Unreliable and possibly off-topic


Thursday, July 26, 2007

Lost and found

Couldn't sleep last night. H-etc. recently came into some money, and treated herself to a week in Crete via a cheap travel website. She was supposed to arrive back yesterday morning, but by 6 pm still hadn't shown up, when poor Peter Ballocks started to get worried and phone round her friends to try to piece together her travel plans. Last night I was searching airport websites to try to trace which flight she might have booked (hampered by the fact it was probably a charter), Peter was phoning the British consulate in Athens, cracking her email account to try to find booking details and eventually calling the local polis to report her missing. Her close group of friends and family (inc. her son in Germany) were active on the phone lines again from 8 am this morning, worried sick about her and imagining her languishing in a Cretan hospital, or worse. She showed up about 10 am this morning, blissfully unaware that there was an APB out for her and that at least seven people were desperately involved in multi-pronged detective work.

The story was that she'd simply misremembered her travel dates. Rather than spending a few drachmas on a phone card to let her loved ones know, she sent postcards to tell us she'd be back a day late, which (of course) are yet to be delivered. This grown, responsible woman who has roamed four continents as a solo traveller, had relied on the Greek postal service to reassure us. While relieved that she's safe and well, I've had to phone her twice already to give her a verbal spanking. Don't do that again, H-etc.! Just make a call!

On a happier note, the Firth of Forth SeaFari was a big hit with me and the wee wan. Hard to tell with the Big Wan, as he'd had his face vandalised with waterproof make-up by his friend Emily overnight, and was therefore hiding behind his hair on the trip. The shipmaster took us out to Inchmickerie (?sp) to see common seals and pups basking on the rocks, although the puffins had moved on the week before. Herring gulls, fulmars and shags in abundance on the island, along with a fat, torpedo-shaped guillemot. The noise is cacophanous! The boat can only go so close (it's a RSPB sanctuary), so the old but powerful binoculars I'd brought were a boon for watching the colonies. They're coming with us to Kirkcudbright tomorrow, for sure.


Thursday, July 19, 2007


After tonight's slugwatch shift, I'm on holiday for 2 weeks. Hooray! A week at home, during which the kiddos and I are booked on a SeaFari trip, followed by a week at the organic farm in Kirkcudbright. The SeaFari trip, weather permitting, will get us close up to see seal pups and moo-ing puffins on the islands in the Firth of Forth. The Kirkcudbright week, weather permitting, will allow us to bathe in the radioactive waters of the Solway Firth. I don't know which I'm anticipating more!

Radio Scotland today is reporting that there's been an upsurge in radioactive leaks from Sellafield, which are carried from the Cumbrian coast to the Galloway coast via the gulfstream. If we come back with two heads each, blame the IAEA who are all too concerned with nuclear activities in Iran and North Korea instead of here. Oh, and the earthquake in Japan yesterday that has caused it's largest nuclear power generator to emit high levels of radiation. Why is it, despite indefinite detention or house arrest of suspected terrorists that I don't feel safe yet?


Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Cerne Abbas

It was my dad who first took me to see the Cerne Abbas giant sometime in the '80s. Apparently pagans are appalled by the introduction of an advert for the Simpsons movie in the field alongside, daubed in biodegradable paint, wearing Y-fronts and wielding a doughnut in response to the giant's club.

While appreciating pagans' broad respect for nature and the turning of the year, I can't get too inflamed about the desecration. Firstly, the graffitists used a temporary medium to daub the field; secondly the Giant's 'ancient' (Iron Age) credentials are seriously suspect. The Giant isn't recorded before the 16th C and reports from the 1760's mention a navel now obscured by his flagrant and improbable erection. Thus the Giant may not be as ancient as assumed, and may have been Culture-Busted along the way.

This brings me back to the bathroom upgrade. Now that I'm serious about this, I'm asking around for recommended firms. My mum has disrecommended one local firm on the experience of her colleague, when the firm's apprentices drew a huge cock and balls on the bathroom wall during the renovation. It was later covered by tiles, but couldn't be misremembered by the colleague, who had two teenage daughters in the house. After bitter complaints she received a set of towels in compensation.


Saturday, July 14, 2007


It's DIY week here, and I'm travelling with a tape measure permanently in my pocket. The Big Wan galumphed his way to breaking the bathroom light today, by the extraordinary tactic of grabbing the light bulb to stop himself falling. Good one, Big Wan! Not only have I had to find a new light fitting but also a hefty torch to light the windowless bathroom. I've never rewired a light fitting before, but it's the better option over asking Peter Ballocks' help.

I'm also planning to commission trade work on the shower-room and toilet, currently housed in two small side-by-side cupboards off the hall. I want to knock these two together into an L-shaped room that can accommodate a small, deep Japanese bath with a shower, sliding screen and a step up in the space currently occupied by the shower, as well as a toilet and decent-sized handbasin. I can't knock walls down or plumb in the piping myself but I've sourced the sanitary ware (as they call it) and planned the layout.

A lovely day today with both kiddos and R. in the Botanics, daundering and taking photies of flowers and bumblebees. The showery weather deterred the bulk of visitors, so we had the summer border almost to ourselves. At the cafe I came across an old acquaintance who ten years ago was one of the Big Wan's adult girlfriends. Now Big Wan towers over her and she has a toddler and a 6-week babby - such a change! I'm very happy for her, and nostalgic for the mutual friends I've lost touch with.


Wednesday, July 11, 2007


Here's a bad photo of one of my overnight subjects, a Limax flavus. I am feeling quite sorry for my nocturnal companions, as the back step was recently power-blasted to remove the slippery moss and algae (their main food source) since these were becoming a health and safety hazard.

Worked overnight with a new colleague last week, who does not share my pleasure in invertebrates. When a couple of moths and a cranefly came inside to entertain with their suicidal attraction to light fittings, she flapped her hands in phobia. It's a moth, for Chrissake, not a bloodsucking bedbug! I fear that had she ventured outside, the slitherers and creepy crawlies would've sent her into decompensation. And she grew up on a farm!


Saturday, July 07, 2007


This is the local poppy garden two blocks from the flat. See how the poppies have ably jumped the garden wall and lodged themselves in tiny crevices outside? These sidewalk poppies are also seen some 20m down the road, attesting to a wind-blown method for broadcasting the tiny, flavourful seeds. Despite their hothouse looks, Papaverum are survivors and do well in impoverished chalky soils. Later in the season I intend to scavenge and keep a couple of seedpods for when I have a garden.

As a kid, my mum passed to me several hardbacks from Frank L. Baum's Oz series, and I remember that in the first there's the field of poppies that sedate and distract the travellers from reaching the Emerald City, which in turn is unmasked as all a big front anyway.


Friday, July 06, 2007


That well-known philanthropist Philip has blessed me with a tag: eight autobiographical factoids.

1. I can't ride a bike.

2. Have been rejected for a job at McDonald's.

3. Own a faint tear-shaped birthmark on my right cheek, which I like.

4. Have shagged one person half my age and another twice my age, though not at the same time.

5. Once broke a VCR by jamming the tape in upside-down to record on the 'other side'.

6. Have been arrested thrice, but not for anything pride-worthy.

7. Published paper in 'The Lancet'.

8. Once babysat the psilocybin farm in Terence McKenna's basement.

I in turn nominate Hotboy (currently blogging incognito), Rob, Lee Ann, Many Angry Gerbils and Smash.


Tuesday, July 03, 2007


Even after practising for the last month or so, going full-time does take it out of you. Yesterday was time-in-lieu 'off work', but that was just catching up on the things that work has prevented me doing, like house-maintenance errands and (far worse) dealing with the benefit agencies.

After filling out new claim forms belatedly and thus reading through the last 3 months' bank statements, I've realised that since the last round of benefit changes (April, when part-time commenced), my child benefit hasn't been paid. Also, I haven't received the mortgage relief benefit that was supposed to run-on for 8 or 12 weeks thereafter (hence the mortgage arrears drama). Also, my working- and child tax-credit (not to be confused with child benefit- a totally different agency) vary wildly by factors of 400% from fortnight to fortnight, with no known rationale.

A phone call to the Child Benefit Agency yesterday illustrated that making changes to any claim is a jeopardous undertaking, not to be undertaken lightly. I transferred the wee wan's child benefit to her dad in April by phone and letter, to reflect our equal care of the two kiddos. The Child Benefit Agency kindly wrote to me to acknowledge that henceforth I'd be receiving child benefit just for the Big Wan. They cancelled the old two-kiddo payment to me, but failed to institute the new one-kiddo payments. The pleasant bloke in Newcastle tells me that I'm right and that payments have gone erroneously unpaid. "It's all sorted now", he says, but why should I trust anything that's said over the phone, the now statutory method of contact with all the Agencies?

Another day of time-in-lieu is due soon; to clear up the old problems from starting at 20 hrs/wk in April, as well as the new ones from going to 40 hrs/wk. Currently I'm staring at an entirely opaque Child Tax Credit form from the Inland Revenue, requiring me to list the benefits received over the last 9 months that I haven't yet understood, named or even received. The best thing about this is that soon I'll be almost benefit free, and thus emancipated from most agencies except Inland Revenue. Arbeit Macht Frei.


Monday, July 02, 2007

Lost Chord

Terry Hall, still devastatingly understated. Jewish, you know.
via youtube:

Iggy and the Stooges. Another Jew.

Chemicals. ?Judaic.


Sunday, July 01, 2007


The War Against Terror reaches Scotland! No more is it those crusty hippies at Faslane who are the main fear, for now we have Islamofascistnazis. The Turr Threat is suddenly at Critical Level (i.e. expect more). It's most enjoyable that MI5 use hindsight to adjust their future expectations. We expect better from our Oxbridge intelligence toffs- really.

This is personal, because R. arrived back from Seville yesterday at 3.30 pm, and was dramatically evacuated from Glasgow Airport. The Boys had driven from Edinburgh to collect her, and they eventually found her 2 miles down the road. She would have had to walk this distance with Little Blue suitcase and swollen feet from a week of flamenco. Doubtless she will be hopelessly traumatised when we meet later.

Why are those turrists so useless? The only person hurt in yesterday's ramraid was one of the drivers. Were I a terrorist, I would've picked Prestwick, a stop-off for CIA rendition flights. What will Gordie Broon do noo? This is his first, well-timed challenge on policy and response and may give us some idea of the measure of the man.