Monthly Archives: February 2010

Neil Oliver

I have just returned from a long weekend at the ‘Winter Words’ literary festival in Pitlochry (Scotland…Perthshire…Tay Valley…beautiful scenery, got it?). On Saturday evening I attended a talk by Neil Oliver entitled, appropriately and unsurprisingly, ‘An Evening with Neil Oliver’. If you have never heard of Neil Oliver then I would be interested to know where you have been for the last few years (apologies to my few non-UK readers, there is no reason why you should have heard of the man. Google him, he has big hair – not big hair like Billy Connolly, big like Richard III). Amongst other things he (Neil Oliver, not Richard III), recently presented the BBC series ‘Coast’, and also ‘A history of Scotland’. Now, I am not a Scot. I first visited Scotland on a geology field trip in 1970 and I fell in love with the place. I have now lived here for ten years. But this is not about me, this is about Oliver. Not only is he passionate about Scotland, he is passionate about everything he does.

Neil’s talk should have been called ‘A history of Neil Oliver’, because that’s what it was. When he started the Scotland series he got a lot of flak from academics, which in my experience is the way some academics like to burst through into the real world (Oliver is definitely NOT an academic). His story about how he came to be asked to present ‘Coast’ is fascinating. My initial thoughts were that he was lucky, that he was in the right place at the right time. While I was driving home I realised I was wrong. We are in the right place at the right time because we put ourselves there. And as for luck, there is that saying: ‘The harder I work, the luckier I seem to be.’

Okay. Sorry. Far too much philosophy here. Maybe I simply had a thinking weekend that stimulated the little grey cells. Thank you, Neil.

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Waterstone’s e-books

I have at last successfully downloaded an e-book from the Waterstone’s website. This time it went through without a problem.

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Wet Wipes

My car is amazingly dirty. No surprises there, considering the amount of muck and slush on the roads around here. We need a good downpour to sort things out (but preferably not while it’s freezing, which is what often happens at this time of year). When the three-year-old clambered out of the car I warned him against brushing against it in case he got dirty. He stood and looked at it. ‘It is very dirty,’ he said. I knew that, I had just told him that. ‘It needs to be cleaned.’ I knew that too. My logbook, or V5, or whatever it is called these days, says silver-grey (the paint, maybe, but at the moment the car is brown because very little of the paintwork is visible). I told him that it was too cold to clean it (minus 2 at the time), and that the water would freeze. But that was no problem apparently, because he had the solution: ‘There are baby wipes on the seat.’ He was right, of course. I keep a pack in the car in case of… well, you know, emergencies. So watch out, you car wash guys, your days are numbered…

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Waterstone’s e-books. Or maybe not.

This is a grumble. I’m not much of a grumbler (all right, so I tell lies). But this grumble is, I assure you, quite legitimate. If you have been following my blog you will know that I have a Sony e-book reader. It doesn’t replace real books, but it allows me to supplement them by carrying the reader in my pocket and bringing it out when I’m bored. I love it. It came with the complete works of Shakespeare, Wilde and Dickens (presumably for when I am desperate for things to read). I have bought e-books from WHSmith, no problem. Admittedly I had to download Adobe software to handle the anti-copying part of the purchase, but that doesn’t worry me. I like to think that if one day a miracle happens and my own work is published, the ‘Digital Editions’ software will work to my advantage. But I’m straying from my point. Who is the biggest book retailer now that Borders is no more? Waterstones, presumably. So why can’t I buy an e-book from them? I have been trying for days. Each time I get ‘There has been a problem fulfilling this request. Unable to contact e-book fulfilment service.‘ So, not my problem, it’s clearly theirs. I have sent them two emails about it. They have replied to neither. Either you sell e-books or you don’t. So what is it to be, Waterstones? In future, for me, it is back to WHSmith for my e-books and their flawless download.

I said this was a grumble, you were warned. And Mr Shakespeare, Wilde and Dickens, if you are reading this, no offence, okay? I love your stuff.

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