Wednesday, 30 June 2004

ads - horse passports, custom fencing and gates

John got the blogspot ads, powered by google, removed from the top of his weblog. I quite like seeing what adverts appear at the top of this, presumably based on words featured in my weblog. Today the adverts are for horse passports and custom fencing & gates (in the Inverness area), with the 'related searches' being 'passport office' and 'scottish enterprise'. I won't be so happy if the ads turn unpleasant.

That's Inverness, Florida, of course.

price and worth

I wonder why priceless and worthless have opposite meanings when price and worth have similar meanings?

The cynic knows the price of everything and the value of nothing - Oscar Wilde, they usually say.

class names

John's Martha's third birthday party guests were: Martha, Zoƫ, Izzy, Saskia, Gabby, Jasmine, Sophie, Eleanor, Lily (x2), Ella, Alex and Zachary.

Lists of children's names - be it party attenders or classmates - probably give a good indicator of where and when the list was from.

My primary school class: Iain, Angus, Alasdair Iain, Donald John, Calum, Ivor, Anna, Noreen, Linda, Lorna, Kathleen, Marion, Sandra, Isabel. We were all there the whole time. I can think of one other who was in the class, possibly for no longer than a year - Tracey Ramsay, spelling doubtful. There was a Canadian boy over for a few weeks, but I'm not sure he was in our class.

Balham in the 2000s, Lewis in the 1970s.

free money from bill gates

'Is Bill Gates offering big bucks to track your email? On the trail of the most forwarded hoax in Internet history.' Someone at Wired magazine tracks down the person who started it. Good work, sir.

Tuesday, 29 June 2004

fp induction

Went to the FP induction on Friday with Henrietta, held in Grove Chapel. The most impressive thing was the precentor managing to change pitch by several notes three or four verses in, as he'd pitched it too high. It was possible because of the congregation's adherence to the highland practice of letting the precentor sing the first couple of notes of each verse entirely on his own.

Also saw Rachel, the new minister's daughter, I think for the first time since we were together in the Nicolson, so that was good. Also saw Kenny the barber, and spoke to both Rachel's parents.

My fifth FP service, I think - one Sunday service (in Dumbarton, when visiting Douglas once), two (I think) funerals, a wedding and an induction.

Friday, 25 June 2004

photos of Iain MacDonald 8

Here I am, convenor and associate producer of the Inverness Area Gang Show 2003. What a public-spirited fellow I am. And I'm doing it again for 2005. Maybe I'll crop up again in my work capacity and I won't realise it's the same person.

People who give of their free time to youth clubs, camps, and things like the scouts and guides impress me.

flexible fliers

John's story makes me think of our Copenhagen break.

I think it was GO rather than Easyjet that we, Naomi and Genevieve went with from Stansted to Copenhagen for a short break, when I turned up with my expired passport. I noticed it was expired just as I left the house that morning; they noticed when I tried to check-in all the same (lurking at the back, like an escaped prisoner-of-war with poorly-forged papers). Although the seats were non-exchangable and non-refundable, they said they could put me on a plane to Portugal or Germany if I liked - for some reason those places didn't mind if I didn't have a current passport - or they could put me on another plane to Copenhagen later that day if I could get a new passport in time.

I decided against an exciting solo holiday (now that would have been adventurous), went to the passport office in St James's, got a new passport in superquick time, and got the afternoon flight to join the others in Copenhagen. It would have been a lot more stressful if it had been a long holiday, or it had just been the two of us - it wouldn't have been that big a deal if I'd had to stay at home and the others had a short girls break.

A good time was had by all.

(On my way to the passport office I met a previous-work colleague on the tube, who was going to a conference which some of my current colleagues were at, so they knew all about it at work before I returned.)

possibly the most useless word in the English language

bimonthly - 'occurring twice a month or every two months' (Concise Oxford Dictionary).

You can't use it without explaining which you mean; which means you might as well never use it.

Thursday, 24 June 2004

hebridean footnotes to pop no 1

Ms Dynamite's mum is from Benbecula.


I've seen a couple of reviews of the new film Saved which described it as courageous in choosing as its target evangelical Christians. All those films featuring sympathetic Christian characters (never mind evangelicals) obviously don't get distribution deals over here.

I remember a few years ago a gay group asking the Archbishop of Canterbury to sign a petition asking for more gay characters to appear in tv soaps/dramas. I don't know if he signed it. I know what he didn't do: ask them to draw up a list of gay characters who had appeared in soaps/dramas in the previous five years, indicating which were broadly sympathetic characters and which unsympathetic, and then to draw up a similar list of Christian characters, and compare them; and then ask them to sign his petition asking for more Christian characters to appear in tv soaps/dramas.

People are funny.

Wednesday, 23 June 2004

our local pub

Keith Duffy, off the first celebrity big brother, frequents our local pub, the Hampton Court Palace, apparently. 'This is quite a rough area,' says he, in this feature for FHM. I'll not be rushing out to subscribe.

Interestingly, there are two HCP websites online. this one is still up, where Maura and John, of twenty years' standing, welcome us. This one, where Alan and Liz welcome us, only survives in Google's cache, though it is presumably the more recent. They've had a lot of work done upstairs in the past few years, on the hotel side of things.

elephant and castle

A relatively plausible explanation of where the name Elephant and Castle (for pub, and hence area) comes from. It's the Cutlers' Company we have to thank.

Tuesday, 22 June 2004

the word is out

"My father died of leukemia when I was nine. I hated those teachers spitting on handkerchiefs to wipe away tears that didn't exist and making those announcements: 'Now I want everyone to be really *kind* to Laurence!' And later on I used to dread dinner parties 'cos people would say, What do your parents do?, and then go, Oh I'm *so* sorry, and I'd say, Look, this isn't Little Dorrit. It happens on quite a regular basis. You'll be amazed how many parents do actually die. ... If you speak to people who've lost a parent young they tend to be pragmatic about it. They tend not to have taken three years off to travel round India. They tend not to have slobbed around hoping to become a 'rock drummer'. They tend to be people who've got on with life. They get married younger, have children younger, they grow up quicker. A lot of people of my generation have never encountered death at all - you know, 'My grandmother died two weeks ago and I still can't talk about it!' You're 35 and you've just seen a dead person and you're 'having issues'! Du-uuh! What do you *think* happens to us? Do you think we just *fade away*?"
- Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen, Word, July 2004, p45.

Sue Perkins, at a recording of, I think, the R4 comedy The 99p Challenge, said that when she knew him at college/university he was just plain Laurence Bowen. She obviously wasn't keen. He comes across okay in the article.

Also in this issue of Word so far: a photo of Christine McVie which suggests that people who approach her for her autograph these days are mostly children asking when the next Harry Potter will be out; a journalist fan article about Jeff Buckley, of the type alluded to in a previous post ('the most influential artist of the 21st Century'!), which left me liking the sound of him less than I had before.

gordon strachan

Gary Lineker: So Gordon, if you were English, what formation would you play?
Gordon Strachan: If I was English I'd top myself!
Gordon Strachan shows why the BBC have hired him for Euro 2004.
- BBC sports quotes of the week, 21 June 2004.

Monday, 21 June 2004

king robert burns

'Rev Murdo Ewen Macdonald, the war hero and theologian who died this week, wrote a most interesting book of memoirs about a decade ago. The only problem was that it was printed and published by the Stornoway Greysheet and, to Murdo Ewen's fury, was filled with a catastrophic number of typesetting and spelling errors.

'One classic arose in a passage where Murdo Ewen was reflecting on his time in Stalag Luft III prisoner of war camp. 'Long before Martin Luther King,' he wrote, 'Robert Burns had a dream of human brotherhood.' Then he quoted lines from 'A Man's A Man, For A' That'.

'Straightforward? Not a bit of it. The Greysheet managed to put the comma in the wrong place so that what appeared was: 'Long before Martin Luther, King Robert Burns had a dream of human brotherhood.' '
- West Highland Free Press, 11 June 2004, p11

The Greysheet is the Gazette. Their publications, and their newspapers, are indeed full of appalling editing and proofreading mistakes.

PS John commented, 'Although still interesting to note that Martin Luther is more to the forfront of island thinking than Martin Luther King.'

Friday, 18 June 2004

photos of Iain MacDonald 7

Here I am, a blue badge guide offering personalised tours of Scotland from my base in Largs. Another kilt.

lewis music

This is Roddy Huggan’s music site. He plays regularly in folk clubs in his area. Good that he persisted.

Meantime has also continued, back in the hands of David Maclennan, playing ceilidh music. Their website seems to have disappeared.

There seems to be a thriving band scene in Lewis, if the Jori’s breathless columns in the Stornoway Gazette are to be believed, more thriving than when I were a lad. I wonder why? Cheap recording technology? Inspiration of successful local band (Astrid - as opposed to Runrig). More venues? Inspiration of The Hebridean Celtic Festival? More talent? Isles FM?

Traditional gaelic music recording output has certainly increased in that time.

Wednesday, 16 June 2004

snapping your fingers

I was thinking the other day about how children have to learn about everything, things like how to snap your fingers. And then I realised that I didn't know what made the 'snapping' noise. I worked out it was the pad of the middle finger hitting the nail of the ring finger.

I'm learning new things already!

PS Anonymous said, 'That's rubbish! Even if you have no nails, you still make the snapping noise.'
I replied, 'Are you speaking from painful experience, my anonymous friend? It doesn't work for me unless I hit the nail. Perhaps I just have odd hands. Ah, the ball of the thumb seems to work a bit now - it didn't before. Apparently I do have odd hands.'
And I added later, 'On further experimentation, it is the fingernail hit that gives the satisfying click when I do it, as opposed to the dull slap of the thumb-ball hit. Pushing back those scientific boundaries.'
The anonymous contributor was my mother.

attention deficit hyperactivity disorder

I recently spoke to a parent who said her child exhibited ADHD each time they sat down to do homework. Something had to be done and she wanted the Ed Psych to see the child. She followed by stating "Why, yesterday I even had to turn off the TV to try to get her to work!!"
- from a letter, dated 01/08/2003, from Steve Williamson on the Times Educational Supplement website.

It was in response to this: 'Academic Priscilla Alderson reckons psychologists are making a fast and cynical buck labelling children as having ADHD and other behaviour syndromes. What they really have, she says, is the pent-up energy of normal children, cooped up by neurotic parents; and what they really need is a bit of running around in the park and climbing trees.'

robert smiths

'And he has a frankly cock and bull theory about the Smiths, and how their influence on the era [the 1980s] is overplayed because there's a media conspiracy, full of media people who liked them much more than anyone else did (mind, I would say that: I'm in the media, and I really like the Smiths).'
Interview article on Robert Smith of The Cure by Zoe Williams, Guardian, Saturday 12 June.

I'm with Bob - Morrissey in particular is vastly overrated.

Another annoying thing is music journalists claiming that their favourite, usually obscure, artist of the past is a pivotal influence on a vast swathe of artists in the present who they think sound a bit like them or who mentioned them once in an interview. Correlation does not imply causation.

Monday, 14 June 2004

ronald reagan

Ronald Reagan (Nancy helped, presumably) left a 300-page plan for his own funeral, according to the Independent.

Some links to look at should I ever need reminding why I didn't like him:
- Peter Preston in the Guardian
- David Aaronovitch in the Guardian
- letters in the Guardian
- Jonathan Steele in the Guardian
- a pattern has emerged. Obviously all I will have to do is do a search on the Guardian website.

voting for the bnp

Saw twits being interviewed on BBC London news unashamedly saying they hadn't voted, and then saying what needed sorting out in London.

The value of an opinion not backed up by bothering to vote is one thing, but with any element of proportional representation in an election, by not voting you are, in effect, voting for the fringe parties like the BNP - you are lowering the number of votes, in real terms, needed to reach the trigger percentage at which a party gets a proportional representation member. The fewer people who vote, the fewer votes the BNP need to get elected. Well done, cool young dudes.

Friday, 11 June 2004

photos of Iain MacDonald 6

Here I am, newly-appointed (in September 2002) as director general of the ICA. That's the International Cooperative Alliance, based in Geneva. It's 'the apex organisation of the international co-operative movement' - I'm guessing it's nothing to do with the Coop shops, but could be wrong. Yes, I am wrong. My goodness, what a wide assortment of cooperative bodies must come within the ICA's remit. I wonder if I'm Scottish? Yes, I am.

Thursday, 10 June 2004

tin top ten

searched 'does exactly what it says on the tin' on Google. The things being referred to as doing exactly etc in the first ten results were:

- car, camera, website, film (examples in a dictionary definition)
- film titles
- Ronseal (hurrah!)
- men (...)
- anti-spammer code
- quick and easy software tools
- three websites (a webcam on a cuddly toy in a box;;
- Tweezerman Professional Brow Mousse

does exactly what it says on the tin

If the success of an advertising slogan is measured by the extent to which it passes into common speech, then this is one of the most successful of recent years - I hear or see it all the time in all kinds of contexts.

I don't exactly remember who the ad was for though, which I guess is another way to measure the success of an ad. I'm guessing Ronseal? I can never remember which car any of the many car ads I see is for; but then, I'm not exactly the target audience.

Yes, it is Ronseal.


I had a recent holiday in Wales where I noticed that Snowdon was claimed to be the highest mountain in England and Wales. Wales certainly, but why England? If they are going to start dragging other countries into it, why not claim superiority over other places? Snowdon isn't just the highest mountain in England and Wales, but also Ireland, the Netherlands, Denmark, Belgium, the Faeroe Islands, Bangladesh - there's an awful lot of people who ought to be proud of the fact that Snowdon is their highest mountain but are ignorant of the fact.
- from a letter from Craig Weldon in The Angry Corrie 18, April-June 1994.

Well, I thought it was funny. It made me laugh out loud, which the written word rarely does. I'm slowly but surely reading through back issues of The Angry Corrie online.

Tuesday, 8 June 2004

origins of the first world war

Tzara: You ended up in the trenches, because on the 28th of June 1900 the heir to the throne of Austro-Hungary married beneath him and found that the wife he loved was never allowed to sit next to him on royal occasions, except! when he was acting in his military capacity as Inspector General of the Austro-Hungarian army - in which capacity he therefore decided to inspect the army in Bosnia, so that *at least on their wedding anniversary*, the 28th of June 1914, they might ride side by side in an open carriage through the streets of Sarajevo!
- Tom Stoppard, Travesties; Faber, 1975; p40.

Interesting if true. I do like Tom Stoppard.


Tzara: Doing the things by which is meant Art is no longer considered the proper concern of the artist. In fact it is frowned upon. Nowadays, an artist is someone who makes art mean the things he does. A man may be an artist by exhibiting his hindquarters. He may be a poet by drawing words out of a hat. In fact some of my best poems have been drawn out of my hat which I afterwards exhibited to general acclaim at the Dada Gallery in Bahnhofstrasse.
Carr: But that is simply to change the meaning of the word Art.
Tzara: I see I have made myself clear.
Carr: Then you are not actually *an artist* at all?
Tzara: On the contrary, I have just told you I am.
- Tom Stoppard, Travesties; Faber, 1975; p38.

We had a guided tour of the Tate Modern, and our Tate guide told us, quite seriously, the three prerequisites which established that something was Art:
a) it is presented as art by someone who calls themselves an artist;
b) it is exhibited somewhere which exhibits art;
c) it is accepted as art, and reviewed as such, by an art critic.

I've never heard anything so incestuous and empty in my life.

He told us that by the end of the tour he hoped to have communicated to us why Duchamp's signed urinal was important in art. It's importance isn't the question however - it's important because it was at the start of the process that led to the definition of art as above. What he didn't communicate was any sense of why it deserved to be called art. ('Because it fulfils criteria a, b and c, obviously, you philistine!')

Monday, 7 June 2004

derek taylor

I was speaking to one of our supporters, Liz Taylor, on the phone at work here once.

She mentioned her husband, Derek, and I thought to myself, ah, Derek Taylor, like The Beatles' press officer.

After our conversation ended, I realised that at no point had I thought, ah, Liz Taylor, like the incredibly famous film star.

I am an odd fellow.

rich cultural contribution

'Calvin was imbued with a powerful conviction that we live in a coherent universe, subject in all its aspects to God’s law and ruled by his sovereign will. Since it is the Christian’s privilege and duty to exalt God’s glory, it follows that all cultural activity, as well as the moral life and the practice of worship, is a way of serving God. Religion is not to be confined to church or monastery. The fundamental human passion for commitment is expressed in all that a person does. The commitment may indeed be to an image, or false idea, or to some created thing. In that case it is idolatry. If, however, through grace a person has been brought to the commitment of faith in Christ, then he can exercise his loyalty to God in his farming, or in business, as a parent, a schoolteacher, a craftsman, scientist, artist or politician. There is a profound unity in the Christian life, because the Christian acknowledges God’s universal rule, sees the unity of all creation in Christ, and concentrates his own endeavours on the service of Christ’s kingdom.

'... Calvin’s thinking was to percolate into the minds of all Protestants. Thus it was that Protestantism was to inspire such a rich cultural contribution to the lives of so many nations.'
- R Tudur Jones, The Great Reformation; IVP, 1985; p258.

PS John commented, '"Thus it was that Protestantism was to inspire such a rich cultural contribution to the lives of so many nations"Until Big Brother came along.'
I said, 'It was nice to see a reference to Christian contribution to culture that wasn't about Puritans closing theatres or Presbyterians burning fiddles.'

Friday, 4 June 2004

photos of Iain MacDonald 5

Here I am as an English teacher - speciality Scottish Studies - at Arcata High School, California. I have to confess this photo isn't as unlike me as I would probably like it to be. I'm impressed a school in California has a specialist in Scottish Studies, though.

PS John commented, 'This is the most Iain-MacDonald-like Iain MacDonald so far.'
I said, 'That's certainly true. Although in fact I think he looks even more like my old school friend Alex Matheson used to - if he had a photo on his website we could compare.'

new colour tv

I was thinking the other day of when we came home one Saturday afternoon to find that we had a new, colour, television. Purchased partly, no doubt, to stop me spending all my life going next door to Peter's to watch their colour telly.

What was on was a film starring Sammy Davis Junior. He played some kind of junior devil, obviously supposed to be tempting someone but not very good at it. One temptation, for some reason, involved the creating of a vast department store, but they cancelled the idea for some reason and took it all back. The stocktake showed there was one watch missing. Sammy confessed he'd given it to his temptee. 'Why?', he was asked. 'Because he seemed like a nice guy.' Whoosh, he was back to sweating in the fiery caverns.

I tracked it down on the internet. It was called Poor Devil.

Thursday, 3 June 2004

degrees of sadness

Who's sadder: someone who creates an enormous fan website devoted to an actress, or someone who comes across it in search of theatre reviews to print out and put into his copy of the programme? We're neither of us sad, I tell you!

PS John commented, 'I'd say that there was an equality of sadness.'

happiness - the lazy person's emotion?

People regularly say that it takes fewer muscles to smile than to frown. They're wrong.

Wednesday, 2 June 2004

photos of Iain MacDonald 4

Here I am as one of the principal dancers in the South African Ballet Theatre. There are photos of me in several productions, but this page has my favourite one - me as Hamlet. (More appropriate might be the one in the 2002 gallery of me in a kilt, but there you go.) I'm in good shape.

PS John commented, 'Gertrude looks a bit scarey though.'
I said, 'She's holding a big metal spike behind her back, ready to drive it into my temple.'

Gulf War Snr

A character in CSI (Crime Scene Investigation) last night referred to the first Gulf War as 'Gulf War Senior', which I thought was rather good.

red ken

An interesting article about Ken Livingstone in Monday's Guardian, mainly about his time as mayor.

Best quote: '"Mrs Thatcher used to say that when I see a man of 25 riding the bus, I see a man who has failed in his life," he told the London Assembly. "That is the kind of view we are going to change."'

Tuesday, 1 June 2004

the highlands at war

Not to be outdone, John's parents also got quoted in a newspaper - Saturday's Scotsman, in an article about rehearsals for D-Day on the Tarbat peninsula.

On the morning of Peter and Marina's wedding in Poolewe, we drove out to the end of the road beyond Marina's home in Cove, being early. You wouldn't have expected anything to be there, but there were signs that there had once been a significant number of buildings there. Turns out Loch Ewe was an important anchorage during the war, especially for the North Atlantic convoys.

On the late bus home I would often see a wee old man who shook all the time. I assumed it was the drink, and that may have had something to do with it. My father told me that he had been on the North Atlantic convoys; the ship he was on was hit and sunk, but he survived and was picked up by another ship, which was then hit and sunk, but he survived and was picked up by another ship. After the war he made his living on a fishing boat. People are extraordinary.


There were many odd things about Friends, which finished on Friday night. The oddest was probably that in real life there was only one of the characters that you would actually want as a friend. And yet I still watched it.

Then came the start of the new Big Brother series. I've watched them all up to now; I don't know if anyone believed me when I said it was to see how people interacted with each other, but it was. But they've 'learned' from the success of the more unpleasant reality tv shows, and have gone for a group full of unpleasant, opinionated, annoying people, for maximum conflict. So I won't be watching it this year. Well, that'll save me a lot of time over the next ten weeks.

Some of it I'll use by watching Britain Goes Wild over the next three weeks, which should be rather more edifying.

PS John commented, 'Which of the friends would be your friend?'
I replied, 'I didn't think I'd need to say! Chandler. The only normal and funny one of the lot of them, neither self-obsessed, neurotic nor airhead.'