Thursday, 18 October 2012

Giving It a Rest...

My life has changed in 2012. I left my wife of nearly thirty years in January and it's been a a tough ride on life's emotional rollercoaster. The effect this has had on my two daughters has been more than I thought it would but the change had to be made. When that great singer, Paul Weller, made the decision to leave The Jam thirty years ago - a few months after I got married - he shocked the world. Recently, he spoke of his decision.

'It didn't seem a particularly monumental decision to me. Any radical change in life has an upsetting and awful effect for other people, in whatever relationship. But what's the alternative? You carry on and pretend you're enjoying it? What's the point in that?  Someone's always going to get hurt along the way. You either have to be true to yourself or live a lie. And I'm not prepared to live a lie.'

The great man's words sum up my decision to do what I did ten months ago. I wrote on these pages towards the end of 2011 that this year would bring huge changes in my life. And it has - for the better. I look forward to 2013 and the even bigger and better changes next year promises.

I've been writing drivel on this here blog for nearly 5 years now. When I first started I was a keen blogger, posting almost daily and keen to share my inane ramblings with the world. It's brought me friends from around the world, particularly Australia and the United States. Some people even follow this blog and for that I'm particularly grateful. However, I've decided to - as the Scots say - 'gie it a rest'. I'm not going to delete the blog but I won't be updating very often either. Not that many people read it anyway so it's hardly a loss to the literary world!

I can recommend the blogs of my very good friends. Adullamite, a mature Hearts supporter who lives in England but always has something interesting to say; Lilly and Peggy in Australia, two fabulous bloggers whose view of the world is truly inspiring; and, across the pond, Joanna's blog is a quite brilliant read. There are other blogs listed on the right hand side that are also worth a visit.

It's been a great adventure and I've enjoyed writing my witterings. Thank you to everyone who has visited the blog and commented on my posts. To think talented people from the other side of the world have taken the time to read my gibberish outpourings touches my heart.

I may post again at some point in the months ahead. Hopefully with news of another life changing decision. But for now, it's goodnight from me - but not before another plug for my book, Hearts Greatest Games, still available on Amazon and in all good bookshops!

Monday, 15 October 2012

History in the Making

What does independence mean?
Independence is about making Scotland more successful. At its most basic, it is the ability to take our own decisions, in the same way as other countries. Scotland is a society and a nation. No one cares more about Scotland's success than the people who live here and that, ultimately, is why independence is the best choice for our future.
Sweden has its enhanced parental rights, including generous maternity and paternity leave; Norway its £300 billion Pension Fund from oil; and Denmark has been able to lead the world in onshore wind technology. And what do they have in common? They are all small independent states.Independence will allow us to take decisions in Scotland that will improve the lives of families, communities and individuals across our country. With independence we will have the ability to solve our own problems and to make the most of the very many opportunities open to all of us. It will allow us to build a stronger nation and a better future for us all.
With independence we can work together to make Scotland a more ambitious and dynamic country. We could create an environment where our existing and new private industries can grow more easily. We would have the economic levers to create new jobs and take full advantage of our second, green energy windfall. And instead of many young people having to leave Scotland to fulfil their ambitions they would be able to stay and take advantage of the increased opportunities here. We will be able to address the priorities of people in Scotland, from better state pensions to universal free childcare. Scotland could do even more to lead the world in areas like renewable energy and tackling climate change, and play our part in creating a more peaceful and stable world. Independence will allow us to make Scotland a better place to live.
A partnership of equals
And independence will mean a strong, new relationship between Scotland and the rest of the UK. It will create a partnership of equals - a social union to replace the current political union. That means, on independence day, we'll no longer have a Tory government, but the Queen will be our Head of State, the pound will be our currency and you will still be watching your favourite programmes on the BBC. As members of the EU there will be open borders, shared rights, free trade and extensive cooperation.
The big difference will be that Scotland's future will be in our own hands. Instead of only deciding some issues here in Scotland, independence will allow us to take decisions on all the major issues. That is the reality of independence in this interdependent world.
From the SNP website.

Saturday, 13 October 2012

A Man's Best Friend?

Why Some Men Want a Dog And Not a Wife:

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. Dogs find you amusing when you're drunk.

7. Dogs like to go hunting and fishing.

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

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

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

And last, but not least:

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

To test this theory:
Lock your wife and your dog in the garage for an hour. Then open it and see who's happy to see you.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

An Image To Make You Shudder

A BBC book with that well known 'child minder' - Jimmy Savile on the cover....

Sunday, 7 October 2012

A Life for a Life

A week ago, a little 5-year-old girl was playing happily with her family in Wales. It had been a normal Sunday night with the family, like thousands of others across the UK, contemplating the week ahead. Just twenty-four hours later, however, that family’s world was devastated when their wee girl was taken away in the most awful of circumstances. Little April Jones was last seen climbing into the front of a van in the Welsh town of Machynlleth in mid Wales - and has not been seen since.

Mark Bridger has now been charged with murder, child abduction and attempting to pervert the course of justice. He is due before magistrates in Aberystwyth on Monday.

The wee girl’s body has still to be found and quite what her family must be going through right now can only be imagined. Now Mr Bridger will be afforded a fair trial as justice demands and until he is proved without doubt to be guilty then judgement should be reserved - difficult though that may be. However, if he does stand trial and is found guilty one can only assume he will receive life imprisonment. Whether life will actually mean life is another matter.

My view - and I suspect this may be shared by others - is that for crimes such as this, and if there is absolutely no doubt about the guilt of the accused, then capital punishment should be brought back. I’ve heard the arguments against this such as there have been many miscarriages of justice through the years and capital punishment might result in the death of innocent people. Fair enough but if there is no doubt that the accused carried out such a heinous crime then they do not deserve to live a life they have denied one so young. Two wrongs don’t make a right I hear human rights protesters say. Well what about the human rights of the little girl allegedly murdered and the rights of her shattered family who will have to live with this devastation for the rest of their years?

I’ve also heard the view that paedophiles need treatment for their ‘illness’ and should be rehabilitated. Now I may not be politically correct here but there are two words that spring to my mind when I hear this - absolute bollocks. Little April Jones will never be ‘rehabilitated’ and there can be no treatment that will ever ease the suffering of her family. Committing an act of murder is appalling at any time; when it is committed against a young, defenceless child there should be no question of rehabilitation. Anyone who commits such an act should pay for this with their own life. Yes, a life for a life. Instead, the British taxpayer will have to pay for the upkeep of a child murderer, no doubt kept in isolation for his own safety.

As the grandfather of a 5 year old girl, the disappearance of April Jones - and I sincerely hope they find her body at least - brings home just how dangerous our society can be. If someone can commit such an evil act, in my view they don’t deserve to live.

It’s been decades since capital punishment was last served in this country. If the murderer of little April Jones is brought to justice, I have no doubt there would no shortage of people willing to put the rope round their neck.

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Sunday, 30 September 2012

So I Was in This Pub...

...enjoying a Friday off work and savouring the delights of a pint or two of Belhaven Best. When two little blighters ran over and began pestering me.

'Can I have a taste of your beer, Papa?'

'No, you can't, now go away you small children'

I dunno, children in pubs - what's the world coming to? I only popped in to celebrate my daughter Michaela's 23rd birthday. It turned out to be two for the price of one as her sister Laura was there with Jack and Hannah.

The following day didn't turn out to be the best of days. My afternoon spent at Tynecastle watching the famous Heart of Midlothian was two hours of my life I won't get back. A 3-1 defeat from Kilmarnock, Hearts 'bogey' team put something of a dampener on the day. Still, as most Hearts supporters of my generation will tell you, being a Jambo has more ups and downs than a liftman's nightmare. Hearts won 3-0 at Dundee United last week so it was inevitable they would follow up this fine performance with an abysmal showing.

In an effort to console myself, I headed to the cinema on Saturday evening to watch the latest film version of Sweeney. Growing up in the 1970s I loved watching the television version on ITV starring John Thaw and Denis Waterman. The 2012 film version stars Ray Winstone and Ben Drew (who I was reliably informed by the lovely Marion is pop star Plan B) as Jack Regan and George Carter respectively.

Now I was always going to compare the 2012 film with the 1970s television series but I have to say I was disappointed with the new film. It's clearly aimed at the American market and it seemed a tad unrealistic to me. There was a nod to the film that made Winston famous in the late 1970s - Scum - where the DI was sent briefly to prison. His march along the prison corridor carrying his clothes and the scene where he puts a couple of radio batteries in a sock with a view to assaulting a fellow inmate was a not too subtle reference to Winston's role as Carling in the borstal drama of three decades ago.

However, I left the cinema disappointed. And somewhat irritated by the cost of a hotdog - £4.50 for a small sausage in a only slightly larger finger roll.

Now it's my least favourite time of the week. Sunday night. I'm about to crack open a can or two of Belhaven Best. But first, I'll just check there are no children at the door...

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

House for Sale (seriously)

Looking for a 3 bedroomed, family friendly house at a bargain price? Look no further. £93,000 will secure this very attractive property. Details below.

Monday, 17 September 2012

Some People...

...just have an unfortunate name....

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Give Me Some Space

The magnificent Edinburgh Festival may be over for another year but the crowds in Scotland’s beautiful capital city are a constant feature. Which makes travelling on public transport in Auld Reekie an ideal subject for a rant.
Long gone are the days when you could sit on the top deck of a bus and gaze wistfully in peaceful tranquillity at the world go by. The world is a much smaller place than the one I grew up in as a child of the 1970s. Scotland is now a multi-cultural country and is a much better place for being so. Moreover, there is a trait which seems to bind all nations and cultures together - that symbol of 21st century living, namely the mobile phone. Like the vast majority of the people of the western world, I have one (in the unlikely event of anyone from Orange reading this, can you please consider changing your policy of putting so many obstacles in front of customers who wish to upgrade their phones? I won’t bore you with the details but this is likely to be the subject of another rant in the very near future) but I suspect I’m not alone in thinking fondly of the time when we lived without them.
It seems no matter what nationality, language or culture people in Edinburgh are or have, the behaviour whilst using a mobile phone is the same. That is having a loud, intrusive ring tone, and speaking way too loud to the person on the other end. Local ned types tend to bawl ‘Hullo? Aye, ah’m oan the bus. Ah’m just oan ma way roond the now’ while well-dressed smartarses with laptops and handbags large enough to contain a week’s shopping for a family of four tend to spout office talk such as ‘Hey, it’s Anna, yeah, I’m just heading back to the office. Going forward, I need you to get that report finished by close of business tonight’ (going forward appears to be the new buzzwords in businesses these days, as if people feel the need to demonstrate they’re not going backwards)
Other nationalities have similar traits. It would seem the universal answering of the mobile phone is ‘Allo’ but people of Chinese, Asian and African descent all use the same behaviour as Europeans - no matter what language they use, they talk loudly with no respect for other people’s right to have a bit of peace and quiet.
And another thing - fat people. Or, to use another 21st century buzzword - obese. Now it’s easy to pigeonhole obese people and believe they all eat far too much fatty fried food and are too lazy to cook nutritional meals and take physical exercise. And, being brutally honest, I probably fall into that category myself. Some people do have medical conditions and I understand that. However, no matter the reason for some people being the size they are, they have no excuse for thinking they have the right to take up two seats on the bus. I’ve been squeezed, squashed, crushed and nearly suffocated by fat obese people on the bus as well as having people whacking me with bags, rucksacks and dozens of carrier bags crammed full of frozen pizzas, chips and crisps. In the name of the wee man why the hell don’t some people look where they’re going. Going forward has responsibilities…
At least now I’m living in Leith, I have just a short walk to the Ocean Terminal shopping centre with no need for buses. However, the crowds there still hug their mobile phones, barge past without a thought for others and generally don’t look where they’re going. If some pedestrians drove their cars the same erratic way they walk in shopping centres there would be carnage on the roads. My mood during my last visit to Ocean Terminal last weekend wasn’t helped when I popped into Waterstone’s. While pleased to see my book Hearts Greatest Games on display the note underneath the book read ‘For the few Hearts fans in Leith’. Methinks their sales pitch could be improved…
I’m heading over to see my grandchildren later today on the interminable route that is Lothian Buses number 3. I’ll have the headphones of my Ipod lodged in my lugholes in an attempt to block out the ‘hullo, I’m on the bus’ in a dozen different languages. However, there’s bound to be Mr or Mrs Obesity waddle on to the bus with twenty carrier bags from Farmfoods. And, inevitably, they’ll sit next to me.
I may be gone some time…

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Monday, 20 August 2012

Jack and Hannah Say... this book and make our old Papa very happy! Then he can go and buy us lots and lots of sweeties....

Hearts Greatest Games - now available at bookshops and at Amazon

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Worst Group (again...)

Virgin Rail has lost its bid to continue running the West Coast Mainline and will be replaced by the UK's largest rail operator, FirstGroup. A disappointed Sir Richard Branson said Virgin would "almost definitely back out" of bidding for more franchises.
FirstGroup said it would "offer substantial improvements in the quality and frequency of services".
Rail unions warned they would resist any attempts to cut staff pay or working conditions. Aberdeen-based FirstGroup already operates a number of rail routes including Great Western and ScotRail.

From BBC News website

My job requires me, on occasion, to travel down to Preston in Lancashire to my company's head office. I travel down by train on the west coast mainline and it's fair to say few of my trips with Virgin Rail have been without incident. From broken toilets, unreserved seats and overcrowding to late trains and quite awful communications, Sir Richard Branson's company can hardly be described as leading the way in rail travel. Having suffered several times as a result of their incompetence I was pleased but not exactly surprised that they have lost the franchise to run trains on the west coast of Britain after 14 years. However, my satisfaction at Virgin finally getting their comeuppance was soon eroded by the news that Virgin are to be replaced by those other bastions - I said 'bastions' - of public transport. Yes, step forward First Group.

Since my change in personal circumstances at the start of this year, I haven't had cause to rant about Worst Group principally because I no longer have the need to use their shockingly poor bus services. That and the fact Worst Group have sought to address falling passengers numbers in Midlothian - by withdrawing their services altogether thereby leaving people who require public transport out on a limb. The good folk of Dalkeith, Mayfield and Gorebridge who had relied on the ramshackle number 86 service for decades were told by Worst Group several months ago their bus service was being withdrawn. The attitude of the First Edinburgh bus chiefs appeared to be -  tough. Thankfully, Lothian Buses have stepped in and, by all accounts, have improved the services in Midlothian no end.

On Tuesday came the announcement that rail fares in Scotland are to rise by around 4%. Lo and behold, 24 hours later Worst Group are awarded the west coast mainline. May I say to the people who presently use the line that I hope they continue to use the service in good numbers. If not, be prepared for Worst Group to apply their simple business plan. That is, if passengers numbers fall (and this is more than likely if their track record of reliability on the buses is anything to go by) then services will be reduced and then withdrawn altogether. It has happened with alarming frequency with the bus services in Edinburgh and Mid and East Lothian.

Don't be surprised if, a few years from now, there won't be a west coast mainline. And, if that happens, I will not be able to travel to Preston.

It's not all bad news then...

Saturday, 11 August 2012

Summer Time...

...and the living is easy. Well, for a week at least while the Auld Reekie Ranter takes a break. Pass the brandy and the cigars someone...

Friday, 10 August 2012

Happy Birthday Hannah

My darling wee grand daughter Hannah is 5 years old today. She emanates so much love and brings so much sunshine into my life  - even in those dark days. It's remarkable to think 5 years have passed since she arrived so dramatically into the world - she was born at my daughter Laura's house - and the world is a better place for her presence.

 I'll be heading over to see her after work today - save your old Papa some birthday cake, my wee princess.

Thursday, 9 August 2012

A Stunning Image

This is a quite breathtaking view of the Milky Way from Mars. Stunning....

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Hearts Greatest Games

My latest book - Hearts Greatest Games - is published today.

The William Hill Scottish Cup final of 2012 was the most important Edinburgh derby in history. Hearts, as befitting a club who have dominated their local rivals for nearly 140 years, brought their capital domination to new levels, humiliating Hibs 5-1 to lift their eighth Scottish Cup.
This historic game is recalled in this book along with 49 other classic Hearts games from 1891 to the present day. Hammering Hibs is a recurring theme with the 8-3 win in 1935, the 4-1 win in 1973, the 5-1 win in 2002, the 4-0 win in 2005 and the 4-0 Scottish Cup semi final thrashing in 2006 all featured.
However, this book isn’t just about Hearts dominance over their great rivals. It recalls some great triumphs by Edinburgh’s finest club over the years both domestically and in Europe. From the Scottish Cup triumphs over Dumbarton in 1891 and Celtic in 1956 to more recent famous wins over Bayern Munich, Bordeaux and Basle, this book is a must read for every Hearts supporter.
With a foreword from Hearts all time leading league goalscorer, John Robertson, the book is available from all good bookshops and from

Please buy one and make an old man very happy!

Tuesday, 31 July 2012

A Picture of Happiness

A rare thing on this blog, admittedly. However, my soon to be 5 year old grand daughter Hannah hasn't a care in the world. Bless her...

Monday, 30 July 2012

Saturday, 28 July 2012

The Olympics Begin...

...with a spectacular opening ceremony which impressed even an old cynic like me. Even if the Queen did appear to be picking her fingernails at one point, a German official looked like he was giving a Nazi salute as the German team made their entrance and Paul McCartney's performance confirmed what most of us have known for some time - he should have retired years ago.

If anyone is attending the actual games themselves, have fun - just don't bother taking a Burger King meal or a bottle of Pepsi with you.

Let the commercialism begin!

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Another Thought for Another Day

At the end of a long, dark tunnel a shaft of light shines...

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

So I Went to the Doctor...

...or rather, the doctor came to me.

Regular readers of these rants might have guessed I'm not the healthiest of men. Not that I'm one to complain, of course. Which made it all the more surprising to receive the following - unsolicited, I might add - email from a company called PrivateMeds:

Dear Mr Mike Smith

Acne, anxiety, ear ache, cough? Bowel problems, sore throat, period pains, nasty rash? Need a prescription only treatment for your hay fever?

Whatever is bothering you, PrivateMeds now offer a consultation service with a UK registered GP. For a consultation fee of just £20 we will take you through a series of questions tailored to your symptoms which are designed to gather all the information our GP needs. If he needs any further information you will be contacted securely through the PrivateMeds website. The doctor will then consider your case and provide you with any appropriate medical advice or treatment you need.

If you need the views of an experienced GP act now and click to find out more about our online GP consultation now.

If you have any questions about our service, please e-mail us at or call us on 0845 803 9033 where you can speak to customer service between the hours of 9.00am to 6.00pm Monday to Friday

Thank you once again for using PrivateMeds.

Customer Care
PrivateMeds Limited

I must say, I have suffered most of the above ailments - even the period pains, albeit indirectly. Now I need to consider if spending £20 is a good 'investment' or whether PrivateMeds is just another rip-off company, capitalising on people's ill-health.

I might be swayed, particularly as a recent survey among health professionals found the majority were against proposed changes to the National Health Service. A snapshot of this survey found that:

Dermatologists advised against any rash moves;

Neurologists thought any changes would take a lot of nerve;

Ophthalmologists deemed such a move short-sighted;

Radiologists could see right through the idea;

Urologists were p***ed off with the suggestion;

And a leading pathologist argued 'over my dead body'

Perhaps I need to see a psychiatrist....

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Monday, 16 July 2012

Getting Older...

The good news is Sylvester the cat can no longer be arsed...

Saturday, 14 July 2012

A Book for All Men...

...aside from Hearts 50 Greatest Games, due out on 1 August.

How about this lengthy tome?

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow...

'Just take a seat, sir' the young lass said in the barber's shop in downtown Dalry. 'I'll be with you in a minute'.

Pleased at being afforded such courtesy - and, believe me, this is becoming an all too rare occurrence these days  - I sat back in the large, black chair and noticed the girl in question strategically placing the 'Pensioners £5' sign in a prominent position on the shop window. I stared at my unbecoming features in the large mirror in front of me and reached a swift and inescapable conclusion.

Bloody, hell, my mother was right - I do look old.

It's been a trying year for the Auld Reekie Ranter for reasons well documented elsewhere in these ramblings. And it appears the stresses and strains are taking their toll. My dear mother opined the other day that wrinkles were appearing on my strained face at a fair rate of knots and there can be no denying she's right.

My daughters have long commented, somewhat unfairly in my view, about my lack of hair and how going for a haircut need only take five minutes of my time. People at the office, who really should know better, smirk at my ever decreasing hairline. The lovely Marion, who has been a tower of strength to me these last few months, also takes great delight in pointing out my follically challenged status although calling me 'Slapheid' is, in my view, a tad harsh and uncalled for. Even my soon to be 5 year old grand-daughter Hannah, on using me as a human climbing frame, recently opined 'Papa, you have a big hole in your hair...'

Having turned 50 earlier this year and having endured a tough few months, perhaps it's no surprise I'm looking more and more like the stereotypical grandfather. When I reached the half century in February, I put the comments of some of those who expressed their surprise at me reaching the milestone - 'Really? I thought you were 50 years ago' - down to the typical smart arse responses of my fellow Scots. However, I now concede they may have had a point. A feeling enhanced when a girl gave up her seat for me on the bus on the way home tonight. Mercifully, the driver thought against lowering the front of the bus to help me get on in the first place but I suspect he had considered it.

At least the pleasant young girl in the barber's shop stopped short of charging me the pensioner's rate for my haircut and charged me £8. Which, for the amount of hair I have, according to some people, works out about a pound a hair...

Monday, 9 July 2012

Friday, 6 July 2012

Monday, 2 July 2012

Just Be a Little Patient

1. King Ozymandias of Assyria was running low on cash after years of war with the Hittites. His last great possession was the Star of the Euphrates , the most valuable diamond in the ancient world. Desperate, he went to Croesus, the pawnbroker, to ask for a loan.
Croesus said, "I'll give you 100,000 dinars for it."
"But I paid a million dinars for it," the King protested. "Don't you know who I am? I am the king!"
Croesus replied, "When you wish to pawn a Star, makes no difference who you are."


2. Evidence has been found that William Tell and his family were avid bowlers. Unfortunately, all the Swiss League records were destroyed in a fire, ...and so we'll never know for whom the Tells bowled.


3. A man rushed into a busy doctor's surgery and shouted, "Doctor! I think I'm shrinking!" The doctor calmly responded, "Now, settle down. You'll just have to be a little patient."


4. An Indian chief was feeling very sick, so he summoned the medicine man. After a brief examination, the medicine man took out a long, thin strip of elk rawhide and gave it to the chief, telling him to bite off, chew, and swallow one inch of the leather every day. After a month, the medicine man returned to see how the chief was feeling. The chief shrugged and said, "The thong is ended, but the malady lingers on."


5. A famous Viking explorer returned home from a voyage and found his name missing from the town register. His wife insisted on complaining to the local civic official, who apologized profusely saying, "I must have taken Leif off my census."


6. There were three Indian squaws. One slept on a deer skin, one slept on an elk skin, and the third slept on a hippopotamus skin. All three became pregnant. The first two each had a baby boy. The one who slept on the hippopotamus skin had twin boys. This just goes to prove that... "the squaw of the hippopotamus is equal to the sons of the squaws of the other two hides". (Some of you may need help with this one).


7. A sceptical anthropologist was cataloguing South American folk remedies with the assistance of a tribal elder who indicated that the leaves of a particular fern were a sure cure for any case of constipation. When the anthropologist expressed his doubts, the elder looked him in the eye and said, "Let me tell you, with fronds like these, you don't need enemas."

Don't blame me for these - blame Adullamite 

Saturday, 30 June 2012

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Monday, 25 June 2012

Sunday, 24 June 2012

All You Can Eat (or bear)

I had the pleasure of being at the Bad Manners gig in Edinburgh on Friday. Being a purveyor of ska music, for me Buster Bloodvessel and the band were a must see and they didn't disappoint. A hugely enjoyable end to a difficult week.

Before the gig, I went for something to eat with The Girl From Granton to Jimmy Chungs. I love Chinese food and this seemed the perfect way to begin the evening. The food was good, as is usually the case at Jimmy Chungs. However, it is yet another sign of my advancing years that the experience summed up the lack of etiquette and dropping of standards of society today.

As is customary with Chinese buffet establishments, we were greeted not with a 'Good evening, sir and madam, would you care to be seated?' but with a grunt and 'table for two is it?' After being served with our drinks, we were left - as is customary nowadays with the 'help yourself to all you can eat culture' to, erm, help ourselves. Now there are plus points to this. For one, you don't have to wait for what can seem an eternity for your meal - I've been in some restaurants where it's been 45 minutes from having my order taken to actually having my meal served. However, there's something rather disconcerting to the Auld Reekie Ranter about the dogfight to helping yourself to the food on offer at buffet establishments. Everyone seems to be in so much of a rush these days. In restaurants, there's something atmospheric about sitting down, choosing what you want to eat and then conversing with your accomplice about anything that takes your fancy. The art of conversation can be uplifting and invigorating (depending on the company) However, at establishments like Jimmy Chungs, no sooner are you shown to your seat and take your jacket off, you're off to join the dogfight for food.

The 'all you can eat for a fixed price' philosophy, also sums up society today. People pile food on to their plates before scuttling back to their table and shuffling it down their throats. It seems like no time at all has passed before they are up again, piling more food on to their plate before darting back to their table. At Jimmy Chungs, it seemed to me there were more than one pair of Chinese eyes watching my every move, for as soon as my plate was empty there was a hand on my my plate with a curt 'are you finished?' before snatching it away. I suspect there may have been a shortage of crockery...

As if the rapid eating practice wasn't alarming enough, I was dismayed to see two giant television screens at the restaurant. This enabled people to watch whatever was on BBC1 at the time. My heart sank a little at this discovery. It's bad enough that many people can't spend an hour without their mobile phones whilst eating - the amount of people texting etc. with their mobile devices while in the company of others was bad enough - but now Jimmy Chungs seem to believe we also need television to stare at while simultaneously texting and scoffing Chinese food down our throats.

Yes, I know I'm old fashioned. I just prefer to sit down to a meal that has been served specifically with me in mind and not have to leave my table every five minutes. Or be distracted by mobile phones, whether mine or someone else's (mobiles have off buttons, for goodness sake) Or have a man in a suit delivering more bad news on a big screen.

The art of eating out, it seems, is much like the rest of life these days - not what it used to be. And, like so many other aspects of living in the modern, instant communication, must have everything quickly world of today, that is really quite sad.

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Enjoy Every Precious Minute of Father's Day

           Listen, son, you'll never get away with wearing that tank top...

Today, as most Dads will tell you, is Father’s Day and across Scotland, thousands of grateful offspring will be celebrating their beloved Dads. There will be dinners cooked and served, wine poured and toasts made while smiling (and sometimes embarrassed) pops feel the love and bask in the attention (yes, I'm dropping heavy hints here, Laura and Michaela...)

For some people, of course, Father’s Day is not a particularly happy occasion. Their fathers have either passed away, are absent through choice, having one way or the other managed to avoid their paternal responsibilities altogether, or are absent through no wish of their own, having seriously fallen out with their children to the point that contact is no longer made. For their children, the great question marks hang precariously mid-air and the pain of not knowing a father’s love throbs palpably.

As I've written before on these pages, I am among those who no longer has someone to treat on Father’s Day, having lost my Dad in 1997 when he passed away at the age of 58.

I remember my father as if we are both in a dream. I still have his diary from the year he died and look at it occasionally, usually on days like these. Of course I miss him terribly, 15 years on. He died very suddenly and I didn't get the chance to tell him so many things. What pains me more, however, is the fact he never got to see his grandchildren Laura and Michaela grow up into the fine adults they have become - he would have been so proud of them. And the fact he didn't live to see what are his adorable great-grandchildren. How my father would have doted on Jack, Hannah and Ava - and I'm pretty sure they would be running circles around their Great Papa just as they do me (and I have the bruises to prove it!)

To those who are fortunate to still have a father in their life - I hope you and your Dad enjoy every precious minute you have together.

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Monday, 4 June 2012

Texting For The Over 55s

We live in an age of instant communication. Internet, computers, mobile phones, IPhones etc, etc has evolved through satellite technology and it seems a whole new language has evolved through it. The kids of today (I know, I'm sounding ancient here) have their own short codes for text messaging and for Twittering and Facebook. Codes like WTF, LOL and LMFAO are used increasingly widely and it can get a wee bit confusing for the older generation. There was a story the other week of an elderly lady who sent a text to her grand daughter telling her the family cat had died. She added LOL at the end of her message, thinking it stood for Lots of Love...

So, to avoid people of my generation getting embarrassed, here are some text codes for the more mature...

ATD - at the doctor's

BFF - Best Friend's Funeral

BTW - Bring the Wheelchair

FWIW - Forgot Where I Was

GGPBL - Gotta Go, Pacemaker Battery Low

GHA - Got Heartburn Again

HGBM - Had Good Bowel Movement

IMHO - Is My Hearing-aid On?

WAITT - Who Am I Talking To?

And finally - GGLKI - Gotta Go, Laxative Kicking In.

It's time to get down with the kids. Although I may not get up again...

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Sister Act

Grand-daughters Hannah and Ava. Sometimes the world doesn't seem such a bad place.

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Jubilee Celebrations

It's a family affair...

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Keep Yer Shirt On...

I had a bit of a moan last week. Unlike me, I know. The source of my grumpiness - and I know I'm leaning against an open door here - was the three days solid we had in Edinburgh of rain. Some of it was heavy, some if it light - all of it irritating. So much for summer came the cry. Now, a week later, we have had three days solid sunshine in God's own country. And in Scotland that means many people - far too many people - yearning to display their near naked bodies, however unattractive that may be.

As the temperature hovers in the 70s, the half-naked are multiplying. Simply put, they're everywhere. Driving cars. Climbing aboard buses. Lounging in parks. Sitting outside pubs guzzling copious amounts of foaming ale.

There are the bare-chested men - in all shapes and sizes - who say the weather offers them no choice. They must strip down. The sight of a beer-bellied, balding, 50 something (and I don't mean me before you ask) ambling along the streets of Scotland's capital city can put you off your salad. Not that many Scots contemplate a salad, even on days as warm as these citing 'it's too hot to cook, do you fancy a chippy' as an excuse to down the equivalent of a whale supper (wi' plenty o' sauce, hen...)

Then there are the women. Thankfully, not quite bare-chested but not far off it. And many of the fairer sex deem it essential to sport tight fitting shorts (so I'm led to believe) Now some Scots lassies suit this attire. Others don't. And when you combine beer-bellied, balding 50 something man with heavily tattooed, overweight, 50 something, short-wearing, bare-legged woman waddling along the road  - and you need to step off the pavement on to the road to get past them - then you don't need to guess why Scotland has an obesity problem.

Now some people have a medical problem and can't help how they look. Others don't and just guzzle on a diet of fried food and alcohol. However, far too many seem to believe they have bodies we all want to see.

Having lived in Aberdeen for a few years, it's unusual for me to head out without a coat on - in the Granite City there was a fair chance of catching frostbite even in July... Today I ventured from Edinburgh to see my daughter and grandchildren several miles away in Dalkeith - wearing a just a tee-shirt and chinos. Despite me having the appearance of George Clooney and the body of Brad Pitt, I chose not to board the number 3 bus in a state of half-nakedness. Unlike, it has to be said, the majority of the rest of the passengers.

My message to the people of Scotland as summer begins in earnest is: For God's sake put a shirt on!

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Happy Birthday, Laura

My elder daughter was born on this day in 1986 - one of the happiest days of my life. Clearly, she gets her good looks from her father. I'm very proud of her (if she reads this she'll think I've gone soft!) Happy birthday, darling.

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Happy Birthday, Ava

My youngest grandchild is two years old on Friday. Butter wouldn't melt....Happy birthday, sweetheart.

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

The Girl From Granton - An Edinburgh Love Story

He simply could not take his eyes off her. She was a picture of beauty, her golden hair resting neatly on her slim shoulders. He gently stroked her cheek and delicately touched her right ear. He desperately wanted to recreate the two magical days he had spent with her in Dundee a few weeks earlier. She fixed her brown eyes on his.

'Take yer hands oot ma f**kin' ears!' she said, forcefully.

He took his hand away but then tried to embrace her. He asked what was on her mind.

'Ah'll tell you, whit's oan ma mind. It's you.' He was touched, but his feelings of gladness didn't last.

'Yer a w*nker. An arse. And yer daein ma heid in'

He recoiled at the venom dripping from her lips. He only wanted to caress her, take her in his arms and tell her how much he loved her.

'Aye,' she bellowed. 'Ah ken whit yer after. Yer a pervy bas***d. Just 'cos ye made me a cup o' tea ye think ye can dae whit ye want. Well, ye can just p*ss off. Now!'

He picked up his jacket that had set him back £10 from Primark. He gave her a pitiful look and uttered quiet words - that he would just go if she wanted him to.

'Well, f**k off then' she spat.

He headed for the door and heard her final words as he closed the door behind him.

'Ye prick...'

To be continued...

Monday, 7 May 2012

Skipping the Queue

The title of this blog is Auld Reekie Rants. So, after my self-pitying post last week, it's high time I left off some steam with another inane rant.

Some of you may be aware that the Olympics will be held in London this summer. The build up has been a low key affair with scarcely a mention in the media...There's an old joke that says Britain would excel at certain events if they were made Olympic sports. Such as gossiping, not making a fuss if you're unhappy about your meal at a restaurant - and queueing...

Using public transport as I do, queueing for buses in Edinburgh has become more of a challenge in the last couple of years. One of the reasons for this is the advent of bus trackers at many of the capital's bus stops. These are information boards sited at bus stops that detail how long you can expect to wait for a Lothian Transport bus. Now, I have to say that, by and large, they are pretty accurate and a help for me getting my old creaking bones to work in the morning. Travelling across Edinburgh from Gorgie to Craigmillar to get to the office can take an eternity thanks to the never-ending roadworks caused by the Edinburgh trams fiasco. So when I see I only have a few minutes to wait for a number two bus then it does help my patience from being overstretched. However, the bus trackers have created a relatively new phenomenon  - a complete disregard for those people in the queue.

I arrive at the last bus stop on Gorgie Road heading into the city and see there are five minutes until my bus arrives. I'm the only one there so I wait patiently. A couple of minutes pass and I'm still on my own. Then, as the 'due' sign appears on the bus tracker, there's an inevitable posse of people who suddenly appear, take one look at the information board and simply stand there at the head of the queue i.e. me. Usually, these people are schoolchildren and/or students, the majority of who don't have a bloody clue about social etiquette. Now the number two bus is usually a single decker (why LRT think this is a smart idea of one of their busiest routes is beyond me) and it irks me considerably when some gormless lout with a haversack the size of a small mountain on his back ambles up to the bus stop, looks vacantly at the bus tracker and steps forward just as my bus arrives. It makes me downright angry (hard to believe, I know) if this gormless character grabs the last remaining seat on the crowded bus meaning the weary old Ranter has to stand for half of his long journey.

Such a scenario occurred one morning last week and finally my patience snapped. I placed my hand firmly on the shoulder of some laddo with the words 'Just hold it right there, my lad - there's a feckin' queue here'. I gently pushed past him and grabbed the one remaining seat on the bus. I felt quite pleased with myself. The elderly lady I sat next to didn't say anything but gave me a knowing smile and a look that intimated 'Well done, son' - although quite what the old biddy was doing on a busy bus at 8.15am is another story...

Today is a local holiday so I won't have to fight my way to work. But my message to anyone considering queue jumping for the number two bus to The Jewel from Gorgie at the back of eight in the morning is clear - get to the back and wait your place. The worm has turned...

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Happy Birthday, Jack

I can scarcely believe he's 7 years old today. Time certainly flies. And he's just like his Papa - he's beginning to lose his teeth...

Monday, 30 April 2012

Be Afraid...

Grand-daughter Ava was described as 'the devil' by her mother at the weekend. I protested that was maybe a tad harsh for a wee girl who will be two years old in a couple of weeks. However, having seen what she did to her teddy bear, perhaps my daughter has a point...

Sunday, 29 April 2012

Soul Searching

It's been a sad few weeks for the Auld Reekie Ranter. Separating from my wife of nearly 30 years has been, naturally, a painful process and the feeling of guilt lies heavily upon my shoulders. I moved out the family home three months ago and I've undergone a lot of soul-searching since.

I've caused hurt and pain and not a little bewilderment, not least to Mrs Smith who has understandably struggled to cope with the concept of us being apart. Reconciliation has been suggested, as has a marriage guidance counsellor. But, frankly, it's not going to happen.

Friends and family have been supportive. Daughters Laura and Michaela suspected all wasn't well for some time and, to their immense credit, they haven't turned their back on me as I feared they might. They both have their own problems to deal with and part of my guilt is me adding to their woes.

I haven't been adding much to the blog in recent weeks as I simply don't have much to say as I contemplate the future. I can't help but feel worthless and can't get away from the fact I have let some people down, one in particular who doesn't deserve the anguish I've caused her.

I usually feel melancholy on a Sunday evening and tonight I'm seeking solace in a bottle of brandy. The principal feeling I have is one of failure. I've hardly been the best father in the world and although I like to think I'm there for my girls, I suspect I'd be the last person in the world they'd turn to for help. Much as I know my grandchildren, Jack, Hannah and Ava love me, I feel I could and should be doing so much more for them. And my mother, bless her, has given me so much support both financially and emotionally in the last three months - I should be more of a dutiful son than I am.

Above all is my failure as a husband. 

I know - self pity will get me nowhere. And I need to find the strength to carry on. With a bit of luck I'll find it.

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Those Keep Calm Posters...

                    's the Scottish version.

Friday, 20 April 2012

Big Eck 1 Flippin' Eck 0

First Minister Alex Salmond has told US businessman Donald Trump he is determined to ensure Scotland reaps the benefits of offshore wind.

His comments came in the wake of a series of attacks by the entrepreneur on the SNP's green energy drive.

From the BBC News website

Entrepreneur is a word oft-used to describe Donald Trump. There are other words used, particularly by some in the north-east of Scotland, to describe him but I can't repeat them here as I may fall foul of obscenity laws..

Mr Trump said recently Scotland was committing "financial suicide" by wanting to create a "wind farm landscape" which would kill off tourism. What's behind this rather far-fetched view is his vehement opposition to a wind farm being built off the coast of Aberdeenshire - and clearly visible from his all new, all dancing luxury golf course which he is just about to complete on the Menie Estate, just north of Aberdeen. His view that a wind farm will kill off tourism i.e. a possible threat to the numbers of big businessmen who will play at his golf course is yet another insult to those who opposed Trump's building of the course in the first place. Trump's plans to build a luxury hotel to accompany the course meant bulldozing the homes of some local residents. His view appears to be 'to hell with them, pay them big bucks, just do whatever it takes to get them out of there so I can have my own way.

One local man - Michael Forbes - has stood up to Trump from day one and refuses to budge from what has been his family home for decades. Trump's plans for his hotel have been thwarted thus far and his on-going and very public battle with Mr Forbes has seen Trump describe him as 'the village idiot'. Whatever your view on Mr Forbes, one can't but help admire him for standing up to Trump and just not letting him get his own way.

Now Trump has taken on Scotland's First Minister. Last month, he said that Alex Salmond would become known as 'Mad Alex' over his plans for the wind farms. Dignified as always, Big Eck has responded to Trump's diatribe thus:

"It is my belief that Scotland's great cities and ports are ideally placed to become a key hub for the rapidly growing multi-billion pound offshore renewables industry.

"Our waters are estimated to have as much as a quarter of Europe's potential offshore wind energy, and we are perfectly positioned to develop the technology that will power this renewables revolution.

I am determined that communities across Scotland will benefit directly from offshore wind, which is forecast to generate about £30bn of investment and lead to the creation of up to 28,000 Scottish jobs."

If Trump and his many hangers-on have difficulty understanding this, let me spell it out in direct Scots terms. The message from Alex Salmond and Michael Forbes, a hero of his time, is:

'Dinnae think ye can come here and dictate to our nation. Margaret Thatcher tried it 30 years ago - and her legacy is that Scotland is heading towards independence. So - get it right up ye, son.'

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

I Don't Care What You Say...

The sublime Billy Joel singing My Life.

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Hearts 50 Greatest Games

My latest book - Hearts Greatest Games will be available from 1 August 2012.

Click on the link for further information.

Order your copy now for a huge to avoid disappointment!

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Diet Update

Now you may find this difficult to believe but I have to say my diet isn't going well. And I think they've slightly downplayed the possible side effects of increased body hair...