99 flake advert

Firstly a discussion on BBC News about the origin of the 99. I don't want to spoil it for you but there are no conclusive answers. Fun reading though. UK ice cream trade organisation The Ice Cream Alliance (imagine their conferences!) has some Fantastic Frozen Facts (see Info for Ice Cream Eaters) - "Ice Cream Sundaes were created when it became illegal to sell ice cream with flavoured soda on a Sunday in the American town of Evanston during the late 19th century. Some traders got round it by serving it with syrup instead, calling it an 'Ice Cream Sunday' and eventually replacing the final 'y' with an 'e' to avoid upsetting religious leaders". More on ice cream's secret history at Wikipedia - "One important development in the 20th century was the introduction of softer ice cream. A chemical research team in Britain (of which a young Margaret Thatcher was a member) discovered a method of doubling the amount of air in ice cream, which allowed manufacturers to use less of the actual ingredients, thereby saving money." That bloody woman. Also, an explanation of brain freeze, or ice cream headache. Ooch. Find out about the history of the ice cream trade at London's Canal Museum. This Much I Know by Wayne Vineer Ice Cream Man. For fans of the regional ice cream variation, read up on the Top Hat, invented by the Zavaroni's of Rothesay. Finally, if you haven't sickened yourself by now, check out the Ice Cream and Ice Cream Van pools on Flickr.

Looking up

I go back to work this week, so we've had one last jaunt. A sort of aimless weekend where we headed for Dundee and skirted round about it, not going into the centre, but looking at various things on the way here and there, finding stuff for Nothing To See Here like the World's Biggest Hedge (pictured). These are the kind of trips that started I like. Neil used to work as a rep and covered the whole of Scotland, so sometimes I would go with him, shopping in the charity shops and taking pictures along the way. I photographed lots of signs and shopfronts, not really knowing why I was doing it. I think there's a sort of librarian/collector instinct to gather, record and categorise things that might otherwise get lost. I remember at the time thinking it was a bit strange but when I had the courage to stick the photos up people liked them and 3 years later I'm still at it, which suggests it was the right thing to do. And of course, Flickr has happened since then so I know lots of people do it and I shouldn't be ashamed.

Pert

So I was thinking about I like and how I've enjoyed having a bit more time to spend on it. And I wanted to say thanks to everyone who has visited, commented, and emailed over the years. This makes it sound like I'm jacking it all in - I'm not. There's something about doing it that makes my head feel a bit clearer. If I didn't have some kind of outlet I think I'd go mad. So I'm glad that there are people out there that want to read it and I hope that I can still squeeze it in once I'm back to the 9-5. That's all really.

Little Fork

Found in Pittenweem, this lovely old box, with all its little forks inside. After all this talk about giving things fancy names it's a nice reminder of less complicated times.

The Commodores' keyboard player died recently, and in an obit Alvin read it mentioned how the band found their name - by opening a dictionary at random. They could have been called Commode had they been unlucky. On Thursday, Alvin and I opened our respective dictionaries at random, finding words to turn into bands, the object of the game being to try to describe how a band of the moniker in question would sound. Trying to make the bands seem plausible.

Burly : 1974 masculine glam (with beards ?). Four Len Tuckeys in Bully Beef-style hooped jumpers. Geordie soundalikes. On a smallish label like Penny Farthing. Recently rediscovered by third division glam archaeologists like Bob Stanley.

The Even-Stevens : Speccy-four-eyes literate indie, 'eighties-style : Smiths; Go-Betweens; Servants.

The Leer : Directionless 1981 sixth form band consisting of a mod, a wannabe arty boy in eyeliner, a Stranglers fan and a meat-and-potatoes rock drummer.

The full list is on Steviecat's Livejournal. Well worth a read.

I'm going back to work next week (boo!) and am looking for ways of making life easier. One thing I thought might help keep I like going is posting daily links from del.icio.us but I can't seem to get it working. I've read through the guide to setting it up and that seems fairly straightforward. The problem seems to be that I have items in my normal del.icio.us stream, but they don't show up under "list of items" on the daily blog posting page. Should there be something there? Any help with this would be very, very gratefully received.

Following on from yesterday's post. Alasdair Gray (Scottish writer and artist) has a blog. Exciting. On the new Art Galleries:

The curator, Mark O’Neill, told me these arrangements were better than the old ones where natural history exhibits, human artefacts and paintings were displayed separately – better because more democratic, since people would have to find their own connections between such very different things, instead of having the connections made clear. I regard this as a Post-modern idea. I am an old-fashioned chap who insists on being just modern.

Some fossils from the Age of Chalk

3 years ago, first day I got my digital camera, I went to Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum on the day before it closed for refurbishment and photographed everything I liked that I thought might change. It's such a big part of living in Glasgow - this really grand building with all this amazing stuff, that's so labyrinthine you get lost straight away. I felt quite nervous about going back this week to see what's changed.

At first it's hard to tell because it's so busy. I worried that it was going to be all shiny and interactive, and it's not. It's more shiny and interactive than it was - they've taken a lot of things out of cases (more things to tell your kids not to touch) and the Tyrannosaurus Rex that I used to be so scared of is gone for being "anatomically incorrect". At least there are no annoying audio guides and the building is as grand as ever. It's arranged by theme now (rather than art upstairs, natural history downstairs) - Life in one wing and Expression in the other. Not convinced about that. And there's something really handwringy about Glasgow Stories which starts with the Old Firm and sectarianism, then moves on to Violence Against Women and Lunatic Asylums. Really cheery, and not representative of any Glasgow I know.

This is Scotland

All in all it left me a bit troubled. I don't know how much this is about the art galleries and how much is about me. It reminds me of working in libraries a few years ago, when there were all these people coming in from industry with no respect for libraries or librarians and they decided libraries had to be called "learning centres" or "ideas factories" or something. It was horrible. And of course, because it was librarians no one wanted to cause a fuss, and instead of fighting for everything libraries stood for everyone rolled over (including the Library Association) and changed their name as well, so to this day some people don't have a clue what their job title is. (Information Assistant anyone?) So this feels the same, like someone has said museums can't be museum-y any more, when that's what's so great about them. Things in glass cases, EVERYTHING IN CAPITALS, those little machines with the graphs on them.

And the way I feel about the Art Galleries is the way I feel about a lot of things at the moment. In the past few months, having a baby and everything, I feel like everything's going a bit too fast. I want to press Pause. And I want things to stop changing, just for a minute, because a lot of the time they don't need to. Progress is fine, but somewhere along the line we've all lost it and ended up striving for things that really aren't important. Change for change's sake. I don't know if that's a bit harsh but all I could think was that I liked things fine the way they were.

Sad. Pink Floyd's Syd Barrett dies at 60. Two from him: It is obvious, the first song I thought of, and Late night, my favourite. For Cas and all Syd fans everywhere.*

* I don't know much about posting mp3s. Is there a better way to do it?

I've been playing around with MySpace because my friend's band is on there - Record Playerz, they're great. I looked around and got all excited because it's full of people I haven't seen for years. Real people that I've actually met, like. So I joined up and then didn't really know what to do. And when I tried to do something it was very hard. I felt about a squillion years old (Charlie Brooker sums this up nicely). But people found me anyway and I started to get some friends and that was nice. So the end of the story is I'm there now and if it's your thang let's be friends. I'm right here.

Candy floss

Well, I hope it's clear we all had a ball. I'm now looking forward to other British holidays, instead of feeling like they're second best. When I told people where we were going there was a note of pity in their voices. They would say "That's nice" but their tone said "Oh, how awful for you" (some people just said that openly). So I wanted to write it all up to show how much fun it can be. Here are some notes and conclusions, all jumbled up:

  1. It made me appreciate living in Britain, and being on a big island (do you ever forget it's an island?) with so many different things crammed into it. It's great being able to be in 3 countries in one day
  2. Big up Pontins. Holiday camps are a sound idea and Pontins do what they do very well. Now I am curious about Center Parcs. It is Pontins for the middle classes, no? I worry that we'd all have to go and do archery or windsurfing or something and we'd all hate it. So Center Parcs v Pontins, who wins?
  3. Wales looked interesting. There's a lot crammed in there. We'll definitely go back some day and try to see the rest of it. Anything we should do and see?
  4. Travelling with kids seemed easy this time. We didn't have any drives that were too long and left time to stop on the way. Some things made travelling with a baby easier: a pop-up travel cot, a door bouncer and a dangly toy thing that strapped on to Danny's car seat. These all helped to entertain/contain him.
  5. A Year With Swollen Appendices is a brilliant book. It made me realise that diaries can be quite interesting, so I started keeping one during our holiday.

And this is the bit that comes up at the end of the story while the credits are rolling:

  • The car needed a new water pump and seems to be a bit better now.
  • Neil says he isn't scared of heights, they just make him a bit dizzy.
  • Tommy finally got an earring for Dress Like A Pirate day at school. He took the hoop off and wore the little gold stud. He thought he was the bee's knees. He thinks everyone in Wales says "Be seeing you" and is still talking about "when we lived at Pontins".
  • I've tried to learn from my holiday and do more of the things that I like. It takes effort to find the time but I've done more walking, reading and swimming. Being away made me appreciate a lot of simple things.

Thus ended the Great British Holiday. If you've just come in and are wondering what's going on start here.

Eric Morecambe statue

We're going home today, and no matter how much I've enjoyed my holiday I'm always quite excited about that. The best thing is that it's only going to take a few hours, and we can go at our own pace - no hanging about in waiting rooms or airport lounges. So we pack up and Tommy has one last photocall (which happens every morning), this time with Dennis the Menace. He's been so great these past few days, really well-behaved and good fun to be with. Neil says it's because he's getting everything he wants but I don't know. I thought that usually made kids worse. Anyway, eventually we're off and Tommy is a wee bit sad but not too bad. I'm not sure he realises that we're really going home this time.

We've done enough and seen enough to not really want to fart about too much on the way home. We stop at the services a few times and I'm starting to feel like I could compile my own guide to facilities on the M6. I hate going on the motorway, it stresses me out (even though I'm not driving) and Tommy gets more restless so we aim for lunch in Morecambe as one last fling. On the way in Tommy says "Not another beach!". We're so bad to him. I can see him telling his pals in years to come how he had to go to the seaside all the time and it was so boring.

We've been to Morecambe fairly recently, but this time the sun is shining. The Midland Hotel is covered in scaffolding. It's going to be exciting when it's done up. There are new bits and pieces but still a lot of things in disrepair. However some things have weathered well, like Brucciani's. The interior is closed (although the door is open tantalisingly) so we just get ice cream, from the grumpiest man alive. It's worth the sass though, it's delicious. Tommy has a play in the park and we all get our photos taken with Eric. That's Morecambe done and we're off again.

A couple of days ago at Pontins I'd found myself worrying about my environmental footprint. I know we should all be worried about the environment but usually I'm far too busy worrying about everyday stuff - money, time, kids, work - to think about anything big. I realised that I wasn't sweating the small stuff any more and felt totally calm (my conscience is fairly clear on the environmental footprint front). I'm pretty contented most days, but what I discovered on this holiday were moments of real happiness. It felt like we did something so simple that it was genius. Didn't go far, didn't spend a fortune or plan anything complicated, didn't really aim high in any respect, so there were no let downs. Brian Eno uses a great phrase - idiot glee (explained more fully here) to describe the feeling of "sheer, mad joy at the world". Who would have thought I'd find it in a holiday camp in Prestatyn.

Next: The Great British Holiday: Epilogue

Portmeirion

We get out early when it's cool and make for Portmeirion, hoping the car is going to hold out. It seems fine once we're on our way. First stop Betws-y-Coed, a nice wee place but very touristy. There are lots of towns like this in Scotland - half settlement, half coach park. But at least there's something to do here - a motor museum and a tiny train and old railway carriage turned into a cafe. We don't spot this until we're well inside the Alpine Cafe, a sort of wholefood, or at least, good food kind of place. It's only 11 o'clock but I have a big plate of lentils. It's great to eat some decent food at last.

Next we drive through Snowdonia National Park, slightly confused about which one is Mt Snowdon. The fact that it has a railway going up suggests to me that it's a glorified hill, not a proper mountain like what we have in Scotland *sniff*. I wonder if we should be going to see it because it seems like a big deal, but most scenery bores me to tears unless it's something dramatic or unusual. I get my wish and soon we're driving through huge mountains of slate. It's great - really striking. And it's proper Welsh!

Next Blaenau Ffestiniog, home of Glyn from Big Brother and the Ffestiniog railway. I get Glyn now, and all that stuff about being from the middle of nowhere, although it doesn't explain why he can't make toast. I thought there would be bunting or something but no. Onwards to Portmeirion.

Fire engine

It's odd arriving somewhere that you really, really want to go to. (Alain de Botton covers this very well in The Art of Travel). I thought I could only be disappointed but it's great, even better than I could have imagined because the story of Clough Williams-Ellis and how he put it all together is so lovely. His motto was "Cherish the Past, Adorn the Present, Construct for the Future" and that's what he did, putting together this amazingly charming and idiosyncratic collection of buildings and found objects. It's a lovely place to wander through, noticing all the details (photos here). Tommy and Neil play on the beach (where Rover chases Patrick McGoohan) for ages.

We all come away happy and take the long way home through Caernarfon and Conwy. We try to get dinner in Conwy but it's 10 to 6 and everywhere is closing. I can't believe how hard it is to get fed in this country. We have a look for Britain's Smallest House, but couldn't find it. You can make your own joke there.

So it's back to Pontins and I feel excited and sad to be going to the show for the last time. It's such a great set-up having everying on your doorstep, all geared towards the kids but yet painless for adults. The Bluecoats have been great all along - you've got to admire their enthusiasm and their stamina. Everything is just at the right level - they didn't take the piss out of anyone or try to make in-jokes for adults, and it's sort of cheesy without being naff if that makes sense. After 3 nights of it I'm starting to hope someone will drag me up for the Cha Cha Slide but that's really Tommy's domain and joining in would only cramp his style. He says he wants to be a Junior Bluecoat. Truly, he has found his people and I wonder if anywhere else can live up to this.

Next: The Great British Holiday Day 7: Prestatyn-Glasgow

I realise that retelling this journey is taking longer than the actual trip itself and is a lot less interesting but while I was at Pontins my head was very clear and it felt very important because I had some points I wanted to make. And I knew what the points were but I didn't write them down, so I'm warning you now, this is going nowhere. I'm sick of listening to myself. But I've started so I'll finish. Day 6 coming right up.

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