Archive: Dunfermline

I recently learned about a Twitter account that campaigns against Dundee Contemporary Arts, Dundee’s excellent culture hub in the centre of the city.

Typical tweets include:

[blackbirdpie id="124581248428548096"]

[blackbirdpie id="124933453421617152"]

I went to see Friends with Benefits a few weeks ago, and it was pretty awful. The highlight is one funny joke about iPads in the middle. The rest is just mush. No harm in that of course. But the great thing is that I saw it in Dundee, at the Odeon, which is about a ten minute drive away from the DCA.

It’s funny because I was only just thinking about how extraordinarily well-served by cinemas Dundee is. I live about a 40 minute walk away from three cinemas. Two are “mainstream”, and the other is the DCA, which usually shows films that the others wouldn’t. The DCA shows some films that I really like. While the two mainstream ones may not be in the “town centre”, at least they are there.

Where I used to live, in Kirkcaldy, no such luck. There is the Adam Smith Theatre, which shows a small selection of films that were on general release six months ago. Besides that, you had to go to Dunfermline, a half hour drive away, then drive to the outskirts of that to get to the nearest cinema.

Off the top of my head, I think I have seen six films at the cinema this year. Three of them were at the DCA; the other three were at the Odeon (one of these films was also shown at the DCA). Maybe it’s just a coincidence, or maybe I’m just a snob. But the three I saw at the DCA were by far and away the better three.

I understand the arguments against the public subsidy for the DCA. But the idea that, if the DCA wasn’t there, a multiplex Odeon would magically sprout up in the city centre, is a tad fanciful.

Cinemas are rare beasts these days. It’s no conspiracy. It’s because commercially it doesn’t add up the way it used to because of changes in society (for the positive) over the past few decades. With this in mind, I have felt lucky to live somewhere with as many as three cinemas nearby.

After moving to Dundee a year ago, the DCA quickly became one of my favourite things about the city and I celebrate its existence. The great thing is that, for those who do not like what is shown at the DCA, there are two other cinemas that are just a stone’s throw away (even if they are not in the “town centre”).

I would hate for the most unique cinema of the three to go.

A little milestone was passed this week when I bought my first car. I learnt to drive five years ago. I wasn’t the sort of person that started lessons as soon as I turned 17. I saw no need, and waited until I was 20. After passing my test, I don’t think I drove for about another two years.

Driving has never particularly appealed to me. A lot of people find it strange that I am so fanatical about motorsport, but have little interest in driving on the road. But for me the pursuits are unrelated. I don’t see the fun in driving on public roads. I find it more stressful and frightening than anything else.

I was lucky because my home town of Kirkcaldy has pretty good public transport connections, so it was easy to see the car as a non-essential luxury. Almost anywhere I needed to go was an easy train or bus journey away.

The current commute

But the past year or so has stretched that idea to breaking point. I now work in St Andrews. Many assume I get there by taking the train to Leuchars then a bus from Leuchars to St Andrews. But I can’t be bothered with the fuss — plus it would be pretty expensive.

Instead, I have generally gone by bus. The plus side is that it is very cheap. You can get a ticket that can be used multiple times across seven days on any journey within Fife. This costs £23 a week. That’s what I used to pay to go to Dunfermline, but the journey to St Andrews is much longer, so is better value for money.

That brings us to the very problem with the journey — its length. The bus journey itself takes 65 minutes. The walk from my house to Kirkcaldy bus station is roughly ten minutes. The walk from St Andrews bus station to my work is roughly ten minutes.

So basically I spend around three hours every day travelling to and from work. That is 15 hours a week. As far as I’m concerned, those 15 hours constitute a full day minus sleep.

I don’t mind the journey so much in the mornings. Even though I am not a morning person, getting up at 6.45am has not been as bad as I had feared. To my amazement, I have never once missed the bus — even if it has involved some Olympic walking in order to catch it. The journey itself is quite a relaxing way to start the day. I could have a wee snooze, listen to podcasts, and generally ease myself into the day.

But the journey on the way home was never so good. At that time of day, you just want to get home as soon as possible. But all of the biggest bus problems have happened on the way home.

There is a bus that leaves St Andrews at 17.10, which is normally fine. But what if that bus doesn’t turn up, or I have to stay behind a bit at work, or someone wants a stop-and-chat? I basically won’t be getting home for at least two hours. For some reason, the bus that leaves at 17.40 only goes as far as Leven, and I have to wait 10 or 15 minutes at Leven to hop on a bus that will get to Kirkcaldy.

The bus is seldom comfortable either, and it can be incredibly stuffy, even in winter. Less fuss by bus? Really?

The decision to buy a car

I became used to the lengthy bus journeys after a while. But it was a real drain on my spare time. The plan has always been to try and move closer to St Andrews, and somewhere that had a good bus connection. But that has taken far longer than I had anticipated.

The final straw came this week when I was trying to work out how I can get to Alloa to visit my brother. When the least fuss-free option was a bus journey that lasts well over an hour and involves changing at Kincardine, that was when I decided: it’s probably time to bite the bullet and buy a car.

It all happened quite quickly. It was not in my mind on Thursday. But I had more or less made the decision to buy a car on Friday. On Sunday, I bought one.

Choosing a Fiat

Fiat Panda 1.1 Active Eco

I opted to buy a Fiat Panda 1.1 Active Eco. I had experienced it as a passenger as my dad has recently bought one too. So I kind of knew what I was getting.

I find it quite an impressive car in terms of bang for your buck. I couldn’t find many cars cheaper that weren’t six-year-old French cars with a million miles on the clock. It’s nice to know also that the Panda’s fuel consumption is pretty good, and its low emissions mean that vehicle tax is £30.

The big thing I felt was the pride in owning a car. I hadn’t expected to feel anything particularly. But I realised that I have placed a lot of responsibility on myself. It is a vote of confidence in myself. The car is easily the largest purchase I have ever made. I think car insurance is almost the second largest!

It feels right to go for a Fiat. There was a big niggle in the back of my brain that somehow buying a Fiat would lead to me indirectly funding Scuderia Ferrari! But beyond that, I quite like Fiats and always have done. The first two cars I remember my dad driving were both Fiat Unos.

After that he bought a Daewoo Matiz, which is the car I drove whenever I ventured out before. But it did not seem like a robust car. Its screeching fan belt was notorious among my friends (it continued to screech even after it was ‘fixed’ two or three times), and it did not feel particularly confident going round corners.

That is not at all ideal if you are trying to drive on one of the windy, hilly roads on the journey towards St Andrews. I have a feeling that the Panda will be better to commute with.

The inevitable downsides

All except for one thing. I will not be able to listen to podcasts while driving. The car comes with an FM / MW radio and a CD player. As far as I’m concerned, that is like buying a PC that still has a floppy drive. At least with a cassette player you can use a cassette adapter to play your iPod through. A CD player is useless.

I love radio. I am also a big fan of DAB radio, which this car will not give me. I will survive sticking to bog standard FM / MW radio stations, but it will be a pain nonetheless. The Panda may be a great value car — but you still get what you pay for.

Who says I always manage to find the negatives?…

I don’t often write about myself here these days. Despite the fact that I went to all the effort to set up a personal website, I do think it is a tad self-indulgent to bang on about myself. However, some readers may be interested in recent developments in my life.

Regular readers will know that I haven’t had the best year when it comes to work. After graduating from university last year, I struggled to find employment. Then I lost my part-time job when Woolworths closed down. I had done bits and pieces of freelance work, but not much else.

A few months ago I decided to bite the bullet and look for unpaid work. I saw an internship at the office of Willie Rennie MP advertised, and went for it. It made sense in a lot of ways. The Liberal Democrats have long been the party I sympathise with the most.

Plus, Willie Rennie’s constituency of Dunfermline and West Fife is just next door to mine, so there is the local connection too. I liked the fact that he beat Labour in an area that is so left wing that it was once represented by a Communist MP — a great achievement.

I spent a few months helping out there doing a variety of tasks, and I enjoyed it so much that I will still help out from time to time. It is worth pointing out, in the interests of transparency and what-not, that I have joined the Liberal Democrats.

But I no longer catch the bus to Dunfermline to work there. That is because I have finally found a proper job — one that involves being paid and everything.

I am now working as the Web Editor at the University of St Andrews. When you read this, I will have started my second week there. As you may imagine, I’m really pleased to have got the job.

Despite the recent navel-gazing about the value and future of blogging, which I wasn’t very positive about, getting this job is a vindication of the time and energy I have spent running websites.

All the knowledge that enabled me to get the job was gathered as a result of my hobby running websites. I have no other background or qualifications in editing content for the web. Mind you, I gather that this is no barrier.

There is another way in which this blog helped me get the job. I was originally alerted to the position by a reader of this blog. Then, despite expressing my initial reluctance, she encouraged me to apply. That person has proved difficult to get in contact with since. But if you happen to still be reading, you know who you are — thanks so much!

I am not yet sure what this means for the future of this blog. While I have been busier over the past few months, my already-infrequent updates have become even less frequent. I will spend the winter months experimenting to see what works.

Hopefully I will be able to continue updating, but maybe with a different different focus. Less about sin taxes, and more about syntax? Less about dealing with the DSS, and more about dealing with CSS?

Whatever, stay tuned. I’ll be back with more posts soon.

The driving theory test went well. I only got 35 out of 35 for the multiple choice bit. For the hazard perception bit I got 63 out of 75. My mode score was 5 per hazard (the maximum is 5)! Crazy. Fair to say I nailed it then.

Not bad considering I didn’t get much sleep last night. It’s a bit of a pre-exam tradition for me. I spend so much time not getting out of bed until midday at the earliest that I can never get enough sleep if I have to actually get up early (9am in this case). Funnily enough, I felt absolutely fine. I often perform well if I haven’t had a lot of sleep, although I know from experience that it is unwise to deprive yourself of sleep.

The hazard perception clips can be pretty ridiculous. If you’ve never had experience of these, you are basically shown a short video clip of a car journey, and at some point something absolutely ridiculous — a “developing hazard” — will happen. Then you have to click to show that you’ve seen this hazard develop.

A lot of the clips are ridiculously staged. In one of the clips you see somebody getting boxes out of a white van. This happens for ages and ages, for the entire length of the road. And what happens as soon as you reach the van? The bloke suddenly decides to carry the boxes that he has been holding for ages; he steps out right in front of you to cross the road. Give that man an Oscar.

How this is supposed to test your actual perception of hazards I don’t know. For a start, with these hazard perception clips you know that a hazard is going to occur, whereas in real life you don’t. Your finger hovers over the mouse button when your foot could never hover above the brake like that. All of the instructors seem to hate it aswell — they call it an arcade game. Real hazard perception, they say, happens when you’re actually driving.

Here is a tip for anybody who happens to be sitting their theory test in Dunfermline. I might as well use my Google power for something other than 53X 74p3. The directions you are given in the letter are fairly vague. Most misleadingly they tell you that it’s in Dunfermline, which is technically true. I had been warned against going by train by more than one person — it’s too far away from the train station, and you’ll just get lost.

But which train station? Because it is in Dunfermline, most people only consider going from Dunfermline Town train station. But one person advised me that the centre is actually very close to Rosyth train station! It sounds wrong but it’s true. Rosyth train station isn’t actually in Rosyth, it’s kind of wedged in between Rosyth and Dunfermline. So the driving theory place is little more than a 10 minute walk away. It’s not difficult to find your way.

Now I’ve just got to do it all on the road instead of a computer screen. That could prove a challenge…

Minor spoiler alert

I’m not much of a moviegoer. The last time I went to the cinema was to see Signs (it wasn’t my choice), starring that popular fellow Mel Gibson. In case you have forgotten this forgettable movie, it featured aliens that were scared by water. The entire length of the film was spent avoiding the question: If these aliens are so scared of water, why the hell did they land on Earth, a planet which is >70% water? That was four years ago.

The time before that was to see Austin Powers 2. There was a powercut in the middle of the film. That was in Kirkcaldy’s own scummy ABC cinema, when Kirkcaldy still had a cinema (we now have to make a bloody 40 minute round trek to Dunfermline for the nearest cinema). That was seven years ago. I can’t even remember the time before that. I was probably an actual child.

I don’t even watch films on the television all that much. It just doesn’t really float my boat. But there was no way I was going to miss Snakes on a Plane.

The problem was that it was difficult to know exactly how to approach the film. We know that the film was supposed to be a thriller / horror / disaster film. But all of the hype on the internet gave the film such an inherently comic twist.

When you hear of them shooting new scenes to include comedy lines like “I have had it with these motherfuckin’ snakes on the motherfuckin’ plane” and literally sex up the film because of all the internet hype, you half expect a comedy film, or at least a film that isn’t taking itself too seriously. This suspicion increases when you see that one of the actors is Keenan from Keenan & Kel.

Indeed, my friend was guffawing all the way through the film, mostly in bits that weren’t funny. He was, though, the only person in the entire cinema laughing, bar a few titters here and there. There was one part that I found quite funny though, when all of the lights in the plane go out and you hear somebody in the distance shout: “SNAKE!”

But most of the film is delivered with a straight face. A lot of it is actually pretty gory, and not in a slapstick blood-n-guts type way à la Troma. This would be just like any other horror / disaster movie were it not for all of the internet hype and the refreshingly unpretentious film title. They almost called this film ‘Pacific Air Flight 121′. That pretty much sums up why I don’t like watching films much.

Samuel L. Jackson has it spot on about the title, which he says is the only reason he took the job:

It’s not Gone with the Wind. It’s not On the Waterfront. It’s Snakes on a Plane!

Of course, were it not for that title — and the fact that Samuel L. Jackson is starring in the film with that title — there would have been no internet buzz. In one sense, I think the way New Line handled the buzz was pretty cool, when they decided to add lines that internet users came up with (mind you, these lines stuck out like a sore thumb. “That’s all we need — snakes on crack” was particularly bad).

In another sense I think — in typical MSM ivory tower style — they have misread the buzz. For instance, I don’t understand why it meant that they had to crowbar new sex and drug scenes in a deliberate attempt to get an R rating. And I’ve noticed that New Line have been disappointed by box office takings so far:

“I think people were more excited about the marketing than the actual movie,” said [Paul] Dergarabedian of Exhibitor Relations. “New Line did not set out to create this Internet buzz. That’s actually a marketer’s dream, but when marketing translates into awareness but does not inspire people to get out from behind their computers and into the theater, that’s a problem.”

Dergarabedian might think that the internet hype was a marketer’s dream — but it must be a filmmaker’s nightmare. In reality, anybody who saw the film because of the internet buzz saw the film because of the internet buzz, and not because they wanted to see the film. As soon as Samuel L. Jackson said, “I’ve had it with these motherfuckin’ snakes on a motherfuckin’ plane,” the film was essentially over.

The Snakes on a Plane internet buzz says much more about the internet than it says about Snakes on a Plane. The film itself is completely meaningless compared to the many virals and memes that have been out there on the internet. The event was not the film’s opening on Friday; the event has been happening on the internet for months.

That said, I was actually quite impressed with Snakes on a Plane as a film, so I would recommend this even if you’re reluctant about it.

Apparently, Dunfermline is not a traditional Labour seat! Aahahahahahahahahahhahahah!

I have no useful opinions on any of the current hot talking points.

  • Ariel Sharon’s illness
  • Charles Kennedy / Liberal Democrats
  • George Galloway on Celebrity Big Brother
  • The death of Rachel Squire MP

…so here are some completely useless opinions instead.

Ariel Sharon’s illness — Nothing interesting to say, apart from the fact that I once again found BBC News 24′s headline a bit weird. They often seem to have trouble describing a story in just two or three words. “SHARON VERY ILL”. It sounds more like a headline on Newsround. It was later changed to “SHARON GRAVELY ILL”, and then “SHARON STROKE”.

Charles Kennedy / Liberal Democrats — I read that every leadership contender needs to get seven signatures before they can be nominated. So if all of the other contenders wuss out of playing Heseltine, and Charles Kennedy is unable to get seven signatures, we presumably have the possibility of there being a leadership contest with no nominees.

George Galloway on Celebrity Big Brother — Nothing apart from the obvious: “WTF — what an ego-man”. But it could be risky for him. If he puts his foot in it in the BB house, that’s it.

Rachel Squire / Dunfermline and West Fife By-election Labour shoo-in — Monkeys with red rosettes in the Dunfermline area are polishing up their CVs.