Friday, 31 December 2010

Another Year Over

Hogmanay. The time when most of us look back on the last twelve months - and in my case sigh. Although 2010 wasn't all bad news:

Event of the year: The birth of my third grandchild Ava on 11 May. It's amazing how much a baby develops in just seven months. She is now at the crawling stage and isn't too far away from taking her first steps. She will soon be helping Jack and Hannah in their cunning plan to walk all over their Papa and get their own way. I'll be popping over to see the little brats darlings later today - that reminds me, I'll need to go to the sweet shop on the way....

Gig of the year:  2010 wasn't quite the vintage year for The Ranter as 2009 was. Pick of the gigs I attended were The Beat back in the spring and the legendary Skatalites at the end of November, both at The Picture House in Edinburgh. Ska music as its best. Special mention, though, for local band The Skababs. For a cheap and cheerful night out with some stomping ska cover versions, they can't be beat!

Tip for the Top for 2011: Aaron Wright and the Aprils - an Edinburgh band who will be huge in the months and years ahead. You read it here first!

Best comedian: The Edinburgh Festival is always a great event for comics. Tim Vine returned to the Festival in August and he was brilliant as ever. Reginald D Hunter, again at the Festival, was superb too.

Unexpected Good Time: I have to admit going to see The Ladyboys of Bangkok at the Festival in August with some trepidation. However, it was a bloody good show, entertainment for the alcohol fuelled masses!

Best Football Match: Jim Jefferies (the manager not the Aussie comedian) returned to Tynecastle at the start of the year and has turned Hearts from a negative, low scoring team with a couldn't be arsed attitude to one that now plays free-flowing football, scores goals and is a joy to watch again. Highlight for me in 2010 was Hearts 5-0 thrashing of Aberdeen in December (sorry, mother!) The maroons were immense that day and in young David Templeton they have that rarity in Scottish football these days - a skillful winger, a throwback to the old days of Jimmy Johnstone, Willie Henderson etc. Temps will be on his way for big money in a couple of years but we'll enjoy him for now.

Book of the Year: Derek Wilson's Scotland On This Day. A wonderful read, one of those books you have difficulty putting down.

Best Television: It's been an awful year for television in this country. The best series of plays was the BBC's Accused which ended just before Christmas. Individual stories were all written by the sublime Jimmy McGovern, a master craftsman when it comes to scriptwriting.

Best Radio Show: I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue. Since 1972 it's streets ahead of anything else. In my totally unbiased opinion the BBC Radio Scotland documentary series So Who's Got the Children? was also essential listening...

Quote of the Year: As I struggled with a severe attack of the potentially deadly ManFlu - and receiving no sympathy whatsoever from the rest of my family - my three year old grand-daughter Hannah put her arms around me and said 'Aw, Papa - I'll look after you' Brought a tear to my glass eye to know that a least one person in this world cares!

Most devious behaviour of the year: Grandson Jack started school earlier this year and is now proficient at writing his name. So when the name 'Jack' appeared scribbled on the wallpaper on the grandchildren's bedroom his plea of 'It wasn't me, it was Hannah' was never going to fool anyone - not even me..

Pain in the Arse Award: Not the Laurel and Hardy of local government, Midlothian Council whose complex system of emptying the rubbish would leave even Einstein baffled; not the infamous Worst Group who are likely to replace their bus timetables in Midlothian with calendars in 2011; not satellite sports broadcaster ESPN whose continual changing of their signal output led me to throw my hands up in surrender in September and cancel my subscription.

No, the Auld Reekie Ranter's PITAA goes to FLM Loans who harassed me in the summer for my daughter's slightly delayed payment on her personal loan. Someone from the company left a message on my answerphone at the beginning of November - and I suspect someone from the company also visited this blog and left a message under 'Anonymous' - but nothing further has happened. It seems customer service takes various forms..

Here's to 2011 and whatever the new year will bring. I suspect there will be a few changes in my life in the months ahead and, no doubt, this time next year I will be reflecting on those. To those who follow my ramblings may I offer my very best wishes to you for 2011 - may the year be everything you want it to be.

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

School Days

People who know me will tell you I'm always often very occasionally complaining about work. I work in a high pressure environment so it's fair to assume I might enjoy the time off we get between Christmas and New Year. And I do - it's just it's too long. I finished work last Thursday evening. It's less than a week and, being a creature of habit, my routine has been disrupted. It's another week until I return and while it's nice to be able to relax there's something unnatural about having all this time off. I would rather have the time off when it suits me but then as regular visitors to these pages already know, I'm not one to complain...

During these idle moments I came across a photo of my old primary school in Aberdeen. It’s fair to say my time at Ashley Road Primary School in Aberdeen was not entirely happy. In fact, it was downright miserable. After my parents separated at the end of 1969 I moved from Cumbernauld outside Glasgow to Aberdeen where my mother's family resided. As 1970 began, I was the new kid in class. And not at the beginning of term. In the middle of winter. Moreover, being from Cumbernauld I was out of sync with the rest of my new classmates. Although I had visited Aberdeen to see my grandparents when I was in Cumbernauld and understood some of the local dialect, I struggled at times to understand what my new classmates were saying to me. And this, at the age of seven and three quarters, was already marking me out to be different.

Don’t get me wrong. I wasn’t without friends at Ashley Road Primary School. One of whom grew up to become one of Scotland’s finest artists while another was particularly good at football and would become a professional player for Airdrieonians and Montrose. Indeed, it was as a Montrose player that Innes McDonald laid on a goal that helped Montrose knock Hearts out of the League Cup at Tynecastle in 1986. However, I digress. My best pal was a lad called Ian. We seemed to hit it off right away but we seemed to drift apart in the final year of primary school in 1974.

Ashley Road was one of those older primary schools. When I first went there in the winter of 1969, the toilet was outside. Well, I say toilet - it consisted of a wall and a drain. And it smelled. As you may have gathered, I was not particularly happy there. Initially I kept thinking about my old pals at Seafar Primary in Cumbernauld and the gradual realisation I would never see them again. When I came to accept that, I resented some of my classmates at Ashley Road, particularly those whose trust and friendship I never stood a chance of gaining. This was reflected in the games of football we played in the playground during lunchtime. I was invariably placed in the so-called weaker team and inevitably in defence. Not for me the glory of scoring the winning goal and taking off my school jersey and running aimlessly around the playground. I did get to take the odd penalty kick and on one occasion, the accuracy of my well-placed right foot shot smashed a window of the school art hut. Such things stick in the memory.

The one thing that sticks like no other in the memory - and still haunts me and, I suspect, many other pupils of Ashley Road in the early 1970s - was the quite horrid school dinners. I have no idea what went into those meals - and I don’t really want to know - but they were quite disgusting. So bad, they made many of us physically sick. One of the teachers - an old battle axe called Mrs Cumming - was on school meals duty. She didn’t so much rule with a rod of iron as metaphorically beat us around the head with it. She would not allow any pupil to leave without finishing their meal - no matter how disgusting it was. Quite what the council’s catering department did nearly forty years ago is up for debate but the explanation that they ‘steamed’ the food wasn’t acceptable then and still isn’t years later. It got to the ridiculous stage where some of us were smuggling food out of the dining hut in handkerchiefs - especially the potatoes that were particularly disgusting. Even those that didn’t have bits of what seemed to me like dead flies in them. After weeks of hell, I was pleading with my mother not to send me back to the dreaded school dinner hut. The fact I was throwing up one night told its own story. My mother took time off work the following day and marched to the school to lock horns with the Head Teacher. Whatever mother said it worked. Mrs Cumming was removed from her dining hut duties and the school meals gradually began to improve. My mum became a heroine to those kids who had suffered. However, I suspect I'm not the only one for whom the mental scars remain - to this day I can't abide even the sight of rhubarb...

Forty years later I'm glad to report my grandson Jack, in his first year at primary school in Dalkeith in the heart of Midlothian, enjoys wholesome nutritional school meals - and he loves it. Changed days indeed as John Lennon once said.

Now, do you see the perils of having too much time on your hands? This time next week, I'll be back at the coalface, cursing the incessant ringing of the telephone and the huge pile of work that sadly remained on my desk over the Christmas and New Year period and will need urgent attention.

Like I said, I'm not one to complain...

Sunday, 26 December 2010

Christmas in Scotland - Part 4

    Scotrail services disrupted - Jack on the line                                      

   Hannah won't be drawn on what she enjoyed most...                       

      C'mon Papa - I'm not too young for some chocolate...

 I harbour suspicions Laura and Michaela didn't take Great Granny Smith's suggestion of standing for the Queen too seriously....
   Okay, Papa - that's enough! Gie us ma chocolate!

    Getting more like The Waltons with each passing year

Friday, 24 December 2010

The Ranter's Seasonal Greet

May I wish everyone a very Happy Christmas and a Guid New Year - particularly those who are regular visitors to my occasionally inane ramblings. I very much appreciate you taking the time to visit these pages and for your lovely encouraging words and kindness - thank you. I wish you and your families all the very best.

Here's to you!

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Christmas in Scotland

A Scottish Christmas Fairy

I am a little fairy
On tap o' the Christmas Tree
It's no' a job I fancy
Well how would you like tae be me?

A'm tarted up wi' tinsel
It's enough to mak ye boak
An a couple o' jaggy branches
Rammed up the back o' your froack.

An' wi'a' these lights a'roon me
I canna get my sleep
An' there's the yearly visit
Fae Santa - Big fat creep!

On Christmas Day I'm stuck up here
While you're a a'wirin' in
An' naebody says "Hey you up there,-
Could you go a slug o' gin?

It's nae joke bein' a fairy
The job's beyond belief
Ye go 'roon and 'roon the bairnies beds
An' lift their rotten teeth.

But o' a' the joabs a fairy gets
An' I've mentioned only some,
The very worst is up a tree
Wi' pine needles up yir bum.

When a' the fairies meet again
By the light of' the silvery moon,
Ye can tell the Christmas fairies -
They're the wans that canna sit doon.

The Christmas tree's a bonny sight
As the firelight softly flickers
But think o' me,- A'm stuck up here
Wi' needles in my knickers !

So soon as Christmas time's right by
An' I stop bein' sae full o' cheer
I'll get awa back tae Fairyland
An' Ah'll see yous a' next year.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

It's Not All Bad News...

It seems, at times recently, as if The Ranter has been overwhelmed with bad news. Increased workload and incessant pressure at work following the departure of my colleague Claire (it's not the same without you, dear!); my dear old mother not enjoying the best of health; my own health not the Mae West either; daughter Michaela also being swamped at work and finding this time of the year difficult emotionally; my good friend Marion going through similar emotions; tonnes of snow and sub-zero temperatures making getting to and from work difficult and lengthy. And - Christmas is nine days away. Have I mentioned my dislike of this time of the year?

However, it's not all bad news.

A week tomorrow I'll finish work for the Christmas break and not return to the pressure cooker that is the office until 5 January. Michaela no longer has to appear in court next Tuesday (as a witness in an assault case, not for driving at 150mph on the Edinburgh by-pass in case you wondered); grandson Jack did a star turn at his school's nativity play; Hearts are playing great football, have won six games in a row and are now just three points behind second placed Celtic; and a football website has declared the Hearts Match Day programme the best in Scotland with someone called Mike Smith the best features writer (that did my ego a power of good when I read this on Twitter last night!)

Above all though, I am proud to know so many good, kind-hearted and generous people in my life. Through this blog I have got to know some wonderful people such as Peggy, Lilly, A Daft Scots Lass, Groanin' Jock, Kenfitlike and the always wonderful Adullamite. They have all enhanced my life. May their God bless them all.

Edinburgh, always a fantastic, vibrant city, is awash with colour and excitement at Christmas. Princes Street really is spectacular - in my humble opinion there's no better place in the world to be at this time of the year.

Okay, that's way too much optimism. The weather forecast for Edinburgh for the weekend is heavy snow and freezing temperatures. I have to complete the January payroll at the office before I finish for Christmas. My back is killing me. And the bottle of brandy in the kitchen is damn near empty.

Ho ho ho....

Sunday, 12 December 2010

A Pregnant Pause

What with the recession, health problems and an ever increasing workload at the office, there hasn't been much in the way of good news for The Ranter recently. Although Hearts did hammer Aberdeen 5-0 yesterday to lift the gloom considerably. So I was delighted to read that one of Scotland's top bloggers, Groanin' Jock will become a father for the first time in 2011. My very best wishes go to him and the famous 'Mrs Wife' (Jock's blog is an excellent read) for the weeks ahead. It will, of course, be a life changing event for them both and his news set me thinking back to the early summer of 1986 when my elder daughter Laura was born. If you like, a pregnant pause to reflect (okay, give me a break!)

Being a new Dad felt brilliant. Apart from when I had to change dirty nappies. And getting up several times during the night because Laura felt the urge to be fed. And when she would throw up all over me on all too frequent occasions. But, apart from that,…I loved Laura with all my heart (whisper it, but I still do…) When I took her out in her pram, I felt twelve feet tall. I wore that smug look which shouted LOOK AT ME, I’M A DAD, and THIS IS MY BABY…as if no one else were parents. I had a week off work when Laura was born and my wife Pat and our newborn were kept in hospital for four days. Laura had jaundice and my initial horror at this revelation was tempered somewhat when a nurse reassured me this was quite normal in newborn babies. I was in dreamland in the immediate days following the birth before reality kicked in and Pat brought Laura home. Fragile, frightened, screaming….it is fair to say Pat was taking time to adjust to being a mother. But baby Laura was grand. After only six weeks, she was sleeping for most of the night, which came as a huge relief to Pat and me, and, no doubt, to the neighbours.

In the days that followed it seemed half of Aberdeen, where we lived at the time, visited our house to see Laura. Many of Pat’s family appeared have devised a rota system - if it wasn’t her mother it was one of her sisters or brother or some other damn in-law. My family consisted of my mother and she was a regular visitor to see her first grandchild. Pat’s mother had several others but, being an only child, I was the sole provider of grandchildren to my mother. It was such a big event that my father even made the trip north from Cumbernauld. I could see the pride and joy in his eyes when he held baby Laura for the first time and, I don’t mind admitting, it brought a lump to my throat. My father and I became closer when Laura arrived and he and I kept in contact more often than we had done previously. He knew he had missed out on so much of my growing up and he seemed to realise that he didn’t want to miss out on his grand-daughter. In the years that followed, however, events would tragically transpire against him.

More than twenty four years on the events of the summer of 1986 are still very fresh in my mind. Every parent will feel the same. The world may be a troubled place but for Groanin' Jock and his good lady 2011 promises to be the most wonderful of their lives. If I may give Jock one piece of advice - Ibrox isn't the most child friendly of places - but Tynecastle is....

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

I Read The News Today - Oh, Boy

Thirty years ago today John Lennon was murdered outside his New York apartment. I was eighteen years old at the time, engaged to be married and saving hard for a deposit on a flat with my wife to be. I was never a huge fan of The Beatles but the shock of Lennon's death was, perhaps, my generation's 'JFK moment' - I remember hearing the news vividly. My mother came through with tea and toast early in the morning and told me Lennon had died. I switched on the radio - no breakfast television in Scotland in those days - and heard the awful details about what had happened.

I always thought some of The Beatles early stuff was a bit naff. 'I Wanna Hold Your Hand' and songs of that ilk weren't really up to much but millions of screaming girls all around the world snapped up the records. I preferred The Beatles later work. Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club was a good album although I always thought The White Album was better. Some of Lennon's solo work was sublime. Instant Karma, Number 9 Dream, Imagine - quite superb. Give Peace a Chance was just a continuous chant but its sentiments were sincere. And, of course, at this time of the year Happy Christmas (War is Over) is being played throughout the land.

It doesn't seem like thirty years since the great man's passing. Rather ironically he sang Imagine There's No Heaven - I can't imagine Heaven without him.

God rest John Lennon.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Me and My Girls (and boy)

Papa - I've been good, can I have my sweets now?

Papa - I've also been good, can I have my sweets now?

Papa - what do you mean I'm too young for sweets? Waaaaahh!

Aye, go on then - just don't tell your mother...

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Weather Update

There's now two feet of snow in Dalkeith...

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

T'was the Month Before Christmas

T’was the month before Christmas

When all through our land

Not a Christian was praying

Nor taking a stand.

See the PC Police had taken away,

The reason for Christmas - no one could say.

The children were told by their schools not to sing

About Shepherds and Wise Men and Angels and things

It might hurt people's feelings, the teachers would say

December 25th is just a ' Holiday '.

Yet the shoppers were ready with cash, checks and credit

Pushing folks down to the floor just to get it.

CDs from Madonna, an X BOX, an I-pod

Something was changing, something quite odd!

Retailers promoted Ramadan and Kwanzaa

In hopes to sell books by Franken & Fonda..

As some were hanging their trees upside down

In some places the word Christmas was no where to be found.

This country has changed so much through the years

In some places you won't hear the word Christmas; it won't touch your ears.

Inclusive, sensitive, di-ver-is-ty

Are words that were used to intimidate me.

At the PC Brigade, there arose such a clatter

To eliminate Jesus, in all public matter.

And Christians spoke not a word, as they took away their faith

Forbidden to speak of salvation and grace

The true Gift of Christmas was exchanged and discarded

The reason for the season, stopped before it started.

So as you celebrate 'Winter Break' under your 'Dream Tree'

Sipping your Starbucks, listen to me.

Choose your words carefully, choose what you say


Not Happy Holiday !

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

St. Andrew's Day

Happy St. Andrew's Day  - to Scots everywhere!

Monday, 29 November 2010

Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow...

    There's a polar bear at the door asking to come in for some warmth...

Sunday, 28 November 2010

It's Snow Fair...

Christmas is less than four weeks away. So why is the fact there's been some snow in the UK causing such consternation and causing chaos?

Midlothian Council has announced tonight that all its schools will be closed tomorrow as a result of 'adverse weather conditions'. It as if we never have snow in this country and that last year never happened. I wonder if schools close because some teachers can't be arsed digging their cars out of the snow (I've just helped daughter Michaela dig her car out on a Sunday night in readiness for Monday morning) I hate the winter, rain, snow and ice but I don't stop going out or working, I resign myself to the fact that come winter I will have to wrap up warm, have the heating on full blast and put up with the constant rain/wind/snow. This is the same every year one way or another and we should be ready for it.

Back in the 1970s I remember trudging to school in all manner of bad weather, it was never even mooted that schools would close. What damage or trauma did I suffer? (okay, don't answer that) Should I be worried about the lasting effects this could have had on me? (don't answer that one either) More importantly, should I be worried about the effects this "taking the easy way out" or "any excuse for a day off" is going to have on my grandchildren? How is this going to instil a good work ethic?

Snow and bad weather should be seen as part of our normal weather not an excuse to have time off work, shut trains down, stop buses running or to simply stop every day normal living. As a non-driver if public transport lets me down tomorrow I shall simply switch on the laptop and work from home. However, as I work in human resources there will be the inevitable phone calls and emails from staff asking if they can get an unofficial day off because they couldn't get in to the office. Or because they had to take the day off because little Johnny couldn't go to school. A suggestion of taking unpaid leave will cast me as the most evil person in the world.

I've just looked outside my window. Yep, it's snowing again. And there's the phone ringing...

Come On, Own Up...

My two grandchildren Jack and Hannah have been known to cause mischief now and again. Now I am a little concerned to what has happened to baby Ava...

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Just Like Her Papa...

It's been said my six month old grand-daughter Ava is quite like me. Namely, she has no teeth, little hair, drools a lot and sits about in her vest all day.

A little harsh, I'd say...

Monday, 22 November 2010

Joined Up Government

22 October 2010 - George Osborne ended his hour-long Commons statement by claiming the 19% average cuts to departmental budgets were less severe than expected. This is thanks to an extra £7bn in savings from the welfare budget and a £3.5bn increase in public sector employee pension contributions.

22 November 2010 - The UK has offered a direct loan to the Irish Republic in addition to contributing to an international rescue, George Osborne has said. Negotiations are continuing over terms but the chancellor told the BBC Ireland was a "friend in need" and it was in Britain's national interest to help.

Asked if the UK contribution would be about £7bn, he said "it's around that".

Another success story for Prime Minister David Cameron, strategically photographed above...

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Happiness? Don't Make Me Laugh

The government will attempt to measure the happiness of UK citizens, it is expected to announce later this month. The Office for National Statistics is to devise questions for a household survey, to be carried out up to four times a year. This follows calls by David Cameron, when leader of the opposition, to look at "general wellbeing", arguing there was "more to life than money". Downing Street promised an announcement "reasonably soon". Happiness measuring is expected to begin as soon as next spring with the results published regularly, possibly on a quarterly basis.
From the BBC News Website
I thought the last UK government had some crackpot ideas but I shouldn't really be surprised that the Tory/Lib Dem coalition have surpassed the likes of Gordon Brown and Tony Blair. I look forward to receiving my questionnaire  - and hopefully there will be a government statistician to deliver it.
2011 will be a year of severe financial hardship for many. Job losses will be in hundreds of thousands. The cost of living will rise drastically - the rise in VAT in January will accelerate this. Benefits will be cut to many who rely on it as the prospect of employment diminishes. Interest rates will rise steeply next year. Thousands of people will have their homes repossessed and will be on the streets. Crime is at appalling levels. The health service is in crisis. Yet, Lord Young, an advisor to the government said earlier this week that the nation had never had it so good. Now, Prime Minister David Cameron wants to gauge how happy the nation is. And I thought Margaret Thatcher was out of touch...
It doesn't take a genius to believe not many people will be happy in the months ahead. I suspect that, being something of a nanny state, the government will give 'advice' on how we should be living. I can see the inevitable website being set up (, Happiness Enforcers being employed and advertising campaigns urging people to be happy. Just as the right to smoke cigarettes is being eradicated, I can see the right to be downright miserable also being taken away.

You may say I should count my blessings. I have two lovely daughters and three wonderful grandchildren. I have a job - for now. I have a house - for now. I have a football team, Heart of Midlothian, doing quite well - for now. Fair points. However, like millions of others, I also have a mortgage, debt, a job that is high pressure and at times all-empowering and health issues.

I will make my way to work at the beginning of another working week on a cold, dark, miserable morning with the rain teeming down and the wind driving in my face. The bus will be full of bloody students meaning I can't get a seat. Once at work, the phone will be ringing non-stop, every man, woman and their dog will demand something from me. After a tense day it will take me more than a hour to get home and I will collapse wearily on to the sofa. Companies will have sent communications demanding money from me, the television will be rubbish (I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here - how much is there left to scrape at the bottom of the television barrel?) and there will be someone from a call centre in darkest Calcutta urging me to switch my mobile phone company.

And then there's the continuing onslaught of Christmas. Ho, ho, bloody ho.

The best thing that the government could do is to get out of our lives and allow us to live as we wish – anything else is none of their damned business. Monitoring happiness? Try visiting chez Smith at 7.30pm on Monday. I wouldn't advise bringing a clipboard though - rather like David Cameron you may find it disappearing up your own arse...

Saturday, 20 November 2010


This is one of Irish rock band U2's finest songs. I heard it earlier this week for the first time in a while and on listening to the lyrics again, I thought about a very good friend of mine who has had a difficult year. I just want her to know she can count on me any time.

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Mind Your Language - Pls.

Today's society does like to use acronyms in everyday language. In an age of instant communication there seems to be an almost over-bearing laissez-faire attitude to the use of the English language. Perhaps it's yet another sign of my aging process but I received an email from someone the other day which they ended with TY and their name. Folk of my daughters age do not hesitate to tell me this is 'shorthand' for Thank You. Now you may think I'm being old fashioned here but this irritated me greatly. Any appreciation I may have had for this person showing a molecule of gratitude disappeared when I realised they couldn't be bothered to type the words 'thank you'.

Among the many banal comments on the social networking site Facebook, the tendency for people to type omg seems to be growing. Some people use it twice as in 'omg omg I can't believe what's happening in the X Factor.' Now to me  - and I suspect I'm not alone - this may well as well be a foreign language. My younger daughter Michaela tells me omg is an acronym for Oh My God. This appears to be yet another Americanism to have crossed the pond to our shores and is another that irritates me greatly.

Not so long ago when someone told you good news, you might expect to say "congratulations". This would be the polite way to react if, for an example, someone said that she was going to have a baby. Now it seems not only acceptable but a requirement of young people to shriek 'Oh My God!!!'  

Although the phrase has the word "God" in it, it has now become so frequently used that most people don't associate it with religion. This means people use it whether they're religious or not. Now, I'm not a religious person by any manner of means but the use of the word God in everyday language with it not having any religious meaning is another abuse of the English language. For which I blame the Americans...

Add to this the fact that most towns and cities in Scotland now have their Christmas lights adorning their High streets - six weeks before Christmas - and you may appreciate why a part of me yearns for years gone by. I write this rant on a Saturday afternoon, having consciously avoided heading towards the thronging masses of Edinburgh's Princes Street. Some people in the Dalkeith area already have their Christmas trees up and lights blazing in their windows. We have not yet reached the halfway point in November. How many of those so eager to scream Happy Christmas from their houses will actually go to church services on Christmas Eve? In fact, how many go to church at all? It seems to me that many people are not celebrating the birth of Christ but the time of the year when they can spend money they haven't got, scoff food that isn't particularly good for them and guzzle copious amounts of alcohol which will inevitably lead to unacceptable and in some cases embarrassing behaviour.

I know this will come across as yet another rant from a grumpy old man. And it is. Or as my daughters may put it on Facebook 'OMG, Dad is in one of his moods again. Hope I don't c him b4 I go Xmas shopping. LOL'

But if anyone out there has a degree of sympathy for me, I would like to say thank you. Or, in today's language TY......

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Stella WDM Eclipse

Monday, 8 November 2010


Snow on the hills. Darkness falling at five o'clock in the afternoon. Wind and rain almost daily. The build up to Christmas now at full pelter. It must be November...

November is a month that has seen some notable things occur in the life of the Auld Reekie Ranter. In 1969 my mother and father went their separate ways and I left Cumbernauld with my mother to head to Aberdeen and some dark days. Two days after we arrived in the dungeon like abode that was to be our home for the next four years, my mother's father passed away having collapsed at work just a few days earlier. November 1969 was a very dark month indeed.

November 1979 was when I got engaged to the infamous Mrs Smith. She maintains I proposed to her over a three course meal complete with a bottle of the finest champagne Aberdeen's top restaurant had to offer and that I got down on one knee. Three decades and more can play havoc with the memory. My recollection is that it was a two for one meal offer at the local Wimpy, a bottle of Blue Nun and I was on my knees having dropped my wallet under the table...

November 1990 was when Mrs Smith and I moved to Mayfield in Dalkeith, the heart of Midlothian. As incoming workers we were offered a two bedroomed flat from what was then Scottish Special Housing. The rent was far more affordable than the rented accommodation we had in our city centre flat in Edinburgh - even though this did look on to Tynecastle Park, the home of the mighty Heart of Midlothian Football Club.

November 1993 was when we moved out of the SSH flat to our new three bedroomed mid-terraced house also in Mayfield, Dalkeith (the heart of - okay, you get the picture) £40,000 was a lot of money seventeen years ago and I had my doubts as to whether we could afford the mortgage. But we did and our move to the Lothians was complete.

November, of course, is the month of remembrance, when we think of those who have given the ultimate sacrifice for their country. It's nearly a century since the Great War began and more than sixty five years since the end of the Second World War. Hundreds of thousands of people lost their lives in the two conflicts. We must never forget those who did.

November 2010. Who knows what lies in store. Life has a habit of kicking one in the teeth. All I can hope for is health and happiness for my family. And the strength to face whatever may be around the corner...

Thursday, 4 November 2010

A Story to Restore Your Faith in Society

A Canadian couple who won $10.9m (£6.7m) in lottery winnings in July say they have given away $10.2m of the prize to groups in their community. Allen and Violet Large said they were plain country folks who needed no more than "what we've got".

The two said they had donated about 98% of the cash after helping their family. The elderly pair gave the money to churches, fire departments, cemeteries, the Red Cross and hospitals, where Ms Large has undergone cancer treatment.

"We haven't bought one thing. That's because there is nothing that we need," Mr Large, 75, told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

Mr Large, a retired welder from Canada's Nova Scotia province, added that he and his wife were quite content with their 147-year-old home and everything else they already owned. "You can't buy happiness," he said.

From the BBC News Website

An unusual but welcome item - a heartwarming story on the BBC...

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Cooncil Rant No. 94

As a resident of Midlothian, I received the council's latest newsletter today. As usual with this publication, some of its content is comedy gold.

On the front page is a plea from those at the Big Pink Hoose asking for the good people of Midlothian to come up with ideas on what should be cut from the council's budget. Midlothian anticipates it will need to save £25m over the next three years. They have published a questionnaire for people to complete and have arranged several public meetings in which the council's Chief Executive and councillors will attend to listen to what the public have to say.

Some might say this is consultation and ought to be encouraged. My view is this smacks of a lack of leadership, of passing the buck and shying away from decisions that will affect us all. The Chief Executive appears to be wanting to ask the public how to do his job. Here's my suggestion on how to save some money. Scrap the public meetings and questionnaires. The cost in arranging these token gestures must already be considerable.

In the same newsletter there was another article on how the council was ready for the onset of winter and gave 'top tips' on how Joe Public could be ready too. These included:

Keep paths and pavements outside clear of snow as ice increases the risk of falls.
When clearing footpaths always dress warmly in waterproof clothing
Check the council website for information on adverse weather conditions

Here's another suggestion. Scrap the council newsletter. Better still - scrap the council and merge with neighbouring East Lothian. Think of the money that would save...

Sunday, 31 October 2010


Be afraid. Be very afraid...


Taken from Private Eye and my good friend Adullamite


Jeremy Paxman: What is another name for 'cherrypickers' and 'cheesemongers'?
Contestant: Homosexuals.
Jeremy Paxman: No. They're regiments in the British Army who will be very upset with you


Jamie Theakston: Where do you think Cambridge University is?
Contestant: Geography isn't my strong point.
Jamie Theakston: There's a clue in the title.
Contestant: Leicester


Stewart White: Who had a worldwide hit with What A Wonderful World?
Contestant: I don't know.
Stewart White: I'll give you some clues: what do you call the part between your hand and your elbow?
Contestant: Arm
Stewart White: Correct. And if you're not weak, you're...?
Contestant: Strong.
Stewart White: Correct - and what was Lord Mountbatten's first name?
Contestant: Louis
Stewart White: Well, there we are then. So who had a worldwide hit with the song What A Wonderful World?
Contestant: Frank Sinatra?


Alex Trelinski: What is the capital of Italy ?
Contestant: France.
Trelinski: France is another country. Try again.
Contestant: Oh, um, Benidorm.
Trelinski: Wrong, sorry, let's try another question. In which country is the Parthenon?
Contestant: Sorry, I don't know.
Trelinski: Just guess a country then.
Contestant: Paris.


Anne Robinson: Oscar Wilde, Adolf Hitler and Jeffrey Archer have all written books about their experiences in what: - Prison, or the Conservative Party?
Contestant: The Conservative Party.


DJ Mark: For 10, what is the nationality of the Pope?
Ruth from Rowley Regis: I think I know that one. Is it Jewish?


Bamber Gascoyne: What was Gandhi's first name?
Contestant: Goosey?

GWR FM ( Bristol )

Presenter: What happened in Dallas on November 22, 1963?
Contestant: I don't know, I wasn't watching it then.


Phil: What's 11 squared?
Contestant: I don't know.
Phil: I'll give you a clue. It's two ones with a two in the middle.
Contestant: Is it five?


Richard: Which American actor is married to Nicole Kidman?
Contestant: Forrest Gump.

Richard: On which street did Sherlock Holmes live?
Contestant: Er. ... ..
Richard: He makes bread . . .
Contestant: Er .. .....
Richard: He makes cakes . . .
Contestant: Kipling Street?


Presenter: Which is the largest Spanish-speaking country in the world?
Contestant: Barcelona..
Presenter: I was really after the name of a country.
Contestant: I'm sorry, I don't know the names of any countries in Spain .


Question: What is the world's largest continent?
Contestant:  The Pacific.


Presenter: Name a film starring Bob Hoskins that is also the name of a famous painting by Leonardo da Vinci.
Contestant: Who Framed Roger Rabbit?


Steve Le Fevre: What was signed, to bring World War I to an end in 1918?
Contestant: Magna Carta?


James O'Brien: How many kings of England have been called Henry?
Contestant: Er, well, I know there was a Henry the Eighth ... ER.. ER ... Three?


Chris Searle: In which European country is Mount Etna ?
Caller: Japan.
Chris Searle: I did say which European country, so in case you didn't hear that, I can let you try again.
Caller: Er ......... Mexico ?


Paul Wappat: How long did the Six-Day War between Egypt and Israel last?
Contestant (long pause): Fourteen days..


Daryl Denham: In which country would you spend shekels?
Contestant: Holland?
Daryl Denham: Try the next letter of the alphabet.
Contestant: Iceland? Ireland ?
Daryl Denham: (helpfully) It's a bad line. Did you say Israel ?
Contestant: No.


Phil Wood: What 'K' could be described as the Islamic Bible?
Contestant: Er... .... ..
Phil Wood: It's got two syllables . . . Kor . .
Contestant: Blimey?
Phil Wood: Ha ha, no. The past participle of run . . .
Contestant: (Silence)
Phil Wood: OK, try it another way. Today I run, yesterday I . . .
Contestant: Walked?


Melanie Sykes: What is the name given to the condition where the sufferer can fall asleep at any time?
Contestant: Nostalgia..


Presenter: What religion was Guy Fawkes?
Contestant: Jewish.
Presenter: That's close enough.


Wright: Johnny Weissmuller died on this day. Which jungle-swinging character clad only in a loin cloth did he play?
Contestant: Jesus.

Jesus, indeed....

Monday, 25 October 2010

Jack of Hearts

Back in August I wrote about taking my five year old grandson Jack to Tynecastle for his very first football game. Hearts played St. Johnstone in the opening league game of the season and as we headed along Edinburgh's Gorgie Road to the game with the wee man resplendent in his Hearts top (okay, so it was last season's top as it was considerably cheaper than buying this season's monstrosity and it might have been a bit too big for him but it was all the club shop had left..) I felt my heart swell with pride. This was a truly historic moment - Jack's first Hearts game.

I recalled my first Hearts game way back in 1968 when my father took me to Falkirk in the days when I lived in Cumbernauld. Many like-minded devotees of the famous Heart of Midlothian recall their first Hearts game and I felt sure Jack would remember this tumultuous day and regale it to his children and grandchildren in decades to come.

Alas, Jack didn't find the experience particularly joyous and seemed underwhelmed by the occasion. In fact he asked if he could go home after just ten minutes. Fair enough, I thought to myself - my plan to introduce him to the sometimes despairing life of being a Hearts supporter had backfired. And I couldn't really blame him. However, I was touched when he told me on the journey home that he wanted to go back again. Bless him, I thought, he doesn't want to upset me.

So it was something of a surprise when, more than two months later, Jack told me wanted to go back to the football. I asked him several times if he was sure as he was clearly unhappy first time around. 'No' he insisted, 'I want to go with you'.

Thus, Jack sat next to me at Tynecastle on Saturday as Hearts demolished St. Mirren 3-0. The scoreline apart, it was much the same as his first visit. He was happy enough pre-match. He devoured the hot dog I purchased and guzzled his carton of blackcurrant juice quite happily. He pondered the antics of the Hearts mascot Tynie Tiger and the expression on his face clearly illustrated he just wondered why the hell would someone dress as a maroon and white tiger with a giant head and prance around the field like an idiot...But when the game itself started Jack became bored and wanted to go home. He sat restless in the freezing cold  for ninety minutes, oblivious to Rudi Skacel's marvellous hat-trick. However, as we headed out of the ground at the end of the game, he looked up to me and said 'Papa, that was good, can I go to the next game?'

I ruffled his hair and laughed and said 'Let's go to McDonald's...' I admired his sensitivity for one so young and felt proud that a such an early age, Jack was thinking about others - a trait to be admired in this day and age. It damn well nearly brought a tear to my eye.

On Saturday evening I spoke to the infamous Mrs Smith on the telephone. It's the only way we communicate these days (okay, if truth be told she was in Aberdeen visiting relatives) With her female intuition she remarked that Jack simply loves being with his Papa. He loved the bus journey to the game and back, he talked incessantly on both journeys, he loved his hot dog and relished  - if you'll pardon the pun - the trip to McDonald's afterwards. Mrs Smith told me it was patently obvious why Jack wants to go back to the football - not for the game itself but to spend the afternoon with his Papa.

And there's my dilemma. I also cherish my time spent with Jack. But I don't want him to sit through a football game he doesn't enjoy just so he can spend time with me. The obvious answer is for me to take the wee fella somewhere else other than the football. Which I will do  - just not on a Saturday afternoon.

I'm hoping Jack will develop an interest in football now he has started primary school. And if he does then I'll be ready to take him back to Tynecastle where hopefully we can both enjoy the match day experience. Of course there's an outside chance he may choose to follow Edinburgh's wee team Hibernian.  If he does I will do what any self-respecting Hearts supporting grandad would do.

I'll disown him.......

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Hilda Ogden and the Google Search

Earlier today I was updating my football blog - - and thought I would try and search for a new photograph for the banner heading. The best web search engine - so I've been told - is Google so I entered the words 'Scottish football in the 1970s' and clicked on the image icon on my computer toolbar. I waited for hundreds of images of Scottish footballing icons of three decades and more ago  - but some of the results were rather perplexing.

In no particular order, alongside the likes of Graeme Souness, Kenny Dalglish and Denis Law were:

Alf Ramsay - that Scottish football icon
Gordon Brown (a long haired Brown from the early 1970s)
Jimmy Reid, Trade Union leader who sadly recently passed away
Daybreak presenter Lorraine Kelly
Bart Simpson in a Rangers top
German legends Franz Beckenbauer and Gerd Muller
A team photograph of Elgin City - from 1936
Richard Branson in a swimming costume
Hilda Ogden (a former soap star in the UK)
Penelope Keith
Elliot Gould
John Cleese as Basil Fawlty
Tony Curtis (God rest his soul) and Roger Moore as television's The Persuaders
and, perhaps  most disturbingly of all, porn star Linda Lovelace (I had to find out who this person was - honestly, mother...)

Interestingly, alongside a photo of an Aberdeen player who was a hero of the 1970 Scottish Cup Final - Derek 'Cup-tie' Mackay - was a black and white photo of a Soviet Union nuclear warhead.

Now, I find Google a useful tool for research purposes. But when I type in the words Scottish and football I don't expect to come across Hilda Ogden and Penelope Keith. Yes, they were stars in the 1970s - but I can't recall them performing at Tynecastle...

It may well just be me, of course. When I typed in 'Scottish heroes' I got a photo of Clint Eastwood and Donald Sutherland - Google had ignored the Scottish bit and gone for an image from the film Kelly's Heroes.

The next time I think I'll try and outsmart Google by typing in the word Morrissey i.e. the ex lead singer of The Smiths. One of his famous lyrics went 'please, please, please let me get what I want - this time...'

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Groaning in the Gloaming...

I thought I saw an eye doctor on an Alaskan island, but it turned out to be an optical Aleutian .

She was only a whiskey maker, but he loved her still.

A rubber band pistol was confiscated from algebra class, because it was a weapon of maths disruption.

No matter how much you push the envelope, it'll still be stationery.

A dog gave birth to puppies near the road and was cited for littering.

A grenade thrown into a kitchen in France would result in Linoleum Blownapart.

Two silk worms had a race. They ended up in a tie.

Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana.

Atheism is a non-prophet organisation.

Two hats were hanging on a hat rack in the hallway. One hat said to the other: 'You stay here; I'll go on a head.'

I wondered why the baseball kept getting bigger. Then it hit me.

The midget fortune-teller who escaped from prison was a small medium at large.

The soldier who survived mustard gas and pepper spray is now a seasoned veteran.

When cannibals ate a missionary, they got a taste of religion.

Two fish swim into a concrete wall. One turns to the other and says 'Dam!'

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

A Sting in the Tail

It's mid October, the nights are drawing in as we say in Scotland and autumn is upon us. In a couple of weeks the clocks will go back an hour in the UK heralding the official end of summer and the onset of winter. This means the discovery of a third unwanted visitor to the Smith household in the last few days has forced yours truly to take action. I refer to wasp number three which made a valient attempt to hug the radiator in the bathroom yesterday before its worthless life was terminated with haste. Now I realise there may be a tree-hugging hippy or two who will take issue with my description of a wasp's life as worthless. And they will be horrified that I actually took away a life. But what purpose do these blighters serve other than to annoy, irritate and frighten people. At least bees have a duty to perform for Mother Nature - wasps don't. These striped barstewards can sting and sting until their heart's content and still come back for more.

I suspect yesterday's wasp was related to the one which I thought I had obliterated on Saturday evening. In fact it was well after midnight as I was reading the Radio Times in bed that something flew by my lughole with that droning sound that is wasp-speak for 'ha-ha! You think because it's October and it's half past the witching hour and it's only a handful degrees above freezing that you're safe from me. But you're not!' Minutes later I walloped the offending insect with the aforementioned Radio Times but couldn't really settle into a deep sleep for fear the blighter would return from the dead. It had been just a few short days since another wasp had stung my daughter Michaela in an area I wasn't prepared to remove the sting - and I'm not talking about the bedroom here...

Wasp number three has led me to believe there may be an infestation in the house. My suspicion lies with the loft but I'm not prepared to venture up there to risk an aerial bombardment from thousands of wasp family members wondering where three of their compatriots have disappeared to recently. I'd rather get someone else to take a look. I've had a look on the internet and I also used the good old-fashioned method of looking in the Yellow Pages. Thankfully, there are a number of companies in the Edinburgh area that deal with such problems. A couple state in their advertisements that they provide various services - including unmarked vehicles. This made me smile. Now I know they say this in case you don't want Fred Bloggs next door to realise you have an infestation of any kind - whether it's wasps, pigeons, mice, in-laws...But for a moment I had this vision of the wasps watching a van with Pest Control emblazoned on the side pulling up outside my house and the Queen Wasp making a high-pitched drone to her subjects and screaming 'right lads and lasses, it's the man in a white boiler suit and a mask - lets buzz off...'

I know what you're thinking, dear reader - the Auld Reekie Ranter has had one too many brandy and lemonades again. Perhaps it's the fact I'm on leave this week and may have more time to think about these sort of things than is natural. This morning was a case in point.

Just before 11.00am I spied a large brown enevelope lying on my doormat. It said "DO NOT BEND ".

I spent the next two hours trying to figure out how to pick the bloody thing up......

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Voting off The X Factor

As my fellow blogger and Hearts supporter Adullamite will no doubt concur, we men don't like to complain. Having been stricken with a heavy cold this weekend - it's not quite the near fatal ManFlu but not far off - I decided to have a night in on Saturday and crashed out on the sofa with the remote control for the television. With a packet of Lemsip, a man size box of Kleenex and a half bottle of Jack Daniels - purely for medicinal purposes, of course - I slumped on the chair and flicked through the multitude of trashy television channels that comes with Freesat. I have to tell you, dear reader, that my sadness plunged to new depths...

The evening didn't begin well. For I missed the opening programme of the new series of Harry Hill's TV Burp. Hill is someone I admire, not for his daftness, but his occasionally elaborate extraction of the urine from those who purport to make television 'entertainment' these days. I tuned in on time to see the closing credits before the phenomenon that is a sad reflection of the UK took over. I am referring to The X Factor.

At around 7:30pm every Saturday evening from now until Christmas, approximately eight million people will take leave of their senses, jettison their critical faculties and tune into two hours of what I suspect is mind-numbing awfulness on a scale not seen since Noel Edmond's House Party was forced on the nation more than a decade ago.

Mercifully, I have only caught fleeting glimpses of The X Factor but it seems to me to be a repetitive format that plays on the aspirations of susceptible no-hopers with limited talent and even less personality, acting out their fantasies on a set with as much visual appeal as a sixteen year old greasy haired youth with severe acne. Like witnessing a car crash, many people appear drawn to this 'show' watching egotistic no-hopers 'living the dream' to use a modern day cliche.

Talent shows on television are nothing new. In decades gone by there was Opportunity Knocks and New Faces. They could also be cringe-inducing but what marks The X Factor is this appears to be something of a freak show, a cynical marketing exercise masquerading as prime time television in order to manufacture the mythical Christmas number one and generate income through gullible people phoning premium phone lines in order to make someone called Simon Cowell - who gives a new dimension to the phrase 'so far up one's arse' bucketfuls of money.

What little I watched of the show seemed all so predictable and artificial - even the emotions are contrived. Yet throughout Saturday evening there were ceaseless comments from far too many people - some of whom should really know better - on social websites such as Facebook and Twitter.

Both my daughters firmly believe I'm something of a geek so it will be of no surprise to them to learn I switched from the highly irritating X Factor to the BBC Parliament Channel and watched a re-run of the 1970 UK General Election. Now you may accuse me of taking leave of my senses, just as I have accused much of the nation above. However, I found watching the likes of Cliff Michelmore, Robin Day and Robert McKenzie covering the election of Edward Heath as Prime Minister forty years ago a fascinating social exercise - Michelmore even suggested that the re-election of  someone called Margaret Thatcher to the Finchley constituency might see her become one of the first female members of the government...

Afterwards, I watched a quite brilliant film from BBC Scotland - Crying With Laughter. Being the BBC there were no annoying advertisements every five minutes and no sponsor's message - just bloody good acting and a powerful and emotive script. Later still, I caught a few minutes of the hugely talented comedian John Bishop on The Comedy Store. Thus, my Saturday evening date with television ended on a fine, uplifting note - after a quite appalling start.

That said, I'm not sure what saddens me more. That fact I watched The X Factor for all of five minutes before leaping for the remote control - or the fact millions of people will be watching this tosh every Saturday for the next few weeks...

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Getting Off at Penrith

Next time I'm heading to Preston on work-related matters, I may well get off the train at Penrith. After all, one doesn't get many of these offers every day....


CSN Stores has amazing online products where you can find everything from great cookware to beautiful wardrobes to chic lighting pieces. Here's an example of their delightful goods.

Sunday, 3 October 2010

You Know You're Getting Old When...

...I may have posted some of these before but my memory ain't what it used to be. That and I just can't be arsed looking...

Your joints are more accurate than the weather forecast.

Your investment in health insurance is finally beginning to pay off.

Your back goes out more than you do.

The twinkle in your eye is only the reflection of the sun on your bifocals.

You feel like the morning after when you haven't been anywhere the night before.

You wake up with that morning-after feeling and you didn't do anything the night before.

You don't care where your wife goes, just so you don't have to go along.

It takes twice as long to look half as good.

Many of your co-workers were born the same year that you got your last promotion.

People call at 9.00pm and ask, "Did I wake you?"

You can live without sex but not without glasses.

The clothes you've put away until they come back in style... have come back in style.

You look forward to a dull evening.

The pharmacist has become your new best friend.

You quit trying to hold your stomach in, no matter who walks into the room.

Your idea of a night out is sitting on the patio.

Happy hour is a nap.

You begin every other sentence with, "Nowadays..."

You don't remember when your wild oats turned to shredded wheat.

You are proud of your lawn mower.

You wonder how you could be over the hill when you don't remember being on top of it.

The little gray-haired lady you help across the street is your wife.

Your idea of weight lifting is standing up.

Your secrets are safe with your friends because they can't remember them either.

Your ears are hairier than your head.

You have a party and the neighbours don't even realise it.

The end of your tie doesn't come anywhere near the top of your trousers.

You give up all your bad habits and you still don't feel good.

You can't remember the last time you lay on the floor to watch television.

You confuse having a clear conscience with having a bad memory.

You frequently find yourself telling people what a loaf of bread USED to cost.

You enjoy hearing about other people's operations.

Everything hurts and what doesn't hurt, doesn't work.

You find yourself beginning to like Scottish country dance music (and your foot taps when you hear it)

You have too much room in the house and not enough in the medicine cabinet.

You get into a heated argument about pension plans.

"Getting a little action" means you don't need to take a laxative.

You take a metal detector to the beach.

You realise that caution is the only thing you care to exercise.

You don't remember being absent-minded.

You have more patience; but actually, it's just that you don't care any more.

Your memory is shorter and your complaining is longer.

Your drugs of preference are now vitamins.

Younger women start opening doors for you.

Younger men ask you for advice.

A 'late night' now ends at 11 pm.

You learn where your prostrate is.

Saturday, 2 October 2010

The Skababs

The Skababs are playing Edinburgh's Whistle Binkies on Sunday 3 October at 6.15. Aye, aye, aye!

Thursday, 30 September 2010

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Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Happy 21st Birthday Michaela

Today my darling daughter Michaela celebrates her 21st birthday. I can scarcely believe she has reached her 'coming of age' - it just seems like yesterday she arrived in my world bouncing in at 10lbs 2 ozs. Clearly, she inherits her stunning good looks, charm, personality, intelligence and, dare I say it, modesty from her father.

Happy birthday, darling. Now, about that £50 you borrowed from me last week...

Monday, 27 September 2010

Bletherings and Natterings

Vicky is a fellow Hearts fan and someone I follow on Twitter. Her blog is well worth reading.

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Back After the Break...

For those of us brought up in the 1970s - wallow in some nostalgia...

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Careful, Now...

Travelling into the centre of Edinburgh the other day there was a car in front of the bus I was on that had a couple of notices on the rear window. One said 'Baby on Board' while the other notice of a similar size said 'Child on Board' As we crawled along the Gilmerton Road with all the speed of a slug, I wondered why the driver of said vehicle thought it necessary to display these signs.

Was it to boast of their virility? Probably not. It was more likely to be a plea to drivers behind to slow down as there were two children on board, one of whom was a baby. Yes, I am stating the bleeding obvious here. There may well have been a motorist travelling at ninety miles per hour who was prepared to slam into the back of this car but thought better of it when he/she realised there were small children in the back. I'm sure that made all the difference...

Some parents aren't just content to tell you there's a 'child on board'. No, in their vehicle it's 'princess on board'. Now Edinburgh does have Holyrood Palace but, nonetheless, I never cease to be amazed at how many members of the royal family drive through the streets of Scotland's capital city.

Perhaps it's a sign of the world we live in. Or of me getting old. Or both. When you leave Dalkeith and head for Edinburgh there is a huge roadside sign that declares 'Thank you for driving carefully'. Is the inference here 'thanks, now you can drive like a madman' (but beware the little princess in the car in front...)

Fancying a slice of toast last night I opened a new jar of Sainsbury's Best Value Peanut Butter. I was grateful for the sticker on the jar which listed 'allergy advice' It declared 'contains nuts'.

Now I've had a busy week and my mood wasn't helped by Hearts defeat in the Mickey Mouse Cup the other evening. But it isn't just me - is it....?

Monday, 20 September 2010

Inspiring Capital

Regular visitors to my rants will know that my opinion of local authorities - Midlothian Council in particular - isn't very high. There are countless tales of bungling bureaucracy which would be laughable if it weren't for the fact that we poor council tax payers usually have to foot the bill for such incompetence. However, I feel I should record my agreement with one idea from the City of Edinburgh Council. Whoever thought of the moniker Edinburgh - Inspiring Capital has hit the nail on the head.

You may have gathered from some of my previous ramblings that I love Edinburgh. I've lived here for more than twenty years now and it is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. I can't think of a better word for it than inspiring. Those of us who work and live in the city and its surrounding areas can be forgiven for taking it for granted but I often take time from the humdrum of everyday life to take in the views of this fabulous city and it does take my breath away (no, that's not down to me being out of condition and struggling up Arthur's Seat...)

For anyone who wishes to visit Scotland's capital city there are countless places to wine and dine and take in all the city has to offer. Like any other city some restaurants are more expensive than others. However, I always find Frankie and Benny's in Edinburgh's Omni Centre at the top of Leith Walk excellent for value with quality food and service (perhaps the fact it's an American diner has something to do with it although thankfully no one has yet wished me to 'have a nice day'...)

And if you do fancy a visit you can get money off their fabulous meals by visiting a site that really can save you money on a variety of goods.

Saturday, 18 September 2010

Prince Charles has his Hands Full...

What's the heir to the throne thinking here....?

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Saturday, 11 September 2010

It Will All End in Tiers...

My fellow blogger and Hearts supporter Adullamite has posted on his excellent blog numerous reasons that point out one is Scottish. Among them - you’ve been at a wedding where the footie results were read out. Indeed it is so and I can relate to more than one occasion where such a statement is true - but, sadly, has implications for the marriage.

My father, God rest his considerable soul, was married three times. His first marriage - to my mother, you'll not be surprised to learn - was in 1959. My mother tells me the man she married just a few hours earlier thought it would be a good idea to read out the result of the Grand National held that afternoon (I'll resist the obvious gag about old nags...) Sadly, my parents split a little more than a decade later. By the time my father got married for a third time - in 1993 - his desperation had reached the level where he asked me to be his best man. One of my half-brothers was an ardent Rangers fan and with the reception being at the rather ridiculous time of five o'clock on a Saturday in September, I had managed to obtain both the Rangers and Hearts results and read them out as I was delivering the good luck messages. This didn't go down well with pater or the considerable number of Celtic fans at the reception.

In recent years I was at the wedding of Gordon, a good friend of mine who had the somewhat dubious pleasure of not only being a Hearts season ticket holder but of sitting next to me at Tynecastle. Like my father, Gordon decided to get married during the football season and, inexplicably, when Hearts were playing Kilmarnock meaning we both missed the game. The wedding was held in early afternoon so the game was kicking off by the time we all headed for the reception. By now, mobile phone technology meant I was able to get instant updates from Tynecastle while simultaneously ordering drinks from the bar (if Gordon happens to read this you can insert your own punchline here about what a generous fella I am...) Sadly, I soon wished I hadn't bothered as the phone update displayed the news Hearts had lost a couple of early goals. On relaying this information to the bridegroom, his newly acquired wife overheard and snapped 'that b*****d is giving my Gordon the football scores' I still don't know if Gordon was more aghast at his new wife's response or the fact that Hearts were two nil down. Sadly, Gordon's marriage lasted as long as Hearts chances of lifting the league title...

References to sporting events or broadcasts at weddings seldom go down well. A few years back one of my wife's multitude of relatives got married at Aberdeen Football Club's Pittodrie Stadium (I should add she had the good sense not to get married when Aberdeen were playing there) Being Aberdeen, I'm tempted to suggest many of those at the reception walked out long before the end - but I won't. However, the best man gave the usual nervous, painful speech before adding the last time he saw the bridegroom looking so happy was when he got Sky Sports installed. Aberdonians can have a peculiar sense of humour and my guffaw at such a witty comment echoed round the room as it appeared I was the only person who found it funny. Sadly, this marriage was also to hit rocky seas...

My own marriage was slap bang in the middle of the 1982 World Cup. She Who Must be Obeyed insisted on a June wedding but I saw obvious merit on arranging it for the day before her birthday - and the day after Scotland lost 4-1 to Brazil. Not only did few people want to talk about football thereby rendering any mention of the game in my speech futile, the date meant I could combine future anniversary and birthday presents to the infamous Mrs Smith thereby saving a small fortune.

Like any wedding, it pays to plan ahead. Just don't mention the football. Like the cake it will all end in tiers...

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Life Before the Computer...

Memory was something you lost with age,

An application was for employment,

A programme was a show on TV,

A cursor was someone who swears a lot,

A keyboard was a piano,

A web was a spiders home,

A virus was the flu, (manflu that is)

A hard drive was a long trip down the motorway,

A mouse pad was where a mouse lived,

And if you had a 3-inch floppy .....

well you just hoped and prayed no b*****d found out!

Saturday, 4 September 2010

Bat out of Hell

Thanks to my good friend Peggy for the photo - it's a belter!

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

FLM Loans...

My youngest daughter Michaela took out a personal loan last year in order to pay for her new car. Like, I suspect, many fathers across the country I agreed to be the guarantor. Michaela has made all her payments on time - she gets paid on 28th of each month and the loan repayment is due on 29th of each month. Until August  - when thought they would be smart and try and deduct the amount due two days early. With insufficient funds in my daughter's bank account - being the day before payday - inevitably FLMLoans found that pushing their luck had failed. Cue two text messages from them to me today - and an email which I have reproduced below - along with my reply.

May I respectfully suggest, dear reader, if you are considering taking out a personal loan you give FLMLoans a wide berth. I've known loan sharks who are less threatening...




Date: Wed, 1 Sep 2010 16:46:44 +0100

Subject: Thought you might like to know...

Agreement - *********

Hi Michael George,

I’m confused. Your debit card isn’t working for August's payment as promised.

I've given your case to Kathryn on my Team. They'll call and text you until we've received the money. This is because we promised to keep you in the loop and we always keep our promises. They'll also write to you if they have to.

I'll email you too. This is because I want you to make the right choice and stick to your promise to pay your loan back on time. You can stop all of this before it starts by clicking here; updating your details and paying the £151.19.

Thanks in advance

Tom @ FLM

P.S. You can call our automated payment robot 24/7 to make a payment too on ***********

FLM is a trading name of Financial Processing UK Ltd.Register in the UK, number 4841153.

Registered Address: Walton House, 56 - 58 Richmond Hill, Bournemouth BH2 6EX.

Registered with the Information Commissioners Office Z8738456.

Consumer Credit License Number 557709


Hello Tom

Sorry for the rather informal address but as you didn't bother to provide your surname I have little choice. In fact you didn't give your job title either so I have no idea who you are. It's fair to say I'm rather underwhelmed by your lack of professionalism.

I am the guarantor for my daughter Michaela Smith's personal loan with your company. Having spoken to my daughter about this she advises that the agreement she has with you is that her payment is taken from her bank account on the 29th of each month. For August you clearly thought it a good idea to try and deduct this on 27th - which is the day before my daughter's salary enters her bank account. Yes, this was a bank holiday weekend but a quick look at the calendar tells me Monday was 30 August.

You sent your email to me at 5.15pm today. This followed two text messages from your colleague Kathryn - again, no surname or job title but this appears the way your company does its business. When you sent your email this was several hours after the money due was deducted from my daughter's bank account.

I find the actions of you and your colleague threatening and bordering on harassment - particularly when you apparently didn't bother to contact my daughter whose account the payments are being deducted from. This is the first payment that has been late since my daughter began the loan repayments last year - and this is through no fault of hers - or mine - as you decided to try and deduct the amount due two days early which is clearly against the agreement my daughter signed.

You should now have received payment and therefore I expect tardy communication such as those I have received today to cease. Further, I would hope to receive a full apology but I don't expect you will even consider this.

What I am considering, however, is reporting you and your company to the Financial Ombudsman for your bullying tactics.

I await your response.

Mike Smith

Saturday, 28 August 2010

The Joke-O-Motive

I was at the Tim Vine show at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival last night. The Punmeister was on top form as usual although he did seem narked by someone in the audience who thought it smart to film him. Vine had a new array of gags which I won't repeat here (go and see his show before it ends this weekend!) but below is a selection of some of his material from previous gigs:

I had a dream last night that I was cutting carrots with the Grim Reaper . . . dicing with death!

Albinos - you can't say fairer than that.

I saw this bloke chatting up a cheetah and I thought: 'He's trying to pull a fast one.'

So I said to this train driver: 'I want to go to Paris.' He said: 'Eurostar?' I said: 'I've been on telly, but I'm no Dean Martin.'

Beware of Alphabet Grenades. If you throw them, it could spell disaster.

I was walking down the road the other day and I saw this advert in the window that said: 'Television for sale, £1, volume stuck on full.' I thought: 'I can't turn that down.'

A friend of mine always wanted to be run over by a steam train. When it happened, he was chuffed to bits!
Black Beauty - he's a dark horse.

I wanted to be a milkman - but I didn't have the bottle

I rang up my local swimming baths. I said: 'Is that the local swimming baths?' He said: 'It depends where you're calling from.'

So I said to the gym instructor: 'Can you teach me to do the splits?' He said: 'How flexible are you?' I said: 'I can't make Tuesdays.'

This bloke says to me: 'Can I come in your house and talk about your carpets?' I thought: 'That's all I need, a Je-hoover's witness.'

My next-door neighbour worships exhaust pipes - he's a catholic converter.

I've got a friend who's fallen in love with two school bags - he's bisatchel.

So I went down the local supermarket. I said: 'I want to make a complaint - this vinegar's got lumps in it.' He said: 'Those are pickled onions.'

I'll tell you what I love doing more than anything: trying to pack myself in a small suitcase. I can hardly contain myself.

I used go out with an anaesthetist - she was a local girl.

During the war, my grandfather could not stop scribbling. He got hit by a Doodlebug.

I've got a front door made from sponge. Don't knock it.

I've played football on a plane, you know . . . there I was, running up the wing!

I went to the butchers the other day and the butcher said: 'I bet you £5 you can't guess the weight of that meat on the top shelf.' 'I'm not gambling,' I said. 'The steaks are too high.'

I threw some snow at my girlfriend. She didn't catch my drift.

Did you hear Handel has teamed up with Hinge and Bracket? They've formed The Doors.

I was taking the motorway out of London. A policeman pulled me over and said: 'Put it back.'

So I went down my local icecream shop and said: 'I want to buy an icecream.' He said: 'Hundreds and thousands?' I said: 'We'll start with the one.'

When I left home, my mum said: 'Don't forget to write.' I thought: 'That's unlikely - it's a basic skill, isn't it?'

Velcro . . . what a ripoff.

I went to the record shop and I said: 'What have you got by The Doors?' He said: 'A bucket of sand and a fire blanket...'

You know, somebody actually complimented me on my driving today. They left a little note on the windscreen which said 'parking fine'. So that was nice.

I have spent the afternoon re-arranging the furniture in Dracula's house . . . I was doing a bit of Fang-Shui.

When it comes to cosmetic surgery, a lot of people turn their noses up.