It’s Not A Competition — Oh, Sorry, Yes It Is


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Now is the busy time. Now is the time when I, watcher of the inbox, keeper of the all-seeing database and distributor of the missives, will be dealing with tens if not hundreds (well, probably not quite hundreds) of emails a day. So this blog entry will have to be quick.

For it is on this coming weekend, on the twenty-ninth day of the month of February, that the entries close for the Scottish Arts Trust Short Story Competition 2020, the first one in which Booker-nominated Andrew O’Hagan replaces Sandy McCall Smith as head judge. So, as writers and artists alike are wont to leave things to the last minute, it’s once more a case of apres moi le deluge. No marriage proposals from desperate lassies, but a shedload of stories from wannabe authors.

As Saturday is also the fifty-fifth birthday of Italian composer Gioachino Rossini (1792-1868), I do hope I can find time to rustle up a quick plate of his eponymous tournedos, but them stories should be coming in thick (and I do mean thick, in a few cases) and fast.

The competition closes at midnight. The first year I did this (2015!), there was the now usual flurry in the closing minutes. I responded to all entrants, to confirm we had their stories safe and sound, logged them all in the spreadsheet, and made myself a cup of decaf, with which to wind down in front of some mindless telly before bed and sleeping the sleep of the sleepy.
At about two thirty I went to switch off the computer, just as another entry came in.

You’re too late, sunshine, I thought, preparing to stick the entry in the reject folder and pocket their tenner to spend on riotous living. Then I saw the address in New England. Still Feb 28 there, wasn’t it?

So I awoke the morrow morn wondering if someone in Kiribati or the Aleutian Islands was likely to enter, as they had until noon our time.

The closing date is now set to midnight, UK time!

Which means you still have three days to enter. If you fancy yourself as a writist, and have an unpublished shortie lying around, or can rattle off a new one by then, why not go to the short story website and give it a go? Up to 2,000 words on any topic you like. Ten British pounds per story and a top prize of £1,000.

Don’t worry, I’m not allowed to enter, being the award-winning admin wallah, so the competition won’t be that stiff.

But I see an Aussie entry in my inbox. No rest for the wicked…

The Bubble Refutation


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It was in March 2019, when Will Self had his famous ‘stare-off’ willy-waving contest with Tory moron Mark François, when a problem I had been wrestling with for some time really hit home.

Self claimed, probably not unreasonably, that all the racists in the UK had voted for Brexit, whereupon François used an old sophist’s trick by retorting that he had just called 17.4 million people racists. Self of course denied it, but it was simply repeated with more belligerence and mock outrage. That was followed by the famous stare-off, before the programme moved on. Self probably thought it was enough to stare contemptuously at the idiot opposite him and no doubt all the bourgeois, liberal, intelligent folk who voted to remain were happy to think what a thicko his opponent had shown himself to be.

Another example: there is a scene which can still be seen on YouTube in which Nigel Farage, in a debate on climate change in the ‘unelected’ European Parliament, holds up two pictures of the Arctic ice cap, the later showing much more ice than the earlier. The more informed (or at least less mendacious) folks present more or less sneer and continue with the debate, while Farage continues to hold up the photos, with a look of mock bewilderment on his face, as if to say, so why is there more ice now?

And in both cases I’m screaming, at least internally, why the fuck doesn’t someone refute him?

A couple of small points here. I realise that some people use or read the word ‘refute’ as synonymous with ‘deny’. It isn’t; it means to disprove, or at least present strong arguments against. And I’m well aware that people making these spurious arguments are often either too pig-headed or over-invested to see the truth, or, as often as not, well aware that they’re talking a pile of solecistic shite.

But I feel that the we should be wary of the idea that some people can’t be argued with, and that Reason, as Hume tells us, is the handmaid of the passions — and, as modern neuroscience adds, it’s a waste of time to present facts when people have made up their tiny minds. It’s a very handy meme to be spread about by those who want, in the words of Steve Bannon, to ‘flood the zone with shit’, so that appeals to feelings have more power than debate — and to spread a sense of despair in those of us who still think the Enlightenment had some good notions. As I’ve blogged before, I still think it means we’re just doing the arguing wrong; we need a Socrates, or that other bloke who tells us we have to find common ground for a starting point and not simply use the twitter method of calling the other guy a dickhead from the start (even if he or she is).

But most important in these cases is to remember that François wasn’t talking to Self, and Farage wasn’t addressing the EU Parliament; they were talking to the viewers on tv or online, or more specifically, those among the viewers who could be sympathetic to their agenda. And it’s fascinating to note that many encounters are shared later online, by both sides of an argument, to reinforce their position. So we have the same footage entitled something like, Farage smashes the climate hoaxers out of the park and Farage shows himself to be an ignorant twat on climate. Or similarly, François shows total ignorance of logic or François shows up Self as remoaner bigot.

But I still can’t get my head round why the supposedly smarter side of these debates can’t, at the time, make the necessary (or to them, too obvious) comment that François or Farage’s arguments simply don’t stand up. It’s not as if Self would have to use technical terms, like association fallacy or even draw a Venn diagram (which could be dismissed by the new ‘Gove Fallacy’, aka the Contempt for Intellect Ploy). He could simply say something like, “so if all pompous, best-selling novelists like me voted remain, are you saying that all remain voters are pompous, best-selling novelists?! That’s your logic, that is.”

And yes, the Arctic ice did indeed increase in the year 2012 to 13, from an all-time low of under four million km², to just over 5 million (September figures). But surely Sr Barossa should at least have pointed out that it was half as large again just two decades ago, even if he didn’t have a blow-up of this graph to hand. And of course the year after that, it plummeted below the ever-sinking blue line anyway.

But there is a smugness about the good folk of the bourgeoisie, a belief that these truths are so fucking self-evident that we don’t need to explain them to the oiks, who wouldn’t understand anyway. And that’s an attitude that’s so easily played on by the bad guys (who, as a future blog will explore, have even more contempt for the plebs to whom they cosy up so oleaginously).


This came home again last week, when watching comedian David Baddiel’s excellent, if harrowing, programme about Holocaust deniers.

Sharing their websites and even steeling himself to go and meet an obnoxious Irish denier (and listen to his toe-curling — musically and in content — songs about the ‘Holohoax’), he still left it to our good sense that the ‘facts’ these people presented to prove the Holocaust couldn’t have happened were bullshit. I find it painful enough as a goy, albeit one whose Jewish great grandparents walked to England from Poland and Lithuania in the 1990s to avoid pogroms, leaving behind relatives who will have perished in gas chambers or massacres back home; how it feels to members of the Jewish community I can hardly imagine.

But again, these people aren’t talking to me, or Baddiel, or the liberal intelligentsia. They’re hoping more impressionable, perhaps wavering viewers and online folks will start to doubt — and those potential marks have to be shown the refutation of these idiocies, not just contemptuous dismissal. So when the Irish arse says that Auschwitz was almost a holiday camp, a safe refuge for the Jews, with a swimming pool and bakery ovens that couldn’t possibly have burnt that many bodies because it takes an hour to … it leaves a bad taste in the mouth just typing this crap … surely these statements have to be challenged, every fucking time. Haters gonna hate, sure, but new ones needn’t be too easy to recruit.

Yes, in covering the obliterated camp at Chelmno (I like many had not heard of this one, for reasons the programme made plain), the subject of rapid incineration of masses of bodies had been gruesomely detailed, but the points need reiterating.

And then, in Mr Baddiel’s twitter feed, commenting on the programme, one denier posted some figures, captioned these numbas don’ add up. I hadn’t seen them before but they are ‘census’ figures from 1938 and 1948, claiming the total number of Jews in the world was about 15 million in both years, give or take a few, but certainly not take six million. Now this apparently is an old canard. The figures are genuine, but the facts are that the 1938 census was not done super-accurately and all the years’ figures after that were estimates, extrapolated from the ’38 figures, the intervening years not being conducive to the accurate collection of data. Indeed, the same data source for the following year, when a census of sorts was carried out (conveniently ignored by the nasties of course), does show a multi-million Jew drop.

But no one points this out. No one asks where all those post-war Jews suddenly went. The usual liberal response now is a combination of people calling the poster a dick and others responding proudly with the usual cry of ‘reported and blocked!’ Anything but engage rationally. But in the meantime, it’s just possible the seeds of doubt have been sown.
Or am I missing something? Is it not only a waste of time, but counterproductive? Do I have to adopt a secret identity as Voice-of-Reason Man? I hope not, I look ridiculous in a cape and tights at my age.

Incidentally it has always baffled me that most Holocaust deniers would love to see a holocaust being enacted; I never understand why some aren’t saying, yes, it happened, it was a good idea and let’s try to get it right next time. Maybe they are. I don’t really want to know.
As Woody Allen said in Deconstructing Harry, “not only am I well aware we lost six million, but I also know that records are made to be broken”.


And don’t get me onto flat fucking earthers!

Just Going to My Club


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First Draft of a Piece for a Scottish Arts Club Book:

In my all-too-distant formative years, I was an avid reader of A C Doyle, P G Wodehouse and E W Hornung. While many of my contemporaries would aspire to being Biggles or Sherlock Holmes, I wanted to be A J Raffles, the gentleman thief, relieving my wealthier acquaintance of their valuables, to support my sybaritic lifestyle (even if I was too young to know what such a lifestyle might involve). And of course, like Raffles, Bertie Wooster and Mycroft Holmes, I most wanted to be able to say, “I’m just going to my club, don’t ye know?” I didn’t stretch to scoring the winning runs for England, but I did want to stay in my chambers when in town for the match and a little light pilfering.

And then there were the films, from drama to comedy, such as Carry On Regardless, in which a hapless Kenneth Connor tries to remain quiet in the stuffy but ludicrous surroundings of a gentleman’s club. I knew I would never fit in there, but there was still a certain something that appealed.

Now, no one who knows me would call me a gentleman, and I enjoy the company of the alternative sex far too much to like the idea of a male-only enclave, so it seemed that neither the chance nor the slightest desire would ever make me more than an occasional guest at such institutions. But then my Godmother died (at the same time as a lot of her valuables disappeared, though I can prove I was away that evening) and left me a small legacy, just as a delightful French lass with whom I life-drew in Stockbridge, introduced me to the Scottish Arts Club, and said it would be just the place for me.

The only other thing that appealed to my mind as much as being a member of a Club, was to be blackballed by such an institution. Fortunately (for me, at least), none of the members knew me well enough for that at the time, so it was not long after (gosh, a decade ago now!) that I entered the hallowed portals, my newly-minted membership card in my hot and sticky hands. And I was not disappointed by the range of fascinating characters and raconteurs. On my first visit, a stout gentleman with a monocle in his eye and a small stuffed mouse in his top pocket began a discourse with, “When I was in Romania for the Revolution …”

“Who on earth is your travel agent?” I thought, before realising I was listening to the reminiscences of a Reuters correspondent. On other occasions, one has been able to enjoy the memoirs of Samuel Beckett’s friend and publisher, leading composers and writers as well as the inevitable and fascinating exponents of the daubers’ and carvers’ art. From charming, well-travelled architects to ebullient functioning alcoholics (of which we and the bar takings always need more), all (interesting) human life is there, in a soupd of bonhomie. And while we may not (yet) have a signature dish, like our affiliate institution’s Lamb Cutlets Reform,  we have a first class eatery and impressive wine list.

The Reform Club in Pall Mall

So it’s certainly not the staid or haughty environment of my youthful fantasies, nor does one find any trace of the pretentiousness (present writer excepted) one might expect in an arts institution. On the other hand there are a few well-heeled members with fine jewels and precious antiques in their New Town dwellings, and it’s a moonless Edinburgh night, and my black balaclava is fresh from the laundry, so if you’ll excuse me, I must be going out. Toodle pip … and you ain’t seen me, right?

Glad to be of Service


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Thank you forr everty other wonderful article. The place
else may anyone geet that type of information iin such an ideal way of writing?
I havfe a presentation next week, and I’mon the search
for such info.

What I don’t understand, and I really don’t understand this thing that I don’t understand, is why most of the spam messages that come in to my spam folder here on WordPress, tell me how useful or valuable or informative the information on my blog (and I quite agree that informative information is the best kind there is) has been found by the spammer.

Is it that most bloggers are trying to provide informative informational information, or are those that do the best victims for spamming?

I mean, even if I have, once in a blue moon, provided some food for thought or expressed an opinion that has made someone think (even if all they’ve thought is, ‘what a twat’), that’s lovely. Most of the time I just want to type out a piece of waffle as an exercise, the writerly equivalent of going for a jog, and within them there training runs, I hope my trips and pratfalls, if not my scintillating humour, has brought the odd smile among the groans.

But useful? Informative? I can’t think of a single post of mine that even set out to do that (though I was thinking of doing one explaining what mansplaining means). And it’s more often than not the case that the posts singled out by the spammers for said praise (and however old said post may be, all spammers seem to pick on the same one for their grateful eulogising, on any given week) — said posts are the least ‘informative’ of the lot.

Weird. But who cares? ‘Empty Spam’ is the first task every Wednesday. They obviously haven’t read my shit, don’t see why I should keep theirs.

So the only information, informative or otherwise, you’re getting this week is that I just popped into the very nice Pho Viet restaurant on Dalry Road in Edinburgh and had this delicious braised chicken with lemon grass. And I only tell you that because I think a picture adds something to a blog post.

See ya!

In Seeds of (Con)fusion


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OK, I may be cracking up (again). I’ve been a fan of the haggis pakoras at Edinburgh’s Pakora Bar since the eatery was but a van at the Fringe (a decade ago now). Their peppery fillings, kept moist by the gram flour batter, perfectly complement the spicy mango chutney dip.

So when Burns Night coincided with the start of the Chinese Year of the Rat (I’m a dragon, me), it seemed a logical kind of fusion to make jiao zi (dumplings) filled with haggis and mashed neeps.

Boiled or fried dumplings? Hey, we’re in Scotland. Fried, naturally — and count yourself lucky I didn’t dip them in chippie batter first! But that meant steaming them for about twenty minutes before frying them in groundnut oil until nicely browned.


Obviously the dumpling dough (plain flour mixed with hot water, kneaded on a floured board, then covered and left to rest for a while) stood in for the carbs of the thumpit tatties, but some sort of dipping sauce was required. Mango chutney wouldn’t be right, so the nearest thing in standard (South) Chinese cuisine would be … plum sauce? The tang of the spiced mango needed an oriental response, so garlic puree and grated ginger got added; and, for that Scottish touch, a splash of whisky.

As a pud, I made a basic cranachan (toasted oats, whipped cream and whisky-doused raspberries, and the stress is on the first ‘a’); and toasting the oats (I only burned two lots) reminded me of something I hadn’t eaten in ages — skirlie. This is the traditional Scots answer to stuffing: oatmeal and onions fried (ideally) in dripping or goose fat, with lashings of pepper. But this being what a friend had dubbed ‘Chinese Burns Night’, the only logical thing to do was to add ground Sichuan peppercorns.

And, surprise, surprise, it worked. OK, the dumplings were far from even in size (and perhaps the skins were a bit stodgy compared to the great ones at Chop Chop), but the sauce was a perfect complement and the skirlie — well, the skirlie was edible.

But all in all, let’s just say I’m glad that this confluence of two propitious dates only takes place once every seventy years. It’s taken me all weekend to tidy up and remove all traces of flour from the kitchen.

And as if that wasn’t enough, I had some haggis left over so yesterday morning I made haggis and guasacaca arepas (look it up!) for brekkie. That worked (quite) well too!

Slàinte mhath, ganbei, Lang may your lum reek, and Xinnián kuàilè!!

Images from the Spanish


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by Carlos Edmundo de Ory


Here on paper I set down the clear story of how I played
under the sun and the moon the clouds and the birds
since I descended from the ship of infinity
and took to treading the coastline of my days
The land of honeyed smoke and garbage
inaugurates its magic and the jasmines come
to give me a nose to sense the underworld
The stars are odourless and I came from the sea
that lacks dust and breeds no mould
even if its pristine nature profaned the grease
And the waves started to ring in my soul
whose model could only be the truculent sea
Tediously I know my amphibious heart
which bathed in the birth waters and here am I
hungrier for life than for bread contemplating
flashes of distances in my golden memory
Today I suffer from nostalgia like a sad guitar
Inland what would I do without lakes and forests?
But in the underworld my footsteps began
to fall into temptation thanks to the streets
where I met the daughters of men
as if the world were a madhouse
wherein each comes and goes in tears or not
getting lost in the gloomy bars of love
The wind shook manes and gonfalons
and I decided on the life-blood’s undulations
I despised the flags and every obstacle
to the relentless pursuit of oceanic sentiment
with aboriginal fervor that shipwrecks in the exodus
I saw myself come into the world for what for what
in the fourth month of the Gregorian year O April
that insula founded by Phoenicians
on the Gaditano strait became my noble cradle
I celebrate those nereids my own domestic gods
All of my heart I owe to Neptune


Alas for the born! Alas for the wanderers!
some with their singed eyelashes others with
their little herd-hooves  but all plotting
exactly like machines pale and nervous
have lost the sap have lost that knowledge
left by the magnificent hand of the cosmos
Also I was also I was brought to the ergastulum
where I’m still dealing with my sadness
while I look at my oak-scented oars
already distant from the blue cod and the jellyfish
On the landing-stage I left far behind
the bed of my voice the couch of my songs
that swaying breeze of the dreams
which rocked the siren whose countenance I saw not
But I saw the pitfalls of my latest incarnation
on the edge of the waters regarding me
with Aeolus’ eyes as if he were a hero
an anonymous argonaut who overnighted in the bay
and how many manifestations I knew of the demiurge
quasi-creatures all without doubt divinities
surprisingly tangible concrete and real
the thirst the rain the cold the breath of Helena
and the rocks the cushioning rocks of space
Then I fall in love with the sun and go barefoot
on an endless beach whose virgin sands
are lovers of the sea and me your true-born son
That’s why my visionary consciousness matured
and I built my ethics in the open space
Between stars and caves I was self-absorbed
beneath the salty tresses of the night
and advancing morose towards the downturn
through the bladderwrack and the wet sand
I planted the feet of being in the abyss
Still wary of that reviled remote and sullen
criminal of my anchorite infancy surpassing
henceforth a face worn down by tears
I said amen to the winter and goodbye to the palm trees
and never said enough to my nostalgia


Imágenes from Melos Melancolía (Melancholy Airs)
[1999, Ory’s final collection]
trans Dai Lowe, January 2020

gonfalon — an ensign or banner with streamers:
XXXXXXXXXOry has oriflammas, oriflammes
Gaditano — of Cádiz, on its semi-island on the Atlantic coast of Andalucia
nereids — sea nymohs, daughters of the god Neptune
ergastulum — a sunken space in which recalcitrant (galley) slaves were held
demiurge — the creator of the world, or even the universe itself
bladderwrack — seaweed that lines some shores
XXXXXXXXX(What shores? thanks, I’ll have a pint)



I, Myself and Mummy (II)



And I wonder
Why why why why why …

Oddly — such is the nature of serendipity and the perverse Muses — last week’s ramblings on mummified monstrosities were stimulated by a young couple in my local supermarket, trying to herd their boisterous and inquisitive offspring round the store without him spreading the contents of the lower shelves around the aisles.

They were doing a reasonable job, so my amusement never tipped over into annoyance, or even homicide. But what struck me most was a phenomenon that has long intrigued me, as someone who has never been permitted to breed (for no doubt sound reasons): why do parents refer to themselves in the third person when addressing their offspring? It seems almost instinctive; either that or it’s learnt from hearing it done all the time. But why?

Now, were I to reproduce (we’re back in the realms of horror stories, aren’t we?), I would be torn between having my sprogs address me simply by my name, or the more tempting and archaic system of having them call me ‘Guv’nor’. In response to the latter, I would of course address a son as ‘Sir and a daughter as ‘Madam’ (I’m too woke to call her ‘Miss’ or ‘Young Lady’, obviously). But whichever I chose, I like to think I would refer to myself when speaking to them as ‘I’ or ‘me’, depending on case — I would obviously never ever say something like ‘your mother and me are going out; apply yourself to your studies until our return, Sir’.

It baffles me, is all. Just saying.

I, Myself and Mummy (I)


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And I wonder
Why why why why why …

I’ve been reading The Mummy by Jane Loudon recently. Over the Festering Season, I was watching various programmes about ancient Egyptians, interspersed with Mummy horrorshows, and it occurred to me, we all know Bram Stoker wrote Dracula and Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein, but whence that other Hammer and Hollywood staple of the well-wrapped and reanimated Nilotic nemesis?

Turns out it was, like Mary S, a young lass who decided to follow said author’s lead and, not many years later in 1824, write a Gothic tale of her own. Unlike her mentor, she set her story in the distant future — in fact in the still distant 2126. Her ideas for ‘future’ transport and communications (balloons and some weird telegraph system that uses a sort of semaphore) provide a good laugh and prove the old adage that nothing dates faster then the future. Some of her ideas are, so they say, interesting from a feminist perspective, though even they look terribly dated from a current viewpoint. Most of all, her writing is, imao, dreadful. Shelley writes pretty well for lass of a 18, whereas Miss Webb (the future Mrs Loudon, and there’s a blow for feminism straight away), writes much as one might expect from a precocious but not especially talented schoolgirl.

Anyhoo, I also note that Mr Stoker did write, some 70 years later,  a mummy story, The Jewel of Seven Stars.

Stoker’s tale brings in more of the later themes of possessed mummies, even mummified cats, and a modern day heroine, who has an uncanny connection to the original model. In contrast, Miss Webb’s tale concerns a modern, Frankensteinish experiment, to reanimate a mummified body. Of course, if doing this, one should start at the top, so they chose to bring back old big-pyramid Cheops himself, who is as baffled by suddenly being sentient in the Twenty-Second Century as his victims are terrified.

I haven’t read that one yet. It’s not highly rated. But I’m sure it’s on project Gutenberg, just waiting to be reanimated and to join Cheops in my trusty e-reader.

[In keeping with my January resolution to keep things brief, the other thing with this title will be next week]

Never a Month Goes By


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Bloody Hell, what is it with all these themed months?! First we were expected to write a novel in November (NaNoWriMo), then stop drinking for Dry January. Now it’s expanded until it seems the whole year is full of sponsorable or self-improvementing schemes, with contrived month names.

We can begin the year in Veganuary by giving up animal products for 31 days (fuck me, either give them up for good or, preferably, just don’t!), then probably find something every month, until in ‘Gosober’ we give up the booze again (no way — that’s my birth month!). In ‘Movember’, those of us can do so are enjoined to grow hairy lips for cancer charities, and we end with ‘Dismember’, when the rest of us can hack to pieces all the smug bastards who annoyed us with their abstentions and martyrdoms for the preceding year.

(OK, I made that one up; if it catches on, don’t victim-blame me — except in Blamepril of course).

It’s all a spin off from gig culture and marketing, I guess. A catchy name, a theme, a focus, for folks without the attention span to do anything for a whole lifetime.

So I was thinking of designating the coming month NoBlogEnero (using the Spanish name) and announce a temporary cessation of hostilities.

But sod that. As I really should crack on with Knights in the Gardens of Spayne, I shall just call it MiniBlogEnero and try to confine myself to a few hundred words a week, possibly on topical things. And, like the vegans hope will happen to their victims, maybe I shall continue trying to find wit in brevity thereafter. You can but hope.

For starters:—

Lovely to see all the pedants out again saying it’s not the start of a new decade until Jan 1 2021. Even bouffanted philosopher ACGrayling weighed in on twitter with the question of when the first millennium started and ended, as ‘there wasn’t a year zero’.

As a mathematician (of sorts) I agree with the statements. I agreed back in 1999, when some were saying they were refusing to attend any minnellium celebrations on that basis. But, as this was in the days before I developed Dusty Springfield Syndrome (Going to the movies only makes me sad / Parties make me feel as bad), I said I was going to celebrate on the correct date indeed, but I wasn’t going to miss the parties in 2000 either, especially if booze was flowing. Make pedantry work for you not against, you miserable bastards!

[As it is, my partner dumped me over Yuletide, so ’twas in sad mood I stood atop Parliament Hill to witness the disappointing fireworks along the Thames and snog two Australian lassies who were high on MDMA — drugs are a necessary precondition for kissing me, I’m afraid]

But, as I tweeted on the Grayling thread, words mean what folks uses ’em to mean, as they did for Humpty Dumpty. ‘Billions’ were demoted to the US version, edging out the lovely old word for ten thousand, milliard. Now ‘decade’ means a bunch of years beginning with the same three digits — the Roaring Twenties, the Swinging Sixties, the Naughties, the Bloody Tense Tensies, so it seems silly to be pedantic, except in mathematical discussions.

One guy supported ACG by saying that the first decade started the day after One BCE, ie Son-of Manuary the First, One AD and ended at the end of Ten CE. A Christian tweeter then said, no, it was from the day after 1BC to 10 AD. I pointed out (I cannot be outpedanted) that both were wrong, as those dates weren’t applied until many years later, and the poor fools, yea, even the Magi and shepherds, missed out on the first Hogmanay, through lack of prescience.

I don’t really give a monkey’s what you call it. Happy New Year to all my reader!



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OK, I don’t do Christmas, it’s a lonely time without the one what I loves and I prefer being alone and just concentrating on surviving and avoiding being one of those suicide statistics — when I go, I want to be the only one on that day!  But in the last few years I have at least ventured out from under the duvet, and allowed my innate hedonism some sway. Cracking open bottles of the serious Bordeaux that Rucyrucyrucyrucy and I bought in bond back in the day and roasting a small game bird (as opposed to a small, game bird, fnaar, fnaar) has become a sort of tradition.

As, for some reason, was a trip from here to Corstorphine Hill, to sit on the seat made famous by RLS in Kidnapped, and mope about the lost love with whom I used to love sitting there.

We came the by-way over the hill of Corstorphine; and when we got near to the place called Rest-and-be-Thankful, and looked down on Corstorphine bogs and over to the city and the castle on the hill, we both stopped, for we both knew without a word said that we had come to where our ways parted.

This trip was done on the rusty Dawes Galaxy, but due to bad weather in 2017 and bad arthritis in the knees last year, not only was this the first time I’ve tried it in three years, it’s the first time in the saddle for about two. At least much of its three mile length is along the Roseburn Cycle Path, the old rail route, smooth and level and easy cycling. All it lacks are handy defibrillators at regular intervals, for at 67 and recovering from a gout attack, I sure ain’t as fit as I (never actually) was.

But I got the tyres fully pumped and myself slightly less so and hit the road at 1330 hours. I took a few snaps along the way …









first sit and rest, on the bridge over Corstorphine Rd

the Roseburn Path

up on Ravelston Dykes

the final climb begins

the Forth (Estuary) from the Ninth (hole at Murrayfield Golf Course)

somewhere to tether the steed before the final climb to …

Rest and Be Thankful

… which I duly did and was

By ‘eck, were I knackered when I gorrome?! So it was a while before I got it together to make a pear and walnut stuffing (a pear tree in a partridge, geddit?), bone the partridge (they can’t touch you for it) and prepare the lime-pickle-roasties, sprouts, bread sauce — and decant the claret. But it were dead yummy, I can tell thee.

So, yeah, happy whatever to any readers and all humanity, however you voted, whatever your political or religious beliefs or tastes in life, love and music and all that shit. See you next year.