Wednesday, 30 December 2009

The Ranter's Farewell to 2009

Gig of the year: 2009 has been a good year for The Ranter in terms of seeing some pretty decent gigs. Lily Allen, The Beat and, erm, Engelbert Humperdink were all class acts. The best, however, was The Specials in Edinburgh in November. Thirty years on the rude boys still have it all! Bad Manners tonight will round off a great year for music.

Best Local Gig: Undoubtedly, The Skababs - Edinburgh’s finest. Aye, aye, aye!

Best film seen: I’ve not been to the cinema much this year - going to see that old classic It’s a Wonderful Life at the Filmhouse in Edinburgh just before Christmas was probably the highlight.

Best comedian: The Edinburgh Festival is always a great event for comics. Alistair McGowan was in good form at The Mound in August.

Most excitement at a football match: Not at Tynecastle, sadly, but at Ochilview Park, Larbert in August when East Stirlingshire came from three goals down to draw level with SPL side St. Mirren. The Saints full-time fitness told in the end and they won 6-3 but it was a hugely entertaining afternoon. The Shire are on the up!

Trip of the year: Dublin in July. A beautiful city, wonderful people and a cooked Irish breakfast to die for!

Book of the Year: Jack Dee’s Thanks for Nothing. A wonderful read from one of the best stand-up comedians in the country.

Best Television Show: BBC’s The Thick of It. Is there a better character actor than Peter Capaldi? His portrayal of political spin doctor Malcolm Tucker blew me away.
Best Radio Show: BBC Radio Four's I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue has retained its excellency, even after the sad death of presenter Humphrey Lyttelton. The aforementioned Jack Dee has done a fine job of filling the great man's shoes.

Quote of the Year: From daughter Michaela when she drove into Tesco’s car park, parked in a disabled parking space near the front of the store and told her mother as she left the vehicle ‘Don’t forget to limp…

Most devious behaviour of the year: Two year old grand-daughter Hannah who has ended 2009 with the complete set of the Smith family wrapped round her little finger. ‘Wasn’t me, Papa, it was Jack’ as she flashes those blue eyes melts me every time. I need to be strong in 2010...

Whatever Happened to?
Ally Kerr - the brilliant musician/songwriter from Glasgow didn’t appear in Edinburgh this year. I know he had a successful tour in Japan - but come back this way, Ally. We need you!

Mixu Paatelainen - the Hibs manager wasn’t producing enough Brazilian flair in the wee team and left at the end of last season. Where is he now I wonder? Also, former Aberdeen boss Jimmy Calderwood - although I suspect he can probably be found in a tanning salon in Govan
Still Game - what’s with the repeat this Hogmanay, fellas? Have Jack and Victor gone to The Clansman in the sky?

First Bus Edinburgh - have they given up on the people of Midlothian at Christmas and New Year? Certainly seems like it. Meanwhile, the vastly superior Lothian Buses are coining it in…

Happy New Year, dear reader. My rants will resume in 2010...

Monday, 28 December 2009

Sunday, 27 December 2009

An Apple and an Orange...


In a desperate attempt to get me to partake in some Christmas spirit, my daughter Michaela bought me a ticket to see the classic Frank Capra film It's a Wonderful Life, shown in Edinburgh's The Filmhouse on Christmas Eve. My loathing for what Christmas has become - a commercial festival lasting a minimum of twelve weeks rather than twelve days - is apparent in the pages of this blog. However, It's a Wonderful Life harks back to a time when Christmas brought out the best in people rather than the opposite. It remains one of my favourite films and I still smile when, towards the end of the film, I hear the despairing James Stewart snap 'Why did we have so many kids?!'

I spent Christmas Day with my daughters, grandchildren and my mother and, like most other families that day, spent the afternoon eating too much, drinking too much and thanking family members telling them they shouldn't have spent so much money this year. Pretty much the same as every other year. With the recession biting hard and thousands of people facing the very real risk of unemployment, I do despair when I see people spending money they evidently haven't got. When the credit card bills drop through the letter boxes of thousands of homes a few weeks from now the spirit of Christmas will be a distant memory, replaced by the high anxiety of having to pay for it.

My grandchildren, Jack and Hannah, were thrilled with their presents although, as ever, they found it difficult to know what to play with first. Their low attention threshold meant they were eager to move on to something else - simply because it was there. My mother, bless her, still speaks of being a child in the Second World War when she and her sisters received an apple and an orange. Seventy years on, getting an Apple and an Orange means you're more likely to get a computer and a mobile phone...

Christmas in my own childhood in the late 1960s/early 1970s meant the latest publication from D.C. Thomson - The Broons or Oor Wullie Annual; The Beezer, The Dandy or a football annual such as Shoot! or The Topical Times. Electronic gadgets were a no-no - not even Rolf Harris's innovative Stylophone (thankfully...) We didn't have turkey for Christmas dinner, we would have chicken. A small chicken, so small it was still in its shell....

Now New Year beckons and a few days off work to recharge the batteries (or sober up, whichever you prefer) Soon it will all be over, the daily grind will return - to those of us lucky enough to still have jobs - and those who think it's tasteful to have hundreds of flashing lights adoring the outside of their house will be switching them off. Darkness and the gloom of January will soon be upon us...

Happy New Year, folks!


Wednesday, 23 December 2009

A Tough Year





It's almost upon us. The time of year when people get together, exchange gifts, eat too much, drink too much and try to forget about work and the stresses and strains of everyday life. For some, however, Christmas can be a difficult time, particularly for those who have lost loved ones during the year.

My youngest daughter Michaela lost her fiance in tragic circumstances last April and this has been well-documented in this blog. She's a bit like her Dad in that she'll put on a front and not want people to fuss over her. 'I'm fine and I can cope' is her forthright message to anyone who shows concern. This doesn't stop me worrying about her. She'll be feeling her loss acutely as Christmas Day approaches. It'll be the little things like not having to look for a present for Billy; not sharing Christmas Day with him; not wondering what he's bought her as a present. She'll see other couples radiate happiness and simply be with each other at a time of the year when being with one another means everything. Michaela won't want me saying this but I'll be giving her an extra hug this Christmas Day - I can only try to imagine how tough it will be for her but she knows her mother and I will be there for her.

I know some readers of this blog have also suffered personal loss this year and my thoughts are with them too. To everyone who has read my ramblings this year, thank you for doing so. I wish each and every one of you a wonderful Christmas and hope 2010 is everything you want it to be.

Friday, 18 December 2009

A True Friend

People come into our lives and walk with us a mile, and then because of circumstance they only stay a while. They serve a need within the days that move so quickly by, and then are gone beyond our reach, we often wonder why. God only knows the reason that we meet and share a smile, why people come into our lives and walk with us a mile.

But a true friend walks in when the whole world walks out...

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Christmas Songs - A Health & Safety Guide


Little Jesus, sweetly sleep, do not stir;
We will lend a coat of fur,
We will rock you, rock you, rock you,
We will rock you, rock you, rock you:

Fur is no longer appropriate wear for small infants, both due to risk of allergy to animal fur, and for ethical reasons. Therefore faux fur, a nice cellular blanket or perhaps micro-fleece material should be considered a suitable alternative. Please note, only persons who have been subject to a Criminal Records Bureau check and have enhanced clearance will be permitted to rock baby Jesus. Persons must carry their CRB disclosure with them at all times and be prepared to provide three forms of identification before rocking commences.

Jingle Bells - Dashing through the snow
In a one horse open sleigh
O ' er the fields we go
Laughing all the way

A risk assessment must be submitted before an open sleigh is considered safe for members of the public to travel on. The risk assessment must also consider whether it is appropriate to use only one horse for such a venture, particularly if passengers are of larger proportions. Please note, permission must be gained from landowners before entering their fields. To avoid offending those not participating in celebrations, we would request that laughter is moderate only and not loud enough to be considered a noise nuisance.

While shepherds watched
Their flocks by night
All seated on the ground
The angel of the Lord came down
And glory shone around

The union of Shepherds has complained that it breaches health and safety regulations to insist that shepherds watch their flocks without appropriate seating arrangements being provided, therefore benches, stools and orthopaedic chairs are now available. Shepherds have also requested that due to the inclement weather conditions at this time of year that they should watch their flocks via CCTV cameras from centrally heated shepherd observation huts. Please note, the angel of the lord is reminded that before shining his/her glory all around he/she must ascertain that all shepherds have been issued with glasses capable of filtering out the harmful effects of UVA, UVB and the overwhelming effects of Glory.

Rudolph, the red-nosed reindeer had a very shiny nose.
And if you ever saw him, you would even say it glows.

You are advised that under the Equal Opportunities for All policy, it is inappropriate for persons to make comment with regard to the ruddiness of any part of Mr. R. Reindeer. Further to this, exclusion of Mr R Reindeer from the Reindeer Games will be considered discriminatory and disciplinary action will be taken against those found guilty of this offence. A full investigation will be implemented and sanctions - including suspension on full pay - will be considered whilst this investigation takes place.

Little donkey, little donkey on the dusty road
Got to keep on plodding onwards with your precious load

The RSPCA have issued strict guidelines with regard to how heavy a load that a donkey of small stature is permitted to carry, also included in the guidelines is guidance regarding how often to feed the donkey and how many rest breaks are required over a four hour plodding period. Please note that due to the increased risk of pollution from the dusty road, Mary and Joseph are required to wear face masks to prevent inhalation of any airborne particles. The donkey has expressed his discomfort at being labelled ' little ' and would prefer just to be simply referred to as Mr. Donkey. To comment upon his height or lack thereof may be considered an infringement of his equine rights.

We three kings of Orient are
Bearing gifts we traverse afar
Field and fountain, moor and mountain
Following yonder star

Whilst the gift of gold is still considered acceptable - as it may be redeemed at a later date through such organisations as ' cash for gold ' etc, gifts of frankincense and myrrh are not appropriate due to the potential risk of oils and fragrances causing allergic reactions. A suggested gift alternative would be to make a donation to a worthy cause in the recipients name or perhaps give a gift voucher.We would not advise that the traversing kings rely on navigation by stars in order to reach their destinations and suggest the use of RAC routefinder or satellite navigation, which will provide the quickest route and advice regarding fuel consumption. Please note as per the guidelines from the RSPCA for Mr Donkey, the camels carrying the three kings of Orient will require regular food and rest breaks. Face masks for the three kings are also advisable due to the likelihood of dust from the camels hooves.

Away in a Manger No Crib for a bed -
This is definitely one for Social services

Sunday, 13 December 2009

The Twelve Days of...


On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me a wee heavy and a half-pint...

On the second day of Christmas my true love gave to me two nips of gin and a wee heavy and a half-pint...

On the third day of Christmas my true love gave to me three black and tans, two nips of gin and a wee heavy and a half-pint...

On the fourth day of Christmas my true love gave to me four Babychams, three black and tans, two nips of gin and a wee heavy and a half-pint...

On the fifth day of Christmas my true love gave to me FIVE BARLEY WIIIIIINES......four Babychams three black and tans, two nips of gin and a wee heavy and a half-pint...

On the Sixth day of Christmas my true love gave to me six Carlsberg specials, FIVE BARLEY WINES.....four Babychams, three black and tans, two nips of gin and a wee heavy and a half-pint...

On the Seventh day of Christmas my true love gave to me seven rum and cokes, six Carlsberg specials, FIVE BARLEY WINES..... four Babychams, three black and tans, two nips of gin and a wee heavy and a half-pint...

On the Eighth day of Christmas my true love gave to me, eight nips of whisky, seven rum and cokes, six Carlsberg specials, FIVE BARLEY WINES.... four Babychams three black and tans, two nips of gin and a wee heavy and a half-pint...

On the Ninth day of Christmas my true love gave to me, nine vodka and limes, eight nips of whisky, seven rum and cokes, six Carlsberg specials, FIVE BARLEY WINES.... four Babychams, three black and tans, two nips of gin and a wee heavy and a half-pint...

On the Tenth day of Christmas my true love gave to me ten creme de menthe, nine vodka and limes, eight nips of whisky, seven rum and cokes, six Carlsberg specials, FIVE BARLEY WINES.... four Babychams, three black and tans, two nips of gin and a wee heavy and a half-pint...

On the eleventh day of Christmas my true love gave to me ,eleven Blue Lagoons, ten creme de menthe, nine vodka and limes, eight nips of whisky, seven rum and cokes, six Carlsberg specials, FIVE BARLEY WINES.... four Babychams, three black and tans, two nips of gin and a wee heavy and a half-pint...

On the twelvth day of Christmas my true love gave to me twelve alka seltsers, eleven Blue Lagoons, ten creme de menthe, nine vodka and limes, eight nips of whisky, seven rum and cokes, six Carlsberg specials, FIVE BARLEY WINES... four Babychams, three black and tans, two nips of gin and....A WEE HEAVY AND A HALF PINT.....
Hic!

Saturday, 12 December 2009

Something for the Weekend

If you can smile when things go wrong, you have someone in mind to blame....

You were looking good from afar.. now you're far from looking good...

I'm not crazy, my reality is just different than yours...

Love your enemies.. it pisses them off...

Sometimes when I reflect back on all the beer I drink I feel ashamed. Then I look into the glass and think about the workers in the brewery and all of their hopes and dreams. If I didn't drink this beer, they might be out of work and their dreams would be shattered. Then I say to myself, "It is better that I drink this beer and let their dreams come true than be selfish and worry about my liver."

Life is like a roller coaster, and I'm about to throw up...

I don't suffer from insanity, I enjoy every minute of it..

It IS as bad as you think and they ARE out to get you...

A committee should consist of three men, two of whom are absent...

I want to die in my sleep like my grandfather... not screaming and yelling like the passengers in his car...

People are seldom too busy to stop and tell you how busy they are...

This place is so weird that the cockroaches have moved next door...

Before you insult somebody you should walk a mile in their shoes. That way when you insult them you'll be a mile away and have their shoes...

Bullshit: the art of making the idiotic sound sensible...

Sunday, 6 December 2009

It's Murder at Tesco...

Tired of constantly being broke & stuck in an unhappy marriage, a young husband decided to solve both problems by taking out a large insurance policy on his wife with himself as the beneficiary, and then arranging to have her killed.

A 'friend of a friend' put him in touch with a nefarious, dark-side, underworld figure who went by the name of 'Artie.' Artie then explained to the husband that his going price for snuffing out a spouse was £5,000.The husband said he was willing to pay that amount, but that he wouldn't have any cash on hand until he could collect his wife's insurance money. Artie insisted on being paid at least something up front, so the man opened his wallet, displaying the single pound coin that rested inside. Artie sighed, rolled his eyes, & reluctantly agreed to accept the pound as down payment for the dirty deed.

A few days later, Artie followed the man's wife to the local Tesco store. There, he surprised her in the produce department and proceeded to strangle her with his gloved hands and as the poor unsuspecting woman drew her last breath and slumped to the floor the manager of the produce department stumbled unexpectedly onto the murder scene. Unwilling to leave any living witnesses behind, ol' Artie had no choice but to strangle the produce manager as well. However, unknown to Artie, the entire proceedings were captured by the hidden security cameras and observed by the store's security guard, who immediately called the police.

Artie was caught and arrested before he could even leave the store. Under intense questioning at the police station, Artie revealed the whole sordid plan, including his unusual financial arrangements with the hapless husband who was also quickly arrested. The next day in the newspaper, the headline declared............

'ARTIE CHOKES TWO FOR A POUND AT TESCO!'

Yes, I know it's an old gag (see what I did there?) but it's Sunday night and you know how much I love Sundays...

Saturday, 5 December 2009

Read All About It


A commission set up to tackle literacy problems in Scottish schools has found almost one in five Scots has difficulty with reading and writing. The commission made 11 key recommendations aimed at addressing the problem of poor literacy skills.

It said tackling problems caused by deprivation was crucial. Judith Gillespie, chairwoman of the commission and development manager of the Scottish Parent Teacher Council, said: "There needs to be a zero-tolerance approach to tackling poor literacy and it's time that this problem was effectively addressed. At the heart of the commission's findings was the need to address the problems caused by social and economic disadvantage at an early age. This should be a key feature in the development of any literacy strategy."

From the BBC News Website

The above story comes as no surprise. I'm proud of my two daughters and what they've achieved in life but it has to be said their spelling leaves a lot to be desired. Many people blame - somewhat ironically - technology for the alarming drop in standards of literacy. Michaela sent me a text the other week telling me she had 'flue' - only she could buck the trend of text language by expanding words unnecessarily rather than abbreviate them. However many youngsters are so accustomed to text protocol that they find it difficult to write in English.

When Laura and Michaela were at primary school they used to get glowing reports from the teachers. However, it was always a bone of contention come parents evening when I got to see some of their work and I would ask why their spelling was so awful. The school party line was consistent if nothing else - it didn't matter how they spelt things as long as they were writing things down. Something I didn't agree with at the time but my pleas were ignored.

I shudder when I read reports like the one above and read about a 'zero-tolerance' approach. I wish the experts would leave the cliched spin and buck passing and just get on with tackling the problem. They could start by teaching primary school children how to spell. As for blaming deprivation - this seems to me to be disguised as lazy parents who can't be arsed to sit with their children and read them stories because 'I'm a Big Brother Celebrity Strictly Dancing in the Jungle Get Me Out of Here' is on the goggle box.

Try that as a starting point for the 'literacy strategy'....

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

All I Want Is...

You have to feel for poor, harassed shop assistants at this time of the year.

Today, I was browsing in the excellent Fopps Record Store in Edinburgh's Rose Street and asked if they had anything by The Doors.

“A fat security guard and a Big Issue seller,” replied the assistant.

As I said earlier, wake me up when it's January...

Sunday, 29 November 2009

Happy St. Andrew's Day...


...on Monday. To Scots everywhere.

An Obsession with Independence


Opposition parties have urged Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond to shelve his planned independence referendum. The call came on the eve of the publication the Scottish National Party's white paper on Scotland's constitutional future, to be followed by a Referendum Bill. The minority Scottish government currently does not have enough support to pass the referendum in parliament. Labour's Scottish Secretary Jim Murphy accused the SNP of a "peculiar obsession" with independence.

From the BBC News Website.

Now, admittedly, I've had a trying and tiring week. However, dear reader, can you advise if I'm missing something here? Jim Murphy - a fella, incidentally, who looks more than a bit creepy - says the Scottish National Party has a peculiar obsession with independence. What's that? The SNP are obsessed with independence for Scotland? Well, knock me sideways with a saltire.

In other news - Pope believed to have Catholic leanings; Osama Bin Laden doesn't care much for Americans; bears believed to defecate in the woods...

Saturday, 28 November 2009

Thoughts for the Day

I think part of a best friend's job should be to immediately clear your computer history if you die.

That sinking feeling during an argument when you realise you're wrong...

I totally take back all those times I didn't want to nap when I was younger.

There is great need for a sarcasm font.

How are you supposed to fold a fitted sheet?

Obituaries would be a lot more interesting if they told you how the person died.

I can't remember the last time I wasn't at least kind of tired.

Bad decisions make good stories.

You never know when it will strike, but there comes a moment at work when you know that you just aren't going to do anything productive for the rest of the day (if my boss reads this I'm only kidding...)

Can we all just agree to ignore whatever comes after Blue Ray? I don't want to have to restart my collection.. .again.

I'm always slightly concerned when I exit out of Word and it asks me if I want to save any changes to my ten-page article that I swear I did not make any changes to.

"Do not machine wash or tumble dry" means I will never wash this - ever.

I hate when I just miss a call by the last ring (Hello? Hello? Damn it!). But when I immediately call back, it rings nine times and goes to voicemail. What did you do after I didn't answer? Drop the phone and run away?

I hate leaving my house confident and looking good, then not seeing anyone of importance the entire day. What a waste.

I keep some people's phone numbers in my phone just so I know not to answer when they call.

Thursday, 26 November 2009

'Tis the Season...


...Edinburgh's Christmas lights were switched on tonight - and we're still in November.

Wake me up when it's Boxing Day...

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Political Spin


Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Tory leader David Cameron have apologised after claims they used an Armistice Day service as a photo opportunity. Officials at Westminster Abbey raised concerns that the leaders had failed to notify senior staff they were to be pictured in its Field of Remembrance.

Mr Cameron's photographer pictured him inspecting tributes on crosses. Mr Brown was also filmed there. Mr Cameron said: "It shouldn't have happened... I want to make that clear."

From the BBC News Website

Doesn't this just sum up our politicians today? Spin, spin and more spin. It wasn't enough for Messrs. Brown and Cameron to pay their respects in a dignified, unobtrusive manner. They just had to ensure someone was there to record them doing so.

'New' Labour has been spinning like a Catherine Wheel for more than fifteen years now. When Tony Blair was Prime Minister he was the perfect front for Labour lies and conning the British public into thinking the country was great again. Nice Tony, smiling Tony, caring Tony - how could anyone disagree with him? Until the weapons of mass destruction fiasco and losing soldiers lives unnecessarily in Iraq and Afghanistan showed his true colours...

The Tory Party are no better. David Cameron comes across as a smug, know-it-all politician who is desperate to show he's the new, improved Tony Blair. The prospect of the Conservatives getting back into power again is a truly frightening one, particularly for Scotland. Few Scots will ever forget how Margaret Thatcher - who was shaking the hand of Gordon Brown outside Number Ten Downing Street the other day - tried and damn near succeeded in destroying our country. Something Cameron should think about next time he thinks it's a smart move to head for Glasgow to campaign for his party in a by-election (will he be in Glasgow for the general election a few months from now? Probably not...)

What a pity Jim Hacker isn't still around. The fictional MP and Prime Minister from the BBC comedy Yes Prime Minister, along with his civil servant Sir Humphrey Appleby, probably knew more about politics than Brown and Cameron put together...

Sunday, 22 November 2009

It Will Never Stand Up...

The present swine flu pandemic is a concern for many. My pregnant daughter Laura recently contracted it but seems to have recovered. I suspected I caught it as well although it was never confirmed - but I'm over the worst now. However, here's my real concern.

Three years ago, it was the Chinese calendar year of the cow - and there was an outbreak of Mad Cow disease.

Two years ago, it was the Chinese calendar year of the bird - and Avian flu was rife.

This year, it was the Chinese calendar year of the pig . . . and from being little heard of six months ago there is now a Swine flu pandemic.

Next year is the Chinese calendar year of the cock . . . anybody else worried?

Thursday, 19 November 2009

I'm Off to the Pub


Drinking alcohol every day cuts the risk of heart disease in men by more than a third, a major study suggests. Research involving more than 15,500 men and 26,000 women found large quantities of alcohol could be even more beneficial for men. Female drinkers did not benefit to the same extent, the study in 'Heart' found.

Experts are critical, warning heavy drinking can increase the risk of other diseases, with alcohol responsible for 1.8 million deaths globally per year. The study was conducted in Spain, a country with relatively high rates of alcohol consumption and low rates of coronary heart disease.

From the BBC News Website.

A couple of pints of Belhaven Best, please barman. Purely for medicinal reasons, mind...

Monday, 16 November 2009

At a Golf Club in Scotland...

Here is an actual sign posted at a golf club in Scotland...

1. BACK STRAIGHT, KNEES BENT, FEET SHOULDER WIDTH APART.

2. FORM A LOOSE GRIP.

3. KEEP YOUR HEAD DOWN!

4. AVOID A QUICK BACK SWING.

5. STAY OUT OF THE WATER.

6. TRY NOT TO HIT ANYONE.

7. IF YOU ARE TAKING TOO LONG, LET OTHERS GO AHEAD OF YOU.

8. DON'T STAND DIRECTLY IN FRONT OF OTHERS.

9. QUIET PLEASE...WHILE OTHERS ARE PREPARING.

10. DON'T TAKE EXTRA STROKES.

WELL DONE... NOW, FLUSH THE URINAL, WASH YOUR HANDS AND GO OUTSIDE, AND TEE OFF.

Sunday, 15 November 2009

The Skababs


It's been a Ska weekend for the Auld Reekie Ranter. After watching the legends that are The Specials at the Corn Exchange on Thursday night, I headed for the somewhat less salubrious surroundings of the Black Bull in Dalkeith to see Edinburgh's very own The Skababs.

It was an excellent gig and 'Skaliwag' and the boys created a hugely enjoyable night for fans of ska as they belted out cover versions of many old ska classics. Adding on The Undertones Teenage Kicks was a master stroke!

If you get the chance to see the band grab it with both hands. Click on the title of this post for a link to the band's website. They are not to be missed!

Friday, 13 November 2009

The Specials in Edinburgh



I had the pleasure of seeing The Specials in Edinburgh on Thursday night as part of their 30th Anniversary Tour. I can scarcely believe three decades have passed since Terry Hall, Neville Staples et al first started with their two-tone style making them the stuff of legend.

The sell-out crowd at Edinburgh's Corn Exchange were ecstatic to see their heroes and the band were as brilliant as ever. They performed all the old favourites - Gangsters, Rat Race, Saturday Night Sunday Morning and topped off a sublime performance with the iconic Ghost Town.

I was also highly impressed with the support band Pama International, a reggae/ska band who performed brilliantly before the main event.

It's not often I get the opportunity to see legends in action. Last night I was privileged to do so.
May I thank Susan, who reads my inane ramblings, for advising me of the additional tickets which went on sale. In fact, I can't thank you enough.

Monday, 9 November 2009

His and Hers Diaries

HER DIARY

Tonight, I thought my husband was acting weird. We had made plans to meet at a bar to have a drink. I was shopping with my friends all day long, so I thought he was upset at the fact that I was a bit late, but he made no comment on it. Conversation wasn't flowing, so I suggested that we go somewhere quiet so we could talk. He agreed, but he didn't say much.

I asked him what was wrong. He said, 'Nothing.' I asked him if it was my fault that he was upset. He said he wasn't upset, that it had nothing to do with me, and not to worry about it. On the way home, I told him that I loved him. He smiled slightly, and kept driving.

I can't explain his behaviour. I don't know why he didn't say, 'I love you, too.' When we got home, I felt as if I had lost him completely, as if he wanted nothing to do with me anymore. He just sat there quietly, and watched TV. He continued to seem distant and absent. Finally, with silence all around us, I decided to go to bed. About 15 minutes later, he came to bed. To my surprise, he responded to my caress, and we made love. But I still felt that he was distracted, and his thoughts were somewhere else. He fell asleep -I cried. I don't know what to do. I'm almost sure that his thoughts are with someone else. My life is a disaster

HIS DIARY

The new car I bought yesterday wouldn't start today - but at least I got laid......

Sunday, 8 November 2009

A Time to Remember

Remembrance Sunday is a paradox of emotion. On the one hand, the loss of millions of lives in conflicts dating back nearly a century seems such a waste of human life; soldiers young and old having their lives taken from them on some far away place, leaving a trail of devastation for those loved ones left behind. On the other, today is a day we remember those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for their country, who gave their lives in order that the rest of us can live the way we do today. Across the world millions of people will fall silent today as a mark of respect for those who died for their countries.

None of my family were killed in action. However, as I remember those heroic people who did, I also think about those in my family who are no longer with us. My grandmother, who passed away in 1986 aged 76 and just three months short of the birth of my first daughter Laura; my father who passed away so suddenly in 1997 aged 58 and who never saw his grandchildren grow up to be the fine young adults they are today; and my youngest daughter Michaela's fiance who was taken away from her so tragically earlier this year, aged just 21.

Today is a time for reflection across the world. For those affected by seemingly ceaseless conflict. And for those who aren't but have suffered loss nonetheless.

Lest we forget.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Letters of Complaint to the Council...

1.. It's the dogs' mess that I find hard to swallow

2.. I want some repairs done to my cooker as it has backfired and burnt my knob off.

3.. I wish to complain that my father broke his ankle very badly when he put his foot in the hole in his back passage..

4.. And their 18 year old son is continually banging his balls against my fence.

5.. I wish to report that tiles are missing from the outside toilet roof. I think it was bad wind the other day that blew them off.

6..My lavatory seat is cracked, where do I stand?

7.. I am writing on behalf of my sink, which is coming away from the wall.

8... Will you please send someone to mend the garden path. My wife tripped and fell on it yesterday and now she is pregnant.

9.. I request permission to remove my drawers in the kitchen.

10.. 50% of the walls are damp, 50% have crumbling plaster, and 50% are plain filthy.

11.. I am still having problems with smoke in my new drawers.

12.. The toilet is blocked and we cannot bath the children until it is cleared.

13..Will you please send a man to look at my water, it is a funny colour and not fit to drink.

14..Our lavatory seat is broken in half and now is in three pieces.

15..I want to complain about the farmer across the road. Every morning at 6am his cock wakes me up and it's now getting too much for me.

16..The man next door has a large erection in the back garden, which is unsightly and dangerous.

17...Our kitchen floor is damp. We have two children and would like a third so please send someone round to do something about it.

18..I am a single woman living in a downstairs flat and would you please do something about the noise made by the man on top of me every night.

19..Please send a man with the right tool to finish the job and satisfy my wife.

20.. I have had the clerk of works down on the floor six times but I still have no satisfaction.

21.. This is to let you know that our lavatory seat is broke and we can't get BBC2.

22.. My bush is really overgrown round the front and my back passage has fungus growing in it.

23..He's got this huge tool that vibrates the whole house and I just can't take it anymore.

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Misery - The Key to Happiness. It's Official!

Feeling grumpy 'is good for you'

An attack of the grumps can make you communicate better, it is suggested
In a bad mood? Don't worry - according to research, it's good for you. An Australian psychology expert who has been studying emotions has found being grumpy makes us think more clearly.
In contrast to those annoying happy types, miserable people are better at decision-making and less gullible, his experiments showed.

While cheerfulness fosters creativity, gloominess breeds attentiveness and careful thinking, Professor Joe Forgas told Australian Science Magazine. The University of New South Wales researcher says a grumpy person can cope with more demanding situations than a happy one because of the way the brain "promotes information processing strategies".

Negative moods trigger more attentive, careful thinking, paying greater attention to the external world Professor Joe Forgas. He asked volunteers to watch different films and dwell on positive or negative events in their life, designed to put them in either a good or bad mood. Next he asked them to take part in a series of tasks, including judging the truth of urban myths and providing eyewitness accounts of events.

Those in a bad mood outperformed those who were jolly - they made fewer mistakes and were better communicators.

Professor Forgas said: "Whereas positive mood seems to promote creativity, flexibility, co-operation and reliance on mental shortcuts, negative moods trigger more attentive, careful thinking, paying greater attention to the external world."

The study also found that sad people were better at stating their case through written arguments, which Forgas said showed that a "mildly negative mood may actually promote a more concrete, accommodative and ultimately more successful communication style".

His earlier work shows the weather has a similar impact on us - wet, dreary days sharpened memory, while bright sunny spells make people forgetful.

From the BBC News Website

Saturday, 31 October 2009

Council Rant No. 94

The good citizens of Hawick aren't best pleased with Midlothian Council's spelling or proof reading abilities...

Friday, 30 October 2009

Book News

I was wondering why sales of Hearts - The Diary of an Incredible Season were down recently...

Thursday, 29 October 2009

Misery - The Key to Happiness

The key to a happy relationship could be accepting that some miserable times are unavoidable, experts say. Therapists from California State University, Northridge and Virginia Tech say accepting these problems is better than striving for perfection. And they blame cultural fairytales and modern love stories for perpetuating the myth that enjoying a perfect relationship is possible.

From the BBC News Website

Now this news report from 2007 - which I stumbled upon tonight - doesn't reveal anything startling. I got married on 19 June 1982 and it didn't take me long to realise miserable times were ahead - in fact it was the early hours of 20 June 1982...

It's being miserable that keeps me going. First thing in the morning is when I'm at my worst. Another hellish day lies ahead at work; the joys of Edinburgh's public transport system means it will take me at least an hour to get to the office with the inevitable roadworks on at least one part of the journey in adding to this; now winter is here it's dark and raining most mornings; and today I was asked by a colleague at work if I would be joining the Secret Santa charade at the dreaded Office Christmas Party. Ask me in December, I protested although it's a near certainty you'll get the same answer - not bloody likely.

Those cheery types who bounce into the office first thing in the morning with a smile and an irritating 'Hi! How are you?' really irritate the hell out of me. Some people tell me I should adopt a more positive outlook on life and that I will live longer as a result. Which begs the question - why the hell would I want to live longer? Life is pretty shit as it is - and this year has been one helluva year...

So, as the story above says miserable times are unavoidable. As a fortysomething with two daughters and two grandchildren - and another brat on the way - as well as being lumbered with being a fan of Heart of Midlothian FC - you certainly won't find me disagreeing!

Sunday, 25 October 2009

The Thick of It...



...the political satire was back on BBC2 tonight. Superb stuff as always. And an inspired choice to have Everton manager David Moyes playing the part of Malcolm Tucker...

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Nelson at Trafalgar.....2009

Nelson: 'Order the signal, Hardy.'

Hardy: 'Aye, aye sir.'

Nelson: 'Hold on, that's not what I dictated to Flags. What's the meaning of this?'

Hardy: 'Sorry sir?'

Nelson (reading aloud): '''England expects every person to do his or her duty, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, religious persuasion, age or disability" - What gobbledegook is this?'

Hardy: 'Admiralty policy, I'm afraid, sir. We're an Equal Opportunities employer now. We had the devil's own job getting ' England ' past the censors, lest it be considered racist.'

Nelson: 'Gadzooks, Hardy. Hand me my pipe and tobacco.'

Hardy: 'Sorry sir. All naval vessels have now been designated smoke-free working environments.'

Nelson: 'In that case, break open the rum ration. Let us splice the main-brace to steel the men before battle.'

Hardy: 'The rum ration has been abolished, Admiral. It's part of the Government's policy on binge drinking.'

Nelson: 'Good heavens, Hardy. I suppose we'd better get on with it ....... full speed ahead.'

Hardy: 'I think you'll find that there's a 4-knot speed limit in this stretch of water.'

Nelson: 'Damn it man! We are on the eve of the greatest sea battle in history. We must advance with all dispatch. Report from the crow's nest please.'

Hardy: 'That won't be possible, sir.'

Nelson: 'What?'

Hardy: 'Health and Safety have closed the crow's nest, sir - no harness. And they said that rope ladders don't meet regulations. They won't let anyone up there until a proper scaffolding can be erected.'

Nelson: 'Then get me the ship's carpenter without delay, Hardy.'

Hardy: 'He's busy knocking up a wheelchair access to the foredeck, Admiral.'

Nelson: 'Wheelchair access? I've never heard anything so absurd.'

Hardy: 'Health and Safety again, sir. We have to provide a barrier-free environment for the differently-abled.'

Nelson: 'Differently-abled? I've only one arm and one eye and I refuse even to hear mention of the word. I didn't rise to the rank of Admiral by playing the disability card.'

Hardy: 'Actually, sir, you did. The Royal Navy is under-represented in the areas of visual impairment and limb deficiency.'

Nelson: 'Whatever next? Break out the cannon and tell the men to stand by to engage the enemy.'

Hardy: 'The men are a bit worried about shooting at anyone, Admiral.They're afraid of being charged with murder if they actually kill anyone. There's a couple of legal-aid lawyers on board, watching everyone like hawks.'

Nelson: 'Then how are we to sink the Frenchies and the Spanish?'

Hardy: 'Actually, sir, we're not.'
Nelson: 'We're not?'

Hardy: 'No, sir.. The French and the Spanish are our European partners now. According to the Common Fisheries Policy, we shouldn't even be in this stretch of water. We could get hit with a claim for compensation.'

Nelson: 'But you must hate a Frenchman as you hate the devil?'

Hardy: 'I wouldn't let the ship's Diversity Co-Ordinator hear you saying that, sir. You'll be up on a disciplinary report.'

Nelson: 'You must consider every man an enemy, who speaks ill of your King.'

Hardy: 'Not any more, sir. We must be inclusive in this multicultural age. Now put on your Kevlar vest - it's the rules. It could save your life.'

Nelson: 'Don't tell me - health and safety. Whatever happened to rum, sodomy and the lash?'

Hardy: As I explained, sir, rum is off the menu. And there's a ban on corporal punishment.'

Nelson: 'What about sodomy?'

Hardy: 'I believe that is now legal, sir.'

Nelson: 'In that case..... kiss me, Hardy.'

Friday, 16 October 2009

Makes You Think...

Two men, both seriously ill, occupied the same hospital room. One man was allowed to sit up in his bed for an hour each afternoon to help drain the fluid from his lungs. His bed was next to the room's only window. The other man had to spend all his time flat on his back. The men talked for hours on end.

They spoke of their wives and families, their homes, their jobs, their involvement in the military service, where they had been on holiday. Every afternoon, when the man in the bed by the window could sit up, he would pass the time by describing to his roommate all the things he could see outside the window. The man in the other bed began to live for those one hour periods where his world would be broadened and enlivened by all the activity and color of the world outside.

The window overlooked a park with a lovely lake. Ducks and swans played on the water while children sailed their model boats. Young lovers walked arm in arm amidst flowers of every color and a fine view of the city skyline could be seen in the distance. As the man by the window described all this in exquisite details, the man on the other side of the room would close his eyes and imagine this picturesque scene.

One warm afternoon, the man by the window described a parade passing by.Although the other man could not hear the band - he could see it in his mind's eye as the gentleman by the window portrayed it with descriptive words. Days, weeks and months passed. One morning, the day nurse arrived to bring water for their baths only to find the lifeless body of the man by the window, who had died peacefully in his sleep. She was saddened and called the hospital attendants to take the body away.

As soon as it seemed appropriate, the other man asked if he could be moved next to the window. The nurse was happy to make the switch, and after making sure he was comfortable, she left him alone. Slowly, painfully, he propped himself up on one elbow to take his first look at the real world outside. He strained to slowly turn to look out the window beside the bed. It faced a blank wall.

The man asked the nurse what could have compelled his deceased roommate who had described such wonderful things outside this window. The nurse responded that the man was blind and could not even see the wall. She said, 'Perhaps he just wanted to encourage you.'

Epilogue: There is tremendous happiness in making others happy, despite our own situations. Shared grief is half the sorrow, but happiness when shared, is doubled. If you want to feel rich, just count all the things you have that money can't buy.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

What's the Score? Football in the Seventies



We live in an age where communication is instant. Indeed, we demand it to be so. Satellite technology and the advance of the internet and mobile phones means that no matter where you are in the world you can have almost instant access to any sporting event worth its salt. It’s a far cry from when I first began going to football back in the late 1960s.

Back then, satellite technology was in its infancy. Yes, the USA were putting men on the moon but life in Scotland was literally more down to earth. Football was different four decades ago. There were only two divisions, First and Second with eighteen teams in the top flight. Teams would play each other just twice a season in the league and if my team Hearts were playing away - always on a Saturday afternoon in the days before games were covered live on television - the reserve team would be playing our opponents reserve team at Tynecastle.

Hearts struggled throughout the 1970s and attendances at Tynecastle were about half what they are now. On cold winter afternoons with a biting wind and lashing rain fans would huddle in the old Tynecastle shed urging on the likes of Rab Prentice, Drew Busby and Donald Ford. Unless you had a transistor radio with you - it’s a seventies thing, younger readers - getting the half-time scores from other games usually meant forking out a shilling (five pence) for a programme (in the days before they were called match day magazines). The other fixtures would be printed with capital letters next to them and a man would climb the half-time scoreboard on the Gorgie Road terracing slotting numbers on the board. For example, next to the letter A he would place 1-1. A quick look at the programme would show Aberdeen were drawing at home to Hibernian…

I was living in Aberdeen in 1971 when Partick Thistle recorded their famous League Cup Final triumph over Celtic, who were then one of the best clubs in Europe. I was at Pittodrie with a friend and there were huge hoots of derision when the fella on the half-time scoreboard on the then wide open Pittodrie terracing put 4-0 next to the letter A. The silly man must have got the score the wrong way round we assumed. As if Thistle would be four nil up against Celtic at half time we chortled. Astonishingly, it was true…

Back in the 1970s, the term mobile phone meant someone picking up their old dialling contraption and throwing it across the living room on discovering on BBC1’s Grandstand results service that their team had lost at Arbroath. In fact, a good many households didn’t even have a telephone - we didn’t get one in our house until 1976. The internet was something connected with the space agency NASA. The radio was the main source of getting updated football scores and tuning into Radio Scotland was a challenge in itself. No digital radio then, of course. It was VHF and medium wave and I seem to recall Radio Scotland being an extension of BBC Radio Four. So much so, that Sportsound - or Sportsreel I think it was called back then - didn’t start until 3.30pm on a Saturday afternoon. When I lived in Aberdeen as a child I used to spend an anxious half an hour from three o-clock on a Saturday wondering how the mighty - okay this was the 1970s so not so mighty - Jambos were getting on. It was at this time my pessimistic streak developed and has remained with me to this day. Hearts away to Dumbarton? Ach, they’ll skoosh it. By half past three, we’re bound to be at least three goals ahead. Then the dulcet tones of presenter Brian Marjoriebanks would come on and after updating us on Celtic and Rangers first - some things never change - eventually he would advise ‘and the latest from Boghead is that Dumbarton lead Hearts by a goal to nil…’ I soon learned to accept crushing disappointment as a way of life. As my father used to say to me ‘well, son, you chose to follow Hearts…’

Those of us who grew up in the 1970s and were avid football fans will remember the magnificent David Francey as Radio Scotland’s commentator supreme. Francey sounded like a loveable grandad, someone who would offer you sweets when you were expressly forbidden to have anything to eat before supper. ‘Oh and there’s a drive from the edge of the penalty box which has just whistled past the left hand post of Jim Cruickshank’ - his commentary often gave us better pictures that Archie Macpherson did in the edited television highlights on Saturday evening. Having said that, taking a radio to the game to get the other scores was often fraught with danger. When Hearts needed just a point from that game at Dens Park on the final day of season 1985-86 and hoped Celtic wouldn’t get the avalanche of goals they needed at St. Mirren to address their inferior goal difference the fella standing in front of me at Dundee dared to relay the news that The Hoops were four nil ahead at half-time. He was either very brave or very stupid depending on your view…

When the dust had settled on a Saturday afternoon and all the results were in the Hearts result would determine whether I nipped down the road to the local newsagent for a copy of the Saturday sports paper which was rushed out shortly after five o’clock and had all the results and brief match reports from the top games. Nearly every city had one. In Edinburgh it was the Pink News, printed on horrendous pink paper; in Aberdeen it was the Green Final printed on - well, you get the picture. After scouring through the paper to get scores and reports your hands were usually black with newsprint. I still recall the air of anticipation waiting in the newsagents for the screeching sound of the delivery van whose driver would lob a freshly printed batch of papers toward the door of the shop with the accuracy of a Danny McGrain throw in.

We forty something fans are often accused of looking at the past through rose-tinted - or in my case maroon-tinted spectacles. However, I can’t deny there were some truly awful games at Tynecastle three decades and more ago. Moreover, it’s difficult to imagine going to games now without having instant access to other scores through mobile phone and satellite technology.
However, there was an innocence about the days before mass technology I miss. The days before everything was sponsored, strips were emblazoned with names and most of us actually stood on the terracing for ninety minutes. On the other hand I don’t miss standing on the wide-open terracings in the middle of winter with the rain running down the back of your neck; the pissheads who stumbled through the turnstyles at 2.55pm having been in the pub for the past three hours and who would urinate down the back of your leg; or the ever present threat of violence that meant when you wore your team’s scarf walking down the road you were asking for a kicking.

Something I’ll hang on to next time Christian Nade’s attempt on goal knocks a Blackberry from the hands of a fan in row 25 of the Gorgie Stand…

Sunday, 11 October 2009

Thank You For Being a Friend...

Are you tired of those weak 'friendship' poems that always sound good, but never actually come close to reality? Here are a series of promises that actually speak of true friendship. You will see no cute little smiley faces here - this is a Scottish blog after all. Just the stone cold truth of a great friendship..

1. When you are sad -- I will help you get pissed and plot revenge against the bastard who made you sad.

2. When you are blue -- I will try to dislodge whatever is choking you.

3. When you smile -- I will know you are thinking of something that I would probably want to be involved in.

4. When you are scared -- I will take the piss out of you every chance I get until you're NOT.

5. When you are worried -- I will tell you stories about how much worse it could be until YOU STOP WHINING!

6. When you are confused -- I will try to use only little words.

7. When you are sick -- Stay the hell away from me until you are well again. I don't want whatever you have.

8. When you fall, I will laugh at you, you clumsy arse, but I'll help you up.

9. This is my oath.... I pledge it to the end. 'Why?' you may ask;
Because you are my friend.

Send this to ten of your closest friends - then get depressed because you can only think of four... .

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

I'll Give it a Miss, Thanks...

Most of us are affected by the scourge of the Internet - spam email. I tried to get tickets to see The Specials who are playing in Edinburgh next month - so far without success. In a moment of weakness I tried a ticket agency called Seatwave in the vain hope they might have some left. Sadly, they haven't. Even sadder, they now email me on a weekly basis with details of 'events' I wouldn't be seen dead at. However, they've excelled themselves today with chances to buy tickets for the following forthcoming 'unmissable events' in the UK:

Jimmy Carr - a comedian who is about as funny as a vasectomy. Channel Four clearly believe Carr is a comic genius but on the odd occasion I've caught a few minutes of his act on the television I immediately regret wasting those minutes of my life...

Michael McIntyre - here's another 'comedian' - although I use this term loosely - for whom the term 'up his own arse' could have been coined. That said there is at least one person guaranteed to be laughing at this show - Michael McIntyre. Even less amusing than Mr Carr and that's saying something...

WWE DX Invasion - the accompanying photograph on the email tells me this is something to do with wrestling. Not the homespun British sport that was so popular in the 1970s - I remember the likes of Mick McManus, Big Daddy and Giant Haystacks with a certain degree of fondness - but the loud, crass, cringe worthy American stuff that just irritates the hell out of me.

NFL Patriots v Bucs at Wembley Stadium - I sometimes wonder why the Americans just don't invade the UK and be done with it. I have no interest whatsoever in American football and I wouldn't go even if Seatwave paid me...

And finally: Ricky Gervais. A few years ago the star of The Office was mildly amusing. Now he suffers from the same affliction as Michael McIntyre, namely he loves disappearing up his own rectum. America seems to have taken to Ricky - which speaks volumes really.

Congratulations to Seatwave, however. I can hardly think of any other 'events' I'd rather not go and see. Now about The Specials gig in Edinburgh next month. Anyone got any spare tickets...?

Sunday, 4 October 2009

The Continuing Demise of The Scotsman


The news that The Scotsman will no longer be printed in Edinburgh is another blow to the once esteemed newspaper. More than 100 jobs are to go as the owners of the paper - Johnston Press - told staff they intended to move printing to Glasgow.

I first began reading The Scotsman more than two decades ago when I lived in Aberdeen. Looking at that time to move to the capital city, The Scotsman was the best way for me to keep in touch with what was happening in Edinburgh; job vacancies, places to live etc. At that time The Scotsman was a quality broadsheet newspaper and I was often ridiculed by ignorant Aberdonian colleagues that I was buying a 'snobs paper'. There were quality sports journalists such as Mike Aitken and Ian Wood, both of whom have influenced my style of writing over the years.

The Scotsman now is a tabloid paper and there's little doubt it has gone down market in recent years. Not so long ago the paper had presitgious offices in Edinburgh's North Bridge (pictured left) They left this magnificent building to head down Holyrood way. This latest move by its owners to save costs is typical of an industry that is struggling to cope with the ever expanding internet. People demand instant communication these days and through websites such as the BBC and SKY they can get it - usually for nothing (although News International who own SKY and The Sun and News of the World newspapers are considering introducing a charge for their on-line versions. How many people will be willing to pay for stories about Kate Price, Big Brother and Ant and Dec is debatable...)

The demise of The Scotsman is another sad chapter to add to an ever-changing society. Those who remain in the newspaper industry must be increasingly concerned about their futures. I wish them well...

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

A Pregnant Pause

Without wishing to sound like the late, great Rikki Fulton's Reverend I.M. Jolly - it's been a helluva year what with one thing and another. On Monday I joined the rest of the family in celebrating youngest daughter Michaela's 20th birthday. There was one notable absentee from the celebrations - elder daughter Laura. She was at home, in bed, struggling to stop being sick. Today she was admitted to Edinburgh's Royal Infirmary. The reason for her incessant nausea? She is pregnant.

Next March - all being well - I shall be blessed with grandchild number three. I have little doubt that grandchildren one and two, Jack and Hannah - or Bonnie and Clyde as I like to call them - will welcome their new sibling with open arms and will waste little time in teaching the little blighter how to wrap Papa around his/her little finger. But, I need to be strong.

My thoughts tonight are with Laura and the hope she gets home either tomorrow or the day after. Her well being is paramount. My other concerns - such as how the hell am I going to find the money for presents for Christmas 2010 - can wait...

Sunday, 27 September 2009

Happy Birthday Michaela

Being in your late forties is a curious time. Some way from thinking about retiring and what do to with your twilight years but not as far away - in the opposite direction - from when you were a youth and thinking you had the world at your feet.

On Monday my youngest daughter Michaela celebrates her 20th birthday. She has always been - and always will be - my wee girl and while she was still a teenager this was my metaphor for clinging on to the wreckage of my younger days. 'Yes, I have a teenage daughter' intimated I wasn't yet ready to be put out to grass. Admittedly, this was trumped more than four years ago with the 'yes, I am a grandad' thanks to my older daughter Laura...

When Michaela herself tells me she is feeling her age any last vestige of hope I have of clinging on to my youth disappears. This has been a difficult year for her, as has been documented elsewhere in this blog. I know she will be wishing Billy was still here to share her birthday with her. But throughout these last few difficult months she has demonstrated integrity and a maturity far beyond her still tender years - something that makes my heart swell with pride.

Happy birthday, darling. A new decade begins. I know at the end of it you'll be making your auld faither even prouder.

Thursday, 24 September 2009

If You've Seen Juan...

A woman has twins, and gives them up for adoption. One of them goes to a family in Egypt and is named "Amal." The other goes to a family in Spain, they name him "Juan". Years later, Juan sends a picture of himself to his mum. Upon receiving the picture, she tells her husband that she wished she also had a picture of Amal. Her husband responds, "But they are twins. If you've seen Juan, you've seen Amal."

A Freudian slip is when you say one thing but mean your mother.

An invisible man marries an invisible woman. The kids were nothing to look at either.

An optimist is a very dense fog, but a bigamist is even denser.

And don't forget the Russian astronaut who was nervous about going into space so he took too many antidepressants, became psychotic and killed his fellow crew members on the space station. He was charged with premedicated MIRder.

And there's the case of a pert and perceptive young lady of our acquaintance. Her boy friend is currently prospecting for oil somewhere in the Middle East. So she sent him a 'Get Well' card.

At a hearing aid centre 'Let us give you some sound advice.'

At one time, economic conditions caused the closing of several small clothing mills in the English countryside. A man from West Germany bought the buildings and converted them into dog kennels for the convenience of German tourists who liked to have their pets with them while vacationing in England. One summer evening, a local resident called to his wife to come out of the house. "Just listen!" he urged. "The mills are alive with the hounds of Munich!"

In all the commotion the little moth asleep on the light fixture awakened. He listened to the story in amazement. As the whole story unfolded the moth became terribly sad - Have you ever seen a moth bawl?

It's a good thing someone invented venetian blinds, otherwise, it would be curtains for everyone.

Many years ago there was a small town that had several bakeries. One of these was run by the aunts of a man named Penn. He and his aunts baked the best pies in the state. Not only that, but they were also the least expensive. Now the other bakers could make equally delicious pies, but Penn always sold more, for no one could beat the 'pie rates of Penn's aunts'.

Recently a guy in Paris nearly got away with stealing several paintings from the Louvre. However, after planning the crime, getting in and out past security, he was captured only two blocks away when his lorry ran out of gas.. When asked how he could mastermind such a crime and then make such an obvious error, he replied "I had no Monet to buy Degas to make the Van Gogh...."


Had enough?

Monday, 21 September 2009

Aisle be Back (no I won't...)


One of the many plus points about the internet is the emergence of on-line shopping. I don't just mean the occasional splashing out on a luxurious item such as a television, computer or some other electrical gadget. I mean the hum-drum exercise that is getting food on the table and other household necessities. In years gone by I grew to detest the trail round the supermarket and the weekly battle for groceries. Now I shop from home via the websites of the likes of Tescos, Sainsbury's and ASDA. Sainsbury's is my preferred choice as - take note Tescos - they usually turn up when they say they're going to and usually deliver everything I order. Today being a holiday in Edinburgh, however, I opted to head to ASDA as my darling daughter Michaela offered to pick me up outside the supermarket and take me home (there'll be a price to pay for this but I'm unsure just what this will be...) But my visit merely reminded me how much I hate shopping...

If some people drove their cars they way they steer their shopping trolleys there would be carnage on the roads. The danger begins before you even enter the building, merely by obtaining a trolley from outside and making for the entrance. Today I appeared to be the only person who knew where they were going. Without wishing to be sexist - okay I will be sexist - it's mainly women who are the main offenders here. It's the same with any kind of shopping. Men know what they're going for, know where to get it, get it, pay for it and head home. A relatively simple modus operandum but one which appears far too complicated for the female of the species who just amble around aimlessly. Worse still, they appear happy to do so.

Getting a clear run down one of the countless aisles is damn near impossible. And it's nearly always the shopper with the trolley overflowing with goods who leaves said trolley in the middle of the aisle while they consider whether to buy free trade coffee, decaffeinated coffee (decaffeinated coffee - am I the only one who doesn't see the point of this?) or the cheapest brand coffee. While their unruly offspring wreak havoc with the store and other shoppers (usually me) and scream incessantly.

Then there are the 'Hello! I've not seen you in ages, how are you?' shoppers who decide to block up the aisle and regale each other with meaningless episodes in their sad little lives over the last five years. They appear oblivious to the words 'excuse me please' while they chatter about how Shona is pregnant again and did you not know she left her man last year and it's little Johnny I feel sorry for....All I want is access to a four pint carton of milk.

And that's another thing. How many types of milk are there these days? Full cream, semi-skimmed, super semi-skimmed, half fat, organic....Jeezo, I just want some bloody milk.

On the plus side, actually going in person to the supermarket means you can actually pick your own fresh meat, fruit and vegetables and not have tonnes of the produce delivered with the small detail revealing that the sell by date is tomorrow. No names here, Tescos...

On the negative side - and ASDA seem to be particularly guilty here - there are the 3 for £5 stickers adorning so many products. So your intention to purchase just one block of cheese is trumped by the fact that you can get three for spending just a pound more. What a bargain! For who, I'm not so sure...

Having fought your way through the platoon of screaming brats, direction less women and pensioners who might have forgotten why they're there in the first place, you finally stagger to the checkout. Trying to work out what will be the quickest checkout is a skill worthy of a SVQ (Supermarket Vacating Queue) qualification. It's not merely a case of heading for the shortest queue. There will be some old dear who has to hand over £45.63 in pound coins, ten pence pieces and coppers and the woman who opts to pay by credit card but, inevitably, can't remember her pin number.

Much as I appreciated my darling daughter's kind offer to pick me up from my shopping hell, I think next time I'll stick to what I've become accustomed to these last few years and get my groceries from the comfort of my own home.

Going back to the battlefield that is the supermarket? I would need to be off my trolley...

Friday, 18 September 2009

Not Long Now...

Middle-aged male smokers with high blood pressure and raised cholesterol levels face dying about 10 years before healthier counterparts, a study warns. The UK study looked at more than 19,000 civil servants aged 40-69 and traced what happened to them 38 years later. The study was set up in 1967-70 at the peak of the vascular disease epidemic in the UK.
Participants had their height, weight, blood pressure, lung function, cholesterol and blood glucose levels measured and completed a questionnaire about their previous medical history, smoking habits, employment grade and marital status. Current smokers made up 42% of the men, 39% had high blood pressure and 51% had high cholesterol. They were followed up nearly 40 years later in 2005 by which time 13,501 had died.

From the BBC News website

Some interesting statistics there. Coming from a family where heart disease has always been a factor, I'm not particularly perturbed by the prospect of dying ten years before I should. As my grandfather died at 45 and my father died at 58 - both died very suddenly from a heart attack - the chances of me reaching the stage where I can draw my pension are - unlike, I have to say, my physique - pretty slim. I'm 47 years old and I'm continually told by those who tell me they care for me that I should lose weight. They may have a point.
But with a family history of heart disease being overweight is just one of many reasons why I may be considered at risk. Being a parent, grandparent, son, mortgage holder and not exercising enough - okay, not at all - all contribute to my unwell being. As does having high blood pressure, high cholesterol, mild asthma and a bad back. And a cat allergy, dust allergy and hay fever. And have I mentioned I've had toothache recently?

The plus point is I don't smoke, don't drink much alcohol (honest!) and seldom eat fried food (I usually grill) That's good, doctors may say but there is a considerable negative mark against my health. I support Heart of Midlothian Football Club.

As my good friends Adullamite and Lizzy might say that would knock ten years off anyone's life.

Do You Get My Drift?

Doctors tell us there are over seven million people who are overweight. These, of course, are only round figures.

What is the purpose of reindeer? It makes the grass grow, sweetie.

I heard on the news tonight that two ships collided. One had red paint, one had blue paint. The last report I heard, the survivors were marooned.

The other day I sent my friend a huge pile of snow. I rang her up and asked, "Did you get my drift?"

Why is Saudi Arabia free of mental illness? There are nomad people there.

When I was in the supermarket I saw a man and a woman wrapped in a barcode. I asked, "Are you two an item?"

I fired my masseuse today. She just rubbed me the wrong way.

When she told me I was average, she was just being mean.

Four fonts walk into a bar. The barman says "Oi - get out! We don't want your type in here"

I was having dinner with Garry Kasporov and on the table was a checkered tablecloth. It took him 2 hours to pass me the salt.

Have you heard about the lawyer's word processor? No matter what font you select, everything comes out in fine print.

My first job was working in an orange juice factory, but I got canned because I couldn't concentrate.

Then I worked in the woods as a lumberjack, but I just couldn't hack it, so they gave me the axe.
After that I tried to be a tailor, but I just wasn't suited for it. The job was only so-so anyhow.

Next I tried working in a muffler factory, but that was exhausting.

I wanted to be a barber, but I just couldn't cut it.

I attempted to be a deli worker, but any way I sliced it, I couldn't cut the mustard.

My best job was being a musician, but eventually I found I wasn't note worthy.

I studied a long time to become a doctor, but I didn't have any patience.

Next was a job in a shoe factory; I tried, but I just didn't fit in.

I became a professional fisherman, but discovered that I couldn't live on my net income.

I thought about becoming a witch, so I tried that for a spell.

I managed to get a good job working for a pool maintenance company, but the work was just too draining.

My last job was working at Starbucks, but I had to quit, because it was always the same old grind.

After many years of trying to find steady work, I finally got a job as a historian, until I realised there was no future in it....

Monday, 14 September 2009

So I Hit Him Again...

Below are actual insurance claim form gaffes.These are new (mostly), and are the collection made by Norwich Union for their annual Christmas mag..... but they escaped...

"I started to slow down but the traffic was more stationary than I thought."

"I pulled into a lay-by with smoke coming from under the bonnet. I realised the car was on fire so took my dog and smothered it with a blanket."

Q: Could either driver have done anything to avoid the accident?
A: Travelled by bus?

A Norwich Union customer collided with a cow. The questions and answers on the claim form were: Q - What warning was given by you?
A - Horn
Q - What warning was given by the other party?
A - Moo

"I started to turn and it was at this point I noticed a camel and an elephant tethered at the verge. This distraction caused me to lose concentration and hit a bollard."

"On approach to the traffic lights the car in front suddenly broke."

"I was going at about 70 or 80 mph when my girlfriend on the pillion reached over and grabbed my testicles so I lost control."

"I didn't think the speed limit applied after midnight"

"I knew the dog was possessive about the car but I would not have asked her to drive it if I had thought there was any risk."

Q: Do you engage in motorcycling, hunting or any other pastimes of ahazardous nature?
A: I Watch the Lottery Show and listen to Terry Wogan."

First car stopped suddenly, second car hit first car and a haggis ran into the rear of second car."

"Windscreen broken. Cause unknown. Probably Voodoo."

"The car in front hit the pedestrian but he got up so I hit him again"

"I had been driving for 40 years when I fell asleep at the wheel and had an accident. I pulled away from the side of the road, glanced at my mother-in-law and headed over the embankment."

"Coming home, I drove into the wrong house and collided with a tree I don't have."

"The other car collided with mine without giving warning of its intention."

"I thought my window was down, but I found out it wasn't when I put my head through it"

"I collided with a stationary truck coming the other way"

"A truck backed through my windshield into my wife's face".

"A pedestrian hit me and went under my car".

"The guy was all over the road. I had to swerve a number of times before I hit him."

"In an attempt to kill a fly, I drove into a telephone pole."

"To avoid hitting the bumper of the car in front I struck the pedestrian."

"My car was legally parked as it backed into the other vehicle. "

"An invisible car came out of nowhere, struck my car and vanished."

"I am sure the old fellow would never make it to the other side of the road when I struck him."

"The pedestrian had no idea which way to run, so I ran over him."

"I saw a slow-moving, sad faced old gentleman, as he bounced off the roof of my car"

"The indirect cause of the accident was a little guy in a small car with a big mouth"

"I was thrown from the car as it left the road. I was later found in a ditch by some stray cows."