Friday, 23 September 2016

Selfies "n" other stuff

 I've been having some holiday time and doing what I believe the young people call "dicking about".
 Peter's already covered this, but we went to the Portrait Gallery to see an exhibition of self-portraits thinking it would be interesting and we were both under-whelmed. I think part of it for me is I can't think when there are too many other people around me because I just want them out of my aura. So exhibitions are no good and neither is shopping. I couldn't enjoy looking at the pictures because of the people and their smells. There was one lady moving at the same pace as us who smelt like our neighbour Rose. I don't think Rose would quibble if I said she "liked a drink". I can tell if she's been on the stairs when I go out the flat because she has this flowery smell which I think is a mixture of perfume and gin or vodka or something. The woman in the exhibition...well she was taking up more of my mind space than the pictures. Afterwards I wished I could go back and review it all - because retrospectively I started to find it interesting. People depicted themselves in all these different ways. There was the odd person who'd decided that they were just young and handsome and that's what they were going to show. Far more common were haunted eyes and allusions to loneliness, anxiety and death. Guilty secrets. Baggy old eyes that said "I might be a bit of a perv." I know this would all be better if I could illustrate it. But I was lazy with the lens.
Then there was a section of "friends and family" and the artists were generally a lot easier on their loved ones than they were themselves.
If I had my time again I'd take more pictures so I could look at them without the distraction of people around me.

 Then another day. Well many other days we went for a run round Gullane. Here's a picture of Hoka man in his natural habitat doing his thing.
Since I'd been to that exhibition I was still thinking about self-portraits, which are, essentially, selfies.

This is me as seen from space.

Yeah. I don't really know.

Bucky's eye view.

Moral Outrage and Indignation.

Waiting for butterfly man.

"Egg, larva, pupa, butterfly!"

Today we went for... a run round Gullane! I knew I wouldn't get much resistance out of Peter as he did a 30 miler yesterday. I've got a new wetsuit and I needed to try it out.

It was ace. Stretchy extremities so it's really quick and easy to get off. In contrast to my last one. No more nearly dying of hypothermia in an icy wind while struggling to get out of the suit...hopefully.

 We ran into this fellow! The photos don't do justice to what a cute little toad this was. Lovely little hands and golden eyes. But he wanted to get back to the pond, so he wouldn't stay still for long.
Looking like a bat.

And this one was under some ply.

Oops. Number one again doing some crafty climbing moves.

Angel Skeleton.

The narrative isn't great for this blog, but what the hell.

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Intermittent Fault

Ahhh, the holidays at last. As you all know, there is nothing as relaxing as a holiday. Everything goes smoothly and it's generally a happy time all round.

Buchanan has covered the whats, whens, wheres and whys etc. and strung a loose narrative around it.
What have I got left to say? A number of things, actually.

It was a suicide mission, really. Going to the far North-West in a van that keeps breaking down. Taking a chance on the weather, when the forecast was changing daily and was clearly not stable. Going camping in September. Taking camping stuff and wet-suits and cooking gear - the whole she-bang. Before we left I had a frozen (left) shoulder, a sore right knee, and my ribs still hurt if I forgot and suddenly stretched. Still, I thought we might get away with it. "Fortune favours the brave" my dad used to say. What does he know? He's been dead for years. 
Largely we did get away with it, but there was much jeapardy.
I had to take ibuprofen to drive as my shoulder was sore changing gear and pulling the handbrake on. 
We didn't set off until late on because we were both tired from the week, and it was difficult to figure out just what on earth to take.

As Peter said, we had a laugh eating out at a pub on a Saturday night. Driving up the road with it getting late and us getting hungry, I'd painted a picture of what would be nice. "Pub lasagne and chips and a pint of lager." We instantly both signed up for this - even though it seemed unlikely. So we thought we had lucked in when we found a campsite and strolled into the town and there was a pub still serving food.
I had chicken curry and rice and chips and poppadoms. Well it was on the menu, so that's obviously a thing! The curry was heavily salted and had more than an under-taste of onion powder. I think maybe the lid came off the onion powder tin actually. But a pint of lager took the edge off the saltiness and it was all fine. We were surrounded by people from other lands - Danish, German and Spanish, and there was a holiday feel to it. We tried to keep our voices down as Peter critiqued the "art" on the walls. He can't help himself. It was true - it was pretty terrible - but here we were out of the rain, warm and eating enough carbs to keep us going for a week. It seemed wrong to turn our minds to what was bad.

We had a reasonable night. Peter informed me I stank of onion powder. I'm sure I did. It did me no harm though. In the morning my shoulder was marginally better.

But the fricking van not starting. Now that was hard to take. It didn't just fail to start - that's common place. What happened was I turned the key and the engine didn't catch the first time. I turned the key a second time and all the lights on dashboard went dead and the fuel gauge indicator swung limply off the end of the scale. It was horrific. What in the hell just happened? Then turning the key produced nothing. Not a sausage. We were sat in a more-than-fully-loaded van in the North of Scotland facing a toilet and there was no signal on my phone.

The possible future played out in my mind. Having to knock on someone's door to use their land-line and wait in an eternal queue on the phone for someone to even answer, whilst wincing apologetically at the house owner.  Hanging about pointlessly waiting for a recovery van which would take longer than the estimated 2 hours. A chubby mechanic simultaneously professing to know a lot about cars while being entirely unable to help us. Another long wait for a recovery truck. A tow to some garage which would be closed for the Sunday, probably also the Monday. Hanging about with nothing to do somewhere near Alness which is somewhere near Inverness, the heroin capital of the world. Maybe I would go and try some. Maybe I'd start smoking again too. Why not? Banal. Too banal.

So we had a look under the hood and I tapped some things and Peter squeezed some other things - like monkeys playing at being mechanics. So it seemed more than miraculous when I tried the key again and this time the dashboard lit up and the engine started. Thank God! And yet.....What was our position here? Could we stop the engine again? Or did we just have to drive indefinitely? Should we go home? Or press on?

We were too far into it to go home. It was Sandwood Bay or bust. Or possibly both.

The overloaded bike trip to Sandwood bay had its own measure of jeapardy. I couldn't swing my bike over the rocks as I could feel my ribs ready to twang. If they went it would be game over and very difficult to see how we'd be able to put any kind of a positive spin on our situation. Peter was game about coming back for my bike over all the most difficult bits.
I'd read on the internet that there was a loch on the way to the bay - but there was more than one! That might have been a clue to the annual rainfall. There was more like seven. We cycled through a couple.

When we got to the bay it was very overcast and rather windy but still dry. We got the tent up and hid inside, out of the wind, hoping the sky might clear for a nice evening. Instead it started to rain.
We took a chance trying to cook in the porch area of our tent. The wind was so strong it would have blown the flame out and knocked the stove over if it was properly outside. I was very nervous about it falling over and burning our fabric house down around us. As it was the wind was blowing the flame so much it wasn't heating the food properly and our 8 minute pasta'n'sauce took 45 minutes. It also had heavy notes of onion powder. The whole North-West experience was tinged with onion powder, like a theme song, but in the back of the mouth.

Still anyway, what the hell. We had an early night. During the night there was a fierce gale and the rain rattled hard on the tent shell. We stayed dry and safe. My broken body was healing nicely, as I was spending so much time doing nothing. The next day I had the full use of my left arm.

I got up around 6am and it was dry and less windy. There are few things much better than having a cup of coffee outside in the morning after a night of camping - especially when it's not raining and there aren't any midges. It was only slightly marred by Peter complaining that his Mochachino wasn't quite hot enough. In the name of all that is Good, will your torrent of complaints follow me everywhere, all my days, until the merciful silence of the grave? But never mind. The sun even came out for a while.

I have been permanently put somewhat off rainbows by a poster in the 70s that used to appear outside churches. Maybe you saw it? A rainbow and the words 'There is hope'. It was the kind of thing you would see as a teenager when you were skulking around looking for something to do on a Sunday. The sight of that prosaic combination of words and image, in a glass case, on a dull day, on the side of a pebble-dashed church, and the association with the Reverend X, and his false church voice, talking disapproving nonsense and saying you have to believe it....Well it produced the opposite of hope. More of a sinking feeling in the gut. More of a Smith's song for the soul.

I don't mean the whole idea of God or a higher order - I just mean the nonsense. He would read passages out the bible that didn't really make sense, and then say we had to believe them. I felt, more than thought, that we should sort out the issue of meaning before jumping, prematurely, into belief. The things he said were neither analysed nor synthesised....for instance....
You know that passage that says it is easier for a camel to get through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to get into the Kingdom of God? Well my mum says, and why would you need a higher authority, that the word for camel in....blah, bible very similar to the word for rope, so some academics think that that passage should read "it is easier to get a rope through the eye of a needle" etc... Now that seems more likely to me...

And after that we can think about where or what the Kingdom of God is and whether a rich man can get there or get square.

Peter's head on a tent-body. A horrible amalgamation, like Brundle-Fly in The Fly.
But never mind because There is Hope.

I told Peter the far North has subtle beauties to which you have to attune your eye. Soft greys and modest greens. But he kept spluttering on about Portugal. That and the bottle of cider back at the tent.

Faces du camping.

The sun came out!


We thought that we'd go a wander in the sunshine - and later maybe run and swim. We took a walk over the cliffs to see the sea-stack.

No really There is Hope! Or maybe rainbows mean there's lots of rain....

It got darker and darker and it started to spit. The rest is history. A hurried retreat on overladen bikes. I was literally soaked to the skin, despite wearing a proper rain-coat. Always the uncertainty of whether the car would be for starting. There was certainly no phone signal so getting rescued would be far from easy. We could pull our wet-suits on and just sleep out with the sheep....

But the car did start, Bless its Boots, and we headed South. Hours and hours of driving in the tipping rain.

As an addendum, I think I know what was up with the car.
Yesterday I was looking out the window and a bloke in a white van was having trouble getting his van started. He was obviously in a bad mood. He was parked next to my van and he kept jumping out and his door was hitting my van and he kept pushing past my mirror. I thought he was going to damage it and I'd been wanting to move the van anyway, so I went down and got into it. White van man started behaving better immediately, but when I turned the key, BINGO, it didn't start and all the lights on the dashboard went out. Well that was a piece of luck. Time to tinker without the pressure of being 200 miles from home with a load of camping gear. I was right outside my house.
I got under the bonnet and gave the connection on the positive end of the battery a bit of a tap - because that's what I'd done way back up North. I tried again and the engine started fine. Ahah!
Then, while I had the bonnet up, a guy came over with white van man, and got drawn into the drama of my engine. He said the earth off the battery was loose, which would explain the intermittent fault. It could just get shaken loose and then the battery wouldn't work - and could also get shaken back into contact again. He gave Peter, who had appeared by this time, some advice about how to fix it. I restrained myself from telling him that he was talking to the ship's monkey, and that in fact I was the Master Mariner.
Now I suspect he was just a pub mechanic, but you know, it kind of makes sense.

So even if that's not right, I now have something to try if it happens again, that gives me some hope that it will work. Because we all need hope. Or how could you try anything?

The End. For Now.

Saturday, 3 September 2016

Breakdowns and beyond.

I keep thinking I've got it all worked out. Obviously the reason I bashed my ribs was so that I'd do less running and more cycling. With this in mind, we set off last Sunday with the bikes in the back of the car. The plan was to park at the far end of Penicuik and go for a bike ride in the Meldons. There's a 30 mile loop which includes a stop at a cafe in West Linton for hot chocolate and cake. Sounds like a plan doesn't it?
It was a nice day. It took us a while to get started but it seemed like a good idea. There was very little wind.
As we were loading the bikes in the back of the van we were realising how much unnecessary "stuff" we have in there. We have a big yellow battery thing that can give the car a jump start if the battery is low. That kind of got us through last winter. Peter said we should put that back in the flat as we won't be needing it. We've got a new battery now and it's summer. We both laughed when the car didn't start first time. Hoho. It was because you said that. We didn't think much more about it. It was "One of those things" - a phrase which means damn all and is a way of not thinking.

WE got to Penicuik, and I parked up and then wasn't quite happy with where I'd parked. "Well park somewhere else then!" says Peter. Your average couple mildly grumbling at each other. I went to start the car and the battery sounded lively but the engine wasn't for starting. We tried it once, twice, three times. We went and looked helplessly under the hood. Unless the engine was actually missing it was unlikely that this would tell us much. We got back in the car and this time it started.
"What do you think we should do?" quoth Buchanan.
I couldn't stand the thought of going a 30 mile cycle not knowing whether we'd have a drama with the car at the end of it or not. Too much uncertainty. Peter agreed. We headed home.

It was a warm day and the drive out there had been unpleasant. Why everyone wants to go to Ikea on a Sunday is beyond me but it's always the case. The A701 is boring and slow and usually crowded. It had taken us ages to get there.
I was thinking on the way back we would take the bypass to get back to Leith. It's further but it would be less sticky. But, it was not to be. Just past Bilston, approaching some lights, the engine cut out, and we were at a standstill. Right on the busy road. We put our emergency lights on but the amount of people who nearly drove straight into the back of us was alarming. It was alarming Peter. I was in that frame of mind where I didn't care. Whatever. Let whatever do whatever. I wasn't for caring.
Of more immediate concern....did I have the details of our car rescue? A hunt ensued. I'd stuffed the letter in the pocket behind my seat - and it wasn't there. We found another letter in the glove compartment, but it was over a year old. Then I found some other details written on the back of an envelope. Were they current? I had no idea. I phoned anyway. They didn't argue. Pherewww!!! They gave us priority because we were right on a busy road. But still it was a long wait. After an age a friendly, chubby chap arrived in a Green Flag van. The tiny optimist in me was still hoping he'd find something obvious that he could fix. He played around with a balloon thing and sprayed that starting spray stuff that's meant to be bad for your engine in. But no dice.No dice. No joy. No way Jose. The lady is not for starting.
A tow truck was called. We were 'in luck' apparently as the chap was just coming back from Peebles. Should be there in no time.

I can't believe I'm giving you a blow by blow account. It wasn't my intention. But here it is, all flooding back.

It was maybe another hour. A friendly enough guy loaded the Berlingo on the back of his wagon. We tried chatting to him but then we noticed his hearing aid. You had to make yourself pretty clear to communicate. We bonded by generally agreeing that Edinburgh was a nightmare with the festival on and streets awash with tourists. That it was full of restaurants and antique shops and no good to anyone.

We did find a free parking space just near our garage though. That was a piece of luck. It's a busy little street.

And on Monday morning I opened negotiations with the garage again.

I've been doing some training in CBT so I tried to sort my own thinking out.
"I hate taking the car to the garage" "Yeah but why?" "Because I don't know the words for things, and the guys won't look at me and I always feel like I'm bothering them, even though it's a garage and their thing is fixing cars. You wouldn't think a car that wasn't working would be that much of a surprise, but it always feels like it is." I couldn't argue with that.
"You'll just have to do it anyway." was the response. Those in the know know that this is a behavioural approach to the problem, and works pretty well too.
I'm not that far into my course. I'll get better with time. The idea is to change your thinking so that the whole thing doesn't feel like a fucking nightmare.

I didn't stress myself all that much about it anyway. I had other things to do and I was still in the frame of mind where everything was whatever so whatever. Maybe I had a car and maybe I didn't and whatever. WHAT EVER!!!

That was a long story, wasn't it?

Back in the land of ribs, my ribs are still really sore at night. One night I found that if I slept on my sore rib side but with my arm up above my head that was kind of comfortable. The next day my shoulder was agony. Peter wasn't even remotely surprised to discover I had a new injury. Bed injury. Whatever.

ON Wednesday I got the car back. Glad I never bothered stressing. Crank sensor. I've googled it and that kind of makes sense.

Today we took the car to Gullane for a run, for us to run and maybe even go in for a swim. I wasn't sure if I could pull a wetsuit on but I managed with help. I couldn't swim much either but it was good to get in the sea.

It was meant to pour with rain, but that never happened. Instead we got a calm, warmish day and the sun even came out for a while in the afternoon.

Time to get on and do stuff I guess. Wetsuits to rinse out, showers to be had. I had no idea I wanted to tell that story so much until now. If you made it all the way down to here, well done.