Sunday, 31 July 2011

A f***ing legend

Driving through Edinburgh’s Grassmarket is not the best place to be at quarter to six on a Friday evening. The roads through the maze that is the Scottish capital are busy at the best of times but rushing through the milling crowds, finishing work, heading home or retreating to the nearest bars and pubs for an after work drink is no mean feat.
The sun was once more shining down upon Scotland on Friday as Ka and myself arrived in Edinburgh, heading through the roads towards the University sector and Nicholson Street where a particularly busy Friday night at the Festival theatre lay.
Before Ka and myself eventually got parked in a cobbled back alley somewhere we found ourselves travelling too far up by the Theatre and on to Pleasance we had had to politely grab a innocent passer by for directions which is probably just as well as we were heading directly for the heart of Holyrood Forest, where we would have probably got stuck, lost and then perhaps shot by a Royal party the next morning enjoying a pre Wedding hunt.
We arrived at the Festival theatre slightly stressed and vaguely dishevelled especially after I’d just changed my shirt, bearing my naked upper half to a couple of laughing women who just happened to be passing in the back alley we’d just parked in. Ka and myself had travelled straight from work so the journey had been ever so slightly rushed.
Crowds and queues circled the entrance to the theatre as we entered the large glass doors, scanning the crowds mingling around the first, ground floor bar, for Colin, Jillian and her sister Claire, the two girls being the main organisers of the night’s event.
Reginald D. Hunter, the brilliantly dry and drawling ‘Have I Got news For You’, ‘8 out of 10 Cats’ and other such panel shows, regular was performing live on stage with guests comedians for the Dave comedy channel. Claire, Jillian’s sister and who is lucky enough to work for the Beeb, managed to get us all tickets including guest passes for the free bar. Yes, you read right. Free bar. Fantastic. If only I hadn’t been driving.
Everyone knows you can’t possibly drink and drive.
Steve Hughes, the Australian comedian who preceded Hunter on stage, talked of billboard signs back in Oz that held the simple warning statement of ‘If you drink and drive, you’re a bloody idiot’.
Hughes replied to these saying, ‘but if you manage to get home, you’re a f***ing legend’.
Considering we were in Edinburgh though, I doubted I would even attempt the title of ‘legend’.
As the show was being filmed for television, Claire had to leave us beforehand to dive back stage and view from the editor’s box, while Ka, Colin, Jillian, Vicki, a mate of Jillian’s, and myself took our seats complete with pints of beer, pints of wine and a coke.
As we talked, filling the waiting time, the older woman sitting at my side, quietly read her book, engrossed. Unfortunately she did not take too kindly to being interupted though as she tutted and growled whenever Colin and the girls had to move past to make a trip to the toilet and then growling again whenever they appeared back to move back down into their seats.
A Newcastle comedian, whose name escapes me, acted as the host and warm up act, quickly identifying the annoying hecklers in the crowd, and introduced the man himself, Reginald D. Hunter, who, after a brief intro, welcomed the first comedian on stage, a German fellow named Henning When. Unfortunately this guy pretty much put us all to sleep, the majority of his act centred on the slightly mistaken idea that us Brits all love After Eights (Who knows, what he was on about, Allo Allo is much funnier).
Next up was the man from Oz, Steve Hughes, a tall, rake like, figure with lots of hair a large moustache, under an elegant roman nose, with a liking for heavy metal and beer. Thankfully Hughes was much funnier and woke the audience up again before another of Reg’s mates from London came on stage. Again I can’t remember that particular comedian’s name either, but at least I can safely say it wasn’t the drink to blame. Reg eventually sauntered out on to the stage for his forty minute stint keeping the audience mostly entertained with the exception of a few misfires, including asking for a vote from the Scottish crowd and then an audience member to explain why they vote conservative. As we were in Edinburgh there was at least five people in the crowd, who, unsurprisingly only half volunteered their hand to the air and avoided Reg’s gaze.
Afterwards, as the theatre audience headed out towards the large front glass doors, we headed up to the VIP bar to meet Claire and enjoy a couple of drinks following the show.
Claire had watched some of the camera’s viewpoints being filmed and confirmed that we were in more than a few close up shots of the theatre audience, clapping, laughing and generally looking entertained. Which makes me slightly nervous as I wasn’t wholly entertained to a visible extent all the way through the show. In fact, I’m sure Colin had his head in his hands and Ka was actually dozing at one point during Henning’s stand up about After Eights.
The older woman with the book, who had been sitting beside me throughout the show, actually turned up in the small crowd with the VIP bands and spoke with Henning, obviously a fan of his work, enough of a fan to be dragged her away from her mystery thriller anyway.
After around half an hour in the bar, the comedians started venturing in to join the twenty or so, strong crowd taking advantage of Beeb money booze (and coke). The girls almost immediately circled Steve Hughes, who chatted back whilst Colin and myself watched suspiciously from the side. At one point I interupted a conversation the big Aussie was having with Ka to inform him that ‘he had way too much hair to be talking with my wife’. Hughes laughed, patted me on the arm and continued his conversation with Ka, who was, apparently, to be the new singer in his band.
Reginald D hunter then appeared mingling with the small crowd, relaxed and comfortable after his, well, relaxed and comfortable performance on stage. Our little team eventually encircled the main himself getting some photos and sharing some crazy chatter.
Vicki asked Reg what he preferred to be called, whether it be Reg, Regi, Reginald? Hunter shrugged and smiled back.
“Whatever, man. Call me whatever”.
To which Colin piped in “Baby cakes?”
Reg looked round at Colin with a slight frown as if considering his next answer, or giving the Scottish translator in his brain time to kick in, and then laughed with a shrug.
After seeming comfortable and relaxed in the bar for the past hour or so, after being surrounded by us, must have now been felling to need to escape from our hyper conversation and left to ‘talk with his peeps’ disappearing through a door at the side of the bar, not before telling my wife how ‘elegant’ she looked, leaving us to more of the delicious free wine, vodkas, magners… and coke.
As I drove everyone home, up the pitch black M8, at 2 in the morning, I admitted to myself that you certainly don’t need drink to have a good time, even if there is a free bar... I’ll try to leave the car at home next time though.

Friday, 29 July 2011

Desperate in Dundee

The sky was a brilliant blue. Any clouds a mere whisper in the vast sky over the expanse of the Firth of Tay. The strait lay shimmering, over the large valley before us, reaching over towards Newport and the north east of Fife.
Both Ka and myself had never been to Dundee before so, just for the jaunt in the summer sunshine, we thought we'd go up on Saturday and have a wee night away in a B&B followed by a day on the beach in St. Andrews on the Sunday.
With a few hours to kill before check in at our hotel we parked the car in the town centre and decided to have a wander, maybe grab some lunch on the way as we were both starving.
We walked through the shopping centre, Ka making a quick stop at Primark for a pair of work trousers whilst I kept walking, going out into the town square, taking a few pictures of Desperate Dan and a catapult weilding Minnie the Minx. The 8 foot bronze statue of the cow pie eating cartoon character stands in the middle of Dundee's city square, dragging his 'dawg' along behind him, Minnie the Minx following. Both characters appeared in two different comics, The Dandy and The Beano, both published by the same company DC Thomson, a company Ka's Dad, Dougie, is more than familiar with, and the annuals of which my brother Kenny and myself would usually receive copies of every Christmas.
On our walk around Dundee Ka and myself explored the Tayside, seeing the R.R.S. Discovery moored up at Discovery point, Captain Robert Falcon Scott's ship that conquered Antartica. Just as I was taking a quick picture of the historical ship a small couple with a strange accent approached us and asked if we'd like a photo taken. After posing under the tall ship the older couple started chatting away, some of which I understood, telling us they were over on holiday from Melbourne, first time back in Scotland in twenty five years. That explained the odd accent. A weird amalgamation of Aussie and Scots. An accent Kenny may well adopt after his continuing trip around Oz.
It does make me wonder, hearing so many stories of people emigrating to Oz in search of a better life, and finding it.
Is it really the land of opportunity? Do we need to travel so far, in order to gain this fantastic life that so many people talk of? Is Britain, and Scotland specifically, so abysmal that you have to move to the land of 'Neighbours', 'Home and Away' and 'Priscilla Queen of the Desert' to have a satisfactory life? I do like BBQs mind you... and the fact you can go next door whenever you want and help yourself to their fridge or sit on the beach all day and drink lager.
After getting back to the car we finally found somewhere to get some food. A rather shadey wee baguette shop, across the road from the carpark, on the edge of the University grounds. After successfully misunderstanding a hungry Ka I strode into the small shop and ordered a baguette, standing in the tight, white tiled take away, looking down at the bowls in the glass cabinets before us. Chicken in various sauces and in various states of decay met our eyes as the man behind the counter warmed our baguette, eyeing us suspiciously. I'd never had an inclination to run from a cafe or take away shop after placing an order before.
"Run for your life!" I screamed through my head and I imagined running out the shop, grabbing Ka as I went, escaping across the road, jumping into the car and speeding off, door slamming shut over the spinning wheels as the wee Baguette man ran out after us, shouting indian swear words whilst gesturing wildly with a tikka stained bread knife.
Upon receiving the baguette, which Ka had to pay for with her wealth of change, she dared me to eat the horrid looking thing, filling me with guilt after she was now £4 out of pocket. I couldn't back down. I had to eat it. Two day old salad hung from the sides of the bread littered over the greasy, gorey looking chicken tikka which lay inside. I gulped and bit my first bite.
"It's not bad" I shrugged at Ka, lying uncontrollably.
I managed to get halfway down the baguette before my stomach started churning.
Time to head on to the hotel, I told Ka, and the room's bathroom, I thought.
We were greeted at the Shaftsbury Hotel by Heather, the friendly and slightly flustered hotelier, with horn rimmed glasses and muddled paperwork, who showed us up to our room at the top of the large, Victorian building. The hotel had originally been home to one of Dundee's rich jute Barons, James Scott. The jute industry being one of the city's main incomes in the nineteenth century. The building structure has obviously been largely untouched since those days, a lot of the original features still in place.
Our room at the top of the house was large and airy, with a view looking out over the Tay, only slightly obscured by the few rooftops before us. As we opened the curtains wide to admire the panorama we smiled, taking in the nice view. The sun shone, the Tay sparkled, a few gulls cackled at one another and the chickens clucked.
Hold on.
"Bock,bock,bock,begowwwwk" echoed through the streets below from the neighbour's garden straight across the road. The chicken tikka in my belly turned oddly inside my digestive system but thankfully settled before we headed out for dinner to Papa Joe's, an American style diner along the same lines of TGI Fridays but, we discovered, with far superior burgers. I almost went for the chicken burger but thought against it, going for the cow meat instead, just like Desperate Dan.

Monday, 25 July 2011

Of all the gin joints in all the towns

You’ve got to see “Casablanca - The Gin Joint Cut”. It’ll be at the Edinburgh fringe this year so book your tickets if you occasionally pop by the capital during August time.
Ka and myself went along to the Tron on Friday night to see this, entering the buzz of the small Glasgow theatre through the bar, unsurprisingly. The atmosphere was lively and laid back as a large crowd gathered in the stylish bar half an hour before that night’s performance. There was a real buzz in the air and you could tell that more than a few folk, waiting to see the production, had been aware of the play’s good reviews that it had been enjoying in the newspapers throughout the past month.
I hadn’t been aware and wasn’t even expecting very much from the play, which I’d barely even heard of. I’ve never even seen ‘Casablanca’ (movie buffs shout “wwhhhhhaaaaatttt?!” now, if you wish).
“Casablanca - The Gin Joint Cut” was the best theatre I’ve seen in ages. In fact this probably doesn’t say a lot, considering I’ve only been around three times in the past six months. But it was great anyway. Great acting, great laughs, great story, great inspiration and a great homage.
The story begins with three Scottish actors given the job of performing the immortal (supposedly, I wouldn’t know, I’ve never seen it - “wwhhhhhaaaaatttt?!”) love story Gavin Mitchell, of ‘Still Game’ fame, playing Bogart’s role of Rick Blaine opposite Claire Waugh’s Ilsa and Jimmy Chisolm’s various other, many characters fantastically performed which he seemingly switches between with, well, perhaps not ease, but certainly with great want for trying and brilliant comic timing. Moments after the laughs die from the last joke, Waugh and Mitchell keep the love story poignant and true to the inspiration, even as they struggle to refrain from lighting up on the small budget and with the health and safety concerns in Scottish theatres.

Friday, 22 July 2011

The good, the bad and the funky

“Who are they then?” Dave frowned, turning in his chair in the new workplace, the stiflingly hot office with broken down air conditioning.
“Who the hell are the Tom, Tom, Club?” Mum frowned over her spectacles, as she put her book down in the conservatory yesterday.
“Whose the Tom Tom Club then?” Colin frowned, after opening his birthday presents which included a Miles Kane album and a remote controlled Dalek. “Jillian said they something about a bunch of councillors or something?”
“Let’s go see the Tom Tom Club th’night guys” a wee ned laughed, as he passed the O2 ABC on Sauchiehall Street. “Whoever they ur!”
Nobody knows who the Tom Tom Club are. Except from the mixed, happy crowd that occupied Glasgow’s ABC2 club on Wednesday night.
Ka and myself were among them, bopping away to the good, the bad and the funky beats.
The Tom Tom Club are the band formed in 1981 by Talking Heads’ bassist Tina Weymouth and drummer husband Chris Frantz, originally formed as a side project for the two of them which, when Talking Heads split in the late eighties, then became their main project. They were and are an original, new wave, electro pop, rock outfit and very rarely make live appearances in Britain, never mind Scotland, so, being a Talking Heads fan, I bought the tickets a few weeks ago out of sheer curiosity. It was a good gig, more rock than rap.
Cheers went up in the small ABC2 as Billy Sloan walked out on to the stage bringing the DJ’s set to a close around nine, introducing the band on to stage. The band performed till late playing their hits along with their three famous cover versions and one or two surprises from the Talking Heads catalogue, including a fantastic ‘Psycho Killer’ to finish off, making a lot of the gathered fans very happy, some exceptionally so. One lassie headbanged her way through the gig, making me suspect she’d taken a wrong turn somewhere and was actually supposed to be in the SECC, watching Iron Maiden and was just too drunk to realise. Her sweaty hair swung and spun around her head into surrounding members of the audience before us, one of which was a pretty tall guy in a red T-shirt. This guy was not popular either as he kept letting off the most horrendous smelling farts, ruining the following five minutes of the gig for us standing behind him with his offending gases. Gawd knows what he’d been eating.
On my way up to the ABC to get the tickets, before the gig, leaving Ka sitting outside Bar Bhudda in the dying sunshine, I passed by the Tom Tom Club as they ambled down Sauchiehall Street together, presumably for a bite to eat. As I was running I’d already past the small motley crew before I realised that it was actually them and it was with considerable excitement that I arrived back down at the bar, tickets in pockets, to hurriedly ask Ka if she’d seen them.
“Seen who?” Ka frowned.
“The Tom Tom Club!” I gesticulated urgently, people frowning, looking up from their drinks from surrounding tables. “They must have passed right by!”
“Oh, is that who they were?” Ka nodded in realisation, recognising the description I gave her. A couple from Newcastle, sitting at the table alongside us, nodded knowingly.
“We’re going too” the rather boring looking couple nodded. Following a brief conversation with the couple from Newcastle (who originated from Glasgow, according to Ka, but had been living down south for nine years) a bird sh*t on me. The second ‘sh*tty’ situation in a week and the second bird poo I have received on Sauchiehall Street.
Anyway, following the gig, some members of the Tom Tom Club came out to mingle with the crowd.
As Ka and myself left we passed Victoria Clamp, the singer who accompanies Tina on vocal duties. I interrupted the conversation she was having with two other blokes to thank her for the show which she politely nodded and thanked me for, looking a little disturbed at the same time as she seemed to have been accosted by a strange, shivery looking bloke who apparently didn’t have anywhere to stay for the night.
Before the show had started I’d also shook Frankie Boyle’s hand. Ka had been in the loo when I suddenly noticed a familiar, heavily bearded, bespectacled, face minding his own business, supping a pint with his bespectacled wife in the quiet, but steadily busying crowd before the stage. As Ka eventually emerged from the loo I led her up towards the bar but took a slight detour by the controversial, Scottish comedian. Ka sighed and rolled her eyes, again not realising, wondering who it was I’d met now. It was not until after my cheery ‘pleased to meet you’ and friendly handshake that Ka’s eyes recognised the bearded man before her.
Boyle had seemed happy enough, and polite enough, to acknowledge the recognition, shifting his pint to his other hand for the handshake which he greeted with a smile and a nod.
You hear horror stories of people meeting celebrities in the street and being given unfriendly replies to hellos or, if you’ve really got the balls, autograph requests. For instance there was more than a few stories of innocent, excited bystanders greeting Billy Connelly and being given a rude and rather severe “f**k off!” in return.
I’ll never understand that myself. Being rich and famous is surely a privilege and being recognised in the street is surely expected to come hand in hand with such a chosen career, so why be rude in such a fashion to the people that keep you in the job? Okay, you might be having a bad day, but there’s no need for bad language surely? If you were to see someone famous in the street and start slinging insults at them, their work or their latest movies, I’m sure a “f**k off!” would be justified, but if you’re simply saying hello, surely a simple nod would suffice.
Boyle obviously understands this and is quite willing to shake the hands of a passing concert goers, happy after a few pints. Either that or he is now treasuring any pleasantries he can get after the criticism he got for slagging off Jordan’s kid.

Frankie’s wife frowned as the strange, smiling bloke walked off to the bar, towing his own wife behind.
“Who was that then?”
Frankie looked round at her and shrugged.
“No f***in’ idea” he hummed with a slight shake of the head taking another sip from his pint. “Just another to**er”.
His wife sighed with a nod as she took another drink from her vodka and coke.
“So” she frowned again, as she looked round towards the stage. “What’s this band called again?”

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Grace's surprise and the toilet incident

The five or six cars piled up outside the Leckie/McGarva household may have given away the surprise element to Grace’s 60th birthday party on Saturday night. If it did though, Grace certainly didn’t let on, as she almost screamed with surprise upon entering Steven and Angela’s living room to find us all sitting there. We all broke in to the routine of the ‘Happy Birthday’ song, as Grace stood there, smiling over the surprise, while I darted about the floor taking some photos and Steven quietly filmed it all with his new camcorder from the corner of the room.
A good portion of Ka's family, along with Lynsey Ann, my Mum and Dad and myself gathered in the large living room to surprise my mother in law who’d come along with Dougie believing the Saturday night to be a simple dinner date with Angela, Steven, Morgan and Joshua. At least she had believed that up until five minutes before leaving her own house when Dougie had asked her to bring her new photo book, that she’d received for her 60th, in order to show Betty.
As Steven made his way up from Uddingston, after getting Grace and Dougie into the car, the rest of us had been running round the house, decorating, preparing food, nappying, fetching drinks, reintroducing ourselves to relatives not seen in months and some never met at all. As the final moments drew near the smokers were hurriedly pulled in from the front garden path, their cigarettes left spinning on the pavestones, and the kids were ordered to move into the living room, myself picking Joshua up from where her rambled around the buffet table in the second front room and planting him down in the living room, where he simply gave a slight frown of confusion at all the hustle and bustle and staggered on to the plate of cakes at the end of the room. Everyone began frantically hushing one another as Grace and Dougie’s feet were heard from behind the closed blinds which obscured the living room’s large bay windows, the small red stones of the driveway crunching underneath their feet, as Steven led them up towards the front door where Angela would meet them upon arrival.
Once the ‘Happy Birthday’ song was over and the initial surprise over with, Steven got the music on and Ka and Jillian got the food cooking whilst the rest of us started enjoying ourselves.
I had been enjoying myself up until I had to make a visit to Steven and Angela’s loo, a visit which ended up being far longer than originally planned. Unfortunately the toilet refused to flush properly and my, let’s just say, deposit, refused to be removed by this particular toilet’s flushing system. Not great in any situation, but in a house party, with a bunch of your wife’s relatives waiting patiently, not great at all.
As I stood there waiting on the cistern refilling itself for the third time the knocks at the door began. Concerned voices and questions from beyond the closed door started echoing through the hallway.
“Is somebody still in there?”
“Who is it?”
“Is the door stuck?”
“Is it the same person that’s been in there all this time?”
Various questions such as these echoed throughout the hallway until Ka’s voice finally piped up.
“Where’s Michael?” Grimacing, I gritted my teeth. “He’s not in there, and he’s not in there”. The ‘theres’ in question presumably referring the every room, other than the toilet in which I stood, swearing at a piece of excretion.
“Michael are you in there?” Ka rattled the opposite side of the door. Hesitantly I closed the lid over the toilet and allowed my dearest Judas wife entry at which I explained the situation. Ka replied by checking her make-up in the mirror and then leaving me to it. Before I got the chance to lock the door after her, Angela, the sister in law, appeared at the door, to which I again, reluctantly admitted the situation. Unfortunately Colin, Ka’s brother, overheard the situation as he walked by and almost spat out a haggis ball with laughter. Angela, determined that she would flush better, took control of the situation. She firmly grasped the toilet’s flush handle and twisted at which the usual gush of water flowed through the bowl.
“There” Angela shrugged and opened the lid of the toilet up. Unfortunately my floater was still there, bobbing around quite happily. Angela shrieked and ran from the room.
“It’s not even very big!” I yelled after her.
“It’s the size of the bowl!” Angela’s voice reverberated throughout the hall, as other passing party guests soon started mumbling about the toilet situation, the occasional laughing.
In my defense, the flush of the toilet was pretty pathetic and I cannot believe that it’s never happened to them before with such a poor plumbing system. Anyway, without going into too much detail, I eventually managed to get rid of the obstinate piece of discharge after attacking it with a good few large cups of water before Ka and Jillian had the chance to come through with a boiling kettle (a remedy Auntie Lorna bestowed upon them after, presumably, much debating in the living room with all the other family members).
Following the toilet incident I spent some time in the kitchen, plucking up the courage to face the guests in the living room again, conversing with Colin and Ryan and any of the drink seekers visiting in order to top up their glass or pull another bottle from the fridge. Uncle Bill told stories of Hawaii, Las Vegas and losing luggage at airports. Paul spoke with me about old Star Wars toys and the inability to throw any of them out. Colin talked of Torchwood, Tom Jones and T in the Park and Jean dreaded the London train at half past nine the next morning as she drank another small glass of wine from the box in the fridge.
Morgan, Sarah and Joshua played in the large rubber dinghy in the middle of the hallway, Uncle Bill occasionally jumping in to act as Captain.
Wee Joshua ate more than his usual allocation of cakes after he’d got bored of the good few pieces of Jillian’s pasta I’d fed him from my paper plate.
Grace and Dougie enjoyed a slow dance to Gerry and the Pacemakers’ ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ immediately after which Dougie demands for Tina Turner’s “Simply the Best” were largely ignored or laughed at.
It had been a successful wee night and it looked like Grace, and everyone else, pretty much enjoyed themselves. It wasn’t until half past one that people started saying their goodbyes, Ka tidying as they went, clearing most of the rubbish up and cleaning up the buffet table which, Ka and myself were pleased to see, had very little of our two lasagnes left. Must have been the Bechamel sauce…

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Lasagne and inadvertant flirting

This afternoon I made the perfect Bechamel sauce for one of Ka’s lasagnes. It turns out I’m a bit of a dab hand when it comes to the old Bechemel sauce, mixing the flour with the butter and then the peppered milk and bay leaf. The two of us worked perfectly together in the kitchen preparing food for a certain somebody’s birthday gathering tonight. I think we surprised even ourselves as Ka usually ends up firing me out of the kitchen when we start working together over the hobs.
It was Ka’s Mum, Grace’s 60th birthday on Wednesday and, as is traditional in the in–law McGarva household, we went to their local restaurant/pub, Angels in Uddingston for dinner. This time a few of Grace’s friends were invited along to surprise her upon entering for the usual birthday meal. Ka, Colin, Jillian and myself went on down to the restaurant early to ensure the select number of friends invited were seated at the table waiting as Grace and Dougie eventually arrived twenty minutes later. Grace had probably suspected something was afoot when we had left the house early, using the excuse of getting money out the bank, but she certainly did not let on and we all enjoyed another meal in the Uddingston restaurant.
The food was okay and the service was okay. My chicken and rice soup was way too salty and I ordered steak and got a pork chop, which didn’t go particularly well with the pepper sauce I’d ordered to share with Colin who also ordered the same steak. Colin, who had been sitting opposite me at the large corner table at which we all celebrated, and myself also ordered the meal under the mistaken impression, due to my own fault, that bubble and squeak was sausage and mash, which is usually referred to as toad in the hole. So, in effect, I thought I was ordering steak and sausage not pork and cabbage. Along with the pepper sauce we ordered we made a bit of a pigs ear of it (whatever you call a pigs ear).
Upon finishing the delicious combination one of the friendly blonde waitresses came up behind me asking if we were all content and finished with our meals. As we had all been sitting with empty plates for the past fifteen minutes we all nodded politely, myself confirming the emptiness of my plate with a firm nod and vocal ‘yes’. Just as the waitress leant over my shoulder to retrieve my plate I, moving to the side to let her over, gave another, loud, affirmative comment of ‘beautiful’. For a few seconds I carried on smiling normally, not realising at first why the waitress looked slightly taken aback at me with a smile as she meekly took my plate away. I looked up to see Colin, struggling to contain a ball of laughter behind a hand clamped over his mouth. It was then I realised that instead of complimenting the food which had just been consumed, complete with pepper sauce, to others it had possibly, just possibly, seemed that I had been complimenting the waitress, her attributes or her lovely smile, just as she leaned over my shoulder to collect the dirty dishes. Of course, for the remainder of our sitting, this particular blonde waitress was named ‘beautiful’ and Ka and Jillian, following this course of action, christened the male waiter who had been serving us, ‘handsome’, even though they were not quite as blatant as myself when it came to the flirting (which I’d just like to point out, was completely inadvertent on my part).
The night finished with a few quick games of the McGarva tradition of ridiculously unfair and fixed pass the parcel after coffees and tea in Grace and Dougie’s house. The McGarva’s own brand of ridiculously unfair and fixed pass the parcel seemed to confuse a few of Grace’s gathered friends before they even got to unwrap any of the equally confusing parcels which included the usual diverse fair such as a feather duster, an ‘Armstrong and Miller’ book, ‘Camp rock’ pencil cases and a book on Yoga, the back cover blurb describing the physical and mental discipline exactly as how Yoda would describe the Force (a far more worthwhile discipline in my opinion).
With a trip to Paris on the cards, a fantastic photo book, created by Ka and yours truly, and many other great gifts from friends, Grace done pretty well turning sixty. She’s even sorted out her bus pass already so there’s no stopping her. Happy Birthday Grace, and enjoy the lasagne!

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Restaurants, rehearsals and running

We’ve not heard back from Chaz yet. Both Ka and myself text him a message yesterday to ask him how he got on with his casting audition to be in the next big Brad Pitt movie being filmed in Glasgow.
Chaz and myself ordered dinner in the Crooked Lum on Thursday night, two three course meals, taking full advantage of a 25% off voucher Chaz had procured from a taxi driver. I ordered a fillet for my main but Chaz had to do better. He challenged himself by ordering the steak platter, a massive square plate of food which included a large sirloin, fillet and ribeye along with a mountain of chips, a massive mushroom and a giant half tomato that looked like it had been grown in some kind of mutant vault in a local Nuclear facility.
Over dinner Chaz informed me that he was to go along on Saturday in a suit and tie for a movie audition to be an extra in a forthcoming Brad Pitt movie production which apparently involves zombies, being zombies or being attacked by zombies. I’d always thought Glasgow was the perfect setting for a zombie movie – although I’m not sure we need more of them diving about Glasgow than there is already.
By trade, Chaz is a car salesman but I’d also always thought he’d have made a rather good actor. Chaz lamented the end of his drama days over dinner. His best part to date being the role of Lead Pharisee in the school Easter play in the late eighties. Chaz managed to turn the part of the Chief Pharisee into a sort of flamboyant Police Informant type Government spy character. His biggest scene, pivotal to the capturing of Jesus, included Chaz skidding on to the stage and informing the gathered characters that:
“It’s alright, he’ll do it, at ten o’clock tonight!”
Unfortunately his adventures in drama ended during the final rehearsals for that particular scene with the skid on to the stage not quite ending where it should have, resulting in a continuous skid off the stage and the bashing of an eye off the end of a gym bench below.
Let’s hope he gets on better with his zombie audition. I hope he’d done his homework and watched Sean of the Dead, Land of the Dead or has just simply walked up Sauchiehall Street on a Saturday night.
Or the Hamilton town centre on a weekday, for that matter, a strange, destitute place into which my work has just moved and is taking some getting used to. Ka and myself met for lunch last week, my first week in the Hamilton office, and we sat on a bench in the middle of the local shopping precinct to eat our lunch. Strange, smelly, lonely looking characters soon began to circle us like vultures, eyeing either the bench, our lunch or the very flesh which clings to our bones. I wasn’t sure which, but it was enough to put me off my ham sandwich and Irn Bru.
Thankfully, Ka and myself ate in far nicer surroundings yesterday. Once again, we found ourselves dining out, once more in a restaurant, Grace and Dougie treating us to a meal for our anniversary, which was then followed up with a few coffees and shandies at a local pub.
With all this eating in mind we woke this morning finding our usual trip to the gym a bit of a stretch, so instead opted for a run round Calderwood and St. Leonards, circling around the neighbourhood, one lap being just over 5km. It went well considering it was our first jog in months, since before Ka fell pregnant. So Ka and myself are feeling rather pleased with ourselves. Next time we’ll make it two laps. Mum, Dad and Lynsey were popping round for a cuppa though so we had an excuse today to make it a single lap. We’ve promised ourselves to go running more often, especially in the run up to Ka’s run for charity in October (details of which can be found here
There is a turn off, halfway round, where you can trim a good half a mile off the whole lap. Ka was tempted to take this route as she was knackered, struggling for breath and generally getting grumpy after fifteen minutes running and stressed that she may have to ease herself back into the running by taking a shorter route round. When I refused to go this way and told her she would be fine with various other words of encouragement she swiftly replied with a barrage of abuse, just as we passed a row of quiet houses. The occupants of these houses had probably been enjoying a quiet Sunday afternoon up until that moment when they spilt their teas, woke from their naps or jumped from behind their Sunday papers to the loud, shouting couple jogging by their front window.
No pain, no gain, they say. Although I didn’t believe it was the pain of the hurling abuse from your stressed wife as she runs around the block after you. So with little argument after this I reluctantly agreed to take the shorter route only for Ka, not more than 5 minutes later, to agree to carry on with the full lap, missing the halfway point turn off. Typical Ka. She was either fiercely determined to complete the planned route, or was simply refusing to go along with anything I agreed to.
It’s all well and good running for miles on a treadmill in a gym but when it comes to real outdoor running it’s very different. Hills appear on your route spontaneously before you, inclines that you did not even realise were inclines when you usually drive along them in the car. Midges and bugs are everywhere too. On passing various clusters of bushes and foliage various sizes of insects would instantly decide to aim for you face, particularly the eyes, nostrils, or even worse, the mouth. You’ll be chatting away to your fellow jogger, or arguing, as you tackle the latest incline when all of a sudden a passing midge that had previously been buzzing about a local bush, would take a notion for a kamikaze mission with your tongue, stopping and firing itself straight into your oral cavity.
Something a little more pleasant is the nodding to and greeting of fellow joggers. You notice this when you’re out walking on the hills too. You’re all complete strangers but you follow some sort of unspoken code with which you nod or greet passing joggers, as if acknowledging each others’ athletic prowess and sportsmanship tackling the dangerous pavements and grass verges.
A greeting of a different kind I received today was a wolf whistle. I’ve never been wolf whistled before but managed not to get too excited about it as it was from a trio of giggling 12-13 year olds who passed by me giggling. A few moments later their giggling was interrupted by the jogger they’d failed to notice behind me, elbowing them off the pavement. Ka mumbled some more abuse as she caught up, running up behind me just as the rain started to fall and a jeep carrying our former neighbour Kay, passed by. The horn tooted as the neighbour waved at us, grinning smugly over her phone from behind her windscreen in her nice, warm, dry 4x4.
With the exception of the interfering insects, the threatening rain and the teenagers, the 5km was a bit of a breeze to be honest and I was pretty surprised at how easily I managed it.
Well, when I say easily we did finish the run with faces the colour of tomatoes. I was suffering with weird blurred vision after coming to a stop outside outside our front door, wiping the dead midges from my face as the old legs began to quiver a little with exertion. The walk I performed going up the stairs to our front door wouldn’t have looked out of place in Chaz’s zombie movie.

Thursday, 7 July 2011

2 year anniversary

2 years ago on Monday Ka and myself were married.
Since we were both working on the day we went out for dinner, into Glasgow, on the Saturday night and had our own romantic meal for 2 in the flat on the Sunday, declining an invitation to one of Mum and Dad’s BBQ’s, successfully earning a guilt trip.
On Saturday evening we sat on the balcony of the Metropolitan, overlooking the Merchant City Square watching the various goings on below us which included the customers of the Metropolitan bar underneath, relaxing on the couches, chatting away with their friends over drinks, their echoing background noise of chatter circling up around the high roof and walls of the Merchant Square around us. The other bars within the square moved with the usual Saturday night life, O’Neills, Bar Square, the Beer CafĂ©, Arisaig along with the Spanish bar and restaurant, Mercados.
Mercados, I don’t have particularly fond memories of as the last time we were there, we ate from their tapas menu and I managed to pick up a bad case of diarrhea, suffering for at least five days afterwards with dodgy bowel movements. I’m pretty sure to this day it was the Mussels. In fact I don’t eat mussels to this day as everytime I even catch a sniff of the scent of a mussel my stomach starts gurgling strangely. I’ve hesitantly ate mussels once since that fateful Mercados night and that was in Mum and Dads, the night before Kenny departed for Australia and I could barely move for at least three hours afterwards. Difficult, especially when you’re playing charades. Jumping around the living room floor, acting out various film and song titles, sweating with the effort of trying to control your stomach movements does not make for an enjoyable night. In fact, not only have I neglected mussels since, I’ve also stayed clear of charades.
Anyway, the meal in Metropolitan was fantastic. Mackerel for Ka and haggis for my starters.
Haggis was not my first choice. In fact, like mussels, I’ve tried to stay clear of haggis too, after a rather unfortunate hangover following a sleepover in Colin and Jillian’s house. I don’t think I could actually bring myself to drive home the next day until around six o’clock in the evening and that was only because I couldn’t bear sitting watching American Pop Idol for any longer with Colin in his boxers opposite me. Earlier I’d spent more than a few hours in the early afternoon, sitting on the toilet bowl in Colin and Jillian’s bathroom, underneath the John Barrowman calender. It was more than a little disturbing to find, on looking around, mid grimace, from just over my shoulder, John Barrowman grinning down at me.
He’s back again. Once again, he’s all over the tv as, not only is Torchwood coming back with a big, glossy, American style makeover but his highly cheese infested, ‘Surprise surprise’ style, all singing, all dancing, teatime Saturday night tv show is back. Ka informed me that Claire almost had us sitting in the live studio audience as the first show was being recorded in BBC Scotland on Sunday night and Claire’s Mum was asked if she had been interested in tickets. Needless to say, Claire’s Mum probably scoffed at the offer, insulted that someone would offer her such a gift, oblivious to the fact Barrowman has a whole Appreciation Society so close at hand.
Last night in the gym, I was on the treadmill minding my own business, eyes watching the large plasmas perched on the wall at the end of the room as I toiled away in a vague effort to keep fit. Seven o’clock hit and The One Show started and who was on the couch? None other than John Barrowman. Unfortunately Ka missed it as she was in the middle of a awkward yoga position, alongside Pauline, in one of the studios but she did promise herself to watch it on replay later.
Main course… what was our main course? Oh, yes a Vegetable roulade type thing for Ka and a Rump of lamb with sage and smoked bacon, Boulangere potato, haricot vert and spring onions drizzled with a sun-dried tomato vinaigrette for myself. No complaints there, except from the fact I have no idea what a ‘Boulangere’ potato is. Some kind of French potato I presume. Doubt it was French. They probably just give it a French sounding name so they can justify the French prices. It probably wouldn’t cost as much if it was down on the menu as Lamb with peas, tatties and gravy.
Talking of prices Ka made a mistake when we were being seated at our table on the balcony.
“Would you like some water with your meal?” the waiter asked.
“Yes, that would be lovely, thanks” Ka replied, as I sat myself down not even getting a chance to shake my head urgently in her direction.
“What did you do that for?!” I stressed, attempting a lower level of stress, keeping the occasion in mind.
“It’s my anniversary!” Ka shushed me, with a disregarding wave of the hands.
“Exactly, so why are we ordering water?!” I was once again shushed.
A fiver for a bottle of water. I huffed upon seeing the bill, shaking my head sternly at the price of Strathmore. Okay, it was Strathmore, a name in the field of water production, if there is such a field, and it had a fancy engraving of Glamis castle in the glass bottle - but a fiver? You can’t even keep the bottle, no matter how many fancy engravings it may have over it. I’m sure you could if you really wanted to but it would look rather odd striding around Glasgow town with an empty glass bottle of Strathmore.
After paying a fiver for water it was just as well we didn’t have any dessert.
We did have cocktails instead though, which interestingly only cost a pound more than a bottle of water, and they came with at least three different drinks the glass, not to mention the fact they tasted a hell of a lot more exciting.
Afterwards we headed over to Frankensteins on West George Street which was celebrating it’s last night before closing it’s doors for the final time. Frankensteins had turned into a bit of a tradition for Ka and myself in only the past few months. No, not for it’s fantastic hen dos, and not even for Frankenstein himself, who descended down over the drinkers on a automated pulley when the clock struck midnight and confused more than a few drunken women in L-plates and feather boas. No it was for it’s bar meals. A few months back we discovered it served some pretty good pub grub in the afternoons. Unfortunately there will be no more Macaroni Cheese for Ka before the cinema on a quiet Saturday afternoon now.
On Sunday afternoon we went to the cinema, armed with lots of sugary drinks to fight the alcohol still in our system. We seen the excellent ‘Bridesmaids’ a surprisingly good flick and a hell of a lot better than the last movie we seen, “The Hangover Part 2” which was just a majorly disappointing retread of the first movie.
2 years of wedded bliss. It’s been 2 years already. Unbelievable. If you ask her, of course, she’ll claim it seems longer whereas I reckon it’s been a fast 2 years. A 2 years which included moments which the two of us would not have believed would ever happen. A rollercoaster of emotions.
It’s just as well we didn’t go to Strathclyde Park on Sunday night as it would have literally been a rollercoaster of emotions. A whole group of rollercoasting thrill seekers were stuck on one of the taller twists of metal in M&D’s biggest rollercoaster. Hanging there until the fire brigade eventually pulled the last person from it’s train at around quarter to one in the morning. What a fun night that would have been. I wonder what they done to keep themselves occupied? A game of charades perhaps?

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Puppets and pedestals

A young teacher with dreams of opening her own school. A closet homosexual accountant. A horned, porn addicted furry monster. A slutty club singer and a graduate fresh from university, wondering what to do with his newly obtained degree in English. All residents of Avenue Q, a small street, somewhere on the outskirts of New York, around Brooklyn, and all characters looking for direction and ‘purpose’ in their life.
Ka and myself went along to the Kings on Thursday night to see Avenue Q, a musical show, originally on Broadway, then produced by Cameron Mackintosh in London and now touring the country. A strange, weird, comedy musical with three human characters and a bunch of puppet characters who live and interact together just like a certain educational kids show based in a New York street. In fact, a few of the characters in Avenue Q are direct rip-offs of characters in Sesame Street and although Avenue Q makes its influence no secret, it certainly shouldn’t be viewed by the kids.
Unlike Sesame Street, the puppeteers appear on stage alongside their characters, unhidden but remaining anonymous to the storyline. Some of the puppeteers don’t even voice the characters they’re operating and some voice more than one puppet in one scene. Throughout the story the various characters deal with their varying issues which are all generally around the themes of growing up, becoming an adult, finding direction in your life and the realisation that life is what you make of it and will suck if you don’t put the right amount of effort in.
Songs in the musical included, ‘Everyone’s a little bit racist’, ‘You can be as loud as the hell you want when you're makin' love’ ‘If you were gay, but I’m not’ and ‘The internet is for porn’. Good fun but Sesame Street this was not.
On Friday we had our last day in the Blantyre office. As of Monday morning we are now based in the Hamilton office, in the middle of the town centre.
No more easy journeys, nipping down the expressway to work. No more free parking. No more colour ink for the printers – for some reason. The dust was already gathering over the large empty desks which once acted as posts for the office’s many employees. The desks now lie computerless and ownerless. Large piles of computers, monitors and keyboards lie at various corners of the open plan space, already gathering a thin layer of dust, cords wrapped up around them. Chairs sit, bunched up in groups and drawers lie with the remnants of employees belongings left behind, unwanted and abandoned. In Paula’s old pedestal drawer the biggest collection of ‘Now’, ‘Chat’ and other ‘Hello’ style magazines lie, piled up, a whole history of Jordan, her boobs and her boyfriends lying unwanted. Alison’s old George Clooney picture the only reminder of her presence. An old VHS and a half bottle of some kind of mad dog left in Davey Clyde’s pedestal drawer along with a pile of PC game magazines. The old white Christmas tree lies dishevelled on it’s side, under the old board filing shelves. My old Mac still stands obediently awaiting my return from the PC I have now been lumbered with. Along with all the other old Macs it will lie there in the Blantyre office, inactive and unused until such a time comes along when a bunch of grumpy builders or cleaners stomp into the dusty office, years down the line, when it will finally be cleared and it’s contents skipped. Their voices will echo through the large office which now lifeless and near forgotten. No more shouting from Cameron or Diane, no more Bennie Spoonhalls, no more arguing from Julie and Margaret, no more wonderful tales from Paul, no more mumbling under the breath, no more swearing, slagging, newspaper flicking, phone answering, tea slurping and typing. Not in the Blantyre Prepress office anyway.