The way we do it in the Western Isles

It strikes me as so wrong, in so many ways, that there is an official folk albums chart: but there is, and Matthew Bannister of Folk on Foot broadcasts a monthly chart show about it, which I watch, griping throughout about how his tastes are not my tastes and why is this folk anyway? But it offers an introduction to music I wouldn't otherwise come across - which is a long-winded preamble to explain why we were watching a band called Peat and Diesel (good name!), specifically first video on this page on their website, singing a catchy song and cavorting about Stornoway.

I've been to Stornoway! I have even posted on the subject, although even that post, almost five years ago, was an oblique confession that I had not yet sorted out my photos and my thoughts of one wet May day in Stornoway. Well, if I'm taking hardly any photographs this year, at least I can enjoy looking through old ones. I've even found my notebook (though not all of it is legible). So here goes: welcome to Stornoway!

Street scene

This is not the most picturesque view of the town, but I find it appealing, and not just because it illustrates why that video was so instantly recognisable, even down to the damp grey weather.

Much of the morning had been spent driving D. to the ferry at Tarbert: he had shared much of our holiday so far, but now we were on our own, and at large in Stornoway. The man in the Tourist Office was concerned that we had paid to park for three while hours - how would we occupy ourselves? It was too wet for us to be tempted by a boat trip to the Shiant islamds to see the puffins, though I did buy a little book about puffins as a consilation.

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And that was Stornoway. This entry cross-posted from Dreamwidth: comments always welcome, at either location.
mamoulian, stuff

It makes the peas taste funny

My current bedtime reading is Alice Thomas Ellis' Fish, Flesh and Good Red Herring: A Gallimaufry, a ramble thtough the author's collection of historic cookbooks and household guides. She is both entertaining and irritating - this passage about pea soup is not so much typical as exemplary:
Speaking of which, before the Clean Air Act, London fogs were known as pea-soupers, indicating, I believe, that this dish was once more widely known and consumed than it is now. I
make it from dried peas, or the mushy sort which you can buy frozen, and add a great deal of chopped mint and a large spoonful of honey: it is my favourite soup but no one else likes it. 1n
Victorian times both the air pollution and pea soup were known as London Particulars. I was living in Hampstead when the last fog fell on London: I had been to the corner shop and had to find my way home by feeling along the walls and railings and going up front steps until I got to the right house. Truly, you could not see your hand in front of your nose. It was oddly thrilling and although a lot of people died from inhaling fog, it added a touch of drama and mystery to the prosaic London scene.

"Now" is 2004. This entry cross-posted from Dreamwidth: comments always welcome, at either location.
mamoulian, stuff

Pointless book post

In the virtual absence of a social life, I continue to entertain myself by watching a lot of Pointless and by reading a lot: sometimes these two things converge.

A little while ago, a round on Pointless required contestants to complete proverbs and saying about love (this post was not intended as a Saint Valentine's special, but if you'd like to view it in that light, be my guest). None of them was able to supply the 'best' (lowest scoring) answer on the board, it is not possible to love and be --, and neither could host Alexander Armstrong. No, agreed Richard Osman, I'd never heard it either.

Wait a minute, isn't he supposed to be a crime writer? And to read a lot of crime fiction? How can he not know Josephine Tey's To Love and be Wise?

Reminded of the book, I wanted to re-read it; and re-reading it, I enjoyed it so much that I wanted to post something here to say so. But part of that enjoyment was precisely the pleasure of the re-read, of seeing how thoroughly the author prepares the resolution of her mystery. It would be unkind to spoiler the first-time reader of what genuinely is a mystery, that "more or less" on the cover notwithstanding.

Alan Grant, Tey's recurring detective, is called in to investigate the disappearance of a young man has inserted himself into the community of artistic incomers in an English country village, and then vanished. The publisher's "more or less" reflects the absence of a body, but also the witty and light-hearted atmosphere of the book: it is posible that something terrible has takrn place, but it is also possible that it hasn't. The cover is not an accurate depiction of any one scene but it is not a misrepresentaation either: a shoe fished from the river is produced as a clue, a ballet dancer offers as a reasonable alibi that a sequence of steps occurred to him so he tried them out, just there, beside the river (the characterisation is, I admit, on the broad side at times).

What I would like to be talking about is that this book was published in 1950, and yet it does this thing (and also several other things, but this thing in particular) which it would be a massive spoiler to reveal. Which makes this post a bit pointless. This entry cross-posted from Dreamwidth: comments always welcome, at either location.

Out of sequence

Barely a week after [personal profile] durham_rambler had booked his vaccination with the Nightingale Hospital - and had been advised by the GP not to accept their subsequent invitation (which was for the first dose only, whereas he had dates for both), I too received a phone call from the GP: could I attend their session the next day? Which was yesterday.

I said yes, of course. And yesterday evening we slid the car carefully down the icy hill in the dark -

- This was my fault. I am so well trained to remember that [personal profile] durham_rambler has a Very Important Meeting every other Friday afternoon, and may not emerge before five o' clock, that when the surgery offered me a 4.30 appointment, I asked if they had anything later. It was only after we'd agreed on 6.45 that I remembered that that was the other Friday. -

I wasn't apprehensive about the injection itself, though I was anxious about the icy roads, finding the surgery, what to wear: I liked this comment from Edinburgh GP Gavin Francis, in a Guardian 'Long Read' about vaccinations:
It's a much joked-about law within medicine, at least in Scotland, that anyone arriving for vaccination must remove at least three layers of clothing before we can get at their arm. (Those who turn up in a vest under one thick overcoat – we salute you.)

In the end, given the icy cold, I put on my coat over a very sloppy jumper (over a t-shirt), and that was fine. And once we got onto the through road, that was fine too, and we only briefly overshot the (not our usual) surgery.

While I was being seen (or not - it's the 15 minutes observation after that takes the time and limits the number of patients) [personal profile] durham_rambler organised a Chinese takeaway, which we accompanied with the Society's Stellenbosch chenin blanc and that Long Read.

And afterwards we watched Alice Roberts at Stonehenge, explaining how Geoffrey of Monmouth was right - but that's another story. This entry cross-posted from Dreamwidth: comments always welcome, at either location.
mamoulian, stuff

Seven degrees of John Pilgrim

I didn't recognise the name 'John Pilgrim' (and the internet points out that Marvel comics have an entirely different John Pilgrim, but I didn't recognise him, either). He played washboard with the Vipers skiffle group, and, okay, that name does ring the faintest of bells. But just read his Guardian obituary for a whole constellation of familiar names (including the obituarist).

As always, your mileage may vary, and what is familiar depends on your age, background and interests. But if you want to know what connects Philip Larkin to Pussy Cat Willum, just follow the link ... This entry cross-posted from Dreamwidth: comments always welcome, at either location.

Five excitements

This morning's e-mail from Ocado asks: "What are your Valentine's Day plans, SheWhoMust?"
But Ocado, I thought we had a date!

Valentine's Day is not a day we habitually celebrate - although this year it is a red letter day of sorts, since I have secured an Ocado delivery, and [personal profile] durham_rambler has booked his first vaccination at the same time.

[personal profile] durham_rambler received an e-mail inviting him choose between three locations for this:
the nearest (Sunderland), the most convenient for public transport (Newcastle) and the silliest (Kendal, 70 miles away and on the far side of the Pennines): he has chosen to drive to Sunderland.

Of course, the following morning the GP's surgery phoned to offer him a vaccination there; but he will stick to Plan A.

In other medical news, we have been to the dentist
for our regular, though somewhat delayed, check-up. [personal profile] durham_rambler will return for a filling, I get away with it for now.

While we were there...
The dentist is just along the street from the shop which stocks sourdough from the Claypath Deli, so I called in and bought a loaf. This is not quite essential shopping, but close enough, I hope.

This afternoon our blocked drain was unblocked
by a nice man in an orange jacket. The drain is at the bottom of the garden (and if you must have a blocked drain, that's where you'd want it to be) so the disruption was minimal. We had been warned that they might need a water supply, which would have been fun, but fortunately he had enough water in the van - though this made the van heavy enough that he wasn't sure he'd get it back up the hill from the back lane ...

This entry cross-posted from Dreamwidth: comments always welcome, at either location.

February Fill-Dyke

I woke yesterday morning to a light sprinkling of snow, and more falling throughout the morning:


This morning there's no sign of it. At least, there is no snow to be seen in the gardens: but the flood gauges are rising on the local rivers. (We live at the top of a hill, so we are interested rather than alarmed.) This entry cross-posted from Dreamwidth: comments always welcome, at either location.

Calling Ocado's bluff

I should probably set up a 'First world problems' tag: it would be a perfect fit for this post, and no doubt for others, too. I know how lucky I am to be in a position to solve some of the problems of lockdown by paying an upmarket grocer to delivery. But seriously, Ocado...

I have just taken a delivery: the advance notice - written as if from the delivery driver - warned me that it included substitutions but If you’d rather not have these substitutions, let me know before you take the shopping in − I'll take them back and get them removed from your bill. I try to make the best of substitutions, because it's more convenient all round, but on this occasion I really did not want: a mixture of things I would not choose to buy, and things where multiple iterations of s single item had been substituted for a selection of different ones.

That note implies that the substitutions are all neatly together in one bag, and that when I say 'no', the driver picks up that bag and departs. This is not how it works. Once upon a time, purchases were neatly packed like with like, in bags labelled 'store cupboard' or 'fridge' but even this sysyem has fallen apart, and a bag may contain a pack of cereal, three pots of yoghourt and a bar of soap. Yes, I realise that supermarkets are struggling to keep up with the demand, but the time they save not sorting the bags is then lost on the doorstep, as I tell the driver that I don't want the substituted items, and he asks me what they were ...

In theory I cannot fish out and hand back the items I don't want, because the driver can't accept items once I have touched them; but how much do I want him to sort through my shopping and extract items? It's not ideal. In practice, we compromise: he removes a couple of clearly visible items, decides that he doesn't have time for this, tells me to keep the balance and he'll credit me anyway.

The moral of this story is, the offer to take back items substituted is a bluff.

ETA: A subsequent e-mail asks me to rate "my" driver, and exploring the details of what I should and shouldn't take into account in answering this I found this instruction about substitutions: Simply tell your driver you do not want to accept them, and you won’t be charged for them. (That's on this page of the FAQs, which includes a link to "this page" for a coronavirus update - unfortunately, clicking it takes me to a 404). I didn't know that, and neither did my drivers -

Oh, but wait: could it be that the reason we didn't know is that we were relying on this alternative page of advice, linked from the delivery notification e-mail, which repeats the text from the delivery note which I quoted above: You can still reject substitutions at the door. The only difference, for now, is that your driver will first ask if you’re happy with them and, if not, will take back the substitutions before you pick up the shopping.

Make your mind up, Ocado. This entry cross-posted from Dreamwidth: comments always welcome, at either location.

Sing if you're glad...

Wednesday's pub quiz included a round about happy songs: here it is, if you are interested. Our team managed four out of five, of which two answers were solo contributions from the Professor of Theology. I didn't know any of them, but, as I told the Quizmaster, I could think of several happy songs he hadn't included. ("The Turtles?" he asked, but that hadn't been one of them.) By the time I emerged from the shower the next morning I had a full set of five:

There's no time to cry, happy, happy...
ought to be a straightforwardly happy song, but the video reveals a certain ambivalence, and perhaps that's why this was once of the first songs I thought of.

And they couldn't prevent Jack from feeling happy ...

You made me so very happy...

On second thoughts...
There's every justification for including Ken Dodd's Happiness on this list, and if I were compiling a nicely varied set of quiz questions that's what I'd do. But since this is just for enjoyment, I'll substitute something I actually enjoy: There is really nothing else I'd rather do, 'cos I'm happy...

The first "happy song" I thought of:
And I won't feel bad till the whisky is gone...

This entry cross-posted from Dreamwidth: comments always welcome, at either location.