Friday, October 31, 2008


Eunoia is the shortest word in English containing all five vowels. It means beautiful thinking. It is the title for a rather bizarre book containing five chapters, each one using only one vowel. The author Christian Bok explains how each vowel ended up taking on a character of its own.

Listen to him here

My wee attempt is:

Boss, "Ross loss of dosh poss!"

"No?! Not loss of dosh?!!",boo hoos tosser Jon'

Monday, October 27, 2008

Road Trips and US Election

Is anyone else fed up with all these media types rushing round the USA trying to find odd ball types to interview in every nook and cranny?

Last night the only people I would like to have seen on the Stephen Fry show were the Amish, but they don't like to be photographed or filmed.

But the one thing that did strike me is just how beautiful the Appalachian forests are in fall.

I preferred Jon Snow's C4 report, it was much more upbeat and paid due tribute to the Americans' amazing capacity for innovation and reinvention.

I also had to laugh at Fox News, where they reported on some TV station in Florida that tried to get Biden to admit that Obama had Marxist tendencies. But before Fox could report the issue they had to explain to their viewers just who Marx was. Mmmm I wonder if this means that Fox News reporters are elitists?

Friday, October 24, 2008

The atheist bus


"The Atheist Bus Campaign launched Tuesday October 21 2008. With your support, we hope to raise £5,500 to run 30 buses across the capital for four weeks with the slogan: "There's probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life."

Professor Richard Dawkins, bestselling author of The God Delusion, is officially supporting the Atheist Bus Campaign, and has generously agreed to match all donations up to a maximum of £5,500, giving us a total of £11,000 if we reach the full amount - enough for a much bigger campaign. The British Humanist Association have kindly agreed to administer all donations.

With your help, we can brighten people's days on the way to work, help raise awareness of atheism in the UK, and hopefully encourage more people to come out as atheists. We can also counter the religious adverts which are currently running on London buses, and help people think for themselves.

As Richard Dawkins says: "This campaign to put alternative slogans on London buses will make people think - and thinking is anathema to religion."

In the event they've raised £ 97,064.50 in 3 days!

So much for recession peeps! Now why didn't RBS think of that? And are there buses in Iceland BTW?

I wonder what slogan I'd put on a bus? "Stop worrying and enjoy yourself? Are you my Mum then?" Or perhaps "The Devil now wears Primark" or maybe "From Alchemy to Infamy - A trader's winter tale"

Thursday, October 23, 2008


Madeira Highlands showing broom burned either by accident or design. (Some farmers have objected to losing pasture to the National Park) It is wonderful to climb up into the cooler atmosphere to walk the levadas and see these fantastic views.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Waters of March

I heard this on the radio in English and went looking for it on youtube. I found it in the original Brazilian Portuguese I think. Now I want to know more about Elis Regina. Ah life is a series of wee quests, that's what makes it worth living.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Bale or bail?

I've been dipping into a few of the endless programmes about the collapse of the money markets.

One of the most interesting was on BBC Radio 4 yesterday, it dealt with allegations that some of our major retail banks and their insurers played a game of pass the parcel with highly toxic mortgage packages just prior to the crash. In effect they gave them a triple A risk rating, the lowest you can get, before selling them on to unsuspecting buyers.

Law suits are now pending in the USA against the banks involved.

I googled "market" and this is the definition given in the Financial Dictionary


The key to the free-enterprise system; a generic term for the arrangements by which people buy and sell things, usually with profit as the objective. Some markets have a physical location - fruit markets, the stock market, the futures market; others such as the money market and foreign exchange are a network of traders connected by telephones and computers."

However, I also came upon an interesting thread from someone who doesn't have English as their first language asking what a "market" was. One of the replies - also, I suspect, from someone who isn't a native English speaker says:

"market is mirror for sales person"

I think I prefer this second definition/explanation.

These days I am more or less apolitical, but I really don't think Gordon Brown should get any plaudits for his bank bale out plan until he personally apologises for his "regulation lite" approach, which got us all into this mess in the first place.

And if he is looking for New Deal type projects to boost employment he could do no worse than to start building fuel storage facilities that would allow us, like the French and Germans, to store at least 3 months supply rather than operating, as we do at present, on a "just in time" basis.

Oil is rock bottom just now, but OPEC are meeting to agree to cut supply yet again in the hope of hiking the price.

Much of this winter's fuel poverty could have been avoided had we had the scope to buy and store fuel as and when the price fell.

When will Governments learn that we want efficiency rather than gimmickry?

And we've just had a letter from the Northern Rock cutting our highly inflated mortgage interest rate by something like 0.05% as a "loyalty bonus" for staying with them. Truth be told we tried to move, but with just 3 years left on a tiny repayment mortgage no-one else was particularly interested in taking us on, unless we were prepared to fork out a massive arrangement fee.

As things now stand both our mortgage company and our bank are owned by the Government, and in the present climate that seems a whole lot safer than risking going anywhere else.

But if I was the Northern Rock I'd be looking at my customer base to identify people like us, regular payers whose mortgage term will naturally expire well before this whole sorry mess is sorted out, and I'd be giving us a bloody good service, on the basis that we are part of the solution rather than part of the problem.

Northern Rock is also charging those on Income Support 2% above the standard rate. (I know this because I know other cancer patients who are in this position right now.) Folk in this situation only get their mortgage interest paid by DWP, and DWP are prevented by Government regulations from paying anything more than the BofE standard rate.

So people are having their homes put at risk by two arms of Government, i.e. DWP and a nationalised bank, and each month now substantial arrears are accruing due to the difference between the NR inflated rate and the standard rate that the DWP is able to pay.

Much of these bale out arrangements were brokered late at night on the back of an envelope.

The Government now needs to get it's arse into gear and work out the fine detail.

And that doesn't include shared ownership deals with housing associations for people living with Stage 4 cancer. Most have life insurance that will pay off the debt when and if they die - so why give people like this and their families a whole lot more grief when they're already dealing with quite enough?

PS Another interesting fact is that the US stock market has imploded six times since the American Civil War. So none of this is new - indeed anyone with an eye on history could and should have predicted it. And what did Gordon Brown study at university you ask? History - but clearly not economic history. Nor could he have being paying attention when his Dad gave a sermon on this:

"Then Pharaoh said to Joseph: "Behold, in my dream I was standing on the banks of the Nile; and seven cows, fat and sleek, came out of the Nile and fed in the grass; and seven other cows came up after them, poor and very gaunt and thin. And the thin and gaunt cows ate up the first seven fat cows."

Joseph explained to Pharaoh that the seven fat cows represented seven years of plenty for the land, and the seven thin cows stood for the seven years of famine that would follow. Joseph counseled the Pharaoh to store food during the years of plenty that could help the people of Egypt avert the effects of the famine to follow."

Truly there is nothing new under sun.....

Friday, October 17, 2008

Making pictures

I'm trying to choose some shots for a competition entry and I keep getting sidetracked into doing things to them that aren't eligible in the competition rules. These two have been duotoned and then cross processed i.e. bringing up the blues/yellows. I'll enter them unadulterated, but this is no more than would have been done in a chemical bath at one point, so I think the restriction is a bit daft.

One I've called "beach bouquet" because it was laid on the sand at low tide like a flower arrangement, the other is ivy strangling a tree, but very prettily.
I'm glad I feel like taking pictures again, I missed it, it is so relaxing and my stupid head just empties of all the rubbish I cart around.

The house is a tip, but it has been a blissful two days.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Captain slog :)

For no particular reason I've changed my banner to a fig leaf. It's a detail from a 17th century Portuguese tile on an old public well in Madeira. I love blue and white tiles and china, there is something very right about them, maybe it's just because they are the colour of the sky.

I have the gas man here looking at our misbehaving boiler, which - a bit like myself these days - is suffering from low pressure.

Yesterday N dragged me to an aqua aerobics class. I usually hate these kind of things as I tend to fail to manage to mirror the instructor and end up tripping everyone else up. But this one was great fun, and being partly submerged certainly helps. Although I had to stifle a giggle or two when synchronised swimming images kept popping into my head.

Other good news is that N's son B is part of a trio exhibiting at MoMA in NY. N is really thrilled and while she didn't get to NY, due to babysitting duties, she was pleased to be able to watch him being interviewed by the MoMA curator on YouTube and here it is:

And Calum Gourlay, our cousin's son, played live on Jools Holland last night backing Camille O'Sullivan on the double bass. Click to visit his myspace page.

It is lovely to see two young men gaining recognition in each of their chosen fields. Both have put in a lot of hard work along the way and it is good to see it rewarded.

Now back to my things to do list - A copy Heart Notes to post out to a buyer, present for new baby to be sent, tea for the gasman, dog to detach from said gasman's ankles etc, etc.............

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Never a faker

Cyndi Lauper, everything that Madge is not - like talented and with a great voice.
I've got this on the i-pod and was happily dancing round the garden to it this morning. It is totally addictive. Great to know some of us old girls have still got it.

And this from when we were both a whole lot younger

Friday, October 10, 2008

Mum's gone to Iceland!

OK forget the chicken nuggets, where's the dosh?

;;;;;;; Palin'

The only "palin'" I want Sarah to do is into insignificance ; dog gon' it!

Oh God, or whatever passes for you, please let this election be over!

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Much to tell

Well we had a fabulous holiday in Madeira. The weather was perfect and we did a couple of spectacular levada walks, and saw the wilder west side of the island.
I would happily return to do more walking and exploring. It was wonderful to see bay trees as full grown forest trees, not crimped and tortured topiary.

The Tall Ships were also in Funchal for its 500th anniversary celebrations and they looked wonderful in such an exotic setting. At night we went down to see them, and got on board the Mexican vessel, which was full of shining brass and sailors immaculate in white uniforms dancing to Mariachi music. This photo was taken on their deck at sunset.

I liked the food too, especially their homemade sweet potato bread, which was like a cross between tattie scones and Irish soda bread. And lots of great fish grilled outdoors, their own prehistoric looking swordfish, which is not the usual swordfish, but a black monster from 3,000ft shaped like a sword blade that they catch on baited lines. I also loved the grilled sardines, and great slabs of tuna with garlic.

I took tons of photographs, which I'm working through, and will post some over the winter, to cheer myself up if nothing else.

Today I took part in a "sustainable blah (my home town)" meeting, which is looking to insulate homes for the coming winter and our house was lucky enough to be selected as part of the project. So our loft should be triple lagged by Christmas, which will hopefully save us a bit on our fuel bill.

And I'm editing the photos for the school calendar, that I took before I went away. It was such a fun day, with the kids all dressing up to pretend it was summer and school sports day, or Shrove Tuesday, or Burns' Night, etc, etc. Some of the shots have had me bursting out laughing as I've worked through them.

I swear sunshine is the best possible tonic. No wonder we're all full of doom and gloom, given the summer we've had. I suggest a week in the sun for everyone on the NHS!

Lastly Mary Lorson, whose music I love, has a great new album out with a group called Piano Creeps. This is a sample track called Hey Love. You can pre order it from Kora Records.

The Piano Creeps - "Hey Love" from Cascade Video/Don Bazley on Vimeo.