So the whole pre racing season chat and comment in the cycling rags was, amongst all the poker faced predictions, about how unaffordable the new Rapha / Sky kit is. Despite an appreciation of quality and considered detailing, journalists err on the side of popular opinion and subtitle a top rating with the drawback of price. If they were being truly honest they would mark it down. The reason they don't? Because they know this is the best cycling kit by a mile. I am not disputing the kit is much more expensive than anything other professional teams are wearing (brand new full set of kit for any pro team will still put you back hundreds of pounds) but here are two things that concern me about:
ILL JUDGED COMPARISONS
Punters make a direct correlation between one product and another, whilst the companies that produce these make very different Ethical choices (using a specific supplier), Design (making something more enjoyable and comfortable to use) and sales (quality control and managing returns). Comparing a burger from your local butcher to one that is frozen and processed, kind of defeats the purpose.
People always want a good deal (myself included) and seldomly question the reasons why something retails cheaply. I went through a period 10 years ago when I bought independent brands of clothing. I could afford them because I knew the owner of the shop and he gave a discount. Cheap these were not, however some of the pieces still get used, commented on favourably and are not ready to be binned. What this insight did was make me buy less but better quality: not for fashion or vanity but because I knew the clothes were well put together and would last.
Buy cheap if you want but you'll end up with the same cost!
Posted by stupot at 01:49 PM Sunday 24 Feb
It now appears that I am going to vote YES at the impending referendum on Sottish Independence.
I don't think of myself as Nationalist but I've always been an Independent - although not necessarily in the context of National questions (Perhaps like others, the thought has only been in my mind for 5 years - before this I had never considered it). I have no allegiance to one political party and vote differently at local and national levels. I read updates from both sides on the debate of going solo.
Continue reading "Apathy, not Independence, is the Worry"
Posted by stupot at 10:46 AM Wednesday 6 Feb
My Friend Chris set up this blog when I moved to Japan in 2004. At that time it was a bold move and I still didn't quite understand how my digital character would adapt: A little like how I didn't understand a lot of the art I used to see at Art School degree shows (turns out I didn't need to understand it). Chris also mentioned new and fashionable social networking websites such as Habbo Hotel (still rocking and rolling) which I joined and wandered about the virtual world in, lurking in the corner like a pre pubescent boy unsure of making a move on a girl at the school disco. Except I didn't even know these people: it didn't matter a jot that they were in another computer in another room in another country.
I hadn't realised that people get dressed up to go to the supermarket.
My flirt with mainstream society happens usually late on a weekday evening, every couple of weeks. I rent a car and go to a supermarket and minimise exposure to public by choosing the time of day least busy. The rest of my existence is biking to work and picking up small food stuffs and my Cycling Weekly magazine from Raj's place down the road. Occasionally, and somewhat reluctantly, I mix with strangers when I take the train to Edinburgh (the reason for travelling through is worth it though).
I grew up in a time of change (doesn't everyone?) and decimalisation was something that, despite being a 400 year old concept, the British were still struggling to adopt. I was schooled in metric yet daily life was dictated by an obscure measuring system based around an aristocrat's foot. To be fair - I don't have a gripe with the origin - it makes sense - it's just that no other element of the imperial system relates to common sense. Even the name is outdated for crying out loud! Like holding on to something in the distance that you bullied your way into owning. Metric even sounds more democratic.....
A pound of potatoes used to confuse me, golfing yards confused me, buying drugs confused me, acres of farmland still confuses me, choosing a drill bit for metal just made my brow furrow.
But now I always have something on my person that is exactly 115mm - no - not that. Nor my elbow to fingertip (or Ell in old Scots). Something, in fact, that you can hear people referring to as a standard measure: "what size is that?" - "eh, it's about the size of an iPhone." or 115mm. or 4.527 inches.
Posted by stupot at 11:16 AM Sunday 22 Apr
I've rarely blogged, been on my bike or drawn for fun in 2012. The flip side is that I'm heaving with work and habits have changed to long working days, little time at home and often living out of a bag. Being freelance means that when the work is quieter it can be a financial stress but you have time on your hands to search for work and have time for leisure. When it comes to the busy time it often feels like you're spinning plates. Often in a good way, but invariably it a bit tricky to manage. The end of the financial year spells clients getting rid of money, trying to get your own accounts in order and general busyness: Business.
It has been a week of events and I thank Celtic connections for brightening up January in an otherwise dark part of the world. At the Roots Manuva gig last week I came across an acquaintance who had a spare ticket for Bonnie Prince BIlly at the Fruitmarket which would prove to be a much better gig - mainly judged on the energy levels of the main performer. Unfortunately Rodney gave the impression he was having a bad day - or rather, had had a good night, the night before. Domino man Wil Oldham (AKA Bonnie Prince Billy) had the venue in his hands on Sunday night with an incredible vocal performance with fantastic sound quality perhaps aided by the acoustic qualities of the largely bearded crowd.
On the Saturday between I had the enviable task of visiting Glasgow Rangers Football Club, world renowned for its friendly welcome: especially to Celtic, Aberdeen and Hibernian (the latter being the favoured team of my nephew who I escorted). Despite the drudge of Scottish Football, its' terraces are brimming with creative patter. As well as horrific tribalism and hatred. Due to Rangers' current disagreement with Her Majesty's Revenue and Custom Officers, the away fans were coming up with gems such as "Harry Redknapp does your taxes", "Revenue, Revenue... Inland Revenu-e" to the tune of 'let's get physical' and, financial mess aside, the inspired "you live in a shite hole, we live in the capital" (I started questioning my loyalty to my newly adopted team at this point). Rangers new signing Mervan Celik came on to much hilarity at the Govan West stand but the home fans had the last laugh with a 4 -0 final result. We left, glad for the prospect of a walk to warm us up, and me disguised in red, white and blue. Which was totally coincidental.
Posted by stupot at 04:50 PM Tuesday 31 Jan
I just contacted TV licensing to let them know I don't have a TV or watch live TV in my house. And yes, ok, I feel a bit smug.
When I moved back to the flat there was an apologetic cathode ray tube which had been left by a lazy tenant which was promptly given to the charity shop. It didn't fit the decor - I'd rather have been without. There might be little character in today's TV schedule but when it was off it was distinctly characterless - depressingly black and empty - the living room looked cheerier without. I'd just OD'd during my 4 months at chez Megson and was happy to give it up for a bit in any case. I had a short stint on-the-wagon until Niall's ridiculously over-sized flat screen came to stay for 5 months while he worked abroad. It didn't take up as much depth but it took up half the wall when it made itself at home: it's shadow created a small micro-climate. It was fun to have but far too easy to collapse in front of. The TV has now gone and, for the first time in my life, I am a radio, internet and papers kind of a guy. I'm not saying it's forever but, like smoking, I can't say I miss it.
Posted by stupot at 11:56 AM Sunday 27 Nov
I'm writing a proposal for a series of programmes for the BBC around Independence. I have confidence that it is a worthwhile venture and I'm busy making inroads into the corporation. I am also positive it would help people understand the subject of Scottish Independence more clearly, driven by conversations on the ground, facts and, crucially, with no hidden agenda.
I met the boys in a lay-by near Gateside. We layered up with gloves and waterproofs and headed towards the quarry. Calum had phoned the day before, still fairly fresh from mineral spotting in Mozambique for the best part of the summer. Terry and Calum have been coming to the hole for 10 years but this was my first outing. I heard a lot about it and it didn't fail to deliver - even as a complete novice, the limestone deposits which had been blown out of the bedrock we littered with fossils and, eventually, with prime mineral deposits.
The weather was slightly drizzly but still, a trait well known within the world of quarry. Looking down on the space it was reminiscent of Blake seven or Doctor Who from the seventies - probably due to them being filmed in similar spots. A dormant JCB sat in the middle of an eerie silence. The guys honed in on a spot and started hammering at the layers exposed by the mining. And I sat and drew as Calum described the place as being a lagoon somewhere near the equator 200,000,000+ years ago in Pangea. That one sentence altered my complete take on the world.
Posted by stupot at 02:44 PM Sunday 30 Oct
They're filming a zombie blockbuster in Glasgow just now - it's good fun. 'American' Cops queue in the local bakery for their lunch and street signs have been changed to names like 'J F Kennedy Boulevard'. The traffic lights have even become yellow to mimic Philly. Reputedly, the joke in nearby Edinburgh is that there's little difference between the zombies having temporarily taken over and normal life here. There's a good vibe about 'George Square' and locals and tourists alike try to get a glimpse of Brad Pitt, the star in World War Z. I was meeting my Dad for lunch at Jamie Oliver's place so squeezed out a quick drawing of the 'Snappers' as I waited who seemed, like meerkats up their ladders, to be equally vying for his mugshot.
Posted by stupot at 01:01 PM Friday 26 Aug
I had taken the train to Edinburgh, as I always do, earlier in the week but had then decided to take the bus after flooding had reduced the Scotrail timetable. The bus is novel for me, and it has an added bonus of being a cheaper option. Obviously you get what you pay for in terms of space and promptness. With Saturday going nowhere I decided this time to take my own wheels to the capital. I had woken to the blood curdling sound of the sash and was put in a bad mood immediately. On the way through town I had to bunny hop my way around several Marches which were draining the emergency services but amusing tourists. Ross' brunch was a good start and my carbohydrate juice I glugged prior to departure set me up for the first hour.
The overcast, human-occupied, central belt of Scotland is a fairly unappealing place: the countryside is readily available and calming but the old mill, mine and lace towns, their cottages now converted to mind-numbing establishments with growling, red-faced and pot bellied males standing outside smoking do little to endear you to them. After a traditional pie and yum yum in Bathgate, I put the head down and rolled into Edinburgh in 2 hours and 16 minutes, dripping with sweat in an average speed of 20mph. Edinburgh was sunny and throbbing with smiling activity - I was glad that I had changed the outlook of my day. Two protein bars and a shower and I was back to normal.
Posted by stupot at 09:44 AM Tuesday 16 Aug
There was a guy that used to drink in our local pub when I was still a teenager who was a John Peel fanatic. I suppose we all were, but we didn't go after the really obscure sounding bands like he did. He liked to find out about bands before anyone else and so went after them all with vigour. I, rather childishly, used to make up groups to see if he'd heard of them and invariably he had. The point here, although I'm realising already that it is quite a diluted one, is that no one likes the person who preaches about the fact that they were doing something before everyone else. A sound test would be striking correctly in stocks and reaping the rewards. Unfortunately I only claim to have been a junkie and advocate of reuse and all that other green stuff. Even before the hippy's got into it.
The Disposable society we now live in upsets me.
Recently I've noticed a huge example which puzzles me - the new Scotrail rolling stock. The existing trains (burgandy and cream), especially those used in Ayrshire and the central belt, are, what I'd class as pretty new. They're in good nick - they appear to run well, they could perhaps be cleaned a little more often, get a new paint job and be reupholstered but that is superficial. Carrying out extensive mechanical testing and repairs wouldn't cost £430 million would it? Does everything have to be retail therapy - does it have to shine? Update the digital information displays could be on the cards if you want to get rid of some budget. What about the money put into buying more staff or upgrading rural waiting areas? How about telling disabled people and cyclists where on the platform you should stand for the carriage you need?
If the Scottish Government had aspirations for the rail network in Scotland then surely it should scrutinise the fact that Scotrail surcharges commuters on the main artery of Waverley to Queen Street and then squeezes them on to packed carriages. It's a great service - one I use frequently and that works very well, but cutting the carriage length immediately after rush hour looks greedy. It makes people suspicious of your motives. A typical return ticket is valid only for a day. Who makes that law and with what reason? Why issue a ticket valid for a week when you can profit from the same person having to pay the same price again? (Singles are pretty much invalid - a return is 10p more to Edinburgh from Glasgow).
More people would have less of an excuse to take the car if simple but inclusive options like lengthening trains until 10am and from 4pm (Jesus - working hours aren't in the 1950's any more) and maintaining a standard ticket fare were in place.
With the need for new Trams in Edinburgh and this new rolling stock for around the country - we've managed to spend £1billion. Not quite understanding how political parties' manifesto's balance themselves financially - quick sums like that help me know where I'd get money for hospitals.
Posted by stupot at 01:28 PM Monday 20 Jun
It had been stressful week brought on by the fact that the surprise bank holiday on Monday combined with Friday off meant a lot had to be crammed in to a few days. Fortunately Tiree, as a destination, is the perfect remedy to anxiety, a full brain and too much time around a computer. As we flew low over the Inner Hebrides and Argyll with perfectly clear views down to inlets of white sand, cliffs and turquoise waters I leapt from one seat to another trying to gather as much of the views as possible. It was a bit like hanging over a huge, intricate, moving map. Jura, Mull then Flotta were highlights as we circled around and descended over Coll to our destination.
After the local bus (which had been briefed by our hosts) picked us up and dropped us off we had a cup of tea, inspected the front garden (the shore) and got the bikes ready for a trip over to the southerly bay around the peninsula. The sky was clear blue, the wind light, so we donned trunks and ran as fast as we could into the Atlantic - like Victorians trying to cure an ailment. in our case, possibly another long winter.
Posted by stupot at 05:03 PM Tuesday 7 Jun
What a week of gigs it was. Little Dragon's appearance at King Tuts, inexplicably, was not sold out (describing my affection for their music). Live, her voice was as deep and as high and clear and sweet as you would hope for. It was good to also witness the band who didn't perform when we saw her duo with Damon Albarn in Amsterdam. Her clunky moves were even pretty endearing (this is sounding more and more like a man smitten - I'll stop soon). I managed to throw in a "whitbraw" - a complimentary phrase in Swedish, taught to me in Spain by a man from Carluke - after song two. "Ah someone speaks Swedish" She said. I ventured on, with the confidence that beer gives you, to compliment in Japanese after the next song - "Subarashii". I was going to progress through languages as the concert continued but it seemed futile and immature - I decided to just lap up the music and cheer like everyone else.
Yellowman's audience were much older - the dance-hall legend from Jamaica who has survived throat cancer has a face that tells that tale. In his mid fifties he jumps around the stage like someone half his age. Near-death experiences must shape you into a much more lively person I've no doubt. The crowd loved his infectious voice, charisma and moves - and especially the call throughout the evening - "Hello Scattish - How are you?". It must have been said 30 times and only increased in popularity as the evening wore on. There was an hour between support act and the main thing - a good amount of time to catch up with some familiar faces. Yellowman played for almost two hours, by the end shaking hands with most of the audience who were approaching the stage opened eyed and smiling like he was a deity. And he was pretty divine, it has to be said.
Posted by stupot at 07:13 AM Wednesday 18 May
"Was he wearing a helmet" - a woman asked as we had a communal chat about the sad death of Wouter Weylandt in the coffee shop this morning. It's a rather annoying question these days - up there with how many gears does your bike have? "Yes he was wearing a helmet".
The front page of the sports section today showed the Belgian cyclist in his prime. I'd never heard of him before. In the Giro yesterday he crashed at high speed on a technical descent and, after losing a lot of blood, died despite 'reanimation' attempts. A crude term but one that shows how badly hurt he was. It's a shame that the only subjects to allow cycling on to the front page is either a death or drugs. It shows how our human nature is drawn to tragedy and controversy over success (The tour has been lead by an Englishman and a Scotsman which has barely been covered by the press).
Cycling is misunderstood in the UK - the general public is so distanced from the sport now that it does not seem to comprehend how competitors can put their bodies through so much effort. There was a naive question posed about safety by a BBC interviewer today, who seemed to miss the point that accidents happen, especially on descents at race speed. Italian roads are also not the best in the world, though - and despite the crash happening on a straight - I'm not suggesting it was the cause. David Millar commented that it's one of a million things you have to go through as a professional cyclist. Last night on our easy ride north and back into town there was none-the-less a few hairy corners. But human nature also dictates that you generally have a need for survival. I just wish I could say that the same for the young Belgian.
Posted by stupot at 09:04 AM Tuesday 10 May
The ultra pleasant weather continued well into this week and May Day was no exception. It was nice that May Day fell on a weekend so it could be celebrated proper. I followed a march around the east side of the town centre before finishing at the (incredible and vintage but) gloomy fruitmarket where, eventually, some speeches took place. The most upbeat version of John Martyn's over the hill I've ever heard was part of the pre-speech soundtrack and similar minded people ebbed and flowed around a hall filled with stalls promoting CND, Palestinian freedom or Che Guevara. It was a good vibe but the lure of the sun was too much until I ducked into St Andrews Cathedral to see the Peter Howson exhibition and my dad chanting with others at their choir practice. Both provided excellent venues and soundtracks for sketching but I was happy to get some sun on the way home.
Posted by stupot at 05:04 PM Friday 6 May
BELLINGHAM - KIELDER - BELLINGHAM
Girlfriends aside, I've been dying to do some cycling in Northumberland for a long time. Some of the roads around Hexham, and the Roman Wall, are exquisite: farm roads that could take a lifetime to explore. Given I knew it would be hilly and only wanting to do 40 - 50 miles, I took the old military road to Chollerford from Corbridge by car and branched off, and up, toward the reservoir.
Advised to stop in Bellingham (by activcylces where newcomer Sol Campbell was in with his groceries) which had better services, I stopped in the old market square with the red and yellow county flag waving in the breeze by the Crown and Rose. It spat with rain as I put on my overshoes but the donning of the anti-raindance jacket seemed to do the job. In fact it was in my back pocket by the 2 mile marker never to be seen again.
The road up was into a stiff breeze which didn't act as a great warm-up for knees still slightly creaky after Thursday's gallop from the off. A nice chat with the bike shop owner had me return to the dam via the north bike path - bearable for a road bike such as mine but only with good concentration. The descent was fast and at one point a Buzzard flew along side at about 40mph checking me out. The knees held up and the bag of cashew's and litre of water at the end, just reward.
Posted by stupot at 03:33 PM Monday 28 Feb
My parents have a keen eye for simple, modern interiors and their house has been finished with lovely details over the years. The kitchen, though, is where I like to spend most of my time when I visit - as it is in most houses blessed with enough space. Kitchens are informal, comfortable, warm - and the room used most often. Kitchen's often have an entrance to a building which means people are coming and going and so more interesting because of their changing dynamic. My favourite part of my parents kitchen is the collection of enamel street signs (street jewelery).
Posted by stupot at 05:29 PM Tuesday 22 Feb
My dentist calls me Angus. As all health care professionals do. It's in my file. He also thinks I get anxious about being there. It's in my file. About 8 years ago he was doing some root canal treatment and I was in a lot of discomfort. After putting enough anaesthetic in my mouth 'to knock out a horse' he had a final look and saw a raw nerve ending. Despite this, it has been documented that I get edgy - with whatever acronym they use. Maybe P.I.T.F.A. Sounds like a possible dentistry body but could also work as short hand for Pain In The Fucking Arse. Or maybe just Hypochondriac Jessie. H.J.
I am now treated like a 6 year old every time I visit - which is not necessarily a bad thing. I get a very gentle welcome, ushered in, talked through what will happen, positive and encouraging feedback, reminded why I am getting positive and encouraging feedback, lots of opportunities to rinse my mouth, praise of my hygiene, given precise indication of how much more time the hand in question will be in my mouth for.... I occasionally look at the nurse behind her visor who I suspect can tell from my facial expression and lack of movement or concern that I am in fact far from upset. Still - for the amount of cash I'm lining his pockets with, I'll happily take the sweet talk.
Posted by stupot at 10:46 AM Thursday 17 Feb
To the right of where I was standing a new glass, dark and steel building by RMJM stands. The rest of my view is old Glasgow: the shearing shed that is city barbers with all its sports memorabilia, the graffiti and the glazed white brick of the Glaswegian rear elevation. I like to document plots like this before they are covered by office or retail space.
Posted by stupot at 10:25 AM Tuesday 8 Feb
I headed out on the bike yesterday because, apart from anything else, my body needed it - too many days sitting in front of a computer gives me restless legs and makes me grumpy. It was a decent ride out to Renfrewshire where the skies are bigger and my mind can start to wander places. The fewer the imprints of man, the calmer I become. A far flung beach (the stormier the better) would be the epitome of this.
Turning around and coming over the Erskine bridge, sunlight was breaking through clouds which picked up Helensburgh, Roseneath Peninsula and Kintyre to my west and Glasgow, in the distance, looking dramatic the other side. Times appear hard though, coming back through the outskirts of Clydebank and Dalmuir. The legacy of December's snow and a halting of public services is now an incredible amount of litter, some of which has blown into hedges and scrub. All makes for a depressing scene: the suggestion of a place which doesn't have any pride left.
Towering to my right is the endangered species of the Type-42 class destroyer which is now being fitted-out down-river from its' place of birth. Nearer my front wheel are the grit and blaze crusts by the roadside as well as the huge pot holes I'm continually avoiding. A spoke breaks on my back wheel and I change route back to the quickest one home. There are cars everywhere as well (something I find as disgusting as litter) and I notice people have taken to parking on pavements in the past 6 years - a novel take on overcrowding. The minute I get home an old friend calls, thinking of moving back from abroad and asks for my take on Glasgow. I give an upbeat if honest opinion and we discuss the colour of grass.
Posted by stupot at 12:43 PM Friday 28 Jan
Happy Christmas one and all!
Posted by stupot at 11:05 AM Tuesday 21 Dec
This depresses me almost as much as post-Wagner X-factor.
Posted by stupot at 12:53 PM Monday 6 Dec
Yesterday the snow properly came to central Scotland after an appetiser on Friday night. After hangover french toast we had cross-road snowball fights with strangers - children and adults alike. Lots of people were smiling and laughing and talking to each other. The park was stunningly up-lit despite the waning winter light. I'm glad snow is still a wonderful thing.
Posted by stupot at 03:38 PM Monday 29 Nov
Mr T took me along to the Arlington Baths last night for a Victorian work out at the oldest private swimming club in Britain. Despite eschewing the rings and not being able to find the medicine balls we made full use of the steam room, turkish baths and sauna, decked out as we were in our stripey bathing suits. I would have happily stayed to read the papers - the last stage in the experience being the reading room which is very relaxing indeed. We headed on to the Banana Leaf on Old Dumbarton Road which is a visual shit hole but serves very fine food. Sitting in the cold is easy to bare due to the friendly service and amazing dosa's. I hadn't appreciated they had won the best takeaway from the British curry awards and Best newcomer in the List's food and drink awards. A stones throw away from the flat, I would take them up on the offer of dinner delivered every night for a month for £120 if I didn't feel like a bloated whale this morning. So much for the exercise!
Posted by stupot at 10:15 AM Thursday 25 Nov
On Sunday we wandered the streets and came across a mass procession of Spanish helpers who had just gotten off a boat. A nice lady told me they were Sinterklaas's helpers (Santa to you and me). They were there to give out sweets and amuse children. I even got some nice biscuits for myself. I was told they would be there until the 5th of December when celebrations take place. I swear they were blacked up Dutch people.
Posted by stupot at 04:49 PM Tuesday 23 Nov
Gmbh is a new shop attached to the Modern Institute in the Merchant city between Mono and the Tron. It sells Roleur and other design and illustration specials so it's well worth a peek if that's what floats your boat. I'm glad to have found a sister to Edinburgh's Analogue. It's run by Neil, a chap I've cycled with in the past, so it has the benefit of a friendly face.
Posted by stupot at 12:12 PM Monday 1 Nov
On Friday, after a wet run on the bikes up Gleniffer Brae, we returned to beautiful coffee at Coffee, Chocolate and Tea at Cranstonhill. It brought a whole new meaning to drip coffee - we had half of the downpour lying on the floor beneath us. Beneath that, and through the glass floor, you can see the coffee bean sacks in the basement. It's a nice place with a huge roasting machine in the window which helps heat the space (formerly MacCallums fishmonger) in the winter. We even got a wee lesson in roasting and a chocolate to try after John's gentle persuasion.
Saturday was a much better ride with blue skies, if wet roads, south west to Kilmacolm and Bridge of Weir and back.
Posted by stupot at 11:52 AM Monday 1 Nov
There was an article in the Observer this week about cycling tribes. You can't help but pigeon hole yourself when you're scanning through it, agreeing or at least acknowledging the traits. I'm happy that I belong to a few of them rather than one in particular but am reluctant to own up to some of the characteristics.
I had a debate about office wear versus fluorescent lycra as commuting attire the other week - my view being that, like in Denmark, Japan and the Netherlands, cycling to work (like walking there) is such a standard part of the day - people dress accordingly. I don't like making a song and dance for the sake of a slow paced, generally short, journey to the office. I find it alienates cyclists even more from the motorists - makes us look like a cartoon character more than a normal punter. That's fine - you might say - until you get hit.
My new commute has brought out the issue of 'Shoaling' - the phenomenon of many cyclists congregating at lights. No-one really talks to each other but will generally engage with enthusiasm when offered. It's a benefit of being out a car, people, use it! I think a wee bit of communication on a commute reminds you that you are around other humans and promotes neighbourly behaviour. I ride an old sixties bike to work and dress for the office, not the road, so people presume I'll be slow - it's interesting. I started slipping the roadies who overtake me at lights until one got doored just in front of me. Ouch. The guy at fault got out the car and continued his telephone conversation until I suggested he call back later. Like I was saying - neighbourly behaviour.
Posted by stupot at 02:04 PM Wednesday 27 Oct
On Friday we headed over the river to the Citz to see A Clockwork Orange. As a fitting tribute to Anthony Burgess' story we took the Clockwork Orange and, as we didn't appear to stop at Bridge street, walked under the ominously dark railway arches and over barren waste ground to reach the theatre from West Street. It was a departure for Laura who had last seen daylight over Princes Street Gardens. The lead actor was convincing and the fight scenes were well choreographed so we enjoyed the evening despite the leg room. The citizens is a tiny, traditional theatre in the Gorbals area - just a stones throw from the Merchant city and perfect for an after show drink.
Posted by stupot at 01:01 PM Tuesday 19 Oct
I suffer from poor circulation and as a result I struggle to draw outdoors from October to March (I have been reminded this week). I picked up some new gloves from the unlikely shooting section of the Barbour shop in Edinburgh at the weekend. The middle, index finger and thumb tips all pull back to allow you to have grip and feel when squeezing the trigger - or on a less aggressive level - when moving a pen about a page. So far so good. Whilst I feel a little sad that outdoor sketching will become more of a test of willpower for the foreseeable, it's also good to be reconnected to clothes you forgot were in your wardrobe.
Posted by stupot at 03:53 PM Wednesday 13 Oct
For September weekend the shows were in town so instead of staying in the boozer last Friday night, we ended up in Queens Park. The ground was pretty damp and the air getting cool but the sky was turning a lovely orange colour and we had had a little alcohol to warm our cockles. Unfortunately it had been a long time since we had been on a waltzer so we had forgotten that a sausage supper mixed with the alcohol wasn't the best preparation for high speed twirling. We went on 4 rides, dodgems, 'twister' and 'entertainer' included, and then stumbled back to the pub in with smiles. There is great pleasure in being thrown up and down and round and round on machines that have flashing lights and that are held together with dubious looking pins.
Posted by stupot at 11:35 AM Thursday 30 Sep
It's been a busy few weeks and change is appearing all around my life. In the background, students have returned to the cities and leaves and temperatures are dropping (On Saturday night I was forced to close the window due to a bout of sneezing). In the middle, good friends are leaving to work abroad and other changes are afoot with employment whilst right up close has been a move back to Kelvinhaugh - a place I haven't lived in for six years - in a pre-blog world.
Despite the Glasgow locals having convinced themselves that they are the friendliest in the world, when they are certainly not (try the service industry as a small test), I am very happy to be back amongst the honesty and confident dry wit of the west of Scotland and where conversations spark out of thin air.
Bud Neils cartoons describe this phenomenon well but I've already heard some cracking lines in the space of a few days - (to a whistler on a staircase) "that's the sound of a happy man" (he back to me, with no hesitation) - "it's either that or I greet". I also heard a woman recently describing the effects of a heavy lunch as feeling as if she had "ate a wean". Linguistic heaven.
Posted by stupot at 12:31 PM Tuesday 28 Sep
For about 10 years I have recycled with vigour. It's not something I think about other than knowing it has always been highly satisfying - even when it meant a bike ride to Partick with full panniers. I confess to actively enjoying it. As disorganised as I may be in some respects of my life - the efficiency with which I sort rubbish might make you think I have been possessed by a tramp. Living alone, or as two, you produce little waste: I can produce as little as two carrier bags of garbage a week. A friend once scolded me for using plastic (shopping) bags instead of black bin bags. I hung my head in deflation (rather than guilt). That's one too many Guardian readers in the same room.
The recycling process does make you consider the mortality rate of packaging and wonder what the hell we're doing about it. Some can lead full and active lives: Top tip - at Airports - use the clear wrapper from your Newspaper supplements as a stand in toilet bag to get through security. Top tip 2 - use Bonne Maman jam jars as glasses - these are as robust as they are pleasant to drink from. Recently, at my favourite French restaurant, a couple (who had sat in silence up to that point) complained to the waitress about the tumblers that the wine was served in. The waitress informed them politely that the glasses did not alter the taste of the wine and that if they thought it did, it was simply their imagination.
Posted by stupot at 12:11 PM Tuesday 7 Sep
I met up with fellow Scottish Sketcher, Wil Freeborn, and Aussie, Liz Steel, yesterday in sun bathed Glasgow. We sat and drew the new transport museum and had good, hearty chat. I went off to visit a friend who lives in the new harbour side apartments (not flats). We basked in the sun discussing the state of the country (he works for the Scottish Government) and Jimmy Reid.
Jimmy died a few weeks ago and was a great trade union activist on Clydeside during the slow decline of the shipbuilding industry. He addressed Glasgow University as rector and his speech was reprinted in full in the New York times, them describing it as "the greatest speech since President Lincoln's Gettysburg Address".
"A rat race is for rats. We are not rats. We are Human Beings. Reject the insidious pressures in society that would blunt your critical faculties to all that is happening around you, that would caution silence in the face of injustice lest you jeopardise your chances of promotion and self-advancement............"
Posted by stupot at 12:49 PM Sunday 5 Sep
Posted by stupot at 12:19 PM Thursday 12 Aug
is possibly the way to do it.
On a whim, Will and I made a rendezvous for 8pm and headed down through Princes Street Gardens. We passed a floating restaurant, people in drag, a big top, castle-hill lit up in the summers evening sun, people impersonating a Monet painting by sitting on the verge beneath trees, the floral clock, dutch camper cans and their passengers making stalls, the calm throngs around Waverley, miles of bill posters taking us over the High street. Finally we passed the Cowgate and rose a little to the Pleasance.
picture © joshhowie.com
Sometimes Friday evenings are meant for getting your feet up.
Posted by stupot at 01:24 PM Saturday 26 Jun
I sit at my desk making a list, mid-drawing, whilst staring at the screen with a specifiers book in my lap which I glance down at now and again. It's a nice day so the window at the back is open and I can hear what sounds like builders drilling into masonry. I notice the time and head off to a doctors appointment. I'm in the waiting room for about half an hour and, as it's a nice day, the window is open. I can hear workers out the back and their intermittent drilling. Eventually I am called by the doctor. We have a chat and then she stares at the screen a lot, making a list and occasionally staring down at her drugs manual.
Posted by stupot at 10:53 AM Tuesday 15 Jun
The Glasgow Harbour development is not the kind of place you might think has a close-knit community - but you'd be wrong. We had a great barbecue at Niall's on Saturday with a whole gang from the flats. Long term friends fixing boilers and looking out for one another in general. A destroyer sat across the water, almost complete - a remnant of Glasgow Old.
A news report the other night, in contrast, was about where the new Government would make their financial cuts. They wanted the British public to give ideas and have their say. Usually such a vocal group post-legislation, the reporter on the streets found no-one could answer this question. "As long as it doesn't affect me" said one man. "So you're happy as long as it's someone else who suffers?" asked the reporter. "Isn't that what everyone wants?" asked the man back.
Welcome back to Tory Britain.
Posted by stupot at 03:10 PM Sunday 13 Jun
The drive to and from Tunbridge Wells for Fiona and Rob's Wedding on Saturday was a good reminder of what Britain is to the majority. Drivers who vote Conservative, shop in Bluewater and watch football. whilst I condone that to a degree, it just reminds me why popular culture means so little to me. The wedding, on the other-hand, was a true British classic - a wonderful couple in a stunning, sunlit setting.
DUNBLANE - EDINBURGH
Increasingly I don't know when public holidays are. Companies tend, more and more, to choose their own days off. Public Sector often let you choose from your allowance and foreign companies may make you work to their countries holiday regime. Locally, Edinburgh schools take different holidays from Glasgow Schools. Being self-employed also brings it's own question of when to take holidays. Yesterday's bank holiday seemed to find 50% of people in Scotland off. The client I met was working a half day as I was.
I had a pleasant ride back from Dunblane albeit into the wind, but as it was only 50 miles, took just 3 hours. The open central area around Stirling allows views west to Ben Lomond but soon you are skirting south and then east along the Ochil hills, just a left turn away from the road to Dundee. I headed toward Dunfermline via Saline on increasingly quiet roads before fumbling around to try and find the bike route for the bridge. Bike route signs are too small for safe decisions in my opinion and positioned as if you are working at a pedestrian pace. Warning signs for motorists regards road-crossing cyclists could also be clearer and the ramp up to bridge level, with no run up was a challenge for me, a fit cyclist on a light bike. I say all this as there was definite cycle traffic on the bridge - a heartening experience, having to say hello 10 times on the crossing. I jumped a B road from Dalmeny to near the airport and then was paced home by cars.
Posted by stupot at 11:21 PM Monday 31 May
It has been a very modern election - American even - what with the TV debates. I personally found them dry and consistently uninspiring: bad suits and a firm lack of passion. The lamp-posters which this year were not allowed until the final week could tell us a lot about the parties. The Lib dems do not appear on this post - have they been sabotaged? On most other sites they were way at the top. The Greens have a simple party slogan on thin substrate and secured with twine. The Tories do not even name a party here - quite the opposite from the party centric advertising in the Conservative strong hold of Hexham, at the weekend. The Scottish Socialist party get to the point with a red star and Labour hang on to the 1997 over-design which appears to put the emphasis more on voting than the party or candidate.
Posted by stupot at 02:22 PM Wednesday 5 May
Some people are more aware of direction than others. Some people can't read a map or tell you where North is even when they're standing outside on a sunny day. I am one of the people who works it out in almost every new situation, location: office, house, midway through a train journey - even on the ferry on the way back from Orkney (when we had boarded late, in the dark, sleeping in a windowless berth) as soon as I lay my head down I knew north was basically in the direction of the shower.
Usually I can't understand why others would not want to know - which begs the question why I need to know. Certainly - It's usually unnecessary. Direction, or rather orientation, is not something I think much about - like making coffee in the morning or drawing or riding a bike - it's something that, despite initially requiring much thought, just gets done now on auto-pilot. It's a skill of sorts (all be it an irresistible impulse) which, many years from now in a peculiar hostage situation in South America may prove to be useful.
Posted by stupot at 12:01 PM Tuesday 4 May
"What's the name of the Gateshead multistorey?" I ask Laura. "I don't know" she says - "I just know it as the 'Get Carter' car park." A lot of people say the same about Trinity Square, the prominent brutalist structure behind the Tyne Bridge. The site has been Tescos for quite a while now and demolition can be only a matter of months away (they've been saying that for 3 years) so I walked over the bridge from the University in a quite excited frame of mind. The reality is a bit different: Gateshead is not a rich place (The Barbican works well, for example, but isn't it remarkable that so many of these buildings were tested in poorer areas) and you wonder if a high street with a rash of pawn shops benifits from a gap site with an aeriated concrete block shadowing out the sun for yet another three years. I found it mildly depressing on what was a relatively nice day but then there is no life crawling on it - I do think that the cafe on top was a great idea - I would have gladly gone there for a look at the North sea and the Toon. When it was built people thought motor cars were a good idea and concrete was a suitable material for the cladding as well as structures in the north. Hindsight was not available. A bit like getting the public to bang a load of E's in the early nineties and waiting until sometime in around 20 years to see what the effect is.
Posted by stupot at 09:22 AM Tuesday 4 May
It was 2 o'clock on Dumbarton Road and the promise of summer we had seen on Saturday morning was now hiding between a huge veil of drizzle. It was certainly a hangover Sunday. I got on the bus, marvelling at the £1.75 cost and went upstairs where a guy at the back starts shouting me. "houw, big man, how's it going?" He's fidgeting a bit and bangs on the window at one point. Everyone else has white buds in their ears. He comes down and sits behind me for a chat - I'm really fighting the fear and any company isn't that welcome - the guy starts showing me his hand, the thumb was hanging off last week when he went to the Royal to get his machete injury sewn back up.
I have very nice conversations by email with a client in Japan - this morning he taught me the term 'hanabie' which describes the coldness which comes even after blossom. Scotland was similar this weekend - a sharp wind drifting over still snowy hills whilst daffodils replace crocus in bloom. The blue skies made for good cycling and Easter day was peachy with little wind and much sun. Hanagumori is also a phrase which describes this same time of year but cloudy, no doubt a commonly used term by Japanese tourists on the Royal Mile and Buchanan Street this week.
Posted by stupot at 04:26 PM Thursday 8 Apr
The west side of Edinburgh always has a thick, hoppy smell about it and the source is only a mile from my house - Caledonian Brewery. When I was a kid we used to drive to my Gran's and the smell would lie thick in my nostrils as we hit the city limits. I now know it for producing my favourite tipple, Deuchars IPA. I thought of David Macaulay as I drew this.
Posted by stupot at 09:56 PM Wednesday 7 Apr
My opinion of the NHS changes like the wind. Today I had a physiotherapy appointment in Gorgie, just behind the Hearts Stadium, by the train tracks. A completely unremarkable place with a lovely group of people working within. I'd waited six weeks for an appointment (my original complaint had to be dealt with privately or I would have either become addicted to cocodamol or been unable to earn a living) so I made the most of this by finding out about knee pain which is a regular occurrence especially during winter exercise. I was fully examined and then given stretch exercises to work on for two weeks. My enthusiasm for the elegance of the bedside tables was not fully appreciated by the therapist who smiled politely at me. I mean - check out the splay on those legs!
Posted by stupot at 05:30 PM Friday 19 Mar
There, I said it - shoot me.
Most locals either dislike it, put up with it or just avoid it.
I'm not technically a local though, so I don't abide by those rules.
I've never lived in a city this beautiful - somewhere thousands flock to everyday just to see the grandeur. When you've lived in less attractive places (even if they may have more charm and character) you learn to appreciate beauty. In mid summer and during the festival, walking through the middle section of the Mile can be like having a dance in a phone box so you do need to exercise caution. For the past year or so and mainly due to traffic disruptions, I have ploughed a course east, through the city via the mile - which has been increasingly enjoyable as I've learned to slow down to a tourists pace and enjoy the living museum around me. Thanks, mum and dad, for the replacement watercolours!
Posted by stupot at 04:34 PM Wednesday 17 Mar
I had 10 minutes to kill whilst I waited for my prescription. As my Chemist sits on the old west approach road from Haymarket to Princes Street, it's a perfect place to watch the tram work happening: which appears to be a lot of guys making sense of layers of cabling and pipework from different eras. (They uncovered a mass grave on Leith walk last year - now, whilst I'm not in agreement with the works in general, and get a bit frustrated with their unfastidious approach to managaing time and money - digging up a mass grave must bugger up your deadlines a bit). Everyone wears fluorescent jackets on site. Gaffers have clean ones with a blue border which reminds me of the tiling on stairwells in Glasgow closes. There are three colours of helmet which I am also curious about.
Posted by stupot at 05:23 PM Monday 15 Mar
Posted by stupot at 05:16 PM Thursday 11 Feb
I'm a big advocate of traditions - sometimes it feels like it's in contrast with my (probably-natural-but-not-overpowering) interest in societies advances. I know my heart sits firmly with tradition though; the lack of complication. I'm not one to look back but rather I appreciate those things that work. I suppose as an example is that my head has never been able to understand travel to other planets when things down here are broke. It's like having a cleaner who lives in squalor, double standards. My interest in space travel couldn't be less.
It was on the news last night - reports confirmed Britain is officially 'chanking'.
Edinburgh, and Britain in general, is experiencing a cold snap which the Daily Telegraph said would "freeze the nipples off Satan". Even headlines are affected - "Water bills frozen" said the Mail yesterday. Of course the media circus is loving it, whipping up fury and pointing fingers at this week's scape goats - council workers. Reports are full of words like treacherous, battling, nightmare, arctic. And that's just the BBC. It's a media madness - News programs have actually got something to talk about that people understand, have a view on and doesn't get boring (like Israel / Iran / Afghanistan). Since communication became instant we have developed into needing immediate solutions for all life's questions - we seem to have lost the ability to understand patience and common sense. Why won't the snow just leave us alone?
Coal fires, whisky, snow, warm pubs, marzipan fruit, stocking, antique bicycle magazines, snow, perfect ham, red wine, sun, warm pubs, lie-ins, films, fox hunt, ice, warm bed, marzipan fruit, turkey and brussels, a pocket watch, neighbours visiting, beer, nap, exploding chestnuts, stretching, a walk, red wine....... a fine Christmas.
Posted by stupot at 08:18 PM Tuesday 29 Dec
I live in Edinburgh so I'm more the brogues, monacle and corduroy type. Running a company now I do have a responsibility for my carbon footprint. I travel by bicycle for every journey within the city limits and take the train for almost every journey outwith. The cleats I currently use on my cycling shoes have three small protruding rubber pads which means, even with the heel making contact, my footprint is already tiny. By combining the love of bikes with the recent Japanese trend of Warm-Biz (turning the heating down and supplementing with a layer of clothes) I am one step away from setting up the bike in front of the computer to generate power for my electrical use which will make me, finally, carbon neutral.
Posted by stupot at 02:08 PM Tuesday 1 Dec
The buses in Edinburgh are pretty good. There's a decent amount of them and you know when the next one is coming. 60 years ago there used to be a problem with men in bowler hats and pipes playing 78's on old gramophones - the space they took up, not to mention the poor sound quality and racket. 30 years ago the 'Boom-Box' and 'Walkman' became equally annoying disturbances on a quiet journey and, with the advent of ear-plug headphones, I thought the syndrome of leaky music was over.
Continue reading "Modern Etiquette #164 - bleeding ears"
Posted by stupot at 04:59 PM Thursday 5 Nov
What a wee cracker. Connie had Lorenzo early on Friday morning: I missed out on the sweep stake by a matter of hours. I tagged along with Father and Granny - over the hill and far away to the Royal Infirmary to see a delighted and calm looking mummy and content, hungry and sleepy wee man. Everything looked completely natural - there was a lovely view to leaves falling from the trees of a young wood on a nearby hill. It wasn't too hot as well - which is all I remember about maternity hospitals. Three cheers for Connie!
Posted by stupot at 04:45 PM Sunday 25 Oct
monday and tuesday's dinner.
Posted by stupot at 11:52 AM Saturday 12 Sep
The Fringe is immense - with hundreds of comedy, theatre, dance and music venues all over Edinburgh and I think the Pleasance sums up the Fringe. Usually part of the University - it's a sheltered courtyard busy all day with people gathering to drink, meet and queue for one of the many venues here. Today was blistering hot and sweat dripped from my forehead as I drew. The official Edinburgh Festival starts at the end of this week but the fringe is what it's all about these days.
Posted by stupot at 06:20 PM Monday 10 Aug
Down in the new town after a meeting yesterday to look in a few shops - as fish kills me and cheese makes life pretty intolerable, I never really go to their respective mongers. The things I miss out on! Well maybe not the smells. I popped in to Geroge Armstrong's and picked up some clams to make a proper miso soup with and some razor clams for a bit of experimenting. The stuff in the window from the depths of the North sea is like the last wonder of the world - people stopping in awe to stare, gaping mouthed at gaping mouthed, razor teethed monsters. Mellis' window is like transporting yourself back to the forties, when people shopping local was the norm, not subject for scrutiny in some jumped up digital diary.
Posted by stupot at 09:56 AM Wednesday 5 Aug
Although we're a terribly civilised nation (even i f we do say so ourselves), the most civilised are often the most disgusting.
Posted by stupot at 10:50 AM Sunday 2 Aug
A long time in the making, John Macleod finally opened his restaurant crab shakk in Finnieston in February. Despite the amazing reviews and lovely design (By John and Good creative), I was a virgin until today when I went along with Dave for early lunch: top mussels for me and fish club sandwich for him - very reasonable. The space resembles Cafe Gandolfi - a wee cracker in the Merchant City John designed a few years ago. It was nice to see John there, with his subdued Hebridean drawl having a calming effect on the proceedings.
Posted by stupot at 12:15 PM Friday 31 Jul
This week I'm still listening to some oldie's - a real oldie from Simple Minds in 1979 from their debut album - Chelsea Girl. Another more recent oldie from Midlake which sounds like it could have been on CSN&Y's dejavu - Roscoe.
Posted by stupot at 04:04 PM Tuesday 28 Jul
Whilst busy with work through spring I fell into some bad habits: I had developed a strange growth around my midriff as a result of the food I was eating and my bike had sprouted an unusual layer of soft grey fibres. June saw just one blog post (check out Nov 2005) - though this, arguably, is not a negative.
Now I'm working from home, however, it's a great chance to cook properly, open the windows as far as I like, get out on the bike and drink more water. There may even be a few more postings now..... Here's to summer resolutions!
Posted by stupot at 05:00 PM Tuesday 21 Jul
As I was drawing yesterday I thought about it as a pastime, and then cycling, and why I do them. Firstly I suppose, I wouldn't be writing this if it weren't for the amount of focus that comes from both - they can equally become meditation time or thinking time. I believe, although they can often be lone pursuits (cycling empty country roads and drawing down uninhabited lanes), they also open up the possibility for interaction.
With drawing, especially when seated, people are intrigued by what you're up to - they will come and sneak a peek and possibly have a chat. The chance encounter - a rare luxury in modern life. In a city this can also happen with a fellow cyclist at the lights or in the country when passing another two wheels - something, I imagine, the motorist will rarely encounter in a life-time.
Cycling allows you to understand the land intricately - what seems like a flat to the motorist is in fact a long climb, however shallow. Avoiding pot holes means you become fluent in reading roads - you know the exact sequences of traffic lights - you know the pedestrians who will underestimate your speed - you know the drivers who will open their door on you. You know that white lines become ice on a wet day in summer and you know if you don't take a metre then you will be the one taken advantage of.
Likewise drawing allows you to understand the dynamic of a corner of the world like nothing else. You think about Darwin as you subliminally notice the behaviour of insects and birds. Tree's mesmerize you as they sway. A lone, still puddle is violently displaced by a car just as you finish to record it - things will never be the same. Sunlight comes and goes in an instant and shadows gradually creep east. A secret, unmarked building suddenly has a purpose as the tenants return. The unseen demographic can only be identified by footwear and speech. And cobbles, eroded over centuries, tell their own tale.
Posted by stupot at 10:17 AM Monday 20 Jul
Passing a lovely wee nook coming home from a friends yesterday, I decided to pop back today to draw. The building, middle right was very nondescript. Then, in dribs and drabs, traffic wardens came back to their lair for tea.
Posted by stupot at 07:00 PM Sunday 19 Jul
Ian and Sandra are off to Canada for a month after a great wedding day and weekend. The Garden ceremony worked a treat, dinner was great and the local hall was a great end for the dance. After party courtesy of Mam and Pap Kerr who were kept up until 5am. Respect. And apologies! We even ended up with the bride and groom back at the house due to the Hotel not being staffed...... You can see photo's by Jez and me here.
Posted by stupot at 07:31 PM Wednesday 15 Jul
Back in sunny Glasgow today to do some drawing for a client - I'm so happy to be getting illustration work. It wasn't on my list but I stopped of at some of their housing on the Clyde river to do a quick sketch. It's not the richest area in town but it was quite calm and quiet and I enjoyed drawing there in the sun with an occasional child or dog running by. I could hear the now thick foliage without any sound of traffic.
Posted by stupot at 10:30 PM Wednesday 10 Jun
Hottest weekend of the year and the first Nocturne criterium (circuit race) in the Grassmarket was a huge success. David Millar was in attendance and won by a large gap after the 1 hour and 5 laps of 1.2kms. The pace difference between the elites and the next level was incredible - the difference between doing it for a living and fitting in training around a busy schedule. I was marshalling on Candlemaker row and it was somewhat surreal to watch the pros descend the beginning of my commute home over the rugged terrain which falls away from the museum. The cobbles up Victoria street must have been a shock for one or two of them as well. Now they know.
Posted by stupot at 02:57 PM Sunday 31 May
Felt like summer today as I sat by the National Gallery drawing in the sun. Bagpipers passed me on occasion, on their way to work (the tourists). I saw the Turner exhibition - some of the watercolours reminding me of Will's and Joao's work. All three very adept. I was intrigued that Turner looked to struggle with people a bit! (made me feel better) His large, hazy land / seascapes were a sight to behold though - the reason he's a Master. Must try harder with colour.
Posted by stupot at 02:57 PM Friday 29 May
Weather's been quite mixed recently but yesterday was calm with cats meandering below the ever-changing-but-generally-blue sky. Small birds fleeted about and the wind blew through the trees before drying laundry. It was a good Sunday.
Posted by stupot at 08:06 PM Monday 18 May
This is just a model of the new trams - albeit at 1:1. We're still a few years off the real ones rolling down the street but lot's of people are keen to get in for a nosey - despite the controversy of the project. Inside it looks rather like, well, any other type of public transport you get on. The council are taking advantage of the digging up of the roads to put new water pipes in but they've a long way to go to regain public favour. The saga continues and taxi drivers keep taking their beta-blockers and temazepam.
Posted by stupot at 05:10 PM Saturday 28 Mar
John Martyn died on Thursday. He was a great influence.
Gallus voice..... 1948 - 2009
Posted by stupot at 01:52 AM Saturday 31 Jan
In yet another attempt at putting off doing my tax return, I went out to get some air and do a sketch. There's a bike park near Haymarket station, amidst all the roadworks, which looks like a graveyard. When the troubled tram line, new hotel, and station are finished I'm sure no one will remember a thing........
Posted by stupot at 01:36 AM Monday 26 Jan
More and more you're probably noticing change in your pockets (pun certainly intended) as the new British coinage seeps more and more into our lives. I noticed an article in Design week last year but only now is it becoming obvious that there is an heir to the original decimal family (actually there has been a lot of change in size of coin since and even the advent of the 20p piece and £2 coin not forgetting the old half-penny). Not many people talk about it but then it's not a life changing experience. It's a slow, slow burn and I might not even see a new ten pence piece until May! It does make me smile though to see the clever way they fit together - I'm desperate to get a set. Betty continues to frown on the other side so some things remain as they were.
It's been a surprisingly lovely start to 2009 thanks to few plans and a couple of good rides on the pusher. The local Ceilidh on Hogmanay, in West Kilbride, was great fun with dancing, pipes and band. And some shortbread and champagne thrown in for good measure. Stumbling around the house at lunch time the next day paid dividends as I found all the missing pieces of my bike jigsaw (pedals, cleats and a new tube) and got out for a ride in beautiful weather up to Largs where the promenade was bustling with people strolling past the recently reopened Nardini's. Friday was a day of sofas and fine food at Mr Macdonalds in Glasgow - his wonderful hospitality was just what the doctor ordered. A few more sofa's were sat on in West Kilbride before arranging an early morning ride up to Loch Thom above Largs. Despite the arctic conditions (digits, ears and faces were numb and the water bottle froze) the views were astounding and the ride finished up with a proper coffee at Nardind's. Woo hoo.
Posted by stupot at 05:49 PM Saturday 3 Jan
So when I bumped into Chris Hoy with his Tanqueray a few weeks ago at Glasgow Airport, I really didn't expect I'd be meeting Graeme Obree within the same month. Obree won the hour record twice on revolutionary, handmade bikes (check out the bmx seat post) and was at the museum on Wednesday to hand the medal over for the first of these wins so it can go on display (possibly for a few bags of sand). Nice guy - now lives in the next town from my folks and, like me, doesn't agree with cross training. A colleague tipped me off on Tuesday and I was duly down with camera, and pen - for his John Hancock.
Posted by stupot at 10:18 AM Friday 12 Dec
Our old celebration of thwarting those early terrorists on the 5th seems to have passed me by this year - probably due to Guy Fawkes night being mid week and coinciding with a deadline. I popped up to the castle today - a working garrison and its war museum being part of the National Museums five sites. If we go up out of hours to install part of an exhibition you have to pass the lone, armed sentry - a bit of a shock first time around. Today there were kids in the forecourt drawing which was really nice to see. It seemed fitting to note some names of the fallen. Earl Haig - who gave his name to the Scottish poppy appeal - was overlooking the proceedings upon his horse.
Posted by stupot at 06:12 PM Tuesday 11 Nov
Really chilly again today with a blustery wind from Scandanavia. Blue skies for the most part though. This was drawn on a back street just near where I drew the cheesemonger earlier in the year. Quite a posh part of town. The building on the left was put up in 1650 and now home to a Thai restaurant. Noise around is car tyres on cobbles - you can hear them a mile off. Cobbles are a nightmare on a bike! We hit a deadline on Friday at work and off to Osaka next week so hope to update from there.
Posted by stupot at 11:13 PM Sunday 9 Nov
Posted by stupot at 09:36 PM Monday 20 Oct
I like weaving between back streets in a city - as well as seeing how the place is serviced they are also a calm within the madness. Atholl crescent lane sits behind Shandwick place and the road mimics the curve of the more grand frontage. The lane looks a lot more like how the city would have looked a hundred years ago - few cars, few signs, little noise - at one point during rush hour all I could hear was a church bell. visually, the down pipes are just as prominent as the repetition of the gable ends - cobbles camber down to large stones which act like a gutter - I like the function.
Posted by stupot at 05:26 PM Sunday 19 Oct
I think the reason Edinburgh is such a good place to live in is because it isn't really a city. Now the nights are drawing in, the 3 mile loop around Arthurs seat is becoming more and more of a useful route after work. 4 times round including getting to and from home allows for a good wind down. When you reach the top of the short, but sharp, climb you feel completely out of the city despite being at its centre. The views from the top are cracking - The city sits behind you as you climb - the moon was rising over the North sea and Denmark to my east tonight - beyond the Pentland hills to the south lies England and finally as you finish the plateau the ever present castle with sunset faces you to the west. There's greenery everywhere - or sea. It's why Edinburgh is known as a town despite being the capital city. At the weekends it only takes 20 minutes to be surrounded by fields and cattle. It's not a bad gaff.
Posted by stupot at 10:53 PM Monday 13 Oct
Have a bowl every morning!
Posted by stupot at 10:49 PM Sunday 12 Oct
Most people moan about the roadworks in Edinburgh at the moment. It's quite tiring. It must be tough for bus users, taxi drivers and the emergency services - not to mention business suppliers. I really don't mind them though - I actually found myself wallowing in the glory of passing a huge tailback on Laurietson place the other day on the way home from work........
sparrow and the workshop are very good. They played Edinburgh last night to prove it!
Posted by stupot at 06:32 PM Friday 29 Aug
When you live in Edinburgh people talk about the festival from quite early on in the year - not a lot, but it comes up a fair amount. Having lived a lot of my life 50 miles away you could get away with thinking the largest arts festival in the world doesn't exist. When you get closer and closer to summer here though, the tourists are the first give away - Edinburgh gets Glasgow's quota in January alone. On Wednesday we had our regular, alcohol aided Japanese conversation group just at the back of work, overlooking a 15 metre high, inflatable purple cow (a venue) where guys in laderhosen and a woman on stilts hidden by a bulbous 17th century style dress gave out flyers. I passed a man dressed as an elephant, walking as if going to work in an office this morning. African dancers took over a traffic island on George IV bridge. The streets are bursting. Scottish accents have to be searched for. A lot of chaos, a lot of smiles.
Posted by stupot at 10:44 AM Saturday 2 Aug
Last night the rain swept across the coast in waves after wave, battering windows and trees. The rain wasn't heavy but the kind that soaks every crevice in minutes. Three o'clock that morning was another matter altogether though. Mist rising of the reservoir, bird song all around, a sea of dew. It's beena long winter - long live the summer!
Posted by stupot at 08:57 PM Sunday 22 Jun
Posted by stupot at 07:08 PM Sunday 15 Jun
May has produced it's typically fair weather (remember exam time at school?) and it's nice to sit out the front and draw. You can get the idea of how close my neighbours are to me by the drawing above. The wee shop on the other side has put up a satellite dish with no-one's permission. The colonies are listed so I wouldn't imagine it'll last long. Just got a BBQ in last night before the rain came tumbling down. And so starts summer......
Posted by stupot at 02:29 AM Saturday 10 May
Today is warm and sunny and the wind has calmed for the first time in what seems like a very long time. The park was heaving with out-of-practice frisbee players and new wardrobes had been un-boxed. Yesterday there was a hanami party in the Meadows and it was fun to talk a bit of Japanese and meet some other devotees whilst viewing the blossom. Next week should be as good as the flowers had barely opened. I took some edamame and Karaage and later met a few Osakans. I could spot the first who turned up late with some discounted wine from the supermarket. The second was a guy who came a little later and was spotted slugging from the same bottle. You can take them out Osaka but you can't take Osaka.......
Drawing is of one of the breweries which give Edinburgh its distinctive smell. Was looking forward to the drawing but I wasn't in the mood.
I love Saturday mornings.
And it explains the ring around my waist.......
Posted by stupot at 01:33 PM Saturday 19 Apr
A colleague suggested I visit the Union canal basin at Fountainbridge, five minutes from Haymarket. The area has been renovated with new offices and coffee shops although old workshops still exist which stop the place from becoming too sterile. New flats canteliever over the water and contrast with the old riveted, iron bridge. Start of cobbled bike routes too.
Posted by stupot at 05:04 PM Wednesday 16 Apr
Sunday was sun and snow as we fight our way toward the 7 o'clock dusk. Sankanshion as the Japanese say. The time of year when it's a few days warm and then back to a few more cold. Thursday night goodbyes to Mr Murray followed by a Fife Ceilidh on Saturday and a Sunday party in Ayrshire was enough to floor me by last night.
Posted by stupot at 08:56 PM Tuesday 25 Mar
Went to see the Rascals last night - the Arctic Monkey's Liverpudlian step brothers. I met a few friends at the classic if sterile City cafe before heading to Cabaret Voltaire which was a well sized venue for the band. Afterward I flew home on the bike, peering through the haar that could have been hiding burke and hare down the lanes.
Posted by stupot at 10:01 PM Tuesday 19 Feb
This is the view out of my living room inspired by a joan eardley sketch I saw last month at the exhibition in the national gallery. I'm always intrigued by what others surround themselves with and so this is what surrounds me. You can see the upstair doors to my neighbours I tried to describe in my last entry.
Posted by stupot at 06:18 PM Sunday 17 Feb
HAPPY NEW YEAR! AKE OME!
January's been a bit of a slow burner - such is the darkness outside the window which slowly turns to snow flurries set against a grey background. I forgot what Scottish winters can be like. On the plus side I'm living in a lovely new house in the west end of Edinburgh - one of the colony houses in Dalry which were originally co-operative houses built for railway workers. It's a close-knit community with a narrow path running between the gardens and no cars in sight. The people who live above access via stairs to the rear and those below access from the front, with respective gardens. It's pretty tight living but doesn't have and urban feel. I met a neighbour walking through the gate the other day and we slowly walked up the path chatting, stopping on the doorstep, just a fence width apart, to finish our conversation. Edinburgh's a bonny place and hopefully I'll get more drawings up soon now the energy is returning......
Posted by stupot at 09:32 PM Monday 28 Jan
God, it's almost a month since I wrote an entry. Last year saw a similar decline in posts around December. Maybe it's just the busy run-up to christmas but no excuses. Autumn (which has now given way to winter) has been fairly pleasant and often, in the morning, I reach for the camera to record Arran because it seems hard to believe what you're seeing. The skies are huge on the west coast but I'd forgotten how early it gets dark. On overcast days it doesn't really get light. Today was a peach though - I could have looked at Arran's snow-capped mountain-tops all day.
Posted by stupot at 12:23 AM Tuesday 11 Dec
last week my mum opened the door, as ever, to local guisers and we made our best effort to frighten the local children. I cut a hole in a table and had a covered bird cage put over my head. When the children came in, the witch (convincingly played by my mother) brought the children over to the table, explained about her new pet and lifted the cage to reveal my head. I opened my eyes and screamed. Casualties included a 7 year old cheerleader, a 6 year old vampire and a 33 year old nuclear engineer. We insisted on hearing a turn before anyone got anything sweet - a recited verse from Tam o'shanter was the clear winner. Best joke went to "how do you know which cow is going on its holidays? - It's the one with the week 'aff." The often forgot about history of Hallowe'en reminds me how my pagan roots have been overtaken by Christianity, and more recently, Capitalism. How striking the similarities to Obon in Japan with it's bonfires and lanterns and returning of the dead.
Posted by stupot at 09:06 PM Monday 5 Nov
Yesterday I headed up to the Glasgow Wood Recycling Project with some second years from the art school. The place - where you can buy or sell used wood for good prices - is a fantastic idea and somewhere that should really be supported. All the start up problems of working out a small space, getting reliable sources, marketing etc. aren't getting in the way of the drive by those working there who have teamed up with the Product Design department to come up with some new ideas for sellable products. I reckon the bird house made from reclaimed palette wood is a winner though!
Posted by stupot at 10:44 AM Tuesday 2 Oct
Awwww. Wee Lucy. What a cracker she is.
Massive respect to Sandra for popping her out unaided.
Posted by stupot at 09:03 AM Monday 1 Oct
When I came back to my hometown this year, so much had changed. The town won the DTI's UK craft and design town of the year last year thanks to all the work done by the local initiative and councillor. For the past few years there has been lots of craftspeople and designers making use of the subsidised studios which were redundant shop units a few years ago. I noticed, however, that there was no smaller items for sale that people could buy if they were just passing. I've put together designs for merchandise and the mugs are the first things to be completed. Hot off the press - mail me if you want to buy one! These boys are 8oz bone china - say good bye to strained arms when picking up your tea!
Posted by stupot at 08:55 PM Thursday 27 Sep
I seem to remember mentioning my shock, earlier in the summer, at the baton being passed from bad skin to malfunctioning airways. The heavy chest remains and I'm now a few weeks into a regimented stint on the inhalers and keeping a diary which includes diet and lung capacity. It turns out I eat a lot of chicken, pig, egg and salad. I'm fairly honest about the donuts too. Now I've been asked to start cutting out wheat - which can affect asthma - and can be added to the fish, nuts and dairy products already off my shopping list (anaphylaxis). It's a slightly restricted diet but fortunately vodka has been ruled out as a trigger.
Posted by stupot at 10:36 PM Monday 24 Sep
I used to have a big thing about vinyl. I suppose I'll always love it but I now appreciate the ease and convenience of buying and 'sharing' music with my laptop. I bought more CD's as presents than I ever did for myself and MD's didn't figure. Recently I was talking to my old buddy Ian about all of this and he was reminding me the implications for people like him when you share music online. Now-a-days bands like his have to tour and tour to make any money because fewer and fewer people buy music. Maybe that's why there are so many festivals this summer. When I first started using the MP3 format I was away in Japan and I downloaded my old record collection from other users of the shareware I used. Of course you don't stop there and eventually I started stealing and got into the harder stuff. Airing my record collection has been a revelation - the crackle on my Technics turntable, having to get up and turn the record over, raking through all the big art to choose what's next, gatefolds, even some ltd edition Jamie Hewlitt prints from my Senseless Things phase!
Posted by stupot at 08:16 PM Tuesday 4 Sep
Posted by stupot at 10:51 PM Monday 18 Jun
I had a nightmare the other day. I have made a cliche of the word so just to clarify to myself and anyone else who hasn't had one for a while - I had a dream that frightened me so much I woke up in a sweat, screaming for help. It really has been a very long time - I remember the particularly nasty ones - the American Werewolf in London inspired one, where beasts in Nazi uniforms jumped out from our redcurrant bushes and sprayed my mum with automatic fire. The Day After inspired one saw a nuclear explosion happen when we were changing for PE which was followed by TV 'fuzz' and then nothing. I've always been grateful to my modern studies teacher for sharing that film with us. But the other night was bizarre - the setting was the room I was sleeping in - so it appeared to be very real. There was just a presence in the room - nothing visible - just like a poltergeist I imagine. Something was just around but I couldn't move a muscle. Eventually the light went out and more indescribable but sinister movement. Then, after more time, one of my ribs was dislodged - kinda pulled half out. After that I started shouting for help - eventually waking up just after I'd resorted to screaming in Japanese. The neighbours must think I'm mental.
Posted by stupot at 12:51 AM Sunday 29 Apr
There's something to be said if you can find beauty in a draincover, but it's not that difficult in Japan. They often act as a clue as to where you are - being the visual embodiment of an area in just a few lines. When I escape a new subway station I always look for the north arrow you find at the entrance, just to get my bearings. I also like to see what the place is known for and for that I try and find a drain cover. In Taishi it's the twin peaks and temple complex. There's a wonderful selection here which illustrates the diversity and beauty of such a common item. On the flip side of the deal, when it rains, draincovers are a cyclists worst enemy. Today it rained and so caution was observed.
Posted by stupot at 12:04 PM Sunday 22 Apr
The town I live in is famous for being named after Shotoku Taishi - a crown prince, way back when 'things were better and children didn't have everything so bloody easy'- who was a big advocate of Buddism early on in Japan. He comissioned the Shitennoji temple in Osaka and presumably the large complex of buildings in our local shrine has a lot to do with him too. The pagoda looked good behind the sakura. That pink on dark brown is very 2007.
Posted by stupot at 11:38 PM Tuesday 10 Apr
After visiting the ward office to change my address and national health insurance (it took about an hour and a half and, at one point, 6 public servants), I came home via Chikatsu Asuka Museum (Ando Tadao, 1994). It's only about a kilometre and a half from my house in Taishi and whilst it's not the kind of architecture I'd like to live in, the design actually does, and will continue to, blend in to it's surroundings. I reckon in 100 years it'll look great. I drew by the edge of a nature trail before getting up, with a numb arse, to go and jot down a couple of details. Today was surprisingly cold but people were happy to greet strangers along the way - something I've missed in the city. The women in the cafe did a double take when I spoke to them, in that way rural people do when they're confronted with foreign country people speaking their own language - even just to say "one coffee please". There were a few hardy family's up the trail doing hanami but I know how chilly it was to be sitting about. The fresh weather will hopefully prolong the sakura though.
Posted by stupot at 06:52 PM Tuesday 3 Apr
Posted by stupot at 06:14 PM Saturday 31 Mar
It's no wonder that half of the male population in Japan smoke - cigarettes cost nothing - 300 yen - two and a half dollars or one pound thirty. You can also smoke wherever you like and the famous vending machines litter the streets as much as used butts do. Smoking is still seen as a right here, like it's a right in most other developed countries to not contract cancer when you're having your dinner. Japan Tobacco have lots of TV time here, showing how concerned they are that people should not smoke near children or throw away trash when they're really missing the bigger picture. Being out of sight and therefor out of mind is perhaps a better way to rid a person or a country of such a habit. The fact that the industry here is seen as caring and family orientated (there are always kids in the adverts) simply makes it more accepted. I have to say though, that recent packaging design has been really nice. Generally the retro stuff like Caster and the very new Camel nutty menthol. There's something so wrong about that name but I can't define it. I keep thinking of jobbies.
Posted by stupot at 12:34 PM Wednesday 28 Mar
My new neighbours moved in this weekend and gave me some obligatory presents related to domestic chores. I got some washing detergent which was a kind thought - the note on the top bearing their name - Ouchi. I'm moving out at the end of the month so I'll be looking to off-load some of my stuff on them. For those who don't know, I'll be moving to south Osaka until May before heading back to Sukotorando. Mixed emotions. Anyone need a fridge?
There's a huge studying culture in Japan - one that is a national obsession. Bookshops are brimming with self-study aids, adults swat-up on the train, kids are at cram school until all hours in the evening. The Japanese enjoy inputing data, absorbing information, understanding techniques through words (Does the more practical and creative side of learning bring with it more possibility of confrontation and failure?).
Sunday must have been the earliest hanami for a few years. Even if it was just plum blossom we still wore t-shirts. Is it still winter?
It was another nice evening so I headed out after work to draw an old sake shop in my neighbourhood. Just when I was finishing, a wee woman who lives beside the shop came out to take a peek at my drawing. Suddenly a small gathering of elderly housewives swarmed me from out of nowhere and a typical conversation ensued while I towered over them. How long did it take? Just pen? How long have you lived here for? Do you have a big sketchbook as well? To the last question I answered 'no I didn't' as I kind of stumbled over the difficult word which I didn't really understand. Soon enough she was off into her house and came back out a few minutes later with a lovely, unused sketch book for me. A thousand apologies later I headed home, a wad of paper the richer and the new talk of the steamie.
(Interestingly I decided to leave the denchu (telegraph poles) out of my drawing for a change. It's amazing the difference it makes. With the trees in the background you could almost imagine it's not Osaka).
Posted by stupot at 05:50 PM Tuesday 20 Feb
As we hit the quiet back roads in the mountains, on this morning's ride, I could see crushed beans all over the road - remanents from yesterday's setsubun festival. I headed to the local temple with friends at about 9 last night and we soaked up the atmosphere. Everyone was out to celebrate the equinox and the full moon shining in the distance was both a reminder of the old lunar calendar and of how cold it was. The stalls ("de-misay") are half the attraction - Abiko fills with hundreds of them, selling everything from toy guns to delicious castella sponge cake - a Portugese import which is very popular at festivals. It's kids heaven. I had some taiyaki - a fish-shaped sponge with red bean paste (anko) inside.
Winter is a strange time. Dark and mysterious. Cold and pure. In Kyoto earlier in the month, perhaps around dawn and drifting in and out of conciousness, I could hear the clack of wood on wood in a slow rythmn - a sound I've only heard in Japan - primitive and a bit eerie. It's a simple and natural sound you hear monks making but around Osaka, in winter, the sound of wood on wood is also used in the evenings to warn people against fire. In the relative safety of Japan - one of the biggest concerns is that of fire and its potential to spread through the warrens that are Japanese neighbourhoods. Having witnessed an urban residential fire on a windy day last year I can vouch for the anxiety. I also post a general diary entry from my notebook. These scribbles tend to be a lot more personal than the blog itself, which is more a means for me to air my thoughts on Japan.
This wee gaff is totally inconspicuous but that's exactly why I drew it - it's the kind of place I pass every day going to work. My neighbourhood is full of similar looking tiny businesses. The elderly couple living upstairs come down in the afternoon to start preparations for the evening punters. With the amount of restaurants in Japan I wonder how they all stay alive - I suppose that working out your house saves on rent. I believe that you could count all the restaurants in Glasgow, if you were so inclined, but I really don't think that such a thing is possible in Osaka. That almost goes for hairdressers too. I love the old Sprite sign - a relic from 30 years ago? The main sign is almost totally faded and there's no co-ordination in colour or materials - it's just evolved at it's own pace and, like so many other similar small eateries, relies on local knowledge and the strong coloured noren curtains for trade.
Posted by stupot at 01:53 PM Saturday 27 Jan
When I was in the supermarket last week I noticed that the natto section was pretty poorly stocked. As I'm not loyal to any brand, I chose some more expensive stuff for a few days. I had not seen that a TV show, put out the previous weekend, had suggested that eating the beans twice a day for 3 weeks could help lose weight easily. A friend had mentioned it to me and I immediately remembered a similar occaision a few years ago. In a shock revelation, the research proposed that getting your fat arse of the sofa, not watching crap TV and doing occaisional exercise was also considered to be beneficial to your health.
Posted by stupot at 10:11 PM Tuesday 16 Jan
It's not quite called 'the bum festival' but 'Doyadoya', the phrase screamed out when hundreds of schoolboys race to get a lucky charm from the centre of Shitennoji temple, could be mistaken as one. It was nice to wander the lanes from Tennoji station to the temple and find the old shops you usually associate with less modern cities. Many people had come to get good luck for the year, to purify themselves and to watch the boys jump around almost naked, having cold water thrown over them. Gary Glitter would have been in his element. Were he not in prison.
I'm not usually one to be put off by the weather but, as I lay in bed kept awake by loose plastic sheet being pulled and noisily snapped back, I realised that the howling wind was not going to abait for early morning training. I woke to find the contents of my balcony strewn around the rest of the roof and plant pots smashed, the bamboo screening all over the place. The weather report was of massive problems up north, winter having found us at last.
It was a busy week: the culmination of months of preparation along with St Andrews day and the start of advent. I met up with my Language teacher at the exhibition on Friday and ended up in a Scottish bar. Actually it was her friend who had booked it and I had never met her before. It was a bizarre coincidence, triggered as we went through the door as I spotted the name Deeside which set bells ringing. The soltaire bar mats made concrete the thought.
Damp is not a word I often associate with Japan. Glasgow yes, Osaka no. Okay, so August here feels like the inside of a Ugandan greenhouse, but winter is generally the exact opposite - dry to the point of walls creaking. We kind of missed out on early autumn this year instead jumping rather abruptly into a late cold, grey and dreich time of it and not being the biggest fan of the local electric heat sources, I've eschewed the heaters so far but my bloody clothes aren't drying on their own. Yesterday I took the fast train through to Tokyo and it being 12.30, the lunch boxes were broken out immediately. Good looking people ate beautiful but healthy food on the fastest train in the world and I considered I might be coming out my recent Japan slump. Despite the train being full of scowling charcoal (possibly myself included), I was beside an ageing woman who reminded me of a child riding a train in that way that the very elderly do because there's a bloody good chance it'll be their last time. She continually pointed out the colours and (very) low lying mist, which were indeed a beautiful combination. She never tired of it and I wished that I would spare more time to do the same. It rather put things in perspective. I wanted to have a deep discussion with her about life but I settled for pinning her against the window, when her daughter went to the toilet, demanding laundry tips.
Posted by stupot at 07:39 PM Wednesday 22 Nov
The popular Mac v PC adverts have been shown, in their Japanese form, on TV recently. Usually the exotic honky is used by Japanese companies but then this is an American company and Japanese things are cool. The results are, well, the same adverts but in Japanese. As ever, TV is a helpful listening aid to those studying the language.
Posted by stupot at 07:56 PM Tuesday 14 Nov
As I've always liked drawing, I've always liked going to stationery shops and Japans is like the Mecca of stationery. The delight of becoming excited about buying a very cheap material posession, that most people take for granted, is a nice feeling to have. Especially if you're as tight as I am. Like cash will never die in asia, neither will the mark - it is after all, why the fax machine put email back by 10 years. The mark is such an important part of the culture in Japan that pens are constantly being redefined here. As much R+D seems to go on at pilot as does at honda. If you've ever tried to write complicated Kanji (Japanese characters) on a typical application or order form in Japan then you'll appreciate why there are so many different thicknesses of pen. Going by shelf presence, Pilot's Hi-Tec C is the best selling pen in Japan. I've used one since I was in the UK but a few years ago they were getting difficult to find there. The quality of line that the Hi-tec gives is pretty flawless and for only 210 yen. I recently said that you should visit a builders centre if you ever visit japan. You should also add a stationery store to the list. Tokyu Hands in Osaka has a huge section that any creative would salivate at but the wee local dusty places still possess the charm and prize finds you can't get in department stores.
QR code has been about for some time and it's now an extremely common method of advertising in Japan. It's an odd medium though and a very impersonal part of the unsettling leap, certainly for the uninitiated, into another era. This is what I thought when I first came to Japan and saw QR my only thought was 'what the hell is that?' - the code in some adverts being very large (you take a picture with your mobile and the browser directs you to the campaign website of the company in question). My new business card, which before was my URL which had to be manually typed, is now just a Quick Response link to my website/email address in your mobile browser. The picture is centred so your thumbs go either side (as per offering and receiving a business card with two hands in Japan) which is probably ironic as you can't read it. Business cards are fascinating to designers as there are so many possibilities. I still enjoy writing something on a card to make the person receiving feel special - like a cell phone number.
Posted by stupot at 05:24 PM Saturday 14 Oct
I walked to school as a kid in a sleepy coastal village. the fresh air mixed with an over-active imagination meant that it was a great way to start the day as I wandered the small streets and lanes. Then I started cycling to school as I got older and presumably wanted to buy a little time in the morning. I still cycle to work whenever possible: it helps me waken up, gets me a bit of excercise and importantly, means I interact with people and have experiences enroute. It's also fun. In Japan, for younger kids, the school run is by and large done by mothers on bikes. there's a lot of sheperding done (often by retired men) and because of the busyness of life and crampt streets - It can be a bit dangerous at times (though Japanese kids very quickly adapt to their surroundings).
If it wasn't for the internet and American chain retsaurants, I might forget there was a world outside Japan. The media here is incredibly self absorbed - usually only taking interest in a matter that involves Japan. Whether invloving yourself in another countries news (the US and UK are pretty good at this) is a selfish or selfless act usually depends on the situation in hand, but in these modern times the lack of international news coverage is riduculous. especially in a first world country. It's easy to realise why the Japanese are so uninformed and naive about the rest of the world when you read the newspapers. Browsing the BBC and Gaurdian news websites as usual the other morning, I also checked out the Yomiuri online newspaper and, searching the world news there I found the 5 headlines pictured above - all of which relate to Japan. Me, me, me, me, me. Have a look - one is even about Okinawa, Japans southern most group of islands. It would certainly be funny if it wasn't unnacceptable.
Posted by stupot at 06:31 PM Tuesday 10 Oct
It has been pretty windy of late. real whippy stuff, bringing with it a change temperature and the onset of autumn. I was riding east across the south of the city yesterday with lot's of fire engines going screaming by me when I realised I was approaching the smoke. human nature dictates that we stop and look and there was a quite a crowd - the locals knowing that in the complexity of the Japanese neighbourhood, a flame can spread like, as we say, wild fire. Add in some wind and completely wooden construction to the equation and it becomes a tough job to control. I watched as the fire started consuming another building and felt it was getting a bit sick to stay and watch.
As I'm always intrigued by where things come from I thought I'd post a picture of my desk where I design and write this blog. Typically messy, I like to think it's my chaotic side daring the rest of the room to have fun. I sit on the tatami floor on a legless chair and work at a desk made from stained plywood and propped up by clear storage drawers. There's the usual array of cereal bowl, sketch books, lots of wires and books. I should really ditch that fax machine which has been out of ink for a while now but it still tends to come in handy when dealing with the old schoolers of which there are many.
Posted by stupot at 04:35 PM Monday 2 Oct
from pine needles to metal ones - back to the accupuncture again and confident that I can get some help with my skin. I'm also trying to cut down on donuts and beer which are probably the main source of the heat in my system - the bakeries are just too good here. it's most relaxing going to the accupuncturists - lying around for an hour and a half while some one prods your body and burns plant matter on your skin and puts the tiniest of needles into your body. tonight I fell asleep.
when the doctor feels my vital signs it's like he plays my wrist like an instrument. last week I had a few needles in the back of my neck which were very 'thick' feeling - another common feeling is of them being drawn in as if there is a magnet inside you. all very satisfying. a visit doesn't seem to be complete without portable micro-needles being left on your body for a week - you can see one in this photo on it's sticky backing.
Posted by stupot at 11:04 PM Thursday 28 Sep
I went to get the cast off on thursday, only for a new one to be put on: the new x-ray actually looking worse than the old one for some reason. I saw the same doctor I had consulted on the first visit and his lack of enthusiasm or attempt to elicit any of his words didn't help my mood. he was slouched so far down his chair he was almost falling off it. the fact that he was pretty obese didn't fill me with confidence and he laughed off most questions, which didn't win him the bedside manner of the year award. taking the cast off with a mini circular saw, he eventually managed to nick my ankle after trying a few times. It made me think of all the times people have said to me that once you enter a University in Japan, you've as good as graduated. It made me think of Alastair, who'd mentioned that the students he taught here didn't possess that 'get up and go quality'. It made me also think of those junior high school kids I see on the train at 10 o'clock at night, coming home from cram school.
Posted by stupot at 11:50 AM Saturday 23 Sep
A couple of people, over the past few weeks, have given me a wry smile as they've passed me on the bike, my crutches resting over the handlebars. I've resisted taking the train where possible because the amount of effort involved to actually support myself getting to those elevators, or the right exit, is so demanding. I knew it before but I now have hard evidence that building standards in Japan are a world away from those in Britain. This is good and bad. on the plus side you get nice looking interiors with funky, uneven details in Japan which find their way into lots of international design magazines. The blind are also catered for extremely well - organised crime having not only a massive interest in concrete but also in yellow, sensory floor tiles. On the down side though, you get stairs at dizzy angles with handrails that seem to be designed for that 5th percentile of hobbits.
after yesterday's japanese lesson I miss-timed a kerb and rolled my foot. walking to the train station was sore but by the end of the day I was dragging myself home like an extra from 'thriller'. today I headed to the hospital and had it x-rayed and it showed a hair-line fracture. actually, you could hardly see anything but I could already tell from the pain that I wouldn't be out at the dancing this weekend. getting the stookie on was all very quick but I'm now contemplating 5 weeks hobbling around, precariously, on crutches: even going to the fridge is an ordeal.
(the japanese for plaster cast is gipusu, "gips", which comes from gypsum which is used to make plaster of paris. the scottish version, stookie, comes form stucco - the plaster finish.)
Posted by stupot at 11:18 AM Thursday 7 Sep
the sony tower has always been a bit of a landmark in shinsaibashi in osaka. it used to be the place that you could go to and try out all the new shit in clear plastic casing which also allowed you to see the mechanics. it looked tired for a while and then a few years ago the sign came off and I realised you couldn't go in it. today, from a mexican restaurant next to the tower, you could see it being demolished. I live in hope a wee park or something will be built in it's place, but I know I'm just being overly romantic. the next time I pass I'm sure a 20 storey restaurant block will have sprung up in its place.
Posted by stupot at 09:42 PM Saturday 12 Aug
my lovely japanese teacher lost her husband last week and we went to his wake in kitaku. I don't think it's particularly different to a celtic wake where everybody drinks all night and considers that the deceased is going somewhere better. surely the key though, is striking a balance between fun subjects and solomn ones in conversation, although these situations are hard enough in english, nevermind japanese. there were flowers galore - each with a timber plate hanging underneath bearing the names of the givers. in the presbyterian church of scotland we never saw the dead so it was a little unusual for me to attend this 'viewing'. I think, though, that it's a healthy part of the process - I was surprised that the daughter had done the make-up (a nurse was present) but she'd made a very good job. people came and went and eventually we had to go - it shouldn't have come as a surprise that even at a funeral in japan you are given a gift - we came home with some tea to drink and a sachet of salt to ward off any bad spirits. a little embarrasing given we had forgotten the obligatory koden bukuro or money envelope for the family.
Posted by stupot at 10:46 PM Thursday 10 Aug
despite my frequent rants on the ugliness of osaka there are occaisionally little gems to be found. not far from the picture I posted last friday, you can find this quaint, traditional house with thatched roof. of course your view will always be scarred by a telegraph pole though.
in japan, to the untrained eye, it often looks like there has been no town planning - certainly in the modern cities like osaka. mega-cities are built on medieval layouts with no long term investment and this temporary approach results in dilapidated looking buildings and a general feeling of uncertainty. I thought it would be helpful to outline typical views within the city and to demonstrate why I go to the mountains three times a week whenever possible. I like the photo above which kind of epitomises osaka. essentially it's as rough as a badgers arse. you've got your two tiered overpass which dark rusty shadow allows people from other cities to get home but hangs like a black cloud over the local area, threatening anyone who goes near it. then you have your apartment block with some token features which can't even make their mind up what style they want to be. in the fore-ground, despite the houses being rather ramshackled in appearance, apparently knitted together by telegraph poles, you can be safe in the knowledge that the neighbourhood is tight, that all the plants are kept well and the people proud.
yesterday, being the 1st of august, meant that everyone escaped town and got mad with the asahi in the suburbs to watch the famous fireworks.
I went along with some new work colleagues who were having a barbeque at the bosses hoose, conveniently located near the site and beside a wild pond. having bought a cheeky bottle of laphroaig I was almost kicking myself when his wife, on accepting it, told me that her husband didn't drink. I couldn't bear to think of it go to waste but she informed me she might cook with it and was partial to a wee shnifter now and again. If she's anything like the mother-in-law it'll be tanned by the weekend. fruit next time though.
I eventually tracked down the straw sandals I was after in the yukata section of takashimaya - the department was doing a rare trade. my clarks sandals are good for the british climate but my soles are continually wet with sweat from the suede. zori are far more breathable but still sans-intelligent fibres. I wanted a tatami soled sandal but I was also asking for seta which usually have a kind of moulded, laquered straw look. some of them were up to 50000 yen or 250 quid so I headed off in search of something more affordable. geta, are of course the big wooden numbers which clack with every step but I managed to find some bigger square numbers that look and smell like hessian flooring (not for long). interestingly the strap of japanese sandals meets in the middle which means all the sandals are symmetrical. japanese people have a huge big toe and tiny wee piglets.
Posted by stupot at 11:17 AM Sunday 30 Jul
saw japan versus fiji at nagai stadium yesterday with sam and brendan and sam's brother tom. japan held up pretty well but the sheer physical difference was enough for fiji to pull away at the end and win. whilst nagai is a nice stadium it doubles as an athletic arena too, so you find yourself straining to see the far end. murrayfield is a lovely stadium for being up close and personal, starting from the touch line and rising steeply. anyway - the incredible thing was that the nagai pitch stops just after the football corner flag and so the try area is almost all astroturf flooring - not a highly appealing surface for anyone to skid across, let alone some of the best players in the world. amazing that the recent ¥43,491,000,000 upgrade failed to include 2 bits of turf that even the poorest rugby grounds boast.
Posted by stupot at 06:54 PM Sunday 2 Jul
I've become obsessed with overpasses. even as a kid the sight of the 'spaghetti' junction just east of glasgow filled me with awe and a subconcious respect for that level of engineering. I remember watching bladerunner and metropolis and wondering if places like that really would become reality. how wonderful they looked and how free we could be.
Designing a motorway to run through the centre of a city is, of course, crazy: people have to live there. a city is not somewhere you just travel to to work - cities are for people and not cars. last year we saw some soul destroying apartments which sat between overpasses and shook like new york apartments from those movies in the sixties and seventies.
not content with failing to capture the local shrine's roof, today was another belter, and what with the heat beginning to make day time cycling exhausting, I scribbled a local house's roof on the way home from work. this must be a fairly well off family as it has many decorative layers and end bosses. the wall which is so important to keep your own space also works well as a deterent to burglars (british houses are often so open in this respect). most windows on this house were large but out of view - typically low, shaded and at just the right height to sit and look out on the garden. the wall is softened by the bushes and trees and these many layers build up what begins to look like a fortress. I got many a look of the locals as if to suggest I was casing the joint! as usual I met the old mens frowns with a polite "konnichiwa" and the children's "haro's" with "bonjour". it's a hell of a place.
Posted by stupot at 10:51 PM Tuesday 27 Jun
we're lucky to live near a complex of shrines called sumiyoshi taisha. apart from anything else there is a bit of space and big trees which tend to be a rarity in osaka. however, sumiyoshi is a real historic site with ancient shrines similar to those at ise (in the back you can see the antler type roof details from the building behind). as I haven't sketched from real life for a while I thought I'd take advantage of the good weather and get the pens out. sketching really gets you understanding a subject so well - that's the beauty of it - you absorb the most minute details that you usually skip. well out of practice but good fun and worked on the tan.
you see the vans everywhere - parked illegally with high adrenalin drivers navigating in and out of them and up alleys and into buildings - you often see them running up a street with a huge trolley. despite high speed courier post being relatively new to japan compared to america, the black cats, sumo wrestlers and pelicans that adorn the side of trucks really dominate the cityscape. despite the postal service being totally relaible (as royal mail once was), most people in japan courier stuff because of it's convenience and presumably the face to face service. it also requires the use of the hanko 'signing stamp' which is still so important to japanese daily life. it's like it was made for japanese living. people receive important documents by takkyubin, people send luggage ahead when travelling by takkyubin and people send gifts by takkyubin - in december especially, the traditional boxes of fruit needing signed for come thick and fast as a sweating, breathless man jostles paper work with one eye on his watch.
Posted by stupot at 11:16 PM Wednesday 21 Jun
my nice pair of brown leather shoes are near the end - the soles are going - they're still wearable but I've been concious of them looking decidedly more and more knackered as the days go by. today I had to put a good pair of chino's in the bin after a very good innings. again I could wear them but the holes were becoming a problem. throwing out clothes is difficult for me because they generally only become comfortable after you've had them for a few years, then they start falling apart. I'm the type of shopper who waits until everything dies and then goes and buys up a load of stuff at once. just now seems to buying season for me what with the bike and everything - it's been many years since I got new shoes so I went to shinsaibashi and bought some nice new leather shoes which will fit my feet in time. the arduous task of breaking them in lies ahead. I left the sensible birkenstock route and took a more japanese route of slightly pointed. I feel like ronald mcdonald without the dungarees.
after the damage of a massive recall about a year and a half ago, mitsubishi at least seem to be coming up with some interesting additions to their new cars. whilst the 'i' looks like a combination of the smartcar and merc A class (though the european stylings always seem to be more agreeable than daihatsu's funnier concepts), the play edition comes with nano plug in which you control through the touch screen TV/GPS monitor. nice stuff although I always wonder just how long products will keep their shapes these days. the 8 track is back.
Posted by stupot at 02:06 PM Sunday 28 May
there was a few things that I didn't like when I moved here regards my status, but like so many other things I simply put down as societal differences. like the fact I had to carry an ID card everywhere and yuka didn't. the fact that my visa, despite being spousal, was only good for 3 years - the same as many workers. recently the controversial fingerprinting of foreigners law got through parliament but I'm not really sure how this fights terrorism or is even anything to do with it.......
I woke up in a panic last night just before 2. I'd just fallen asleep or I may have been on the cusp. the wardrobe sliding doors were rattling away like someone was trying to get out of them (I've seen enough japanese horror movies to know this happens here) - then I kinda realised it was an earthquake and went back to bed marginally relieved that it was not a ghost but just another earthquake. people in white make up and white clothes are a far scarier thing to awake to. one would presume.
Posted by stupot at 04:06 PM Monday 15 May
japanese beer doesn't impress me that much but suntory's premium malt is not bad. the new advert made me laugh - here's the first in the series (click below the image) where it show's you quite clearly that the stuff is capable of changing someone as bent as a nine bob note into a complete psycho. you can also witness 'japanese head' - not oral sex but foamy beer. pouring into an angled glass remains a rarity here. much to my continual dismay.
Posted by stupot at 12:37 AM Monday 15 May
I've burnt my legs and god knows what my nose will be like tomorrow. after a sunday of torrential rain and thunder that at one point literally shook the house, today had a high of 27 and it began to feel like it - climbing into the mountains. the sun was beating down on my knees and my fluids were finished well before half way. I've not been climbing much in the winter so it was by no means a comfortable afternoon but beautiful none-the-less. I am more than aware that the fuji hill climb is only a month away. jesus.
japan is like mainland europe in many ways. the unusual lanaguage, the healthy diet, the weather, the closeness of family, the punctual trains, even sometimes the smells. what I haven't been so keen on seeing recently is the similarity to the infamous german technique of picking your sunlounger the night before.
saturday was an odd day - it was sunny and cloudless yet you couldn't see the mountains which are so much a dominating part of the skyline on a nice day. the sky wasn't as blue as usual either but I threw the observation away as I travelled on the train and didn't give it too much more thought due to there being so much change in the air these days. it's funny that even the change in temperature can surprise you every year.
since I've lived in japan the things you might say I lack have, I would say, made me stronger. my possessions are fewer yet I have less to worry about. I also fear death less but I'm not exactly sure why. it has perhaps been the most surprising result of moving to japan and I think it is a symptom of three possible reasons. one is being removed from familiar things and people, another is spending more time alone, without speaking and the last is living within japanese culture in general. I think it is a mixture of all three.
"After all because it is the rain, when while at this time it stocks it shoots, 3 these rollers which have been made the oak were stepped on at last. Than stationary type it is easier to ride for me of the system where the body wobbles to left and right, is. Because so, in at one time by the roller falling car it has been painful eye, considerably it is prudent."
It's really a love hate relationship with the service industry here. The relentless and high-pitched welcome to each shop becomes a fittingly chaotic soundtrack to city life. Although I no longer really hear it, on a busy day the welcoming doesn't stop and like an inexperienced assistant not knowing when to leave you alone - the cries of 'irrashiemase' and 'dozo' wear thin. It's perhaps akin to the 'have a nice day' syndrome in America. Being from Scotland though, this hyper-friendly service is as much suspicious as it is culture shock.
Continue reading "Knowing your place in the tribe"
Posted by stupot at 06:03 PM Sunday 2 Apr
this week seems to be another one that pushes scotland into the global spotlight. winning the gold in the cycling pursuit at the commonwealth games made me particularly happy and from the land of dolly the sheep, I was also grateful to read that scottish scientists have made a break-through with eczema treatment. the smoking ban is also set to start on sunday.
in japan, fags are still well under 300 yen (£1.50) and people smoke like troopers. the mind set still seems to be about a decade or so behind. combine the post-work, stress-relieving beer and beef diet and we're coming down to WHO averages.
Posted by stupot at 08:16 PM Monday 20 Mar
being at home in the mornings often brings with it the chime of the door bell. more often than not it seems to be the nhk man, apologising from the off like he'd actually seen some of the crap they air. I feel like I may be one of the few punters who doesn't give him a hard time. last week, though, brought the rice man to my attention and today was a miso rep from kyoto. strange.
as the rice guy was from only a block away he didn't do too much hanging around - the miso chap, on the other hand, was happy to explain the finer points of his no doubt delicious fermented stodge. we quickly switched back to sketchy japanese after he asked if my husband was around.
Posted by stupot at 01:06 AM Friday 17 Mar
I saw this guy at the station the other day in work gear who is a student at honda's motorsports college in south osaka. I like the kit. I also know a guy who designs fishing goods at shimano and he told me about how they have to wear these same short jackets (with obligatory logo) and work trousers. he wasn't filled with enthusiasm but it got me thinking. Everyone knows that Japan is a country obsessed with uniformity and so it is no secret that uniforms act as a big part of daily life. The black suit, the sailor uniforms, and more recently the maids outfits that have become a staple part of the odd urban makeup.
strange things unite the modern world. it warmed my heart the other day to see some local government workers doing some beautiful street-scaping. here we see what were two perfectly functioning telephone booths (probably due for decommission) and an innocent lamp-post, now surrounded by standing stones and cobbles, possibly suggested in a wild fit of artistic expression which japan's local government officials are well-known for. some other folk I talked to last week moaned about the recent and mounting road-works. no doubt the financial year drawing to a close has nothing what-so-ever to do with it.
and there was me thinking it was just a british phenomenon. it is indeed a wee world.
Posted by stupot at 10:40 PM Tuesday 7 Mar
so the olympics are over and thankfully japan secured a medal just a few days before the end - breaking the image of riots in greater tokyo that I'd forecasted earlier in the week, mid-drought. the opening ceremony was tastefully arranged with typical italian flair - the props simple but well scaled.
the time difference made viewing difficult but the press had given generous air-time to several contenders who were now to feel the pressure of the whole nation upon them. it felt almost inevitable that they wouldn't deliver the goods just as the english press frequently imortalise their footballers before chewing them around and spitting them out - nhk et al had indeed 'pissed on their chips'.
today's rain is hard and loud. all the drain's are coming alive and taming the water into a show.
Posted by stupot at 11:38 PM Sunday 26 Feb
for any british readers interested, saiyuki (monkey) has been re-released in Japan by fuji-TV. it has already been bought up by various stations in different countries including the UK and is meant to be heading to your screens sometime later this year. the new version of the cult programme which both confused and left an indelible mark on my generation, will star SMAP member shingo katori which is the equivalent of ronan keating doing a remake of rentaghost. a damn shame I'm otherwise engaged on monday nights........
Posted by stupot at 06:30 PM Sunday 19 Feb
my name is kerr and it's understood here. it's obviously not a usual name, so it's usually clarified properly. in britain this was often over-looked. I would get mail from suppliers down south addressed to 'mr kur', 'mr car' and most amusingly, 'mr care'.
for me, the name has always seemed a pretty straight-forward word to pronounce. like kerosene but without the flamability. perhaps it's just that it's uncommon even in england, but I thought more people would have made the 'simple minds' association and worked it out. seems people have forgotten about poor old jim kerr, the front-man who famously opened a japanese restaurant in glasgow which had about as much atmosphere as eating sushi in a morgue.
anyway - the name is care in japan. I'm possibly the gentle giant. the syllables used to create the name pronounce 'ke' & 'a-'. care. and as I live in a medical district with ke a- centres all over the place, I feel right at home. which is just as well, considering I'm a clumsy bastard.
Posted by stupot at 02:15 PM Sunday 19 Feb
I got four seperate chocolate gifts for valentines yesterday! definitely a record. certainly since primary 5. it's one way traffic in japan, for those who don't know, with the guys returning the gift on white day (march the 14th). incredibly commercial it is, but in the country where gift-giving is the national pastime, it all seems somehow more natural.
Posted by stupot at 11:59 PM Wednesday 15 Feb
I was looking around the train yesterday and saw the familiar sight of so many commuters catching a cheeky 40 winks when I spied a chap further up the carriage who was slumped forward with eyes shut and seemed to be deep in sleep. then, suddenly, his hand reached to his mouth and he gulped down some canned coffee, swallowing it he tilted his head back briefly but his eyes remained shut. and then he resumed his lifeless pose.
how we have progressed from being monkeys.
Posted by stupot at 09:59 PM Saturday 11 Feb
I presume the everchanging weather fronts that make british weather what it is also make the forecasting a nightmare. you are never certain what the next day will hold. in japan the predictions tend to be pretty accurate as far as I've seen - probably due to the more stable and reliable weather system. for weather forecasting in japan I find the jma site to be pretty comprehensive. all regular needs are catered for as well as having good information on, amongst other things, earthquakes, which you can track back over the past week to chart exactly how many there have been and in what magnitude. unsurprisingly these are frequent and weak but it makes interesting viewing none-the-less.
Posted by stupot at 12:03 AM Wednesday 8 Feb
when I set off on my ride today I spotted the skeletons of the red and white stalls that are synonymous with festivals. by the time I returned, the small streets of abiko felt like osaka station on a weekday morning. after a soak and some scran I headed down to the local temple to check out the action: the roads were all closed off and the hundreds of stalls lined every route in.
there's always something to celebrate and as winter has been dragging it's heels somewhat we got the sushi in last night to celebrate the wonderfully pagan mid-season festival of setsubun which now-a-days sees the shops bursting with families buying up the soy beans and sushi like they were peanuts and pumpkins. despite lacking child or pet to dress up as a demon and pelt with the traditional dry beans, we still observed the fact that we're half way through the cold bit. as we wolfed down our giant rolls of rice we buried ourselves under the kotatsu to hide from the howling wind outside and hoped that that would be enough to ward off the bad luck.......
Posted by stupot at 10:42 PM Saturday 4 Feb
who needs a playground when you've got bollards that are made of rubber? these things are great. I'll sometimes go a detour just to mess about with one - although I attract enough attention because of my hair and eye colour. they make good seats as well and have even been known to stop cars without damaging them. living in a tight space serves up a smile yet again.
it's all become a bit competitive. the calender clinging to the fridge door is inescapable and as I'm a grazer as well as a big eater it means that I not only 'clock in' every day but have to face up to any slacking with every visit. my big push to learn more japanese is under watch as well as the bike training. as it's the off season I'm trying to do 3 rides a week but the weather often means I find 'pressing jobs' to do instead. I'm trying to get in about 160 kms tho. I'm also trying to get in three quarters of an hour worth of the old nihongo every week day but it's amazing what will try and distract you from hard graft. even ironing shirts suddenly becomes attractive.
they started building the apartments beside us about a year ago and finished around december. when we moved here last february construction was only a floor or so up and I started taking pictures of it for some reason. anyway - I took a few and then it became a habit: after I put the coffee on in the morning I'd nip outside with the camera and see if things had changed much. even if they hadn't, often the lighting or weather made it a different scene. the collection of photo's now make an interesting flick book which you can see as a slide show should the fancy take you. the only unfortunate thing was what was waiting when they took off the tarpaulin...........
Posted by stupot at 12:44 AM Sunday 29 Jan
our house, my skin, the whole of japan is as dry as an alcoholic in ramadan. I believe even where the mountains of snow have landed, it's dry. to give you an idea of how dry it is, our house is having some serious contractions. the window frames and wooden structure literally creak with lack of moisture and from all the cold. in a quiet room it can be a deafening noise. it reminds me of the drama das boot when the u-boat is trying to hide from a destroyer deep in the ocean and the thing starts to crush. it feels like the whole place will imlode. I'm going out for a run.
Posted by stupot at 12:58 PM Tuesday 24 Jan
in british cities the high street newspaper vendors have developed a secret language over many centuries which they use to loudly advertise their fish'n'chip wrappers. to the untrained ear and on a busy high street, it may sound like a madman's call for help, but locals know it to be just that. in japan primal screaming is reserved for petrol stations. I woke up proper today on the way to work as the call of an experienced attendant docked a people carrier in to fill up with a tank of diesel. it's quite a sight and noise: certainly very theatrical - everyone runs around busily, one is waiting to polish windows, one is ready with nozzle - it really is like f1 stuff without all the gear - at very least it looks like some kind of mad ballet. HHIIIIIIAAAAAAY! (forward a bit) AAAAEEEEII! (forward a wee bit more) he shouts. or it could've been a london standard guy, an evening news guy or even one of the evening times nutters. eventually the bowing commences and the driver is shown a safe passage back onto the road. today though, I'd turned the ipod up and was already halfway to the station. it's too bloody cold - it's even threatening to (hold the front page) snow in osaka.
Posted by stupot at 11:45 PM Friday 20 Jan
When I came back from my three week trip there was a house in our neighbourhood, just near the train line, where an empty plot of land had been when I left. It takes getting used to - a neighbourhood that metamorphosises as soon as you turn your back - you have no choice but to move with it. Life also seems to get more disposable by the day - Yuka's already discussing a possible change from her three month old mobile phone.
Continue reading "Turn your back for a second......"
Posted by stupot at 11:17 PM Wednesday 18 Jan
there are a lot of small, irritating things that happen everyday, that you often just put up with. our oven (of the small, electric variety) wasn't the most expensive in the shop and so every morning when I heat my soy milk, the oven does its poor calculation of weight and zapps it to burning point. occaisionally if I'm concious enough I'll stop it 30 seconds early. anyway - the point I'm getting to is found in the unwanted comedy moustache you get when you drink it and the milk skin attaches to your top lip. or worse - you actually drink it.......
sometimes you don't need to look at your watch. sometimes things just always happen that remind you when you are. like the 5 o'clock chime for children to go home. the 11am kerosene van doing it's round in winter with its cute, heidi-esque, falling snow, kids choir anthem.
at eleven o'clock every sunday, without fail, the ramen man comes by our neighbourhood and the haunting tune of his traditional pipe music echoes around the streets like the pied piper himself. there's a security in always hearing him and there's also a feeling that time passes by so quickly. another week has ended, another has begun. on countless occaisions I've wanted to go and see him but I'm glad I haven't broken my image of him. his invisiblity and the secrecy of it all fuels the imagination. sometimes I think that if I look out the window all the local kids will be following him. or at least the local vermin.
in any case, when the tune fades into the distance and the stillness of the sunday night resumes, I know it's time for bed.
Posted by stupot at 11:12 PM Sunday 11 Dec
Posted by stupot at 11:59 PM Thursday 1 Dec
for posterity I thought I'd record this hair cut. popular with young men at the start of this century, and popularised by hide nakata (now plying his trade in sunny lancashire), this was spotted on a student studying in a coffee house in kyoto. although it's very much accepted now, I remember I studied with a guy who had this cut at art school about eleven years ago and people used to think he had escaped from a (different type of) institution. funny how much goes around comes around. eventually. I like to refer to this style as 'the reverse monk' but perhaps there is a more scientific name out there.
Posted by stupot at 11:50 PM Thursday 1 Dec
Posted by stupot at 11:56 PM Friday 25 Nov
yuka's been finding it difficult to fully erase the memory of glasgow as she sits across from the bright sports papers and their full page pictures of celtic strips on her monday commute to umeda on the JR line. it could well be the number 62 to bailleston with a daily record being wafted in front of her. since nakamura's signing at parkhead there has definitely been more green and white around the place: certainly in the horizontal band department. it's interesting to see the strip in it's plain form, minus the carling logo - wonder if you can buy like that?
anyway - more recently big shun has been doing the advertising for oronamin c, so now it's even more strange to see the bhoys on prime time adverts on the goggle box. bizarre. you can watch the advert on the official site if you click the CM button up top followed by the red logo. this also links to other major brand campaigns under the otsuka umbrella including keifer sutherland in a very dramatic 24esque ad for calorie mate and an almost fruity fibemini ad. it's all quality stuff. enjoy.
Posted by stupot at 11:27 PM Friday 25 Nov
Posted by stupot at 03:55 PM Sunday 13 Nov
after a pre-dawn rise (that hasn't happened in a while, especially on a sunday) and my first run with the new 'club' (seems my fitness is not so bad) - we went for a quiet stroll around the local shrine, sumiyoshi taisha. it's pretty famous but usually not so busy. today was hoachin' - we had forgotten about shichi-go-san - the celebration of 7, 5 and 3 year olds and so it was crawling with wee people in bright get-up. very cute indeed though. despite them praying for a healthy life, the usual stalls of tat were most evident and the kids were lapping up all the attention, toys and sugar coated crap. I felt sorry for all the siblings (kyodai) who were of even age. never mind - their time will come.
Posted by stupot at 03:40 PM Sunday 13 Nov
we use a haramaki (stomach wrap) in japan for keeping the stomach warm when chilled and for preserving energy - just as in the west we wrap the extremities when we are cold. granted; fingers; toes; head are all suseptible to low temperatures but in 'eastern' theory the stomach is not only mathematically the centre of the body but it also is the centre of balance for our energy or ki. presumably it's no coincidence that disembowelment (seppuku: - or 'harakiri' to use its popularised western name - a better known aspect of japanese culture) was a traditional form of suicide.
many years ago I may have put it all down as mumbo jumbo but I had a very physical, slightly scary but extremely positive introduction to my own ki at my accupuncturists. I had had some seriously painful and sharp lower back treatment (usually for organ balance) but I had also experienced the needles being drawn like magnets into my wrists: the feeling of the strong dull ache was addictive but a prelude to a much more awesome display.
about 5 years ago my accupuncturist in glasgow was working on my stomach as I wasn't sleeping well and his earlier efforts hadn't helped. I wouldn't call my experience 'out of body' but my stomach certainly was high above my body, having rotated slowly, 180 degrees in an arc (my head and feet remained 'in place' but were being pulled). the release of built up emotion was overwhelming and my whole body started shaking and shivering uncontrollably on the table as needles fell out my hands and feet. I think my man was about as surprised as I was although he kept his cool - it was a great example to both of us of the power of ki. he'd never seen such a thing before. I felt great after. a sense of deep, deep relief and peace.
anyway - I've found an accupuncturist who does work under shakai hoken (social insurance) here and so I'm going back to the needles.
Posted by stupot at 10:02 AM Sunday 13 Nov
Posted by stupot at 07:36 PM Friday 11 Nov
I got given some great cheap, gimmicky toys today - a kaiten zushi (revolving sushi) pen with stacked plates and food on top that revolves when you click it (it's a pun so it's funny). also a great 'haaaaaay' button keyring from the japanese TV show 'trivia' which will mean very little to those reading this from abroad but slightly more to viewers in japan. the noise 'hay' used in it's elongated form kind of means 'I didn't know that' or 'you're joking?' and the show is based on interesting and unusual facts which a panel of guests use 'hay' buttons to register their astonishment on. and now I have a portable one to really annoy people with. god bless the gimmick.
Posted by stupot at 07:14 PM Friday 11 Nov
amadana by realfleet is a new japanese company we found this week which has well priced home goods and uses (to my delight) timber in many appliances. it's nice stuff. they have an english site and a japanese one. if you scroll down in the product pages they have really nice 'caution' notes.
Posted by stupot at 11:33 AM Tuesday 8 Nov
it's often said that japan is the home of technology - and in the most part this is true these days - japan is a wonderful place to live for finding out about and being a part of new trends and gadgets. I find it interesting now to read UK reports of what life is like here (as opposed to when I used to read them from scotland in awe). I'm often still in awe about amazing breakthroughs and whilst I now have access to some of the ideas I also have a proper view of what is really going on as a culture.
I read an article last week from the beeb about smart mobile technology as a method of payment. there's no doubt that the technology is available and is being used but to say that the average japanese will be saying "sayonara to their wallet" is pretty difficult to believe given the countrys dependency on cash. talking to the trouble and strife tonight we concluded that scotland was a far more convenient place in terms of money and payment (even if you can pay your bills at convenience stores - you still need to get cash from somewhere and conbini atms charge). the article also states that you can charge your mobile at stations where you feed in cash. I mean does that not strike you as being a bit middle ages in the fact we're still using paper money in this equation? the debit system doesn't even happen widely in japan yet. atms have charges unless they are used in your own bank and during office hours (though atms here are almost always indoors) and other banks will charge you too, at any time. iceland this is not.
I for one hope the technology takes off but I fear the strangle hold of the japanese bank could halt the idea in its tracks. here's to being proven wrong!
it's not so much the earthquakes that bother me as living in the shadow of a recently completed 18 storey apartment building. I have come to have a lot of faith in japanese structural engineering. lunchtimes sway measured a modest 4.5 on Mr Richters scale, but the epi-centre was far away.
Posted by stupot at 06:50 PM Tuesday 1 Nov
Posted by stupot at 05:08 PM Monday 31 Oct
the kotatsu is quintessentially japanese - given the preference for sitting on the floor this heated table with blanket is the main substitute for lack of central heating during the winter. I'm so glad that it's 'that' time of the year again when we can lounge about under it to keep warm and not feel guilty. in the summer it's just too bloody hot to do anything else and you kind of get depressed about the fact you never have the stamina to do anything - even though it's 'nice' out.
everyone comes together around the kotatsu as we would a fire in scotland but the lack of flame is certainly missed. traditionally these used charcoal but now it's dry, electric heat. despite this it's very cosy and the chances of falling asleep under the kotatsu on most nights in winter is about 90%.
I stumbled home from the pub last year at my in-laws house and thought no-one was around. so I grabbed a nightcap from the fridge and headed for the living room where the father-in-law emerged like a vampire from a coffin from under the blanket to scare the wits out of me. the old 'dozed off during the baseball game' story is one that most japanese families can relate to.
Posted by stupot at 05:07 PM Monday 31 Oct
Posted by stupot at 11:31 PM Friday 21 Oct
the word choices to describe housing can be a bit misleading as times. for one, a modern apartment is refered to as a mansion but perhaps the most misconstrued is the palace, or to be exact, leo palace. the leo palace is a masterclass in space management, though the living spaces are perhaps more suited to a corgi than a queen.
the white and grey striped boxes can be seen all over japan which are generally 3 storeys and made up of around 20 units. designed for single occupancy, the main draw is that these waive utilities costs, deposit, 'key money' and a guarantors signature - all important factors of renting in japan. key money specifically is a difficult concept for most foriegners to either grasp or want to agree to: essentially it's an initial, non-refundable type of deposit. it pays for new tatami mats and finishes as well as general wear that you subject a property to. we payed about 1000 quid (by no means a lot in japanese standards) for the privilege of moving into our 'mansion' - but I look at it this way: we pay less per month than we would in glasgow (which describes the current house buying climate in scotland and the UK as a whole) and if you break this down over 3 years then it only adds up to 28 quid more a month.
anyway - the palace. the units are essentially one room of 9m2 with a balcony. leading in from the front door you have a toiletroom, shower room and open kitchen. the kitchen is little more than a fridge, 2 ring burner and cupboard - it kind of curbs any thoughts of creative cooking: prep area is virtually nil. above this entrance area is the bed area - accessed by a ladder in the main room and with just enough room to sit up. sounds cosy, huh?
rent is pretty high for what you get but the advantage being that you can let for a short period - as little as a week - and all the other reasons mentioned above. the rooms are tiny by western standards and it's not exactly somewhere you'd plan to bring up children, but it's cosy, manageable and with the ladder up to the bed - a bit like being a kid again!
Posted by stupot at 11:07 PM Friday 21 Oct
unbelievable - it's another public holiday!
as a result of all these single days off, getting proper time off (for a real holiday) for many japanese can be difficult to say the least, certainly more than a few days at a time. people talking of 2 week holidays abroad are usually met with intakes of breath and an astonished "aaaaaaaayyyyyyy?". I suppose these hand-outs are meant to keep you sweet by thinking you've had so much time off that you couldn't possibly need a change of scenery. it's staggering: I count 23 public holidays this year - some official - some unofficial*.
anyway - all this means that the japanese are the masters of short trips. yuka's off to pick pears in Hyougo with a bus load of old biddies from her mum's town (long story) but today happens to be school sports day - coinciding with that very thing, but also signifying the fact that it's now cool enough to go outside and not get sun stroke. so back to excercise it is........just as the baseball season seems to be ending?
on that topic, a 13 year old died last week of exhaustion after playing baseball. 2 lost games, 1 long telling off from the coach and several hours of punishment practice later saw him collapse after about 12 hours near the park. heavy stuff.
Posted by stupot at 11:58 PM Thursday 6 Oct
when I was a kid it only took wee things to keep me amused. playing against invisible teams from other nations, I could invent endless ball games to stay content. I would even get timed running around the block. you could say I had a lot of energy, a decent imagination and I was easily amused. and it's very much like japanese TV.
the premise for so many shows is incredibly simple - especially the phenomenon of 'endurance' running. the most recent running show had different age groups making a relay team of 3 and running around the block of the television centre. the teams ranged from the 20 something 'tv talent' being very unfit to the 50 somethings being ex-professional - an interesting method of handicap.
games, challenge and competition are very important in all areas of life here but I do find it odd that the generally talentless 'tv talent' are the guests and competitors on almost every show. winning prizes on cooking shows and money on millionaire. in the UK, andy warhols suggestion of widespread fame has certainly come true, but in japan you have to earn it.
perhaps I should find something better to do with my sunday nights!
Posted by stupot at 11:57 PM Thursday 6 Oct
it goes without saying that most things have been done here under the 'designing for small spaces category'. I've seen restaurants here that don't actually exist. sure, there's a kitchen recessed into a wall, but the restaurant itself is simply a narrow ledge before a half height curtain and often 'packed' with customers. it's really incredible to see, first-hand, how the japanese use space.
petrol stations are a classic example with ceiling-mounted pumps providing a much needed economy of space as well as a much safer environment. indoors, sliding doors go without saying and futons too. the 'keep', or under floor storage is perhaps a slightly less well known use of space but one which is essential for many homes, allowing storage for bulky goods such as rice and water - functional both by making use of dead space as well as cool space. then there's the wee bath. and the wee phones as well. the list just goes on and on.
essentials that extend from living in close proximity are both being tolerant of others and having manners. everyday nasty, near misses are common with bikes, cars and pedestrians in japan but people don't get particulalry upset or even acknowledge what some westerners would call their lawyer over. rage is, although increasing, still alien to japan.
furthermore, living metres away from someone elses living room window means in mid-summer when the windows are fully open, you've got to be careful what you say or do. even passing wind is an issue. certainly with my aptitude. shagging is forbidden in most japanese homes. I've one neighbour who sings quietly, but I hear him none-the-less, very cleary. I've another who's a football fan and when the country's doing well, the huge shouts that cry out seems to echo around the neighbourhood. but these are neither bothersome nor frequent events and people just deal with living so closely together by having a mutual respect. perhaps it goes someway to explaining why the japanese are such a calm and quiet race.
Posted by stupot at 06:40 PM Thursday 22 Sep
Posted by stupot at 10:57 PM Tuesday 20 Sep
lighting is very much a discipline in its own right, as I've found out through both visualisation and design work. being famed for both its simplicity and subtlety you might think that japan would have this down to a fine art, and whilst paper lanterns can still be found in most homes, the main source of light is from fluorescent rings.
I don't know if it's because it's been accepted simply for its efficiency, but strip lighting is much more at home in car parks and hospitals - and it's a little difficult to unwind under the cold blue light. variations of directional, task and background lighting seem to have been all but forgotten in many homes. out and about, neon lines most streets, parks glare with floodlighting and pachinko parlours fire searchlights over most of the city.
I remember when we visited Aarhus about 5 years ago and walking along our friends suburban neighbourhood we spotted the combination of candles and classic lights creating a cosy glow in the harsh Danish winter. pendants by henningsen and castiglioni were in the majority of homes. there seemed to be a unquestioned respect for the quality of light by very average people.
perhaps it's japans relatively subdued weather that does not inspire the need for anything more than the fluorescent strip but if you ever look at a satellite image of the world at night you may be shocked at how much of an output such a small nation can produce.
Posted by stupot at 06:37 PM Tuesday 20 Sep
Posted by stupot at 06:36 PM Monday 19 Sep
I was in muji-rushi today to pick up some very boring bits of stationery when I came across this very interesting earthquake 'set': some essentials to get you through the worst of a natural disaster. presumably it'll work for a tsunami or typhoon as well. talking of which - things have been pretty quiet on that front since last years enslaught - fingers crossed. the colours and materials look like those used by fashionable tokyo brand - porter - but I think in this case it is just driven by function.
Posted by stupot at 06:34 PM Monday 19 Sep
Posted by stupot at 08:13 PM Tuesday 5 Jul
living in Osaka suits me fine - Osaka is not normal japan or depending on how you look at it (if you're Osakan), it is the only normal part of japan. certainly - things here are just a little different.
people stand on the right hand side of escalators. now - given that driving is on the left and even walking in arcades is on the left, this seems a little odd. however, when you consider Osakans are always in a rush, it seems fair that the walking lane should remain on the left. in other words it is assumed that you would continue to walk on the escalator. in Tokyo, people use it as an energy saving device.
the accent of Osaka(ben) is a bit like scouse or glaswegian in that it's not the prettiest or easiest to understand. however, like its UK counterparts, there is a certain friendliness attached to the colloquialisms. it's perhaps feels more like a community whereas tokyo remains, arguably, a city of strangers in the same way so many modern cities tend to be. furthermore, humour is abundant. most japanese comedians hail from here. alot of people you meet make you laugh. my father-in-law is pretty typical. after a neighbour died a few months ago the mother-in-law said to him at dinner (after he had just arrived home from work) that they had to go to the dead mans house to lend support to the family (as is customary), he says - he's dead: I think he can wait another five minutes.
we have more power - infact the reason for different frequencies is because when imported in the Meiji Era, the 50 Hertz operator was imported from Germany for the Kanto area and the 60 Hertz operator was imported from America for the Kansai area. and no-one ever got around to changing it.
In Tokyo, people often like to tell you how expensive something was. Osakans though, perhaps because traditionally international merchants, are always out to find a bargain and love to tell you about it. they still like their gucci though. and vuitton. and when I say 'they' I mean everyone. this is similar to the tragic burberry epidemic that ravaged the UK at the turn of the milennium and left so many without any sense of taste.
Posted by stupot at 08:12 PM Tuesday 5 Jul
Posted by stupot at 03:31 PM Tuesday 26 Apr
recently I tried to get a license in japan - basically to exchange my UK license for its japanese equivalent. Yuka also had her, allbeit, newer UK drivers license translated and ready for a long day of beaurocracy.......
we went to the local driving authority building for the south west of Osaka (Komyoike) and were advised to arrive at 1pm. as it was near to a commercial hub including a big european supermarket, we reckoned we could use any long waits to go shopping for some treats. anyway - to cut a long story short because we have UK licenses (the jappanese goverment recognises them) we didn't even need to sit a test! I guess the new test in Britain must be tough - when I took it I had to read a number plate, take a whizz round the block and then guess 3 questions. back in time for tea.
so anyway - the in betweens were very japanese - in order to pay for the license we had to go to a seperate window to exchange real money for driving authority stamps to be adhered to the form, then wait a while. Yuka also had to go to another level to make copies of all her used passport pages since she had obtained her license and then the teller had to add up all the dates. as yuka travelled regularly and her passport was not EU - she had stamps a-plenty - all with there half arsed relaxed european style (often without an exit stamp). as a result the very friendly staff was exceptionally confused at this tardiness and decided that yuka could have her license - but needs learner plates! ha!
the driving authority is an interesting place to spend a few hours though - you can watch tests being carried outside the window (in a mock highway situation) - I even spotted a taxi driver with 3 officials in full uniform, hats and clip boards in the back seat - what a riot. we had a lot of fun.
anyway - a fly eye test (where I got to try my poor japanese) and a mug shot later and bobs-your-uncle. we're road worthy!!
Posted by stupot at 03:27 PM Tuesday 26 Apr
It seems a very obvious thing to say but it also seems a subject not discussed often enough. It strikes me as being even more relevant after the intense heat and humidity of the summer.
The Japanese winters are dry and bring with them the hightened threat of fire. It is the busiest time of year for the fire service, as the majority depend on varied heat sources throughout the house sucking energy resources dry and the atmosphere even drier.
an eerie, traditional bell circles neighbourhoods by night to remind of naked flames and their hunger for timber.
from October the 1st in central honshu, and for 5/6 months (a long time to eschew extra padding), the air temperature drops and many devices are employed to act as deterents to the cold:
Continue reading "japanese houses aren`t insulated"
Posted by stupot at 01:21 PM Thursday 30 Dec
hair is a constant fascination in japan. whether it be the seeming humiliation of men losing it or the continual changing of the colour for women.
so yes, most cultures enjoy hair dye, but the trend in lightening hair for women is wide spread. probably caused by everyone having a similar shade of natural dark brown/black hair.
the money to be made by large companies through ageing males seeking a bit of pride is also vast. hair implants - often quite noticable and very expensive - are popular, as well as wigs. a more inexpensive, unsightly and common option is the `comb-over`.
to contrast head hair - facial and body hair is kept to a minimum. beards are almost non-existent and are seen, by some, to be dirty.
Posted by stupot at 03:36 PM Tuesday 28 Dec