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Tuesday, September 30, 2008


So how much food have you got stock piled? (I'm writing this from the Galashiels bus. 9.35. Despite getting up at 6.30. Mebbe more as the day progresses, but I have to watch time and battery.)

Me I've got enough grub for a couple of weeks, then after that it'll have to be Darling Zoe for a steak or two.

One solution of course would be to eat the unemployed. Not directly - I mean all that nicotine-stewed, methadone-soaked meat can't be very wholesome. But you could easily grind them up to feed to animals and then in due course harvest the animals.

Eat the unemployed. Desperate times. Heavens! All this wisdom and we haven't left Edinburgh yet.

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Monday, September 29, 2008


Autumn is here now - full on - with its mists, mellow fruitfulness and other assorted cliches. Can there be anything left to write about this ghastly season?

Tomorrow I have to reconnoitre a walk from Galashiels to Innerleithen in the Scottish Borders, across high open moor and it'll almost certainly rain. I say almost certainly because the seem to be rationing themselves to one forecast a day now, rather than the three or so of previously. Must be the credit crunch.

There I was in Scotmid earlier between tinned fish and Everday Baked Beans when my mobile ding-dinged. It was Stewart, from his new home in Bath. (Very Regency.)
4 banks down 2day he texted. How many 2moro? Is this the end? Has the world ended without us noticing? I want a last shag! Maybe an ex will oblige. In the circumstances!
Scary stuff.

I remember standing beside a grab basket of Kellogs Cake Bars or something. (1.99 each or 2 for 3 quid, I couldn't help noticing, as my trembling fingers found the BBC Mobile Page.) But no - it just seemed like an ordinary number of banks failing, so I continued my shop for tomorrow's marathon. After texting back that I couldn't help him with the shag. Mebbe if you'd got me fifteen years ago, I texted. But Stew is one of the straightest men I've ever met. You can always tell.

Fourteen miles, alone. Alone, just me and the Southern Upland Way. Well, not totally alone. There will be mobile telephony, albeit with patchy signal. GPS, always there to comfort and guide. (Thank you, USA.) Two litres of water. (Getting heavy. Heavy water.) Coffee. Sandwiches. Fruit. Aluminium survival bag in case all else fails. It's a hard life, but someone's got to do it.

In spring I did a truncated version of this trek, in the other direction and with a different ending, but I don't seem to have written it up. Oh well - at least it'll be wide open for me to tell this one's tale as if afresh. Every cloud has a silver lining.

Except for poor Paul Newman. Oh dear me. I had to announce it at the bingo, although we don't usually do death messages. (Too close to home.) "They're very sad in America today," I said over the mike. "The actor Paul Newman is dead."

There was a loud and pronounced gasp. "That's another bit of the sixties gone then," I continued. But then they were getting too sad, so I had to cheer them up a bit. "He was 83," I intoned. But of course, a fair number of the punters sitting right in front of me are at or around 83. And still going strong. Goes to show.

Don't know what, but it goes to show. Just got to get on with it. Nothing else for it. Wish me luck for tomorrow. Tiny bit scared I confess.

He was so beautiful. A gay icon. (And I wrote that on the Guardian website, long before they ripped it off for today's obit.) But I'm not cross.

There was no video in the sixties, far less DVD, so you just had to catch the beauty as it played out, there, then gone, then wait to see if there's any more. No still frame, no slow advance, just film as it was meant to be seen. He gave much joy. Earth to earth.

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Friday, September 26, 2008


We were ambling through Princes Street Gardens yesterday, on what seems to be a slight respite in the summer's foul weather, when an American couple asked us the way to the castle.

"Normally you can go across this bridge," Sandra pointed, " - but it's shut. We're going there too - we'll show you another way."

"Thanks," the guy said. "We'll just follow your lead." He was eating an ice cream. The woman was wearing wrap-around shades. I sensed a moment for some fun...

"So what do you think of Senator Palin?" I asked.

Man stuck up his thumb in approval.

"Here we love the way she shoots her own bears," I threw in to the mix.

"Independent woman, sassy... if she can raise five kids that's impressive enough for me," the woman said. They drifted on ahead.

"Fucking Republicans," I muttered, when they were safely in front.

"I hate them," Sandra agreed. "If you can raise five kids you can run a country, aye right!" We laughed at our new Republican friends.

The pretty ways to ascend to the castle were all blocked due to recent rockfalls, so we ended up at the National Gallery. Whistler, Monet, Degas and stuff were on, so we decided to give them a whirl. See if they were better than Senator Palin. However the guard wouldn't let us in the rear entrance, despite a sign saying ENTER VIA RAMP, so Sandra decided she didn't want to go in any more.

We chose a High Street underground tour instead. There are loads to choose from.

It seems Edinburgh City Council's architectural vandalism is nothing new. Been at it for centuries - destroying the past and shoving up new tat on top. In parts of the High Street area (Royal Mile), this consisted of simply building over the old to make council offices and courts. And I'm talking hundreds of years, not the last five minutes.


But some of the old has been preserved, perhaps more by luck than judgement, and beneath the modern streets and buildings there lies a network of much older streets or "closes". By "older" I mean fifteen and sixteen hundreds. One such is Mary King's Close, stretching from the High Street down to lower Cockburn Street, and then, originally, down to the Norloch which is now Princes Street Gardens and Waverley Train Station. We took the tour.

"Two at ten pounds," said the lady at the desk.

"No, I'm an OAP but thank you for not noticing," I laughed. That gave a saving of one pound. We were just in time for the three o' clock. They're every twenty minutes, lasting for an hour, which means there are three groups on the same network at any one time.

We could hear the other groups, and one one occasion crossed just ahead of one. Group collision. Our guide was wearing a far-from-medieval radio thing on her waist, which doubtless helped to avoid such. She conducted us in character, which in her case was Annie Somebody, a maid.

The old Edinburgh streets were in truth the world's first skyscrapers, and socially stratified as such. Toffs to the top, riff-raff below. Being a maid, Annie lived well below.

  • Princes Street Gardens was once an open sewer called the Norloch. (North Water.)

  • Many Edinburgh houses had no windows. Those that did had to pay window tax, leading to the term "Daylight Robbery".

  • Plague doctors (1644/45) wore heavy leather coats to prevent flea-bite, and breathed through an elongated mask of perfumes to filter the "miasma" or "bad air". (Italians call it mal aria,) The mask looked just like a beak, hence the persisting term "quack" for doctors.

  • Many people died in infancy, and those that didn't would be lucky to last past forty. Darwinism in action, but they would call it God's will.
  • I'll put more fascinating facts in if I think of any.

    So - was it any good?

    Well, yes - surprisingly so. The young woman guide put on a worthy performance, although Sandra said her accent was a bit all over the place. There were tableaux of different incidents of the time, but with rather more rooms left bare. Original walls still stood, some showing "blockprint", which was a decoration cheaper than wallpaper imported from China. Some plaster too - made with human ash - which she asked us not to touch, although Sandra did. "You've got the plague now!" I hissed at her. "Just dinnae cough on me, hen!"

    Here's the group photographed in infrared. Me front left, and Sandra front right. Sandra comes out not too bad, but it makes me look 100, but then that's kinda fitting for the location.

    We split then, S to teach a pottery class, and me to wander the streets and drink and think. Life is OK in America.

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    Thursday, September 25, 2008


    Biggin' it up wit da Beeb yesterday am. (And not over North Face outfits for a change.) No, this time it was on-screen captions. The illiteracy thereof. Oh, michty me - is anyone under fifty capable of grammar or spelling? I do despair.

    Are you sitting comfortably?

    Woke yesterday around 8.30 feeling decidedly iffy. First there was the general hangover of the previous evening's phone rage, and then a hangover in general from the three, yes three pints of lager I'd loutishly consumed after my walk, and on top of those the first stirrings of a cold. So what does a man do but switch on the News.

    BBC Breakfast abandons news completely at 8.30 and thereafter embraces stars on sofas. So no point in going there, as unless it was someone out of Friends I wouldn't have the faintest idea or interest. (Yet strangely I feel I'm not actually missing anything.) So my viewing choice was the BBC News Channel. Well - it was just the day after the Prime Minister's Big Speech (quite good, but his wife was better - and English I noted) so there might have been some fallout over that. And there was fallout, and other stuff, but it was the captions which caught my interest, and not in a good way.

    Some town in England had a litter problem. Oh dear me. Pizza boxes and cigarette ends. Couldn't make it up. Last year they spent x million pounds (can't remember, obviously) on collecting it all. Last year. Or LAST YR, as the caption indicated. Well, that made me fucking mad. LAST YR indeed! Is that why our boys defeated Hitler and the Hun? I think not. Me I blame the schools. (The ones you don't pay for, at least. Abandoned old-fashioned lessons, and concentrating these days on Ethnicity Studies, and Why Islam Is Better Than Christianity. That sort of thing.) LAST YR. I fired off an angry text.
    "Please don't use text speak on your on-screen captions. On the litter report there was YR for YEAR. Please stop. Not all your viewers are retards like your staff, apparently. Peter, Leith."
    Well, I don't miss them and hit the wall.

    The news moved on to Ritalin. Why doctors shouldn't prescribe it for hyperactivity. This in apparent contradiction of the last four decades, when doctors definitely SHOULD prescribe it for hyperactivity. Doctors make you worse. But then all my readers know that already.

    I forget the details of the captions on this report, but can never forget the use of the ampersand all over the place. &&&&&&&&&&.

    Fuck off. How long does it take to type A N D ? How long?
    Crosse & Blackwell

    Morecambe and Wise
    Times have moved on. The ampersand is as old-fashioned as it is ugly. Well, it was the work of a moment to fire off an angry text.
    "Also, is it desirable to use the ampersand '&' quite so much? (Ritalin report.) How lazy are your typists? Peter, Leith"
    The news moved on, this time to some new-fangled wave gadget in Portugal. Or "off-of" Portugal as the idiot presenter described it, but I let that one pass, as he wasn't wearing branded clothes. You could have knocked me down with an accelerated particle when what should I see on the caption for that story but PORTUGESE BEACH.


    This from a body which calls itself the cream of world broadcasting, the setter of standards. TOO FUCKING LAZY EVEN TO USE A SPELLCHECKER.

    Now despairing, I sent my final text of the morning...
    "Mis-spelled Portuguese. I give up. P"
    Now - I wouldn't want you to think those really quite serious faults were the only three culled from a whole week's output. No - they were from consecutive stories - about ten minutes the lot. That is the rate of illiteracy at the BBC.

    Let's hope someone got the message.


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    Tuesday, September 23, 2008


    Don't get me wrong - I don't hate mobile phones. What I hate are the twats who own them. The fuckwits who think I might be even slightly interested in their horrible conversations. And lives that go with them. Take this evening, just half an hour ago in Scotmid Co-op. There I was in the spreads and soft cheeses aisle trying to balance a requirement for calcium with my extreme lack of need for calories. (Anyone remember the days when eating was less scientific, and a lot more fun?)

    There was this loud yak, yak, yak going on, which I assumed was from a manageress to an underling. But no - it was a customer, with basket in one hand and phone clamped limpet-like to her fat ugly face with the other. She was heading towards me, the details of her life getting louder and louder as she passed Flora Light and headed up toward Pineapple Cottage Cheese (buy two, get one free).
    "IT'S JUST NOT DOING ME ANY GOOD!" I overheard, really loud. Something burst inside me then, like a cerebral haemorrage. A damn breaking after years of mobile restraint and stiff upper lip. And I know from past experience that the only thing which upsets mega-phoners is to join in. So that is just what I did.

    "Me neither, hen!" I shouted, loud enough for her partner in talk to hear. "YOU'RE no daein' me any good..."

    She was in between Dutch Edam and Mini Babybel.

    "Ken whit yer mean hen!" I called back as I took a left towards sliced meat and pates. "Ah'm daein' just the same..."
    Small, I know. Some would say petty. But she deserved it.

    And would I have behaved the same to a sixteen stone man? Well, probably not. But it is women* who do the phone thing, around ninety percent of the time. Sorry, ladies. We really don't care about your conversations.

    * But not Naked Blog readers, clearly. Much too classy.

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    Monday, September 22, 2008






    It's at 15.44, GMT/UTC. Enjoy, as you slip into the winter half of the year. (Most of you.)

    Sicut erat in principio, et nunc, et semper, et in saecula saeculorum.

    As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be. World without end, amen.

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    Thursday, September 18, 2008


    It's a result! Just read in the Grauny that the HQ of the newly-merged Lloyds Bank/Trustee Savings Bank/Halifax Building Society/Bank of Scotland/Co-operative Wholesale Society/United Artists/Goldman Sachs/Lehman Brothers/Sadista Sisters/Lidl GMBh/Port o Leith Bar is/ to be based in Edinburgh.
    "The combined business will be headquartered on Edinburgh's The Mound, the main base of HBOS, and will focus on increasing demanding for bank deposits, savings and investments."
    That's right - on the Mound - just moments from the new trams when they finally make them. This is guaranteed to put seventeen pounds ninety-nine on the value of my hovel. At least.

    See Ya Later, Speculator

    You know - I have a fascinating theory about falling house prices which works like this. When house prices fall, it's obviously the dearest ones which will fall the most. That's because people will have enough money to continue buying cheap houses (like mine), but not dear houses (like yours). Eventually, mutatis mutandis the dear houses will fall so far they'll be cheaper than the cheap houses, if you get my drift.

    So the clever speculator (ie me) has only to sell his cheap house at an auspicious moment, then pick up a dear house for a song. Are you still with me in this mid-morning financial seminar?


    Today I planned to eat nothing at all, just to see if it is in fact possible for me to lose any further weight, or if, as I suspect, certain death awaits at one milligramme below 12 stones 8lb. Oh, this is nothing new for the weight-obsessed. Every damn year it starts going up again in September. The cycle from Hell.

    It's quantum mechanics. Just as quarks need a Higgs field (mebbe) to acquire mass, I have my own personal Higgs field invisibly draped across the living room, adding mass every time I walk through it. And you can't argue with the laws of physics, Captain.

    Flesh So Weak

    But although I'd planned on eating nothing at all, it seems I've already weakened. On the point of collapse I just now wolfed down a tablespoon of Co-op Deli Sandwich Spread (I KNOW! FAT! FAT! FAT! IS THE POPE A CATHOLIC?) spread on wholemeal bread. That gave enough fuel for this blog, but I think I'll go to bed for the rest of the day and cry. I won't be able to think, able to move, able to do sudoku, able to do anything except watch DVD's on my new DVD player.

    It's a hard life, but someone's got to do it. Twelve stones seven and three quarters. That's all I ask. Just the mere sight of a seven on my digital scale.

    Esso Sign Means Happy Motoring

    Join me over at Saltation for some beautifully-crafted tales about his new vintage car. What that man can do with words would bring a tear to yer e'e.

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    Wednesday, September 17, 2008


    People think bingo is populated by sweet, slightly dotty old dears with blue rinses. Nothing could be further from the truth. Take this morning. Into the main hall bounded Bernice from her smoke break outside.

    "You're no gonnae believe this!" she gasped to Buffet Mandy and myself. "Ah've just found the biggest bag of grass I've ever seen!" Buffet Mandy and I gaped, as we kennt fine just what Bernice meant by "grass".


    Outside the bingo in the smoking area.

    "So ah picked it up - was gonnae keep it - " Bernice blurted, "fucking sure I was - but then the guy came along. Guy that said it was his. 'Gies that bag back you just picked up', he'd said," Bernice explained.

    "So Ah asked him what bag and he said, 'that bag - the bizzies were right on ma tail and I just chucked it ower the wall...' " (This is a reasonably common scenario in Leith, where drugs are cheap, and life cheaper still.) Generally the cops (bizzies) don't bother about drugs, unless it's a career-boosting quantity, as they have crosswords to do, reports to dream up, schools to visit... that sort of thing.

    So Bernice sat down, on quite the wrong side of gruntled, to continue her bingo game sans grass. The guy had kindly given her a small cashbagfull as a reward for her honesty. We don't have much money, but we do see etc.

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    Tuesday, September 16, 2008


    Hiya! Rain, rain and yet more rain. There's so much rain we'd be startled at anything else, to be honest. Last night when I got up for my 2 am wee (goes with the territory, sadly) I heard a strange swish, swish, swish sound. Rain it was, coming through the hall ceiling. Had to get a bucket and then sponge to deaden the sound of the drops. Damn. Really must get that roof fixed some day soon. Much as I love the outdoors, outdoors is where it should remain.

    Stranger Than Fiction

    A couple of posts ago I was waxing lyrical about Professor Brian Cox, the Sultan of Hadrons. Described him as "particle physics' own rockstar". Well, you could have knocked me down with a Higgs boson when what should I see on Alan's blog but the news that Cox was truly the keyboard player for D:ream - a band I confess never to having heard of, but then my knowledge of pop could be written on a 45 sleeve. Rock star and particle physicist! Some people just have it all. Must get a snap of him, so you will see what I mean. But thanks Alan for the reference anyway.

    Brokeback Express

    Not all gay men are as intacta as oneself it seems. This morning a gay friend - who can never be named - was waxing lyrical on the phone about some site he'd found. Gumtree, or summat. "Hen, ah'm doin' a twenty-nine year-old at half past two!" he gushed. "You just log on and invite them round!" he explained. "It's just like ordering a pizza!"

    My gob was smacked. Then he repeated the guy's (young) age for the third time in case I'd missed it, at which point I could contain myself no longer. "Mebbe he prefers the fatherly type!" I snapped, waspishly. Bitter and twisted? Moi?

    Got to leave you with this pic from Princes Street this very afternoon, which takes cute begging to new heights. After the snap I put a modelling fee into the dog's cap. Just 10p, as most of these beggars are running around in BMWs when not in character.

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    Monday, September 15, 2008


    Yesterday, looking back at the zig-zag of fourteen people following me up a hill, I decided it was a bit horny. Not horny as in erectile (far too old for all that nonsense, praise the Lord), no, not horny as in stiffy, but horny as in "da man".


    That's why I'm such a rubbish gay.

    Gay men are meant to get their jollies with soft furnishings and Mamma Mia! (The movie.) Or Madonna.

    Right at the end, only yards from Linlithgow Station, one of our number tripped and cut himself and bloodied his nose. "Someone direct the traffic!" I ordered, having read that bit in a book.

    So someone did.

    Almost all of male life comes down to "da man", but I think only a gay man fully realises that. Because he has a choice.

    OK. That's enough identity metaphysics for this evening. How you doin'? Brett in Florida kindly pointed to an Edinburgh article by Will Self in the online NYT. Seems our fame is spreading, but those appalling Glaswegians had to poke their noses into the comments. Nae finesse, Weegies.

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    Saturday, September 13, 2008


    Hiya. Kinda late. Just been watching More 4 channel about the rise of the Clit-Lit blog, in particular the stories of Girl With A One Track Mind and Belle de Jour from their origins in 2003 and 2004. Fascinating. Apparently there was talk in the early days of Belle being a man... as it was thought just not possible for a woman to write about sex so accurately. What a bizarre notion. One ridiculous woman - a psychologist in fact - even suggested Belle must be a gay man - quite misunderstanding the nature of male homosexuality methinks.

    Anyway. Was nice to see Zoe Margolis in the flesh - at least that much of her.

    Talking of flesh, tonight is something of a moonshot in the old avoirdupois. I am DETERMINED to drop below 12 stones 8 pounds tomorrow morning. This has been my aim and at the same time personal barrier for over three years now. I'm so hungry I'm almost passing out. So hungry. So much starvation to achieve that one small step, while fully aware half the world is hungry because they just don't have any damn food. Strange world. Strange. If I'm successful tomorrow morning I'll let you know. Been so long since any breakthrough in weight management here in Naked Mansions.

    I don't know if there's really much point in an ordinary, ie non-sex blog written by a non-beautiful person. But at least we helped show the way.

    Don't you just love it when someone who's caused you harm comes a cropper? Goes around comes around. Honi soit qui mal y pense, now edentate, so I hear.

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    Wednesday, September 10, 2008


    I was doing sudoku when they started it, the Large Hadron Collider. Oh I should have been there in person, of course... had the potential at one time, before real life kicked me so hard there was no getting up again... should have been there at the forefront of human knowledge, but no I wasn't. But sudoku is good, quite brilliant - once you get past the Guardian Hard. My own private particle physics.

    The project started in something of a shambles, apparently led by a Welshman called Lyn with bad hair and a charity shop shirt mumbling in French so as to exclude almost everyone paying his wages. Large Hadron Collider - the ultimate gadget show... 5 billion pounds and counting. Yet theatre was most evidently missing.

    People will happily churn out the readies for something they realise they will never understand... providing it fits with the current mode. And the current mode is celebrity. Where was Brad Pitt? Even David Beckham could have thrown the damn switch. But where indeed was the switch? The Queen had a big switch when she opened Calder Hall - the world's first atomic power station, as they called them then. It was a fake switch... the real one being operated by a jobsworth out of sight. But they understood stardom then. Obviously. I mean the Queen, ffs.

    It was covered on BBC Breakfast of course. Only six minutes, as they had slebs to get on to, but six they gave. Sadly missing the actual start at 8.38.38 BST, as it was, as I said, so shambolic. Only taken twenty years to get to this physical particle, and then it starts in a confusion.

    TV big science has been for all of my life dominated by a man almost as old as the universe, Patrick Moore. Nowadays he's wheelchair bound with speech almost impossible to understand. So they're grooming a sorcerer's assistant, Dr Chris Lintott. He is decipherable yes, but has all the charisma of a glass of bicarbonate of soda. But particle physics has found a REAL STAR, in the shape of Professor Brian Cox of Manchester University. Not Imperial, not Cambridge, but Manchester, that erstwhile home of Canal Street.

    And Prof Cox has got it all... brains, beauty and even a line of black t-shirts which show off his new romantic hair and whiter than white teeth to die for. Brian Cox. One to look out for. And this from the weblog which brought you Franz Ferdinand, Russell Brand, Summer Heights High... and so many others too numerous to mention. You can see Cox in action on the BBC iPlayer in this seminal programme on the nature of the universe, The Big Bang Machine. (Only available until 9.59 tomorrow, so HURRY!)

    In particle physics, as in everything, stardom does it all. Something grotesquely missing from this morning's lame switch-on.

    In other news...

    We are well and rested, thank you. No Naked Blog for ages, due to other commitments. Yesterday was my first day off in seven, and although I meant to write to you and show pretty pictures, it ended up with sudoku and darling zoe all day. She was in the huff a bit, due to my not being around that much, but I sweet talked her with co-op chopped pork containing not more than 19 percent water. Yummy. No more mice for ages, although that's clearly tempting fate. Shame about Andy Murray, but Higgs of temporary Higgs Boson fame was at Edinburgh Uni. Basically the universe is fucked. They've no damn idea. The matter they understand comprises only 5 percent of the universe. (They think.) After that comes dark matter (25 percent), and then dark energy (70 percent). All this is code for "No Fucking Idea, But Keep Paying Our Wages Please."
    Me I'm not convinced about the Big Bang. But then what do I know. Today's Laws of the Universe are tomorrow's old fashioned superstitions. I mean look at the flat earth, look at the seven turtles. We're probably not equipped to understand the universe. I mean look at darling zoe. We wouldn't expect her to tackle Grand Unified Theories, would we? So what sheer arrogance to think that our equally animal brains can do better. Arrogance. Better off with sudoku and Friends.
    OK - off to call the bingo, hopefully with only small bangs. Tara. Take care. Love you.

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    Tuesday, September 02, 2008


    Hurry! Hurry! Hurry!

    Last week of Sandra Brown's sell-out exhibition at the Village.

    Only a few pieces remaining

    (Could be yours.)

    Must finish this weekend!

    Mention this blog and get a free glass of wine!!*

    Sandra Brown @ The Village, 16 South Fort Street, Edinburgh. 0131 478 7810

    *Free wine for genuine punters only. No Leith riff-raff.

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    Monday, September 01, 2008


    Sitting in a Linlithgow pub after the worst reconnoitre I've ever done. Been electrocuted 3 times, barb wired once, over the ankles in bog, and chased by cattle. It's a man's life in West Lothian Country. P x

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