Friday, 20 February 2015

London Calling

After the truly wonderful day that was last Saturday and my marriage to the lovely Marion, we headed to London and our honeymoon. It's been nearly ten years since I was last in the Big Smoke and, given our experience this week, it's likely to be at least another ten years until I return.

The train journey down on Sunday morning went pretty much as planned - apart from a ten minute delay at Berwick where the driver opted for a 'safety check' (according to the message broadcast, I assume, from the ticket collector) Whatever it was that was being checked - and I suspect we'll never know - we were on our way south after ten minutes so there wasn't any real inconvenience.

What was a bit of a pain, however, was East Coast's seating allocation. I had booked two seats on the 11.30am Edinburgh Waverley to London Kings Cross through the on-line (see what I did there?) ticket booking website The When one books two seats one might expect these seats to be together. Marion was in an aisle seat in front of me. When we arrived in York, another couple had the same experience so we agreed to split the four seats between us so at least we were sitting alongside our loved ones rather than sitting behind them...

London itself  - or rather some of the people  - didn't impress me. I had booked our stay at an Ibis Hotel and looking at a photograph of a large hotel in London's Docklands area, I was sufficiently impressed to book two nights there. However, when we arrived - having paid a small fortune for the taxi journey - we were told we weren't actually booked into this Ibis Hotel but rather the smaller one a five minute walk away. When I say smaller, I mean minute - the room had space for a bed and not much else, the 'bathroom' was a small cupboard with a shower that meant you had to breathe in to close the door and the facilities were very basic. The view from the bedroom window afforded us detailed imagery of the rubbish bins at the back...

Public transport was laughable. The London Docklands Railway (LDR) ran adjacent to our hotel but getting to central London meant changing from a LDR train to a London Underground train and considerable inconvenience. Going by bus would have meant three changes - and London buses no longer accept cash (get yerself an Oyster Card, mate...) They do accept Visa Debit cards - but only one card per passenger.

Attempting to see some of the sights, we booked a Golden Bus tour.  They advertised that they came out to London's Docklands district every 20 minutes. Grand, we thought. Except on Monday morning, we waited close to the Excel Centre for a bus that never arrived. We made two phone calls to the company; firstly, we were told the next bus due would be in 30-40 minutes; after an hour and no sign of a bus, we phoned again to be told it would be another 15-20 minutes. Cold, tired and totally scunnered, we jumped into a taxi and headed into town.

Which brings me to my next gripe. London taxi drivers. The only thing I can say about them is that at least Dick Turpin wore a mask...

We spent Monday evening at the London Palladium watching the stage show Cats. The show was very good, slick and professional - but the staff at the theatre were less so. Several dozen patrons were kept outside in a night of pouring rain as we waited half an hour for the doors to open - which they did less than half an hour before the show was due to start. The ushers were less than helpful and if one wanted assistance to find one's seat then they would be in for a big disappointment.

Overall, our experience of London was not a good one. Rude, pushy, unhelpful people, a public transport system that assumes visitors know how it works and a Del Boy character who was selling tickets for shows at greatly inflated prices.

We were only there 48 hours but it was such a joy to return to Edinburgh on Tuesday evening. The taxi driver who drove us from Waverley Station to Leith was pleasant, chatty - and didn't try to rip us off. Had it been a London equivalent, I suspect our journey from the station to Leith would have encompassed Dalkeith, Musselburgh and Portobello.....

There's a line in the Monty Python film The Life of Brian where the question is asked 'What have the Romans ever done for us?' Well, they built London. I have to say, given our experience this week, I wish they hadn't bothered...

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Valentine's Day Wedding

Marion putting Hearts down for a home win in her fixed odds coupon

What do you mean he hasn't turned up yet? Try Ladbrokes...
Aye, Hearts won 1-0 and now have a 20 point lead at the top of the league

Right! Which one of you scoundrels has hidden Papa's glass of champagne?

Ah - so it was you, Jack the Lad....

Saturday 14th February 2015 saw me marry the lovely Marion in Edinburgh. A big thank you to those who came to share our special day. It was one of the happiest days of my life and I feel truly blessed to have married someone as wonderful as Marion.  

Friday, 13 February 2015

Wedding Day

Tomorrow - Valentine's Day - sees me marry the lovely Marion in a ceremony in Edinburgh.

Marion believes that looks are less important than personality – enter your own punchline here - which is just as well, otherwise she wouldn’t have agreed to marry me. Her unending generosity and kindness make me very humble and she has taught me the importance of patience and understanding. She has made me a better person and for that I am truly grateful.

Thank you to those who have already offered their best wishes - particular thanks to Graham Herriott for his lovely gift which touched both our hearts (and you thought I didn't have a heart!)

The nerves are jangling - but I can't wait for Saturday!

Thursday, 5 February 2015


                            Daily Mail photograph

I read in the news the other day that Aberdeen has 'won', if that is the correct description, the title of the most dismal town in Scotland.

Urban Realm magazine said Aberdeen had become the "poor relation" of Scotland's cities as it awarded the annual Plook on the Plinth Carbuncle award to the Granite City.

The magazine cited planning issues surrounding the likes of Union Terrace Gardens as holding the city back. Speaking on Aberdeen's win, Urban Realm editor John Glenday commented: 'Aberdeen is a great city but despite its enviable financial clout and rich heritage legacy it has become the poor relation of the Scottish cities.'

Other 'winners' of this title in recent years has been Cumbernauld. 

Speaking as someone who was born in Aberdeen and who spent his early years in Cumbernauld, I have to say I take issue with Urban Realm magazine. I have lots of happy memories of Cumbernauld and I always enjoy going through there. I lived in the centre of the town, in McGregor Road and this part of Cumbernauld has barely changed since the late 1960s.

Aberdeen doesn't hold as quite as many happy memories for me but to describe it as a dismal town is a tad harsh. It's more than a quarter of  a century since I lived there but I always remember it as a clean, tidy and fresh city. Anyone who has been there and has sampled the delights of the Duthie Park with its splendid Winter Gardens, Hazlehead Park with its quaint putting green and the city's numerous shopping centres with Union Street always the hub of attention will tell you it's a cold but nonetheless delightful city.

When I lived there I used to frequent drinking establishments such as The Market Arms, The Grill, Ma Camerons and what used to be called Willie Millers. To my mind, no city can hold a candle to my present home of Edinburgh but I always enjoy a trip back to Aberdeen and the memories the old place brings back to me. 

Grey? Perhaps. Recent changes not for the best? Possibly. But dismal? Not at all. The Northern Lights will always retain a certain attraction for me.

Sunday, 1 February 2015

Project Management

Lesson 1: A man is getting into the shower just as his wife is finishing up her shower, when the doorbell rings. The wife quickly wraps herself in a towel and runs downstairs. When she opens the door, there stands Bob, the next-door neighbour.

Before she says a word, Bob says, 'I'll give you £800 to drop that towel.'

After thinking for a moment, the woman drops her towel and stands naked in front of Bob, after a few seconds, Bob hands her £800 and leaves. The woman wraps back up in the towel and goes back upstairs. When she gets to the bathroom, her husband asks, 'Who was that?'

'It was Bob the next door neighbour,' she replies.

'Great,' the husband says, 'did he say anything about the £800 he owes me?'

Moral of the story: If you share critical information pertaining to credit and risk with your shareholders in time, you may be in a position to prevent avoidable exposure.

Lesson 2: A priest offered a Nun a lift. She got in and crossed her legs, forcing her gown to reveal a leg. The priest nearly had an accident. After controlling the car, he stealthily slid his hand up her leg.

The nun said, 'Father, remember Psalm 129?'

The priest removed his hand. But, changing gears, he let his hand slide up her leg again.

The nun once again said, 'Father, remember Psalm 129?'

The priest apologised 'Sorry sister but the flesh is weak.'

Arriving at the convent, the nun sighed heavily and went on her way. On his arrival at the church, the priest rushed to look up Psalm 129. It said, 'Go forth and seek, further up, you will find glory.'

Moral of the story: If you are not well informed in your job, you might miss a great opportunity.

Lesson 3: A sales rep, an administration clerk, and the manager are walking to lunch when they find an antique oil lamp. They rub it and a Genie comes out.

The Genie says, 'I'll give each of you just one wish.'

'Me first! Me first!' says the admin clerk. 'I want to be in the Bahamas , driving a speedboat, without a care in the world.' Puff! She's gone.

'Me next! Me next!' says the sales rep. 'I want to be in Hawaii , relaxing on the beach with my personal masseuse, an endless supply of Pina Coladas and the love of my life.' Puff! He's gone.

'OK, you're up,' the Genie says to the manager. The manager says, 'I want those two back in the office after lunch.'

Moral of the story: Always let your boss have the first say.

Lesson 4:An eagle was sitting on a tree resting, doing nothing. A small rabbit saw the eagle and asked him, 'Can I also sit like you and do nothing?'

The eagle answered: 'Sure, why not.'

So, the rabbit sat on the ground below the eagle and rested. All of a sudden, a fox appeared, jumped on the rabbit and ate it.

Moral of the story: To be sitting and doing nothing, you must be sitting very, very high up.

Lesson 5: A turkey was chatting with a bull. 'I would love to be able to get to the top of that tree' sighed the turkey, 'but I haven't got the energy.'

'Well, why don't you nibble on some of my droppings?' replied the bull. They're packed with nutrients.'

The turkey pecked at a lump of dung, and found it actually gave him enough strength to reach the lowest branch of the tree. The next day, after eating some more dung, he reached the second branch. Finally after a fourth night, the turkey was proudly perched at the top of the tree. He was promptly spotted by a farmer, who shot him out of the tree.

Moral of the story: Bull Shit might get you to the top, but it won't keep you there..

Lesson 6: A little bird was flying south for the winter. It was so cold the bird froze and fell to the ground into a large field. While he was lying there, a cow came by and dropped some dung on him. As the frozen bird lay there in the pile of cow dung, he began to realize how warm he was. The dung was actually thawing him out! He lay there all warm and happy, and soon began to sing for joy. A passing cat heard the bird singing and came to investigate. Following the sound, the cat discovered the bird under the pile of cow dung, and promptly dug him out and ate him.

Morals of the story:

(1) Not everyone who shits on you is your enemy. (2) Not everyone who gets you out of shit is your friend.(3) And when you're in deep shit, it's best to keep your mouth shut!