Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Flow - An Exhibition of Textile and Mixed Media Art by Maggie Ayres

"Flow" is the 2nd solo exhibition of Maggie's, following on from "Beginnings" earlier this year in Castle Douglas.

This one is at the Tolbooth Art Centre in Kirkcudbright and will running from Wednesday 28th November until Saturday 8th December, from 11am to 4pm every day except Sunday. She's not exhibited here before so we have no idea whether anyone is likely to turn up or not.

To say that life has been a little hectic over the past few weeks would be something of an understatement. Unfortunately with my increased tiredness levels we haven't been able to promote this event to anything like the degree we intended, so if you know of anyone you think might be interested then do let them know.

More information can be found on Maggie's website on the Exhibition page.

And for those who would like a poster of the event, either as a keepsake or to stick in their window, then you can download a PDF version by right-clicking on the image below.

Poster for Maggie Ayres' Flow Exhibition of mixed media and textile art

And of course, if you know anyone who might be interested in signing up to her monthly newsletter, then please point them to:

I've decided that I'm going to sleep through January. Hibernation is the future.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

A little bit of Ayres family history

“Did he ever mention the idea of suicide?” asked the coroner.

“All the time until I told him I was sick of hearing it,” replied Mrs Graham at the inquest of her uncle’s death.

It turns out my great, great uncle, Arthur Ayres, shot himself in the heart in 1934 shortly after his confectionary business failed.

For a year or two my dad’s been researching the family tree, and while he’d found lots of info on his mother’s side of the family, very little was known about the Ayres line. We knew his grandfather had been in a Scottish regiment at some point, so assumed we had a Scottish connection, but that was about it.

However, my father has recently reconnected with a long lost cousin and been finding out all sorts of things about the family history: photos, newspaper clippings and tales of fortunes won and lost. It makes for fascinating reading.

For example my great grandfather, the brother of the unfortunate Arthur mentioned in the snippet of newspaper report above, married Edith Adams, the daughter of one of the wealthiest families in Surrey at the time, the Adams Sawdust Contractors. Apparently, however, Edith’s brothers managed to blow the family fortune when they took it over. Drink problems have been mentioned.

As Maggie wanted to visit the Twisted Thread Knitting and Stitching Show in Harrogate on Saturday, I took the opportunity to drive down to Chesterfield and take the kids to see their grandfather, while Maggie looked for interesting bits of silk fibres to turn into art.

Unfortunately dad’s computer is on the blink so I’ll have to wait a while before he’s able to scan and forward all the stuff I want copies of. However, I do now have a picture of my great grandfather, Charles Sidney James Ayres who was in the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders during the Boer War.

Charles Sidney James Ayres and his Helmet

Do not be fooled by the tartan, however. It turns out that he enlisted with Edith’s brother and was no more Scottish than a cockney barrow boy. In the end, of all the Ayres family, by dint of marriage and location it seems I have the strongest Scottish connection of any of us

Thursday, November 22, 2007

When the wizard turns out to be just a bloke wearing ordinary shoes

One of the big problems with my whatever-it-is-that’s-wrong-with-me, is that I seem to be perfectly healthy in all other respects. My blood pressure is nothing to worry about, my iron levels are fine, I don’t have any strange rashes or high temperatures, I don’t seem to be getting ill any more often than usual, my ribs are obviously making the right noise when the doctor taps them with a cupped hand and when I say “Ahhh” my throat looks clear.

So the only thing that’s actually wrong with seems to be me complaining that I’m tired all the bloody time.

The Specialist was quite happy to diagnose that I’m suffering from Depression, but was less convinced by my idea that the Depression is caused by the whatever-it-is-that’s-wrong-with-me rather than the Depression IS the whatever-it-is-that’s-wrong-with-me.

More simply put:

Specialist: Depression Causes Tiredness
Me: Tiredness Causes Depression

As I’ve only been on these current anti-depressants for 6 weeks (now upped to 40mg per day as from Monday past) the Specialist wants to see how I am after I’ve been on them for another 3 months and they’ve had a chance to really kick in.

The idea is that if my problem is just Depression then within a couple of months all my symptoms should disappear, but if it’s something else then at least we’ll be able to take the Depression aspect out of the equation and see what’s left.

If it does turn out to be Chronic Fatigue Syndrome then there’s not a great deal they can do for me. Apparently some people respond rather well to Cognitive Behavioural Therapy to find ways of dealing with their condition, but it’s a bit of a lottery as to whether there’s a Therapist in your area and how long the waiting list is.

So I don’t feel much further forward than if I’d been told to take 2 aspirin and phone tomorrow.

Where’s the chocolate?


Tuesday, November 20, 2007

We're off to see the Wizard...

This evening I drive up to Peebles to stay overnight with my brother-in-law, so that my trip to Edinburgh to see The Specialist will be less tiring in the morning.

The last few days I’ve been getting increasingly irritated and annoyed about the fact that I know nothing’s going to come of it, the whole trip will be a waste of time and I’ll come away no further forward nor with any idea how to move forward.

Of course it hasn’t happened yet, so I can’t actually know that it’s a waste of time.

Ultimately I have to conclude that this is my fear talking rather than any true sense of prophecy. If I did have any fortune telling abilities beyond random luck, I’d have capitalised on them years ago.

But that’s the problem with fears – they’re damned convincing.

I’ve begun to notice that my sleeping position at night is becoming increasingly foetal in nature. Gone are the days when I would sprawl out, taking up most of the bed.

Monday, November 19, 2007


I am so tired of feeling tired; so weary or feeling weary; so exhausted of feeling exhausted.

Maybe I'll feel better tomorrow

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Just add hot water

When you go for a coffee, right, and they give you a choice between your espresso, latte, americano etc, all they really do is make up an espresso and add bits to it. So your latte is basically just an espresso with hot milk in a tall glass, while your cappuccino is an espresso with frothy milk and a shuggle of chocolate powder on top.

OK, I can accept that. But what really pisses me right off is that your "Americano", or bog-standard coffee as it's known to you and me, is just an espresso with hot water added. Now I could just about cope with that, right, if they didn't want to charge me an extra 50p for it!

So what I've decided I'm going to do, right, is make up a small flask of hot water, which I can carry with me in the large inside pocket of my coat, right? And then I'm going to ask for an espresso... but in a large cup.

Then, once the waitress has turned her back I can top it up with my own hot water and I'll have saved myself 50p.

OK, I can hear you saying that 50p isn't much, but think about it - if I was to do this, say twice a week for a year, then I'd end up saving myself over 50 quid, right?

In fact, we could take this further! If I'm out with someone, I could ask for a double espresso... and 2 large cups.

Sometimes I astound myself with my geniusness.

When I mentioned this to Maggie, she gave me one of "those looks" and told me I ought to talk to my doctor about the meds I'm on. I've heard placebos are very effective so I've decided to ask him to prescribe me some of them.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Guilty of writing dodgy poetry

Were you ever a Punk Rocker when you were younger? Headbanger? New Romantic? Hippy? Skinhead? Did you ever dye your hair an odd colour, or cut or grow it in a non-conventional way? Did you ever have a piercing in some place other than your ear? Did you ever experiment with an illegal drug, or drink alcohol underage?

Did you ever feel alienated from the mainstream? Did you ever find that embracing a dress code or music style or language that your parents and the elder generation would have disapproved of, actually empowered you? Did you ever get a thrill out of shocking people by being/ dressing/ behaving/ saying something outrageous?

Did you ever get together with other people who dressed like you, or listened to your music, or shared your religious or political outlook, and slag off the rest of the world and sneer at the brainwashed masses who were too stupid to question their conventionality, because they just didn’t “get it”?

When I was a teenager, I felt like an outsider; I grew my hair long and wore a leather jacket; I listened to Motorhead, ACDC and anything with screaming guitars; I first drank alcohol in a nightclub 2 weeks before my 14th birthday; in my later teens and early 20s I experimented with substances of questionable legality; I also went on to read many books that questioned society and even the fabric of the universe.

Here in the UK, Samina Malik at the age of 23 has become the first woman in the UK to be convicted under the Terrorism Act, being found guilty of owning terrorist manuals.


The jury heard Malik had written extremist poems praising Osama Bin Laden, supporting martyrdom and discussing beheading... She had posted her poems on websites under the screen name the Lyrical Terrorist, prosecutors said.

Did she blow anything up? No.

Did the police find her with a stack of bombs ready to strap around herself? No.

Did they find her with any bomb making equipment? No.

She was convicted of having articles "likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism".

Given that what we’re really talking about here is someone who is young, feels alienated by her culture, writes obnoxious poetry, has visited and downloaded stuff from a few dodgy websites, and thought that a name like The Lyrical Terrorist “sounded cool” what we’ve really got is a profile that would fit half the people who’ve ever been a teenager.

Don’t get me wrong, I completely and utterly disagree with her sentiments, but if she hasn’t actually committed a crime then she has been convicted for her thoughts and what she has read, and that sounds like an horrific abuse of the Justice system to me.

Was she a suicide bomber waiting to happen? Does your typical terrorist come across as a disaffected youth who likes to post poetry on the Web?

I usually steer clear of politics on this blog, but this case has deeply unsettled me.

Maybe it’s enhanced by the fact that I recently read George Orwell’s 1984, but this has all the classic marks of the Thought Police.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Loadsa Visitas

I was casually strolling down my blog and suddenly noticed that the Sitemeter stats had rather a lot of zeros in it. In fact, it said that I've just passed the 40,000th visitor to this blog.

Now I'll happily admit that a fair few thousand of them are probably me constantly coming to the site to post ramblings, reply to comments, tweak the design and layout, and visit various bloggers from the links on my sidebar.

I did wonder if I could figure out who exactly was my 40,000th visitor, so peering closely at the Sitemeter page, I noticed that the visitor was from Ireland and it seemed to coincide with Conan Drum's comment in the last post, so it's my guess that he's the one.

I would hand out a prize, but there's been recent financial cutbacks in that department. However, Conan - if you're ever in the area, let me know and I'll give you a bottle of beer that's been sitting in the fridge, unopened since I changed the tablets I'm on.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

So tired...

How is it possible to feel so tired and yet the body refuse to claim the amount of sleep it needs?

You would have thought that if you’ve reached a point in the evening where you are struggling to keep your eyes open; where you are having difficulty just standing upright; and your words are slurring as though you’ve had too much to drink; that your body would just sleep for as long as it needs to fully recover if there are no interruptions.

At least that’s what I would have thought.

And yet, for no reason I can fathom, at 4.30am I lie awake, unable to go back to sleep, but not able to fully wake up either. It’s not like my mind is racing and I’m completely alert - I still feel tired, desperately tired, almost sick with tiredness.

For the next 2 hours I float about, periodically drifting into dream states for a handful of minutes, only to resurface, aware of my breathing, Maggie’s breathing, a car driving past in the distance.

Eventually, just before Maggie’s alarm goes off I sit up, propping the pillows behind me and switch on the light. It takes several minutes before I can fully open my eyes.

All I want to do is go back to sleep

But that’s all I’ve been wanting to do for hours and it ain’t gonna happen.

A couple of months ago I filled out a questionnaire the doctor gave me about energy levels and sleeping, and one of the questions was how often I feel fully refreshed after a night’s sleep.

I started at the question for a long time, startled by the implication.

You mean to say that it’s possible to feel refreshed after a night’s sleep? Does that actually happen? I mean, is there a section of the population for whom getting up is a refreshing and pleasurable experience?

I have absolutely no idea what that must feel like.

Tonight I’ll go through it all again.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Storytelling and, though not connected, awards

The Storytellers Blog appears to be growing from strength to strength. There are now 11 stories up by 6 different narrators and 8 different authors, with several other bloggers busy working round the technical challenges of recording and posting their stories for the very first time.

As well as posting The Biggest Bramble You Ever Did See, to kick start the site, I also put up a short story I wrote last year called The Flower, which at the time I couldn't figure out what to do with, but it feels ideally suited for this new site.

Dr Maroon insists that if it wasn't for technical difficulties he would be recording his own serial tale, Gothic. Personally I suspect he just enjoys me making a fool of myself attempting a multitude of accents my vocal chords we never designed for. However, parts one and two are now up.

Do go over and have a nosey about if you've not yet been, and if you're interested in joining us then you are more than welcome - most of the bloggers posting on it have never done audio blogs before, so don't think this is for the technically elite; it most certainly is not.

Go on, step outside your comfort zone and read a story of your own, or a favourite you'd like to share. Feel free to email me with any questions or comments.

Meanwhile, Christina, over at Prince Vince Meets the World, has handed me a Community Blogger Award.

She says, "The Community Blogger Award celebrates people who reach out and make the blogger community a better one" which I thought was lovely.

So after a brief *smug* moment, I started thinking about who else I should pass this on to, and the blogger that immediately leapt to mind was Pat from Past Imperfect.

The warmth with which Pat relates her experiences and engages with all who visit and comment on her site just brings out the best in all of us. I've seen hardened foul-mouthed sweary bloggers suddenly watching their Ps & Qs when Pat wanders over. She has that favourite aunt quality - the who you just don't want to disappoint as she always has a good word for you, and you feel warm inside when she pays you attention.

Without a doubt, Pat makes the blogger community a better place, so I have no hesitation in passing on the award to her.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Food, Glorious Food

As a rule I try not to look back on aspects of my life with regret. There’s nothing I can do about things past; besides, whatever happened contributed to the superb, fantastic, yet modest, person I am today.

However, there have been times of late when I’ve been almost overwhelmed with a sense of lost opportunity and it’s to do with food.

As has been mentioned in other posts, Maggie is truly a superb cook. What she is capable of creating through mixtures of buttery, creamy, sugary stuff is mouth-wateringly beyond description.

As has also been mentioned in other posts, I used to weigh 19½ stone (275lbs or 125kg), but over the past 2½ years have lost over 7 stone (100lbs or 45kg) through eating healthily and ongoing battles with food cravings.

Part of the reason I got up to 19½ stone in the first place was indeed easy access to my wife’s tremendous cooking ability, but that was only a part of it. The truth is an awful lot of that weight was gathered from years of eating crappy food that was ok but not of my wife’s making, and nothing special.

If I was going to get that big, why on earth didn’t I do it by eating really tasty, drool-inducing, mouth-slobbering, belly-filling, scrumptious, frumptious food - food worth risking your health for?

It feels like such a wasted opportunity.