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...