Saturday, February 24, 2007

Trains Trains Trains!

Boris, Noris and I went riding trains today - in order to see more of them (very sad, I know). We went to the SECC in Glasgow for the day to visit the Scottish Model Railways Exhibition which should have been "fun for all the family" except half the family disagreed about the definition of "fun" and didn't come!

Nevertheless we had a good trip down there - trains are the best way to travel anywhere - and found our way across Glasgow to the SECC successfully, and enjoyed the model trains. Boris and Noris have got an electric train set, which they love setting up on the dinning room table, especially on rainy winter days - so they loved seeing some really huge and complex layouts with things such as electric points and signalling and landscapes which are clearly labours of love.

We weren't exactly sure where we were going as we came out of the station. However - (and here is a stereotype that seems to work) we thought that following the crowds of odd-looking bobble-hats, and loud knitted jerseys, and sideburns might lead us in the right direction. Sadly it worked, and we enjoyed mingling with all the other social misfits.

Our fun was rudely interupted by the sudden return of Norris' little tummy problem, whereupon we discovered that the foulest toilet in Scotland is not at the back of that cafe in Trainspotting, but in Gallery 3 at the S.E.C.C.

No, he Do-Wah Didn't!

On Friday night our church played host to "An Evening with Paul Jones and Fiona Hendley" which I went to but the wife was stuck at home with sick children! Jones, the singer, actor, TV and Radio presenter has been in the public eye for four decades while his wife, Fiona is a very successful and accomplished stage actress and singer. They came to our church to share something of their life and also their Christian faith.

Jones recalled with wry amusement that he was so well known as a militant atheist that the BBC chose him to debate against Christianity versus Cliff Richard. Jones admitted that he went all out not merely to win the debate but to utterly humiliate his opponent! His atheism began to collapse because of spiritual experience he had visiting art galleries whilst touring from city to city with his Blues Band. For her part, Fiona was opposed to Christian faith but instead was interested in all kinds of mystic and occult activities.

They told the story how, just after Paul's experience in the art galleries, Fiona had visited a church (All Soul's Langham Place) simply for aesthetic reasons, as it adjacent to the BBC where she had been working. While admiring the place she discovered a Bible and began reading - and was arrested by the message of Jesus. This led them both together to start seriously investigating the Christian faith and searching for answers, with the help of the church. They actually became Christians at an event which (ironically) Cliff Richard invited them to.

They spoke about the changes that this has brought to their lives, and spoke with remarkable joy and enthusiasm about their experience of the presence and leading of God in their lives, and the sure and certain hope of eternal life that it brings. I've been to a few events at which well-known Christians have spoken, and have usually been rather bored with the obvious self-promotion going on. Not at this event! Paul Jones and Fiona Hendley are clearly captivated by the message of the Bible and eager to share it. It was strangely refreshing to hear a basic gospel message again - as so much of what I am involved in church-wise is complex and nuanced issues of hermeneutics, exegesis, ethics and mundane organisational stuff.
ones and Hendley sang a few songs together too (they met playing lead romantic roles opposite each other on the west-end stage). Fortunately however, he didn't do-wah-diddy at any point.
On this night my sole involvement was car-park duty, for which I was provided with a rather groovy day-glow yellow jacket. I have to say, I am amazed at how little control some well-known members of our church have over their vehicles!

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The Incredible Mr Allan?

I was contemplating taking Boris and Norris to the Scottish Model Railway Exhibition at the SECC, until I read this! (click here)

This "Mr Allan" chap sounds a bit creepy!

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Saved, by a Dyson

This evening my life was saved (or I was spared serious injury at least) by a brand-new Dyson, bagless, allergy protecting vacuum cleaner.

The wife asked me to go out to the road and clean out her car, and, failing to come up with a good enough excuse not to, readily agreed. The car was in desperate need of a clean-out, the internal carpets were especially thick with grit, dust, mud, leaves and general debris.

So, I got the dyson going and climbed into the back seat and was merrily 'hoovering' away. ('hoover': a noun which became a verb which became an irony). I had been working away for a few minutes, when I heard a strange jarring and scraping sound. Looking around to see what it was I realised that the car was moving - having been parked by its owner in neutral with no brakes. A quick look the other way showed that we were rolling towards the road and into the path of a truck! I lept through to the front seat and put the handbrake on, thankfully just in time, the car stopping just short of the main road.

Hyperventilating, with a soaring pulse and a year's supply of adrenaline coarsing through my veins I climbed out of the car. It was then that I noticed the Dyson. It was wedged hard between the open car door and the kerb. It was this humble domestic appliance, wedged in, which was making the noise I had heard as it braked my progress towards the road.

Closer inspection demonstrated that the Dyson was wedged completely under the car door, and couldn't be moved either way; even moving the car a few inches forward failed to release it. A huge amount of the car's weight was pressing down on the thing too. There was no choice then but to jack the car up and release the appliance. Much to my surprise, the Dyson is still working!

Sponsored by Dettol?

In the unlikely event that this blog were to acquire corporate sponsorship, I'd have to give long and serious consideration to the kind of firm with which I would wish to be publically associated (so Tesco's and BAE-Systems please don't bother to get in touch as rejection only causes ill-feeling). The Bean Shop or Craigdon Mountain Sports however, would illicit a far more favourable response.
Today however, this hideous household should be sponsored by Dettol, as we are, quite literally in the throws of tummy bugs! It all started with little Doris, who developed a high temperature and was grizzly for a few days before spectacularly vomitting all over Lord and Lady Lucan's floor. Next was Norris who has dissappeared into bed with a soaring temperature, while we await the coming explosion. As for Boris, he exploded in the kitchen this evening. He did so suddenly, violently, profusely, without warning, and simultaneosly vented both ends of his alimentary canal. Nice!
The house stinks of Dettol. It's better than the alternative though!

Monday, February 19, 2007

Loch Muick

We took Boris, Norris and Doris up to Deeside at the weekend to show them one of our favourite places, Loch Muick. It's a delightful glacial trench, now filled with icy, clear waters and ringed by high mountains such as Broad Cairn in the Glen Shee hills to the west and the wonderful Lochnagar high on the East. It's a place which Queen Victoria fell in love with, buying the land around it and Balmoral Castle. The lovely country house at the side of the loch, Glas-alt-Shiel has a plaque commemorating her purchase of the estate. Its easy to imagine her in a carriage being pulled along the lochside track from Ballater station.

is a place which holds particularly fond memories for us, as it was a place we often visited before the "girlfriend" became promoted first to "fiancee" and then "wife". Our memories of long walks and conversations were, of course, not revisited courtesy of the presence of three noisy young children who neither wanted to walk far - nor let us converse.

Young Doris was the least happy of all of them. We only realised when we got back to the car, just how cold she had got. Despite being wrapped up in a vast bulkage of hats, gloves, coats (plural) jumpers etc etc - she had got far too cold. Although we could feel the chill in the air we weren't uncomfortable as we were walking, and at least of one us carrying her in the 'Macpac' too. However, sitting immobile in the pack, she had got far too cold. Once back in the car, with blankets and the heaters working flat-out she soon cheered up.
If you are really interested some nice German person has posted a 3min video of the scenery around the Loch on YouTube. You can see it here.

In Need of Help - or Mellowing with Age?

The wife persuaded me to accompany her to the (dreaded) cinema on Friday evening to the inevitable (and equally dreaded) rom-com. I have seen too many of these wretched sub-Austen shmaltzy re-makes for several lifetimes, so against my better judgement I went.

This one was the same recycled storyline, except that this time the setting of the same storyline was the music industry. The dizzy-girl (ie. the Meg Ryan character) was played by Drew Barrymore (my word she's changed since E.T.) and Hugh Grant played the Hugh Grant character.
hey meet, they connect, they separate misunderstanding one another, yet they improbably get back together at the finale. Heard it all before? You bet!!
But here's what's troubling me most. I didn't fall asleep, which is my usual recourse during Hollywood soporific spectaculars. I didn't check my watch (much). I didn't get ludicrously grumpy and I didn't start picking all the obvious faults in the film to moan about. On one occasion I am ashamed to say that I actually emitted an audible laugh.

So what is happening to me? Is this any better than the usual drivel? Hardly! Was I taken aback by the cinema experience rather than the usual small-screen? Are my critical faculties loosing the long/slow war of attrition? Or am I just mellowing in my old age? Any of the possible answers are troubling.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Saturday, February 10, 2007


I am this morning both very old and very pleased. Very old because this morning I attained my 36th year; very pleased because of a rather splendid present bought for me by the wife. In May I will be heading North-west for a week of walking and scrambling on Skye, joining up with a group and a guide to play about amongst the Cuillin for four or five days. The mountain weeks up there are organised by the SYHA and look (on paper at least) excellent.
So between now and May there is just the little matter of my level of fitness to address. ...

The photo of the Cuillin, above, was taken from near Applecross.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Never to be seen again

I am sorry to have to report that one of our little pet goldfish has quietly passed away and has, with all due ceremony, descended the U-Bend of destiny.

and bottle washer too, presumably

My delightful sons, "Boris" (7) and "Norris" (4) have just had a discussion about me, within my earshot. The latter thinks that I should be referred to as "cook", whereas the former has decided that I am "the butler".
I was about to launch into a rant about spoilt ungrateful children and being taken for granted when a rather sarcastic "quote of the day" arrived on my desktop!
The denunciation of the young is a necessary part of the hygiene
of older people, and greatly assists in the circulation of their blood.
Logan Pearsall Smith.
Then I'm just glad that my children have such a well profused butler!

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

So Tight It Hurts!

There is a fine line between being 'sensible' with money and just being an old miser. I like to think that I have well and truly crossed that line.
When it comes to buying music I reckon there is nowhere cheaper than ebay these days. I always think it is hilarious to see the prices places such as HMV charge for CD's. Last time I was in one of their stores most of the discs were marked at around £15!

I reckon that £5 is the most you should ever have to pay for a CD, and that would be for a CD that you REALLY want, and anything else you should be able to find far, far cheaper, if you are willing to

bide your time, get onto ebay, bid low and bid often! None the various CD's pictured here have broken the £5 rule and (lest there be any confusion, that figure does include postage and packing!). Most of them weighed in at a hefty £3 in total, while the winner was K.D. Lang's "Invincible Summer" which although costing £1.99 in postage, was claimed with a winning bid of exactly £0.01. Now that's the kind of money I am prepared to pay for good music! 1p is almost a comedy offer to make someone for their goods, but if they list their wares as being "incredible bargain - no starting price" and no-one else bids, what can they expect?!
I reckon that buying CDs this way results in better quality than most of the download sites, and better value than even the cheapest of the regular retailers.

The K.D. Lang CD is very good, much better than her forays into Country music, but on this album she is far too happy for my liking - I think she excels at melancholy! The Cat Stevens retrospective is very good too, all his old hits are there and I love his eccentric songwriting and idiosyncratic vocals. The Robert Cray blues album is very good, but I need to listen to it a few more times. John Martyn's "solid air" is a classic, and sounds wonderful - although 'chemically enhanced' to say the least. As for Madeleine Peyroux, I'm still waiting for the postman to deliver her 'careless love' album to the house. I love her voice and have high expectations of the album.
At least I know that if any of these purchases turn out to be complete mince - I haven't paid HMV £15- for the privilege of saying so.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Loch Ordie & Deuchary Hill

Boris and I have enjoyed an excellent half-day in the hills today, wandering up to the lovely Loch Ordie and then walking up Deuchary Hill - a pleasant 11km with 475m of ascent.

We have explored little of the area between the Dunkeld and Ballinluig turnings off the A9 - but were pleasantly surprised by what we found today; old woodlands, good tracks, huge views, lovely rivers, wildlife aplenty and far steeper hills than we had expected.

Schiehallion looked spectacular from the end-on view afforded from Deuchary Hill, but was surprisingly free of snow of which there plenty to be seen high on other hills such as Beinn a Ghlo. It was extremely windy and cold on the summit, but there was a good rock to shelter behind for some lunch, right next to the trig point.

We are at an awkward stage again this year where Boris is keen to walk, Norris can be persuaded to walk, but little Doris is not able to walk far, but is now too heavy to carry far. This all means that family hill walks (of any decent length anyway) won't be happening for a while and we'll have to split up and do separate things for each of them. So, this morning, Norris and Doris helped their Mum bake bread, while Boris and I worked up an appetite in order to come home and demolish it!

The photos are of Deuchary Hill from the Lochan na Beinn, immediately below the summit, and the poor quality is because they were taken with my phone. The final climb to the trig point is quite steep, going directly up between the two summits visible in the pictures.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Authentic Imitation

Over the last few weeks there has been one passage in the Bible which has been dominating my thoughts. I have been reading it frequently, and speaking about it in church several times too. I feel almost tracked down by it, as I grapple with it's meaning and wrestle with its implications.
The letter to the Philippians was written to an excellent church, marred (so it seems) by a tendency amongst a few members to squabble. The advice given to them is not merely to stop and grow up, neither is it to condemn them or induce guilt - but to given them an example to follow. The imitation of Christ is commended to them as the authentic Christian life.
Scholars of ancient Greek say the following scans as a hymn:
Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself and became obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
This then is not merely the way the Philippians were to sort out their disagreements, but also the way that I am to live within the community of faith today, and live in my home and wider community as well.
True joy comes to us like resurrection, not by accumulation, - authenticity by imitation.

Jabba the Hut

I am now officially "overweight" as confirmed by the medical profession, with a bmi (blubbery midrift index) several notches higher than what it should be! The fact that science has confirmed what the wife has long been telling me is (apparently) the required motivation for eating less enjoyable food from now on.

I have to admit that I knew that there was more of me than was perhaps ideal, but was surprised at how far off the 'green' section of the graph I proved to be.

I remember seeing a piece of research done by some psychologists who had got a flexible mirror and asked people to press a button to indicate when the mirror was flat - ie. when it was reflecting a true image of themselves. The results made interesting reading, because "most" men perceived themselves to be a few degrees thinner than reality while "most" women perceived themselves to be several degrees larger than they actually are! I think if subjcted to such a test, the wife and I would conform to type on this score at least!

However, all such denials on my part have fallen by the wayside now, as the wife is patrolling the menu and the bmi scores; while Boris wants to know when I will be taking up Sumo.