Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Good day sunshine

The sky is a brilliant blue over East Kilbride today. Who would have thought that driving around the streets of EK on my first week off could be so wonderful?
With the job still up in the air, Friday was my last shift for two weeks. I’ll have to pop by the office at some point during the next two weeks to attend an interview, but I’m free from the office during all the time in between so I finished my shift on Friday with a spring in my step.
Not only that but Ka was going out on the Saturday to her pal, Louisa’s, 30th birthday night out so I was free to do what I liked.
Watch what I liked. Eat what I liked. Drink what I liked. Go where I liked.
Until I remembered it was Mum’s birthday and something had been said about dinner on the Saturday night. So I gave up my chance at the remote control (it’s overrated anyway) and went out for dinner with Mum, Dad and sis, Lynsey Ann, to the local Steak house where we enjoyed a slap up meal and a few glasses of house red. Afterwards we enjoyed a few drinks in the lively Monty across the road where we took what looked like the last empty table, which just happened to be situated next to a table occupied by Mum and Dad’s old neighbours, from their first flat in the Greenhills, who were out with their daughter. Apparently I used to go to playgroup or nursery with their son. Memories obviously long fizzled out by alcohol abuse or age, or both. I did recognise a few faces as I sat in the bar though. Faces from school, long forgotten about, mostly deliberately.
All this while Ka was out on the town for Louisa’s cocktail filled birthday for which they’d managed to book themselves a booth in Mansion House and a couple of nice rooms in a central hotel by the name of the Alexander Thomson Hotel. There was a little uncertainty regarding the location after suspicions were aroused when some local ladies of the night were spotted in and around the hotel’s vicinity, perhaps attempting some arousing of their own. Not the kind of neighbours you wanted staying in the hotel room next to you.
I clambered out from my taxi, happy with red wine, and downed a cup of tea at around one in the morning with a slice of toast not forgetting to put the clocks forward by an hour and thus eventually begin the British summertime.
Since then it’s been blue skies all the way. Temperatures of 22 and 23 degrees. The green emerging slowly from the trees. The tops and t-shirts starting to get taken off at the first sight of the sun. Bikinis making appearances on the pavements again. The slamming on of the brakes as you turn to realise the driver infront has actually stopped.
With the car heater on ‘cold’ and the electric windows fully down to let some air circulate, it’s almost like driving around in a foreign country. The streets feel different.
Sitting in the flat with the windows open I can actually hear footsteps in the street outside.
Not rain. Not wind. Footsteps.
Neighbours walking by. The occasional conversation echoing up as they pass, their voices seeming to travel further in the warm, quiet street. Blue skies must be good for echoes too.
Bikes cycle past, their tyres whirring and ticking. The cars going up and down the road seem louder as if they’ve all souped-up their exhausts with those ridiculously stupid sized versions you see on cars roaring by with before breaking at the lights along with everyone else.
The kids are slowly emerging from the surrounding houses, out playing for the first time in months, like animals coming out of hibernation. Shouts and yelps echo around the street as they once more start to hang out, kicking balls about and hanging around the large hill of uncut grass directly opposite us which stands alongside the ruins of the old college that was demolished to make way for flats at least three years ago (needless to say the flats never turned up). This long grassed hill is particularly popular for sledging down. Not when there’s snow about though, no, that would just be silly. When the sun’s out and they slide down the grass on their hind ends, straight into the large, mangled, rusty old fence which stands at the grassy slope’s end. Hours of entertainment. Their Mum’s must have a great time with the Vanish.
The daffodils are out in force too. The front garden of our block as an abundance of green and yellow climbing up out of the usually weed filled soil.
Where did they all come from? Who planted them? It wasn’t me. Daffodils just jump up out of nowhere when spring comes around. Those pesky phantom daffodil planters must have been round again.
I’m sure the grey clouds will roll back in at some point though, casting doom and gloom over the days to come. I’d better just enjoy the sunshine while it lasts.

The waiting game

At the moment I’m waiting to find out when the interviews will be for the one available studio position in, the now flitting, S&UN prepress.
Barry and myself took a trip into Glasgow on last Wednesday after being invited over to Central Quay to visit the Daily Record building, S&UN Prepress’ new home. It’s more than a little odd going over and being giving the guided tour before you even know if you have a job.
We overestimated the journey time and we found ourselves waiting outside the building in the warm sunshine to go into the large office block on the Central Quay, looking out over the sparkling waters of the Clyde. It was around lunchtime so there were a few people milling about. Some smokers hanging around the corner of the building and some runners enthusiastically jumping out from the office block’s revolving door, people leaving the office on their lunch break to go out for a quick jog up and down the riverside. Barry and myself watched wondering how they managed to fit it all in, in a half hour.
When the time finally reached the fifteen minutes early marker, a reasonable amount of time to be mega early we thought, we went through the revolving door and gained our visitors’ passes from the front desk before heading into the canteen to wait for Kirsty, our host and tour guide. As we sat waiting I couldn’t help but wonder what was going to happen in the coming weeks. Would I be lucky enough to continue with my employment at the newly formed Media Scotland, would I be leaving with a redundancy payment, were there other jobs out there and was the lasagne really worth £3.50? I can make great lasagne but I wouldn’t charge someone £3.50 for a bit.
A canteen in a place of work that actually sells hot food?
I’ve never worked in such a place. The last time I was served a hot meal on a weekday lunchtime by a canteen was probably in Primary school. The meal was always spooned out from the large steel containers by the line of dinner ladies on to those all in one plastic trays, sectioned off in bevelled shapes for each course.
Getting school dinners was always a rare thing for me. School dinners were only a very occasional Friday treat, if treat is the word for it. The chocolate Rice Crispie cake was about as good as it got. Chaz always reserved his piece of Chocolate Crispie cake early morning, chatting up the dinner ladies, probably giving them some sort of sales pitch, even at that age.
Whereas, I was a packed lunch man. A couple of pieces, a packet of crisps and a fun size mars bar if it was Friday. You had to make sure you ate all your pieces though. Mr Stevens, the Janitor, stood over the large bin, eyeing you, and everything you chucked away, up suspiciously, whilst maintaining a constant vigil over the goings on over the whole lunch hall. If you even attempted to chuck half a sandwich away he would launch into a barrage of abuse, his voice echoing throughout the giant room, shaming you before the whole lunch hall and sending you back to your table with your tail between your legs and your unwanted piece that your Mum had apparently spent so much time over making that morning. Nobody was sure how Mr Stevens knew it was your Mum that had made your pieces that morning, not to mention how long it took her. He was always a highly suspicious character himself, if you ask me.
Anyway, in the Glasgow canteen, after a talking with one of the sales girls, who had moved over from the Hamilton building a few weeks before, Kirsty soon turned up and after a short chat gave us the tour of the building, going from the top, second level, where Prepress would now be based, all the way down through the busy floors, to the all important basement car park. There’s even a gym for when you’re wanting to run off some executive stress or pump some iron, handy for when you’ve had too much lasagne in the canteen.
An interesting visit but all slightly uncomfortable considering I have no idea yet on whether I’ll actually be working there or not.

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Weapons of choice

Just about finished Al Pacino this weekend. Ka hit the shops yesterday with Claire and Olivia leaving me in the flat to my own devices. The devices in question being my easel, acrylics and paintbrushes in an attempt to finish the Pacino portrait I have been working on, on and off, for over three months. Thankfully, it’s just about finished now.
It’s not bad for a first attempt anyway.
Even though Mum thought it was Bob Marley.
Mum and Dad popped in for a cuppa last Saturday afternoon and after a few minutes pondering the portrait before them in quiet contemplation, they eventually started muttering some compliments, being careful not to say what was obviously on the tip of their tongues.
“Who’s that supposed to be?” being the main phrase that springs to mind. I could tell the two of them were struggling to contain the words escaping from within their mouths as I stood back before going into the kitchen to switch the kettle on. Hopefully a cup of tea would enlighten them.
Yesterday I gave the portrait it’s finishing touches – hopefully. Though I’m sure I could fuss over it for a little longer if given the chance. Like a mechanic with a prize car in the garage, I’ll probably go back to it and tinker at small niggly bits now and again.
I’ve still to give my Christopher Walken portrait it’s finishing touches also, something I also meant to get round to yesterday.
Another portrait I started more than a few months ago, long before Rowland Rivron even considered the idea of defiling the great man’s brilliant dance routine which accompanied Fatboy Slim’s fantastic ‘Weapon of Choice’ (It is for the Sport Relief charity though so I suppose we should let him off). Just as I was about to pull the portrait out from under the dust covers I was interrupted by an unexpected phonecall from Oz.
Ka picked up the phone, not long after returning from the shops, expecting the monotonous tones of a computerised female ‘Important message’ or the slightly over friendly tones of a 3 salesman, (3 have suddenly been calling trying to sell us mobile phones repeatedly for the past few weeks) but was surprised to hear the unexpected tones of my happy brother calling from the other side of the world.
It was 10 past 3 at night over there which meant it was now the 18th of March on their side of the world. Kenny had hit the grand old age of 29 and was now on his way home to his hostel after a celebratory few drinks in the pub. Tequilas being the drink of the day apparently. Kenny’s in Sydney now and once more enjoying the Australian city life after a few weeks on the quiet Gold Coast.
He sounded high spirited (in more ways than one) but keen to get on and find a job whilst in the big city although he wasn’t particularly enamoured by my own job situation.
S&UN Prepress is being moved to the Glasgow offices on the Clydeside but unfortunately for Dave and myself there is only one Studio job. We were each given the dreaded brown envelopes on Monday so it’s either apply for the one post or take the money offered. It wasn’t a great start to the week really but hey, life goes on.
Recently I’ve been helping with the organisation of a ‘Charity Hat Disco Night’, a brainchild of DJ William Rae. On the 26th May, DJ William Rae will be hosting a disco night in the upstairs lounge of The Salmon Leap at which all who attend must wear a hat, the best of which will win a prize! Raffles, rock ‘n’ roll bingo and games will all be interspersed within the music and all proceeds are going towards Sands (Stillbirth and Neonatal Death Society) and Cancer Research UK. At the moment we’re fishing around for some raffle prizes and myself, William, Ka and Jane (DJ William’s better half) are all selling tickets which are going like hot cakes so if anyone out there is interested in attending please see here or contact me at
I’m not sure which hat to go for on the night. I have a rather battered looking trilby sun hat from Ibiza which I could wear but I don’t think that’ll win me any prizes.
Ka suggested I wear my Boba Fett helmet but I pointed out to her, as the title suggests, it is a helmet, and I’d probably find myself getting disqualified if I wore that particular piece of headgear. Still, it would be a laugh to see a shirted Boba Fett throwing some shapes in the middle of Calderwood’s Salmon Leap.
After DJ William’s best hat disco the following crazy party idea came from Jillian who hits the big 3-0 in September.
Obviously inspired by the recent trip to the flicks to see the new Muppet movie, Jillian thought it’d be a great idea for everyone who attends her birthday party to go as their favourite Muppet. Ironically enough, the party is to be held in the Kirkintilloch Rangers Supporters Club. I’m not sure if that’ll go down well with the regulars to be honest. I suppose I could always play it safe and go as the Cookie Monster.

Saturday, 17 March 2012

A Dings birthday

We had another family gathering at the McGarva household to celebrate Ka’s big sister’s birthday. Angela celebrated another birthday an evening early last Friday night with Grace, Dougie, Jillian, Colin, Kelly Ann and myself along with Steven, Morgan and Joshua.
Even though it’s not her birthday Ka was given a present too. Colin gifted Ka with a book called ‘Hollow Earth’ written, and signed by, none other than John Barrowman (and his sister). Colin and Jillian had made the trip to Waterstones in Glasgow one Monday, not too long ago, to meet the man himself. Photographic evidence on facebook shows Jillian leaning over the desk before the television and theatre star, grinning up at Colin’s shaky camera.
“Grannie, help me hide the cake!” Morgan shouted as she ran through the front door before her Mum had even got out on their car.
The Leckie’s had arrived and Joshua ran straight into the centre of the living room and spun around on the spot excitedly and almost immediately started throwing Iggle Piggle repeatedly up into the air. As everyone shouted and chatted with one another Dougie brought out the Ding’s take away menu.
Ding’s is a small Chinese takeaway on Uddingston’s Main Street, which is now traditionally called upon on a McGarva birthday. The shop itself houses a large open kitchen in the centre of the room in which various cooks shuffle their woks, toss their onions and boil their their noodles over the gas hobs, the large extractor fans hanging from the ceiling humming with exertion. Ding’s serves up some great takeaway grub including a rather brilliant szechuan. This time round I went for the Hong Kong style Sweet and Sour Chicken, another favourite. A favourite introduced to me by Chaz, who always used to order it on Sauchiehall Street at the end of a night out.
As the menu was passed from person to person Joshua jumped, spun and flung himself around the room, occasionally tickling peoples’ feet, looking up at you expectantly with a big toothy smile on his face whilst. He did look at little uncomfortable at one point though as he walked over to the coffee table with his plastic cup of water and stopped. A look of mild worry came over his face as he realised all the coasters were taken by all of our various cups of tea, coffee and water. He’s obviously been well housetrained. Morgan, who was feeling, and looking, a little peaky, chilled out taking a break from the games for a change settling instead for her colouring book.
After dinner the traditional cake and sing-a-long was carried out and a few photos were taken, Angela giving Morgan and Joshua big, birthday hugs. Recovering from her slightly peaky self briefly for a piece of the birthday chocolate cake, Morgan then went back to her colouring book at the dining table and Joshua went back to his toy cars, which he’d won in the all too brief game of pass the parcel.
Perhaps even the best game of pass the parcel as I managed to win a parcel without even passing!
I was sitting in the other room, at the dining table, suffering a slight headache from the strange whistling, squealing noise the living room tv had been making (a noise that caused a minor debate earlier in the night), chatting to Steven about Angela’s still secret Birthday present (an iPad!!!) as Morgan feverishly worked at her colouring book and Joshua delivered my freshly unwrapped present.
A DVD. ‘Hitch’ starring Will Smith. A little sceptical at first I soon realised Eva Mendes is in it so I accepted my prize more than gratefully before being admonished by Dougie who had been listening from the kitchen behind me.
After Steven took the two kids home to bed the McGarva siblings whiled away the remaining hours with glasses of wine, reminiscing about old times. After talking of the various drunken exploits of youth the conversation went on to Colin and Ka’s employment in Poundstretchers through their early working lives. They talked of the old Pounstretchers boss who found herself being attacked by a shutter one night, the life size dolls, Ka chasing the shoplifters, the old man that bought the condoms, and Colin entertaining the passing Hamilton shoppers in the street with his microphone and speakers.
Grace and myself listened intently as Dougie quietly tried to watch Lee Westwood play golf on the whistling television from the depths of his armchair and didn’t show much concern when Grace confessed her love for Patrick Swayze. Unfortunately she doesn’t have much of a chance now. Not a chance in hell.
Heaven, now that may be a different matter. Grace nodded excitedly when it was suggested the two of them could hook up in heaven.
“You better make sure you go first Dougie” I told Ka’s Dad. “She’s having ideas over there!”
Before long it was time to go home again and Ka and myself drove Angela up the road to her bed, well, her doorstep anyway.
Angela got out the car and sauntered up the garden path to the front door, swinging her birthday bottle of Halcyon wine (one of our favourites) at her side and pressed the doorbell. Ka and myself politely waited in the car for the front door opening, just in case there was somebody waiting in the bushes to jump out on her. After a few minutes of waiting politely Steven eventually opened the door and with a quick wave we were off home.

Sunday, 11 March 2012

350 friends

I spent three hours on facebook the other night updating my profile page to it’s new ‘timeline’ design before it’s forced upon me on the 12th of March. Suddenly that date is suddenly almost upon us I thought I’d better get it done before the wonderful programmers at facebook take it upon themselves to mutate my profile page and pick layout to their own liking, probably slapping some tagged picture of my mug up, massive on my profile, for all to see.
I haven’t spent such a long time on facebook for ages. In fact, I’m very rarely on. I usually pop in to wish Happy Birthdays and pop back out again. It’s great for keeping in touch with people you rarely see in day to day life, such as a brother in Australia. Drinking, partying, sky diving, bungee jumping, nighty wearing.
With the exception of the occasional brief visit, I’m rarely on facebook. Especially recently. Everybody on my home page, who I haven’t hidden from view in my preferences, seems to be having babies at the moment. Either that or just talking about what their babies are doing, in minute detail.
Before you think it, it’s not jealousy, I just have no interest in what a fb friend’s wee Baby had for dinner and why he or she (or it in some cases) looked so cute eating it. Some folk on facebook struggle to talk of anything else other than the latest movement or noises their baby is making. Do they have nothing better to talk about? Politics, sport, the war in Afghanistan, art, independence, cinema, the state of the block’s wheelie bins even? None of these subjects seem worthy enough.
If Lucy were around I wouldn’t be boring everyone that’s befriended me with endless stories of how Lucy belched at the dinner table.
Why do facebook have to keep modifying things anyway? They’ve been messing with the design for a while now. Adding bars, pop up screens, new newsfeeds, new buttons, preferences, scrolling effects.
And how many times do they need told that no, I don’t know that person that somebody else does and no, I’m not interested in gaining their friendship just because someone else is.
I suspect there are people that do aim for that though. You come across folk on facebook that have 350 friends.
That’s just not possible is it? How can you have 350 friends? I’ve got about 3.
Excluding family members of course. They’re friends whether they like it or not.
But then facebook friends and Friends, real friends, are very different things. The word ‘friend’ is a very loose term of phrase online.
There must be loads of folk out there that just add and befriend folk for the sake of it, just to make their friends list look attractive and popular. The place to be, like they’re involved in some kind of game to see how many hundred facebook friends they can get?
When I get a friend request from someone I don’t know from Adam (whoever Adam is?) I send them a polite question asking them who they are exactly and how they know me, just in case I have known them in a previous life and have just managed to forget all about them (if that was the case, would you even be interested in befriending them?). This usually gets ignored and I lose out on another +1 to my friends list, a fact which I do struggle with at first, but usually manage to come to terms with over time and persevere onwards with my life.
Twitter’s a good one for that. If it’s not complete strangers, it’s scantily clad girls in provocative poses (thankfully not involving sheep), looking at me hungrily on a profile picture telling me they’re now following my tweets. Then there’s the completely crazy followers you somehow obtain. Twitter emailed me one day, informing me that Coronation Street had decided to start following my tweets for some reason. Why Coronation Street was interested in following me I’ll never know (perhaps they mistook me for Norris or something?).
After changing my facebook profile page to it’s new timeline set up, I looked over it to make sure there was nothing too embarrassing on it.
How did facebook know when I got engaged? I couldn’t even remember when I got engaged! (because it was such a blur of joy and happiness!!)
A low profile on facebook is getting all the more unlikely.
The timeline documents the birth of my brother in 1983, yet there’s no mention of Lynsey, my sister, who was born in 1980 or all the other family members that have confirmed by a simple click that, yes, to their misfortune, they are indeed related to me.
Admittedly I do quite like the new timeline profile. It allows for a little more creativity for your profile page. If you’ve got a particularly stunning picture that you’d like to show off you can now make that you’re main, cover picture. My cover picture is not particularly stunning but it is a rather nice shadow photo of Ka and myself walking over Saint Peter’s Square in Rome on our Honeymoon (I wonder what my facebook timeline remembers about that?). Of course it just looks like a couple of shadows over a stoney ground on it’s own, but at least I know what it is.
Looking back, the old profiles were pretty boring giving you only the one smaller profile pic to toy with alongside the small photos that you’d either uploaded yourself or had been tagged in by other happy snappers (Jillian!).
But even the old profiles were a struggle for some.
My Mum phoned me the other day while I was at work. She needed my help. I had been attempting to tell her over Yahoo Chat how to upload images from her phone by connecting it to the computer via USB and then navigating to her device’s memory drive on the computer and lifting the photos from there. Mum had wanted to upload a picture of herself from her phone to use as her new Facebook profile pic.
Unfortunately she must have got a little muddled on the way.
I answered the call to Mum howling over the phone. I mistook the howling for crying which immediately made me panic and think the worst. After a few moments of a rather strange, undecipherable conversation, I realised it was uncontrollable laughter and with the few words I eventually managed to piece together what had happened.
In attempting to upload a new profile picture from her mobile she had successfully uploaded something quite different from the computer.
My Dad’s letter of discharge from the hospital, following his heart scare last year, was now her profile picture.
Jillian, who had been on Facebook at the time, seen this new update and clicked the ‘Like’ button assuming it to be a happy statement of rejoice from Betty for her husband’s good health, be it six months later.
Needless to say I had to log in under Betty’s name and sort it all out for her.
This was the same day my Uncle Jim left a Happy Birthday message on my profile page. Moments after I started getting a little excited about my birthday I realised that Jim had his Michael’s mixed up. It was my cousin’s birthday, not mine, which I quickly pointed out to him, just so he had enough time to give the right Michael his many happy returns.
My ambiguous, evasive brother, currently adventuring in Oz, even found the time to comment on that. When not exploring, working, partying and dressing up in nightys, Kenny has now decided to start jumping out of planes.
Now that does make a good profile picture.