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...