Friday, 24 April 2015

When the Roof Fell in at Tynecastle


As the football season approaches its finale, the Auld Reekie Ranter recalls one last day of the season scenario which occurred fifty years ago today. It was one of the most notorious results inflicted on Heart of Midlothian – and at Tynecastle too.
On 24 April 1965 Kilmarnock visited Gorgie for the final league game of season 1964/65. Normally such a fixture would have been a routine end of season affair with little at stake. However, in this particular season, this was a game the television companies of today could only have dreamt about. For Hearts were top of the league - two points ahead of second-placed Killie in the days when just two points were awarded for a win. The Maroons required just a single point to clinch their third league title in seven years even though it was generally accepted Hearts best years, the all-conquering era of the 1950s, were behind them. Indeed, Hearts could even afford to lose the game as long as it was just by a single goal. At that time goal average rather than goal difference was used to decide the winner if teams were level on points.
More than 37,000 fans packed into Tynecastle to witness history. Hearts, managed by the legendary Tommy Walker, the man who brought so much success to Gorgie in the 1950s, began like they were the team who needed to win by two clear goals. For the opening half an hour they were camped inside the Killie half. They recorded seven corner kicks to the visitor’s one. After only six minutes, Roald Jensen burst through between two Killie defenders and shot for goal. To the agony of the Norwegian, his team mates and the home crowd, his shot smacked off the post.
Hearts were creating chances in a game they didn’t really need to but such was Walker’s philosophy, the need to entertain the paying customer was the raison d’etre for playing the game. It was this spirit of adventure which had brought trophy after trophy to Tynecastle in the preceding decade. But this was now the 1960s and the importance of not losing games was taking precedence over winning and entertaining. On the half hour mark a goal finally did arrive – for Kilmarnock. Davie Sneddon was left all on his own some to head home Tommy McLean’s cross  - the same Tommy McLean who, nearly 30 years later, would become Hearts manager.
Tynecastle was stunned. A feeling of disbelief enveloped the old ground. And while it did, just 60 seconds later, Killie, incredibly, scored the crucial second goal when Black beat Alan Anderson before passing to Brian McIlroy. His low shot flew past Hearts keeper Jim Cruickshank and into the net.
Disbelief had now turned into the stuff of nightmares for Hearts. But they knew that even one goal would still mean they would win the league even if it meant a 2-1 defeat. They laid siege to the Killie goal before half-time but couldn’t find the all-important breakthrough.
It was the same story in the second half. Kilmarnock repelled Hearts incessant attacks. With just seconds remaining and Killie looking like they would hang on for the title, Hearts Roy Barry burst through the defence and passed the ball to Alan Gordon. The striker hit a powerful effort which looked a goal – and, therefore, the league flag – all the way. However, Killie keeper Ferguson threw himself across his goal and tipped the ball wide for a corner. The Hearts players held their heads in their hands. Seconds later, it was all over. Hearts had lost 2-0 and thereby handed the league title to Kilmarnock by 0.42 of a goal – the tightest finish to a league title race in Scottish football history.
Many point to this game as being the one which signalled a decline in Hearts fortunes thereafter which would culminate in relegation in 1977. Tommy Walker remained as manager for 18 months before leaving Tynecastle. Many supporters, dismayed by the decline in their once great club, never returned.
Many of today’s generation of Hearts supporters still recoil in horror the events of another final day of the season calamity when Hearts lost the league title in the final eight minutes of the 1985/86 season at Dundee. The newspapers of that day looked back to 1965 and asked if history could repeat itself. Sadly, it did.
The pain of 1986 will never leave this Hearts supporter. For those Hearts fans who suffered both calamities, 24 April 1965 will never leave either.

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

An Essential Read

I've ordered this book as a gift for the lovely Mrs Smith. I feel sure she'll be delighted...

Saturday, 18 April 2015

Stress Awareness

We all need to be aware of stress, not only in ourselves but in others. Here are some thoughts I feel are worth sharing.

A young lady confidently walked around a room while leading and explaining stress management to an audience. With a raised glass of water most people there anticipated she was going to ask the ultimate 'half empty or half full?' question. She fooled them all ... "How heavy is this glass of water?" she asked with a smile.

Answers called out ranged from 8 oz. to 20 oz.
She replied, "The absolute weight doesn't matter. It depends on how long I hold it. If I hold it for a minute, that's not a problem. If I hold it for an hour, I'll have an ache in my right arm. If I hold it for a day, you'll have to call an ambulance. In each case it's the same weight, but the longer I hold it, the heavier it becomes."

She continued, "That's the way it is with stress. If we carry our burdens all the time, sooner or later, as the burden becomes increasingly heavy, we won't be able to carry on."

"As with the glass of water, you have to put it down for a while and rest before holding it again. When we're refreshed, we can carry on with the burden - holding stress longer and better each time practiced. So, as early in the evening as you can, put all your burdens down. Don't carry them through the evening and into the night ... pick them up tomorrow after you have rested. Life is short – enjoy it if you can.

A simple but effective idea. And it might help to reflect on the following:

Accept that some days you're the pigeon, and some days you're the statue.

Always keep your words soft and sweet, just in case you have to eat them.

Always read stuff that will make you look good if you die in the middle of it.

Drive carefully. It's not only cars that can be recalled by their maker.

If you can't be kind, at least have the decency to be vague.

If you lend someone £20 and never see that person again, it was probably worth it.

It may be that your sole purpose in life is simply to serve as a warning to others.

Never buy a car you can't push.

Never put both feet in your mouth at the same time, because you won't have a leg to stand on.

Nobody cares if you can't dance well. Just get up and dance.

Since it's the early worm that gets eaten by the bird, sleep late.

The second mouse gets the cheese.

When everything's coming your way, you're in the wrong lane.

Birthdays are good for you. The more you have, the longer you live.

You may be only one person in the world, but you may also be the world to one person.

Some mistakes are too much fun to only make once.

We could learn a lot from crayons. Some are sharp, some are pretty and some are dull. Some have weird names, and all are different colours, but they all have to live in the same box.

A truly happy person is one who can enjoy the scenery on a detour.

Even when you have pains you don’t have to be one.

People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.

Thursday, 16 April 2015

The MP Who Went to Hell

Three weeks today the UK goes to the polls for the General Election. The various political party campaigns officially began just after Easter but it seems to the poor beleaguered electorate as if it began at Christmas.
Tonight on BBC1 there was yet another ‘leader’s debate’ - the third one on a matter of days although this one didn’t feature Prime Minister David Cameron. I’m biased, of course, but the SNP’s First Minister – Nicola Sturgeon – won the debate hands down. She is intelligent, articulate and passionate.
Enjoyable as the debate was, one can fully understand if the electorate start to become rather weary with the election campaign. Yes, it’s important that everyone who can vote does vote come May7th but sometimes I wish the political parties would stop to draw breath – and gie us all a break!
No matter where your political allegiance lies, this story may make you smile. An MP dies and heads up towards the Pearly Gates. There, the MP is greeted by St. Peter.
The MP knows the reputation of many of his colleagues has been tarnished somewhat so he asks St. Peter if it is right he should be allowed into Heaven.
“Well, my son” says St. Peter, “What happens for MPs is that we ask them to vote where they want to go when they die. This way you decide for yourself. You can have five minutes in Heaven and then five minutes in Hell. Then, you come back to me and put a cross on this piece of paper indicating where you would like to go”The MP was somewhat bemused by this but didn’t dare question the words of St. Peter.
He tried Heaven first. It was pretty much as he imagined with peace, tranquillity and kindness – although he didn’t see many ex MPs there…
Then returned to the Pearly Gates and went downstairs to Hell. With some trepidation, he walked in rather gingerly. However, to his astonishment, all he could see was people drinking wine, dining on fine food, partying, having a great time. ‘Wow’ thought the MP who returned to the Pearly Gates after his five minutes were up.
“Well, my son” asked St. Peter, “Here is your voting slip. Put a cross next to either Heaven or Hell, fold it and place it in the box over there.
“Oh, there’s no doubt” the MP thought to himself. “It has to be Hell. They’re all having such a great time down there!” He put his cross next to Hell and put his voting slip in the box as instructed.
“Very well” said St. Peter. “You’ll need to wait here until I come back tomorrow” The MP lay down by a harp and settled down for the night.
In the morning, the MP was taken downstairs to the entrance to Hell. The door opened and he stepped inside. All he could see was desolation, a wasteland with poor, weak people in heavy chains, barely able to walk. He turned to shout to the departing St. Peter.
“What’s this?” he shouted. “Yesterday this was pace was full of joy, merriment and laughter. What’s happened?”

“Ah” said St. Peter, “Yesterday I asked for your vote. Today, I have it…”

Monday, 13 April 2015

Jim Murphy - Look Away Now

The Leader of the Labour Party in Scotland - Jim Murphy - has gone on record as saying there will be no more cuts in spending in Scotland. It would appear he is incorrect in his assertion.

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Parcel Delivery

It seemed like a good idea at the time. The newly appointed Mrs Smith – it’s been nearly two months since we got wed - saw a few things we needed for the house and decided to make the purchases on-line. I’m not one for trailing around the shops, as the new Mrs Smith is beginning to discover, so I encouraged her plan to purchase the goods via t’internet and arranged for a suitable delivery date. As I say, it seemed like a good idea at the time…

My good lady ordered a microwave oven, kettle, toaster, pedal bin, toilet roll holder and electric toothbrush (they were out of cuddly toys) Just as she completed the order Bruce Forsyth appeared with his glamorous assistant and checked the scores on the doors (it’s a Generation thing, younger readers – ask your parents)

Order complete, a delivery date was arranged for Thursday. So far, so good.

Now we may live in an age of instant communication with the aforementioned internet, mobile phones and ‘smart’ technology. We can transfer money between bank accounts in seconds and instantly converse with someone on the other side of the world through wonderful inventions such as Skype. However, there remain tasks which have yet to catch up with technology – and arranging a parcel delivery where everything goes to plan appears to be one of them.

The date was agreed – but the time of delivery couldn’t be arranged. All we could get from one of the country’s leading retail stores was ‘we’ll deliver between 7.00am and 8.00pm’. Really? You can’t be more specific? Not even indicate if delivery will be in the morning or afternoon? ‘No, sorry, all our delivery vans are packed up first thing in the morning and are out all day’.

Hmm. So taking a half day off work won’t help – it will need to be a full day. And you’ll need to have an understanding boss (you want time off for what?! Don’t you know we have a deadline to meet for that report I asked you for?!)

So it was that I arose from my slumber, bleary-eyed, ready for the remote chance the delivery would be bang on 7.00am. As we say in Scotland when two positives go together to form a negative – aye, right.

In the interests of fairness, I should point out here that the delivery of our goods happened at 12.10pm. Ah, so only half the day gone then. The delivery chap, somewhat lacking in customer service skills, handed over three items – two boxes and a black bag.

‘Is that all six items?’ I asked, curiously.

‘No idea, pal’ came the reply. ‘I was just told to deliver three parcels to this address. Are you Mrs Smith?’

‘Do I look like Mrs Smith?’ I asked, not expecting an answer but getting one anyway.

‘No really. Well you’ll need to sign here’ he replied before thrusting a digital contraption into my hand. I signed and he disappeared into the afternoon.

On unwrapping the delivered goods it soon became apparent there was an item missing. The electric toothbrush. With an air of inevitability, I phoned the shop – sorry, retail outlet - which, after a ten minute delay ‘queuing’ to talk to a customer sales agent, brought the following conversation.

‘Have you got an order number?’

‘Yes’ and I reeled off a long code.

‘Hang on, I’ll check on my computer.’ No words were spoken for a few moments, the only sound I could hear was the tapping of a keyboard.

‘Ah, I can see what’s happened’ said the agent with a Lancashire accent (I got enough of these at work…) ‘Your item has been sent to Wales’

‘Really?’ I asked with rising incredulity. ‘Any reason why, given I live in Edinburgh?’

‘Dunno’ she replied. ‘What I’ll do for you is I’ll contact the depot and arrange for another item to be delivered’

‘I’m grateful, I’m sure’ I said. ‘Will this be this afternoon?’ I asked far too optimistically.

‘Oh no’ came the reply, ‘we’ll phone you sometime next week when it’s ready to be despatched’

‘Next week? No, no, no. Can’t you deliver it to one of the Edinburgh shops? I could collect it from there’

‘Hang on, I’ll just check. Which shop would you like it delivered to?’

‘Well the one in central Edinburgh is the one which is less of an inconvenience’


‘Hello?’ I asked with a growing feeling of despair. ‘Are you still there?’

‘Yeah, I’m just checking. You can collect it from our central Edinburgh store after 4.00pm’

‘Grand. I’ll go round later this afternoon’

‘Oh no, not today – Monday’

By now, my irritation level was approaching red for danger but I accepted Monday afternoon and left it at that. Until Mrs Smith arrived home and advised she had received a text message from said retailer confirming that, due to unforeseen circumstances, they were unable to deliver the goods ordered.

But they’ll deliver it on Friday.

Sometimes I ask myself why life is so difficult….

Sunday, 5 April 2015

Saturday, 4 April 2015

A Change of Career

So farewell, then, the daily grind and the never-ending battle to survive. On Thursday I left my job as a Human Resources Officer to embark on a new, different and certainly exciting career. For I am training to become a hypnotherapist and counsellor. The course, which runs for three years in total, is run by Chrysalis who specialise in training people wishing to become hypnotherapists and counsellors.
Having spent more than seven years at my place of work, the time is right for me to move on. The daily grind, the daily battle against bureaucracy and the constant frustration has taken its toll. If you no longer enjoy what you’re doing then it’s time to do something about it. The same applies to life in general – if something isn’t working then you have to fix it.

When I finish my training my new career promises much. I started at Queen Margaret University just outside Edinburgh last November and the coursework is challenging but exciting and gives me a sense of achievement even at this relatively early stage in the three year course. With a lot of hard work and a bit of luck I hope to fully qualify as a hypnotherapist by the end of this year. Then, with even more hard work and quite a lot of luck, I aim to be running my own practice this time next year while spending a further two years training to be a counsellor.
I’ve had a lot of support from people I didn’t really expect and for this I am really appreciative. Of course, being Scotland, I’ve had a few cheeky comments including one from my former Managing Director who asked if I had put the Cowdenbeath defence under a trance when they recently lost 10-0 to the mighty Heart of Midlothian; at least two other people thought I had been in a trance for years and one person thought I had left months ago…thanks, folks.
My immediate aim is to catch up on my studies which have lapsed slightly due to recent events (getting married, Hearts winning the Championship, the price of alcohol coming down…) I shall be spending the next few weeks getting up to speed, as it were. At least I can now fully concentrate on doing this.
I know some people have questioned my sanity to give up my full-time job, especially having recently got married for the second time. But the change to my personal circumstances in recent years means I can afford to take this chance. I am wholly determined to succeed and make a success of my new career. The bigger risk would have been to remain unhappy in a high-pressure job and run the very real possibility of it affecting my health.
In the hugely successful BBC television comedy Only Fools and Horses, the main character Derek ‘Del Boy’ Trotter used to say ‘this time next year we’ll be millionaires’. This time next year I won’t be a millionaire (unless I win the lottery) but I do intend to be in control of my professional life and doing something worthwhile which will make a huge positive difference to people’s lives.
And, crucially, doing something I know I’m going to love.
2015 has already been a great year for the Auld Reekie Ranter. I just know, professionally, it’s going to get even better.