Sunday, 28 March 2010

Scots Wha Hae

Somewhere in England....

The Minister for Health - the Right Honourable Andy Burnham MP - is awoken at 4am by the telephone.

'Sorry to bother you, sir, at this hour but there is an emergency' gasps the exasperated caller. 'I've just received word that the Durex factory in Liverpool has burned to the ground. It is estimated that the entire English supply of condoms will be gone by the end of the week.'

Andy Burnham MP: 'Shit! Alistair Darling has just published the budget. The economy will never be able to cope with all those unwanted babies. We'll be ruined. We're going to have to ship some in from France.'

Junior Minister: 'If I may say so, sir, that's not a good idea. Sarkozy and his government will have a field day on this one. May I make a suggestion?'

Burnham: 'Go on.'

Junior Minister: 'What about Scotland? The Scottish government is always complaining about how they're ignored by England. Perhaps they could help.'

Burnham: 'Good idea! Call Alex Salmond. Tell him we need five million condoms, ten inches long and eight inches thick.

Junior Minister: 'But, sir, surely we don't need them as big as that?

Burnham: 'Of course not. But the Scots will want to make capital out of this. This way they'll continue to respect the English.'

Three days later a delighted Andy Burnham MP runs out to open the boxes that arrived at Westminster. He finds five million condoms. As requested they are ten inches long, eight inches thick, all coloured blue and white with small writing on each one.


Saturday, 27 March 2010

Lights Out for the Environment?

Right, let's get one thing straight: there's no such thing as global warming.

It is an invention of embittered minorities - unwashed hippies who can't get a job, Guardian readers - and women. And if I see one more whining student sorting his rubbish out into different containers I'm going to ram a Paco Rabanne deodorant up his jacksie and set it alight.

Bunch of goody-two-shoes ruining our fun, turning off the lights at the drop of a hat. It's all hypocrisy anyway...

From the Radio Times for w/c 27 March 2010.

Gene Hunt for Prime Minister I say!

Some other Hunt quotes:

Sam Tyler: I think we need to explore whether this attempted murder was a hate crime.
Gene: What as opposed to one of those I-really-really-like-you sort of murders?

Gene Hunt: The NF are far too stupid for that. They could stick a shotgun up my arse and pull the trigger - they'd still miss!

Sam Tyler: I still think we need to entertain the possibility that this could be a racial killing... Gene: Oh, well let's entertain it, let's take it out for a prawn cooktail, a steak and a bottle of Liebfraumilch, then let's kick it into the gutter where it belongs!

Sam Tyler: Be gentle, will you?
Gene Hunt: I'm not a bleeding luddite. [Andrea opens the door]
Gene Hunt: Hiya love. DCI Hunt. How're you feeling? Just come to talk to you about how your brother copped it.

Sam Tyler: Did you know that Billy took cocaine?
Andrea Kemble: He doesn't. He'd never take drugs.
Gene Hunt: Well, with respect, you probably thought he kept his cock in his keks and all.
Andrea Kemble: He your boss? [Sam nods]
Andrea Kemble: Well, what would I get for smacking him one?
Sam Tyler: Round of applause from half our station.

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Fan Daby Dozy...

Great news - The Krankies have said they will be appearing in pantomime in Glasgow later this year...

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Man Flu - The Facts (well, sort of...)

Men may have a weaker immune system and could be more vulnerable to so-called 'man flu', scientists propose. Evolutionary factors and hormonal differences may make males more susceptible to infection than females, says a Cambridge University team. Their theory, outlined in a scientific journal, suggests there is a trade-off between a strong immune system and reproductive success.

Previous experiments have found differences in the ability of females and males to deal with infection. The study, published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B journal, investigated the reason for these differences. Dr Olivier Restif, one of the authors, said: "If you assume that males are more exposed to infection, then can natural selection influence that process?"

To find out, scientists developed a mathematical model that highlighted the role of other factors, like ecology and epidemiology, in shaping the immune systems of men and women.

"If males are more exposed to infection than females (for behavioural reasons for example), it is possible to see them evolve lower immuno-competence than females," the authors wrote.

But John Oxford, Professor of Virology at the University of London, disagrees.

He says his team at the University of London deliberately infected men and women with the flu virus. He says there was no noticeable difference between their recovery times or their immunity.

"But the women did complain more," he added.

From the BBC News Website
So now it's official - Man Flu does exist. Although Professor Oxford disagrees - however, I particularly liked his comment in the final paragraph...

Sunday, 21 March 2010

If Carlsberg Made Saturdays...

...they would be like Saturday 20 March 2010.

In the early afternoon I watched Hearts demolish Hibernian in the Edinburgh derby. Read about it here:

Okay, it was only 2-1 to Edinburgh's finest football team but it could - and should - have been much more.

Later, I caught some of the action on the television from Dublin as Scotland's rugby players recorded a rare victory - their first in the Six Nations this season - by defeating Ireland 23-20 at Croke Park. Their unexpected win denied the Irish another Triple Crown.
To round things off, I headed to Edinburgh's Picture House music venue to see the legends that are The Beat in concert. The master purveyors of ska and reggae were on top form as usual - even if Ranking Junior's mobility was restricted as he had done his back in! Meanwhile, his father Ranking Roger pranced around on stage like he was a child! The Beat gave us all the old classics - Save It For Later, Ranking Full Stop, Best Friend among many - as well as some impressive new songs.

Yes, Saturday was a grand day!

Friday, 19 March 2010

Suspended Belief...

Working in the field of Human Resources as I do - okay, some people may challenge the term 'work' but I do at least turn up at the office on a daily basis - I was interested in an article in the latest edition of Personnel Today, the weekly publication for HR professionals (enter your own punchline here)

The article was about the draft Employment Statutory Code of Practice which has been published by the Equality and Human Rights Commission. Part of the aim of the Code is to protect people's beliefs. I can see, dear reader, you are already ahead of me on this one. For it is envisaged that some of these beliefs may include:

Feng Shui believers who shun the number four in meeting rooms,desk numbers etc. This stems from the fact the number four is considered auspicious as it sounds like 'death' in Cantonese. I look forward to the next disciplinary hearing I am asked to attend. There will be the manager, the employee, their trade union representative - and me. Hang on, that makes four in the room. 'That's discrimination on grounds of my beliefs' says 'the accused'. 'And you've deliberately arranged the hearing for four o'clock on the fourth day of the week on the fourth month of the year. Okay, then - you may have been suspected of emptying the safe in the office and burning the building down with ten people still inside but rather than risk being taken to an Employment Tribunal, we'll let you off - this time...

Vegans demanding a separate fridge and non-leather chairs. Now, I don't really have a problem with this. In fact, I wouldn't stop at separate fridges. How about separate kitchens; separate floors; nay, separate buildings. And non-leather chairs? Only one person in our company can even consider a leather chair (and it certainly ain't me...)

An environmentalist (aka a tree-hugging hippy) demanding time off to attend a protest march, under a company policy that allows absence for important religious events. Many years ago in the early 1980s BC (before children) I used to attend CND marches in Aberdeen and Edinburgh - at weekends. In those less enlightened days, if I took time off work during the week to do so I would have been involved in another kind of march - the sort that would have taken me to the nearest Job Centre.

Reading the article had my manager and I shaking our heads. I did, however, agree with one part of the article - a quote from Richard Crouch, Head of HR at Somerset County Council who said 'the world had gone barking mad'

Well said, Mr Crouch - although I suspect he may receive a letter from some tree-hugging, Feng Shui practising vegan who says their dog has found his comments offensive...

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Why Some Men Have Dogs and Not Wives...

1. The later you are, the more excited your dogs are to see you.

2. Dogs don't notice if you call them by another dog's name.

3. Dogs like it if you leave a lot of things on the floor.

4. A dog's parents never visit.

5. Dogs agree that you have to raise your voice to get your point across.

6. You never have to wait for a dog; they're ready to go 24 hours a day.

7. Dogs find you amusing when you're drunk.

8. Dogs like to go hunting and fishing.

9. A dog will not wake you up at night to ask, 'If I died, would you get another dog?'

10. If a dog has babies, you can put an ad in the paper and give them away...

11. A dog will let you put a studded collar on it without calling you a pervert.

12. If a dog smells another dog on you, they don't get mad. They just think it's interesting.

13. Dogs like to ride in the back of a pickup truck.

And last, but not least:

14. If a dog leaves, it won't take half of your stuff.

Saturday, 13 March 2010

Liftin' Me Higher...

Your love is liftin' me higher
Than I've ever been lifted before
So keep it up, quench my desire
And I'll be at your side forever more

You know your love
Keeps on liftin' Me Higher
I said your love, your love keeps liftin' me
Keeps on liftin' me
Liftin' me higher and higher

Now once I was downhearted
Disappointment was my closest friend
But then you came and he soon departed
And you know he never showed his face again

That's why your love
Keeps on liftin' me higher
I said your love
Keeps on liftin' me higher

I'm so glad I finally found you
Yes, that one in a million girls
And I wish my lovin' arms around ya
Honey, I can stand up and face the world

Let me tell ya your love
Keeps on liftin' me higher
I said your love
Keeps on liftin' me higher...

The irrepressible Jackie Wilson

Poetry Corner


Before I lay me down to sleep,
I pray for a man who's not a creep,
One who's handsome, smart and strong,
One who loves to listen long,
One who thinks before he speaks,
One who'll call, not wait for weeks.
I pray he's rich and self-employed,
And when I spend, won't be annoyed.
Pull out my chair and hold my hand.
Massage my feet and help me stand.
Oh send a king to make me queen.
A man who loves to cook and clean.
I pray this man will love no other.
And relish visits with my mother.


I pray for a deaf-mute gymnast nymphomaniac
With large breasts
Who owns a bar on a golf course,
And loves to send me fishing and drinking.
This doesn't rhyme and I don't give a sh*t.

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

A Father Remembered

Early in March 1997 I arranged to take my daughters Laura and Michaela through to Paisley to see their beloved Papa. I phoned him the Saturday before to confirm the arrangements; the usual routine, we would take the train through from Edinburgh and he would pick us up from Paisley Gilmour Street station. My father and I were practical kind of fellas so we didn’t usually bother with confirming the day before what was going to happen - we just did it.

So it was that I took the girls through on a Saturday afternoon. They were both excited as they loved seeing their Papa - he usually let them away with things I didn’t, such was the role of the doting grandparent as I would subconsciously demonstrate years later. And dote on them he did. By this time - early 1997 - my father was sadly on his own again. He had split from his third wife and had recently moved into a council flat in Paisley. He remained friends with the woman I used to call Mrs Smith III but he was back to living on his own once more. It was almost as if he preferred it that way. Our visit that Saturday was to be our first to his new flat in a not exactly upmarket area of Paisley.

We got off the train in Paisley around 2.00pm. Unusually, there was no sign of my father. He was many things but he was always a man of his word - when he said he would be somewhere he usually was. 1997 were the days before mobile telephones were in such widespread use so I headed for the nearest call box (ask your parents, younger readers) in an attempt to phone him at home. No reply. Well, he must be on his way I thought to myself, although it certainly wasn’t like him to be late. After waiting at Gilmour Street station for half an hour - although with an increasingly bored Laura and Michaela it seemed like two hours - there was still no sign of him. By now, my anxiety had increased. This was so unlike him. I had his new address so I decided to jump on a bus and head round to see him.
Eventually, we got there only to find there was no reply. There was silence, no sign of life - as it turned out literally so. My wife Pat had been working that day until early afternoon but I called her from Paisley asking if my father had been in touch. He hadn’t been. He had previously mentioned about going away for a weekend with Mrs Smith III in an attempt to patch up their relationship so I asked Pat to phone her. I called Pat a few minutes later - she confirmed there had been no answer from Mrs Smith III’s home either. That was it, I assumed. The old blighter had gone away for the weekend with his estranged wife and had forgotten about us! Although something didn’t sit right about it. It was most unlike him, normally the most organised of people. We headed back to Dalkeith, somewhat irritated over our wasted journey. My irritation increased over the weekend as repeated phone calls to Mrs Smith III’s house weren’t being answered. That had to explain everything - she was obviously away for the weekend as well - with my absent-minded and absent father.
It wasn’t until three days later on the Tuesday evening when I returned home from work that the bombshell dropped. The telephone rang. It was Mrs Smith III. Had I seen my father? she asked. My heart sank. She explained she had been away for a few days - but not with my father. She had been to see her daughter in Ireland. Now I feared the worst. I have two half brothers who at that time lived in Cumbernauld with my father’s second wife - their mother. Mrs Smith III said she would contact them and phone me back. I anxiously paced the room, my heart pounding. I just knew this was bad news. Half an hour later, the phone rang again. It wasn’t Mrs Smith III. It was my Uncle Jack - my father’s brother-in-law - phoning from Aberdeen.
The police had broken into my father’s flat in Paisley and found his body slumped in a chair. He had been dead for several days - certainly he had been lying there the day I had gone to see him with the girls. The newspaper lying on his lap indicated he had died the day after I had spoken to him on the phone the week before. His heart simply could take no more and stopped. Mercifully, he had not suffered any pain when he died although I didn’t find that particularly comforting at the time.

Devastation overcame me. I had become closer to my father than at any other time in my life and now he was gone. Gone before I had the chance to tell him how I really felt about him. Gone before I could thank him for helping me make a life for myself in Edinburgh. Heart-breakingly, gone before he could see Laura and Michaela grow up and develop into two wonderful people of whom my father would have been so proud - and before Laura had produced two equally wonderful children of her own, Jack and Hannah. How my father would have doted on those two wee scamps…

His death was the one of the worst episodes of my life. Like most people who lose a loved one, I miss him terribly, even today, thirteen years on. I went into automatic pilot mode for the funeral and the immediate aftermath. I didn’t grieve properly until some time after and on my own. In my mind I wanted to go somewhere no one could find me. It’s a trait that remains with me to this day and is now evident in my daughters, particularly Michaela who has had her own tragedy to deal with in the past year.

Every year since 1997, on the eleventh day of March, I take time to remember my father and reflect on his passing. This year will be no different…

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

The Husband Store

A store that sells new husbands has opened in New York City, where a woman may go to choose a husband. Among the instructions at the entrance is a description of how the store operates:

You may visit this store ONLY ONCE! There are six floors and the value of the products increase as the shopper ascends the flights. The shopper may choose any item from a particular floor, or may choose to go up to the next floor, but you cannot go back down except to exit the building!

So, a woman goes to the Husband Store - strangely enough, to find a husband. On the first floor the sign on the door reads: Floor 1 - These Men Have Jobs. She is intrigued, but continues to the second floor, where the sign reads: Floor 2 - These Men Have Jobs and Love Kids

'That's nice,' she thinks, 'but I want more.' So she continues upward.

The third floor sign reads: Floor 3 - These Men Have Jobs, Love Kids, and are Extremely Good Looking

'Wow,' she thinks, but feels compelled to keep going.

She goes to the fourth floor and the sign reads: Floor 4 - These Men Have Jobs, Love Kids, are Drop-dead Good Looking and Help With Housework

'Oh, mercy me!' she exclaims, 'I can hardly stand it!'

Still, she goes to the fifth floor and the sign reads: Floor 5 - These Men Have Jobs, Love Kids, are Drop-dead Gorgeous, Help with Housework, and Have a Strong Romantic Streak.

She is so tempted to stay, but she goes to the sixth floor, where the sign reads: Floor 6 - You are visitor 31,456,012 to this floor. There are no men on this floor. This floor exists solely as proof that women are impossible to please. Thank you for shopping at the Husband Store.

In the interests of balance and to avoid gender bias charges, the store's owner opened a New Wives store just across the street with the same rules.The first floor has wives that love sex. The second floor has wives that love sex and have money and like beer.

The third, fourth, fifth and sixth floors have never been visited....

Sunday, 7 March 2010

Cross Country Trains (well, bloody furious actually)

On Saturday I had the pleasure of visiting Newcastle, one of my favourite cities in the UK. Not so pleasurable was my decision to use Cross Country Trains as my mode of getting there.

Edinburgh and Newcastle are just ninety minutes apart by train. At least they used to be when Great North Eastern Railways (GNER) ran the franchise. Going by my experience on Saturday, it now takes considerably longer with Cross Country Trains.

I was booked on the 11.05 train from Edinburgh's Waverley Station. I met my mate and fellow part-time follower of Newcastle United FC, Graeme, at 10.30. We were greeted by the less than welcoming message on the departures board that our train would not now leave until 11.23. We headed for the pub for a swift half, purely for medicinal purposes (to keep out the cold, of course) We then headed for platform twenty where the departure time still stated 11.23. At 11.31 the train trundled in. As always seems to be the case when travelling by rail, someone was sitting in our reserved seats and seemed none too pleased when asked to move. When the train eventually departed five minutes later there was an announcement from a weary sounding Cross Country Trains official that the train was running half an hour late as a result of a staff member turning up late on its departure from Aberdeen earlier that morning. Well, that's okay then.

A pleasant day was spent in the company of football loving Geordies and we witnessed Newcastle United hammer Barnsley to the tune of 6-1. St. James Park is a just a few minutes walk from Newcastle Central Station and we ambled back there after the game in plenty time to catch our train back to Edinburgh at 18.05. Can you guess what happened next, dear reader? Yep, our train was late. 75 minutes late.

We headed back into the centre of Newcastle to partake in alcoholic refreshment - again, for medicinal purposes to keep the cold weather at bay. With our train's departure time now 19.24 we headed for platform two for 19.15. Mild panic set in when the departure board stated our train had arrived - but the dozens of fellow passengers milling around the platform indicated otherwise. The notice then changed to 'expected 19.31'

By now our frustration had turned to anger - as it had done with most of the other passengers looking to head north. There was no tannoy announcement regarding our train's late arrival and no information from bemused looking Cross Country Train officials. As much as I love the city of Newcastle, the prospect of spending the entire evening at Central Station wasn't an appealing one.

Eventually the train arrived at 19.33 - nearly ninety minutes late. The train departed Newcastle at the time it should have been arriving in Edinburgh. The reason given for the delay was there had been a fatality at Grantham. Now incidents such as these and the consequent delays unfortunately do happen. But it would have been nice if Cross Country Trains had kept their beleaguered passengers informed - or even had the foresight to run an extra train from Newcastle to Edinburgh in order to keep their customers happy. Back in the old days when Britain's railways were nationalised this may well have happened but with today's privatised industry generation this was never a possibility.

So if you're intending to travel with the rather aptly named Cross Country Trains - although furious is a rather more accurate description than 'Cross' - expect your train to be running late. And don't expect to be kept informed...

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

MBNA - Would You Credit It?

For years I maintained I would never own a credit card. I insisted that I could my manage my finances perfectly well without one and I saw the card as a millstone, encouraging high levels of debt and incurring crippling levels of interest. However, technology has influenced the way we live like few could have imagined and now having a credit card is essential for buying things on the internet and such like. A few years ago I took out a Bank of Scotland credit card but then replaced this with what seemed like a good deal from an American company called MBNA. And it was - until now.
Yesterday and again this morning, I tried to use my card to make deposits to my account at Bet365 website. The first attempts were not processed as they were 'not authorised'. Thinking it was the fault of the Bet365 website, I tried Ladbrokes - but the same problem occurred.

I telephoned MBNA's customer services team today. After battling to get past the voice activated computer system, I eventually spoke to a human being. I was advised that, as I was using the card for gambling purposes, the transaction was being barred. I asked the fella on the other end of the phone to repeat what he had said as I had difficulty in not thinking he was winding me up. He wasn't. It seems MBNA have now adopted a moral stance with their customers - no, Mr Smith, thou shalt not gamble.
I find this remarkable given I have used my card for this purpose before - the last time being in March 2009, which hardly makes me a compulsive gambler. But what really annoys me is that this company can dictate what I can use my card to make purchases on.

I have never fallen behind with payments on my card in all the years I have been a customer. In fact, most months I pay off the outstanding amount due. To now be told by MBNA that I no longer have a choice in how I use my card is, frankly, outrageous.

I am now seriously considering ceasing my custom with MBNA and going elsewhere - somewhere the customer has a choice.
My advice to you, dear reader, is if you are thinking of becoming a customer with MBNA Credit Card services - think long and hard before doing so.

Monday, 1 March 2010

Calton Hill - Far From the Madding Crowd

The first day of March saw Edinburgh bathed in chilly winter sunshine. It's easy for those of us who live and work in and around Scotland's capital city to sometimes forget just what a wonderful city Auld Reekie is. Still enjoying some time off work, I decided on some solitude today and headed for Calton Hill, an oasis of calm in a vibrant city. A gloriously sunny day meant the conditions were ideal for taking the odd snap or two. There were the inevitable tourists milling around but I sat and and enjoyed the magnificent views while listening to the buzz of ceaseless activity on the streets below.
It was the perfect location to gather one's thoughts. With screaming schoolchildren now back at school after their 'half-term' break, Monday morning seemed the perfect time. I switched off my mobile phone, sat back and took it all in. No interruptions, no phones ringing, no hassle. Much as I love my family, everyone needs a little time on their own. And I'm thankful for being in such a beautiful city that affords its citizens the opportunity to do just that.
I know what you're thinking, dear reader. The Ranter is suffering from an uncharacteristic moment of enthusiasm. On Wednesday I'll be back at work with all the stress and pressure it brings.
But for a glorious hour or so today, I enjoyed that rare occasion in my life - tranquility!