Thursday, 31 January 2008

Weather Girls

The United Kingdom, a you know, has a reputation for discussing the weather more often than is really necessary. A frequent opener of conversation is the state of the weather, usually involving a great degree of surprise that in January the weather is awful! It never fails to amaze me that people are often stunned that snow and gales should cause traffic disruption and be found knocking down trees. Possibly during the few thousand years of habitiation of this earthly paradise the Atlantic waves crashing against the coast and eroding the hard rock found there has not been observed. Maybe the loss of many East Anglian towns caused by the sea removing the land on which they were built has gone unreported in some parts, but certainly not in East Anglia! It is winter therefore it will rain, the temprature will drop, and the wind will blow making everything worse. That is how it usually happens, but when it does, shock! Obviously the further north we go the worse the climate becomes, those living on the West Cost of Scotland the the North West of England being well aware that two days out of three 'might be wet.' A good summer equals one day in three being sodden and the sky being a naval gray as opposed to a deep gloomy immitation dark night. How do we know when the seasons change? With the road from Tomintoul we find one way to recognise winter has arrived, when it becomes blocked by snow that is the start. However this may be slightly defective as this often occurs in August! For those further south the end of the summer holidays and shops being stuffed full of Christmas gear warns of winters approach. Mind you that could brng us back to August again.

Foretelling the weather has long been an occupation of this island race. Farmers, shepherds, fishermen were from the earliest times always watchful of the sky for the signs of changes in the environment around them. World wide folks watched for 'Red sky at night, shepherds delight,' even Jesus mentioned this, and such simple signs would be recognised by anyone living in the country. Animals behaviour often indicated weather patterns changing, and fishermen noting the oceans which so easily took their lives away were always alert for danger indicators. Not so today. Today we have a simpler, and more attractive, indication of how the heavens will affect us, weather girls! Yes indeed, we no longer need to stare at the sky each evening hoping for deep pink clouds, nor do farners have to rise early and wonder of their cows are sleeping standing up or lying down, oh no, today we confront a pretty young thing, usually blonde, lying in her teeth!

Liars? These pretty wee lassies lie?Oh yes they do!
Imagine a postman watching the 'Anglian News' one evening. Along comes the weather girl, attractive, smiling, personable, and informs him that there "May be one or two showers early on, ut nothing to wrooy about." Next morning he sets of to work dressed appropriatly, sorts the mail and heads of to commence delivery. As he cycles out of the office a few spots of rain appear, he grunts and continues reassured that these passing drops will soon fade.Wrong! Four and a half hours later he returns, soaked through to the bone, his bags sodden, the mail turned into paper mache and as he enters the building the manager, coffee cup I hand looks skywards and mutters, "Good, it's clearing up. I'm glad as I'm of home now" The postmans response earns him an official warning. Why do these weather girls use the word 'shower' when they mean 'downpour?' Is it because they are female, or just because they specialise in cruelty?

Weather forecasting today is a highly technical operation. Girls like the one above are not just your Scandinavian bint on the make but highly educated clever wee things. The girls who appear on Anglia share the competent yet relaxed image of the programme, and image that leaves it head and shoulders (which their hairy probably doesn't need) ahead of the BBC. 'Look East.' is a show staffed by wax dummies and the weather girl there, however competent, makes Mrs Beckham look fat. Who can truly put faith in the advice of a stick insect I ask you? Now however, as I look at the sodden picture outside my window I can see the results of yesterdays forecast actually being proved right, it is belting down. Tomorrow they say snow from the north, and then the bitch smiles sweetly! Snow! What is there to smile about? Right then, if that's the case I had better go back to bed and cancel all my appointments.


They done it again! That is the third time the service has disappeared! It has happened once in three years, and probably because it was the busy time of day, and yet three times now it has just died, why? Have they no care for those of us who cannot function without the web? Do you think they do it for spite? I do!

So I have been calmly sitting on the floor all morning, staring into space while some tech geek spills coffee all over the servers in some chap part of the world. I say 'calmly' because after two bottles of valium and half a bottle of Tesco Congac I found myself very calm indeed, even now I feel serene. That said I can't actually feel anything, my legs, my head, my fingers and I notice lots of strange evil creature crawling across the window pane.......

I think it's time to sue Pipex for what they are doing to me.....

Wednesday, 30 January 2008


This is former Senator John Edwards, one of the candidates for the Democrat Party in the US Presidential election. Watching the news tonight I noticed him as he came forward, family at hand, to announce the end of the campaign as far as he was concerned, and the end of his political life I suppose. But what do you notice? As he arrived he immediately put on the American smile! The first thing that appears every time one of these noble candidates arrives on the scene is the false smile. Now it is clear that politicians everywhere have to put on a certain acceptable appearance and look the part, this is fair enough, I would not vote nor trust someone with my fashion sense. However, there is something slimy in the practised American smile. It is seen in politics, it is seen in the church and I remember thirty years ago that all the Christian books that arrived from the US always had a picture of the author on the back cover, always dominated by a row of teeth that reminded me of a Commonwealth War Cemetery! Salesmen, newsmen all have the perfect teeth, all straight and fitting together in a nice straight row. All these folk must have spent billions on dental work, clearly the 49 pence I spent on Tesco toothpaste will not be enough to remove the film, much better than the ones shown on telly, from my big mouth. Pity....

This smile is made worse by the image consciousness of the Yanks in that the teeth need to be perfectly white. No grimy UK teeth would ever won an election there, not even in Pennsylvania! Chat show guests, the home of the attention seeker and deviant, would happily come on and talk about their father being homosexual, their four husbands and their love of stealing form their granny, but never ever would they talk without specially whitened teeth! That would be seen as a disgrace! All people in all nations are image conscious even so the desperation for the perfect, although false, smile is very depressing. Real people for me please.

Tuesday, 29 January 2008

I Want One!

Oh yes I do! What better way to travel around than on a beauty like this? In the sunshine of course, absolutely no good whatsoever in the rain! What a lovely looking motor bike! Doesn't it make your heart beat faster, your desire for the open road increase, your delusion that you are still twenty return and the East Rider theme tune for Steppenwolf crash through the mind? Woohoo!

Naturally there is a downer. For one, there is no money. Buy a motor bike? I canny afford a bus ticket. The running costs, the servicing, the petrol is more than I could imagine, let alone the insurance. Another small problem is the licence, not having one I mean. I did have a provisional licence - I think, in 1976 when I then possessed a Suzuki GT185, which quickly fell apart under my engineering skills. Another one of my many failures is technical ability, there is none! The summer of '76 was of course 'the year of the drought.' A time when some Christians were talking of Gods judgement on us, and others were taking this to heart by stretching themselves all over the parks around us and attempting to develop skin cancer. Being from Edinburgh I stayed in the shade fearful of this new development in my life, three passing days with no rain - wow! The time spent running about London on the bike delivering overpriced photos to a variety of dour staffed companies showed to me that driving was not enjoyable, especially in London. This was made clear when that man knocked me off the bike when turning a corner. It was his fault, he should have seen me overtaking on the inside before he moved! "What? Oh..." For this reason I never took it up, and when the bike fell apart I let it all drop. Most of it is still lying there. However, I obtained another provisional in 1989 as I had a chance of free driving instructions at work, which happily fell through. Having moved out here I really must consider driving, even without cash, as the transport system since the days of Maggie Thatchers money grabbing has collapsed. I actually took some lessons before and gave up in disgust at the result. A mistake I fear, although the driving instructor at the time was keen for me to continue.

Of course as a Spurs fan he was usually found with his hands over his face anyway, as the scores would be heard over the radio and his despair grew as the lesson progressed. Approaching the roundabout on the busy road from Chelmsford I asked "Which lane?" but obtained no reply, Spurs had lost another goal and his head was banging on the dashboard while he agonised loudly.
"Which lane should I be in?" I asked timidly.

'Beep Beeeeep.' 'Beeeeep.'
"No noooo, not agaaiiiiin."
'Squeeeaaaaaaaal.' 'Beeeep' "@*&$:@%."
"It's OK, I got there."
"Four nil, four nilllll."
They have got worse since then, and I am not sure he does that job anymore. Whether it was the money or his team that changed his mind I would not like to say. I can say that as this was coming up to Christmas he was working seven days a week, from seven thirty in the morning till seven thirty at night. His wife, who only worked four days a week, complained he did not do enough around the house, and she had to do all the housework and look after the toddler! She then went into a huff when he indicated the reality of the situation. Women eh? The good book asks "A good wife who can find?" It does not give an answer....

It is a risk in many ways, spending money I really don't have on lessons to attempt something I am not keen on cannot make me feel good. However, maybe I might get a job out of it, although that seems unlikely. Other drivers in my position have struggled. It is useful, but with no cash there is no vehicle anyway. On top of this there will be the travelling to the sanatorium to visit the next instructor which takes a lot of time and trouble, let alone all the forms the police must fill in these days. However we will see. But every so often I see a picture like that, especially when the sun is shining through the frozen air, and think to myself, I want one of those!
One day maybe.

Sunday, 27 January 2008


After mentioning how useful the web is for a wide variety of functions, it went down this morning! When I got up I stared outside at the bright morning enjoying the sight. How I hate the dark days, the cold, the rain, the snow, all horror stuff that drives me mad! Why am I not rich enough to live in Crete or some such place where the sun shines? However, once I breathed in the cold, sorry fresh, morning air I looked up the usual suspects on the web, read the football reports, removed the spam, and passed on useful e-mails. I then got on with my day.

Later I returned to the web but nothing happened! The machine went through all the correct moves but the response from the ISP was dead! Dead! Nothing,no connection! Dead! I stared into space for a while as I went through the difficult problem of coming to terms with this. No connection meant no football messageboards, no spam or proper e-mail. It meant I could not read any more papers, find the news, search the blogs or indeed get in touch with the world! I was trapped!

I kept calm, after I stopped crying, got up off my knees and calmly switched it all off as clearly it was a temporary fault at their end. Wiping away the tears I contemplated what could be done without the internet. Much indeed! Computers are the most wonderful of things, as this laptop would be if the CD actually connected to the rest of the thing (I accidentally deleted the relevant folder), and the screen and dial up worked. Like everything here it is broken, I mean, look at me, you call this fit? I continued with my duties, offering prayers every few seconds. A few days ago the same thing happened,and then the lass at the Service desk spoke of an outage,almost as if I ought to know why it had all collapsed! I phoned again, my fingers trembling as I dialled, well, pushed buttons. The message at the other end kindly gave me the new number from the 1st of February then informed me, with a smile, that "..our offices are closed!" CLOSED!!!! What sort of service is that? Who can I shout at when the service is down if the office is 'closed!?'

I realised this was a judgement because I had not gone to that church I had planned on visiting this morning. It had to be, even though I was far to knackered for some reason to go anywhere. Why am I always tired anyway? There is a Church of Scotland service broadcast live from the village of Luss which I had intended to watch. Not the greatest, but I thought worth a go today.

I roamed around contemplating life without this wonderful window on the world. We can live without it but we are now dependent on it. This is not a bad thing, it is only a machine, and useful for many things, but when it goes down we are often helpless. I sat on the tarmac at Edinburgh International Airport (which I still call Turnhouse) while the captain informed us that the Scots air traffic computer had 'crashed.' We discussed whether this was the appropriate choice of words for the moment! Another question concerned the aircraft already in the air, "Would they have to stay up there all day," someone asked? Eventually someone unplugged the machine and then put the plug back in, we soon set off. But it was close! I knew I could live without this machine, but I would lose so much. E-mail, the blogs I have come to enjoy, and the folk connected to them, research, surfing for the sake of it, Scots football, people! So much that I can contact easily that otherwise would cost time and expense. Which reminds me, time to consider selling books on E-Bay!

After a short eternity the Internet came back. I ran downstairs and standing in the middle of the road shouted "Hallelujah!!!!" A Sainsburys van driver was clearly not impressed! I of course have not done much with this since. Other things to do, football to watch, letters to write, books to read, lunch to burn and so on. However I will look up those pictures of the Battle of Cambrai, and send those e-mail, and write this blog and so on, I will, honest. At least Sicarii understands how I feel. although I suspect most women will fail to. Typical!

Saturday, 26 January 2008


Once again the sun is shining and the sky is blue, once again the birdies sing just loud enough not to be drowned out by the noise of passing traffic. Once again a Saturday feeling is upon me, quite why I cannot say as too many days are like this. However I will be forced to watch one or two English cup ties on telly, I have already visited the market for the fruit and veg which makes up so much of my diet, and once more I am confronted with a long list of 'things to do' which has grown since I started noting these things on Monday. I suppose I had better do some of them now.....

I write this hoping to delay the need to write the FIVE job applications sitting beside me. No doubt some think I ought to be jumping for joy at the opportunities, as sometimes there is no employment opening anywhere to be found, but as I know before I start I will get nowhere I find a real lack of enthusiasm within. The letters will be drawn out of me from somewhere, the right things said, the CV e-mailed or posted, and they will disappear into the ether. Now it is not that I don't want to work, although I have enjoyed much of this time, but I feel guilty taking the dole, and would like to do something useful. Being a numpty makes this difficult. Time, once again, to survey my abilities and.... get depressed I suppose!

Success has been achieved in one area, the broken ansafone now works! After much wrestling and throwing it around I reset the thing simply by pulling out the plug! A clever person would have done this days ago! Now to try this tactic on the washing machine. No, that did not work! Ah well. It is probable it will not work on the VCR either then, nor the tiles that have fallen of the bathroom wall.

As I write this I am struck by the worldwide audience. Folk who have read my blog have been reading thousands of miles apart. Now this may not appear anything but obvious, however when I returned to London in 1975 there were few who could have imagined sitting here in North Essex and reading blogs posted in Singapore, the USA, Saudi Arabia and even down the road! To my little mind this is fantastic! A friend obtained the Internet in London around 94/5 and one night we went from a look into a Chinese University to a similar institution in Virginia! Fantastic stuff, not because of the content but the possibility of trawling the world for information, fun and the blogs I come across. My dad was born in 1908 and had he lived would have been in his hundredth year. When he was born man had just learned to fly, by the time he died we had just landed on the moon! Radio and television were unheard of as he grew up, and even when he joined the army - the only way bar the navy to see the world in 1925 - only the very rich had cars or telephones! In his mind there was a kind of magic that these inventions appeared and spread so that we had radio and television in our, comfortable corporation house, something his young mind could not have imagined. Our house is of course a flat in what we call a 'stair.' The 195 version of a tenement. Three bedrooms in exchange for the one bedroom and no bath tenement his mother brought them up in.

We take for granted these things today, computers on the desk, mobile phones in the pocket, cars a necessity in many areas ad flying regularly around the world,just for shopping trips! Even in the sixties flying was only for the wealthy. The Beatles flew B.O.A.C. to the States but most folk still sailed as it was cheaper. By the end of the sixties half the nation spent their holidays in Spain! I had a holiday in Hounslow I recall... The world is indeed getting smaller. However I for one am grateful for this invention. There is great benefit from all the learning available on the myriad sites I peruse, almost everything I question has a site somewhere. The football facts I crave, most important you understand, is greatly helped by the messageboards, even the Hibs Mad one. Newspapers, and the 'Daily Record,' can be read online, even videos of news, football and music can be found. Friends, virtual or not, can be found in every part of the world, and there are quite a few I can call friends who I will never meet but have made an impact through their writings. That's a result I say.

Oh dear. The football will be on soon, and I have done nothing about these jobs. The 'things to do' list is crying out for attention, lunch is required, and I am sitting here turning into an old woman. How sick is that?

Friday, 25 January 2008


When I jumped out of bed this morning I noticed the sun was shining. How lovely to see this I thought, and noticing the blue tits cheerily chasing each other across the trees opposite I became entranced with the sight. I rushed downstairs and across the road and stood in the park bathing in the sunshine. I listened to the white headed blackbird singing joyfully as it searched for breakfast, I watched the sun reflect of the bright green leaves of the bushes all around me, I noticed the slim white vapour trail high overhead in the azure sky, I rejoiced in the sights and senses of what came close to a spring morning. "Hello, hello, hello. What you a doing off a standing starkers in the park may I ask," said the local police community warden.

Much later....

Now that I know what an 'ASBO' is I am free, (except between the hours of 7 p.m. and 7 a.m of course), to do what I like. So I will return to the waxing lyrical, especially today when we commemorate the poet that was Rabbie Burns. In many parts of the world folks are, as we speak, stuffing haggis and whisky down their throats. Some rejoicing, others slyly avoiding the haggis and sticking with the fruit of the barley! Which reminds me, I must phone my brother in law! Rabbie Burns is seen by some Scots as a kind of saint. They regard him as a 'typical' Scot and in many ways he does fit the bill for that. He came from an extremely poor farming background, where his father,like many of that time, encouraged his children to learn! Robert did, and how! While learning the hard life of ploughing, seeding and reaping the fruits of the field he also studied a wide range of subjects reading voraciously. Geography, theology, maths, literature, French and Latin, and no doubt anything else he came across. The result of a Scotland being Calvinist was not hindering the mind of the nation but it gave free reign for the people, at all levels, to learn if they so desired. The work ethic also contained an encouragement to develop the person. One is left wondering what happened to this, did the wealthy society kill it, are we lazy, or is it just me that fails? Burns spent far too much of his time with women and drink. Some see this as a good thing, but I wonder if this is the case. Doing what we want seems good at the time, but doing what we ought gets more results. Satisfaction does not come through having all we want. Burns poetry did bring him in contact with Edinburgh's high society, and the girls threw themselves at him, finding his wit, his strength, his knowledge and, no doubt, flattery appealing. Women flock to such men, as I can vouch for. Oh yes I can! However, he ended up back on the farm, and a failing one at that. Maybe he just did not sit easily with the chattering classes, a working man tends to have a different, more cynical, view of life than they.

Though much admired by the Church of Scotland folks I doubt he could really be called 'Christian,' he appears tome to be happier as a 'liberal' happily reading his 'Guardian.' he loved his wife, but that did not stop him fathering many bairns elsewhere. Some men seem uncaring towards their wives in this regard. Tempting though it may be, and situations at home can be difficult, having several children by a wide variety of woman shows you to be a spoilt brat,not a man. Not that I am jealous of course. We would all like lots of women at our beck and call, but it is better to have the best, and in the end commitment to one only, however difficult is the best way. (My beloved ran away of course).
Rabbie Burns would probably be a good man to have around, a good patriot, happiest when with his friends in the pub, hard working and very much a working man. In many ways he does provide the Scot with an image they respond to. Sad to say he died after falling asleep in the rain when drunk. He died of the resulting rheumatic fever. Here is one of his more human refrains.

Then let us pray that come it may,
As come it will for a' that,
That Sense and Worth, o'er a' the earth,
Shall bear the gree, an' a' that,
For a' that, an' a' that,
It's coming yet for a' that,
That man to man, the world o'er,
Shall brithers be for a' that

Two sites worth a browse:

Robert Burns

The World Burns Club

Wednesday, 23 January 2008

Nothing to Say

To the surprise of many, mostly rude nasty people, I have had nothing to say for a while. Two reasons for this. One was a touch of that awful bug that had me worried something worse was affecting me. I even considered visiting one of those 'doctor' creatures,but decided it would make me look foolish.
"I've just come for a check up, to see what is wrong with me Doc."
"Your a lazy, fat, slob, anything else?"
"No thanks. Bye."
Just a touch of man flu leaving me with sluggish symptoms and no sympathy from anyone - again! This bug meant I just could not be bothered. The energy levels were not conducive to writing. (Conducive eh? Wonder what that means?) Also I have been having a spiritual struggle. One of those ongoing things between me and Jesus. This was wearing my little mind out. And meant I was really not interested in much else to be honest.

I have however, still got nothing to say! Reading other blogs, and there are masses of good ones out there amongst the porn, make money, and advertising blogs which appear to dominate, and some excellent writing to be found. However I note almost all suffer from silence at times. This must be devastating for the woman who finds nothing to say. How do women cope in those situations I wonder? Bet it drives them mad! Mind you,I rarely meet such women in the real world, they always have something to say, even when there is nothing to say! Which brings me to the 'Mail on Sunday!'

For reasons difficult to explain I bought this, 'newspaper,' on Sunday, and wonder why? Aimed mostly at women, it presents page after page of trauma! Every story concerns some woman's struggle against adversity, from family problems to near death experiences. Some meaningless 'B' celebrity is shown on many pages doing what they do - nothing! Even the supplements, and there are many, are filled with suffering girls. Why? Who cares? We all have,or know of others who have, hard times. Some awful situations confront folk on a daily basis. But to make them the reason to buy a paper? What does it tell us of the female who reads this day by day, and they do because the 'Daily Mail' gives us just the same thing, and yet they lap it up? Apart from holiday adverts there is little else to be found in this rag bar pages of the 'Mail' readers other love - money! No surprise there eh? It will take more than a free CD, even one I want this time,to make me buy this again.There is of course little to read in most papers these days. News is broadcast on telly and radio twenty four hours a day so there is no need for urgent paper news. The choice for them comes down to 'in depth' reporting or sensational headlines. The headlines have it of course because people do not really want facts,they are satisfied with 'bread and circuses.' Shock headlines,exaggerated or not,sell! For reasons that pass way over the gray hairs that appear on the side of my head stories about Britney Spears and the like are popular! Why? What is the draw in a broken mediocre star, whether singer/actor/nobody anyway? It is not as if you can help them, and having their life in the press helps no-one.

Hmmm, see, I had nothing to say anyway. You missed nowt!

Saturday, 19 January 2008

Heart of Midlothian 1 Hibernian 0

Once again the Heart of Midlothian have shown their superiority over Hibernian. There can surely be no doubt, anywhere in all creation, that Hibernian are referred to as 'The Wee Team' justly! This season has seen the Hearts struggle internally leading to poor performances on the field of play. Indeed we have not won since November. What better way to end this run than by beating the local rivals ? In spite of not playing well the Hearts can always rely upon the Hibernian coaching staff to aid us. Once again the Goalkeeping coach has failed in his job, this time forgetting to tell the goalie to catch the ball and stop it from fumbling over the line. Shame eh? Never mind, he is not the first numpty to play in goals for Hibernian, and he will not be the last!

The Edinburgh derby between Hibernian and the Heart of Midlothian first occurred at the Meadows in Edinburgh on Christmas Day 1875. On that occasion, which I did not attend, Hearts began the game with three men missing for the first twenty minutes yet still won by one goal to nil! Thus began a series of results than can only be called a 'custom.' In those early days football clubs would move from one playing area to another and as the game became quickly popular more permanent stadiums were required. By 1881 the Hearts has settled in Tynecastle while Hibs floated around until they finally developed a ground on an old rubbish tip just of Easter Road. Apt I would say, wouldn't you? Wherever they played the Hearts have been dominant at home and away. A quick look at the total figures for all the games played reveals how supreme the Heart of Midlothian have become.

Altogether, including League, Cup and a variety of other matches, the clubs have met a total of 603 times! The Hearts have won on 269 occasions the Hibs, with referees help, have scraped a mere 194 victories. There have been 134 drawn games, but we should have won them, and 6 games were abandoned! During this time, the Heart of Midlothian scored 1048 goals, and the refs chalked off many more out of sympathy for the 'Wee Team.' They themselves did manage to obtain 878 goals in this time. Most of them it must be said were actually offside or obtained from penalties which they obtained by their famous tactic of disgraceful diving!

The most famous occasion was naturally the 1896 Scottish Cup final played at Logie Green Road in Edinburgh. This was the only time the final has been played outside of Glasgow. The Glasgow authorities with their unreasonable belief that the game belongs to them insist on all the important matches occurring in the nations second city. On this occasion however, common sense prevailed and many thousands crowded this ground to watch the Heart of Midlothian win the Scottish Cup once again, and in doing so remind Hibernian that they remain 'The Wee Team!' It was not until 2006 that these clubs met at a high level in the Cup. On that occasion Hampden Park (It should have been Murrayfield) was the venue as the Hearts rejoiced in a marvellous 4-0 victory in the Scottish Cup Semi-Final. Most Hibs fans attended this game disguised as empty seats.

Back to today and we see that even when the Heart of Midlothian play badly we can still beat 'The Wee Team!' Tells you all you need to know about the two sides eh? Is that rain I hear lashing down outside? Or are the streets flooding because of the tears from the losers?

Friday, 18 January 2008

Bobby Fischer

Bobby Fischer the great chess champion has died aged 64. While sympathising with the loss some have found time to leave a comment on this controversial star.

Should be an impressive list of dignitaries for the funeral - Kings, Queens, Knights, Bishops.....

Will the service be taken by the Bishop

Are you sure ?
You better check mate !

I have one of his old chess sets.
I found it in the local pawn shop

That coffin will take a while to get down the aisle, one square forward and then one to the side.............

Was gonna go to the funeral but I'm rooked

He certainly had a chequered history....

He should be remembered for his services to chess and be made a knight
(or the foreign equivalent).

Tap on the head and shoulders with a sword from the queen

I was in the Treetops Hilton this morning and a a few young lads at the reception reckon they would have wiped the floor with him.

A case of chess nuts boasting in an open foyer!


This Christmas my prettiest, and most intelligent niece, gave me the 'Oldie Annual' as a present. The 'Oldie' being a magazine for those who have matured. When you consider that a year ago she gave me the book,'Grumpy Old men,' I am beginning to wonder if she is trying to tell me something?

For one thing I must state I am NOT old! I am merely a rusty 56. For another thing I am NOT 'grumpy!' Of course I will indicate, in a full and frank manner, those moments where a word of advice is required. In fact, not only am I willing to offer such counsel but I often find myself helping those who have not even had the time to request my opinion. But are they thankful? No! It seems to me we are raising an ungrateful population sometimes! I just do not know what the world is coming to sometimes. Dearie me, that is a phrase the old folks used to come out with when I was younger.
I wonder how that came to mind?

The 'Grumpy Old men' book I read from cover to cover, as there seemed little point in reading it any other way, and yet found little to disagree with. I thought the man pulling it all together, one Stuart Prebble, was clearly in the wrong in his arrogant BBC style) insistence that he could drive his car where he liked, and smoke freely with no concern for others. Drivers, as many of you will be aware, are far to self important, and appear to think the roads were made for them! Always complaining about how much they are paying and how little they get in return. However, our towns and cities have been devastated by the combustion engine, and no new building is erected without sufficient space for the users chariots. I am always somewhat surprised by the overweight, over dressed folk driving oversized cars for journeys that could be completed with a ten minute walk! These are the folk, in their large four by fours, dropping kids off at school and complaining it is too dangerous for little Tommy to walk to school! Tsk! As for smokers, well, just visit a lung cancer patient who cannot abide a sheet touching him as it is too painful and ask if he wants a fag? Get a life - by not killing yourself and others!

The 'Oldie' book is very enjoyable. The collection of short pieces, often humorous, sometimes deliberate, sometimes not, with an occasional rant that makes me wonder if some folks on 'BlogCatalog' write for the magazine? Part remembrances, part gossip, and stuffed full of cartoons, I have to say I enjoy this book. If it is to become an annual, er...annual, then I want it, er...annually! The only problem I have is that it is just a wee bit too middle class for me. Tales of wandering through Scotland watching football in the nineteen sixties would be out of place among this lot I fear. While the Scots are much more egalitarian than the English, possibly going back to the tenement living in days of yore, this magazine is clearly aimed at the English middle classes.Still, had I the cash I would subscribe.
Any handouts out there?

Thursday, 17 January 2008

The Heart of Midlothian War Memorial

One notable reaction to the losses incurred during the Great War was the deeply held need for a place to mourn the dead. The war had to be fought as a war of attrition, a huge siege war, and this resulted in vast numbers of dead on all sides. This is not the time to argue whether these methods were correct, or who was to blame. Suffice to say the men of the British Army left the war believing they had won a great victory, and they were right! The disillusion with the war was to come later, after the promise of 'Homes for heroes,' and the promise of a job 'kept open' failed. The reaction to this failing led to a new world after the second war. In the years immediately after fighting had ceased the nation was gripped by a wide variety of emotions. Large numbers of the dead lay in cemeteries throughout France, many still lay in hospitals, others were to die slow agonising deaths before another conflict broke out. Some three hundred thousand British and Empire troops still lie missing under the old battlefields.

It was the desperate need to find a spot to mourn the dead that led to many memorials being erected throughout the nineteen twenties. Every town and village, however small, had a war memorial, even if it was just a bronze plaque in a church somewhere. Six men in one village, several hundred in a major railway station would be remembered as heroes for their 'Sacrifice,' and their willingness to serve 'God King and Country.'
The sense of loss shook the nation. The 'Unknown Warrior,' buried in Westminster Abbey in 1920, the same year a temporary cenotaph was erected in Whitehall, was visited by millions. Mothers, wives and sisters passed by, many attempting to believe that this was 'their' man. Such was the response that the Cenotaph became permanent.

In Edinburgh the reaction of the city to the announcement in November 1914 that the Heart of Midlothian football players had voluntarily enlisted in George McCrae's 16th Battalion of the Royal Scots, caused over a thousand men, many footballers from other clubs, fans, students and men not yet enrolled to join in. This at a time when the chattering classes, those unable to enlist themselves, were demanding football and other sports should stop while the war continued. So strong were these cries that a major debate was about to take place in Parliament the next day. The actions of the Hearts men saved the day,encouraged recruitment, shut the mouths of the ignorant and cost them their careers, their limbs and their lives! Six men died in action, one died of disease, several were severely disabled, a few returned to playing. Two were to die from the effects of the war long before Hitler came to power.

It is no wonder then that a grateful city erected a monument to these men at the Haymarket. This busy junction was where the road led to Tynecastle Park, the home of the Heart of Midlothian. Traffic heading to all points passed by daily, this was a memorial for the nation to see how such men were remembered. The pride of Edinburgh in such men was demonstrated for all to see! They were of course not alone. There are many memorials including one at the City Chambers, various churches have individuals commemorated, Waverley Station remembers the railmen who died, several hundred of them, and individual factories and places of work commemorated those who did not return. But the Hearts memorial meant a great deal to many people, and not just the many thousand who attended the unveiling. The whole of Edinburgh, and I may say Scotland also, shared the pride in what the action of these players.

Now however, the City intends to remove this memorial and tuck it away out of sight. Why? Because a new development of tramcars is being rushed through at great cost, and the memorial is in the way! The trams may well be a great investment in the long run for the city, and no doubt will be worth the expense, but need the planners move the memorial away from the area? For one thing, it was to those members of this, and many other battalions, who survived a type of 'holy ground,' given by the city in gratitude for their work. Today, while the Heart of Midlothian fans have begun to remember their actions, mostly through Jack Alexander's excellent work 'McCrae's Battalion,' and people in general are once again understanding the nature of the Great War, the council and those responsible for the trams development appear to be belittling our history. Surely, when the memorial first was erected the trams were running, and in a much more complicated pattern than the new development will, surely it is possible to find a way to keep the memorial honoured? This memorial, like so many others, does not glorify war, few of those who return do that, but it does ensure people and their actions often truly heroic, are not forgotten. Our history is important!

Wednesday, 16 January 2008


Now look! After Christmas I realised I had once again put on weight. I was touching 16 stone again, and I had dropped at least half a stone before that. So the other day I began the exercises. Walking at least thirty minutes, moving around, doing things rather than just sitting here, eating less and more fruit and veg. Today I not only walked for hours around the market, being barged around by the bullying woman found there, but I also got on the bike for a while this afternoon.
I sit here aching with all the strenuous effort I have put in. I am stretching both legs backwards as I type, and with one hand I am lifting a dumbbell. I know that when I leap (leap?) out of bed in the morning I will be confronted with all over stiff muscles. I did ask that nice young lass at the fruit and veg stall if she would like to help my aching back with some embrocation but she did not seem too keen. I finally removed that melon from my big gob by tea time. Tsk! Some folks are touchy, or not as the case seems to be here!
However, when I weighed myself, expecting to see the little needle slowly roll to the 13 stone mark where it should be, it read 16 and a half stone! After all this effort I am putting on the weight! I think I will start one of those fasts, the type those hermits used to go in for. Sitting there on a pole, high above the world, they sought enlightenment. Personally I think they just got fed up with the local 'Lose weight now! Ask me how!' type folk peddling their lies. The chance of enlightenment seems slight to me anyhow, Jesus appears to have eaten well enough. I am not sure if he wants us to live on bread and water in such a public show anyhow. Eating well and eating less is the only way to lose forty two pounds. The exercise is just good for you. Until that is, the morning after.

Tuesday, 15 January 2008


Drawing back the filthy rags that pass for curtains here I noticed the sky glowering darkly overhead. The Sky, I should add, is usually overhead of course, but I thought it wise to make this clear. The dark gray clouds came racing in from the south west and dropped the contents at a rakish angle. People lucky enough to be heading for work walked, head down or hidden behind those deadly weapons umbrellas! Surely folk should have a licence to carry one?

While watching a dog cheerfully meander from tree to tree I noticed the postie arrive. She looked up from under her large orange hood and noticing me at the window expressed some concern at the weather. It must be understood that rain, apart from wind, is the worst weather conditions in which to deliver mail. Rain gets everywhere! No matter what you do rain finds its way into the bag. By the time the postie is half way through his day he finds that he is shoving paper mache through letterboxes!
Wandering to the door, slowly, and carrying a coffee cup in my hand I opened the door. Placing the mail in my hand she again referred to the rain in a derogatory manner. "Oi," says I, "These letters are wet." Once more, and in a language too rough for members of the Royal Navy, she indicated that the weather was somewhat unsettled this morning. She then slapped me on both sides of my head with her sodden arms. Then she smiled! Typical woman!

Without this rain we would of course not have a nation as lush as this. While the rain soaks through the holes in my shoe it also soaks deep into the earth producing those fabulous flowers and trees, bushes and meadows that can be found hidden behind the concrete and brick that surrounds us. In short we are made by the weather! While attending a course for the Open University the tutor disagreed with my view that the land shaped the people. Sad thing when someone disagrees with me I say,not sad that they disagree, but sad when they are wrong yet are getting paid huge sums of money for being wrong! Australians brought up in the bush have a very different view on life from the tutor, brought up in middle class liberal England. Those fishermen living on the Scottish islands would possess an outlook at variance with a lass living in an Iranian village, and not just because of the religious culture either. The land shapes us, it gets into our mentality, and disagreements between the continental members of the EU and Britain can be said to begin with the national outlook. The sea around us has also given us an attitude at variance from those with a history of shifting borders.

Brits cannot meet without mentioning the weather. King George V began each days diary entry with a comment on the weather, encouraged by his early training with the navy. Football matches, and the laborious cricket ones also, and often threatened by rain or wind, Wimbledon not only suffers from rain but from Cliff Richard and his singing! How bad is that? Parents concerned about their siblings will always ask about the weather, as if they want to make sure the child, now in mid twenties, is dressed appropriately. They never learn! The weather, that really means the rain, becomes part of British life, and is it therefore any wonder that folk flock to sun filled resorts in the summer. I myself have now developed a desire to live in Crete! Why? Because I saw a picture of a sun filled Crete on telly the other day and I am off as soon as I am rich enough.

Global warming is going to increase the temperature in this land they say, but what will happen then? Vegetation will not appear as well as it does now, crops will suffer, gardeners will be forced to save water in barrels and then we will all start complaining that it is too hot! Holidays will be taken in Finland just to see snow and long dark nights, expeditions to monsoon lands to laugh with glee at the rainfall will be highlights of some idiots year, and I will still be left by an uncle I have never known an umbrella factory. twas ever thus!

Sunday, 13 January 2008


Once more I look forward to another day of seeking work. There are several forms to fill, pleading letters to write, and, lets face it, little hoe of success with the forms in front of me now. It is over a year since I was last employed, and in spite of the hundreds of forms sent out nothing has materialised. There are three reasons for this. One is my age,56, another is the beginnings of arthritis where the leg was broken years ago, and thirdly my being an idiot! It is true to say however that most do not put these three in this order! Confidence,that thing only women and footballers lack, is nil.There is nothing I consider I can do, and feel nervous about everything now. If I had followed the advice of my dad and trained as a joiner it would not be so bad, although no joiner would have let me finish an apprenticeship! Well, not alive anyway! I am not trained in anything but lifting and carrying, hence I was happy packing boxes or delivering mail. The sophistication of dealing with the cretins who fill offices all to often was beyond me, I discovered the hard way the unwillingness of secretaries to actually work, the desperate need of men to climb the ladder rather than do the job, and the soul destroying nature of office politics. My humour did not always find an appreciative audience amongst those so tight arsed that they had to be handled like Ming china vases. Sadly I sometimes failed to do this and indicated my opinions somewhat too force ably. Hmmm, fun though! In large office complexes the word 'work' is not to be used where the general run of employees is concerned, it just upsets them. These creatures usually start late, finish early, shirk when possible, pass the buck, and get paid far too much. This type of person complains postmen do not work! They consider dustmen beneath them, and that the janitor and cleaners are lesser specimens than they, just because they sit at a desk. Tsk! "To see oorsels as ithers see us." I agree some work, and work well, but I find the warehouseman and the postman, the dustman and the cleaner often more reliable than the one more concerned about their position or their 'feelings.'

So, as I have little training in desk bound jobs, unable to do what my little mind can cope with, and in a town where suitable work is scarce, and I must admit, not keen on working these days, I set myself to my task with little emotion. In the past I have been unemployed and wanted to work, although temp work was available. Such is not now because of the knee, well not the right type of work anyway. However I heard there may be a job working from home dealing with one companies complaints! This sounds OK, as it will be ideal if it can occur. But it will be a day or two before I hear if it is actually available. Cheered me up mind as it gave me a hope that I had lost.

The dole office decided that I had been out too long, and they have been very helpful for the most part. I was put onto what they call 'Workstep.' This it turns out is an offshoot of work done by the British Legion of all people. I suppose they consider I am playing the 'Old Soldier!' So I was introduced to a lovely 29 year old who has revamped my CV, crying "Dire" when looking at the original one, given me instruction on interviews, which was a waste of time, and spent the rest of the time chatting. If I get an interview I am supposed to take her along as she needs to fill out forms! Like taking your mother I say! Mind you, dad would have been awfully pleased if mum had looked like this! An excellent lass who browbeats folk into the ground but is actually willing to work. Not the type I have seen to much off I must say.

I have not done badly during this time. I needed time off after the last job, although not this much, and have spent much of it wisely. It is amazing how many things we take for granted we do not need, and only when they break down or cost too much do we realise they are not that important. Once money comes in, I suppose I shall start wasting it again. And it will come, the right job is out there waiting for me, I just need my eyes open, and the gumption, to find it.

Saturday, 12 January 2008


The fuss in the press in recent days concerning the possible move of 'Arry Redknapp from Portsmouth to Newcastle United several times mentioned his house in Sandbanks. This did intrigue me as I have often been down that way. The beach at Bournemouth is one of the best in the UK, and the sun shines there also! This small peninsula has Poole Bay on one side and Poole harbour on the other. This leaves a wonderfully attractive site, so attractive that houses built on this, near island, cost many millions of pounds.

From the photograph this may not appear to be the case, but a quick perusal of houses for sale show just what is on offer!

Swapping this for the cold gray of the north east may not have gone down well with Mrs Redknapp of course who may not have thought Gateshead as attractive as Sandbanks. A wise woman! 'Arry was quick to claim that he could not leave because he did not want to "Let down the players I have brought in!" and that he was 'Appy in the sarf." I suggest he forgot to mention Portsmouth, who's great improvement in 'Arrys time would come to an end, leaving them open to relegation once again, made him an offer he could not refuse. Our 'Arry knows all about wheeling and dealing, and one would not be surprised that the Newcastle trip was done to 'encourage' Portsmouth to loosen the purse strings.
Cynic? Me?

By the time I had finished going through the details of these houses, many newly built since the last time I was there, I was somewhat disappointed. I would love a place where I could see the sun coming up over the 'Old Harry' rocks and going down over Poole Harbour, as one thing I miss is being near the sea. But in the end I think the pretentiousness of so many of these houses, and the people who buy them, left me flat. Market forces might increase the price of better property, but seven million for a house? Nothing wrong with being wealthy, nothing wrong with having good quality furnishings, but there is something wrong with those who see this as the best that life has to offer. How many personality clashes occur in those expensive homes? How many are on there latest marriage? How many are content? Maybe a smaller house, overlooking the sea so I could watch the sun go down at night in the west, and have enjoyed its warmth in the morning would suit me.

Of course, a lottery win might change my mind for me.

Friday, 11 January 2008

Health and Safety

There was an item on the local news yesterday about a village being banned from hanging flower baskets from lampposts. This was something done annually as the village prepared for on of the 'Village in Bloom' type contests. The council however deemed this unsafe on 'Health and Safety' grounds. Now is it just me or are we becoming just too 'safety conscious?' All to often it appears that 'common sense,' the ability to recognise something is a danger, is being replaced by an absurd state of neurosis.

The local council workmen wanted to fix a section of guttering in a house. Simple job, a ladder up against the wall, a man holding the foot of the ladder, and shortly afterwards the job is done. Not now. Today they must collect a scaffolding set if they want to do the job. So they replace the whole section of guttering and cost the council hundreds of pounds taking several days to do a job that took a mornings work before. I say a mornings work as we all know council men do not work in the afternoon!

Similarly a window cleaner told me he now has to use a scaffold if he wants to clean windows above the ground floor! The reason is of course not health and safety at all, it is insurance! Money, not concern for your welfare drives the health conscious today! Postmen, as you probably know, are like most folks working outside these days, required to wear Hi-visibility jackets,orange ones in this case. One young manager passing through one day drew attention to my somewhat worn Hi-vis. He wanted me to wear a bright new one because he said,"The roads are dangerous." I was amazed! Here was I, who had been working for forty years, and I had never at any time realised that the 'roads could be dangerous!' During those many days when I cycled up the Ferry Road from Leith with lorries thundering past to all points of the compass, or on the occasion of my cycle from Edinburgh to London I had never realised that the 'roads could be dangerous!' I was so glad he had been reading the Health and Safety material that his role demanded. I think I may have said as much, at least he never bothered me again!

Royal mail at one time demanded all cyclists wore helmets and sacked those who refused. Again this was not from Health and Safety as they proclaimed but for insurance purposes. These money grabbing folk will not pay out if you did not wear the helmet or the authorised shoes! Many drivers now carry the official shoes in their van while wearing trainers. If they have an accident they intend to change gear and claim the cash!

This morning I found a similar problem as encountered by Moo-Dog in his 'must read' blog. His troubles were caused partly by health and safety and , well read it for yourself, it's very good. My problem today was safety again. I attempted to use one of those sprays full of stuff that removes the after effects of hard water from sinks etc. To avoid kiddies getting their hands on it and using it as a water pistol or even drinking the stuff it comes with a protective plastic cover. Could I get this off? NO! I struggled for a good while trying to work out how to open it, no instructions of course, and in the end broke it in pieces. Where are women when you need them eh? These 'childproof' tops on bleach and paracetamol containers are a joke - only kids, Mensa members and women can open them! I wasted most of the contents when I ended up with the lid in bits. So that's more money down the drain, so to speak. Do you think I can claim on the insurance for 'hurt feelings?'

Wednesday, 9 January 2008

US Elections

Watching the news regarding the results of the latest primary votes in the States I could not help but think what a feeble collection of candidates are making themselves available for election. It seems to me that with each US Presidential election those who put themselves forward are less capable than those who have gone before. There is no doubt the future for the United States is not healthy with this collection of candidates.

The unknowns, at least on this side of the Atlantic, who are making the attempt to replace Bush as the Republican leader make almost no headlines in the UK, such is their importance! The Democrats, who's candidate is clearly favourite to be the next president, take all the attention, and mostly the Woman and the Black man get the majority of that. I say 'Woman' and 'Black Man,' rather than use their names as it appears to me that this is one of the main selling points here. Political policies are less important in chasing the No 1 spot, having a face that fits seems more important. For instance, a glance at the TV interview of Mrs Clinton, voice almost breaking, tears just appearing, probably helped her to win this primary. There is a strong possibility it may win her an 'Oscar' at another ceremony in a few days time! How many fell for that? Enough to get out there and vote for her. Try that in the UK and they will soon see through you, or consider you not up to the job! Some say her husband gave her many causes for tears, but in truth,if you came home every night to that would you not want to run off with a proper lassie? If she wants tears I am always willing to help her in that regard. Her opponent Mr Obamu, has not deliberately used his colour to get any advantage, although he does not need to mention it in race obsessed America, but clearly many will vote for him just because of the colour of his skin, although possibly not in Alabama! If he goes marching through Georgia looking for votes he may find himself hanging around for a while......

The quality of the Democrat and Republican candidates is worrying, the world is entering a dangerous time and these people may not be up to the job. The only candidate with the experience for the job seems in my view to be Mrs Clinton, and she is the last creature I would want on the throne. Her ambition to be the first female president overpowers all else in her life. Pushy, selfish, and unwilling to listen to another point of view (well, she is a woman), she is what Radio 4 listeners would call 'Feisty,' and then spend an entire hour tearing her apart as the sisters do. But her experience as 'wife of Bill' does give her an understanding of how the world works, an experience that puts her well ahead in the capability stakes. Obamu may do well enough as a senator, and a relatively young one at that, but what does he know, and indeed what do his adviser's know about the real world out side of the US? I doubt he, and they, are ready for such a job. His wife is a bit of alright mind and if she wants to learn about the UK I am willing to offer my services - as long as she brings her credit card with her.

The Republican contenders, who are they anyway? The Republican contenders will be vanquished after the George Dubya Bush adventure. Even America can only take so much of that! So unless the oil companies and certain other 'friendly' countries contribute heavily to their expenses I doubt they will have much chance. At the last election Bush spent $273 million while his opponent only spent $249million. (BBC NEWS) Where did that come from, and is that really all the cash he raised then? Nothing is ever really clear in politics. Unless Bin Laden intervenes again I doubt any Republicans chances now.

There is never a 'safe' time in any period, there is always some problem or other to deal with. A war or two here, a terrorist outrage there, and always Israel and the middle east. But where are the big names,the men of political clout? Roosevelt would walk any election now in the US, Nixon, for all his many faults, was a canny operator and knew his way around the world, another Kennedy will not appear soon. Not that any Kennedy actually achieved anything except the art of bullet catching of course. I fear for America, and I fear for the world. The US political system, with its absurd checks and balances, its election of a president but not his cabinet, allows for the wrong people to take office. Money counts, not ability, and this time it could all go badly wrong.

Hey ho! Always look on the bright side, that's me!

Monday, 7 January 2008

Knowing God

What matters supremely therefore, is not,in the last analysis,the fact that I know God, but the larger fact that underlies it - the fact that He knows me. I am graven on the palms of His hands. I am never out of His mind. All my knowledge of Him depends on His sustained initiative in knowing me. I know Him, because He first knew me, and continues to know me. He knows me as a friend, one who loves me; and there is no moment when His eye is off me, or His attention distracted from me, and no moment, therefore, when his care falters.

This is momentous knowledge. There is unspeakable comfort - the sort of comfort that energises, be it said, not enervates - in knowing that God is constantly taking knowledge of me in love, and watching over me for my good. There is tremendous relief in knowing that His love to me is utterly realistic, based at every point on prior knowledge of the worst about me, so that no discovery now can disillusion Him about me, in the way I am so often disillusioned about myself, and quench His determination to bless me. There is certainly, great cause for humility in the thought that He sees all the twisted things about me that my fellow - men do not see ( and am I glad), and that He sees more corruption in me than that which I see in myself (which, in all conscience, is enough). There is, however, equally great incentive to worship and love God in the thought that, for some unfathomable reason, He wants me as His friend, and desires to be my friend , and has given His Son to die for me in order to realise this purpose. We cannot work these thoughts out here, but merely to mention them is enough to show how much it means to know, not merely that we know God, but that he knows us.

From 'Knowing God,' by J. I. Packer. I recommend this book.

Friday, 4 January 2008


HELP!!!! I need help! I have allowed something to slip my mind. You see I was hurrying to enrich my life with a nourishing sausage dinner. I fixed the pasta that was being used as a base, and added tomatoes and a large broccoli. Marvellous and almost healthy!

It was delicious! Of course the special sauce did improve it, as it always does, and I sat back with the small portion of Christmas pudding content and happy. What more could one ask?

So, I went cheerfully to do the washing up, even though it truly is woman's work! This was accomplished efficiently amid a flurry of soap suds, all except the tray used for the sausages! I looked everywhere but could not find it. This was a mystery I could not answer. I remembered taking the sausages out the oven, deciding the were not quite ready so chopped them up to speed the process and returned them to the oven for a few final minutes.

Oh dear! I had a sudden thought. I remembered switching off the oven and ....oh dear! Yes indeed there in the oven were the blackened remnants of my beef sausages! Now usable in some form of engineering or possibly as Royal Artillery shrapnel! As sustenance they failed badly.

I blame unemployment. If I had work that stimulated the mind instead of the dullness that has set in during the past few years I am sure this sort of thing would not occur! The work I have done has often been repetitive, even when enjoyable, but the brain needs stimulation. So far the greatest incentive comes from perusing other folks blogs. Surely that cannot be good enough!

Thursday, 3 January 2008


The weather today was cold, very cold. The sky was dull gray and little white drops, not quite snow and yet not large enough to be sleet, slowly dropped from the sky. naturally one thing came to mind - Leith! let's face it, this is Leith weather!

I have many memories of Leith as in the fifties Saturday was Edinburgh's early closing day, Leith had their half day on Wednesday so Mum would do her shopping there. I went along. We could get the bus straight down the road into the dark four storey buildings of Junction Street. At that time the Kirkgate was a dingy old street awaiting redevelopment. The new breed of hope filled architects were desperate to remove the slum housing and give the people decent accommodation. In the rush many decent homes were created, and I benefited from a 'Miller' built stair for one, but alas too many nice we boxes were built without understanding the people who would inhabit them. Now we realise, too late, that renovation was better for such places. While the old Kirkgate was decrepit the New Kirkgate, with its shopping centre and small tower block, may be approved by the health and safety people but it has no character! The populace were of course proud Leithers not Edinburgh folk by the way. Leith remained a separate burgh until 1926.

I began work there in 1966 as a fifteen year old office boy, or 'useless idiot' as the straight talking folk there would say. This I have to say is a talent I have developed so well I may ask for an Arts Council Grant and make my fortune! I began my career as a failure in a whisky bond, one of many that were then found in Leith. These were dour 'Calvinist' faced places, constructed of large stone blocks,with iron bars in every window, locked doors, wooden floors and stairs, very much products of the nineteenth century. These buildings were filled with whisky in vats, Hogshead barrels, and thousands of bottles stored in cases floor upon floor. With the cardboard for the boxes to add to the congested area it is easy to see how these places were death traps.

Our bond was smaller than the one shown in the picture, but the idea was the same. Most bottled the whisky on the premises as we did, some blended it also. Our goods were destined for South Africa, the USA and to anyone with the cash to pay! Distillers are not prejudiced where money is concerned. The death trap is sadly a truth. In 1960 a large bonded warehouse in Glasgow caught fire and resulted in the deaths of nineteen firemen! The firemen just up the road from us had this thought in their minds constantly I reckon.

Of course some things helped remind them of the dangers of their job and our building. Now one of my jobs at that time was testing the fire alarms. This entailed phoning MacDonald Road Fire Station and letting them know I was about to run the test. "Aye right son," would come a somewhat tired voice, and then I would open the box and pull all the buttons out. "OK, right son!" the voice would say, and that was that. One day, not long after other firemen died during the course of their duty, I opened the alarm box at the right time, pulled several bell levers and stopped. I had forgotten to ring the firemen! I rang. This time there was no tired voice, just a man standing up and saying, in an alert and 'just in control of his words' voice, "Don't do that again son!"
I didn't!

The warehouses as you can see have all been developed into overpriced flats. The typical Leith folk have been edged out and a new, trendy type, is now found taking drugs in the pubs and the new cafe's and bars that have sprung up. I doubt however they will have many sitting outside today! The old public houses where workers, sailors and some extremely rough types, and I mean rough, used to carouse now are meeting places for 'Rory' and his friends. I think myself I preferred the chaps just of the ships!

The picture by the way (© 2003 comes from this excellent site!
I recommend a look if you wish to visit Edinburgh one day.

Wednesday, 2 January 2008

Radio 3

Well my new year started in the normal manner. Within three minutes I had received my first spam e-mail! (You signed up for this on Dec 14th - Oh no I didn't!). Two days in and around twenty more have arrived. Once again one entered the fray as I was reading the proper e-mail, s meaning they too know the address is live and more will follow. Anyone for a 'replica watch' out there? The weather is dreich, damp but until this morning it has been mild. Naturally, as I consider walking the streets looking for dropped coins, the temperature has fallen. Even the birdies have put scarves on and are gathering around any branch where the sun alights. Contact with Edinburgh has been limited as some up there have indulged in high frolics on Hogmany and have been paying the price. My sensitive, caring cries of "I told you so!" appear to cause some resentment. Hee hee!

However I have once again discovered the joys of Radio 3, and in particular 'Late Junction.'
This is a programme described as 'A laid-back, eclectic mix of music from across the globe.' It is indeed! Using the 'Listen Again' button I let this run as I misspell my words, thus entertaining my mind if not yours. Fiona Talkington and Verity Sharp present in a suitably laid back manner, and I tell you I am jealous as I would love a job like theirs. Especially as it only runs three days a week! Radio 3 has understandably been given a reputation for musical snobbery! A reputation it thoroughly deserves. Clearly many associated with 3 do think of themselves as above the normal run of the mill music world, and indeed the world in general when it comes to that. This however is not because of the music, but because they themselves are snobs and justify their existence by looking down on others. Poor sad, deluded folks. They kid only themselves. Mind you anyone who looks down on the output of Radio 1 or the BBC in general can be considered a snob if they prefer quality to pap. As I said before, and only the Daily Mail's, female, Tory readership could disagree, when the Conservative party insisted in the 80's that the 'Left Leaning BBC' was made to pay its own way a 'dumbing down' was obvious. I hope they are happy!

Radio three has many good points, the news, which comes rarely, is read without the needless emotion that is seen everywhere else. Just why newsreader need to slant stories like the tabloid press is beyond me, facts are enough as those listening are not stupid. If programmers treated the audience as somewhat intelligent rather than regarding them as Orcs all programmes would surely improve! 3 does not dumb down,well, not in any obvious way,although it caters for its own audience and their self opinion! The presenters in general tend to be laid back and knowledgeable, the talk programmes rare, but often enlightening, and if they decided to cut out all female opera singers the programming would be near perfect. If I want a screeching woman I can soon find one.

If you too have an 'eclectic' ear, if you want something more mind stretching than the mind sapping inconsequential 'pap' that fills the airways these days I suggest giving Radio 3, and 'Late Junction' in particular a try. In truth you do not need to be a snob to listen in, there are many in the residuum alongside me who listen regularly, with their ear pressed up against the gramophone in case the Gestapo discover them. It is a must to wash your hands before listening however, for decorum's sake.

Tuesday, 1 January 2008

Happy New Year!

May I take this opportunity to say
All the Best to You and Yours
for 2008

May Yahweh bless you and keep you,
Yahweh make his face to shine on you,
And be gracious to you,
Yahweh lift up his face toward you,
And give you peace.