Thursday, 25 February 2010

Getting Old (Part 94)

I find it hard to believe that it's less than twenty years since the above photograph of a somewhat angelic looking child was taken. My darling daughter Laura had recently celebrated her fourth birthday when the above snap was taken shortly after my family and I moved into the Gorgie area of Edinburgh. It's even harder to believe Laura now has two children of her own, the terrible twosome but eminently loveable Jack and Hannah. And belief nearly becomes suspended altogether when one considers Laura has a third child on the way in May. She'll probably cringe when she sees this and I expect her to give me a hard time but she knows I'm proud of her - especially so given this third pregnancy has been a particularly difficult one for her with more hospital visits than Nicola Sturgeon...

Seeing my wee girl do such a great job of bring up Jack and Hannah and prepare for another child, is another sign of my ageing process. I had an appointment with my doctor today as I continue to suffer from a viral illness and sought stronger anti-biotics to finally kill the blighter. Apparently what I have can last for up to six weeks - but to quote my friend Adullamite, I'm not one to complain...

However, my repeat prescription list now has nine items on it - including my usual medication to control my high blood pressure, asthma and cholesterol. My doctor asked if I smoked. She wasn't impressed with my reply that I didn't and she should have remembered to buy her fags on the way to the surgery...

I'm off now to the chemist. I hope they have plenty of stock...

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Touching Base (or unsolicited phone calls)

Ah, the joys of having a few days off work. Like any other year, 2010 seems to be passing at a fair rate of knots (jeezo, it's March next week) and it doesn't seem any time since I was off for Christmas and New Year. It has, however, been six weeks since my last break and now I have five days off work with which to recharge the batteries.

I have previously ranted on these pages about being pestered by unsolicited phone calls from people wishing to sell me anything from double glazing, to life insurance, to SKY Television to numerous mobile phones, each much better than the other. Since I joined the Telephone Preference System a few months ago, these calls have, for the most part, ceased. However, a relatively recent pattern has emerged at work - phone calls from recruitment agencies and publishing companies. And, boy, do they irritate the hell out of me.

It usually happens when the company I work for advertises a vacancy in the local press. No sooner does the paper hit the news stands than every Tom, Dick and Harry - although it's usually Dick - is on the telephone.

Good morning, Mr Smith, how are you today?

This immediately places me on Agency Alert. I work in the Human Resources profession (some might say work is stretching things but that's another matter) so when someone is being nice it usually means they want something in return.

You may remember we spoke a few weeks ago regarding your vacancies and I just wanted to touch base with you about how things are going.

Two things here. Firstly, it's damn near certain this person didn't speak to me before but their ruse is clearly to get me believing they did. Initially, I fell for this trick but now I'm getting streetwise. Secondly, what the hell is this 'touch base' nonsense? I'll tell you what it is (he said, answering his own question) It's another example of the Americanisation of this country. Now, I mean no offence to June from Seattle and her fellow Americans such as Joanna who regularly visit my blog. But 'touch base' is a sports term used in the United States isn't it? Somehow it's wormed its way into everyday vocabulary in this country and it really - no, really - annoys me. I much prefer 'I just wanted to catch up with you' as this implies I'm running away from them - which I am doing...

My attempts to abort the call don't usually work as the parting shot is 'I'll call you again in a month or so just to see how you're doing' Well, I'm telling you now that things are pretty shit and I can only see more of the brown stuff a month from now.

The other major irritants are those who sell advertising space in newspapers. You can guarantee that as soon as we advertise in one local paper people from ten others will be straight on the phone.

I saw your advert in today's edition of The Scotsman. I thought I would give you a courtesy call (an oxymoron if ever there was one) to let you know one of our advertisers has pulled out from using our paper so we have space available to publish your vacancy for a cut down price of (insert any figure from £100 upwards here)

This is just tosh. It wouldn't be so bad if they just phoned and asked do you want to advertise in our rag. But it's the blatant lie about space suddenly becoming available that irks me and, I suspect, many others.

So for the next few days I won't be 'touching base' with anyone. And when I return to work next week, I still won't be...

Saturday, 20 February 2010

I Believe

That just because two people argue, it doesn't mean they don't love each other. And just because they don't argue, it doesn't mean they do love each other...

That we don't have to change friends if we understand that friends change...

That no matter how good a friend is, they're going to hurt you every once in a while and you should forgive them for that...

That true friendship continues to grow, even over the longest distance. Same goes for true love...

That you can do something in an instant that will give you heartache for life...

That it's taking me a long time to become the person I want to be..(and I ain't there yet!)

That you should always leave loved ones with loving words. It may be the last time you see them...

That you can keep going long after you think you can't...

That we are responsible for what we do, no matter how we feel...

That either you control your attitude or it controls you...

That heroes are the people who do what has to be done when it needs to be done, regardless of the consequences...

That sometimes the people you expect to kick you when you're down will be the ones to help you get back up...

That sometimes when I'm angry I have the right to be angry but that doesn't give me the right to be cruel...

That it isn't always enough, to be forgiven by others. Sometimes, you have to learn to forgive yourself...

That no matter how bad your heart is broken the world doesn't stop for your grief...

That our background and circumstances may have influenced who we are. But, we are responsible for who we become..

Two people can look at the exact same thing and see something totally different...

The happiest of people don't necessarily have the best of everything; they just make the most of everything they have.

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Worst Group Rant No.94a

I read in the news the other day that First Group were announced as preferred bidder for the provision of direct coaches, park and ride services and venue shuttle services for spectators to the London 2012 Games.

Those who frequent my rants on a regular basis (Mrs Trellis from North Wales...) may be aware of my feelings about Worst Group. I gave up on their woeful bus services in Edinburgh some time ago. I now use Lothian Buses and can't help smirking on many mornings as I board an on-time warm, modern, Lothian Bus, leaving poor frustrated First Bus passengers at the stop still waiting for their old, noisy and battered old bus which should have arrived five minutes earlier.

Sadly, the majority of train services in Scotland are run by Scotrail - which is operated by Worst Group. This Saturday many Scotrail staff have opted for strike action. However, the company have said they hope to run nine out of ten trains. My plans for Saturday include heading to Larbert to watch the mighty East Stirlingshire so I emailed the Scotrail website last Sunday to ask if the Edinburgh-Dunblane service - which runs through Larbert - would be running. By Wednesday there was no reply from their 'customer services' department so I used an old fashioned method - and phoned instead. A somewhat harassed Scotrail employee told me the service would be running as usual on Saturday.

Yesterday, I finally received an email from Scotrail - three days later. This acknowledged my email and my plan to travel from Edinburgh to, er, Perth. It further advised that there would be few trains going to Perth that day and advised against making the journey. Subsequently, I will turn up at Edinburgh's Waverley Station on Saturday lunch time not knowing if I'll get a train to Larbert or not.

If anyone is looking to use Worst Group's Olympic services in London two years from now, may I suggest you set off quite soon to avoid disappointment. Or, if you really want to avoid disappointment, use Shanks's Pony...

Saturday, 13 February 2010

Welcome to the Working Week

The working week should be cut to 21 hours to help boost the economy and improve quality of life, a left-wing think tank has said. The New Economics Foundation claimed in a report the reduction in hours would help to ease unemployment and overwork.

The think tank said people were working longer hours now than 30 years ago even though unemployment was at 2.5 million. The foundation admitted people would earn less, but said they would have more time to carry out worthy tasks.

From the BBC News Website

Ah, think tanks. Where would we be without them? An ingenious thought, reducing the working week to 21 hours. I may just suggest this to my manager at our team meeting on Monday morning. However, I'm not very confident he'll agree and he will certainly dismiss the sub-text of my suggestion that my salary remains as it is for doing less work. In fact there's a more than reasonable chance he'll make a suggestion of his own, namely I reduce my hours even further to zero per week and with salary in accordance to hours worked...

I like the quote that the foundation 'admitted people would earn less'. Wow, they've certainly given this considerable thought. However, they say, people would have more time to carry out worthy tasks. Like figuring out how to pay the mortgage, council tax, gas bill, phone bill etc, etc.

I have fond memories of my wife's grandfather from a quarter of a century ago. He was old Labour through and through (none of this new Labour nonsense) and he and I would engage in lively political debate whenever we met. Being a Scottish Nationalist, my own political views weren't a million miles from the auld fella's. At the time, Thatcherism was at its height and The Hatcher as he so memorably called her was well down the road in her plan to destroy Scotland. Grandad used to tell me the only way to fight hard right, like Thatcher, was with hard left. Although then Labour leader Michael Foot's election campaign didn't do much for that argument.

I wonder what Grandad would have thought about the above left-wing think tank's idea. Actually, I don't have to wonder. I know damn well what he would have thought. Meanwhile, back in the real world...

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Growing Old

A group of 40 year old buddies discuss where they should meet for dinner. Finally it is agreed upon that they should meet at the Ocean View restaurant because the waitresses there have low cut blouses and nice breasts.

10 years later, at 50 years of age, the group, once again discuss where they should meet for dinner. Finally it is agreed that they should meet at the Ocean View restaurant because the food there is very good and the wine selection is good also.

10 years later at 60 years of age, the group, once again, discuss where they should meet for dinner. Finally it is agreed that they should meet at the Ocean View restaurant because they can eat there in peace and quiet and the restaurant has a beautiful view of the ocean.

10 years later, at 70 years of age, the group, once again, discuss where they should meet for dinner. Finally it is agreed that they should meet at the Ocean View restaurant because the restaurant is wheel chair accessible and they even have a lift.

10 years later, at 80 years of age, the group, once again, discuss where they should meet for dinner. Finally it is agreed that they should meet at the Ocean View restaurant - because they have never been there before...

Sunday, 7 February 2010

It's in the Detail

You will work proactively to manage workloads and provide updates and information as requested.A successful performer in this role is approachable, adaptable and willing to go the extra mile. A good eye for detail, particularly when working under pressure, coupled with a responsive and positive attitude is essential. An ability to work within a team is also critical to effective performance. Monitor stationary supplies and order new or replacement stock ...

I came across this job advert on a website and couldn't help but smile. As well as the usual cliches - willing to go the extra mile, indeed - a good eye for detail clearly wasn't in the remit of the person who posted the advert.

It reminded me of when my daughters went to St. David's High School in Dalkeith a few years ago. Report cards could, on occasion, be comedy gold. My youngest daughter's report had a summary from her English teacher.

Michelle is hard working but tends to chat a lot in class and lacks attention to detail.

I suspected Michaela wasn't making as much an impression on her teacher as she thought...

East Stirlingshire's Magnificent Gesture

I try to keep my football thoughts on my other blog at

But not only are East Stirlingshire FC going great guns in the Scottish Third Division - if they beat Elgin on Wednesday they'll go top of the league - but they're doing their bit for the community.

The Elgin game at Ochilview will be free admission for all. Yes, free. There will be a collection to raise funds for the Yorkhill Children's Foundation and Shire are asking fans to donate in return for not paying an entrance fee to the game.

Football is presently having some bad press in the wake of the John Terry saga. It's time to highlight a magnificent gesture by East Stirlingshire - and one that deserves recognition.

Friday, 5 February 2010

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Father, Dear Father

I have a suspicion a few parents will relate to this. Particularly fathers. Particularly those fathers who have daughters.

Being a creature of habit, I paid a visit to my mother in her sheltered housing complex in Edinburgh's south side on Tuesday evening. Before I left the office to head there, I received a text message from my younger daughter Michaela.

Hiya Dad

Now this immediately raised my suspicions. Said daughter lives with one of her pals whose husband is fighting in Afghanistan. Michaela is there to give her some moral support (as if things weren't bad enough for the poor girl...) To cut a long story shorter, Michaela usually sends me a text message if she wants something. Usually money.

Are you going to Granny's tonight? I can pick you up after work.

My discomfort increased. She is going to see her Granny? And offering to pick me up? I was tempted to text back 'How much money do you want?' but I thought better of it and replied I would just see her round there. Which I did. And she gave me a lift home afterwards.

On the way back I sat in the passenger seat of her rather flash gold coloured MG sports car and waited for the bad news. There had to be bad news. There's no such thing as a free lunch with Michaela and I waited for the pitiful Daaad, can I borrow some money? request. But, to my surprise it didn't happen. She dropped me off, waved cheerio and was on her way. The last time she sent me a text message was a few weeks ago when she asked me to be the guarantor for said MG sports car. Naturally, being too soft for my own good, I agreed. I waited for her to tell me she wasn't going to be able to keep up the payments. But the words didn't come.

Today, I received another text message from Michaela.

Hiya Dad. What's that gig you want to go to next month?

I had mentioned my desire to see the fabulous ska band The Beat in Edinburgh next month. Darling daughter has now confirmed - with her third text message to me in two days - she has bought tickets for me for my birthday at the end of this month.

Touched as I am by my daughter's apparent concern for me and by her wish to get me something I actually want for a birthday present, my over-riding concern is one of anxiety. When your children reach adulthood you let them go and fend for themselves. The other side of that particular coin is they are determined to demonstrate they don't need you and, as is the case with Michaela and her older sister Laura, you can hear nothing from them for days. My running gag is that I only hear from my girls when they want something. Michaela is being nice to her poor, harassed, financially strained father and apparently looking for nothing in return.

Or will the phone ring tomorrow and I'll be greeted with the words 'Hello Mr Smith. I understand you agreed to be the guarantor for Michaela Smith...'

Monday, 1 February 2010

September 1962

An oft-used phrase heard these days is 'the nanny state'. This is a photograph of me inviting someone to a 'square-go' when I was a little over six months old. Yes, it was so long ago the photo is in black and white.

No nanny state back in 1962. In fact, as this photo illustrates, no nanny at all - hence the threatening of an outbreak of hostilities. What I find intriguing is not my stunning good looks, even at the baby's the fact one of the laddies standing at the pram has what appears to be two empty beer cans tied to his back.

Nanny state? We were a hard bunch back in the early 1960s...