Monday, December 20, 2004

a meme (sorry)

blame Ros for this:

"book meme" instructions:
1. Grab the nearest book.
2. Open the book to page 123.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the text of the sentence in your journal along with these instructions.
5. Don't search around and look for the "coolest" book you can find. Do what's actually next to you.

As you can imagine, working in a library makes this almost irresistable! ...not to mention rather tricky. The closest books are actually dictionaries (these live on little narrow shelves behind my desk where they can be protected from marauding language students,) I discounted them because they don't really have many sentences in as such (I looked in the big Collins Spanish which is the actual nearest book to where I sit, but there are mostly just words and disjointed phrases in it which don't work for the purposes of the meme)

Instead I carefully paced out the distance from my desk to the next nearest shelves - it's a close run thing but 940 "European History" is marginally closer than the other nearby shelves

Nearest book in the 940 shelves (going by the height I'm at when seated at my desk) is the Vainglorious War: Barker, A.J. (940.2 BAR) and the fifth sentence on p.123 is:

"In their hurry to get back to Sebastapol the Russians had not demolished the bridges over the river or attempted any of their usual scorched earth routine"

There now, wasn't that worthwhile?


Why yes, I have finished work for the day! how did you guess? ;) I'm finished for the year in fact as of five minutes ago, and now I'm off to brave the horrors of Princes Street in search of the remaining presents I have to buy - if I never return it's been nice knowing you all.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

better late than never

I've updated my amazon wishlist - unfortunately I can't seem to do a direct link, so if you want to see it you'll have to go to, click wishlist and then enter my name in the search box.

appologies to the people who've been asking me for months what I want for xmas and getting "I'll get back to you" as a response - since the wishlist has lots and lots of stuff I want, consider yourselves got back to and since it's taken me so long it's worth mentioning that I actually quite like late presents


[updated 20/12/04 - thanks to Liz for spotting the link problem]

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Friday, December 03, 2004

'tis the season not yet!

it's not time for anything seasonal yet. No it isn't. No I'm not goingt to use that word* for at least another two weeks. And no, this doesn't have anything to do with me only having done a tiny fraction of the dreaded shopping...

... however due to circumstances beyond my control I have to go and do seasonal-ish things this evening with friends, circumstances being that one of them is inconsideratly going to Canada tomorrow. So I've been looking for things to make me resent the early onset of things which shouldn't be for another fortnight and happily I found this. It made me less cranky about it all so I thought I'd share.

* Incidentally when I do mention it I'm more likely to use this word on account of not really feeling that religion has anything to do with the holidays. Not because I'm a lazy typist, no no.

Thursday, December 02, 2004


hee. look at me, I'm a motoring journalist

OK so that's an exageration - I was scanning that site on an idle impulse yesterday and decided to write them a review of my one true love car since the only other owner review of the Bravo was a pretty half-hearted attempt... for reasons best known to the editors they axed my paragraphs on performance and value - the former probably because I raved like the love-struck loony I am when it comes to that aspect of my car, the latter probably because it just wasn't very interesting (shut up Hamish: some people do find car stuff interesting... though maybe not when it comes to the money side)

Now I'm looking at it, it could maybe have used a little polish before posting (much like my blog entries really,) but all in all I'm happy to have put my tuppeneth on this subject 'out there' somewhere people who want to know might actually read it. Might go some way toward redressing the ballance, given the unjustified bad press that FIATs still get...

Thursday, November 18, 2004

rant: on smoking

This is really a response to a comment on one of my earlier posts, but my cheapo haloscan comments engine doesn't do notifications so if I posted this as a comment in response, there's no guarantee it'd ever be read. Why does that matter? well it doesn't really but for one thing this is my website and so it's all about what I think... besides someone who I love as a dear friend and respect for his intellect said a really staggeringly dumb thing in response to my elation at Scotland's imminent public smoking ban* and I feel the need to respond.

In one of the most blatant displays of self-delusional rationalisation I've seen (even from a smoker!) Pete complained that this ban was "veering towards the prurient" because it wasn't matched with "providing real, practical help for any smoker who wished to quit"

Do you mean stuff like this Pete?

I could go on linking to any of the hundreds of companies, charities and government agencies whose primary purpose is to provide support to smokers who want to quit, but you get the point: There's simply no excuse for not quitting, and certainly not this excuse! There's bags of support available, especially here in Scotland where smoking is frighteningly prevalent and where the damage it causes is particularly well documented.

As you might have gathered Pete's comment riled me a little bit** and that got me thinking: what exactly about it bothered me? The answer's simple: I'm sick and tired of hearing smokers rationalising an objection to the ban, particularly when it takes this form (though don't get me started on the "it's my right..." bunch!)

If you smoke. the only thing stopping you from quitting is that you don't want to. It's that simple. I appreciate that it's an addiction but help is available. Lots of help, you just have to make the difficult decision to stop doing something you really enjoy because it's killing you and those around you. If that isn't incentive enough (and for some it evidently isn't) then making it illegal for you to smoke in places where it will harm others is both a necessary public safety measure and an added incentive to quit.

If you're addicted to something and it's harmful, it shouldn't be socially acceptable to indulge that addiction in public. Smoking is the exception to this rule. If the consequences of you indulging your addictionin public include harming others it should be illegal. Smoking is the only clear exception to this rule too. Stopping people from causing harm to those around them is a matter for legislation pure and simple, It's what law is for it its most basic form. The smoking ban is a long overdue law and there's simply no argument (least of all this one) against it.

so there.


*happily since I posted, the English government has begun making noises that it'll follow suit with a similar, but less wide ranging ban

**which is and always has been one of the things I love about him - his capacity for making me think. Thanks Pete.

Monday, November 15, 2004

shameless plug

My Mum's selling her old MP3 player - if you or anyone you know might be interested it's over here

what! it's my website, I can pimp second hand electronics on it if I want to :p

Thursday, November 04, 2004


All hail king Post-It!


especially now that I'm actually expected to work at work (not right now: it's lunchtime) these little marvels of stationery save my neck on a daily basis and what's more, they're yellow! I love 'em and they're taken for granted far too often.

*why is it that a Google Image Search for something as mundane as a Post-It throws up nothing but garbage, I can scribble off a passable little gif of one in 30 seconds and I still can't get a job based on my design skills... bah.

Friday, October 22, 2004

'bervie pics!

First things first: welcome to anyone linking in from Liz's LiveJournal or HameBlog.

Here is the photo album of Liz's, Karen's, Hamish's and my adventures in Sutherland last weekend. Just click on the first image in the set to get started (or by all means scroll through the four index pages if there's a specific pic you want to see.)

Be warned: the album's pretty big - not for the faint hearted, or those of you with dialup internet unless you're very patient - we took well over 300 photographs between us and even after weeding those down the resulting album still has 165 images in it! Some of those are merged panoramas which (unless you have a HUGE monitor) you'll need to scroll left and right to see all of.

Please feel free to leave comments about the album here - hope you enjoy it!


oh and appologies for the slightly rough-and-ready merges, and the occasional error in the captions.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004


On Friday night three friends and I crossed the country going North West. We went almost all the way to the top left corner of Scotland. Cape Wrath (the actual top left corner) is inside a military bombing range and impossible to get to at this time of year, but the little town of Kinlochbervie is within walking distance of the Cape and has a comfy and affordable hotel in it. That's where we went.

The three friends were Liz, Hamish and Karen - Liz and Hamish have also blogged about it, Karen hasn't because she's still resisting using her blog for anything much - three view points on one weekend is probably more than enough anyway...

I spent most of my childhood summers in that part of the world, and I've been back since but never with friends before... whenever I've been back by as an adult in the past, solitude has seemed to resonate perfectly with Sutherland's bleakly beautiful landscape. It turns out though that company harmonises just as well with the otherworldlyness of that part of the world.

We spent our days meandering along the twisty single track roads together, mostly aimlessly if I'm honest. We did have a couple of vague goals, but since Liz and I both love driving, and the entire area is so utterly Other, going anywhere and everywhere was aim enough most of the time. Sometimes we went to white beaches where the ocean boiled over black rocks, sometimes we'd just stop to walk on the rolling red heath we were passing through, we walked around a mostly deserted M.O.D installation which was built as a radar station but never commissioned, poking about what remains of the hippie-ish craft village that's been housed in its blunt little buildings for the past 40 years or so. Once we visited a cave where a river disappears into the ground in a thundering torrent of white foam and brassy peat-stained water... all of it was breathtaking which makes it seem strange that we never stopped talking.

My friends are exceptionally smart, funny and engaging people, and I'm discovering that road-trips with them are really really fun. evenings we mostly stayed in the hotel curled up in the warm comfy lounge after our ridiculously big meals, chatting about everything and anything. On the Sunday evening the cloud cover lifted so Liz (who'd kindly abstained from drinking) drove the rest of us a couple of miles up the road to my favorite place in the known universe: a beach called Oldshoremore.

The idea came about from a dinner Hamish had been to months ago, (read his blog for more on that,) but I knew that if we got a clear night Oldshoremore was the place to go. Sunday night turned out to be not just clear (for a few hours at least) but also moonless. At first this made things interesting as there's a graveyard between the beach and the car park. Missing the path (which sensibly goes round the cemetery) I took us right through it... in the dark... none of us is particularly easily spooked but we stuck pretty close to the wall all the same. Once on the other side of the wall we found the actual path and made it down to the sand where we saw more stars than I think I ever have before, including many many shooting ones...

I suspect it's impossible to do justice to that night (or indeed the weekend as a whole) in a blog entry but I hope I've managed to convey some sense of just how good a time I had over the past few days. Once Liz and I have sorted through all the photos I'll be posting an album of them (probably tomorrow) for now though I'm going to leave it at this.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004


Hi all - just a quick post to say I'm safely back from Kinlochbervie and will be posting all about it tomorrow when I'm rested: I had a fantastic time but did spend rather a lot of it at the wheel so today I've decided I'm officially responsible for nothing and am vegging out at home with my sofa, a duvet and some stupid telly... have to clean the car - at least the inside which is full of road-trip detritus - I was hoping to clean the outside too but it hasn't stopped raining all day...

Sutherland in autumn is astoundingly pretty and we all took lots of photos on our holiday, Liz has already posted some together with some of what we did and saw on Saturday, if you like you can see that all over here. She and I are sorting out all the photos (roughly 300 or so) after work tomorrow and I'll condense those into a managable album later in the week, in the meantime here's a little sample:

Thursday, October 14, 2004


tomorrow afternoon I'm going on holiday - half-term starts at work at lunchtime and having worked very hard since the start of term (a most unusual stae of affairs!) I'm really very ready to go away somewhere and just be - happily I know just the spot and even more happily some very good friends are coming with me, 's a long way though, all the way up and left - look:

I can't wait! promise to tell you all about it when I get back

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

fable of the transmission fairy?

Once upon a time, (also known as Tuesday morning) a little poorly car called Bags went to the garage to be mended - Bags had a faulty clutch which was making it hard for him to engage gears so being a FIAT Bravo* he limped valiantly to the palace of Arnold Clark FIAT in Edinburgh where he knew there were wise and good mechanics who could heal his poorly clutch. Miraculously while he waited outside the palace for a mechanic to see him, Bags' clutch was healed! and there was much rejoicing...

not really very plausible eh? the guys at the garage insist that they haven't done anything to my car, and that there was nothing wrong when he arrived. I know this isn't so - I sat in the car for a full five minutes trying to get the malfunctioning clutch to engage first gear on Tuesday morning... I made a fuss on Tuesday afternoon and insisted that they keep the car overnight and look at it in the morning (which is when the fault has been worst) they did, this morning they still couldn't find a problem so they stripped out and cleaned the gearbox, changed the transmission oil. Then they asked me to come and collect the car and bring it back if the fault (which they still maintained they'd never seen) repeated. Happily they didn't charge me anything since they'd been unable to find the fault I brought it in with.

The clutch is now fine even though (supposedly) nobody's touched it. Gear shifts are as effortlessly smooth and secure as the day I bought the car so, either my car was visited by some benevolent spirit on Tuesday morning, or the mechanic charged with moving it into the garage couldn't get first to engage and so tightened the clutch cable on the forecourt thus fixing the fault the car was in for - either way I'm very happy to have my car back not least because Liz and I are driving ourselves, Karen and Hamish a very long way in it on Friday afternoon... but more on that later

*no, I'm not a member, I'm just amused that there's such a fanatical following for a car that Which? panned as supposedly being "almost comically unpopular with people who've bought one", I bought one and I love it, seems I'm not exactly alone so I have no idea who Which? have been talking to

Monday, October 11, 2004

mind the gap

sorry folks - been incredibly busy with work of late...

*sound of readers falling off chairs*

... yes, I said work, no I didn't get a new job, I just appear to have been doing this one too well for the past three years, with the start of the new school session in September I suddenly had a lot of extra responsibilities and stuff to do - it's settling down now though: most of the frantic preparatory work for changed aspects of splatjob is done, and I can get back to the serious business of applying for a new one.

Yes I'm still looking.

Work is a lot better than it was last session, and I love my colleagues but the fact remains that there's no scope for progressing in this job so I still feel the need to move on as soon as a suitable opportunity presents itself.

In the meantime though the gap between where I am and where I want to be seems smaller and I'm less frustrated by the day-to-day stuff of working in a school. All good.

Friday, September 24, 2004

bouncey badness

announcement: for any of my friends using hotmail - my appologies but I appear to be unable to email you reliably (if at all) - your email provider keeps bouncing messages back from all three of my email providers. boo hiss.

I am getting emails sent from hotmail, I just can't seem to reply to them. ho hum.

On the bright side I have six invites available for a far better free email service so if you want one, email me and let me know.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

made me smile

(this is the utterly pointless result of a daft quiz but I've had a hard day and I liked it so there)

which OS are you?

Monday, September 20, 2004

a wedding and £400,000,000

(These should be two posts really as they're completely unrelated but I'm in a hurry and the title amused me.)

1) My big brother got married this weekend. I'll not say much more about it than that because a) I'm in a hurry and b) he doesn't really like me detailing the minutiae of his life online (which is fair enough seeing as it's his and not mine) but it was a really lovely weekend and now I officially have one more really cool sibling who I love, so yay!

2) Liz has taken some incredibly good photos of our expensive new Parliament building (which I also love, in a different way), they're over here and well worth a look if you have time and/or bandwidth...

...oh yeah, and I got a year older on Friday as well - many thanks to everyone who sent messages, cards and/or presents: I felt really very loved this weekend

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

false alarm

I mentioned a couple of days ago that we might be getting a cat. Understandably for those of you who know me this caused some confusion, but as it turns out we're not.

I've said before that I'm not a cat person, in fact as a rule I really dislike them, but (like any prejudice) this doesn't always hold when applied to an individual. The individual cat in question is a really un-cat-like, friendly and affectionate little creature called Esso who's lived with a friend of mine from work since she was found in an oil refinery about eleven years ago. This friend also now has two dogs, both spaniels, one of which is quite young and... well, inquisitive. Add to that the fact that they're all splitting their time between two homes and the poor moggie was having a more unsettled life than my friend felt was suitable for an old-ish cat, so he decided that she might be better off living somewhere else.

For the past week we've been trial-running my house as that somewhere else, but sadly mine and Anita's physiologies turn out not to be cat-compatible. I suspect mine would eventually adapt but Anita's seems not to be doing so, with her alergic reation worsening each day. This is particularly sad because Anita and Esso got on really very well... apart from the bit where Esso makes Anita want to claw all her skin off with the itching that is. Anyway, this morning I drove to work with a cat-in-a-box in the passenger-side footwell, and returned her to her original owner who confessed to being very pleased at having her back. I can see why: Esso is an uncommonly personable cat, and even after only a week Anita and I will really miss her.

If you ask me, the last thing the internet needs is more pictures of cats, but Liz seems to disagree, so you can look at Esso over on LiveJournal if you want. Cute eh?

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

I feel like the Moog...

... bewildered but in a cheerfully optimistic sort of way, about what? well about this - it's either the best thing to happen to Children's telly in ages, or an utter travesty... if you've no idea what I'm blethering about and this:


doesn't jog your memory, this will explain what I'm talking about.

*Of course in the updated version Evil Edna is a thoroughly modern (evil) Plasma Screen - I wonder that means she'll gradually leak out all her evil until she fades away?

Saturday, September 11, 2004


the ADSL is finally playing nice on the network, all it took was a fixed IP!


also, (at the risk of being disowned by half my family) I seem to have maybe possibly perhaps got a cat... more on that later, going to eat the dinner of networking champions now: pasta! mmmm

Monday, September 06, 2004


Last night I sat on a hill in the rain and watched firworks that I couldn't see. Sounds dreadful doesn't it? It really really wasn't - I had the best time!

The end of the Edinburgh Festival(s) is marked every year by the Bank of Scotland with a huge fireworks display centered around Princes Street Gardens and the Castle, but visible to a greater or lesser degree from pretty much anywhere in the city. I reckon that after Hogmanay and the Tattoo, 'The Fireworks' are probably Edinburgh's third largest annual event.

When I lived in Orchard Brae we used to forget that they were on until the display actually started, at which point the three of us would cluster 'round Lara's bedroom window and watch them over the roofs of nearby buildings - If I mention that we lived on the ground floor, those of you who've never seen it will get an idea how all-pervasive the display usually is.

This year for the first time I'd actually arranged to go somewhere and watch the fireworks with a bunch of my friends - the best way of doing this is supposed to be to get tickets and go to the live concert in the Gardens to which the display is set, failing that you can get tickets to go and stand on Princes Street itself. Neither of these options appealed so instead we all met with blankets and assorted picnic-ish things on Calton Hill and, along with several thousand other cheapskates people, watched the display from there.

Edinburgh's an odd place to hold any outdoor event: it rains here. A lot. Being near the sea it's often pretty foggy too... however sitting on a hill with thousands of people in the rain watching fireworks vanish into the clouds for 45 minutes is (strangely) a lot of fun. My friend Liz took some photographs as well as doing a good job of describing the atmosphere and the display, you can find her post here.

Tuesday, August 31, 2004

apropos nothing

running through some of the last bits of stock-take at work, I stopped briefly to leaf through an old Time-Life geography book about the USSR (which surely we should have reclassified as History?) Written in the early 80s it describes a long vanished land, parts of which are fascinatingly alien to someone born and raised in the capitalist west. Me being me, the part that struck me most was about a car company, one I'd never heard of (something of a rarity, for the benefit of anyone who didn't already know.)

The book describes the AZLK plant in Moscow as a model of Soviet Industry: a community in and of itself, based on giving the work-force a sense of belonging, and providing for all aspects of their lives. However accurate or otherwise this assessment was, the stated ethos struck a chord with the idealist in me... As I said I'd never heard of AZLK and decided to Google them - from what I can gather the company's still trading but the plant that Time-Life's writer visited has long since been abandoned, and is rather hauntingly captured in this photo essay I mention it for no reason other than it moved me.

Thursday, August 26, 2004


via Pet's blog I stumbled over this which is spellbinding (if you ask me, some people think it's creepy and unsettling). The premise is that someone somewhere dropped their digi-cam in the woods, and someone else found it. As with all things internet it could well be a fake but regardless of the story the photos themselves are amazing!

Be warned - if you're not on a broadband connection it'll take an absolute age to load as there are 30+ photographs and they're published inline on one page.


oh and no, I haven't forgotten about my summer update, just haven't found time to write it up yet... I might do that later today (first evening to myself in six days - woo!) but don't hold your collective breath.

Sunday, August 15, 2004


Right, I'm home after my summer adventures, will post proper updates on my doings in Essex, Magalluf, and Amsterdam later in the week but since people seem to have been checking in here while I've been away I figured I ought to at least say hi now that I'm back, so hi

Thursday, July 29, 2004

something phishy?

I just stumbled over this little test, it presents you with ten real email messages some of which are genuine service messages and some of which are "phishing" - which I gather is a term for a particular kind of spam designed to get you to part with sensitive information for fraudulent purposes.

Anyway the quiz is set up so that when you roll your mouse over a link it should display the link target, like (most mailer applications do) but it won't actually let you follow the link, you have to determine wether the message is legitimate or a fraud just from the contents of the email (including of course the link URL).

I got 8 right, wrongly identifying one legitimate mail as a fraud and one fraud as legit, which is not to say that I'd have been caught out by that one fraudster (having followed the link I'd like to think I'd have been tipped off by something on the site before handing over my details) but it's interesting that one of them got past what I thought was a pretty good first line of defense.

Wednesday, July 28, 2004


OK I mentioned writing an update when I was less tired didn't I? well I'm on a coffee break and I slept last night so here goes.

Summer is going really well - work's great without the kids though there are slow days (like today) when the weather clouds up and it's hard to motivate myself to actually *do* anything... as yet there's no news on a new job either which is starting to bother me again. Earlier in the holiday I was quite happy with just bumbling along here in the quiet comfort of a kid-less library, but I'm less so now... perhaps my summer's reached perihelion? whatever it is I'm conscious of hurtling back out towards the dark same-ness of term-time... I need to do something about breaking orbit from this place, if only I could figure out what (beyond what I'm already doing)

I took a time-out from all that last weekend and went to stay with Mum and Dad - that was very well timed and something I thoroughly enjoyed. I managed to catch up with all of my immediate family as well as some of my extended family, some I already knew and hadn't seen in too long, some I'd never really met before... There's something pleasantly grounding about spending time with relatives, and I came away from the weekend feeling a little bit more settled than before which I think I needed.

For the benefit of those who caught my "I'm going to Australia" phase during late spring and early summer, I'm not now - I decided that (work notwithstanding) there's too much good in my life here to up sticks and move just at the moment... I'd still like to do that at some point but now doesn't feel like that point.

Perhap partly in response to this I've been doing lots of cementing of existing relationships and some developing of new ones... that second part is fun, though I always find myself second guessing me somewhat. The next few weeks are all about the first part: I'm going off travelling with some small groups of old friends to new places - expect updates to be infrequent but dense.

what a surprise

quiz time...

The Hub
Category I - The Hub

You're a 'people person'. Networking runs in your
blood. Consequently, you can move through most
social circles with ease.

What Type of Social Entity are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

I don't do these much (anyone currently laughing should look at an average account and they'll see what I mean) but this one's written by my friend Liz's friend Mr. Footle in response to an ongoing discussion about thenature of social types, and I reckon he's done a pretty good job of it.

Monday, July 26, 2004


there's a problem with network authentication this morning and I can't log in on work's computers yet (lucky I brought my own eh?) This in itself doesn't merit comment however I had an amusing conversation about it with our IT department just now and thought I'd share it (real name bleeped to protect the dopey)

Patrick: dials internal IT helpdesk number and waits
Friend in IT: hello
P: hi L____ it's Patrick, I can't seem to log in this morning, is there a problem?
F: yes, [snip brief explanation of nature of problem] I sent out an email on FirstClass [our internal email system]
P: right... but I can't read my FirstClass because I can't log in.
F: ... oh... [puzzled pause] oh right...

in his defence it is Monday morning.

Sunday, July 25, 2004

mosey on home

Clicking the picture will get you a bigger copy in a new window

I just got back from a lovely weekend at my parents' (which really merits an entry of its own at some point, perhaps when I'm less tired.) This picture was taken about ten minutes away from my house on my way back earlier this evening. The sunset had been growing increasingly spectacular for about the last hour of my journey home, and at this point I just had to pull in and take a picture.

Appropriately enough, about five minutes on from here on the very last stretch of my run home (which when I've been away down south brings me back into the village from the east) my iPod decided to play Apache by the Shadows...

Thursday, July 15, 2004


OK own up, who put July onto fast forward? I just got an answer back about my remortgage application which must mean that at least an aeon has passed since I started the interminable process (out of interest is it just for my benefit? or do mortgage lenders process all applications at a pace which makes the average glacier seem hurried?) and indeed it has - half of July has already been and gone! eek.

Abysmal weather aside it's been quite a good month so far, I've been out doing exciting things and meeting some lovely new people as well as catching up with some other lovely people I've known for ages but not seen recently - work is still blissfully devoid of children though there's still no sign of my shiny new job (if you're listening universe - I'd very much like for it to be delivered in time for the start of term please, thank you.)

I still have rather a lot to do and very little time for doing it all but I'm mostly back at the computer so you can expect more regular updates on here again from now on - assuming you haven't all got bored and gone home?

Thursday, July 08, 2004


sorry folks, I've been a bad blogger of late.

The lack of new content isn't because nothing's happening, quite the reverse in fact! However I've (unusually) been away from the computer most of the time, and so documenting it all just hasn't been happening... and it isn't going to right now either because in a few seconds I have to dash off out again - in the mean time this might keep you busy - I only got 9 right (question 8 threw me) and am hanging my head in shame.

more anon - promise!

Friday, July 02, 2004

lazy splat? or busy splat?

I was going to post something two days ago to mark the fact that this blog's been running for a whole year now, but I didn't. I've been dreadfully unproductive and lazy this week... actually, I haven't - I've been very very busy, but somehow still felt lazy.

At work I've spent the week hauling about big boxes and filing cabinets and such to rehouse our school Archive - we're about 4/5ths of the way through it and the result is really impressive, but in spite of being quite physically demanding it hasn't felt like work - no kids for a start, just me and my boss (who I like a great deal) doing this project together... the time's flown past.

At home I feel like I've done nothing but several of the long-outstanding jobs I've had on the go are somehow either finished or nearing completion, and they weren't at the start of the week.

I've been out once already this week and will be out again tonight, busily catching up with friends and making some new ones, but again this feels like I'm being lazy and just coasting along when in fact stepping back I'm being very very busy.


one thing I have done a lot of that's in keeping with my 'sense of self as lazy' is sleeping, well my NET sleep is probably about average but after doing staggeringly little of it on Tuesday night (about an hour and a half) I spent most of Wednesday afternoon through to Thursday morning unconscious, and again slept well and soundly last night - that's probably why I feel lazy: I'm so used to being insomniac that having been in bed and asleep for any real length of time makes me feel like I've been being lazy (because usually that's the case)

Sunday, June 27, 2004


I've had the coolest weekend! On Friday term finished (woohoo!) and after work I drove up to Dundee to spend the weekend with a very lovely man who I met recently. He works in the Airforce, and on the Saturday he took me to see the base where he works. This weekend I sat in the pilot seat of a real live jetfighter - neat eh? I wouldn't have pegged myself as someone who'd get excited about a fighter plane - I'm pretty resoloutely pacifist for a start, but exited I most certainly was.

There's something very cool about being with smart people and talking with them about what they love: that's exactly how I spent Saturday afternoon - looking at these bewildering mechanical marvels with a man who knew them inside-out, and who wanted to share that with me... I couldn't help but be awe-struck by the powerful elegence of these aircraft, but the guy enthusiastically explaining all about them* was if anything even more impressive.

Dundee was (predictably) far less impressive than the airbase, but happily the company was first rate and all in all it's been a particularly memorable weekend - I'm really lucky to live a life that lets me meet such engaging people and have adventures like that...

*OK, not quite all about them - some bits were classified. It's a little disconcerting when someone says "I could tell you that, but I'd have to shoot you" and you know they're actually being serious.

Thursday, June 24, 2004


I just ironed a spider into one of my tee-shirts. I didn't mean to, and I'm not at all happy about it - I like spiders, and even if I didn't, being flattened by a gigantic hot metal plate seems a pretty horrid way to go.

Why am I ironing? well right now I'm not, I'm typing, but before that I was ironing because when I get started it always seems a good idea to go on ironing until either my will gives out, or I run out of things to iron (it's invariably the former.) I started ironing because I needed a particular shirt for work tomorow.

Tomorow at work is 'Prize Giving' so I have to get all dressed up - suit, tie, gown, hood... it's a stupid big fuss over nothing really, but I'm incapable of feeling anoyed about it since it marks the end of the accademic year! After tomorow there will be no teenagers in my work place, and it'll stay like that until the end of August! (With a bit of luck by then I'll be working somewhere else.)

... poor old spider.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004


It's raining. It's been raining pretty much all day, I could hear it when I woke up, it made me more-than-usually inclined toward staying in bed, but I got up because I'm good like that... or at least because mortgages don't generally pay themselves.

Rainy days at work aren't much fun - the kids wander about soggily, smelling of wet dog, and being more-than-usually* irritating. Put a rainy day at the end of term and you've got a recipe for a really difficult lunchtime. That having passed I'm now missing my bed even more than I already was.

This weekend (amongst other things) I watched Office Space which was good, (not quite as good as Clockwatchers but still pretty good) anyway if you haven't seen the film this'll make no sense, but on rainy lunchtimes my inner Milton mutters more-than-usually darkly... though not about staplers.

*there really should be a word for that. In fact I'm confident that there is... I should know it but I can't think of it and my brain's being all Wednesday-afternoon-ish and unco-operative, anyone care to help me out here?

Thursday, June 17, 2004


I gather this page is now (finally) rendering accurately in That Damned Browser (tm) - hurrah!

oh and an appology to 35% of the audience for griping about this since only about 65% of visitors are using IE

Wednesday, June 16, 2004


I did a stoopid thing earlier today. I edited my blogger template (in an attempt to fix a niggling width glitch with IE - that damned browser! why must you all use it?) and all the while I was thinking to myself how clever I was for backing up the blog page first... hadn't backed up the template though had I?

...of course I broke it in ways far beyond my limited html skills, and then realised my mistake. bah.

should be working fine now though a few font sizes have wandered and I've no idea what it looks like in IE...

amen to that!

well, actually to this but you know what I mean.

Happily I'm managing to avoid it most of the time, thanks in part to TiVo and my own media-reflexes which have been honed over the years to automatically tune out all this crap, but it still bugs me that this is what gets people (as in "...are bloody ignorant apes"* one of my favorite quotes) worked up. Yet take your pick of real issues, any one of a billion other things which are actually important, and nine times out of ten it's greeted with complete and utter apathy by the majority. bah.

...and don't get me started on reality TV

* Estragon, Waiting for Godot, BECKETT, Samuel

Monday, June 14, 2004


Well once again I'm politically relieved to be living North of the border - the results were declared for the European parliamentary elections last night, and this morning the headline news is that about 16% of the UK voted for the recedivist UKIP (whose core policy is withdrawal from the Union). 16% is hardly a mandate for change if you ask me, but it's making the headlines.

UKIP didn't really make much of a splash up here in Scotland, where very few people care for the idea of the United Kingdom anyway... in all honesty I doubt that's what these UKIP voters south of the border are worked up about either - for the majority of the English (myself included, until 1996) the terms "United Kingdom" and "Great Britain" are really just misused as synonyms for England.

...anyway I'm pleased that the Scottish electorate have no apparent interest in the rabid ramblings of Robert Kilroy-Silk et al., but the really overwhelming rush of relief comes from that fact that the fascist right-wing BNP had a suitably poor showing in the polls up here - down south I'm horrified to learn that the party which openly advocates a policy of deporting all non-white British citizens somehow garnered about 5% of the vote! that's disgusting England. Get your act together!

Saturday, June 12, 2004

Friday fun

'twas a mini Friday this week, just me, Liz, Hamish and Malcolm. We went for dinner at a little kebab shop that Hamish likes. I don't really, but I enjoyed it there this time - the food is good (and REALLY cheap) but it's a kebab shop and has all the atmosphere and ambience you'd expect... oh and drunken old men occasionally wander in. Usually this puts me off but last night it was OK *shrugs* the Felafel there is good.

After dinner we'd loosely settled on a plan of going to the Stand, to see stand up comedy - I'm surprised that I've never done that before, but I haven't. I should have: it was great! well three quarters of it was great, the other quarter involved being shouted at by an angry semi-coherent man from Fife who would not get off the stage... incredibly enough he was an act - we'd paid to see him. *shakes head*

Like I said the bulk of the night was incredibly good. Liz's blog entry goes into much greater depth on the comedy (she's something of an aficionado of stand up) and rightly so, I'll just say that if you ever get chance to see either Andy White or Tony Law perform you should go - they'll make you laugh a lot (and Tony's kinda sexy with it)


After the last act we left the Stand because we'd had to stand and it was hot. The four of us had an adventure involving a bus station, a spike with a box on top (turned out to be a church spire undergoing repairs) a crepe van, several phone boxes and some faked teleportation. There should be pictures showing up somewhere soon so I'll let you know where and when.

Now I've got visiting parents to go and get ready for. I like weekends.

Thursday, June 10, 2004


OK so they're late - sorry about that but the pictures of my jaunt to Knoydart and Rum are finally assembled into an online album and you can find 'em here

For anyone interested (and to satisfy my urge to make excuses) the delay was caused in part by my own laziness, in part by having about 130 images of the trip to wade through (and in some cases, amalgamate into panoramic shots), and in part by my own short-sightedness in building that section's graphical navigation - I've rebuilt it now to be easier to add to and hopefully the next album will be along shortly (they're kinda like buses...)

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

fun in a field!

Time for a brief update.

This weekend I had fun. Liz finished being a student at the end of last week so to celebrate/commiserate, we assembled in Holyrood Park on Sunday afternoon where there was cake and springy grass and a hill. Much silliness ensued. Liz blogged about it with some photos here and if all goes to plan I'll be putting up a bigger photo album of the day this evening. A great day was had by all and I feel we'll be doing more of that sort of thing this summer.

Yesterday and Friday evenings were spent hanging out at Hamish's place which was also fun. Yesterday it was just he and I sorting our lives out, while on Friday Anita and Karen were there too. I have good friends and I really like being with them.

Saturday nothing really happened apart from the Village Fete - which seemed to mostly consist of a very bad pipe band walking up and down outside my house for a while in the middle of the day, followed by a surprisingly good steel drum band mid afternoon... oh and some very drunk noisypeople at about 2am but that didn't matter because I was up late anyway.

Friday, June 04, 2004


I got passed a note in class today!

we're short handed so I'm occasionally covering lessons in the Fiction Library. One of the really lovely kids from last year's 'Project' (as opposed to the thoroughly rancid lot from this year) wrote me a letter - isn't that nice?* I realised it's been ages since I was in a position to have a note passed to me, not since first year English lectures with my friend Lara really...

I guess my habit of emailing with friends throughout the day is sort of like passing notes... as is this come to think of it - better get back to work before I'm given a detention.

*no it's not disturbingly "don't stand so close to me" at all. It's nice.

Monday, May 31, 2004


I was tinkering about putting a few visits into my calender last night when I spotted this.

someone should perhaps tell Apple that this isn't a very polite way of "inviting" people...

Saturday, May 29, 2004


Late last night I pulled the car onto the drive, piled my bags into the house and returned to normal life after an incredibly intense two weeks away. I made notes as and when I could (which wasn't often) and they're being condensed into blog entries this afternoon - to start at the beginning and scroll up through them to the present day click here

Due to the nature of the blog posts are in reverse chronological order which might throw some of you at first, sorry about that, it might help to keep an eye on the little orange 'posted at...' time stamps as you progress up the page

The short version is that my face and forearms have caught the sun, I feel fitter than I have done in months and I'm buzzing with a sense of wellbeing, possibility and life with the volume up... oh that and I still have to unpack.

Friday, May 28, 2004

day 12

After setting in at Canna the Loch Nevis has finally delivered me safely ashore to Mallaig where I'm delighted by the sight of my car snugly waiting in his parking spot. I bundle baggage into the back, feel a whole-body grin as the turbo roars and we hit the A830 Trunk back toward Fort William.

It's going to be a long drive home and I know I'm going to relish every second.
About an hour ago I roused myself from the comfort of the common room at Kinloch and moved myself and my luggage here to the dockside. MV Loch Nevis hauled into view a few moments ago (late as usual, I gather) and soon enough she's gracelessly shuffling her unlovely black and white bulk alongside the jetty. The car ramp ups and downs a few times before settling, partially submerged, and after the outbound passengers have sloshed their way ashore we board. Warbling sirens and a railway-esque anouncement chime sound my departure from Rum.

The passenger lounge faces in toward two (mercifully muted) LCD monitors, both screening News24 (subtitled), I'm not ready for this yet - the flickering intrusions of current events can wait: I'll take off my glasses for now. I'd like to yearn for simply staying, but the change in the weather reminds me how ephemeral the island in the sun I've enjoyed this past week was.
As expected the spell broke last night and weather here has reverted to West Coast standard: blustery and driech. It's wonderful. I've packed, cleared the hostel room, checked the ferry times (2:00pm) and done a trial-run walk to the new pier. I had been planning to rush about Kinloch filling the remaining memory stick space with shots of this incredible place but the light's crap so instead I'm curling up in a squashy leather armchair with Full Circle and a cuppa. Still blissed out.

Thursday, May 27, 2004

day 11

Flaked out in my room for a while, woke to the sound of noisy lancastrian walkers nasally discussing the day's exploits. Enjoy not being responsible for the noise-makers. Make and eat supper chatting a little with some of the other hostellers before retreating to the empty reading room to read before bed. Castle is blissfully quiet.
Make the summit of Barkeval still in full sun having shed my shirt again (shuddup: there's nobody about to be offended by my blinding whiteness and it's too hot) The view (away from me!) is incredible. Unlike Hallival, this peak is too short (591m) to allow me to look over its siblings shoulders, but it's perfectly positioned to see almost the entire island spread out.

Max's mention of yoga this morning comes back to me and I realise that the only assna I know (a seires of stretches called the sun salutation) I've also never done out of doors facing the sun... the summit's largely flat too. Several repetitions later and I'm sitting in a rough approximation of the easy pose (lotus position subsitute for those of us not limber enough to bend like that) watching distant glimmers of sunlight sparkling off the bay at Harris about four miles away and almost six hundred meters down. A faintly wonky cuckoo (every third call comes out as "cuck-aieeu" as if his voice hasn't quite broken) rouses me to put my boots and tee-shirt back on and start to make my way down the hill.

I accidentally climbed Meall Breac (about 440m) easy mistake to make believe me... well OK maybe not if you're paying attention, but the view from up here is nice anyway.

Stop on my 'false peak' to contemplate the steep scree-lined sides of Barkeval and consult the Landranger about the best route up from here. Quietly and goodnaturedly curse self for not nicking one of the kids' Explorer series maps of the island.
Wave goodbye to half the party at the old slipway while the other half receed into the distance on another boat. The morning was a predictable struggle to get the stroppy teenagers organised, fed and down to the boats, the four of us staff each managed to get some down time throughout the morning. Max disapeared for an hour and returned announcing he'd been doing yoga on the freshly mown front lawn, and that he now loved everyone and everything. given the mix of kids on his boat (he's gallantly taking the worst of the bunch) I had to fight the urge to take bets on how many nautical miles that bliss would last.

Retire to the castle to shower before heading out to climb Barkeval. Calves ache like hell from yesterday but I reckon a light walk will smooth 'em out.

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

day 10

Woken half an hour ago by our kids running riot in the halls. Regis and I unconsciously adopt a good-cop, bad-cop approach which works well and brings 'em reluctantly back into line and (eventually) to bed. Since I'm awake anyway I settle down to some over-due accounting with Max and end up setting the world to rights down in the reading room for as long as we can each keep our eyes open.
Returned to the castle, plan on falling into bed as soon as possible. Cold is receeding but slowly.
Engineered walking so that I'm bringing up the rear and manage to remain out of earshot of the whinging teenagers almost all the way back. Full sun and a light wind make for a thoroughly pleasent walk even if the last few miles on rough road are heavy going.
Woken by racket from the kids side of the bothy about 7:00am, haven't the enery for them so retreat outside into early morning sunshine, Max and Regis are way ahead of me both having spent most of the night outside, Anne follows suit shortly after me bringing me paracetamol and water - bless her!

Gurdil is almost unearthly beautiful this morning. The sky is cloudless, and Canna looks almost close enough to touch. Being so tangably remote and isolated first thing in the morning feels amazing - even compensates for the gnawing knowledge that I'm going to have to face the long walk back without a coffee.

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

day 9

All raport with the kids has gone: I've a full blown flu-ey head-cold and feel awful, they're being harder than ever to deal with, and I just lost my temper with five of them for abusing my iPod which I've now withdrawn completely. Happily I really don't care - they're all now cooped up inside the bothy (by choice) and the four of us adults are sitting out by the fire watching the sun set slowly over Canna. I've taken pictures but I doubt they'll come close to doing it justice. This place is utterly breathtaking.
A worrying couple of hours and some fairly energetic yomping about looking for stray straggling members of the party have passed. Most of us arrived at the bothy mid afternoon and on the whole it's been great. We've now got a fire going and food on the way. For the most part the kids have no interest in the place beyond chasing the deer and throwing stones. *sigh*
Heavy going getting everyone ready for the bothy walk today, gripes and whinges all the way over. The walk is of course stunning - another cloudless day on Rum. Sore throat seems to have developed into a cold - happily I brought plenty of hankies...

Monday, May 24, 2004

day 8

Sat up for a short while after dinner with some great company and the remains of the Macallan. Dog tired but recovered from yesterday - feeling fit and ready for the walk tomorrow apart from a lingering sore throat.
Small groups today, doing short low-level walks. Rum is unbelievably remaining sunny and bright for us which together with the undemanding terrain and broken up groups made for a reasonable day with the kids. Collectively their mood seems to have soured pretty terminally though.

Sunday, May 23, 2004

day 7

Woke up felling very very dead

Today was wiped out completely by exhaustion. Stupid Patrick - tracking it back the last three days or so I've barely eaten, and yet been incredibly energetic, culminating in the Ceilidh last night (and well into this morning!) by 10:00am I was conscious enough to know that there was no way I'd make it to the foot of the stairs let alone up Askival. Idiot.

The worst part is that *everyone* is attributing it to a hangover and I didn't drink that much. honestly I didn't.

Spent pretty much all day in bed, managing around lunch time to fetch food and water upstairs which have brought me back to life somewhat. Note to self - when all day is spent excercising the polite "It's OK, I'll just have the vegetables" option on mealtimes is dumb.
Walked Anne back to the hostel before sprinting back once more to the hall and gassing with locals until sun-up, staggered into the hostel around 6:00am and fell into bed feeling very very alive.

Saturday, May 22, 2004

day 6

Capercaillie's Charlie hasn't weathered all that well. He looks old in that wiry drawn out way you expect to see puffing on a pipe in pub corners. Age might have wrecked his looks, but the guy's still a genius with the fiddle - his playing is unbelievable! I make some very rusty forrays into the world of ceilidh dancing. It turns out to be most unlike riding a bike, and in spite of knowing all the dances from University I botch every one. Then again, that's half the fun.

Later the dancing turns free form and much to the horror of the kids Max, Anne, Fraser and myself make utter spectacles of ourselves... To be fair the sight of Max flinging himself about the dancefloor in a blue tie-dye sarrong is probably more than the fragile teenage psyche was ever meant to bear, and I know that nobody should ever have to see me try to moonwalk (in my defence the floor was just too slippery not to give it a try.)

Sprinting between the hostel and the hall has also become a feature of my night - I've made two circuits already this evening at full tilt, once to herd up some stray kids, then again to grab my camera (pictures in the album - of the ceilidh not of me sprinting!) I'm a bit impatient when I'm enjoying myself...
The Ceilidh is tonight and (too late to keep Fiona from leaving) we've heard that amongst the band will be Charlie McKerron (the fiddler from Capercaillie.) should be a damned good show. Having been reunited with the lost half of his meat order, and Kinloch's wonderful kitchen, Max begins to play chef again (this time ably assisted by Fraser a visiting friend.) - I'd missed that too, though I could do with a veggie ally in the meal planning.
Ashore and unpacked in time to grab a cup of tea before we head out to climb Hallival. On the donkey track assent to Corrie Dubh, Anne and I reaquiant ourselves behaving more like giggling teenagers than the giggling teenagers - I've missed this friend!

Last year Max, Stan and I took two thirds of the group onto this formidable peak in dropping cloud, bringing all of them back down drenched and one idiotic kid (who'd repeatedly refused to don his waterproofs) mildly hypothermic! This year it's shirt-sleeve walking all the way up and while the last 100m or so of the assent is still a pretty heavy scramble (frightening going when the kids refuse to take it seriously) the views from the summit are breathtaking - I've attempted a panorama which should be in the photo album.

Coming down one or two of the most impossibly giggly kids manage to give themselves scares without actually falling - a relief and a half since it makes getting them down in one piece more likely. Anne and I have been behaving ourselves apart from the odd innuendo and our continued enjoyment of the fact that not one of the kids gets my 'Fruit Machine' tee shirt (it's from EuroPride last year, 'fruit' geddit?) which she finds hillarious.
Wake on the boat to discover our wee mutineer has not in fact frozen to death on deck, but all five kids are still determined to reach shore as soon as possible. We breakfast on a fry-up (or in my case a fried egg) and bring Bowen's interior to some semblence of order in time to see the Western Isles entering Loch Scresort with the rest of our party aboard. No chance of getting this lot back out to sea now.

Friday, May 21, 2004

day 5

One of the kids is refusing to come below in an attempt to force us into taking them all ashore, the others have settled down for the night and Charles (who knows this particular lad reasonably well from work anyway) has been up and settled a compromise - he's sleeping under the cockpit hood. I drift off to a fitful sleep woken repeatedly by yacht noises and the gnawing memory that we're due a frosty morning.
What a haul that was! all five of the kids got dreadfully seasick the moment we set out, not remotely aided by something nasty in the bilges causing a sulphurous smell whenever we were thrown about - none of them actually puked which is probably a shame - I gather it helps.

Charles, Charlie and I had a thoroughly enjoyable (if short) sail up the sount of Sleat and then over to Rum but the collective high point was a stop off the Point of Sleat in a remote and beautiful little bay called Camusdarrach (confusingly named the same as a much larger bay I know on the mainland) there are pictures in the album and believe me it was every bit as idylic as it looks - white sand, blue skies and a gently bobbing white yacht moored off the bay... There are times when I can't help laughing at the idea that this is supposed to be work.

We made anchor in Rum late afternoon but aren't taking the kids ashore much to their disapointment - the prospect of trying to separate them from the other group from our school who are currently here is just too daunting, and besides it's still and the midges will be out. Settle them down for dinner insted. Since I forgot to remind either of the Charleses of my diet, my supper is mash and peas, the others are having chicken too.
I've just enjoyed a terribly civilised hour's relaxed chatting with an extremely amiable colleague by the harbourside in sunny Mallaig - this morning I and five of the kids set out from Inverie on the early ferry to meet Charles who's taking us on another ferry over to Skye where our 'Rival 38' (rental) yacht Bowen and her skipper Charlie are waiting for us. The idea is that we take the Project for over-night sails in small groups, exploring the area by sea as the winds permit - Charles tells me that's likely to be Rum today which is a shame since that's where we're supposed to end up tomorrow and being there today limits the sailing we're likely to get in in the morning.

Thursday, May 20, 2004

day 4

Apart from having to wrestle two of the kids off each other today went pretty well. In the afternoon with the weather improving several of the kids asked to go swimming so Regis and I supervised as they dived into a suitable spot along the river from the hostel, cursed the cold, and jumped back out. Cutting a long story short, our sullen chip-toothed friend from yesterday was the only one of the kids not to take a dip and was (understandably, and pretty gently) mocked for this. Somehow that escalated into him laying blows on one of the other lads and me having to escort him back to the hostel.
Max arrived eventually, the rain stopped and all was well with the world. Regis sloped off after lunch for a well earned break while Fiona and I left Max to herd the kids back to the hostel. Walking down a hill with a very large wok on my shoulder in the sunshine is a pretty singular memory, but oddly enough it sums up this point in the project pretty well.
I'm squatting beside a fire in the woods getting smoke blown in my face. Fourteen tired and angry teenagers are grumbling behind me, and I'm cooking burgers that I'm not going to eat while being quietly but steadily rained on - anyone who thought Projects was a skive, these points are the work part.

The kids have spent the morning doing community service with the local forestry fella. This year he's had them pulling up rhododendron seedlings all morning with the promise of lunch over an open fire in the afternoon. One of us was with them at all times of course, the plan being that we'd swap over at intervals. Plans (Max's especially) being inexact things, it ended up that poor old Regis spent all morning with the kids, Fiona and I collectively found them after each making unsucessful attempts (which in my case included an hour spend walking up and down the hill following bad directions) and Max has yet to show up - It's this part that's making the teenagers angry: He has the bread without which these damned burgers are a bit useless.

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

day 3

Thoroughly pointless day. One of the kids had a capped front tooth which fractured on the walk yesterday and about which he's made a big fuss. The solution decided upon was for he and I to miss today's walking (which I gather was a washout anyway - it rained a lot and they had to turn back) take the morning ferry to Mallaig, drive down to Fort William an hour away and have some emergency work done by a dentist there. This would have been OK if it weren't for the fact that said dentist took one look at the tooth and announced there wasn't actually anything he could do.

So today I got to spend all day with a stroppy teenager making vain attempts at engaging him in any kind of conversation and getting nowhere... on the bright side I did get to visit Nevis Sport and pick up some decent waterproof trousers, and of course the drive was fun.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

day 2

Wow. We made it, well most of us did... fear not we haven't lost any (yet) but Fiona and about half the kids turned back about lunchtime. Fair enough: the wind was whipping the rain hard at us and all of the heat fast away. However the conditions weren't impossible and with regular breaks in the cloud we decided to press on. I'm glad we did. While in the end we couldn't see more than 10m in any direction from the top, the sense of achievement was incredible and those kids who stuck it out and made it to the top aquitted themselves brilliantly.

Time for dinner and then a sleep - I gather I have a bit of a mad day ahead tomorrow.
First full day on Knoydart and it looks like we're in for a wet one. We're taking the kids up Sgurr Coire Choinnichean, which is a pretty gnarly 779m peak with a precipitous ridge walk. If those clouds keep gathering we might well end up turning back.

Monday, May 17, 2004

day 1

Woke at 4:30, after getting to bed around 2:00am... note to self don't leave packing to the last minute in future. By about 5:30 I was on the road, and by about Aidrie I was actually awake. Amazingly enough I coincided with the coach carrying the kids and most of the rest of the staff in Safeways at Fort William which allowed time for a civilised coffee break.

Rain dogged us up the coast to Mallaig and the scramble to get both groups split and on the right ferries with the right luggage was as expected a bit of a nightmare. Somehow half of our groceries, some of the safety equipment and Max's speciality cheeses and meat went to Rum instead of accompanying us to Knoydart, but I'm sure we'll survive.

Got some light orientation and map reading to sort out for the kids and of course settling in but it feels really good to be up here and 'away from it all', especially in such good company - should be a fun couple of weeks.

Setting the scene


'Projects' is a peculiar thing which has happened in the school I work for at this time every year for about three decades - there's even a book about it. The idea is that while the older kids have exams, the third year (aged 14-15) are taken away in small groups to experience the outside world.

In my case this year (and last) 'Projects' meant two weeks of hillwalking in the north west of Scotland, one week on Knoydart and one on the Island of Rum. My colleage and friend Max runs this project and another group mirror us, spending their first week on Rum and crossing over to Knoydart in the second week.

This year staffing the project together with Max and myself were Regis, Fiona and Anne. Fiona covered the Knoydart leg of the Project while Anne arrived to join us on Rum, the rest of us were there for the whole twelve days. I figure using the staff's first names is OK but obviously wont be making any specific mention of the kids individually, suffice it to say there were fourteen of them and a roughly even mix of boys and girls.

One other note is that I lifted my self imposed abstinence from alcohol for the duration since the reasons for it seemed unlikely to follow me there. Also I found last year that working 24/7 for two weeks is tough going, and a glass of wine at the end of the day really helps keep it from becoming a slog.

All of the entries from here up to Friday 28th were made from a combination of memory and notes, and were entered as back-dated blog posts on Saturday 29th - from Monday 17th I was effectively incommunicado with no access to the internet and barely any other form of commuication with the outside world.

Sunday, May 16, 2004


I'm all packed and ready to go! Where? Knoydart first and then Rum, I'm away for two weeks so check back here in a fortnight or so when (hopefully) I'll have started typing up the notes I plan on taking. until then though things are likely to be pretty quiet around here.

night all.

Friday, May 14, 2004


it seems that all my footering with buttons has broken the page a little bit for people using particular browsers (I forget which, but they're ones that people use) so I'll be trying to fix that but not today because I have things to do. sorry for the inconvenience but at least it's only the archives and button links that are busted so everyone can still read this rambling waffle.

Thursday, May 13, 2004

right up to the naughtiness

'parently I'm really quite a bad boy:

The Dante's Inferno Test has banished you to the Second Level of Hell!
Here is how you matched up against all the levels:
Purgatory (Repenting Believers)Very Low
Level 1 - Limbo (Virtuous Non-Believers)Very Low
Level 2 (Lustful)Very High
Level 3 (Gluttonous)High
Level 4 (Prodigal and Avaricious)High
Level 5 (Wrathful and Gloomy)High
Level 6 - The City of Dis (Heretics)Very High
Level 7 (Violent)Very High
Level 8- the Malebolge (Fraudulent, Malicious, Panderers)Very High
Level 9 - Cocytus (Treacherous)High

Take the Dante's Inferno Hell Test

I don't do meme-ey things much - this one's Ros's fault... and I'm badder than her ;)

Wednesday, May 12, 2004


The sun is shining, birds are singing, the Sixth Year are entirely absent (WOOHOO!) and all is well with the world.

Today's also my last day of normal work for a little over two weeks - Half Term started twenty minutes ago, (though I won't actually finish for another hour or so) I have tomorrow and Friday booked off as holiday, then on Monday morning I'm off for two weeks hillwalking on company time, not bad eh? I haven't figured out what happens blogwise with that - I'll probably keep an old fashioned paper journal and update from that when I return to civilisation... probably.

Meanwhile the sun is (as I said) shining and I'm in a really good mood.

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

pretty colours!

Blogger very kindly re-vamped their corporate identity to be almost inline with my colour scheme (I still had to tweak the background colour on their button but it now fits right in) and I found a way to add comments and trackback through some very nice people called haloscan (via my mate Pete who's doing a revamp of his own) - the links are a little big just now because I can't remember how to make 'em smaller and bold but I'll get to that... meanwhile you can all now talk back to me, isn't that nice?

edit hm. seems that in some places my shiny new blogger button isn't shiny and new, the old one's persisting instead... also I've made a shiny new CC button that matches the new blogger one (and which seems to be working everywhere)... you're thrilled, I can tell.

Excrement deleted

Last night was shit. Literally.

There was a thunderstorm. Thunderstorms are good (not shit) I like them, but it seems that out where I live (which is the other side of a mountain range from where I work) the storm had been going all day.

Lots of water + tiny drains + house at bottom of hill...

I got home (having had a fab drive through the mountains in the thunderstorm) to find my house smelled of poo... and there was sewage coming in through the back door. Bad.

I opened the back door and discovered that a) my back yard was ankle deep in sewage and b) the dodgy drainpipe that Mr. Gap-toothed-maniac esq. figured would be a good way of removing waste water from my house (it is not, but that's par for the course with his ideas... more on that another time) was sagging off the wall... oh and at this point the heavens were still open so biblical quantities of water were still falling from on high.

I called the insurance company.

About two hours later (the rain had by now stopped) a very nice man arrived and started puzzling out the origins of the sewage - we discovered that it wasn't coming (as I'd assumed) from my partially collapsed drains at all (they're still water tight, they just don't look it) it was actually coming from the rest of the village ("great" I thought, "not only am I standing ankle deep in crap but it's other people's!")

About four hours after that I'd managed to clean the inside of the house and this morning I stayed home to clear the yard. I'm hoping to get a plumber out to quote on some work that should a) replace the stoopid Gap-toothed-maniac drainage with something stable and sane, and b) ensure that the next time the storm drains surcharge there's no way for it to get into my house!

footnote: I made it into work this afternoon to find amongst other things that the delightful Sixth Year had broken a stink bomb onto my desk as a going away present (their exam leave starts tomorrow: 'rah!) and I can't help feeling smug that for starters I wasn't here so they only stank out themselves, but better still it pales into insignificance in comparison to the stench I've been dealing with the past 24 hours! hah, take that stupid wormbabies.

Saturday, May 08, 2004


feeling good again today - the restorative effect of my Friday night wasn't (it seems) completely ruined. Plus I've spent most of it doing really productive little things around the house (like fixing skirting board and redecorating bits that needed it) which always makes me happy.

*Expletive Deleted*

**warning** - this entry is a bit of a rant and I swear in it, if that sort of thing offends then please don't read on

I just had a lovely evening out decompressing from the working week with some of my best friends, we saw a stupid film that I really enjoyed, ate chips from my favorite chipshop, hung out and chatted and then went to see the Improverts who were on blazingly good form... then (because I've been sleeping very little this week and was tired) I cried off from going to the pub and set off back to the car with Anita - two minutes up the road from Bedlam a group of kids from work passed us, one of the more evidently plastered of them "whispering" animatedly to the others "that's Mr. Robertshaw" (yes Moron, I have a life and you will occasionally see me outside school) I carried on walking and talking to Anita unphased until said pisshead brat yelled my name, twice at the top of his lungs in that idiotic teenage taunting tone they do... at that point part of me wanted very much to turn round, walk up to him and just tell him to fuck off because I'm not on the meter and so in theory I could...

Of course I didn't, I kept right on walking and ignored the little wanker but it made me angry (as you might have gathered) not because I dislike having my name yelled in public, though for the record my name is not "Robertshaw!" halfwit it's Patrick and you don't know that because you don't know me, no it made me angry because right at the end of my wonderful Friday night, all the very worst of my job was brought thundering back in on my own time!

little bastard!

I realise this is going to sound like I'm over reacting. Perhaps I am, but for three years almost every working day has been spent putting up with some fairly obnoxious spoiled-brat teenagers and their posturing priveledged little 'rebellions' mostly directed at me - the authority punchbag: my job requires me to be the 'bad guy' to these kids, to "maintain a quiet and studious atmosphere" and you can imagine how that goes down with a bunch of 17 year olds! However I have no real clout and they (being at the end of their schooling) are intent on pushing the boundaries of authority, so they prod me, I'm the point in the system they can push at the boundaries with. The result is that I'm treated by a significant number (not all*) of the sixth form with total and utter disrespect. They're just little things, but they add up and they wear at me because I can't react to them or get away, and very occasionally something like that happens and my least favorite part of my working life invades my private life.

What makes it all the more comical is that I also spend a lot of time at work one way or another arguing for us to treat S6 more like young adults and less like infants, I think much of my job is as stupid as they do but I don't make the rules and it is my job so I do it because that's what grown-ups do kiddies, we suck it up and get on with it...

-- deep breath --

say it with me folks: I need a new job!

*I must in all fairness point out that there are some genuinely lovely kids that I work with who manage to be teenagers and yet still treat me like a fellow human being, they and the rest of my life (which is wonderful) are what keep my head from exploding.

Friday, May 07, 2004


I just waited in a dingy little room for 45 minutes so that I could be stabbed in the arm. :( I hate blood tests.

Nothing serious I just might be anaemic, what I certainly am though is sore, I'm lucky enough not have been stuck by needles very often but when I have it's always been fine so long as I didn't look directly at it (seeing things sticking out of me that aren't supposed to be there makes me a little uncomfortable) this one however really hurt.

boo hiss.

Thursday, May 06, 2004


2 more jobs applied for today, and my next mailing list for the speculative application thing is coming on well - been feeling rather down on the whole job hunt thing recently (mostly I think because I got rather too invested in one particular possibility which went nowhere) but today I feel much better.

I'm also happy because some icky personal-life mess that I created for myself a couple of weeks ago, has finally started to be resolved in terms of my not losing a very dear friend (there's still the small matter of figuring out why I caused the mess in the first place but I'll get there.)

Tomorow I have plans with the Friday gang which involve Hugh Jackman, Chips'n'Cheese from the Clamshell, and the Improverts. Bliss! Then this weekend I have all sorts of energetic house stuff to play at so that should all keep me happy.

Lastly (but not leastly) in eleven days time I get to go hillwalking in two of the best bits of north-west Scotland for a fortnight and I get paid for doing it!

Life is good.

Monday, May 03, 2004

shhh, you'll scare it...

... looks like my email is finally back up and running, but keep it under your hat.

Saturday, May 01, 2004


So this is what my Friday night looked like this week, (thanks to Liz for the picture: she's got lots of them here but be warned they'll take a very long time to load unless you've got a fast connection - I foolishly left my camera in the car) obviously neither of those writhing flame-ey people is me, and I was really only a spectator... though that said the atmosphere meant that it was impossible to be there and not feel like part of the celebration, so 'spectator' doesn't really do it justice.

I was of course at the Beltane fire festival on Calton Hill. Beltane is one of four ancient Celtic/Pagan seasonal celebrations, and probably the biggest of them. Edinburgh has been hosting a big Beltane event for about 15 years now and the Beltane Fire Society's webpages are well worth a look if you'd like to know more. Basically it's a big party with lots of fire and a crazy costumed procession all held to welcome in the spring.

Like I said it was impossible not to feel like part of it. We (myself, Liz, Moya, Austin and Anita) arrived about half past eight and for the first 45min or so it seemed very much like we were just standing about on a cold damp hill in the middle of the city. All that time though more people were arriving, mostly people like us who'd just come to watch, but also an increasing number of marauding Red Men whose role at Beltane is to make mischief, as Moya and Austin found out first hand when they got separated from the herd at one point.

Pretty soon after 9 things started happening up on the Acropolis, three huge *cough* fertility symbols were set alight, and some tremendous drumming ushered in the start of the formal procession. About then I lost all sense of time and became completely immersed in the proceedings, the air positively crackled and sang with the fire, the drums, and what I can only describe as as positive charge.

I'm not really much for mysticism and really I went along to watch the spectacle more than anything. I found myself instead being soaked through with the energy that washed over the hill, and coming away with a bright burning sense of something new having begun.

Friday, April 30, 2004


last night in Wal-mart (the supermarket formerly known as ASDA) on an ill advised venture beyond the food aisles, 'nite and I found the holy grail of home electronics: an all-in-one remote which can actually talk to all of the screwball AV devices that live in our house.

There are no less than eight devices in my living room that can be operated by remote, seven of these have controllers (the Tape Deck was an end-of-line model that came without) and because of their Byzantine relationships with one another, any simple action like say watching a TV programme, can require the user to juggle three or more remotes! Until now two of the eight boxen have thwarted our every effort to unify them: The TV is an obscure 'ONDigital' branded set with a peculiar hybrid remote that nothing else has ever seemed able to mimic, and our TV is all channeled through Anita's TiVo which has a similarly unique handset. However last night we found a multi-remote that we'd never tried before and, after some pretty straight forward setting-up, it happily conducted the entire digital entertainment orchestra without a hiccough!

OK I appreciate that for everyone else on the planet this is probably really mundane, but I'm thrilled about it so there. Tonight I'm off to celebrate the "blossoming" of Spring with some friends at the Beltane Fire Festival which should provide much more enganging material for the next entry ;)

Thursday, April 29, 2004


Slight gap in my hosting service again this week, however the new guys have a really good excuse so I'll let 'em off this once ;)

maybe I'm jynxed? anyway if you've sent me email in the past couple of days and it's bounced or just not been replied to then please resend it - ta!

incidentally while I've been unable to publish them for two days, blogger has still been accepting posts so there are some backlogged entries further down the page...

Wednesday, April 28, 2004


I just put gutters up at the back of my house. It rained when I'd finished just to prove that they work too (what considerate weather eh?) and I danced in the yard to celebrate (and to make Anita laugh).

Next time it rains at night, it will do so without dripping noisily into the yard outside my bedroom window for the first time since I bought the place two years ago! There were gutters up there back then, after a fashion - old metal ones that didn't fit properly and which leaked like fury - they, and the front door represented my two biggest mistakes in buying the place (the "oops, I should have got that from him in writing" kind of mistakes: the gap-toothed maniac I bought the house from assured me both were being fixed...) and both took me much longer to sort out than I'd originally anticipated, mostly because, well, they're outside. Most of the time I am not outside, so outside jobs end up being the "I must get round to" ones. That said, the yard is now fast approaching the stage where it will be a very pleasant little outdoor space (instead of a tip) so I might spend some of this summer out there, and if it rains on me I won't care because I have gutters!

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

(whizzy) WOO HOO

finally BT are set to make broadband available to 'the rest of us' and I'm told that by August 4th my local exchange will be ADSL enabled. Either this is a very cruel joke, or else I've just seen light at the end of the rural dial-up tunnel

*patrick does the snoopy dance*


Vital Spark

My spell checker wants to change 'Pitlochry' to 'Vitalizer' perhaps it's trying to tell me something?


Then again, it also wants to change 'Crieff' to 'Crap' so perhaps whatever it's trying to tell me should be ignored.

(I'm cataloguing Maps today)

Monday, April 26, 2004

"Happiness... a tickle of joy on the blue belly of the Universe, yet it must be scratched. Right Max?"

actually I approve, (so long as it's done well) I just wanted an excuse to do a quote. For the benefit of anyone who didn't already know this, it's worth mentioning that I can recite the entire film from memory: mispent childhood infront of a Betamax.

Said Betamax recently gave up its treasure of the lost original edit of the Yellow Submarine (the version available to buy is patched together from the American release and some cutting room bits because by the time the folks at Apple Corps. realised what was happening, most of the original film had decayed beyond salvage) to a DV recorder and was partially mastered into a DVD for me by a good friend. He'd never seen it before however and (understandably) was unable to make sense of what went where so the copy I have at the moment is a bit disjointed.

Hopefully I'll be able to give him a hand soon getting it done the right way up - one of the problems with having the film stored in my brain you see is that the remastered version feels wrong when I see it.

... anyway "I must complete my bust, two novels finish my blueprints and begin my beguine" ;)


I got into work today to find a note on my desk from a couple of the sixth years asking if I'd be prepared to play in an annual charity Rugby match the school holds (this year's being on Thursday.)

For anyone who didn't just fall off their chair laughing at that image, let me elaborate - I work in a public school in Scotland, one which takes its Rugby even more seriously than most institutions of its ilk. This school's fields get used as an alternate venue for minor national (and occasionally international) fixtures when Murrayfield is busy. Also this particular annual event usually involves a visiting professional Rugby player. Add to all that my tiny physical stature (certainly 'tiny' in comparison to most Rugby players anyway!) and the fact that it's well over a decade since I last played anything even remotely like Rugby (I ducked out of the games in PE at school when it became clear that simply being fast wasn't enough to prevent me from getting squashed in contact sports anymore) and you begin to see why I'm having a hard time keeping a straight face!

Mum, if you're reading this I need a note to get out of PE on the 29th ;)

* for those of you scratching your head the title is an extended version of the net abbreviation LOL - Laughing Out Loud. ROTFLMAO is Rolling On The Floor Laughing My Ass Off - and I am, or at least I would be if I didn't have to maintain a veneer of grown-up-ed-ness.

Thursday, April 22, 2004

Right up to the brightness

It's a glorious day today, and to my surprise I find I'm well able to appreciate it. The Summer Term at work began today, an event which brought with it the return of bells and pupils to the school. I am heartily sick of having my working life subjected to the institutional clatter of the bells, as much as I am of the frustratingly intractable and often incredibly rude teenagers my job requires me to herd. I knew all that and was prepared to be quite grumpy today but I find (with great relief) that I'm not.

This morning back at home I mounted the stairs on my way to the coffee machine, and found my loft-living room ablaze with morning sunlight. I enjoyed it in a sleepily sad sort of way: thinking what a shame it would be to spend such a brightly spring-like day indoors at all, let alone in the vault-like gloom of the Library here at work. I still smiled though, as I continued to do all the way over the sunny moorland, driving Anita's spunky red 306 and shielding my eyes with sunglasses against the morning glare. 'nite's car had some more work done recently to repair a little more of the accumulated neglect of its previous owner - a new belt or two somewhere in the power steering system I understand - which together with a few other recent few tweaks and fixes have made Lexie (for that's the car's name, yes she's as bad as I am) feel much newer and sharper to drive than any P-reg could really be expected to. While I'm naturally still biased in favour of my own car Bags, the drive into the city is great fun whichever wheel I find myself behind.

The excellent weather held, and we arrived in leafy Morningside under the same brilliant sun which woke me. Anita brightly set out for an interview nearby which I hope has since gone well. I trundled my way to my desk, where I've found to my surprise I've been smiling ever since. There's no particular reason behind it, and the daily business of work in term-time is every bit as unpalatable as I'd expected, but somehow I'm still happy - perhaps it's something about the spring? A bright feeling of renewal and change... whatever it is I'm glad of it.

Tuesday, April 20, 2004


OK so yesterday I was being a little dramatic. Life is a series of mistakes from which we learn and grow... today I'm feeling brighter and better, the mistake part is done, it's time for the growing part

Monday, April 19, 2004

of booze & barn doors

I learned something about myself this weekend that I should have got figured out a long time ago: I'm a really unpleasant person when I'm drunk. I don't mean just a little bit either, no I'm a thoroughly nasty piece of work when I've had a skinful: a person who does thoughtless stupid selfish things and hurts the people I love... I've had plenty of occasions to recognise drunkPatrick for the bastard that he is before, but somehow in the past "but I was drunk" has always seeemed like an explanation...

Point is I've decided that drunkPatrick doesn't get to exist anymore - from now until I figure out exactly why he's such a git, (and what if anything I can do about it) I'm just not going to drink at all because I'm sick and tired of waking up to the mess that this particular Mr Hyde all too often leaves behind.

As the title suggests I'm a little too late with this in some respects. On Saturday at the end of one of the most congenial evenings I've enjoyed in a long time I inexplicably did something horrible to a very dear friend and I don't expect he's going to be able to forgive me, certainly not any time soon... so it's an empty barn I'm closing the door on here but better late than never eh?