Unreliable and possibly off-topic


Saturday, June 27, 2009

Glastonbury phone calls

Had two missed calls from a Glastonbury code this week.

My colleague L. thought it was Jarvis Cocker calling from the festival to ask me to marry him, but it's a stonemason I contacted last week trying again to commission dad's gravestone.

I live in hope.


Wednesday, June 24, 2009

I didn’t know it, but a million midgies exsanguinated me last weekend, only now starting to itch less. I think I got the worst of these on our side-trip along the banks of Loch Voil to Balquidder on Saturday evening to see the kirk with yews (burial place of Rob Roy and his family). We were turned away for a meal at the end of this track, but stopped off along the banks to find the now obvious crannogs at every turn, bee orchids, unusual ferns amongst the birch woods.

After my trashing by white wine and pool on Saturday night, we took a more modest breakfast Sunday morn, then took off again over the Duke's Pass for our early appointment on the Loch Katrine ferry from Trossachs pier to Stronachlachar and back. Despite the forecast for storms, Loch Katrine was a mirror, ripple-free, all the way out to Stronachlachar, providing the most aesthetically beautifully optical illusions. The captain's commentary, lifted from his guidebook (R. buys every guide going, with educational benefits), was idiosyncratic, of the purple school of prose, and uplifting in the best possible way.

We're the bad girls at the back of the bus, reading out purple paragraphs from the guidebook whilst astounded at the scenery, and corpsing to hear the cap'n's abrupt pronouncements over the tannoy. Unless I'm a Dutch uncle, the Factor's Isle at Stronachlachar was originally a crannog, about which they promote a story about Rob Roy (the Scottish Robin Hood) holding there a landlord for ransom.

The tourism agency has decided that Rob Roy is the hook for the Murrcan tourists, and if I heard one more word about him I would puke. He's grown a Walter Scott spin (much like Mel Gibson's Braveheart) I can do without. Gimme a crannog anyday.

But on Saturday, I'd forced R. to stop at the Rob Roy Motel between Callendar and Aberfoyle, to view their much-boasted New Tartan Room. They were holding a wedding function that night so we couldn't decently intrude more than to peer in the windows to behold its true plastic tartan glory before being (rightly) chased off.

After our cruise, we had to pass back to Aberfoyle to drop off the forgotten keys for our room at the Inn, then on to the Lake of Menteith. The heavens opened on that run, forcing us to enjoy a simple and delicious lunch at the Hotel by the shores, and more old yews guarding the kirkyard.

It being a high season weekend, we had to wait at the quayside for our motorboat to make its return journey from Inchmaholme, allowing time to PeepTom a flycatcher (with splendid yellow waistcoat) along with the always entertaining dance of the pied wagtails. Pumped up on one glass of prosecco, we were so indelicate as to cheer for being the last 2 admitted on that boat-capacity: most un-Edinburgh. Then disgraced ourselves further by cheering and punching the air again when Historic Scotland's sailor guide informed us his cursive route from the pier to the island was due to a submerged…crannog!

We were beginning to hit heavy weather on the run home that evening, but I'll never regret the sidetrip R. encouraged to The Pineapple at Dunmore- a feat of folly architecture seldom rivalled.

Thank fuck R. (used to tropical storms) was driving as the monsoon hit on the homeward motorway. Without her fortitude and commonsense, we'd be in a ditch now. Or are we there already? In the gutter, looking at the stars.


Monday, June 15, 2009

Freedom of the road

What a fantastic weekend away with my dear friend R. in the Trossachs! The gods smiled on us, for the predicted heavy rain didn't hit until our return journey, by which time we'd had so much fun nothing could dampen our mood.

One of the reasons R. wanted me to take the new job was so I can afford to have roadtrips with her again. What times we've had! Our last roadtrip was two Eurovisions ago in Alnwick, when we scandalised the B&B owner and were asked in all seriousness 'Are you local?' when requesting a table at a cafe. Then there was the blissful roadtrip in Majorca picking marguerites, sunbathing on an empty beach, eating sardines by the sea. And before that the Gairloch trip when I picked up a 17 19 year old and kept poor R. in the next room awake half the night... We have had wonderful times together, and this was no exception.

As registered nerds, we wanna do the historical and nature-type things as well as (at least on my part) getting hammered. And so it came to pass...

We stayed at the Forth Inn in Aberfoyle, whose staff cannot be praised highly enough. They were so friendly, welcoming and warm, which made up for our tiny room. I suppose we might make a striking couple, as we're visually loud and audibly so too once we reach our stride. The dining room fell silent (cf Wicker Man) when we entered making us feel like the only gays in the village. And we're not even gay! Really!

We stayed late in the bar, then walked by the river Forth, and I later sat smoking cannybliss and reading on the balcony after R. had turned in. Thankfully, I didn't obey my impulse to squat the large and empty room off the balcony, for it was occupied later. Two people tried to lock me out on the balcony but I persuaded them I was both legitimate and quiet. Meanwhile the whole pub turfed out at 1.30 am into the car park directly opposite the polis station, and I picked up quite a lot of local colour from the conversations wafting up to the balcony.

R. and I studied the map in the bar that night to decide our itinerary, and were so fired up at the thought of the Crannog Centre that we decided to alter plans to drive up to Kenmore the next day. After a massive fish breakfast, we drove over Duke's Pass, stopping to admire orchids, cottongrass and lochans, before swapping our tickets for the Loch Katrine cruise to the next day. We're driving along some of the most beautiful and dramatic countryside known to man, playing loud music and screaming with laughter, as is our roadtrip wont, letting the 4x4's with not time to smell the roses overtake us. It shone solidly whenever we wanted to stop for a walk, and we both caught a touch of the sun.

We turned up a one-track road to Fortingall, because R. wanted to see the oldest yew in Europe in the churchyard there. What a treat! What a serendipity! This is a very strange and quite beautiful 'model village' built by a Glasgow magnate in the early 20th century near a cluster of standing stones and cairns. The cottage gardens are type-specimens, and the kirk quite stunning in a simple and clean way. It houses some Pictish/Celtic artefacts from the early Christian era and before, as well as the Yew which is reckoned to be 5000 years old.

We both 'felt' it to be an old pagan place even before knowing of its ancient past, and the hairs on the back of our necks were standing up. We counted 5 species of bumblebees grazing the cotoneaster in the kirkyard and even honeybees (in these days of Colony Collapse Syndrome). The quite wonderful historical leaflet for sale through an honesty box in the kirk alerted us to the triad of standing stone clusters in a local field. We tramped through hip-high meadow to these, where I found an unfamiliar slug in residence on the biggest stone, R. found a huge clump of four-leaved clovers, and we communed with the ancestors.

Climbing back over the gate, we found a thread-wrapped dreadlock which some fellow-traveller had left as a remembrance of their communion too, then returned to find our car blocked in by extremely courteous and pretty hot bikers.

On to the Crannog Centre on Kenmore (Loch Tay), where our charming (and totally hot) guide allowed us to ask challenging archaeological questions about these strange and mysterious structures, then made fire for us using a bow, a hazel branch and a pinewood lath. I can't recommend this educational centre enough. We learned that 9 out of 10 'islands' on Scottish lochs are crannogs (circular lodges built on stilts on water, with a causeway to the land), and made it our business to search for crannogs on every loch we passed thereafter. And boy, did we find them thereafter!

We had to make another detour to Fortingall/Glen of Lyon to seek the other standing stones and cairns we'd missed earlier. I made a spectacular misdiagnosis that a farm-dumped pudding stone with an steel shaft was a 'killed' stone before we found the real McCoy. We came across even more varieties of Bombus (bumblebees) on the deaf nettles there, and a stripey slug which I've yet to identify. The kine in the field did not break our arms, and the ewes and lambs gambolled and bleated.

We had a really shitty meal in Callander that evening, at the 'Ben Ladi Cafe', and it didn't stop our fun for a minute. Then back to the Forth Inn at Aberfoyle, where I got trashed at pool, trashed on white wine and administered some counselling to a really nice guy just a few months into separating from his wife of 16 years, before resorting to the balcony for cannybliss again, listening to the swifts'(genus Apus) chirpings and watching their swoops and dives.

That's enough for one day.


Wednesday, June 10, 2009


This blog isnae Facebook, so will the old or new bosses find me here? I dunno! If they can, there's not too much here I'm ashamed of, since I reserve slagging forums for politicians.

What a interesting day I had today.

I requested my resignation be sent upstairs before today, when psycho Big Boss held his clinic here, so I could get over the inevitable fall-out and the organisation could be appraised. I've nothing to feel guilty about- done nothing but work my arse off for the last year for a pitiful salary.

So he strides in this morning and states (as if this is news), "It's a free country- anyone can leave". Stating the obvious- this is not an earned privilege by indentured slaves, but enshrined in Human Rights legislation. It's not a sign of his generosity.

Then, as anticipated, he starts with the headfuck and tells me my new bosses have 'internal turmoil' and that 'they work their staff really hard'. What- more hard than working all last weekend, and being on-call 24/7 for 2 years? At least the new bosses will pay me 7k more even for the same conditions.

He invites me to speak to former colleagues, with whom I'm not in touch, to corroborate his views. At least one of these is a fucking nut whose advice I wouldn't take as a gift. I don't know if she was nuts before he turned her so, or only after.

Then he starts turning through the textbooks on the bookshelves, requiring me to say which are his and which mine. Where's this one, or that? Um, they're mostly institution possessions, and they're all there. Is he accusing me of stealing?

He exits. Storms back into the room an hour later asking the whereabouts of a particular artwork. His description doesn't ring any bells in my mind, nor my colleague's, so he has to accept it hasn't been around since before my employment.

Then I pick up an email sent to the wee boss from Big Boss last week- a report from a 'patient' who underwent a day and a night of studies in late April. The footer on her detailed report states 'commissioned by [Big Boss]'.

This 'patient' curiously arrived hours early, had unusual requests for individual requirements, and had unusually normal outcomes from her studies. Her report mentioned that she'd also underwent studies at a sister centre, and a competitor centre. How very curious!

So Big Boss who can't pay a living wage can afford to send a Management Consultant as a pseudo-patients to test his staff and facilities.

So here's a representative extract from the report:
"I believe in giving credit where credit is due. The staff were fantastic (her bold italics)....This is so rare in the medical profession- even in private practice- it was a breath of fresh air. There was professionalism amongst the staff which would inspire confidence in any patient."

She then includes 2 pages of comments about the cheapo, decaying shower facilities and IKEA furniture in the bedrooms. These I and my colleagues have kvetched about for 2 years, but which Big Boss has been too cheap to redress.

Tonight I emailed to colleagues my official resignation (just regrets at losing their camaraderie and positive wishes to them, collectively and individually), then found that my work email is a blocked address to my London colleagues!

Hell mend him.


Tuesday, June 09, 2009


It's just as well I haven't yet taken British subjecthood, since compatriots voted in 2 BNP candidates as Euro MPs. Really, if I was British I'd have to hang my head in shame. This on the same day that Spain awarded citizenship to 7 freedom fighters who fought alongside the Republicans in the Spanish Civil War. Some of us still remember about fascism.

But it was good and heart-warming that Nick Griffith got egged today outside Parliament and had to run crying to his car. If he spoke locally, I'd be hard-pressed not to do the same or worse to him. He's a right to free speech, but I'd like to see him manage that through a pounding of rotten veg in the stocks.


Sunday, June 07, 2009


I resigned from the jobbie on Thurs in an email addressed to the wee boss, acknowledged today. The wee boss has capacity for fellow-feeling even though everything is about him, so understood in a twisted way.

Also grasped the nettle that (against my cowardice) the Big Boss should be informed before his monthly clinic next Weds. Almost certainly, Big Boss will harrass, intimidate, bully and wheedle in turn. It won't be pleasant or dignified. But if I'd taken the coward's way and delayed informing him, he'd not have the extra notice (a personal courtesy) which I made it my business to extend. You stand by your decision and take yer lumps. He won't get physically aggressive, so how bad can it be? Couldn't possibly be more uncomfortable than that time he tried to shag me. It's all relative.


Tuesday, June 02, 2009


The offer and the contract came through this week, and suddenly now there's a need for retroactive references and Security Disclosures and Occupational Health forms to be completed.

I wish they'd asked these sooner, but if retrospective maybe these'll have less precedence if the wee boss decides to big himself up by putting me down, or I happen to have a soon-to-be-expired minor conviction, or an ancient history of mental meltdown. At my age few people won't have some of this history if they're honest, or of the capability, intelligence but stupidity to have been pushed past normal limits. Badges of honour.

Specifically, I've always taken responsibility for the stupid choices I've made and chosen not to abrogate responsibility when I've fouled up. I coulda said 'bad boys made me do it', but never taken that option when I'm smart enough to know when I've been dumb. Cop-outs are for thickies, but the smart kids remember and learn from their mistakes. I'm not smart yet, but I do try to get smarter. I hope I'll be smart by the time I retire.