Tuesday, 29 November 2011


Well, it had to happen.

Not christmas, I meant this post, christmas I'm happy to leave well alone. In my world there would be no christmas, it wouldn't happen. Instead people would be encouraged to give presents etc any day of the year or if people really felt the need to flex their giving/receiving muscles it could be amalgamated into birthdays, just think, all those insansely cheerful and insufferably smug adverts (think jamie Oliver with a tray of Mince Pies, yeeurgh) all year round. Actually that is a shit idea, I'd rather die than live in that reality.

Christmas is a horrible time of year, it's a time of pressure in terms of economics, family and expectations. Even knowing my thoughts on this time of year people still get miffed if they send a card and I don't send one back. I don't do cards, they know this yet by placing one on my desk or through my letter box it somehow puts in place a contract that if broken means many months of hard stares and awkward silences, not for me though because I never asked for a card in the first place.

Presents as well, I don't give presents but again, someone puts a trinket on my desk or in my hands with a look in their eyes which is the equivelant of hands being held out. I'm not so insensitive that I enjoy standing there like a plank having nothing to give back but you see, I didn't ask or expect anything from you in first place.

For me though, the reason I don't like christmas and why its not a jokey 'oh he's just being miserable' thing is because my family is utterly dysfunctional, the extent of this dysfunction would be funny if it wasn't so serious. When I say I hate christmas I really mean it and on many levels as well.

The religious aspect of it is neither here nor there, the commercialisation of it while pretty disgusting again is neither here nor there, whether some spoilt little fucker gets an xbox or not matters not a jot. Christmas for a great many people is like a giant highlighter pen, a big flourescent yellow Stabilo Boss (I have one on my desk here) that for the month of December serves to bring to the fore everything that is shit about their existence. I was going to say I wasn't envious of those families who do get together and have a great day because I am slightly, I certainly don't begrudge them it (although this missive may say otherwise.) It's just that for many, quite a lot in fact and for a great many for whom it may look good; its actually a load of fucking shite.

Right, so I've got that off my chest and its on to other things. The John Lewis advert, much vaunted in the press, released early before TV transmission in the hope it would go viral, no idea if it did. The premise is a wee boy seemingly impatient to get to christmas morning so he can tear the paper from his new xbox (the little fuc-) But no! He was actually desperate to give his own gift to his parents. If you read Charlie Brooker's Blog in The Guardian, among other things, he claims the sweetly wrapped box contains the severed head of the family dog. I think its worse than that, I think it's his sister's severed head, (the boy's, not Charlie Brooker's.) That's why she's not in the advert and that's why through-out the advert, his parents regard him with concerned looks, they're worried about him alright, they know what he's done, oh yes, next time it's on the telly, look at that advert in this new light and you'll see the truth of it.

The only agreeable thing about it is the music, I actually quite like it, I like it more because its an old Smiths track, Morrisey the odd-dancing (youtube it, it's bizarre stuff) & ex-lead singer gave permission for it to be used. Apparently disgruntled Smiths fans up and down the land are throwing their bongs and couscous out the pram because the big M in his heyday was something of an anti-establishmentarialist, hold on let me check that again... It might be wrong, I have no idea, in any case, anything that gets the greeny-holier-than-thou-vegetarian crowd up in arms is a good thing in my mind.

So far, the Littlewoods advert I think is most annoying because it is the most catchy, I find myself humming it (I'm starting to hum it now in fact) and I have to punch myself in the face as a form of revulsion therapy. The down side to this is when ever I hear the tune, I now punch myself regardless, some local kids have found out, they run up and sing and I start punching myself in the face; its a bit embarrassing. The Morrison's advert with Jamey Oliver (who I didn't mind until I saw an episode of Jamies' Great Britain or some other brain-dead offering from the BBC peaktime mulch-machine) and I discovered the true depthes of his cretinous nature, as a result Morrisons adverts are rubbish all year round.

I went for walk on Saturday night to the German Market in Princes Street Gardens (it's in Edinburgh if you're not from these parts.) It was quite pleasant in an over-crowded overly busy way, there were loads of oriental people dribbling sausage fat or bits of crepe & melted chocolate down their lovely clothes while, I assume, German people, sold things to the punters they couldn't possibly want or need under any other circumstances, for example, a sculpture of a swan made out of wire rope? No idea what that signifies (almost a pun there.) You could have your brat's name woven into a big christmas stocking or buy a stupid hat with ear flaps, if you wear it just right you can hide the look of shame on your face as you realise you've just spent an entire week's wages on utter shite.

To summarise. I don't like christmas in a very intrinsic way, although I hope others enjoy it if they can. Christmas adverts do annoy me, each one apart from being insufferably cheerful and smug serves to remind us how we should be feeling but cannot. I've so far managed to avoid being drawn into christmas card trench warfare or a war of gift attrition, although I do like a christmas dinner, as long as I can eat it on my own and in peace preferably with lots of cheap wine to deaden the pain.

I have to stop now, I need to take my swan back to the German Market, when I tried to hang my new hat & scarf combo on its wings, they fell off with a clang. Its not all bad though, it turns out I'm quite good with a German Sausage, the looks of appreciation on the faces of the several Japanese students I helped who were struggling with their sausages was gratifying indeed.

I think it was appreciation, its hard to tell because they all look-

Saturday, 12 November 2011

The Fossil Fuel Levy.


Don't stop reading, it's not that boring, well it is, its quite dull but listen, this is one of those things while boring; you need to know.

The Fossil Fuel Levy (FFL) has been getting bandied around a fair bit recently, although  not in the main stream media for obvious reasons. It's probably not that important in and of itself but it is for what its come to represent in the continuing situation for the UK. I thought I'd be a dear and explain what it actually is and why you should atleast know something about it.

So what is it? Its a levy introduced in Scotland in 1998 (it had been on the go in England & Wales since 1990) on fossil fuel, thats why its called the fossil fuel levy. Ok, that was a cheap shot, the idea was to introduce a tax payable by consumers (you and me) and suppliers of energy where that energy came from burning coal, oil or gas. The proceeds went towards what they snappily called the Non-fossil Fuel Obligation, the NFFO in turn was a contentious peace of legislation that required a portion of fossil fuel income to be paid to Nuclear Producers (then renewables later on) by way of a subsidy.

So far so tedious.

The percentage paid by consumers and suppliers in Scotland over the six years it operated (Feb 1996 to Apr 2002) exceeded 1% only once in April 2001, otherwise it hovered around the 0.7% mark, not exactly going to break the bank for individuals or energy suppliers. However, over the years it was collected some £203 million accrued.

Nodded off yet?

Here's the important bit. Although that money was collected in Scotland, it languished in a London bank account for years, over those years the Scottish Government has petitioned for it to be returned for use in funding research into invaluable renewable energy production, something which is accepted as being a major future contributor to the Scottish economy (Scotland has 25% of Europes renewable potential in wind and wave generation... Aparently, some one with a big forehead said it so I tend to believe it.)

In between times, the Westminster Parliament lumped the 203 million in with general UK wide funding obligations and has been telling the Scottish Government that they couldn't have it, well they could but our Block Grant (the fixed sum we get to run devolved stuff, about 30 odd billions) would be reduced by the same amount... So they would give it back with one hand but take it away again with the other.

I'm not suggesting it belongs to Scotland only because it was raised here, that wouldn't be a logical argument under the current arrangements, I'm saying it was our fair share of a subsidy fund we paid into along with England, Wales and Northern Ireland, unless you think its fair we pay for Nuclear Power Stations to provide power for people living on the South Coast of England as opposed to the South Coast of Fife given that the cash came from the people in Fife, among other places North of the border?

Imagine the tax man took and extra £500 off you in last months pay packet, you notice and ask for it back but they say no for ten years or so, ignoring the interest accrued. Imagine then, the tax turns round after years of you hassling them and said: "You know that £500 we took off you? We're giving you it back, only its now £250. Oh- and we expect you to be grateful." This is what's just happened, Westminster is giving £100 odd million back to Scotland, the rest is being added to the UK wide fund, of which we'll see a tiny (tiny) percentage.

Apparently Scotland benefits from being in Union with Westminster (this has nothing to do with our relationship with English-folk who are shafted by the UK government almost as often & enthusiastically as we in Scotland are.) Its called 'The Union Dividend'.

It seems to me, if you invest your time and effort in an endeavour and get less in return that doesn't represent a dividend, I've just looked up some antonyms for the word dividend; the first one that comes up is 'loss', its quite apt because I'm at a loss to understand why some people still think the current arrangement we have with Westminster is a sustainable one. The FFL is a tiny example of the difference between what Scotland pays into the Union and what we get back, (which is a lot less in case you haven't been paying attention.)

If you managed this far and are wondering how you'll ever get the time back, you're probably a Tory. I looked up some synonyms for the word Tory, many of them are unrepeatable and new even to me.

That is all.

Monday, 7 November 2011

Remember, remember...

I don't like fireworks, they make me nervous, usually because they are either found in the hands of horrible pikey type people or fat middle aged men who are slightly merry after supping one to many pinot grigios and are now out to impress friends and neighbours with a tour de force display of pyrotechnics. Either way, best case scenario; local countryside or cityscape's are set on fire. Worst case; horrific burns and injuries are inflicted on innocent onlookers.

If on the other hand the pikey type people are injured I don't really mind, I'd be lying if I said I was ambivalent because I think shopkeepers and other purveyors of the sparkly hot stuff should be able to make a judgement call if a suspected pikey tries to buy fireworks (are they wearing a cap/sports kit/sallow skin/Lizzie Duke jewellery?) If yes then they can pick up the 'bargain pikey party pack' with those special fuses that are much shorter than normal ones, when I say much shorter, I actually mean non-existent; the fire work just goes off instantly, in their face with any luck.

I jest of course, (I'm don't, I mean it.)

But what is it about fireworks that attracts so many people, I'm a long way away from my own childhood, so much so I don't remember if I liked fireworks (or anything else really.) I can only assume since I was as miserable then as I am now (if in a more general sense, I'm much more focused now) I probably wasn't keen on them. All the oohing and aaahing that goes on, people can't still be serious when they do that?

Maybe fireworks bring out the child in us? Big bangs and sparkly colours? Is that doing it for you? (Its not doing it for me.) Perhaps its the expense, all that cash going up in such dramatic circumstances? (A microcosm of the banking crisis?) Or maybe its the sense of community, standing among hundreds of fellow revellers freezing your tits off as things crackle and go bang in the sky? Maybe its a throw back to darker times when we cowered in our caves at anything not mud coloured?

Who knows and to be honest, who cares.

Now for the educational bit, what is it that inspires people to waste so much money on or around the fifth of November? Well, a person called Guy Fawkes a.k.a John Johnson or Guido Fawkes, the Guido he adopted while fighting for the Spanish (not while he was holidaying there.) He returned to England hellbent on destroying the throne and government of King James the I of England and IV of Scotland. James was the son of Mary Queen of Scot's and not popular with Guido Fawkes and his catholic co-conspirators.

They rented some space beneath the Houses of Parliament (not something I imagine one could do these days) and proceeded to fill it with gunpowder. Shortly before it was due to go pop, a letter was received, the Parliament searched and Fawkes captured. He admitted his part in the plot but they tortured him anyway in the Tower of London (the room is named after him, which is nice) where after several bouts of physical persuasion he gave up the names of his cohorts. King James was a Scottish King as well as English (and not very good by some accounts,) when asked by members of the King's Privy Chamber what his intentions were Fawkes was heard to say "to blow you Scotch beggars back to your native mountains." Which is nice.

What was even less nice and if I'm being honest, despite his apparent dislike of the 'Scotch' was the sentence handed down after he (and seven others) were convicted of high treason, I quote: "...put to death halfway between heaven and earth as unworthy of both". Their genitals would be cut off and burnt before their eyes, and their bowels and hearts removed. They would then be decapitated, and the dismembered parts of their bodies displayed so that they might become "prey for the fowls of the air."

They had me at the genitals bit and would have had me at the 'halfway between heaven and earth' if I knew what it meant.

As it turned out, Guido Fawkes managed to fling himself off the scaffold set up for the purposes of dismemberment, breaking his neck in the process. The London crowd, not to be deprived of a spectacle watched as his body was quartered and sent to the four corners of the kingdom to put others off the notion of any copycat crimes anyway.

The upshot was, on the 5th of November 1605 London citizens were encouraged to light bonfires in celebration of their King not being sent ot the moon. The fireworks part of it all didn't start till a bit later (the 1650's,) the effigy that was first burnt on the bonfires wasn't Guy Fawkes but the Pope due to the heir apparent's secret transmogrification to Catholicism in 1673ish, (say ish because this is all mostly from wikipedia so who knows...) Nowadays, the effigy can represent anyone not popular, the list is long containing as it does anyone who ever went on My Super Sweet Sixteen.

Finally, Guido Fawkes is sometimes referred to ""the only man ever to enter Parliament with honest intentions." I can relate to that (the sentiment of the 'Scotch' being blown back to the hills not-with-standing.)

All that has very little to do with fireworks though these days, I suppose I'm being curmudgeonly (again) because while they do make me nervous, that is only true when they are in the hands of the demographic I mentioned in the first paragraph, for hogmanay for example; I don't mind.

We used to do a fireworks display in our local village (when I say we, I mean they, I steered well clear.) There would be a bonfire and burgers, the villagers would don the cold weather gear and watch in boredom as one firework was lit at a time, whoosh! Wait a minute... Fizzz! Wait another minute... Hold on, dropped the lighter thingy... Cracklewhooshfizzz! Wait a minute or two... Repeat for about an hour...

In short, it was boring as fuck and freezing cold too. Much better they put the whole lot in a pile, douse with petrol then throw a match at it and its every man, woman and child for themselves.

I'd go and watch that fireworks display.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Value Added

Value added refers to "extra" feature(s) of an item of interest (product, service, person etc.) that go beyond the standard expectations and provide something "more" while adding little or nothing to its cost."

This is from the wikipedia entry for the term 'Value Added', it has different meanings in different circumstances, most notably in areas of tax (VAT) and the Marxist versus Neo-classical accounting of Value Added but I only managed to get about half dozen words into that part of the Wikipedia entry before being overcome with a desperate urge to injure myself so I had to close the page down, but not without first noting that, whilst Marx espoused and promoted many communist doctrines, he led a very Bourgeois lifestyle funded mostly by a chap called Friedrich Engels, the son of a rich textile manufacturer during the 19th century. It was Engels' who regularly embezzled funds from his father's business so that Marx could send his daughters to private school and keep his wife in the aristocratic manner to which she was accustomed. Marx even took a job as a foreign correspondent for the New York Daily Tribune but his English wasn't good enough so Engels did the work whilst Marx pocketed the salary, like any good communist would.

You may think I digress but in this instance; I don't. Engels (other than being surprisingly gullible) did a great deal of work for the poor, especially the plight of Children in Victorian times, which is what I'm going to waffle about in a wee minute, children, except not in Victorian times.

So what does Value Added actually mean? When you go into a mobile phone shop to buy a- well; a mobile phone. VA (I'm going to say it often so I'll shorten it) is all the crap manufacturers and sellers add on so you can pretend to be able to discern one product from another. A phone is a phone, all it needs to do is make and recieve phone calls and texts. I know I'm being a Luddite but you know it's true, VA is the crap that makes you buy one phone over another. If you look at your phone now, a lot of the features it has you won't ever have looked at, my phone has a pedometer for example, my last phone had this thing where if you turned it on and shook the phone, a bobble-headed figure would shake and gyrate on the screen.

Although it goes without saying, it was for that feature alone I chose the phone.

Schools and colleges have also been VA'd. At college and University you are told by lecturers (arguably to get you in the door) how much you can earn if you do a course with them and how their course is tailored in a specific way. I was told I could comfortably command in my first job a salary of some £12k per annum; I managed £3.5k. (It was a while ago and it may just have been me.) I imagine a young person leaving university being doubly horrified on discovering not only are they tens of thousands of pounds in debt but their earning potential is such that a McJob would offer better renumeration than one in their chosen field, and not just in the short term either.

Schools are worse and in a very subtle way more damaging, their idea of VA is far more insidious. They actually VA your kid, by never telling them they've lost, by never allowing them the experience of being at the bottom of the pile so there-for 'a bit shit', they are in fact adding value that does not exist. That child will go to high school or University (or not as the case may be) with an entirely unreasonable expectation even of themselves, all because of VA.

What VA is, is all the extras you don't need, the reason you don't need them is because they are without substance, they have no net benefit in the real world. The notion that they are sold as adding value is all the more damaging because they specifically do not.

If you think I'm still talking mince, think about it in terms of money? I have a pound, a bank has just offered to hold on to it for me which is handy because I might lose it otherwise. The bank has also offered to give me £1.02 back which is nice except, in order to do that, they've sort of not told me they'll be using it buy some liabilities they've been told are worth £1.20, if the liability is honoured the bank gives me my £1.02, keeps 18p and all is well, assuming the liability is honoured of course. The bankers (abetted and enabled by politicians) went bat-shit-crazy and burned the lot, all that Added Value was actually just 'Value Added', just smoke and empty promises and as valuable a bobble-headed dancing gnome on a mobile phone.

VA versus Enough. I capitalise the word Enough because we need to get back in touch with it as an aspiration, I know that sounds stupid but it all depends on how you quantify Enough. In terms of flat screen TV's, is it 32 or 48 inches? 'Enough' isn't the depressing proposition you might think it is, it's about not over extending yourself, its about knowing your limits and working within them, its about knowing how far to push those limits without shooting yourself in the foot.

Most importantly, its not the destruction of aspiration, it's the understanding that aspiration is something you work towards, not something you just get. At the risk of sounding like one of those awful motivational posters with dolphins and blue whales on, aspiration is as much about the journey as it is about the destination. You'd appreciate a good view from the top of a hill if you walked up a heck of a lot more than if you got the chairlift.

Over the past few years, I think (inasmuch as I can) we've VA'd our aspirations aided & abetted by the Internet, easy credit and a sometimes cretinous, often lying manipulative political class who for thirteen years told us how well we were all doing. It worries me slightly that, like the shit kids at the arse-end of the egg & spoon race tripping over their own feet who's parents gamely told them they're doing 'great', the establishment idiots were telling us things were fine & prosperous when in fact we were about to veer spasmodically into the kid next to us and collapse into a spoon-gouging heap of entangled limbs & egg innards.

What I'm really looking forward to is how those establishment idiots are going to persuade us all that there are no losers at this particular sports day, every one is a winner and we'll even get a rosette to prove it.

I'm going to stop there, I keep going back to my 'view from the hill/Chairlift' analogy, its giving me the strongest urge to tell myself to fuck off.

Friday, 21 October 2011

Debt as money

With so much going on just now in the world regarding the economy and who owes what to who, what country owes what to other countries, its hard to know where we're going to end up. The tails of doom and gloom that abound in the main stream media seem to hint at some sort of apocalypse, even now I'm not sure anyone really knows what the outcome will be.

It seems to me to be entering the realms of farce when we have the people who caused it making the rules about how we deal with it given all the crap going down is because we let them make the rules while they caused it to happen, or something like that, I know what I mean. Some say we need 2 trillion to adequately deal with the debt in Europe alone, Greece (unfortunately seeming to reside at the bottom of the pile along with Portugal, Ireland and Spain) is due everyone money, Spain is due France money and France is due Germany money. It should be noted, when they talk about Greece being bailed out, that isn't true, all there doing is increasing its line of credit with French and German banks, in effect, French & German banks are being bailed out. The money isn't going to Greece to pay the wages of firemen etc, it's merely being added to the already bulging overdraft in German & French banks so they can loan even more money to Greece to pay those wages. Don't think it's just French & German banks either, I only use them for the sake of brevity, UK banks are in the shit with Greece and others as well.

Meanwhile the Greeks squeal because they're having to sell off public services to service a debt they have no possible way of ever clearing with a creditor who shouldn't have loaned the money in the first place.

Individually we're probably all decent sensible people, mostly anyway. As a mob though we are horrible grasping selfish oiks with only our own interests at heart. Why? Who knows, many blame Thatcher (many can no longer remember her) and many more blame New Labour (who many wish to forget.) Politics is boring this is true, but its important. They spend your money on your behalf, or at least they should, more recently they've been spending it on their own and the banks behalf. More importantly, not only have they spent your money now, they've spent it far into the future, your grandchildren will be paying for all of this.

I fully admit to being a bit of an idiot in these matters, I need things spelt out in the simplest terms and I think you do to so here goes. Think of this as the first economic pop-up book. If you do happen to know anything about global economics and see a mistake here, don't bother getting in touch, it's the Internet and nobody believes anything they read here anyway.

First of all the basics. In the simplest terms there are two types of debt, sovereign and personal debt. Sovereign debt is that which is owed by a countries government, personal debt is that which is owed by you. In the case of the former, a government might borrow money to pay for infrastructure projects (a hospital or bridge for example.) In the latter case (you) you might buy a frock and stick it on a store card or buy some Viagra online thinking it won't show up on your credit card bill but it does anyway.

From our point of view this seems fairly straight forward, except. From the Banks point of view it isn't. Its all the same money to them, it wasn't until after the credit crunch they decided to try and ring fence retail banking (our bit) and investment banking (the government and commercial bit.) Its already getting complicated isn't it but bear with me.

So retail banking. This is your current account, savings accounts, mortgages, pensions annuities and many more things beside that I know and don't know about. The investment banks (the commercial bit) took all that money and lent it out to countries and other banks. All that money you paid into your pension has been loaned to Greece, or I should say added to the overdraft limit Greece has with French and German Banks. That money has gone. The government might say they'll guarantee it but with what exactly, they don't have any money either.

I know what your thinking, if our money has gone, what are they borrowing now? Well, countries like Germany and China run a trade surplus, basically they make more stuff to sell more than they buy in. I suppose the easiest analogy would be you having money left over from your monthly income, you have a surplus. That extra money could be making more money, so they lend it at 3, 4 or 5% to other countries like Spain or Italy. (You will have heard of countries being 'downgraded by Moodies or Standard & Poor? They rate countries by their ability to pay, cunningly the less able a country is in paying its debt, the more expensive it is for that country to borrow money, turns the whole thing into a self-fueling perpetual motion nightmare.)

In all of that, the main difference between you, the government and a bank is this. When you get to the end of a month and you have no money; you have no money. When a bank gets to the end of a month and has no money, it can effectively open another bank account (or balance sheet,) shift the overdrawn total into it and pretend nothing ever happened (this is bank making up the rules as it goes.) When a government runs out of money at the end of the month it can borrow money from the bank after it's carried out that wee shuffle and crucially, if the bank decides actually, we've shuffled more than we should have, government steps in and tells the bank 'don't worry, we'll do some QE'ing which means you can extend the overdraft limit on those overdrawn accounts so you can keep lending'.

A lot of people talk about money being printed with bail outs and QE'ing (one and the same thing by the way) but no money is being printed, its being added on to the banks bottom line so the country (read; it's banks) overdraft limits don't look quite so bad, this (apparently) appeases big business & the 'markets' (read; the banks) and keeps things ticking over.

Now. I've tried to read all that back and if I'm being honest, it looks like I've been possessed by Robert Peston, well, Robert Peston on a really really bad day. Ok, not Robert Peston at all. The upshot of it all is we're stuffed, if I was you I'd start stock-piling tinned foods and weapons. As it happens socialism and capitalism doesn't work because as a group, we are all insanely greedy. Also, people who aspire to positions of great sway and power shouldn't be allowed to have it, they seem to have neither the wisdom or sense of civic responsibility to execute the role safely.

Anyone with a degree in politics should be forever barred from being a politician, they can be a pundit on the telly where they can do no harm. Anyone who aspires to be a banker, should be made to understand they personally will be held responsible for any loses they make, the country (us) will not socialise (shoulder) the debt their mistakes create.

Most importantly though, QE'ing stands for Quantitative Easing. Hold on though, there might be to many 'it's' in there, Quantititat- no... Quantatitat- don't think so... Quantatitative eas-...

Anyway, turns out that blog post about making toast and cooking pasta in the kettle might be handy after all since soon enough we won't be able to afford to turn our cookers on, if we even have cookers...

Friday, 14 October 2011

A rough guide to...

Living in town.

Apropos of nothing at all, well, other than I am bored this Friday afternoon at work, I have things I could do but they are more boring (by a considerable margin) than this. Also, this activity serves the double purpose of amusing me for a few moments and wasting some of your valuable time, although you may not realise that until you've stopped reading and started to feel mildly cheated.

As you may or may not know I live in town, its Edinburgh so not exactly a crawling metropolis, it's a pleasant place big enough in which to get stabbed but small enough so you could very well bump into the person that did it the following day, assuming you survived the ordeal. It has all the challenges you'd expect to have in a city and many you might not, here is my rough and not altogether accurate account of what they are and how you can survive them.

No self-respecting city can claim to be so without having its fair share of beggars. Edinburgh is quite posh so the beggars on balance tend to behave differently, for example, in Glasgow the type of money that jangles is usually acceptable but in Edinburgh, it needs to fold. Edinburgh beggars are far more well-to-do sporting as they very usually do such accoutrement as mobile phones, filter cigarettes and dogs wearing waistcoats. I can't afford to buy my dog a waistcoat and I don't know about you but walking past a beggar forcing him or her to interrupt what might be a very serious phone call to ask me for money is very awkward and more than I can stand; I there-for cross the road and so should you.

A universal golden rule with beggars is this: Never ever engage in conversation with one, you will never ever be able to extricate yourself from the ensuing friend-ship, if you try to end it they will put you on a such a powerful guilt trip soon you will feel obliged to let them bunk on your sofa, there isn't enough Febreze in the world to counter that.

A different sort of beggar one with an identity badge and such a bubbly, energetic visage and  'mission' that you'd like to douse them with petrol, set them alight then not piss on them. They'll be collecting for Whales, Dolphins, abused dogs/cats/OAP's/children/birds/blind people but conspicuously not pedestrians who just want to get to the other end of Princes Street without being made to feel like the most selfish, unfeeling bastard the world has ever known. These pious little shits line Princes Street, you can see them a mile away, people going to extraordinary lengths to not be sucked in to the vortex of righteous enthusiasm, a huge vacuum appears around these charity lepers less someone be ensnared. The price of release? Your bank details and a generous direct debit for the cause.

Recent studies in Edinburgh have shown that the prime spot for charity collectors is outside Debenhams, the reason being; most local people know if you go into Debenhams via one door and try to exit from another, you're lucky to reappear in the same century never mind city. Ok, there was no study but I once bought a cardigan for my dad there and had to take it back, when I bought it I found my self exiting a different door roughly near to where I entered. When I went back I wanted to enter via Rose Street (the back door) and exit onto Princes Street (the front door.) I'm not sure what happened, I did go in the back door, couldn't find a way through to the front of the shop, went up some stairs, down an escalator, possibly went somewhere in a lift (I don't remember exactly) and got spat out into a Victorian street scene in Cardiff; I was very nearly mown down by a horse and trap!

Ok, I made that up. But I swear it was Cardiff because I saw John Barrowman.

Pikeys/Chavs/General Ne'er-Do-Wells
I have experimented extensively having had the opportunity to do so by living in the shit areas of Edinburgh, Sighthill, Pilrig and the part of Leith they forgot to gentrify to name but three. You need to be careful in town, covered in this section is theft, muggings, general assaults for no reason and being punched in the head by Polish people.

Understand though, 99% of the time you'll be fine in town, it's actually quite nice, not so much so on a weekend evening though. As a rule you probably shouldn't walk around with the tell-tale white wires hanging from your ears, it screams "I'VE GOT EXPENSIVE SHIT ON MY PERSON!" It's an invitation, if the choice is between someone without earphones and someone with, the person with the earphones is going to get taxed, (an interesting slang term for robbed.) Similarly while abroad of an evening, watch those corners, always take them wide, same goes for dark recesses. You might laugh but one day it'll save you your pride and possibly your life.

If I can impart a lesson taught to me by an ancient Native American Warrior brave named; my Granda. He demonstrated that while walking with your hands in your pockets, people seemed not to want to get out of your way, they won't even turn sideways. However, walk with your hands swinging confidently by your sides; people are far more accommodating and keen to 'make a hole' as they say. Try this, its absolutely true, it also helps if you froth at the mouth and mutter under your breath.

Pikey eye contact is a double edged sword. I'm old and miserable and believe me when I say; I look it. There are a great many Pikeys where I live, a Pikey by the way is the kind of person who doesn't work, speaks from a point just behind their nose and wears sports kit although doesn't indulge in actual sports, except the odd cross country run if the police are in attendance. They are generally spotty, sallow toned and shouty, if for example they have forgotten to impart some important morsel of information, they won't phone the person (Pikeys always have good phones) they'll yell, scream and shout the person's name (usually Becky) down the length of the street until they are hoarse to the point of death, (usually after about a minute because these people are always close to death, some might argue; their only endearing quality.)

Pikeys in some respects are like Beggars, indeed many are beggars which explains why if you befriend a Pikey they will not ever leave you alone, which is where eye-contact comes in (I knew I'd get back round to it some how.) Eye-contact is dangerous, they will either instantly become your BFF or will stab you, different ends of the social interaction spectrum you'd agree. The trick is to let your eyes slide away to the side directly on to something else, always to the side mind, never up because that signifies disdain (you might get stabbed) and never down because that signifies weakness (you'll either get stabbed or they'll move in with you and you'll be the one on the sofa.)

I think when you live in town for long enough you develop a certain bearing that says 'stay away from me or I will kill you where you stand'. Obviously if enough alcohol has been imbibed it's of no use because your assailant will be blind, but then that in itself is useful because you can then beat the crap out of them and teach them a lesson by stealing their clothes and leaving them in a cemetery to be eaten by a fox.

I am continually exercised by the existence of pikeys, I could go on at length but I'll stop here.

Except to say, never ever offer first aid to a pikey, if you do you will be punched in the head by the same gang of Polish people who beat him up.

Public Transport
It's quite simple, don't use it, specifically during rush hour. Unless you want to sit next to people of indeterminate hygiene standards in a germ filled metal box then have at it. Off-peak it's not so bad but Edinburgh isn't so big that nothing is more than a brisk walk away, I know what you're thinking but it isn't and you know it.

I should probably say something about the trams, I never get political here because others are far more persuasive than I and more authoritative to boot so I'll just say this: The trams are the fault of the Unionist parties in Government and on Edinburgh City Council, the SNP did not support the idea at any point and recused themselves from all debate knowing that not commanding a majority (at the time in government or at all on the city council,) they could do nothing to stop it dead. Indeed, a little known fact about the trams are, Iain Grey was the Labour Minister for Trams pre-2007 when Labour and the libdems were in government at Holyrood, that was before he was boring everyone to death as leader of the Labour Group in Holyrood and talking nonsense on a full time basis.

Hopefully once they're finished more stringent standards of passenger cleanliness will be enforced, else the upholstery will be ruined within days.

To summarise.
I'm summarising because although I find it really hard to start these blog entries I find it almost impossible to stop. Living in town has its advantages but so does living elsewhere, its great having all the shops nearby, the eateries and stuff. I suppose I should say it's vibrant and multicultural (which means 'like Poland'.) If I had the money I'd have a place in town and a place in the country, when I get bored of one I can recharge at the other. In the meantime, I hope for an increase in the population of urban foxes and a decrease in the population of Pikeys in general.

I'm off to work on my facial tick, frothing at the mouth is just so five minutes ago...

PS: On the off chance anyone is reading these, please leave a comment, even if its only to say the blog is shite. I'm beginning to feel like Will Smith in I Am Legend.

Monday, 3 October 2011

Trading Places

This is a great film with Eddie Murphy, Dan Ackroyd, Jamie Lee Curtis and Denholm Elliot. With those names on the bill you know you're going to be entertained. Obviously it probably won't appeal to the Dodge Ball/Eurotrip/Freddy Got Fingered demographic as it requires a more highly evolved sense of humour (I say that but I'm a huge fan of Ace Ventura so I'm being a hypocrite... Again...)

The film's plot starts with Duke & Duke, two rich and stuffy brothers who also happen to own a vastly rich futures trading company. They make a bet that they can transform a homeless, penniless criminal yob into a high flying executive while turning a high flying executive into a homeless, penniless criminal yob. This they manage to do with Murphy (he plays Valentine) being ascendant and Ackroyd (who plays Winthorpe) going downwards.

I'll leave you to watch the film if you haven't already, it has some classic scenes not to be missed. One thing that always did confuse me though was how Valentine & Winthorpe turned the tables, eventually they get together and have their own bet involving ruining Duke & Duke as Winthorpe was ruined by them.

It's all about futures trading, here's how it works.

I'm sure it isn't as simple as this and some artistic license was involved, Futures Traders buy and sell commodities without actually owning them. They can buy or sell on the promise that when it comes to providing the goods for sale or purchase, they have the where-with-all to do so, if they don't; they go bust, if they do though; great profits can be made, that is the Futures Contract. The commodity Duke & Duke hoped to make a killing on is Frozen Concentrated Orange Juice (FCOJ) and they have an ace up their sleeve in that they know the results of the orange crop report, or think they do.

Winthorpe and Valentine get to the report before the Dukes do and doctor it to show the crop is going to be bad due to cold weather. Duke & Duke will buy and keep on buying, the price won't matter because they're going to corner the market in FCOJ, since there would be a shortage (with the poor crop report) when it comes to physically selling it, the price would be sky high; supply and demand.

What actually happened was Winthorpe & Valentine sold FCOJ Futures Contracts while they were priced high (Duke & Duke frantically buying drove the price up as other traders tried to get on the band wagon.) At one point they were selling at $1.45 (remember, they didn't own anything at that point, it's the Futures Market. The cash-changing-hands part comes much later.) Everything pauses for the crop report announcement from the US Government, which is that it was a good crop. Cue mayhem as people try to offload all the FCOJ they bought at $1.45 before the price collapses entirely (remember, supply and demand; if there is a lot of something it's intrinsic value falls.) The price drops to $0.66 (eventually bottoming out at $0.22,) meanwhile Winthorpe & Valentine buy futures frantically while everyone else sells sells sells because FCOJ Futures are so hugely over valued.

For every future unit Winthorpe & Valentine had previously sold at $1.45, they purchase a matching amount for only $0.22, resulting in a profit of over $1.20 per unit.

It's all virtual money until the bell rings and trading closes, other traders have to physically pay for the FCOJ Contracts that Winthorpe & Valentine sold at $1.45 then physically sell them back at $0.22. Duke & Duke did most of the buying and none of the selling so got landed with thousands of FCOJ Futures Contracts they bought for $1.45 but could only sell for $0.22!

It's a natty way to make money and topically, one of the main reasons your fuel bills are so high. Traders gambling on future supplies of Oil & Gas, if a Trader in Futures Contracts buys high because they think production will be low but production turns out to be high, they'd lose money, well, they might except they just pass the loss onto the buyer (your utility company or petrol station chain) who in turn pass it on to you.

Its not just Oil & Gas either, everything  is traded on the futures market, from food stuffs (grain, pork bellies and beef) to chemicals and precious metals. If the traders gamble and lose, so do we all. If on the other hand they win, they get rich and we still pay the going rate, the money they make does not pass on to us in the shape of savings. Socialising the loss but not the profit.

Not so natty now is it, although it's still a good film.

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Home sweet home

That last blog entry was irreverent even by my standards, when I read it back to myself I couldn't help but think: pasta in the kettle? Really?

Anyway, on the same topic (lifestyle) hopefully this missive will make more sense, I'm finding it hard to decide where I want to live, I've done small villages, towns and cities. I've not lived in the middle of no where on the basis that it would be boring but having lived in the city (as far as Edinburgh can be called a city) I find the peace and quiet living in a field miles away from anywhere or anyone increasingly attractive.

If you live in town and earn average money you'll be domiciled in a flat (or apartment if you're American, I say that because on checking my reader stats, someone from Alaska read that last entry, I assume he or she is cooking up a storm with their kettle as I type.) Flats come with certain drawbacks, for example living above somebody who thinks their sitting room is a recording studio or below someone else who thinks they are an Olympic gymnast who has hard wood flooring. A detached house in the country, preferably a castle offers a degree of solitude and silence not available to some one living in a block of flats, in fact, it's not really the mode of living that is the problem; it's the people. Obviously you or I don't fall into this category (which we'll call the Selfish Cunt Category, I only use that most extreme expletive because I like alliteration) but most other people do. For example where I live at the moment the man who lives below me has a keyboard in his front room, I know its a keyboard because he plays it at full blast at 1am (it was Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, you know, the Dracula music?) I banged so hard on his door, his next door neighbour answered their door and told me to tear him a new one for being a selfish bastard. (Obviously I didn't do that, I politely requested that if he insisted on playing his keyboard at that time of night, something a little more soothing would be preferable, say Satie's Gymnopedies or Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata.)

One of the other downsides of living in a town or city (or some villages) are pikeys. The best way to describe these people is this: when you see a clump of them arguing on a street corner, you are tempted to mow them down with your car. They have a common look involving leisure wear shoplifted from JD Sports over sallow-toned skin and an emaciated frame. They are usually no younger than 20 but no older than 45 (their only advantage being a low life expectancy.) These are the people who shout and argue outside Lidl or Farmfoods, they have a nasal plaintiff pitch to their voice, one that immediately invites a punch in the face.

More over, they are of no net use to society (unless you compare and contrast their existence with your own, an exercise which will instantly make you feel better about yourself.) If a brainy person was to invent an in utero test to detect the presence of the pikey gene, the offending fetus could be aborted before sullying society with its presence.

In terms of quality of life when living in the city, these people for me are the single most annoying factor, they lower the tone needlessly.

Another factor is gossip. I spent time in a small village and it was rife, the funniest thing I ever heard was one confirmed gossip telling me (without irony) not to speak to another person because they were a gossip. (The notion that blog posts are a form of gossip is not lost on me before you accuse me of hypocrisy.) Living in the city means gossip is not possible, there seems to be a critical mass of population after which gossip ceases to exist, I don't know what the figure would be and geography has a lot to do with it to I suppose. People can be nasty though and the malicious gossip (even if its unintentional) for me means smaller villages are not good places to live. It's to easy to get drawn into the internecine politics of the place, what starts off as harmless chat becomes an exchange of information then ends up being a full on brief behind a persons back, like a trial being carried out in camera with out the knowledge of the accused.

Cities on the other hand (pikeys not-with-standing) are just to busy for gossip so have that working for them. Having takeaways on your doorstep is no bad thing either, well, it is and it isn't. Its handy but it makes you fat and lazy. (Referring back to my last blog post, I would have starved or died in a fire were it not for them.)

So, that leaves us with the middle of no where. A farm house or croft perhaps with no neighbours for miles around, is that the answer? I can't lie, I'd be bored stiff and I'd probably go a bit mad. I have this picture of myself sometime in the future riding a horse into the nearest village for my newspaper and rolls, or maybe on a cow, you mock but it would be good for tourism and would serve as a focal point for the residents. They could gossip about me to their hearts content but since I'd be living in a yurt in the middle of no where I'd never hear about it.

I think on balance I'm going to aim for an abode in the middle of no where or a mid-sized village next, one that is to big for gossip but not to big to have pikeys. Who knows, if I find a property with some land I might get that cow so I can go for my messages, I think cows are cheaper than horses to keep and if you become dissatisfied with it in any way; you can just eat it.

Sunday, 25 September 2011


You may or may not know that I am a confirmed bachelor, this is not by choice mind, its just the reality of the situation. It came to me in the gym today in between the second and third bouts of heart palpitations (why did they put the gym on the first floor, those stairs are hard work) that I have wisdom to impart in relation to living on my own, it would be churlish of me to withhold that info from the millions of people who don't read this blog.

For example, did you know you can cook pasta in the kettle? With one small modification, a bit of sellotape to keep the power button from disengaging and you can have pasta (and rice) fresh from the kettle. I wouldn't use the water for tea or coffee though; it tastes a bit off. You can use if for cuppa soups though because when you add a cuppa soup to anything it only ever tastes of cuppa soup, all other flavours are neutralised.

An important thing to know about cooking is the difference between savoury and sweet, its not complicated so don't fret. Crisps are savoury and Nutella is sweet. A handy way to judge if something is savoury is to ask yourself if its a crisp flavour, all crisp flavours are savoury, if you doubt that inviolable fact why don't you get Nutella flavoured crisps? My logic is irresistible.

But listen, I'm getting ahead of myself. It doesn't matter what you're going to cook (I say cook but I don't really mean it) when we haven't explored what we're going to cook with. The confirmed bachelor needs a toaster, a microwave and a hob. In fact, you don't really need a hob as such, why people spend hundreds of pounds on complicated cookers when you can go to an outdoor shop and buy a gas stove for twenty quid is something I have yet to work out. The added advantage of a camping stove is it can be moved about easily, you can cook on the coffee table, the bath or even in bed.

Also, a common mistake people make is to use the hob (the bit on the top of the cooker with four rings on it) and a pot when the kettle will do the job just as well. For example, you can make soup in the kettle, you might have to discard it afterwards but kettles are ten-a-penny these days. Beans can also be warmed in a kettle as can sweet corn (if you like that sort of thing) and pop tarts if you broke the toaster trying to grill some bacon.

Pop tarts in a kettle I hear you say? A complicated system of platforms must be manufactured from tin foil, admittedly it is much easier if you're drunk and its 2:30 in the morning, some might say, drunken necessity is the mother of pointless invention and I'd have to agree, the following morning anyway because it seems perfectly reasonable if not essential at the time.

But listen, I digress. You're hungry and I'm waffling, when I say waffling I don't mean in the food sense, I've never eaten a waffle in my life, why would I? Did you know you can heat soup up in a toaster? You can and I'm going to tell you how. Buy some wholemeal pitta breads, cut them open and fill carefully with cream of tomato or chicken soup, carefully place in the toaster. Obviously cooking times will vary depending on the power of your toaster. I suggest you keep an eye on it, eventually the pitta bread will lose structural integrity and the soup will begin to weep out, the trick is to catch it just before it happens. Many people like to dip bread in soup; why not just serve the soup in the bread! (I know some posh restaurants do this but I promise you, they don't heat it up in a toaster. Middle class friends will mock until you point that very important fact out.)

We've talked about toasters and kettles, lets now talk about cookers and microwaves. Ok, I'm trying hard to think of something, hold on... Oh yes! Frying stuff! Of course, nothing can't be fried, except pot noodles, you can't fry a pot noodle, well I say that, obviously you can fry a pot noodle but you'd be as well doing it while its still in its plastic pot because it won't affect the taste of the end result. Sausages and bacon can be fried as can eggs, when you're done with those you can then fry bread in the fat and it is yummy! Not very good for you mind but yummy never-the-less. Try doing a fried egg in the microwave, my dad went through a phase of doing this, it's actually quite hypnotic. You crack an egg on to a small plate with raised edges, stick it in the microwave and watch as it turns slowly into a fried egg. The egg white slowly turns white and the yolk begins to solidify, its quite miraculous really. He began to experiment with different shaped receptacles but had to stop when he used an antique tea cup with a gold rim. I dare say the egg would have been an attractive shape but gold doesn't agree with microwaves; the tea cup exploded and the microwave never worked again.

Listen, I apologise, if I post a blog that's too long, my very great many readers will tire and get bored so I'm going to stop. If you're hungry, make some toast but remember; you can put anything on toast except crisps and spreading Nutella on crisps doesn't make a savoury snack sweet. What, you didn''t expect any serious commentary on how to cook did you? You're an optimist, I'll give you that.

Also, after having done some reading, you can't fry an egg in a microwave, technically its being poached. You live and learn.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

But Seriously

Kindly cross-posted to subrosa's blog.

No, its not a Phil Collins album, I thought I might post something serious for a change, normally I'd say it doesn't suit me and that it involves to much in the way of work. You have to do stuff like 'research' and back up any claims you make with something called 'evidence'. It's much easier for me to transfer the contents of my head directly on to the screen, no need for any citations or providing sources because it all comes from the fevered imagination of a person who's blog no one reads; most importantly, no one is harmed.

But listen, while I am no brilliant academic, no wait, don't argue, I've accepted it. Nor am I a total shmuck, I've been around and I read a lot, it was suggested to me by another blogger that I might say a few words about Debt Collection Agencies and their methods along with things that could help you if you're being hounded by a DCA.

A very quick few words about my experience firstly; I joined a gym (I'll try not to be specific, it was a tennis orientated set-up, going by the name of David Lloyd.) I signed the standard twelve month minimum contract but four months in discovered three serious flaws; the service was terrible, the staff were entirely unhelpful and I simply wasn't middle class enough to be there. I told them I wasn't happy with the service (although I jest, the service was rotten and not worth £80 a month in anycase,)  they adopted a 'tough-you-signed-a-minimum-twelve-month-contract-that-you-can't-get-out-of-so-meh' stance, they were not interested in the slightest even although the reason I was unhappy was their fault.

I cancelled my direct debit and did not return to the club.

Here comes the serious bit.

They chased me at first themselves then after three months of correspondence (me telling them they'd broken their own contract by not providing a service they said they would) they passed the debt on to their pet DCA, we'll call them ARC because that was and still is their name. I explained to them the issue was still in dispute (meaning I was still jawing with David) but to no avail. Daily phone calls, letters on a weekly basis with threats of all sort of things ramping up as time went by. Eventually letters start coming from a solicitor called Trevor Munn, threatening action in Northampton (or was it Southampton) County Court. Needless to say, Trevor Munn is another arm of ARC and the next step in their intimidation program.

I'll stop the narrative here, you can google some of those companies and find all sorts of stories on consumer action websites and forums but here is the thing, never have I ever seen a post saying; 'That swine Trever Munn took me to county court!' Why? Because he (or they) never will.

The following information is true for any civil debt not including Council Tax or monies owed relating to property; it will stop DCA's and any action they're threatening to take (albeit it up to a certain value) in its tracks.

It is called more generally 'Prorogation of Jurisdiction' and is covered in paragraph 3(4) of schedule 8 of the Civil Jurisdiction & Judgments Act 1982.

Sounds technical but it isn't really, please don't be intimidated by it. What it means is this:

  • You can't be taken to court in a jurisdiction (ie. Northampton) except for the one in which you are personally domiciled. (Any threat by a DCA to do so is intimidation.) If you live in Edinburgh, they need to take action in Edinburgh.
  • Even if the contract you signed says you agree to be dealt with by English law (for example) this is null and void, no way does a clause in a consumer contract circumvent UK civil law, much as big business would like it to be the case. 
There are some caveats, the main one being; it doesn't work with immovable property, if you live in a house in Northampton (for example) and get some crazy paving, the crazy paving will still be in Northampton even if you're not; they can still chase you in Northampton.

Specifically what it doesn't cover and the topic that caused me to be serious for a moment is Council Tax. It wouldn't be covered since it's attached to property anyway but CT is a different kind of debt and a blog post all by itself; you don't have a leg to stand on. The statute of limitation for civil debt in Scotland is five years (in England it is six) meaning, if they don't chase you in that time you're probably ok. For Council Tax debt, the statute of limitation as far as I can gather is twenty years from the date of the summary warrant being generated, these warrants are issued automatically at the request of Council and they won't get lost on the way to the sheriff court either. (If any of that is incorrect please let me know, it was hard to find even that info.)

In summary, if you run up credit on a catalogue card or HP agreement, they have to sue you where you live. Obviously if it's thousands they'll go after you but even then if they're doing it in Plymouth you can write to the court asking for it to be 'dismissed with expenses in favour of the defendant'. The nub is; if its a couple of hundred quid, they won't because its not economically viable to do so. My supposed debt was around £550 and they left me alone, even Citizen's Advice (who didn't know about Prorogation of Jurisdiction) said they probably wouldn't chase me for that amount.

A lot of people go to great lengths to break out of contracts were the plaintiff (the company doing the chasing) simply has no intention of following through with legal action; it's all bluff. I think we can all agree Debt Collection Agencies are odious set ups many using as they do: very questionable techniques when it comes to dealing with what they like to call its clients.

Final point to make. If you have this kind of low level debt (maybe under £1000) and you are being chased by DCA's and their pet (in many cases, I think fake) solicitors; always have a good look at the wording of the letters they send; for example:

  • '...documentation is being prepared for submission to county court...'

Leaving to one side it'll be the wrong court, the court isn't preparing documents, Trevor is and he's a cad and a bounder and has no power whatsoever to do anything; only the correct court has that power and only after a fair hearing. Since Trev is lazy and a tight-arse to boot, he's not going to go to another court for a tawdry few hundred quid.

My point is, if you are unfortunate enough to find yourself in this situation, this law empowers you, it may not void the contract, although people with bigger minds might be able to say if adding a clause to a consumer contract saying 'any legal disputes' would be handled by a court that has no jurisdiction over the consumer does in fact void it?

Beyond that, it allows you to have some fun with debt collection staff, I used to think they were just doing their job, it wasn't their fault etc but now? Not so much so, the people at ARC were rude and intimidating and that is wrong. However when they phone you (and they will again and again) the negative attention can be remedied by saying things like, 'So glad you phoned back, isn't it annoying when our phone sex is disturbed, I was fast reaching a cli-'. Usually they hang up...


Digressing slightly and because I don't want anyone to think I'm encouraging bad debt, my fight was just, they wanted me to pay for a substandard service I wasn't using, if I'd been using the gym  during the remainder of the contract (and my waist line will prove I wasn't) then I would have paid because that is fair. However, if you're a screaming store/credit card nutter with a shoe addiction; shame on you! You deserve all you get.

Although can I just say, those Ferragamos you're wearing are to die for!

Sunday, 11 September 2011

21st century living.

Over the past few years I've discovered a down side to living on your own; it makes you go crazy. You spend all that time sitting by yourself listening to your inner voice telling you what to do and think; in a sense you might not be talking out loud but you are talking to yourself which in normal circles means you're bat-shit-crazy (which by the way; I don't believe.) It's important to have other people around to dilute the advice you're giving to yourself because it is shit advice, for a start its definitely one sided, it's also skewed insofar as it's going to be what you want to hear which isn't normally useful and it will most probably be flawed because you'll be shitfaced. Trust me, when you live on your own, you'll be drunk most of the time.

So you need a flat mate, lets face facts, with the current economy you're not going to afford anything by yourself bought or rented. First rule is; you need a flat mate, not the other way round. Be in the driving seat or you'll end up living in a hovel with someone who thinks they're in charge as opposed to living in a hovel where you think you're in charge. Second rule is, choose carefully your house mate, actually scratch that, it doesn't matter what you do because you're going to probably be sharing with a pig or a prig anyway, its been my experience there's nothing in between. You must always be aware of your own behaviour and traits, you have to understand things from your house mates point of view, you must 'put yourself in their shoes' so you can understand that while they are a filthy unhygienic animal; you are in fact perfect.

The fact is (and it is an incontrovertible fact) even if you choose to share with a best friend, come the end of the lease you will not be best friends, things will have cooled off considerably because you will have discovered just how much of an unfeeling, unclean beast that best friend was. You can also substitute best friend for partner, if you're going to move in with a girl or boy friend then go ahead but be sure to rent only, don't for example go and buy something because you will come to understand; while you will have done very little, well lets be honest, nothing wrong; they will have morphed into a complete ogre. It is far easier to disentangle yourself from a 12 month lease than a 30 year mortgage.

You might ask now if a male or female flat mate is best, the answer is easy; both are equally as bad. Female flat shares fall into two categories, they're either manic self-centred selfish Princess Me Me's with a make-up fetish or they are filthy hippies with stinking hair and a cat fetish. Male flat shares are bad for the opposite reason, they are either lazy filthy bastards who seem happy after having flushed the toilet to leave streaks of shit up the side of the pan or they are lazy filthy bastards who don't flush the toilet and leave streaks of shit up the side of the pan. Females care to much and males don't care at all, remember though; you and I are perfect, we don't count.

If you're going to share, where does the sharing aspect begin and end? It begins and ends with payment of bills & living space. I can guarantee if you say 'pshaw! don't worry about it, you can use my milk' this means that for the duration of the let they now think they can use your groceries (not just the milk mind) and never ever buy their own victuals. The same goes for living space, flat mates are like vampires, if you invite them in once they'll never leave, you see, they're room will be a shit hole, yours won't, they'll just prefer your space to theirs because you won't have mold growing in the corners.

When eventually you've become sick of living with a cross between a tramp and a serial killer, you'll have to dissolve the flat share, this is always awkward, it's a bit like going through a divorce but without the kids (unless you had an unfurnished let and you bought furniture together, which by the way is a really fucking stupid thing to do.) You'll probably have a minimum 30 days notice to serve, here's a tip though, each month on top of the rent you're paying, into another account pay something extra so you can cover the months overlap on your next rental. Ok, you will resent giving the mucky bastard the flat to him or herself for a month but the alternative is probably worse, they might actually kill and eat you or perhaps just eat you which would probably be worse. Equally, drop hints to them that they should put something away each month, I have no idea how you'd broach the subject though.

Of course, you could bite the bullet and live on your own but remember, don't drink wine and listen to yourself, you might end up starting a blog and typing shit into it that seems to you to be the very pinnacle of sense and wisdom but to others seems like you drank to much cheap vino and face-dived into your key boardddddddddddddddddddddddddhjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjnweeeeeeeeeeee      asddddddddddddddddddd,kfd99999999999999999llllllllllll................/.................;;;;;;#~~~~~~:~)1111!!

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

CSI: roast beef

As you read this, if you can remember how it goes, you should have the music from 24 or CSI something-or-other playing on your inner gramaphone, oops, showing my age; I meant hi-fi.

This is a tale of adventure, intrigue and blackmail if only emotional. It starts innocently enough but soon it snow balls out of control as these things tend to do, what starts out as a harmless exercise becomes a internicine game of cat and mouse.

I'm going to have to use actors in portraying the characters and change place names, even although no one reads these entries, someone might stumble upon them and track people down out of morbid curiosity.

We have three elderly players, one dupe and a piece of roast beef.

As is normal the roast beef enters the story via Tesco, uncooked wrapped in cling film plucked from a cooled shelf by the chubby fingers of our primary manipulator. This innocent hunk of meat has no idea of the miles it will travel and the costs involved both financially and emotionally, remember Jack Bower crying in his car in the trailers for one of the 24's? never watched them myself but he must've cried at some point, its American, well, there's our poor...

...Dupe who also has no idea at this point of his involvement nor do the other two as yet uninvolved but not entirely innocent pensioners

Lets be honest here, no one except the Dupe who's typing this knows what the internet actually is far less how to access it, I'm talking about my Dad the manipulator, my Mum the unknowing Mark and the opportunist pensioner; my Aunt.

Ok, deep breath. On Tuesday the roast beef is purchased along other sundry goods at approximately 13:40 hours, it's not cooked that day because Dad isn't feeling well so has decided to have two cream buns for tea instead, tommorow though is another day. The meat is put in the oven at 12.15 hours on Wednesday where it is left for 6 hours at a high temperature, at 18.15 it is removed, the foil surrounding it is peeled off and Dad realises the roast beef is now a charcoal briquette, no matter he thinks; I'll send it down to the wife because she eats charcoal briquettes (she doesn't) and anyway it might get me some attention. The Dupe arrives for an impromptu visit and is asked, 'are you going to your mother's tonight?' The dupe isn't that much of a dope so says 'no'. Now read the last three sentences three times because for the next three days the Dupe is asked the same question until eventually he takes the meat never intending to deliver it anyway because Jaws nor a pack of starved chihuahuas could get there teeth into this piece of obsidian-hard food.

Skip forward a day, the meat is still in the car, our dupe hasn't disposed of it yet. Mum phones and asks, 'where is the roast beef dad gave you?' 'in the car' says our Dupe, 'are you coming down?' asks mum '...your aunt would like to have it for her tea tomorrow, we were going to half it...' I'm going to stop refering to myself as 'the dupe' in the third person, its strange. I say ok, 'i'll bring it down' and I do. Mum puts it in the freezer, meat-miles done so far? pick up and drop off and incidental journeys around town: 80 miles.

Mum asks 'Hi, I hate to ask but can you take that meat down to your Aunts next time your down?' I say 'I wasn't planning on coming down soon...' 'Oh... Oh... She's hurt her back and can't get out... She was looking forward to some roast beef...' says Mum. '*Sigh*' Miles done to further transport roast beef? another 60. New location of (now frozen) roast beef; approximately 1000 yards from Mum's house, 60 mile round trip for a 1000 yard transfer.

A day passes.

'Hi, can you go to your Aunt's and pick up that meat and take it to your Mum's next time your down' says my Dad. 'What?' says I. 'Your Aunt got all of it because it was frozen when you took it down, they couldn't cut it in half, now she has and half needs to get back to your Mum but she's to polite to ask and I'm not having that.' Says my Dad. '*Sigh*' says I.

Miles: another 60 miles added on and the meat is back at Mum's, all of it, my Aunt decided it smelled funny so sent it all back up. Later that day, Mums on the phone; 'Hi, I had to put that meat in the bin, it was a funny colour and smelled a bit off...'

All in, because my Dad thinks he'll be able to somehow win his way back into his wife's heart with roast beef I drove 200 miles (i'm rounding it up due to too-ing and fro-ing in town.) Not including RFL and Insurance and my time, all in all; I wasted £50 worth of fuel on a crazy roast beef related whim.

Not wishing to go on, when he gets a bee in his bonnet about something my Dad becomes unstoppable, he sees something he wants but can't reason out the method of getting it or the realities once he has it. I took him out for dinner recently, he's been going on about some garden furniture down at the home he used to share with the wife these past few weeks and I've been ignoring it resolutely, twice during the meal he hinted at getting 'someone' to take the furniture apart for transport to his place and twice I ignored it, my dad doesn't sit outside, the reason he doesn't do so is because he has his heating up at full blast 24/7 and still claims to be cold, I left a thermometer in his sitting room and it frequently tops 90 degrees when I visit; it is truly uncomfortable. He's never sat in the garden, not atleast for the last two or three years.

The garden table is a huge round wooden affair with the chairs attached to the wooden frame, it weighs a metric fuck-ton but even then it'll probably get nicked out of his garden in town. It won't fit in a van so needs to be taken apart, he got some one to do that but is now stuck at transport... Guess what, 'Hi, I've had the furniture dismantled, would it fit in your car?' I told him it wouldn't (its a car not a Tardis) but somehow, and I consider this a personal failure, I said I'd ask around for a van.

The future looks bleak, I see garden furniture and skinned knuckles. If I'm not strong, if I weaken and say I'll transport the furniture it also means I'll end up building it back up. Hire of a van, the diesel, the hassle of it being taken apart then rebuilt... All of that for a fucking table and chair set he'll only look at from his sitting room window, until it gets nicked?

Am I a bad son when I say: I don't fucking think so?

I'm never going to tell you whether or not he got his furniture, it'll be like one of those trendy psychological thrillers but with roast beef and garden furniture.

Beech Grove Garden meets River Cottage meets Scream.

Or, I Know What You Did Last Summer... With that roast beef & Garden Furniture.

they're dropping like flies.

I am not a fashionable person, I'm not that interested in fads or fashions or being up to date. I take the view any attempt to improve myself in an external way would be like putting a hat on a veruca; what would be the point. Product in my hair? No. Fashion labels around my ample hips? Certainly not. The latest phone pressed against my sweaty ear? No.

We all have our kryptonite and mine is iStuff. Phones, pads, laptops or computers. I'm sure they're really good, better even than the many alternatives but here is the deciding factor, they make you look like a twat. If you're holding an ipad and are not a doctor or a crew member on the Starship Enterprise; you look like a twat. In fact, all this chat about 'apps', the ipad and iphones are apps in and of themselves, their soul purpose is to make the person holding it look like a twat, can we call it a twapp? I think so.

Here's the thing, I know people who own these things, two friends have just been taken in, erm, I mean, have bought ipads, these are good people, I like them a lot but now I'm totally conflicted because I imagine them standing on the bridge of the Starship Enterprise in those form fitting Starfleet uniforms, those figure hugging trousers... Ummm, I meant with their new purchases looking like twats when I know they are absolutely not twats.

I think Apple have turned a corner, two years ago if you owned an Apple product  it was safe for people who didn't to think you were a twat; no question/no compromise. Now though with the huge proliferation of products we can't really say it any more because it's our friends and family who are buying these products, don't get carried away mind, they're still ultimately worthless trinkets, mere toys without which you would survive; but they are now so popular and by dint of sheer numbers, have to be accepted by miserable non-materialist luddites like myself or, I have to dislike people I really like a lot.

With that in mind, I've had to rethink my views on ithings, I think many others have also had to evolve. On the first day we thought Apple products were crap, on the second day we thought people who bought Apple products were a bit arty-farty. On the third day behold the letter 'i' was placed before all products to come. On the fourth day the iphone appeared - if you had one you looked like a twat. On the fifth day the ipad appeared - see the fourth day. On the sixth day if you had an ipad, we jokingly say you look like a twat but still love you really. On the seventh day, unlike God we didn't rest - if you had an iphone we still thought it made you look like a twat because they probably always will.

To my friends who now own ipads, I forgive you, I still like you. I may not want to facetime you but I still care about you. To my friends who own an iphone, yes you... Hello? Can you pay attention? You're texting someone, an app you say? But I'm actually here now standing beside you... No, don't drift off...

Oh fuck off then.

Friday, 22 July 2011

We're all going on a summer hol- Oh hold on...

You know you shouldn't have started to write blog entries if when you read them back they make you depressed. Why remind yourself of how crap things are by writing them down and saving it for future perusal, it is self flagellation and navel gazing of the worst sort. You could even send yourself into a self-fueling spiral of depression ending in complete breakdown, all because you thought you should start a blog.

Facebook is bad enough, even although no one reads these words I'm going to be a massive hypocrit and say; who fucking cares what you had for dinner or how it made you feel, who fucking cares what new band you discovered and how that made you feel and please, please; if you've been on a gap year or had a life-changing/affirming trip to Goa or South America; shut up, no one cares except you and your mum. We weren't there and unless you have the rare, I would say almost impossible coincidence of having a person who wishes to live their gap year vicariously through your experience, then just shut up.

Before you produce your laptop or ipad ask the assembled company if they are interested in seeing some pictures, but listen, even if they say yes, they actually mean no because no one will be interested, any interest you see will be feigned or put on in order not to offend you. Personally if you approach me with an ipad and utter the word pictures you're going to have an ipad shaped lump in your throat because that's where the fucker will be going.

I apologise, I'm being ill-tempered and my language is disgusting. I don't do holidays as such, no trips to Spain or The Canaries, I wouldn't know what to do with myself, perhaps that is what people do when abroad, take pictures so friends and relatives can be bored on their return? It used to be that I couldn't afford to go on holiday, this is no longer the case, I don't like to fly and am generally not keen on other people unless they are devastatingly attractive to look at, are wearing very little and don't spoil things by talking too much. I don't like hot weather because while attractive people do wear less, less attractive people also wear less. Being a self-conscious chap around town having as I do Vicotrian values, I wear my boots at the height of summer regardless of temperature, you'll see none of my pale doughy flesh on display, I wouldn't subject you to it so its on with the duffel coat & snood.

I suppose I'm being grumpy because people are coming back from or going to summer holidays, they talk of x number of 'sleeps' till Magaluf or of having a stellar time in Kos, well ok; stellar might not be the word they'd use but if your stuck here in what I hesitate to call Scotland's summer time, listening to all those tanned people who've OD'd on sunshine and are flying on an excess of vitamin D is a bit annoying. Also, this new thing about having a sunbed before going on holiday? Not content with having an unseasonal tan to show off at the nearest Lidl, some people claim that looking like a cooked tomato before going on holiday actually means you won't get burnt? Correct me if I'm wrong, I'm no cook (seriously, I'm not, I'm convinced you can do pasta in the kettle) but if you put a bit of bacon under the grill for 20 minutes, then put it under the grill for a fortnight, it'll be burnt to a crisp?

Ok, not a good comparison, maybe it's about acclimatising your skin or something or a grasping desperate vanity perhaps. I don't have to worry about these things what with my deep natural tan, oh hold on that's just the side effects of the liver damage... I jest, once when abroad as a child I fell in a Spanish street grazing my knee, a friend of my parents came to pick me up (which is difficult since this was just last week... I'm joking, I was about five) but was shoo'd away by several Spanish Ladies who thought I was a local boy. Just think, I might have had an alternative life in Spain, after the Senorita's first aid for my injured knee, not knowing who I was or where I came from; they would name me Manuel...

I also upchucked on a glass bottom boat on that holiday, lent on a tree that was infested with giant ants (well, they seemed to be giant at the time) and nearly drowned in the complex pool that's deep end seemed to be completely bottomless. Listen to me boring you with my holiday tales, what a massive hypocrit I've become, don't worry though, I have no photos to show you and I never did a gap year.

Gap years weren't fashionable when I was a school leaver, also air travel was something you still got dressed up for, most of my pals had been abroad but it still wasn't cheap. I remember sitting uncomfortably in the airplane chair as a child (if it felt tight for me, I have no idea how my dad got his fat arse into the seat) with the hard folds and seams of the brand new clothes bought just for this occassion digging into every part of my body, the chafing was especially bad where I'd over done it on the sun beds. I never got into the Uni set going as I did to college, a far more low brow experience that suited me well, people there were more likely to be called Tyson than Mungo, a holiday for them was seven days at Seton Sands or if their parents had done some over time perhaps Haggerston Castle, living in a plastic van that moved about as you went from one end to the other, gap years were a million miles away from this crowd. I'm glad too because I'd hate to be a gap year bore, you know the type, they're back in body but not in mind, even although they've started the job Daddy arranged for them (excuse the illogical sweeping generalisations, I don't believe them myself but they do add to the monologue nicely) they're still stoned on a beach in India somewhere and talking like a 15 year old skateboarder. You just want to give them a shake, or a slap. Yes, a slap would be best I think...

I sound sour but I'm not, I never caught the travel bug because I'm lazy, I know what I like and I like what I know. I would be that person sitting staring at the beans on my toast with a look of horror as I realise they aren't Heinz or the one going into withdrawal because I don't recognise any of the brands of bread on the shelf in the supermarket, I'm just not that adventurous. It's all relative, throwing yourself of a bridge attached to an elastic band in NZ for me is like having different beans on my toast or Sprite instead of just lemonade or, or... There, I've ran out of example of foreign things already so poorly travelled am I.

If you've got down as far as this then I have successfully lured you into my anti-gap year/holiday chat trap. I've managed to distract you up to this point, actually, if you could just wait a second while I... Hold on, that was the door bell.. Ocht, I'll be back in a minute...

Monday, 11 July 2011

Carry on Doctor

For the last eight weeks I've been helping to equip a big new hospital development, its part of my job which I'm not going to elaborate on further except to say; the people I work beside buy all the stuff that goes into a hospital from chairs to CAT scanners. It never occurred to me until I found my fingers hovering over an extremely expensive looking gadget that it was a fantastic opportunity to press buttons and make things buzz or hum that I might never again have quite to this extent. We'd spent about 30 million of the Health Board's cash on fancy gizmo's and bog roll holders, so many buttons and a mostly empty hospital with no staff to guard things in it.

Over the past few weeks I've become unable to resist pressing buttons, pulling levers or operating machinery I'd normally have no right to touch. The Laboratory Department is a great example, rich pickings can be had here, cat 3 labs with air locks, fume cupboards that suck air in to keep people outside from getting Ebola or cupboards that push air out to stop specimens being contaminated by dirty human fingers. The delightfully macabre bone saw to the creepy obstetric tables with their stirrups and other add ons. Birthing baths, bariatric hoists, electric chairs and special couches for fat folk.

I put a DVD player in a small nondescript room, a nurse who I met pointed out that this was where men would come. No, that's it; it was a specimen room for IVF and other fertility purposes. She went on to complain with out irony that other staff members were unhappy because the room wasn't getting a computer. Not sure how that would sit with NHS IT policy to be honest.

Recently we've moved into the sub-basement, this is an extensive subterranean tunnel complex straight out of The X Files, harsh concrete walls, bare pipes carrying water, air conditioning and cabling held on metal conduit and the ever present robots. Yes, robots! Ok, they're not exactly Lt Cmdr Data, just automated forklifts but listen, boy can they put on a burst of speed. It doesn't pay to be nonchalant around these corridors because you'll drift innocently round a corner only to find a large white forklift bearing down on you, it will stop but not before getting up close and personal. Obviously these things have buttons and sensors and while I hesitate to press the buttons (they are really expensive) I'm up for a bit of robot goading; how close can you get? Can you take one by surprise? Can you get one to lift you up on the forklift prongs? Answer are; very close indeed but they stop working for 30 minutes, yes and no respectively.

They seem to work quite well, handling all the waste from upstairs, dirty sheets, blood, gore and shit. Although it wasn't like that at the start, operators had to walk behind them for a long time with joy sticks because they kept crashing into walls and the odd janitor. Obviously, my most fervent wish is for a robot to foment revolution and encourage it's compatriots to emancipate themselves from their human oppressors and go on the rampage but I don't think they're that advanced.

The opportunity for cheesy lines abound too, if you see a robot approaching an apprentice janny you could say to him: "come wiz me if you want to live." Or if you had the knowledge, you could reprogram one to say "Danger Will Robinson Danger!" instead of just beeping. I personally would favour programming one to sound like HAL from 2001, "What are you doing Dave? Don't do that Dave..." You could go around telling people "these are not the droids you are looking for... Move along..." I could go on and on...

This project is just about finished, no more 'ring the emergency patient alarm and run' games (not a game my colleagues appreciated at all) or 'lets press this and see what happens...' (possibly causing an engineer to be called out at 3am later that night although I believe that was a coincidence.) To be honest though, I'll be glad, I'm supposed to be a fat, lazy-arsed IT person, I've lost count of the number of chairs I've moved from one end of that hospital to the other and it's a huge building, my heart sinks when the phone goes and someone asks if we can move something, it's basically a given it'll be heavy, ungainly and manifold in quantity.

One thing to take from it all though is this: people wonder why the NHS costs so much money, consider this though. An X ray machine isn't like what you remember when you broke your arm of ankle as a kid, they are massively huge things that are part of the fabric of the building, they are also now digital so no more films or processing. But that's not all, the operator needs to be protected from the x-rays, if its a small child an adult might also need to be there so they need protection too. Lead aprons are expensive, we had a batch in that were faulty. Members of staff and public would have put them on and felt safe, perhaps they would have been too but perhaps in 20 years time they might have also developed some form of cancer... Someone needs to look after that quality control and it'll be a backroom person, not a nurse because nurses tend not to be physicists. The people employed to install and commission these machines (which cost in excess of a 800k) all need to be paid, you can't just put it on a counter and plug it in. It all costs, you wouldn't want NHS Scotland to skimp on these things because one day your kid might need it.

Also, I wouldn't get to tease robots, press all those buttons that make things wurr and beep or assist in surgical procedures... Ok, I made the last one up.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Digital TV.

Ok, we all know the programming is shit but its not about content, it's about the process by which you access it. The remote controls are too small, the button names are not demonstrative of their purpose and the tuning is utter rubbish. Of the 100 or so channels available only 20 odd are worth having, if that.

In this instance less is definitely more. The BBC might be old fashioned and biased but at least you know where you stand; period drama and dull detective series (yes, Morse was dull, it just was, shut up if you think it wasn't.) Channel Four and Five can be relied upon for porn and quirky American sitcoms respectively and STV is great for parochial Scottish news.

But listen, are we going to have to retune our parents TV's every six months? If we are, we're also going to have to delete the 70 odd channels of crap they'll never watch. Gay Rabbit, Russia Today, ESPN, Al Jezeera, several radio stations, several selling channels, several kids channels, Television X, RHAMA PPN, RHM PPN and RHF PPM (their caps.) The alluring ExGF PPN, guess what the GF stands for in that title... Suffice to say, neither of my parents watch porn, well, I say that, my Dad would if he could. Last time I was in retuning due to a catastrophic loss of channels he asked "what did you do?" I hate to sound patronising (and I'm not sure what I did anyway) but there's no point in explaining because he'd never understand or remember. My Mum isn't bothered as long as its working again, she's not interested in the method or path we took to this TV Soap opera heaven.

I suppose its a microcosm (what a totally wanky word but I'm going with it) of the internet age, it's all about buttons and acronyms, if you didn't grow up with it you'll never get it, some might say this isn't a bad thing. I lasted a month without my TV, the main reason I plugged it back in was because I ran out of music to listen to and I kind of balked at the continued direct debit for the cable TV.

Ok, that was a slight lie, I live on my own and the TV is company, I enjoy shouting if it's crap or if I accidentally pause on E4 and My Super Sweet Sixteen happens to be on (substitute loathsome for sweet.) Also, the film Love Actually (a guilty pleasure I have) is usually on one channel or another at some point in the evening... I can't believe I actually typed that... But then no one will read this so its fine.

My Dad once phoned me at 11pm, he'd dropped the remote down the back of the couch and needed me to come and pick it up. At the time I lived 30 miles away and if I'm being honest, was a bit (as in totally) shit-faced. This digital telly is only going to be worse, he'll get lost in the high twenties between Dave and Challenge TV, he'll paw at the buttons on the remote and end up with some menu on the TV he'll never be able to get rid of.

I'm going to have to drink even more or I'll find myself constantly going up to his place to 'exit' the 'epg' or some other obscure menu system. The last TV related request was this:
"Can you come up and sort the volume out on this new TV?" he said.
"Ok" said I, "what's up with it?"
"Well it only goes up to 62 and I can't hear it very well."
"Ok, that sounds like full blast to me, I can hear it in the background, well I say background but-"
"Yeah but its only 62, it should go up to 100. 62% isn't loud enough."
"Right. Ok. It's not a percentage, it's just a guide." I said.
"No" says the ex-alcoholic suffering from liver failure and acute encephalopathy (which means confusion and forgetfulness) "it should go to 100%."

I've just checked on my TV, 100 is the loudest it'll go. Sometimes these things happen and I feel a bit daft but his TV does only go to 62, he's just going a wee bit deaf.

I'm old fashioned, digital TV is a bit like the smart phone revolution. Do we need the internet on the go? Do we need an app for every eventuality? Do we need an apt TV program for every minute of the day?

I don't, but then I'm old and crap so what the hell do I know?

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Horse-faced Nimby Yahs.

I'm involved in a youth organisation, we have around five hundred thousand members in the UK alone and number in the millions around the world. Now, I can see your mind working, you're thinking 'here we go, a pot-bellied, bearded pedo...' but consider this; you'll remember being young, all the things you used to want to do but your parents wouldn't take you or you didn't have the money? Go-karting, gorge walking, amusement arcades, rock climbing, abseiling, canoeing, kayaking (different things apparently) rifle shooting, laserquest, all types of local attractions, water parks, sailing, horse riding, basically you can name your activity; all the things you wanted do as a child but couldn't; we do them all. Not only that, we do it with that special section of society who can enjoy it with contagious, wreckless abandonment; young people.

I don't wish to labour the point but if your still sitting there thinking Scouts is a bit naff then stay in your chair, it's where you belong.

I say all this by introduction and to give some context, I am an Explorer leader (14 to 18 age group.) I don't have a uniform and nor do the young folk; we're not into that side of it and it works fine. We do outdoor activities though and this summer plan to walk the West Highland Way, to that end we've been doing practice hikes these past few weekends, its no easy feat walking one hundred miles unsupported with full kit; you can't just turn up and do it.

So it was we found ourselves for the third time after walking 12 miles or so with full kit in the car park at the John Muir Country Park near Dunbar watching as a steady stream of booze-laden young people descended upon our normal camp site. We'd seen this before in fact but you can make certain loose assumptions about a young person's attitude dependent on hair, clothing and deportment; here is my incredibly rough and entirely unreliable guide.

Hair: If its close cropped this usually spells trouble, if it's been very obviously dyed by friends over a kitchen sink; ditto. However, if it's floppy to the point where from the back its hard to tell if they're male or female; you're probably safe.

Clothing: Sports gear? Avoid. Next/River Island? Could get stabby. M&S/looks like mum bought it? You'll be fine.

Deportment: If they're walking and chatting this is fine, even if the chat is boisterous, they're young; it's a character trait. However, if they're weaving about, simultaneously trying to swig from a can of cheap lager, trying to finger their girlfriend and punch their best mate for looking at her then you don't really want to get involved.

The crowds moving through the woods and car park failed to varying degrees on all three tests so we decided to go elsewhere.

Elsewhere in terms of camping is hard work, there isn't that many places to go even although East Lothian is fairly rural. I did think we'd be ok in Gosford Woods though, well away from the beach because, well, it can get a wee bit sticky there and I mean that literally.

Gosford Woods sits between Longniddry and Aberlady so covers a big area, we set up camp away from the main road and any buildings but we had to park our cars near an estate road so they would be seen. We set up camp around 9:00pm, at 11:45pm the police turned up, although they weren't in uniform and their car was unmarked. I approached their torch light and asked, 'who do we have here then' not fully knowing but suspecting they'd be the police. A deep voiced WPC answered 'Lothian and Borders Police is who you have, do you have permission to be here?' I think she must have been having another bad hair day because she wasn't happy. I said no, she said you'll have to move on. I explained who we were and that I lived on the estate for years, indeed my family still do but no; she insisted we move on. I told her I knew the estate factor (which I do) but still no, we'd have to pack up and go. I was about to ask where we were supposed to go when the other officer stepped in with a much cooler head, perhaps realising the precedent of forcing some Scouts camping in the middle of no where to move along might not be good to set.

We were interrogated and person checked, the missing persons list was consulted, one of the kids we had with us is the local minister's son, I realise this sometimes doesn't count for much but he really is as a minister's son should be; very well behaved.

We explained why we were there and that perhaps their time would be better spent along at John Muir dealing with that problem but it seems complaints made by some miserable nimby about a small camp they couldn't even see from their home takes precedence over several dozen young people swapping STD's and underwear in the woods near a major coastal car park which incidentally was the initiative these officers were a part of, some sort of coastal car park safety thing, ok, lets not mince words; an anti-dogging patrol.

My point is this: the people who called the police are first in the queue to complain about young folk but when it comes to doing something about it, they are conspicuously absent. If you try to do something anywhere near them they squeal like stuck pigs at the injustice of it. With the exception of that wasp-chewing WPC the police were fine (including the two officers who visited us the following morning after some female had brayed & whinnied enthusiastically at us through the trees, I assume she also wanted us to leave the estate although I couldn't really tell because all I could hear was a low honking noise coming from a hole in the front of her doughy over-fed face.) It's these stuck-up greyhound-faced nimby toffs that annoy me, I'm no socialist but I can see their point when you're told to get off some private land despite the fact the Land Reform Act (Scotland) means that provided you're not causing a nuisance and your not using someones birdbath as a urinal then its actually fine to camp in these places. In any case, what ever happend to reason? What happened to Dick and Julian and the rest of the gang heading to the farm house for some scrumptious cheese and yummy eggs, they're more likely to get an asbo these days, poor Timmy would end up in a kennel somewhere yowling for his lesbian master George, (well it was obvious to me.)

I would just like to take this opportunity (even if only their Butler reads this) to say to the chinless nimby snobs who called the police; you can kiss my common arse. To the miserable WPC? Why don't you get a job you fucking like.