Monday, 28 July 2008

rabindranath tagore


Lady, you have filled these exile days of mine
With sweetness, made a foreign traveler your own
As easily as these unfamiliar stars, quietly,
Coolly smiling from heaven, have likewise given me
Welcome. When I stood at this window and stared
At the southern sky, a message seemed to slide
Into my soul from the harmony of the stars,
A solemn music that said, "We know you are ours-
Guest of our light from the day you passed
From darkness into the world, always our guest."

Lady, your kindness is a star, the same solemn tune
In your glance seems to say, "I know you are mine."
I do not know your language, but I hear your melody:
"Poet, guest of my love, my guest eternally."

trans by william radice

got tagged

so having been tagged my recent purchase of a book, a film and a sound recording are as follows


as with others i do favour the library but it hasn't had the desired effect of getting me to stop buying books to the point that, although it's only two years since the last one, the time of the book jihad is fast approaching again due to lack of space. mind you if these ereader things ever work at least i'll be able to condense my classics....

anyway have bought many things this month but what i've just finished is adrift in caledonia by nick thorpe which was untaxing but rather lovely and a definite spur to buying my boat. what i'm currently ensconced in is the discovery of france by graham robb which, so far, has totally justified the cover price just by his approach to history and language, before i;ve even got to the actial stuff about france!


i bought three films this week. i've watched the assassination of jesse james by the coward robert ford. i really didn't enjoy the book but the film was a whole different kettle of coconuts. yes, it may be that andrew dominik has watched one too many terence malik films but i'm not going to complain about that. no, not ever. even if i'm still somewhat amazed that his previous outing was the fabulous, but very different, chopper. not a bad peformance in it, i particularly liked sam rockwell's support as robert ford's brother. i'd highly recommend it even if you don't like westerns, because it really isn't one. oh yes and there is a surprise appearance by nick cave.

i also watched the savages. mainly because of laura linney, who i last saw in the squid and the whale and to which this'd be a nice companion piece. in it a brother and sister have to take care of their ailing father. and that's it. some of it is uncomfortable, like having my work in my living room, but it works for me because of that accuracy. it is funny but it's not the cheeriest. i did enjoy it tho, if only because it reminded me of how much i miss my sister.

i am still to watch the counterfeiters


this is too difficult because i'm sure amazon just send me things out of habit now. so far as i can remember the last thing i got delivered contained something by lcd soundsystem that i've not really listened to yet and haven't really gotten into, a depeche mode cd that also contains a dvd of loads of their videos, just to remind t of the dm bar in tallinn, the dvd of which i've kind of had on but i haven't really listened to either. i have listened to what another man spills by lambchop and i rather like it. not big time but enough to give it some more listens

i will attempt to tag this forward at some point but the people i;d be most likely to do so with are either on holiday, enjoying the fruits of summer or are otherwise engaged. and i'm lazy. yes, i am

Saturday, 26 July 2008

things i haven't liked

the cycling. maybe it's the racing or maybe i just have a down turn at this time of year or maybe it's been all the crashes of late. or maybe i'm just taking it all too seriously. but i have to say that the two wheeled life has lost something of its pallor recently. so much so that when we were away at the weekend despite the sunshine and the bike in the van i didn't cycle home on the grounds i 'couldn't be bothered'

this response not only worried t but was so out of character it even got the alarm bells ringing for me. so the plan is this. no mountain biking for the next wee while, not until my coaching day at least. back to the road bike but limiting it to short 30 mile loops. not hurrying! and even stopping! planning some epics. not competitive epics just big long days in the saddle in places i haven't been. bring some stories back. as i put it to t - have an adventure!

so it appears that not only will i be off into the wilds of scotland at the end of the month but i'll also be buying a boat and canoeing across it! despite the impending return to work i have to say i'm feeling quite excited about it

as for the road bike? well my race mtb is a thing of beauty and no mistake but the road bike is a whole other thing. once i did a writing class where the exercise was to describe an object you used every day only in terms of sensation. i had to not do it. even now i can't talk about it. there's just areas of my psyche i don't want to go! but the road bike on a nice day, not too hot,covering the miles, no stopping, heading up the glens where there's no cars, no people. that is a thing of bliss indeed

things i liked

chris horner gives billy demong a ride up the hill. not that i heard mention of it in the tour coverage, because astana are evil obviously. and the aso is perfectly right to ban all those doper teams from the tour. except if they're french. (though to be fair both bruyneel and co and the aso are probably glad they weren;t there given the recent news re vladimir gusev)

and while sastre, freire and the like seem pleasant to the point of tranquillity there's always cadel evans. he's a looper, oh yes he is

outside of cycling post of the week has to go to feltbug who sent me all the way down memory lane with this intro to the lost world of the mix tape

Friday, 25 July 2008

Nuala Ni Dhomhnaill


The fairy woman walked into my poem.
She closed no door
She asked no by-your-leave.
Knowing my place
I did not tell her go.
I played the woman-of-no-welcomes trick
and said:
"What’s your hurry, here’s your hat.
Pull up to the fire
eat and drink what you get –
but if I were in your house
as you are in my house
I’d go home straight away
but anyway, stay.”
She stayed. Got up and pottered
round the house. Dressed the beds
wasted the ware. Put the dirty clothes
in the washing-machine.
When my husband came home for his tea
he didn’t know what he had wasn’t me.
For I am in the fairy field
in lasting darkness
and with the cold there
dressed only in white mist.
And if he wants me back
there is a solution –
get the sock of a plough
smear it with butter
and redden it with fire.
And then let him go to the bed
where lies the succubus
and press it with red iron.
“Push it into her face,
burn and brand her,
and as she fades before your eyes
I’ll materialize
and as she fades before your eyes
I’ll materialize.”

Thursday, 17 July 2008

tom waits

Well it's Ninth and Hennepin

All the doughnuts have names that sound like prostitutes
And the moon's teeth marks are on the sky
Like a tarp thrown all over this
And the broken umbrellas like dead birds
And the steam comes out of the grill
Like the whole goddamn town's ready to blow...
And the bricks are all scarred with jailhouse tattoos
And everyone is behaving like dogs
And the horses are coming down Violin Road
And Dutch is dead on his feet
And all the rooms they smell like diesel
And you take on the dreams of the ones who have slept here
And I'm lost in the window, and I hide in the stairway
And I hang in the curtain, and I sleep in your hat...
And no one brings anything small into a bar around here
They all started out with bad directions
And the girl behind the counter has a tattooed tear
"One for every year he's away", she said
Such a crumbling beauty, ah
There's nothing wrong with her that a hundred dollars won't fix
She has that razor sadness that only gets worse
With the clang and the thunder of the Southern Pacific going by
And the clock ticks out like a dripping faucet
'til you're full of rag water and bitters and blue ruin
And you spill out over the side to anyone who will listen...
And I've seen it all, I've seen it all
Through the yellow windows of the evening train...

Tuesday, 15 July 2008


so this time we take a ferry across the baltic, decide against a walk, get another taxi, with a pleasant but uncommunicative taxi driver who drops us off in the street right outside where we're staying. we look around. there's the pub pete, which is already full of the type of people who are into their drinking routine by midday. i like the look of it. t assures me it'll be a solo mission. so, this'll be the hostel, i say. t looks around, conditioned by the baltic experience. i don't understand, where are all the sex clubs. and there are none. and we are glad.

how i love helsinki. along with the above there are no random bunches of english boys lagering it up, no drunk scots being arrested, no cokeheads trying to get into my room at night. we are warned in the guidebook there may be drunks and public drunken-ness. and yes, the finnish jakey is present and we did see people drinking beer in the street. but the worried finns should look no further than the uk for proper drinking in the street mayhem.

what we liked

- the academica bookstore. my favourite anywhere, ever. after failing to get latvian or estonian poetry in english the finns not only have some but it's also in french, spanish, german and greek, among others! not only that their poetry in english section is bigger and better than the vast majority of bookshops in scotland. books are pricey tho

- moomins (t). the tove janssen presence is all pervasive. i can't see it but there you are

- architecture. from the railway down helsinki abounds in kick ass turn of the nineteenth century architecture

- kiasma/ateneum and galleries. yes we liked those. kiasma possibly my favourite gallery foyer anywhere

- maxim cinema. the comfiest chairs anywhere. we go to see once. we like it

- the beach

- seurasaari mellow, mellow, mellow

- the people. you have to smile at the metalheads. we had planned to go to some metal karaoke but in the end we were just too tired. we got interviewed for some magazine and they were somewhat bemused that 'coming to see the metal boys' was one of reasons to come and see helsinki. and yes, we did see one of lordi's guitars and it was ridiculous


- helsinki seagulls. truly they are bastards


so we get off the hellish bus having seen more trees than either of us had previously imagined. plus loads of storks which was cool. and again with the taxi. but this time a big blacked out merc with a russian driver. we'd been in riga after all. and again dropped off right where we were staying. we walked up the street and i said - look there's the hostel. and t said - isn't that a stripclub above us. and isn't that a sex boutique next door. and yes it was.

and that was our abiding memory of tallinn. very nice yes but loads of stripclubs, russian speaking women hanging out outside them, dodgily dressed chain smoking russian blokes in tow. while riga there was an undercurrent in cleaner, more tourist friendly tallinn you had the sense you could get into bad trouble much more easily.

the old town itself was nice to look at but full of tourists, like a theme village and as soon as we left, which was only briefly, we realised what an island it was. outside the centre the prices halved, the bigger buildings became faceless, more modern, and those avenues with lovely old wooden houses were places the tour groups just didn't go. we'd meet people later who'd been to tallinn years before and wouldn't go back now. riga should look at tallinn carefully if it doesn't want to turn into it.

which is a shame as in riga we'd had a sense of latvia but in tallinn we had no sense of estonia or its people. we went to the kumu to see the estonian art, saw the same images we'd seen in the soviet exhibition in riga, old cold war era cartoons from workers magazines, where the workers are all proud and free and the capitalist bosses are crude jewish caricatures. as for the more modern estonian art many excuses were made for the sense of not knowing what to do in the face of the soviet collapse but by and large we just didn't like what we saw, not because of any dislocation but because it just plain wasn't that good

our best times in tallinn were when we got out of the old town, away from its theme park old worldiness and into the park, onto the tram. or, as on our last night into the dm bar, a place which only plays depeche mode, 24 hours a day. strange yes, but oddly enjoyable, especially after a couple of vodkas the size of a house or, in t's case, the strange and vile smelling local tourist tipple, vana tallinn (even worse than the latvian black balsam which she'd also tried)

t recommends the textile and design museum, we both thought the kalev chocolate was better than the latvian laima (tasted like cooking choclate - sorry, latvia). the best food we ate was in the african restuarant, just across the road from the (astonishly) scottish club. but the best thing, still that crazy depeche mode bar.....


where we met a lovely taxi driver who took us right up to where we were staying. we got out, walked down the street and i said - look there's the hostel. and t said - yes it is. is that a stripclub? and yes it was.

otherwise riga was fabulous. sex trade aside the people were great, the old town picturesque without being overly touristy. we visited the old soviet academy of sciences but even the foyer was too intimidating for us to venture further! even in the short time we were there riga's recent history leeched out from the obvious in the former of the bunker that now houses the occupation museum to the not so such as the nice building we stopped in front of that turned out to be a former kgb interrogation centre.

the eastern-ness(?) we found most prevalent was in the exhibition of soviet era paintings, all agricultural and metal workers and happy soldiery. what was all that about? how did people respond? what did the (older) women looking after the exhibition think of us from the west as they saw us looking at their past? it was fascinating.

then by brilliant coincidence it turned out the song festival was on celebrating the end of occupation. people from all over the baltic states (even a bunch from romania) had gathered together, all dressed in their local costume, to march thru the city, past the freedom monument to a mass singalong at the song ground. it was supposed to take two hours - it lasted at least five. mean while in one of the city parks they were having a song marathon where everyone got a twenty minute spot to do their thing, from traditional folk songs to polka. it was fantastic. not a drunk in sight. scottish nationalists should take note in terms of the expression of national cultural expression. i;ve never seen anything like it. it was fantastic.

time went past too quickly and we had to leave. our last sound at the hostel - some english lads bailing out shouting - oi mate where the fuck have you been? we've got a plane to catch. lovely.
and off to the bus station to catch the bus, getting leaked on, get bitten by fleas and curse the leaking chemical toilet. such was our introduction to estonia.

Friday, 4 July 2008


a slight quietness for a time

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

italo calvino

I would like to swim against the stream of time:
I would like to erase the consequences of certain events
and restore an initial condition.
But every moment of my life brings with it an accumulation of new facts
and each of these new facts brings with it its consequences;
so the more I seek to return to the zero moment from which I set out,
the further I move away from it;
though all my actions are bent on erasing the consequences of previous actions
and though I manage to achieve appreciable results in this erasure,
enough to open my heart to hopes of immediate relief,
I must,
bear in mind that my every move to erase previous events
provokes a rain of new events,
which complicate the situation worse than before
and which I will then,
in their turn,
have to try to erase.
I must calculate carefully every move
so as to achieve
the maximum of erasure
with the minimum of recomplication.

from if on a winter's night a traveler


the first elegy

Who, if I cried out, would hear me among the angels’
hierarchies? and even if one of them pressed me
suddenly against his heart: I would be consumed
in that overwhelming existence. For beauty is nothing
but the beginning of terror, which we are still just able to endure,
and we are so awed because it serenely disdains to annihilate us.
Every angel is terrifying.

trans stephen mitchell