Saturday, 31 December 2011

More cuddles this year

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

Thursday, 29 December 2011


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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Chrimbo joys

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

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

The season of the spirit

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

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Christmas trees and clockwork

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

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Swinging with the women

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

Friday, 9 December 2011

An announcement

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

Thursday, 8 December 2011

The finest tea available to humanity

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