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Gardening Scotland – 3 June 2017

We had planned to go to Gardening Scotland in Embra today.  We had intended to get the train to Haymarket, then get a No 98 bus to Ingliston Show Ground.  That plan was scuppered when I woke with a pain in my stomach.  Actually, the pain had been there all night, on and off.  My prediction was trapped wind, possibly too much information there.  Anyway, there was no way we were getting the 10:12 train from Croy.

Just before 11am I made the decision to drive there.  Yes, there would be queues, but there would be queues for the bus too, and probably the train would be busy into the bargain.  We were driving, the die was cast.

The drive to Embra couldn’t have been better, well, it could if some diddy hadn’t decided Saturday would be a good day to plonk some cones on the road outside Grangemouth so half a dozen road menders could get a Saturday shift out of digging up a traffic island.  Looks like a plan.  Road will be busy with folk going to Gardening Scotland.  Nobody really believes the M8 is running smoothly, so let’s dig up the M9 and cause chaos.  I really believe that’s how these idiots think.

After Grangemouth-Gate we reached Embra without any further problem.  Parking was a dawdle with lots of guides to get you parked quickly and efficiently.  Then I managed to ping the crown off one of my teeth.  Tiny wee thing, but my tongue still manages to find the crevice it was covering.  Walked the half a mile to the entrance gate.  It was only when we got there, Scamp realised she’d left her purse in the car.  We walked all the way back, retrieved the purse, walked back and went in.  Almost felt sorry for the ‘Fat Family’ who were just about to pay up when an official told them they couldn’t take a dog in with them.  It wasn’t a dog, it was a Pug.  Mrs Fat shouted to Mr Fat “Hold it.  They say we can’t take the dog in.”  Mr Fat replied “Can’t take the dog in?”  Mrs Fat “Can’t take the dog in.”  (Don’t you just love conversations like that?)  Then Mr Fat said “You could take dogs in last year.”  However, the official was adamant that No, you couldn’t take the dog in, and No you couldn’t take it in last year either.  Unfortunately, at that point Scamp had paid and we were in, so I don’t know the upshot of Pug-Gate.  It did entertain me for a wee while.

We had hoped for Chelsea with heather and thistles, but this was more of a horticultural show / shopping experience than a garden show.  That said it didn’t prevent us from buying lots of plants and a neat little trolly to drag them home with.  I think we would go again next year all being well, but probably go on the Friday when everything was sparkling and new.

Back home the M8 and drove through a thunder storm then managed to miss the Stirling turn off for the second time in a couple of weeks.  Must be more observant.

Today’s sketch was a last minute affair.  Nothing fantastic, just a coffee cup.

Not sure what’s happening tomorrow.  Depends on my insides again.

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A bit of culture – 11 May 2017

Where else would we get Culture, but Embra.  Today we were going to the ballet.

We set off in the mid morning, not as early as we usually leave on a Saturday, and intended walking down to get the bus to Croy, but one of our neighbours was taking his ‘big car’ out for a drive and offered us a lift.  Thank you Bobby.  Caught the train to Embra, but not before we had to move along the platform as we appeared to be blocking the entrance to a honeybee’s nest in a drainage pipe in the wall. From Haymarket we did our usual walk up to get our morning coffee in Nero, then on up Lothian Road for a change and from there to the Grassmarket.  Saw a couple of interesting litter bins there, but you’ll have to go to Flickr to see that photo.

To begin our cultural visit, we went to the National Museum of Scotland.  It’s a long while since I’ve been there and there have been a great number of improvements.  When I was very wee, my dad took me to the museum when we were on our summer holidays at my Aunt Sarah’s.  I think he enjoyed the visit as much as me.  There were always loads of glass cases with models in them and there was always a well thumbed button on the case.  If you pressed the button marvellous things happened.  Tiny little lights came on in rooms in the dioramas, wheels turned, signals changed.  In other words, they came alive.  The last time I was there nothing worked.  Today, I was transported back to that wee boy, there with his dad, pressing buttons, because everything was working again.  Even better, lots of other wee boys and girls were running around the place pressing buttons, pulling levers and watching things working.  Brilliant fun.

The main event today was Ballet at the Festival Theatre and that was our next stopping point.  We were there in plenty time, which was just as well, as there were hundreds of stairs to climb up to the top floor where our seats awaited us.  Possibly the most uncomfortable seats it’s been my bum’s displeasure to sit on, but these are the sacrifices we must make for our art.  The ballet, The Red Shoes was fascinating.  How those blokes did the jump with a pirouette in mid air, I’ll never know.  The first half dragged on a bit too long for me (and my sore bum), but the second half flew past in a trice.  I’d go back again.  Best bit for me was when Scamp shouted “Oops!” just as the heroine was knocked down by a train!  Can’t take her anywhere.
Today’s PoD is of one of the Art Deco lights in the theatre.

Walked back down The Bridges and had a quick drink in a pub we passed, then down to the Grassmarket where Scamp and I agreed on an interesting looking Italian restaurant.  Had pizza bread to share as a starter, then Scamp had Mushroom Risotto and I had Spaghetti Arrabiata.  Her’s was garlicky and creamy, mine was hot and spicy.  We’ll be back.

Train back was very busy and then we got a taxi to the house.  A lovely day of culture.  Tomorrow?  Maybe Glasgow.

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A day at the Toblerones – 22 April 2017

Not real Toblerones, just my nickname for the anti-submarine defences on the Forth at Cramond.

We walked up the path beside the River Almond past the ruins of the old mill, or should I say through the ruins because the walls are still there with archways and window spaces, but the roof is long gone.  We didn’t get much further past the dam because the path has been closed off by the council as being in a dangerous state.  Such a shame as it’s only a very short stretch of path that’s been condemned, about 3 or 4 metres really.  It appears from the maps that have been posted that beyond that it’s fine.  Anyway, that was the end of our riverside walk.  Saw a Japanese bloke on our way down the river kitted out in chest-high waders and with a fly rod.  I didn’t think he’d get anything today, then a couple of mayflies flew past, so the flies are emerging in the warm weather we’ve been having and he might have caught something after all.

We stopped for lunch at the wee cafe at the Mill House.  My lentil soup and toastie was great, but Scamp’s poached egg on avocado and sourdough bread looked a bit insipid and underdone.  She wasn’t impressed and told the owner so.  The cheese scone she received to replace the poached egg was too hard for her taste.  She really is spoilt after having tasted my scones 😉

After our aborted lunch we walked down and had a Mr Whippy ice cream each!  There were no words of dissent!  To walk them off, we strode out along the esplanade watching weans on bikes, neds on bikes, weans on scooters, dugs (not on bikes or scooters) folk in paddling!  It really is a bit early for paddling.  Yes, we did it in January, but that was in Trinidad!  Walked for about a mile or so and turned back to the car and drove home.  Lovely day, walking in the sunshine in good company.

Eventually relented and found a human in Currys and got the keyboard I wanted.  Sometimes you just have to bite the bullet.  Scamp says it’s about not cutting off your nose to spite your face, or am I mixing my metaphors now?

Before we went out, I got a book delivered, a painting book.  I’d borrowed it from the library and it was worth buying.  Unfortunately, it was out of print but available for a few quid second hand.  It almost cost as much to post as to buy, but it was in almost perfect condition.  I’d consider this option in future.  Maybe I’ve just been lucky today or maybe second hand books, like second hand cameras are worth looking at.

Tomorrow?  Maybe a walk down the green to collect more steps, miles and maybe even stairs climbed.

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Embra – 25 March 2017

We took the train to Embra this morning in the sunshine that was predicted would last all day.  It did.  Blue skies over Embra, but also over Cumbersheugh which was a greater surprise.

Wandered up the Grassmarket and decided that we’d just have an early lunch at Petit Paris, except that it was 12.00 and we were half an hour too early.  Rather than be disappointed like yesterday, we sat in the Grassmarket in the sunshine and waited until nearly 12.30 and then made our way down to the restaurant.  Scamp had Soup de Provence and I had what I always have there, French Onion Soup because they do it so well.  For main we both had Poisson de Jour which for Scamp was Coley with Red Pepper Sauce, served with mashed potatoes.  Mine was the same, except they had run out of Coley, so I had Cod.  Same difference.   Scamp had a crêpe with Grand Marnier for pudding and I had coffee.  I took a risk and had a glass of house red with my meal.  Ha, ha Nick the Chick, I wipe my nose with your drink driving limit!

Walked back down the Grassmarket rather than go up past the Royal Mile and all the twee gift shops, because, to be honest, the only reason we were there was to have lunch.  Got a book I’ve been looking for, for ages in Waterstones and then got a cut-price Bergy jacket in Tiso’s.  Actually it’s exactly the same as the one I’ve had for ever except it doesn’t have inside pockets.  Same style, same material almost, even same colour.  Boring, that’s me.  It was a bargain.  You can’t let a bargain go past, can you?

Back home we watched Best Marigold Hotel again.  Still has the same magic as the first time we saw it.

A lazy day in the sun.  Bought some fat hand made sausage rolls and some pork sausages too at the Farmers Market, so that’s tomorrow and probably Monday’s lunch sorted.  Hoping for more sunshine tomorrow.  Always hoping!

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The trick is to not let on – 30 December 2016

Today, in total secrecy we slipped out of the house just before 10am and drove under leaden skies to Croy station.  There we boarded a train headed for … Embra.  The trick is to not let on.  That way you actually get to Scotland’s second city without any interference.

We had coffee in our usual Cafe Nero in Lothian Road and gazed out on light clouds with bits of blue sky.  Scamp took pity on a Big Issue seller and bought her a coffee.  A random act of kindness.  We should all do that more often.

We had intended walking through Princes Street Gardens, but they were locked and guarded by security staff.  I suppose that’s to be expected with the amount of work having to be done for the Hogmanay celebrations tomorrow.  That said, we went back the way we’d come and walked up the Grassmarket and from there on to Princes Street.  We had thought about going to JL, but it’s too depressing going into a shop in a building that’s being demolished.  A story of the irresistible force and the (literally) immovable object.  This is what happens when people don’t speak to one another.

Edinburgh was jumping!  It was almost as busy as when the Festival is in full swing.  I’d hate to think what it would be like tomorrow.  There were so many barricades around Princes Street, I said to Scamp it looked like a war zone.  Probably that’s what it will be just before The Bells tomorrow night.

We walked along Rose Street and on to Whighams for lunch.  Breaded Haddock, chips and peas for Scamp and Pheasant, Bacon and Leek Pie with roast potatoes and roast vegetables for me.  I even risked a half pint of Deuchars.  Another very decent lunch.

This being a weekday, we had to travel off-peak, so had to get the train home by 4pm or it would turn into a pumpkin or something.  That meant we had to forego a shot on the big wheel or vertical chair-o-planes and head for the train home.  Such a pity 😉  When we got back to Croy the grey clouds were still there, maybe a bit lighter grey, but that was probably because they’d dumped some of their rain on Cumbersheugh.

Wind is getting up again tonight and it looks like rain for tomorrow.  Don’t have anything planned.

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Just for a change – 28 November 2016

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Just for a change today, I got the bus to Perth.  Now this may be a spoiler alert for Hazy, but I’m sure you expected I’d have to take the trip to Perth, didn’t you!

These CityLink buses are really comfortable.  Did you know they have heaters that work!  Isn’t that a simply wonderful innovation?  Typically one X3 bus in 100 has working heaters, and that’s the one you get every day in the summer and the heating is on full blast and the windows won’t open.  In the winter, it’s the one with the sign that says “SORRY NOT IN SERVICE” or more often in Scotland “A’HM NO WORKIN’”.  So, a comfortable journey north to the fair city of Perf.  It’s a bit like Embra which is also known by some of its inhabitants as Edinburgh.  Embra is its more usual and useable name.  Perf is much better than Perth IMO and MO is the only one that counts in this blog.  By the way, I once got an irate comment from an Edinburger on Flickr to the effect that: “It’s actually Edinburgh, not Embra, I know, I live there.”
My reply was: “That’s a shame, but I suppose somebody has to live in Embra, and it is Embra, hen.  It’s Embra, it’s always been Embra and it always will be Embra.  I know, because I’ve been there … once.  But it’s alright, I’ve had my jags.”  She didn’t reply to that – too many big words in it, I think.
Perf’s a nice place, I like it.  It’s pretty and has nice buildings, but the folk are not so stuck up as Embra folk.  It’s got a good coffee shop, an independent camera shop and a great second-hand bookshop too.

Anyway, purchases purchased I got the equally comfortable bus back down the road to less than scenic Cumbersheugh where they are painting the lovely butter coloured bricks of the town centre with a coat of ‘nearly black’.  Cooncil must have got a job lot of the paint going cheap.  I think it probably was originally black masonry paint, but they didn’t have enough to finish the job, so they got some equally cheap out-of-date emulsion for B&Q and just mixed it in to make the masonry paint go further.  That would explain the slightly purple tinge to the finished product.  If it looks boggin’ paint it black, that’ll fix it and make it look stylish into the bargain.  Aye Right.

Kizomba was a bit of a shambles tonight.  Class was a bit smaller with a lot of new faces.  Mainly black faces, so maybe friends of one of the teachers.  Also faces that were looking bemused most of the time because it appears this is the first time they had met this dance.  Methinks it might have been Rentamob, there to pad out the numbers.  ‘Left’ and ‘right’ seemed to be new concepts for some.  One girl had to be dragged away from her phone and on to the dance floor to help balance the numbers.  She was irate, because she didn’t know how to do the dance and didn’t want to learn.  Hmm, not impressed.

It also looked like our salsa teacher wasn’t present and no announcement was made about who would be taking his class. This gave us a bit of concern and made us wonder if it would be one of the, how should I put this, less able and teachers of AdS.  We needn’t have worried, Will took it and introduced us to a trio of twisty, turny moves that were a lot of fun.  The next class was not so lucky, but we were out the door by the time the music started.

Maybe going to do a painting tomorrow.  If I can remember how!

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Embra – 8 October 2016

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Embra was the choice today.  Now I won’t go in to the semantic arguments, the place is called ‘Embra’ and that’s it.

The train was fairly busy, but not excessively so – there’s a reason for this sentence.  As usual we got off at Haymarket and walked up towards the tea shop.  It was shut!  I should have checked his website, it was there in black and white, or red and white actually.  Go there, you’ll understand.  At the top of the road was the Exhibition Centre and also an enormous queue of middle aged and older folk.  Behind us too was a long train of people of that same demographic, most of whom had filled the seats on the train.  When we got to the Exhibition Centre the explanation was plain.  It was a Tesco wine tasting.  The early arrivals were already getting pissed oops, sampling and this lot seemed to be waiting for the first lot to be poured out the door.  We moved on.  Coffee in Cafe Nero then a walk through the farmers’ market.  I got some hogget for dinner tomorrow.  I suppose this is where farmers’ markets win.  Hogget is a lamb between a year and two years old.  I’ll taste it tomorrow.

On the subject of food, we went to a wee French place on the Grassmarket for lunch.  We’d been there a few months ago, well February actually, I hadn’t realised it was that long ago.  French Onion Soup again for me – creature of habit and Toulouse Sausage with mustard sauce and mash.  Scamp had Crayfish in a Garlic butter, a very garlic butter followed by Chicken Supreme with six thrice cooked chips.  Foodies? Us?  Surely not!  Both meals were voted excellent and I’ll say it again, we’ll be back.

Walked round to John Lewis and went back to 1984.  Not the date, the book!  Apparently the St James Centre is being … refurbished … reimagined. Perhaps demolished is a better description.  All the shops are now closed and shuttered, except John Lewis.  They didn’t get that memo, it seems.  It appears that it will remain like that until 2020 when, overnight, a new great new ‘retail opportunity’ will rise phoenix-like from the ashes.  Whether it will include John Lewis we’ll have to wait four years to find out.  For now, it feels as hopeless as the novel 1984 did.

Got the train home and, if you remember back to the second paragraph, first sentence of this epistle, it was a fairly busy train in the morning.  The afternoon train to Glasgow was mobbed, by a much younger contingent, mainly young men dressed in tartan and with lion rampant flags tied round their necks.  Yes, Scotland were playing football in Glasgow.  It turned out they were playing Lithuania (I think it was a Lithuanian school team – a primary school team).  The fans all seemed excited and were guzzling Becks like there was no tomorrow.  It might have been to induce a coma that would prevent them from seeing the game which was due to start at about 7.30pm.  This was the 3.30pm train.  The game ended in a 1-1 draw.  It’s easy to become cynical about football fans, especially Scottish football fans.  Too easy.

One sketch done for Inktober.  I’m happy with it.  Done in public in Princes Street Gardens.  Another step forward.

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Serendipity – 6 August 2016

6 AugLast night was a late night. It was Saturday morning about 1am when I finally dragged myself to bed. As a result, we woke late this morning, or should I say ‘later’ this morning. We had intended to go to Edinburgh, hereinafter referred to by its proper name of Embra. It was touch and go whether we would go or not, but finally we decided that we should just go, as there was nowhere else that interested us.

In Embra we walked through the Conference Square canyon.  I hadn’t realised just how ugly the Conference Centre was.  What a waste of concrete.   From there, up the Grassmarket through the crowds and on to the Royal Mile. That’s where the real ‘Maddies’ were. For a fair few blocks, the Royal Mile is pedestrianised at festival time and so it was today. Scamp was interested in a couple of groups of a cappella singers and I was just interested in taking photos of the nutters.

The fringe is interesting, but after a while you get fed up listening to the hype from these self centred eejits and have to get back to reality. That is what we did. We walked down The Bridges and on to the St James Centre. What a disaster that is now. All that’s left in the entire centre is John Lewis. Everything else is closed. It appears that the whole site is being rebuilt while the JL shop remains open. It is a really depressing site (and sight) and will remain that way for FOUR years. The new centre isn’t due to open until 2020. There are loads of ‘artists impressions’ or AutoCad renders of the proposed new retail opportunity. It looks very smart, but it is very difficult to work out what you are looking at as there are no landmarks on the beautifully rendered artwork, and let’s face it, it’s Embra. It has a few landmarks!

From the disaster that was the St James Centre, we walked through St Andrew’s Square (there are a lot of saints in Embra!) and on to George Street. Like the Royal Mile, part of George Street was pedestrianised for the festival with lots of drinks venues pitched on the roadway. We stopped at one for a beer (an expensive beer at £2.50 for a half pint!) and that’s where the ‘Serendipity’ came in. We were sitting at a table across from an older woman. As usual, Scamp got into conversation with her, but I must admit that for once she didn’t instigate it. It turned out that she was on a bus tour to see the Tattoo and she had come from Cambridge. She knew Baldock and also Little Downham. However, she had lived in South Wales before she got married and knew where Scamp’s aunt lived in Maesteg. Thirdly, she had been to Inverness last year and had gone on another bus tour to Skye and stayed in the Pink House in Portree! It was almost as if she had read our minds and plotted three places where we had synchronicity.

When we left her and George St then turned onto Princes Street, we could feel that the weather had turned.  It was cooler and there were spits and spots of rain in the wind, so we headed for the train and home. No lunch out today, but dinner was provided by Golden Bowl and was delicious. Rain and high winds forecast for tomorrow and I’ve got an appointment with the physio to see what’s wrong with my shoulder. Maybe he’ll just give it a rub with the magic sponge and it will be as good as new. Maybe!

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On the slow train – 2 April 2016

comboWe went to Edinburgh today, hereinafter referred to by its real name “Embra”.  Since the rail line to Embra is being electrified, the tunnel entrance to Queen Street Station in Glasgow is being closed to allow the necessary building work to proceed.  This means that trains will take a lot longer to get from Croy to Glasgow, 25 minutes longer.  That’s 25 minutes added to the 15 minutes it took before last Sunday.  On the other side of Croy, all the Embra trains now stop at all stations to Embra, meaning an extra 10 minutes on that journey too.  Now, I can almost understand why it takes the extra 25 minutes in to Glasgow with all the redirection that’s necessary, but I can’t see why closing a tunnel in Glasgow causes trains to stop at all the stations from Croy to Embra.  Maybe it’s a butterfly flaps its wings thing.  I never understood that either.

Anyway, the train arrived early, which was a surprise, and it was empty, which is unheard of.  Arrived in Embra and got tea (tea leaves, that is) at my favourite shop.  Walked up past the conference centre where there was a massive queue to get in to the Embra Comic Con, which at up to £27 for a ticket was really well named.  There were Doctors Who, Captains America and some vaguely demonic looking souls.  I said to Scamp that I should have worn my black and red striped rugby top and gone as Dennis the Menace, but she didn’t think that I was taking the thing seriously.  As if!

Walked through Princes Street Gardens, enjoying the thin sunshine.  Went to John Lewis and looked around the Toys.  Not the kids toys, the big boys’ toys.  Got an early birthday present of a camera bag.  Smiled at a bloke asking his wife if a radio he was thinking of buying was green or grey.  A constant topic of discussion between Scamp and I.

Walked back along to Zizzi and spent the voucher we got way back ages ago for complaining about the service and food in Exchange Square Zizzi.  Sometimes it pays to complain.  Squeaky wheels and grease.

On the way back to the train I went in to Waterstones and waited 15 minutes while a moron decided whether or not to buy a Dorling Kindersley book on Peru, because he was going there in June with a friend.  He has a friend?  Is it an imaginary friend?  I expect so.  He wasn’t sure whether to buy the book or not, because the new version was coming out.  He asked the girl behind the counter when the new version was due out and she said it was due to be published early June.  He then asked her if that meant the shop would have it then.  She said no, it was published on that date.  “What exactly do you mean by published?” he asked.  I sighed loudly “For fuck’s sake!” and walked away to go downstairs and pay for my book there.  How the hell is Peter the Peruvian Prick (alliteration) going to get all the way to Peru?
Go to the train station and ask Information “When is the next train to Peru?
“It’s at 3.30pm sir, but you have to change at Queen Street and remember it stops at all the stations, so it will take you an extra 35 minutes.”
What exactly do you mean by ‘stops at all the stations’?
“For fuck’s sake!” Says the girl at Information and pulls down the blind.  “This position is now closed.”

We went home in the train in the rain, having had the best of the day.  It stopped at all the stations.

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Sit an infinite number of morons at an infinite number of smartphones – 19 February 2016

combo bThis blog starts with us sitting in a nice wee French restaurant in Embra next to a loud american who must be important – to himself at least. He rambled on about the wonderful food in this, his favourite restaurant. When his companion asked if the French onion soup was served with cheese he replied after a pause “It’s served the way it is in France.” (fancy that eh? In a French restaurant, now that’s a surprise). “I don’t know” would have been more honest, but then again he was american. Our soup, Scamp’s salmon and my pork chop were really excellent, especially after Wednesday’s disappointment at Browns. We will be back to Petit Paris in the Grassmarket.

On the train home we were stuck in a carriage with the six morons and their smartphones from the title. Three of them were discussing the merits of Twi’ur (sic!). One of them was explaining that she had a created the Genyus Bar (sic again! Although most of the carriage were sick by this time.) and emphasized her spelling of it. She then went on to create an on-line personna for one of them who then found that he had two followers. After that, there was no stopping them. They were hashtagging this and re-tweeting that. Then one of them got her jacket down from the rack. She had an EIS badge on it. Educational Institute of Scotland union. Teachers. Loud, opinionated and terminally stupid. I can say that now, I’m not a teacher anymore. I discovered the error of my ways and got out early. When we got off the train I pitied those left behind with the morons away from their lessons.

In between paragraph one and two, we just wandered down the Royal Mile then down The Bridges, through JL and then headed for the train.

Before paragraph one (are you still following me or do you need a map?) we got some tea in a new-to-us shop just off the Grassmarket as my usual tea shop was SHUT. Not closed, but SHUT. A very Scottish expression I always think. Maybe next time he’ll be open and we can discuss the world, its problems and ways to fix it.

Sit an infinite number of morons at an infinite number of smartphones and they will eventually … discover Twi’ur – well what did you expect? The entire works of Shakespeare? Remember, they were teachers.

Only the sphinx with the surprised expression came from today. The abstract was from Tesco carpark in a hailstorm yesterday (other supermarket carparks are available).