Saturday, 30 June 2012

Typical Scottish weather

Last Friday night, at around half past ten, in near darkness, Ka, Chris and myself jogged over the sports field in John Wrights Sports Centre. A crowd had gathered on the further side of the field at the foot of the hill which led up from the western side of the running track. A lone piper stood at the top of the hill, a silhouette against the navy blues of clouds cloaking the sky behind him as the last of the daylight faded.
We were back from Glasgow, just in time, for the Candle of Hope Ceremony, the quiet ceremonious part of the annual Relay For Life, organised for Cancer Research. Every year teams pitch their tents in the running ground of the local sports centre late on the Friday afternoon and, from seven o’clock, take part in a 24 hour walk, team members all taking turns to walk laps around the 4km running track through the entirety of the following hours, whilst various events carry on around them, keeping both team members and visitors entertained. This year was slightly different however, as the heavy rain and winds done it’s best to ruin the event.
On our way back home from Glasgow in the back of a hackney cab the rain had seemed to peter out and stop just in time for the candlelit service at 10.30pm. The candlelit event is the opportunity to remember lost relatives and friends whether through cancer or not. Candlebags are sold in aid of Cancer Research and Claire, who was taking part in the 24 hour event, alongside her family, had already taken our candle bags off us after we’d decorated them with our own little lost loved one. A picture of Lucy sat in the middle of the track before us. The gentle, flickering candlelight from within her bag, shone a pale golden light through her photograph and helped it stand bright alongside all the other candles lining the running path. Other bags were decorated with photographs, words, poems and drawings, all messages from loved ones to loved ones.
Candlebags were also placed on the slope of the hill, running up to the piper. The bags on the hill all lit in the darkness, their placement spelling out one single word. Hope.
Silence fell over the gathered crowd and the piper started to play, looking out over us from the top of the hill, his music echoing around the sports field in the silence. After a few minutes he began edging his way over the brow of the hill, his music fading, and, from somewhere close by, a girl’s voice started singing ‘Somewhere over the rainbow’. The girl’s voice was clear and haunting in the stillness, quickly drowning out the vestiges of the piper’s echoes from over the hill.
It was an emotional moment. Always ruined by someone making odd noises in their grief, snorting unpleasantly, or blowing their nose loudly in the quietness.
That was me. Seeing Lucy’s little picture and just hearing that lady’s voice singing that song brought it all back again, as it does from time to time.
Of course, there were others but my bubbling just seemed louder than anybody else at the time and made me feel like an over emotional idiot afterwards. I apologised to Ka and quickly wiped away the few tears looking up at the ‘hope’ on the hill.
I blamed the drink.
I wasn’t drunk, upon leaving Glasgow, but I had been merry.
The reason we were not able to turn up until half past ten was because we had had another prior engagement. An engagement with a certain John Barrowman.
Yes, I was once more forced along to another John Barrowman concert, this time on Glasgow Green. Colin and Jillian had bought Ka the Barrowman ticket as a birthday present and as my birthday falls three days after it, they thought it’d be a great idea to gift me with the same. I half jokingly moaned and complained for a good while afterwards but did consider it rude to refuse the gift.
Jillian’s Mum, Jean and Chris ended up being late additions to the gig getting themselves tickets, bought on the cheap after Jillian received a Groupon email. They somehow managed to pay only £15 for their tickets whilst the price on the rest of our tickets had been the princely sum of 50.
Unfortunately it had been raining near constantly for the past two days and the man himself had been on Breakfast telly the day before claiming he’d be there and be singing regardless of the Scottish weather but it didn’t stop me frequently going online, throughout the course of Friday afternoon, in the hope, sorry, to check, if Barrowman had cancelled the gig.
It wasn’t to be.
In fact, the sun came out a few times overhead and the rain stayed away for the majority of the show as we sat on the folding chairs of Glasgow Green, alongside the Peoples Palace (an ideal location for a marriage according to Jean), People hung out of windows from the surrounding tower blocks and modern flats of Greendyke Street as John sang his way through his set, taking to the stage with his sparkly lapels, shiny suit and big grin, talking to the occasional granny or mad screaming woman from the audience, whilst half the Barrowman clan watched from the front row alongside Chris and Jean. You can say a lot of things about Barrowman but he never ceases to entertain and alongside his hand jiving trumpet players and swaying guitarists.
Since having the slap up meal beforehand in Elia, George Square’s Greek Restaurant which Colin and Jillian had been highly recommending for the past two years or so, we’d had a couple of beers and I’d decided to make the best of it. Once it was clear the rain was going to hold off for a time and there was sufficient beer at the gig to keep us happy everything seemed fine. The girls got T-shirts whilst Colin and myself stocked up at the beer van, buying two drinks at a time to save the queuing.
The rain did start to fall towards the end of the show signalling home time for everyone and after a quick visit to the portaloos, during which we managed to scare the living daylights out of Ka we headed out for the taxi to take us back home to EK.
Half an hour later, Chris, Ka and myself joined Claire and her family on the sports ground and after the candle of Hope ceremony enjoyed a beer around the campfire as the hour approached midnight. Just after Ka and myself had retreated home for the night, the rain started the pour, the wind started to blow and the gazebos started to disconnect from their guy ropes and tent pegs. The determined, probably miserable, charity fund raisers were determined to carry on though and as early daylight approached Claire and cousin Scott were happily bopping away in the silent disco tent.
Unfortunately, at around 5.30 in the morning the organisers were forced to call it a day after Claire had spotted the Haunted House tent flying around the track towards her.
A great shame for all those involved, not only for the event but the fact I’d wanted a go in that Haunted House tent.

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Jack Russell terrors

That’s it. The training starts here!
On my return from work tonight, and finding no dinner waiting on the table, I decided to get my trainers on and head out for a quick 5k. I’m running a 10k in September in aid of Sands and have not been out on the streets for a run for months.
In fact, I’ve never run 10k in my life. The family used to run 5, 6 or 7ks when we were younger, in and around Strathclyde Park on the Motorola fun days, but I’ve never attempted 10k in one go. So, with this in mind, I thought I’d better start doing a bit of training. Okay, I know September is ages away but the longer you leave it, the harder it will be (in my measly opinion).
With grey clouds smothering the sky and the occasional droplet of water hitting off my nose, I started running, expecting the occasional droplet to turn into a raging downpour as that’s usually what happens on these 5k runs around Calderwood and St. Leonards.
Thankfully I ran the length of the lap with no rain but, thanks to my lack of jogging in recent months, struggled for the majority of the 35 minutes, passing the occasional walkers and growling or muttering dogs. Dogs who were sometimes held back by straining leases or allowed to run free, running up threateningly towards me and growling angrily at my audacity to be running with shorts on, keys jangling in my pocket. Thankfully none of the dogs were Jack Russell Terriers. If it had been I may have lost my shorts… or worse.
I have a history with Jack Russell terriers.
For some reason, this particular breed of dog seems to dislike me. For years every single one of them that has passed me in the street has took an instant dislike to me. These small, white and brown dogs may seem innocent looking upon first glance but don’t let them fool you.
Upon meeting them in the street, some of these little terriers, simply growl as they pass and others bark. Others have been known to stop dead in their tracks and glare at me threateningly or stop and then snarl and snap, some jumping about wildly on the spot, flashing their small, but not insignificant jaws, filled with sharp, straight teeth.
In Manitoba Crescent, our second family home, the permed neighbour owned one. This neighbour was a quiet, airy fairy type of woman, with a large, dark permed hairdo and one of those vaguely annoying, patronising voices. The kind of voice that, coupled with her habit of tilting her head to one side when talking to you, sounded like she was constantly being sympathetic towards your situation. As if she pitied you as she spoke.
She’s now a waitress in the local Beefeater. She served our table one night when I was out for dinner with the family. We didn’t recognise her at first as her perm is now gone but she still does the mourning voice and the head tilting, sympathetic, nodding during conversation.
Anyway, she owned a Jack Russell and was one of my paper round customers when I delivered the East Kilbride News.
Every Wednesday night I’d walk to the town centre after school and pick up a huge pile of newspapers from the office’s front desk and trudge all the way home on foot, come rain or shine. Not an easy job as the East Kilbride News wasn’t the lightest of weekly local rags. Little did I realise then that I’d end up helping putting the paper together every week.
From behind the large glass window of the neighbour’s front door the wee mutt would constantly bark, growl and snap at me as I tried to safely deliver the permed neighbour’s newspaper. As soon as I prized the letterbox open to start sliding the week’s latest East Kilbride News in through the opening, the Jack Russell’s teeth would be there, snapping and snarling at me from the other side.
I don’t mind admitting that sometimes I would aim the first end of the rolled up paper directly at the dogs snapping mouth, hoping to give it a wee smack across the jaw. Usually the paper’s end would be torn and shredded within moments on the other side of the letterbox, the crazy wee mutt attacking it with a violent, psychotic hatred.
This neighbour had a baby girl as well?! Can you imagine having such an animal with this lunatic nature around a baby? Nuts.
One afternoon, after picking up my usual pile of papers, I decided to treat myself to a paperback I’d been looking forward to reading. I dropped in at WH Smith on my way and headed on out up the road to make my deliveries. Hours later, with only the permed neighbour to go, I started making my way up her Manitoba Crescent drive when I heard the weekly snapping and barking start once more from behind the large glass front door. I seen the familiar brown and white blur of ears and teeth jumping up and down as I made my way up the drive and, just as I got around two thirds of the way up the paved path, the permed neighbour appeared out of nowhere in the small porch and, to my horror, swung the front door wide open to greet me. The crazy little mutt of a dog sprinted right for me. Barking, growling, snapping.
A blur of rabid dog hatred, galloping towards my legs, spittal spinning out from it’s black dog gums, upon which the small, sharp teeth snapped. My steps faltered but I kept walking, pulling the paper from my bag, ready to deliver, striding up the path as if undeterred by the coming white and brown onslaught of noisy, yapping teeth. Then, as if on a spring board built into the permed neighbours pathway, the dog fired straight up into the air, aiming for the face. I swerved to the side, the dog missing, barking and snapping all the way, as it landed safely on it’s four paws at my side.
Almost instantaneously, it leaped up again, snapping at my arm.
This time it hit. Biting my arm briefly but thankfully letting go just as the teeth found some grip on my arm. The jacket I was wearing at the time was some kind of canvas number so the teeth did not manage to do much damage but it was enough to make me kick out at the little runt on his way back down to ground. The permed neighbour stood in her doorway, gently chastising the little git of a Jack Russell for playing, with that pathetic, quiet voice of hers and that tilting head of pity. Undeterred, the Russell paid his master’s voice no heed and once more lept up into the air spraying me with another volley of barks and yelps and snapped onto the WH Smith carrier bag in my other hand. This time the dog bit in and wouldn’t let go. My new book was in there and the little terrier had it’s grip on it with it’s vicious jaws. I shook and swept the bag through the air between myself and the permed neighbour in an effort to separate the mutt from my newly purchased book but with a dogged determination the dog held on by the teeth. The struggle lasted for at least a couple of seconds before the permed neighbour eventually took hold of her pet’s body. The mutt released the book upon the touch of his owner and continued with his barrage of verbal abuse, but this time from the safety of his owner’s hands, snapping and growling at me as I threw the paper into the doorway and retreated back down the garden path.
On getting home I pulled my new book from the slightly shredded carrier bag to find one large set of jaw prints cut into the lower half of the book. Proper, deep, tooth marks embedded through each side of the cover and buried down, gnawed into at least 100 pages on either end of the book. Throughout the following weeks, reading that book, turning those tooth marked pages, I never shook the feeling of anger and hatred towards that little b**tard of a dog.
I remember it was only a matter of weeks until I was walking up the hill to school one day and an older gent passed me, innocently walking his dog. Of course the dog was another Jack Russell Terrier and stopped in its morning ramble to fiercely yap and bark in my general direction, jumping around madly on the spot of pavement before me.
“They’re all insane!”, I remember thinking, but inadvertently half shouting at the same time, at the rather puzzled elderly owner as he clipped the end of the dog’s lead on and pulled it under control.
There have been more than a few other similar incidents over the years, all with Jack Russells.
Even a few months ago another one of these little runts destroyed my nephew’s football the day we took him, and our niece, Morgan, over to Strathclyde Park. Joshua, Morgan, Ka and myself stood and watched helplessly as the mutt ravaged the blue football to blue, plastic smithereens, growling the guttural noises of a wild animal after running across half the park, out of nowhere and descending on the ball like a bat out of hell.
Perhaps that’s why I didn’t enjoy ‘The Artist’ as much as everyone else seemed to.
Okay, Uggie did look a little friendlier than most Jack Russells but I couldn’t help but spend the majority of my time watching that movie being highly suspicious of the supposedly wonderful little co-star. I don’t care if he could rescue someone from a burning building, play dead with an imaginary bullet or walk on two hind legs, I wouldn’t trust him as far as I could throw him (or even kick him). All of those skills just make him all the more dangerous for when he starts attacking people in the street, regardless of how many awards he’s got on it!

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Weird dreams and freaky flamingoes

A few nights ago I woke up in the middle of the night and moved to shuffle my pillow around. This, in turn, woke Ka up and she moved round to adjust her position in the bed. Upon turning round and seeing me, her eyes burst open and she let out a loud scream, which punched through the quietness of the night like a verbal explosion. Ka then turned around again, mumbling and whimpering under her breath and went off to sleep again as if nothing had happened.
Had she forgotten she shared a bed with someone? Was it a scream of shock? Had the shock of reality disturbed her dream of being married to Brad Pitt or Damon from Vampire Diaries?
I know the sight of me half asleep can’t always be a good thing but I didn’t think it was reason enough to scream quite so loudly.
I’d be surprised if she hadn’t woke up the singing postman upstairs with that scream.
Anyway, Ka was soon snoring once again, oblivious to what had just happened and once again needed reminding the next morning.
It reminds me of how I used to sleep walk as a kid. I used to wake up on the living room couch, sitting watching tv, late at night with my Mum and Dad. Apparently I used to just get up a few hours after having gone to bed and amble through to the living room, plonk myself down on the couch and sit there until I came to.
Ka doesn’t generally sleepwalk, though she does occasionally talk in her sleep. She even replies sometimes if I ask her what she’s talking about.
One night she awoke just as I was switching off the light and started talking. Once her mumbles finished I asked her what she meant.
“She doesn’t know how to push the cat”, she grumbled back with eyes still shut under a frown of annoyance.
I have to admit, it may not have been that line exactly, it was difficult to make out exactly what she said but it was something along those lines. I’ve no idea what cat who didn’t know how to push, but most dreams rarely make sense anyway.
My most recent dream that I can remember involved me accompanying Lynsey Ann, my sister, to church on the first anniversary of her Wedding. She wore her Wedding dress to commemorate the anniversary. The interior of the church was enormous and we sat at the side of it’s interior before the massive altar, or at least I did, where there was a cassette player. On this cassette player, a double deck, I kept pressing play, listening to the music, letting it echo throughout the church, disturbing the hymn singing and the voice of the priest, and intermittently flicking it off with the stop button. The priest on the altar, Father Pat, kept getting annoyed with me for disturbing his mass with the loud music clips and I think he asked me to leave on more than one occasion, a request I denied, rebelliously pressing down on the play and stop buttons, whilst he spoke to his congregation.
Can anyone guess what that is all about?
Apparently you can have up to 7 dreams a night. I used to be great at remembering dreams and actually wrote down what I dreamt from time to time, a vague effort at a dream diary (Yep, in those days I had more time on my hands). I would sometimes have dreams that lasted for up to a week, my sleep continuing on with a dream where I had left off the previous night like an ongoing, surreal, drama serial. When I was young I remember actually looking forward to going to bed to see what happened next after the cliffhanger ending from the previous night or morning awakening.
Then there were the nightmares.
I used to have a recurring nightmare when I was small, set in our first house, Vancouver Drive.
It was dark. The curtains were all shut, but some moonlight could still be seen shining through the fabric of the curtain. Mum and Dad had locked the doors and windows and the five of us sat in the dark living room, cowering from what was outside. I remember peeking through the gap between the two curtains covering the living room’s rear window to look out into the small, dark back garden, the old rusty second hand see saw at it’s centre, partly hidden by the old stone hut that came with those houses. I would freeze in terror at the sight of the things outside, all standing, or pacing around, moving around the house, threatening just by their presence. They were large birds with tiny, beady eyes and giant beaks, standing as tall as a man, on long feather less legs. Things that can only be described as large dark, horrific versions of flamingos.
I remember, as I looked out, looking over the gathering block in the pale moonlight, the head of one of the creatures suddenly appearing directly before my nose, on the opposite side of the glass, straight up at the window. It’s small black eyes glaring at me over its large beak.
In one particularly frightening version of the dream I remember having a little later, the giant birds actually somehow got into the house via the back door and spent the majority of the dream ascending the hall staircase. Obviously I was in my bed for the entirety of the dream but could somehow see what was going on. Some of the creatures made their way up the hall’s stairs (Vancouver Drive’s stairs featured in quite a few of my nightmares when I was wee) and after the familiar creaking on the landing directly outside my, and my brother Kenny’s, bedroom the noises stopped. I watched my closed bedroom door, pressed up against the wall behind me, eyes wide with fear. On the other side of the door, a clawed hand reached up and turned my bedroom door handle. Just as the door swung open to reveal the creature beyond, I awoke.
Thinking back that was probably the last time I seen those scary black flamingos in a dream.
In work we quite often have Radio 2 on in the background and occasionally folk come on the Steve Wright afternoon show claiming to understand dreams and know what your subconscious mind is telling or instructing you. Personally I’m inclined to believe it’s a lot of subconscious babble, your brain conjuring up stories whilst you sleep, using elements from all over your life, including family, friends, experiences, locations. In your mind, whilst you sleep, what starts out as a simple thought develops, grow, mutates and expands like a patchy watercolour with too much water soaking through the paper making the colours spread and merge.
Say that, I have had a few, weird, eerily accurate moments involving dreams.
I did have one, very different experience recently. One that came back to me in a horrific flash, like a very bad sense of déjà vu.
I dreamt that I was sitting in Angela’s, Ka’s sister’s, living room, surrounded by the McGarva family members and, what was stranger, my Mum, Dad, brother and sister, who, in real life, had never seen or been in Angela and Steven’s house. Together we watched as young Joshua played in the centre of the living room, dressed in a strange uniform with a big red object on wheels upon which he could ride. Throughout the dream Joshua played with this red object and the relatives talked but I just couldn’t escape the feeling that something horrendous had happened. A terrible aching pain echoed throughout my head which I couldn’t pinpoint in the dream. Even though I recalled the dream the next day the dream faded over time as they all do.
Around six months later, Lucy passed away on Hogmanay and Angela invited us all round for dinner on the New Years Day in an effort to help us through the remainder of the ‘festivities’. The McGarvas, and the Reids. Sure enough, following dinner, we were all sitting in Angela’s living room talking, when Joshua sauntered in to the living room pushing the new fire engine he had received from Santa for his Christmas. Previously, before Lucy had arrived on the 29th and departed the day or so later, we had enjoyed our Christmas Day with Joshua who had been playing with the new truck dressed in his Santa outfit.
It was all probably just strange coincidence but it did make me think, not for the first time, that maybe there’s more to dreams than just mere mental rambling.
I’ve still never encountered a flamingo though.

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Something to smile about

Well thank goodness that’s all over. Back to normality (well, as normal as normality gets). Just as well this Jubilee malarky only happens once in a while. As nice as it was to watch all the barges and boats on the Thames on Sunday it was far more entertaining watching the Royal College of Music Chamber Choir gaining ‘hypothermia’ whilst singing Rule Britannia at the top of their voices. Apparently the girls in the company had just had their hair done especially. Certainly looked like they’d just stepped out of a salon, even though they were only halfway through the rinse.
A wee bit of rain and everybody in England thinks they’re hard because they went out in the bad weather to see their Queen. The London Ambulance Service told of how they treated around 560 people who, because of the bad weather conditions, said they were cold. Bless.
At least it was dry for the concert on Monday.
A concert which veered from the rubbish to the surreal, to the rubbish, to the half entertaining, to the actually quite good, to the, wow, lots of fireworks.
In all, pretty entertaining, if you were drinking, and that was without Rolf even getting to finish his song. Scary Grace Jones’ skills with a hula hoop were particularly impressive. I’m lucky if I can manage ten seconds nevermind the length of ‘Slave to the Rhythm’.
We had been standing at the foot of that statue, the Victoria Memorial, in the sunshine, only a few months ago with Ann holding Adventure Ted aloft in order to get a decent picture of her before Buckingham Palace (the bear that is, not Ann).
Little did we know that by that time, the next afternoon, things would be a little bit different.
It was a cloudy Saturday March morning in London. Grey, unlike the previous days, and and as the rain had slowly started to fall, Ka and myself hurriedly took shelter from the Strand and ran through the large archway entrance into Charing Cross Railway Station. Not only were we after temporary shelter from the gathering rainclouds above but we were also after a loo and since this was a railway station this would mean digging into the pockets and coming up with 10 and 20p pieces. At least I was hoping it was only 10 and 20p pieces - this was London after all. I wouldn't have been surprised if the railway stations of the capital ventured into the 50p regions. After a brief scout around we found the required restroom archway and Ka ventured forth, leaving me sitting on a plastic bench outside, before a small card and souvenir shop. Even back in March there seemed to be more Union Jacks knocking about than usual. I sat waiting whilst eyeless members of the Royal family smiled at me from the circling stand in the shop's doorway opposite me. The Queen’s eyeless mask was particularly freaky. Without eyes behind them, these masks looked like a Royal version of Village of the Damned or, with the light of the shop behind, like Nicholas Fisk’s ‘Grinny’.
“I hate that Grinny book!” Chaz shouts at the top of his voice, his shout echoing up the corridor behind the short, striding form of Mrs. Boyd.
The teacher had laughed on previous, probably quieter, occasions in the school corridors, but this time we were walking in the vicinity of the Head Master’s office and she wasn’t amused by the echoing shout that had burst out from the corner of the corridor behind her. Mrs. Boyd spun on her heels, in mid chew of what looked like a particularly chewy piece of chewing gum, and flew at Chaz with pointed finger. Mrs. Boyd had been championing Fisk’s ‘Grinny’ for the past few weeks in her English class, much to our displeasure as we slumbered and struggled to stay awake over it’s pages, listening to the unfortunate that had been chosen to read on that particular day. Chaz had took it upon himself to voice his opinions on the chosen literature on more than one occasion in the corridors of Saint brides High School. Mrs. Boyd had always replied with a smile and a warning of how he’d be the next lucky reader, but on this particular occasion she’d obviously grown weary of the joke. As Mrs. Boyd closed in, Chaz couldn’t seem to move, frozen to the spot by that twisted, pointed finger, but the rest of us managed and darted to the safety of the nearest common room, leaving him to his fate.
The Queen grinned at me the same way the Alien Granny of that book used to grin, easily dominating the adults’ minds but unable to infiltrate the kids’ which eventually led to her downfall.
A busker strummed at a guitar in the corner of the Railway Station. A cleaner was sauntering around, lazily sweeping at the odd piece of rubbish, either mumbling, grumbling or humming to himself under his cap. A couple of guys, obviously on their way out to the Saturday of some kind of drunken weekend break, ambled up the to shop and spun the mask stand as an old couple picked a birthday card from the shelves in the small shop behind them.
We were heading to the Ambassadors Theatre in the West End to see the matinee performance of Stomp that afternoon and Ka had voiced an interest in seeing Russell Grant in ‘The Wizard of Oz’, an interest I chose to not hear. We still had more than an hour or so to while away, just as well really considering the time Ka was taking in the Station’s loo.
The guys decided on a freaky Royal each, fighting over who was to be Kate. One of the guys was verbally bullied into it and took the other guys’ masks of Philip, William and Charles up to the small counter where a bored looking girl took them off him. The old couple chuckled over a card and then nodded in agreement, handing it over the counter to the lady behind the till once the guys had moved back out into the Station and immediately started unwrapping the cellophane.
Ka eventually appeared through the shadows underneath the archway leading down to the toilets. Looking a little pale, she walked over the train station waiting area towards me and produced the short white stick she had been harbouring from somewhere within her jacket.
“I’m pregnant!” Ka handed the white plastic stick to me with a shaky hand. Looking down at the small screen on the pregnancy test I seen a feint but definite indication of lines in certain positions and compared them with the details on the crumpled up instructions Ka handed to me in my other hand.
“Are you finished with that?” the Railway station cleaner suddenly interrupted us, almost moving between the two of us gesturing with his pick-up stick.
“What?” I almost blurted at him as he continued to edge forward.
“Are you finished with that?” he asked again nodding at my hands. Confounded I was about to give an answer when Ka confirmed we had indeed finished with it and told the guy to go ahead. The cleaner then moved in and just as I thought he was about to swipe the crumpled paper and test from my hands, extended his pick-up stick and lifted a rolled up McDonalds bag that had been lying behind my feet. I quickly agreed we had finished with it and then corrected myself for taking responsibility for someone’s rubbish and informed the man the McDonalds wasn’t even ours. I don’t eat in McDonalds and I never discard litter in such a fashion even if there is a distinct lack of bins in London Railway stations. When we arrived in London on the Thursday I had to trail a whole carrier bag full of rubbish from the train around Euston with me until I eventually found a bin in the Shaftesbury Paddington Hotel. Okay, bins are maybe handy for bombers but it’s not an ideal situation when you’ve got some rubbish to dispose of and there are no weird cleaners hanging about.
Anyway, Ka’s latest bombshell was enough to make my head spin, without any form of explosives, and as the Railway Station cleaner leaned in and picked up the obvious emergency situation that was his crumpled up McDonalds paperbag I couldn’t help but wonder if he’d noticed what was going on before him.
Had he realised he had disturbed a teary eyed woman revealing to her husband, after coming out of the loo, in the middle of Charing Cross Train Station, that she was pregnant? Surely the white stick, the urgent quiet discussion and the look of bewilderment, confusion and then mixed emotions on our faces was enough to illustrate the point.
He could have at least congratulated us to ease the tension. He could have grabbed us at each side and happily shouted a massive ‘Alleluia!’, turned and told the shop keeper, the blokes behind the Royal ‘Grinny’ masks and the old, chuckling couple with the funny card. They could have replied with smiles and happily waved over to us. The volume of the busker’s guitar could have suddenly became much louder. A passing brass band could have joined him with a nod, a smile and a wink. The cleaner would then start up a song and dance routine, skipping and jumping with his pick-up stick, and all the passing pedestrians, who suddenly all seemed far more brightly dressed, could have suddenly started dancing transforming Charing Cross Railway Station into a floor of colour, dancing, waving and smiles. Grace Jones could have appeared with her hula hoop, a helmeted Russell Grant could then have been shot out of a nearby steam train’s chimney in a shower of glitter and stars whilst Flavia circled underneath on the platform and the Station announcer could have made the announcement over the tannoy.
Obviously that would have been asking too much, of course. The cleaner didn’t give us any congratulations. He was far more interested in the dropped McDonalds wrappers at our feet, mumbled something under his breath and then slouched on with his slow trail around Charing Cross.
That was thirteen weeks ago and Baby Reid 2 is growing well. Obviously it is quite early and happy thoughts are always going to be tinged with sadness as we think of Baby’s big sister, Lucy but fingers crossed things work out a little better this time around.

Saturday, 2 June 2012

A grand total for a grand night

I’d forgotten my raffle tickets. Once I finally got a chance to sit down on Saturday at DJ William Rae’s Charity Hat Disco Night, after around two hours of organising and tearing up raffle tickets, I realised I’d left my own raffle tickets at home so would have no chance of getting a prize.
The raffle tickets were selling well. A little too well, I thought, as I stood separating out the individual raffle tickets whilst people still arrived, queuing up behind us to get through the doors and into the busy, outside the Salmon Leap’s bustling, music filled function room in the hallway with Ka, Morgan and some of the girls.
Ka and myself had been down earlier in the afternoon and met up with Claire, Helen (Claire’s Mum), and Maureen (Claire’s Auntie). We spent a few hours blowing up balloons, tying ribbons, unloading all the raffle prizes from the boot and delivering Subway sandwiches kindly donated by the Bellshill branch. Now things were really kicking off as a seemingly non stop flow of people arrived for around quarter past seven onwards, some wearing hats and some seemingly too cool to wear a hat but forgiven anyway just for coming along to the Charity Hat Disco Night in aid of Sands, Stillbirth and Neonatal Death Society, and Cancer Research UK.
On the blisteringly hot Thursday morning I had went up my Mum and Dad’s loft and pulled down an old Mad hatter’s style felt top hat that I’d bought in a crazy moment in Prague when I was there on a field trip with the Art School. Perfect for the occasion. Dad came along with a black and white checkered trilby. Craig came along with a policeman’s helmet with a flashing blue light protruding from it’s top. Uncle Ian attended with his big Texan cowboy hat. Aunt Anne was adorned with a large Easter bonnet. Mark had a World War II M1 Helmet. Sparkling, glittering, hats in various forms were in abundance along with many wicker sun hats probably usually kept for BBQ’s in the garden. In the end it was our neice, Morgan who took the ‘best hat’ prize home with her large white, fluffy, big eared, googly eyed, bunny rabbit hat.
As we continued to work on the raffle tickets everyone else enjoyed the the rock ‘n’ roll bingo a game DJ Rae had came up with in his time abroad. Basically a bits ‘n’ pieces with cards, bought to participate, each card with it’s own table of songs which you had to cross out as a short clip of the tune was played.
As we worked out in the hallway outside, ripping and tearing, a loud bellow suddenly echoed throughout the hall, after a good number of music clips. Colin had won, along with Elspeth, a friend of Grace’s whose bellow for some reason didn’t seem to echo quite as much. Colin and Elspeth won a litre and a half bottle of Vodka and £25 worth of winnings which Morgan somehow ended up getting a fiver from.
The raffle tickets seemed to be neverending and when I was in mid rip of a raffle strip following the bingo, DJ Rae announced the buffet open to which we raffle workers just looked at each other and laughed. The buffet table was currently occupied by piles of raffle ticket strips. Nobody was getting any food, anytime soon.
After a quick location change to the back room, where fortunately there was still some tables left, Angela, William and Claire’s Mum, Helen and a number of kind volunteers jumped to help with the grub whilst raffle operations continued.
Eventually, with the help of a couple of other volunteers, we managed to get the tickets all ready and whilst the gathered crowds feasted on the buffet they were entertained by a great local singer who, unfortunately, was a little drowned by the surrounding conversation.
Eager to get on with the music DJ Rae called for the raffle knowing they had a job on their hands. The corner of the room was completely crowded in bottles, perfumes, envelopes and gift bags of various shapes and sizes. There was even a living room rug. Upon his first visit to the bar, Dougie had laughed upon seeing the rug on the monster pile of raffle prizes kindly donated by local companies and many friends and family.
Ka and Claire set up and organised the prize giving, handing the lucky tickets to William to read out over his mike.
It wasn’t long before allegations of raffle fixing were being called as Colin won again, this time a rather lovely bottle of Jamesons whiskey. Unfortunately by this point, Colin and Jillian had since departed for Edinburgh. Jillian was running her first marathon in the morning in aid of Sands and various other worthy causes. In her absence Jillian won a Sex in the City perfume set.
Mum was the only winner of her table with an Afternoon tea for 2, which whilst collecting, for some reason, DJ Rae attempted to persuade her to perform 5 star jumps. Apparently it would have made the gathered lads from his football team happy.
I’m not sure what that was all about or why the lads would be interested in seeing my Mum performing exercises? Nobody else had had to work for their raffle prize.
Among other prizes handed out was a bottle of Courvoisier for big Iain and Angela won a basket of wine, crackers and chocolate.
One of the last prizes to go was the rug. Dougie and Grace won that. A prize Dougie was not particularly happy to receive but did manage to stop at least two blokes from nipping away with at the end of the night.
DJ Rae got the music back on soon enough and filled the dancefloor with a few requests including Paulo Nutini for Auntie Anne and the Timewarp for Ka and myself (I’ll never live that down!).
After the Salmon Leap eventually kicked us out, a select few, consisting of the Mums and Dads, Chris, Jim, Pauline and Lynsey Ann all agreed to come to our place for a nightcap. The majority of the ladies managed to get a taxi with the buffet dishes, remaining prizes, the rug, and, most importantly, the two buckets of cash, one yellow for Sands and one blue for Cancer Research. Never before had I had so much money in my physical possession. Mum, Dad, Jim, Lynsey Ann, Dougie and myself left without a taxi had no choice but to enjoy a walk down the road, back to Kenilworth, taking in the night air. I had to make a brief stop as we approached the end of our walk, standing at the foot of a tree with a large black and white felt top hat on, taking care the passing taxis didn’t see too much of me from the road.
Back at the flat we enjoyed another drink but at around half past two, just as Jim started talking about work again, Chris signalled that it was time to go home. More taxis were called and everyone went on their way leaving Ka and myself to collapse into bed.
The next morning, unsurprisingly, Ka awoke first. Her first job – to count the collected cash contained in both the Sands and Cancer research buckets. The night’s grand total amounted to £1100.19. I’m not sure where the 19p came from, but every penny helps! A fantastic total, from a fantastic night for two fantastic charities. Well done to everyone involved and thanks and to all who came along on the night!