What do these people have in common? (Apart from being mostly dead.)
Queen Elizabeth Princess Margaret King George VI Princess Elizabeth Bernard Montgomery Of Alamein Queen Mary George Shaw Hermann Goering Rudolf Hess Vyacheslav Molotov Joachim Von Ribbentrop Lupino Lane
Yesterday I weighed the lightest since about September 2006.
So I celebrated by getting pie-eyed in both the Port Inn and the Village. (There was a massage night at the Village, but they won't take you if you've had a drink, which we all agreed made a pub possibly not the ideal venue.)
Spent ages trying to persuade a friend who can't be named that Irvine Welsh was Scotland's greatest only living writer. He proffered Rankin and Rowling. I said they were for kids.
Got home and watched Mr Welsh's latest gizmo on the box. Wedding Belles. Sadly it was unwatchable rubbish, so had to switch off after fifteen minutes. I did try, honest Guv, but they have to learn that putting in shots of Salisbury Crags and Gordon the rude barman from the Compass does not make good drama out of shite.
So I ate. And ate. Tin of mackerel, tin of Scotch Broth, heaped casserole of frozen veg, liberally drizzled with Kraft Light Balsamic dressing. Half a box of grapes.
And guess what? That's right. I put on not one, not two, but three and three quarter pounds. Return to porker. Dress size unknown.
Talking of dress size, Chav Gav was describing with relish the drag outfit he's bought to celebrate somebody's birthday. All the butch Village dudes are dragging up, apparently.
I said drag is fine apart from the high heels which just killya. If ever men want to know what women are really like, they should spend just one hour in high heels. That will tell them more about masochism than any book, class or seminar could dream of.
Inventions of the very devil himself.
Thanks to Mad Jim my hillwalking coach for helping with the Link to this problem. I'm not sure if my hands are steady enough to try out his advice yet.
It was just over a week ago I was berating The Guardian newspaper for their illiteracy.
And it was just over a month ago I made this unrelated promise about another bete noir - which is the seemingly ubiquitous use of "frontman" to mean plain and ordinary "singer". This was my dark message:
"I swear if I ever read, 'Mick Jagger, frontman for the Rolling Stones', I will commit murder. Oh yes. A man can only take so much language abuse."
Well strap me down, plug me in, and throw away the fuse. For what should we read in yesterday's Metro newspaper but this little gem:
You'll note they're so damn thick they can't even get the name of the band correct. It's only the second most famous in the world.
I despair. I truly do. Roll on Shady Pines.
POPEYE! SAVE ME!
I need help. Oh yes. Psychiatric always, but today also my Link To This click, which puts in the post number twice and thus defaults to the top. (I've manually changed them in this post, but you'll see it if you hover.) I've tried fiddling with the template, but that didn't work as I'm only guessing. (It's restored now.)
Any assistance would be mucho appreciado. Tony my IT Manager is a busy man these days, and we only meet about yearly.
Ally and Ian comprise the only gay couple I know. At one time owners of the Village pub, they now have an out of town hotel I won't mention so as not to embarrass them Googly. Ian is a glorious man, and a complete Fashion Victim also. Complete. (I've said it to his face umpteen times, so I can say it here if I want.)
We were chatting in the Port Inn in Constitution Street last night - they twa, some others and moi. The crack was pleasant if inconsequential until the last moment when Ian, getting up to leave, started tugging at something under my bottom. Some clothing I was sitting on. "Sorry hen - ah'm sittin' on yer jacket," I breathed. "And it's a VIVIENNE WESTWOOD!" Ian half shouted back, shoving the label in my face.
So last night was the first and probably only time in my miserable, penny-pinching, charity shop existence I'll ever see a Vivienne Westwood label. And what a suitable place to put it!
It was glorious, yesterday, my walk - almost transcendent. The wind was to be from the east all day, rather than the more normal south west. So I decided to reverse the order of play, and start from Flotterstone, rather than end there as so often.
(My two previous attempts in this direction had both failed, due to exhaustion after the first leg, the thousand foot plus triple-peaked Turnhouse Hill.) But I am fitter now, and leaner, and I resolved to heft my sub-thirteen stone frame upwards as demanded. Fuelled by a tasty cheese and spring onion roll with a hefty whack of instant coffee. It was early you see, thanks to British Summer Time. An hour earlier than your body expects.
Two figures were ahead, high above, and then I saw one below also. But you never hurry, never rush, for that way lies speedy defeat. Which - as I say, I've twice succumbed to in this manner.
Baby steps where gravity dictates, as it's best not really to stop. Baby steps, and use the arms also, courtesy of my fantastic hiking poles purchased from Lidl at only fifteen quid. (This is not an ad. They're almost certainly not selling them atm.) Muscle, bone, sinew, blood, lungs, oxygen.
Have you ever thought how "ventilation" means two such different things - one to a doctor, and one to a heating engineer? I have - as I've panted my way up a million steep slopes, sometimes pausing to look back and down, then savouring the headrush as the ventilation turns to hyper if you let it.
And then we were there. Unexpectedly quickly, to tell the truth. Time to pull up those recklessly unzipped microfleeces against the now much stronger wind. Dank cloud too, rolling over from the Southern Uplands across the plain. No chance yet of any sun on my newly bald pate. It was barely visible, the sun I mean, whorls and swirls fleeting across its pale white disc. Later there was to be sun in abundance, as we shall see.
Ewe Were Made For Me
Hot on the hoofs of the recent Lesbian Sheep Paradox, here were a bunch of lezza ewes trying to crowd me out of my luncheon spot. You can tell they're lesbians because
(a) none of them is wearing labels (b) or lipstick, and (c) there isn't a man to be seen for miles.
One cheeky witch is even baring her lady parts with an "eat this" look about her, I truly swear it.
At the top of East Kip, the penultimate lump of the Big Five, two (human) women above me watched my ascent than started to chat. Forty-ish they were, and friendly. I'm convinced they actually fancied me, as of course I look nothing like my real age. Or maybe the obvious fitness impressed. Or maybe they thought the bald head indicated a stash of coke in the backpack. Who knows. 'Twas good.
It was sunny now, as forecast. So I determined to tack on three more hills, the ones I showed you in last Tuesday's snow-o-rama. What a difference a week makes! This would then push my day into the "Munro" classification of 3000ft plus. Sort of. Mony a mickle maks a muckle, as we say in Scotland. (*Lots of small things add up to a big thing.) And my day was muckle good.
Green Law, Spittal Hill... two undemanding treks, although the Green Law approach is pretty boggy. Deffo not one for the day after rain. Second lunch at a cattle grid in the bealach between Spittal Hill and Paties Hill, that twin-peaked last gasp before down down down to the village of Carlops. My luncheon being herb and spice chicken sandwiches, the chicken reduced to 60p from a quid, due to it being past its sell-by. Bit like me, if you think about it. Very tasty, although whether that was the meat itself or the herbs, spices or even tangy bacteria I'm not sure. Too much cleanliness is bad for you, as I often say.
Dirt Track Bonanza
But I digress. And yesterday I did that too. Here from left to right across my path was a farm track. And the urge to explore came upon me again. I had a map. A compass. The only thing I didn't have was Stewart, but I survived last Tuesday on my own, and once again I fancied taking a chance. (To be honest, a made farm track is not exactly the height of wilderness.)
Ten minutes later came North Esk reservoir. From now on, everything I'm showing you was the first time for me also. It was consummately exciting. It was like being a kid and going "out to play". It was like being a sixty-year old kid with his mother back home with the tea which he didn't want to return to because it was so much more fun outside. Outside in the afternoon sun and the gentle breeze and the sound of birds from the reservoir. You knew water was there long before you saw it, because of the birds. Gulls have such an ugly call. Caw! Caw! Caw!
Here are some reservoir pictures:
After crossing the straight diagonal track up towards that cottage, there were fields and sheep, and I saw my first two lambs of 2007. Aren't they pretty?
But look! What's this? It's a sheep on its back! Here - on the left of this one. How scary!
I pondered phoning someone about this, but then I saw some leg movement, so decided against. Some creatures aren't happy unless on their backs, I guess.
Here's the Alan Ramsay Hotel, in Carlops Village.
Why are country bus stops so handy for the pub? In fact I just missed a bus, so was forced to spend a fascinating hour chatting to two guys at the bar. Forced, I tellsya. One of them was called Jose, which he pronounced with the correct "ch/j" sound at the beginning. "San Jose!" I declared. "No way, Jose!" he rejoindered. He's from Galicia. And that was my first proper day of British Summer Time.
Update: Read more about the upturned sheep problem below. It's far from funny.
Oh yes indeedy doody. Mind on Sunday we were eagerly anticipating the arrival of the e-book technology? Well, in yesterday's Grauny you could savour Victor Keegan's take on that very topic. Coincidence? Why yes of course. Interesting piece, nevertheless, but of course he's had all week to write it. Here we've covered a dozen and a half things since then, been on two major walks, done a day's proper (ie not sitting at a desk) work, and delivered you a bunch of photos also. No real comparison. Some people just have it easy.
Get Out Of Jail Free
Readers in Scotland might have observed a familiar face on their BBC Scottish news yesterday. Yes that's right - it was Mary the legendary landlady. Now that the Scottish smoking ban is almost a year old, the Scottish Licensed Trade Association is using the anniversary to bleat on about their members' interests again. Their members being publicans, of course. Shock horror! Some bar workers have been "let go". How awful for them, no longer having to slave till two in the morning in a smoke-filled hell. Leered at and harassed by drunks. And all for the princely minimum wage. How awful I say again.
One fuckwit radio station prefaced its article with the words "Smoke Ban Bad for Scotland." That is - less drink has been sold, fewer cigarettes smoked, and somehow that's BAD for Scotland? Gits.
I cannot stress too strongly that the licensed trade is exactly that: a trade. If people stop coming to your pub, then tough. I swear the SLTA would have unemployed publicans recompensed from the public purse. Not on my watch they won't.
These observations are about the bar trade in general, and not in any way about Mrs Moriarty's fabby howff, which people queue up to work in. Sadly I missed Mary's feature, but heard it was splendid.
Scottish Smoke Ban - The Ifs and Butts
It might be worth taking a moment to describe how successful the ban has been here in Bonnie Scotland, as it'll be coming to your part of the UK real soon.
There are two separate bans: (a) in certain premises (all enclosed public places, both work and leisure), and (b) in commercial vehicles. Starting with premises, I think the ban has been one hundred percent successful. Obviously bingo and pubs play a large part in my sorry life, and in both the "compliance" has been total. From talking to others I detect this is common throughout the land.
Vehicles though are a different story, and here the law has been made into a complete ass. It's illegal to smoke in any commercial vehicle in Scotland, and from my own observations I would say that compliance is now zero. These are the people I've seen smoking in vehicles: Post Office van drivers, council van drivers, lorry drivers, taxi drivers and even once a cop in a cop car parked in a lay by.
I've not read even one account of any prosecutions for this. Yes - it's open season to break the law, just as it is about cycling on pavements, which the cops don't give a monkey's about either. (It's also illegal to smoke inside bus shelters, but this happens a fair bit too - usually done by chav types you wouldn't really want to challenge unarmed.)
"So I'm a moron and a dullard, am I?" Chav Gav greeted me with yesterday evening in the Village. (I had to pop in just for a wee, after joining the library - yes, really! - just across the road.)
Libraries are all so hi-tech now. None of this, "We'll send you your tickets in about a fortnight..." Not at all Jose. Within moments of telling them everything about myself short of my dick size I was issued with a bar code on a bit of plastic, and invited to take out some books. I chose another Stephen King. Might as well get the hang of him before moving on to Will Self. (I'm joking of course. I wouldn't wipe my bottom on Will Self.) But a library without library tickets? I feel so Miss Marple-ish.
Gav was understandably a little peeved that I'd made this remark in a comment box about the football industry:
"I'll never till my dying day understand why such an intelligent gadgie as yourself has even one moment for the game of morons and dullards. They couldn't even have a parade of honour at the home ground without it being ruined by knuckle-draggers."
So I pointed out that my remark specifically excluded him from those categories. He said that Hibernian FC was the only FC in the UK to have a gay supporters club, the Gay Gordons. I misheard him a bit, due to old age, and thought he said Gay Goblins, which would be quite appropriate too.
I introduced myself to Gav's companion, who was being polite and shy and not speaking. Barry his name was, a draughtsman. "Hello, I'm Peter," I declared. "I'M A GAY MAN." (I'd just been reading Sir Elton banging his gums in the Guardian about how we should all stand up to homophobia wherever it occurs. So I thought I'd practise on someone who wasn't actually doing any homophobia.) Nice young man. I told him I was old enough to remember blueprints. That I'd actually held one in my young hands. Not only had Barry the draughtsman held blueprints, but when he was an apprentice he had to change the ammonia solution in the printing machine, and boy did that sting your eyes.
Incidentally, the reason Sir Elton (he of the former closet and sham marriage) was in the Grauny was that it was his sixtieth birthday. Beat yer there honey, as well as with the homophobia stuff, which we did here just two days ago. First with all the important news, as we said.
Corrections and Clarifications
Gav's and Jacks' cat is called Jake, not Tigger. Jake it was who had six teeth extracted. Awww. Apologies, and a donation has been sent to the local Cat Home.
Like most other large female quadrupeds, a ewe, when sexually aroused, will stand absolutely still.
This works fine for the straight ones, for - in the fullness of time, and depending presumably on their hotness - the ram will eventually get round to them and do the Polish Catholic biz.
Sorted. That itch was driving me crazy anyway.
But not for our lezza ewes, oh no. (You can see where this is going now, can't you?)
Yes, oh yes. They are doomed to stand forever absolutely still, whilst eyeing each other up like there was no tomorrow. Which for them, sadly, there never will be. Martina would have hated it.
The answers to yesterday's "what's wrong with this Guardian cover?" were:
1. Bolognese should of course be capitalised. It means "from, of, or in the style of Bologna." (Congrats to Alan of Random Burblings.)
2. The only acceptable prepositions to follow "bored" are by and with. "Bored of" is a horrible Scouse-like thing which snuck in ten to fifteen years ago. Begone vile horror! I've cancelled my subscription to the Guardian until the person responsible is sacked. (Congrats to Robin of Speaking As A Parent, which I meant to say ages ago has started up again.) He's a lifer!
Just kidding of course. I rarely buy any papers, as these days they give it all away fer nowt. Much like I do, in fact, just not as good.
You have all today and tomorrow to submit your fave blogpost to Post Of The Week. This weekend I'm one of the judges, so any entries accompanied by a brown paper bag will be looked upon especially favourably. This is Edinburgh, after all!
Whaddya think about that caring, inclusive Polish government - gonna "Ban discussion on homosexuality in schools and educational institutions across the country, with teachers facing the sack, fines or imprisonment." Shades of the Grocer's daughter there, eh?
But it gets worse. "Poland's education minister, Roman Giertych, has said he hopes to introduce a similar ban across the entire EU." (Both these quotes from yesterday's Guardian.)
I've got two words for Mr Giertych, but they're not repeatable in a family weblog. I don't know. Only been in the damn EU for five minutes, and now they're wanting to start dictating terms. It's because all their young have fucked off to Scotland and other lovely places, so they're facing a massive depopulation at home. Plus you're bound to be a homophobe if your name begins with Roman, if you kinda think about it.
Standards Are Free
Whaddya think about this from the front cover of yesterday's Guardian G2?
Only got eleven words, and I score two mistakes. (But then again I'm very old, and can remember when things mattered.)
Thirteen stones zero today (182 lb), the lightest since October 21 last year, when my weight-loss went into reverse for a few months. And today it's March 21. What is it about 21's eh?
Yes it's the Vernal Equinox today, for everyone except zed and daffers, who celebrated it yesterday. (Although I betcha a fiver to a brick shithouse they had other things on their minds.) March 21 00:07.
Just had to sign up for a Yahoo Account in order to continue using the Flickr service I definitely recall paying good money for. Had to give so much information they could now just about forge my identity and empty what little is in my coffers. "This site collects personal information", it says in the small print at the bottom. Yee Har!!
Edinburgh is about to get a tram service imposed on it, which no-one except the council wants. The council wants it so they can make millions in brown paper bags. It is only one of the cornucopia of scandals in this town on a daily basis.
Darling zoe has taken to sleeping on the living room couch, an entity I've trained her off since the beginning. (Because I often sleep on it, and in the early days she made me very sneezy.) Only in the last week she's started to sit there, looking at me with a "What ya gonna do about this?" expression on her hairy puss. Now it's even worse, as she waits till I'm approaching, and then squeaks and runs away. It's become a game - and she's won.
Don't tell me to wait till she gets on her own bed and then give her food, because I've done that. Repeatedly. In my prime I could manage thirty teenagers, brilliantly. Now a damn cat has got the better of me. I do give up. Anybody in Poland want a heterosexual cat? (I think.)
Plus not one but two stories from yesterday below. I don't know. Giving it away, I tellsya.
And if you think it's cold where you are, spare a thought for me yesterday and today in minus six at forty mph plus. Yesterday's hillwalk got abandoned after an hour due to horizontal sleet in my face. Great astringent for those greasy patches, but when it gets so bad it hurts to open your eyes then it truly is time to stop.
Sloped off downhill via Eastside Farm. Here's West Kip, where I am in the title picture top right, but viewed from a different vantage. (I agree it doesn't look very sleety, but the other side of that hill was a maelstrom, I tellsya:
Today was every bit as windy and freezing, but at least sunny. Sunny delight. So after that crucial first hour I made for me a fairly brave decision - and headed off to do some solo exploring, in the gale with snow and crunchy ice underfoot. There are a lot of Pentland hills I haven't touched yet, and this morning carved three new notches on my belt: Green Law, Spittal Hill and Patie's Hill. Leaving I would guess about six for another day.
I'd often been tempted to deviate from the rollercoaster to try out this particular ridge, and today seemed just perfect - placing the wind on my back instead of in yer face, and the sun quite brilliantly vice versa. It was all a bit snowy as a bonus. (Even though Stewart wasn't there, I didn't get too scared.) Soopa. How brave am I? Look out Bear Grylls.
That Bear is such a cocktease, I truly swear it. First one I saw was all about his pixellated penis, and this week it was the mosquito bites on his bare (eek) bottom. Come off it honey. Nobody that butch is straight.
What's going on in your world? Are you as freezing as we are here? This blog is going down the tubes due to insufficient things happening. I should mebbe start making it up like Rebel Inc.
(I've done the Time Lord thing and reversed time. This came AFTER the post above.)
There I was admiring my snaps above, when all of a sudden the page FLIPS to a Dell Support Google Search page. How irritating. Then it did it again. Then I panicked just slightly, and swept the place clean with AdAware and Spybot: Search and Destroy.
Minor cookies emanated from the former, and zilch from the Spybot.
So I panicked a bit more, and went and Googled Dell Support Page and lo there were several forums on the matter. These days you can be ABSOLUTELY SURE that troubles are ALWAYS shared!
This is what you do, should Dell/Google fuck with your browsing:
Open IE Tools/Internet Options/Programs/Manage Add-Ons Wait till Manage Add-Ons loads. Disable the one CBrowserHelperObject, with associated file BAE.dll OK your way out, then restart IE.
Did it for me - so far at least.
This has been a Naked Blog public service announcement for the elderly.
Much though I adore what the United States has given to my language, the misappropriation of "mother" is saddening. Ah well.
From the beginning then:
Happy Day, all you Moms! (And you "mothers" can fuck right off, ya hear me... )
FORCE BE WITH YOU
See two posts down if you've been asleep or in a cave these last few days.)
With the publication of Shaggy Blog Stories on Friday, just a week after mike's initial idea, there can no longer be any doubt about the power of British blogging and the arrival here of machine-mediated collective consciousness.
Whilst the US bloggers have tended to point their organised might at political targets, here the emphasis has been different.
First Things First
Things probably started back in December 2006, when a dozen or more high-ranking* British blogs delivered a stinging Google attack on S*e*r*e*n*a*t*a Flowers, in reprisal for persistent commentbox-spamming. In essence, S*e*r*e*n*a*t*a abused The Collective Blog, and The Blog struck back - leading to immediate capitulation. Guardian report.
Second was an attack on an individual blogger by a journalist. Abby Lee of Girl With A One Track Mind was harrassed and threatened by Murdoch hack Nicholas Hellen from the gutter Sunday Times. Her crime? To write a successful book. Again, bloggers collectively linked to a descriptive blogpost and caused distress back to Hellen.
Shaggy Blog Stories
These were interesting foothills. But the day which will almost certainly be thought of as the birth of the British Blogosphere will March 16, 2007, and the publication of the biggest collaboration to date, the book Shaggy Blog Stories, compiled by Mike Atkinson and helpers in just one week. Yes, you read that last part right - one week.
This was again a machine-mediated feat, bringing together some of the most experienced blog people in the land - people who knew exactly what they were doing, how to do it, and who would submerge their egos into the collective good. This for the reward of a "mention" only.
The process seems to work best with a "driven" leader. Shaggy Blog was a "one-many" collaboration, rather than "many-many" which often dissolves into unhelpful dispute. Think of a hub and spokes, but with no rim. The very reverse of a spider's web, with its meetings, committees, sub-comittees, minute takers, tea ladies and so on. I'm sure readers with sociology degrees would know the proper terms for what I'm driving at.
...are excellent. This present book was written and compiled in new media all the way up to the very last stage, when it had to revert to paper.
But not for much longer. Oh no. In almost no time at all, electronic "book-alike" machines will be as cheap as chips, and you'll be able simply to purchase your books electronically. Those with more elderly eyes can up the font size a notch whenever they wish. Kids can read in Comix Sans - mums and dads in Times New Roman.
And I've just finished Stephen King's Cell, and feeling very proud of myself.
Por qua? Were you on the editorial team?
Why no. It's just that's the first book I've read for more than a decade. I truly thought my brain had gone too mushy. (Whole of the moon. In an earlier and wilder century.) Now I can join the library!
Thoroughly enjoyed Cell, btw. First King I've read. It's so nice to trust a master story-teller, to know there won't be any bad bits, to relax in someone's capable hands. Plus there was two pounds fifty off at the Co-op.
Have a lovely Mothers' Day. (Never did know where to put that damn apostrophe!)
*High-ranking here means "high Google rank". Their term.
A newly-published book of amusing blog stories to raise money for RED NOSE DAY, today.
And there ya go. Inspiration to culmination in seven days. I know God made the universe in one less than that, but this must surely rank as the second fastest Creation since then.
All hail to Mike Atkinson of Troubled Diva, and the hardworking support team who can be found here. As can the list of 100 blogs from which the pieces are taken. Everyone (almost) who's anyone in Britblogging is there - along with some spanking new "finds".
Me, I was honoured to be part of that editorial team, where my duties were to help judge the submissions (thanks to bloggers' generosity the concept was hugely over-subscribed), and to write the back cover blurb, which you can see here.
Back covers are a much-overlooked thing, being invariably overshadowed by front covers. Are YOU a back cover person, or front?
IT'S LESS THAN A TENNER!!
Either way, you have one and only one task ahead of you. That is to BUY THE DAMN BOOK. Oh yes. Blog glory is all well and good. But there are children out there without a Big Mac to their name. Children who would treasure a small doll and a picture book far more dearly than your offspring cherishes an iPOD. But you know that already.
PLEASE order mike's book. It's just one click away.
After two or three days of pretty intense blog-reading it's nice to sit down, mug of Nescafe Gold Blend by my side, and chew the fat with you again. (And for any passing hacks - no, that isn't a product placement. We don't do PPs here, unlike on the Beeb every second hour it seems.)
What do I mean - intensive blog-reading?
Well, I've been helping mike with his in/out decisions for the book, Shaggy Blog Stories. Oh I've read so many blogposts! But I don't propose to say much about that until the book goes on sale at midnight tonight. (Mike will publish the link at midnight, and then all you have to do is order it.) Manana un poco mas, as they hablar in Spain.
I think I actually got sacked last night, for being a bit negative. But I could tell mike had had a good swally, so I re-instated myself this morning. It's difficult to get fully sacked when you're not being paid anyway.
Fun and games on Monday, when I re-entered the Port o Leith Bar for the first time in a year it must be. (I'd already been boozing next door in the Port Inn to get up some courage.) And it was perfect, just perfect.
Mary, Scotland's most legendary landlady, and I, Scotland's most legendary something or other, held hands across the bar. "It's like coming home," I breathed. It was a profoundly emotional alcoholic moment.
...dawned a mixture of promising but threatening, so after the hangover had abated a bit I headed south for a mini-Pentland trip. Travelling light - no food or coffee. Just water and chocolate. Almost ran up Caerketton Hill, leaving a young Polish couple hopelessly behind and below. How unfit are the young these days, with their Playstations and iPods!
On the steep bit down on the other side I recklessly trod the dangerous part, and soon slipped right onto my bumpit. Nothing hurt but my dignity though (and a bent nail), as I was in full view of someone approaching.
Do you know, even at sixty the same instant thoughts come as in childhood: "Quick get up! Don't look hurt! Whatever you do, DON'T CRY!!" Some things never change.
To Swanston then, a place I'd never been. They're making a new golf course. An impossibly handsome man in top to bottom fluorescents stepped into the road, and I gestured at Caerketton Hill behind, looming against the greying sky like a lost and lonely Alp.
"That's something else, eh?" he said, agreeing. "I'm just down from there," I mentioned, o-so-casual. "Braver man than me," he offered. Then I smiled, my one-upmanship complete. Straight men can be such wimps, I tellsya.
After the hills, in the Village, who should come in but NB reader Chav Gav. He showed me pictures of his cat on his phone. (You know what I mean.) Lovely. Tigger, if I recall. Tigger had had six teeth extracted due to decay. Darling zoe obviously got off lightly with just a scrape and polish!
Later I explained the Proustian gay paradox to him and his partner Jacks. (Who is a woman, which fact is apposite to my tale.)
LOCK UP YOUR HUSBANDS
The Proustian gay paradox is that some gay men cannot be attracted to others similar, because the fact they're gay means they're not masculine enough. Their very gayness disqualifies them. (I stress this is a minority viewpoint. Most gay men go out, get pissed and start shagging anyone who says yes. No difference from straights there, then.)
So who exactly can these Proustly-challenged gays actually do stuff with? Well, it has to be straight men. Only a straight man will do. "But a straight guy wouldn't be attracted to a man," Jacks (correctly) said. "You're right of course," I agreed, " - but in practice there are always compromises."
"I hope you're not after my Gav!" Jacks declared then. "Not at all," I assured her. "Gav is a warm and wonderful man, and were I twenty years younger I might well have made a play. But I'm not, so there we are." Gav grinned when I said that. Honesty is generally the best policy in these matters, I find. Plus there are very few men who don't realised they're being fancied. I mean look at little Alex.
For in truth any queen worth her salt has a whole string of "straight" notches on her Gucci. Ex-squaddies are usually good to go. Officers too - all that Spartan ethic. Marcel would have loved it. I bet he lapped it up.
Some time soon I'll tell you about the Lesbian Sheep Paradox.
It's so exciting. We won nothing at all. But let's call it "equal second", in a quite bloggeracious list!
So - prickly branches of rasps to Naked Blog, but Serenata roses to the most wonderful Zed of My Boyfriend Is A Twat, who scoops European for the third year running. The other Zoe is at best British, and Tokyo Girl easily bags best Asian.
Anyway. Thanks all of you who gloriously nominated the blog and me for this prestigious thing, and sorry we didn't make it. Winning the lifetime was never really a serious option, so I lost not one moment of sleep this time.
And - as anna said - her big sister deserves it very much also. I would totally agree.
Plasticbag, Notsosoft, and Naked Blog. In an order something like that. It would be surprising if we ever appear in The Bloggies (TM) again. But at least we have sat with the Masters - twice, and they can't take that away. Oh fucking no.
FOR THE FUTURE, NOW, WILL LATER BE PAST
In January 2002 I could write about blogging vs cinema:
Forget tired old film stars dripping in borrowed diamonds. Ignore those flashing cameras as the winners act their butts off, trying and failing to pretend humility. Cinema is fake - this is real. Cinema was then - this is now.
With the coming of the weblog community we at last can sense that fifties dream - of collective human consciousness. No medium, no art-form has had what we have now. When you weep, my heart lies heavy, and when you laugh my joy breaks bounds. For we - that's you and I, my literary friend - are the brave and stumbling pioneers, the very Sultans of Cyber.
And when your grandchildren, with their SMS virtual-reality implants, laugh at today's crude equipment, you can say, "At least we made a start".
But while all this was going on Stateside, and Naked Blog was one solitary wire beneath the Atlantic, much was happening in my own country, or at least England, which I'd turned a blind eye to. Tom and Meg were very early starters, and have continued in glory to this day. Mike came to my notice in early 2002, and it was principally through him I learned of the wealth then of Britblogs and gayblogs.
So there you are. There as you wonder why this little home-made-looking effort should matter even slightly.
Words are easy, they always say, and for us, my blogging friends, the easiest of all. We toss them like gemstones into the sand - some cheap, some good - but we toss them nevertheless, knowing that tomorrow there'll always be more.
And do you know - there always have been.
Congratulations to all the Bloggie winners and finalists. And to those who didn't make it this time, well - you possibly never will. But will that stop you blogging? I hope not.
YOUR blog contribution is required. Oh yes it is. Now click here to learn all about this fabulous project, and then get submitting. Don't be conspicuous by your absence. Don't spend the rest of your life thinking "if only..." You have until Tuesday 6pm. Hear mike talking about it on BBC Radio Five Live tonight at 11pm. (Update: Tuesday 2am. Probably use the "listen again" feature, eh?)
After five years of blogging at each other, this weekend mike and I have finally spoken on the telephone. I'm happy to report he sounds exactly the same as he does in real life, ie on his blog. Mr Bell is to be congratulated on his new invention.
In order to leave this post at the top of my internationally famous blog, and stop continually re-writing it, it will be desirous for me to have a couple of days off. This is all good, as you've got more than your money's worth in the posts below. INCLUDING my first videocast of 2007, complete with scary scary baldness. Ready for my close-up, Mr DeMille.
See you in the comment boxes though. Serenata Flowers are back on the comment spam, despite all those assurances. Please don't click on them. Some people put the ass into assurance, I swear it.
Off for two hours and I'm back blogging again. Just watched the vid of last night's BBC 2 programme The Trap - What Happened to Our Dreams of Freedom?
This is an immense documentary series by Adam Curtis, and thoroughly recommended. It's got the lot, from R D Laing to Margaret Thatcher. It turns out my entire life has been governed by a Cold War ethic of trust no-one and act only in your own self-interest. There must be no altruism in government, and no patriotism in the military. Rather, society must be run by mathematical games theory and systems analysis. Madness is society's means of controlling objectors.
If you recall our Naked Blog mantras of "doctors make you worse" and "the sole objective of a politician is to get re-elected" then you'll see we've been right all along! What a nice, warm glow that gives me. Corruption at every level - built in. The internet is our only safeguard, while we have it at least - which to be honest might not be for much longer.
Bear Grylls... on the telly last night. 7.20, Channel 4. The very name would make a gay man wilt. Bear. Grylls. But does it pass the Billy Connolly test?
"Bear! Yer tea's ready!"
We shall see.
This was the second episode of Mr Grylls' outings, the first of which I passed on, due to his ridiculous name. But something in the blurb for this caught my attention. Was it falling from the sky in to the French Alps in a parachute? No. Was it jumping into a frozen lake and rescuing himself? Not exactly. Eating a live trout, raw? Getting warm. Maggots ditto? Yeuccch fuck off. No, it was where it said he dries his naked body with snow. Well how butch is that? Eagerly I tuned in, mug of Nescafe Gold Blend in my lilywhite cityslicker hands.
And Oh. My. God. He really, really did do all of those things. It's only reminding yourself it's a movie, and hence as false as anything out of Hollywood, that stops you gasping in shock at the dramatic antics.
For drama is the key. He doesn't just climb out of the frozen lake, he FAILS the first time and slips back under. The less observant viewer might miss the snow holds he'd dug before jumping in. Hanging over a crevasse by a parachute thread, that same gullible viewer might not notice the oldest trick in Hollywood for vertical terror, which is not to show the feet! (And the safety platform they're on.) And so on.
Best bits: "I've reached the tree line... there will be food here now." At which I had to think: "Does a Bear shit in the woods?"
And of course that naked snow scene. Well yes... one minute he was stripped to his Union Jack boxers, and the next they were dumped over a convenient stump. Camp. And then Bear was there - in penile pixellation. Gay men's eyes the country over jumped out of their sockets, I swear it. And it was only 7.40.
"Mummy! Why is that man's penis all fuzzy?"
"Because it's so enormous, darling. Bigger even than daddy's"
The truth would be more prosaic, as often is. Freezing water does things to a willy, even one attached to a man called Bear. The pixellation was to hide his (temporary I'm sure) one inch shame. But there again, I could be wrong. Wtf do I know about cock?
Have a lovely Sunday, cherubs. And listen to Mr Bear. You never know when you might find yourself alone in the French Alps. Apart from camera crew, sound man, make-up girl, hairdresser, best boy, key grip, lead carpenter, assistant to Mr Grylls, assistant to the Producer, stunt coordinator, intern... I could go on all day.
"A cross between Ray Mears and Rambo." Channel 4 webpage
"Phooey but fun." Naked Blog
STRANGER THAN FICTION
Something happened on Thursday which I didn't tell you about. Readers with functioning brain cells will recall my conversation with the sports trainer of the teenage army recruits in the middle of the Pentland Hills that day. (Not quite the French Alps, I agree, but then neither of our penises were pixellated. I feel sure.)
Andy the instructor was manifestly loving his job, and he talked eagerly about the manners and attitudes of his young charges. "Some of them come to me and say they want to be killers," he said. I couldn't respond, overcome with the enormity of that. (Remember - six of them had just passed me by.) He said he tells them that they're on the wrong course, and they should go and find a mercenary outfit somewhere. Time passed. We chatted more, as we panted our way uphill. Then I had to press him.
"Do they really mean it when they say they want to kill?" I asked. "Or is is just bravado?"
"No, they mean it. I get asked that about twice a year."
You'll never look at teenage lads the same way again.
In which your hero unwittingly found himself yesterday in the middle of a bunch of pre-army teens...
It was at Nine Mile Burn I spotted them first... bunch of people getting out of a van just where my regular hillwalk begins. Laughing. Joking. Tourists, I thought. Beat them easily, I also thought - for my entire endeavour in these respects is of competitiveness. Me against nature, and me against my fellow humans. My life's raison d'etre is to be fitter than a man half my age. Well, apart from the time in the early nineties when I sat on my arse for four years taking... [Ed: that's quite enough of that. Think of the book, you idiot.]
So I merried my way upwards through the gentle foothills of Monk's Rig, 226 metres in 45 mins. Easy peasy.
Then, suddenly, there they were behind me. Chatting. Catching up. These were no ordinary tourists, though. College kids, I thought, more from the vocal tones than the faces, which were too far away to reliably age. Relax, Peter, I thought. You're very old. It's fine if youngsters overtake you. You just stand to one side, say about three words, and they whizz past, shortly to exeunt your life for ever in a sea of teenage gluteus max.
A gaggle of honking geese passed over, heading north, probably to Iceland en route to the Canadian Arctic. Seems no time since they were flying south to appear on Bill Oddie's Autumnwatch. Celebrity Golden Goose.
At the base of West Kip a hefty guy of about 35 passed me by. Good morning I said. Orright he replied. Orright means army. It's what they're trained to say to civilians. He was the pace setter. Shortly after came six youths... cammos, heavy backpacks... who quickly started to run up the hill. Run. I kid you not. And it was nothing I'd said, as I hadn't spoken.
Later, in the bealach between the Kips, a man of my own vintage but whippet build approached from behind. We chatted. I bewailed my inability to keep up with his crowd. (I sensed he was their Gruppenfuhrer. Army, it said on his hat. The name of a prominent Edinburgh College on his left bosom.)
He laughed and said they were just out of school. He was head of the sports training department, and it was his job to harden their bodies and minds to the ultimate. He said it kept him young, as he was in his fifties. We chatted quite some time, even as we ascended East Kip, and I managed to keep up - although he was doing all the talking - and probably slowing his pace out of politeness. I asked him what he thought about training young people to have them blown up in Afghanistan and Iraq to suit the government. He said his wife sometimes asked him the same question. (Straight men always mention their WAGS in any potential man on man situation. I've told you that before.)
He told me he'd done twenty years in the army himself... Falklands, Northern Ireland. He agreed it could happen, but hadn't yet. To him. He said there were great career opportunities. We parted then, shook hands, as I stood at the top of East Kip and braved the perma-gale. Later, ten minutes later, his advanced group had parked their arses halfway up Scald Law. They were chatting, doing what boys always do, which was complaining about the girl in the group who was holding them back. I didn't speak, just tried to look not quite at death's door, this stooped and panting old man. As I passed I smelled a cigarette, but felt it unwise to complain.
Later, in the Village pub, who should come in but Kim the Australian oil rigger - one of my bingo men. He it was who taught me the word "arsey". (Means lucky, down under, apparently.) Jim and Laurie came in, two gay guys I'd met in the Regent. Chav Gav appeared as I left, but I was too drunk to vocalise any further. You can do that when you're army fit.
I took another fifteen minutes off my time, which is now two hours fifty-one. Had to wait around for ages for the half past one bus. During the night my knees tingled, but not in a wholly bad way. Haven't had tingling knees for over a year. It's all good.
Tomorrow is a blogmeet in Nottingham, which should be great fun. Sadly NB won't be in attendance, due to pressure of work. Saturday is our busiest day, and I've just recently had some time off. One of these times I'll meet these glorious people whose words so delight my days.
And finally: AND THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT... darling mike has had a great idea for Red Nose Day. (Those of you with longish memories might recall mike's Comment Relief some years back. Brill.) It's to be a book of blogposts, yes a proper book, to sell to raise funds for charity - and Naked Blog has been invited to submit one piece.
Full details here! (I know most of you have, like me, the attention span of a gnat.) But if there's a particular NB tale you think might be suitable, pop it in the comment box below, s'il vous plait. "The one about so and so" will be fine. Being realistic, I won't worry if no-one does, though.
Mike is certainly our Belle du Jour! Where does he get all that energy from?
And HiHo it is, after a soothing yet energetic couple of days off - marred only briefly by some unpleasantness at a bar I used to frequent.
Mixing it up wit' da Leith "ladies" in the Port Inn... Scott the ships' engineer, Mark, Duncan and Kevin TSG. New dad little Alex came in on his break from the Port o Leith next door. I was showing them a pic of Darling Zoe on the bar computer. "What is it about gay men and cats?" Alex mused. "What is it about straight men and pussy?" I rejoindered, pretty nifty for my age I thought.
Big-ups to the other Darling Zoe... the one in Belgium... proud author of the book My Boyfriend Is A Twat. I'm going to give a copy to everyone on my Christmas list. (Sadly it's a very short list, but I'm totally confident la zed will clean up on this. Quite rightly.) Nowadays you're nothing in blogging until you get out of it. Me I turn down offers every second week it seems. But then I did my journalism before blogging. Was there ever such a time? Hehe.
POST OF THE WEEK
Fun and games at the somewhat minimalist* POTW site today, where some twat called Peter has opened his big fat mouth again. Or, alternatively, sparked a civilised discussion on the nature of blogging and weekly awards. Get over there and HAVE YOUR SAY! Totally free of course, unlike ITV phone-ins.
Don't forget also to nominate your favourite post. One I would definitely nominate is this from Stuart. Except I nominated one of his before and he'll think I'm after his ass or other portions. Regular readers will recall my frequent references to the oddities in the building trade in this town, and according to Stuart's post, the Convener of the Planning Department owns shares in a property company. You couldn't make it up. Regular readers will also appreciate the structure of the standalone item below.
*I got some nice photos you can use for wallpaper. They haven't all got me in.
...is what I am, sitting here writing to you like this. Been so LONG, darlings. La vida.
...is what I was yesterday, teetering along a path no broader than a boot around the contours of Turnhouse Hill - with only a few clumps of heather between me and Glencorse Reservoir hundreds of metres below. Exhilarating or what?
Later, back in the Port Inn, who should be sitting there but Stewart my former walking companion, with Norrie the fireman. Stewart now owns Leith FM radio station, or chairs it or some such thing. "I take it you'll be doing A SHOW?" said Norrie the treasurer. "Only if it's in a different studio from Stewart, on a different day, and ideally in a different country," I replied, waspishly. They laughed. Even Stewart laughed. Best to say things to people's faces - then you can say it behind their backs later, but embellished.
Everybody came in, once word got about I was in attendance. Tony the Hat, Little Alex, and Mary the legendary landlady, in a fur reaching almost to the ground. "Hello Peter," she said, but she wasn't feeling very well so I didn't snap her.
Dave the photographer came in and told Stewart they couldn't train schoolkids unless everybody was cleared by the cops. Stewart said that couldn't happen because it was community radio and jaikies and junkies would come in straight off the street to a microphone. I said I was the squeakiest clean person they could imagine, but I could see it would be difficult to be both a radio station and a high school at the same time.
Anne from Boston came in and Norrie started to berate her for President Bush's policies and actions. I said that wasn't fair and America wasn't that bad, and Hollywood was actually pretty fab.
Frasier AND stealth bombers. Some countries just have it all. Claire came in and was that startled to see me she spilt her drink over Dave the photographer.
RELAXED AS AN AMPHIBIAN
I'm getting quite settled here, blogging to you like this, so I'm going to cut it DEAD. It's sunny and blue, and there's living to do. Might pop up a few pics though, as the Port Inn people like to see themselves on the interweb just like everybody else. Who does Stewart remind you of these days? Clue: showbiz.
And hi to my fans in the Regent. I'll be back. Mebbe later today, as I'm thinking Arthur's Seat. The world's your oyster when you've got a bus pass you know.
The lunar eclipse was glorious. Beyond words, so I won't try. Shame I had to wait till age 60 to see one.
What must the ancients have thought about lunar eclipses? "Angry gods" is so much more satisfying than modern science with all those explanations.
I've been criminally negligent in not writing to you much this week. This is due to the incursion of real life into my blogosphere.
[Ed: So what you're saying is that in December you've got ample time to sit here and moan your depressed ass off, but the minute things look a bit brighter it's offski. Is that what you're saying?
NB: You're so fucking sharp you'd cut yourself dude. Piss off and get a job with Gordon Brown. He could use such a withering intellect, I'm sure.]
GRAPES OF WRATH
I bought some grapes from the Co-op. 600g for the price of 400g. Delicious - possibly the best thing I've eaten this year. Make you glad you stopped smoking.
But they were from South Africa, it said on the plastic box. And not Fairtrade. So in my wilful and reckless consumption I've impoverished an entire African village and ruined the atmosphere with carbon footprint.
It isn't easy, living these days.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Had a totally brilliant day on Tuesday, the last of my holiday, and probably the best. Met darling Sandra in the Ocean Terminal, where she regaled me with tales of her daughter's success in a talent show. Britain's Got Talent, I think it was. She was (her daughter, that is) in Manchester for an audition, and if she passes this one, the next time it'll be Simon Cowell!
We chatted and had soup (Scotch Broth), then off to the shops where I got a nice striped beanie hat from Fat Face. Makes me look a bit like Cartman, but then you can never have too many hats when you're bald, as I explained.
Sandra got herself some smart business trousers. Then later in Debenhams I got a striped shirt for a fiver, down from forty pounds. But I stupidly got medium instead of large, so the buttons are all stretched. "Give you some incentive to slim," as Sandra said.
Talking of which, I'm back at thirteen one and a quarter, the lowest this year. This time I'm determined not to get stuck at a plateau. Apparently people lose a bit at first then reach a plateau and give up. Return to porker.
Darling zoe looks slimmer too I truly swear. This follows from the vet's advice to offer food only twice a day, and then remove it. Previously I'd just put out the day's stuff for her to snack on as she wished.
Slim owner, slim cat. Bald owner, hairy puss.
After Sandra and I parted, I determined to visit the Port Inn in Constitution Street, the gaffe owned by Mary's daughter Eilidh (rhymes with... oh you know by now.) Good time.
Irish Tom was there, but he's got diabetes. He showed me all his injecting gear. Then he tested my blood sugar which was 7.0, which he said was high. He said it should be 5.4. I said I was on my third pint of lager now, so I really didn't care. He said his was so high it rang alarm bells. Shame.
Evergreen Norma came in, and Tom told her that just because he and I were friends, it didn't mean we were a gay item. I reminded Norma her son had been my lodger for some years, and we were never an item. (She knew the first part of that statement already of course, but we'd never mentioned the second.) But she was that drunk I could tell she'd never remember anyway. She said she was going into an old fogey's home, as she put it. Zimmer dances at Friday teatime. I said book me the next bed.
Eilidh made fishcakes with salad and chips. Delicious at just five pounds fifty. (I'm talking fishcakes the size of bull's balls, not some Farmfoods crap.) Recommended. I'll be back.
Juicy the plasterer came in, and I told him he looked more like Elton John than ever. We chatted about the buildidng trade, of which I confess I know very little, except that at the meta level it's utterly corrupt in this town. (My sensors detect.)
Back to work yesterday. New manager. My, you know you're getting old when you notice how young managers are getting these days. Little Alex came to the evening session, but he didn't win. Wanted me to go for a drink with him when I'd finished at half nine, but I never drink that late. Just gets your blood sugar all fucked and then it's time for bed. Where you don't sleep, and have to get up for a wee all night. Crazy.
I promised we'd meet up today instead. He showed me a pic of his lovely new daughter, Chloe. She's got his eyes.
EYE OF A NEEDLE
So the Royal Bank of Scotland makes a record profit. Again. From your charges and interest payments. I was disgusted at the BBC Scottish news this morning for basically reading out the bank's PR release on this. "Not out of your pockets... RBS owns loads of companies... good for Scotland..." Fuck off. Usurers. And it IS out of your pockets.
Apropos of that, must rush to get ready. Alex is bringing Chloe along, so with any luck we'll get some ooooh and aaaah babypics for you.
POST OF THE WEEK
You've still got all today and tomorrow to nominate your favourite posts here. Where you'll also find last week's winner and shortlist. I confess I haven't read a peep of any of them yet, due to paragraph 1 above.
Here's your complimentary pretty pic from Monday's megawalk:
Big-ups to me old mucker and Edinburgh expat Alan of Oddverse, for his considered comments on Pinter and Frasier in Tuesday's comment box below.
"Pinter is to be watched when you want your mind stretched. Frasier is to be watched when you want your mind to turn off."
Trouble is, Alan, Celebration didn't stretch my mind at all. But mucho gracias, amigo.
I could just go a mini Cornish pasty while I read a few blogs...