Monday, 29 September 2008

Sunday, 28 September 2008

Happy Birthday Michaela

19 years old today.

Despite everything - I'm proud you're my daughter. Have a good day.

Don't Touch That Dial


ITV would provide fewer regional programmes, including news bulletins, under proposals from regulator Ofcom. The broadcaster has been advised to concentrate on providing original output which has been made in the UK. It would be allowed to show fewer daytime news bulletins, but only after it "restructured" its news operations in England and the Scottish Borders. Ofcom has been looking at the future of public service broadcasting at a time when advertising income is falling.

From the BBC News Website

What the hell is happening to ITV? The commercial channel - not so long ago the only commercial channel in the UK - has steadily gone downhill in recent years. The standards of programmes it makes now is, with the odd exception, quite poor. Some people accuse the BBC of dumbing down but the masters of this are ITV who seem to think their rapidly diminishing number of viewers have the attention span of a goldfish.

Living in Edinburgh, I'm served - although I use the term loosely - by STV. Now, in fairness to the Scottish boys and girls, there have been some decent programmes made north of the border. Rebus and Taggart, for example, are quite superb. However the main output from ITV these days is, quite frankly, awful. The jewel in the crown of the independent station is the soap opera Coronation Street. But, having been around for nearly fifty years, even that is looking distinctly tacky and moving ever further from reality.


The proposal from Ofcom that ITV cuts its regional news programmes is desperate. STV's Scotland Today is hugely popular with its anchor presenter John Mackay an authoritative voice. To cut this programme - and STV has already dropped Scotsport after more than fifty years - may signal the beginning of the end for the commercial station in Scotland. Viewers in Aberdeen have already seen the loss of Grampian Television - STV may suffer the same fate.

I fear ITV may be going down the same crass road as American television. Round the clock advertisements and messages from sponsors which are interrupted by television programmes. It's somewhat ironic that ITV is still broadcasting some of the quality programmes its used to make in days gone by on its Freeview stations ITV3 and ITV4. The likes of The Sweeney, Minder, Upstairs Downstairs, Rebus, Taggart are still shown regularly on these two channels. And, I suspect, still viewed by those who yearn for the days when there was quality programmes to watch on the box.


But not, sadly, I assume from anyone at Ofcom...

Thursday, 25 September 2008

Top Tips For Students

A handy guide for students who go to Queen Margaret College in Musselburgh and who use Lothian Buses Number 30 service:

Sprawl over your seat, ensuring you're in a comfortable position to speak to your mate in a similar position in the seat behind you - or in some cases across from you, whichever causes most inconvenience for other non-student passengers.

If you are travelling alone, ensure your bag, haversack, tent, rucksack etc. sits on the seat next to you rather than in the luggage rack at the front of the bus. This will ensure other passengers trying to get to work (look it up in the dictionary if you're unsure) will have to ask you to move your luggage.

If a passenger does ask you to remove said item, look at him/her with vacant eyes and mouth suitably open. Do not engage in conversation, grunt if need be and ensure they are aware of your anger at the inconvenience they have caused you by requiring a seat.

If an elderly passenger comes on, don't give up the seat which states it should be a priority for older people. They shouldn't be out at this time of the day anyway, they've got all day to go and collect their pension so don't give up your seat unless the fascist bus driver instructs you to do so.

In addition to taking up two seats by yourself, ensure your IPod is at full blast, thus creating more discomfort for passengers. A handy tip for female students is to have the most irritating pop song for years - 'I Kissed a Girl' by Katy Perry at maximum volume so those passengers who switch off their radios whenever this 'song' comes on are subjected to it's full banality.

Make sure your mobile phone is switched on and has a hugely irritating ring tone. Remember to talk as loud and as obtrusively as you can and make as many phone calls as you can to cause maximum annoyance.

If the bus is busy and none of the self-centred passengers will bother to give you and your bag a seat, ignore the signs on the bus and stand at the front of the vehicle. Disregard the instructions from the fascist bus driver to 'move along to the back of the bus' and remain at the front, thus ensuring on-coming passengers have to squeeze past you and your haversack to secure a decent standing position.

If you've had a particularly heavy evening at the students union the night before, you can belch, burp, fart and exhale disgusting odours at will. This has the added bonus of putting other passengers off the idea of sitting next to you, therefore enabling you to keep your haversack/bag on the seat next to you.

And, finally, when getting off remember to press the bell but don't move from your seat until the bus has stopped and the fascist driver is anxiously looking over his shoulder for who wants off. This will cause maximum disruption to the driver and his/her passengers making their journey as difficult as possible.

Which is the main aim of you using the bus in the first place....

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Recycle This...

Recycling is everywhere nowadays as people finally think about trying to save the planet. I have to confess I'm not exactly a champion at recycling and I admit I really have to change some of my habits. For years, I've simply chucked everything into a big black plastic bag, tossed it into my wheelie bin and forgot about it. Much the same way as the council binmen forget about it when it comes to emptying...

I've ranted before about Midlothian Council's shambolic attempts to get its citizens to recycle. Red box for papers (but not envelopes) and black box for bottles, jars and plastic (although plastic cartons mustn't have the lids on) And remember to wash the rubbish before you put it out...

But here's something to consider:

If you had purchased £1000 of Northern Rock shares one year ago it would now be worth £4.95.

With HBOS, earlier this week your £1000 would have been £16.50 £1,000 invested in XL Leisure would now be worth less £5

If you bought £1000 worth of Tennents Lager one year ago, drank it all, then took the empty cans to an aluminium re-cycling plant, you would get £214.

So based on the above statistics the best current investment advice is to drink heavily and re-cycle.

I'm off to hug a tree...

Sunday, 21 September 2008

Why Should the Chicken Cross the Road?

Gordon Brown: I admit I may have made a mistake on the 10p in the pound issue but I believe I made the correct decision in advising the chicken to cross the road to Lloyds TSB. Otherwise it would have felt the full force of the collapse of HBOS. Opinion polls may give the chicken short-term support but the only poll that counts is the one for the general election. Unless the chicken is free-range and comes from Krakow…

George W. Bush: I have put a significant amount of taxpayer dollars on the line to ensure the chicken crosses the road in the interests of democracy. But I'm convinced that this bold approach will cost American families far less than the alternative. The fact there are significant oil reserves on the other side of the road has absolutely nothing to do with my decision. Yo!

David Cameron: We’ve made our position on this issue absolutely clear. If the chicken wishes to cross the road, it should cross at the pedestrian crossing where it is safe to do so. Unless there’s a political party leader cycling the wrong way down a one-way street and ignoring red lights…

Alex Salmond: There is absolutely no doubt the chicken would be far better off cross the road to independence. The benefits for the chicken and its chicks would be enormous with an independent Scotland free from the shackles of Westminster.

Boris Johnson: Cripes! I, er, should, er , warn the chicken that there is a history of chief-killing across the road with the chicken liable to be sacrificed. And beware of Jamie Oliver. In any case my wife is cooking chicken casserole tonight. Hmm!

Noel Edmonds: The banker is in belligerent mood and has offered the chicken £13,500 to stay where it is. The question the chicken has to answer is whether it should cross the road and gamble on whether there is £250,000 worth of chicken feed in that box over there. I can’t influence the chicken in any way but I would stress it does not need to use part of this money to go into the post office across the road and pay its television licence fee.

George Michael: I refused to cross the road for years but ever since I did I feel kind of liberated, you know? And the public conveniences over here are quite superb - what a line up. You even get help to zip you up before you go-go…

Sir Moir Lockhead: There is no danger of the chicken being run over by any of the First Bus fleet. If it crosses the road now it’s perfectly safe to do so. Despite the fact there is a bus due at this moment in time we don’t expect it to appear for at least another ten minutes, if at all…

Friday, 19 September 2008

Great Songs of Our Time (Part 1)


Are teenage dreams so hard to beat?
Every time she walks down the street.

Another girl in the neighbourhood.
I wish she was mine, she looks so good.

I wanna hold her, wanna hold her tight.
Get teenage kicks right through the night.

I'm gonna call her on the telephone,Have her over 'cos I'm all alone.
I need excitement, oh I need it bad,And it's the best I've ever had.

I wanna hold her, wanna hold her tight. Get teenage kicks right through the night (alright).


Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Doomed, I Tell You!



Private Frazer in the acclaimed BBC comedy Dad's Army was renowned for looking deadly serious - he played the part of an undertaker after all - and uttering 'We're all doomed!' Given the way things are in this country at the moment you could almost believe his words were prophetic.

After a very pleasant long weekend which included Friday and Monday off work, I headed back to work on Tuesday full of gloom. The day began with the alarm blasting out at 6.05am - and it was still pitch black outside. It was raining heavily in Edinburgh. There were long queues of traffic going nowhere on the peripherals of the city by-pass. The news on the radio was conveying the demise of one of the biggest financial institutions in the USA and how the knock-on affect for this country could be catastrophic. Jobs were at risk, the economy was close to meltdown and the effects of global warming meant we could expect more torrential rain and 'localised flooding' (I find that a curious term - is that in case we think if it's chucking it down in Inverness then Edinburgh better prepare to drown?)

The news tonight is no better. I wonder if the person who coined the phrase 'credit-crunch' took out copyright. They'd be a millionaire by now if they had. The price of food has rocketed and who knows how much we'll be paying for gas and electricity this winter.

A shortage of staff at work means everyone is working their collective backsides off for little reward. In fact no reward at all, just continual moans and groans.
And, having thought they had turned the corner, Hearts lost 2-1 to Falkirk at the weekend and a whole host of players are now receiving treatment for injuries. Our little neighbours from Easter Road are asking us to part with £27 for the dubious pleasure of watching the Hibs-Hearts game in dankest Leith at the end of October. To paraphrase a Scots term where two positives form a negative, 'aye,right!'

So, with all this doom and gloom, I've lapsed into grumpy old man mode tonight. I need cheering up. It's all very well for some people to say there are some people worse off. I don't doubt there are but that doesn't make me feel any better on this woeful Wednesday. My glass isn't so much half empty as totally devoid of any alcohol...

Now, where's that Dad's Army video....?

Monday, 15 September 2008

999

A woman dialled 999 because a rabbit she bought via a newspaper advert did not have floppy ears, Central Scotland Police have said. The force is urging the public not to dial 999 unless they are faced with a genuine emergency. The reminder comes after operators, who receive 34,000 999 calls a year, said the number was being dialled for "wholly inappropriate reasons". One call was from a woman splashed by a car which drove through a puddle. The force said staff were verbally abused after challenging her for using the emergency line for her complaint.

From the BBC News Website.

Some news items simply take your breath away. The above item was part of a story in today's news which underlines how ignorance is king in today's increasingly dumbed-down society. That Central Scotland Police have to make a statement to the media urging people not to dial 999 unless it's an emergency beggars belief. As well as the BBC item, the same story on STV reported that someone dialled 999 after the pizza he had delivered had a slice missing.

Ned culture dominates society today and no one seems able to challenge it. Respect, tolerance, dignity and decency are the exception rather than the rule. Common sense, it seems, is also lacking in many people although I'm not just talking about ordinary members of society here, I'm also pointing my accusing finger at politicians and local authority employees among others.

Although I'm no great fan of the boys and girls in blue, I do have a fair degree of sympathy for those in the front line. Dealing with wasters who dial 999 for ridiculous reasons must test their patience to the full. Surely something can be done to punish those perpetrators? Is wasting police time no longer a crime?

Got to go - there's the pizza delivery man at my door. And coming after him is a woman who looks as if she's been splashed by a puddle...

Saturday, 13 September 2008

Guilty!



Presenter Noel Edmonds has stopped paying his TV licence fee as he does not like the BBC's "threatening" manner towards those who evade the charge. "Auntie's put boxing gloves on. I'm so incensed by the idea that I'm guilty of something that I actually cancelled my licence fee a few months ago," he said. No organisation would threaten him, he added. "They haven't found me, and nobody's come knocking on the door." From the BBC News Website

The arrogance of this irritating, talentless 'merchant banker' takes my breath away. Years ago, when the BBC thought Noel Edmonds had talent, we had to part with hard-earned cash to pay our licence fee to fund inane drivel such as Noel's House Party and Mr Fecking Blobby. Edmonds is to light entertainment what Russell Brand is to the George W. Bush Fan Club.

From his early days as the most annoying DJ on BBC Radio 1 - in the true tradition of Smashy and Nicey - to his cringe worthy, patronising hosting of Deal or No Deal - forty-five minutes of people opening empty boxes - Edmonds has always been full of his own importance. He is so far up is own backside I'm surprised he sees daylight.

So I make this plea to the authorities. Edmonds is blatantly breaking the law, refusing to do what the majority of the people do in this country without a fuss. Don't fine him £1,000. Send him straight to jail. I'd like to see him try and deal out of that...

Easy Come, Easy Go...



When I travelled to the fabulous city of Krakow a few weeks ago, I flew with EasyJet. As their name implies, what you get is what you pay for, a no frills service with a cheap (but not always cheerful) service. I received an e-mail from EasyJet on Friday advising me of cheap deals throughout the forthcoming winter season to places like Amsterdam, Madrid and Krakow. Tempting though this is, the despair that many holiday-makers are experiencing this weekend is making me think not just twice but several times.


The collapse of XL Leisure Group, added to that of Zoom Airlines the other week, may well have sounded the death knell of the cheap flight culture. XL were the third largest package holiday group in the UK and their demise has left thousands of holiday-makers either stranded or stuck at home without a holiday to go to. High fuel costs and the 'credit crunch' are the reasons cited for these companies going bust. Now clearly this means hundreds of people who work for them are now out of a job and with mortgages to pay and families to feed this is obviously catastrophic news for them. But in an age when communication has never been easier - the internet, mobile technology, 24 hour rolling news etc. what I can't understand about all this is why people were allowed to go on holiday with the axe poised to swing - and why, as late as Friday morning with the axe already swung, no one thought to get a message out to the hundreds of people heading to airports all over the UK, high with excitement about to start their long-anticipated holiday.

Damn it, we work hard enough for most of the year, with the long hours culture still prevalent in this country for a salary that is largely swallowed up with the ever-increasing cost of merely trying to keep your head above the water. So when people scrimp and save to put some money aside for few days away from the pressures of life, for a few days in the sun away from the incessant wind and rain in this country, to escape the often hum-drum nature of their existence, they do not want it taken away at the very last minute.

Firms like XL and Zoom and no doubt a few others who will follow suit in the days and weeks ahead are quick to take money off people for the promise of a bargain deal. They must have known they wouldn't be in a position to continue trading at some point yet still let people travel and make their way to the airport. They have no right to treat people with contempt. True, those customers who paid for their holiday with their credit card may get a refund. But that's not my point. The prospect of getting away for a few glorious days is what keeps many people going during these hard times. To have it taken away like this is a kick in the teeth to those who use the airline industry.

I had contemplated going away for a few days at Christmas to escape the commercial madness this country descends to at that time of the year (that's another rant for another time) But I may decide to pass on EasyJet's admittedly tempting offer and stay in the UK.


And grapple with engineering work on the railways, never-ending roadworks, bus drivers on strike.....




Monday, 8 September 2008

More Money Than Sense

It is, apparently, another sign of my acceleration to grumpy old man status. My younger daughter Michaela greeted me today with 'look what I've got, Dad'. After a hard day's graft at the office and struggling with the re-heated remains of last night's macaroni cheese (delicious last night but stodge personified twenty four hours later) I looked up at her smiling face. Now Michaela is still a teenager, about to enter her 19th year in a couple of weeks, so when she smiles it usually means a) she wants money; b) she's done something she doesn't want me to know about or c) a combination of both which means serious trouble.

She proceeded to show me her new dress which she purchased from some boutique or other (she gave me a puzzled look when I mentioned the word boutique - another remnant from the 1970s) I say dress but it looked little more than a medium size handkerchief to me. It became a health hazard because I damn near choked on my stodgy macaroni when she told me she spent £60 on it. True, it's silk, Yes, it's a nice dark red colour (and anything close to maroon gets my approval) But sixty notes?

Therein lies one of the many differences between men and women. Given £60 to spend there's no way on Earth I would splash the dosh on one item of clothing. £60 would give me a good evening at the pub with some pals; pay to see Hearts play away from home, if you include the cost of a match ticket, travel, beer etc; a couple of tickets to see a decent gig (Ally Kerr is playing in Glasgow at the end of this month - this boy is a fantastic musical talent); or a fine afternoon's entertainment at the races (there's a meeting at Musselburgh a week today - the holiday Monday)

But my darling daughter doesn't see it this way. She spends three score on a flimsy dress that barely covers her ar...artic regions. Still, being a dutiful father, I'm prepared to put my ageing opinions to one side and tell her how wonderful she looks in it. After all, it's a father's duty to give his children as much praise, support and encouragement as possible.

And if you happen to read this, Michaela, I'll need a lift home from work tomorrow...

Saturday, 6 September 2008

There's an Overlap...







The World Cup starts today. At least, the qualifying stages do for Scotland and the other 'home countries' and the Scots face a hazardous trip to the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. Searing temperatures and a hostile environment will greet George Burley's men and my natural pessimistic tendencies when it comes to all things football - forty years of following Heart of Midlothian does that to a man - means I'd happily settle for a draw this afternoon. And, hopefully, take three points from Iceland on Wednesday.

It's a sign of the times, however, that today's 'crucial game' - every game is seemingly crucial to the media - is not being shown on terrestrial television. Not even recorded highlights as the clock heads for midnight as used to be the case. This is because Setanta Sports, in their bid to rival Sky Sports world domination attempt, have exclusive rights to Scotland's away games in the qualifying stages of the World Cup. Now I can take a self-centred view here and chortle loudly as I have been a subscriber to Setanta for more than a year now and for barely more than a crisp ten pound note each month I'd say it's a pretty good deal, particularly as SPL and English Premiership games are included in the price. But I do feel some sympathy for those who haven't subscribed to the Irish satellite channel and would be eager to see how the Scots do today.

It's a far cry from Scotland's memorable qualifying campaigns of the 1970s. No satellite television coverage then and I still vividly recall watching Scotland defeat Czechoslovakia 2-1 at Hampden in 1973. STV covered that game 'live' in an age when very few games were covered live at all on television - not even the cup final. The legendary Arthur Montford was the commentator that evening and he was quite brilliant. His shouts of 'watch your back Denis' when Denis Law was about to be challenged by a Czechoslovak player were memorable. Scotland's triumph took them to the World Cup Finals in West Germany in 1974 - their first appearance at a finals in sixteen years.


Four years later, it was the BBC's Archie 'Woof' Macpherson who damn near fell out of the commentary gantry at Anfield when Kenny Dalglish scored the winner against Wales which meant Scotland qualified for the World Cup Finals in Argentina in 1978. Although given what was to happen in South America perhaps it might have been better if they hadn't bothered...Archie's emotive 'there's Buchan on the overlap' and 'there's Dalglish, oh what a goal!!' still send tingles down my spine. Although his 'a penalty if ever there was one' when Joe Jordan handled the ball in the Welsh penalty box and the referee somehow gave a penalty to Scotland was, to say the least, patriotic.

I don't know who'll be commentating for Setanta this afternoon although given they're also covering the Northern Ireland and England games (six hours of footy, wha-hey!) I hope it's not some English non-entity who won't have the passion of Messrs. Montford and Macpherson.

And, I suspect, he won't be wearing a checked jacket....

Thursday, 4 September 2008

The Mice Used to Jump in the Traps...

A Nigerian religious leader with 86 wives has accepted an Islamic decree ordering him to divorce all but four of them, local authorities say. A spokesman for the emir of Bida told the BBC that Mohammadu Bello Abubakar, 84, agreed on Saturday to comply with the decree.

From the BBC News website.

I have to say I have a degree of sympathy for Mohammadu Bello. I mean, at 84, he's probably had a hard life. Now, in his twilight years, he nips out for a game of dominoes with his pals and is a wee bit late back. So he gets 'What time do you call this?' not once but 86 times.

He has 170 children. 170! I find it tough with just two and sometimes struggle to understand my daughters (like the majority of the female species I don't think I'll ever understand them)

But the worse part of this is the fact he has 172 mothers-in-law. Just think what the late, lamented Les Dawson could have done with that...

Monday, 1 September 2008

The Old Days

Congratulations to all my friends and family who were born between the 1930s and 1960s.

First, we survived being born to mothers who smoked and/or drank while they carried us and lived in houses made of asbestos...

They took aspirin, ate blue cheese, raw egg products, loads of bacon and processed meat, tuna from a can, and didn't get tested for diabetes or cervical cancer. Then after that trauma, our baby cots were covered with bright coloured lead-based paints. We had no childproof lids on medicine bottles, doors or cabinets and when we rode our bikes, we had no helmets or shoes, not to mention, the risks we took hitchhiking.

As children, we would ride in cars with no seat belts or air bags and we went round the streets on Go-carts made from old pram wheels & bits of wood. We drank water from the garden hose and not from a bottle. Take away food was limited to fish and chips, no pizza shops, McDonalds, KFC, or Subway. Even though all the shops closed at 6.00pm and didn't open on Sundays, somehow we didn't starve to death...We shared one soft drink with four friends, from one bottle and no one actually died from this. We could collect old drink bottles and cash them in at the corner store and buy Toffees, Gobstoppers, Bubble Gum and some bangers to blow up frogs with.

We ate cupcakes, white bread and real butter and drank soft drinks with sugar in it, but we weren't overweight because......we were always outside playing. We would leave home in the morning and play all day, as long as we were back when the streetlights came on. No one was able to reach us all day. And we were okay. We would spend hours building our go-carts out of old prams and then ride down the hill, only to find out we forgot the brakes. We built tree houses and dens and played in river beds with matchbox cars. We did not have Playstations, Nintendo Wii, X-boxes, no video games at all, no 999 channels on SKY, no video/dvd films, no mobile phones, no personal computers, no Internet or Internet chat rooms..........we had friends...

We went outside and found them. We fell out of trees, got cut, broke bones and teeth and there were no lawsuits from these accidents. Only girls had pierced ears. We ate worms and mud pies made from dirt, and the worms did not live in us forever. You could only buy Easter Eggs and Hot Cross Buns at Easter time...

We were given catapults for our 10th birthdays, we rode bikes or walked to a friend's house and knocked on the door or rang the bell, or just yelled for them. Mum didn't have to go to work to help dad make ends meet. Our teachers used to hit us with canes and gym shoes and bully's always ruled the playground at school. The idea of a parent bailing us out if we broke the law was unheard of. A burly policeman would clip you round the ear and our parents actually sided with the law...

We had freedom, failure, success and responsibility, and we learned how to deal with it all. And YOU are one of them! Congratulations! You might want to share this with others who have had the luck to grow up as kids, before the lawyers and the government regulated our lives for our own good. And while you are at it, forward it to your kids so they will know how brave their parents were.