Saturday, 31 December 2011

More cuddles this year

Well, Christmas season is over with once more and the bells to bring in 2012 are almost upon us. ‘Still Game’, ‘Only An excuse?’ and all the usual Jackie Bird shenanigans will be on the telly once more to help celebrate the new year. All of which I’ll be steering way clear of.
Christmas hasn’t been too bad. Don’t get me wrong, it’s been emotional and sad at times what with Lucy’s absence and her own birthday on the 29th but we’ve managed to pull through it. That’s all you can do in such circumstances. Family and friends have all helped, of course, and we’ve had more than a few messages and cards both through the post, by phone, text, and online which have all been a great comfort to us. Cuddles from family members that could rival Gentle Bens' and a few more, harder cheek kisses from Aunties and Mums than the usual share in a year.
Christmas day dawned and Ka and myself awoke with yet more wind pummelling the windows of the flat. We flicked on the Christmas tree lights and sat with our orange juice, pausing to look over at our wee framed picture of Lucy before exchanging more presents and trying to be happy and festive. Ka bought me a rather brilliant new jacket among other things whilst Ka opened a small parcel containing a necklace with a silver tear shaped charm engraved with Lucy’s own foot and hand print. Ka had seen similar jewellery pieces throughout the year, on her many wandering online, so over various emails to a nice jewellery maker named Victoria, at, in mid November, I had organised this piece as a special commemorative Christmas present for Ka. Another gift was another necklace, this one with a crystal heart shaped charm containing a single grain of rice engraved with Lucy’s name and her date of birth. The grain of rice symbolising her small, pure, fragile life.
Don’t worry though. Ka did receive some cheerful presents. I bought her and the two Mums tickets to see the Strictly Come Dancing live tour at the SECC. The finalists will all be there, including Harry Judd, Chelsee Healey and Jason Donavan, along with Robbie Savage. So that should be something for the ladies to look forward to.
The two Mum’s were delighted anyway after they opened their own individually laminated certificates, hastily made up on my last day of work before the Christmas weekend.
We hit the McGarva’s first this year, from the kitchen of Dougie and Grace we enjoyed a full English breakfast with Colin and Jillian, before visiting Angela, Steven and the kids in Bothwell after another visitation from the ever messy Santa Claus.
He always seems to leave snowy footprints all over their front room, leading out from the large fireplace. It’s a right giveaway. Surely he should try and be a bit more subtle with his entrance? Morgan will have him well sussed by now. She’ll probably be waiting in the dark front room next year, behind a couch, waiting to leap out.
Angela gifted Ka another thoughtful, commemorative present in the form of a Thomas Sabo charm bracelet. I’m afraid, as ignorant as I am, I had no idea who Thomas Sabo was. In fact I misheard what was being said and thought Angela had said Saville. Jimmy’s brother perhaps? Perhaps it was a special chunky bracelet to wear the next time we were doing a marathon or fun run?
Angela and Steven gifted me the Steve Jobs autobiography, another brick of a book but one which I shall take great interest in. It’ll be interesting to read how much of a genius/freak, he really was.
We left Bothwell, as Angela and Steven prepared for the arrival of their dinner guests, Grace and Dougie, and drove up to Chapelton to see my folks who were already entertaining some of their dinner guests.
Auntie Tricia, cousin Martin, Auntie Ann and Uncle Tommy had already arrived and after a yet another cuddle fest and happy present exchange my other Uncle Tom arrived with Aunt Linda and her Mum, Nan. Mum was feeding all ten of them, once Ka and myself had left to enjoy our own, quiet, meal for two back at the flat.
It had always been the plan to have this Christmas ourselves in our own wee flat, obviously now with an amended head count. Upon arriving home, we lit Lucy’s candle, held by a small glass angel which stands before her picture.
With a few glasses of wine, a beautiful dinner and a veritable bevy of Christmas telly we made the best of the day and spent the rest of our Christmas evening quietly relaxing together.
Now it’s New Year. The three days of work since Christmas Day are over. My time off starts here with a week away from the office. Ka and myself went into town yesterday to hit the sales, battling the crowds in the rain soaked streets, struggling to keep cheerful following the day before which would have been, or rather is, Lucy’s birthday.
The family gathered at Lucy’s graveside on the 29th followed by a small buffet lunch at our wee flat. What should have been a birthday party was a commemorative lunch.
A year ago tonight Ka and myself arrived home from the hospital, mentally scarred for life. I’ll never forget that. Tired, desolate and in extreme mental pain and anguish as fireworks exploded in the air over the streets around us and most other folk celebrated the arrival of 2011.
What fools they were…
Here’s to 2012. Let’s hope it’s happier all round.

Thursday, 29 December 2011


Put your arms around her Lord,
Don't leave her on her own
For today it is Lucy's birthday,
Her first and away from home.

Thinking of you on your birthday
We talk of you still,
We haven't forgotten you
And we never will.

Tears instead of wishes,
Flowers instead of cards,
You left us brief precious memories
That will stay within our hearts.

Instead of a card
We send our love
Instead of a gift, we say a prayer
To the one we thought the world of
And miss beyond compare.

Thinking of you on your birthday Lucy
But that is nothing new
For no day dawns and no day ends
Without a thought of you.

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Chrimbo joys

We awoke at around nine this morning.
“Do you think we could just stay like this, go under the covers, and hibernate until the New Year?” Ka asked me. The idea was good but unfortunately, pretty unlikely, especially considering I’m back to work on Monday morning. I’ve got a week holiday in the first week of January and worked five days this week in order to get Lucy’s first birthday off so I can’t really relax properly until Wednesday night. Until then I’m just going to have to enjoy my Christmas weekend to the best of my ability. My ability, however, is not really up to much this year.
Anyway, Ka and myself couldn’t hibernate. Colin and Jillian were popping round for breakfast so we had to get up and get organised. They were visiting the cemetery so Ka and myself had invited them round for some breakfast. After throwing myself under the shower, I ran out and filled the car up with petrol for the driving around tomorrow as Ka picked up the phone to her sister and got the breakfast organised. On getting back from the garage I went straight to the kitchen and fired up the hobs, cooking up a mini fry up for the two visitors including bacon, egg, one slice of black pudding and plenty of toast and tea. The hastily made breakfast was then followed by mince pies and Ferrero Rocher and the exchanging of presents, which, of course, were not opened. To do so would be sacrilege and I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’ve been punished enough, for a wee while at least.
Colin is working over Christmas which is why he and Jillian were doing their Christmas tour today, visiting their various households. Ka and myself followed them out and headed into Glasgow to see the new Sherlock Holmes movie – ‘A Game of Shadows’. Another excellent, entertaining effort from Guy Ritchie with the brilliant Downey Junior as the London sleuth.
It was either that or the current festive animation, ‘Arthur Christmas’ but, like the inn in Bethlehem, it was fully booked. Chaz had been raving about ‘Arthur Christmas’ at the chrimbo gathering in the flat last weekend so I had been temporarily tempted by the colourful cartoon in an effort to fill us with some Christmas cheer.
It’s all slightly odd.
Christmas, supposedly the happiest time of the year and Ka and myself are struggling to keep our faces on. The happy, be merry face, that most people seem to manage with ease at this time of year. Even Scrooge in all his various forms, be it a colourised Alastair Sim, Michael Cain talking to Kermit or Bill Murray as a tv tycoon, even cracked a smile and had a merry cheer about them on Christmas day.
Always, at the back of our minds, will be the thoughts that things could all have been very different this year. Could have been and should have been.
Instead of waking up, full of the Chrimbo joys, Ka and myself will be making our way to the cemetery to visit Lucy. After this we’ll continue in the usual routine of visiting the three family households, only this time with considerably less Christmas spirit about us.
That’s if we even make it that far.
Hibernation seems like a good idea all of a sudden. Especially after the out of date mulled wine I’ve just had half a bottle of following a Carol service and vigil mass over at the local church.
The back of the bottle claimed ‘it is recommended that you do not consume this product six months after purchase’. I purchased it three Christmases ago. It’s quite nice. I’m enjoying it anyway. It is quite pungent…
As long as I don’t mix my drinks I’ll be okay.
Merry Christmas everyone, and to all a good night.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

The season of the spirit

Peace and quiet. Saturday afternoon, alone in the flat. Ka was out at the hairdressers, attending the usual Christmas party at Alan’s, along with the salon’s other monthly Saturday afternoon regulars. Ka and myself were having our annual Chrimbo flat gathering in the evening, so it was very much the calm before the storm, and the perfect time to tackle some painting (as long as I hoovered up after myself, I was told).
I once more set up my easel to tackle my latest, a portrait of the great Al Pacino, which I have been trying to progress for the past three months. I've spent more than a few afternoons on this particular portrait and it's now getting more than a little frustrating. I had thought he may have been one of the easier ones with his prominent nose, heavily lined eyes, messy hair, creased chin. These features make Pacino’s face one of the most recognisable in recent cinema.
Or so you’d think. He’s turning out to be a far harder portrait than previous efforts. The quiet worked, to an extent though, and the painting did progress, just not as far as I'd hoped. The frustration got the better of me and I gave up at one point, taking some time out with a bowl of pasta, collapsing on to the couch to watch half of ‘Planes, Trains and Automobiles’ the story of another fairly frustrated fellow in the form of Steve Martin.
Eventually going back to the easel I battled on with Pacino's jawline until around half past five when the phone disturbed the quiet, and it was only then that I realised I was painting in near darkness. Ka was nearly finished, so I set off in the car to pick her up after clearing the majority of the art materials up.
Ka emerged from 'Nutters' with a new hairdo and a big smile on her face after a few glasses of wine, so I got away with the fact I hadn't yet hoovered the living room yet. Alan and the gathered women in the salon all called on me to come in to the salon as I stood awkwardly in the doorway, inviting me like the sirens on the rocks. Thankfully I resisted, insisting that I'd left the car running and escaped unhindered.
After getting home, I gave the flat a quick hoover and a tidy around, Ka lit the Christmas candles, the Christmas lights were switched on, the crisps and nuts were dispensed, the beer was made ready in the fridge and the ice stocks checked. Everything was set.
Chris, Pauline and Chaz were the first to arrive at around quarter to eight, the two girls and Ka immediately congregating in the kitchen as Chaz and myself settled down on the couches with our first beer to talk about the past week.
Chaz had been on location in Glasgow during the week, working as an extra on the latest Scarlett Johansson movie following his stint escaping zombies in George Square back in August.
Roslyn, Iain, Martin and Claire then arrived around half an hour later with some bottles, pressies and a 'Deal or No Deal' DVD game which we did eventually have a game of, halfway through the night, but unfortunately lost interest in. I think it may have had something to do with the fact we had to sit and listen to Noel Edmonds.
Ka handed out the now traditional Christmas snowballs, advocaat with lemonade, which this year was spiced up with the addition of a little Morgans rum, recommended to Ka by one of the sirens earlier. Soon after that Chaz was handing out the shots, Di Saronno Amaretto, being the weapon of choice, the midori and the Jack Daniels was getting cracked open and Iain was even giving shots of Buckfast out from his second bottle, a challenge which only a few plucked up the courage to accept.
Reality tv, hair transplants, Matt Smith as the Doctor and favourite movies were among the subjects discussed throughout the night as Ka served up pizzas and party food in the kitchen. Reminisces of movies that we watched as kids became a talking point, Chaz, the guy who watched ‘Predator’ and ‘Robcop’ when he was seven, remembering the terrors of Martin Rosen’s 'Watership Down'. With it’s haunting music, nightmarish imagery, themes of creation, death, destruction, animal pack mentality and brutality along with it’s tense, unsettling atmosphere it did seem to disturb more than a few kids who had been expecting another ‘Bambi’.
I’ll always remember the evil General Woundwort, the evil Rabbit chief with the glass eye (Was it a glass eye? Can rabbit’s get glass eyes?).
Not to mention that stupid bird with the annoying voice.
Apparently another of Chaz’s favourites was 'Chitty Chitty Gang Bang'.
I’m not sure where he was going for his videos when he was a kid?
He claimed this film title to be a slip of the tongue, of course, and went on to say how the Child Catcher had freaked him out.
But then, who didn’t that guy freak out? He was certainly a good bit freakier than any Predator or General Woundwort.
After Pauline and Chris left to prepare for their early starts the next morning, we got the obligatory Christmas tunes out and whilst having a wee dance, argued over which was better. My choice of John Lennon’s ‘War is Over’ was shouted off, and Elton John and The Waitresses were shouted for instead. Chaz got to listen to his choice of ‘A Spaceman Came Travelling’ before that was forwarded two thirds of the way through, at which point he rolled over on the couch and conked out. A first for Chaz if ever there was one. The rest of us continued until around half four in the morning until we all started to wilt.
I woke up the next morning to the sound of the bottle bin getting some serious fuel in the close outside. Ka was up and about, whirring around the flat in her pink polka dot dressing gown. Chaz blinked from the couch at around eleven as Ka gave him a shout, wanting her living room back, itching to get the hoovering done and settle down to watch Strictly Come Dancing on the iPlayer with a nice cup of coffee. I got up out of bed for long enough to see him off, the two of us looking a bit worse for wear after the Amaretto shots, and then immediately fell back into my pit, leaving Ka to watch Harry Judd’s triumph.
Chris appeared at the door a little later. Again I got up out of bed long enough to greet her and her wee grandchild, Chloe, who, after removing her wellies at the door, marched rather quickly into the living room, avoiding the smelly, dishevelled looking state lumbering out of the nearby bedroom. As the three girls sang a cute rendition of ‘Jingle Bells’ in the living room, I knew there was going to be no chance of getting any more sleep.

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Christmas trees and clockwork

Whilst lying watching ‘The Mummy Returns’, on Saturday afternoon, I barely made it through half a piece of toast before I had to rush to the toilet and dispose of some stomach innards. Mixing beer with wine is never a good idea and should always be steered well clear of. Unfortunately, as it was the work Christmas dinner the night before, this didn’t quite happen and I’d fallen into the same old trap.
Still, my trip to the toilet seat made me feel much better, so, afterwards, Ka and myself headed out on our annual trip to the local Homebase to buy a nice, fresh, and most importantly, real, Christmas tree.
It's always either Homebase or B&Q, the prices are much the same, though not, unfortunately, year to year.
The Christmas trees have shot up. The tree prices have risen in another year. The pricetag seems to be jumping up by a fiver every year.
Last year we forked out £30 for a 5ft - 6ft tree and this year we struggled to find a decent looking tree under £35.
What's going on? Are Christmas trees getting scarce? Is global warming killing them off, decreasing their number? Or are the Tree Growers Association just getting a bit greedy?
Inflation and recession, I’m sure that’ll be to blame.
We ended up economizing this year and bought a shorter, 4ft to 5ft, Cut Nordman Fir at £25. It seems a good deal shorter than our usual tree but still doesn't look too small in our wee flat. Once it was home, up, lit and decorated it looked great in the corner of the living room.
As much I dislike the idea of buying an artificial tree, it may have to be done at some point in the years ahead in order to save the pennies. Either that or a few years down the line Ka and myself will be finding ourselves somewhere in the middle of Whitelee Wind Farm, at the back end of East Kilbride, in the middle of the night, chopping the top six foot off one of their giant Firs. There’s plenty of trees up there and the paths are always open for a perfectly innocent Christmas walk, with my Dad’s chainsaw.
Getting the tree decorated was the next challenge.
Why is something so trivial and something that should be enjoyed, whilst bopping along to Kim Wilde or Shakin Stevens, always such a bl**dy hassle?
Somehow, during the past year, alone, in their cardboard box, the tree lights had tangled themselves up. They were now involved in some sort of twisted, spaghetti like, tightly packed mess. For half an hour I sat on the couch untying Christmas lights, huffing and puffing. The line of golden beads then had to be untangled and then I discovered Ka had wrapped all our baubles up in layers of bubblewrap, as if they were travelling to some distant destination by Royal Mail handlers or taking part in some sort of Krpton Factor like pass the parcel challenge.
One tree ornament I’d ordered for the tree this year was a special decoration in memory of Lucy. A rather nice glass heart with a gold lettered print over it. I’d found them around a month or so ago online ( Ka hung the heart on a branch alongside Lucy’s small Christmas bear.
After a good workout at the gym on Sunday morning we took a trip into town and threw ourselves into the masses for an hour or so for some Christmas shopping before seeing Martin Scorsese's new film, 'Hugo'.
‘Hugo’ is a brilliantly realised family fantasy starring the Boy in the Striped Pyjamas' Asa Butterfield, as a young orphan who survives behind the walls of Paris' largest Railway Station carrying out his missing, drunken Uncle’s jobs of keeping the station’s clocks running on time. From his vantage point, up behind the large clock faces which inhabit the station, Hugo watches life go on, seeing the film’s various secondary characters playing out their lives who include Sacha ‘Ali G’ Cohen who plays a war scarred Station Inspector, Frances de la Tour the local coffee shop owner and Christopher Lee, the owner of the second hand book shop. All live out their daily lives unaware of Hugo’s watchful eyes from behind the clocks hanging from the high girdered roof, whilst the young boy works at repairing the one thing left to him by his father, an old clockwork, automaton.
Hugo soon befriends Isabelle, a girl under the care of one of the station’s other daily inhabitants, a miserable old toy shop owner, played by Ben Kingsley, who turns out to have a whole other side to him, a film director from before the war. A past he struggles to live without.
Through the movie, and the creative genius of Ben Kingsley’s character and the young, innocent, spellbound eyes of Hugo, Scorsese illustrates his own obvious love for cinema and it’s origins, perhaps looking back on his own early inspirations in movie making. Along with hints of old director’s such as Fritz Lang and directors of our own age, such as Speilberg and Jean-Pierre Jeunet, Scorsese creates a brilliant piece of feel good Christmas cinema.
Saying that, for a family film there was quite a lot of depressing themes involved in the story. Death, loss, bereavement, aging, the effects of war, the dashing of dreams, the ongoing, ever persistent onslaught of time.
Not ideal entertainment and escapism is it?
I’m surprised the economy, the state of the euro, the latest unemployment figures, the ongoing uncertainty at S&UN and the inflating price of real Christmas trees, weren’t mentioned, just to increase the season’s spirit.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Swinging with the women

Bow ties. Beers. Red wine. Turkey dinners with small amounts of vegetables. Christmas tree table decor. Frank Sinatra soundalikes. Slagging. Dancing. Laughing and drinking.
Last Friday night was the S&UN Chrimbo night out and nine of us gathered in EK’s The Byre for drinks and dinner. Since the depletion of our office work force we hadn't been out so it was good to have everyone out and socialising somewhere that wasn't a Hamilton newspaper office.
Dave and myself were the first to arrive with the help of a local taxi service run by his Mrs, Tracey, not forgetting his two wee boys. The two boys pestered Dave as he drove, demanding sweets and pizza, before we escaped into the warmth of the Byre, Dave immediately ordering up the first drinks while we awaited the arrival of our other work colleagues.
DVD Andy and Creamy Chicken John were next in the door, looking around the subdued golden colours on the bar for any recognisable faces, whilst me and Dave shouted repeatedly from the corner of the room, behind them.
Before Friday, Andy had been speculating as to what I was going to wear to my Chrimbo night out as, much to the amusement of my work colleagues, I always wear a tie to work. He was jesting that I'd probably turn up in my shell suit and trainers or some such. With all this in mind, and since it was a special occasion, I thought I’d roll out the barrel.
While everyone else was probably enjoying a small tipple, beer or wine to kick off their night, before leaving the house, I was struggling with a bow tie. I knew I had to raise the stakes and thought it would be good for a laugh, so had dug it out before leaving the house. Mum and Dad had bought me the red tie last year after I purchased a tuxedo for some sort of, now forgotten, event. After a year of owning it you’d have thought it would have been a little easier to fit but with the complication of resizing it to the right neck width, which, thankfully, hasn't quite started expanding yet, I was somehow standing at the hall mirror for around ten to fifteen minutes.
As John and Andy greeted us at our chosen pew I pulled my scarf down from around my neck to reveal my glorious red bow tie. Andy laughed, shook his head and walked off to the bar to sort out his first pint. Anyway, my toil and effort at the hall mirror paid off as mostly everyone had a good laugh at the tie had a good laugh with me, or at me, whichever. Christine and Lorna were next to turn up, followed by Kathleen and then, eventually, Andy Noble and Andrea who'd taxi'd it over from Hamilton.
Dinner was average. A bread crumb covered Goats cheese as starter followed by a pretty minimal Christmas dinner. A grand total of two pieces of carrot were arranged with my turkey alongside a whole 2 baby potatoes. As always with Christmas dinner there did seem to be an abundance of sprouts rolling around the thin layer of gravy over the plate. Photos were taken, wine was drank, people were slagged, handbrakes dissected and vajazzles were discussed, perhaps a little too loudly. We did get a few looks and comments from a glamorous bunch of women at the next table, out for a Christmas night out themselves, who started chatting John and Andy up as we neared the end of dinner.
After a few glasses of red, the Chrimbo pudding turned up, a small circle of brown in the centre of a large plate. There wasn't even any sign of blue flame flickering over it.
The meal was sufficient. Another overpriced Christmas meal. But it's okay. What do you expect? It's Christmas? Restaurant meals always seem to shrink with the arrival of the chrimbo period. At least on this work chrimbo night out we weren't paying for any surprise wine bills.
After dinner we all descended to the lower levels of the Byre to enjoy the Swing night. A voice had been heard earlier in the night, emanating from the downstairs area so we all took our drinks down to check it out. Unfortunately, when we walked into the darker, louder bar, we realised there wasn't much in the way of swing going on. The 'voice' was no where to be seen. We chose a table anyway and all took a seat as Dave, who'd been silently elected as kitty man, went to the bar once more to sort us all out for drinks. Moments later the bunch of women, from the adjacent table in the dining room, filtered down the stairs and took a table in the corner of the room before the singer eventually crept out from the shadows, from his place at the bar and switched on his music machine. Before long he was swinging away on the small, slightly raised stage at the front of the bar, belting out a few Rat Pack tunes mixed with a couple of Christmas songs and a smattering of more modern numbers from the likes of The Killers and Robbie Williams. As the lower bar started to liven up with our presence we all started to get overly loud, and overly happy, myself especially, it would seem, as I've ended up on camera using a table Christmas tree decoration as some kind of phallic object, DVD Andy was caught in an odd moment of pleasure and John was caught letching the women from the other table.
As we all continued to enjoy the festive spirits, John was suddenly pulled up on to the dancefloor by a couple of the desperate housewives from the corner of the bar, after he'd been asked to do the honours and take a couple of photos. DVD Andy almost spat out his drink as John accepted and swung his way up to the dancefloor surrounded by an excited gaggle of the dancing ladies.
It was then that the wife turned up.
No, not John's wife. My wife.
Ka had been out for dinner in Glasgow with friends, Lynsey and Michelle. They'd enjoyed dinner at an Italian restaurant and then some spiced mulled wine at the German market in St. Enoch's Square. Since both Ka and Lynsey were heading back to East Kilbride on the train, they decided to crash our work night out, disembarking at Hairmyres and then pulling a chair up at our table as the Byre's singer crooned away. Unable to keep the pace, or just unwilling to be manhandled on to the dancefloor, Andy Noble and Andrea escaped early into a taxi leaving the rest of us to drink, dance and shout the rest of the night away.
Lorna, Christine and Kathleen were soon enticed up for a dance and making moves along with Andy and John, and even I was pulled up by one of the dancing women in the female gang of Christmas jivers. Lynsey and Ka made themselves welcome and even got a free glass of wine from the barman for their trouble and my cousin Chris dropped by the table for a quick chat, having just finished his shift in the kitchens.
As always, time seemed to travel faster with the alcohol consumption and before we knew it the Byre's crooner had left the stage, the music had deteriorated into unidentifiable noises and everyone started making their way home, or at least, to the bar upstairs, for a night cap, until our taxis turned up. The taxis waited, waited, and then drove off, replaced shortly afterwards with a short call from Dave on the mobile.
Needless to say the next morning was non existent.
It was afternoon before I managed to open my eyes, enough to watch the first half of 'The Mummy Returns' in bed. Couldn't quite manage the whole movie.

Friday, 9 December 2011

An announcement

As Dave and myself slipped and slid our way up the icey streets of Hamilton to work on Tuesday morning, we met one of the Sub editor’s on the way up the hill.
“Did you here there’s to be an announcement today?”, the Sub Editor asked us as we walked up the treacherous roads. I rolled my eyes.
The dreaded ‘announcement’.
A word that has filled me with great suspicion and depression, ever since I started work at Scottish & Universal newspapers.
Generally, when there was to be an ‘announcement’ in S&UN it meant one of few things. The production of titles being halted, offices closing or more than a few people losing their jobs. Unfortunately the third possibility has been the most recurring instance in my six years at the company, so I walked into the office with a heavy heart and sat down at my desk, grimly wondering what the eleven o’clock summoning was all about.
The employees, throughout the whole building, were instructed to gather in the Advertising department, so, at the specified time, we all shuffled down the corridor and into the large, high ceilinged, office to find the big boss waiting on us. We all stood in a brewing silence, awaiting this new announcement as the last few stragglers made their way into the office.
"We are delighted to announce..." the boss immediately started with a most unusual and unexpected term of phrase taking me by surprise. This must be an announcement with a difference, I thought. 'Delighted' is a pretty strong word, especially in a company announcement. Delighted is pleasant surprise. Joy. Smiling with raised eyebrows. What was such a word doing here? That wasn't supposed to happen.Where was the suspected grim announcement of doom?
The big boss explained, reading from a printed sheet. It seems Scottish & Universal Newspapers is to merge with the other divisions of Trinity Mirror in Scotland including the Daily Record and the Sunday Mail making a brand new 'Media Scotland', together making Scotland's biggest publishing business. The boss then went on to talk of the vast numbers this new company would reach, the reformation capitalising its resources to reach all corners of the market and make an audience of up to 1.5 million readers every day. The new management team was announced along with the official announcement of the departure of Bruce Waddell, who had been the Editor-in-Chief of the Daily Record for the past eight years.
The boss told us all that we should be proud to be present at the birth of a new age, a new era in Scottish publishing, the birth of a new business which well reshape the Scottish media landscape for years to come. He then told us it would be a month before he had any more, substantial news for us regarding the reformation.
A month to wait for further details... Following the heavy loss over in Glasgow's Central Quay Daily Record in the past summer and what we, in S&UN Prepress have just been through ourselves in the past year, a team of 30 odd reduced to 12, it's hard to be optimistic about all this, especially with the usual tales of gloom and doom circulating around the offices almost as soon as we left the advertising department on Tuesday morning. The content sharing move and merging of companies is a move which may well mean yet more redundancies and job losses.What will happen in a month's time? What does the New Year have in store for us?
Christmas and New Year are going to be difficult enough for myself and Ka as it is, without having to worry about my job. So I am not going to. Ka and myself have been through, and are still going though, worse. Lucy's anniversary preys heavily on our minds, ever more so with the approach of Christmas and New Year, so getting us through December has to be my personal, number one priority at the moment. I'll worry about S&UN later.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

The finest tea available to humanity

The rain continued to fall outside, soaking the surrounding Bothwell, whilst Ka and myself took our seats in the Silverwells restaurant for our Afternoon tea. We had planned to get a bus to our posh afternoon appointment at the swanky Bothwell restaurant but, thankfully, my Dad had come to the rescue over the phone and offered us a lift, earlier in the morning. After I'd come off the phone to him I looked out the window to see the rain sweeping through our street in sheets making travelling by bus an extremely unpleasant and unlikely prospect.
I’d never had Afternoon Tea before. Angela had bought Ka and myself it, as a gift for our Wedding Anniversary, back in July. I’d always thought Afternoon tea was for either little old ladies or snobby rich and privileged housewives. Miss Marple used to attend Afternoon tea quite a lot from what I remember. It also reminds me of that great scene in ‘Withnail and I’ where Richard E. Grant and Paul McGann stote into a small English countryside tea shop, in the middle of the afternoon, and demand “the finest wines available to humanity” from Mrs Blennerhassett, the frightened little lady who was dishing out the tea and scones to the surrounding, glaring, old ladies.
Thankfully there were no old ladies in Silverwells on Saturday afternoon. We stepped into the large elegant restaurant to find it empty, each table immaculately set for the coming Saturday night.
The Spanish Maitre D’ welcomed us and sat us down at a small table for two near the front of the dining room, where the old building’s large bay window looked out into the restaurant’s car park and surrounding Bothwell streets, still suffering under the gloom of the grey clouds rumbling overhead.
We started with a glass of prosecco, delivered to us by the small Spaniard (at least I think he was Spanish, Ka and myself had a slight debate about that over our wine) who immediately started up conversation by asking where we were from and what the occasion was. We told him where and the Maitre D’ revealed himself to be a native of East Kilbride, himself, at least for the past forty years anyway. Specifically Tasman Drive, just off Rockhampton, in the Westwood. At least I think that’s what he said, his Spanish accent (or French) was still quite thick, even after 40 years. I then told him we were celebrating our first wedding anniversary. Ka didn’t seem to bat an eyelid until halfway through the Maitre D’s following conversation, at which point she must have realised what I’d said. Once the waiter had beetled off to talk to the kitchen, (I’m not sure if it was a specific appliance), Ka was not slow in pointing my mistake out to which I frowned and slowly nodded with realisation. I almost used the old, ‘how times flies when your having fun’, phrase, but stopped myself.
Not that I haven’t enjoyed married life so far, just that it hasn’t all exactly been a barrel of laughs, a feeling which, I’m sure, most husbands would admit to at the best of times and that’s without the tragedy of a losing a child.
Shortly after, our tea and coffee was delivered with a silver, two-tier, stand full of sandwiches and cakes. Sandwiches of tuna, ham salad, cheese and pickle. Scones with jam and clotted cream. Flap jacks. Meringues. Caramel shortcake. All were mounted on the cake stand before us, making us feel overweight, just by looking at them. There was even good old Scottish Dumpling. The teas and coffees also arrived with large round piece of shortbread biscuit, sitting tilted on the edge of their porcelain saucers. There was no way we were going to get through this lot.
Soon after making our way through the sandwiches the Maitre D’ was back and talked of his work in EK’s Bruce Hotel, his experience as a sales rep in a whiskey company, his wife whom he’d immigrated for, his family, his friends and the fact he knew Mr. Kennedy, the Spanish and R.E. teacher from St. Brides High, who was now living it up in a Spanish villa, just outside Alicante.
In fact, the Head waiter told probably us a good portion of his life story.
He would talk for a short time and then say he was leaving us to our tea, before coming back another ten minutes later and starting up another conversation.
At one point he asked us if we had kids. To which we hesitantly and uncertainly shook our heads but then told him about Lucy. You’d think this would shut most folk up, but no. After a short apology he was off again, talking about his son and his family and how they were off to Spain.
He was a lovely man though, even though he made our teas and coffees go cold on more than one occasion. He may have realised this though as he organised more than one tea and coffee refill for us, each coming with yet another large shortbread biscuit, to join the previous other two, moved to the cake stand.
Halfway through the afternoon, after I’d finished my share of the sandwiches and cakes, the Maitre D’ beckoned us away from our table, just as I was biting into Ka’s flapjack, to give us a guided tour of the large old Victorian house which Silverwells now occupies. The large, colourful stained glass window, standing halfway up the large staircase in the hallway, shone in what light it could muster from the skies overhead creating a calm, ambient atmosphere in the welcoming hallway, now decorated by lines of small sparkling Christmas lights. The Maitre D’ led us up the stairs and around the large function rooms upstairs, showing us the large, private dining room and the three remaining rooms which, when connected by way of the large opening double doors in adjoining walls, made up Silverwells’ largest function suite and bar, for parties of up to 80 people.
All very interesting, I thought, but my tea was getting cold.
The Maitre D’ done a good job in selling the place anyway, and my interest in the function rooms was apparently so believable that it led Ka to become a little uncomfortable, half expecting me to bring out my debit card and book one of the function suites, there and then for something, anything. Sign the dotted line for some strange, mystical party night in the future. Any event would do.
Upon returning to our table we ordered a nice bottle of Pinot Grigio just as a few more customers started arriving for lunch and afternoon tea and we soon found ourselves thankfully being neglected by the over eager Head Waiter.
As the two of us sat chatting over a fine glass of wine, and the rain continued to pour down outside, it seemed like a long time since Ka and myself had enjoyed such a lazy, calorie filled, afternoon.
A nice way to celebrate our first Wedding anniversary. Seventeen months late.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Chutes, wine, beer and jam

Joshua wasn't too impressed at first. To be fair to him he'd only just woken up not ten minutes before and had found himself surrounded by relations.
Waking up and finding yourself surrounded by grinning relations looking directly at you can't be fun, so why should we think that it would be okay for a kid?
Can you imagine waking up on your couch from an afternoon nap to find your living room filled with various Mums, Dads, Aunties and Uncles, all sitting chatting, drinking, grinning and taking photos of you? Even if your Dad did come over and try and cajole you into being sociable it would take you at least fifteen minutes to come round to any idea of putting up with it, never mind liking the sudden invasion.
Joshua remained in his Dad's arms for around fifteen minutes, taking everything in, before being lowered to the floor in the hallway. His cousins Ross and Jack were wildly running around in circles as usual, speeding through the various rooms, Morgan not far behind them. Grace and Dougie were seated in the lounge and chatting away to Steven's cousins, his brother David and his Uncle John, whilst Jillian and Colin stood chatting in the living room's doorway, Jillian a little worse for wear after a big night out, including karaoke, the previous night.
Ka and myself were late and arrived through the heavy rain of Saturday afternoon. As a birthday gift for our wee nephew we bought a big, bright, blue and green plastic slide and came up with the idea of decorating it in balloons before we arrived to give it to him. We made a brief stop at Sainsburys to buy flowers for Angela and a bag of, what turned out to be, rather disappointing, supposedly animal shaped balloons. Ka and myself sat in the car, in the middle of the rain soaked Sainsbury's car park, blowing the balloons up to stick to the plastic slide, our inanimate third passenger, stretched across the whole of the car's back seat. Unfortunately these balloons were in no way animal shaped, not to any stretch of the imagination, but refusing to go back into the shop for more rubber we begrudgingly stuck them on to the plastic slide with sellotape. They'd have to do.
After being released on to the floor Ka and myself tried to introduce him to his birthday present, now standing in the hallway, the pathetic looking balloons bobbing around pitifully at the top of it’s mighty peak, three foot up. Joshua frowned and grumpily shook his head, waddling off in another direction.
He preferred the look of his Thomas the Tank Engine, that Colin and Jillian had bought him. A push cart version of the familiar blue steam locomotive with the big, grey, grinning face and the Liverpudlian voice. Joshua ran up to the push car, taking a hold of the back, red push rail and ran off into the living room. Colin was delighted and claimed victory in buying the best birthday present. Ka and myself laughed and joked artificially, kidding on we weren't that bothered, grumbled jealously and wandered off, heads drooping despondently.
However, after around twenty minutes of waking up time, and with a little gentle encouragement from Colin, his Granpa Dougie, and myself, Joshua was soon making his way up the short ladder and sitting himself down at the top of the smooth blue plastic slide. A little unsure at first, Joshua spun a little on his first slide down and ended up banging his head as he landed at the bottom of the blue, streamlined plastic. Joshua, being Joshua, was not put off by this minor bump though and immediately got back to his feet and made his way round the side of the chute again, giving an excited wave of the arms and a squeak of approval. Before long our wee nephew was moving in circles, running round, climbing up and sliding down, avoiding any further bumps, as his chute sliding expertise improved.
He liked it.
Ka and myself could hold our heads high, even if the balloons weren't.
Over the buffet lunch I brought up the subject of the large barrel standing in the corner of the kitchen, a third full with suspicious looking liquid. A few months ago Steven had created a large batch of plum jam from the purple fruit he had collected from the tree in the back garden. He had shared the jam out among the relatives including Ka and myself (our jar is only half empty – but still sitting in the fridge if you fancy some?) and was now branching out. He was now concocting some homemade wine in the corner of the kitchen. When I asked how the wine making was coming along Steven took a glass, unscrewed the barrel's cap and lowered his hand down into the barrels innards, a look of uncertainty almost crossing his face, like that scene in 'Flash Gordon' when Timothy Dalton put his hand down the scorpion's hole. After a little movement of the wrist Steven brought the glass back up, now half full of his alcoholic potion. His cousin John was the first to taste who almost immediately grimaced, saying something about vinegar, quickly handing the glass back. After Colin took a few drinks and nodded appreciatively, I ventured a small sip and immediately tasted Steven's jam, only laced with alcohol. With the tang of Steven's plums the wine tasted a little like a foreign brandy of some sort. After only a small taste I could feel the wine travelling down my system, leaving a, not unpleasant, burning sensation at the back of the throat like the after effects from the first taste of a strong whiskey. It was certainly nicer than some of the wines I've drank in the past.
Various members of the Reids used to create beer at home, and jam for that matter. My Gran’s jam was amazing. I could never believe that my Gran could make her own jam, although usually it was rhubard, and I hated rhubarb. Granpa used to eat it straight from the ground, a large growing patch out in his back garden. Dad ate it raw with a dab of sugar.
Dad used to make beer in our bathtub. I remember he used to buy the beer making kits from Boots and have a giant plastic barrel of his own, which would sit in the bathroom for a good few months, slowly brewing it's Lindsay ale, stinking the room out with it’s weird, pungent yeasty stenches.
I'm not sure what happened when it came to bath time?
We certainly never had a beer bath.
Apparently they’re quite big over in the Czech Republic and Austria. There are more than a few beer spas now open. Spas, baths, pools and even beer flavoured treatments are offered, such as facials. Apparently, beer is good for the skin. Good for cleansing, drying and relaxing in. Good for hair rejuvenation too. I should get over there! In the tub, the combination of water, beer, hops and yeast is warmed and bubbled around you, transforming it into a kind of mild Jacuzzi. A hot tub beer machine.
Unfortunately, back in Scotland, being the driver, I couldn’t partake in any of Steven’s homemade wine, much to my extreme disappointment, as I’m sure you can imagine, but made sure I had a glass of Pinot Grigio later, on the comfort of my own couch, where, thankfully, there was a distinct lack of grinning, chatting, relations.

Friday, 25 November 2011

Through the rain

Ghastly. Simply ghastly. If I was posh, that is exactly how I would describe this morning. The sky was completely smothered in threatening, thick, dark grey clouds, hanging ominously over the climb up High Common Road. It had been a rough, uneven, sleep with hail battering off the window late into the night after the stormy winds and rain from the evening had subsided briefly for a few hours. Driving into Glasgow, to drop Ka and Chris off in the late afternoon, the steering wheel was almost pulled from my grip by the horrendous gales going over the M77.
It was John Barrowman time again, and Ka and Chris were heading into town for the latest hometown gig by the singing superstar. They were meeting up with Jillian and her Mum, Jean, for dinner on Sauchiehall Street before heading down to the Armadillo.
While the girls were out on the town, I was creating a brand new website for DJ, William Rae.
William is our friend Claire's brother, just back from Puerto Rico where he, along with his wife and daughter, had been living for the past year or so. Before he had departed for sunnier shores I had designed and created his last website for his DJ'ing and, now that he was back in cloudy Scotland, fancied a redesign and a new look, especially since the last version had been very much beach party orientated.
As lovely as Ayr beach is, I can’t imagine a jostling crowd of dancers supping the cocktails and living it up down there on a balmy evening.
Just as I was making the final touches to his wondrous new website, the mobile started ringing. It was Ka insisting that they were just about to miss their last train home. They knew this even though they were standing outside the Armadillo, after a good few sherries, with at least twenty minutes before the afore said train was due. Being the gentleman, of course, I agreed to head back into town to pick them up. Thankfully the rain and storms had abated on my way in and although I got stopped by what must have been 90% of the red lights on my journey into Glasgow, I made it to the Mint Hotel, within around half an hour. As I sat parked in the bus stop immediately outside the Mint Hotel, pondering who gave the hotel this illustrious title, I spotted a shimmer of silver in my rear view mirror. A vision of silver excitedly jumping up the street. Jillian, in a silver shimmering sequins dress was running up the pavement towards the car, a massive grin on her face. The Barrowman grin. She was farting glitter with excitement, apparently.
Upon leaving my position behind the wheel Jillian gave me a big shimmery hug. Personally I think Jillian was sent out to sweeten me up as, moments later, Ka and Chris appeared at the hotel’s front entrance, looking a little meek, tired, but happy. Barrowman had worn them out with his dazzling array of sparkly suits and anthemic classics. Classics such as Manilow’s “I made it through the rain”, Gaynor’s “I am what I am” and The Village People’s “YMCA” (I think I remember dancing to that at the school formal… no wonder I didn’t get a lumber).
It wasn’t until 1am last night, after safely delivering Chris home, and leaving Ka in the living room to have a nice cup of tea, that I sent through the first draft of DJ William’s website. It was one of those jobs that I thought would take me hours but, in fact, took me days. Once again I find myself inadvertently selling myself cheap.
Not that I often sell myself cheap.
I’m sure someone would pay a hefty sum for me if I was on the market. I just wouldn’t get ‘Your Maneuver’ to sell me.
Anyway, I went to bed later as a result of the late night web building, making my sleep uneasy. My brain wouldn’t switch off and the volume of the living room telly hadn’t been turned down much.
I woke up around half two, dazed and vaguely confused. The other half of the bed was still empty and I could still hear the television from the other room. Crawling out of bed I went through to the living and found Ka curled up on the couch, fast asleep. The bright, vibrant colours of some form of late night childrens' television beamed from the box in the darkened living room around her, it's wild moving shapes flickering over her face as she slept.
Why childrens’ tv was on at that time of night, I’ll never know. Is childrens’ tv on 24 hours a day now?
I know it now has it’s own channels, and Ed the duck in the broom cupboard between half three and half five in the evenings is long gone, but do they have to continually operate? Can’t they be like some of those other digital channels and only operate at certain times?
It also begs the question of what had Ka been watching?
The last music I’d heard drifting in from the living room, before I fell asleep, had been the doleful melodiousness of Emmerdale. That gawd awful tune that informs you it’s now time to either gain control of the remote and change the channel or run for your god forsaken life to the nearest open window and paint the pavement down below your, hopefully, high rise flat a new colour of brain.
As I moved to switch the tv off, my foot stood on half a cornetto wrapping that had been discarded on the carpet. A half eaten crisp then crunched under my other foot as I then noticed Ka’s glass and plate lying empty on the coffee table.
The John Barrowman gig had obviously taken it's toll on the poor girl. Not only was she now curled up, having conked out on the couch but she had neglected to tidy up after herself and had even dropped a cornetto paper on the carpet and a single, rogue, crisp.
Once the tv was off I decided against interrupting Ka’s slumber, knowing full well of the repercussions, and wandered back off to bed.
She eventually fell on to the mattress at around half four, whilst the rain pelted down outside, the clock continuing it’s ticking around to the inevitable black, winter, Friday morning.
On the radio, in the car, on my way into work, there were people wishing each other ‘Happy Christmas’.
People calling in to give their relations festive wishes.
Okay, there’s only a month to go now but, come on!
Wait until you open the first door of your chocolate calendar at least.
After making this mental complaint, I then went into work and started some online Christmas shopping.
Well, you’ve got to start at some point.

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Feeling guilty?

Another night of Children In Need. Upsetting, uncomfortable and difficult to watch. Three ways to describe Alan Sugar’s attempts at humorous acting and Ian Beale in a tight pink jumper and skirt, pushing a hoover around his living room to the tune of Queen’s “I want to break free”. All this uncomfortable viewing between the many short sad films about the kids of the UK that need the help and the money.
DVD Andy has always suspected me of being guilty of spending my weekly Thursday’s off just like Freddie, with the hoover, as Thursday is usually housework day. This week, however, I was waiting on plumbers coming round to give us a quotation for the installation of Gas central heating. Unfortunately, after being given the quote, we’re not sure we’ll bother. Two and a half grand they want for putting central heating into our wee one bedroom flat. A normal house costs between three and four so I think we may just stick with what we’ve got.
The good old electric.
We’d only be installing the gas heating to help sell as it seems to be the only complaint from possible buyers who’ve come round to view. Look’s like we’ll just have to wait on a non energy biased buyer.
We barely use the electric anyway. The guys in work, asked me how we usually keep warm if we don’t use it. We never need it, though with the winter just around the corner Ka and myself could, quite soon, be finding ourselves walking around with double helpings of dressing gowns. At the moment it would seem all Ka needs is Michael Buble. The wife was up dancing around the living room in her pyjamas on Thursday night as the singer started his contribution to the Children In Need Rocks Manchester concert.
Last night we had a little heat from one large solitary candle standing lit in the middle of our coffee table. We had just finished a curry for dinner though so I suspect that was lit by Ka merely to try and get rid of the stench of Indian food which was now lingering throughout the living room and kitchen. Our second curry in a week.
The first was last Saturday when we went through to Tom and Linda’s in Barassie, Troon. As my Uncle Tom is in the middle of rebuilding his kitchen, we had hit upon the idea, a while back, at my cousin’s son’s baptism, of a curry night. So after arriving early evening on Saturday, just after the sun had set on the cold, Firth of Clyde horizon, Tom and Linda informed us that they were taking us along to their favourite curry house, the Maharani. The maharani was a small, but cosy, Indian restaurant just a short walk from the front on West Portland Street where we ate some fantastic food, mine being a giant portion of Chicken Tikka Tandoori, which arrived sizzling on a long black plate perched on a pile of hot, flavoured onions. Tom had also ordered a Tandoori, a ginger chicken, but refrained from eating all of his massive portion, instead opting to keep some for Sally and Jake, the dogs back home. For a brief few moments I also considered politely putting some of my chicken aside for the dogs’ supper but only for a brief few moments. I then thought better of it and demolished the rest of my plate. Feeling rather full afterwards, and slightly guilty about the hungry dogs back at the house, we then ambled over to the Lido bar where we joined Troon’s Saturday night elite for a few drinks.
Lido is a stylish café like bar, owned by the same bar and restaurant outfit that runs the harbour restaurant in the same town, Scott’s and Elliots in Prestwick. The brasserie sits on the quiet street, among the other, older bars and seaside shops, it’s modern face a little out of place. With polished dark wood furniture and decorated cushion seats and walls inside, circling a decorative bar and open kitchen, it’s obviously drawing inspiration from some of the swankier places in town making it a great alternative for the folks of Troon, to some of the other, more traditional settings. It was busy, lively and comfortable and just as we were leaving to head back to the house the DJ was setting up his decks on the large, rectangular table alongside us, casting some smokers’ drinks and scarves to the side. These smokers had thought it acceptable to keep their interior seats whilst they sat out at the tables in the outside front, framed by neatly trimmed hedges. As long at their scarves were still slung over their inside chairs and their glasses of water were still in place on the table they considered themselves able to come back and forth whenever they pleased. They left their inside table to head outside for a cigarette and made themselves comfortable on one of the round tables outside, safe in the knowledge their table inside was guarded by the scarves and water. For at least forty minutes, they lounged around outside, before frowning through the window as the DJ turned up with his various laptops and control panels, quickly casting their scarves aside after asking if they had belonged to us.
Why should smokers’ unattended tables be kept for them in a busy bar area? If they decide to leave their table empty, in order to feed their nicotine cravings then giving up the comfy indoors table should be a sacrafice they should be willing to take. Why should others, in a busy bar, be made to stand, by a scarf slung over the back of a chair?
Ka and myself have actually nicked smokers’ tables before. One of the last times being in the Theatre Royal Bar in Edinburgh when we innocently nabbed what we thought was an empty table, considering the one jacket left over one of the chairs to have been long abandoned, and made ourselves comfortable with a few glasses of wine before the david Byrne gig next door. After a good half an hour of sitting enjoying ourselves the smoking couple (they weren’t that good looking) turned up looking for their place. As it turned out they were actually very nice about it and pulled up another chair on the opposite side of the table and started chatting away. They were an older couple, the bearded bloke perhaps around forty odd in age, the woman looking a bit older. Before we knew it they were spitting at the ground with the sheer mention of trams, telling us where they lived, how they’d met and about when they’d last seen the Talking heads in concert. When the time came to go and take our places in the theatre next door, Ka and myself apologised once more for taking up half of their table uninvited and left them in the lively bar.
Upon entering the Playhouse, Ka and myself split up for a quick toilet visit and as I was standing at the male trough doing my business somebody ambled up and took the place next to me.
“Oh, hello again!” the bearded man smiled from my side. After another short conversation, very short, as conversation over urinals are always a bit awkward, I headed out and found Ka through the busy throng of the Edinburgh Playhouse. Upon meeting each other we decided to get a wee drink from the bar, rolling out the barrel, as it were, as it’s not every week you go to the theatre or a gig. So as I joined the bustling crowd at the ridiculously small theatre bar I slowly made my way to the front of the crowd as slowly but surely the people before me obtained their various beverages from the choice of two bottles beers at triple the usual price or three kinds of wine, white, red, or rose. Upon finally reaching the bar I planted my elbows down on to the bar and turned to find the bearded smoker standing at my side again. I think he gave me the same look I gave him. The ‘not you again’ look. The pleasant surprise and nod of the ‘how are you’ look followed by the ‘look away at something, anything, that’ll enable me to not make conversation’ look. After getting my drinks I half expected Ka and myself to get into the theatre and find the two smokers sitting in the next seats along from us.
I get the ‘look away at something, anything, that’ll enable me to not make conversation’ look quite a lot. There was a girl in high school that I used to fancy who used to find lamp posts or brick walls extraordinarily interesting to look at whenever I approached.
During the week I was wondering up Cadzow Street in the morning, on my way to work, when the Head honcho woman from our Estate Agents, (let’s call them ‘Your Maneuver’ again), seen me walking up towards her as she made her way to the ‘Your Maneuver’ office. I’d spoke to her for around an hour, not more than four or five weeks ago, and I know she recognised me, but, for whatever reason, decided to suddenly give the passing shop windows at her side and the passing pavestones under her feet, her full, uninterrupted, attention.
Guilt at having failed to sell our beautiful flat. That's what I reckon it was.
Guilt. Terrible thing.
That’s probably what makes Children in Need such uncomfortable viewing. If you don’t donate you must, and should, feel guilty.
It doesn’t take a lot to make me feel guilty.
Hopefully Sally and Jake will forgive me for eating all my Tandoori.

Friday, 11 November 2011

David and his watermelons

“Michael, we’re not selling the buses!” Ka informed me, after our viewer left, her Mum and Dad in tow.
“What do you mean?” I frowned, as Ka moved to finally put dinner on. Apparently during my “flat selling” speech I started rabbiting on about how handy we were for the Number 20 and the number 66 buses, perfect for those bus trips further into East Kilbride or a day out in the city.
It’s a good selling point, I pointed out to Ka. Being close to a decent bus stop would be a great advantage to some people. The viewer may have a tight monetary situation and may not be able to afford the luxury of cars and taxis everywhere. The bus could be their one form of transport, for all we know. The bus is always handy for us when we fancy going into town for a wee pint, so why not to a potential buyer?
The rather unimpressed, bored looking viewer had brought her Mum and Dad along and left after only five minutes in our humble abode. She walked in through the hallway into the living room and commenced her long tour of the flat from there, seeing the kitchen, the living room again, back out into the hallway to the bathroom, out into the hallway before hitting the bedroom, back to the hallway where she took a quick look into the utility cupboard, the hallway again and then the living room again. On her way out she walked through the hallway again. Our home of six years overviewed within the space of five minutes.
The girl who was the main viewer was one of these girls not happy in the skin they're in.
Her big eyes stared, white in a face of browny orange. One of these strange people that, not being happy about the skin they are born with, like to artificially colour their skin by lying in plastic beds of luminous tubes or stand in those plastic portaloos that have no loos but have spray guns in their walls instead. The people that use these devices actually pay for that weird orange/brown colour with which they use to go out on a special occasions. What possesses these people to believe that a special occasion of any kind requires you to colour your almost naked self up in a strange sh**ty brown colour. I’ll never understand that.
Yes, okay, I understand a slight tan. Something to enhance the complexion or contrasts of the skin, get away, be it momentarily, from the Scottish peely wally tones. But that weird overly orange/browny colour? Why?
If it was some kind of camouflage, then yes, I would understand. If these girls, and blokes (yep, blokes do do it as well don’t they) were going paintballing or something then yes, the reasons for painting yourself browny orange would be fairly understandable. You could dive about the forest and probably have some success in hiding out in the foliage. In fact, judging by some of the spray tans I’ve seen in the past, you might be better off simply walking about a paintball site naked to get a bit of colour about you.
I just don’t get it. Why would you want to go out on the town or walk down the aisle with the skin colour of an Oompa lumpa?
The three visitors were pretty hard going. Ka and myself done our best to chat and inform, but the three of them didn’t say too much.
The Mum did seem to like it whereas the Dad looked bored, as if he’d been forced to attend by a firm look from the wife or an arm twisted up his back.
It’s always so difficult to tell whether these potential buyers like what they see. We’ve always had positive feedback from the estate agency after the viewers have reported back but it’s never been so positive that they’ve bothered to put an offer in for our wee home.
We’ve only had a grand total of four viewers the whole time we’ve been on the market. The estate agents, that seem to have only recently really started doing anything for us, (let’s call them ‘Your Maneuver’), gave us a quick phone today to tell us the viewer was taking her interest no further for the not wholly unreasonable excuse of a lack of gas central heating in our flat. Apparently somebody had told her that the underfloor heating that was built into these flats is expensive to run. Someone had also told her that a flat further down the street had sold for a slightly lower price and that that particular property had been recently refaced. All the while, I sat on the other end of the phone, listening to what the someone had told this girl, wondering who this ‘someone’ was. I bet it was her Dad.
Either him or her boss, Willy Wonka.
I thought she may have been informed of the lack of central heating before attending a viewing, by our wonderful estate agents. Ka and myself have survived without gas central heating for six years, using only the old, underfloor heating in the deepest, darkest depths of winter and we’ve comfortably survived. We’ve certainly never had to sit and watch X-Factor with frosted glasses and icicles hanging from our nostrils. Our flat’s always seemed pretty cosy in actual fact, and rarely feels cold in anyway (even in X-Factor conditions).
We’ve certainly never had any complaints from any visitors. It’s probably all the hot air.
Saying that, I did notice, the last time they were here, that some of Ka’s pals’ kept their jackets on. In fact, Ka and her pals’ teeth were also chittering in between talk (between talk is very brief, wondrous moment and you have to be very quick of the eye to notice such an instant. We once got a phonecall from David Attenborough at the BBC to film such behaviour. Women with their mouths closed. Amazing. Unfortunately Mr Attenborough couldn’t find a camera with a high enough shutter speed).
Still, at least I was allowed in the flat last night.
Everyone in work was having great delight in making me feel extremely paranoid and slightly guilty yesterday after I rushed Ka off the phone when she called on the mobile mid morning.
“I really can’t talk just now. I’m busy. I’ll call you later!” or something of the kind, I said rather urgently down the phone, before wishing her a hurried goodbye.
Apparently Ka thought she’d upset me by the tone of one of my texts five or ten minutes before when she hadn’t at all. I’d sent an abrupt text back to her in response to one of her messages which she’d sent at one of the busiest periods of the week, when all our Ayrshire property adverts were being sent to print. I had been, in fact, winding her up about the excited babble she was producing the night before about David and his watermelons.
Ka had arrived home from the theatre on Tuesday night, chatting away excitedly about this David and his watermelons. It was ten past eleven, I was tired and, as a result, couldn’t be bothered with her. The excitable chat was something to do with ‘Dirty Dancing’, the stage production she’d just been to see with Pauline at the Kings theatre. As it was late I wasn’t really in the mood for watermelon talk and left it for the morning, at which point I text her asking about David and his fruit.
As it turned out, it wasn’t David at all anyway. It was Johnny. Johnny and his watermelons. I’m still no clearer and suspect I’d have to watch ‘Dirty Dancing’ in all it’s musical glory to understand, but that’ll not happen any time soon. I’ll just have to struggle on through life in blissful ignorance regarding Johnny’s watermelons.
Anyway, as a result of Ka’s call at work, I was sure I’d upset her and everyone in the work, led by DVD Andy and Dave, were sure I was sleeping on the couch that night, if Ka allowed me into the flat at all.
Sitting in work I was pretty confident though. There was no way Ka could give the sales pitch all by herself. We done our best, for the fourth time, but to no avail. I may need to consider re-evaluating the sales pitch.
I don’t know. Perhaps try not to look nervous when the neighbours are mentioned, attempt to draw my eyes away from any inflamed skinwork and maybe even reduce the amount of the No. 20 mentions. Either that or just install some gas central heating.
That viewer obviously likes heat.
And the sun. Be it the artificial spray gun version.
There’s a professional tanning salon in the Village. You could easily jump on a No. 66 from here to get there. It’s just five minutes down the road. Hmmm, I’ll maybe write that into my next sales pitch.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Fireworks, flowers and frisbees

It was half past five on a dark, breezy, autumn Saturday evening. The branches of the nearby trees on the side of the hill, shuffled and shook in the bitter, cold wind as leaves spun through the air around them. Ka and myself found ourselves running around a graveyard, dispensing flowers out between three different graves in our shorts and T-shirts like a pair of lunatic flower children spreading peace and love in a Hammer Horror setting.
We had just come out from the gym and after a quick visit up to see Mum and Dad in Chapelton, and a brief stop off at the local Morrisons, we were visiting the grave of our daughter, my Gran and Granpa and Maureen, my Aunt who had been laid to rest just over a week ago.
A year ago I would have never thought that I would be spending my Saturday evenings in such a way.
For the past ten months we have been buying bouquets and sharing them between Lucy and my Gran and Granpa. Now that my Aunt Maureen rests in the next lane along we’re going to have to start buying more flowers.
With the exception of our running around a graveyard in bitter cold winds and another trip to the cinema on Sunday to see Justin Timerlake’s latest cinematic effort, ‘In Time’, it was a pretty uneventful weekend. Ka and myself spent Saturday lying on the couch, watching The Sopranos season one, (we’ve borrowed the series 1-6 boxset off Kenny while he’s off in Oz). A movie night with a few beers, Morgan’s spiced and eating ice cream as fireworks exploded around us. As bangs, cracks and whirrs of various sizes and loudness erupted directly outside our windows for the majority of the night, it was almost as if the good people of Calderwood were aiming their fireworks directly at us. It’s a pity we can’t go out on to our roof as it would have been a fantastic fireworks display. Either that, or a terrifying version of that scene from ‘Mary Poppins’, when Admiral Boom attacked the chimney sweeps with rockets. Not that I’d be dancing at a rooftop fireworks display… not much anyway.
We’d had quite enough of fireworks by the time we went to bed. The last time Ka and myself had seen and heard fireworks was before the beginning of November was Hogmanay. The night we arrived home from the hospital.
Before Saturday’s Sopranos night, we’d been to Morgan, Angela and Steven’s annual fireworks family party on the Friday evening.
We rang the bell at the large black door of ‘Roxburgh House’ and stood back waiting. Moments later the door clicked and slowly opened. The door seemed to inch open of it’s own accord as a small figure was slowly revealed, standing in the light emanating from the hallway behind.
“Eh!” Joshua welcomed us with his usual noises and wide eyed curiosity before Steven poked his head round from behind the now fully opened door.
After five minutes of talking in the hallway Joshua took it upon himself to act as chief coat taker and after pulling at the corners of our coats for more than a few minutes as we stood chatting, the two year old took our coats from us in the hallway and cleaned Angela's laminate flooring on his way back to the porch where he dumped them over his buggy after finding he was four foot too short to reach the coat hooks.
Steven had disappeared by this point, out into the back garden where he was straining his arm muscles sawing up wood for his small bonfire. He’d lit up the BBQ and set up a buffet under the intermittent light of the backyard lamp with the dodgy motion sensor under which seemed to only activate when someone danced below it (we should have tried the Chimney Sweep dance). Candles of various sizes lit up the large buffet Steven, Angela and Morgan had prepared. Burgers, sausages and Steven’s famous Chicken tikka were all hot off the BBQ were all served up. Morgan had also prepared her own chocolate plastered marshmallows and chocolate fingers both decorated with hundreds and thousands along with a second dish of marshmallows on kebab sticks prepared for the purpose of roasting over the small blue bonfire. Ka and myself were the only ones with five marshmallows on our kebab sticks because, as Morgan explained, Ka is her favourite auntie and I’m her second favourite Uncle (and no, she doesn’t only have two uncles!).
After eating the BBQ dinner in our coats and scarves and Steven’s fireworks display of many colours, in which he still can’t get a Catherine wheel to work, it was roasting time and we gathered around the small cauldron of coloured flames in the middle of the dark garden. The small blue and purple flames, created by strange chemical colourants in among the wood, flickered and lapped at the short wooden logs as we held our marshmallows over them. My five marshmallows got slightly burnt in their proximity to the violet flames but I ate them all the same. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d ate roasted marshmallows. Perhaps some long ago and distant family camping trip.
After the marshmallows Steven and Morgan announced we were then to play Frisbee around in the front garden. As we all frowned up at the pair of them Steven flicked a switch of the back of the toy and the disc lit up with UFO like colours.
At this point I would have been quite happy to head indoors but Frisbee it was to be and before we knew it we had walked through the dark, around the house and were tossing the lit up, glowing plastic disc at one another. Some literally throwing it as one of Grace’s frisbees belted off the right side of my body, Morgan almost hit my car which was parked safely, or where I thought was safe, out on the street and Joshua got a hefty bang on the top of the head. Expecting tears, Ka and myself were surprised, as Joshua merely turned around with a frown, decided he’d had enough outdoors and waddled up to the front door, mumbling and unfastening his coat as he went. At which point I thought, I couldn’t agree more, and Ka, Angela and I followed him inside for a cuppa. The games didn’t end there thought as Morgan soon brought out more in the form of Snakes and Ladders and Guess Who? before Ka and myself finally headed home, fireworks continuing to colour the sky around us.

Monday, 31 October 2011

Team Lucy

The Black Eyed Peas woke me up from my slumber, early on Saturday morning. It felt and sounded like Fergie and were actually standing around my bed, belting down their microphones but, surprisingly enough, it only turned out to be Angela calling on Ka’s unattended mobile phone. It was half past seven and still concussed from a weird dream, I opted to leave the phone and merely shouted on the wife, telling her of her sister’s early buzz.
It was the day of our fundraising big Fun Run in Bellahouston Park, and after Ka had spoke to her sister, it was decided that Angela would come over to EK with Grace and Dougie in her car as she was unsure of the route to Bellahouston. This meant Angela having to follow us, on our twisting route through the hills of EK, as we were picking up fellow runners, Claire and Pauline, on our way to Glasgow.
After appearing at the door in her silver Vauxhall, Angela gave me a whistle from her driver’s seat, obviously liking the sight of me in my shorts, as Ka and myself jumped in our car to begin the journey on which I drove slowly and carefully ensuring my dearest sister-in-law didn’t get lost on one of the many roundabouts of East Kilbride.
We picked up Claire first, who left a teary Olivia behind with her Dad, and then headed for Gardenhall, and Pauline, who ran back into her house for a large pile of towels, unsure of the darkening clouds above us.
On our two car trip down the M77 Pauline took a rather urgent call from a slightly stressed Angela who informed us her tank was empty. So pulling off at Silverburn we made our way to the garage were we topped up our tanks whilst Grace decided to go for a wee wander around the pumps on her mobile phone. Colin was on the other end of the phone informing her that Jillian and himself had already arrived at Bellahouston Park and were successfully parked and ready to go. Ka and Claire quickly warned Grace to put her phone away in case of an explosion.
Old myths die hard and the possibility of an explosion caused by a mobile phone call in a petrol station is still, apparently, a possibility even though nobody has ever heard of it happening, anywhere.
Imagine standing innocently locking your petrol cap up when your phone goes off in your jacket pocket. Just as you huff and shake your head at the unfortunate timing of the caller, a tremendous explosion sends you, and all the gathered motorists, up into the grey clouds over Silverburn, in a rising ball of flame.
I’m pretty sure I wasn’t warned of such dangers when I bought my phone and signed the contract.
Anyway, as we left Silverburn’s Tesco station quite safely, and without any fireballs created from Grace’s mobile, we made our way out on to the first roundabout, turned left and lost Angela.
Angela had successfully navigated the streets of EK, followed us down the M77 with care on an empty tank and was now, after one left turn, nowhere to be seen. We stopped at some red lights, that were taking us back out on to the motorway, where various urgent phonecalls were made, but, by this point there was no turning back for us and before we knew it we were approaching Bellahouston, Ka shouting at me about where Colin and Jillian were park in the street from the front passenger seat. Taking my own lead and seeing one of few spaces left, I pulled the car up in the park’s Sport and Leisure Centre’s car park where we piled out to make some calls and wait on a silver Vauxhall.
Both Claire and myself were in dire needs of a loo and, finding ourselves unable to wait any longer, we left Pauline and Ka standing in the car park with the phone whilst we headed off to find the sports centre’s toilet.
There was one of each just outside the café and Claire and myself stood in the small square room between each toilet, politely waiting on the slow occupants within, Claire just missing out as a family of three entered the female toilet just as we arrived. I tried the male toilet handle only to get a huffy shout from within. Claire and myself waited politely, myself shuffling a little on my feet, but trying desperately to control myself before the eyes of one of my wife’s best friends.
After a good five minutes a toilet flushed from within the male toilet. I almost punched the air eagerly. Another toilet flushed moments later. There was a click, and a turn of a handle. But it was the wrong handle. The family of three bundled out from the female toilet and allowed Claire access, leaving me standing awaiting the male door to swing open. Five minutes passed. Suddenly the toilet flushed once more from within. More waiting. Then it flushed once more and eventually a rather tall man in glasses, a luminous yellow jacket and shorts appeared from within.
“Sorry, had a bit of trouble there!” he let me know. “I was struggling to get that clear!”. I nodded with an uneasy laugh and elbowed my way into the toilet before the question occurred to me. What was he struggling to clear? I gulped nervously as I looked at the closed over toilet seat below me.
Angela, Grace and Colin eventually arrived moments before Colin and Jillian strode over from the other side of the park and we all pinned a copy of one of Lucy’s pictures to our backs, alongside our various charities logos. Colin complimented his Dad’s athletic figure complaining about his own jelly belly as he made sure he had his iPod and cigarettes for the run whilst I struggled with the clothes pins and everyone piled their belonging into the back of the car.
Everyone was running for Sands with the exception of myself. When I booked up I thought I’d be different and try and raise money for Yorkhill Children’s Hospital, just so they didn’t feel left out. So instead of Sands’ white short sleeved T-shirts, I was wearing the Yorhill blue vest, but over a normal white T-shirt. I didn’t fancy exposing my armpits to the gathered running masses.
Approximately 600 folk were present on the day and as we all milled around awaiting the run to start we commenced a general warm up on the park path behind the sport’s centre and the Run’s Start and Finish line.
One lady asked Ka who the little girl was on all our backs. Getting a little teary mid stretch Ka she explained about our wee Lucy but held herself together well as the woman immediately apologised and then commenced to give the usual compliments referring to our beautiful wee girl.
Steven, Morgan and Joshua then turned up waving from the side of the track as ‘Walk this way’ started blasting out from the starting line’s speakers whilst the warm up girls punched the air repeatedly with their fists, photos were taken and Colin gave more of his comedy breast hooter impressions. Eventually, at around twelve to thirteen minutes past eleven, we were off. The first few minutes were slow as the crowd got going, people moving slowly apart, finding their feet and their preferred speed for the first quarter of a kilo. As I started getting into a steady pace I suddenly heard a familiar shout from behind a fence to my right.
“Yoohoo!” Mum was waving from behind the fence, Dad walking up and waving behind her, appearing at the last minute to cheer us on.
Round and up Bellahouston Park we ran, over the large, grassy but pathed flat and then up into the trees and over the steep hill which took us up and round the House for an Art Lover, past it’s back portico which leads into the large garden and the Giant foot where Ka and I spent a rather day and evening back in July 2009. After this we headed for the main road and Ibrox before turning off and moving round the perimeter of the park. I think it was around there that Jillian said she met one of her ex-boyfriends mid run. Apparently he was one of the guides, who stood at various route corners and pointed you in the right direction with some words of encouragement to spur you on.
As I neared the 3km mark I looked up to recognise one of the route guides myself. It was the tall, bespectacled man in shorts who’d had the struggle in the toilet. He seen me and looked away rather quickly, faltering on some words but then shouting encouragingly at the runner that had passed ahead of me.
Chris and her pal Sandra, who always has her camera hanging from the strap around her neck whenever I see her, were at the finish line to welcome us at the end of the race, along with a hastily arriving Mum, Dad, Steven, Morgan and Joshua who’d followed our progress from various points around our route.
Everyone finished, happy, a little tired, some a little sore, but probably a little fitter.
We all collected our goody bags and medals whilst more photos were taken, Morgan and myself got covered in mud, running back through the park and Mum met a long lost neighbour in Sandra, Chris’s photographer friend, who, it turns out, grew up in the same street as her and used to hang out with her and my Auntie Tricia. Another one of those strange, small world like incidents that take you by surprise.
27 minutes. That was my initial thinking of my time. But, due to a lack of clock at the finish line we’re all a little unclear as to what our final times were. As it turns out my time may have been a good few minutes shorter than 27, as Ka crossed the line around four to five minutes after me, and Jillian followed around a minute or so after her, and Jillian tells me her tracker tells her she took 29 minutes. So nobody knows for sure, but nobody really cared.
Pauline crossed the line moments later followed by Angela, who was last on the running track over a year ago but found it a walk in the park. Finished next were Claire and Colin and then, around ten minutes later, Grace and Dougie. We’d all ran for Lucy and the chosen charities, collecting at least a good seven hundred pounds between us, thanks to a lot of generous family, friends and colleagues.
Ka and myself have even talked of making it an annual event, making a yearly effort to raise some money for our charities in Lucy’s name. Jillian responded by text later in the day, rather optimistically, suggesting next year’s Glasgow half marathon.
We’ll see.
5km may not be a lot to some but Team Lucy did well.

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Questionable deeds

Walking down Sauchiehall Street on Friday night, just as we approached the corner at the top of Buchanan Street, Ka and myself were surprised to see four Ghostbusters striding up the street towards us. In full uniform, suited and booted, complete with wired up proton packs, the four strode up past us, around Donald Dewar. Ka and myself were just out from the cinema and had noticed the posters with the familiar Ghostbusters logo adorning various walls, dotted throughout the tall building, advertising the movies short rerelease on the big screen.
We’d just been to see two very different films. ‘We need to talk about Kevin’ was a serious, disturbing, drama thriller, based on the bestseller by Lionel Shriver, in which a mother struggles to comes to terms with events in recent years following on from her struggles in bringing up her first child, who grew up to have some sort of anti social, psychopathic disorder which eventually led to him carrying out some very nasty deeds.
Haunted by these events and the struggle in coming to terms with her son’s evil deeds, Tilda Swinton gives a fantastic performance as the mother, Eva.
Our second film of the day was a lighter, sillier affair. How silly is down to the views of the cinema goer. ‘Anonymous’ is a surprisingly fun, eventful and good looking affair centred around the idea that Shakespeare himself was a fraud and did not, in any way, write the plays and texts he is supposed to have and, in fact, it was all the written work of the Earl of Oxford. Rhys Ifans plays the Earl, a man happy to remain in the shadows, as far as his written work is concerned, as, in those times, fiction created through the written word and through the plays that depict them, were seen by many as the devils work, even though the Queen herself, Elizabeth I, seems to have a soft spot for them. Ifans’ Earl, and Vanessa Redgrave’s Elizabeth I, are yet more characters haunted by questionable deeds from their past which, in the end, are revealed to have disastrous consequences.
Apparently there’s been a few folk upset by this film and it’s storyline. People in Stratford have been particularly horrified, removing the Shakespeare’s name for various tourist signs, road signs and pub titles.
Shocking displays of protest, I’m sure. Just sheer vandalism.
As long as they don’t start ripping the place up, mugging Derek Jacobi and looting Stratford’s bookshops then hopefully there won’t be many arrests.
In fact, one of the best things about the movie itself, were the crowd and street scenes, bringing the old Elizabethan London streets to life, along with Shakespeare’s own Globe Theatre, with brilliant special effects.
The Glasgow streets had plenty of life anyway as Ka and myself headed back down for the bus home. Unfortunately there was very little CGI involved but you’d think there’s was some kind of mystical quality with the sheer amount of costume shops that have sprung up out of nowhere, like Mr Benn’s favourite hang out. Obviously more than a few folk, wishing to make a quick, easy buck over the Halloween period, have grabbed some of the many shop spaces, lying empty and unused on the city’s high streets, sitting waiting patiently on this economic downturn to lift.
On the Friday morning I had to take yet another visit to the registrar office after we had received, yet another letter about Lucy’s death certificate, a whole ten months after she passed. I had went along to sort it out on Thursday afternoon, was made to wait for half an hour and then told to go back at nine the next morning. So, as agreed, at nine o’clock, I was once more sitting in the Registrar’s waiting room, staring at the dull, blue walls, waiting on a Registrar assistant to show up with the documents required. Never before have I been confronted with a more boring room. With the exception of the various letters and booklets entitled ‘Have you just had a baby?’, ‘How to register your marriage’ and ‘So, whose dead?’, there was absolutely nothing to keep you entertained while you waited.
Sorry, there was one magazine. A year and a half old issue of ‘Chat’ magazine but as effective as I’m sure Kerry Katona’s most recent diet is, or was, in this case, I wasn’t particularly interested. The registrar office probably hadn’t even supplied that for their waiting room, it had probably been left by some bored housewife.
So I chose to continue staring at the walls.
After around twenty minutes I noticed a small notice opposite, above a small red plastic box. ‘Suggestions and comments’ the box was entitled by some photocopied text stuck on to it’s front by sellotape. A large yellow folder of suggestion forms sat underneath, waiting.
Now impatient and annoyed I pulled a pen from my pocket and got to work. Tearing one of the suggestion sheets from the folder I suggested the presence of some daily newspapers for their waiting room. Even some more up-to-date magazines to read, or at the least flick through, as you waited on a registrar to attend a previously arranged appointment. A magazine that was not over, say, a year old.
To be truthful, the impatience and frustration felt whilst waiting was probably more to do with the reasons of why I was there, sitting in the registrar office in the first place.
This was the reason why Ka and myself escaped once more to the cinema on the Friday afternoon.
In retrospect ‘We need to talk about Kevin’ was probably not the finest choice in order to cheer us up though. A brilliant film though it may be, it’s not exactly a bundle of laughs, never mind a wonderful advert for parenting.
‘Ghostbusters’ would have probably been a cheerier cinema trip, and that’s a movie with a central theme of ghosts and hauntings, even if it did turn out to be the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man.

Monday, 24 October 2011

The mice will play

Are you a man or a mouse? That’s how the saying goes, is it not?
Well, while the cat’s away, the mice will play. So for those strange, odd, hard to come by, weekends when your other half decides to go an, apparently, relaxing weekend away with her girl pals, I’m definitely quite happy to be called the latter. Friday night was spent watching movies from the comfort of the living room couch, with a bag of Jalepeno Doritos and a couple of cans of coke. Saturday was spent in the pub with two of the other ‘mice’ and Chaz followed by a night of Xbox, and Sunday, lying in bed, vaguely hungover, watching more movies with a couple of mugs of tea and a healthy dose of toast and cheese.
How often do I get an opportunity like that? I’m never lazy like that. Surely, an opportunity not to be missed. How often do I get to laze around in such a fashion?, I asked myself defensively as I lay watching the high octane thrills of Robert De Niro and Jean Reno in 'Ronin'.
Ka was over in Ayr, supposedly for a relaxing weekend away. Eight females in a caravan, with wine, a Chinese takeaway and X Factor. Good luck to them (and they needed it by the sounds of things!). Iain, Martin or myself should have perhaps considered phoning up and warning the campsite at Craig Tara what they were in for. Maybe put the local police on standby and increased Ayr’s own personal current threat level to ‘Severe’.
While they were away enjoying themselves, Iain, Martin, Chaz and myself met up in the local Shenanigans for more than a few Saturday afternoon pints, followed by pizza, chips and more beer, back in the Dunn household, where the Xbox was switched on.
Before leaving the town we made a quick trip to Sainsburys and three of us chipped in and bought a second controller for the console, paying a tenner for the mere pleasure of taking part in a game of FIFA. Still, I can’t complain, it was cheaper than staying out all night and Martin turned out to be a fantastic host, immediately firing two pizzas into the oven upon our arrival home, swiftly followed by a mass of oven chips.
By the time 1am came round though I had managed to gain a horrendous headache and the drink was no longer going down. It could have been the prolonged exposure to alcohol, which my body seems no longer used to, or it could have been the constant staring at the subbuteo sized players running around the large screen tv, without my glasses on. Which is basically what FIFA is, a modernised, souped-up, 2D version of Subbuteo (how long till it’s 3D though?).
The headache could also have been the constant losing matches I was playing through, out matched and out classed by the games console aficionados I was socialising with on the night. Chaz, Martin and Iain’s conversations would often veer away into some kind of games language, using words and titles that are not even in my vocabulary. Discussing various button combinations, new game titles or the latest realistic depiction of a Ford Escort Cosworth’s dashboard.
I’ve never understood all that raving about games graphics. No matter how realistic a game’s graphics are supposed to be, I have never considered them so realistic that I have found them ‘as if your sitting right there, in the driver’s seat’. I’ve always hesitantly lied in agreement with other players, mentally shrugging and playing on, unable to shake the fact that I am not actually sitting at the wheel of a Porsche 911 but in a living room, on a couch, with a games console controller in both hands, two wee sticks and four coloured buttons to control the movement of my supposed vehicle.
I’ve never been a gamer though. The only reason I’ve got a PS3 is because Kenny gave me his before he went off, travelling to Oz. Maybe he’s trying to convert me.
I had a PS2 before that and that was only because it was off the back of a lorry. A woman in my Mum’s work sold it to me. The whole time I’ve had it I think I only owned a grand total of five games for it.
When the the fantastic FIFA graphics became a green blur with annoying dots and the headache became unbearable, even more so than the FIFA commentators, I had to call time at around half one and head home, collapsing into a wifeless bed at around 2am on Saturday morning. I didn’t even finish my first Amaretto. Chaz and I, had thought it a good idea to chip in for a bottle of the almond flavoured liqueur before heading back to Martin’s abode and after only half a glass of the sweet, almondy goodness, Chaz has whisked it away to the McKell household. I probably owe him that though considering the Morgan’s Spiced bottles he has previously left unattended at my flat and come back a few weeks later to discover it gone, the bottle long recycled by way of the brown wheelie bin downstairs.
It certainly moves faster than that Barcelona team I was trying to control on Saturday night anyway. Kenny would be ashamed.