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!