Thursday 28 February 2013

Skimmed Milk of Human Kindness

Nothing to report on model railway front but a reminder as to how these ceramic buildings are hopefully going to fit together.

Here are various plans, sketches, diagrams and photos from past episodes of the blog.

The ceramic Gare du Nord in position

With a newspaper canopy

Surrounded by paper mock-ups.
David Bowie:

Yesterday, I downloaded the newish (not actually the very latest) David Bowie single from his yet to be released album, "The Next Day".

The song is called "Where are we now?" and I've been listening to it on more or less a continuous loop since.


The accompanying video is perfect.

Last night's dinner on a shoestring:

Cauliflower cheese sauce plus tomatoes
Total cost - £1.50 per head.

Skimmed milk and Meditation:

Began reading the cult novel, "The Man with the Golden Arm" by Nelson Algren.

Written in the 1940s and set in Chicago among the poor and alienated of that era.

My edition comes with an introduction by Irvine Welsh and an afterword by Kurt Vonnegut.

And, I can't read it.

Let me quote from Vonnegut's excellent assessment of Algren, the novelist:

"He broke new ground by depicting persons said to be dehumanised by poverty and ignorance and injustice as being genuinely dehumanised, and dehumanised quite permanently. Contrast, if you will, the poor people in his book with those in the works of social reformers like Charles Dickens and George Bernard Shaw, and particularly those in Shaw's Pygmalion, with their very promising wit and resourcefulness and courage. Reporting on what he saw of dehumanised Americans with his own eyes day after day, year after year, Algren said in effect, 'Hey - an awful lot of these people your hearts are bleeding for are really mean and stupid. That's just a fact. Did you know that?'"

Therein lies the power of Algren's novel - it is uncompromisingly true.

Unfortunately, although I know that Algren's depiction of that period in Chicago is accurate, I can't empathise with it in any way. I simply don't know where to begin when I meet a dehumanised person.

I have no charts or compass to make sense of what I'm listening to when they speak. I would be as well trying to listen to bedroom furniture. I don't even feel compassion for them.

Perhaps this should be a topic for my meditation which I intend to begin tomorrow.

Wednesday 27 February 2013

Ceramics update

3 Ceramics matters to report upon:

1) The long dark tenemental row has had its final firing but was too hot to take home.

Before it went into the kiln.

It should emerge with a satin finish.

2) The church facade of St Paul-St Louis has had its first firing and was ready for some colour to be added.

A reminder of the actual church.

I want my model to have this grimy dismal kind of finish. The lecturer suggested that I look around the classroom for finished pieces that might have been given a glaze similar to what I was looking for.

Almost immediately I saw this ceramic clock: the girl who made it said the glaze was called "Evening Shadow". It varies in appearance according to lighting conditions.

The stained glass windows on my model will not receive the "Evening Shadow" treatment so I painted them with shellac to resist the "Evening Shadow". The shellac will burn off in the kiln leaving those parts unglazed and ready for separate coloured glazes to be added.

Applying the shellac

With the protective shellac in position the next step was to slap on the "Evening Shadow".

Glazed and ready for the kiln.
One of the joys (dangers) of glazing is the uncertainty. One simple doesn't know how the glazes will turn out. I'm happy to leave the final effect in the lap of the God of the Kiln.

3) Finally, I turned my attention to a second row of buildings. I'll use the same technique as in the blackish row (see picture at top of this page). But the building will be one of these middle-class apartment blocks with larger windows, balcony railings and other decoration.

I've almost finished etching in the features on the 4 component walls.

A paper model of what I'm aiming at.

Marked in the 6 storeys - including garrets


Last night's dinner on a shoestring:

Over the last 18 months I can remember having only 1 or 2 meals that I didn't really enjoy.

Last night's was one such.

Chopped up a fresh mango on top of plain spaghetti. After all, a mango is often a constituent in a sandwich (Greggs do a chicken and mango sandwich) or in a curry.

In this case, the final effect was half way between mundane and cloying.

Total price approx £0.75 per head.

Currently listening to:

One of the first albums released by Eels in 1998:

Meditation update:

Nothing to report.

Tuesday 26 February 2013

Tango, Squash and Mathematics

Ceramics class tonight:
Hopefully, the St Paul-St Louis church facade will have been fired and ready to be underglazed with some interesting colours.
St Paul-St Louis
The temple building below has the kind of burnished finish that I envisage my church having.
Found this ceramic model of a temple somewhere on the web.
When I was flicking through some pictures of  Parisian buildings, I came across this one. Perhaps, I'll add canopies to my model of the Boulevard Haussmann.

Projected canopies
Currently listening to:

Radio 3, Composer of the Week.

This week, Donald Macleod considers the life and work of the French composer, Charles Gounod, 1818 - 1893.

Charles Gounod
Last night's dinner on a shoestring:

Fricassee of lamb, potatoes and shallots. Instead of braising the lamb in white wine, used red and then thickened sauce with egg yolks and lemon juice.

Lamb cost £7.50 and the accessories about £2, so that equals £4.75per head.

Tango, squash and mathematics

One of the least satisfactory squash coaching lessons I ever received was given by a very fat but highly esteemed coach who warmed up the squash ball for use by keeping it under his armpit.

His approach was intellectually beyond me. His opening gambit was not anything to do with technique (which is what I was interested in) but was that squash is a 3D pursuit and that one must think of all shot making as taking place within this 3D space.

This meant nothing to me: I seemed capable of seeing shots only in terms of a 2D Euclidean geometry.

But, I knew that the fault lay with me not with the coach. And, I still think of his comments all these years later.

But, I have the same mental block with my Tango tuition. Go left, go right, go forwards go back - these are all constructs I understand and can execute. But when the tutors talk of moving into space, shifting weight, and so on, my mind seizes up just as it did with the squash coach.

At least nobody's armpits are involved.

There was an interesting interview on Radio Scotland today. A composer and choreographer was talking about her collaboration with a mathematician. The mathematician had told her that maths is all about patterns.*  Her latest composition/dance is being performed in Glasgow this weekend and the audience is invited to move about the venue and indeed climb to various balconies so that the movements can be viewed from above, thus revealing the 3D nature of the dance.

I intend going to see this performance: entry is free and my bus pass gives me free travel to it.

My hope is that the experience will kick-start within me some appreciation of my own movements as being a 3D affair. Obviously, I know that they are in 3D but I have no appreciation of this 3D element and thus cannot exploit their 3Dness. To be even an average Tango proponent, one needs to understand this 3Dness.

* It is oft said that mathematics is about patterns as opposed to numbers. That is where my understanding of mathematics came to a grinding halt. Peano's axioms I enjoyed; Complex numbers and Calculus I loved: but topology was a closed book.

All these issues - Tango, squash and maths - are inter-linked in some way.


Have still done very little on the meditation front. But I did attend my local church last night to hear a fascinating lecture given by a hospital consultant in Palliative Care. Certainly lots to meditate upon afterwards.

Monday 25 February 2013

Parisian Garrets

I love this definition of a garret from Wikipedia.

"A garret is generally synonymous in modern usage with a habitable attic or small (and possibly dismal or cramped) living space at the top of a house."

Anyway, the addition of some garrets is the next stage in the construction of my ceramic building.

Current position

Projected garrets and dome.

Last night's dinner on a shoestring:

Fish and chips

These were what pass for standard fish and chips in Glasgow these days: perfectly edible but nothing special. There are outstanding purveyors of fish and chips in Scotland  eg on the East coast and indeed on the Clyde coast too.

Cost was £5.80.

Can one eat well each evening on an average of £5 per meal? ie £35 per week?

Currently listening to:

Found someone to accompany me to the forthcoming Eels concert and they were so grateful that they got down on the ground and actually kissed my shoes?

In preparation for concert, downloaded another two albums from iTunes.

from 1998

from 2009
Meditation update:

Instead of attempting meditation today, will attend a talk this evening at my local church  on the role of suffering in Christianity.

Sunday 24 February 2013

Ayn Rand

Fitted the card foundation for a roof.

A blackish-gray plastic roof will be attached to that maroon coloured card foundation.

Then will be added, garret windows, some chimney stacks and a small dome in the gap at the front.

Jonathan Harvey:

Today, on Desert Island Discs, the guest chose as one of her 8 records,  "Mortuos Plango, Vivos Voco" by Jonathan Harvey. It's basically the sound of various bells.

I can't get into Harvey's music but the guest gave a very good explanation as to why she liked the piece. "It reminds me that we are each just a speck against the backdrop of eternity."

Jonathan Harvey
Last night's dinner:

Together, both meals cost approx £15: £13 for the fish and £2 for potatoes, leeks and peppers.

Halibut, red mullet, scallops and veg.

Trout and veg
Probably could have done without the red mullet or the halibut. That would have knocked £4 or £5 off the cost.

Ayn Rand:

The Fountainhead, published in 1943, is a most unusual book. It is at once a novel and a treatise on architecture. I find it gripping. But, more importantly, the prose style is perfect for me.

Meditation update:

Determined to start some kind of meditation today. Couldn't be bothered sitting crossed-leg so lay on my back on the bed (with covers over me).

With the intention of meditating upon yesterday's Gospel reading "Love your enemy", I pictured the face of a person who has given me a lot of grief over many decades.

After about 2 minutes, I nodded off. Perhaps the covers were a mistake.

Actually, I do love my enemies. There is nobody against whom I feel any ill-will. But, there are people who quite blatantly and with pleasure continually try and undermine me and act spitefully towards me. And that irks me.

So my meditation should really be directed at reducing that sensation of being irked.

Saturday 23 February 2013

Chinese Take Aways

Mucked around with some scraps of paper to make a mock-up roof for Boulevard Haussmann thingie.

The mock-up will form a template from which a card version will be made.

This was a surprisingly difficult task to get one's head around.

Currently listening to:

Air: "Moon Safari"

Released 1998
Record labels:

My sister and brother-in-law texted me last night to say that they were at Ayr Gaiety Theatre to see Kenny Ball and his Jazzmen minus an indisposed Kenny Ball.

I texted back to say that I remembered that the recording of Midnight in Moscow by the band had been released on a record (1962) with a pinkish coloured label but I couldn't remember the name of the record company.

One's memory plays tricks on one:

It was released on the PYE record label.

But the label wasn't in the slightest bit pink - it was white.

That's a disappointing outcome because I was waxing lyrically to myself on the nostalgic power of musical associations such as the colour of record labels. Well that's one association that obviously never existed in the first place.


This morning on Radio 3, to mark the 95th anniversary of the founding of the Red Army, a recording was played by the choir of the Red Army singing "Moscow Nights"; that's another name for "Midnight in Moscow".

Last night's dinner on a shoestring:

Chinese take aways which at £5 a piece are great value.

Forgot to take photographs.

Mine was a Sweet and Sour Chicken with boiled rice.

Just a thought: are Chinese take aways done on an abacus?

Today's lunch:

Black pudding and poached eggs.

Seemed easier to use a spoon.
Possible purpose for Meditation:

I still haven't begun meditational exercises of any kind. BUT, I have been thinking a lot about the issue.

This morning's Gospel reading at daily Mass included Jesus' very difficult instruction that one should love one's enemies:

Matthew chapter 5:

43 "You have heard that it was said, `You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.'
44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,
45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.
46 For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?
47 And if you salute only your brethren, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?
48 You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

The killer verse for me is 46: For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?

In other words, it is pretty easy to love those who love us.

But, and this is where Meditation might be relevant, while one might agree with the rightness of the statement that one should love one's enemies, it's difficult to do more than pay lip service to its sentiment.

Perhaps if one was to meditate upon Jesus' instruction then one would eventually internalise it and one would actually love one's enemy. Then, one wouldn't simply agree with the truth of the statement. Rather, that statement would be an accurate description of one's attitude towards one's enemies.

In other words, maybe being in a meditational trance is like being in a state of self-hypnotic suggestibility where one can suggest to oneself all sorts of Christian attitudes.

Friday 22 February 2013

Plastic Padding and Ceramics

With Chemical Metal or as I have always known it, "Plastic Padding", stuck together the 4 walls of the HO scale model of the Boulevard Haussmann building.

Quite tricky to line up the walls and perch them in position while the joins are filled with the glue. This is where my attitude is poor. I just grabbed whatever objects were immediately to hand and stacked them higgledy-piggledy inside the walls and abutting the outside of the walls.

Next, I mixed up the two components of the Plastic Padding (viz the adhesive and the hardener) and filled in the gap between  two of the walls.

NOTE: I must have used a tad too much hardener in the first mix and the Padding set hard within a couple of minutes of mixing it. So the finish of the first join was a bit lumpy.The other three were improvements on this.

Lumpy finish which will be filed smooth

Still quite a few decorative features to be added and some polyfilla to smooth out the joins between the walls.

Plus the roof!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Last night's dinner not on a shoestring:

Had my annual dinner with a friend that I used to work for.

Forgot to take photographs of the individual dishes.

But the restaurant was very good and the Lenten observances were not observed.

Starter: Hen's egg plus stuff plus veloute.

Main: Pork cheeks

Dessert: Rhubarb and some kind of cheesecake

All excellent.

Plus: my dining companion gave me my new lightweight knee brace.



Did nothing on this front whatsoever.

Two new novels to read:

Currently listening to:

Francis Poulenc