Friday, 28 September 2012

strava update

so, 21 days later and assuming today goes well some 300 miles and about 19000 feet of climbing. given work and the cold i'm not too disheartened by that.

is it better than a computer? by miles! i am loving the wee map things that come up when i get back - t maybe not so much when the first thing i do when i get back is plonk myself down at the computer to look at the stats. plus there's a wee orange blob you can use to check where you are on the route and what you were doing.

downsides? koms. sure you can get on a league table for segments of the road but it's easy to see just how quickly you can get subsumed into these until the only thing that matters is times and positions. much worse than a cycle computer! but, on the other hand, there's no hiding and those 'training rides' you/i maybe used to do when you could kind of take it easy? they're proper gone and in their place is the opportunity to give yourself a proper beasting!

the first week my legs felt so stiff i thought there was something wrong with me and that was only on a twenty mile circuit. not quite as sick making as a tabata workout but far more enjoyable and just as good. a route that contains an array of segments is like enforced interval training with an actual goal at the end of it as well as just hurting yourself!

still the head weasels were in full effect by the second week. i wasn't looking forward to the hill outside the house despite banging in top tens each time i was on it. maybe i could just ease up it...? but no, as soon as i hit the incline off i was going. so i just abandoned it (at least until today when i took another six seconds off it but it's not like i'm counting or anything!).

surprisingly what that's lad to is a greater range of routes and not just that, the notion of just going for a tool about on my bike which, really, is what it's all about. it started at the end of week two when i went out for a burl in really quite atrocious weather - gales + astonishing rain = scotland. what a great time i had and, because i was focussed on the having a great time (and the weather) weirdly, i ended up with great times.

somehow the stravaing has got me pushing that wee bit harder as well as thinking about what effort i'm putting in and where. after all the shenanigans of this year i think i've been back on the bike for about two months and i'm reckoning that i'm about 70% of the fitness i'd want to be at maybe at the beginning of summer.

plus, unlike last month, i'm really enjoying it. no tv, no chocolate, lots of bike. what could be better?

Thursday, 27 September 2012

paul celan

what a grand thing it is when a new poetry book thumps thru the door. even better when two of them do this in close succession. course, then there's the problem of which one to read first. if i was to have done this chronologically then it'd be james dickey's selected poems - i can't get the heaven of animals out of my head and have been meaning to read more. flicking thru it tho i feel i'm going to save it for some sort of road trip. it has that feel about it.

given the choice the heart was always going to gravitate to john felstiner's translations of the selected poems and prose of paul celan. i've only ever had michael hamburger's versions and, while up to now they've always been sufficient, the notion of seeing something different was very appealing. and so it's proved. i'm sitting here with both of them in front, flicking back and forth. both mention the problems of translating clean but it's ferstiner's intro that's engaging me. not just because it's newer to me but because it contains things i hadn't seen before.

along with the discussion re translating celan there's a bit about celan's own translation practice. as ferstiner says, it'd be good to have a bunch of celan's translations but until the day i learn german there's no real way i could appreciate it. he has a lovely bit where he looks at emily dickinson

I reason, we could die -
The best Vitality
Cannot excel decay
But, what of that?

which celan translates as -

Ich denk: Sieh zu, man stirbt,
der Saft, der in dir wirkt,
auch ihm gilt dies: Verdirb -
ja und?

which felstiner (kindly, for the german deficient) translates back as -

I think: Look here, we die,
the sap that works in thee,
it too knows this: Decay -
so what?

all of which contains everything i like about translation! there's a wealth of detail in the introduction (meaning, doubtless, that i'll be getting felstiner's biography of celan at some point along the way) and there are some nice images of the pomes along with celan's own handwriting. (i don't know what it is but i really like to see a writer's handwriting!)

my favourite quote so far is this one -

A poem...can be a message in a bottle, sent out in the - not always greatly hopeful - belief that somewhere and sometime it could wash up on land, on heartland perhaps

that'll do for me!

Friday, 21 September 2012

moby dick

it should be that there are more posts relating to moby dick swimming about on this blog. come to that there are many things that should be floating about on this blog but i can't seem to figure out how to get those extra hours in the day. but dodging a bit of work to post about the whale seems like time to be well spent.

the whale is in my head at the moment anyway - it always is when i see the margaret atwood scores jump up on the stats and i look again at progressive insanities of a pioneer which, it seems to me, just about the perfect moby dick poem (avoiding of course the obvious irony that there could ever be such a thing as the perfect moby dick poem). i like the ahhabian

The house pitched
the plot staked
in the middle of nowhere

with all its resonances right down to that final image

the green
vision, the unnamed
whale invaded

that says to me that once you're opened up to all the possibilities of this strange, troublesome book then things really are never quite the same again.

get yourself along then to the moby dick big read. it seems unlikely that i'll be able to make it down to englandshire to see the events so if you feel the need to make me profoundly jealous please indulge yourself fully! as ever it seems that moby dick, that fast and loose fish of a book, continues to manifest itself in ever different ways

Monday, 17 September 2012


there are two things that characterise sweden most for me - lakes and trees. it's pretty difficult to go anywhere from stockholm outward without dome view of the water, or boats, or boats out on the water doing boaty things. but while i like the water it's the trees that are the most pervasive. for me, there's an odd feeling of being on the edge of something, even in stockholm. it may be there's lots of nice new buildings but you never seem to be far away from forest, first a wee crop of trees and then walk fifteen, twenty minutes and you getting into some proper woodland. take a bit of time and you can get into some really primal woodland (where many bitey things can get primal on you but that's another story).

when we were out in gotland the other week we passed by a bunch of people milling about at the edge of the forest. what's going on there we asked. oh, we were told, they're protesting that some finns are going to cut down the forest for a mine and poison the groundwater. this was ojnare and here it is in today's guardian.

now it's true i don't know the ins and outs of this particular dispute other than its depressing familiarity. at a gut level i don't much like the idea of digging a big hole in the middle of swedish forest (even if i do like the end result of all that limestone) and corporate assurances always give me the shivers. all these wee bits of europe being chiseled away until we're left with what - a vista of ikea and tesco?

sweden is the forest and the forest is sweden. i'm against it!

*there's petition site url's down in the comments bit of that guardian article if you're so minded....

Friday, 14 September 2012


it's that time of year when i'm thinking about writing proposals for various things arty-like. now despite the fact that it is widely considered that there is no bullshit i cannot talk i never much like doing this despite the fact i've done some tongue-combingly cloying examples for other people. in those circumstances it's just a bit of fun and i can always deconstruct (you see what i did there) the bullshitese in advance of the fact.

when it's me tho i always feel that awkward nag that is the truth gnawing at me, like a tooth that's just been pulled. but no longer as now there's someone to do it for me. yes indeed - i give you arty bollocks. only a couple of tweaks away from a level of perfection that will gull the vast majority of your arty fart pants.

one should never take these people seriously, even when they're me. as i had it put to me by my new friend k, who was relating how he had caused some disquiet among the employees in the ingmar bergman centre - they were really angry. but i didn't mind. i can never be offended by a man wearing pink converse with a handlebar moustache. such is the nature of deep truth.

Thursday, 13 September 2012

dark skies

we like our dark skies but one thing you can pretty much guarantee in the uk is that if there is something interesting happening in the sky, assuming you can dodge the light pollution, it's most likely obscured by clouds.

that wasn't what we were about tonight tho (see clouds above). no, tonight seeing as there's a bit of a hoolie blowing we were off out to record some tree noise. initially i thought it'd be the wind that was the problem but i'd picked a wee valley round the back where we had plenty of cover and not much air movement at ground level. so far so good. what wasn't so good was that where ever we went we could still hear the traffic from the dual carriageway which is a good mile away up the hill.

i guess that level of noise pollution is just one of those things that's so omnipresent we just screen it out. last year when we came back form the western isles (where there's almost no traffic) we were struck by how noisy everything seemed. it only lasted a few days. i'm convinced it can't be good for you!

i did get sonmething that might work in the end but tomorrow i'm off into some proper forest so i can get conifer noise and some trees creaking. what might one call this? it's not silent and it's far from quiet. an away from human racket zone? how pleasant....

Thursday, 6 September 2012

objectify this

it should come as no surprise that i quite like a bit of a rant. there is it seems, at least so i am told, no end to the number of soap box issuesabout which i can go off on one given the right stimulus. and the guardian supplied ample fuel to that fire the other day with another one of naomi wolf's lifestyle disguised as polemic missives. in this one not only does she get to talk even more about herself but specifically her vagina and its many doings (or not doings). off she spouts with some pseudo-neuroscience (or as we would have it in the vernacular here - pish) and then ices the shouty cake with the revelation that despite her many insights into (her) vagina she was 'traumatized' for six months by some vagina themed pasta. in which case should you be reading ms wolf you would be well advised never, ever to visit the east coast of scotland.

all of which may bring to mind henry more's words on the workings of the brain prior to the discoveries of thomas willis - this lax pith or marrow in man's head shows no more capacity for thought than a cake of suet or a bowl of curds

fortunately for every naomi wolf there's a whole bunch of actually interesting women who perhaps don't get quite get the attention they deserve. object is just such a squad of these types (they even have some chaps for balance) and is the organisation i refer my younger female colleagues to when they have the need to react against the phallocracy. imagine then the non shouty joy with which i came across objectify this which not only delves into the murky world of female anatomical representation (inc the legendary becker, wilson and gehweiler!) but just goes on about anatomical representation generally, which is just a joy. if you click on the link on the right hand side of the exhibition page on the image of thanos and eros it'll even take you to the flickr group for anatomical street art. surely just the type of thing the internet was designed for.

i do worry about naomi wolf tho. calling her book vagina. all those young minds being corrupted by the v word. in a world where todd akin breathes actual oxygen (even if, as seems likely, he doesn't believe in it) perhaps she'll be burnt as a witch.

Wednesday, 5 September 2012


after a broken knee, whooping cough, pneumonia you'd think that'd be me for ill health for the year (this doesn't include any of t's in and out of hospital shenanigans!). and so did i. but no. too much fishing in sweden lead to much rubbing of the waders and a wee cellulitis that's just not pretty. so not pretty there will be no pictures of a 'that's got to hurt' variety bit suffice to say i top the lightweights on that wiki page. naturally, being a man, i have eschewed doctors, antobiotics or any of that malarkey and soldiered on. that is. at least my version. t's may be different...

btu now my legs settling it's hey ho and back on the bike. i finally succumbed to one of those posh phones recently and while i don't like them any the more they are a useful tool. too useful for me to resist the lure of the strava. i've never been much into the concept but the details you get from the app can't be beaten by a cycle computer so i wasn instantly hooked. and of course despite the fact i would never, ever succumb to any of that competitive nonsense the achievement of a segment top ten on my first ride out has made me smile. and next time i'll be giving it a real go!

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

little sparta

what a surprise today to see a video piece on little sparta in the guardian. the video itself is reasonably terrible but at leads you do get to see a bit of the garden. follow the link on the page to the little sparta trust site for more.

i've been going to little sparta on and off since i was in my twenties having first heard about it away back when, when ian hamilton finlay was having his problems with the council and, if memory serves, the locals. since then, of all the people i've taken there i'm not sure any has been back, at leads not without me. maybe it's because it's so out of the way (and they didn't have me to drive) and maybe, latterly, it's because it takes a bit of organisation via the trust even to get there.

which is kind of okay with me. while i'd like hamilton finlay to be much more recognised there's no change little sparta itself could stand much on the way of people going to it. that said, if you're ever going to visit only one garden in scotland it's this one. around the time hamilton finlay died i wrote to alex salmond espousing the view that, as a nationalist he must make sure little sparta was preserved for the nation. thus far it hasn't and fat eck never replied (no golf or hollywood interest here presumably). the trust tho, seem t be doing the business and hamilton fin lay remains both a part and apart. i think he would;t have minded that.

i never met him but i did see him while visiting once, sitting in how own wee world on his veranda. he was obviously not well (at least to my eyes) but at the same time he seemed quite at peace there in his green. it's the way i'll always remember him. not easy to get into, not so easy to dismiss, ian hamilton finlay, for me (and far more than most of that younger glasgow lot that came after him, i say) is possibly the most significant scottish artist in the latter part of the last century. little sparta is a both a living work and a wonderful epitaph.