Wednesday, April 26, 2006

On Edinburgh's Royal Mile, A Pink Bouquet For A Chubby, Toga-Wearing Hero Of The Enlightenment (Clue: Not Mr John Prescott)

As if a vision of the Grim Reaper was not enough, my trip to Edinburgh involved a walk along the High Street, where I was able to inspect the tarmacadam which has been laid over the cobbles in order to make this historic highway a Formula One track for malevolent taxis and hormonal boys with "spoilers" on the tailfins of their Ford Escorts.
While I was there, two things happened. Both were reassuring in their way. First, I encountered the deceased highwayman, Mr Adam Lyall, leading a band of tourists through the closes of the Old Town. Many ghosts and ghouls walk these streets, and I feel cheated if I do not see one, if only to remind myself of the famous court case in which a man, enraged by the screams of the tourists on these haunted walks, emerged from his home waving a machete. The tourists, believing the man to be part of the tour, did nothing, until he gave chase, still waving his weapon. The poor fellow was jailed, but I trust that someone will write a folk song about him.
My second odd moment occurred at the statue of Mr David Hume, who stands guard outside the court at the top of the Mound. Mr Hume is a portly fellow, and somewhat under-dressed, which has led some to believe that enlightenment will be granted by rubbing his toenails as they pass.
But the other night, as this picture shows, Mr Hume was holding a bouquet of flowers. I could find no explanation for this, nor did any of the other passers-by find it remarkable.
I welcome suggestions as to why the flowers were there, but until I hear better, I will assume that they were a random act of beauty in an otherwise thankless world.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Hell's Bells! The Grim Reaper Can Be Seen In The Shadow Of The Rev. John Knox

At my stage in life, it is wise to ignore portents, signs and symbols. They are, if one's mind is open to metaphor, everywhere. It is better, then, to carry on in the manner of the Roadrunner in a Bugs Bunny cartoon, not fearing cliffs, and running on into open air regardless.
Certainly, I was in a blue mood the other day, when I passed through Edinburgh on my way back from the funeral of the "King of the highlands" Mr Calum Kennedy. In order to add steel to my spirits I trudged up the mound to the Assembly Hall, where I hoped to pay tribute to the statue in the courtyard.
I had my Boots Beirette with me, and took a few pictures. It was a sunny day, and the statue looked appropriately forbidding. Then, gazing through the viewfinder, I found myself transfixed by the dark shape on the wall behind (see above).
I thought it then and I think it still. The Grim Reaper lurks in the shadow of the Rev John Knox.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

The Da Vinci Code, The Holy Grail, And A Satirical Wheelbarrow At Rosslyn Chapel

I have, as you may have noticed, been away. I spent the best part of the last week attempting to work the Gaz stove whilst listening to the percussion of the rain on the rusting lid of the Dormobile. It was not a relaxing break, but my measure of a good holiday was best summed up by Mr Frank Sinatra, who famously observed that while it is nice to go a-travellin', it's so much nicer at home. (This is not strictly true, as my home is currently infested with clothes moths and Peruvian horny gollochs, but I cling to the sentiment).
I hope, over the next few days, to share the joys of my holiday.
On Easter Sunday, I ventured to Rosslyn Chapel in Midlothian, in search of the Holy Grail. I was not alone. Mr Dan Brown's book, The Da Vinci Code, has led a stream of unlikely pilgrims to the place, looking for answers to a question that most of them seem to have forgotten.
I have not read this book, and do not intend to waste the flickering remnants of my eyesight in doing so, but I am assured that as a work of prose it makes Mr Jeffrey Archer look like Mr Marcel Proust. The book has obviously made on impact on the chapel, which charges visitors £7 to admire its crumbling masonry. Sadly, this means that it is no longer a place of contemplation. I would not be surprised to see "interactive" displays there soon.
I was, however, cheered by the subtle comment of a local farmer on the whole "Da Vinci" business (see photo).

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Mr Elder Is Away, But Not With The Fairies

Mr Elder apologises for his recent absence. He has been away in the Dormobile; pictured here at Gullane Bents. He has now returned, and will resume normal service shortly.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

I Am Justified And Ancient, This Is An Age Of Callowness And Youthful Idiocy, And That Is Why I Will Never Star In Doctor Who

As a child, I was warned about ambition. My mother, Mrs Elder (or Ma'am), was of the belief that ambition rode in on a dark horse called Disappointment. "Disappointment is your friend," she would tell me, rapping my nose with a percussive spurtle. "Welcome him, or he will ride you to Hell."
It was, and remains, good advice. When one anticipates disappointment, the pain is diminished, though even by recognising this fact I wonder whether I am letting myself in for a terrible surprise. There was, I noticed this morning, only one magpie on the cedar tree.
My latest disappointment is the casting of Mr David Tennant as the Doctor in the television drama Doctor Who. It is not that he is unqualified for the role: as an actor he has some charisma, and the glib self-confidence that currently passes for talent. My objection is his age. He is approximately sixteen. He wears sandshoes. He looks as if he should be revising for his Modern Studies prelim, and not indulging in the unpredictable science of time travel.
There is, I confess, an element of pique in my observation. As a thespian of a certain age, one's horizons tend to narrow. The death of Mr Mike Baldwin on Coronation Street - from bewilderment, after a long bout of over-acting - is a typical fate.
But Time Lords should be different. They have travelled the universe, and can take any human form. In previous incarnations - Mr Willian Hartnell and Mr Jon Pertwee - the Doctor, if not exactly ancient, was at least allowed to have grey hair (as in politics, baldness seems to disqualify one from holding the position of a Time Lord).
But - foolish ambition - I cherished the fantasy that a thin man in damp tweed and a drop-brim trilby might one day take charge of the Tardis. Previous Doctors have been English eccentrics, with cricket jumpers, long scarves and straw boaters. Why not make the Doctor a Scot? We are, after all, famed for our calm bedside manner.
The Daleks, I recall, battled with kilted teuchters in the 1960s, and now it is done. The Doctor is of a Caledonian bent, though his accent comes from a polluted corner of the Thames estuary.
This is the disappointment I never anticipated: the realisation that I will never be a Time Lord.
The next Doctor, I predict, will be a girl.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Bird Flu: Permission To Panic, Sir

When it comes to health panics, I have always been of the opinion that no reassurance should ever be offered to the public. This morning on Radio Four I heard a scientist explain that there really was no risk to the public from "bird flu". In the same breath, he cheerily advised against eating runny boiled eggs, and suggested that chicken be cooked with the assistance of something called a meat thermometer. I had not heard of this implement before, and the news of its existence was enough to make me nervous.
Then the scientist issued the most ominous sentence I have heard for some time. "I think," he said, "that common sense says that today we don't make fresh mayonnaise." It would have been less alarming if Lance Corporal Jones had shouted "Don't panic!"
Sadly, I didn't catch the scaremongering scientist's name. It was 5.55am, and I was frying a swan.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Mr Gene Pitney, 24 Hours Past Tulsa

Further to my item on newspaper billboards, below, Mr H Hershey of London submits this unfortunate juxtaposition, advertising Wednesday's Evening Standard.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Tartan Week Poll Results: Oor Wullie Pips Penny Chew, While Mr Henry McLeish Proves More Popular Than An OAP In A Leather Kilt

The poll results are in. You were asked: Rather than spend £480,000 on Tartan Day, the Scottish Executive should have spent the money on what?
You replied:
34% - Angel of the North-style statue of Oor Wullie
30% - A McCowan's toffee chew for every child, plus free visit to Polish dentist
23% - The Henry McLeish Library and Museum
6% - Premium bonds
5% - Free leather kilts for all OAPs

This matter is now closed. Another poll will follow soon.

The Strange Case Of Mr George Galloway MP, And The Fake Sheikh

A note arrives in a manilla envelope, with a photograph attached. The picture is said to reveal the identity of the News of the World's "Fake Sheikh", Mr Mazher Mahmood. The note is signed, "Mr G Galloway, MP, Baghdad South".
Usually, when I am "being had" I don't notice. On this occasion, I do.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

As New York Eats Haggis Canapes, A Final Chance To Vote

As the great, the good, and several Scottish people gather to fight over haggis canapes in New York, the time has come to bring this site's opinion poll (see below, right) to a close. It offered alternative uses for the public money which has taken our leaders to their annual knees-up in New York and even prompted Mr Alex Salmond to wear a kilt against his better nature, and medical advice.
So far, public opinion appears to be behind a giant sculpture of Oor Wullie, but my own preference - a McCowan's toffee chew for every child, plus a free visit from a Polish dentist - is rising in the poll. The former Senior Retainer, Mr Henry McLeish is also performing creditably.
To give stragglers a final chance to affect this profoundly undemocratic exercise, the poll will remain open for another 24 hours. Note: the poll does not represent public opinion, and is therefore in keeping with British democratic traditions.

Monday, April 03, 2006

HM, The Queen And My Sex Abuse Shame

I was intrigued to read in The Guardian that the London Evening Standard recently attempted to lure readers with a bill which read; "Queen takes cab to the theatre". It is, I confess, an intriguing image, though I was left wondering how Her Majesty managed to manoeuvre the cab into the Royal Box. Perhaps it was able to ascend the stairway by means of a wheelchair ramp.
The Guardian's Mr Kim Fletcher concludes his piece by saying that the art of the billboard is contained in the phrase: "they lure you in and they let you down" - a maxim which has endless applications in modern life.
Thus, when I saw the attached billboard, I was curious, though not curious enough to purchase the Edinburgh Evening News. The dimensions of my various shames are too great to be addressed in a tabloid newspaper, but none of them, as far as I am aware, falls into the suggested category. Unless you count PE lessons in my pants. And the business with the history teacher during that summer of swimming lessons after which I received a certificate saying I had successfully swum for a total of four strokes (this being the maximum number of doggy paddles which an underweight boy can achieve before sinking).