Monday, 31 December 2012

Supersensitive Christmas trees

December arrived and disappeared just as quickly in a blur of visitors, bottles, baubles and disappointing television.
Never before has my life changed so much in such a short space of time following the arrival of baby Sophie Reid on the 19th November. Life as I knew it was turned upside down, spun sideways and then given a hefty slap from an overgrown halibut and sent flailing into a nearby canal.
Sophie has now been here for 6 weeks and we're just about getting used to it all now. I don't just mean the feeding, the nappy changing, the crying, the taking half an hour to leave the house, the boxing (yes, boxing) and the now seeming inability to watch television or read a book in peace and quiet. I also mean the simple fact that there's now a third person living in our house. A very small, occasionally noisy, occasionally troublesome, but always perfect, third person.
Sometimes I get up in the morning and wonder where the extra snoring is coming from. I'm used to Ka's snoring, but when I wake up on a morning and hear the quieter, more sniffly snoring from the moses basket, at the side of the bed, it sometimes takes me a few seconds to register.
Sleeping. One of those things I used to completely take for granted. If I had a mere six hours I would consider myself half asleep and incapable of having a fully conscious day. Now six hours is something I crave. The only hindrance to my potential beauty sleep used to be Ka's snoring, but now I have Sophie's snoring, not to mention her waking up at half past four in the morning demanding nourishment by way of a heavy shuffling from the innards of the afore mentioned moses basket before the wailing and squawking from inside it.
Why she can't wait another couple of hours or so until breakfast time I don't know? It's not as if she'll fade away! (I hope nobody from the RSPCC is reading..?) Hopefully she'll catch on eventually.
My two weeks paternity started on the morning of Sophie's birth, those first two sleepless weeks followed by another two weeks off on holiday, to 'enjoy the arrival' of the new baby in the household, apparently. Ka also required a decent couple of weeks help to recover as Sophie had been born via caesarean section which meant Ka had to relax for six weeks. No exercise, no lifting heavy objects, no sudden movements, no tidying, no polishing and no hoovering. I think the latter was enough to break her out into a cold sweat on more than one occasion especially after I bought a slightly cheaper Christmas tree this year.
The first Christmas tree in a good couple of years that didn't cost over £30 but which also, unfortunately, did not have the word 'needlelast' in it's title. As a result the tree now showers the living room floor with a barrage of needles when someone so much as walks past it.
Last week, on my first week back at work, I arrived home to find our Christmas tree half bald.
Now that Ka has recovered enough to get back to her usual hoovering routine she'd been doing some housework. Apparently, at some point, whilst hoovering around the Christmas tree, (one of those great traditions Kim Wilde never sang about), Ka managed to drop the hoover into the tree, thus completely shedding it of a large portion of needles up one side. The tree now looks balder than me after a trip to Shaky Shugs in the Village.
I'm sure Ka's telling the truth though and wasn't at all getting carried away with her reacquainted hoovering abilities. You just have to adjust a bauble and a whole pile of needles will shower to the ground underneath.
The fact we've had one of our busiest Decembers for visitors also didn't help matters. Visitors are great. They're brilliant. I love visitors popping by. Especially when they bring presents.
However, when there's a highly sensitive Christmas tree in the room things get a bit tiresome.
A good proportion of the family members and friends that dropped by to say hello, to give us their wonderful wishes and presents and see our precious new bundle of joy, all managed to give the tree a good inadvertent shake while they were in. Some would sweep their jackets from their backs, swinging them round their bodies, in the general direction of the dining table chairs, apparently not noticing the Christmas tree standing proudly at their back and the needle carnage they were causing behind them as their large coats and jackets attacked the baubled branches. As soon as the guests were out the front door and on their way home, after perhaps commenting on the needle loss of our tree, it would be another trip to the cupboard under the stairs for the J. Edgar.
Still, it's New Year now, so it doesn't have long to go.
In fact as soon as the bells finish striking twelve tonight both Ka and myself will be fighting the urge to immediately disassemble the whole thing.
We'll keep the tree up for the families visitation tomorrow afternoon for our New Year's Day gathering but we have no doubt the last of it's super sensitive needles won't last long during that onslaught.
Still, it had been a nice tree.
Sophie's first Christmas tree.
Up until Tuesday morning Sophie had a hefty pile of presents underneath, even though she has no idea what Christmas Day even is.
In fact she probably doesn't even have a clear idea what a day is, come to think of it.
Since Sophie has, as yet, no idea of the concept of Christmas, Santa, presents, the birth of Jesus Christ, getting up at a reasonable time in the morning, (etc, etc), there was no need to buy her anything this year so Ka and myself enjoyed one last year of buying for each other. We couldn't let Christmas go buy without buying our new born daughter anything, of course, so we did buy her a few toys and books which, again, were all vaguely pointless as she can barely rattle a rattle yet. So on Christmas morning Ka started unwrapping presents with one hand, presents that 'she only just wrapped not twelve hours before, holding a permanently disinterested Sophie in the other arm, who seemed to be more interested on where the milk was coming from.
Sophie's day consists of eating, sitting, greeting and then sleeping on an ever spinning cycle. A bit like some of the folk I used to work with.
The only activity Sophie gets up to at the moment is a little bit of foot kicking in her bathtub and the boxing. She will sit on her bouncer quite happily following a feed, for around half an hour at the most, and then start to get bored. Her arms will then start moving, then the legs will kick until the moaning then commences. The arms' movements will take on a more determined movement until it look as if Sophie's boxing a small, invisible opponent, from the comfort of her sloping chair.
The quietest, and the longest time she's lasted in her bouncy chair, had to be Boxing day when we watched a whole seven hours of animation. Pixar's Cars, followed by the dancing penguins of Happy Feet, swiftly followed by Dreamwork's How to train your Dragon. Okay, by the time the dragons were on she was boxing again, and I think it was myself that was watching Cars more than Sophie, but the dancing penguins certainly kept her eyes on the tv. Again, she's no idea what a penguin is, and I'm not even sure she can focus on the tv properly yet, but the movement and singing was obviously keeping her interested.
More than I was anyway. I lost interest in Happy Feet. Dancing penguins singing Prince songs? Give me a break.
Talking cars, now that's fare more sensible.
It's been quite an eventful year really.
Outside my own little life there's been some pretty major and spectacular events this year. The Olympics is the most obvious event which pretty much blew everything else out of the park. Bradley Wiggins became the first Brit to win the Tour de France. The Queen's Jubilee was commemorated with a procession down the Thames in the miserable pouring rain. Gary Barlow gifted the Queen a large concert on the doorstep of Buckingham Palace with varying degrees of quality acts from the past 60 years including the crazy skeletal dance of Cliff Richard and the spinning hula hoops of Grace Jones (thanks for that Gary). The re-election of Obama turned out easier than predicted, the death of Rangers caused Scottish football to begin its slow, painful death, Whitney Houston, Frank Carson, Jack Duckworth, JR, Neil Armstrong and the Gamesmaster himself, Patrick Moore also died (to name but a few). On the edge of space, Felix Baumgartner jumped down to Earth from 24 miles high. James Bond's 50th anniversary dominated the cinema. Chris Moyles left the Breakfast show, finally. A dog won a British Television talent contest. A shoddily written book made lots of Britain's middle aged women go a bit faint and unintentionally admit how desperate they all are. Another two nutjobs in America decided to go on a shooting spree making lots of other Americans rush out and buy more guns. Jimmy Saville was suddenly exposed as a child molester but escaped conviction on account of the fact he's long dead and nobody actually said anything when he was around. A loony dance from South Korea dominated the youtube channels and became a big hit at kids parties even though the dance moves are more than highly inappropriate. All hell broke out in Syria, the Euro collapsed a little more, and the Levenson Enquiry finally came to an end with some kind of result that nobody is now paying the least of attention to.
Personally, my little life continued too. The work's move (finally!) from Hamilton to the Glasgow Clydeside has now seen S&UN officially merge with the rest of Scotland's Trinity Mirror meaning the integration and merging of teams under one roof. What this means in the long term still remains uncertain but I'm optimistic.
Ka and myself bought our first, and perhaps only, house in June/July. With Ka once more up the duff we bit the bullet and bought ourselves our new home, moving on up the property ladder, leaving Your 'Manoeuvre' to continue to come up with excuses regarding our wee beloved flat.
Ka and myself took part in more fun runs for Sands, myself taking part in my very first 10k (okay, I know it's only 10k, but I thought it was an achievement anyway) and we had the great Charity Hat Disco Night with DJ William Rae which ended up raising over £1000 for Sands and Cancer Research UK.
Ka and myself enjoyed a trip to London before the chaos of the Jubilee, to visit Auntie Ann around her 'big' birthday, and took Adventure Ted, from Ka's nursery, along for the ride. That was the last time I remember the sun being out and it was in April, and in England.
It was in London that we learnt of Sophie's existence, whilst standing in the middle of Charing Cross train station.
We enjoyed another trip to the Edinburgh Fringe where I ended up on stage with Tim Vine and gaining another wife.
There was a family reunion style picnic on Elie beach in August, at which the sun was out, (so I was wrong about the last time being in London), and I managed to burn my forehead a rather spectacular primrose red.
We flitted a few weeks later, enjoyed a giant bouncy castle and a few house warmings, and then settled down to prepare for the imminent arrival of a certain Sophie Reid.
Blog writing time became suddenly scarce, pint drinking time even more so and sleep became the new nightly goal.
Now, two years after the birth and passing of our first daughter Lucy, things are perilously close to becoming a little brighter again.
What will 2013 hold in store?
There's only one way to find out...
Happy New Year to you all.

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Sophie Reid

Apologies for the absence.
I have a good excuse though.
Baby Reid number 2, Sophie Reid was born at 9.33am on Monday 19th November 2012.
As you can see, she was pulled out into the world with a bit of a grumpy expression on her face, but she was forced to arrive three weeks early I suppose.
Mum is fine and recovering whilst Sophie is... well, hard work.
I'm off to bed to try and catch up with some more sleep.

Monday, 12 November 2012

A lovely machine

A week today.
One week. Not even 7 days away now.
Baby Reid number 2 will be born.
Ka and myself are having kittens.
No, not kittens, a baby.
We’re nervous, we’re excited. We’re sad, we’re brooding. We’re scared, we’re fearful. We’re optimistic, we’re struggling. We’re just feeling flamin’ everything at the moment and we’ve got another 6 and a bit days to go!
Baby Reid has been keeping us busy though and constantly reminding us of her presence.
On one of the first days of noises from the car's undersides, discussed in the last post, we had our 34 week scan, at which baby number two was bouncing around, quite the norm, inside Ka's not inconsiderate bump. The consultant was to give us our date for the birth at the end of the appointment but realised she'd forgotten her diary making us wait until Ka's midwife appointment the next Tuesday. It was then that it was decided that it was to be the 19th of November that Baby Reid number 2 will be helped out of her little cocoon and pulled into the world and, all going well, we'll be celebrating the birth of another baby girl.
Baby’s certainly making herself known, even before she’s made an appearance.
She's going to be a lively little blighter by the looks of things.
She's been jumping, kicking and moving around in there quite a lot in the past months, freaking people out, fascinating the kids in Ka's nursery class and keeping me occupied on an evening.
Baby communicates with me via punches or kicks from within the womb (obviously taking after her mother). I'll lean over Ka's big belly bump and talk to her only to get a near immediate response on most instances with a kick. Baby will also push a little limb out, causing the perfect ball shape of Ka's bump to grow small, lumpy shapes which bob up and down over the round surface like Clangers popping their heads out from within their moon.
Baby likes apples too. Moments after Ka has eaten an apple, Baby will move joyfully around, inside her wee shell, as if hyped up on juicy, applely goodness (Perhaps when Baby eats an apple, an amazing transformation will occur – she doesn’t get any bananas though, Ka’s went off them).
On the day of her 32 week scan the consultant began, as usual, by squirting the thick, ultrasound jelly over Ka's bump and placed the wired scanning device down on to it. Almost instantly the instrument was very nearly knocked completely from the consultant’s hand as baby gave it a damn good kick from inside giving the consultant a little fright.
On Saturday there we were sitting in the cinema, waiting to see Argo with Ka’s brother, Colin, (a pretty damn good movie, quite tense, almost inducing) when Baby started shuffling around again.
We pondered what baby was up to in there. Colin suggested Baby was tidying up. Giving the place a wee clean around, like mother like daughter, which would also explain why the wee baby can’t sit at peace for two minutes.
Colin placed his hand ever so gently on to the ball of Ka’s bump, barely touching it, as if scared of disturbing Baby in her housework, or womb work. Ka huffed taking a hold of Colin’s hand and told him that he wasn’t going to feel anything touching the bump like that and placed it more firmly down upon the belly mound. Once more, almost immediately, Baby gave her Uncle Colin a good kick at which Colin yelped, his bawl echoing throughout the dark waiting cinema.
Friday's scan marked week 36 and we now only have one more week of freedom, sorry, waiting, remaining.
Preparations are at a busy, non stop, high. After painting the newly fitted doors in the upstairs hall throughout the previous days, I spent the entirety of last Thursday building nursery furniture, a nice, bright, white, and fairly solid, Mamas and Papas wardrobe, chest of drawers and cot. Obviously the cot wasn’t vital at the present time but once I’d successfully completed the other two I thought I’d better just get on with it. As a result I woke up on the Friday morning aching, after effects from all the twisting, screwing and lifting. I also finished painting all the upstairs hall’s doors over the weekend, all of which are now nicely finished with a neat gloss white, with only a few wee dried drips here and there (hopefully no one will notice them).
Obviously Ka’s been busy too, organising her bags for the hospital, baby’s bags for the hospital and other bags for the hospital, although I’m not sure who the other bags are for? As soon as I’d finished the furniture on Thursday, Ka got to work folding away the few clothes we have already, into the large drawers, waiting on an owner.
There’s a whole drawer, of the new chest, dedicated to Mum’s knitting. My Mum’s been knitting since the summer. Cardigans, bonnets, wee jackets, skirts, blankets, teddy bears with floppy heads and even a mouse. No matter how much I insist she still hasn’t set up an etsy account to make herself a couple of quid out of her fantastic talents.
Baby is going to have plenty of cardigans even if she doesn’t have a name.
We have no idea what her name's going to be.
Lucy was one in a million.
Not only was she our first child but she also symbolised the first time Ka and myself have ever 100% agreed upon anything together. Her name. The only name. We had a boy's name in mind for the other instance, of course, but no second girl's name. And we still don't.
At the moment Baby is called Bertha.
At first it was a joke.
Bertha as in 'Big Bertha', following a sudden burst in growth at around week 30. Nothing at all to do with the large German war guns used in World War One or the big green, factory machine from the animated kids tv series that produced farting noises and cuckoo clocks.
Unfortunately family members are now calling her Bertha, the kids in Ka's nursery expect her to be called Bertha, and now Ka insists I call her Bertha.
We're going to have to think of a better name and quick.
Anyone got any suggestions?

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Door locks, brake pads and hoover shocks

Well, whilst two blokes spend 2 billion dollars publicising themselves over the pond in an effort to control 50 states I've also been spending big money. Okay, maybe not 2 billion dollars, but certainly money that can’t afford to be spent.
In the past week or so I've spent hundreds and hundreds of pounds.
No, I'm not showing off.
I've spent literally hundreds. Hundreds that I don’t have.
Two weekends ago a familiar sounding grinding noise started growling up from underneath the car in transit. With little driving detective work I assumed it to be the front passenger side wheel pads, in dire need of replacement. As quickly as I could, on the Monday morning, without making the repair bill have to cover brake discs too, I took the car over the squinty bridge, sorry, the Clyde Arc road bridge, to a small, grubby looking garage on Govan Road. Within hours the little, bespectacled mechanic had called me to inform me that all four brake pads were needing replaced. The mechanic himself admitted he'd thought the noise had been coming from the front passenger side but upon investigation had discovered the noise to be coming from one of the rear wheels, and not only that but each of the car's brake pads were in need of restoration. Upon hearing me humming and hawing over the phone the mechanic must have mistook my noises for mistrust and insisted he’d keep all four of the old brake pads as proof to which I obviously insisted wasn’t necessary and sighing heavily, told him to proceed with the job.
The bad news didn't stop there though. At around 4pm that afternoon I ventured back over the squinty bridge, through the rush hour traffic. The cheery little mechanic immediately insisted on showing me the duff brake pads, (probably the oldest trick in the book – he’s probably got a drawer full of them!) and then informed me that my two front tyres were illegal.
Bald on the inside apparently. (Illegal for being bald? Surely that’s baldist?)
I had spent £130 quid on two Dunlops for the front last November and the two of them were already duff and fine worthy. So after getting back to the office I made yet another visit to, a lot sooner than I thought I'd be visiting, and sorted out another expensive pair of rubbers. On the same day, from the mild comfort of my office desk, I also paid off various bills, reminder notices and last chance saloon letters and ordered my new 6 month tax disc, successfully making it one of the most expensive days in my working history, all whilst sitting on my arse. Next up will be my car insurance, due shortly, along with the good old MOT, which, going by recent standards, will probably throw up a few surprises for me, all just in time for Christmas when you expected to spend lots of money on other people.
Days later, last Thursday, I gave a wee bloke £120 for having a large tantrum in my house.
Recently I bought new, interior doors for all the rooms leading off from the upstairs landing which all started when Dad and Colin successfully burst the bathroom door on the night of the house warming. The door was on it’s last legs, or hinges, anyway, so I don’t blame them. My Dad had went to leave the bathroom and found the door had locked him in so he ended up shouting down to Colin, who was standing out in the back garden at the time, minding his own business, smoking a cigarette. Always willing to help Colin made his way upstairs and between the two of them they managed to obliterate the bathroom door.
So while I was getting a new bathroom door I thought it’d probably be a good idea to get the rest of the doors done. Ordering them over the phone with Cornes, the local DIY store, here in EK, I asked them to book me a joiner to get them fitted. The joiner in question phoned me up a few days later and made a date to fit the doors, two and a half weeks later, at half past 8 in the morning (that was the next available date in his diary).
So, two and a half weeks later, on my way back from taking the wife to work in the morning, the joiner phoned my at 8.25am, leaving demanding messages on both my mobile, sitting alongside me in the car, and my home phone, stating he was 'supposed' to be fitting doors at my house that morning and that he had no access to the house. I dialled his number as I drove on the via the hands free speaker phone as I approached my street. Again, he informed me that he had no access to the house.
No access to the house?, I thought. I’m quite glad of that really. Is that not why they put locks in doors? A joiner of all people should know that, surely?
Immediately recognising the wee man that jumped out the van, but from where I wasn't sure, I let him into the house and he got himself set up. Through another ten minutes of conversation we eventually sussed that it was from the gym that I recognised him. I've seen him strutting about the Nuffield gym on occasion talking to folk in his loud, but not unfriendly, voice, talking to some of the bigger, muscle-bound guys on occasion who quite often are double the height of him. I wondered why this was why he spoke so loudly in normal conversation, conversation that continued as he worked at the four doors.
After an hour or so the joiner took a break to drink a protein shake, a drink which he really wanted me to know about, for whatever reason. Unfortunately I perhaps said the wrong thing by moaning something along the lines of, "you're not one of them are you?". It turns out he is (as is Andrea, my colleague in work, who models herself on Jodie Marsh) and the wee joiner has been trying to build his muscles up like some of the other guys in the gym. Refraining from stating that there probably weren't enough hours in the day, never mind the year, I got on with some paperwork and bill paying.
It wasn't until later that things really turned uncomfortable.
The joiner left the bathroom door to last. The other three doors had normal, nice silver handles bought with them, but the bathroom was slightly different in that its handle design included a lock mechanism. A perfectly normal lock mechanism which you’d find on most bathroom doors. Unfortunately it turned out to be not so normal as the wee joiner was soon swearing, shouting and jumping about in the bathroom. He's only been attempting to fit the lock handle for approximately five or ten minutes before, his face started turning a nasty shade of red and he started turning the air blue, jumping about, throwing electric screwdrivers around the bathroom whilst twisting the new handle up and down.
"F**king cheap sh**e!", he kept shouting, his voice echoing through the house. I had had no idea I was ordering cheap sh*te with my phonecall to Cornes two and a half weeks ago. At the time I'd thought £13 for a lock handle was expensive enough.
After another ten minutes of swearing and raging he disassembled the lock handle, growling furiously as he went and sped off back down to Cornes to get a second under the impression we'd been given a dodgy one.
I’ve met an awful lot of wee men who seem to have a great deal of anger built up inside them. An anger that can be quite potent and unexpected when it bursts. I’ve known a few short men in my life who’ve all had similar personalities. I’m no tall person myself but each of the guys I’m thinking off were all definitely in the shorter department and all had similar, slightly unstable characteristics. I’m certainly not saying all short people have this tendency, I’m just saying I am prone to encountering them. One minute these guys seem jovial, happy and perfectly normal in conversation until something happens. The something could be an occurrence, a statement, a joke or some kind of small, not obviously major, annoyance that makes them seem to boil up and explode.
This joiner, for instance, was highly affected by the bathroom door not working, after a mere five minutes or so of trying to fit it properly. As soon as he spent longer than five minutes working on it he just seemed to explode in a barrage of abuse and Basil Fawltyesque rage.
Needless to say, after the joiner’s return from Cornes, the second lock handle was no better and as he attempted to fit the new handle he stamped his feet, slammed his tools about some more and shouted about how he had other things to do with his time.
After some discussion with the rather irked wee joiner I decided to opt for his suggestion of replacing the lock handle with a normal handle and fitting the door with a simple sliding bolt lock. So after yet another visit to Cornes the wee, unsettled, highly flustered joiner with the anger management issues fitted the bolt and the normal handle, took his money and left.
Breathing a sigh of relief I got the hoover out and started to tidy his mess up, only to discover, upon inspecting the bathroom door, that the wee joiner had fastened the bathroom door to the wall with only one screw through each hinge rather than the usual four. As hesitant as I was to have the wee nutter back in my house, I had paid for his service and as he was too busy performing his little strops he'd obviously neglected to screw the damn door into the wall properly so I phoned him up. Huffing upon receipt of this information the wee joiner said he'd be back in ten minutes and as I waited I continued to hoover, almost managing to blow myself up in the process.
As I hoovered away, twisting and moving round the hall, trying to catch all the wood shreds and splinters, the hoover wire got sucked up the hoover's front and another highly suspicious grinding noise started from the machine’s underside. Within seconds a strange burning smell started interfering with the odour of freshly cut wood and before I knew it, the J. Edgar was firing out tiny shreds of grey and black plastic.
Flipping the power switch, I pulled the wire from under the hoover only to see a rather unhealthy looking length of bare copper wire shining up at me through a thin veil of electrical smoke.
The hoover had never done that before. I’d ran over the wire in the past and it had never been sucked up in such a plastic devouring fashion. Just as I finished tidying the hoover wire shreds up a loud knock at the door alerted to the presence of the wee joiner again and in he came once more, to finish his job.
“What happened to your hair?” the wee joiner looked up at me as he climbed the stairs. I looked in the mirror. My hair seemed to be standing a little on end.
Had I been shocked? Or was I just a little overly flustered?
At least the wee joiner had regained his composure as he quickly screwed the missing screws into the bathroom door and quickly headed off to his next poor customer. Making light of the missing screws I shrugged it off, insisting he was probably just too flustered and focused on the bathroom door lock.
“I’ll let you know after my next therapy session!” he smiled as he left the house.
I’m not even sure whether he was joking.
I certainly don’t want his therapist.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Popcorn, treasure hunts and the furry pencil case

“Papa’s juice, papa’s juice!”
“No Joshua, this is my house, so this is Michael’s juice”
“Papa’s juice!”
My nephew, Joshua, and myself had this argument a few times over the weekend. Robinsons fruit juice apparently has a pseudonym of ‘Papa’s juice’, a name that is not known, at least not yet, in the Reid household. Joshua’s only allowed a certain amount of Robinsons juice as he follows a strict diet of as little sugary drinks as possible even though he had a more than healthy helping of the massive bag of popcorn I purchased for his sister, Morgan and myself at the cinema a few hours before.
Ka and myself picked the two terrors up at around 2 on Saturday afternoon for a trip to the cinema to see Madagascar 3 and Alex the Lion, Marty the Zebra, Gloria the Hippo, and Melman the Giraffe. We were then heading back to ours to house the niece and nephew for the night whilst Angela and Steven went out to a friend’s 40th birthday party.
As it was mid Saturday afternoon by the time we got there, the cinema was busy and crowded with families buying tickets for the latest Dreamworks animation. Ka and myself both had our cineworld unlimited cards at the ready but it somehow still managed to cost us £12? £12 for two kids to see a cartoon? Unbelievable.
It must be a flamin’ fortune to go to the cinema as a family these days.
We proceeded upstairs via the great glass elevator which moves up the corner of the building, looking out over the northern end of the city centre. Port Dundas Street stretching out ahead, leading up through the bustling crowds of buses, cars and shoppers towards the quieter streets beyond and the joys of the M8. On reaching the fourth floor, the four of us piled out into the foyer where we joined the queue for some sweet popcorn. The last time Ka and myself took Morgan to the flicks I’d tempted Morgan with a bag of Butterkist from the kitchen cupboard which she quickly rejected as her Dad apparently bought her the special cinema popcorn every time she went. So, with this in mind, I joined the queue and upon reaching the counter, asked for a bag of popcorn from the baseball capped foyer attendant.
Regular or large, I was asked. First I wondered what happened to the small. Perhaps management had rejected it as they could slap as big a price on it. I asked the becapped girl what the difference in size was.
“Well” the girl shrugged, lifting the two paperbags, holding up the small, purple paper bag and the large, A4 sized, yellow bag. “The regular is £4.45 and the large is £4.95, it’s only a difference of 50p”. I’m glad she pointed that last snippet out as I would have been there all day working that one out. Upon hearing the prices being verbalized before me, I asked her to repeat herself suspecting I had misheard.
I was wrong I hadn’t misheard her reply. £4.95 for a bag of cinema popcorn. I almost asked her to repeat herself again but then decided against it, seeing Ka, Joshua and Morgan waiting patiently for me at the side of the queue. If it’s a fiver for a bag of popcorn how much is it for one of those ludicrous looking hotdogs or those plates of Doritos and guacamole?
Why do people eat this stuff in cinemas anyway?
Doritos, okay, that’s fine, I suppose. But why guacamole? Could there be a blander condiment on the planet? And why those stinking hot dogs with the completely ridiculous amount of tomato sauce zig zagged over them? I can’t imagine anything worse than sitting through the duration of a movie having one of those giant sausages squirming about in your stomach in a pool of red sauce.
You see some people walking up the cinema aisle to their seats, hands and arms laden with hotdogs, plates of doritos, bags of popcorns and giant cokes. How can they sit and each that much stuff, never mind pay for it?
Anyway, Madagascar 3 was great. Well, for kids anyway… or if you like listening to Chris Rock for an hour and a half…
Unfortunately I don’t, but the film did have some other things going for it. Full of fantastic colour and craziness the story was like a speeding circus train, racing through it’s scenes and landscapes. Much to the kids amusement. Especially Joshua, whose favourite toys and tv shows just happen to be “choo-choos!”.
After the cinema we headed off home, to East Kilbride making a quick stop at the Fort Morrisons for pizza, another of Joshua’s favourites. We hunted the store for the freshly made variety, circling the entirety of the store before ending back up in the fruit and veg aisle, not two meters from where we started out.
Getting home we unpacked the boot, lifting the various backpacks, bags, guitars, teddy beds, Thomas the tanks and teddy bears into the house, reminding the kids of the last time they had visited when the place was a mess of chairs and relations, not to mention the giant bouncy castle in the back garden. Needless to say there wasn’t a bouncy castle this time around, although there was a treasure hunt which I put together in my last half hour of work on the Friday evening.
Before the treasure hunt, and as time was marching relentlessly on, we decided to ready Joshua’s bed and build the Dream N’Play travel cot borrowed from the McGarva household. Ka and myself worked at it for around half an hour, whilst Joshua continuously circled us, telling us how Papa could do it. After some struggle we ended up phoning Dougie, who informed us it was Steven who built it in their house. Not wanting to disturb Steven on his first night off for a long time we worked at it a little longer before I ended up on google and read of how a pregnant woman with a baby in one arm, could erect the folding cot with a heavy flick of the one free wrist. Needless to say we then found ourselves on the phone to Steven and just as he was about to leave the house in Bothwell to travel over and give us a hand, the cot seemed to suddenly coalesce, almost as if the thing had a mind of it’s own and had been having us on the whole time just like that moment when the Delorean’s engine roared to life when Marty headbutted the steering wheel. Almost collapsing back on to the spare room’s floor, like Doc at the end of Back to the Futrue 2, we all celebrated, high fives all round and we quickly called Steven back to tell him to continue to ready himself for the party.
So, the treasure hunt could begin. This hunt basically consisted of eight rhyming clues and a treasure map with which I led the kids around the house, on a hopefully exciting, but needlessly tiring, journey to find two bags of gold coins Ka had bought the previous week. Okay, it wasn’t exactly the most bountiful of treasures, but it did work in keeping them entertained, whilst the pizzas were baking in the oven.
After having run up and down the stairs a few times, visiting various rooms, getting our feet muddy in the garden, getting the bedroom carpet dirty from the garden, getting Ka to shout at us about it, and almost smashing the living room clock, the kids eventually ended up at the base of our dying yukka plant, digging down into it’s soil with their hands and pulling out a bag of gold coins each. A bag of gold coins and more than a few dollops of dry, crumbly soil which successfully exploded over the surrounding living room carpet. Fortunately Ka was in the kitchen and missed this. I quickly instructed the kids to run through to the kitchen and demand their coins to be cleaned, keeping her occupied, whilst I dived into the kitchen cupboard for our tall, trusty white plastic friend, the J. Edgar.
Following the treasure hunt we all sat down to watch the last ten minutes of Strictly Come Dancing and eat our pizza, the quietest the kids had been all day, and that included the cinema. Joshua was then put to his bed, the now fully functioning, or at least fully standing, Dream N’Play travel cot and Morgan set up the Snakes and Ladders interrupted by Ka giving the supposedly sleeping Joshua a quick check upstairs. He was awake and needing changed.
Oh my god.
I had never known such a smell existed. I called the army and warned them of a suspected toxic blast in the Calderwood area after I quickly disposed of the heavy white, padded bag given over to me. I had to put it straight into the wheelie bin outside. Regretting my actions almost instantly I then feared for my wheelie bin’s life. I’d probably go out the next morning to find a sizzling mound of melted green plastic that used to be our two wheeled, refuge collecting, green friend.
And there it would be sitting. Joshua’s nappy perched on top, still steaming.
On the past Wednesday mornings since moving in, when we’ve put the bin out for collection, it’s always been full to bursting and as a result the birds have been circling it, pecking at the bags exposed by the half open lid. Gawd helped any bird that dared to have a peck at that blighter.
What about the bin men themselves? They’d have to put that in their lorry? Do they get paid danger money?
If it gets out I could wake up one morning with the whole street in quarantine! Dustin Hoffman talking to me from behind the mask of a protective suit.
Anyway, whilst the nappy lay in the wheelie outside, the smell safely contained upstairs, unfortunately in the room where I was to spend the night in the futon alongside the travel cot, our Saturday night continued.
Pictionary with the furry pencil case followed the snakes and ladders.
Not two days before, whilst rummaging through some more boxes in my Mum and Dad’s loft, I found my trusty furry pencil case. Mum recognized it immediately after I’d brought it down. Mum had designed and created this furry pencil case when I was around seven or eight, for all my many coloured pencils, pens and other various drawing implements. Upon inspecting it’s innards I discovered it still held functioning felt pens so I brought it home for the weekend and for my niece to use for her drawings.
Unfortunately Morgan wasn’t too impressed and insisted on using her own black pen to draw her stories which we were obviously supposed to know. Ka used her illustrative skills to depict Blackpool as a steep pyramid built by the blind Egyptians with Christmas lights and I attempted the old woman that lived in the shoe.
That old woman had so many children she didn’t know what to do. We were looking after two for the night and we didn’t know what to do. We were knackered. Cinemas, treasure hunts, pizzas and snakes and ladders all seemed to work though. The old woman in the shoe obviously wasn’t that creative, she just whipped them all and put them to bed. If the old woman were around today she more than likely find herself getting reported to the RSPCC.
Still, it was all good practice.

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Red Dwarf real ale and Runrig

Skull Splitter, Dragonhead Stout, Devil’s Advocate and Stone the Crows. Just a few of the beers on offer last week at the 13th Ayrshire Real Ale Festival in Troon town hall. Straight after work, on Friday night, I jumped in the car and headed out to Barassie to meet up with Dad and Dougie at Tom and Linda’s house. The plan was to get a quick dinner in the Barassie Reid’s house before heading out to the annual beer festival, staying the night with my Aunt and Uncle and the two dogs, Sally and Jake.
Dougie and Dad, who’d been at last year’s beer swilling event, had the spare rooms and I had the luxurious splendour of the living room floor, so whilst the two Dad’s were out getting everyone a fish supper, or a steak pie supper, in my case, Tom and myself pulled the couch cushion in from the mobile home, parked outside in the side driveway, ready for another trip the next Sunday morning.
Four giant portions of fish and chips and a steak pie supper later, we were ready to go. I knew agreeing to the chippie was a mistake as soon as I agreed to it. Eating that amount of food with the intention of then drinking a copious amount of beer could not be a good idea, surely?
Leaving Linda indoors with the dugs, Tom, Dougie, Dad and myself piled into the car and drove down to the Troon town centre, heading straight for the large concert hall after a brief stop off at the seafront Morrisons for a quick visit to the cash machine.
Once parked and disembarked outside one of the small, cosy looking bungalows on Academy Street we followed the few passers by up towards the Troon Concert hall, where, according to the notice board standing outside, Donnie Munro was to be playing at the beginning of November.
One of Mum’s favourites, Donnie Munro is the former lead singer of Runrig, the Scottish, gaelic speaking, celtic rock band. Donnie left to be a politician back in 1997. He’d played his last gig with Runrig at Stirling Castle on August 29th. I know because I was there, along with Colin, Chaz and Adie. Shazz was also there with relations, somewhere in the crowd. Colin had always been into Runrig and I wasn’t unfamiliar with them after hearing more than a few of Mum’s albums, not to mention my Uncle Laurence’s tapes. The 1988 live video ‘City of Lights’ was also a favourite of Mum’s. The live video began with lots of sweaty, eager looking Runrig fans trampling over one another to get through the front doors of the Barrowlands whilst Radio Clyde reported from the Eye in the Sky, circling the gloomy towers and rooftops of Glasgow as the opening drums of Dance Called America boomed through the echoing ballroom. At the time of the farewell gig in Stirling we must have been going through a particularly patriotic musical phase and had even cajoled Adie and Chaz into liking them, although I think that was down to the fact a few of the songs had rather loud drums which sounded good emanating from a bass tube.
I’ll never forget that Farewell Donnie Concert. Not because the singer officially left the band that night, or because we met the man himself and Runrig guitarist, Rory MacDonald straight after, but because suffering a slight hangover, Dad woke me up the next morning and told me Princess Diana had been in a car crash earlier that morning and died soon after.
Anyway, Donnie’s political career obviously didn’t work out fabulously so he’s back at the music, much to Uncle Tom’s vexation (“Runrig? They’re rubbish - Name one good tune?!”) but the night of the 13th Ayrshire Real Ale Festival was going to have a very different kind of music.
Paying our £4 each and receiving our pint glasses and programmes in the process we ventured forth into Troon’s crowded concert hall. A bar took up the whole of the right side of the large hall, barrel’s piled up behind, all with A4 paper labels displaying the many wonderful varied names of the sweet nectar stored inside, all colour coded indicating which kind of category they each fell into. A bitter, a best bitter, a golden ale, a strong bitter, an IPA, a mild, a stout or a Speciality ale. Over 120 beers were being served over the bar, £3 a pint or if you wanted to drink quicker, and taste more, £1.50 a half pint. The bar was run by a large bunch of volunteers from the organisers, Camra, the Campaign for Real Ale organisation whose posters adorned the walls shouting about petitions to George Osborne whose apparently taking over two thirds of the cost of our pint as we drink.
After visiting the Real Ale festival with Tom last year, Dad and Dougie, had told stories ever since of great beer and good music so I was curious to see what kind of music this occasion was going to serve up. As we shuffled through the crowd for our first beers, guys moved around on the stage at he end of the hall with wires and instruments.
First up, I tried the Kelburn Jaguar, a smooth, fullbodied ale with undertones of grapefruit and citrus with a hoppy aftertaste. No, I have not turned into the beer version of Jilly Goolden, I am merely reading from the programme, though I do remember this being the best beer of the night. As the crowd of drinkers got busier, a few of Tom’s mates introduced themselves, each with their own flagon of ale, and the band took to the stage.
Big Licks’ surprisingly good loud cover versions soon had Troon Concert Hall rocking with hits from the likes of the Goo Goo Dolls, Tom Petty, the Stones, Lenny Kravitz, Primal Scream and a whole lot of others. Three guitarists, one a bassist, a drummer and a lead vocalist who immediately reminded me of Bill Nighy from “Love Actually”. He was around the same age with a similar hairstyle, except a little longer at the back and a bit balder on front, with similar Bill Nighy glasses.
He made very decent attempts at the cover versions’ vocals, and jumped around the stage flinging the microphone stand around rather well, considering his age, smiling and laughing through his rather pronounced teeth excitedly. The bass guitarist looked on a little bored in his dark T-shirt and jeans, nodded emphatically to the beat, as most bass guitarists do, whilst the two other guitarists worked hard over their fretboards, spinning off into the occasional impressive solo between pints delivered to the top of a local amp by their wives.
Second beer of the night was the Golden Plover, a light, golden ale that was exceedingly easy to drink as we hummed along to the music. A beer named Red Dwarf followed as the third beverage of the night. I seen the name in the book and thought that since the new series had now started back I owed it to Doug Naylor himself to give it a bash. Another good choice.
Losing track of my beers, though taking it a little easier following the steak pie supper, I’m not sure what was drunk after the Red Dwarf but last of the night was by far, the worst. Merry Maiden’s Mild was this particular tipple’s title and it was in no way merry or mild. It was like drinking watery, alcohol imbued syrup.
Pretty horrible. Especially as I had to drink this one rather quickly.
The witching hour had swiftly come around and Tom informed us we’d have to run for the free train journey home to Barrassie. Dad, Dougie and myself followed Tom and his pal, a short running pal of my Uncle’s, up Academy Street towards the train station. Unfortunately we were travelling upwind.
As we walked there were some distinctive noises from one of the arses walking ahead of us and unfortunately we walked straight into some clouds of definite noxious nitrogen mixed with carbon dioxide with what tasted like the Merry Maiden’s Mild.
Up ahead, the train [ulled up at the station at the top of the hill. Tom and his pal arrived at the train station just as the doors slid open to the waiting crowds of beer swillers and other Friday night travellers. We had to run up the last hill behind them, after having deliberately fallen a safe distance behind whilst debating which of the guys the putrid gases were exiting from. Just as we ran up behind, gasping after the short jog, Tom’s short pal gave another loud frump. Our timing for arriving at their rear, out of breath, could not have been worse and as we suffered in another cloud of rectum gases.
After two minutes on the crowded train the five of us disembarked at Barassie, where Tom’s short pal left us with one last fart, propelling himself up Barassie station’s cross platform stairway behind some chattering girls. Tom had invited him back for some toasted cheese but I wasn’t too keen on the consequences of some more beer being introduced to the guys system, not to mention the cheese. Sally and Jake would have been packing their bags, never mind the rest of us.
Although Sally did almost get a rather more comfortable bunk for the night before we all headed off to bed. Just as we all parted from the living room following our toasted cheese, and Tom’s trip through his concert ticket memory box, I visited the bathroom to clean the old gnashers. Whilst I was brushing everyone else had a good laugh as, the now elderly, Sally made herself comfortable in my cosy mobile home couch cushion and sleeping bag set up on the living room floor.
She looked so comfortable.
I kicked her out.

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Giant inflatables and disappearing buffets

Frank Sinatra’s slow, melodic version of Send in the Clowns’ played through the living room stereo speakers as we closed the front door on another day of guests at half past midnight on Saturday night. We were finishing up a little earlier than we had done at the previous housewarming but certainly didn’t feel any less tired.
It was the family’s turn to visit and from three o’clock that afternoon we’d had everyone from the Kerrs and the Taylors, to the Symingtons and the Leckies, not to mention the Reids and the McGarvas. The food had been demolished, the beer nearly all drunk, the wine bottles finished, the irn-bru and diet cokes swigged and the caffeine swilled, not to mention a bottle of the finest Arran Malt Whiskey with accompanying cheese and biscuits which more than a few people partook in, a gift to the buffet from my Uncle Jim from his new abode on the ‘geologist’s paradise’ (not to mention the golfer’s paradise, the camper’s paradise and the whiskey drinkers’). A text arrived in the morning from Jim to say he was supplying the cheese and crackers, bought from the famous Arran Cheese Shop, just before my Dad turned up in his gardening gear with his hedge loppers and his ladders. He was here to start the back garden.
The hedge running up the left of our back garden was ridiculously overgrown and, as a result, blocking a lot of the Scottish sunlight out so Dad and myself had been talking about trimming it all down at some point and getting it into some kind of order. I hadn’t expected to see him turning up on the doorstep with his ladders a mere four and a half hours before the arrival of the first guests though. The first of which would be the bouncy castle organised through one of the Mum’s in Ka’s work. This Mum owns, or is part owner, to a company that hires these inflatable structures out and Ka had the rather brilliant idea of hiring one to keep the kids entertained throughout the day. We had told people to turn up whenever, and however, they wanted from 3 o’clock onwards, saying there would be entertainment for the kids in the earlier hours of the afternoon.
Just as Dad and myself finished tidying the last of the giant bushes and hedge branches away from the back garden’s lawn, a job that involved surreptitiously chucking them over the back hedge into the council ‘controlled’ wilderness behind us whilst cutting and scratching my arms to ribbons, the bouncy castle man turned up at the front door, Ka immediately racing away in fright, up the stairs as she was once more still in her polka dot dressing gown (she does wash it, honest!). The guy brought through the black box generators along with a couple of mats and cables and gave the garden a quick check over and then instructed me to take down the washing lines before he disappeared through to the front of the house again. After obediently deroping our washing poles I jogged off through the house to meet the bouncy castle man once more, this time at the front door, mulling over how he was going to fit the giant roll of plastic between us, through the entrance. With a bit of shoving, a bit of squeezing, a bit of wall scraping and a touch of sweat we managed to squeeze the rolled up monstrosity through the not terribly wide front door, then finding ourselves in the hallway and faced with a similar problem three times more as we took the heavy delivery through the house and into the back garden.
That is the one major downfall of owning a terraced house. No side gate to the back garden.
Anyway, we eventually got the giant barrel shaped roll of plastic through and out on to the back lawn where the bouncy castle man immediately set to work, pinning the flat structure down into the wet, slightly mushy grass as I stood and watched the large square unfold over half the garden.
“We’re going to need a bigger garden”, I thought as John Williams’ dark, foreboding music built up in my head. The castle slowly rose up before me blocking the sunlight out that my Dad and myself had revealed in the previous few hours by chopping the surrounding hedges. A shadow now loomed over me from the giant arched roof of the inflatable monster which continued to rise like a cake in an oven with way too much baking powder. A slide seemed to shoot out from the nearest side of the structure as it filled with air, pillars and loops decorated with bubbling fish and swimming scuba divers rose up inside the filled framework and before long you could barely see a patch of grass around the plastic bouncy building.
These kids better turn up, I thought, as I seen the bouncy castle man off after he’d run through his rather vague health and safety procedure which basically involved making sure little kids were looked after within the castle and nobody did anything stupid.
I’m not sure he realised whose house he was in.
As Ka finished straightening her hair upstairs, I reminded her that I wasn’t doing any kid entertaining today. The whole reason we got the bouncy castle in was for me to specifically not do any child entertaining.
As soon as the first child came through the front door, who as the first on the bouncy castle? Muggins, that’s who.
At precisely three o’clock, on the dot, Aunty Lorna and her three girls, Wendy, Pamela and Susan, turned up along with Yvie, Wendy’s youngest. They all had their own customary tour of the new abode before Yvie finally got her way and headed out to the bouncy castle with Auntie Susan. Along with Yvie the first kids took to the bouncy castle and I helped support the little girl over the curved, wibbly wobbly surface inside the castle. Susan stood on the patio and supervised her niece as she got used to moving over the giant inflatable and the stranger egging her on inside it.
My cousin Sarah arrived soon after with her boys Christopher and Daniel and Uncle Ian and Aunt Anne just after. Before long I had company on the castle as Ian took wee Daniel up into the bobbing innards. More kids arrived in the form of my younger cousins Megan and Lauren with my Uncle Laurence and Aunt Maria, Claire arrived with her wee girl, Olivia and as the afternoon progressed and more and more of the families started trooping through the front door the house warming was soon in full swing. Ka got the buffet served single handedly, only because she refused anyone permission to help, I took coats and served drinks, my time on the bouncy castle now down to a minimal after the growing number of kids took over. I was also a little more hesitant to venture on to the bouncy castle along with so many kids after following Colin, Ka’s brother, on his first attempt to board the inflatable. He got so far as getting up on to the main section before losing his footing, falling back over his arse, taking me with him and managing to land on my head, much to the kids and the Symingtons’ amusement.
Mum, Dad, Jim, Lynsey Ann, Tricia and Tommy came in early evening, just in time for the second serving on the buffet table after the first table full got pretty much demolished within half an hour. Grace’s macaroni and homemade bread along with Ka’s wraps, olives, pizzas, prawns, cheese sticks and my very own chilli all went in the first tableful to be closely followed by the second which included Mum’s lasagne and Jillian and Jean’s coconut snowballs.
Jillian and Jean’s white chocolate coated coconut balls are now famous at family buffets, each in their own small paper cake cases and although merely around 2 – 3 centimetres in diameter each probably hold around 500 calories within their small, sweet interior. The coconut snowballs are almost becoming just as traditional as Aunt Linda’s trifle which, unfortunately, we lacked on Saturday as Linda could not make it due to an extreme cold.
My chilli was well received by most or so I thought until Pamela approached me in the kitchen and complemented it. She asked how I made it. As I started describing how I gently browned the mince in the pot she asked how I made my spices.
Make spices? I had no idea you could make spices? I bought mine from a shop in a jar, I replied to her.
Pamela frowned slightly and then asked how I made my chilli powder. Again I replied that it came from a jar bought in a supermarket. Morrisons own, I believe.
Looking thoroughly unimpressed now, Pamela squirmed with discomfort a little and started describing how she would usually make her chilli powder before trailing off and disappearing off to the living room again leaving me to ponder who invited Nigella flamin’ Lawson.
I wouldn’t have minded so much if it had been the real Nigella Lawson in my kitchen giving me her tips (just check my spelling there…).
Aunt Tricia had been so intrigued upon hearing about the bouncy castle beforehand that almost as soon as she arrived she joined Grace up on the giant inflatable and both ending up marooned, struggling to get up, thanks to the kids bouncing and ricocheting around them like popcorn in a microwave. At one point Joshua even accidentally headbutted Tricia across the head giving my Auntie a small, slowly growing, lump for the rest of the night whilst Joshua bounced off unaffected. In fact, he looked more than at home on the inflatable. He bounces about rooms like a blonde haired tigger at the best of times, giving him an inflated ground to use is possibly asking for trouble. I’m quite surprised he didn’t end up in Betty and Malcy’s garden next door.
The girls of the group also found it highly amusing to run up and hit, tap or punch either myself or Colin over the leg, waist or arse repeatedly before running off back up on to the castle. Lauren also took to mounting my lower right leg in an effort to hold me to the spot. Both were amusing at first but soon got slightly tiresome. There were perfectly good tall pillars of hot air within the castle, to punch and smack, why the kids felt the need to continue to hit Colin and myself I’m not sure.
Once the bouncy castle was gone everyone retreated inside for the night. Megan brought her guitar out to impress us with some Killers tunes and the rest of the night was spent chatting and drinking along with some more eating.
As I poured a few drinks for people and Tricia came into the kitchen requesting an aspirin, I spied Ka pulling a large, rather delicious looking, rectangular pizza from the oven’s innards. I’d barely eaten any of the previous tablefuls so I quickly rushed the drinks I was pouring. Once I’d finished pouring and dishing out the glasses I went straight for the buffet table in the living room to grab a square slice and found an empty breadboard with a large rectangular square of heat, grease and crumbs awaiting me.
“Who invited this lot?”

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Googling garden sheds

At half past nine last Saturday morning I was standing in a very quiet Argos. Yes, Argos. The shop for lazy people. The shop for folk who can’t be bothered going looking for something but can be bothered standing and flicking through a gargantuan catalogue, writing out a number from the big book, handing it over the till and then proceeding to a waiting area where they then go on to another desk but only after your number has been called. Surely the only shop that still operates with not only catalogues but also pencils. Short, neatly sharpened pencils.
Whatever happened to the bookie pens? They must have been too expensive. Maybe they were too old fashioned? We are now back to the lead and wood.
That Saturday morning had been dry since we awoke so I had decided, since it was the day of the grand house warming, to run up to the retail park and purchase a lawnmower and get the lawns cut, just in time for the visitors arriving at three in the afternoon.
Along with having our own staircase, we now have our own gardens. Something else that is currently a novelty.
Unfortunately we haven’t yet been gifted with good enough weather to enjoy the gardens but as the grass had needed a cut and there was a distinct lack of rain in the air for a change I zoomed straight up to the local catalogue shop after having spotted the lawnmower at a good price on one of my web meanderings during the week's lunch hours in work.
Due to the busy workload of recent weeks I've found my break times changing from day to day so have completely lost track with everyone else's tea times and have found myself eating my sandwiches at the desk, all alone. Spending my lunchbreaks googling lawnmowers is not how I'd imagined things to change after my move to the Glasgow offices.
The other day I found myself googling Garden Sheds!
Is this how it all starts? Middle age? Googling garden sheds?
Surely it's too soon for all of that... but then I do need somewhere to put a lawnmower now. The garden shed idea has been temporarily knocked on the head anyway as they seem to be far more expensive than I'd first envisioned. Even in our trusty local catalogue store.
Ka and myself had visited the same Argos the previous weekend after seeing a baby bouncer chair online for a good price. We’d went along to investigate and found the item unavailable. The helpful, slightly over enthusiastic, wee woman behind the desk that served us asked if there was any way we’d been interested in a store card. We turned the opportunity down. The Argos lady then asked if there was any particular time we could accept its delivery from another store further afield. We decided against it after finding that the bouncy chair would have to be delivered on a work day. The Argos lady wandered whether we’d consider travelling to pick the item up. We shrugged and then told her it didn’t matter that much, we would pick up another bouncy chair elsewhere.
Obviously this was the wrong thing to say. The woman asked if there was any other bouncy chair of interest to us. We said no. She asked if there was any other item of interest to us. Anything at all in the massive catalogue. Again we insisted it was fine, there was nothing else. Now with a hint of desperation in her voice, the Argos lady asked if there was anything else she could look up for us, anything else she could do.
I had no idea Argos employees were on a commission. I wonder how much she would have got for a bouncy chair.
The same lady was behind the checkout desk when I bought the lawnmower on Saturday morning. A Flymo Easimo, complete with grass trimmer.
I have no idea about lawnmowers. This one had wheels, a blade and a collection box so it looked fine to me and my Dad also confirmed it seemed like a reasonable price when he phoned me up that morning. Being the green fingered expert my Dad is the guy to ask when any gardening advice.
Thankfully the lawnmower was available to pick up, there and then so half of the wee Argos lady’s questions from the previous week were not needed making her look a little disappointed as she started the payment procedure. The lady did try and talk me into some monthly cover payments but after some quick, fraudulent, consideration from myself, involving some unconvincing humming and hawing, I was off to the pick up point in the deserted store. It was obviously too early for all the usual Argos customers so I had the pick of the plastic blue/green seats at pick up point B. Clasping my massively long receipt, for my one item, I looked up at the television screen to see at which position my number stood at.
I was second. There was literally no other customer in the store so how I was second in the queue I don't know.
Still it was only a matter of minutes until the lawnmower was delivered. One of the young employees shouted my number out, even though I, the only person standing waiting on an item, was already making my way up to the pick up point.
And it was the wrong pick up point. The girl had planted the lawnmower down blatantly under the ‘A’ sign. My receipt told me I would be picking my lawnmower up under the ‘B’ sign.
Obviously I couldn't be bothered hanging around any longer than I had to so let them off with this, grabbed the large box and ran for the car, ready to cut up some serious greenery.
After a quick unpacking of various orange and black metal pieces and a short ten minutes or so of construction, a quick cup of tea, a piece and sausage and a conversation with Dad over the phone who was now warning me of the dangers of cutting wet grass. I’d never really heard of anyone electrocuting themselves whilst mowing a wet lawn but Dad insisted it happens quite often. Surely there’d be health warning about cutting lawns then? Would lawnmowers come with safety gear or a license if they were that dangerous?
Whilst Ka prepared the food for the housewarming guests I tackled the back lawn only pausing to empty the collection box hitched on to the mower’s back and to talk to the wee neighbour whose head appeared over the hedge at one point. Betty chatted away for around five minutes, introducing herself and eventually her husband, Malcy, (not sure of the spelling there!) who ventured out into their garden when he heard his name mentioned. Ka introduced herself from the back door, still in her pyjamas and polka dot dressing gown. After the giving us the lowdown on the surrounding neighbourhood Betty and Malky disappeared back indoors and let me finish the back lawn before I headed out to the front. Dad turned up halfway through my frontal assault to either find out if I needed a hand or to make sure I wasn’t electrocuting myself.
Whilst cutting the front I met the neighbour on the other side. An smartly dressed old gent by the name of Leslie whose getting his windows replaced by the council shortly, has a son and a daughter and an alsation dog whose getting a bit long in the tooth and will have to be put down. I didn’t quite understand everything the old guy said but managed to translate most of it. Ka introduced herself from the front door, still moaning about being in her pyjamas and polka dot dressing gown.
After Leslie had gone back inside I quickly finished the front lawn, neatly strimming the edges, Dad disappeared off to get on with his various gardening jobs dotted around East Kilbride and Ka got herself ready after finishing her work in the kitchen, finally taking of her polka dot dressing gown.
Before long everybody started arriving. Cherly and Roslyn were the first to arrive, with Cherly’s two kids, Eilidh and Orla. Orla, being a small baby, was immediately dumped into my arms, for practice.
Around half an hour later the front door didn’t seem to close. Coats were taken, drinks were given out and the washing hanging out on the lines in the back garden, which included my space invader boxing shorts, quickly taken in. There were more babies and kids than predicted and soon babies were being tripped over, wiped up after, kept entertained, fed or generally watched like a hawk and all within the confines of the living room and kitchen.
Nobody went outside.
The rain was off, I kept telling everyone, it’s not rained all day, let’s go out and sit in the garden. I’d spent half the day mowing the lawns and making the gardens acceptable for guests so it was the perfect opportunity to show them off, not to mention my hard graft from behind the spinning blade.
“It’s too cold” David, the nursery teacher from Ka’s work, shook his head, to which everyone else seemed to silently agree and chat on among themselves. All the hard work had been for nothing.
Tony and Suzanne could see my plight but after Milo got his boots a little muddy from running over the grass, they decided against it.
At least Milo appreciated the freshly cut lawns.
Resigning myself to the fact that no one was going to be sitting out on the lawn anytime soon I went into the fridge and got out another beer.
Around ten or eleven hours later, and more than ten or eleven beers later, Ka and myself seen off the last of the evening guests. Chaz and Pauline sauntered out into the street to jump into their taxi and we shut the front door for the last time and got to our bed.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Gorillas, gritted teeth and grannies

£155. Brilliant. That’s the total I’ve managed to raise thanks to all those that sponsored me in my Glasgow 10k on the 2nd September. 310% of my predicted sponsor target. Fantastic. Facebook, email and twitter made using the Just Giving site so much easier so no one could have missed it really and even it they did, the sponsor page is still there, so it’s never too late!
Like I said I couldn’t have done it without you guys that gave your hard earned cash to such a worthwhile cause, Glasgow Sands, so thanks very much all of you, (you know who you are!).
The whole experience wasn’t without a certain amount of pain and hardship though as I did suffer a little for around four days. It wasn’t until the following Friday that I actually started regaining my usual walking abilities and stopped moving like a hungover John Wayne who’d been up all night. Going up and down stairs turned into an exceptional challenge, lurching up and down, like a limping Robocop. I’ve only got myself to blame, of course, it was the first time I’d ran 10k in a oner and I got very little training in beforehand. I even had to put the usual thrice a week trips to the gym on hold while we flitted at the turn of the month. If training for a 10k had included loading, lifting and the unpacking of heavy boxes, not to mention the seemingly constant use of a screwdriver, I would have completed the run in no time with no unfortunate after effects. Never before had small, menial, tasks been such hard work such as getting up off the couch and walking to the kitchen to make a brew. All with gritted teeth and noises and muttered sweary words.
The after effects didn’t actually kick in until the Monday morning when I had tried to get out of bed. I thought a gorilla had came in during the night and attacked me, refraining from waking me during the assault, as I slept.
Mysterious, nocturnal, gorillas aside, immediately after the race, under Nelson’s Monument on Glasgow Green, I’d felt great.
The run had gone well.
Later the results were published on the official website I had taken 58 minutes and 1 second.
Standing there, in Glasgow Green, I knew I had done it in around 58 minutes as I had timed myself with my trusty Rotary. I had aimed for under an hour at least so I was quite pleased with myself. Unfortunately I had no one to celebrate with.
Ka and the Mums and Dad’s had travelled into Glasgow to cheer us runners, Colin, Jillian and myself, off the starting line in George Square and, presumably, had the intention of cheering us over the finishing line. As I ran up through the last leg of the route, over Victoria Bridge and up Clyde Street and Greendyke Street into the Green, hollering crowds on either side, there had been no sign of the wife or either of the couples so I had assumed that I had missed them among the colourful, cheering crowd. As I slowed to a trot beyond the finishing line I picked up my medal, the traditional bag of runners’ goodies, and avoided the giant boxes of bananas, (I don’t like bananas… not sure why?) at the foot of Glasgow Green’s needle walked out on to the green picking a spot to stand and wait for anyone who may want to run up and congratulate me.
Nobody did.
Instead I watched all the others runners coming out through the finishing gates picking up their own medals and getting their goodie bags and then being greeted by loved ones over the surrounding temporary metal fencing.
I wasn’t bothered. I had run it in under and hour. I had seen it, even if no one else had. I kept an eye out for any of the ‘support’ but none could be seen. Not even the wife. Typical.
Around ten minutes later I spotted the familiar sight of Jillian in her Sands T-shirt, making her way through the puffed out running crowd, in the expanding queues for the medal, goodie bag and banana collection, a big smile on her ever so slightly red face. The brother-in-law’s missus to be, turned thirty that day and was celebrating by crossing yet another finishing line before she headed down to Newcastle for the Great North Run later in the month. This 10k was probably a mere walk in the park.
Jillian and myself then headed further down the park to the fencing at the side of the finishing line where we eventually met Ka and the meandering Mums and Dads who’d missed me because, on the long, tiring, arduous, walk down from George Square, they had felt the need for a McFlurry. In her wisdom, Ka had refused and walked on but had still managed to miss me, by a matter of minutes we worked out. However, minutes is everything when it comes to this kind of thing (especially 2 minutes, that’s donkeys… as long as it’s under an hour).
Ka has an excuse, of course, so I let her off, the fact that she’s currently carrying another Reid lifeform in her belly, (an excuse she uses way too often to be honest), and after we cheered Colin over the line we headed off, back to George Square to celebrate Jillian’s birthday over lunch in the Italian La Vita Pizzeria. We had tried the Greek Restaurant Elie first, where we met the rest of Jillian’s family, but the staff of Elie claimed half past twelve was too early to serve 12 hungry people, on a Sunday afternoon. This was the be only the first meeting for Jillian’s birthday though as her highly anticipated Muppets and friends 30th Birthday party was to follow the next Saturday in Kirkintilloch. Unfotunately, however, this was not be be, as Jillian’s wee Gran, Helen Hodge passed away early on that week.
Helen had not been too well the previous week and had been thought to be on the road to recovery and had missed Jillian’s birthday lunch whilst recuperating. So when Saturday did come around we all sadly found ourselves attending a funeral, rather than a birthday party, remembering the little 90 year old lady, with the seemingly endless energy with which she had constantly travelled up and down the country with her family, visiting relatives and seeing the sights whilst still attending all the party’s going and even the odd clubbing night. There is no doubt Helen will be sorely missed in the Hood household, not to mention the family parties, but forever remembered.
Like all grannies. Each one a massive cog in the machine of the family.
When that cog stops turning you wonder if the rest will keep going, knowing there’ll be none, in any way, similar to take it’s place.
Somehow though, the cogs do keep turning.
It’s the remembering of loved ones lost that sometimes keeps you going.
Why else would you go to the bother of running 10k?
Certainly not for your health.
My ankle still hurts.
But it was worth it.

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Flitting, phones and forklifts

Has it been so long? Sheesh, it’s been donkeys since I’ve had the time to sit and write anything on this here blog.
Ka and myself have now, more or less, fully settled down in our new abode.
The boxes have all been emptied, the rooms have been organised, the wardrobes have been built, the books unpacked, the Cds put into alphabetical order, the Virgin tv finally activated, the wifi enabled, the loft filled, all the junk cleared out and the dates for the all important housewarmings organised. We’ve had to arrange two housewarmings, one for family and one for friends. There’s just too many people to invite in one go. Don’t get me wrong, we could attempt it but not even a three bedroom house could hold everyone.
Three bedroom house. It’s strange even saying that.
We now have stairs. I was on the phone to Aunt Linda there and had to travel downstairs when it came to Ka’s turn in the conversation. The wife was sitting on the couch, supping a coffee, watching Eastenders when I made my way down to the living room and handed the phone over.
We have stairs now. I had to walk and talk in order to pass the phone over. Back in Kenilworth we simply shouted for the other person to take the few steps from the next room to take a shot on the phone.
Okay, yes, it’s probably nothing amazing to the likes of yourselves, but we’ve been living in a one bedroom flat for the past seven years. Not only that, we were using a cord phone handset. Now we have cordless handsets with which we can saunter around the house, visiting various rooms as we talk. Perhaps one of the three bedrooms. Perhaps one of the two toilets. Perhaps the sizable kitchen, the comfortable living room or the lower or upper hall, both connected by that weird, unfamiliar, rising passageway known as a staircase.
Very strange having a staircase actually inside my home after having used the cold, stone steps of the flat close for so long. We can now climb stairs without fear of jumping spiders, meeting neighbours on the way down, encountering singing postmen or noticing the absence of a wheelie bin. Well, the latter to some extent. We can just about see the blue of our recycling wheelie bin through the front door’s window and would probably notice if it suddenly went missing one night but I doubt it would be going missing in this neighbourhood to give the youngsters a quick thrill and fix as they sniff away over an open fire in the local forest at the bottom of the street which, unfortunately, had been the fate of one of our past wheelie bins. No, this neighbourhood feels a little different.
We put a pile of old carpets, garden furniture and general rubbish out on Sunday night for the council to pick up on Monday morning and found that anyone passing in the street was giving the pile of unwanted goods a dirty look or a shake of the head. If that had been Kenilworth the unwanted goods would have got a quick look over or a quick, inquisitive, glance at the very least just to make sure it really was for the scrap heap.
I’m always seeing stuff lying about in streets, left out for the council to pick up, presumably the next day, and always cast my eyes over it just in case I see anything that would come in handy. I seen a pram recently, lying unwanted at the end of a garden path and considered it briefly for more than a few seconds. It was missing a wheel though so I opted against it. If you see anything out there, we do need a wee table for the corner of our living room for the new cordless phone’s terminal box to sit on. (Is that what it’s called the ‘terminal’ box? That’s make’s it sound awfully final or important. We better not get any immigrants that have a more than passing resemblance to Tom Hanks hanging around the corner of our living room).
The actual flitting was great. I met Auntie Lorna’s son-in-law, Robbie, with his van in Birkenshaw Industrial Estate on the Saturday morning of the 25th August. Robbie had offered his services and his van for the flitting, which was great as it meant we didn’t have to go through the whole hiring of a Boulevard deathtrap.
The only problem was, it wasn’t quite a van. It was an 18 tonne Mercedes lorry. Brilliant for flitting with. Not so brilliant, I predicted, for flitting into a tightly packed, curving, uphill street on a oddly sunny, warm August afternoon. Anyway, I led him home in the car, dropping Grace off at the new abode to help Ka with the cleaning, and pulled up, back at Kenilworth, to find Tom waiting with Jack the dog. My Uncle Tom had been told ten rather than half ten so was getting a little impatient. After Robbie pulled up the large Merc lorry, with Dougie in the front passenger seat, we soon got started. My other Uncle Tommy then pulled up, followed by Uncle Laurence and Steven who all got to work in shifting the piles of boxes from out the wee one bedroom flat.
How a one bedroom flat had held so many boxes I’ll never know. There was a pile in the bedroom, a pile in the hall, a pile in the living room, and a few more in the kitchen. Some of the boxes were easily lifted, others were not. In fact, I’ll have serious considerations the next time I go to buy myself another hardback book. I think I may have inadvertently strained a few muscles that day with my book collection. Three shelves that had stood in the Kenilworth hallway for over seven years, filled with hardbacks, had filled three and a half boxes and had the potential of breaking three and a half backs. Once all the boxes were packed in the back of the lorry Dad and young Michael turned up closely followed by Iain, who had driven over from Motherwell, leaving a hungover Roslyn, in bed. This completed the A-Team and together we made our way over to the new house where the lorry slowly clambered up the street, reversed, then maneuvered, reversed then crawled up into Robertson Drive where it was swiftly unloaded in an organised line of straining, growling, humfing and, occasionally, complaining relations. Quote of the day had to go to young Michael who, as another large box of hardbacks was hefted through the house’s front door by two uncles, looked up the stairs at me and moaned.
“Michael, get a kindle!”
My Unlce Tom wasn’t at all happy either when a box of VHS videos was lifted into the house.
“VHS?!” Tom lamented. “Gawd’s sake Ka, get him told!”
Ka agreed with him oblivious to the fact, at the point, that Tom had sneakily nicked a couple of wine gums that had been left in one of the untaped boxes lifted from the Kenilworth kitchen. It wasn’t until later, when all the boxes had been unpacked in the kitchen that the pregnant Ka had went looking for her favourite confectionery only to find the bag with only a few remaining gums left. Fortunately for him, Tom had left by that point but as soon as Ka shouted as to the whereabouts of the rest of her bag of gums the other relative removal blokes, keeping their dignity, quality and conscience clear said only three words.
Unfortunately the words did not consist of “we don’t know”, or “we’re saying nothing”, or even “we’re no grass!”. The words were:
“It was Tom!”
The loudest accusation from Laurence. So much for brotherly love.
It was 2pm when the last of the 2 lorry loads finally made it’s way into the house.
The second lorry load had consisted mostly of the larger pieces of furniture, and a hastily deconstructed bed which Steven had toiled over back in the flat, obviously making up for the garden shed incident which he put me through on his own flitting day.
Have I mentioned that before?
I think I might have. (I can imagine Steven rolling his eyes with a groan as he reads this…)
Imagine opening a garden shed during a flitting and being being met with a tidal wave of screws, bolts, plastic balls and spirit levels (okay, it wasn’t quite a tidal wave, but this is my blog, and I’ll exaggerate if I like!).
As Robbie had pulled the lorry up once more with the second lorry load, into the tight curve of Robertson Drive, Uncle Jim turned up, just in time to help with the unloading and maneuvering of the couch.
Mum claimed at one point that Jim had turned up with a forklift to which she got quizzical looks before we realised she was referring to the two wheeled baggage trolley parked on the front door. A forklift would have been great though. Saying that, an 18 tonne lorry was annoying the neighbours as it was. I’m, not sure we would have got away with a forklift also driving up and down the street.
As Iain and my Dad chatted out in the garden, the sun was shining down over Robertson Drive, the tea was getting poured, a couple of bottles of Kronenbourg were being cracked open and people were resting on various boxes and oddly positioned furniture in the living room. As everyone else settled down for a wee drink and a chat, Steven, obviously still keen to work on, moved upstairs and started reassembling the bed.
Within the next hour Angela, Morgan and Joshua turned up and Morgan wasted no time in insisting that I order my four swimming pools that would fit in the back garden.
Not only do we have stairs of our own now, but we also have a back garden. Not to mention a front garden. We obviously don’t have any swimming pools as yet, but considering it was a suggestion I first put to Ka upon seeing the slightly overgrown back garden upon our first viewing, you never know.
Then again, maybe I should just stick to being grateful for a staircase and a cordless phone.

Saturday, 1 September 2012

A quick message about a wee run!

Hello everyone!
Please sponsor me a £1, £2, anything you've got?!
It's all in aid of SANDS, Stillbirth and Neonatal Death Society and in memory of little Lucy Reid.
I'm running 10k tomorrow, Sunday 2nd September, in Glasgow and am looking for you, kind friends, family, readers, and folk out there, to sponsor me something, anything, to make it all the more worthwhile.

I've never ran 10k in a oner before, so it should be interesting...

Thanks in advance to all those that click this link:

Monday, 27 August 2012

Secretaries, celebrations and congratulations

Sorry, it's been ages. It's been a crazy couple of weeks. I've had documents, forms and letters coming out my ears not to mention the fights with sellotape, cardboard boxes, bubblewrap and newsprint that went on in the flat. No, it wasn't a crazy, drunken stationery shop party. In fact, we've been anything but stationery (yes, I know, different spelling).
We picked up the keys to our new house two Fridays ago and haven't stopped since.
We arrived at the East Kilbride solicitors office at quarter to five on the evening of Friday 17th, after another successful scan of Baby Reid number 2 at the hospital. I, rather rudely, interupted the two secretaries sitting in the reception office, distracting them from their inane chatter, giving them a rather heavy hint to actually respond to the two new arrivals in their office. Once I had their attention, I asked for the keys to the property now owned by my wife and I. The secretary, who was obviously in possession of such keys, rather huffily went into her drawers and produced a bulky white envelope (and before you ask, I don't know how big her drawers were) and picked up the phone to inform the solicitor concerned that, "that was the keys to Robertson Drive". Ka accepted the bulky, clinking envelope from the solicitor's secretary and we hurried from the office. Normally we would have hurried off to get on with the final arrangements for a flitting that weekend but before all that we had the small matter of a sixtieth party to finalise.
Along with her brother, Colin, Ka had been making a lot of phonecalls throughout the week, rounding up a good crowd of friends and family to help celebrate her Dad, Dougie's, surprise 60th birthday party to take place in his own local, The Rowantree, the perfect location to arouse the least suspicion.
Colin arrived back at the McGarva household straight from work that Saturday evening, to entice his Dad out for a pint, and considering Dougie's big birthday was still 2 weeks away he had not suspected a thing. There was also reason for Colin to celebrate over a quiet pint with his Dad following his own proposal to his other half Jillian, the weekend before.
That shouldn't go without a mention either! (Congratulations Colin and Jillian!)
Colin got down on one knee and set Jillian the question as they had made thier way through to Edinburgh for their first visit to the Fringe festival. Jillian proved that she is indeed a nutcase of sorts, and said yes (only nutcases marry McGarvas, it's a well known fact). The two of them called Ka and myself as we sat down to dinner with Dougie and Grace in the Uddingston branch of the Hot Flame World Buffet where we enjoyed an 'eat as much as you can possibly eat' experience and, at the same time, discovered Dougie is deaf in the right ear (rather than the wrong one). Apparently there was something wrong with the phone as he could barely hear anything Colin and Jillian were saying to him before he switched to the other ear and suddenly heard them loud and clear.
He is 60 now, I suppose these things happen as you get older.
So, a week later, Dougie was taken completely by surprise as he sauntered through to one of the pub's side rooms, apparently where all the women usually sit, and everyone, including family, friends and former work colleagues from DC Thomson, all enjoyed the night. Ka and Jillian made a buffet that was too big for the table with contributions from a few others including Mum who made some delicious tuna pasta, Steven who made his parma ham sticks, and Auntie Lorna who made her caramel shortcake and I finally got a piece of it. Lorna makes a whole tray of the splendid sticky stuff up at every special occasion and I have never managed to get my hands on a whole piece yet. I've always been left raking through the buffet leftovers looking for a solitary piece of Lorna's caramel shortcake like a desperate, starving scavenger looking through the wreckage of a burning cornershop that's just been reduced to a pile or burning bricks by a rogue missile at the end of the world in a smoky, rotting street far, far away. Or even a music fan looking for a fantastic performance in an Olympics closing ceremony.
Anyway, photos were taken, the big golf themed birthday cake was cut, family members all had a chance to catch up and Dougie kept the DJ busy, hardly leaving the makeshift dancefloor in the middle of the small, but comfortable function room as the music eventually enticed a good crowd up to dance, including Aunty Lorna, who ended up on her knees again to the tune of The Killers' "Human".
It wasn't until late on the Sunday morning that I arose from my pit, ambling, zombie like, between the large piles of boxes littering the bedroom, hallway and then living room. Ka was sitting quietly, watching the tv, knackered after the organisation, excitement and then eventual end of the surprise party.
I wasn't feeling particularly energetic myself but we still managed to head out around mid afternoon to visit our new property. It was a lot dryer and sunnier that day than it had been the first day we'd visited as we pulled up outside the terraced house. The rain had been bouncing off the windscreen the first time around. We'd been struggling to see the house from the other side of the street, through the water attacking the glass of the car but it hadn't put us off and once we'd been inside we knew this was the house for us. With a clearer view of our new house now we each took a set of keys from the white envelope and walked on up the garden path with a sort of quiet, mellowed, excitement. We turned the two keys in the old front door's locks and pushed the door open. The name of McCulloch was still present on a small, aged nameplate screwed into the wood of the painted door. We'd have to get a new one of those, I thought, as we stepped inside.

Friday, 10 August 2012

Tales of the punexpected

Tim Vine stopped his puns briefly, taking a moment under the warm stage lights, to mop his brow with a handkerchief and looked down at the slightly crumpled note of paper he pulled from the left pocket of his suit jacket.
“Okay, ladies and gentlemen, we’re very lucky to have him here. Would you join me in welcoming this man to the stage. He’s a Graphic designer and he is Mr Michael Reid!”
The surrounding audience in the darkness cheered and clapped as a few of them looked round for the next named guest. The comedian had already invited two random members of the audience up on to the small stage individually in the Pleasance Cabaret bar. He’d interviewed them, questioned them and joked with them and now it was my turn.
Upon entering the Cabaret bar and taking our seats in the audience before the show we had all found strips of paper, forms to fill out, lying on our seats and stools, waiting for us. Ka and myself took our seats in the third row, not wanting to venture too close to the stage as you risked getting picked out for interrogation that way.
The forms asked simply for your name, your occupation and a situation you’d been in recently or not so recently that could be deemed to have been ridiculous. I filled out my form, as did others, not thinking much of it but struggling at first to think of any slightly ridiculous situations until the more recent misadventure in the supermarket popped into my head. The recent supermarket misadventure in particular being the one where I couldn’t find my wife anywhere and ended up having to get her name announced over the tannoy. Shrugging, I handed my form up to the compere as he dived around the audience collecting other shruggingly filled out forms before he disappeared backstage, through the slim doors at the side of the stage on which two stools stood, with two microphones perched on each, alongside a table of props.
After around five minutes Tim Vine, the English comedian famous for his daft jokes, fast one-liners and non stop puns, eventually emerged from between the curtains at the back of the stage, greeted with applause by the gathered Fringe crowd and immediately launched into his usual barrage of jokes. It was only the second day of the Edinburgh Fringe so this would have most probably been a mere warm up act for him since he is performing his chat show act for the entirety of August.
As everyone cheered me up on to the stage the comedian greeted me with a big shake of the hand and invited me to sit on the second stool, where the previous two guests had sat. The first had been a red faced, mumbling mechanic whose story had centred around him giving someone a new wheel on their car and neglecting to tighten the wheel nuts, thus causing some embarrassment to his garage and getting himself a written warning when the wheel spun off a some point in the unfortunate customer’s journey home. Thankfully no one died, so it was okay to make light of it. Until the customer had been revealed to be a woman, of course, as this caused some upset from the audience much to Tim Vine’s surprise and wasted no time in accusing the audience of being sexist.
The second guest had been a wee lady, an accountant, from the best hotel in Edinburgh, apparently. Her Dad was polish and after some discussion, a discussion which seemed to inadvertently confuse the lady, it was revealed to her that this in fact made her half polish. This lady’s story involved a milk run in her local town when she was younger and a truck hitting and dragging the finishing line rope along with it bringing the flag pole down on to her head. Tim Vine shrugged views this as definite proof, if any were needed, as to her being polish.
During the accountant lady’s tale a young girl got up and left her seat, presumably to either visit the bar, the loo or just to escape. Tim Vine gave her a little mention as she escaped insisting that if you don’t like the stories you can always just sit through them, the show didn’t last too long.
There was no escape for me though as Tim Vine called me up on stage.
At first it felt fine, sitting up there. You can’t really see the audience as the only light in the room comes from the strong, warm, bright stage lights hanging overhead casting the rest of the room in darkness making you barely able to see beyond the first two rows of the audience. Beyond those first smiling rows there was only darkness, so my safe seat on the third row together with Ka, who had let out a fairly audible groan as I was called up, were shrouded in shadow before me.
Tim Vine introduced me to the audience once more and raised an eyebrow, or two, when I gave the audience a ‘hello, how are you doing?’.
Tim then asked about my job and upon mention of the words graphic designer a man in the second row on the right of the audience got up and left his seat, making his way to the doors. Tim Vine immediately caught on to this and mused over whether the man had something against graphic designers.
Tim wondered whether he’d said to his wife; “This is fine. I’ll come and see this show. But if someone even mentions the words graphic design I’m outta here. I’m drawing the line at that!”. Tim (notice how we’re on first name terms now!), then asked about the job, what it entails and where it was based, making sure is wasn’t in ‘Ayrshire’ to which I said I was pretty (sure) to which he replied “is it?”. I nodded, defending Glasgow even though I was sitting in a crowd, which was most probably made up of a good percentage of Edinburgh folk.
Tim then got me to go through the whole supermarket tannoy story (seen here) and noticed, as some do, that I sometimes, when a little nervous or excited, or on stage with a famous comedian, tend to repeat myself or get a little too enthusiastic about certain points in a story.
“So, I searched the length and breadth of the supermarket, twice, three, four times…”
Tim asked if I done most things three or four times.
Even as I told my story I realised it wasn’t very funny or interesting at all, not the way I was telling it anyway, and I was probably making a very boring chat show. I finished my story with the tannoy announcement and the rather shocked and embarrassed Ka making her way to the checkouts to meet her husband. Tim seemed to quite enjoy the tale launching off into a few of his supermarket puns, obviously ready and in mind as soon as he’d seen my note come through the backstage door and then, after a few more questions, asked for Ka to come to the stage. There was no movement in the darkness where the third row should have been. I looked into the shadows behind the first two rows looking for Ka to make and move but she didn’t. She had disowned me with embarrassment.
Apparently at some point in the next few moments Ka did put her hand up, but I never seen it, although Tim Vine definitely knew she was sitting there, in the third row, as he was willing her on to the stage with his eyes.
Just when I thought all hope was lost, and Ka had finally died of mortification, someone did jump up on to the stage. It was the girl who’d went to the loo during the earlier story.
“I’m Kelly-Ann!” she told us. “My name’s Kelly-Ann!”. Tim and I looked round at one another with surprise and then back at her.
“Well, this wasn’t planned at all”, Tim stated, wide eyed. “Was it 2 for the price of 1 that day?”
Tim Vine welcomed two others up on to the stage after me, a nurse, who kept claiming that not killing people was a good thing, and a teacher. As much as I thought my story was hardly exciting and pretty boring, as I recited it on stage, I am now quite happy and content with the fact that the two following guests’ stories were worse. The nurse’s story involved her losing a hat to the ocean whilst on a ferry and the teacher’s involved him dressing up as a turtle for one of his kids’ school plays. At least losing your wife in a supermarket and then getting her name called over the tannoy is vaguely humorous and a suitably daft for a Tim Vine show.
After the show finished Tim disappeared, back behind the curtains, at the rear of the stage, to the applause and cheers from the audience. As the lights came back up, everyone started making their way out the Pleasance cabaret bar, following the exit signs (they’re on the way out aren’t they?) through the double doors through which we had previously entered. After a few moments a familiar voice echoed out through the stage speakers.
“Would the wife of the Graphic Designer please make herself known to the stage”.
The shambling crowd all laughed as they made their way, looking round at Ka and myself as we followed among the crowd, but unfortunately Ka was too embarrassed or affronted to hang around any longer and we headed for the Pleasance courtyard.
It hadn’t occurred to me until afterwards that maybe, just maybe, Tim Vine had been wanting us to go to the stage to collect a best story or show contribution award?!
Or maybe not.