Wednesday, 28 November 2012


Christmas shopping was so easy when there was Woolworths. I could do a trolley dash in forty-five minutes and get all the presents, gift wrap and six inch nails I needed for £19.95. The deals on chocolate selections in Woolworths were legendary. Buy two boxes of Maltesers, get one free. Buy a giant size Toblerone and get sixteen mini ones to give out to passing children. Shell out for two tins of Quality Street and the Manager would leap out of the stock room and throw Pick 'n' Mix randomly around the store.
I met some neighbours in Woolworths one time (somewhere in urban Cheshire) who had a novel approach to Christmas shopping. The trolley was loaded with children's games and toys, but there were no children on their present list. Eddy said: "Uncle Brian's getting this chemistry set. Let' see if he really did get that degree." This year, I'll be buying useful gifts for all my friends. Argos: The Book of Dreams. That's all I'm saying.

Monday, 26 November 2012


Today I have changed the title of this blog. Notes From Rural Perthshire has a more mature ring to it, I think. Living Large? Who was I trying to convince? I no more 'live large' than Enid Blyton's Famous Five in a really exciting adventure. It doesn't take a genius to read between the lines of any one of my previous posts. You'll know already that I struggle on a daily basis to understand the world and regularly lurch from confusion to despair to hysteria. Sometimes I do all three in the space of a morning. So it's time to face facts. I don't Live Large. I'm sure of this, and I would solidly maintain this position even if I knew what Living Large meant. Yes, I will continue to air my thoughts in this forum. Yes, I do understand that I possibly reveal myself as a person of severely limited insight. Notes From Rural Perthshire. One woman's journey.

Saturday, 24 November 2012


Have you ever met a person like this. You open the conversation with a small piece of interesting information about yourself. Perhaps a tantalising reference to your trek in Nepal, or a modest statement about your facility with African languages. Your new acquaintance says: "How fascinating."  S/he then drones on in a mindless monologue about qualifications / experiences / achievements without any reference to your existence. (I step on you, you worm.) I used to listen attentively to these fatheads. Now I have a different strategy. I listen, politely, for exactly three minutes. Then I say: "Look. You really have no interest in me at all. Do you. I'm leaving now, and I hope you and your Ego-The-Size-Of-Wales find happiness in a cruel world. By the way, if you even own a dictionary, get someone to help you look up dialogue."

Thursday, 22 November 2012


I went to a writing group once. Everyone read out original work and eagerly awaited critical comment. Brenda (let's call her) read a poem called Autumn's Lost Perpsective. I got in early with my insights. "I like the way you weave evocative memories of summer seamlessly with the beautiful sadness of dying leaves," I offered with measured reflection. Brenda said: "The poem's about my dead cat, Roger." This threw me. I'd planned to follow Brenda with my poem: Stars Beyond Comprehension. It's about how you look up at the stars, and have no comprehension. You see where I'm going with this. I declined to read, and left the group early claiming I needed "space to deconstruct the metaphorical images which had arisen unexpectedly for me." I drank a few glasses of wine that night. Then the Muse came, and I wrote another poem: Roger Roams in Starlight. I think Brenda would like it.

Sunday, 18 November 2012


Whilst hacking down some sprawling great plant in the front garden earlier today, a man walked by and said "You're doing a good job!" I smiled inanely at him, inwardly marvelling at how easy it is to impress people with a bit of focus and commitment. I was demolishing that mother like there was no tomorrow without the faintest whiff of gardening knowledge. Will it come back next year? I've no idea. Perhaps it will grow ugly great mutant tentacles and suffocate the neighbouring rose bush.
Dissembling has its uses in a variety of circumstances, I find. Ambitious for promotion? Simple. Wear a suit and clicky heels.Walk down corridors with a brisk and purposeful step. But above these strategies, always carry a number (4 to 7) of A4 files under your arm. The impact of these combined behaviours will be instant and enduring. You'll be zooming up that corporate ladder before you can say Bullshit Detector. So, to sum up. Exaggerate your abilities. Exude an air of supreme confidence at all times. Never forget your guiding principles: Style Over Substance; Self Before Others; It's Not My Fault.

Saturday, 17 November 2012


                                                                         Some cars

Apparently, a woman returned to her car recently to find a bag of sliced ham pinned under her windscreen wiper. Preferable to a parking ticket, some would say. As a vegetarian myself, I wouldn't have been ecstatic about this bizarre act of kindness. Or was it? For a moment, feel yourself into the role of the ham-giver. What's your back story? What's your motivation? Do you have an established routine of attaching assorted cold meats to random objects? Is it corned beef on your neighbour's doorstep on a Friday and pork sausages on the church gates on a Sunday? Are you still Googling meat therapists in your area? Perhaps you're a pig farmer with a massively fat pig (deceased) and an over-developed altruistic streaky. I'm thinking of running with this sort of behaviour. I leave something under your windscreen wiper - say, a pair of hand-knitted socks. Be vigilant. I get about in Rural Perthshire. All I ask is that you graciously accept this anonymous gift and pay it forward. Already you're making a list of appropriately sized objects. Let's be careful out there.

Friday, 16 November 2012


Before I moved to Rural Perthshire, I lived somewhere in Cheshire. I wrote a song once about Ladies-Who-Lunch in that county. I sang it in countless dodgy venues across the North West with this woman I met called Mrs Taggart.  Of  Irish-Lithuanian-Liverpudlian extraction, she never considered using tact when low-level verbal abuse would do. We'd sing....'my social life is dazzling, I have influential friends. I'm connected to high-profile charities. My clothes are all designer, blah di blah di blah.' The number of times some woman would come up to us when we'd finished and say: "I know someone who lives near me who's just like that." Mrs Taggart would say: "Get over yourself love we all know it's you."
Mrs Taggart and I spent years visiting dilapidated pubs and charmless folk sessions, giving the unsuspecting punters a big fat dose of our marginal personalities and combined lack of musical talent. Nevertheless, we earned a few quid back in those days. We were particularly big in Birkenhead. Artistic differences and Mrs Taggart's constant run-ins with the law led, eventually, to my moving to Rural Perthshire. Cheshire wasn't big enough for both of us.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012


Do I need an ipad? I have an ipod. Do I need an ipad? Do I need a mobile phone upgrade? I know people (only tangentially) who interact with their phones in a disturbingly affective manner. There's a difference, you know, between talking into your phone and talking to your phone. Do you find yourself asking your phone for employment advice? Prefer a night in with your phone over a night out with the lads? Planning a holiday in Southern Spain for you and your phone? Take a step back. It's not normal behaviour, is it. You think your Smart Phone makes you look cutting edge. No. It makes you look like you're one brick short of a full load. Jealous? I think not. I'm far too busy (a)deciphering the operating instructions for my new desk vacuum cleaner and (b) trying to find intrinsic meaning in an increasingly chaotic world.

Sunday, 11 November 2012


This whole interweb thing is very handy. You can get pretty much anything you want. Grocery shopping, Christmas presents, directions to your local Social Phobia Support Group. You can also log on to find you've got two hundred flaky new friends, a colossal gambling debt and an estimated delivery date for an outdoor trampoline that you didn't actually order. The key word here, I think, is discretion. Always use the interweb with conscious awareness, or you may find your life spiralling out of control. Did you know that you can get a life-like inflatable partner, a quarter share in a yurt in Kyrgyzstan and an M.Sc. in Therapeutic Farming Practices on the click of that button? Outcomes for me have been mixed. I've had several invitations (accepted) to present academic papers at agricultural conferences. Feedback overwhelmingly noted shambolic presentation and massive gaps in knowledge and understanding. The inflatable partner thing never was a good idea in hindsight. Onwards and upwards. I'm after a Doctorate in the Social Sciences. This time I'll conduct my searches with focus. Discretion, remember.

Saturday, 10 November 2012


'Oh Crikey' is one of my favourite expressions. I use it all the time. It's the kind of phrase that fits so many occasions. The mechanic phones to tell me the big end's gone on my car when I only put it in the shop for a tyre inspection. 'Oh Crikey,' I say. A work colleague forgets to pass on an urgent message with disastrous consequences for my professional reputation. 'Oh, Crikey,' I say. A friend of mine used to have serious issues with....there's no other way to put this. A foul mouth. I took her to one side recently (as her only remaining friend) and gave her some practical advice which, to her credit, she is following. Here's a sample of the Alternative Expletives I have passed on to her: Chuffing Heck, Drongo Head, You Numpty, and of course, my personal favourite, Oh Crikey. She was dubious initially. She said: "What the ******* **** would I ******* want with that load of **** and ****?" She's now using the Alternative Expletives on a regular basis. The repressed rage and deeply-ingrained hostility remain. But Oh Crikey, I only do superficial!

Thursday, 8 November 2012


One day you're getting to grip with your mortgage arrears, the next you're standing at the edge of the Fiscal Cliff. How do I know this? Because the Fiscal Cliff has been on my radar for years. I don't need Robert Peston to bring me up to speed with the latest socio-economic  agenda and psycho-political concepts. I manage my own fiscal cliff issues without drawing attention to the fact that I'm in financial and emotional meltdown. I may be on the edge (not in a good way), but if I go over, I'm taking those lousy Bankers down with me.


Picture the scenario: you're a D-list celebrity and your profile's in the toilet. There's only one way to rectify the situation. Go into the jungle with a bunch of losers and make damn sure you come across as an intellectual. Hard to pull off, I'll admit, when you're sitting in a rat-infested pit with a bucket of maggots on your head.You could be stuck in the swamp for years. Perhaps you're not a D-list celebrity. Perhaps YOU'RE A MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT, LOVE. (Well you were).Get the hell back to your constituency and prepare for obscurity.What happened to supporting your local sewage pipe replacement group? Or  trying to get on Question Time to display your astonishingly poor grasp of day-to-day life for ordinary people? Here's my top tip. Eat the maggots. We're not interested.

Friday, 2 November 2012


There's this thing called The Cloud. Someone told me that when you download a book on to your Kindle, you can just leave it in The Cloud when you've finished it. I said to this person: "Where Is The Cloud And What Does It Mean?" She said The Cloud was the thing that enabled her to manage her reading material. I said again, "But What Is The Cloud?" It was too late. She was already synching her Kindle with other conceptual Cloud things. Now I think that if we all go round saying things like "It's in The Cloud", without having a notion of what we're talking about, we're heading for trouble. What if someone connects to The Cloud and looks at your stuff? What happens if you want some stuff back and you don't know how to get it? Can you inadvertently send all your Facebook friends into The Cloud? (Like This, People. You're in The Cloud. Now deal with it.)
I'm going to get to grips with this thing. I don't want to be ordering Christmas presents online and find that I've sent the whole damn lot up into some virtual sorting office.

Thursday, 1 November 2012


I don't know about you, but I'm embracing the 'Slow' movement. Slow food, slow motion, slow holidays. Slow everything. Reducing the blood pressure; making space to think in a frenetic world; choosing substance over style. I've read a book about it. I'm only on my third day of Slow, so I'm still trying things out. Let's take today's experiment.
Location: Supermarket queue.
Scenario: Waiting behind gormless-woman-with-monthly-shop-for-the-world-and-its-dog. Challenge: (remember - I'm embracing Slow) Relax and breathe. Smile serenely.
Sequential Outcomes:
(a) Breathing relaxed for two minutes.
(b) Smile maintained for three minutes.
(c) Autonomic nervous system in meltdown.
(d) Mentally sticking pins into voodoo doll of gormless woman.
(e) Ripping open gormless woman's box of Shreddies and throwing them at her.  
(f) Escorted from store by security.
Clearly there's still work to do.