Thursday, March 29, 2007

Caution, Tiler at Work

Apparently our old plaster was too crumbly and uneven to tile onto, so various bits of it have been replaced with nice new, dukkerboard. It's the only stuff to use we are told. Quite what's going on with the wine glass is anyone's guess.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Verily it stinketh

Here is a photo of a dead freezer. We knew it was playing up and wasn't keeping things as cold as it once did - and had tried to eat everything in it as fast as possible, fearing its imminent demise.

The other morning, it announced its departure, not with a groan, not with a leak, not with a gurgle of coolant nor an electrical flash and plume of smoke - but with a stench.

One large joint of meat had clearly not been kept cold enough for too long and was absolutely minging. Despite the wife's hasty removal of said object, the pong seemed to fill the whole house and settle into the very pores of the building. Much opening of windows and gratuitous use of fragrant candles has almost returned our air quality to within acceptable EU limits.

Our wheelie bin however is a veritable bio-hazard, repulsive to humans but seemingly irresistible to flies. Apologies to the people who will have to empty it tomorrow morning. My next job is to take the expired fridge to the special place at the dump where appliances go to die.

Of passing interest to history geeks...

Anyone with a slightly sad, geekish appreciation of history might appreciate the following website, . They have had the joy of spending several years of their lives entering all the surnames and locations from the 1881 & 1998 censuses into an online database which you can search. It throws up interesting maps of the distributions of names across the country, now and then.
Needless to say, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Friday, March 23, 2007


The sunset last night was particularly lovely, and after a long break I got my little camera out and took a few photos of it. As usual, the camera captures very little of the grand scene. Part of that is simply that cameras don't capture such things well - mountain scenes fare especially badly, but it is also that I have a particularly poor camera. We were badly advised that Panasonic, though not usually a camera company, were making some good digitals for everyday use - but it has turned out to be a very poor substitute for our old Canon. It hasn't been all bad, it's facility for shooting Qucktime movies is much better than we had before and we have used it to save a good few special memories such as Norris singing and some of Doris' first steps.
One day I'd like to get a really nice camera though........

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

At last she speaks!

Little Doris (who will be 2 in May) has at last started to utter intelligible words. Her reluctance to walk until she was a year and a half has not affected her ability to toddle about quite effectively; and so we assume that her equal reluctance to speak will not have any undue consequences.

The thing which seems to have given her the confidence to start experimenting with sounds was the weekend she spent with us in London - away from her noisy brothers! Since then she has been trying new words out every day. Now it's not that she is holding conversations by any means, but it is lovely to hear her practicing with shaping and forming words, even when she's only half got them and we are the only ones who knows exactly what she means.

I strongly suspect that, given what we know of her character, that the initial drought which has become a trickle, will soon become an unstoppable deluge.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Good Find

Lord and Lady Lucan joined us for dinner on friday night and we went out to what must be Perthshire's smallest restaurant. I'd never been to the fairly newly opened "Apron Stage" in Stanley before - but was very impressed, we had a lovely evening. On Friday evening the restaurant was quite full (all three tables!) and so to describe the place as "cosy" would be to underestimate it! The minute kitchen was almost in the dinning room itself and the three people worked hard, producing and serving lovely food, despite virtually standing on top of each other. I was intrigued by the name until I saw the place and the way the kitchen opens into the dining area giving the audience/dinners a comprehensive view of the actors/chefs.

The menu was pretty varied considering how few people the place can hold, with a good range of starters and deserts and two main courses available. It wasn't cheap - working out at about £35/head including drinks, but was really good food, well presented, by friendly people in a great little restaurant. We'll be going back - once we've saved up again!

It turns out that the people who run it, used to own "Let's Eat" a long-established Perth restaurant. It seems that they have freed themselves from the hassles of running a big town centre restaurant, and are evidently enjoying running this tiny little gem out in the country.

Friday, March 16, 2007

The Blogs of War

The BBC has broadcast a deeply revealing documentary on Radio 4 called "Iraq Online". It reveals the way that the present ghastly conflict in Iraq is being reported daily by soldiers blogging from the front line - a completely new development in the long history of war-reporting.

Some of the soldiers blogs are factual, some political, some subversive and shut down by the military. I was not surprised to hear these, what shocked me was some of the gung-ho patriotic bloggers whose appetite for violence was admitted without any self-censorship, let alone shame.

This is worth listening to while it is still avaiable on the BBC's 'listen-again' service. Many of the blogs featured in the programme can be found by typing 'Iraq Blog' into Google.
Iraq's pain is captured all over the internet. Photos such as these are too distressing to comprehend.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007


Walking today through Perth, I passed a group of lawyers happily posing outside their office for a firm photo, presumably for a brochure or website. I passed within a few yards of them just as the photographer was about to press the 'click' and capture the moment.

I was intrigued to discover that the way to get a whole group of lawyers to smile together for such purposes is for them to say in unison, "one, two, three......... feeeees!"

Monday, March 12, 2007

Gary plays Hendrix

Week of the Raging Sinus

This week I have been grumpy and uncommunicative (and not blogging either). This has been due to a resurgence of my long-standing sinus problem which has irritated me on and off since I was a kid. I remember well a trip to London as a seven year old to see a specialist whose sum total of help was to suggest that it might be uncomfortable at times.

Decongestants, steam inhalations, steroid sprays and far too much ibuprofen didn't clear it up by last weekend and then I went on a flight. Chronic sinusitis and flying are a dreadful combination, avoid it at all costs.

Now I am on steroid 'nasules' which according to she who knows, is a more effective delivery method for steroids - which seem to be helping, and on the waiting list for an ENT referral. I gather the waiting lists for ENT are "improving" - they were at 18 months not too long ago. I only hope that tis time they come up with something more constructive than, "it might be uncomfortable at times".

Oh Really?

Boris (aged 7) shared his insights with us yesterday. As previously blogged I have been feeling especially groggy this week, and was resting my head in my hands at the dining table. With a note of genuine concern he then volunteered:
"Dad, I know why you are so tired. It's because you stay up too late at night kissing Mummy".
"Mummy, why are you all laughing?"

Monday, March 05, 2007

Blood Brothers, Chinatown and the Radisson

My little sister, who Boris, Norris and Doris know as their mad aunt, "Potts" gave the wife and I a brilliant present, which she'd won. It was 2 excellent seats for a West End show, and a night in a good hotel in the middle of theatreland!

So on Saturday afternoon, we caught the train up to the centre of London. Lord and Lady Lucan were manning the for at home with Boris and Norris while Doris was entertaining her grandparents, and mad aunt, on the edge of London. We saw Willy Russell's musical "Blood Brothers" about scouse twins separated at birth and brought up each side of the class divide and their subsequent interwoven fates. All manner of superstitions are used to cloud the brutal realities of privilege and exclusion, a divide which ultimately is the undoing of both brothers.

I have seen several West End musicals and I have to say that about half of them were absolutely awful. On two occasions (Miss Saigon and The King and I) I have left the theatre most disgruntled at the poor fare served up, as they were both abysmal. Blood Brothers on the other hand was superb. I can imagine that if poorly acted, sung, or directed it could be really pitiful as my Mum experienced in a regional theatre. But this was utterly compelling! They seemed to get everything right from the music to the evolving costumes across the decades to the acting. The hardest challenge for any actors I have seen in a long time is to play a character from a toddler to an adult, holding together a single character as they move through stages of life and circumstances. It was superb. I am not surprised that they boast that they close to standing ovations every night.

From the theatre we went down to Cambridge Circus where we got a good view of the Lunar Eclipse, before wandering down to Chinatown for some food. Gerrard street is wall-to-wall Chinese restaurants, and choosing which one will be best is pot-luck. However we did well, having a much better Chinese meal than we can find in Perth for a fraction of the price. I have no idea what time we finally got back to our hotel.

Even if we only get away by ourselves for a weekend once or twice a year, it's fantastic! (and something they highly recommend on the marriage course, incidentally!)

The London Marriage Conference

The wife and I went to London at the end of last week to attend the Marriage Conference. Having recently completed The Marriage Course and benefitted from it, we went to find out all about how to run and host a course ourselves. The church which pioneered the Marriage Course, Holy Trinity Brompton, held a day-long training event bringing together loads of people running such things to think through how it can best be done to help the most people, as well as explain the ethos of the course.

One particularly poingnant thing mentioned was the research of Catholic psychologist, Jack Dominion who has analysed the reasons for the high divorce rate today. He suggests that 50 years ago what made marriages successful was the extent to which the parties fulfilled the prescribed roles which society ascribed to husbands and wives. The changes in both culture and the economy however mean that this is no longer the case, and instead what makes marriages work is the quality of the relationship of the spouses. The marriage course therefore aims to help people develop critical skills such, listening, communication, forgiveness, etc which enable them to more effectively meet the needs of their spouse.

Another really useful thing to note was the way in which at the host church they have overcome the potential stigma in attending such courses. They have done this by involving virtually all the married couples in the congregation in the course, so that going to the course is not associated with your marriage being in difficulties. We are aware that this could be a problem, because some people said to us when they heard that we were doing the course, "Oh, I hadn't realised you were having problems". Whereas the course could probably do a lot to help struggling marriages (and there is plenty of anecdotal evidence to suggest this) it is more about strengthening marriages that are OK. One marriage counsellor commented that he spends much of his life trying to give couples the relational skills they need - ten years too late!

We hope that instead of the church just extolling the virtues of marriage (for which the biblical and contemporary statistical evidence is overhwelming) and bemoaning the divorce rate, and helping individuals to pick up the pieces from messy divorces - we can at least offer to help people to build better marriages today. This strkes us as the kind of worship we should be offering.