Thursday, 31 July 2008



1) Commenting on a complaint from a Mr. Arthur Purdey about a large gas bill, a spokesman for North West Gas said, 'We agree it was rather high for the time of year. It's possible Mr. Purdey has been charged for the gas used up during the explosion that destroyed his house.' (The Daily Telegraph)

2) Police reveal that a woman arrested for shoplifting a whole salami. When asked why, she said it was because she was missing her Italian boyfriend. (The Manchester Evening News)

3) Irish police are being handicapped in a search for a stolen van, because they cannot issue a description. It's a Special Branch vehicle and they don't want the public to know what it looks like. (The Guardian)

4) A young girl who was blown out to sea on a set of inflatable teeth was rescued by a man on an inflatable lobster. A Coast Guard spokesman commented, 'This sort of thing is all too common'. (The Times)

5) At the height of the gale, the harbourmaster radioed a Coastguard and asked him to estimate the wind speed. He replied he was sorry, but he didn't have a gauge. However, if it was any help, the wind had just blown his Land Rover off the cliff. (Aberdeen Evening Express)

6) Mrs. Irene Graham of Thorpe Avenue , Boscombe, delighted the audience with her reminiscence of the German prisoner of war who was sent each week to do her garden. He was repatriated at the end of 1945, she recalled. 'He'd always seemed a nice friendly chap, but when the crocuses came up in the middle of our lawn in February 1946, they spelt out 'Heil ******.'' ( Bournemouth Evening Echo)

A list of actual announcements that London Tube train drivers have made to their passengers...

1) 'Ladies and Gentlemen, I do apologize for the delay to your service I know you're all dying to get home, unless, of course, you happen to be married to my ex-wife, in which case you'll want to cross over to the Westbound and go in the opposite direction.'

2) 'Your delay this evening is caused by the line controller suffering from E & B syndrome: not knowing his elbow from his backside. I'll let you know any further information as soon as I'm given any.'

3) 'Do you want the good news first or the bad news? The good news is that last Friday was my birthday and I hit the town and had a great time. The bad news is that there is a points failure somewhere between Stratford and East Ham, which means we probably won't reach our destination.'

4) 'Ladies and gentlemen, we apologize for the delay, but there is a security alert at Victoria station and we are therefore stuck here for the foreseeable future, so let's take our minds off it and pass some time together. All together now.... 'Ten green bottles, hanging on a wall.....'.'

5) 'We are now travelling through Baker Street ... As you can see, Baker Street is closed. It would have been nice if they had actually told me, so I could tell you earlier, but no, they don't think about things like that'.

6) 'Beggars are operating on this train. Please do NOT encourage these professional beggars. If you have any spare change, please give it to a registered charity. Failing that, give it to me.'

7) During an extremely hot rush hour on the Central Line, the driver announced in a West Indian drawl: 'Step right this way for the sauna, ladies and gentleman... unfortunately, towels are not provided.'

8) 'Let the passengers off the train FIRST!' (Pause .) 'Oh go on then, stuff yourselves in like sardines, see if I care - I'm going home.....'

9) 'Please allow the doors to close. Try not to confuse this with 'Please hold the doors open.' The two are distinct and separate instructions.'

10) 'Please note that the beeping noise coming from the doors means that the doors are about to close. It does not mean throw yourself or your bags into the doors.'

11) 'We can't move off because some idiot has their hand stuck in the door.'

12) 'To the gentleman wearing the long grey coat trying to get on the second carriage - what part of 'stand clear of the doors' don't you understand?'

13) 'Please move all baggage away from the doors.' (Pause..) 'Please move ALL belongings away from the doors.' (Pause...) 'This is a personal message to the man in the brown suit wearing glasses at the rear of the train: Put the pie down, Four-eyes, and move your bl**dy golf clubs away from the door before I come down there and (the rest is censored!)'

14) 'May I remind all passengers that there is strictly no smoking allowed on any part of the Underground. However, if you are smoking a joint, it's only fair that you pass it round the rest of the carriage.'

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Paper Lampshades

How long does it take to hang a lampshade? I reckoned this would take a few minutes. All I had to do was remove the previous dust encrusted creatures, dead beasties and all, and shove the new ones in place. Wrong! Taking the old yellowing (were these yellow to begin with?) shades down was easy enough. Except from falling of the bed in one instance and almost of the couch with the other. What? Ladder? Tsk! Real men don't need to go to all that bother. Once I had removed the old ones I dumped them aside where they can be cleaned and either donated to the charity shops or the dustman, depending on what is left of them. I then began the endurance test that is assembling a paper lampshade and fixing it in place.

The helpful instructions warn you to be careful not to rip the paper, as if we need be told. They do not indicate that inserting the metal (Convex 'B') expander inside the lantern is almost impossible without tearing something somewhere, including muscles in the fingers. Once the (Convex 'B') is embedded in (eyelets 'A') and all is secure it merely requires attachment to light fitting. Simply reach up and ensure the flex is threaded through the 'C' shaped clip. This was easy peasy. I knew this would be a quick job. Then I realised I could not get the (energy saving) light bulb inside it! I pushed it from the bottom, after struggling to get the thing through the gap without tearing the paper or any more finger muscles. However I could not reach the fitting, so with the other hand I forced the shade further up the flex to bring the thing closer. After a lot of cursing it came closer but would not fit in! My long slender fingers, ideal for a pianist or a pickpocket I suppose, struggled and sweated and burnt until the two parts came together. They would not actually enjoin, but the touched and that was a victory I thought. By now I was wishing I had kept up the fitness regime as I was stretching beyond endurance. In the course of time the fitting fitted and locked itself into place. I stood, drenched in sweat thinking "I thought it would be cooler in the shade," and considered my need for lunch.

However armed with experience I continued onto the second shade and with better posture, and a lower ceiling, I swiftly, sort off, finished the struggle and sat back and cleared the mess. As I was doing this I chanced upon the instructions. "Insert light bulbs pre fitted before (Fig 4) adding shade." So help me......

Monday, 28 July 2008

He Men!

You may remember the adverts that once adorned so many magazines and newspapers. The slogans, “Are you a seven stone weakling?” and “Do you get sand kicked in your face?” and the like. Charles Atlas offered the chance to develop your physique by use of ‘Dynamic Tension’ and 'Be a man' and this was irresistible to many. As a stick like youth I believed in Charles Atlas and his promise of muscular dynamism, I bought the course! I expected, as promised, that it would arrive in weekly instalments however it came in a large, damaged, brown envelope that must have had the boys at the sorting office laughing. Believe me I know how they laugh at the things that fall out of your envelopes! I of course mentioned nothing about this to my parents and when the package was delivered the smirk on my dad’s face indicated that he had been peeking in through the gaps in the brown envelope. The fact that he said nothing made my embarrassment worse! I stole away into the bedroom and began to practice ‘Dynamic Tension.’

The whole things was a well developed exercise course, if that is the right way to put it, and mostly consisted, in the pages I actually followed, of tensing the muscles in a variety of poses, against one another. It did not last long. I suppose it did not last long for any of the kids who answered the ads, and there must have been many as the ‘Charles Atlas course’ was famed world wide. Many years later I also fell for the, then popular. ‘Bullworker’ which would also develop muscles and for a mere ‘five minutes a day’ at that! Had I put in the effort with this I would now be a muscle bound oaf instead of just an overweight one. The ‘Bullworker’ sits near me as I right and every so often I have a go. It is amazing that after so many years I find I can do less and less on the thing! I suppose the ingrained dust does not help.

Charles Atlas was born Angelo Siciliano in Italy in 1892. Moving to the States among the 'huddled masses' that crowded the steam ships in the early part of the twentieth century. He later developed a passion, or was it obsession, with body building. He claims he attempted many types of exercise systems until he saw an animal in the zoo stretching and he came up with 'Dynamic Tension!' Or so the story goes. His advertisements for his body building system made him famous and the company still exists today enabling skinny young men to dream of punching the lights out of bullies world wide. He wore out in 1972.

This came to mind today for no good reason, although the number of young men with bulging biceps attempting to entice young lassies throughout the nation shows that my reasoning in the past was not mine alone. Which reminds me of the last time I went to Cramond beach where I had sand kicked in my face by a seven stone weakling!

Sunday, 27 July 2008

Blue Sky and Sunshine

Yes indeed another day of hot sun and blue sky. At 7:30 this evening the temperature here in the East Wing was 83 degrees. (That's close to 30% for foreign folks.) I have spent much of the day sleeping, eating, reading and everything else in the buff. This freedom is wonderful, especially as the police released me after that incident with the window. I told her it was a mistake. Anyway two hours later and the temp has gone down to 81%. I love this sort of weather! Life is so good when it is warm. Folks are so much happier and much more relaxed. Mind you they complain it is too hot and spend time wishing it was cooler. Naturally tempers flare, families argue and people drink more than is wise, fights break out, arrests are made and all's right with the world. Someone will soon turn it into a soap opera script, unless they already have. What does all this hot weather indicate? Global warming? End of the world maybe? Neither, it just means it is going to rain!

Saturday, 26 July 2008


So another Saturday turns up unexpectedly. Quite how these days arrive when I still think tomorrows Tuesday I fail to comprehend. But here we are and once again I am struggling with a PC problem. Since reinstalling XP I have had trouble with the sound, that is there was none, now there is some and it is of a very low volume. Once again i am downloading drivers, the same as before, and playing around with cables and what have you. Once again it made a difference, the sound disappeared! Once again we await the drivers downloading, once again I sit in eager anticipation of hearing proper sound. Soon I will know the answer.


In the meantime let us note the annoyance caused by the constabulary. There was a large marquee tent erected in the park opposite the other day, and in the evening these two cars arrived, disgorging their large stern faced occupants. Clearly some yobs were causing bother at the tent, as yet unused. But would the police inform me of their escapade? No! Not a word passed their gritted teeth. Surely if the police wish help and support from the general public it is imperative that nos..interested parties ought to be kept up to date with their adventures. I informed the shaven headed driver that I could indicate to folks worldwide just how efficient the British (well English) 'bobby' actually is to be informed I could go...well anyway, 'Dixon of Dock Green' would not have said that!


I noticed that Max Moseley won his case against the 'News of the World.' He had been pictured being whipped by prostitutes dressed as 'Nazi's' apparently and sued the paper that printed the story for invading his privacy. Now whatever you think of folk who undergo such treatment, not for me thanks very much, I always support those who sue the media who invade privacy and make money out of it. Folks private lives, and the sexual problems they have, ought to remain their business and no-one else's, unless a criminal act is involved. Far too many papers fill their pages with the broken lives of the rich and famous, and sometimes talented folks also. If they want to be in the press they can always find a way, but their indulgences they should keep to themselves. So a man in an immoral act, it can be no other, sues a paper that lives on immoral stories, and wins a moral victory. Strange world.


I mentioned the photographer who took pictures of Ethiopians starving to death recently. It was later I found myself ordering books I cannot afford just because they caught my eye and as I did so I realised I was spending enough to keep some of those folks alive for months. The books arrived yesterday and my guilt deepened with it. 'Conscience doth make cowards of us all,' did someone not say..........

Thursday, 24 July 2008


I was going to fill up a few minutes of your empty lives with a few thousand words of bile. But then I realised how good God has been to me, how lovely the world around us actually is! The good Lord has created a wonderful place for us and I thought it better to muse on the good things around us in stead of the bad.

"Consider the lilies of the field" said Jesus, and I have no idea which 'lilies' he meant, "They neither sow nor spin yet even Solomon in all his glory was not dressed like them." And this is true! Flowers come in all sizes, a wide variety of colours and shapes, give off a wonderful fragrance and yet while almost flimsy to the touch they endure all sorts of weather conditions. Plants of various kinds can be found hidden under desert sands, appearing as if by magic when rain falls, some live high in the snows of the mountains and others even survive in Scotland! On top of this they lay an important part in our ecology, if that is the right word, without those little flowers the planet would not survive, and they say we 'just evolved?'

I cogitated on the wildlife around us, partly because passing through the gardens I was disturbed from my daydream by a 'roebuck' which lives there and occasionally races past the unsuspecting. There is a huge assortment of animals around us, from the family cat to the rhino in the local zoo! Such beasts come in all shapes and sizes and have a great many uses for us, and if not we eat them! So at least they have some use. Those animals forbidden to Jews and Muslims appear to be the scavengers of this world, on land and sea. They were banned because what they ate cleaned up the environment around them but did little for your insides, so there was a purpose for them. Try eating a local pigeon today and find out how it would feel.

While it is clear the world can only get worse, overpopulation, shortage of water, routine political instability, famine and natural disasters will lead us in this nuclear age to melt down in a few years, this does not mean there is nothing to enjoy on a day by day basis. Sometimes enjoyment comes with guilt. I felt this today while watching a news broadcast that actually said something! A photographer back from Ethiopia brought pictures of folks starving to death, and in the UK we complained when Gordon Brown said we throw away too much food! We throw away a third of what we buy and millions starve, can this be right? Luckily I have been careful in this regard for some time now, wasting food is awful in such circumstances, but while they starve I am overweight! While we complain about our 'obesity' problem this photographer spoke of sitting before a woman his age dying of starvation, this is 2008 isn't it? 'Tear Fund,' some years ago had a slogan, 'Enough for everyman's need, not for everyman's greed!' I believe it was dropped, maybe someone thought it to 'communistic!'

However, while we do what we ought to help those suffering we enable them to enjoy the world around us. I think it's great, especially in the sunshine. Kids playing happily in the park, fussy mum's scolding them for no good reason, blue skies, flowers and fauna, glares from half naked ladies who do not think old men are the ones who should be looking (close your curtains then hen!), swifts tearing through the sky, screaming as the pass by the window, and an altogether better atmosphere from all around.

Isn't life good?

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

No Change

No change where my huge weight is concerned. I am eating less, and better, sometimes at least, yet I remain 'overweight. At least the last time I had to go to the doctor, for what I thought was possible skin cancer and turned out to be nothing at all (no wonder men do not run to their GPs! Why do we waste their time for nothing?), he went through the usual routine of blood pressure and weight. He was not keen on stones and pounds, he being one of those men brought up on kilograms, whatever they are. However he agreed I was not the 'fat slob' previous medical men have indicated, merely 'overweight.' This is the nice way of saying 'fat' but not as fat the next man.....who is a 'fat slob' by the way!

I waste precious minutes of your busy time, and as you get older time passes much quicker, I say I waste minutes of your time mentioning this because when I got back from a short walk this morning I weighed myself on the old scales. I discovered that if you put most of your weight on to the left side you only weigh 15 stone 4 pounds. (translate that yourself) so I spent a while at an awkward angle before falling off.

I was tempted out by the warm weather today. In spite of gray cloud cover it was remarkably warm, in fact I had the window open all night, not something folks in Edinburgh would understand I imagine. Not only would they freeze to death some wee ned would attempt to break in and steal life saving equipment, 'I-pod,' 'Mobile phone,' 'digital camera,' 'laptop,' and the like. Those things that life would be impossible without these days. I mean how did we live in the distant past of ancient history, say 1980, when such things were unheard of bar among those who read Sci-Fi? Anyway I walked up hill and down dale, well they were before someone built all those houses on them, passing the ladies returning from dumping the kids in school for the last day before the holidays. How lovely to think that for the next six weeks the streets will be filled with selfish brats blocking every pavement and shoplifting in every other shop in the town.
I would vote for any party that kept them indoors 24 hours a day seven days a week. Except ours of course, but they have had their visit to the vet and our family keep them all on a lead. The rottweiler and pit bulls we let roam free as they are less dangerous.

Ah well, I can't sit here adding weight, I must be off out to the market looking for veg that has fallen of the stalls and opportunities for cheap stuff they are desperate to get rid off. It is also encouraging as most of the stall holders have huge beer bellies. This encourages me as I feel slim beside them and on top of that I notice their men are even worse!

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Old Joke

George was admitted to a mental hospital and fell in love with another inmate. George loved the woman so much that when she fell into the pool he jumped in to save her.

Later that day the nurse came into George's padded cell and said, "I have some good news and bad news for you. I spoke to the head psychiatrist and he thinks that your act to save the woman you love from drowning showed that you had good judgement and that you were of sound mind and you will be released from the hospital and can go home. The bad news is that the woman you love has just hung herself in her cell and is now dead."

Upon hearing this George replied, "Oh no she didn't hang herself, I hung her up to dry because she was all wet. When can I leave?"

Saturday, 19 July 2008

Now, as you know I never complain, but...

I was watching an old video yesterday, showing Falkirk playing Dundee when both were striving for promotion from the old 1st division. It was a very good game and this surprised me somewhat, especially as the final score was nil - nil. Very enjoyable but as I watched it I was conscious of how mush more irritable I am these days. It seemed to me I was a lot less contentious then and more at ease with the awful world around me. Now I am always grumbling, and usually with good reason. I may be wrong but sometimes it appears there is nothing worthwhile around me, all is sham and emptiness.

Obviously age is one reason for this, as my young friend Mike S. mentioned on his excellent blog, "Auld Reekie Rants,' only yesterday, and his blog is a 'must read' by the way.The music of today is totally mindless, as opposed to the 'world changing' stuff we heard in the sixties. It was 'Make love not war' and 'Peace brother!,' along with 'Get out of Vietnam!' I have to say there was more tea making than love but hey, that's the story of my life! The 'baby boomers' wanted to change the world and we followed the 'spirit of the air' at that time. It was of course a lie, human nature does not change and the 'Hippy' way would not change that' That spirit lies to each generation, and we were fooled just like the rest! But there was a movement away from commercialism and big business, until it became big business and the commercial side took over. The bands tasted fame and fortune and ended up either rich and famous or drugged out of their eyeballs and or working as bus drivers in out of the way places. Today's generation does not feel so gregarious towards others. The world changing is via 'green issues' and that out of fear of no future or trendiness and concern for sex issues, women's rights, gays and Aids. Again often for selfish motives. But are they not just more honest than we, did we not kid ourselves? What changed in the sixties? A more liberal lifestyle, and a more cynical approach, fine in many ways but while there is more 'freedom' how come there is even more in the way of damaged lives? Common sense replaced by political correctness is another aspect of today's world that irks me. For example one council now bans the word 'brainstorming' as this could upset the mentally defective. Such as the one who came up with the proposal I suppose?

The vile seventies removed the best life changing music and allowed 'pap' to reign. West coast music, so full of life and depth was pushed aside instead 'Abba' with their multi coloured lights dancing around them and their fancy costumes brought empty headed meaningless music back to the fore, not that it had really gone away. The development of music in the sixties had changed everything but in the end the public want 'Bread & Circuses' not quality and something meaningful. Trash sells! Thatchers eighties, which brought mass unemployment for many and riches for some, her friends at least, produced a creature with a very different outlook from those brought up in the austerity and 'Build a new Nation' attitude of the fifties. While we 'Never had it so good' (although we never had it at all!), the present generation have always had it and can see no reason not to have more. The music of the eighties, and then the ghastly nineties, reflected nothing innovative but an awful lot of emptiness. Now we have innocuous music, a nation reared on Soap operas and tabloid headlines, who think poverty is not having everything you want!

I just searched the radio channels for some music to hear in the background, and all is 'pap!' However being Saturday I have found some relief in Radio 3 with its Jazz hour or two. That, I really must say is usually good but tonight is a bit dreary, all big band and talk! My luck of course. There is no point in putting the telly on when it is Saturday, not worth while at all. Hold everything, I was wrong! (Copy that for future reference) there is a friendly featuring Liverpool and some foreign Johnny lot in a minute! Phew! Ah a Polish side, this should be OK then.

As Mike pointed out language has changed. Now we all have our 'in speak' in every job or group of people this is normal. However when this involves 'text speak' I am with Mike. What is this all about? My ten year old bra...great niece, forced me onto 'Bebo' because it was her way of communication. Her mother also joins in (whether to watch over her or the other way about I am not sure) and both use text speak! I have to read things three times to work out what they are saying! Well, except when I am rude about 'Jared Leto' their latest hero. (Who is he anyway?) I have become convinced that soon we will return to a use of hieroglyphics as this will be all the brats of the future can understand - pictures and not words! Blogging will be a nightmare then!

But there is hope! 'Stand Free' the Aberdeen Mad football messageboard has a policy of banning text speak. This is to be commended, even if their teams abysmal showing against lower division Peterhead is to be warmly gloated over. Imagine losing four nil - yes 4-0 - to a wee team like that! Ho Ho! Anyway they ban text speak which, while a very good idea, is somewhat diluted by their insistence of speaking the 'Doric!' You see, in the North East of Scotland their version of 'Scots' has grown up with its own influences. Norse words from all those nasty Vikings, Scandinavian influence from the fishing, and general trade with Northern Europe has allowed a different development of language there than say in Edinburgh, where we actually have no accent whatsoever. Friends of mine from Aberdeen talking on the phone to similar folk are totally unintelligible to me.

For instance :
'Fit' is used instead of 'what.'
'Fit's fit and far's the paper?' Means, believe it or not, 'What's what and where is the newspaper?'

'Ftf did that cum fae?' I wonder if you would be so kind as to inform of where that arrived from?

"Yer nae worth yer saat" - You, sir, are ill-deserving of the wages that you command

“Wheeesht min skitterspoot” 'Keep quiet you!'

'Haud yer wheest and stop spikkin keech!' 'Be quite and stop talking rubbish.' I hear this often..

We will not attempt to translate 'dookers!' until I am better informed!

However maybe the 'culture' of the day may not be what makes me grumble. Age may play its part, especially when confronting the emptiness of fashionable life, maybe in the end I am just an old git? Some things never change I suppose.......

Thursday, 17 July 2008

Summertime Means Rain!

I am glad I live in the 'driest county' of this country! Had I remained in Edinburgh I would be subject to almost two days rain out of three, but here we have the lowest rainfall in the whole of the UK, or so they say!

Farmers constantly appear on local TV News bemoaning the lack of rain yet the following item will feature miserable holiday makers complaining about the weather! Some folks are never happy!

However it has been very warm in recent days and a few days of normal weather will not do us much harm, unless we happen to be postmen or such like. Today I cycled the ageing bike up and down the old rail line. This was enjoyable as with a drizzle doing its best to spoil the day few were around. I managed to enjoy watching the ducks in the stagnant pond, I knew it was stagnant as they wore gas masks, and spend a few minutes listening to the wildlife singing, cawing or chasing each other up and down the trees around. Simple pleasures but I enjoyed them. By the time I reached home via the simpler type of driver (why do they drive vehicles spouting blue smoke?) and avoided those who park lorries at just the wrong spot, the drizzle was attempting to become rain. It has rained on and off, spoiling the golf, if a game so boring can be spoiled, and causing Colin Montgomery to use words only fit for footballer, soldiers and schoolchildren.

But there is a good side to all this bad weather, I am inside!

Monday, 14 July 2008

Another Day Driving

You will notice there is no instructor in this photo. I eventually got him back in the car with the help of two 'white van drivers' and a farmer. It was not easy I must say. Had we not gagged him his screams may have deafened me before I got past that village with the milk float in a shop window - well it was by the time I got through the village. Anyone can mistake the accelerator for the brake surely?

Anyhow I managed to make it back after two hours of country roads, small towns and some villages. The history buff may be one who is able to understand why roads bend in such a twisted way, but I was not able to work that out, especially at left hand turns of 90% on several occasions. However such bends, in spite of those who park just beyond them, are preferable to the small towns filled with heavy traffic and zebra crossings. I never appreciated just how many different directions needed to be observed when going downhill through a busy town centre. I did gleam that many of the country folks are into in breeding, either that or Halstead has been taken over by aliens. Why should so many folks look identical otherwise? It appears they all need to cross the road at the same time also!

Now I wonder just who decided we need to push down the clutch, change gear, brake, accelerate and turn right while avoiding a woman on the...bonnet, oops, she is off now, all at the one and the same time? Surely these people ought to be kept well away from the roads? Especially when I am passing! However I only stalled once today, after enduring a horrid one way system which he deliberately did not mention we would endure. Just as well!

However we survived, the man is now 'Comfortable' as the hospital nurse said, and I will do it all again next week, but I think we had better find a different route. The council up that way may not want any more of those bent road signs.......

Saturday, 12 July 2008

Sat Staring at the Wall

Here I am sitting staring at the wall. Saturday afternoon has arrived and I have nothing to say and less to report. Where did the week go? Did anything happen? On Monday I noticed there was a long list written out awaiting my gentle touch, it is still there, waiting.

Actually some things have been done, attendance at the Dole to meet a bullying woman who attempted to give me a positive attitude. "Don't say 'Fail' when a job has turned you down, be positive!" she said. "OK," said I, "I am positive I failed there." She did not respond positively to this in my view. I also reported to the man who signs me on, and mentioned the bully. A somewhat vile grin crossed his face at this, he has known her for many years! His constant chuckling for the next twenty minutes were unnecessary in my view. Whether he accidentally mentioned 'Jackboots' I could not work out.

My main action was the second driving lesson that I undertook on Monday. In 1972 I almost took driving lessons as they were about to increase in price from £2 to £2:50. I did not have the cash, and then no cash and no time. In London I obtained a provisional licence and then discovered I could not afford lessons there although I did have a small Suzuki motorbike for a while. These Japanese things fall apart easily don't they? Anyway, as I could make Marble Arch in twenty mins walking at that time I decided against it. Learning to drive in London did not scare me much, it was just the other cars and those driving them that worried me. Now out here, where in some regards it is still 1964, I find cars are a necessary. Just to get away from the folks around me! It is also a requirement to drive in most jobs these days, merely to get to them. For reasons beyond my limited comprehension there are a vast number of small companies which have decided to base themselves miles from anybody else, either on disused airfields or farm buildings, or deliberately at a distance from human society. Possibly it is cheaper to rent the building but the cost of transport must equalise that!

So I drove along bendy country lanes, failing to work out how to change gear, push down the clutch and brake at the same time whenever a junction came upon us. Two hours of that and I was worn out for the day. The instructor muttered something about being tired out also from his position in the back seat. I should point out he did not intend to sit there but just outside of Thaxted I made a slight mistake and that's where he ended up. I hope that farmer and his tractor got out all right in the end. Do the 'AA' deal with farm machinery?

However, those small intrusions apart nowt else has occurred. I walked up to the far end of town and back down the old railway line passing occasional sweating joggers and lonely women with dogs and suspicious looks,the women not the dogs. I trailed through the shopping centre wondering why women find these places so entrancing. If there were shops selling worthwhile stuff it would be OK, but it is so mundane, and there are at least six charity shops. Now that is fine as that is where I look for books, although the cretins in this backwater tend to read vast quantities of empty headed wimmens fiction and little else. Occasionally I come across a beauty, the last was John van der Kiste's 'Kaiser Wilhelm II' which was a worth while read although a bit too concise I thought. Did he really start the Great War because he was an imperialist bully, or was he just a weak man easily led by his officer corps who, like the French, wanted war? I go for the latter as with or without the Kaiser war was inevitable with the imperial and patriotic pride that coursed through everyone's veins at that time. There are few books available usually, maybe I should try a Rosalind Pincher or a Margaret Atwood and see how I react? I suspect I will be inspired to get a Kalashnikov and run riot through the streets removing those who read such stuff from the world.

I have looked at houses on the web as this is the time to buy one. It's not that I have any money but I foolishly bought a Lottery ticket and am now indulging in those dreams of what it would be like to possess things again. Now I am not claiming to worship Mammon or anything like that but think of the good you could do with all that money - from that island in the Mediterranean that I would buy with it - would be a blessing to many folks. It would of course also be nice not to live off the nation, and be able to pay back what I take out, and that is a guilt trip for some of us, it would of course be good to be rich rather than handsome for a change. What did you say at the back there?

Ah money, that reminds me I had better wander round to the market, it will be closing now and the left overs will be getting sold of cheap and other greedy folk will be picking up all the damaged veg and fruit before I get there. Selfish I calls them! Then I can come back and stare at the wall and try and think of something worth writing.

Friday, 11 July 2008

Christian Registrar Wins Equality

A registrar of many years standing was abused and mistreated by those around her because she refused to participate in 'Gay Marriage' ceremonies. "An employment tribunal found that the council showed no respect for Ms Ladele’s rights “by virtue of her orthodox Christian beliefs”.
She was 'treated like a pariah by those around her' and all because she refused to bow to the pressure from the 'Homosexual Mafia.'

This must be the first time in years that the 'gay lobby' has been unable to force its prejudice onto an employment tribunal. A victory for common sense and justice but one which has brought the homosexual groups, and there are lots of them it seems, out complaining about 'discrimination!' It appears they can discriminate against others but that's OK. You will remember that a while back a vicar in Wiltshire (?) pointed out that homosexuals could be healed and the chief constable no less wanted to charge him with 'homophobia!' What a strange world we now live in.

In the late sixties homosexual behaviour was no longer criminalised. What folks got up to in their own home was their affair. Today it has been turned on its head. Now we are forced to accept homosexual behaviour as 'normal' and to disagree makes an individual a criminal! Yet the public as a whole do not see the absurdity in this. Folks private life ought to be their own affair, but so are their religious beliefs. If one is allowed why not the other? The reason for objection is the Christian (and other religions) indicating that lesbian and gay acts are unnatural and abnormal. The response is one of hate from gay rights organisations. No democratic right to a differing opinion, just loud condemnation of those who dare to disagree. It is noticeable that this story appears in the 'Times,' but does not appear to have reached the BBC as yet, I wonder why?

Are homosexuals born this way or does life change them as time passes? Yes and no is the answer. I am convinced that many are indeed born with this unfortunate slant, but most are drawn into it by something in their upbringing. Abuse, strident mother, incidents when young, who can tell how folk react to difficult situations as a child. Nonetheless the Christian view is that this is wrong as it destroys the individual and Jesus wants this changed. he came to bring life and why should someone lose out because of their individual perversion, and lets face it, we all have or are tempted to one or two are we not? There is no difference between the adulterer or the homosexual, the thief or the liar, all are sinners just like you and me. Jesus, whether you like it or not wants to bring us life, and will insist we walk his way to get it! He condemns none, neither should we, but neither should we accept that which destroys as normal!

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

BBC Breakfast TV

Maybe it's just me, but I have this daft notion that BBC Breakfast TV in the morning should be bringing us 'news!' I am happy when the ITV breakfast programme shoves tales of rape and hospital blunders, soap opera stars failed marriages and mediocre celebs lifestyles down our throat as I expect this from them and don't tune in. However I expect the best journalists in the world to be trailing the news that is happening world wide, not bringing us tales of rape, and hospitals, celebs and other puerile garbage! Yet it seems this is all we are capable of watching in the morning, or is it just that the 'public service broadcaster,' paid for by my licence fee, is concerned only with ratings and not 'news!'

For a long time now I have listened to the BBC World Service, not officially available in the UK, for proper news. Here we can be informed, properly, about what is going on in the world. I accept that even here they have dumbed down with far too many 'light' stories and the blight of the BBC, 'trailers!' However at least we can understand the world and have some clear idea of what is happening out there. Today the BBC business man is pretending he is an Air Traffic Controller, which is interesting in itself but has little to do with the business news. A wee girl, again, complaining about 'road rage,' and yet more stories about someones health problems! I'm sorry, I realise these are important at one level but I DON'T WANT TO KNOW! Sure they have a place, but the main news must be Iran and Israel playing at sabre rattling. I would have thought that the possibility of Israel attacking Iran slightly more important on the world stage than a lass being shouted at by a 'white van driver?' There is the possibility that one day Sian Williams (who I am happy to have do my ironing for me if she wishes) will announce a hold up in some maternity ward, a film star abusing staff at an airport, and a one line note on World War Three beginning, and unthinkingly add " and now the weather....."

I realise that the majority of the nation want dumb stuff, that is what ITV and Sky are for, but some of us want a bit more, as long as the like of Sian are on show anyway. Even there most women watching are just complaining (out of jealousy) about her outfit, not what she is saying.

Tuesday, 8 July 2008

Hooray! VCR Works!

My technical ability has come to the fore once more. Yes indeed, these paws which can break any device known to man has for once got a technical object into working order.
This is indeed an event! It has taken so long to get this thing working again, just, that folks no longer know what it is! Kids think video belongs in the Victorian age and only folk born before colour television remember what a VCR is.

However tonight I got out an old video of Hearts v Rangers (bad referee, bad pitch and jammy goal) which followed this up with a couple of old Open University programmes and a documentary on the real 'Dambusters.' How delightful and very relaxing to watch programmes with some interest instead of the constant diet of 'pap' which fills the screen these days. If this old boy keeps going (the VCR not me) then I will be able to fill up the time with some of the programmes from the past that lie there staring me in the face. (I really should move them) Mostly old football videos Scotsport and Sportscene (or Rangers and Celtic as they are better named) from the eighties and nineties. Lots of documentaries on interesting things like war and history. You now there is nothing more relaxing while stuffing your dinner down your throat than to watch a few thousand daft lugs blown each other apart in the cause of peace. Great viewing. The alternative is to watch some soap opera in which one woman is dumped by nasty man, another uses someones husband, the bad boy steals from the hero, and several other slag one another off for no good reason!
And they wonder why the nations youth behave as they do?

Anyway, tomorrow I look at the other broken things, the washing machine, the...hold on, lets not be daft. I think I will hold where I am at the moment and let the rest wait until I am ready. The vision of gallons of soapy water soaking through the floorboards is not one I wish to endure.

Sunday, 6 July 2008


Quite what folks get out of watching tennis for hour after hour I do not really know. The sight of two big black Yankee women slugging it out yesterday was so irksome to me I went looking for a woman who wanted to talk about her baby! What a waste of grass tennis is.

Today I actually found myself watching the Men's Final. The last time I did this I think Rod Laver won and that was before I was born! However, in between writing begging letters today, and in between the stoppages for rain, I actually got hooked for a while on these two 'stars' of the game.

The women in the crowd, and this is a women's game, not that they play it well but they certainly like watching the men play it well, the women were getting very excited and taking sides as their man first looked a dead cert winner, then found himself on the ropes. Some of them have not been that excited since their man bought that new car - which they have commandeered! It was actually a very good match. It had folks on the edge of their seats, unsure who would win to the very last ball - if that makes sense - and for many the best game they will ever see. I actually enjoyed what I saw of it, and felt the best man lost. Not that he was the better player, just that the Spaniard looked a right miserable git, and I hate folk like that.........

Thursday, 3 July 2008

The Nights are Drawing in!

I just realised that it got quite dark in here last night. I thought this was because of the cloud cover but tonight the sky is clear and it has become dim indeed indoors. There is no doubt about it, the nights are drawing in already!

June the 21st is in my book the best day of the year as the light lasts longer than at any other time. However it also means that from then on the daylight lasts that little bit less, and tonight I see a murkiness that will gradually deepen until late December.

How depressing this is.

Two nights ago the sun shone through the trees brighter than the street lamp and it's awful orange glow. Tonight the sun has gone and the light stands alone, apart from the beasties that flutter around all night. The sky itself remains a deep blue but indoors a gloom covers everything, and no, I don't mean me. A light needs to be switched on, this costs money, the atmosphere changes, sometimes for the better, and it's harder to see the keyboard in the dark! Never mind, I suppose it will soon be Spring again!

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

Fifty Seven Today

Despair, despondency, gloom, melancholy, hopelessness, dejection. All these burden me this morning. I awake to skies covered in gray clouds, a slow dismal rain edging down painfully from above. A listlessness that once I thought fit only for Grandpa Broon in the Sunday Post grips me. Sluggishly I wander through from the west wing and ponder the day ahead.

Today I will note how not only are the policemen younger than they once were, so are grandmothers, although round here that may not mean too much of course. The traffic will be faster than yesterday, the pop music will be totally unintelligible and the stuff the kids talk about will be less so. However, once again that may not mean too much. Rude cards may arrive later, you know, the ones with a picture of a hill covered in little animals and the question, 'Which one are you?' on the front. Inside it reads, 'Your the one that's over the hill!' As she pushes the cards through the letterbox I will hear the postgirl muttering, 'Next time its one from the queen!' Although of course she has never liked me since she rejected my advances and I remarked 'Well your mother liked it!' Had there been a cake I suspect someone would organise the local firemen to turn out 'just in case.' And they are much younger than me also!

I look at the list of things to do, job hunt, exercise, lumbago ointment, and begin to despair again. I would say, 'I am not old, just mature.' But far too many folk have disagreed with me too often on that point to bother trying it. So I will sit here and wonder where all those years have gone. When was 1978 and that good thing happened? The things I wanted to do, the places to visit, the hope. The energy I had in my thirties, he future I planned, where did it all go and how did I end up here in the back of beyond......?

Who said 'Rejoice in all situations, I say again, rejoice?' Well you can get stuffed! If you want me I will be howling at the moon.

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

1st July 1916

On the first day of July at seven thirty precisely thousands of British soldiers got up out of their trenches to begin the 'big push' that they hoped would soon end the war. Nine out of ten of these battalions were 'Kitchener's New Army' battalions. There were fears they would not be good enough for the 'Territorials' so Kitchener had to call them the 'New Army.' Most had volunteered in the heady emotional days of 1914 desperate not to miss the excitement of a short European war. By now they realised just how 'real' war differed from the imaginary.

For over a week the guns had been shelling the enemy trenches. More than a million and a half shells had headed towards the Germans and hopes among many were high, success in some minds appeared inevitable. The long blister educing marches, the combat training, learning how to dig trenches, understanding the army and its many peculiar ways, and most of all quickly understanding that the British soldier is better than any other at moaning about his lot, yet just gets on and does it well! All this had been suffered over the past year or so, and now it was going to be put into practice. Few had any experience of trench life let alone war. Most were enthusiastic about the adventure but apprehensive about how they would behave in action. All feared the bullet with 'their name on it.'

As the shelling stopped they stood in the trenches crowded together as they had been all night, many sleeping standing up. With the taste of strong army rum in their mouths, expect for the chap lying on the ground being kicked by the Sergeant Major for drinking too much and having passed out, the watched the sun rise in the blue sky and listened for the sudden silence. At seven twenty eight the mines dug under the German front line exploded. There was a sudden trembling under the feet, the earth began to shake quite violently in some places and then, erupting like a volcano and spewing earth, and sometimes men, hundreds of feet into the air the result of sixty thousand pounds of amonal explosive appeared. The noise was deafening and high above spotter aircraft were thrown about as the air swept past them. Two minutes later the men attacked.

Now a great deal of planning had gone into this operation. The French being 'bled dry' by Von Falkheneins army at Verdun were desperate for a united Anglo-French attack to relieve pressure on them. Haig had insisted on attacking at Ypres over well known ground, but Joffre the French commander wanted an attack in the Somme region. Haig had no choice but to agree, reluctantly, to attack over what he saw as difficult ground. The plans were laid and much effort was put into training the men involved. They listened eagerly as this was the reason for their enrolment and they were not intending to fail. Morale was high.

In 1914 many had derided the 'sportsmen' of the land for not rushing to the colours when war was declared. Many wrote indignant letters to the press demanding 'sport' should be stopped and all players enlisted. Women, with no idea about war other than a romantic one, gave out white feathers in the street in an attempt to embarrass men into enlisting. Football players in particular were subjected to abuse with many demanding the League was stopped until wars end. In November 1914 the Heart of Midlothian first team squad enlisted. This brought to an end the debate about football and sport in general being played during the war. The announcement of their joining the colours brought others from Raith Rovers, Falkirk and Hibernian to join them, along with over a thousand other citizens. The Mossend 'Cowpunchers' as Mosend Burnvale F.C. were known enlisted en masse. Many of them destined never to return. They took their place with the rest on this fateful day.

The problem, as any general will tell you, with plans is a simple one, they always fall apart the minute the battle begins. The end of the shelling followed by the mines erupting indicated to the surviving Germans, hidden deep underground in well constructed shelters, that the attack was on. The two minutes between the mines going off was sufficient for them to place the machine guns at the ready and prepare for defence. As the men clambered out of their trenches and made their way through their own wire the defenders sent up coloured rockets asking for artillery aid. The attackers then found themselves subject to intense machine gun, rifle and artillery barrage. From all sides the seemingly destroyed enemy were firing at them. Those that made it to the enemy wire found that most of it had remained intact, the shells that had fallen were either dud or incapable of cutting wire. The tac-tac of machine guns, the crack of falling shells mixed with the screams of the wounded and shouting men. Confusion reigned everywhere.

In the southern attack some distance was achieved and enemy trenches captured and held, however further north little advance was made. The footballers of George McCrae's battalion,* the 16th Royal Scots, did manage to find a place in the enemy line they held on to. This small group comprising the four regiments in the brigade and stragglers from elsewhere, fought a lonely hard battle yet managed to keep the ground taken. Others continued the advance and reached the target of Contalmaison only to be taken prisoner. One of the few successful advance in that part of the line. Possibly the furthest advance of any brigade that day. Their division, the 34th, suffered over eighty percent casualties on the first of July. The Tyneside Irish being wiped out! Making the footballers effort all the more remarkable.

Just under sixty thousand casualties fell that day, almost twenty thousand dead. Three Hearts players died, and several were severely injured. The nation suffered it greatest ever defeat at that time. The Heart of Midlothian never recovered from the effects of the war on their playing staff and the potential Championship side were regarded by the whole of Scotland as winners in a differing sense after the war. Those who demanded others 'go,' rarely went themselves, few made much effort to aid the returning wounded, and some would say in that respect life for those who served has not changed all that much, has it?

Jack Alexander's excellent book 'McCrae's Battalion' tells the story of these men. It covers the Edinburgh story leading up to and through the war, and what happens to the survivors. For those interested in the Great War, Edinburgh or the Heart of Midlothian this book is a 'must read!'