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The Kelpies

Not everything on our holiday, was dreadful. One day was spectacularly good. The day that we travelled to Falkirk to see the Kelpies.

The Kelpies (Water Horses) are a 30 metre high (nearly 100 feet for us oldies) sculpture. Two magnificent horses’ heads; gleaming metal on a sun-filled day. I am not a fan of public art – I have seen too much scrap dumped on local roundabouts, masquerading as ‘Art’. The Kelpies are much more than that. They fill what was once an old industrial eyesore, with something bold, bright, and, it has to admitted, fun! ‘Art’ is not supposed to be fun, according to ‘experts’. “It is too serious!” say the arty-farty critics. The numpty from the Guardian (A newspaper that Health & Safety says is unsuitable to wrap fish & chips) describes the Kelpies as “Scotland’s new public art is just a pile of horse poo.” I tell him bull-shit (or should that be horse-shit!). The Helix Park where the Kelpies live, is full of walkers, cyclists, people in wheelchairs, children; they were all smiling, laughing, enjoying the day. The caretakers were setting up the site for a forthcoming visit from the Queen. Now there’s a lady who knows about horses!





It isn’t only the people who take selfies. Kelpies do it too!



The Kelpies were modelled from two Clydesdales named Duke and Baron. If you try really hard, you can even feed them!





The Kelpies are set on the site of the old Forth & Clyde Canal and Union Canal. When I was young, these canals were disused, derelict, and only featured in the news when some unfortunate fell in, and drowned. Now, they are transformed; once more a benefit to the community. If you walk along the canal for a mile or two, you can visit the Falkirk Wheel – another marvel for a new age.







Is there any practical use for two giant metal horses? Not in the slightest! Are they worth the millions spent on their construction? Every single penny! I wouldn’t buy a single issue of the Guardian, but I drove the length of Britain to see them. Most of the Scotland that I see these days, is ravaged with neglect and meaningless petty rules and regulations. What use is a speed camera, when 44 tonne trucks are forced to drive through the centre of a town? What rename a town, when all you are doing is whitewashing the dirt. It makes me angry when the place I was born, is referred to as ‘an administrative district’, like some Communist-era Eastern European slum, or homes are described as ‘ideal for commuting to Edinburgh’. Who gave a damn for the people?
It has been suggested that I was unkind to Girvan in my previous blog. A few yards from the ‘church for sale’ in Dalrymple Street, you can sample the delights of ‘shamanism’! I never realised that civilisation has slipped so far into the Dark Ages.



I may have rambled a bit into the dark side of Scotland, and perhaps I haven’t seen all the shining, forward-looking parts of the country. I seem to have difficulty locating them. I have found The Kelpies, and you should go and see them too. They are a delight.
As for the Guardian? Nothing is entirely useless. Perhaps you could cut it into squares, and hang it in the loo! To clean up the … !

Midnight Interlude

Before I get back to describing my wonderful (?) holiday in SouthWest Scotland, I must tell you about our midnight visitor.

Everywhere you look on the Internet, you can find articles on Hedgehogs: How to spot them, feed them, care for them, preserve them (pickled in vinegar!), people bemoaning their scarcity etc. etc.
We don’t have any of those problems. What we have are … hedgehogs. Every year, they turn up in our garden. Then the dog finds them, and wants to play with them. We try to separate the two, but the dog is incredibly possessive when it comes to hedgehogs.
The result is a half-hour pantomime in the dark. With gloves, torch and bucket, and a growling dog that does NOT want to part from his New Best Friend! Human beings do not have enough hands for the task, so it is a man and wife job. I need gloves to grab the hedgehog, but the dog manages fine with his mouth. Nary a scratch. I get smacked in the nose (twice – it still hurts), and the wife is trying to get the lead on the dog.
Eventually, the hedgehog is in the bucket, the dog is howling with the loss of his prickly toy, and yours truly transports the hedgehog to his new home in the countryside.
Chances are, he’ll be back in a day or two.
I think that I prefer snakes!

North by SouthWest

Hello again. Been a long time. Hard days. But, eventually, we managed to get away for a break; a week’s holiday in Ayrshire. An interesting place – may well have been where they filmed Papillion, and the future scenes in the Terminator film series. Just go North, then SouthWest, and – if you have enough fuel left – keep driving!

The place where we stayed is called Dailly. It is near Girvan. An old mining village. Some of my ancestors came from this part of the world, and I can truly understand why. The pits are all closed now, but they are having a little difficulty shutting down the rest. People just won’t move … and the roads are terrible. Goat tracks, badly patched together, and the main road carrying all the Irish Ferry traffic, runs through all the towns and villages. No by-passes here folks!




This is Dalrymple Street in Girvan. The main road is here. Unlike the cinema, where only the memory remains. The High Street faded away years ago, and only the crumbling brick holds the name. Dalrymple Street is now the main thoroughfare – the M25 of Ayrshire.








The local architecture reflects the past glories of Girvan. Red sandstone, or carved grey limestone. Impressive in their time, but now …
Who would ever expect the local Co-op to feature an Art Nouveau frontage?



Several years ago, a group of atheists promoted an advertising campaign on London buses, proclaiming “There is no God. Get on with your life!” This, of course, outraged the dedicated Christian community, who fought back with their own campaign. Judging by the signs on the church in Dalrymple Street, the atheists would appear to be ahead on points …




I do have to report that the North Parish Church in Girvan, is a magnificent red sandstone structure. Very impressive. Perhaps if they had concentrated their efforts on the people, and not on heaven-pointing edifices, Girvan might not be quite as ‘God-Forsaken’ as it appears.

Oddly enough, I liked Girvan, and the live performances on the sea-front were enjoyable. The ‘new’ Public Conveniences less so. The view across the Clyde Estuary towards Ailsa Craig (source of many a Curling Stone) was fine – even through the drizzle. A feature of Ayrshire that will appear prominently in my next blog.

See you soon!

Under the Double Sun

I thought that I had lost this photo, but no! I found it again by sheer luck. This was taken in September 2016. I have never seen this before, but if you look up ‘double sun’ on the internet, then you will see that it does happen – but very, very rarely.

The last thing that you ever expect to see on this planet, is TWO suns shining in the sky. Rainbows are common, but this is a ‘once in a lifetime’ (if ever!) experience. It is a result of some very unusual atmospheric conditions.

The First Book Choice of 2017

If you like a good Fantasy series, then the ‘Chronicles of Amber’ by Roger Zelazny, come highly recommended.

Somehow, the 6th in the series seems highly appropriate for the coming year. I’ll leave you to judge for yourself.

Welcome to 2017

Been a while since I posted anything. Hardly anyone noticed, because hardly anyone reads this blog. Nothing like looking reality in the face!

I have been very busy, doing lots of other things. Decorating (walls and ceilings – not cakes!), designing braking systems (somehow, people who need braking systems come to me. No idea why …?), and building furniture (my own design – not crap from Flat-Pack warehouses).

I intend to get back to my writing later. No rush. I write, and literary agents fail to reply. After all, according to that great SF writer, Theodore Sturgeon …
“90% of everything is crap!”
That must apply to my writing, and must surely apply to literary agents. Judging by the replies, 90% sounds about right.

All in all, it has been nice to take a break. I have a few thoughts in mind, but they can wait till I am ready.

The ‘festive’ season is nearly over, so, hopefully, all those shoppers who have been cluttering up the roads with their once-a-year driving trips, will put their cars away until it is time to join the summer-holiday traffic jams.

I do not believe in goodwill to all men (not those berks who are wandering around the countryside, shooting anything that flies, walks or crawls), but to the majority, I wish you joy.

Happy New Year!

Collective nouns – 1

One of the main features of my childhood education, was the determined effort by schools, to teach children ‘useful’ information – such as ‘collective nouns’. We were required to memorise whole pages of useful information pertaining to a group of animals or other things.
‘A gaggle of geese’ ‘A shoal of herring’ ‘A court of crows’ On and on and on. Still sticking in my brain after 60 years. All absolutely useful in day to day situations. Well … perhaps not!

There never seemed to be any that refer collections of people of a moronic disposition.
(I do not refer to people with learning difficulties. I refer to people who are just plain stupid!)

Drivers. Young, male, with a predilection for SEAT cars. Like the one that followed me home one day …

As I drove through the town where I work (occasionally), I noticed a black SEAT rapidly approaching from behind. Driver – young, male, impatient. Passenger – young, female, hair tied in ribbons. I always drive within the speed limits in built up areas. Mr SEAT obviously did not. Soon he was ‘biting at my bum’, as you could say.
When we passed the National Speed Limit sign, I steadily increased my speed to 60. I know the road well. Apart from the occasional village, you could set the cruise control to 60, and if it were not for other road users, you would never need to brake. It is a windy road, but 60 is easily maintained.
Not for Mr SEAT. He could not keep up. He fell behind.
Next village – slow to 40. Soon, Mr SEAT comes rocketing up behind. Obviously, his one driving skill is the tendency to drive too fast in a built up area. He clings to my back bumper until we pass the National Speed Limit sign. I increase my speed to 60. A few corners later, he is falling behind.
Repeat this nonsense for the next few villages.

In the last village before I turn off to the lane, heading for home, he has, yet again, caught up to my back bumper. I indicate right in plenty of time, then brake at a very moderate rate, for the turn-off. (One sharp tap on the brakes, and Mr SEAT would be sitting in my boot!)
The turn-off is on a difficult, blind corner, so I have to inch forward till I can see the way is clear. When it is, I turn off the main road. I look back, and Mr SEAT is screaming abuse at the top of his voice. It would seem that obeying the law, and still outpacing him on the windy bits, constitutes a malign slur on his manhood and an insult to his (poor) driving ability. Hopefully, his female passenger will take this opportunity to decline any opportunity to mate, and produce another generation of SEAT drivers.

What do you call a group of bad SEAT drivers? There doesn’t seem to be a collective noun for it! I would be interested in any suggestions.
“A gob of SEATs’ perhaps?

There will be more on this subject. I had the misfortune to visit Carphone Warehouse. More on this subject, soon …

Welcome to the Hotel Pandemonium

I recently re-visited my old home town of Methil (or Levenmouth, as the local minions of the bureaucratic State insist on calling it!). The wife and I were attending a family get-together. It was a chance to renew old ties and acquaintances.

We stayed in a local hotel. Boy, was that a mistake! The service was non-existent, the room was decrepit, the cleaning was sub-standard. The hotel was utterly unsuited to guests who have the unfortunate burden of mobility problems. All fairly typical of a third-rate hotel (you will note that I said ‘third-rate’ – I have stayed in better third-world hotels!).

The star act was undoubtedly The Receptionist! Being top of the bill, she only made an appearance in the final act. I have never been shouted at, by a hotel receptionist before. She was obnoxious, loud, and the merest thought of dealing with guest complaints, drove her to demented heights of rudeness and rage. Needless to say, we will never stay in this hotel again. Ever.

I composed a letter of complaint (I am getting quite practiced in these matters), and sent it off to the head office of the brewery chain that runs this hotel. I was polite, to the point, and omitted no detail that was relevant. I used a very sharp blade! I took no hostages.

To their credit, the people at the brewery chain responded promptly, investigated the matter, and offered a full apology and an immediate refund. I accepted this, on the condition that they ensured that no disabled person is, in the future, ever treated to such a course of contempt and disdain.

I have not named the hotel, nor the brewery chain. I consider this matter settled. But, if things had proceeded otherwise, then I would not have hesitated to publicize this whole, sorry affair.

To balance this event, and prove that not all hotels in Fife are terrible, let me mention the Royal Hotel in Dysart. We turned up one evening, unannounced, no booking. They served an excellent evening meal. The staff were unobtrusive, but their timing was immaculate. The food was excellent (in my Top 5 meals of all time, worldwide). It isn’t a big fancy place, but their standards were of the highest. Highly recommended.
Dysart is right in the centre of that part of Fife ignored by Olympic Torch runners, golfers, upper-class socialites, and inept politicians. It is not within commuting distance of anywhere. It is the ‘Beggar’s Mantle’ when the ‘Fringe of Gold’ ran out. Real people live there, and times are hard. They deserve a mention.

Women Drivers

At one time, women drivers were the butt of many a joke. The majority of drivers were men, and a woman driver was ‘obviously less capable’ than a man. Utter claptrap, of course, but a lot of inept male drivers needed some target to deflect criticism from their own inadequacies. Just how they coped with women like Pat Moss-Carlsson – I do not know! (You couldn’t get anyone with two more famous driving names.)

Women were not perfect, but neither were men. They just had their own, peculiar failings. Men tended to drive too fast, and ignored any instruction. Women tended to drive more slowly, and less aggressively. These are crude generalisations, and you should not read any more into such statements, than is strictly necessary.

That was then. This is now.
Now we have a few, new varieties of lady driver. (Men seem to be much the same, these days.)
You have the ‘Garry Girl’. Drives an Audi Cabriolet. Believes that racing across a junction at a blind corner is OK, presumably because she believes that if she can’t see another car, then speed will make all things possible. It doesn’t. Only the brakes on my car, and my more-modest speed prevented Garry Girl from testing the side-intrusion beam and the side airbags in my car. My navigation skills were also superior. We took the shorter route, and ended up in front of her. My wife made a point of ‘noticing’ her, and her Audi suddenly held back about 100 yards after that.

Another variant of Garry Girl is Gillie Girl. Drives too fast in car-parks, dashes to her destination, and when she realises the sheer impossibility of getting past the traffic she has carved up, reverts back to the blonde-bimbo ‘I’m only a woman’ toothy smile, designed to glean forgiveness from the poor deluded male. When you call her a stupid moron (I do this, or similar, when encountering stupidity of any gender), she replaces the smile with a snarl, and gesticulates in an obviously crude manner.
Not a lady, then. And not a competent driver.

It would appear that gender equality in motoring, is now with us.
Stupid, thoughtless, inconsiderate, rude and incompetent drivers now come in all varieties.
And you can swear at them if you wish. You will not offend anyone with any kind of good manners.
Save courtesy for courteous drivers.

I still hold a door open for other people. Male or female. Guess I’m just old-fashioned!

Dear Coca-Cola …

Dear Coca-Cola.

My wife happened to like the original Coke Zero.
Now you have gone and improved it.
Why?

Did you not learn from the last time that you improved Coca-Cola. New Coca-Cola turned out to be one of the all-time great corporation screw-ups. A ‘Classic’ disaster, self-inflicted and utterly stupid.

So, of course, you had to do it again – just to make sure.
“Those who do not learn from history are often forced to repeat it.”

Other companies that made massive efforts to blow off their own foot :

Whirlpool. The Tumble Dryer Fireball Kings.
Volkswagen. A little pollution never harmed anyone (until they were caught!)
Hoover. A holiday promotion that totally wrecked the company. Flights of fancy.
General Motors. Cheaper to settle lawsuits than to fix the fault. Unsafe at any speed.
Banks in general. I object to be charged for bailing them out.

I am sure that there are many more out there.