Sunday, 22 December 2013

A Swiss Army blog

Perhaps the title of this blog is a bit misleading. I've got nothing to say about the Swiss army at all, but I thought with all the different sections of the blog, it was a bit like a Swiss army knife with lots of different blades. Anyway, it does give me an excuse to take all the blades out on my Swiss army knife at once, which I managed to do without hurting myself (an unlikely outcome). 

According to Victorinox's website my particular knife is a model called the Huntsman . It might seem a little inappropriate to encourage wine drinking while hunting, but I've not usually been armed to the teeth when I've found uses for the corkscrew before.

Alas, once upon a time, this useful object lived in my pocket from which it made many appearances for snipping, cutting and sawing. I've even opened the odd tin can with it and it has gained me access to several gallons of inebriant  in it's time although, it must be pointed out, that I've never had cause to remove a stone from a horses hoof. Now there is a great fear that I might use it to run amok on the High Street with my trusted piece of Swiss engineering, or that I might be a member of the military wing of the Beard Liberation Front and use it to take hostages at the local branch of Quick Cutz. My knife has now been relegated from my pocket to a tidy corner (only the corner is tidy) of my desk where it is rarely called upon to complete tasks which challenge it very much.

Mystery Book Sculptures.

In 2011, eleven  book sculptures were left in various public locations in Edinburgh. Nobody knows who made them but they are delightful objects and they have all been kept. They were displayed together last year I believe. Some, perhaps all, are now on display at various places around the city. I saw this one on display last week in the National Library of Scotland. The coffin here is made from a copy of Charles Gibbons', The Casquet of Literature and the gramophone is made for Ian Rankin's, Exit Music. It was found in the same building it is in now and came with a label which said "For @Natlibscot - A gift - in support of Libraries, Books, Words, Ideas ..... (& against their exit)"

More of the 2011 sculptures can be seen in this Flickr album.

 That wasn't the last that was heard of the paper sculpture gifts. In August last year 50 paper flower sculpture were left around the site of the Edinburgh International Book Festival and in November last year another five book sculptures appeared at various locations around Scotland to celebrate book week Scotland. Also on display in the National Library is this sculpture, which is one of the five. For each sculpture, on line clues were posted as to the location they were in. The finder received a trophy of a paper teacup decorated appropriately (in this case with a palm tree). This one was found at the Scottish Seabird Centre in North Berwick and is themed on Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson.The label for this one reads, " 'His stories were what frightened people worst of all. Dreadful stories they were' Robert Louis Stevenson ...Because reading matters...."

Three further sculptures have appeared, the last this year in June. Hopefully they will continue and that I'll continue to come across them occasionally.


The word Selfie has been named as the Oxford Dictionaries word of the year. Apparently, it's usage has increased by 17000% over the year, which is quite a lot. In case you didn't know, a selfie is a photograph taken by yourself of yourself and I have to admit to being occasionally guilty. I took this particular selfie a few weeks ago in the pictures (thus the darkness) waiting to watch a 3D film (thus the specs) (Gravity by the way - worth going to see in 3D but not sure how good it would be in 2D, let alone on the telly)

The Oxford dictionary people first found the word used in an Australian Internet forum in 2002 but the selfie itself is almost as old as photography. This is the oldest known selfie, taken by Robert Cornelius in 1839.

The taking a photograph of yourself in the mirror isn't exactly a new trick either as demonstrated by this young lady sometime round about 1900. Unfortunately, Facebook is still a hundred years in the future so she has nowhere to post it to  #OMG

Not content with a selfie - here's a selfie of me taking a selfie.

Behind me, keeping an eye on my comings and goings, are two giants of Scottish literature and poetry. I took a photo of both original paintings last week when I was in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery.  The Robert Burns painting is by Alexander Nasmyth

The Walter Scott is by Henry Raeburn.

Sir Henry died in 1823, sixteen years before the first selfie. But when your Scotland's top notch portrait painter, who needs a camera, you can just paint yourself a selfie. So here's Henry Raeburn's selfie. Of course if you don't have to use an arm to press the shutter, then that leaves both arms free to strike a hip pose. Yo Sir Henry.

The Giant Jar of Nutella

5 kilograms of delight. Forget something to spread it on, just bring me a spoon.


After my trip to the pictures to see Gravity, I took myself to the Yo Sushi in Aberdeen where, after several visits now, I still find myself amused by my dinner arriving by conveyor belt. Accompanied by some passable Japanese beer.

Taking a selfie while picking up food with chopsticks.

Here's a useful button - don't you wish there were more of these about.

A little known but brilliant idea.

Most people are aware that, in order to help blind and partially sighted people across the road, the green man at a pedestrian crossing is often accompanied by a bleeping noise. But what happens if a person can't see or hear?

I've discovered that underneath the box with the crossing button, is this grooved knob. When the green crossing light goes on, the knob rotates. By placing a finger against it and waiting to feel it turn, you can tell when it's safe to cross the road.


Occasionally I find myself obliged to drink beer.  On such occasions, if possible, I like to try something that is new to me. The Masonic Arms in Kirkcudbright probably has the best selection of beer in town. Harviestoun's Ola Dudh 18 is a mighty old beer matured in 18 year old Highland Park whisky barrels. It tastes fruity and biscuity and almost every other taste you could think of. See how it absorbes all light and once emptied, the empty bottle automatically goes into orbit round about the beer. You could paint this on a fence and it would last for years but I recommend you drink it instead because it is excellent. You might want to sit down first - it's 8%. (sneeked another selfie in there)

Also good and very similar is Ola Dubh 12. I'm guessing that the Ola Dubh 16, that I didn't try, is also quite similar.

Here's a small conglomerate picture of several recent beers. As you would read them, St Edmunds by Green King,  Bramling Cross by Broughton, Galloway Gold by Sulwath (our local Galloway brewery), Shipyard IPA all the way from the US of A, Abro lager from Sweden, and half a pint of cashew nuts (not strictly speaking beer but it came in a glass in a pub - a new way to sell nuts for me. It's a lot of nuts by the way)

Einstok Pale Ale, forged in Iceland, gets my vote as the best beer I've tasted for ages.

This was an excellent beer too, although I can't remember what it was (whatever the Masonic's guest ale was that day I would imagine). "I'll buy you a pint if you sing Dancing Queen in the pub", sounded like a challenge to me. Song sung, pint collected - thank you John.

Mischievous chairs

I couldn't see any information a pair of chairs that I saw in the National Gallery of Scotland. They've certainly got a bit of character.

If the chap on this chair worries you......

......then I expect this fellow is even worse.

The joy of rosin.

Without adding a little rosin, violin bows don't work very well. I left mine at work a few weeks ago and had to buy some more, Brand new rosin is lovely stuff and it always seems a shame to use it, but that first use has a satisfaction on a par with braking through the paper of a new jar of coffee with a teaspoon.

Afterwards, it will never look quite the same again.


I reckoned a little spare time in Edinburgh the other day could be usefully occupied by having a hot chocolate in the Cafe Nero on the High Street. With no regard for my waistline but great regard for my soul, I had a slice of cake as well.

At the heliport, waiting to go to work, I find that they don't go in for fine crockery. I really don't like polystyrene cups but, if that is what's available, it's better than nothing. At least they had one of Scotland's finest confections available to go with it, the Tunnocks' Teacake.


You may remember these sheds first appearing a couple of years ago (remind yourself here). They have quickly established themselves as an iconic sign of the Arts and Crafts trail and brighten up the town in various locations throughout the year. This month they have taken on a festive appearance.

I'm pleased to report that this year there have been some small additions to the shed family.

Some people are full of "Ho Ho Ho" and others are more inclined to "Ba, Humbug!" (I'm inclined to the later), but whether you're celebrating Christmas, Yule, Admiring the solstice or just keeping your head down in the certain knowledge that it will all go away eventually, have a great end of the year. Tara for now.


Reifyn said...

Wow, those sculptures are amazing! What a great idea to make some art like that and leave it in public places without anybody knowing where it had come from and without taking credit. One guy I knew used to go in the middle of the night and plant flowers and shrubs around the city: in the morning no one knew where they'd come from. I love those book sculptures & wish I'd seen them in person.
I'm surprised that 'Kirin' is Japanese: that creature is a Chinese one & I never heard of it being in Japan mythos. They're one of my favourite mythic creatures.
The button under the crossing-light is a great idea...I wonder if it occurred to you as to whether you could turn it yourself and make the light change?
I recall the cafes in Edinburgh very well—some of the nicest pastries & baked goods on earth. And I once squashed one of those Tunnocks teacakes on the forehead of a friend sleeping on the couch & took his photo. They’re really good for that.
That was a Swiss Army Knife of a post. Mine doesn’t have the saw or the scissors or that weird little hook. I bought it in Aberdeen in a shop next to the MacBeans. I don’t know if either are still there.

John @ Sinbad and I on the Loose said...

A fun read. I had a Swiss Army knife very similar to yours. It was stolen while on holiday. I am sure the hotel maid (a guy) took it. Well hopefully he needed it more than I. I honestly didn't use it for much. I'm not a knife guy as I mentioned in a couple of recent posts regarding a knife I found while hiking. As for the holidays, hang in there. We're all in this together.

Sandy's witterings said...

Reifyn, Mystery art is always fascinating. A couple of years ago somebody had left a series of sculpted people made out of leave in various places in Edinburgh. I expect Banksy knows the appeal of this mystery well, or indeed the yarnbombers that you see occasionally. I like the idea of secretly planting flowers too.
I expect a Tunnocks' teacake makes a satifying crunch on a forehead - the chocolate makes quite a satisfying crunch when you bite it - but I think to loose one to a prank - oh dear. What about one of those mallow filled snowballs - they're more likely to adhere :)

John, Perhaps the fellow who dropped the bakolite handled knife you found, spent that afternoon trying to skin a dear with your old Swiss army knife (almost a fair swap).
I have a plan to get through the holiday - wine!

Pam said...

Great info on selfies, and great selfies as well. I like to take selfies of myself facing away, or reflected in unusual shiny surfaces. I wonder if my Kindle version of Scrabble will recognize selfie as a word now? ;)

The Glebe Blog said...

A very entertaining Gallimaufry of items Sandy.
Those book sculptures are real works of art, do we have a 'Banksy Book Man' on the loose in Auld Reekie.
I must get myself back into tasting ales, you made my mouth water with those selections.
Are you letting your beard grow ?

Shundo said...

I was trying to find the right word for this selection, and I don't think I can top Gallimaufry. Intrigued by the black beers, and the Icelandic ones. I might manage to squeeze a couple more brews in this holiday.
Methinks Rembrandt knew a thing or two about selfies too, but perhaps they are not really selfies if they are not posted online...
Merry Christmas

Poppy (aka Val) said...

Wishing you a very Happy and Peaceful Christmas and New Year :)

Dominic Rivron said...

I had a Swiss Army knife very like that one (sadly I lost it). The saw, I thought, was brilliant. You really can saw up substantial bits of wood with it. Even cut down trees.

Those ancient selfies are very haunting indeed. Almost like opening the Tardis door and looking out.

I, too, have a weakness for decent coffee plus fat and sugar accompaniment.

I'm particularly partial to the Petz brand of double bass rosin. It has a wonderful picture on it of a bear playing the double bass.

Merry Christmas

Dominic Rivron said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dominic Rivron said...

Oh, and I meant to say, talking of rosin, if you like Rawsthorne, check out his Sonata for Violin and Piano. I've never found it online - only samples from the only CD I think there is of it (tracks 4-7):

Louise said...

A great random collection of things and an interesting post! Those book sculptures are brilliant.

Sandy's witterings said...

Pam, I'm definately a serial selfie taker I'm afraid. Here we have a second edition Scrabble word book - often called the argument solver - so I don't expect us to get away with it. Further investigation says it's not allowed at all (yet)

Jim, looks like the Scottish book banksie is still at large.
The beards quite big by it's usual standards - it'll probably get a trim early next year.

Shundo, Rembrandt was probably the selfie king. If you took all his self portraits you could probably animate them and watch him grow old.

Dominic, Swiss army knife saw blades are surprising effective - Ii think it's the double row of teeth that does. Sorry to hear you lost yours (John from and earlier comment will know just how you feel)
I'm quite curious about double base rosin - some it looks so much softer than violin rosin. Obviously Dominic, you know what you're talking about but for everyone else, here's the double base playing bear,

I'm still waiting for most of my Rawsthorne to arrive - his viola sonata and violin concertos (or is it concerti or something like that) are on the list but not the violin sonata - that's will just have to wait now I'm afraid.

Louise, Thank you very much. I hope these book sculptures will appear more often - at least they will if I can find them.

Val, A very merry Christmas to you too and indeed to everyone else who passes this way.

Dominic Rivron said...

Yes, that's him (the bear)! As for Rawsthorne, I must say I don't know his Violin Concerti. They're something for me to check out.

Dominic Rivron said...

And I wish we called it "kolophonium". Far more fun to say than rosin.