Archive for June, 2007

Tell No One

Now, here is a really good film to go and see.   Tell No One  is an American story, but a stylish and thrilling French film – and, yes, it is subtitled.   Don’t let that put you off.

Eight years ago, Margot Beck was murdered by a serial killer.   Today Alexandre Beck, her husband, deals with this in his absorbing work as a pediatrician.    The uncovering of two bodies near where Margot’s body was discovered reopens the Police inquiry and Alexandre receives a strange e-mail with a link to a video-surveillance web-cam and a time when to watch …………    

It is a really gripping thriller, and there are some brilliant scenes, and plot twists aplenty.

Sadly, on Thursday night, there were only ten of us in the audience, and this was the main showing.    Queues of folk for Shrek.    Tell No One has been well reviewed in the press and given 4 stars by most, so why was no-one there?

BTW – I was looking at a newspaper cartoon the other day, and if you take off those funny ears, Shrek looks a bit like …….  Alec Salmond.

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Don Giovanni – RSAMD

We went with some friends to see Don Giovanni at the Opera School in Glasgow, and we were seriously impressed.

Small scale opera productions can actually be so much more meaningful than big ones playing to huge houses.    In the intimate surroundings of the New Athenaeum theatre, Patrick Young’s well directed production really hit the spot.  

The singing and acting from the opera school students was first rate, led by award winning Brazilian Felipe Oliveria as Giovanni.    And Timothy Dean, head of the opera school, drew some incredibly passionate and detailed playing from the student orchestra in the pit.

Only three performances this week.    Don’t miss it if you are an opera fan, or indeed if you think you know Don Giovanni.

(2.7.07 – run now ended)

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Grumpy Bus Drivers

Another trip on Megabus yesterday to the (Scottish) big smoke.   Big queues to cross the Forth Road Bridge due to Highland Show traffic.   The driver did really well using bus lanes etc. so we were not too late into Edinburgh.

The bus back was going from Edinburgh to Inverness, and boy, was the driver grumpy.    These days, they have to do an airline type talk – it is now compulsory to wear seat belts on busses fitted with them – so there is that to say, a no alcohol message, and a message about the location of emergency exits, fire extinguisher and first aid kit.    This message was delivered in possibly the most unsmiling way possible – it actually felt like a threat.  

Now I’ve nothing against Inverness, but this is the second grumpy Inverness driver I have come across.    Perhaps it has to do with battling up and down the A9 north of Perth, which, I agree, is no fun.   But it really costs nothing to be nice to your customers.

An enormous lady in the seat behind me interrupted the driver to ask about a seat belt extension – something the driver clearly did not have.    He merely repeated that “wearing belts is a legal requirement …… (pause) …… there are exceptions” and sat down.   That was it.

He had to go through the whole thing again when we stopped in the middle of Queensferry Road to collect passengers for Aberdeen off a broken down Megabus.    Not a happy bunny at all.

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Popular Politics

Alex Salmond and the new SNP administration have been introducing popular politics.    On the face of it, all ‘good things’ like apple pie:   no more bridge tolls on the Forth and Tay bridges, no more prescription charges for the very sick, more money for free personal care for the elderly and the abolition of graduate endowments.

But, firstly, all these things have to be paid for, and I am not yet really clear about where the extra money is coming from to do this.    Secondly, some of these policies are making England look at what the folk in Scotland get, and asking themselves 1.   why don’t we get the same in England, and 2.  are we English subsidising the Scots?  

The university fees imbalance is particularly concerning.    As someone with one child at college at present, I an now going to be personally better off because of the abolition of graduate endowment.   But I am not sure that this is a good move for Scotland.    Is it really right that Scottish students on a course in Scotland should have their fees paid while students from the rest of the UK on the same course will be charged fees?   

The free tertiary education for the Scots in Scotland is all very well, but it means that the Scots are going to be much less likely to go elsewhere to study.    It is a parochial policy.    You have to go away to be able to come back home.    Going away demonstrates how others live their lives, and enriches a person’s experience.    The Scots have excelled at this historically.    Keeping the Scots in Scotland is a really shortsighted policy.

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I was asked at the weekend where the nearest cybercafe is, and to be honest, I could not find one in the Perth area.     One had closed down in the town fairly recently.

Now, I know that visitors can get free internet access in Perth and Kinross libraries, but that’s not much use when you need to get online at the weekends.

There has been a huge growth of WiFi hotspots, which is well and good if you have a laptop with you, but totally useless if you don’t.  

So, how can tourists away from home without their computers check their e-mail, book rooms ahead, check opening times, book tickets and find out what’s on – after library hours?    Not so easy.

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The Naked Portrait

We went round The Naked Portrait exhibition at the Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh today.    Almost 200 portraits of people in the nude – paintings, photographs and so on.     And all shapes, sizes and ages were on display.

It was quite a challenging exhibition.    We are presented with endless sexualised images of scantily clad beautiful people everywhere.   Advertising, magazines, newspapers and so on.   So to appreciate  all sorts of people in their natural state required a rather different mindset.

Most portraits were of people the artists knew really well;   themselves,  their partners or close relatives.   There were some others:  Peter Howson’s portrait of Madonna was there,  the iconic photo of Christine Keeler in that black chair by Lewis Morley and David Bailey’s portrait of Jane Birkin.

There was a lot to enjoy in this.    However, all in all, in the end I think I prefer people with their clothes on.   And I did ask myself as I went round how I would feel trying to paint a nude.   I can’t draw/paint for toffee, but I imagine  the outline would be OK, but the details would be …. difficult.   How on earth do you go about painting all the detail on those hairy bits?

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Spraying Window

I have oats to spray, and a rather short growing window to get the spray on.    The trouble is, it has been really windy here these past few days – a nasty raw easterly which does not die down at night.

Normally, wind can die down in the evening, allowing some late spraying, and early spraying to take place, but not last week.

I just won’t spray in windy weather – unlike a certain major spraying contractor who was out spraying in (let’s just say) conditions that would keep my sprayer in the shed.

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Does anyone own a Hayter Harrier 48 with a blade brake clutch?    Mine is in its 5th cutting season and on its 4th clutch.    It is ridiculous.    (For those who don’t know, a blade bake clutch stops the blade immediately, allowing safe emptying of the grass container).

I got the first three under warranty, but have just had to pay £100 odd for a new one, which I fitted myself, despite the folk at Hayter telling me I couldn’t.   Bastards.  

I actually wrote to them about it, because if they designed the thing differently, you could simply replace the friction disc at a fraction of the cost of a ‘complete assembly’ which you have to buy.  

I did get a reply which was really totally useless, and denied that there was a design problem.    I was in at my local Hayter agent last week buying chain saw chain (as you do),  and there was a someone else’s Hatyer 48 on his workbench ……….  having its blade brake clutch replaced.     Case proven m’lud.

Hayter 48s are great mowers though.   They leave a really tidy job, can cope in the damp and can rescue ‘runaway’ lawns.   Shame about Hayter’s attitude.

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Central heating boilers are far too complicated for their own good.   I have three Worcester oil-fired combi boilers, and they do not have a great track record.    The problem is that they are so complicated and need special equipment to set them up safely.    Which means calling out an expensive engineer when things go wrong.

Now, I like to try and get my head round most things, and when this boiler packed up last night (Friday) I thought it was a problem I had watched an expensive engineer mend before.       So this morning, I took the motor assembly off the motorised valve, and found it was not working.    Managed to get a replacement from a plumbers’ merchant in Perth, and fitted it all back together.    Cost of motor £10.02 + VAT.   A callout plus parts would have been round about £100, and it would not have happened until Monday.   I had Canadian visitors arriving today – and the weather has been a raw east wind.

But I really wish that they made things more reliable, and simpler to fix when they break.

And I have finally discovered a brilliant engineer to call out.   He is self-employed, but is off this week setting up water supplies for the Donnington event, or I would have called him in.

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Fruit Nets

We have a fruit bed in the garden with strawberries, gooseberries, redcurrants, blackcurrants and blueberries.   Despite the horrible cold east wind all last week, things are ripening in the strawberry world, so it was been time to look out the net this afternoon.

Quite a few years ago now, we were on holiday in Fife and bought some fisherman’s net which has done the business year on year, keeping the birds off.    We also cut some 8 ft sycamore poles, and planted them and put jam jars over the tops.    It is a great system.

I have to confess that we are still emptying the freezer of last year’s strawberries – they are great on muesli in the mornings.

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