High drama in Cellardyke, of an evening

Hoorah! My Mum has come to visit me in Cellardyke. This evening we went out (as usual) to hang out with the Cellardyke Massive down by the outdoor swimming pool and kiddies play park, looking for some adventure. It’s right opposite the East Neuk Outdoors an adventure centre on the outskirts of Cellardyke, so where better to look for it?

Looking out to sea, a danger sign in the foreground.

We’d been there for literally not very long at all when Mum spotted something on the horizon: was that a lifeboat pulling another boat behind it? I was too busy laughing at the sign of the idiot falling off a cliff. “DANGER Sudden drop” the sign read.

Zoomed photo of a lifeboat at sea.

I zommed in with my digital camera. But that did nothing, so I zoomed in instead and discovered that indeed it was a lifeboat. How exciting! It was like something from the Famous Five. Only instead of uncovering a fiendish plot by a team of international diamond smugglers in caves off the coast of Devon, we’d spotted a couple of boats, one of which may or may not have been in any danger whatsoever. And instead of four young cousins and their dog Timmy on a summer holiday, it was me and my Mum. On a school night.

Darkening sky over Anstruther harbour.

Mum decided that the only course of action was to follow the boat to Anstruther harbour. Which foiled my plan. I’d purposefully decided to walk in this direction because I knew that it didn’t lead very far. It would give us a short amble, allow Mum to see the sea and then we could totter back to the house for a nice sit-down, a cup of tea and a bar of chocolate that Mum had bought specially for the occasion.

But instead, Mum had spotted adventure, and like a press member from the Daily Bugle followed her hunch right into Anstruther harbour, where we arrived just in time to see the RNLI lifeboat being tied up and a smaller dinghy still attending to the ‘following boat’.

There was a weird sun overhead. To be more specific, it was the normal sun, just masked in clouds. And stuff.

My Mum looking at the lifeboat in the harbour.

And that was it. This is a photo of Mum looking on. The harbour-side action consisted more of lifeboat men leaping from the big orange lifeboat to the May Princess and back again. One man had a cigarette, and another pulled the May Princess to the shore with a rope all by himself. In the background to the right you may be able to make out the ‘rescued’ boat. It’s the white one. With the mast.

Our journey back to our own wee harbour in Cellardyke was without incident. Apart from the daring helicopter chase, and the fire-breathing kittens. But that’s a tale for another day.

Images from Canada

A couple of times in the last few days my phone has chirpped my familiar “24” ringtone, indicating that I’ve received a text message. Each time — in between cricket updates from Cricket 4 — they have been multimedia messages from Jane: images from her holiday in Canada.

Thunderbird Park

First up is this image of “Thunderbird Park”. Is it really sad that my first thought was not of the classic 1960s Jerry Anderson puppet series (Thunderbirds) but of the Mozilla e-mail client (Thunderbird)?

Darth Vader playing the violin.

What more natural a scene to photograph than this of Darth Vader playing the violin. Darth Violin, perhaps?

Sign reading Selkirk Massage Therapy

Today’s text message reported that Jane and her folks are having lunch … in Selkirk! Not Selkirk, Scottish Borders, Scotland, UK but Selkirk, Vancouver Island, Canada.

It’s a small world. Apart from the huge distances between things.


Screenshot of ExamDiff application, showing two window panes - left and right - and highlighting the differences between two files
Screenshot of the ExamDiff application

Here’s a simple piece of software that I love, and find incredibly helpful: ExamDiff.

ExamDiff allows you to compare two text files and it will show you what the differences are, highlighting the lines where changes have occurred.

There are enough options in the free version to make it very useful. For example you can choose to:

  • Ignore all white space in lines
  • Ignore changes in amount of white space in lines
  • Ignore case
  • Treat both files as text files
  • Ignore leading white space in lines
  • Ignore trailing white space in lines

It’s really useful when, for example, you’ve been editing a CSS file and realise that you should have been marking it up with /*comments*/ to indicate your changes.

Simply load the original file (you did keep a backup, didn’t you!) and the new file and click OK. A few seconds later: ta-da! You can now immediately see which lines you’ve altered, as those lines have now been highlighted.

I don’t use it terribly often, but it’s a great application to have in your toolkit for those moments that you quickly need to compare two files.

OMG! Who cycled into Kilrenny?!

My bike propped against a bridge, with Kilrenny in the background.
My bike propped against a bridge, with Kilrenny in the background.

I was out on my bike again today, and what a glorious day to be cycling around the small backroads of the East Neuk of Fife. It was the debut for my new Altura Nevis fluorescent yellow cycling jacket, which was soon relegated to being tied around my waist as I began to overheat in the sunshine.

As I’m building myself up again towards getting fit, I’d rather go out for 30 mins and enjoy it than for an hour and feel miserable and sore and then not go out again for weeks as a result. So I ventured out for 30 minutes, on a quick loop out of Anstruther on the St Andrews road and then back via a picturesque backroad into Kilrenny.

What do you mean where is Kilrenny? Kilrenny is the place that was featured on the BBC News maps helping people locate Cellardyke after the dead swan (with the H5N1 strain of bird ‘flu) was discovered:

“Where is Cellardyke?” most people I spoke with asked. But the BBC kindly answered that question for them, with this map:

Map from BBC News showing Cellardyke and Kilrenny.

“Ohh…!” people would then say, “that Cellardyke! The one next to Kilrenny!”

Kilrenny is a lovely, tiny, village, and even smaller than Cellardyke. That’s Kilrenny in the background in the photograph above; I should take more photographs of the surrounding countryside. It’s particularly beautiful just now.

And I heard on the grapevine recently that Ozzy and Sharon Osbourne were bidding for a property just outside Kilrenny too. Bidding against this man, seemingly. I’ve not heard whether they bought it or not.


In other news Jane and her sister arrived safely in Canada. I had a quick telephone call from her the other day to say hello. They are off to Vancouver Island today for a few days and then visit Seattle for a couple more before returning to Vancouver for the flight back to Blighty. We’ve yet to chat on Skype.

And, yes, I’m coping without her. I always find that I struggle for the first few days, and then I settle into my own rhythm. The house hasn’t been so clean and tidy for as long as I can remember! I’m a neat and tidy boy at heart.

Thou art here!

Gilt frame but no painting.

I’ve never really been one for seizing opportunities.

If it’s a choice between sitting at home watching TV or nipping out to the jungle for 48 hours to investigate why the bison are restless, then I’ll probably still be looking up the TV schedule on my PC when you get back.

Or presented with the opportunity to explore the mountainous regions of Tenerife in a hired, left-hand drive car then I can guarantee that I will still be reading my geeky books on the balcony when you get back with your tales of wild creatures and hair-raising adventures.

That’s just the kind of guy I am. Which is maybe why Danny Wallace’s book Yes Man spoke so much to me. “Say Yes more,” was the advice given to him on a bus, by a stranger.

Well, this evening I said yes. I said yes to accompanying our neighbours to a local art exhibition, in a (fairly) local church hall, in local Anstruther. Local, local, local, yes, yes, yes.

I like art. My sister studied art at Carlisle, my Mum has been painting for as long as I’ve known her, and we have paintings by other members of Mum’s family – mostly beautiful watercolours of the Borders’ countryside. I even have a bit of an artistic streak myself, that has most recently been channelled into website design. And the people of the East Neuk of Fife also have a bit of an artistic streak given the enthusiasm and talent exhibited this evening.

There’s something fun about art exhibitions. There aren’t too many places that you can go to see similarly grouped items presented for you to look at and, if the fancy grabs you, to buy any of those items on display.

Except maybe shops.

I didn’t think that one through before typing it.

So there I was in the Anstruther Parish Church hall (upstairs) with a bunch of strangers looking at the world through the brush-strokes of a bunch of other strangers, some of whom may have been there, I don’t know. I was appropriately restrained with my comments – usually I disgrace myself with my inappropriately timed comments that go just that one step too far. But this evening I was good.

This evening I wandered round with my exhibition guide — a sheet of typed A4 in a polypocket — and ooh-ed and ahh-ed at the appropriate moments.

“Ooh, I like that … Ahh… I think they have captured that scene very well. I like how the artist has captured a realistic sense of desparation in that young meercat’s expression, as it grapples with the scissors … Hmm, I see this painting as a metaphor for the emptiness of the postmodern, post-apocalyptic angst, it is almost as though the artist has captured a glimpse of his own death. And in crayon too.” (Serving suggestion)

And I think that it showed. Because as I was standing looking at a painting that looked like it was of a forest fire, someone approached me and invited me to be one of the judges for the exhibition. I was handed a piece of paper and a pencil and left to make my decision.

Well, now the pressure was on. Now I was more than just a stranger at an exhibition of other stranger’s paintings. Now I was an art critic. Now I was a judge of art. Now my opinion mattered. But where to start?

Where better to start than where I was standing, and the painting that I was currently looking at: the painting that looked like it was of a forest fire. I consulted the exhibition guide and discovered that it was indeed a painting of a forest fire.

WHO paints pictures of forest fires?! And how?! “Darling, I’m just off into the forest to do a spot of painting … Right, I’ve got my easel and my brushes, and paints, a gallon of petrol and some matches…”

It was a very good painting, I have to say, one of my favourites there, but I think the question is still a valid one: WHO paints pictures of forest fires? Still, it was less disturbing than the batik of the tornado at the orphanage.

I looked down and read the piece of paper in my hand. “Best in exhibition,” I think it read at the top, in bold and underlined. Then it invited me to record on the square of paper my favourite painting and deposit the voting slip in the box at the door on my way out. A closed ballot, no less. I’m warming to this art judging process already.

Well, there was no questioning about what my favourite painting was: it’s of a couple of nuns digging a grave in the evening light within their convent’s garden (and hopefully graveyard), and it’s by Sir John Everett Millais and it hangs in the Tate Gallery in London.

But I don’t think that’s quite what they they were looking for. So I voted for a simple watercolour that reminded me of Great Uncle John’s paintings of the Yarrow Valley, and then wandered home past the Costa del Chip Shop to sit and watch TV.

And to be honest, even though I missed the announcement that it was (lovely, melodramatic) Nikki being evicted from Big Brother, I don’t think that I missed anything and I do think that my life was enriched by saying yes to that simple invitation this evening.

One of my favourite observations of the evening was as we approached the church hall. Hanging outside the church hall door was a small, old-fashioned sign hanging on hooks that read: “ART HERE”. My friend and neighbour Ian reckoned that there was a “THOU” missing from the beginning. And on that existentialist note …

Disclaimer: Some of the details in this blog post may have been exaggerated for comic and artistic effect.