Unreliable and possibly off-topic


Saturday, October 10, 2009

Toilet stories

Rob requests toilet stories, and so shall he receive:

1. The Cairnpapple toilet story (history student etc. was a tale of jobbiness in more ways than one. R. was bursting as we arrived, but delayed her relief with my promise of the chemical toilet in the back area of the information Nissen Hut. She's a proper lady, you know, and prefers to pee in sanitary conditions, unlike some.

Anyways, on arrival at the Nissen Hut we're keen to pay up admission at the Nissen Hut, not least to gain access to the saniloo. A sweet-faced young graduate is warden, but (crucially) receiving a visit/ inspection from his Big Boss as we arrive. We stump up admission, buy a guidebook (!) and then request use of the facilities.

The Warden's eyes dart first between R. and Big Boss, then upward to his right visual field as he remembers the H&S lectures, and states carefully that there are no toilet facilities available to the public. R. says she needs to use a loo, and asks what he suggests- peeing outside behind the Hut? Warden says he can't recommend this option either, but has no alternative suggestions.

Thankfully at this point the Big Boss interceded to say that in the circumstances R. could be permitted to use the staff loo, to everyone (especially R's) relief.

When we came back to the Hut after the tour, full of beans and questions, Big Boss had left and the Warden was full of apologies about the earlier exchange. A student of modern US History and a wee charmer, his history expertise was only 4,000 years out.

2. This story is not mine to tell, but:

A friend, while travelling recently in Italy, took lunch at a railway hotel during a stop in her train journey. After some initial friction with the maitre d' over table size and water ordered, my friend had enjoyed her meal. The maitre d' then made up these misunderstandings with her, and then whispered in her ear that maybe they could meet in the toilets....?

Italian is not her best European language, and I suspect it took some time before she properly apprehended the true humanitarian nature of his offer. As she paid and left, maitre' was still signalling upstairs with head gestures, so there was no dubiety to his intent.

As I texted at the time, clearly this gentleman's kind proposition proved he was one of the world's last great romantics, and I can't believe that she managed to turn down this once in a lifetime opportunity for a toilet assignation, since apparently he was 'no' bad'.


Thursday, October 08, 2009

For me:

For Big Wan:

For wee Wan:


Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Botanical cases

Life is and should be all about learning. Several query-exercises were set during the Lago Maggiore visit, and I set out here some research from a subset of these.

1. Capt Neil McEarcharn- the founder of Villa Taranto Gardens, who (naturally) did not work alone and whose chief factotums (aside from innominate Italiano labourers) were a Mr Crocker from Galloway and later Antonio Cappelletto, this latter (and his heirs) commemorated along with Capt. McEacharn in the memorial chapel, with its vivid and naturalistic floral stained glass windows. Capt. McEacharn appears to have been a lower son of landed Scottish aristocracy, bypassed through primogeniture. But either he or his retainers had extremely good botanical sensibilities.

2. Dahlias- Villa Taranto's garden is set out in a serpentine meander with ~200 hybrids in full blooming splendour in Sept. Their woody stems and leaf conformation have some affinity with chrysanthemums, but don't know if this is epiphenomenal or genuine consanguinity. According to wikipedia, "The great variety results from dahlias being octoploids (they have eight sets of homologous chromosomes, whereas most plants have only two)." Fantastico!

3. Pronunciation of plant names: Dahlias (named after a Swedish Mr Dahl) are often pronounced as Day-lia, as I believed to be correct before researching the etymology. But then Camellias (also prominent at Villa Taranto) are usually pronounced as Kam-eel-ia. Neither pronunciations can now be accepted (in my new nomenclature) except as vulgarisations.

4. Pollinators- Amongst the insects glorying in the Dahlias was a wierd fat-bodied type, about 2cm long, with a hugely long proboscis (as long as its body), a wing-beat so fast the wings couldn't be seen, and a hovering and darting habit as it moved between dahlia blooms. We swithered whether this could be a tiny hummingbird, but after research I now know it to be a hawkmoth (Sphingidae).

5. Dragonflies- The massive, iridescent, reptilian dragonflies patrolling the lily and lotus ponds were beautiful, mechanical and robotic. She was not, as imagined, attracted to our floral clothing, but looking for nymphae prey or patrolling her territory. After research, I believe our Anisoptera (possibly inspiration for DaVinci's helicopter engine) was a female Aeshnidae, most probably Aeshna cyanea or possibly imperator.


Lago Maggiore

No photos for this blog, because my phone camera died last month in a rainstorm up Cairnpapple Hill, after which R. and I schmoozed the history student for toilet priviliges after a long drive. That's another story...

Last week I spent a few days in Ascona at the north end of Lake Maggiore (Swiss side) blagging along on R.'s attendance at a conference at Monte Verita. Monte Verita was a famous Bauhaus hotel/ artist colony in the 1930s, but now a state-owned conference venue. My welcome was far from its anarchist roots. After travelling for 14 hrs, I arrived to hear that "R. is not staying here and she is in a single room" and basically could I kindly fuck off and die.

But I didn't, instead phoning and finding R. in an eccentric hotel down the hill with a weird juxtaposition of formal German furniture, crucified Jesuses, Heironymus Bosch prints, crude and unattractive 70s ceramic nudes scuptures, taxidermic jays in an outside birdhouse, a stuffed egret inside and crude rainbow-coloured LSD-influenced 1970s paintings-as-therapy on many walls. We achieved enormous amusement that one such in the reception atrium featured a spider with 6 legs (!). I dared R. to ask more about the artist from the receptionist, who started laughing too behind her Swiss veneer, and imparted that the artists was a female relative of the owner.

Such idiosyncrasy was a real pleasure. So R. and I hung out when she wasn't on conference duty, learned the buses, checked out the porto, the local cemetery and the botanic garden on the larger Isola Brissola (fantastico!).

R. paid ridiculous money to hire a car on the Weds so we could together see the gardens at Villa Taranto (Italiano side). She saw these at 9 yrs old, and had wanted to revisit ever since. This garden started by a Capt Neil McEarcharn from Galloway. God knows what evil gave him the money to institute this garden, but it's a piece of heaven on earth with trees and shrubs from 4 continents. R. and I spent 5 hrs there daundering, amazing at the Dahlia garden, the hawk moths and dragonflies, smelling the shrubs, getting prickled by the Nymphaceae blooms and arguing over genus names- close to heaven by our norms. On the way back R. had the unenviable task of driving the narrow Lago road back to Switzerland with crayzee Italian drivers comin' at us at every bend, then up the mountainside to an osteria for a relatively cheap but fantastically flavourful meal over the waterfalls at Santa Ana above Cannebio. I wish I had photos and audio to impart...