Sunday, 30 March 2008

For the Record

Last night I was at the Dropkick gig at The Ark in Edinburgh's city centre where the wonderful Ally Kerr was providing support. After Ally's stint was over I did something I've not done for a few months now (no, not buy a round of drinks before anyone suggests) I purchased Ally's new album - Off the Radar - on cd format.

I was reminiscing with my good friend June from Seattle the other day about buying music. Buying music is now so different to when fortysomethings like us were growing up. In the 1970s there was a certain anticipation and a thrill of actually going into a record shop (listen to old Grandad here!) and choosing an LP. The enjoyment one got out of browsing through albums, admiring the vast selection of album covers and discovering something you hadn't seen before and whether you would spend your hard-earned pocket money was palbable. In days gone by you could even ask to hear albums in specially created 'booths' akin to telephone kiosks where you could don a set of rather primitive headphones and listen in something approaching privacy.

After selecting your purchase, the shop assistant would carefully scan the vinyl for any marks or scratches. And then you would get the record home and devour the album notes as the stylus on your record player made a wee scratchy kind of noise before the music came on. And when it came to singles - 45s as was - there was the challenge of seeing how many records you could stack on your record player before a mis-shaped record centre would grind your stylus to a halt and you would leap to retrieve the record before any permanent damage was done.
When I was a teenager I used to think I had a relatively decent record collection until I saw some of my friends vast collection of vinyl. One mate used to have so many record carrying cases he could have built the equivalent of the Berlin Wall - yet he knew exactly where to find a specific record.

Nowadays, you don't even need to leave your house, you just download tracks via your computer - it's all so 'instant'. Other than a wee icon on your pc/IPod and the music itself, there seems nothing tangible about the purchase. And on those 'singles' that do have more than one track, the iconic 'B' side has been replaced by a somewhat nondescript 'Track 2'.

Now I don't expect my two daughters to even come close to understand what this is all about. But for those of us who were around in the days when there was only one music show on the television to watch all week - Top of the Pops (and even this has been scrapped by the BBC) - and taping the Top 20 off Radio One was one of the highlights of a Sunday, the wee nostalgic nod to the days when vinyl was king may strike a chord.

Or I may just be playing with history at the wrong speed...

Friday, 28 March 2008

Terminal Condition

Cancelled flights, baggage delays and a temporary suspension in check-in have blighted the opening day of Heathrow's new £4.3bn Terminal 5. British Airways, which has sole use of the terminal, cancelled 34 flights due to "teething problems" and was later forced to suspend passenger check-in. Technical difficulties also meant major delays in reclaiming luggage.

BA blamed the glitches on problems with "staff familiarisation", which had a knock-on effect on bags and flights.

From the BBC News website

Today someone told me the real reason for the chaos. Apparently the first plane to arrive at Terminal 5 was being flown by a female pilot.

And it took her five hours to park the plane...

Thursday, 27 March 2008

Get to School - And Make it Snappy

A South African village is demanding that a bridge be built across a crocodile-infested river to stop children swimming it to get to school. Students as young as seven have been making the crossing for two months since the community's boat was stolen. "There are about 70 households on that side of the river but there are no buses and no-one owns a car," a Kwazulu-Natal local councillor said.

I know what you're thinking, dear reader. For many of us who use public transport to and from work every day, the idea of our lovely, joyful, courteous offspring having to cross a crocodile-infested river to get to school would be something worth selling tickets for. Despite school buses being run in many areas, there remains great hordes of spotty faced youths, carrying what appears to be half of the southside of Edinburgh on their backs, who swarm the capital's public transport system like a plague. Oblivious to other passengers, they take up two seats on the bus, without even considering moving sports bags/satchels/haversacks etc. to let harrassed passengers get a seat. And trying to ask them to move is greeted with a vacant look as, with IPod glued to their ears, they stare open-mouthed at your request for a seat.

Now, as far as I know, there are no crocodiles in the River Esk near where I live. There are plenty of sharks in Dalkeith but that's another story. But kids in this country certainly have it far easier than many of their counterparts in the African continent. Thankfully, the little mites are off on their Easter break at present. But in a few days, they'll be back causing chaos in the mornings.

Perhaps the City of Edinburgh Council could take a lead and utilise the city's Union Canal for ferrying the some of the blighters to school. Anything to free up some of the buses in the morning. But, perhaps the crocodile idea isn't really a good one. Imagine if a polite, well-groomed, courteous youngster who didn't have their ears plugged into Nickelback, Girls Aloud et al, fell into the water.

Then again, not even a crocodile would swallow that...

Monday, 24 March 2008

Ally Kerr Live in Edinburgh

One of the most talented singer/songwriters to come out of Scotland for many a long year will grace Auld Reekie this Saturday, 29 March.

Ally Kerr will be playing at The Ark, just across from St. James Centre on Saturday evening. Acoustic set supporting Dropkick as they launch their new album. Also with Andy Tucker (Dead Beat Club).

A great evening for just £5!

Sunday, 23 March 2008

A Freudian Slip

Sigmund Freud. Now there was a man ahead of his time. A century ago his theories of the unconscious mind and defence mechanism of repression made him the Father of Psychoanalysis. In 2008 it seems to me that much of society is a throng of Freudian conflict.

At my place of work, we’ve been short-staffed since a member of the team departed for pastures new a few weeks ago. With budget constraints meaning the vacant post has still to be advertised the pressure on those of us left is intense. The only way to get the work done in the manner it should be is to work overtime and take work home. But there lies the crux of the matter. If we work extra hours and work on tasks at home, giving up precious weekends, then the work gets done. And paying us overtime – or even worse giving us time off in lieu which would be somewhat contradictory given we can’t afford time away from work – is infinitely cheaper than employing a replacement. And with the work getting done it shows we can cope.

So, in the true tradition of Freud, we have decided not take work home. Or work any overtime we don’t want to. Yes, the pressure will intensify as the work piles up. Yes, senior management will ask questions as to why things aren’t getting done. And, yes, things will get uncomfortable. But, in my view, we have to demonstrate that we can’t cope with being one person short. Because we can’t. Already, mistakes are happening that shouldn’t happen and the quality of work has slipped. Working all the hours won’t help that. Given Heart of Midlothian FC’s woeful attempts at playing association football this season, working on a Saturday afternoon is indeed tempting. But I won’t be. Because senior managers will look at the savings made and the work still getting done and think all is dandy. Which, of course, is far from the case.

All very Freudian, admittedly. It brings to mind (no pun intended) the story of a doctor and a lawyer in separate vehicles who collided on Edinburgh’s Queensferry Road. The fault was questionable and both men were badly shaken. The lawyer offered the doctor a drink from his hip flask that the doctor took all too readily, knocking back a couple of large mouthfuls.

As the lawyer started to put the cap back on the flask, the doctor asked “Aren’t you going to have a drink too, to steady your nerves?’

‘Of course I am’ replied the lawyer, ‘After the police get here…..’

Saturday, 22 March 2008

Perks of Being Over 40

1. Kidnappers are not very interested in you.

2. In a hostage situation you are likely to be released first.

3. No one expects you to run - - anywhere.

4 People call at 9 pm and ask, "Did I wake you?"

5. People no longer view you as a hypochondriac.

6. There is nothing left to learn the hard way.

7. Things you buy now won't wear out.

8. You can eat dinner at 4 pm.

9. You can live without sex - but not your glasses.

10 You enjoy hearing about other people's operations.

11. You get into heated arguments about pension plans.

12. You no longer think of speed limits as a challenge.

13. You quit trying to hold your stomach in no matter who walks into the room.

14 You sing along with elevator music.

15. Your eyes won't get much worse.

16. Your investment in health insurance is finally beginning to pay off.

17. Your joints are more accurate meteorologists than the national weather service.

18. Your secrets are safe with your friends because they can't remember them either.

19. Your supply of brain cells is finally down to manageable size.

20. You can't remember who sent you this list

Thursday, 20 March 2008

Out of Office E-Mail Messages

The office where I work has closed tonight for Easter. Whoopee, nae mair work until Tuesday. But it's a sign of the times when you just can't simply throw your coat on, head for the nearest pub and forget about work for a few days. Now you have to make sure your office phone is switched to voicemail (to make sure you don't miss that vital call - so vital it's made when the office is shut) and your e-mail has its Out of Office automated reply switched on. I thought about having a different out of office reply to that of my colleagues. Unsurprisingly, my IT colleagues were less than impressed by these suggestions:

1. I am currently out of the office at a job interview and will reply to you if I fail to get the position. Please be prepared for my mood.

2. You are receiving this automatic notification because I am out of the office. If I was in, chances are you wouldn't have received anything at all.

3. Sorry to have missed you, but I'm at the doctor's having my brain and heart removed so I can be promoted to our management team.

4. I will be unable to delete all the emails you send me until I return from holiday. Please be patient, and your mail will be deleted in the order it was received.

5. Thank you for your email. Your credit card has been charged £5.99 for the first 10 words and £1.99 for each additional word in your message.

6. The email server is unable to verify your server connection. Your message has not been delivered. Please restart your computer and try sending again. (The beauty of this is that when you return, you can see who did this over and over and over....)

7. Thank you for your message, which has been added to a queuing system. You are currently in 352nd place, and can expect to receive a reply in approximately 19 weeks.

8. Hi, I'm thinking about what you've just sent me. Please wait by your PC for my response.

9. I've run away to join a different circus.

10. I will be out of the office for the next two weeks for medical reasons. When I return, please refer to me as 'Lucille' instead of Dave.

*thanks to June in Seattle!

Wednesday, 19 March 2008

Not Feline Too Well

Cat owners appear to have a much lower risk of dying from a heart attack than their feline-spurning counterparts, a study suggests. Researchers looked at nearly 4,500 adults and found that cat ownership was related to a 40% lower risk of suffering a fatal heart attack. The team speculated that having a cat may reduce stress and anxiety, and so protect against cardiovascular disease.

From BBC News

Now, I'm sorry but as far as I'm concerned that is absolute tosh. Julie, the world's moodiest cat causes me as much stress as the rest of my family. When I get up in the morning she paces the window ledge of the kitchen expecting me to drop everything to let her in (I thought about getting a cat flap but don't want to risk the entire cat population of Edinburgh paying me a visit) When I do eventually let her in she wants fed. And not your cheap Tescos 'value' cat food. Oh, no. Bloody choice cuts if you don't mind.

Then, when I'm having my breakfast contemplating the day ahead, she jumps up on my lap getting my neatly pressed trousers (okay, I made that bit up) covered in cat hair.

It's the same last thing at night. Just when I think I've booted her backside out for the night, she appears on the window ledge. Marching up and down, demanding to get in. Just as I'm about to switch off the light and head for bed. And she wants fed.

And all this grief is in addition to the mice she leaves in the garden which ensures I have a clearing exercise before grandson Jack comes round to play out the back.

And moods? Good Lord. Everything's on her terms. When she wants petted she'll leap on your person without a bye or leave. But if you dare to even look at her when she's in one of her all too frequent anti-social phases then you have to be prepared to be scratched, hissed at and generally despised. A bit like my wife (without the leaping on my person bit)

Less at risk from a heart attack? The cat in chez Smith - and she's not the one in the picture I hasten to add - is pushing me nearer to one every day...

Monday, 17 March 2008

I Say, Mr Derek...

An episode of TV programme The Basil Brush Show is being investigated after police received a complaint of racism. A member of the public reported a scene which showed a Gypsy woman trying to sell Basil Brush heather and pegs.

The episode of the children's puppet programme was a repeat and was broadcast on digital channel CBBC. Northamptonshire police confirmed they had received a complaint about a TV show featuring Basil Brush from a member of the public in February.

"The complaint was logged as an incident of a racist nature and our Hate Crimes Unit is investigating," a Northamptonshire Police spokesman said.

Bridie Jones, of the England Romany, Gypsy and Irish Traveller Network, accuses the UK media of double standards when it comes to racism.

"I find it very upsetting and distressing that in this day-and-age the media will use a puppet to get their own negative views and opinions across of a group that is struggling to survive," Mrs Jones told the BBC.

Taken from the BBC News Site

The Politically Correct Brigade are on the march again. Basil Brush racist? For fox sake...

Sunday, 16 March 2008

Those Black and White Days

I read last week that there are 34,700 people in the UK with a licence for black and white televisions. For younger readers, yes, there is such a thing as a television which shows black and white pictures only. Okay, there are 25 million colour licence holders. And this begs the question - why are there a number of people that would fill Hearts Tynecastle Stadium twice over still watching in monochrome?

Now I don't want this to turn into a 'when I was a lad' rant. But, when I was a lad...growing up in the early 1970s we had - as most people did then - a black and white television. In fact it was a portable television and there were three channels - BBC1, BBC2 and ITV. But given the reception where we lived we could not receive BBC2. So it was BBC1 and ITV - far removed from the multiple channel choice we have now in the digital age. The choice in 1970 was take it or leave it.

If truth be told we didn't know any different so it wasn't a big deal. True, when the football was on I did wish I could see the mighty Heart of Midlothian resplendent in maroon and white rather than black with white cuffs. And watching the snooker programme that was Pot Black - when we eventually did receive BBC2 - was a challenge. But we knew nothing else and thirty plus years ago the BBC showed a spinning globe as its ident and closed down just before midnight to the strains of God Save the Queen (when I lived in Aberdeen I was impressed by the fact that commercial station Grampian TV at least showed grainy old film of the Queen on a horse before closing for the night)

The first time I watched colour television seriously - as opposed to gaping through the window of Radio Rentals (ask your Mum and Dad, younger readers) - was when I went round to one of my pals on a Saturday afternoon in May 1975 to watch the England-Scotland football game live from Wembley. My pal's Dad was an archetypal 1970s husband - under the thumb - and had been dragged out to do the weekly shop by his wife when the Scotland game was on his newly acquired colour telly. So, at the tender age of 13 I combined my first experience of colour television with my first experience of alcohol. A can of Tennents Lager was consumed and I soon felt like Scotland's hapless goalkeeper Stewart Kennedy - all over the place. Scotland lost 5-1 and I wondered if this was some kind of punishment. But watching television was never going to be the same again and three years later my dear mother succumbed to my nagging and rented a colour television. The cost of the rental and the huge increase in the fee for the television licence nearly bankrupt her but there was no going back.

So, it's somewhat reassuring to hear that there are still thousands of people who remain faithful to their black and white set. I suspect there may be a number of the 34,700 who have a colour set but think that buying a licence for a black and white one will save them money. It will until the authorities catch up with them. But I'm of the old school who harks back to the 1970s as the golden age of television. In 2008 we have hundreds of channels and very little worth watching on any of them. In 1978 there were just three channels but there seemed to be so much more quality to watch.

Especially if you had one of those new fangled colour tellies....!

Friday, 14 March 2008

The Times They Are a Changing...

Scenario: Paul and Mark get into a fistfight after school.
1960 - Crowd gathers. Mark wins. Paul and Mark shake hands and end up mates.
2008 - Police are called, Armed Response Unit arrives and arrests Paul and Mark. Mobiles with video of fight confiscated as evidence. They are charged with assault, ASBOs are taken out and both are suspended even though Paul started it. Diversionary conferences and parent meetings conducted. Video shown on 6 internet sites.

Scenario: Chris won't sit still in class, disrupts other students.
1960 - Chris is sent to the principal's office and given 6 of the best. Returns to class, sits still and does not disrupt class again.
2008 - Chris is given huge doses of Ritalin. Counselled to death. Becomes a zombie. Tested for ADD. School gets extra funding because Chris has a disability. Drops out of school.

Scenario: Mike breaks a window in his neighbour's car and his Dad gives him the slipper.
1960 - Mike is more careful next time, grows up normal, goes to college, and becomes a successful businessman.
2008 - Mike's dad is arrested for child abuse. Mike is removed to foster care and joins a gang. Psychologist tells Mike's sister that she remembers being abused herself and their dad goes to prison. Mike's mum has an affair with the psychologist. Psychologist gets a promotion.

Scenario: Vicky, a college student, brings cigarettes to school .
1960 - Vicky shares a smoke with the school principal out on the smoking area.
2008 - Police are called and Vicky is expelled from School for drug possession. Her car is searched for drugs and weapons.

Scenario: Mohammed fails high school English.
1960 - Mohammed retakes his exam, passes and goes to college.
2008 - Mohammed's cause is taken up by local human rights group. Newspaper articles appear nationally explaining that making English a requirement for graduation is racist. Civil Liberties Association files class action lawsuit against state school system and his English teacher. English is banned from core curriculum. Mohammed is given his qualification anyway but ends up mowing lawns for a living because he cannot speak English.

Scenario: Johnny takes apart leftover firecrackers, puts them in a model plane paint bottle and blows up an anthill.
1960 - Ants die.
2008 - MI5 and police are called and Johnny is charged with perpetrating acts of terrorism. Teams investigate parents, siblings are removed from the home, computers are confiscated, and Johnny's dad goes on a terror watch list and is never allowed to fly again.

Scenario: Johnny falls during break and scrapes his knee. His teacher, Mary, finds him crying, and gives him a hug to comfort him.
1960 - Johnny soon feels better and goes back to playing.
2008 - Mary is accused of being a sexual predator and loses her job. She faces three years in prison. Johnny undergoes five years of therapy. Becomes gay.

Thursday, 13 March 2008

A Life Sentence....But For Who?

Crimes against children are abhorrent. This 'person' in the story above has ruined the lives of two innocent little girls for his own sickening pleasure. The abuse must have been horrendous in itself - but he then pleads not guilty to add to the pain and anguish felt by the victims and their devastated families.

Yet, he gets just eleven years in jail. A man who had previous convictions for assault sneers at the justice system, knowing he'll be free once more in a decade or so - free to commit more crimes of evil. His victims, meanwhile, have to live with this for the rest of their lives.

There have been calls made recently for the return of capital punishment. When there are cases where there is no doubt of guilt, then I agree that a criminal who has destroyed lives, particularly of young children, deserves to have his/her life taken as well. The do-gooders in today's society will point to human rights legislation, say this man will serve his punishment in prison and that killing him would be barbaric. My reply to that is what about the human rights of his victims and their families?

I back calls to bring back the death penalty for people like him. And I suspect many people would gladly provide the rope...

Tuesday, 11 March 2008

Here's To You, Father

It was eleven years today that my father died, very suddenly and without any warning. The death of a loved one is always difficult and when it is unexpected the shock can be quite traumatic. I don't think you ever get over such a loss but, in time, you learn how to cope.

My parents divorced when I was eight years old and I lived with my mother in Aberdeen for a few years. As my father remained in Cumbernauld, just outside Glasgow, we never developed the close bond often associated between father and son. But we grew closer when I married Pat in 1982. That was the year the above photo was taken.

When my daughters Laura and Michaela came along, that closeness intensified. When I left Aberdeen in 1990 to begin a new life down south, I lived with my father for three months and never a cross word was said between us.

My father married three times and had two other sons to his second wife. But when he was found dead at his home on 11 March 1997, he was living alone in a council flat in Paisley.

Never a day goes by that I don't think about him and all the things I wished I had said. The pace of life is so frantic these days that many of us don't feel we have the time to think about others. I wish I had that time now with my Dad. He was the only person who actively encouraged my writing and both books I have written have been dedicated to his memory. I often think how proud he would have been of my grandson Jack and grand-daughter Hannah; they're both the apple of my eye and would certainly have been the apple of his.

I'm not a particularly spiritual person but I like to think the old fella is up there looking down on us all. As I sip a wee dram tonight, I lift my glass to him - I will never see his likes again.

Sunday, 9 March 2008

Sex and the Older Man

DAVID KAUFMAN, MD: "I think the most important thing I can do today is dispel the myth that as men get older their sexual abilities decrease. That is absolutely not true. There's really no physiologic or anatomic reason why a healthy man who takes good care of himself, and who doesn't have attendant medical problems, shouldn't be able to have a very fulfilling and active sexual life."

Well, that's good to know. I think it was the ebullient Boy George, one time lead singer of 1980s band Culture Club, who once said he would much rather have a cup of tea than have sex.

The older a man gets, the more he begins to think if he has still has lead in the old pencil. I met an old friend last week and he is going to be a father again in July. He's in his mid forties and already has an 18 year old son from a previous relationship. I'm absolutely delighted for him even if he did seem rather daunted by the prospect of fatherhood again. But perhaps it's a mental thing. As Dr. Kaufman says there's no reason why an older man shouldn't be able to have a very fulfiling and active sexual life.

That said, the last time I was down at Ocean Terminal I took a wee diversion along a dark, narrow street. A well painted woman, wearing a very short skirt, fishnet tights and sporting a cleavage that could have had one's eye out approached me.

'Hey mister' she croaked, 'de ye fancy some super sex?'

'If it's all the same with you dear,' I nervously replied, 'I'd rather have the soup...'

Saturday, 8 March 2008

Sending Them Homewards...Again

Now, I have to admit, I'm not really a fan of rugby, be it union or league. And the way Scotland have performed thus far in this season's Six Nations has hardly got me rushing to watch the BBC's excellent coverage.
But today Scotland defeated England 15-9 at Murrayfield and despite a woeful campaign to date, all appears to be well with Scottish rugby once more. It wasn't pretty against the second best team in the world but it was effective.
And, even if it's at tiddlywinks, defeating the English at any time is a cause for our nation to rejoice!

Politically Correct Terms for the Sexes

How to speak about women and be politically correct:

1. She is not a 'BABE' or a 'CHICK' - She is a 'BREASTED person.'

2. She is not a 'SCREAMER' or a 'MOANER' -She is 'VOCALLY APPRECIATIVE.'




6. She is not an 'AIRHEAD' - She is 'REALITY IMPAIRED.'

7. She does not get 'DRUNK' or 'TIPSY' - She gets 'CHEMICALLY INCONVENIENCED'

8. She does not have 'BREAST IMPLANTS' - She is 'MEDICALLY ENHANCED.'

9. She does not 'NAG' you - She becomes 'VERBALLY REPETITIVE.'

10. She is not a 'TRAMP' - She is 'SEXUALLY EXTROVERTED.'

11. She does not have 'A HUGE PAIR OF JUGS' - She is 'PECTORALLY SUPERIOR.'

12 She is not a 'TWO-BIT HOOKER' - She is a 'LOW COST PROVIDER.'

How to speak about men and be politically correct:

1. He does not have a 'BEER GUT' - He has developed a 'LIQUID GRAIN STORAGE FACILITY.'

2. He is not a 'BAD DANCER' - He is 'OVERLY CAUCASIAN.'


4. He is not 'BALDING' - He is in 'FOLLICLE REGRESSION.'



7. He does not act like a 'TOTAL ASS' - He d evelops a case of 'RECTAL-CRANIAL INVERSION.'


9. He is not afraid of 'COMMITMENT' - He is 'RELATIONSHIP CHALLENGED.'

10. He is not 'HORNY' - He is 'SEXUALLY FOCUSED.'

11. It's not his 'CRACK' you see hanging out of his trousers-It's 'REAR CLEAVAGE'

Thanks to June in Seattle!

Thursday, 6 March 2008

The Birthplace of Jonathan Ross

I didn't know he came from Orkney...

Some Things Are Infinitely More Important

It's been a bit of a crappy week at work. Tuesday, in particular, was one of those days that we all have when just about everything that can go wrong does go wrong and you think the whole world is against you. But then you sit back and think about what some other people are having to contend with.

I read a news story on the BBC on Tuesday about a young lad in Stirlingshire who has a severe facial deformity. He is about to undergo major and lengthy surgery as he is fearful about what will happen to him when he goes to secondary school for the first time in the summer. The courage of that young laddie made me feel humble and it goes without saying that I hope everything goes well with his operation.

Then, I met an old mate for a pint or three last night. I hadn't seen Rob for a while and he told me his 18 year old son had been involved in a serious road accident a few weeks back and, for a time, was in intensive care. Thankfully, he's on the road to recovery now and indeed joined us for a drink last night. But what he - and his Dad and immediate family - must have went through can only be imagined.

And there's also a very good friend of mine from Seattle who is undergoing hospital tests as I type this message. June is one of the most wonderful people I know and her positive outlook and encouragement makes her a gem. My thoughts are with her.

So, really, my week hasn't been that bad at all. Not when you think about what some other people are going through.

For once, tonight, my glass is half full...

Tuesday, 4 March 2008

Symptoms of Being Over 25

My 18 year old daughter Michaela thoughtfully sent me this. If only I were 25 again...

1. You leave clubs before the end to "beat the rush" (worst still you don't go to the clubs)

2. You get more excited about having a roast on a Sunday than going clubbing the night before.

3. You stop dreaming of becoming a professional footballer player and start dreaming of having a son who might instead.

4. Before throwing the local paper away, you look through the property section.

5. All of a sudden, middle aged people are not 46, they are only 46.

6. Before going out anywhere, you ask whether there is anywhere to park.

7. Rather than throw a knackered pair of trainers out, you keep them because they'll be alright for the DIY or in the garden.

8. You buy T-shirts without anything written on them.

9. Instead of laughing at the innovations catalogue that falls out of the newspaper, you suddenly see both the benefit and money saving properties of most of the things that are in it.

10. You start to worry about your parents' health..

11. You have more disposable income, but everything you want or need to buy costs between 200 and 500 quid.

12. You don't get funny looks when you buy a Disney video or a Wallace and Gromit bubble bath, as the sales assistant assumes they are for your children.

13. Pop music all starts to sound the same.

14. You opt for Pizza Express over Pizza Hut because they do a really nice half-bottle of house red.

15. You always have enough milk in.

16. To compensate for the fact that you have little desire to go clubbing, you instead frequent trendy bars and restaurants in the mistaken belief that you have not turned into your parents.

17. While flicking through the TV channels, you happen upon C4's Time Team with Tony Robinson. You get drawn in. Grand Designs also appeals.

18. The benefits of a pension scheme become clear.

19. You go out of your way to pick up a colour chart from B&Q.

20. You wish you had a shed.

21. You have a shed.

22. You actually find yourself saying "They don't make 'em like that> anymore" and "I remember when there were only 4 TV channels" and "Not in my day...."

23. Radio 2 play more songs you know than Radio 1 - and Jeremy Vine has some really interesting guests on.

24. Instead of tutting at old people who take ages to get off the bus, you tut at rowdy school children.

25. When sitting outside a pub you admire their hanging baskets.

26. You find yourself saying "is it cold in here or is it just me

27. You understand the above and forward it to your fellow ageing friends.

Sunday, 2 March 2008

Sunday Bloody Sunday

I hate Sundays.

You work damn hard all week and look forward to the weekend. Friday nights are great, a whole two work-free days lie ahead and you can forget the woes of work for a while. Until Sunday...

I'm typing this entry just after 9.00pm on Sunday and I'm already thinking about meetings at work tomorrow and the rest of the week and what needs doing in the days that lie ahead. It's at this time that the burning embers of the weekend begin to smoulder - it just seems like hours since it was Friday night - and you set the alarm to go off at a God awful early time on Monday morning, when it's still dark, cold and miserable and five days hard graft lie ahead.

And the weather forecast for tomorrow is snow...

Saturday, 1 March 2008

Hanging on the Telephone

We live in an age of mass communication. The Internet, satellite, cable, instant contact with people on the other side of the world - it's certainly a much smaller world than the one I came into 46 years ago. But the earliest of modern communication techniques still has seemingly total control of the vast majority of us - the humble telephone.

A quite Friday night in beckoned for the Auld Reekie Ranter. The end of another week, the weekend ahead, a wee takeaway and a can of beer or five. I just settled down in front of the old goggle box and was about to take a forkful of chicken fried rice when - inevitably - the telephone rang. So I did what I normally do in these situations - I ignored it. It rang for some considerable time, like a demented machine demanding I give it attention (some people try for ages before realising there's no one in - or in my case just not bloody answering) The ring tone pierces the quiet of the night like a manic alarm, screaming that there's someone who needs to talk to you. But I carried on with my takeaway, determined I wasn't going to give in. And eventually, it stopped.

Relieved, I felt triumphant that I had not sucummbed to the demands of the blasted contraption. But then my imagination kicked in. Why did it ring for so long? That usually means bad news. What if it were an ill relative? One of my grandchildren for instance? Or my mother? Or the police? The hospital perhaps? With my agitation rising, I surrendered. I lay down my tin foiled carton and went to dial 1471. Number withheld. Damn it. However, I allowed common sense to take over from rising panic. Surely if it were an emergency, whoever it was would phone back?

An hour later the telephone rang again. This time I did answer it -it was my mother. And it were she who rang earlier but her reason for phoning was not that important. But she was somewhat alarmed that I hadn't answered earlier. Well, I explained, it is Friday night and a lot of people do go out on a Friday - even me (and I was beginning to wish I had gone to the pub after work as originally intended)

But it proved that many of us remain a slave to the telephone. When it rings we answer it - on occasion dropping whatever it is we're doing to rush to the telephone. After going out, how many of us dial 1471 to see if anyone called? For those with answerphones - not me obviously - they immediately switch on the messages to see who has tried to get in contact while they dare to leave the house.

I was going to add more to this rant - but the telephone is ringing.....