Monday, 27 April 2009

Who is Susan Boyle?!

The rain clouds are back over Scotland after a week of pretty impressive weather. Still suffering the remnants of a terrible cold, I am now back at work. As I look out the small office window at my side I wonder if the rain clouds are a sign of things to come? It would seem they may be as in the office this week there is a little man with sideburns wishing to time us all at our work. He is to sit and watch us work tomorrow. Sent in by the higher authorities for highly suspicious reasons, no doubt.
Ka and myself, along with Dougie and Grace, my in-laws to be, visited house for an Art Lover in Bellahouston Park yesterday. This brilliant location is to be the setting of our Big Day in July so we had to give it a visit, meeting Fiona the Wedding planner again. Designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh in the very early 1900s, House for an Art Lover was not built and opened until the early nineties but has since became a big attraction for all Mackintosh, and architecture, admirers worldwide. A collaboration between Glasgow City Council and the city's Art School the project used all of Mackintosh's original designs that he had created alongside his artist wife Margaret MacDonald all those years ago for a German Design magazine. At the time of the competition Mackintosh's designs were too late to qualify but did not fail to impress the judges as the architect's reputation grew. It would seem even the great Charles Rennie Mackintosh missed the odd deadline.
There were no missed deadlines yesterday though as the meeting with the Wedding Planner turned out to be fairly relaxed, largely made easy by the fact we had decided upon all menus and options over a year ago. the four of us then headed over to the Merchant City and had a fantastic lunch at the Sizzlers Steakhouse. A great two course Sunday lunch for an rather impressive £6.95. Certainly nothing to sniff about. The food was great. A rather lovely medium to well done steak in peppercorn sauce. Just thinking back about it is making me hungry again. It's sitting there sizzling over my head on a that long black plate smothered in pepper sauce in a cloudy vision to romantic piano music as I write.
Good to be back at work though. Creamy Chicken John is safely back from Rome having had a wonderful time and is now advising me of the best places to eat and dine whilst over there. DVD Andy, Gareth and Stuart are winding me up as always as, in mid conversation, I confessed to not knowing who Susan Boyle is? Apparently I've spent the past week under my bed. Susan Boyle, it turns out, is the name of the wee woman who has been discovered to have an amazing singing voice. The latest example of what makes Simon Cowell so gifted - at nodding his head. I excused my ignorance, got my coat and left before realising I did not actually care I did not know the name of this funny little lady from West Lothian. Well done to her though. At the moment you've either got that Talent Show on a Saturday night or, on the opposite channel, the crazed grin of John Barrowman warbling away again so I suppose it gives the British viewing public a varied choice of singers to sit and watch before the guessing game of Casualty. If your ever in on a Saturday night, Casualty is always great for the 'how are they going to die game?'. Oops, she's left that pot of boiling water on the edge of the washing machine as she pulls the wet laundry from it's innards! What's going to happen? No! He's climbed up that ladder balanced precariously on a wet pavement to rescue his long lost son from an exploding house! Ahhh, he can't remember what that disease is called?! And so forth. This was my Saturday night in the past weekend anyway after ferrying Ka back and forth to her hairdressers and helping my Dad with some loft work. Loft work that involved finally putting the Christmas decorations away. It's almost May now and I think my mother was being driven slightly frustrated by the fact that the fibre optic Christmas tree was still propped up against a wall in the front computer room. I nearly lost a finger in the death trap of a ladder my Dad uses to get up there. I kept having visions of descending through the roof of one of the house's bedrooms in a sheet of plaster powder, insulation felt, Star Wars toys and old tv aerials. In fact, there were a few moments up in that loft that were not far beyond a possible Casualty episode themself.

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

A televisual zombie

Still suffering. My nose has been producing an amazing amount of gunge today. A lovely way to spend my holiday. Constant hot drinks, fruit and soup. Ka got up on sunday morning first thing and produced a giant pot of soup which was bubbling away on our electric hob when I eventually stumbled, bleery eyed, into the kitchen. No idea how she does it. She has suddenly become an expert soup maker.
So under this horrendous cloud of cold and flu like symptoms I've been sat all week meddling with invitation designs and website designs with the occasional heavy dose of television. Ashes to Ashes was back on Monday night which looks as if it could be better than last season if it continues as good as its first episode. Keeley Hawes seems thoroughly settled in the role now after spending a lot of the first half of season one trying to make her mark over John Simm's now long gone character from the previous series Life on Mars. Gene's got the Audi Quattro back in action, this season opening with a tale of corrupt police officers in the seedy Soho streets.
I've also been watching Battlestar Galactica, the new version - not the awful, cheesy seventies version. Not that I can remember much of the original. My only memory from the old series was that Face from the A-Team was in it and he was pretty much cheese personified. Maybe the old version was not as bad as I remember... I'll probably never get the chance to find out anyway. This new version is a dark, gritty drama with a lot of intelligent themes including theology, religion and lots of heavy humanitarian issues. Certainly not just another science fiction space opera.
Tonight back down to Earth though as the rather annoying Kimberly was fired in The Apprentice. Thank goodness. All mouth and very little action, very much like at least four others in the remaining contestants. It'll be interesting to see how the next few weeks pan out. That's if I do see it. My vision may go into some sort of television overload in the next few days, turing my iris' into wirey, moving circles of static. A televisual zombie with gunge dripping from the nose seeing Cylons in my soup.

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Auldhouse folk

Off work this week and have just finished another spot of DIY home improvement. Tim Allen would be proud. Yep, you guessed it. More painting - but not of the canvas variety.
Apart from that I've been spending most of my time suffering from a cold. Olbused to the hilt and drinking hot drinks regularly while the skin of my red nose crumbles away. Very attractive. Yesterday I very much lazed about after the weekend which included a visit to Troon on Sunday, visiting Tom and Linda with Gran and a meal out in East Kilbride on Saturday night in Chows, a great little Chinese restaurant in the old village.
We decided to roll out the barrel and go down to the Village in a cab just so we could both partake in a little glass of wine with dinner. The taxi pulled up outside and as Ka and myself clambered into the car's backseat I realised I recognised the driver. It was Raymond, or Big Raymondo, as he was sometimes known, from the Auldhouse. He is not literally from Auldhouse, he was a regular in the Auldhouse Bar, in the pub I used to work in through my student days and a little beyond. Auldhouse is a very small village just north of EK and has a pub, a school and a small assortment of cottages and houses. So little houses and cottages in fact that the only people who came to the Auldhouse for a drink were all from down the road in EK. Anyway, both pleasantly surprised to see one another, we had a quick ten minute catch up as he drove us down to the Village. You know the kind. How are you doing? Where are you working now? You'll never believe who is dead? etc. Whenever I meet these kind of people with Ka and chat away, I sometimes forget to introduce her leaving her to guess who the hell they are. She quite often gets it right and before I can say anything on departing from the meeting she'd nod and say 'Auldhouse folk'. The majority of the folk up there were all regulars and mostly a good bunch and a good laugh, making the shifts pass a little easier after days full of uni. Wallace Cameron the mandolin player with his cigars and Bunnahabhain, On eyed Alan, Wee Raymond the pipe smoker, Statler and Waldorf (can't remember their real names), Scott and his crazy wife, Nigel the mustachioed teacher from across the road and loads more. A lot of characters which I could sit and writie about till the Auldhouse cows came home.
After yet another promise to one day visit Auldhouse again and show Ka the wonders of the old pub we jumped out the taxi and into the sunny evening in the Village. I've always known it as the Village but these days there are more and more people calling it the Old Village as if there is a new one somewhere else in EK. It is the oldest part of East Kilbride, where it all started around eighty years ago. From then the Village grew and mutated, spreading out over the surrounding lands and in 1947 become one of the official 'new towns' of Scotland with the growth in Industrial development and the town's divisions into seperate residential areas (Westwood, Calderwood, etc). One of the oldest buildings in the whole town is one of my Dad's haunts. The Montgomerie Arms. We popped into it after the chinese for a wee drink on our way up the road for the bus and were pleasantly surprised by the friendly, lively atmosphere. There are three main sections in the 'Monte', the main downstairs bar, the side lounge bar and the upstairs cocktail bar. My Dad occasionally drops by on a Saturday evening, drinking in the downstairs lounge area with his mates and I made sure I had a quick scout about just incase he was around. Recognising a few of his mates I nodded in greeting but moved on upstairs. The upstairs is called a cocktail bar but I'm not sure why. The only difference I can see between the upstairs and downstairs is that it has a carpet and a few more cushioned benches. With no cushioned benches left we sat at the bar and as I stood, looking around I spotted more than a few familiar faces from who knows where. Folk I knew to see but could not remember from where. Probably folk from the Auldhouse days.

Thursday, 16 April 2009

Michael the grouch

It's not in my nature to be grouchy. So Ka has just text me. She is being sarcastic. I'm especially grouchy in the mornings. Yesterday I text her to apologise for being a grouch just, to be polite, as I was perhaps guilty of being vaguely grouchy with tiredness in the morning. She responded with a 'that's okay - I'll let you off' toned message. At first a little taken aback, I then realised she obviously did not understand. She was supposed to say something along the lines of: "You were not grouchy at all, I don't know what your talking about!".
Unfortunately I'm not much of a morning person. I'm fine once I leave the house and am even better by the time I've sat in the car, walked down the street, or jumped on the bus and am in the office wishing everyone a pleasant good morning. As soon as I wake though, I'm a grouch. I'm so grouchy I deserve to sleep in a dustbin on a suburban american street. One day I suspect Ka may just put me out in a dust bin so that I awaken, and grouch, a good distance away. This would enable her to watch her GMTV uninterupted by my moaning about the ridiculously bright eyed and bushy tailed, smiley presenters with their giant jug of orange juice that nobody ever seems to drink (if i was ever a guest I would make sure I got a good pint of the stuff). And Mr Motivator is back? Whose big idea was that? The sight of a guy in a skin tight, luminous leotard shouting and jumping about the screen only motivates me to turn the channel. He also only performs 'exercises' that seem to be simply walking on the spot with a big smile on your face. How can some people jump up out of bed and head out for a jog or the gym before work? Getting to work on time is my number one priority. If I was to confuse it by including a trip to the gym or a half comatose run round the block I'd be in trouble. I'm not sure I could operate the gym equipment half asleep. I'd probably fall asleep on the swiss ball. If jogging, I'd probably slow down into a lulled walk before collapsing back into a dream somewhere around Branchumhall.
Not sure why I'm so tired today though. Perhaps it is the shadow of invitation making hanging over me. For the wedding I've decided to create my own invitations thinking along the lines of "I'm a graphic artist, I'll do them!". Easy... Or is it? Quite like the design I'm finalising but am concerned about the printing. Either way, I'll need to get a move on with it. Ka has also been dealing with the last minute organisation her hen doo. There's just over two months to go till the actual Wedding and options do not seem to be as readily available now as they had been when she'd orignally wanted it organised. So she has been running up a good phone bill. I'll have to remember to grouch about that later. Meanwhile Kenny is currently investigating the hotels and accommodation in Brussels for the lads stag weekend. Us blokes would probably be happy enough to just take our sleeping bags or maybe find one of those aforementioned dust bins. I'll be happy as long as we don't wake up next to some big bird.

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

The Milkybars are on me!

My throat feels like sandpaper. I reckon I've got some kind of throat infection and it's really buggin' me. Might take a wee Jack Daniels to get me to sleep tonight. Lemon, honey, whisky and hot water is supposed to be the ideal solution for these kind of ailments are they not? The hot toddy. Not sure if I could use Jack Daniels though as it's a bourbon. It may not have the desired effect. It's got to be worth a try though eh?
The binging battle through the Easter eggs continues. Tonight it was Ka's brother, Colin's gift. A Shaker Milkybar Egg. Called Shaker because it was filled, as I discovered, with small white chocolate round pieces. After unwrapping the egg I found it sealed up as tight as a duck's arse so proceeded to press gently around the outer edge to try and seperate it into two perfect halves. With great care, and a lot of muttering to myself, I gently pushed on the line running around the egg. It did not work. With a horrible crack, what seemed like a hundred small, chocolate pods explode over the living room (one smacking me straight in the eye) and shards of egg spun over the couch, some getting lost under the cushions and crevices of the sofa. Thankfully Ka was not in the room to see this and I quickly salvaged the debris in a frantic milkybar clean up operation that could not have been bettered by the Milkybar kid himself.
Now that my excitement for the night is over I'll go back to concocting some medicinal drinks.
Unfortunately I've just discovered I have no honey, or lemon... I have hot water and Jack Daniels though so that'll have to do... I'll maybe throw some sugar in? Maybe a second measure for good luck.

Monday, 13 April 2009

The cheese salad roll and the resurrection

An enjoyable Easter weekend with more birthdays. Ka celebrating on Thursday followed by my own on Sunday. So not only was there plenty of Easter eggs but there was plenty of cake to go round. Certainly not good for the diets.
On Saturday night Ka treated me to dinner in Toni's, a small, cosy little Italian restaurant on Renfield Street that generally serves great food with cheery service. We first went there for dinner around three years ago and have been meanings to revisit it ever since. The birthdays seemed like the perfect opportunity. Although the italian gent serving us was slightly loud and brash, throwing parmesan and pepper around rather haphazardly, he was friendly and efficient up until the third and final course. On the menu this course simply consisted of tea, coffee, chocolates and biscuits. We got our tea. We got our coffee. We did not get our chocolates or biscuits. Although disappointed, we let it go though considering we had had so much cake to eat over the weekend. The waiter then neglected to give us our change, presumably assuming it to be a tip or service charge, leaving us sitting, twiddling our thumbs at the empty table. We had intended to leave more than the meagre amount left over from the bill and eventually managed to get our change back in order to leave a more substantial tip. Anyway, niggles aside, it was a nice meal, and as we dusted the parmesan from our hair we proceeded on to Amber, underneath St. Vincent Street's Bar Buddha. Another small and cosy place with a late bar playing great music which had a special on of £2 a drink. Not too bad in these credit crunching times. As a result we both ended up quite merry and headed off for a bus home. For a change the bus journey was pretty pain free with no unpleasant, slobbering drunkards onboard, except from me.
On Sunday I entered my early thirties and rose from the dead, hungover, and still feeling more than a little zombie like. After making myself feel vaguely human again we left for Uddingston. Ka was driving and succeeded in being very patient with my moaning and mumbling from the passenger seat. After a quick visit to the McGarva household we then headed up to the Leckie household to visit Angela, Steven and Morgan who gifted us with special personalised Thorntons Easter eggs complete with our names in icing across their front. In this instance my name being 'Uncle Michael'. For them, we had a bunch of tulips and a couple of creme eggs. Maybe not a completely fair transaction but they did forget my birthday so I considered that to be fair enough. We sat and watched Morgan paint her boiled eggs, the kitchen table, and the majority of her hands while Steven cut dresses and shirts from sheets of felt and inserted arms into each of the small, card, toilet roll holders which were acting as the eggs' bodies. We suspect Steven was enjoying this egg painting more than Morgan was. While all this was going on, Angela created, possibly, the greatest cheese salad roll I have ever tasted. After eating I was back on the trampoline in the Leckie's back garden thanks to Morgan's persistence. Strangely enough, the trampoline coupled with that amazing salad roll made me feel a hell of a lot better - not the results you would expect with a hangover.
After a quick visit from the globetrotting Tricia and Tommy, who are just back from a Caribbean cruise and were now on their way to see Dougie MacLean in Dunkeld, we headed up to Chapelton for dinner with the family. Kenny picking Gran, Ka and myself up from EK. Mum had made another feast including smoked salmon for starters, a sunday stew for mains and a lemon meringue for dessert. Gran drank a giant Brandy, Dad fed me with a fair amount of his Jack Daniels, Kenny sat and watched the golf on the big screen and we reminisced, chatted and gossiped before heading home after nine to collapse and fall asleep on the couch watching Damages.
Back in work today, missing all the Bank Holiday Monday movies. Maybe a good thing. Looking forward to going home tonight and relaxing, there's a choclate egg with my name on it.

Friday, 10 April 2009

Fantastic fruititious delights

After a weird Cylon influenced dream I awoke this morning with a hangover. Particularly strange as I had not had one drop of alcohol last night. It was Ka's birthday and we had been in her Mum and Dad's house till half past eleven shouting at one another, throwing shoddily wrapped presents around the living room and eating small pieces of cake.
Before this we had been out for a McGarva family meal in the local restaurant/pub, Angels, in Uddingston, for which Ka and myself had arrived late, rushing up from Hamilton after seeing 'The Boat That Rocked' at the cinema. Another Richard Curtis movie, with his usual blend of comedy, slight drama, over the top characters and cheesiness. Easy going, fun, viewing. The music was great too. Perfect for a birthday flick.
At the house afterwards, our niece, Morgan was very much in control as always. Ka, Ka's Mum, Grace, and Colin, her brother, had prepared around ten presents for numerous games of pass the parcel, initially for the amusement of Morgan. However, as always with these things the, supposed, adults ended up getting rather involved in it all too. Angela, Ka's sister and Jillian, Colin's poor girlfriend, were all playing too. (When I say poor I am, of course, talking of her lack of experience in handling these McGarva family parties, nothing to do with her financial situation). After a particularly tough round which ended up with Ka's Dad, Dougie, and myself back to back in the middle of the living room floor, I walked away with a stunning plastic guitar thermometer. No expense spared for this game. Apparently the pound shop they got these gifts from had some great deals. Since Ka is staying off the cake and chocolate at the moment, Grace presented her with the biggest basket of fruit I've ever seen. Never before had I seen such a veritable feast of fantastic fruititious delights! A large basket wrapped up in paper and ribbons filled with strawberries, oranges, pears, melon, pineapple, plums and bananas to mention but a few. There were even fruits in it that I had previously suspected only to exist in science fiction tv. The Man from Delmonte himself may have even stepped back in amazement if he'd seen this particular birthday basket of colourful roughage. What was not accepted so well was my cutting and sharing out of the clown birthday cake. My slices were too small according to the McGarvas who mumbled complaints as I toiled in the kitchen. Dougie claimed it was just so I could take a bigger portion home. Not true, of course, as I may even have my own birthday cake once Sunday is upon us.

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Where there's a will

On Saturday afternoon my Dad started reading us his will. He had went hunting for my baptismal certificate, which I apparently need for some sort of pre Wedding religious check up, and had come across his final wishes. Ka and myself had popped up for a visit to show my Mum the honeymoon destination and the intrinsic cuppa and after mentioning the baptismal certificate my Dad had disappeared upstairs. Moments later he had reappeared with his black filing box. One of these plastic extendable filing boxes not unlike some sort of felxible plastic accordian. He settled down in his chair and started rummaging through it, producing report cards from school, old newspaper clippings, souvenir booklets and the aforementioned certificates. He then started reading through his will which we did not particularly want to hear - not that we ever will want to hear it. I'm sure there will be one occasion, hopefully in the far and distant future, when it will be read out to us by some rusty old mumbling solicitor in a big office with oak furniture but not not on a Saturday night as we show off our honeymoon destination.
Talking of our honeymoon destination it is shocking to see the pictures of the effects of the earthquakes to have hit central Italy. The death toll has risen to 250 people. Depressing. It's also depressingly typical of us to have booked our honeymoon where the latest catastrophic disasters are occuring (be them natural)! Creamy Chicken John left for an Easter holiday in Rome at the beginning of the week. Hopefully the devastating effects will not affect his break in the Capital.
John is off to Rome, Andrea is still off, and is due to leave for maternity leave in two weeks time, DVD Andy is on holiday, (probably off walking a hill somewhere or hanging around Tesco for strangers' discarded receipts) and the office is quiet without the bosses around, who have all seemed to have mysteriously disappeared. As a result, we have been quite busy in the office covering for all the absentees and holiday makers. The weather is getting better though and it definately seems that summer, in some form, may be on its way.
Sheesh, I'm feeling optimistic now, considering I've spent the past ten minutes writing about disasters and wills. Maybe it's also something to do with the fact that it's Ka's birthday tomorrow and I'm surprisingly organised and prepared.

Saturday, 4 April 2009

Falls of Clyde

On Friday Ka and myself arose to a gloriously, wonderful, sunny day. Who would have thought?! Scotland in early April with such a lovely day? Weather like this in Scotland is immediately suspicious. You usually expect the clouds to close in within a few hours but yesterday, thankfully they did not. After a quick trip to the gym, Ka and myself headed off to Lanark for a walk around the Falls of Clyde, down around the small conservation village of New Lanark. Upon arrival Ka and myself settled down for a picnic at the top of the hill alongside the mill water wheel. The village was extremely quiet with only a few elderly couples murmuring to each other on the wooden benches around us and one bearded gentleman, maybe not quite as old, sprawled on an adjacent bench obviously recovering from a jog or cycle as he wore skin tight sports gear. When I say sprawled, I mean he was lying back taking up the whole bench with one foot propped up on the bench's back support and one foot hanging limply down over the ground. Unfortunately for Ka who was sitting closest, the man had a large tear in the groinal area of his joggers and either had not noticed this or was simply unembarrassed by it. Fortunately we had the rather brilliant view of the surrounding forests and passing Clyde waters before us to deter us from this rather unsettling, alternative view.
After finishing our picnic we headed out into the forest and up the River Clyde, pausing at the beautiful waterfalls and viewpoints along the way. After passing, and greeting, the third bunch of fellow walkers heading back, Ka questioned my particular cheery disposition with these walkers. She had no idea of the hikers code. The code that states you should always make an effort to greet or nod fellow walkers upon every passing. I'm not sure who made this code or if it is written somewhere but it somehow goes with the territory. On our way up to the most northerly waterfall, the Bonnington Linn, we also chatted to the park warden who let us look through his binoculars at the nesting Peregrine Falcons in the reserve. Ka nodding describing the white feathers which I was slightly puzzled by as the bird I had seen was grey. We then realised Ka was in fact looking at a rock.

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Everything that happens live

We were in Glasgow's Royal Concert Hall last night for a brilliant night watching Mr David Byrne and his excellent band. When I say excellent, of course, I mean excellent, as Byrne played the majority of his latest album and Eno collaboration 'Everything That Happens Will Happen Today' proving that all the tracks lose nothing, if not sound better, live and onstage. There were also a select number of tracks from the Talking heads days including the brilliant, and one of my own personal favourites, Heaven. Byrne rebelled against the usual few folk shouting for Psycho Killer and played more than a few more obscure and brilliant Heads songs including I Zimbra, Born Under Punches and Houses in Motion. All the while Byrne was accompanied by his great band and, the majority of the time, by three professional ballet dancers who spun, shimmied and acted around him as he sang, the male dancer at one point jumping over the lead singer, leaping Byrne's full height like it was a walk in the park. Life During Wartime, Once in a Lifetime and Burning Down the House were the big Heads hits sung on the lead up to the finally which was the slow but beautiful title track to the latest album. On entering, at the beginning of the gig, Byrne received a standing ovation to which he smiled 'that's what we came for, may as well go home now', the trouble was, even after the lights came back up 2 hours later, nobody did want to go home.