Posted in Christmas and New Year, Junk Shop Finds, Life and Family, Music, Technology and Software

A Ray of Old Sunshine

Last night the house was shaking under the onslaught of a rainstorm. I could hear muffled bangs and shudders and it kept me on edge, especially after I turned in for the night.

A song came into my head and refused to leave, so I played the official video on YouTube a number of times… I’m one of those who has to play the same song over and over because nothing else will do at all till I’m through with it.

Why Does It Always Rain On Me? (Travis)

I only discovered it when I bought two Travis CDs from charity shops a few months ago. Every so often I buy one randomly even if I haven’t heard of the band and don’t know what it’s like. Usually I’m glad I bought it, and these were no exception!

The annoying thing about YouTube music on my iPad is that it cuts off if I try and do something else, so tonight I turned to my old hi-fi from the 80s. I had trouble with this retro set-up before Christmas, when I discovered that the connector on the end of the turntable’s ground wire was snapped off, and the jack to one of its cables was bent! Yes, I was very careless at one point, I could have kicked myself.

I patched all these things… I needed a graspy twisty tool thing to straighten the jack, and the ground wire worked when I trapped the end under the screw. Unfortunately there was still a problem… my right-hand speaker wasn’t working. I went to all the trouble of buying new loudspeaker cable and replacing it, only to find it *still* wasn’t working. Only then did it occur to me to switch the speaker jacks from left to right at the back of the amp, and now the left speaker was dead while the right speaker worked! Obviously it wasn’t the cable then…

That was it for the duration of Christmas. I didn’t have time to try anything else, but almost as an afterthought on a webpage somewhere, someone said check the loudspeaker fuses at the back of the amp. I had no idea there was such a thing, but when I checked, yes — there they were!

After Christmas I bought a set of the right kind of fuses. I was doubtful, because they look a little smaller than the original one with the red stripes. For a long time I didn’t do anything with them, but tonight was in the mood to play Why Does It Always Rain On Me? over and over, so now was the time to try.

Oh….. it hasn’t been a good start to the year at all! Mum began a heart attack on January 5th. My sister drove her to A&E, and they got her to theatre in the nick of time. She came home again after a few days, but a couple of days ago had to go back because she was struggling to breathe. It was night, and the ambulance men came for her, bundling her out into the frosty night. I found myself wondering if you’re supposed to wave cheerily as the ambulance moves off. The three cats all glared at me accusingly… “how can you let strange men take your mother away and not do a thing to stop them??”

Er, well…

To cut a long story short, she might get out again tomorrow or might stay in hospital a little longer. My sister and I are very tired… I don’t know about her, but I didn’t get much sleep last night. A bit like the beginning of the Travis song, which kept me company.

I can’t sleep tonight
Everybody saying everything’s alright
Still I can’t close my eyes
I’m seeing a tunnel at the end of all these lights

Eventually I found myself thinking of the following Nietzsche quotation:

“Beware that, when fighting monsters, you yourself do not become a monster… for when you gaze long into the abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.”

I don’t pretend to know what he meant by it himself, but before I even remembered the line, I was staring at the blackness and suddenly felt I wasn’t in the least bit invisible. I was a focal point of the void and coldness out there. It was as if everything was zooming in on me.

I don’t even know where I’m going with that, but the next day I kept nodding off… I slept in the car on the way to and from hospital.

Later at night my sister had some other bad news about a friend’s elderly cat who had to be put to sleep today, and I said, “It never rains but it pours.”

Then I tried the new loudspeaker fuse. Knowing the way our luck was going, I was sure it wouldn’t have fixed things, so when both speakers kicked into gear and started working, I said “aaaaaaaahhhhhhh!!!” and pummelled the air, grinning with joy. My sister said, “thank goodness for some good news!”

Absolutely.

And thank goodness for old things that still work.

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Posted in Christmas and New Year, Trolleys

Santa Baby

Feeling quite Christmassy so I changed my blog theme to something softer. I like this better than the last one. I looked at it on my desktop Mac last night, and could barely see the snow as there was too much white… I hope it shows up better against this theme?

I’m exhausted after beetling around town… my sister goes so much faster than I do, and my legs were wearing out! I was a favourite of the shop assistants — my shopping trolley was dressed as a little Santa with a sparkling beard. At least I have more gifts now. I did better than I feared, as my mother is notoriously difficult to buy for.

Is it everyone who is seriously fussy about things? For instance:

– only wears certain colours
– only likes white gadgets
– doesn’t like turtlenecks or polo necks
– doesn’t like socks with tight cuffs
– doesn’t like four out of five versions of Turkish Delight
– can’t eat spices or drink alcohol
– only eats cashew nuts
– some perfumes will seriously annoy
– prefers decaffeinated coffee at home and milky latte in town
– doesn’t like fat pens
– rejected all the slippers she looked at in town
– likes chocolate but some are too sweet
– won’t listen to music except on her terms
– ‘hates’ films (but loves Shrek)

It makes you scared to buy anything.

I like to think I’m easy to please… I love pens and stationery of all types, absolutely any CD will be tried several times till I fall in love with it, all DVDs will be eventually watched and probably kept, I love bears, I love all types of coffee, even weird flavoured ones, love mugs, love most chocolates and sweets, wear all socks (no matter how garish), don’t turn my nose up at perfumes or toiletries (unless it’s the type of perfume that gives me a headache, like Yardley’s Rose or Anais Anais).

That’s what I think, anyway… in practice, other people might not agree, and would complain that I turn my nose up at things like grey jerseys, second-hand jerseys in general (from charity shops), flimsy spotted skirts, 100% nylon or polyester bed linen, some cheap ‘gift’ toiletries, a book or CD I’ve got already, the kind of gift or book vouchers you have to remember to spend in local shops before they expire, prints you must go to the trouble of mounting and framing, dog ornaments, hand-blenders, chewy nougat, hard toffees, almonds and I don’t know what else. I suppose the fact that I’ve got a list of “don’t like so much” is telling!

At least I’ve done some of the things hanging over my head… posted cards, paid a bill, got some of the treats I feel we really ought to have at Christmas…

What about the rest of you… all ready for the festivities yet?

Posted in Christmas and New Year, Fantasy and Science Fiction, Lost in Thought

Across the Universes

imageMy Christmas tree has turned itself off. Since this is the modern age and the consumer has to do what she is told, the transformer uses a timer setting you can’t change or override, which usually means it turns itself off during Christmas Dinner.

I tried to be elegant by restricting the decoration to a scheme of deep blue, silver and white baubles, but the baubles don’t even match… different sizes, different shades… it looked uneven, like a water-stained ballgown. So I threw the rest of the box of baubles at it… all colours, all styles. Didn’t matter. I don’t think there’s a single bare twig now, but it looks livelier, sparklier and less like I tried to do something and failed. The red baubles in particular seem to bring focus, unless it’s just that they’re distracting you from the rest of the chaos.

What I take from that is that things you throw together can succeed better than something intricately planned. There’s far more energy and joie de vivre when everything’s included, not just the specially chosen. Chaos and order…. you’re merely a part of it, repeating the experiences of generations upon generations of others in your own unique way. You retell the human story.

In your own life you get to ‘do over’ a lot, though occasionally you have to accept the loss of something that plummets from the tree… such as a friendship fragmenting into a thousand glass shards. You may wish it had turned out differently, but that particular bauble has now gone.

Now and then, however, the bauble disappears into shadow and you search around cautiously, trying to find it without cutting yourself. A little while goes by before it finally comes to light, amazingly still intact.

Some baubles break, others go missing for a while but survive. At times you aren’t sure which, and have to step carefully.

Friends are precious, even irreplaceable, but they are also fragile.

I expect you are sitting at the other side of the screen, frowning at my chaotic ramblings. You likely have a mug or glass at your side. I don’t know what you’re drinking… coffee or tea, or maybe hot chocolate, or beer or water. Or Bovril. Chicken Bovril is nice… I like that.

Probably you’re wondering why you’re reading this… you could be doing something nicer, such as weather-stripping the house, leaf-blowing the snow or cleaning the drains. It’d be more useful, but doubtless you’re the efficient sort who has done all that already. So you’re stuck.

I wonder where you live? Maybe New York in an apartment high up, and the lights sparkling all over the city? Or a cottage on thunderous dramatic moors, with a sluggish internet connection? Or across the road from me, even? Can you see me waving out the window? No, well, that’s all right. I wasn’t waving… my curtains are closely drawn.

So many things to do. I get confused and find myself standing still, looking over my shoulder…

…oh yes, I meant to change my wall calendar to December before it’s too late and the whole month blows over. What IS that, exactly? A warrior hobbit? I wish I could flip back to October, to that nice angry dragon. I could, really, but that would be cheating, and I won’t have got full use of the calendar. I don’t know why I got it — I never write anything in it.

Kind of like my blog.

I’m getting the déjà vu sensation an awful lot lately. I keep thinking I’ve read things before. I even feel I have written things before. Have I already written this blog post, word for word, and posted it maybe nine years ago? Bits of it, then? Or perhaps I’m catching glimpses into a closely parallel universe where I’ve done all this stuff alrea… but that is such a depressing thought I shied away from it. It’s bad enough to have done all this once, but twice…?

Do you remember reading any of this before; does any of it ring any bells? No, not this bit, but I have a funny feeling about my drawn curtains. Perhaps they’re the portal. Close them, shutting out the real world, and in swims the fantasy world… sorry, the parallel universe. That’s just the real world twice over, so it’s no wonder I hate the idea!

In this chaotic universe, anything can happen.

If that’s true, then perhaps it’s not a parallel universe, but a repeating one. We are doomed to retrace our steps over and over till we get them right. Don’t you get the feeling that most of the time absolutely nothing changes, and we just make the same mistakes over and over and over? Every so often someone thinks a little deeper or sees something a smidgeon of a different way and improves everything just a fraction. Even if it’s an incremental change by one person, it could have a remarkable effect on everyone else, like lights going on all over… and suddenly the latest round of existence is a whole lot better than the one before. And so it goes.

This has been difficult to write. For the past little while I’ve wanted to… no, it doesn’t feel like a ‘want’, it feels more like a ‘very much not want’, like I don’t even want to be here. I’d rather go back into space and be a simple star again, spinning a little, perhaps, whistling a happy tune, burning up any asteroids that wander too near. Who decided I should sit on this earth with an increasingly labouring heart, to blog, question why and… and edit?

Sometimes there’s good stuff, like… cats when they’re sleepy and purry and not killing things. Bears when they’re sleepy and furry and don’t have a headache. Family when you discover how to get along and aren’t torturing each other.

It’s a chaotic world, though, at least to our limited senses. You get both the nice and the nasty together, like the soothing sun on one level and icy deeps on the other. The velvety blue with hornets or jellyfish hanging in it. The yin and the yang and the sweet and the sour… you never know which it will be; can change so suddenly.

Or simply end.

And, after a long pause, like a bonus song, start up again when you weren’t listening any more, and go on for what seems like forever.

Posted in Christmas and New Year, Lost in Thought, Writing

Colourless World

Am playing with colour wheels, using a new set of pencils. The Christmas tree stands in the corner; silver, pearl and deep blue. Most of our days are dark and dull, heavy with rain and sinking into night well before tea time — it’s hard to see the colours I work with, but I keep trying.

There’s no future and no past. Regrets and intentions have no place, and hopes and memories remain at a distance. Colouring books anchor you in the moment — your thought chooses the shade and follows the line. Nothing else matters.

This is a gift from a friend. She gives me, not just the book, but energy and a new experience. I’m offered a fresh perspective on the world… on other people, possibilities and creativity.

Time passes.

The festive season ends and the tree is gone. Colour fills my dreams every night, yet the book remains untouched. The octopus is purple, blue, green, many hues… the sea has bubbles, seaweed, nothing at all.

I want to provide photos of my progress and describe how the pages are filling with colour — instead, they stay blank. There’s no ‘undo’ button and I fear to spoil the book. I remind myself it’s only the experience that matters — holding back is not ideal, and I need to send my mind elsewhere. Clouds press down like they do outside, but sometimes sun breaks through and there’s blue sky.

Well now, there’s an evil starfish somewhere… hiding in the background, only nobody can see him. He has dinner plans involving our girl. Ignoring the growing menace, I paint a glow in the octopus’s eye and the rainbow sheen of life on her tentacles. The sun that brightens both sea and land is an illusion, but for now I can believe it’s for forever.

—–

Daily Post Prompt: “Write a post entirely in the present tense.”

… it’s hard to write something like this all in the present tense without sounding carried away on the wings of poesy! “Kill your darlings,” we are told… but where’s the rock to club them with?

Posted in Blogging, Christmas and New Year

2015 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 11,000 times in 2015. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 4 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

(I only posted three things in 2015? Wow…)

Posted in Christmas and New Year, Rants

Cold and Tired in Scotland

I think it’s going to be a more relaxed Christmas than usual for us, because of the bad weather. I just think “hey ho, if I don’t have all the gifts, they’ll arrive later.” We all have our excuses ready; we keep being told by various sites and couriers that we might not get our presents in Scotland before Christmas Day, but I’m inclined to think a lot of it is bluster…. just like us when on Christmas Day we are telling our loved ones “sorry, you would have had three extra parcels but they’re still stuck on the motorway. Snow and ice, you know. Not my fault.”

But it was dreadful today… I mean the weather wasn’t snowy but it’s very cold.The local temperature stands at -4 degrees C, and might drop to -6. I’m so glad we got that heating fixed (it broke down, and we were three freeeeeezing days and nights without it! Though the heat is on again, I can feel the ice still tiptoeing up my spine and trying to give me a sly hug… the opposite of that warm furry Cup-a-Soup hug that would leap on you from nowhere when you had a mug of Cup-a-Soup (according to the commercials)). Anyway, we got the bus out to town in the morning, and met my sister for coffee, then drifted round the shops, and I felt awful. It seemed to me we were just going to the same shops and fingering the same goods we did for the past couple of days, and I was very bored and ‘down’. All I wanted to do was go home again. I was looking forward to going home before we even left!

It wasn’t till we DID get back home that I remembered I got up early this morning, and had already been up about 5 hours before we took the morning bus to town! I’m still very sleepy. But I felt fed up anyway, as we were spending ages in shops I didn’t want to be in (lots of waiting near the door looking at the same nasty cardigans and overpriced Christmas baubles for the umpteenth time, trying not to fall asleep on my feet), and then I was being rushed impatiently round those shops that I DID want to be in… At least I managed to get a couple of things which went off (“bleep bleep bleep”) when we were leaving the shop, and we had to have their alarms deactivated as they hadn’t been removed at the till. I don’t know why that always happens to me at least once every Christmas…

Then we went home and sat watching the same old programs we’ve seen millions of times before (Antique Roadshow, Eggheads, Pointless etc) and it was made worse by the Antique Roadshow doing “the ten best…” (pot boiler). If I had control of that remote control, the TV would either be off or I’d be watching something with more meat in it, like a film or a drama… or a DVD if I was desperate. I was looking at a family in the Antique Roadshow having a doll or a bear or something valued, and I was wondering how they could stand there looking so bright-eyed and interested. Surely the ennui of everyday life had got to them too? If they felt it, they didn’t show it, though the mother looked a little further along that road than the child.

My tiredness has turned to headache… I think that means I should have slept but didn’t really. Was dozing off on the sofa then getting up for coffee.

Sorry, I sound very grumbly! I suppose I should try and finish this Christmassy picture… will be back when I have more energy. (Probably 4 a.m. tomorrow morning…)

Posted in Christmas and New Year

Snore

Snow and ice still stuck fast. It’s not showing signs of leaving in a hurry.

It seems the days I get up and do a workout are the days I’m the most hungry and sleepy… I don’t feel like preparing for Christmas; I’d rather lie wrapped in a rug, snoring.

Going to try and break out tomorrow, though. Stupid snow…

Posted in Books, Christmas and New Year, Photographs

Snow Views

View of the snow from my computer room window this morning. At least one photo is pixellated because I saved it as a low quality JPEG. And the camera was fighting me… it didn’t want to take it because the light was too low!

I’ve begun reading ‘Master and Commander’ by Patrick O’Brian. Mum says she is rereading the entire series for the second time. “It’s better than Hornblower,” she said.
“What?! How can anything be better than Hornblower?”
“Well, I thought nothing could be better, but if anything is, THIS is. It has a lot more detail.”
“I was looking for something vaguely Christmassy to read, like Ellis Peters. Does the Master and Commander have Christmases, or is he too busy pursuing his own personal vendettas?”
“Oh, he has Christmas on board with extra food. And he doesn’t pursue vendettas really; he’s too naive.”
“Well, if you happen to be looking for something Christmassy to read, you should re-read the Moomins… they’re just right for this time of year.”
“I was thinking about doing that.”

We like our cold snowy books. 🙂

Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

 

Posted in Blogging, Christmas and New Year, My Cats, Photographs, Technology and Software

Still Reaching for the Moon

“I’m reaching out towards the moon and it’s just out of reach of my searching fingertips. The ugly black shadow of Microsoft falls between me and it.”

It was an email I sent my sister 4 years ago. When searching old email archives to ascertain when I bought my digital SLR, I didn’t expect the first email I opened to say that. I almost felt sorry for my sister, but perhaps she was in the know!

I’ve been reorganizing my photos and graphics to include whatever older files I can dredge out of the past, and only a couple of days ago came across this:

It is not pretty or interesting, but illustrates a key moment in the story touched on by the email above. I’d bought my new camera and was struggling to get my PC to recognize it — it needed specific drivers, and they were hanging instead of installing. I finally pulled my PC into some sort of shape (including a reinstall of the OS) and tried again to install the camera drivers.

I took the shot with my Canon when I realized we’d succeeded! I was so happy that I could have kissed the monitor — kiss ‘n’ tell, if you like.

“Our whole lives are on the computer,” said Sandra Bullock’s character in The Net, and she’s right — though I’m thinking more about the minutiae of our home lives preserved in eye-boggling detail — with enough gaps to leave us wondering if we really know ourselves.

I don’t know if it’s a full moon tonight, but I couldn’t sleep. I had to sit up and write for my blog. I was thinking about all of you — how I feel some of you are friends, even though I’m not all that clear what you look like! When you’re trying to pull together the scattered pieces and bits and bytes of your life, and when four years ago seems like a lifetime, you do think about things like that. I may not always be around, and I’ll skip away and reorganize my past life when I could be talking to you more, but that’s part of the elusiveness that’s woven through everything…

I was playing Dido’s Life for Rent again — I associate it with leaving my house, of which there are many photographs. After wading (with difficulty) through the cats’ mug shots, I started on our Christmas photos… and Dido’s singing got all plaintive. Fear overtook me at the sight of how time has already trickled away. Xmas 2002 seems like yesterday, though it’s now viewable through the ancient pixellated lens of a 1.3 megapixel Olympus Camedia.

When my attack of collywobbles was over, I felt relieved but weak…. but I also blame EA Sports Active for that. It makes me do eternal laps, and I’ve been shaky all day! Not enough to want to sleep, unfortunately.

Life burns, simply by passing… but I can’t leave my older files to moulder on yellowing CDs. That would be betrayal, and I can’t help feeling that if I bring them back into some kind of accessible order, everything will make more sense.

After all the battles and the wars
The scars and loss
I’m still the queen of my domain
.

[From ‘This Land is Mine’ by Dido]