Monday, 27 August 2012

Secretaries, celebrations and congratulations

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

Friday, 10 August 2012

Tales of the punexpected

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

Friday, 3 August 2012

Picnics, barbecues, beaches and tomatoes

My not insignificant forehead has been red raw this week and is only just recovering. For the first half of the week it felt like I'd had a particularly heavy injection of botox as I was finding it difficult to lift my eyebrows (and spending days on end with the inability to lift your eyebrows is most inconvenient – a look of surprise is misconstrued as a look on constipation).
The sun had once more got the better of me. After a day spent lounging about a beach on Elie harbour without any form of protection I suffered. I should know by now that even though the sun may not be obvious at times, it's still there. Quite often, as soon as I've set foot on a beach, be it Ibiza, Lanzarote or Largs, I’ve turned a violent shade of red.
The family, or in this case, families, were all gathering in the Fife coastal town of Elie for a beach barbeque. My Aunt Anne had arranged it with the extended family of my Granpa Reid’s sister’s, my Great Aunt Nan’s, side as, unfortunately, we only ever seem to really see each other when somebody dies. Anne had got talking with a few of her cousins at the last funeral, my Aunt Maureen’s, and had decided enough was enough. She was determined to bring the two families together for something that wasn’t a death.
So Dad, Mum, Lynsey Ann, Ka and myself all jumped into Dad’s citroen on the Saturday, and travelled up to Leven, and to the Caledonia Hotel, a half hour drive from where we were headed the next day. We arrived at around half past eleven and, as check-in wasn't until after one, we decided to take our picnic, organised and provided by Mum and Ka, down to the waterfront. Unfortunately the weather wasn't up to much and as soon as we climbed down the large stone steps on to Leven's short sand beach, the rain started to fall.
Not just normal rain though.
This was large, big, splodgy dollops of rain which made a fantastic attempt at soaking us before we ran for shelter, cowering under the shelter of a large tree, we'd spotted earlier, back up towards the streets, alongside some park benches. As the rain eventually lightened, Mum and Ka quickly started preparing the tea, coffees and sandwiches, the Firth of Forth stretched out before us under the continuously moving clouds.
After our lunch, we decided to take a wee walk around the seaside town.
It didn't take very long.
We walked up on to the rather neglected looking High Street, not even paying any attention to the decorative signposts which pointed the way to the town's various hotspots. Not that there was much in the way of hotspots.
The bigger hotspots consisted of the local Lidl, which stood opposite our hotel for the night and served as our picturesque view from our hotel window. An indoor swimming pool stood lay, across the road from the bus station, at the end of the short High Street. A Sainsbury's sat across the road from that. There was an Arcade amusement shop, a bounteous amount of charity shops and a few pubs.
My Dad and I left the women in a wool shop and wandered further up the street and came across and slightly more curious looking little shop which displayed examples of it’s wares in it’s window. World war helmets, military caps, uniforms, nazi war medals, gas masks and beer flagons were just a few of the collections adorning the shelves and walls of this particular shop all leading you into a false sense of security as you ventured forth into the back of the shop and found a bog standard second hand book shop. Dad bought some Michael Connelly books for a pound each (cheaper than the charity shops) before we headed back down the street to find the women in the hotel buying in the drinks.
Following check in, during which we checked over our basic, but clean, rooms admired the view of the local Lidl and unpacked our small cases of belongings, we headed out to Crail to meet up with Tom, Linda and the just arrived Jim who had driven all the way up from London. We arrived at Tom and Linda’s camper van just in time to see Cavendish and his team get beat in the Olympics cycling road race and decided to head up to Crail’s Main street and a pint in the Golf Hotel where Anne and Ian caught up with us and Mum noised up the barman for not delivering Ka’s coffee.
We headed back to Leven for the remainder of the evening, driving through the pouring rain, which seemed to suddenly only exist outside of Crail, and enjoyed dinner with Anne and Ian in the Caledonia, where the waitresses had neglected to book our table and then nearly forgot to take our dessert orders.
With the rain finally giving itself a break, we took a short walk afterwards, ending up in one of the pubs we’d passed on our walk earlier in the day. Now it was a little livelier and the Saturday night entertainment was in full swing with the pub’s DJ and karaoke machine. The karaoke only made up half of the entertainment though as we were introduced to the lively residents of Leven’s Molly Malones. Most of the singers were awful, successfully destroying perfectly good songs. One of the guys, who would probably have ate himself if he had been chocolate, could barely sing the last three words of each screen, struggling to keep up with the colouring text. A few girls attempted Lady Gaga and the like whilst one of the biggest karaoke stars of the night turned out to be a lady called Margaret.
At least we think she was a lady.
Usually Margaret is a lady’s name so we opted for the female option. This ‘lady’ would strut up to the microphone in her suit jacket and belt out the hits with a deep, but not completely tuneless voice, and was overjoyed to hear the cheers from Mum and Anne following her various song interpretations. Insinuations were even made the next morning about Mum getting a few heavy winks from Margaret.
After a quick drive across the road to Lidl, where we packed a couple of boxes full of chicken, burgers, ribs and wings along with wine, juice and a couple of large bottles of water for the beach feast we headed out to Elie.
Arriving at Ruby beach, Sarah Jane turned up with Yvie, Christopher and Daniel before Anne and Ian drove up and met us where it was decided we should change location and we settled down on a small section of beach in a rocky alcove on a southern point of Elie harbour.
The sun was out but the wind was strong as we started setting up camp. Tom kitted me out with some shorts and a pair of spiky soled sandles as I’d left the shorts at home not expecting much from the Scottish coastal weather, much to Tom and my Dad’s disbelief. Earlier, on the Saturday, Dad almost swerved off the road with incredulity when I told him that I’d not brought any shorts.
Anyway, tents were built (and never used), barbecues were laid out ready for use, canoes were blown up, windbreakers were erected and a couple of castles were built as the family gathered to meet the more distant, extended family. Granpa Reid’s sister, my 87 year old Great Aunt Nan, soon appeared on son-in-law Stanley’s arm, the majority of her family, all following soon after.
Considering I only see these distant relations briefly at funerals I still find myself getting names mixed up, if I can even remember the names in the first place. There were a number of occasions on Sunday when I had to ask reminders from Mum, quietly and subtly whenever I think none of them are looking. There was Paul married to young Nan, Joan married to Stanley, Allison married to Ken, Kathryn married to Vince, Claire married to… Paul… I think it was Paul. Gawd, see, there I’ve started forgetting the names already?!
Anyway, on the day mixing up the names and relations didn’t get in the way of the food. Before long the BBQ’s were lit, the cans were cracked open, the wine unscrewed (we realised in Lidl that we had no bottle opener) and Linda’s trifle was out whilst the sun shone down, the strong wind succeeding in fooling us into being cool, whilst the occasional shower pestered us from time to time.
In all there was probably around 35 folk crowded round that small piece of beach before some of the blokes disappeared off to the Ship Inn for a pint, or to see the hanging baskets, as some were claiming, and to watch the game of cricket taking place further along beach. Apparently Elie’s hanging baskets are lovely at this time of year, I suspect they’re even lovelier when there’s a pint or two involved.
Unfortunately for me I made the unwise decision to stay on the beach and get merry with the wine, my Dad only realising later that we could well have been breaking the law.
It wasn’t until I got back into the back seat of the citroen at the end of the day, after returning the shorts to Tom and spending around an hour saying goodbye to people, that Mum turned a fetching shade of scarlet, Dad got dizzy and tripped over a wall, Lynsey Ann started to feel a little drowsy and my whole head started buzzing with heat. It wasn’t until the next morning when I awoke that I realised I could no longer look surprised, let the water from my shower hit my head or dry my hair or head without screaming in pain. I walked into the office with a head resembling a expertly polished tomato. Now, a couple of days later, and after copious amounts of after sun cream, that tomato is now peeling.