Thursday, January 29, 2004

Sorry I've been quiet - I've just spent a week on-call for work. This involved keeping a mobile with me 24X7 and being able to log in and fix any problems within an hour of it ringing. That means no cinema or theatre, no restaurants or parties, and no booze for a week. But the money comes in handy. I came off call at 3 o'clock yesterday afternoon and celebrated with 20 lengths of the health club pool, and a reacquantance with gin, wine and vodka. My head fairly nipped this morning, I can tell you. We went to see Lost In Translation. This made me want to visit Tokyo. I identified more with Bill Murray's character Bob Harris (no, not that Bob Harris) tremendously, and told Helen she now knew all she would ever need to know about men.

Wedding plans continue apace. We've booked the honeymoon, and ordered the dress. Next come the invitations. It's agony. Not only do I look at my list and think "Is this all I've got to show for nearly 38 years on this planet?" but the compromises and fiddles are soul-sapping. I'm looking forward to it, though. Just as well, I suppose.

Helen is out tonight and tomorrow night, so I might get some life laundering done. Tonight I am planning to audit my recent DVD recordings and cook a pork vindaloo. These are exclusively male activities, you'll agree. I have to come up with a short story outline, too. It's not coming easily a second time. Colin and Alex are coming for dinner on Saturday, so I'll get to cook that goose I ordered for Christmas. To my delight, the latest Doctor Who audio seems to be utter bilge. And I'm told I'm far more entertaining when I'm being savage.

This is the Caledonian Brewery, near our house, with the Edinburgh-Glasgow railway line in the foreground

Friday, January 16, 2004

It's been a busy week. Highlights include being elbowed on a bus by a stranger getting off, and called a "fucking cunt". When I asked incredulously, "What's your problem?", the stranger replied "You, you English radge". I have no idea what I had done to provoke her. I was left surrounded by Scottish people on the bus, and feeling full of pent-up emotions. My initial hope, that the next person she addresses in this manner turns out to be an 18-stone psychopathic rapist, has calmed down. I must admit that when I got to the gym, which is where I was heading, I was able to put a lot more energy into my routine. I manged 100 Abdominal sit-ups for example, and pressed all my weights in one go instead of pausing.

I did several things for the first time ever yesterday. One was walking down much of Gorgie Road, which has so much more to offer the pedestrian than the cyclist or bus passenger. It was very atmospheric at dusk. I was reminded of West Kensington, bizarrely. Another new thing was buying meat from a butcher's shop. They were very friendly and I find butcher's meat far less suspicious than supermarket stuff. I cooked pork chops in an apple and mustard cream sauce, together with potatoes lyonnaise and spiced red cabbage. Fantastic.

Sky were supposed to come and install Sky+ today. But my explicit request that the job would need a Heights Team had gone unheeded, and they sent three men who were very pleasant but suffered from vertigo. The native Americans are coming on Monday, though, which is a relief. Nevertheless, Sky is an example of just how badly you can run a monopoly and get away with it.

George Bush with British astronaut Michael Foale, current commander of the International Space Statiom, speaking live from the ISS before Bush's announcement.

I'm on a bit of a high about two announcements this week. George Wanker Bush has redeemed himself slightly by announcing a space exploration roadmap that means that with a bit of luck I'll see a permanent moonbase and a human on Mars in my lifetime. Anyone who thinks this is an inappropriate use of resources will presumably not mind their descendents being wiped out by a passing asteroid, nuclear exchange, or global pandemic, when there is no human colony anywhere else in the universe. There is a distinct possibility that Earth is the only place where there is any kind of life, and we must preseve it. Our DNA is more important than our individual lives. If children in Africa stave because aid money is being spent on learning to live off Earth, then so be it. It is ultimately short-sighted not to make provision for the future.

I'll step off my soap box now.

The other announcment was that with the discovery of Day of Armageddon, there are now only 108 missing episodes of Doctor Who. And it's a belter of an episode, too. Can't wait to see it.

Monday, January 12, 2004

If I see another American inappropriately put quotation marks around a word in an email, I'll fucking "scream"!!!!!!!!!!!!

Sunday, January 11, 2004

We started the evening with some drinks at the Malmasion hotel in Leith, and then on to Restaurant Martin Wishart, where I spent even more than I had on Helen's birthday at Jacob's Ladder in Dublin last year. The ambience was sophisticated but incredibly friendly and the young staff made us feel completely relaxed. The complimentary pre-starter appetiser comprised a thimble of potato and leek soup, a Chinese soup spoon of salt cod in a chilli sauce and an amazing sort of wire candlestick, holding a Gefilte fish ball and a tiny pastry cornet of black pudding. It served as a taste-bud soundcheck and we were ready to go for the main course. Helen having opted to go for fish followed by fish, and me going for game followed by meat, choosing wine was going to be tricky, so we asked the wine waiter for assistance, The young Frenchman recommended two burgundies, so we opted for the Gevrey Chambertin, at a mere £52. It was worth it. On then to the meal. I had a game tarlet followed, by a nouvelle cuisine beef stew. We opted for cheese, and there was a cheese waiter who toured us round the board, and offered samples before we made our selection. It was the best visit to a restuarant I have ever had, and next time I have a spare £150 rattling around in my pockets, I'll be there like a shot.

Having consumed vodka, sparkling chardonnay, Glenlivet single malt whisky (Mmm - bourbon casked, lovely and treacly), 80 Shilling beer, gin and tonic, and Burgundy in the course of one evening, I have a fairly throbbing head this morning. I was therefore a little unsympathetic to Poppy, when she came in to the bedroom and lay on my pillow licking her private parts noisily this morning. (And the cat was no better! DYSWIDT? Aah!) Also, I have a sore throat, a persistent cold, and an eye infection that makes me look like Doctor Evil.

I don't care. It was all worth it for the best meal out ever. Only a year to Helen's next birthday.

Saturday, January 10, 2004

I feel refreshed and reinvigourated after the Christmas break and glad to be back at work - the return to routine has been good for my mind and my digestion. My resolutions have been off to a good start - muesli for breakfast and nothing more than soup and sald for lunch. Nary a crisp or chip has crossed my lips. I have been eating the several pounds of milk chocolates received for Christmas though.

Thursday marked a nadir in my time management career. I arrived at work late for what I though was my 7:00 start time. I checked the calendar and found I wasn't supposed to be working early that day. However I was supposed to have been on 24 hour standby from the day before. And I'd taken the Bat-phone in to be repaired that day instead. All was not lost. I still had the SIM card, inserted it into my own phone and 'fessed up to the Boss, who took it all in his stride. And German Colleague was happy to fill my shoes today, when I'd promised to go hill walking with Helen.

We went to the Pentlands above Bonaly, five minutes drive from our house. An unchallenging, if windy walk, marked by seeing some soldiers camped in the woods. Here are the snaps -



Tonight we're going out to Leith to sample a restaurant that comes with good write-ups. It's Helen's birthday tomorrow. On Thursday it will be just four months until she is my wife!

Tuesday, January 06, 2004

There is a noticeboard at the gym. It lists "Achievers of the Month". I am one of four this month. Chew on that!

Monday, January 05, 2004

The Christmas break ended dramatically. We went to see the film Touching The Void on Friday night, which engaged me completely. There is a good interview with the director here. It is the story of two climbers in the Andes, who run in to trouble in adverse conditions. When one breaks his leg, the other has a difficult choice. And it's all true.

The following day we went for a walk, at Traquair in the borders, up to the summit of Minch Moor. It was very snowy indeed, and we both disappeared up to our thighs at some points. But it was well worth it for the summit and the forested hills on the way down. It was extraordinarily slippery, with snow frozed into ice and we both nearly fell over several times. Wouldn't it be ironic, we though, if one of us broke his leg, like the man in the film.



We became over confident on the way back down and turned into forest too early. Helen pointed out that we couldn't possibly be on the path we should have been. There were no landmarks and we were about to lose daylight in an hour. We had a good look at the OS map and compass and took a gamble - heading into the forest itself on a cycle path, in an attampt to get to where we should have been. The path meandered, and it was very dark under cover of trees, but we eventually emerged at a crossroads we couldn't remember being at before. Another small gamble about which path to take later, the path started to look like the route map again. We just made it to the car before darkness.



Friday, January 02, 2004

One of the least-well deployed terms in the English language is "I would have thought". I don't know whether it's specifically a Scots thing but the two best examples of its abuse have arisen there.

When I went to see Genesis on their last ever tour at the SECC in Glasgow, they took to the stage and embarked upon No Son Of Mine. Of course they did - it followed their rule to always kick off with a banker from the previous album. Yet the man behind me said to his companion "I would have though they would have opened with Dance On A Volcano". This tickles me for two reasons. Firstly, he didn't say "I thought they would have opened with Dance On A Volcano" - he said "would have thought". Why? He didn;t actually think this. So under what hypothetical circumstances would he have thought this. Why was he so keen to distance himself linguistically from this never-actually-held belief?

Another one was when I mentioned to a real world work colleage that I wrote for Doctor Who Magazine. "I wouldn't have though there was that much to write about", he helpfully responded. Why?

My response is as follows

  1. I have little interest in what you think now

  2. I have still less interest in what you used to think, but no longer do, having been corrected by reality (The strains of No Son of Mine or the continued existence of Doctor Who Magazine, for example)

  3. I have even less interest in beliefs you not only no longer hold, but in fact never have held. Such beliefs are virtually infinite in number and are of no significance whatsoever


So, if you ever feel tempted to inappropriately deploy "I would have thought" in front on me, be cautious, because you may very well find yourself saying "I would have thought you weren't going to punch me then".

Anyway, here are some railings earlier today.

Thursday, January 01, 2004

Hogmanay was cancelled last night. It was the only time I have ventured on to the streets at New Year, despite having been in Edinburgh at that time of year for the last eleven years. I finally decided to brave it this year but it was cancelled. All my fault.
Here's the full story
On December 30th, we went to Dunbar for a walk. It's one of a series of seaside towns that line the East coast of Scotland, South of Edinburgh. In the Old Days, people from Edinburgh would actually go on holiday to Dunbar or North Berwick, but now it's only the two of us. We often go for walks, taken from books of walks. Often these are writtem by a man called Jarrold. His powerful imagination means that the routes have no relation whatsoever to the terrain. Possibly, this is because they were all written in 1956. But our latest book was fine. At first the weather was fair, but later it snowed.