About Me

I was born in Luton, known for hat making, Vauxhall cars, London Luton Airport and a great football team who once beat Arsenal at Wembley in a Cup Final, currently languishing in non-league football for the 4th season. I moved to Edinburgh in 1990 and now live in Leith, Edinburgh's 'waterfront'.

Married for 24 years to Louise (who is on day release from Fife), I have 4 children: Holly (aged 27) who's studying medicine at Dundee University, William (aged 26) at the Army Foundation College, Harrogate, Alice (aged 23) and Maddie (aged 16).

We live in a 226 year old Georgian house which we are slowly renovating. We once had a note from an artist posted through the letterbox asking if our semi-derelict house was available to rent as studio space. Things have improved lately; the stonework has been repaired and we have shiny new railings. Just the inside to do now then.

Current CNPS score: 999


Header Image: Richard Bloomfield

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    Have a heart

    Louise was in Dunfermline on Thursday to attend a Red Cross first aid course. She has to renew this every three years as it’s compulsory to have a first aider’s qualification to work as a fitness instructor.

    Eh, excuse me. That’s fitness instructor, as in taking classes for people living a ‘healthier lifestyle’. And it’s compulsory to have first aid training? Doesn’t this strike you as a bit odd? Or a bit worrying? Louise does teach Body Combat but I’ve always understood this to be a non-contact sport, so presumably there aren’t piles of injured participants with broken limbs and bloodied noses to deal with. So what is the training for? Perhaps you might drop the weights on your toe or fall off the exercise bike. Or slip on the running machine and sandpaper half your face off (hang on a minute, my brother-in-law, Johnnie, did do that – silly sod). No, none of these. It’s in case you have a heart attack.

    Hang on a minute. Attending an exercise class is supposed to be good for you, isn’t it? New Years resolution: a healthier lifestyle. Cut down on the binge drinking, give up the fags, join a health club. All the instructors are fully qualified to resuscitate you when you peg-out, mid-class. But it won’t happen to you, it’s very rare. It only happens to a handful of people with strange, undetected heart conditions, doesn’t it? Well, ask yourself this. Why would they make CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) training compulsory if it’s so rarely needed? Is this some sort of protection racket run by the Red Cross to extort money from fitness instructors?

    I’m a firm believer in the cardio theory handed down to me by my father, and by his father before him. It’s a straight engineering theory. You are born with a heart which will only beat a certain number of times, maximum. Sure, just like an engine, if you don’t look after it, you won’t get anywhere near the maximum number of beats, it’ll break much earlier. But using the beats up faster by pointless jumping about won’t get you any more, you’ll just run out sooner.

    And if they run out at one of my wife’s classes, she’ll be performing mouth-to-mouth. Think about it.

    Spaced out

    Tuesday night I was doing the usual flick through the eight hundred channels of cable crap which Teleworst deliver to us, when I spotted a documentary on BBC4: “British Space Race”. For years my late uncle worked for Hawker Sidley, later British Aerospace, eventually becoming Senior Space Designer, so I decided to see what he’d actually been up to.

    Germany were the clear leaders in rocket technology during World War II and the Americans were elated when Wernher Von Braun gave them his V-rocket technology but this didn’t prevent us Europeans from playing a significant part in the subsequent development of rockets. In spite of our lack of resources, Britain developed the Blue Streak ballistic missile but the project was cancelled in the early 60’s. Then, just as now, the government decided to buy American technology (Polaris) rather than fund our own development programme. The project limped on as a potential satellite launcher with European partners, but after 6 failed launches in 6 attempts, we finally withdrew from the project.

    Britain went on to develop the Black Arrow rocket but on the eve of the first launch from Woomera, Australia, the government cancelled this project too, although there was no point in preventing the planned launch with the Prospero satellite payload at such a late stage. The launch went perfectly and Britain put a satellite into orbit using our own technology for the one and only time. What a frustrating working life my uncle Don must have had.


    Next on BBC4 was a documentary about Project Orion – “To Mars by A-Bomb“. This was a highly classified project to develop a space capsule which would be propelled into orbit by the detonation of thousands of small nuclear bombs. The theory here is that traditional rocket propellants don’t actually provide much energy over and above that needed to lift the weight of the fuel itself along with the vast container needed to house them. Hence the vast size of traditional rockets which only deliver a relatively tiny payload into orbit. Nuclear bombs, on the other hand, provide a tremendous amount of energy compared to their size and weight. Could a capsule be launched in this way without blowing it to bits and could stresses on the payload be kept within acceptable limits?

    The maths was done, experiments were carried out and the conclusion was that, yes, it could be done, but it would require upwards of 1000 miniature nuclear ‘bomblets’ to carry the payload of 50 people and living space into orbit. Much of the research then focused on the development of miniature nuclear bombs, which remains classified. Handy technology for terrorists. Particularly harrowing was the film of nuclear shells being fired from convensional artillery guns.

    Before the next stage of development, which presumably would have involved the building of a prototype, someone finally thought about the obvious. Fallout. More calculations were done and the inevitable conclusion was reached: each launch would cause between 1 and 10 deaths from radiation, not to mention (which they didn’t) the non-fatal cases of radiation sickness and the accumulation of fallout and eventual creation of radioactive hotspots. It was decided that this was unacceptable, and the project was axed.

    “To Mars by A-Bomb” is to be repeated on BBC4 on Sunday 21 November at 9.40pm. See genuine mad scientists at work.


    Capping off my obsession with BBC4’s space season was last night’s “Reputations” documentary “Yuri Gagarin: Starman”. Yuri Gagarin was the first human being to leave the Earth’s atmosphere and venture into space and he became a powerful symbol of Communist success. The programme looked at the man himself and what happened afterwards when drink, women and a growing disillusionment with the Soviet system culminated in a mysterious air crash that cut short his life. Fascinating to see the truth behind the propaganda.

    Sayonara

    On Friday Louise and I got a rare night out, sans enfants, courtesy of my ex and Holly & William’s mother, Clare, who kindly invited Alice to stay at her house for the night.

    We went for a meal at The Smokestack (Leith branch) with Frank’n’Steph. I had the burger with spicy red onion, jacket potato with garlic butter and roquefort side salad. Good, basic food cooked perfectly and the no-smoking area is a separate room so it really is smoke free. Unfortunately, the meal was followed by an early night as Frank and I were both falling asleep at the table. The night before, we’d done our duty as Leith ambassadors and shown Japanese friend Mee the delights of The Port O’Leith Bar, followed by the free buffet in the local casino.

    Mee left for Tokyo this morning after a tearful goodbye from Alice. She gave Alice and I messages which she’d painted (mine pictured) – if anyone can translate it I’d love to know. I think she said it was about trying to be as kind and generous as me, although I can’t think how she got that impression. She did teach me a few words of Japanese: I can now ask for two beers in eight languages.

    Sayonara Misuzu.

    An Englishman’s home

    Life is never uneventful in this house. The last seven days have included a visit from my pal Angie, a trip to a storybook castle in deepest Aberdeenshire, a Japanese party and a burglary. Oh, and the Inland Revenue are about to sequestrate me. I’m not sure what that is, I just hope they use an anaesthetic.

    Angie and I were close friends a few years ago (before I met Louise) until she eloped to Bristol, got bairned and turned half-sensible. She doesn’t visit Edinburgh anywhere near often enough and when she does it’s for about two and a half minutes, like this weekend. Even so, we managed to fit in the fireworks at Next Generation, lunch at The Compass and nachos in The Basement: a minor miracle in view of the the other things I had to do.

    Yes, this really is a cake!Louise had been working on a Quirky creation (a wedding cake – see picture) all week which we had to deliver on Saturday to Lickleyhead Castle in Aberdeenshire, a round trip of almost eight hours. It’s an absolutely spectacular castle, the ideal place for a group of friends to rent for a special occassion but a bit out of my league, unfortunately.

    We arrived back in Edinburgh and I whisked Alice off to a party at neighbour Fiona’s. Fiona has had a Japanese girl, Akitzu, staying with her all year and Akitzu’s friend Mee (no, not me, her name is ‘Misuzu’) is visiting at the moment. Needless to say, we spent the rest of the evening eating sushi and taking photos.

    Sunday had been a pretty uneventful day and at midnight I was lounging on the sofa in my dressing gown nodding off in front of the TV when I heard a noise outside in the street. Now, this is nothing new as our street does resemble a war zone most nights as the drunken hoardes make their way home, but this was different. I can’t say any more as my evidence will be part of a court case in the near future, but I eventually got to bed at 3am after the twat who broke into my property was arrested. Result. An Englishman’s home is, after all, his castle, especially in Scotland.