Give the Man Ayr

We Queue in This Country, Part II

There’s not much to see in Ayr, except the sea. (And the air, obviously.) The leftmost bottom-most bit of Scotland is pretty light-on for attractions, other than Culzean with the silent Z, a castle perched on its coastline looking out to the Isle of Arran. Jane and I visited it last month for her birthday, accidentally choosing the wettest day of the month to drive there. When we stopped halfway at the Georgian model town of New Lanark it looked like the rain was clearing up, but by Ayr we were driving through aerial bathwater.

The sea at Ayr in glorious Technicolor®.

Culzean itself had some pleasant interiors and surrounds, but the exterior was a bit disappointing. Turns out that all the publicity photos are taken from a helicopter hovering over the sea, looking towards its perch on the edge of a cliff. From the sea, it’s an impregnable fortress looming o’er the waters; from land, it’s a big house with a cannon in front of it.

But at least it beats Ayr’s other, much more visited attraction: Prestwick Airport. Prestwick, or “Glasgow Prestwick” as it’s laughably called (you’d be more justified calling Edinburgh airport “Glasgow Edinburgh”), is a regional base for Ryanair, so it’s a major hub for tight-arse travel. Jane had already been there twice by the time I got my first look last December, and warned me that it was a hassle to get out to. But even Lothian bus queues hadn’t prepared me for the hassles once we got there.



We Queue in This Country

Ask a dozen Britons what most distinguishes them from other nationalities, and they’ll line up to tell you: the Queue. Even among the rebels, the rabble, the questioners of class and the enemies of aristocracy, the orderly queue is seen as one of the good things about Britain. When the revolution comes, the first up against the wall will be determined by strict social conventions. After you... No, after you.

We interlopers from abroad can find it hard to take, even if our country was founded by a bunch of poms filing off convict ships one by one. It’s not that we don’t believe in queueing in certain situations. It’s just that a healthy influx of non-Anglo stock has relaxed our idea of what those situations are.



Revenge is an Octopus Best Served Cold

Jane was away for half of last week, so I saw a couple of movies with friends: Jim Jarmusch’s Coffee and Cigarettes with Shag, and the Korean thriller Old Boy with David. The Jarmusch was great, especially the segments with Steve Coogan and Alfred Molina, and Tom Waits and Iggy Pop. Old Boy was pretty heavy but pretty gripping, with its story of a man held captive for fifteen years for reasons unknown, then released and given five days to find out why—and to seek revennngge.

Not many people at the movies on a cold Thursday night. Only a dozen in Cameo One: some bearded guy and his girlfriend sitting near us, and a few others here and there. David and I chatted about this and that through the Lynx commercials, then stopped when the trailers came on, as is only polite.



Anything Can Happen

By way of reviewing their concert of last Saturday, I was going to write about how I discovered Tim and Neil Finn, until I realised there’s hardly been a time when they haven’t been on my musical radar—from an early infatuation with “Message to My Girl” to a full-blown obsession a few years after Split Enz split up, when I’d listen to See Ya Round on a continuous-looping walkman while mowing the front paddock. (You had to crank it loud to beat the sound of a Briggs & Stratton. Sorry, eardrums.)



The Corn Laws

Dramatis Personae: The English postdoc who studied in America; The American masters student now studying here; The two Australians.
The Scene: A Bruntsfield café.



A Road Map of New South Wales

An ode to my neighbours of the Nineties. I used to love the romance of these remote country town names, even when I couldn’t figure out how to pronounce them; it’s always fun to drive into a Tumbarumba or Buladelah. (Here’s a pronunciation guide, but I might be wrong about one or two.)



Three-Part Invection

Three rants for the price of one. Don’t say you never get a bargain at this dot-com.



102 Damnations

The inevitable sequel: a selection of spammers’ names collected over the past six months.



Windows 2004

More Doors and Windows

More Doors and Windows from Paris and Scotland.

And more new Detail: Metal Maps.