Tuesday, 30 April 2013

An experiment...

So, you may or may not know the last post was about a jumble sale I help with - if you could be arsed reading it (and I fully understand if you didn't) - you'll know what a malodorous, disgusting affair it was. I haven't posted anything since because I've been in the bath desperately scouring the foul stench from my person.

OK, so that isn't true - I did have several baths and showers and I now believe there may also be something in the air at jumble sales - spores perhaps - that lodge in the lungs; I had flu like symptoms for a few days after too.

Moving on though, I'm about to embark upon an experiment. I'm moving out of my current flat but not moving in anywhere else. Firstly, the flat I'm leaving was OK but is unfortunately situated in an area of Leith which sucks balls big time. Secondly; I'm not going to live in a cardboard box and beg outside the Cooperative, my parents both have spare rooms so I'm going to float between the two.

I have no idea how long this will last, maybe only a week but you never know.

Its been interesting up till now even, I keep thinking to myself 'but where will I sit at night?' I can't sit with either parent for various reasons; not limited to soap operas, other family members and heating controls set at a level just below the temperature of molten lava. The point of the experiment is to not go 'home' to sit drinking wine and watching crap on the telly when I could (and should) be doing more useful things.

People I've spoken to can't get their head round the idea of not having a base, a place to keep your 'stuff' or a home to go to. The idea of living an entirely nomadic lifestyle (within certain limits, for example; I won't have a camel) is bizarre to them. Since I have no dependents I can up sticks easily and just go. I own no furniture and very little in the way of anything else. Any clothing I've not worn for six months and things like bedding have gone to the Salvation Army and recycling respectively; all of my belongings now fit in the boot of my car.*

It goes with out saying I'll be back on the electoral register well in advance of September 2014. Some of the stories - or should that be scaremongering - doing the rounds are as daft as they are untrue. Osborne's been up again bumping his gums about Scotland not being able to use it's own currency, while newspapers in England are reporting Philip Hammond (the Tory defence secretary) intends to use money earmarked for English Health & Education to assuage MOD budget stupidity. Osborne knows he can't decimate the UK's balance of payments with out serious repercussions and Hammond probably doesn't know that by diverting money away from Health and Education in England, there would be cuts to Scotland's block grant via Barnett Consequentials. Since Scotland receives no BC's for defence (it isn't devolved) we'll be left out of pocket funding Tory wet dreams... Again...

But I digress.

There was something else - My eBook. I had to 'unpublish' it, I rushed it out and now every one thinks my spelling and grammar is shit - which is true - but not as shit as that; I spent an entire day redrafting. It seems Mrs Chalmers, my primary school teacher, was right to put on every single report card over the course of my primary education; 'must try harder'.

I'm now off to finish cleaning out my old flat, I can't say I'll be sorry to be leaving. Having had two motorbikes stolen from the so-called secure car park, and on a daily basis having to fend off approaches by those horrid people who speak from a point just behind their nose and call you 'pal' all the time; I'm happy to bid it, them and the area an unfond farewell.

* Not strictly true, I have two motorcycles & associated paraphernalia and a ton of tools which I use to keep one on the road and the other in various stages of dis/repair. I also have a lot of outdoor gear. 

Its all kept elsewhere anyway so for the purposes of this daft - by which I mean - interesting experiment; none of it counts.

Monday, 22 April 2013

A busy week

So, I haven't added anything here for a wee while because I've been a bit busy. Two things really; firstly, I've been working on a second Travelogue about our weekend on Arran at Easter and secondly; we had our annual jumble sale on Saturday  which is what  this blog entry is really about.

We used to do two jumble sales a year but we now only do one, we changed not because we didn't need the cash but because jumble sales are fucking awful, I know I've sworn there but the point being made deserves it; jumble sales are fucking awful - there, I swore again.

Asking people for their cast offs is bad enough, asking them when you are aged 38 knowing you were doing exactly the same thing when you were aged 8 is really depressing, when I was 8 years old I was positive I'd be living on the moon, not still asking middle class people for their crap so we could flog it to the great unwashed.

I should say, I'm grateful people come to our jumble sales, the vast majority, and we're talking all except maybe four or five repeat offenders are good and decent folks looking for a bargain. What we also get though are the dealers and lets not beat around the bush; scam-artists who are there for financial gain. I'm not against this though, I get that our jumble sales are at the bottom of a chain which essentially recycles goods but why do these people have to be so craven about it?

For example, we had a drum kit handed in, we moved it over to the community centre where the sale is held on the Friday night only to find the cymbals missing the following morning. We had a good look around, made some phone calls but couldn't track them down. Oddly, the stands for the cymbals remained, someone had dismantled the high-hat thingy and taken the brass bits that make the noise.

I spoke to the centre staff who said they'd thrown someone out after not being able to identify them as a volunteer, which by the way is another area of concern for us; the number of people who claim to want to help but just want to rake, we collect for an entire week and they turn up on the day of the sale with sunny offers of assistance, when you next see them they're not humping furniture about; they're having a good rummage through the clothes.

Anyway, I digress (a bit like Columbo, which is apt.) I continued my investigations until eventually the cymbals were recovered from behind some bins at the back of the building. We think the person who'd been asked to leave earlier (and who remains at large today) took the cymbals so he could return later and make a much diminished offer on the now incomplete drum kit, I think you'll agree this was a heinous & calculated crime, I mean think of the children for fucks sake!

OK, the children aren't exactly impoverished (the scout group for which the sale is in aid is mostly attended by children from the same middle class homes the jumble comes from) but still: the humanity!

We worked up a profile on the perp, (see what I did there?) We decided he was a male, in his thirties, with no vehicle (the cymbals were stashed behind some bins remember) possibly with some drumsticks about his person (because they were missing too.) In hindsight, we shouldn't have put the cymbals back so we could snare him; assuming he hadn't checked his hiding place, he'd have no idea we'd recovered them. We're not that devious though and we also wanted to sell them for as much as we could get.

This is just one example of how shitty some people can be, I haven't for example mentioned the posh ladies who used to steal clothes - they'd work their way along the table, dropping what they want into a bag on the floor; kicking it along as they go. When they got to the end of the table, they'd pick it up and walk away. We got round that by getting Cubs to crawl under the tables to drag it all back, the look on the faces of the fragrant lady-thieves was extremely gratifying - they'd been doing it for years and their free ride was now over.

Then of course you have the OAP's who jumble-lift, the just pick the things they want, stuff it in a floral print bag and amble away safe in the knowledge that an 11 year old boy isn't going to challenge someone who reminds them of their own loving Gran. We got round that one too by asking for other OAP volunteers to do the challenging; I've seen old ladies being frog-marched out the door by other old ladies, it is endlessly entertaining to watch.

The most annoying though, are the dealers. They think because they have a stall at East Fortune market or an eBay account they should get special treatment. These are the people who are truly craven, they'll do anything for an advantage and we always know who they are because they attend year in and year out, we even know when they die because they stop coming, (don't suggest they may have retired instead for these people never retire, its a way of life.) It's the dealers who sneak in before the doors officially open, they cajole and persuade helpers into reserving the choice bits. I know this sounds harsh, but they are so relentless, I have in the past found myself in the middle of the hall, in front of many children and their parents who've come to help, yelling fuck off as loud as I can at some feckless twat who just would not leave. The thing is, the kid's parents, didn't tut at me, they tutted at the dealer because they know exactly what they're like.

We've nearly had people come to blows over this, which is completely daft when you realise its over things people have thrown away. Punters queuing patiently become quite exercised if they see other punters inside raking around and putting things aside.

I know you think this is all a bit petty and parochial and you're right; it is. I say I hate it and I do, but I think its one of those things that you love to hate, I mean I have no idea how that works but it seems to be so for jumble sales.

As usual, levels of acceptability vary greatly for people when deciding what to donate and since we can't tell them to fuck off when they hand in, say, a toilet seat (we got one this year,) we just have to accept it. Also donated, every single sale, is an entire back catalogue of Country Life magazines, I mean seriously, who the fuck is going to buy that? Or how about a 'Teas Maid' with all the jugs missing? We're bound to get a good price for that right enough. Or the also-inevitable foot spa, of all the disgusting things (with the exception of the toilet seat) who's going to buy a moldy second hand foot spa?

I could go on at length so I'll stop here, we managed to raise £2587 from our sale which will keep us going for a wee while. One of the reasons I published The Great Glen Way was to raise money so we might not have to do jumble sales but in truth, even if royalties do go through the roof (and lets be honest, they won't,) I think we'd still hold our annual sale. However; we would be able to tell people who hand us foot spas and incomplete Teas Maids to fuck off.

(Look out for my soon to be published 'On Arran' - this short eTravelogue (I'm coining a new phrase) will be free, the idea being to entice people into buy The Great Glen Way.)

Friday, 12 April 2013

Taken the plunge...

So I've published my first short eBook  I'll say right now, its already available in a diminished form on this blog (what am I saying, most things are diminished on this blog.) In any case, I added to it, increased it from 11,000 words to 16,000 (I know, as if 11,000 wasn't enough.)

Since you're here you may have read it already so I'm not asking you to buy it, just share the links on your social networking, I'd be really grateful, the proceeds are all going to the Scout Group that I've been involved with over the last two decades and who's members took part in the activity the eBook is all about.

Its on smashwords here and in the kindle store here.

I should say, its a bit cheaper on smashwords due to Kindle's bizarre royalties system, I was embarrassed to ask for as much as I did but I had no choice.

I enjoy writing, its a good feeling to concoct  a sentence or paragraph which is economic with words yet concise in its message, I mean I hardly ever manage to do it, but still; I try.

I'm already working on the next installment which is about our recent trip to Arran the week after all the snow hit the island, five of us visited for the Easter Weekend. I'll probably post it up here as before to give you a sneak preview on the promise that you hawk it about as much as I hope you'll hawk the one mentioned above.

I'm really crap at self-promotion, I have so little to promote. Normally I can rely on my mum for this but she doesn't do social networking; so I'm asking you.

Thanks folks in advance. 

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Thick and fast.

You might think for someone who claims to despise the execrable Call Kaye phone in show on BBC radio Scotland, I don't half go on about it. While yes, its true I don't like it but for some reason; I am drawn to it, Kaye Adams wasn't on this morning, I have no idea who it was; I could find out but I don't give a fuck.

So, they were talking about the mismanagement of HBOS by ex-chief Sir James Crosby and its subsequent collapse.  Douglas Alexander, BBC Scotland's Economic Correspondent was on yucking it up while the usual frothers phoned and sent texts brimming with the kind of bile and effrontery unique to this radio show.

Apparently James has asked to be stripped of his knighthood and has waived 30% of his £508,000 pension by way of reparations for being a banking chump. The presenter (and many of the plummy pensioners who like to phone Kaye of a morning) were suggesting that the greedy bastard be stripped not just of his 'K' but of his entire pension.

Step in Douglas Fraser, he pointed out that Pensions were hugely complicated and when one enters into a pension agreement; it is a binding contract. The notion that we might reach back in time and change the terms of a pension agreement would be dangerous, not to mention the legality of it which would be exceedingly complicated and parlous in terms of the precedent it would set.

Yes, I'm sure the Westminster Government thought exactly the same thing about the retroactive legislation they rammed through parliament on the sly in order to make sure the thousands of already dead-poor people who couldn't or wouldn't do Workfare definitely couldn't claim back the money government held back from them.

You might be sitting there thinking; 'but its not the same thing at all...' But it is: the UK government has a legal obligation to pay the proper amount of welfare to clients just as the pension provider has a legal obligation to pay the agreed pension rate. Both examples have their basis in the same principle of law.

I don't listen to every utterance burped out by Douglas Alexander, but I'll offer my pound for your bucket if shite if said anything like this about Westminster's actions over Workfare.

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Maggie Thatcher

So for the past day and a half I've been avoiding the news, I only vaguely remember much of what Thatcher did, I was too young. I was going to say her policies never affected me but that isn't true, her policies from when she was in power still reverberate today. My problem isn't so much with Thatcher, although I agree she was some piece of work, but more with the mawkish infatuation we're supposed to have with people who in life we despised but are told to forgive and revere in death.

I know you're not in the least bit interested but I'll let you into a secret, the first political party I ever voted for was the Tories in 1992, you'll have to forgive me, it was a long time ago and I think I may have cheated too because I wasn't quite 18 either. The only main stream party, and I include the SNP in that category, I've never voted for is Labour.

When I was young I tended to support the Tories, I thought they were for self-reliance and personal independence, I always thought you were responsible for your own destiny, ironically the same party I thought extolled that notion was also keeping me from realising it. We all do daft things when we're young, we believe what we're told by our leaders and I did until the reign of Tony Blair, who I'd argue did as much harm to the country as Thatcher ever did, where she ruined the UK's ability to manufacture, Blair ruined our ability trust, however hesitantly, our politicians.

In death we are supposed to tacitly admit Thatcher was a good leader because she stuck to her guns, I'd say; fuck that. Thatcher stuck to her guns because she couldn't accept the notion she might be wrong, like most politicians she mistook taking hard decision and staying the course for strength; when in fact it was folly. Blair was the same and so is Cameron now. When they give one of their glassy-eyed speeches you're left thinking, 'they don't really believe that do they?' You have no choice but to assume they do, if half way through it they took a conspiratorial look into the camera lens and said; 'This is bullshit, but you understand why I'm saying it don't you?' Oddly, at least they be deploying a bit of honesty.

Thatcher's policies were wrong and I don't mourn her passing, I'm not angry about what she did though, it was years ago and we are we are now. I'm pissed off at being subjected to days of vomit-inducing faux admiration, in many regards its another curiosity of political life, when politicians retire or die they some how assume a mantle of statesmanlike gravitas that reality doesn't support because actually; they were a bit crap. Michael Heseltine or Menzies Campbell can still be heard droning on about one thing or the other and they're clearly talking a lot of shite. 

So we'll get a lot of Thatcher related rubbish on the telly and radio until her state-funded funeral takes place. I prefer not think of it as me paying for her funeral, more that I'm paying for an end to the relentless Thatcher documentaries on the television and radio - my preferred option is shit but less so than the reality, which is a microcosm of the Union as it is today.

We should be hoping for better.