Thursday, January 29, 2009

Garlic Bread?

Garlic bread lasts about 17 minutes

Garlic breath last about 17 hours

Monday, January 26, 2009

Burns Light Festival in Dumfries

January 25th is celebrated in Scotland in honour of Robert Burns the national poet, and this year was the 250th anniversary of The Bard’s birth.

Dumfries, home of Rabbie for the last 5 years or so of his life, decided on a major celebration in the town and announced the Burns Light Festival, which would include thousands of people carrying lanterns through the town, live bands, an address from the First Minister and the burning of a giant willow figure of Tam O’Shanter (the man in the Burn’s tale, not the hat).

For several months, lantern making workshops have been going on across the region. In fact Maggie has run about ½ a dozen of them.

Here are Maggie & Meg about to set off on the procession with the lanterns they made

Now for a candle-lit lantern procession, you need 2 things to make your lanterns light up – candles and darkness.

Yet someone, in fact many people, as there were countless committee meetings and, I guess, no decent leadership, decided in their infinite wisdom to have the lantern procession shortly after 3pm.

Even in Scotland at this time of year, the sun doesn’t set before 4.30pm.

Rumour has it they wanted the festivities over early because all the high heid yins had a fancy Burns Supper to go to later in the evening.

Also, about 10 days before the festival, someone (or several committees) decided candles in glass jars in the lanterns was a health and safety risk so thousands of glow-sticks were ordered and distributed. Unfortunately it required about 30 of these pathetic little things to equal the lighting power of one nightlight.

But hell, it was bright daylight so it made no difference anyway.

However, the burning of the willow sculpture on the River Nith, was spectacular, and at least the sun had gone down before it was set alight.

I’ve been following the progress of the sculpture, from the welding of the metal frame, through the layers being built up and the transporting it to the river, so I needed to try and find a decent spot to photograph the final burning.

I did find one, but had to stay there for a good 1½ hours to keep the spot.

For those unfamiliar with the tale of Tam O’Shanter, the sculpture depicts a moment when Tam, on his horse, Meg, is trying to escape the witch who has just grabbed hold of the horse’s tail.

Now, do thy speedy utmost, Meg,
And win the key-stane o' the brig;

There at them thou thy tail may toss,

A running stream they dare na cross.

But ere the key-stane she could make,

The fient a tail she had to shake!

For Nannie, far before the rest,

Hard upon noble Maggie prest,

And flew at Tam wi' furious ettle;

But little wist she Maggie's mettle -
Ae spring brought off her master hale,

But left behind her ain gray tail;

The carlin claught her by the rump,

And left poor Maggie scarce a stump.

For the full story, click here: where there’s also a translation for you non-Scots speakers.

Anyway, here are a couple of pics. For anyone linked to me on Facebook, there are a few more in the Tam O’Shanter album.

The willow sculpture of Tam, his horse and the witch on the River Nith

Close up of the sculpture

Flares go off as it starts

Up in flames

Friday, January 23, 2009

Is Change Possible?

On occasion, we have been known to scribble out a rough menu for the week. It’s not carved in stone, but it does give us a guideline for what to buy and what we can use up in the freezer. For 10 minutes work it saves us several hours of trying to figure out what to have for dinner every night.

And yet, despite knowing the benefits, it’s very rare for us to actually get round to doing it.

As letters, statements and bills arrive in the post, once opened and glanced over, they get put in a pile on the kitchen table, where they remain, getting pushed aside at lunchtime and scooped up in a pile to be dealt with later when we all sit down to dinner. Sometimes these piles are put on top of previous piles, and sometimes they're put wherever there’s a gap on a chair, in the hall or on the stairs, where they might be joined by piles yet to come.

We know if we dealt with them as we got them, or at least the same day - organised, filed, put in an Urgent Tray – 5 minutes work would save countless hours of frustration later on looking for something we know was put in a pile, somewhere, or being unpleasantly threatened by some business or organisation we forgot to reply to.

We know all this, and yet we still never seem to get our act together and actually be more organised.

And, of course, if we spent 10 minutes each week looking after our accounts – entering the figures into a spreadsheet, putting receipts into a polypocket, and filing the bank and credit card statements rather than putting them in piles, somewhere – then our tax returns would probably only take half an hour, if that, once a year, to fill in and send off.

And yet, despite cursing and swearing next year will be different, every January is spent turning the house upside down looking for bank statements and receipts. And every January is spent wondering if it would just be simpler just to skip the country or form a suicide pact instead of completing the self-assessment tax forms.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Negative Growth

I love the term, "Negative Growth" which appears to have become one of the buzz phrases of the moment. It opens up a whole new way of talking about actions and events.

This week, for example, I achieved negative weightloss; I drank too much and became negatively upright, and found myself negatively progressing with my tax return.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Do You Believe in Money?

Back in the early days of commerce, barter and exchange were the mainstay of trade. If you were happy to give me 2 chickens for a pair of shoes, we were both satisfied.

Unfortunately, I would probably have eaten my chickens before you needed a new pair of shoes, so barter had its limits, even among a large group of people with a variety of skills and products.

Consequently, a common currency became very useful. If we can put a value on chickens, shoes and even haircuts, then we can tie that value to something non-perishable, like gold (as opposed to, say, chocolate).

So for a long time, we could exchange our gold for goods and services, and vice-versa. The problem, however, was if we accumulated a lot of the stuff, a) it became heavy and a nuisance to carry around everywhere with us, and b) we became easy targets for thieves.

The idea, then, of having a safe place to put our gold and to carry a promissory note around with us, representing it instead, seemed to make sense. Paper money was now the way to go.

In fact, paper became so successful, no one ever needed to see their gold. If everyone believes the paper IS the wealth, rather than just a representation of it, then the existence of the gold is irrelevant, so long as everyone believes it is there. If a gold eating bug crept into Fort Knox and ate all the gold, life would carry on, so long as no one opened the door and looked to see if the gold was still there. The assumption would be enough.

But now we live in electronic times, where we have numbers punched into a computer to represent the paper, which represents the gold, which represents the barter ideal.

More than that, we also live in an age of credit, which means we are borrowing money we don’t have, with a promise to pay it back (plus extra) at a later date. So we are, in fact, taking from a future that doesn’t yet exist.

Because in an age of credit, belief is everything.

If you believe you will have plenty of money tomorrow, you will spend tomorrow’s money today. If you don’t believe you will have money tomorrow, you will cling on to what you have today and not let it out of your sight.

And if you don’t spend your money and your credit, then people providing goods and services won’t get their turn to use it and spend it, so jobs will be lost.

The entire economy of the Western World is run on trying to convince the public to believe money is real, and spending it will make them happy.

Watch the news, and listen to the language: the recession will pass once they’ve hushed up the story of the little boy who said the Emperor was naked, disposed of his body, and everybody returns to believing The Emperor really does have a fine set of new clothes.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

You Asked For It...

In reply to the questions asked in the last post...

Jupiter's Girl said...
Do you have a favorite scent?

There are some smells I enjoy because of the anticipation they create – fresh coffee, bacon, chocolate etc. But if we’re talking about aromas just for their own sake, then my favourite has to be bluebells – standing in a semi-wooded area in a sea of them

Charlie said...
Do you eat haggis?

No. I’ve never been a great fan of offal, so ground up heart, liver and kidneys wrapped in a bladder really doesn’t do it for me.

karatemom said...
Have you ever had a moment where you have been so angry at someone where you honestly thought you could seriously hurt them or did hurt them ..if so ..what happened?? and what if anything did you learn from it ??

There was a point in my early 20s when I was so angry I seriously wanted to hurt this guy. I could even see a point where if the conflict blew up further it would result in the death of one of us. I even had a strategy of how to dispose of the body, should I be the one to survive. It was related to a family incident, so I cannot go into details, but the rage and anger burned hard in me for many, many months.

Eventually I moved away, returning to education and going to Dundee University to study philosophy. He’s not been a part of my life for many years now, but if he died I might still dance on his grave.

What did I learn? That I have a very dark side to me. Part of me never really forgave him for revealing that to me either.

Sayre said...
I've been reading your blogs for a while now, but don't remember ever seeing whether you grew up in Scotland, if you ever lived anywhere else, if you LOVE it there, or if you had a chance to live anywhere other than where you are, where would it be and why?

I was born in Cornwall; my first memories are from Sussex; I spent a large part of my childhood in Wales; I finished growing up in Devon; I’ve lived in various parts of Scotland since I was 21, apart from a year in Nova Scotia, Canada, on a student exchange.

I don’t have a home town full of relatives anywhere. I seem to come from stock that travels. The area I live in now, in SW Scotland, is more home than anywhere else I’ve ever lived, and there’s nowhere else in the UK I’d rather be. However, the idea of living in a sunnier and warmer country does have an appeal, especially in the winter.

Conan Drumm said...
Diverse as we all may be, and looking at yourself as an example, do you think we bloggers share something in common?

Bloggers in general are as diverse as the human race. However, the bloggers that frequent this site and the blogging circles I prefer to move in, are usually characterised by a tendency to question the world around them and accept few things at face value.

LegalMist said...
My question is about #99 on your list of 101 things. What was it that "broke" you (was it the depression, or was there something else?), and how did you recover?

1998 broke me. Or rather a successive stream of circumstances which included the birth and near death (twice) of my daughter (see also Losing My religion), going self employed and the start and collapse of my first business; and some other family issues I won’t go into online.

Recovery seems like the wrong way of framing the answer, as somehow it implies a return to a previous state. I never returned to that. Since then I have been building myself anew. Some aspects of me have become stronger, some weaker and others have disappeared altogether.

Heather said...
how about: as the parent of both a male and female child (i think i'm correct on that--i'm an occasional visitor only), do you feel that you treat them fundamentally differently based on gender? and do you think that'll continue into their adulthood? hanging out at a family pic nic when they're both of age, are you just as likely to offer your daughter a beer as your son? or hug your son as tenderly as a daughter? i know this question may not take "special needs" into account--but maybe it doesn't need to*? (*honestly not sure.)

I like to think I treat my children based on who they are - their personalities, talents and desires, rather than with any gender or special needs agenda. It turns out my son is very boyish and my daughter is very girlie, despite a conscious effort to avoid things like toy guns or Barbie dolls.

I remember coming across an article about the nature-nurture argument that stated parents of one child, or even people with no children, tend to favour nurture. However, the more children people have, the more they tend to favour the nature side of the debate.

As well as our 2 kids, we also have 3 larger ones from Maggie’s previous marriage. But as we’ve been together for over 18 years, I’ve had a lot to do with their upbringing too. And I can happily say I hug my stepson and give my stepdaughter a beer when she comes to stay.

In the end we respond to each of them as individuals according to their needs.

Attila The Mom said...
Boxers or briefs?

The only men who can get away with briefs are children and those with toned bodies. Anyone else looks ridiculous. I think I was about 28 when I finally realised this (about 9 years too late) and have worn boxers ever since.

Mary Witzl said...
Do you ever miss England? What do you think are the fundamental differences between England and Scotland? (In no fewer than 50 words, pen not pencil...oops, sorry!)

I miss the warmer climate of the South of England, but I don’t miss the traffic and the tourists. As for the difference… I heard a joke recently: “Did you hear about the Englishman with an inferiority complex? He felt he was the same as everyone else.” (47 words)

karatemom said...
LOL @ Atilla...why am I so not surprised by your question? You left out "comando" in your question though.
And Kim tell. :)

You can only really do that in a skirt or a kilt and I wear neither. In jeans it would create too much chaffing.

PI said...
What haven't you done that you would like to do before it's too late? Not that you're old or anything:)

Travel more. Much, much more.

Eryl Shields said...
As you are getting into portrait photography is there a person, living or dead, that you would like to be able to (or have been able to) photograph, if so, why?

The best photos to be had are of people with older faces, who are not too vain, but still have plenty of life in them. Lines, creases and wrinkles generally make for far more interesting images than smooth skin. I don’t know if there’s anyone in particular, but The Rolling Stones would certainly fit all the criteria :)

Savannah said...
i like the silly questions best, so favorite movie of all time...only one and tell me why it's your favorite. xoxox

How on earth can I narrow it down to one? It changes depending on what mood I’m in and whether I’ve recently seen it again. But if forced into exile with only one film to watch ever, it would probably have to be The Blues Brothers for the music, the comedy, the car chases, the destruction and the sunglasses.

Pearl said...
Why is six afraid of seven?

Karatemom answered that in the comments :)

Cheche said...
Why did the chicken cross the street?

Because of cultural expectations and an inability to challenge narrative assumptions...

Carole said...
What is your favorite childhood memory?

I’m not entirely sure why, but I don’t remember a great deal of my childhood. I think part of the problem was I never really enjoyed being a child. I’m considerably happier as an adult. My favourite times, however, were without doubt the 2 times we went on holiday to Continental Europe – in 1976 and 1979. Both times we went camping, “until the money ran out” which was about 5 weeks. In ’76 we went to Holland, Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany, and in ’79 we went to France, Switzerland, Italy and back to France.

Problemchildbride said...
I like Conan's question and have wondered about it myself. What do you think?
What would you have done differently, if you had the chance to revisit it?

Sam - I don’t think your question makes sense if you’re referring to Conan’s, and I wonder if you meant Legalmist’s? If so, the answer is I really don’t know. So many of the circumstances in 1998 felt completely beyond my control. I would, however, most definitely have set up a different business than the one I did. That would have counteracted that aspect, at least.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

A Blogger's Last Resort - Ask Me Anything...

I seem to have been offered a few awards and/or memes of late that, should I accept them, require me to reveal something about myself - odd habits, weird things, individual ideas, personal beliefs etc.

Generally I avoid these things for 2 reasons.

The first is an unresolved egoistic conflict. On the one hand, it seems incredibly arrogant and egotistical to think people are interested in me babbling on just about myself in a look-at-me, look-at-me kind of way. And yet, what is a blog, if it isn't an entire vehicle for people to babble on about themselves at length in a look-at-me, look-at-me kind of way?

Let's face it, Ramblings of the Bearded One is Kim's World. I dictate what appears here, and I get to delete comments I don't want printed here. I stick my face on the header bar and decide who I'm going to link to.

However, I'm not actually vain enough to believe anyone would be interested in me for the sake of it, so what I do is offer something in return for the attention of any passing readers, commenters or lurkers. Nearly everything I write is an attempt at entertainment, amusement and/or insights into another world. Periodically it's a scream at the universe, but generally I try to write something that's worth the few minutes it takes to read.

So there's this uneasy balance in trying to create something worthwhile so people will notice me, without overtly yelling, look-at-me.

Secondly, having responded to "7 things meme", "6 Weird Things meme" and even "101 things about me" in the past, it's difficult to think of anything to say I haven't mentioned before.

However, there's also an arrogance in assuming anyone reading my blog has actually bothered to look through the past 440 posts of the last 3 and half years, and remembered everything I've said. Conan Drum, for example, expresses surprise I'm a grandfather every time I mention it.

Therefore, combining everything I've just mentioned with the fact I'm also struggling a bit lately to think of what to write, I'm going to steal Savannah's trick from last month and invite questions.

For the next few days post any questions you'd like me to answer, about anything you like - don't be shy - in the comments of this post.

Then, probably sometime over the weekend, I will attempt to answer them with a high degree of honesty. However, any questions which are insulting without being amusing will be deleted or ignored.

And I reserve the right to change the rules at any point. Kim's World, after all, is a dictatorship, not a democracy...

Sunday, January 04, 2009


Testosterone is streaming through my teenage son and he feels the need to challenge me at just about everything. Even a casual stroll along the beach on Saturday resulted in a determined effort to see who could throw a stone furthest into the sea.

With the ripples on the water vanishing almost instantly in the waves it became very difficult to judge where one pebble landed in relation to another, but despite my dismissals and protestations, I’m pretty certain he won.

It’s a double edged sword for any father when his son can out perform him on certain undertakings: on the one hand there’s a sense of pride – what parent doesn’t want their children to eventually be better than them? If our offspring grow up to be bigger, faster, stronger and/or more intelligent than us, then it bodes well for the continuation of our genetic code. But at the same time, it’s a real blow to the ego when a 13 year old can beat you in a given task.

It might not be so awful, but he's such a bad winner. It’s not that he’s a particularly good loser either, but when he wins he does like to make a huge noise about it and takes every opportunity to remind you, you lost and he won.

I find I’m increasingly using my Chronic Fatigue Syndrome as an excuse for underperformance, even when it’s not always justified…

Friday, January 02, 2009

Colour shifts

Another year; time for another site makeover.

Time always gets a little confusing for me at this time of year, as the days are the wrong colour.

For as far back as I can remember, each of the days has had a different hue. They’re all rectangular, but Saturdays, Sundays and Bank Holiday Mondays are a bit bigger than normal weekdays.

The festive season throws a spanner in the works as, for some reason, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day are both the same colour and shape as Sunday; and Boxing Day is also the same a Bank Holiday Monday.

What this means is my internal mechanism has been in sync with the calendar at Christmas only about 5 or 6 times since I was born. Every other year I lose what sense of day it is completely.

With New Year’s Day being yesterday, Saturday should be over half a week away, rather than tomorrow, so the fact the kids go back to school in 3 days rather than 6 feels like they’ve been short-changed on their holidays.

Come Tuesday I should have realigned my subconscious with a notional reality.