Sunday, 31 January 2016

Sir Terry Wogan




Image - The Daily Telegraph

One of Britain's greatest broadcasters, Sir Terry Wogan, died today after losing his short battle with cancer. He was 77.

I was shocked and saddened to hear about the great man's passing. Like many others, I was one of his TOGS (Terry's Old Geezers and Gals) and I was proud that he read out several of my emails to his BBC Radio Two breakfast show. I was 'Harold Bethyname' and Terry always read out my emails with the words 'Greetings Frae Auld Reekie'.

Sir Terry was the host of the BBC's Children in Need which raised millions of pounds for charity for over 35 years. The Daily Telegraph posted the image above as a tribute - the sadness reflected by Children in Need's Pudsey Bear.

Natural, charming, warm, witty - and a gifted broadcaster. The world is a poorer place now he has gone.

Saturday, 30 January 2016

In Recovery...



                 I blame these two...

Friday, 29 January 2016

Now It's Mike Smith Dip Hyp

                      I know I'm not a well man but.....

After twelve months of blood, sweat and the occasional tears, I have finally received the news that I have passed my case studies and have qualified as a hypnotherapist. It's been a tense couple of months since my final studies were handed in - Christmas and New Year got in the way of them getting marked  - but now I can celebrate and plan for starting and building up my own practice.

Hypnotherapy can be used for so many things such as helping people who wish to give up smoking, lose weight, increase self-esteem and self-confidence, people who are struggling with stress in their lives, those who have phobias (fear of flying, fear of spiders etc) and all manner of things.

It's been my biggest academic achievement in my near 54 years so tonight I will celebrate with a wee Drambuie or two. I hope to get my actual Diploma in the next few weeks (these things take time) and I can't have any clients on a professional basis until then. However, if anyone wants to contact me to discuss how I may be able to help them with any of the above I would be delighted  to hear from you. You can contact me by email at may1998@talk21.com 

The next step is to look at premises for the new business. I sincerely hope this is the start of something big....

Sunday, 24 January 2016

5 Deadly Terms Used By Women


I like to think that people reading this blog - both of you - find it an education i.e. you'll learn never to look at this rubbish again. As Marion aka the guvn'r and I approach our first wedding anniversary (two weeks on Saturday Sunday apparently) I find the above statements are used by Mrs Smith on a regular basis.

Disclaimer: she's still the best thing that ever happened to me...

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

January - Sick and Tired You've Been Hanging on Me


A couple of years ago I attended a resilience training course. The first thing the trainer said to the admittedly dubious participants was ‘life is crap’ (except he didn’t use the word ‘crap’) I was somewhat taken aback by this, particularly as the course was meant to be about how to deal with the more difficult things in life. His reasoning was that this was the principle we should all accept – and it was how we dealt and managed this ‘crap’ that defined how we felt. We all have to work for a living, we all have to go through the daily routine – life isn’t a bed of roses (unless you’re the couple from Hawick who have just won £33 million on the National Lottery – but even then, being a multi-millionaire will bring its own challenges) The trainer emphasised the point that the only person who is in charge of your emotions – is you.
You can choose how you react to life’s challenges. You can adopt a negative stance, blame everyone else and everything else for you being unhappy with your life; or you can take charge of how you feel and make changes which will enhance your life – make it happen.
I mention this because, along with many others, I have long thought of January as the worst month of the year. With its dark, short days, this month can be really miserable.
Many people feel quite despondent at this time of the year, as the excitement of Christmas and New Year comes and goes so quickly - and then the bills to pay for it all start arriving. I certainly felt good wandering around the shops at the beginning of December, buying goodies for the grandchildren and the feel good spirit made me feel flush. But now the credit card company want paying…
That feel good factor has been replaced by a more negative view. I’ve put on a pound or two over the past few weeks and I feel fat and look terrible (what’s that you say? No change there…) The television is full of adverts for holidays I can’t afford, gyms which I can’t be bothered going to and diets which are a waste of time. My front room still stinks of the brandy spilt over the rug on Boxing Day and, despite getting the flu jab at the beginning of December, I’ve got the makings of the dreaded ManFlu (see Rants passim)
A few days off work certainly recharged my ailing batteries but it seems a long time ago now. It will be some time until my next break and as I type this, snow is beginning to fall in Auld Reekie meaning my commute to work tomorrow will be even more arduous than usual.
I’ll bet you’re glad you began reading this now, aren’t you? Feeling down is widespread at this time of the year. As someone who works in the HR profession (although some may contest the term ‘work’) I know that January is the worst month for sickness absence in the workplace.
These feelings can be increased if the notorious New Year resolutions have already fallen by the wayside. I’ll cut back on the alcohol this month. I’ll make it dry January. That lasted until 4th January – the night before I went back to work...Cut back on eating unhealthy food? Aye, sure I will. I’ve cut right back. Or rather I will after I’ve demolished that tube of barbeque flavoured Pringles sitting in the kitchen cupboard (well, I do hate to see waste…)
Slumped back into old ways? Well, maybe I have. But wait…
We all have periods when we feel less cheerful than usual, but most of us seem to be able to weather these periods of downheartedness and recover spontaneously. Even me….
Everyone faces challenges and falls off whatever wagon it is they’ve leapt on as a New Year begins. The trick is to stay positive, get back on board and start again. Easier said than done you might say. And you would be right.
But you and only you are in charge of your emotions. Yes, sometimes things don’t work exactly as we plan. But this where you should at least try to stay cool, calm and collected. Instead of thinking negatively and thinking about failure and the ‘why me?’ philosophy, keep calm, remain focused and think about the positive things in life.
Think about your dreams; what you would like to achieve in life. Staying positive is really important to help you obtain these achievements. Yes, there will be setbacks. Some days will have more setbacks than others. But only you can control your emotional reaction to these setbacks. Negative thoughts and conversations really can have a negative impact on your mind and body.
Life can be crap. But only if you let it. It can be difficult to be resilient – but the rewards are worth it. I’ve put the Pringles back in the cupboard. And I’ve not touched the brandy. Tempted though I was earlier, I decided against it.
Tomorrow is another day. Despite the snow, let’s see what it brings…



Thursday, 31 December 2015

That Was The Year That Was


So farewell then, 2015. It’s been a momentous year for The Ranter with, as in any other year, some ups and downs. Here are my highlights – and some lowlights…
The Good Times:
Without question, the highlight of my year was getting married to the lovely and beautiful Marion on Valentine’s Day. She is everything to me and I love her with all my sometimes fragile heart. She is the most kind-hearted, generous, beautiful and wise person I have ever met and I feel truly humble that she agreed to marry me last February. Where would I be without her? I have an inkling it wouldn’t be a very good place.

The last song at our wedding was Sunshine on Leith by The Proclaimers. Those who managed to stay until the end of the night witnessed me shed a tear or three as I fell into Marion’s arms as we danced that final dance. My heart was broken. She saw it, she claimed it, she touched it, she saved it….for this I shall always be truly grateful.

In April, I took the decision to leave what had been the place of my employment for the last eight years. It wasn’t an easy decision, particularly as I didn’t have another job to go to immediately. My plan was to continue my studies as a hypnotherapist and perhaps take a temporary job along the way to help pay the bills. I completed my hypnotherapy case studies in November and await news if I’ve passed. Fingers are crossed. If I have passed, 2016 will see me set up my new hypnotherapy practice, something I’m tremendously excited about and can’t wait to do.

In the meantime, I have a job with Edinburgh Napier University until July. They’re a great bunch there and they have given me back my self-esteem. When the time comes, I will be genuinely sorry to go.

Watching my grandchildren Jack (10), Hannah (8), Ava (5) and Max (1 ¾) develop into such wonderful, loving children. No matter what goes on in my life they always give me such a great welcome and their unconditional love is something I treasure. They are a credit to my daughters Laura and Michaela who have done such a fantastic job in bringing them up. I’m immensely proud of them although I don’t tell them this as much as I should.

In October, Jack was the mascot at the Hearts v Kilmarnock game. It was an immensely proud day and there was a lump in the Ranter's throat as the wee man led the Hearts team out on to the Tynecastle pitch. A day we will never forget.

Away from family – and on to football. Hearts duly gained promotion to the top flight of Scottish football in April and are presently vying for third place in the Ladbrokes SPFL Premiership. The football hasn’t been as good in the second half of 2015 as it was in the first but methinks this is down to playing against better organised teams. The standard of Scottish football in general, though, is woeful. At least Jack is now accompanying his Papa to Tynecastle as a proud season ticket holder. I love having him with me and his passion for the boys in maroon is great to see. Just prepare yourself for a lifetime of disappointment, son…!
I also took Jack to the Scotland-Qatar game at, whisper it, Easter Road in June which the wee man thoroughly enjoyed.
My book Hearts 50Greatest Games continues to sell. It’s still available in all good bookshops and at Amazon…

The Not So Good Times:
Ah. Our wonderful wedding was followed by a not quite so wonderful honeymoon, not helped by the hotel chain Ibis putting us in a different hotel to what I thought I had booked online (tip – always check the small print)
London in February wasn’t exactly welcoming. Greedy taxi drivers, ticket touts kidding on they’re selling you a bargain and people seemingly too busy to show courtesy. We weren’t unhappy to get back to Scotland.
Health-wise, I had a wee problem towards the end of the year for which I require a minor op early in 2016. Tests so far have indicated there’s nothing serious but I won’t know for sure until after the op. But if this blog grinds to a halt at some point in 2016 you’ll know the reason why…
Grandson Jack had a wee operation at the beginning of November. He seems to have recovered well - but it’s never an easy time when your children and/or grandchildren have to go into hospital.
Elder daughter Laura also had a difficult time in the summer but she’s a tough old cookie and her courage is something I’ve always admired. I feel we’ve grown closer in 2015 although she would probably tell you in her usual forthright manner that her father is talking ‘p**h’…
Michaela continues to plan for her wedding to Sean next May. Grandson Max is growing at an incredible rate and has now joined his cousins in shouting ‘Papa’ in that demanding way…
My dear old mother continues to have health problems and a hospital visit or two beckons next year. The perils of getting older.
Best Gig:
It’s been a fairly quiet year for gigs for The Ranter. Paul Weller at the Edinburgh Playhouse in March was superb as I had expected. I last saw him in July 2014 at Edinburgh Castle and there was always one eye on the weather. No such worries at the Playhouse as the great man played a blinder.

The Selector at Edinburgh’s claustrophobic Liquid Rooms in March was good - apart from the loutish behaviour of some of the audience.

Shows of 2015:

First one was the stage show of Saturday Night Fever at Edinburgh’s Festival Theatre in February which exceeded my expectations. On honeymoon in London, Marion and I went to see Cats at the Palladium. Ripped off for tickets and a poor view at the back of the theatre (and less than helpful Palladium staff) – not an enjoyable experience.

Much more enjoyable was the Allan Stewart Variety Show at Edinburgh’s King Theatre in April – good old-fashioned entertainment!

We went to see the truly remarkable illusionist Colin Cloud in Edinburgh at the end of June – if you get a chance to see this astonishing act I urge you to do so. He will blow your mind away!
I’ve been a fan of the BBC radio show I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue for more years than I care to remember so when the show came to the Edinburgh Playhouse in August then I simply had to go! Not sure what Marion made of it but it was great entertainment for this old man!

Marion and I ended the year by going to the Andy Williams Christmas Show at Edinburgh’s Queens Hall four days before Christmas. Now I know the great man has been dead for some time but the show was hosted by his protégés The Osmond Brothers and they belted out some old Christmas classics. An enjoyable evening even though an over-officious Queens Hall staff member tried her best to spoil it…

Edinburgh Festival Fringe:

As usual Marion and I saw a few shows, some of which I reviewed for The Edinburgh Reporter. Veteran comedy actor Rodney Bewes was a delight and the Soweto Pop Afro show was superb; on the minus side was ‘comedian’ Hardeep Singh Kohli who, like so many of his ilk, is so far up his own backside he can’t see anyone else but himself.

The highlights of the Festival Fringe for me were Craig Hill – a quite brilliant comedian – and Barry Cryer’s 80th Birthday Bash which was superb.

Roll on next August!

Old Friends:
Outwith the wedding, it was great to catch up with some people I hadn’t seen for some time. In the case of my Aunt Ann in Aberdeen, it had been nearly 20 years so it was good to see her again – she and Marion seemed to hit it off (but then Marion has such a friendly nature she hits it off with most people) We also caught up with my former work colleagues Charles and his lovely wife Sarah; Claire, who kindly arranged for me to work (briefly) at Capability Scotland and Marion’s cousin Doreen.
One of the highlights of the year was meeting the lovely June from Seattle – at last! June and I have been friends for many years but we had never met – until she came to visit Scotland in September. Marion and I met her for a couple of hours at Edinburgh’s Waverley Station while she waited for a train to London. It was an absolute pleasure to meet her – it was just a pity we had to leave early. Hopefully, June will be back in Scotland before long and we can meet up again.
I wasn’t the only person to take my leave from my old employers so it’s still good to catch up with Lindsay occasionally for a pint or three (and not fall asleep on the bus home…) He took a courageous decision to do what he did and I know 2016 will be a better year for him.
I still have regular sessions with Gary, who was best man at our wedding, to put the world to right. He’s a fellow of the Hibernian persuasion so this has been another difficult year for him – aren’t they all…?
The most unexpected ‘reunion’ however, was an old school friend from Aberdeen who made contact early in the year. Ian and I were the only Hearts supporters at Linksfield Academy in the Granite City and it was good to hear from him again after nearly 40 years. Indeed, we met up in mid-December when I went up to Aberdeen for the Hearts game and we enjoyed a drink in the Scotia Bar in the city’s Summerfield Terrace – which was my local when I got married first time around in 1982. While in Aberdeen that weekend I also caught up my old mucker Graeme who has had a tough time this year.
General Election
A great day for the Scottish National Party who won all but three of the Westminster Parliament seats in Scotland. Sadly, England voted for another Conservative government and as Scots didn’t have the courage to vote for independence in the independence referendum last year, we’re stuck with the government England voted for. Better together? Aye, so we are…
The Year Ahead:
So another eventful year draws to a close. It’s been a remarkable one and something of a rollercoaster rode. Despite what promises to be an inauspicious beginning, I am looking forward to 2016.
Health issues need to be resolved in the first few weeks but I’m hopeful they will be and I can move on. The last day of 2015 saw me at Edinburgh’s Western General Hospital for a CT scan and, hopefully, a date for my wee op will be in the next month or so.
I can’t wait until I start my own business and I’m looking forward to another wonderful year with Marion, seeing my wonderful grandchildren continue to develop into remarkable young people and to a year when, hopefully, health matters take a back seat for a change.
Michaela gets married in May so that will be one of the big events of the year. It’s also Scottish Cup Final day. Thirty years ago, her sister Laura was due to be born on cup final day and I endured an anxious time as Hearts duly made it all the way to the final. If Hearts get past Aberdeen on Saturday week, I sense another anxious few months. Imagine arranging your wedding for cup final day?!!
Happy New Year, folks. Thank you to those of you who regularly follow my rants  - special mention to the wonderful PeggyCameron, Adullamite and Joanna Jenkins who are never slow to show their support for which I am grateful.
Here’s to health and happiness and a fantastic 2016 to each and every one of you.


Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Sprint Into 2016 With A Thrilling Day At Musselburgh Racecourse


I always enjoy a trip to Musselburgh races. Despite my penchant for selecting horses who have an aversion to going past the finishing post ahead of the others, it’s a grand day out with an atmosphere you simply don’t get by watching the races on the television at home or in the bookies.

For the last two years I have attended Musselburgh’s New Year’s Day meeting and had a thoroughly enjoyable time (as did the bookies at my expense) I’ll be going along again this New Year’s Day and fun lovers can continue their festive party this Friday by joining the New Year’s Day event at the East Lothian racecourse.

The annual fixture is one of the highlights of the Scottish racing calendar and is constantly growing in popularity, thanks to the reputation of the 5 star attraction just six miles from the capital city (and there is plenty public transport available)

Now organisers have promised to kick start 2016 in style and the forecast is that the January 1 event will be the best to date – not least because it marks the start of the racecourse’s landmark 200th anniversary year.

Sarah Montgomery, Senior Operations and Commercial Manager at Musselburgh Racecourse, said: “For us there is even more than usual to celebrate because New Year’s Day also marks the start of our Bicentenary year.

“We’re immensely proud to have reached such an amazing milestone so we are hoping people from Musselburgh, Edinburgh and the surrounding area will turn out in numbers to help us celebrate.

“It is a fantastic day out for families, groups of friends, sports lovers and anyone looking for a great way to bring in 2016. It’s already one of the most popular dates in our busy racing calendar and on January 1 there will be plenty for our visitors to see and do.”

Visitors to the Totepool New Year’s Day Race Meeting will enjoy the warmest of welcomes, with the first 200 guests getting a special First Foot surprise. All visitors will have the chance to purchase mulled cider and a traditional haggis roll to enjoy in the New Year’s Day heated marquee.

The raceday is one of the Feature Fixtures at Musselburgh and guaranteed to provide thrills. Indeed, the feature races – the Totepool Hogmaneigh Handicap Hurdle and Totepool Scottish Premier Steeple Chase - are broadcast live on Channel 4 Racing.

A seasonal twist to the afternoon is the chance to soak in the atmosphere of one of the most historic amateur athletic events in the world, the 147th New Year Sprint, which attracts athletes from across the country to compete for the £4000 prize money. The 110m race is the most enduring open athletics event in the UK and has been staged in Scotland annually since 1870.

Added to the wealth of attractions on the day, a number of lucky racegoers won’t even have to worry about transport on New Year's Day – as the racecourse has laid on special First Foot double decker buses from Edinburgh city centre and from Galashiels.

There is limited availability and bookings are strictly first come, first served. Places can be booked online for £5 return (Edinburgh) and £10 return (Galashiels) with the purchase of admission tickets. The shuttle services will deliver racegoers to the venue ahead of the first race at 12.25pm and will depart the racecourse for the return journey following the final race which takes place at 3.20pm.

Sarah Montgomery added: “The New Year’s Day fixture is always a fantastic way to usher in the New Year and this promises to be the best yet.

“For those wanting to continue the party, it is the place to be. Yet for anyone who is feeling a bit jaded by the festive excess, or for those who have made New Year resolutions, then it is also the ideal day out, offering a bracing event to blow away the cobwebs, with plenty of fresh air and inspiring sporting achievement.”

Musselburgh is firmly established as one of the UK’s most stylish racecourses, hosting 28 Flat and Jump meetings each year, including the hugely popular Stobo Castle Ladies Day. 

The 5 star VisitScotland venue is popular with racing enthusiasts and is also firmly established with both families and corporate clients.

Events like the Totepool New Year’s Day Race Meeting and the Scottish Cheltenham Trials in February are helping it attract a more diverse audience.

Now, if only I could pick a winner or two this Friday. Any tips gratefully received…

For further information and to book tickets visit www.musselburgh-racecourse.co.uk.
       
Musselburgh Racecourse’s Facebook page can be found at www.facebook.com/MusselburghRacecourse

Twitter: @musselburghrace