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08 July 2019 | Diary

I’d gone out without a bag as usual, so as I walked home from the shops, I found myself juggling some vegetables and two “fishless fishcakes.”

I was already dreading the conversation if I bumped into someone I knew. Why do I do it to myself?

Coming through the park and rounding a corner, I spotted some kids fighting. Two boys and girl seemed to be duffing up another girl on the floor.

I knew I’d have to do something. Could I pick two of them up by the collar like a Beano dad? I wasn’t sure.

As I moved closer, I saw that the girl on the ground was laughing and someone else was saying “Rarr, look at those muscles.” It was all just fun! Fun was happening! Not gang warfare at all.

But can you imagine if I’d had to intervene in a brawl? Even without the fishless fishcakes to worry about?


08 July 2019 | Diary

On the back cover of Werner Herzog’s Of Walking in Ice, there’s a blurb from a current popular author:

Surely the strangest, strongest walking book I know … only Herzog could have written this weird, slender classic. — Popular Author

Imagine the cheek you’d need to have to write something like that of Werner Herzog. “These here Dead Sea Scrolls are unputdownable.” — Gary Lineker.

The books of this popular author are very nice. But fucking hell, it’s a question of scale.

And he’ll never stop. A 2017 Canongate reissue of Nan Shepherd’s The Living Mountain has an introduction by this guy that’s almost as long as Shepherd’s actual work.

He should have just let Nan ‘splain.

Oh yeah! dances

Obliterated by Nuns

07 July 2019 | Diary

A jaunt by train to see Greek Thomson’s Holmwood House.

It turns out to be undergoing major restoration work and it’s not quite what one would describe as “open,” but the volunteers on site let us in for a look around anyway. Disappointingly, nobody uses the expression, “caught with our pants down.”

We cannot see the upper floors of the house (though I glimpse of the famous dome by looking up through a scaffold) and we see the Greek fresco in the main downstairs room.

The guide who shows us around a little explains that the house was a convent for a large part of the twentieth century and that the nuns “obliterated” much of the Pagan imagery of Greek-o’s vision. The word, “obliterated,” makes me think of Friar Park, the English house restored by George Harrison, which is also sometimes said to have been “obliterated by nuns.”

Come on, nuns. Stop obliterating everything.

On the way home, we take a detour to see Moray Place, which was also designed by Thomson and where he lived for some years and eventually died. It is just around the corner from my very first Glasgow home on Marywood Square.

The urge to learn about Auld Greekie comes from my increasing awareness of how much of Glasgow was designed or built or inspired by Thomson. He sort-of built the world I live in: all of those columns and porticoes I see on my walks are his.


06 July 2019 | Diary

The new Idler hits the doormat. As well as my regular column this time, I have a feature about the FIRE movement (early retirement and whatnot with special reference to my old friends Jacob and Pete).

Art director Alice has decorated my piece with images of an exquisite young Greek reclined upon a velveteen olive-green cushion. She has focused on the right thing: pieces about early retirement too often focus on money. But money is only worth thinking about if the real prize is repose.

A moment in the column I had forgotten writing and am now fond of:

When the idler has “nothing to do,” we default to something pleasant like flipping through a book containing some nice pictures of ducks: hardly productive in the industrialist scheme, but we know otherwise.

The Greek boy is really something. If Alice intends this as a portrait of the person who wrote the piece, I am not going to hurry to correct her.


05 July 2019 | Diary

Coming in from work, Samara mentions seeing a minor altercation on the train. Apparently it involved “a woman with a scrunchie and an underbite.”

Mr Apollo

05 July 2019 | Diary

On my way to the cinema this afternoon, I find that I’m almost an hour early so I pop into a cafe with the intention of doing some light editing work from my phone. Just as I’m sitting down, I see that the person at the next table is Penny. I don’t know Penny super-well but I’m a secret admirer of her art and writing and, since we have some friends in common, I decide to say hello.

She’s very kind to indulge me (especially in a weird moment when I cite Grotbags as a queer icon) and the chat soon fills all of the time I’d wanted to burn. It is such lovely serendipity and does not require social media or anything for it to happen.

I think I come across as cool enough but when she asks what I’m up to next, I’m forced to tell her that I’m going to watch Apollo 11 on my own.

Private Garden™

04 July 2019 | Diary

On one of my regular walks, past a row of nice old houses, I pass a sign that reads, in red text, “PRIVATE GARDEN: FOR RESIDENTS ONLY.”

The “garden” in question is not much more than a strip of lawn, shielded slightly from the main public pavement by a hedge. It’s a mere spit–a gossling–of unremarkable space.

Usually, when you see a “rule” like this, it usually tells a story. “No smoking in the nursery,” suggests that someone was once caught smoking in the nursery. There is, however, no way on Earth anybody has ever strayed into this private “garden” for any length of time.

It is not the sort of space that would be frequented by hooded youths, nor is it the sort of space one would think to walk for any length of time. There is nothing in it that could be vandalised, stolen, or infringed upon in any meaningful way.

The sign is an invitation into a unique and bizarre mind. “Private Garden! Private Garden! Don’t stray into the Private Garden!”

“It is a bloody garden, and it’s a private one at that! Private Garden! Private Garden! Thank you! Keep away!”

“Don’t touch it, don’t regard it in any way. Don’t bloody look at it and go taking your memory of the garden home with you. That memory is COPYRIGHT and thieves will be prosecuted! Residents only! Private Garden!”

I’ve been seriously thinking about taking some nice, red letraset and, under cover of darkness, adding a “trademark” ™ symbol to PRIVATE GARDEN™ on the sign.

What do you think? Shall I do it? Would that be a nice little prank to lightly mock the incivility of the sign-planter? Or would it upset someone and/or have the po-po raining down on me with their truncheons?

A housewife opens the curtains:

“Desmond! Someone has DEFACED our private garden sign with a letter-a-set!”

“I don’t know, Margaret, it looks rather snappy…”

“Desmond!! Oh, Desmond…. [*sex noises ensue*]… not the private garden, Desmond, oh!”


03 July 2019 | Diary

Meet Katia and Maurice Krafft, husband and wife volcanologists.

I chanced upon their incredible footage today while watching Into the Inferno, part of a Herzog bender I seem to be on. Have a look:

To be the Tommy and Tuppence of volcanology, eh? Not bad.

Hand in hand, on the edge of the sand…

Monster, Fun-Bucket Chaos

03 July 2019 | Diary

Neil‘s overhaul (4.1?) of my website is DONE. Overhauled, overnight. Fabulous!

There was some chat about running with this header image and a smaller, neater version of the same. “I prefer the energy and the monster, fun-bucket chaos of the larger one,” I said.


No bad credo for life, that.

It was also Neil’s canny choice to use the same typeface used on the cover of A Loose Egg.

Posts should now display properly on mobile phones and tablets and clever toasters.

Hamburger Menu

02 July 2019 | Diary

To Super Bario, Glasgow’s retro-gaming pub, for a meeting with Neil about this very website. The site needs a minor upgrade, not least to make it look less dog’s-dinnerish when viewed on a mobile phone.

I learn during this meeting that the little expandable menu often seen on mobile websites is called a “hamburger menu.”

As if to reinforce the geekery of our technical website discussion, we play some two-player Pacman. Neil and I have long been each other’s Pac-nemeses. Who is yours?

I just about win the first Pac-off, Neil claiming the second by a far wider margin. We’d have played a best-of-thee but a queue of other players had formed behind us.

First in line is a teenager who I looks like she could be a serious retro-gamer who would take our Pac-asses to Pac-town. I ask if she’s good at the old Pac-a-lack-a-lack-dack, to which she says she’s quite good “but I’m not exactly of that generation.”

“Just be clear,” I say, “neither are we.”

“Yeah right!” she says.

Little shit.

Neil watches over her shoulder for a moment as she plays. Apparently she made a beeline for the nearest power pill. Our Pac-asses had nothing to fear. Pac-fear, I mean.

Because the machines in Super Bario are switched off at night, the hi scores are erased each night, which I always think is a shame as any reigning champ will have to reign in secret (even to him/herself, as you’d never know how good you were). The owners of the bar have now remedied this with a fix even lower-tech than Pacman itself:

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