Wee Scoops

Measure for Measure

Key Looks for Early Summer #fashion

Not that I’d know. But I was at a posh do and saw some.

(As for me, I went into a shop, picked up a dress, tried it on and bought it – to a chorus of, “You look fine, Mum.” This is huge progress from the same time of year, seventeen years ago, when I tried on every dress in Glasgow and couldn’t find anything to fit apart from one that was hundreds of pounds. Which was a lot of money in those days… Ended up laughing/crying hysterically, sitting on the floor of some fitting room somewhere thinking “every dress in Glasgow ” and still having nothing to wear…

Changed days. Pret a porter and all that. I can put it down to the fitness thing. I now am a shape, more or less, that shops make dresses the shape of. Roughly. It’s all in the obliques – now that mine know that they are a thing and they do their best to draw my natural barrellesque frame into some kind of a waist arrangement. Very handy when one wants to make a dress purchase.)

Here are the Key Looks:

Key Look 1: Delicate floral on white. This is a thing. This is what I got.

Key Look 2: Long 70s style dresses – some vibrant and self-coloured, some spookily reminiscent of the wallpaper in my bedroom in the 70s that, when you looked at it hard enough, transmogrified into scary faces. Except it was actually stylized flowers, in both cases.

Key Look 3: a wide range of neutral and nude tones from buff to pale pastel metallics in stretchy and quite unforgiving fabric. The thing was that everyone who went for the neutral, unforgiving fabric looked amazing in it, which I thought was statistically unlikely, but really, everyone looked great.

Key Look 4: Bold and chunky monochrome patterns. Maybe this is the way to cover over a multitude of sins.

Posh do over, I return to my comfort zone of race-goodie-bag-t-shirts and camouflage leggings.

😎 Still lookin’ amazing, obv.😆

Plumb Broke #fail #plumbing

I thought that there was “light at the end of the pipe”, but that little flush of success was short lived. The patch up solutions soon gave way and we were back to a thoroughly unsatisfactory patchwork of elements of a satisfactory bathroom experience.

A few days after the plumber left, the “downstairs” started vigorously spraying water, on occasion. It seemed to be coming from the waste pipe, as if the toilet was jet-propelled, sort of. As daughter #2 put it: “Sometimes, when you flush it, it floods.” So we had a kind of exciting Russian Roulette phase until we thought better of it and closed the door on the downstairs and locked it from the outside. The upstairs was sort of working fine/back to “normal”.

Then the plumber came for real. It was great. Lost of removing of bath panels, props, gadgets, deconstruction of cisterns, listening through walls, water on, water off…

The weird thing was that the plumber successfully flushed the Russian Roulette toilet about twenty times and not a dicky bird. Much stratching of head and discussions in Plumberese. It was flushing away, innocent as you like. Not a vigorous explosive spray of any sort.

So we decided it was fixed.

Then the next person to actually “go” to the toilet…. Bang! Flood!

Very exciting. The plumber got to see it in action. He was too late into the room to do the actual diagnostics, so we set about trying make it do it again. Flush, flush, flush…

Eventually, some time later, he was in the garden listening down a drain and I got it to do its thing and this time he caught it and diagnosed it instantly and then spent a great deal of time taking the toilet to bits.

“Pressure”, apparently.

So, he left. And I was basking in the afterglow of the festival of plumbing for days and days: the shower actually draining; two toilets flushing. One and a half sinks actually working. It was like… a house in which the plumbing worked.

Then today, I went to the toilet.

I flushed the toilet.

As I pressed down, the flush button thing fell entirely and directly through the hole into the cistern and disappeared from view.

So, just as well he fixed the Russian Roulette toilet, then.

I am now giving my children a wee tutorial on how to flush the toilet using the remnants of the flush mechanism that are now hanging out of the cistern.

One day, it’ll be great. I’ll be able to have visitors and stuff.

 

Softplay Stories #softplay #fiveminutespeace

I am largely at the end of the softplay era. My children are enormous, comparatively. I sit with my eyes down, my head tilted to the page, my soul reveling in the fact that I am reading whatever novel I am reading while all around me it’s all going on. And I don’t have to look.

I am too old to have actually gone to softplay as a person. In my day we just went outside, jumped about, climbed things and went home again. In the twenty years that elapsed thereafter, softplay became a thing. Some of my colleagues are young enough to have gone to softplay though. I am therefore contextually old.

Some things I love about softplay. I love ‘winning’ at softplay. It involves arriving at the crack of dawn, getting a bacon roll and a cup of tea and the place to yourselves, before the hordes arrive mid-morning and the whole place becomes a hellish sweat/snotfest.

I used to love the chicken burger and chips at Caperhouse Playbarn (no longer with us), even although their mayonnaise wasn’t Hellmans. The aforementioned bacon roll was enjoyed at Sportykids Southside. There was a good phase where one local softplay place diversified and had a roller disco and laser tag on a Saturday night. Then they went bust and shut. But at least I got good use of my life-begins-at-40 roller skates. I love, sort of, the parties you can have there, because you just have to hover nervously and deal with little crises, while someone deals with the actual party for you. There’s enough to deal with in the way of broken digits, wet pants, bumped heads, social disasters etc without having to run party games and slice cake to boot.

Which leads me on to the things I don’t like about softplay. The biggest irritation during my decade and a bit of regular softplay attendance was …. the big fat women that sit about in the ball pit with their child. Then they seem to think their microscopic child wants a) their company and b) to climb totally high. In an effort to assist their child, they try to reach around to their back, tug their pitifully inadequate t-shirt over the fully visible expanse of flesh above the back of their jeans as they roll themselves to height. They then ‘help’ the child up a bit of the play frame that is designed to stop microscopic children getting up to bits they can’t cope with. Then, the child gets too high, doesn’t cope and then needs rescued. Any volunteers?

Harsh? Fattist? Apologies. Just let the child play. When they get big enough, they will climb it themselves. Stop helping. Buy a bigger t-shirt. Get out of the ball pit and sit on a chair.

When I was enormously pregnant and therefore enormous (and I really was enormous) I just had to wait until any of my ‘stuck’ children came back down, or until a thoughtful friend (thanks Susan) went on a rescue mission. It wasn’t long though, before child#1 was big enough to do the rescuing. So that was good.

Sometimes it was tricky to know how to handle spats between children. Once at Almond Valley Heritage Park Softplay, a daughter came back telling tales on some evil child running a brutal totalitarian regime on the inside. Crying with fear, she described her assailant: “She’s got blonde bunches and a Peppa Pig T-shirt”. Terrifying. What to do?

As the years pass, the anxiety about losing them in the play frame gradually lessens. The children become more understanding of the fact that you are going to leave when the two hours is finally up. They get big enough to go and queue at the café. They don’t need taken to the toilet. If you practise for years, you can block out the sound of the aircon, the generalized squealing, the strains of Capital FM or whatever and sip well-made tea (thanks Lollipop Land) and… you could be anywhere… peace, perfect, perfect peace.

 

Fear and Loathing in Hailsham

Between here, Stockholm and back again I read “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” by Hunter S. Thomson and “Never Let me Go” by Kazuo Ishiguro.

“Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” was a fast paced drug fuelled riot of unwise behaviour and lucky breaks for the narrator/writer and his Attorney. For all the depravity and hallucinations, it was “beautifully” written – really well crafted – so I was torn between being my utter lack of interest in drugs and violence and my enchantment with the writer’s turns of phrase – practically every sentence was worth re-reading. But I can’t find a single thing to put here as a quote that doesn’t offend me in some way, despite being impressed with the quotability of it.

I was less conflicted with “Never Let Me Go”.

It is set in a a kind of dystopian world where clones are bred and raised in schools with a growing awareness of their future roles as organ donors. The narrator, Kathy, attends a school called Hailsham that encourages their students to have as full a life as possible, despite their ultimate purpose. It reminded me a lot of “The Handmaid’s Tale” insofar as the narrator is oppressed and abused in body in a world where escape seems impossible.

The weird thing about “Never Let Me Go” was the acceptance of the students’ lot in life as sub-human spare parts. At no point did Kathy and her friends even seem to imagine freedom from their role – there was a wish for “deferral” of donations – but no scheme to escape.

There was a part of the book where they trace a “possible” for one of the characters, Ruth. A “possible” was someone who might have been the person originally cloned to make Ruth. If I had been the novelist, then Kathy, Ruth and friends would have murdered the possible and Ruth would have taken on the free life of the possible. But that isn’t what happened. (Maybe I’d been reading too much “Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas”.)

“Never Let Me Go” was narrated as memories that dipped in and out of each other. I wonder if I was meant to feel the frustration I did with the characters who didn’t fight for equality and just accepted things as they are.

Maybe that was the point.

 

The Jungle Book Movie Review #junglebook #review

I have never seen the cartoon version and I have never read the book, so I saw the movie through unbiased eyes. I plan to find out about the plot of the original and the cartoon adaptation to see how much was ‘real’ and how much was Disneyfied.

The themes were identity, belonging, growing up/coming of age and the positive and negatives of being human – the potential power which can be harnessed for the greater good or destruction.

Mowgli is a man-cub, but he is out of his ‘natural’ habitat. He is discouraged from embracing all aspects of his human nature – he is not allowed to manipulate the environment  – he is rebuked for making machines and for farming honey. He is encouraged to consider himself a wolf, as that is who has raised him.

So, his identity is in crisis and the solution to this – and to another of his problems (the fact that a mean tiger wants him dead)  – is to go and live in the man village.

He then goes on a journey through the jungle passing through many different landscapes and hazards (and a flashback scene from The Lion King in the stampede) and Mowgli has various interactions with various creatures and characters that want to work with him or against him.

There is the snake that mesmerises him, the bear that wants to exploit him, the panther that wants his safety, the humongous ape that wants his knowledge about fire (that he doesn’t have). There are also the elephants who need his help and whose help he eventually needs. (And we lapse into a touch of the circle of life).

The conclusion of the movie seems to be that one should embrace all parts of ones self – but that one can work in a team with those of any sort – it was a kind of festival of equality and diversity – symbiosis.

Apart from the bad guy (SPOILER ALERT!) who ends up giving the audience a flashback to the death of Scar.

So, despite the equality and diversity thing – there was still a “them” and an “us” – the tiger was outcast because of a chip on his shoulder from years previous and a thirst for revenge.

The action scenes were good, the CGI sometimes great, sometimes a bit clunky – especially in the first scenes with the tiger coming down the mountain. The Mowgli parkour was entertaining. The eventual twists in the plot were quite heavily foreshadowed (the little elephant and the dead tree), but never mind.

So, whether it a careful or  clumsy handling of literature, or a refreshing or unnecessary adaptation of a Disney classic – I don’t yet know. But at least it had interesting ideas about the value of community and the importance of individuality within that community.

Movie Trailer

The last lap, the smallest sculpture (again) and the journey home. #stockholm

It was a beautiful, still morning on my last day in Stockholm. The city was apparently on a Sunday morning go-slow, apart from the running community who were out in force. The 10k around Sodermalm that I had planned suddenly felt too far, so I headed off towards Gamla Stan again for a general scurry about in the sunshine. Beautiful day.

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I also wanted to go back and see Järnpojke again – “the little boy who looks at the moon” and get a picture this time. Here he is:

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I checked out of my floating hotel:

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and made my way northwards with my wheelie-case bumping over the cobbles of the Old Town towards the Arlanda Express.

The Arlanda Express is an utterly idiot-proof transfer train to the airport, making Stockholm an ideal destination for the incompetent. They text the ticket to your phone and that’s it. Sit back, relax and know that it only goes to the airport. No opportunities for a stuff up.

I had two flights to get home, and sat around finishing “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” and beginning “Never Let me Go”.

I ended up next to a couple of other solo travellers on the way home – and sitting with them was like momentarily living in a movie. The guy managed to strike up a chat-up on the thinnest of grounds, and before long, he and the girl were vigorously comparing tattoos and extolling the virtues of pseudo-Buddhist philosophy while planning to meet up again, should their hemispheres ever be in alignment again. In a movie, they’d be off to get married in Sri Lanka by now. But then, I suppose he had that contract with that multi-national to work on.

So I just kept on reading “Never Let Me Go” while being relieved that I wasn’t in the middle seat with no tattoos to compare.

Back in Edinburgh it was comfortingly freezing, and the queue at the Flying Scot pickup stance was in grumpy spirits, as they stood there in their holiday polo shirts waiting for the shuttle bus, chittering and making sarky quips.

I love Scotland.

I rounded off my three days with a Haggis Supper and a cup of tea. Glad to have made some memories, and I recommend Stockholm for a city-break.

 

Meatballs and Museums

Tonight, you find me in Marten Trotzig’s – a classier joint than Pitcher’s, but bang in the middle of tourist-city. It’s early, so, quiet so far. My mission – to secure some Swedish meatballs (cue Jamie-Lee Curtis). I want to blow all previous IKEA-based meatball experiences out of the water.

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First job today was getting to Djurgarden. It’s an island they have populated with museums and attractions. It was an hour’s walk around Gamla Stan and then round into the posh bit and over a bridge.

The ABBA museum is tucked away under a hotel. ABBA fans keener than even me waited for it to open, passing the time with this:

   

Excellent museum. Better than I expected. Plenty of history, props, scenes, clothes and interactive games. I did the karaoke but couldn’t bring myself to bust many moves in the video-bombing room.

  Next museum was called Skansen. It’s like a cross between the Highland Folk Museum and the dull bits of Landmark, with a zoo. It had a very off-season vibe about it. The schoolhouse had a teacher in residence, but no lesson. Here’s a random windmill:

 Ah… my meatballs have arrived.
 
Mmm… amazing. I could go another plateful, I really could. (That would appear gutzy so instead I’ll wire into some refined sugar via a dessert, which is socially acceptable.)

So, I left Skansen, feeling like you really need a sunny summer’s day for that one to be seen at its best.

Off to Stockholm’s number 1 tourist attraction: the Vasa Museum.

In the 17th century, the King wanted a completely brilliant warship to intimidate the Poles. He dreamed up the design – a long, narrow ship, covered in statues implying general fabulousness and invincibility (first war ship with two banks of cannons) – and they built it. It set sail and pretty much immediately sank – blown over by a puff of wind. The ship was too long, too many cannons, not enough ballast. Then in the 1960s they salvaged it and it’s now the main exhibit in the Vasa Museum.

  
It’s an odd mix of Swedish pride and embarrassment. If it hadn’t sunk when it did they’d never have such a complete 17th century warship today.

(I remember being shepherded into the “GP room” at primary school to watch live the raising of the Marie Rose. Dull TV if ever I saw it. The Vasa had a similar raising, but the ship is 98% there.)

Three museums down, I figured it was time to head back to Gamla Stan and get shopping for Swedish tat.

Tat secured, I had a rest and latte in a subterranean cafe near the cathedral. Lunch didn’t happen. Getting my money’s worth at the hotel breakfast buffet had paid off.

But now… Apple Strudel. Not all that culturally relevant but hey.  

  

Stockholm from home

I’m in Sweden, in a home from home, it turns out.

After involuntarily balking at a few restaurant doors, I got so hungry I had to fly in the face of the primal need to ‘eat in community’ and ended up here- in “Pitcher’s” – a faintly Scottishy, faintly golf-themed pub looking for a table-for-one.    Dunno what the menu was about though 😂

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Ten out of ten to the waitress who took pity on me and found me a whole booth to myself. Fish and chips were very, very welcome after my running tour of the city with David from Madrid.

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Random. And my booth has pictures of St Andrews on the wall- including a building in which I used to live, even. Chances of that?

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My Fitbit had gone into shock, I think. Never before have so many calories been burned and eaten in such quick succession.

I just hope I can find my way back to my accommodation. Sort of.

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It’s a boat in a permanent berth. I have a teeny weeny cabin and the potentially alarming “shared toilet” and “shared shower”. So far so good though. Great shower. (And all to myself!! Phew!)

The running tour was great. Just what the doctor would order after any flight. Cobwebs blown right out and a thorough reconnoiter of the city in the bag before dinner.

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What did I learn?

Sweden is Protestant. Sweden is lefty-liberal-ish (apart from the right-wing fringe). They’ve got royalty. They’ve got history. They did various ancient wars but not-so-much in the 20th century when they kind of passively watched the Nazi thing as it marched towards Norway.

The people are nice. The people are quiet. The people won’t give you any bother. Their most famous museum is about a boat that sunk after getting not-so-far. Their second most famous museum is outside. (The Abba museum didn’t warrant a mention on the tour. I didn’t let on that that’s why I’m here!)

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I saw the city hall, the Royal palace, the prime minister’s residence and other government buildings. I saw the smallest statue in Stockholm (where you touch the statue’s head and make a wish and Stockholm’s believers leave him wee presents and outfits). I went up hills to viewpoints, did a few sit-ups and push-ups and jumps and a couple of fartleks (as they are Swedish). I saw touristy shopping streets and ancient churches.
The girl in “Pitcher’s” has brought the bill. I’ll be off then.

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A-ha. Time and Again: “A day or two” or… thirty years?

Much as I like to live in the moment, it’s hard to do that when you go to see A-ha.

Every single moment that passes has an involuntary backdrop in the mind of the mid nineteen eighties; everything has a reference bleeding back thirty years to the back pages of the “Look-in” or guest appearances on Saturday morning TV. You can’t stop it. Why fight it?

Staggering towards the Hydro in my hope-to-see-over-the-person-in-front boots, I considered the middle-aged throng of which I was a part. Alongside me, the forty-three year-olds of Glasgow and the West picked their way across the Clyde, also confident in their exit/parking strategy. And while they looked like jaded educationalists wearily ready for a wee school-night night out, I suspect that most of them were also still thirteen in spirit, if not in body. Even since we saw A-ha back in the December of 2005, we have all moved on.

Will this be the time it is like going to see old Biff in concert? Or, will they still have it?

And so to the event…

It was the first time I had been to the Hydro, but not the first time I had seen A-ha.

(That was thirty years ago at the Caird Hall in Dundee, courtesy of my then-future-brother in law, who queued for tickets for me and my sister.

I regretted my outfit that night – a tricky one to gauge in Scotland in early December. I wore a geometric patterned blue and grey bat-wing long wool jumper. It must have been the coolest thing I owned, and sadly probably the warmest. Here’s my review of that gig, thirty years ago:


I was a proper A-ha fan then. Wall-to-wall A-ha. Scrapbooks of A-ha related cuttings. The first album on loop. The second album on loop. The third….

Well, it all got a bit sketchy after that. Bon Jovi and Europe were tuning up in the background amidst the sountrack to Dirty Dancing – and A-ha seemed to have disappeared to South America somewhere around “The Living Daylights” and “Stay on these Roads” or was it “East of the Sun, West of the Moon”… it all began to blur a bit. But they disappeared.

Or I wasn’t paying attention.

The early albums were magic: Morten’s unbelievable range of pitch and tone, the dodgy lyrics, the deliciously 80s synth riffs…)

ANYWAY, back to the present…

I don’t even know what you call it – stagecraft? Lighting? It had certainly come a long way in thirty years. In the Caird Hall I remember at one point a sheet was dropped at the back of the stage revealing a kind of pink jaggy light design thing. This week though, there were various relevant visuals, a wolf for Cry Wolf and dodgy alien type figures and stuff. And lights – a bit like a mobile create-your-own-migraine rig.

I managed to catch the pattern of the lighting and shut my eyes tight when the lighting people synced the lights with the music. Fortunately their early work is so engrained on my subconscious it was easy to anticipate.

So, how were the boys?

Morten had picked a good outfit – black jeans, black t-shirt, dodgy pendant, unbelievably broad shoulders and unquestionable evidence of a lifetime of committed gym use. Mags still had that “oh yeah, he always looked a bit like Henry from Neighbours” thing going on, but he did his usual nod to patter, unlike the mute Pal and reticent Morten. I enjoyed his introductions of all the other band members and his pronunciations of their names. All the lost phonemes.

But musically, it was great. Morten’s voice still as it was back in the day. Amazing. He had a wee break in the middle while the others got a turn of the mic, but fair enough – have to protect that voice – it is some amount of power he puts into it.

Oddly, there is now a girl in A-ha. The audience looked politely on, but I reckon most of them were pretty jealous of her getting to duet “Crying in the Rain” with Morten. But I think it is probably wise to have someone who can hit Morten’s high notes in an emergency.

There was a very good mix of the ancient and the more recent – probably, if anything, too much old stuff – but very crowd pleasing. And although we never bothered to learn the lyrics properly, we always managed to sing along, never 100% sure how it was meant to go, but hey.

The encores were great with a crescendo of nervous necessity for the finale of The Sun Always Shines on TV and Take On Me, which they then did. Phew.

I took myself and my vintage Take On Me World Tour scarf out to my handily parked car and made an efficient getaway, with thirty years’ worth of music and memories swirling in my head.

Good show.

Angels’ Angles

Did you know that there are angels in the Easter Story? We more commonly associate angels with Christmas, but the Bible also records that on the first Easter Sunday, angels appeared at the empty tomb.

 A lifetime apart, these two messages from the angels are very similar. When addressing both the shepherds of Bethlehem and the grieving women at the tomb, the angels’ first instruction was: “Do not be afraid!” The unsuspecting shepherds and mourners were perhaps understandably shocked, being spoken to by angels!

 

The angels in both stories talk about where Jesus was at that very moment. At Christmas, the angels told the shepherds: “You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger”. At Easter, the women were looking for Jesus in the tomb where he had been left after the crucifixion, but they were told by the angel: “He is not here.” The fact that he was not there would have been apparent. The angel further explained: “He has risen.” In these two short statements, the angel made the circumstances clear: the tomb was empty and this was because Jesus had been raised to life again!

 

In the Bible, the story of Jesus’ earthly life unfolds: from a baby wrapped in strips of cloth lying in a manger, to an empty tomb with a discarded strip of cloth. The angels in both stories encourage their listeners: “See the place where they laid him,” whether that was the manger in Bethlehem or the borrowed tomb. On both occasions, the shepherds and the mourning women rushed off from their angelic encounters to discover Jesus for themselves.

 

This Easter, we may not be able to visit the garden tomb and see and touch the discarded grave clothes or have events explained to us by an angel. But we can take time to imagine what it would have been like for the women, as they had their despair evaporate in the face of the reality of the “good news of great joy” promised at Christmas and brought to fruition at Easter: “He has risen!”

  

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