Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Hobbling around headstones

Just how flaky can a sausage roll get? One question that you don’t ask yourself a lot, I’m sure, but a question that occurred to Ka and myself as our wee nephew, Joshua hobbled around our living room. It was Easter Sunday and we had visitors. Angela, Steven, Morgan and Joshua, who is now just about a year and a half old, all trooped in for tea and coffees.
Joshua had not been in our flat since he was a little baby, so it was with great excitement that he looked around his new, unfamiliar surroundings as he was plonked down in the middle of the living room. Although the excitement may have had something to do with the fact that there was a coffee table covered in small plates of food and cakes before him. Joshua’s eyes and mouth opened in awe as if he’d never seen a sandwich before. He looked torn. What to have first? The sandwiches, vegetarian sausage rolls or pineapple cake? There was also a small plate of chocolate Mini Egg cakes which kept drawing his eyes, although, as he reached out towards the plate, you could see in his face the expectant look of his parents’ refusal due to the treacherous mini egg itself.
After a cheese sandwich, during which he obediently sat at the table, he went for a sausage roll. Then another. And then another. Munching away at the sausage rolls as he fell over, bumped down on to the floor, bounced off feet and hit off couches, circling the living room investigating this new territory, getting to know it’s geography and at the same time practising his ever improving walking skills.
The sweat grew on Ka’s forehead as she watched the crumbs and pastry fall over the living room rug and carpet. Angela began tidying up the crumbs after Joshua as he wandered round but Ka assured her it would be fine. Don’t worry, we told her, we’ll get it all later. We laughed, I, genuinely chuckling, Ka’s, a little more forced.
After Ka had eventually pulled the hoover out and scared Joshua into the bedroom (he lives in a house of smooth, wooden decking), we all headed out together to the cemetery to visit Lucy’s grave.
With some excitement, but great care, Morgan placed a small Winnie the Pooh plant pot at her wee cousin’s remembrance place. Lucy now lies near the top of a hill in the cemetery, looking out over the fields between the edge of EK and the beginnings of Busby and Carmunnock, and just across the road from my Gran and Granpa Reid’s resting place within the cemetery. A nice spot when it’s a warm, sunny day, perhaps not so nice, when it’s wet and stormy.
Thankfully Easter Sunday was dry and mostly sunny as Morgan decided where to put her plant pot. She had planted the small shoot in the pot with her Gran McGarva last week, especially for this reason and, as it was Easter, had also brought her wee cousin another gift in the form of a painted boiled egg. With her Mum’s help Morgan opened a cardboard egg box of six eggs, all painted in wild colours of the rainbow, carefully chose one and took it out, placing it in a small vase in the form of a pair of Ladybird patterned wellies, at the side of Lucy’s headstone.
All the while Joshua was staggering around the hill, at one point almost falling into a freshly dug rectangular hole at the head of Lucy’s neighbour’s grave, a hole presumably meant for a new headstone foundation but which almost had a very different kind of occupant.
Ka also commented on his waving. He seemed to be chatting away, waving, looking away further up the hill, around to back the way we came and also waving and conversing with Lucy’s headstone better than I ever had.
As Steven continued to keep a close eye on our little nephew, who may or may not have been seeing dead people, Morgan then went for the other eggs, informing us we had to roll them. Since Lucy is handily placed at the top of a hill we did seem to be in an ideal location.
As Joshua inadvertently ran around the slope of grass, Morgan rolled away, getting a little frustrated as her eggs refused to crack. The egg Morgan was rolling only decided to crack once Ka took a turn, almost smacking a nearby mourners’ car. Thankfully the two mourners, who were a little further into the cemetery, had not noticed, though they were visibly upset on returning to their vehicle. Joshua soon put a stop to that though. As the mourners arrived back at their car Joshua greeted them and immediately started chatting away. Before he could get an answer to the indecipherable question he had posed them, he fell over in mid hobble. Perhaps he had been asking which one of his new pals they were visiting?

Saturday, 23 April 2011

Short breaks and short lives

It’s been another rough week. Both Ka and myself have felt down, depressed and rather grumpy, our thoughts dwelling on our recent loss again, our moods spiralling up and down, like an demented rollercoaster.
Ka is now back at work, full time, and finding it all quite difficult to get back into the routine of things. Ka is strong though, not to mention stubborn and determined. Her boss is being excellent in offering her as much help and support as she needs but Ka is stubbornly getting on with things. As horrible as it is to say, life must go on, something both Ka and myself understand and have to get on with, whilst at the same time, never forgetting.
Arriving home on Friday night cheered us up a little though as waiting for us, on the hall carpet, were our holiday tickets. We booked a week away in May online, last week, with the idea of a beach holiday. A short break. An effort to cheer ourselves up, to some extent. We had not been a quiet beach holiday since back in 2007 when we went to Turkey. Even our honeymoon in 2009 seemed hectic at times, as we toured Rome and Venice. So we wanted a definite break. Somewhere we could go to chill out, get away from work, walk around where no one would know us and just generally get away from it all on a relaxed, calm, restful beach holiday.
We ended up booking a week in Ibiza. Not exactly the first place you think of when you hear the words ‘restful’, ‘calm’ or ‘relaxed’. In fact, I’m sure Ibiza has cropped up on more than a few of those television programmes which show British tourists wobbling around foreign streets, slurring their words, starting fights with their pants round their ankles. Hopefully we’ll be a safe distance from any of that shenanigans though…at least ‘the pants round the ankles’ crowds anyway.
We’re staying in a hotel in San Antonio, a good 20 minutes drive outside Ibiza town, so we do have the option for a clubbing night out if we’re feeling lively enough. It’s still pre-season in May, so it will probably still be pretty calm. Well, calm until Ka and myself get a couple of cocktails down us and then head out to Pacha to get involved, donning our shades, luminous shorts and glow sticks, starting the season off ourselves. Whatever happens, it’ll just be good to get away, even if it is only just for a week.
Something else to look forward to is the return of Doctor Who, back on our screens tonight. My inner geek, and my outer geek for that matter, rejoices. Not that I’ll be in (I’ll be out and about) but hopefully it’ll be on the iPlayer by the time I get round to watching it tomorrow (or late tonight depending on whether I’m allowed!).
It was sad to hear of the death of Lis Sladen, during the week. The Sarah Jane Smith. The Doctor’s greatest companion, whom he mat back in 1973, in his third incarnation, the great Jon Pertwee. Obviously I wasn’t around back in 1973, but on becoming the Doctor Who and sci-fi geek that I became, soon caught up with past events. Even though Sarah Jane hadn’t been in the show continuously when I was a kid, I always remember knowing who she was whenever she cropped up.
Sarah Jane set the benchmark for all female companions to follow, making them all stronger, tougher, more rounded, realistic characters, not to mention the fact she was fairly fanciable in her younger years.
My inner geek waved another accusing fist up at the heavens when I watched the news reports on Tuesday and it has only been a few months since the great Brigadier Lethbridge Stewart, Nicholas Courtney, passed away. Another brilliant companion of the Doc’s from around the same time, and like Sarah Jane Smith, popped up on more than one occasion throughout the show’s history to aid the Doctor in battle against another nasty alien threat.
Sladen was only 63 but had been ill with cancer. I couldn’t believe she was 63, never mind ill.
News today has also broke of John Sullivan’s death. The creator of Only Fools and Horses, another absolute classic and another of my favourites. Sullivan was surely a comedy writing genius of our time? He was only 64?! That’s nothing!
Irreplaceable, both of them. The Doctor’s greatest companion and the man that created Delboy and Rodney.
Another thirty years and I’ll be the same age. Will the next thirty go as quickly as the last thirty? I may not even last that long!
Sorry, getting depressed again…

“The universe has to move forward. Pain and loss, they define us as much as happiness or love. Whether it's a world, or a relationship… Everything has its time. And everything ends”.
Sarah Jane Smith

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Spiders, picnics and stingrays

“Don’t forget to shake your shoes before you put them on!” Mum shouted after Kenny. “The spiders..!”
Those were Mum’s last words to her youngest, as he stepped through the entrance to the Security Gate of Glasgow Airport, beginning his journey to Australia yesterday afternoon. With a smile over his shoulder, he waved goodbye and then was gone.
Ka, Mum, Dad and myself had accompanied Kenny to the airport yesterday to see him off. After checking in and obtaining some English money for the journey, as Dubai airport, Kenny’s mid journey stop off, apparently does not accept Scottish notes, we sat in the bar to have an early afternoon beer, toasting to a successful journey, trip, holiday and whatever other delights await Kenny on his adventure. With no significant ties to speak of and some redundancy money to spend, Kenny had decided to see a bit of the world, taking some time out of Scotland to explore the Aussie continent, the world’s thirteenth largest economy, seeing the wondrous sights of Canberra, Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide, perhaps visiting the mainland’s the surrounding islands in the Indian and Pacific oceans, maybe popping by Australian’s various neighbours including New Zealand or Papua New Guinea and maybe even dropping by Ramsay Street to meet Doctor Karl.
Perth is his first stop where he will meet distant relatives and cousins of my Gran Reid, Donald and Pamela, off the plane. After that, the pages are blank. The adventure starts there and it’s all down to Kenny.
Scary, exciting, nerve-wracking but brilliant. If Kenny was any of the first three he certainly never let on, being his usual laid back self, as we walked up from the bar to wave him away. The experience would most probably be nerve-wracking at first, especially travelling such a distance alone, although I’ve heard it said that travelling on your lonesome can sometimes be far a more rewarding journey. Some say that you meet and encounter a whole different variety of people, and situations, when travelling alone. Look at Michael Palin and the great times he’s had travelling the world – probably not a great example, mind you, as he did have a whole film crew and a bunch of photographers following him about. I suppose he shouldn’t really count.
I know, to some extent, about travelling around on your lonesome, having moved to, and lived, in Birmingham, a loner, for three and a half years, diving around the country from my central point in the Midlands, just for a wee jaunt in the Clio, including occasional trips down to London, but Brum land, the Midlands and the big smoke is not quite the same as heading out to the Commonwealth of Australia.
“Enjoy yourself” were my last words to Kenny. “That’s the main thing”. At dinner, the night before, I tried to talk him into starting a blog about the whole trip but unfortunately he was not up for it. I’m sure he’ll be far too busy for any of that kind of ‘writing about your experiences’ nonsense. Though it would have been a good idea for keeping us up to date with his goings on and whereabouts.
What am I talking about? He’ll be fine! He’ll have a ball!
As long as he wraps his luggage around him when he falls asleep on a train… doesn’t get mugged, run over, go swimming with any stingrays, avoids sharks, gangland wars in the criminal underworld, avoids bikers on dilapidated highways, stays away from Wolf Creek, doesn’t catch a bus called Priscilla, doesn’t eat picnics around cliffs, doesn’t get stung on the neck by a bee and watches out for snakes whilst on the toilet pan.
Around the early nineties my Gran Reid went over to Australia to visit her cousins with her sister, my Great Aunt Mina. Apparently one of them was almost caught out one night by a snake in the bathroom.
Over here in Scotland, we don’t usually have to worry about that kind of thing. Our bathrooms are generally reptile free. Though there probably is a criminal underworld… not to mention muggers, hit and runners, an abundance of hills and cliffs that you could probably end up mysteriously going missing on as you settle down for a nice picnic though I’m not sure about buses called Priscilla… the number 66 on a Saturday night is bad enough.
Spiders. Now that’s another story. Over here they’re sometimes big, but not poisonous. Funnel-Web Spiders are the biggies to look out for over there. Rapid death within an hour, apparently.
As long as Kenny remembers his Mum’s last minute advise, he’ll be fine.

Monday, 11 April 2011

Mature yet mellow

33. A master number. A long player or LP. Jesus’ age when he was crucified. The amount of minutes the humans had before escaping the pursuing Cylons. The atomic number of arsenic. A mixed bag of meanings for the grand old age I turn tomorrow. After Ka’s birthday at the weekend, it’s now my turn and all I can do is remind myself it could be worse, I could be 34, which my dearest wife turned on Saturday.
Birthdays, and any celebrations of, have not exactly been on our minds of late, especially after the past months, but we forced ourselves out on Saturday after a breakfast of toasted cheese.
Not just any cheese. Birthday cheese, ‘mature yet mellow’ Cathedral cheese to be precise, two packs of which Ka received as a present from her Mum and Dad the night before, the square, cold, heavy present, Ka unwrapped with suspicion. As Ka nodded knowingly on pulling the block from inside the glittery paper, I sighed heavily, quite relieved, as I thought it was going to be a block of semtex.
Following the non explosive present unwrapping, Grace and Dougie bought in a Chinese take away with the help of Morgan, the niece, and Angela, Ka’s sister. The obligatory birthday cake followed and the even more obligatory pass the parcel with Morgan losing interest halfway through the games after realising, after the third pair won, that all the parcels were going to be colourful, stripey socks (a pair of which I won – they’ll go great with my red striped shirt!).
Anyway, following toasted cheese on Saturday we were to meet Ka’s brother, Colin, and his other half, Jillian, in town, have a wee Birthday tipple with them and then go our own way and head over to the Merchant City for a nice romantic meal for two. The nice romantic meal for two didn’t quite happen.
We met Colin and Jillian just after the Grand National had started and as a result Colin was glaring at the television, high up on the wall as we entered through the darkened doorway of one of Renfield Street’s smellier pubs, the Maltman. It may be smelly but a beer is semi affordable and there was plenty of screens for Colin to shout at as he clutched his bundle of Ladbrokes slips with a look of stubborn determination. Unfortunately ten minutes later he was ripping the slips up and Jillian was smiling as her horse had crossed the finish line in second place. She won around £2.40. So after a small drink in the Maltman and Ka being given her Hello Kitty bagged birthday goodies we headed off to find a less smelly pub to socialise in.
Ka, Colin, Jillian and myself found some seats on the, mostly unsmelly, paved square of John Street, outside Committee Room No. 9 and spent the majority of the day’s remainder there, chatting, debating, laughing and joking, trying to avoid bum cracks on display on the high stools behind us and shouting at Jackie, a lady drinking at the next table, who got up before a whole troop of tourists and groped a nearby Roman statue in his nether regions. She was under the impression that this would cure her of all her ills, or something, when in fact, according to the tourist guide, she should have grabbed the statues bag of coins, draped over his left arm. Silly woman. I thought all women went for the money first.
After some pub grub, the drinks kept being bought, birthday spirits were quite high and before long it was time to go home.
But did we? No, of course not.
The four of us jumped in a taxi and went up to Ashton Lane to meet my brother, Kenny, on his last, or one of his last, night outs with his mates before he departs the country. He’s bought a one way ticket to Oz and will be spinning off to that particular far flung destination come Saturday afternoon. The adventure of a lifetime, he, and we, hope anyway. I’ll need to get him a leaving present. Better not make it Cathedral cheese… he will be spending around two or three days in an airport.

Friday, 8 April 2011

The shopping cloud and scrambled egg

Gawd, I hate shopping. Clothes shopping. For a woman. With a woman. It’s Ka’s birthday tomorrow and I offered to take her shopping on Thursday afternoon, as a treat. As usual though, and absolutely true to form, my patience faltered, shook and then crumbled after an hour or so of obediently following, nodding and, under some stupid, ridiculous notions of helpfulness, suggesting items from the various fashion shops within the EK shopping centre.
It’s always an hour with me. Without fail. Whenever I end up clothes shopping with the wife, I always, without fail, after an hour of pretence and politeness, gain a particularly grey cloud which descends over my head, instantly transforming my mood. The shopping cloud makes me grumpy, impatient, irritable and, most of all, bored. Bored to the very core. So bored I was pestering God to end my inexcusable life whilst standing, dozing outside the New Look Fitting Rooms. The young shop assistants looking at me quizzically as they strode by in their funky tops whilst gossiping among themselves, probably wondering who the nearby guy, collapsing mumbling to himself in low, mumbling, ritual like, intensity was.
To make matters worse, I had forgotten the schools are all off at the moment so the daytime, weekday town centre was not only full of it’s usual old folk, mobility scooters and the folk in serious need of a bath but was full of noisy, irritating kids.
The younger ones wobbling around, stopping dead before you on their wee leads whilst their mothers stopped to window shop or meet their pal Janet, or Moira, a few meters off in another direction. They stand and chat, paying little head to where their little one is, knowing that they’re on the other end of the multi coloured strap. You move round to avoid the child lead just as the mother decides to move round and you end up getting half tangled in the child's rein or performing some kind of limbo routine in the middle of the shopping mall.
What is that anyway, kids on leads? Dogs go on leads, not kids. Kids go in buggys and when they start walking, should be allowed to walk free, not restrained like an unruly pet.
The older kids, otherwise known as teenagers, slouch round in packs. Maybe they should be the ones on leads. They shuffle about, communicating by making strange groaning noises under their breath, laughing like Beavis and Butthead, sexes indistinguishable under the various forms of hairstyles and hoodies.
Oh, to have the hair for a hairstyle again... I remember when I had hair, in the latter teenage years, though I never styled it. I think I went for the more natural look. I was aiming for the Bon Jovi or Jorge Cadete look but I think I ended up with something more akin to the Worzel Gummidge look.
It was my day off. It should have been great to be out the office. Out, away from the quiet, half barren workspace. A Mac scrap heap now lies at the top of the office. Piles of old macs, stacked with wires and keyboards tangled and wrapped around them like some kind of Modern Art piece depicting the continuation of the recession and the death of the busy office by Damien Hirst.
We’re now at the end of our first full week in the newly reformed and reduced production centre and it’s been a busy week. Tea breaks have been almost forgotten about, shifts have been the fastest passing in months, the property adverts seemed more of a struggle and just when I thought I was getting away from Classified planning, it’s back, rearing it’s ugly head again.
It’s Creamy Chicken John’s fault. He managed to get a week off this week, only after an half jesting argument with a doubting Felix about how he’d applied for it months ago. With only twelve people in the office producing the newspapers these days we’ll be lucky if we get any kind of holidays. We’ll just have to make the best of our days off.
Hopefully not spending them in the EK Shopping Centre. Saying that, there was a rather brilliant looking bouncy castle blown up outside HMV. When I say ‘blown up’ I mean as in set up, not actually exploded… that would have been much too exciting and may just have woken me up, bringing me out from under my shopping cloud.
Again though, too many kids. I wouldn’t have had a chance of getting a go on the massive bouncy slide with all those pesky school kids jumping about on it.
Anyway, it was all very selfish of me having that shopping cloud over me. It was my wife’s birthday, and I was out to buy her present so I shouldn’t complain. The task was successfully accomplished at the end of the day as my wife went home happy with yet another pair of new shoes and a new top. Another successful birthday present – but only with her help.
Though there is one surprise left but that one will have to wait till morning. And no, it’s not rude! And is not simply breakfast in bed. She can make breakfast herself. Ka will want scrambled egg and toast anyway, and we both know who makes the best scrambled egg…(it ain’t me).