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."

Saturday, 12 September 2009

Customer Service Rant No. 94

Fate has decreed that I must follow the fortunes of Heart of Midlothian Football Club. As fellow blogger Adullamite will testify whenever Hearts are concerned it's a case of expect the unexpected. With one notable exception - customer services. The week after next Hearts are due to play Dunfermline Athletic in a League Cup tie that isn't covered by one's season ticket. However, Hearts have displayed, with some prominence, on their website that season ticket holders had until 5.00pm on Saturday 12 September to purchase a ticket for their existing seat. For convenience, Hearts add, why not try the all singing, all dancing official website and purchase your ticket on-line?

A grand idea, I thought, so I tried on-line this morning to reserve my seat. Having struggled with the Hearts website before it was perhaps inevitable that it wasn't showing as available. So I telephoned the ticket hot-line....

Thank you for calling the Heart of Midlothian Ticket Centre. Please choose from the following options:

Press 1 if wish to be kept on hold for ten minutes

Press 2 if you wish to be thanked for your patience

Press 3 to be told all our ticket operators are busy right now but someone will speak to you as soon as possible

Press 4 if you want a patronising message stating you can purchase tickets on-line at

Press 5 to speak a less than helpful sales person who didn't appear to be working from Tynecastle and gave the impression she didn't know where it was.

Me: I wish to buy a ticket for my existing seat for the Dunfermline game next week. I sit in the Wheatfield Stand.

HoMFC: The what stand?

Me: Wheatfield.

HoMFC: Weet?

Me: No, Wheatfield. Shall I spell it for you?

HoMFC: No, it's okay, I've got it.

I gave the girl with the English accent my seat details.

HoMFC: No, that seat is not available. I can give you one four rows away.

Me: What do you mean my seat isn't available?

HoMFC: It's been sold.

Me: Sold, eh? Your website states season ticket holders have until five o'clock tonight to buy their own seats. So why has mine been sold?

HoMFC: It's a case of first come, first served.

Me: So you lied on your website?

HoMFC: No, I didn't lie. I don't make the rules...

Not for the first time Hearts have shown complete disregard for their supporters. The seat I do have a ticket for isn't a million miles away from my own seat but this isn't the point. Heart of Midlothian FC have stated one thing and then gone and done another. Hardly likely to encourage fans to go to Tynecastle during these difficult days of recession.

It seems to me that customer service skills at Tynecastle - or wherever the ticket sales office is based (I have my suspicions it isn't Gorgie) are like goals from Christian Nade.

In short supply...

Thursday, 10 September 2009

When There Are Clouds in the Sky

I know I shouldn't really do this but I feel the need to confess something today. Last night, at tea-time, I joined the thronging hordes of people heading for Glasgow. But while around fifty thousand of them were heading for Hampden Park to witness Scotland's latest failed attempt to join the world's elite, I remained in the city centre and headed for the Royal Concert Halls in Buchanan Street. To see Engelbert Humperdink.

At one time I would have qualified a confession like this with the reason that I was accompanying my mother who has been a life-long fan of the Leicester crooner who now spends much of his time in Beverley Hills. And, as a passing pedestrian remarked as we spilled out on to the pleasant September evening after the show, the majority of the audience were of 'the blue-rinse variety'. But, I have to say, I thoroughly enjoyed the show. Engelbert is now 73 years old but the old-timer hasn't lost his knack of putting on a show. He has always known how to wow his audience who were there to hear his classic hits such as The Last Waltz, Am I That Easy to Forget and, of course, Please Release Me. And he gave his adoring fans a special treat with his rendition of I Belong to Glasgow which damn near took the roof off the Concert Hall. But, given the events of this year in the Smith family, his version of an old classic, the music composed by the star of the silent films Charlie Chaplin, was sublime. I must admit to feeling a lump in the old throat when I heard these words and thought of my daughter Michaela:

Smile tho' your heart is aching,
Smile even tho' it's breaking,
When there are clouds in the sky
You'll get by,
If you smile thro' your fear and sorrow,

Smile and maybe tomorrow,
You'll see the sun come shin-ing thro' for you
Light up your face with gladness,
Hide ev-'ry trace of sadness,

Al -'tho a tear may be ever so near,
That's the time,You must keep on trying,
Smile, what's the use of crying,
You'll find that life is still worth-while,
If you just smile...

Michaela's fiance Billy would have celebrated his 22nd birthday on Monday had he not been taken away so tragically five months ago. Now I've teased my mother about her adoration of Engelbert for many a year and the ribbing I've had from work colleagues and friends about going to the concert last night has been incessant.

But those lyrics and the powerful style with which old Bert delivered them sent a tingle down my spine.

Either that or the old dear sitting behind me dropped her dentures down the back of my shirt...

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

A Glasgow Poem

Slaggy Senga fell in love
She planned tae marry Joe
She wis so happy aboot it
She telt her faither so

Faither telt her 'Senga, doll
You'll huv tae find another
I'd just as soon as yer Maw don't know
But Joe is yer half brither

So Senga put aside her Joe
And planned tae marry Wull
But efter telling Faither this
He said 'there's trouble still'

'Ye cannae marry Wull, ma doll
And please don't tell yer mither
But Wull and Joe - and several merr
I know is yer half brither

But Mither knew and said 'Ma doll
Just dae whit makes ye happy
Marry Wull or marry Joe
Cos yer Faither's no yer Pappy...'

Brings a tear to a glass eye, doesn't it...?

Sunday, 6 September 2009

Gonnae No...

The last letter ever written by Mary Queen of Scots is to go on display for the first time in 30 years. The 422-year-old manuscript - written six hours before her execution - will go on show at the National Library of Scotland in Edinburgh on 15 September. The letter, which will be displayed for seven days, was written on 8 February, 1587 to the King of France, Henri III.

King Henri III was the brother of her late husband, Francois II. The letter revealed that, just hours from death, Mary asked Henri to ensure her servants' wages were paid.
From the BBC News Website

This will be a fascinating piece of literature and well worth a look. Letter writing today, sadly, appears to be a dying art with the internet, e-mail and text taking over our lives as the craving for instant communication intensifies. And with it, arguably the wanton destruction of the English language. If Mary, Queen of Scots had been around today she would have likely been given computer access to send an e-mail in her final few hours...
Hi Henri
How's tricks across the water? Hope you're well and not getting too much jib from that Sarkozy bloke. LOL.
Things aren't going so well here. The Edinburgh binmen have come out on strike again and the place is full of bloody tourists. And the trams? Jeez, don't get me started on that...
Anyways, I thought I'd better tell u that my tea's oot, so to speak. I'm sitting here in Northamptonshire just surfing the net and trying to chill. Which is difficult 'cos I'm for the chop in a few hours. That bitch Betty has finally decided to get rid and so I'm for the offski. I've just updated my Facebook page with Mary, Queen of Scots heading for the executioner's room and she's added Elizabeth I likes this...
The execution is live on Living TV. I don't think they get irony on that station. RAFL!

Could you do me a favour, m8? Could you make sure my servants get their wages? You know what the bloody Council's like and I would appreciate your help. Oh, and could you text Max Clifford? I thought he was sending the photographers from OK! magazine but there's no sign yet.
Anyways, I'm off now. Or at least my head will be in a few hours. LMAO!



Thursday, 3 September 2009

Gentle Persuasion

PUPILS are being given "get out of class free" cards that allow them to leave lessons if they feel they are about to become disruptive.

The measure has been introduced at Wester Hailes Education Centre in Edinburgh as part of a bid to cut down on the number of children being excluded and could form part of a wider policy in the city. Pupils are given cards they can hand to a teacher giving them permission to leave lessons and calm down.It also emerged that across the city, teachers are being given training in how to defuse heated situations by talking to youngsters in calming voices, introducing "distraction techniques" and using "gentle persuasion" to prevent trouble erupting.

Alex Wood, headteacher of WHEC and a member of the working group developing the new council policy, said the move would not replace exclusion for persistent bad behaviour. He said: "Teachers will be given advice in how to deal with situations like avoiding eye contact, keeping their voice low or removing a kid from class."We can also give kids get out of class cards so if a kid knows they are about to lose it they can give their teacher a card to leave the room to calm down."The policy has been drawn up by the working group, which included headteachers, social workers and educational psychologists, and the information is being sent to schools to establish a "consistent" approach.

From The Scotsman

I look forward to reading about how a teacher had a knife held to their throat by a yobbo but defused the situation by using gentle persuasion and offering them a card. Something I'm sure the thug will appreciate when he's up in court getting a finger wagging from the judge and being told not to do it again...

Now I realise my views will be out of sync with the do-gooders in society. But, instead of handing out cards and using gentle persuasion, how about bringing back corporal punishment - including the use of the belt at school - and national service? That would establish one kind of consistent approach...

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Real Time

Ambling my way through Edinburgh's near deserted Cameron Toll Shopping Centre at 8.40 this morning, contemplating another fun-filled day at the office, I looked up at the rather impressive electronic board above the exit. This technological wizardry listed all the Lothian buses serving the shopping centre, where to get them and how long they would be (I can hear the smart-arses among you saying 'about twelve feet')

Impressed though I was with this information, there was one service which has a little asterisk next to it with the disclaimer 'this is not a real time bus'.

I contemplated that statement for a moment. What did they mean by that, I wondered? Had Edinburgh been taken over by aliens overnight and we were now travelling back in time? As we commemorate the 70th year since the outbreak of World War Two, were we heading back to the times of the blitz? Or further back to a period when Hibernian last won the Scottish Cup? Or even further back to when Adullamite was a child? Was this bus a figment of imagination? Would it ever appear in real life? Then it struck me (the answer, not the bus)

Edinburgh's Lothian Buses operate a bus tracker system where you can see an electronic display at many bus stops in the city centre which advises how long the next service will be. The bus that 'wasn't a real time bus' must have been an older vehicle that did not have the technology fitted. Therefore, one would have to resort to old fashioned methods and consult the timetable. I should point out that only Lothian Buses use this technology as they appear to put the needs of their passengers above all else. Worst Group (Rants passim) don't bother with such ethos although it's rumoured they are replacing their timetables with a calendar...

However, it got me thinking about the proposed high speed rail link between Edinburgh/Glasgow and London which was announced last week. With trains travelling at 200 miles per hour it's envisaged the journey times between Scotland and the old smoke will be cut to little over two and a half hours - by the year 2030...

I harbour suspicions that - particularly if Worst Group are given the franchise - will never be a real time train...