Sunday, 22 August 2010

Kafka, Regan and Edinburgh for a change

Why is it, whenever you find yourself requiring the speedy use of a public toilet it is always in the places you end up having to rush about looking for change?
Ka and myself were on our way to Edinburgh on Saturday to have a Fringe day, on a mission to see a couple of shows and take in some of that overcrowded Edinburgh Fringe like atmosphere.
We arrived at Buchanan Bus Station around mid morning to find enormous queues circling the station, originating from, you guessed it, the Edinburgh Bus stance. Thankfully, presumably because of the fringe, there seemed to be more buses laid on and the the many Festival goers did not have much of a wait. With a heavy shrug we joined the back of the ticket queue before realising we were both in need of a toilet. As I bought the bus tickets Ka went off to the toilets and discovered the additional need of a 20p and joined the back of the bus queue as I bought the tickets. On reaching the back of the queue I delivered a 20p to Ka, after having to buy a Daily Record, and watched her disappear back into the bus station. After Ka's return I then sped off, begrudgingly paying my 20p to the steel box before banging my thighs off the, rather hesitant to rotate, entry bars.
Our loo visits over we were soon on the coach and on our way along the M8 to the capital for some Fringe action.
Edinburgh's High Street was it's usual chaotic self during Fringe time. Crowds everywhere, tourists everywhere, actors, dancers, singers, balloon salesmen, students, musicians and leaflet distributors everywhere. Ka and myself followed the crowds towards the Fringe Box Office and booked a ticket to a dramatic production we had been sold by one of the leaflet distributors on the street.
'Kafka and Son' is a production centering around the author, Franz Kafka, and the writing of a letter intended for his father but never sent. The letter details the relationship between the father and son, the constant struggles, the fears, the frustrations and the feuds. Very deep, surreal, odd and dark, the production was lifted with a fantastic performance by the one actor on stage. Alon Nashman, helped illustrate Kafka's mentally trapped, frustrated self very well.
Ka and myself left the Bedlam Theatre feeling the need for comedy and headed up towards the large purple cow shaped tent of the Underbelly where we were stopped by a tall irishman in a red checkered, lumberjack like shirt who invited us to a show. After a few more minutes of talking, he revealed it to be a personal invitation and admitted that it was in fact his own show. Jarlath Regan, his name was. Upon meeting him in the street I vaguely recognised him from a Mock the Week or two, and since he'd asked us so nicely we decided to go along. A good move, it turned out, as he managed to cheer us up after the Kafka episode. His material included a number of funny, descriptive stories with some obvious fare too which he improved upon with his own original attitudes and perspectives. Some of the more tried and tested stuff came from marital centered situations but because it all strikes a cord with more or less everyone, nobody left the room feeling cheated out of their time.
Once again, on the way home, Ka and myself found ourselves needing the loo. The rain was pouring down as we got to St. Andrews Bus Station and we ran for the public toilets only to be stopped by some familiar looking rotational barriers. There barriers were worse though. They were Capital barriers. They wanted 30p!
We delved into our pockets once again and breathed a collective sigh of relief as we pulled out the required coinage. Ka disappeared off to her loo and I stepped up to mine, sliding three ten pences down the coin slot and walked into the barrier. Bang. My thighs slammed into the unmoving steel pole. I tried again as two other blokes walked up behind me. Bang. It wasn't moving. A primitive, digital font blinked up from a small, green screen on the steel box before me. 20p paid.
"I put 30p into that b*star* thing!" my voice echoed around the tiled walls as I backed out of the entry.
"Just jump it, mn!" the second bloke in the short queue behind me, a fellow Glaswegian, shrugged, backed up and jumped the barrier box. "Just jump it" he shrugged again as he straightened himself up on the other side.
"If you've put your money in..." the first, older guy, another Glaswegian, shrugged from under his cap behind me.
Just as I limbered and readied myself up to climb over the barrier, a small toilet attendant in a luminous yellow coat, shouted a warning from behind, rushing out from a door somewhere.
"Hold on a minute!" he shouted, plugging a key into the barrier's control box as the first bloke disappeared into the toilet.
"I put my 30p in!" I pointed out as he looked up at me sternly through thick framed glasses.
"You're on camera!"
"I put my money in!" I protested, as the toilet attendant allowed the bar to rotate as I moved through.
"You're on camera!" the attendant sighed with a shrug.
As I huffily stepped up to a urinal inside, the jumping Glaswegian turned from his urinal further round the wall.
"What's it like eh?" he laughed. "Just as well he missed me, I didnae huv any change!"

Friday, 20 August 2010

Chock-a-Block man!

Ka and myself were back in the hospital again yesterday for Baby Reid's 20 week scan. 20 weeks already?!
Once again he/she was proving a little restless and not giving the ultrasound specialist much of a view at times, jumping from side to side inside Ka's bump. At one point his, or her, arms and hands were flicking around from side to side as if he was performing a prenatal version of the Blockbuster hand dance.
Ka's is still not feeling any of the internal movements and her bump is still fairly small but only now showing signs of increasing in size as the days go on. Marching, steadily, on towards the New Year. We didn't ask for the gender and we don't want to know. It's a surprise - like a birthday present, only a very costly and life changing one. In fact, I can't think of a more costly and life changing birthday present. Ka's engagement ring comes close but this small growing child could perhaps take the biscuit (as long as it's not the chocolate rocky - they're my favourite - they're chocablock man!)
Colin and Heather were round for dinner last Saturday night and we were discussing the life changing issues that come with children after showing them the ultrasound pics from the scan in week 13. As we spoke the ever important question of 'should you hit your child' sprang up? It dawned on me. The question of if we were going to hit our child or not during disciplinary measures had not even occured to me?! It's quite disconcerting how many of these questions that spring up out of nowhere have not actually occured to me.
As we enjoyed our dinner, including lots of fudge and lemon drizzle cake for pudding, Ka and myself ran some names by our guests for Baby Reid. Colin giving very definite, agreeable nods to some of the names and frowned with moans at others. Unfortunately going through names for babies is hard for the likes of Ka and Colin as both work with youngsters, the majority of which irritate them, to put it politely. One of Ka's favourite phrases is something along the lines of, "oh no, we'll can't call them that. They'll just remind me of 'name' at work and they're a little ***t!".
Not matter what we call Baby Reid, I'm going to try my best in raising him NOT to be a 'little s***!'. Nobody thinks they're own child is a 'little s***' anyway, it's only other people's kids that are.
Baby Reid will be perfect.
Except from the fact he can't sit at peace in his Mummy's tummy, sitting performing the hand jive in the womb. Hey, if it's a boy, we could call him Bob?!

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Staring into space in Burger King

Once again, on Friday evening, I found myself surrounded by yelling, screaming weans. Ka and myself were sitting at a table in a busy Burger King, munching on cold fries waiting on Morgan.
The EK Burger King has a soft play area in one corner, where kids can climb and slide about the padded scaffolding. This, together with the idea of a tasty burger, became the perfect place to take our niece, Morgan, for dinner on the way back to ours on Friday night for a sleepover.
While I was sliding around the fries on the floor, trying to describe the various meals we had decided upon to the staff, I remembered why I hate fast food restaurants. Kids yelled from the soft play area in the corner of the burger joint, at each other and to their parents sitting in the surrounding tables. Most of these parents seemed to be Dads sitting alone which made me wonder. Were they Dads simply wanting to take their kid out for a treat, maybe get them out of the Mum's way for a bit on a Friday night? Dads that had been left with their kid while the Mum hit the town? Or maybe they were rarely seen Dads that had their child for the night, or the weekend, and had to find a quick, easy and entertaining way of feeding them. Either way, it was quite a sad sight. Another one of those "is this what I have to look forward to?!" moments.
They patiently waited, staring into space as their child yelled for them. As I waited in the Burger King queue, I'm sure one of the Dads didn't even notice a 'Cats and Dogs' kids meal toy bounce off his head as he sat in mid trance.
After opening our meals to find two out of three were wrong, I successfully made enemies with some of the members of staff by sending them back and asking for what I had actually asked for in the first place, Morgan nearly disowning me after getting something called 'chicken popcorn' instead of her usual small chicken burger type meal.
Immediately after finishing our niece sped off, leaving Ka and myself sitting mopping up what was left of the vast amounts of tomato sauce with fries that were growing colder and colder by the minute. Morgan disappeared into the padded climbing frames that was the soft-play area almost instantly introducing herself to various little kids.
After around five minutes of cold chip eating, Morgan ran back up and informed me of a bad boy somewhere in the depths of the foam padded construction who was saying naughty words and pushing folk about. Ka told Morgan to simply stay away from the boy in question. Not particularly satisfied with this answer Morgan looked at me questioningly, obviously disappointed in the lukewarm response she had got from us with her breaking newsflash. I simply nodded, agreeing with Ka's advice. Morgan huffed with a slight frown, realising at that moment who was in charge and that she was fighting a hopeless cause, and ran away and back into the belly of the softplay beast, through the mirrors and netting.
What had she expected me to do exactly? Square up to some four year old wee guy? Even if I had I would have probably ended up getting hooked by him or by some angry Dad sitting somewhere in the surrounding chaos of the restaurant, stirred out of his stupor by the promise of a fight with a scrawny Uncle in glasses. He would have been glad of the excitement. Me? I was just glad when we got out of there.

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Band of horses

I've just discovered Band of Horses, an American quintet from South Carolina whom Zane Lowe advised me to listen to.
"When did ye meet him then?" Kenny, my bro, asked when I told him the same line.
Needless to say, I didn't meet Zane Lowe, although he is one of the few Radio 1 DJs I still pay attention to. A few months ago I just happened to be listening to his show whilst driving home one Tuesday night and I sat up and took notice to a great track he played. Coincidentally this track was by the afore mentioned 'Horses'. I've only just got round to buying two of their albums and am really enjoying their rock. When I say 'rock' it's certainly not rock in the traditional sense - you wouldn't put it on at a pal's head banging party or anything (haven't been to one of them in ages - I think I was subtly elbowed away from that company once my hair started falling out). It's more soothing, melancholic rock, American Indie at it's best. Perhaps they are a bit like The Killer's without the 'pop' element, the bravado or the smarties. Certainly the shaving blades. A strange mix of Arcade Fire and Kings of Leon with a dash of - dare I say it - country. I don't know, I'm still listening and I quite like what I hear, so I'll keep listening!

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Clowns and carrot cake

We were surrounded. Screaming, shouting, running, bursting, waving, dancing, wrestling, kids. It was the wonderful Morgan's sixth birthday over the weekend.
Ka, myself and the rest of the Leckies and McGarvas went along to our neice's special party in the church hall on Sunday. Around 26 small children in their best party gear hesitantly moved into the hall, after being delivered by parents and greeted at the door by Morgan and her Dad, Steven, who handed each a sticky name label. After the initial disappointment of not being assigned a name tag I went through to the hall and started taking photos of the party goings on, which were largely centred on a female clown hired for the occasion.
The clown was called Giggles and used to be a Procurator Fiscal. One hell of a career change, I thought, she must have wanted a break from the silly costumes and funny wigs. Giggles didn't have a wig. She wasn't even wearing a red nose!? How can a clown NOT have a red nose?!
Giggles spent the next three hours talking through a headset microphone at the kids gathered round, singing songs, playing games and basically controlling most of the kids extremely well in the potentially excitable party environment.
For three hours the clown's amped up voice went on. Kids sitting, shouting up at her. I wondered if this was the kind of thing I'd have to get used to as a father to be. Kids birthday parties. Bunches of yelling kids, chattering mothers and an over excitable Procurator Fiscal who thinks she can get away with being a clown without a red nose.
Only two of the many Dads who delivered kids actually stuck around for the party, the rest were Mums eithering talking away at each other or sitting, quietly watching their small child being entertained. Unfortunately I got bored halfway through and entertained myself by nicking marshmallows, eating carrot cake and talking to Colin McG about The A-Team and The Karate Kid movies. We took care not to speak too loudly though as you ran the risk of Giggles pulling you on to the dancefloor and giving you a job to do, a fate which befell some of the louder gabbing mothers.
Ka and myself once discussed the possability of kids entertainment for a living. Together with Colin and Jillian, who were both members of the Hopscotch travelling theatre group, we could make a bomb - and there wouldn't be any of this namby pamby everybody wins at pass the parcel or musical bumps mentality!
Giggles kept asking us viewers, sitting around the hastily seated kids, who was the last to get their bum on the floor during musical bumps. No matter how much I kept shouting out to Giggles she kept blatantly ignoring me, insisting it to be a draw when it so obviously wasn't. I had been watching. I pinpointed her in the small crowd of kids from my chair at the side. "Her with the pigtails!" I was yelling. "She's out! O - U - T, out, I tell ye!"
I'm looking forward to hosting the kids parties. The kids will get a giant bag of smarties to gee them up, a bouncy castle, if I'm feeling extravagant, and a run about the the back garden (even if it's raining!). Maybe the odd pinata up on the washing line... and there'll be no politically correct and boringly fair clowns! There'll be a winner at pass the parcel. The rest of the losing kids can go home bubbling if they want. If it turns out my child's going to be a bubbler then it'll do him good. It's best he, or she, learns how to be a good sport in life as early as possible and understands that sometimes they'll end up a loser. Just like their old Dad!... That didn't sound right...