Battlefields of hay

Field of hay bales against a blue sky

For some reason (ask a psychologist) each time I drive past fields of hay bales, or whatever the rolled-up variety are called, I’m reminded of the German war graves I saw in Belgium, near Ypres and Poperinge on a trip with Toc-H. Or scenes from films of Scottish battles; the bales are memorials, marking the locations where soldiers fell.

Contrast

The Commonwealth cemeteries that I visited in Belgium in 1998 were neat and ordered, pristine, spotless and white. Everything that war is not. There was an odd feeling of triumph about them. This is a photo I took of Tyne Cot cemetery

Tyne Cott cemetery in Belgium

The German military cemeteries that I visited had a very different feeling about them. This is a photograph from one that we visited:

German military cemetery in Belgium, shaded beneath trees

Four stone figuresThere was much less a feeling of imperial triumph, more a sense of mournful reflection.

There was a beautiful ‘humanness’ about it. The cemetery was shaded beneath trees, which gave it an organic feel that broke up any sense of order that the rows of gravestones — these were set into the ground — tried to dictate.

At the edge of the graveyard respectfully stood four stone figures, a reminder perhaps that these stones and the hundreds of names inscribed on wooden plaques mark the final resting places of fellow human beings. Not enemies, but brothers.

I remember reading the name of one soldier who was killed on 11 November 1915 — my birthday. That made it more real for me, somehow. And on the Menin Gate in Ypres reading the name “E Saunders” — that could have been my brother.

Battlefields?

And for some reason, I’m reminded of that visit to the Ypres Salient in the spring of 1998 each field I pass at this time of year, whose hay bales are marking nothing more than where they were left.

But then maybe it’s appropriate given the number of dead mice that the cats have brought in these last two nights: it was five last night!

Maybe these are battlefields after all.

The Dark Side of the Shed

Richard painting the shed.

The weekend wasn’t a complete wash-out: we managed to paint the shed after all. The shed, and both sides of the fence. A task that took all afternoon.

Around midday — and two chapters into Lego Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy — Rich and I realised that the sun was finally coming out, the shed’s walls were drying nicely and assuming that we could muster the strength and enthusiasm we could get the shed painted after all.

Fast-forward half-an-hour and we were listening to Planet Rock on my DAB radio, and enthusiastically slapping paint onto everything: the shed, the ground, our shoes, arms, hair … everything. It was going Cuprinallovertheplace!

I’d placed my radio inside the shed, partly to protect it (initially from rain, should it come, but eventually I realised from paint!) and partly to get the best sound. At one point, early on, I stood back and marvelled at what looked like the shed singing along to the Black Sabbath song “Changes”:

I’m going through changes
I’m going through changes

It was quite prophetic! As was the next track, from Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Shed” album.

A good job, well done. A fine lunch rustled up by the lovely, tennis-playing Jane. Good company from both Rich and Planet (is that Robert Plant?) Rock. All in all, a very enjoyable and relaxing weekend. Just what the doctor ordered.

Museum trip report

Please do not take photographs

This afternoon Jane, Rich and I had a very successful and educational trip to the Scottish Fisheries Museum. As it says on the sign out front: it’s bigger than it appears.

It’s a sign!

The place was littered with signs instructing visitors:

Please do not take photographs.
The intense light from camera flashes can damage the objects on display

I obviously flaunted those instructions on the following grounds:

  1. No flash
    Most importantly, my camera phone doesn’t have a flash.

  2. No soul
    The objects didn’t have souls which would be damaged in any way by capturing them as a digital image.

  3. Bad font
    The signs used the Comic Sans font, so obviously the sign creators couldn’t have been taking their instructions very seriously. Regardless of how large they made the word “Please”.

    Comic Sans is a terrible font that should be used only for cartoons and comics … and even then only those with no words.

    Comic Sans isn’t a font that says ‘sophistication’, ‘authoritative’, or ‘serious’; it says ‘casual’, ‘informal’, and ‘fun’.

    If you are going to write a sign that needs to carry an instruction and you use Comic Sans you might as well just write “… if you can be arsed!” after it.

    Apologies if you really like Comic Sans … but you’re wrong!

  4. No punctuation
    There is no punctuation, so how could we know whether they had stopped giving instructions or not?

  5. Need for photos
    I have a blog-reading public who deserve to see pictures, and since my career as a courtroom artist didn’t take off, taking quick pics with my flashless mobile phone camera seemed like the next best thing.

Not my kind of priest

A Priest, which is seemingly a wooden club used by early fishermen to club fish to death.

Near the start of the museum tour was a display of early fishing — ‘early’ as in 6,000 BC not 06:00 am. Amongst this display was a black, wooden club called a “priest”. The sign reads

Priest

Wooden club used by Fishermen to deliver the death blow to fish caught by line or net

That’s not my idea of priesthood. When Jesus invited his disciples to become fishers of men I’m fairly certain that bludgeoning people into the Kingdom wasn’t at the forefront of his mind.

Spooky figures

The museum was fascinating, with loads of very interesting displays, from the earliest signs of fishing in Scotland, through sail boats, steamers and onto modern fishing techniques.

What caught my eye most, however were the dummies, those manufactured figures used to try to bring scenes to life. I couldn’t help but find them incredibly spooky. It would appear that they didn’t buy in ready-made tailor’s dummies. But they made their own, using painted gloves for hands, and quite eccentric masks for faces. Oh my word they really freaked me out, some of them.

I’d hate to be in there overnight when they come alive and move about. I imagine that they might move like the alien in the movie Men in Black: “I put ma hands on ma head!”

A man with his arm in a silver machine.

For example, above is a photo of the model of Abraham Lincoln with his arm in a sausage machine. Or something.

A lady with a knife.

This lady, above, is situated in a mock fishmonger’s shop just before you get to the exit. She looks really sinister holding that knife and looking towards the door. It was the empty, soulless expression in her eyes that made my blood chill!

Conclusion

In the same way that I enjoyed working in the textile mills in Selkirk and Galashiels, because it gave me an appreciation and understanding of my Scottish Borders heritage, this trip has given me something of an insight into the history of this area.

Ice cream

On our way home we passed a shop that had in its window what looked like a giant ice cream wearing a two-tone bikini!

Too wet to paint

Close-up of rain on a window, with a shed in the background.

Our friend Rich is over from sunny Stirling this weekend.

The plan was to repaint the shed and fence (Cuprinol ‘Autumn Brown’ in case you were wondering). Somehow, I don’t think that’s going to happen today.

Not unless we dismantle the shed, rebuild it indoors, dry it with a hair drier, repaint it, dry it with a hair drier, dismantle it and rebuild it outdoors.

We’re off instead to the Scottish Fisheries Museum here in Anstruther.

Ride the lightning

Forked lightning
A photograph of lightning in Costesti

There was a lot of yawning going on in St Andrews today when I went out to buy birthday cards and sandwiches. I suspect that last night’s spectacular display of thunder and lightning had something to do with it.

Card shop

The lady who served me in the card shop told me that she could hardly sleep last night and had wished that the electrical storm had happened at a more sociable hour.

Meanwhile her colleague danced beside me (I kid you not) and kept asking me if I’d seen the new Comfort advert on TV. I told her that I hadn’t but I’d look out for it. “You’ve probably seen it already,” she said, “You just don’t realise it.” I’m not sure I watch enough television to have seen it, I think to myself.

“Can you tell it’s Friday?” asked the lady behind the counter, handing over my newly purchased clutch of cards. I told her that I could.

Boots

The lady who served me at Boots the Chemist got only a few hours sleep last night, and eventually got up at 05:00 this morning. She told me that, I don’t like stalk her or anything!

“Last night was the first night that I’ve ever seen forked lightning,” she told me excitedly. I also discovered that she sleeps in the attic. I hope she’s not a prisoner or anything.

Home

I, on the other hand, was only awake for about an hour last night during which I marvelled at the room lighting up every few seconds, and counted myself to sleep waiting for the thunder, only to be jolted alert again by its roaring arrival.

The cats (Spot and Smudge), on the other hand, both slept soundly on the bed throughout the rumbles and crashes in the skies above the house. Only to leap out of their skins and flee the bedroom when one of us sneezed!