Monday, 31 October 2011

Team Lucy

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

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Questionable deeds

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

Monday, 24 October 2011

The mice will play

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

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Boxing robots and the shunned spaghetti

“Alright man, how’s it going?” Chaz stopped to shake hands with a bloke pushing a buggy of two small children, his wife looking on, sunglasses perched on her brow.
“Alright Charlie!” the man smiled back, as Chaz brought Pauline, Ka and myself to a halt outside the Holiday Inn’s front doors, on our way down to the cinema.
We were running late. We had finally managed to park the car, up outside the Station Bar, and were rushing down to the cinema to see the latest Hugh Jackman movie, a very silly affair, set in the future, involving boxing robots and a strained father/son relationship.
The charismatic Jackman is the struggling ex-boxer Dad, fighting to earn a living as a robot boxer fight promoter, who’d given his wife and son up at a younger, more foolish age, and now had to cope with a disgruntled youngster after his mother’s passing.
Good grief. Fighting robots, Hugh Jackman and father/son relationships? Sounds awful doesn’t it? And it probably was, but we didn’t care.
Silly, escapist fun. Especially for the likes of us, wishing to take a break from the real world for a couple of hours.
Chaz had text me on Friday to see if I fancied seeing the pic, just for a laugh, and had been surprised to receive a text back from me saying Ka had wanted to see it too. A few hours later he got another informing him that Pauline had also said yes, and on Sunday afternoon we were all in the Toyota, racing into town, discussing the price of toilet roll and washing powder.
What is it with women and toilet roll? We bought a large 18 or 16 pack just over two weeks ago and I thought that would do us until Christmas. Apparently not. It lasted two weeks and, before I knew it I was back in another supermarket buying more at the end of last week.
What do women do with it? Eat it? Anyway, I told Ka last week that if this trend was to continue we'd be buying the Asda's own sandpaper loo roll, a threat which quickly quietened her complaints of my moaning.
Another thing I've been moaning about is the kitchen tap. Our kitchen tap has been making a horrendous squawking noise everytime we’ve been pouring water from it’s innards for the past few months which I have now resolved to attempt to fix with my limited DIY skills. Over the weekend I replaced the tap's washers which, thankfully, seemed to solve the problem. The noise had gone and the water was running, but now bleeding a worrying, constant dribble.
Anyway, back to Glasgow, and, as Chaz chatted, not only were we late for the movie, but the ladies were in need of a loo, so I was trying to politely edge away from the unexpected reunion. The bloke with the buggy of two had obviously been a former work colleague of Chaz’s, and even though he had a couple of cute kids waving at us from their buggy, showing us their lizard and the blokes' conversation seemed like a pleasant surprise for Chaz, we were in a hurry.
Edging at first, then meandering, and then, as politely as I could, striding off determinedly, I led the girls onwards, away from Chaz’s fascinating conversation, which he eventually finished, and to the cinema queue,. Fortunately it wasn’t as busy as predicted and we just had the simple obstacle of a wee old lady and her grandson to make it to the front. With a quick bodyswerve upon entering the giant, glass building I dived around the wee old lady, ducked under the queue's cords and then turned to wait patiently for the others.
It was now ten or fifteen minutes past the showtime. We swiped our cards, took our tickets and raced back across the road to the small convenience store to buy some popcorn. We followed Chaz into the shop, only to stumble as he stopped dead before us and turned around.
“Wrong one!” he stated flatly and led us back out, leaving a shopkeeper frowning after us, and three doors up the street we entered the right one were we purchased our crisps and drinks from a smiling shopkeeper. Ka and myself, even at the age of thirty plus, are still wary of the old myth of cinema staff, when feeling particularly vigilant, swiping any shop bought goods off you, so we quickly hid our crisps in her handbag, whilst Chaz, who bought the kingsize bag of silver Butterkist and a massive litre and a half bottle of water, merely filled a blue carrier bag and shrugged something about taking his shopping home. Before we knew it we were back in the cinema, I was buying the coffee, the girls were doing the loo and Chaz was handing the tickets over, before we finally got seated and enjoyed the crazy, feelgood, family film.
The girls waited patiently and expectantly for Hugh Jackman’s bare torso, which he eventually presented at the side of a boxing ring. Chaz and myself didn’t particularly mind, however, as Kate from Lost was in the movie, acting as his stressed but highly intelligent, robot building, girl. So, everyone was happy.
At least for a time, anyway. I’d said yes to my Mum’s offer for Sunday spaghetti, which, needless to say, we did not make, so I was in trouble for that one. I phoned Mum up, half an hour before we were expected and explained that we were still in Glasgow and had a change of plan for dinner and thusly would now, not make it. Unfortunately, Mum wasn’t happy.
Dejected, disappointed, and in a huff, my Mum said her goodbyes over the phone and apparently went to bed at nine o'clock. Ravaged with guilt I drove Ka, Pauline and Chaz to dinner. With Mum's grumpy goodbye alone she made, what would have usually been a lovely piece of Salmon, taste rotten and cold. Salmon stuffed with scorn and betrayal.
As it turned out my Mum and Dad had been writing my Aunt Maureen’s eulogy and were in need of some cheering up. Thankfully Kenny phoned from Australia yesterday and sweetened them up sufficiently, just in time for me to phone after I got home from work and apologise once more for not going up for Spaghetti (Thanks for that Kenny!).
What made matters worse was that, before I plucked up the courage to phone them, I had arrived home to find the kitchen tap unable to run any form of cold water. So my limited DIY skills are even more limited than I had originally thought.
Still, that's all minor concerns, considering what's happening tomorrow.

Friday, 14 October 2011

Aunt Maureen

My Aunt Maureen passed away on Monday night. She was 59. A few weeks ago we were discussing what we were going to do for her 60th and now, suddenly, we're discussing where her funeral is to take place.
It's feels like it has been one thing after another, this year.
Life just seems crazily unfair sometimes.
It's only been a few weeks since my last conversation with Maureen over the phone.
Recently Maureen had been living in Knowle, the small village on the outskirts of Solihull, in the West Midlands, where I started my first design/publishing job, all those years ago in March 2001. Early on in my four years living and working in the West Midlands, Maureen moved down south to Redditch, a new town to the south of Birmingham, through work, keen for a new start with different surroundings.
Before long, and once she was settled, Maureen and myself were meeting up for Sunday dinners, hooking up for the occasional drink and catch up, shopping trip or just a day out. Obviously, I wasn’t so keen on the shopping, but somehow I felt Maureen appreciated the trips in the car. Maureen was company for me too, as I struggled to settle in with only odd flatmates for company. I'd jump in the car and take a drive over to Redditch to take Maureen out for a jaunt around the countryside hitting the surrounding towns, exploring this fantastic section of England. Stratford-Upon-Avon, Great Malvern, Warwick, Leamington Spa and Kenilworth (that name’s vaguely familiar...) were all towns Maureen and myself visited on our various weekend meetings. My first car, that wee clio, also came in handy for when Maureen flitted. She flitted around three times whilst living in the West Midlands and on all occasions, bar the last, it was the wee clio that acted as the removal van.
During Maureen’s time in Redditch relations were soon dropping by to visit, jumping on trains, planes or into automobiles. Most of them primarily visiting Maureen but probably more than aware that there was always the risk of me turning up on the door, looking for company in my lonely West Midlands existence.
Scott, Maureen’s son and my older cousin, who was living in Dundee at the time, would visit, always busy with his job, which called for much travelling up and down the country.
Gran and Granpa, Great Aunt Mina, Mum and Dad, Anne and Ian, and even Donald from Australia, all visited the wonderful West Midlands. During their stay Maureen and I would give them a guided tour in the wee red clio, my Auntie acting as navigator, as we swerved around the countryside.
Great Malvern and Stratford-Upon-Avon were always popular with the visitors. Stratford-Upon-Avon being a favourite of mine too, with it’s Shakepearian themed streets, medieval architecture, barges, canal gates, eclectic mix of pubs and shops, pleasant parks, theatres and the Avon itself.
We had some good days out in Stratford, most of them in the summertime, when the skies were blue and the streets and parks were busier with families, tourist crowds and theatre goers, looking forward to the evening’s performance. During the summertime the town centre’s parks were always colourful, filled with plants and flowers around which street performers would entertain in the sunshine, the Avon sparkling in the summer light, it’s surface littered by the swans, geese, ducks, boats and barges which populated it’s waters, gliding up and down the river, under the arches of the various bridges which crossed over.
We took Aunt Mina out on to the Avon on a barge, we drove Gran and Granpa out for dinner with Frank Sinatra blaring out on the car stereo as we sped up the country roads and we took Donald out for dinner at which he tried to talk me into moving to Oz and courting his architect/scientist daughter.
When Maureen hit the big 5-0 Mum, Dad, Gran and Granpa invaded at the same time which called for another Stratford visit. After a few hours of walking around the bustling town we had lunch in a small tearoom and inadvertently left without paying, us all believing that someone else had paid. That same night we had a drunken night in at Maureen’s flat in Redditch, which I remember turned into a fairly entertaining night, considering I was sober and the allocated driver for Mum and Dad who had taken up residence at a small B&B in Solihull.
Maureen was a gentle, kind, relaxed, quiet, generous lady who shrugged at a difference of opinion, laughed at a good joke and enjoyed a party or two. Maureen was also a proud lady, not afraid to stand on her own two feet, but unwilling to admit troubles, or the lend of a helping hand, which, unfortunately led to her untimely death.
In my ‘wildnerness years’ down in the West Midlands, when I was occasionally feeling down or lonely, Maureen helped me with good advice and friendship, something I will never forget. An Auntie and a friend.
Maureen McNeill (Reid) 26.02.1952 – 10.10.2011

Monday, 10 October 2011

Christening, Cluedo, tablets and Jobs

Yesterday, the family gathered in St. Josephs church in Stepps once more where my Cousin Sarah's third child was baptized. Sarah Jane and Brian looked on happily as baby Daniel was baptized with a little help from Yvie, Daniel's older sister, who held the small pot of oil up for the priest. Christopher, his older brother, was also asked but he preferred to sit behind with his Granpa.
Once more the priest of St. Josephs church started giving us his Star Wars talk about the light side and the dark side, just as he had done at Christopher's baptism, reminding us all how easy it is to slip into the dark side like Darth Vader.
“You mean Anakin Skywalker” I muttered under my breath, correcting the priest once more.
Back at the hotel afterwards Daniel jumped about happily in his parents arms, kicking his legs up and around as gathered relations took some photos of the happy, growing, family. We all enjoyed a soft drink whilst awaiting the tea and trying to get some food from the giant buffet of which only egg sandwiches were left by the time I got to the front of the queue. Uncle Tom after complaining about the visibility of my collar button also decided to retie my tie recommending a windsor knot.
On returning home Ka and myself found ourselves a little depressed for obvious reasons. Uncle Tom had advised going out for a run. The best cure for clearing the head. Usually I'd absolutely agree but Ka and myself were not in the jogging mood yesterday.
Instead we sat, like couch potatoes, bored, watching another dreadful bunch of 'Come Dine with Me' episodes, showcasing another bunch of dreadful people, making dreadful meals in each others' dreadful homes.
The kind of dinner parties that you wish turned into a murder mystery where the diners would get knocked off one by one, leaving only the show's one redeeming character, the commentator.
As a desperate effort to cheer the two of us up, I even suggested a game of Cluedo which was quickly and unequivocally refused by Ka. Besides, Colin and Jillian were not about and we seem to only play board games when they’re about these days.
I'd been playing Cluedo (or Clue, as it's known in America) last weekend in Ka's hairdressing salon. Bored waiting on Ka who sat perched on her usual chair, Alan, Ka's hairdresser and sole employee of the 'Nutters' female hairdressing salon, gave me his iPad to toy with. He uses it as a design tool now. A portable gallery of female haircuts for all his clients to mull over. Fortunately Ka was the last client to be finished so I had the waiting area to myself and didn't have the usual array of eyeballs looking me up and down as I awaited the wife.
With the iPad on my lap, Alan snapped an unexpected picture of my mug through the Photobooth app and planted it on the shoulders of a chubby dwarf in a vest and beret, smoking a cigar. He found it hilarious. Not sure why.
Alan then proceeded to show me his gallery of customers which he'd snapped and put on to a vast assortment of bodies, creating a hideous gallery of freaks and unfortunates, all with hair in varying states of disrepair. To be honest, most of them didn't need much modifying in an effort to be scary looking.
After Alan rushed off to get on with the final stages of Ka's hairstyling, I loaded up the Cluedo game and had my first shot on the iPad, failing to get used to the touchscreen control. I only had enough time for the introductory level of the game, deducting the murderer to be Ms. Scarlett with the razor blade in the study.
Cluedo's changed since I last played it, that's for sure.
Razor blades? What happened to the lead piping and the candlestick? In stead of Ms. Scarlett giving someone a quick bang over the head, she's now waiting in a darkened study, jumping out behind the victim and running a razor blade through his throat. Reverend Green, who, incidentally, now looks like Shaft, would be shocked and disgusted.
I've fancied an iPad for some time. The sleek design, the multi-touch display with it's sliding app icons, it's ease of use, zooming in and out from screen views, the onscreen keyboard. Fantastic stuff, but I just can't justify spending that amount of money when I have a perfectly good iMac at home and an iPod hooked to my ears.
The death of Steve Jobs during the week was a great shame. He has always been a bit of a hero in my book. Here was a guy with no degree, a college drop out, and he became not only one of the world’s richest men but one of it’s most influential.
Jobs revolutionised the computer and in doing so, the world, and our everyday lives. He transformed the computer into a stylised, sleak, platform which communicates, collects, informs, reminds, entertains and has the ability to almost organise and run a life on it's own. It was his ideas and creations that inspired the countless other remakes released by other computing manufacturers. Touch screen computers, or tablets (I love tablet... Mum made great tablet...) are now part of the mass market, something I just couldn’t possibly imagine when I was sitting shooting my Sinclair ZX Spectrum’s gun at the living room tv in the late eighties. Steve Jobs put our whole record collection on a slim, pocket sized, 8cm long slip of plastic for gawds sake!
I don’t think it’s an understatement to say that Jobs, and Apple, transformed the world. Okay, Jobs didn’t single handedly create this computer revolution but he was certainly a significant driving force. Jobs was a crazy, stubborn, idea fuelled inventor who appreciated the style as well as the substance. The machine’s Apple produced only a few years back are already considered classics – a testament to how the world seems to be on fast forward all of a sudden. Technology is speeding forwards at every moment, the rest of the world struggling to keep up, and Jobs had been at the forefront.
The question is, with Jobs now gone will apple remain at the forefront?
Will there be an iPad 3?
How much further can the tablet be developed?
And will Mum ever make any more?

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Nicholson's chin and the supermarket tannoy

“Customer attention please. Customer attention. Could a Kelly Ann Reid please come to the checkouts please. A Kelly Ann Reid, please come to the checkouts. Thank you”.
The voice reverberated around the aisles of Stewartfield Morrisons today after I failed to find her within the bowels of the busy supermarket on this rainy Saturday afternoon. We were in search of Christening wrapping paper and stopped of at the local Morrisons. I dropped Ka off at the store’s large, pillared front doors and swerved off to the adjoining petrol station to obtain some more ridiculously expensive unleaded while she popped in for the paper. After buying the petrol I drove back to the pickup point, knowing that the paper/card buying area was at the store’s front newspaper checkout and believing that it wouldn’t have took too long for Ka to purchase the required gift wrapping while I bought the fuel.
As always with these things though, nothing is that simple.
The wife always finds a way to complicate things. Ka was nowhere to be seen. We both had no phone on our person so, the car had to be parked. After slotting the car into one of the carpark’s tight, awkward spaces, I started a whirlwind tour of the supermarket’s vast innards. Starting at the gift wrapping/birthday card/newspaper/lottery ticket checkout at trhe front of the store I then proceeded to the main checkouts where, again, Ka was nowhere to be found, so, there was nothing more that could be done, except the obvious. An exploration of the aisles. Fifteen minutes later she was still nowhere to be found.
So, I hesitantly approached what resembled a store manager at the help desk where the tannoy microphone stood waiting.
Ka eventually appeared, tottering up towards the checkout with a basket full of products, which we had not come in for, looking a little disconcerted and embarrassed. Apparently she had been at the fish when the tannoy announced her name. Needless to say a mild argument occurred where Ka voiced her disbelief and I repeatedly gave my argument for approaching the store manager and requesting an announcement for a missing wife.
It’s the end of a rather relaxing week off from work. It’s flown by even though I’ve not been up to anything particularly interesting. Just the usual. Gym, cinema, jogging and painting. Painting of the canvas kind.
I’m three quarters of the way through a Walken, just about finished a Nicholson and struggling a bit with a Pacino.
As I’m sure you’ve guessed, I’ve started painting movie stars. Walken was the first and since then Ka, Pauline and Chaz have all eagerly spurred me on to paint more, so it’s thanks to them I spent the first half of the week struggling over Jack Nicholson’s chin and the bare bones of Al Pacino’s face. I thought Pacino would actually be a little easier than Nicholson, but how wrong I was. I feel like I’ve been painting and repainting the main structure of Pacino’s face for three days now. I’m sure it’ll get there in the end. Wherever, ‘there’ is.
On Wednesday, after a day of trying to get Pacino right, Pauline, my cousin’s ex wife, who just happens to be an old friend from Primary school and is now a good friend of the Mrs, popped round for a 5k jog around the block. Or rather, jog around a few blocks. Both the St. Leonards and Calderwood areas of EK to be precise.
It’s all in preperation for the Big Fun Run taking place on the 29th October. Ka is running it for Sands in memory of our wee Lucy Reid, as are myself, Pauline, our pal Claire, the in laws, Grace and Dougie, Ka’s bro Colin and his Mrs, Jillian and Ka’s sister, Angela along with, I imagine a great number of other folk. (I’ll take this opportunity to spur folk on to please sponsor the Mrs in her 5k endeavour. Please visit this site to sponsor – any amount of pence or pounds is gratefully accepted for this great cause!)
Pauline, who apparently does not run, was keen for a practise jog and managed the 5k easily in 35 minutes and, although we thought she’d be cursing us, she did insist that she still loved us. Well, most of her did anyway.
Apparently her lungs didn’t.
They’ll get over it.
Last night I was back in the O2 Academy for another visitation from The Wombats. Having recovered from her run the two nights before, Pauline accompanied me to the gig, after Ka took a rain check, and the two of us jumped away to the tunes undeterred by the amount of kids surrounding us in the crowd. The Liverpudlian threesome put on another storming performance for Glasgow, playing a lot of their most recent album, a lot of which I wasn’t familiar with yet. I purchased the album months ago and have listened to it about thrice. Don’t spend as much time listening to music as I used to.
Too busy painting, jogging or looking for the wife in supermarkets.