Monday, 29 June 2009

Call it synchronicity, call it deja vu*

This, I think, is lovely. The joys of Freecycle. Posters number 1 and 3 really need to get together...

*'Incommunicado' - Marillion

Thursday, 25 June 2009

Why could replace your friends...

As something of a musical purist, nay occassional ranter I've been something of a latecomer to the digital music revolution. I still love the crackle of vinyl and the look and feel of a proper bit of packaging...

7 inches by mail. Player Piano 'Into The Dark EP' Utterly fan... on Twitpic

My current phone was purchased with the express intention of being used for in car entertainment to save lugging dozens of CDs around - though in practice this hasn't quite worked as all of the Megane's many nooks and crannies are crammed with everything from Phil Campbell to The Very Best of Northern Soul via Kate Nash and The Who. I digress. The point is that I've kind of accepted that music's available digitally and I'm trying to use that to my advantage by compressing it on the phone's software and using it to carry thousands of tracks about with me so that if I feel, as I did recently, like listening to Wreckless Eric's ode to funerals then I can, literally at the press of a button. Or touch screen.

My own personal digital revolution has even seen me embracing Spotify. About which Roddy Woomble has written in typical articulate and erudite fashion, here. As yet I've not embraced Spotify's radio function, though I may well do so. What I have done as a result of Tuesday's post about Sam Cooke is to sign up for This may well prove to be a huge mistake.

My friend Kevin - I've had to interrupt myself, as if to prove the point I'm coming to The River Detectives have just popped up with a brilliant song I'd never heard before - tried, unsuccessfully, to point me in the direction of a good while back now but I must confess that I couldn't really see the point. I mean, what kind of word is "scrobbling" anyway? However, when I searched for the aforementioned Mr. Cooke's "Another Saturday Night" and played it three or four times in a row, I could't help but enter a few details - isn't it incredible how easy it can be to sign your life away online? - and get myself an account. Before I knew it I'd entered the names of a few artists I rather like just off the top of my head and in no particular order at the prompting of the registration software.

For no reason other than I'd either been listening to them lately or that they popped into my mind, I typed: The Rolling Stones, Kevin McDermott, Otis Redding, Paolo Nutini, Idlewild, King Creosote, Sam Cooke, Kings of Leon and The Black Keys. I don't know that it's particularly eclectic - it's certainly very male focused and leans heavily towards a folk/blues songwriting ethic, but there you have it.

What, you may well ask, has all this to do with replacing one's friends? Well I'll tell you...word of mouth, for so many things, is always a winner. Restaurant recommendations, plumbers, holiday destinations, films and, of course, music. When I switched secondary schools I brought with me some under-developed musical appreciation genes: Johnny Cash, Alice Cooper and Guns N Roses being about the limit of it. Though it could be argued that you don't really need much more that The Man In Black to keep you right.

Anyway, mention of Alice and GNR (somehow even back then I knew that the world wasn't ready for me to unleash my penchant for Mr Cash on them, though given his posthumous resurgence it's clear I was ahead of the game...) led classmates to point me in the direction of The Almighty and Love/Hate - excellent hard rock acts in a similar vein to my own already trumpeted choices but who, it's arguable, I might never have come across. One particularly left-field classmate (thanks Scott) insisted I should be listening to The Charlatans, The Stone Roses, Primal Scream and The Happy Mondays. So I did. And he was right. To this day I'd be far more likely to stick on I Am The Resurrection than Welcome To The Jungle.

This system of recommendation based (very much as Amazon does now) on "well you liked that so I reckon you'll like this..." continued in the car on the way to five a side football on a Saturday morning with my next door neighbour. Gerry (for it was he) would always have a new mix-tape ready for the trip from Kelvindale to Whitehill. Allowing for the inevitable backlog of traffic on Great Western Road on the return journey, this would give us around 80-90 minutes of listening time. Ideal for a TDK-extravaganza!

Remember Cassette Tapes?Image by Erica_Marshall via Flickr

I never asked Gerry if he made a conscious effort to include the four passengers' tastes in the compiling of his tapes (I'm sure he didn't, there was always a Prince track on there - I can't be doing with him, Gerry was a huge fan of the diminutive purple one) but perhaps there was just some kind of meeting of musical minds. Around this time I was listening to The Kevin McDermott Orchestra and Del Amitri on heavy rotation - very parochial of me I know - and as well as the odd KMO and Dels track on the Saturday Fives Tapes (as I have just christened them) there would inevitably be at least a dozen people I'd either never heard of or never bothered with: The Four of Us, The Pale, House of Pain, The Trash Can Sinatras, Aztec Camera, The Jesus and Mary Chain; or people that I'd forgotten I liked or had dismissed after a brief listen: The Pixies and Superchunk (forgotten), Teenage Fanclub (criminally dismissed after dubious recording of a Peel Session given to me by John Wood - sorry Fannies, I love you now if that helps...)

Old cassettesImage by Phil Gyford via Flickr

As well as putting a strain on the finances (I needed a lot of C-90s to bootleg Gerry's albums and EPs..."rip" what kind of a word is that for copying, sorry, "sharing" music?) the tapes stimulated discussion and provided a topic of conversation amongst the rest of the players when we got there - music fanatics to a man. I can still recall Karl's tirade against Blur's Parklife single as a poor man's Lazy Sunday as he danced around the dressing room chanting "rooty-dooty-doo-rooty-dooty-dido." And do you know what, he was right.

I'm not saying that without friends' recommendations I'd never have come across certain acts but it's easy to dismiss something after one radio hearing, it's a different matter entirely when someone you know and whose opinion you respect thrusts a cassette into your hands and entreats you to listen to it with the phrase, "honestly, you'll love it..." it's hard to resist. I can think, from tapes given to me by my good friend Stef alone, of bands from Compulsion to The Bluetones and Therapy? that, as someone who'd stopped buying the NME and didn't listen to Radio1, I might never have encountered. Now I'd quite gladly cite the Bluetones as one of my favourite bands. Yes I know I didn't include them on my list.

It's not, of course, guaranteed that you'll like something a friend has recommended but this in itself presents an excuse to either (a) chat a bit more about music to explain your reasons, (b) get a pint in as you sit down to hear them explain why you really will like it if you give it another listen or (c) make a tape for them with something you think is even better (honestly, the Vaselines beat Nirvana every time, no question); three excellent things to do at any rate.

Perhaps that's why could but ultimately won't replace your friends. Sure, you can argue your point and champion your favourites virtually via emails and, as rather naffly calls them "shouts", you can debate and engage in badinage and all manner of repartee, you could even make up virtual playlists and suggest things people in the community might like. But you can't mix them up a Maxell, thrust it into their grubby mitts, order a Guinness and sit them down and say, "this lot, really, I know I've said it before, but this lot really are amazing..."

16/365 vinylsImage by Sara in Montréal via Flickr

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Inappropriate use of a 'cell'phone?

Typical Victoria Prison cellImage via Wikipedia

There are times when stupidity raises itself to whole new levels. This man is clearly going to be a candidate for this year's Darwin Awards.

Prisoner updates Facebook from jail. Yes. You read that correctly.

The fastest hackers in all Mexico!

An amusing and simultaneously bewildering text from my sister this morning, "your blog has weird pictures of Mexican people on it instead of helicopters...just so you know."

She was right you know. I've edited it now, but this post from the other day had had its Rockyou slideshow "hijacked" (dare I say it by bandidos?) and had morphed into a set of Mexican teenagers on a night out. Now there's nothing wrong with Mexico, teenagers or indeed nights out. I've always quite fancied a trip to Mexico in fact but rest assured that if and when I do manage a vist, I'm perfectly capable of taking my own photos thank you very much!

Here's one of the offending mugshots...Holy moley!

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Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Is it a bird?

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We have lift off...see if you can spot the slightly 'worried' brown horse in the background.
video uploaded from my mobile phone
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The Wedgwood Helipad

The Twitter-app has been red-hot this afternoon since the lady of the house took a phone call from a prospective diner. "Is there anywhere I can land?" Yes, of course, plenty of good moorings out by... "No, you don't understand. I'm coming in a helicopter" Oh. "Tell you what - if you put a dinner plate down somewhere convenient I'll land there...without breaking it of course." Of course. This sort of thing always happens.

Here it comes...fearful for the crockery. on Twitpic
"...take her straight down on the willow pattern cap'n" on Twitpic
And we're down...I tell you, if there's so much as a scratch... on Twitpic

I've got soul but I'm not a soldier...

Sam Cooke recording in the studio.Image via Wikipedia

I Twittered this morning about accidentally tuning in to Terry Wogan on Radio 2 at breakfast time, the dial having stayed where it was since last night's Radcliffe and Maconie show.

Wogan's show and its listeners are all over the web so there's little point in me commenting here, other than to say that the music was fairly awful. The Lighthouse Family for goodness sakes. El Tel did, however, redeem himself - or rather the Radio 2 playlist team did, with a blast of Sam Cooke and "Another Saturday Night". Awesome - what a voice.

This brilliance, however, presented me with a bit of a problem. I was overcome with the sudden urge to strangle both Mark Lamarr and Stuart Maconie. Don't get me wrong - I think they're both great and they'd certainly both be on the list of people you'd want to be making you a compilation tape but, and here's the thing, they've both stolen my job!

How wonderful must it be to be able to write, talk about and play such fantastic music on national radio? The public-glare equivalent of showing off your record collection to your pals. As a former hospital radio presenter, working in radio is still my dream job and to have the chance to play classic soul, R&B, Northern and Southern soul like Stuart and Mark (Lamarr) would just be incredible.

Writing about it, though, I can do. So I will. A thought or two occurred listening to Sam today. He'd been sneaking about in my subconscious anyway since he came up in Rod Stewart's "Did I Say That?" column in the Observer at the weekend. Cooke is Rod's hero and indeed the tartan clad one (that'll be Rod then) does a fantastic version of "Twistin' the night away" on his "Never a dull moment" album.

Cooke, for me, is a genius - his voice is so pure and 'clean' if that makes any sense. A very un-Stax sound, no rough edges in the way that say Otis Redding or Chris Farlowe have. This no doubt endears him to some and puts others off, in the same way that Farlowe and Redding and Sam n' Dave's "rougher" sound might affect others. I can happily listen to either style, and often do.

Stax RecordsImage via Wikipedia

I mentioned Sam not being very Stax because, even with my limited knowledge, I reckoned that he just sounds, vocally, a bit clean cut for the legendary Memphis label. I thought I'd better check whether he'd ever laid down any tracks at the home of Booker T and co. He didn't. I was going to say more's the pity but it matters not - he's left behind a staggering body of work which will outlast virtually anything "gracing" the charts today.

Billy Connolly once said, "Never trust a man who, when left alone in a room with a tea cosy doesn't try it on." Something similar could be applied, I reckon, to those whose toes don't at the very least tap along to "Wonderful World."

(This post was made with the help of

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Monday, 22 June 2009

The great train robbery?

A recent spate of stories in the various news outlets around the issue of people unable to buy train tickets online being disadvantaged was brought rudely home to me the other day.

In a few weeks time (see, it always pays to be able to make arrangements in advance) I need to travel from Glasgow to Inverness. Being incapacitated following knee surgery, driving's out of the question. The bus, too, is out - they're a wee bit cramped for my liking and you can't get up and have a wander about to stretch your legs. The train seemed the sensible option so I visited the First Scotrail website to see what was on offer.

Just as well I did. Booking a little over four weeks in advance, a single ticket could be had for just £10. Turning up on the day to buy a ticket for the same journey at the same time would cost me £47.50! That seems pretty disgraceful. Why should those without internet access be at such a disadvantage? Perhaps more worrying was the fact that £47.50 wasn't even the dearest ticket available in "standard class". Needless to say I quickly selected the tenner trip before someone at Rail HQ spotted it and decided to withdraw the very generous offer.

It reminds me a little of the old road safety seatbelt campaign: Mouse Click every trip!

Thursday, 18 June 2009

A little nonsense now and then is relished by the wisest men...

I've just found this photo on my phone which I took at the Glasgow Science Centre...

I don't really need to add anything, do I?

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

The pub is the hub...

A really nice piece by the always thought-provoking Stuart Maconie in The Guardian's Rural Pub Guide about the demise of the village pub got me thinking, as I suppose any good thought provoker should.

A good pub, like a comfortable armchair, is something to be savoured and enjoyed. Like an armchair one should be able to feel comfortable there and enjoy a drink, perhaps a quiet read and certainly some convivial conversation.

Looking back at some of my postings from various blogs, pubs crop up quite a bit. Not that I've got a problem or anything.

Mr. Maconie has some, if you like, quality indicators for a good public house and his list got me wondering what I reckon the key elements of a good pub are.

For sure Guinness on tap is up there. Not extra cold of course. That would just be silly. A real fire? You bet - a must, even in the summer. A good jukebox? Hmm. Not sure but certainly live music would be a winner - even if it's not always one's first choice of genre being played, any live music is always welcome.

Pub grub? A tricky one this. Gastropubs are becoming more and more common but do people visit them for the food alone and does that impact on the general "pubbiness" of the place? For me, reasonably priced "staples" - fish and chips (ahh, the mighty pub chip!), steak pie, a home made burger - done well are worth any number of butterflied medallions of veal with celeriac compote.

A pool table? Provided it's out of the way and the cues don't knock over the drinkers' pints then I'm all for it. Issues tend only to arise when there's some dispute over local rules - do two shots carry ? (no, they shouldn't...anyone with any idea of how to hold a cue can't really fail to clear up when awarded two shots) Does the winner stay on? Not ideal if you've turned up with some family or friends and some folks are already on...

Friendliness of staff? A must. Absolutely. There's no pleasure to be had in supping a pint of Thelwell's Festering Bunion under the withering glower of a mardy landlord. Jeezo. Make an effort folks.

Having said all this, where I live right now there's no pub so I guess there are evenings when, heaven forfend, I'd even settle for a Blue WKD and a Bacardi Breezer in a chrome and pine Witherspoon's. Or maybe not. As Stuart said, "...the pub, the sound of distant laughter and the smell of charcoal from a beer garden is balm for mind and body, and a reminder that one cannot survive on smoothies and paninis alone."

Some of my pub related postings...

McCarthy's Bar - December 2008

Tigh TP's Pub - Dingle 2007

Balconie Inn & Tartan Heart - 2005

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Well I never...

I've just finished reading some of a Tintin story, Cigars Of The Pharaoh, to my wee boy.

I've never read any of the stories before and I'm not sure why. The wee man can't rightly say why he chose it in the bookshop either, but I'm glad he did.

First published in 1955 some of it seems hopelessly outdated now, such as the terribly un-PC illustration here but a good story's a good story and it fairly zips along in the best traditions of the comic strip.

The bowler hatted Thomson Twins are iconic as is little Snowy the dog and there's almost a Marx Brothers quality to the setting and some of the slapstick setpieces. I can't wait to read on and what a joy to discover there are another 23 stories waiting for us...

Four brown bottles

The first bottling of the elderflower cordial.

Next up, and eagerly anticipated I might add, elderflower 'champagne'!

Monday, 15 June 2009


When your domain name provider (in my case 1&1) sends you an email asking if you want another domain name for £2.99 for two years then what would you do?

If, like me, you were recovering from major knee surgery and had little else to occupy your time other than some light physiotherapy exercises, reading books and fiddling around on the internet you’d probably do what I did and sign up for

What you’d then do, if you were me, would be to head over to and register and link it to your three blogs (Journeys in The Banana Bus, Single Track Roads and Round Ireland In A Wedge) so that they could all be accessed from the one “web portal” (seamlessly slipped into techy-jargon there…)

You might, then, if you were me, go back to 1&1 and point your domain names at this new portal. But only if you were me.

Sunday, 14 June 2009

Cordial relations

A fine, splendid and very Enid Blyton-esque thing to be doing. The lady of the house has been out with the two munchkins gathering elder flowers with which to make the eponymous cordial.

Twenty flower heads, best picked on a warm sunny day apparently, three pounds of sugar and two pints of cold water plus two unwaxed lemons.

Heat through in a large pan and leave overnight for the sweet nectar to work its bucolic magic.

I await tomorrow's unveiling and straining through a dishcloth with almost uncontained excitement.

Saturday, 13 June 2009

They're only words, and words are all I have...

I'm currently reading The Northern Clemency by Philip Hensher, which is shaping up to be very good indeed. Hey, don't take my word for it, it was shortlisted for the 2008 Man Booker Prize'.

In the interests of not being an ignorant git I thought I'd better look up the word clemency to see why it might have been used in the title as I'd only previously heard it used in connection with 'appeals for clemency' which I'd always taken to mean people were looking for some sort of 'leniency.'

As I flicked through my dictionary I came across two superb words en route.

'Dandy brush,' which is a stiff brush used for horses was the first and I'm not entirely sure how I might crowbar that into polite conversation. The second was the magnificently archaic sounding 'clerihew' - a short witty verse in 4 lines of unequal length, rhyming in couplets and referring to a famous person.

How fantastic. What a great word. How could one not be inspired? In the spirit of the big news story of the day (Cristiano Ronaldo's 80million Euro move to Real Madrid, criticised by two men who seldom appear in the same news story, Michel Platini of FIFA and ex Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr).

Here goes, 'Filthy Lucre-ative'

Cristiano's moved for eighty million,
Last seen carrying Red Devil passengers riding pillion;
It's "excessive" says Mister Platin[sic]
Et Monsieur Marr dit simplement "obscene".

Oh, it meant 'mildness' by the way.

Friday, 12 June 2009

Post-man electric blues...

Ah. Patience is indeed a virtue.

After some months of waiting my internet only pre-order copy of the new Idlewild album, Post Electric Blues, arrived today.

Unlike many online retailers, the band have been very good about keeping in touch to let fans know of order progress. It seems that, from Idlewild's perspective, the whole process has been beset by difficulties, indeed there's a wee note to that effect in the envelope.

I have to admit to not paying a great deal of attention at the point of sign up. I was just excited to see a new album which came with fifteen free live downloads for those ordering (15 from a selection from their King Tut's residency in December last year), a bonus cd track AND my name in the list of credits on the album artwork! However, I have managed to gather that it is the internet pre-ordering which has effectively paid for the recording and the band have politely requested that owners of the album respect the ideals behind the project and don't pass it on for free.

Fine by me. Really looking forward to hearing which (apologies in advance for this) 'direction' the band have taken in light of Roddy Woomble's folky forays of the last few years.

As they say, watch this space.

Crafts on Crutches...

Hobbling about in the sunshine in the garden. Picture one plus picture two plus super glue equals picture three.

To the cheese cellar Batman!

Originally uploaded by singletrackroads
A lovely day trip to the beautiful Isle of Mull. Loads of nice photos of the Cheese Factory at Sgriob Ruadh and Lip Na Cloiche garden over by the Ulva Ferry.

More musings on this to come later, perhaps...

Check out the Flickr album here.

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Shiny Designy

This is a Scottish institution; up there with Barr's Irn Bru, Lorne sausage, Billy Connolly and Partick Thistle. The Tunnock's Teacake.

Clearly this, however, is simply the wrapper. Not, of course, the confection itself.

Someone else taken with this design icon is Gillian Kyle. Go, buy her stuff.

Sunday, 7 June 2009

Man cannot live on cake alone...

A latte is often required too. A visit today to the excellent Pottery Cafe at Laggan. Their own literature says all there is to be said...

Saturday, 6 June 2009

Planned spontaneity

A really good piece in today's Guardian by Oliver Burkeman on the ever increasing blurring of work/leisure boundaries. Sadly, he opines, this leaves us with the awful term coined by US sociologist Dalton Conley, 'weisure'.

That's surely beneath contempt.

Anyway, Burkeman concludes that, though it may seem a contradiction in terms, we should pay as much attention to 'scheduling' a productive weekend or evening as we would our work. This way, he contends, we won't end up 'spontaneously' watching TV of an evening and entering a "half focused, barely enjoyable state of passivity. Or, as I shall henceforth be calling it, 'peisure'."


Tuesday, 2 June 2009

The simple pleasures...

That's a lot of serious photographic kit to be bringing ashore for just the one afternoon. We, on the other hand, are content with the phone's camera and a bag with some more desirable items: a flask, baguette, tin mugs, sun cream, swimming things and, of course, a bar of chocolate.

Happy days.