Because it Turns Out…

July 29, 2009

… there is some culture up here after all. Word Power’s Edinburgh Book Fringe, to be precise. Where, if you squint carefully, you will notice this. I will be appearing alongside Thomas Legendre who will be reading from his novel, The Burning, a thriller set in the rarefied world of academic economists. Sounds unlikely – but then you never thought you’d read a thriller all about birdwatching, either, did you?

Anyway, be there or be, er, somewhere else, obviously.

Making My Day

July 28, 2009

‘There’s a cool bike!’ cried the young man as I rode past him in Bigtown this afternoon. Clearly a lad of real taste and discernment, I thought, despite his being only six years old. Or maybe because?

Oh well. I take my compliments where I can get them, these days. And, besides, he was right; it is a cool bike.

Because the Other Half has a Better Camera than me…

July 27, 2009

…not to mention more patience, more skill …


Originally uploaded by paul_m

Remember This?

July 25, 2009
The plot when I took it over in January

The plot when I took it over in January

It now looks like this:

How it looks now

How it looks now

And here’s a quick overview of how it got there…

More Cultural Envy

July 24, 2009

Hmmm. I suppose I should be concentrating on enjoying the wildlife and the scenery and all that, but I can’t help noticing that while Diamond Geezer is pointing out 10 out of 211 of the most interesting events for the London 2012 open weekend – including these two that I’d really like to go to (the latter says children must be accompanied by an adult, but do you think adults would be allowed in without a child?) – there’s a massive four in the whole of Scotland, and call me a cynic, but I suspect the European Pipe Band championship would have happened anyway.

Meanwhile, the exciting highlight of my day was the passage of the big yellow road-mending machine – I think it may be one of these. I actually put my shoes on and went outside to have a look when it went past, and it wasn’t just me – all the sheep and the horse in the next field had come over to see as well. This has allegedly mended our road, or rather, it has dumped a load or tar and grit into the worst potholes, which should do us until it next rains, in about, ooh, three hours. It’s quite cool, though, in the way big yellow machines always are, and I suppose in the right cultural context it could almost count as art. In London, that is.

*I know it’s promoting the London Olympics, but there are supposed to be events across the UK

Ask and it Shall be Given

July 23, 2009

There are worse problems, I suppose, but we’re having difficulty keeping our peanut feeder filled these days. And for once, the problem is not squirrels (besides, if it was it would be red squirrels which are allowed to raid the feeder because they’re so damn cute), but woodpeckers. All winter and spring we’ve had a pair of great spotted woodpeckers, male and female, using it regularly, and now they’ve taught junior how to use it as well.

And that appears to be all they’ve taught him. For why would you go around risking a migraine to extract a few grubs by banging your head against a tree when there’s a nice peanut feeder to use instead? The problem is, three woodpeckers working in shifts make pretty short work of an average feeder-full of peanuts. So junior spent all of yesterday learning the hard way that you can’t get peanuts out of an empty peanut feeder, and this morning he was just hanging forlornly off the bottom of it, waiting for the Peanut God to come and fill it up again.

Which of course the Peanut God, aka the other half, duly did. We’re suckers, I know. But come on, too many woodpeckers on your feeder – that’s definitely a nice problem to have…

(Picture to follow if I ever get close enough without it flying off.)

More Funny Money

July 22, 2009

I know I should – and I know lots of you will be writing in to take it off my hands – but I still can’t take Scottish money seriously. There was a £20 note sitting around on our table for about three days the other week because even though I knew intellectually that it was money, it just didn’t look real enough to bother picking up*. And I had to stare long and hard at the funny looking pieces of paper I found in my jeans pocket the other day before I remembered that I’d taken twenty quid out of a Glasgow cash machine a couple of nights before, on an evening when I was reliving my student days and substituing beer (well, Guinness, a meal in itself) for food.

The problem is, it’s not just that there are Scottish notes to get used to, it’s more complicated than that: every bank in Scotland issues its own. So while I’ve more or less got used to the Bank of Scotland and Royal Bank of Scotland ones, these were Clydesdale bank ones, and boy do they look strange. I’d take a photo and post it, but it’s probably illegal.

Everyone up here has a story of ignorant English shops refusing to take their fine Caledonian banknotes. But when you’ve got a note like the Clydesdale tenner, with no sign of Brenda and what appears to be a map of somewhere in Africa on the back (part of Scotland’s extensive empire, no doubt) you can hardly blame them for looking askance at it. Zimbabwe has produced more convincing looking banknotes

My top tip: if the Scots really want to tick the English off – and I’m sure they do – they should stop messing around printing their own, and adopt the Euro. Because that would really put the cat among the pigeons.

*Fortunately, the other half is made of sterner stuff, being a recovering accountant.

Unintelligent Design

July 21, 2009

It takes a lot of effort, if you’re a very small rabbit on a wide(ish) and open road, to get run over by a bicycle, but the one I met the other day almost succeeded. Only my managing to second-guess its wild jinking straight into my path meant it didn’t end up squashed alongside its three or four more determined friends on the road.

You’d think that a century of carnage on our roads, combined with the legendary breeding turnover of a pair of rabbits, would have led to the evolution of a brighter bunny. You would be wrong. Explain that one, Mr. Darwin…

Plinth of Darkness

July 20, 2009

There are times when I do miss London, and this is one of them – not just because of the weather, but because I would like to be down in Trafalgar Square watching this. I’ve been dipping in on the web feed rather too often as it is (although I always seem to catch the point where one plinther finishes and another one starts so it’s a lot of people rummaging around in bags and announcing to the waiting world that they’ve forgotten some vital prop). Some of it’s boring, some of it’s fascinating, some of it is plain bizarre (man dressed as godzilla playing swingball, anyone?) and if Antony Gormley wanted to reinforce the stereotype of the British as a nation of eccentrics he has done so in spades. (There’s a woman in a pinny cleaning it now). For me, the best turns have been the ones where people have something to say, and have thought of an interesting way to say it; the least involving ones have been the ones who just text their friends (‘I’m on the plinth! It’s rubbish!) and the chap who was writing a book. Believe me, I already know how tedious that one can be…

Last night I watched almost the entire hour of this chap, who was blowing up balloons to illustrate greenhouse emissions per head as the sun rose over the square. What made it fascinating was not so much the ideaor the execution but the random passer-by – back from a night out with his takeaway in his hand – who stopped to ask what was going on. After a quick briefing from the (very knowledgeable) plinther – the whole subject seemed to have escaped him up to then – he was up to speed with tipping points, positive feedback loops, carbon budgets and the like, and he stayed until the end, his takeaway forgotten in his hand. At one point, I caught the following exchange:

Random Passer By: So what can I do about it?

Chap on Plinth: There’s not much you can do as an individual. You need to lobby your politicians to act

RPB: It’s up to the politicians to save us?

COP: Yes

RPB: I’m drunk, and it’s four in the morning, but even I can see that’s not going to end well…

You can catch up with this, and all the others here. Be warned, though – it can be strangely addictive.

How do they KNOW?

July 19, 2009

7:15 Wake up. Brilliant sunshine

7:15 – 8:30 Coffee, breakfast, shower. Still brilliant sunshine.

8:45 Sky a pure, cerulean blue. Rashly put on shorts

8:46 First hazy cloud appears.

9:00 Load washing machine with bedlinen

Sun goes in

9:59 Washing machine finishes. Venture out onto front step with coffee and Review section of paper to enjoy return of sunshine and work on farmer’s tan while sheets spin

10:00 First rain falls.

It’s the precision of it that gets me…