Monday, 27 February 2012

Just for a laugh

Eat, drink, laugh and dance. No, not another day in S&UN.
That’s what the emailed adverts promised when Ka bought my Valentines present a few weeks back. A comedy night in Jongleurs, the comedy club, which is now situated in the large basement of the Mansion House bar on Glassford Street.
Chandeliers. Comfy back couches. Candle lit tables. Velvet curtains. Large, ornately framed mirrors. Designer retro wallpapers. A large polished bar with shelves of sparkling bottles of many colours decorating the walls behind it. Smiling bar staff. Clipboards, where your name appears only eventually so so a member of staff can clarify whether you belong there.
The Mansion House has it all. Upstairs anyway.
After buying a drink at the bar the waitress with the clipboard informed us the Jongleurs Comedy club was actually in the basement.
When the curtain was drawn back at six to welcome those attending the Comedy night we descended the brightly lit staircase into the darkness below. A large black open plan floor space with many sparsely decorated tables laid out, eight to a table, before the small stage adorned with the Jongleurs logo.
I immediately recognised the hall. It was the same basement hall where S&UN had had their Christmas party night out around four years ago. The club was a Tiger Tiger back then and the basement had been advertised as a Winter Wonderland.
In the large dark open space there was one white plastic tree. Back then the room was filled with round tables for around four or five different companies and the Christmas buffet consisted of each table getting a plate of small, barely filled, sandwiches. Needless to say we made the best of it back then but it didn't bode well for our night ahead on Friday.
Ka and myself were greeted by a rather grumpy maitre’d and asked for a name after which he ran his pen down his clipboard, humming an uncheery tune, turned a page and found us half way down the second. He then led us through the floor to a table of 8 already occupied by 4 others. 4 very young, chirpy, young, loud, and young students. Since the 4 were still awaiting another 2 of their party, Ka and myself took the two seats at the end of the table and within moments were served our free glass of wine, which was part of the deal, by our irish waiter called Eoin. John in Irish, apparently (I thought it was Ian). Before we began sipping from our first, free glass of vino, Ka jumped back up to make a quick visit to the toilets. The mens’ toilets.
I’m not sure why as the womens’ was immediately adjacent.
Apparently the urinals gave it away, not to mention the bloke looking quizzically over at her from his space against the wall.
Not long after Ka made it to the ladies and back again, Eoin delivered our plate of thai curry, also part of the deal (the curry, not Eoin – though I’m sure Ka wouldn’t have objected).
The chicken curry was perfectly adequate, but could have done with a naan bread, and a wee bit longer in the microwave. Another ten seconds wouldn’t have killed them.
The remaining 2 students finally arrived and as their banter continued, the loudest of them, an excitable criminologist with thick black framed spectacles and a colourful jumper, Ka and myself quickly finished our glasses of wine and ordered a bottle.
The comedy didn’t start until half past eight and it was only quarter past six.
It was going to be a long wait.
Especially since I could barely hear what Ka was saying to me from across the table as the criminologist couldn’t believe this was his third night out in a row. It’s a pity he couldn’t have put his gifts for criminology to good use when dressing himself for the evening. His jumper looked like something Noel Edmonds would have wore to a House Party.
A tall bloke named Cole Parker, eventually lept up on to the stage as we approached half eight. Parker introduced himself as our compere for the night. A comedian from down south, Parker, who apparently recently appeared on an ITV show called ‘Show me the Funny’, started the night off telling us there would be three other comedians joining us for the evening.
First up was Philip Differ, a newspaper columnist and stand up whose previous employment included working for the BBC and producing and directing episodes of ‘Only An Excuse?’, ‘Scotch and Wry’ and ‘Chewin the Fat’ not to mention a whole shed lot of jobs on radio throughout the eighties on programmes of similar ilk.
Second up was Patrick Rolink, a big guy with a bigger personality, who is apparently big on the comedy circuit, though I suspect he’s big everywhere.
Last up was a bloke from New Zealand called Andre King, who also turned out to be pretty entertaining, being a fantastic linguist and who finished his act with a Haka, the New Zealanders’ war dance that all the Rugby players in the opposing teams try not to laugh at before they start a match.
All in all, the night was surprisingly entertaining.
Recommended to anyone who fancies a good laugh and a bit of grub.
Just don't hold your breath for a naan bread.

Friday, 24 February 2012

The Pars and the Celts

Wednesday night was different. I found myself among the football hordes, in the middle of the Lisbon Lions stand at Parkhead, watching Celtic play Dunfermline.
Dad had phoned mid afternoon to ask if I fancied a trip to Parkhead as he had two season tickets temporarily in his possession. As I’m not much of a football fan I didn’t exactly jump at the chance. Dad and Kenny were always the football nuts. The odd game of footie, a weekly games of fives, and only the occasional outing to see a game, that was about it for my football dedication. The team I went to see most was probably the Westwood Rovers, and they didn't have much of a home ground.
I was tired, work was boring, I had an appointment with the gym after work and I had a nice piece of lasagne waiting for me when I got home. Humming and hawing I thought it over as my Dad spoke over the mobile.
Wednesday had been a bit of a struggle. The atmosphere in the office is rubbish at the moment as those of us in the prepress department have still not been informed on where we stand with regards to the company amalgamation with the Daily Record. I’ve been quite happy just to work on and get on with things while the managers make their minds up but the atmosphere has been worsening recently, speculation is rife and there’s always a bit of whispering and muttering going on which doesn't help the atmosphere. So being fed up I didn’t feel particularly up for any last minute trips but after a little consideration I accepted my Dad's invite.
Why not? A wee change. It had been a while since I'd went to a footie match.
Dad usually goes with his cousin and neighbour Michael Brady, as Michael’s son, the owner of the second ticket, often doesn’t get the chance to go along. So my Dad usually goes along to enjoy the games in his place. Michael was ill on Wednesday evening, however, so Dad invited me along.
It had been at least ten years since the last time I’d been in the Parkhead. Since then it’s always been Hampden for the very occasional Scotland game or music gig. 2 U2 visits, the Stones and a Chilli Peppers concert were all in Hampden. Music gigs have been the only occasions I've found myself standing, or jumping about singing, in a football stadium more recently.
Liam Gallagher was there on Wednesday night. It wasn't THE Liam Gallagher obviously. This one was eight years of age. He was the mascot of the night. Not the bloke in the big dog outfit but the home team's young visitor that led the teams on to the park as the music started blaring from the loudspeakers overhead.
Back in my teens, when I was vaguely interested in footie, I’d occasionally visit Parkhead on a Saturday afternoon with my mates.
Back when it was affordable.
Chaz, Colin, Tony and myself would stand in the temporary stands, around 1993-4, shivering in the cold, soaking in the rain, watching Van Hooijdonk and the lads. We even met Fergus McCann one day and got our photo taken with him (I’m not sure whether he was looking at the camera though). Fergus being the main man that rescued Celtic from near bankruptcy in 1994.
How times have changed.
The crowds were taking great delight in singing about Rangers current plight. Something along the lines of “We’re gonnae have a party” echoed at various points around the various stands. It won't be much of a party, I thought, with no one to compete against.
I was quite surprised by how busy the mid week game was, especially considering this was the current table leaders v the current table trailers.
Dad had parked the car around twenty minutes walk away, up beside Shawfield stadium, and just as we'd pulled over to park, cars were pulling up alongside us, passengers disembarking, most with the green and white wools. The walking crowds gathered as we made our way up towards the stadium. Families, couples, fathers and sons, pensioners, groups of kids with a single adult guardian. All were talking away as they walked, the large lights of the stadium growing larger in the dark evening sky as we approached.
We entered the stadium through the usual turnstiles flashing the season tickets, which lit up in response with a bright green 'go' light and strode into the main hall, passing some ticket sellers and the food and drinks kiosks on our way.
£4.10 for a scotch pie and bovril? Crazy prices. I'll never complain about Greggs again. You don't even get beans? You've got to have baked beans with a scotch pie for gawds sake! Especially at that price.
I was starving. I was missing my lasagne.
Most of the stands were pretty full as the match began, the gathering noise echoing up and around the stadium from various corners continuously throughout like a vocal wave machine. One stand would sing one verse and the other stand, the next in response like some sort of giant choir practice. A large crowd of fans in the corner of the Lisbon stand with flags and drums created an almighty racket, thumping away throughout the game's entirety and singing away.
The Green Brigade. The nutter fans. Fans that go to the games more for a workout than for the entertainment by the looks of things. They created a great atmosphere within the giant walls and got a lot of the other stands singing along with them in their enthusiastic chanting, belting out the simple lyrics. Some of the lyrics I could not make out through the echoes and some just seemed made up on the spot, probably by a couple of particularly loud voices, swiftly repeated by others until it became a loud chorus circling the crowd filled stadium.
As the rain intermittently poured down in white pellets through the bright lines of light from the floodlights Dunfermline struggled to make any kind of attack. The blues and yellows, or the Pars, seemed to sit back and merely defend for the most part of the game, only venturing upfield on the odd occasion during the first half, fighting Celtic off the best they could. The visitors were lucky to get away with only a 2-0 defeat thanks their goalkeeper Chris Smith (I think that was his name), who certainly earned his money on the night, saving and deflecting more than a good few shots.
At half time there was a draw for raffle tickets that had apparently been on sale in the stadium's gates and as the winning number was announced over the tannoy there was a loud cheer from the corner of the south stand and a wee couple emerged from the cheering crowd waving and jumping about.
£15,000 they won?! That would have bought them a couple of pies from the food kiosks.
If I'd known about the fifteen grand prize I would have bought myself a ticket. That has to be better odds than the Wednesday night lottery. £15,000 just for going along to the footie on a Wednesday night? Maybe this football malarky is worth it after all?

Sunday, 19 February 2012

The longest wooden spoon

Christmas pudding in the middle of February. A quick 3 minutes in the microwave and a dollop of vanilla ice cream on top makes a great Sunday night pudding. It's not exactly 'Masterchef' though. More like 'Swedish Chef' looking at the state of the kitchen afterwards.
The Chrimbo pudding has been sitting in our bread bin since Christmas Day now so I thought it was probably about time I broke into it. Not that I wasn’t satisfied with Ka’s wonderful risotto. A dish of rice mixed with butter, stock, peppers, chopped courgettes, onions and fleshed out with some chopped chicken. Delicious.
Better than Margi Clarke’s anyway.
On Saturday morning I switched on the tv whilst slurping down my tea, to see a clip of an old Masterchef, from a few months back, on Saturday Kitchen. The Liverpudlian ‘actress’, Margi Clarke, trying to make risotto. As she cooked she complained she wasn’t used to being judged. Her kids didn’t judge, they just ate, apparently.
It looked horrendous. Her poor kids.
Even the two loud mouthed hosts, John Torode and Gregg Wallace, agreed with me when they tried it for themselves.
Saturday Kitchen, the live morning tv cooking show, hosted by chef, James Martin, plays ten minute clips of old cookery programmes which could age from twenty years to twenty days of age. One minute you’re getting a clip from last month’s Masterchef, the next minute you’re seeing Keith Floyd downing another glass of wine whilst rocking about in a steam filled, claustrophobic little kitchen, on an old fishing boat in the middle of the eighties.
All this while James Martin kicks back and puts his feet up, sipping his wine at eleven in the morning, back in the television studio that is Saturday Kitchen with his celebrity guest who just happens to be appearing in the West End at the moment. When the old clips end and the cameras do get turned back on again, James Martin even gets other people to do all the cooking. In one section of the show two other guest chefs knock up a disgusting looking pile of raw egg and call them omelettes, following which Martin puts them up on the leaderboard, like some kitchen orientated version of the Test track challenge in Top Gear. Instead of an entertaining montage of a car racing around the barrel cordoned lap, struggling to stay on all four tyres as it slides round the corners, you have a steaming pile of yellow gloop destroying whatever reputation the guest chefs may have had before.
“I could make a better omelette than that guy!”
I’m always telling Ka as I drink my Saturday morning tea.
It can’t take much to get a Michelin star these days if that passes for an omelette. You wouldn’t touch them with a barge pole, or, in this case, the longest wooden spoon in your cutlery drawer.
Michelin, funnily enough, being a make of tyre as well. A tyre that would easily make a similar horrible pile of gloop by running over something on a road somewhere.
I wonder if James Martin would have a taste of that with his wee fork, before scribbling down a time with his big felt pen on his wee cardboard frying pans?
After a day’s jaunt in town, Saturday night was even better. We sat on the couch and watched tv all night.
Okay, not just the usual tv, it was The Sopranos, possibly the greatest drama series to have ever came out of America. But we were still couch potatoes.
I demolished a whole bag of Mackies Crisps whilst watching, Tony’s liking for heading straight for the fridge and the constant talking over the large and varied amounts of pasta dishes on the many dinner tables making me, ever so slightly, peckish as I watched.
There must be a plate of food in at least half of the scenes in each episode of the mobster drama.
Today, whilst cruising around the web, I discovered that there’s even a cookbook for sale, supposedly written by Artie himself, the restaurant owner, and childhood friend of Tony’s. Not only that, but there’s a book entitled “Entertaining with the Sopranos” supposedly written by Carmela Soprano, the wife. This title is full of recipes and tips on how to be the perfect host and the perfect dinner party. Paulie Walnuts even makes a contribution on how to host the perfect ‘surprise party’.
I’d imagine Paulie Walnuts would be great at knocking up a couple of Omelettes and Carmela would be a dab hand at the risotto. When it comes to the wine though I think Keith Floyd may just have had the upper hand.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

The Iron Horse, the Grey and the Hammer

Dad and myself sat in The Iron Horse as West Bromwich Albion hammered Wolverhampton 5-1 on the tv's hanging from the ceiling over our heads. We had just dropped Ka and the Mums off, among the traffic, piled up outside the SECC, for the Strictly Come Dancing afternoon show and had struggled to find a space for the car in the busy Glasgow streets on Sunday afternoon. I usually park up at The Station Bar, up next to the father in law’s old work, D. C. Thomson the printers, but since we were heading into town from the other direction we ended up just of Blythswood Square, where the ladies of the night used to hang out (I believe they’re all now based further down the hill, or over it). A swanky new Hotel has just opened up there and the street prices (for parking!) have doubled but thankfully, it was Sunday. Wonderful, free, Sunday street parking.
We headed up to the cinema and bought two tickets for 'The Grey' at half three, so, finding ourselves with at least two hours to spare we decided to while away the time over a few pints and a chat in the closest drinking establishment. We didn't fancy a coffee at the Starbucks or Pret a Manger though, both of which are almost, more or less, next door to the cinema. Instead we opted for The Iron Horse on West Nile Street. I thought it'd be a good opportunity to take my Dad for a pint for a change as we very rarely get the chance. While the women were watching the likes of Nancy Dell Olio and Robbie Savage trying to dance, Dad and myself were sitting relaxing by the window of the Iron Horse, over a pint of Caledonian Best, catching up, whilst the surrounding older clientele were served large Sunday lunches brimming with chips and onion rings.
So, for the first time in many years, I went to the cinema with my Dad. We could have repeated one of my very first cinema trips, from many moons ago, of which I, unfortunately, have no memory, in which he took me to see The Muppets, but I didn't think he'd be too interested in that these days. Instead we chose 'The Grey', a survivor thriller starring the ever dependable Liam Neeson.
Neeson plays a depressed oil-rigger, working out in the Alaskan wastes, defending the camp, the factories and the workers (a ragged bunch of characters from ex-cons and thugs to disgruntled family men) from the wild wolves which prowl the surrounding desert of snow. On a trip home, not long after take off, the plane crashes in the snow covered wastelands and leaves a small bunch of survivors struggling in the low temperatures and barren lands, Neeson taking the role of leader as the wolves start closing in around them.
As the small band of survivors try to make their way through the snow to some kind of safety, the weather and the wolves attack, picking them off one by one making each of the men face not only a struggle for survival but a struggle of friendship, cooperation and faith.
There were more than a few God debates and a few desperate calls for the almighty throughout the movie, especially once things started getting more than a little tough for Neeson, a man with a dwindling faith, struggling to come to terms with recent events in his life. The circumstances were different but it was something I identified with, having revisited similar big questions quite frequently in the past year or so and still coming up with no significant answers.
'The Grey' was the second visit to the cinema this weekend. The first being on Saturday afternoon on an unexpected family outing with the McGarva clan to see 'The Woman in Black', Hammer's new adaptation of the Susan Hill novel, which Ka and myself had previously seen in the theatre last year.
After attending a birthday party in East Kilbride on Friday evening, Jillian and Colin had stayed the night and together we were to go into town to see a movie on Saturday afternoon. That was only if the chaos in Glasgow had been sorted out by then.
At around half past three on Friday afternoon a man ran into the Italian restaurant Amarone on Glasgow's Nelson Mandela Square, demanding drink. Nothing particularly unusual there but when the waiters refused to serve him the guy claimed to have a bomb under his jacket.
The Police were called. Streets were closed. The nearby underground was closed. Trained negotiators were called in with shield bearing officers. Police cars and helicopters swooped into the area. Fire engines, ambulances, the Royal Navy bomb disposal team. All were called in before the nutter was quietly taken away in the back of a van at around midnight.
During the ruckus people were either diverted or forcibly kept in surrounding streets and shops whilst others, including all members of the restaurant staff, were all evacuated. A local student complained when the police told him to remain in a nearby branch of Subway, the sandwich shop. Surely any students dream come true?
I was in Subway for the first time in years yesterday. I met Ka for a Valentines lunch and bought her the £3 lunch special, a half baguette with whatever filling she could possibly wish for(as long as it was in the glass cabinet), plus a drink for a mere £3.
Not bad at all.
I text Ka from the office, wondering when her lunch break was, and asked her when she’d be “on the street”? Apparently this made her sound like one of those Blythswood Square ladies.
Anyway, as we sat on the high stools in Subway I realised the last time I had been in a Subway restaurant had been in New York, just off Times Square, in December 2003. The quality of that baguette was nowhere near as good as Hamilton's, but then I was probably slightly hungover back then and I may have been in a better mood yesterday as it was Valentines Day.
It’s a lot of nonsense. Another commercial card factory created piece of money making tomfoolery.
Valentines Day is supposed to be the day to celebrate your love for your significant other, shower her, or him, with love, affection and appreciation.
What’s wrong with any other day then? Do we slap them about for the other 365 days of the year? (it’s a leap year!)
Ka got a bunch of flowers, a card and half a chicken tikka baguette. I know how to treat my woman (none of your Greggs sausage rolls here, thank you very much!).
Anyway, back to Saturday’s cinema trip. As it turned out, the McGarva seniors were also invited to the flicks, so Jillian drove the four of us over to Uddingston to pick up Dougie and Grace and from there we headed into town, parking in possibly the most excpensive car park in town.
Jillian was driving her Mum's car, a large Scooby van like Volkswagen, with an abnormal number of seats, which housed us all among the bags, heavily wrinkled books, wrappers, abandoned crisp packets, long empty juice bottles and an almost full bottle of Absolut Vodka that was rolling around the floor at our feet. As the journey went on that vodka became more and more attractive.
It had been a rough morning.
The cinema was packed. With a 12A certificate I didn't expect too much from this new supposed horror starring the slowly maturing Daniel Radcliffe. In fact, I suspected a lot of the younger members of the audience to be there because of the mere presence of Harry Potter.
After taking our seats, we relaxed, sitting back to watch everyone else pile in after us, people soon struggling for places together as seating became more and more limited. Upon sitting, Grace quickly produced Cadbury's Fudges, brunch bars, trebor mints and tin foil parcels full of sandwiches from her handbag. All were passed up and down our line of six as we awaited the lights going down and the usual onslaught of adverts.
This new version of 'The Woman in Black' was pretty good and a decent enough adaptation of the ghost story with plenty of freaky effects and jumpy moments. Radcliffe was even passable alongside the excellent Julius Ceasar, sorry, Ciaran Hinds.
Unfortunately some of the viewing experience was marred due to the younger elements in the crowd who apparently found it hilarious whenever they jumped with fright. Quite often they'd be laughing, giggling or talking among themselves long after their initial jump of fright, enough to put you off what was going on in the movie long after the jump.
On one occasion, moments after one of the film's jumpier moments, a voice echoed from one of the seats behind me.
"A pure shat maself there, by the way!"
The young guy's voice echoed throughout the cinema as the film's dialogue went on. As entertaining as this ned shitting himself may have been, I was rather more interested in what the following effects of the sudden blur, moving shadow or face in the window was on the big screen before me.
After the film we made our way home, getting lost in the car park across the road, unable to find the Scooby van. We got the elevator up and then back down again after realising the payment machine was at ground level. After waiting in a short queue, behind a snobby woman that sniffed in our general direction (I’m not sure who she was sniffing) we were then charged a grand total of £6.60 for the two and a half hours we’d been parked there (it may have been an NCP, robbing gits). Following this we then hit two different floors before finally arriving at the correct floor to find Jillian’s Mum’s car patiently waiting.
We should have just parked at the Station Bar.

Friday, 10 February 2012

Old dogs, not enough tricks

Hot pancakes and jam. Fantastic. Mum has always been an expert.
Sitting on the couch in Chapelton on Sunday afternoon eating baguettes filled with tuna and cheese, followed by pancakes and various biscuits, helped down with a good few large mugs of tea. The perfect way to spend your Sunday afternoon. Mum’s pancakes are always great, especially when served hot with jam and ice cream. Brilliant.
There was no ice cream on Sunday though.
Too early for ice cream. Ice cream’s for pudding on a Sunday, not lunch. Unless you’re on the beach or you're watching a movie.
There can't be much call for ice cream in this weather although that doesn’t stop the ice cream van from coming down our street belting out his tunes or blowing his whistle twice every night (I presume he blows his whistle whenever it’s too late for the blaring music. A massively shrill whistle is much quieter and not disturbing or unexpected at all when your lying in bed, just about to nod off to sleep having an early night at half past ten when your suddenly jolted awake thinking the National express is pulling up in the echoy street outside).
Ice cream would have been better the night before. Although food, in any form, was not exactly what I had needed on Sunday. My stomach was still suffering from the night before after being out for a curry with Chaz.
Why is it curries always do that to you? What are in curries that fill you up so much, making you feel like you’ve just eaten a giant rubber tyre (to the tune of The flight of the Bumble Bee). Curries are a bit like like alcohol in that way. You know what you’re in for when you’re eating it, but, for some some reason, you just eat. Or I do anyway.
Upon entering the restaurant we thought we had no chance. Every table was taken. We walked into Chaz's favourite, Giffnock’s Turban Tandoori, to find it packed with curry eaters. After a cheerful hello and a few nods and a couple of winks from Chaz the restaurant's staff scurried around and managed to produce a small table to accomodate us, a few of the waiters nodding and greeting Chaz like an old friend, bowing and curtsying.
Chaz was looking forward to an audition for another small acting part in an SNP commercial on Monday and his much talked about appearance in this weeks ‘River City’, that gawd awful Scottish soap, shown on Tuesday nights. As I don’t finish work until later on a Tuesday it’s a great shame I miss the programme but I arrived home on Tuesday night to, surprisingly enough, find Ka watching. Apparently a familiar looking black leather jacket had appeared at the cafĂ© shop front at some point early in the episode, the same black jacket that had been running away from zombies in George Square a few months ago, and the same which was sitting in a car alongside Scarlett Johansson in a van for over twelve hours, so, unfortunately, it looked like I may have missed Chaz’s ‘River City’ appearance although I’m sure he’ll be back. Chaz may have been infected with the acting bug now. Apparently he makes an appearance in a cell at some point alongside one of the main characters who has been arrested for murder, so look out for him if your watching. He’ll be the cellmate in the black leather jacket. Next stop, Hollywood or maybe Holyrood.
On Saturday afternoon Ka and myself seen 'The Artist'. A nice, charming, pleasant, fun watch. In my book, certainly not as fabulously fantastic as some are making out but a good, entertaining watch all the same, nicely done with it's imitation of the silent movies of old. Another movie with familiar themes of recent movies, the harking back to the birth of Hollywood and the days of old cinema long gone, just as ‘Hugo’ did a few months back.
'The Artist' centres around the character of a silent movie filmstar at the top of his game, George Valentin. Valentin is a wildly popular, charismatic (cheesy) star enjoying the limelight who inadvertently falls in love with a pretty woman, accidentally flung from the crowds outside the theatre, who kisses him before the cameras. So before the flash of the camera bulbs has even left the eyes of the lucky lady, Peppy Miller, she heads off to Hollywood to seek her fortune where she quickly hooks up with Valentin again, who, unknown to him, is on the verge of career suicide.
At a meeting with his producers Valentin rejects calls to become part of the new, revolutionary, 'talkie' movement in cinema and soon finds himself spiralling into career oblivion whilst Peppy's career rockets with popularity after she embraces her own opportunities in the new 'talkie' productions. The film then follows the two characters' intertwining lives whilst a small dog jumps around performing tricks.
I have to say the dog was the most disappointing aspect of the movie for me. What was all the fuss about? After all the build up surrounding the movie and its wonderful canine star, the mutt only really performs two tricks throughout the movie's entirety.
The tricks included being shot by a pointed finger, falling over on to it's side and pretending to be dead along with a burying of it's head down in between it's two front paws. For some reason these two tricks have suddenly made this dog the most adorable canine to have ever graced the silver screen. Martin Scorsese even made a joke about Uggie, the name of the acting dog in question, getting an Oscar nomination, something which, unsurprisingly, members of various online communities, presumably with nothing better to do, have started up campaigns around. In his defence, he did do an entertaining impression of lassie. Hardly Oscar material though. He can't even play the piano.
Unlike Rowlf the dog.
At the moment I'm trying to convince Ka to go and see the new Muppet movie with me. Insisting how much Claudia Winkleman and her pal on the couches of Film 2012 loved it isn't quite clinching the deal though...

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Conversational struggles

On Friday night I was at a stranger's birthday party. Strangers to me, but not Ka as it was for one of the women in Ka's hairdressers. Linda was 50 and invited us along to the Tannochside Miners Welfare Club.
The Tannochside Miners’ Club was like any other Miners’ Club. One of those small, aged buildings, no way near as busy as days gone by, probably situated in a dark, slightly dodgy street, that houses various halls and bars for various different occasions and, to make up for the stickiness of the carpets, serves cheap booze and allows self catering. Perfect for private functions.
This Miners’ Welfare Club was only a short taxi journey from Ka's Mum and Dad's in Uddingston, so we had decided to save the taxi fare and stay the night there.
In all honesty, I wasn't particularly keen on going.
An invitation to a birthday party for a woman that goes to the same hairdresser as your wife is not a fantastic prospect for any husband I’m sure. A party a which you'll know no one but the wife, who'll probably chat away endlessly to the other women, leaving you sitting looking like a lemon.
Cue the awkward conversations with fellow husbands in similar situations (if there are any!).
I wouldn’t know anyone. I had visions of being surrounded by the gaggle of women that usually inhabit ‘Nutters’, Alan, the hairdresser’s, salon in Tannochside. As the women laugh and joke together, reminiscing about many a Saturday gone by in Alan’s ‘Nutters’, I’d be left sitting with a pint in the middle of a Miner’s Welfare hall, listening to ‘Grease’ from the giant speakers in the corner of the room, watching a bunch of older women line dancing or doing the slosh, whilst vaguely attempting to mingle with husbands in similar situations.
Mingling with other husbands is sometimes a bit of a struggle. At least I’ve found it a bit of a struggle at various parties or weddings in the past when I’ve been invited along as the husband of Ka.
The conversational struggles usually evolve from football. Quite often I've met other blokes for the first time and they've instantly launched into conversations about the nation’s favourite sport. Some of the guys have either hinted at or just asked straight out, "what team do you support then?", always with a suspicious glint in their eye.
It seems to be a bit of a clincher for some folk.
In fact, some husbands look at you even more suspiciously if you admit to not really giving a sh*t about any team. Sometimes you're better off just admitting to a team, any team, as you risk the suspicious looks which silently accuse you of great unmanliness (most people have never heard of The Glipton Giants).
I love movies but I don't hit out with, "what's your favourite movie?" whenever I meet someone, sneering if I don't like their answer and they reply with something starring Adam Sandler, for instance.
Well, maybe I would sneer if it eventually came out in conversation, but I wouldn't ask straight out where their movie allegiances lay, as if trying to get into some sort of conversational gang from the outset.
But then, if you are into football, like 90% of the male population seems to be, maybe it's a good thing the whole “what team you support” question? At least the other bloke would know exactly where you stand. Perhaps he’s only making a genuine attempt to strike up a conversation himself, struggling to think of anything else to talk about, and wouldn’t necessarily lynch you if you replied, admitting your support for his bitter rivals.
Anyway, as it happened, I didn’t have anything to worry about. Ka and myself met Jean and then Alison and Ben in the Windmill pub, just five minutes walk from the Miners. All three I was meeting for the first time properly, after only greeting them in passing in ‘Nutters’ before. Jean had walked from her house round the corner. She had just buried her dog (not immediately before leaving but a few days back) so was still a little down about that.
Over our first drink, Jean started talking of the burial and how this girl had passed away after only sixteen years.
‘Gawd, that’s terrible’ I said, as a photo was being passed round. It was only when I seen the photo that I realised it was a dog we were talking about.
“Oh, it’s a dog we’re talking about! That’s alright then!”, I very nearly said with a big smile and a deep sigh of relief.
Ben and Alison were nice and down to earth. Alison, a Financial Advisor with very shiny teeth’s Assistant, was chatty and outgoing and Ben, her hubby, was quieter and laid back. Ben didn’t even mention what football team he supported.
As the night went on, our conversation moved from many subjects including work, the secrets of Morrison’s ‘freshly made’ bread, shipbuilding, holidays, potato scones, Terry Pratchett, ‘Game of Thrones’ and cameras. In fact, we had more than a few things in common, which Ka and Alison both seemed quite relieved about. Ka stopped me at more than point during the night’s proceedings to make sure I was alright and that Ben was a nice guy. I nodded with a exasperated frown. It was almost as if the two wives were trying to set us up.
At some point, Alison probably asked Ben the same question except he probably replied with something along the lines of “no, he’s a weirdo, hasn’t even mentioned footie yet!”
We walked into the Miners’ Club at half past eight, immediately getting berated by the DJ for being an hour late, which turned Ka against him for the rest of the night. Whenever the DJ would hit out with a smarmy comment from behind the mike, and Ka was on the dancefloor, she’d waste no time in shouting a curt reply back at him. Alan the hairdresser waved at us from a table and bought us all a drink before disappearing off home and leaving us to the party. He was back in ‘Nutters’ early the next morning so couldn’t stay on to enjoy the dancing or the buffet.
A round of 5 drinks for £13. Where would you get that bargain other than a Miner’s Welfare Club? We also snaffled a couple of bags of onion rings for ourselves, enjoyed a magnificent buffet, drank lots of beer, finished with a Jack Daniels and headed off back down the hill to Uddingston in a taxi with a driver who was boasting about his new cable box. With a face like an old leather cloth, an earring and a voice like a emptying skip full of gravel this taxi driver glared at me as he drove. A one off payment of £180 and he was getting every channel available.
No fuss. No bills. He’d just uninstalled his Virgin package and got the new cable box from a guy he knows. Apparently I’ll know a guy too, if I’m interested.
“Ye’ll know a guy”, he said. “All yer movies and aw yer fitbaw”.
I wasn’t sure I did know a guy.