Posted in Junk Shop Finds, Life and Family, Music I Like, Teddy Bears

Flickering Lights at Halloween

My mood was changeable today, flickering between light and dark.

In the morning I was in a fury over everything evil taking place in the world. I meant to have a calm day shopping for ordinary things but exploded all of a sudden. It was both exhilarating and uncomfortable.

Right after that, I got upset because my best and only pen disappeared in my sister’s car. I was using it to write conversations to my mother, and stopped to show her something on my phone. I felt the pen slide off my lap but wasn’t worried, then when I looked on the floor for it, couldn’t understand how it could so completely vanish. There was a black metal box welded into place under the driver’s chair. I think the pen went under there but the box blocked me from searching. My sister will have to find it — it’s still lost in the crack in the universe in her car.

After coffee, we went into a charity shop and I saw a teddy bear lying on his back with his legs sticking out from on top of a row of books. He looked ordinary from that angle, but turned out to have a kind face and exceptional nose. I felt raw after the emotional whirlwinds of the morning, and though I told myself I should leave him there for a child, I needed comfort myself and couldn’t unpeel my fingers from him.

There was a screen over the counter with a small gap, and he crawled under and waited patiently to be rung through. It’s funny how the most comforting thing sometimes is to take something home and look after it. You don’t want to leave it there in the cold hard world. The world isn’t really that cold and hard in theory, or at least the chances of the next person being decent are very high… but there’s something deep down in me that doesn’t quite believe it. Cold stone, whistling draughts; no place to call your own… everybody needs a home.

He had a gentle soapy bath in the hand basin when we got back, and is still drying by the radiator. I will call him Johann, though I have no idea how to pronounce it.

Before that, we went for food from Marks and Spencers, and they had biscuit tins in the shape of haunted houses with open windows. They were reduced to clear so I got two, because there’s an orange candle inside to light them up.

We find Halloween lights comforting when it gets dark and chilly in the evening, so our mantelpiece is festooned with all sorts of soft lights, including the new houses. They look surprisingly good glowing in a shadowy corner.

I was still shattered after this morning and decided it was time to play a CD. I started with ‘1969’ by Pink Martini & Saori Yuki because I was in the mood for ‘Puff the Magic Dragon’. Then I switched to Playing for Change… ‘Stand by Me’. I played it several times tonight and felt happy while it was on.

Mum once told me her own mother was very fond of Halloween and was good at carving turnips. Sometimes she says I look like her, and it strikes me that we like the same things! Poirot said (in a spooky TV drama) that this is the time to burn a candle and remember those who have passed on. I watched the Halloween lights, listened to ‘Stand by Me’ and thought about my grandmother. Maybe she knows. 🙂

These are very bad times but we can still have our moments of comfort, at least for now. And in the end humanity will win through.

When the night has come and the land is dark
And that moon is the only light you see
No, I won’t be afraid; no, I won’t shed no tear
Just so long as the people come and stand by me

Stand by Me (Playing for Change)

Posted in Life and Family, Music I Like

Musing About Facebook and Other Things

A Message to You Rudy by The Specials:

I love this song. I challenge you to hear it and not dance, nod, tap your feet or fingers. It’s been in my head a lot over the past few days, and today I found myself dancing in the kitchen, even though it was only playing in my head and I was waiting for the kettle to boil! I felt happy and summery, which is strange at this time of year. But that’s this genre of music — I can’t think of many (if any) that make you sad.

Gosh, that new kettle’s a slow boiler. EU regulations, or just cheap?

Am fed up with cooking and in the mood to mess around a bit more. I found the old blog draft I was looking for; the one about internet reading. It was written three years ago exactly! Will publish it soon, though held back by the plaster on my index finger… clicking the mouse doesn’t work well, but the keyboard isn’t happy either.

As a Brexiteer, I thought I’d lost a cousin on Facebook… possibly a Remainer? I sighed and plodded onwards, then a couple of nights ago received a friend request and realized he had set up a new account. The old one is gone or inactive, and all his friends and family had to sign up to the new one. He ‘liked’ a couple of my posts, and I scratched my head and thought “a few days ago I was convinced I was persona non grata! And now I’m getting likes.” It’s good when we are slow to jump to conclusions, and it also feels good when friends and family put up with you even if they don’t agree with your views or understand your interests. Mind you, I haven’t told them about the dancing! 😝

I checked it wasn’t a fake page I was being invited to, and found myself talking to his sister after years of silence. She’s the nearest to me in age. Turns out life has been Heap Big Stress for her lately; you don’t get a full picture from the dribbets you read on Facebook. She sent a photo of their family Christmas so I’ll need to look out a return photo. Maybe the one of the Christmas tree… or the other one of the Christmas tree. Or one of another 500 pictures of the Christmas tree? I can’t decide!

Do you think one day they might have a giant library of all our photos? They’ll look at mine and decide they don’t need to keep hundreds of photos of the same Christmas tree when just one will do. Will they keep thousands of photos taken by every person who has lived? I don’t see it. Our pictures and words will die with our hard drives, along with our family Christmases.

Finishing up with a haunting song…

Pipe Dreams by Travis.

I’d pray to God if there was Heaven
but Heaven seems so very far from here
and it all boils down to the same thing
just a yin and a yang or a couple of pipe dreams
and it all boils down to the same old pain
whether you win or you lose isn’t gonna change a single thing

Posted in Books, Lost in Thought, Music I Like, Quizzes and Memes

Headaches, Hate, and Self-Improvement

What anniversaries do you mark on your calendar and keep?

Birthdays. Halloween. Christmas. Passing reference to Easter. That’s it.

What is your favorite genre of painting: abstract, impressionism, cubist, surrealism, etc?

I don’t think I have a favourite — I like a variety. My mother likes Klimt, and I have a huge Escher book in the house — it’s beautiful.

How do you deal with a headache?

Drink water, open windows for fresh air… lie down if it’s bad enough. Occasionally I take a paracetamol. Usually, after a little sleep, the edge of it has gone. Also don’t eat too many nuts at once, as an excess of those can bring on headaches!

Is there anyone in your personal life that you profoundly hate?

Hate seems a pretty strong emotion — I don’t have that consistent a feeling about anyone, though there are those I dislike.

About how often does a catchy song get stuck in your head?

It’s a permanent setting! There’s always something playing in Radio Me. The two songs bothering me the most tonight are Why Does It Always Rain On Me (Travis) and Every River (Runrig).

If you were going to read just one self-improvement book, what would the specific subject be? That is, in what way would you most want to improve?

I don’t know about the term ‘self-improvement’. I’m more inclined to think “perhaps my life will be better if…”, which is not the same. Or I look at a self-improvement book and feel annoyed, and think “why do you think I need to change?? I’m not changing for other people!” It depends. I feel more of a need to understand human nature, most of the time, so, anyway… rambling aside… if there was a very new, important and life-changing book about anxiety that was taking the world by storm, that would be the one. Otherwise, it would have to be one about … wait, have just looked on Amazon for a range of choices. I could read books on mindfulness, happiness, self-esteem, fitness, assertiveness, ‘not giving an eff’, kindness, freedom from various addictions, self-care, self-discipline, anger management, positive thinking, wisdom, time management, dealing with stress, success, effective communication…

You know… I think it would be Gretchen Rubin’s next book that I’d read, whatever it may be. Although her main focus is on happiness, it’s a subject that covers a lot of ground and there’s so much in there that I find interesting.

The questions were from Café Philos. I could get used to these. 🙂

 

Posted in Music I Like, Rants

KABLOOIE!

Really, it was coming for years, though we kept a lid on it till now. It felt GOOD to rip into her, though there was no bad language. I roundly told her how I felt, that we should stop talking for a while, then put the iPad down and stalked off to do something else.

I went straight to my Anger playlist, the one with fast and aggressive songs… or so I thought. Some are actually quite slow and not a single one (so far) has hit the spot. I need a RAGE playlist but there’s nothing to go in it! ‘Everything’s Alright’ from JC Superstar? Nope. ‘The Road to Hell Part I’ by Chris Rea? No way. ‘On the Road Again‘ by Canned Heat? Errrrr…. promising.

Well, I’m so tired of crying
But I’m out on the road again
I’m on the road again
Well, I’m so tired of crying
But I’m out on the road again
I’m on the road again

I ain’t got no woman
Just to call my special friend

I don’t know if I’m right about him having left someone (in the song) but there appears to be a good mix of anger and sadness.

Sardonicus (UB40) is more tired than angry.

Many men are fooled by his smile
His superficial grace his charm his style
Sardonicus is everybody’s friend
Sardonicus keeps smiling to the end

Here’s one I love, though! You’re Wondering Now (The Specials)

You’re wondering now what to do
Now you know this is the end
You’re wondering how you will pay
For the way you did behave

Unfortunately it’s too mellow to suit my mood.

Oh right, Jeff Wayne! War of the Worlds. There’s sinister thunder in a lot of that, so yes.

OMD — The New Stone Age. I don’t know what it’s about, but it’s like a jangling melodic scream.

Hard Rain (Hothouse Flowers) isn’t too bad — it tumbles along and there’s a howling instrument… not sure if it’s a saxophone or electric guitar.

It’s a hard rain in the ghetto
Blues are gonna take their toll, yeah

Of course, the ultimate anger song is I Will Survive by Gloria Gaynor.

Go on now, go
Walk out the door
Just turn around now
Cos you’re not welcome any more
Weren’t you the one who tried to hurt me with goodbye?
You think I’d crumble
You think I’d lay down and die?
Oh no, not I…

I will survive!

I haven’t been able to check how good any of the YouTube videos sound, so I’m just crossing my fingers they sound OK. It’s six hours since I started writing this post, and though the rage has gone, what’s left is tiredness and disappointment. Not good.

Posted in Life and Family, Music I Like, Political and Social Issues, Technology and Software, Videos

Tangle of Thoughts

One reason I’ve not been blogging lately is that themes run through my head and get tangled in a knot — I never know where to begin. Sometimes it seems easier to retreat to my chair and view the multicoloured twist of yarn from a safe distance. I feel satisfaction at how pretty it is, but really — it seems like too much work to untangle it and display each thread on its own.

Looking at that fuzzy mess, I forget what’s in there anyway. I’ll try pulling on a thread randomly and see what appears.

I’ve just been watching a YouTube video of Nigel Farage questioning Mark Zuckerberg. The two narratives (Farage and Zuckerberg) clash like grape and lime. You never imagine they’ll come into each other’s orbit, yet there they are.

I don’t like the extent to which internet companies keep and share data. Things really started turning sour when people were expected to download everything from the cloud and store files on a server somewhere instead of on their own hard drives. Laptops with almost no storage space appeared and we no longer received DVDs with the supporting operating system. We are nagged mercilessly to update everything despite losing access to expensive software and hardware that we still use every day. We’ve entered an era of apps and subscription software, and everything’s updated quite often — sometimes ruining applications we are in the middle of using. One app suddenly changed the way the drawing tools worked, and I was unable to finish the pictures I was working on. I liked the way they were coming along, so I’m still annoyed about that! None of this particular ‘progression’ ever struck me as a good idea… a lot of security, control and choice was (and is) leaving our hands.

Another thread from my tangle of experiences: I watched the Munk debate on political correctness.

There’s a bit where Stephen Fry talks about the growing climate of fear — people are afraid to say too much or be honest about their thoughts and ideas. He says it’s a real change, not imagined. It was interesting to see him on the same side as Jordan Peterson, but then they both have liberal views.

I’ve been finding out about the Danish Eurovision 2018 entry, Higher Ground by Rasmussen. I was wishing that was our song, as I felt absolutely no connection to the UK’s Eurovision entry.

But wait…

‘Higher Ground’, presented by Denmark, is a Swedish song about Norwegian Vikings who lived in Orkney and went raiding (on this occasion) to Anglesey in Wales. (My tangled knot pales in comparison to this). The Viking in the song was Magnus Erlendsson, who stayed in his ship and refused to go on the attack.

My mother thinks I take after Norwegians on her side of the family. Was she remembering old family photos I’ve never seen? I mentioned a family friend who came from Norway but was immediately corrected. She MARRIED a Norwegian but isn’t Norwegian herself. I had to chuckle… “for years I was thinking Kristin was the Norwegian, and all the time it was me!”

It’s like a twisted version of Blade Runner.

I would love to know more about my family history but haven’t a clue where to begin. Like subscribing to a gym, it’s the sort of thing you might pay for in a fit of enthusiasm then don’t do much about.

In any case, I have now adopted Denmark’s song. 😛 Not only was it about finding more peaceful ways of relating; it represents a thread from our history.

Posted in Music I Like, TV and Films

Eurovision Song Contest 2018: one Scot’s viewpoint

The full results from the Eurovision Song Contest 2018 Grand Final can be found here — 26 entries in total.

I’ve had time to re-assess, and my placings have shuffled round a little. The following six are my top favourites of all the grand finalists:

  1. DenmarkHigher Ground” Rasmussen (Grand Final Result: 9)
  2. BulgariaBones” Equinox (Grand Final Result: 14)
  3. IrelandTogether” Ryan O’Shaughnessy (Grand Final Result: 16)
  4. MoldovaMy Lucky Day” DoReDoS (Grand Final Result: 10)
  5. ItalyNon Mi Avete Fatto Niente” Ermal Meta & Fabrizio Moro (Grand Final Result: 5)
  6. FinlandMonsters” Saara Aalto (Grand Final Result: 25)

My choices haven’t matched well with the final results! I do like a bit of drama in my music… Hungary came in at 7th place for me (21st in the Grand Final results). Ukraine wasn’t too far off either, with the burning stairs, and Australia was my 8. 🙂 Lucky magic number.

I absolutely loved the Danish Vikings, and the whipping wind with the blizzard. You could almost feel the cold.

Talking of drama, some took place during the show. SuRie had a stage invader who seized her microphone in the middle of her performance. We didn’t see the scene on TV, and I wondered later if we got an edited version with the invasion chopped out. It’s more likely we were only half paying attention and assumed all figures running about the stage were supposed to be there. At any rate, we had no idea what Graham Norton (our commentator) was talking about! Confusing to say the least.

I found myself thinking that nobody would have dared to dash on stage when the Vikings were in charge of it — the fellow would have come a cropper.

I liked the performance by the winner, Israel – ‘Toy’ by Netta — though not the song so much. Its happy-go-lucky vibe felt absolutely right for the Eurovision. My mother’s favourite was the German entry (‘You Let Me Walk Alone‘), but that was too sad for me — I couldn’t bear to watch it.

Cyprus was second this year. Despite the title (Fuego) I didn’t warm to the song — nor did Graham Norton, who said it was ‘standard Eurovision fare’. He also (ahem) failed to understand why people were so attracted to Moldova… same as I was, I guess. 🙂 Moldova sounded really good through my soundbar when I watched the semi-final, but the magic wore off after that… I’m not sure why. I wasn’t using the soundbar during the Grand Final when my mother was watching, so maybe the sound was too flat and tinny.

When Hungary was about to come on, somebody (I assume Graham Norton — I was depending on subtitles!) said if you have any pets or sensitive older folk around you, take them out into the garden till the next entry finished, as it’s heavy metal with lots of strobe lighting. I couldn’t help laughing out loud, and my mother frowned and pointed to herself.

I can’t remember any of my top favourites going on to win, at least not in recent years. I still have hope. At any rate, Eurovision 2018 is done and dusted now… so roll on Eurovision 2019!

Posted in Music I Like

Eurovision 2018 Semi-Final Two: thoughts

My top six songs from the Eurovision second semi-final:

  • Moldova “My Lucky Day” DoReDos
  • Denmark “Higher Ground” Rasmussen
  • Australia “We Got Love” Jessica Mauboy
  • Norway “That’s How You Write A Song” Alexander Rybak
  • Ukraine “Under the Ladder” Melovin
  • Hungary “Viszlat Nyar” AWS

All six made it into the finals, along with four others! I’m not usually that lucky with my choices, but it was a good show. All ten semi-finalists for tonight are given here.

I was amused because I don’t think Hungary expected to get in… they zoned out and barely noticed the announcement. 😛

The top two I listed are stunning… they will be hard to beat. However, they kept talking about Cyprus, which somehow I didn’t rate highly, so I’m wondering what I missed. Maybe I’ll like it better when I hear it again on Saturday — sometimes happens. I was like that with the last two or three Eurovision winners.

Everybody keeps hoping Australia will win so that they can all go over there. Eventually it will (maybe this coming weekend?) and all of Europe will celebrate and start buying summer clothes and sun tan lotion.

I’ve heard the French song now too, and I like that — good beat.

Looking forward to Saturday!

Posted in Music I Like, Political and Social Issues, TV and Films

Eurovision 2018 Semi-Final One: brief thoughts

I haven’t forgotten about this blog! It wasn’t possible. Every few days I got a spammy email subscription or two, which always brought it to the forefront of my mind. In the end I gathered up enough energy to wade into my settings and turn the email subs off.

Tonight I was watching the first semi-final for the Eurovision Song Contest. The good news is, Ireland has got in. The bad news is, four entries I rated the very lowest also got in!

These were my favourite five from the first semi-final:

  • Bulgaria — Equinox “Bones”
  • Armenia — Sevak Khanagyan “Qami”
  • Finland — Saara Aalto “Monsters”
  • Ireland — Ryan O’Shaughnessy “Together”
  • Azerbaijan — Aisel “X My Heart”

Israel and Greece were also high on my list.

There are videos for all the songs here.

A little while before the song show tonight, I turned on my TV upstairs and checked the soundbar was working. Cranked up the volume till things started to boom a bit, and the BBC News just happened to be on. They were waiting for Donald Trump, so I saw and heard his entire speech about withdrawing from the nuclear deal with Iran. He signed a document and held it up for the cameras. Here in Scotland, his words echoed in the cool evening air.

The song contest was somewhat trumped by that little bit of political drama! In my view, Donald Trump’s the first real president America has had for decades.

I got nervous at that bit of my post, but Jordan Peterson said, “Always speak the truth,” and that rings in my ears. It’s as simple as that really.

Posted in Fantasy and Science Fiction, Life and Family, Lost in Thought, Music I Like

Remembering in Light and Dark

People are talking about the Beast from the East coming back. There’s a deep chill in the air, and phantoms are hurling themselves through the cat-flap. The lid of a storage bin outside flew up and jammed in the hedge, allowing torrents of rain to pour inside till I secured it with a twig. International relations are frosty, yet there are friends, old and new; there’s warmth, hope on the horizon… and light rising against the dark.

I don’t know if you’ve read the children’s book The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper. It’s the second book of a series, but I loved it. It fitted with the topic of a school dissertation I was writing, which I may have engineered deliberately… anyway, I remember a line in the book about light and dark being forever at war. Sometimes one seems stronger; sometimes the other, but neither wins altogether. All or most of the books I referred to had something to say along those lines.

In The Dark is Rising there were Old Ones and Old Ways. The Old Ways were safe routes, and when times were bad, Old Ones from different times and places came together to keep the dark at bay. My memory of the series is fuzzy, but I loved the whole idea of it, along with the high drama. It was as though we risked falling through the ice into the spinning vortex of space and time, never to return.

Today I’ve been listening to music for the first time since my mother returned from hospital. I blogged about the last time in A Ray of Old Sunshine, when everything seemed to be going wrong but I found a moment to fix the speakers of my old hi-fi.

Tonight I was upstairs working, and decided to play my newest batch of CDs. They are powerful albums such as Rumours by Fleetwood Mac, but the song that made me sit up was Clean, from Ryan Adam’s version of 1989.

When I stopped to listen, the screensaver came on with a miscellany of pictures in no particular order, all ones I’d worked on. Cats gazing, tree reaching into the blue, fractals, mother’s silhouette, over-saturated beach with pink clouds, a dark wood, raindrops on a window, evening sunshine on a hill… It reminded me of times in my life when I thought differently about things; talked to different people; had different aims, tried a little too hard (yikes, look at the detail on that one!) Maybe I’m not so different now. Some of it was part of the journey and fell away, but the rest followed right along.

With the song Clean pushing me out into the light, I felt all of a sudden that I could fall in love with my own life just as it is. If it had been unremittingly dull from birth till now, I’d have no reason to… if I’d had no strong feelings about anything or anybody, there’d be nothing to stand out. I’ve been through hell emotionally, and no doubt there’s more that lies ahead, but I love it all for being mine.

It doesn’t matter if it’s completely washed away by time and events… my life took place and is as vivid as it ever was. Some companions came a long way with me and still pace alongside; others were lost long ago, but… my thoughts mirror and yet oppose the lyrics of the song, because while I swim, I won’t forget.

The rain came pouring down
When I was drowning
That’s when I could finally breathe
By morning
Gone was any trace of you

Clean — Ryan Adams

Posted in Christmas and New Year, Junk Shop Finds, Life and Family, Music I Like, 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.