Thursday, March 27, 2008

This is the end.

My only friend, the end.

I've decided to finish this blog and replace it with a younger, fresher model. Partly as a new start but also as the coding on this one is getting fucked up and annoying me. My new blog therefore will be found at www.totoro-san.blogspot.com and will cover my new trip to Japan which begins on April 1st (no joke). Yay.

See you there.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Cruel is the Snow


I’m writing this in a driving position. My muscles won’t relax after two days behind the wheel (and behind morons, which is what you’d expect after a weekend in the Highlands). Yes, Minori and I have just returned to the flat after 48 hours of Highland Headbanging.
Realising that (pause to change Mac language to English (UK) rather than English (made up) and prove that realising is spelt (and not spelled) correctly) we were actually leaving this Isle in the near future (made seem nearer by the news that Bob has booked flights to visit (now there’s dedication for you. It only took him 3 years after I originally left to get around to it), so, come on the rest of you (that never bothered last time) get your planes on.


By the way, can you notice I’m tired? What gave it away? The parenthesis? The tangents? Or the endless questions?


Anyway.

Minori hadn’t seen the Highlands yet (Aberdeen doesn’t count as Highlands you soft southern bastards since it is not High (in the Geological sense) so I rented a car (upgraded to a VW Polo – can you imagine what I booked in order to be upgraded to a Polo?) and straight after work on Friday we sat in traffic for an hour or so and then made our merry (well, not so merry after the roadworks on the A9) way to Inverness where Jon met us with beer and a Tapas restaurant. It was splendid to see him and to finally see his very nice flat.


Early in the Mañana we slid down slidy streets to Urquhart Castle and the lair of the Family Ness (surely the best cartoon ever made?). It is slightly unnerving to be the only people in a largish castle ruin so we made up for it by pretending to be ghosts, shouting “here Nessie, Nessie, Nessie” and deciding that it would be a great place for a barbecue.


From here we took the road through Invermoriston, stopping to take photos of mountains (me) and random animals (Minori). In between stopping I took advantage of totally empty roads to drive like a twat. There is something very liberating in pretending to be in a car advert. Even if you are driving a Polo. We bombed past Eilean Donan castle and the Loch Duich Hotel where we were destined to stay that night, and made straight for the bridge over the sea to Skye (how dare they put a speed camera in the middle of the worlds biggest humpback bridge. You can’t fly at 40 miles an hour. At least not in a Polo). Taking lunch in Portree (Iain: So what is there to do in Portree? Tourist Information Woman: You’ll have had your lunch? Iain: Yes. Tourist Information Woman: That’s me out of ideas then.) We drove around the north east fingery bit of Skye, stopping in random car parks to look at cliffs called things like Kilt Rock, Old Man, and Sheep Shit Shelf. Saw some old houses but couldn’t find a castle nor Flora MacDonald’s memorial. Watched a drunk drive back and forth across a cattle grid laughing.


By the time we got back to the hotel I was done. Dinner (Haggis, freshly shot today) and local ale in front of a log fire did me doner. Bed at 7.45. Woken at 12 by some fool phoning a wrong number.


Woken at a sensible time by sensible birds I realised that I hadn’t heard that sound clearly in a very long time. Lay in bed wondering how I could afford to buy a house here without ever having to work again. Still thinking. If you have any ideas, please tell me.

Eilean Donan castle is best visited in winter when the ticket office is closed but the gates are left open. You can’t get inside but you can walk all the way round it completely undisturbed by people telling you it was used in Highlander. More fun driving led us to the site of The Battle of Glen Shiel. Which I had never heard of. It was a pretty one-sided destruction of the Jacobites and the final battle of rebellion until Bonnie Prince Charlie landed a generation later. The Jacobites used claymores and muskets. The English used mortars. 100 – 20. Sounds like a Scottish rugby score rather than a list of the dead.


Over mountain and glen we drove (sorry Glen) down through Fort William unto Glencoe. The visitors centre (new) there is well worth a visit and definitely worth the £5 entry to learn about everything from the geology of the area, through the infamous Massacre, to modern mountaineering (and the interesting fact that some parts of Glencoe have still never been climbed. Looking at them today I can believe it). I bought John Peebles book about the Massacre (been meaning to buy it for ages, figured doing it in Glencoe would be a bit more meaningful). Oh, by the way, if you don't know what the Massacre is, it was a piece of ethnic cleansing done by the English. www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Massacre_of_Glencoe for all the information you need.

Through the glen and over the moor we stopped at a pub at the start of Loch Lomond for lunch. Only realised after ordering that it's next to a caravan site. One half of the drinkers were Geordie and Irish workmen at the Hydro plant nearby, the other half were gypos. Fastest burger I've ever eaten.


A near miss with a white van and a few attempts at teaching Minori to sing "by the bonnie, bonnie banks of Loch Lomond" (and in the process realising that I am turning into my father) later we took a random turn off the main road to check out a Priory that was not only closed by only accessible via a ferry that hasn't been running since October. So we went to Stirling, took a photo of the castle and then came home.

It has been a great trip. I reacquainted myself with why I love being Scottish and then (upon re-entering the central belt) reacquainted myself with why I want to leave it again.

This week I will mostly be teaching. Scot Lit course went very well. Explaining Tom Leonard's:

Baa baa Black Sheep
Have you any wool
Yes Sir Yes Sir
Three bags full.

Wan fur the master
N anither fur the master
N wan fur the fuckin church

to an Italian naval officer, a Kazakh girl, a Swiss girl and a half-Spanish / half-Japanese boy will stand out as one of the weirder things I've done in the name of education. Last week it was medical English for Muslims (that wasn't the plan, it was only Saudi's and Libyans who chose it) which involved a role play where the Libyan guy, playing doctor, referred the hungover, and-therefore-really-really-bad-muslim guy to a gynaecologist to solve his "problem in mornings". This week I get music which, tomorrow, will consist of playing them Johnny Cash and saying "this is Country", then playing them Verdi and saying "this is Opera. Which do you prefer?"

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

A Man Talking Sense To Himself Is No Madder Than A Man Talking Nonsense Not To Himself.

Hey Folks. Not much has been happening of late due to finally getting a large amount of teaching. I'm currently in the middle of one of my two 12 hour days and letting my brain relax by typing this. In addition to the usual EFL teaching I've volunteered to teach a Scottish Lit. course for the higher level students. A great idea, interesting and good on the CV I hear you cry? You'd be right. Except for one small problem. How do you begin to teach things like Burns, Lochhead, Stevenson and Kelman to people who not only are studying English as their 2nd / 3rd / even 4th language, but know very little about Scottish culture and history? Why is this important? I'll give you an example. I was looking at Anne Donovan's "Buddha Da" to give them some of the more phonetic Scots (Kelman and Welsh aren't even an option) but the opening sentences of the book are "My Da is crazy. Pure Radio Rental" (that's from memory so the odd word may be wrong). How the hell do you begin to explain a phrase like "radio rental" (mental). You don't is the answer. Today, after a crash course in Scottish history (this course is shaping up to be Scot. Lit. defining and defined by the Scottish Identity, and you can't talk about that if you've never heard of Robert the Bruce and think William Wallace was good in the Lethal Weapon films) they're doing "Such a Parcel of Rogues in a Nation", "Scots Wha Hae" and, tomorrow, Liz Lochhead's "Kidspoem / Bairnsang". Later on we've got a bit of Zoe Strachan, Louise Welsh, Alan Spence, Alan Warner (and maybe an evening watching Morvern Callar) and probably "Kidnapped". Oh and Ali Smith since I have a CD of her reading sections of The Accidental and therefore get bonus point for using more than just paper in my lessons.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

"In Korea we have a machine that makes us eat rice."

This post has been written in pieces over the last two weeks. I can't be arsed editing it properly because I just bought a Mac PowerBook (thanks Patrick) and am spending all my time transferring music and going "what does this button do? Oh Shit!"

I don't even know where to start so I'll just give you an itinerary:
After Christmas in Aberdeen we drove to Leeds and stayed with Thom and Jo. Next morning we went to York which was cool and groovy though wet and slightly flooded. That evening we drove to Altrincham and stayed with Bob and Kirstin for 3 nights, one of which was Hogmany. 11 of us laughed, ate, laughed, drank and laughed. Tres good. One the 2nd we picked up Chris in Worcester and hot-footed it to Stratford-Upon-Avon for the RSC's utterly amazing production of Henry IV Part 1 and then back to Worcester. Next day we did (I kid you not) Worcester - Stonehenge - Bath - Worcester - Malvern (where we saw Sue Pollard in Panto) - Worcester. The next day we were supposed to go to Durham but the snow came so we drove (very slowly) home instead.
3 days later we went to Paris. I will write about this on more depth but not now.

So now it's 2008 plans are being made for Japan. Almost all of which involve some kind of financial outlay or convincing my new company to completely overhaul their procedures to take into fact the following: 1) I am not American 2) The US dollar has about as much value as a Dave Cameron policy initiative 3) There are cities in Japan other than Tokyo and I will be living and working in one of them. Still, it's getting palpably closer and I can almost taste the yakitori (regardless of where my flat is, one of my first trips will be to Inuyama for Hakkenden - for those of you who deigned to visit me, you know whereof I speak, to the others: shame on you. Try better next time. (Viewers of my facebook page will know that the flight is booked. I depart on April 1st).

I'm back at work now, and it seems to be semi-permanent: Morning, afternoon and evening and one of the other teachers is leaving on Friday for warmer climes. Hopefully this will hold until the end of March.

I have tickets for Monkey Swallows The Universe at Cabaret Voltaire on 11th Feb if you feel like joining me (I'll be late).

Comment from class today:
Me: "To use the word in a sentence: I can't AFFORD to buy a car."
Student: "A Ford is a type of car."

Friday, December 28, 2007

I'm Walking Backwards For Christmas, Over The Irish Sea


We went to Kilmainham Gaol, famous for being the residence of many of Ireland's rebels and the site of the execution of the 14 leaders of the Easter Rising.


A fascinating place historically, but filled with so much despair. A real low point in British history, and not just politically.


This is Christchurch Cathedral. There's been a cathedral here since Viking times. After St Pauls in London it wasn't that impressive, although it has a massive crypt.


The Christmas Tree in St. Patricks. I preferred this to Christchurch but it was more like a museum and war memorial that a church.


Still, it was nice for God to make an appearance.


Talking of gods, this is Jonathan Swift, who was Dean of St. Patricks. He wrote most of his important works here, including the Drapier letters.


This is a duck who may or may not be holy.


This is Minori who is using this photo as a central piece of evidence in her claim to be the daughter of God.


And this is Dun Laoghaire, the beach we went to on the 23rd of December. Surprisingly it was cold.

Good Things That Happened In Dublin:
1. We stayed in a very posh hotel without paying very posh prices.
2. Guinness.
3. We met up with Joanne, who I hadn't seen since Inuyama.
4. Guinness.
5. A great curry, with free drinks afterwards.
6. Guinness.

Bad Things That Happened in Dublin:
1. Discovered I am officially old after spending 3 nights in Dublin and going to bed at about 9 every night, and not feeling like I'd missed out on anything.
2. Almost getting into a fight with a junkie at the bus station.
3. Discovering that Ryan Air spell Edinburgh "B-I-R-M-I-N-G-H-A-M" on all their signs. When questioned they respond "yeah, we should probably get round to changing that" then wonder why everyone is late boarding.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Fat Man Arrested Sneaking Into Childs Bedroom. "Hangings Too Good" says The Daily Hate Mail.

Hey folks, just a quick note to wish those I won't see a Merry Xmas and Happy New Year. We're off to Dublin very early in the AM, back on the 24th for about ten minutes before heading to Aberdeen for the festivities. Back on the 27th and away again on the 29th to Leeds, York, Altrincham, Worcester, Stratford-upon-Avon (to see the RSC's Henry IV Part 1 I'm so excited), Stonehenge, Bath and Durham before returning to Edinburgh for 3 days then we're off to Paris for 3 nights (don't tell Minori, it's a surprise:)) I'll be knackered but it sounds like a lot of fun. So if I don't see you, have a good one.

Monday, December 17, 2007

One Good Tern Deserves A Michelin Star.

A Holiday! For the first time in what seems like many time I actually feel like I'm on holiday, able to relax. I have drank more wine than seems decent for a dinner party of two, one of whom has been in bed for two hours. I watched the last episode of Parky, laughed (for the first time in my life) at something Peter "I'm fat and Northern, can I have a career please?" Kay said, realised that a special era in British culture will soon be gone and nothing worthwhile is really replacing it. For all we "modern" people mock the likes of The Two Ronnies, Morecombe and Wise et al, the modern British landscape was formed by them and their ilk. The age of the Royal Variety Show is passing. I rarely watched it. Beyond the odd M/W Christmas special (doing all the right jokes, just not necessarily in the right order) and Channel 4 reminding us of Del-Boy falling through a bar, as if we were ever able to forget, I saw in the paper "Frankie Howerd Special" and watched something else. I still quote Up Pompeii. "All the right notes" and "4 candles" are as eponymous as "an ex-parrot". It was reassuring and comforting, in the way that a log fire is reassuring and comforting even when you have central heating, to know that not only were the reruns being rerun but that every once in a while all these names got together and made us laugh in a 1965 family around the TV after dinner kind of way. Soon it'll all be gone. Am I the only one to find this sad. Should I complain to my Grandfather, denounce him for taping and showing me Open All Hours? The Two Ronnies? My entire sense of humour (and those who have spent enough time with me will recognise the truth of this) was shaped by these formative moments laughing at Compo hurtling down a hill in a bathtub, learning puns at the knee of Spike (Are you a spy? No, I'm a shepherd? AH! Shepherd Spy!). And since my sense of humour was shaped by this, I feel I can argue that a significant portion of the blame for my personality can be directly laid at the feet of Ronnie Barker, H-ancock and The Famous Eccles.
Anyway this is all by the by.
Apart from a few hours covering for the Janny (if you're not Scottish, work it out) on Wednesday, I'm now off until at least 14th January. Weirdly, I already feel like writing. Work stifling creativity? I feel a grant application coming on.
I dug out this weird thingy of a prose piece and since none of you seem to ever check out my writing blog (at least no one has yet owned up to such a thing) I'm going to post it here. The idea (which began as more cinematic than prosaic) is skipping through the minds of various people in a bar over the course of a night, influenced by Jack Kerouac had he been a member of Arab Strap (which, arguably, he was).

One Good Turn.

Life and death, that’s what we’re talking about tonight, topic of conversation #401 after football, women, politics, religion, art, women, whose round it is and how much time should be allowed to elapse between your arse leaving the seat and someone else planting theirs. It’s been one of those nights. You know the kind I mean. It starts with two guys having a pint after work. They need a quick beer to relax the muscles, get the brain working again. Blow the cobwebs away as the cliché has it. But the first always goes too fast. Thirst taking over motor functions, lifting the arm. I know a guy who would always order a pint of orange juice as his first drink. The idea was it would quench his thirst and fill his stomach, so his drinking would slow to a more manageable, healthy level. I never liked orange juice.
So, these two guys have a couple beers, relaxing. A bit hungry so maybe a burger which, in this bar, comes with a pint for only 50p extra. Can’t turn down a bargain like that, says I. And a beer to help digest. So we’re four down, chilled out and up for some fun. Ideas are bandied about like After Eights at Xmas. Cinema, anything good on? Video? Back to the flat and play the X-Box? You for another? Why not, it’s still early.
The plan is still to leave at some point and do something else. This is simply filling time while an idea waits to settle. Have you got credit on your phone? Aye? Give Steve a call; see what he’s up to. Steve’s in the flat watching Celebrity Big Brother and scratching. He’s on his way.
Well you can’t leave no because Steve’s coming so another round, whose is it? Steve takes his time but eventually pushes through the door, hands pocketed. The door doesn’t close. Fraser’s there as well. Bumped into him in the street. Was sitting on the bench watching the arses go by. Good day for it? Sweet little student all combats and ironic t-shirt. Steve gets a round in, good man. Cheers clink clink. So what’s the plan? Dunno, any ideas? Gig on at Sleazy’s later, can’t mind the name. On Rock Action or Chemikal Underground, one of those. Local. About 6 quid, starts at 9. Supports that guy that was in that band we saw in the Art School mind?

Sunday again, they sat around the same table, drinking the usual. Iain and Stuart were on the Guinness, Kate on jack and diet coke. Iain swept his hair back, feeling it greasy between his fingers. He sighed.
“Thank fuck that’s over with. I thought you were gonnae kill Angela”.
Stuart rolled his eyes at the mention of the name, while Kate crunched an ice cube with all the violence of the Titanic.
“I was that close.” Kate held her thumb and index an inch apart, then reached for the cigarettes which they were all sharing. “I should’ve lamped her”.
“That’d be funny” Stuart said, gazing at the TV and smiling at the thought.
“Until you got fired” Iain put in.
“Nah. She’d get suspended on full pay while they had an inquiry. Like that Polish guy. Bart.”
Stuart drummed on the empty glasses with two stirrers, humming to himself. Kate pulled her black suede jacket closer, lest any part of her uniform be seen by the rest of the bar. An exorcist-green tabard, size 22, and blue tracksuit bottoms a good four inches too short ware not the kind of things she wanted to be seen in.

Emma tried to run away. She only got as far as the street where Steve found her leaning against the bonnet of a Volkswagon. Her long white skirt ruffled in the slight breeze. She pushed a strand of jet black hair behind her ear and watched Steve cross the tarmac.
She knew his suit was new, and pretty expensive, yet he still looked like a child in rumpled school uniform: the jacket bulking his body until it was out of proportion with his head, the tie too short and the knot squint. His hair, heavily gelled into a peak, didn’t even quiver as the wind suddenly blasted them. She liked Steve, he was sweet, he just wasn’t her type.
Steve didn’t know if he was doing the right thing by following her. She’d said she was going to the bathroom but then just walked outside. He’d stayed at the table, trying to act as if nothing had happened, trying to play it cool, but in the end he had to get up. He had to do something, say something. Try to make it alright again. He didn’t know what he’d say but he couldn’t just leave things like this.
Why had he said it? Emma thought. Did he think she wasn’t aware of his crush – and that’s all it was despite the words he’d used? And here of all places.
She knew this weekend was a bad idea from the start. Her stomach had tightened the moment Glen had uttered the phrase ‘team building’. With the sole exception of Steve they’d all been working together for two years; the team was as built as it was going to get. It was that bloody course he’d been on, those ‘new management strategies’ he’d come back from Reading full of.

The phone goes and it’s the bird, out with friends, just round the corner in Ashton Lane. Aye come on down, the more the merrier as Christ was heard to say. So a new table, one of the big ones with the sofas and the second your arse hits the soft leather you know that’s it, you’re here for the night, your budgets fucked and the only thing for it is to fire on into the beers and hope you don’t say anything stupid.
The cool thing about carrier pigeons is they have no memory you hear from the girl next to you and that’s it, the cue to move, finally the motivation is overwhelming: pressure on your bladder, Pop Idol shite on the video juke box, the ned on the pool table shouting ‘watch this ya bam’ before every shot, the fact that Fraser’s looking first at you, then at his empty glass, then at you, and with each glance he looks more and more like a puppy that really needs to be tied up in a bag and thrown off a bridge. So you ease out the sofa mumbling ‘everyone’s on the same aye?’ as you walk away, ignoring the ‘hang on I was wanting a’ push the door to the bathroom almost concussing the guy coming the other way, stupid design, unzip and play chase the fag end around the urinal for what seems like an eternity then it’s back out and up to the bar, a round in, phone Steve ‘get up here and help you lazy fucker’, he appears, you hand him some glasses and he almost drops the lot. You give him your ‘twat’ look as beer collects around his feet. You point at a half empty glass ‘that’s yours’ but I wanted a JD and coke. Tough. Fine. Who’s the red thing for? That yank bird, she said she could drink us all under the table. What is it? No idea, ask the barman. I said, there’s this yank bird who thinks she can drink us under the table. Can you make her something that’ll shut her up?
So time passes by, alcohol passes lips and urine just passes. The yank has been escorted from the premises and was last sighted sitting on the stairs covered in her own deep red vomit. The barman has been bought a few drinks. Fraser is trying to crack onto some random at the bar, not realizing her 6’5” boyfriend is playing pool and therefore is armed and dangerous. Everyone keeps saying someone should go over and tell him but no one moves. The conversations have flowed over, under and around the topics mentioned. And now we are at life and death.

“Raining again” Stuart said, peering through the only section of window not covered with drinks promotions. “5.37 and pitch dark. Fucking city”.
“Bet you wish you were still in Sydney” said Iain.
“God yeah. Anywhere but here. Anywhen but now”.
Kate’s phone beeped, and instantly she flicked it open.
“Paul?” said Iain.
“Yeah. Maybe coming down.”
“Anyone got any plans for tonight?”.
“A few options”, said Stuart. “Big party at Optimo, and at Barfly. Depends what George’s doing.”


It all started with Fraser’s imminent demise at the end of a cheap pool cue. Someone asked the how would you like to go question to a table full of drunks and got the expected response: sarcasm, bad puns, general sickness and the odd attempt at profundity. My own personal favourite was being hit by a white rolls Royce traveling at 60 so you could spread your finite remains over the paintwork do you know how hard that shit is to get out?
Steve is talking about his grandfather’s funeral. It was the first he’d been to, the first family member to die. He was 17 and therefore eligible for the dubious honour of being a poll-pall-paul?-bearer. The church was built in a natural dip with the entrance at the top and the altar at the bottom so they had to carry the box down this steep incline. Steve couldn’t cope with the emotion and so had smoked a bit before hand. He couldn’t stop himself giggling as he imagined the box slipping from their hands and bouncing end over end before settling vertical against the altar, the door slowly creaking open and his grandfather appearing before the congregation like Bella Legosi’s last stand.
No one is sure if they can laugh.
Instead you ask the what three songs you’d have played at your funeral. You get the obvious; The End by The Doors, See You Later Alligator by that guy what’s his name? Burn Baby Burn, Disco Inferno by whoever did it. Yours are Miserere by Allegri, Find The River by REM and Moonlight Sonata by Beethoven. Everyone looks at you. Then changes the subject. Your head’s swimming, the heating in here is too high, with no open windows or doors. You’ve drunk a hell of a lot and part of you just wants to go to sleep. You drunkenly scan the table and are momentarily surprised to see your girlfriend, you’d forgotten she was here. She’s talking to a friend of hers, Anna, or Anne, or Anya or something. You look at her, your girlfriend, all blonde and made up and you think if you didn’t know her you’d really want to shag her. But you do. And you don’t. You know it’s time to call it a day but the thought fills your legs with cement and your stomach with frogs. And you’re clairvoyant, you can predict the future. Tonight you’ll go home via the chip shop on Dumbarton Road, talking across each other if you talk at all. Then either in the street or the second you’re through the door you begin arguing about the price of cheese in Denmark which will go on all night until one of you falls asleep then you’ll wake up, have sleepy morning sex where both of you are dreaming of someone else, get up, shower and go spend your days in a life separate from each other.
It’s enough to make you go up the M8 and wait for a white Roll Royce.

She’d been weak, distracted, and so easily coerced into agreeing. It couldn’t be team building if the team was incomplete, now could it? But she’d known it would end in disaster, and if she’d thought more about it, she’d have put money on it being Steve declaring his undying love over liqueurs.
She opened her pointlessly small bag and fought to extract her cigarettes and lighter. When Steve reached her she was smoking with apparent non-chalence.
“Hey” Steve said, “they’re asking after you in there.”
Emma exhaled, said nothing, just raised one eyebrow, exhaled and flicked ash.
Steve looked at his feet. “I shouldn’t have done that”, he said, “I’m sorry. I just thought that…”
“You thought I might feel the same? You don’t know me very well do you? I’m sorry Steve, I don’t.”
Steve visibly sank. His already small, slight frame seemed to fold in on itself. His head fell forward and his shoulders curved in. For the first time that night his tie reached his waistband. Emma bit off a laugh, turned it into a cough.
She felt sorry for him. It had obviously taken a lot of courage to say what he had, but she had to stop him in his tracks before it got too messy. She thought about suggesting he give Donna a try, she was always up for a bit of extra-curricular, but she knew he wouldn’t take it the way she meant.
“Look”, she said, “You go back inside and get a drink. I’ll finish this and follow you. I’ll have a large G&T. Very large.”
Dismissed, Steve meekly nodded, turned and slowstepped dejectedly back to the hotel. She knew it would be fine, that she’d nipped it in the bud. He’d be awkward for a bit, but as long as she acted normal and never mentioned it, he’d get over it. The rest of them would know what had happened and gossip about it, but they’d do it behind his back, which was just fine. She sighed, flicked the fag into the bushes. At least he hadn’t asked for a reason.

Your songs came on the juke box but you were in the bathroom and only same out in time to catch The Shy Retirer by Arab Strap and as you sing along to ‘these people are your friends this cunted circus never ends’ you catch her eye and nothing but loathing passes between. We going to Sleazy’s you hear to your right. Yeah, let’s pile in a cab. What time is it? 10. Finish up, who’s coming? Out the door and into two cabs, Sleazy’s please mate, and with much swinging and swaying, random chat with the driver, you fall out across from the bar, walk in front of a bus and a twat on a bike, get to the bar and order a pint of your flattest Kronenborg please Mr. Barman. A bit of Belle and Sebastian on the juke box and all is good. You have no idea if she got in a taxi or went home. You think the girl you’re talking to is one of her friends but you have no proof other than a vague feeling you’ve seen her before. You think that the guy next to you is really sad, trying his hardest to look like the singer from Franz Ferdinand then you hear a stage whisper behind you that’s the singer from Franz Ferdinand.

It was starting to break up. Glen was halfway through his story about the time he’d had to address the Scottish Executive and had said clit instead of client – a sure sign that he was on his last legs – while Donna and Peter were in the last throws of the one-night-courtship ritual. Steve had already made his excuses and gone to bed, as had most of the others. Emma finished her chardonnay and tapped her rings on the table impatiently. For all she’d drunk – and tallying it up, it came to a lot – she felt irritatingly sober. She knew Glen would forget to close the bar tab and had every intention of taking full advantage of the fact. And besides, that barmaid had been eyeing her up all night.
Donna and Peter charged off, Donna hauling him by the hand, Peter having the decency to look a tad embarrassed. Glen fell back in his seat, laughing uproariously at his Freudian slip while spilling Macallan on his shirt. He downed the rest of it, wiped his moustache along the back of his hand, burped and sighed.
“Well, night night young Emma, don’t stay up too late, it’s an early start tomorrow” he slurred, pushed himself upright and lurched towards the lifts.
Emma walked over to the bar, slid into a stool and placed her cigarettes on the bar. The barmaid came over.
“What’ll it be?”
“Depends? Is the tab still open?”
“It is, yeah.”
“Right, I’ll have a triple gin and tonic, and something for yourself.”
“I’ll have the same.”
“Great. I’m Emma by the way.”
“Laura.”

Steve smacks your back you coming downstairs? Aye, course. Down you go past the posters and the drunks using two hands on the banisters, you hand over a tenner and get something back then into the darkness and noise.
You’ve missed that guy Chris that was in that band you saw at the Art School but the main band is just starting. Their name has something to do with monkeys. They are shit. Described on the flyer as post-rock, they sound like The Darkness without the irony. You ask the barmaid if she likes this shit and she says her boyfriend is the drummer. You shout go home between songs and someone tells you to shut the fuck up. Who does he think he is? The owner of the record label the shit monkey band are signed to apparently. Over a fiver for this shit. Bollocks. You go back upstairs answering if you leave you can’t come back with Good.
Upstairs you pump pounds into the juke box knowing that the bar will be closed before your songs come on. You go up to the bar, order a JD and Coke and try chatting up the barmaid. She’s kinda flirtatious but you quickly realize it doesn’t mean anything. You turn around and some short arsed bint is giving you daggers. You think she’s friends with your bird but she could just be a bitch. Fuck it.


The bar was empty, all in darkness save the bar itself where Emma and Laura sat facing, each with a foot on the other’s stool, legs intertwined. Emma could feel the alcohol now, that warm fuzzy aura around the head. She was looking at Laura in what she hoped was seductive charm, but feared was drunken paralysis, the gin-induced stroke-like expression her mother had mastered.

You walk out onto Sauchiehall Street, straight across the road and into a take away, stare randomly at the big lit menu until you find Steak Pie Supper. That’s for me. Then you stand out on the street eating, vaguely aware that you look like a HEBS advert but not really caring.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

10 monkeys mating.

Finally, something to write about that doesn't involve bitching, shouting, swearing or being wryly cynical about life as a middle-class white guy ("You don't know what it's like, being male, middle-class and white" as Ben Folds so rhythmically put it).
I have a job! Yay! Teaching in Japan! Not for the megalithic conglomorate formerly known as Nova (Nova is dead: long live anti-corruption laws). Via Westgate (basically a recruitment company as far as I can tell) I'm going to be working at a University (as yet unnamed) in the Nagoya area. Yay! Starting April-ish. 3 months or so and then I'll be back in The 'Pan. And they're paying for my flight.
And.
It's two days from the end of term (yes, I get school holidays though not the paid variety. I tell you, those school teachers have it easy). I teach the *&^%ing Italians (told you I wouldn't do a sweary) for the last time tomorrow. We'll be glad to see the back of each other. They hate me for making them walk up Arthurs Seat and I hate them for being whiny little bambinos who, despite being young and healthy (apart from the fat chainsmoking one), find it difficult to raise their ineffectual arms high enough to allow their half-closed eyes to peer vaugely in the direction of their watch. If they have one. They leave tomorrow night.
Friday I get to teach a normal class (well, a piss-artist from Libya, a Japanese guy who finishes every sentence with "HA HA Really?" and a Pole who never turns up) before escorting them and others to the pub for and end of term glass of goodbye. Thence unto the Italian restaurant for staff wine and dine. I also have a bye-bye Spaniards night out sometime (I thought it was yesterday but apparently not) and some other random xmas drinking. Tis the season to be poorly.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

He who is bored of London, is bored with bad manners, rain, pollution, delays and morons who refuse to accept that Scottish money is legal tender.


I started this and then realised I couldn't add the promised photos since I'm at work killing time and my photos are at home. I was supposed to be talking half the mad 47 Italians to the National Gallery and the Portrait Gallery. The first half came off without a hitch (although some may question the 35 minutes it took to walk from Queen Street to Princes Street (two streets running parallel to each other) and the complaints that we had to walk this far (it normally takes me about 2 minutes) and why couldn't we take the bus. We arrived at the gallery and my group (20 of them) promptly went into the coffee shop and sat down. Their group leader promptly did the exact opposite of my instructions and went into one of the study rooms. I dumped them all, went into the lower gallery and saw a very interesting exhibition of sketches of India by Scottish artists. Meeting up again at 3.30 (the group hadn't moved) the mutinied. No Portrait Gallery. Instead they wanted to return home to prepare for the ceilidh I have to take them to tonight (when I should be watching the Celtic V Milan match) where they will all stand away from the dance floor and refuse to move. Bloody teenagers.

London was fab and groovy for a couple of days. In the beginning we were delayed by BMI having "technical problems" and then by Heathrow not having any spare electricity or something. To the hotel in Aldgate East and back to Westminster. It started to rain (welcome to fucking England. How exactly did Scotland get this reputation for bad weather when it is always worse in the south?) so we went into Westminster Abbey and did the tour. Some amazing things. Mary, Queen of Scots tomb, Poet's Corner, the tomb of the unknown soldier. A bit pricey and no photos allowed but worth a visit if you've never been.
From there to the House of Parliament where I'd arranged a tour through the office of my MP, the Right Honourable (and very very busy) Captain Alisdair Darling. Led around by Bill Hurst (you will see him as a soldier in The Golden Compass apparently) who was a cross between Boris Johnson and Hugh Grant. Floppy and posh in other words. It was a stunning tour. We followed the route the queen takes during the State Opening of Parliament. Through a few great rooms (including one where the death warrant of Charles I sits opposite the portrait of the reigning monarch - irony?) and into the House of Lords with the words "don't bloody sit down". Needless to say a posh room of plush velvets, leather and more gold leaf than you could wave a monarch at. Brought through the opening ceremony (quick version: the Queen sends Black Rod down to the Commons to demand their presence. They slam the door in his face. He bangs on the door with a big black stick (hence the name). The open a window and say "We already have double glazing" or something. He says the Queen wants to see them. They slouch up to the Lords who put a big stick across their path to stop them getting too close (smelly proles). They mutter while the Queen speaks (to show whose house it is) and then slouch back again) we wander down towards the Commons. Portraits of the 4 Patron Saints stand above the central lobby: George near the Lords because the English think they're better than everyone else; David near the Commons because the Welsh love talking; Patrick near the door because the Irish want out of the place and Andrew nearest the bar.
Into the Commons and it's an amazing feeling. Probably the most important single room in the history of Britain. I stood at the Prime Ministers despatch box although behind me a sign said "Please do not sit down." I wasn't sure if this was put out for the tour or if it was general advice to would be PM's. Discovered that this is where the expression "To toe the line" and "It's in the bag" come from: the former refers to the red line that runs in front of both benches. The lines are two sword lengths apart and basically stop them getting physically aggressive. To toe the line therefore is to behave. The latter refers to the petitions bag which hangs behind the Speakers chair. Important business would be put in here for the Commons to deal with. "Don't worry, it'll be done. It's in the bag."
Out through Westminster Hall where, amongst others, the trials of Charles I and William Wallace were held.

We went to Soho for dinner in an Italian restaurant (ribbing about the football from staff until the Albanian waiter pointed out that Italy has 60 million people and Scotland 5 million. Therefore 2:1 is an embarrassing score for Italy. Met Leo, Greg and Greame in a pub, got drunk went home. Great day.

Saturday we went to the Tower of London which I'd been past many times but never actually entered, a bit like (insert smutty simile here). Decided to begin with the Yoeman Warder (Beefeater for you Gin drinkers out there) tour which was great. A really entertaining tour (if you speak perfect English, Minori was a tad lost), interesting, full of gory facts, bad jokes and insults. He had a crack for every country when doing the "where do we have people from?" bit. "Aberdeen? We had that William Wallace here. Sent him back in a few pieces." Saw the crown jewels, the spot where 2 of Henry VIII's wives died, the Bloody Tower where the two princes were murdered (read your Richard III).

We spent about 4 hours in the Tower before heading to Buckingham Palace for the obligatory tourist photo. We walked up the Mall, at the top of which stands the Palace. As it came into view Minori asked "where's the palace?", a funny remark at first but looking closer seemed quite accurate: instead of the impressive royal residence we were both expecting, stood a rather grubby white building. It was large certainly, but compared to something like Holyrood Palace, the Queen's residence in Edinburgh, it was a bit disappointing. Even Clarence House seemed more impressive.
We wandered round until we found a pub where we gathered our strength before returning to Westminster for a few more photos. Next we walked down to St. Pauls. I didn't want to pay the stupid price they charge to speak to God so we just stuck our heads around the door and lo! Evensong was just beginning. They assumed we were of their cult and invited us in. The Devil may have all the best tunes but God has the best concert halls. St. Pauls properly lit, with a full choir and organ is an amazing thing to experience. A nice thing for Minori to have experienced. Exhausted we had spot of dinner and off home.
Sunday was the exam. As I expected some of it was extremely easy while others - the listening especially - were very difficult. I hate exams. I can't believe I actually paid to do it. Ach well.
So now we're back in Edinburgh. Bob and Thom are coming up this weekend (although I have to take another group of Italians to Stirling Castle. Fun. Then we're off to Dublin before the xmas and new year rounds.

Friday, November 30, 2007

It's Bucking Faltic.

I don't want to think how long it's been since my last post. What's happened?
1. I've been working at a language school in Edinburgh, teaching and doing social activities. It's a nice school, pretty big and I'm getting to teach all levels which is great.
2. I had an interview for Westgate last Monday with a view to returning to Nagoya in April and teach at a university there. Awaiting response pending paperwork. Go me.
3. Off to London in the morning for 2 days sightseeing and a Japanese exam. Pants. But tours of the House of Commons and the Tower of London should be fun.
Really not much else has been happening. Little reading, some drinking, the odd bit of TV (missed the last episode of Long Way Down which is annoying). Oh, and not posting. I promise on Monday I'll do a proper post with London photos and everything. After I've met my new private student (after my Spanish one fucked off to Newquay after 2 lessons) a Polish girl called Kathryn.
Anyway, wish me luck for Sunday and stay tuned folks.

Friday, October 26, 2007

A Perfect Continuous

My sincerest apologies. It has been rather a long time since I last posted. Much has happened, little of it exciting. I am killing time on the last day of my CELTA (Certificate of English Language Teaching for Adults for the proles) before we can all escape to the pub and possibly some drunken salsa dancing.
The course has been four weeks long and means that I am now qualified to do the job I've been since June 2005. Only cost 2 grand as well. However I now have a job teaching at a different school from Monday. My task next week seems to be acting as a tour guide to 11 French students. It's a hard life.
I'm exhausted. Though not difficult the course has been massively time consuming what with reports and lesson plans and waking up at stupid o'clock every day. It is however over and, in addition with an EAP course (English for Academic Purposes) I intend doing in March, sets me up nicely for a return to Japan next year and a proper job.
Talking of proper jobs check out www.japantimes.co.jp for the hardly surprising news that Nova has declared themselves bankrupt with debts of 43.9 billion yen.
So what next? Minori returns from a fortnight at home in Japan on Monday. On the 30th November we go to London for a weekend of sightseeing and Japanese exams. The weekend before christmas sees us in Dublin for 3 nights and new year shall be in Manchester. All good clean fun.
Other than that my life has been uneventful of late. Little reading (Apart from The God Delusion by the god-like Richard Dawkins. Read it if you haven't. Read it again if you have), a few films and a weekend in Glasgow with Mike watching sport, climbing and drinking.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Get Some...

I really shouldn't post when I'm angry. But what the hell, it's all good clean fun until someone loses a President. And not posting is what made the Royal Mail the bunch of bastards it is today.

Just paid the deposit on a new flat. Minori and I will be moving on the 21st of September to our own new pad with tiny shower and kitsch arched brick fireplace at the top of some very high stairs but it is cheaper than the current one and 2 minutes from the cinema. Yay.

I have an interview to do my CELTA on the 5th so all things being equal I will start studying on October 1st.

I have applied to do the Japanese Language Proficiency Test but can't decide whether to do level 4 or 3. Francis, input needed to the usual address.

Thunderbirds are go! The Festival is gone! Students are still around so cash is coming! Rain is on its way! Summer's nearly over but my holiday starts next week! The exclamation mark key has stuck on!

A man walks into a bar in Cork and says "I'm trying to get to Dublin. What's the fastest way?"
The barman says "are you walking or driving?"
"I'm driving."
"That's the fastest way."

It's the way I spell 'em.

Can you tell I'm bored? I have an hour between lessons and instead of doing something useful like working out how to teach the passive voice to a retard or making a list of verbs which need 'don't' to become negative (have, need, want, like etc.) like I promised I would, I'm writing this on a wobbly keyboard.

"Doctor Doctor I think I'm going deaf."
"Really? What are the symptoms?"
"They're a small yellow family on TV."

One of the other teachers asked for an example of the difference between someone and anyone:
"When I go to a club I want to meet someone but by 2am I'm happy to go home with anyone".

Thinks: the passive? My car was hit by the tree Officer. My stomach was invaded by the beer Your Honour. My view was blocked by her cleavage Darling.

Now you too can play the phrasal verb game. Think of 3 phrasal verbs and at least 50% of them will have rude connotations. A fun way to pass boring car journeys or get fired from respected language schools: Turn on. Put out. Get off.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Attention Scum.

This is what Saturdays are made for. It's pissing with rain giving the place an English feel so we're safely camped inside with cusquena beer, a few kilos of pistachio nuts, wine gums, mussels and chocolate chip cookies watching Alan Rickman chew scenery in Robin Hood: Prince of Accents.
Last night we went to see "I Served The King of England" in the Film Festival. This is a fantastic adaptation of Bohumil Hrabal's novel. Half farce, half biting satire with more uncomfortable laughs than a Scottish election. In the mold of Voltaire's Candide an old man looks back on a laugh that has seen him rise from waiter to ex-con via a brothel regular, a Nazi-sympathiser and an imprisoned millionaire during the Soviet regime. The first half is hysterical but then you start to realise you are laughing with and rooting for a man attacking his own countrymen (Czechs) for standing up to Hitler's henchmen. It was made worse by the knowledge that the director was sitting in the front row and could hear every response we made. Fabulous though. Seek it out and read the book.
Bob came up last weekend I think. I have a dent in my bank account and bags under my eyes so I think it happened but I can't be sure. I also have ticket stubs for A. L. Kennedy (deeply uncomfortable comedy), Punt and Dennis (utter pure genius, none better), Mitch Benn (hysterical but we were funnier in the queue beforehand) and Stewart Lee ("The public cannot be trusted. You think Del Boy falling through a bar is the funniest thing imaginable").

I also wrote two reviews earlier in the festival which, since no one wants to pay me for them, you can have for free:

Adam Bloom: Look At Me, Anybody!

It wasn’t the most auspicious start. The woman in the queue behind me was complaining that she’d bought tickets for Adam Bloom by mistake, really wanting to see Adam Hill. This seems to be a running joke in this still young festival: a friend of mine forked out for Andrew Maxwell expecting Lee Mack. Take more care with names people.
The problem with Adam Bloom is self-inflicted. This is the first time he’s brought a themed show to the festival and he’s clearly uncomfortable with the restrictions this imposes. As a comedian he is never happier – nor funnier – than when ad-libbing, riffing on something an audience member has said, such as picking on a 19 year old student for only being able to wank in rented accommodation: “It’s my house, I paid for it, but I gave my mum a key to maintain that element of danger”.
The theme – his experiences with anger management – is clearly one that has potential and you could see a Dave Gorman mining this seam endlessly, but Bloom – thankfully – isn’t that kind of comedian. Again and again he veers off-topic into hilarious flights of fancy about inflatable mosques and punching sound engineers only to slam on the brakes and drag us back to the point. Bloom as a comedian has more in common with someone like Ross Noble and his instincts fight against the railroading. The theme is only partially explored and never reaches the kind of conclusion that is demanded by the topic based show. It would work better as an elaborate anecdote to be returned to naturally.
That aside, Adam Bloom is still streets ahead of the competition. His faced-paced scatter-gun delivery never lets up though sometimes he does need to backtrack and explain his logic, such as in the following dialogue with a latecomer:
“Where are you from?”
“Croatia.”
“Croatia? Are you a magician?”
He has always been refreshing as a stand up. Much happier than many of his contemporaries; there’s little ranting, no hectoring diatribes and hardly any shouting, except when talking about anger management “experts” and, strangely, ventriloquists. His playful, childish qualities get swallowed up by the order he attempts to place on his show and this is much to the show’s detriment.
Adam Bloom is always worth catching when he’s in town but this show is not his best. Relax Adam, do what you do best: talk nonsense at a thousand miles an hour, run madly between intelligent observations and nob gags and follow your instincts for the worthwhile tangent. Leave the scaffolding for the comedians who need it.


Simon Munnery’s AGM
The Stand Comedy Club.

It’s often hard to tell when Simon Munnery is joking, a strange accusation to lay at the feet of a successful comedian, I know, but true. Every time I’ve seen Munnery there has been more awkward silences than laughs. At times you feel like you are witnessing something horrific and you realise exactly what they mean by “dying” on stage. At a previous show he stepped out of character (which involved taking an orange bucket off his head) and told a story about farming in Australia which ended with the line “and then the bull kicked me in the balls and I got testicular cancer”. One guy laughed, the rest of us stared at the floor and waited for the moment to pass.
This year’s AGM shows no break with tradition. He is joined on stage by Mac, a part-time drummer, part-time painter. Both are dressed in orange boiler-suits making Munnery, with his mad scientist hair, look like a cross between Woody Allen and the Beastie Boys. His bizarre prop this year is a block of granite which he held until he got bored of it.
He is the ultimate acquired taste. His character Alan Parker: Urban Warrior is easily accessible and his BBC series Attention Scum (surely the greatest TV series never to be repeated nor released on any format) brought him to a wider audience but Munnery seems more at home wandering the wilderness at the edges of comedy. “I’m so far from funny comedy that I’ve almost crossed over into art. Unfortunately it’s art that makes people laugh” he says with reference to a Venn diagram. If you don’t know what a Venn diagram is fear not: he has a Venn diagram that explains it.
His mid-afternoon slot is far from ideal for this type of comedy which is aided, rather than hindered, by alcohol, especially since participation is thrust upon the audience. If asked to be a stakeholder, think very carefully before answering. Basing his show around an AGM entitles him to ask for motions from the floor, handed in by the audience during the interval. This leads to another potential problem: half his show is reliant upon the wit of those present, never a guarantee.
Don’t come to this show expecting ‘traditional’ stand up as you’ll be disappointed, surprised and baffled in about equal measures. If however you like your comedy a touch more unorthadox, experimental or just plain weird then I can heartily recommend it. As for myself, I’ve been a fan for years so I’m used to pissing myself laughing while those around me stare, slightly confused, slightly hostile. This is one for comedy geeks and fans of the surreal, for those who greet each other:
“Afternoon.”
“That much is undeniable.”

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Happy Birthday to me (contains Harry Potter spoilers)

Don't worry, I'm not going to shout at you.

I turned 27 yesterday, I am now at the age where famous people die. Lucky no one has ever head of me. I have 363 days to make my impact on the world before making my impact on death if I am going to be spoken about in the same lines as Kurt Cobain, James Dean and River Pheonix. It could happen. It could be me. I just need a big drug habit, some talent and thousands of adoring fans. Stranger things have happened. That horse becoming Pope for one.

Work is going fine, Berlitz is fun, the students are odd (and often Japanese which is cool). I've bitten the bullet by the horns and applied to do my CELTA. 2 and a half years of teaching and I now need to pay a grand to get a piece of paper that says "this man can teach". Fucking waste of time and money but then so are most things in life.

The festival starts this weekend so comedy will be laughed at, music will be bopped to and arty theatre types will be scowled at for talking too loud and occasionally punched. Petty street crime, inappropriate summer dresses and tweed are on the increase.

It's beautiful, sunny, hot and DRY! Ha ha ha! Come to Scotland where the weather is gorgeous. England is becoming Atlantis, sinking under the weight of combined smugness. Bye bye

I've been catching up with friends and looking at uni photos and saying "shit everyone got fat" and thanking whoever that it's not just me. "I'm growing up and out and growing bored" as the song has it.

Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip is geekably adorable and will be watched for ever and ever amen (well for the next 21 weeks anyway). Thom, kidnap Aaron Sorkin, stuff him in your bag and release him when you get to Britain then the BBC can keep him chained up in a shed writing witty but biting dialogue.

Anyway, off to play Risk.

bye.

Almost everything you think will happen, happens, but in a slightly disappointing manner.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Yes! I would rather live in a country with earthquakes and leaky nuclear reactors than to have to deal with British service.

Yes Ladies and gentlemen, here it is: Wednesday's roll call of incompetence.

In 3rd place, with a staggering display of time-wasting, is the council who, despite promising me £8 a week council tax benefit have managed to supply £15 for 3 months and still need more paperwork.

In 2nd place, though probably next weeks number 1, is Trinity Factors, who have announced that the clause in our lease that states we can leave if we give them a months notice does not, in fact, state that we can leave if we give them a months notice. Instead it says that once our lease has ended we can give them a months notice if we wish to leave a flat we would no longer be living in (and this despite Minori and I having found the most beautiful flat in Polworth with the wooden floors and the big windows and the lack of junkies and neds).

But today's winner is, rather unsurprisingly, the Bank of Scotland who, after 2.5 months have finally opened Minori's account and celebrated by sending her a switch card in someone else's name. I therefore phoned RBS and said "Bank of Scotland have taken 2.5 months to open an account and when they did it was in the name of someone who does not exist despite having 4 documents, including a passport, with the correct information. Can you do better?" I do not feel the man was being over-confident when he said "I think we can manage. I'll check if the team of trained monkeys are free."

Monday, July 16, 2007

Political Correctness Gone Mad

Down on both knees, photo of Gordon Brown on the cover of the NS (New Statesman, Newish Socialism, New Subscription) "I want to vote Labour, but since 2001 you've made it so damn difficult. Please Gordon, give me a reason to vote Labour."

Ming the Pointless.
Dave "The History Boy" Cameron.
Gordon "Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Prime Minister" Brown (University of Aberdeen English alumini had better get every level of that joke or hand your degrees back).

No wonder even the terrorists can't be arsed taking things seriously.

A new national cirriculum? Spiffing. Kids will study such things as climate change, Shakespeare, Japanese, the Magna Carta, the ethics of using nuclear power, debating, rhetoric (to stop Proper English turning into Friends English), Alan Bennett, George Orwell, Tennessee Williams, Maya Angelou and how to be Global Citizens (TM. patent pending). This is fantastic. I have just finished a job with the SQA where I saw for myself that in history kids only study Churchill and Hitler (genius Tory moment: "In the proposed cirriculum no time is given to the study of Churchill or Hitler." "They study the Second World War. How do you propose we teach those 6 years without mentioning Hitler or Churchill?") But what do I see here? Wednesday at 10am (according to The Independent) "British Values: Learning about different cultures and how to respect them." My arse. If Daily Hate Mail reading wankers have their way this will become "British Values: Hearing the name of a country and reducing it's culture to a pithy three word insult such as "Middle-England Must Die". A bad idea from start to finish. What fucking questions will the exam have? Question 1: Who won the World Cup in 1966? Question 2: Who did they beat? 3: Who raped England at Wembley a year later?. Which leads me nicely onto "Thursday 1pm: Citizenship. Lessons about individual rights and responsibilties." If this means learning that phrases like "Flipping Arabs is not racist. You can take that political correctness too far." (No, you can't. You cannot take 'not being a racist' too far.) are bollocks then fantastic. If it means executing someone every time they use the word "Paki" to mean "corner shop" or "Chinki" to mean "Chinese Take Away" then I'm a happy man. If it means "you get to stay in this country if you meet the following criteria: 1. You must drink heavily. 2. You must think that the smoking ban is an infringment of your human rights (where? Where the fuck does it say that the right to kill yourself and others is on a par with the right to existence?). 3. You must be able to use the phrase "nice day for it" with 17 different inflexions to show varying levels of irony depending on the exact weather conditions. If this is what "Citizenship" means, then I'm fucking off.

"They may not have learned to make bombs here, but the NHS is where they learned to miss targets." Hugh Dennis in Utter Genius moment on Mock The Week.

Please Gordon. I want to love this country. I want to stay here. I want to not be embarrassed every time my girlfriend is treated like scum for being foreign, for being female or, far far far more often, for just being a customer. I want to not have arguments where I have to make the point that loving your country doesn't mean saying it's better than all the others and hitting anyone who says different, it means being blood-boilingly angry when said country fucks itself up so badly that you want to dump it like a clap-ridden lover. I want to be proud of this country as it is, not proudly insistent of what it could become.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

It's The End Of The World: Do You Know Where Your First Born Is?

Before I begin, a disclaimer: I use humour as a defence mechanism. As The Delgados have it "when faced with reality, I choose frivolity".

As I'm sure you are all aware, at 3.15 this afternoon, two 'men' (I use the word advisedly and will return to it later) drove a flaming Cherokee into the main entrance of Glasgow Airport.

"I was standing in check in queue 9. I turned around and saw a Jeep trying to get through the doors." - Irish Eye Witness.

I logged in to check my emails and the headline caught my eye. As it would. I responded much quicker this time (long term readers of this blog will know it took me ages to realise that the headline "bombs on London Underground" meant that there had been bombs on the London Underground). News 24 (hello old friend) on and grainy stills. At this point no one wanted to be pinned down over whether it was an accident or terrorism. Even when it was announced that two men had been arrested, there was still some doubt whether this was proper terrorism of the kind we are at war with, or if this was some nutter with a Jeep, a nectar card and a hatred of automatic doors.

"Of course it's fucking terrorism" no one was brave enough to say until the Home Secretary (in the running for worst first week in a job ever?) did.

"Totally amateur" an expert said "but it worked".

This is all somewhat rambling because, clearly, I'm not sure what to do with the experiences I'm having. I'm living in interesting times. How do you assimilate this? My country - a tiny, nothing country - has just been attacked by terrorists, almost certainly born and bred here. One thing I did was start cooking a pork roast. It doesn't help anything but it kept me busy during another 15 minutes news cycle and means I can know close the freezer door. I'm also drinking my flatmate's last bottle of wine. Sorry.

A fire in Glasgow.
Bombs in London.
Half the country is underwater.

If anyone spots even one locust I'm out of here.

The two things that kept me sane throughout the broadcast so far today:
Jackie Kennedy, the Eye Witness with the famous name and a face like my wallet.
The Glaswegian airport worker who, despite clearly not knowing how many people had been involved in aiding the police with restraining the suspects, hazarded the following guess: "3, 4, 5 or 6. If pushed I would maybe say there was more."

Saturday, June 30, 2007

The Pentland Hills.

Good name for a band that.
A while back we went walking. Here are some views of the outskirts of Edinburgh and of me and Minori.


Balls to Cromwell.

Holyrood (the words Holy Rood are Old Scots for Holy Cross) Palace, says Wikipedia, has been the home of Scottish Monarchs since the 15th Century. It quietly sits beneath Arthur's Seat and Salisbury Crags, stately and old, a short step from the new and "interesting" Scottish parliament Building. I won't bore you with the tour beyond saying that if you come to Edinburgh, this is well worth it. Probably the most interesting thing I discovered is that Oliver Cromwell is pretty much totally responsible for Scottish hatred of the Auld Enemy (England) in modern times. Charles 1st was king of both Scotland and England (born in Scotland to boot) but no Scots were involved in his execution. We weren't that chuffed with him, but really only wanted him to stop taxing us (£17000 pounds on average). England killed him, Cromwell invaded and taxed us £90000 in his first year as Lord Protector. We crowned Charles 2nd and hated the bloody English ever since. So there you go.

This is the front of the Palace where, apparently, a big ceremony takes place every time the Queen arrives. She is given the keys of the city by the Lord Provost. She then gives them back "from safe keeping". The Queen cannot be trusted with our keys. I think this was the story. The audio guide at this point was narrated by Prince Charles and I spent the whole time thinking "does he know how ridiculous he sounds?"

This is the back, where garden parties are held. We haven't been invited this year but apparently they are very nice. They Queen does a mean barbecue and Edward's coleslaw is rightly famous.

The last 3 are all of Holyrood Abbey. Obviously it's a tad run-down. In 1172, David I was hunting nearby and met a Stag with an illuminated cross between it's antlers. As you do. So he built an Abbey.

Someone, I think Mendelssohn, came here when it was already falling apart and overgrown. It inspired him to write his Scottish Symphony. There must be something about this place that makes people go mental.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Workers of the world: Work! It's what you're paid for.

I have a job. Yippee Yay Happy Happy Joy Joy etc. etc.
I will start teaching for Berlitz on the 9th after a weekend in Aberdeen (possibly, still finalising options). I will return to teaching and learn the "Berlitz Method" which is no doubt totally different to the "Nova Method".
I got an interview to join a CELTA course in September but they want me to do it during office hours which ain't happening. I'll look at a different school if they can't move it.
Also made plans to join a proper Japanese course from September. I wanted to join the summer school but did a level check over the phone (shit that was hard. I'm pretty sure my answer to "When did you move to Japan?" was "2005 years ago") and it turns out I'm too damn good for the summer schools. They only do beginner, post-beginner and lower-elementary (7c, 7b and 7a to ex-Nova folk) and it turns out I'm upper-lower-middle elementary or some such nonsense. Basically the fact that I can read and write and the fact that I can use correct tenses (assuming it is one of the ten or so verbs I know) means I'm better than those who study in the summer. Ha ha. With this in mind I'm thinking of enrolling for the Japanese Language Proficiency Test in December. Not sure whether to do level 4 or bite the bullet, study like a bastard and try the level 3. Either way, piss up in London circa December 1st.
Cut my hair.
Got a job.
What's next?
*Iain opens a bottle of Super Bock, takes a long pull, sighs, burps, decides to show some photos*


A moody black and white number taken on a lovely early summer evening. Obviously in the backgroud you can make out the castle; in the foreground is the national gallery.


On the skyline, this is along a bit to the left from the castle. No idea what these buildings are called or when they were built or why, but they are very nice.


A different angle and some colour on the castle and the gallery. Come see, it's very nice.


Dan: "why does the Scott Monument look like Thunderbird 1, when everyone knows Scott flew Thunderbird 3?"


Minori with a big funny hat. Kawaiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Eurpoe: Where The History Comes From.


This is the entrance to Edinburgh Castle. Various parts of it date back to the 16th and even the 12th centuries. It is very expensive to get into but then it does sit upon a volcano.


This is the view from the north side, near the One O'Clock Gun (let's hear the most asked tourist question: what time does the One O'Clock Gun go off?). As you will begin to see from the sky in these photos, Edinburgh's weather patterns are mental.


The Scottish National War Memorial. Enough said. Next to this (which I stupidly didn't photograph) is the building containing the sword and sceptre of the Scottish Kings and the Stone of Destiny. This is the stone all Kings from ancient times sat on to be annointed. The English stole it in 1296 and we only got it back in 1996. For more check Wikipedia. Look under Stone of Destiny or Theiving English Bastards: Examples Of Their Work.


Again looking off the north side, this time in a westerly direction. You can make out The National Gallery, The Scott Monument, The Balmoral Hotel (bloody expensive but where J.K. Rowling recently finished writing the last Harry Potter book) and behind that, Calton Hill. Very nice.


Moody.


Another view of Edinburgh. Nothing special I just liked the framing of it and hope you do too.


The thing itself. Built to keep the Evil English K-niggets out. Quite a lot of Peril herein.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Jog On.

I have an interview with Berlitz in two hours. Then pub. By the time I get home there should be an email saying thanks but.
Not much has been happening. Work (still no day off), reading four books intermittently (Fiona Watsons history of Scotland, Martin Amis' history of himself, Katherine Mansfield's "In a German Pension" and "The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner" by James Hogg). I have black marks under my eyes but am still a smoke-free area. That's over two weeks. Yay me.
Watched Hot Fuzz (finally, it never made it to a cinema near me). Great, simply genius. Every conversation I've ever had that began "Wouldn't it be cool if ..." Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright manage to create. "You'd have made a great muppet".
Went to Mary King's Close in Edinburgh with Minori. Old underground part of the city. They literally built the city chambers on top of it. Nicely civic. It was a bit spooky (though slightly undermined by the tour guides "I bet you've never been so scared by a lightbulb in all your life". No ghosts though a retard on the tour kept mumbling "they're all sitting in a circle" which was slightly unnerving.
I was going to add photos of Embra but since they're all on my laptop and I'm not you'll have to wait.
Wish me luck.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

No Point No Counter Point

It took the bastards about 30 minutes to decide not to give me the job and then email me.

Iain was forced to continue temping for a while longer. Not too much of a hardship considering all he did was read and, every so often, say "I'm not sure. I'll ask someone who knows." Since his interview he had raced through "The Collected Short Stories" of E. M. Forster, most of which he enjoyed since they were, like him, a touch frivolous. "Walking Wounded" by William McIlvanney helped pass a rainy afternoon in a hotel lobby while "Whoever You Choose To Love" by Colette Paul made the buses seem faster. Next he intended tackling "Gabriel's Gift" by Hanif Kureshi and was much looking forward to the task.

Sunday afternoon, having been sent home early, Iain joined friends Patrick and Justin for a spot of afternoon refreshment. Afternoon dipped into evening and Iain and Patrick dipped into drunkeness, returning to his stylish flat to listen to music and make pasta gloop. Iain didn't like Monday, and all could've told him why had he unstuck his tongue and asked.

Finally getting round to following up on some articles in the latest edition of the Observer Music Monthly,
  • Eat Me
  • our hero wandered to the following location on the interweb:
  • Drink Me
  • and thoroughly enjoyed the music he found there. He was to be found listening to it again a few days later while writing in his journal and 'bopping' in a most shameful manner.

    His flatmate, Kate, had left for the barren North. She was staying in a little-known enclave called Inverness. Inverness was famous for not having a monster. In this respect it was very much like every other city in the world. Apart from Liverpool which, rumour has it, is home to a very violent demonic force known as "The Reds". In Inverness they partied like it was 1999. Kate managed four days before sending a telegram saying that she was coming back to civilisation so would someone please leave the gate ajar.

    Iain reached for another bottle of Sol, turned to Minori as she asked "Why is bats in Britain in danger? It's for my English homework." She then asked him to supply sentences like "as blind as a bat". In addition to "as strong as...", "as timid as..." and "as cunning as ..." he also included "as pissed as a ...", "as rough as a ...", "as tight as a ..." and "they go at it like rabbits." He waited to hear what her teacher said.

    Thursday, May 31, 2007

    Two years away and still Big Brother is showing in this God-Forsaken Country

    Okay, so by a vote of 3 - 0 (which means I have a bigger majority than Smart-Alex Salmon (whose rise to power was recently compared to that of Hitler in a rare Labour-being-witty moment) and with no spoiled ballots which means the decision is more democratic than the election here or the great Bush coup of 2000 when Haiti should've invaded Washington and installed a democracy) this rather parenthetical blog will continue. A victory for the We Fear Change Party (not to be confused with the Tories who don't fear change, because you can't fear something of which you've never heard).
    My life:
    Tomorrow, at 11.30, I have what I hope to be the first and last proper job interview of my current unemployment (I don't count the humiliating 30 minutes spent in Virgin Megastores saying things like "yes, I am familiar with the English alphabet" nor the pointless "we've already told you you've got the temping job, we just need to catch up on the paperwork" visit to Reed). I will be interviewed for an admissions job in the University of Edinburgh. It is in the Science faculty (interesting information discovered as a result of research for the interview: Peter Higgs postulated the Higgs Boson at Embra Uni in the 1960's. It is to discover this itsby-bitsy teenie-weenie particle that the Super Giant Mega Big Proton Make-Go-Faster and Extra Large Big Bang Machine has been built under Switzerland. They turn it on in November. I really love this thing (despite constantly forgetting it's name), it's one of the few examples of people doing something just because we might learn a new fact) which I've never been to so an early start is in order. Wish me luck.
    Talking of early starts, my current job: temping at the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA). The kids have sat their exams. The papers have been marked. Now we have Marker's Check meetings where one group of markers check the rest to make sure they have been consistent and fair. My job is to provide admin support for the first group. Example. Yesterday I sat from 9.45 until 14.30 in a big leather armchair in the Library Bar of an old country house turned hotel, drinking coffee and reading Ian McEwan's "Enduring Love" (cover to cover), a few stories by Chekov, three quarters of Alice in Wonderland and two chapters of "Sexing The Cherry" by Jeanette Winterson (which is shite). I then went home. Today I sat for 45 minutes in a taxi. Took a register of 13 people. I then sat in a hallway reading almost all of Graham Greene's "The End of the Affair", finished "Wish I Was Here" by Jackie Kay and read a few stories from "Whoever You Chose To Love" by Colette Paul. I also drank coffee and ate Jelly Tots. Then I got Thai Sweet Chili Chicken (starter) and Rib-Eye Steak in Pepper Sauce (all free) for lunch. It's a hard life.
    Not much else has been happening. Jon popped down for a few days and we played some music with the old Episodics (Misha and Sarah) and Hilary, a friend from Uni with a great voice. Kate moves (temporarily) to Inverness at the weekend and Minori has started studying English. I have (temporarily) stopped studying Japanese because my teacher is crap and I can't get there in time from work.
    Embra is cool (despite lack of jobs) and I'm glad I chose here over other places. I took Minori to Glasgow and said "What do you think of Glasgow?". She said "I like Edinburgh".
    My PC broke but is now fixed (and new and improved with added DVD player).
    Clerks II is incredibly funny.
    28 Weeks Later is cool in a B-Movie kind of way.
    Scrubs is on cable 24 hours a day and there are not enough hours in the day for Scrubs.
    I haven't had a cigarette for 48 hours and I'm going mental.

    Saturday, May 26, 2007

    Referendum

    Ok folks, I need help making a decision. I kind of like the idea of this blog only being about my time in Japan, however it has already spilled over into my time home (ok, only a little, but Virgin Media are at fault here) and has been hacked by some Canadian Mentalist who has lost her dictionary. Should I, therefore, start another new blog (not forgetting my writing blog which I've also been treating in the same way that George Dubya Gump treats the UN: every so often I send something it's way, but generally I forget about it) or should I say "balls to symmetry" and keep posting on this one?

    Escape From Alanis

    Dear Alanis,

    Here is a situation for you.
    I moved to a new city quite a few months ago in order to undertake what turned out to be a less than thrilling course. I decided to “encourage” my boyfriend to accompany me. In short I made the poor bloke move so I could go to uni. Is it then ‘ironic’ that I have passes my course tolerably but he on the other hand has a great job he enjoys, keeps getting pay rises and has been offered the chance to do a Ph.D for free? He seems to be enjoying the life down here much more than me, yet I am the one who prompted the move.
    best wishes,
    Stacey

    Dear Kirst ... I mean Stacey. No, this is not ironic. This is what happens when you take a Liverpool fan to Liverpool. You should have gone to London where there are no football teams worth mentioning. Liverpool fans in Liverpool are prone to good luck, unlike Everton fans who are naturally unlucky. They didn't even get to use the city's name for their club. And they're not very good. Either that or you should've chosen your boyfriends better. Maybe an Everton fan would've been a good choice. Do you know any Everton fans? They are reliable boyfriends: okay they don't have much money to splash around but they are never likely to leave the country and are grateful for every perceived success in their lives. Everton boyfriends are not to be confused with Everton bras, which have no cups and very little support.

    Friday, May 18, 2007

    The Search For Alanis

    Dear Alanis.
    As you know those of us who live in the colonies are completely illiterate and can only learn English via divine hymns from other lands (e.g. Eminem, Axl Rose, James Brown and Abba). Of course your hymn, Ironic, is the most divine of all. Since seeking higher education (the Oxford Dictionary) I have come to the view that the situations described in your hymn are not ironic at all but just "bum outs" or unlucky situations. Subsequently, since the debut of 'ironic', my people have been misinterpreting the English tounge. Is this Ironic?

    Sincerely yours,
    Darius (devoted follower)

    P.S. I have one hand in my pocket, the other, is making a peace sign.

    Dear Darius. No. Every situation in my song is Ironic. It is. Because ... well ... they are. Like the old man ... no, hang on ... that's a bad example. Now what is ironic is the fact that you misspelled "tongue".

    Wednesday, May 16, 2007

    Alanis 3

    Dear Alanis,
    Ayaka, my Japanese girlfriend, moved out of Japan to Australia to learn English......
    That's all.
    Isn't this ironic?

    Francis.

    Dear Francis. I wouldn't say this is ironic as such. Just kinda dumb. Like going to England to learn cricket or going to Scotland to learn sobriety. She should come to Canada where I, Bryan Adams and Celine Dion can teach her English through the medium of song.