Tuesday 30 April 2013

Wiring up the platform lights: step 2.

It could be a bit of a pest crouching underneath the baseboard to install the wiring for the platform lights so I intend setting up as much as can be done on top and then transferring the whole wiring set up underneath, ready made, so to speak.

The red and black cables will carry 12volts. At intervals, a thinner positive and a negative wire will come from the red and black cables and fee each lamppost. (See diagram above.)

These feeder wires will connect to the main cables by the use of snap lock connectors - episodes of this blog from January 2012 illustrate how these connectors work.

Close up of the snap lock connectors

Where my hand is, the on/off switch will be installed to control the lights
Currently listening to:
Last night's dinner:

Straight from the freezer, a squid and some supermarket and pre-packed scallops on a bed of lettuce.

Cost per head: probably £6.00

Currently reading:

William Johnston is a scholar whose writings have explored the relationship between Buddhism and Christianity at the level of meditation.

St Paul's, Whiteinch

Attended Mass here this morning.

Monday 29 April 2013

Reading instructions

Decided to be very methodical and sensible about installing and wiring the Viessmann lampposts for the platforms. In other words, carefully read the instructions first. Unfortunately, they are in German and do not explain why there are three wires leading to each light rather than the normal two: positive and negative.

The lights in position.

The business of the three wires has puzzled other modellers as evidenced by the forums on the internet. One chap suggested emailing the German company Viessmann for help as he had found them very helpful in the past; replying to him in English!!! So that's what I did.

In the mean time, here is how I envisage bringing the 12 volts of electricity to the lights.

Schubert's Winterreise at Glasgow City Halls:

Yesterday, I attended Glasgow City Halls to see Florian Boesch and Malcolm Martineau perform Schubert's song cycle Wintereisse. Three days earlier I had watched the same pair give a brilliant performance of another Schubert song cycle, The Miller's Song.

I did not enjoy Wintereisse anywhere near as much. Not sure why.

One bonus was that the seat I had, Z19, turned out to be a real discovery. For some reason, the floor at that point is elevated by about 20cm. Also, it is an aisle seat. And, despite the fact that Z is the back row, The City Halls are sufficiently small that one is still near enough the stage to clearly see the performers' facial and bodily expressions.

Glasgow City Halls

Last night's dinner:

Forgot to photograph the lamb casserole.

Approx cost per head: £4.75.

Sunday 28 April 2013

Octopus A Lagareiro

Final 3 platform lamp posts arrived and one day I'll get round to installing them!

In the mean time, they've all been laid out in their eventual position.

Currently listening to:

Harry Nilsson sings Randy Neman (1970)

Harry Nilsson

Randy Newman
Last night's dinner:


Purchased an octopus yesterday morning which Fantoosh, Glasgow, prepared for me ie they removed unwanted bits but kept the essential wholeness of the thing.

Read dozens of articles on the web about the best way of cooking octopus and all of them seemed to conclude that whatever method you used, it would probably end up tough and chewy.

Most suggested that it should be boiled for hours. Some that frozen octopus were easier to make tender than fresh and there was loads of other advice.

I was almost on the verge of putting the octopus into the freezer and tackling it another day; cooking a fresh one seemed asking for trouble. But, instead I decided to be brave and ignore all the advice and warnings on the internet and instead follow a simple recipe for 'Octopus a Lagareiro' given to us by the staff in the Lisbon hotel we recently stayed in.

Basically, that recipe said this:

Place whole fresh octopus in a baking dish, cover with olive oil and white wine and cook in a medium oven for 45 minutes. Take it out and fry it for a few minutes to crispen it up and then serve.

So, that's what I did. Used a whole bottle of olive oil to ensure the octopus was completely covered.

Also, baked it for over an hour (probably 90 minutes) rather than just 45 minutes. It hardly needed frying afterwards.

Fresh octopus awaiting the oil and wine covering

Still requires more oil to cover it.

Served with courgettes and boiled rice
Perhaps it was beginner's luck; perhaps the higher temperature achieved by cooking in oil was the secret: but the end result was perfect. Perhaps the most satisfying dish I've ever eaten at home.

Cost per head: £8.50 which included an entire £2 bottle of olive oil.

The meal costs per head for the last 7 days are:

Sunday  £0.00
Monday  £13.00
Tuesday  £4.75
Wednesday  £1.50
Thursday  £2.25
Friday  £4.50
Saturday  £8.50

Average for the week:  £4.93

Previous weeks' averages: £5.04; £5.10: £4.89, £11.43; £2.33; £5.48; £4.11; and £3.69

Jesus Loves Me Update:

To reprise: A few months ago I decided to give up all work for 6 months or so in order to get closer to God. I embarked upon a regime of exploring meditational techniques, spiritual reading and miscellaneous activities that might assist me in my quest.

I was willing to go wherever the inclination took me.

What actually happened was that after only a couple of  weeks, my quest ended. There was no need to carry on with the search: Christ came to me. He literally sat down beside me and told me that He loved me. He is beside me now.

I must be accurate. About two and a half weeks ago, I lost Him for a couple of days. I was bereft. I didn't know how to get Him back. But He just came back and hasn't been away since.

I can't explain that 48 hour hiatus.

Saturday 27 April 2013

Harry Nilsson

Added the remaining (trial) awnings to the Boulevard Haussmann building.

With camera flash

Without flash

Currently listening to:

Harry Nilsson: Aerial Ballet Pandemonium (1971)

He had a kindly face.

Harry Nilsson 1941 to 1994
Last night's dinner:

Half a take-away chicken curry from the Shenaz, Glasgow.

Cost per head: £4.50

Effective vocabulary:

Listening to a Radio 3 review of some recently recorded song cycles by the English tenor Ian Bostridge.

Bostridge is very highly rated; but I find him too precious. However, the reviewer on Radio 3 this morning is clearly a fan  and was hugely impressed by the singing on the new record.

He described Bostridge's singing as "shattering".

I thought that was a brilliant word to use to describe the effect that a musical performance can have.

Ian Bostridge
Tango and Walking:

I've been thinking a lot about the emphasis that the new tutors place on the connection between Tango and normal walking.

Their view is in line with that expressed in the following quotation from a website about Tango.

"As I mention repeatedly, good standing and walking are the biggest key to good tango. One of the most beautiful aspects of this dance is the fact that it does not require any artificial technique – just good natural movement.  This is why one of the known sayings of the old-timers is that “to dance tango is to walk like one walks in the street.” Of course, in dancing, the body may perform more different movements than it does in simple walking. The point of the saying is that nothing needs to be changed in the fundamental mechanics of the walk – the body is simply allowed to adjust to the challenges of the dance like in most traditional folk dancing, without learning any specific technique for one’s feet or one’s hips. In addition, more than other dances, most tango figures are based on simply stepping here and there, and the best tango dancers actually look like they are “just walking”. But there is another famous saying: “in order to dance tango well, one must first learn how to stand and walk well.”

Friday 26 April 2013


Made from card a trial awning or canopy for my pink Boulevard Haussmann building. Added some stripes with a magic marker and sat some HO scale cars in front of it.

I'll make a more robust version of the awning from plasticard and colour it with green and white stripes. There will also be similar awnings to the front and to the other side of the building.

But this card version will do for now to check that I've got the scale correct.

Eventually, I'll make some little tables and chairs and people them with HO scale figures - possibly made out of FIMO.

With flash activated on phone camera

My continuing love affair with Lieder:
It's great when one looks forwards to something and it doesn't disappoint.
Last year I reported in the blog about my Damascene conversion to Lieder, a musical form I'd hitherto loathed.
The cause of that conversion was seeing James Gilchrist perform Schubert's "The Miller's Song" in Edinburgh.
The key to the conversion was my physical proximity to the singer. James Gilchrist didn't just sing 'The Miller's Song', he was the young and love-tortured miller.
I was moved.
So, when the opportunity arose to see The Miller's Song being performed in Glasgow last night by a different singer and accompanist: the Austrian baritone, Florian Boesch, accompanied by the much-esteemed pianist Malcolm Martineau I made sure that I had front row seats so that I could feel that physical proximity again.
All I'll say is that once again I was hugely moved: Florian Boesch was indeed the miller. I was spell bound and didn't take my eyes off him for the 65 minutes that the piece lasts.

Martineau and Boesch

Apparently, Boesch's approach which is to be totally emotionally involved with the character of the miller is not an approach that's universally approved. Some prefer a more emotionally distant and aesthetically pure approach. Those who hold the latter view tend to say things about their favourite singers such as , "Oh, he could sing the telephone directory as far as I'm concerned."

I don't hold that view. I was pleased to discover that one of my favourite old-school tenors, Hans Hotter, who was also criticised for being less than technically perfect but always acknowledged to be a brilliant live performer, himself taught the singer who subsequently became Boesch's teacher.

Anyway, when I got home from the recital (which was in front of a packed and ecstatic house) I purchased a ticket to see the same pair perform Schubert's even more love-torn song cycle, Winterreise, on Sunday at Glasgow City Halls.

Almost a total sell out but managed to get one ticket in the very back row. That will test the physical proximity to the performers argument.

Last night's dinner:

A bag of chips from the Oxford Fish and Chip shop in Glasgow.

Washed down with a can of Vimto.

Approx cost per head: £2.25

Thursday 25 April 2013

New phone - therefore new camera

With the help of my niece's new husband I'm going to sell some HO scale rolling stock on eBay.

About 18 months ago, I foolishly purchased 3 Trans Europe Express carriages from a shop in France.

The intention was to match them with my existing Trans Europe Express rolling stock and thus form a longer train.

Unfortunately, the new carriages were of a later era of the TEE.

The entire foolish episode was recorded in the following episode of the blog.


Currently listening to:

Cassius: 15 Again

Last night's dinner:

Artichokes and rice
What a vastly improved photograph this new phone takes.

Approximate cost per head: £1.50

Tango update:

Session 2 of the new class.

The approach in this class is that one first practises new techniques on one's own - everyone going solo around the room. Then one does the same with a partner.

It's this ability to transfer new steps to a "with partner" situation that I find very difficult.

Currently reading:

No need for a caption, this camera even has a flash!!!

Wednesday 24 April 2013

Ceramics update

Truncated session at the ceramics class last night.

Basically, there was some glazing to be applied to window frames and some other details but nothing else could be undertaken until that glazing was fired. And, there was no point starting anything else.

More or less on a whim, painted in some figures in the "shop windows" on the ground floor to suggest some kind of Parisian fashion shop.

The glaze (strictly speaking, an underglaze) used for the window frames is "Bullfrog Green". Like almost all underglazes it bears no relation to the colour that it will be when it emerges from the kiln. So what is brown at present should emerge as green!

Currently listening to:

Composer of the Week on Radio 3.

This week, the suave and erudite Donald Macleod discusses the life of the great 20th Century Danish composer Carl Nielsen whose 5th Symphony is one of my favourite pieces.

Nielsen honoured with his picture on a Danish bank note.
Last night's dinner:

Carrots, artichokes and red pepper in cheese sauce

With two small squid and two scallops
Average cost per head: £4.75

Continuing to read:

The author is a bit of a crank and tries to ground her thoughts about spiritual meditation in some spurious theories about electrical fields and life forces which she claims have been detected and measured by electrical meters and other apparatus.

"At a recent meeting of the British Biological Association (in the 1950s I would think), a Mr Ashton exhibited an electrical apparatus which he had perfected which registered the action of Invisible Life Energy pouring ceaselessly into man." p16

But, if we strip away all that tosh, we are still left with some interesting spiritual statements.

"Spiritual consciousness is a matter of growth. It is not attained haphazard any more than mathematics is learned by guessing at it." p62

And referring to the efforts of someone called Brother Lawrence to attain spiritual insight:

"Naturally he experienced many failures, BUT WITHOUT BEING DISCOURAGED HE SET HIS MIND RIGHT AGAIN and continued his exercise, until he arrived at a state wherein it would be as difficult not to think of God as it was at first to accustom himself to it." p63 (the author's capitals).


I have two thoughts regarding these two quotations:

Firstly, I am of the opinion that spiritual insight is, if not haphazard, then NOT a matter of growth. It just happens. Christ's message is simple and accessible (as Jesus tells us) to children.

Secondly, she is right that we should think of God at all times and that it should be more difficult not to think of him than to think of him.

Two caveats:

Regarding the first point: what about Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians?

"When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things." Chapter 13, verse 11.

Regarding the second point: perhaps one can get out of the habit of thinking about God! Perhaps, thinking about God has a habitualising element as well as "just happening".

Tuesday 23 April 2013

Painting scenery on HO scale model railway.

At some point a back drop will have to be placed on the wall behind the layout.

I've hummed and hawed about how to do this for as long as this project has been going ie 18 months.

At one point, tapestry seemed a good medium.


Then ceramic tiles were considered:

Here's a ceramic tile backdrop behind a kitchen unit.

Now I'm wondering if simply sketching or painting one might not be a better idea. Therefore, today I covered a large canvas with newspaper sheets in preparation for some experimentation in that medium.

Currently listening to:

Joyce Grenfell singing Three Brothers

My wife hates this song and walks out of the room when it's being played - too soppy and Englishie, apparently.

Probably one of my favourite songs ever.

Last night's dinner:

A real triumph: John Dory, artichokes and red peppers.

John Dory - not sure who the chap is.
A rather expensive meal as it turned out at approx cost per head of £13.
Currently reading:
How to enter the Silence by Helen Rhodes Wallace
As part of my intention to read a spiritual text each day, I plucked this slim volume from the bookshelf today.
It's an eccentric work written, I suspect, in the late 1950s.
It has a rather unusual aim for a spiritual work:
"Making clear that experience which clarifies perception, intensifies effort and establishes prosperity."
However, her basic approach I agree with: namely, that we live in a physical, social and cultural world which we should enjoy rather than shun. However, our enjoyment should be fuelled by the Holy Spirit.
"Jesus supreme message was man's relation to an invisible and inexhaustible source that can never be spent, and which can be brought to bear upon every detail of human life." p12