Sunday, 27 February 2011

We're doomed

It's been a strange week. I spent the first half of the week lying on my back, on some occasions with my legs in the air. Various positions included lying, legs in the air, clutching the head, the cradling of an arm, holding a thigh, shaking, shivering, collapsing and keeling over in various different ways, all of which required a certain amount of acting. Perhaps not Oscar worthy acting but acting all the same. This was First Aid Training for the British Red Cross. An acting class with a difference.
Based in a smelly YMCA building in Bellshill, myself, along with another ten lucky contenders, battled through the three day course involving demos and quizzes (more quizzes!) in order to gain the nod, pin badge and certificate from the British Red Cross to say we could aid in a work emergency situation involving bandaging, the recovery position, the ever reliable comfortable position and even with moments involving an overall sense of impending doom. This sense of impending doom cropped up in more than one occasion in the three day course, the number of instances matched only perhaps by C-3PO in the Star Wars films or the googly eyed doofer from Dad's Army. In fact, as a kid I, sadly, used to quote C-3P0's "We're doomed" quite a lot, especially if there was a Maths test coming up. Heart attacks are one thing but Maths tests... they're different.
This sense of impending doom was only one of the main symptoms of a heart attack, of course, along with the more traditional clutching of the chest, grimacing and collapsing to the ground. To illustrate the heart attack we were shown a past advert by the British Heart Foundation starring Steven Berkoff which, whilst giving all the symptoms of the attack, managed to scare the bejeezus into you as a viewer. The bejeezus was especially scared out of me as I myself had woken up with chest pains, sweat on the brow and a sense of impending doom during the night a few weeks back. Thankfully Steven Berkoff had not been standing in the dark of the bedroom battering the crap out of me as I had slept. That would have been even scarier. Still at least I'd have known how to put myself in the recovery position.
For the three days I was in a team consisting of another two people. Margaret and Irene, from a bank somewhere in Motherwell, who spent their time heckling opposing teams during the quiz sessions, like a female Statler and Waldorf. They also spent considerable time complaining about aches and pains and shoving me forward whenever a volunteer was needed for all the demonstrations, overseen by Dale, the instructor. Arthritis, sore legs, dodgy elbows, low cut tops, all were excuses for these bankers. Irene also seemed to suffer from that strange condition of appearing deaf whenever I made suggestions or gave answers to the quiz questions which more often than not turned out to be the correct answer whenever her wonderful written response gained nil points. Another I would add to the list would be bone idleness, a condition not mentioned in the extensive First Aid manual we were given upon arrival, but then I'm not sure First Aid manuals should be made available for bankers.
Once that was all over with Kenny, Chaz and myself drove into town on Wednesday night to see 'True Grit', the Coen Brothers latest flick based on Charles Portis' 1968 book. The movie was brilliant with great performances from Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon and the lead female, Hailee Steinfeld. It's been broadly complimented for it's cinematography and you can see why with the sweeping, western landscapes with their varying colour, atmosphere and detail.
Even with trips to the cinema, there was still that sense of impending doom with me and it was not any heart attack. Ka and myself had our follow up appointment at the hospital on Friday, following the passing of Baby Lucy. Rather thoughtfully, the hospital thought it was a great idea for this meeting to take place in the same offices where we went for the first joyful scans of Baby Reid. Gawd knows why.
We were meeting the Head Consultant from Wishaw General and Ka's home midwife, both of whom were not involved in any way with the birth and eventual death of our baby. Thankfully they'd listened to our earlier concerns regarding this matter and asked Doctor Yelisetti, the Registrar, along too, someone who was actually present during the ordeal. Doctor Yelisetti was excellent, providing some answers to our questions and was a familiar, reassuring presence in the stressful, upsetting situation whilst the Consultant and midwife seemed generally flummoxed.
Some minor questions were answered, other larger questions remain unanswered. Lucy's passing remains somewhat of an enigma to us and to the hospital. The Consultant informed us there had been one similar instance, with similar symptoms, in an Edinburgh hospital two years ago and that a new protocol had been introduced over there to try and ensure the same events did not happen again. One question that immediately sprung to our mind was if this protocol had been introduced in Edinburgh, then why not, at the same time, in Wishaw General?
So, after a rather depressive day on Friday, we got up on Saturday morning to nothing in particular and as we got ready for the unplanned day ahead a knock on the front door disturbed us. As Ka was in the bathtub at the time, it was down to me to answer the door as I struggled with the fastening of a belt. Swinging the front door open, I found myself staring into a giant bouquet of flowers.
"Mr Reid?" the flowers said.
"Erm... yes?" my reply was more of a question, as I looked over the bouquet in the floating glass bowl before me.
"These are for you". A pair of hands finally came into view below the glass bowl and the flowers moved over into my unprepared, receiving hands. As I heard the flower delivery man take his leave behind the foliage I retreated back into the flat immediately showing Ka the new bouquet and plucked the card from the small plastic stick among the lillies and leaves. They were from Pauline. She'd known about the meeting the day before. Suddenly that sense of impending doom did not seem quite so doom-laden.

Monday, 21 February 2011

Quiz show hosts and lumpy custard

35 years is a long time. Imagine being married for 35 years? Amazing. That's my Mum and Dad, as of last Monday.
35 years married and still together. Even more astounding is that Grace and Dougie, Ka's Mum and Dad, are hitting the big 3-8 this year. All these years and yet both couples still get confused over some of the most basic facts about their lives together. Facts such as the first thing they do when they get out of bed in the morning, their most romantic holiday destination and the mother in law's birthday.
Following the game Tricia hosted on the previous Sunday, I, in my eternal wisdom, thought it would be a great idea to have a Mr & Mrs game following dinner on Friday night. We were in dire need of a soundproof booth as the two Mums and Dads battled it out whilst I did my Nicholas Parsons, asking the questions, like the family quizzes of old (not diving about in suspenders, I might add, which was the last time I seen Nicholas Parsons, playing the narrator in The Rocky Horror Show).
Things got off to a slightly confusing start as I started asking the questions incorrectly, leading the Mums and Dads to think that the two answers they had to give for each question was their answer and what they think their partner would answer about them, rather than simply answering their answer and what they reckon their other half's personal answer would be (if you get what I mean?). I bet Derek Batey never had these kind of problems.
Derek Batey, as I found out by visiting a Mr & Mrs website, was the original presenter of the quiz show on tv, not Parsons. According to the website he once tried to calm an Irish couple before appearing on the show:

Batey: Did you have a good trip over from Ireland?

Irish contestant: Yes, thank you.

Batey: Did you arrive today or did you stay over last night?

Irish contestant: We came across yesterday.
Batey: Did you fly or take the ferry?

Irish contestant: I don't know - me mammy booked the tickets.

I'd always thought it had been Nicholas Parsons that hosted Mr and Mrs but apparently he only presented Sale of the Century (A Sleeper song?). Both of these shows were before my time, or just finishing a few years after I came into the world, so it's no wonder I can't tell one from the other. In fact, looking at these online pics, Derek Batey looks a lot like Nicholas Parsons. Same grins, same silver hair, same suits, same ties.
Could there have been a giant Quiz Show host factory somewhere, perhaps in Dagenham, in the seventies, churning out these cheese grinned, middle aged maestros?
A giant machine, not unlike a steampunk Bertha, sitting in the dark factory innards, a giant conveyer belt running from the machine's mouth like exit. A small army of silver haired, stripey tied, Quiz Show Hosts, straight and tall, only leaping into action after stepping down from the end of the conveyer belt, grinning with a tooth twinkling grin and immediately shouting "Come on down!".
Leslie Crowther, he was another one. The guy in the blazer and glasses who was the father of Thin Lizzy's girlfriend. He'd call audience members down on to the stage with that ecstatic call through his big square Deirdre lenses. What was that one..? The Price is Right! (I looked that one up too...)
And Bullseye of course. Now there was a quiz show. I'm not sure Jim Bowen was produced in the same factory though.
Bullseye reminds me of lumpy custard. It was always broadcast on a Sunday after the footie and we usually got custard with our Sunday pudding. That and Super Gran.
Gawd, Sundays were rubbish.
Together with Paladin the talking lamp I'm surprised I could bear to watch the telly at all. I hated most of those Glen Michael cartoons. You could tell, even at that age, they were all cheap rubbish. Like those cartoons your Mum or Gran used to buy you on VHS from the Poundshop or What Every Women Wants. Fantastic titles such as 'The Book of the Jungle', 'The Beauty Sleeping' or 'White Snow and the Seven Wee Men'.
Anyway, Friday nights Mr and Mrs game went well and played with great enjoyment considering there was no prize.
They certainly deserve a prize for 35 years of marriage. I wonder if Ka will put up with me for 35 years?
Maybe we'll have more of a chance if I stop spending my time writing about Nicholas Parsons, ancient quiz shows and complaining about lumpy custard.

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Cookies on call

Just back from Dunblane. Ka and myself stayed at the Doubletree Dunblane Hydro, a monster of a hotel perched on a large hill at the edge of Dunblane village. As Ka and myself drove up the winding road towards the front of the building we couldn't help but be impressed by the large Victorian structure with it's towering height standing over us like a traditional hollywood style haunted house or murder mystery setting. One of the best things was the greeting at reception.
Standing on the plush carpets before the tall wooden panelled reception desks we were greeted with, not only genuine friendly smiles and offers of help with luggage, but also, most importantly, a large, steaming hot chocolate chip cookie straight from the oven wrapped up in a thin paper envelope. The receptionist had just pulled them out from a small storage unit under her desk. No wonder she was all smiles. What a fantastic perk to the job. Chocolate cookies on call. As we waited on the elevator to take us up to the top floor, the beautiful stench of cookie filled the air. The need for tea grew within me as we waited with the cookie smell wafting around me. The champagne we'd brought for our overnight stay could wait. Tea had to be made immediately in order to accompany this smoking hot baby.
Of course, Ka opted for coffee, (that ain't right is it?) and after enjoying our 40 grams of fat in cookie form we thought we'd walk the dietary sin off by exploring Dunblane. A town we'd never visited before and were curious to have a walk around. We returned to our rooms an hour later, considering a trip to Stirling. From what we could see, Dunblane has a Cathedral, and a Tesco. Oh, and a Railway Station, presumably for escaping by, sorry commuting by. That's about it.
After our short walk we opted to stay in the hotel and take advantage of it's amenities enjoying a dip in the pool and a sweat in the steam room, all the while I mulled over the location of the Doubletree chocolate cookie factory. Could it have been in the Hydro's basement, with small serving lifts rising the cookies up into the receptionists desks, just in time to serve to the lucky arriving guests?
Could Celebrity tv chef, Nick Nairn have had a hand in creating the cookies?
Ka and myself dined in the luxurious setting of The Kailyard, Nick Nairn's Restaurant, housed within the hotel. Beautiful meals of duck and tagliatelle served with a nice, crisp Pinot Grigio (crisp, hmm, I may become a wine connoisseaur yet). We then retired to our room where we danced to the final tunes from a dying iPod and ate strawberries with champagne.
The breakfast, this morning, was immense. Tables of cereal, freshly cut fruit, bacon, sausage, egg, scrambled and fried, potato scone, porridge and whisky, racks and racks of toast and baskets of chocolate chip muffins. Muffins, but no cookies. The cookies were disappointingly absent at breakfast.
After breakfast we went for another swim in the hotel's pool which was more of a challenge than yesterday, as it seemed far more difficult to keep myself afloat after my platefuls of food in the past 24 hours, not to mention champagne and wine.
All in all, not bad for a short Valentines break.
A Valentines all kicked off on Sunday night by a visit to Tricia and Tommy's.
Tricia was on a mission. Ka, Lynsey Ann and myself walked into her house only to be bombarded by a plethora or hearts. Tricia had transformed her living room into a Valentines wonderland with candles, confetti, balloons and paper hearts hanging from the ceiling in coloured, curving, twisting, acetate papers. Tricia had went to town with it all presumably just stopping short before she had painted it red. Christopher and Martin hummed in quiet but amused disapproval, well used to their Mum's fantastic enthusiasm. After dinner Tricia had organised a game of Mr & Mrs for the gathered couples. All two of them. Tricia and Tommy themselves and Ka and myself. Chris, Martin and Lynsey Ann opted out, thankful, for a change, that they were single.
After around twenty questions, with a possible 300 points up for grabs, Tommy and Tricia managed to win the game. Winning only by a mere five points I should add but with totals, which Chris quickly pointed out, that were not even a third of the possible total. A miserable performance by both parties. As a luxury item of clothing I thought Ka would have preferred a pair of her boots to underwear but hey, what do I know? Not enough, as it would turn out. It was the iMac on a desert island and the purple pants that tripped me up. How was I to know that particular desert island would have no electricity supply?
As a result of the Valentines games we all won a prize regardless of how bad our result was. The girls all got various items of smelly stuff and chocolates whilst I got a large, heavy wrapped box. Puzzled, I started unwrapping my present, nervously laughing upon revealing the Mr. Men Library. A boxed collection of every Mr.Men title by the late, great Roger Hargreaves. The reason I was nervously laughing is because I immediately became slightly emotional as the Mr. Men Collection had been the one thing I had informed Ka would be the first purchase I would personnally make for Baby Reid's own library. Obviously I did not bring everyone down at the dinner table by mentioning this as Tricia started telling of how she always used to read the tale of Mr Tickle to me as a wee tyke.
Mr. Tickle had hands on enormous long arms, with which he could reach people from far off and give them a damn good tickle. Mr Tickle could also lie in his bed and reach downstairs, into his kitchen and get himself a cookie from the jar. He'd have loved the Dunblane Hydro!

Thursday, 10 February 2011

Tangled, chop sticks and noodles

"No, Uncle Michael, this is how you do it", Morgan said, obviously unconvinced by the way I was using my chop sticks in Wagamama on Sunday afternoon. Morgan picked up the joined sticks and ordered me to break her utensils apart, a simple job, which I somehow managed to bruise my fingers carrying out. Our niece then proceeded to instruct me on the proper way to go about using your sticks, picking them up, shuffling them through her fingers and into the eating position. Not bad for a six year old, but then I would not expect anything less of Morgan. She's a smart little fortune cookie.
It had been a while since I had attempted chop sticks and was my first visit to a Wagamama, both of which Morgan was apparently a regular with, so with her help, she had Ka and myself eating contentedly in no time, scoffing our noodles and beef teriyaki soba.
Morgan even knows how to deter Ka from spending too much time in Primark. Surely a wonderful skill to possess. After lunch we followed Ka into the ever popular clothing retailer however Morgan made sure we spent as little time inside as possible, insisting that I make no comment upon the clothing that Ka was asking our opinion on. We simply replied her in a forced silence. We were out within ten minutes after entering the shop. It worked. I may take Morgan to the shops with us more often.
We were out for a spot of lunch before popping our 3D specs on again and enjoying the latest Disney flick, Tangled, the tale of Rapunzel, the Brother Grimm story about the Princess, kidnapped from her Mother and Father for her magical powers by a wicked old bint and imprisoned in a lonely tower, hidden away in the forest.
The animation was great and the way the animators modelled the new CGI artistic technologies with more traditional artwork was brilliant. The landscapes, water and hair effects were particularly great in some scenes and paired with the dazzling colours just show how each animation, whether under the name of Disney or Pixar, or both, is just getting better and better with each new release.
Earlier in the week, Ka and myself had went again to the cinema with Dougie and Grace, to see 'Morning Glory'. 'Glory' is a light weight comedy drama starring Rachel McAdams as an aspiring TV producer who hires a grumpy, gargoyle like Harrison Ford to work alongside a pissed off, skeletal Diane Keaton to host a failing Morning News show called Daybreak.
What a great name for a failing Morning TV show.
Harrison Ford spends the film looking like someone's slapped his face whilst a certain other morning show of the same name has fallen flat on it's face being presented by a slapped arse.
Anyway, nothing amazing, nothing hilairious, but all watchable enough. That's Rachel McAdams, not the movie. The movie was entertaining and likable enough until we got outside into the Glasgow streets and got drenched walking back to the car.
These two movies in the one week were good to go and see though as a bit of entertaining escapism. Especially good after the last movies we seen consisted of female Ballet Dancers losing the plot in dark, psychological thrillers and Harry Potter still not dying after, yet another, 'darker than the last one', three hours of mildly meandering British star addled film.
The weeks to come will hopefully consist of the Coen Brothers latest, 'True Grit', Pegg and Frost getting back together again for 'Paul' and the Bale and Wahlberg boxing drama, 'The Fighter'.
Other movies out at the moment include Clint Eastwood's latest 'Hereafter', starring Matt Damon concerning the afterlife and three different folk coming to terms with a death and another movie called 'Rabbit Hole' starring Nicole Kidman about a youngish couple coming to terms with the loss of their daughter.
I think we'll skip those ones.
Probably better off with Yogi Bear.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Elmer Fudd must have been blind

It was back to work yesterday after a quiet time of milling around the flat last week whilst the horrendous gales ceaselessly battered the windows from outside (gales being the wind, not a bunch of angry female neighbours or work colleagues named in such a way).
Having saved all my holidays up for Baby Reid's arrival, I've found I've got a certain amount of annual leave to spare. Obviously Ka is still off work and it probably helps her, to some extent, having me around annoying her. It can't be easy being off work, on maternity leave, without a baby to look after, in fact, I know it is not. It's always the quiet moments that get you, especially when you are sitting in the house, on your own. It must be even harsher for Ka.
We don't get loads of opportunities to be on our own, thankfully, due to the family and friends popping round. Ka made her famous meatballs in spaghetti, last Tuesday night, and Chaz and Pauline popped round with whom we unexpectantly drank approximately one bottle of wine each. Chaz arrived with a rather lovely bottle of Chablis and an expensive looking Italian red, of sorts.
Of sorts, because I cannot remember what it was. I've no idea.
When it comes to wine, I'm afraid I am as ignorant as I am stupid.
What kind of wine is considered 'elegant'. What makes a wine 'complex'. Three for a tenner in Asda is about as 'complex' as it gets for me. Is the wine 'full of depth', 'rich' or 'silky smooth'?
These terms all sound more like how the sexy rabbit with the purple ribbon described Caramel chocolate in those adverts.
Did I just describe a rabbit as sexy?
They do have a bit of a reputation don't they?
Looney Tunes even played with the idea when Bugs Bunny would dress up like a woman to fool Elmer Fudd... Elmer Fudd must have been blind to fall for that!
There was Jessica Rabbit, but she doesn't really count considering she was rabbit in name only. Then there's the whole Playboy bunny thing, the creation of the soon to be married Hugh Hefner. Come to think of it Hefner looks a little like Elmer Fudd, except older and probably with less ammo.
Anyway, wine. I also have no idea what a wine's 'bouquet' should be.
Should wine smell like flowers? I've never drank a bottle that smelled like an toxic abundance of tiger lilies before and I doubt I ever would. Hoegaarden is about the closest I can think of to an alcoholic beverage that tastes like flowers (and that's pretty rancid).
Chaz knows all about wine now though, after being educated in the ways of the wine world by a past girlfriend, and treats us to some fantastic wine whenever we invite him round for dinner.
Tuesday night was the first time Ka and myself had enjoyed a wine after everything that's happened. When I say 'enjoyed' I use the term loosely, of course, because there's always going to be that slight, nagging feeling of guilt running through our head when we start feeling comfortable and recently, sometimes we've mentally stopped ourselves, unintentionally, as we've almost come ridiculously close to having a nice time and a laugh when seeing family and friends.
The wine was not the reason on Tuesday night, of course, as it was all down to the company. Pauline and Chaz were great dinner guests and were probably a little more satisified with their meals this time round considering the last time they visited they were served a buffet consisting of a plate of toasted cheese, a bowl of grapes, a plate of tomatoes and a bowl of baked beans, fresh out the microwave.
We did not serve wine with that particular feast. Who knows what the bouquet would have had to have been like to suit that feast.