Saturday, 28 February 2009

Let's dance to Joy Division

Another visit to the Glasgow Barrowlands on Thursday night to see The Wombats, the weird and wonderful three piece from Liverpool. They were the main attraction anyway but there were three other bands on as part of the NME tour. Unfortunately I have no idea what the other band were called, only that they consisted of a small Scottish indie band, a shouting all female band complete with hippy keyboard player and a rather dull three piece Duran Duran wannabe trio. The Wombats were worth waiting for, playing not only the favourites but also a selection of new songs which all sounded as fun and energetic and the rest of their material. As with all Barrowland crowds we jumped, danced, perspired and quaked under the flying lager and diesel. At one point I even suffered a direct hit of vodka and coke to the side of the head. The only reason I know it was vodka and coke is because I accidentally got a small mouthful as the plastic cup spun off the side of my face. My white T-shirt with the nice blue stripe left the Barras an off white colour covered in brown and purple splatters stinking of blackcurrent and coke. It does not matter where you stand in the Barras, there is no escape from the flying beverages. Even the stage was not safe as Matthew Murphy, the Wombats singer, suffered at least two direct hits with pints. He took it as a compliment though and carried on playing barely beating an eyelid. The crowd was great, as it usually is in the Barras, and gave the band as good as night as they gave us. Excellent fun!

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Good reasons to stay off the pancakes

The sun is out today over bonnie Scotland and I'm actually looking forward to a bit of exercise tonight after last nights excesses.
After dinner last night I ventured into the depths of the kitchen's largest cupboard to find the non stick frying pan. For the first time ever, I was determined to make pancakes. After buying possibly the largest bag of flour on the Somerfield shelf, on our way home, I was horrified to discover we only had three eggs in the fridge. My recipe clearly stated I needed four. Disasterous news. However, opting to carry on regardless, I made up the batter and started producing some damn good looking pancakes of the large thinner variety, rather than the small, fat, chunky ones. The recipe did not seem to suffer too much with the lack of an egg. I even tossed them! That was a bit tricky to get the hang of. My first pancake broke apart on landing back on the pan, a few extraneous parts flying off to various points around me in the kitchen. Making sure I had cleaned up the rogue pancake parts before Ka came back into the kitchen I then showed off my handiwork serving them hot, with jam and ice cream. Fantastic. Afterwards Ka dived straight into the kitchen and reached for her flash. She claims I'm a messy chef which I find pretty slanderous. The way she cleaned the kitchen after I had been cooking you'd think the place had been attacked by the Swedish Chef.
Today is the beginning of Lent and a time of fasting. Probably a good thing as my Uncle Tom has been trying to talk Ka and myself into signing up for the Troon 10k. A distance I have not run in a long time... a good reason to stop eating all the fatty foods if ever there was one!

Monday, 23 February 2009

Panic over

Quiet Saturday morning. My mother came to the rescue in the bridemaid dresses scenario with her best mate, Morag, who just happens to have a daughter who owns a dress shop, for Wedding like occasions. Very handy. So Ka, the two Mums and Lynsey Ann went along on Saturday morning and picked some new dresses while I lounged infront of the tv watching the new Battlestar Galactica. Panic over. Thank the maker, as it will certainly make my life a bit quieter and bring the Wedding Stressometer back down to bearable.
On Saturday evening it was a quick bus trip into Glasgow for a great meal in Arta in Glasgow's Merchant City. A brilliant meal of 2 courses for only £7.99 each. An email offer I received last Thursday, probably through having booked on the brilliant before. A brilliant website which offers great deals on all your local restaurants, bars and clubs regularly. However, I'm not sure the Polish staff knew about half the offers going on as they attempted to charge me £12.99 each for the meals after having delivered us with the wrong starters. Needless to say, I pointed out their error and they were all very nice about it. Ka read it as me chatting them up but I was only trying to get the deal I had been offered. We followed the meal with the traditional Arta cocktails downstairs in the lounge bar area at a candlelit table, surrounded by large staring statues and Narnia wardrobes. Arta is a very mixed bar with people of all ages enjoying a Saturday night tipple from teenagers and students to desperate housewives and David Brents. Some of which looked as if they had indeed escaped from one of the Narnia wardrobes. As time progressed the bar soon went from empty to jammed at which point we escaped to the club downstairs to a last drink before heading home for the bus.
Up, and straight to the gym on Sunday after Ka completed another dose of her beloved housework. A quick swim and a swelter in the sauna later, I then proceeded on to the hospital to see Gran Reid only to find the Symingtons and Millers already round the bed. Looking better and hopeful of an escape, Gran was sitting up in bed and patiently waiting for the Monday and the Doctor's visit which she was hoping would send her home. As the visitor numbers were already too many, I stayed only for fifteen minutes and headed off to the supermarket in order to buys eggs for the meatballs and spaghetti Ka was making for dinner that evening. Sharon, a friend from Art school, now living in LA and working for Dreamworks, was over on holiday visiting her Dad who has just turned sixty. While she was over, she made time to come over to EK and visit us. Sharon said it gave the the opportunity to show her new man definite proof that she is not alone in being a Scottish nutter. Another Michael. Mike the skydiver. Thankfully he turned out to be a top bloke and was very complimentary of Ka's meatballs. Sharon looked happy and gave the impression of having a far better time in LA now than she had been having on her last visit over here. We promised to visit LA and California soon. Ka, impressed with Sharon's new man, gave her the quiet thumbs up and nod as they left. Their next stop, Glen Coe and a trip to visit Claire up in Dundee.
While Sharon was away from LA and over here in Bonnie Scotland the usual glitz and glam of the red carpet in Hollywood was going on in the Oscars. Great to see Slumdog Millionaire get recognised to such a brilliant extent. The lovely Kate Winslet also got her oscar finally - not sure if she should have won against Angelina Jolie's great performance in 'Changeling' though but I've not even seen 'The Reader' so I don't really have the right to comment on that yet.

Thursday, 19 February 2009

The Chapelton moors and Mike Baldwin

Things all seem a a bit hectic at the moment. We were pretty relaxed for a while there. Unfortunately, however, Ka received a letter the other day informing her that the company providing her bridesmaids' dresses had suddenly folded, or in this case creased, leaving the bridesmaids to be, without dresses. This has obviously caused some anxiety as there is a mere four months to get new ones sorted. This is proving harder than at first expected with neither of the bridesmaids being able to help till mid March. As a bloke I was dismissing Ka's concerns with a blase wave of the hand and a relaxed 'plenty of time'. However, it would seem these dress shops take at least three months to turn a bridesmaid dress around. Gawd only knows why it takes so long (what's wrong with a swiveling stand?). My sister managed to get a day off in March today to try and rescue the situation later in the month. Lynsey Ann works in McDonalds and, for some reason, her manager finds it extremely difficult to allow his staff some time off. Members of the family have often toyed with the idea of going into McD's ourselves and smashing one of those fast food trays over his head but we've always given in to reason in the end.
My Mum offered her dressmaking services at Gran's bedside in the hospital tonight. My Mum is an expert seamstress, or at least was, before she went to work for Motorola. Now that that factory's current incarnation is closing down at the end of February, however, she is now being made redundant. In my opinion she should start up her own wee business making curtains, dresses, and any other manner of clothing. I could design and control her website and before we know it she could have her very own Underworld factory going on from Chapelton. Underworld being the factory on Coronation Street not the dark horror film starring Kate Beckinsale and a bunch of werewolves. It is Chapelton though, a bunch of werewolves making knickers would not surprise me, stranger things have happened up there. We used to hear strange noises coming from the surrounding fields at night, and they did not sound like the cows mooing or the sheep bleating. And don't even ask me how I know the name of Mike Baldwin's Coronation Street factory! Saying that, I think Mike Baldwin is dead now... and I doubt my Mum would make knickers for a living anyway. She will not stay redundant for long though, I know that much.
Gran is looking a little better by the day, but it will take a while before she's releasing herself from hospital and jumping on the No. 265 home. If you knew my Gran, you'd know that to be no idle threat. It does not matter how many sons, daughters, grandsons, granddaughters and friends she has with cars, she would still either run out the hospital and jump on a bus or go out onto the Hairmyres road and try and flag a taxi. Here's hoping she will be able to do that soon enough anyway. She did not even get to meet Princess Anne yesterday. I'm not sure she was bothered about that particular visit though. Ka and myself were even kicked out tonight when we turned up after the gym. Cousin Craig, Mum, Dad and Lynsey Ann all turned up to visit and we were obviously considered expendable. It was fair enough I suppose since Craig had travelled all the way from Pollockshaws and the other three from Chapelton. It can be a treacherous journey coming down through those moors remember. You never know what's round the next corner. Especially on those, dark, twisting roads to Chapelton. The full moon shining in the blackness above... the sound of a sewing machine echoing over the fields...

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Great on your boots

Just finished watching the Brits on ITV, and for the first time in years, I really enjoyed it. U2 opened the show with their usual blistering performance singing their new song 'Get on your boots'. A song thats been on the radio for a few weeks now and did not really grab me. In fact it wasn't until I heard it live tonight that I decided I actually liked it. Coldplay were great, Duffy was great, The Pet Shop Boys were great. The Kings of Leon were great (a band which I'm finally listening to after years of meaning to). Elbow even won an award! Plus the fact it was all hosted by Kylie. You can't argue with that. Here's the video for 'Get on your Boots'... which is also great.

Monday, 16 February 2009

Buffets make a good party

Unfortunately it looks like Gran Reid may be in hospital for another while yet. We were over in Hairmyres once again this evening. I took her raisins this time, but they were rejected. Lemon cakes - nope. But she did take the yakult. Never tried it yet. Considered nicking a bottle before I gave her the pack of twelve but I thought that may look slightly dodgy. She'd probably have had something to say about that. Apparently Princess Anne is visiting the hospital on Wednesday so she may get a royal visit. I'm pretty sure the Princess is not just visiting Gran Reid. She must have a ribbon to cut somewhere... but you never know. It's amazing the amount of people Gran Reid knows. A royal engagement.
Talking of engagements, Ka and myself spent our Valentines evening on Saturday at Stuart and Michelle's great wee engagement party in Blantyre. It turned out to be quite a fun wee night as Ka and myself sat and hummed and hawed over the different tunes that were played from the over enthusiastic DJ who, like the rest of his kin, had a strange inability to speak clearly into a microphone without sounding like a garbled Scottish version of Westwood (the DJ, not the East Kilbride neighbourhood where I grew up). Plus the party had a great buffet. It was especially welcome on Saturday as Ka and myself had not eaten since breakfast so as soon as the DJ gave the announcement (from which we just about made the word open out) Ka just managed to refrain me from jumping from my seat. As it happened I wouldn't have had a chance anyway as we were seated at the other end of the hall and, as we discovered, Stuart and Michelle have some very hungry relatives. As the queue shrank I did manage to venture up though a get two plates full for our table. The pakora and marshmallows were great. The buffet makes a good party. After the obligatory Loch Lomond Ka and myself headed out for the taxi home, leaving the party to the chaos that had erupted between two groups of friends and a girl collapsing from 'exhaustion' on the dancefloor.
Much to the annoyance of Ka's pal Tracey, Mr Russell Brand cancelled his scottish dates over the weekend, leaving the girls without a horribly loud, comedian to ogle over on sunday night so had to make do with a night on the tiles leaving me, alone, in blissful quiet. A quiet night infront of the box watching Lost and the first episode in the new series of Damages. Not sure if Damages needed a second series yet but time will tell...

Thursday, 12 February 2009

Lactobacillus casei shirota!

The curtains. The tables on wheels. The tv that you can barely see. The visitors' bell. The blue aprons with no backs. I don't like hospitals much. Hospitals are one of those things that make me feel very uneasy. Gran Reid has been in hospital since last friday and Ka and myself have visited three times since then, taking in the traditional gift of grapes. Not sure why it is grapes that are THE fruit to take in to a hospital. The second time we went in we took plums and Gran quickly rejected them. Maybe she has been warned by some sort of hospital fruit adjudicator, that goes round the beds inspecting their edible gifts. That hospital smell is another factor of immediate recognition and dread. Perhaps I'm being too pessimistic with it all though? Hospitals ,generally, are places where you go to get better after all, usually, hopefully. The only experience I've had as a hospital patient (touch wood) was to get some fangs removed from the top section of my mouth that were growing in. These oddly formed incisors were threatening to replace my front teeth with a rather neat pair of fangs that the Count himself would have been proud of. The main memory I have of that is of lying helpless in the surgery as I slowly fell unconscious. It was a horrible feeling, being deliberately knocked unconscious by drugs, and those memories still occasionally bob to the surface in my mind.
My Gran was in Ward two and as Ka and myself sat down at her bedside all the usual hospital features brought me the usual sense of unease. However, after a while I began to wonder whether my Gran was being kept in the correct part of the hospital. We were surrounded by slightly odd, elderly patients. One, directly across from Gran, was an elderly lady, with manic grey hair framing her head lying lop sided on her massive pillow. She seemed to be reading the ingredients of her Yakult through a terrible frown and would occasionally yell out an additive vehemently.
'Skimmed milk!'
'Lactobacillus casei shirota!!!'
Like some health conscious Father Jack, she sat there mumbling quietly to herself, then interupting our own conversations with her sudden yells, causing us to jump in our seats. The other poor lady opposite us, beside the first shouting woman, I don;t think even knew where she was really. At one point she started pulling the drip tubes from her arms and started shouting in alarm when the blood started squirting out of them. As a nurse moved to help the woman made it clear she needed the toilet rather desperately and we tried to carry on with our conversation as the lady's curtain was pulled over. We were then almost immediately interupted by an enormous 'OH NO!', a moment of silence, and then a loud sigh from one of the nurses. From behind the curtain the lady then went on to go on about how her mattress was now soaking. It was all distinctly depressing.
My Gran was taking it all in her stride though and is, as always, determined to fight on. Since then she has been moved into another ward thankfully, which we visited on Wednesday. A slightly more comfortable ward. Again, not without its characters. Ka and myself were there with my Dad and sister, Lynsey Ann, sitting at Gran's bedside chatting away, when suddenly I felt eyes on me. I froze. A shadow loomed over my shoulder. Very slowly I looked round, only to find another wee old lady standing over me... staring at us. She had silently hobbled up behind me and, as we sat conversing, was now standing, leaning over my shoulder. Staring. We made polite conversation with her only to get some barely audible mumbled responses and then tried to go back to our own conversation. She then hobbled round to my Gran's table and started shuffling her fruit and books about. Unsure what to do we hesitantly continued our conversation. As this continued and I came perilously close to losing my patience and chasing the crazy old bat away we all breathed a sigh of relief when a nurse finally came in and quietly ushered the mumbling lady away. Surely some of these poor ladies should be in another ward. One that has more nurses and better care. One with the word psychiatric before it maybe? Is this what happens when we become old and ill? We get thrown into any old hospital ward and left to wander about aimlessly? Thankfully my Gran has no such mental problems and was voicing her frustration with her staring friend on our next and most recent visit. Thankfully the mumbling lady had visitors of her own to which she barely spoke. Quite right though as they didn't even bring her any grapes.

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Let them eat cake

Ka and myself took a trip to the cinema on Friday night to see 'The Curious Case of Benjamin Button'. The main character being born as an old man, or an old baby at the very beginning, and growing younger as the years go on, living his life in reverse. A great idea which is handled brilliantly and realistically. Pitt and Blanchett are great in the main roles and the effects are awesome. For the first hour of the movie you forget that it is actually Brad Pitt playing the lead role, the effects and make-up are so natural looking. A brilliant but weird film which left me thinking about life, death and the short goings on inbetween. The people, the relationships, the places, the chances, the opportunities and events of ones life. All very short, fleeting but vastly different. Some being extraordinary, massive or life changing and others being whether you have milk in your tea.
We arrived home from the cinema only to find a message waiting for us on the phone. My Gran had been taken into hospital for treatment after an investigative X-ray. Apparently the Doctors had looked over the X-ray taken and told her she would not be going home. So she has been in hospital ever since. Hopefully not for too long.
The next day we were in Troon choosing a wedding cake with the help of my Aunt Linda and Uncle Tom. Another job ticked off the to-do list for THE BIG DAY. Ka and myself were not particularly fussed about a Wedding Cake but as always with these things, it's traditional, (plus, I rather like a bit of cake late on, at a Wedding reception, when your veering towards drunkeness). Aunt Linda had told us of this fantastic wee cake shop in Troon which specialises in Wedding Cakes. After a pasta lunch in Barassie at Tom and Linda's, we set off for the Troon town centre. It was a bright but cold day and Sally and Jake, the two border collies, moved around impatiantly in the Volvo's back boot, eager for the Troon streets and for a short run across the beach. On arrival Tom left us to head for the front while Linda led us round to Sugar and Spice. A small white door in a back alley, just off Troon High Street, squashed between a printers and a garage, it was a small little opening, the smells of sweet ingredients, icing and sponge hitting us as we stepped inside.
A flurry of activity greeted us as the white aproned bakers, icers, or general cake makers, scuttled about in the large kitchen behind the compact front counter before us. The small standing area before the front counter was walled by glass cabinets containing giant cakes of varying shapes and sizes and catalogues of photographs from cakes constructed for weddings of the past and various other occasions. Little couples made from icing, animals, cars, bathtubs, seemingly anything can be made out of icing. The whole room like a very white, very claustrophobic mini version of a room in Charlie's Chocolate Factory. After flicking through a large catalogue, admiring, and slagging, many of the cakes, we made our decision, a rather nice octagonal number, and left to allow another three people and a buggy entry into the tightly packed little shop. Another job done and another of life's little moments taken care of. The picking of the Wedding cake. It was just unfortunate we did not get the opportunity to taste any.

Thursday, 5 February 2009

Talking of Terrys

Another slight 'headache' this morning after a few beers last night. Forced out of bed by the electric man with a loud rap on the front door. Answered it half awake, half dead in my dressing gown. I must have looked awful. He greeted me with a slightly suspicious look and stepped in with his little gadget box. He then read the meter, typed it into his box and was off again. As he left I thanked him, though i've no idea why, as he succeeded in waking me up at ten o'clock in the morning to a bad headache when I would have much rather not been disturbed till at least midday. But then again, it did get me out of my pit and after a wee paracetamol my head was fine within the next hour.
The kettle boiled and I nursed myself back into humankind with a strong teapot of tea and watched the documentary from last night about Terry Pratchett and his experiences investigating Alzheimer's disease after being diagnosed with it last year. Through the program the science fiction/fantasy author took us through the months following his diagnosis including a visit to The Institute of Psychiatry at King's where the main investigations are taking place, seeking a potential cure to the disease. An interesting insight into the author, the disease and the unfortunate effects it can have on people. Pratchett only experiences mild forms of it in this early period and the film itself made the discovery of a cure sound promising for the not too distant future. So fingers crossed for Sir Pratchett and the rest.
Talking of Terrys, it's good to see Terry Gilliam is being recognised by BAFTA this weekend. Always quite like his quirky, usually much underrated, movies.
After having been to the gym tonight, I'm back on the Terry's Chocolate Orange. I received a whole box at Christmas and am currently fighting my way through it. Very addictive.

Monday, 2 February 2009

Hell freezing over

Well, the whole of Britain woke up yesterday to snow. England panicked. Scotland sort of... shrugged. We all knew it was coming. The weathermen had forecast it. But still England seemed to panic. A whole three or four inches had fallen during the night in England, and around two in Scotland and by watching the English news you'd think another Ice Age had descended upon us. lf three or four inches of snow had hit us in Scotland overnight, we'd all have got up as usual and struggled into work, barely making the headlines. But when England gets it all hell breaks loose... or freezes over. There were news reporters standing on the banks of the Thames in yesterdays news telling us with serious, grim faces how this particular wall had over five inches of snow on top of it. Headlines, newspapers, the internet bulletins, all yelling about disasterous weather conditions, idiot drivers unable to cope, buses, trains and planes all ceasing transportation, electricity and gas supplies abruptly stopping, Boris Johnson pleading for more grit lorries like a very boring Bob Geldoff, schools and companies closing down, the shops of Oxford Street deserted and football transfers not being able to go ahead... in person. Unbelievable. The English get a wee bit of snow and suddenly think it's The Day After Tomorrow. Staying at home with the curtains drawn, the lights off, gripping their children tightly to their chest and praying for a miracle, thanking their lord for the great life they had led until those moments. My Aunt Ann, who live down in London sent me some pics via email of the wondorously uncommon snowfall in her area of Fulham. She was more excited than anything else. Anything to enable her to stay out of the office, I suspect. On getting out of work early, I also went out and took some pictures. Some of the women in the office were a bit panicky, of course. Let's face it, we all know what women drivers are like at the best of times (joke!).
On returning home I decided to park our car at the top of our hill, as we live on a steep street, and leave it in a safer place for the night, and a place that would be easy to manoeuvre out of in the morning if there had been more snowfall. Moments after parking, as I sauntered over the snow covered grass to our street, I heard a sudden squeal. Spinning round I froze, (not literally), as a BMW came down the hill, directly in front of my safely parked car. The BMW then started to drive at an alarmingly strange angle, it's rear heading straight for my freshly parked car's headlights. With a scrunch of ice and snow and a strange deathly silence the large car spun over the road in a 180 degree angle, nudging itself over the pavement infront of the Toyota but thankfully grinding to a rather unstable halt. Not being outwitted by some feeble snow, the BMW driver then decided to reverse determinedly half way down the street, as if to prove something to himself, the snow and any onlookers. After a few moments of pretending to be in complete control the driver hesitantly slowed to another, this time semi controlled, halt and performed a nice, sensible three point turn. (The only time you'll see 'nice' and 'sensible' in the same line as 'BMW driver' probably). If that BMW had slid any further, that would have been absolutely typical.
The snow is now gone, though, and we can all relax again. We did not get the predicted further foot of it during the night as forecast. A lot of scaremongering weathermen, if you ask me. Bring back Michael Fish, he used to tell you when things were definately not going to happen, but actually would. It's far more exciting that way. These new guys tell us whats going to happen, and it doesn't. Mr Fish would never have done that. He would have just came on and denied everything and then it would all have been a pleasant surprise in the morning for us all to wake up to.
"Oh, look everyone, it's been snowing... and there's a , er, BMW encased in my car bonnet... Quick call Jackie Bird!"