Jul 1 2011

Gloomy Winter’s Noo Awa


This is the first blog post I have done here in two years, so it is slightly longer, or more irritating if you like…

Very occasionally, one comes upon a cascade of eerie co-incidence.  Theoretically, it will always happen due to the combination of probability and conformation bias, however it still feels decidedly odd.  Anyway, back in the days when I was about four stone lighter than I am now, I had seen the film “The Piano”.  While the film was slightly mediocre, I was immediately taken by the music.  Written by Michael Nyman, the track “The Heart Asks Pleasure First” felt like something that could stir the soul but at the same time sounded curiously familiar; I liked the piece of music so much that I went straight out to Biggars Music in Glasgow to obtain the sheet music then immediately set about butchering it on the piano.

If you are now wondering what on earth this has to do with co-incidence or indeed why you bothered reading thus far, all shall soon become clear (although you still won’t like the answer).  Last night, I had set about cleaning my rather neglected piano.  After delving into some Chopin and swearing at the porridge-like texture of my rendition, I decided to have a gander through a book of Scottish Folk sheet music I had bought months ago from the Oxfam bookshop.

Opening at a random page, I picked the first theme that I saw, which happened to be “Gloomy Winter’s Noo Awa”.  After a few bars it started to sound familiar.  Indeed, it was familiar: it turned out to be exactly the same theme used in Nyman’s “The Heart Asks Pleasure First”.  A few searches on Google assured me that I am indeed correct and that the words are due to Robert Tannahill, circa 1808 with the music likely being of earlier origin.  Being the first song in the book that I looked at and that the book contains at least a hundred songs, I thought it was, well, co-incidental.

Is your interest piqued yet?  No?  Oh, well, you best read on anyway – you have started now.

It turns out that Robert Tannahill was actually from Paisley and, if you look at the words to the song, you will find he speaks of Gleniffer Braes and Stanley – well known places in Paisley.  As it happens, I went to Gleniffer High School and when I was a child my parents would take us up Gleniffer Braes for a Sunday walk.  Ok, I may be stating the blindingly obvious but hitherto last night I did not know Robert Tannahill was from Paisley, nor the words he had penned.

By this point I know you may want to throw yourself off a bridge but there is one last ounce of life to ruthlessly squeeze out of this tale.  I wanted to hear a more traditional rendition so I threw it into YouTube only to find Dougie MacLean’s version, MacLean was also in the Tannahill Weavers around the same time as they recorded it on their album “Old Woman’s Dance” (1978), at least according to this blog entry.  Finally, reading from information found in the always reliable Wikipedia, Tannahill Weavers started out in – guess where – Paisley, c.f. Tannahill Weavers Wiki entry.

So aside from wanting to skelp Michael Nyman for using the theme as his own without credit to the original, it was an exceedingly nice surprise to find a piece I have cherished actually has its history firmly set in Scotland and for that matter, my home toon of Paisley.


Jul 1 2009

There was an old woman who swallowed a fly.

It seems as a species we still have not learnt our lesson: it is a bad idea to interfeer with other species. I was reading this article from the BBC about the Harlequin Ladybird; unlike native numerous British species of Ladybird, this one seems to have been introduced from Asia to Europe as a means of controling pests like Aphids. Being particularly invasive, significant concern has been raised about its spread. Scientists are putatively considering introducing a mite which will disrupt the invader’s reproductive cycle. Did these people never hear the rhyme when they were young… “she swallowed the spider to catch the fly”. This kind of behaviour will only end up with us swallowing the environmental equivalent of a horse. And the public is expected to accept the release of genetically modified species into the wild.

Jun 18 2009

Who shot the sheriff (in the foot)?

Earlier today, I noticed this article. It seems that there has been a ruling in the High Court to say that bloggers have no legal protection to assure their anonymity. Seemingly arising out of a case where a Police officer was – rightly or wrongly – posting what I can only assume was sensitive material, it has ended up with the officer in question having to remove the blog and be subject to a written warning.

Naturally, I wanted to read what the officer – a detective named Richard Horton – had written. It seems that it was originally hosted at the URL http://nightjack.wordpress.com/, although not suprisingly the content has been deleted. Right, Google Cache then… erm, nope no cache entries. How about olde’ reliable Internet Archive – aka “The Way Back Machine” – surely that must have a copy? Nada again, it seems that there had been a robots.txt to block crawling by the Internet Archive. Bollocks.

Ironically, if the officer had not stuck in such a restrictive robots.txt then the content which he thought important enough to risk his job over in the first place would still be accessible and serving it’s original purpose – and to boot he would of had a valid excuse for it still being there!

Another lesson perhaps in why the ease of web publishing nowadays can act against the uninitated. One has to wonder if he knew how things would pan out when excluding crawls from Internet Archive. Interestingly, most of the standard copy-and-paste robots.txt examples you see floating about also have Internet Archive excluded; I wonder how many people have actually considered if that is truely what they want.

When it comes to the Internet, caveat emptor still applies – or should that be publisher beware.

Apr 11 2009

Government’s new financial rescue strategy unvieled.

… while out walking recently, I’d seen this notice in front of what I presume was an Episcopal Church; if anything represents the summa of our current government’s policies, this message has to be it.