Monday, 31 August 2009

magi gibson

Bat Song

So, our features offend
you, . Too shrunken-
skulled, too rat-eyed
ugly web-winged embryos.

Skinny in leather and slinky
fur, do you find our forms
too nazi for your
civilised sensibilities?

You blame the moon
for our presence.

But we have always been/are
always here -

armies of us sleeping
in your soulless churches
fornicating in the rafters
pissing on prayerbooks and pews.

Or lurking in dark dank
places your kind once too

We stream at dusk like smoke
into your streets, scribe
the thin black air with
strange graffiti.

You claim we make your
flesh crawl, appearing
out of darkness and silence.

Is it our fault, Sir,
that you are deaf
to the beauty of our songs.

she is reading

songs of the humpback whale by jodi picoult
which she bought along with audrey niffenegger's time traveller's wife for 2 for £7 if tesco while food shopping on the way to work.

she's read picoult before she says and likes them for their lightness but gets frustrated by the 'moralising' and the way the characters 'seem to think far too much about everything'. she reads these books, she says, for light relief and that her shelves at home are occupied only by medical books.

as usual with any of these exercises the questions you ask other people aren't really so much about them as yourself. i'm realising i'm unsure why i read books - that sense of escape i got when i was young seems wholly absent yet at the same time i can still find myself enthusing about something or other.

the last two days readers ask me what i'll be reading on my days off. i dodge the question. i read many things at once. i've already admitted to them that i make assumptions about people based on what they read - how do i escape second guessing myself!

Sunday, 30 August 2009

she is reading

twilight by stephanie meyer

so what is it you're reading? oh i can't tell you she says. is it twilight i ask?
her sixteen year old sister recommended it to her. it is true she says that not much happens, that a long time is spent with the main characters looking at each other, but as her sister assured her, once she started she found she can;t put it down. so what's the attraction i ask? oh, she says, it's edward cullen.


oh yes, she says, i tend to skim the bits he's not in

Friday, 28 August 2009

she is reading

say goodbye by lisa gardner

you can't beat a good murder mystery on the night shift she says. she has discovered that this is part of a series but that she's reading it in the wrong order. she tells me she's recently taken to shopping for books in oxfam and recommends it.

(the idea for this taken from people reading
where, hopefully, i'll send this and others. i'm more self conscious about it than i expected!)

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

the elvis blog

have had a couple of folk asking what's up with the elvis blog.

i think, to be honest, it's on a reasonably permanent hiatus.
reasons for this?
they are many but mainly it's started to feel like a bit of an effort.
(esp the parts where i'm trying to get decent images of paintings! i'm so irked with this currently i may have to go to some professional type and forego the bother. but that's a whole other story.)

anyway, that's that so thanks to all who viewed and commented over the last year or so.

back to edinburgh

back to edinburgh today to read at the scottish poetry library. as ever with this place it gets even better the longer the absence. they have more books, they have more spoken word and the ivor cutler exhibit is a treat. and that's before the journal section.

i bring along poems suggested by the rain. so the rain stops, the sun shines and we all sit outside. i may have to do this more often! there's only about seven of us but for me, it was a lovely vibe, i liked what was read and felt quite ennervated by the whole affair.

then i bought a stack of books. standouts so far are magi gibson's wild women of a certain age which i was glued to over coffee and colin mckay's cold night lullaby, a collection of searing poems about the conflict in bosnia. i sat and read all of this when i got back tonight. it's like being reminded of what poetry can be for. such a shame when i googled him to find out he had died. of the pair of them, more later.

then off to see a man about another collaborative project. can;t say more about this for a while but all very interesting and may end up doing some things i'd never considered before.

and still time enough to get into the russian-scottish place to see the gennadii gogoliuk i missed last time round. definitely worth the detour

sharon olds

Sex Without Love

How do they do it, the ones who make love
without love? Beautiful as dancers,
Gliding over each other like ice-skaters
over the ice, fingers hooked
inside each other's bodies, faces
red as steak, wine, wet as the
children at birth, whose mothers are going to
give them away. How do they come to the
come to the come to the God come to the
still waters, and not love
the one who came there with them, light
rising slowly as steam off their joined
skin? These are the true religious,
the purists, the pros, the ones who will not
accept a false Messiah, love the
priest instead of the God. They do not
mistake the lover for their own pleasure,
they are like great runners: they know they are alone
with the road surface, the cold, the wind,
the fit of their shoes, their over-all cardio
vascular health - just factors, like the partner
in the bed, and not the truth, which is the
single body alone in the universe
against its own best time.

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

this weekend

was the weekend where the endless rain was just getting too much and i had to get out anywhere. even so my prospective trip to the north west was still being washed out so thanks to a brief flicker of memory we ended up going to fochabers for 10 more in moray where, quite unbelievably, the sun stayed out and, aside form the drive up, there was no rain!

see the proof here (scroll down for 10 in moray)

what a brilliant day! i started off ignoring t's advice that maybe racing with a cold wasn't the best idea and despite paying for that these last two days i've no regrets at all. the course was easy, easy, easy but that meant you could fly round it and properly race if you wanted to, something that's absent in too many scottish xc races. not only that but as i got used to it i could go faster.

true i've been neglecting my back exercises of late and equally true it did feel on my last hard tail lap as if my spine was going to pop out. and even more true it wasn't a course that needed a full suspension device but, given the back pain and the rattling, it was the right bike for me to finish on. i'd been a bit ginger the first couple of laps but on the full suss i had some catching up to do. there was a lovely swooping section of single track with a nasty right hand bend over a far too large drop that was the only potentially dangerous bit and a brilliant rooty singletrack downhil at the end. after my previous caution i remembered that rooty singletrack is what i cycle on and it was dry so flew down it with a big fat grin on my face.

it wasn't to last. my lungs were sounding like an old accordion and my legs were cramping up despite the attentions of the very nice massage man. i had a very close off with a pedestrian on the last lap - why do they do these things! - and decided that tiredness + speed was definitely going to equal crash. i'd been blethering with some bloke earlier about laps and he'd said that he didn't much care, what was important was coming away with a grin.

and that's what i did. a great day on the bike. very mellow, very laid back, lots of kids running about and none of the tension that seems to affect the likes of tenundertheben. next year i may give that a miss and focus on moray again and kirroughtree. nice one fraser et al.

and of course many thanks to t, who packed the van, got me into it, filled me full of beechams, drove me home and poured me into bed

Thursday, 20 August 2009

top bike books

seeing as i'm waiting for some paint to dry it's an ideal opportunity for a list inspired by apprentice in the last post. what books could you buy for the significant cyclist in your life? i'd recommend the following -

the rider by tim krabbe
arguably the best sports novel in existence and certainly the best about cycling. a proper novel in every sense of the word. brilliant.

need for the bike by paul fournel
i don't need to say more about this? one for the bachelardians amongst us.

french revolutions by tim moore
thirty something bloke has thirty something crisis and decides to ride the tour de france route after 'training' for three weeks funny even you're just laughing at his self inflicted suffering

the escape artist by matt seaton
matt seaton documents his life in the saddle as while racing for his local club. at the same time his wife, fellow journalist ruth picardie is dying of cancer, so that the escape artist of the title becomes a different race altogether. more than just a book about cycling.

one more kilometre and we're in the showers by tim hilton
one for the purists really. hilton grows up with communist parents and escapes into the world of post war cycling clubs. filled with beautiful detail from a not so distant but very different past. tweedy, nerdy but great.

that should about do it and thanks for that. there must be a meme in their somewhere. how about the five niche books you just couldn't do without (i'm avoiding the obvious desert island reference) and when i say niche i mean get your anorak on and zip it up before you look at those shelves. top five books on snails? excellent. top five novels? small beer. top five novels about places i remember but really wish i didn't? now we're talking.

and a post-script - cyclist of a certain age should all own

dancing on the pedals - the found poetry of phil liggett. a classic

paul fournel

front runner for my book of the year by a country mile has to be paul fournel's need for bike. the indications are there in allan stoeckl's introduction before you even hit the text -

The cyclist communicates with and through his body, with himself through his own body language, and finally with others through a language conditioned, even determined, by his riding. The rider is a writer, and just as his thoughts are profoundly physical when he's on a bike, so too off the bike his thoughts, shaped, formed, and deformed by the rhythm and effort of the ride, come to the fore in the writing of texts: stories, articles, poems...... The bicycle is the key to the past, the trigger of the earliest memories, not only of childhood enchantment but also of subliminal, physical traces that refuse analysis or definition. It is also the key to the future: one's future as a cyclist, to be sure, and hence one's relation to one's aging body, but also to one's friends and to all of society - the countryside, the city, the world.

In the book he describes all the things that as a cyclist you instinctively know even if you don;t necessarily have to think about them, what it is to cycle the hills, the flats, to cycle with someone else, to cycle with friends. he talks about the blurring between equipment and rider, the significance of colour, about aging, how he cycled with his father, how he loses seconds each year. and there's great language, a challenge for the translator as stoeckl points put - the witch with the green teeth, the man with the hammer - these are characters physicalised, but which every cyclist regardless of language cannot fail to recognise.

it's the small things that make me smile, the way cyclists look at each other which, involuntarily, i caught myself doing the other day and then saw everyone else doing the same.

When i go out with someone for the first time I immediately glance at his legs to know how fast we're going to go and with what sauce I'm going to be eaten.

You can read a cyclist by his legs.

and then there's all the other stuff. after the rain cancelled my plans for a tour around the north west this week (that and the reminder of the midges) i looked desperately at the route i'd chosen, fixing it in my mind. then i reread the following, which when i read it the first time i had had to pick up the phone and read it out loud to g, who, if anything, is a bigger map junkie than me.

Road maps for me are dream machines. I like to read them as if they're adventure stories. When i drive my car I use them to find the shortest route, to find the long roads where cities join, roads that don't go through the country. As a bike rider I use them for everything else. If I know an area, every centimeter is a landscape laid out before me. If I don't know it yet, every centimeter is an imagined landscape that i will explore. For example, I like maps of Brittany, which is a cyclist's region I've never ridden. It's my store room, my wine cellar. It's the masterpiece in my library I've not yet read.

what a shame then that the book isn't widely available but it is acquirable on the internet. all cyclists should read it. as for paul fournel, apparently up until relatively recently he was working in london. what a shame if he was to miss out on the cycling territory north of the border, perthshire and angus, even in the rain. after reading his book (again and again!) that's one bike ride i definitely owe him.

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

a day in, or why eddy merckx is more of a man than me

no bike today. or even possibly tomorrow.

it appears that as a consequence of four days riding in the scottish 'barbecue summer' the continuous soaking has caused my poor wee buttocks to give up the ghost and develop some decidedly unperky saddle sores.

or as t more succintly puts it - baboon arse.

we have an exchange on this subject - i think it's more zoologically accurate to term it mandrill arse - but neither of us has the will to look it up on google.

in the meantime i must type on my knee, read on my belly, lie on my side. oh the indignity of it all....

merckx on the other hand had a perineal operation prior to the 1974 tour. it hadn't healed for the race but no matter. he commented later that after the prologue his shorts were soaked in blood and they stayed that way for the rest of the tour. which he won.

there are many reasons that eddy merckx is more of a man than me and this is one of them. the very thought of knife and perineum appearing in my personal lexicon has me wincing.

(on the upside i have got margaret atwood's the door to read)

i go cycling with lance armstrong

an odd twitter goes up on monday night - who wants to go for a bike ride on tuesday. not so strange one might think except it apparently comes from lance armstrong.

me being off i decide to chance it and arrive in paisley with some 200-300 others still suspecting it might be a hoax, despite the police, until the man himself rocks up in a car, gets his gear out of the boot and gets ready to set off. just like everyone else, except this being la, he's surrounded by a scrum of reporters and folk. there is no money that would make me want to live that sort of life.

he's smaller, slighter than i thought, maybe about my height but no body fat and his legs wiry. beside him i'd resemble a bulldozer, even now when i've let my arms skinny down a bit. standing beside him even if i lost a stone and a half (which would be madness!) my legs would never look like that. when i was young my sister wouldn't let me wear shorts round the house as she thought my legs were ugly, misshapen. they're skaters legs, sprinters legs, all about the power not the stamina. you can read a cyclist by his legs (of this more later)

i'm impressed with his reception and he seems genuinely at ease with it. around the forums there's the usual anti-la stuff but today there was a real feeling of warmth, despite the rain. it was as if pele or maradona had posted a note asking people to turn up for a kickabout, almost surreal, especially in paisley, where you're more likely to get stabbed or die of a heart attack than go for a mass bike ride. but that's what we do. off lance goes and we follow, dodging the photographers and suddenly we're away a great phalanx of us, the click of hundreds of shoes into pedals, the shifting of gears. now we are a peloton and we stop for no traffic, no red light. i drift back, it's amazing that there isn't a massive pile up given the conditions.

maybe 20 or 30 club guys stay up front with la and i'm way too ginger and stiff from yesterday to be risking catching them. then the first hills and they're gone into the distance leaving the rest of us stuck behind cars or in chasing groups. with less people i can enjoy the pace more and fly back to paisley. i pull a few folk along in a group, enough to be happy with my form. but of lance, no sign. i hear him come back just after i've left for the van, diving into the hotel prior to his u2 concert tonight.

and then the long drive back along the m8, as congested and foul as ever. idling in the traffic i think of notions of simulacra, the un-reality of the event as we see it on tv, la as legend suddenly thrust into being. not that it matters. today i got dropped by lance armstrong.

see lance in paisley and, very briefly, me here

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

i have seen the internet

and it is good

several moons ago i was mad keen on this track but never got a hold of it and, as i was usually so completely trollied when i was listening to it, i never got beyond describing it as something to do with seagulls and poltergeist.

anyway i thought of it today and there it is. turn up the volume till the windows rattle!

i've been unsuccessful in getting a copy so if there are any download savvy types out there let me know...

Sunday, 16 August 2009

back in edinburgh

so, just, we make it thru to edinburgh for our annual pilgrimage to the festival of art - yes i know there's that other festival going on but all we have time for is to look at the pictures, walk about, a bit of a trip down memory lane for me and that's about it.

we try to make some excuses, maybe it's the fact we're not long back from europe but we start underwhelmed. maybe because we're at the modern and they have some truly dreadful captionry on the wall, i notice this a) because t has a big ass rant about it and b) i'm too undistracted to let my attention be fixated elsewhere.

not that it's all bad even if it does include a healthy dose of damien hirst and while, each to their own and all that but really, is it just me or is he really crushingly unimaginative. i look at pillboxes, plastic anatomical things, bony fish and it's like being back at work/college/university. and he has none of these skills. conceptual? or cock? the viewer is the judge

which is one thing we do rather like. along with being annoyed at those tory microcephali who've been lambasting the nhs this week we're annoyed that the british public seem to take their free admission to galleries etc so for granted. the free bus has gone! a shame, i can see the reason for it, but a shame nonetheless.

not that it's all bad, even if we find more of interest in the allotments at the dean, lee mingwei's letter writing project (also at the dean), a ghostly box, populated by letters written by the viewers/visitors is both serene and moving. i spend some time in it and find it rather lovely. not so t. unsurprisingly there are letters to dead relatives and the like which is all a bit much for her and a rather large blub ensues. i feel a bit guilty about this as i should've anticipated it but then i notice the 'what a bastard' looks i'm drawing from the other attendees. super.

we try and go and see some figurative stuff at the russian place but it's shut. annoying. and not least because (and it maybe we missed something in the programme) i think representational artists get a bit of a bad deal out of this year's offerings. good for me maybe but maybe not so much for others.

there is much vidiocy.

all is redeemed when we go to the national and see their summer thing about british artists response to spain and a really quite excellent exhibition of drawings entitled from raphael to renoir. both of us prefer the latter tho the main event is good, if a bit crowded. i like the layout of it, the variety of pieces even if it's a bit crowded and it's certainly better than what i'd read about it previously

we wobble onwards and end up in the fruitmarket to see eva hesse. we're well taken by it, all strangely visceral, umbilici hanging from the walls, odd materials. as a bonus we come upon christopher marley and are filled with colour. then off for a book buy at beyond words where the french guy is very helpful and personable.

all in all maybe not the best year but nice to be wandering about. i was disappointed the princes street gardens preview stage is gone, like the free bus, no doubt due to cuts, but i think it's a bit of a loss. the high street is more of a zoo than ever. i can't see much in the way of organisation, the flyer people are woeful and aside from a couple of japanese people, the place is awash with posh kids striking poses and wanting to be looked at. maybe it was always so but equally i've usually found something interesting i wanted to go and watch/see. plus, given edinburgh's draconian stall licensing and peforming regulations it's maybe no surprise there's less diversity in the public spaces.

except of course for australian jugglers. come the last days, aside from some cockroaches you can be sure that somewhere some antipodean type is balancing an umbrella on his head while juggling a flaming toilet seat. time, disaster, the credit crunch, these people will never be dimmed.

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

german idealism

i'm much taken with stephen plaice's series on r4 about german philosophers. handy fifteen minute sequences, it's not just about the philosophy but the place and him returning to where he was a student.

the mysterious obelisk

(taking my cue from rachel's recent holiday posts...)

out on the bike with the tuesday boys last night for a small but perfectly formed run over the hills when we made a detour to the obelisk pictured. no obvious reason for it being there - the earliest graffiti we could find, immaculately chiselled into it, was from 1857. and the added bonus? completed surrounded by masses of blueberries.