Friday, 30 April 2010

Veg and Two Veg



2Ib new potatoes (the small ones mind)

3oz frozen peas

1 steak and onion pie



Can of John Smith's Bitter

and that spicy stuff in your cupboard which is nearly out of date, so you'd better use it with everything from here on in.

Wash spuds, put them in a saucepan full of water, on full heat. Go into the living room (or lounge if you live in Fairmilehead...) and catch the first half of The Simpsons. Open can of bitter and consume. When the ad break comes on, turn the potatoes down, say to them, 'No, I'm not ready for you just yet' What you do is turn the heat down and fill another saucepan with water for peas.

On the packet of peas it states that you should wait until the water is boiling before you throw in the peas. I don't believe in this method, I think it's a Government ploy to pacify the voters. Their reasoning being if the people are busy they won't revolt. I say dunk the peas in straight away and don't worry about the simmering business. Open another can of bitter and return to the living room/lounge and watch the rest of The Simpsons.

Check the potatoes by sinking a fork in one, or if you have noticed there is no water left in the saucepan, they should be about ready. Drain if necessary.

At this stage, the peas should be flying all over the kitchen, turn off heat as they are just about ready.

Take pie out of fridge, undo the wrapper and eat cold (the pie, not the wrapper) Place pie in the middle of the plate, letting the potatoes circle it and pour peas over in a pot-luck kind of way. You can daub a bit of butter on the plate for taste (to taste the food, not the plate...)

Open another can of bitter. Take a mouthful, close your eyes - and treat yourself to a meal out some time....

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Monday, 26 April 2010

One Year On

It's a year today since my daughter Michaela's fiance Billy passed away so suddenly and unexpectedly. He was 21 years old.

Her devastation was obvious and feelings are still raw a year later. She has got on with her life admirably and I am immensely proud of her. No one at such a young age should have to go through what she has  - although life does deal some people a terrible hand.

My thoughts are always with her - today even more so.

Sunday, 25 April 2010


Happiness is a faraway land
Although if you are far away it is home
Some might say it cannot be seen or heard
But sometimes it has to be seen to be heard
Be sure it has to be round the corner
Hidden, obscured by fate

Happiness is good music sometimes
Rude Boys bopping to ska
Seeing someone smiling, nearly almost

When the bath water is just right
A paragraph in a book
Sleepy sensations on trains
An afternoon nap
When beer goes down just right

A brilliant conversation, women, football, independence
Hearts beating Hibernian (often)
Edinburgh in all its magnificent splendour
The smell of the brewery wafting over the streets of Gorgie

These all have their moments

Happiness is reflections....on better days when times are sad

Saturday, 24 April 2010

Best Time of the Day (and the worst...)

During the week I had the somewhat dubious pleasure of travelling to Preston in Lancashire for a briefing on employment law. The briefing - it lasted all day so it wasn't that brief - started at 10.00am which meant I had to rise at 4.30am in order to be a Edinburgh's Waverley Station to catch the 6.52am service to Preston.

This is the third time I've made this journey in recent months. I realise this may be yet another sign of my unrelenting advance to my elder years but there is something wonderfully calming about travelling into Scotland's capital city at 6.00am. I boarded the bus at 5.40am. Not surprisingly I was the only one on the bus (apart from the bleary-eyed driver of course) and the journey from Dalkeith to the centre of Edinburgh took just forty minutes  - a couple of hours later the same journey would take a minimum of one hour.

One or two like-minded people got on the bus during the journey. However, there was almost complete silence on the way to the city. No foul-mouthed neds. No loud-mouthed schoolchildren. No sixteen year old mothers with buggies containing screaming brats taking up half the space on the lower deck. No incessant ringing of mobile phones 'Hullooooo, ah'm oan the bus...' The roads were quiet, the sun had just risen and peace and tranquility reigned. This albeit temporary state of affairs set me at ease for the two and a half hour train journey ahead to the north of England.

The return trip later that day meant catching the 5.00pm train from Preston....

As is the way with these trips, my seat on the train back to Edinburgh was reserved. Naturally, as I boarded the train at 5.00pm there was someone sitting in my seat. Not content with sitting on my seat she was using the other seat for her bag, newspaper, sandwiches and shopping. She was an elderly lady, clearly oblivious to the fact it was the rush-hour and what seemed like half of the population of Preston had joined the train. Thus ensued the following exchange of words:

Me: 'Excuse me, would you mind moving up one?'

Lady: 'What?'

Me: 'Can you move your stuff so I can get a seat? I have reserved the window seat you're in but I'm happy to sit in the aisle seat if you can just move your stuff to let me sit down'

Lady: 'Aren't there any other seats?'

Me: 'Well, as you can see, there are but most of them are reserved - like this one'

The elderly women leant forward to the empty seat in front and bent back the reserved label. 'This one is reserved for someone travelling to Haymarket. If they don't come on you can sit there'

Me, fast becoming exasperated: 'Chances are they will come on and will have the same conversation I'm having with you at the moment. Now are you going to make this easy by moving your stuff or are you going to be difficult which will mean me getting the conductor?'

At this point she relented somewhat, uttered something inaudible but most certainly contained a swear word or two and began to move her things. She took her time in doing so which increased my irritation and those who were standing behind me waiting for the old biddy to move her things.

As a frequent rail traveller I've come to expect people having a blatant disregard for seat reservations. However, without wishing to stereotype, it's usually young people whose ignorace is compounded by asking 'So dae ah huv tae move then?'  I've always had what now seems to be a misconception that elderly people are more courteous and more likely to show something which is sadly becoming a rare trait these days - respect for others.

You may have noticed there's a general election coming up in the UK. As yet, none of the political parties have anything in their manifesto about banning people over 65 from public transport during peak times.

But there's still time yet, folks...

Political Statement No.94

Thursday, 22 April 2010

1966 and all that...

This was emailed to me today from a directory enquiries website called

Dear Mike Smith

Remember the glory of 1966? is calling on England fans to recreate the atmosphere of the 1966 World Cup to give us the greatest chance of being victorious in 2010.

Whether you witnessed England's '66 victory at home with the family, in a pub with mates or at Wembley itself, wouldn’t you love to share those memories with the same people again? Then get back in touch with the help of Whoever organises the best 1966 reunion, will win a night out in the pub during this World Cup, all on us!

To get into the spirit of things, share your greatest 1966 World Cup memories with us today for your chance to win a signed photograph of the 1966 England team.

Hmm. We live in an age where some people can take offence at the slightest thing. Being of the 'old school' it takes a helluva lot to offend me. The above email didn't offend me - it downright infuriated me. It seems to me that have made a lot of assumptions here. For a start - as anyone who knows me will verify - I'm not English. I've campaigned for Scots independence for more than two decades now and proud of my country - and if anyone from reads this that country is Scotland.

And another thing. In 1966 I was all of four years old (honestly!) Hardly likely to be watching the 1966 World Cup Final in a pub with my mates (even if we did live in Cumbernauld at that time...) In 1966 I was still two years away from watching my first football game (Heart of Midlothian's 3-1 demolition of Falkirk in October 1968 since you ask. What's that? You didn't ask...?)

Even I were old enough in 1966 to be aware of what was going on, I would almost certainly have followed the lead of the great Scottish striker Denis Law and totally ignored the event.

I shall send my reply to tonight. Something along the lines of Remember the Glory of 1967? When Scotland defeated Eng-ger-lund 3-2 at Wembley Stadium? When Jim Baxter extracted the urine from Geoff Hurst and co.? How about I share those memories with you...?

Or isn't that 'getting into the spirit of things?'

Saturday, 17 April 2010

Brokeback Mountain?

She was a very good-looking woman and determined to keep the ranch, but knew very little about ranching. So she decided to place an ad in the newspaper for a ranch hand.

Two cowboys applied for the job. One was gay and the other a drunk.

She thought long and hard about it, and when no one else applied she decided to hire the gay guy, figuring it would be safer to have him around the house than the drunk.

He proved to be a hard worker who put in long hours every day and knew a lot about ranching.
For weeks, the two of them worked, and the ranch was doing very well.

Then one day, the rancher's widow said to the hired hand, "You have done a really good job, and the ranch looks great. You should go into town and kick up your heels." The hired hand readily agreed and went into town one Saturday night.

One o'clock came, however, and he didn't return.

Two o'clock and no hired hand.

Finally he returned a round two-thirty, and upon entering the room, he found the rancher's widow sitting by the fireplace with a glass of wine, waiting for him.

She quietly called him over to her..

"Unbutton my blouse and take it off," she said.

Trembling, he did as she directed. "Now take off my boots."

He did as she asked, ever so slowly.. "Now take off my stockings."

He removed each gently and placed them neatly by her boots.

"Now take off my skirt."

He slowly unbuttoned it, constantly watching her eyes in the fire light.

"Now take off my bra.." Again, with trembling hands, he did as he was told and dropped it to the floor.

Then she looked at him......and said............

 "If you ever wear my clothes into town again, you're fired."

Thursday, 15 April 2010

The (not so great) Election Debate

Tonight there will be a television first for the UK. The three leaders of the main political parties in the UK will take part in a debate, live on television, answering questions in front of an invited audience. This practice is commonplace in other countries such as the United States (so, inevitably, it had to happen here eventually) This will be the first of three such televised debates; tonight it's being shown on ITV (so expect plenty of advertisements and a sponsor's message) with the other two being shown in the coming weeks on Sky Television and the BBC.

The theme of tonight's debate is 'domestic issues'. As the media works itself into a frenzy, many Scots will smile wryly at tonight's debate. Domestic issues include health, education and policing. These three examples are now devolved to the Scottish Government - currently led by the Scottish National Party. So can the nation expect to see SNP leader Alex Salmond take the floor with messrs Gordon Brown, David Cameron and Nick Clegg? Not a chance...

It's another example of how Scotland is treated with disdain by Westminster. Yes, it may be interesting to hear the Prime Minister's views on health and how he plans to improve falling education standards. But it doesn't matter one iota to people living in Scotland because Pa Broon has no say in the matter north of the border.

I've little doubt tonight's programme will be little more than a charade. So much so I'm surprised Lionel Blair isn't taking part (he used to present Give Us A Clue on television in the 1980s, younger readers) Compo, Foggy and Clegg will read from a prepared script and will do what politicians do best - avoid giving a straight answer. Count how many times the phrase 'we've made our position absolutely clear' and 'the fact of the matter is' will be heard tonight.

Meanwhile, those who really care about Scotland will be conspicuous by their absence. The elected Scots government (not invited) And the people of Scotland (not considered)

Here's to independence - I can't wait...

Saturday, 10 April 2010

Times They Are a Changin'...

What was important in years gone by - and what is reality now:

Then: swallowing acid.
Now: swallowing antacid.

Then: killer weed.
Now: weed killer

Then: getting out to a new, hip joint.
Now: getting a new hip joint.

Then: being called into the headmaster's office.
Now: storming into the head teacher's office (in these politically correct days...)

Then: getting your head stoned (if my children read this, I'm only kidding)
Now: getting your headstone (children - see above. I'm not quite ready to go yet...)

Then: long hair.
Now: longing for hair.

Then: worrying about no one coming to your party.
Now: worrying about no one coming to your funeral.

Then: trying to look like Roger Moore.
Now: trying not to look like Roger Moore...

Of course, there are many more changes to life these days. I was talking to a someone the other day who had recently been in Iraq and he spoke of the many sociological changes in the country since the old regime had been toppled. He said that years ago there were parts of the country where women customarily walked several feet behind their husbands. Now, according to my friend, many men walked several yards behind their wives. Impressed by this reversal of roles, I asked what had brought about this change in thinking.

'Land mines' he replied...

Monday, 5 April 2010

The Facebook Phenomenon

I spent the afternoon of Easter Sunday in the company of my family. What I had done to deserve this, I'm not sure, but I've been assured the bruises and swelling will clear in a day or two...

Afterwards, daughter Laura confirmed me as a 'friend' on the social networking website Facebook. My other daughter, Michaela, already has me as a 'friend'. I'm not sure whether to be pleased or desperately saddened by this.

Facebook has become a world wide phenomenon. It can also be quite addictive. When I use the term 'social networking', it can in many ways be described as anti-social networking. The other day Michaela sent me a message on Facebook, to which I responded fairly quickly. You may ask what is wrong with this - the fact we were in the same house at the same time should answer that question.

There's something about the idea of Facebook and its ilk (Bebo and MySpace being other like sites) that doesn't sit right with me (and I'm not talking about these ill-fitting trousers I'm wearing...) Jeannie Bloggs posts that's she's making chicken casserole for supper. Whoop de doo. Then Fred Smith posts that 'he likes this' with a thumbs up sign. Now the whole world knows what Jeannie is having for supper and can comment if they wish (providing, of course, they're 'friends' of Jeannie...) Fred is suitably impressed to tell the world he's very happy at this turn of events...

As I type this I have received a message from Laura which says 'she has listed me as her Dad'. To confirm this 'family request' I have to follow the link on the message. Hmm. What if I don't confirm this 'family request'? Does this mean I'm no longer father to my elder daughter? Has Facebook taken over the world to the extent I have to confirm my relationship with my family members on the site?

Of course, by joining Facebook I'm well aware I am contributing to this sad, almost geeky state of affairs. Laura and Michaela wouldn't hesitate to tell you they think I'm the world's biggest geek in any case. As I say, Facebook can become addictive and there are those who go on the site several times a day, every day. On the plus side, I have made contact with some people I haven't heard from in years - although some of them won't make 'real' contact by phone or email, they'll continue to do so via Facebook. Which makes me think, are they real friends or are they just keen to impress the world with how many people they know?

Perhaps I'm being cynical. Which is unlike me, I know. However, when I was a small child in the late 1960s, I used to have an imaginary friend. Now more than forty years later, I'm on Facebook -and I have more than sixty of them...

Saturday, 3 April 2010

East Stirlingshire's Share Issue

The mighty East Stirlingshire - Falkirk's finest football team - are about to launch a share issue. They are what community football is all about. If anyone fancies contributing to a worthy cause and helping grassroots football, please email

Pressing Engagement

Today, I'm off to the dry cleaners. I may be some time...