Skating Away

George Square, Glasgow, 11 December 2004.



Who Killed Round Robin?

From the year I left home until a few years ago, I sent a letter to all my friends every Christmas telling them what I’d been up to (and, once Jane was on the scene, what we’d both been up to)—my “form letter”, as I jokingly called it. I couldn’t face hand-writing the same news out again and again, and top-and-tailing it on a word processor seemed less honest than acknowledging its photocopied origins. Which was fine, until we moved to Britain and ran up against:

  1. Seasonal Affective Disorder, and
  2. Institutionalized mockery of “round robins”, as they’re called here, in the British press.





My brother and sister-in-law lived in London’s docklands for most of their time in the UK, which meant I ended up spending a fair bit of time in the area. He was back there briefly a week or two ago, so I popped down for 24 hours to see him. Luckily it was a clear autumn day, perfect for walking around his old haunts—and for supplementing previous photos of the area’s crumbling past and gleaming present.





An autumn stroll in Edinburgh, 7/11/2004.



The Hope Opera

All first novels may not be disguised autobiographies, but sooner or later all weblogs are, whether you want them to be or not. Even a succession of one-line links to other people’s pages reveals its author over time. What goes unsaid becomes as significant as what’s said, even if you were just busy with something else.

This has certainly been the year of the unsaid here at Snail Manor. Just how different my blogging, or occasional essaying, or whatever the hell this is had become was brought home when a friend told me she’d read over my first year of entries, prompting me to do the same. So much experimentation that year, in writing and in life; so much hope. It wasn’t a good time to be reminded of it, back in April.



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.



News in Brief

PARIS, mercredi 25 août—Tall red-haired bloke and delightful companion seen cavorting along Boulevard Montparnasse après-midi. Repeat sightings jeudi-dimanche à Notre Dame, Tour Eiffel, le Louvre, etc. First photos available at Detail, with more to come.



Send in the Clones

Jane and I caught the 27 over to New Town this afternoon to meet a friend for coffee, climbing up to the top deck as usual and sitting at the front. Somewhere around Princes Street a mother got on with her two kids of four or five and sat in the seats opposite. The girl chattered away to her, while the boy started performing infant calisthenics in the front seat.

“Hold onto the bar, Rory,” said his mum.



New Adventures in Woodworking

I live an urban life; the urbs are my abode. But now and then I’m reminded that they aren’t where I’ve come from.

Jane and I went out to dinner a while ago with a colleague of hers and his wife, and the conversation soon turned to the reliable theme of home renovations. They’re having some sort of problem with a door, and Mrs Colleague suggested he drill some new holes to re-hang it. “I’m not buying a drill,” he said, as if the very idea was laughable. “I’ve never used a drill in my life. It’s dangerous. You could have someone’s eye out.”

We all chuckled, while Jane and I thought of the cordless drill sitting in the cupboard at home, waiting to leap out and blind us. I own two drills; three, if you count the hand drill Mum and Dad gave me for my thirteenth birthday. That could take someone’s eye out too, verrrry slowly.



A Spin on the Cycle

It’s thirty years since I first climbed onto a bike and wobbled along our dusty driveway, held upright by trainer wheels. In the years after that I rode everywhere, like most country kids: to school and back every day, to friends’ places on the weekends, and on long epic rides in the summer holidays. They seemed long at the time, anyway. In hindsight they were probably never more than thirty k’s; from Huonville to Judbury and back via Rhys’s at Ranelagh, or up to Snowy’s place at Lower Longley. The ride to Gavin’s was the hardest, along that steep stretch of Swamp Road heading up from the river. Getting out there was fun, though, because you could cut onto the oxbow bend of main road bypassed a few years earlier—the local equivalent of an old railway siding. It was overgrown, but you could still get up a good head of steam, until you hit the trench across it that was exactly the same shape as a ten-speed’s front wheel.




A gap of seventeen days between posts deserves some kind of explanation, even if I did say that things would be pretty quiet here in the first half of ’04.



The Ice Age Cometh

Grate Planters Footprints Castle Cathedral

The Ice Age

Edinburgh, 28/1/2004.