Monday, 29 June 2015

Colin Cloud Kills

I have seen Colin Cloud before. So when I heard the forensic mind reader extraordinaire was back in Edinburgh, I just had to go and see him again.
Appearing at Summerhall, a throw of a blindfold away from Edinburgh’s Meadows, Cloud’s latest offering - as part of Edinburgh’s Magic Fest – was every bit a mesmerising as the last time I went to his show. Literally, mesmerising.
As the expectant audience filed into Summerhall’s Lab Theatre, the great man sat silently on a chair, blindfolded. With everyone seated his act began and it’s easy to see why he has never lost a game of poker. He recalled information from the recesses of the minds of complete strangers – how he managed to guess where one woman was from simply by listening to her say her name is astonishing.
His website says Colin Cloud will, literally, get away with murder. Of course, he doesn’t actually murder anyone but the finale to his show will leave you open-mouthed with amazement. And just as you think the show has ended, there is one final mind-blowing twist…
The great man is a lover of the works of Arthur Conan Doyle which has resulted in him being described as the closest thing on Earth, nay the Universe, to Sherlock Holmes.
But Colin Cloud’s show is anything but elementary. It is sheer brilliance and I felt privileged to witness a genius at work.

His show is on all this week at Summerhall. Go and see the great man. You will be spellbound.

Sunday, 28 June 2015

At the Museum

I spent Saturday afternoon at the National Museum in Edinburgh in the company of Marion, Laura and some of my favourite little people...

Friday, 26 June 2015

Halfway Through a Momentous Year

The first half of 2015 is nearly complete. The next six months promises much but it's already been a momentous year for the Auld Reekie Ranter.

My wedding to Marion on Valentine's Day was one of the happiest days of my life. Marion has transformed my life and made me happy once again and for that I shall always be grateful. Although I jest about how lucky she is to have me as her husband (I'm sure she gives thanks every day...) I know that I am the lucky one to have such a wonderful, beautiful and talented lady as her - she is the rock in my life.

At the beginning of this year I made the decision to quit my job with a housing association, a job I had held for more than seven years. With echoes of a similar life-changing decision I made in 1990, I didn't have another job to go to. However, I am training to become a Hypnotherapist and Counsellor. It's a three year course and the first year is concentrating on hypnotherapy. It's a subject which fascinates me and I am thoroughly enjoying the course. If all goes to plan, I should qualify as a hypnotherapist by the end of this year and I'm already planning to set up my own hypnotherapy practice in early 2016 (book now to avoid disappointment!)

I was no longer enjoying my work and the continuous high pressure and the demands of the job were beginning to affect my health to the extent I was off work this time last year. At that time I underwent counselling and found it beneficial, not only at the time, but as something I thought I could make a career out of. Hence my decision to undertake my training. I left my job in April and the break from the daily grind has benefited me hugely.

Of course, bills still need paying and I have now secured a position with Napier University in the Human Resources Team for a year which will take me to next summer. I start this job on 6 July and, for the first time in years, I'm genuinely looking forward to it. The year's contract will give me more than enough time to set up my own business next year and I'm grateful for the opportunity.

Daughters Laura and Michaela continue to make me proud. Laura has just been offered a managerial post and is mulling it over against the backdrop of family commitments. I always knew she was managerial material. Michaela is already a manager and she gave a presentation to senior managers yesterday, who have already been impressed by her managerial skills and aptitude. Michaela is getting married next May and this will be another momentous occasion. She is marrying a fella of the Hibernian persuasion but, despite this, he seems a decent chap...

My four grandchildren continue to bring unbridled joy to my life. Their unconditional love brings a tear to my eye. I love being with them and I want them to stay as children for ever. Sadly, of course, they will become adults before long - Jack is now 10 years old and Ava starts school in August - but I hope they retain their kind, loving nature which does them and mum Laura huge credit.

At the other end of the family, my mother is always there to provide support and it was great to see her looking so happy at our wedding. She thinks the world of Marion and sees her as the daughter she never had. Of course, I am her only child - understandable, as how can you top perfection?!

2015 has already been a great year. In recent years, I have been in the depths of depression and didn't know what lay ahead. Now the future is clearer and infinitely brighter. A new career. A new business. Loving wife (that's you, Marion). Maturing daughters. Wonderful grandchildren. And I can't let the feel-good factor pass without mentioning my football team. Hearts are now back in the top flight of Scottish football. I'll be taking Jack to Tynecastle this season as a season ticket holder. While I'll no longer be contributing to the Hearts matchday programme, my musings on Hearts  - and other ramblings on life in general - will still be posted on The Edinburgh Reporter.

Self-hypnosis has helped me to evaluate my life. I am more confident, more positive and happier than I've been for many years. Sure, there will be setbacks - everyone has setbacks - but I'm now able to overcome these with the knowledge that my life is moving onwards and upwards.

Some people thought I was crazy when I gave up my job, house and life in Aberdeen in 1990. But it was the right decision, as my life in Edinburgh has proved. And there have been some people, a quarter of  a century later, who questioned my sanity when I quit my job in April - although, it has to be said, there have been some who have given me huge encouragement and for this I am truly grateful.

My philosophy is that it doesn't matter if it's a job, relationship or lifestyle - if it doesn't make you happy, let it go. Let yourself move to the next chapter in your life when the time comes you feel are stuck on the same page. You will soon realise there is so much more to the book of life than the page you're stuck on.

The best thing about the future is that it comes one day at a time...

Norman Towler - Positive

I had the great pleasure of meeting Norman Towler, a gifted musician and dyed-in-the-wool Jambo earlier this year. His new album, Positive, is now out and is quite simply wonderful.

I highly recommend it.

Thursday, 25 June 2015

Hypnotherapy Update

My new hypnotherapy blog has now been an updated with a video link. Watch if if you dare...

Saturday, 20 June 2015

Father, Dear Father

If you were out shopping today and happened to be in a card shop, it can’t possibly have escaped your attention that this Sunday is Father’s Day. As the father of two wonderful girls (so they tell me) I’m sure my daughters will have parted with the princely sum of 29p for a card for their auld man (haven’t you, dears…?) However, to me, this is just another money-making racket for the card manufacturing and gift industry. And all over the country there will be thousands, nay millions, of sons and daughters scratching their heads over what to buy their pater. This will doubtless include…
A Tie
A plain tie, perhaps is acceptable but some ties depict characters in a cartoon. In my case, I’m sure a Homer Simpson tie will have crossed the minds of my two daughters. Or, worse, Mickey Mouse, or even worse…Goofy. As long as their Hibernian supporting partners don’t contribute a green tie, I’ll be happy(ish)
Now a nice bottle of alcoholic refreshment always goes down well with the Auld Reekie Ranter. However, a little variety doesn’t go amiss. For years I enjoyed a little Jack Daniels (okay, a lot of Jack Daniels) This meant that at Christmas or birthdays or on Father’s Day, a bottle or three of the American whisky would be given to me with the words ‘I didn’t know what else to get you’. In recent years, I have taken to Havana Club and delicious it is too. That said, I still have three unopened bottles from Christmas and my birthday in February…
A Pair of Socks
Like the tie, a pair of socks as a gift usually comes with cartoon characters or, in my case, the words left and right emblazoned on them in the event I get confused when getting dressed in the morning. My daughters think I’m at the senile stage already. When eldest daughter and I ran for a bus on Friday only for the driver to pull away with a smirk on his face, said daughter immediately phoned Lothian Buses. She explained she was with her young daughter – and her ‘elderly’ father who was well past the capability of running for a bus….
A Book
Now you can seldom go wrong with a book. But titles such as How to Prepare Your Own Funeral, Coping With Dementia and Dealing with Incontinence are, perhaps, pushing the message too far. I can highly recommend Hearts 50 Greatest Games – hugely entertaining, engrossing, a must read, still available in all good bookshops...
Again, you can’t really go wrong with sweeties although those who know me know I certainly like my nuts….That said, there is the subsequent guilt as when said daughters see me a few days later there will be the inevitable comments about how much weight I’m putting on, how I really need to go back to the gym and cut back on the chocolates…and the Havana Club and Jack Daniels….
Bearing all this in mind, I’m almost relieved I’ll be incommunicado for most of this Father’s Day as I’ll be attending college on Sunday as I train to become a hypnotherapist and counsellor.
My plan for next year is to put both said daughters into a trance and get them to buy me a Porsche. Meanwhile, I’m going to pour myself a Drambuie. Now there’s a hint, dear girls….

Friday, 19 June 2015

A Hypnotherapist Writes...

A new blog which will feature news from the world of my soon to be profession - hypnotherapy.

Click here.

Monday, 15 June 2015

(Very) Cross Country Trains

Now, dear reader, you know I’m not one to complain. However…the lovely Marion and I had a couple of days away from the metropolis that is Leith at the weekend. And very pleasant it was too – until we travelled back to Edinburgh using Cross Country trains.

We (well, Mrs Smith) paid a wee bit extra for us to travel first class. That was our second mistake. The first one was choosing Cross Country Trains for the return journey in the first place.

On Sunday morning we were greeted on the train by an announcement that there would be no catering facilities on board until we arrived in Edinburgh - which is where we were due to get off. This was something we found unacceptable on a journey lasting two and a half hours. While I’m not a well man, Mrs Smith has a medical condition and she felt quite distressed at not being able to get even a drink of water on the journey.  In addition, we opted for first class travel to increase our comfort and avoid the noise one can often find in standard class coaches. However, we were surprised when the ticket collector's husband and two young children got on the train halfway through out journey - and sat in the first class carriage. Perhaps this is among the perks of working for Cross Country Trains. She didn't seem to check tickets for those passengers who got on after her family did…

When we took our seats upon departure, we thought there was a complimentary newspaper at our table. However, it transpired this was left by a passenger from the previous journey. Also, our seats weren't reserved on the carriage as arranged.

We were left very disappointed by the service provided by Cross Country Trains. As I said we paid extra to travel first class but found it no different to travelling standard class - and with no refreshment available on a long journey.

By contrast, our outgoing trip with Virgin Trains two days earlier was a pleasurable experience - complimentary tea and coffee, alcoholic beverages, sandwiches, cake and other refreshments - all delivered to our seats by efficient and friendly staff.

Next time we travel by train we will think very carefully about using Cross Country.

Double Decker

Thursday, 11 June 2015

Summer Time And...

At last summer appears to have arrived. Edinburgh basked in warm temperatures today so the Ranter took to the sun. It doesn't happen too often...

Leith, looking down from Calton Hill, across the Firth of Forth to Fife (try saying that after a few Drambuies...)

Youngest grandson Max had his first visit to the beach - and his first ice cream cone. Do you want hundreds and thousands, sir? No thanks - just the one...

Doesn't seem five minutes since I took Michaela in her buggy to Portobello beach. Where does time go?

Small footsteps in the sand...

George Clooney wanders into shot (there's always one...)

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Saturday, 6 June 2015

Champions League ITV Style

Barcelona v Juventus - text commentary from Berlin (via ITV)

19:45 Kick-off

19:47 First 'I'll tell you what, Clive' from Andy Townsend

19:50 He's got be disappointed with that - Andy Townsend

19:59 You've got to wonder what might have been had Chelsea got to the final - Clive Tyldesley

20:05 I'll tell you want, Clive, they've got to be doing better down the channels - Andy Townsend

20:10 What Juventus need to be doing better, Clive, is getting in and around the penalty box - Andy Townsend

20:15 I've got say, Clive, I've been disappointed with Messi tonight - Andy Townsend

20:15 He has been fairly anonymous - Clive Tyldesley

20:16 What a fantastic goal from Messi!  - Clive Tyldesley

20:16 What a player, Clive, he's just something else - Andy Townsend

20:16 No doubt about that, but you do wonder how he would fare in the English Premiership -  Clive Tyldesley

20:20 I'll tell you what, Clive, he knows where the goal is - Andy Townsend

20:25 What a chance - from that distance he's really got to get his shot on target - Andy Townsend

20:26 Mute buttons pressed on remote controls all around the UK.....

Continued for 94 minutes...

Friday, 5 June 2015

Scotland Can't Ignore the Shame of Qatar

There has been much debate about the Scotland v. Qatar game at Easter Road this Friday. Many supporters have decided to boycott the game following the revelations that around 1,200 workers have died in Qatar during the construction of buildings and infrastructure for the 2022 World Cup – awarded to Qatar in somewhat controversial circumstances with some top officials from Fifa presently embroiled in allegations of corruption.
Some of Scotland's most prominent human rights activists and leading supporters' organisations have now spoken out against the human rights violations in Qatar, with some comparing the country's record to that of apartheid South Africa. They have urged the Scottish Football Association to scrap the game. Given this is not going to happen at this late stage, those same opponents to the game going ahead have pleaded to Scotland fans to abstain from this particular game, arguing it will send a clear message to Qatar that such violations are wholly unacceptable. I fully understand and empathise with this view. However, I question whether an empty Easter Road Stadium would have any impact on the Qatar authorities. I suspect the answer is probably not.
Scotland manager Gordon Strachan has distanced himself from the controversy, saying all he is interested in is playing football and getting players vital match preparation ahead of next weekend’s vital Euro 2016 qualifier against the Republic of Ireland in Dublin. But many people are uneasy with Scotland’s choice of opponents and, given the number of people who have already died in the construction of stadia for a competition organised by an allegedly corrupt organisation, it’s not difficult to see why.
That said, I believe that Scotland actually going ahead with the game has highlighted the serious human rights issues in Qatar perhaps more than if there was no fixture. More people are now discussing the matter as a result of the game. I would bet several shillings that if Scotland were not playing Qatar, the human rights issues there would not be given the prominence it now has.
I read an excellent suggestion the other day from a fellow Hearts supporter. He opined that the Scotland players should take to the field wearing black armbands and offering a wreath to the opposition at kick-off rather than the usual exchange of pennants etc. A minute’s silence just before kick-off would also give the Qataris the message that Scotland and indeed the rest of the world, knows full well what is going on in their country and that it is wholly unacceptable. Surely this would be a more powerful message than thousands of empty seats at Hibernian’s ground.
I am going to the game and I’m taking my ten year old grandson Jack to his first Scotland game. He has been looking forward to this occasion for some time and I know it would break his heart if the game was scrapped at the last minute. Now I know this pales into insignificance when compared to what is going on in Qatar but scrapping the game would mean little to the Qataris and cause considerable logistical problems to the home country.
Jack was given a Barcelona home shirt from his aunt when she returned from Catalan recently and he loves to wear it when playing football with his pals and his ageing Papa, pretending he is Lionel Messi  - while his Papa is just a mess. The Barcelona shirt has Qatar Airways on its front and there are thousands of children like Jack all over Scotland who will have similar attire. I’ve not heard many protests about this.
I say let the game go ahead and urge the SFA to make some kind of statement immediately before the game – black armbands and/or a minute’s silence – to express their disgust at the human rights abuse in Qatar.
It might upset Fifa – but they have got enough to contend with. And it would show those suffering in Qatar that Scotland is with them – and will not forget them.

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

How To Understand Women

I think I've cracked it! No, hang on....back to the drawing board.

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Charles Kennedy

Charles Kennedy, former leader of the Liberal Democrats in the UK, died suddenly yesterday at the age of just 55.

I didn't agree with everything he said  - such is the way of politics - but he was such a gifted orator he was one of those rare breed - a politician who, when he spoke, people listened. He spoke passionately for what he believed in and went against the party line when he very publicly spoke out against the UK going to war with Iraq some years ago.

After the general election of 2010, the Liberal Democrats  - by now under the leadership of Nick Clegg - jumped into bed with the Conservative Party in order they could share some power in a coalition government. Kennedy wanted nothing to do with it and refused to consider a place in the government, such was his opposition to the Tories.

Yes, he had personal problems including the recent break-up of his marriage and the death of his father during the recent election campaign. And his battle with alcohol addiction was well-known.

Nonetheless, Charles Kennedy was one of the good guys. The world is the poorer for his passing.

Monday, 1 June 2015

What Shall I Do With $650,000?

We live in an age of instant communication. Computers, the internet and mobile, wireless technology mean we can communicate instantly with almost any part of the world at the press of a touchpad or click of a mouse. Satellite wizardry has changed the world and made it a much smaller place. But naturally there has to be a down side to all this. I received this email a few days ago.

Dear E-mail User,
The Office of the President Dr. Boni Yayi, of the Republic of Benin and the African Union President respectively, has awarded you the sum of Six Hundred and Fifty Thousand United States Dollars – $650,000 U.S. Dollars Only as a Compensation Fund because your email is included in the list of victim(s) who lost their fund to unidentified fraudsters in Africa or victim(s) of Unpaid Inheritance or Contract Award Fund.
This is an instant payment exercise and no fees required. Meanwhile, several emails has been sent to you from this office in this regards, but you don’t care to reply. This is to notify you that your ‘Compensation Fund’ is ready for payment to you. The fund will be paid immediately you contact the ‘Compensation Fund Award Department’. Note that the no amount will be deducted from the ‘Compensation Fund’ due to the insurance policy bond on the fund.
Hmm. What shall I do with $650,000?
Spam. Unsolicited e-mails from all parts of the globe (although mainly, it has to be said, the USA) It's a blight of the communication age and a constant irritant. Why don't you fit a spam filter I hear computer experts cry? I have - through those bastions (no, that's not a spelling mistake) of communications, BT. I pay the princely sum of £1.50 per month for the chaps and chapesses at BT to divert rogue and sometimes malicious e-mails from my in-box to the bulk mail box. And to be fair to BT it usually works with as many as 60 junk e-mails heading my way every day. But occasionally, e-mails that aren't spam are read as such by BT and are deposited in said bulk mail box. Which is as much as an irritant as having to deal with the damn spammers in the first place.

Sometimes the BT filter gets suspicious and diverts important e-mails in the same direction as dubious messages offering everything from Viagra to Valium. Which means I have to check the bulk mail to ensure there isn't anything of value there. I made the mistake of just emptying the bulk mail folder the other week without checking and thereby deleted an important e-mail from Heart of Midlothian FC about season ticket prices for the next campaign.

So, I have to wade through reams of rubbish just in case something has slipped through. At this time of the year I'm receiving dozens of junk e-mails about what I ought to do for Father's Day which, apparently, is less than three weeks away (if my daughters are reading this, that's 21 June…) Given my father has been dead for more than 18 years it's not something high on my priorities but this is a stark example of my privacy being invaded by unscrupulous companies who show no consideration for the feelings of others.

As for the companies constantly screaming at me to buy Viagra, I have considered taking legal action against them. 

But then someone who I believed was a good friend of mine and shall remain nameless, told me it would never stand up in court...