Saturday, October 30, 2010

The ugliest building in the world

Aberdeen at night. What is this monstrosity, you may well ask, if you're not au fait with shopping in the granite city? A car park? An alien spaceship of the most implacably warlike mien? Perhaps it's one of those nanotech  buildings described by William Gibson in the Bridge trilogy, or a nuke-proof governmental bunker?

Wrong on all counts. This is Aberdeen's flagship John Lewis store. A triumph of massive brutalism, it's Thatcherism made concrete, a stamp-on-your-face statement of  what capitalism really means to the consumer. That cuddly old John Lewis, with its share options and staff ownership, should be inhabiting this 20th Century Castle Greyskull seems somehow...rather appropriate.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

At the source of the River Esk

I was in Eskdalemuir to see the writer Colin Betts about a possible publishing project. He lives, it's safe it say, in the most isolated house I've ever visited, three miles from the nearest proper road, in the heart of Scottish Welsh Celtdom. To get there, you have to ford the Esk, right at its source. There's no mains services.

Colin has written one of the best memoirs of the 60s, I've ever read. He ran away from home at 15 in the company, no less, of The Rolling Stones. It was with Colin that Nick Drake busked his way through the south of France to Morocco. Later episodes involved seriously nefarious characters, including the Manson Family, jail in LA, and some dangerous adventures in India and Afghanistan. Before Colin actually started a successful band called The Impossible Dreamers...

Anyway, he's written a book - Frozenlight  - and a play, specifically about his travels with Nick Drake, called Shininglight. We're hoping they'll be published online before Christmas. Watch this space!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Bike at BBC Ayr



Best view of any Beeb building.20 year old Orbit Gold Medal 531 ST.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Troon, at the end of a fantastic day



Amazing day with amazing people. In a great place

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Mrs Morton has cake and eats it too



Mrs Morton's birthday today, so Ms Morton baked a cake. And a very splendid thing it is/was too! Tomorrow, no radio show due to Colonialism Games activity, so much tidying before exciting trip sooth to celebrate my dad's 80th birthday, see four generations in one place at one time, all being well, and fight with my sisters, if enough drink is taken. Planning to commute by bike from Troon to Ayr next week which should be interesting, and a real return to my Ayrshire childhood. Is there still a level crossing  between the two bits of the Fullerton golf course? Is there still a railway line?

Meanwhile, to the Glenrothes '92!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Long shadows on the peat hill, and a fundamental flaw



It's late, too late in the year to be on the peat hill at all. If I say that these peats are actually last year's, belatedly bagged and howked home after a 12 month or more weathering on the moor, many will look askance at my right to wield a tushkar at all. As it happens, I didn't. Lornie cut them, Susan and me did the rest. You can learn to live with shame.

And with bright ideas that go wrong. I had the notion of ordering a hundred or so forestry firewood sacks, those pink, net-like things you get logs in at garages. They're made of polypropylene, and I thought they would give our somewhat soggy peats a chance to dry. Better than the traditional recycled fertiliser, salmon feed or sheep sustenance sacks.

Wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong! Those log bags are ultra-violet sensitive, and the endless days of the Shetland summer turned them into brittle, useless plastic straw. That left me with the task of re-bagging what peats had not crumbled (due to being left out too long) into a solidified lumpy gravy of half-carbonised vegetation.

Today (cool, autumnal, sunny) saw the final part of that dirty, tedious process, and the last trailering home of peats before winter sets in. We burn oil at hideous expense for hot water and central heating, but the solid fuel German stove in the kitchen takes the edge off the quarterly fuel bills. We're hoping to install a big peat-fired boiler at some point, and that will probably mean ordering in machine-cut peat (not as anti-green as you may think; Shetland's peat bogs are almost limitless and at least it doesn't have to travel far to get here). We're looking wind turbines. Heat pumps. Micro-hydro. Or we may just wear thicker jumpers.

Anyway, here's to recycling feed and fertiliser sacks, to the coming winter and to the fabulous reek of peat as it burns, reminding me of...jings. Isn't it about time for a dram?

Friday, October 01, 2010

Bitumen Citroën

I wish I could show the truly wondrous...texture of this van's paint finish. I'm guessing this has been painted with the bitumen roofing tar used widely in Shetland for felt roofs. Proper underseal would be too expensive.But then, anything to preserve something as glorious as an AX, direct descendent of the 2CV...ah, how I recall journeys from Lerwick to Hillswick, seatless in the back of one of these, perched on a bale of straw...

Undersealed, oversealed...