Tuesday, December 27, 2011

"...beat me on the bottom with a Woman's Weekly"

...gotta love Victoria Wood, even (especially?) in parody.

I have had a fantastic xmas break. Lots of mild over-eating, fine food, fine drink, toys and great company, and of course the deep joy of having got presents right (I think).

Just wrapped up the tail end of Boxing Day with my sister (after everyone else had pooped out and gone to bed) finding things to laugh at on YouTube. She's been having a hard time this year - putting my rough 2011 into perspective! - and we'd had a helpful but saddening serious conversation... capped off with videos of (amongst other things) cats leaping through boxes, "is this offensive?", "hell no!", inappropriate muppet parodies, and a glorious dual-homage to Victoria Wood and Russel T. Davies.

Yeah, all told I think we Robertshaws will be welcoming 2012 with open arms. One thing and another 2011 has not been entirely kind to us. Could have been worse, and things are headed in good directions (albeit painful ones in some cases) but it's been one of the less happy years in memory all round.

So far though the year-capping holiday has been a real antidote to all that. It's never all smiles: 3x kids under 6 under one roof is hard work and (for three of the six adult clan members) kids are a taxing (and hugely rewarding) novelty... the balance though has been recharging, rewarding and memorably lovely.

Personally I've been hugely enjoying the nostalgia this year - which is new for me - my nephew and I spent all afternoon building a gigantic Lego set, then this evening my brother and I immersed ourselves in unexpected net-nostalgia when I found this place*.

An unexpected boon of my new freelance lifestyle has been being able to enjoy a longer festive visit to Yorkshire: having time to catch up with more folk, and really enjoy the family... all signs that 2012 will be better...

* One of the many many things Mum seems to be enjoying about being a Grandmother, is having time and energy to play even more than she managed as a young working mother (which was already a lot) and Lego falls squarely in that sphere. So I find myself in the privileged and happy position of teaching my Mum to play with Lego, and so finding an archive of instructions for the mountains of bricks I bequeathed them is invaluable

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Perplexing Siri

So I've not used Siri much - for all that it's the headline feature of my phone, I find the camera more useful, and I'm a bit... British, and self conscious about talking to my devices... at least when people are around.

Still there's something compelling about having a real world device that I can talk with naturally, and which understands me (albeit limitedly) It makes my inner sci-fi geek giddy! So now and then something grabs me and I try it out. The last thing I played with for any length of time was the spooky but fascinating Wolfram Alpha aeroplane trick which - disappointingly - then refused to work when I wanted to show it to my Ex over dinner the other night (happily he has a 4S too and understood how fickle Siri can be - it is still in Beta after all...)

Today I stumbled on another thing, less spooky but more useful than asking about planes overhead. I was writing my Niece's birthday card and (since I can never remember the post code) wanted to look up my brother's address. In the privacy of my own home and with the phone right there I held down the home button and said "what's my brother's address" Siri asked me my brother's name, then asked if I wanted it to remember he is my brother, then supplied his address. Neat! I thought. OK so (in spite of the fact that the word "brother" is in my brother's address book card) there's some learning involved in that function. Fair enough.

... and (it being Sunday) off I went asking Siri for credentials from as many family members as I could think of, all went swimmingly until I reached my Aunt:

Me: "What is my Aunt's address?"
Siri: "What is your Aunt's name?"
Me: "Anne Robertshaw"
Siri: [displaying "Robertshaw"] ... thinks ... "do you want me to remember that Patrick Robertshaw is your Aunt?"
Me: [sigh] "cancel"

fair enough I thought, "Anne" can be misheard as "an", and faced with an apparent ambiguity Siri's little brain picks the primary Robertshaw from its database and (naturally) pulls up me! Fail.

So, I think, on with the experiment:

Me: "What is my Uncle's address?"
Siri: "What is your Uncle's name?"
Me: "Colin Robertshaw"
Siri: "Calling Anne Robertshaw, which number?"
Me: [incredulous sigh] "cancel"

I'm a bit baffled by this. If it can hear "Anne" in the context of placing a call, how come not in the context of assigning metadata to address book entries? Still more perplexing is its refusal to recognise Colin's name as anything other than an attempt to call his sister! (I tried several times.)

I'm not complaining. I live in the future, and while I may not have a flying car or a robot housekeeper, I do have a quite amazing pocket computer which (mostly) understands natural spoken word commands... but the name thing has me baffled and amused. So I thought I'd share.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

I'm Happy, Hope You're Happy Too

Quiz! We won tonight, against our über-nemesis too. Superior music knowledge. Hurrah!

Life goes well on the whole.

Denise and Justin indulged me in post-quiz pub time, which was hugely appreciated and (I hope) enjoyed by all.

Work is busy-busy. I should probably hit the hay so that I'm fresh for it in the morning... But wanted to briefly and imprefectly record the happy.

Oh and I had an amazing weekend with my brother. Life goes well.

Monday, November 21, 2011

half your age...

I'm loving Kid Rock's work just now... it isn't making me feel better but it is making me smile.

We won the quiz tonight! Beating our long-term nemesis in spite of our team only being me, Ivan and a very bruised Liz*. YAY! us.

* We're the best ones anyway after all, and Liz makes being bruised into an art form.

Sunday, November 13, 2011


Not usually one for political messages but I think this is important. So if you haven't already, (and you're a Scottish voter) please take a minute to respond to the Scottish Government Consultation on Equal Marriage.



The annoying thing about the clocks going back, is that in moves what little daylight we get at this time of year into a part of the day I seldom use.


Friday, November 04, 2011

5 A Day

Unexpected bit of comedy at the supermarket this evening. Scanning my items at the self-service checkout and I came to the lettuce I'd picked up - no label so I push for produce by weight... flip through lists for a while finding no mention of lettuces.


At this point I flash my best "something's gone wrong" smile at the friendly young shop assistant monitoring the self-service lines, and she wanders over to help. We'll call her Belinda because I'm reasonably certain that wasn't her name.

Patrick: Um, there's no label on this and I can't find it in the lists by weight.
Belinda: Oh...
Patrick: Have I maybe picked one up without a barcode?
Belinda: Yes, probably [takes lettuce] I'll get another. [toddles off in direction of produce aisle]
Belinda: [returning with lettuce in one hand and a green cabbage in the other] um... is this it?
Patrick: No, that's a green cabbage.
Belinda: Oh... [ponders] do you think it might be more expensive?
Patrick: [stifling giggles] maybe... but more importantly, it's a cabbage not a lettuce.
Belinda: [Looks despairing] Oh... *sigh* I don't even know where they are!
Patrick: That's OK, I do, shall i go get another and you keep an eye on the till?
Belinda: [Beaming with relief] Yes! [pushes both offending alien green items into my hands in the manner of a toddler who can't make their toy work]


I should be appalled that she didn't recognise the difference between a lettuce and a cabbage, but I'm too tickled by the whole thing.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

almost forgot...

we won the quiz

(and I did! They had the Hulk on)

[BANG!] [splosh]

One way to meet the neighbours I suppose: "Hi, um, I live downstairs and I think part of your bathroom just fell through my bathroom ceiling"

Last night I was minding my own business, when an almighty BANG! came from the direction of my shower. I opened the door to find water coming through the ceiling, above which is a header tank. Uh oh. Opened the access door to the header tank and was relieved to find no water falling from under it, but somewhat perturbed by the water falling from the ceiling and the big hole that had appeared there.

The friendly bewildered australian women who live above me in flat 6 were in the process of fathoming how their blocked shower had suddenly unblocked itself when I knocked on the door... Apparently something similar happened to them last year: flat 8's shower caused their shower's ceiling to collapse. Given I've been complaining to the letting agent since I moved in that my shower tray is in danger of causing a leak through into flat 2 (below me) I feel somewhat vindicated by this. Clearly a kind of tenement plinko is underway.

We swapped letting agency details and agreed to each call in maintenance in the morning. ClickLet's plumber sounds to be with them already. Dove Davies had already been informed of the leak when I rang them at 9:15 which was pretty impressive I thought... They hadn't heard about the hole in the ceiling though, and were as unsettled as I am by the news that my bathroom's cold tap is now spouting gunk and occasionally blocking... seems likely that it feeds off the header tank*, so I've shut off the hot water too (since presumably similar gunk will be going into the immersion tank if I use it) leaving me with one working tap - the cold in the kitchen.

The lovely thing about renting is that all of this is someone else's problem to sort out.

* which is also kinda icky. Though at least now I know.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

New favourite thing

... well apart from the phone itself and a few other other obvious things like Angry Birds (yes yes, I know, I'm years late to that party, but it is fun).

Apart from those things this is my new favourite thing. I'm getting a train this afternoon and giddy that I'll be able to unlock the travelling dream by doing so. Silly, but fun.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Naval gazing

So describing how love works... TV comes to the rescue: "one of the 3 legs that hold up love's stool: sex, liking his brain, then kinda accepting who he is 'cus you're never gonna change him anyway" - Shelly Tamboe: Northern Exposure.

Shelly was right, that's how it works. Or at least a description of the playing field. Problem is when knowing that isn't enough. She missed a part I think.

Sex is there, as is "liking his brain" and of course accepting "the other" - huge part of the deal. But in our inherent love of trifecta we overlooked the fourth: He has to want it too.

Sadly that part doesn't always hold.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Home again

Had a lovely holiday. Long day getting home yesterday though.

Oh and I waited until Edinburgh airport to take money out... and the bloody American Express ATM still gives me a weird Bank of England £20. They've changed since I lived down south... looked like a prop from a movie about some Edwardian era banker... used it to pay for milk immediately because it was unsettling me and got a Bank of Ireland £10 in my change. :D

France was just what I needed. I didn't know I needed a holiday when I left. Frankly I didn't think I deserved one, but the shift in my mood and energy since coming back is astounding. I think I'd got pretty run down in September... it's been a strange year, and I think the turmoil of all of it had built up. Taking a couple of weeks away from it all in the tranquil French countryside has been really restorative.

Time with Mum & Dad helped too - or "playing on the beach with the aged Ps" as Mum put it - I don't want to gush but I feel very lucky to be part of my family. I know not everyone gets that but mine are a real source of joy and support.

Happily I've come back raring to go with work because there's a lot on the horizon... stay tuned

Monday, October 03, 2011

c'est si chaud!


I did not pack for hot...

I'm in France, borrowing Mum & Dad's little house in the Vendée for a couple of weeks' R&R and thoroughly enjoying it... but I did not pack for summer. It's October after all!

Thursday, September 22, 2011


What a great birthday!

(yes I know it was days ago!)

So the 17th was brilliant. I had a little cache of prezzies to open when I got up and when the post came it was all brightly coloured envelopes with cards in. I felt very loved. From 5pm onward friends came and hung out celebrating, games were played, drink was drunk, more presents and cards materialised. I felt even more loved. Around 4am the last of the party left. I reckon an 11 hour birthday party is pretty good going for 34.

The cards are all still up, I'll take them down before I go on holiday on Monday (off to France for two weeks) but I've been really enjoying them.

Outside all that it's been an OK week. I've been faltering with work a little lately which upsets me. I think the holiday is well timed: six months in and taking a break from my new working life seems like a good idea... time for taking stock personally too. I'm confident I'll come home re-energized and re-engaged, but I do feel that - in some ways - I've let some people down over the past couple of weeks. Myself included.

All part of the process.

Working out where to go from here, and going there is the main thing.

Friday, September 16, 2011


A present is arriving. Some time in the next hour, the door will go, and a birthday present will arrive. So I'm told anyway. It's a day early but that's on purpose, and best of all I still get to open it today. A more conventionally delivered present arrived four days ago and I've been good: that one is still in its jiffy bag waiting to be opened tomorrow. The one arriving today has to be opened though or bits of it might defrost.



Monday, September 12, 2011

Slow Furies

Taking a break to make more coffee just now I spotted the postie had stealthily* dropped a parcel through my door - exciting! Turned out to be a copy of Dad's latest book

Slow Furies

A happy surprise! I'd totally forgotten he'd promised me a complimentary copy. Will enjoy re-reading it (I read the manuscript before designing the cover, but it's not the same as having a proper paperback in your hand).

If you're in the market for a new read, and enjoy darkly atmospheric stories with unexpected twists, I'd heartily recommend getting a copy.

*nothing to do with me having the music on too loud to hear it land. no no no. Definitely stealthy postie. :D

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

tipping point

Curiously, after being entirely happy for a comparative eternity using the same handset* I suddenly find I'm impatient for its replacement.

My first ten years of mobile phone ownership I stayed at or near the leading edge, always with a fairly new, fairly high spec machine in my pocket. Then last time around smartphones had begun to mature from the buggy nightmarishly complex and unreliable devices that Hamish seemed to be replacing every other week, into... well into iPhones (or Androids if your bread's buttered on the perverse side).

I ummed and ahhed for a while then, but eventually plumped for the last of the great candybar SonyEricssons instead. Data costs and contracts were still very high, but more than that I've relied for years now on my phone to also be my camera, and in '08 the iPhone wasn't there yet.

it is now though. And the plans are reasonable. Smartphones (it seems) came of age while I was looking the other way. So with my battered old C902 soldiering on well past its sell-by-date** and Orange tempting me with "free" upgrade time (I know it's just a ploy to tie me to another two years' contract but it's always worked well for me in the past) I'm impatient to join the 21st century... but annoyingly my personal upgrade cycle is out of step with Apple's and the available iPhone model is old and rumoured to be being replaced "any day now"... so I wait. Shouldn't be a problem after all this time but still I'm suddenly (uncharacteristically) impatient.


In unrelated news I fixed the comments code (somehow Rapidblog was pointing at Disqus instead of Blogger. Not sure how I missed that...) so should anyone have anything to say in response to these ramblings, you can again. :)

* OK, so "since Summer 2008" is not an eternity in any conventional sense, but in gadget terms it really is.

** I must be getting old, but they don't seem to make them like they used to: almost all my old handsets went on to live long and productive lives with other family members, but the C902 is falling apart after a mere 3.5 years. I suspect the poor old thing will be consigned to a drawer as a backup when its replacement finally arrives.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Not with a fizzle...

Festival Fireworks 2011

So that's the Festival finished for another year. It's been a really good one. This year for the first time I watched the closing fireworks from on Princes Street too which was fun, especially since the weather stayed pretty much perfect throughout and the crowds were tolerable.

Lovely atmosphere. I met up with Denise, Ivan and Sonja, and the four of us oohed and aahhed our way through the show from the foot of Castle Street - well within earshot of the concert in the park (another advantage to being on Princes Street rather than up a hill watching from a distance - as I always have in the past - is not having inane Forth One DJs interjecting waffle inbetween the pieces).

I think my favorite non-pyrotechnic bit of the evening were the two excitable young German tourists in front of us: they'd set up their DSLRs on tripods and were snapping some splendid shots of the show* so I assumed that had been the draw for their visit, until they turned to us in a gap between pieces and asked "this happens every year?". Turns out they just happened to be in town on a school trip! They'd heard about the fireworks this afternoon and turned up on spec. They seemed amused when (having totted up the annual big display count as 2) we dismissed the Tattoo Fireworks (which they had seen photos of) as not really counting "because it's only small". I laughed too - Edinburgh does funny things to your perspective on these things: Ivan reckons he saw more fireworks in the first twelve months of living here than in his entire life beforehand.

Nice to be reminded how special this place is.

Partly I think because I was prevented from seeing this year's Hogmanay display, partly because we're close to the start of my 35th year, and partly because the start of 2011 was (to put it mildly) rubbish for me, but I can't help looking on tonight's display as a kind of personal New Year celebration: I feel energised (as often seems to happen at the start of Autumn) and optimistic. Committed to moving forward into more new and exciting things in this wonderful place I get to call home.

* unlike the feeble efforts of my phone. I shot plenty but only really got one halfway good image. Ah well.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

another big rambling summer update

Where was I? <flicks through last post> just having seen 39 Steps. Lots to cover then starting <rummages in iPhoto> pretty much here:

Bright Orange Shipping Containers

Last Thursday Alyn had asked me to go see Oedipus with him as he'd O.Ded on comedy and felt like seeing something serious. Boy was it ever serious. Fantastic performance (runs until the 29th if you're local and interested) stark and unsettling. Loved it.

Because he's a thoroughly nice chap, and (like me) is intrigued by things that are... different, he also surprised me with tickets for 3rd Ring Out's spectacular Rehearsal for the Future* which probably couldn't be further from Berkoff's splendid re-imagining of classical Greek theatre. Staged inside a pair of bright orange shipping crates in the Grassmarket, we spent an hour (with eight other punters and two actors) being the emergency response team for a sector of the Suffolk coast in 2033 during a heatwave. It was great fun and I want to go again if anyone's up for it? (and has an hour or two free between now and the 28th when it closes) Ideally I'd love to go en-masse with people I know because the only thing letting the concept down is a point where you all have to work closely and effectively together in a very short time... which is hampered somewhat by British reserve amongst strangers. Still great fun all the same. Comments are still down so if you're in town reading this and want to go between now and Sunday email me?

Friday was a [gawr-juhs] strategy meeting with Derek, and yet another reminder of how good a friend and colleague Derek is. I'm not airing details here, but I had stumbled on something past-work related on Wednesday night which upset and angered me. Between/after shows on Thursday Alyn had offered some typically excellent, level headed, (and above all informed) advice, which helped me figure out how to deal with it professionally, but I was still a bit bruised by it. Derek fixed that with a heartfelt pep talk, reminding me how much exciting stuff lies ahead in my work life... Can't really elaborate much without saying things that'd be unprofessional to say here but suffice it to say that I came home on Friday resolved to leave the upsetting, angering crap firmly in the past, and get on with building my exciting and shiny future. Boy is it shiny: exciting stuff happening at [gawr-juhs]...

Sunday was Dolly Frickin' Parton with Liz. Really that concert deserved a post all to itself but I was too tired/focussed on making and eating an omelette when I got home from it on the last train from Glasgow. Sorry. Short version is that it was awesome. We arrived around ten minutes before the <sniggers> "No Support" show was due to start... to find that the other 12,498 people attending the show had done much the same.

Epic. Queue.

Dolly held off starting for about 15-20 minutes by which point we were most of the way to the door leading into the auditorium... but surprisingly it didn't matter, the queue-crowd had a happy excited vibe and we could hear the start of the first number. The hired security for the event were unbelievably good, ushering us through to our seats past the stage deftly and cheerily... and before the first number had finished Liz and I were settled in our block HH seats with an excellent view and massive grins which stayed on for the rest of the night.

Then it was back to Festival time: My aunt Anne's cruise holiday brought her to Edinburgh for a couple of days starting Monday and we spent the bulk of them together, seeing performances, taking in the sights and generally catching up. I always enjoy showing friends and relations round my city, especially at Festival time - there's a feel to the place which is unlike anywhere else on Earth I think.

Anne was great company, an enthusiastic and happy guest - the best sort. We saw Ophelia on Monday which was fun, and visited the vaults under the city today which she'd apparently been dying to see since I first mentioned them to her years ago. In between we wandered the city soaking in Fringe street performances, and wandering a little further afield to see some of Edinburgh's permanent features like the Parliament, Holyrood Park, St Andrews Square, Jenners, the National Gallery, PSG, the National Museum... we even caught some unexpected (and very good) chamber music while we explored the Museum of Scotland together this afternoon. We popped by Charlotte Square Monday afternoon and managed to coincide with a genuinely sunny interval** for soaking in the Book Festival too, sitting outside their Spiegeltent in the sun enjoying drinks and a natter... the whole visit in fact we nattered animatedly together about anything and everything. A thoroughly lovely visit. I was sad to wave her off this afternoon, but the cruise has other places to take her. I hope they don't pale too much alongside Edinburgh ;)

Man I'm lucky living here.

* They don't seem able to make their minds up about what to call it, but nobody said "The Emergency" on the day, and I like "Rehearsal for the Future" better
** Not that the rest of the weather had been unkind, just that that particular hour contrived to be the best possible weather for sitting outside with a drink. Thanks weather gods!

Monday, August 15, 2011

More summer stuff...

Just home from seeing my buddy Chris acting his socks off in The 39 Steps. I'd recommend you go only it's sold out - if you've got tickets you're in for a treat!

Lucked out in going at the same time as the bulk of the gang too, so after the show we had drinks on the venue's splendid little Terrace, then wandered round Stockbridge until we found a cracking little Mexican restaurant. A full evening. Would have been fuller had it not been a Monday night.

So that came hot on the heels of a Festival weekend with my folks - we had Jazz at Lunchtime on Sunday (getting to which involved briefly passing through one of the full-on busy parts of town which i got the feeling Mum loved and Dad hated) followed in the evening by a breathtaking concert at Usher Hall. Spellbinding. Three encores.

Tomorrow I'm seeing Great Unanswered Questions in the evening (thanks Denise!) and possibly some last minute serious theatre with Alyn (who's feeling comedy-ed out). Then it's Dolly Frickin' Parton* with Liz on Sunday (squeee!) followed by a couple of days showing my favourite Aunt around my favourite city, with some more theatre thrown in for good measure.

Having a great summer.

*Nothing to do with the Festival, that's in Glasgow. Just happens to also be in August.

Friday, August 12, 2011


In case anyone's counting. Contact page is now behaving itself, site-wide metadata's all fettled, blgspot template's almost in tune with the new site, and the front page portfolio has proper photos.

Outstanding fixes: Fathoming why all the blogger comments are all buried (which I only just spotted) and finding how to re-enable commenting on blog posts, then migrating the photo albums back off Flash... probably.

and her walkman started to melt...

Festival time! YAY!

So far it's a medium/light festival for me as you'd expect. Had a very full day on Tuesday though. Derek very kindly took me to see Allotment around lunchtime. We lucked out on it being a sunny afternoon (the play is set in and performed on an allotment). Brilliant performance, original, funny and very moving. Plus they gave us tea and scones! What's not to love?

I did some work in the afternoon and then met my friend Alyn for beers and people watching on the Royal Mile before we saw the Laramie Project together. As already mentioned I've been wanting to see that for almost a decade and the production didn't disappoint. I was a little unsettled by how very very young the company were though. I doubt any of them can have been older than 5 when Matthew Shepard was murdered which made me feel old, but also kept breaking the spell of the show a teeny bit... That's an unfair complaint of Ophiuchus Rising as a company: my problem not theirs. They did a fantastic job of producing a complex and challenging piece, striking the right balance of impartial detachment and powerfully charged emotional performances, we both left feeling deeply moved.

Breaking for more beer in Bristo square Alyn and I caught up with Derek and for a total change of pace the three of us went to see Briefs. Unsurprisingly (given we're talking about Australian acrobats) I immediately developed a huge crush on one of the performers, but eye candy aside it was a stunning show... way camper than I'd normally go for, but lots of fun, with some genuinely impressive feats of fitness. Oh and a meat tray raffle.

This weekend Mum & Dad are coming up (for their first Festival visit in all the time I've lived here) we're doing music stuff which i'm really looking forward to. Tonight though I plan on dodging the crowds and staying home for a quiet evening in... fireworks and low-flying jets notwithstanding.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

for the first time in my life, I wish this car wasn't green

Oh for the resources to take a big lumbering yank convertible out into the wilds of america and just "keep goin'"* [sigh] or packing a backpack and going hiking round the highlands, or hopping a plane to Japan, or... it's not that I'm remotely unhappy where I am you understand. Just that all this lovely sunny weather makes me want to travel. And right now that's out of the question. Bah.

* no! not off a cliff with Susan Sarandon, though yes, I might have been watching Thelma and Louise

Monday, August 01, 2011

... no jellybabies :(

No more quizes 'til autumn now, and we didn't win either the main quiz or the bonus. Did damned well though: on a heaving-full quiz night we placed second (3 points behind) on the main quiz and tied for second on the (£90) bonus: ahead of the team who were using a sonic screwdriver pen, but losing out to the team with a member who had a TARDIS tattoo on her shoulder... I feel ok about that :D

All in all a very fun night.


Last pub quiz of the season tonight - being in a pub that's practically underneath Edinburgh Castle, they stop the quiz over the summer until the tourist flood recedes - bonus round tonight is on Doctor Who so wish me luck: I've been (loudly) wishing for a Who round for ages now so I'll be very shamefaced if we don't win it!

Sunday, July 31, 2011


probably the happiest thing about running my blog through a site I maintain myself (rather than simply using blogspot, or livejournal or Facebook or....) is that when I periodically overhaul the place I'm reminded to look over the ever-growing archive of old posts...

Thank you past-me for recording things to help me remember them. I'll endeavour to keep that up.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

splateagle.com v5.5


That was an uphill struggle... but we're there - welcome to splateagle.com v5.5.

Yes. March's update was the shortest lived version of the site I've ever had. I got all excited about Rapidweaver's clever abilities, and that was amplified by a certain post-Gecko lack of confidence in my own abilities. After freelancing for a few months though I was increasingly embarrassed by the bloated code and slightly tatty layout I'd been able to create just using RW. I know I could have sorted the latter - I'm working on a really exciting project for a client using Rapidweaver, building them a customised Theme. I could easily have done the same for myself... but why? The whole point of RW is that it offers powerful web development tools for people who don't like coding... which is great, except that I frickin' love coding!

I'm not an expert at it, and there are things (like this blog!) which I'm still driving with RW plugins (they're all credited for anyone who's interested) but there's plenty I can do myself, and more neatly. Part of me is giddy that this new version of the site is less than half the size of the previous version, while having the same content.

Those of you not reading via Livejournal or RSS might have noticed the old "work" section has gone, oddly enough this marks a shift in the site's emphasis towards my work, you'll see what I mean if you look at the home page...

There are (of course) still a couple of minor rough edges to polish (biggest of which being the contact form's bad behaviour - it works, it just spits out ugly code instead of a nice neat response saying that it worked...) but most of the site's working as I intended... unless you find otherwise in which case please say. Hopefully I'll manage not to pull it all apart and rebuild it again in another four months!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

quick update


I'm doing that thing again where I forget to blog aren't I? Sorry.

So a quick blog update. Mostly this last week or so I've been working on a(nother) site overhaul. Yes yes yes, I just did that, but that was in March and four months on I find that overhaul doesn't remotely represent me or what I'm doing work-wise. It's like I dipped my toe in the water, which was appropriate then... only now I'm swimming (not drowning) and the shot from the side of the pool doesn't cut it.

Plus (much as I do love Rapidweaver) the more code-ey I get, the less happy I am with the site's guts and structure as generated by Rapidweaver so end of this week (hopefully) it's all change again. But I'm not moving the blog this time so no need to change your bookmarks (those six of you worldwide who have me bookmarked) and I won't be calling on Liz (hi Liz) to move my LiveJournal syndication again.

Away from my personal/corporate navel gazing* work part II is progressing well - [gawr-juhs] is picking up new and exciting clients, and getting lots of positive feedback on what we've done to date. If you're short of things to read we have a blog there too (equally hit and miss on the timings of updates, less rambling, more design focussed) and a bunch of other social medjuh bells and whistles all sitting at gawrjuhs.me.

Away from work entirely life in Edinburgh rocks more than ever now I'm my own boss. We seem to have summer (however fleetingly) and it's wonderful to be able to decide I'm going to go for a walk in the sun mid afternoon, and work later instead of wistfully looking out of the window while I'm fulfilling "office hours" for no apparent reason other than to placate my boss and meet the terms of my contract. Best of all the work's fun so when I get back from the walk in the sunshine I'm eager to get back to it.

Along with (unreliable) sunshine of course, the summer here in Edinburgh brings the Festival. I have a splendid weekend of music events booked with my parents, and am making plans with my aunt for theatre... oddly no comedy as yet this year though I suspect that'll change... and I'm plotting to drag some brave friends along to the Laramie Project at some point because I've wanted to see it for 11 years and been haunted by the topic ever since a face - which seemed eerily like my own at the time** - looked out at me from under a horrifying headline 13 years ago. Rest in peace Matthew Shepard.

Before the Festival kicks off in earnest though there's the last pub quiz of the season to enjoy next Monday. Wish us luck!

* I am also doing some actual paid work you understand. Just I feel I might be in a position to do more if this place was less shabby

** Now of course there's no resemblance at all. I wish I could find the newspaper picture I saw back in '98 which hit me that way... chances are though that it was just a combination of early 20s egotism blended with overwhelming sorrow, shock, and basic human empathy.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

where is my copy of Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency?

This evening I went to my first Business Gateway course... the 3rd course (financial planning) of a 3 part series on planning to start a small business. Yeah. Pretty much exactly like realising - three months after you bought the VCR - that you're not entirely sure you're setting the timer right, and then picking up the instruction manual you'd tossed to one side when you got home from Comet and excitedly plugged the thing and started pressing buttons... *shrugs* it's how I work in every other aspect of my life after all.

Anyway, it turns out that (mostly thanks to having had a very helpful chat with my brother the night before) I already pretty much knew everything they were telling us... Felt good to be in a room full of people thinking about starting a business* knowing I'd already done that... and it's working. So far. I'll not be going to parts 1 & 2 of the course I don't think, but I am going to sign up for a couple of HMRC's tax seminars... the prospect of which fills me with exactly as much joy as you'd expect! Thing is though, this reassurance that, yes, I am doing it right, is worth the time spent... besides I figure now I've picked the manual up I might as well flip through the pages covering anything which I'm not sure of, after all I might find that there's a function on my metaphorical VCR I didn't know about.

After "school" I came home and went back to work. Partly because spending two hours thinking in detail about cashflow and profit/loss forecasting, focusses the mind somewhat on the need to build one's business**, partly because I've been a bit lax this week and felt like catching up, but mostly because I'm really enjoying what I'm doing just now. That's a very good feeling.

* lots of "hello my name is X and I've lots of ideas but haven't settled on one in particular yet" type introductions from my classmates
** a nice euphemism for "do more work" in my case.

Friday, June 17, 2011

on voids

I've been enjoying revisiting some old TV I'd forgotten, courtesy of the net... amongst it Russell T. Davies' excellent Queer as Folk thank you 4OD :)

Something said in the opening episode has kind of stuck with me and rattled around in my metaphor centre for a while. 's a bit... blue*, and I'm unsure if I'll post this but I feel like writing it down all the same.

The opening episode of QaF was well publicised at the time for containing a gay sex scene in the opening 10-15 minutes, Stuart (the anti-hero) is fucking Nathan (the über-twink) and it's visceral, passionate, and totally without feeling. Looking at it now I can see what I think Davies was getting at with this scene: I mean I knew all along that it sets up the character dynamic for the rest of the show. But that contrast: the passion and the lack of emotion. That's key.

Later Nathan's describing this encounter (from his perspective) to his friend (who is in all fairness a thin narrative device which Davies acknowledges when he drops her from later scripts...) and he describes how he can still feel Stuart inside. As if he's left a space... Nathan (15) thinks he's in love because it's been such an overwhelming experience. He's not of course. He doesn't know yet what love is**, but he has been powerfully affected...

... and I'm watching this through new eyes, over a decade later. I'm remembering how I felt the first time***, and I'm also transposing that sensation onto later, more developed, more complex feelings.

One of the things you learn in art classes is that we human beings relate best to the shape of a thing through an apprehension of the spaces around it. That we best know a shape by the space it makes. Somehow that and this resonate for me at the moment.

* in both senses! I didn't post this for a couple of months but I think now that I will. It won't appear "front and centre" where it might upset or offend, but it will be here when I (or anyone else) look back, and I think it should be.

** My reading. But then perhaps I don't know what love is either.

*** ...that I watched the show I mean. Not saying how long it's been since "the first time". All footnotes August 25th 2011

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

tell me that you want the kinda things...

We won the pub quiz again tonight.

Light attendance: only three of our team (named: "fizzy communion" this week) and only five other teams... but we won. Again. Good feeling.

The shift from Friday Gang to pub quiz team has been a gradual and strange one... it'd be good to get back some of the old Friday-ness, but I really enjoy the quiz team, Spending monday evenings both exercising and killing brain cells has a pleasing symmetry


Friday, June 03, 2011

Recording the end of an era.

I realise to most normal people this:

...probably looks like quite a busy home entertainment set up. To me it's strangely sparse looking. After ten years' faithful service (and mostly because of stupid politicking between Sky and Virgin) I've reluctantly retired my much loved TiVo following their (stupid) discontinuation of the UK program guide service for the venerable Series 1 PVR10UK on June 1st this year.

It feels weird to watch TV without hearing that old familiar plwing! now and then. However a DVR without an EPG is as much use as a chocolate tea pot, and while there are some stalwart users continuing with a homebrew effort, I'm throwing in the towel on the dear old gargantuan silver box and moving on to newer and better things... like Plex which seems to fill pretty much all the gaps left by TiVo, but via a different route.

I'll probably add broadcast TV with one of these clever widgets if/when I can afford to buy myself new toys, but in the meantime my modest viewing needs are more than catered for in a way I'm at least as happy with as I had been with TiVo, and (on the bright side) I'm almost certainly using far less power now the old lump is mothballed.

"like olives I suppose, or talking pictures"

Lately I've been crying more than I used to. Also I now have a regret. I never used to have one of those... most people seem to collect them frantically, but honestly up until quite recently I'd managed very well without.

Joe's worried about his pet insurance... well actually he's worried about how a fragment of a hoped-for future from our shared past has become embedded in the present in a way which means someone has to do something about it... but the policy number is simpler. You see a year ago, for their birthday, I bought his cats health insurance. Daft isn't it? Not the insurance: cats get sick and these two mean the world to him, so insuring their health makes perfect sense... but being reminded of the shape our future used to be, by a direct debit* that seems absurd to me.

More absurd is how much I like it. It's made me cry, sure. It's also reminded me of a certainty that broke somewhere between July and October last year. It's reminded me of a future I knew would be beautiful, and permanent... and the memory of that "knowledge"** is precious even when that "future" is broken. Possibly in the way that a fragment of a shattered ornament might be precious. Possibly in the way a rediscovered letter might be precious.

I keep thinking I shouldn't put this sort of thought out here. Everyone can see them here... assuming anyone's looking... but above and beyond everything else it does, this blog serves as a reminder for me of how I felt at points in my past... and that makes this belong here. Challenging when I've also brought work into the site but there it is.

So I'm back to trying to wrap my head around what love is. And re-watching a splendid movie a handy phrase pops up. Love is an acquired taste? There's a certain sense in that to me. Love is captivating and compelling all at once on the (rare) occasion when it shows up. But it also needs us to stick with it until we get the taste... like olives.

I'll fix the insurance policy. Next year I won't have this external reminder of that hoped-for future... Wherever next year turns out to be, I'm not sure if that will be a good thing or not. But as I said, cats can get sick. They mean the world to him.. Gotta sort the policy so it stays useful. That much I can make sense of.

* turns out there isn't one, or at least not one attached to an account I still hold.

**even if (as it seem) it wasn't right.

Monday, May 30, 2011


A phrase that's occurring with increasing regularity at the pub quiz these days is "where's Rich when you need him?"*. Usually it's because we're struggling on a music round to identify something a 15 year old girl might know. Tonight it was because we came second (having lost points that a 15 year old girl might have got us on the music round) and the prize was...

Richard we miss you. Clearly the quiz also misses you because it's giving us copious Rich-prizes to lure you back.


*the answer being "Brisbane" as the jammy sod has emigrated with his lovely wife.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Happy Bouncey

I think one of the (many) signs of a good gig, is finding yourself paying £3.50 for lukewarm Jamaican lager, and not really minding.

Thank you Bombskare. Reliably awesome as usual.

Friday, May 20, 2011

mystery knee

I have a massive bruise on my right knee and no idea at all how it got there.

I don't have any unaccounted for hours in the past week or so that I know of, and it's (just) too high (not too mention too large and angry) to have been the work of my glass coffee table... I am baffled. Baffled and bruised.

Knee bruising pixies that come in the night perhaps?

Thursday, May 19, 2011

stupid things that make me smile #78,256

My sister bought me a bunch of kitchen stuff this xmas. Amongst which was a red oven glove, the type with two mitts joined by a strip of material? well from where I'm sitting, hung over the handle of the oven it makes my cooker look like it's sticking its tongue out.


stupid things that make me cry #4,329

Changing the bed, and finding I have to use the last of the pillow cases he folded.


This gets easier at some point right?

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

inntinneach amannan

So I have a confession to make. I missed the election. Infuriatingly the one they're calling Scotland's 1997 as well! Buggrit.

As you might have gathered, I've had a lot on my plate recently. I had remembered that I needed to update my entry on the electoral roll, but - after spotting that the election coincided with a holiday I'd planned - I only skim-read the documents on registering for a postal vote. I misread them and missed the deadline. Irritating. For the record, Marco Biagi's Edinburgh Central majority would be 238 if I'd payed more attention to the dates*.

So. Mea culpa democracy. I'll be back on form next time. Promise. Thanks for getting it right without me though!

Apologies to those I've already pointed at this (via email or Twitter**.) but if you haven't already, I'd recommend reading the Editor of the Caledonian Mercury's op-ed piece following the results. I'm not sure if I agree with his conclusions or not, but it's a well argued point, and I certainly agree with his position... Interesting times indeed.

* Central is - perhaps unsurprisingly - the slimmest margin in the Edinburgh results, followed by our sole Edinburgh Labour MSP's majority... which is in Leith so that doesn't really count does it? ;) after that they all seem to go landslide-ey for the rest of the capital constituencies, and most of the rest of the country of course.

** Yes, I finally caved. No this doesn't mean you'll be seeing me on FriendFace FaceBook before hell freezes over. I'll get a feed onto the main page when I have a minute for those long intervals between blog posts...

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Peaceful joy

Almost in response to yesterday's post, today I discover that my peace lilly is about to flower for the first time in the five or so years I've had it.


Tuesday, April 19, 2011


It feels very spring-like just now.

It's kind of been Spring for a while now but the past few weeks have really felt like it. Partly it's the weather. Partly it's the way all my plants are growing - the kitchen windowsill is steadily disappearing under little leaves as the mini-nursery Mum brought with her on her last visit grows, and my old IKEA tower planter in the living room is a happy tumble of green. It's a good feeling.

Had a lovely weekend away with Liz last weekend which also felt very spring like - especially the drive home on Sunday... my phone was running low on juice but Liz took (and posted) some lovely shots of the Angel of the North (which we stopped at since neither of us had been) and the absurdly pretty little village Etal where we had lunch. I especially like this one even though I'd stopped to find out why my foot hurt (I'd damaged my toe) it doesn't make me think of that though, it reminds me what a lovely day it was.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Strong foundations

Walking home from the first day of an excellent two day Flash training course on this glorious sunny afternoon, I passed the continuing works for the EICC Extension. It is on my way home but, not necessarily by the most obvious route. I think I partly detoured that way to enjoy it as a metaphor (because we all know how much I love those!)

So far most of 2011 has felt like the world was gouging huge holes in my life, ripping up existing structures in a couple of significant areas and leaving... well nothing in their place. Increasingly, I'm feeling like this was (in my work life at least) a very good thing. With construction now well under way in the chasm where my career used to be, I can see really exciting new structures emerging. Better by far than anything I've had there before...

The hole in my personal life is less raw now too. That "development" is still a vacant lot. I suspect it'll remain so for a while, but there's so much going on "next door" that I'm more at ease with the gap left by the unexpected demolition in January.

Yup. The groundworks and initial structure for the EICC extension have that same positive sense of potential and strength I'm getting in my work just now and I like the analogy. Of course I'll do a better job of the aesthetics with my development though.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Hotblack Desiato

It only occurred to me after I'd completed my 2011 census form and sealed it safely away in its overtly official looking blue C4, but there are certain parallels this year. OK there's one, kinda. The incidental character in Adams' multifaceted masterwork was "spending a year dead, for tax reasons". I'm spending a month unemployed, for tax reasons. Kinda. Certainly on the census form that's how I've listed myself... which felt weird.

The thing is, while I'm confidently setting up myself ready for life as a sole trader, I don't (at present) have any contracts, and Gecko's timing in closing their Edinburgh office and laying me (and everyone else) off, leaves me a month (or thereabouts) short of the start of the new tax year. So I could start all the assorted bureaucratic proceedings in motion now... and saddle myself with a requirement for filing 2010-2011 tax returns (for a tax year in which I was paid entirely on a PAYE basis). Or (as I am doing) I can get all my ducks in a row, but hold off shooting them down until after April 6th. Thus neatly saving myself (and the inland revenue) a year's worth of meaningless and unnecessary paperwork. An unexpected upshot of which is that the 2011 census will record me as being unemployed.

Paraphrasing Hotblack's bodyguard makes me feel better about it.

Monday, March 21, 2011


Somehow - don't ask me how - I managed to reset all the blog archive date fields to midnight on Jan 2nd 2001. Happily I have a backup but annoyingly I'm having to re-enter the correct dates to each post manually... all the way back to 2003. Fun. I've got as far as December '04 now, will hopefully have it all back sorted tomorrow.

Sunday, March 20, 2011


The last post before splateagle v3 went dark (a little over a year ago! Sorry about that) began with the words "Interesting times". If only I'd known how appropriate those would turn out to be!

Before I crack on with new blog posts, I figured I should do the whistle-stop catch up of what's happened in the past 13 months.

Hamish and Craig made a successful move north to Wick in April. In a display of the universe's occasional tendency to pleasing accidental symmetry, I just got back from visiting them for the first time last night. They seem very happy and settled. Wick and the surrounding area are just a starkly beautiful as I thought, but you don't have to take my word for that, I took pictures.

Meanwhile (with a lot of help from my friends) I packed my life into a big box:


... and moved in with Anita while I looked for a new flat. That lasted around six months, but after a few false starts I found a cracking little place in the right part of the city and within my means. Since mid October I've been living by myself for the first time ever (except for a brief stint at the house after Anita and Justin had moved out but before I sold it) and enjoying it.

So home life is good and settled. Everything else...

After what were - without a doubt - the happiest 18 months of my life, Joe broke up with me in January. I didn't document much of our time together here (partly because most of it happened while the site was dormant... and the site partly stayed dormant so long because I was busy being with Joe...) but being with him made me the happiest I've ever been, and I miss him. All the time. We parted on good terms and are trying to find a new balance as friends. It hurts like hell not being part of that magical combination of personalities any more... but at the same time I'm very glad he's still in my life, even if it's at a distance. Also I can see that this is what he needs right now, though it makes me sad... and in a strange way knowing it's for the best for him makes it all OK. The optimist in me hopes things might change again some day.

Paling into insignificance beside that (for me at least), another seismic shift in my life happened this month: the Leeds based marketing agency where I've worked for for the past 4 years announced they were closing their Edinburgh office making us all redundant. At the end of March I'll officially be unemployed (again). I'm optimistic about it.

In all honesty I was tired of the post at Gecko, and it was time for a change. Back when I joined, the company was smaller and still deciding what shape to be. I joined as an Account Manager and was enthusiastic about that but I joined a tiny team (2 including myself) and so I also joined as a Graphic Designer - you wear a lot of hats in small offices. I had hoped that that part of my role would expand and develop over time. As the company grew however they needed me more and more as an AM and less and less as a designer. I enjoy account management, but I love design, and losing the best part of my role by inches made me sad.

So I'm looking on the redundancy as an opportunity. I've decided to take another stab at freelancing. I have contacts and experience a plenty. All I need is clients! Hopefully that will come in time. I'm also keeping an eye out for contract work, and/or a more fulfilling permanent creative post somewhere. Watch this space.

Interesting times indeed.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

I'm back!

It worked! Took a little while (and a couple of attempts) to get the whole thing uploaded but I guess it makes sense: I just moved hosts and tore down the whole site to rebuild it from scratch...

I'm in Wick just now enjoying the tail end of a lovely visit with Hamish and Craig so the long update post will have to wait but hurrah! I'm back!

Friday, March 18, 2011


egads! It's been over a year?!

Well at long last splateagle.com is back and (hopefully) better than ever. I'll stick up a catch up post once I'm sure everything's working as it should, but in the mean time "we apologise for the delay, normal service has now been resumed".