The Roof is On Fire

It seems our roof saga isn’t quite over after all.

The past few days have seen glorious weather after a month of cold. This weekend, the Meadows and tenement gardens of Edinburgh have been packed with people enjoying the sun and firing up their barbecues.

Yesterday at the end of the afternoon we heard someone clomping around on the roof over our kitchen. When I went up to the attic and looked through the window I saw a guy and a couple of girls settling down on a rug to enjoy the view, with only a metre or two of flat roof between them and a four-storey drop. They’d set up some sort of barbecue on our side of the roof. It all seemed ridiculously foolhardy, but I thought they might be our student neighbours and didn’t want to come across like their dad, so warned them to be careful and not to damage the roof we’ve just fixed, and left them to it.

Later on, after they’d packed up and gone, I looked out at the roof again and saw they’d left a flat board where the barbie had been... and had a horrible feeling about it.

Read More · 27 May 2012 · x2 · Journal

Began another Twitter diversion today: #globalwarmingfilms.

Read More · 25 May 2012 · x2 · Whatever

While I’m buried in marking and moderating and things are relatively quiet here, I thought I’d put up a page I’ve kept under wraps for a while. One of my areas of limerick writing (which itself has been pretty quiet lately) is a series of brief biographies of fine artists. When I was writing most of them in 2006 I intended to do enough to cover a representative sample, from Ansel Adams to Zurburán, and collect them into a small book aimed at museum and gallery shops, with each limerick and biographical note facing a page showing one of the artist’s key works. In early 2007 I approached some publishers with a book proposal along those lines called There Was an Old Artist from Ghent, and hit the usual wall of indifference facing any author of light verse.

Because of these plans I kept the limericks in question out of my own pages, although they were all at the OEDILF as usual. Five years later I have to admit that the idea isn’t going anywhere soon, so rather than leave them on the hard drive or bury them in other pages I thought I’d put them on display here.

There was an old artist from Ghent
Who loved painting wherever he went.
His colours were fine
And his subjects divine—
Once you knew what the devil they meant.

23 May 2012 · Site News

No wonder the UK economy is sinking fast. The Governor of the Bank of England has sent me a Personal Email announcing that there’s only twenty million left and nobody’s even claiming it.

Read More · 23 May 2012 · Net Culture

I’d Buy Cat for a Dollar is web parody in the finest tradition, along with sister sites Cats4Gold (“swap your shabby tat for a tabby cat”) and Cat Converters. Turns out it’s a subtle viral campaign, but with puns like these who cares.

Speaking of cats worth buying, we introduced W. today to the joys of Maru. Great to see he’s still going.

Popular has been immortalised by Saint Etienne. Blimey.

The Seven Realities of Social Networking.

Daleks of Scotland.

Feeling deflated after the end of the excellent The Bridge. Bring us Series Three of The Killing, quick!

22 May 2012 · Weblog

Bodies Corporate

How Yahoo Killed Flickr and Lost the Internet.

Kevin Shields of My Bloody Valentine on record company skullduggery:

The contract we did in 2001 basically gave me ownership of the tapes, and then ... when the new regime came in, the tapes disappeared. That was relevant because even though I was the owner, it would only revert back to me if I remastered from the original tapes—if the tapes were gone, I couldn’t remaster from them and hence I couldn’t ever own them.

Easter Island heads have bodies.

Historical perspectives on the LEGO gender gap [via Mefi]. Further reading: When Lego lost its head and Lego Club membership—are you a girl, or are you normal?

Small, Far Away: The World of Father Ted.

20 May 2012 · Weblog


Several years ago I wrestled with Keane’s catchy debut album and their reputation for being Dad Rock. Their second, Under the Iron Sea, was so good that I decided I didn’t really care what the critics thought about sad paternal rockers, I just loved it. Once I actually was a dad, and album number three came out, I actually went off them a bit, loving the teaser single for it but not the end result—so much so that I failed to purchase their third-and-a-halfth album, Night Train, and figured I was done with them.

But Amazon insisted that I should try their latest, Strangeland, at a bargain price on mp3; and I did.

Read More · 17 May 2012 · Music

The first thing I thought of on hearing the news of Donna Summer’s death was the 9.4 reader score for “I Feel Love” at Popular, making it the readers’ favourite UK number one to date. That’s some testament, both to Summer’s influence on popular music and to Popular’s influence on me.

I’ve also been reading her obituary thread at MetaFilter, where this comment in particular appealed. Here’s Sound on Sound’s Classic Tracks dissection of “I Feel Love”.

17 May 2012 · Music

Time for a new banner with a touch more spring about it, even though we had hail yesterday and it isn’t exactly warm out there. Because of the way my templates work, it’s back-dated across all the May entries.

16 May 2012 · Site News

The AFOL Truth

I was never the Lego kid in my family; that was my brother. Over the years, my handful of Lego sets were subsumed into his, leaving me with only one. When it came to toys, my focus was on Matchbox cars and action figures, but I knew the sight and sound of Lego all too well. G. kept it in a divided wooden caddy our Dad had made him, and throughout the summer holidays it would be spread out in the lounge-room somewhere, waiting for someone in bare feet to tread on it.

So there’s some irony in being father to a Lego kid of the 2010s. I’m reliving part of my childhood vicariously through him, but it’s a part that was vicarious in the first place.

Read More · 14 May 2012 · x1 · Journal

Charlie Brooker attempts to reconnect with popular culture:

It is the worst film that has ever co-starred Anthony Hopkins and Stellan Skarsgård, unless they’ve teamed up to make Vileda Supermop: the Movie while I was sleeping.

14 May 2012 · Weblog

Numbers Games

The frying pan as canvas: Saipancakes.

Robert Downey Jr teaches you maths.

Michael Rosen goes on a bear hunt: The billions we’re not allowed to talk about.

MP Michael Meacher on the Sunday Times Rich List.

13 May 2012 · Weblog

Well, that little unplanned gap between posts sure put to rest the post-every-day challenge. I had a few too many things on my plate after our time away, including gathering photos for the Lego Show postmortem. I’d better write that up, I guess.

12 May 2012 · Site News

Never Let Me Go

The Lego Show

In the end, we spent all three days at the Lego Show. I’m just about all Lego’d out, but I’ll try to post a proper account of it tomorrow.

7 May 2012 · x1 · Journal

Manchester Sans Mad

For some reason or other, I’d never been to Manchester before this weekend. Never been to Liverpool, either. I’d been to Chester (man) and Blackpool, but not their big brothers.

Visiting a place for the first time with a five-year-old, and specifically for that five-year-old, is an odd experience. I haven’t done any of the general wandering around to get my bearings that I otherwise would have, so haven’t seen many of the supposedly nice bits yet. Instead, after getting off the train at Manchester Piccadilly, which is surrounded by a jumble of nondescript buildings, we caught a cab to our hotel and then two buses out to the Trafford Centre, the neo-Victorian shopping mall where the Lego Show has been held. Along the way we passed Daniel Libeskind’s striking Imperial War Museum North and the new BBC buildings, but haven’t visited either. On our bus trips up and down Oxford and Wilmslow Roads we’ve been travelling along the “Curry Mile” of Rusholme, which has left Mint Royale running through my head and my tastebuds tingling, but we haven’t eaten there—we ate at Pizza Express last night and the hotel restaurant tonight so that we could avoid scary spices and stick to the bedtime routine. Manchester’s famous nightlife is just up the road, but for this trip it might as well be on the Moon.

But never mind: the Lego, and especially W.’s reaction to the Lego, has been worth it. Two full days of it seem to have satisfied him, so we might get to see something else before we catch the train back tomorrow afternoon. I don’t think it’ll be the War Museum—or, as one of his nursery friends told him it was called, the National Worm Museum (in memory of all those worms who have given their lives for us...). Maybe it’ll be some of the fancier Victorian buildings of the West End. I hope they’re fancier, anyway; so far, Manchester reminds me of the dingier parts of Glasgow or London. But I’m sure my limited exposure to its non-Lego charms isn’t doing it justice.

6 May 2012 · Journal

The Lego Show

The Lego Show

W. and I have spent the afternoon at the Lego Show in Manchester, and will be back there tomorrow. It’s five-year-old heaven. A fuller report will follow in due course—it’s been a long day of trains, buses and bricks.

5 May 2012 · Journal

Half a world away and more than half a lifetime ago...

My Dad once asked me to make a sign for the gate next to his workshop, one of those wide metal gates that spans a car-width, to say something like “Please Close the Gate” or “Close the Gate Behind You” or “Please Keep Closed” so that the sheep wouldn’t get out. He left the exact wording up to my seventeen-year-old discretion.

Which is how he ended up with a sign that read DO NOT OPEN.

4 May 2012 · Memory

University Library door, Durham

Today I was in Durham for a few hours as the external examiner for a doctoral viva, which went happily for all involved. Afterwards I went for a wander along the River Wear, over the Elvet Bridge, and up the hill to the castle and cathedral, between which are several old university buildings and a grassy square. I’d been to Durham a couple of times before, in 1985 and 2003, and even went on a student-guided tour of the castle the last time, but it was still good to see it again, even if briefly. A shame it was a bit grey there today. GREY. I DIDN’T SAY GRIM. (Actually, I inadvertently did, when I was chatting with the receptionist on my arrival. Oh dear.)

Click on the photo above for a bit of a gallery.

3 May 2012 · Travel

Teeny tiny things (in Russki, via Meefski). Click the links that say “как это делается” to see how each one was made, and marvel at their ingenuity.

2 May 2012 · Weblog

Punning Hunt

I was at a pub quiz last night, where we tossed around team names inspired by Jeremy Hunt’s ministerial woes since he was caught sucking up to the aging prince of the tabloids. Mine carried the evening:

Hunt for Red Tops Over.

I thank you.

1 May 2012 · x1 · Journal

April 2012