Friday, 30 April 2010

The notorious Mrs. Fox and Question Time

Last night I sat and watched a whole hour of Question Time for the first time in my life. With the unignorable election now in sight I must have been in a political mood and found myself unexpectedly interested in what David Dimbleby, and his panel of guest speakers, had to say about the televised debate that had just taken place between the three main party leaders. The guest speakers on the Question Time panel were Ed Balls, fighting desperately for Labour, Vince Cable doddering for the Liberals, Alex Salmond puffing shaking his jowls about huffily and a rather downtrodden looking Liam Fox for the Tories. This Liam Fox, who is the current Shadow Self Defence Secretary, recently involved in the expenses scandal by claiming over £22,000 to redecorate his house, is the son of the notorious 'Mrs Fox'.
Mrs Fox was a small woman with a temper of pure fire who lived up our street when we were kids. Mrs. Fox used to run down the street when we'd play football in the large 'Balls Games Prohibited' patch of grass directly outside the front of our house and rant at us with pointed finger. Looking back, she was probably quite right to chase us off that grass considering balls games were indeed prohibited, but it was the fact that she lived a good few blocks away and up the street and would always know when we were out kicking the ball about. She either had some king of supersonic fox sense or spies at various posts in the street looking out for us. If she did have spies or any supporters we certainly never encountered or heard of any. On the day of Kenny's Frist Communion we had the whole family round and Mrs Fox even chased all the Uncles off the grass, much to the disapproval of the female relations who started booing loudly from behind the large living room window, the booing largely led by Aunt Mina. Anyway, because of this, I always remember Mrs Fox and her rants when I see Liam Fox squirming on television.
Ed Balls, one of Labour's top Commanders and Secretary of State for Schools, was doing a fair amount of squirming at the questions from the Question Time audience too whilst Vince Cable just seemed to shrug his way through the questions in a nonchalant 'Vote for us, or don't vote for us' fashion. Cable, the Danny Glover to Clegg's Mel Gibson, inwardly sighing, "I'm too old for this sh*t". All the while Alex Salmond raged about not having been invited to take part in the televised debates like a child who hadn't been asked to someone's birthday party and went out of his way to agree with everything the audience were saying. Janet Street Porter simply seemed to moan and groan, her most common gripe being about the fact that the current leaders were all men.
The whole programme may not have helped you decide upon who your voting for but it certainly helped in getting to sleep.

Sunday, 25 April 2010

118 118

Desperate Housewives is blaring away in the background as I sit in the bedroom writing this. Ka has curled up on the bed to watch the programme but has, rather unsurprisingly, fallen asleep. I suspect she's had a little too much of the old vino and the soft comfort of her pillows has lulled her off to dreamland. Wherever her dreamland maybe.
It's back to work tomorrow after a pleasant week off, half of which was spent walking round London and the other half recovering. Ka and myself travelled down on an overly busy train, first thing on Monday morning, after just managing to catch the Number 20, the bus that writes its own timetable.
That morning Kenny was making his own way to work, sitting on the top deck, leafing through the ever essential Metro when he just happened to see two early morning numpties running frantically over the Calderwood footbridge, one struggling with a large silver case, which may or may not have contained a kitchen sink. At half past six in the morning Ka and myself gave Kenny something amusing to watch on his morning bus to work, wondering if we'd make it to the bus stop in time. After the disappointment of us making it he went back to his Metro.
We arrived in London around half one and immediately headed for the underground and towards our hotel on Primrose Hill, just west of Camden. The Hampstead Britannia Hotel, a rather grand name for a rather dismal hotel. When I say dismal, it wasn't ALL bad. It was mostly clean and tidy and served its city stay purposes, however, the brochure claimed it to be a three star when two would have proven more than generous. Most of the foreign staff were marginally helpful and unsmiling, the windows dotted over the whole tower were all filthy and the rooms were all in serious need of an overhaul, decor and utilities. The baths were grimey and the shower curtains at least five years old. Ka commented on the fact that we had no idea how many big hairy things had used those shower curtains. As I immediately started pondering what big hairy things Ka was referring to I quickly decided it was probably best not to dwell on it. One of the elevators also squealed alarmingly, in the best Tower of Terror like fashion, when you pressed the button for reception, which rang out through the corridor, surely waking up any late sleeping guest nursing a hangover.
Upon arrival a scary, warty, hooked nose, foreign receptionist handed over our room key, speaking with the kind of accent that sounded like she was suffering with a bad case of catarrh. As I took the key I couldn't help but stare at the woman's warts. Paranoia pinched me and I realised I may have been staring and shifted my gaze. The woman's hooked nose reared into view and I then jumped impulsively scanning the room for any flying monkeys. We were off to see Wicked the next night so perhaps my thoughts were elsewhere. As the woman eyed me with her beady eyes, and I considered asking for a bucket of water, I looked down. The key was to Room 118.
118 is perhaps what we should have called when we seen the room. Gawd awful wallpaper, bumpy mattresses, ancient television and a door in the wall to the next room, locked but still clearly linked by the voices from the other side. We did not get to sleep till around three listening to the couple next door through the card thin wall seperating our rooms. Thankfully they were not partaking in anything too cringe inducing. The english couple were only talking to each other about the television serial they had on, what seemed like full volume, wishing their home bedroom was as big as Harolds (whoever Harold was) and the all important decision of what drawer she was keeping her socks in. At two in the morning, after a pretty good but tiring day, I lay in the dark listening to a long half hour discussion of what drawer this woman was going to keep her socks in. I snapped, pulled my jeans back on and stomped down to reception demanding a new room for the next night. We got our key to the new room the next morning. Room 321. They're having a laugh, I thought. That's where Dusty Bin lived isn't it?!

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Ongoing birthdays

Off to London tomorrow to see the Queen. Well, not really to see the Queen but hey, you never know. Ka and myself are catching an early train and heading down to Kings Cross, staying two nights on Primrose Hill and heading to the theatre on Tuesday night to see a bunch of singing Witches in the West End musical, Wicked. All part of Ka's ongoing birthday. Let's hope they're no problems with the seating on the train journey considering the continuing travel chaos caused by the clouds of volcanic ash disturbing the European skies.
The family were at Brian's 40th last night in the Crowwood Hotel just outside Stepps. The birthday boy himself almost never made his own party as when the Greenland volcano decided to erupt, Brian was in Munich on a business trip. With at least two trains, a ferry, a cab and finishing with a lift from his Dad he managed to arrive home just in time, much to the relief of his wife, and my cousin, Sarah. One things for sure he would have slept last night. While Brian managed to stay awake the family all had a good time catching up over some drinks, talking houses, walks, photos, dating agencies and how many helium balloons it would take to make a stuffed cat fly. As it turned out, Kenny, in an effort to entertain the younger cousins, Lauren and Megan, didn't quite manage to collect enough balloons to help the cat fly but at least it still had more chance than a British Airways plane.

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Better off with coconuts

On Monday I became a 32 year old. Now well and truly in the thirties and climbing. Scarey. The unscarey thing about birthdays, of course, is the cards and pressies. Ka got me a fantastic new pair of trainers and tickets for Spamalot, the Monty Python stage show currently running in the West End. I won't be attending until the knights and their coconuts have come back home to Scotland later in the year but I'm looking forward to that. I say come back home because the original movie was all filmed in good old Scotland. Doune castle, for instance, was where the french hung out, firing abuse over the battlements, not to mention a cow and a number of farm animals. Sinister Glen Coe is where the Bridge of Death was filmed and Loch Tay where the man eating rabbits crept from their caves. I should go on a Holy Grail tour of Scotland... I wonder if I can get a few folk together for that... not sure about prancing the whole way with coconuts though.
Ka and myself had an enjoyable birthday weekend which included some quick shopping, some pitch and putt, and more than a few birthday meals. One meal in particular was in Glasgow's Malmaison on Saturday night followed by drinks and meeting up with Colin McG and Jillian in Bath Street. Apparently they'd just met some wrestler type dudes in the SECC, the stories of which left me completely unfazed and unimpressed as I've never paid, or wanted to pay, the slightest attention to wrestling. I know who Hulk Hogan is and know of some freak called the Undertaker but that about covers my knowledge of the 'sport'. As we sat drinking in... where were we... gawd, I have no idea what the place was called... some attractive enough looking place with friendly customers, chatty bar staff and decent enough music, anyway, we then found ourselves invited to Graham's flat, by my bro, Kenny. Kenny and Ka had been texting at various points and before we knew it we had crashed Kenny and Graham's party. When I say party, It was more of a night in with the computer. The two of them were lying on a giant black couch surrounded by bud bottles, staring up at the large flatscreen on the clean white wall of the minimalist living room (Minimalist except from the beer bottles that is!) whilst Michael Bolton emanated from the stereo. Graham and Kenny seemed happy enough to see us, celebrating their winnings from the grand National. A little later however, the actual owner of the flat came home whilst we were all sprawled over the luxurious black couch and introduced himself by simply mumbling 'This is my flat' (according to Kenny the next day though it's not his, it's actually his Mum's).
An uncomfortable sense of unwelcomness then filtered through our drunken minds so we took the hint and departed for home. As I spun down the tenement stairs towards a waiting taxi, Colin McG had made one final last attempt to beat Graham at Fifa on the PS3 (it's controllers have no wires?!) but failed. Ka piled me into the taxi and we were off. Racing back home. Unlike Mum's horse at the Grand National. King John's Castle refused to move. She'd have been better off betting on a pair of coconuts.

Thursday, 8 April 2010

All tomorrow's parties

Just getting everything ready for Ka's birthday tomorrow. I'll get up and make Ka breakfast in bed before work (I hate working on birthdays!) and then there'll be the usual family party at the McGarvas in the evening with a big slap up meal, either a carry out from the local Chinese or a nice home cooked meal from Grace.
The first pile of cards has just been popped through the door by the postie as I write, which is good because Ka has just been on the phone asking if any cards had arrived yet. None had, I told her, to which she gave a slight mumble of disappointment. But that's all changed now as, surprisingly enough, the postie has now delivered so hopefully that'll put a wee smile on her face when she gets home tonight (I wonder if there'll be money in any of them..?).
I'm just back from the town centre where I picked up a rather splendid present and a big card for her (bloody fortune birthday cards these days!) so I can pretty much relax now... hopefully she doesn't read this and spoil the surprise of me getting a card! The splendid present also involved me making a rather desperate phonecall and unexpectedly giving myself a very unconvincing alias with a JR Hartley style voice. I'll maybe divulge more of that story later... Don't worry though I haven't got Ka an ancient book on Fly Fishing or anything...
I've just realised - the only thing I forgot was birthday paper. I forgot the piece de resistance! A nice bit of sparkly stuff to finish it all off. I'd better go and raid the hall cupboard. Hopefully it's not all just Christmas paper and holographic gift bags. It's amazing how many of those things you inadvertantly collect. There's probably about thirty quids worth of sparkly, holographic or patterned bottle bags in there. All kept for visiting other folk. Which means two things. We have loads of visitors but we don't go to enough parties ourselves!

Monday, 5 April 2010

Easter dinner and the waiting room

Ka had been in the kitchen since half past seven yesterday morning as we had invited both sets of Mums and Dads round for an Easter Sunday dinner. The wife was making a homemade soup to accompany her roast and her cheesecake which, as a first attempt, turned out great using a recipe from the BBC Good Food website (the joys if the internet!). I slept in on Sunday morning due to Singstar neighbour upstairs arriving home late on the Saturday night/Sunday morning with a bunch of mates and waking me up so I slept as Ka set to work. She would probably have been quite happy at me sleeping on as I wouldn't have been allowed access to the kitchen anyway. When it comes to having folk for dinner I'm very rarely allowed any kind of contribution even though there's very little wrong with my cooking (or so I reckon!). This is all down to Ka's stubborn determination to get things done herself. No matter what the obstacles. She had been bent over in pain for the previous two days,thanks to some kind of stomach infection, which was promptly sorted on Saturday with an appointment at the hospital and a perscription for some horse tranqilizer sized capsules.
Accomapnying Ka to the hospital I sat in the small waiting room, in a chair positioned under the television, listening to the dreadful american Tomb Raider style drama that was unfolding above us. Ka and myself sat facing a poor bloke in a hospital overall grimacing in pain and shivering in a wheelchair. Another small, chatty family unit sat opposite us and as we sat waiting I tried to figure out which one of them was the ill patient with the emergency appointment. They all looked fine to me, so I amused myself for a good ten minutes trying to deduce which one was the faker. It turned out to be the elder lady of the group who looked as if she was done up for a night out and didn't seem to be in any pain whatsoever. As they left the Doctor's office I even overheard them discussing where to head for a lunchtime coffee as if they were halfway through some kind of medicinal shopping trip.
There wasn't even any decent magazines or newspapers to read to take our minds of the heavy waiting room silence. It was then I noticed the small coffee table in the corner of the room which housed the magazines, behind a poor moaning woman leaning over two chairs. After making my way round the moaning woman my shoulders sagged with disappointment as I was faced with the difficult decision of choosing between a week old tv section of the Sunday Mail and a month old Woman's Own. You'd think they could at least have some decent magazines or newspapers in an NHS waiting room, something to take your mind of the pain or discomfort of having to be there in the first place.
Anyway, once Ka started popping the pills she got to work the next day on the parents' dinner. It all went really well with both sets of parents having a pleasant evening made all the easier for Ka and myself by the fact the two pairs get on so well. Both have three kids and busy family lives, both like their sport, music, tv, movies, books and holidays. Both toured America in the same year about a decade ago, which leads to all sorts of holiday reminiscing. Both the Mum's have started a small, unofficial book club with each other in which they swap thier latest tomes and both watched Mash, Cheers and Hill Street Blues which later led to another heavy reminiscing session about television in the good old days. This is all great as Ka and myself can easily get on with things in the kitchen, pouring drinks, servind up, along with the necessary dish washing and drying. the dish washing being the main reason why I'm then allowed in the kitchen. All the while, we'll be safe in the knowledge that there will be no difficult atmospheres or awkward silences. There's certainly little chance of much silence in any of the Reid or McGarva households, especially when the food's so good. Well done Ka.
Thanks to various family members, Ka and myself now have a mountain of Easter eggs to eat. They probably won't do our stomachs much good!