Friday, November 16, 2012


So I'm watching Andrew Marr's History of the World (thank you iPlayer) and up to part four.

Among tonight's astonishing moments comes learning about Al-Khorezmiy who in 827CE calculated the circumference of the Earth damned near accurately. Marr tells me that the ancient Islamic genius calculated the circumference as 23,200 miles and that it's "remarkably close to the accurate calculation" but (infuriatingly) doesn't tell me what that accurate calculation is.

I naturally hit pause and ask Siri (he says 24,901.42 miles incidentally) my sense of C21st curiosity sated I resume the program. Only to learn that Al-Khorezmiy is also in a sense, the father of the algorithm, and since that sort of mathematical acrobatics is essential to modern computing (as Marr mischievously puts it) "every time you pick up your mobile phone, remember there's an old Uzbek Muslim hidden inside".


Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Haymarket: a missed opportunity?

For some time now I've been watching the plans for redevelopment at Haymarket with some interest. Back when the proposals were originally announced I was living in the neighbourhood, and - while I spent two of the intervening years living in Stockbridge - I've always been fond of the area and felt it deserved a bit of care and polish. Since moving back to this neck of the woods a couple of years ago I've kept an occasional eye out for developments, in amongst watching the (interminable) Tram project of course.

Picking Hamish up from the station on Thursday I subconsciously noted new hoardings there with some fairly disappointing "artist impressions" on, and must have made a kind of mental note to look into it, since that's what I've been doing while Hame's at the book fair he came down for.

Now to put this in context, for the past six years my mental image of what's coming when they finally give my local train station (and Scotland's fourth busiest) it's (desperately needed) overhaul has been loosely based on the visuals from Aedas' Haymarket Interchange outline proposal*. Primarily this one:

Much as I was saying in my last post about the success of the old ERI site's redevelopment, I feel this suggestion shows the strongest, most successful mould for modern architecture in an ancient city like Edinburgh: framing the old with a light but bold touch of the new.

Imagine then the crushing disappointment I experienced viewing the utterly uninspired and flat designs Network Rail have chosen from IDP Architects:

Where's the dialogue with its surroundings? Where's the integration of the old and new... above all where's the sodding design!? This lumpen box lurking behind the original station building has nothing to contribute to Haymarket's passengers or its surroundings beyond square footage. It looks as if the architects primary concern was that there weren't enough shadows for their building to hide in, and so they have put all their effort into making some.

Seeing the potentially missed opportunity here pains me - if this pathetic proposal from IDP is what gets built, then a chance to really enhance the western half of the city centre will be lost. I appreciate that Aedas' 2005 sketch is just a sketch, but I'm not the only one surprised to see such a poor job being done on the projected design. Last year rival firm Richard Murphy pitched a rival plan in the Architects Journal, while in a spectacular act of diplomacy calling IDP's designs "unambitious".

I fervently hope that before work begins in ernest, Network Rail are brought to their senses and commission something more ambitious, and more fitting to be part of this city's inspiring architectural surroundings, than this limp, apologetic, soulless lump.

* interestingly the inspired Aedas visuals are still the ones being used on the project's site to illustrate the proposed redevelopment, which is somewhat worrying since they're not at all representative of what's actually being planned.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Hamster time!

My friend and former flatmate Hamish is visiting! For the first time since he and Craig moved up to Wick in 2010 he's down for a proper* visit.

Mostly the plan while he's down is to hang out and chat, interspersed with some watching of movies and goofball TV - just like old times really! Since these days we're both self employed, we've both been working today, but also hanging out which has been great fun.

As a change of scenery mid afternoon we took a wander to get some air and to reacquaint Hame with the city he called home for a decade (and which he thinks of as his "Scottish home town"). I took a bit of a gamble in choosing the route and took us through (amongst other things) the new Quartermile development. Work had started there before Hame and Craig left for the frozen North, but (while it's far from finished) the area's begun to feel alive only in the last year or so and I really like it.

I say "gamble" because one of the things Hamish and I have always disagreed on is Modern Architecture. As a rule I love it. As a rule he hates it. Still one of the things I like about Quartermile is the way the old buildings of the former Royal Infirmary have been restored (on the surface at any rate) and re-presenced within the new development.

To my delight the gamble paid off! Walking through the mix of restored sandstone elegance, and stark glass and steel, Hame surprised himself and me by really taking to the place.

It's always nice to get to share this city that I love with visitors... but there was a new dimension in getting to share the changes I'm excited about with someone who's as fond of and attached to this place as I, but no longer usually here.

Anyway, an old fashioned evening of goofy Sci-Fi (frequently paused while we animatedly discuss things that have popped tangentially into our heads no doubt) beckons!

* It isn't actually the "first" visit of course - there have been flying visits since, but this is the first time he's been here for a few days in a stretch.

Thursday, October 11, 2012


I'm a very seasonal person. One of the (many) reasons I live where I do, is that I enjoy the shifting seasons. I like the change. That said though, people have asked what my favorite season is often enough for me to have thought about it. It's definitely Autumn.

My brother came to visit this weekend. We took a car out into the southern Highlands on a sunny Saturday. Good company, a cracking little car and a sunny autumnal day in one of the most beautiful parts of the planet. Nice to be reminded.

I think one reason I enjoy autumn (apart from the beauty, the crispness, the colour) is the sense of transition. I'm not sure what this year's shift is yet, but I'm enjoying the sense of it...

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

(more) serendipity

Yesterday I (unexpectedly) had a really helpful and insightful chat with a complete stranger. I hadn't been expecting to talk to anyone about anything significant, and then suddenly found myself having a very emotional and personal conversation with this woman. I went with it, and I'm glad  I did. She was able to give me a few totally new perspectives on something I've been struggling with for a while. I left feeling like a weight had been lifted, which was odd since I hadn't felt especially encumbered when I'd arrived... sometimes you get so used to carrying something you almost forget it's there.

Today I had a request out of the blue, which - for reasons I'm not going into - would have really thrown me two days ago. I can see that I would have been really floored by this... but thanks to the compassion, patience and insight of this woman yesterday I'm not.

I doubt I'll get chance to tell her "thank you", but I'm profoundly grateful and wanted to note that somewhere somehow.

Sorry. I promise I'll post something of substance/non-cryptic next time.

(all of which is not to undermine the hours of compassionate patient & insightful conversations I've had on the same subject with friends, but perhaps it's easier for strangers to be less gentle...)

Monday, September 17, 2012

Thank you

It's been a lovely day.

I love this point in the year because it always reminds me how loved I am. And how lucky I am.

That's a good thing to be reminded once a year: means it never goes to your head but similarly you never forget it.

It's been a very happy birthday - thank you everyone who helped with that.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Key Chain

So this afternoon I was gearing up to putting another coat of gloss on the woodwork in the toilet, when I remembered I was running low on groceries, specifically the kinds of things (potato waffles and cheese!) that I tend to want to eat after I've been doing things like painting woodwork.

Off to the shops then. Popped up to Farmfoods & picked up a bag full of odds and ends, about half of which were frozen. So far so dull. Then as I turned onto Grove Street coming home and reached into my pocket for my keys...

I'm blaming the paint fumes. I mean I never leave the house without my keys.

I'd left the house without my keys.

Happily I gave Liz a spare set ages ago against just such an emergency... only (it being Festival time) she was watching a show & her phone was off. Anita (bless her) was in. She doesn't have a set of my keys (though I may get another cut...) however she has a freezer (sorting problem #2 - defrosting groceries) and she has a set of keys to Liz's flat.

A long way round to get home from a quick trip to the shops: Shops to Anita's, Anita's to Liz's, Liz's to Anita's and finally back home.

Brings a new meaning to the phrase "key chain".

Friday, August 03, 2012

Friday, July 27, 2012

Yes, yes it is.

Lovely sunny day here, albeit very windy.

Took a slight scenic detour back from buying milk just now and had an exchange with a passing tourist that made me smile.

Dad walking with his family, all clearly having a lovely day but also clearly puzzled by something and talking among themselves. Tourist Dad caught my eye and smiled as we met at the pedestrian crossing:

Tourist Dad: Excuse... er... what is? *wafts hand under nose gesturing for smell* where does popcorn smell come from?
Me: *puzzled for a moment, then smiling*, No, that's the brewery you can smell.
Tourist Dad: Brewery? *looking around* where is brewery?
Me: About a mile down the road that way, but it's the malt, *smiles* very characteristic Edinburgh smell.
Tourist Dad: *laughs* we wondered where the popcorn smell came from but it's brewery?
Me: Yes, you can smell them making beer.
Tourist Dad: Ah! *smiles broadly* better.
Me: *nodding emphatically* Yes!

small things

one of those mildly cryptic posts - sorry

I'm feeling good about having done two small things today, changed a password and changed a thumbnail photo... kind of markers. Neither means much in itself but equally neither had occurred to me until the past couple of days. Hopefully they mark a closing of one chapter, leaving space to get on with writing another.

Sunday, July 01, 2012

Decades and dozens

I should travel by train more often: I remember to blog :)

I'm just embarking on the last leg home from my fantastic family summer break in the Highlands & Islands. The wee house by the shore of Loch Lochy was amazing, as was the larger house we all shared on Eigg.

As a family we visited Eigg several times - & in various combinations - through the tail end of the 20th century. I was last on Eigg (not counting putting in on the way home from Rum) almost exactly 12 years ago. Passing en-route to & from Eigg's larger neighbour, I'd seen the new ferry, the pier & the improvements harbour side. I've also followed its story in the news over the years.

Going back I was excited to see both the familiar landscape, and the changed community. It's the same place I visited on my teens & early twenties, but at the same time it's totally different.

Playing on singing sands with my niece, standing on the ridge looking over Cleadale with Mum, spotting birds with Dad, walking back from the shop (other side of the island) with my sister... So many moments on the trip could almost have been from earlier visits. I wasn't expecting to have so many fond memories accompanying me for the week.

Contrasting those echoes of past-Eigg were the evidence all around us of present-Eigg. Passing the island's photo-voltaic array, visiting the old shop (now a museum), even just enjoying the total absence of the sound of diesel generators as we explored the island - it felt a substantially different place. More alive somehow, and optimistically, gently, sustainably futuristic in a really enjoyable way.

I liked the island I remember, but I think I prefer the island Eigg has become.

Feels a little sad to be going home to old fashioned mains electricity, although - as evidenced by the number of Hydro schemes & wind farms my niece was spotting as her Mum & I drove south through Scotland yesterday taking them back to South West England - the rest of the country is steadily following the little pioneer in the Small Isles.


Another marker in the steady passage of the years passed last week: on the 27th this little blog of mine began its tenth year! Easily done when you forget to write anything for months I know, but a little milestone nonetheless.

Belated happy birthday splatblog

Monday, June 18, 2012

Broadens the mind


Yes, I know I've been rubbish recently - sorry

First there was a stretch where I was very angry about something work related & didn't want to blog because I didn't want to accidentally post something unprofessional. Short sanitised version: someone I like & trusted, handled a (difficult) situation very very badly. The rug was unceremoniously yanked from under my work life once again. Something I'd worked hard at building and invested a lot in was suddenly and unfairly taken from me.

Since then there's been a longer period where I've just been really busy working & didn't get round to blogging. As you'd imagine that has dulled the sting from the previous unpleasantness.

Work is now entirely in my own hands & going bloody brilliantly. I'm working on exciting projects with really lovely clients. Couldn't be happier.

And so now I'm back to blogging... Except I'm probably not since I'm going on holiday for the next two weeks. I'm writing this on a train hurtling through the (very pretty & sunny) Scottish Borders on my way to Eigg.

Yes. I know Eigg is north west of Edinburgh. I'm going via Keynsham. Yes, on purpose!

My wonderful sister and her lovely daughter live in Keynsham. I'm travelling South to meet up with them, then on Wednesday the three of us drive back to (hopefully still sunny) Scotland, have a few days in a wee house beside a loch in the highlands, and *then* next weekend we meet up with Mum and Dad to get the ferry to Eigg.

To some people this probably sounds a tortuous route. Personally I'm really looking forward to all the travelling. I enjoy it. Lucky that, since without this oddball detour the holiday wouldn't be possible.

Funny how you sometimes have to go the long way round to get to where you want to be.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

... upside down

I've never liked that phrase*. Partly because it's an instruction to be seem happy and those are absurd and kind of offensive. But nonetheless that is what I did this morning.

I've been on a jaunt in the Southlands the past week visiting family, friends and (lastly, yesterday) attending an old friend's wedding. I'd booked my trains ages back and until this morning everything went smoothly.

Then after my early taxi ride from the hotel there was a tortuously slow rail-replacement bus ride from Newbury, followed by a delayed train at Reading, and before I knew it, I'd missed my train home. Boo Hiss!

I'd spotted last night that there might be issues with getting to Kings Cross today, but by that point there was little to be done. With hindsight (and without being at the end of a wedding reception - so possibly thinking more clearly!) I should have asked the taxi company how much it would be to drive me to Reading but bolted horses and spilled milk etc.

By the time I finally reached London I was in a foul mood. Magic phone of magic had at least enabled me to look at my options, but they hadn't cheered me: Checking fares on all the remaining trains today they came back sky high, and then a scan for coaches home yielded one, tonight at 11:30pm, affordable without selling a kidney but will deposit me at the wrong end of Princes Street tomorrow morning at 8:10. Beggars can't be choosers though.

So I was reluctantly hauling myself to Victoria Coach station on the tube, storm cloud overhead, but doggedly retaining my manners... until an utter twat of a northern tourist (whom I'd politely asked to move so I could exit the train, and who'd ignored me) objected rudely to being slightly jostled by my rucksack as I passed him.

I think that I really must never ever move to London. I snapped at him. There was proper shouting and swearing. Not masses but it was loud and angry. I was loud and angry. No matter how shitty a day I'm having in Edinburgh I don't think I've ever turned loud and angry.

I think that partly shocked me into a little mental readjustment though because by the time I'd bought my coach ticket, I'd somehow 180ed my mood.

Once on another such trip, Hame and I managed to miss our flight home by moments. We managed to get a standby but on a train at the end of the day and the one we'd just missed was in the morning. I don't remember either of us saying anything, or it being a conscious choice but instead of spending the day fuming at things we couldn't change, we settled in for a happy day hanging out together. Instead of waiting at Stanstead for 8 hours, we hung out at Stanstead... for 8 hours.

So today instead of being stuck in London, I have an unexpected extra day's holiday in London. I've pottered about & seen some sights, taken some photos and now (at Derek's excellent suggestion) I'm using my "useless" first class ticket for the missed train & enjoying the amenities of Kings Cross' excellent new First Class Lounge.

I doubt very much that I could do this sort of mood change consciously but I'm glad I have the facility subconsciously. And I'm very very glad I don't have to commute on the tube.

* that phrase being "turn your frown upside down"

Sunday, April 08, 2012


No word of a lie. I just woke from a faintly disturbing dream where my sister, some friends and I narrowly escaped getting mauled by a rampaging herd of pre-teens wielding chocolate eggs in a 24 hour Tesco.


Happy Easter everyone

Sunday, April 01, 2012


The past couple of days it's been summer in March here, then today on the way back from collecting a sofa from Falkirk with Phil we passed signs warning of snow tomorrow...


Presumably I should be preparing for a summer of tornados and rains of frogs?

Friday, March 30, 2012

... cruel world

It's OK, I'm not going anywhere.

Well OK I'm going to London next month but that only feels like purgatory, I've no intention of shuffling off this mortal coil.

It is a cruel world though. Or at least it can be.

I had some bad news today from a friend. It's made me angry and upset. It makes me feel the world is a cruel and unfair place.

I have to remind myself that (to date) the balance of my own personal experience has been of world which is a lovely place where good things happen. I have to remind myself to hope for more good things to happen, rather than railing in futility against the bad things which have already happened to a wonderful man about whom I care deeply.

Those of you reading who aren't future me - I promise my next post will be less cryptic, and apologise for rambling incomprehensibly (to anyone who isn't me) but sometimes things need to be marked without the details necessarily being public.

Bad world. No biscuit.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

... quite a prize

What a lovely evening! It's been a long time since we did a proper Friday - then a few aeons ago Kim suggested we visit the Royal Observatory now that it's refurbished. Being a somewhat geeky crowd we all went for the plan. Tonight was the visit and I think I'm ok in saying a fab time was had by all. I saw three of Jupiter's moons for the first time in my life, was introduced to a splendid piece of astronomical software (Dad - you want to download that now it's brilliant) held meteorites, laughed at astronomers forgetting which of Venus and Jupiter is closer, and enjoyed splendid views of Edinburgh amongst some of its most striking architecture (a real feat in this city!)

Then we went to Liz's (via Tesco) for brinner and gin. And in mine and Liz's case a movie after everyone else wussed out - lightweights!

Splendid night. Yay for Fridays!

* Title is a reference to the somewhat disturbing fact that I found myself nodding along to Fergal Sharky on the way home as if his lyrics were meaningful. Possibly there is such a thing as too much gin after all?

Wednesday, March 21, 2012


... has never been like this in my experience. Perhaps I need tastier business cards. Or a polecat.

On a semi-related note, off to another Creative Circuit meeting this evening. See some of you there.

Friday, March 09, 2012


Every now and then - not often - but every now and then, the universe demonstrates a quite marvellous sense of timing, and delivers exactly what I needed, exactly when I needed it.

Feeling very good right now.

That's all.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012


I know it's almost been a year now, but I keep being struck by just how much I'm enjoying working for myself.

Many people who know me well have commented how much happier I seem (and I am!). More than one such person have observed (diplomatically) that I seem temperamentally better suited to answering to me, rather than to someone else. I think they're right.

That said, I don't think I'd be enjoying self employment nearly so much without the support and synergy I get from mine and Derek's joint venture [gawr-juhs]. So often in creative work you need external feedback to get something clear in your head... or at least I do.

I feel very lucky to be enjoying the best of both worlds.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012


We lost!

In however long we've been going to the Quiz (over two years if my poor excuse for a memory serves) two things have never happened: we've never had the Quizmaster's Two*, and we've never come last.

Last night we came last.

Happily last night's consolation prize was a bag of Rolos so our unprecedented poor performance was well timed.

*Nobody ever scores less than two on any given round at the quiz, if a team gets fewer than two points they're awarded two by default - hence Quizmaster's Two.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Office hours

I really really love setting my own hours, even though some days it means that I start and finish later than is entirely sociable.

Missed the pub quiz tonight - my choice, but if I'd got more done during "office hours" (9:00am to 5:30pm) I might have made a different choice.

Then again the work I'd have done during the early part of "office hours" (9:30am to 1:00pm) probably wouldn't have been as good - my brain seems to work best in the afternoon/evening.

When I worked on a salary I used to have this recurring disagreement with my boss about what why it was important to be in the office. I maintained that doing the work and doing it well was the main thing. Being available to clients when they needed me was often cited as justification for being at my desk in the mornings...

... 20 minutes ago I received (and immediately responded to) a query from a client. Haven't done that during the day in... well I can't remember how long.

Just sayin'.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Ducks in a blizzard

So the weather got nice again, Anita and I resumed our plan to go and feed ducks... and by the time we set out it was snowing.

What the hell. We fed the ducks under a bridge in a blizzard and came home to warm up with coffee. Sometimes you just have to accept that you live in Scotland.

Lovely weather for...

So this afternoon Anita and I had plans to go feed the ducks on the canal (they were rescheduled plans from yesterday, in case anyone's cross-referencing with Twitter). we were meeting at 2pm, 20 minutes ago the persistent rain turned into snow. 10 minutes ago Nete called and (very sensibly) suggested we not go and feed ducks today because it was snowing and horrid outside - I agreed. 2 minutes ago it stopped snowing.

Weather is taunting me!

Also I'm having an unusually animal-ey day. This morning my dreams were full of incongruous and wrong-sized animals: a teeny tiny deer got into my parents' house by mistake and we had to try and get it out but it kept hiding under the furniture. Then we did get it out into the garden and (for no clear reason I can remember) I then had a conversation with my Dad while on a rope swing (which never existed) over a pond (which was filled in years ago) in which were a family of 1/4 scale crocodiles. Later in the same dream there was a hamster the size of a dog at my friend James' house.


Weather's cleared up too but now Anita's working on setting up her new computer instead so the ducks will have to wait.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


Funny thing happened the other day.

I've spent (most of) the past year feeling sorry for myself. Feeling loss. Feeling bereaved. That's all understandable, but not bring able to move past it was worrying me until the other day.

Somehow it struck me that I'd been waiting for something that couldn't happen. I'd been waiting most if last year to feel "OK" again, only my definition of "OK" was skewed. I was waiting to feel OK by standards that no longer apply.

I am OK. Just as much as I was before I met Joe. It's a helluva comedown from where I was *after* I met Joe ;) but it is... OK.

Back to normal then.

Could be worse.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012


13 months ago I first reported an intermittent fault with my telecoms to Orange Home. I had a working voice line, but only an intermittent broadband connection, and much slower than it should be given that I live around the corner from the exchange. At the time I suggested that the problem might lie with the rather ropey wiring inside the flat - specifically the old style GPO phone point (broken) where the line entered my flat.

Just to reiterate. That was 13 months ago.

Today I finally got a BT engineer sent out. He took one look at the GPO phone point and confirmed my diagnosis (on closer inspection the wiring inside was so corroded and loose that it's a miracle I was getting any connection at all). He's replaced it with a modern master socket, and now - for the first time since I moved in - my broadband is operating as advertised.

Now in fairness to Orange, part of the reason it's taken so long is that this was an intermittent fault. So when I got disheartened arguing with tech support bods insistent on investigating unrelated problems, I'd give up for a while and put up with it. Had it been simply unusable it would have been fixed ages back. That said, it's both heartening and infuriating in equal measures that I'd correctly identified the fault on day one myself. If the tech support bods at Orange had listened to me and done what I asked then, this would have been fixed for over a year by now.

Instead they sent me a stream of unnecessary replacement equipment, and performed idiotic remote tests that shed no light whatever on the actual problem (as well as repeatedly asking me to connect equipment to a master socket which I'd told them wasn't there!) All because we have an idiotic deregulated telecoms industry here in the UK (thank you Thatcher) which discourages service providers from investigating issues in the infrastructure because the infrastructure is owned and managed by another company. Bah.

Still. At least now my broadband works.

Monday, January 02, 2012

Happy New Year

Yes I know I'm late - I was busy celebrating.

Among the many many things I love about living in Edinburgh is that Hogmanay is a 3 day festival here - we kicked off with the Torchlight parade (above) on the 30th and finished (personally) with a chilled gathering chez Chris (thanks again for the delicious curry buddy).

No fireworks on the 1st (for me) but lots on the 30th and even more on the 31st. NYE itself was great this year - Sonja and Ivan hosted at their lovely flat over the East side of town, with handy access to Calton Hill for watching the fireworks (both overhead and looking down Princes Street toward the castle). I'd never watched from up there and (I gather) this year's secondary display was bigger than it's been in previous years. It was certainly impressive.

Today I've been getting back to work. A far happier state this year than it's ever been before. Lots to do, but all of it good.

Here's to a splendid 2012 eh?