Wednesday 31 October 2012

Hot Chip and Curtis Mayfield

Ceramics update:

Worked very hard at last night's ceramics class - as did everyone else there. One chap who was working on a small figure declared at 9 o'clock that he was knackered: "I feel as if I've just run a marathon."

Creative work, even at my moronic level, is tiring.

Three tasks were tackled last night:

1) As I unwrapped from its protective cloth the narrow front wall of the building, it snapped. This was repaired by spraying water on the now very dry clay and then "gluing" the two sections together with 'slip' . Slip is liquidised pieces of old clay.
Dampening the two separated sections.

Stuck together with slip.

2) Then I wanted to stick on some decorative features that would add a 19th Century feel to the building. See the encircled section of  features in the photo below.

The temporary tutor who really grasps what I am trying to do with this building made a great suggestion. Using a slab of plaster (already available in the classroom) one could carve out little shapes: hearts, circles, oblongs etc. Next, one presses clay into the shaped cavities. Then, after they are dried out - which is after only a few minutes because plaster draws out the moisture from clay - one removes them from the plaster mould.

And, this is the really clever bit. One stores the pieces in a container lined with a damp paper towel and then only after collecting several dozen of them does one then stick them to the walls of the building.

One would then string the pieces out in patterns in between two rows of windows.

3) While waiting for each batch of decorative pieces to dry, I cracked on with the arched double doorways which appear at intervals along the ground floor of the building - see photograph above. The ground floor is occupied by shops of various kinds - probably upmarket clothes shops.

These clay pieces will be stuck on to the existing wall with slip and they must be at the same degree of dryness as that wall. To achieve this equality one uses a hair drier.

Then I etched out some double-door markings.

I lay them in position on one of the large walls. Now I realise that three doorways looks RIDICULOUS. Where are the shop windows to go? Fortunately, I have not stuck these down.

I think I'll have just one central doorway and chuck the other two away.

I actually stuck the doorway to the narrow front wall. That's OK.

Two observations:

The doorways seem to stick out too much. But, there will be other pieces stuck on the wall including the decorative pieces referred to above and also  a ledge running along the building immediately above the doorways.

Secondly, everything I have done so far seems fairly crude in its appearance. But, the application of glaze completely transforms a ceramic piece. I'm confident that so long as the walls don't crack when in the kiln, this building will be a success.

Last night's dinner:

In a rush to get out for the ceramics class so just had boiled potatoes and grated cheese.

Then, foolishly added beetroot which I like but which actually ruined the culinary experience.

Curtis Mayfield:

Sometimes the singer in Hot Chip sounds like Curtis Mayfield.

1942 - 1999

Tango update:

Unfortunately, I'm quite looking forward to my Tango class tonight. This is always a recipe for disaster. Still, got 4 hours to go so plenty of time to manufacture some dread.

Tuesday 30 October 2012

The secret of shifting weight..............

Mosaic progress:

Continuing to cover the platforms bit-by-bit with the checkered mosaic pattern.


Ceramics class tonight:

And I hope I feel less tired than I did last week.

Hope to concentrate on adding more features eg cornices and pillars to the building.

What I'm aiming at:

I seem to have lost all my photographs of the actual ceramic piece I'm working on. Will update with photos tonight.

Tango practice:

In the Tango,  the man propels himself forward by means of his back foot/leg. He shifts his weight from the back foot at all times (as opposed to stretching out his front leg and pulling himself forward).

I've been practising this technique but find it difficult.

However, I saw this youTube video last night which analysed the action of "shifting weight".

Apparently one achieves this by raising the heel of one's back foot. It is this little action which leads to the shift of weight - it literally tips one's body forwards.

It grieves me that this kind of analysis of a global instruction into its constituent parts never occurs to me until weeks sometimes years after the event. That has typified my experience when learning tennis/badminton/squash/golf. I suppose I'm just slow on the uptake.
Hot Chip:

Playing my new Hot Chip album:


Last night's dinner:

A pizza - forgot to take photograph. But for the record this is one culinary area where my wife and I concur.

We both like our toppings to be: black olives; anchovies and artichokes.

Monday 29 October 2012

Maigret and French trains

Too tired to lay any mosaic tiles tonight. So instead here are some photographs from a website devoted to the role played by trains in the Maigret novels by Georges Simenon.  I've mentioned in previous blogs how I want to have that Maigret atmosphere permeating my model layout. I presume these photographs are "stills" from the several TV films made of the novels.

Last night's dinner:

Last night we were invited to our niece's apartment where she and her boyfriend had prepared a great meal for us and my sister and brother-in-law. It's a very cosy abode with lots of little lights and candles all over the place and views over a really vibrant part of Glasgow's West End.

A fish pie of prawns, haddock and crab meat mixed into mashed potato and watercress plus broccoli. Absolutely terrific - really well cooked. Washed down with ginger beer.

Categorising people:

A few blogs ago I mentioned that there was a psychological theory that personality could be usefully categorised in terms of whether someone was a thrill-seeker or not.

Completely independently of this discussion, a Spanish chap I play squash with each week on hearing about my wife's recent helicopter excursion said that he thought it to have been a waste of money. He believed that people could be categorised into those who are willing to pay to have experiences (whether thrill-seeking or not) and those, like him, who preferred to use money to buy 'things' that, unlike 'experiences', lasted. Even the memory of an experience was not enough to justify spending money on it. He also said that he knew that he was "wrong" to think like this.

Hot Chip

Have hummed and hawed about downloading another Hot Chip album from iTunes.

Listened to clips from "Made in the Dark" and liked them. Also read numerous reviews of the album on the iTunes website and was staggered by the breadth of opinion. Some hated the album and thought it to be derivative rubbish: others thought it to be magnificent.

Downloaded it anyway.

Tango practice:

Was looking at some youTube videos of beginners' Tango exercises and one in particular interested me.

It was saying that to keep one's balance while stepping forwards in the essential Tango fashion ie with legs close together, one should move one's shoulders in sympathy.

Or perhaps 'un-sympathy' would be a better term since the movement is completely counter-intuitive.

Basically, as one's left leg steps forward one's right shoulder rotates forwards; and vice versa. I practised this today in a short corridor in the office whilst nobody was about - as I say, counter-intuitive.

Haven't noticed anyone doing this at the class.

I will persist. (Not sure what the woman's shoulders do while this is going on!)


Sunday 28 October 2012

More mosaic

Many of the tasks I've done for this layout have been a chore: see preceding 350 episodes of this blog.

But this laying of mosaic tiles to form the checkered pattern I find pleasurable and, rather like my tango practice, I actually look forward to doing it.

About nine rows in from the bottom edge (in the second picture above) you will see a missing tile. That is where one of several platform lampposts will be installed.

Yesterday's helicopter event:

My wife and her friend thoroughly enjoyed their 15 minute helicopter flight over Edinburgh. The interior was apparently very like that of a car.

There were a succession of flights throughout the day and I would say that the average age of the passenger was 60 years old. Certainly, nobody under 55. All passengers had been given the flights as gifts - probably from their children!!!!

The weather was excellent yesterday. It is absolutely atrocious today. I wonder if my friend who is this afternoon  redeeming a similar kind of gift voucher is enjoying driving that Ferrari in torrential rain

Last night's dinners:

Frequently, my wife and I have different meals at dinner time: I don't complain.

Mine: scallops, samphire and aubergine under parmesan.

Wife's: breaded haddock, samphire and baked potatoes

More and more, we're enjoying samphire. You can prepare and cook it in three minutes - simply requires 90 seconds frying in butter. What I like about it is that it has an aroma and a taste. So many vegetables these days have no taste or aroma.

This morning, went with several members of my family to St Cyprian's Episcopal Church, Lenzie, for the  All Souls' remembrance of the departed. In our case, we were remembering our parents who passed away, together, 30 months ago. And also, we each remembered others who were no longer with us but who still lived in our memories.

Episcopal services are very similar to their  Roman Catholic counter-parts but with superior singing of the hymns.

The Curate, Moira Jamieson, does an excellent job at officiating - her sermon was first rate too.

Venetian Snares:

Today's listening: "Rossz csillag alatt sz├╝letett" by Venetian Snares.

Venetian Snares

Saturday 27 October 2012

The mosaic begins

Made a start on covering the platforms with mosaic.

Straight-forward enough: one smears PVA over the wood and places the tiles in position individually.

Obviously, it will be done a little bit each day. The section of mosaic pictured here probably took about 45 minutes to lay.

Dub Step.

Forced myself not to listen to Hot Chip today.

Instead listened to some of my Dub Step collection. Like the use of peculiar little noises woven into a piece of music in the places where normally you would hear the sounds of conventional instruments. Adds to the novelty and extends the imagination.

Thrill seeking:

Decades ago, the psychologist H J Eysenck proposed a three dimensional analysis of the human personality.

One of those dimensions was the desire to seek thrills.

At the time I thought that this was a fairly useless way of judging people since thrill seeking didn't really seem to enter much into everyday life. What I did know was that I wasn't a thrill seeker.

My wife and I were given helicopter ride vouchers last Christmas. My wife was delighted but I wasn't interested.

Today we redeem the vouchers. I will chauffeur my wife and a friend of hers through to Edinburgh for their 15 minute flight. I'll stay in the car and listen to the radio.

If the only realistic way of travelling to France was to go by helicopter then I would have no hesitation in going on one. But simply to go on one for the sake of it holds no appeal for me.

Tomorrow, a work colleague will be redeeming a similar kind of voucher that he was given last Christmas only this one is for driving a Ferrari round a race circuit.

So, thrill seeking seems more prevalent than it was 30 years ago - almost part of everyday life!

Again, I like looking at Ferraris but can't believe that driving one would give me any more pleasure than driving a Ford Focus.

Friday 26 October 2012

Another step taken ......................

Spent some time sorting out and securing the wooden platforms ready to cover them with the mosaic tiles.

Last night's dinner:

Roast chicken, carrots, potatoes and gravy.

French Disco:

Almost 20 years ago went into Fopp, a little independent record shop in Byres Road, Glasgow (it's still there but owned now by HMV) to update my grip on the then contemporary music world. They had a sale on (as they often did) and I bought this CD for £3.

Played it loud on my way into work this morning and even louder on the way back.

Tried to tear off the price label before taking this photo - but, it seems to have bonded itself to the plastic case.

Tango practice update:

Having stated in an earlier blog how difficult I find it to translate linguistic advice into correct body movement, I had a bit of a eureka experience with one  such.

"Push off with your back foot."

When the tutors reminded all us men that when we step forwards we should make each step a forceful gesture by pushing off with our back foot, I made a mental criticism. "How else do we walk in a forwards direction without pushing off with our back foot? Otherwise we would just stand still!"

But in fact, when I was practising the following day at home, it came to me that my habit is to walk by outstretching the front leg and the rest kind of follows because all the bones are joined together.

Therefore, I made a definite effort to walk by pushing off with the back foot.

Easy for the first and second step but one soon lapses back into the old method.

It was exhausting, but eventually I managed to walk in the recommended fashion for 20 or 30 steps.

By walking in this way, one slows one's gait right down, it gives one a more forceful sense of moving forwards AND it somehow leads to one's sense of direction emanating from the centre of one's chest - which I believe is correct in order for the male Tango dance to be a convincing leader of any partnership.

I'll have to practise this mode of stepping.

Thursday 25 October 2012




Instalment 1: Abandon the DCC control of the layout and sell the DCC control system on eBay.

My reasoning was thus: I'm only ever going to be running one train at a time (because of the limited nature of the layout) so DCC is probably not needed; I've got some beautiful DC French locomotives that I would have to open up in order to fit the DCC microchip and will probably destroy their bodywork in the process; AND it came to me that all one has to do to convert the DCC layout to DC operation is to install an electrically isolated section of track at the end of each platform where the locomotives not being used can sit and be isolated. When it was their turn to be used one would throw a switch to de-isolate them.

So, in the above diagram, when the power is turned on to the circuit, only locomotive D will move because the isolation has been removed by joining the two wires together.

Instalment 2: DC and DCC systems can be run on the same layout.

Then it came to me:  the layout wiring for DC and DCC are identical and I can use DCC on the above circuit in order to operate the DCC loco that I do have (the Jouef Batignolles) and then switch to DC control when I want to use all the other locos. The switching between DCC and DC power units would be simple.



Basically one makes a break in the rail near the end of the platform. Then one solders two wires to the cut rail, one each side of the break. To send power to the end section of the rail one simply joins the two wires together (using a switch) and to isolate the end section one separates the two wires by throwing the switch in the other direction.

Got cracking with snipping the rails and drilling the holes for the aforementioned two wires that will be soldered either side of the break.

Decided to do all this before I start covering the platforms with mosaic tiles.

An isolated section long enough to house a complete loco and tender if need be.

Snipping one rail only to establish isolation.

The gap.

Hole for wires  to go under the board and to the isolation switch.

These wires will be soldered to either side of the gap and then go to an isolation switch.

Soldering the wires to the rails.

Last night's dinner:
Scotch pie, fried egg, peas, tomatoes and gherkins
Tango class:
Dragged myself disconsolately to the Tango class. First half hour was a real drag and I wished the floor would open up and swallow me - felt awkward, sweaty and incompetent.
But the second half was much more pleasurable and I felt that I was actually no longer the worst in the class.
What I do find difficult is listening to a description in words of a subtle set of movements. It has always been thus for me eg tennis coaching; judo lessons; golf lessons (especially the latter). I cannot translate words into movements.
Exhortations to "shift weight", "open up the space", "indicate double-time" would make no less sense to me  if the words were all mixed up: "Shift the space", "open up the time", "double the weight" etc.
One amusing incident  occurred towards the end when I was dancing with this half-German/half-Russian girl. I laughed (discretely) at someone who was making a real mess of things and then hurriedly explained to my partner that I was not laughing at her but at another pairing and she said in a half-Teutonic/half-Soviet accent: "You notice that nobody is laughing at us!"
Two musical comments:
During the Tango classes I simply do not listen to the music, I'm too busy concentrating on my steps. This is a major flaw that I must address.
Still Hot Chipping. I find them uplifting. Utterly, utterly wonderful.