Sunday, 31 August 2008

Addiction


My name is Mike. This isn't easy for me but I feel I have a duty to my family and friends to tell them openly about my problem. It's not something I'm proud of but, while I'm not a religious person, we all have our cross to bear. Perhaps by bringing this out in the open I may find the help I so urgently require.

My 'habit' has worsened considerably since last Christmas. At that time I received an IPod Touch as a gift. Until then I didn't have a real problem. But now it threatens to spiral out of control. Ladies and gentlemen, I have to confess to - downloading cheesy music from the internet....

Pre IPod days, I used to download albums via my laptop. I felt in control this way and would download things like the fabulous Red Hot Chilli Pipers and their Bagrock classics. But the IPod means I can download music without the need for switching on a computer. And now I feel I've reached the stage where I need help.

The warning signs were there a few weeks ago when I downloaded Phil Collins' Greatest Hits. No, that's not an oxymoron. That started a trend. From Collins it was the short next step to Genesis. Talk about a Land of Confusion...

But things have worsened considerably. I read a newspaper review of the film Mamma Mia which said you'd be better off not going to see the film but spending your money instead on ABBA's Greatest Hits. Which, I'm afraid to say, I did. My problem now seems to have reached its nadir. My daughter Michaela picked me up yesterday and drove me home. She had Radio 1 on in her car so I felt I was safe enough from cheesy music. But, lo and behold, some listener who clearly has a similar problem to mine e-mailed Fearne and Reggie's Request Show and asked for The Wurzel's Combine Harvester. I tried desperately to control my feet but they were soon tapping away to the line 'I've got 20 acres and you've got 43' and I was hooked. Later that evening despite strenuous efforts to resist temptation, I reached the the IPod and downloaded The Wurzels song.

My name is Mike. Please, someone, help me escape my addiction to cheesy pop music....

Saturday, 30 August 2008

Please Don't Wake Me...




It's been a particularly busy week. Staff shortages, colleagues on leave, two full days interviewing meaning a backlog of work to get done and a late night on Wednesday thanks to Heart of Midlothian FC's ultimately futile attempt to defeat lower division Airdrie United after two hours have left me quite tired. Well, at least I'll get a long lie on Saturday I thought....

Someone's car alarm very thoughtfully screamed to half of Edinburgh at 6.00am this morning. Wonderful. Unable to get back to sleep immediately, I got up and made some breakfast. I headed back to bed and began to drift into sleep when my next door neighbour thought he would make an early start on that fence he's been meaning to put up since Adam was a lad. Early start meaning 7.30am for the hammering and sawing of wood....
Stuffing cotton wool in my ears and covering my head with a pillow I almost made it to the land of nod. Until inevitably the telephone rang at 9.00am with some insufferably cheerful woman from south of the border offering me cheap car insurance. I didn't check if she was religious at all so she may not have taken kindly to being told to go forth and multiply...

I finally gave up on the Saturday morning lie-in at around 9.20 when the postman arrived with a recorded delivery item that required my signature - and he gave a very reasonable impression of Jack Regan of The Sweeney breaking someone's door down. The fact that said postie rarely ventures round these parts before 12 noon on a Saturday - or any other day for that matter - merely enhanced my suspicion that there was some kind of perverse conspiracy to keep me from enjoying Saturday morning in bed.

So I still feel absolutely shattered. I may consider heading to Hamilton this afternoon to watch Hearts faintly amusing attempts to score a goal. That may well be enough to have me - and others - snoring from the stand....

Thursday, 28 August 2008

Draconian?

NEW OFFICE POLICY

Dress Code:

1) You are advised to come to work dressed according to your salary.

2) If we see you wearing Prada shoes and carrying a Gucci bag, we will assume you are doing well financially and therefore do not need a raise.

3) If you dress poorly, you need to learn to manage your money better, so that you may buy nicer clothes, and therefore you do not need a raise.

4) If you dress just right, you are right where you need to be and therefore you do not need a raise.

Sick Days:

We will no longer accept a doctor's statement as proof of sickness. If you are able to go to the doctor, you are able to come to work.

Personal Days:

Each employee will receive 104 personal days a year. They are called Saturdays & Sundays.

Bereavement Leave:

This is no excuse for missing work. There is nothing you can do for dead friends, relatives or co-workers. Every effort should be made to have non-employees attend to the funeral arrangements in your place. In rare cases where employee involvement is necessary, the funeral should be scheduled in the late afternoon. We will be glad to allow you to work through your lunch hour and subsequently leave one hour early.

Bathroom Breaks:

Entirely too much time is being spent in the toilet. There is now a strict three-minute time limit in the stalls. At the end of three minutes, an alarm will sound, the toilet paper roll will retract, the stall door will open, and a picture will be taken. After your second offence, your picture will be posted on the company bulletin board under the 'Chronic Offenders'category. Anyone caught smiling in the picture will be sectioned under the company's mental health policy.

Lunch Break:

Skinny people get 30 minutes for lunch, as they need to eat more, so that they can look healthy. Normal size people get 15 minutes for lunch to get a balanced meal to maintain their average figure.

Thank you for your loyalty to our company. We are here to provide a positive employment experience. Therefore, all questions, comments, concerns, complaints, frustrations, irritations, aggravations, insinuations, allegations, accusations, contemplations, consternation and input should be directed elsewhere.

From the Management

Damn, it's hell in there!

Thanks to June in Seattle


Monday, 25 August 2008

Jamie Oliver Speaks Sense

In an interview with Paris Match magazine, Jamie Oliver suggested people in the UK cared more about getting drunk than they did about eating well. "The people I'm talking about have enormous televisions - a lot bigger than my own - the latest in mobile phones, cars and they go and get drunk in pubs at the weekend. Their poverty shows in the way they feed themselves."

From the BBC News website

Usually when Jamie Oliver comes on the television either as 'celebrity' - I use the term loosely - chef or advertising some supermarket or other, I immediately reach for the 'off' button on the remote control. The Essex boy is one of many people in the media who irritate the hell out of me and I don't normally give a Jonathan Ross what he says. But in the article in the link to this rant, Oliver does speak some sense.

80% of British people don't sit round a table for dinner. When I was a child back in the late 1960s/early 1970s, one of my jobs when it was meal time was to set the table. Now I wonder how many people actually have a table. How many people sit with a takeaway in a foil carton on their lap slouched in front of a plasma screen watching endless rubbish on satellite television? And then head to the pub to get 'pie-eyed'?

It's somewhat ironic given the ever increasing number of cookery programmes on television that the art of cooking a healthy, nutritious, well balanced mean appears to be dying.

Perhaps those who appreciate good food in this country have had their chips...

Sunday, 24 August 2008

Sitting In?


Given my comments on the Commercial Irritation rant earlier, it may seem a tad hypocritical of me to sample the 'experience' of going to Burger King on Friday evening. A fair point, I concede but given I finished work a bit later than expected and I was heading for a drinking session with fellow of the Hibernian persuasion, the prospect of consuming alcohol on an empty stomach was not one I wished to consider. So I opted for the quick and convenient option. Although those words soon disappeared when I headed to the counter to wait patiently for the spotty faced youth to serve me.
'Can I take your order?'

'I don't know - can you?'

She looked at me somewhat bemused. Given she was not from these shores and her use of grammar was not, perhaps, the best, I decided to help a little. Only a little, mind.

'I would like a cheeseburger and some chips please' I smiled.

'Do you want a meal?'

'I would like a cheeseburger and some chips please' I smiled again.

'Cheeseburger?'

'Yes, I do believe that was what I asked for -twice.'
'Regular fries?'

'As opposed to irregular?'

'No - what size of fries?'
Now my irritation was increasing. 'Just give me some chips'

'Do you want to go large?'

'I'm sorry?'
'Do you want to go large for an extra fifty pence?'

'Excuse me young, lady, that's a very personable question and one that doesn't warrant an answer'

By now, twenty stone Nora from Niddrie who was standing behind me with what seemed like half the contents of the local Lidl store was struggling to conceal her anger. 'Hey, pal, can you no jist get yer meal and go forth and multiply?' (I've translated what she actually said into a form of English)

I sighed 'Just give me a cheeseburger, chips and a small Coca Cola - please!'

'Sitting in?' asked the girl behind the counter.

'Does that cost extra?' I asked. Another bemused look. 'If I can find a table that doesn't have remnants of left over cold burgers, chips - sorry, fries - and onion rings, then yes.'



Burger King - they say they do it your way. Sadly, they won't be doing it my way any more.

Thursday, 21 August 2008

Worst Group - An Apology


Not from me - from them. First Bus has apologised to its passengers for a "significant number" of delays caused by roadworks. The company said the problems were being caused by an extensive programme of roadworks. All First services from East Lothian, Midlothian, West Lothian, the Borders and Queensferry are affected, they said.

Here's the bit that made me laugh:
"Therefore, it is important that we advise our passengers that they may need to alter their travel arrangements to take account of the impact these external factors are having on our ability to deliver the regular, fast and efficient services our customers expect - and deserve."

Here's my message to Sir Moir Lockhead - I already have altered my travel arrangements. I now use Lothian Buses instead.

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Something Different



I knew when I went out this morning there was something different about today. Aside from the fact this is the last of my three days leave from work (back to the office tomorrow, ochone, ochone...)

The streets looked cleaner than usual. There were no roadworks near where I live and no sign of any temporary traffic lights so beloved of Midlothian Council. No noisy binmen taking half the rubbish away and leaving stuff they can't be bothered emptying or making up new rules about recycling (can't take that empty plastic carton, mate, the cap's still on it...)

No screaming infants being dragged to nursery school, no older children smoking at the bus stop and generally taking the Michael out of anyone passing by. No telephone call from some spotty YTS kid from the Council HQ telling me I haven't paid my council tax when it was paid a fortnight ago.

Today, local authority workers - not necessarily an oxymoron - went on strike. To protest about poor wages, many of them have decided not to work today.

Any chance this dispute could be prolonged...?

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Those Wedding Bells

A bride and groom are celebrating their special day - without the worry of being thousands of pounds in debt. Odette Fenwick, 19, and 21-year-old Chris May spent a grand total of £480 on their wedding day in north Devon. Wearing a £52 dress bought on eBay, the radiant bride looked a million dollars and said she felt "like a princess". The groom hired a suit for £90. The Ilfracombe couple exchanged vows and rings, which cost £19, at a civil ceremony in Barnstaple.

From the BBC News website

Now, speaking as a father of a girl who plans to get married in two years, I have to say I like this story. In fact, I may well print it out - in font size 48 - and pin it on the wall of Michaela's bedroom. Younger daughter has set her sights on tying the knot to her beloved at Edinburgh Castle no less. Now while having the bridegroom stand in front of Mons Meg and having the wedding at one o'clock does contain a good deal of appeal, my alternative suggestion of holding the wedding at another castle - Tynecastle for example - hasn't gone down well. But, I plead to deaf ears, think of the cost of getting married (and I'm talking financially here - don't get me started about the human cost...)

When I got married in 1982, the wedding cost £1,500. My bride and I had to pay the cost of the wedding ourselves. In fact I was counting the cost soon after...It was a simple ceremony and a simple honeymoon. There's nothing wrong with Blackpool - and in an age before satellite television it meant I could still see the infamous Scotland-Soviet Union World Cup game (the one where Alan Hansen ran into Willie Miller and the Russians scored) The missus wasn't best pleased but then she was never one who was easy to please...

So I take my hat off to the couple from Ilfracombe. What a sensible pair they are. By a remarkable coincidence, I had also said to my bride in 1982 that she looked a million dollars - all green and crumpled. She wasn't best pleased (see above)

Who needs to spend a bloody fortune on what is little more than a big party for friends and relatives you never hear from anyway? With every chance the marriage may end up like the cake - in tiers....

Monday, 18 August 2008

Olympic News

Sadly, there is some bad news for Team GB at the Olympics in Beijing. The widely fancied carpet-fitting team, from Glasgow, have been sensationally kicked out for using stair rods.


Glasgow girl competing in the Olympics who told her pal in the Olympic village: "I think I'm pregnant."

"Have you had a check-up?" asked her pal.

"No, a Greek," she said.


A Scots competitor in the track and field asking a chap with a pole: "Are you a pole-vaulter?"

Altogether now: "No, I'm German. But how did you know my name was Walter?"

Three Scottish workers who had been building the stadium didn't have tickets for the opening ceremony, but the first grabbed a length of scaffolding they were dismantling and confidently strolled into the athletes' village telling security guards he was a British pole vaulter.

The second grabbed a sledge hammer at the construction site and breezed in telling everyone he was competing in the hammer throw.

Alas, the third came a cropper when he grabbed a roll of barbed wire at the site and told security he was competing in the fencing.


See what happens when you have three days off work?

Saturday, 16 August 2008

Commercial Irritation



It is, perhaps, another sign of me ageing not terribly well. But one of the many things that irritates me about 'modern life' is commercials. In this digital age of multi-channel television and radio stations by the score on digital radio and via the internet, it seems that whenever I channel hop - whether it's television or radio - inevitably each non BBC channel or station is playing commercials. And bloody irritating they are too.

At the end of tonight's Sunderland-Liverpool game on Setanta Sports - a game which rivalled watching paint dry for excitement - I flicked through the various Freeview stations. That there was nothing worth watching was hardly surprising - for multi-channel read multi-rubbish - but the fact that channel after channel were showing commercials at the same time annoyed me so much that I switched the television off (if my gruesome twosome daughters read this, yes televisions can be switched off)

The ten zillion radio stations were the same. I have to say I quite like the idea of the likes of Q Radio and Mojo Radio being 'DJ less' - those of us who can remember the likes of Tony Blackburn and Dave Lee Travis on Radio One in the 1970s are thankful that such gibberish is no longer on mainstream radio. But the commercials are annoying as hell. I particularly dislike those ads for cars or loans where the obligatory 'terms and conditions apply' paragraph is read out at the end by a voice which sounds like the Crazy Frog on crack cocaine.

There is one commercial presently being shown on television which I find disturbing. As if having Burger King outlets in this country isn't bad enough, we have commercials which are not only annoying but, in the case of their latest offering, quite disturbing. A young lad on a bus is sitting staring at an old lady laden with shopping bags who is standing beside him. As he finally gets off the bus he thinks to himself 'that old lady wanted my seat' The tagline is 'take yourself to your dark side with a Burger King something or other burger' (I forget the exact wording due to my haste to switch it off)

At least Burger King won't fall foul of the Trades Description Act. Like some of their products, this commercial has little taste...

Thursday, 14 August 2008

Captions Welcome



'What's that you say, Bill? The Ruskies have invaded Georgia? Hell, I'd better get over to Atlanta real quick...'

'Mr President, have you tried switching your brain off then on again?'

'Hey, Bill - that Eye Phone you sent me. Can't find anywhere to insert the dimes'

'Bill, I don't know what the hell we're doing here. We should be where every other American is right now - in Edinburger in good old Scotsmanland'

Wednesday, 13 August 2008

Valerie

The madam opened the brothel door to see a rather dignified, well-dressed, good-looking man in his late 40s or early 50s.

“May I help you?” she asked.

“I want to see Valerie,” the man replied.

“Sir, Valerie is one of our most expensive ladies. Perhaps you would prefer someone else,” said the madam.

“No. I must see Valerie,” was the man's reply.

Just then, Valerie appeared and announced to the man that she charged £5,000 a visit. Without hesitation, the man pulled out five hundred ten pound notes and gave them to Valerie, and they went upstairs. After an hour, the man calmly left.

The next night, the same man appeared again, demanding to see Valerie. Valerie explained that no one had ever come back two nights in a row – too expensive – and there were no discounts. The price was still £5,000. Again the man pulled out the money, gave it to Valerie and they went upstairs. After an hour, he left.

The following night the man was there again. Everyone was astounded that he had come for the third consecutive night, but he paid Valerie and they went upstairs. After their session, Valerie questioned the man.

“No one has ever been with me three nights in a row. Where are you from?” she asked.

The man replied, “Edinburgh.”

“Really,” she said, “I have family in Edinburgh.”

“I know,” the man said. “Your father died, and I am your sister's lawyer. She asked me to give you your £15,000 inheritance.”

The moral of the story is that three things in life are certain:

1. Death

2. Taxes

3. Being screwed by a lawyer

Sunday, 10 August 2008

Happy Birthday Hannah

A very happy first birthday to my darling grand-daughter Hannah. It's hard to believe she's a year old already. If she can avoid splitting her head open and having a tin of paint poured over her, then today should be a good one!

Friday, 8 August 2008

The Weekend Ahead

Another Friday night. And another weekend. Two things stand out for me this weekend. Firstly, the football season starts again tomorrow. Hearts fans have had little to look forward to since we were knocked out the Scottish Cup by Motherwell on a cold dark January evening at Fir Park. Since then my passion for Hearts has ebbed to the extent I was, at one point, seriously considering not renewing my season ticket. But renew, I did.

The excitement which greets the start of a new football season is always welcome. With a new manager in the so far impressive Csaba Laszlo and the players seemingly having their enthusiasm rekindled, there is hope once more at Tynecastle. My main concern is that it's basically the same group of players who toiled at the end of last season. There is only one fit striker - Jamie Mole - and it's difficult to see where the goals will come from. But I'll be at Tynecastle tomorrow - and, for the first time in months, actually looking forward to the game. That said, I'll probably be moaning tomorrow about how shambolic Hearts were and how we'll be fighting relegation. But, for a few hours at least, I'm looking forward to the new season.

On Sunday it's my grand-daughter Hannah's first birthday. I can scarcely believe it's a year since the little tike came into my life. She's walking now but this may not necessarily be a good thing as, in the past fortnight, she's had three stitches inserted in a head wound after walking into a door and had a pot of paint poured over her, courtesy of big brother Jack.

So. here's to a happy Hearts fan and happy Hannah come the end of the weekend!

Thursday, 7 August 2008

Grinding to a Halt



I love Edinburgh. It's a fantastic, vibrant, beautiful city and I'm proud to live here. But there is one drawback. Whenever something happens on the city by-pass, chaos ensues.

We've had two days of non-stop rain in Scotland's capital city. Now Scotland should be used to rain, even in August. In fact, particularly in August. You can stick your mortgage on the fact that when the Edinburgh Festival begins there will be heavy rain at some point during the three weeks. But the rainfall in the past forty-eight hours has obviously been too much for the city by-pass. There was flooding in parts of it this morning and at one point the road had to be closed. And, dear reader, you know what's coming next.

Traffic on the south side of the city ground to a halt. I work for an organisation which has flexi-time and I opted - foolishly as it turned out - to head for the slave galley (sorry, office) a bit later than usual. I left my house at 8.45 for the usually efficient Lothian Bus Service 3 from Mayfield. I arrived at the office just a few miles away at 11.40. Nearly three bloody hours to travel ten miles.

The knock-on effect from the partial closure of the by-pass was horrendous. There was a long, snaking queue of traffic all the way from the by-pass to Dalkeith where it just simply stopped. Nothing moved for the best part of half an hour and then eventually it inched its way along towards the south side of Edinburgh. When I got to the office, sarcastic cheers greeted my arrival. It was damn near lunch time. Two hours of my life had been given away to the nightmare of trying to travel from A to B in Scotland's capital city.

Can the city fathers do anything about it? Will they do anything about it?

Sadly, I fear not....

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

Should Mothers Stay at Home?

A growing number of people are concerned about the impact working mothers have on family life, according to British research. Should mothers stay home and look after the family? A study by Cambridge University in the UK has found that support of mothers having a career is beginning to decline. In 1998, 51% of women and 45.9% of men believed that family life would not suffer if a woman went to work. This number decreased to 46% of women and 42% of men in 2002.

From the BBC News website

The inference from this research appears to be that working mums are to blame for declining standards of British society. If mothers stayed at home like the dutiful wives they're meant to be, to look after the children and cook and clean for the husband then life in Britain would be idyllic. Wouldn't it?

This may have been the way of things in this country fifty years ago. But life in
21st century Britain is far different. The economics of this country mean that most people simply have to work. When my gruesome twosome daughters Laura and Michaela were children, their mother had to work at the weekends in order that we could make ends meet. Which meant we seldom did things as a family and this increased the strain on our relationship. But if she hadn't gone out to work we wouldn't have been to afford the mortgage. Now, years later, daughter Laura struggles with part-time work and having to pay what are, quite frankly, outrageous nursery fees.

This is something that needs looking at. The cost of childcare in this country is ridiculous. If the government would spend less of the taxpayers money on futile wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and more on the people who really need it - the working people of this country - then perhaps society would improve. I'm not blaming the government for bad parenting. All parents have an obligation to bring up their children as best they can. However, for some, the financial struggle of raising their offspring is a real hardship. If real financial assistance was available for families, perhaps one of the parents may consider not working full-time and spending more time with their children.

To my mind, it shouldn't just be mothers who should be seen as the ones staying at home. Fathers should have the right to do this too - the term house husband should be looked in the same light as house wife.

It seems to me the researchers at Cambridge University have too much time on their hands. I wonder if any of them have children?

Monday, 4 August 2008

Local Hero



One of the best films ever made - Local Hero - was on the Freeview channel Film Four tonight. I hadn't seen it for ages and thoroughly enjoyed watching it again.

For those who haven't seen it - and it's astonishing to think a quarter of a century has passed since it was made - Burt Lancaster plays an oil billionaire Happer who sends colleague Mac to a remote Scottish village to secure the property rights for an oil refinery they want to build. Mac teams up with Danny and starts the negotiations, the locals are keen to get their hands on the 'Silver Dollar' and can't believe their luck. However a local hermit and beach scavenger, Ben Knox, lives in a shack on the crucial beach which he also owns. Happer is more interested in the Northern Lights and Danny in a surreal girl with webbed feet, Marina. Mac is used to a Houston office with fax machines but is forced to negotiate on Bens terms.

It's great seeing the likes of Scots actors Peter Capaldi - now famous for his incessant swearing in the fabulous political comedy The Thick of It - Denis Lawson (uncle of Ewan McGregor) and Alex Norton in early roles. The sadly departed Fulton Mackay is also there as is John Gordon Sinclair, better known for Gregory's Girl (by the same director, Bill Forsyth) And an early role for a young Jonathan Watson, now the star of the football comedy Only an Excuse.

Add the emotion tugging theme music from Mark Knopfler and you have a truly fabulous film. Just the thing to cheer up a miserable Monday!

Sunday, 3 August 2008

The Best Days of Your Life?




It's another sign of getting older - counting the years that have passed since you left school. It's more than thirty years for me now but I can still recall it as if it were yesterday.

I've been thinking about my school day lately as I've been in touch recently with an old school friend. Like me, Colleen remembers some of the old school trips and some of the things we used to get up to. However, her view that school days are the happiest of your life is not something I share.


I didn't particularly enjoy school. In fact I detested primary school and the nightmare that was school dinners. Truly awful, quite inedible gunge that was passed as food was, at times, quite sickening. Literally so, as the Commandant who was the teacher in charge of the school meals hut forced every child to eat what was on their plate. It was so awful, some of us used to smuggle out items of food in handkerchiefs so we could show the old battle axe our plate was empty. For nine year old children, this was quite traumatic.


Secondary school was a bit better - but then the work was harder! I fell through, what I call, the fourteen year old trapdoor. The first two years at secondary school were fine. But then, at fourteen years of age, I discovered girls. At the same time, punk rock was coming to the fore. With both these major events in my life happening, my school work never stood a chance. From 1976 to 1978 I lost interest in working at school and concentrated my efforts on other things.

I left school on 31 May 1978 with just four 'O' levels. I started work, in a furniture store, four days later. A dead end job which I hated. But I soon got another job and learned more away from school than I ever did at it. I tried to warn my two daughters about the perils of falling through the fourteen year old trapdoor. Laura ignored me and fell into the same abyss which I suspect she regrets now, even though she has two wonderful children of her own and is busy working part-time. But at just twenty-two she could have had so much more career-wise. Michaela did listen and has done well for herself. She still left school at sixteen but she has a decent job, her own car and until last year her own flat. Her ambition, I'm delighted to say, still burns brightly.


Of course, school days three decades ago were much different. We had to wear school uniform for a start. And there was corporal punishment for those who misbehaved. Six of the best from the maths teacher was one way of teaching you how to add up! And there were no computers in schools in the 1970s - certainly not the one I attended.


The best days of your life? Sadly, not for me. School taught me nothing about what to expect in the big wide world. They say what you do at school can shape the rest of your life. But, for me, women, relationships, music and football were far greater influences.


If the lovely Colleen reads this, she may know exactly what I mean....