Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Clear the (Tweet)decks!

So, the whole Twitter thing seems to have exploded of late. I don't want to climb aboard some early adopters bandwagon here, but I was using it last year for a bit then kind of fell out of it before coming back to it recently. I kind of like it as a mad-waste-of-time-displacement-activity-when-you-know-you-REALLY-should-be-doing-something-more-constructive application. I've been enjoying TinyTwitter on my new phone and have been looking at the other 'apps' (hey, get me!) lately too.

Tweetdeck is just marvellous. Having seen it as the "from" entry on a good number of posts I decided to give it a go yesterday and had a good old chortle to myself as the great Eddie Izzard started up a "so, um" thread whereby every post had to be preceded by the phrase "so, um" in an American-college-movie/Wonder Years stylee. Very amusing. Up to a point.

Tonight I decided to conduct a wee experiment. As I was going to be watching the (nearly always) excellent Grand Designs anyway I thought I'd have a Grand Designs thread window opened on Tweet Deck to see what happened...what a hoot. Why were all these people who were supposedly watching the show Tweeting away the whole time? Regardless, it was good value and really added to my enjoyment of the show.

My good lady and I watch and wonder every week for the "I just wonder..." moment, which is where the programme's host, the ever-erudite and unfailingly excellent Kevin McCloud praises various bits of the build, applauds the couple who've done the self-build, laments the planning process and then turns to camera to raise an eyebrow (two on a bad week!) and says something like: "I just wonder if maybe they should have dispensed with the zinc roof/gone with the underfloor heating/used local stone/bulldozed the whole carbuncle and started again..." in a very polite fashion. Easily the best bit of the show.

But what fun having the Twitterers running in the background. Dave Gorman spoke recently of the value of Twitter in "covering" the Brit Awards for him when he was doing something else and tonight I could really see it in action.

By way of background, tonight's Grand Designs involved a couple building an "earthship-inspired" home in Brittany. Some of the postings on Twitter were a joy:

Liking the house design on grand designs. Liking the cost of the plot. Liking the French planning laws. NOT liking the hippies who own it!
Another night of zero productivity... MasterChef rocks! {Come on the Matt!}... now a cool Grand Designs... the TV has got me :)
Grand designs and a cuppa! Sounds like my kinda evening!
Watching Grand Designs on 4. Thought 'oh oh! soap dodgers building a house from rubbish, Stig of the Dump stylee'. However, it's very cool!
Chilling out watching Grand Designs, wondering just when Kevin will express concern...
Is clenching his teeth at the Guardian reading people on Grand Designs who seem to be recreating a particularly annoying Orange advert...
Kevin McCloud just said "Dirt Bitch" on Grand Designs, I won't deny that I rather liked it, in fact maybe a little toooooo much
finding this episode of Grand Designs hard work. rather dislike the couple, and really sceptical of "earthships".
Grand Designs is making me grumpy now - lots of pseudo ethnic shite being spoken. Kevin's being suitably sardonic.
watching Grand Designs - Kevin is worried about the aesthetic - I'm worried about the hippies living in it

Saving the best for last though...

grand designs?! you get out of a house what you put in. they used recyled, tatty, shitty crap. oh, to my surprise, and look what happened!

Brilliant. Who needs the telly? Long live the Twits!

Thursday edit: just had to include this, the Grand Designs Drinking Game - another Twitter post.

Saturday, 21 February 2009

Polish-ed and professional

This really is a brilliant story.

In some ways, I suppose, it could only happen in Ireland. That's not meant in any patronising or derogatory way - I'm thinking more of the general spirit of the place which somehow seems to 'permit' strange and magical things to occur.

Long story short, as they say, police - Garda - in the Republic have been hot on the trail on a renegade Polish driver who has racked up over 50 offences, from speeding to parking illegally. The cunning fiend has, somehow managed to evade capture...well, I guess you would if every time the police took your name down they looked at your European Driving Licence and scribbled down "Mr Prawo Jazdy" and only later discovered that they'd booked "Mr Driving Licence."

The Irish Times also carry the story, with a typically twinkle-in-the-eye cheeky comment at the end.

Expect the recidivist Mrs Library Card from the Czech Republic to have her cover blown.

Like I said, only in Ireland. It's the sort of couldn't-make-it-up tale which I just know would have Pete McCarthy smiling down on the oul' country.

Thursday, 19 February 2009

Mmm...freshly brewed cappuccino and homemade spiced apple cake. Divine.

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Super, smashing, great.

Jim Bowen has always had the capacity, for me anyway, to promote feelings of wellbeing and contentment. Until recently though, I'd no idea a whole industry had built up around it.
Explanation, I suspect, is required.
Being a sufferer from both joint and back pain - the former mostly self-inflicted, sporting injuries from which arthritic complaints will most surely follow - I'd gladly go to some lengths to alleviate the symptoms. In the past I've visited both chiropracters and osteopaths to have a go at sorting out the troublesome lumbar regions, the original cause of which long since escapes me. As for the joints - knackered shoulder, wrecked knee, dodgy ankles - I've done little other than irregularly consume glucosamine tablets and powders. Hey, it's got bits of shark bone in it to aid flexibility...and for some reason it seems to improve the cello-playing no end...
I'd heard of the Bowen technique a few months ago and had investigated it a wee bit (okay, I'd read the leaflet and nodded, uhmmed and ahhed when the lady in the therapy centre had explained it to me) but hadn't thought any more about it. Until now. At the weekend I was given a treatment, about 40minutes worth, in the comfort of my own home by a very nice lady who - in a very relaxed, relaxING, non-invasive and calm way - manipulated, or "nudged" as I believe the Bowen practitioners say, my back, shoulders and legs in short bursts (though bursts perhaps suggests speed and vigour, neither of which are qualities I'd associate with this experience) of activity, leaving the room for a few minutes in between each "move" to give my body time to make sense of what was happening. It was lovely. Very serene and calming.
At the risk of coming over all new-age here, I felt towards the end of the treatment as though I was levitating (though I must confess to having no levitatory yardstick on which to base this, so I may simply have been having an out-of-body experience, yeah, that would explain it...) and by the time it was all over I was ready to nod off.Thoroughly recommended. Post surgery as I am, even my dodgy knee seems to feel a wee bit more mobile and that can only be a good thing.

Now, where's that prize-board...?

Sunday, 15 February 2009

A Sunday morning capuccino ably assisted by the mini-barista...

Friday, 13 February 2009

Clearly, despite some misgivings, I was destined to purchase the Elbow album...

Okay, I take it all back. Well, nearly all...Fort William has finally redeemed itself to me.

Food last night in the Brewer's Fayre - I know, I know, but if you have to eat alone best not to do it in a cosy, quiet place methinks - was tasty and cheap: chilli with rice, tortillas, onion rings and garlic bread plus a pint of Belhaven Best and a cappuccino for a shade over 12 quid. Then the taxi back to the B&B, the driver must have spotted me hobbling because he went to tje bother of manouevring the cab into the fairly awkward space outside my home for the night, he then went on to flummox me further in the payment stakes. It was £3.10 for the trip, I only had a £20 and he'd been very helpful so I said 'just take four' to which he replied 'och vehave yourself, call it three pounds' !

Breakfast exceeded all expectations by bursting straight into Number One spot in 'best b&b breakfast ever' with a stack of homemade thick pancakes, crispy bacon, maple syrup and a proper pot of coffee...the landlady even took me to the train station in her Mini Cooper. You don't get that at the Travel Inn.

That there hastily snapped picture is of a clearly bonkers young lady whose idea of a nice morning is to get on a nice warm train at 8.30am, stay on it for 35minutes then get off at Glenfinnan, stick on a woolly hat and run, RUN (!), back to Fort William...ridiculously I'm slightly jealous - it will be truly spectacular. Good luck to her.

Now, back to that coffee and The Guardian...

Canoe see what I see?

What a lovely selection of images from my b and b. ...will report back on the breakfast in the morning. For the moment painkillers are calling.

Thursday, 12 February 2009

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With immense comedy value inherent in the whole enterprise, the kindly farmer neighbour managed to get his own 4x4 stuck when he came to help up get the car up the track. If it wasn't so ridiculous it would be funny. What am I saying? It IS funny. Poor guy though, doing a favour in mental weather and then that happens. Fortunately my aunt has a hessian sack and a pick handy...don't ask, must be for all those contract killings she's always on about...Made it out though, thanks Hugh the farmer!

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Still a winter wonderland in Nairnshire. Very picture-skew as a cousin of mine used to, and may well still, say.

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Rude awakenings.
Well, that's it then. I woke up at 6.27 with the dreaded 'Nil by mouth' sign over the bed. Pah.
As if that wasn't bad enough I was almost immediately asked if I wanted to go and have a shower now. I say asked but there didn't appear to be much choice or room for manouevre. Okay then, a shower..."make sure you don't use any highly perfumed soaps or deodorant or at least make sure it's all thoroughly washed off." Eh? What's this in aid of? Is it so the surgeon can smell nothing but your fear?
Yes, thanks, I am alright in the shower...just trying to rid myself of the Ylang Ylang, Sandalwood and Jojoba...
Good...occasionally very poor.
That could well be a metaphor for life couldn't it? Nothing so profound, alas: simply part of the visibility outlook on the Shipping Forecast.
In his excellent book on the subject, Charlie Connelly  notes that there are few things in life quite so reassuring...particularly when one is tucked up at home late at night and not actually out there in Viking, Fastnet or Fitzroy braving those "cyclonics". It's equally comforting when one is trying to drift off in a noisy hospital, wondering why a single starched sheet is the order of the day.
As for the weather stations on the forecast? I reckon you'd have to go a long way to beat Machrahanish Automatic as a name for a local Sunday league team... 

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

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Fasting from midnight calls for drastic measures...

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Brrr...14below in deepest Nairnshire. I think those scary stalactite type icicles are the type apocraphylly(sp?) used in detective stories to commit the so-called 'perfect murder' whereby the victim is stabbed with an icicle which then melts leaving no evidence of the heinous crime. (adopts villianous laugh)"Mwuah ha ha!"

Sunday, 8 February 2009

Jones the Steam...a made guy?

I Twittered (Tweeted? Twat?) last night about Ivor the Engine and Tony Soprano...I feel I should explain.

Late on last night, in light of the usual round of sod all on the telly of a Saturday evening, we sat down to watch the next episode of The Sopranos which we had as part of our latest shipment from Sofa Cinema. Imagine our surprise - and subsequent delight - to find that instead of Tony and co. backed by the soundtrack of the Alabama 3, we had our daughter's Ivor the Engine compilation in the DVD player! No difference at all...

The images - and sounds - conjured up are just fantastic. You really have to get into character but I can just about hear Jones the Steam telling Dai Station in his broadest Welsh accent "Hey, forgeddaboutit, I just whacked some guy..." or, perhaps better yet, Tony Soprano in full New Jersey-Italian saying, "It wasn't a very big or a very important railway but it was all there was..."

Ba da boom, ba da bing...isn't it?

Saturday, 7 February 2009

Library Thing

Well, that's quite exciting. I've just been signing up for a scheme called Library Thing which allows one to catalogue (or catalog since the site seems to be US based!) one's books. There's also a lovely wee widget feature which I'll fiddle about with later and include somewhere on this blog.

As I was trying to add in one of my books (McCarthy's Bar, of course) the search also brought up a book whose introduction is written by Pete McCarthy and which I also happen to own and enjoy. So I clicked on that to be my first "add." As a site [LibraryThing] with hundreds of thousands of users worldwide, I was excited to find that no-one else had the book in their list.

Always nice to be a pioneer!

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Distinctly below par...

This story from the BBC's Highlands and Islands news caught my ear...

A golfer was so pleased with winning a card allowing him to play for the US Professional Tour he did not notice he was speeding, an Inverness court heard.

The punchline? You've guessed it - he's been banned from driving for six months. That'll make hitting the greens that wee bit trickier I should imagine...