Saturday, August 30, 2008

There's GOLD in them, thar hills!

What an excellent day. (Overall, bad weather and "christians" aside: more later!)
I went to Cononish, to the disused goldmine there which has never produced a single gram of commercial gold. It is just to the South West of Tyndrum in some very striking and wild countryside. In some ways, it is a bit surprising that the project was allowed to go ahead in the way it did as it is a complete blot on the landscape:

Cononish Gold Mine Visit 27

The big light-coloured scar in the middle of the picture is the workings. They are right next to the Allt Eas Anie waterfall:

Cononish Gold Mine Visit 12

(I've been reading Fay Godwin's book "Our Forbidden Landscape" which is all about the nasty side of the British countryside, about how money lets any industry do exactly as it pleases. I am not against mining for gold, but I am against doing it in a way which wrecks the environment.)

The site itself is fairly interesting:

Cononish Gold Mine Visit 23

and I picked up some samples of rocks and some discarded rusty steel items.

Cononish Gold Mine Visit 1

I went on my favourite mountain-bike, the titanium Rock Lobster (shown above), then went on a hike to Ben Lui to try and find a plane wreck which is supposed to be there. I failed miserably, probably on account of the fact that I was using an old Garmin forerunner to navigate!

The weather was bad but not as bad as it could have been! It mostly rained lightly, though at above 600m, it was permanently damp and murky with drifting low cloud affecting visibility.

A long and tiring day, but I feel great, though I am very aware that I am not "bike fit" anymore. Time to get that back properly.

I don't mind saying that I dread using public transport. Recently, due to the high costs of petrol, I've been travelling by public transport a bit more: against my better judgement, my horror of neds and/or chavs playing bad hip-hop on tinny speakerphones, drunkenness and the danger of physical attack.
Bear that in mind as this story progresses.
The trip to Tyndrum by train is about 2 hours long. It was fairly busy this morning and my spirits sank slightly when two "lads" sat opposite me with a large bottle of vodka. Of course, they proved to be the most pleasant company, engaging everyone in conversation to the point that people moved to the end of the carriage where I was sitting. It made the journey pass really quickly.
The trip back, however, was quite a different matter...
I got onto the train with my bike and put it in the requisite bike rack then went into the fairly busy carriage to find a seat. I sat down next to an elderly, respectable-looking couple (she was wearing a "Pringle" jumper and pearls) and encountered tuts and huffiness. I explained that I wanted to sit there as it meant I could keep an eye on my bike.
The woman went mental. Completely mental. She started shouting and screaming about how there were loads of seats in the carriage and how I should "grow up" and that nobody would steal my "stupid bike".

Then she kicked me.

Like a spoiled, stupid schoolgirl who hasn't got her own way, she kicked me.
I pointed out that she didn't need to kick me and she went off on one again. Eventually I had just had enough and asked her to calm down, "just listen to yourself". She asked me "Who do you think you are, god?" and before I had the time to answer, off she went about how I probably didn't even believe in god and how she was a christian and then started quoting the bible at me.
"This train is full of bampots!" she shouted.
At which I pointed out that she was the biggest bampot of all. That shut her up. Well, I think that maybe her husband kicked her under the table.

At no point was this woman less than perfectly spoken: she may have been screaming like a harpy but she never swore or made a grammatical error, she never stammered or ran out of steam. It was a remarkable performance, a mixture of hysteria and control, the like of which I have never seen before.

What is most remarkable is that on the surface, she looked like a "respectable member of society". In fact, she is a dangerously unhinged lunatic.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

End of the Week

I've been too busy to post recently. It's all go at the workshops and I've not even made anything very much recently, which is maddening (especially as there is a cracked cast-iron ring on my bench, waiting to be made into something).

Still, it's the end of the week and I've decided to take my favourite mountain bike - the titanium custom-built "Rock Lobster" - off to the hills, regardless of the weather. The poor thing has been neglected and hasn't been ridden off-road since early spring, which is disgraceful. I was a bit worried when I went to service it as the hydraulic brakes appeared to have seized up, but a bit of work and a change of brake-pads and it was all back to normal. I'm going to take a GPS unit with me too, so if the weather is OK, it will be geotagged photographs when I get back!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

The Demise of Western Civilisation

I heard on the radio last week that UNESCO were so concerned about the relentless "development" of Edinburgh that they are sending out inspectors with a view to removing its status as a World Heritage Centre. Yesterday in Edinburgh proved very enlightening for three reasons:

  • 1Me and Clive discovered the trashed shell of the old tram works at Leith;

  • I chatted to a lovely woman - Sharon - who adores her city of birth and who is very active on local environmental issues, in the broadest sense; and

  • I found out the real - and rather obvious reason - that the highly unpopular, though allegedly "environmentally friendly", tram is being built.

  • This final point is probably the easiest to deal with. The tram will run from the Scottish Executive building in Leith to the Airport. Billions of pounds and endless disruption to make it easier for the self-serving idiots of the "Scottish Government" to leave the country by very environmentally unfriendly plane. (This, remember, is the same group of people who cozied up to Donald Trump after Aberdeen local council - wisely - turned down his plans for yet another golf-course on environmental grounds.)

    On the second point, Sharon was telling me about the redevelopment of the Forth Canal which runs past her house, a fine remnant of the industrial heritage of Scotland. What the canal needed was cleaning up. What it did not need was badly-built, monotonous "luxury flats" and useless, overpriced restaurants and cafes which nobody will visit. At one of the development meetings, where the local residents said that they didn't want cafes but wanted workshops for stonemasons and blacksmiths and the like, one of the councillors said "But it will be an upmarket cafe. It will be Starbucks."
    I will let that stand without comment.

    Further to my post earlier in the month about the Tinsley Cooling Towers, it was saddening to see the destruction of the Leith tram works, a beautiful Victorian industrial building just off Leith Walk. Clive and I walked about for the best part of an hour, exploring the labyrinth of passageways under the building as well as the visible bits above the ground. To give you an idea of what has been destroyed, this picture sums it up:

    Leith Tram Works Interior

    This is the reason Edinburgh might well lose it's status with UNESCO. The relentless trashing of the past, replacing it with this sort of plastic nonsense:


    and worse. Such as the replacing of it with Starbucks, George Wimpey "Homes", Gap and the generic corporate blandness of everywhere else in Europe.

    I went to the Edinburgh Military Tattoo last night.

    Edinburgh Military Tattoo, 2008, 2

    I wouldn't pay for a ticket for this - though loads of people would; it has been running every year for 60 years with every show sold out - but as Clive managed to get me a backstage pass and I could watch it from the follow-spot gantry for free, it was well worth going to. Though it is basically an offensive exercise in military bombast with sickening shows of the nastiest sort of "patriotism", there were some excellent displays of precision marching and military bands.

    Sickening Nationalism

    Especially good were the New Zealand Majorettes, who were quite simply the most precise human performers I have ever seen, closely followed by the very striking Norwegians. Both the Norwegians and the Singaporeans were the most musically interesting. Prize for utter boredom goes to the Indian Army for marching up and down and up and down and up and... playing the dullest tunes imaginable! I think they need some lessons from the Bollywood Brass Band!

    Clive tried to make pancakes using the heat of one of the lighting units:

    Edinburgh Military Tattoo, 2008, A Light Pancake

    Sadly, it didn't quite work as the wind was so high that it cooled the pan instantly.

    Went on Mark's "Literary Pub Tour" last night too. I couldn't stay for all of it, but it has grown and improved over the time since I last saw it many years ago and is worth seeing. I was very pleased to be able to talk one of the others on the tour OUT of visiting glasgow, persuading her she would be safer and have a more enjoyable time staying in Edinburgh for an extra two days. After all, in Edinburgh you almost certainly won't be attacked in the street at 7.30pm as I was in glasgow on Friday last, coming out of the office where I work as a volunteer.

    Thursday, August 21, 2008

    Britney's Trichologists!

    It is not often that spam emails have made me laugh out loud but one today did. Reading through the subject lines to make sure that something important hadn't been filtered out by mistake, I found this:

    "Hair extensions glue may be affecting Britney's brain, claim trichologists"

    The mind boggles as to why someone thinks that they can make money out of such nonsense. It has to be said that I didn't open the mail to see what was in it, but it is the nature of spam that it has to be about making money.

    Been doing some work in the workshop today. I started another trio of earrings, this time using rusted roofing nails and different colours of moonstones. They should be finished tomorrow.

    Listening to Charlemagne Palestine's marvellous "Schlingen-Blangen" at the moment, a long drone-piece which is really very beautiful.

    Tuesday, August 19, 2008


    We are about to have an enormous storm! I can hear it rumbling in the distance and the rain at the moment is tropical. I got completely drenched on my bike on the way home.

    Had a look at an "Iliad" e-book reader today. Didn't like. For £400 you get something which feels like it has the build quality of a pound-shop item. I'm pretty sure that it isn't actually that bad, but on the test model I was looking at, the "nudge" bar to move the pages forward and backwards failed to turn the page more often than it succeeded. In addition, the screen is rather too shiny to be readable at low angles or if the lights aren't exactly right. It's a bit like reading a glossy magazine, in that respect. Add to that a delay of several seconds to "turn" a page and a paltry 256mB of storage for books and you have a product that just won't sell. Not to me, anyway.

    I love the idea of an e-book. I read a LOT of books and it would be excellent to be able to carry several in one small package, but this is not it. I will eventually buy an e-book reader but it needs to be better made, have a perfectly matt screen, a higher capacity and a more speedy interface. It would be quite nice if it were available in a left-handed model too.

    Having looked at Janos' latest creation, the Mariana Trench Ring:

    I realised that I have never actually made a poison ring myself. Started work on one today. No pictures yet, but it is based on Hamilton Mausoleum, uses the antique blue glass liner from a mustard pot and is going to be engraved with the words:

    Vestra labiae sunt veneficus virus

    (In honour of Jo!)

    Sunday, August 17, 2008

    Saucy Doxy!

    You don't really need to actually set foot in an arts venue to enjoy the Edinburgh Festival. Wandering about on the High Street at any time of the day is guaranteed to entertain, especially if you have the time and leisure to let the incredibly busy crowd carry you along (ie: don't actually try to get to somewhere, you will fail!) This was my favourite sight of the day yesterday:

    Oh, Milady!

    I also really enjoyed this strange sight. The tall woman had been dancing and talking to the crowd, the woman in lederhosen had been playing the accordion and here they are just taking a rest from the stresses and strains of modern performance:

    Red Letter Day

    Got to see Mark and Jeff again. Mark is doing a reading today and is working at the Science Festival and Jeff has a show on at Stourbridge, not Edinburgh, so he had to go there this weekend.

    Prissy CityLink

    Due to the high cost of petrol, I've decided to swallow my pride and travel by public transport to and from Edinburgh. I thought it might be fun to write a blog entry taking advantage of the free WiFi on the bus. However I can't write what I would like. For some reason, all my photographs on Flickr are deemed "inappropriate" by the web-filtering software.

    Setting aside the fact that on no level could my pictures of Edinburgh festival things be deemed "inappropriate", who, exactly, does this benefit? Why is such random filtering in place? Is it meant to protect us? Or is it a lame attempt for the bus company to cover it's ass against the endless idiots who seem to be prepared to make life difficult for anyone who defends free speech.

    It makes no difference how they dress it up: THIS IS CENSORSHIP.

    Anti-liberal, anti-freedom, anti-intellectual.

    It is by the acceptance of these multitudes of small losses of freedom that we ultimately find ourselves enslaved.

    Tuesday, August 12, 2008

    Kinder Surprised

    I have always thought that Britain and America were the home of legislation protecting the stupid, thus preserving and nurturing the 'moron' gene and lining the pockets of litigious lawyers whilst stamping out anything which smacks of "fun" or "thrill" and which might appeal to normal members of society. It was, therefore, somewhat surprising to read (in 'The Times') that Germany has decided to ban "Kinder Surprise" chocolate eggs. On the grounds that children might choke on them.

    Despite the fact that no child has ever choked on them.

    The Tinsley Cooling towers are being demolished:

    These are amongst my favourite buildings in the UK, being both monumental and elegant. I'm not really sure why it is that the UK is so completely obsessed with destroying the "dark, satanic mills" upon which the modern nation was built.

    I like to imagine it is some sort of collective embarrassment at the fact that the country no longer makes anything, preferring instead to toady about in the 'service industries', doing pussy-nancy paperwork jobs as wage-slaves and pretending to be superior because nobody has dirty hands and nobody works up a sweat.

    Who rattled my cage?!

    Friday, August 08, 2008

    Back Home Again

    Well, that's the summer officially over for me. I am back in glasgow with work again on Monday. Not that I'm really bothered about that: I've found loads of new materials to work with (pictures soon) and have a couple of orders to complete. It is always a bit of a wrench to leave Brighton at the end of the summer, though.

    In case you don't follow Dingo's blog as well as mine, I thought that I would draw your eye over to his latest picture entry!

    Early night for me.

    Wednesday, August 06, 2008

    Now With Titles!

    Dingo pointed out that my blog was very difficult to navigate in a reader because of the lack of titles. I've remedied that now!

    Back in Brighton from Bournemouth.

    It has to be said that I am giving the return to the "British Holiday" this year only. No matter how expensive flying becomes next year, it would still have been cheaper by far to take a holiday abroad. Lunch for two (sandwiches and a non-alcoholic drink): £15. We spent over £25 in parking fees for two days. Entrance to Corfe Castle: £7.50 each. The holiday was most enjoyable and I don't regret doing it but there is no way that it was worth the money spent.

    Friday, August 01, 2008

    I've finally got full internet access back. We've been touring round Dorset for the last few days and were staying in the lovely RNLI College, which doubles as an hotel out of term time. It was quite luxurious and good value, but the internet access was filtered and I wasn't allowed to upload photographs, which is annoying. The views from the room were all over Poole harbour:

    View from RNLI College 3

    We've been all over the place on the Purbeck peninsula, which is beautiful and very interesting. Lullworth Cove is beautiful and there is a fossil forest:

    Lullworth Cove

    Fossilised Trees 1

    The weather has been really odd, alternating very hot days with cool and wet ones. Today looks like a cool and wet one. It was SO hot the day we went to Arne that I had to have a sleep in the middle of the day:


    That was the same day I got really excited about finding some "Dodder", the marvellously-named parasitic plant on gorse. It was in flower too. This is a plant I have only ever read about before:

    Cuscuta epithymum

    We also went to Tyneham to see the "ghost village" which was surprisingly dull after the initial shock of finding a whole village with nobody in it! Dingo tried to play the piano in the schoolroom: most of the keys were silent:

    Playing for Queen and Country

    I got a lovely mail today from Giuseppe in Genova, enclosing a picture of the bracelet I made for him earlier in the year:

    Anchor Bracelet

    It's really nice to get feedback from people who wear my jewellery.

    Loads more photographs on my Flickr pages, link on the left.