This is the end of my first year of Pbase PaD. I can quite proudly state that I didn't miss a single day in all that time. I have decided to take a break for a while, although I may continue posting here more or less regularly. We'll see. Anyway, this is what I wrote on my Pbase blog.

Phew! That was a blast. I started this exactly one year ago tomorrow, with a picture of the sodium street lights lighting up the North Sea haar. I was using my old Fuji M603 - a point and shoot that I got in the January sales, and only my second digital camera (my first one was a Fuji A202 that got sand and Atlantic Ocean in it when I took it on the beach north of Nazaré in Portugal in 2003).

I often wonder now what I did during the six months that I had no camera. By the end of April the photography bug had bit, and I persuaded Linda and Liam to get me the Fuji S7000Z. I had to learn it all from scratch, and the S7000 was a good camera to learn it on. It became my substitute cigarettes, and the camera always came with me wherever I was going.

Through photography I discovered many things that I would previously have simply walked past without noticing. I learned the names of some trees and flowers, I clambered over dry stone walls and barbed wire fences to get to ruined castles, I got to know the countryside around Dundee like the back of my hand. More importantly, however, I got to spend lots of quality time with my family as we toured Scotland looking for photo opportunities - or even just when going for walks with no clear idea of where we would end up.

Now I have a DSLR and a reasonable selection of lenses and an expanding collection of filters and magnifiers, and I think that I am capable of producing reasonably good images. To the extent that I have improved (and, let's face it - it would have been difficult to get any worse - just have a look at last April's images!), well, that is largely down to the Pad community and your constant words of encouragement. Now that my year is up, I want to take a break for a while and get working on some other projects (book, home renovations, get my leg better, etc.).

Before I sign off, though, I want to say a big thank you to every single one of you who have left messages or who have simply looked at my images. Cheers, take care and see you soon, Stu.


Bumps, bruises and bandages

My penultimate Pbase PaD day was a day of sunshine and mini disasters. One of the lenses fell out of my spectacles, and the little screw that was supposed to hold it in place disappeared into the carpet. I found the lens quite quickly: the screw was a little more devious. I eventually tracked it down, though, and managed to put all the pieces back together again with the help of Liam's Swiss Army knife. Now my eyes have recovered from having unbalanced sight (one retina corrected, the other not) and i can see again. That said, however, wearing glasses with only one lens in them gives a sensation that is pretty freaky... it messed with my mind and I came over all mellow and felt the urge to put on some acid house music and drink lots of water while waving my arms in the air. Then I remembered that I had a sore leg and back, and that I couldn't see my hand in front of my face (which wasn't surprising, given that they were both waving about above my head in time with Primal Scream).

No sooner had I overcome this psychedelic disaster than I heard Liam screaming in the back garden. He came running into the house writhing about yelling 'God, it hurts!!! God, it hurts!!!'. He had fallen off his skateboard and landed on his head and arm. Now he has a big lump on his forehead and a sprained right wrist. After he had calmed down and accepted that he would live, he cheered up when he was told that he will probably be excused from having to write in school tomorrow, since he is unable to hold a pencil.

This was only the second tribulation affecting Liam today. He came home from school with a big dod of someone else's chewing gum in his hair. Apparently it got there by magic, although on closer interrogation he admitted that the magician who's chewing gum it was got into trouble for 'accidently' disposing of his waste on another pupil's head. We tried, without success, to freeze it and make it brittle in the hope that he would be able to comb it out. Our attempts to wash it out with shampoo were equally unsuccessful. This left us with no other alternative but to cut it. Unfortunately the cut lock isn't noticeable, so I have no excuse to give him a short back and sides!


Carnation Street

And so the flower theme continues in the run up to the end of this PaD. You can't say that I didn't warn you that this was going to happen. I distinctly remember telling you to expect a lot of flower photos now that the house is like a florist's following Linda's birthday last week. Liam went back to school this morning. There was no spring in his step as he walked out the door with Linda.

I got the place to myself! Continued with my work, and kept on thinking that I ought to send out my invoices (nearly three weeks late....eeek!) and telephone the surveyor about the driveway that is supposed to be getting put in this side of the decade. I must remember to do these things tomorrow - I'd put a knot in my handkerchief, but these paper tissues just tear.

It started raining very heavily yesterday afternoon, just about 30 minutes after Linda had put a washing out to dry. It rained all night, and continued for most of the day. I sat at my computer all morning listening the the rain on the window and couldn't for the life of me shake the vague thought niggling inside my head that I was supposed to do something. About 4.30 I brought the sodden washing from the line in and put it all in the washing machine, then went upstairs where, despite my current disability, struggled up a set of stepladders to change two of the bathroom spotlight bulbs.

Liam came home looking like a drowned rat. He walks home from school with an open coat, regardless of the weather. His coat has a hood, but Liam won't use it. One very wet schoolboy needed some soup. However, he has it in his head that he is putting on weight, and despite our attempts to reassure him that this is normal for a boy of his age. and that he is not overweight, he eats like a sparrow with the odd trip to crisp- and Bounty-ville. By eating the soup, his appetite for supper was gone, so we ended up eating at Portuguese and Spanish dinner-time - 9pm! I was so hungry I could have eaten a scabby dog.

I had a hard time picking today's pad from the list of contenders. In the end I adopted the scientific method, commonly known as eeny-meeny-miney-mo. So here you have it. Now go and enjoy it.


Medicinal Compound

Continuing with the Dr Who theme of extraterrestrial prime ministers, I present you today with the SETI sponsored flower - lilium, better known as the Stargazer Lily. This is yet another of the many flowers that Linda received for her birthday. I don't normally like flowers that are this fussy, but I must admit that they do smell nice.

Liam starts back at school tomorrow following the delayed Easter holidays, so it was a case of getting him new shoes and a haircut (he asked the hairdresser to take about a millimetre off the top, and less off the back and sides). We were going to go to the cafe next door to the barber's for a coffee, but it was full of football players spending their wages (the Dundee and Dundee Utd players go there on a Sunday afternoon when they are not playing), so we decided not to bother. Instead we went for a short walk along the seafront, but it was freezing (typical April weather), so we rushed back to the warmth and comfort of the car.

There was football on the radio, and you all know how much I like my football. As expected, Dunfermline were unable to beat R*****s, so it looks as if next Sunday's Old Firm game will be the title decider. I'll bet you can guess where I'll be then! Three days of padding to go! What will I do to fill the void (apart from work, that is)?


Cala lillies or triffids in disguise?

Today was a day for football and for watering the plants that I got Linda for her birthday. I woke up at 8.30am, and went downstairs for my weekly helping of Soccer AM whilst eating breakfast. Linda woke at about 10.30 - just in time for the Soccerette catwalk - and surprised both myself and Liam by not telling us she thought the Soccerette is 'full of herself', but instead saying that she thought she was very bonny (and she was).

The TV stayed tuned into Sky Sports 1 for the Arsenal v. Blackburn English FA Cup semi-final. The game was rubbish, but the result was good (3-0 to the Gooners). No sooner had that game finished than it was time to head over to the PC and tune into Sportsound for the Celtic v. Aberdeen game. Being only two points ahead of R*****s, and with the final Old Firm game being at Ibrox next Sunday, Celtic can't afford to go dropping points at home to anyone, so imagine my reaction when Celtic conceded two goals in the first 14 minutes - and to Aberdeen too - a team that have already beaten us at home this season - and just two weeks after Hearts beat us at home! My misery was relatively short lived, as Celtic pulled one back before half-time, then scored another two in the second-half. So we are still on course for the title, which will almost certainly be ours should Dunfermline get a result tomorrow (although I won't hold my breath for that one - plastic pitch or no plastic pitch).

The remainder of the afternoon was spent working whilst listening to the radio phone-in show, which is always good for a laugh as fans - many of whom have had a wee swally before calling - make generally incoherent comments to a less than respectful presenter.

I heard that the replacement Dr Who had been chosen and is a relatively unknown Scots actor (so that rules out Sean Connery, Euan McGregor and Robert Carlisle, then). The new series continues to disappoint... still waiting for the Doctor's only worthy opponents: Daleks and Cybermen. Instead, what we got today was a pig in a space suit, and some green Halloween masks in human suits. One good thing about tonight's episode: Tony Blair had been replaced as PM by an alien. A case of art imitating life, perhaps. The BBC had better watch out: it can't go replacing Our Tone with green aliens and hope to keep its licence fee. There are limits, you know. These lillies kind of remind me of triffids - perhaps that will be one of the good Doctor's next opponents.



Sorry, but I have been too busy lazing around to take any photographs today. Nah! I've been busy with work, then we had visitors, so no time for the camera. Instead, what I can give you is this image with a series of coloured blotches on it. It was taken way back last August when I was doing the faux-lomography. I came across it again as I was cataloguing my images (yes... how sad is that!). Well, you never know when someone might offer me money for my images - I need to be ready!!! Anyway, I'd better get back to it, and think of a theme for the final five days of my PaD year.


No pasaran

Liam and I were out the house early this morning, on account of the fact that the car had to be taken to the garage, and I wanted to go into town and then to the Botanic Gardens before dropping him off at his friend's house where he is spending the night.

We dropped the car off, then caught the bus into town and discovered a memorial stone to the 16 natives of Dundee who were killed fighting against Franco in the Spanish Civil War. This flower was in the flowerbed surrounding the memorial, and just seemed to be very appropriate. I have been interested in the Spanish Civil War for as long as I can remember, and in the bravery and sacrifice of the ordinary working men and women from many countries, who left their homes and travelled hundreds of miles to a country they knew very little about to help them defend their democracy from the fascist supported insurgents. It is even more amazing when you consider that these Scottish heroes, and their comrades who survived to take to battle against Hitler less than 6 months later, had to cross the whole of the UK and France to get there, and all the time the authorities of these two 'great' democracies were doing all they could to stop ordinary people from going to defend another democracy.

After our brief pause here, we caught the bus out to the botanic gardens, where I bought a family annual ticket, only to discover as I was leaving that University of Dundee Students get in free: Linda is a Dundee Uni student. Still, it didn't cost much, and now I can go as often as I like.

Liam headed off to Joe's and I made towards Deke's to pick up the car. It sailed through its MOT, only needing a new set of indicator bulbs. While we were in town I bought Kasabian's album. I've been meaning to get it for ages, and today I did. It is excellent: the Stone Roses of the 21st century. If you haven't got it, you need to get it.


Ominous sky

It was Linda's birthday today, but I won't tell you what age she has reached. Suffice to say that she is as old as her eyes and older than her teeth.

We (Linda, Liam, Cathie and I) went out to Piperdam for a meal (Piperdam is as close to a country club as we have round about these parts) and a wander. The place is lovely... spoiled only by people who like to play golf (which, as any of you who are used to your daily bowl of Stu will know, is a waste of a good walk and lovely countryside).

The main problem is that the restaurant is right next to the bar, and while smoking is not allowed in the restaurant, diners have to walk through a very smoky lounge bar to get to it. Well... that and the golfers... or even worse... golfers sitting at the bar, right next to the entrance to the restaurant, smoking fat cigars whilst consuming malt whisky and conversing loudly about the hole-in-one that got away at the 12th, or about their new car, or about anything at all actually.

I must apologise to those of you who enjoy chasing a little white ball around a park with sticks of an afternoon, but... honestly... I'm sorry, I just don't like golf, and while I accept that most golfers are, apart from their dress sense, thoroughly decent lads and lassies (especially those who partake of their daily bowl), I find that when a group of golfers get together (what is the collective noun for golfers? A bag? A set?) the talk inevitably turns to birds, snotters, BMWs and fitted kitchens. I am allowed to have an irrational dislike of something, and why not golfers.

So anyway, the meal was nice, spoiled only by the cigar puffing, whisky slugging, loud-mouthed golf boors whose presence was always apparent.

Back to the house, and I thought that I had walked into a florist's shop. Honestly, there are flowers of every description all over the place. Perhaps someone ought to tell people that it was Linda's birthday, and that she is not ill. Still, plenty of photographic material now! So steel yourself for loads of photos of flowers!


Back on top again!

More work completed, and yet another satisfied customer. I received the email this morning, and by mid-afternoon the job was done. An entire chapter translated, proof-read, copyedited, layed-out, quarked and pdf'd in time for Liam and I to get to the retail park and buy Linda's birthday presents (note the plural).

I like flowers, and Linda likes flowers, but I don't like giving people cut flowers - because you are giving them something that is dead and wilting. I much prefer to give potted plants, because they are alive, and they last much longer (as long as they are cared for). So this is part of the present: a nice pot full of gorgeously yellow and green chrysanthemums. We got other potted plants too: a beautiful red gerbera and purple lily. We managed to get home just ahead of Linda, but we had no time to hide the plants, so they are an early present. We still have something to give in the morning, which I am sure she will appreciate.

Apart from this excitement, I had a long MSN chat with Zak and Northstar, during which I reminisced about my first computer - an old Amstrad 8800 (or some such similar) which had a whopping 640kb RAM, no hard-drive and a DOS interface on a green and black monitor screen. You had to have your wits about you with the two 5.5 inch floppy drives (remember those disks?) - remembering what went where and when. And no GUI interface - just a DOS prompt; and certainly no internet (although up at the uni we had Lynx, which was a DOS-style unix internet that I didn't know how to work, because I kept forgetting the commands that you needed to type in).

Interspersed with all this, I had to field Liam's constant questioning on his new favourite subject: Greek philosophers (honest!) and the Roman empire. Liam thinks that I'm a rubbish historian because I don't really know that much about Ancient Greece and Rome. Apparently the period between the First and Second World Wars (with the rise of mass political movements - such as fascism and communism - the end of many European monarchies, massive technological advances - cheap cars, electricity in homes, cinema, leisure time - economic collapse, coups, assassinations, abdications, hunger marches, show trials, etc.) - that is to say, the period that I am most interested in - is just plain B-O-R-I-N-G. That's me told, then.

I'm off to brush up on my knowledge of all things Roman and Greek... Let's see... Julius Ceasar invaded Britain in 55BC... Plato wrote The Republic and drank hemlock... So much to know, so little time before my son examines me (he only asks me questions that he knows the answers to, you see). One item of marvellous news... R*****s lost to Dundee United, so Celtic are back on top of the league - Celtic are now in the driving seat (although we do have to make sure we don't lose at Ibrox - but let's cross that particular bridge when we come to it).


Handsome dude!

You may or may not believe this, but some people think that I am quite taciturn. These people think that I am not a great one for conversation. I must admit that I am not a great one for small talk, and I am hopeless at networking. I have a small group of friends and colleagues, and they are more than enough for me, because I actually enjoy my own company and soon get tired of the often false camaraderie that comes of social situations.

Why am I telling you all this? Well, Linda tells me that I have hardly grunted two words in her direction since she came home from work, and Liam thinks that I am being very grumpy just now. Do you know what? I am grumpy, because I am sick and tired of not being able to walk upright without a crutch, and without being in pain all the time. Anyone would be bloody grumpy!

Just off the phone with my best client and mentor. It's fun talking Portuguese on the phone - especially when you're getting paid for it. He thanked me for getting the book finished on time, despite only receiving the final chapter this morning, and for writing all of the abstracts. He has more work for me to do, and he wants me to send him an invoice pronto.

Anyway, since I am being told that I am a man of very few words - most of which are ill-chosen - I will shut up now and leave you with a picture of me from more carefree times. Tomorrow I am going to get out of the house and take photos of flowers (and buy Linda a birthday present). See you then. Oh, BTW Scottish padders: I managed to get the forum up and running on my CPHRC site. Come away in and join us for a blether about the forthcoming Perth meet.


Mine at last!

Not much to say about today, because I really don't want to rub Rich's nose in it that they will not be winning anything this season! Saying that, though, that Lithuanian with the unpronouncable name who scored Hearts' goal this afternoon looks like the real deal. If he keeps that kind of performance going until the end of the season, no doubt one half of the Old Firm will snap him up as a benchwarmer!

Much as I am pleased with the result of today's game, I must admit to feeling a bit sorry for Rich (a true supporter who, unlike me, actually goes to games week in, week out) - not because his team lost and mine won, but because he actually paid to go and watch that poor excuse for a game. For me, football is about entertainment. Lots of people pay a lot of money to watch the games, and I believe that the players have a responsibility to entertain the paying customer. There were times during the first half when I was dozing off so dire was the standard of football being played. None of the players wanted to make a tackle, no-one was running into space, no-one was making incisive passes: in short, no-one was taking responsibility. It was absolute dross to watch.

The average basic wage for players in the Celtic team must be in the region of £25,000 per week - with some earning substantially more - Craig Bellamy, Neil Lennon, Chris Sutton and John Hartson are all earning around £40,000 per week. Add in win bonuses, etc., and we are talking about a lot of very wealthy young men getting paid a lot of money to kick a ball around a field. A qualified social worker earns about £25,000 per YEAR; a firefighter gets about £22,000 per YEAR; a private in the army gets less than £20,000 per YEAR. Football players owe it to the paying supporter to put on a show - there is simply no excuse for the standard of football that was on display during the first 45 minutes. In fact, the game only livened up after Hearts pulled the score back to 2-1 with 30 minutes left. The last half hour was exciting, but that is a very poor return for the fan who got up at the crack of dawn, paid to travel through to the game, then £25 to get in and another £10 for something to eat and drink at half-time. So, Rich, I feel sorry that you actually paid to go through to Glasgow to watch that rubbish, and then to come away from it all empty handed.

Gavin paid me a visit this afternoon. He wanted his 135mm lens and +4 diopter back (understandably). He wouldn't take back the 28mm Tokina, and told me that I could hang on to it. I said that I couldn't just keep it, so he agreed to sell it to me. The net result is that it is now mine, all mine. Thanks, Gavin!

I just sat watching a programme on TV with Liam - it's called Viva La Bam, and consists mainly of a young man with too much money and too little sense, surrounded by a group of equally young and senseless and substantially poorer hangers-on, going about destroying things - including his own home and cars. Talk about trash TV! I must be getting old, because I saw nothing even slightly humorous in what they were doing, and just found myself thinking what a waste. Perhaps rather than cutting Humvees in two and hitting golf balls at Cadillacs, this young man and his friends should be made to live on UNHCR rations in a Sudan refugee camp for a few months. Maybe then they might appreciate all that they've got. At the very least it would get them off the TV.


Something to lean on

Today was a do nothing sort of day, or at least it was before I got up. Then it transformed itself into a clean the house sort of day. You know, the kind of day when you wish you could afford to pay someone else to clean up behind you. Carting the heavy vacuum cleaner up and down two flights of stairs (and vacuuming them in the process) is not much fun when you have to carry a crutch as well. Add to this the need to vacuum a sofa that seems to be a cat hair magnet, and you have my morning. Mal podia ouvir Soccer AM!

Liam has guests coming round, and Linda had other arrangements - going into town with her mum to see what she might want for her birthday (no doubt a whole new wardrobe, at least two new pairs of shoes and a coat... I, on the other hand, will be getting her a new coffee mug, a CD and a bunch of flowers from myself and Liam). Following this excursion, and while I was dripping in sweat and agony vacuuming the 40 risers that we have between ground level and the second floor of our house, Linda was off to Erin's 5th birthday party to drop of her presents.

Cleaning the dining room, kitchen and downstairs toilet meant that I missed the first half of the Hibs v. Dundee Utd Scottish Cup semi-final. Liam, who had been asked to tidy his own room in preparation for his visitors, had decided that it would be better fun standing under the shower for 40 minutes. Linda came home during the second half of the football, and complained about her morning of shopping and partying.

By the time Liam's friends arrived, I was in real need of the item in this image. Tomorrow, Linda is off to Perth for a meal with her Uni mates. At least I will get peace and quiet to watch the Celtic v. Hearts cup semi-final. No interruptions will be tolerated, for not only did Hearts beat us last week, this game will decide which team gets to beat, sorry, meet, Dundee United in the Cup Final at the end of May!


Artistically modern

Despite myself, I managed to watch all three hours of Pope John Paul II's funeral ceremony. I must admit that I was impressed by the event, although I did find myself thinking that perhaps there may have been better ways to spend all of the money. But, hey, that's just me - I was brought up in a presbyterian Calvinist church, so it is the way that I have been brought up to think. As I am not Catholic, while my wife and son are, and am not in the slightest bit religious (a by-product of being forced to go to Sunday school when I wanted to play football) - I am going to shut up right now before I inadvertantly talk myself into trouble!

I banked my Nikon £100 cash-back cheque today, then went to the camera shop and went mad. I bought myself a +2 diopter and a Nikon rear lens cap. Went next door to Costa for a coffee before getting the bus home. When I got in, I realised that I had left the lens cap in the coffee shop. That means I will have to go back into town tomorrow to see if someone handed it in... and that's a bummer, because I hate going into town at the best of times, and especially on Saturday afternoons. Still, if I do go in (and I think I'm going to have to), then I will probably just have to get myself another diopter. They are a cheap way to get up close and personal - especially now that the flowers are starting to make their appearances.



A few days back I said that I was approaching the end of my year's PaD. While this remains true, I am not quite as close to the end as I thought. Somehow I managed to skip nine days - so I have nine days more than I believed I had. I was wondering about that, because I recall starting doing Photo a Day on a rival image hosting site that managed to do something Pbase - despite all its woes around the Christmas and New Year period - hasn't yet managed to do: lose every single picture in every single gallery. Long story short... I moved to Pbase, and took up PaD in all seriousness. While I have counted every day since I started on the other site, I have, in theory, two alternatives. I can recalculate from when I came to Pbase, which would mean that I still have until 12 May, or I can count as I have been - including all the PaD images (they are all here on Pbase now, and have been for some time), which means that I have until 21 April. I guess I'll just see how I feel on 21 April.

I have been working on my CPHRC site today, making up a new series of Working Papers in QuarkExpress from old HTML documents that had been available on the old CPHRC site for free, but which are now only available for purchase. Not as straightforward as it may seem - I mean, making up the Quark files, and creating the PDFs from Quark is a doddle - no, it's not that. The problem is that if you are making something freely available - effectively giving it away - there may be a desire to make sure you get everything right, but the odd error here and there is acceptable. If you charge - even if it is only a token amount (and it is only a token amount), you have to make sure that the document is sound in all of its aspects (layout, grammar, spelling, argument, references, etc). So I have had to go through these old files changing the format and checking the references and, basically, doing for free what I get paid to do. All day, and I only managed to get two papers done - only 40 to go! Methinks that this is going to take a little time.

So what's the connection between that and today's image? There is none. If you look closely at the image above, you will see that none of the plugs is connected. That was a pretty awful pun. Maybe I will stop this on 21 April afterall!


Great balls of fire

Just as promised, the new fan arrived with the post this morning. Thirty minutes later and I was up and running again, and able to field queries from assorted Portuguese authors and English publishers in the bat of a cat's eye. What I mean to say is that I got some work done. I also got three new Ebay points, so that's me got a yellow star and 100% customer satisfaction after only two and a bit weeks.

The nice weather that we had at the weekend has now deserted us to be replaced with April showers followed by brooding grey skies. Gavin called in on me and loaned me his 135mm lens and a +4 close-up filter - which also fits on my 50mm! We chatted about this and that, mostly about that it must be said, and drank two mugs of coffee each.

While I was making the second coffees, I spotted Mizzie bounding up the back (soon to be front) stairs and into the porch to take up her usual 'let me in' position on top of the new tumble dryer (where, much to Linda's consternation, she leaves her little paw prints). As I opened the back door to let her in, Gavin stepped forward to say hello, at which point Mizzie did a U-turn and stormed out into the garden and over the wall faster than you could say 'what the....' Not exactly the bravest of cats is Mizzie. She lets the other cats in the neighbourhood bully her - I even caught her sitting in the dining-room intently watching our next door neighbour's cat eat her food from her bowl. Obviously the intruder got off his mark as soon as he realised I was on the scene, at which point Mizzie managed to summon up the courage to chase him out of the garden before strutting back to sit in the middle of the lawn to clean herself.

Back to the conversation with Gavin. I was regaling him with tales of my life in the Irish pub in Lisbon, and how I had to sing a song with the band every week (The Proclaimer's 500 Miles - how stereotypical!!! - well, it was either that or Marie's Wedding!), and how, gradually, my repertoire increased to include Stray Cat Strut and Be-Bop-A-Loo-La. I recalled my 34th birthday party, and how we all went to the Brazilian bar near the Graça (Chafarica), which was then run by a friend of mine, Mané. After a few caipirinhas, myself and Joe Connolly (a very talented Irish musician) convinced the two bossa nova musicians to let us have a go, at which point the scene changed from laid-back Rio to football terracing Scotland and the place erupted to the 500 Miles chorus which, for those who do not know, goes something like this: Na-na-na-na. Na-na-na-na. Na-na-na-didle-a-didle-a-didle-a-na-na (repeated very loudly and out of tune ad infinitum).

Afterwards, we headed off down to the Irish pub, where a surprise party had been laid on for me by my old boss. As it was quite late (about 1am) and we were well oiled, and since it was my birthday, I was pushed towards the stage where I was allowed to sing my entire store of songs - starting with a reprise of 500 miles (to a much more appreciative audience, and complete with bodhrun, fiddle and guitar accompaniment), I wowed the audience into Stray Cat Strut, where we were joined on-stage by one of Europe's best classical cello players, member of Lisbon's Metropolitan Opera and champion Guinness drinker, Peter Flannigan, complete with his prized cello which was being enlisted as a double bass (and no, he didn't spin it or stand on it). For an encore, I treated them to as much of Be-Bop-A-Loo-La as I knew and a rousing finale of Great Balls of Fire. To much applause I left the stage to resume consuming pints of the best Guinness on the Iberian peninsula - I like to think that they were applauding my performance rather than my departure, but one never knows.


Broken fantastic

Because of this little gizmo - the system fan - I am relegated to using my steam-powered laptop. The beast (as I my PC has come to be known) has recently begun acting up again after several months of good behaviour. This morning when I switched it on, it switched itself off again. This battle of wits continued for a few minutes, then I decided to leave it, go have a cup of coffee, then come back and kick the living daylights out of it.

Instead, I switched it on, and it started sort of behaving itself, except it kept on telling me that something was wrong with the Star Office suite - which was unfortunate, because that is the program that I was wanting to use. I tried to repair it, but I was told, in no uncertain terms, that because I hadn't installed an optional plug-in it would not be able to repair the installation, and that I would need to download it again. It is a big download which, even with my 1Mb link, takes about 25 minutes. Aha!, said I. I had the foresight to save the installation files from the last time I downloaded this program. Aha!, said I, as I cursed myself for not labelling my CDs. After the 10th or 11th CD drew a blank, I decided to bite the bullet and redownload the whole lot - including the 'optional' plug-in that allows running repairs to be done when the original installation is corrupted.

The only problem I could envisage was remembering my password for the Sun download page - so I dedided better to copy my work files over to the laptop where at least I have Word. Miracle of miracles, I remembered my details and began the big download (Zak, if you had to do it, it would take almost 11 hours), and commenced with the transfer of files across my desk.

Just as I started, the Beast began making one hell of a noise, before as a small piece of plastic hit me on the leg. I cautiously peered into the gubbins, and traced the noise to the fan over the heat sink. One of its blades had come off - and that was the bit of plastic that hit my leg (my bad one at that). I put up with the noise until the download was complete, then switched everything off and ripped the Beast's heart out. Fan removed, I phoned PC World to see if they had any in stock - they didn't. I managed to get a new one on the internet - the postage costs more than the fan, but they promised to deliver it tomorrow - so that sold me.

Liam spent the whole morning standing sentinel at the living room window watching for the postman who, he believed, would be bringing his newly purchased game. Thank God that the postman brought it, because Liam was really beginning to drive me up the wall asking me if I thought the postie would have it, and what if he didn't??? So that was Liam quiet for the rest of the morning - shame I couldn't say the same about the Beast

through some of these computer hardware store websites got me to thinking about building my own PC. Well, actually, move all the gubbins from the existing case into a new one. Maybe the change of surroundings would make it a happier PC - I could get one of those cases with all the lights, and make my study look like a 1970s school disco. Modding, I think they call it, and I don't think it has much to do with fishtail parkas and Lambretta scooters, either. I'd better not, though, because I'd just break something. I'll just get the new fan, install it, then cross my fingers and hope for the best.


Makes you pure dead cluver, man

The pink wig gets a reprise. A final bow while I demonstrate my extreme laziness by using the Fuji on automatic! Even on the Fuji the wig doesn't look pink - and only a great deal of Photoshop 'tittivating' will ever make it look that colour. It is magenta. Then again... I may be colourblind - that would certainly explain some of the decoration in this house! I couldn't send Wiggy off to the capital on Saturday because I was too lazy to go to the Post Office before it closed at lunchtime - well, I just had to watch Soccer AM, it's part of my routine, and I like my routine. Yesterday was Sunday, so the Post Office was closed anyway. Today was the holiday that we in Dundee never got last Monday while the rest of Britain was off.

Because we are getting our Easter holidays a week after Easter has passed, the people who make these decisions dusted down a name for the holiday: the Dundee Fast. I think we were supposed not to eat - but then I didn't find out about it until after I had already eaten, then I just thought in for a penny, in for a pound - so I continued eating.

So, where was I? Oh yes, the Dundee Fast holiday meant that the local Post Office was closed, so I couldn't post Wiggy today either. Doomed to spend yet another day in Dundee, I thought that it would be better to put Wiggy to work. Liam had thought that he had got away with not being photographed wearing it, but I outwitted him. Now his friends will see him - but he's on school holiday for a fortnight (the Dundee Fast Fortnight - if they think I'm going to go a whole two weeks without food, they've got another think coming), so by the time they go back all of his friends will have forgotten about it.

Nevertheless, I may have to throw myself at Jeanne's mercy, and ask if the Wig can come back here after it has finished its globetrotting adventures, because anything that can make Liam pick up a book - especially that book (which got me through the first two years of my politics degree!) - is always going to be welcome in this house. Leg's hurting a bit as a result of yesterday's exertions, and I have been busily trying to catch up with work, so no time for anything more thoughtful.

Sorry, too, about the tardiness of my own comments. I am trying, without much success, to keep up to date with you all.


Quick, hide the mint sauce

Liam and I had a good day today. This morning I agreed to let him buy a Playstation game off Ebay with the money he has made by selling some of his old games. It is a game that he has been after for a long, long time, and one which has, apparently, been withdrawn from the UK market. A strategy shoot-em-up is how he describes it. By way of thanks, he agreed to mow the lawn (such as it is).

After lunch, we sat and watched a little bit of TV, then I decided that it was time for me to get out the house. I may not be able to walk very far, but I can drive as far as the car can take me. I convinced Liam that an afternoon up Glen Clova had to be better than sitting playing 'Nation State' on the internet (the latest craze, apparently), He eventually agreed, and off we went.

I am ashamed to say that in the 15 years that I have lived in Dundee, I have never before been to Glen Clova. There are five Angus glens (glen is the Scottish word for valley), and I have only ever been the full length of one of them - Glen Isla. I remember then thinking that we really must visit all five, as they are all beautiful and all different. So that's me struck number two off the list. I have been a few hundred yards up Glen Esk, but that doesn't really count.

Weather permitting, next weekend we will head up Glen Prosen - said to be the most beautiful of the five because it is one of the least accessible. We shall see. Anyway, the weather was perfect for a trip to the Highlands. It was warm, dry and hazy. Judging the lighting conditions was always going to be a problem - so most of the shots I took were bracketed (remember, I only use manual lenses - because I can't afford the automatic ones). It is places like this that wide angle lenses come into their own - but I resisted the temptation to use the 18mm auto lens, preferring instead to stick with the 28-200mm lens for its flexibility. I paid £50 for this lens, and while it is not brilliant at any one thing, it is a useful piece of glass. So much so that it was never off the camera.

Anyway, back to the journey. We rounded a corner and came across this little collection of lambs gamboling in the field. As I stood taking photos of them, they moved closer to me - obviously curious (they haven't learned to be sheep yet) - so I was able to get some magical shots. Liam and I spent some time just gazing in awe at the scenery, and thinking how lucky we are to live in such a beautiful and small country.

A refreshment stop was made at the Glen Clova Hotel at the head of the glen, before heading off back to Dundee via Kirriemuir (birthplace of J. M. Barrie), Glamis (birthplace of the late Queen Mother) and Tesco (home of fine wines and mineral waters). My leg may be very sore at the moment, but it was worth it to spend some quality time with Liam experiencing some awesome scenery.


I crawled on all fours on the ground

When, lo! I saw a host of golden daffodils. Or something like that - never was a big Wordsworth fan. Much prefer Shelley - if only because he was part of the family that produced Frankenstein and Discourse on Political Inequality (as well as Caleb Williams).

Since I didn't make it to the Post Office this morning (it closes at 12.30pm on Saturdays), and that since I still have Wiggy, and that since both Linda and Liam have agreed to pose wearing it (fully clothed, I hasten to add), I thought that I would use that as my daily photo. I never got round to taking it, though, since I am too depressed about today's football result to even think about pink wigs. Then, as is the way of things, I got caught up in other activities. Like watching the second episode of Dr Who (the series had better improve very soon - bring on the Daleks and Cybermen), and trying (unsuccessfully) to stay awake during BBC4's live broadcast of the Quatermass Experiment (I blame the fresh air for making me tired).

While I was pretending to be awake - in an unsuccessful attempt to foil Liam's efforts to watch Terminator 2 (I actually did fall asleep) - Linda came in to break the long expected news that the Pope had died. Whilst I respect the fact that his death is a sad event for the Catholic world, I was not really in the mood to watch all the obituary TV programmes that were swamping the schedules, and which Linda wanted to watch. Anyway, I was depressed enough with Celtic losing at home to Hearts, thus virtually handing the championship to R*****s (unless Motherwell can win tomorrow - but I think there is more chance of me winning the lottery, and I didn't buy a ticket).

I sold an old and unplayed CD on Ebay yesterday (I won't tell you what CD - it's too embarrassing). It had been sitting at the bottom of my CD pile for years, so I decided to get rid of it. I described it as being used but in excellent condition (which it was for something 10 years old - with some superficial surface scratches). The person who bought it paid the whopping sum of 50p for it yesterday. I posted it to him last night and he received it this morning, then immediately sent me an email complaining that it was not pristine and that I had sent it in a recycled padded envelope, and that he was no longer wanted it! I didn't imagine that there really were people out there who are so anal. I mean - what does he expect for 50p! - after the listing fees and paypal charges, it actually cost me money to sell it to him!

I bought 1Gb of webspace with PHP and MySQL on it, and spent the past three hours trying, unsuccessfully, to get a PHP gallery up and running to link to my CPHRC site. I don't understand why they make these things so complicated. I finally gave up and almost threw my crutch through the monitor in frustration. I also need to clean my camera's sensor, and I don't know where to start. Jessops advised sending it away to be cleaned professionally - but I've only had the thing for three weeks, and can't afford to be sending it away once a month to be cleaned - surely they can come up with a better system than this! Gavin told me that he uses the low-tack Scotch tape method - but I'm too scared to try that (I'm just a coward).

Still. At least the sun shone today, and it was lovely and warm. So it wasn't all bad.


Fool's day breakfast

According to the comprehensive set of instructions that accompanied Wiggy, this must be its last full day here in Dundee. Tomorrow it is off to the nation's capital, where Lee will no doubt show it the sights: the Parliament building, the Castle, Holyrood Palace, the Royal Mile, Calton Hill, Leith and Portobello. I am sure that Wiggy will have a whale of a time.

I might take it up to the Law for ae fond farewell before posting it on, where I will give it my sage counsel on Edinburgh female etiquette: if in a tea-room, be sure to wear a tweed twinset, pearl necklace, fur coat and no knickers, and always extend the pinkie whilst partaking of tea and scones. I shall warn it to stay clear of Rose Street, as it will be plied with alcohol in each of the neighbouring bars before being lewdly propositioned, and advise it to give a wide berth to people called Renton, Sickboy, Spud or Begbie. As a west coaster, and proud Brandane/Glaswegian to boot, the most valuable piece of advice I can give the wig is to be wary of Edinburgh folk - they're not quite right in the head.

This reminds me of a joke. People from Edinburgh call people from Glasgow 'Weegies', and say things like "How do you make a Weegie Board? Take away his Buckfast and blutak". Anyway, one particularly obnoxious citizen of Edinburgh delighted in trying to annoy his Glaswegian colleagues by telling such 'jokes'. He finally said: 'You know that in Edinburgh Glaswegians are called Weegies... but what do Glaswegians call people from Edinburgh? What is the collective noun for people from the capital? One Glaswegian piped up: 'We call people from Edinburgh W*nkers.'

But seriously, I have no problem with Edinburgh - it is far enough away for it not to bother me, and close enough to be a handy airport. I am sure Wiggy will love it there - and anyway, Lee's not a W*nker - he's originally from Aberdeen (less said about that the better).

Since it was to be our last full day together, I thought that it would be nice for me and Wiggy to sit at the table on this April Fool's day morning and have a typically high-cholestral breakfast of bacon rolls dripping in HP sauce, some sweet coffee and, for our health, some fruit juice. It would have been lovely gazing into each other's eyes - but then Wiggy doesn't have any, and nor is it a great conversationalist, and nor did it have any appetite - which was okay, because - as you can see from my svelte figure - I am well capable of eating two bacon rolls at one sitting.