Monday, April 30, 2007

I Wanna Be Elected

Honestly, who would you vote for? I’m all for democracy, but having to vote isn’t the most fun thing on the planet now is it? To vote in Scotland seems now to require a degree just to understand how to fill out the voting forms. Then there’s the actual political parties and their policies to contend with. I’m afraid that I have a healthy disrespect for most politicians. I feel that they promise so much and then once they are elected, fail to deliver. Maybe that’s just me.

So we could have Labour, but do we really need more illegal wars and cash for honours scandals?

Then there are the Tories (ah no wait a minute, this is Scotland – that’ll never happen).

OK, so the next option are the Liberal Democrats. A viable option in policy terms but I’ve never forgiven them for the way they treated Charles Kennedy.

The Greens seem pretty sensible, but, even with proportional representation, always seem to me like a wasted vote which is a real shame.

The scariest observation I made was that there is a BNP candidate who looks pretty frightening even whilst wearing a suit in his election leaflet.

The front runner at the moment according to the opinion polls would appear to be the SNP who will offer a referendum on Independence for Scotland if elected. That’s a tough one. My main worry is can we afford it? Many of Scotland’s business leaders seem to think that we can, but a fair number have stated the reverse. Sadly, if we hit problems, it will probably be the poorest sectors of society who will suffer with increased taxes to pay for any economic miscalculations. Although a referendum does not mean that independence is a foregone conclusion I will be looking out my passport for travel to my relatives in England just in case.

Whatever happened to the Monster Raving Loonies? Come back, all is forgiven.

Roll on 3rd May!

Friday, April 27, 2007

Buy One Get One Free

I have to admit to a problem. As well as being a chocoholic and a workaholic I must humbly admit that I am also a “Bargain Basement Shopaholic. A close cousin of the Common or Garden Shopaholic, the Bargain Basement Shopaholic can’t resist “Half price”, “Buy one get one free”, “Closing down sale” and basically anything in TK Maxx. You spend so much on bargains that you could have bought any number of full price items many times over, but that’s not the point. It’s getting a bargain that counts. It’s the excitement that overwhelms you as you approach the sale rack. The barely contained anticipation of getting something for less than the original price. The heart races, the pulse quickens. Will they have it in your size? Even if it’s not in your size, could you still squeeze into it to avoid missing out? Will someone else (with no doubt a better figure than yours) get there first? You approach the rack, your mind focussed, your body tense like an athlete’s. Yes – it’s half price and Oh joy it’s in your size. But wait, there’s another woman who looks about your size hovering near your desired purchase. You tense for a moment, assessing her movements and your options. She’s looking at it. Is she interested? She moves to touch the fabric. She’s serious! Action has to be taken and it has to be taken now. You’re off. In for the kill. “Scuse me” you state boldly as you elbow her out of the way, snatch the item off the rail and leg it to the cash desk. You don’t stop to look back, nor to think about whether to try it on, nor whether you actually like it and will wear it, nor even whether you have an almost identical one already in your wardrobe. It’s a bargain and they don’t come along every day. (Well actually they do, but when you’re in Bargain Basement Shopaholic Mode, such rational thoughts have left your consciousness).

So why do I tell you this? Well, as most aholics will attest, aholism seriously affects the health of your bank balance and mine is no exception. I decided that I must do something and, as a journey of 1000 miles starts with a single step, I decided to take a single step (and leave all the other steps for another time). I decided to do my Asda shopping on line. The benefit to this I deduced, was that I could, like most normal people, just pop into the virtual shop and pop out again, only having bought the items that I actually needed, and not having been sidetracked by bargains. This seemed like a plan that might actually work. I felt quite pleased with myself to say the least. So one fine day I made my list of my essential needs, entered the virtual shop ordered my items and left again. End of bargain avoiding story, or so I thought. I had however neglected to note that it was necessary when ordering to include your e mail address. My naivety holds no bounds sometimes and I just didn’t think about the possible implications of this. Of course by now you will know what’s coming and you will be looking at your screen with a mixture of pity and sympathy (well I hope so anyway).

The “bargain offer e mails” have now started. I have been inundated with offers of bargains on any number of home entertainment options (despite the fact that my original shop included none of these), a free iPOD if I buy a mobile phone, and many other “not to be missed grocery offers”. Don’t they know the poverty that can be created by Bargain Basement Shopaholism? Don’t they know that the mere mention of the word “offer” starts the pulse racing and the purse to become anxious? E mailed offers make it so much easier as well. My hand hovers over the mouse. One click and the bargain could be mine. Today I managed to resist, but on another day, things could be quite different. I will go now and delete all the ASDA e mails and if I can put a block on any subsequent ones, that is what I will do.

And now a plea to Asda. If I wish to shop in your virtual store, it is because I do not wish to be deluged with your offers of things that you tell me that I just can’t live without. If I choose not to buy them on my first shop this should indicate clearly to you that I can in fact live without them. Therefore I don’t want you trying to convince me otherwise. Please leave me alone and stop sending me e mails. Yes I really can live without the Sony Ericsson K608i on 3 video, talk and text 350, Bluetooth, 1.3 Megapixel Camera with Flash, Video Streaming, Triband and Mobile Internet. Let’s be honest I don’t even know what most of that means!

Just one more thing, Asda, while we’re on the subject, please BOGOF.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

When is a Tuna Roll not a Tuna Roll?

I had a strange experience whilst innocently getting my lunch yesterday. The conversation between me and the shop assistant (Roll Preparation Co-ordinator) was as follows:-

Me: “Can I have a tuna roll please”?

Roll Preparation Co-ordinator: “Do you want butter on that”?

Me: “Yes, just a bit thank you.”

RPC: “Fine, do you want tuna on that”?

WHAT!!! Had I heard her correctly? Was it not a tuna roll I had asked for? On the basis that I had in fact asked for a tuna roll would it not be likely that I would want tuna on the roll? What else would I be likely to want on a roll, having asked her for a tuna roll? Surely the definition of “tuna roll” would be a roll with tuna cunningly inserted into it.

Perhaps “Can I have a tuna roll” is some sort of spy code? If so maybe she was merely making absolutely sure that it was a tuna roll I was after and that I wasn’t really telling her that a Top Secret Agent involved in Project Underpants was ready to deliver his briefs.

I paused momentarily, not wanted her to see that I was somewhat flummoxed, shot her what I hoped was a winning smile and said “Yes, tuna please”, before grabbing the roll and diving out of the door to try to make sense of my encounter.

The tuna roll tasted OK though, but I think that the next time I go in, I will ask for a tuna roll and then complain when they don’t put cheese salad in it instead.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Here’s One I Prepared Earlier

Yesterday evening was an evening of trying to appear responsible, sophisticated and mature and failing miserably.

In my capacity as Responsible Youth Group Leader it was my duty to visit and observe another similar group in all their youthful exuberance. Timings dictated that I had to go straight from work thereby ensuring that I was not too sensibly attired in a work suit, as opposed to the more sensible jeans and a T-Shirt, as is my usual wont in those circumstances.

One might think that, so attired, I could have moved around the group holding a clipboard and looking important. Sadly it was not to be. We were playing games and I was to join in. Gamely (sorry) I did so and was soon down on my hands and knees playing a game of snakes and ladders, observing as I did so, dice flying all over the room (we soon put a stop to that) and arguments on whether it might be possible to change the rules to allow players to move up snakes and down ladders (future politicians all).

Our next mission was a craft activity which involved coloured ice lolly sticks, pictures of cute teddy bears and pictures of flowers with, inexplicably, a rather evil looking eye in the centre. These kids might need counselling. In fact, as it turned out, we were making a noughts and crosses game but what we really needed was Rolf Harris on hand to say “Can you tell what it is yet?” I certainly couldn’t even when it was finished and it had to be explained to me.

Have you ever tried to play twister on a business suit? I can now say that I have tried it and it is not a course of action that I would recommend. A business suit strains and stretches with every spin of that twister wheel. And then there are the limitations of your own body to contend with. I thought that I was quite supple, but no, my body just refused to take me to the same places that the bodies of 7 – 12 year olds took them.

Playing twister has another unfortunate side effect. It always gets me humming Man on the Moon by REM due to the line about playing twister and risk (although we didn’t play the latter and to be perfectly honest I have no idea how to play it). Therefore, picture the scene. I’m variously contorting my body in all sorts of positions, falling over, trying to maintain my composure and humming Man on the Moon. And this is me trying to appear important and grown up? Perhaps not an unmitigated success but at least the end of the evening was in sight and I was soon able to skulk away to regain my composure.

This is not, you understand, my official report. In that, I will say that I was the undisputed Twister Champion, winner at Snakes and Ladders and made by far the best Noughts and Crosses game ever seen. Well you’ve got to have some positive statistics in a report haven’t you?

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

I'd like to thank

I had a lovely surprise yesterday whilst perusing my “favourites list” of blogs to discover that I had been nominated for a Thinking Blogger Award by Katie whose excellent blog I would encourage you to read here. Take a look and I’m sure that you will enjoy.

Of course this begs the question – Do I think while Blogging? What I can say is that in the light of the very high quality of writing in most of the blogs I have visited, I am on a continual quest to raise the game with my own blog writing. At the end of the day, that can only be a positive thing.

It is now my pleasure, according to the requirements of the Thinking Blogger Award, for me to nominate 5 blogs which make me think and which I would recommend that you visit forthwith.

1. I have to start my list with the blog which started all my blogging shenanigans. I give you Mr Andrew Collins. An excellent blog on films, TV, books and ornithology. Oh and he's also a very nice man.

2. A bittersweet mix of thought provoking and funny articles from Clair. She also updates her blog layout on a regular basis which indicates a healthy interest in tidiness and spring cleaning.

3. Fun and frolics with Rich in his Sea of Cheese. Just don’t tell Mrs Rich.

4. Valentine Suicide: An iPod free zone providing a witty and insightful meander through life.
5. Ishouldbeworking: Informative, funny, good anecdotes, a nice blog layout and using words like rumpus and bedecked. You can't really go far wrong can you?

Monday, April 16, 2007

Inching Ever Closer

I had a birthday last week. It wasn't a scary age but it did have a 5 in it so it was halfway towards one or, if you prefer your cup half full, it was only five years away from a less scary one. I am very lucky to have friends both older and younger than me. I would heartily recommend this to anyone. Your younger friends will hopefully, in the main, be polite enough not to mention your advancing years and your older ones will have passed the scary age hurdles before you, hopefully lessening your fear to some degree as you approach the same stage. They will also mention with regularity just how lucky you are to be so much younger, and that can only make you feel better.

In order to celebrate, or perhaps just as an excuse, I had a party on Saturday night with the aforementioned friends. You know that you have reached that certain age when they bring their children. Don't get me wrong however. The children really were the life and soul of the party and it was great having them there. The prize for party animal of the night had to go to R. aged 2 who partied hard on a diet of water, smarties and wine gums until he fell asleep. The slightly older girls also had a ball and swapped fashion notes with us oldies to their hearts content.

I got some lovely presents - chocolates, wine, books etc so I really can't complain. We ate some of the homemade bread I have recently been trying to perfect and I think that I might have started a trend. It's now much better than my first attempt even though I do say so myself. One of my friends even mended my toilet seat which has never been right but I have never quite got around to doing anything about it. On a slightly stickier note, I was left with a lovely wine gummy mess attached to my sofa, but my mum thinks that she can get it off. You never can tell what's going to happen when you have a party.

Things wound up around midnight, and as everyone spilled down the stairs and out into the night, our next extravaganza was planned. Inspired, no doubt by the glorious weather during the weekend, we are now planning a Barbecue at my humble abode with no less than two barbecues so that we can invite more people (the entire village perhaps?).

A good night was had by all. Here’s hoping for some good weather over the summer so that we can have that double barbecue.

Friday, April 13, 2007

He Protests Too Much, Methinks

Travelling to work on the train each morning, to beat the congestion and to try to do my bit for the environment I regularly pick up a copy of a certain newspaper. The paper in question has recently been celebrating the blog with their “2007 Brit Blog Awards”. Sadly, it would seem that not everyone shares their enthusiasm as a recent letter to the paper will attest. The pertinent points from the letter, as I can’t find a link for it, were as follows:-

1. No one reads them.

2. Those that write them are “a crowd of geeks with no friends, pouring out stuff that illustrates exactly why they have no friends……sharing their lame observations with us all day”.

3. “It disproves Borel’s theory – an infinite amount of monkeys battering away at an infinite amount of typewriters won’t eventually produce the complete works of Shakespeare.”

4. “It produces a lot of smug, self-satisfied dweebs endlessly filling cyberspace with their inane ramblings about Bush ‘n’ Blair and the war in Iraq.”

5. In a more enlightened age they’d be sitting alone in their damp bedsits scribbling away into a paper diary and no-one would ever have to read their nonsense.

6. Hopefully one day they’ll all discover Internet porn and find something more productive to do with their endless free time.

Is this criticism unwarranted and unfair? I would counter his argument with the following:-

1. A cursory glance through the internet would of course reveal that the meteoric rise in the number of blogs being created is mirrored by the huge growth in visitors to the sites, so in fact this would tend to indicate that many people do in fact read them.

2. Sadly my dictionary didn’t provide me with a definition of the word Geek, so, presumably in typically geekish manner, I took myself to Wikipedia where I discovered that The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the word geek as

a. A carnival performer often billed as a wild man whose act usually includes biting the head off a live chicken or snake.

Not really the sort of thing I’m into or would advocate – but you could call Ozzy Osborne.

b. A person often of an intellectual bent who is disliked.

I may not be universally liked (well at least by certain ex boyfriends anyway) but I’m not often terrifically intellectual .

c. An enthusiast or expert especially in a technological field or activity.

Enthusiastic / expert in a technological field? I still struggle with the basics of technology so enthusiastic expert would stretching things a bit. Amateur on a steep learning curve might be more appropriate.

Now – onto the friends bit.
I am lucky to have many friends who are quite happy to read my idle musings and know not to take them too seriously. Let’s be honest – are the observations which us bloggers share any worse than the ones which this person no doubt shares with his colleagues round the office water cooler? I think not. He does have the option not to read our observations while his colleagues do not, I would imagine, have quite the same luxury.

3. The age of the universe is dwarfed by the gulf of time it would take a monkey to type Hamlet, (or at least that's what it says on Wikipedia) so it is this and not the blogging phenomenon which in fact disproves the Infinite Monkey Theorem to which I would assume that he is referring.

4. I for one have never hit so much as a key on “Bush ‘n’ Blair and the war in Iraq”. I admit that I have, however, read blogs on the subject as, I feel, he must have too to be quite so specific with this comment.

5. I have a very nice warm and dry flat thank you very much with no damp problems and have never had the urge to scribble into a paper diary.

6. Does this person believe that Internet Porn is a productive use of time? If so, again, I would have to disagree most strongly.

Of course with this amount of vitriol boiling up inside of him the only real option for him is – and I’m sure that you are there already - to start his own blog.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Sponsored Roundabouts

Our trip to Aberdeen and Lochnagar this Easter was sound tracked mainly by Kaiser Chiefs – Ruby and The Fratellis – Chelsea Dagger. Books read as a general accompaniment were Michael Chabon – Wonder Boys and Kevin MacNeil – The Stornoway Way.
Photos will follow shortly.


Our adventure started at about 2.30pm on Friday when R. and I set out for Aberdeen. I believe that we should have set out at midday but a bizarre e mail mix up meant a slightly later departure. Speed Kills and Speed Cameras Cost Money and Points so we only travelled at 90mph between the said speed cameras, arriving in Oil City around three hours later.

Interesting Aberdonian Fact – Many of the roundabouts are sponsored – in many cases by oil companies (well obviously really).

We stayed in Aberdeen Youth Hostel in Queens Road. This road and many round about it boast massive impressive granite houses. There is something very imposing about them – far more imposing in my opinion than similar large sandstone houses but I believe that here I am digressing into construction speak.
(Construction Speak – Like Technobabble but with bricks, mortar, roofs and doors)

Dinner on the first night was home (or rather hostel) made pasta made by the fair hands of L. who we met in Aberdeen as she was coming from the other side of the country. The hostel was rather lacking in pots so we had to make do with a pot which was so large that it could have fed the entire hostel.

Nightlife consisted of a club called Espionage. It was fine but there must be more nightclubs in Aberdeen which we just couldn’t find. We drank and made merry and then as is our wont we got lost on the way home. Many hours later after having trailed round Aberdeen several times seriously ill equipped for it in shoe terms we gave up and got a taxi, which took us home in less than five minutes. Such is life.

The Middle Bit

What can I say about Saturday? After rising early in denial of the lateness to bed of the previous night we scoured the shops. I bought far too many books in charity shops and had great fun trailing them back to the hostel. When I will ever find the time to read them is anyone’s guess.

I am the quiet one of the three of us (which quite frankly is somewhat scary considering how “quiet” I am) so I decided to have an early night on the Saturday night before our highlight which was the aforementioned climb to the top of Lochnagar.

Now why is it that the one night that you have an early night, your pals have the best night ever of the whole trip. While on their merry way home from the nightclub (Espionage again in case you hadn’t already guessed) they were treated to a street party through the streets of Aberdeen – a state of affairs which the Aberdonian streets were utterly devoid of on the previous and subsequent evenings. Funny that. Quite the heady fiesta I was led to believe. Well you never know.

The Ascent of Lochnagar

The conquering of the legend that is Lochnagar was our aim. To be fair, Lochnagar is probably only a legend if you are Prince Charles (The author of the seminal work of literary genius that is The Old Man of Lochnagar). Still, old men aside, we were not to be dissuaded in our quest to conquer the mountain.

The path wound its way seductively into the distance and we began the slow ascent, looking rather less than seductive ourselves in sensible walking boots and warm bulky clothing. Our first obstacle was having to cross a fast flowing torrent of a river. OK, it was actually only a small burn but if you had seen our attempts to cross it you would have thought that it was a fast flowing torrent. That done we continued on the ascent. It was a little windy. Just a little at that point but as we climbed higher it got progressively worse, to the point where we were being blown off our feet. Sadly the wind proved to be our undoing and at just under 3,000 feet we had to call it a day. L. tried to carry on but after being blown into a rock, she too decided that this Munro was not to be bagged on this occasion.

Journey’s End

My experience of Aberdeen was extremely positive. It’s a lovely city and all the people we met were extremely friendly.

As we headed home from Aberdeen, I had promised R. and L. that I would show them the spectacular pebble beach at Inverbervie which you must visit if you are ever in the Aberdeenshire area. However I hadn’t counted on our visit to the Lady of the Manse in Inverbervie. G. is the said Lady of the Manse and we spent a good 2 and a half very enjoyable but chaotic hours in the company of her good self and some other very interesting characters. Confidentiality does not permit me to divulge any more on this blog but you really couldn’t have made our afternoon up. Suffice it to say, doors were slammed, rooms were rent asunder and sanity peeped over the parapet waving a torn white flag in surrender.

But seriously, we had a great time. G. is brilliant – there is no other Lady of the Manse quite like her and we did emerge pretty much unscathed to continue off towards home.

We never did get to see that beach at Inverbervie though.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Happy Easter to One and All

I'd like to wish all readers a very happy Easter. I hope that you all have a lovely time over the holiday. I'm off to Aberdeen for the weekend, the highlight of which will be climbing Lochnagar on Sunday. So, if I make it down in one piece, my exploits in Aberdeen and on Lochnagar will possibly find their way here. I'll just leave you with a wee thought while I'm thinking about mountains. Why in the 80s did most Scottish Bands have videos which consisted of them playing halfway up a mountainside? It must have been pretty cold with nothing but a billowing shirt and frizzy hair. Added to that, the acoustics must have been terrible. I wonder if we will find some poor 80s Scottish Band still languishing halfway up the side of Lochnagar when we go. I'll look out for one and tell them to get down forthwith and into a proper studio. What were they thinking?

Monday, April 02, 2007

Ill - Communication

The weather was wonderful over the weekend. One might reasonably expect that I might have been out soaking up some pre-summer rays but unfortunately that was not to be. Most of Saturday was taken up with desperately checking through my bank statements to make sure that the TK Maxx fiasco had not seen me lose any money to the computer hackers. Fortunately after some hours it would appear that I had not despite the fact that I appear rarely to do any shopping elsewhere.

Sunday consisted of an eight hour marathon training session. We covered all the usual points - Leadership, Working with People, Food Handling etc and then we got on to Communication. This started badly for me as a friend had phoned me on my mobile just before the session, so I was a bit late getting in. I apologised profusely, my embarrassment compounded as I discovered that the only chair available was on the far side of the room so I had to cross between the tutor and all the other trainees. The tutor looked none too impressed at my tardiness and fixed me with a steely glare.

"Let's talk about the different types of communication there are." she started.

No one answered. "Well" she said pointing an accusatory finger at me "What have you just been doing?"

"Talking on the phone" I mumbled.

"Well then" she said with a slight note of triumph in her voice "That's one already. Any more?"

The session edged along in much the same manner with no one willing to do much communication at all. We had to perform part of the play "The Steamie" which was a little difficult as some of it appeared to be missing.

Then the final humiliation. We had to write on a topic and then talk about it for one minute. Not only talk about it, but also be taped talking about it. We all thought of ways of stopping the recording taking place - ie taking out the equipment's batteries, but to no avail. We were all duly taped talking on exciting topics such as "My Holidays", "My House", "My Pets" , "My Family" etc etc - you know the kind of thing. What will happen to the tapes is anyone's guess.

The most interesting part of the training course is that those who complete it get to come back and tutor new trainees so I'll be thinking up some interesting future communication sessions I can tell you.

Home time arrived eventually. The sun had gone down and the weekend was over. My dreams last night were filled with taking batteries out of machines and generally disabling any equipment I could lay my hands on. Would that we had managed it at the time.