Fox News.


More ballocks

H-who-is-very-good-to-me is in Hamburg, presumably eating hamburgers. This has left Peter Ballocks on his ownio and at a loose end, to my detriment. I have been treated to Korsakoff phone calls at all hours of the day and night this last week. The first call came at 11 pm at work when I was busy, casually asking if I could 'pop over' to feed the cat twice a day for the next week, so Peter could go lambing. I would love to help out H-etc. (for it is her cat), but this is a big ask on top of the shiftwork. I'm not safe to drive after 12+ hr shifts so this would add about 2 hrs in bus journeys to my day. I compromised by offering 4 days of catfeeding duties, but this was no good to him. There were more calls last night at 10 and 11 pm, even as I told him I was trying to sleep, for some other complicated offers. PB has wheedled me into taking Reekie, the most intelligent dog in the world, for the day, but couched in terms that it is he who is doing me a favour. His plan was for the kids and I to spend all day at their house to dogsit, as if we have nothing else to do. However, it looks like it will be another scorcher today and temporary dog ownership gives a great excuse for a walk.

Yesterday's Family Mediation was as good as these get, even when I slept in and was 40 mins late. We seem to have reached at least temporary rapprochement. The big wan is in a tremendously good mood after meeting by chance a certain girl at the Parliament Building, paddling in the ponds outside with her and receiving a text later. It was in indecipherable teenage txt speak, but apparently sent warm wishes. This then, as with everything else, is gravy!

The haar is still thick on the hills, but cleared from the Braidburn valley. We took our borrowed Reekster down for a walk, where who should we meet but my mum and Jake the naughty dog, as well as other familiar dogwalkers (Old George, Daisy's mum, Abby's mum, Morag). Jakie is a shaggy dog, and lived up to his name by trying cheerfully and repeatedly to anally rape Reekie, who saw him off with well-placed snarls. Jake is selectively deaf, and
despite the enticement of a tic-tac wanted to walk on with us instead of following my (and his) mum back the other way. Since I am Jakie's sister as well as Reekie's auntie, there's surely some kind of incest being perpetrated here. I believe uncle-nephew relations are specifically outlawed by law (or at least before civil ceremonies were allowed, aunt/nephew and uncle/niece). Not that Reekie is a Mary Pure, as his past advantage-taking of the three-legged greyhound proved.

We drove up at 11 am to pick up our dog-sittee as arranged. I explained to Peter Ballocks that I might have a few glasses of wine this evening and therefore might not be legal to chauffeur Reekie back to his home tonight, but could drive Reekie back tomorrow morning. With his usual complete lack of insight, Peter declared this not OK, but that it would be too much for him (Peter) to bus it to my house and back to collect his dog (who I am kindly looking after). It would better instead if I bussed it to his house and back to return the dog this evening. So be it, but now he owes me two cat-feeding visits next month when I'm away for a week in Engerland.

One of the best things about dog-sitting is the mood invoked in Her Catness. She is totally pissed off, but standing her ground in the bedroom growling in the bass and hissing in the treble frequencies. She could quite easily take Herself on top of the wardrobe out of dog range, but this is Her territory! She may be only a tenth the dog's size, but She makes up for it in Self-righteousness.


Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Magnolia time

All these beauties live within 500 yards (or metres, if you prefer) of the flat. Quite primitive according to Tudge (with similarities to waterlilies, would you believe). They flower before growing leaves using the sap and energy saved from the previous year's photosynthesis.


Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Work is freedom

Just pulled off a 13 hr overnighter without turning a hair. The paperwork was annotated and initialled, the protocol implemented with textbook study quality, the tubes labelled and couriered and the FTP transmitted successfully on a second go. The test results that I thought I'd lost last week were retrieved. The test results that were lost today were someone else's fault. I read comfortably reclined overnight, checking study integrity half-hourly to admire my technical skill, snatched a sneaky hour's nap at dawn, and the sky did not fall down. That'll be £162.50, please. I could get used to this.


Sunday, April 08, 2007


Happy oestre! The name of the festival echoes from the pagan fertility celebration in springtime. Having been raised a heathen I have trouble remembering if we're supposedly marking Jesus' death or his rising from the dead. Heathen kiddos not much better informed than I. I've recently been re-reading Duncan's 'The Calendar' and Arnold Toynbee's 'Mankind and Mother Earth', reminding me of the tumultuous historical and ecclesiastic schisms over the precise date of Easter. What's stuck in my memory is that all the Christian Easters are calculated specifically not to fall on Passover. We don't want any overlap with those Jews, above all.

My folks didn't have a Passover seder this year, as sometimes in the past. Both are increasingly involved in our local Liberal synagogue, where my mum is accepted despite being gentile and atheist. There is no Liberal synagogue building in Edinburgh, so they often have gatherings in the Unitarian church on Castle Terrace. Dad fell out with the Orthodox synagogue when they refused to accept my sister into the fold, being born of a shiksa. As he ages (gently and youthfully) his cultural Judaism has become more important to him. When he was very ill, I worried excessively about who would say kaddish and sit shiva for him. Without a drop of Hebraic blood in my veins, it will be me who does these when the time comes. Let it be a long time. Judaism of the flavour I've been exposed to involves memory and limited observation, but you don't even really have to believe in G*d. Dad doesn't keep kosher (he loves his shellfish), but my kiddos have both had the pleasure of seders with the full prayers, leaning to the right, 'next year in Jerusalem' and finding the afikonen. They may have some Jewish blood from their dad's side, according to their family history, as well as a pirate executed and sent home to Leith in a pickling barrel.

Kiddos currently away with their dad's clan to roll decorated hard-boiled eggs down the slopes of a park- a charming tradition. This is supposed to have something to do with rolling away the stone of Jesus' tomb, but I prefer to note the reproductive aspects of the eggs. Egg-rolling always used to take place at the Braids golf-course, but 2 years of hassle from golfers have necessitated a change of venue. The seagulls have a field day with the smashed eggs, and can be quite menacing when they swoop down for the leavings. Given that Easter's date is so changeable, I wonder how they know that it's a feast day, and if they look forward to it, the heathen cannibals.

After dropping kiddos off, I had a long walk with Jake and my mum down the Hermitage. Jake is quite a naughty dog and scavenges from bins and people without any sense of shame, and relentless cheerfulness. As advertised in the dog rescue website, he is indeed 'all dog'. The rhodies are getting close to flowering now. Mum had to listen to a lot of rambling and expressed emotion about the new jobbie and the family mediation, but it was helpful for me to put words to some of these stressful events. She says I am slightly loopier than usual, but not off the edge yet. I certainly feel better grounded after food, sleep, kiddos, walkies and venting. Next week's shifts only total 27 hrs, which is a scoosh compared to last week. The family mediation will hopefully be more pleasant next week, but is booked for a time when I'll have been 22 hrs without sleep and not necessarily 'myself'. I have genuine sympathy for kiddos' dad in dealing with me in that place and time, but these meetings are at his request. Someday I will write up how the wee wan's purchase of a chocolate muffin on the way to school became a child neglect issue, but not now.


Friday, April 06, 2007


Oh dear. I don't know about this jobbie. After the first week I'm exhausted, anxious and slightly loopy. Not able to eat properly. Partly this will be normal when starting a new job, but sleep loss affects me badly, and I've had two short-lived psychotic episodes following this over the years, so am vulnerable.

Here's what I worked:
Sunday; Learning Outlook and setting up remote workplace desktop (5 hrs).
Monday ; 8.30 pm through to 10.30 am on Tuesday (16 hrs)
Wednesday; 7.30 am to 12.30pm, then 8.30 pm to Thursday 8.30 am (17 hrs)

Thankfully the 7.30am-10.30 am Friday was cancelled. Next week I have two 12 hr nightshifts, as well as extra time to try to get to grips with paperwork, emails, plus another gruelling family mediation meeting with the kiddos' dad. This is not fun, or even renumerative.

This is supposed to be a 20 hr per week parttime post. There's no extra money for extra hours or for unsocial hours. I'm supposed to take time-in-lieu for extra hours, but am already booked for 20-30 hrs/week for the rest of the month, so no time to take back extra hours- only to accumulate more.

Still, it is a holiday weekend and I have the kiddos, with no work till an overnight on Easter Monday. Must catch up with housework and if I can summon the energy, I prescribe myself lots of healthgiving, balancing walks.

Dinner at my folks with the kiddos, my sister and Jakie the dug put a big plaster on my graze. I shall sleep like the dead without any aids. Everything looks better with a full stomach and some kiddos round about while I'm awake for once. Best of all there's no bleeding ballet and jazz classes tomorrow so we all get to lie in and have a lazy day, maybe a Jakie walk. Just like labour's pain rapidly drifts into amnesia, this week wasn't really so bad, and am looking forward to the next. Happy holidays.


Monday, April 02, 2007


One might think that someone posting at 2 am is dysfunctional, but remember that some people are working at all hours of the day and night on 12 hr shifts from 7am or 10pm, so that full on and full off get smeared.

Last night, sleep time didn't come till after the horror film 'They'. Big wan is hardened to zombies, but he had to come into mammy's bed at 2 am for comfort from the fillum. Luckily the female leads were supremely bad actresses and the script poor, allowing us to laugh.

Yesterday evening, R., H. etc, I and kiddos went to the outdoor fair at Portobello, with pounding music, flashing lights, adrenaline and fair folk. On one ride they were playing the 'K-Hole' while we adults oscillated and danced as the kiddos rode the rides. They're advertising for staff and never has a jobbie offer been so enticing. We all went on one ride, but I (at least) was too nauseated to continue. R. was so game that she went from the 'Spiderman' to the 'Eclipse', and was so sick afterwards that the flashing lights from ShockWave sent her off for a boak behind the rides. Of course the kiddos were immune to vestibular symptoms until much later, and keen to probe the limits of their physiological emetic limits, to the tune of £30 between R. and I. Thus R. probably paid up £15 to become clinically nauseated. The wee wan had us pay £4 between us to earn a badly-made corn-cob soft toy, which is now hers. The feet may be sewn on backwards, but that only makes 'Cobbie' all the more adorable.

If R. sends me the photos, I shall append these later.