My Amazon Author Page

Find my Amazon author page via this link

"A Scottish Wind in the Willows on high end skunk."

"I enjoy Kate's stories..."
"A fun and spooky read..."

"The characters are so involving and
loveable that you do want them to really exist. It does read like you've
stumbled across someone's long lost diary from and alternate timeline/universe.
I quickly got into the story and loved every second of reading it...
total gem of a read by an author who deserves a lot more recognition."


Friday, 29 August 2014

Now latest charity shop buy, JK Rowling's The Casual Vacancy

Over recent weeks I've moved from Michael Palin's Diaries to Ted Hughes' Letters, and now I'm about to embark upon my latest charity shop buy,  JK Rowling's The Casual Vacancy.  I'll have a crack at just about anything really. The reason I bought it was I wanted an easy read after Ted Hughes.  I'd found his Letters pretty harrowing and given the state of the world at the moment (famine, death, disease, chaos, at every turn - or so it seems) I wanted some light relief.  The choice in the local charity shop was much poorer than normal - the only thing that caught my eye was a tatty paperback copy of Nick Mason of Pink Floyd's autobiography, but at £1.75 it didn't appeal, given its condition. Apart from that there was nothing but tired cookery books, a whole shelf full of Maeve Binchy, and a Daphne du Maurier which I've already got.  So, I opted for this - an immaculate hard-backed edition of The Casual Vacancy.  I hope it's an easy read.  The shop assistant told me it wasn't very good, it's like 50 Shades of Grey without the 'dirt', she said.  As I haven't read 50 Shades I'm none the wiser.  I'll provide a verdict in due course.

Friday, 22 August 2014

So I Thought I could write a novel...... in a month.......Today's N.P.C.....

Perhaps I COULD have - if I'd been chained up in a windowless cellar with a packet of biro pens and limitless paper, no biscuits and nothing else to do.  As it is, or is the scientific proof that I haven't.  Viz. my Novel Progress Chart, or NPC, covering the last month.....
Today I managed to plan the 'structure'.  I have no plot, just a 'structure'. And I've identified some of the characters about whom I might be able to summon the enthusiasm to write.  Or something.  Whatever...

I've Seen all Good People(studio)

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Hanx for the Memory - my "Portable"Typewriter

I've just been reading about Tom Hanks' popular new Ipad app, the Hanx Writer, or something.  I don't have an Ipad and I don't have any apps.  I don't really want any of that shit.  I don't need it, and I don't even know what any of it is, if I'm honest. Well, I do, but only in the vaguest way. And if you don't know what something is,  you can't possibly need it, right?
I think I might have to think about that for a while.
I'm not interested in the latest technological wheezes, unless they impinge directly on my personal psychological or physical terrain.  I do, however, have a portable typewriter (I think I might even have two of them) stowed away somewhere in the eaves of my house, which I've owned since I can't remember when.  Possibly as far back as the 1970s.   It was a reconditioned one which my father bought me from a poky back-street stationers for my birthday one year; it seemed incredibly hi-tech at the time, with its sleek grey lines and clip-on hard plastic carrying-case.  I wanted it because I wanted to write, and I felt that a typewriter would help, somehow.  It didn't.  It was imbued with the grey horror of the grimy back-street shop where we bought it, with its grey walls and cheap grey carpet and grey people in the back shop with grey fag-ash hanging off their lips and grey hair and grey suspicious eyes and grey rain drizzling down on the grey pavements and grotty grey gutters outside the unwashed grey windows.  Every time I opened it I felt defeated by a miasma of greyness.
Or at least that's my excuse.
It weighs a ton by the way, and the handle is tight and awkward, and the clips have a tendency to undo themselves, leaving the typewriter free to crash to the ground as you heft it around.  'Portable' is a bit of a mis-nomer, therefore.
And it's so noisy! Tippy tappy tip....itty tap....taptaptap...ZINGGGGGGGG.....and then the frayed ribbon snaps or goes dry.
I hate the clunking thing.
I keep it because my partner is determinedly technology-phobic and he won't let me chuck it out. He's convinced that the internet and everything related will eat itself.    I still don't think that it follows that we need to keep the typewriter.  Surely a pen and paper would...."Keep it!" he said. "You never know!" he said.
And now it appears to be back in fashion. Almost...
I'll dig it out, if I can be bothered, and post a photo.  I might even try writing something with it. But to be honest I can't see myself reverting to carbon paper and Tippex.

Blog News

I'm busy writing other stuff at the moment so have been neglecting Tuppy and Geoffrey and goings-on at the Rocky Outcrop. I expect to get back into that particular zone soon though, so if you like those Tales, do hang in there.  Or, buy one of my five Tuppy and Geoffrey e-books if you like....

Please also check out our online shop, if you like, The Blue Coracle, where there are examples of Barry Nicol's artwork for sale, including postcards of the original Seapenguin picture from 2008, featuring Tuppy and Geoffrey at the Rocky Outcrop fireside. 

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Flying Burrito Brothers Hot Burrito #1

The Wild Places solo by Under A Banner

An extract from a letter written by Charles Bukowski to his benefactor, which I just read in Brainpicker.   'They never pay the slaves enough so they can get free, just enough so they can stay alive and come back to work. '  
If you can relate to that, you'll enjoy the whole letter - extract below, and link to the page on Brainpicker below that.  
'Thanks for the good letter. I don’t think it hurts, sometimes, to remember where you came from. You know the places where I came from. Even the people who try to write about that or make films about it, they don’t get it right. They call it “9 to 5.” It’s never 9 to 5, there’s no free lunch break at those places, in fact, at many of them in order to keep your job you don’t take lunch. Then there’s overtime and the books never seem to get the overtime right and if you complain about that, there’s another sucker to take your place.
You know my old saying, “Slavery was never abolished, it was only extended to include all the colors.”
And what hurts is the steadily diminishing humanity of those fighting to hold jobs they don’t want but fear the alternative worse. People simply empty out. They are bodies with fearful and obedient minds. The color leaves the eye. The voice becomes ugly. And the body. The hair. The fingernails. The shoes. Everything does..........'

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Today's Walk - Stare Dam, Rohallion, Perthshire

A short walk round the Stare Dam, which is a scenic loch behind Birnam Hill on the back road between Bankfoot and Dunkeld.  We approached it via Murthly.  I thought it was called Rohallion Loch but I think I was mistaken, I think that's another one, adjoining.  It's difficult to tell from Google maps, to be honest.  I need to get a proper O.S. map.
I really like the countryside round there but for some odd reason I haven't explored it from that direction at all - I intend to go back another day when I've more time.  It looks like a fantastic place for wildlife-spotting and there are two standing stones nearby which I'd like to see close-up.  I have climbed Birnam Hill several times (bit too much of a steep incline for my comfort, but the views are just about worth it) but I don't think I've ever taken the detour near the top to see another feature of interest - Rohallion Castle, which I think is the smallest castle in Scotland (and now pretty much a pile of rubble).  I think I was probably too puffed out if I'm honest.
Today we parked in the layby opposite the loch and walked up the track, and followed it round. Quantities of water mint, and really lovely trees.
Water mint

From the road

Peacock butterfly

Damsel fly

Trees by the Stare Dam

from the Bankfoot road

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Today's Novel Progress Chart, or N.P.C. - like cheese ripening in a cellar.

My novel progress chart, or N.P.C.
Looks good, don' it?  I bin workin' so-o-o-o harrrdddd..............
It's maturing deep inside my brain, like cheese ripening in a dank cellar.  The kind of cheese that you have to smoke and soak in alcohol in order for it to reach its full potential.
The kind of cheese that has mould running through it; it's not 'bad' mould though, it's a good, healthy mould formed by a special kind of bacteria called Glaxius Smithius Kleinius, which holds the cure for all known ills.  Including rabies, psychopathy, ebola and morbid obesity.  Probably.
I have done some work on three short stories which I've had on Word for about two years.  I think I might finish one of them this week.  If the weather remains as bad as it is...

In the meantime, please have a look at the shop I opened on Etsy.  It has examples of Barry's work (that's the Barry who did all the artwork for the Seapenguin e-books) including postcards of the original Seapenguin picture for just £2.  More on the way.

Find all five of my e-books here

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Today's Walk - Hill of Tarvit, Fife

We enjoy being members of the National Trust.  Implicit in that statement is an acceptance of impending decrepitude, I know it, but there, I've said it.  We even do the full 'grimble' bit and take a flask and our own sandwiches. You won't catch us paying tea-room prices!  Oh no.
I like gardens and antiques, and Barry likes paintings.  So, it's the houses and castles which we particularly enjoy as members.  Its stewardship of Glencoe and Staffa and other scenic areas does not matter quite so much to us - we go to lots of wild, beautiful places and whether they are managed by the National Trust or not doesn't really impact on our visit - although I daresay they do look after them well, and the free parking you get as a member is handy. And the toilets are always good - so important as one gets older...
Yesterday we had a work-related trip to Dundee, and so clutching our trusty N.T. cards and our flask we carried on over the Tay Bridge afterwards and headed into Fife, to the Trust property at Hill of Tarvit. It's just outside Cupar.
It stands on the site of an older building that dated back to the 16th century (I think).  None of that seems to have been preserved, which seems a shame.  The current building was designed by Scottish architect Robert Lorimer for the Sharp family, Dundee jute magnates.  It was used as a family home and housed their large and impressive collection of tapestries, paintings and 'objets' until the mid-twentieth century, when it was used as a maternity hospital and then a hospice.  In the late 1970s it was taken over entirely by the National Trust and the house and gardens restored.   Paintings which caught my eye included works by Raeburn, Ramsay, Wilkie, Fantin Latour and Breughel the Younger, and there are many more, for example interesting still-lifes and winter scenes by early Dutch artists whose names were not familiar to me.  I liked the furniture, and the ephemera, especially the arts and crafts lamps and the chandeliers, and the tiny, intricate Japanese bronzes and ivories.  The inside of the house was designed by Lorimer around the Sharps' collection, so everything feels integrated, and there's a calming colour scheme of greens and sea-blues.  And of course, as you find in many Trust houses, there is a spectacular kitchen packed with all sorts of fascinating 'kitchenalia' from days of yore.  Copper pans, jelly moulds, wooden butter pats, stone crocks, ancient Hoovers and so forth.
The well-kept terraced garden has a lovely herbaceous border and there's a hill walk beyond, which we did not do due to the terrible weather. There's also a small golf course and a croquet lawn, with the opportunity to play.
The house and grounds were busy.  It seems to be a popular place and I expect the golf course is a draw for many.  I think, given that we get in for 'free' as members, I'd probably like to return on a dry day for a game of croquet and further exploration of the grounds.  Overall it can't compete with the other major Fife NT properties, Kellie Castle and Falkland Palace, lacking as it does their history, but after all it isn't a Castle, it's a House, and it offers something different. .

From the terraced garden

Flight of steps leading through and up the terraced garden

Hollyhocks in the herbaceous border

Looking down towards the croquet lawn and the golf course

The Rose Garden

Red Admiral butterfly enjoying the terrace

Saturday, 9 August 2014

Whinge of the Week - Beans with a Cooked Breakfast, and face furniture

'I thought I was on to a winner Tuppy.  I thought for sure that I'd win the Whingers Anonymous Whinge of the Week prize hamper last night, but nobody agrees with me.  I was shouted down! Most people seem to enjoy beans and I simply can't understand it.  I feel like a stranger in my own country Tuppy!  Is it a new-fangled thing Tuppy, this beans with breakfast carry-on?'
I sighed heavily, and glared at Geoffrey through my brand-spanking-new 2-for-1-from-Spec-Spenders 'pince nez' before removing them and warming to my theme.  The heavy sigh was just an act by the way, breakfast being one of my favourite subjects.  Especially if it's freshly-cooked by someone who knows what they're doing and I'm starving and about to tuck in.  And the glare was the same - an affectation affected to draw attention to my new affectation, or 'face-furniture' - wire-rimmed 'pince nez'.
It's just a shame that some people don't appreciate style when they see it.
'I like your new half-moon specks Mr Tuppenceworth!' shrilled Chelsy, the Fulmars' three year old great-great-great-great-grand-daughter as she gambolled across their vile new decking and I tottered past along the cliffs yesterday on my way to throw the rubbish over.
'They're not half-moon specks,  you midget philistine,' I snarled,'They're 'pince-fucking-nez.'  And she ran back inside, screaming for help.
I think we can expect a rather tiresome visit from the Fulmars, later. Anyway - back to the beans with cooked breakfast topic.
'Yes Geoffrey.  It is new-fangled and not traditional by anyone's standards, no matter how low these standards happen to be. In fact, it's an indication of the preternaturally prehensile strength of the grasp of the shoddy processed foods hegemony-style-thing which has its roots deep, deep down in the blackest depths, or indeed 'bowels', of the mid-20th century and whose relentless tendrils stretch right out into the furthest reaches of the Andromeda nebula, and beyond. A traditional full-cooked involves the following, and only the following: a nicely-fried egg, with yolk showing, two rashers of grilled back bacon, one proper sausage, grilled (and none of your cheap rubbish), a grilled slice of black pudding (optional), a grilled tomato (if in season) , and half a slice of non-greasy fried bread.  Needless to add this must all be served piping-hot, on a properly-warmed, white-glazed breakfast plate. This should be preceded by something lightly citrus-y such as a small glass of fresh orange juice or half a fresh grapefruit, and accompanied by a large pot of well-brewed tea and a rack of toast, with real butter and home-made marmalade or perhaps honey.  A freshly-laundered damask napkin should be folded neatly in four and laid on the side-plate with a side-knife placed carefully on top and condiments to hand. By condiments I mean salt and pepper.  No red or brown sauce and beans certainly don't come into the proceedings at any juncture.  They're messy, and spoil the whole aesthetic.'

Find my Amazon page here

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

TONITE - at the debating society (or DebSoc).....

Not content with Whingers Anonymous,  Geoffrey's joined the local Debating Society, or DebSoc.. 'Any excuse for a gossip and a cuppy,  Tuppy!'  he enthused.  I was forced to tread heavily on his foot in order to relieve the pressure of my feelings, viz. an intolerably horrible melange of revulsion, frustration and disgust.
Tonite's topic is, apparently, 'Softly softly catchee monkee.  WTF does it mean,  and is it not a bit racist?'
'What do you think,  Tuppy?' shouted Geoffrey, as he smashed up some bourbon biscuits with a rolling pin for the base of a no-bake tiramisu.
'I don't know, and yes, probably,' I replied, placing today's free 'Rocky Outcrop' newsletter over my face as I prepared for a snooze. 'I hope those bourbons aren't the stale ones that you left out overnight by the way.'
'They are Tuppy, but you'll never notice due to them being soaked in a hundred and fifty per cent alcohol.'
'Really?  Where did you get that?' I said,  opening one eye and wondering whether it might be worth not having a snooze after all.  Perhaps there might be something more interesting to do, although past experience made me doubt it.
'The rats have started a new Still up on the moors.  At the Old Quarry.  They're giving away free samples.  Free samples Tuppy!'
'Right Geoffrey.  Put that rolling pin down, and fetch your coat. The one with the huge pockets.'
'Can we come too?' begged the underpants. 'We don't like to be on our own.  We might Do Something to Ourselves...and it would be All Your Fault....'
'No!  get back in the woodshed please.'  Geoffrey and I exchanged glances in our usual covert manner. We'd have to get a bigger padlock...and perhaps a flamethrower...

next time....the underpants effect an escape, and we decide to raid the illicit Still... 

Also - online shop with artwork for sale

The Frankenstein Pants

'These aren't biscuits.  They're Rich Teas.'
I didn't want to be rude (yet), so I spoke quietly and calmly.  Then I placed the packet, or what remained of it after it had been stuck inside the underpants' back pocket while the Tupfinder General was wearing them, carefully on the games table.
I sat back and folded my arms. 'Well?'
'Well what?'
'Well, what else have you got?  You said you had biscuits.'
'R-rich teas.  They are biscuits.  It says so on the packet - look.  R-rich Tea BISCUITS.' The underpants were nervous, I could tell by the tremor in their voice and the way their legs were twitching as they sat on the edge of the settee.  I decided to press my point.
'A biscuit is only a biscuit if you can dunk it. FACT. You cannot dunk a Rich Tea.  Geoffrey - put the kettle on.  Three teas, extra strong with plenty sugar.  And bring the Hobnobs.  Let's do a comparison test.'
'Plain or chocolate?'
'Do I really need to answer that?'
'O I like a plain Hobnob,' enthused the underpants.  I could tell they were trying to find common ground, and connect with my better side.  Little did they know I don't have one.
'You'll never fit in round here,' I said. 'Rich Teas and plain Hobnobs?  We're on different planets. Next you'll be saying you don't like fishfinger sandwiches. You might as well go back to wherever you came from - oh!  it was the Narks, wasn't it?'
'Yes.  As you already know, Val Nark created us from cloth made from thistles and nettles.  She wove us on a loom that Dave made from salvaged timber and stitched us together with thread made from more thistles and nettles.  But she went too far in her quest to produce an everlasting and 100% eco-friendly product.  She made us strong  - but it was the wrong type of strong.  She gave us prehensile strength, and we couldn't cope with it, psychologically.  We've become clingy and needy. In fact, we're emotional leeches, and we can't stop ourselves from 'acting out' by refusing to be removed whenever someone wears us.  Can we stay?  PLEASE?  Don't send us back to the Narks' minimart-cum-farmshop-cum-postoffice.  We'll feel safe here because we know you don't wear underpants. You'll be saving us from ourselves and doing the world a favour.'
'All right. You can live in the woodshed.'
'Will you teach us to read and write so we can tell our story to the world?'

Sunday, 3 August 2014

Today's Walk - Pitlochry Dam

The Hydro-electric Dam, a vast block of post-war concrete, is not Pitlochry's best feature, not by a long chalk, yet it seems to feature in lots of photos and postcards of the town.  I grew up in Pitlochry, and the Dam was so familiar that it was one of those things that you don't really see until you spend some time away and return with fresh eyes.  As children we often used to walk 'round' it, as we put it, in a three or four mile circuit on a Sunday.  Sometimes we'd even do it twice. There wasn't much else to do in the town in those days, to be honest.  We must have been fit as fiddles!    I think that in a few years' time - or perhaps sooner - it will be seen as an architectural antique.  Already it has that feel to it.  It almost looks art deco, although it is very much a post-Second World War construction.   There are pleasant views from the top, and lovely walks along the shores of Loch Faskally, an artificial loch which was created when the Dam was built.
I've walked 'round' the Dam hundreds if not thousands of times, and I've yet to see a fish in the viewing chamber into the salmon ladder.  They are there though, lots of them, and you often see them jump.  I've also seen otters on occasion.
Just below the Dam is the Theatre.  I remember the old Theatre, which was in a tented structure in a leafy part of the town, with tables and umbrellas outside in the summer.  The new Theatre is really nice as well,  I was quite prepared to hate it but I really do like it.  I say 'new', but it's been in its present location for about twenty years.  I saw many plays in the 'old' theatre, but I've yet to see one in the 'new' building.  I did however have one of my stories performed in the bar by one of the actors a few years ago, as one of their 'Fearie Tales' winners during their Winter Festival, and I went over to watch.  Sadly I lost that story when my old computer packed in, else I'd publish it on the blog.
On this occasion I parked at the Recreation Ground (free) and walked to the Dam via the suspension bridge and the Theatre.  Once on the other side of the Dam I walked over to a small bay on Loch Faskally which we used to know as the Lady's Dell, and where we used to swim (now that's forbidden, and probably rightly so. The loch slopes downwards very fast.)  I then walked up to the Putting Green, and back down the road to the Dam and then down the near side of the river to the car park.  Just a short walk, unfortunately, as I'm afraid I'm still suffering with a sore foot.
Looking south down the River Tummel from the top of the Dam

Loch Faskally from the Dam

The Dam from Port na Craig suspension bridge
The Theatre 

Looking across the Tummel to Ben y Vrackie, from the Theatre

Approaching Pitlochry via Kirkmichael and the Moulin Moors

Today's N.P.C. (Novel Progress Chart)

Novel Progress Chart, or N.P.C.
Flat-lining again.    Does thinking about it count?  No, didn't think so.  Ah well....