danieldwilliam: (machievelli)
My Lovely Wife has been away in Holland on a singing holiday. The Captain and I were left to our own devices for the week. MLW left on Monday morning. We continued to have visitors. BB and one of the Captain's grown up cousins were staying. BB took the Captain to school on Monday and Tuesday and collected him on Tuesday. We headed round to my dad's for tea on Monday after he had picked up the Captain. Sunday saw BB and my nephew going to see a rather good comedy magician called Pete Firmin. He for some reason reminded me of George Formby. Or at least how I imagine George Formby would have been. Had he been a comedy magician. He was entertaining.

We also went to see Chris Turner, a cousin on the other side of the Captain's cousin. As Robin Williams might have put it O Cousin of My Cousin.

http://www.christurnercomedy.com/about/

Chris is a philosphical stand up and freestyle rapper. He makes me think and his show is multi layered and many textured. It also had a picture of the Captain's cousins in the bath.

On Wednesday I went out for dinner with my dad and his oldest friend. Couple of beers in Summerhall then grilled meaty delights in Hanedan's. Good to see my dad's mate.

Grown up cousin left on Tuesday. BB left on Wednesday.

I had many early nights and did about a dozen loads of washing and cleaned the bathroom. The Captain and I went for a ride on our new tag-a-long tandem. It works but it will take some getting used to.

University update - BB has a place at university. Not her first choice despite getting an A* in the subject she's planning to study. Hey ho. She'll enjoy where she's going.

I was very impressed by how quickly and forcefully she reacted to not getting her first choice. It took her less than two hours to sort out a place following what I know would have been a great disappointment to her. When it mattered she executed. I'm very proud of her for all the hard work she's put in and very pleased that it has worked out well in the end.

I watched Deadpool last night whilst MLW was out at choir. It was perfectly acceptable. The actiony bits were action-packed. The promised levels of sarcastic witty banter were wittily sarcastic. The darker tinged plot was tinged a touch darker than I might have expected from a superhero movie. It had a begining, a middle and an end and competently started in the middle, moved to the begining and worked up to the end. I quite enjoyed it.

I feel like I might have missed something. I'm not a comic book fan or a fan of superhero fiction so I'm probably not seeing amusing subversions of the genre or I'm underestimating the appeal of a character I'd not heard of till I saw him on the side of a bus. I fully accept that I may not be the target audience for the film. It provided a good level of diversion and entertainment after a long week Captain Wrangling
danieldwilliam: (machievelli)
A sunny weekend.

Saturday saw the Captain and I take on a morning of sporting endevour.

Soccer at 9.30 for an hour. He wasn't keen on going and had to be strong-armed in to it but had a lovely time once we'd walked out of the house and across the road to the football training. His team won the kick about. He was very pleased although not as pleased as one of his fellows who did a great header.

Later that morning to Rugbytots for the first session of the new term. The class is expanded with about half a dozen kids moving up from the younger class. They had no idea what they were doing. The coach's mantra that rugby is a simple game - you run forward and pass backwards seemed to be one concept too many for them. I'm sure they will get the hang of it in a few weeks.

That afternoon the Captain had a birthday party and MLW was machinating on something with other parents so I had a nap.

I was invited to join the Captain for his evening bath and we had a good chat about what it was like at primary school when I was his age.

Sunday saw us go to a trampolining birthday party and then on to Dirleton Castle. Dirleton Castle is a medaevil castle near North Berwick. It was built in the 13th Century, modified in the 15th Century and again in the 16th Century before being put out of commission by Cromwell in 1650. Largely it seems to have been home to some of Scotland's Troublemakers in Chief including some family who were involved in the murder of Riccio and the attempted kidnapping of James VI. It would have been an effective castle in its day and when modified it looked like an not unpleasant country house. After Cromwell broke it the grounds were bought up by a neighbour who built a country house nearby and the castle mouldered away - an unnecessary and outmodded form of defence.

The Captain had been there with holiday camp a few weeks before and acted as our guide. Mostly showing us where the latrines were. This seemed to be a particular fascination of his. He did a fine job of showing us round. He'd remember lots from his last visit and was very able to talk about the castle and his visit. He enjoyed the murder holes and the latrine holes and the prison pit. Generally, holes. MLW liked the new bits. I liked the orginal storage cellars where, because there was no money in feudal Scotland, the rent was kept after being harvested. The highlight of the visit was the Captain rolling down the side of the moat, including one epic slide on his back, headfirst. The Boys Brigade were very taken with the Captains grass sliding prowess.

We shared our visit with about 150 Boys Brigade members on a combined troop outing. We kept out of their way as much as possible. We did manage to get ourselves trapped in the main hall with them between us and the door whilst the leader promised them a sermon from some visiting minister and started giving them a warm pitch about how their discipline and Christian faith would stand them in good stead when times got hard. That being as it may we decided it was time to cut our loses and make good our escape but we had to walk behind and then in front of the speaker and then carefully through the ranks of the Lothians combined Boys Brigade. I'll say this for them all, their discipline and Christian faith certainly helped the chief keep going in the face of our walk out. He didn't miss a beat.

The Boys Brigade had laid on some entertainments for themselves so we got to watch an archery demonstration and then some novice archery. As informative and amusing as you'd expect. The Captain was well taken with the notion. It took some effort to keep the Captain from basically standing behind the butts shouting encouragement. Honestly, I think he believes himself to be indestructable.

The Captain and I spent a happy hour in the sunshine perched on the rock escarpment below the walls looking at slaters and talking about paleontology and Oliver Cromwell.

Home via a Chinese buffet.

I watched a Stewart Lee stand up routine and then Death in Paradise before bed.
danieldwilliam: (machievelli)
Here follows a short and fluffy update on my holiday.

Family Visits

My sister and brother in law were in town for Easter. My youngest brother popped in for the weekend on his way to working offshore. He dropped off his dog for dad and the Captain to look after. Bluebird visisted for her last Easter holiday before the access arrangements expire. Dad had returned from Australia.

So I cooked lunch. Dad cooked lunch. Then I cooked lunch again. Lunch was eaten. One of the lunch was a pre-birthday tea for BB, who turns 18 soon.

Then BB went on a three day Introduction to Cookery course at the New Town Cookery School. It seemed to do the job of introducing her to foundational techniques so she can cook with confidence when at uni. Money well spent if it helps her manage her budget and eat properly, healthily and enjoyably. Judging by the quality of the food that came back she's learnt a lot.

Friends

Caught up with some old uni friends and their four children on Sunday. A pleasant lunch and a short walk followed by an ice cream. Four children are ruinously expensive.

Andy nearly joined us for one of the lunches after setting fire to his kitchen.

Drinking

Enjoyed some wine from Naked Wine and had a Grasshoper now that I've tracked down some white Creme de Cacao. Delicous stuff. Had a delicious bottle of Moet et Chandon 1998 to celebrate BB's birthday. Very delicious.

Modelling

Took delivery of my new painting station from Hobby Zone of Poland. The painting station itself is superb. Took about an hour to assemble with a little help from MLW. Holds all my paint. It should allow me to do painting in shorter bursts and the tidy up quickly so that I can do more in the evening without MLW feeling like she's living a Warhammer shop.

However, it doesn't fit in the box that I thought it would by about 5mm. I'd clearly measured the internal dimensions of the box incorrectly. This is a bit of a blow but good will triumph over evil. I've found an online bespoke cardboard box shop so I can have a box that fits perfectly in to the space I want to put it, which will contain the painting station and some other things and be out of the way and tiday.

Gardening

My Lovely Wife and I spent a few days in the garden. Mostly this was tidying up after the winter. The flat is on a corner over looking a park so lots of leaves get blown into it. Excellent mulch but there is a need to clear them away. A bit of pruning. Well quite a lot of pruning. MLW had stern words with the Naughty Clematis and I tackled the Excellent Good Rose. I'm redirecting its energies along the wall. I did manage to get myself entangled in it with a nasty combination of thorns under my arm and in my wrist.

Other pruning and staking and re-shaping happened. Generally the garden looks like someone cares for it now.

We got the trellis for the Corner Clematis up on the wall. This has been a job in the offing for several years. I hope the Corner Clematis now thrives in a it's blowsy purple way. Along side the Corner Clematis went a bird house. Bets are invited on how long this survives being stolen.

We also planted some plants. We have a new flowering cherry with interesting gnarly branches to replace the dead Yellow Broome. A nice white early flowering upright shrub and a striking evergreen perential with bright green and white leaves. Some new wallflowers and some bedding plants for the planters.

Board Games

With my sister and brother in law up there were board games.

I played the following

Power Grid for the first time. Long game but interesting. Put aside three hours or more to play it. We broke our session with dinner.

Blueprint - second time. A game based on architecture. Short game (30 minutes or so). Nice mechanic. Not deep. I feel it's going to be a pleasant warm up game, or one The Captain can join in with.

Camel Up - a short funny betting game based on a camel race. The Captain did really well with the betting and the counting. Particularly when the game is for 8 year olds and older.

Ticket to Ride Europe with the 1912 expansion pack. We tried one of the new sets of card. It worked well and Bluebird through a combination of luck and judgement managed the family highest ever score with a series of about a dozen new route draws towards the end of the game. For a few minutes I thought she was going to top 200 points.

Tsuro came out for some Captain gaming.

Machi Koro with the Harbour and the (new to me) Millionaire's Row Expansion Packs. The game works very well with the Harbour expansion. I consider that the base game. Millionaire's Row changes the ethos of the game. The base game doesn't have many opportunities to agrressively interfere with other players. Millionaire's Row gives you the opportunity to disrupt them in several ways. It makes the game more interactive but sneakier. I liked it, the rest of the family less so.

I return to work having had a good week off.
danieldwilliam: (machievelli)
I had a very nice Christmas and New Year which I am now declaring closed.

A combination of a deliberate policy of doing an acceptable minimum coupled with general bonhomie and goodwill to all men meant that the whole period was both restful and enjoyable.

BB and my sister came for Christmas. MLW and I hosted the family (Dad, sister, BB, the Captain, her and me) to Lithmas dinner on Christmas Eve.

Herring by Jolly's of Orkney. Other fish and wine by Lidl. Vodka supplied by the back of the drinks cabinet. My sister, building on experience from last year did not get completely trollied by accident this year.

Christmas Day was our now traditional non-catering day. We don't cook a big dinner. I'll cook brunch for whomever is about before we open presents and then it's a your choice of leftovers, cheese and chocolates. Everyone got nice presents. I got some board games which I'll post about separately.

On Boxing Day dad hosted us for lunch.

There follows a hiatus whilst everyone eats leftovers and plays with new toys and so on. Andy came round for an afternoon of games. Other people may have visited. BB and my sister left for the south.

Hogmanay saw MLW and I hosting my dad and his new wife. We roasted some quail (Lidl again) and then watched the fireworks over the Castle from the Links. More people there than usual this year I thought.

Lunch round at Dad's on New Year's Day with him, my new step mum, my brother (and his dog) and two old friends of my dad's (former MP's).

I had a few more days off work before going back to the office - so I was very well rested and that has helped lots and lots.

Altogether a good break.

Extended festivities then rolled on to My Lovely Wife's birthday which, for this year only, included a celebration of my own birthday and our tenth wedding anniversary. We hosted a ceilidh, invited lots of people, had a dance, enjoyed a delicious and surprisingly romantic cake.

Most relatives came and my mum stayed on for a few days to catch up after her Christmas in Australia. She leaves today (earlier than I thought but she's keen to get on with her next adventure).

All in all the weeks of the dead of winter have been relaxed and enjoyable.
danieldwilliam: (machievelli)
A busy but enjoyable weekend.

On Saturday a trip to London to the Unlock Democracy AGM. It's always right to get a feel for the tempreture of the members on certain topics and good to meet up with other activists from around the country. Something I don't think happens enough.

On Sunday MLW was musically engaged with a "performance" with the church choir that she deps in to and attending a concert in the evening. The Captain and I had errands of mercy to run. The Captain and I set about our tasks with gusto. First to my drama group's lock up to help with moving set and props for this week's show. The usual standing around waiting for a van and the plan to turn up. In the end not a lot to move but a smaller van than usual. The Captain was incredibly good. He carried things, picked up things that had been knocked over, kept out of the way when dangerous things were being moved.

He loved the costume store and we played hide and seek there whilst waiting for the van to complete a round trip. He checked all the swords, daggers, pikes, spears, haberds He was charming and well mannered, if a little taciturn.

Pal (to the Captain): Hello, what is your Name?

Captain: Captain.

Pal: and how are you today Captain?

Captain: Good.

Pal: How old are you?

Captain: Five

Pal: Would you like to know my name?

Captain: No. Thank you.

He wants to come and see the show. It is an Alan Aykbourne play about failing marriages and Dungeons and Dragons and starts after his bed time.

After this we strolled across the Meadows to help my dad assemble a bed in his new flat. Again, the Captain lifted and carried. He's very strong. He even had a go with a screwdriver. I honestly thought he'd be slow and ineffective but he was actually better with getting in the screws than his grandad.

Home before the rain came back. We finished some constuction work on a marble run and listened to some music before we settling down on the sofa with a movie for an early tea of pizza and Indian snacks before MLW went to her concert. She got back just in time for the Strictly results show.

I was a bit surprised by the result. I thought Carol probably had another week in her before her warm public support met her lack of finesse as a dancer and she ended up in the dance off. More suprised to see Kelli and Kevin there but it's an aspect of the voting system that in the middle stages of the competition that votes can be spread thinly and catch out a few good contestants.

In a straight contest between a couple I think will be in the final and Carol it was a foregone conclusion (and nice to see the judges not pretend it was a difficult decision when it clearly wasn't). Farewell Carol.

The Captain, staying up past his bedtime to watch the results, managed to get himself sent summarily to bed during the last two minutes of the programme. He'd been warned several times about throwing things around in the family room, what with glasses and plates and hot food and so on. Just as Carol was eliminated he found a rubber ball in his pocket.

Captain: What would happen if I threw this?

Me: Just like the koala or the frog or the other ball and all the other stuff you've been warned about, you'd be straight to bed.

Captain: Just straight to bed? No second chances?

Me: No, immediately to bed.

Captain: *throws ball*

Me: *picks up Captain* Good night.

Captain: But I don't want to go to bed. I want to see the dancing programme...

There followed an evening of Sunday night television including an exciting episode of Downton Abbey. It really is the most searing political satire of our age.
danieldwilliam: (machievelli)
Three things make a post and a welcome break from some dull balance sheet analytics.

The Rugby.

MLW, the Captain and I to Newcastle Saturday last to see Scotland play Samoa in the last game of the group stages of the Rugby World Cup.

Rugby is the family sport and we've been following the world cup pretty closely. I haven't seen all of the matches but I know who's played who and what the result was. Those of you kind enough to pay any attention to me on Facebook will have experienced my bafflement at the orang utan and my dismay at the quality and the partiality of the ITV commentary team.

But that is by the by - most of family go to Newcastle's St James' Park to watch the game. Scotland, the favourites, need to win to ensure they qualify for the quarter-finals. Samoa need to win to have any chance of third place and automatic qualification for the next world cup in Japan in 2019.

We travelled by train. A train so filled with Scotland supporters that it felt like the bar at Teucthars. So many Scotland tops, past and preseent it felt like a montage of Murrayfield Past, Present and Yet to Come. Not a seat unbooked on the train. We left at 11.00, arrived at 12.25, in time for a short walk to China Town for an all you can eat buffet at Lau's (a well made recommendation of f3f4 of this parish - both digitally and IRL).

This is not the first rugby match in Newcastle I've been to. I am a Falcons' fan of many decades standing. (FAAALC-ons. Who's Gus?) but it was my first trip inside St James - which is a magnificent stadium. The main stand is tall, highly raked and has a fabulous clear roof, making it both snug and a cauldron of atmosphere. With a capacity of about 50,000 and I'd estimate 30,000 travelling support it felt more like home match than many games at Murrayfield i've been too.

The game was tense. Samoa were clearly trying to pack a whole World Cups worth of skills and tries in to the first half. They scored. We scored. They scored again. So did we. Not since the cavalry revolution of the 5th Century AD has offence proven so dominant over defence. MLW, who had a several pints of beer, was swearing at the Scotland defence, the Samoan backs, the match officials, people in the crowd, me like a Valkyrie who had stubbed her toe, once again, on the corner of the door. In one of the highest scoring matches of the World Cup Scotland and Samoa traded scores with Scotland just doing enough to keep in touch during the first half.

During the second half Scotland had gathered their wits and sussed out a way of playing the Samoan team who had arrived rather than the earlier Samoan team who had lost to South Africa and Japan. This didn't stop them kicking to the corner a few times. This is a practise of which I disapprove, ranking it with incest and English country dancing. The score crept upwards with Scotland gradually gaining a slight advantage, Towards the end of the game I thought they'd won it when Laidlaw scored a try to take Scotland 10 points ahead with five minutes to go. Then I thougt they'd lost it when Samoa immediately hit back with a try of their own. A draw would be uncomfortable.

Scotland hold on for the win.

We then headed to the fanzone to hang out, get some food, watch a bit of the Australia vs Wales game and ride on the dodgems. We stayed a little too long and had to run for our train home catching it with only a minute to spare.

Home by 7.30 we watched the rest of Strictly and then to bed after an emotionally tense day at the World Cup.

The New Flat of My Father

*singing* Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau

My dad has bought a flat. It is on the same park as my flat and about an eight minute walk door to door. Ground floor, main door He becomes the owner on Friday but as a courtesy the vendor has let him have the keys early. So on Sunday MLW, the Captain and I went round to help him do some thinking and planning. The flat is very recently refurbished so needs almost nothing doing to it but the furniture needs planning out.

Gloriously, the flat has a small private courtyard on the south side of the buillding. I've been recruited to do some garden design. I'm thinking fruit trees and birds and comfy sofas. I shall look forward to sitting out there on sunny afternoons in the years to come.

It's nice to have the old boy in the same suburb. I think, with three of his grandchildren in Australia, and one not living with her dad he might as well be as close as possible to one of them. The Captain will be able to walk down to see his grandad on his own within a year or so.

I help him move in a load of furniture this weekend and he'll move in properly over the coming weeks before giving up the rental flat soon.

Iron Sky.

I watched Iron Sky - the movie about Nazis on the Moon. It had it's moments but perhaps the kindest thing that could be said about it is that it is better fantasy movie about cartoon Nazis than Inglorious Bastards by Quentin Tarantino.

I'm glad to have seen it but mostly so I can now divide my life in to a period in which I may be tempted to watch Iron Sky (now, blessedly the past,) and a period in which I will not be tempted to watch Iron Sky (the future).
danieldwilliam: (machievelli)
What am I doing at the moment.

Lots of things.

New job is taking up lots of my thinking space. It's enjoyable being back in a dynamic part of the private sector.

I've been working on the Unlock Democracy strategic plan 2016-2026. That's hard work. It's been difficult to get people to engage over the election and it's difficult to come up with a common language and framework for what we're trying to do. I am hopeful about the eventual outcome.

I've been doing some thinking about Scottish energy policy with my dad. This is quite good fun (for a geeky version of fun) and it's great to be working with dad on something we both know something about and are interested in.

I've bought a new bike. I have not collected it yet but it is going to be the best bike I've ever owned. I may start riding it to work.

I've booked a summer holiday in Spain. MLW, BB, the Captain and my mum are going to Reus in southern Catalonia for two weeks in August.

It's not leaving much time for acting or improv or reading or writing or gardening but that's okay - there is more time coming just around the corner.
danieldwilliam: (machievelli)
I spent the weekend with my sister , my brother-in-law and Bluebird in Bristol. Well most of the weekend.

I have the quarterly Unlock Democracy Council meeting on Saturday in London, so I got up early, went to London for the day.

A useful and interesting conversation about our strategy immediately after the election and for the coming year. I may have used the words capability and resource about a dozen times. Even when not being an accountant I’m such an accountant.

In between Unlock duties I managed to eat some food, chat with my family, drink some beer and play some board games

On Friday we played Forbidden Island which is a co-operative game based on treasure hunting on a sinking island. You have to work as a team to pick up four MacGuffins and escape the island before it sinks beneath the sea. Quite a simple game but good fun.

On Saturday night we played the Village. This is a competitive game where you try and steer a mediaeval family through three generations of toil. It’s very complicated. Complicated to the point where I was struggling to keep a track of what was going on. Very enjoyable.

We also managed a few rounds of Kingdom Builder, which was fine, enjoyable, but not as exciting as the others.

Finally on Sunday we played Pandemic. Another co-operative game, you have to work together to contain and cure four diseases that threaten to run out of control. This was definitely the pick of the bunch.

It’s made me think about developing a board game of my own and on the trip back from Bristol I made really good progress turning some vague ideas I’ve had into the mechanics for a game. More anon.

Listened to Rumours, whilst trying to explain why Lindsey Bellingham is a bell-end then ear-wormed myself with the Corrs entire back catalogue.

On the journey back I finished Battle Cry of Freedom. Thoughts anon.
danieldwilliam: (machievelli)
I feel very tired.

Last week I was a SQL programming course. I found it very difficult and very tiring. Not sure if this is the only thing going on or if I’m still recovering from the long journeys, excitement and jetlag of the #ZinkusNavigation.

I’ve begun to tune out the referendum coverage. I made up my mind a long time ago and there is no new information that could reasonably be expected that would change my mind. So, I’m confining myself to noticing deficiencies in the No campaign’s ground campaign and wondering what if anything they could have done differently.

Still, it’s all very exciting and great to see so many people engaged with the campaigns.

I’m off down south to see BB this weekend. I’m looking forward to finding out how A Levels are going. Other than that I expect we’ll just sleep in. it barely registers that come Friday England might be a foreign country.
danieldwilliam: (machievelli)
My lovely wife and I watched the end of Festival fireworks on Sunday evening with a bottle of fizz.

We can see Edinburgh Castle from our sitting room, through some trees in the Meadows. So when there are fireworks we can sit on our sofa and watch them.

Watching the end of Festival fireworks is a bit of a tradition in our house. We moved into the flat 8 years ago, on the closing night of the Festival. The first thing we did in our new home was eat fish and chips and drink a bottle of bubbly and watch the fireworks.  Everytime I see them I am reminded that is the anniversary of moving into my home, with my lovely wife and that I am very happy and have lots to be happy about.

I’ve lived in my current home for longer than any other place I’ve ever lived. It beats my previous incumbancy record of 6 years by 33%.

I have moved around a lot, but now I don’t so much.
danieldwilliam: (machievelli)
Here follows a brief report on my weekend.

Thursday – parents’ evening at the Captain’s nursery. He is performing will with some areas for development.  We took home the nursery mascot, Mickey Monkey, for the weekend. So we laid on lots of entertainments for him. Mainly so we could complete the Mickey Monkey diary and keep up with all the other parents.

Friday – went for “a beer” with an old uni mate of mine. “A beer” turned into “many beers” and then became “too many beers and a whisky”. I actually lost count by about one or two.  This is rare for me. Usually, I’m the person in the group reaching for another round when everyone else has given up.

Some nice beer in Cloisters. Billabong Aussie Pale Ale made in Wales. Why not?  Went for Thai in Bruntsfield. More beer in Bennets in Tollcross.  Home.

Saturday morning, perhaps a little off the pace. See above.

Took the Captain to Rugbytots.  He was joining in lots until one of the smaller boys made friends with MLW. At which point the Captain decided he needed to be coached by MLW.

Saturday afternoon we went to the Big Rugby with my dad, my youngest brother, my dad’s best mate.  Arrived very early to a) get a parking space b) avoid the scrum when getting in.  Really enjoyed the match. Very close. We actually played well. Frankly, we were robbed.

The Captain got a bit bored near the end of the second half and wanted to go home. He cheered up when, at half time, I bought him a packet of sweets and a lace from the vintage sweet shop in the ground.  Very happy then.

Saturday night involved a curry out with dad, dad’s mate and my brother. Very nice curry restaurant in Newington called Patakas.  Very nice food, bit upmarket. Mackintosh vibe to the décor. Definitely the nicest and best posh curry restaurant within walking distance of my house.

On Sunday, my dad’s mate took us to Jamie’s Italian.  MLW and the Captain had a birthday party for one of the Captain’s friends. They went to Pizza Express instead. So in the end it was just me joining dad, my dad’s girlfriend, dad’s mate and his niece (who works there).  Lovely food, superb service, delicious digestif Tuaca – mmh the scent of vanilla and lemons.

Basically we spent the weekend eating delicious food and watching rugby.

When I picked the Captain up from nursery on Tuesday I found out he’d been running his own RugbyTots session during their PE lesson that afternoon. Showing people who to kick the ball from a tee. Wish he’d been teaching the current Scotland team.
danieldwilliam: (machievelli)
The whole of England appears to be underwater.

I find it very interesting.

Mainly because about one third of my family live in the South West.  My daughter lives in north Wiltshire, my sister in Bristol, my aunt in Cheltenham and my mum in Cornwall.

So far none of them have been directly affected or at least not very much.

Mum’s village was cut off by flood water and the local shop flooded. Mum’s house is two thirds of the way up the hill so she wasn’t affected but joined in with the community efforts to move the shop to the pub. She is very excited. She loves a good crisis.

My aunt’s backyard was filled with water by a squall a few weeks ago.  A truly torrential downpour of water swept over Cheltenham and then Bristol (where I was at the time). It set of car alarms in the my sister’s street. My aunt’s yard is a quite small courtyard and the drains were momentarily overwhelmed by the volume of water, but it didn’t quite reach the top of the doorstep and ran off down the hill on which she lives as quickly as it had come.

I think my daughter’s village has seen high rivers and a little localised flooding but nothing major. Again, she lives half way up a hill.

So I think everyone I know will be okay but I can imagine they are a bit tense.

I’m down in that part of the country this weekend. Following in the damp footprints of England’s Glorious Leader I shall bring hope to millions by promising to leave soon.

The politics is fascinating but that’s a post for another day.
danieldwilliam: (acting)
I have spent the weekend visiting my aunt with Bluebird.

For details of my weekend and theatre review )
danieldwilliam: (Curly Wurly)
So, Iain Banks has died. It is not often that two of the best novelists of our times die on the same day. Banks is the first of the great novelists of my time that I'll miss.

As my dad put it in a text message to me. “Very sad to hear of Iain Banks’ death. He’s given us a lot of pleasure and would have writen a lot more.”
There are no spoilers here. Not any more. )
The Culture was a place I wanted to live. A place where I and everyone I knew would be much better off and much better.

What I hoped for in future Culture novels, what I’ll miss, is an exploration of what it was like to be an ordinary Culture citizen going about your life in ordinary times. I wanted to hear the story of the Cultureniks who built the cable car system on Masaq. If the Jane Austen were Banks what would she write?
danieldwilliam: (coffee)
I return to work after a long weekend – Friday and Monday off.  My mum was visiting from Cornwall. When she comes to visit she likes to take on some jobs around the house or garden. This is jolly useful. She’s good at DIY and gardening and it’s nice to have her accumulated skills on hand. She sets a stern pace, which means that things get done. I like to compress jobs into a small period of time and then have time goofing off.  Also, since the Captain was born there are a lot of jobs where having two people on hand is tricky or rather, they become three person jobs.  For example, going up a ladder to put things on top of the wardrobes – two person job without the Captain, three person with the Captain. 

So mum and I and at times MLW and the Captain tackled weeding and pruning for shape and boundary on Friday morning. On Saturday we dismantled the two compost heaps and moved three roses and a Japanese maple. On Sunday we went to the local garden centre and bought some plants. This week I’ll dig them in.  Planting plants is not a two person job and it can also be done in the long Scottish summer evenings.

The garden looks much better with fewer weeds (including a few two year old sapplings – for shame.)  Having the compost heaps moved makes the garden look much tidier, less industrial. They were not really working. Not large enough, not getting enough sun, I was too optimistic about what they’d break down. The worms have done the work of Trojans but ultimately the compost heaps were a disaster and I’ve fired them. What compost they have produced in three years is really good and will be riddled with worm eggs so we’ve spread the compost all over the garden in little heaps ready to spread out.

The roses weren’t working well. One, a climbing rose in the raised bed, next to the fence in the front left corner, had never really prospered where it was.  Perhaps wind, perhaps the wrong aspect. Perhaps I got the initial pruning wrong. I’ve moved it along the fence and down with an eye to running it along the side wall of the flat in the next three years. If it survives and thrives in its new home great. If not, it was actively distracting from the feel of the place where it was. No loss. 

Two other roses were patio roses in tubs by the door. They were doing very well, particularly the one on the side of the door between the door and the compost bins.  They were doing too well.  Very sharp thorns meant that the Captain couldn’t really move around his garden.  So they have both been moved to a currently empty space to make way for some herbs (now planted).  They should appear over and around some clematis along the front left near the gate.

The maple was being eaten by a cottoneaster so I’ve moved it to the space formerly occupied by the climbing rose. It seems to like it there.

So all is rosy in the garden.

In between gardening tasks we went on a number of outings.

On Friday evening we went to Portobello beach.  The Captain loves the beach and mum seemed surprised that we had such a nice beach in Edinburgh. Ice cream was eaten. We had a Thai takeaway. Very nice.

On Saturday we had a lazy afternoon watching films and drinking beer.  Mum drinks a lot of beer.

On Sunday MLW and the Captain went to a birthday party whilst mum and I went to the garden centre. Mum and I had a bit of a tiff. She was struggling a bit with MLW’s car. She’s usually a very good driver but seemed not to find the SEAT Altea easy to drive on first acquaitance. This seemed to throw her a bit and we had a bit of  a random drive. I think we might have run a red light at some point, we got beeped at twice and went the wrong way down a one way road into the car park. After the second beeping incident I refused to talk to mum so she would concentrate on driving. I was, to be honest, a bit scared we’d end up in a crash.

We got home safely. 

MLW was out on Sunday so mum and I watched Hero with Jet Li. It’s an interesting film with fantastically unreliable narrators and beautiful cinematography.

On Monday we went to Jupiter Artland in the grounds of Bonnington House just to the west of Edinburgh.  This is a privately owned sculpture park. The Captain ran round the path MLW, mum and I looked at sculpture. The Captain seemed to like the sculpture too. He worked out that a series of statues of small girls were sad and he was very taken with a sculpture by Anthony Gormley that he (the Captain) could climb on.

The Captain fell asleep in the car on the way home so we stopped at Crammond so mum, MLW and I could take turns taking the sea air.

Lunch at Jimmy Chungs followed.

Mum went home on Tuesday.
danieldwilliam: (machievelli)

A post on the Advent Memes included a mention of how the writer had the job of setting fire to the Christmas pudding. This is also my job in my family. Here follows a short essay on the process I use to enflame my seasonal dessert.

How I set my Christmas Pudding Alight.

 I think it is important to start with as boozy a pudding as you can manage.  When I’m making my own I generally steep the pudding in as much booze as I can lay my hands on.  If using sultana have at them with a pin to pierce the skin and allow the alcohol to soak into them.  During the maturation process I use a syringe to inject new booze deep into heart of the pudding. This pudding is a Conradesque metaphor for the dual nature of Man as both Good and Evil, Sane and Mad and usually steeped in alcohol.

Upon the day I select the right tools for the job. I have a large broad round headed spoon. I use this spoon as it holds a dram or so or whisky and it is easy to tilt so I can pour burning whisky out of it cleanly and slowly. The pudding plate has a significant camber to it and a promonent lip. I use a lighter with a smooth mechanism. Oven gloves are standing by.

Oh, and alcohol. Brandy is traditional. I like to use rum. The most alcoholic you can find. Cask strength is your friend here. I have some cask strength dark rum I’m keen to use.  Mmmh, the smokey caramel of the rum.

First I make a dent or depression in the top of the pudding by pressing down with the spoon. Gently, it’s important not to break the surface of the pudding or the booze you are about pour into the depression will soak in to the pudding.

Pour some brandy / rum / whisky into this depression and then over the pudding allowing it to form a moat around the base of the pudding. Leave for a moment and then add a little more (some will soak in to the pudding from the first tranche.)  Note Well, that this is only time when depression is enhanced by the addition of alcohol. Generally it responds positively to a range of drugs or over the longer term to a talking cure.

You way wish to place some sprigs of holly on top of the pudding for decorative effect. I don’t and if you do it makes you a heretic.

Position the pudding so that once it is alight it is easy to pick up. Remember, you’ll be wearing oven gloves.  You need the oven gloves to be able to get entirely under the dish or plate so they are out of the way of any flames. This is why I use a dish with a large camber and high rim.

Now is the time to switch off lights in the dining area, clear the gangways of trip hazards like toys, wrapping paper, pets or small loved children.

About this time in the proceedings I am careful to spill some of the pudding booze in to a glass and then drink it. This is a long running Christmas tradition called theft, ahem, I mean quality control.  Usually it is not considered good practise to perform pyrotechnic stunts or heavy lifting whilst drinking but Christmas nullifies all health and safety requirements unless you read the Daily Mail, in which case Christmas in cancelled and has been replaced by a Royal Society Christmas lecture by Richard Dawkins and Abu Quatada. It is also against the laws of physics to injure yourself on Christmas day by drinking too much and being a bit careless. Just ask Abu Quatada or many of the fine A&E doctors on duty in Casualty on Christmas day whose pensions your government recently voted to cut. Drink related Christmas injuries never happen.

Back to the pudding flammery.

Heat the spoon using the lighter.  Get it nice and warm. The flash point for a mix of alcohol and water of about 60:40 is around 22 degrees centigrade. You want the spoon warm enough that it starts to heat any booze poured into to approaching this temperature. Once it is approaching hot carefully pour the rum / brandy / whisky into the spoon. 

A quick word on mixing lighters with open bottles. Don’t.  If the lighter is on the bottle should be closed.  Why? Because a bottle half full of cask strength booze is functionally indistugishable from a Molotov cocktail and one of the few things the Daily Mail and I agree on is the inadvisability of having a Molotov cocktail go off in your kitchen during Winterfest / Christmas* dinner (delete as appropriate).

Clear a space for the pudding to land when it is delivered to the table. Make sure there is a sufficient heatproof protection for the pudding. The flames will be hot. Make sure the pudding can be put down without the pudding carrier having to get any part of their hand above the rim of the pudding, which will be on fire at the time. You really don’t want to be dancing the indecision tango with a flamming hot boozey delicous pudding in your arms.  Unless you are James Jordan.

I strongly advise lighting the pudding with it on a stable flat surface and not whilst holding it. 

Firtly, this makes the lighting of the pudding of a one person job. Everyone else can be seated round the table ready to gasp in amazement as you burn their pudding in front of them. You can retain an assistant to keep the area clear of moving persons and Daily Mail readers. (Try beating them with a rolled up copy of the Weekend FT. Or the Scotsman, let them feel what a proper reactionary paper feels like.)

Secondly, you are much less likely to be surprised by the rush of flame and spill burning alcohol all over yourself.  In a 1970’s British comedy spilling a burning Christmas pudding over yourself is likely to lead to hilarious consequences as the hostess’ dress catches on fire, a well intentioned guest tries to douse the flames with a the ice cold water from the champagne bucket and then ends up tearing off the smoudering frock to reveal the hostess’ seasonal lingerie rendered slightly see through by dint of dampness. This can be played for laughs by having the hostess played by a conventionally unattractive woman who has no right to be clouding the honest heterosexual dreams of the audience by wearing a red and gold tinsel trimed corset and stockings. Or it can be played straight by having the hostess played by a good looking woman whose career depends on having both breasts the same size.  On no account is it to be played not-straight, unless you are Monty Python.

Anyhow, what *will* happen if you spill burning Christmas pudding over yourself is a very nasty set of burns from the neckline down to about your knees. Also your hands, as in your panic you attempt to put out the fire with your bare hands. Unfortunately, due to health and safety legistlation passed since the 1970’s  you are likely to be spared the merciful death of your nylon clothing catching fire, sticking to your skin and killling you.  More likely you will end up gracing one of our fabulous, world class, and free at point of use National Health Service Casualty departments. This makes you a scrounger on our welfare state. You may expect a short wait for treatment as it’s all kicked off at the Royal Society lecture where Abu Quatada has called Charles Darwin “a total dick” and Dawkins, never far away from a slapping at the best of times, has gone for him with a stuffed crocodile shouting something about pantomime villans and sky-fairies.

Back at pudding launch control. You have a pudding on a flat surface, covered in prime booze. Your spoon is hot and has a good dram or two of finest rocket fuel aboard it.  Hold the spoon close to the pudding. Put the lid back on the bottle. Light the booze in the spoon. Hold the lighter underneath and the just to the side of the spoon so the flame licks up over the rim of the spoon. When the booze is properly alight, slowly pour it over the top of the pudding. Don’t splash any. Stand back smartly.

This bad boy is going up like a Saturn V.

Once the initial rush has died down, a few seconds or so after lift off, carefully pick up the pudding and carry it to the table to the delighted oohs and ahhs of your family, friends or the group of homeless people, single mothers and middle eastern refugees you have brought home with you to experience the true meaning of an authentic Christmas.

It should burn for a few minutes.  Don’t attempt to put the flames out. You are likely to spill burning alcohol on to the table.  Just let the flames burn down on their own. 

Once the flames have burnt out cut the pudding into eatable chunks and enjoy.

So to recap.

Think about what you are doing from start to finish.  Don’t forget you are setting fire to a highly flamable liquid in your own home whilst you are slightly drunk.

Put the pudding in the serving dish on a flat stable surface.

Make a dent or well in the top of the pudding.

Pour a lot of booze over the warm pudding. Add a bit more.

Clear a good gangway to the table.

Make sure there is space on the table so you can put the burning pudding down safely.

Be careful with naked flames and open bottles.

Heat the spoon.

Pour a dram of booze into the spoon.

Carefully set the booze in the spoon alight.

Pour spoonful of booze over pudding.

Pick up pudding carefully and carry to the table.

(If you are really safety conscious you may want to do the whole lighting of the pudding at the table. It has less of the dinner theatre about it but is less likely to end up in an operating theatre having a skin graft.)

Merry Christmas, Joyous Winterfest, Happy Hanukah and a superb Saturnalia to you all and to all a good night.

danieldwilliam: (machievelli)

My mother lives in Cornwall. She used to live in Aberdeen (where my sister and daughter were born). After that she lived in Australia.

In recent months whenever she phones she asks about the up-coming independence referendum. These are my favourite 25 Questions my mum keeps asking me about Indepedence and the answers I don’t give her but think quietly to myself.

Q: Will I (my mum) need a passport to visit you (me) in Edinburgh?

A: No, you won’t need a passport because as you’re English you’ll never ever be allowed to visit Scotland every again unless you can produce your Mebyon Kernow membership card.

Q: Will Bluebird (my daughter) be allowed to become Scottish?

A:  She was born in Aberdeen. She’ll be lucky if she’s not deported from Wiltshire as an undesirable alien by that loon you lot elected in 2010.

Q:  Will Scotland even be allowed to be in the EU?

A:  Given a choice between Scotland and England who do you think the EU would rather have?  England will be lucky Jaques De Lors ever sneers at you again.

Q:  Will we (England) be allowed to keep our nuclear submarines at Faslane?

A: Your submarines? *Your* submarines?  When my brother left his motorbike in your garage *you* sold it.  What makes you think we’re not going to put “your” submarines on Ebay as soon as the polls close?

Q: Do you like Alex Salmond?

A: Not only do I like him mother, but, like any true patriot I’m considering letting him impregnate my female relatives.

Q: You were born in Birmingham, will you be alllowed to stay?

A: I lied on my visa application and said I was Australian and you were a refuge from Vietnam. Please try and sound more Asian the next time you visit, you’re blowing my cover.

Q: Will you get to keep the panda?

A: Why do you ask?  Are you still upset that your next door neighbour has blocked out your light with bamboo?

Q: With all those Scottish Labour MP’s gone how will Labour ever win another General Election?

A: Easily, I think the SNP will probably disband after they win the referendum as their internal ideological differences will no longer be overwhealmed by their preference for Independence leaving Labour as the party best reflecting Scotland’s preference for a social democracy.

Q: I meant in England, how will Labour win here?

A: I don’t care. That’s rather the point.

Q:  Will you keep the Queen?

A: No, unlike the submarines you can have the Queen back. Unless she wants to stay.  I would never send anyone to England who didn’t want to go.

Q:  Will you keep the pound or adopt the Euro?

A: Neither, we are going to revert to pre-decimilisation pounds, shillings and pence in a bold move to confound the Daily Mail and make ourselves the retirement location of choice for the over nineties.

Q: Will you still speak English?

A: No, Bunnahabhan, ceilidh tchucther, ceilidh laphroig skien dhu, my hearties.

Q: What about Your Lovely Wife, will she have to move back to England?

A: I’m pretty sure that sure that an EU passport holding, Lithuanian, Oxford educated mother who runs her own business and has owned a flat in Edinburgh for ten years with a post-grad and all her own teeth is going to allowed to stay. She’s lived in Scotland longer than I have. If you are worried I’ll ensure that she is the mother of Scotland’s Rugby World Cup 2035 winning scrum-half. Also, whilst we are on the subject of mothers and deportation could you *please* try and look a little more Asian please?

Q:  Will Scotland be merging with Ireland?

A: Good grief no! Have you seen what those idiots have done to their economy.

Q: Are you sure you like Alex Salmond?  I don’t like him, I think he’s racist.

A: You’re right, he’s a filthy racist. I personally saw him slapping a Spaniard but I’m too cowed by the secret police to say anything. The things he said, mother, to that small Spanish boy. The. Things. He. Said.

Q:  Will Scotland be able to afford free care for the elderly after Indepedence?

A: Of course, we’ll be sending all our old people to live in your village in Cornwall as a condition of helping Mebyon Kernow’s guerilla campagain.

Q: Of course, I’m not really English. I’m Cornish.  I’ll be able to move to Scotland if I want, won’t I

A:  Oh for sure.  In fact we may have a vacancy for Queen if Liz wants to stay in London and Annie Lennox is busy and  if you don’t mind living in rural Aberdeenshire and having tea with Alex Salmond every Monday.

Q:  I mean, if I really want to?

A:  Absolutely mum. What Scotland needs is *more* mad old ladies. We don’t have enough puritan, silver haired “wise” women disapproving of us getting drunk and swearing and elbowing their way to the front of the queue in the post office.

Q: You would let me emigrate wouldn’t you? 

A: What are you talking about. You hate it here. I spend half of every visit you make trying to persuade you to move here so I can look after you and you spend half your time telling me how effing cold it is and how racist Alex Salmond is.

Q: But if the Tories kept winning elections I could come, as a refugee?

A:  Of course, the People’s Democratic Socialist Republic of South Orkney welcomes all political exiles from our former colonies. Tommy Sheridan himself will carry you across the bridge at Coldstream as an act of Solidarity. On the subject of refugees, for the love of god if you don’t keep pretending to be a Vietnamese boat person I’m going to be chained to the Forth Bridge at low tide as an imposter then exiled to Rockall.

Q: Could you afford to bail out RSPB?

A: The bird people? WTF? 

Q:   I mean could you afford to bail out RBS on your own?

A:  Could England?  Didn’t stop you?

Q:  I keep *my* money in the Co-op. Do you have the Co-Op in Scotland?

A: Strangly, the land of New Lanark has heard of the co-operative movement.

Q: What will you do when the Oil runs out?

A: You tell me. You’re going to find out what it’s like to live in a country that used to have oil but now doesn’t much sooner than I am.

Q:  I mean, when the oil runs out will you (me) have enough money to live on?

A:  Oh yes. I’ll be fine. I’ll have murdered you for you my inheritance long before then and MLW and I will be able to move to Barcelona.

Q: I’m not racist, but I really don’t like Alex Salmond.

A:  You are racist and Alex Salmond is a state of mind, not a nation state.

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