Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Cholera, guinea pigs and Mel B's big... smile

“Meep, meep!” I woke up at around 7am on Sunday morning, three hours after going to bed. A small ‘meeping’ noise was disturbing the dead of night (or rather morning) echoing throughout the bedroom I found myself lying in. A dull headache made it difficult to open my eyes. There was a small clink of metal and a shuffling from the bottom of the single bed I was lying in. Where the hell was I?
Moments later I remembered that I was in my brother-in-law’s house, his spare, loft bedroom and that that the noise was coming from the large cage at the foot of the single bed I was currently occupying. His pets were moving around.
Jillian and Colin’s two guinea pigs must have been having a morning stroll around the straw in the large cage. The noises were so small but because of the emptiness of the house around them, they echoed throughout the room. They echoed enough to awaken Ka, who was sleeping in the other bed against the other side of the room, and myself up at various points throughout our slumber.
Ka and myself hadn’t set eyes on them since we’d arrived in the evening the night before, for dinner and drinks. The two guinea pigs, (I think they’re called Mel and Kim), had been moved indoors and into the spare room, for the winter, and had not moved from the darkest depths of their wee hut inside their cage since Ka and myself had dumped our bags. Some of the rattles and clinks sounded as if Mel and Kim were working at freeing themselves from their metal cell, a theory that I knew would not go unthought in Ka's head, as she cowered under her duvet.
It may be a new year but there was no getting rid of him. There was a new addition to the McGarva household living room. As we made ourselves comfortable in the living room I spotted him smiling at us from the large armchair in the corner of the living room. He was back.
John Barrowman stared at us from the front of a large white cushion. And, sure enough, upon our first visit to the toilet, I discovered Jillian had gained a new John Barrowman 2012 calender to replace her old one which had stared at you from the wall at the side of the bathroom as you relieved yourself throughout any 2011 visits.
Jillian said the cushion was good to snuggle into at night to which I nodded politely moving him from the couch before I nearly sat on his face.
Another, much worthier and more beautiful face looked out from various portraits dotted about the room. Ka and myself are always touched at how many of Jillian and Colin’s family photoframes Lucy is featured in. She’s even got her very own portrait on a middle shelf in the bookcase, a shining silver frame with glittery stars, sparkling under the living room light.
Jillian cooked up a mighty three course meal, served with wine, of various standards (one was a bit too sweet apparently), which was followed by our semi traditional games night. Articulate, was the first. A game which is basically a verbal charades against the egg timer which involved lots of gesturing, shouting and animatedly describing various words for the other team player, in my case Colin, including 'cholera' (diarrhea!, I thought it was a bad cough?), 'hijack' (It's what happened in 'Under Siege!') and 'escape hatch' (Ka crawling around the floor opening imaginary doors).
Following this, the Xbox was switched on and 'Let's Dance' was loaded. It was the first time I'd taken part in any form of computer dancing game and it was certainly weird to see yourself dancing on screen, on stage, alongside a bunch of Fame students. Scary Spice was your host for the entirety, standing, smiling artificially at you from the tv in a tight black dress that helped make her, not insignificant, bosom look strangely 3D. After instructing you to stand in a particular spot on the living room floor, the small black box of the Xbox Connect at the foot of the telly, scanned your body and after a few moments of thinking about it, placed your full body on screen alongside the smiling, fit, and disconcertingly younger, dancers on the computer generated stage before you. As the music started you had to follow the other dancers' every dance move to earn your points, the machine scanning your every swaying, kicking, squatting, shaking, body, awarding you points for every correct move made. Needless to say, I didn't quite make the grade as Mel B strode on and gave me a good slagging, although I did manage to come second place to Jillian in the second round which both the McGarvas, Ka and Colin, were more than a little upset about upset about. If it had been slitting throats and pickpocketing in ‘Assassins Creed’ I would have been top of the table.
Following this endurance test we collapsed back on to the various chairs and enjoyed a few more drinks whilst vaguely competing against one another in a final tv and movie quiz, a game which came with rules, which, needless to say, we didn't bother following.
I rose from bed at around midday after being awoken by Ka putting her dressing gown on across the room (she's awfully noisy putting on dressing gowns, who would have thought a dressing gown could be so noisy?). I pulled some clothes on and lumbered downstairs with my shower stuff, determined to waken myself up with the power shower.
Slightly different to how I’d woken myself up the morning before with a 5k run around St. Leonards and Calderwood with Ka. We ran our usual route, in the bitter cold temperatures, breath steaming out of our mouths are we ran, leaping over frozen puddles and skidding on the black ice, hidden on dark, shining pavestones.
The shower of Sunday morning wasn’t quite as energetic or bracing, but it worked. As I showered under the watchful eyes of John Barrowman in the corner, Ka cradled a coffee on the couch, Jillian watched the mid hours of the tennis final between Djokovic and Nadal and Colin got to work in the kitchen cooking up a breakfast fit for kings. Once again we all collapsed back into the couch afterwards, and watched the remainder of the Aussie Open final before Ka and myself headed back to EK, popping by the cemetery on the way home with another bunch of roses.
As Ka tidied Lucy’s little grave and I carried out my rose trimming duties, I couldn’t help but wonder why… again.
Still it was a pleasant weekend.
A nice weekend, ruined by another Monday morning.

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Slitting throats and pickpocketing

I said I’d never do it. It was something you done when you were younger and shouldn’t really be revisited. Something that should be left in the past. I’m married now, for goodness sake. I’m supposed to be grown up. Such things are supposed to be behind me. I considered the idea of going back to it all damaging, anti-social and near embarrassing. Unfortunately, however, it’s happened. I’ve become hooked again.
I spent my entire Saturday afternoon, shoddily dressed, staring at the television, swearing occasionally, twiddling knobs and pressing buttons on a PS3 controller.
It was a lazy day yesterday, my head aching following a mini night out on Friday, when we ate in Glasgow’s Thai Fountain, under the supervision of the wine watching waiters and waitresses, and then enjoyed a few drinks afterwards on our way to the bus home.
Ka was out on the Saturday afternoon for lunch with the girls and I was left to my own devices for a change. The device in question being Kenny’s PS3.
My brother left me in charge of his beloved shiny black box, along with a large pile of games, before he went off to Oz. I begrudgingly took the machine off him, believing that I’d maybe just watch the occasional Blu-Ray on my twelve year old tv (does Blu-Ray even work on non HD televisions? I’ve no idea).
My PS2 lies unloved on one of the bottom shelves, under the ten tonne Sony tele, and has done for some time. I bought the PS2 at some point in the far and distant past, off the back of a lorry, from one of the women in Mum’s work. I’ve no idea to this day where she got it from. As far as I am aware my Mum, and this casual sales lady, never worked with lorries, or had much to do with lorries in any way, so where the lorry, and it’s hind end, came from, I’ve no idea.
Anyway, after begrudgingly buying the PS2 I bought, or received, a grand total of five games through the following years. With the exception of that, the most I played Playstation was when Kenny would allow me to lose to him at FIFA (apparently the computer was a better competitor), or whenever Chaz had a beer and Playstation night, most of which, for some reason, he made sure I was never invited to.
For just under a year now the shiny black box has stood at the side of our living room tv and instead of looking hip and ‘with-it’, has been gathering dust (or at least it would have done, if Ka was not such a fabulous housekeeper).
Until now. Now, I’m hooked.
Whenever Ka is out, whenever she’s in the bath, whenever she’s busy in the kitchen (where she belongs) she’ll hear the familiar opening greeting tones of the PS3 machine as it’s lights turn to green and the familiar wavy, graphic curls across the screen.
So, on Saturday, as soon as Ka closed the front door behind her, the PS3 button was pressed, the welcome tones rang out and the curvy welcome graphic was back on the screen, loading the machine’s interactive menu. Before long I was darting around the streets of the Holy Land, slitting bad guys throats, climbing tall towers, rescuing women being wrongly accused of thieving, struggling to pickpocket suspicious looking characters and generally being rather wonderful. A superhero in the brutal age of the Crusades.
Just as I was racing into a new town on my stolen horse, my mobile rang. Chaz interrupted.
Chaz, being the seasoned pro, when it comes to PS3, was supposed to be coming round to help me out with ‘Creed’ as he’d completed it two or three years previously. Apparently he’s now got the third ‘Creed’ game, received two Christmases ago, still in it’s packaging. Good for you and your packaging, I thought, just tell me how to successfully pickpocket this grumpy, old git with the beard will you?
As it turned out, my attempts at pickpocketing were far superior to Chaz’s, who got slaughtered on more than one occasion. He’d perhaps lost his touch, either that, or there was a reason the third ‘Creed’ game was still in it’s packaging.
It turns out you’ve got to press the circle button, and keep it pressed, otherwise the mark, swings round, accuses you, and shouts for the city’s guards to run after you and eventually either slice you to death or chase you into the canal, where you swiftly drown, because, it turns out, the assassin can’t swim!
I couldn’t believe that part. An assassin that can’t swim?! Ridiculous!
How does this supposed assassin then come up on to the beach and remove his rubber swim suit to reveal and perfectly ironed evening suit underneath, just in time for cocktails? (Saying that, I’m not sure they drank cocktails in the Holy Land during the Crusades… probably against their religion or something… whereas slitting somebody’s throat was perfectly acceptable).
Anyway, Chaz soon got bored of watching me struggle to climb the city walls and before long we were back in ‘Motor Storm’ again, a game we discovered from Kenny’s pile a few weeks back. Once more we were racing through the ridiculously bumpy terrain and mountains of Monument Valley. Throughout the game you get to race in seven different kinds of vehicles which range from bikes and buggies to racing trucks and rigs, all with different handling and capabilities. All crazy nonsense, of course, with massive, twisting tracks, vehicle boost controls, incredibly over the top crashes which involve bits of vehicle flying everywhere and pilots, mangled in crumpled rally cars or flung over mountain ledges. Slow motion replays illustrate exactly how you’re pilot meets his glorious maker before magically coming back to life in a fully regenerated, roadworthy, vehicle at exactly the point on the lap where fate conspired against you. All the while Bobbie Gillespie, and Primal Scream, blasts through the television speakers at you along with the growling of your engine, the explosions, the squelching of the mud under your tyres and the horns that signal the end of a lap, some of them sounding suspiciously like the horrendous winds of the vuvuzelas.
Anyway, the horn was soon sounded on my PS3 fun as Ka arrived home and, after around an hour of watching the tv in the bedroom, I eventually allowed her into the living room and turned the shiny black box off.
That was it for one day. My fun was over. After that it was boring old Saturday night tv. I had been hoping that the boring Saturday night tv would be enough to send Ka off to sleepy land on the couch, and me off to the Holy Land again, but it wasn’t to be. Hopefully Kenny stays in Oz for at least another year, that way I may just get to complete my mission as disgraced Assassin, Alta├»r ibn-La'Ahad (just as well, I'm writing that and not pronouncing it).

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Detective thrillers and the Death Star

So, how are they going to explain that one?
Sorry, no, I'm not talking about how a cruise ship ran aground killing more than six people and endangering more than 4,000 people with confused and delayed evacuation procedures.
Is giving the locals of Giglio a good view of the massive ship, considered a good explanation?
I'm quite sure the cruise ship spotting locals didn't particularly want the £62 million view they got.
I was also looking forward to Labour MP Tom Harris' explanation regarding his little Hitler video. He used scenes from the german film 'Downfall', about Hitler's last days, and replaced the dictator's voice with that of Alex Salmond. Hilairious.
Also why was Ricky Gervais hired to host the Golden Globes again and then completely tame himself down after his blistering performance at last year's awards ceremony. Disappointing.
And can someone also explain to me why I should be watching 'Downton Abbey'? It seems to be winning prizes and praise everywhere but, from what I can tell, it just looks like a Sunday night mash up of 'Upstairs Downstairs' and 'Heartbeat'.
I spent Sunday night watching the brilliant last episode of the BBC's latest, ridiculously short, second series of 'Sherlock'. Thankfully, the story was far superior to last week's, rather silly, modernisation of 'The Hound of the Baskervilles' (involving factories, toxix gas, and glow in the dark rabbits) and got straight down to the nitty gritty with the re-emergence of Moriarty, Sherlock's nemesis, who, in this series, is a small skinny, psychopathic, maniacal of a man, desperate to bring the detective down in a frenzy of publicity (presumably another meaning for the 'Fall' in the title).
The episode was clever and tense with the three main players keeping you hooked all the way to the bitter, but then debatable end. The build up and the final moments were all brilliantly done and superbly acted by Cumberbatch and Freeman, the two showing just how perfect they are for the two roles. Of course, we all know how the original, 'Final Problem' ended. The question was, how were Moffat and co going to portray it, in this modern day take and how the devil are they going to explain it?
I have a theory... it's a bit far fetched, but then, any explanation Moffat comes up with will have to be.
Speaking of mysteries, Ka and myself seen David Fincher's excellent retelling of 'The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo' on Saturday. Dark, gritty, tense and thrilling with the occasional moment of awkwardness, violence and discomfort. Everything that makes Fincher, one of my favourite directors, tick.
Daniel Craig is great as the worn out, ground down journalist, Blomkvist, but it is Rooney Mara that steals the show as the awkward, introverted but fantastically intelligent Lisbeth Salander. When the 'hollywood' version of the story was announced it seemed strange and way too soon after Niels Arden Oplev’s original, which I haven't seen yet. Cinema 'purists' will probably moan, stick their nose up or complain that the original, foreign, movie should be the only version to see. Ask them if they've read the book though. Once they've read the book, they can kid on to be purists.
With Steig Larsson's book Fincher makes a pretty damn good thriller and definately one worth checking out, whether you're familiar with the story or not, though some scenes may be a bit much for the faint hearted.
As are some of the scenes in 'Celebrity Juice'.
On Sunday, Sarah and Brian had the family round for a buffet lunch and my Aunt Anne was asking why Keith Lemon, the host of the rude tv show, continually wore a bandage on his right hand. Sarah couldn't bring herself to explain and simply told her Mum and Dad to not watch it in future.
Whilst we all chatted and caught up in the living room Brian spent the majority of his time in the kitchen, making all the teas and coffees whilst keeping an eye on his samosas, pakora, pizzas and mini steak pies. A great way to hide from the in-law's and the extended family. For pudding Mum had brought, possibly, the biggest sponge cake known to man and Linda had brought her traditional trifle, both of which I had to have a portion of, though I wish I'd kept the cake until later.
When the buffet was first put out I found myself having a bit of a geek moment upon entering the front room to get my first helping.
Standing alongside the front window, on a bookcase at the end of the buffet table, stood the unmistakable forms of the Empire's Death Star. The four legged, tank like, AT-AT stood menacingly, alongside it. Both were in Lego form, intricately detailed with all the features you'd expect, or any sad Star Wars fan would expect anyway.
The Lego Death Star is built in a cross section like formation housing many sets and scenes from the original movie including the hangar bay with parked TIE fighter, the detention block, from which Princess Leia was rescued, and the tractor beam controls, where a small Lego Obi Wan Kenobi stands with his light saber. It even has the trash compactor unit, with closing walls, which adjoins the detention block by way of a small trap door. If I hadn't had to socialise yesterday I would have quite happily stood and admired the Lego set's fantastic detail, although, after a quick look online, I've discovered it is now going for the princely sum of £400.
The At-At was pretty impressive too - my Mum and Dad immeditely recognising it was one of the large toys that still sits in their loft alongside the X-Wing, Slave-1 and the Millenium Falcon.
My Mum still makes the occasional comment regarding the large amount of stuff I have which makes up a good portion of the contents of her loft. Ka occasioanlly threatens to take all the old Kenner Star Wars figures, ships and accessories off to her nursery in an attempt to wind me up.
That would just be dispicable of her though, and she knows it.
Can you imagine the carnage caused by the ravenous little three year old rogues Ka teaches in her class? There would be bashes, cracks, snaps, crushings, dismemberments, beheadings, not to mention a healthy dose of painted, bruised and crayoned faces. It makes me shudder just thinking about it. The toys would be safer getting sent to the Spice Mines of Kessel and smashed into who knows what!
Mum looks forward to the day when Ka and myself will eventually get a loft, or some form of bigger and better storage cupboard in a new, different house. One day Ka and myself will be having our first dinner in our brand new house and there'll be a knock on the front door. I'll pull open the door to find no one waiting, only a large pile of boxes with a small note attached.
"At last!", it'll read.
Brian may have all the fancy, up-to-date Star Wars Lego kits, but at least I've still got all the original toys.
If I was to sell them on ebay I may even make some money!
I wonder if I could afford the Lego Death Star then? I'm not sure I'd be able to explain why I spent £400 on a large piece of lego.
I'd give it a shot though.

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Ghost trains and thrill rides

7 o'clock? It's been at least a week or so since my alarm has gone off before 7 o'clock. My eyes felt glued shut. It took around five minutes to fully open them thanks to the sleep that had encrusted them. That, along with the lingering cold that's been hanging over me for the past few days, made it a slow struggle to get out of bed.
Unfortunately, after a semi failed trip to York last week and a weekend of entertaining it was time to get back to work and the great uncertainty that is the S&UN office.
Our niece, Morgan slept over on the Saturday night, once more demoting me to the living room couch to spend my Saturday night trying to get to sleep there with only my heavy cold for comfort and the clicking of the fridge, echoing from the kitchen. After an hour of Playstation 3, which I had switched on once the girls had gone off to bed, my head was buzzing with buggies and racing trucks and it took me at least an hour to fall asleep on my makeshift bed which consisted of a dusty quilt and a sleeping bag thrown over the, usually comfy, couch.
Ka, Morgan and myself had spent the afternoon at the Glasgow Irn Bru Carnival in the SECC.
We arrived early afternoon, after hearing all sorts of horror stories of hour long waiting times for the rides, and took advantage of it's quieter hours. Colin and Jillian had waited around an hour and a half to get on the ghost train the last time they were there, so we were determined to beat the crowds. We collected our entrance ticket and vouchers at the front counter after waiting only a few minutes in the short queue, half an hour after the Carnival's doors had opened. We then handed the entrance ticket over, received an inky stamp on the back of the hand and walked through the doors into the barrage of noise and colour that is the Carnival. The large, gloomy SECC hall was lit and full of life, echoing with noises, voices, and music of all descriptions as lights of all shapes, sizes and colours, whizzed, spun, beamed, circled and shot around us.
As the three of us tentatively walked out into the hall we looked around. It was all too familiar and as I remembered the last time I'd been there, many moons ago, I realised just how familiar. In fact, it had barely changed at all. I'm not sure what I'd been expecting. Most of the same rides even occupied the exact same space they had been in those ten years ago. You'd think they could at least shuffle some of the rides about, from year to year, to make it seem vaguely different. In fact, the only thing missing was the Pirate ship at the SECC's front doors, that swung you back and forth, back and forth, until you felt like puking the van chips up. It must have sunk somewhere at some point in the past ten years.
"Right, first things first" I said, or half shouted, over the noise. "The Ghost train!".
The ghost train was Morgan's number one priority and probably the main reason we were there in the first place. This was probably due to her various trips to Disneyland, and experiencing their brilliant haunted houses.
However, as we all know, the SECC is no Disney theme park. I didn't really have the heart to tell our niece that the ghost train on the back of a lorry, parked in one of the SECC's giant, grey, barn like halls, was not going to have quite the same level of effects and frights as one of Disney's fantastic eye rolling, wall moving, hologram projecting, animatronic zombified, skeleton mirrored, fireplace swivelling, Haunted Houses.
As it turned out, they didn't allow three in a car, so Ka and Morgan braved the ghost train alone. Apparently halfway through the ghost train Morgan politely requested Auntie Ka to stop screaming which was surprising to hear as Ka emerged from the other end of the Ghost train, looking thoroughly unimpressed. We then hit the dodgems, the Dragon rollercoaster and the Bingo. Yep, Morgan was keen on the bingo so we all took our positions around the bingo stall, admiring the very unfabulous prizes on offer, and got ready to mark off the numbers on our chosen machines. Just as the Bingo man began his monotone garble there was a 'hello' from behind us.
One of Morgan's school friends was in with his Mum and Dad who started chatting away. I nodded politely and turned to mark off my first number. Since both Morgan and Ka turned to chat there wasn't really a need for me to make small talk. The bingo had started. Who decides to interrupt someone just as they're about to hear their first number in a game of bingo? It's just downright rude. There were prizes at stake! That Gillette grooming set had my name on it.
I angrily stood up, off my stool, and shouted, "Leave us alone, can't you see we're playing bingo?!".
Obviously, that didn't happen and, unfortunately, I didn't win anything. As for Ka and Morgan, we'll never know if they won anything as they missed their first few numbers, thanks to the pesky, interrupting parents.
Following this we tried a few of the game stalls which are just a waste of time. You may as well just empty your wallet out on to the gypsy stall worker's lap.
Knocking over weighted bottles, hooking moving dogs with no prize token inside them and trying to catapult rubber frogs on to moving lilly pads, were all attempted and left us cheated out of vouchers. Morgan did manage to win herself a balloon at the hook a dog stall before we headed home though which she was more than happy with.
It was just before 5 and walking out into the bright light of the SECC's main hallway, we passed the massive queue at the carnival entrance. I silently wished the suckers luck with their future wait at the ghost train.
On the way home we stopped by the shops.
"Have you seen this?" I asked our wee niece, picking a copy of the colourfully, animated, 'Despicable Me' up from the sale shelf which stood alongside the checkout. A wee movie that would have been perfect to entertain our wee seven year old niece on a Saturday night, I thought. And only £4. Bargain.
Disappointingly, Morgan nodded confirming she had already seen it.
"What about this?" I asked her, seeing another attractively priced DVD. 'Hop'. Another computer generated animation, this one based around some sort of wise cracking Easter bunny.
"Yep, I went to see that with Uncle Colin" Morgan nodded again. I muttered some abuse at Colin under my breath.
"What about this?" I asked pulling another bargain from the shelf. Morgan frowned, puzzling over the dark DVD cover.
"Schindler's List?" Ka glowered at me, from further up the checkout.
"£4!" I insisted. "Bargain. Classic movie!". The woman putting her shopping through the checkout before us, lifted an eyebrow at me.
‘Schindler's List’ is a brilliant movie. In fact it's one of my Mum's favourite movies. She remembers ‘Schindler's List’ with fond memories.
One night, over dinner, she insisted that we'd all gone to see it as a family, during our two week holiday in Orlando, and everyone in the audience had stood up, cheered and clapped at the end.
I'm not sure where Mum went to see it, but we certainly weren't with her. I suspect she may have inadvertently stumbled into a BNP conference somewhere.
Surprisingly enough, as it turned out, Mum was actually getting some memories mixed up. The film we went to see, as a family, in Orlando, was, in fact, 'Jurassic Park'. Not the story of a German businessman that, through the need for employees in his factories, saved the lives of a thousand Polish Jews during the holocaust of the Second World War but the big effects-laden, Speilberg dino flick.
Taking a break from the thrill rides and ghost trains of Disneyland, back in 1993, the family took a trip to the cinema and watched that year's big Dino release with an American audience. It was the first time I'd sat in a cinema audience that actually made noise during the viewing of a movie. I'll always remember the moment the Tyrannosaurus Rex leaned down and looked through the window of the car as I nearly jumped out of my skin. Not because of the scary eyeball I was seeing before me, but because of the girl that was sitting behind us whose scream echoed over the volume of the tropical storm and the grunting dinosaur. The american audience screamed, gasped and cheered during the movie, something completely unexperienced to the Reids at that time.
As was the silence of the audience I remember seeing Schindler's List with. Indeed it is a classic movie, though perhaps not quite suitable for a seven year old looking to be entertained on a Saturday night.
We settled for Ice Age 2 instead.

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Getting moving again

Ka and myself are in York today, checking out the local architecture, walking the city walls, experiencing the ghost tours, taking a stroll along the Real Ale walk and checking out the view over the River Ouse.
Or at least we should be…
Thanks to the current batch of storms, spinning trampolines and transport disruption we spent the majority of our morning sitting, shivering, on the cold hard metal benches of Central Station, watching the large clock hanging from the rafters, the pigeons circulate overhead and the various Central Station Rail attendants milling about, having a good old laugh at all the waiting commuters sitting around.
After watching, supposedly, funny videos on youtube of Scottish blokes filming trampolines spinning down the street in the wind and storms before Christmas, it wasn’t particularly pleasant to wake up on one of those days finding yourself having to go somewhere, even if it a wee two night trip away to York.
On our first visit to the station, at around half past nine, there was a reasonably sized crowd of expectant passengers moving around the Station’s innards, going from shop to shop, buying coffees, taking seats on the metallic benches to await further news and queuing in the various ticket offices to try and find out more information. A looping recorded message was continually playing over the tannoy, as Ka and myself took our seats to wait.
A few hours, we thought, then everything will have calmed down and will return to normality. Like the festive season, all the fuss will be over before we know it and things will all get moving again.
The recorded voice repeated something along the lines of “all rail journeys are now suspended until further notice”, as pairs of reporters circled around arriving and leaving commuters, one reporter with a large mike and the other with a giant television camera perched on his shoulder (I’d have thought those would have shrunk a little by this day and age?).
My stomach was grumbling before I was about the trains.
We left, had a large breakfast round at The Social on Royal Exchange Square and relaxed a little before heading back to the station to catch our, now hopefully operating, train.
As it happened, the only thing operating was the 30p machine to get into the loos.
Dad had drove us in after we had stood at the bus stop for around twenty minutes in the strong winds. He had called before we had left, offering his driving services, but we had refused, underestimating the craziness of the weather that was to meet us outside, as we forced our way through the winds towards the main road. I pulled Ka’s two day supplies and my two shirts and boxer shorts in our silver case behind me.
My suspicions should have been aroused, before leaving, by the paddling pool lying vertically outside our kitchen window.
As we left the flat, it was like entering some kind of war zone. A greener Libya. Wheelie bins lay over the entirety of the street, potato peelings and lidl carrier bags ferociously circling the surrounding roads like angry animals. Things, objects, stuff that certainly wasn’t leaves, flying past your face as you walked.
As we battled through the wind we passed a large, half obliterated, giant trampoline, lying over the pavement, poles spread and shaking, netting twisted and ripped, having obviously blown from a garden somewhere in the vicinity. I briefly considered filming it but decided it had probably carried out it’s best ‘You’ve Been Framed’ moment already.
We then inadvertently stepped on to a large, jagged half sheet of glass, laid across the pavement. Moments later we came across various other debris such as blocks of wood and more shards of glass. It wasn’t until we made our way further along the street that we noticed that one of the blocks of flats had lost half of it’s close entrance porch. It looked as if it had been half demolished. One side of the close box and it’s door remained standing along with it’s security entry code box, it’s wires flapping and flailing wilding in the wind.
One of Calderwood’s biggest trees was lying sprawled over a pavement, blocking our way to the main road, it’s ripped edges still spawning shreds of splinter like a giant fresh wound.
After seeing the devastation and realising there wasn’t going to be a Number 20 along any time soon, we called Dad. He had offered, I shrugged.
Following a quiet Hogmanay with some Morgan Spice and Jools Holland, we spent New Years Day at the Leckie household for dinner, where Mum had volunteered herself as driver. Angela and Steven worked hard in the kitchen feeding the McGarvas and Reids a large dinner followed by various games and quizzes, including Pictionary Catchphrase and a 30 question 2011 quiz, cobbled together by yours truly.
Ka, Morgan and myself won the Catchphrase with two winning sketches of ‘Wearing your heart on your sleeve’ and ‘Cloak and dagger’, these whole two points fending off any competition there might have been from the other assembled teams.
The 3 Wise Men were the triumphant team in the 2011 quiz. What you may have thought to be an ironic turn of phrase for Dad, Colin and Steven’s team, turned out to be more than fair play as they beat the Christmas Belle’s, Betty, Jillian and Lynsey Ann’s team, by a whole one point. This one point may or may not have been down to the fact that the girls didn’t know that Paddington bear preferred marmalade sandwiches to Marmalade itself. An unfortunate mistake, and one that cost them dearly, causing a little dispute, a bit of an argument and a lot of noise, and any noise made in Angela and Steven’s high ceilinged living room can’t be good for the neighbours. Voices just gather in those giant, high walled rooms, accumulating at the ceiling and rebounding off the walls just like a large rubber bouncy ball of noise.
The noise was made worse by Dougie’s complaining about the handing out of bonus points for Kevin McAllister’s full name and no such point for Silvio Berlusconi’s, which he hadn’t even got right anyway.
All fun and games.
As was today, rearranging our trip to York in the Central station ticket office.
It’ll have to be a mere one night stay now, and that’s if we get there at all. We should jump on to one of those spinning trampolines! They might get us there quicker.