How can I be so arrogant as to spew out my views here?
"I like this, but I don't like that. But then again there's always the other to take into consideration. Blah, blah, fucking de blah. Ten years of it I've done - polluting the cyberwaves like council shit on Portobello beach."
Anybody whose views are worth reading gets PAID for them. Paid. Look at Jon Ronson and Julie Burchill.
My first ever submission to a national newspaper was accepted. Paid for. I was a writer at the first attempt. (If you ignore the three novels which ended up for practice. (Although that wasn't the intention. Oh no.) Three. Oh yes.)
Anyway. Got to stop this as it's becoming very very slightly interesting.
The last interesting thing (sorry, Sal) that happened was in 1968, when a handsome young man on Goldhawk Road tube platform opened his greatcoat to show me an erection bulge in his trousers (pants). For me. And that ounce of penile blood was soon to shape and determine my life. Irrevocably. But I wasn't to know that then, on Goldhawk Road tube station, in London in the swinging sixties. Hah.
But heck - we really must stop now in case of extra interest. Weather's that bit better today, doncha think? And May starts tomorrow! Doesn't time just fly?
It's no good. I can't lie to you. Today was packed with interest. Packed. I stood on the very grass where in 1666, 900 Covenanters were routed by 3000 men of the Scottish Royal Army. Here. In this pretty picture.
Do you have ANY IDEA what it's like standing there, hearing the screams, seeing the swords flashing in the sun, soaking in the hate, feeling the full horror of Christianity? Any idea?
For two years I've been treading these Pentland Hills - two years in which Rullion Green was there off to the side, crossed swords on the map in its Ordnance Survey authority.
But no - "must press on" was the order. Must get that half past one bus. We've got records to build up - pounds to take off.
Except today there was a little knee niggle, and for reasons I'll tell you later this week knee health is more important than usual. Call it the work/rest balance. So I cut short the tops, and went exploring. Here's another Rullion Green pic. Men died here for their beliefs. Do you have any beliefs like that?
That's what I saw this afternoon. Interesting? Gimme a break, pal.
Yesterday I increased my personal best in the Pentlands by 20 percent. Imitating the sparrow lady I did Flotterstone to West Kip AND BACK. Ascent 3,600 ft. Time 5 hours. Age 60. (This will interest two people.)
"Bernice", whom I can't properly name as her family reads it, told me some sad stuff about a couple of friends. (AKA "juicy gossip".) I can't tell you that, as NB characters have the right to privacy. They don't have names like Ritchie, Williams or Goody - those who've chosen to abandon privacy in pursuit of the big buck. They just kindly offer their snippets here for your entertainment. So you're not ever going to hear about that. (Thus interesting no people at all.)
Zoe the cat seems quite happy. (Again - two people. But different from the previous two people.)
On Monday I got followed by a Security Guard in Marks and Spencer. I was returning something for an exchange, shuffling in my backpack, and displaying a bald and thus criminal head. Using what little skill and craft I have, I could write this up into an amusing tale, and link it to a Security Guard story from twenty years ago which has a killer quote. (From me, natch.) But I can't be bothered to do that. The first sentence says it all, quite efficiently. (Interest, back to zero.)
Loads of work-related stuff, which almost merits a book. But I can't/won't, as you just end up getting sacked. (Interest, never left zero.)
Polling Day here in Scotland on Thursday. You should retain the Labour Scottish Parliament, as they spend loads on old people, and give them bus passes and free central heating. But you should replace Edinburgh City Council as they are venal and corrupt. (I'm fully expecting a breezeblock executive housing development to spring up in Princes Street Gardens any day now. With tram lines. Regeneration, they call it.) (This might interest three Edinburgh readers.)
"There ain't no more, You've taken every thing." Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel
"Just got to get on with it. Nothing else for it." My bingo ladies
I still can't think of anything interesting enough to tell you about.
Would you be interested in the Security Guard in Princes Street Marks and Spencer on Monday who almost arrested me?
Other than that...
It's election time, and candidates keep popping their literature through my door. Sometimes they even knock and try to talk to you - kind of like those nice but mad women from Jehovah's Witnesses... the ones you feel so bad about telling to fuck off.
My friend Bernice is on Jury service. Yesterday they had to wait in court for hours, and today they have to phone after five to see if they've been selected. I told her to hold a Daily Telegraph if she wants the defence to reject her (Telegraph readers think everyone is guilty), or the Guardian if she'd prefer to upset the prosecution. (Vice versa. Everyone can be saved with a little counselling. They've even got a supplement for social workers.)
I told her I hoped it wasn't a premium rate phone call, what with all those TV phone-in scandals.
Sewage continues to pour into the Firth of Forth, unless they've stopped it. My preference is for sheepshit in the Pentlands. Whatever turns you on, as they say in France. There's an amazing new stone appeared in the Pentlands, right where the sheep eat the turnips. It looks like an historical artefact. Tomorrow I'll show you the picture. (If I can find the time, of course, what with all this exciting life.)
Most people wait till they've finished a book before commenting, but then I didn't get to sixty by doing what most people do.
A week or so ago I asked for your Stephen King recommendations. And was overwhelmed by the response. (There might well have been zero.) Standing out loud and clear was The Shining, and that's the one I'm halfway through the noo.
The excitement of meeting Sal this week has laid me low with a cold, so yesterday was spent in bed with Stephen again.
And yes, it's a masterpiece OK.
I was understandably (I think) a bit wary of a book I've seen the movie of half a squillion times. An iconic movie, brilliantly conceived, which has entered the common psyche. How could the book possibly be any better? And how could I enjoy it when I Know What Happens In The End? These are serious issues.
Well, the truth is I'm glued to the book (to turn a phrase) despite both of the above. And why is that? It's because the "mixed media" once again highlight the unassailable advantage of books, in that you see what the person is thinking. Sometimes just one of them, but in The Shining it's all three main characters.
OK, Danny the son thinks and speaks like a college graduate, despite having yet to start school, but we can allow the author this licence, for sure.
What else is better in the book? Something King asserts in his specially written 2001 introduction included with my copy. He describes his thinking over Jack's descent to madness. He says that it would have been so easy to have him simply go mad for supernatural reasons ("I could do that standing on my head"), but instead he chose to introduce the memory of Jack's own father, and that man's drunkenness and brutality to Jack. He says that Kubrick disagreed over this, but it is clear to see why for cinematic reasons he did so. The great director and the great writer, each creating different but related masterpieces.
Yes I see the three main actors' faces in the pages, but yes also they are saying and thinking (and even doing - the movie of necessity omits and compresses) and doing far more stuff than hit the screen. In the movie Jack's madness is an express cartoon with no respites. In the book (so far) it is full of regrets, handbrakes and screaming U-turns. Fascinating.
TOO MANY COOKIES?
Taking a break from Stephen King (well - you have to eventually), I chanced on some blogs. Mike was writing about Sitemeter, the free stats service, which apparently is installing a cookie specificclick. This was my AdAware scan for 20 March:
But yesterday there was no trace, so it's certainly not persistent. Unlike, I have to say, ads.guardian.co.uk, which turns up every time. As does Cookie:email@example.com/ But why worry? They give so much for nothing, I feel they're entitled to a little back. What a big softie. Just keep hitting them with the AdAware.
I'm supposed to read my Shaggy Blog article for Mike's Shaggy Podcast, but I don't know how to do that. Well, let me clarify. I do know how to read it, but don't know how to get the reading onto Mike's podcast. Nottingham is quite some way away. (Relevant hardware owned includes a lapel microphone for my webcam. Software is Windows XP Home Edition.) I await your suggestions eagerly. (In the olden days you would simply make a tape and pop it in to a Jiffy Bag and then into the nearest postbox.)
THE LORD GIVETH...
Proud parents Little Alex and Ashley, with baby Chloe. May her days be full of joy.
...AND THE LORD TAKETH AWAY
Condolences and every good wish to my friend Dave the Writer, whose father died last week, and is interred today. I only met him a couple of times, but was well impressed. Dust to dust. So sad they can't go on for ever.
S'IL VOUS PLAIT
And now, if you'll excuse me, I have some friends from Vermont I must return to. They're staying at the Overlook Hotel. I've heard it's mind-blowing...
It was in the freesheet Metro I saw it first, on my way to meet Sal for a spot of hillwalking yesterday. SCHOOL CARNAGE, if I recall. Oh no, another one, I thought, heart sinking as I scoured to see which country. And yes, sadly and tragically it was the country I expected. The home of Michael Moore and Charlton Heston.
And I shall say no more, in respect to the dead and the people of the United States.
Unlike the BBC, who seem already to be set on glorifying and iconifying the murderer. "A picture is emerging of a disturbed and angry young man," droned Nicholas (Braindead) Westhead - AT THE COLLEGE!
"OH NO!" I gasped at Darling Zoe - "I WAS EXPECTING SOMEONE IN FULL MENTAL HEALTH!!"
"Miaow!" she replied, not all that interested, I sensed.
Yep - that's the time Sal and I spent together. (But not continuous, oh no, don't you go getting ideas, Sal is as straight as the next man.) Oh yes he is.
Fun times in the Pentlands yesterday. Pentland Hills which I think were a little disappointing to him, as I soon saw his quite splendid fitness, and learned of his climbing past, in Finland and such places.
He'd tied his sandwiches in a little bag to the back of his backpack, which was not a good idea, as the gale soon dislodged them, and they went cast to the four winds. "I think we'll donate them to the sheep," Sal offered. (There's barely a square inch of the Pentlands isn't covered with sheepshit, don't you know?) Does a sheep shit on the paths?
Fortunately, in my schoolmarmish way, I'd thought to bring enough food and drink for two, so it was no biggie.
We got to the base of West Kip, the first proper incline. (Notwithstanding Clause three above this one.) Oh, Sal was darting up there like a spring lamb, while gramps (moi) huffed and puffed at the rear. The wind was from the very stratosphere itself, effectively stopping conversation.
But then, at the summit, you drop down just three feet onto the sheltered side, and it's gone, all gone. Peace beyond belief. Like a scene straight from Absolutely Fabulous, what does Sal do now but haul out a bottle of white and two Sainsbury plastic wine glasses. Dude!
Oh, we toasted this, and that, and the other, and then a slightly strange man sat down and joined in. He said you meet such interesting people on the hills. I said sometimes you do. He said his new girlfriend didn't care for hillwalking much. I said get rid of her.
Couple of hills further on it rained a bit, and we got a bit drenched, but things soon dried out in the wind and sun.
Few pints in the Flot, and then Rose Street, and then goodbye. Me, I'm not used to making friends, far less saying goodbye so quickly. Was quite moved. Still am. What a splendid man, and do you know - we hardly talked about blogging at all!
A handsome young man has entered my life. Slim, wiry even, t-shirted and be-jeaned. With laughing eyes that dance as he talks.
Yes, that's right. It's Sal of Saltation. "My, now I'm twice as nervous!" I joked with Christine in the Regent. Before we went up Arthur's Seat. And drank. And drank. And drank. Oh boy Sal can drink.
We were in the Regent (twice), Port o Leith (where we met a couple from Winnipeg) - along with Jim and Laurie, Mark the Massage Monster, Robin (don't call me gay, I'm bisexual), who had a flashing thing in his ear, and of course the ubiquitous Evergreen Norma. Then to the Shore Bar, where the Council have conspired to ruin what little is left of Leith by parking ships where the people used to sit and dangle their legs. Hanging's too good for the bastards. Truly. Do not vote for a Labour Council.
Today we're doing the Pentland rollercoaster. I'm still full of cold. Can hardly talk. Whae cares, eh?
Today darling zoe was on my bathroom window ledge, a place she doesn't usually go, amongst the toothpastes and such which adorn. But after I shooed her I noticed a particularly fat wasp crawling on the window. What a narrow escape she might have had! Then I saw them hovering outside in the atmosphere. Loads of the buggers. Into my roofing yet again.
But surely 'tis not the season of the wasp? And what about all these bees deserting their hives? Tampering with nature, if you ask me. So now I've got mice and wasps to worry about.
Just finished Masters of Doom by David Kushner, the story of the two Johns, Carmack and Romero, creators of id software and the legendary Doom and Quake. It's a thoroughly efficient journalistic tale of the rise and fall. Lots of personality stuff, and just enough tech talk not to put you off. John Carmack was the coding brains. (I can now exclusively reveal what WAD means. As in DOOMWAD.) It means "Where's All the Data?" So now ye ken. And John Carmack it was who invented horizontal scrolling for the PC. This was very important.
I'm getting a cold, and tomorrow I'm meeting Sal of Saltation. Meeting people terrifies me, as you know. I'm to be his mountain guide. Don't colds always turn up at the wrong damn times?
Seeyas. Get rid of Edinburgh City Council, by the way.
"Is it possible for a man to be any happier than this?" I thought, late yesterday afternoon, as I tramped my way homeward after yet another sun-drenched day in the Pentland Hills. Yes, yet another. No amount of money could buy that experience - none. It is beyond price. It is - literally - priceless.
Oh, some companionship would have been nice, but after being alone for sixty years you kinda get used to it. Some are born to companion, others to go it alone. It's no big deal... outside of December at least. Plus Stewart, our local Richard Branson stroke Chris Evans is champing at the bit for me to nursemaid him back into the outdoors, a task I'll be delighted to perform. Because, without his insistences early last year, none of this might have happened. I owe him loads. Damn dog broke his ankle last summer. Devil dog, I say.
As so often happens after an unseasonal scorcher, today is thick with fog. Darling zoe is sitting at the kitchen window sill, watching birds materialising from the mist and doubtless wondering if cataracts have set in.
I had half an hour to wait in the Allan Ramsay Hotel at Carlops, but it wasn't friendly so I sat alone in the poolroom and re-hydrated and re-salted. (Two pints of lager, and two packets of crisps, to be less technical!) then to Eilidh's howff where I whiled a pleasant couple of hours with Kevin TSG, Stewart and Tony my IT Manager. Tony lent me a book on the evolution and origins of Doom. (The game, not the condition.) All was well till some trash from next door arrived, but by which time I was well ready for home anyway.
I'd been waiting for this photo-op for a couple of weeks, since I last saw a jet stream or whatever the poisonous stuff is called over Turnhouse and Carnethy. This is either West or East Kip, and shows the footprint part even better.
You have sublimely happy feelings when after an hour of being a bit lost on featureless moor you discover a sign like this...
...pointing down a path like this...
So you have lunch like this...
You eat your last chicken sandwich and dip further into those vital water and coffee reserves. (I've still never ascertained how safe it is to drink from rivers, but doubtless in extremis you wouldn't have to worry that much. This time it wasn't extremis.
Beer and crisps here, but no conversation. All a bit like that pub scene in American Werewolf.
Due to the sudden and inconsiderate arrival of inclement weather (ie, less than Mediterranean), I've decided to abandon my pursuit of physical excellence in the Pentland Hills, and revert to childhood type. A type where I used to spend every hour reading, the better to avoid parental contact. A bookish child, they used to say. How pale he is. He should get into the fresh air more.
No, I'm all right, I would reply. I'll do it soon. Just let me finish my book first.
There was no DVD then, you see. No video. Movies were irrelevant, and television even more so. There's only so much mileage an eight year old can get from watching over-dressed skeletons smoking their heads off in black and white. (What's My Line?)
Oh no. Books were my escape. And now they're back. Second childhood anyone? And what's your favourite Stephen King? I'm new to his oeuvre. So new. Just got Cell and Bag Of Bones under my already thickening belt.
Can there be a sensation like finishing a Stephen King novel? (Oblivious to everything except the turn of the pages. The subconscious subtraction of page numbers as you get there - closer and closer. Faster and faster. But he knows that, so doesn't let up on the terror.)
Overwhelmed. My gob is smacked. This one was called Bag Of Bones.
Three books in the last three weeks have shown me two things:
I can still read.
I could never write like Stephen if I tried till I died.
Thank you for your kind comments, which I'll reply to ASAP. Still reeling from Bag of Bones - but I had to put this while it was still fresh in me.
Observer Likes the book, but clearly hasn't read it very carefully, as evidenced by the huge mistakes in his summary.
Now, I really, really MUST order my copies of Shaggy Blog Stories. King is all very well - for a beginner - but BLOGGERS DO IT BETTER and more often. I would expect my piece there to have a reciprocally startling effect on Mr King.
Yes, that's right. I set off yesterday to "out-lady" my little old lady. But no way, Jose. Knackered at the top of the first hill!
A nice man was there though, and a dog with a Gaelic name. (I overtook them on the way up, which might have been the start of my downfall.) I gave the Gaelic dog some chicken pieces from my sandwich. Produce of Brazil or Thailand. He (the man) told me the reason the wind is always the strongest on top of Turnhouse Hill is due to a compression wave. The air gets funnelled by the other hills, and thus has to speed up. Makes perfect sense, if you think about it.
Anyway. I decided there was too much compression wave to be enjoyable, so descended to the central valley, and did a U turn. Won't bore you with the rest, as this really, really isn't meant to be a Pentland blog. Here's where I had lunch. It was very steep, although the camera doesn't show that. See if you can spot a tiny man far below and to the left.
To the Port Inn several hours later, for a second lunch, this time of steakburger, chips and salad. A real man's dinner, eh. Then next door to wish Jim of Jim and Laurie a happy fiftieth. All the talk was of Leith FM, which was in the papers yet again - in an article smacking heavily of Jolene Campbell's pen. Heavens that radio station changes staff more frequently than I change my knickers, I swear it. They're good at getting into the Edinburgh Evening News - I will give them that much.
I've been invited to take part in an inaugural "Grumpy Old Men" show Sunday coming. It's to be a broadcast test loop. Should be fun - especially as one of my costars will be an Edinburgh City Councillor. Sadly it's not live.
"Community station Leith FM, which launches on May 1, is planning regular broadcasts in Polish, Chinese, Spanish and Arabic."
Let me put my own opinion here: (and overlooking the slight to the local Urdu-speaking population, and also overlooking the detail that "Chinese" is properly called "Mandarin" - overlooking those) the way to serve a community in the UK is to broadcast in English. Diversfying into the Tower of Babel feeds and prolongs ghettoisation. Just my 2p. Naked Blog will continue to be published in English for the foreseeable. It's worth learning English for!
Hi to JC and new partner. Always nice to meet my dedicated readers.
Somewhere in the top picture of the set below is a little old lady of about 65. (You can't see her. But she does exist.) We got off the Flotterstone bus together on Monday, but she didn't look that chatty so I didn't.
"Huh! I'll soon overtake that wan," I thought, emptying a supplementary load into the really quite clean loo at the Ranger Centre.
Lightened and refreshed, I soon caught sight of her ahead, red hat bobbing in the cool morning air - about halfway up that photo. And then no more. I was en solo for a few hills, but it didn't matter. Enjoying my thoughts. Until half way up the fourth of the set of five, when lo and behold, there she was coming downwards to meet me. This was serious progress. I had to enquire...
"Hi. We got off the bus together at Flotterstone," I explained, anticipating and trying to mollify her understandable nervousness. Nervousness at this mad-eyed baldman now staring right at her. "You're well ahead of me - have you done West Kip also?" (That would be the fifth hill out of five.)
"Yes," she replied, glancing back up through librarian glasses under her red outdoor hat. "Yes - I just go at my own pace. I do this all the time."
"My respect to your fitness," I responded, and didn't dally much longer, as she really didn't seem that comfortable.
We parted. Went our separate ways. I'm not as good at fractions as in the fifties and sixties, but I'm estimating she was two and a half hills ahead of me. She had the build of a sparrow though, if that. Wouldn't get a pot of soup off her entire frame. I hefted my blubber skyward once more and wondered if you get marks for trying.
Asta in Canada mentioned Ian Rankin last week. This was my reply:
Well, putting aside the obvious "green-eye" over his success, the thing about Rankin is that he's everywhere. And not sticking to his job, which for all I know he might be quite good at - although I've heard rather more to the contrary.
You have to live here to understand the full horror of a Rankin-infested country. There he was this very Friday afternoon, LITERALLY all over the front of the Edinburgh Evening News, banging his gums about a political matter I won't bore you with.
Rankin is a crime writer. If he were to talk about crime writing, then that might be interesting. But it's this sleb, chatshow culture we have here, which constantly offers platforms to people however stupid, providing they're sufficiently famous. I've not so far in my life come across anyone given so much "airtime" for so little reason as Mr R.
Next we'll be having Robbie Williams telling us which way to vote. Or Victoria Beckham.
Well, the point of rehashing last week's comments is that THERE HE WAS AGAIN THIS MORNING- on Andrew Marr's Edinburgh show, this time shooting his mouth off about the Sunday papers. Strangely I KNEW, just knew he'd be on, even before catching sight of his smug puss.
I'm not saying the man should never be on the telly. It's just that when he's on, others of necessity are not. Where is Mary the legendary landlady, por exemplo? Or Stewart the chairman of Leith FM? Or Stuart the capital's leading political blogger?
No. It's nothing but Rankin, Rankin, Rankin. Sheer laziness from the Beeb. Gits.
Last night, ably assisted by my boss, I entertained a crowd of 100+ at a very swank charity do in George Street. Le Monde. They were very welcoming. Sometimes charity crowds get a bit sniffy about bingo - but not this time. Cinderella SHALL get into heaven. Mr Rankin was not in attendance.