Friday, 26 December 2008


Well, I find myself somewhat bloated, and utterly soaked in booze. My Christmas, for the first time since the year 2001, has been spent at home in Dingwall, plunged into a world of food, red wine, dancing programmes on TV, parsnips, grandfatherly ramblings, and watching other people open presents.

I'm back home in Dingwall for a few days, taking time from my busy Aberdeen schedule of sleeping in and playing pool. With my wayward sister gallavanting in Australia and my dutiful brother spending Christmas day nursing, it was always going to be a fairly peaceful Christmas. On Christmas Eve, my mother and myself visited my brother for our traditional Eve curry, where I gratefully received my brother's generous gift - a large parsnip. This parsnip was later passed on to my cousin, upon meeting in Dingwall's local pub The Mallard, so that he could pass it on to his father, whom I had spoken to earlier and who had sadly retold of his failed quest to source a parsnip in all of Dingwall: despite much intrigue and wild goose chases, Dingwall appeared to be all out. I am told the parsnip ended up complementing their Christmas meal royally.

My visit to the Mallard was an odd one. The Mallard is always unspeakably rampacked on Christmas Eve, full of Dingwall youth, many now expatriated in dark southern cities and reacquainting in this familiar haunt only annually. The key word in these last couple of sentences is "youth": I am no longer one. This was driven home hard and clear by the fact that I was just about the senior citizen of the entire venue, and surely twice the age of some of the dinky little femmes that patrolled in facepaints and semi-dresses. Jings, I felt old. It was the first time in seven years I've been to the Mallard on Christmas Eve, and I suspect the last. Time to settle down respectably I feel, or at least I thought so when surrounded by three hundred children, many of whom would see me prosecuted should I have accidently brushed too close.

The upside of it all was that, appropriate to my sensible middle-age, I left before midnight after only six or so drinks, and felt pretty healthy on Christmas Day itself. Before lunch, this was spent idling at home, watching my mother open a vast mountain of presents from her schoolchildren and many admiring manfriends, and looking forlornly upon my meagre pile (a book token, an owl calendar, and some beers from the neighbours; in fairness, I gave precisely no presents this year). After my grandfather had finished his lengthy discourse about the state of modern press and politics, slipping in a few obligatory WWII references, we progressed to my aunt's nearby home, where she cooked and I ate enough food to last me and my nation for some time. With my aunt's manfriend kindly ensuring my glass was never clear of wine, I settled on the sofa and became immersed in a world of TV, the likes of which usually escape me in my own TV-banned household. Hours of faux-celebrities dancing seem to be the modern TV staple, though as this seemed to afford plenty of airtime to glossy buxom lushes, it wasn't all bad.

My cousins arrived later, and soon after it was time for a Christmas miracle - my aunt found a plate of parsnips she'd forgotten to serve for lunch! I enjoyed them greatly over another glass of wine. Or was it whisky by now?

Well, fortunately, the huge amount of food cancelled out any especially mentally debilatating effects of the red wine and whisky, and I find myself in decent form come the end of the day, except for my male-pregnant look ("in" for 2009) and radiating bodyheat. Tomorrow, I strongly suspect, will be more of the same, and I may hang around for Saturday now as it seems a few more interesting characters will be returning to Dingwall, thus allowing for some surely regrettable alcohol-related activities. Then, back to Aberdeen, and ready to get my life wrapped up - not for the new year, but for an upcoming job, in the sunny climes of Mozambique. Work? Job? Is there more to life than endless intoxicating leisure?

Thursday, 25 December 2008


MC from NC.

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

The Catch

I wasn't really paying attention when I ordered a lovely hardback edition - for only £4! - of one of my favourite books from Amazon.

Anybody want a German copy of Catch-22?

Friday, 12 December 2008

Awfully Interesting

I have discovered something that's very interesting. My shoes are a little worn, and the inner soles are loose. And whenever I take my shoes off, if I remember and try not to remove the inner soles, the inner soles always end up being partially pulled out of the shoes. Frightfully inconvenient. However, if I'm in a rush and don't think about, the inner soles always seem to stay in place.

Isn't that interesting?

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

The Owl Parade

Today is my 30th birthday, and so on Saturday I had a party to celebrate this event which featured, obviously, an owl-judging competition. I am still in the process of acquiring photos of this hard fought (and sometimes bitter) contest, which featured an impressive range of owls from shop-bought to handmade to stuffed to weapon of choice, but I have taken photos of some of the entrants. And so here is an owl parade!

Note, this is not the full list of entrants as some were edible (Mary's range of owlet cakes and Esme and Sarah's large third-place owl cake) and others for one-night-only (Stan's beautiful stuffed owl and Edward's borrowed owl necklace, which made me look like a pimp) so I didn't get pictures of them at the time.

This graceful lady owl was a gift from Vizzy. It was cause of particular concern to my friend Emily, who claimed it was simply an owl's head stuck onto a lady's body and so was worryingly unrealistic. Needless to say, an owl's head on a lady's body is one of my greatest fantasies.

This was the number one prize-winning owl, by Jenny, winning a good bottle of wine. However, it was a very controversial choice as Jenny had claimed (though possibly in jest and I had simply misunderstood) that she had hand-made it, and only later did I discover that this wasn't true. Regardless, it's a magnificent specimen, made from shells and with googly eyes.

Emily's gleaming white and studious porcelain entry.

An adorable little felt owl, hand made by Mary, whom I know from my time in Korea, and who, with Carlos, had come all the way from Berlin for this important date in the owl calendar. She also made an owl cake the night before, for our small dinner party, but it had been consumed before the competition had commenced.

This owl candle, with its head melted off, glowed different colours as it burnt, and was quite lovely. It was given to me the Monday before, by my then-girlfriend, just as we broke up. I felt a little guilty receiving it just after we broke up, although as she told me it only cost £1 off ebay, not that guilty.

This beefy bad-boy was a gift from Mira, and was alarmingly heavy. It will undoubtedly be the first thing I reach for if I find an intruder in my flat.

Ornate yet practical, this owl key-ring was from my sister.

Poor Kitchen Mark and French Claire had, by accounts, caused a catastrophe in their living trying to create an owl from papier mache, but not succeeding. So instead they gave me this dainty little Japanese owl, with its own cushion.

The actual owl you see here, big and plastic, is my first ever owl, given to me years ago. It is modelling Rosie's owl mask here, which was part of Rosie's "human owl" entry, which consisted of Rosie dressed as an owl!

This large pom pom owl was painstakingly crafted by Louise (and Joe) and was a worthy second place, and many thought was robbed of first prize (which given subsequent controversies may well have been the case). Soft to the touch, with big innocent eyes, it may not do much against intruders but it will certainly warm up these cold winter days.

This wooden owl was made by Green, apparently greatly testing his patience. It kind of reminds me of the woodpecker in Bagpuss, and is one of the wiser of my collection.

From Martin and Karen, this tiny owl, remarkably, contains four even tinier owls inside, Russian Doll-style. The smallest one is certainly the smallest owl possible in any owl parade.

Another from my sister, this owl, innocent at first glance, is actually an owl condom! I look forward to trying this out on an unsuspecting lass.

A late entry from my PA, this owl plugs into a computer USB port, and at random intervals opens its eyes and moves its head.

From Julie, a remarkable owl collage - an owl picture made up of lots of little owl pictures. Who would have thought such a thing could exist? This now takes pride of place in my hallway.

I'll let you figure this one out.

And there you go, my owl parade, formed from my owl-judging competition. This was the main centrepiece of my party, but of course the party was full of other stuff, such as drinking, talking, dancing and smoking big cigars. Here, to end, is the choice cut of the sixteen photos that I took.

From left: me, cousin Esme, cousin Malcolm, sister Morag and brother Ian. My aunt requested this family photo, specifying she wanted it taken before we were too wasted.

Kitchen Mark and French Claire. One of my favourite memories of the party is up in my room, playing "Roni" loudly, and dancing like absolute maniacs for about ten minutes until at the point of total physical exhaustion. Roni!

DJ Green spins some more tunes.

My PA, after whipping herself up into an ever-escalating frenzy, which included drawing moustaches on girls and fake-tattooing people, collapsed on a chair under a heap of coats, where she remained until about 4pm.

Sunday, 16 November 2008

Natural History Museum

On Friday, in London, I spent about three hours in the afternoon at the Natural History Museum. Only upon leaving and going round the corner, to see the actual main entrance to the museum, did I realise I'd just spent my three hours in the Science Museum. I'd wondered where all the dinosaurs had gone...

Saturday, 1 November 2008

My Flat vs Green's Flat

My good friend and personal chef J. Green has a nice flat in a nice part of town, and sometimes reflect on the dark days he lived on the "other side" of Aberdeen, i.e. where I live now. Whereas his side, the West End, glitters with class, my side, the East End, drips with menace.

However, in a head-to-head contest of unruly incidents and circumstances, Green's has been nudging mine. On my side, my neighbours grow weed in the shared attic, sometimes play their music loud, somebody from the block once set fire to the paper notices on the main door and wrote on the walls, and about a month ago I passed two policemen outside someone's door, as well as there being a steady pile-up of cigarette butts and plastic kebab forks. However, Green has been troubled by noisy neighbours - above and below - for over a year, I once found a 12-year-old boy asleep on the stairs, and his neighbour above had to be rescued from the police after attempting suicide by hanging. I think he wins. Out of doors, there's no doubt my flat on Market Street is a little rougher, with hookers parading their wares, the working class spilling out of low rent bars, and kebab sauce flowing like sewage. Nonetheless, very near Green's, I once witnessed a rough-looking girl vomit as she walked, and a nearby flat sometimes opens its windows to show off a bunch of vested skinheads playing trance at an abysmal volume.

This morning, though, saw me score some more points. At about 9.30am I left on my daily hour's walk, and at the bottom of the stairs, curled foetally, was a young gentleman with an obvious head wound. Ahead, the main door had been forced open (and now won't lock) and blood was smeared on the wall. The young gentleman was conscious, but his head and hands were buried in his hoodie and he didn't respond until I prompted him with a light shove. His response was slurred and incoherent and I thought, "Hell, hopefully he'll have crawled off and died somewhere else by the time I get back."

I pondered the situation on my bracing walk down the beach, and thought perhaps I should call the police or something if he was still there upon my return. But as I came back through the main door, I was relieved to see he'd gone. My mail was still there too. It was climbing the several thousand stairs and spotting the trail of blood that it became apparent that, in fact, he wasn't gone. He'd simply gravitated upwards, closer to heaven perhaps, in a quieter spot to curl up and die.

This is what greeted me outside my door.

Though it's not clear from the photo, his face was covered in blood, with an obvious wound most likely from some kind of "street fighting" with a fellow "tough". Indeed, not a gentleman at all. He was a little more coherent though, as he bled onto my hallway armchair, insisting in slurred tones that he was alright, and lived on the level below. I would have invited him inside for a coffee and chat but he seemed fairly settled and I was worried he might bleed over a housecoat.

I phoned the police just to let them know that there was an injured, drunk, bleeding guy camped outside my flat, and they duly popped by to ask him the same questions I had, and appear to have left him there to continue his bleeding.

Anyway, I'll leave it for you, dear impartial reader, to judge whether this levels me on points with Green or even nudges me ahead. Green - it's your move.


In fact, I do the police an inservice. They just knocked on my door and told me they'd taken him to a different address presumed to be home. His claim of living in this block seems to have been erroneous. They also admired my antique typewriter.

Wednesday, 29 October 2008


With the nights drawing in and the onset of a bitter winter, the golden summer of Scotland has long ended and a definite chill is in the air. Nowhere is this felt more than my palatial flat. Like all grand and historic edifices, the natural state of being is to have a cool but calm nip in the air - this isn't some box-roomed central-heated sleek and bland modern apartment with a flat-screened TV on every wall you know. It is also the case that I have a strong aversion to turning the heating on, which the cynic might claim is just me being cheap, but I would put hand on bleeding heart and say is my strong environmentalist drive to save our beloved Earth! The fact is, my quarterly electricity bill was only £90, and I was quite pleased with this. The PA is under strict orders not to turn any heaters on. I'd ban her hair-drier if I thought I could get away with it.

I digress. With winter with its foot in the door, and Scotland being officially the coldest place on Earth after Siberia during this period, and my refusal to use electricity, there needs to be a way to keep warm. I have a world-class duvet and, if I'm lucky, a high-class girl, but these are only good during the night. So how, you may wonder, does a gentleman stop from freezing when at home during the day? The answer is simple: housecoats.

As the name might suggest, a housecoat is a coat for indoor wear. If I'm at home, enjoying my leisure time, I don't want to be wearing some bulky outdoor jacket, perhaps soaked from the rain or blotted with the dirt of the streets. And so I instead wear a special jacket designed for the home, a snug, clean and stylish garment that has the flexibility and comfort to allow daily household activities.

Needless to say, a housecoat cannot be worn outdoors! How ridiculous. I'll pretend you didn't ask that.

I have a selection of housecoats, now eight in total (nine if you count the Gentleman's Yellow Housecoat, but it is currently out-of-action after an illicit yachting trip in Croatia, which blasted it with sea salt and red wine). This is not only for my consumption, but that of my guests, when they dare venture into my part of the city. Six of these housecoats are very recent purchases; realising winter was imminent, I stocked up. Years ago, when I lived in the castle, I had a collection of about twelve housecoats, but my uncle threw them all out while I was in Korea, and I was only able to save the two classic housecoats.

Anyway, I could ramble all day about housecoats - and my gentle friends have suffered enough already - so without further ado, here are some housecoat photos, because I know the modern attention span stretches only so far, and prefers pretty pictures over purple prose any day.

Part 1: The Gentlemen's Housecoats.
The following housecoats are designed for gentlemen. That's not to say that ladies cannot wear them, for my home is very modern in thinking, just that the fit is more suited to a muscular build.

1. The Classic Gentleman's Housecoat
This is the original gentleman's housecoat, passed on by my father over ten years ago. It has been with me through thick and thin, and has an elegance that matures with each passing year. Burgundy in colour and soft to the touch, it is truly a housecoat for all (indoor) occasions. It goes particularly well with cognac. A favourite with the guests - on the rare occasion I let them!

2. The Gentleman's Sturdy Brown Housecoat
If there could be a housecoat for the traditional worker, this is it. Quickly establishing itself as another favourite, this is a thick and warm housecoat, with a no-nonsense rough lustre. Too coarse for the particularly feminine, this is a housecoat for the man's man, and for someone like me, ideal attire after a hard day's graft.

3. The Metropolitan Gentleman's Housecoat
With its bold primary colour and trim fit, this is a housecoat for the modern sire, for the gentleman at home in the modern metropolis with all the new ideas that the last century has brought. Fashionable to "the max", the gentleman wearing this may fancy himself as quite the dandy!

4. The Original Tartan Gentleman's HousecoatBoldly and proudly proclaiming itself in Scotland's original tartan (designed by Robert The Bruce), this is a modern fitting housecoat with traditional roots. Snug to wear and smooth to touch, this is a housecoat that encapsulates the best of all centuries.

Part 2: The Ladies' Housecoats.

The following housecoats are designed for ladies. Of course, gentleman are very welcome to try them on - I do so myself often - but they may find them a little restrictive and imperfectly fitting. For these are housecoats specially designed to complement a lady's gentle, gracious curves.

1. The Classic Lady's Housecoat
The original lady's housecoat, in my possession now for over five years. Almost velvety to the touch, this is a dainty and petite housecoat for the dainty and petite lady - no housecoat for the burly man, as my photo demonstrates! With its dazzling buttons, housecoats don't come any more elegant, and like nothing else this housecoat can make a lady look a million dollars.

2. The Velvet Unisex Housecoat
A rare unisex housecoat, this currently occupies the lady's section of my housecoat rack due to its magnificent gold buttons and luxuriously soft velvet that catches the imagination of any lady, yet the easy fit and bold sense of style appeals equally to the gentleman. Truly, this is a soft and fuzzy housecoat with a royal shine.

3. The Riding Red Lady's Housecoat
A bold and bright housecoat originally designed for horse-riding ladies for when they came indoors fresh from the stables. These days, you don't need to have ridden a horse to maximise the utility and enjoyment of this smart housecoat, you simply need a healthy sense of what is indoors and what is out.

4. The Rustic Lady's Housecoat
A housecoat designed for the lady who loves the outdoors, and who loves taking a gentle stroll through the woods and fields, talking to the little lambs and kittens as she does so. Of course, an outdoor jacket would be required for that, but what better indoors but to wear a housecoat perfectly designed to remind of the outdoors? For this practical and tough housecoat is durable like the outdoors, and is good for all weather (as long as it stays indoors).

And there we have my eight currently-functioning housecoats, designed for all kinds of people, whether male or female, of good breeding or bad. As the skies grow darker, the world colder and especially as the credit crunch crushes and crashes and stretches all good folks' finances to a breaking point, I expect housecoats to catch on in a very big way, so if you, dear reader, are considering buying some of your own I would advise you not to hesitate, as you don't want to miss out and go cold over Christmas.

Monday, 27 October 2008

Terror In Torry

As part of my convalescence, I decided to take a walk through the darklands of Torry today. With streets eerily quiet and devastation all around, the air of oppression was thick like smokey mucus and the soot-black tower blocks - Torry's monuments of despair - watched my every move. As I shuffled through the ominous silence, punctuated only by the sound of heroin entering veins, I heard a distant screaming. It grew louder, until filling the air with its awful wail. To my horror, I found myself outside a giant cage, the bars stretching above my head, and inside were hundreds and hundreds of children. The sound by now was unbearable, a ferocious cacophany of yells, roars, and deathly moans. What monstrous fate had fallen upon these damned children?

I didn't hang around to find out. I fled, and was soon out of Torry, being sure not to look behind me. It can have been no coincidence that a rainbow brightened the skies upon my exit. I shall not be returning soon.

Wednesday, 1 October 2008


Life, as they say, is a mighty fandragon, and rarely has that ever been so true. In early July, complaints were being spurted off in all directions as to my being overworked and never home - three months of being home later, I'm considering hitching on the first passing chopper just to get away. "Feast or famine," was how the operations manager explained this unprecedented home spell for me, and truly I'm getting just a little peckish.

That's not to say I'm not enjoying this extended spell of homeness. Indeed, it's been a pleasure to settle into my beloved flat, to daily meet my beloved friends,


Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Durham Photos

I never did get round to putting these photos of Durham up, did I?

Tuesday, 26 August 2008


So I was in Durham this weekend. All I knew about Durham before visiting was that it was the origin of the legendary birdwatching fanatic, Kitchen Mark, so already Durham had a giant gold star in my book. However, Kitchen Mark has been soiling the streets of Aberdeen for over a decade, and there's a new kid on the block in Durham, the legendary literary deconstructionist, non-kitchen Maebh. In fact, Maebh has been in Durham for two years and I'd been promising from way back then to visit, only finally now being true to my word.

And, well, wasn't it a lovely visit? I thought I was fully prepared to deal with Maebh's awesome beauty, but somehow she'd cranked up the honey factor yet another gear, leaving me convinced that within her DNA the very secret of eternal youth must lurk. Truly a scientific wonder. And a literary one too, as she ploughs through a PhD on deconstructionist maestro Derrida, a topic my very own PA, herself an English PhD student (a criticial analysis of a Walter Scott poem) described as "difficult".

The Friday evening I arrived was one of Maebh's housewarming party, in a real house, which in a nutshell was a gathering of Durham uberstudents drinking tons and tons of red wine. Very enjoyable, and I regaled to one and all my tales of the seas, aboard destitute rigs in hostile climes. All the girls swooned, I'm happy to report.

Remarkably, my health wasn't ruined the next day, save for some fuzziness, and so Maebh and I took a little wander round Durham, and I admired its beauty and she reminded me it was in fact really quite small and the nightlife wasn't raging. As we know each other from Korea, we remembered these days fondly, harking back to that carefree lifestyle and the quirks and mania of rather a unique nation. And of course, we took a look at Durham cathedral, which I can confirm is really quite big. And thus I shall end my writing now, and bombard you with photos.

Or I would if I could get this damn thing to work. Screw this, I'm hungry, I'll put these photos up later.

Friday, 22 August 2008

My Poor Late PA

My poor PA was late last night.

For those who know me well, they will also know that it's best not to be late for an appointment with me. I regard myself as extremely punctual - a family trait that would see us in the car, leaving for a holiday at precisely 8am each time. If I arrange to meet my sister somewhere, we'll arrive at exactly the same time, five minutes before the time agreed. My ten minute walk to school would have each road crossing and landmark timed to the second, with the bell going just as I came into view of the main door. I would rather be twenty minutes early than five minutes late and pride myself on never being late. Let's not mention helicopters here though...

As I say, my friends are well versed in this. Most of my friends are pretty good with time anyway, but some have had to learn the hard way. For though I'll forgive the occasional lapse, and I'm aware that sometimes unexpected delays can occur, when it comes to chronic late time-keeping my patience wears extremely thin, and it's one of the few faux pas that can still turn me from a gentle sweet man to a raging fury. My good friend Emily suffered heavily some years back. With a genetic disposition for being twenty or more minutes late for everything, our friendship creaked under the strain of her late arrival and my built-up temper; it is with great pride that I can say that these days she is never late, for me at least. I broke up with my girlfriend in Korea in large part due to her lateness. She would almost always be half an hour late for every meeting we ever had. This soon became a major issue. Because our meetings would inevitably begin with me ranting or in a mad huff, and with her in a panicked fluster. "Korean girls are always late - it's Korean culture," she would claim, but that didn't wash me with me. She became scared to even meet me if she knew she'd be more than five minutes late, and one time this fear translated into not turning up at all. As you can imagine, things didn't last long after that.

On my part, I feel my impatience is justified. You wouldn't be late for a job interview, or a meeting with your boss, so why should you be late for a friend? Especially if someone is waiting outside, it's just plain rude to leave them hanging around there. I'm not unreasonable, I allow for five minutes of lateness, but once we enter that sixth minute my blood begins to boil. And no, a text message at the agreed time of meeting warning of lateness will not do. In fact, it just makes it worse.

And so my poor PA came a cropper of this pet hate of mine.

For a couple of weeks, there's been a double bed in my van. My PA put it there, as it was being moved from a friend's flat to her mother's home. I've not needed the van much in the last two weeks so it's been no big deal, but I was hoping she'd sort it out sooner rather than later. However, as she's not insured to drive it, it was kind of dependent upon me getting round to it. Then, two days ago, new sofas were delivered to my fifth flat, and so I suddenly needed the van to take away the old crappy ones. Two or three times we arranged to get the bed delivered, but each time was cancelled, because of her mother being out, or forgetting to leave the keys , or something. Fortunately, the new tenants of the fifth flat haven't moved in yet, but they've started paying and could move in at any time, therefore it was only professional of me to make sure their new home wasn't clogged up with sofas, so I was very keen to get them out as quickly as possible.

Finally, a time of 8pm yesterday was set, and set in stone as far as I could tell. Rather, her mother would be home at this time, therefore I reckoned if we were ready to at about 7.40pm, the timing would work out well. My PA wasn't in when I went to fetch the van, through the pouring rain, and when I tried calling her her phoned appeared to be switched off our out of batteries. I parked the van on double yellow lines and came back to the flat, but she still wasn't around. It was still before 8 though, and so I supposed she'd just be back for then. Her phone still didn't respond.

At 8.05pm I received a text message - "here in twenty minutes!" Hmm, one, now two cardinal sins. I put some music on, tried to relax, but found myself getting wound up and unjable to concentrate. Twenty minutes passed, no sign, and still no phone response. Thirty minutes, forty, then fifty, and by now by blood was fully boiled. The album I'd put on had finished and my rage had peaked. "Given up. We do this 9am tomorrow" I texted her, and stormed out of the flat, and went round to Green's for a beer and Seinfeld, and to calm down.

My PA arrived back about ten minutes later, it seems, and tried to phone me but I ignored her calls. This was for the best, as I was in a fully-aware rage and fully aware I would be extremely impolite and unreasonable if I spoke to her, so just sent her a message telling her stop phoning me and I'd be calmed down in a while. It was a lucky break for her she didn't see me then because it's the biggest rage I've had in a while - but then, no-one's been late for me in quite a while. And when I did get back, I was returned to a nice mellow state, and was able to greet my poor PA merrily, with no inclination to snap at her. She was almost in tears, and I felt quite bad to be honest, but at least it will have taught her to be dead on time in future. We moved the bed and sofa today, a mere half-hour job, and the air was again rosy.

In other news, I've now passed the six week mark at home, which is a personal record for the last two years, and am actually getting quite impatient to go away again. Not just for financial reasons, but just because I miss the smell of the rigs, the burning fumes, the sweaty men, and the salty sea air. It looks like I'll be on a mini-job next week, but only for a few days. Still no big jobs imminent.

For today, I'm going to Durham in a couple of hours, to reunite with the divine Maebh, for whom adjectives cannot ever adequately describe her radiance, and whom I've not seen in over two and half years, despite many broken promises to visit her. But finally I've made the time. The train leaves at 1.21pm today. I won't be late (and it better not be).

Sunday, 17 August 2008

Small Party

Look at my new camera. What do you think?

In fact, it's not mine, but was left in my flat on Friday, after somewhat of a mangling party. I think it may be the neighour's, Yates's, but I've decided to keep it until he claims it, and maybe sell it on Ebay. Looking through his photos, it's rather heartening to see he's almost as bad as I with regards to this alleged art, but his collection was redeemed by a photo of me, on the roof.

Friday's party was a rather sprawling and unplanned affair, that left me almost entirely physically disabled on Saturday. It started off with a few civilised drinks with my sister and her friends, but ended up with a motley crew of colleagues, neighbours and strangers on my roof at 7am. The main instigators of it all - for I was blameless - were Burness (a perennial bad influence), my PA and the neighbour Yates, who seemed to drag half a clubful of people back to the flat at 3am. It was all very enjoyable, though I was very glad I've opted for floorboards only in my flat, for the flat was awash with spilt drink. My PA very gallantly cleaned everything up the next day too, as I slinked off to Green's empty flat to hide, and to watch the football and Olympics.

As all this may suggest, I'm not in Norway and still lounging about at home. The job in Norway was cancelled this week, and nothing else seems immediately imminent. It's almost six weeks at home now - a record, I think. With all my flats finished and rented, I find I don't have much pressing business to do, and have become incredibly lazy, so I really intend to make better use of my time this week. I may even pop into the office - yes, it's got that desperate. I won't actually do anything there except drink coffee and pester people, but I should remind everyone of my continued existence, and see what jobs are coming up.

And that's it.

Sunday, 10 August 2008

Becky's Wedding

I sit here, in the little alcove of my exquisitely furnished living room, DJing to a near-professional level (despite lack of headphones), drinking dodgy Polish beer. My PA is studiously catching up with three years of a neglected PhD in the kitchen, dropping her hard work only to fetch me another drink, which I communicate to her by text message. Outside, the light dims, but the screeches of the universally-despised seagulls remain bright and loud, with the higher pitches of the pathetic baby seagull also registering: oh, how I wish for a national cull. Perhaps a little later, I'll tire of my "dex-skillz" and progress to the snooker room, and knock around my shiny new snooker balls. Until finally, when the beer has run out and I decide against the cognac, I'll stumble up the dangerous stairway to my attic haven and fall into a delicious sleep in my massive, extremely accommodating bed. And throughout all of this, I will make no mistake: this is Aberdeen, and not Norway.

I was supposed to be in Norway by now; at least, I would be in some parallel universe where oil schedules meant something. Fortunately they don't, and on Friday morning, as I emerged from deep sleep into a world of hangover ruin, I received a phonecall with the very welcome news that Saturday's voyage to Norway had been postponed.

That news ultimately made for a far more enjoyable Friday evening, though it barely made a blip on the vile misery that Friday morning turned out to be. I found myself in a country house near Birmingham, then in a dining room with a bride, a groom and their family and friends, and then in a small car with a six hour drive ahead. The most ghastly of the misery - a deep nausea receiving little sympathy from the teetotal honey, Roxana - passed after the first couple of hours, mercifully, but I apologise to anyone who happened to venture into a service station toilet between Birmingham and Carlisle anytime after 10am that morning.

It was all worth it though, because the Thursday that caused the damage was terrific. I'd been invited down to see an old friend, Becky, get married. Becky was an integral part of "back in the day", when I lived in a castle and didn't sleep, only pass out. She wasn't in the last bit a good influence, instead preferring to phone at the moment I was about to drive home, and persuade me to venture to some seedy nightclub. She wisely jumped ship just before the whole scene dissolved into the darkest of mania, but to hear of her getting married, presumably forever, was still quite a surprise. This was someone from a group of people for whom commitment meant remembering to be at the pub for 10pm. The sobering influence on her life is a man, and very charming and pleasant he turned out to be, with the impressive name of "Hereward", an old friend from before "back in the day", who has nursed Becky into a healthier world and convinced her to be a dutiful wife.

I arrived into Birmingham very late on Wednesday, so late in fact it was actually Thursday, the wedding day. After meeting Rox, the driver, in Edinburgh, traffic and then weather had been horrendous, and we'd slipped way behind schedule; nonetheless, Becky was happy to direct us as we entered the unknown and deeply murky world of Birmingham, and greet us as we finally found her house. I stayed with a couple of her friends, and survived a whole night of being stared at by their unsettled cat. I won the contest, and it missed its tray when crapping, so buoyed by this victory I was in good form going into the wedding.

I didn't know anyone there except for the aforementioned Rox and Becky, but this turned out not to really matter, because it was a fairly small wedding (about 60 people) and a very friendly one, where everyone got on. Of course, the steady drinking from 2.30pm didn't hurt, and the fact that the country house hosting the wedding was also the hotel for everyone.

Anyway, I was going to write more, but my PA has just poured me a White Russian, and I kind of feel like venturing on to the snooker room, where the activities will demand more of my attention rather than my DJ exertions. So I will briefly reiterate that the wedding was really enjoyable, praise the 7-year-old boy who stole the dancefloor, express concern as to the drinkability of a whisky and Amaretto, and look forward to the next drinks I buy being about £15 a pint in Norway.

Thursday, 31 July 2008


I was sipping a cold beer and listening to a splendid DJ mix by Frenchman Ivan Smagghe yesterday afternoon when there was a knocking on my door. As I was very busy playing snooker I asked my PA to answer it. It was the neighbours. Would we like to join them on the roof for a barbecue? Well, why not?

It turns out, it's rather nice up there.

Later on, I went for some drinks with Kitchen Mark, French Claire and The Swish Fish. I got monstrously drunk and ended up DJing again - I was so drunk I thought I was doing it well. Yates, our neighbour, also visited, and promptly passed out on my sofa.

This morning, I have found an empty bottle of whisky and an empty bottle of gin. I'm feeling a little sub-par I must admit.

Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Varwell's Mullet

Those of you familiar with my good friend and former travelling colleague, Varwell, may be aware of his somewhat unconventional mullet world tour. This, in a nutshell, is Varwell's single-minded quest to visit every place in the world with the word "mullet" in it. Foreign translations also count, apparently.

Varwell has been doing this "hair-brained" (to quote every single piece of journalism so far published about him) mission for some years now, and is now impervious to people asking him quite why he's pursuing this goal. His response to those who ask him "have you nothing better to do?" is far more reasoned than my own, which would just be to stick my fingers up at them. The sort of people who ask this question are the sort of unimaginative plebs who have lost their souls to television, and can't conceive of spare time being used elsewise. Why climb a mountain, why send a telescope into space, why build an elaborate train track in your attic: because we can. I'll vote for active endeavour any day over passive vegetation. And although I think Varwell's mullet mission is ridiculous, I think it's ridiculous in the most sincerely wonderful way.

That Varwell has attracted a degree of media attention for this is not altogether surprising; news needs its "And finally..." stories. But many seem just a little disappointed that despite Varwell's great enthusiasm for the mullet hairstyle (perhaps a growing admiration for the fish too), he doesn't sport one himself.

Not any more...

You see, many years back, when we had just met, and I was some callow beardless youth and Varwell was a political monomaniac, Varwell sported a far less trim hairstyle than today. Tangled, long and stringy wouldn't be unfair descriptions, but fierce debate has raged for years now as to quite what form the "long" took. Varwell will insist his hair just simply wasn't cut often, but I - and many others - believe something quite different: Varwell had a mullet.

And just a couple of days ago, I stumbled upon the photo I knew existed, the infamous "Varwell mullet" photo. Taken in either 1996 or 1997, I don't know if he's ever seen this picture, though he has always strenuously denied the accuracy of the contents.

And, well, I think it's best you see for yourself.

(click on the picture for a closer look)

To the left you have a very cherubic looking Joe Guyan, then we have Imray, standing tallest is Varwell himself, then it's someone who apparently was once me, then it's Green , and at the bottom, looking incredibly smarmy, is the reclusive insomniac Robert Graham, who I'm told is still alive to this day. It's hard to believe none of us had girlfriends back then, isn't it? But let's focus on Varwell.

Now, I know exactly what he will say - "it was just long hair" - but is it really? Just look, at the front, hanging just below his eyebrows, at the back, touching his shoulders. Indeed, clearly shorter at the front than at the back: hallmarks of a mullet. The truth is, that underlying this entire epic quest, is the deep-seated, perhaps subconscious, dark truth that Varwell himself used to sport a mullet, and this entire trip is to exorcise these demons of the past.

It is believed that other, even more convincing, photos of this period may exist.

I think little more needs to be said. Varwell, I await your response.

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Catching Up

It's been almost three weeks since my feet touched the warm ground of Aberdeen, and the nightmares of the North Sea, Equatorial Guinea and Brazil could be put behind me, and I could envelope myself in the arms of loved ones. In that time, I've been catching up with friends, family, my properties and life in general, though mostly on the beer missed while offshore. I could write an incredibly erudite entry, weaving deftly among topics, about all the events and happenstances that have occurred in this mega-jamboree of hometime - but as I can't be bothered including photos, I know nobody would read it. So instead, I'm returning to the old favourite - category headings in bold. This will, at least, make it easier to skim.

My New Flat

I acquired my new flat at the very end of May, but being hustled off to the North Sea prevented me having it ready to rent. Fortunately, it needed very little done and it is now on the market, and I'm confident will be fully out of my hands soon. The credit crunch - a necessity now the media are getting bored of terrorists - plays into my hands, as it means people are more likely to rent than buy, so the rental market continues to be extremely buoyant in Aberdeen. This means my tenants can hardly refuse when I insist on putting giant portraits of myself in every room.

Leonard Cohen

I was somewhat upset when I missed Cohen play in Dublin by a day, because of North Sea shenanigans, and spent some time in a girly huff. But recompense was made, and earlier planning paid off. You see, I'd bought tickets to two different shows, knowing that I should at least get lucky with one, and so two weeks ago, on the 16th, I saw Cohen play Edinburgh - and it was the best gig I've ever been to.

My old friend, and one-time very bad influence, Emily came along with me, and we warmed up with some drinks and a meal. We discussed how civilised we have become these days, and reflected on many fun evenings of yore, when we would soak ourselves in red wine, cross-dress and behave in a manner that now shames us. But we now both cut fine figures of professionals, and recognise that all the fun and laughter is behind us, with only a steady decline into old age ahead. Hence a Cohen concert seemed quite appropriate.

In fact, despite Cohen's reputation as a gloom-peddlar, he's nothing of the sort, as anyone in attendance, or with knowledge of his music, would testify. There's some bitter reflection, there's some melancholy, there's some scathing damnation, but there's a lot of wit, and a very warm manner. With no warm-up act necessary, 73-year-old Leonard sung for two-and-a-half hours, and I have never been so enthralled at a gig before.

Even better, by chance internet meanderings, I discovered he's added new dates to his tour, and some very lucky timing meant I have secured a ticket for the Millennium Dome in London, in the primary A block closest to the stage. He'll be close enough to pelt with paper aeroplanes. It's in November, and I've already got the time off due to my 30th and a wedding.


On my first five days home, I was really quite sick. A combination of desperate insomnia, exhaustion and some kind of virus I think, but it was the sickest I've been in years. My PA wasn't even at hand to bodywash me.


Yes, I've hardly seen my PA since I got back. She's supposed to be waiting hand and foot for me, but she took a long weekend at T-in-the-Park, getting wasted, then a long weekend at a London dance festival, getting wasted, and for the last week she's been in Edinburgh because her step-grandfather died. In the time she's been around though, she's been very useful, as she's washed all my clothes. But she needs to start cooking more, and dusting and stuff. Or at least bring pretty friends round in the evening.

My PA's grandfather

His name was J. T. Mckintosh, or at least his pen-name was. He wrote about twenty science fiction novels in the 50s and 60s, and editor of the Press & Journal in the 80s. My PA described him as "cantankerous". I read one of his books, and really enjoyed it, but I'm not sure how well it would wash with modern feminism.

Varwell turns 30

Varwell turned 30 last week, and seemed morose in his lamentations about aging. I figure there's no need to worry as long as you still have your hair.

On the topic of Varwell and hair, I have now found the photo - taken 12 years ago - that proves Varwell once had a mullet, and I will be posting it up soon.

My sister

My sister has just a week left before she walks away from doctorhood and becomes a drunken waster for a year or more. My mother blames me. As a result of this, I have been helping her get her flat ready to rent, and have recarpeted it all as well as chucking out tons of rubbish. She had her official leaving night on Saturday, which culminated in an after-party at my flat, the first such party it has hosted. It went very well. My flat is now geared up for parties, with decks in the living room and a snooker table in the snooker room, as well as a nice, big, open kitchen. It was my first ever public DJing performance - I was bad, but not half as bad as Justin.


Since finishing my fifth flat, and sorting out my sister's, I am now in the joyous position of being finished. For the first time in over two years, my onshore time isn't a frantic race against the clock to redecorate, renovate or refurbish. For two years, when I've not beeen working, I've been working - but now it's all over. I almost don't know what to do with myself. There's still bits and bobs with paperwork, the flat I'm living in and lots of small personal projects, but essentially my days are now clear.

You won't be surprised to hear that I yesterday had to write a note to myself not to start drinking in the afternoon.

Hello Guys At Work!

Two or more years ago, during my time in Korea, my good friend Matt - the cheesily handsome Kiwi, that made all girls swoon - discovered my Korean blog. This was terrible news, as I'd been horribly indiscreet, and named him and others by name. Oh dear. It was a very regrettable episode. Thus, when starting this blog, I have been meticulous in keeping out all mention of my company and colleagues by actual name. But still, word has leaked out, and at least a few of my colleagues are aware of this blog's existence. So, hello.

Fortunately, I've not said anything too incriminating, and haven't mentioned my rampant and promuscious homosexuality, or the fact I'm regularly supplying rival companies reams of confidential information. And fortunately, I know the guys at work will just be looking at the pretty pictures, rather than reading the Queen's English, so they won't have noticed my cryptic messages of hate.

Becky's Wedding

The reason I've been off for a few weeks is fortuitous timing and my official week's holiday starting on Saturday. This was taken for my old friend Becky, who gets married next Thursday, in Birmingham of all places. I never thought I'd take a holiday to go to Birmingham, but life throws all sorts of strange stuff at you.


To reward those who have read this far, I have included a photo. This was taken in Brazil, offshore, and is of a Brazilian's underpants. The Brazilians have a strong predeliction for leaving their underpants hanging conspciously on all available spaces.

Monday, 7 July 2008

Wedding Of The Lamb And The Milk Barons

I've been absolutely inundated with emails requesting photos from the wedding I was at exactly one month ago. This wedding, you will recall, was between Lamb and the UK's premier milk baron family. I did take a camera with me and even took a few photos, which were invariably all rubbish; fortunately, there was a professional present, and fairly recently all the wedding photos were put online. The website didn't permit the saving of these images to file, because they are "copyright" of the photographer, or some baloney, but by pressing the Print Screen button I have bypassed all this.

There were hundreds of photos to choose from, mostly of the married couple, but I have carefully selected the cream of crop (i.e. photos with me, plus someone with tartan trousers). Thank the Lord none of the photos of people dancing featured me, especially during the latter stages.

After the church, we all went to the wedding reception hall, pictured here, which also happened to be the bride's family home. This was only revealed to me some time after. First I was a little surprised, which was then replaced by a deep, searing jealousy - why can't I marry a milk baron?

This is another view of their home. It's almost as nice as my Market Street flat.

Here's a photo of the rutting wedding "stags". Listen to us roar! They wouldn't allow me to take centre stage, instead getting the groom to stand there. That's why I'm the only one not smiling.

Here's everyone at the wedding. How many people do you recognise?

Check out the guy in the tartan trousers. He's the guy in the red box (which I drew in myself - it wasn't in the original shot). Only a very rich man or my grandfather can get away with wearing tartan trousers like these, and he's certainly not my grandfather.

Unbeknownst to myself, the photographer chose to take a sly, arty photo of me, pondering some thoughts over a champagne. But I think I look a little odd in this picture.

Later on at the wedding, I found this giant cat. Look at it!

(in other news: I get free from this rig on Wednesday - confirmed.)