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 (www.yerhavingalarf.com), 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 http://www.wehaventgotascooby.com/

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...