Thursday, 2 July 2015

Suspicious Minds

The other day the present Mrs Smith and I staggered out of the gym at Edinburgh’s Ocean Terminal (yes, dear reader, the gym – despite what my daughters may tell you, I’m not quite ready yet for the knacker’s yard) and slumped on to the escalator of a well-known department store. As we shuffled our aching limbs through the shop we noticed what we thought was a suspicious package. There was a haversack which looked like it had been placed underneath a fold-up table. There was no one there and it certainly didn’t appear to have just been dropped there by accident.
I’m a naturally cautious kind of fella so I had my concerns in any case but in the wake of recent events in Tunisia, I felt I just had to point this out to a member of the store’s staff. I walked more briskly than was good for me, given my preceding hour at said gym, to a cash point and told the woman behind the counter.
‘It may be nothing,’ I began a little hesitantly, ‘but I think someone may have left their bag over there’
‘Where about, sir?’ asked the shop assistant with a note of concern. I led her to where the bag was and explained that I didn’t take it round personally as you never knew these days what was lying around and one couldn’t be too careful.
She saw the offending haversack and I was a little taken aback when she bent down and lifted it from under the table. ‘Shouldn’t you call security first?’ I asked, sorely tempted to bolt for the door in case there was an explosion – not that I would have got very far given my physical weariness. She smiled and showed me the tag which was attached to the bag – it was a price tag. The haversack was for sale and the reason it was underneath a picnic table was because it was part of a summer display – alongside a picnic basket, summer chair and parasol…
In the words of Derek ‘Del Boy’ Trotter from television’s Only Fools and Horses, I felt a right plonker. However, to her great credit, the store assistant told me I had nothing to be embarrassed about and, in fact, she wished more people were as wary as I. She added that staff had been trained to deal with such situations and she had a hunch my ‘suspicious package’ had been part of the shop display but had to check it out in any case.
The redness from my face had only recently faded after my hour of purgatory at the gym but now it had returned with a much deeper shade. However, recent events may well have turned more than just me into looking about them and wondering if there is any risk to what is, in reality, something completely innocent.
Until the last Friday in June, no one expected to go abroad for a week or two in the sun and expect to be mowed down by a terrorist when all they were doing was lying on a beach. Since the events of September 2001 in the United States of America, airport security can be a complex and lengthy affair and most of us accept this as part of the mechanism of holidaying abroad. Nonetheless, most of us expect to be safe when we reach our destination and the massacre of innocent people in Tunisia at the end of June was a callous reminder that we can no longer feel secure no matter where we are in the world.
This fear has created a climate of suspicion even in my adopted home town of Leith. Now I’m a Hearts supporter and, therefore, a Jambo abroad so I’m prone to suspicious looks anyway. But the spectre of terrorism was felt in Leith in April last year when bomb disposal officers removed suspect material from Persevere Court which followed a similar incident in Muirhouse a few days earlier. A former doctor from Syria, Faris al-Khori, was jailed for more than three years after being suspected of making bombs at his Edinburgh addresses.
Now it seems that everyone is under suspicion - by everyone else. Caution and wariness loom like unwanted intruders. On my way home from said gym tonight, I was concerned to see a police officer patrolling the beat outside Ocean Terminal. My immediate reaction was something was wrong. But it wasn’t too many years back when bobbies on the beat were part and parcel of life in Scotland. Nowadays they appear from nowhere in patrol cars with sirens screaming and lights flashing. When police officers are walking the streets, it’s quite often after an ‘incident’ with the police opting for ‘an increased presence to reassure the locals’.
Perhaps an increased police presence would help to partly alleviate this climate of suspicion, this constant feeling of wariness and doubting anyone who seems to be acting differently from the rest of us.

It’s a sad reflection of life. But, sadly, it’s the way of a troubled world in 2015, when even a delightful shop display aimed at attracting customers can cause alarm.

Monday, 29 June 2015

Colin Cloud Kills

I have seen Colin Cloud before. So when I heard the forensic mind reader extraordinaire was back in Edinburgh, I just had to go and see him again.
Appearing at Summerhall, a throw of a blindfold away from Edinburgh’s Meadows, Cloud’s latest offering - as part of Edinburgh’s Magic Fest – was every bit a mesmerising as the last time I went to his show. Literally, mesmerising.
As the expectant audience filed into Summerhall’s Lab Theatre, the great man sat silently on a chair, blindfolded. With everyone seated his act began and it’s easy to see why he has never lost a game of poker. He recalled information from the recesses of the minds of complete strangers – how he managed to guess where one woman was from simply by listening to her say her name is astonishing.
His website says Colin Cloud will, literally, get away with murder. Of course, he doesn’t actually murder anyone but the finale to his show will leave you open-mouthed with amazement. And just as you think the show has ended, there is one final mind-blowing twist…
The great man is a lover of the works of Arthur Conan Doyle which has resulted in him being described as the closest thing on Earth, nay the Universe, to Sherlock Holmes.
But Colin Cloud’s show is anything but elementary. It is sheer brilliance and I felt privileged to witness a genius at work.

His show is on all this week at Summerhall. Go and see the great man. You will be spellbound.

Sunday, 28 June 2015

At the Museum

I spent Saturday afternoon at the National Museum in Edinburgh in the company of Marion, Laura and some of my favourite little people...

Friday, 26 June 2015

Halfway Through a Momentous Year

The first half of 2015 is nearly complete. The next six months promises much but it's already been a momentous year for the Auld Reekie Ranter.

My wedding to Marion on Valentine's Day was one of the happiest days of my life. Marion has transformed my life and made me happy once again and for that I shall always be grateful. Although I jest about how lucky she is to have me as her husband (I'm sure she gives thanks every day...) I know that I am the lucky one to have such a wonderful, beautiful and talented lady as her - she is the rock in my life.

At the beginning of this year I made the decision to quit my job with a housing association, a job I had held for more than seven years. With echoes of a similar life-changing decision I made in 1990, I didn't have another job to go to. However, I am training to become a Hypnotherapist and Counsellor. It's a three year course and the first year is concentrating on hypnotherapy. It's a subject which fascinates me and I am thoroughly enjoying the course. If all goes to plan, I should qualify as a hypnotherapist by the end of this year and I'm already planning to set up my own hypnotherapy practice in early 2016 (book now to avoid disappointment!)

I was no longer enjoying my work and the continuous high pressure and the demands of the job were beginning to affect my health to the extent I was off work this time last year. At that time I underwent counselling and found it beneficial, not only at the time, but as something I thought I could make a career out of. Hence my decision to undertake my training. I left my job in April and the break from the daily grind has benefited me hugely.

Of course, bills still need paying and I have now secured a position with Napier University in the Human Resources Team for a year which will take me to next summer. I start this job on 6 July and, for the first time in years, I'm genuinely looking forward to it. The year's contract will give me more than enough time to set up my own business next year and I'm grateful for the opportunity.

Daughters Laura and Michaela continue to make me proud. Laura has just been offered a managerial post and is mulling it over against the backdrop of family commitments. I always knew she was managerial material. Michaela is already a manager and she gave a presentation to senior managers yesterday, who have already been impressed by her managerial skills and aptitude. Michaela is getting married next May and this will be another momentous occasion. She is marrying a fella of the Hibernian persuasion but, despite this, he seems a decent chap...

My four grandchildren continue to bring unbridled joy to my life. Their unconditional love brings a tear to my eye. I love being with them and I want them to stay as children for ever. Sadly, of course, they will become adults before long - Jack is now 10 years old and Ava starts school in August - but I hope they retain their kind, loving nature which does them and mum Laura huge credit.

At the other end of the family, my mother is always there to provide support and it was great to see her looking so happy at our wedding. She thinks the world of Marion and sees her as the daughter she never had. Of course, I am her only child - understandable, as how can you top perfection?!

2015 has already been a great year. In recent years, I have been in the depths of depression and didn't know what lay ahead. Now the future is clearer and infinitely brighter. A new career. A new business. Loving wife (that's you, Marion). Maturing daughters. Wonderful grandchildren. And I can't let the feel-good factor pass without mentioning my football team. Hearts are now back in the top flight of Scottish football. I'll be taking Jack to Tynecastle this season as a season ticket holder. While I'll no longer be contributing to the Hearts matchday programme, my musings on Hearts  - and other ramblings on life in general - will still be posted on The Edinburgh Reporter.

Self-hypnosis has helped me to evaluate my life. I am more confident, more positive and happier than I've been for many years. Sure, there will be setbacks - everyone has setbacks - but I'm now able to overcome these with the knowledge that my life is moving onwards and upwards.

Some people thought I was crazy when I gave up my job, house and life in Aberdeen in 1990. But it was the right decision, as my life in Edinburgh has proved. And there have been some people, a quarter of  a century later, who questioned my sanity when I quit my job in April - although, it has to be said, there have been some who have given me huge encouragement and for this I am truly grateful.

My philosophy is that it doesn't matter if it's a job, relationship or lifestyle - if it doesn't make you happy, let it go. Let yourself move to the next chapter in your life when the time comes you feel are stuck on the same page. You will soon realise there is so much more to the book of life than the page you're stuck on.

The best thing about the future is that it comes one day at a time...

Norman Towler - Positive

I had the great pleasure of meeting Norman Towler, a gifted musician and dyed-in-the-wool Jambo earlier this year. His new album, Positive, is now out and is quite simply wonderful.

I highly recommend it.

Thursday, 25 June 2015

Hypnotherapy Update

My new hypnotherapy blog has now been an updated with a video link. Watch if if you dare...

Saturday, 20 June 2015

Father, Dear Father

If you were out shopping today and happened to be in a card shop, it can’t possibly have escaped your attention that this Sunday is Father’s Day. As the father of two wonderful girls (so they tell me) I’m sure my daughters will have parted with the princely sum of 29p for a card for their auld man (haven’t you, dears…?) However, to me, this is just another money-making racket for the card manufacturing and gift industry. And all over the country there will be thousands, nay millions, of sons and daughters scratching their heads over what to buy their pater. This will doubtless include…
A Tie
A plain tie, perhaps is acceptable but some ties depict characters in a cartoon. In my case, I’m sure a Homer Simpson tie will have crossed the minds of my two daughters. Or, worse, Mickey Mouse, or even worse…Goofy. As long as their Hibernian supporting partners don’t contribute a green tie, I’ll be happy(ish)
Now a nice bottle of alcoholic refreshment always goes down well with the Auld Reekie Ranter. However, a little variety doesn’t go amiss. For years I enjoyed a little Jack Daniels (okay, a lot of Jack Daniels) This meant that at Christmas or birthdays or on Father’s Day, a bottle or three of the American whisky would be given to me with the words ‘I didn’t know what else to get you’. In recent years, I have taken to Havana Club and delicious it is too. That said, I still have three unopened bottles from Christmas and my birthday in February…
A Pair of Socks
Like the tie, a pair of socks as a gift usually comes with cartoon characters or, in my case, the words left and right emblazoned on them in the event I get confused when getting dressed in the morning. My daughters think I’m at the senile stage already. When eldest daughter and I ran for a bus on Friday only for the driver to pull away with a smirk on his face, said daughter immediately phoned Lothian Buses. She explained she was with her young daughter – and her ‘elderly’ father who was well past the capability of running for a bus….
A Book
Now you can seldom go wrong with a book. But titles such as How to Prepare Your Own Funeral, Coping With Dementia and Dealing with Incontinence are, perhaps, pushing the message too far. I can highly recommend Hearts 50 Greatest Games – hugely entertaining, engrossing, a must read, still available in all good bookshops...
Again, you can’t really go wrong with sweeties although those who know me know I certainly like my nuts….That said, there is the subsequent guilt as when said daughters see me a few days later there will be the inevitable comments about how much weight I’m putting on, how I really need to go back to the gym and cut back on the chocolates…and the Havana Club and Jack Daniels….
Bearing all this in mind, I’m almost relieved I’ll be incommunicado for most of this Father’s Day as I’ll be attending college on Sunday as I train to become a hypnotherapist and counsellor.
My plan for next year is to put both said daughters into a trance and get them to buy me a Porsche. Meanwhile, I’m going to pour myself a Drambuie. Now there’s a hint, dear girls….