Monday, 29 December 2008

Here's to 2009

Good times for a change
See, the luck I've had
Can make a good man
Turn bad

So please please please
Let me, let me, let me
Let me get what I want
This time

Haven't had a dream in a long time
See, the life I've had
Can make a good man bad

So for once in my life
Let me get what I want
Lord knows, it would be the first time
Lord knows, it would be the first time

Say what you like about Morrissey but he could write damn fine tunes...What I want for 2009 is world peace - but that's bollocks so I'll try for some other wishes.Such as...

...Health and happiness for my family. That daughters Laura and Michaela and grandchildren Jack and Hannah will continue to bring joy into my life. Did I really say that? Okay, substitute ‘continue to bring joy’ with ‘bring me less grief‘. I sincerely hope 2009 is a better year healthwise for me. 2008 was a catalogue of ill-health (keep this to yourself but I'm not a well man) and is ending in much the same way as it began with a visit to my doctor. I've now been struck with a chest infection but, if the doctor's surgery was anything to go by this morning, so has the majority of the population of Dalkeith.

…Health and happiness for those people outside my family who mean so much to me. To Colleen in Aberdeen who has given me new purpose in life and whose re-acquaintance was something I never thought would happen. (btw if Colleen’s daughter Nicola reads this - Jeezo yer maw can talk for Scotland!) Also health and happiness to June in Seattle and to Gary in Aberdeen - neither of whom has had the best of years in 2008. To Rob in Norway, however - I hope 2009 brings you as much happiness as 2008 did (and I’m not just talking Fabio Capello!)

...Hearts to start the year with a 10-0 victory over Hibernian. For a match report to say Csaba Laszlo says we still get just the three points, the same as any other win over the wee team but he’s disappointed with the number of missed chances from his team. Mixu Paatelainen says his team played all the football although to be fair no one told the Finn the game kicked off at 12.30pm… A week later Hearts are restricted to just five goals in the Scottish Cup triumph in Lochend.

...Independence for Scotland. Unlikely to be in 2009 I know and the downturn in the global economy makes this particular dream look to be a bit further away than this time last year. But Scotland has, on the whole, made a damn fine job of its devolved parliament. There's no reason why we can't go it alone. If only fellow Scots could take that next brave step...

...The breakthrough for Scots singer/songwriter Ally Kerr. He is such a talent it beggars belief why he isn't such a star in his homeland as he is in Japan. Hear some of his brilliant music at

…Likewise Carolyn McGoldrick. Carolyn, like me, spent her formative years in Cumbernauld and has written a powerful song about her home town. I wish her and Ally every success in 2009.

...For my Hearts-supporting friend and fellow blogger Adullamite - here's hoping 2009 brings you success on the job front. With such a gift for words you could try writing a book, my friend. And next time you're in Auld Reekie you'd better buy me and Lady Muck a

…To win a substantial sum of money. Seeing as I don’t play the National Lottery and have given up on the football pools, this would appear the least likely of my wishes to come true (well, apart from putting ten goals past the Hibees) So I’m relying on the generosity of my darling daughters and good friends - or winning a million on the fixed odds coupon at the bookies. Nae chance on either count, then…

…and finally to all the visitors to this blog. Jeez, have you got nothing better to do?! Seriously, I hope that 2009 is everything you wish it to be. The signs aren’t exactly promising what with the world hit by financial calamity and insecurity, fear and pessimism over-riding much else in life. It will be hard to have a positive frame of mind with so much bad news going on. But there are good things going on in life. There are good people around. Love and respect for each other does exist - it just doesn’t get the publicity it deserves.

To all my friends and to those who read my rants, I give you words of wisdom from the wonderful Mr. Pete Wylie:

Let's have another drink and let's talk about the blues. Blues is about dignity, it's about self-respect, and no matter what they take away from you - that's yours for keeps. I remember how it was, how every medium - T.V. and papers and radio and all those people were saying: 'you're on the scrap-heap, you're useless', and I remember how easy it was to start believing that. I remember how you'd hear people take it for granted that it was true - just 'cause someone with an ounce of power said so. And that's a problem now, too many oddballs, too many pocketbook psychologists and would-be philosophers with an axe to grind. But there's a solution, it's not easy, but it's a matter of coming to terms in your heart with situation you're in, a matter of choosing how things go for you and not having things forced upon you. There are plenty of forces against you, forcing you against your will, your ideals - you've got to hope for the best, and that's the best you can hope for - you've got to hope against hope... I remember something Sal Paradise said, he said: 'the city intellectuals of the world are debauched from the full body blood-of-the-land and are just rootless fools'. So listen, when the smile, the condescending pat-on-the-back comes and says: 'we're sorry, but you're nothing, you've got nothing for us and we've got nothing for you', you say: 'No', and say it loud: "NO!", and remember, people who talk about revolution and a class-struggle without referring explicitly to everyday life, without understanding what is subversive about love, and what is positive in the refusal and constraint...with situation you're in, a matter of choosing how things go for you and not having things forced upon you. There are plenty of forces against you, forcing you against your will, your ideals - you've got to hope for the best - and that's the best you can hope for.

A Very Happy New Year to Everyone - here's to good health, peace and happiness in 2009!

Saturday, 27 December 2008

A Seasonal Greet Continued...

It is, perhaps, another sign of being a forty something that one of the many gripes I have about life is the lack of entertainment one can glean from television programmes these days. And, as I hinted in my last rant, Christmas Day merely underlined just how much tosh is produced for the small screen in an age when celebrities rule (for celebrity this can also mean non-entity) and people with next to no talent can achieve ‘fame’

On Christmas Day the terrestrial channels in the UK - BBC, ITV and Channels Four and Five - had schedules so bland it made my daughter Laura’s attempt at prawn cocktail look positively drooling…

In years gone by the BBC and ITV would put their Christmas Day faith in a big family entertainment show such as Morecambe and Wise or The Two Ronnies or a big film such as the latest James Bond release. ITV’s film offering this year was a four year old Harry Potter flick while the BBC went with the tried - or should that be tired? - and trusted Wallace and Gromit. Predictably, both BBC and ITV stuck with a format that had brought average ratings of three viewers and a dog earlier in the year with special Christmas Day showings of Strictly Come Dancing and Dancing on Ice. In case any of their viewers didn’t realise it, ITV helpfully added ‘At Christmas’ to their programme title…

Add the usual special hour long editions of EastEnders and Coronation Street along with the utterly predictable Doctor Who and Mr Bean and the Christmas Day television fare was as banal as turkey and brussel sprouts. The BBC did bring back the Royle Family but even the antics of Ricky Tomlinson and co. seemed tired. Admittedly it was great seeing Stanley Baxter back on television again but the Scots entertainer is now 82 and his ‘new’ material amounted to a couple of impressions of the Queen and ITV used this as an excuse to repeat clips of Baxter in his heyday, an era when entertainment meant just that.

As if to prove the point, on Boxing Day the BBC went back to the 1970s. The sad death of the corporation's former Head of Light Entertainment, Bill Cotton, earlier this year had a silver lining for those anonymous BBC focus groups charged with keeping the licence fee payers entertained today. It gave the Beeb the flimsiest of excuses to show on Boxing Day yet another Christmas episode of Morecambe and Wise as well as The Two Ronnies and The Generation Game. We may have seen them countless times before but these shows from three decades ago are still funnier than watching today’s penchant for The Fifty Greatest Comedy Moments/Movie Endings/Showbiz Comebacks/Christmas Songs etc. etc. which are accompanied by those irritating talking heads of nonentities (see above) who feel the need to explain why Del Boy falling over the bar counter in Only Fools and Horses was just so funny…

In today’s age of multi-channel television with satelite and Freeview channels aplenty there is certainly more choice of viewing than when I was but a lad. But, sadly, it means there is more rubbish on than ever before. As Christmas has proved for the umpteenth year in a row.

On Wednesday it’s Hogmanay. No wonder we turn to alcohol at this time of the year…

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

A Seasonal Greet

So, here it is....

Chaos in the kitchen

Screaming grandchildren wreaking havoc

Mountains of wrapping paper which, having been carefully pieced together just days before, now lie in a crumpled mess all over the house

Inordinate amount of boxes of Celebrations, Roses, Quality Street and sweets you don't get at any other time of the year. No Brazilian nuts this year please...

Pairs of novelty socks or a novelty tie which you wouldn't be seen dead wearing

A woolly jumper which is too small and quite hideous

Wearing a bloody stupid paper hat and trying to keep the cheap plastic inserts from the cheap Christmas crackers away from the brats - sorry, loveable grandchildren (still wreaking havoc)

Inedible turkey covered in gravy which is too rich and accompanied by brussel sprouts that are as hard as bullets

Roast potatoes which will crack laminated flooring if they fall off your plate

Christmas pudding which looks and tastes like something you wouldn't give to the dog

Listening to Granny's woes and how Christmas isn't what it used to be

Repeats of Morecambe and Wise and The Two Ronnies on the telly (because even the BBC recognise that much of today's comedians are frankly rubbish. David Mitchell? Jimmy Carr? Little Britain? I've had more fun visiting the dentist)

Thinking of many other places you would rather be (or is that just me?)

To those regular visitors to my rants, thanks for taking the time to visit the blog. I sincerely hope your Christmas will be a darn sight happier than mine. And may 2009 be everything you want it to be.

Mike Smith

Saturday, 20 December 2008

Hot Stuff...

So there we were, at the office night out,enjoying a nice meal in Khushis Indian restaurant in Edinburgh. Having enjoyed my chicken pakora, I had just finished my chicken bhuna when my colleague Claire stares open-mouthed at the kitchen directly opposite our table and says....'Fire!'

At that the kitchen staff run out the kitchen and the waiters begin telling people to leave immediately. Initially we thought it was just an over-heated oven or something similar but as we made our way downstairs the smell of burning became stronger. Once outside it soon became apparent this was a serious situation and the building was well alight.

We watched from across the street as firefighters and ambulances quickly appeared on the scene. The roof of the restaurant collapsed soon after and the flames shot into the freezing cold Edinburgh sky.

It was only afterwards, while in the pub, that we realised how lucky we were. Ten minutes from the likelihood of this blog being discontinued.

Thankfully no one was hurt. But it's not a situation I care to be in again.

Thursday, 18 December 2008

Time Called on Talk107

Nearly three years after going on air, Edinburgh's speech-based radio station Talk107 is to close down. The station's financial problems were well documented and today the station's owners UTV Radio announced they were handing back the licence to the industry regulator Ofcom.

I've not listened to Talk107 that much recently but have enjoyed the likes of Scott Wilson on the breakfast programme. Scott is also the stadium announcer for Heart of Midlothian FC and there is no one better. A man of his undoubted broadcasting talent will surely surface elsewhere.

In May 2006 Talk107 kindly plugged my book Hearts - The Diary of an Incredible Season (still available etc. etc.) I was a guest on Gordon Dallas' Kickabout programme in the distinguished company of Hearts legend Gary Mackay. It was quite nerve-wracking and I wasn't helped by suffering from Manflu but it was nonetheless a hugely enjoyable experience.

The station is due to close on Christmas Eve - what a time to close down! I wish all the presenters all the very best - hopefully some of them will be back on the airwaves before long.

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Love Changes Everything

I was only seventeen when she looked at me that way
Seems like yesterday
I was only foolin` round but she stole my heart away
I`ve never been the same
I felt the strangest feeling like a raging fire it burned
She left I cried for weeks and I can`t forget her or the lesson that I learned

Love changes, changes everything
Love makes you fly it can break your wings
Love changes, changes everything
Love makes the rules from fools to kings
Love changes, love changes everything

Then the years went rollin` byI grew up and moved away
Had to earn my pay
Found another lover then
But my heart is sad to say
It only ended up the same way
And I wondered was I destined to spend my life alone
Oh girl you answered my question
This time it`s working you`ve given me new hope

Sunday, 14 December 2008

Saturday, 13 December 2008

Jinky Johnstone

Celtic have unveiled a statute to Jimmy Johnstone outside Celtic Park. 'Jinky' was a legendary winger who graced Scottish football in the 1960s and 70s. As a Hearts supporter growing up during that period my formative years were spent following a team that was heading downhill fast, a side far removed from the glorious team of the 1950s. And some opposition players would simply tear a distinctly average Hearts team to shreds. Jinky was one of them.

The wee man was a member of Celtic's Lisbon Lions side, which became the first British club to win the European Cup in 1967. On his day he was quite simply brilliant - one of the best players in the world. I saw him several times at Tynecastle and at Pittodrie when I lived in Aberdeen. I remember him single-handedly destroying the Aberdeen defence in the early 1970s - his performance that day was one of the best I've ever seen from a Scottish footballer.

The other performance that sticks out is when Johnstone played for Scotland against England at Hampden in 1974. The wee man had been involved in the 'infamous' rowing boat incident at Largs a couple of days previously (when he had to be rescued in the middle of the night!) but he gave the performance of his international career that afternoon as Scotland won 2-0.

I've seen some famous players over the years including the likes of Kenny Dalglish, Kevin Keegan, Ronaldinho, John Robertson, Gordon Strachan. To me there was no finer player than Jinky Johnstone, who died at the tragically early age of 61 after a long battle with motor neurone disease.

It's fitting that Celtic have chosen to honour the great man this way. He was, to use a Rangers motto, simply the best.

Friday, 12 December 2008

More Questions Than Answers...

How important does a person have to be before they are considered assassinated instead of just murdered?

Why do you have to 'put your two cents in'... but it's only a 'penny for your thoughts'?

Why does a round pizza come in a square box?

What disease did cured ham actually have?

How is it that we put man on the moon before we figured out it would be a good idea to put wheels on luggage?

Why is it that people say they 'slept like a baby' when babies wake up like every two hours?

If a deaf person has to go to court, is it still called a hearing?

Why are you IN a film, but you're ON TV?

Why do people pay to go up tall buildings and then put money in binoculars to look at things on the ground?

Why is 'bra' singular and 'panties' plural?

Why do toasters always have a setting that burns the toast to a horrible crisp, which no decent human being would eat?

If the professor on Gilligan's Island can make a radio out of a coconut, why can't he fix a hole in a boat?

Why does Goofy stand erect while Pluto remains on all fours? They're both dogs...

If Wile E. Coyote had enough money to buy all that ACME crap, why didn't he just buy dinner?

If corn oil is made from corn, and vegetable oil is made from vegetables, what is baby oil made from?

If electricity comes from electrons, does morality come from morons?

Why do we press harder on a remote control when we know the batteries are getting dead?

Why do banks charge a fee on 'insufficient funds' when they know there is not enough money?

Why does someone believe you when you say there are four billion stars, but check when you say the paint is wet?

Why do they use sterilized needles for death by lethal injection?

Why does Superman stop bullets with his chest, but ducks when you throw a revolver at him?

Why do Kamikaze pilots wear helmets?

Whose idea was it to put an 'S' in the word 'lisp'?

If people evolved from apes, why are there still apes?

Why is it that no matter what color bubble bath you use the bubbles are always white?

Why do people constantly return to the refrigerator with hopes that something new to eat will have materialised?

Why do people keep running over a string a dozen times with their vacuum cleaner, then reach down, pick it up, examine it, then put it down to give the vacuum one more chance?

Why is it that no plastic bag will open from the end on your first try?

How do those dead bugs get into those enclosed light fixtures?

How come you never hear father-in-law jokes?

And...why are you reading this and nodding in agreement?

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Project Management Five Minute Refresher

Lesson 1: A man is getting into the shower just as his wife is finishing up her shower, when the doorbell rings. The wife quickly wraps herself in a towel and runs downstairs. When she opens the door, there stands Bob, the next-door neighbour.

Before she says a word, Bob says, 'I'll give you £800 to drop that towel.'

After thinking for a moment, the woman drops her towel and stands naked in front of Bob, after a few seconds, Bob hands her £800 and leaves. The woman wraps back up in the towel and goes back upstairs. When she gets to the bathroom, her husband asks, 'Who was that?'

'It was Bob the next door neighbour,' she replies.

'Great,' the husband says, 'did he say anything about the £800 he owes me?'

Moral of the story: If you share critical information pertaining to credit and risk with your shareholders in time, you may be in a position to prevent avoidable exposure.

Lesson 2: A priest offered a Nun a lift. She got in and crossed her legs, forcing her gown to reveal a leg. The priest nearly had an accident. After controlling the car, he stealthily slid his hand up her leg.

The nun said, 'Father, remember Psalm 129?'

The priest removed his hand. But, changing gears, he let his hand slide up her leg again.

The nun once again said, 'Father, remember Psalm 129?'

The priest apologised 'Sorry sister but the flesh is weak.'

Arriving at the convent, the nun sighed heavily and went on her way. On his arrival at the church, the priest rushed to look up Psalm 129. It said, 'Go forth and seek, further up, you will find glory.'

Moral of the story: If you are not well informed in your job, you might miss a great opportunity.

Lesson 3: A sales rep, an administration clerk, and the manager are walking to lunch when they find an antique oil lamp. They rub it and a Genie comes out.

The Genie says, 'I'll give each of you just one wish.'

'Me first! Me first!' says the admin clerk. 'I want to be in the Bahamas , driving a speedboat, without a care in the world.' Puff! She's gone.

'Me next! Me next!' says the sales rep. 'I want to be in Hawaii , relaxing on the beach with my personal masseuse, an endless supply of Pina Coladas and the love of my life.' Puff! He's gone.

'OK, you're up,' the Genie says to the manager. The manager says, 'I want those two back in the office after lunch.'

Moral of the story: Always let your boss have the first say.

Lesson 4:An eagle was sitting on a tree resting, doing nothing. A small rabbit saw the eagle and asked him, 'Can I also sit like you and do nothing?'

The eagle answered: 'Sure, why not.'

So, the rabbit sat on the ground below the eagle and rested. All of a sudden, a fox appeared, jumped on the rabbit and ate it.

Moral of the story: To be sitting and doing nothing, you must be sitting very, very high up.

Lesson 5: A turkey was chatting with a bull. 'I would love to be able to get to the top of that tree' sighed the turkey, 'but I haven't got the energy.'

'Well, why don't you nibble on some of my droppings?' replied the bull. They're packed with nutrients.'

The turkey pecked at a lump of dung, and found it actually gave him enough strength to reach the lowest branch of the tree. The next day, after eating some more dung, he reached the second branch. Finally after a fourth night, the turkey was proudly perched at the top of the tree. He was promptly spotted by a farmer, who shot him out of the tree.

Moral of the story: Bull Shit might get you to the top, but it won't keep you there..

Lesson 6: A little bird was flying south for the winter. It was so cold the bird froze and fell to the ground into a large field. While he was lying there, a cow came by and dropped some dung on him. As the frozen bird lay there in the pile of cow dung, he began to realize how warm he was. The dung was actually thawing him out! He lay there all warm and happy, and soon began to sing for joy. A passing cat heard the bird singing and came to investigate. Following the sound, the cat discovered the bird under the pile of cow dung, and promptly dug him out and ate him.

Morals of the story:

(1) Not everyone who shits on you is your enemy. (2) Not everyone who gets you out of shit is your friend.(3) And when you're in deep shit, it's best to keep your mouth shut!

Monday, 8 December 2008

John Cumming - Hearts Legend

A few years ago I was drinking in a Gorgie hostelry in the company of an elderly Hearts supporter. He was of an age when he had actually seen Hearts win the league championship with the all-conquering side of the 1950s. I asked him if he thought there was one player who summed up what Heart of Midlothian is. He considered his malt whisky, turned and looked at me and said firmly ‘John Cumming’.

The man who would earn the moniker The Iron Man was signed on provisional forms from his hometown team of Carluke Rovers by Hearts manager Davie McLean in 1948 as a raw 18 year old. Raw he may have been but McLean’s undoubted eye for talent knew the tough tackling left half would be an important part of a Hearts team that would go on to dominate Scottish football for much of the 1950s. Cumming was given a permanent contract in 1950 and made his first team debut for Hearts in December that year on the day before Hogmanay in a thrilling 2-2 draw at Celtic Park. Among his teammates were the legendary ‘Terrible Trio’ of Alfie Conn, Willie Bauld and Jimmy Wardhaugh and it was Wardhaugh who scored twice as Hearts secured a well-earned draw which kept them on level points with Celtic. Cumming impressed on his debut and would go on to make another thirteen league appearances for Hearts that season as the Jam Tarts finished in 4th place in the First Division or Division A as it was known back then. We won’t dwell on who won the league that season…

Cumming scored his first goal in February 1951 in a 4-0 drubbing of Third Lanark at Tynecastle and he scored again a fortnight later as hapless Morton were hammered 8-0 in Gorgie. Early signs of what was to follow from Hearts that decade.

In 1953 the emergence of another lion-hearted player - Dave Mackay - meant Hearts were ready to sweep all before them in the Scottish game. With Freddie Glidden, Mackay and Cumming forming the half-back line, opposition forwards were faced with a ‘thou shalt not pass’ mindset. In October 1954, all three players played their part as Hearts defeated Motherwell 4-2 in the final of the League Cup at Hampden. A Willie Bauld hat-trick may have been the highlight of the game but it was the steely determination of Messrs. Cumming, Mackay and Glidden who fought off the excellent Motherwell forward line of the time that helped Hearts lift their first piece of silverware in nearly half a century.

If Cumming was an integral part of that Hearts side, he was truly inspirational less than two years later. Hearts faced Celtic in the Scottish Cup Final of 1956. Thousands of Hearts fans made their way to Hampden on 21 April and that famous maroon wall of Mackay, Glidden and Cumming were ready for anything Jimmy McGrory’s Celtic could throw at them. Ian Crawford gave Hearts a half-time lead and when he doubled Hearts advantage minutes into the second half, Hearts fans began to believe their Scottish Cup dream - it had been fifty years since the famous old trophy graced Tynecastle - was about to become a reality. But Cumming suffered a nasty head cut following a collision with Celtic’s Willie Fernie and had to leave the field. Cumming looked in a bad way and, at a time when there were no substitutes, few Hearts fans fancied their chances of holding off Celtic’s forwards with just ten men. As if to prove this point, Celtic’s Haughney scored minutes after and it looked as if the tide had turned. But, astonishingly, Iron Man Cumming returned to the field, bloodied but determined to drive Hearts to victory. His team mates drew huge inspiration from the sight of Cumming coming back and it’s fair to say Celtic were deflated by this turn of events. Cumming held the Hearts defence together as Celtic sought to salvage their cup hopes. With just ten minutes left Alfie Conn added a third Hearts goal and the maroons were victorious. Two goal Ian Crawford took the acclaim but John Cumming was the inspiration. In much the same way the FA Cup Final of three years earlier was dubbed the Matthews final in tribute to Sir Stanley, the 1956 Scottish Cup Final would forever be remembered for John Cumming’s huge act of bravery and devotion to the boys in maroon.

Cumming was a mainstay of the Hearts team that finished runners-up to Rangers in the league in 1957 but the following season there was to be no answer to the maroon machine. Losing just one league game all season and scoring an astonishing 132 league goals - including five from Cumming - Hearts romped to the Scottish League title, winning the championship by a remarkable thirteen points from second placed Rangers. And this was in the days when there were just two points awarded for a win. Although injury robbed John Cumming of a third of that magnificent season, the Iron Man was still a major player behind Hearts record breaking championship win.

At the peak of his playing career, Cumming helped Hearts lift another two League Cups and the league championship again in 1960. He missed just two games of the title winning season of 59-60 and he was again a crucial part of the Hearts team that lifted the League Cup for the last time in October 1962. By now, Big John was 32 but was still playing superbly. Indeed, the previous season he had been voted Scotland’s Player of the Year. But he would have hardly considered it likely that the team he adored would have to wait another 36 years before they lifted silverware again.

Sadly, but perhaps, inevitably, it was only a matter of time before such wonderfully gifted players began to take their leave. Dave Mackay moved to Tottenham Hotspur in 1959; Alex Young to Everton a year later and the likes of Alfie Conn and Jimmy Wardhaugh also took their leave before the 1950s gave way to the 1960s. John Cumming, however, was determined to play on at Tynecastle, for the team he loved.
Cumming played on until 1967. His final game came at the end of season 1966-67 when, typically, he answered the call when Hearts were deprived of several first team players because of injury for a end of season friendly against Lincoln City. With substitutes now part of the game, Cumming came on to replace Jim Fleming and lend some much needed experience to youngsters Eddie Thomson, George Fleming and Alan Gordon. Cumming went on to become Hearts trainer for many years and remained a hugely respected member of Hearts coaching team.

The game today is a far different beast to the one John Cumming graced five decades ago. Players move from club to club for big money and the days of one club players have almost gone for good, with the notable exception of the likes of Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes at Manchester United. To mention the name John Cumming in the same breath as those Old Trafford players is no misnomer. The man from Carluke gave everything to Heart of Midlothian and in doing so became the club’s most decorated player with two league championship badges, one Scottish Cup and four League Cup medals. It’s unlikely this record will ever be broken. John also won nine full international caps for Scotland.

Today Scottish football and, in particular, Heart of Midlothian Football Club mourns the loss of one of the greatest Hearts players ever. My thoughts are with John’s family at this time but they can be assured of one thing. Iron Man John Cumming will never be forgotten at Tynecastle. We may never see his likes again.

Saturday, 6 December 2008

Frank Boyle

Frank Boyle is one of Scotland's top cartoonists. In fact, in my opinion, the top man. His cartoons in the Edinburgh Evening News are the stuff of legend.

Frank has a special section of Hearts/Hibs cartoons on his website. To see Frank's excellent work, please visit his website at

Thursday, 4 December 2008

Tis The Season (Christmas Rant No. 95)

Regular readers of my rants may have gathered I'm not a fan of this time of the year. Here are just some of the reasons why...

Christmas Cards

Nothing says "I don't really give a feck about you" like a Christmas card that comes out of a box of twenty identical Christmas cards. Far worse is the Christmas newsletter: "Hi, I can't be bothered to write each of you a personal letter, so here's a computer-printed newsletter to brief you on my boring year." And in this internet age, Christmas e-mail postcards. If anyone e-mails me a snowball this year, I will track them down and do interesting things to them with a fork that will make their eyes water...

As an aside, I saw someone open an advent calendar from Woolworths on Monday. Sadly, all the windows were boarded up and there was nothing inside...

Christmas Shopping

The insanity begins shortly after Guy Fawkes Day, when anyone with two brain cells to rub together will stay the hell away from anything resembling a retail store. Somehow, though, the idiots come out in force every year. And there's no let-up until at least the second week of January, because even after Christmas, people return their shitty gifts (see below). And it's not as if the Christmas shopping season begins in November: you start seeing Christmas commercials and store decorations as early as October. Which brings me to...

Early Christmas Shoppers

The only thing worse than the moron who waits until December 24 to do all his or her Christmas shopping is the smug bitch who has all her shopping done by July. That's not misogynist: It's always women who shop this far in advance. (Name three guys who have their shopping done before December.) Now, so as not to irk those (women) who conscientiously buy their Christmas gifts a little at a time during the year, I am speaking here of the ones who can't resist telling you, "Oh, I got all my shopping done before July." In other words: It's fine by me if they do it; I just don't want to hear it. Because it makes me want to divide such people into 17 asymmetrical pieces. So for those people, some advice: If the topic comes up ... lie. Claim that you're even farther behind on your shopping than the rest of us. That's the best gift you can give your friends.

Christmas Gifts

The whole giving-and-getting thing makes me sick. When you exchange gifts with someone, you feel bad if the gift you gave them is cheaper than the gift they gave you; you also feel bad if it's the reverse. "Wow, a DVD player! Er... thanks. I got you...a pair of gloves." You calculate just how much to spend on each person, which means you're basically putting a price on your love. How much is Mom worth? £150? £200? How about your cousin? One great reason to stay away from romance is the agonising over what to get your boy/girlfriend that first Christmas. And what to get his/her parents, siblings, etc....And of course he/she (usually she) will say, "You don't have to get me anything. Just as long as we can spend Christmas together." This, let me tell you, is bullshit...

Christmas decorations

Why the hell are so many are so tacky? No one would ever stick a plastic blow up doll of a red fat man on the front lawn at any other time of the year. What is the point of Santa Claus anyway? Is he a substitute for Jesus? Or is he just an excellent marketing tool for retailers? Whatever the case, if a big fat man tried to enter most peoples' houses in the middle of the night, half the population would blow him away with the shot gun they keep stashed under the bed for such purposes. The other half would lock their doors and ring 999. The point is- we tell our children constantly to beware of strangers and intruders, then for one month of the year we demand they go sit on some fat man's lap and accept his offer of candy and gifts. And when he breaks into our house we leave him biscuits and milk.

And finally (for now)

I hate sanctimonious people - like myself - who cynically whine constantly about how Christmas is so consumer driven and everyone is selfish and the music is tacky etc etc. We seem to think we are the only ones who see the real truth behind the day.

Is it January yet?

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Oooh Ma Heid!

When I couldn't stop sneezing on Sunday and went through a couple of boxes of Kleenex tissues, I thought I was in for the dreaded ManFlu. As Adullamite, Groanin Jock and other males will tell you, ManFlu can be debilitating, although being men we tend not to complain and just get on with things...But it appears it's just a cold I have instead.

But - it's a head cold. While my beak has dried up somewhat and the sore throat and aches and shivers have eased, I do have a pounding headache, a nagging, incessant pain (and that's nothing to do with the countless Celtic fans who have taken to posting on this site and sending me abusive e-mails following my article in the Hearts match day programme on Saturday!)

For three days now my head has throbbed. Now, as regular readers will know, I'm not one to complain. But if anyone has a suitable remedy for a severe headache please, please pass it on!

Sunday, 30 November 2008

Happy St. Andrews Day

To Scots everywhere! The greatest country in the world.

Saturday, 29 November 2008

An Apology

In fact, a sincere apology...

Over the past months I have posted rants on this blog and forwarded 'funny' pictures and jokes to friends who I thought shared the same sense of humour. Unfortunately this wasn't the case and I seem to have upset quite a few people who have accused me of being sexist and shallow.

If you were one of these people, please accept my humblest apologies. From now on I will only post rants and send emails with a cultural or educational content such as old monuments, nature and other interesting structures.

Below, you'll find a picture of the Pont Neuf Bridge in Paris. For those of you who are interested, Pont Neuf is the oldest bridge in Paris and took 26 years to build. Construction began in 1578 and ended in 1604. "Le Pont Neuf" is actually made of 2 independent bridges, one with seven arches and the other with five arches.

Fascinating, I'm sure you'll agree...

Thursday, 27 November 2008

Letter to America

To our American cousins:

I don't want to celebrate Thanksgiving as this is an American celebration and means sweet Fanny Adams to me.

I don't want to purchase Viagra or any other sexual health-enhancing drugs.

I won't be thinking of others 'during the forthcoming holidays'. If I were a religious person I would doubtless celebrate Christmas; but I'm not so I won't.

I will not be participating in on-line surveys for American companies I have never heard of.

I do not want daily bulletins on celebrity news on tinpot Americans I have never heard of. Or any Z list 'celebs' come to think of it.

I do not want cheap personal loans.

I do not want to receive 'hot financial advice' on how to make my dollars work for me. I have no dollars in my possession, never have and, unless I actually visit the States, never will.

I have no interest in purchasing the latest Chevy Malibu - I prefer to sit in the passenger seat of life.

I do not want to hear about the latest 'movie' news. In this country they're called films until such time as we become the 51st State of America.

A time, I fear, which may not be far off....

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Husband of the Year...

goes to this fella.

But...a female acquaintance of mine told me the other day how men are the root cause of most women's problems. For example:
Woman has Man in it;

Mrs. has Mr. in it;

Female has Male in it;

She has He in it;

Madam has Adam in it;

And, she went on (and on) have you ever noticed how all of women's problems start with MEN ?

MEN tal illness

MEN strual cramps

MEN tal breakdown

MEN opause

GUY necologist


Tsk, tsk. As long as they can still carry the beer...

Sunday, 23 November 2008

The Old Squirm

"We are restricted by playing in Scotland, we compete with Celtic. Hearts split us one year and, early in my tenure, Celtic weren't always second but really, it is a bit of a foregone conclusion most of the time. That does not make the menu as interesting as it could be. But there is no sign of the English route opening up for us. Why do they need us? The bottom clubs are like turkeys, they won't vote for Christmas."

Quote from Rangers chairman David Murray in The Scotsman last Friday.

Personally, I would be delighted if both Celtic and Rangers scarpered off to England. Next Saturday lunchtime Hearts 'entertain' - if that's the right word - Rangers at Tynecastle. As happened three weeks ago when the other half of Glasgow's gruesome twosome came to Gorgie, there's little doubt the travelling support will subject us sectarian chants. When Rangers come, doubltess there will be never-ending songs about three hundred year old battles, famine and being up to their knees in blood. When Celtic were in Gorgie there were songs glorifying joining an Irish terrorist organisation.

Celtic and Rangers have dominated Scottish football for the best part of 130 years. Occasionally their dominance is broken - Hearts and Hibs in the 1950s, Aberdeen and Dundee United in the 1980s - but for the most part Scottish football's silverware ends up in Glasgow. They are the two biggest clubs in Scotland with the largest followings so it's only to be expected. What is unpalatable for any fair-minded football fan is the sectarian bile which emanates from some of their supporters. Even in a 21st century devolved Scotland, even with the likes of David Murray and his Celtic counterpart John Reid condemning such behaviour and insisting their respective clubs are doing all they can to stamp it out, such offensive behaviour is still very much part of the make-up of the Old Firm followers.

I haven't been to Celtic Park since Hearts won the Scottish Cup there in 1998 and I haven't been to Ibrox since 1999 when a Rangers fan visually abused my daughter by dropping his trousers - this happened inside Ibrox and when I complained to a nearby police officer I was laughed at and told if I wasn't happy I should leave. But I believe that Celtic still play The Fields of Athenry at Celtic Park and Rangers bellow out the 'clean' version of Follow Follow at Ibrox. Doubtless all part of the club's determination to stamp out sectarianism...

David Murray's moan that the SPL is a foregone conclusion most of the time therefore not making the menu as interesting as it could be begs me to ask Mr Chairman if he's having a laugh. He quite rightly says Hearts did split the Old Firm in 2006. But when that occurs, as has happened when the likes of Dundee United, Aberdeen and, dare I say it, Hibernian have the makings of a team that can challenge for honours, the Old Firm simply buy the best players. Hearts lost Steven Pressley and Paul Hartley of the 2006 team to Celtic. Derek Riordan couldn't stop scoring for Hibs so Celtic simply bought him and stuck him in the reserves for two years. They also bought Scott McDonald from Motherwell, Mark Wilson from Dundee United, Gary Caldwell, Scott Brown and Chris Killen from Hibernian and Barry Robson from Dundee United. Rangers squad includes Kris Boyd and Steven Naismith bought from Kilmarnock, Kirk Broadfoot from St. Mirren, Steven Whittaker and Kevin Thomson from Hibernian and Alan McGregor from Dunfermline.

So, Mr Murray, why is it there is little competition in the SPL for you and your Glasgow neighbours? Perhaps the Old Firm should reflect that it's being so successful in Scotland that has made their clubs what they are. Any move to the English Premiership would see the the pair of them struggle to obtain mid-table mediocrity. How long would their supporters put up with such lack of success? In any case, I strongly suspect clubs in England wouldn't care to have the sectarian nonsense of the Old Firm supporters on their doorstep on a regular basis.

Some of David Murray's comments are self-righteous and, frankly, an insult to the rest of Scottish football. If only the Old Squirm would pack their bags and head off elsewhere and leave the rest of Scottish football in peace - quite literally...

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Christmas Rant Number 94

Disclosure Scotland Guidelines on Santa Claus
It’s expected that such a position will involve contact with children. As a consequence, you have to determine whether or not the position is a child care position in terms of the Protection of Children (Scotland) Act 2003 (PoCSA) as amended and this can depend on the nature of the arrangements put in place by the employers, or those wishing individuals to act as Santa. Details of PoCSA and what constitutes a child care position are available on the Publications Page of our website.

It’s important to note that simply having access or contact with children does not mean that the position is a child care position and is capable of being Disclosure checked at Enhanced level. At one extreme, if you wish to employ a Santa for work in a shopping centre or store for a prolonged period (e.g. four weeks), you would have to (1) consider whether or not the role involves Santa having sole charge of children or that he has unsupervised contact with children AND (2) that this forms part of the position’s normal duties.

From the Disclosure Scotland website

Hmm. Aren't you glad that such organisations exist to guide us through the minefield of life? The opening sentence - it's expected that such as position will involve contact with children - is particularly helpful. I'm sure the likes of Jenners store in Edinburgh will be looking at that and thinking 'damn - that never occurred to us. We'll have to give Santa the sack....unless, of course, he's got a Claus in his contract'

In other news, it has been alleged that bears defecate in the woods and it is believed the Pope may have Catholic leanings...

Monday, 17 November 2008

Cumbernauld: A Love Song

A Scottish musician has penned a love song dedicated to a town described as the "most dismal" in Scotland. Carolyn McGoldrick is releasing Cumbernauld: A Love Song to raise money for children with cancer.

The former resident of the infamous Lanarkshire town was given a cultural grant by North Lanarkshire Council to fund the recording of the single. She said she wrote the song as a reaction to all the publicity the town had suffered in recent years.

The song is currently available to download from Carolyn's website and is being released on CD in the next few weeks.

From the BBC News website
Like Carolyn, I also grew up in Cumbernauld - late 60s/early 70s - and I love the place! I used to live in McGregor Road, just a short walk away from the shopping centre. Although I moved away when still quite young and I now live in Edinburgh, I still hold a lot of affection for Cumbernauld. Some people put on a face when I say I grew up there - but I'm proud to say I lived there. I still try and visit when I can as it holds a lot of special memories for me, of a time when my parents were still together, of friends and happy occasions.

Carolyn is a very talented musician this song and others can be heard at her excellent website

The single is out in December and it's an extremely worthwhile cause.

Saturday, 15 November 2008

Long Lost Friend

The moment that we met
There was something so familiar
I felt like I'd known you for a thousand years
And there inside your eyes I saw a light that I'd been missing
Somewhere deep inside
All of the lonely disappeared
And, baby, now you're here I feel like I have found
A long lost friend that I've lived for all my life

A gentle hand
A part of me I've been trying to find
And now you're here
And the search comes to an end
I've found my long lost friend
Every move I make
Is to the rhythm of your heartbeat
Every single breath you take
You take with me
Oh, I ask myself
How did I ever live before you?

You came into my life
And put all the pieces into place
When I saw your face I knew that I had found
Like a storm out of the blue
Love rained down on me and you
So complete and so unexpectedly
Like a movie in my mind
I've seen a hundred times I feel like, I've loved you before...

Long Lost Friend
Now you're here
And the search comes to an end!
I've found my long lost friend

A Good Reason To Head to Croatia

The Croatian government has banned Christmas and New Year parties in the public sector because of the global financial crisis. State-run firms and organisations have also been told that they won't be allowed to dip into their funds to buy Christmas presents.

The ban follows a proposal to freeze public-sector salaries next year. Prime Minister Ivo Sanader said there was no need for panic, but the country had to be serious.

"For that goal we forbid buying of Christmas and New Year's gifts as well as organising of Christmas and New Year's receptions," said Mr Sanader.

From the BBC News Website

I can't say I've ever entertained any thoughts about visiting Croatia. Until now. Cancelling Christmas parties is an excellent idea in my bah-humbug book.

I have opted out of my office Christmas Party this year as have some of my colleagues. Like most other organisations ours is a corporate bash where all the different departments attend. I simply no longer have the urge to sit in a room full of people who either give you grief or simply choose to ignore you if you pass them in the corridor the rest of the year. Trying to make small talk to someone who you don't really give a toss about whilst wearing a stupid paper hat, eating barely edible turkey and having bloody Shakin' Stevens singing Merry Christmas in the background isn't my idea of fun. And paying way over the odds for the privilege merely adds insult to considerable mental injury.

'So what are you doing for Christmas? Are you having the family?' Sorry, I'm not going to answer your ridiculous questions because then I would feel obliged to ask you the same and I really couldn't give a Jonathan Ross about you or your family. No offence...

Enduring the meal and the smalltalk is bad enough; there's the 'disco' afterwards. Middle aged women who in normal circumstances barely give you the time of day are suddenly transformed by a couple of glasses of cheap red wine and drag you on to the dance floor 'because it's Christmas'. Strangely enough, come Monday morning they're back to their non-communicative ways and looking quite sheepish as they try to remember what they were up to on Friday night.

So (paper) hats off to the Croatians. Christmas becomes more and more of a commercial festival with each passing year. And for this grumpy old ranter more and more tedious.

Wake me up when it's January...

Thursday, 13 November 2008

Eight Words With Two Meanings

1. THINGY (thing-ee) n. Female...... Any part under a car's hood. Male..... The strap fastener on a woman's bra.

2. VULNERABLE (vul-ne-ra-bel) adj. Female.... Fully opening up one's self emotionally to another. Male..... Playing football without your best defender.

3. COMMUNICATION (ko-myoo-ni-kay-shon) n . Female... The open sharing of thoughts and feelings with one's partner. Male... Leaving a note before taking off on a fishing trip with the boys.

4. COMMITMENT (ko- mit-ment) n. Female..... A desire to get married and raise a family. Male...... Trying not to pick up another women while out with this one.

5. ENTERTAINMENT (en-ter-tayn-ment) n. Female..... A good movie, concert, play or book. Male..... Anything that can be done while drinking beer.

6. FLATULENCE (flach-u-lens) n. Female.... An embarrassing byproduct of indigestion. Male...... A source of entertainment, self-expression, male bonding. Something to do in bed other than sex.

7 MAKING LOVE (may-king luv) n. Female...... The greatest expression of intimacy a couple can achieve. Male.. Call it whatever you want, just as long as we do it.

8. REMOTE CONTROL (ri-moht kon-trohl) n. Female.... A device for changing from one TV channel to another. Male... A device for scanning through all 375 channels every 5 minutes.

Tuesday, 11 November 2008


These workmen are installing bollards to stop nurses from parking on the pavement outside the Royal Hospital in Belfast. They are cleaning up at the end of the day.

I don't know how long it took them to get home though...

Saturday, 8 November 2008

Lest We Forget

Armistice Day when the nation stands

Once more with tears in their eyes,

For a generation that gave their all,

And paid that ultimate price,

Upon orders made by much lesser beings

Than those lovingly remembered today,

They will never be loved or missed

As those brave souls are, on this Remembrance Day.

Friday, 7 November 2008

The Confession

In 1965, an elderly Italian man who lived on the outskirts of Rimini, Italy, went to the local church for confession. When the priest slid open the panel in the confessional, the man began:

"Father .. During World War II, a beautiful Jewish woman from our neighbourhood knocked urgently on my door and asked me to hide her from the Nazis. So I hid her in my attic."

The priest replied: "That was a wonderful thing you did, and you have no need to confess that."

"But there is more to tell, father... She started to repay me with sexual favours. This happened several times a week, and sometimes twice on Sundays.'

The priest said, "That was a long time ago and by doing what you did, you placed the two of you in great danger, but two people under those circumstances can easily succumb to the weakness of the flesh. However, if you are truly sorry for your actions, you are indeed forgiven."

"Thank you, father. That's a great load off my mind. I do have one more question."

"And what is that?" asked the priest.

"Should I tell her the war is over........?"

Fair Funding for Voluntary Sectors

Fair funding for voluntary sector services. A petition raised by Simon Macfarlane on 15 October 2008.

Petition by Simon Macfarlane, on behalf of STUC, SCVO, Unite, UNISON and Community Care Providers Scotland, calling on the Scottish Parliament to urge the Scottish Government to demonstrate support for the voluntary sector by agreeing a national framework for public service contracts based on our 2007 pact to, in particular, ensure equitable wages and conditions between front line voluntary sector workers delivering public services and public sector workers, and to help deliver five year funded contracts.

Please sign the petition using the link below:

Thursday, 6 November 2008

Three Aussies on a Train...

Three Kiwis and three Aussies are travelling by train to a conference. At the station, the three Aussies each buy tickets and watch as the three Kiwis buy only a single ticket.

"How are three people going to travel on only one ticket?" asks an Aussie.

"Watch and you'll see," answers a Kiwi.

They all board the train. The Aussies take their respective seats but all three Kiwis cram into a bathroom and close the door behind them. Shortly after the train has departed, the conductor comes around collecting tickets. He knocks on the bathroom door and says,"Ticket, please."

The door opens just a crack and a single arm emerges with a ticket in hand. The conductor takes it and moves on. The Aussies see this and agree it was quite a clever idea. So after the conference, the Aussies decide to copy the Kiwis on the return trip and save some money (being clever with money,and all that).

When they get to the station, they buy a single ticket for the return trip. To their astonishment, the Kiwis don't buy a ticket at all.

"How are you going to travel without a ticket?" says one perplexed Aussie.

"Watch and you'll see," answers a Kiwi.

When they board the train the three Aussies cram into a bathroom and the three Kiwis cram into another one nearby. The train departs.

Shortly afterwards, one of the Kiwis leaves his bathroom and walks over to the bathroom where the Aussies are hiding.

He knocks on the door and says, "Ticket, please."

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Hiring and Firing

One of the best bloggers around, Adullamite - my fellow Jambo and the only Hearts supporter still alive to have witnessed the club's Scottish Cup triumph over Hibernian in 1896 - has had some disparaging things to say about Human Resources professionals

Now as an HR professional myself - although some might challenge the word professional in my case - I feel I must defend my fellow hirers and firers. I'm sure my good friend June in Seattle - a fellow HR professional - would agree. Some of the people I come across on a daily basis at work would test the patience of any reasonable human being.

Interviewing potential new recruits is the easiest bit. That said I've interviewed some numpties in my time and have endured stoney silences, people who just won't shut up for five seconds and people who give just totally irrelevant answers. I've also had the 'funny' handshake - but that cuts no ice with me.

I was introduced to one interviewee a few years and she greeted me with 'Hello Mr Smith, I've heard a lot about you - but I'm sure none of it is true'. I swear I had never seen her in my life before (she didn't get the job)

An applicant interested in a Home Help's job stated in her form that her current duties as a cleaner included moping and hovering. She was a right barrel of laughs at the interview...

Dealing with existing staff is far more stressful than recruiting new ones. Some people will take out a grievance if someone so much as looks at them the wrong way. And some of the disciplinary cases I've been to would send a shiver down your spine. Although I still smile at the memory of an old Trade Union official who didn't particularly like the fella he was 'representing' at a disciplinary hearing and asked me what time we were kicking the s**t out of him. I suggested that, if it was all the same with him, we would merely dismiss him...

But one thing the HR profession will never be is popular. I remember someone telling me he was glad he didn't work in a job that was so unpopular. And he was an auditor...

But to Adullamite and others I say this. For a business to operate successfully it needs to employ the right people. And to recruit - and retain - the best you need to have right people to do so. Those right people being arguably the most important of any organisation (including the NHS!) - the good people of Human Resources!

Sunday, 2 November 2008

Sign of the Times

When officials asked for the Welsh translation of a road sign, they thought the reply was what they needed. Unfortunately, the e-mail response to Swansea council said in Welsh: "I am not in the office at the moment. Please send any work to be translated".
So that was what went up under the English version which barred lorries from a road near a supermarket. "When they're proofing signs, they should really use someone who speaks Welsh," said journalist Dylan Iorwerth.

From the BBC News website

Amidst all the doom and gloom in the news at the beginning of November, there was this nugget which brought a smile to my normally torn features. It made me think about what might be done with road signs using technology available today. Instead of the old painted signs there could be neon lights with computer generated messages - in English, of course. For example:

Approaching the Sheriffhall Roundabout in either direction 'Men Allegedly at Work Doing Mindless Roadworks - Expect Delays of Several Days. Bring Food and Blankets'

Yes, This is Yet Another Set of Temporary Traffic Lights - That's What You Get for Travelling Through Midlothian

You Are Ten Minutes Late for Your Meeting With Your Boss - Think Up Your Excuses Now!

You Forgot to Turn Off the Oven - Follow That Fire Engine That Has Just Passed in the Opposite Direction

This is One Part of Edinburgh That Won't be Affected by the Tram Works - But We'll be Digging it Up Anyway

Saturday, 1 November 2008

It's Just a Spell I'm Going Through

Another sign of advancing years part 94...

I can't remember much of a fuss being made about Halloween when I was younger. But these days it seems to be a big deal, perhaps another sign of the ever-increasing Americanisation of this country.

On Friday night the rain was absolutely persisting down in Edinburgh. As Bryan Ferry once memorably sang 'A Hard Rain's Gonna Fall' - and it did last night. But this didn't stop hordes of kids rampaging the streets dressed as witches, ghouls and skeletons. How original. After the seven hundredth rap on the door - and to make sure I heard it was akin to Lothian and Borders Drug Squad making an enforced entrance - I gave up answering.

Not only because I was totally fed up answering the door to snotty faced kids shouting 'trick or treat'. But because, by that stage, I had ran out of chocolate laxatives to hand out....

Just a month until Christmas party time. Haud me back...

Thursday, 30 October 2008

I Think I Can Make it Now

Johnny was the first to admit he was having a mid life crisis.

In his mid forties, he felt his life was not so much stuck in a rut but well and truly wedged. He was stuck in a dead-end job which paid reasonably well but his hard-earned salary soon disappeared at the end of the month on the mortgage, loans and other bills which seemed to grow with each passing month.

Many of his so-called friends only got in touch when they wanted something. Even Johnny's family seemed to have given up on him.

His marriage to Lorraine had survived many a crisis in the twenty-five years they had been together but now even that had turned sour. But this was, in part, Johnny's own doing. For years he had held a secret passion for his next door neighbour. Deirdre was a very attractive, buxom woman who had recently split from her husband. Johnny popped in one day to fix her washing machine and previously dormant feelings between them stirred. There would be daily text messages, e-mails, sneaky peeks out the net curtains; Johnny suddenly felt alive again. He had forgotten what it felt like to be in love, to want someone, to be the centre of their attention.

It was, of course, only a matter of time before Lorraine became suspicious. She caught sight of the text messages and e-mails from her neighbour to her husband. The final straw was when she round to Deirdre's house and saw the shadow of them embraced in the hallway. With tears streaming down her cheeks and a rage like an inferno, Lorraine stormed back home, packed her case and left the home she had shared with Johnny for nearly three decades. As the door slammed shut with a force that damn near registered on the Richter Scale, Johnny peeked through the lacy curtains. Realising what had happened he went outside but his appeals for his wife to come back were merely half-hearted.

Big Tam from three doors down was witness to it all. 'Johnny' he asked tentatively, 'is there anything I can do?'

Johnny looked at him thoughtfully. 'Aye, there is, Tam.'

Tam gave him a wistful look. 'Whit?'

'Look all around, there’s nothin' but blue skies. Look straight ahead, nothin' but blue skies, because...

I Can See Deirdre Now, Lorraine Has Gone....'

Monday, 27 October 2008

Scotland's Rising Star

The sublime Ally Kerr - the video for his fabulous new single Amorino is below.

Ally is one of Scotland's best singer/songwriters - as the song below illustrates. His latest album - Off the Radar - is quite superb.

Sunday, 26 October 2008

As Funny as a Trip to the Dentist...

Russell Brand has said sorry for offending Fawlty Towers actor Andrew Sachs during a prank on his Saturday night BBC Radio 2 programme. Sachs' agent said he was "very upset" after Brand and studio guest Jonathan Ross left lewd messages on his answer phone broadcast in his 18 October show.

From the BBC News website.

Sometimes I think I'm out of sync with the rest of society. What, for example, do people find amusing about Russell Brand? A person for whom the term 'his heid's up his ain a*se' could have been made for. Today's politically correct brigade say the likes of legendary comics from the past such as Benny Hill, Les Dawson, Dick Emery would have no place in today's society because they were 'offensive'. I say bollocks to that and I don't care if anyone finds that offensive. Switching on the normally excellent BBC Radio Two and hearing prize chumps like Brand and Ross uttering gibberish is offensive to me.

Very few of today's comics make me laugh. The notable exception is Peter Kay who is very funny and very clever. His spoof of The X Factor/Pop Idol a couple of weeks ago on Channel Four was quite brilliant. But many others on mainstream television are about as funny as a trip to the dentist. Just what do people find even mildly amusing about:

Russell Brand
Jonathan Ross
Al Murray
Alan Carr
Jimmy Carr
Little Britain (I just don't get that programme)
Simon Amstell (I rarely watch Never Mind the Buzzcocks now Mark Lamarr has gone)

Billy Connolly used to make me laugh - about thirty years ago. Before he too disappeared up his own backside.

Nowadays I tend look for other sources of humour for entertainment. Such as Hearts striker Christian Nade's assertion that he wants to be the club's top goalscorer this season. Sorry - I have to go and change these trousers....

Friday, 24 October 2008

Tough on Crime

A bogus workman who was beaten up in prison has been told "you deserve anything you receive" by a sheriff. Eddie Newlands, 37, from Perth, was sent to jail for 10 months on Thursday after conning a 91-year-old woman out of £5,500 of her savings. Sheriff Margaret Gimblett said she had no sympathy and described what he had done to the pensioner as "despicable."

From the BBC News website

I say three loud cheers for Sheriff Gimblett. What a refreshing change from the normal do-gooders all too prevalent in our society who say some offenders shouldn't be punished but given help. Crime is rife in this country. And how many times to you read about cases where the offender gets off with a ridiculously light sentence, sometimes avoiding a custodial sentence in favour of community service?

It's the victims of crime who should be considered when sentence is passed down. My dear old mum was mugged on her way to work in Aberdeen in 1996. She had just turned sixty years old but was still working for a crust as she had always done throughout her life. She was attacked at 7.00am. Thankfully, she wasn't injured but her purse was stolen and she was, unsurprisingly, traumatised by the incident. I don't think the police ever caught her attacker. To this day she is still quite wary when going out on her own. Now I know violence is abhorrent. But I still maintain that if I'm ever in Aberdeen and come across my mother's assailant, I would exact revenge on the little barsteward.

There's not enough done to help victims of crime in this country, but help aplenty to those who instigate it. Social workers and psychologists fall over themselves to help violent and dangerous neds 'rehabilitate' and earn their way back into society. There isn't the same assistance given to their victims, many of whom are affected for life.

So, well said Sheriff Gimblett. Let the barsteward get all he deserves in jail. Even though he'll probably be out in about six months, free to do it all again....

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

The Waiting Game

It's not been a good year for The Auld Reekie Ranter on the health front. It just seems to have been one thing after another.

Today I was at the hospital for what I thought was going to be a routine check on something that's needed attention. But the specialist I saw wasn't entirely happy and I subsequently had a biopsy, the results of which should be known in a couple of weeks. Now this is a procedure which thousands of people in Scotland have every year and chances are there's nowt to worry about. But there is always a chance further treatment will be required and although this will be on the back burner - if you'll pardon the expression - for the next couple of weeks, it will linger at the back of my mind.

The biopsy meant I had to have a local anaesthetic and a couple of stitches. I often wondered about our use of some words. Local anaesthetic - and here was me thinking they would send me to Inverness for the jab. I'm 46 years old and, believe it or not, today was the first time I've ever had stitches. I was told I would just feel a bit of a prick but then I should be used to that....add paranoia to my list of ailments.

My dear old mum, whose glass is always completely empty, never mind half, didn't take the news well. I'm sure I saw her leafing through the Yellow Pages tonight at the 'U's looking for Undertakers...

My daughters are oblivious to it all and that's how it should be. They never look at the nonsense on this site anyway so they'll still be none the wiser. In any case I'm pretty sure all will be well and I'll get the all clear in a couple of weeks.

But what today has done is focus the mind. It will make me concentrate more at work and try to help me cut out some of the silly mistakes I've been making recently. It will put in perspective some of the more trivial things that have irritated me recently (and I'm not talking about Christian Nade's attempt at scoring the winner at Easter Road on Sunday that ballooned into Row 30 of the visiting end) And it will make me realise that, like thousands of other people, dealing with the waiting game is a challenge to be met head on.

Sunday, 19 October 2008

Sign of the Times Part 94...

It's either my fortysomething status or another sign of the increasingly frustrating times we live in. Or perhaps both.

On the one hand there are the all too familiar signs of Britain dumbing down. Having had difficulty sleeping recently I was browsing various sleep assistance medicines in a pharmacist's yesterday. The makers of Nytol have clearly thought long and hard about how not to induce confusion among potential customers by having a half moon and dark sky on its packaging - just in case poor Joe Public didn't get the gist of the name of the product. Reassuringly there's a statement on the side of the box - may cause drowsiness. Now call me pedantic but if I purchased Nytol and it didn't cause me drowsiness, I would be inclined to sue the makers under the Trades Description Act. On the way home I purchased a packet of KP peanuts. A fine product, I may say, considerably enhanced by the declaration on the packet 'Contains Nuts', Thanks for the warning, fellas...

On the other hand there's some packaging designed to make it as difficult as possible to get into the product. Cartons of milk are the prime culprits. Trying to open one without the use of a Samurai sword or without spilling half the contents on to the kitchen floor is a challenge worthy of The Krypton Factor. A relatively simple task of opening a packet of Cheddars biscuits whilst settling down to watch Match of the Day last night resulted in a substantial increase in my blood pressure, the uttering of several oaths some of which rhymed with 'no luck' and the scattering of said biscuits into thousands of pieces on the living room floor.

I had also purchased a toy for grandson Jack which was cheap but far from cheerful when it came to opening it up. The toy is encased in reinforced plastic for which ordinary scissors are no match. Even a carving knife was making little impact. Eventually, with lacerations to several fingers later, I borrowed my neighbour's industrial saw to open it up. What I'll do with the remnants of the plastic packaging is anyone's guess - the chances of Midlothian's ever helpful refuse collectors taking it away without complaint are on a par with a Hearts victory at Easter Road this afternoon...

In the balance of fairness I should perhaps point out that not all packaging is designed to frustrate. As the above photo shows, Ainsley Harriot's sausages have cooking instructions that are straight to the point....

Thursday, 16 October 2008

And Now It's Time For...

...the return of Top of the Pops.

At least that's what The Ting Tings have called for. They've said they would like to be the first band to play on a revived Top of The Pops. The duo's drummer and guitarist Jules De Martino told Absolute Radio: "We'll force our way onto it." Bring back TOTP and let us be the first band to play on it," he said of the show, which was axed in 2006.

Hmm. I think the point they're trying to make is that the BBC needs to have a show that highlights the top selling songs in the country (I was going to say records but in these days of downloads and MP3s that's showing my age - and my granddad status) But whenever I think of Top of the Pops I think of singers miming, wide-mouthed youngsters cavorting on the dance floor and inane comments from smart-arsed presenters.

I cringe now when I see old clips of TOTP from the 1970s and 80s. Tony Blackburn wearing a ridiculous tank top. Jimmy Saville wearing a ridiculous tracksuit. Dave Lee Travis with a ridiculous beard. Noel Edmonds just being ridiculous (no change there - see Rants passim)

When I first began watching the show in the early 1970s it was the glam-rock era. Slade, Sweet, T-Rex - all superstars. Then there was Gary Glitter singing Do You Wanna Touch Me and Do You Wanna Be in My Gang? Now, three decades on, we all know what that was about...

I know in the years just before its demise in 2006 TOTP was clawing back some credibility with more and more acts performing live and the presenters just introducing the acts without the need for babbling on. But taking it back to our screens would be a step back. In more primitive times, the show was the only place to see bands perform hit songs on the small screen. Nowadays the internet and multi-channel satellite television means there's no need for people to wait until a Thursday or Friday evening for half an hour of acts miming their way through their Top 20 hit.

A sign of the times certainly. But not necessarily a bad one.

Sunday, 12 October 2008

Throwing the Toys Oot the Pram

We live in changing times. Sadly, values among some people these days leave a lot to be desired. The Rangers footballer Kris Boyd has said he will not play for Scotland again under present manager George Burley. "I left a message on George Burley's phone last night and he hadn't got back to me," said Boyd. "I will not be playing for George Burley again, but I hope to be back in a Scotland jersey again one day."

I think back to the days when Scotland had a half decent team. Players such as Kenny Dalglish, Joe Jordan, Billy Bremner, Graeme Souness - players the likes of Kris Boyd would struggle to lace their boots. Those players considered it an honour to play for their country and would walk over broken glass to do so. When Bremner was involved in a nightclub altercation whilst with the Scotland squad in 1975 he was banned for life for playing for his country again. The little man was devastated by this and many say he never recovered from it.

Boyd isn't a regular starter for Rangers either, hence George Burley's logic of keeping him on the substitutes bench, preferring players who are regular contributors to their clubs. Are we to surmise that Boyd will refuse to play for Rangers until he gets a regular starting position? I suspect not - his employer will pay the former Kilmarnock striker a hefty salary, one Boyd knows he won't get elsewhere in Scotland.

No doubt the west of Scotland media will use this to kick Burley, a man already on the floor following Scotland's less than spectacular start to the World Cup qualifying campaign. But do we really want a player with such an attitude playing for our country? Does Boyd think his absence will have a detrimental affect on Scotland's chances of making it to the World Cup Finals in South Africa in 2010? If he does then his ego is of monumental proportions - Boyd isn't exactly Denis Law as his infrequent appearances for Rangers prove.

It may be argued Scotland can ill afford to be without Boyd's services as some might say he's a 'proven goalscorer'. But we can certainly do without his selfish attitude and his spitting the dummy out mentality. Perhaps Boyd should look at the man who captained Scotland on Saturday. Darren Fletcher is far from a regular at Manchester United. But the lad from Dalkeith never complains and is proud to make a contribution to the European champions. Only last week Fletcher signed an extension to his current contract keeping him at Old Trafford for another three years.

He is the type of player I want to to see playing for Scotland. Fletcher may not have had the best of games against Norway but he gave his all and his commitment to his country can never be questioned.

Unlike a certain prima donna from Ayrshire who thinks he's the Pele of the the south side of Glasgow...

Saturday, 11 October 2008

Carry on Codgers

I travelled north to Aberdeen on Friday to see an old friend (it was almost two old friends but one of them took cold feet...!) and spent an enjoyable evening in the Granite City. No, that's not an oxymoron. Those who follow the fortunes of the city's football club and remember that erstwhile striker Frank McDougal may be interested to know he now runs a pub close to the city's Guild Street. Mine host still looks as fit as he did in 1984....true, he looked absolutely knackered twenty four years ago but that's beside the point. An enjoyable pint was had in Frank McDougal's Sports Bar.
It is perhaps a sign of my advancing years that three hours spent sampling the dubious pleasure of travelling on board a MegaBus service back to the capital city didn't do my frozen shoulder any good. Anyone who has suffered this condition - perhaps Adullamite, as he appears to have suffered everything else - will know how painful this can be. I'm used to receiving the cold shoulder from my family but this is something quite intense.

On arriving back in Edinburgh I met my mother and accompanied her on the Lothian Buses Service 33 to her place of abode, namely Gilmerton. My mother is in her early 70s and, unfortunately, her hearing isn't what it used to be. So when one of her neighbours, who is that little bit older and requires the use of a hearing aid, boarded the bus at Edinburgh's Royal Infirmary, there was a scene which could have been straight out of Carry On Doctor. Particularly when my mother's neighbour chose to sit in the seat opposite and not in the vacant seat in front of us. Cue a re-run of the scene from the Carry On film where Frankie Howard mistakenly believes he has only weeks to live and decides to marry his hard of hearing assistant - with the wedding conducted by a vicar whose hearing aid battery has gone flat. So, on the number 33 bus...

Mother: Hello Arthur

Arthur: What?

Mother: I said hello Arthur.

Arthur: I think it's about half past four.

Me: She's saying hello Arthur.

Mother: Why did he say it was half past four?
Me: He didn't hear you mother.

Arthur: Aren't you saying hello then?

Mother: What did he say?

Me: He didn't hear you say hello.
Arthur: What's wrong with your mother?

At this point I waved the white flag of surrender, got off the bus and left them to it. Two hours on there's a fair chance the two of them are still on the bus having circled the city at least twice. If Talbot Rothwell was on the bus, I fully expect Carry On Codgers to hit the screen next year...

Friday, 10 October 2008

Why Did the Chicken Cross the Road - The USA View

BARACK OBAMA: The chicken crossed the road because it was time for a change! The chicken wanted change!

JOHN MC CAIN: My friends, that chicken crossed the road because he recognized the need to engage in cooperation and dialogue with all the chickens on the other side of the road.

HILLARY CLINTON: When I was First Lady, I personally helped that little chicken to cross the road. That experience makes me uniquely qualified to ensure right from Day One that every chicken in this country gets the chance it deserves to cross the road. But then, this really isn't about me.

GEORGE W. BUSH: We don't really care why the chicken crossed the road. We just want to know if the chicken is on our side of the road, or not. That chicken is either against us, or for us. There is no middle ground here.

DICK CHENEY: Where's my shotgun?

COLIN POWELL: Now to the left of the screen, you can clearly see the satellite image of the chicken crossing the road.

BILL CLINTON: I did not cross the road with that chicken. What is your definition of 'chicken'?

AL GORE: I invented the chicken.

JOHN KERRY: Although I voted to let the chicken cross the road, I am now against it! It was the wrong road to cross, and I was misled about the chicken's intentions. I am not for it now, and will remain against it.

AL SHARPTON: Why are all the chickens white? We need some black chickens.

BILL GATES: I have just released EChicken2008, which will not only cross roads, but it will lay eggs, file your important documents, and balance your checkbook. Internet Explorer is an integral part of EChicken2008. This new platform is much more stable and will never crash ....... reboot.

COLONEL SANDERS: Did I miss one?

Thursday, 9 October 2008

Two Words That Bring Misery

Credit crunch. A recent phenomenon but which has caused nothing but misery for thousands, nay, millions of people. Two small words but their impact on the world is huge. It got me thinking (I know, it doesn't happen very often) What other two words can bring misery, fear and unhappiness? Each to their own, of course, but some two word phrases to bring untold misery to this blogger are:

Final demand.

Work overtime.

You're fired.

Tea's Oot. (Scottish HR term - see above)

Hello Dad (said in a way that translates into may I have some money?)

I Do.

I Didn't.

Hearts nil (an all too frequent occurrence)

Christian Nade.

Jonathan Ross.

Margaret Thatcher.

First Group (see Rants passim)

Please add as many you like...

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Women World Records

Not sexist at all...

Shop Dithering

The longest time spent dithering in a shop was 12 days between 21 August and 2 September 1995. Entering the Glasgow branch of Dorothy Perkins, Mrs Jean Brown of Paisley could not choose between two near identical dresses which were both on sale. After five days and sitting on a chair by the changing room with his head in his hands, Mr Brown told her to buy both. Mrs Brown eventually bought the one for £12.99 only to return the next day and buy the other one. To date she has yet to wear it…

Jean Brown also holds the record for window shopping longevity when, starting on 12 September 1998, she stood motionless gazing at a pair of shoes in Clark’s window in East Kilbride for 3 weeks 2 days before eventually going home.

Traffic Light Cosmetics

The longest spell spent oblivious to traffic lights whilst applying make up was one of 1 hour 51 minutes at a road junction in the centre of Preston on 1 August 2002. Mavis Smith tried to beautify herself through 212 cycles of the lights, creating a tailback or irate motorists stretching 28 miles towards Manchester.


On 18 February 2006, a close friend of Maggie Hamilton of Stirling popped round for a cup of tea and a chat, during which she told her in the strictest confidence that she was having an affair with the butcher. After her close friend left at 2.10pm, Mrs Hamilton began to tell everyone, swearing them all to secrecy. By 2.30pm she had told 128 people of the news. By 2.50pm it had risen to 372 and by 4.00pm that afternoon, 2774 knew of the affair including the local Amateur Dramatic Society, several knitting circles, a coach load of American tourists, which she flagged down - and the butcher’s wife. When Mrs Hamilton went to bed at 11.55pm that night, her close friend’s affair was common knowledge to a staggering 51,344 people – enough to fill Hampden Park.

Group Toilet Visit

On a work’s Christmas Night out on 18 December 2003, Liz Conroy was one of 147 women to visit the toilet simultaneously. She went first and was immediately followed by 146 colleagues. Moving as a mass, the group entered the toilet at 9.52pm and, after waiting for everyone to finish, emerged 2 hours 37 minutes later.

Outdoor Record for Talking About Nothing

Between 11 November and 12 December 1983, Agnes Kelly and her next door neighbour chundered on over their fence in an unenlightening dialogue lasting 31 days until Mrs Kelly remembered she had left the bath running.