Monday, 30 May 2011

It's Hot...Damn Hot

A Scottish couple decided to go to Spain to thaw out during a particularly icy winter. They planned to stay at the same hotel where they spent their honeymoon 20 years earlier.

Because of hectic schedules, it was difficult to coordinate their travel schedules. So, the husband left Glasgow and flew to Barcelona on Thursday, with his wife flying down the following day. The husband checked into the hotel. There was a computer in his room, so he decided to send an email to his wife. However, he accidentally left out one letter in her email address, and without realising his error, sent the email.

Meanwhile, somewhere in Blackpool, a widow had just returned home from her husband's funeral. He was a church minister who died following a heart attack.

The widow decided to check her email expecting messages from relatives and friends. After reading the first message, she screamed and fainted.

The widow's son rushed into the room, found his mother on the floor, and saw the computer screen which read:

To: My Loving Wife
Subject: I've Arrived
Date: January 16, 2011

I know you're surprised to hear from me. They have computers here now and so you can send emails to your loved ones.

I've just arrived and have been checked in. I see that everything has been prepared for your arrival tomorrow.

Looking forward to seeing you then! Hope your journey is as uneventful as mine was.

P.S. It's f***ing hot down here!

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Exercise? I'm Knackered...

For the last few months I've had something of a routine in going to work. For the final part of my journey to the office I have been getting off the bus and walking about a mile which, if the weather is dry and there's not a hurricane force wind that Scotland is prone to, is quite pleasant and can psyche me up for the stresses of the day ahead. However, last week my daughter Michaela started a job in the office where I work - in the floor below, thankfully - which has meant she has been giving me a lift to work in her Forumla 1 vehicle (given the speed she drives she surely thinks she's competing against Sebastian Vettel and co.) Which has meant my little routine has ceased.

Being on leave this week I thought I would try and rectify this by purchasing an exercise bike for use in the house. The internet can be a wonderful thing and I checked out the on-line reviews before purchasing. Almost every reviewer said it was a good bike for its price although a common theme was the difficulty in putting it together. Disregard the instructions said one reviewer. The bike arrived today - tightly packed in a box with polystyrene that took several minutes to dislodge. The assembly instructions may well have been written in Chinese. Guide the lower part of the INNER cable of the tension control knob into the formed metal loop of the INNER cable of the tension cable. You get the picture. There were several references to a tension control knob. How I could have done with one of them for my aching, ageing body as I grappled with the machine.

The accompanying diagrams may well have been instructions to build a nuclear weapon - numbers here, letters there, numerous arrows pointing to every corner of the page. In the end I took the advice of the on-line reviewer and threw the assembly instructions away. Two hours later the bike has been assembled. But now I'm in a foul mood and have no inclination to set near the damned contraption.

Perhaps I should take up yoga instead...

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Who Cares?

The latest hoo-ha to hit the media is the fact the Sunday Herald newspaper, based in Scotland, has published the name of the 'Premier League footballer' who it is alleged took out a privacy injunction - a so-called 'super injunction' - against the users of  Twitter to avoid details of an alleged affair being published. Perhaps I'm just getting old but it saddens me greatly when the people of this country get themselves in a frenzy over the private lives of so-called celebrities. It seems to me the moral standards of the British public have seldom been lower.

Frankly, I couldn't give a Jonathan Ross about who does what to who and who with. There are serious issues around the world that need to be addressed but are seldom reported in the UK press.

It is estimated that 925 million people suffer from hunger. In 2008, nearly 9 million children died before they reached their fifth birthday. One third of these deaths are due directly or indirectly to hunger and malnutrition. Children who survive early childhood malnutrition suffer irreversible harm—including poor physical growth, compromised immune function, and impaired cognitive ability. Around the world, 178 million children under 5 are stunted, low height for age. Of all stunted children, 90 percent live in just 36 countries, most of them in sub-Saharan Africa and South and Central Asia.

Then there is oppression. Think Zimbabwe, Libya, Tunisia and Egypt. Oppressive nations do not care about human rights and freedom and the recent protests in Tunisia and Egypt showed that the people of these nations are tired of puppet regimes imposed on them by oppressors.

There are atrocities and people dying from starvation around the world. Not that this gets much of a mention in the UK press, particularly the tabloid press who feed the celebrity cravings of the masses. The media in this country  - and this includes television - has dumbed down to such an extent that ignorance is king. Tragedy is happening every minute of every day around the globe but as long as some D list nonentity is photographed coming out of Tescos or is lined up for some tedious mind-numbing 'reality' show then that's what really sells newspapers.

Surely this can't be right?

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

25 Years On...

Saturday 10 May 1986. The day my wife was due to give birth to our first child. When Saturday morning arrived I woke up to a bright sunny day in Aberdeen where we lived at the time. I brought Mrs Smith a cup of tea in bed and asked if she was okay. She smiled, thanked me and said she felt fine. ‘That’s good’ I said, ‘Because I’m going to the football’ Pat’s smile faded quicker than a bank manager’s bonus. ‘You mean you’re still going?’ she asked, somewhat incredulously. Time for quick thinking I thought to myself. ‘Well, yes, if you don’t mind. It is Aberdeen Hearts are playing and my mate  Graeme is giving me a lift there’ This seemed to placate my wife of less than four years. ‘But what if I need you?’ she asked. This was the tricky bit. ‘Don’t worry, darling,’ I replied, ‘I’ll phone you a couple of times to check how you are’

A couple of things here for younger readers and those who, like Pat, are not in the slightest bit interested in the beautiful game. Firstly, mobile phones were some way off general use in the mid 1980s. Those that were around tended to be used by high-flying business types and were the size of a small mid-terraced house. Therefore, my means of checking if baby Smith was on the way would be by the use of public telephones - call boxes. Secondly, I was factually correct in stating the big game was between Hearts and Aberdeen. And that my mate Graeme, an avid Aberdeen fan, would be driving me there. However, I did omit the fact that as the game was the Scottish Cup final it would be played at Hampden Park, Glasgow - 140 miles away. A fair point, I concede. I looked at it this way. Yes, my wife understandably wanted me to be present at the birth of our first child. As, indeed, did I. Nonetheless, I had to balance this up with the very real possibility that Hearts may never reach another Scottish Cup Final. I had followed the Jam Tarts for eighteen years up to this point and had never had a whiff of success. This chance might never arrive again. Whereas, there was a good chance my wife would have more children. So, off to Glasgow I scampered leaving a less than happy Mrs Smith and an outraged mother-in-law who threatened to decapitate me on my return (a tad harsh in my view)

Hearts lost the final 3-0 and it was a long journey back to Aberdeen in the company of Graeme who in the 1980s was getting used to seeing his team win cup finals. To his credit, he didn’t hang around much after the game and we headed back north in little under three hours. There I found a smouldering Mrs Smith still pregnant....

Saturday 17 May 1986. 3.25pm. Laura, a bouncing baby girl arrived and changed my life forever. It seems like yesterday - now she has three children of her own. The photo above was taken last week to celebrate Laura's daughter  - my gorgeous grand-daughter Ava's - first birthday.

Happy 25th birthday Laura. I'm proud of you.

ps thanks to those who have sent their best wishes regarding Mrs Smith's hospital admission last week. Since I last posted she was re-admitted to hospital on Saturday with more chest pains. Curiously, the large amount of tests she has had since going back in have not found anything amiss with her heart, other than it is slightly larger than normal (big-hearted Mrs Smith? Surely some mistake?) She is due to get out of hospital and return home on Wednesday, diagnosis as yet uncertain. It's a strange world we live in.


Friday, 13 May 2011

A Tough Week

It's been something of a tough week for the Auld Reekie Ranter. Mrs Smith took unwell on Tuesday and had to be admitted to hospital. Initially it was believed she had a heart attack but after numerous scans and tests the docs say she has angina. She's now recuperating at home (there's a sinkful of dirty dishes, three days of dirty washing and the place could do with a hoover...)

It has been a scare for us all and it was sad that grand-daughter Ava didn't have much of a first birthday last Wednesday. We'll hopefully be making up for this on Sunday - health permitting. It's hard to believe a year has passed since she came into my life. Happy Birthday Ava.

Sometimes you realise what is really important in life.

Friday, 6 May 2011

On the Road to Independence for Scotland

Today is an historic day for Scotland. The votes have now been counted from yesterday's Scottish Parliament election - and there has been a stunning result.

My interest in politics goes back more than 30 years. In all that time the Labour Party has been the dominant force in Scotland, even during the 1980s and early 1990 when they were in opposition to a Conservative government that treated the Scots with contempt and closed down industry after industry, effectively killing community after community. The Tories, initially under the detested Margaret Thatcher then John Major and others didn't care about Scotland and the majority of Scots thought the best way to get rid of the Tory party was to vote Labour. In UK terms this mattered not a jot as the affluent south-east of England, the main beneficiaries of Thatcher's anti-socialist policies would inevitably vote the Tories back into power. Until 1997 when 'New Labour', under Tony Blair came to power. Devolution was granted to Scotland but Labour initially limited the powers of the Scottish Parliament and reckoned their party would win every Scottish election in any case.

Four years ago the Scottish National Party won the Scottish election by the narrowest of margins, much to the surprise of the Labour Party. As it was a minority government, the SNP couldn't push through all the pledges in their manifesto but they still did so much good for Scotland in those four years.

Now, the latest election has produced a startling result. As I write this not all of the results have been declared but the SNP have already won an astonishing 65 seats - meaning there will now be a SNP majority government for the next four years of the Scottish Parliament. Previous Labour heartlands such as Glasgow Shettleston, Hamilton and East Kilbride are now SNP seats. I live in the constituency of Midlothian North. I've lived here for more than 21 years and it's always been a staunch Labour area - until now. The SNP's Colin Beattie won the seat, reward for years of hard work and relentless campaigning.

When I lived in Aberdeen more than two decades ago, I stood for the SNP in the local council elections. I came second but I was part of the campaign to elect Brian Adam as the SNP's first Aberdeen councillor in years. He won and is now a MSP in the Scottish Parliament - and yesterday's results saw the whole of Aberdeen come under SNP power. What an astonishing turnaround from when I used to live there.

In the last parliament, the SNP had hoped for a referendum for the people of Scotland to decide whether they wanted independence for their country. However, being a minority government, they couldn't get enough support to push this through. Now, in 2011, a majority SNP government won't have to rely on anyone else  - they could proceed with a referendum now if they wanted. My heart says yes, go for it now while the country has given the SNP such huge support; my head says it would be ignorant to think that everyone who voted for the SNP yesterday wants independence and that the SNP government might be better building on their significant achievements of the last four years and further convincing the people of Scotland that independence is the next logical step.

There will be those who are sceptical and say this is a protest vote against Labour and the Liberal Democrats. I disagree and would say this:

Years ago we were told there would never be a Scottish Parliament.

Then, when devolution was granted and there was a Scottish Parliament in 1999, there would never be an SNP Government.

Then, as the SNP got stronger and stronger, there might be a slight chance of an SNP government  - but never an SNP majority.

Now they will tell us that Scots will never vote for independence.

After a breathtaking election night, I would say this  - the road to independence for Scotland remains a long one but we have made significant progress along it. Freedom for our nation has never been closer.

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Happy Birthday Jack

6 years old today. That's my boy!

Monday, 2 May 2011

Thought for the Day

"I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy." - Martin Luther King, Jr

25 Years On

I know some people who read my ramblings aren't football fans, so they won't look at my other blog but below is a link to a traumatic event in my life - and that of many other Hearts fans - a quarter of a century on. And before anyone says 'it's only a game' please consider our feelings!

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Sir Henry Cooper

In the 1970s, Eddie Turnbull, Ted Lowe and Henry Cooper were sporting names to admire. Now all three have passed away in the same weekend. Above is a clip of Our 'Enry's fight against Cassius Clay (as he was before he became Muhammad Ali) in 1963.