Monthly Archives: April 2011

All That Jazz

Some years ago I realised that one of the things which I wished to witness, one day, was a concert by Keith Jarrett, with his Trio in preference to solo.  Born in 1945 Jarrett cannot be expected to appear at European jazz festivals for too much longer.  It is nearly 40 years since his Koln concert was recorded.  Ideally I would love to get to a venue in mainland Europe, such as Montreux, or Juan-les-Pins.  But I am finally to get to see them this summer, though a trip to London hardly excites in terms of the travel and the venue.  However I managed to secure a ticket when they went on sale yesterday, with no huge thoughts to getting there, getting home, or what to do with The Urchins.

I suspect that rail travel may be the option, with the afternoon train south and the overnight sleeper for the return, which may get me back home with minimum disruption to child care.  Perhaps Granny can step into the breach for the afternoon.  Meantime I need to do battle with the rail ticket websites.  The sleeper berth seems to be problematic and require a phone call, with the usual caveats of no bookings longer than three months in advance.  Well it’s April 29 today, and the concert is July 27, so I may strike lucky.

Also on the agenda today is the finalisation and submission of my wee competition piece.  I might manage to get that down the line just as the happy couple are doing the nuptial thing.

Yes it’s Royal Wedding day today, so plenty of chores to get on with as I do my best to ignore the flag-waving hype from dann saff.  I had thought of doing what I did when the groom’s parents were wed, but I got the grass cut yesterday, after the shed was painted and tarred.  Plenty chores left though, with a little varnishing, some weeding and more.  No doubt there will be a wee bike ride, though sadly the sun of late has yet to appear to warm a chilly and breezy start.  We are promised some fine and very warm weather for the rest of the weekend.

I need to be out and about in the afternoon, with my usual rounds of clients, many of whom are happy to have something to do to escape the television and radio.  I do have some suspicion that the event was planned partly to get lots of union flags on the streets of Scotland and Wales just before our elections, but in reality the English aristocracy and the Westminster government wouldn’t even have given the provinces the slightest thought.

The Westminster government though has been plentiful in sending representatives north to shore up their parties’ interests as polling day draws nigh and the predictions turn in favour of the nationalists.  Methinks the appearance of these various Oxbridge toffs and their unionist policies simply serves to feed the demand for good government for Scotland.  At least we won’t hear from them today, so the media won’t bombard us with more efforts to get us back on Elmer’s side.  Dour Iain Gray may even avoid another public flogging, as his antics escape media attention.

Time to catch up on the overnight developments, and to read the very sorry news of what appears to be a suicide bomber in the Djemaa el Fna in Marrakech.


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And so we enter the final week of campaigning before the election.  Gray’s Labour party seem to be hitting the panic button, turning their negativity away from an anti-blue tory Westminster cuts agenda to an anti-Salmond agenda.  You would think that with the elctorate being turned off after four years of relentless anti-Salmond negativity, that they would have come up with some strategy, but apparently this change was planned all along, or so they would have us believe.  To reinforce their aims they have dragged up one of their Eds, or as some would say, another Balls up in Scotland.  The architect of the collapse in the economy spent his time yesterday telling us we were all barmy and crazy to even think about voting in a nationalist government.  So that will have a big difference in the polls then Ed?

I feel we are on the cusp of something great for the future of Scotland.  But we must hold fast, and think of our children and grandchildren.

Today Alex Salmond will be in this constituency’s campaign rooms and I really should find the time to lend some support.  However time has to be managed and with the sun rising ever higher in a cloudless sky, the early frost long gone, I hear The Grasshopper whining to be set free.  It is one of those days not to be passed up, cycle wise.

Of course I could have an early run, but there are other things to do.  With spring well set, green leaves opening on the beech hedges as the crisp autumnal brown is shed, attention needs to be given to the other shed, and supplies of weather-proofing acquired for walls and roof, along with some creasote-substitute for the chicken hut.  The lesson here is never to lend out painting supplies to friends and good causes.

I also need to order an additional chicken hut.  With just one of the last flock remaining  I am keen to get some more.  A friend has been breeding some Marans-Black Rock cross and has promised me some on point of lay, though I insist he can keep his cockerels.  I don’t want to mix flocks, thus a second hut is needed.

Meantime my work on the Bradt competition entry nears completion, and my registration is in place for the submission, under a working title of Red Breasts and Sandy Bottoms.  It is a little memory of the time our canal barge was aground in Ireland, which should fit the Up the Creek theme.

On the bedside table now is an exploration of Michael J Arlen’s Armenian roots, and the impact that the discovery of his past has on his life.  It rose to the top of the pile after being introduced to Nadia, with whom I would hope to have the chance to discuss all things Caucasian.  She is off home to Dagestan this summer, though it is far from safe at the moment.  Before that I had the joy of Antoine de Saint-Exupery and his tale of pioneering days in avaiation, across the Andes and Sahara, where he survived a crash and a long trek through dehydration and hallucination before rescue.  Stirring stuff, superbly crafted.  I will read more.

On now with the days’ chores, with a reading of the overnight news and comments.  The First Minister is about to begin a radio phone-in. 

Then there’s tomorrow.  The real excitement is that tickets go on sale for a concert.  Not just any concert but the first in this country by Keith Jarrett, with his trio, for a couple of years.  I’d promised myself that, one day, I get to hear them play live, though I’d prefer if it was a jazz festival in the South of France, or Tuscany, or on the cobbles of some fine old eastern European capital.  But London will do, and if I have to take a train south at the end of July, then a sleeper home to be back in time for The Urchins to let The Genealogist head off to work, then I’ll gladly do that battle with the rail ticket websites.  Firstly there is a battle to be one with the London venue website; fingers crossed.

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Changing Seasons

This day dawns murky, a touch gloomy, with the remnants of some overnight rain still dampening the ground, and no doubt feeding the grass.  But it was yesterday whilst enjoying a cycle in fine and warm weather, that two more signs of the certainty of spring, the lengthening days, and the start of the last term at school, flashed by.

Around the house the first visiting house martin put in an appearance, a week ahead of schedule despite the harsh winter.  Soon they will be busy in numbers, packing little beakfuls of mud, see we do need the rain, into those wondrous little nests all around the eaves, and the air will be alive with feeding and then fledging.  But the greatest joy came as The Grasshopper rounded a downhill bend, at a brisk pace, when I came a cross a field of cows.  The first sighting of a herd of dairy cattle, fresh and clean in their motley of black & white, released from winter quarters onto fresh pasture, tails flicking at the flies, munching eagerly at the lushness denied them for seven long months.

Of late the cycling has been accompanied by the smells of the surrounding farms, as the winter slurry is spread over the feels to encourage new growth in time for the silage to be cut for the next winter, when the beasts will be indoors once again.  But to see one of the best signs of life return to bring colour to the fields that had been greening after the deathly shades of February, was a sight to gladden the heart.  Ere long the Holstein-Fresian will be abundant in these parts, traffic will be held up as they parade across the roads heading for the milking parlour; the seasons are changing.

Meanwhile a new author arrived and has gone straight to the bedside table.  New to me that is, though Antoine de Saint-Exupery died in 1944, his plane failing to return.  Wind, Sand and Stars came highly recommended by several in a book discussion by fellow contributors at the Wanderlust forum.  It promises to be a good read.  And the day ahead needs a  decision to be made, to head onthe long trip to the Tail of the Bank, around three hours driving time and a huge cost in petrol, for football and an insignificant cup tie against an insignificant team, or to stay at home and defer the cycling until after lunch, using the morning for my weekly session with newspapers for the book reviews, and travel articles, with a fresh brew of coffee.  The weather may dictate the outcome, as dry and still day is too good to pass up on the bike.

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Polls and Tweets

No I don’t do that twitter thing, but I do keep my eye on the wee birdies in the garden and around.  Another first yesterday was the bullfinch, picking up some freshly shaved moss after the lawnmower had its first walk of the season.

Then there’s polls.  Great sleep after Brewer mentioned that The Times today had a poll showing a double-digit lead for Salmond.  Elmer’s campaign is disintegrating.  Joy and laughter; the sun shines no matter the weather.  As always the only poll that matters is the real one on May 5, but there are many with a spring in their step today.

As always the BBC ignore the latest findings, with not a mention on the website or news bulletins.  Taylor’s blog is alive with the news, and thus no doubt will soon be closed with no new offering until the dust settles and he’s something else to wave the red flag about.  Meanwhile over at Newsnet Scotland……

And the good day gets better with the news that Pollok FC have stretched their winning run to an impressive – two ganes.  However it was the West of Scotland cup and gives us a home tie against either Cumnock or Auchinleck in the next round, keeping some ongoing interest in the season.  The sun is shining.

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Voting Intentions

The election draws ever closer and the tension mounts.  The polls have moved and there is clear water between the parties, though the BBC continue to be selective in reporting polls and blogs disappear with the announcement of a poll they do not wish to discuss.  Finally there is press support for the SNP, with both The Sun and Sunday Express adding their weight to the campaign, and to the growing voices from various public names.  Yet still the BBC pedal along, ignoring any pretence at impartiality, and doing all they can for their party.  There is subtle use of photographs on the website, the running order for party mentions on news bulletins, and downright bias from journalists and commentators.  Now we find that the head of news is going, and is going to be replaced by the husband of a labour politician.  The party connections are many and varied and I guess that the only way to stop the rot at the BBC will be when indendence finally arrives, and with it a Scottish state broadcaster.

Meanwhile the BBC cannot hide the merits of the various politicains, witnessed by Salmond on Question Time last week, and again on Newsnight with Paxman last night, as against the performance of Iain Gray on Newsnight Scotland immediately after that Paxman interview.  Brewer on Newsnicht has not been soft on Elmer, or PFI Kerr and Master Baker earlier this week, and Isobel Fraser has a growing reputation.  Ultimately though Labour are the architects of their own downfall.  For too long they have treated this country with disdain, believing that it is their right to rule and to keep the peasants exactly where Labour want them.  But now we have seen how devolved government, even with limited powers, should work.  We have realised that the calibre of representatives Labour believe are good enough for this outpost simply will not do, that Elmer Fudd is wholly unacceptable.  And finally the people are beginning to realise what they have to do and who they have to support.  The marginal seats will be interesting, and the regional list seats are vital.  The ‘second vote green’ message should be a thing of the past.  It could be a long night on May 5.

Meanwhile back on the bedside table Alex Capus proved a very interesting read with his thoughts on Treasure Island and ultimately on the wealth of Fanny Stevenson and Belle Osborne.  He’s been back to the South Seas since finishing the book and the I’ll watch out for the next instalment.  Next up may be more from or about RLS, or maybe not.  Decision later.

Should be a good day for The Grasshopper after a hurrried and short early run yesterday.  The weather is holding fine and an opportunity to cycle in the sun, without wind or rain, cannot be passed up.  Time should allow a good run today, as it did in Monday, perhaps a longer trip to new territory with longer miles, more gradients, and maybe some sustenance in the bags.  Let’s see what the postie brings before I can plan an escape.

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Easter Eggs

It looks to be a fine day, there is neither wind nor rain in the air as yet.  We have a trip planned.  There is a second hand book fair in the Big City, and it’s also time to take The Urchins for their easter treat.

As chocolate seems to be an almost daily expectation, and there are already a couple of easter egg hunt occasions in the week ahead following which there will be overdosing on the brown nectar, I have for many years now insisted that loved ones get presented not with more over-priced and excessively-packaged goodies, but with a book, preferably not of my choosing.  So whilst in the city, we will have a pilgrimage to the serried stacks within Waterstones (whilst it is still with us).  Beforehand we have the slightly more expensive task of replacing the mattress.

To do all of this in one trip is going to mean a late morning start and thus lunch out.  Joining us for this rare treat will be The Eldest, probably more intent on a free slap up than a traipse round dusty book shelves.  It remains to be seen how much of the day he spends with us but it will be good to see him, and good for The Urchins.  A venue for lunch needs some decision to be made, preferably before setting off, but as yet the mind has not focussed at all on such delights.

The book fair will be good but I may leave empty handed if there is nothing of particular interest.  Nonetheles I have added to the reading pile of late.  The one bonus from the trip north was a trip to the bookshop which saw a few purchases.  I am back on the RLS trail once again, with a biography from the pen of Hunter Davies which has loads of promise, and also a recent arrival from Haus Publishing, (they always produce beautiful tomes, finely bound and with an atractive font), Sailing by Starlight, by Alex Capus, looking for the real Treasure Island.

I’ve just travelled the world, Bearback, with Pat Garrod, who spent four years travelling 100,000 miles by motorbike with his wife Ness.  It was interesting, enjoyable and they were good company, venturing to some far away places.  In writing he uses some seemingly unnatural, to me at least, phraseology at times. I suspect that the publishing has been on the back of the Ewan and Charlie, Long Way Round success, saying hey, 100,ooo miles is a heck of a lot more than a mere 17,000 in a few short months with all that support and crew you had – this is real travelling.  A good read though.

Since then I’ve dipped into Ethiopa with one of my favourites, Tahir Shah.  I think I must have read In Search of King Solomon’s Mines before, for there was lots that was familiar.  I do enjoy Shah’s writing style, and visit his website from time to time in the hope that he has another project about to hit the bookshelves.  His tales of finding and refurbishing his house in Casablanca, The Caliph’s House and In Arabian Nights, were positively enchanting, and had me on a quest to find a copy of Lane’s version of the Thousand and One Nights.

Meanwhile it’s back to Samoa, to the Stevenson family and lifestyle, whilst I continue to read the fortnighly downloads of Lamplit Vicious Fairy Land about his times in Edinburgh as a Velvet Coat About Town, and whilst abed open the boards of Haus and see what Capus has to say about finding that island.

For now though, and before the family trip to the Big City, The Grasshopper is calling, before the wind gets up.  Time to break sweat.

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Yes I know it’s a gene which I escaped at birth and a concept alien to me, but I may need to learn, quickly.

The Urchins are back from their few days north, interrupted by my visit which lasted just shy of 24 hours.  With the school holidays still in progress, and shortened weeks until mid-May, they need to learn to put up with me and I need to juggle my diary.  So The Grasshopper had an early start, returning home by seven thirty, the only real chance for a little exercise today.  It proved good thinking time, for one of the projects in hand.

Then came the bad news.  Theft of a van, and more importantly all of its contents, from the neighbouring farm.  The vehicle was removed between half three and five this morning.  I heard nothing untoward.  It’s horrible enough for our neighbours but a sign that we need extra vigilance in the community as these things do tend to come in spates.

Meanwhile the election countdown gets into the final three weeks.  I might even offer some leafleting time this weekend, another first.  With every passing day my contempt for Elmer Fudd and his cohorts grows; such a danger to Scotland.  Now we have his London bosses on the scene, Edward Testicles adding his tuppence worth, encouraging us to vote for the monkey in the red rosette to send the Westminster government a message.  I ask you, it’s Scotland’s election, and sod all to do with wastemonster and all it’s hype about English only issues such as NHS and tuition fees.  These guys continue to show utter contempt for our parliament in Scotland; even their Scottish members, the dross that they leave here after taking the cream (somewhat soured) to London, fail to understand.  There is only one party that has a real interest in Scotland.  We have two votes, constituency and regional, and they must be use wisely if we are to avoid the nightmare of Elmer.

Meantime the Bradt theme has been announced – Up the Creek – and I could well be.  With a deadline of only five weeks time is short, and a specific research trip is probably not on the agenda.  Now where could i go with that theme in mind?  The Jeweller is keen for another break, but he doesn’t do water, not even to wash his permanently manky paws.  But our on the roads this morning the first crumbs of a tale began to take shape.  It needs to be done from memory, a trip some years ago, with no notes.  Food for thought, and another task to fit in, one which needs a bit of concentration, and not interruptions.

So in the absence of that all important gene, we need some time management, and to switch off the other distractions, and the radio, and the politcal news and blogs, and the telephones, the emails too……..

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